Back to the people

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Congratulations are due to the High Court and Chief Minister Nizar (and not to mention Speaker Sivakumar, whose coolness under pressure will earn him a cameo appearance in the nation’s history books for sure), but let us return to the original demand that was articulated three months ago: Let the People of Perak decide once and for all, decisively – for it is they and only they who can resolve this crisis with any popular legitimacy, says Farish Noor. Let the people of Perak decide, call for state elections now!

With the High Court deciding that Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin was and is, after all, the rightful Chief Minister of Perak we seem to have returned to square one all over again. Obviously it is too soon to tell whether the imbroglio in Perak will now wind down to a stagnant non-issue, or whether the Barisan Nasional will not allow the matter to rest and take the issue to the Federal Court next. Perakians – like most Malaysians – are a trifle tired of the ongoing drama but at the same time no-one can afford to relent at this stage due to the stakes in the contest.

To underscore this fact, one simply has to take a peek at the video clips that are on the internet at the moment and witness the unseemly spectacle of Speaker Sivakumar being unceremoniously manhandled and dragged out of the State Assembly. No, my friends, this was not a scene from ‘The Last King of Scotland’, the film about the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin Dada that brought Uganda to the level of primordial violent madness. This was closer to home, happening right here in Malaysia, ‘Truly Asia’…

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But this historian would like to record a few little milestones that were passed along the way over the past three months for posterity’s sake, so that Malaysians – and Malaysian politicians in particular – will not forget those moments of discursive slippage and rhetorical hyperbole that we are wont to dismiss as flashes in the pan. The danger that we face now is that our country is reeling through a roller-coaster ride of ridiculous outrages of such frequency that we are liable to forget the occasional bout of madness that may in the long run come back to haunt us.

For a start, let us remember that when the crisis in Perak began to rear its ugly head, there were some bold but not too beautiful young politicians who were wont to rally their followers with cries of treason and betrayal. We should not forget the role played by some politicians like Khairy Jamaluddin who galvanised his followers with talk of betrayal of tradition and with loaded questions like ‘In the past what did we do to traitors’ (To which the crowd answered ‘kill, kill, kill’…)

Three months have passed and we are all in need of a massive dose of panadol by this stage, but please – for history and posterity’s sake, let us commit this fact to memory: That some politicians were seen publicly denouncing the Chief Minister of Perak and were present at public rallies where the cry of death and violence were publicly uttered. Historians, take note – and file under the category ‘For Future Reference’.

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Then there was the spectacle where an assembly had to be held outside the State Assembly itself, and after which the tree under which the meeting had gathered was also implicated by default in the legal controversy itself. Perhaps for the first time in living memory, the flora and fauna of Malaysia was seen and cast as active characters in the political drama of Malaysia, and taken to book as well. Historians, take note and file under the category ‘Strange but True’.

Then came the allegation that magic spells and magicians have been drawn into the fray and that the political stalemate in Perak was to be decided via means akin to the hocus-pocus we have come to expect from the ‘Star Wars’ saga, what with the Force thrown in (and I’m not referring to the riot police) as well. Historians, take note and file under the category ‘Unclassifiable/Bizarre’.

The High Court’s decision, however, now means that Nizar was after all the rightful Chief Minister all along, which begs the question: what, then, was the mess of the last three months all about? As we were made to watch this toxic soap opera unfold before our eyes, Malaysians were reduced to the status of passive observers to a comedy of errors that could have been resolved from the outset had there been an agreement to have fresh state-level elections to decide on the membership and composition of the State Assembly. Again it has to be stated (historians take note) that the Pakatan Rakyat went as far as signalling their readiness to accept the results of a fresh (and open, honest and transparent) state-level election, even if it meant getting a reduced majority or losing that majority in the end.

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This historian is running out of paper and patience while recording the goings-on in Perak and the rest of Malaysia, and yet the task of the historian is to remind us of such human comedy and error lest they repeat themselves again in the near future. While one is tentative thankful to the High Court for taking the bold stand that it took, one is nonetheless angered by the sheer beligerence, high-handedness and contempt for public opinion of those who felt that this graceless power-grab could have been enacted in full public view in the first place. Congratulations are due to the High Court and Chief Minister Nizar (and not to mention Speaker Sivakumar, whose coolness under pressure will earn him a cameo appearance in the nation’s history books for sure), but let us return to the original demand that was articulated three months ago: Let the People of Perak decide once and for all, decisively – for it is they and only they who can resolve this crisis with any popular legitimacy. Let the people of Perak decide, call for state elections now!

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