Assault On Legislature, Constitution Dead

by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

Discussing the Perak situation with specificity is, by this stage, a difficult thing to do. So much has happened so quickly. Nuanced actions and counter-actions, some of it in uncertain legal terrain, and relatively scarce details have made it precarious to consider certain key events – the legal action against the Speaker and its incidents, for instance – with the depth that only certainty would allow for.

Having said that, whatever the specifics may be and whoever may be right as to the validity or legality of certain aspects of the unfolding saga, when considered from a broader perspective and with reference to the fundamentals of democracy, I do not think that the situation in Perak is very complicated at all. As Tengku Razaleigh recently observed, a chain-reaction of illegality has left Perak possibly without a legitimate government and the Constitution a dead piece of paper.

I was too young to fully appreciate the terrible impact on democracy that the events of 1987 and 1988 had. Understanding came later, as I learnt to see what needed to be seen: the supremacy of the Constitution, the separation of powers and the check and balance it is aimed at, the independence of the judiciary and, correspondingly, the legislature. But even as my awareness of what had happened and how it had happened increased, I rather naively found myself thinking that it was unlikely that we would ever see anything of the likes again. Those events had simply been too heinous and the injuries inflicted on this nation too serious to ignore, even by those who had been responsible and those who would possibly follow in their footsteps.

Or so I thought.

The savagery of what has happened in Perak and the utter disregard of consequence on the part of those orchestrating the campaign go far to show how foolish I was to have believed that all of us, without exception, recognize that some costs are too great and for that, even blind ambition has its limits. It is clear now that this is not necessarily the case; for some, even the nation itself is expendable.

In saying savagery, I recognize that there has been neither bloodshed nor preventive detentions, though it is still too early to say for sure that things will stay that way. The incitement carries on, and mobs are being driven to frenzy to the throb of the war drums. Amidst the calls for blood, bullets have been sent, a disabled parliamentarian assaulted and some of his colleagues battered. The police have apparently too much on their hands to move with the speed that they are capable of and, as such, as things stand serve no useful role as the deterrent that the situation sorely requires.

Violence has however been done; to the Federal and State constitutions, to the Rule of Law and to all that these fundamentals represent. War has been waged on democracy itself.

I can think of no other way to characterize events.

As thing stands, the Speaker is still the Speaker. He has been at all times vested with the full powers of his office and the discretion to exercise those powers. He may have committed mistakes in arriving at certain decisions, but those are matters for the Legislative Assembly itself or, where legal limits have been transgressed, for the courts whose powers in this regard are limited by reason of the separation of powers. Until corrected, the Speaker’s decisions stand, be they the acceptance of the resignation of the three members who crossed the floor, the issuing of the show cause notices to the alleged usurpers of power and the effecting of their suspension, or the calling of the emergency sessions of the Assembly.

And yet under the hand of the Executive, in a manner reminiscent of the locking up of the Supreme Court in 1988 the Legislative Assembly itself was put out of bounds to members of the Assembly, This was done at the instigation of the State Secretary, an officer of the executive and as such its representative, with the assistance of a police force duty bound to protect the system of governance and associated freedoms put in place by the constitutions of this nation.

In doing so, the Executive laid siege on the Legislature. The sight of the Federal Reserve Unit barring the way into the Legislative Assembly, fangs bared and water cannon poised, was as close a physical depiction of democracy being taken hostage as we will ever see. The underlying intention of the exercise brings this further into relief. It was apparent that the Assembly had to be prevented from meeting for as long as it took for the lawyers to do what they could in court. Injunctions against the Speaker had been applied for. Once these were granted, the process that the Speaker had started would be brought to a halt.

The fact that the injunctions had been applied for shows clearly how far democracy was subverted. The making of the applications underscores awareness on the part of those orchestrating the campaign that self-help was not permissible. The validity of the Speaker’s actions had to be tested before a court of law. If they were not needed, the injunctions would not have been sought.

Despite this appreciation of the obvious, the might of the state was brought to bear. A federal agency was brought in and tasked to do what it was not mandated by law to do: keep the Assembly at bay to protect the interest of a coalition of political parties.

