Monday, November 30, 2009

UMNO Youth: The Way Forward

The new-gen young Malays are thirsty for political movements that can appeal to both their intellect and interests. The changes to UMNO’s party constitution may have pleased many on the inside, but broad-based reforms in activities and outreach are required before UMNO can truly claim to hold the mantle to the hearts of young Malays.

The approach that UMNO, and especially UMNO Youth must take, is organizing events and initiatives that fill the void for young Malay professionals and students who are politically aware but have few opportunities from which to get involved directly with political parties’ programs.

For the longest of times, UMNO Youth – at all levels – has been almost exclusively reliant on traditional programs and events to account for its activities. Chief amongst these are sports events – the mainstays are sepak takraw, football, and more recently futsal. You would be hard pressed to find a single week in the year where there isn’t an UMNO Youth division somewhere in this country hosting a football tournament. Then of course, the ‘compulsory’ programs – the two Hari Raya celebrations, break of fast sessions, and all manner of events marking religious holidays – tend to make up the rest of the agenda calendar. Whilst turnout can often be impressive – especially if a senior party figure attends the program – often the same people are seen at these functions. Needless to say, this does not bode well with the effort of winning over new voters – nevermind the fact that even those ‘retained’ as a result of this phenomenon are UMNO members, active followers or hangers-ons who were always going to vote Barisan anyway.

Seminars, workshops or even assistance to flood victims are great ways to fulfil the community service requirement within UMNO’s political handbook. And they shall always be regarded as bread and butter initiatives so long as the respective issues remain existent in the Malay community – lack of education, absence of entrepreneurial culture, and monsoon seasons continue to haunt Malays. In areas like these, UMNO Youth shows great commitment and boasts a good track record, especially in rural areas where opportunities are few and far between.

However, these efforts, essential as they are, hardly contribute towards making UMNO more attractive to the sections of society which have made it a habit to shut the party out. Amongst young professionals and students, there is an inertia to swallow much of what UMNO, says or does – analogous of the barriers to entry faced by cigarette and alcohol brands – which makes it impossible to engage them through UMNO’s conventional political language and action. UMNO is suffering from a perception-deficit, and, contrary to popular belief amongst UMNO circles, it is not merely down to perceived corruption, excesses and arrogance. Instead, the image problem that UMNO suffers also has much to do with the fact that many young people simply cannot identify with its activities, collective peculiar mannerisms and exclusivist styles. A comprehensive re-look at its image is called for.

As such, taking a leaf from the business world where similar challenges are faced, UMNO Youth – charged with winning over young voters – must be creative in introducing more unconventional programs under the UMNO banner to show that it is much more than a party of linen-clad middle aged men who walk with an almost uniform swagger. Instead of shoving ideology down young professional’s throats, UMNO Youth must be clever enough to use the back door approach by holding programs with content that appeal to this group as a means to ‘advertise’ what UMNO is all about. Traditional programs that glorify UMNO and its history simply do not work anymore. Brave and interesting forums that bring together world leaders, or even entertainment events which can guarantee crowds in the thousands – these are but examples of programs that can be couched as part of the new UMNO Youth approach. This may sound like an oxymoron, but it wouldn’t be politics if we just did politics.

More than plain backdoor approach towards engaging young people, UMNO Youth must also assist in engineering new ideas on matters relating to nation-building which exist aplenty amongst the younger population. Activities, public pronouncements and policy proposals traditionally made by non-political youth movements need to make a comeback, and here, too, UMNO Youth can contribute. On one end of the spectrum, Belia 4B has a vast network which, however, caters to a similar constituency as UMNO Youth. On the other rests various decidedly pro-Opposition youth movements which speak the same language that Pakatan Rakyat leaders do. Therefore, the onus is on UMNO Youth to populate the space that currently exists – of undecided youths who want a say in the direction this country takes. The wing should cultivate a network of professionals and bright graduates, giving them the room to voice opinions and discuss all manner of issues pertaining to national development.

