Rulers must not lord over us

22 April 2009

UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS A CROWN – William Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth.

“The role of the constitutional monarchy goes beyond what is stipulated in the constitution. The rulers have a far wider responsibility in ensuring that the spirit of the constitution, the philosophy behind the written law, and the interest of the country and the people are safeguarded at all times.” – Sultan Azlan Shah.

I am sad to note that there are among us those who have chosen to interpret Sultan Azlan Shah’s rendering of the role of the constitutional monarchy as an example of our rulers seeking to act outside the remit of their constitutional authority. A ruler naturally cannot act arbitrarily, for example, by ignoring any of the provisions of the constitution without inviting formal strictures.

The Sultan of Perak was making a distinction between the formal functions of a Malay ruler as set out in the constitution of his state and his traditional duties as a hereditary ruler. A ruler of a Malay state is, therefore, more than a constitutional creation; he is the embodiment of all that is noble, virtuous, fair and just. Many rulers naturally have not lived up to these ideals, but, on balance, it can be fairly argued that they are conscious of their duty to their people. They have a duty that goes beyond the constitutional framework which has neither spirit nor soul and which only a wise and caring ruler can give.

Sultan Azlan Shah is right to remind us and himself in particular that as a ruler he is above politics. We would not have it any other way. It is unfortunate that his handling of what I call the Perak Affair has given rise to suspicions that he was not above politics. The presence of Najib in the palace ostensibly as the UMNO state liaison chief was all grist to the rumour mill. To crown it all, he was the deputy prime minister, and not some common garden variety Perak politician.

No one underestimated his political clout. This in turn produced an unstoppable chain of unsavoury bush telegraph messages, all claiming irrefutable inside information that the Sultan had been bought by Najib.

All extremely unfortunate, but for me, what was unpardonable, in this day and age, is the total absence of any explanation by the palace why the menteri besar’s request for fresh elections had been so summarily and cavalierly rejected, with indecent haste.

Palaces the world over no longer behave as they used to in dealing with information of public interest. Buckingham Palace is a case in point. The Queen of England does not presume that what she does is entirely her own affair. The Perak palace should be prepared to put all of its decisions on political matters under the closest public scrutiny. It is said nowadays that father no longer has all the answers, and even a ruler as learned as Sultan Azlan Shah is not infallible.

I now turn to a consideration of what rulers have to do in order to earn the love and respect of their subjects. First, they must uphold the dignity of their position by behaving in ways that will set them apart from the rest of us, as models of decency, honour and rectitude. This means, in effect, that they must set high moral and ethical standards of behaviour for themselves in keeping with their anointed role in life.

A ruler must, for example, steer clear of any involvement in partisan politics. Equally unacceptable in the eyes of their subjects is for sultans and their royal children to reduce themselves to being supplicants – petitioning politicians for land and government projects.

There is no quicker way of losing their self-worth than by their being seen to be behaving in this way. There is no difference, then, between the rulers and the ruled. Rulers have to make up their minds whether they want to rule over us or to compete with us their humble subjects for business handouts from corrupt politicians.

I wish to assure all the Malay rulers that when I have occasion to disagree with them on issues of state, there is no wish on my part, to use the Sultan of Perak’s words as reported in the New Straits Times, “to provoke them (the people) into dismantling the system and institution as this could create chaos in the country.” Even though I may be a million miles from any throne, in a manner of speaking, I am one of you, and why would I want to destroy an institution that is still in working order?

  1. #1 by taiking on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 8:56 am

    Crown = blind = blackbox? Emperors of china = blackbox, definitely. That was because they make decisions within a small confine – space wise as well as advisors wise, they were really small indeed. Is it therefore any great wonder why they all fail after some time?

    And this applies also to government, including popularly elected government. Making decisions that affects the rights or interests of the masses without proper prior consultation or justification ought to be condemned for the same reason.

    And to say that I, the grand supreme minister cry too much; and that because my cries are affecting the country adversely I then propose a law to forbid crying-for-no-reason, is an act which is beyond all justifications. In fact it is outright abuse. It is akin to a performance within the confine of pitch darkness – a black magic unleashed for its supernatural power. Of course all these are pure fascination. But its a matter of perception and since perception is a matter of the mind, it knows no bounds.

