KUALA LUMPUR, 6 Aug 2009: “Democracy does not mean anything goes. It certainly does not mean mob rule,” the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah said.
He said in any functioning democracy, there were rules as to how society was to be governed, and in Malaysia, the rules were enshrined in the country’s constitution.
“Our constitution spells out not only what our rights are but also what the limits to those rights are. These limits ensure that decisions are not made by those who wield the most power, shout the loudest or behave in the crudest manner,” he said.
Raja Nazrin was delivering a speech titled Imbued with Integrity, Endowed with Ethics: Foundation for Managing Malaysia through Enlightened Value-Driven Leadership at the 25th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture organised by the Malaysian Institute of Management here on the night of 5 Aug.
“If we seek to settle disputes through mob rule and lawlessness, our disputes will never be settled,” he said, adding that the conflicts would only become entrenched and lead to deep social lesions that would never heal.
“If every party to a dispute were to act with integrity and honour, differences would be settled in a civil manner and we can move on,” he said.
Raja Nazrin said there would always be differences of opinion as to how this or that provision of our constitution is to be interpreted.
“Under our system of governance, the judiciary has been entrusted with the task of being final arbiter in matters relating to the interpretation of the constitution.
“Once the courts have made their decision, it is the responsibility of all to abide by them. Judicial decisions will inevitably result in winners and losers, but justice must never be a casualty,” he said.
“Precisely because we have so much riding on the judiciary, it is vitally important that there is judicial independence and impartiality. Without them, the rule of law cannot prevail. And when the rule of law has become unhinged, it must be fully restored.”
Raja Nazrin said since the country’s last general election in March 2008, political contestation has become more common and more intense, and this is likely to continue for some time to come.
“But whatever our differences, our overiding concern must be to create the type of nation we can all be proud of. We must never turn our grand positive-sum nation-building endeavour into a fractious and destructive zero-sum one.
“We have a good system of governance in place that has served us well, and Malaysians should seek to improve on and strengthen this system.
“Wherever there are weaknesses, we should acknowledge them and strive to overcome them.”
Raja Nazrin Shah said the Malay rulers are above partisan politics, and this is what a constitutional monarchy means and what the rulers assiduously believe.
“For until and unless rulers are placed above everyday politics — and the controversies that will inevitably follow — they will be unable to carry out their constitutional functions properly. These functions are necessary for the operation of democracy in this country,” he said.
“By the time the ruler became involved, it had escalated to such a point that it was not so simple as to press the reset button, as some would have liked.
“When rights may have been violated and laws infringed, one cannot just conveniently wipe the slate clean and pretend as if nothing had happened.
“The ruler cannot take sides in political contests, whether with acts of commission or omission. He has to make decisions based on justice and the rule of law,” he said.
In making the right decision in any situation and act in a manner that is fair and impartial, the ruler must be guided by the constitution, it encapsulates all the values that form the very foundation of Malaysian society.
In the Perak case, the ruler adhered closely to the letter and spirit of the state constitution, he said.
“After all, the sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah has considerable knowledge of the law, having spoken and written about it extensively throughout his career [as a judge and Lord President],” he said. — Bernama