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UNLESS you are familiar with the odd rituals of the United Kingdom Parliament, this little piece of information may be new to you.

Did you know that a Member of Parliament (MP) is held “hostage” at Buckingham Palace for the whole duration of the Queen’s Speech and the official opening of a new Parliament session?

The hostage will only be released upon the safe return of the Queen to Buckingham Palace. This tradition goes way back when relations between the Monarch and Parliament were less friendly. These days, this practice is purely ceremonial.

Flashback to Monday, Aug 2, 2021, not in London but in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Opposition MPs were refused entry to Parliament. The road to Parliament – our symbol of democracy – was obstructed.

I dare say that on that “Black Monday”, democracy was unceremoniously held hostage. It would seem that the right of the MPs to exercise parliamentary democracy has been immobilised until September 6, 2021.

The speaker of Parliament has confirmed that the first meeting of the 4th Session of the 14th Parliament will be officiated by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on September 6. As is customary in the Westminster system, the Agong will read the Royal Address.

The Royal Address is prepared by the government. It outlines the government’s agenda for the coming year and reflects the legislative agenda for which the government seeks the agreement of both Houses of Parliament.

Let’s pause and think through this puzzling situation. With the government’s legitimacy in question, don’t you think that the timing of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s call for a Vote of Confidence (VoC) is rather dubious? 

While this possible technical knockout is rather complex to explain, allow me to break it down in a simple scenario.

Come September 6, consider this hypothetical timeline:

10am: The Agong descends upon the Parliament and proceeds with the traditional procession;

10.30am: The Agong delivers his Royal Address, which contains the government’s agenda for the year in Chamber, with an audience of 220 MPs plus dignitaries.

11.30am: Commence the motion for Vote of Confidence (VoC)?

Did I miss something? Shouldn’t we settle the VoC and test the government’s legitimacy before the Royal Address? If the government fails to secure the VoC, does that mean that the Agong will have to read a new Royal Address prepared by a new government? Sounds rather ridiculous, not to mention, a waste of time and resources.

Furthermore, MPs are expected to debate and vote on the Royal Address within this sitting. Voting for the Royal Address means recognising the legitimacy of the government; and, on the other hand, voting against the Royal Address is equivalent to rejecting the King’s government.

Is it possible that the government is using the Royal Address as a test of legitimacy, in lieu of a formal VoC motion? If yes, I must say, this is a rather brilliant strategy (sarcasm intended).


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