Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Perak tree sitting and a Paris tennis court

DATUK Seri Azalina Othman Said has characterised the attempt of the Speaker to convene an emergency sitting of the Perak state assembly as “uncivilised” and as recourse to the “law of the jungle”.

Never in the country’s history, she avers, has a state assembly sitting been convened under a tree.

Perhaps she is right. But some further historical perspective is needed.

In 1789, when the King of France sought to forbid the so-called “Third Estate” or representatives of the people from meeting to discuss urgent national business, they convened on a Paris tennis court.

This too was, at the time, unprecedented and surprising.

They passed their “Tennis Court Oath” that they would not disperse, adjourn or relent until their right to convene and discuss important public matters as the people’s legitimate representatives was acknowledged.

That, too, was presumably seen as an “insult” to the ruler, King Louis XVI.

It was also the beginning, for better or worse, of the French Revolution and of the entire drama of modern representative democracy and popular sovereignty.

Those who seek to invoke history should know history.  It may often prove a double-edged sword.

Clive S Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the School of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

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11 Responses to “Perak tree sitting and a Paris tennis court”

  1. Maozi says:


    Compared to those brutes aiming water cannons at Aduns, and those inconsequential clerks giving blockade orders, and those blindly obeying the clerk and blocking Aduns from entering state assembly, who is more uncivilised?

  2. James says:

    Why even bother to comment on statements coming from the uncivilised? Tell me which century is she from?

  3. Calvin Ngan says:

    How civilised is Azalina? How civilized is Umno? The keris-waving incident was probably the most uncivilised act we’ve seen.

  4. Damien says:

    How can she call this gathering uncivilised when members of her own party displayed uncivilised behaviour when some of the Umno youth showed their brute side to the wheel-chaired MP Karpal Singh and other MPs? This is what I call uncivilised. My advice is get the plank out of your own eye so that you can see better to remove the speck of dust from another’s eye.

  5. Raja says:

    Touche dear Kessler!

  6. vsp says:

    I won’t be surprised if Umno decides to take revenge against the raintree. They are so evil that they will destroy everything that is not to their liking. So the raintree will be the natural victim of Umno’s vindictiveness and barbarity.

    Just wait and see.

  7. Amin says:

    You blocked the access road, shut the gate and threatened the assemblypersons who persisted and preserved, under some trees notwithstanding.

    Now you sneer at them and called theirs a shameful act. Little did it cross your convoluted mind that all these were a direct consequence of your despicable and evil schemes?

  8. Daniel says:

    Vive la Revolution!
    Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!

  9. kuku says:

    Other people cannot jump, but they can, other people cannot demo, but they can, other people are not rakyat, only they are rakyat – or else riot.

  10. Billy says:

    If not for the uncivilised manner of locking out the Aduns, there would have been no meeting under the tree. What about those 20 Umno supporters shouting profanities at the Aduns? In fact, I admire the way the PR reps kept their cool despite taunting from these uncivilised people. Azalina, let’s face it, you have lost, Umno has lost. You dare not face the PR in the assembly for fear of being voted out and the dissolution of the assembly. If you are popular as you claim to be, then let’s face each other by going back to the source – the people for a fresh mandate instead of resorting to such uncivilised acts. It’s really frightening to know that your days are already numbered, isn’t it?

  11. Remie says:

    Sin Chew cited in their earlier article about, perhaps, the first ever assembly for democracy and the establishment of constitutional monarchy. Here the negotiations with King John of England, was held and the Magna Carta was finally signed in an English meadow.

    I am sure Gandhi did not hold his assemblies in a government building, as well, before the independence for India was declared.

    Chiang Kai Shiek held his deliberations in Singapore (a foreign country) instead of Chinese soil.

    Perak’s assembly under a rain tree is symbolic and follows the great and earth-shattering democratic traditions of the world – the Magna Carta, the French Revolution, India’s independence movement and China’s Revolution.

    I am sure there are plenty of examples that may be cited where great political change came about, not so much in a Parliament building but in humble circumstances. Perak’s assembly under a rain tree will be noted in Malaysia’s political history and folklore, forever.

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