Friday, May 29, 2015

The role the Monarchy can play

Salleh Said Keruak

Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy based on the British Westminster system of government. Malaysia is also a constitutional monarchy just like the UK is. However, the Malaysian monarchy has a bit more powers and a wider role to play than that of the British monarchy, which is mainly ceremonial in nature.

One very important point to note is that while the UK has just one monarch, Malaysia has ten. There are nine state rulers plus the Agong, who is erroneously always referred to as the King but who is actually ‘the first amongst equals’. For all intents and purposes, Malaysia does not have a King and the term ‘Agong’ if translated into English would mean ‘Supreme’ or ‘Paramount’ and not ‘King’.

That is something most Malaysians do not understand seeing that everyone refers to the Agong as Malaysia’s King when the Agong is merely a brother-ruler and at par with or equal to the other nine state rulers but is ‘the first amongst equals’.

The Agong does not have absolute powers since he is not an absolute monarch. Above the Agong is the Conference of Rulers that discusses various issues affecting the country, religion being just one of them but not the only one.

The Agong, therefore, has to rule at the pleasure of his brother-rulers and the Conference of Rulers decides the authority and scope of what the Agong can and should do. In fact, the Agong is appointed at the pleasure of his brother-rulers who can vote him out if he does not do things on consensus although that is yet to happen ever since the system was first introduced in 1957.

Unknown to many Malaysians, Malaysia’s monarchy and Conference of Rulers is probably the most democratic system in history because a committee of rulers decides matters based on what the Federal Constitution allows and disallows. The Monarchy checks and balances Parliament and makes sure that Parliament does not violate the Constitution or any of the Malaysian laws.

As what Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said back in 1988, the Conference of ten rulers is the trustee and protector of the Constitution that guards the Constitution from abuse by the politicians and from Prime Ministers who wish to turn Malaysia into a dictatorship.

This concept of power-sharing and checks and balances was destroyed in the 1990s when Parliament passed a law that no longer made it necessary for the Agong to sign any laws. Even if the Agong refuses to sign a certain law it still automatically becomes law anyway. This reduced the monarchy to one without any teeth.

Parliament needs to correct this and to restore the powers of the Agong so that it can revert to playing the role of trustee and protector of the Constitution.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The reforms we should look at

Salleh Said Keruak

The keyword today is reforms. However, while Malaysians talk about reforms and the need for Malaysia to reform, not many really understand what the word means and what it entails.

Malaysia is actually a very unique country. It is not only unique in terms of the multi-cultural composition of its citizens but also in the system of government that it has adopted.

Malaysia is also unique in that it is neither a Secular State nor an Islamic State. I would classify Malaysia as a parliament democracy with a constitutional monarchy and with Islam as the religion of the Federation. That is what the Federal Constitution says, anyway.

Malaysia is supposed to be run by an Executive (in this case a Prime Minister) who takes orders from the Legislative (in this case Parliament). The Executive has a Cabinet to assist him in running the country -- that also must report to Parliament. Ultimately this makes Parliament supreme.

Parliament’s powers, however, are not absolute. Parliament has the power to pass laws but these laws first need to be vetted by the Senate and the Senate has the power to send the laws back to Parliament if the Senators do not agree with those laws.

Once those laws are final they then need to go to the Agong for his signature and if the Agong is not happy with those laws he can refuse to sign them and send them back to Parliament to be amended.

So, as you can see, we have many levels of checks and balances to prevent a dictator from taking over the country. Then we have the judiciary that makes sure every level -- the Executive, the Legislature, the Monarchy, etc. -- behave themselves and follow the law.

Unfortunately, back in the late-1980s, all this changed. So when we talk about reforms we need to know what we are talking about. The reforms that Malaysia needs are the restoration of the powers of the various branches of government so that there are better checks and balances.

Basically, we need a functioning Executive, Parliament, Senate, Monarchy and Judiciary that work together but are independent of one another and are able to check and balance each other.

That is the reforms we should be talking about. Short of that it will be mere talk with no results in the end.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The irrational arguments regarding 1MDB

Salleh Said Keruak

I have noticed a number of comments regarding 1MDB vis-à-vis the Forex losses of 1992-1994, the main comment being that we are not comparing apples to apples.

