Malaysians at the Federal Court, Putrajaya this morning
MALAYSIA’S DEMOCRACY LACKS SUBSTANCE
|Written by Sharon Tan|
|Tuesday, 09 February 2010 00:15 THE EDGE|
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has a democracy that exists in name but grievously compromised in substance, reality and fact, said Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, echoing the words of the nation’s founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj.
In his speech at the launch of Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), the Gua Musang MP said Tunku’s memory had been brushed out of the nation’s consciousness.
He said Tunku and his generation built institutions that empowered the people rather than cults of personality to concentrate power and wealth in themselves.
“They reached instinctively for democratic decision making. The concepts and precepts of constitutional democracy were part of their natural vocabulary and instinctive reactions. They knew whom the country belonged to, and that they lived to serve.
“It is no accident that the erasure of his memory has gone hand-in-hand with the erosion of our institutions. Tunku built up a system of good civil service in which ordinary citizens did not need to see so and so to get things done.
“This has been replaced by a domineering style of leadership in which you get things done depending on who you know,” said Tengku Razaleigh.
He also said in place of protection for ordinary citizens guaranteed by popular representation, rule of law and checks and balances of independent institutions, the country now had the cult of great leader.
“In place of a system which was designed to ensure the rights of the ordinary citizen, we have a system re-designed around the interests of corporate and political bosses.
“Ordinary Malaysians are disenfranchised of their rights to health, education and security. They are then patronised by leaders whose idea of public service is to go around like Father Christmas doling out gifts of resources, which are really the property of the people.
“This turns citizens into supplicants. Our properties are converted into gifts from the great leader. Our rights are converted into permissions. Our country has become his country,” said Tengku Razaleigh.
He added that Tunku’s conception of politics and system of government had no place for corrupt practices, arbitrary executive power and the manipulation of racial and religious identity for political gain.
He also said Tunku led and worked with an entire class of individuals schooled in the culture and practice of parliamentary democracy.
“In politics and the civil service they thrived in a time before the machine politics of patronage and low-brow identity politics had sucked the life and talent out of the ruling party and left it filled with people who quite simply don’t have the ability to hold this country together anymore,” he said.
Tengku Razaleigh said Malaysia was still stuck in 1997 where the country faced a mortal crisis.
“If anyone of us was tempted to imagine that Malaysia had outgrown the sordid events of 1997, the government’s newspapers bring to our breakfast tables each day Sodomy 2, to remind us that after a decade of sloganeering, we have come full circle to find ourselves back at the doorstep of our debased institution and a constitution that is increasingly inoperative.
“The progress of the trial of the leader of the opposition, the government’s apparent ignorance of sovereign rights of the states and the way in which we have allowed religious issues to be manipulated, point to that conclusion.
“The constitutional crisis in Perak, in which a government has been installed by illegal means, the failure to implement two Royal Commission of Inquiry findings, point to that conclusion,” he blasted.
The Kelantan prince said the “barbarous political culture” promoted by the establishment media drove home the point that the system of government was still in 1997.
“We are still in the after-wash of a wave of bad taste, authoritarianism and arbitrary power that destroyed our practice of parliamentary democracy, compromised our judiciary and police, and disenfranchised our people.
“To modify Tunku’s words, we now have a democracy ‘existing in name, but grievously compromised in substance, reality and fact’.
“Our penchant for slogans is a reflection of our dislocation from the reality of constitutional and parliamentary democracy. We don’t need slogans. We need our Constitution back,” said Tengku Razaleigh.
He also urged the young people to rise to the task of changing the political system as it had been left too long to the politicians.
“To expect change from the incumbents is to expect, in the Malay saying, the mice to repair the gourd… Bagai tikus baiki labu.
“It is time for us to understand, discuss, organise and act together.
“Tunku was a true Malaysian. As we have forgotten him, we have also forgotten how to be Malaysians. We must learn again how to be free and equal citizens of a constitutional democracy.
“In our national life, we must learn again how to be a federation of sovereign states governed by the rule of law,” said Tengku Razaleigh