Collective Responsibility

I read an interesting quote in an article from MMO this morning and it got me thinking. According to the article:

What Dr Mahathir does not tell the people is that if a vote of no confidence is successfully passed it is not just the Prime Minister who falls. It is the government that falls.

What our Communications and Multimedia Minister forgot to tell the people is that, this principle of collective responsibility is enshrined in our Federal Constitution under Article 43(4), which says that:

If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.

See, this is a perfectly legal and acceptable thing to do in our country. The mechanism has already been put in place by our founding fathers who drafted our Constitution. This particular article addresses the scenario that might happen if our Prime Minister ever fails in a vote of no confidence.

In the event that our PM loses a no confidence vote either by an explicit vote called in the house or by failing to secure the necessary votes to pass the coming budget – a money bill – he will be forced to ask the YDPA to dissolve the parliament. If our YDPA decides to veto the dissolution of parliament, then the PM has no choice but to resign along with his Cabinet.

By simply leaving out this tiny little fact, one might think that our Minister is trying to sow some fear, uncertainty and doubt by implying that our former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir, is not just trying to bring down the current PM but also trying to bring down the current government.

Simply put, there is nothing wrong with bringing down the entire Cabinet with the PM. This is the principle of collective responsibility. If they stand by him, they should sink by him too. The reasoning for this is because the PM does not act alone. He is not a sovereign.

So, if he sucks as a PM, the rest of the Cabinet sucks as well. This is because they could have advised him on many occassions on what to do. In fact, they are his equals and they should have been able to tell him what to do, without having to ask nicely.

Therefore, if he has committed such sins as to warrant such a loss of confidence from within members of his own party, the rest of the Cabinet needs to take some responsibility for the situation getting so out of hand in the first place.

The thing is, it’s not easy for a sitting PM to lose a no confidence vote simply because so much power is concentrated in him. In fact, the entire Cabinet holds their posts at the pleasure of the YDPA who takes the PM’s advice in hiring and firing the Cabinet members, according to Article 43(5).

Hence, it is quite difficult for a sitting PM to lose a no confidence vote, unless his acts are of such a nature that he is no longer tenable as the PM.

This is why we have a no confidence vote. If a PM has lost the confidence of the people, our government will grind to a halt and the economy will suffer. Imagine if his instructions are not carried out simply because the officers don’t take the PM seriously because he is a laughing stock and the butt of every joke.

This is the situation that our country seems to be slowly turning into.

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