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Who’s afraid of the rakyat?

ONE of the most lucid things I’ve read above the din of the political fiasco in Perak is Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s statement about respecting Sultan Azlan Shah’s decision.

Following the Perak Ruler’s decision, the PAS spiritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar, who is himself of royal lineage, said, “I don’t question the decision of the Sultan of Perak in not consenting to the dissolution of the state assembly as it is the Sultan’s right.”

However, Nik Aziz said what needed to be reviewed and questioned was what led to the Sultan’s decision. Nik Aziz was ostensibly referring to how it came about that Pakatan Rakyat assemblypersons deserted their parties, adding: “There must be something that’s not right, and planned by certain quarters.”

Perhaps Nik Aziz’s statement calls on the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to be self-analytical on the fall of the Perak Pakatan Rakyat government. But I believe his statement calls us to ask one other thing: What led to the Sultan’s decision? In other words, how did our respected former Supreme Court Lord President arrive at the decision he did?

Right yet wrong

I am no constitutional lawyer. But I understand from the experts that the Sultan was constitutionally right in not acceding to Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s request to dissolve the state assembly.

In fact, the country’s best legal minds think it will be hard to challenge the Ruler’s decision in court. From what I hear, even lawyers within Pakatan Rakyat know that it will be a tough challenge although there are, of course, opposing views.

Still, while the Sultan may have been constitutionally right in the decision he made, he would also have been constitutionally right in testing Nizar’s popularity through ordering a vote in the state assembly. Or he could test the popularity of either the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional (BN) by dissolving the state assembly so that snap polls can be held.


Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (left), Hee Yit Foong (middle) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (right)

Indeed, the desertion of the three state assemblypersons — Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering), and Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang) — were dubious at best, suspect at worst. And as independents “friendly” to the BN, rather than being clear-cut BN members, their allegiance is hardly tenacious. Surely this is critical in a situation where the BN and Pakatan Rakyat have an equal number of seats in the state assembly, and everything hangs on these three independents?

Additionally, the resignations of these three pivotal assemblypersons have yet to be determined in court. It would thus seem that while the Sultan was constitutionally right, he may still have been wrong.

So, why then did the Sultan make one decision over two others which would also have been constitutionally correct? And more importantly, which would have returned to the people their right to choose which government they wanted? After all, allowing for snap polls would also have been a constitutionally sound decision for the Sultan to make.

If Nik Aziz has done anything for me, he has really prodded me into asking this question, even if that wasn’t his original intention. And I think it is a question worth asking. If this is a democracy, shouldn’t people be ruled by their choices during an election rather than by the fickle-mindedness of elected representatives?

Other lessons

There are other lessons we can learn from other statements which have been made about the Perak political impasse and the ensuing confrontation between BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

For example, the statement by outgoing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that Pakatan Rakyat should accept BN’s Perak takeover just like the BN accepted 2008′s election results.

Additionally, when S Veerasingam was appointed special advisor to BN-installed Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, he said this solved the absence of Indian Malaysian elected representatives in the Perak BN government.

Both these statements really demonstrate that the BN remains clueless about the meaning of a government by the people.

Additionally, the BN, led primarily by Umno, has been calling for the institution of the monarchy to be respected. But surely, a far more fundamental principle that needs defending is the rakyat’s right to choose who should govern them.

We are a democracy, not a feudal state even if some Umno leaders would prefer we were the latter. Hence, how can it be a threat to society or even treasonous to question decisions which do not uphold the people’s right to choose their government?


Zambry
What is really a threat to society is the kind of thuggery and intimidation involved in silencing questioning voices. I think it is critical for the rakyat to note where the calls for the use of the Internal Security Act, stripping of citizenship, banishment, or murder are coming from. It is the BN and their supporters.

Critical voices, including from within the Pakatan Rakyat, are raising issues of principle, law, democracy and legitimacy. But the BN, and Umno in particular, continue to resort to obnoxious arrogance, hoping they can mask their empty rhetoric by sheer volume and force.

Rakyat’s vigilance

Sure, the Pakatan Rakyat is not blameless. After all, Pakatan Rakyat was not averse to party-hoppers themselves and was bent on taking over the federal government on 16 Sept 2008 through exactly the same methods.

