Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is the ball really in the Sultan's Court now?

Mahathir and the Age of ISA

If I were to describe Tun Dr. Mahathir with one sentence, it would be: “My way or the Kamunting way”. Mahathir era can be termed the era of the Internal Security Act (ISA). He perfected the ‘art’ of ISA detention. He pushed it to the max, and utilized it to the max.

The word ‘art’ is only is only a figure of speech. Dr Mahathir never cares about being artful or aesthetic. He is completely unabashed about what he did. He is too proud to lie, too proud to have to justify his action. ISA is a perfect vehicle for him. Everybody and anybody can be detained without trial. Nothing needs to be explained, and nothing needs to be justified.

Now take a look at what Mahathir has to say about the Perak stalemate: Dr M: Pakatan will win Perak snap polls (Malaysiakini May 14)

First, the 83-year-old former BN chieftain said there was no need to hold a fresh election in Perak in order to resolve the political impasse in the state. But he quickly added that it was a ‘forgone conclusion' that Pakatan Rakyat would win if an election is held.

"I think the opposition... well not the opposition... I think that Pakatan is going to win. So why have an election?...

Instead of fresh polls, Mahathir said the right process now is for the state assembly to sit and move a motion of no-confidence against Nizar.

What Tun Dr. Mahathir saying is that he knows Pakatan Rakyat is going to win a snap poll, so he is not going to play it that way. He will only play it the way he is sure that HE can win.

It doesn’t matter to him that the High Court has already ruled that Nizar is still the legitimate Chief Minister of Perak. It doesn’t matter that the legality of the ‘new’ speaker Ganesan is in doubt. For him the ‘right’ process is for the state assembly to sit and move a motion of no-confidence against Nizar.

Is it ‘right’ as in being legal and constitutional? That is never Mahathir concern. It is ‘right’ because he said so. It is ‘right’ because he can win. That is Mahatharism.

But what about public opinion? "I hope people have short memories" was his reply. For Mahathir the people never matters. They can be easily hoodwinked, brought over, suppressed and coerced.

Perak Fiasco – Is the ball in the Sultan’s Court now?

Now take a look at what Najib has to say about the Perak fiasco: BN does not fear fresh elections in Perak

The Barisan Nasional (BN) is not afraid of facing the people should there be a fresh state election in Perak, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today. We are ready to face the people…"

The prime minister reiterated that it was up to the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah to decide whether a fresh election should be held for Perak…

Have you noticed how Najib has been absolving himself from the Perak scene? Let me remind you how proud he was as being the commander in chief in engineering the coup in Perak.

Did you see the stark contrast between Mahathir ‘way’ and Najib’s ‘way’?

The statements by Mahathir and Najib were given on the same day. The contradiction between Mahathir’s statement and Najib’s statement is as stark as it can be. Mahathir’s unabashed frankness makes Najib looks so shady, phony and puny. Mahathir’s statement made a mockery of Najib’s.

So Perak is the Sultan prerogative as claimed by Najib? I am not so sure.

Najib is all eager to appear ‘good’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘civilized’ in the eyes of the people. His way of dealing with issues is through lies, denial and scapegoats. I believe that Najib is merely makeing a scapegoat out of the Monarchy.

My opinion is that the biggest loser in the Perak saga is perhaps the Monarchy. The High Court ruling, which clearly states that Sultan Azlan Shah had acted unconstitutionally in sacking Nizar was bad enough. But even more damaging is how Najib has been dragging the monarchy into the picture every step along the way in the Perak fiasco, creating the perception that the monarchy is in cohort with UNMO in the whole event.

I wondered you noticed that the Monarchy had all but kept quiet through the whole saga. But even so UMNO had been ultra eager to come to its 'defense'. Nizar and Pakatan Rakyat were labeled treacherous to the monarchy and crowned enemy No. 1 to the Malay race. Many people were charged under the sedition act for voicing out their discontent of the Monarchy.

While I do not presume to know why the Monarchy is maintaining silence on such a grave matter, it is completely obviously to me that Najib has no interest to protect the monarchy.

The public opinion on the Perak coup is undeniably obvious, as indicated by a NTV7 poll which showed that 99% of the respondents wanted fresh election for Perak. The anger of the rakyat towards Najib is abundantly clear, to the point other component parties of Barisan Nasional are voicing for a fresh poll in Perak.

Najib’s tactics of constantly dragging the Monarchy into the picture is sinister to say the least. Najib may have intended to make use of the Monarchy to lend legitimacy to its actions in Perak, but it only managed to get the monarchy to share the public blames and angers.

Sultan Azlan Shah may have made an error in sacking Nizar as being the Chief Minister, but all the rest – the defections of the three frogs, the subsequent court cases, the farcical May 7 state assembly sitting, the crack down of dissidents etc, are all the work of Najib.

Even right now, is the ball in the Sultan’s court as claimed by Najib? My understanding is that the sultan cannot order the dissolution of the state assembly, just as he has no power to sack the chief minister. The ball is still very much in UMNO’s court.

This is my understanding of the constitution anyway. If anything at all, the past grueling four months had thought me a lot about separation of powers. It has been a live lesson on how screwed up and corrupted the Malaysian political system is.

Many probably find the silence of the monarchy regarding this important matter very disquieting. Many had looked toward the monarchy for voice of sanity in the midst of the current chaos. My sincere hope is that HRS Sultan Azlan Shah will break the silence and make a clear stand in due time and lead Perak out of the current mayhem.

ISA is Fading Away - but What's Next?

The Internal Security Act has gain so much notoriety under our former Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar that practically the whole country is revolting against it. The circumstances in which Syed Hamid invoked the ISA were so ridiculous that it was almost comical. Incidents like the detention of a young reporter for her own ‘protection’ will surely pass down in folklore and the Alternate Annal of Malaysia Politics.

The current public sentiment is that ISA can no longer be invoked against the opposition parties without provoking major backlash from the people. ISA is no longer unchallengeable as can be seen by Hindraf leader Uthayakumar defying his condition of release from ISA as reported in Malaysiakini. We shall see how Hishammuddin is going to response to such open challenge.

Syed Hamid has made himself so unpopular by his indiscriminate use of the ISA that his political career is buried for good. Now let see how long is Hishammuddin able to stay in this hot seat.

For all intent and purpose, the era of ISA heralded by Mahathir is all but gone. For tyrannical acts like ISA to work, it will require an almost total blockage of free expression – like in communist China now, or Malaysia during Mahathir era. In this era of internet and cell phones it is impossible to exercise such tyrannical power with causing total uproar from the people.

This is not time to rejoice yet – for I was alarmed by the large number of people charged under the sedition acts and illegal gatherings. Lets hope that this is not the beginning of the era of the Sedition Act.

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