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I found this old article on Malaysia Today defending the monarchy in Malaysia. Sure, “they cost too much” is quite a stupid argument for abolishing the monarchy in Malaysia (if those nine Rulers and their families cost nothing, it doesn’t make monarchy a good thing), the counter-arguments (“oh, everything else cost too much too”) is worse.

Of course, ignored is the principle difference between, say, MPs and ministers, and a Sultan. If the goal in Malaysia is to be a state, sure, the MPs and ministers are not needed. But if the end goal is for Malaysia to become a liberal democracy (that is, basic liberties, clear check and balances, and an elected government) – MPs and ministers are clearly needed.

But it’s a stretch that a democratic Malaysia requires nine Sultans (okay, seven Sultans, one Raja and one Yang di-Pertua Negeri) to be democratic. Oh, but that defenders of Islam bit? Why not, then, fund those Rulers with zakat monies.

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5 Comments

  1. Well, RPK’s argument for maintaining the monarchy is definitely flawed in the way you put it. In addition to that, monarchy is passed down by blood lineage, not by voting system (i.e. we did not choose them to be there).
    However, I don’t see why I would want to abolish it anyway, in the sense that I see monarchy as the part of Malaysia’s past history, and not particular great harm has monarchy done or can be done to the present-day Malaysia. It cost something, but I don’t see any amount is mentioned here. Their abuse of power or authority? I believe they are awared that most of the Malaysians are not that keen on defending them if they abuse it and they might lose it forever.
    As for why Malaysia is keeping all the 9 rulers of states, I wonder could it be we got it in the wrong way actually. At least if my memory of highschool textbook history serves me faithfully, each state is actually having their own autonomy before becoming Persekutuan Malayu, or before British started coloniasing Malaysia, yes/no? Then I started to think, if Perlis want to be independent, actually it will be bigger than Liechtenstein (a monarch – 160.4km2 vs Perlis 810km2).
    As for the role of Sultan to be the defenders of Islam, just as much as Queen/King the head of CoE in UK, I am not so much bothered who is using whose money. If we are serious about money issue, church/state separation should be the headstart. But of course, it is not a good argument for the matter of principle 😛

  2. mich: On whether or not we should maintain the monarchy, I don’t think the monarchy should be maintained because it is historical – the Plague was historical too, but we shouldn’t be preserving it.

    The monarchy is fundamentally and principally wrong because it provides an office that is not won by merit or elections or appointment – rather by birth. In other words, every other Malaysian have no right to be Sultan or Agong by virtue of their birth.

    And in Malaysia, it gets worse, where the monarch isn’t representative of Malaysians in reality, it is in theory as well – the Rulers are defenders of the Malay rights (not Malaysian rights) and Islam.

    And in Malaysia, the sentimental value of having a monarchy is lost – people don’t even know the names of their Rulers. It’s a bit different in UK or Japan where the monarch is beyond a person and an institution.

    So there’s no reason to keep the nine Rulers.

    I don’t think cost is a big factor; elected governors and presidents are sure to cost too. Going republican isn’t going to make things cheaper, necessarily.

    As for state autonomy, I’m all for devolution. But we don’t need Rulers to represent autonomy. A considering four states don’t have a Ruler to begin with, especially the two with the most devolved power – Sabah and Sarawak, quite clearly monarchs have nothing to do with state autonomy (interestingly, the most devolved federations around are republican ones – Switzerland comes to mind)

    As for the separation of church and state, heh, I don’t exactly approve of the Church of England being financed by English taxes. I don’t care if a religion decides a monarch should lead and represent their religion, just don’t ask me to pay taxes to him (or support his office).

  3. Hehey, I am not a big fan for monarch, but perhaps I am much more for sentimental/nostalgic values. But I guess I am not buying for your reasons for the points below:
    1) historical values: plague vs monarch, baju kurung vs bow-tie? I see monarch as cultural identity, not so much as utility function. Plague is not preserved not because it is ancient or historical, but it is bad in nature (kills people). But I heard that some scientist are preserving the cultures of small pox virus, just in case if there is another outbreak again (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_pox)
    2) I would agree you on the point whereby monarch is flawed in the sense it is passed down by birth (which I also mentioned it in my comment earlier on), but let’s say we extend a little bit further, would you agree that we put a very high inheritance tax, in the hope of everyone will start new fresh, without getting the huge amount of money from rich parents? Can you see the analogy is there too?
    3) Malaysians are losing the sentimental value for monarch: well, if some particular ruler is popular like Thailand or Japan, or Queen of England, then it is ok to preserve it? So I guess Malaysia’s Monarch just need a good PR job? 😉
    4) Yes we don’t need ruler to represent any autonomy, just as much as I would see it weird if Sabahan or Sarawakian insist to install a Sultan out of nowhere to symbolize their autonomy. This is coming from their past history, they dont have one and they dont need one. Moreover, Sultan represents autonomy, in symbolical way, not as much as in real power.
    5) Rulers as the defenders of Malay Right (adat istiadat) and Islam, wasn’t it the product of British colonisation (as part of the deal to keep their entitlement)? Moreover, the Sultan gave those fancy medals and titles to both Malays and non-Malays as well, rite? When the Sultan exercise His pardoning rights, it will be given to both Malays and non-Malays, rite (in theory, in practice- lain kira)?
    6) Tax money. Haha, I dont quite agree with a lot of gomen’s way of spending my tax money too, but what to do, it is not like we can get agreement of everyone on how every penny spent in this country, can we? 🙂
    As I said, I am not a big fan of monarch, I dont see them often, except some Hari Raya’s opening house once every year. I wont fight very hard in defending them, neither would I enthusiatically want to abolish them. May be just my nostalgiac feeling towards them 😛

  4. On the first point, my point was that the monarchy shouldn’t be maintained for historical reasons.

    On inheritance taxation, it’s quite a different thing altogether. Firstly, it is inheritance of wealth, not public office. If the Sultan has some successful business, he has the right to give it to his children as inheritance. But with a public office, it is quite different simply because it doesn’t deal with private wealth – rather public money.

    As for sentimental value, heh, not really. Just it would be unfeasible to call for the United Republic of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The common theme in many popular monarchs isn’t the office in itself, but rather the person occupying it. If Elizabeth Windsor ran for President of said United Republic, there is no doubt she would win. She deserves every bit of it.

    But in Malaysia, not only is the office outmoded and dated, the people holding them unpopular and irrelevant.

    On the symbolism of autonomy, my point was that monarchy should not be kept as mere symbols. Well-devolved federations didn’t required royalty to symbolize autonomy, why should Malaysia?

    And yes, the monarchs do serve the people. But consider the constitution in itself describes the monarchs as protectors of a certain race and religion.

    And lastly, on tax – as I said, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of spending between a republican and a constitutional monarchy state.

  5. hey, rajan, did u read the latest letter from Noor Yahaya Hamzah on negative income tax? (http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/70157). I would love to know what is your response 🙂


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