Monday, February 03, 2014

Royal Encounter of the Third Kind

Thursday's posting, Close Encounter of the Royal Kind predicts the motive behind Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim's move to run for the Kajang state seat was to do a showdown with the Selangor monarchy.

PKR's failed spinmaster, Rafizi claimed it is to save Selangor from the return of BN under the clutch of Tun Dr Mahathir's faction in view of Najib's gullible political situation. Subsequently, Anwar admit it was to save Selangor.

In a press conference  to announce his candidacy, Anwar said he does not wish to deal with the issue of MB appointment. One theory claims Anwar will not assume Menteri  Besar position but dual role to "check and balance" and "protect" Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. Faekah hinted that Sultan has the power to appoint the Menteri Besar and tradition shows only Selangor born will assume the position.

Thus the showdown theory. Then in yesterday's press conference in Permatang Pauh, he said [as quoted from MM here], “We will not complicate the role of the Ruler.”

However, there are two differing theories to offer a royal encounter of the third kind.   

The first is a fairly straight forward analysis from Carolyn Hong as published in the Jakarta Post sometime back. It is basically viewing the Sultans as asserting their influence or their constitutional power:

Malaysia's sultans asserting their influence

Carolyn Hong, The Star/ANN, Kuala Lumpur | Opinion | Tue, January 14 2014, 10:22 AM
In the first week of this month, the Johor state weekend shifted to Friday and Saturday, in accordance with the sultan's wish to make it easier for Muslims to perform Friday prayers.

The same week, Selangor's religious authorities seized Bibles containing the word "Allah", after its sultan decreed that non-Muslims cannot use "Allah", in line with a state law that prohibited it.

These incidents highlighted several facets of Malaysia's power structure - federal versus state powers, as well as the role of the nine sultans, several of whom are starting to assert themselves as Malaysia becomes more politically unstable.

As a federation of 13 states, Malaysia's political and legislative power is divided between the federal and state governments. In general, the Federal Constitution gives the federal government power over areas such as defence, education, health and public order, while the states look after land, water and religion. The Malay rulers also have specific roles - sultans are the heads of Islam in their respective states.

This division of power did not matter so much during former premier Mahathir Mohamad's tenure as he had iron control over nearly all power levers.

But since the 2008 general election, which saw the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition losing its political dominance, the sultans and religious authorities have become more politically prominent.

"During Mahathir's time, he had set up a parallel bureaucracy of religious authorities that took charge of Islamic affairs," said Professor James Chin, a political scientist with Monash University Malaysia. "But he was a very strong leader."

Mahathir kept in check not just the religious bureaucracy but also the monarchy through his powerful personality, as well as by removing the rulers' right to veto laws and limiting their absolute immunity to legal prosecution.

Without a dominant figure like Mahathir around, the situation has changed. The "Allah" controversy, in particular, illuminates just how complicated the system is, and why it is so difficult to resolve.

Unknown to many, the ban on the use of "Allah" by Christians had been in place since 1988 in Selangor state laws, as a way to prevent conversion of Muslims to Christianity.

It only came to light when the customs impounded several hundred imported Bibles at two ports in 2011 as they contained the word "Allah".

With the Sarawak elections looming that year, the federal government was worried about the political fallout and quickly forged a deal with churches, by allowing the import of Bibles on condition that they are stamped with the words "Christian Publication".

That appeared to solve the problem - until this month.

On January 2, Selangor religious authorities raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and seized 350 Iban and Malay-language Bibles. It did so under powers bestowed by the Selan-gor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims)

Enactment in 1988 which banned the word "Allah" for non-Muslims.

In other words, the federal and state authorities were on opposite sides, with one permitting the use of "Allah" by Christians and the other prohibiting it.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who specialises in constitutional law, said the federal government's decision to allow the imported Bibles cannot be binding in Selangor.

But at the same time, Selangor cannot issue a blanket ban on "Allah", he said. This is because it is empowered by the Federal Constitution only to enact laws specifically to prevent proselytisation among Muslims.

Thus, he said, the prohibition on the use of "Allah" has to be read in that context, he said.

"The enactment's provisions are so wide that it looks like a blanket ban but many lawyers would argue - and I agree - that this must be read as a ban with a view to prevent proselytisation," he said.

But the law is one thing, politics is another.

The Selangor government can now help to clarify matters by amending the state law so it applies only to proselytisation attempts. But it's unlikely to rush to do this.

For one thing, it will have to convince the many Muslims who do sincerely feel that "Allah" is exclusive to Islam.

Then there is the sultan. His decree, backing the ban, while not legally binding, cannot be ignored.

"The problem for the Selangor government is not really a legal one; it's a political one," Syahredzan noted.

