Bakri Musa on Perak and Politics: “This power struggle…deeply polarizes Malaysians”

February 11, 2009

by M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

The current tussle between the Sultan of Perak and his Pakatan Chief Minister is not the first, nor will it be the last, such crises in the country.

Contrary to the assertions of constitutional scholars and legal practitioners, this is not a legal issue.  Its solution does not lie with the court system.  Nor does it require of us to return to the old feudal ways of blind loyalty to the sultan, as some traditionalist would wish.

I am not surprised that Sultan Raja Azlan, a former chief justice, would view this as a legal matter.  However, the reputation and salvation of Raja Azlan specifically, and that of the institution of sultans generally, would require of him to look beyond the law for a solution.  Anything less and he would risk our country degenerating into another Thailand , cursed with endless constitutional and political crises.  Coming as it is during these trying economic times, it would also be a major distraction, one we could do without.

The continued relevance and indeed survival of our sultans depend on their ability to read the rakyats’ mood correctly, not on some cultural traditions, court precedents, or political expedience.

Lessons From The Past

Past experiences have shown that it was rare for the sultans to emerge from these political crises with their reputations enhanced, or the institution of royalty strengthened.  Even when the sultans emerged as heroes, they exposed their blemishes.  Raja Azlan needs to be extra diligent to make this episode the exception.  Thus far it has not been promising.

Consider the Malayan Union fiasco in 1946.  The sultans meekly agreed to the British “suggestion” of turning the country into a dominion.  Whether it was British perfidy or the sultans’ stupidity, the result was the same.  The price tag too was modest:  piddling pensions and perfunctory visits to Buckingham Palace for the sultans.  As a sweetener, just in case, they were awarded the knighthood of some medieval English order.

Fortunately their subjects, then almost exclusively Malays, were not as meek, or easily hoodwinked and cheaply bought.  Under the leadership of the late Datuk Onn Jaafar, the Malay masses, on the pretext of paying homage, descended upon the palace in Kota Baru where the rulers had gathered.  They effectively prevented the sultans from leaving the premise to ratify the agreement with the new British governor, effectively scuttling the treaty. Thus ended the brief and naked British power grab.

It was also a devastatingly effective demonstration of the halus (refined) ways of our culture.  Fortunately the sultans correctly read the subtle message from their rakyats.  Good thing too, for had it not been for those village peasants intervening, our sultans would today be reduced to the status of the Sultan of Sulu.  Today’s highflying sultans must be reminded of this – and often – lest they forget, as they are wont to.

Less than a decade later with the Federation of Malaya (1948) replacing the Malayan Union, and with the sultans securely ensconced in their palaces, this delicate balance between the ruler and the ruled would once again be tested, this time in the negotiations for independence.  It turned out that our sultans were less than enthusiastic with the idea, at least initially.  Not an unreasonable posture, considering the fate of their brother hereditary rulers in independent India and Indonesia .

Fortunately the sultans again correctly read the rakyats’ mood.  After all, the pro-independence Alliance coalition scored a near unanimous victory in the 1955 general elections.  Despite that, those rulers did not give in easily.  They demanded – and received – assurances that their royal status would be enhanced.  Indeed the Reid Commission tasked with drafting a constitution for the new nation codified the role of the sultans beyond their being mere feudal heads of their respective states.

The new constitution provided for a new national body, The Council of Rulers, headed by a “King” to be chosen from among his brother rulers.  Unlike real kings however, the new Agong would, apart from being “elected,” have a limited tenure of only five years – unheard of for any royalty anywhere.  Further, this Council would have veto authority on legislations passed by the bicameral (House and Senate) Parliament.

Functionally this Council of Rulers would thus be a Third House of Parliament, a miniature House of Lords but with an exclusive membership of only nine sultans.  This enhanced status of the sultans also satisfied the Malay masses, feeding their vanity patriotism of Ketuanan Melayu.

With their now elevated status and considerably more generous civil allowances, our royal families soon acquired regal tastes beyond what they could have imagined in their kampong days.  Now they compare themselves not to the Sultan of Sulu but the Queen of England and oil-rich Middle Eastern potentates.  Actually, closer to the Arab potentates!  Our sultans lack the social finesse and regal restraint of Windsor Castle but have all the excesses and vulgarities of the House of Saud.

