Sunday, September 02, 2012

Who's the ultimate ruler of Malaysia?

Years back, prior to the March 2008 general election, I warned of royal intrusion into the political arena. Unfortunately then, the Pakatan people were so enamoured of royalty like Raja Nazrin, probably because they saw in him a potential backer of democracy and thus Pakatan.

Then (and even now) I have nothing against monarchy PROVIDED those royals remain as constitutional heads of state, whether of Malaysia the nation or of the respective nine states with Sultans (and a Raja), based on my understanding of the concept of constitutional monarchy in a democracy.

Sometime in August 2007 I read with some alarm a letter to Malaysiakini titled No more backbenchers' role for Rulers written by a person with the pseudonym of Truly Malaysian which stated, in my humble opinion, dangerously for our democratic system:

It is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel that the Malay rulers have finally decided to have their say in the recent fiascos that has gone beyond the normal tolerance level of the public.

The rulers have finally realised that we as a nation are heading towards obscurity. They are now really living to the true manifestation of being the rulers. [...]

It is, of course, better late than never, and aren't we all are glad that the Malay rulers have finally decided to take a stand and voice their own dissent on various affairs that do not serve the public's and nation's interests at large. [...]

Although they have played the backbencher's role in the past, they are now coming forward and we should hand them our support for them to play a more pertinent role in moulding the future of the nation rather than moulding the future for a few.

For a start, the writer didn't even know what was(is) a backbencher, and to refer to the rulers playing the backbenchers' role showed his bizarre and Truly pathetic ignorance. 

But no doubt he/she would have changed his/her opinion by now with the sad advantage of hindsight of royal interference in the Perak political debacle.

Anyway, I had then with the gravest concerns written to MKINI the following:

I refer to Malaysiakini letter No more backbenchers' role for Rulers which has me rather worried.

The author might not have realized the constitutional implications of his words such as "The rulers ... are now really living to the true manifestation of being the rulers ..." and "... Although they have played the backbencher's role in the past, they are now coming forward and we should hand them our support for them to play a more pertinent role in moulding the future of the nation ..."

While I understand the author's euphoria over the Council of Rulers' rejection of the PM's candidate for a senior judicial position, I note that the author's infatuation with the royal dissent came on top of several other high praises for the Perak Prince and Sultan of Selangor when the two, especially the former, raised their voices on issues closed to the dissatisfied public's hearts.

Dr Chen Man Hin

The author has not been alone for Dr Chen Man Hin, a former DAP strongman, had even proposed the Perak Prince as an advisor to the Prime Minister (PM).

It would seem that the rulers are making a comeback after years of public scorn at their irrelevance, perhaps caused mainly by one particular individual, who had believed he could still rule as per medieval times, as an absolute monarchy.

I most certainly appreciate the Perak Prince's reminder of our constitutional pillars, though in reality he didn't say anything much that the Opposition hadn't pointed out before. But yes, his official stature gave his words more force (and attract more attention) than a Lim Kit Siang or a Nik Aziz could manage.

But we need to remember Malaysia is a democracy built around a constitutional monarchy, meaning the voice of the people, and not those of the rulers, prevails.

Sure, our royalty as in the model of the Perak Prince, the Council of Rulers questioning the PM in his choice of a candidate for the bench, and the pronouncement of the Sultan of Selangor to keep politics out of our Merdeka celebrations have been most welcome. They have both a constitutional role and an exemplary role model to play.

But we must never talk as if, or even suggest that they had been 'backbenchers' moving forward (presumably) to the 'front bench'.

That's dangerous talk, to suggest the rulers may play a direct political role (or even as an political advisor to the PM) while serving as respective Heads of States or as the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, or still retaining their royal prerogatives.

It's certainly a sign of our frustration with the current government that some of us believe the royalty could and would be our saviour. We, the politically frustrated public members, are in reality grasping at straws in much the same way as many of us had embraced a former UMNO reject as a political saviour against a previous regime even when there was no evidence of his reformist qualities during his various ministerial roles.

in a democracy

No matter how good any individual royalty is, no matter how bad any politician is, let us not unwittingly change our system of constitutional monarchy to one of absolute monarchy, or of one where royalty has a greater degree of direct political participation. That will be a regrettable step backwards.

That was in mid-2007.