To have any chance of capturing support of the new generation from the Opposition, UMNO Youth must teach itself to excite voters, and not expect the latter to come to accept its ways. What better way to undergo a makeover than coming up with exciting programs which challenge limitations to positive effect, at once redrawing the boundaries of what UMNO Youth supposedly represents.

Results may not be instantaneous, but at the very least, people will appreciate the fact that for all of its flaws, UMNO Youth can straddle different worlds without being hypocritical – it can be fiercely committed to its political struggle to advance the Malays, yet still be relevant to the wants of its constituents.

Friday, September 4, 2009

PAS and the Chinese community

The results of Permatang Pasir by-election which saw PAS retain the seat with its sizeable majority intact exposes certain voting patterns which speak more of people’s dislike for BN than any active favouritism for Pakatan Rakyat, or at least, PAS.

This is especially so in the case of ethnic Chinese voters, which made up over a quarter of the total voting population in Permatang Pasir. With the ethnic Malay vote likely split between BN and PAS, the latter could not have won in the way it did without garnering most of the Chinese votes – in fact, analysis of the ballot boxes or “peti undi” in the by-election showed that the PAS candidate won handsomely in Chinese-dominated areas.

To be sure, this pattern is a continuation of what the country saw in the General Elections March last year where for the first time, ethnic Malays went out in large numbers to vote for DAP and Chinese equally so for PAS. I believe more than anything else, political players from both sides of the aisle were surprised at this development and sought, and still seek, to explain it by highlighting various possibilities, anecdotes and theories – but they all boil down to the fact that the voters’ dislike for BN is far larger than any like for PR. In other words, the Chinese who voted for PAS were and for the moment, are, willing to look past PAS’s shortcomings so long as it means kicking BN out. The unholy alliance is exactly that - gravitation towards PR isn’t based on any unity in values, but in loathing for BN. My contention is that this is simply not sustainable – sooner or later PAS’s values will appear too extreme to ethnic Chinese.

I know that some will level the charge that this appears as another instance of a BN supporter greeting an apparent peculiarity with characteristic ignorance and arrogance. I assure you it is not. I am aware of BN’s many weaknesses, but it is also important for ethnic Chinese to realize what PAS is really all about. This is beyond the fact that PR is not coherent; this is about PAS forwarding a vision of the country that is completely at odds with multicultural citizenship, as we know it.

With its religious dogmatism and insistence on an Islamist state, the Chinese community would do well to remember that PAS will always be PAS, and all things considered, it has much more to lose if PAS’s policies were to come into force than what is actually in practice under a BN government.

Outright support for the on again-off again-on again Kartika caning, opposition to almost all concerts of bands from the “evil” West and other instances all point to PAS’s inner being, one that suggests it will always insist for an Islamist state – through Hudud and other measures that may use the name of Islam to threaten even the most basic element of democracy like electing one’s own leader.

The Chinese community knows these. And beyond their dislike for UMNO, I believe they reason they are prepared to cast a vote to someone from a party who would readily interfere in their way of life is because they believe PAS will never be the dominant member of a prospective PR Federal Government. But as time passes PAS leaders are slowly beginning to voice out in public the party opinion of national issues due to pressure from the grassroots. PAS will not want to be seen to kowtow to DAP and I suspect will increasingly show its less-tolerant stripes.

I know this thesis on PAS may appear rich in light of some events that have transpired which show elements within UMNO taking an intolerant stance. But let there be no mistake, PAS's sudden embrace of non-Muslims is little more than a smokescreen designed to seize Federal power, after which it will most definitely unleash the fruits of fundamentalism, which incidentally also lead them to denounce fellow Muslims within UMNO as 'kafirs' - so why should non-Muslims with their 'kafir' - and I use this term with all respect to my non-Muslim brothers and sisters - way of life feel the least bit secure about PAS in power at the federal level?

Here, it is especially pertinent to remind ourselves that beneath the kumbaya-Erdogan-Husam-ist face, PAS is at its core anti-system, filled by hardcore Islamists whose political consciousness is built from the fringes of society through education from "sekolah pondok" and misguided (and misguiding) "madrasahs" that preach Talibanistic decided intolerance of the 'infidels' and the infidel's way of life. These are individuals who genuinely believe it is their duty on earth to cleanse the world of the sins of man's immortality - so they won't think twice about sacrificing "rights" or "democracy" or even changing the Constitution to allow for primacy of Hudud laws in serving their "Godly duties". In its hearts of hearts, PAS is not mainstream - it doesn't come from the mainstream neither does it advocate ideals that are mainstream - and all moderate Malaysians who want a future based on justice, fairness and equality would do well to reconsider voting for Pakatan if it still has PAS in it. BN, at least, can be persuaded to change, whether through genuine design or through the necessity to recapture votes. But PAS on the other hand, is dogmatic. It will not change.

All said, ethnic Chinese voters must wake up to the reality that PAS poses a problem not only to UMNO but to all Malaysians who want to defend the fundamentals of a country that we know will cater to all Malaysians without imposing too much our beliefs of what is right and wrong on other people who may not share out faith. If the community continues to support PAS simply to get back at BN, it will be committing a grave error.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Food politics

My recent trip to Indonesia jogged some thoughts I had about certain policies employed in our capital city of Kuala Lumpur – specifically, those that affect street food vendors (penjaja).

Whilst Jakarta bustles with the heightened economic activity garnered from simple, cheap and delicious street food – most of which is clean enough for the “Mat Sallehs” – Kuala Lumpur is increasingly limiting itself to hawker centres and food courts which are both quantitatively and qualitatively distinct from days gone by when food was abundant on the streets of KL.

With the introduction of the policy of “penjaja sifar” in KL – and increasingly in other states like Pulau Pinang and Selangor – vendors are forced to apply for permits and licences to operate in food courts which are not nearly as popular as if placed along the streets off Jalan Sultan Ismail (read: Kampung Baru) or Jalan Ampang. In fact, if one were to go to Kota Damansara and Bangsar hawker centres, they are close to empty even during weekends. First and foremost, cleanliness, whilst an important requirement, is not guaranteed by limiting food outlets to within enclosed physical buildings – those who have seen kitchen in some hotels will testify to that. Conversely, street food often does not upset one’s bowels post-consumption.

Most unfortunately, these aforementioned licences are often scarce, reflecting the limited number of physical buildings the council can ever make available as food courts ala Rasta or Hartamas Square. Thus, we witness a huge employment displacement amongst principally low
income Malay and Indian city dwellers as many lose their source of income, needlessly so as anecdotal evidence suggests demand for cheap street food is as high as ever.

And when the council(s) do allow for street vendors to operate, they are limited to once-a-week night markets and 30-days-a-year buka puasa stalls which cannot possibly amount to much more than a side-business. As a result, eating out on the cheap is now increasingly synonymous
with “mamak” food, which are little more than glorified low-market restaurants. On this point too, we see that moving previously street vendors into “medan selera” (hawker food courts) defeats the purpose in more ways than one. The ones (un)lucky enough to get a spot in
these places realize soon enough that the number of customers drop, due partly to the increased food prices inevitable as a result of erstwhile non-existent rent and the necessity to keep prices
consistent when operating in a centre housing multiple hawker operators. In the end, neither the customer nor the operator wins.

I suspect when the Government and the councils decided to push through this zero tolerance approach to street vendors, they felt it justifiable by the argument that the character of the city were being compromised by the presence of street vendors and squatter areas (setinggan). Here is where the politics came in - authentic street food was replaced by arranged, organised food outlets that lose their character.

