Can a caretaker Prime Minister sack any of his caretaker Ministers from his caretaker Cabinet?

The Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri, has presented Malaysians with an intriguing question: Can a caretaker Prime Minister sack any of his caretaker Ministers from his caretaker Cabinet?

This came about when Ismail said he should have sacked the 12 ministers from Perikatan Nasional (PN) over their letter to the King objecting to the dissolution of Parliament and the caretaker special functions minister Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad retorted: “We are still members of the caretaker cabinet. It is not too late to be sacked. Perhaps the ninth prime minister can create history by sacking a cabinet member during ‘injury time’.”

In response, Ismail said he was just kidding when he made the remark and that Latiff would have been sacked if he was serious, saying: “Since he’s still in the (caretaker) Cabinet and hasn’t been sacked yet, that means I was just kidding.”

But can a caretaker Prime Minister sack a caretaker Minister from his caretaker Cabinet?

Ismail’s shortest tenure as Prime Minister has created another unprecedented question – whether the Prime Minister could advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament without seeking a mandate from his Cabinet to do so.

Latiff said Ismail had “never asked for a mandate” from the Cabinet regarding the dissolution date.

He claimed Ismail did not directly respond to a senior minister’s query on Oct 7 as to the date of Parliament’s dissolution.

Ismail had at first said he did not blame the ministers for signing off on the letter as they were just following PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin’s orders.

The constitutional conundrum is best summed up by author Kim Quek, who wrote:

”Nothing Ismail Sabri has said so far has negated the unconstitutionality of his advice to the Agong to dissolve Parliament due to his lack of approval or even knowledge of his cabinet. Hence, the dissolution of Parliament remains unlawful and void.

“With regard to his latest assertion that the Agong has the discretion to dissolve Parliament by virtue of Article 55(2) of the Federation Constitution, such assertion contradicts Article 40(1), Article 40(1A) and Article 40(2), which read together do not endow the Agong with such discretion.”

Ismail’s shortest tenure as Prime Minister may produce the most number of constitutional questions for any Prime Minister in Malaysia.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Veteran