Dealing with the Destroyer of the Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy is an Act of Desperation

March 5, 2016

MY POINT of VIEW: I have retitled Thayaparan’s article to express my disappointment with opposition politicians, frustrated former UMNO leaders and civil society leaders who think that by rallying behind Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, they  can dislodge Prime Minister Najib Razak from power.

Every self respecting Malaysian agrees that Najib must go, but the challenge is to find an alternative Prime Minister who can ” defend the constitution and rule of law”.

Look around and you will know that there is no one who has the character to do the job. We are in dire straits today because our system is deeply entrenched after nearly 60 years of UMNO rule, 22 years of which were presided by the man who solely responsible for the present mess. Our Rule of Law is a joke and our Constitution is worthless piece of a paper.


Very intelligent people like Dato’Ambiga, Maria Chin Abdullah, Hishamuddin Rais, and experienced politicos like Tian Chua, Lim Kit Siang, Azmin Ali, and Samad Khalid fail to realise that Tun Dr.Mahathir is not interested in reform. His agenda is to save the UMNO he created after the 1987 party crisis so that he can  preserve crony capitalism and a corrupt kleptocracy.

This strange brew of misguided idealists, political opportunists and ex-UMNO stalwarts is bound to be toxic to our body politic. It will fail to displace Najib from his seat of power.  To my mind, change can only come from UMNO Baru itself. External pressure will only force UMNO to come together since the Malays will not countenance its demise as  the proponent of Ketuanan Melayu. It is possible to think of UMNO without Najib, but not UMNO without the Malays.–Din Merican

Dealing with the Destroyer of the Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy is an Act of Desperation

by S. Thayaparan

COMMENT: Readers of Malaysiakini, friends, friends on the opposite side of the political divide, and the usual trolls have been emailing, asking me about my opinion on the recent proposal of a grand alliance to oust Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak from his office in Putrajaya.

Terms like political opportunism and “desperate allies” are bandied about.I would just like to remind everyone that politicians always make for desperate allies and that the biggest corruption scandal this country has witnessed, the further erosion of our limited rights, as well as the compromised security and judicial apparatuses, trumps political opportunism any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I have become numb to the political situation in this country. Asking me this question a couple of years ago would have elicited a passionate polemic, or maybe a long rant on the ignorance of history and failure of imagination.

I was reading through the press release of the incarcerated former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, regarding the proposed grand alliance. What struck me was the total absence of historical context.

It was a press release of predictable political bromides and in the usual opposition manner, spinning – albeit intelligently – and selling a compromise devoid of any real principle or aims with lip service to “reforming the system”.

Bigger picture

Sometimes we need to hone in on a detail to appreciate the bigger picture. What struck me was this passage: “This can only happen when power is centered in one individual such as the Prime Minister is checked and key financial, judicial and enforcement institutes are reformed so that they perform their tasks independently without fear or favour.”

This passage should be read together with what DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang is reported to have said when he met with his former nemesis, ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday: “According to Lim, the grand coalition idea was mooted to defend the constitution and rule of law with a new Prime Minister.”

I have often argued that the rule of law and the judiciary is the first and last line of defence against the excess of the state. Our compromised judiciary is perhaps the best example of what is wrong with Malaysia.

When we look at the history of our failures, we often discover that beneath the political corruption there is the undeniable stamp of legitimacy – or maybe a fig leaf of respectability – that a compromised judiciary bestows upon the politically corrupt and their actions.

Of Mahathir, I once wrote: “The genius of Mahathir is that he understood the limitations of the ‘power sharing’ formula, which is the distribution aspect of the equation.

“He realised that if each community was constantly questioning the size of its share of the pie, UMNO could easily appear to be magnanimous in its distributions so long as there were easily identifiable variables for each community which were defined by UMNO.”

But Mahathir was never interested in the “Malay dilemma” – or rather, he was more interested in the false dilemma that he set up. UMNO Baru was the expression of that dilemma.