There is no law that allows police officers to deny members of a legislative chamber access to that chamber for the business of Legislature. It is not for any police officer to unilaterally determine that the business being conducted is not within the ambit of the legislature, no matter who might say it is. What the police force did was not justified in law. No crime had been committed. Though the gathering masses was reason enough for a police presence, breaches of the peace did not occur nor were orders to disperse issued, unsurprising given that the focal point was the denial of access to the Legislative Assembly.

It is glaringly obvious that confronted with a scenario that left it vulnerable to a tactical maneuvering of legislative procedure, and an inability to resolve the imbroglio to advantage, the Barisan Nasional at the state and federal level collectively took the law into its own hands. The plan to capture Perak had run into a brick wall and rather than go around it, they decided to blow it up and everything else with it.

The situation is comparable to a hypothetical scenario in which Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament barricaded Parliament House to deny Barisan Nasional Members and the Speaker access so as to prevent them from legitimately making a law that they would otherwise have. The only difference is if that had occurred, the Barisan Nasional would have denounced the exercise as an attempted coup d’etat and punished those involved to the full extent of the law at its disposal.

It does not make any difference that that the Barisan Nasional forms the Federal government of the day and is in a position to direct the police force; like all other institutions, these institutions are bound to act constitutionally and in accordance with the law. Malaysia is still a democracy predicated on constitutional supremacy. The expectation that all affairs will be conducted to the exclusive convenience and the advantage of the Barisan Nasional and its leaders is more suited to a dictatorship in which the Rule of Law means nothing.

Through the last week Malaysians have borne witness to a shameless display of belligerence and arrogance. We have heard a senior minister describe the emergency session, held by necessity under that now immortalized rain-tree, as “uncivilized”. Another senior minister described the Speaker as a ‘boy’. Though in line with the other ridiculous observations of ambitious UMNO leaders that Malaysians have had to endure since the beginning of the Perak affair, they do little to mask the obvious; that the Barisan Nasional appears to see no limits to what it is permitted to do to achieve its objectives.

And if it could do this in one state, what is to stop it from acting in the same way in other states or at the federal level. Judging by the way in which it has responded to criticism over its actions these past few weeks, it would seem nothing much. It is manifest that the Barisan Nasional considers itself a law unto itself.

That is the painful truth that lies at the heart of Tengku Razaleigh’s declaration that the Constitution is dead.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 8:56 am

    UMNO/BN is technically an enemy of the state, a threat within, an subversive insurgency – a clear and present danger. They committed murder of a living, breathing document – citizens and our way of life will be next if not already so (where else do you think Kugan’s death began with?)

  2. #2 by limkamput on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:14 am

    The constitution and the rule of law were dead long ago. It takes the event in Perak to make us wake up to the reality again. As I have posted elsewhere, politics in Malaysia has everything to do with acquiring power, sustaining power and enjoying power. It has very little to do with serving community and adhering to the constitution. Constitution and the rule of law are adhered to only when they are convenient. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Remember Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the NOC rule, the Operation Lalang, the Judiciary Crisis and the major amendments to the constitution which made the nature of country unrecognisable? Are these not the work of cavemen? When push comes to shove, I have always believed that this is what they will do, no matter how polished, how educated and how long they have held positions of importance in this country.

    Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, what you wrote is very informative. But I think we need more than this. It is time to move on from analysing and explaining what have happened in recent months. We need leaders who know how to galvanise the power of rakyat to make the “relevant” people listen and listen hard.

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:22 am

    Very soon, Malysia as a member of the CommonWealth will be equated with Pakistan, Zimbabwe and what have you around the world. The Police Force has succumbed to the role of a ‘running dog’ without thinking of its role as the guardian of basic law.
    This has come about because the senior officers , just like the judiciary, have been pushed up not because of competency but because they had decided to become yesmen.
    Such incidents clearly proved that Malaysia is no longer an example for others to follow, it is an example of what NOT to follow! Under the cloak of NEP, the policy is used to enriched the few. The saddest thing is after building some 20 public Us, we have been unable to produce among the MAJORITY of the population, who could see and discern such actions and behaviour as detrimental ti the long term interests of this country.
    No one can understand why this is so. maybe it has come to the issue of studying English whicg seems to cause so much divide in the country from both supporters of BN and PR!!
    Are these people have the same objective, keep Malaysians out of the main international languagr so that Malaysians will be easily cowed?? We have champions of anti- english in Maths and Science from both sides of the divide. May I ask a simple question? Can anyone name an Asian Mathematician who has found a new theory over the last 50 years without an understanding of the English language.
    Is mathematics being just addition, subtraction, division and multiplication? To all those who oppose the issue, just give a good reason for your action.

  4. #4 by wanderer on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:32 am

    When the chips were down for UMNO-BN, its ugly head surfaced from the murky waters.
    Both the Constitutions and the wide ranging powers of the Speaker were designed by the ruling govt to gain better leverage over the opposition…only this time in the Perak impasse, they backfired, they became the ‘friendly casualties’!
    If I have to use the arrogant and hooligan behavior of the Celaka Permuda UMNO, to foresee the future of Malaysia, nothing is going to change, nothing will ever change.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:37 am

    Of course, we know all along that in this land, Umno is king and the law or rather lawless. Everything else is decorative and to fool the world that we are a democratic nation.

    If PM, DPM and Umnoputras take a deer to the courts, police station, and palaces, and announce that it is a horse, all those present there would agree whole-heartedly: Yes, what a beautiful horse with horns!

    Don’t blame all of them. Blame the rakyat, the voters (the so-called bosses) for allowing Umno and BN to rule us for more than 50 years!

  6. #6 by monsterball on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 10:08 am

    I wonder does any developed country have so much complications ….interpretations on so many subjects….actions…resulting in fist fighting…showing angers….and having hundreds of thousand messages….talking…for or against.
    I wonder is there a developed country where two English leading papers are projecting the greatness of our government….while we read totally…. the opposites….from internet news.
    Presuming anti-govt political blog owners are churning out nonsense and are first class rumour mongerers…..then the vast majority commentators putting out comments supporting them and are against the government… are real low class Malaysians.
    After 12th election….we keep seeing and reading…all that need to be seen and read.. that should give Malaysians .the right conclusions.
    But politics to vast majority voters are not that important compared to their daily lives needs and wants ….which means…..some can easily change their minds from against the govt. to voting for them again.
    In order to maintain ad remind voters to stay strong and firm with their votes…for the country and their children…a vote..against the govt. and for change of government in the …coming 13th election is a must. As such…..anti-govt blog owners cannot stop churning out keep Malaysians alert and up to date news.
    This is easy….as UMNO is on a defensive mood….proving so guilty on all subjects..
    Why so……because when the party is corrupted to the core….nothing they say do or act are for Malaysians ….but for part and how to win votes.
    Such are the clear moods of UMNO…proving how insincere…great actors and hypocrites these ministers are.
    Are we so cruel and unfair… keep misjudging UMNO?
    Are we racialists or is UMNO…..the guilty one?
    To find out the truths…it has to be the 13th election and I hope Najib will announce the election date soon…..once he takes over as PM.
    He should know…it is no big deal….being appointed as UMNO PM.
    He should get the support from Malaysians through a general election …and not interpret his PMship are approved by Malaysians.
    Will he dare to be realistic or keep playing games….to fool Malaysians?
    Sooner or later he has to face the music. Why delay…if UMNO ministers sincerely feels…. they are so righteous and sincere?
    Are they cats or mouse?

  7. #7 by limkamput on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 10:21 am

    Monsterball, we may have 13th GE, we may have 13GE results, but we may have no outcome! Hope it is not too difficult for you to understand. Did Ang Sung Su Ki win more than 70% of the popular votes? Till today, she is still in intermittent house arrest.

  8. #8 by monsterball on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 10:48 am

    Limkamput…Do not compare what is happening in other countries to MALAYSIA.
    It is exactly for those reasons….we are walking the talks…for guys like prevent Malaysians being treated like Ang Sung Su Ki….whom I admire and respect …so much.
    Have you been to CAMBODIA?
    You see…you ever answer one of my many questions…but keep trying to teach me things.
    Don’t keep teaching me….when you know next to nothing….except reading books and brag.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 10:57 am

    Are you saying UMNO will not allow the 13th election result out…if it means throwing them out of the government?
    Are you painting a picture…all MALAYSIANS are like you…talk lot..but are real slimebags?
    Well…relax…we will walk for you and die for you..if that is not too difficult for you to understand.
    But I am sure…guys like you who talk and brag so much…have other options…like running away……correct?

