A RIGHT ROYAL RAGE
The Sultan of Pahang, HRH Sultan Ahmad Shah may have opened up a Pandora’s box with his recent outburst directed at those who he believes responsible for the damage to the crown jewel of his state the Cameron Highlands.
The Camerons and surrounding areas of his kingdom suffered great physical and environmental damage following heavy rains recently precipitating a torrent in the rivers especially Sungei Bertam that caused heavy flood damage to the areas through which it flows.
The Sultan’s reaction to this calamity is captured in his comments published in the NST (New Straits Times 20 November 2014). The Sultan’s comments are surprising for his apparent ‘lack of knowledge’ of what has been occurring in his state over time.
Surely the Sultan must have known of the stealthy encroachment into his territory through illegal means by certain groups, many of which are fronted by people he has decorated with knighthoods (Datukships), bought and paid for with the money from their illegal activities especially in deforestation of his state.
ILLEGAL LOGGING -THE SULTANS-DATUKSHIPS- BULLYING
The degradation of the rainforests of Malaysia through illegal logging and ‘farming’ is legend. The rest of the world has been screaming out in anger and outrage for ages about this environmental disaster in the making (the deforestation of Malaysia), but It appears that the Sultan is about the only person in his state oblivious to that fact.
The Sultan thinks it is the lowly public servant who is to blame. He singles out a minister in Palanivelu a minister of government without connections to a monied community, apportioning blame on the man for the problem which is decades old.
The Sultan then shamelessly and without lawful authority threatens to interfere in the electoral process by saying ‘the minister can forget about his chances for re election‘ or words to that effect ‘if the situation is not corrected‘. How convenient indeed. How unconstitutional, how unlawful.
THE HISTORY OF TIMBER AND THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE ROYALS
The former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammed during a recent road trip through that state observed a large number of logging trucks and the abundance of valuable timber being carted on them to their final destinations. He wrote a comment on it on his website Che Det which is worth a read.
Each of the Malaysian states abundant with timber resources has been hijacked by rich and powerful business interests and communities all of them by-passing legal process and procedure to acquiring rights to these resources. They are then hailed by the same Royals as the Sultan as hard working examples of enterprise. Read Antah Holdings for an example.
As a first step to their looting of the environment and state resources, these groups infect the integrity of the rulers of their target states. They pay them generously for their ‘Datukships’ and lavish upon these Royals gifts of cash, overseas trips, cars, women and other luxuries in an age old ritual that has become all too commonplace in Malaysia.
The royals are themselves deeply entrenched in this practice of patronage and pillaging of state resources. Not least of which is the royal household of the Sultan.
IGNORANCE BY DESIGN BETRAYAL OR WILLFUL BLINDNESS?
To claim ignorance of the rape of state resources, land and forests is to feign ignorance in these matters is to insult us all.
It is an unimpeachable truth that the Sultan’s ignorance of these matters is feigned. And here are our reasons for saying so.
The claim to not knowing about what is happening in Pahang state is being made by a person who has both a moral and legal obligation to make it his business to know what is happening in his state.
It is not simply enough for the Sultan to scapegoat the weakest link in the chain in a minister after a tragedy like the recent floods in the Camerons. The Sultan ought to have known and acted on the impending disasters the results of illegal mining and logging in Pahang before these events occurred. Its called responsibility and being responsible.
At the Sultan’s disposal is the machinery of the state of Pahang and the federal government. If he so desired he has access to these resources at any time. This same position applies to all Sultans and rulers of all states throughout Malaysia. In fact it is also true a position when applied to all politicians and parliamentarians in all states.
Such a claim as is made by HRH the Sultan of Pahang (which I am quite certain is a defence likely also to be raised by other Royals if questioned) is not only laughable (if it were not so tragic) and indefensible, but it is also demeaning to the integrity and the sanctity of the office of the ruler of a state.
His Royal Highness the Sultan of Pahang is not alone in this regard. His comments and his response to the floods is regrettable. It exposes the weaknesses of the Royal Households and the calibre of the traditional rulers of Malaysia many of whose lineage ascended the throne courtesy of the patronage of the British.
If however the Sultan is genuinely as he implies ‘in the dark‘ about these practices of land grabbing and illegal logging in his state, then it is those who surround him in office that need to be identified, thoroughly investigated and punished for keeping the ruler insulated from reality and isolated from knowledge of the affairs of his state.
What has occurred now has brought the Sultan and his office, through his comments and his actions, into disrepute. The damage to his reputation and to the office he holds is irreparable.
