Monday, April 27, 2009

To understand the Perak Constitutional Crisis

To understand the Perak Constitutional Crisis
27 Apr, 2009

To understand what is happening in Perak today, one must go back 25 years or so to the time when Anwar and Ghafar made those many trips to Istana Negara to engage the Rulers in the Constitutional Crisis. The Rulers got burned badly. And it was Anwar that they had to face, not Mahathir.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Ku Li: Why Nizar is still the MB
THE STAR, 7 February 2009

Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is still the Perak Mentri Besar until he resigns of his own accord, or is removed by a vote of no-confidence in a formal sitting of the State Assembly, said Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

“Only the answer of the assembly counts, regardless how many sworn statements, defections, press conferences and declarations, or what forms of advertisement, display, inducement or force you bring to bear on the question,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“The Constitution makes no provision for his removal by any other means, including by petitions or instructions from any other authority,” he added.

He also said that a legitimate constitutional government draws all its authority from the consent of the people and only from that consent. The people consent because it is their government formed according to their constitution, whose leader is chosen through free and fair elections.

“To formally test the mandate of the current government, the question must either be put to the people through state elections, or to assemblymen through a formal vote in the Dewan,” said Tengku Razaleigh.

He said to remove and install governments in any other way was to violate the Constitution, erode the rule of law and run the risk of forming an illegal government.


That was what YBM Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said on 7 February 2009. And, on 7 May 2009, we are going to see another chapter in the Perak Constitutional Crisis when the illegitimate Menteri Besar calls for a state assembly meeting and probably, as most already suspect, call for the removal of the Speaker of the Perak State Assembly.

Umno is just driving more nails into its own coffin. The majority of Perakians do not endorse the illegal and unconstitutional takeover of the Perak government. It is nothing short of a coup, by whatever name you wish to call it. The outcome of the recent Bukit Gantang by-election is proof enough that the people do not endorse what Umno did in Perak. If that is not a clear enough message of where the people’s sentiments lie then I don’t know what is.

Many legal minds have spoken on the issue, renowned and respected judges included, and all are of the opinion that Umno’s move is illegal and unconstitutional. Expect the people to converge on the Perak State Assembly on 7 May as a demonstration of their disgust. Even those within Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s circle have expressed dismay at what is going on in Perak. They feel that Najib has been ill advised and has made a huge tactical blunder.

Members of the Royal Family, the Perak Royal Family included, are no less perturbed. Not all Royals support the opposition of course. But not all agree with Umno as well. To put it mildly, the Royal Family is divided as to its support for the ruling party. While many support the ruling party for personal and business reasons, they worry that Umno’s blunders may not only see the demise of that party but also of the institution of the Monarchy as well. The Regent of Perak himself feels that the damage done to the Monarchy may not only be long term but may be irreparable as well.

Of course, we can’t interpret the sentiments of the Royal Family as being pro-rakyat or pro-democracy. After all, the succession to the throne is hereditary and no Ruler is democratically elected into office. So, democracy is probably the last thing in the minds of the Royal Family. But the Royals of today are not like the Royals of yesteryear. Nowadays, the Royals are well educated, many having received their education in overseas universities. So they know history. They studied history. And they know what the storming of the Bastille means and how it came about.

The Royals fear for their future. They fear that if they swim against the tide, they will drown. No matter how strong a swimmer you may be, you just can’t swim against the tide. What more if it is not just a tide but, in fact, a powerful Tsunami? A Tsunami will swallow everything in its path and suck all out to sea on its retreat. Malaysians learned the power of the Tsunami on Boxing Day of 2004 -- and, again, on 8 March 2008, when, for the first time in Malaysian election history, the voters demonstrated the potency of people’s power.

The Royals are getting very nervous. They realise they can’t oppose Umno. This would be even more so since the architect and engineer of the mid-1980s Constitutional Crisis, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is now back at the helm of Umno, pulling all the strings from behind the scenes. The Royals do not fear Najib as much as they fear Mahathir. After all, Najib is more or less a Royal just like them, as was his late father, Tun Razak.