The late Tunku Abdul Rahman said it best in an article published in Aliran titled, ‘Carrying The Joke Too Far’, writing: “The present UMNO of Mahathir was formed through his own connivance to take over power after he had been discredited as UMNO leader at the general assembly 1987.”

To understand the depth of the political damage done by Mahathir to the judicial system, we have to revert to the book, ‘May Day For Justice’ by former Lord President Salleh Abas with the late veteran journalist K Das.

The book is a masterful presentation of history as a political thriller, and in quoting a passage from an interview Mahathir gave to Time magazine in 1986, we begin to see the corrosive agenda at play.

We understand what Mahathir thinks of the rule of law and the judiciary, with this quote: “… The judiciary says [to us], ‘Although you passed a law with a certain thing in mind, we think your mind is wrong, and we want to give our interpretation.’If we disagree, the courts will say, ‘We will interpret your disagreement.’

If we go along, we are going to lose our power of legislation. We know exactly what we want to do, but once we do it, it is interpreted in a different way, and we have no means to reinterpret it our way.

If we find out that a court always throws us out on its own interpretation, if it interprets contrary to why we made the law, then we will have to find a way of producing a law that will have to be interpreted according to our wish.”

Shrewd political mind

Writing about Mahathir, I sometimes forget what a shrewd political mind he had and his startling ability to articulate his amoral ideas with an intellectual clarity that is absent from UMNO politicians these days.

No doubt, his words had appealed to a certain segment of the “conservative”, Asian values (sic) crowd, that placed economic progress and “social contract” stability over any democratic ideals.

However, what is amazing about this interview was that it did not go unanswered. As related in the book: “Because of these remarks, Mahathir was taken to court by Lim for alleged contempt of court. The High Court cleared him of the charge. Lim then took the case to the Supreme Court, which also cleared the then-PM of the charge.

In his judgment, Justice Harun Hashim had made certain comments which were reported in The Star on November 29, 1986 under the headline, ‘Mahathir’s Dilemma’.

The High Court judge had dismissed the application, because the remarks “viewed objectively and as a whole, reflected a complaint against Parliament for passing laws full of loopholes.”

This sort of action, is what makes Lim the only supremo in my book. At a time when the opposition was not “mainstream” – ignored and mocked by an apathetic public, and struggling to fight the system with the compromised tools at their disposal – there was a moral clarity that is absent in oppositional politics today.

Perhaps it was different those days. PAS was propagating the ‘Great Pharaoh’ narrative and DAP had been sniping at UMNO and PAS at the time. Then again, maybe it was not so different after all.

I honestly have no idea if this grand coalition is a good thing or not, but I know it is a pity that this is the best we have to offer. Old foes becoming strange bedfellows is not something that much hope should be placed in.

I just can’t help but feel that – as usual – the average Malaysian is the punchline to the joke, that he or she is unaware of.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

24 thoughts on “Dealing with the Destroyer of the Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy is an Act of Desperation

  1. “To my mind, change can only come from UMNO Baru itself. External pressure will only force UMNO to come together since the Malays will not countenance its demise as the proponent of Ketuanan Melayu. It is possible to think of UMNO without Najib, but not UMNO without the Malays.”

    This may be true but UMNO is not a self-cleansing organism. It is in terminal decline. Renewal does not come from within.

    Examples of future “change”:

    Zahid takes over – a Melayu Idi Amin with very little calibre, but plenty of rhetoric. And what’s bubbling under that? Ismail Sabri? Nazri? Other people so steeped in corruption that Jibby will look angelic in comparison? Or the Great Hope Khairy, as opportunistic as Anwar?

    Look at the MTU now, how the foreheads are getting lower and the people dumber. Vegetables like Hasan Malek & Mat Maslan are perfectly acceptable now. It’s evolution in reverse. In 3 more generations, they will be reduced to grunting rather than speech, and they’ll raid KWSP directly for “rezeki”, in daylight hours, carting off cash by the armful, shambling and grinning like apes on all fours, carelessly dropping 50-ringgit bills as they run.

