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Episode 27: Constitutional Monarchy in Transition: Analyzing the January Majestic Shift



I. INTRODUCTION

Starting from January 31 of 2024, a new Malaysian King will ascend the throne, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor, [1] replacing the current 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA), Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah of Pahang who has reigned the country since 2019 until the present day. It could be said that he had endured the most challenging tenure out of all the past monarchs due to the Covid-19 outburst, and the state of the unstable government which makes him the key figure in the appointment of the Prime Minister to resolve the issue. In light of the change of the YDPA in this upcoming February 2024, this article will specifically discuss the question of how the YDPA is elected, what is their role as the ruler of the country and also some discussion on the underlying issues behind it. 


A. The Unique System of Constitutional Monarchy: Rotational Monarchy

Rotational monarchy has become a unique aspect in Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy. Malaysia, consisting of 13 states altogether with nine hereditary sultans coming from Perak, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Perlis, Selangor, Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan will be elected among themselves every five years in rotation to become the YDPA. This has been embedded in Article 38(2) of the Federal Constitution. [2]


The birth of this system could be traced back in 1957 when Malaysia first gained independence from the British. Previously, Malay sultanates ruled over their independent Malay kingdoms. However, due to the rotational monarchy system, this allowed the sultanates an equal chance in ruling the country, becoming the supreme head of the federation. Originally, the rotation of the monarch was based on the seniority of the sultanates, considering their ruling period. Nevertheless, that rule was eventually dropped after all of the royal families served one term apiece and now rotate based on the initial order. [3]


As the sultan ascending to the throne will become the YDPA, he will exercise all of his functions and responsibilities as the YDPA after taking an oath of office as prescribed in Article 37 of the Federal Constitution. [4] It is a known fact that the YDPA mostly plays a ceremonial role since administrative power is vested in Parliament and has to act upon the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet with some exceptions where he can make use of his own discretionary powers. Nonetheless, these duties are not as simple as it sounds and the King plays a key role in safeguarding the country from external and internal harm. For instance, when the country was tormented by the Covid-19 pandemic and political turmoil in the earlier years of Sultan Abdullah’s tenure, he played a crucial role in ensuring the stability of the country. [5]



II. THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE YANG DI-PERTUAN AGONG AND THE RULERS UNDER THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION

The Federal Constitution defines the modern characterisation of the monarchy and covers two institutions, viz the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong assumes the office of the Head of State at the federal level whilst the Rulers exercise the function of Heads of State at the state level. However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers are normally restricted to perform symbolic and ceremonial functions, although they may, in limited occasions, exercise activist roles. [6]


The Rulers assemble in the Conference of Rulers or known as the Majlis Raja-raja, which is formally constituted under the Federal Constitution under Article 38(1) of the Federal Constitution. [7] The Conference of Rulers elects from among the nine Malay Rulers a Ruler to hold the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The appointment to the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is made on a rotation basis and the elected Ruler holds office for a term of five years. In contrast to the office of the Rulers that has survived through history, the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was only set up in 1957 under the Federal Constitution.


The position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is spelt out in Article 32(1) of the Federal Constitution, [8] which prescribes that there shall be a Supreme Head of the Federation, to be called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who shall take precedence over all persons in the Federation and shall not be liable to any proceedings whatsoever in any court except in the Special Court established under Part XV. Moreover, Article 32(3) of the Federal Constitution [9] further stipulates that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be elected by the Conference of Rulers for a term of five years but may at any time resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Conference of Rulers or be removed from office by the Conference of Rulers and shall cease to hold office on ceasing to be a Ruler. In addition, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong holds the position as the head of the religion of Islam in the states of Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak, and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya as set out in Article 3(5) of the Federal Constitution. [10] Under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, [11] the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the responsibility to safeguard the special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities. In addition, The Yang di-Pertuan Agong assumes important functions extending to all three organs of the government, which are the executive, legislative and judiciary.


