American hawk Edward Luttwak wrote in Coup d’État: a Practical Handbook, that “a coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control over the remainder.”
This is what took place on Black Thursday, May 7, in Ipoh. The State Assembly Speaker, V Sivakumar, was removed forcibly from his seat and dragged out of the State Assembly. A new Speaker, R Ganesan, was installed by the BN State representatives. The scuffle caused damage to the speaker’s chair, and great offence to the dignity of the Perak State Assembly.
The men who carried off Sivakumar wore name-tags printed with the word “Official”. They did not identify themselves as policemen, but there was little doubt these were plainclothes policemen. In fact, the police have no jurisdiction in any State Assembly or Parliament.
Separation of powers ignored
Article 72 (1) in the Federal Constitution states clearly that “The validity of any proceedings in any Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.
This applies also to the other branch of government, the Executive. The Legislative Assemblies are independent of the Executive and the Home Ministry. The State Assembly Speaker arranges all security for the Assembly. Legislators at a sitting in the state Assembly are, therefore, not subject to the actions of the police.
Policemen were bound by the Constitution to request permission from the Speaker V Sivakumar, before entering the State Assembly. Perhaps they whispered politely in his ear while they were dragging him away.
The policemen who bundled Sivakumar away, and their political masters, remind us all of school bullies. Having been soundly defeated, and infuriated, they snatch up the ball, proclaim themselves the winners, and rain their fists on all the other players.
Arbitrary arrests galore
Outside the Perak State Assembly, the police arrested more than 40 people, including Pakatan Rakyat legislators, bystanders, and people drinking tea and eating breakfast at a mamak stall. One man scolded the police for interrupting his breakfast, at a coffee shop near the Assembly building. He was allowed to finish his breakfast, and was then arrested. Perhaps he was eating heroin and drinking ganja tea.
It appears that criminal activity includes eating at a mamak stall or coffee shop within 500 metres of the State Assembly, and can be punished severely by the police. In Kuching, beware of eating at the stalls along Jalan Astana in Petra Jaya, or along the Main Bazaar, in case you are hauled off to the police station.
One Pakatan Rakyat MP, Zuraida Kamaruddin, in a sombre black tudung, was arrested as she prepared to give a press conference outside the State Assembly Building. Perhaps the police had information she was about to proclaim an Independent Republic of Men in Black.
The police slapped handcuffs on her. Presumably the elected Member of Parliament from Ampang was considered likely to pose a clear and present danger of physical harm to the 100 police personnel outside the front entrance to the State Assembly, and the back-up of five FRU trucks at the rear entrance.
Extreme Fashion Mistakes
We must warn our children against wearing black in public. Wong Chin Huat has won support and respect for his imaginative and satirical idea of “1Black Malaysia”, for which he has been jailed. It seems our noble men in blue have been designated the Fashion Police, and are empowered to haul away people in black into Black Marias.
That may, indeed, be the real reason the Speaker Sivakumar was forced out of the State Assembly, his black Speaker’s Robes may have annoyed the Fashion Police, while the State Assembly reps were dressed in white. Ganesan’s robes, on the other hand, did not seem black enough to offend.
Policemen must have the professional judgment to arrest those wearing clothes that are black enough to pose a threat to public security. Black hair remains a grey area, but more distinguished people with grey or white hair, may appear less likely to conduct violent insurrection.
Humiliation for BN in the State Assembly
Inside the Assembly building, there was humiliation for the newly installed speaker Ganesan. He did not know the Standing Orders well enough to handle proceedings, and the Pakatan representatives laughed out loud at him. Since the BN had announced his elevation to Speaker long before their putsch, it must be assumed that he did not have the time, or intellectual capacity, to have read through the Standing Orders beforehand.
There was also public humiliation for Hee Yit Foong, the much-derided Deputy Speaker, and the butt of many jokes. Pakatan Rakyat Representatives threw money at her, including a fifty-ringgit note and one-ringgit notes. It was pointed out that she tore up the one-ringgit notes melodramatically and angrily, but it was unclear what she did with the fifty-ringgit note.
One Pakatan Rakyat State Assemblyman, Yew Tian Hoe, said Hee had sprayed him with pepper spray. It appears obvious she will need much more than pepper spray to defend her honour. Her name is destined to become a term of abuse, much as “Quisling” entered the English language to mean traitor, after the name of the despised Norwegian turncoat Vidkun Quisling. Hee’s name may yet find its way into common usage. Her name is likely to become synonymous with an expletive, because of the widespread tendency on the Internet, to combine her name with foul language.
Hee stands as a reminder of the worst and cheapest aspects of our tawdry democracy. She is also a reminder to our political parties to select candidates wisely, candidates who truly represent the people. With time, the selection process for Pakatan Rakyat should improve, and debacles such as the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Fairus Khairuddin, and the defection of Pakatan Rakyat reps in Perak will, we hope, one day be history.
We can work for a viable two-party system, and keep hoping it will emerge.
Looking forward to the next Perak elections
When Retired Justice NH Chan judged the judges presiding over the suit brought by new Perak MB Zambry against Sivakumar, he quoted Thomas Fuller: “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.”
Politicians in Perak must also be aware that they are subject to the people’s will. And it is almost certain the BN reps will feel the full wrath of Perak’s voters during the next election. The small tactical advantage gained by overthrowing Perak’s elected government is likely to increase the anger of voters nationwide, against such abuses of power, and lead to huge strategic losses for BN in the next election.
We voters in Sarawak, and our counterparts in Sabah, have seen these systematic abuses repeated over the years in our part of the country, too. Is it now time for us to join the groundswell of Malaysian voters demanding a cleaner government?
If we can impose a two-party system the police apparatus cannot again be used to drag down our elected governments, and deny us our democratic rights.
Be you ever so high, you can be brought down by the vote of the common man.
p/s: Hornbill Unleashed invites readers to email us at email@example.com with leads and or other specific information on individuals involved in related to the above article so that we know more concretely about the matter. Thank You.