The royal twist in the Perak crisis has sparked grave concerns that the country’s constitutional monarchy is being used to propagate the vested interests and agenda of Deputy Premier Najib Abdul Razak and his Umno party at the expense of the democratic rights of the Perak people.
A statement from the Selangor Sultan, defending the Perak Sultan’s role in the controversial episode, is expected to deepen the argument in the country and may even increase the suspicion of the people towards the monarchy.
Said Tian Chua, information chief of KeADILan: “Pakatan Rakyat never intended to offend or to be antagonistic towards the monarchy.
“The Sultan should also understand the peoples’ aspirations. Pakatan’s action is aimed at upholding democratic principles and to preserve the integrity of the royal institution from political manipulation.”
In his statement, the Selangor Sultan had appeared to be warning the people against questioning the powers of the Rulers.
Said a political watchers: “At the end of the day, you can’t force people to respect you. I think the Selangor Sultan wanted to share his wisdom and also to speak up for the Perak Sultan, who rightly or wrongly, has drawn a lot negative feedback from both the people and civil society.
“And this is the crux of the issue – the people are unhappy with the Perak Sultan. No amount of defensive action can change the view that their rights were ignored. In Malaysia, we have a constitutional monarchy, where the roles of the Rulers are pretty much formal in nature.
“The Selangor Sultan spoke about the dignity of the royalty, but he did not talk much about the rights of the rakyat. So it is no wonder, people are confused and they are asking – what’s happening here?
No one is above the law, stop the intimidation
Among Malaysia’s 13 states, Perak is unique for having two Menteri Besars and two state governments. The Pakatan one led by Nizar Jamaluddin has the backing of the Perak people, while the Umno-BN line-up assembled by Najib has the approval of the Sultan.
On Feb 5, the Perak Ruler decided against Nizar’s advice to dissolve the state assembly, and allow a snap election for the people to choose the government that they wanted.
Instead the Sultan controversially agreed to transfer power to the BN, although it only had the same number of 28 seats in the state assembly as the Pakatan, and the status of three Independents it claimed to have the support of was being challenged in court.
The royal decision forced the Pakatan to file a legal suit challenging the validity of BN Menteri Besar Zambry Kadir’s appointment.
However, another suit proposed by DAP chairman Karpal Singh to sue the Perak Sultan was put on the back-burner. This despite a growing wave of support from the public and civil society for the principle that any aggrieved party had the right to seek redress from the courts.
On the other side of the divide, the Umno-BN has been busy issuing dark warnings that any move to sue a Ruler was treason. Yet, the removal of the Rulers’ immunity from prosecution came from Umno itself, tabled and pushed through by ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad.
“No one exercising his constitutional right of access to the courts should be branded as being disloyal to the Rulers or threatened with preventive detention under the ISA,” said prominent lawyer Raja Aziz Addruse.
“Was it not the BN government that sought to justify the removal of the personal immunity of the Malay Rulers in 1993 on the grounds that no one was above the law? Leave it to the court to decide if the Pakatan Rakyat has a case or not.”
As it suited Umno then to curtail the powers of the Rulers, it is obvious now, it is trying to hide behind the Sultans in a bid to stem the growing reach of the Pakatan into the hearts and minds of the Malaysian people.
Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng slammed Umno-BN, saying that Pakatan had never questioned the rights of the Rulers, but at the same time, it would also never back down from speaking up for the people.
“With all the various interpretations, the basic fact is this, the people should be the ones who decide on the government,” said Guan Eng.
But thanks to Umno Youth leaders preparing for their internal party election, the heart of the matter – that is the position of Malaysia’s monarchy viz-a-viz the extent of the peoples’ rights – has been glossed over and turned into a farce – whether deliberately or not.
KeADILan deputy president Syed Husin Ali accused Umno of sensationalizing the issue and thereby bringing disrepute to the Rulers.
He pointed out that last year, over a disagreement of who should be Menteri Besar in Terengganu, Umno supporters had held up banners insulting the Sultan as Raja Binatang or Animal King
Said another Pakatan leader Husam Musa of PAS: “They have been embarrassing the royalty by giving Malay boys RM50 and a t-shirt to gather but only end up with 1,000 to 1,500 people.
“If we were actually challenging the sovereignty of the monarchy, why are there less than 2,000 people at the gatherings? Umno should stop as this is shameful. And how come it is only Umno Youth? Where is the rest of BN?”
Said a royal peer and Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah: ““Today’s Umno, under its present leadership, is probably beyond reform. Our leaders are the problem.
“Umno’s most recent achievement has been to wrest power by underhanded means from a democratically-elected state government. In doing so, we come across as the party of the desperate, not the confident.”
Said law professor Abdul Aziz Bari: “It is time for Umno-BN to stop using the Palace. It must now learn how to survive on its own as required by both the constitution and democracy.”
Umno’s ‘defence’ of Perak Sultan raises suspicion