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Monday, February 27, 2017

FROM 1993 UNTIL NOW, THE SAME ADVICE HOLDS FOR JOHOR SULTAN: ‘THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE IS ULTIMATELY FAR GREATER’ – ZAID

When seized with purpose and conviction, there are moments in life that can change your career significantly. Equally, when you allow such moments to pass you risk being left behind to languish in the lower reaches of power. You then face a long wait for another crest of the wave to carry your dream home—if such an opportunity even comes again. This is what happened to me in 1993.
The Johor Ruler’s recent attacks against Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his political views on the way the country (including Johor) is being run reminds me of events that unfolded in early 1993. This was the year when there was almost a revolution in the Malay attitude towards the Rulers.
Tun Dr Mahathir and UMNO as a whole were trying to change the laws of the country to achieve two things. One was to remove the Malay Rulers’ legal immunity on actions carried out in their personal capacity. When there were signs that some of the Rulers wanted to retaliate by withholding their consent for financial Bills passed by State Assemblies or Parliament, Tun Mahathir moved quickly to amend these laws as well, essentially negating the Rulers’ role altogether.
Although I was not an office-bearer in UMNO at the time, I was thrown into national prominence because I backed Tun Dr Mahathir 100 per cent while members of the Cabinet and the UMNO Supreme Council waited to see which way the wind would blow.  I have never been shy or afraid of giving my views, if I think it’s good for the country. I always believe that in a modern democracy, “Rulers” — whether they inherited or were elected to their roles — must be accountable for their actions. No one is higher than the law. No one can behave as if he were the law.
Two days before the gathering of UMNO warlords at the 1993 UMNO General Assembly, I suddenly received word from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that Tun Dr Mahathir wanted me to speak at the Assembly. I was surprised and thrilled, for it was an unprecedented honour for someone who held no office at all to address the Assembly. I then quickly prepared my speech.
It summarised what I had been saying, which was the Malay Rulers should be grateful to politicians as they had fought to protect their position and privileges. The Rulers should also stay away from politics because they should not forget that political tides change. They should not get involved in public controversies and smear their own good name by engaging in conduct unbecoming of a monarch, whether in a personal or official capacity. The power of the people is ultimately far greater than their own, no matter how wealthy or powerful they may be.
But when the time came for me to speak I was nervous and found myself suffering from a case of cold feet. Suddenly, I was not sure if I should go for the jugular. The lawyer in me wanted some balance. With the UMNO crowds baying for blood, I felt I should temper my speech a little. I therefore said something like, “if we want the Malay Rulers to be accountable for their actions, I hope the same rule will apply to UMNO leaders onstage…”
My God, you could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed. The looks on everybody’s faces was so unnerving that I panicked and cut my speech short. It was a disastrous performance from someone not properly schooled in politics.
A few days later a senior Minister told me that I had been a bloody fool — if I had only continued to speak with vigour on the need to curb the powers of the Rulers, Tun Dr Mahathir would have probably made me a Minister, long before Tun Abdullah eventually did. That’s how fortune can change your life when you do not seize the moment.
But as a consolation, I am still in politics. My views on the monarchy being subservient to the will of the people remain intact. I am still able to work with Pakatan Harapan and help Tun Dr Mahathir for the coming election. I am fortunate; I just hope that together, we can produce the desired result.
ZAID.MY

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