By Augustine Anthony
When Dato’ Sri Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to run for the now vacant Kajang state seat in Selangor was announced by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, the current Mentri Besar of Selangor, the extent of criticism against Anwar Ibrahim, PKR and Pakatan Rakyat as a whole ranged from thumbs down and negative to downright hostility.
The looks on the ordinary and mostly educated middle class people whenever this issue was raised was one of disgust.
You cannot defend the indefensible and, in this case Anwar Ibrahim’s candidacy for the Kajang state seat, is the general feeling. A betrayal of voters’ hopes, aspirations and confidence is no small matter and such an act must bear the full brunt of the nation’s backlash.
But there was an unusual landscape during the announcement by Khalid Ibrahim. Not as picturesque as anyone would have expected and not quite like the time during the 13th General Elections and the accompanying euphoria whenever opposition candidates names were announced.
Amidst the gloom, there sits “THE” towering figure in the Malaysian politics. His appearance cleverly hides the depth of his experience, knowledge and understanding of the Malaysian political, social, as well as matters of national policies. The honourable Lim Kit Siang sits on the right side of Anwar Ibrahim while Khalid Ibrahim sits on the left side of the Opposition Leader. That caught my attention.
From the time of my childhood days I have admired Lim Kit Siang. He is a Malaysian success story and richly deserving too. A success story imagined, engineered and achieved not by sheer luck but by unrelenting pursuit and single mindedness of the goal ahead.
I have seen many politicians and their antics, idiosyncrasies and often reckless behaviour all at great cost to the Malaysian people. I do not get angry at the things that I see in them because that is what they are and they are doing what they do best and that is, to put their worse foot forward. But Lim Kit Siang is different and so very different from many others. His simple short sleeved white shirt still remains the trademark of simplicity and the common man’s touch thus making him approachable. But beneath that simple appearance lies a complex mind that sees things differently and read things differently.
I pay attention to what Lim Kit Siang says in his public statements and if I am doubtful or cannot see the bigger picture of his words and actions, I usually pause in my thoughts and ask a variety of questions as to why he has done or has not done certain things.
My initial and immediate reaction when I saw Lim Kit Siang during the announcement, which I perceived as a scheme ill thought of and designed to betray the Malaysian voters, ranged from one of disappointment to disgust and to a total despair for a reformed Malaysian politics of the future.
What happened in the following days only confirmed that I was probably right in the way I felt for I was not alone. The social media “Facebook” was filled with scorn, vulgar shouts and what not. All the opposition’s gains in capturing the imagination of Malaysian people are now fast fading. So it seems.
Now a week has passed. Some have come forward to defend Anwar Ibrahim’s Kajang state seat candidacy but not without being given the proverbial brick bats. Could it be a case of defending the indefensible? Can anyone who defends this Pakatan Rakyat move come out unscathed? Not likely. And not when Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan herself had gone public to say that PKR must give the Malaysian public an overwhelmingly good reason for this Kajang by election.
Why did Anwar Ibrahim decide on this move and more importantly why did Lim Kit Siang show support, which I take as express and unconditional by his presence and seated on the right side of Anwar Ibrahim?
I have been asking questions too in the last one week. Irrational outburst had now given way to more discerning mind manoeuvres. I think I see the bigger picture and Ambiga may even get her “overwhelmingly good reason” too.
I am now of the view that Anwar Ibrahim, standing as a candidate in the Kajang by election is the single most important and sound decision taken by Pakatan Rakyat in recent times and it augurs well not just for Selangorians but for Malaysians as a whole. The perceived Azmin and Khalid Ibrahim feud may not be the reason for this decision seeing things from the future. This design whether by an intentional act or an accidental occurrence is certainly for the greater good of this country.
One may ask why Pakatan Rakyat didn’t think of this contingency plan during the 13th General Election. Isn’t the answer clear that we humans have always had the ability to learn from our past mistakes and to forge a better and brighter future – all by trial and error? A human trait clearly evident in all of us.
I now give my reasons.
1. Debates in State Legislative Assemblies can often turn into a joke. There is ample proof of this in media archives.
2. If Malaysians think they can look to our Parliament for any inspiration for the shortcomings of Legislative Assembly meetings, they will be sorely disappointed. Yes, there are some politicians who speak and raise issues intelligently for the benefit of Malaysians as a whole. I make mention here a few names as it comes to my mind as I write though I am aware that there are other parliamentarians deserving praise for their good work. Lim Kit Siang raises mega issues and pursues them unrelentingly. M. Kulasegaran raises substantial issues on labour and employment matters. Young ones like Rafizi Ramli, Khairy Jamaluddin, Nurul Izzah indicate that there is still hope. But apart from some notable parliamentary debates, many other debates do not show real and noteworthy deliberation. Bills are fast tracked with little or no quality deliberations and public outcry usually follows immediately after it is passed as an Act of Parliament. Worse, and it is now an increasing and obscene trend in parliament where more and more parliamentarians are eager and willing to partake in fruitless shouting matches and name calling. Just read the Hansard. It is all there for us to see.
3. When the public perceives the State Legislative Assemblies and Parliament as places where members do more disservice rather than service to Malaysians, surely there must be a place where this nation could turn to where the hopes and aspirations of Malaysians could be articulated with dignity, respect and mutual reverence. Is there such a place for Malaysians in our Constitution? Yes indeed. It is the Conference of Rulers (Majlis Raja Raja) as provided for under Article 38 of the Federal Constitution.
4. There are many amongst us who think that since Malaysia practices a Constitutional Monarchy, it would necessarily mean that the monarchs are mostly ceremonial with little and limited powers. This is a misconceived thought. Far from it, the Raja Raja and the Majlis Raja Raja is such a powerful body with enormous responsibilities and powers. Their Highnesses the Raja Raja bring great balance for the continued peace and well being of this country. All of this is done with little publicity but with great dignity and respect.
For more on the powers of Conference of Rulers, please read the article by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi.
5. Article 38(3) of the Federal Constitution says – “When the Conference deliberates on matters of national policy the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be accompanied by the Prime Minister, and the other Rulers and the Yang di-Pertua-Yang di-Pertua Negeri by their Menteri-Menteri Besar or Chief Ministers; and the deliberations shall be among the functions exercised, by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, and by other Rulers and the Yang di-Pertua-Yang di-Pertua Negeri in accordance with the advice of their Executive Councils.”
6. Article 38(3) of The Federal Constitution is so apt, timely and interesting for the current political climate that must urgently address many pressing issues ranging from race, religion, economy and so on.
7. In 2013 13th General Election Pakatan Rakyat, led by Anwar Ibrahim, commanded the confidence of the majority of Malaysian voters by garnering 50.87% of the popular votes. For the first time in Malaysian history, the Conference of Rulers may see the leader of the Government i.e. The Prime Minister who commands the confidence of the majority in the parliament, articulating or exchanging views with the Leader of the Opposition who commands the confidence of majority of Malaysians voters.
8. Can the above scenario happen in Malaysia? Yes and only if Anwar Ibrahim wins the Kajang state seat and goes on to become the Mentri Besar of Selangor.
9. Anwar Ibrahim, with his wealth of knowledge and political experience both internationally and locally, can be a great service to this nation by his presence in the Conference of Rulers.
To me it will be a great joy to know, see and hear that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition articulate all that is best for Malaysians in the presence of the best arbiters this country can provide and what better arbiters can Malaysians ask for these holders of the highest offices in this country if not the Conference of Rulers where all that is for the greater good of this country could be deliberated with respect, reverence and true statesmanship befitting their office.
We will wait for interesting times ahead in our Malaysian history.