First it was Johor: the state has a weak political leadership, which explains why the Johor Housing and Land Enactment 2014 — which gives the Sultan and his nominees practical control of all land and housing matters — was passed. In this respect, democracy and representative government are compromised in Johor.
We spend millions of ringgit and tons of energy organising and participating in general elections, ostensibly to select the people’s representatives who will decide on public policies. These wakil rakyat are supposed to do what’s best for the Rakyat, but in Johor it’s not just the wakil rakyat who makes those decisions (the Ruler has also decided that electronic cigarettes must be banned).
Selangor, which is another rich and powerful state, does not want to be left out in the race for control of the state government apparatus: the Selangor Islamic Council (MAIS), for example, is a corporate body with powers given to it by the Legislative Assembly. As in other democracies, the Assembly is the highest law-making body because the wakil rakyat are members of it — again, we spend millions of ringgit to elect these wakil rakyat, and they are supposed to defend the interests and the people of the state. But in Selangor MAIS is more powerful than the wakil rakyat
When MAIS issued a fatwa that Sisters in Islam (SIS) was a “deviant” group because SIS happened to be more open-minded about Islam than others, the state government and wakil rakyat kept silent. They didn’t see the need to impress upon the Sultan that the fatwa was bad both in law and by the standards of enlightened Islamic principles.
SIS convinced three smart and sound Court of Appeal judges, who ruled that the fatwa was bad in law, but MAIS decided to appeal against the decision. What did the Selangor wakil rakyat do? Nothing — and this is the state government that people rest their hopes on to defend democracy and the rule of law.
If public policy is to be determined by a group of unelected officials, by way of fatwa, why do we need elected representatives at all? Just ask these self-appointed “guardians of Islam” to issue fatwas on any matter they deem fit.
In our country, Islam is the official religion but we are not a country run by ulama. Public policy must be determined by elected representatives. Even the Ruler, who is head of Islam in his state, has to act in accordance with the advice of the Menteri Besar.
Why then are our various Menteri Besar and wakil rakyat are so scared of the state religious authorities and constitutional monarch? Perhaps the answer lies in the fear that their career may not go far.
For example, the Johor Menteri Besar — and whoever aspires to be one — seems afraid that he might not be Menteri Besar any longer if he were to incur the displeasure of the Ruler. Similarly, a political leader in Selangor will not want to incur the wrath of MAIS and be accused of being anti-Islam. These things matter more to them than trying to uphold the law.
So, it looks like winning an election means everything in this country, while providing leadership and defending the law and democracy are secondary.
This makes me sick, so I am off to have roti canai in Transfer Road, Penang to ease the pain. Needless to say, this is not the view of DAP, but my own.