(Letter to The Star, 15 June)

I refer to Tunku Abidin Muhriz’ piece “Concept that still appeals” (15 June).

In hoping that “the historic flavours and identities of our sultanates and states would be reinvigorated by the unprecedented scenario of different political parties […] having to compete to show their effectiveness,” does Does Tunku Abidin mean to say that Federal power should ideally devolve to, and be concentrated in, the hands of the Malay Rulers?

I note that he does not ask if there should be a reinstatement of local government elections, and that he chooses instead to relate two concerns stemming from his organisation’s research, to wit, firstly, that “having too many elected politicians at different levels of government might make it confusing for citizens (and elected representatives themselves) unused to the notion of powers being separated across different levels.”

What are we to make of this? Does he think that power should be concentrated in a particular estate, or any single estate at all? Is the average Malaysian too immature for democratic participation at all three levels of government that one should cast one’s eyes at a more traditional and absolute form of government?

Tunku Abidin then reports ”decentralised corruption” as the second concern, but does this not beg the question of whether “decentralised accountability” should be entirely absent from the considerations of the Rakyat in this matter?

In the context of Tricia Yeoh, the author whose book he was reviewing, I should like to ask on behalf of your readers if she would agree that her argument in any way favours the reinvigoration of the sultanates by way of “political competition amongst commoners”, and if this should be a positive result of her view of decentralisation.

While it seems to me increasingly fashionable that “civil society” should defer to, and even demand, monarchical activism and intervention as a means of solving political problems that are entirely the creation (and thus the responsibility) of the Rakyat, I beg to remind readers that we founded our country on wholly different principles. We are all—monarchs and commoners—bound to the Federal Constitution.

Unless I am mistaken, the spirit of our Constitution compels each of us to bear individual responsibility for our actions and intentions and not to seek solution in another.

Tunku Abidin also writes that, “it is heartening to see the political class finally re-engaging with an issue that has been championed by the Malay Rulers consistently for ages: from the objection of the Rulers […] to ever-increasing centralisation, to the coming together of the Rulers and their people in rejecting the underhanded Malayan Union.”

I beg to remind Tunku Abidin that all nine Rulers signed the MacMichael Treaties establishing the Malayan Union without reference to the Rakyat, and that it was UMNO under the leadership of Dato’ Sir Onn Jaafar that agitated and thereafter delivered them the ultimatum, as related by Harry Miller (the biographer of Tunku Abdul Rahman), that: “If the Rulers insisted on meeting the Governor [Sir Edward Gent] they would be disowned by the people, who were determined to boycott the Malayan Union.”

Yours faithfully,
U-En Ng
Kuala Lumpur

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