Two things we learned from the Perak fiasco — The Malaysian Insider

The Malaysian Insider | 09-Feb-2010  — Firstly, the courts are not the final arbiter.

Such is the decaying state of institutions in Malaysia that these days a Federal Court decision is treated as just another decision. It does not have the gravitas of the US Supreme Court, judgments do not have clarity nor authority of the House of Lords, Supreme Court of India or the highest court of Canada.

Such is the cynicism that envelopes institutions that a good many Malaysians spent this week speculating whether the final score would be a 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2 finding in favour of Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the mentri besar of Perak.

(Note: 5-0 was a popular choice not because many Malaysians subscribed to the legal arguments put forward by the state but because cynicism courses through their veins.)

And that is why while Zambry obtained the result he needed he still cannot have the one thing he craves most – legitimacy.

Some 74 per cent of voters in Perak feel that elections remain the best way to resolve the power grab in the state. In the same survey conducted by Merdeka Center, voters were asked to choose which they preferred: the economy or having a democratically-elected government. Sixty per cent of the respondents said they wanted a government elected democratically.

So the Federal Court may have ruled 5-0 in favour of Zambry but in the eyes of most Perak folk and Malaysians, this result counts for little.

Secondly, a scarred royal household.

The Federal Court today affirmed the pivotal role played by Sultan Azlan Shah in the change of government in Perak a year ago. It was the former Lord President who interviewed the three elected representatives who resigned from Pakatan Rakyat and surmised that Datuk Nizar Jamaluddin had lost the confidence of the state assembly.

Nizar’s lawyers and renowned constitutional law exports from Malaysia and abroad agreed that the proper forum to test a motion of no confidence should be the legislative assembly.

But the Federal Court endorsed the steps taken by Sultan Azlan Shah to ascertain if Nizar still had command of the House. The intervention of the royal household a year ago invited scorn from Malaysians, who felt that the Ruler should have done the right thing and dissolved the state assembly.

Has the anger and disappointment with the palace gone away? No. The Merdeka Center survey shows clearly that a significant percentage of the people of Perak are dissatisfied with the role played by the palace in the Perak coup. Some 35 per cent of those polled were dissatisfied while 36 per cent expressed satisfaction but, tellingly, 29 per cent were undecided.

The large percentage of the undecided voter are made up of Chinese (41 per cent) and Indians (27 per cent), the two groups of voters who continue to be strong supporters of Pakatan Rakyat and feel strongly that new elections should be called.

So it can be surmised that the bulk of the 29 per cent of voters who did not want to give a clear answer to this question do not agree with the intervention of the palace.