On the invitation of the Perak Academy, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah recently visited Ipoh and delivered the most reassuring and inspiring lecture that I have heard from a Malaysian politician. This dinner talk on Oct 2 attracted a much larger audience than the regular talks organized by the Perak Academy. However, it really deserved a much larger audience – in fact it deserved a national audience and not simply an elite Perak one.
Tengku Razaleigh, or Ku Li as he is affectionately known, said that the timing of his talk was most appropriate since Perak is at its defining moment in its claim to the right to being a constitutional democracy. In his view, Malaysians who are committed to making constitutional democracy an integral part of our political culture should be watching closely the unfinished journey that Perak has embarked upon.
Ku Li pointed out that the current Perak constitutional crisis shows that democracy is not a ready-made formula or a preordained political system which will automatically follow once we have a written Constitution. The reality is far more complex and often uglier than what it is made out to be. In some cases – and the Perak situation comes to mind – we may have exchanged important democratic values and issues of public morality for the temptation and illusion of stability and prosperity promised by some leaders, regardless of the corrosive effect on democracy.
I and many others in the audience could see clearly that being an Umno leader and a former Finance Minister, his words were carefully chosen and his critical remarks were toned down. Perhaps, this was the reason why he chose to read out his prepared speech rather than provide a more spontaneous one.
Ku Li’s conclusion is the most important part of his speech. In it, he summarised what I shall call his ‘10 Golden Political Principles’ to ensure Malaysia’s future, as follows:
- All political parties are required to include in their constitutional objectives the equality of citizenship as provided for in the Federal Constitution.
- An economic and political policy that political parties propagate must not discriminate against any citizen.
- All parties shall include and uphold constitutional democracy and the separation of powers as a fundamental principle.
- It shall be the duty of all political parties to adhere to the objectives of public service and refrain from involvement in business, and ensure the separation of business from political parties.
- It shall be the duty of all political parties to ensure and respect the independence of the judiciary and the judicial process.
- All parties shall ensure that the party election system will adhere to the highest standards of conduct, and also ensure that the elections are free of corrupt practices. Legislation should be considered to provide funding of political parties.
- It shall be the duty of all parties to ensure that all political dialogues and statements will not create racial or religious animosity.
- All parties undertake not to use racial and communal agitation as political policies.
- To remove and eradicate all barriers that hinder national unity and Malaysian identity.
- To uphold the Federal and State Constitutions and its democratic intent and spirit, the Rule of Law, the fundamental liberties as enshrined in Part II of the Malaysian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
After listening to his speech, I have had discussions on the subject with friends who were also in the audience. I am fully convinced that these principles are important to disseminate, relevant to meeting the challenges of the present and future, and deserving of full support from all Malaysians. If adhered to, I believe that they can provide an important foundation for rebuilding our fragile Malaysian unity and solidarity.
Hence, for a start, I call on all Malaysians and especially all politicians, whether from BN or Pakatan, if they do not want the stability and harmony of the country to be further undermined, to unreservedly endorse and support the 10 Golden Principles.