Feb 7, 2009
It is tough for Pakatan to back down, for it is no longer a question of losing the Perak state government, but at stake now is its entire national agenda of bringing justice and social reform to all Malaysians
By Wong Choon Mei
Amid the storm of criticism, there are also growing calls for the Pakatan Rakyat to be steadfast and push on with legal action against probable unconstitutional behaviour by the Perak Ruler and the Barisan Nasional government.
“Blind adulation must never be encouraged by any society, whatever its creed or religious base. This is against universal wisdom and values,” said a political analyst.
“A people can only be saved by its morality, usually religious. But sadly, religion is also often politicised. So the last resort of a nation still has to rest in its laws and through its courts.
“In the case of Malaysia where allegations of judge-rigging are rampant, even if the courts don’t work as they should, the system still has to be tested. This is to confirm that all recourse and process have been exhausted.
“The people will then know for sure that what they need are better laws, and to get that, they need a new batch of lawmakers. They must not be afraid to keep changing until they find the right set of lawmakers, who will do the right thing by the nation.”
Another blot on the country’s human rights record
The latest to question the decision of the Perak Sultan over who should govern the state is Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).
Suhakam has called for fresh state-wide election in Perak, citing the questionable manner in which the Ruler allowed the formation of the new BN state government as the basis for its recommendation.
“It appears that the method adopted in forming the new government for the state of Perak is questionable, consequently so is the legitimacy of the new state government,” said Suhakam in a statement.
The human rights body also said despite the politicking - at the end of the day, it was the people’s basic human right to select the government of their choice.
“Suhakam is of the opinion that new elections for the state legislative assembly, in line with the principle of human rights, will resolve the political uncertainty of the state government.”
Human rights has long been a thorny problem in Malaysia, festered and encouraged by the race-based politics practised by the Umno-led BN. Its five-decades long stay in power has substantiated the proverb “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In particular, money politics and corruption in coalition leader Umno is so entrenched and endemic that party members openly resist and warn against attempts to curb the problem.
Incoming president Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak himself faces a barrage of graft allegations, including accusations of a RM50 million defection offer to a Perak politician, and of being involved in the controversial murder of a Mongolian woman, alleged to have been his mistress.
At the end of last month, just before the onset of the Perak crisis, former de-facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim had said money politics and corruption in Umno was so bad that even its disciplinary board had to bow to certain top leaders and investigate on a selective basis.
Unsurprisingly then, that accusing fingers straightaway pointed at Najib, when the Perak Sultan agreed to his offer to form a new state government, replacing the Pakatan line-up headed by Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.
“If Umno is man enough, then battle it out with Pakatan Rakyat through election,” said Nizar.
What happened, Tuanku?
However, what hurt the nation was not Najib, for Malaysians know his limitations and do not expect better from him.
But they did from Sultan Azlan Shah, a very popular top judge in the late 1970s and 80s, almost revered for standing up for the people against the oppressive regime of former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Sultan Azlan’s controversial decision - which also included a further unprecedented one of sacking Nizar as Menteri Besar - has sparked a slew of consipracy theories among the masses.
The favourite topics at the ubiquitous coffee shops across the nation include ones about Umno’s planted Trojan horse, and alleged plots between Najib and certain members of the royal family.
Nevertheless, experts and civil groups have been just as hard on the Perak Ruler and the BN.
Said Abdul Aziz Bari, law professor at the International Islamic University: “The problem in Malaysia is that the law is not allowed to take its course. I think the Sultan has made a mistake.”
Said Malaysia’s human rights body: “Suhakam noted that the Sultan of Perak has not consented to the dissolution of the state legislative assembly.”
Said KeADILan information chief Tian Chua: “Given that the Sultan previously wrote in his own book that a Ruler’s role is purely formal and that he should follow the recommendations of his Menteri Besar, that His Majesty himself could now chose to reject Nizar’s request for a snap election is surprising.
“If this was because the people of Perak were against Nizar, if this was to protect Perak against oppression, then there is cause for argument. But here, very clearly, the people of Perak want a snap election. They are not against Nizar either. So obviously, the question ‘why’ arises.
Hiding behind the royal house
The way forward for Perak and its Ruler may have to be through a morass of legal battles and land mines.
It is tough for the Pakatan to back down, for it is no longer a question of losing the Perak state government, but at stake now is its entire national agenda of bringing justice and social reform to all Malaysians.
From Najib and Umno, most Malaysians believe there is nothing much to expect other than more mis-information, manipulation, plotting and intrigue that cannot be seen by the light of day.
“Najib has only confirmed what everyone thinks of him, but has not said out loud,” said a veteran party observer.
“He is not a fit leader for the country, and he knows this is the public feeling. This is why as far as possible, he will suppress any election anywhere in the country. Because he knows it is almost a certainty that he will lose, and he cannot afford anymore losses after Kuala Terengganu and Permatang Pauh.”
As for the Perak Ruler, it remains to be seen if his Majesty will heed the call of his subjects, his critics and his peers.
Said the political analyst: “Right now, the perception is that Najib and Umno are hiding behind the royal house. There are 13 states in this country and the Perak Ruler is considered to be the most enlightened because of his qualification as a federal court judge.
“If the Pakatan doesn’t chase up, the feelings of boldness in Najib and Umno to further encroach on the other royal houses will increase. Instead of growing transparency and better governance, Malaysians might end with greater oppression.”
Said a royal counterpart from the Kelantan house Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah: “Only the answer of the assembly counts, regardless of how many sworn statements, defections, press conferences and declarations, or what forms of advertisement, display, inducement or force you bring to bear on the question.
“The question must either be put to the people through state election, or to assemblymen through a formal vote in the state assembly.”