A. Execution Functions

In regard to the executive, Article 39 of the Federal Constitution [12] enunciates that the executive authority of the Federation shall be vested in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and exercisable, subject to the provisions of any federal law and of the Second Schedule, by him or by the Cabinet or any Minister authorised by the Cabinet, but Parliament may by law confer executive functions on other persons. However, in the exercise of his functions, pursuant to Article 40(1) of the Federal Constitution, [13] the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution but shall be entitled, at his request, to any information concerning the government of the Federation which is available to the Cabinet. Additionally, Article 40(1A) of the Federal Constitution [14] provides that in the exercise of his functions under the Federal Constitution or federal law, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to act in accordance with advice, on advice, or after considering advice, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall accept and act in accordance with such advice.


Amongst the executive functions to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as adumbrated in the Federal Constitution are, inter alia, to appoint a Prime Minister under Article 40(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, [15] to withhold consent to a request for dissolving the Parliament in accordance with Article 40(2)(b) of the Federal Constitution, [16] to request for a meeting of the Conference of Rulers to discuss matters concerning the privileges, position, honour and dignity of the Rulers enumerated under Article 40(2)(c) of the Federal Constitution, [17] to hold the position of the Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the Federation pronounced under Article 41 of the Federal Constitution, [18] to grant pardons, reprieves and respites in respect of all offences tried by court-martial and all offences committed in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya consonant with Article 42(1) of the Federal Constitution, [19] to appoint a Cabinet of Ministers, consisting of a Prime Minister and the Ministers in consonance with Article 43(1) and (2) of the Federal Constitution [20] and to appoint the Deputy Ministers as elaborated in Article 43A(1) of the Federal Constitution. [21]


These powers are what we can describe as the “discretionary powers” of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Discretion of the YDPA is, however, not absolute. For instance, as per Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, the YDPA appoints a member of the Dewan Rakyat, who in his judgement commands the confidence of the majority of that House to become the Prime Minister. Where the winning party or coalition commands a majority in the Dewan Rakyat, generally, the leader of the coalition would be appointed as the Prime Minister. However, where there is a hung Parliament or situations of coalition jumping, the YDPA can and has exercised his discretion to determine the next Prime Minister. In fact, such a discretion was exercised with the appointment of Yang Berhormat Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister, followed by the appointment of Yang Berhormat lsmail Sabri following 15 UMNO MPs losing confidence in former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The 15th General Election also has seen the outgoing YDPA mediate the coalition making process, leading up to the appointment of our current Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim after weeks of discussions and negotiations.  While there are no judicial decisions dictating the method for the YDPA to determine who commands a majority in Parliament, reference to the case of Dato Dr. Zambry v Dato Sri Nizar [22] can be made, whereby the Perak State Constitution which is in pari materia with the Federal Constitution did not contain a mandatory or express requirement for a vote of no confidence to be passed in the State Legislative Assembly against Dato Sri Nizar for him to cease command the confidence of the majority of the members of the State Legislative Assembly. A similar instance also happened in Sabah in the case of Datuk Amir Kahar v Tun Mohd Said bin Keruak. [23]


B. Legislative Functions

In respect of the legislative, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is vested with legislative authority as prescribed for under Article 44 of the Federal Constitution, [24] which sets forth that the legislative authority of the Federation shall be vested in a Parliament, which shall consist of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and two Majlis (Houses of Parliament) to be known as the Dewan Negara (Senate) and the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives). The Yang di-Pertuan Agong constitutes one of the three constituents of the Parliament alongside the House of Senate and the House of Representatives. The Federal Constitution enumerates several functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong affecting the legislature, which are to summon, prorogue or dissolve the Parliament under Article 55 of the Federal Constitution, [25] to address both Houses of Parliament according to Article 60 of the Federal Constitution, [26] to appoint the Clerk to both Houses of Parliament mentioned in Article 65(2) of the Federal Constitution [27] and to assent to the Bills passed by the Houses of Parliament in pursuance of Article 66 of the Federal Constitution. [28]


C. Judicial Functions

Regarding the judicial branch, pursuant to Article 122B(1) of the Federal Constitution, [29] the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the responsibility to appoint the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judges of the High Courts and, subject to Article 122C of the Federal Constitution, the other judges of the Federal Court, of the Court of Appeal and of the High Courts on the advice of the Prime Minister after consulting the Conference of Rulers.


