Malaysia is a sovereign State governed by the representatives of its people and headed by a titular Monarchy. In that it resembles the former colonial Power, Great Britain, which also has the monarchical system.
There is, however, a marked difference between the two States. In Britain the irresistible movement by the people towards self-sovereignty has been progressively recognised by successive Monarchs until, at the present day, the Monarch must accept and follow the advice of Parliament. That state of affairs has been achieved by common sense on both sides and a recognition that the will of the people is sovereign and must be heeded.
Things were not always so and earlier British Monarchs were absolute rulers whose will and commands had to be obeyed without question. That ended with Charles the First and by a slow and peaceful progression the present day situation where the Sovereign reigns but does not rule has been achieved.
Of course that process took centuries to achieve in a slower moving world where inherited privilege and power resisted challenge and change but eventually had to concede it.
In the world of the twenty first century where universal education and universal suffrage are taken for granted everything must adapt and Constitutions are no exception. In framing the Constitution of Malaysia the departing British cemented the role of the Rulers, whom they had effectively replaced as the governing power. Thus Malaysia was to be a Monarchy, but a constitutional one. A pious hope but an unrealised one.
The actual situation can best be summed up by quoting one of the Rulers who recently announced that he knew best what is good for “his people” And the slavish adherence to the defeated BN regime demonstrated by complicity in unconstitutional activity clearly shows that the idea of titular sovereignty tied to acceptance of the popular will has not been accepted generally.
Here the British, as often the case, bear the principal responsibility. When extending their rule into the then Malay States they generally chose to make accommodations rather than simply replace autocracies. Whatever the validity behind those decisions at the time they have left a legacy that is malign for Malaysians as a whole.
It is therefore time, and past time, for a radical re-think, and a public change of position on the part of the Rulers. Some have recognised this. Others not. But accept or not the fact of the matter is that Monarchy, as a concept in the Malaysian context, means, and must mean, constitutional Monarchy without political interference or exercise of political power.
That lesson can be learned and acted upon now or it will be enforced more painfully in time to come. And soon.