Umno and its hijacking of an ancient covenant — Sakmongkol AK47
JUNE 16 — Nizar Jamaluddin, former MB of Perak, is in a pickle these days. We can’t leave him alone though because he represents the people. What happens to him could also happen to us later when we, out of public spiritedness, raise an issue involving the royalty. So, the rakyat must continue to speak because, we actually do remember the tenets of Malay customs and etiquette.
I can’t offer Nizar any ideas on how to resolve his predicament with the Johor monarchy. Perhaps he may have to offer momentary lapse of memory as defence. He has simply forgotten an important ingredient in Malay custom. He will not suffer embarrassment if he adopts this defence because others more prominent than him have chosen to adopt selective recollection. Mahathir Mohamad forgot so many things when faced with the issue on the VK Lingam tapes. Or Nizar embraces humility and admits that he is stupid in this area.
But which part of the Malay custom are we talking about? This article seeks to explore the corruption of a very important component of Malay customs and etiquette — his relationship with the Malay Ruler. That relationship is represented by a code of conduct expressed in the avowal Pantang Melayu Derhaka! This is probably the part of Malay customs and etiquette which is referred to. This is the underlying and awe-inspiring code of conduct that regulates the relationship of the Malay subject with his Ruler. Pushed to its extreme form, this code of conduct leads to the blasphemous deification of another human being. That however is a separate matter best left to Islamic theologians to debate as the deification of another human being means making the human equal to the Almighty.
This subject has recently come to the fore when Nizar tweeted his discomfort on the amount of money spent to acquire a car number plate. His tweet invited the ire of Johor folk. Johor Umno Youth was quick to exploit the issue. What was it that Nizar said that raised so much venomous response from the axe to grind Umno Youth?
Can the unease of one person upset the whole institutional structure that has always upheld the position of the Malay monarchy? Nizar’s grumblings were not directed at the person of the Ruler or at the institution. What Nizar did was to raise the issue of indecent spending. This wasn’t a case of disputing whose money it is. Even if it’s your money, if it’s applied in a controversial manner, ownership of the money is irrelevant. Nizar said out loud his opinion against the “idea” of indecent spending. The better idea on such a large amount of money would be to apply it to socially beneficial ends.
When the late Zakaria built his mansion amidst the squalor of Pandamaran a few years back, the issue was the building of a palatial home amidst the hovels in Pandamaran. The behaviour was indecent.
Since the issue has been politicised, we will take it from there. So, now we are interested in the politics behind the avowal. The Malay monarchy is the symbol into which is invested special meanings which are sometimes operated as a tool for political expediencies. In the hands of Umno, the special meanings invested are mostly used for political convenience as exemplified in the recent gathering of the so-called absolute loyalists before the Johor monarch.
Would anyone subscribe to the view that behind the pretentious display of undying loyalty, it’s only Umno that upholds the institution of the Malay monarch? If anyone does, then he has forgotten that in 1993 it was Umno which mobilised the whole nation into a frenzy, demanding doing the King Philip and Marie Antoinette thing on the Malay monarch.
Because in the hands of a manipulative Umno, the primordial code of conduct is now being used as the measure of one’s Malayness, loyalty and patriotism all at once. The Malay who appears as straying from the measure is to be taken as someone who has violated the meaning of being Malay. In Umno’s twisted political lexicon, unconditional loyalty to the institution of the Malay monarch forms an indispensable and mandatory cultural DNA. Without which, one ceases to be Malay enough deserving of support and communion with fellow Malays.
The avowal can universally be translated to mean the people shall never be disloyal to the king. The term disloyal is used in its most general forms. The common man never trespasses the king in any way and form; never shall he insult the king in mind, never speak evil and more so does not commit trespass of the person upon the king. The term treason is also a close description. Used in these terms, Umno and its surrogate NGOs can then brand Nizar, his party and all those who support Nizar as unMalay, unpatriotic and disloyal. It is this vicious use that we are now objecting. Umno cannot now claim to be sanctimonious when what it attempted to do to the Malay monarchy in 1993 was clearly worse and disloyal.
We turn to the venerable Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals to search for the origins of this avowal. It is there that this covenant, which was to form the basis to measure the Malay’s cultural affinity and ethnic oneness, originated.
The ancient king figure being represented by king Seri Teri Buana (STB) and the people figure by Deman Lebar Daun (DLD). Seri Teri Buana is one of the three mythical figures that appeared at Bukit Siguntang Mahameru. He was made king when DLD, the incumbent ruler of Palembang, abdicated from his throne in favour of STB because of the mythical origins of the latter.
The Sejarah Melayu tells us the ancient king took a total of 39 ladies as brides but as soon as each union was consummated, the bride contracted chloasma — a skin disease that left the face discoloured or blackened. He was resigned to spending life as a roving bachelor when fate intervened and he was informed that his man Friday, DLD his sidekick, has a beautiful daughter, Wan Sundari. Whereupon he summoned his faithful former king now turned sidekick and expressed his desire of wanting the daughter of DLD. Fearful that his only daughter may be stricken with the same affliction, DLD asked for a covenant with the king if he wants his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Since then, only the second part of the ancient covenant has been stressed over and over again. This part read: “That your descendants shall never for the rest of the time be disloyal to my descendants, even if my descendants oppress them and behave evilly.” And DLD said: 'Very well your highness, but if your descendants depart from the terms of the pact, then so will mine'.”
But what was the part of the people’s bargain?
“Your highness, the descendants of your humble servant shall be the subjects of your majesty’s throne, but they must be well treated by your descendants. If they offend, they shall not, however grave be their offence, be disgraced or reviled with evil words: if their offence is grave, let them be put to death if that is in accordance with shariah law.”
Clearly then, there are two sides of the Malay customs and etiquette which are in question. Not only does the first part need adherence to, the observance of the second part is also demanded. — sakmongkol.blogspot.com
* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.