    Fortunately an antidote is available. A simple antidote. Turn on the lights. Open up the doors and windows. That should not be too difficult. Try it. Yes try it umno. And you too najib. It will clear your name which is now being clouded thickly in mongolian smog and at the same time is struggling in french waters.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 9:01 am

    “Liberty, equality, fraternity (brotherhood)”, is the national motto of France. But umno’s motto is “divide and rule through inequality”

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 9:08 am

    I agree that some have taken criticism of the Perak Sultan too far. While a case can be made of some other state monarchy not to be above politics, its not obvious the case is with Perak Sultan and given the status and track record of the Perak Sultan, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.

    One can argue that the Sultan erred in not dissolving the state assembly and I think even then its not a simple argument. Tunku fault the palace for not giving a proper explanation of why the Sultan but its precisely the plausible reasons for NOT dissolving the state assembly that is preventing making a proper explanation for dissolving the state assembly – opening to POSSIBLE involvement in politics.

    I do agree that the Perak Sultan can do better but its clear given his age, he can be forgiven not to be more hip to new possibilities. For example, his speech last week and all speeches of his could be put officially on-line both in Malay and English so that people have a better idea of what he is thinking instead of allowing the mainstream media and the vaguness of BM language itself to make it unclear what original intent was suppose to be.

    It is quite clear the Perak Sultanate want to hold a high standard of public, official and political behaviour. The problem is the system is failing and it people feel that neither system nor people themselves can correct it. It is no less than a loss of faith in entire system of government AND traditions which the monarchy is part and parcel. Its one thing to hold high standards when there are fundamental systems and culture that can correct itself but its not the nature of our country and socieites to be self-reliant and self-determining. This supposed-to-be democracy for the last 50 years was historically the first attempt at self-reliance and self-determination AND we have not succeeded given the NEP, ISA is still around.

    There is no doubt in my mind the Sultan of Perak erred but you can say he is entitled to it. Given that, its time to look elsewhere for the answer given that we now know that the monarchy itself is unreliable as the highest standard of intellectual discourse.

  4. #4 by Godfather on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:10 am

    How can royalty ever “steer clear of partisan politics” when their families are engaged in businesses that depend on the patronage of the ruling party ?

    All the talk of royalty not wanting to be involved is pure hogwash. Being involved is a necessity to protect one’s personal wealth. Unless you tell me that royalty can survive on fresh air alone.

  5. #5 by Onlooker Politics on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:19 am

    If the royalty really wanted to stay above politics, then why must the approval for convene of State Legislative Assembly meeting on 7 May 2009 be signed at the request of Umno whereas the approval requested by Pakatan Rakyat had been rejected in March 2009?

    Why must all the state assemblypersons be summoned to attend the royal palace for witnessing the appointment of a second Menteri Besar when there has been no motion of no confidence against Nizar to be tabled so far in the State Legislative Assembly?

    Why must the royalty make the political comment that to hold state-wide election too often would be a costly exercise for the government?

    Did the royalty really show its intent of wanting to stay above politics?

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:21 am

    Decisions from the palace and judiciary must be perceived as fair and impartial in the eyes of the rakyat. It’s lamentable that this is not the case in the Perak Affair.

  7. #7 by k1980 on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:38 am

    Has justice been served in the Perak crisis?

    It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered.
    Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

    It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive. Earl Warren (1891 – 1974)

    Justice is a contract of expediency, entered upon to prevent men harming or being harmed.
    Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC)

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968)

    Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.
    Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

    Justice delayed, is justice denied.
    William Gladstone (1809 – 1898)

  8. #8 by monsterball on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:41 am

    I recalled a sultan was detained in a casino in Europe ….some 20 years ago..for owing RM10 million gambling debts.
    UMNO had to rush someone to pay and got him freed.
    Then a sultan killed a caddy with a golf stick out of anger……and all hushed up….paying compensations.
    But the best true story was the old story of the 50’s where the Sultan of Johore was angry a car over took his and he took out a pistol and fire the car. That person fired back!! He was Aw Boon Hor..”Tiger Balm” king who build the famous tourist sites in S’pore and HongKong.
    Yes..the royal family of Britain is the most famous of all…..showing how ordinary they are..yet how unfair justices are protecting a killer too. Princess Diana is the most tragic death case …surrounded by doubts and facts.
    You can say..the Dutch Queen of Holland is most honorable and loved by all….although King of Thailand seems to enjoy same status too.
    Malaysians royalities??……..miles apart from true blue royalties.
    The Queen of England seems to be loved all Brits.
    Malaysians are not ignorant nor show no interest or respects to royalties.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 1:24 pm

    My last sentence should be ….”Malaysians are not ignorant nor show or DISRESPECTS to royalties”
    Better still….Malaysians are not ignorant nor showing any disrespects to royalties.
    I think all Malaysians are proud of the one and only country with 9 royalties…rotating to be King.
    It is special and unique.