At best, I believe the Government made the error of putting both these distinct aspects – squatter areas and street food – under one category of “undesirables”. Whilst squatter areas don’t present the most pleasant sight, street vendors should be a celebrated dimension to
city life and character. It should be advertised as part of the Malaysian urban experience, and not relegated to the fringes, as though it is something we need to hide. Even on the Asian Food Channel (AFC), we see countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, The Philippines, Thailand and almost all other South-East Asian countries depict their street foods as an essential part of their culture. Here too, food is seen as something passed down through the ages – cendol, koay teow et
al – nothing less than our heritage. So why limit their exposure simply for the sake of superficial niceties?

To be sure, I am not promoting that we transform the entire city into booths, huts and hawker stalls – merely to designate certain areas to meet both the demand for, and supply of street food. Enforcement will also need to be heightened to ensure that food is prepared with utmost
care and hygiene. I am hopeful that this is one of the many creative ways for us to achieve multiple goals simultaneously – unemployment, crime, inflation and economic advancement for low-income city folk. If anything, that should be the politics of food - not to stuff
everything into a tiny space to emulate Singapore.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Thoughts on PPSMI

The debate on the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English
(PPSMI) has raged on for years now, and it appears that the Government
finally going to take a clear stance either way. Latched on to by
political parties, fervent NGOs and the general public at large, this
issue has seen many Malaysians holding a firm opinion – splitting us
right in the middle – making this issue what abortion is to America.

With such politicisation, rationality sometimes takes a backseat.
Problems that have cropped up are exclusively due to
implementation shortcomings, and for that PPSMI may have to be
‘postponed’ but it should never be written off completely.

Allow me to explain my position. First in our minds when thinking of
the future is the fact that we cannot isolate Malaysia or Malays –
whom many wrongly single out as the biggest losers of PPSMI – from the
world. Be it the agendum of obtaining wholesome education or
increasing economic competitiveness, mastery of English is essential.
As it is, we are already being overly-dependent on foreign workers.
They may be at present populating low-paying jobs, but indications
show that if we are nonchalant about our own worker productivity,
locals will rapidly lose value in the eyes of employers. For example,
in the service sector – one that offers hardly ‘odd-jobs’ and will
increasingly dominate our GDP-share – is already seeing an influx of
foreign labour for little other reason that that they can converse in
English better than locals (read: Malays). This is part of a
long-established trend where transnational corporations are simply not
employing graduates and workers who are not proficient in English.
Problem is, whilst before we could insulate our economic activity at
relatively great lengths, today we rely on the international economy
in ways previously unimaginable, doubling the importance of speaking
the international language.

In other words we must understand that in a globalised and borderless
economic system, the unspoken principle of Social Darwinism is taking
a foothold. Thus, with English being so central to long-term success and
competitiveness, we are left with little choice but to ramp up the
quality of English amongst the general populace. There is nothing more
important than staying connected with the rest of the world, as only
by making sure we are linked with the different agents in the system
that is the international community can we hope to make progress and
avoid missing the boat.

Considering the urgency of the task at hand, Malaysians being what
they are, need to be subjected the ‘shock doctrine’.
But as foreshadowed earlier, the structure and institutional setup to
make PPSMI work, have not been what they needed to be. For PPSMI to
really work, there needs to be a serious relook at the courses for
Bachelor of Education and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)
and a revamp of the Postgraduate Teaching Course (KPLI). Evidently,
local universities have failed to produce teachers adequately able to
educate schoolchildren from different backgrounds who have differing
levels of proficiency in English to begin with. As for existing
teachers who have done much to educate our young, the Government
should also set up and institute for them to increase their own
proficiency in English.

I am not ignorant of the fact that these measures take time to yield
effect, and this has been the Achilles heel of PPSMI. But in the
meantime, the curriculum should be tweaked to introduce a softer
approach to the issue by teaching ‘lighter’ subjects like Music, PE
and Art in English in primary school, which will hopefully result in
us having a generation of educators battle ready for PPSMI as they
would have much better control over the language and confidence.
Recruiting retired English teachers is also a step to make our
education system English-friendly – their presence would also help
more junior teachers learn the ropes.