D. Judicial Appointments

Furthermore, the Federal Constitution empowers the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint persons to hold several key offices within the Federation, including the Auditor General in accordance with Article 105 of the Federal Constitution, [30] the Election Commission prescribed under Article 114(1) of the Federal Constitution, [31] the Chief of Defence Forces in pursuance of Article 137(3)(c) of the Federal Constitution, [32] members of the Public Services Commission as stated in Article 139(4) of the Federal Constitution [33] and the Attorney General under Article 145(1) of the Federal Constitution. [34] Another important function of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is that based on Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, [35] if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, the economic life, the public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened, he may issue a Proclamation of Emergency making therein a declaration to that effect. For example, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong declared a state of emergency during the Covid-19 pandemic to regulate travel and ensure mandatory vaccination, which were both made under the emergency proclamation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong


E. Rulers of the States

On the other hand, the term ‘Ruler’ is defined in Article 160 of the Federal Constitution [36] to mean two groups of persons, namely the Yang di-Pertuan Besar for Negeri Sembilan and any person exercising the functions of the Ruler within the meaning of the respective states’ Constitution, that is for states other than Negeri Sembilan. Article 70 of the Federal Constitution [37] propounds that the Rulers and Yang di-Pertua-Yang di-Pertua Negeri of the States shall take precedence over all other persons and each Ruler or Yang di-Pertuan Negeri shall in his own State take precedence over the other Rulers and Yang di-Pertua Negeri. Further, Article 3(2) of the Federal Constitution [38] confers on the Rulers the position of the Heads of the religion of Islam in their own respective states, which are exercisable in accordance with the states’ Constitution. Regardless, the provisions regulating the Rulers are spelt out in the constitutions of each state. Section 1(2) of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution [39] stipulates that the Ruler has discretionary powers to appoint a Menteri Besar or a Chief Minister, to withhold consent to a request for dissolving the state’s Legislative Assembly, to request the Conference of Rulers for a meeting to discuss issues concerning the privileges, position, honour and dignity of the Rulers or religious matters, to perform the function as Head of the religion of Islam or relating to the Malay customs, to appoint an heir or heirs, consort, Regent or Council of Regency, to award titles, honours and dignities and to regulate royal courts and palaces.


Additionally, the Rulers shall, inter alia, appoint an Executive Council under Section 2(1) and (2) of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, [40] constitute the state’s Legislature alongside the Legislative Assembly pursuant to Section 3 of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, [41] summon, prorogue or dissolve the Legislative Assembly empowered under Section 9 of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution [42] and assent to the Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly consonant to Section 11(1) of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution. [43] Nonetheless, according to Section 1(1) of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, it establishes that except where the Ruler is granted with discretionary powers, the Federal Constitution requires the Ruler to act in accordance with the advice of the Executive Council or of a member thereof acting under the general authority of the Council.  Hence, Section 1(1A) of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution [44] requires the Ruler when acting ‘in accordance with advice or on advice’ to accept and act in accordance with such advice.