Time has a way of eroding the wisdom acquired from earlier experiences.  Royal excesses soon knew no bounds; it would only be a matter of time when the sultans would clash with the elected leaders.  By mid-1980s the sultans would face an adversary in the person of Prime Minister Mahathir, a leader whose heritage and upbringing would put him not in the least in awe of things royal.

On taking on the sultans, Mahathir precipitated a severe constitutional crisis.  He prevailed but the price was high.  Mahathir had to unleash his hound dogs in the mainstream media to uncover every royal transgression, venal and minor, real and imagined, in order to discredit the sultans.  It was not pretty.

While Mahathir effectively clipped the wings of these highflying sultans, they could still fly high and far.  Barred from meddling in political matters, they found a lucrative niche in commerce.  With that they could acquire the latest luxury jets to fly to their favorite distant casinos.

Political Tsunami Impacted the Sultans

Things would have remained the same, with the royals indulging their newfound wealth, had it not been for the political tsunami that swept Malaysia in the March 2008 election.  Sensing a leadership vacuum with the Barisan coalition now crippled, the sultans began flexing their muscles.  Pakatan leaders, uncertain of their new role, did not quite know how to handle these newly assertive sultans.  By default and fearful of appearing to challenge the Malay sultans, Pakatan state leaders readily gave way to the sultans in Perak, Kedah and Selangor.

Even in states where Barisan did not lose, as in Trengganu, the sultan there was not shy in asserting himself.  In no uncertain terms and without any hint of subtlety the Sultan of Trengganu rebuffed the UMNO leadership and succeeded in having an individual more to his liking to be the new chief minister.  Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was impotent; his candidate was summarily rejected by the sultan.

Not to be outdone, a few months later the Sultan of Perak intervened in the micro management of the state over the transfer of a junior functionary in the religious department, on the pretext that matters pertaining to Islam are the exclusive preserve of the sultan.  His claim was not challenged.

Nature abhors a vacuum; a weakened Barisan and as yet uncertain Pakatan Rakyat created this opportunity for the sultans to reassert themselves.

What surprised me is that this power grab is being led by a sultan who is generally acknowledged as the most enlightened of the lot, having served as the nation’s chief justice and who has as his crown prince an intellect schooled in the finest universities of the West.  That they chose to revert to their feudal past given the slightest chance was a great disappointment.

This power struggle between the sultans and the political elite, and among the political leaders, would not interest me except that it deeply polarizes Malaysians.  That this polarization transcends race is no consolation.

After over half a century of dominant one-party rule, the country unsurprisingly has difficulty adjusting to the possibility of a minority or even change in government.  This adjustment is most difficult on current leaders.  Things would have been difficult even if the sultans were to play their constitutionally assigned role of honest brokers, but with their trying to reassert themselves, it makes for a combustible combination.

The other consequence to this power struggle is that the institution of sultan will never again be the same.  The oxymoronic expression of ousted Perak Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin, “Patek menyembah memohon derhaka!” (roughly translated, “Pardon me for my peasant insurrection!”) will now be part of our lexicon.  More significantly, his Jebat-like stance has all the makings of a modern day Malay heroism.  This powerful imagery is now indelibly etched in our Malay psyche.

It is not the sight of citizens giving the Perak crown prince the middle finger that stunned me rather that this was done so openly, spontaneously, and in-your-face style.  The sultan’s website (put up initially to demonstrate a royal family very much in tune with its Internet savvy citizens) had to be deactivated as it was quickly filled with shocking insults.  Even former Prime Minister Mahathir felt compelled to condemn those attacks.

It matters not; the genie is now out of the bottle.  The sultans are now no longer what they once were.  I do not lament this; I just hope that the sultans recognize this sea change in their subjects. Nor do I miss the days of a strong and dominant government.  That would be good only if the leaders were fair, honest and competent.  Saddam Hussein’s government was strong and dominant; look at the devastations it created.

Canada has a tradition for minority governments, and its citizens are not at all ill served by that.  Indeed there is considerable merit in having a divided or minority government.  That would be the most effective system of checks and balances.

With a deeply polarized citizenry, the days of a supra majority government are gone.  It is for this reason we must have an institution like the sultan that can act as an honest broker so as to maintain political neutrality and stability.  Now that too is gone.  That is what disappoints me most with this latest political crisis in Perak. If a sultan as enlightened as Raja Azlan could not disentangle himself from this political morass, we have little hope that the other sultans would be any better.