Indeed, little do I trust politicians from either camp to stay true to the rakyat’s interest unless we hold them to it. Nobody, after all, is above being corrupted by power and delusions of authority.

And if nothing else, the three deserting assemblypersons, and the Bota representative, Datuk Nasarudin Hashim, who couldn’t decide which party to remain in, have proven that politicians can be severely lacking in principles. Indeed, none of the four assemblypersons seemed too concerned that they were really letting the people down by doing what they did.

And if institutions such as a constitutional monarchy cannot be expected to always make the best decision, what recourse do citizens have?


(Anne James in “In Between Things”, © Five Arts Centre)

My friend Anne James happens to be the spouse of a PKR Member of Parliament. But, in the face of shameful behaviour and rhetoric from politicians and disappointing decisions from the monarchy, she has this to say: “The rakyat cannot just serahkan everything to politicians and institutions like we have over the past 20 years.”

James adds that if nothing else, the crisis in Perak has reinforced the fact that in a democracy, the rakyat need to actively participate to protect their interests. “We have to be ever-vigilant.”

And that means being ever-vigilant of the state, politicians and the monarchs who make decisions on our behalf.


Despite the royal seal of approval, Jacqueline Ann Surin notes that the new BN government in Perak is having a tough time defending itself. She wonders why politicians continue to be afraid of the people’s right to choose.

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23 Responses to “Who’s afraid of the rakyat?”

  1. Andrew I says:

    If you’ve been rejected three times in a row, wouldn’t you be afraid?

  2. PM says:

    The fact that the sultan sided with Umno to create the crisis is very concerning. If anything else need to be done for damage control, it will be good for the sultan to wise-up and explain how he made that decision, considering the 10 to 15 minutes interviews that he had with the four frogs versus his demand after the Mar 08 elections that all the PR assemblymen put down in writing their co-operation and whole-hearted support for the PR after several days of hand wringing before he grudgingly accepted the PR state government.

  3. David Anthony says:

    The Perak fiasco has brought to the fore the people’s right of choice regarding the government in a true democracy. On the same basis the people should also have the right to choose the country’s leader, the prime minister. As it is I have no say at all as to who I want as my prime minister. People want leaders of quality and integrity. In the last election the people voted not because they loved the opposition more but that they hated the BN more. They voted irrespective of who stood for election and we ended up with trash. We have learnt the lesson now and in the next election or by-election the people are going to critically evaluate the quality of the candidate/s standing for election.

  4. Melissa says:

    A very well-written and balanced account of the big fat mess our corrupt and confused politicians (you know who’s who) have landed us in. This drama seems to be never-ending and it’s so very frustrating, particularly as ordinary decent Malaysians are losing their jobs at this very moment and struggling to feed, clothe and educate their children. Yet I already know that another billion or so ringgit will be tossed away by both BN and PR on mindless campaigning in the upcoming by-elections. What a waste!

    Talk about the perfect definition of a rock and a hard place for Malaysians. May God bless us and guide us out of this horrible situation that our corrupt leaders keep dragging us back into.

  5. CK Loh says:

    Thanks for keeping us sane!

  6. bsking says:

    Come on, this is Malaysia we are talking about. It is by Umno for Umno. Rakyat is just the side effect and the sultan the tool to manipulate the system. If you are expecting anything to have changed since the tsunami, it is that Umno is now bent on being a lot more aggressive in its desire to be the one and only. As for the sultan? He is more concerned with his investments than the common person’s rights. After all, who is afraid of the rakyat?

  7. chong kim kong says:

    Why didn’t all the PKR, DAP and PAS Aduns resign at the same time in Perak? With 28 by elections at one time, I am sure the EC would have called for a state election.

  8. John 316 says:

    “Or he could test the popularity of either the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional (BN) by dissolving the state assembly so that snap polls can be held.”

    In the first place, the sultan prefers a BN govt. Secondly, he was a learned lawyer and judge before. A trial lawyer will tell you this: “Only ask the witness the question if you already know the answer. Do not ask the witness those questions if you don’t know the answer or the answer is not what you want to hear.” The sultan probably knows what the result (answer) will be by dissolving the assembly. Since he probably does not like the answer, he is not going to ask the question. Why would he prefer a BN state govt? I leave it to your readers to form their own conclusion.