F. Conference of Rulers

Pursuant to Article 38(1) of the Federal Constitution, [45] it underscores the establishment of the Conference of Rulers, which is constituted in accordance with the Fifth Schedule of the Federal Constitution. In reference to Section 1 of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, [46] the Conference of Rulers consists of the Malay Rulers and the Yang di-Pertua-Yang di-Pertua Negeri, which are for states without a Ruler. Nevertheless, Section 7 of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution [47] limits the rights of the Yang di-Pertua-Yang di-Pertua Negeri to partake in any proceedings of the Conference of Rulers when the meeting is convened to discuss issues concerning the election or removal of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or his Deputy, the privileges, position, honour and dignity of the Malay Rulers, or the religious acts, observances or ceremonies. Among the functions of the functions of the Conference of Rulers, which are provided for in Article 38 of the Federal Constitution, [48] entails to elect the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong in accordance with the Third Schedule of the Federal Constitution, to agree or disagree to the extension of any religious acts, observances or ceremonies to the whole country, to consent or withhold consent to any law and to make or give advice on any appointment in accordance with the Federal Constitution, to appoint members of the Special Court under Article 182(1) of the Federal Constitution, [49] to grant pardons, reprieves and respites, or to remit, suspend or commute sentences under Article 42(12) of the Federal Constitution, [50] to deliberate questions of national policy, to consent or withhold consent on the passing of any law directly affecting the privileges, position, honour or dignity of the Rulers and to be consulted before any change in policy affecting.


All in all, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is conferred with an extensive list of powers but the Federal Constitution restricts such powers by consistently directing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, or the Ministers or other authorised persons or institutions. This rule is embedded in Article 40(1A) of the Federal Constitution [51] and is evident in the case of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim v Public Prosecutor, [52] where the Court of Appeal decided that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is required to act on the Prime Minister’s advice and further clarified that the advice envisaged by Article 40(1A) of the Federal Constitution is the direct advice given by the recommender and not advice obtained after consultation.” Meanwhile, the laws regulating the functions of the Rulers are similar to that of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, whereby the powers of the Rulers are mainly limited to their respective states and in the exercise of their functions within the given state, the Rulers are generally required to act on the advice of the Executive Councils or any members of the Councils. The Rulers who assemble in the Conference of Rulers assume a more direct role and functions within the Federation, primarily, it is responsible for electing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Other than that, as determined by the Federal Constitution, the Conference of Rulers assumes powers to give or withhold consent to certain laws and serves as an important institution that must be consulted before any appointment to certain key offices within the Federation could be made.


III. THE 1993 AMENDMENTS TO THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION: A SLOW DECLINE IN THE LEGAL IMMUNITY OF THE YANG DI-PERTUAN AGONG

Prior to 1993, the Federal Constitution granted legal immunity to the rulers from civil suits and criminal prosecution. The immunity of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state rulers were provided under Article 181(1) and 181(2) of the Federal Constitution. [53] However, in 1993, due to numerous incidents of immunity abuse, the Parliament amended Articles 32, 38, 42, 63, 72, and 181 of the Federal Constitution to strip the Rulers of their legal immunities. [54]


The 1993 constitutional amendments were intended to prevent or stop hatred against the Rulers from escalating, which could lead to demands for the abolition of the royalty. These amendments were made with the overarching purpose of safeguarding both the Rulers themselves and the foundational principles of the constitutional monarchy system. [55] According to Article 181(2) of the Federal Constitution, it provides that no proceedings whatsoever shall be brought in any court against the Ruler of a state in his personal capacity. [56] In a legal context, this implies that a ruler could potentially commit murder without facing any legal consequences. The scope of impact of Article 181(2) of the Federal Constitution, however, is extensive. Given that both Federal and State constitutions hold the force of law, Article 181(2) of the Federal Constitution essentially grants a ruler the ability to violate the Federal Constitution. Consequently, when a Ruler engages in business activities, even though such actions are prohibited by the Constitution, the government is rendered powerless to take any actions. [57] Thus, Article 181(2) of the Federal Constitution was amended to allow for the prosecution against the Ruler of a state.


