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Monday, January 31, 2011

Say What? Ketuanan Rakyat?

Say What? Ketuanan Rakyat?

It has indeed been a strange and surreal one month in Selangor. You have the spectacle of a state government grappling with the problem of having as its top civil servant a person who is not to its liking. And all the time while doing this, it had neither the courage nor the honesty to admit what the real problem is

The real problem that the Menteri Besar of Selangor has to contend with is not Mohd Khusrin Munawi per se, but rather the poor relations that the MB has with the Palace.”–Aktivis Reformasi

by Aktivis Reformasi*, via e-mail

It has indeed been a strange and surreal one month in Selangor. You have the spectacle of a state government grappling with the problem of having as its top civil servant a person who is not to its liking. And all the time while doing this, it had neither the courage nor the honesty to admit what the real problem is.

Thus, it is like trying to untie a bothersome knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are. You’ll just end up looking like a fool. The real problem that the Menteri Besar of Selangor has to contend with is not Mohd Khusrin Munawi per se, but rather the poor relations that the MB has with the Palace.

Had the Palace decided that it would agree with the advice of the MB to change the recent appointment of the state secretary after the slip-up caused by the MB’s own tardiness in responding to the Public Service Commission’s request for the state’s list of nominees, the impasse would have been broken or wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.

So, because he didn’t have the courage or the honesty to admit to his failings, the MB went about to untie the knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are. Muddle-headedness and blunders inevitably ensued.

The first was to succumb and dance to the opportunistic tune of his political detractors that anything which smacks of being critical of the palace constitutes sedition or ‘derhaka’ (treachery). This is a total misreading of public sentiment on the matter.

The MB seems to have forgotten that when Mahathir Mohamad pushed through the 1993 constitutional amendments on the role of the monarchy, cheered on by his ever so willing deputy Anwar Ibrahim, support for the amendments was enormous from both sides of the political divide.

No one accused anyone of being treacherous. The public did and probably still do want the monarchy’s role to be limited and better defined constitutionally.

In the present state secretary impasse, however, his detractors’ opportunistic pro-royalty stance was vociferous enough to cow the MB into deciding that it was politically unpalatable for his party to even let out a whimper calling for the palace to stick to constitutional forms and conventions. From then on, everything that happened was in the realm of charades with all sides involved assiduously ignoring the elephant in the room, which was the deviation from constitutional conventions.

The second blunder was to personalise the impasse into the person of Mohd Khusrin. Despite its past disdain for his actions when he was the head of the state religious department, the state government should have had the discipline and clarity of thought to maintain that the issue at hand was not about the personality but the manner by which the appointment was made.

That is to say, had the best civil servant in the country been appointed as state secretary in the same said manner, the state government would still have objected because constitutional norms and conventions had not been abided with. But to take such a principled stand, sadly, seems to be a notion so very alien to a government which purports to be the champion of Reformasi and Ketuanan Rakyat.

The third blunder was to resort to amending the state constitution to grant more powers to the palace in the appointment of the top three civil service posts on the state. By what strange logic such a move would solve the MB’s problematic relationship with the palace, no one could fathom. That the attempt would fail must certainly had been anticipated by the state government.

So the exercise of a special sitting to amend the state’s constitution could be put down as a feeble attempt in political point-scoring and to ‘democratise’ the impasse by trapping the state assemblymen from the opposition to declare whether they are ‘pro-rakyat’ or otherwise, in accordance to the MB’s perverted sense of logic. That’s putting it kindly.

What seems to have escaped the MB is that it also gives the impression of a government wanting to make wanton use of constitutional amendments to cover up its own leadership shortcomings and incompetence. How different then is a Pakatan Rakyat government from any other ruling party in its blase attitude towards the sanctity of the constitution?

After all that has been said and done, the state government is back at square one and nowhere near solving the impasse. Astonishingly, the MB now appears amenable to having Mohd Khusrin as the state secretary. So what was the previous one month all about? One can only assume that he’s finally realised that he has been trying to untie a knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are – and has only managed to look like a fool in the process.

If there is one lesson from all these, it is that if we want ketuanan rakyat and genuine reformasi, we won’t get it from spineless and gormless political leaders, such as the ones you have in the Selangor state government. My sympathies go out to all those honest folk who really thought those same politicians had the courage and competence to achieve those goals.

God permitting, the truth about these pretenders to the throne will be revealed sooner rather than later.

*Aktivisi Reformasi is personally known to me. I, however, respect his wish to keep his true identity confidential.–Din Merican

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