[Opinion] How much power does the Malaysian Prime Minister wield?

In light of the series of events that have occurred in Malaysia, many people have begun to question how powerful the Prime Minister of Malaysia is that enables him to act with absolute discretion in running the country.

Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels

Firstly, a Prime Minister is appointed under A.43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution which states that ” the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of members of that House…”. The cabinet shall then be appointed by the YDPA on the advice of the Prime Minister under A.43(2)(b).

The issue of advice is an important point that must be understood whereby in the case of ‘In The Matter of An Oral Application by Dato’ Seri Anwar Bin Ibrahim To Disqualify A Judge of The Court Of Appeal’:

“…therefore the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must act upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The advice envisaged by art 40(lA) is the direct advice given by the recommender and not advice obtained after consultation…”

[2000] 2 MLJ 481

Therefore, it is an established principle that the YDPA must act on the advice given by the Prime Minister as provided under A.40(1A) of the Federal Constitution. Due to this principle, the Prime Minister has control over the appointments of the Attorney General under A.145, the appointments of judges of superior courts under A.122B, and various other key positions that require the YDPA to appoint on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Due to this immense discretionary power given to the Prime Minister, he has the ability to effectively control the enforcement of laws within the country. As he is the person who commands the majority in Parliament, in theory he will be able to pass any bills he tables in parliament as he has the majority to support him. He also has a say in the appointment of the Attorney-General which has the absolute power to charge or discontinue a charge against an individual, giving him absolute control over the enforcement of laws in the country.

A suitable example of how his power can easily be abused is in looking at the double standards on the enforcement of fines pertaining offences during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even getting the police to make an investigation regarding the complaint can be difficult as the officers act on orders by the Prime Minister. Even if an investigation paper is opened, it would still need the Public Prosecutor to take action, a position which is controlled by the Attorney-General that is appointed by the Prime Minister.

Even if the Prime Minister were to break laws himself, or even if he has acted in excess of the powers given to him, there is no check and balances in the system to regulate or control his powers as the Prime Minister not only enacts the laws, he is in charge of determining who breaks the law and also has a say on who interprets the law. Such power was only wielded by the ancient gods of the past.

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

With all being said, the powers wielded by the Prime Minister are not something that has been recently amended but has existed since the birth of our country. The only way to prevent future abuses is for a complete restructuring of the check and balance systems within our constitution which is not likely to happen as amending the constitution requires two-thirds majority, something that may never happen again in this country.

Kage is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Author: Kage

Hoping to entertain someone with my thoughts.