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Treason, Malay-ness and Allah

THE collapse of the Perak Pakatan Rakyat government was the most visible issue in the Malay language papers from 2 to 8 Feb 2009. In examining the event, the press focused on questions of treason and Malay-ness, and attempted to pinpoint causes and effects.


Karpal Singh
After the palace-approved Barisan Nasional (BN) takeover of Perak and following DAP national chairperson Karpal Singh’s call for Sultan Azlan Shah’s decision to be challenged in court, Berita Harian‘s and Utusan Malaysia‘s weekend editions on 8 Feb communicated general outrage.

Berita Minggu, under the headline Rakyat marah, said the ire was so great that there were suggestions for the Internal Security Act (ISA) to be used to detain “involved parties” or to revoke their citizenship. “…(A)nd for those who live in Perak, they should be run out of the state,” the report stated.

In a 7 Feb report in Mingguan Malaysia titled Melayu Perak bukan patung wayang kulit, Pekida president Jamaludin Yusof was quoted as saying that Karpal’s action was an extreme insult to the Malay race.

He decried the fact that “robed and serban-ed” brothers had been incited to demonstrate against royalty. “It is as if Malays are shadow puppets, with Karpal as ‘dalang’,” Jamaludin was quoted as saying.

The same Mingguan Malaysia edition featured an interview, titled Pulihkan sokongan, with Universiti Malaya senior lecturer Dr Azharudin Mohamad Dali on the Perak crisis. Azharudin argued that there would be grave effects on the opposition if they brought the Perak Sultan to court.

“Before this, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and [Datuk Seri] Anwar Ibrahim said they would defend the sultans, protect the Malays, the Malay language, and everything related to the Malay race … Malays in PKR will shift support to Umno when they see that Umno … has received royal mandate,” he said.

“It is not much legally, but has effect in terms of Malay culture and ethics.”


The monarchy’s position, it seemed, was inextricable from the idea of Malay-ness. In Perkenan bukan formaliti in Utusan Malaysia on 5 Feb, editor Noraini Abd Razak maintained that “defiance of the palace is only expected, because the mixed government administration in Perak is frequently seen as ‘uncaring’ of the Sultan’s role in the state.”

The writer cited the issue of land titles for planned and new villages. These, previously under 99-year-lease status, had been changed to freehold following a decision by the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

“Once again, the purview of the palace was questioned, and consequently the welfare of Malays and Islam, which are so closely linked to the Sultan’s function of defending Malay rights and the purity of Islam,” Noraini wrote.

Ahmad Ikram Abdullah, in Pas umpama “melukut” diperkuda Pakatan Rakyat in Berita Harian on 7 Feb, took apart PAS’s role in the Perak debacle. It urged the “Malay Islamic party” to re-examine its place within the Pakatan Rakyat, so that it would not be taken for a ride.

“PAS is just a party being ‘played’ by the DAP,” Ahmad said. Comparing PAS’s six seats in the state assembly with PKR’s seven and the DAP’s 18, the writer observed that “PAS realised its precarious position and was forced to switch strategies by trying to win the hearts of non-Malays … The party has had to compromise its original struggle to found an Islamic state, has lost position and power, and is now dragged into a confrontation between the Pakatan Rakyat and the palace.”


Many examinations of the Pakatan Rakyat’s fall in Perak cited Anwar’s deadlines for federal government takeover in 2008 as proof that the opposition coalition started the mess.

Hishamuddin Aun, in Pakatan Rakyat Perak tewas dalam permainan ciptaan sendiri in Berita Minggu on 8 Feb, pointed out that with 16 Sept 2008, there were “no worries — if it happened — that it would be unethical or a betrayal of the voters’ mandate.”

The people’s mandate, according to Hishamuddin, was not a topic that Anwar discussed when Bota state assemblyperson Datuk Nasarudin Hashim hopped over to PKR.

Now Nasarudin has hopped back to Umno, and PKR has lost an additional two assemblypersons. “Politics, as some people say, is like a wager. Losing your money should not cause you to say that the rules are unfair or should be changed,” the writer said.

There was also speculation that for the BN, the “game is just beginning,” he wrote.

In Isu Perak: Padan muka dan tebal muka in Sinar Harian on 8 Feb, Dr Aisar Yee Abdullah took a different tack, sticking by previous analyses that the BN’s coup d’etat would “speed up Umno’s death”.

She also criticised Umno’s two-wrongs-make-a-right logic: “Umno has legimitised their actions by saying they were an answer to something Anwar started. Meaning, if what Anwar did was immoral, Umno would also do the same … Widespread perception now is that the BN is thickening its skin, and doing what it shouldn’t be doing if it was really serious about rehabilitating its image.”

The writer quoted statements by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Umno veteran Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who both thought that the BN’s Perak bid, possible through the support of two assemblypersons facing corruption charges, would be bad public relations.

The writer agreed with “the large number of political analysts who predict that the BN will be severely punished by voters.”


For those fatigued by Perak politics, there was some respite.

In Utusan Malaysia‘s 4 Feb edition, Shamrahayu A Aziz decided that the action by Catholic weekly Herald in using the word “Allah” could be interpreted as eroding the position of Islam as Malaysia’s official religion. In Penghinaan agama rasmi?, the writer dwelt on the constitutional guarantee to other religions, which can be practised “in peace and harmony”.

Other religions using the word “Allah”, Shamrahayu argued, could be interpreted as a violation of that principle.

(© Roberto Pirola / Dreamstime)
“The law, in many instances, cannot solve all problems, especially ones that involve emotions or sensitivities. An easy example: will courts permitting husbands to marry second wives soothe the emotions of a hurt first wife?

“Even in the best case, after being forced to accept the court’s decision, the first wife will have to continue living with polygamy, with tears in her heart. You can say this is ‘willingness under duress’. It is a formula that will not ensure long-term happiness. The effects of the Herald using ‘Allah’ can be examined similarly.”

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One Response to “Treason, Malay-ness and Allah”

  1. Eric says:

    Reading the translations above demonstrate how much a repeal/significant revamp of the PPPA is long overdue.

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