Whoever is familiar with the study of the Constitution would know Walter Bagehot, an editor, economist and political analyst who also wrote a book called ‘The English Constitution.’ There is one apposite quote of his that I thought befits the current situation and that is:
“Nothing is more unpleasant that a virtuous person with a mean mind.”
The above quote refers to that man who claims to be virtuous but really is the epitome of evil; so evil that Pharaohs would have sought help from God’s Prophets to free them from this person – Mahathir Mohammad.
We have had noblemen leading this country, shining a light upon the path in which this nation walks even through its darkest hour. Tunku Abdul Rahman was the son of the 25th Sultan of Kedah, Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid. Tun Abdul Razak was the son of the 9th Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar of Pahang, Dato Hussein bin Mohd Taib. Tun Hussein Onn was the son of UMNO founder, Dato Onn Jaafar who was the Menteri Besar of Johor.
I was priveleged some time back to a chat with Professor Anthony Milner, a researcher from the Australian National University, an Emeritus Professor, School of Culture, History & Language of the ANU, on the topic of the Malays. We were discussing the origin of the Malays and the ‘Rajas Melayu.’ Interesting to note that our paths converged when we both agreed that the Malays refer to a collection of people of the Nusantara spanning from the borders of Polynesia and Melanesia to Sumatra, who pledged allegiance to the Rajas whose respective dominions were all that they could survey. It was only when political boundaries were defined in a clearer manner that the Malays were defined according to the nation that they lived in.
The antonym of a nobleman would be a commoner. The fourth Prime Minister was not born into the aristocracy like his predecessors, or a prominent religious family like his successor. In short, I would term him a pleb: a low-born, uncultured, coarse, rude, undistinguished – and a personal favourite: scum. His grandfather, Iskander Kutty hailed from the southern Indian state of Kerala. His father was from Pulau Pinang, a school principal.
Mahathir had nothing to show. He had nothing compared to his predecessors. This probably shaped the way he managed this country: through the rule of iron fist, autocratic, dictatorial, enriching cronies and nipotes to prepare him for the end of days. A man who has nothing has nothing to lose. Therefore, it was always his way, or the highway. He had this habit of making enemies everywhere, including the members of the royal households. And as James A Baldwin once said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”
One would have thought that this nonagenarian would spend the twilight moments of his miserable life repenting for the wrongs he had done, alas no! His perfervid hatred for the man who stands in between him and his undying ambition to ensure that his family would be remembered as an aristocratic bunch rather than the descendants of the evil-smelling Kutty whom had just gotten out of the stowage of a slave ship, has caused him to make a reciprocal turn on all his words, often filled with delusional tales to cloud the minds of those too young to remember anything bad about him. He has nothing to lose.
In 1867, Bagehot asserted in ‘The English Constitution‘ that the Constitution needed two parts: the dignified – to excite and preserve the reverence of the population’ and the other, the efficient – to ‘employ that homage in the work of government’. The monarch was the prime example of dignity in this sense and the Prime Minister and his cabinet of efficiency. Therefore, the monarch, while lacking executive power, had an important constitutional role.
But in 1993, Mahathir, being a pleb and an undignified one too, decided to encroach into the realm of the dignified. Mahathir amended the Federal Constitution with the aim of removing legal immunity of the royalty.The amendments were made at a time when the Malaysian monarchy witnessed a deteriorating relationship with the government (specifically Mahathir). Before the amendments were made, the Constitution granted rulers who have violated the law not to be prosecuted by the criminal court unless he voluntarily wishes to surrender his legal immunity.
This laid the royalty bare and are now subjected to public scrutiny, bringing the royalty and monarchy close to becoming irrelevant. As a result, members of the royalty have been seen to assiduously court public opinion after prolonged years of subservience to Mahathir’s rule (Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Muhamad Takiyuddin Ismail (2013)).
Mahathir had nothing to lose. These were the Rajas Melayu. He need not show any allegiance to anything Malay as he is not truly one. UMNO was just a vehicle for him to have power in order to make riches. When UMNO went against him he had UMNO declared illegal in 1988. Then he created a new UMNO where playing fields were no longer level and he had automatic nominations as the President of UMNO. What is UMNO to him but just another Malay institution where he, the soupçon Malay felt no allegiance to.
And Mahathir is never concerned about the people of Malaysia. Politics, to him, is what serves only him. Therefore, his call for the people to overthrow the government is a total reciprocal from his way of dealing with demonstrations against him during his premiership. And how was it during his time?
During his time, when people demonstrated against him, he appealed to the participants to use the ballot box to bring about their desired reform. What is his stand now? He incites people to force change undemocratically!
As Lord Acton wrote in his letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton on the 5th April 1887:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
And in the case of Mahathir he is not just a bad man, but a pleb and a scum.