    Change? Nope. Vicious changing of the guard, yes. But that’s par for the course.

    The excruciatingly dull argument that Mahathir is responsible for all our ills is so cliched that people need not waste any part of their remaining lifespan in adding to the copious literature on the subject.

    We geddit.

    “It is possible to think of UMNO without Najib, but not UMNO without the Malays.”

    But there’s a 3rd permutation:

    It is possible to think of the Malays without UMNO.

    Therein the challenge; put together an alternative, and the disaffected grassroots will flock to it. Even in 2013, the combined Opposition Malay votes almost equalled those given to UMNO. The difference was a mere 110,000.

    If Najib’s rating among the Malays is 31%, I would say it’s not over till the fat hippo sings. More so, if the disenchanted Umno grassroots and fence-sitter voters are given a solid alternative.

  2. All this is waffle anyway, as we are about to be tied up and rudely violated, in any case, by the truckload of new laws Najib will push through.

    He’s already, in 6 years, on track for becoming far worse than Dr M ever was. Give him a full 22 and we’ll compare afterwards?

    No thanks.

    I’ll take my chances.

    The clock is ticking.

  3. What would you suggest to save Malaysia? Who can we rely? The election boundary redraw to allow UMNO to win. The new law passed allow PM to have the power to suspend election. The judicial is deem to side the ruling party. We cannot hope much from the police. What about the monarch? Overall, we are a failed state and nothing much we can do actually. It is getting worse everyday. Maybe many of my friends are right to ask me to forget Malaysia. Angry, desparate and sad …. We can be a great nation but racism, religion, greed destroyed Malaysia.!


  4. Dato Din: Good point. G25’s earlier suggestion with a dream team care taker could indeed be a better option. At the end of day, as it goes, it will only result in forms of anarchy activism that would drag on for many years.

    Somehow even a PM Azmin was suggested. He even gets to sit on the left side of the man. As it stands, even Azmin Ali is not even considered a rising star within Harapan. Yucks😫.

    To straighten out current mess, only a dream team could regain confidence. In my mind, I am hoping to see a dream that is more like a dream team led by Dr Sharom to first undo the distortion in our current law.

    Existing arrangement would only drag on our messiness for another generation. At the same time, many youth would be radicalized. Some would even think street protest and sacrifice could help the nation. It did not happen in any of existing Islamic nation. It did not happen in Thailand.

    A marriage of convenience would almost certainly lead to divorce soon.

    Amnesty and forming of a next generation dream team as caretaker government till the next GE is the only way to go.

  5. Perhaps, even something better than a care taker government. Let there be a transparent election by all for the next PM, and Deputy PM.

    Personally, I would vote for Azmi Sharom as the next PM, Liew Chin Tong as the next deputy PM.

    Else, things would not improve, even in another generation, with anyone else to straighten things out.

  6. While Mahathir created the mess, frankly Malaysians in general share the blame allowing the politicians especially Mahathir to create this in the guise of moderation, compromise and practicality. Even now, we refuse to face the fact Hadi’s PAS religo-politics is as guilty as Najib & CO for fear of offending Muslims, we refuse to confront Sarawakian for their support of Adenan Satem in defeatist “practical” politics.

    Breaking Constitution, institutions, is not practical, moderation and compromise, its failure, its shame.

  7. If the country continues to suffer without real reform,
    extremist anti-regime “religious” Daesh-type groups will attract more
    and more Malay youth.

  8. I share Din’s view 100%. I always say old fox’s 22 years brought ruin to this country. There’s no one who can be like LKY who can bring us out of the “shit” we are in.