The amendments were made during a juncture marked by a strained relationship between the Malaysian monarchy and the Malaysian government. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of contentious incidents involving the rulers emerged. One of the incidents was an assault incident by the Sultan of Johor and his younger son which occurred in 1992 and was known as the Gomez incident. On 10 July 1992, Tunku Abdul Majid, the second son of the Sultan of Johor, physically assaulted the Perak hockey goalkeeper following a championship match in which he suffered defeat through a penalty stroke. [58] Subsequent to this incident, the Malaysian Hockey Confederation imposed a five-year ban on Tunku Majid, prohibiting his participation in any national hockey tournaments. [59] Disturbed by the ban, the Sultan exerted influence on the state education department, compelling them to instruct school hockey teams in Johor to abstain from partaking in national tournaments. This decision drew disapproval from Douglaz Gomez, a hockey coach, who criticized the education department for undermining leadership and called for the resignation of all key office bearers of the Johor Hockey Association. Gomez's criticisms infuriated the Sultan, prompting him to summon Gomez to the palace on 30 November. There, Gomez faced reprimand and physical assault by the Sultan, all transpiring in the presence of his bodyguards. Gomez subsequently filed a police report on 6 December.


Dr Mahathir strategically leveraged the Gomez incident to reinstate the code of conduct, while concurrently advocating for the removal of the rulers' immunity from legal prosecution and their authority to grant pardons to themselves and their familial relations. From there, Dr Mahathir launched numerous attacks on the Malaysia rulers through the media. The government-affiliated media, during the period spanning 1992 to 1993, initiated a sequence of reports outlining purported transgressions by members of the monarchy. These reports not only targeted the Johor royal family but also extended scrutiny to other royal households across different states, questioning their lavish lifestyles and potential misuse of moral authority. [60]


In conclusion, the amendments made to the Federal Constitution in 1993 represented a pivotal moment in reshaping Malaysia's constitutional framework. The pivotal issue at the heart of these changes was the reconsideration and modification of the initial grant of legal immunity to rulers, specifically outlined in Article 181(1) and 181(2). The impetus for these amendments stemmed from a series of incidents that underscored the potential for abuse associated with the existing immunity provisions. The decision to revisit and amend Article 181(2) reflected a conscientious effort by the Parliament to address the shortcomings of the previous constitutional arrangement. Instances of abuse of legal immunity had raised concerns about accountability and the potential erosion of public trust in the monarchy. The amendments, therefore, were a deliberate response to ensure that legal protections for rulers were not misused or exploited. In essence, the amendments of 1993 represented more than a legal adjustment; they symbolised a commitment to upholding the integrity of the constitutional monarchy, ensuring that the privileges bestowed upon rulers were balanced with a responsibility to serve the public interest and foster public confidence in the institution.


IV. COMPARISON BETWEEN MALAYSIA’S ELECTION OF RULERS SYSTEM AND OTHER COUNTRIES

Malaysia stands out amongst all the constitutional monarchies around the world due to the fact that instead of having a hereditary ruler as head of state, Malaysia practises a unique system where the Head of state, officially known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, is elected instead of being hereditary like the British monarchy.


        Article 32(3) of the Federal Constitution [61] provides that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Shall be elected by the Conference of Rulers for a term of five years”. [62] The Conference of Rulers, the only such institution in the world, is given the authority to elect the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. [63] It consists of the Hereditary Rulers of the states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, [64] Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Terrengganu and The Yang Di-Pertua Negeri of Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak. [65]  While it is true that the Conference of Rulers has the authority to elect any of the nine rulers as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong  as long as the ruler does not fall into any of the criterias laid out in Part 1(1) of the Third Schedule of Article 32 and 33, [66] The conference usually elects the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in a rotational system with the rulers of the nine states taking turns being elected as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.


A. Heads of State in Other Countries

       While the Malaysian system does slightly differ from the conventional system of constitutional monarchy made famous by the British, it still retains much of its basic principles, of which includes the principle of separation between the Head of state and the head of government. However, not all countries have the same approach as we do when it comes to the Powers and roles that the head of state wields.


