Back in 1998 after Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from UMNO and the rakyat rose against Mahathir, I used to tell friends who were in UMNO that it was wrong to burn your house down just because you quarrel with a sibling. Instead, you should sit down with that sibling and other family members and work out the differences and find a middle ground. Last night, Najib Razak who is UMNO’s President made the same call through his Facebook posting asking UMNO members to work differences out amicably. As members of a large family there is bound to be disagreements but this could be solved through discussions as UMNO members are brethren.
This is of utmost importance. UMNO has gone through many trials and tribulations from the days of Dato Onn Jaafar who left the party to form another back in the 1950s, to the attacks on UMNO by a nonagenarian of Kerala-descent that the party faces now. It has been the unity of UMNO members that has stopped all attempts to break it apart. The UMNO members have to realise this.
UMNO is not just being attacked by its trditional enemies and former members. It is also being threatened by colleagues from component parties for showing ‘support’ to the amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1965 sought by PAS President Haji Hadi Awang. It was last revised in 1988 and since its passing 51 years ago, not a single non-Muslim person has ever been charged in a Syariah court for not fasting during the month of Ramadhan nor has there been any case of a non-Muslim being charged in court for fornication. So why should it be any different now?
Talking about unity, someone caused disunity in ASEAN 19 years ago when he fought to have Myanmar admitted as a member. Yes, Myanmar became a member of ASEAN despite concerns regarding the military junta’s treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi as well as the oppression of minorities.
Mahathir said: “I fought hard for Myanmar to be admitted into ASEAN.” Yes, it was his idea. According to his now-bosom-buddy Lim Kit Siang in June 2005, it is Mahathir who must bear the greatest responsibility for the ASEAN admission of Myanmar in the 1997 ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur despite strong regional and international reservations and opposition. It was Mahathir who was a staunch supporter of ASEAN’s founding principle of non-interference, a principle that has allowed the group to develop economic ties without being pulled into each other’s domestic problems, that has caused this policy to be severely tested when Myanmar entered into ASEAN in July 1997.
Since Mahathir is jobless, can’t afford to hire cooks, can’t afford to buy flight tickets that he needed a private jet to take him everywhere, and his Vision 2020 to have his son as the Prime Minister is now in tatters, Mahathir should now organise a series of demonstrations in Yangon. I am pretty certain his DAP friends would be willing to finance his trip there.
Let us see if he would take up this challenge and prove that he is still a negarawan and not the negarasawan that he has turned into.
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.
Finally, the Sultan of Johor told Mahathir to shut up. Not once, but twice.
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!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a moderate. Moderation is what is preached in Islam. Moderation is what seems to be eroding by the day not just in Islam, but in other religions and cuts across the racial board as well. And this applies to every single country there is on the face of this Earth. And to have a group of people advocating moderation is a more-than-welcome effort in this young-but-amnesiac country that seems to have lost all institutional memory of the events that had brought about the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Reading the The Star’s interview with Tan Sri Alwi Jantan (Torchbearers for founding fathers – Sunday, 4th September 2016) I cannot help but agree to some of his points, but at the same time feel as if there is some form of misguidance, or misinterpretation of the Federal Constitution, and a deliberate misleading on the respected Tan Sri’s part.
I agree that rather than focusing on petty issues such as whether or not the Langkawi statue is haram, the religious councils as well as JAKIM should focus more on the development of correct as well as balanced knowledge on Islamic subjects such as Tauhid, Fardhus Ain and Kifayah. This is important to counter the influence of deviationists especially that of the Da’esh. However, religious as well as racial extremism is not confined to Islam alone. In the name of pluralism as advocated by the G25, there should only be single-stream schools. Children who do not grow up together will grow up apart. We can never talk about unity and understanding if we do not understand each other. Preserving the mother-tongue can be done after formal classes are over and this can be done at the school itself, perhaps after lunch. So could the Islamic religious classes. In the latter category, this would ensure that correct teachings are being imparted to the children rather than by private religious schools whose curriculum are not being monitored effectively by the religious councils. Also that way working parents do not need to worry about the whereabouts of their children and can pick them up at school after work, or a similar arrangement could be made.
