Press statement On “The Perak Mess”

The Centre for Policy Initiatives lauds the statement by Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, that the Sultan will be “neutral, nonpartisan and free of having personal interest to ensure justice for the people”.

Amidst uncertainty surrounding the resignations of Perak state assemblymen for Behrang and Changkat Jering – Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu respectively – Raja Nazrin’s assurance that his father the Sultan of Perak has always upheld the principles of justice based on the sovereignty of the law and emphasising solidarity, cooperation, consensus and consultation, is indeed timely.

It is hoped that the national leadership will pay heed and take a leaf from the ruler’s book by similarly putting the interests of the rakyat first and foremost over political self-interest. The interests of the rakyat are best served when the pivotal and watchdog institutions of state work with scrupulous integrity and are autonomous. To borrow from Raja Nazrin’s wise words, this independence “helps in enhancing the effectiveness of the check and balance mechanism”.

Public confidence in the federal government would be greater if statutory bodies such as the Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency are set free from their political masters and provided with the independence and autonomy sorely missing. No one who has examined the dismal record of the ACA and the structure of the reconstituted body will believe that much has changed by way of the political bias and partiality of the organization.

Investigation of the two Perak state assemblymen, and their subsequently charge in Aug 25 last year for receiving bribes, has most unfortunately been turned to political opportunism by the Barisan Nasional – a fact clear to most Malaysians but apparently escaping the editors of the mainstream media, especially the NST and The Star.   

Against the backdrop of the duo’s case coming up for hearing on Feb 10 at the Ipoh Sessions Court, Jamaluddin and Mohd Osman have been under severe duress in the present climate of intense politicking. The two representatives could face a maximum of 20 years in prison if found guilty of corruption over the RM180 million housing project in Sri Iskandar.  Coffee talk throughout the country is probably now focusing on the link between the charges and the defection.    

The impartiality of the Election Commission should also come under scrutiny. Only a short while ago EC chairman Abdul Aziz Yusof  said that such “unique” circumstances prevailing in Perak would have to be studied by legal advisers and various experts in law, the Constitution and election regulations.

Yet the EC’s quick determination now that by-elections are not necessary for Behrang and Changkat Jering leaves the public to wonder if the commission has truly upheld the principles of justice. Its ruling on the invalidity of the resignation letters has been made with undue and unseemly haste.  Given the gravity of the situation, the EC’s swift but “politically correct” announcement hardly inspires any confidence. Most analysts will see it more as an expedient political manoeuvre rather than a considered and neutral finding.

It is telling of how out of touch the Barisan Nasional is with palace and public opinion when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi sees it fit to go on record to say “God willing, that may happen” on the prospect of possibly besmirched Pakatan assemblymen party-hopping. He was quoted as saying, “They want to join because they are confident of Umno’s struggle, so we will accept them.”  Presumably though after the corruption charges have been dropped!

The outgoing Prime Minister appears set on leaving office on a low note in terms of his record of political integrity and the legacy he is leaving to the nation. Sadly Abdullah’s last days in office are seeing his endorsement of events which are subverting the proper spirit and procedures of law, and fraying the fabric of moral and upright governance. He had one more chance to show his commitment to clean politics and righteous government.  He could have set for his own party, the larger Barisan Nasional, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat and other parties a higher standard on the contentious crossover issue. Unfortunately, he has remained steadfast to his “UMNO first and always” agenda rather than the national Malaysian one which he was entrusted with. “He blew it” will be the verdict of history on Abdullah’s role in transforming Malaysia for the better.    

It is imperative that the instruments and levers of state – judicial process, electoral process, civil service, official media, etc. – must not be permitted to pander to the interests of Umno and the Barisan Nasional. The more this happens, the more damning will be the downgrade in the people’s perception of the integrity of our political leaders. 

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
Director, Centre for Policy Initiatives