Friday, November 28, 2008

Immunity for Malay Rulers

Royal immunity,being rulers for all

The call by the Regent of Negri Sembilan, Tunku Naquiyuddin Tuanku Ja’afar, to reinstate the royal immunity so as restore full sovereignty to the constitutional monarchy should be considered seriously and pursued further by the Conference of Rulers.

Of late our political system appeared to have failed to act fairly to cater for all Malaysians regardless of race, religion and political ideology. The government institutions, judiciary and police have become subservient to the overtly dominant executive so much so that that the voice of the rakyat is ignored and their rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution blatantly denied. This is particularly so for the minority groups and the opposition that are in disagreement with the policies of the ruling party.

The people vented their frustrations on March 8 through constitutional means but that too is being ignored. They have nowhere to turn to except the Rulers who were traditionally the symbol of hope for the rakyat.Wouldn’t it be ideal to have the Rulers as the last bastion of defense for the people to seek redress for their perceived injustices.

Will the restoration of the royal immunity alone enable the constitutional monarchy to play a more effective role as guardian of the Federal Constitution, thereby safeguarding the interest of all communities? History has shown that such immunity may be abused by members of the royalty for selfish personal reasons gains. It was these abuses that led to the abolishing of their immunity in the first place.

The onus is on the royalty to allay the fears and apprehension of the people in granting such immunity. Total immunity will be prone to abuse and counter productive but a clearly defined immunity related to issues related to protecting the rights of the rakyat people may be granted to the rulers if they are to be effective guardians of the people.

The emergence of a stronger opposition at the federal and state levels and the unprecedented rule of five states by them have paved the way for a stronger role of the rulers in ensuring the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution are adhered by all parties. They have a vital role in guiding the nation towards a multiracial two-party system that may be in the making.

Despite the short-comings the people still have great loyalty and respect for the Rulers and most would abide by their decisions without question? Therefore it is essential that they are seen to be impartial and above politics at all times. As Malay Rulers they may have the special task to protect the special rights of the Malays and Islam but today, after 50 years of self rule, they must be seen as Malaysian Rulers who should safeguard the interests of all Malaysians, regardless of race, creed of political ideology.

Recent positive actions by certain members of the royalty like the Regent of Perak and the Sultans of Selangor and Terengganu have begun to earn the respect and confidence of the people for our monarchy and this should prod other rulers to follow their path. Without their liberal attitude towards democracy, the new Pakatan Rakyat governments will never have been sworn in Perak and Selangor.

Tunku Naquiyuddin rightly said that a lot of people were grateful that the country had Rulers to intervene in matters of interest because they did not want them messed up by politicians, who have a lot of self-interest and self-motivation, greed and corruption. As such the Rulers are seen as some sort of referee who can be called in to safeguard the constitution. As such the Rulers should act accordingly and not like politicians themselves.

The people’s “uprising” against the BN on March 8,due to deep dissatisfaction over many issues, had given the rulers a particularly important role as the undisputed and unbiased guardians of the interests of all the races. With or without the royal immunity they have a noble role in our democratic system which they must execute with great passion and fairness.It is time for them to shed the name from Malay Rulers to Malaysian Rulers in keeping with our vision of a multiethnic Malaysia.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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