Martin Jalleh digs up an article written by Tunku Abdul Aziz in 2009 – and finds some startling contradictions with his position today. How times have changed.
Martin, a regular contributor to Aliran, writes:
Below are excerpts of an article written by Tunku Aziz. It appeared in Malaysian Insider (of which he was then a columnist) on 6 August 2009 and the following day on Lim Kit Siang’s blog.
No comment on the man, whom I once held in very high regard for and quoted quite often, is really necessary. The excerpts of his article and his glaringly contradictory stance today are sufficient to reveal with utmost transparency the telling tragedy of the man.
(The paragraphing has been edited for convenient reading.)
Demonstrations: A fundamental right of citizens
by Tunku Aziz
Minutes before writing this article, I had just finished reading, for the second time after a lapse of some years, F W De Klerk’s “The Last Trek – A New Beginning.” He was, of course the President of South Africa who dismantled apartheid and gave the people of that troubled nation a new democratic constitution which saw the once proscribed African National Congress in the seat of power after winning the general elections in 1994.
I mention all this because in spite of the fact that the Republic of South Africa had been under a state of emergency and under siege, De Klerk, in 1989, a few months before his inauguration as President, made a conscious political decision to legalise protest demonstrations that had been made illegal until then, much to the consternation of his security advisers. They thought it was madness on his part given the circumstances prevailing at the time. Why did he do what he did? Let him tell us in his own words:
We were faced with the fact that it would be impossible to avoid the gathering of thousands of people committed to the march. The choice, therefore, was between breaking up an illegal march with all the attendant risks of violence and negative publicity, or of allowing the march to continue, subject to the conditions that could help to avoid violence and ensure good order.
These were important considerations, but none of them was conclusive. The most important factor, which tipped the scale, was my conviction that the prohibition of powerful protests and demonstrations could not continue. Such an approach would be irreconcilable with the democratic transformation process that I was determined to launch and the principles of a state based on the rule of law, which I wanted to establish.
In terms of the security and public order situation then obtaining in South Africa, and the situation in Malaysia today, where peaceful demonstrations are illegal, the two situations do not bear the remotest resemblance.
The justification trotted out with regular monotony by the government is so outrageously dishonest as to insult our intelligence. A government that sees a need to continue to impose an undemocratic law has no place in a parliamentary democracy.
For F W De Klerk, the man who worked himself out of a job, it was nothing more than “restoring what was regarded throughout the world as a basic democratic right”. (Emphasis Tunku Aziz’s)
Perhaps De Klerk’s most inspiring statement in defence of democratic principles is “…..no vision of the future can justify any government to ignore the basic human rights of the human beings involved. No cause is so great that we should allow it to dilute our sense of justice and humanity”. (Emphasis Tunku Aziz’s)
On that note, as our legal friends would say, I rest my case. Now over to our self-proclaimed reformist prime minister. (Please take note of what he called Najib then! – Martin Jalleh)