  10. #10 by OrangRojak on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 11:12 am

    Another off-topic comment: Your blog pages aren’t loading to completion in my browser today. That’s partly my crap Streamyx connection – that happens on other sites too. The resource my browser is currently struggling to load is the favicon for this page. If you look in the page source, you’ll see the favicon (link rel=”icon”) is specified without a path, so it’s just appended to the page URL (there’s no <base> element in your page). That doesn’t work, so your server returns your monster (all things being relative) 404 page.

    I tried ‘fishing’ for the favicon by adding a leading “/” to the path, but it seems like you should be specifying the full URL for your favicon in your <link> element: – otherwise browsers will be trying to load the favicon from blog.limkitsiang, which doesn’t seem to have it.

    Sys Admin – Thanks. Fixed the favicon. Yes, streamyx still have the same problem.

  11. #11 by OrangRojak on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 11:30 am

    Oops, I was sure that would go straight into moderation, sorry about that!

    The Constitution is just a piece of paper: it doesn’t mean anything unless people are prepared to defend it. I think Malaysians are increasingly doing the ‘right thing’ by demanding what is theirs by Constitutional Right and protesting with their voices, pens, keyboards and votes when they’re denied it.

    It’s hard to say anything at all about the future – it’s easy to call to mind a future that looks very much like Burma’s present. Running away (monsterball – staying is harder for me than leaving!) would be too easy, but the most selfish and lowest cost option is to stay in Malaysia and to do simply nothing.

  12. #12 by monsterball on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 11:46 am

    First…vote for change of government…then lets see what happen next.
    Do your part…be selfish…stay and do nothing…no one blame you…as you have no money to run away… Limkamput..or for other loving reasons…..all accepted.
    Let the Freedom Fighters walk all the talks…and in the history of all countries…walks always win….but we must be prepared to die…with no violence…complete disobedience….to shame the tyrants..and let conscience takes over.
    Philippines had the cruelest and most cunning government…under Marcos. Suggest Limkamput read and get inspired…how Philippine was freed from a Dictator.

  13. #13 by limkamput on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 11:52 am

    Mosterball, if in case Sdr Lim is impressed by you and you get to stand as a DAP candidate in the next GE, my inkling is you will end up like that hee hee hee leader from Jelapang. Whether I walk or I talk, you will never know and is none of your concern. I just hate phua tang sai people, I am sorry.

  14. #14 by KennyGan on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 12:05 pm

    YB Lim,

    If the sultan will not see Nizar nor dissolve the Assembly, then the next step is to organize a peaceful people’s rally to demand that state wide elections be held. Don’t wait for the court decisions which are likely to be biased. A people’s rally is the only recourse left otherwise the PR govt of Perak is as good as gone.

  15. #15 by monsterball on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 12:26 pm

    OK…Reply to Limkamput..under moderation.
    To conclude….everyone can read him like a book.
    Enough of him!

  16. #16 by 1to1 on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 12:50 pm

    The situation in Perak is like a Gordian Knot:

    “In Greek legend, the Gordian knot was the name given to an intricate knot used by Gordius to secure his oxcart. Gordius, who was a poor peasant, arrived with his wife in a public square of Phrygia in an oxcart. An oracle had informed the populace that their future king would come riding in a wagon. Seeing Gordius, the people made him king. In gratitude, Gordius dedicated his oxcart to Zeus, tying it up with a peculiar knot. An oracle foretold that he who untied the knot would rule all of Asia.”

    “In 333 B.C. Alexander the Great had invaded Asia Minor and arrived in the central mountains at the town of Gordium; he was 23. Undefeated, but without a decisive victory either, he was in need of an omen to prove to his troops and his enemies that the outcome of his mission – to conquer the known world – was possible.”

    “Alexander, stepping back, called out, “What does it matter how I loose it?” With that, he drew his sword, and in one powerful stroke severed the knot.”

    “That night there was a huge electrical storm, which the seers conveniently interpreted to mean the gods were pleased with the actions of this so-called Son of Zeus who had cut the Gordian knot.”

  17. #17 by OrangRojak on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 1:09 pm

    On the subject of page resources, that isn’t loading for me either. Is their site dead? You could just provide a link to a PDF you create and host yourself. I don’t know if MS Word can write PDFs, but Writer can, or there’s always something like CutePDF if you have an irrational fear of open source software.

