By Howard Lee
His Majesty’s “Loyal” Opposition
The Westminsterial Parliamentary system which our Nation’s founding fathers and mothers agreed upon, was one that afforded the Opposition the title of “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The Loyal Opposition is an integral and irreplaceable branch of the Parliamentary/ Legislative institution. This is not just the case here in Malaya, and subsequently Malaysia, but also across the Commonwealth Realm. Canada, India, Australia to name but a few.
On the rising fascistic approaches taken to polemiscise politics and gain a winning edge in parliamentary elections worldwide, Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of the Loyal Opposition in the Canadian Parliament once said: "The opposition performs an adversarial function critical to democracy itself... Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of the same sovereign, servants of the same law.
We, the Opposition in Malaysia today are neither given the resources nor the institutional respect to carry out our job effectively; in fact we are strategically starved of it by the ‘deep state’ and decades of demonization by the Ruling, using the very resources we are starved of. The Oppression of the Opposition by the Ruling is getting increasingly more sophisticated; yet we are expected to deliver more than ever before, as the ruling regime is worse than it has ever been.
Difference between Adversary and Enemy
The use of the term adversary, by default reinforces of the notion that ‘the ruling’ and ‘the opposition’ must not be enemies, as both serve the same objective of bettering the Crown and Country they are elected to and have sworn to serve. But as soon as the Opposition is treated as an enemy instead of an adversary, it becomes a whole different ballgame; a game that is not only unconstitutional and inhumane; it is tantamount to being treasonous toward Crown and Country.
When you call someone a thief because you see him walking away with someone else’s property under his cloak, you are being his adversary. When the thief counters your call with stabbing you with a knife, he sees and treats you not as an adversary but as an enemy; not only is it disproportionate and turns him into a murderer too.
When we, the Loyal Opposition whistle-blows and points out wrongdoings, we have and remain to do so with the intent of strengthening the Nation and protecting fellow Malaysian. In the six decades, Barisan Nasional has been the Government of our Federation; the Opposition has always acted as their adversary, but have always been treated as the Enemy. We point out their wrong doings and scandals, and they throw us into jail. When your meaner, stronger, and larger adversary treats you as enemy, what are you to do?
The Malaysian Opposition movement and its consequences
Aside from the parliamentary and political Opposition, civil societies organisations (CSO), non-governmental organisations (NGO), student groups, as well as the general populace themselves too can play the role of ‘check and balance’ to the Executive branch. As we can see, there has been an ouvert crackdown on vocal proponents of reforms and advocates of any agenda resembling the one of the Opposition’s. Many have become victims of treatment only worthy of leaders of the Opposition in the most despotic of regimes. It’s safe to say that the Ruling is clearly taking a “if you’re not with me, you’re against me”; and is not hesitating to act in accordance to that.
Since Anwar Ibrahim's imprisonment, several street protests large and small have been organised and held to show solidarity, as well as to call for the Prime Minister to step down. The turnouts have been overwhelmingly encouraging with each and everyone being peaceful and inspiring; but the reaction by the government has also been equally abhorrent. Through several archaic and shocking instruments of law, namely the Peaceful Assembly Act and the Sedition Act, nine more members and activists from the Opposition, most of them Members of Parliaments and State Legislatures, have been arrested and detained.
White collar political terrorism
The latest two who got caught up in the dragnet of arrests, is the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar MP, a young yet experiences second term Lawmaker who is a mother of two young children and also the daughter of Anwar Ibrahim; and Teo Kok Seong MP, also a young second term lawmaker, currently representing the Parliamentary constituency of Rasah, and is the National Chief of the DAP Youth Wing.
Nurul Izzah was arrested yesterday morning on allegations of Seditious Speech, in her critical speech calling to question the independence of the Judiciary and spent last night in a jail cell on remand. Kok Seong was hauled up by the Police on Saturday on allegations of organising an illegal assembly, a rally attended by over 10000 Malaysians, with their rights enshrined in the Federal Malaysian Constitution.
These arrests and prospective charges, like those levelled against the other seven charged, are without a shadow of doubt politically motivated. Nurul Izzah's charge is non-sensical as she ought to be protected by parliamentary immunity and furthermore her speech was in no way at all seditious by any standards; and Kok Seong was a key Speaker representing DAPSY at the finale public rally that was unconstitutionally announced illegal the day before it took place.
Though these are young comrades and leaders who are facing sacrificial oppression, and like all of us who are in this together, they were prepared for the worst the minute they swore their oaths of office. However, nothing prepares us for what is unfolding afore us; the "white collar political terrorism" that is taking Malaysia backwards to the dark ages where politics of fear and oppression is the norm. Whilst the Malaysian Prime Minister jet sets around the globe posturing and pretending to be the liberal, moderate and modern reformist that he is light-years from; the despicable and ugly reality that he and his party continues to usher in is anything BUT liberal, moderate, modern or reformist.
The Ruling is turning back the hands of democratic time
Nine arrests and detentions of opposition leading figures in the space of less than a month, is simply too much evidence to have any doubt that Malaysia is regressively turning into more of a Police state than ever before. The end game is not only to divert the attention from the financial scandals and mis-governance the Ruling is currently embroiled in, it is also to systematically stifle dissent by disqualifying as many vocal Opposition lawmakers from contesting in the next general elections. Not to mention the fear and terror instilled amongst Malaysians, deterring politicians and the general populace from speaking out against the ruling regime.
Yes, as it is oft-quipped in diplomatic circles, that Malaysia is not as bad as many of our neighbours in the region. But many of those neighbours, authoritarian and undemocratic their systems and leaders may be, they are slowly but surely progressing towards global and universal values of democracy and justice; Burma, Phillipines and even Singapore to name but a few. The Malaysian ruling regime, is one of those rare monsters that is not necessarily slowly but definitely surely turning back the hands of democratic time despite protestations by the people.
Who is really guilty of Sedition?
Malaysia may not be under marshall law, nor is it seeing opponents of incumbent power players being assassinated, but its trajectory is definitely in that direction as opposing to being towards democratisation and better social justice.
It is clear now, that it is no longer individuals that the ruling regime is tackling and silencing out of political vengeance. What we see now afore our eyes;
It is no longer Nurul Izzah being locked up and charged for sedition, but a Female Opposition MP being unconstitutionally silenced for doing her duty;
It is no longer Teo Kok Seong being detained and investigated for illegal assembly, but a Youth Opposition leader and legislator facing persecution by prosecution;
It is no longer Anwar Ibrahim being persecuted, but the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition being oppressively incarcerated;
It is the entire institution of His Royal Majesty's Loyal Opposition being kidnapped and locked up behind bars, despotically robbed of its constitutionally enshrined place in Malaysian nation-building.
It is increasingly more difficult to continue treating the Ruling as an Adversary when we, the Opposition is being pummelled with treatment worse than what Enemies deserve. If ever I would agree anything at all is Seditious, it is those at the seat of power within the ruling regime, who wields it in contravention of democratic values to further their own heinous agenda, who are truly seditious.###
Howard Lee is a member of the Democratic Action Party, and Pasir Pinji assemblyman