Three rights of a King ― Hafiz Hassan

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JULY 29 ― A month ago, I wrote “The King reigns, he does not rule, but he may remind”.

Alas, after the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s (the King) third reminder the Dewan Rakyat sat, albeit only for a five-day special sitting.

Earlier, Istana Negara released a statement from Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah in which he said he had not given the royal assent that was constitutionally required to revoke the Emergency Ordinances. ― Bernama pic
Earlier, Istana Negara released a statement from Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah in which he said he had not given the royal assent that was constitutionally required to revoke the Emergency Ordinances. ― Bernama pic

Now, after a stunner and a bombshell of an announcement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Takiyuddin Hassan in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, perhaps a reminder of the rights of a monarch or king ― absolute or constitutional ― is timely.

It was Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) ― a banker, journalist, editor, biographer, literary critic, economist and political analyst but also well-remembered as the author of The English Constitution ― who had put it so memorably what a constitutional monarchy means.

A constitutional monarch is one who would say to his Minister:

“The responsibility of these measures is upon you. Whatever you think best must be done. Whatever you think best shall have my full and effectual support. But you will observe that for this reason and that reason what you do not propose is better. I do not oppose, it is not my duty to oppose, but observe that I warn.”

In another memorable passage, Bagehot wrote:

“[T]he sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights ― the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn. And a king of great sense and sagacity would want no other.”

It was a passage that the late Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah cited and emphasized in his essay “The Role of Constitutional Rulers” (first published in [1982] JMCL 103-118, and subsequently reprinted in Trindade & Lee, The Constitution of Malaysia, Further Perspectives and Developments, Essays in Honour of Tun Mohamed Suffian)

His Royal Highness ― then the Lord President ― concluded his essay with a memorable passage of his own:

“A King is a King, whether he is an absolute or constitutional monarch. The only difference between the two is that whereas one has unlimited powers, the other’s powers are defined by the Constitution. But it is a mistake to think that the role of a King, like a President, is confined to what is laid down by the Constitution. His role far exceeds those constitutional provisions.”

Hear ye! Hear ye!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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