Malays, by nature, are feudalistic. And Umno, therefore, is also a most feudalistic party. It is just impossible to separate the Malays, Umno and feudalism. All three come as a package. And this was Mahathir's greatest beef. He wanted to break the Malay feudalistic culture, which is also the Umno culture. And to do this he had to break the feudalism mentality of the Malays. So he went to war with the Rulers and taught the Malays how to kurang ajar.

At the time of the 1980s Constitutional Crisis, Tun Ghafar Baba was the Deputy Prime Minister. But unnoticed by most Malays, the move to eradicate the Malay feudalistic culture started earlier than that. It started when Musa Hitam was the Deputy Prime Minister. And Musa made the new plan very clear when he openly declared that it is time the Malays learned how to kurang ajar.

Most did not understand what Musa meant at that time. The Malays must learn how to kurang ajar. But kurang ajarbiar mati anak, jangan mati adat? Yes, better the child dies than tradition dies. Malays would die defending their traditions and this is what was holding them back.

Many could not understand why Mahathir chose Musa over Tengku Razaleigh as his Deputy. Was it not the deal that Tengku Razaleigh makes way for Mahathir as Hussein Onn’s number two and then, when Mahathir succeeds Hussein Onn, he would take Tengku Razaleigh as his number two? Yes, that was the deal. But Tengku Razaleigh is a Royalist while Musa is a Republican. And Mahathir, being a Republican himself, wanted another Republican and not a Royalist as his Deputy.

Umno’s history has always been about feudalism and ‘royalism’. Onn Jaafar was an orang istana. So was Tunku Abdul Rahman, followed by Tun Razak and Hussein Onn. The entire lot since 1946 were people brought up in the palace and who were very close and intimate with the palace. Onn Jaafar was in fact honoured by the Japanese during the occupation years and was given a Japanese officer’s uniform complete with Samurai sword to wear. This was the great respect the Japanese had for Royalty (the Emperor of Japan was considered a God) and the acknowledgement that not only was Onn Jaafar a Malay leader, but one who was close to the Johor palace as well.

Finally, in 1981, Umno managed to rid itself of feudalism and, for the first time, they got a Republican (some say Communist) as its leader. It took two generations for that to happen. But now that Umno no longer has an orang istana as its leader, why would Mahathir want to turn the clock back and appoint Tengku Razaleigh as his Deputy? So, instead, he chose Musa. And, when Musa resigned, he chose Ghafar, again, instead of Tengku Razaleigh.

But Ghafar was old Malay. He was one who held dear the old traditions. And when the Constitutional Crisis erupted in the mid-1980s, Mahathir forced Ghafar to lead the charge against the Monarchy. And Ghafar had to make many trips to Istana Negara with Anwar Ibrahim in tow to negotiate with the Rulers. The message was simple. The Rulers resisted at their own peril. If Malaysians rise up to demand that the Monarchy be abolished then Umno would not be able to save the Rulers.

The Rulers remained stubborn. So Mahathir launched a nationwide demonising campaign. The Rulers were dragged through the mud. Now even the Umno Malays were demanding that Mahathir cut the Rulers down to size. Now, it was no longer Mahathir but the Umno Malays who wanted the Rulers taught a lesson. Mahathir gallantly stepped in as ‘mediator’ and settled the problem between the Umno Malays and the Rulers. The Rulers had been taught who is the real boss in Malaysia. Umno, and not the Rulers, is the boss. The Rulers, with their tails between their legs, gave in and admitted defeat. Umno, or rather Mahathir, had won.

But the Constitutional Crisis proved that Ghafar was too weak. He was too soft. He was old Malay who held to tradition and culture. And one of those traditions and cultures is one does not derhaka with the Rulers. If not for Anwar, Ghafar would not have dared face the Rulers and engage them in a confrontation. That was why Mahathir made Anwar follow Ghafar to the Istana Negara. If Ghafar falters, then Anwar can step in to save the day.

And that is exactly what happened. At one point during the heated debate with the Rulers, Ghafar took off his songkok and placed it on the table. It was a most kurang ajar thing to do but something he did unconsciously. Ghafar was not trying to demonstrate kurang ajar. He was feeling desperate and in his desperation he took off his songkoksongkok and placed it on the table. That was His Highness’s way of saying that Ghafar is kurang ajar so he too is going to be kurang ajar.

