1. The Federal Constitution is the basic law of the country. It was drafted by a panel of judges from the Commonwealth countries. Before accepting it the multi-racial leaders of the country made some amendments including to protect the position of the indigenous people whose poverty and relative backwardness were acknowledged by the multi-racial leaders who felt that those needed to be addressed.
2. Subsequently the constitution was amended several times to make provisions for current situations which arose.
3. There were two amendments worthy of mention. The need for the Agong to sign all laws before they become legal seems to negate the right of the people to make laws through their elected parliament. Normally the Agong acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. In the United Kingdom their sovereign dutifully acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. But there was fear that in Malaysia the Agong may not. The amendments provided that if the Agong refuses to sign into law it should be sent back to Parliament and if Parliament passed it with or without amendments it will become law even if the Agong does not sign it after two months.
4. The second amendment created a special court to hear charges against a ruler. This was made necessary after a ruler assaulted a citizen.
5. But the principal provisions in the Constitution state that Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy.
6. A constitutional monarch has no executive power. This means that he may not be involved in the administration of the country. This was considered necessary because in the past the Malay states were ruled by rulers with absolute power and the people were forbidden from being involved in politics. The result was that tracts of land were given to foreign countries, concessions given to foreign businesses, and finally independence was surrendered to the British under treaties lasting for as long as there is the sun and the moon.
7. When war ended and the British returned, the position of the Malay rulers was precarious. In India all the Rajas and Maharajas had lost their thrones. In Indonesia the Sultans and sundry rulers had been deposed, if not killed. It was with this background that the British proposed to amalgamate the Malay states and the Straits Settlements into a Malayan Union to be ruled as a colony. The Sultans would only be heads of Malay customs and religion.
8. Harold MacMichael reminded the Sultans that recognition by the British depended upon their signing agreements ceding their states to the British. Should they refuse the British would recognise another royal who would sign. And there were many waiting to sign. Accordingly all signed.
9. The Malays were legalistic. Since the rulers signed they had to be maintained to refute their signatures. And they did and the status quo ante was restored.
10. It was because the rulers could be so easily persuaded to make wrong decisions that the executive authority was transferred to the elected Government. The Government and its leaders and Parliament were expected to be firm in defending the Constitution and the interest of the people and country. The Prime Minister in particular must be firm and not be swayed by customary adats or deference to the rulers. The rulers are to be paid handsome pensions and may not be involved in business. This was considered necessary because officers tend to defer to the wishes of rulers and would find difficulty in rejecting business propositions by them. There was also the belief that unscrupulous businessmen would make use of the Sultans to get an advantage over others and to bypass rules and policies.
11. The Federal Constitution is a good constitution. There were some breaches but the constitution has served Malaysia well.
12. Unlike Thailand we have no laws against insulting the King. To a certain extent the ISA was a deterrent. Now there is no more ISA. Already there is a tendency to criticise and insult the rulers. The constitution is being ignored.
13. People might go further as they know no action can be taken against them.
14. If they are encouraged by other instances of the constitution being ignored or bypassed, they might become even more blatant. It might lead to racial clashes or it might lead to demands for the constitution to be amended.
15. It is dangerous, therefore, for anyone, including royalty to disregard the limitations imposed by the constitution.