he Perak crisis is a tragic comedy of errors and bad political judgment that reflects a failure of political leadership. As it continues to spin out of control, it damages our democratic system of governance. To all intents and purposes, one of our most prosperous and developed states has been reduced to a failed state, with a possibly illegal state government in place. This is a condition that can propagate outwards to the rest of the country.
I stated at the beginning of this crisis that by our Constitution, a change of government can only be brought about by democratic means, which is to say, through the ballot box or through a formal vote of confidence in the elected Legislative Assembly. These are the constitutionally mandated means by which the people decide on their government. Any other means of changing the government is unconstitutional and undemocratic, and subverts the basis upon which we are a civilised society.
We now have reason to fear the loss of the people’s confidence in the Constitution, in democracy and in our constitutional monarchy. Responsible political leadership must support rather than destroy the confidence of the people in these practices and institutions. In particular, powers reserved for the Legislative Assembly, which represents the sovereign will of the people, cannot be taken away under any circumstances by anyone. This foundational constitutional principle has been affirmed by the Court. We are all sworn to uphold it. Those who do not understand or accept this principle have no place in government.
Some issues can be solved by a court of law, but the Perak crisis is not one of them. The back and forth events of the past week demonstrate this fact abundantly. The Perak crisis cannot be solved by a decision of the Court because it is at heart a political rather than a constitutional problem. There is really no doubt about what the Constitution says. What is now unclear as a result of an ugly series of manoeuvres is whether Perak has a legitimate government, and there is only one way to resolve that issue. Perhaps our political leadership has not understood how important it is that the people’s voice must prevail, and be seen to prevail, in the choice of their government.
The only solution to the Perak crisis now is for the State Legislative Assembly to be dissolved and free and fair elections held. At this stage there is no other way to restore both public confidence and constitutional legality to the Perak state government, and by extension to our entire system of government. Our survival as a democratic and constitutional monarchy depends on our acceptance of the judgment of the people as expressed in free and fair elections. Any attempt to circumvent that judgment betrays the basic principles and values upon which our nation and incidentally, UMNO itself, stand. I appeal for wisdom and a broader concern for the wellbeing of our country.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Member of Parliament, Gua Musang
Tengku Razaleigh’s official weblogKu