Mahathir realised that Ghafar was still very feudalistic at heart. You can’t avoid it though. Ghafar is an old man, seven months older than Mahathir, so he is ‘old Malay’ in thinking. And old Malays do not kurang ajar with the Rulers. Mahathir decided that Ghafar has to go. He can never be a Republican. Anwar can. So Mahathir told Anwar to challenge Ghafar, which he did. And when Ghafar realised that Mahathir wants him out he gave Anwar a walkover. Anwar became the new Umno number two without a fight.

At the height of the Reformasi Movement, and soon after I was released from ISA detention in 2001, I was summoned to the Palace and asked why I am so stupid as to support Anwar and get incarcerated. I replied that I am not supporting Anwar as much as I am opposing Mahathir. I am doing this for the Monarchy, I replied, because Mahathir is anti-Monarchy and would turn Malaysia into a Republic if he could.

The Sultan replied that Anwar is no different. Anwar was one of the key players during the Constitutional Crisis, the Sultan said. It was actually Anwar and not Ghafar who gave the Rulers a hard time. No doubt Mahathir was the architect and engineer. But Anwar was Mahathir’s ‘hit man’ who did much damage to the Rulers. Ghafar did not talk too much. Anwar did most of the talking and was the one the Rulers faced most problems with. The Rulers can never trust Anwar and will not accept him as a Prime Minister.

That meeting with the Sultan revealed what was in the minds of the Rulers. Anwar was perceived as a Republican, just like Mahathir, and it did not matter who won the fight in the Anwar-Mahathir war that erupted in 1998. They realised that Anwar was Mahathir’s victim and they did not believe all the allegations against Anwar, in particular the sodomy allegation. But it is good that Mahathir and Anwar are now at war. A united Mahathir and Anwar would not be good for the Monarchy. It puts the Monarchy at risk. Now that Mahathir and Anwar are at war, they are too occupied to worry about the Rulers and will leave the Rulers alone, at least for the next couple of years.

And that is why the Rulers did not come to Anwar’s aid in 1998 when Mahathir threw him into jail. They welcomed the Reformasi Movement in that it kept Mahathir busy and helped weaken Umno. A strong Umno would mean a weak Monarchy. On the other hand, a weak Umno would mean the Rulers would be needed as Umno can then hide behind the Monarchy to perpetuate its evil deeds, like what is happening in Perak now. Furthermore, would the Rulers dare take Anwar’s side and risk antagonising Mahathir? At least, with the Rulers remaining ‘neutral’, Anwar and Mahathir can go for each other’s throats rather than for the throats of the Rulers like in the mid-1980s.

But Najib is different. Sure, he is carrying much baggage. But then so are many of the Rulers. No one is perfect, in particular the Rulers. After all, the Rulers are also human, just like Najib and all the Umno leaders who have numerous skeletons in their closet. But Najib is an orang istana and he would never dream of abolishing the Monarchy and of turning Malaysia into a Republic. With Anwar they could not be so sure, as the mid-1980s Constitutional Crisis proved. Better a devil like Najib that one knows than an angel like Anwar who might turn out to be the death of the Monarchy.

We must remember that Anwar played a crucial role in the mid-1980s Constitutional Crisis. Najib did not. Najib, in fact, kept the lines of communication with the palace open the entire duration of the Constitutional Crisis. Najib demonstrated that he is a friend of the Monarchy, just like his late father was. Anwar demonstrated the reverse.

It is not puzzling as to why the Sultan or Perak appears pro-Umno, or rather pro-Najib -- because it is Najib who is behind the current Perak Constitutional Crisis. The key word here is survival. Najib can ensure the survival of the Monarchy. Anwar cannot. In fact, in the mid-1980s, he already demonstrated he is anti-Monarchy. You can always argue that Anwar had no other choice as he was under the orders of Mahathir. But then so were Ghafar and Najib but they did not whack the Rulers as hard as Anwar did.

If one wants to argue that Anwar is not anti-Monarchy and was only doing Mahathir’s bidding, the clash Anwar had with the Kelantan Palace put this theory to sleep. Anwar was the Finance Minister at that time and he ordered the Customs Department to impound the Sultan’s Lamborghini on grounds that the import duty was unpaid. Actually, Sultans are exempted from import duty on the first seven cars they import while the Regent, Raja Muda or Tengku Mahkota gets exemption on three. So that makes ten cars altogether and the Sultan of Kelantan had not used up his full quota.

