The Malaysian Concord (Part 4) – The Position and Function of the Malay Rulers

This article follows a previous one on the Malay and Bumiputera special rights.

A couple of days ago it was made known to the public that the street names in a certain suburb of Shah Alam were changed to Chinese characters, in contravention of Sections 2 and 9 of the National Language Act, 1963/67.

Yesterday, HRH The Sultan of Selangor decreed that the street names be taken down and replaced by ones in the Malay language, which is the National Language.

I mentioned in a previous post that a national language is a tool to unite the peoples of Malaysia. 

It was the intention of our forefathers in the quest for independence to have ONE language to unite all, and that is the Malay language with a Romanised written form, so that the non-Malays could learn the Malay language rapidly (Tunku Abdul Rahman, The Road to Independence, 1984: pp.112-114).

I gather that those were the reasons His Royal Highness issued the decree mentioned above – in line with one of the functions of the Malay Rulers: to care for the people’s welfare.  Therefore, if there is any issue that may cause tension, the Malay Rulers will step in to remind the people to respect each other and to respect the laws.

What I find disgusting in this episode is that the local government, or local council, allowed for the street name change to happen, forgetting that every instrument of the government is acting on His Majesty’s Service.

Not too long ago, all government envelopes had URUSAN SERI PADUKA BAGINDA stamped at the top; that was until someone who was not fond of the Rulers changed that to URUSAN KERAJAAN.

 

Essentially, all government branches, including the Federal cabinet as well as the state executive councillors, are acting on behalf of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and Sultan (in the case of states).  

They are not independent of the Rulers – which is why they are sworn in before the Agong or the Sultan.

The Malay Rulers have divested much of their independence now as they did before during the period of British administration.

However, both they and their state remain sovereign. Independence is not equal to sovereignty.

The British were here through the various treaties signed with the respective Malay Rulers.  Save for the Japanese occupation, Malayan Union period, Pulau Pinang, Melaka and for a while, Pangkor, the Dindings and Larut, Peninsular Malaysia was never under British colonial rule.

There were three test cases to determine the sovereignty of the Rulers and the state they ruled:

 

  1. The infamous Mighell v The Sultan of Johore (1894) where it was ruled that, although the Sultan by treaty had bound himself not to exercise some rights of a sovereign ruler, this did not deprive him of his character as an independent sovereign;
  2. In Duff Development Company Limited v The Government of Kelantan (1924), the House of Lords similarly upheld the sovereignty of Kelantan and its Ruler was not intended to be qualified by the terms of the treaty.
  3. In Pahang Consolidated Company Limited v State of Pahang (1933), the Privy Council summarised the constitutional position in Pahang as follows: subject to the limitations which the Sultan had from time to time imposed upon himself, he remained ‘an absolute ruler in whom resides all legislative and executive power.’ (See, 1894; Q.B 1924; A.C and M.L.J).

The British were in the Malay states to assist the Malay Rulers in the administration and management of their respective states, and were under the Rulers’ payroll.  

The only matters that they could not touch were the states’ Islamic affairs and Malay customs.

Sir Frederick Lugard wrote of the British Residents:

“From the first to last the theoretical independence of the states was the governing factor in the system evolved in Malaya. The so-called ‘Resident’ was in fact a Regent, practically uncontrolled by the Governor or Whitehall, governing his ‘independent’ state by direct, personal rule, with or without the co-operation of the native ruler.” (Sir F.D Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, London, 1926: pp.130-1, vid. pp.8-10).

One such Resident was of course James Wheeler Woodford Birch who, in the words of Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt, “dashed into Perak’s Augean Stables like an angry Victorian schoolmaster, confident that it could all be cleaned up with a little firmness and decision.” (Winstedt, History of Perak, JMBRAS, xii, 1).

Birch’s monumental tactlessness, especially over the regulation of taxes, drove all the Sultan’s Chiefs into frantic opposition which resulted in his assassination in 1875.

Other than the occasional odd behaviour by some Residents, the Malay Rulers and their state remained sovereign and ‘independent’.  In an answer to Colonel Josiah Wedgwood (Labour – Newcastle-under-Lyme) about the control over the states of Malaya, Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister (Conservative – Hendon), Secretary of State for the Colonies replied:

“There is no question at all of altering in any degree, even by a comma, the Treaties which bind us, and which are charters of the agreements with the Rulers both of the Federated and the Unfederated Malay States.” (British Parliament Hansard, Commons Sitting, Class II, HC Deb 14 July 1933 vol 280 cc 1429).