  9. katasayang, my young friend: Azmi Sharom is the Voice of Conscience of Malaysia. Like Dato Din, he is best put in academia. Let’s not pollute him. The pathetic realities in Malaysian politics are baffling. Malaysia is a snake pit of political treachery, of shifting alliances and secret handshakes buried under cloaks of propaganda. We need intelligent and courageous people like Din and Azmi in the academia to speak out all the ills of the nation.
    I will do my best when the best option is to be a cynic. –Din Merican

  10. I amend my earlier statement “When the Nazis are on the rise, the Social Democrats and the Communists (KPD) should stop fighting among themselves. This is the lesson from the Germany of the 1920s and 1930s” to:

    “When the Nazis are on the rise, the Eduard Bernstein Social Democrats, Lassallean democratic Marxists, and the Communists (KPD) should stop fighting among themselves. They should also join hands with the liberals, Junker aristocrats, religious democrats (Catholic democrats, Protestant conservatives), agrarians, etc to stop Hitler and Himmler. This is the lesson from the Germany of the 1920s and 1930s”

  11. Thank you for putting this up Mr. Merican.

    This was an interesting piece about the whole grand alliance. And it honed in a point which is extremely relevant in terms of how Octo views the mechanism that facilitate the progress of a democratic society.

    The usual apparatchiks – DAP for sure – went a little bit ape shit – as usual – with one, especially virulent specimen, [who has questioned why Malaysiakini continues publishing the Commander ](so much for freedom of expression) damming Thayaparan and “his stupid intellect”.

    Apparently the Red Bean Militia doesn’t want anyone to question this alliance. The same stupid thinking was on display when the DAP was making out with PAS.

    My own thoughts on this were expressed on another thread but suffice to say, “no idea if this grand coalition is a good thing or not, but I know it is a pity that this is the best we have to offer” sums it up perfectly.

    You are absolutely right that UMNOb has to resolve this problem themselves. I think Octo is still UMNOb and UMNOb is still Octo. The problem here is that old Pink Lips has forgotten this.

    The fact that MiniMeMukhriz has said that the new Big Cheese will be from BN – read UMNOb – says it all. And here he says :

    “In truth, however, he said the Opposition wants Najib replaced by another Barisan leader before the general election as it wants Malaysia saved. ”

    Mukhriz said that this stance was strengthened when the Opposition understood and accepted the reality that the country’s democratic practices did not allow them to take over power from Barisan except through a general election”

    Never has “a plague a’ both your houses!” done justice to the political scene than what these wankers and their drones have cooked up now. If ever there was a time fro scepticism, it’s now.

  12. Just like Pakatan Rakyat, this coalition of the unwilling strange bedfellows will fail because of their irreconcilable interests and agendas. Just like the NEP, it will lead Malaysia to ruins because instead of focusing on baking a bigger pie, the various constituents are focusing on how to divide the pie among themselves.

    /// What would you suggest to save Malaysia? Who can we rely? ///

    Dare I suggest the Sultan of Johor, or his son?

  13. > “The new prime minister can come from either side of the political divide, who wants to save Malaysia, who can be a man or a woman,” [LKS] said.

    Ok. LaMoy. I am just celebrating with the rest of the prominent 58.

    Come up with some suggestion lah — Else, it will be Mukhriz & Azmin Ali … according to Tun M.

    How about Tawfik & Ambiga?

    Man.. I am really running out of options to think of a non-Malay deputy PM, especially a Chinese one. Tony Pua?

    I can be a cynic. But, there is no reason to not take the advantage to have some fun. This is chance of a life time, to come up with a potential dream team.
    In a few more days, there will be no more fun with NSC Bill.

    Ok, last compromise, if 1PM would trade in some constitutional reform, I am actually quite excited to have PM Rosmah!

    Rosmah and 22 yo Asia best debater!

  14. katasayang: Running out of options? How about you taking the responsibility to carry the cross on your shoulders? lol

  15. katasayang: Leung Tin Kei is a very confused and disturbed young man whose organization marches with the old British colonial flag and is financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, which in turn is supported by the CIA. Dr Sun Yat Sen was a patriot. I seriously doubt he would be proud of a traitor.

