(Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of theSun)
NO other issue dominates the Bukit Gantang by-election as much as the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s 5 Feb 2009 takeover of the Perak state government and the sultan’s role in it.
As the BN and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take to the campaign trail, who has the better argument in what has become a neverending war of rhetoric? The suits and counter-suits filed by both sides have not helped to clarify the situation for voters, either.
The Nut Graph secured an interview with the BN’s Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir on 30 March, and then threw the points he raised to PAS’s Bukit Gantang by-election operations director Asmuni Awi the next day, to compare their arguments.
Zambry on the BN state government being an illegal one:
I keep on saying, who triggered this whole episode? It is the basic question the public must ask, who triggered the whole thing? It’s not a question of who’s right or wrong. The issue is that, it was triggered from somewhere.
One side must be right, the other must be wrong. The wrong side is their side in the first place. And now they try to put the blame on us. They twist everything and tell the public we are the ones who rampas kuasa. But people should ask, who started it?
They were the ones who enticed our man (Bota assemblyperson Datuk Nasarudin Hashim) first. Then it happened that he and three other assembly[persons] left them. We never went to anyone of them. It was something that just boomeranged on them. We didn’t expect it to happen at all.
Asmuni on the PR starting the trend of crossovers:
We have never done any defections. Just look at Umno’s history. They did it in Terengganu in 1959 (when the coalition government of PAS and Parti Negara collapsed because of defections by Parti Negara representatives to Umno), then in Kelantan in 1968, in Sabah in 1993 by enticing representatives from Parti Bersatu Sabah to switch allegiance to the BN.
This is a history that cannot be denied. Memang mereka yang baling tahi tak akan mengaku.
Zambry on allegations that the BN used inducements to get the crossovers:
They (the PR) also use the same tactic.
Pemberi and penerima rasuah akan masuk neraka.
Zambry on the BN being afraid to face the PR in fresh state-wide elections:
Do you think they would do the same if this happened to them?
Asmuni on what if the PR were in the BN’s shoes now:
It is not true [that we would not want fresh elections]. Even if the court decides to uphold our petition — that Nizar is the legitimate menteri besar — we will still seek an audience with Tuanku Sultan to seek a dissolution. We won’t cling to power even for a day.
Zambry on whether the by-election is a referendum on the Perak takeover:
This is only a by-election. Bukit Gantang doesn’t represent the whole of Perak.
Asmuni on why it is a referendum, and what if the BN won the by-election:
Despite Umno saying that it will change, and if people still reject them… despite the constitutional crisis and if people still give PAS a high majority — how can we not interpret it but as a referendum?
But if we are rejected, the question of whether the BN is the legitimate government does not arise as it is a legal matter still pending in court. If we lose, we have to study why people rejected us — was it because of the issues, or underhanded tactics by the BN?
Zambry on the impact of the constitutional crisis on the BN’s chances of winning:
They (the PR) have been imposing their side of the story. They ridicule all the institutions that seem to be against them, like the sultan. Sooner or later the public will come to their senses and ask, what are they trying to do?
They are playing [the constitutional crisis] according to ethnic interest. They are not really looking at what else is going on in Perak. If you go to the rural areas, you’ll find that people just want to know how the government can solve their daily problems.
Asmuni on how voters are accepting PAS’s defence against the BN’s allegations of derhaka (treason) against the Sultan:
We have given extensive explanations and they have accepted it. History has shown that Umno has also committed treason against the royalty. In Perak history, there was Tan Sri Ghazali Jawi, who refused to vacate his seat as menteri besar (in 1976) despite being asked by the late Sultan (Idris Shah) to do so.
There was the removal of the rulers’ immunity in the early 1990s, and amendments to the Federal Constitution to hold back their assent to laws approved by Parliament or the state assembly. Is that not called derhaka when you take away the king’s power?
Last year, Umno protested against the Terengganu Sultan who did not want the menteri besar chosen by the prime minister.
Zambry on why the Chinese Malaysian community remains angry about the constitutional crisis since the issue of derhaka has no traction with them.
We have to explain the constitutional crisis to them in a legal manner and tell them that it was in accordance with the rule of law. We also have to tell the Chinese [Malaysians] about the need to maintain peace and stability. On one hand, you can talk about the takeover episode, but on the other, if you allow this kind of situation to continue where any Tom, Dick or Harry can take the law into their own hands, the situation can become very racially dangerous.
Asmuni on where Chinese Malaysians stand:
The Chinese are smart, they have more access to the media. They have accepted our explanation.
Zambry on PAS disobeying the Quran, which calls on Muslims to obey their rulers:
If PAS is religious, they will understand that a verse from the Quran is sacred and they won’t go against it. They know that the Quran clearly says that you have to obey God, obey the Prophet and obey the rulers.
Asmuni on obedience and dissent:
In Islam, there is room for dissent or “ikhtilaf”. When we disagree, it does not mean that we are not following Islam. In Islam, there is no total obedience except to Allah.
But to other people, to leaders, as long as they do right we follow, but if they do wrong we can voice our disagreement in a respectful way. We cannot read Quranic verses piecemeal, we have to read in totality. There are other verses that say that loyalty does not apply to things that are not right.