Exactly a week following the March 2008 general election I wrote another post Lim Kit Siang opened Royal Pandora Box? where I criticized Uncle Lim as follows (extracts):

Lim Kit Siang

So Malaysiakini tells us that the political Deal’s stitched, & it’s all systems go for Perak.

Alas, the parties have finally acquiesced to royal demands, with many of them forgetting that in a political democracy it's the political party which commands the majority in the State Assembly (outright or through a coalition, formal or otherwise) who picks the CM or MB (or at the federal level, the PM) to be approved by the constitutional ruler.

I had posted this reminder of the people's right and power two days ago in Perak Papadum Ping Pong Primadonnas, where I stated:

Raja Nazrin

… kaytee believes the coalition has done something quite stupid. In submitting 3 names to the Sultan to choose it has unwittingly involved royalty in State politics in an unprecedented way.

It’s not for the Sultan to choose from a list of three.

Certainly the Sultan can disagree with a name but he should only be given one name (at a time). For example, the Sultan could say no to DAP Ngeh and say, gimme another name!

But it’s not for HRH to be given 3 names and decide on one he prefers.

The choice of an MB is a political one and to be left to the political parties as elected by the rakyat; the acceptance of the choice is the prerogative of HRH, but HRH cannot and should not be making a political decision by choosing one name from a list of three.

Yes, the ruler cannot reject the candidate forwarded for his approval, save where there is perceivable concerns the candidate has a dodgy record or perhaps is infirmed, etc* which may affect the proposed candidate’s ability to head the State government.

* an example of ‘etc’ being the case of the new Selangor State government where the ruler wanted to confirm the new MB has the support of the loose coalition –see my post Post election snippets (1). I stated: "The Sultan wants to ensure that the coalition can be a stable one. Obviously he doesn't want his State to be run like Italy, where shaky minority governments are changed faster than underwear."

HRH Sultan of Selangor

Now, the Star Online has indicated two worrying cases where the State rulers of Perlis and Terengganu have taken it into their hands (or heads) to appoint their choices against that proposed by the winning political party. [...] 

In the rulers' increasing (and unjustified) discretion in such appointments the Sultans must have found comfort from the support (direct or otherwise) of the stupid political parties undermining each other.

The rulers had been living in tolerated disgrace following the castration of a notorious royal brother by Dr Mahathir (rightfully so and an action fully supported by most Malaysians), but since then they have (under a certain erudite leader) slowly but steadily been clawing their way back to prominence and regained respect and adulation from their subjects.

Dr Mahathir

In fact they have already reclaimed lost grounds if we recall how many anti-BN people, desperate for a political messiah, have even considered Raja Nazrin as a potential saviour, without even realizing what adverse consequences to democracy they have been promoting. […]

Much as I respect, admire and have supported Lim Kit Siang, I believe he has been the one who opened the royal Pandora box when he abdicated the political rights of the DAP-PKR-PAS in deciding who should be the MB for Perak to the Sultan of Perak (as represented by his son the Regent).

Uncle Lim was of course attempting to minimize adverse DAP grassroot reactions to his party agreeing to a PAS MB when the DAP has the most number of seats in the coalition. So, he staged a public sandiwara (theatrics) of being against a PAS man becoming the MB of a State while pushing the decision making to the ruler.

He must have thought it would be brilliant tactics to abdicate the (publicly) difficult decision of accepting a PAS man as MB of Perak to the Perak royalty, but he didn’t realize it would be bad strategy to surrender political rights to a constitutional monarchy, who through such small gains will shift gradually from a constitutional status to an increasing absolute authority.

Nizar Jamaluddin

The sadder irony of it all, and the most gross injustice to Uncle Lim, is he has been portrayed as a racist by some anti-DAP bloggers (and I am not talking about the BN) as well as some Malaysiakini journalists and columnists, even though the issue has never been about race but rather, the PAS avowed political intention to make Malaysia into an Islamic State governed by Islamic syariah laws.

But as for most things in Malaysia, why let facts stand in the way of a good emotional (and sinisterly contrived) bashing of the DAP through Lim Kit Siang!

That very same day, so much was I perturbed that I followed up with another post Royalty threatens constitutional crisis?, way way before Perak was turned upside down, where I stated (extracts):

I consider the [Terengganu] Sultan's assertive action, in selecting his own preferred candidate for the MB's post, is constitutionally dangerous for Malaysian citizens, regardless of our ethnicity, religion or political affiliations; we can't afford to allow royalty to interfere directly with such political preserves; it's like usurping the people's democratic rights.