The main argument is that in the RM30 billion Forex losses we know what happened and there is no mystery, even though today RM30 billion would be worth RM58 billion. In the 1MDB RM42 billion losses we do not know what happened and it is still a mystery.

First of all, it is yet to be determined as to what the 1MDB losses are, if in the first place there are indeed any losses. This is yet to be determined and we will only know once PAC and the auditors complete their investigations and come out with their reports.

We must remember that RM42 billion is 1MDB’s exposure, not losses, just like in the Forex matter the exposure was RM270 billion and the losses RM30 billion. So we must understand the difference between exposure and loss.

Secondly, are they saying that if 1MDB did indeed lose money but then if we can explain how and why it lost money then it would be acceptable since it is no longer a mystery?

The arguments as to why we must not compare 1MDB to the Forex fiasco and that the Forex losses are acceptable while 1MDB is not have become very irrational.

I would like to repeat again, as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, why can’t we wait until the investigation is complete and the report is out before we discuss the losses in 1MDB once it has been established there are losses and what those losses are.

Monday, May 25, 2015

As what Ku Li said

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tiada kerajaan di dunia mempunyai sokongan 100%

Salleh Said Keruak

Timbalan Perdana Menteri Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin mengangkat sesuatu yang amat menarik tempoh hari apabila beliau berkata Umno mengalami 'defisit amanah'. Itulah sebenarnya masalah semua parti politik di seluruh dunia mengalami.

Pada tahun 1955, dua tahun sebelum Merdeka, Umno terpaksa bertanding pilihan raya sebagai Parti Perikatan, gabungan dengan MCA dan MIC, untuk dapat untuk mendapatkan kerusi yang cukup untuk membentuk kerajaan. Pada pilihan raya itu Perikatan telah memenangi 51 daripada 52 kerusi yang dipertandingkan, ia mungkin rekod dunia oleh mana-mana standard.

Walau bagaimanapun, sementara Parti Perikatan memenangi hampir 100% daripada kerusi, undi popularnya sedikit kurang daripada 80%. Hanya dua tahun selepas Merdeka, dalam tahun 1959, Parti Perikatan telah memenangi hanya 51% undi popular dan di 'sejarah' pilihan raya umum 1969 hanya 49% undi.

Kemudian Barisan Nasional telah ditubuhkan untuk menggantikan Parti Perikatan dan, dalam tempoh 30 tahun sehingga 2004, ia telah memenangi antara 53-64% undi popular. Apabila ekonomi berlaku untuk menjadi baik dan rakyat mempunyai lebih banyak wang dalam poket mereka, undi adalah lebih tinggi tetapi ketika dunia sedang menghadapi kemelesetan ekonomi global dan masa sukar ia adalah lebih rendah.

Itulah perkara pertama yang anda belajar jika anda mahu menjadi ahli politik dan jika anda bercita-cita untuk memegang jawatan awam. Cita-cita tidak penting kepada kebanyakan pengundi, terutamanya jika anda tidak mempunyai wang, kerana cita-cita tidak boleh meletakkan makanan di atas meja.

Satu lagi perkara yang anda perlukan untuk belajar jika anda mahu mentadbirkan negara adalah bahawa anda tidak boleh berenang melawan arus. Jika ekonomi global menghadapi pukulan maka negara anda juga menderita, terutamanya jika anda adalah sebuah negara seperti Malaysia yang perdagangan dan pelaburan nya, bergantung kepada barat dan Amerika Syarikat.

Kita dalam Umno tidak boleh mengambil sikap peribadi dalam perihal ini. Dalam persekitaran hari ini, jika mana-mana kerajaan boleh menang walaupun hanya 45% undi popular yang sudah agak luar biasa. Tidak syak lagi yang lebih teruk pernah ada pada tahun 2013 apabila Barisan Nasional hanya menang 47% undi. Walau bagaimanapun, ia masih memenangi 60% daripada kerusi berbanding UK di mana kerajaan telah dibentuk dengan hanya 51% daripada kerusi.

Walaupun pilihan raya umum 2004, yang dianggap 'yang sentiasa terbaik', telah dimenangi dengan kurang daripada dua pertiga daripada undi popular. Dan itu telah benar-benar tiada kaitan dengan 'defisit amanah' tetapi lebih kepada trend hari ini di seluruh dunia. Umno perlu realistik dan berdepan dengan realiti ini dan tidak hidup dalam penafian.