With the Independence of Malaya, all the administrative powers handed down by the Malay Rulers to the Federal and State Councils was passed to the government that was chosen by the people of Malaya in the 1955 elections.  

The Federal cabinet administer the government of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who was elected by the Malay Rulers to represent Their Highnesses at Federal level, while the Menteri Besar and state executive councillors administer the state for the Sultans.

The Malay Rulers, as owners of this land, continue to enjoy their position with their income regulated by the respective laws, and receive advice from the Menteris Besar (or in the case of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, the Prime Minister). 

This is evident in Article 181(1) of the Federal Constitution which states:

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution,” the “sovereignty, prerogatives, powers and jurisdiction of the Rulers…as hitherto had and enjoyed shall remain unaffected.”

The same was noted by Mark R Gillen of the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria (Gillen 1994:7). 

In the words of the late Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, former Lord President, it is:

“a mistake to think that the role of a King, like that of a President, is confined to what is laid down by the Constitution, His role far exceeds those constitutional provisions” (Azlan Shah 1986:89).

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 (Menteri Besar) and his cabinet (executive councillors) of efficiency.  

Therefore, the monarch, while lacking executive power, had an important constitutional role.

HRH The Sultan of Selangor was correct in the exercise of his function when reminding the people to not touch on the matters that have been agreed upon and are already enshrined in the Constitution – the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the Malay and Bumiputera special rights, and the position and function of the Malay Rulers.  

Such action, had the Sultan not interjected, would be naïve and dangerous to the fabric of the society.

In the words of Sultan Nazrin Muizuddin Shah of Perak in July 2011:

“Rulers must use wisdom to calm situations, but they do not have a ‘magic lamp’ to keep unity, especially when the situation has become chaotic. “

(This article was first published on The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language

IN part one (The Malaysian concord (Part 1) – the sanctity of Islam), I wrote about HRH The Sultan of Selangor’s displeasure of the challenge by a certain group against the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the special rights of the Bumiputera, as well as the function and position of the Malay Rulers that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

I read the comments on the issue at the online page of a mainstream newspaper.  What I saw was blatant ignorance on the part of the readers. This ignorance, if gone unchecked, will be dangerous to the future of this nation.

Many commentators mentioned that the Reid Commission had recommended for certain special privileges to be reviewed after 15 years, but was never done.  

I need to put this record straight. In many of my writings, I mentioned that those party to the agreement of the independence of Malaya were the British government, the Malay Rulers, and the Alliance party as the government of the day.

Lord William Reid was tasked to form an independent commission to draft the new constitution for a post-independence Malaya.  

The idea to have an independent, non-Malayan constitutional commission came from Tunku Abdul Rahman himself.

The Malay Rulers were for a commission that consist of local politicians, lawyers and other professionals, just as India and Burma (later Myanmar) had. Ghana, Pakistan and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) opted for a mix of local and foreign constitutional experts.

Tunku felt that it was important to have a non-Malayan independent commission to draft the Malayan post-independence Constitution as it would be able to avoid local prejudices and perform its task with complete impartiality (PH/A/008/4, MCA Files, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This he intimated to Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray, the last British High Commissioner in Malaya, and told the latter before leaving for the January 1956 Independence Conference in London that the commission should consist of legal experts with sufficient knowledge of constitutional developments in the Commonwealth (CO1030/132(3) MacGillivray to A.M. MacKintosh, Head of the Southeast Asia Department of the Colonial Office, 5 January 1956).

So again, I would like to reiterate that the function of the Reid Commission was only to draft the Constitution with input from all those party to the independence agreement, and make recommendations to those parties.  

The Commission itself was never a party to the discussion, let alone of the agreement.

Going back to the issue of the national language, it was in the Alliance’s manifesto for the 1955 federal elections to have a national language to foster a common nationhood, with plans to upgrade the Malay language as the national language.  

As safeguarding the interests and rights of the Malay and Chinese communities being the key features of its manifesto, protection for the languages of the other communities as well as their growth and development was also guaranteed.

The earlier version of the Alliance’s memorandum to the Reid Commission did state a 15-year time frame for the special position of the Malays and Malay as the national language.  

However, in view of the radicals in both Umno and MCA at the time where the former questioned the principle of jus soli while the latter questioned the need for Malay special rights and a national language, an inter-communal constitutional bargain was made and was conveyed to the Reid Commission orally that the time-frame be omitted (PH/A/008/4, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This was the version that was accepted not just by those within the Alliance, but also by the Malay Rulers as well as the British government.

