Monday, 15 September 2008

Bygone Days

With thanks to The Times

Are decisions to invoke the Internal Security Act one of Ministerial or Cabinet?

The provisions suggest a two-tier stage of arrest and detention: the first empowered to the police under Section 73 (1) and the second to the Minister by Section 8 (1).

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Syed Jaafar Albar is in everyone’s sights with the arrest of three under the Act on Aug 12, but he was technically correct in stating, "I did not order it" .

His later remarks on the matter, reported by Utusan Malaysia under the title: Syed Hamid jawab Zaid , after the latter - the De Facto Law Minister - responded negatively on the arrest and detention (note this word) of blogger Raja Petra and State Assemblyman Theresa Kok piqued my curiosity somewhat.

According to Utusan, Syed Hamid said it was a Government’s decision.

If so, the remarks made by the various Ministers, including Zaid, then run headlong against the doctrine of collective responsibility.

As we modeled ourselves after the British Westminster system (sort of), shouldn’t this doctrine that members of the Cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them, holds true?

Cabinet members who disagree with any such decisions should – by right and if such doctrine is adhered to in the first place – resign, as Zaid himself had intimated a willingness to do so during his press conference on the matter.

Was it, however, a Cabinet’s call or one that is Ministerial at best?

Syed Hamid’s statement seems to indicate so but the negative statements from Zaid, Datuk Ong Tee Keat, Datuk Liow Tiong Lai and Datuk Dr. S. Subramaniam – to name a few - seems to indicate otherwise. Mind you they are all full ministers.

Such a question is important to address as it can be looked at as a sign of small revolt if it’s a Cabinet (even if pre-supposed) or a far less innocuous disagreement between Cabinet colleagues of a Ministerial decision.

The first has, of course, far reaching ramifications.

Principle-wise, that is.

Whether this would translate as such reality wise is, alas, another thing altogether.

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