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.