Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy in lockstep: gently does it

There are four significant differences between Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s September 2020 press conference and the one in 2008

THE ebullient mood of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s press conference on September 23, 2020 will go down as one of those events that marked a gentle turning point in Malaysian history. Why?

First of all, some called it a “break or make moment” in his political career. Granted, comparisons were made to his similar pronouncement in 2008 when Anwar said he had the parliamentary majority but was deprived of the chance to show it in full flush. But politics, on those occasions when the people are fed up with the status quo, does exhibit signs of the people themselves wanting to bend the arc of history. After all, it is in their self-interest to do so. They have their retirement, savings, children and grandchildren to protect, as all of us age day by day.

Second, soon after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with His Majesty, the latter gracefully invited Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the Member of Parliament of Gua Musang to meet him.– Bernama filepic,

There are four significant differences between the September 2020 press conference and the 2008 announcement which are worthy of mention and suggest there is more than meets the eye, contrary to what James Chin, at University of Tasmania, seems to have jested in his tweet that “nothing will happen”.

First and foremost, the royal audience of October 13, despite lasting 25 minutes, was enough to register a key breakthrough. The King may or may not want to see the full list of the MPs who have crossed the aisle to join Anwar, but His Majesty seems to have intuitively understood that Malaysians, in general, are not happy with the current situation with respect to the government’s handling of Covid-19. Thus, in his royal statement after meeting Anwar on the same day, more than 3/4 of the royal statement carried the full weight of the people’s concern.

One must also acknowledge that in the time that elapsed from September 23 until October 13 the Palace would have had time to conduct its own due diligence to verify if Anwar’s claims were mostly true, somewhat true or not true at all. Otherwise – why take the risk of wading into these troubled waters? If this report is to believed, then indeed there was active and comprehensive behind-the-scenes communication taking place throughout the episode.

Whether one sees Anwar Ibrahim as an opposition leader or a prime ministerial aspirant, the fact is there has been some serious connection. The palace understands the opposition bench, as represented by Anwar Ibrahim, is duly worried with further mishandling of Covid-19 by the government of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, not to mention the failure to conjure up any real plan of reviving the economy. The fact that Anwar could get into the palace, in turn drawing His Majesty’s attention on Covid-19, suggests the meeting of the minds in some forms.

Second, soon after Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with His Majesty, the latter gracefully invited Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the MP for Gua Musang to meet him. Why was Tengku Razaleigh chosen above all else? Simple. Ku Li, as he is widely known, has clocked in the most number of decades as MP from Kelantan and is one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the world. Why not seek some clarity from the fount of wisdom? Besides, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had been the interim prime minister before during the turbulent Sheraton Move.

Better the wise counsel of someone not directly involved in the current political machinations than the obverse.

Third, unlike 2008, Anwar Ibrahim actually made it to the Palace, 24 hours ahead of the lockdown of Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, three of which form the nerve centre of the government. The Royal Palace was graceful enough to not backtrack, unlike the fate received by the president of Amanah, Mohammad Sabu, and secretary-general of Democratic Action Party (DAP) Lim Guan Eng whose royal invites were postponed. Now, not only did Anwar Ibrahim make it to the palace, he was allowed to hold a press conference on what he had said to His Majesty. If political science is akin to physics, these two events marked a “quantum leap” in the democratic history of Malaysia, as opposed to two decades or one decade ago when Anwar had to take many evasive actions before he could even reach the palace to hand in a petition outside of the gate! If this is not progress, one does not know what is.

Fourth, to those who are not familiar with palace protocol, if and when His Majesty is displeased, the next statement that follows from him would be : “Beta berasa murka”. Lo and behold, His Majesty is offended. The King was not angry. Neither was His Majesty inert to the point of immobility. The Palace agreed to initiate a process to meet more party leaders as the state lockdown, which shocked even the Chief Minister of Selangor, was imposed with immediate effect at 12.01am on October 14.

Now, one can say this is total humbug. A yawn. Nothing achieved is nothing achieved. Let’s not give it any more spin. In other words, one can take the line of the eminent grise of Professor James Chin – nothing much to see here.

But look more closely. While the good professor further tweeted that he could sleep well on October 13, His Majesty’s statement totally indicated he should not; this coming from His Majesty who just recovered from the National Heart Institute. The fact that between October 1 and October 14, Malaysia has seen an explosion of high three-digit cases of Covid-19 is enough to cause a national pandemonium. Yesterday alone, there were more than 660 cases. Even this writer can’t sleep well.

So, when nothing immediate comes out from the meeting between the King and Anwar, those MPs who threatened to walk out on their own party president must not be thinking of the welfare of the people, but themselves. If they were altruistic people’s representatives, they would try to understand the vector of transmission, the variables in the four strains of Sars Cov II discovered so far, and they would unite to suss out from the 170 vaccines which 44 have made it to the third stage of the human trials. And these vaccines, if and when they are effective, may come with strings attached.

Malaysians are on pins and needles as we are in the midst of a third wave. For those familiar with Orson Welles’ imaginary alien attacks on the good old wild west of America, Malaysians should know that the proverbial needle is moving. Either the government stems the third wave, and stops it completely, or let His Majesty mull over who is the ultimate one who has won the majority of the parliament is.

By : Phar Kim Beng (Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena Private Limited) – The Vibes

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