The LoyarBurok Book Review: “Perak: A State Of Crisis” – Cascading Illegality

Perak: A State Of Crisis poster

The book launches 1212 at 4pm. Meet the protagonists (politicians, contributors, writers and lawyers[LB]) at the LoyarBurokking session. Here, read a review of the book to understand why you shouldn’t be missing the launch.

The facts are well known.

The spark was lit when four Pakatan Rakyat Perak State Assembly members defected from their coalition. The ensuing conflagration brought down a State Government and triggered a constitutional crisis that tested the independence, impartiality and integrity of every key institution in the country, and found them wanting. The manoeuvres of the Barisan Nasional throughout the saga were appropriately encapsulated in the title of one of Tengku Razaleigh’s blog writings at the time – “Cascading Illegality”.

Save for the final section (on which more will be said later), this book compiles many of the articles published on the LoyarBurok blawg as the events were unfolding. A helpful chronological map is provided to place each article in context.

However, this book is not a story of those events. Instead, it offers a critical analysis of the many constitutional and legal issues that arose as the crisis deepened.

Perhaps the star writer in this book, amongst the many legal luminaries within, is Dato’ NH Chan, a retired Court of Appeal judge. The nation owes him a debt of gratitude for making public his views and criticisms of the appellate court decisions. In the eyes of the layperson, a rebuttal from a former member of the Bench of his standing provides a weighty counterpoint to those decisions. His labelling of the Court of Appeal’s judgment as “Gobbledegook” is a classic.

Amer Hamzah Arshad’s article opens the compilation. Posing the real question on Perak, he hints that the crisis is a manifestation of a class struggle and calls for a peoples’ revolution. Art Harun crisply articulates the basic constitutional principles that underpin a modern democracy (which all of us should know before voting in the next General Election) and contrasts them to what is occurring on the ground. Shanmuga K deals with the esoteric question whether the Speaker of the State Assembly may be represented by private lawyers or must he only use the State Legal Adviser. Cheang Lek Choy offers his take on why Zambry’s EXCO is illegal. Confused by inconsistent judicial decisions, Edmund Bon is unsure how big a part public perception plays as a factor to disqualify judges owing to allegations of bias. He then manages to collect his wits later and laments the absence of reasons from our appellate courts.

My only gripe is that the more colourful comments on the saga were excluded. Two come to mind – NH Chan’s unreserved condemnation of the relevant Federal Court judges, and Art Harun’s hilarious explanation why a declaratory order cannot be stayed. But I can understand that an editorial decision may have been made to preserve the academic integrity of the book.

Apart from practicing lawyers and an ex-judge, the book contains articles from 3 leading constitutional law experts, namely Kevin YL Tan, Andrew Harding and Shad Saleem Faruqi. The final section of the book consists of specially commissioned articles by each of them, rounding up their views on the crisis after it has run its course to the inevitable outcome. Two out of 3 came to the conclusion that the appellate courts got it wrong.

Upon finishing the book, one can discern a common thread that runs through all the articles – namely, the writers’ belief in a standard of right and wrong that is not subordinate to political expediency. Some call this standard the “Rule Of Law”.

Mian is a lawyer who is strongly convinced that constitutional law ought to be made a compulsory subject in school. In these tumultuous times, the voting public should be empowered with knowledge of the proper role and place of government in modern society.

[LB] Collectively, members of the legal team who acted in various cases and capacities for Nizar and Sivakumar throughout the Perak Crisis were: Sulaiman b. Abdullah, Tommy Thomas, Nga Hock Cheh, Philip Koh Tong Ngee, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Chan Kok Keong, Mohamad Asri b. Othman, Ranjit Singh s/o Harbinder Singh, Razlan Hadri b. Zulkifli, Mohamed Hanipa bin Maidin, Augustine a/l Anthony, Leong Cheok Keng, Mohammad Yunus bin Mohd @ Ahmad Ali, Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Yap Boon Hau, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Mahaletchumi Balakrishnan, Zulqarnain bin Lukman, Cheong Sek Kwan, Joanne Leong Pooi Yaen, Jason Tay Yew Chong, Grace Wong Phui Mun, Abigail Lim Ern Tze and Ngoi Evon.

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Mian‘s favourite musician is Lord Bobo. His Supreme Eminenceness is well known for his ability to play a total of 25 instruments, and to compose, perform, and produce albums all by himself. A veritable one-manmonkeyband (some say control freak), his career started its meteoric rise in the mid eighties with the release of his soundtrack to a movie starring him and the babelicious Apollonia Kotero. His songs about smooching, velvet rain and crying birds are considered modern classics. Waitaminit! Is His Supreme Eminenceness the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As…?

Posted on 10 December 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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