  16. Despite well known for the vast developments, often at enormous and wasteful costs to the people, Tun Dr Mahathir is the “Big Bang ” of everything Malaysians except the comfort of the “Goldilocks Zone”–

    —the everything, is in effect and consequence of the nation’s (leadershless) rogue delivery systems that resulted the people suffering in great pains and the nightmares to whoever that-may-be.the successors- all because his conduct of affairs had been based on misguided principles of sustaining power that are slated for abuse largely for self- interest, by using race and religion as tools to ” divide and rule” alternating with ” rule and divide” at all costs( money politics, abuse of power, corruptions, cronyism and puppetry) and expense to the people and nation’s resources.

    That is the UMNO re-made into Umno Baru of today !
    Blame who ?
    Save who and what ?

  17. .….and Sadly, that is the Biggest Picture of Malaysia, Today !
    Not condoning, neither just Najib nor his 1 MDB as per se.

    But hopefully, the MPs, leaders ,political and institutional from across the ilse and nation especially those from East Malaysia, will wake up and work together( may include PM Najib) with the people’s empowerment to really save Malaysia, inclusively, regardless of race, religion and beliefs.poitical, personal or otherwise.

    Malaysia be blessed !

  18. @LaMoy we are all a little confused. I could definitely see why he would need CIA’s help. He did not do that bad in the last election. 15% of a 46% turn out ratio. I have sat through the recent debate. He and the final winner actually has more to agree with each other than differences.
    Together they would collect 52% of the vote. 52% of the voters are traitors. There lies the confusing part.

  19. katasayang: No, I’m not confused. The radical group is a breakaway from the Democrats in Hong Kong. Don’t mix them with the real Democrats. I’ve long supported the democracy movement in HK, starting when I helped founded the Tiou Yu Tai Denfense Action Commitee in Stanford in 1970, joining with 11 other campuses in Northern California to protest the Japanese occupation of the Diou Yu Islands. It was then I met James Tien and Lau Pui King, today legislators in HK. Much later I met Szeto Wah (deceased), Martin Lee and Emily Lau. I was impressed with their devotion to democracy and their love for the country. We still meet for dim sum when I’m in HK or them coming to the States. Don’t mix the confused, disturbed and disruptive brats like Leung Tin Kei and Joshua Wong with the democrats my friends led.

  20. In Third World Countries it is difficult to find leaders of people who can or will defend the system. The system must defend itself by not allowing any one to use the forms of the system to undermine its substance. Sounds like chicken and egg story. First we have to accept that the chicken is already there and that the chicken too is already there. The two have to be ring-fenced and the fence must be allowed to get fat. All those who have cash reserves more than their total emoluments paid to them until retirement must answer some questions before they are allowed to go on as though nothing has happened.

  21. @LaMoy Activist SiKong! Really eager to learn more from you.
    Hmm… Martin Lee does not seem to have issue appearing together with Joshua Wong with this event.

    I have merely raised Leung for his ability to carry himself so well and spoke so intelligently at such a young age representing such an emotional viewpoint.

    My own personal feeling (for Hong Kong’s election) that is really not worth anything…

    If the fight is for Hong Kong only, not worth it.
    Hong Kong existed and would continue to be prosperous as long as things are uncertain in Mainland. Hong Kong has been properous without a single day of democracy.
    A pragmatic side is to not rock the boat, as I still see bumpy roads ahed for China. That means, Hong Kong still has its’ reason to be unique.

    But, for China, an experience for democray is all worth the effort… it is all worth it.

    That was my personal reflection, after internalizing aspirations that must have gone through the minds of my maternal great-grand father’s generation.

    P.S. My closest experience to Martin Lee, was a chance to be having a dinner with him in a big Chinese round dining table setting after volunteering work with Hong Kong Student group to get him, and many others, together with Chris Patten to speak at a forum in 96.

    He was quite approachable. That was all I could recall from that night’s experience of him. Totally forgot what he has said that night, or the entire weekend, as a matter of fact 😛

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