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Monday, October 17, 2011

After what he did to the Rulers, Dr M has the least right to rebuke Aziz Bari

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:00 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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In what many political pundits termed as one of the greatest ironies and an act of great hypocrisy, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has condemed law lecturer Aziz Bari as being 'kurang ajar' or rude for questioning the recent decision by the Selangor Sultan over an alleged apostasy and church raid incident.
"It is hypocritical of Mahathir to now defend the Sultans. Who could have been ruder than him and Umno," opposition MP for Batu Tian Chua toldMalaysia Chronicle.
Aziz, an outspoken and well-respectecd professor at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, had reportedly said that Sultans could be questioned. There had been much unhappiness over the Selangor Ruler's decision which was deemed unfair by Christian groups.

“In Malay, we call it ‘kurang ajar’. Whether it is against the law or not, I do not know, but morally, it is rude,” Mahathir told reporters on Sunday.
The former PM was seen to be 'politicking'. It is a favorite ploy of the ruling Umno-BN coalition to accuse the Pakatan Rakyat, led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, of wanting to dismantle the Constitutional Monarchy system in Malaysia and turn the country into a Republic. The Pakatan has denied this and pointed out that its manifesto promises to protect the sanctity of the Rulers.
Selangor Sultan's controversial ruling
Indeed, although Sultan decreed that no action should be taken against anyone for alleged apostasy, it was because of a lack of 'legal evidence'. He was also seen to have sided the Umno-linked Selangor Islamic Religious Department or Jais in the decision, where Jais had on August 3 raided a dinner event at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church centre on suspicion Christians were trying to proselytize 12 of the Muslim guests presents.
While clearly indicating, he believed there was such a proselytization attempt but could not gather legal evidence to punish, the Sultan disregarded the fact that Jais dod not have a search warrant. This was why his ruling was criticised by many Malaysians, including Muslims. The entire episode is viewed as a bid by Prime Minister Najib Razak's Umno party to discredit the Pakatan Rakyat state government and rally Muslim support behind Umno leaders.
As if on cue, a coalition of Muslim NGOs called Himpun was immediately set up to defend the Islamic faith. It now plans to ride on the back of the Sultan's statement and organise a One Million Muslims gathering on October 22.
"They are also trying to challenge PAS for the Malay-Muslim vote, but I don't any support for them apart from their own members," Hatta Ramli, the Kuala Krai MP, told Malaysia Chronicle.
What Mahathir did to the Rulers in the 80s
But above all, the most nonsensical touch in the entire affair must surely be Mahathir's latest comments against Aziz because the former premier was the man who had whittled away the Rulers' powers during his tenure as PM from 1981 to 2003. Never trust Umno when they start talking about the Monarchy in Malaysia, is the actual clarion cry of political watchers in the country.
In 1983, Umno under Mahathir's leadership took on the royalty, launching the first of many maneuvers. Mahathir, then also the Umno president, stepped forward to introduce amendments to the constitution to limit the Agong’s or King's authority over Parliament. The Agong would have to assent to a bill within 15 days of being passed by Parliament and most importantly the amendments would remove the royal power to declare a state of emergency - shifting it from the Agong and to the Prime Minister.
At first, the Agong refused to bend to Mahathir’s will and His Majesty was supported by the Sultans, conservative UMNO politicians, a large number in the Malay community and an even larger number from the Chinese community.
But Mahathir had the media on his side and took to the streets, organising mass rallies to show public support was behind him. Ironic that none of these street rallies were illegal nor were they deemed a threat to national security or damaging to the country’s economy.
After five months, the two sides reached a compromise with the power to declare Emergency still in the Agong’s hands but if a bill was not assented to by the Agong, the bill would be returned to Parliament to be endorsed, which meant that Parliament could over-ride the Agong’s veto.
In the 90s
In his second decade in office, Mahathir again found himself battling Malaysia's royalty. In 1992, the late Sultan Iskandar's son, a hockey player was suspended from competition for five years for assaulting an opponent. Sultan Iskandar retaliated by pulling all Johor hockey teams out of national competitions. When his decision was criticised by a local coach, Sultan Iskandar ordered him to his Palace and promptly had the coach beaten up.
The federal Parliament unanimously censured Sultan Iskandar, and Mahathir leapt at the opportunity to remove the constitutional protection of the Sultans from civil and criminal suits.
The mainstream media, as usual, backed Mahathir and in an unprecedented development started airing allegations of misconduct by members of Malaysia's royal families. As the press revealed 'examples' of the Rulers' extravagant wealth, Mahathir resolved to cut financial support to royal households.
Faced with a hostile press and federal government, the Sultans capitulated to the government's proposals. Their powers to deny assent to bills were further limited by other constitutional amendments passed in 1994.
So it was that after several fell swoops, Mahathir became the country's 'uncrowned King'. And along with that, UMNO effectively gained control over the royals - imposing its grip over the authority of the Agong.

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