The MALAYSIAN Insider - I never for a moment thought I should live to see the day when a traditional hereditary ruler of a Malay State has taken such a rapid slide in his people’s estimation, approbation and adulation as has the Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak. It took one unfortunate, ill-conceived and ill-considered decision over a petition by the Pakatan Rakyat Mentri Besar Datuk Nizar Jamaluddin, to dissolve the Perak State Assembly that has turned Perak into a politically difficult and dangerous situation.
His Highness Sultan Azlan Shah is no ordinary ruler. As a former Lord President and head of the Malaysian judiciary, he ascended the throne of Perak as someone well-qualified by education and training for what, for all practical purposes, is a largely ceremonial sinecure. Be that as it may, the position carries a heavy constitutional responsibility.
It has become quite apparent that while his legal knowledge may be assumed to be extensive, his training more than adequate, his wisdom in dealing with a delicate and important political matter of public concern, on reflection, has in my humble opinion, turned out to be questionable. A great deficiency in a ruler who showed so much early promise of being a wise, liberal minded and benevolent leader.
When the final chapter of the Perak constitutional fiasco comes to be written, the country, and the world, will be able revisit and understand better the magnitude of the debilitating effects of the royal decision on the Malaysian body politic. Malaysians, in particular, will view with horror the ugly scars left on their nation’s nascent democracy, and they will be constantly reminded how one hasty error of judgement was enough to trigger a political tragedy of the worst imaginable kind. A Greek tragedy pales by comparison.
The saddest part of all is that the resultant unseemly legal wrangling could have been avoided. The fact that the flawed decision was not reversed, within a day or two when it became abundantly clear that the decision not to dissolve the Assembly and call for fresh elections was manifestly unfair and unethical, was nothing if not sheer carelessness, in all the circumstances. I maintain that even now it is not too late to reverse that politically fatal decision and bring to an end this disgraceful episode in the history of participatory representative government in our country.
There is no disgrace or humiliation in coming to terms with one’s honest mistake. No one, even the wisest among us, is infallible. If the Sultan believes, as we know he does passionately, that his royal duty is to serve the public interest, then NOW is the time to give that commitment practical effect.
The Perak fiasco is not about to run out of steam. We must accept that the situation will get worse before it gets better. I saw the images from the State Assembly “sitting” on national television at lunch time today (7 May 2009) with a sense of unbounded revulsion. The scene of warring politicians shouting invective was not a joy to behold.
To use a medical analogy, the Perak affair will be a running sore. Only the Sultan of Perak can provide an effective cure. To ignore what is obviously an untenable constitutional position is an act of grave irresponsibility, and while the Prime Minister thinks it is a great idea for him to give the impression that he is above it all, I should like to remind him that he is not blameless, far from it. It was his active act of muddying the Perak political waters that brought about this current crisis in the first place.
He now has a chance to show that he is not a partisan prime minister, but a national statesman who is prepared to intervene decisively to put matters right in fairness and equity.
Looking back, it was not such a clever personal coup after all. His machination was so abysmally repugnant even judged by the consistently low ethical and moral political standards of UMNO/BN that I find myself wondering whether I could trust him enough to buy my next second-hand car from him; this is the same man trying to persuade us to buy his 1 Malaysia. What a man! (With apologies to G.B.Shaw)