Monday, April 21, 2008

The dangers of royal political activism

When I was away on Saturday, Malaysiakini published a very important article by Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh titled The problem with royal activism.

I have been one of the few bloggers who were openly concerned with ‘royal political activism’. I used the word ‘openly concerned’ because I had received several letters or notes from other bloggers who informed me they shared the same concerns but won’t come out in the open to say what I had said.

When I talk about ‘royal political activism’ I am not talking about politicians like Tengku Razaleigh or the late Tengku Abdul Rahman or the (what’s his name?) former Tourism Minister. I mean the Sultans or Regents or Crown Princes, people who have immunity from most of the laws applicable to commoners but who by virtue of such immunity should not come down to the commoners (or political) arena.

These royalty should stay above politics and not overstretch the limits of their constitutional rights as free rein to engage directly in political activism.

What Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh said has been absolutely right, about “Some people, perhaps simply because they like seeing Pak Lah squirm under the royal thumb in Perlis and Terengganu – cheered on the royalty, saying that their intervention was a good thing.”

“But it all depends on whose ox is being gored, doesn't it? Would these very same people cheer on the sultan's actions if this had happened to the opposition?”

Personally I have not been happy with the actions of the Sultans of Perlis and Terengganu, even though the loser had been AAB. We shouldn’t rejoice that AAB had his ass whipped nicely by royalty because those royalty must not interfere with the decision making of the PM, the people’s choice of a national leader selected in accordance with our democratic process.

It’s hypocritical to talk about democratic process when we cheer processes that haven't been politically correct just because those processes have gone against a disliked person.

The Sultans should never have gone against the choice of the majority party in its selection of the State MBs. No doubt AAB eventually succumbed to a compromise because he was trying to minimize the aggravations particularly at a bad time for him, but the constitutional process was incredibly wrong, and rather sadly many cheered the Sultans and even provided justifications.

But I believe all those have been, as mentioned by Ong and Oon, more to jeer AAB and UMNO rather than cheer the royalty. But we might have unwittingly encourage the royalty to think otherwise.

When prior to the election, the idea of royalty as our political silver bullet was promoted at Malaysia-Today, I was one of those very few who warned against jacking royalty up above its constitutional role – please read Dangerous euphoria over 'political' royalty.

I had written “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.”

In my other post Rulers no 'Silver Bullet' you can also read what renown writer Farish Noor has to say.

What the Crown Prince of Kelantan had recently said publicly – please read Kelantan Crown Prince 'slapped' non-Malays in face! - shows the dangers of allowing royalty to interfere actively with democratic process.

And our knowledge of how a certain royalty and members of his family had behaved should be of grave concerns, if they somehow imagine that such public (opposition) support represents an imprimatur for them to resume behaving like royalties did in the days of Hang Tuah.

Ong and Oon provided some extreme examples of royal political activisms which could take us into deeper hotter constitutional waters.

Let the conduct of absolute royalty with its direct political activism in those bad days of Hang Tuah remain forever in the pages of Munshi Abdullah’s Hikayat.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I am afraid I have to delete it - it's a wee too insulting and disrespectful, for kaytee's good ha ha ha ha ha

  3. Kaytee,

    The one commendable deed that Tun Dr MM did was to curb the power and the arrogance of the royalty - for that we have to be thankful !!

    Only somebody like him would have the balls to do something like that, RIGHT?

  4. "Let the conduct of absolute royalty with its direct political activism in those bad days of Hang Tuah remain forever in the pages of Munshi Abdullah’s Hikayat."

    Munshi Abdullah's Hikayat? Hang Tuah? What you mean? Almost 400 years apart. And Abdullah is the first critic of Malay royality (to be specific, Kelantan) among the natives and the first writer to employs realism in his writings.

  5. ;-) of coz munshi abdullah didn't live in the times of hang tuah. what I had commended was for those tales of his about hang tuah and the absolute (draconian) monarchy of malacca to remain as tales and not revisit us ;-)

  6. Kaytee,
    In broad terms I tend to agree that Royalty regularly interfering with matters of state is dangerous and overstepping their role.

    But I have to disagree that the Royalty has NO role. They are never meant to be mere rubber stamps. They do have an advice and consent role, especially in major critical issues.

    One of the role models for this is Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. She is steadfastly correct in never saying anything critical of the government in public. But in private she can and does give her input, and insist on being briefed and consulted on many national issues. She has the right of access to critical and confidential government information, and many UK prime ministers have had to learn that she is no mere rubber stamp.

    In the case of Terengganu, the rape of what was rightfully the state's funds from its oil resources had become so extreme, the Sultan felt this was one of those "force majeur" situtations where he had the right and duty to intervene.

    I tend to support the Sultan's action in this case, even given my general reservations on Royal activism.

  7. Kaytee,
    I know you place a lot of importance on principles and see yourself as a principled person.

    Let me ask maybe a more personal question.

    I wouldn't ask a person to set aside his principles for a price - thats corruption.

    But if you live long enough, and believe me, such situations arise in life, there will be instances where if you stick to your principles, it will cause harm.

    Maybe not to yourself - you might see personal grieve as a price you are willing to pay. But harm to other innocent people.

    Do you still stick to your principles in such a case ?

    To me, this Terengganu Royalty case is a bit like that.