  18. #18 by OrangRojak on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 1:20 pm

    Ignore the bit about pdf24, their site must have been down for maintenance or something, now working fine.

  19. #19 by One4All4One on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 1:36 pm

    It is anarchy on one side, and on the other the citizenry are trying to decipher the constitution of the land to find some semblance of order and peace. But, sadly and shamelessly this is rudely denied.

    When the government is abusing all machineries and apparatus at her disposal, at her whim and fancy, with impunity and glee, what precipitate are extremes that only could be found in dark fictions and lawless lands. But then, all too often we were told that truth is stranger than fiction, lending some credence to the idiom!

    Such blatant disregard for what is lawful, constitutional, sensible, politically and socially correct, morally and religiously compliant and acceptable to the right thinking masses, is indeed beyond reason and rhyme and does not reflect well on the perpetrators and their accomplices and supporters.

    It smacks of usurping and denying the rights, justice and liberties of the people, effectively making them prisoners of conscience.

    The might of the law must be unleashed to undo such heinous ambitions.

  20. #20 by alaneth on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 1:55 pm

    Quote : limkamput Says:
    Today at 09: 14.19 (4 hours ago)

    The constitution and the rule of law were dead long ago. It takes the event in Perak to make us wake up to the reality again. As I have posted elsewhere, politics in Malaysia has everything to do with acquiring power, sustaining power and enjoying power.

    I couldn’t agree more. The Constitution is written by man. It can also be ‘misinterpreted’ by man for their own personal gains.

  21. #21 by frankyapp on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 1:57 pm

    Ya kennygan,I agree with your idea to solve the perak political statemate. It’s a kind of people’s power. With the rakyats’ might,demonstrating peacefully day in and days out,the BN will have no choice but to advise the sultan to desolve the state assemby. On the other hand,the BN knowing pretty well they will lose the state election,will not want to desolve the assemby.Sabah/PBS/BN case is a good example.So the perak political statemate will be a long and widening road .Only patience and perseverance will take the rakyat or perakian to victory in the end.

  22. #22 by gyp on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 2:15 pm

    In the early days in history, during the Emergency, the Perakian Chinese are among the people standup tall against the Chinese Communist Army for freedom and democracy indepedent that what leaded this country Malaya independent 1957.

    Now, can you standup tall against the corrupted dictator party injustice? bring an upstring of democratic to this country.

    Yes, Perakian boleh, right?

  23. #23 by drngsc on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 3:00 pm

    Very, very sad, when the constitution is being trampled upon, when the Police are not professional and take sides, and often abuse their power, when the ruling party is afraid to go back to the people, when the executive does not recognize the separation of powers, when the courts are not just, we are only a democracy in name. What do we have left? Who then will protect us? We are no different from a Police state.
    Dear UMNO, dear Najib, please. please lets go back to the people. For the sake of Malaysia.

  24. #24 by KennyGan on Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:34 pm

    The Fisheries Dept embarrassing U-turn over the mandatory use of (expensive) insulated boxes available only from one supplier after fish importers boycott selling fish for a couple of days show that this govt is only impressed with a show of force.

    If the importers had appeal, complain to the press, blog about it or take court action, do you think this matter would be so speedily resolved? More likely, their complains will just fall on deaf ears.

    Similarly, the Perak power grab cannot be solved by appealing to the sultan and the courts who are neither fair nor impartial. It can only be solved by a heavy dose of “people power”.

    Every institution is arrayed against Pakatan Rakyat. The EC, the courts, the MACC, the police, the civil servants and even the sultan. But PR has one great force behind them – the rakyat. It’s time PR make use of their only advantage before Perak is gone for good.

  25. #25 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 - 6:34 am

    limkamput Says:

    Yesterday at 09: 14.19
    The constitution and the rule of law were dead long ago.”

    Any death certificate to confirm??

  26. #26 by Raja Chulan on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 - 4:56 pm

    Dear readers,

    I wonder, in the event that BN looses the 13th General Election, will they do the same thing that they are presently doing in Perak?

    I think they will.

    Our country will be another Burma, or even worse.

    Cheers, GOD save the Rakyat.

    Raja Chulan

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