As for the linguistic nationalists out there, Bahasa Malaysia will
always be the national language and will still be very prominent as a
medium of instruction and as a subject if only we could be
enthusiastic enough to introduce a more holistic content. Bahasa
Malaysia is a rich language that is arguably glossed over by not
giving sufficient attention to Malay literature (sastera) and its contemporary
usage. A simple measure such as merging Malay literature and BM into
one subject taught from primary to secondary would be a step in the
right direction. Here, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage must
play a role too to ensure that Bahasa Malaysia in its capacity as a
major Malay cultural capital does not dissipate or find appreciation
in it diluted. Furthermore, subjects such as History, Trade,
Economics, Geography, and of course Agama Islam, as well as vocational
subjects will remain taught in BM. Fundamentally, there should not be
any doubt that a system of dual language in education can work just
fine - countries like Singapore and the Netherlands have proven that
it is no barrier to economic progress.

It is high time we quit lying to our own people about what is good for
them. For certain subjects, English is essential and teaching them in
any other language would mean not teaching them properly at all.
Regardless of whether we view education as being for education’s sake
or for national economic returns, English must be more prominent in
the education system – PPSMI, even if discontinued this year, must
return sometime in the near future once our institutions are ready for

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

PAS Elections: A struggle for the party’s conscience

I distinctly remember, in the leadup to the Umno Elections, an analyst
in a mainstream newspaper writing that the contests were one for the
conscience of the party, as much as for positions. Whilst I do not
deny that the Assembly in March staged hallmark elections for a party
facing the largest challenge ever to its political dominance, one can
scarcely find any indication that the contests were reflections of an
ideological divide. The only prospective similarity between the two
events is the allegations of money politics.

In Umno, when the candidates stood against each other, they
were voted for based on the perceived relative abilities, and not
because they symbolised distinct, mutually exclusive ideologies –
parties within a party, if you like.

The same cannot be said of the upcoming PAS Elections. As the junior
partner in the makeshift Pakatan Rakyat coalition, PAS as a party
appears to be much less comfortable with the changes to the political
scene compared to its PR comrades. It is almost as though that now it
finds itself, as some say, on the cusp of power, the party is confused
and riddled with internal disagreements about how exactly to go about

Nowhere is this more apparent than the three-way contest for the post
of Deputy President, between incumbent Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Husam
Musa, and Mat Sabu. The important subscript to this contest is that it
is viewed as an internal referendum on two factions: those aligned to
the pro-muqabalah and those inclined to the pro-Pakatan Rakyat Erdogan
group. Crucially, this proxy battle is really not about a battle
between individuals or personalities; it is instead a genuine battle
of ideas. Thus, there is no mistaking the ideological rift within PAS,
a problem on a scale non-existent within Umno since its founding
father Dato’ Onn Jaafar wanted to open Umno up to non-Malays.

Notwithstanding the internal rift, Should Nasharuddin win as expected,
it would signal a PAS still significantly resistant to the unholy
trinity with DAP and PKR. The Anwar-chum Husam, on the other hand, is
fighting for his political survival in PAS, with an unlikely victory
certainly spelling a more coherent Pakatan Rakyat under the de facto
leadership of Anwar, much to Umno’s annoyance. But if the result of
the Youth Head post is anything to go by, conservatives within the
party appear adamant to remain in it comfort zone – one synonymous
with ulama, Islamist and Malay. The new head Nasaruddin Tantawi is as
conservative as they come – best described as the PAS version of a
Khir Toyo had the latter won the post of Umno Youth Chief. The depth
of the aforementioned ideological split is reflected by the recent
cynical remark by Nasaruddin who told Husam to run for the Presidency
to ‘correct’ the party – the implication being that Husam is viewed by
the muqabalah faction as a radical element dangerous to the purity of
the party’s conscience. In the sphere of reapolitik, the fact that
Husam is out of favour with PAS Youth would also mean that should he
lose in the contest, Anwar will likely have no qualms about leaving
him for dead - the latter will not support an individual who cannot
promise the voting bloc amongst the PAS-inclined younger generation.