  10. #10 by frankyapp on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 5:32 pm


  11. #11 by FanOfKit on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 5:42 pm


  12. #12 by rubini on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 6:46 pm

    Through time, the people all over world choose a leader to help protect them. In the beginning they choose a good wise and strong individual. this was democracy in its infancy. Then, after the leader died, they choose another would represent the people. Later, this smart King decided to choose his heir, once his rule was over, the beginning of heridetery rule.
    Unfortunately over time, duties and responsibilities of the King were soon forgotten, greed was the ultimate goal, thus began dictatorships.
    Throught the ages, all the Despots were soon put to an end to their rule. New Kings emerged, old ones died. When democracy flourished, the end of time for the Old Kings began.
    Many colonised countries discarded their royalty because none had the ability to defend against the colonist. India, Indonesia, Iran,Turkey and others placed them into the annals of history.
    In Malaysia is the same, the day the Kings & Queens forget their duties and responsibilities thats the day the end has started.
    In time, the role of these monarchs will be evetually reduced as museum pieces and state ornamental pieces to be viewed.

    When the English came over to colonise Tanah Melayu what did the Sultans do? When Japanese came over what did the Sultans do?

  13. #13 by Onlooker Politics on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 9:25 pm

    Some members of royal family like to resort to racism such as Malay Supremacy in order to mobilise much stronger political support around the Monarchy.

    However, when we take time to do a revision on the world history, it will not be difficult for us to find that during Ching Dynasty of Feudalist China, the prosperity and the reputation of the Manchurian royal family had reached its peak period of development whenever the Emperor of Ching Dynasty had decided to give up racism by adopting Han Characters as the official written and spoken language. The royal patronage of Chinese poems written in Han language had permitted the Chinese culture to flourish and be ennourished during the throne of Chien Lung Emperor. The inter-marriages, with the first example being shown by the Emperor himself, had helped to dismantle the sense of alienation between the Han Race and the Manchurian Race. The hiring and fast promotion of the Han Race in the workforce of high ranking royal court officials by the Chinese Emperor of Manchurian Race had helped to promote the sense of national harmony and the sense of thankful morality among the most brilliant and highly talented scholars of Han Race. The sense of thankfulness and loyalty among the top scholars who had received the wonderful good grace of royal patronage of their talents was the main reason why the Ching Dynasty was able to extend its lifespan until 1911 in the midst of a difficult period of history which recorded that the fragile armed forces of the technologically backward Ching Dynasty had already been experiencing many military defeats since their first encounter with the British Imperialist Naval Force during 1850s.

    I believe there will be many brilliant and talented Malaysians of Non-Malay origin who can be employed by the royal family in order to help rebuilding the caring and loving image of the Monarchs in Malaysia. There is no politically legitimate reason and no economically viable reason for any Monarch to want to wilfully resort to racism and hence harmfully restrict and limit the royal choice of grassroot support from the humble subjects only to a single race of the whole Malaysian population.

    Therefore, the Malay Rulers, please do try to create a win-win situation by deemphasizing on the word “Malay” and be ready to posturise yourselves as the rulers of all Malaysian people, disregard the individual racial backgrounds of your subject.

  14. #14 by chengho on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 10:15 pm

    Why u said Malay Rulers ?….they are the ruler of all Malaysian….

  15. #15 by OrangRojak on Thursday, 23 April 2009 - 11:06 pm

    Chengho can visit to conduct some research on why Onlooker Politics refers the “Malay Rulers” as such. He is Loyally following their lead.

  16. #16 by limkamput on Friday, 24 April 2009 - 9:19 pm

    chengho Says:
    Yesterday at 22: 15.59
    Why u said Malay Rulers ?….they are the ruler of all Malaysian….

    YOu have no more ball to polish, ok eunuch.

  17. #17 by boh-liao on Sunday, 26 April 2009 - 10:40 am

    “I think all Malaysians are proud of the one and only country with 9 royalties…rotating to be King.
    It is special and unique.”

    OMG, yes, truly special and unique – in that this is probably the only country with so many royalties, each dishing out lots of titles every year (remember, someone said, throw a bakuli and it will hit a latuk or a latuk si ree or a nut); and this is probably the only country that limitless resources of the limited society are mobilised for the so many royalties and their households and relatives. How many of the YM are there in Malaysia?

    Countries worldwide with only one royalty are already struggling to live with that one royalty. Malaysia, truly special and unique, is happily living with nine royalties.

    Kind of mind-boggling in this 21st Century!

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