In response to “Debating with Idiots” by Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Now, I understand where RPK is coming from. His passion is clear but I think it is misplaced.

By AsamLaksa

Firstly, I am a latecomer to the debate and some of my points may have been thrashed out already.

It’s the same argument I hear among the British anti-monarchists. It’s a populist notion that the British monarchy wastes millions every year for no apparent return. However, though they may cost millions, the British monarchy provides the UK with unprecedented prestige as unofficial ambassadors. This is something that no other country in the world can buy even if they paid billions. At the heart of it many people have romantic notions of royalty up to the point where many all over the world were affected by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. There are also increasing numbers of popular culture and fiction involving modern day or fantastical royalty be it in a South Korean TV series, fascination with popular vampire hierarchy, mainstream romance films and so on. 

Malaysia is a different cake. First, let me list problems faced by the Malaysian monarchy.

  1. One Agong but nine royal houses
  • There lacks a sense of permanence of whom the head of state is as it changes every 5 years. It is difficult to generate the sort of devotion to an office rather than towards a person.
  1. Lack of public role of the royalty
  •  The royalty of Thailand, England, Japan and Holland play active public roles playing advocates of certain issues such as the green issues and poverty alleviation.
  1. Royal misdemeanours
  •  Potentially damaging depending on what the wrongdoings are and who does it. Brawls among minor royals usually bear little consequences.
  1. Constitutional monarchy inaction
  •  Constitutional monarchs’ powers are limited by the constitution so they can’t interfere with government. Not a big issue.
  1. Lack of prestige
  •  A constitutional monarch can influence government and society but to do this they need a certain prestige to make their voice loud. I am afraid the royalty in Malaysia lacks this.

So, why have the monarchy at all, or on the flip side why get rid of the monarchy?

If you look at usefulness, a constitutional monarch’s official role is superfluous; somebody else can do it. Why bother? There isn’t really a gap that they need to fill in. He is the head of the army but don’t expect him in the planning room. They are not even needed now to pass legislation. The gap they fill in, in Malaysia is symbolic. I can place a price for that. It’s not a race or religious issue as someone wrongly pointed out because they are not an issue to the pro-abolishment. I suspect race and religion is a bigger issue for the pro-monarchists, perhaps as assurances of their relevance in challenging times.

But why get rid of them? Cost is the most popular answer. Next is the misdeeds of a few of them. Both are equally valid. RPK’s position is one of relative cost which I think is misplaced because you wouldn’t want to keep paying a monthly subscription to a service that has little use even though it is a tiny portion of your monthly budget.

By the way, the constitution can always be changed with consent (mechanism for it exists) or with a revolution (comparatively peaceful or violent) so it’s not a good retort.

My position is more inclined towards keeping the monarchy because I was brought up to respect the Agong as a symbol of a sovereign Malaysia. I do harbour romantic ideas of a just, benevolent monarchy (blame it on too much fantasy reading as a child or simply overly romantic). However I am amenable to reason and the way things are progressing, the Malaysian royalty is losing my support every day.

The issue goes deep for many, well past the balance sheet and I think many if not most Malaysians have never personally explored deep enough (just like when it comes to faith and race).