Wahai Pendukung-2 Demokrasi di Malaysia: Berhentilah mencari Ratu Adil!

Some time ago, Malaysiakinihttp://www.malaysiakini.com/ ) published a letter – Who will succeed Anwar Ibrahim?. (http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/81458). This letter written by The Devil’s Advocate ponders on a very important issue. The importance of this issue is not restricted to Anwar Ibrahim and those that support Pakatan Rakyat. It applies to many other aspects too, especially in the governance of this country. And it applies to democracy as well.

The gist of the letter can be summarised in these two paragraphs:

Anwar Ibrahim is simultaneously both the strongest and weakest link the in Pakatan Rakyat coalition right now. His political charisma has allowed DAP and PAS to temporarily bridge their religious / ideological differences for the moment. This has allowed PR to form governments in four states plus Kelantan (which PAS rules outright without the need for coalition).

However, Anwar Ibrahim is just another mortal person. If he gets hit by the proverbial truck while crossing the road or suffers a massive stroke overnight, PR would find itself in strife the next morning. The bonds that bind the coalition together have not been institutionalised (read: going beyond the political personality and charisma of Anwar). There is no obvious successor should Anwar cease being the leader of the PR coalition.

I have to say that I support the views of The Devil’s Advocate.

Anwar Ibrahim is indeed charismatic. But in choosing him, we may be committing ourselves to a greater degree of risk.

The Devil’s Advocate has suggested some remedies. However, sometimes I wonder why after 50 years of independence, we Malaysians have to depend on Anwar Ibrahim to deliver a “political change” ?

What is wrong with our democracy? What is wrong with the Malaysian democracy?

Interestingly, this situation has parallels… in UMNO.

Look at UMNO. During Mahathir’s time, UMNO has achieved its “golden age”. But now… with Mahathir not in charge… UMNO is floundering… so much so that Mahathir has to “intervene”… in away which cannot be imagined in the past…(I mean look at UMNO right now.. many of the supposedly internal matters have made public – all thanks to Mahathir). Just imagine if Mahathir is not here… will there be any other UMNO leaders who are brave enough to call for Abdullah Badawi to resign? Yes, Mahathir has now resigned from UMNO, but upon reading his blog (http://www.chedet.com/), there are many commenters who want him to come back out of retirement and become the prime minister again!

Perhaps Malaysians are too dependent on heroes…. Just like the olden days of Tun Perak, Hang Tuah etc…

Perhaps this is indicative of the flaws in the institutions of democracy in Malaysia…

This situation reminds me of a poem by WS Rendra titled Sajak Bulan Mei 1998. One part of this poem is very relevant to this entry and to the situation in Malaysia.

Berhentilah mencari Ratu Adil!
Ratu Adil itu tidak ada. Ratu Adil itu tipu daya!
Apa yang harus kita tegakkan bersama
adalah Hukum Adil
Hukum Adil adalah bintang pedoman di dalam prahara

Ratu Adil means messiah or hero. 1998 was a year of turbulence in Indonesia…

According to the story Rendra composed this poem on the 17 May of 1998 he read (proclaimed would be a better word) at the Indonesian Parliament – the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat the next day.

Now, Rendra is an admirer of Anwar Ibrahim and likewise too Anwar Ibrahim is an admirer of Rendra. Check out this entry by Din Merican: Free At Lasthttp://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/anwar-ibrahim-free-at-last/

Now, the characteristics of Malaysians who like and admire heroes are clearly illustrated on April 14th 2008 when the Rendra’s poem Rajawali was read by Khalid Ibrahim:

rajawali terbang tinggi
membela langit dengan setia
dan ia akan mematuk kedua matamu
wahai, kamu, pencemar langit yang durhaka

Now, langit is meant to be the people or rakyat. And the it is obvious from this poem that the rajawali is meant to be Anwar Ibrahim. The “mu” and “kamu”… well… those refer to the Barisan Nasional leadership.

And look at these parts of the poem – glorifying the hero:

langit tanpa rajawali
adalah keluasan dan kebebasan tanpa sukma
tujuh langit, tujuh rajawali
tujuh cakrawala, tujuh pengembara

The line: “langit tanpa rajawali adalah keluasan dan kebebasan tanpa sukma” basically means that without the hero (Rajawali or Anwar) the people are living in emptiness. Basically this line describe the hero as a messiah or savior.

Anyway, I think that Khalid Ibrahim (the current Selangor mentri besar and the reciter of the poem) may have misunderstood Rendra… Maybe because he choose to recite one of the “vague” or highly symbolic poems of Rendra. This poem can be categorised as “vague” or “symbolic” for many reasons one of them was the repressive nature of the New Order regime.

But bear in mind Rendra’s other poems can be very specific… especially during the last days of Suharto’s New Order…

Therefore: Khalid Ibrahim may have misunderstood Rendra… After all Rendra lamented his fellow countrymeCadar kabut duka cita menutup wajah Ibu Pertiwi, Airmata mengalir dari sajakku ini”n propensity to look for a “Ratu Adil” 10 years ago with the poem Sajak Bulan Mei 1998. At the end of the that poem Rendra cried: 10 years have passed and now Malaysia too is in some state of confusion. And during such a time some Malaysians may either yearn back the previous when their hero Mahathir Mohammad was at the helm… or some (or many more?) may hope that Anwar Ibrahim can deliver changes.

But this attitude is fundamentally wrong. Democracy cannot be sustained by heroes. Democracy is about social institutions which are basically rules and regulations, and behavioural codes of conducts that are accepted by at the majority of the people.

Rendra cried upon reading his poem on the 18th May 1998. Lamenting the attitude of the Indonesians…

Perhaps many Malaysians should now cry… as many of us still hope for the hero, for the messiah or for the Ratu Adil to come down to save us from all of our troubles!

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