August 17, 2014
The real meaning of the Selangor Crisis
by Ernest de Silva (08-16-14)
If the current “seizure of power” by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim stands –and I cannot see how, in any serious way, Pakatan can come back from this shambles, if even if it can muster the numbers on a confidence vote and is allowed a chance to do so) -– then Malaysia has reached a new level; a new plateau, so to speak, has been placed on a new foundation.
If the installation of Tan Sri Khalid as Menteri Besar of Selangor stays, then that fact, by itself, will mean and signify and establish that whatever the formal “niceties” about constitutions and electoral politics may suggest, Malaysians now live under what might be called a political system or dispensation of “Islamo-monarchical ‘Ketuanan Melayu’. “
Following GE13 I expected UMNO to seize the opportunity afforded it by the favourable new national election-based political arithmetic and to set as its main priority for the period from GE13 to GE14 the implementation and institutionalization and practical achievement of Ketuanan Melayu, of effective Malay political supremacy.That is to say not just to make pantomime symbolic displays of Ketuanan Melayu (as the Pemuda/Umno Youth did with its keris-waving in the years leading to GE12 in 2008).
UMNO is not just to make the ideological and polemical promotion of Ketuanan Melayu thinking a central part and focus of government activity (as the party did between 2008 and 2013, from GE12 to GE13) but it is now to establish and enact and implement Ketuanan Melayu as Malaysia’s defining and operative political doctrine, as the basis of the state and of the national identity of its people.
Ketuanan Melayu in Substance
What does the talk about “mewujudkan dan menghayati atau merealisasikan” Ketuanan Melayu mean? It is to implement and institutionalize Ketuanan Melayu and, by so affirming Ketuanan Melayu thinking, to “make it real” as the nationally operative doctrine here in Malaysia, meaning within the political and the wider socio-cultural order.
I expected UMNO to work hard and seriously at the job. But I did not really imagine that they might work as swiftly and decisively as they have, especially by means, barely a year after GE13, of this upheaval in Selangor.
What is significant about the Selangor events, if Tan Sri Khalid’s chief ministership stands, is this – with this move, its successful accomplishment, the final and ultimate “Malay supremacist” goal of effectively, or de facto, establishing Ketuanan Melayu has already been completed. That is the terrible truth.
Unfinished “Malay struggle” now completed
After this, there is no more new ground to be fought for and won, to be conquered and gained. It is all already in hand .What remains now is not the task of conquering new terrain and establishing control over it; all that remains now is to “fill in” the ground that has already been conquered for Ketuanan Melayu.
This ground is to be filled with institutions and activities and practices and personnel that will give content and expression and ballast to that important new fact of Ketuanan Melayu; that will empirically and socially “substantiate” it, provide it with growing and ultimately massively powerful substance.
To bed it down securely. But the conquest, the primary phase of “the great Malay struggle”, is already complete.Its consolidation may yet prove to be a long process but we are now in the stage where the task is merely one of consolidation and amplification, not of ideological and national institutional conquest.That is where Malaysia now is and we all are now at.
Implications of political developments in Selangor
You and I, we, are now standing in the middle of it already. Upon its ground and terrain, as established fact and now (in-principle) accomplished reality. That is the meaning of what has happened in Selangor since last Sunday. But the meaning and implications of those events are not just Selangor-specific. They define, and redefine, the entire national political terrain.
An “Islamo-monarchical Ketuanan Melayu” polity: I have been asked to spell out the reasoning, to join the dots of the argument through which I have reached this conclusion, and seized upon this typification of what Malaysia has now in effect become.
Shape which Malaysia has taken
The argument goes like this: Whatever its faults – and there was much that was good and also bad in it – the Pakatan Raykat government of Selangor was a popularly elected government and administration, and one that, at GE13 in 2013, was returned to office with very substantial (and also socially diverse, humanly variegated) support.
Such a government cannot be decently dismissed from office by dubious, or fancifully contrived, means and manoeuvrering. What is ethical or acceptable in the corporate world, in the case of a well-disguised hostile or non-consensual reverse takeover bid, simply cannot pass muster in the world and by the criteria of democratic politics.
Yet that is what has, or arguably seems to have, happened in Selangor over the past few days.With Tan Sri Khalid’s extraordinary manoeuvre, and hence as a result of its peculiarly occluded and non-transparent dismissal, that elected government now seems (to all serious observers) to be in the process of being replaced by the installation of what bids to be basically an UMNO-led or UMNO-supported state government. It is a state government that has been brought into being and which intends to survive with the support and at the pleasure of UMNO.
The Khalid administration is standing with the support of UMNO. What is more, these days it is an UMNO which is far more assertively and stridently Islamist than its old rival, the Islamic party PAS.
UMNO has become stridently Islamist in its eagerness to retain the support of the Islamist and Malay ethno-supremacist hardliners to whom it is increasingly beholden and now, this UMNO incessantly goads and scorns and flays PAS on grounds of the latter’s insufficient commitment these days to an Islamist politics that will validate and sacralize a mundanely pro-Malay sectarian-nationalist political agenda – UMNO’s agenda.
The revamped Khalid administration will be a prospective government, yet further, that with the anticipated support of PAS (or large parts of it, whether the PAS leaders all agree or not) will offer an assertively Malay-Islamist administration and range of policies in Selangor.
And, further still, an UMNO-PAS Malay-Islamist government whose way to initial power and ultimate intallation was made open by the ouster (or through the apparent dismissal) of the elected Pakatan Rakyat administration on the authority of a Malay ruler exercising weighty monarchical powers and discretion.
Role of the Malay Ruler
The Sultan’s powers and prerogatives, in the final instance, are based and rest upon his traditional (and hence pre-constitutional) role as the payung or umbrella sheltering his Malay subjects and protecting Malay society and customs and – placing his role in all this beyond questioning – as the defender of the Islamic faith, its standing and dignity in his lands.
So in place of the former elected government, we are now faced with the imminent prospect of an assertively pro-Malay government and polity, ratified and sacralized by the ideas and an agenda of unyielding Islamist politics, and brought into power (or ushered to its threshold) by the initiative of a Malay-Islamic monarch.
And the implications of these developments are not simply Selangor-specific. Their reach is nationwide.In shorthand, that amounts to, and to me sounds very much like, “an Islamo-monarchical Ketuanan Melayu” polity.
The “Kajang Move”, designed by PKR to oust Khalid and throw a political lifeline to Anwar but which has been checkmated at every step, has been aptly renamed “Kajang Folly” by PKR detractors.
The Selangor political crisis, if prolonged, has deeper repercussions beyond just the survival of Anwar and Khalid. For one, it could make or break Pakatan, casting doubt about its survival in the next general election.The crisis has brought out the simmering fundamental and deep ideological differences between PKR, PAS and DAP.
“Even if they pull through in Selangor, the partnership or alliance at the national level has been dented,” said Chow Kum Hor, executive director of Centre for a Better Tomorrow, a civil society group that says it promotes moderation and good governance.– Dato Abdul Jalil Hamid, August 17, 2014