In this day and age, the constitutional monarchs have a mostly ceremonial role. But Malay rulers can wield great power, especially in times of crisis, if they want to.

For example, the sultan must agree to the choice of a menteri besar for his state. A rejection may well end a politician's career, as was the case in Perlis and Terengganu after the 2008 elections.

In 2009, when the opposition Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak was toppled via defections, it was the sultan who made the final decision to recognise the new government formed by the BN.

This, noted Chin of Monash University, is a major reason the Selangor government has to tread carefully when it comes to the "Allah" controversy.

It is only the federal government which may mitigate these tugs of war for influence, but it shows no signs of doing so.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has said very little about the "Allah" controversy, except to call for calm and sensitive handling of the matter.

As a result, Chin said, the jostling will not end any time soon, and controversies like the "Allah" issue will continue to dominate headlines.
The second theory is forwarded by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar but cautious of the publisher. What to do when the main source is a mainstream media only keen to make money and dissemination of information and honour is secondary and tertiary.

In his view, he felt Anwar is not taking a confrontational approach but a diplomatic approach.
Malaysiakini 2:26PM Feb 2, 2014

Chandra dakwa Anwar mahu jadi MB dekati istana

Bekas rakan kepada ketua umum PKR, Dr Chandra Muzaffar mendakwa Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mempunyai matlamat lain termasuk "mudah mendekatkan diri dengan sultan dan raja" jika menjadi menteri besar Selangor.

Dalam wawancaranya dengan mingguan BH Ahad hari ini, Dr Chandra mendakwa Anwar mahu menduduki jawatan itu bagi menonjolkan beliau sebagai menteri besar "paling berkesan, berkebolehan dan lebih baik" daripada tokoh sebelum ini.

"Dengan menjadi MB, dia akan 'berlagak' dengan menonjokan imej baik bagi mempengaruhi pengundi dan rakyat. Anwar akan cuba berbaik-baik dengan MB yang lain seterusnya mendapatkan sokongan mereka.

"Apa yang penting, dia mahu menonjolkan diri supaya cara pentadbirannya akan dibandingkan dengan perdana menteri. Ini semua strategi mengaburi pengundi sebagai persediaan pilihan raya umum ke-14.

"Dengan menjadi MB, Anwar akan bergaul dengan ramai orang dan paling penting mudah mendekatkan diri dengan sultan dan raja-raja Melayu melalui Majlis Raja-raja.

"Nyata MB adalah bantu loncatan untuk menonjolkan kebolehan sebagai rakyat, MB yang responsif dan berjiwa rakyat," katanya seperti dilapor akhbar itu.

Dr Chandra menjawab soalan berhubung mengapa ketua pembangkang Dewan Rakyat itu didakwa mahu menjadi menteri besar.
A week earlier Dr Chandra gave his analysis in New Straits Times:

28 January 2014| last updated at 12:28AM

PKR internal spat ‘a drain on the public’

SHAH ALAM: The by-election in Kajang is seen by observers as the result of a selfish attempt by PKR to put an end to the increasingly acrimonious squabble between its deputy party president, Mohamed Azmin Ali, and Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Political analyst Dr Hoo Ke Ping said the resignation of Kajang assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh, believed to be connected to mounting speculation that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will replace Khalid as menteri besar, was to resolve the party’s infighting.

“They (Azmin and Khalid) are fighting for selfish reasons and not for the people. They are fighting over Selangor as it is the richest state in the country. So, Anwar has decided

"From PKR's perspective, I think this move is very reasonable as the party's infighting will be settled. However, from a Kajang resident's point of view, I think Anwar's decision will create problems," he told the New Straits Times  yesterday.

Elaborating, Hoo said the decision to boot out a lawfully elected state representative for the sake of solving an internal party squabble might prove too much for the people in Selangor to bear.

"Getting rid of Khalid will be good for Anwar but wasting the people's money to do so is unreasonable. In fact, if Anwar does decide to contest in the by-election, the Kajang electorate might show their dissatisfaction by not voting for him.

"The people in Selangor may still be unhappy with the Barisan Nasional government, but they may decide otherwise this time around. This by-election will be an acid test for both sides who will be battling it out in a mixed constituency."

Another political analyst, 1Malaysia Foundation chairman Dr Chandra Muzaffar said he felt that Anwar chose Kajang as the battleground to show that BN had not regained the support of the people.

"However, I do not think Anwar will stand as a candidate as only a Selangor resident can contest, according to the state constitution. He is a resident in Kuala Lumpur and he would need to create an address in Selangor in order to be eligible.

"Therefore, I believe Anwar is merely forcing a by-election to show BN that it has not regained the support of the people, in particular those living in mixed constituencies."

Elaborating, Chandra said Anwar wanted to use PKR's victory in Kajang, should it happen, as a leverage tool to force the BN leadership to engage in a "national consensus" talk with top  leaders.