I like to see some bipartisan response especially from both PAS' Nik Aziz and Anwar Ibrahim, but alas, with a de facto PKR leader in an (childish by Western standards) acrimonious relationship with the BN, in particular UMNO, selfish partisanship may rule the day. Lim Kit Siang as a non Malay should preferably stay clear of this very sensitive issue, lest it worsens in the current critical period.

Pak Haji Nik Aziz

But it's likely that, apart from PAS and PKR partisan stand, greed among some of the State's UMNO MPs ('divide & conquer') compounded by the traditional Malay blind obedience a la Hang Tuah to HRH, may see the constitutionally undesired come about. It'll then be a humongous loss to Malaysian democracy.

Today, from RPK's Malaysia-Today I read Dr Bakri Musa's 2 (out of 3) parts posts, namely, The Sultans' Daulat is a Myth and The Sultans' Daulat is a Myth - Part Two with some vindication (besides the vindication that regrettably came from the sad sorry saga of Perak). Dr Bakri's posts review a book by Zaid Ibrahim titled Ampun Tuanku - A Brief Guide to Constitutional Government.

Dr Bakri, being a Malay, is able to write his comments on the rulers in the way I a Chinese couldn't, where at most I could only warn and remind readers of the political system we have, that of democracy with a constitutional monarchy. I suppose I could also say 'I told you so' wakakaka.

Dr Mahathir, being also a Malay (though many would readily argue against that wakakaka), was able to do more than that, in a very forceful and significant manner. Dr Bakri said of Dr Mahathir's action in this regard:

A few decades later their excesses would trigger the constitutional crises of the 1980s and 1990s that led to the amendments ending respectively the rulers’ power to veto legislations and stripping them of legal immunity in their personal conduct.

Both were possible because of the strong executive leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir. Today with a government with a less-than-robust mandate and a leader with a banana stem spine, the sultans are emboldened to re-exert themselves; hence the insistence of their daulat or special status.

Koon Yew Yin

Yesterday in MKINI, Koon Yew Yin, a retired chartered engineer and philanthropist, wrote a brilliant but most uncomplimentary assessment of Dr Mahathir's likely legacy in an article How will history judge Mahathir? where he (Koon) said:

Mahathir will ultimately be remembered not for the quality of his leadership or the way in which he has sought to unlock the potential of all our citizens. He will certainly not be remembered for his standard of governance or the example he has set in arousing Malaysians to give their best to the country.

Rather he will most be remembered for his extraordinary long record of leadership in the country. It is a 22 year record of political opportunism and survival secured through appealing to the baser instincts of self aggrandizement and greed and the manipulation of the major institutions of government.

This is why history will not judge him so kindly but will place him in the company of lesser and even failed leaders such as Ferdinand Marcos, Suharto and Robert Mugabe.

But I like to mitigate against Koon's unfavourable assessment with a plus for Dr Mahathir, that he as PM had de-fanged the rulers when the action was most required and which the rakyat believed appropriately deserved. Unfortunately his good work in this was not consolidated but allowed to erode, not only by two successive weak PMs, but in a couple of cases by his (Dr Mahathir's) own (recent) actions.

Denis Diderot

I thought it might be appropriate for me to end with a quote by Denis Diderot but on second thoughts, perhaps that by a Chinese like kaytee could be far too provocative, so the following should do:

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt


  1. Dr. Bakri, I would add, is also a US Resident (not sure whether he has taken up the Stars and Stripes ?) who is a successful surgeon and married to a US citizen.
    So he has liberty to write what most Malaysian residents, even Malays, and definitely non-Malays would be wise to be very circumspect about.

    Careful Ktemoc, there may be people who know who you really are...and the price for treachery can be surprisingly cheap.

  2. Monarchy around the world is a dying breed, Emperor of China deposed, Shah of Iran deposed, King of France gullotined, Maharajas of India gone,King of Nepal no more, Indonesia became a republic, Philippines, Vietnam, Burma too...
    is only a matter of time...

  3. Denis Diderot ! Denis Diderot ! Denis Diderot !

  4. "Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control." - denis dderot

    moreover his opponent at that time was a royal, all "great politician" possess the insightful skill to get rid of any obstacle in order to remain in power, otherwise how one could explain "Unfortunately his good work in this was not consolidated but allowed to erode, not only by two successive weak PMs, but in a couple of cases by his (Dr Mahathir's) own (recent) actions."

    btw a chinese said this more than 2000 years "The people are the most important element in a state; next are the government; least is the ruler himself."

