When I posted Defeat the new Triad, I was flattered that Raja Petra Kamarudin of Malaysia-Today picked it up for a place in his blog’s section on ‘From Around the Blogs’.
Mind you, selection by Raja doesn’t mean my posting was good, but merely that it was ‘good’ for controversial dissection by his visitors ;-) and by golly, did they dissect!
I have always enjoyed the range of opinions, most of which are in hard hitting no-holds-barred style. I gather from there that my advice against recruiting the Rulers in our struggle against the non-accountable, non-transparent and non-sensical BN, a move that I likened as akin to leaping from the frying pan into the fire, has been thoroughly rejected.
Raja wrote an erudite piece in Yes, we are embroiled in a Constitutional Crisis in his very popular column ‘Corridors of Power’. In his usual inimitable style, he spiced up an interesting presentation on a near (but not totally) ambiguous constitutional area with tales of sizzling paced high adventure a la ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’.
The thing I love about Raja is his highly entertaining article which of course he stamped with his usual authoritative style. But it doesn’t mean I agree with him on every aspect ;-)
I am no constitutional lawyer but I have difficulty in accepting every one of his arguments. For example, I have doubts about his argumentative acrobatics with the word ‘advise’. He wrote (just an extract):
Even those who are aware of the Constitution point out that Article 43 of the Constitution forbids The Agong from interfering in the running of the government. The Agong, they argue, can only act on the advice of the Prime Minister. Actually, that is not quite true.
Article 43 (1) says: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a Jemaah Menteri (Cabinet of Ministers) to advise him in the exercise of his functions.
Note that it says the Cabinet is ‘to advise him in the exercise of his functions’. It says ‘advise’ and this is the one word that has been wrongly interpreted as The Agong receives instructions from the Cabinet. If they had meant for The Agong to receive instructions from the Cabinet then Article 43 (1) would have used the word ‘instruct’ and not ‘advise’.
I would like the opinion of a constitutional lawyer quickly because I believe Raja has not only been incorrect in his arguments (on that aspect) but has strayed into highly dangerous grounds.
As I mentioned before, most of the Rulers have been the problem rather than what has been touted, that they'll be the solution to sorting out a democratically elected government but one who fails repetitively to practice good process of governance, transparency and accountability.
The problem confronting us is just that, a democratically elected government but one who fails repetitively to practice good process of governance, transparency and accountability (even one who indulges in gerrymandering naughtiness and questionable creativity in elections), and not a constitutional problem.
On the other hand, enlisting the Rulers into our struggle for democractic reforms would in fact give rise to precisely that, a constitutional crisis.
There’s no denying that as we read of tales of woe by the AAB government every day in Malaysiakini, the Chinese Press and, on those odd occasions when it suits the MCA after UMNO had squeezed or kicked the party right in its testicles, The Star, we become desperate, and as some readers said, desperate times call for desperate measures, even unto recruiting the Rulers.
I wrote that our struggles must be via the ballot box though there may be some parties who have been and may still be fond of a 3rd alternative, taking to the streets to demonstrating their demand by a show of violence a la 1969, 1987, 1998 etc.
But back to our topic - There is no silver bullet to be found in the Rulers, which was why I wrote:
I cannot support any change in constitutional arrangement from our current constitutional monarchy, where those rulers have (correctly so) only a minor role in rule making or ruling.
It shall and must be the rakyat (people) who rule, through the ballot box! Let us not step back into the Middle Ages. I know many are enamoured with Raja Nazrin but let me quote a saying - one swallow doesn't a summer make.
If you have a look at Dr Darren Hsu’s posting Rakyat Itu Raja! (The people are supreme), he quoted an article by Dr Farish A Noor.
Farish Noor talked about the Thai people’s reliance on his Thai Majesty who eventually let them down, most abysmally. His concluding paragraphs were:
Thus in 1976 the King turned a blind eye when a vicious and barbaric counter-coup was launched by the army, police, Buddhist conservatives and right-wing middle-class; leading to the storming of the campuses of Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities and the massacre of students there.
There were even reports of student leaders being executed and having their heads chopped off and mounted on the gates of the universities by right-wing thugs. Where was the benevolent King of Thailand then, whom many had applauded as the hero and saviour of democracy in 1973?
If there is a lesson to be found in all this, it is that a democratic reform process can only begin from below, and never above. Kings and Monarchs do not good democrats make, for they are the first who need to be taught the value of citizenship and civic responsibility. Furthermore any democratic reform must take into account the will of the demos- the people themselves- and give voice to the masses and not the elite.
And so it is with this painful lesson in mind that we take the recent calls for royal intervention with a bucketful of salt. Facing a government as inept, incompetent and clueless as we have at the moment is a task in itself; but it need not be made even more difficult by replacing one regime with another. In the end, the only maxim we ought to adhere to today is the clarion call of the 1940s, when Malaysians cried out: Raja itu Rakyat, Rakyat itu Raja! (The King is a citizen, And the citizens are King!)
And we have the historical notoriety of some of our dear Rulers too.
I have also blogged in 50 posts to Independence, where I wrote:
Democracy – definitely far from being practiced at 100%, indeed very much far from that aspired state.
Yet ….. yes, yet in the well-known obscenity of the pork barrelling and dodgy government tactics in various recent by-elections, I detect in these underhanded conduct, through corrupt pecuniary influence, the desire to win an election via the ballot box.
Leaving the unfair conduct aside for a sec, I see the ballot box still a sacred cow where only the campaigning had been bull-poo-ish-ly dodgy. And if the pork barreling had been over the top, it demonstrated in a perverse way the ruling party had been scared of the ballot box and therefore worried of losing.
On that I dare say, with a ballot box still respected, we haven’t yet deteriorated into an Idi Amin-ish state.
Pork barrelling per se is quite common in western democracies as well – currently Australian PM John Howard has been doing the porky rounds. except that in western democracies, they pretend it’s finely developed policies. Additionally they are of course less crude, but then in Malaysia, refined subtle pork barrelling may escape the target recipients' notice. It's a function of voters’ preference, so suck on that if you want to win – via the ballot box of course and not through another Memali.
But what I have been annoyed with has been the unfair obstructions placed in the way of the opposition and the mainstream press’ obedient and obsequious toeing of the party line.
But I say we still have hope for democracy.
Thus I stand by my views that the BN’s Triad must be neutralized through the ballot box.
Dangerous euphoria over 'political' royalty