Monday, 30 March 2009

What If...

In the poker game of life, one has to contend with politics and in politics, as with the hidden hand in poker, one can only assume who is in control of the game. Post UMNO AGM, we are seemingly witnessing a political endgame of sorts and for some politicians, the end seems nigh. Whose hidden hand is controlling I wonder. Are we going to see a Royal Flush topping a Full House? Will we see the collapsing of a house of cards? Please read today's headlines in conjunction with the Northern Prince's latest blogposts (posted before UMNO AGM):

Bernama Report:
Abdullah Guarantees That Transition Will Happen

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the transition process of handing over the premiership to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will happen in due course."Just wait for that. Don't ask me to say anything. All these things will happen in due course," he said to reporters after launching the Puncak Baru project in conjunction with the redevelopment of Kampung Baru weekend market, here today.At the conclusion of the Umno General Assembly on Saturday, Abdullah said he sould seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin this Thursday on his intention to step down as the Prime Minister.-- BERNAMA

The Star Report:

Abdullah: Transition of power will happen in due course

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has urged the media to be patient about the date of the power transition to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Speaking to reporters at Kampung Baru here on Monday, the Prime Minister said the handing over of power to Najib would “happen in due course".

"Don't ask me to say anything. Be patient. All things will happen.

"The transition will happen in due course," he added.

He told this to reporters, when asked if it was true that he would hand over the Premiership to Najib on Thursday after the audience with the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Abdullah also chided the Opposition for starting personal attacks on Najib in the run-up to the three by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

"I myself have never indulged in accusations. This is a bad approach, which has never been my way," he added.

Tengku Razaleigh says (23rd March 2009):

How a new government is formed

In a recent interview I was quoted as saying that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong could appoint someone other than the man nominated by the party. The fact that this was reported as “news” shows how far we as a country have drifted from the principles set out in our Constitution.

Let us understand very clearly the transitional situation we are in.

  1. The incumbent Prime Minister is about to resign as he has solemnly promised to by the end of this month.
  2. On the appointed day (which like so many things in this administration remains a mystery) the Prime Minister will tender his resignation and that of his cabinet to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. With this the government of the day comes to an end.
  3. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong will appoint the next Prime Minister at his sole discretion from among the members of the elected lower house of Parliament, the Dewan Rakyat. His Majesty’s choice is guided by his own judgment of who among the members “commands the confidence” of a majority the members of parliament.
  4. The new Prime Minister will name his cabinet and form the next government.
  5. The Agong’s choice may at any time be tested by a vote of confidence in the Dewan Rakyat. If the Prime Minister is rejected by the Dewan, the King will have to re-appoint another person.
As there has been much confusion on this point let me re-state it:
The Yang Dipertuan Agong has sole and absolute discretion in how he forms his judgment as to who in the Dewan Rakyat commands the confidence of the majority. The choice is his alone.
The choice is absolute but not arbitrary, since it is guided by the Constitution. The right is the Agong’s alone, but it can any time afterwards be tested by the Dewan Rakyat.
This system is democratic in that it provides for the Dewan Rakyat and the Ruler to check and balance each other’s powers in an orderly manner. The participants in this process are the Ruler and the individual members of parliament. Within the Dewan Rakyat, each member is accountable to his constituents as an individual. Political parties do not enter this description. The Agong’s concern is solely for the rakyat. In his formal capacity, His Majesty sees each member of the House only as representing his subjects in a particular constituency. This is why MP’s are referred to only by the constituencies they represent. Their party affiliation is no consideration at all.
Let me draw on some implications of this understanding of how our governments are formed.
  1. Whatever undertakings the present prime minister has made with his deputy or with his party about his successor are external to the constitutional process. To think otherwise is to imagine that the prime ministership is a private property to be passed on from one potentate to another at whim. The behaviour of some leaders might have conveyed this unfortunate impression, and caused the public to find the party arrogant and out of touch.
  2. The fact that the President of UMNO has also been appointed as Prime Minister is only a convention, as Tun Dr Mahathir, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz have asserted recently. This convention was based on the assumption of Umno’s absolute dominance of Parliament. That condition no longer holds.
  3. Statements in the media that it is the right of Umno and BN to dictate to the Yang Dipertuan Agong who should be Prime Minister deny the constitutional right of the Yang Dipertuan Agong, and deprive him of perhaps the most important of his few discretionary powers. Such statements turn the Agong’s role into a rubber stamp for the decisions of a political party. I am waiting for Umno to strongly denounce such statements, especially as we have recently rediscovered our concern for the rights of the Rulers.
Over the last quarter century, the rulers, like the legislature, the judiciary, the police, the universities and all our major public institutions, have had their powers systematically curtailed and their immunities removed to make way for unruly executive power. In the process, fundamental principles such as the separation of powers have been ignored. Umno itself has not been spared this process as it has become autocratic and top-down to the dismay of millions of ordinary members.
Over time the rakyat have been so conditioned to the abuse of executive power that many have forgotten that the government is more than the prime minister and his cabinet. Many have forgotten how a properly functioning government works and what the rule of law looks like. Perhaps this is why it is news to some that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has an independent role to play, just as the judiciary and the legislature do.
Malaysia has fallen into a spiral of institutional and economic decline. If we are to save this country from long term and increasingly tragic deterioration, the next government appointed by the Yang di-pertuan Agong must not only be fully committed to restoring the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Rulers to their proper dignity and independence, it must be seen by the Malaysian public to be capable of doing so.

Tengku Razaleigh says (25th March 2009):

We should all come clean

Yesterday I gave an interview to Sarah Stewart, the Bureau Chief of AFP in Malaysia. Among the questions she asked me was the unavoidable question about the international scandal linking Dato’ Seri Najib Razak with the murder of Altantuya Sharibuu and with the purchase of the Scorpene submarines.

I told Sarah that in my long experience as a politician the only way to clear one’s name when a scandal has broken out around oneself is to meet it head on in the court of law. The BMF scandal of the 1980’s also had its share of lurid detail. There too a large sum of money and a murder was involved. An unseen hand had woven the threads of the story around me to destroy me politically. But when international newspapers alleged that I was involved in any wrongdoing, I took action against each and every one of them in their home jurisdictions.

I sued The Telegraph and The Sunday Times of the UK, and The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong. I won all three cases, the newspapers published unreserved apologies and printed retractions covering half a broadsheet page each, and I came away with a tidy sum of money for my trouble.

It is safe to say that in the international media, the incoming Umno President and the presumptive Prime Minister is being evaluated through the Altantuya scandal. The UK’s Sunday Times, the International Herald Tribune, the French daily, LibĂ©ration, The Australian Financial Review, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the New York Times have all published stories raising questions about the link between the murdered young woman, Dato’ Seri Najib, and the gigantic commission paid out by the French company Armaris to a Malaysian company for the purchase of submarines. This is now an international story.

And this story will not go away. With its dramatic details and the alleged involvement of elite Malaysian government operatives, it captures the journalistic imagination. But the story is now connected with an ongoing investigation into the dealings of a major French company. The story is also going to stick around because it is a handy looking-glass into Malaysia’s “increasingly dysfunctional political system.” It implicates our entire system of government, our judiciary, and our press, and it casts a shadow on our ability as a nation to face and tell the truth. Against this backdrop promises of reform ring hollow. The storyline of the New York Times article, for example, is that scandal-clouded succession reveals a once confident young country shaken to its foundations by institutional rot. I cannot say this is inaccurate.

The scandal is bringing shame to the nation and damaging our international credibility. For the honour of the nation, for the honour of the office of prime minister, for the honour of the sovereign institutions expected to endorse, confirm and lend authority to him should he become prime minister according to Umno’s plans, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak should finally face these suspicions and implied charges, submit himself to legal scrutiny, and come clean on them.

Swearing on the Al-Quran is not the way out. Scoundrels have been known to do that. The truth, established through the rigorous and public scrutiny of the law, is the only remedy if an untrue story has gained currency not just internationally but at home among a large section of the people.

Najib should voluntarily offer to testify at the trial of the two officers charged with killing Altantuya Sharibuu. He could also write to these newspapers and if necessary he should take legal action against them to clear his name and that of our country.

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