1. Singapore

        The Singaporean system of government is similar to that of Malaysia in the sense that the The Role of Head of state [67] and Head of Government are held by two different individuals. The president of singapore is the official head of state and serves for a term of 6 years [68] while the Prime minister and his cabinet has the general direction and control of the Government. [69] Rather than being elected by a conference of hereditary rulers, the president of Singapore is elected by popular vote. [70] However, to ensure multi-racial representation in the Presidency, an election for the office of the President will be reserved for a certain community (i.e. Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community has held the office of the President for any of the last 5 terms of office, [71] as required by the Singaporean constitution. [72] Other than having some discretionary powers over the central provident fund of Singapore, [73] the role of president in Singapore is largely ceremonial as the Constitution requires the President to exercise his or her powers on the advice of the Cabinet or a minister acting under the Cabinet's general authority, which makes the role similar to that of the Yang Di-pertuan Agong.


2. United States 

        The role of head of state of the U.S. fundamentally differs from that in Malaysia. The President of the United States acts as both the head of state and the chief executive. [74] The role is endowed with substantial authority and the president can act on his own prerogative when exercising the power given to the office of president as provided in article 2 of the US constitution. Said powers includes the power to veto bills passed by congress, [75] the power to appoint Cabinet Secretaries, justices of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate [76] and the power to command the military. [77]


B. Whether the Head of State Should be Elected or Unelected

        As discussed above, the role of head of state differs in each country to adapt to the cultural and political circumstances of such country. Over the years, the discussion of whether it's preferable to have an elected or unelected head of state has always been in contention around the world. The Passing of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 sparked the re-emergence of the republican movement, [78] aimed at doing away with the monarchy which lasted as long as the nation itself. The justification given by these groups are largely the same as most republican movements around the world, which is the fact that unelected heads of state lack accountability. If an elected head of state were to overstep, they would have to answer to the public and could be removed from office, unlike a royal. [79] A counter argument to such justification given by supporters of an unelected head of state would be that electing a head of state would only add to the already tense political climate of a nation. [80] An unelected head of state can act as a unifying figure while providing a sense of stability and continuity. [81]


IV. THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE YANG DI-PERTUAN AGONG AND WHAT IT ENTAILS FOR MALAYSIA’S GOVERNMENT SYSTEM

         To understand the contemporary role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, one must delve into the historical context of Malaysia's constitutional monarchy. Malaysia gained independence from British rule in 1957, [82] and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia was established in 1957, with subsequent amendments in 1963. The constitutional monarchy, as enshrined in the constitution, designates the Agong as the ceremonial head of state, with powers and functions defined within the legal framework. As the current Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah’s term was coming to an end, Istana Negara had announced Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong. [83]


As of the latest constitutional amendments, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's role encompasses several key functions, including the appointment of the Prime Minister, the dissolution of the Parliament, the appointment of judges, and the granting of pardons. Article 32 of the Federal Constitution [84] empowers the Agong to appoint a Prime Minister who, in his judgement, commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the Lower House of Parliament. The Agong also has the authority to dissolve the Parliament, paving the way for general elections. This power is exercised upon the advice of the Prime Minister, who must gauge the political landscape and assess whether the government can maintain majority support. Additionally, the Agong plays a significant role in the appointment of judges, reinforcing the principle of the separation of powers within the Malaysian government. [85]


In light of this, the status of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has entailed the Malaysian government in several benefits. The status of Yang di-Pertuan Agong within the Malaysian constitutional framework underscores a meticulous design of checks and balances as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. [86] Despite possessing discretionary powers, such as the ability to grant royal assent to specific bills and the authority to appoint the Prime Minister or dissolve Parliament, the scope of these powers is delimited by constitutional provisions. The Constitution explicitly mandates that these prerogatives be exercised in conformity with the advice of the elected government, particularly the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. This principle not only reinforces the ceremonial and symbolic nature of the monarchy but also ensures that substantial political decisions remain in the hands of elected representatives. [87] The requirement for royal assent, for instance, acts as a constitutional safeguard, signifying that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's role in legislative matters is essentially symbolic, and substantive decision-making authority lies with the elected officials. Consequently, the constitutional framework meticulously prevents any potential undue interference by the monarchy in the democratic processes of the Malaysian government, solidifying the notion that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong serves as a unifying symbol of continuity and stability rather than an active participant in political decision-making. [88]


In conclusion, the current status of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is a critical aspect of Malaysia's constitutional monarchy. The Agong's powers and functions serve as checks and balances within the government system, contributing to stability, accountability, and the preservation of democratic principles. As Malaysia continues to evolve, it is essential to monitor and evaluate the role of the Agong to ensure that the constitutional framework remains responsive to the nation's needs.


V. CONCLUSION

To quote Winston Churchill, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Thus, to reign a country is not an effortless task. Criticisms and complaints are bound to happen. However, a kind and wise ruler will be complimented, respected and his contributions will be appreciated by the people eternally. On top of it, thanks to the rotational monarchy, all of the Malay rulers have a fair chance in  ruling the country. Despite the declining legal immunity of the YDPA and the monarchs, the system of constitutional monarchy in Malaysia remains firm. There is no sign of the system collapsing anytime soon considering that Malaysia will be welcoming a new YDPA on January 31, 2024. In fact, this development may lead to positive changes to the country and ensure that no catastrophe will befall to this country and prevent anarchy. May the country be prosperous in the reign of the new monarch and a warm farewell to the Sultan Abdullah of Pahang in his notable effort in protecting the legacy of the country.


REFERENCES

[1] Yusof, A. (2023, Oct 27). Sultan Ibrahim of Johor to be appointed Malaysia’s king, 34 years after his father’s reign. CNA. Retrieved from <https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/sultan-johor-next-malaysia-king-ydpa-agong-monarchy-3876646#:~:text=KUALA%20LUMPUR%3A%20Johor%20ruler%20Sultan,years%20after%20his%20father's%20reign>. Site accessed on 17 Jan 2024.


[2] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 38(2).


[3] Reuters. (2023, October 27). Explainer: Malaysia’s unique rotational monarchy. Reuters. Retrieved from <https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/malaysias-unique-rotational-monarchy-2023-10-26/>. Site accessed on 17 Jan 2024.


[4] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 37.


[5] See footnote 1 above.


[6] Abdulllah Zakaria bin Ghazali. (2019). “Cabaran Institusi Beraja di Malaysia dari Dahulu Hingga Kini”. Jabatan Muzium Malaysia, 1-38. Retrieved from <http://www.jmm.gov.my/files/Cabaran Institusi Beraja di Malaysia dari Dahulu Hingga Kini_1.pdf>. Site accessed on 9 Jan 2024.


[7] Abdul Aziz Bari. (2003). Malaysian constitution: A critical introduction. Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press.


[8] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 32(1).


[9] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 32(2).


[10] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) 3(5).


[11] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 153.


[12] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 39.


[13] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(1).


[14] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(1A).


[15] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(2)(a).


[16] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(2)(b).


[17] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(2)(c).


[18] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 41.


[19] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 42(1).


[20] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 43(1) and (2).


[21] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 43A(1).


[22] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 44.


[23]  Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 55.


[24] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 60.


[25] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 65(2).


[26] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 66.


[27] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 122B(1).


[28] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 105.


[29] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 114(1).


[30] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 137(3)(c).


[31] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 139(4).


[32] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 145(1).


[33] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 150.


[34] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 160.


[35] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 70.


[36] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 3(2).


[37] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 1(1) of Eighth Schedule.


[38] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 2(1) and (2) of Eighth Schedule.


[39] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 3 of Eighth Schedule.


[40] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 9 of Eighth Schedule.


[41] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 11(1) of Eighth Schedule.


[42] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 1(1A) of Eighth Schedule.


[43] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 38(1).


[44] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 1 of Eighth Schedule.


[45] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) sec 7 of Eighth Schedule.


[46] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 38.


[47] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 182(1).


[48] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 42(12).


[49] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 40(1A).


[50] Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim v Public Prosecutor [2000] 2 CLJ 570.


[51] Aedi Asri (2016, 26 Aug). Apa berlaku antara Dr M dan Raja Melayu pada 1993?. Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved from <https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/bahasa/2016/08/26/apa-berlaku-antara-dr-m-dan-raja-melayu-pada-1993/> Site accessed on 13 Jan 2024.