No government in the world has 100% support

Salleh Said Keruak

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin raised a very interesting point today when he said that Umno is suffering from a ‘trust deficit’. That is actually a problem all political parties the world over are suffering from.

Even back in 1955, two years before Merdeka, Umno had to contest the elections as the Alliance Party, a coalition with MCA and MIC, to be able to gain enough seats to form the government. In that election the Alliance won 51 of the 52 seats contested, probably a world record by any standards.

However, while the Alliance Party won almost 100% of the seats it did so on slightly less than 80% of the popular votes. Just two years after Merdeka, in 1959, the Alliance Party won just 51% of the popular votes and in the ‘historic’ 1969 general election just 49% of the votes.

Then Barisan Nasional was formed to replace the Alliance Party and, over a period of 30 years up to 2004, it won between 53-64% of the popular votes. When the economy happened to be good and people have more money in their pockets the votes are higher but when the world is facing a global recession and times are hard it is lower.

That is the first thing you learn if you want to become a politician and if you aspire to hold public office. Ideals are not important to most voters, especially if you have no money, because ideals cannot put food on the table.

Another thing you need to learn if you want to run a country is that you cannot swim against the current. If the global economy takes a beating then your country also suffers, especially if you are a country like Malaysia that depends on the west and the United States for trade and investments.

We in Umno must not take this personal. In today’s environment, if any government can win even just 45% of the popular votes that is already quite remarkable. No doubt the worse ever was in 2013 when Barisan Nasional won just 47% of the votes. However, it still won 60% of seats compared to the UK where the government was formed with only 51% of the seats.

Even the 2004 general election, which is considered ‘ the best ever’, was won on less than two-thirds of the popular votes. And that has absolutely nothing to do with a ‘trust deficit’ but is more about the trend today all over the world. Umno has to be realistic and face up to this reality and not live in denial.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Biarkan PAC jalankan tugasnya

Salleh Said Keruak

"Tuduhan yang belum dibuktikan dan tuduhan lain, akan menjejaskan penyiasatan itu dan akhirnya akan membawa kepada kegagalan," kata Pengerusi PAC, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed.

"Saya mengesa kepadanya dan semua blogger lain untuk berhenti dengan sebarang tuduhan, kenyataan supaya tidak merosakkan siasatan 1MDB," kata Nur Jazlan yang merujuk kepada komen oleh Blogger Umno dan penyokong setia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, A. Kadir Jasin, yang telah menghakimi dan pra-empted apa PAC akan melakukan.

"Dalam siasatan ini, PAC memegang hak untuk memanggil saksi-saksi. Mengapa ahli-ahli PAC kini diragui, dipersoalkan? Bagaimanakah kita kemudian menjalankan siasatan yang telus dan bermakna? "

"Saya meminta tuduhan ini dihentikan dan kami, di PAC, tidak terpengaruh dengan mana-mana pihak untuk tujuan politik."

Ini adalah nasihat yang baik dari pengerusi PAC Nur Jazlan yang telah meminta semua pihak, termasuk penulis blog, untuk tidak meragui siasatan jawatankuasa itu ke dalam 1MDB kerana ini akan memudaratkan penyiasatan itu.

Nur Jazlan telah berjanji bahawa siasatan PAC itu akan menjadi lebih meluas dan lebih mendalam daripada yang dilakukan oleh Ketua Audit Negara, kerana mereka akan meliputi semua aspek hal ehwal 1MDB termasuk juruaudit dana.

Bukan sahaja saksi dipanggil tetapi dokumen juga akan diteliti untuk mendapatkan kebenaran kepada perkara itu. Dalam apa-apa siasatan menyeluruh, ketepatan dan bukannya kelajuan akan menjadi asas dan, bagi kepentingan terperinci, pasti tidak akan ada jalan pintas.

Mungkin sudah tiba masanya kita kurangkan mempolitikan sekitarnya 1MDB dan membenarkan PAC untuk menjalankan tugasnya sehingga dapat menghasilkan laporan yang memenuhikan hati orang ramai yang hanya ingin tahu apa yang sebenarnya berlaku kepada 1MDB.