Friday, February 6, 2009

A Grim Silver Lining to a Mess Called Perak

To paraphrase from Hamlet: there’s something rotten in the state of Perak.

The quote of the day comes from The Star:

“Just as Barisan Nasional had accepted the results of last year’s general election, Pakatan Rakyat must now accept a new government in Perak, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.”

The problem with that statement being that in last year’s general election the people of Perak booted out the Barisan Nasional. The same rakyat whom it seems the B.N. is wary of allowing back at the voting booths.

Despite the freakshow in Perak, in the larger picture there are cases when a resignation or crossing parties has a certain legitimacy. People tend to forget that national-level defections were the plan of Sept 18, 2008, or that former defacto law minister Zaid Ibrahim quit his post and began being an iconic face at Pakatan Rakyat events. Recent events don’t change the morality that one shouldn’t be suddenly investigated for corruption for no reason other than that of crossing over to another party.

That being said, doublecrossing within 10 days, makes you wonder how you could have left out of principle and then gone back without sacrificing those same principles. Unless principles weren’t the real motivation. Or whether it is pure coincidence the two assemblymen from PKR who resigned were the same two – and the only two – being charged with corruption. And as far as backstabbing is concerned, let’s remember that in support of them, MB Nizar publicly stated that one is innocent until proven guilty. That’s not even getting into the constitutionality of the Election Commision overriding the Speaker of the state legislature, or the question of if the Agong could decide against the advice of a Prime Minister in dissolving Parliament.

When such doubts linger, as well as allegations of attempted bribes of up to RM60 million for defections, and when the official count is 28 for Pakatan Rakyat and 28 for Barisan Nasional, how the Sultan of Perak could not allow his rakyat to provide a new mandate is more than a little surprising.

A friend of mine put it best when he noted that these defectors were the very ones whom the Sultan himself had insisted on a check of their loyalty to MB Nizar before nodding on the Pakatan Rakyat government.

The result of the turmoil is that the people, denied access to the voting booth, have taken to the streets and to prayer, with moment-to-moment updates being made by Anil Netto.

As with all storms, there are silver linings, though the ones from this debacle are grim in their own right. We have, for the first time, the legislative head of a state government challenging the constitutionality of a ruler’s decision. As the Malaysian Insider noted, this is the start of a much larger debate as to the role of Malaysian royalty and its relation to the democratic rights of the citizens. Most importantly however, the Pakatan Rakyat now know who in their ranks were real bozos – including the double-defecting Bota assemblyman whom they should not have taken in at the very start. The larger lesson – regardless of whether an anti-hopping law is created – is that no matter how good your party platform, you really cheat the people when those who bear your party standard, are really of no standard at all.

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