"Chances are that BN will lose in Kajang and Anwar wants to show BN is in a weak position so that it will be coerced into holding talks with Pakatan. And these talks may lead to the formation of a unity government.

"That might be Anwar's real aim, and not to become the Selangor menteri besar."

Selangor State Speaker Hannah Yeoh, in announcing Lee's resignation yesterday, declined to go on record on the reasons behind the move.

"He came to see me personally and submitted his resignation. According to Article 70(5) of the Selangor  Constitution, a casual vacancy shall be filled within 60 days from the date on which the vacancy occurs," she said at a late afternoon press conference at the Selangor state legislative building.

Yeoh said she would inform the Election Commission on Lee's decision today.

Yeoh quoted the state constitution when asked on the possibility of Anwar taking over as menteri besar, saying that "The constitution is clear. The MB must be Malay and a Muslim."

Lee, in his statement yesterday, merely stated that he was resigning from his post as  assemblyman "for the common interest of all and to strengthen Pakatan's ability to serve the people".

The former Petaling Jaya City councillor replaced PKR's former Kajang assemblyman Lee Kim Sin as the party's candidate in the 13th General Election in May last year.

He polled 19,571 votes in a six-cornered fight with his closest rival Lee Ban Seng of BN getting 12,747 votes.

Anwar, who is Permatang Pauh member of parliament, needs to become a state assemblyman to become eligible for the menteri besar position.

Lee's resignation had also led to talks that Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli could also be a candidate. He, too, needs to join the state legislative assembly in order to be eligible as MB.

PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, however, in a statement late yesterday insisted for the vacated Kajang state seat be contested by no one else but Anwar and that he later on must be appointed as the Selangor menteri besar.

Anwar, however, had denied speculation that he was set to become the next Selangor menteri besar.  He said there was no discussion between him and Khalid on the matter.

Speaking to reporters after attending a hearing at the Duta court complex here yesterday, Anwar said he met Khalid almost every week.

"I virtually meet Khalid at least once a week to discuss about the party and the welfare of the state."

He also said the suggestion of a possible takeover was an old issue that had been discussed openly since 2008.  Khalid had initially denied any possibility of him being replaced as menteri besar when met at a function in the afternoon yesterday.  He, however, softened his stance after news of Lee's resignation was announced later in the day.

When met once again at a function later in the evening he did not rule out the possibility of resigning if a consensus for him to do so was reached among the leaders of all three parties within the opposition pact.

However, he said, so far, the leaders of PKR, DAP and Pas had yet to discuss the matter.

Additional reporting by Rozanna Latiff and Punitha Kumar
The latest news emanating from Anwar Ibrahim is that he acknowledged Selangor has problems and to diffuse Rafizi's ridiculous spin, he also acknowledged it is all planned.


Anonymous said...

damage done by anwar already.

its a double blow to the chinese voters of Kajang.

They loose their lawfully elected ADUN and MB.

Anonymous said...

Sense you are doing a sindir menantu thing here.

RD. said...

A convicted abused of power ex-DPM and with damned tainted morals, now abusing the democratic process for his greedy lust for power and wealth.
Old habits die hard, they say.

drMpower said...

he said khalid would go and see him to discuss about state welfare etc etc etc

who is he that the MB must go see?

this guy is a failed man. the only thing he got left is sentiment.

and dont forget he is pushing 70 or is he already 70? it is very good for people to repent (bertaubat), particularly when u are pushing 70

Anonymous said...

Chandra Muzaffars theory that Anwar is contesting because he is desperate to be closer to the royalty suggests that dia tak kenal raja?

And you are buying his theory?

Macam mana dia tak kenal raja sedangkan he was Deputy PM during Dr M's era.

Kan bodoh punya theory tu?

Anonymous said...

RE: "Bekas rakan kepada ketua umum PKR, Dr Chandra Muzaffar mendakwa Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mempunyai matlamat lain termasuk "mudah mendekatkan diri dengan sultan dan raja" jika menjadi menteri besar Selangor.... Dengan menjadi MB, dia akan 'berlagak' dengan menonjokan imej baik bagi mempengaruhi pengundi dan rakyat. Anwar akan cuba berbaik-baik dengan MB yang lain seterusnya mendapatkan sokongan mereka."

Have we forgotten this act treachery in Sabah, reported by Wikileaks almost a year ago?

Unknown said...

Salam bro,

Kajsng Move by strategist Rafizi ni tak lain tak bukan menunjukkan depa urang visi, kepercayaan dan bakat pemimpin.

Saya ada tulis pasal ni di blog saya (dan juga disiarkan di Berita Harian dan NST hari ini.)

Harap ABITW can have a look :-)

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