And the debate continues (UPDATED with Chinese and BM Translation)

Australia has gone through this same debate before. Does Australia ‘kick out’ the Queen and declare itself a Republic or does it retain the Queen as ‘Head of State’? The only difference between Australia and Malaysia (other than that the Queen lives in England and not Australia while Malaysia’s Agong lives in Malaysia and not England) is that in Australia they are matured enough to debate this issue while in Malaysia it is a crime under the Sedition Act to suggest we abolish the Monarchy in favour of a Republic


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The main grievance against the Monarchy appears to be the issue of the cost involved in retaining it. Okay, let us hypothetically argue that we retain the Malaysian Monarchy but they shall not be paid any salary. Yes, the Agong, the seven Sultans (Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan) and the Raja of Perlis and Yamtuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan (a total of nine state Rulers and one Federal Head of State) will be retained but will not be paid any salary.

Does that now solve the problem?

Okay, how then do these ten Monarchs survive? They need to eat. They need to pay the salaries of their staff and servants. They need to pay for their water, electricity, telephone charges and whatnot, just like any of us. Maybe they have a higher standard of living and therefore incur a higher cost but they still need to live. How do they pay their living cost?

I suppose, since they are now no longer salaried Monarchs, we would no longer be able to bar them from doing business. We would have to allow them to become contractors and developers and whatnot. Maybe some would set up Nonya restaurants or launderettes and earn a modest income from that. Whatever it is, they would have to join the rat race and compete with the rest of us to put food on the table. They certainly can’t seek employment as VCD salesmen. Imagine one of the Rulers walking along Bukit Bintang selling VCDs. They would have no dignity left and would be smearing the image of the institution of the Monarchy.

Now, you might argue that maybe we should just abolish the Monarchy altogether and that would solve the problem of how they get to eat. If we retain unsalaried Monarchs then we would have to allow them to do business (as certainly they can’t work as employees in factories or offices or as salesmen, waiters, etc.). So, to solve the problem, we just do away with the Monarchy altogether.

That too can be considered. But this would open up another can of worms.

Malaysia is now split into pro-Barisan Nasional and pro-Pakatan Rakyat. And it is almost an equal split of 50:50 going by the results of the last general election in March 2008. That split would disappear and Malaysia would now be split into pro-Republic and pro-Monarchy forces. Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat would sort of disappear (not literally of course but figure of speech) and in its place would emerge the Royalists and the Republicans.

The Republicans, to a large extent, would be the non-Malays with of course quite a fair percentage of Malay support. The Royalists would be mainly Malays with some non-Malay support. The military would most likely be with the Royalists since the nine state Monarchs are Chiefs of the various branches of the Armed Forces while the Agong is Commander-in-Chief of the entire Armed Forces.

Malaysian politics would revert to what it used to be back in the 1960s with one race on one side of the political divide and the other races on the opposite side. No doubt, even back in the 1960s there were a number of Malays with the opposition and non-Malays with the Alliance Party of Umno, MCA and MIC. However, by and large, you could say that pro-government meant Malay (including the military) while anti-government meant non-Malay. (Ever wonder why the army was with Umno in the race riots that ensued soon after?)

I have been accused of ‘defending’ the Monarchy because I am from the ‘royal family’. Me, who is persona non grata in the Selangor Palace? Do you know that the Sultan of Selangor whacked me in public in the presence of the Selangor State Government officers plus also the IGP, Musa Hassan, who was beaming from ear to ear, very delighted to see his enemy getting blasted by no less than the Sultan himself?

I am no Royalist. I can support the idea of a Republic any time. But I am also a realist. And the reality of the situation is we have come a long way over more than 40 years since the 1960s to unite Malaysians, not along racial lines, but according to ideology. It is the mission and vision that counts, not the colour of your skin. But there are three things that would unite the Malays along racial lines and tear down what we have built since March 2008. And those three things are Islam, the Malay language, and the Raja-raja Melayu.

The Malays have taken that first step into non-race-based politics. It took more than 50 years but finally the Malays have been able to discard the race agenda in favour of the bigger agenda of good governance. Maybe it is still only 49% of the Malays while 51% of the Malays are still clinging to the ‘old ways’. But it is a far departure from what used to be and a giant leap forward as far as I am concerned.

We have managed to drag the Malays out of their cocoon. We have succeeded in teaching them that civil liberties and good governance is the way to go, not race. That is a huge ‘culture shock’ for most Malays and many are still wondering whether they did the right thing on 8 March 2008 by voting for the opposition and thereby allowing the Chinese (meaning DAP and some in PKR) to gain a foothold in Penang, Perak and Selangor.

You might say that Gerakan, MCA and MIC (meaning non-Malays) also ‘shared power’ when Barisan Nasional was ruling those states. But everyone knows that Barisan Nasional means Umno while in Pakatan Rakyat there is no Malay boss so to speak and all are equal. (Just see how Anwar and PAS gets whacked whereas in Barisan Nasional would any of the non-Umno leaders dare do the same? They do and they ‘die’, as has been proven time and again)

It will take at least another generation or two for the Malays to become comfortable with talk of abolishing the Monarchy and turning Malaysia into a Republic. In time that will certainly happen because Monarchies, even Constitutional Monarchies, are relics of the past. So we would probably no longer see Monarchies come the year 2100. I will be very old by then of course considering I will be 60 by 2010. But it will happen and maybe long after I, and the rest of you, are dead and buried.

One step at a time. We have come a long way since Merdeka in 1957. And we still have a long way to go. It took 50 years for the Malays to reject race-based politics. It may take another 50 years for the Malays to reject the rest such as their feudalistic attitude and sentiments of days of old.

In fact, this is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s greatest complaint about the Malays. The Malays are too feudalistic, said Mahathir. And that is why he failed in his two attempts to cut down the power of the Rulers back in the 1980s. The Malays, other than only some in Umno, would not support Mahathir during the Constitutional Crisis and he had no choice but to back down and admit defeat.

And that is still the same today.

The most important thing to understand is that the call to end the Monarchy must not come from the non-Malays. We have to let this be what the Malays want. And it will happen, in time. If the Malays fight to remove the Monarchy then there will be some but very little resistance. But if it comes from the non-Malays, and now, before the Malays are ready, the Malays would resist it and this would result in us sending the Malays back to Umno and we would undo everything that we have achieved thus far.

It is not about money even though to many Malaysia Today readers it is just about that, the money. It is about the sentimental attitude of the Malays towards their Raja-raja Melayu. But, as I said, that is beginning to change. Remember when they kicked out the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak and swore in Barisan Nasional as the new government? It was the Malays and not the non-Malays who assembled in Bukit Chandan after Friday prayers and lay down on the road to block the Sultan’s car from getting to the palace and threw stones at the Sultan’s entourage. It was all Malays, not non-Malays.

Would you have seen something like this, say even two years ago? Could you have imagined Malays defying the Sultan and lying down on the road to block his car and throwing stones at the Sultan’s car? Today, that has happened. And it took hundreds of years for that to happen. So give time for the rest to happen as well.

Malaysia will have to change, one day. And then the Malays will also have to change. All those relics of the past would soon enough be removed. But we need time for that to happen. And we are talking about the Raja-raja Melayu. So we have to allow time for the Melayu to be ready to remove their Raja-raja.

In France it was the French who removed their Monarchy. In China it was the Chinese. In India it was the Indians. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, it will have to be the Malays and not Malaysians who remove the Monarchy. Any other way would create more damage than good from abolishing the Monarchy.

That is my take on the Republic versus the Monarchy debate. And it is not about the money.

Translated into Chinese at:

Translated into BM at: