You know what the 3 Aduns did last March?
Written by Helen Ang (Centre for Policy Initiatives)
Thursday, 12 February 2009 20:30
In tandem with the rapid fire developments in Perak, the media itself is also being cast an intriguing role. Even whilst it reports, it has become a topic reported about too.
The Home Ministry seized almost 20,000 copies of Suara Keadilan which frontpaged the Perak constitutional crisis, PKR information chief Tian Chua told a press conference yesterday.
Copies of Harakah bearing the banner headline ‘SPR memihak BN’ (Election Commission sides with BN) were seized in a few states as well. Malaysiakini reported that distributors have been warned not to sell the PAS bi-weekly newsletter.
The Home Ministry confirmed that it launched an operation to seize the publications – a move questioned by Tian Chua who challenged: “Tell us why. You can’t just go around confiscating from distributors”.
Media watchdogs would be similarly keen to hear the official reasons given on why Suara Keadilan (Feb 4-11) and Harakah (Feb 6-8 ) warrant seizure. If the ministry could provide an explanation as to what content was deemed unacceptable, then the same set of criteria might be applied to the less than satisfactory mainstream media.
As it is, the authorities’ high-handed ban only deprives Malaysians of their right to information, and comparing news coverage with mainstream spin.
No informed citizenry
‘Perak cabar SPR ke mahkamah’ (Perak challenges EC to court) was the front page story in the Suara Keadilan issue confiscated by the authorities. The newsletter’s other articles touched on a range of issues arising from the Umno takeover, which the federal government does not care to have Malaysians – the PKR party organ claims a circulation of 150,000 – learn more about.
Police ban on political ceramah in Perak is another obstruction to information dissemination as Pakatan Rakyat has been going on roadshows to clarify how it was toppled, seeing as the coalition has little access or avenues through the much vaunted ‘proper channels’ for their say.
Malaysiakini conducted a straw poll asking, ‘Do you agree or disagree with Sultan Azlan Shah in the transfer of power in Perak?’ The survey drew some 40,000 respondents; 88 percent were against the Sultan’s decision. Interestingly enough, 2.4 percent or 932 individuals answered: ‘Don’t know’.
The ‘dunnos’ could have been better informed to hold an opinion if our country harboured a freer media climate.
Harakah – February edition seized – contained two articles illuminating on a factor that provides food for thought. One was a full page interview with Perak PAS head of information Ustaz Misbahul Munir Masduki who is political secretary to embattled Menteri Besar Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin.
Misbahul revealed that the two PKR and one DAP state assemblymen (Aduns) for Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang respectively had in March 2008 signed a pledge of loyalty to Nizar upon the insistence of Perak Crown Prince Raja Nazrin Shah as a pre-condition for the ruling house installing a Pakatan state government, following the closely fought 12th general election.
A page two story in the same Harakah paper quoted Perak PAS state commissioner Ustaz Ahmad Awang as accusing the defecting Aduns of ‘treason’ to the Sultan when they broke their oath of loyalty to Nizar (as contained in the March 2008 written pledge submitted to the sovereign).
Raising this moral point throws an ethical dimension into the current debate of legalities and technicalities hotly contended by legal experts and political pundits.
BN and Pakatan in Perak are deadlocked at 28 seats each, with three held by the newly declared ‘independents’ – Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu and Hee Yit Foong – tilting the balance of power.
Only 10 months ago in their undertakings to Raja Nazrin, the trio had promised their support to Nizar and Pakatan. What is to say the same crossover-three’s-company might not present themselves before the royals in, say, 10 months from now with another change of heart?
Furthermore, two of the ‘independent’ Aduns are presently dancing a tango with the court on corruption charges and the possibility of having to vacate their seats if guilty still hangs in the air. It is indeed a strange definition of ‘independence’ if these Aduns throwing their lot with BN have assured the palace that they would vote along the ‘dacing’ party line on all occasions.
But in any case, blessings had been given Umno to proceed to form a new state government on short order and Umno’s Zambry Abdul Kadir sworn in as Menteri Besar at equally lightning speed.
Election lessons from Israel
In this Perak episode, Malaysians have earned ourselves the distinction of being far, far more efficient than the Jews, and this is truly something to shout about.
Israel held its election on Tuesday and as I write this, nearly all the votes have been counted. Kadima, the party led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, won 28 seats. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party Likud won 27.
Well, what do you know? In a previous column in Malaysiakini, I did say Malaysia is somewhat like Israel in some ways.
Kadima snagged the largest number of seats but Livni may miss the cut to be appointed Prime Minister. Just like how DAP won the biggest seat total under Pakatan colours (Umno held the most seats as a single party) but its state chairman Ngeh Koo Ham did not get to become Chief Minister.
The post of Israeli PM may go Netanyahu’s way instead if he can cobble together a coalition from the right wing bloc, and commanding the Knesset majority plus the confidence of president Shimon Peres.
Peres will give the leader of the party he believes has the best chance of success up to 42 days to form government. A month-and-half to work out a solution when the opposing parties are evenly tied seems a reasonable period of time.
In Perak, its monarchy upholds “the principles of justice based on the sovereignty of the law, emphasising solidarity, cooperation, consensus and consultation”.
In Perak’s quicksilver democracy, the Umno state government was formed in a mere day and apparently without the said ‘cooperation, consensus and consultation’, as evidenced by the immediate political fallout.
In Perak, the residents have been suffering roadblocks and an intimidating police presence. In the rest of Malaysia, we suffer mental blocks when discussions are clamped down by threats of ‘treason’ from Umno and its redoubtable keris-waving Youth wing.