  9. hanif says:

    People will decide! The BN govt will not survive any longer.

  10. moneymoneymoney says:

    What does BN/Umno want from Perak? Since it’s not to serve the
    people as the people do not want them, it is likely for something else, ya?

  11. tuankujuki says:

    Most Malay rulers except one or two will side with BN any time of the day. Why? Because BN will definitely keep their interest first before the rakyat’s. YAB Nizar is a religious person as far as many of us are concerned. This kind of Menteri Besar is probably deemed to be of no use to many among these Malay rulers so the quicker this type of Menteri Besar can be sacked the better.

    What happened in Perak was that the opportunity to sack such a Menteri Besar was presented by Najib and his cohorts.

  12. Jebat M says:

    To understand why the Sultan did what he did, consider the following facts.

    1. The Perak Royal family is a substantial shareholder of Gamuda Bhd, the construction giant listed on Bursa Malaysia. The filing at Bursa Malaysia website (http://announcements.bursamalaysia.com/EDMS%5Cshweb.nsf/LsvAllByID/482568AD002949814825745200339889?OpenDocument) on 22 May 2008, showed that Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Azlan Shah, the younger sister of Raja Nazrin holds a 7.51% stake in Gamuda Bhd worth about RM286m (as at 6 Feb 2009) via a company called Generasi Setia (M) Sdn Bhd. The shares are most likely held on behalf of Raja Nazrin, which received the shares back in 1992 when Gamuda Bhd was listed. (http://www-cgi.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/98/0703/sr_6_alloc2.html)

    2. Gamuda Bhd paid out RM370m in dividend in FY 2008 of which RM28m (i.e. 7.51%) went to Generasi Setia. In the previous year it paid RM323m in dividend.

    3. 40% of the RM471m operating profit of Gamuda Bhd in FY 2008 comes from toll concession operations of the highways mostly in Klang Valley (LDP, SPRINT [Penchala Link], SMART Tunnel and KESAS). See Gamuda Annual Report 2008 at http://www.gamuda.com.my.

    4. “The LDP cost RM1.33bil to build, but over the 30-year concession period, they stand to make RM18.87bil.” said DAP Tony Pua. (http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/2/1/focus/3159835&sec=focus)

    5. Pakatan Rakyat has a long history in opposing tolled highways in Klang Valley and proposed that the toll concession agreements to be reviewed. (http://www.dapmalaysia.org/english/2006/dec06/lge/lge532.htm, http://www.keadilanrakyat.org/index.php/content/view/424/98/)

    6. Gamuda Bhd share price fell from a high of RM5.30 on 15 Feb 2008 to RM1.90 on 9 Feb 2009. There has been speculation that the Gamuda-MMC’s double-tracking railway project from Ipoh to Padang Besar would be scaled down by the government from RM12.49bil to RM10.7bil. (http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/9/23/business/2094332&sec=business)

  13. malowar says:

    When we we read through history text books, it is written in not one, but few chapters, stating how the previous sultans starting from Old Malacca, tend make unwise decisions due to “not-so-good” influence of their ministers, and so history tends to repeat itself. Meaning, sultans, are just like us, mere humans with flaws.

  14. caravanserai says:

    The fluid situation in Perak
    The state government reigns
    The outlook was shaky in the beginning
    When the sultan asked for many commitments
    Amongst the elected representatives

    The Perakians had spoken
    It is the peoples’ power reign
    Yet the Sultan wanted to know
    Where was the government heading?

