Thoughts on the Perak power grab

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FRU at state government building

Malaysians are intelligent enough to know that the BN has neither the majority nor the moral qualifications to lead Perak, but that it has all the weapons in its chest, observes Rani Rasiah.

Perak, the state without a government for more than two months, is now on the way to getting a legitimate government.

Following the 9 April Federal Court ruling against the Pakatan Rakyat, Umno’s Menteri Besar Zambry, filed another suit at the Federal Court to remove other possible obstacles to his assuming the chief ministership.

The only snag, however, is that for the people of Perak, ‘legitimate’ has lost its legitimacy and any number of court decisions favouring the perpetrators of the Perak crisis are not going to alter that perception. The one common sentiment that has come to rule people’s thinking following the February power grab is a deep-seated cynicism. Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing can be trusted at face value. Everything, including court decisions, is to be viewed with a double dose of suspicion.

But people have not always been that way. True, a majority of Malaysians had become highly critical of the BN government and its institutions and that translated  into votes that launched the March 8 Tsunami. But the events surrounding the coup in February hacked away at whatever little trust and respect that still remained.

Little did people suspect that the government they had thrown out through the ballot box had been scheming to return through the back door. Little did they anticipate the dark drama that would unfold in the early days of February 2009. A series of disappearances, defections, a sneaky entrance by today’s controversial premier – and the scene quickly reverted to the old days.

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People were stunned by the nightmarish turn of events. Naked Machiavellian ambition was on display. Principles and oft-touted Asian ways were pawned in the quest for power. Scant respect was paid to every legal impediment that stood in the way of the coup. The coup perpetrators were prepared to stoop to new lows in order to usurp power. The institutions responsible for safeguarding democracy let the majority of the people down.  

The February 2009 coup violated the people of Perak as well as Malaysians in general. A much-cherished and newly-won victory was abruptly wrenched away from an unsuspecting people.  The outcome of the 2008 general elections was a major accomplishment in half a century of independence and spelt hope for a two-party system.  

It is no exaggeration to say that people felt a kind of bereavement at the loss of the state, along with a sense of revulsion and anger at being cheated.

Perakians went about with an ache in their hearts and lost sleep at night, trying to make sense of what had befallen them. A cloud hung over every new day with fervent hopes and prayers for a silver lining. It was a very personal loss for people.  

Having created history at the ballot box barely a year ago, people were all of a sudden reduced to a powerless audience.  No one was listening to them anymore! No one was consulting the people in whose name the power struggle was purportedly taking place, and whom the players were fighting so incredibly hard to serve.

But important lessons were being learnt. Through all the drama, people were witnessing an interesting expose of the impotence of legislative elections: the Umno elite appear to be resorting to the Elections Commission, the police, the MACC and the courts to cancel the verdict of the majority at the polls.

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Many are now seeing that the legislature, representing the voice of the majority of the people, is not where the real power lies. This kind of democracy is a sham.   

Malaysians are intelligent enough to know that the BN has neither the majority nor the moral qualifications to lead Perak, but it has all the weapons in its chest. Whether people like it or not, it will bulldoze its way in and cling on until the next elections.

But things will never be the same again. Ruling Perak will not be smooth sailing, and a victory at the next polls for the BN is far from predictable.

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