Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Feudal terms that are out of sync with modern democracy

It would be wise to look at the issue of emergency ordinances from an overall perspective of the constitution and the common good, rather than using terms like 'derhaka'.

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The term “derhaka” or treason has been used lately in Parliament by politicians to criticise the Muhyiddin Yassin government. The term emerged after it was in public view that the emergency ordinances were revoked without the king’s consent.

While “derhaka” is used to exert maximum pressure on opponents about not respecting the king and winning political points among Malaysians, the term itself connotes political vengeance and feudalism rather than presenting the actions of the Muhyiddin government as a violation of the due collective constitutional process in a modern nation state.

The issue here is public accountability and due process where the royal institution plays a crucial role in a parliamentary democracy in getting the ordinances revoked and not merely about personal allegiances per se.

The king was right in advising the attorney-general and the law minister to follow the constitutional processes of revoking the ordinances. The due process and common good was foremost in the mind of the king besides issues related to accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, politicians do not think the same way in using divisive terms like “derhaka”.

There is a win-lose mindset at play in the context of the health and economic crisis. While it might be effective politically to label an opponent, it would only serve a partisan or an individual agenda in pursuit of short-term power, and deprive Malaysians of understanding the overall essence of the constitution that was violated.

It could also backfire in the future in the sense of equity and justice on a given constitutional issue that would basically be seen from the perception of a particular institution that supersedes all. The opposition has forgotten that it faced similar accusation during the protest against ICERD.

In the long run it would lead Malaysia back to a feudal conundrum, and I wonder what sort of reforms could emerge from it.

It would be wise to look at the emergency ordinances issue from an overall perspective of the constitution and the common good, rather than using terms like “derhaka” that merely serve a partisan interest and would backfire in the long run since the other parties would be looking out for vengeance. Vengeance limits the mind to merely looking at a part and not the whole.

It is obvious that Malaysian politicians are smart, but not wise. The bigger picture of the nation’s vision of the future seems to be lost.

Ronald Benjamin is secretary of the Association for Community and Dialogue.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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