Five years later, this same subject was brought forth to all who would be affected by the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s Donald Stephens in its memorandum stated the it accepted the view that the Federation of Malaysia should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei which is also the lingua franca of the region (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum, 3 February 1962: pp. 122).

Even the Cobbold Commission, a Commission of Enquiry set up to gauge the support of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia noted in its report that its Chairman (Lord Cameron Fromanteel Cobbold) felt in view that Malay is the closest to a lingua franca in Borneo than any other language, no derogation from the Federal provision was necessary (Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 21 June 1962: pp. 54).

The Inter-Governmental Committee (a committee that consists of the Federation of Malaya, and Great Britain – looking after the interests of its colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak)  reported that Malay should be the language of the Federation of Malaysia, but Article 152 of the proposed Federal Constitution (based on the Federal Constitution of Malaya) be modified in its application to the Borneo states so as to secure that the English language may be used in an official capacity for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day (Malaysia Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962: pp. 26).

A national language is an important tool for creating “national” consciousness.  

Hindi is the national language of India, as Mandarin, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia are respectively in the China, Thailand and Indonesia.  

It is difficult to understand why, after 61 years, are we still having this argument about what the national language should be.

What kind of national identity are we to have when we cannot even communicate with each other in one common language?

(This article was first published in The Mole)

The Political Hyena

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Hyenas are opportunistic killers as well as cadaver feeders

 

The Keralan Rise

In June 1969, a month after the 13 May tragedy, Mahathir wrote a letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman and began it with the following sentence:

“Patek berasa dukachita kerana tujuan patek membuat kenyataan kepada akhbar telah di-salah faham oleh Y.T.M. Tunku. Sa-benar-nya tujuan patek sama-lah juga dengan tujuan Tunku, ia-itu untok menyelamatkan negara ini daripada bahaya yang menganchamkan-nya.”

The Tunku’s popularity was at an all-time low.  He had lost control over the issues that were dogging the population and had allowed that to spiral into a nationwide communal violence.  Mahathir saw that as an opportunity to finally conclude a personal battle against the Tunku that had begun 27 years earlier, and end the latter’s political career.

That letter earned the Tunku’s wrath.  Mahathir was expelled from UMNO.  Seeing that the end is nigh, the Tunku chose to step down a day after his nephew, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, was sworn in as the Yang DiPertuan Agong.

Mahathir was brought back into UMNO’s folds by the Tunku’s successor, Tun Abdul Razak, with the recommendation by Selangor Menteri Besar, Harun Idris.  When Razak died in January 1976, his cousin Hussein moved up and Mahathir became his deputy.

In 1981, Hussein had had to go for a coronary bypass surgery at the Harley Street Clinic in London.  Mahathir saw this as an opportunity to have Hussein out of the way.  In a post taken from Tian Chua’s Malaysia Chronicles, it is said that the DAP mysteriously received documents alleging that Hussein’s wife, Suhaila, was running Petronas from their residence in Sri Taman (now Memorial Tun Razak).  There were also documents alleging that Exxon was stealing oil from Malaysian oilfields without Petronas’s knowledge.

In the same article, it was reported that it was Mahathir himself who started a rumour when Hussein was seeking treatment in London saying that the latter had a “terrible heart condition” and would be stepping down as Prime Minister upon his return from London “for health reasons”.

Purging of Cabinet Members and Interference in the Judiciary

After Hussein was gone, Mahathir had to remove other obstacles.  The biggest obstacle was in the form of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.  The ‘Team A’ versus ‘Team B’ rivalry saw Mahathir being returned after beating Razaleigh 761 votes to 718, Mahathir took further steps to eradicate Razaleigh’s influence by purging all Team B members from his cabinet.

This led to 12 Team B members to bring the matter to the High Court alleging that 78 of the delegates had been selected by branches not registered with the Registrar of Societies, and as a result were not eligible to vote. They also claimed that certain documents related to the election had been “tampered with”. Although Razaleigh was not among the twelve plaintiffs, he was widely believed to be funding and co-ordinating the suit

As a result, Justice Harun Hashim declared UMNO “an unlawful society” in 1987, but it took Mahathir, who was also the Home Minister then, just two weeks to have UMNO (Baru) registered – a process that would have taken months, if not years.  The Registrar of Societies come under the Home Minister’s purview after all.