In a plural society such as ours, the need for our children to grow up together for the sake of unity is paramount. Sending children to separate schools based on mother tongue rather than a common national language is against the spirit of the Constitution. When the Constitution was being drafted for it to be in operation by Merdeka Day 1957, the Reid Commission adopted the Alliance’s (UMNO, MCA and MIC) proposal to establish Malay as the official language of the Federation. However, there were differences on how to go about with this. Ng Ek Teong, the MCA representative submitted that English should be allowed to be used for official purposes for a minimum of 10 years. MIC was in support of this. Both MCA and MIC also proposed for Mandarin and Tamil be allowed to be used in the legislatures for a minimum period of 10 years. UMNO however proposed that English be allowed to be used for a maximum period of ten years after independence. Ng Ek Tong told the Commission that this would only serve as a temporary measure(Colonial Office CO 889/6, Minutes of Alliance hearing before the Reid Commission, 27 September 1956, pp 290-294). Tunku Abdul Rahman however said:
“At the end of 10 years, the general trend will be that people will still demand for it and the people who propose it now are not sure that they would be there to guarantee it. It is bound to cause a lot of debate later on.”(Ibid.)
Even Lord William Reid himself was not in favour of the proposal by MCA and MIC saying that it would cause practical difficulties (Ibid/Making of the Malayan Constitution, Joseph M Fernando, pp 128-129). It was for this reason that the Tunku promoted the Rumi script for the Malay language at the expense of the Jawi script to enable the non-Malays to learn the national language rapidly (Tunku Abdul Rahman (1984), op. cit., pp. 112-114). This has been enshrined in Article 152 of the Federal Constitution as well as in the National Language Act, 1963/1967.
The reality of it now is that the migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar are more able to grasp the Malay language than many of our own Identity Card-wielding citizens. Mind you, they also stood still at Dataran Merdeka while the NegaraKu was being played. Our own citizens refuse to stand up when the NegaraKu was being played in the cinemas, extinguishing the very torch of our founding fathers.
The Constitution is secular only up to a certain point. The Reid Commission, commissioned by both Her Majesty The Queen of England and the Malay Rulers had initially omitted a proposal by the Malay Rulers to have Islam as the religion of the Federation. Reid saw it fit that matters of religion be handled only by the Ruler of the respective States, and that the special position of the Malays be reviewed after 15 years.
When the report was published, the strongest objections came from the man revered by Malaysians now as the father of multiracialism – Dato Onn Jaafar, who as the leader of Parti Negara said that the Malays had been let down. PAS claimed that the Malay interests had been cast aside (von Vorys (1975), op. cit., p.132). Hence, the Tunku later submitted that Islam be made the religion of the Federation with two provisos added: first that it would not affect the position of the Rulers as head of religion in their respective States; second, the practice and propagation of other religions to the non-Malays in the Federation would be assured under the Constitution (UMNO/SUA 154/56, Minutes of Alliance ad-hoc political sub-committee meeting, 2 April 1957).
Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray personally felt that such a provision would be advantageous because the Yang DiPertuan Agong could at the same time become the head of the faith in the Settlements of Penang and Malacca (CO 1030/524 (10), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 25 February 1957; See also CO 1030/524 (18), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 21 March 1957).
Fast forward to the present, Article 3 of the Federal Constitution has clearly mentioned Islam as the religion of the Federation with the Rulers being the Head of religion in their respetive States, while the Yang DiPertuan Agong becomes the Head of religion in the States of Pulau Pinang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya. It is not an official religion but the religion of the Federation. The provisos added to safeguard the practice and propagation of other religions are now enshrined in Article 11 with limits to propagate given in Clause 4 of the said Article, to safeguard and honour the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation.