There is thus no overstating the gravity of the choice facing the PAS
delegates during the Muktamar. For them, it is not about who can do
the job better. It is about who symbolises what, and this in and of
itself suggests PAS is a party ill at ease with itself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Silver Haze

The brouhaha about snap elections, and who is the real MB, belies the
fact that there are real problems with the Pakatan leadership in
Perak. The traditional voters still have a disdain for the DAP, whom
they voted merely due to the negative factor of wanting to protest
towards the BN.

In under a year of Pakatan rule, traditional Malay voters - still a
significant bloc - have learnt that Pakatan is decidedly pro-Chinese
and not even subtly so. Many cannot get over the fact that the state
government awarded a 999 year lease to Chinese-owned land with no
reciprocal measures in Malay areas. Arguably for the first time in our
polics, it is not a matter of Malays being jealous or extremely
guarded whenever steps are taken to assist non Malays, it is really an
issue of Malays being marginalised.

The pulse of Perak - the civil servants, district councilmen - who
experience first-hand the governance style of Pakatan, realise that
the power behind the throne (read: Nizar) is the two arrogant,
manipulative and conniving cousins Ngah and Ngeh. Evidence from
numerous examples indicate that, the Palace too, who early on were
happy to give Pakatan a chance, is now fed up of the effective
subordination of The Mentri Besar to the DAP.

In the end, the public is blinded by a systemic misinformation trying
to frame the drama in Perak as the democratic rakyat-serving Pakatan
vs the power-crazed Umno/BN. When in truth, this strategy is nothing
more than a clouding of Pakatan's inefficient and unjust rule.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

All about the youth

With just over 30 days to the National UMNO Elections, the contests for posts from Deputy President to the last Puteri Exco seat are heating up. But for many, one to particularly watch out for is that for Youth Head of the party.

Amongst the three candidates vying for the prize that has been occupied by no less a figure than incoming President Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, one individual stands out through his age, character and campaign platform.

Khairy Jamaluddin has just turned 33, and is the only candidate under the age of 40. Some have said that this fact may not be relevant for UMNO Youth, seeing as to how the wing has traditionally been headed by persons over 40. But recent trends suggest that there has been a substantive change in how the party is perceived by younger voters – a change that calls for, among others, a generational rejuvenation. Without this generational shift in the leadership of UMNO Youth, then clearly the thirst for change have yet to reach the doors of the wing.

Some elaboration is necessary. Khairy has on occasions argued that it takes a youth to bestunderstand the aspirations and concerns of the below-40 segment. Whilst this may be a valid argument, it does not capture the more fundamental need to move away from the generation of outgoing Youth Head Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein – Hishammuddin has done much to rebuild the wing from the ashes of 1999 but the demands of the day require a new approach to how UMNO Youth operates. A young face would send all the right signals to the younger generation that UMNO is serious in rebranding itself to becoming a party that no longer preaches to the youth, but elevates one of them. The slogan Pemuda untuk Pemuda is thus, quite fitting.

They say age is just a number; at least in this case though, Khairy's non-political personality and character exudes youth-ness puts some doubt into that cliché. Having a penchant for contemporary music, football and even fashion, he represents much of what UMNO Youth should look like if it intends to woo the post-Merdeka generation of young voters who yearn for a movement they can identify with. Who else in the race but Khairy can even come close to being 'one of us'?

