Treason of the Malaysian Hawks: Commentary on the Perak crisis

After pointing out that “treason” is a word that carries especially harsh moral connotations, Iklé noted:

[T]he English language is without a word of equally strong opprobrium to designate acts that can lead to the destruction of one’s government and one’s country, not by giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but by making enemies, not by fighting too little, but by fighting too much and too long. ‘Adventurism’ — much too weak a word — is perhaps the best term to describe this ‘treason of the hawks’…. Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous.

Although the Ikle work was written as an analysis of the management of US policy, I believe that we can apply the term usefully to other countries, including Malaysia.  One reason why this term “treason of the hawks??? may be useful to us is that the term “treason??? or its equivalent Malay term “derhaka’ has been used more and more frequently, especially since the beginning of the Perak constitutional crisis.  Who are the hawks in Malaysia and who have been guilty of treason?   And more important them labelling: what is the way forward so we can get out of the Perak mess.

Where I Come From 

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Let me begin by declaring my new interest in the subject of treason and loyalty and on how I intend to apply these concepts to the present crisis in Perak.  I am not a politician or a political scientist. I am a retired engineer and like most Malaysians, a follower of the political trends in the country because these trends impact on all of us in one way or another.  Secondly, I am a Perakian who has been, and continues to be, loyal and fully committed to making Perak and Malaysia a better place for ourselves and our younger generation.  As with all patriotic and peace loving citizens in the state and country I am totally alienated with what has been happening in our beautiful state and I especially now feel compelled to speak out when I see how high-handed the Barisan National has been in seizing political control of Perak.  This seizure has finally been consummated by gangster-like tactics employed in yesterday’s State Assembly opening – tactics which have now been plastered in newspapers all over the world and which have earned its perpetrators eternal shame and notoriety.

In the coming days what we will see and hear about over the official and government controlled mass media radio, television and newspapers is an attempt to make it appear as if the struggle over political control in Perak is over and that what has taken place is a political contestation between treasonous malcontents on the one side and patriotic Malaysians on the other; between royalists and anti-royalists; and between traditionalists and extremists.

Will The Hawks Make Peace?  

Instead of going along or opposing this analysis, I think we should adopt Ikle’s approach and pose the question as to who are the ones that are truly our enemies and who are the ones that are engaging in acts that are undermining our country and are destroying our democratic system of government. When we apply Ikle’s analysis, it is clear that we are in a situation where the hardliners (and its supporters, including those in very high places) are stubbornly refusing to make peace and in the process, are leading the state to possible disaster.

Making peace in Perak is easily within reach. Firstly we need to discuss the constitutional and legal issues underpinning the power grab in an open, objective and balanced fashion.  Many of these issues have been succinctly dissected by retired appellate judge, Dato N.H. Chan in his series of commentaries which have appeared in the CPI website and other websites. They include

a) The tussle in Perak between the Sultan and the Mentri Besar,

b) How to judge a judge,

c) When the highest court of the land can take down the government of the day, and

d) The inconvenient judge 

The fact that the mainstream newspapers have refused to print any of his arguments but have concentrated instead on focusing on the constitutional and legal views advanced by establishment politicians and their lawyers is a poorly disguised attempt to sway public opinion.  It is also a clear refusal to make peace; a desperate act by our Malaysian hawks to generate war-like propaganda which unfortunately will only have the opposite effect of prolonging the instability and strife.

Secondly, any court ruling – whether it favours Nizar or Zambry – is only a temporary solution.  The most important way to arrive at peace in Perak – for both BN and PR sides – is not to fight too hard and too long or to label each other as traitors and treasonous but to go back to the ballot box.  Only the ballot box – if not immediately now, only three years away unless emergency rule is declared – can decide the choice of the people and reveal who has the political and moral legitimacy to rule in Perak.  This is the only sensible way forward in this crisis – returning to our democratic roots and values and not engaging in shows of force or other underhand tactics that can only delay the inevitable.

Opposition to my suggestion – and many other thoughtful Malaysians have made a similar suggestion – can only come from those that are truly the hawks.  At this difficult and contentious stage of Malaysian history we need doves, not hawks. Doves, not hawks, will ensure that Malaysians will never again have to go through the sorry spectacle shown in this YouTube recording of the state assembly on 7 May 09.

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