13 Feb 09 : 11.00PM
Deputy Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and his supporters have suggested banishment for people who "defy" the monarch. Well, then, Perak's neighbouring states — Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Selangor, and Barisan Nasional (BN)-ruled Pahang — should be prepared to accept 882,953 political refugees, or 74% of Perak's total electorate in the last elections. Ipoh would be a ghost town.
Now is the time for Malaysians to truly understand why we should love the constitutional monarchy as we know it from its British or European origins.
Walter Bagehot (Public domain)
What is the rationale of having a constitutional, passive monarch? Cynics in Britain will say the changing of the guard in Buckingham Palace and all the pomp and ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II are good for tourism. It is worth spending taxpayers' money on the royals.
In other words, the head of state must be above partisan politics because his or her main function is to unite citizens of different political persuasions.
Political parties may be at each other's throats. Ultimately, however, one party or coalition will form His or Her Majesty's Government while the other serves as His or Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
In this sense, "menyembah mohon derhaka" — a loyal plea for the ruler's permission to oppose him or her — displays the true spirit of the Westminster constitutional monarchy.
In contrast, when the head of state is both symbolic and powerful, his or her function of dignity will be affected by the function of efficiency, positively or negatively.
Hence, with a popular president like Barack Obama, the esteem for the US presidency increases. However, with a polarising president like George W Bush, half of the population might have felt ashamed to be identified with the country.
Mr President (© art_es_anna / Flickr)Bagehot's insights were apparently shared by many European states — even when they decided to throw out their monarchies, they opted to have ceremonial presidents instead of executive presidents.
US-style presidentialism is mostly found in Latin America today. Few examples throughout the world can be considered successful. The bigger part of the democratic or democratising world chooses to become either parliamentary republics or constitutional monarchies.
If there must be one person whom everyone can look up and plead allegiance to, he or she must not be partial. The need to seek popular mandate in this sense has paradoxically become a disadvantage, making a dependence on the "genetic lottery" more sensible.
I would argue that this is the best defence for the constitutional monarchy. A head of state must be loved by all, for being loved by all is his or her main function. A hereditary head of state fits best — although inherited leadership flouts democratic ideals — because he or she is free from electoral pressures and can therefore be dignified.
But dignity of the palace, the very rationale of constitutional monarchy, could be at risk in Perak and perhaps the entire country.
This is the best time for true loyalists to offer their services to the throne. Restore that dignity so that the monarch remains loved by all.
If the majority of Perak subjects want fresh elections, then the only way to mend the fence is to call for fresh elections.
The Pakatan Rakyat is doing the rightful thing in their defence of the constitutional monarchy by asking the court to confirm the legality of their government. However, a favourable outcome for the constitutional monarchy might be a double-edged sword. People might ask why the Perak Sultan seemed to deviate from what he said in 2004, that a ruler's role was "purely formal" — Bagehot says "dignified" — upon request to dissolve the legislature.
To prevent embarrassment to the palace, the best solution is for the BN-installed Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir to request for dissolution of the assembly. That would make the Pakatan Rakyat's constitutional suit academic.
The opinion poll result is a call of duty. If Zambry is a loyalist, now is the time for him to act accordingly. If the people want him, he may return as the 14th menteri besar after fresh elections. If they do not, why should he insist on staying and tarnishing the reputation of the 481-year sultanate?
While others may argue if Nizar is Hang Jebat or Tun Perak, this is a good chance for Zambry to play Hang Tuah.
For the love of the sultan, Zambry could ask urgently for the state assembly to be dissolved.
An anak Perak, Wong Chin Huat believes that good sense among the public must prevail to restore the dignity of constitutional monarchy, democracy and political stability in Perak and Malaysia. Tolerating political falsehood is as dangerous as taking fake medicine. A political scientist by training and a journalism lecturer by trade, he is based in Monash University Sunway Campus.