Wednesday, February 25, 2009

All that is Silver does not glitter

His Royal Highness is upset and worried as of late the intrusion of someone’s privacy and private rights was being used to destroy one’s dignity and reputation. It is a sad thing as one’s life and private rights were being made public and subject to public scrutiny by publicising in the mass media.

To Yang Berhormat Elizabeth Wong, His Royal Highness felt sad and sympathised with her as to the unfortunate event she had suffered and hoped that Yang Berhormat Elizabeth Wong will remain calm and be patient in continuing with her life henceforth.

- Dato’ Haji Mohamad Munir bin Bani, Dato’ Lela Bakti Private Secretary to His Royal Highness

The above was also published in Malaysiakini Nude photos: Sultan throws ball back into MB's court.

Well said, Tuanku!

As one who is rather lukewarm to royalty, I have slowly come to admire more and more HRH Sultan Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, ruler of Selangor.

While Malaysian eyes, ears and admiration had initially focussed hopefully on the royalty in the Silver State as ‘silver bullets’, it has been the Selangor Sultan who, though less pontificating and less pompous (thank goodness & menjunjong kasih Tuanku for small mercies), have stolen the affection of the ordinary rakyat.

I admit I wasn’t too impressed by HRH's admission that he was the initiator of the issue of ‘social contract’ aired during the last Rulers Conference, but I have noted that HRH has been very careful not to lend any impression he was politically biased nor had he demonstrated any political preference.

He had carefully talked with the ADUNs of the Pakatan after the March 08 election to ascertain their loose alliance has sufficient cohesion to form a stable State government, without interfering with the choice of MB, showing he was a ruler only concerned about the good governance of his State.

Perhaps one could argue that he was ‘reported’ as not keen on having Teresa Kok as the deputy MB of Selangor, but that could well be the work of the royal courtiers, most being mainly pro-UMNO or UMNO people.

My mate Dean Johns whose latest article Royalty and loyalty appeared in his Malaysiakini column today, is like me, not all that ardent about many royal members.

Notwithstanding our shared tepid feelings towards the monarchy, Dean has shown some admiration for King Bumiphol of Thailand, but rightly not for the Crown Prince whose conduct had been said could well match those of a certain Malaysian Sultan (the one who didn’t like a caddy or a hockey coach).

Many years ago, King Bumiphol in a shocking, virtually earth-shattering move for Thais, did the unprecedented and conferred on his daughter* the title of Crown Princess.

* I believe the second one – the first was originally disowned when she married a farang (Mat Salleh)

His message to the Crown prince wasn’t subtle at all – HM was virtually saying publicly that the throne was not guaranteed for the Crown Prince nor would it be automatically through the male line.

Strangely, even after the Perak constitutional imbroglio, Dean still has some good words for the Perak Sultan, stating that HRH is ‘… among the more worthy and distinguished members of Malaysian royalty …’.

Distinguished certainly …

… but let’s examine the words of NH Chan which he wrote for Malaysiakini in Sultan has no powers to ask Nizar to quit.

As Malaysiakini reminded those who are not familiar with his name, NH CHAN is former Court of Appeal judge famous for his ‘All is not well in the House of Denmark’ comment regarding judicial corruption. He was then referring to High Court’s commercial division which was located in Wisma Denmark, Kuala Lumpur. The quote is based on Shakespeare’s ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’.

I won’t go into the entirety of the legal mauling Chan gave HRH, but read this one extract:

As a former Lord President, who was then the highest judge in the country, the sultan should know that it is improper to see an interested party alone without the other side being present before announcing his decision.

It was only after the ruler had seen Najib that he summoned Nizar to inform him that he had decided not to dissolve the legislative assembly.

That was his undoing. It was a fatal error. This is not a case of natural justice where both sides have a right to be heard. There was no hearing. […]

Every judge, unless he is a bad judge, knows that the right thing to do is to apply the oft-repeated saying of Lord Chief Justice Hewart in R v. Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy: “It is not merely of some importance, but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.

I encourage you to read NH Chan’s erudite analysis of the sorry saga.

But the part that caught my eye and confirmed my long-held suspicion about the Perak Sultan was Chan’s comment on HRH sacking of Nizar:

It is a personal discretion of the ruler to act on the appointment of a menteri besar. Since the ruler has the power to appoint another person as menteri besar in place of Mohd Nizar based on his judgement, there is, therefore, no need to order him to resign at all.

This is no more than a pretended show of power when, in fact, there is no such power.

A pretend show of power!
… exactly what I wrote in Bismarck: The king reigns but does not govern on 09 November 2008, where I said [relevant extracts only]:

I felt then the blog Malaysia-Today had promoted the royals beyond their constitutional role.

I have no doubt that those promotions of the royalty as potential political saviours had encouraged the royalty to begin exerting their powers, and in many incidents, in clumsy unconstitutional manner.

Their post election interferences by some Sultans were prime examples which regrettably many supported in glee, revelling in the embarrassment of an UMNO PM without realizing the more constitutionally-dangerous significance of those royal manoeuvres. I hate to use cliché but those silly sycophantic supporters couldn’t see the bigger picture.

Then I wrote about the humiliation of Nizar [relevant extracts]:

Another lamentable example had been the Perak Sultan's undermining of Perak MB Nizar’s authority by rescinding the latter’s sacking of the State religious director.

Publicly chopping the MB’s authority off at the knees, in a show of unnecessary but raw royal power play, the Prince (acting on behalf of the Sultan) justified his action on the fact that the Sultan as the religious head of the State had the royal prerogative on State religious matter.

That's true but unfortunately the sacking didn’t have anything to do with any religious issues or policies but rather a case of a civil servant demonstrating sheer insubordination to the MB by refusing to implement the State government’s directive.

But regardless of whether it was a case of insubordination by a civil servant or a MB committing a faux pas with a State religious issue, was there really such a need for HRH to publicly humiliate the new MB and undermine his authority as the State’s CEO? Surely a quiet royal word to Nizar and the MB would have been right royally apologetic (even if he wasn’t incorrect).

It was that pretend show of power!

And guess what happened after MB Nizar succumbed to such traditional Malay royal psy-war and reinstated an insubordinate State civil servant?

The Prince Regent in a subsequent speech (3 months later in late July) attempted to change (by stealth) his justification for his royal interference from that of religious matters to administrative fairness.

… only after Karpal Singh had blasted the Perak Sultan for interfering in the MB's administrative management.

I had warned time and time again that the royalty had been the problem rather than the solution …

And my apt advice to HRH Perak:

While the Sultans have a place under the Malaysian Constitution, they should be careful not to step down from their royal pedestal onto the grubby world of politics where they then draw justified criticisms unto their political (and not royal) persons.

But HRH the Sultan of Selangor has shown impeccable conduct as a constitutional monarchy.

There’s a Chinese saying, ‘bah chew mai knua sneo hnui’ meaning ‘don’t set your sights too far’ (when looking for something desirable).

It applies particularly to those politically conscious in KL and Selangor who had looked towards the Silver State for the ‘silver bullets’.


  1. HRH from Selangor is also the same person who issued the statement to "support" the Perak HRH, and commented something like HRH Uncle of HRH, deserves no attack and no criticism and HRH uncle of HRH is a well trained legal person to address the crisis "properly"...

    If Perak crisis happens in Selangor... I reserve my judgement that HRH from Selangor will act fairly and uphold the constitution...

  2. It happens to the best of men when they are elevated to high position. The truly honorable will resign. The time has come for kings to do the right thing - walk off into the sun set. Long live the King!

  3. Dear KTemoc,

    You are really in your element in this post!

    What a brilliant piece that is not only well-written but displays elegance, intellectual prowess, deep and erudite comments tinged with biting sarcasm!

    Your in-depth understanding and knowledge of the issues at hand coupled with the grace and respect you have shown makes this post a great read.

    Thank you so much for the fantastic effort and time you put into this post.


  4. KT

    One such royalty is your good friend and blogger RAJA Petra Kamaruddin .

  5. I am not sure about my admiration for royalties now but a good piece. I find Imtiaz's version to be equally compelling where he spoke on the flexing of political muscles on royal part. For sure, the rakyat reacts to events.

  6. Now that the false dawn about egalitarianism and Royalty over Perak has ben cruelly exposed, I would not read too much into this communication from HRH in Selangor.

    The buck has been clearly (and rightfully) passed back to the MB. Khalid does not need HRH's
    'advice' to know that Elizabeth Wong did no wrong and her resignation should not be accepted.

    The legions of UMNO/BN/Toyo and his ilk supporters moral umbrage notwithstanding, many like me would be glad to see EW back at work. She would have learnt a valuable lesson on what it takes to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of M'sian politics.

    But if she can't stand the heat in the kitchen, then by all means leave. We need steel magnolias, not wilting daisies to take on the might of UMNO/BN to usher in the new dawn we are all anxiously waiting for!!


    We all badly need the judicial wisdom of King Solomon
    Now that court cases on all political matters are so very common
    Let's pray we don't fall into the trap of any evil one or demon
    But let the people concerned wisely pick and throw away any bad lemon

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 250209
    Wed. 25th Feb. 2009.

  8. I am not sure if I entirely agree with the masterwordsmith that KTemoc's latest post shows his "intellectual prowess" and that his comments are "deep and erudite"! I do think however that it is a very good post, one of his better ones: a knowledgeable and balanced summary of, and commentary on, the issue at hand.

    I also would like to add my voice to donplaypuks' claim that many would like to see Eli back in the Selangor DUN, and that she probably has learnt a valuable lesson or two on surviving in the "dog-eat-dog world of M'sian politics." At the same time, I have to echo his sentiments that she should quit if she cannot stand "the heat in the kitchen." As donplaypuks beautifully puts it, "We need steel magnolias, not wilting daisies to take on the might of UMNO/BN to usher in the new dawn we are all anxiously waiting for!" We have always known Eli as a steel magnolia, and we hope that she would prove her mettle when she returns.

  9. Khalid Ibrahim tought he could "Tai-Chi" the issue of Eli Wong's resignation to the Sultan.
    The Sultan has "Tai-Chi" the decision back to the Selangor MB.

  10. KT,
    One of your best write up, and a fair view of the current situation.Of course no two Royals are the same, but what can you do when absolute powers corrupts!
    Power makes a man goes bonkers sometimes!

  11. KT,
    I just wish to highlight that Blogger Jed Yoong is being subject to police intimidation.

    I often dislike and disagree with the opinions expressed in her blog, but she has the right to say it without being harassed by the police.

    I think she deserves our support.

  12. Hi Elifan

    Thanks for the support

    One more plug. Elizabeth Wong should be admired for her honesty and forthrightness.

  13. Hi Ktemoc,

    My apologies for using your space....

    Hi Elifan,

    I appreciate your honesty and that is the beauty of freedom of speech where we can express what we feel in our hearts rather than masking behind nods..and still be able to commune with one another because it is what binds us together that matters and not what divides.

    I have not been following the Perak debacle that closely and the few posts that I read before reading Ktemoc's post, put me off completely because many amounted to nothing but underhand and vehement bashing without sufficient evidence, rhyme or reason which to me, serve only to exacerbate the already delicate scenario. Thus I was pleasantly delighted to read Ktemoc's take on this issue and his approach has been one that is quite well-researched, controlled and yet with the punch at places that matter.

    I also echo your stand and that of DPP re Eli Wong and have done two posts in my blog appealing for her to come back to where we need her (we meaning like-minded Malaysians who are Eli fans (no pun intended on your name).

    Finally, I like the steel magnolia imagery you used ...and the movie of the same name is one of my favorites :-).

    Take care all of you and thanks for letting me have my say.

    Best wishes