There is even a separation of jurisdiction when it comes to the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution. The Syariah Law comes under the purview of the respective Rulers, and the Attorney-General of Malaysia, under Article 145(3) does not have the jurisdiction over proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court of a court-martial. This separation of jurisdition is also present as provided by Article 121(1A) where both the High Court of Malaya and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak do not have any jurisdiction over Syariah matters. Therefore, the respected Tan Sri should be aware that, borrowing the words of Sir Stamford Raffles in a 1815 letter to his cousin mentioned how “Religion and laws are so united” in Muslim dominated areas that the introduction of Christian beliefs will bring about “much mischief, much bitterness of heart and contention”. (Seademon, A Case For God, 1 Jan 2013) .
Even Act 355, the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1965 (last revised in 1988) states the following:
1. (1) This Act may be cited as the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction), 1965.
1. (2) This Act shall apply to all the States of Peninsular Malaysia.
2. The Syariah Courts duly constituted under any law in a State and invested with jurisdiction over persons professing the religion of Islam and in respect of any of the matters enumerated in List II of the State List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution are hereby conferred jurisdiction in respect of offences against precepts of the religion of Islam by persons professing that religion which may be prescribed under any written law:
Provided that such jurisdiction shall not be exercised in respect of any offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding three years or with any fine exceeding five thousand ringgit or with whipping exceeding six strokes or with any combination thereof.
The Act, clearly says that it first and foremost, applies to all States of the Peninsular Malaysia. It is not applicable to where the Yang DiPertuan Agong is the Head of religion ie. the Federal Territories, Sabah and Sarawak. Second, it applies only to Muslims and any matters in List II of the State List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution. Third, it cannot propose any punishment that prescribes any jail term exceeding three years, or with any fine exceeding five thousand ringgit, or with whipping exceeding six strokes or with any combination thereof.
Therefore, there is no question of introducing stoning to death, amputation of limbs etc. Anything above those limitations will be referred to the Criminal Courts.
So, Tan Sri, care to explain how are secularism and pluralism being attacked with examples of provisos of the Federal Constitution or any laws made under it?
Finally, let me quote the interview given by the respected Tan Sri to The Star:
G25 has also expanded its scope to include good governance and tackling corruption. As not only the former head of the PSD but also former secretary-general in the Local Government and Federal Territory Ministry, Health Ministry and Agriculture Ministry, Alwi has focused on good governance, which he calls the precondition for a constitutional democracy: “Those in power must be made accountable for their actions and conduct.”
During his time, civil servants were able to do their jobs without fear or favour, he recalls. “The division of responsibilities between the politicians and civil servants was fairly clear cut.”
But over time good governance has been eroded at an alarming rate, he says.
“This shows the rot in Malaysia, but it is a rot which was started during Mahathir’s 22-year premiership, and by Mahathir himself!
Today, Mahathir is obsessed with the toppling of Najib as Prime Minister, but this is not because he wanted to stop the rot in Malaysia, to restore the independence and integrity of the judiciary and a just rule of law; to end the subversion of the independence and professionalism of national institutions whether the civil service, the police, the elections commission or anti-corruption agency; eradicate rampant corruption; restore ethics and honesty in public life; re-establish a good education system or restore Malaysia’s economic competitiveness.
Mahathir wants Najib out as the Prime Minister for Malaysia, not to stop the rot which was started by him during his premiership, but for an agenda personal to himself.
This is the rot of Hamlet in Malaysia.”
I’m surprised the good Tan Sri had made no mention whatsoever of this episode. And he was a civil servant by definition, under the tutelage of the Pribumi person himself and remained in public service until 16 April 1990, thirteen years before Mahathir steped down.
So, Tan Sri, it is good that you want to become the torchbearer of the founding fathers of this blessed nation. However, please ensure that you are on the right path first before you decide to light that torch and guide others.