  5. me likee the other quote by diderot about entrails.....

    for the best interest of all concerned, this particular quote by diderot is better not be printed out here, hehehe (wink, wink )

  6. Sori, this is out of topic....has anyone read helen ang's christian-muslim axis of conflict ?

    This is my first time visiting her site and i was amazed by the number of her malay fans lapping up every of her dap-bashings.

    In that article, she posted some pictures of some christian gatherings or some such religious event, with some dap christians ( pollies ) involved. But juxtaposed with her article, this gives a rather ominous overtone implying of an imminent christian uprising, to the detriment of the 'good natured, generous malays' here. With such an article, it is not surprising to see her malay groupies/fans chipping in, warning about the 'minorities not to take the malays for granted' and warning these kafirs not to be provacative, so as not to suffer the wrath of their 'mengamuk'.

    What percentage of christians are there in peninsula and east malaysia to cause such a threat, if there is indeed such a threat in the first place ?

    Is helen ang now a full fledge umno shit stirer ? how did all this happened ? why and how did she turn out to be this way ? wasn't she once a very strong opposition supporter ? how come her story ( of turning to the 'dark side' wakakaka) went unnoticed ? what's the real deal here ?

    Very intriguing.

  7. We need more knowledge and wisdom (and less partisanship) to tackle this subject, because the scenario is likely to be repeated in the aftermath of GE13

    a) Perak (not again !)
    b) Selangor (if PKR loses seats, but DAP-PKR-PAS manages to cling on to a slim majority)
    c) Negeri Sembilan , where BN currently rules with a slim majority , which may be gone in GE13.
    d) Federal Parliament, if PR only has a slim majority.

    Perak, like a number of other Malay states, has a law requiring the MB to be a Muslim-Malay, in addition to the usual consitutional requirement to be the person most likely to command the confidence of a majority of the House.
    So an Ah Beng or Ah Mui MB or DMB is legally out of the question. (DMB because a formally appointed DMB is delegated the MB responsibilities when the MB is away e.g. overseas, on leave or sick).
    The Kit Siang "wayang" at the time(for internal consumption, according to Ktemoc) was unwise because it played right into the hands of those who constantly try to paint the DAP as anti-Malay. It has come back to haunt Lim Guan Eng in Penang. Frankly LGE also carries out a lot of "wayang" in Penang, but I'm not going to criticise him, I'm on his side haha.

    I'm going to play BN and Royalty advocate here...if strictly going by the letter of the state constitution (but not the spirit) the Sultan of Perak would have been correct to invite BN to have the first shot at forming the Perak government after GE12. It is the largest registered coalition in the House. For all he knew, the PAS-PKR-DAP informal coalition could have fallen apart in less than a day.

    The same scenario, much nastier, could replay in the Parliament. BN is 100% certain to emerge the largest registered party - because the PR alliance registration has still not been approved by the ROS.
    I'm sure ROS have no intention of doing so.
    The Agong, with legal advice from the Attorney General (very, very useful isn't he), could well invite BN-UMNO to have the first opportunity to form the government, even if they have less than 50% of the seat. After that, armed with incumbent power, they wil be free to poach any number of Frogs they need.

    Perak II , at a National Level.

  8. The ultimate rulers of Malaysia are the corrupted Umnoputras/politicians.

  9. Helen mean Halinah Ang ?

  10. Yup, just like Riduan Tee.

  11. thanks for sharing.

  12. MCA must have paid Helen Ang handsomely for the bitch to be turned over just like that scumbag RPK.

  13. Dr M got a heaven sent opportunity for defanging the royalty when the hockey coach was beaten up.

  14. Everyone has their price...those that haven't, usually don't live long enough to talk about it.

  15. Helen Ang and RPK turned,and how about that bitch from the star Joceline Tan,who frequents the second floor of the kopitiams of Chulia St.

  16. Firstly on Helen Ang - she was once my dear friend and thus I know her character reasonably well - she's ideological and NOT the type to be bought over by money, full stop. So please stop accusing her of being bought over. It's very unfair. Just accept she's anti DAP. That's her burden to bear.

    Secondly, Joceline Tan is a Star employee so what do we expect her to do save toe the MCA line. There's no point in disparaging her.

