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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perak: PopTV and Damaged Goods

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The latest installment of PopTV (a wonderfully hip online talk show, by the way) has, as its guest, lawyer and fellow blogger Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who talks about his perspectives on what's going on in Perak, the allegations of treason, and the complications surrounding the whole situation.

While the interview does give a kau-kau and sober perspective on what's going on, it's clear that there is still no clear-cut answer to many questions. 
(Malik's perspectives, what PhD really means, and more, in the full post)

On his blog, Disquiet, Malik has articulated in two posts his perspectives on the Perak Controversy. In the first post, he tries to make sense of what's going on, from the perspective of his legal mind. In the second, Malik comes to the conclusion His Royal Highness may have erred in directing the resignation of the Menteri Besar.

Another lawyer/blogger, Art Harun, however, has a slightly different view from Malik.

"The notion that the Rulers are a part of check and balance mechanism to the wide powers of the executives is to me, wishful at best. The reality is the Rulers are not part of the administration of the country. The check and balance mechanism embedded into our system (and every democracy with a constitutional monarch) only consists of the executive, legislative and of course, the judiciary (in some Scandinavian countries, an ombudsman is an integral part as well).....To adopt a literal approach would vest a certain level of absolute power in the Ruler where such power does not exist in the first place. Can we imagine a situation where the Ruler may decide mid-term to change an MB because he thinks that MB does not command the confidence of the majority anymore?

We are now riding the populist wave of a political reform yet unseen before. It is a result of deep rooted anger against the BN government. But lets not allow our emotion to colour our judgement by creating, or allowing to create, a dangerous precedent, a precedent which we all may live to regret later.
(source: ARTiculations)

And then there's the question of treason, an allegation that has been thrown on those who are of the opinion that the Perak ruler erred. In particular, UMNO has been on the offensive to throw the book (and whatever furniture that's not nailed down) at Karpal Singh, Mohamad Nizar, and whomever else that dares question the sultan.

Which is kinda strange, considering that UMNO in the past, when the tables were turned, were right there in the front row questioning the royal institution. Which, Walski supposes, only goes to show the true character of the party - opportunistic and hypocritical, among other things.

Feudal mindsets, especially when it's expedient politically, once again comes to the fore.... rulers are human, too, and they therefore have the capacity to make mistakes. Wake up and smell the 21st century, people.

And then there's the strange interpretation of democracy, as seen thru the eyes of the newly sworn in Perak Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, during a recent press conference (via The Malaysian Insider, hat-tip to Aisehman, and emphasis by myAsylum):

When asked today if he thought he has the support of a majority of the public in Perak, Zambry said: "That is why we are here."

When it was pointed out that he did not gain his position as menteri besar via an election, he grew visibly defensive and snapped back: "What do you mean? This is a democratic process.

"Do you understand democracy? I am asking you, do you understand the political philosophy of democracy?

"I am asking you back. Why are you not asking them (Pakatan Rakyat) back when they are talking about the party hopping?

"When they triggered everything right from the very beginning. You should ask yourself about that."

When it was clarified that the question was not about defections but whether he feels he has the support of the majority of Perakians, he finally replied: "God willing, when you prove to the people your worth.

"Do not talk about democracy process if you do not understand democracy.

"This is the true democratic process."
(source: The Malaysian Insider)

So, a true democratic process needs no elections, huh? Strange conceptual understanding of it, if nothing else.

Ironically, Zambry is a Doctor by virtue of a PhD in Contemporary Politics from Temple University, and before that a Masters degree in Political Philosophy and Religious Comparison (via Bernama). It would seem that being in UMNO does cause one's intellect to rot. At least publicly.

Either that, or the guy suffers from Permanent head Damage - which is another thing PhD could be an acronym for.

Although there isn't a single universally accepted definition of democracy (via Wikipedia), any form of government that claims to be a democracy of some flavor must meet certain key criteria, namely:

  • all members of society must have equal access to power, and enjoy basic universal fundamental rights as citizens
  • free and fair elections

To claim that one is in power through circumstances such as those in Perak, and claim that the process is "true democracy" is either ignorant, stupid (or both), or lying through their teeth. It may have been a legal process (and even that is in contention), but it certainly wasn't democratic.

At the very least, to prove his hand-me-down legitimacy, what Zambry needs to do is to call for fresh state-level elections. It's as simple as that. Forcing one's way into office, calling it democratic, in hopes that he has the support of the people of Perak, if he proves his worth, is by no means democracy. Not in the real world. Not by a long shot.

And it doesn't require one to have Permanent head Damage to realize that...