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Rulers in politics a dangerous thing

I refer to the Malaysiakini article The problem with royal activism .

I had been and still am concerned with ‘royal political activism’. When I talk about ‘royal political activism’ I am not talking about politicians like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or the late Tunku Abdul Rahman.

I mean the sultans or regents or crown princes who have immunity from most of the laws applicable to commoners and who by virtue of such immunity should not come down to the commoners’ political arena.


The royalty should stay above politics and not overstretch the limits of their constitutional rights as if they have free rein to engage directly in politics. If they do, then they must accept criticisms like politicians do, and not cry (or have their supporters cry) lèse majeste .


What the writers of the above report said is absolutely right, in that. ‘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?’


So what did we have after the March 2008 elections? Perak! And did the Pakatan Rakyat supporters cheer on His Royal Highness as they did the rulers of Perlis and Terengganu?


On Tuesday, we heard the Federal Court rule on the Perak constitutional imbroglio that the sultan of Perak had the constitutional right to sack then menteri besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin. Incidentally Nizar, on learning of the astonishing court ruling, was wont to declare that we may henceforth expect rule by absolute monarchy.


I opine there have been two monumental blunders in Malaysian political strategy.


The first was when Dr Mahathir Mohamad, then as prime minister, wanted to outflank PAS' growing influence among the pious in the Malay heartland. He did so by declaring Malaysia as an Islamic nation, diametrically opposite to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s earlier declaration that Malaysia was a secular state which upheld Islam as the nation’s official religion.


By taking such a constitutionally radical step to neutralise PAS, he opened, what non-Muslims would call, a Pandora’s Box, one which he couldn’t close back again. From thence, he gradually gave in to the genie he unwittingly released.


The second major blunder happened on Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010. The Federal Court's ruling on the MB versus MB case has opened Pandora’s box a second time, with a ruler now able to dismiss an elected MB of a state (and presumably, in the federal arena, the elected PM of our nation).


We are on very dangerous constitutional grounds. Prior to the March 2008 election, the idea of royalty as our political 'silver bullet' was promoted but I was one of those few who warned against jacking royalty up above its constitutional role. Of course, today, Raja Petra Kamarudin sings a different tune.


I have warned several times against recruiting the rulers in our struggle against the non- accountable and non-transparent Barisan Nasional. That would have been a move I likened as leaping from the frying pan into the fire.

I had also stated that some of those rulers had been and would be the problem rather the solution to sorting out the Barison Nasional which was after all an elected government but one which failed repetitively to practice good governance, transparency and accountability.


The problem confronting us was just that, - ‘an elected government but one which failed repetitively to practice good governance, transparency and accountability’ and even indulged in the occasional gerrymandering and questionable creativity in elections, but it wasn’t a constitutional problem.


On the other hand, enlisting or encouraging the rulers to participate in our struggle for democratic reforms would in fact give rise to precisely that, a constitutional crisis. And haven’t we got Perak? Padan muka?