Monday, September 13, 2010

Kelantan palace crisis flares, Regent to be named Sultan

Monday, 13th September 2010

Kelantan’s royal succession council is set to proclaim Regent Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra as the state Ruler today using a new law, stoking a constitutional crisis that began after his father fell ill last year.

The announcement will be based on Article 23A of the Kelantan State Constitution (Second Part), gazetted on July 22, 2010, and which covers the removal of the Sultan from his throne due to a major handicap.

The Sultan, Tuanku Ismail Petra Sultan Yahya Petra, suffered a stroke in May 2009 and has remained incapacitated, paving the way for the council to name the 35-year-old prince — the eldest — as regent.
“The Kelantan Council of Succession will deliberate on the medical reports and also observations from some imams that the Sultan cannot perform his royal duties,”  said a Kelantan palace source , citing use of the new law.

It is also learnt that two members of the council will not be present at the meeting this morning. They are Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is an uncle to the Raja Perempuan; and the Sultan’s only princess Tengku Amalin Aishah, an assistant registrar at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

According to the Kelantan state constitution, the council consists of a president, deputy president, state mufti, state secretary, four members of the royal family and six to 12 royal subjects of Malay descent.
But the Sultan’s lawyers claimed that the new law “may open the Regent to a charge of interference with the course of justice and to contempt proceedings.”

Rashid Zulkifli Advocates & Solicitors stated that the Sultan had presented two petitions to the Federal Court to obtain its opinion on a number of questions, arising from the actions and conduct of (Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra) as the Regent of the State.

“Central to those questions is the determination by the court of the extent of the power of the Regent acting during the incapacity of the Sultan,” the statement read.
“In view of the pending issue before the Federal Court, it seems to us that it is not proper or lawful for the Regent to pre-empt the decision of the court on the pending issues by arrogating to himself the power of the Sultan under Article 3 of the Constitution,” it added.

It is learnt that the proclamation ceremony will take place at the Throne Room of the Istana Balai Besar there, beginning at 11.30am, with state secretary Datuk Mohd Aiseri Alias scheduled to give details at a 2pm press conference in the Istana Negeri, Kubang Kerian.

He is expected to brief the media on the new Article 23A, which was drafted according to Article 3(2) of the Kelantan State Constitution (Second Part) that covers royal succession.

The Kelantan Insider website, which is aligned to the Regent, said Tengku Faris will ensure that the position of the Sultan and his royal consort will be provided for in another provision under the state constitution, to be revealed at the press conference.

The website also confirmed that Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat was unaware of the planned proclamation of a new Sultan as the palace was aware of moves to undermine the event.

“We hereby would also like to take this opportunity to reply to lawyer Rashid Zulkifli’s assertion, as reported in today’s Malaysiakini, that he will challenge the legality [of] this proclamation on the ground that the Regent, by virtue of the Regent being only the Regent instead of the Sultan, does not have the power to make these constitutional amendments,” it said.

“Our simple answer to lawyer Rashid Zulkifli is: Please kindly take the trouble to read, if you had not, or reread, if you had, the ruling made by the High Court judge, Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, on 29 January 2010, with regard to this matter.”

It quoted the judge as saying that “(i) “the definition of the term ‘His Royal Highness’ under the Kelantan Constitution would refer to the Regent in cases when the Sultan is incapacitated from attending to the affairs of the state.
“(ii) there is no limitation imposed to the Regent to exercise his power and functions during the period,” said the judge.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Sultan’s eldest sister Tengku Merjan Sultan Yahya Petra said she was saddened by attempts to proclaim a new Sultan, describing it as a sad day for the constitutional monarchy system if the “conspirators” were allowed to succeed in ousting her brother as the legal Ruler of the state.
Tengku Merjan claimed that an application for an Opinion of the Federal Court had been made on whether the Regent of Kelantan had the power to remove members of the Council of Succession appointed earlier by the Sultan of Kelantan.

She said both state and federal authorities should take heed of the seriousness of the matter and take positive steps immediately to prevent the “conspirators” from carrying out their “despicable” act, adding that if the matter — if allowed to succeed — would become a dangerous precedent.

Mupok Aku


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