There is a silver lining to all this.  Thanks to Nizar’s Jebat-like stance of “Patek menyembah mohon derhaka!” Malaysia will never degenerate into an absolute monarchy.  In times like this, we have to savor such blessings!

24 thoughts on “Bakri Musa on Perak and Politics: “This power struggle…deeply polarizes Malaysians”

  1. Dear Din,

    I do not know if this is related to the posting but I hope you will read some thoughts I have on the impasse in Perak. Better still since you have the ear of DSAI, I would be grateful if you could somehow let my thoughts reach him (that is if you agree with it).

    I read with interest today TheStar Online’s report that Perak MB Nizar’s family is asking him to accept his fate with dignity and move on. MB Nizar’s family had given their reasons why they think he should move on, not all of which I agree but nonetheless I think they are right that he should move on. I also believe that MB Nizar is hanging on desperately not because he is ‘power-crazy’ but rather to make a point which is that he is on the right side of morality and that he has been a victim of the undermining of due process of law.

    If you follow all the talk on the street and all the comments in blog sphere, he has made this point and he should now end this impasse with dignity which will endear him and the PR to the rakyat even more and I will attempt to give my reasoning why. Most fair thinking Malaysians are fully aware of what happened in Perak. How Najib engineered the fall of a legitimately elected state government and installed an illegitimate one in its place helped by a Sultan who acted beyond his constitutional authority (according to many legal experts and this is still subject to determination by a court of law).

    For the moment since this constitutional crisis has not been brought to a court of law for determination, I shall leave HRH’s actions out of the argument why this impasse would better serve Perak and Perakians if it was allowed to end. Instead I shall concentrate on the morality and common sense of ending this impasse.

    Having made the point by not resigning when ordered to by HRH, MB Nizar has already shown his steadfastness to the constitution and his adherence to the rule of law. By resigning now BUT under protest will in no way diminish his democratic principles but rather show that he realizes the futility of being stubborn against corrupt political enemies hell bent on seizing power at any costs using the people’s money.
    romerz, whether I agree with your views or not, I will make sure that Anwar will get a chance to read them. I don’t think quitting is an option for Nizar on grounds of principle, honour and dignity. He was appointed in accordance with the state constitution after he was elected by his constituents. He will step down,only if the motion of no confidence is adopted by the Dewan Undangan Negeri; he will then be replaced. What UMNO has done is unbecoming and in violation of the law. They humiliated him and demean his status as Menteri Besar. The State Secretary of Perak should be disciplined and transferred and sent to some remote corner of our country and left to rot. I can say the same thing to Datuk Seri Azlani Hassarunl, Chief Mufti of Perak, for his Derhaka “fatwa”.

    Let us leave the Sultan aside as I am not prepared to discuss why the Sultan did what he did on this open forum. It is unprecendented in the annals of Malaysian history. My respect (and regard) for HRH, however, is diminished as he has done a grave injustice to Perakians. His action speaks louder than the words he said in eloquence.—Din Merican
    Resigning under protest will show to Malaysians that MB Nizar cares about Perak and its people and would not stand in the way of a state administration which Perak needs now without hindrance despite its illegitimacy.

    Resigning under protest will also show to Malaysians that MB Nizar, despite HRH acting unconstitutionally (in my opinion), still respects the monarch that many Perakians used to or still do hold in high esteem.

    MB Nizar should resign BUT under protest BUT do not let it end here!

    Here I have to disagree with Anwar Ibrahim that the legal proceedings should be halted for the time being. Instead I would advocate going full steam ahead with legal redress on the situation as fast as possible so as to determine once and for all this constitutional crisis in Perak. Even assuming that we are unable to get an impartial hearing in court and lose the case, at least MB Nizar and PR would have seen to adhere to the rule of law which is what all ordinary Malaysians want nothing more than for this country.

    I would like to make a distinction that seeking legal redress does not mean suing The Sultan but merely seeking an opinion from the courts of law on the legitimacy of BN’s current state government and whether it was installed constitutionally. This decision itself will infer what HRH did was constitutional or not without having to drag him to court!

    Going to the courts of law may be in itself a risk and MB Nizar and PR may lose but they would have definitely won in the court of the people and remember that the court of the people is supreme in this country!

    In this long haul war between righteousness and evil incarnate in Malaysia, stepping back once in a while for the people is not letting the people down. Instead history will one day record MB Nizar as the defender of democracy in Perak/Malaysia and with it the defense of the constitutional Royal House of Perak.

    It is important to remember that in times of despair there will come a day of redemption. Never forget that Najib and his UMNO/BN cohorts will have to face the court of the people one day!

  2. I agree that one should not be blindly loyal to the sultans. They are human like us with their weaknesses,strength and their prejudices.
    Legal aspect aside, the fact is that there were several options opened to the Perak sultan. For whatever reasons best known to himself, he chose the one which no one came out the winner. Himself, Umno, PR Perakians and indeed Malaysians are all losers. If my read on the situation is right, this is Najib’s Waterloo. It has been a costly mistake on his part and it looks like the impasse is not going anywhere soon. He in his wisdom should try to salvage the situation if there is a way out. No shame to admit his mistake and we Malaysians would certainly appreciate a solution to this mess. His reputation is on the line which is a pity because of all the royal families, his was the most respected one before this.

  3. “I would like to make a distinction that seeking legal redress does not mean suing the Sultan but merely seeking an opinion ….”

    Agreed. It is not like he has committed a wrong and has to be subpoenaed to appear in court to answer allegations made against him like an ordinary criminal and in which case he may have to testify in his own defense and tell the court what was going through his mind etc.

    It is his decision that is being challenged as unconstitutional i.e. as ultra vires the Constitution and therefore null and void. It involves the power of judicial review of executive decision. The court is only required to view the records and decide.

    Karpal appeared in court in court to do just that in 1977 and got the detention order confirmed by the Agong reversed. The court was able to have the order struck down as unconstitutional. I don’t know how the court was able to circumvent issues of privilege and immunity. It would be interesting to find out.

    My 2-cents.

  4. 1. Nizar should not resign. There is a strong possibility of the UMNO Govt in Perak collapsing and reverting to the PR Govt. Then they call snap elections to snap UMNO to pieces.

    2. If the court rules that the Sultan’s action is unconstitutional, Nizar will be reinstated as the MB. But if he resigns, the court may decide not to hear the case further. Then we will never have a chance to test the limit of the power of the sultan in court.

  5. A well written historical account of Malaysian early history. Something that is not taught in the curriculum. These events should be highlighted to the council of rulers as a reminder that the rakyat has defended the rulers. It is time for the rulers to carry out their own self assessment on their role, and not to be swayed by political beliefs, compensation and all.

    As I have commented in various blogs, and may u could enlightened me is “Did PR ask for the expert opinion from the Perak Legal Adviser (LA) ?” If yes, what is his interpretation of law regarding the current situation?

    And yes, HRH did have his guest book but subsequently shut it down because of the outpouring rakyat’s feeling to the decision. What I want to know is “Do MB Nizr has his own guestbook? So that the rakyat can give him moral support and encouragement?” If yes, then Din, it should be prominently displayed so that the rakyat can access to MB guestbook. If not, create 1 and announce it to all (bloggers and alternative media) on the address so that the rakyat can express their views on this matter.

    Till then…G’nite M’sia…wherever u are…

  6. What say readers???

    Name: Was the Sultan of Perak blackmailed?
    E-mail address: Monday, 09 February 2009 10:51

    Comments: On 3rd July and 11th August 2008, DATUK KONG HONG MING made two separate reports to the Anti-Corruption Agency in Kota Kinabalu with regards to alleged corruption in the awarding of the ‘Jalan Sapulut – Kalabakan, Tawau’ road project at the contract sum of RM565 million. The sub-contract was awarded to Gamuda Berhad , a company owned by Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Raja Azlan Shah. Thus far no action has been taken by the Anti-Corruption Agency. Was this used to blackmail the Sultan of Perak?

    Wednesday, February 11th 2009 – 06:01:56 AM

  7. Bakri Musa has been posting some excellent commentary on his blog. More & more I’m convinced Malaysia has finally attained sufficient mental & moral maturity – with enough public intellectuals like Bakri, Haris, Imtiaz, RPK, Azly Rahman, Jomo KS, Art Harun, Ong Kian Ming, Khoo Kay Peng, Sim Yang Kwang, Kenny Gan, Abdullah Joned, Dzulkifli Ahmad and so on, to ensure that issues of national import are openly discussed & considered. This alone convinces me that those attempting to drag the whole country kicking & screaming back into the dinosaurian Mahathir era are doomed in their efforts.

  8. Sebanyak 97 peratus rakyat Perak mahukan Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) dibubarkan iaitu sebagai cara terbaik mengatasi kemelut politik di negeri itu serta memberi peluang mereka ‘meraikan’ demokrasi.

    Demikian hasil kajian yang dilakukan oleh Penganalis Politik dan Pensyarah Kanan Jabatan Pengajian Media, Universiti Malaya, Prof Madya Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah terhadap penduduk di negeri itu yang bermula di Pasir Salak sehingga ke Kuala Gula.)

    So is the 3% overrule the 97%?

    Ha! The Neros playing the fiddle as Perak burns?

  9. Salam Abg Din

    There you have it, Ladies & Gentlemen
    The New ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ designate in the PR Cabinet Line up
    Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin (The next MP for Bkt Gantang)
    Don’t wait too long for PR to list out the long overdue Cabinet List.
    Let the people see what is in the making and embarked for a New Malaysia.
    God Bless, Insyallah. Good Luck

  10. Din,

    Perhaps the Malay traditionalists need a more liberal dose of Dr. Bakri’s medicine – bitter and tastes like sh*t ,but potent and effective for the cure ! They need to realize that the horse medicine from the bomohs do not work and is in fact detrimental to their constituition – HEALTH – I mean ! ( I don’t want you and I or anyone to be falsely charged with sedition !) 🙂

  11. Here’s an interesting post I read from LKY’s blog. Hope you don’t mind my pasting it here. Cheers.

    Rulers can be sued – are judges, lawyers, law professors/lecturers to be charged for treason?
    The police questioned DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh for two hours yesterday in connection with 89 reports which had been lodged against him nationwide for being disrespectful to the Sultan of Perak over the most simple proposition – that rulers in Malaysia’s system of constitutional monarchy can be taken to court in their official capacities.

    This is the height of nonsense in the police and the Home Ministry!

    Are all the law professors and lecturers in the Malaysian universities and colleges going to be questioned by the police for the crime of treason for teaching their students that rulers can be sued in court for their official capacities?

    Are all the judges and the lawyers in the country going to be charged for treason for holding that rulers can be sued in their official capacities?

    The Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan should be fully aware of this simple legal proposition or they are simply not fit to continue for a single second in their high positions and in Hamid’s case, everyone must wonder how he got his law qualifications in the first place!

    Why then are Hamid and Musa condoning and pandering to such criminal activities in lodging false police reports against Karpal, which under section 182 of the Penal Code, are crimes, as the offence of “false information, with intent to cause a public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person”, is liable on conviction to a penalty of six months’ jail, RM2,000 fine or both.

    All the 89 persons who had lodged police reports against Karpal had committed the offence of giving false information under Section 182, and the police should have opened investigations to prosecute them, instead of questioning Karpal.

    The “illegitimate” MCA Perak State Exco member, Dr. Mah Hang Soon is one of the 89 who should be investigated by the police and prosecuted under the Penal Code, for he had joined the Umno and Umno Youth extremists in lodging a false report against Karpal in his capacity as Perak MCA Youth leader.

    The illegitimate MCA Perak Exco member and the other 88 who had lodged false reports against Karpal cannot be such simpletons that they do not know the law that rulers in Malaysia can be taken to court in their official capacities.

    If they still have doubts, the illegitimate MCA Perak Exco member and the other MISCREANTS need only refer to the article by Dr. Shad Faruqi, Professor of Law at UiTM, in the Star yesterday, “Legal turmoil over Perak defections” where he concluded:

    Treason: Opinions are being expressed that to defy the Sultan and to threaten to go to court for defence of one’s legal rights amount to treason and a ground for deprivation of citizenship. There are fundamental misunderstandings here.

    From day one of Merdeka, the King and the Sultans were open to civil suit for their official actions. They were only immune personally. In 1993 even the personal immunity was taken away.

    In sum it is not a violation of the Constitution to resort to the courts to seek an authoritative opinion on one’s rights and duties. Where else does one go, what else does one do, if one has a claim?

    Ignorance of the law is however no defence for the commission of any crime. It may go to mitigation, and only if Dr. Mah and the other 88 are prepared to immediately admit remorse and withdraw their false reports forthwith.

    Hamid and Musa have again made Malaysia into an international laughing stock. When are they going to make immediate amends?

    If Hamid and Musa are not prepared to take immediate action against the 89 (including Dr. Mah) by opening police investigation papers against them, is the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail who is currently overseas, prepared to restore public confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the law enforcement agencies by instituting criminal prosecutions against the 89 troublemakers the first thing he returns to his duties?

  12. I think that ex.MB Nizar has made his point and should now withdraw from the scene. BN now rule Perak but if a poll I read yesterday – according to which 88 per cent of those polled were opposed to recent events – is anything to go by, how is BN going to tackle that? This is PR’s trump card and that is why it should now get its act together quickly and proceed to tackle the single most urgent issue facing the country – the looming economic crisis.

  13. If some Malaysians feel the constitutional monarchy as applied in Malaysia is an archaic institution, lending itself to abuse by rogue politicians and no longer fulfilling the role given to it then why have they not called for its dismantling?

    Anwar Ibrahim must see something in the value of the institution of Raja Raja Melayu as he is always extremely deferential when addressing the issue. Even the Lion of Jelutong takes pains to avoid being seen as anti-Raja Raja Melayu, and some say, has long been forced to draw the line. Karpal is a patriot to some and to others a traitor to the monarchy. Could he be a bit of both? Must you be one or the other? What is it that keeping some political leaders from reducing their real thoughts to writing?

    Anwar is a visionary leader. That is his strength. Some, and many according to some, hope he would not give in to the so-called popular because that is the true meaning of leadership. Today such so-called popular will may put the blame on the Malay Ruler for misconstruing his constitutional role and at other times may see the same Malay Ruler as embodying the will of the people. Others look to the monarchy as fulfilling a basic need for a safety net, as a political power breaker that regulates political electricity if you will – the alternative to which would be a blackout or a brownout which the country could ill afford. Others view the monarchy as fulfilling a special role needed to counter and level out the wild fluctuations of race politics.

    What ever the role assigned to it and the laws which would have to be passed to keep the institution from being exploited by rogue politicians, do you think Anwar would agree to Bakri Musa’s re-writing of history?

  14. “… the single most urgent issue facing the country – the looming economic crisis.” Isa

    Malaysia will not escape unscathed.

    As I write the number of jobless Americans number some 11.2 million – and counting. Queues of job applicants stretch several blocks in New York City yesterday. It is a sight never before seen since the Great Depression.

  15. Treason: Opinions are being expressed that to defy the Sultan and to threaten to go to court for defence of one’s legal rights amount to treason and a ground for deprivation of citizenship. There are fundamental misunderstandings here.

    …. it is not a violation of the Constitution to resort to the courts to seek an authoritative opinion on one’s rights and duties. Where else does one go, what else does one do, if one has a claim?

    Dr Shad Faruqi is Professor of Law at UiTM


    Karpal is not wrong in taking the issue to court to determine if the decision or decisions by the Sultan of Perak be allowed to stand. It is his constitutional right to do so.

    There are always elements who want to confuse the legal with the political – both sides of the political divide.

  16. With one caveat!

    To bring an action in court is not to “defy the Sultan”, as Dr Faruqui puts it but merely to determine the constitutionality of his decision in the case. It is not the same thing.

  17. Din Merican,

    Tell us what your boss thinks of this characterization of recent events by Dr. Bakri Musa.

    “Sensing a leadership vacuum with the Barisan coalition now crippled, the sultans began flexing their muscles. Pakatan leaders, uncertain of their new role, did not quite know how to handle these newly assertive sultans. By default and fearful of appearing to challenge the Malay sultans, Pakatan state leaders readily gave way to the sultans in Perak, Kedah and Selangor.”

  18. “Contrary to the assertions of constitutional scholars and legal practitioners, this is not a legal issue. Its solution does not lie with the court system. Nor does it require us to return to the old feudal ways of blind loyalty to the sultan, as traditionalists would wish.” Bakri Musa

    Nobody is asking that we return to the old feudal ways of blind loyalty to the sultan? We have long left that behind. Where have you been for a good part of the last two centuries?

    Coincidentally, the Perak sultan was the first to have to deal with the loss of the “old feudal ways” when he had to give up his power to treat revenue collected on behalf of the state as his personal income in 1874. Selangor was second.

    So let’s get that out of the way.

    We are a nation of laws. The rule is that of the rule of law. Not that of the monarch. We have a written constitution and the monarch is given a role by that constitution. He is subject to that constitution. The constitution is supreme.

    If the monarch being a constitutional monarch since 1957, acts in contravention to the provisions of that constitution then he being subject to that constitution is subject to the rule of law. How else do we determine the constitutionality of his actions as monarch without going to the country’s courts – the courts being the final arbiter of what is ultra vires the constitution and what is not.

    So it is a legal issue – and the solution lies with the courts. Duh …!

  19. Dear Din,

    With regards my earlier post intended for DSAI’s attention, I would like to amend it somewhat.

    I had just learned today what transpired in 1994 with Pairin’s legal redress with regards the overthrow of his elected PBS government.

    When I asked MB Nizar to consider resigning under protest, I was not aware that a Malaysian court had ruled that because Pairin had already resigned, they need not make a ruling which is binding but instead make an opinion which is not binding since whatever decision they make would be academic.

    Sorry if I’m flip-flopping and troubling you but allow me to withdraw my ‘resignation’ opinion for the moment until I learn more.

    Having said that, I still stand by my opinion that MB Nizar and PR should seek legal redress as soon as possible since I do not know how long MB Nizar can keep this position without alienating the less informed rakyat if and when they swallow the BN propaganda.

    And please the person heading the legal team should be a loyal Perakian and a Malay Muslim so as not to allow the the BN to turn this into a race and religious issue.


    Early this week, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, openly wept on live TV while commenting on the devastation caused by the bushfire that killed almost 200 people and made many more homeless.

    He was so moved by the tragedy that he could not hide his emotions. He was choking with emotions as he spoke and even briefly stopped speaking.

    Two years ago when floods engulfed Kota Tinggi and Segamat and thousands were made homeless and caused millions of ringgit in damages, Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi was happily holidaying in Perth, Australia. Some say he was on honeymoon but monitoring the situation from there.

    Compare the love and passion the two men have for their people?

    Rudd showed his love and deep passion for his people. He felt his people’s grief and was overcome with emotions. Those are the qualities of a true leader, love for his people.

    Abdullah was a personification of the entire UMNO leadership, selfishness and heartlessness.

    No love. No concern. A true leaders would have ‘walked in the waters’ with the people. Is this the patriotism UMNO leaders speak about? Is corruption patriotism?

    A person who has no passion for his people should not opt for public office. A leader worth his salt must stand by his people during a calamity or national disaster.

  21. Bakri Musa has mischaracterized historical events in his attempt to play to the gallery.

    These are the facts.

    The Malay Rulers were ready to capitulate to the demands of the British and gave their approval to the concept of Malayan Union which would have paved the way to a rule by a British governor accountable only to the British Crown. The Malays then led by UMNO acted to prop up the Malay Rulers. UMNO became protectors of the Malays and Malay Rulers subsequently became symbols of the Malay struggle and Malay identity. Had it not been for the intervention of the Malays led by UMNO, more Chinese would have become citizens and their influence over politics in the country of their birth would have been stronger. This was not to be because the Malays led by UMNO used the Malay Rulers. Among the amendments was the creation of the Conference of Rulers whose prior approval is needed before amendments can be made to Malay privileges. With such provisions in place, the Malays were able to secure political control and check the Chinese hold over the economy.

    Events in 1983 and 1993 acted to reverse the position in a very significant way – thanks to the misbehavior of certain members of the Pahang and Johor royalty. Some four decades later the Malays felt less need for the Malay Rulers as symbols of Malay identity and Malay domination as more and more of them had received education (one of them is, of course, our blog host, Din Merican, a U.S educated corporate figure who earlier served in foreign service) and made great progress in the economic field. Complete and general immunity from proceedings of the Malay Rulers was removed. You could now drag any Malay Ruler accused of misbehaving to face charges in a Special Court and once charged and found guilty would have to relinquish his position as Ruler. It is the threat of prosecution, however minor, that gives the government a powerful tool over the Malay Rulers. As Raja Aziz Addruse once remarked “The power to prosecute is a powerful weapon, which in the hands of the ruthless, can be abused to great advantage – not by prosecuting the alleged offender but by withholding prosecution in return for his cooperation.”

    Today it seems it is this threat of the power to prosecute (insider information?) that may have influenced the decision of the Sultan of Perak. Anwar Ibrahim was a member of the Administration that had been instrumental in removing the general immunity of the Malay Rulers. It is only fair that he takes some of the blame for the present state of affairs in the State of Perak.

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