May 11, 2012
On Tunku Aziz: In and Out with a Bang
By Joceline Tan
THERE were eight senators at the farewell luncheon hosted by the Dewan Negara but the media was only interested in one of them, namely, Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim.
The DAP Vice-Chairman has attracted as much media glare at the close of his senatorship as he did when he began his term.
Tunku Aziz, who speaks really proper English, would probably not approve of slang lingo, but he came in with a bang and now he is leaving with a bang. But there is a difference in the two bangs though. The fallout from the first bang was on the Barisan Nasional but the fallout from the second bang has landed squarely on the DAP.
It is public knowledge by now that Tunku Aziz’s senatorship was terminated because he did not toe the party line on the BERSIH demonstration and that does not speak well of the DAP, especially given that the “D” stands for “democratic”.
Several DAP leaders expressed surprise at the move, but none of them want to be quoted because they believe that Lim Guan Eng is the one behind the decision and they are afraid to cross swords with their powerful secretary-general.
“I disagree with what Tunku Aziz said about BERSIH but to terminate his term because of that is too drastic. It sends the message that DAP is not open to other views,” said one DAP assemblyman.
Another DAP figure said: “The party leaders probably feel he is a liability but politically speaking, it would have been better to keep him on board.”
Tunku Aziz had continued to speak his mind on the BERSIH protests although Guan Eng had publicly cautioned him to hold his tongue. The elderly gentleman supports BERSIH’s aims of clean and fair elections but he had criticised the organisers’ persistence to march to Dataran Merdeka instead of demonstrating in a stadium.
According to Tunku Aziz, he had been informed about a month ago that his term would be renewed. Guan Eng had even wanted to announce it at the last party central executive committee meeting but was told that the nomination is from Penang and he should put it before the Penang DAP committee. But shortly after, Tunku Aziz opened his mouth on the protests and the rest is history.
“Someone very senior and important in the party, I won’t say who, came to my house. He told me my senatorship was up for renewal but that there was some difficulty in view of what I had said about BERSIH. He said the sentiment was not only in the DAP but within the Pakatan Rakyat and it would be difficult to put up my name again. At that point, I said that I did not want to be the cause of disharmony, that if putting up my name will cause problems, please don’t do it,” said Tunku Aziz.
Tunku Aziz could read between the lines. He knew his fate was sealed and he had no intention of clinging on. “It’s a great privilege to be a senator but it is not something to be exchanged for one’s conscience, honour and integrity. I always thought that as a democratic party, they would allow for dissent. I have read Kit Siang’s book Right to Dissent. It’s an important book that suggests that dissent is something they embrace as part of their political philosophy but obviously that is not what they practise,” he added.
The question that many are asking is whether it was necessary for the DAP to act so drastically against Tunku Aziz over what was an individual opinion. He had been welcomed into the party as a “towering Malaysian” and his credentials are simply impeccable – he is related to the Kedah royalty, he has served in the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat and he was, of course, the founding president of Transparency International Malaysian Chapter.
He brought with him unparalleled prestige and credibility. And as the above DAP assemblyman put it, the party will never catch another Malay like him again. The action against him not only suggests that the party cannot handle dissenting views but that it is only interested in token Malay leaders – people who are largely yes-men and do not ask too many questions. Or what some call Malay apologists.
Party insiders said Guan Eng is probably worried that Tunku Aziz will continue to challenge the party stand on other issues. He has become a political risk especially with the general election so close.
Academic Dr Ariffin Omar who takes over from him belongs to a reputable NGO in Penang that is known to be a fierce critic of the Government or at least the Barisan Government. Dr Ariffin will be okay if he sticks to doing that.
Tunku Aziz is not bitter but admitted to a tinge of disappointment over the way things have turned out. But those who matter to him have stood by him. His daughter who works overseas sent a message saying: “Dear Papa, I may not know the ins and outs of politics, but I am proud of you for speaking out on the right thing.”
Another daughter assured him that he is “on the side of the angels”. His friends have sent him encouraging messages because, as he put it, they “also believe in peace, prosperity and security for the country”.
From far away in Manchester, the one and only Raja Petra Kamarudin wrote: “For someone who has done so much for the nation, you really do not deserve the things they are saying about you or what they are doing to you.” RPK asked him to quit the DAP because “the longer you remain in DAP, the more they will demonise you”.
Tunku Aziz’s fall from grace with the DAP leadership has been severe and abrupt and few see him surviving in that sort of environment. But regardless of whether he survives in or leaves the DAP, he has shown that he is really a towering Malaysian.