    Lastly, RPK has NOT turned. RPK sees Anwar and AA as clear and present dangers for true democracy in Malaysia. While RPK does not support Anwar or his darling blue-eyed boy (me too and that's my burden to bear wakakaka), he does Nurul.

  17. The Federation of Malaya (Tanah Melayu) constitution - which is the basis of the Malaysian constitution today, is very clear that Malaya was NOT meant to be a clone of a Western-style liberal democracy. The Agong's assent was required for laws to be finally passed - and nowhere was it mentioned (at that time) this would be automatic or by default.

    If you went looking for an analogy in the West, it would be closer to 18th and 19th Century Britain, which was by then a Constitutional Monarchy, but the Palace retained considerable capacity to influence HM government policies if it so deemed necessary.
    The historical context of Malayan independence was the opposition to the Malayan Union, which had converted Malaya into virtually direct British rule, reducing the Sultans into rubber stamp figureheads. I can't say that was actually a bad thing - I am more a nationalist, not a monarchist.

    Before that, in the previous century or so of Anglo intervention, the British ruled the Malay States in fact, but still retained the facade of Sultans still in power.

    Mahathir in 1993 did much to reduce the Sultan's influence and power, but what they are doing today can be read as "clawback" to regain what they lost.

    Supporting and abetting this activity is one UMNO strategy which I disagree with, it will hurt both the country and the party in the long run.

  18. "Lastly, RPK has NOT turned"
    I see what I see in Malaysia Today...RPK has fallen totally silent on UMNO, while article after article attacks PKR and Anwar.
    RPK is partisan, and its looks very clear which party he is partial towards...

  19. i disagree with helen more than i agree with her, especially her dozens appalling leap of logic, but that is fine i guess as we dont have to agree all the time, however i am the very traditional type of chiness, hence my expectation could be vary since she asserting strongly her chinessness all the time.

    i dont read the star and know very little of joceline tan, thus no comment.

    now the interesting part is when kt mention rpk has not turned, honestly i dun know and i am not sure what is kt definition of 'turn'. rpk is not a green boy like some here so i am really curious why he only recently "sees Anwar and AA as clear and present dangers for true democracy". either he is sleeping all this while or he "turn", latter is more probable because we dont read much of his "constructive" criticism toward najib compare to the past. again either he think the current regime perform much better or he "turn". which is which huh?

    u r okay since u r a typical dap fanboy.

  20. "Supporting and abetting this activity is one UMNO strategy which I disagree with, it will hurt both the country and the party in the long run."

    very well written especially the above.

    btw, i think petra is more a royalist rather then speak for the rakyat all this while.

  21. November 11 2012 - will be DA BIG DAY !

    Will Najib make a turnaround, giving UMNO a new lease of life ?
    Will Anwar lead the first Non-BN Federal Government in Malaysian history ? Or be crushed into Oblivion for good ?

    May you live in interesting times.

    Me, I took up my Australian citizenship 3 months ago, after many years residence here.
    My spouse is an Aussie, and my children are all Australian citizens.
    They have ribbed me for years why I still hang on to that silly Malas-sia passport.

  22. Re helen ang's article 'christian-muslim axis of conflict', here's one Anonymous comment on it ( which i took the liberty to copy and paste it here ) :

    "Apparently the woman has a convoluted mind. Her title does not even match the contents of her article.

    Muslim turks killing muslim kurds.

    The PLO got expelled from muslim Jordon, went to lebanon and sowed the seed for the Lebanese civil war. PLO George habash was a Christian.

    The Lebanese Moronite Christians were almost defeated by the PLO, COMMUNIST and muslim coalition in 1976 but were saved by the Muslim Syrians. The muslim Syrians then masacred 2000 Palestinians.

    The thais are buddhist.

    The total christian polulation in Malaysia is 10% with many who are eastern malaysia bumis. Chinese christians are a minority.

    The woman has a screw loose in her head

    And the turks are pendatangs from central Asia . The original people of Anotolia are the greeks, armenians and kurds"

    Every one can have the liberty to be 'anti' anything....many here are anti Umno, some are anti PKR, some anti Anwar ( and/or AA, wakakaka ), some anti PAS, and some anti DAP, and so on and so forth.

    But this helen ang memang satu batu she clapping gleefully when her groupie mats in the comment section start outdoing each other in their mengamuk overdrive.....foaming in the mouth at the very idea of the chinese christians taking over the muslims in this country ? How far will this 'scorned' woman take her vendetta ?