Parliament next month should clarify Article 43 of the Federal Constitution by establishing the constitutional practice that when the Prime Minister resigns or dies, the entire Cabinet resigns
- at the Penang State DAP Chinese New Year Open House
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): Parliament next month should clarify Article 43 of the Federal Constitution by establishing the constitutional practice that when the Prime Minister resigns or dies, the entire Cabinet resigns.
This is the view of the former Federal Court judge and International Islamic University law don, Tan Sri Harun Hashim, in his New Straits Times column Benchmark on Thursday entitled “When PM resigns, entire Cabinet should quit” and which is in conformity with the proper and sensible interpretation of Article 43 of the Constitution.
The Dewan Rakyat will be meeting from March 10 to April 8, 2003, and this is the proper venue and occasion to clarify this constitutional question – whether by way of a constitutional amendment or by a Ministerial statement after full consultation with the Attorney-General as well as constitutional experts and jurists.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed that he would be going on leave in March and April after the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on Feb. 20 – 25, when his deputy, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be the Acting Prime Minister.
This will be the first time Abdullah will be Acting Prime Minister after being more than four years as Deputy Prime Minister and the second time the country will be having an Acting Prime Minister in the last 18 years. I do not expect his two-month Acting Prime Ministership will end as disastrously as the previous occasion during the tenure of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in mid-1997, resulting in the latter’s dismissal, persecution and incarceration.
The question is when Abdullah takes over as the fifth Prime Minister in October, whether he will still be a de facto Acting Prime Minister or will he be a full Prime Minister in the true sense, without having to look over his shoulders at the Mahathir presence.
If Abdullah is to start as a Prime Minister in the full sense of the office in October, he should not be burdened with the last Mahathir Cabinet but should have his first Abdullah Cabinet, with Ministerial incompetents and deadwoods who have outlived the shell-life of their usefulness to the people and country giving way to new blood in the Cabinet.
This is the rationale for the interpretation of Article 43 of the Federal Constitution that the Cabinet resigns when the Prime Minister resigns or dies, as the Cabinet must be deemed to have ceased to exist when the Prime Minister who appointed it is no more in office – although the successor can re-appoint the same Cabinet Ministers.
Malaysians are waiting and watching as to whether Abdullah will bring in a new breath of air in the corridors of power when he takes over from Mahathir in October, and there can be no better start for a change of government leadership under a new Prime Minister if there is at least one-third change in the Cabinet, as there are at least one-third of the Cabinet Ministers who have become government and national liabilities.
Mahathir’s announcement that the general election would not be called before he retires in October should not have come as a surprise, as there will be no more powerful way to undermine Abdullah’s leadership and his legitimacy and authority as the fifth Prime Minister than for Mahathir to lead the Barisan Nasional in the eleventh general election campaign.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman