This is just a quick note to inform you of the latest developments of the planned BERSIH rally this Saturday, 9th July 2011. I will update this page and tell you more once I get the latest news from BERSIH.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
There appears to be some confusion within the ranks of the BERSIH committee. If the purpose of His Majesty the Agong's announcement yesterday was to throw the cat amongst the pigeons then it certainly worked. It looks like someone else has been reading up on Sun Sze as well.
Anyway, as you read this, the BERSIH committee meeting is in session to decide how to respond to His Majesty's 'titah'. Titah means the Monarch's royal edict or command.
The question here would be: was this really His Majesty's titah or was it crafted for His Majesty? Most Malaysians now understand how the system works and are no longer awed by such royal edicts or commands.
Two members of my own family have sat on the throne as Agong -- so we know that His Majesty, at best, lives in a diamond-studded golden cage. The cage may be golden and diamond studded, but it is still a cage nevertheless.
Remember back in the late-1950s when Tunku Abdul Rahman was the First Prime Minister of Malaysia and Tuanku Abdul Rahman the First Agong? A British cabinet minister tried to barge in to the Tunku's office without an appointment and the Prime Minister refused to see him. Malaysia, after all, had gained independence and was no longer a British colony so who did this Kwailo think he is?
Later, during an audience with the Agong, the British cabinet minister complained to His Majesty and suggested that His Majesty sack the Prime Minister for his kurang ajar (insolence).
To this suggestion His Majesty the Agong replied that in Malaysia it is not the King who sacks the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister who sacks the King.
That was way back 50 years or so ago and things have not changed much since then. In fact, since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over as Prime Minister 30 years ago, it has become worse.
Was not Dr Mahathir the man who engaged the Monarchy in a Constitutional Crisis back in the mid-1980s where Umno openly and loudly reminded Their Highnesses that the Federal Constitution of Malaysia clearly states that the King has to 'take advice' from the Prime Minister and the Sultans from the Menteris Besar?
Many Malaysians at that time lauded and applauded Dr Mahathir's 'brave' effort at 'cutting down the royalty to size'. And His Highnesses were sent running back to their palaces with their royal tails between their legs, metaphorically speaking.
Today, how many believe that the Rulers make their own decisions? How many believe that a statement from Istana Negara is a statement from the mouth of His Majesty the Agong?
Does not Istana Negara come directly under the Prime Minister's Department? And since the time of Dr Mahathir are not all statements from Istana Negara first vetted by the Prime Minister's Department and first approved by the Prime Minister's Department before they can be released? And is it not the procedure that the Prime Minister's Department drafts all statements and speeches of the Agong?
I remember when the late Sultan of Johor was the Agong and, as was customary, he read out his speech prepared by the Prime Minister's Department. His Majesty had never seen that speech until it was time to deliver it and clearly he was struggling with it.
Halfway through the speech, His Majesty, with a look of irritation on his royal face, retorted: siapa tulis ni (who wrote this)?
But then His Majesty the Johor Sultan has been known to do things 'out of script' like jumping over the fence during a football match or stepping down from the VVIP stage to try his hand at riding a superbike during the Merdeka Day parade.
Never has Malaysia seen such a 'colourful' Agong in its 53 years of Merdeka and probably never will again.
So there you have it: my short story on Malaysia's monarchy and why BERSIH must first explore whether the titah from the Agong released yesterday needs to be further clarified before the committee decides whether to call off the planned BERSIH rally of Saturday, 9th July 2011 or proceed with it. And later today we will know the answer to that question.
BERSIH will seek an audience with His Majesty the Agong to get clarification on yesterday's titah. If clearly His Majesty wishes to avoid any security problems and would like the march to be called off then BERSIH will try to hammer out a compromise.
One compromise would be to hold the rally in the stadium instead of marching on the streets as originally planned. The Stadium Merdeka is one such stadium that is being suggested.
The BERSIH committee appears divided on this matter. Understandably, not many want to be seen as durhaka (treasonous) by ignoring His Majesty's titah -- if it really is His Majsty's titah in the first place.
Some are of the view that the BERSIH chairperson may have become intimidated by this latest development of the Agong's titah -- plus with the warnings of the army stepping in, more detentions without trial, the four million silat exponents taking to the streets to oppose BERSIH, May 13 Version 2.0, the Muslims declaring a holy jihad against BERSIH, etc.
If Ambiga feels that things have got out of hand and have become very dangerous then she might have to consider bailing out to allow someone else more prepared to face the consequences to take over. We can quite understand if Ambiga is now living on the edge and is fearful for her life and under the present circumstances no one will fault her if she throws in the towel.
Nevertheless, whether the BERSIH march finally gets aborted, or is held in a stadium, or proceeds as planned, the message has been delivered. What BERSIH wanted to do was to draw attention to the need for electoral reforms and this has been achieved.
Let us wait and see where BERSIH goes from here.
PS: agree as well