Caretaker PM ensures govt administration functions as normal — Law experts

Caretaker PM ensures govt administration functions as normal — Law experts

KUALA LUMPUR: The role of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as caretaker prime minister is to ensure that the country’s administration is not disrupted and can function as normal until a new prime minister is appointed, according to constitutional and law experts.

Constitutional expert Associate Professor Dr Khairil Azmin Mokhtar said as the caretaker prime minister, Muhyiddin cannot make major decisions and the country’s admininstration can only proceed according to the policies or decisions made by the previous government.

“The caretaker prime minister is not involved in making any (major) decisions and is only guided by existing policies. In the present situation, although there is no prime minister or Cabinet, the function of the government continues except that officially the posts of prime minister and Cabinet ministers do not exist,” he told Bernama.

Khairil Azmin, who is lecturer of Laws and Malaysian Constitution in the Ahmad Ibrahim Law Kulliyyah of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), said the present scenario was similar to what happened when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as the seventh prime minister last year, which required the appointment of a new prime minister from among members of the Dewan Rakyat.

According to him, there is no provision for a caretaker prime minister, interim prime minister or interim government in the Federal Constitution.

He said in a normal situation, an interim government can only come about when Parliament was automatically dissolved, causing the prime minister and Cabinet ministers to lose their posts.

Concurring with Khairil Azmin’s view was another constitutional expert, Professor Datuk Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, who said that Muhyiddin’s appointment reflected the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s desire for the Pagoh Member of Parliament to continue serving until a new prime minister is appointed.

“Judging from the term ‘caretaker’ in Istana Negara’s statement which refers to a situation where a caretaker prime minister was appointed while waiting for the appointment of a new prime minister, it means the duties are limited to the time until the new prime minister is appointed,” she in an interview on Bernama TV’s Malaysia Petang Ini programme.

Shamrahayu, who is Universiti Teknologi Mara Institution of Malay Rulers chair, said the caretaker context also showed that the caretaker prime minister did not have vast powers to make big decisions.

Earlier today, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had consented to appoint Muhyiddin as caretaker prime minister pending the appointment of a new prime minister.

The appointment of the caretaker prime minister was decided upon after His Majesty accepted the resignation of Muhyiddin as prime minister and that of the entire Cabinet effective today.

Meanwhile, lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the concept of caretaker prime minister does not appear in the constitution, but it does not mean that it is wrong.

“Muhyiddin cannot make major policy decisions, but can only supervise the functions of ministries until Agong appoints the new prime minister,“ he said.

Another legal practitioner, Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay, said the role of a caretaker prime minister is not defined in the Federal Constitution.

“As he is only caretaker prime minister, he can do matters that relate only to government functions and those that are required of him as caretaker prime minister. Although the functions are not defined, the caretaker prime minister is in fact acting as the prime minister by virtue of Article 40(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

“It must be remembered that he is only acting as a caretaker prime minister on the advice and orders of the King. He was not appointed based on the provisions of Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution which requires him to have a majority number of seats in Parliament,“ the lawyer said. — Bernama