    PKR, DAP and PAS
    Loosely gelled together
    Finally defeated the Bee Anne
    Umno couldn’t stomach it
    The former MB cried

    The Sultan consented
    The peoples’ power reign
    The Pakatan Rakyat government
    The leaders showed their mettle
    They did a good job
    Administering the state

    Yet in the background
    The little napoleons sabotage
    Delivering services to the people
    They still think they work for Bee Anne

    After 11 months
    The real traitors came
    Betraying the trust of the people
    They went to Harm Noh
    Of greed and wealth
    It is so allegedly said

    Inducements and promises
    The former PR representatives dived
    Into the whirlpool of lies
    Leaving the constituents behind

    Now these former representatives hide
    In public they don’t show their faces
    Two giving excuses they were sick
    The other seems so silent

    The bad moon rising
    The Harm Noh got through the back door
    The sultan agreed to allow Nah Heep
    To form the state government
    With defections with dubious standing
    When the speaker said they had resigned

    The sultan didn’t heed his subjects’ opposition
    He gave his assent sparking demonstrations
    And the constitutional crisis by his action
    In one stroke he lost his status as caring for his subjects

    The administration turmoil begins
    The new Harm Noh government runs
    Ignoring public sentiments
    This is an illegal state government

    The state constitution
    The sultan may have misread his interpretation
    Though he is legally trained
    As a human we know we make mistakes

    Nizar and his team
    Now filed a case in KL High Court
    To move the motion
    He is the legitimate menteri besar of Perak
    And so the battle begins

    Back in Perak
    The state assembly speaker sent out notices
    To hear a complaint on Harm Noh MB and his Excos
    If they fail to show up
    They will lose the ship and station in life
    The state assembly will boot them out

    The situation is fluid
    Dissolution of the state assembly nears
    As the cards shuffling in motion
    It looks like it
    The fall to the dumpsite

  15. abubaker says:

    If the BN still think and believe that force-solutions can blind and seal people, it shows more expressively that their political mind, body and soul is sick. This sickness will lead them to hell, the law of nature says.

  16. Socratestes says:

    I’m sorry but I think this article is a good example of the muddle headedness we get in many (though not all) amateur blogs and, sadly, even professional “journalism” a la Malaysia . It adopts a transcendentalist (all-knowing) position and passes judgment on assertions and opinions, it raises questions – some of them “straw dummies” – and doesn’t answer them, cites unknown authorities and meanders to and fro before coming to rest (thankfully) at a hastily constructed end point. Why were Nik Aziz’s comments more “lucid” than any other? What did motivate the decisions taken? Etc. If we continue to engage in such muddle-headed journalism then we truly do need to be fearful.

  17. elvis says:

    Money, money, money, it’s so funny, in a rich man’s world.

  18. veryupset says:

    Jacqueline Ann Surin, I can tell you why. BN knows what they’ve done is against the rakyat’s wishes when they voted PKR to run the state. We all saw it was like daylight robbery. What BN did was just so, so bad till it hit a nail in all the rakyat’s heads. For 52 years BN has shut the rakyat up. Anwar is in the picture now and the opposition has never been stronger. He has opened our eyes! BN is now very afraid of the rakyat as no matter what they try to do, they ARE the black sheep! Next election they know they will be screwed. All that has happened, happening now and in the future will be reminded again during the election. Rakyat has had enough of these goons for 52 long years. They have become so comfortable until they behave like as if the rakyat owes them something. It’s not what you can do for your country. It’s what will be in it for them.

  19. tsbdreq says:

    Ms Surin,

    I suppose what your friend Ann James is suggesting is anarchy? Where the people take lawlessness to the streets?

  20. Perak is being watched not only by Malaysians. I believe, the rakyat will win eventually irrespective of the hurdles. Good luck, Perakians.

  21. LOOKING AT RESPECT FROM ALL ASPECTS

    We all know that respect must be earned
    More importantly respect must be mutual
    But first of all respect must be learned
    To ensure that respect still has a future

  22. calvin low says:

    I think if the most respected Sultan of Perak can dismiss a request to dissolve the state assembly and also now the Sultan of Selangor supporting his uncle’s decision, there are doubts about the monarchy looking after the interest of the rakyat. Do our rulers have too many ongoing businesses/vested interests to remain impartial in politics?

  23. Siksa says:

    Barisan, PKR, DAP, PAS all of them are the same.

    As a young generation Malaysian, I am frustrated seeing our people fighting each other because both parties cannot achieve mutual respect.

    What happened in Perak only makes things worse for our economy and country. Both sides are only thinking of their power governing the states and the country itself.

    But they must remember that the public are suffering in this political turmoil and I am very disappointed in the way the parties have acted and question their morals.


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