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13

theSun

|

FRIDAY MAY 15 2009

speak up!

13 theSun | FRIDAY MAY 15 2009 speak up ! thesun says Peace talks hold the
13 theSun | FRIDAY MAY 15 2009 speak up ! thesun says Peace talks hold the
13 theSun | FRIDAY MAY 15 2009 speak up ! thesun says Peace talks hold the
13 theSun | FRIDAY MAY 15 2009 speak up ! thesun says Peace talks hold the
thesun says Peace talks hold the key
thesun
says
Peace talks
hold the key
thesun says Peace talks hold the key It is time to put aside differences, look for

It is time to put aside differences, look for the solution which is best for Malaysia, particularly Perak, so that all Malaysians can get on with our lives.

IT is encouraging to note that the prime minister does not dismiss the possibility of an election to solve the impasse in Perak. By saying that return- ing the mandate to the people to choose their government was an option to put an end to the stalemate, the premier has lent credence to his mantra of 1Malaysia – People first, performance now. It is also bold of him since the general mood is that any snap state elections will return the mandate to Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Many among the ordinary rakyat cannot comprehend the complex constitutional issues that have risen since February when three PR assemblymen became independents throwing their support behind the Barisan Nasional (BN) to throw the state assembly into disarray. To the ordinary rakyat, the solution is obvious. By calling for fresh polls, one can end a complex problem via simple means. To the ordinary rakyat, because of the ruling coalition’s apparent reluc- tance to agree to fresh polls, they would rather believe claims by PR that the ruling coalition is afraid of losing. But as the ordinary rakyat is not privy to discussions among politicians and be- tween the ruler and political leaders, everything is a matter of speculation. This brings us back to the maxim that perception is everything. In an attempt to soothe battered and bruised images, the right thing to do would be to go with the wishes of the masses. This would be the fast- est route towards ending the deadlock which has brought the silver state to a standstill for the last three months, scaring off investors and giving rise to a civil service which may become a law onto itself as the chain of command is fluid. On that note, the prime minister’s act in holding out an olive branch to his political rivals by invit- ing them for talks is laudable and must be taken advantage of. And if they do sit down for talks, it would be pertinent that the agenda is what is best for the people who are fed up with the constant politicking since the last general election. It is time to put aside differences, look for the solution which is best for Malaysia, particularly Perak, so that all Malaysians can get on with our lives.

Sorry, but it was

a black day

MY interest in the democracy of our country began during the 1995 general election campaign. Added to the mix of the usual playground fight-

ing at the Alice Smith School was a new excuse to divide:

political parties. Among 12-year-olds, party choice was determined mostly by how close you lived to a party leader, and all the Ampang kids, including my Scot- tish friend, supported Ku Li and drew S46 logos in homework books. Interest in politics lay dormant until I was in the Lower Sixth in England, after I was appointed house representative for Amnesty International and roped in to organise letters calling for the release of prisoners of conscience. They had deemed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as falling in this category, and soon my housemaster received a call from the Malaysian Students Department asking about me. In any case I had to quit Amnesty to focus on my A-Levels:

in History I was studying the causes of the English Civil War and committed to memory Speaker Lenthall’s reply when Charles I tried to arrest MPs in the House of Commons. Later at university in London, I was extremely excited to learn that citizens of Commonwealth countries could vote in British elections (including for the European Parliament), and indeed that Malaysian students before me – includ- ing past prime ministers – had partici- pated in politics in the UK. So I followed suit, and I chose the Conservative Party. In Britain itself, it was clearly the

Abiding Times by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz
Abiding
Times
by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz

cedures. Wow, I thought, backbench MPs can improve the lives of their constituents. That is why I established the Malaysia Think Tank’s Backbench- ers’ Research and Analysis Service: to enhance the capacity of backbenchers to serve their constituents, without regard to political party. After a stint at the World Bank, in which I witnessed the insidiousness of corruption and the extent of sheer deca- dence in assorted countries’ political and bureaucratic systems, I became even more convinced of the need for limited but effective government. Strong check and balance institutions, rule of law, accountability and intelligent decentrali- sation were some of the best antidotes to poor governance. In Malaysia we already have the historical narrative of constitutionalism dating back to at least 1326 and the legal framework to install all the things that good governance requires, but yet we stall, for whatever reasons – real or imagined – that some of our politicians attribute. So what happened on May 7 in Perak was a shameful day for our democracy. It was a disgrace that the regent had to wait five hours. To see the police “invade” the august chamber was heartbreaking. It utterly violated the spirit of separation of powers. And it insulted the courage of Speaker Lenthall, who on behalf of all future Westminster assemblies, had “neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak” but as the House directed him. If the obduracy of the parties contin- ues to lengthen this debacle, the costs to taxpayers and to democracy will spiral further. Though I maintain that the root cause of all this is the insufficiently democratic method in which candidates are selected – which weakens their loy- alty to their constituents – all our noble institutions have been besmirched. I read what my childhood political figure living in Ampang says, and perhaps geographical proximity is no longer the only reason to support him.

Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is director of the Malaysia Think Tank (www.waubebas. org).

party of freedom: it supplied the prime ministers who abolished the slave trade, repealed the protectionist

Corn Laws, beat the Nazis,

and defeated the Commu- nists. But it was also a party whose members helped our country after World War II: during the Malayan Union debacle, it was Conservatives like David Gammans, John Foster and Lord Marchwood who assisted opposition to the Malayan Union. Even after Merdeka and Malaysia Day (supported by many Conservatives), it was with Edward Heath’s government that we signed the Five Power Defence Arrangement which continues to be to our strategic benefit. And while Margaret Thatcher and John Major visited Malaysia as prime minister, Tony Blair only came after he resigned. At the same time, I encountered the various Malaysian political party clubs in London, but they all seemed vicious or ingratiating, so I was content to serve at my university’s mainly social club with a sprinkling of intellectual activity. Simultaneously, my political philosophy modules convinced me firmly of the principles of individual liberty and free trade: principles which seemed to naturally complement my adat and my religion. Working in the Houses of Parliament was a hugely satisfying experience: I helped to amend legislation, solved a myriad of constituents’ problems and worked on projects which forced the government to improve flawed pro-

solved a myriad of constituents’ problems and worked on projects which forced the government to improve

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