Your Choice: Evolution or Revolution?

Murdered members of the East Sumatera sultanates, March 1946
Members of the Eastern Sumatera Sultanate killed in March 1946

Malays love to idolise the wrong people.  We name roads and university buildings after people like Burhanuddin Al-Helmy, Ishak Haji Muhammad, Ibrahim Yaakob, Ahmad Boestaman who once fought for the unification of Malaya and Indonesia under the Indonesia Raya political concept where the former comes under Indonesian rule from Batavia, rid of its feudal system.

On 3 March 1946, five Sultans from five Malay states in East Sumatera, along with thousands of their family members were brutally murdered by supporters of the Communist Party of Indonesia as well as Sumateran Malays who fell for their anti-royalist propaganda.  The pogrom did not only end the Malay Sultanate governments of East Sumatera, but also the customs and traditions of the Sumateran Malays.

Those whose name had the prefix Tengku, Wan or Raja were immediately executed, while the Malay population had to assume Javanese or Batak names to avoid persecution.  At least two generations of Sumateran Malays had to hide their real identity after the pogrom.  It was in essence an ethnic cleansing, and was done under the battle cry “Daulat Rakyat.”

I often wonder if the same is being done here in Malaysia, the sowing of hatred towards the royal institutions in order to remove the very protection of the Malay and Bumiputera rights as well as the sanctity and status of Islam as the religion of the Federation?

Once, there was deep respect for the Rulers. Malaysia Incorporated changed all that.  Money was power and that came from those with political power.  Political interference in the constitutional powers of the Rulers eroded further whatever was left of that respect.

There is a revival of love and respect for the royal institution, now that things are going bad and election promises reneged upon.  But people are still confused by the roles that the Rulers have in this democratic system of ours.  Many people think that the Rulers institutions should be dissolved as they do not have any tangible role to play.  The truth is far from it.  Whatever executive powers that the government has, the fount of that power is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The roles of the Rulers were watered down from the beginning – in our school text books.  It does not augur well for a government to be seen as playing a second fiddle to the Rulers.  Hence, nationalism was injected into our history text books and the Rulers’ role in our “independence” was only as a signee party to the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957.  Nothing more.  In the end, the Rulers are now “living extravagantly on taxpayers’ money.”

Therefore, it is of no surprise that the Rulers and members of the Royal institutions have their set of haters spawned by this lack of understanding.  And when Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong recently retweeted a known UMNO cybertrooper’s post about the incident at the University of Malaya’s convocation ceremony, she was immediately condemned by the haters.

It was unfortunate for Her Majesty to have retweeted that person’s post, but I can understand why.  It was driven by her displeasure of the act by the graduate, choosing such an occasion to display an absence of decorum.  What if it was the Sultan of Perak who was there to present graduates with their scroll?  Her Majesty undid her retweet later.

The Raja Permaisuri Agong is not the first of the first line member of the royal institutions to have suffered attacks both on and off social media.  Almarhum Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, the Sultan of Johor, and the Sultan of Terengganu were criticised for choosing a Menteri Besar for their respective state by people who do not understand the constitution.  Since when is the choosing of a Menteri Besar the prerogative of a winning party or Prime Minister?  Where in any constitution does it say that?  By convention? By convention is not a rule of law.  That is not binding at all.

The Sultan of Selangor was criticised for protecting the sanctity of Islam, with some calling the state’s Syariah criminal enactment unconstitutional.  It is the duty and absolute right of the Sultan of Selangor to protect the sanctity of Islam in his state; the same goes for the other Rulers as well.  And the state Syariah criminal enactment that was passed by members of the state assembly remains a law of the state until proven unconstitutional by a constitutional court.  Has there been any challenge?

I have mentioned in several of my previous writings that this land has always been Islamic by nature and this was reinforced by two British judges in the landmark case of Ramah binti Ta’at v Laton binti Malim Sutan 6 FMSLR (1927).

For the past few years I have seen many attacks made on the Rulers as well as on Islam and the special rights and privileges of the Malays and the Bumiputeras. Many non-Malay Bumiputeras fail to understand that they stand to lose a lot too if these attacks prevail.

Being the constitutional protectors of both Islam and the special rights and privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, the protection for the Rulers, for obvious reasons, must be removed first.  Hence, we have seen the attempts to introduce the National Unity Consultative Commission Bill in 2015, ICERD and the Rome Statute.  Times are dangerous in Malaysia for Islam, the Malays and Bumiputeras.

The reason for the UM graduate’s outburst on stage was his claim that the Vice-Chancellor of the university is a racist for attending the recent Malay Unity Congress and for delivering a speech then.  A quick read of his speech text revealed nothing racist.  But if the graduate still thinks it is, why stop there? Why not demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister’s office or residence for delivering a speech there as well? Why be selective?

And what has the Malay Unity Congress achieved? Absolutely nothing.  Even the Prime Minister seems powerless to tell the graduate to go fly kites with his demands and to stop being such a rude person.  The PM also seems powerless and reluctant to summon and reprimand the CEO of Media Prima for giving airtime to the said graduate.

That is why I used to tell my Muslim friends before the last general elections – politicians and governments come and go, so never rely on them to protect your rights and the special constitutional status of Islam in this country.  And do not ever think that the politicians are bigger in status than the Rulers.  The politicians only want to cling on to power. For that, they will make compromises and are willing to compromise their beliefs.

Imam al-Ghazali in his book, al-Iqtisad fil I’tiqad, challenged the idea that Muslims can perfect their individual actions and morals without a state that governs by Islam.

The Deen and the Sultan are twins,” he wrote. “the Deen is the foundation and the Sultan is the guardian. That which has no foundation is doomed, and that which has no guardian will perish.”

And that is why there seems to be an attempt to undermine and eventually remove the guardian, so that the foundation can be permanently removed.  So, what is it that we want?  A nation where we live by the Federal Constitution as our paramount law so we can continue our evolution, or, believe in ‘Rakyat Hakim Negara’ where it becomes a revolution?

The Price for Citizenship

The spat between the TMJ and Mahathir has not seen its end (photo courtesy of abuleman.org)

I do not think that we have seen the end of the volleys fired at each other between the Tunku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ) and the Government. Although I disagree with the TMJ whenever he writes about anti-federalism, I agree with his stand to protect the Federal Constitution. He may not have the protection from the law as he is not the Head of State, but his courage and determination to go at loggerheads with the Government on this matter deserves support.

According to Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament Annuar Musa, the recent Rulers Council meeting saw the Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah summoned by His Majesties to explain on the clandestine ratification of the Rome Statute.

His Majesties also summoned Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, a Professor of Law in the University of Law, who is a proponent of the Rome Statute. Also summoned were four academicians opposed to the statute: Law and Constitution lecturers Professor Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

Only after listening to all above did the Rulers Council leave it to the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who represents the Rulers Council, to take the matter with the Prime Minister. The Rulers Council could have there and then issued a statement to show their displeasure at the manner their Government had acted in matters that could have an impact on the rights and position of Islam as the religion of the Federation, the Malay Rulers, the privileges of the the Malays and Bumiputeras, and the National Language.

This is not the first time that Saifuddin has gotten himself in hot soup. When he was a Minister in Najib Razak’s administration, he came up with a National Unity Bill when that was not the term given to him as Chairman of the National Unity Consultative Council. As a result, Najib Razak and the Attorney-General then were summoned to the same meeting four years ago and received a telling or two.

Mahathir was very obviously furious as seen in the video of a press conference made after announcing Malaysia’s pulling out of the Rome Statute, and unnecessarily alarmed the people with words like coup-d’etat to justify the Government’s about turn.

What he, and his supporters seem to have forgotten is that he is the Prime Minister of His Majesty’s government. It was the agreement signed between their Majesties with the ruling coalition in 1957 to transfer the administrative powers vested in the British advisors by their Majesties from the former, to the government that was elected by the people.

This was true then, true when the British were still here, and still true now that although the Rulers had divested much of their independence, they remain sovereign; and independence is not equal to sovereignty.

As a principle of international law, sovereignty denotes, in its purest form, the concept of a ‘supreme authority’ be it an individual or a collective unit and implied power to exercise independence both internationally and domestically.

And Professor Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam rightfully pointed out that the powers of the Malay royalty are now included in the Federal Constitution. They (the Rulers Council) should have been consulted first, as accorded by the Constitution, before the government took unilateral decisions to introduce and ratify ICERD and the Rome Statute.

Other than having the rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn in daily administrative matters, the Malay Rulers also have the duty to protect the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the Federation and the states they reign over, the special privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, the special position of the Malay language as the National language.

These are the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution, and any attempt to introduce anything that has any effect on the above, will need the agreement of the Rulers Council. Any deviation from that is against the Federal Constitution and the spirit in which it was made and agreed to by our forefathers with all the parties involved.

And I saw an online comment by a non-Malay netizen asking what have the Malay Rulers done that have benefitted the people? After the post-World War 2 racial clashes that saw the birth of the First Emergency, the British based on a priori saw the need to resettle the Chinese in camps while between 20,000 and 50,000 be sent back to China.

The plan moved at a snail’s pace due to the objections by many, and with the total withdrawal of the Kuomintang to Formosa, the repatriation of the Chinese came to a halt in September 1949 when the Communist Party of China closed off all ports and beaches. Only 6,000 Chinese from Malaya were sent back (Anthony Short, 1975 pp 178-201). The rest were settled in new villages to curb them from supplying the Communist Party of Malaya with food and other essentials.

Most of them had never had any form of allegiance to Malaya, its Rulers and government. Therefore, in granting citizenship to them they were required to give allegiance to the Rulers and the Federation.

That is the price you have to pay to become the citizens of this nation.

The same goes to all the Members of Parliament and members of the government cabinet: you have all taken an oath of allegiance to the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who represents the other eight Malay Rulers. State executive councillors and elected representatives have also taken the oath of allegiance to their respective Ruler. You are all administering the governments of the Federation and its states on behalf of the Malay Rulers, therefore it is totally unbecoming for you to act as though they are equals.

As in the words of Tengku Amer Nasser Ibrahim, the adopted son of the 16th Yang DiPertuan Agong, posted to his Instagram story:

“Tadbir” must be accompanied by “Adab”, only then will the outcome be just.

So, stop toying around with the Malay Rulers, the sanctity of Islam, the privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, and the special position of the Malay language as the National language.

We, the rakyat, are watching.