Mahathir did not take Harun Hashim’s judgment lightly.  In an attack on the judiciary, he had several judges, including Harun Hashim, reassigned to other divisions.  Salleh Abas, who was the Lord President of the Supreme Court, was pressured to convene a meeting with 20 Supreme Court and High Court judges where they agreed that the Lord President should write to the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers expressing their grievances against Mahathir’s interference in the Judiciary.

Being the opportunist that he is, Mahathir knew that the then-Yang DiPertuan Agong was not in favour with Salleh Abas, over an issue about the noises that came from the construction of His Majesty’s private house which was in Salleh Abas’s neighbourhood, took advantage of the situation to agree with the Yang DiPertuan Agong that Salleh be removed.

A tribunal was set up. Five Supreme Court judges were removed – Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah.  With the Supreme Court suspended, the challenge toward the legality of the tribunal could not be heard.

Salleh Abas was removed as the Lord President.  Soon after, two other Supreme Court judges were also removed.  They were Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Datuk George Seah.

Removal of Dissent via Ops Lalang

In 1987, tensions between the Malays and Chinese were high, partly as a result of Anwar Ibrahim’s education policies in particular the replacing of Chinese-educated assistant headmasters of Chinese schools with those unversed in Chinese language (Mandarin)  On 5 September 1987, Lim Kit Siang had to send a wire to Anwar Ibrahim asking him to stop all transfers until the issue had been resolved.  What did Mahathir do? Absolutely nothing to appease both sides.

Within a month, the tensions turned ugly and the threat of another 13 May loomed.  The police had to take drastic action by executing Ops Lalang.  A list of troublemakers and potential trouble makers were drawn up in a meeting between senior police officers in Fraser’s Hills, away from the eyes of the public, and when the danger of a racial clash was imminent, the police arrested those shortlisted.

The police did not have to seek the blessing from the Home Minister (who was Mahathir then) to conduct the arrests.  However, the police would have to brief the Home Minister on the person(s) arrested.  According to the now defunct Internal Security Act, 1960, only the Home Minister could sign a detention order to put a person behind bars without trial for a period not exceeding two years, IF THE HOME MINISTER IS SATISFIED WITH THE REASONS FOR ARREST. If not, they should be released.

And only the Home Minister was given the power to review the detention of a person, and extend the detention period for a period not exceeding two years each time. Not the police.

Turning the Brits into Suckers

The UK economy was in a bad shape back in the 1980s.  Mahathir took the opportunity to strike at the UK by starting the ‘Buy British Last’ campaign in order to launch the infamous “Dawn Raid”.  It was a time when Thatcher was trying to tackle high inflation. She tightened up her fiscal policy and aimed at reducing inflation by increasing taxes and interest rates, and cut spendings.  As a result, the British government decided to increase foreign students’ fees by threefolds, from around £300 to £900.  That was one of the reasons for the “Dawn Raid”.

In the end, it was an excuse to get the already weakened British government to provide financial aid to Malaysia in what is now known as the ‘Pergau Dam Affair‘.  According to UK’s The Independent, Thatcher’s determination ‘to bat for Britain’ led her to agree to a huge development aid package as part of an arms deal which she negotiated during a visit to Kuala Lumpur in September 1988. The deal, at that time involving the sale of Tornado jet fighters, artillery, radar, submarines and Rapier missiles, was so sensitive that civil servants were banished from the room during the final stages of the negotiation.

The original Tornado jets deal, worth more than £1 billion, was cancelled when Mahathir decided to buy instead 18 MiG-29N fighters from Russia and eight F/A-18 Hornet fighters from the US.  The deal with Britain was reduced to a mere £400 million sale of 28 BAe Hawk 108s and 208s.

More Treacheries In The 1990s

In 1986, Mahathir persuaded the docile Ghafar Baba to become his deputy.  This move was to appease those who were against him in UMNO, and was made of want to be seen to welcome some form of neutrality.  But really Anwar was his choice for a deputy.  But Anwar was still “too young” then in political terms.  Furthermore, Ghafar pledged his loyalty to Mahathir – a weakness that Mahathir exploited very well.

In 1993, Anwar was ready to take on the seasoned Ghafar Baba. When asked why did he not fight back, Ghafar had this to say:

“I had no means to fight, no money. Also, I did not want to attack Anwar then. How could I? We were in the same party. It would have only benefited the Opposition. My mistake was I did not see that politics had changed. In the past, they supported you based on your track record. Now it’s something else –this money politics.”

What did Mahathir do to stop Anwar from attacking Ghafar?  As usual, nothing.

Anwar Ibrahim’s meteoric rise to the No.2 spot made him a very popular man especially with the youth.  Many were already disenfranchised with Mahathir who not only by then had been in power for 12 years, but had two deputies removed before Anwar.

Soon, Anwar’s popularity became a threat to Mahathir.  When the Asian Economic Crisis caused a financial meltdown, Mahathir allowed it to go on.  On 3 December 1997, a cabinet meeting was held in Langkawi.  Mahathir got a shock when, upon arrival, seeing that the meeting had been chaired by Anwar and had already been concluded. The cabinet members had decided to adopt an austerity plan similar to those imposed on neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia by the International Monetary Fund. The plan would cut public spending and halt infrastructure projects championed by Mahathir.

Mahathir agreed to go along with the cabinet’s decision.  However, the very next day he announced that he would proceed with a controversial USD2.7 billion rail and pipeline project, effectively shooting down the cabinet decision.  That sent alarms to investors and caused the Malaysian Ringgit to tumble to a new low.

As Prime Minister, Mahathir did nothing to arrest the fall of the Ringgit. At one point in January 1988, the Ringgit was traded at RM4.88 to the USD.  Anwar being the impatient Anwar, launched a veiled attack on Mahathir with his “cronyism, nepotism” war-cry.  Mahathir was then handed on a silver platter two reasons to get rid of Anwar.

The Opportunistic Hyena Now

Observers commented that Mahathir now spits at the sky.  When his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made errors of political judgment and received salvoes of fire from the Opposition, Mahathir saw that his successor may not win the 12th general elections – an event that would not augur well with Mahathir.  Furthermore, Abdullah refused to interfere in the Federal Court’s decision to quash the sodomy conviction against Anwar.  Anwar would then be released and was free to launch attacks on his former boss.

When Najib Razak was being attacked over the 1MDB issue, Mahathir thought that there was no way that the former would be able to explain himself.  Naturally, the Barisan Nasional could even lose the next general elections.  In the run up to the 13th General Elections, the Opposition promised that they would bring Mahathir to trial for his sins as the 4th Prime Minister.  If BN loses, Mahathir would be sitting duck.

Being the opportunistic political hyena, Mahathir launched an all-out attack on Najib.  At one point, political observers were very sure that Najib was going to crumble.  However, when Najib fought back and started to gain grounds, Mahathir was left with no choice but to align himself with the very people he sent to prison without trial.

Mahathir’s fear has always been of being prosecuted in a court of law for corrupt practices during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He needs a strong Prime Minister who could protect him.  By getting on the wrong side of Najib, he had lost all the protection he could get from the BN government. His solution was to form an alliance with his enemies, form a political party and join the Pakatan coalition.  At least if Pakatan wins the next elections, he would be protected.

But at the back of his mind he knew that someone in Pakatan might turn his or her back on him and decide that he should stand trial for corruption – and that the billions his family owns would be frozen and confiscated.  Therefore, he made his other move – be Pakatan’s Prime Minister-designate.  All he needs is about two years if he lives that long, to escape the law.

As for now, Mahathir would say just about anything to show his relevancy, and to plead to the voters to accept him as their Prime Minister again – just as how his long-time friend Robert Mugabe has decided to form his own political party.  It does not matter how damaging his words may be to the country, as long as he gets to fullfil his personal mission.

This brings me to remember the time when the Tunku launched attacks on Mahathir.  Anwar Ibrahim was interviewed on the matter by foreign journalists.  Anwar said the Tunku is a voice of the past, speaking for a style of politics that no longer exists. ”A grand old man who has done his bit,” he said to the journalists ”But I don’t know if he’s even conscious of what he is saying.”

We don’t know what Mahathir the Hyena is saying either.

madeytersasul

The China Mahathir So Loved

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Mahathir visiting China in 1985 (courtesy of Penerangan Malaysia)

The ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ between Malaysia and China that happened in 1971 was a marked departure from the policy on China set by Tunku Abdul Rahman.  While Tunku blamed China for its support for the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), Tun Abdul Razak saw it necessary to engage China to end its support for the CPM.

When Mahathir took over the premiership in 1981, he placed importance on economic development and not so much foreign policy.  Three years earlier, Deng Xiao Ping had also placed China under a process of economic modernisation.  However, although there was an increase in bilateral economic and trade exchanges with China, the percentage of that compared to the overall trade declined.  In the 10 years since the beginning of formal diplomatic relations, economic and trade exchanges between the two countries was at 3.5 percent of Malaysia’s total trade.  This number fell to just 1.5 percent in 1984 (Stephen Leong, “Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China in the 1980s: Political Vigilance and Economic Pragmatism”, Asian Survey, Vol. 27, No. 10, October 1987, p.1114).

In a speech at Qing Hua University, Beijing in November 1985, an alarmed Mahathir said: “My own country`s bilateral trade with China has in fact declined since 1980 and this is despite the widely held view that China`s modernisation would increase the opportunities for trade and economic links.”

Mahathir saw China as a very important partner that could help the modernisation of Malaysia’s economy so much so that the delegation that he brought with him on that first visit in 1985 was huge. In a speech given during that visit he said:

I have brought with me a large delegation of leading Malaysian entrepreneurs and businessmen. It is my hope that with your cooperation they would be able to fully explore further opportunities for trade and economic cooperation.

Mahathir made six other visits to China between 1993 and 2001, a display of the importance of China in his economic policies.  A year after he began his administration, trade with China stood at USD307 million.  This jumped to USD1.4 billion ten years later.  A year before he stepped down, it was at USD14 billion.

Mahathir led another large trade delegation to China in 1993 and 1994 with China returning the favour towards the end of 1994.  Of China’s communist ideology, Mahathir in his speech during the 2nd Malaysia-China Forum in Beijing in August 1996 said:

China has come in for special attention. For years it had been condemned for being Communist and isolationist, practising a close centrally planned economy. Now it has opened up and has adopted a version of the universally acclaimed market system. Instead of being welcomed to the fold, it is looked upon with fear and suspicion. The World Bank has sounded the alarm by predicting that China will emerge in the 21st Century as the greatest world economic power. And fear of China has mounted.”

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Mahathir’s visit to China (courtesy of Penerangan Malaysia)

Hence, we can see that it has never bothered Mahathir that China is a communist country, and working with China does not turn a country into a communist one.  China was so important to Mahathir that he wanted to see his proposal for a regional consultative group, namely the East Asia Economic Group (EAEG) take flight with US and US-leaning countries accepting China.  This, however, was not to be.  To his dismay, Japan refused as it was closely linked to the USA which had formed APEC; South Korea refused as the EAEC proposed by Mahathir would have placed Japan at the centre of the organisation.

During the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98, the Chinese Government assumed a highly responsible attitude. It provided assistance to all the affected countries including Malaysia within the framework of the IMF arrangements and through bilateral channels.  The decision of not devaluating the Renminbi, for which China paid a high price, assisted ASEAN countries affected by the crisis to pull through.

During his visit to China in August 1999, Mahathir thanked China in his speech:

China`s concern for the well-being of East Asia in the financial crisis has been most laudable. The regional economies and the global community at large greatly appreciate China`s decision — despite strong pressures — not to devalue the Yuan. Beijing`s cooperation and high sense of responsibility has spared the region of a much worse consequence. Renminbi devaluation would almost certainly result in a new round of currency devaluation by the affected economies.”

The crisis had brought both Malaysia and China closer together, both Mahathir and China promised better cooperation.  In June 1999, Malaysia and China agreed to invest around USD2.5 billion to develop a Trans-Asia Railway from Singapore to Kunming passing, without doubt, through Malaysia.  Mahathir welcomed China to play an active role in the railroad construction.

When Premier Zhu Rongji visited Malaysia in November 1999, an overwhelmed Mahathir said in his speech:

We appreciate the decision of the PRC to participate in the pulp and paper projects in Sabah. I understand that this project is valued at RM4.3 billion is the PRC’s largest investment in the region. We hope as many PRC companies will try to explore the investment opportunities available in Malaysia.”

However, it is so wrong now for China to help Malaysia build the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).  Every single investment by China in Malaysia is seen as ‘selling away our rights and sovereignty’ but it was not the case back then.

I often wonder if Mahathir is jealous that Najib Razak is doing better, or if he (or his agents) is not getting a slice of the cake?  He seems to be the only one making noise about China’s investments in Malaysia although, at less than three percent of the total FDI, is at the 10th place of the largest Foreign Direct Investments in Malaysia – the largest being Singapore.  Why is China being made the scapegoat?

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Mahathir, Siti Hasmah, and a very young Marina visit the Great Wall of China. We wonder what post Marina held that she tagged along on an official trip and if she had travelled by normal flights herself as Najib’s family did. If not, who foot her bill for her? (courtesy of Penerangan Malaysia)

Which is why DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has been silent on the issue of Forest City for the longest time – as he can see how it benefits his parliamentary constituency, very much unlike Mahathir whose hatred for Najib surpasses the needs of his political partners and voters.

During a conference on Assessing ASEAN’s Readiness by Country at the Napalai Ballroom, Dusit Thani hotel in Bangkok on 17 September 2013, the nonagenarian said:

We have been trading with China for almost 2,000 years. China was very big, most developed nation in the past, they could have conquered us but they didn’t. They came and lived in Malaysia but they didn’t conquer us. And I don’t want to be in any confrontation with China. China is a good trading nation with 1.4 billion people.

And suddenly after 2,000 years of peaceful co-existence, just because Najib Razak is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the China that Mahathir so loved wants to invade us?

That, to me, sounds blatant hypocrisy.

(This posting was first published by The Mole)

In The Spirit Of Air Lanas

On the 23 August 2012, I wrote the following:

This was the way the British divided and ruled. Eventually, swayed by the profit they were earning from the Malay States that they forgot their promise to the Sultans which was to protect the interest and welfare of the Malays. The bulk of the Malays lived in rural areas and they had very minimal contact with the other races, the Chinese were basically in towns and tin mines, while the Indians were in rubber plantations. The effect to this was that the Malays remained backwards and were told to stay as peasants or tillers of the soil, the Chinese inherited all the tradings in the Malay States and became the richest residents, and the Indians remained as rubber-tappers without proper infrastructure. The Malays, according to Chai Hon-Chan:
“…merely retreated from the tide of commercial activity and material prosperity…whereas the British, Europeans, Chinese and Indians had the lion share of the country’s wealth…”
As a result, the Malays who were given land to cultivate, forced by economic disadvantages, began charging or creating a lien (collateral) over their land to the Chettiars. The Malays, already in a disadvantaged position, cried foul and started the “Malaya for Malays” movement in the late 1800s. EW Birch, the 8th British Resident of Perak, recognized this dire situation and quickly proposed a policy of preserving the Malay land. The only way to him to preserve the Malay race was to “free them from the clutches of those people who now remit to Indian large sums of money, which they bleed from the (Malay) people.”

The Malays were in a very disadvantageous position just before Merdeka, one of the reasons the Malayan Union was rejected so as to protect the rights and position of the Malays then.

FELDA was created 60 years ago to provide organised smallholders farming through resettlement of rural Malay poor who did not own any land. A year later Tunku Abdul Rahman launched the first settlement in Air Lanas, Kelantan where 400 settlers were relocated.

FELDA has grown into a very respectable organisation and has diversified its activities. FELDA Global Ventures, although separated in terms of its structure, is the third largest palm oil company in the world by acreage that also has downstream activities in oleochemicals.

Of late, FGV has not been performing well. Being in Malaysia, the government gets the blame although FGV has its own board. And the Opposition pins the blame on one person and one person only: Najib Razak.

Reading Raja Petra’s latest instalment does make me wonder if Isa Samad who is both the Chairman of FELDA and FGV is aware of the damage FELDA is causing to UMNO.

The allegations that Isa Samad and family is using FELDA/FGV as personal treasure chests is not something new. My only question is why is this cancer not nipped in the bud? 

It is still not too late for Najib Razak to act, and act he must! It would be sad to see a legacy left by his late father and the Tunku before that, that started in Air Lanas, be ruined by greed and irresponsible behaviours.

And what more if it is true as Raja Petra alleged that FELDA is being used to destroy UMNO in the upcoming general elections.

I can only echo a post on Facebook by Azmi Arshad – act now and save FELDA!

The Pleb Versus The Noblemen

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.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-23-12-43

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?

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-23-07-27 screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-23-07-54

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!

You can watch a video to see how Mahathir had Anwar Ibrahim arrested and the way he had the police to handle those who demonstrated against him when he was the Prime Minister.

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.

Kelantan: The 15th Yang DiPertuan Agong

Daulat Tuanku - Sultan Muhammad V has been elected as the 15th Yang DiPertuan Agong
Daulat Tuanku – Sultan Muhammad V has been elected as the 15th Yang DiPertuan Agong

Sultan Muhammad V, the 29th Sultan of Kelantan, has been elected to become the 15th Yang DiPertuan Agong by the Council of Rulers today.  His Royal Highness shall be replacing Tuanku Al-Haj Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah, the Sultan of Kedah whose tenure will end on the 12th December 2016.

For months whispers have been flying around that HRH Sultan Muhammad V would not be eligible be elected as the YDP Agong as he is not married.  However, there are only three reasons for a nominated Sultan to be disqualified;

  1. He is not an adult,
  2. He has made known to the Council of Rulers that he wishes not to be nominated, or,
  3. Five of the Rulers vote against his nomination for reasons such as being mentally or physically challenged, or for some other reason.

The second and third reasons were used during the discussion to elect the First Yang DiPertuan Agong where Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang was the most senior Ruler after Sultan Sir Ibrahim of Johor who had declined the nomination due to old age (Sultan Sir Ibrahim passed away on the 8th May 1959). He became the Sultan of Pahang on the 24th June 1932. However, Sultan Abu Bakar’s nomination was rejected FIVE TIMES by the Rulers because he was a controversial figure – he had financial difficulties and had wanted to marry a perempuan ronggeng (Abdullah Ahmad, 2016 p.141).  Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was then the Chief Minister of Malaya advised Sultan Abu Bakar against marrying this woman named Hathifah binte Abdul Rashid if he wanted to become the Yang DiPertuan Agong. Sultan Abu Bakar agreed.

However, Sultan Abu Bakar married Hathifah anyway and Tunku only discovered so when they were honeymooning in Hong Kong (Straits Times, 21st April 1957).

Being single is not a prerequisite for a Sultan or Raja to be elected to the throne of the Yang DiPertuan Agong.

Early this morning, the infamous portal Malaysiakini and the Malaysiakini-wanna-be Malay Mail Online both reported that the Sultan of Johor had declined the offer to become the next Yang DiPertuan Agong, quoting a Facebook page and not official sources.

It has been a norm that the Raja or Sultan with the most seniority would be considered as the candidate for the post of the Yang DiPertuan Agong.  All the nine states have since provided a Yang DiPertuan Agong and the list of seniority is as follows:

  1. The Yam DiPertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan,
  2. The Sultan of Selangor,
  3. The Raja of Perlis,
  4. The Sultan of Terengganu,
  5. The Sultan of Kedah,
  6. The Sultan of Kelantan,
  7. The Sultan of Pahang,
  8. The Sultan of Johor,
  9. The Sultan of Perak.

With the ascension of the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, as the ninth Yang DiPertuan Agong, a new official list was made based on the seniority of the states that have provided a Yang DiPertuan Agong previously.  Whether or not Johor was offered is not known but such offer could only be made had the Sultans of Kelantan and Pahang declined the nomination.  It would seem impossible for the Sultan of Kelantan to reject such offer only to accept it later when the one that should have been offered next is the Sultan of Perak.

Such is the uniqueness of the office of the Yang DiPertuan Agong that was institutionalised on the 31st August 1957.  It was first to be called the Yang DiPertuan Besar but was rejected by the Rulers Council in favour of Yang DiPertuan Agong.  Every five years the Rulers would meet to elect the next Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Timbalan Yang DiPertuan Agong.  Although some say that this is similar to that practised in the United Arab Emirates, the office of the President of the UAE is a hereditary office of absolute monarchies.  They are the government whereas in Malaysia the government is elected by the people and is dismissed by the people through general elections.  And unlike in the UAE, the Rulers council cannot dismiss a Prime Minister or anyone else without the advise of the Prime Minister.  Therefore, a recent attempt by Parti Pribumi member named Mahathir to get the Rulers Council to intervene and dismiss the Prime Minister is just a futile and cheap attempt to lie to the people of Malaysia.  Of course, there would be those mentally-challenged people who would believe that he is right.

With the election of Sultan Muhammad V as the 15th Yang DiPertuan Agong it is hoped that this would bring about a much better cooperation between the PAS-led Kelantan state government and the Barisan Nasional-led Federal government. Such cooperation would be very beneficial to not only the development and people of the state of Kelantan, but also to the Malays and Islam in Malaysia that are coming under constant attacks by Malay liberalistas, evangelists and chauvinistic politicians opposed to Malay unity and the position of Islam as the Religion of the Federation.

DAULAT TUANKU!