The legendary Hang Jebat, once Malay-dom’s ultimate traitor, couldn’t tolerate the tyranny of the Sultan of Malacca. Jebat was outraged that his brother-in-arms Hang Tuah was hard done by the Sultan. Thinking Tuah was unfairly executed, Jebat rebelled against the tyrant to revenge Tuah’s unjust demise, thus he made the immortal statement above – a fair king is a king to obey, a cruel king is a king to fight against.
Fate played a cruel twist when Tuah (who was actually hidden away by the Bendahara, the court minister) returned on the orders of the Sultan to kill Jebat.
Dr Mahathir in his lecture A dialogue with Tun Dr Mahathir organised by Malaysia-Today blog (at a time when he was ostracized by the AAB regime), sneeringly said: “Let me quote the story of Hang Tuah: Whenever the King gives an order, Hang Tuah and his brethrens would say, ‘mana titah, patih junjung’ (whatever you command, I shall obey) ….. That is why Hang Tuah killed his friends. He was too loyal …”
Ironically, Tuah failed to realize he was spared from the Sultan's order for his execution only because the Bendahara had refused (quietly) to obey the Sultan.
Nonetheless, the traditional perception has been of Tuah as the faithful and loyal warrior and Jebat the loose cannon traitor. Malays took pride in Tuah’s resolute and blind loyalty to his ruler, and virtually adopted that as the gold standard, the hallmark of a true Malay.
You can choose whether you support Hang Tuah as the hero, loyal and faithful to the crown regardless, or like Kassim Ahmad, probably Malaysia’s foremost intellectual, support instead Jebat as the loyal brother-in-arms who was not awed by those who wielded power, especially tyrants.
Jebat’s loyalty was based on what he saw as right or wrong (or the system) rather than the figure of royalty. Thus, for that, Kassim believes Jebat is the true hero, and Tuah the palace sycophant who willingly sells his soul to the sultan to the extent he killed his best friend and brother-in-arms Jebat, the man who defended his honour when he was down and out, moronically on the orders of the Sultan who had earlier ordered Tuah's death.
History repeated itself when a Sultan in fairly recent times ill treated a hockey coach unfairly. Dr Mahathir who was then PM took on the role of Jebat to extract the cruel fangs not only of that ruler but the rest as well.
With that brave act, undoubtedly Dr Mahathir’s greatest legacy to the people of Malaysia in his 22 years of premiership, he rehabilitated Hang Jebat as the true righteous Malay hero, a man who stood for justice.
On 10 December 1992 during a parliamentary session, Dr Affifuddin Omar, the UMNO MP for Padang Terap asked, "How can we continue to uphold rulers who are known to be robbers, adulterers, drunkards and kaki pukul (thugs)?"
"The rulers must be reminded that they were not reincarnations of dewa-dewa (deities). They were put in their position as rulers by the people."
"The immunity gave the rulers the status of 'half-man and half-god' and allowed irresponsible rulers to commit serious crimes which tarnished the image of the institution."
"It was about time that the 'false sense of political power' associated with rulers in this country be abolished."
"They (the rulers) must be made to realize that they do not own this country. They are not Superman but placed on their thrones by the people. "The real power did not lie with them, but with us - the representatives of the people."
"The 'syndrome of religiosity' associated with the rulers was only to cloud the people's view of who the rulers actually were."
Not to be outdone, Ibrahim Ali, then UMNO MP for Pasir Mas, but today the Head of ultranationalist NGO Perkasa, urged the government to amend the constitution to clearly limit the privileges accorded to the members of the royalty wakakaka.
Today in Malaysiakini’s Sultans and mosques: Decree or puppetry? we read that constitutional law professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari has questioned the recent pronouncements of some rulers who have obviously been cherrypicking cases to assert their rights as their State’s Head of religion (Islam).
Professor Bari noted that the royalty were deafeningly silent when UMNO had been the culprit usurping their roles on matters affecting Islam while being extra assertive in Pakatan controlled states.
We have all been aware of and shocked by royal intervention in the Perak political imbroglio but Professor Bari revealed this double standard had also occurred in Penang. Ultimately the rulers’ unconstitutional political involvements were clearly spelt out by the Pahang ruler who urged his subjects to vote BN.
Of course for a Chinese Malaysian like kaytee to raise such issues would be deemed by the usual suspects as uncouthly intruding on Malay issues. But the fact is that every Malaysian owes his/her allegiance to the Agong and the State Sultan, giving every citizen of this country a right to voice his or her concerns when there is a worrying perception that Malaysia's constitutional monarchies have not been conducting themselves apolitically.
And if that’s not good enough reason, just read above to see the comments of Dr Affifuddin Omar, the 1992 UMNO MP for Padang Terap and even wakakaka Ibrahim Ali the ultimate Malay ‘warrior’.
Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle - Edmund Burke
Obviously the spirit or ghost of Hang Jebat, that indomitable warrior of righteousness, is once again unrestful.