The Sultan was furious and he asked his palace official to go to the Customs office and take the car by force. The palace official just drove off with the car under the very noses of the Customs officers, much to the chagrin of the Customs Department and Anwar who accused the Sultan of stealing the car. Later, it was proven that the Sultan was right and that Anwar was wrong and the issue was quietly laid to rest without any further hullabaloo. But the damage had been done. Anwar’s actions were entirely on his own initiative and not on the instructions of Mahathir. No one can now say that Anwar’s role in the mid-1980s Constitutional Crisis was just to carry out the instructions of Mahathir.

To understand what is happening in Perak today, one must go back 25 years or so to the time when Anwar and Ghafar made those many trips to Istana Negara to engage the Rulers in the Constitutional Crisis. The Rulers got burned badly. And it was Anwar that they had to face, not Mahathir. Yes, the Rulers know it was Mahathir pulling the strings from behind the scenes. But it was Anwar and not Mahathir who tegang leher and bertekak with the Rulers while Ghafar sat there sighing, wishing he had never been dragged into this fight.

Sure, the Rulers are selfish. What they are doing is only to ensure their own survival. But is this not the natural instinct of humankind? Is it not natural for anyone to make a decision that ensures your own survival? And this is exactly what the Sultan of Perak is doing. He backs Najib over Anwar. And he gives the Perak government to Najib’s party instead of Anwar’s. That is what anyone would do when his or her survival is at stake.

But is the reverse going to happen instead? Is what the Sultan of Perak doing going to actually accelerate the demise of the Monarchy rather than the other way around? Time will tell. Maybe what is happening in Perak will just put to question the relevancy of the Monarchy. Maybe the Tsunami of people’s power will challenge the wisdom of the Monarchy and demands for its abolishment may reach a crescendo. Or maybe Najib will owe the Monarchy a huge favour and he will ensure that the Monarchy is retained, at least during his tenure as Prime Minister.

7 May 2009 may, or may not, be the turning point for the Monarchy. 7 May 2009 may see the Monarchy strengthened or may see it weakened. We will know which it is going to be when 7 May 2009 is upon us. Will the people turn out in droves? Will they hit the streets in tens of thousands like what they did on Nomination Day in Bukit Gantang? Are we going to see the storming of the Bastille on 7 May 2009?

Sure, Umno too will make sure they are represented in great numbers. Umno will probably bus in its supporters from all over Malaysia to make up those numbers. No doubt Umno has the money to finance this ‘great assembly’. With money you can do many things. But the ‘other side’, made up of opposition supporters, will also be in Ipoh on 7 May -- not because they have been paid to be there, but because they want to be there. You do not need to pay opposition supporters to come out. They will be there on their own accord and at their own expense.

Expect the police to soon issue a statement. The people will be warned that they must not go to Ipoh on 7 May 2009. The police will declare that the gathering in Ipoh is going to be classified an illegal assembly and that action will be taken against anyone who assembles in Ipoh on 7 May 2009.

I doubt, however, that the people can be intimidated. Gone are the days you can threaten the people and frighten them into staying indoors. The crowd will be there. Both sides will be there. And how the government handles the situation will depend on what happens thereafter.

And don’t say Malaysia Today has not warned you. We are warning you that for every action there will be an opposite and equal reaction. Force begets force and violence begets violence. And there is only so much you can do to oppose the will of the people. Many countries all over the world, our neighbours included, have demonstrated this. The people always win in the end. And there are no two ways about it.

See you in Ipoh on 7 May 2009.
against whom? The Chinese? The government? Umno? No! Musa Hitam is not a racist. All his women, and he had loads of them, were not Malays. Musa meant the Malays must break away from tradition. And one of these ‘counter-productive’ and ‘outdated’ traditions was the feudalistic culture that prevented the Malays from progressing and from moving forward. Is it not a Malay proverb: without realising he was doing so. The head negotiator for the Rulers, the Yamtuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, also took off his

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