[52] Aisyah Bidin (1993). The Historical Cost Concept and Traditional Features of the Malaysian Constitution. UKM Repository. Retrieved from <http://journalarticle.ukm.my/449/1/1.pdf> Site accessed on 13 Jan 2024.


[53] See footnote 52 above.


[54] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 181(2).


[55] See footnote 52 above.


[56] V. Anbalaghan (2017,17 Jan). Mahathir’s conflicts with royalty: A history. Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved from <https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/01/17/mahathirs-conflicts-with-royalty-a-history/> Site accessed on 13 Jan 2024.


[57] See footnote 56 above.


[58] (2019, April 9) Quick recap - Mahathir's first royal tussle. MalaysiaKini. Retrieved from <https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/471589> Site accessed on 13 Jan 2024.


[59] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 32(3).


[60] See footnote 59 above.


[61] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 38(2)(a).


[62] Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan is elected from the four leading princes of Negeri Sembilan.


[63] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) Fifth Schedule art 38(1).


[64] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) Third Schedule art 32 & 33 Part 1.


[65] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 17(1).


[66] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 20(1).


[67] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 24(2).


[68] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 17A(1).


[69] Elections Department Singapore.Presidential elections. Retrieved from <https://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_presidential.html.> Site accessed on 12 Jan 2024.


[70] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 19B(1).


[71] Constitution of the Republic of Singapore art 22E.


[72] The Constitution of the United States art 2 sec (1).


[73] The Constitution of the United States art 1 sec (7).


[74] The Constitution of the United States art 2 sec (2).


[75] See footnote 73 above.


[76] Holden, M. (2022, Sep 9). With Queen Elizabeth's death, republicans sense their chance. Reuters. Retrieved from <https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/with-queen-elizabeths-death-republicans-sense-their-chance-2022-09-09/> Site accessed on 11 Jan 2024.


[77] Jack, L. (2023,  May 5). 'Not my king': What being a republican means in the UK and what Britain could look like as a republic. TheScotsman. Retrieved from <https://www.scotsman.com/news/national/not-a-royalist-what-being-a-republican-means-in-the-uk-and-what-britain-could-look-like-as-a-republic-4132588> Site accessed on 11 Jan 2024.


[78] Tan, K. & George C. (2023, Jul 15). Why Singapore’s next elected President should be one of its last. Academia SG. Retrieved from <https://www.academia.sg/academic-views/elected-president/> Site accessed on 10 Jan 2024.


[79] Howard, V. (2017, Apr 15). 8 REASONS CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY IS THE BEST FORM OF GOVERNMENT. TheCrownChronicles. Retrieved from <https://thecrownchronicles.co.uk/explanation/why-constitutional-monarchy-is-the-best-form-of-government/> Site accessed on 10 Jan 2024.


[80] Cavendish, R. (2007). Malayan Independence. History Today, 57(8). 



[82] Federal Constitution (Malaysia) art 32.


[83] The roles of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.  <https://www.astroawani.com/berita-malaysia/roles-yang-dipertuan-agong-125368> Site accessed on 8 Jan 2024.


[84] Malay rulers uphold constitution, act as govt’s check and balance: Sultan Nazrin.  Retrieved 8 Jan 2023 from <https://www.thevibes.com/articles/news/45195/malay-rulers-protect-constitution-act-as-check-and-balance-for-govt-deputy-agong> Site accessed on 11 Jan 2024.


[85] Malaysia has constitutional monarchs, not executive rulers. <https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/580789> Site accessed on 8 Jan 2024.


[86] What is the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s Constitutional role in post-election government formation? <https://www.malaymail.com/news/what-you-think/2022/11/20/what-is-the-yang-di-pertuan-agongs-constitutional-role-in-post-election-government-formation-dian-ah-shah-and-andrew-harding/40859> Site accessed on 8 Jan 2024.




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