Malaysiakini
OPINIONS

Do PMs and presidents have absolute power?

Zan Azlee

Published
Modified 25 Aug 2016, 9:22 pm

Have you ever listened to Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s speech when he declared the independence of Malaya in 1957? At the end of his inspiring and rousing declaration, he said something interesting.

“Now in the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful, I, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halimshah, Prime Minister of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, with the concurrence and approval of Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Malay States, do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf of the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu that as from the 31st day of August, 1957, the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu comprising the states of Johor, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Malacca and Penang is and with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”

When it comes to democracy, people like to compare the system we have in Malaysia with other countries. Imagine comparing Tunku’s speech with the US’ Declaration of Independence. It would seem similar seeing that both countries were founded on the belief that there should be liberty and justice for all in a democratic environment where the people are the beholders of their own fate. Seems fair.

Sure, Malaysia has a Westminster parliamentary system while the US is a federal republic. We elect parties and party members choose the prime minister. Americans elect congressmen, senators and the president directly.

There are slight differences here and there, but the basis of the democratic system should be similar. There should always be a platform for the people, which is essentially their right to vote in elections, and a check and balance for the authority...

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