The monarchy has a role to play as the guardian of good governance and the democratic process as mandated by the Federal Constitution, the Raja Muda of Perak said.
“It is an often overlooked or under-appreciated fact that the monarchy in Malaysia is supposed to play a productive role by being a healthy check and balance in the system of governance,” Raja Dr Nazrin Shah said.
“The Federal Constitution mandates the monarchy to be the guardian of the just rule of law, an impartial arbiter in the democratic process and an overseer over the pillars of state.
“Some believe that the rulers are supposed to do so only in a purely ceremonial sense, but I would argue that this contradicts the true spirit, if not the letter, of the Federal Constitution.”
Raja Nazrin said this in his public lecture to inaugurate the Khazanah National Development Seminar in Kuala Lumpur last night. A copy of the lecture was given to the press. The one-day seminar today is part of Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s series of events to celebrate the 50th Merdeka anniversary.
“While the monarchy is required to act on the advice of the executive, it must also uphold the principles of good governance and the rule of law, with credibility and impartiality,” Raja Nazrin said.
“To do otherwise would be to undermine its integrity, as well as that of the Federal Constitution.”
He said for the monarchy to be able to discharge its responsibilities effectively, it would need avenues for “genuine and in-depth consultations” with the executive.
“This should pose no problem, however, given the common and unswerving aim of advancing the interests of the nation.
“This unity of purpose will also help ensure that the relationship will be cooperative and not marred by open confrontation,” he added.
Raja Nazrin noted that contrary to some opinion, “the Malaysian monarchy is not all form and no function”.
“The monarchies that have survived – and I include Malaysia’s among these – have done so because they have evolved in line with social progress and contribute to public life.
“They have evolved by accepting the reality of, and placing themselves above, partisan politics,” he said.
He said the monarchy contributed to public life by redefining its role to help in upholding justice, maintaining peace and resolving conflicts between contending parties.
“They function as the voice of reason, moderation and good governance, especially if there is extremism or chauvinism.
“In this way, the monarchy strengthens the institutions of governance and enhances, rather than detracts from, the democratic process,” he said.
He explained that Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, which operates on the basis of parliamentary democracy.
“The monarchy in Malaysia is an integral part of the country, a symbol of identity, continuity, unity and strength.
“It is a symbol of identity because it is a national institution, one that distinguishes this country from all others,” he said.
“It is a symbol of continuity because the monarchy in Malaysia is an old institution and provides a sense of historical significance to the people.
“It is a symbol of unity because it is a focal point for citizens of all races, religions and political persuasions to rally around. And it is a symbol of strength because it exemplifies the virtues of justice, mercy and honour.”
Earlier in his lecture, Raja Nazrin noted that development should instigate progressive change – in the way the economy generates and distributes value and wealth, the way public institutions serve their constituents, and the way the citizenry think, behave and act.
He pointed out that the measure of development was not merely in monetary wealth and physical structures.
He said the greatest enemy of development was apathy and indifference. “For the past 50 years, this has colloquially been known as the ‘tidak apa’ attitude. Every level of leadership in government, every educator, captain of industry, parent or private citizen who does not care about high standards being set and maintained is infected with this deadly virus.
“And they condemn this country to a state of mediocrity. Indifference and apathy cause us to seek to achieve only the bare minimum.”
He also noted that there were those who were hostile to change because their livelihood or interests were threatened. While it would be easy to dismiss their concerns as illegitimate, he said this would not be the mark of a developed country.
“It would violate the spirit of inclusiveness. We must treat each other with civility. We must seek to understand and give due respect to each other’s interests and, as far as possible, attempt to negotiate mutually agreeable outcomes,” he said.