Veteran UMNO leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said the Perak sultan and the monarchy have been “embarrassed” by the political imbroglio following BN’s grab of the state government three months ago. He said that the royalty had been hurt by the systematic attempts by some within Umno to inflame the Perak impasse into one of “race and treason”.
Unfortunately, UMNO is not the only political party which tries to manipulate the royalty to serve their own interest. The palaces were fed with a high dose of self-ego and adulation by parties and groups who think that the monarchy can be entrusted to help promote better governance and a healthier democracy.
Not many Malaysians are aware that the monarchy system of exclusivity and special privileges and the democratic system which promotes equality for all are not complementary. The monarchy has always been playing a part in the power equation in this country. They were the previous masters replaced by a system which distributes power of self-determination to the people through an electoral process supported by a democratic system of governance. In between, there is no need to repeat the whole colonial history to describe how the monarchy had pawned their power for protection over petty battles and riches.
The power and influence of a constitutional monarchy is limited by the federal constitution. We were taught in our school that the monarchy's role in government is purely symbolic and ceremonial. However, we shall accord the highest respect and regard to the institution of monarchy as a symbol of our sovereignty and independence. The real power to decide, formulate and implement policies and laws lies in the hands of democratically elected politicians.
Since the Trengganu and Perlis incidents, where both sultans refused to accept a head of state appointed by the federal UMNO leadership and got their preference installed, there is a sense of renewed optimism and ambition of the palace to extend and expand the role and de facto influence of the monarchy to regain their original status.
In 1988, the UMNO's president and prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad dealt the loyalty with yet another humiliating blow by stripping them off their legal immunity. Since then, the monarchy and their families have been searching for a good opportunity to reassert their rights and privileges.
During the Perak power grab crisis and with the backing of UMNO, the Kedah royalty association had started the call to reinstate their immunity. It was greeted by an unusual silence by all UMNO leaders. The respond should have put any doubt to rest that the politicians will only be seen as eager supporters of the monarchy if they can stand to benefit from the support. The decision by the Perak sultan to sack Nizar and replace him with a BN leader was a no brainer situation to sway UMNO's support for the royalty.
This support will be eagerly repeated by the PR if the sultan had ruled otherwise and allowed a dissolution of the state assembly. Either way, both sides were going to shout "Daulat Tuanku!", depending on how the decision will work to their advantage or disadvantage.
Whatever said, I have a hunch that the Perak sultan had made a calculated move to decide on the dismissal of Nizar by himself and was hoping to test the judiciary's appetite over his decision. If the high court judge had ruled in favour of Zambry, the decision would have a binding effect on future interferences by the royalty on the hiring and firing of democratically elected heads of state. This would have allowed them to become the new kingmakers in the country.
UMNO's myopic political vision is proven in the power grab in Perak. UMNO should have learned from the incidents in Perlis and Trengganu to allow the royalty to try to make a 'political' comeback by testing the wisdom and independence of the judges.
It is impossible that Sultan Azlan Shah was not aware of a similar precedent in the 1966 Stephen Kalong Ningkan's judgement. He was a lord president. Hence, what made a person so highly trained in the constitutional law to choose not to abide by the ruling? It was obvious that Sultan Azlan Shah was hoping to use his decision to reassert the influence of the palace in Malaysian politics.
The other possible explanation is a lot simpler and direct. It is common for the royalty to take the side of whoever in power. The royalty needs the favour of the ruling regime to ensure that their interests and status are protected. It is a case of "I scratch your back and you scratch mine".
Whatever the reason is, Malaysians are travelling on a dangerous path. The political drama was acted by all parties except for the most important actors, the people. Democracy is Malaysia is not a democracy we learned from the modern textbooks. In our democracy, the people/voters are not important and are treated as ignorant fools.
That is why we get a ridiculous assemblywoman who claims to have a right to decide which party should govern Perak when it is obvious that she might not get more than 20% of total votes if she stands for a reelection in her own constituency. Worse, two other assemblymen who are standing trial for corruption are claiming the same right. The three claimed that their action is consistent with democracy. This is an idiotic claim.
Razaleigh has a wise advice for those involved. Razaleigh ticked off Umno leaders for their political manoeuvres which have brought odium to both the monarchy and country.
“Our ideals are cheated when the monarchy we claim to protect is brought down to the level of desperate political manoeuvres that discredit us at home and abroad. We have no future as a party if we are seen as being against the people rather than for them."
“Those unable to rise above narrow party interests to understand what happens to a country when a government loses respect for the law might still like to consider this: it is better for BN to risk state elections that we may lose rather than to lose the entire country by being seen to be opposed to decency, the rule of law, and the will of the people.”