Cool heads prevail on bill
In the face of high emotion over the Constitution Court's order for parliament to temporarily put off the final deliberation of the charter amendment bill scheduled for tomorrow, it is indeed a welcome relief that common sense has prevailed.
Somsak Kiatsoranont, the House speaker and parliament president, has decided to put off the debate, as the court ordered, which should avert messy protests which were threatened if the parliament defied the court order and put the bill to its third reading.
This was not an easy decision for him to make.
On one hand if he chose to defy the court, he would risk breaching Section 216 of the constitution which says the Constitution Court's decisions are final and binding on the parliament, the cabinet, the courts and other state organisations.
On the other hand, if he chose to obey the court's order to delay deliberation of the charter amendment bill, then the final reading of the bill could be delayed beyond the 15-day period specified in Section 291 of the constitution.
Thanks to a cool head and common sense, Mr Somsak chose the second option which might go against the wishes of many Pheu Thai Party MPs and their supporters who are yearning for a showdown with the court, but is the more sensible choice nonetheless.
He said the joint sitting of the House and Senate would be held tomorrow as planned but they would not consider or vote on the charter amendment bill.
Mr Somsak's decision must be respected by all, especially the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship whose leader, Tida Tawornseth, has threatened to lead a crowd of between 30,000-40,000 red shirt followers to gather in front of parliament tomorrow.
The threatened "show of force" by the red shirts is unnecessary if their real aim is to submit to Senate Speaker Thiradej Meepian a petition seeking the impeachment of the seven charter court judges who issued the ruling asking the house to delay the debate.
The red shirts believe the court exceeded the bounds of its authority in issuing the order, and believe the parliament should have the final say.
As for the court itself, there is an urgent need for it to clarify its injunction for parliament to delay the final reading of the bill as well as its decision to accept the petitions challenging the constitutionality of the charter amendment process on the grounds that the process threatens to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.
The arguments raised by the court's opponents are valid and justified.
For instance, the argument that the court does not have any authority to issue the injunction because it was not written in the charter, and that the court had to apply the Civil Procedural Code to support the issuance of the injunction.
Or the argument that the petitioners did not take their cases to the Office of the Attorney-General as prescribed in Section 68 of the constitution but went straight to the court instead. More importantly, the charge of overthrowing the constitutional monarchy which is a serious one should warrant thorough scrutiny by the court before the petitions are accepted.
At the very least, given the heated debate which surrounds the court's decision, the charge that moves are under way to overthrow the constitutional monarchy must be backed up with credible evidence and not just pure suspicion, speculation or perception, to lend any credence to the court's decision to accept the petitions for consideration.
07 June 2012