KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that it has been a "difficult problem" in managing rulers' interference in government affairs, adding that his government would have more room to pursue its goals if it enjoys a two-thirds majority in the parliament.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Star which was published on Monday (Apr 22), Dr Mahathir lamented that there were office holders who have the mentality that the royals are sacrosanct and are therefore reluctant to say no to them, “even if wrong things are done”.
“For example, if the Ruler takes land, confiscates land and all that, this has to go through the administrative process. The administrators dare not refuse. So, land has been taken away from the people, wrong things were done – things that were against the law.
“But the enforcers, the executive wing, will not do anything. They will just comply,” he said.
During his first premiership, Dr Mahathir pushed through amendments to the constitution to remove the need for the king to assent to legislation and to eliminate the legal immunity of the royalty.
Recalling the amendment that lifted the rulers’ power to veto laws, the 94-year-old said it could be pushed through because the then-government had a two-thirds majority. The current government does not have the same advantage, he said.
“We do not have two-thirds majority. We need the support of the opposition in order to amend the laws. And the opposition is not always forthcoming,” he said, referring to the recent failed bid to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s rights as equal partners.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition is currently nine seats away from securing a two-thirds majority in the 222-seat parliament.
At the moment, PH commands the support of 139 lawmakers in the parliament - 129 of its own component parties and 10 from its allied parties in Sabah.
Four of the aforesaid 129 seats came recently in May, when former lawmakers left the United Malays National Organisation to join Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir added that it is a combination of fear and respect that led to people not daring to speak up against the rulers.
There is “some inherent fear” among the people that something will happen to them if they speak up against the rulers, he noted.
For example, if somebody is hit by a member of the royalty, the person will try to cover up the matter instead of taking it to the courts, he said.
He added that in the civil service and among the politicians, “they are reluctant to say anything that implies somebody (from the royalty) is doing something wrong”.
“You must have people who are able to say to the rulers, for example, this is wrong. This is against the law. This is not good for the country and all that,” he said.
“We find reluctance on the part of everyone to point out that this is wrong.”
“I’M NOT ANTI-ROYALTY”: MAHATHIR
Dr Mahathir is known for having a difficult relationship with some royals. Most recently, he locked horns with the Johor sultan and the crown prince over who should appoint the state's chief minister and the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.
Malaysia withdrew from the statute after it was criticised as unconstitutional by the crown prince, who claimed that the Conference of Rulers were not consulted prior to the signing.
Dr Mahathir stated that he is not against the royals, adding that there were conditions imposed on their behaviour.
For instance, he noted that the royalty have been told since the days of Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, that they cannot do business.
“What is happening now is that there is some evidence (that) they (the royalty) allow their names to be used by private business people as a front,” he said.
“I think some have direct investment but we ourselves are in the wrong because we do not expose these things and take action.”