A new political ideology in town?


Frusis Lebi

AT the outset, I must thank those who have emailed or sent comments via SMS touching on my recent piece on the misfortune of one Frusis Lebi. Several of these correspondents, two from Sabah, were flattering, others were not so, and one was downright rude.

One calling himself or herself AK (no sex disclosed) asked if there was a new political ideology in town – the Jangan Lawan Towkay – a ‘principle of government’ currently promoted by the cyber troopers.

The latest email is from JT, who wanted to know if there was a real case of Jangan Lawan Towkay.

Let me touch on the most recent email first and then deal with the ‘new’ concept of government later, if space and time permit.

The Ides of March of 1987

Yes, I can’t find a better example of a Lawan Towkay than that of the infamous Ming Court Affair. In that ‘affair’, 27 honourable members of the august house from Sarawak flew to the Ibu Negara and gathered at the luxurious hotel with the imperial name.

From there, they announced that they had lost confidence in the leadership of the Chief Minister of the state, Taib Mahmud. They wanted him replaced with one from their own number (let this CM-designate remain faceless for the time being), purportedly favoured by certain federal leaders.

But the palace putsch fizzled out and the plotters flew back to the Land of the Hornbills with bruises to the ego. Ironically, some went back to the state administration later, like the proverbial prodigal son, and were feted with the fattest beef steak.

JT, don’t you think that this is an excellent example of Lawan Towkay? And a case of recipients being rewarded for being naughty?

I call this Ming Court Affair the Ides of March of 1987 for lack of a better term. Those who have read Shakespearean works know what I’m talking about. The attempt on Julius Caesar’s life was a success but the local version of the Ides of March in 1987 came to pass with a whimper.

The accomplices got into trouble with the law, but major plotters were off the hook. Indeed, ironically, some were rewarded with state and federal honours in later years while the innocent bystanders in 1987, among them a couple of civil servants, were blacklisted for promotion.

The rule of Jangan Lawan Towkay

AK, I must admit that I had not heard about this principle of statecraft until a few weeks ago. It smacks of the politics of Niccolo Machiavelli, the Second Chancellor to the Florentine Republic in the 15th century. Machiavelli, who wrote the book ‘The Prince’, was concerned with politicians losing power and he recommended that they must hold on to it by hook or by crook.

I’m ignorant about the existence of any system of government in which the voter who, as boss to begin with, elects his representative to the legislature, and then transfers his power to his YB; the elected legislator, at his whim and fancy or at his beck and call, insists on being elected again and again and again by that voter, on pain of losing all governmental assistance.

In that particular state election in April 2011, Frusis Lebi of Entulang was not an employee or servant of the candidate whom he did not fancy; he had another candidate in mind. There was no employer-employee relationship (towkay-kuli) between them. He was just a recipient of a monthly allowance of RM300 from the Welfare Department until October 2011. This cessation of payment took place after that particular state election. Reason for withdrawal for public consumption: the recipient had been discovered to have earned a princely sum of RM2,000 per month and therefore was considered a well-to-do OKU.

Tau sik (did you know)? This assistance comes from the taxpayers f money allocated to the Welfare Department for distribution to the OKU? Tau sik? At the time of the formation of Malaysia in 1963, there was a deal struck between the partners to the federation: as there would be no state religion for Sabah and Sarawak, there were to be no federal funds used in both states for religious purposes, but each of the Borneo states should be given an amount for welfare purposes corresponding to the amount of federal funds spent in Malaya for religious purposes.

So much I understood from reading the Report Of The Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962. According to that report, the resolution was passed on Sept 26, 1962, by the legislature of Sarawak to approve the formation of Malaysia in principle subject to safeguards for the special interests of Sarawak.

The money that Frusis and citizens like him could have come from sources from the federal government under the deal.

Undaunted, Frusis wanted to plant some fruit trees and needed fertilisers for them. He requested for such subsidised items from the local agriculture office. After some delay, he was told that there was a problem with his application: that epistle from his YB, the boss.

It is claimed by some quarters that most people (which people?) agree with the action taken against Frusis. That’s the name of the game, they say. I say the game is dirty, vindictive and therefore counterproductive.

Faces of democracy

JT also wanted to know if I knew what varieties of democracy there were in the world. He claims to be a political science student. Good boy.

JT, you have asked too much of me. Nevertheless, I have heard of democracy as being a form of government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as described by US president Abraham Lincoln during his speech at Gettysburg on Nov 19, 1863.

I have also read the speech delivered by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes at the 150th Anniversary of the meeting of the First Congress of the United States on March 4, 1939. He said, “We are here not as masters but as servants, not to glory in power but to attest our loyalty to the commands and restrictions laid down by our sovereign, the people of the United States, in whose name and by whose will we exercise our brief authority.”

Of course, democracy may be defined in more ways than one.

For instance, I have heard of an account of a Singaporean, a British subject, who was being asked to make a choice as to which country he should be expelled. He chose China because “There is no democracy in Singapore. I want to go to a place where there is real democracy” (Source: Fong Sip Chee’s ‘The PAP Story’ – published by Times Periodicals Pty Ltd Singapore, 1979).

Tun Jugah’s definition of a democratic government is Rimau Atas Keresi (constitutional monarchy / parliamentary democracy). That’s our system of government.

I have also heard of governments based on -isms: militarism, Nazism, fascism, communism, but I had not heard of Janganlawantowkayism until lately. I have heard of rule by ships – dictatorship, kinship (‘rule’ by relatives).

We may agree or we may not agree with these various types of government; be it oligarchy (rule by a few) or plutocracy (rule by the rich) or autocracy (absolute rule by one man or woman) or theocracy (rule by theologians) or Rimauataskeresi. You choose which one or a combination of these are suitable to your needs, but choose not the one which deprives the members of the community, physically handicapped or wholesome, who deserve the assistance from a government, on account of their political affiliations.

There should be a public policy for them for all times, change of administration, notwithstanding.

I hope I have responded sufficiently to those who took the trouble to write to me suggesting that I continue writing about abuses of power in general. Next time, can? For now, I wish to bring this subject of the Frusisian slip, discrimination against a physically handicapped person, to a close.

Unggal Frusis, let’s move on.