Shattered Symbiosis: The Road to Conflict between Malay Nationalism and Monarchy

  • Roger Kershaw (Autor/in)

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After the custodial function of the Conference of Malay Rulers in relation to Malay Special Rights was strengthened constitutionally in 1971, a new royal assertiveness began to emerge, politically and economically, calling in question the well-established political symbiosis between monarchy and the elective nationalist elite. Dr Mahathir began his Premiership in 1981 in the midst of a crisis of authority in Pahang State, and in 1983 felt bound to take steps to spell out the duty of royal consent to legislation, anticipating the possible election of the Sultan of Johor as Supreme Ruler. Despite only partial success in this manoeuvre, Dr Mahathir appears to have turned the personal imperatives of the Sultan of Johor to good account in his battle with the judiciary in 1988. In late 1992 the same Sultan played into his hands again by assaulting a hockey coach and making possible a Constitutional Amendment which has not only removed legal immunity from all the reigning monarchs but has also established a right of legislators to criticise royalty in elective assemblies - an important asset for the ruling party in view of the increasingly independent political posture of the Sultan of Kelantan. It is difficult to avoid the conlusion that, since this constitutional crisis of 1993, "Malaysia will never be the same again", although the rulers did manage to establish their right to be consulted and potentially to refuse consent, regarding such a change in their own powers.