Such conduct by the Sultan’s advisors and minders is high treason, unpardonable and impermissible. It amounts to undermining the authority of both the Sultan and eroding the power of the state he rules over and deserves immediate and independent remedial action. It is sedition in its classic form.
STATE AND SOVEREIGN COMPLICITY IN PILFERING NATIONAL RESOURCES
The rape of the land in places like the Camerons is legend. It stands out like a pair of dog’s proverbials and no one, not least of all the Sultan could possibly have missed out on noticing it or to claim not to know about it.
The Camerons is but an isolated example of what is happening nation wide which needs attention. And the Sultans recent comments may have been the catalyst for action against these land pirates. The misconduct of the state rulers is what is helping to undermine good government and the rule of law.
Kuala Lumpur and its surrounds has for decades been the scene of unlicensed, unlawful and unabated environmental damage for “development” purposes by unlicensed and licensed developers alike many working under the protection of the Royals.
Local councils have been bought and planning laws sidelined if not completely ignored in pursuit of the development dollar. Penang is another vivid example of unbridled environmental vandalism sanctioned by the state.
Selangor, Johor, Perak and Kelantan have all become captive to groups of opportunists who help themselves in disproportionate amounts, to assets which rightfully belong to the state. All this achieved through the device of a compliant Royal house or member of a Royal household.
Datukships are sold like confetti to the highest bidder and used by recipients as an accessory to be flashed at social functions and to embellish the otherwise pallid characters and under achievements of its recipients.
The practice has to stop. What the award of Datukships has served to do is to reduce the integrity of the office of ruler (Sultan) to that of being a captive to a community of law breakers.
These robber baron law breakers then wave their paid for knighthoods (Datukships) as a badge of honour and a ‘get out of jail’ free pass in pursuit of their destruction of the social fabric and physical and cultural environment of the country.
In the process knowingly or otherwise the Sultans have allowed their reputations to become tainted, sullied and their positions seemingly tied to a leash controlled by these monied communities.
The Royal households of each state are complicit in the environmental vandalism that has led to tragedies such as the Cameron highlands floods and the erosion of law and order. There is no getting away from this allegation. The overwhelming body of evidence clearly implicates the Royal households of each state to the activities of land vandals, logging companies and improperly sanctioned developers.
FARMING SLAVES AND LAND GRAB-THE CAULDRON BOILETH OVER
The illegal market gardens and farms mainly Chinese owned in not just the Camerons but nationwide are now the property of corporate squatters from as far away as mainland China, using local fronts and imported slave labour from India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to run these enterprises.
The practice endures in east Malaysia too on a very grand scale where the involvement of members of the state legislature are directly involved in these enterprises. The recent case of an Indian national who escaped a surreal and bizarre experience of being kidnapped and being forced to work as a slave in Sabah appears to be the tip of a very large iceberg of human trafficking in this area.
Unless the federal government acts and acts immediately, effectively and with sincerity, the anticipated change people expect of government may not after all come through the ballot box.
There is a stygian anger brewing amongst not only the migrant population of the country. It now engulfs the grass roots rural Malays. And unless there is immediate action by government against organized resource thieves and environmental vandalism, these problems will meld into a single cause that will inevitably cause the cauldron of the weak and dispossessed to explode into uncontrollable rebellion. If this does occur as many suspect it will, the human torrent of anger and inequity will outdo the overflowing and fast Sungei Bertam in a flood and consume everything in its path including an indolent government.
Considering UN statistics on the numbers of illegal workers and trafficked humans in Malaysia, disruption in this area may be an understatement. Any change at this level would be by an uprising in violence led by slaves imported from neighbouring countries in large numbers who have no recourse to justice or relief from their enslavement. Joining them will be the marginalized Malays. And they count for very large numbers.
The current government is and has been aware of human trafficking, illegal land clearing and unlicensed industries for decades. State governments and the Sultans too have been aware of these rorts which has made hundreds of millions of ringgit in untaxed wealth for their promoters.
IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE
Sadly an angry Sultan, and I suspect angry at the unavoidable murmurings of his own people at the grass roots level has decided to deflect responsibility by re directing his anger at low level public servants instead of directing it where it ought to be aimed at.
Public servants of the caliber the Sultan of Pahang has attacked have no legal power, authority or capacity to effectively restrain powerful business communities who hold him and his government captive to their enormous and tempting wallets.
Unless the Sultans of each of these states in Malaysia where illegal trades flourish do something fast and sincerely to abate these practices (including stopping the award of knighthoods for sinister and unmeritorious purposes) , their own subjects will eventually out of necessity dislodge the power base upon which they now rest through direct action.