But perhaps what encapsulates Khairy's synonymy with Malaysia's youth is his campaign message of inclusivity and empathy. Tired of years of zero-sum, communal-centric politics of confrontation, Khairy's"Setiakawan" message promises to bring about a radical shift in the UMNO Youth narrative, a movement traditionally associated with being the right-wing conscience of the larger party. Voting figures show that chest-thumping Malay ultraism simply will not work anymore amongst young Malaysians who have grown up in relative peace and prosperity; UMNO Youth under the helm of Khairy will stand a better chance of recapturing the imagination of young Malaysians who have no guilt for feeling Malaysian first and foremost, or for sanctifying the ideals of justice and democracy. This last point was best demonstrated during the program Hujah at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka on 18 February when Khairy stuck to a centrist position on matters such as ISA and race relations whereas the two other candidates competed with one another to portray a traditional ultra Malay face. Khairy also displayed maturity in his critique of the government – defending the institution's fundamental strengths whilst acknowledging there was room for improvement vis a vis implementation of policies. Such sophistication was lacking in both other candidates who felt no shame in slamming UMNO, BN and the Government on national television.

This contest is no less than a contest for the party's future. The delegates must wise up to the reality that UMNO no longer commands the support of the majority of under-40s and elect the man with the right age and right message to ensure UMNO's survival.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pakatan Hypocrisy, like a stick in the mud.

The takeover of the Perak State Government by the Barisan Nasional has exposed many things: the value of stealth in politics, the political operator in Prime Minister-to-be Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, but most of all, the hypocrisy within the Pakatan Rakyat ranks.

One would have thought that a coalition fashioning itself as a credible alternative to the current Government would bite the bullet and accept that after an extended honeymoon since the 12th General Elections, it was finally outdone in this battle. That Pakatan's figurehead Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim indulged in months of trumpeting September 16th and the toppling of the Federal Government via defections by Barisan Parliamentarians surely made what transpired in Perak all the more painful to swallow.

Instead of pondering about where its missteps have been, Pakatan has cried foul over a legitimate grab – a paradox it may be, but a legitimate government is a government nonetheless. And whilst the Pakatan crowd have been incessantly calling for there to be a special sitting of the State Assembly to unseat the (former) Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaludin, claiming that the Sultan of Perak has no power to decree that Nizar and his EXCO resign, it is useful to note that had Anwar Ibrahim obtained the magic number of 30 defectors in Parliament, he would merely have to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to prove to the latter that he has the confidence of the majority of Parliamentarians – Anwar himself hinted on more than one occasion that that was precisely what he intended to do!

The above, can still of course be described as a necessary political positioning – though it does show Pakatan to be no better than what it accuses Barisan of. What is most troubling and most irresponsible is the Pakatan's hypocrisy with regards to the power and role of the monarchy. If during the BERSIH demonstrations – and the circus that followed it – they were more than willing to fake having the tacit support of the monarchy, it is simply inconsistent for them to now criticise the Sultan for utilising His Highness's 'reserve' political (and constitutional) power. If during the Idris Jusoh – Ahmad Said controversy in Terengganu Pakatan members were championing the right of the Sultan with glee as the Prime Minister was humiliated, how is it that they find it fit to question the right of the Sultan to declare a government fallen? Regardless, Nizar's refusal to yield to the Sultan's decree is plainly an act of trampling upon the the institution of Malay Rulers and with that, very legitimate and understandable Malay sensitivities. It isarguably this extreme posturing that has led even UMNO leaders like Khairy Jamaluddin; some what ill at ease with the manner in which Perak was won, to call for Nizar to be banished. Unorthodox perhaps – when has Khairy been anything otherwise? – but the point to be made is that what ever grievances Pakatan may have with what has transpired, it must never channel it in ways that convey disrespect to the Sultan. Certain things are meant to be beyond the sphere of political gamesmanship.

And at the very least, in Barisan there are the likes of Khairy, Tengku Razaleigh and even Tun Dr. Mahathir – three individuals hardly in love with one another – that make their discomfort with defections quite clear and public. The public will ultimately decide whether what Barisan did was politically wise – democracy always decides, in the end. But until Perak is again put to the vote, Pakatan will have to eat some humble pie and back down from their position of extreme hypocrisy that threatens to drag the monarchy further into the mix of what is already a vicious environment.