By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (picture) called Malaysia a democracy which only existed in name only, and said that reforms could not be expected from the incumbents in power, in an apparent attack against Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN).
“To modify Tunku’s words, we now have a democracy existing in name, but grievously compromised in substance, reality and fact,” Tengku Razaleigh said today when launching Ideas, a new think-tank set up to promote democratic ideals, at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial today.
Razaleigh appeared to also single out Umno and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his remarks about the current political situation, and for the attacks against democratic institutions and the judiciary.
He said original founding ideals laid down by Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had been warped.
“We have left it to the deranged for too long ...To expect change from the incumbents is to expect, in the Malay saying, the mice to repair the gourd…‘Bagai tikus baiki labu.’ ”
“Tunku Abdul Rahman was the founder of Malaysia…He brought together a Malaysia that had come together ‘through our own free will and desire in the true spirit of brotherhood and love of freedom’, in a union arrived at ‘by mutual consent by debate and discussion…through friendly argument and compromise,’ and ‘in the spirit of co-operation and concord’,” Razaleigh said in his speech at the launch of the new think tank set up and rooted in memory of the visionary late Kedah prince, fondly called Tunku.
“That basis has been replaced by something alien to it, his memory has been suppressed, and our history revised,” he added.
Razaleigh, more popularly known by his moniker Ku Li, bemoaned how the “founder” would not recognise today’s Malaysia because it has been replaced with the “cult of the great leader”.
“Tunku built up a system of good civil service in which ordinary citizens did not need to see so-and-so to get things done. This has been replaced by a domineering style of leadership in which what you get done depends on who you know.
“In place of the protection for ordinary citizens guaranteed by popular representation, rule of law and the checks and balances of independent institutions, we have the cult of the great leader,” said Razaleigh, who was a close friend of Tunku.
“It is no accident that the erasure of his memory has gone hand in hand with the erosion of our institutions,” he noted further.
Razaleigh pointed out that Tunku did not help Malaysia achieve independence alone but did it with “an entire class of individuals schooled in the culture and practice of parliamentary democracy.”