Monday 10 September 2012

The devil wears Prada

  • Mariam Mokhtar
  • 12:13PM Sep 10, 2012
Around the world, the institution of the monarchy is under threat and people are openly critical of their excesses. In Malaysia, there is little criticism of royalty, and the Sedition Act is used indiscriminately to suppress any exposure.
If anyone were to breathe a word against the royal family, some politician out to score points, some extremist group or some nutter would spring to the royal defence.

With the threat of prosecution, under the arbitrarily enforced sedition laws, what you hear about our royals is always good. What you hear behind closed doors is another story. Malaysians are all too familiar with the Umno chant that the opposition is out to destroy the Malays, their religion, way of life and royalty.

In truth, it is Umno which seeks to destroy the Malays. Today, ordinary Malays kiss the hands of Umno leaders. If left unchecked, Malays will be eating out of their hands forever. Islam has withstood the test of time, but Umno’s brand of Islam is shaky.
Malays risk being left behind because many have exchanged self-reliance for dependency on government hand-outs. They are disinclined to prove themselves. Many have no self-respect and have forgotten how to live within their means. They are disdainful of helping their fellow Malaysian.

Elsewhere in the world, royals who misbehave face a public backlash. Questions will be raised about the privy purse, the rights of the royals and their responsibilities. Overseas royalty have learnt to earn the respect of the taxpayer.

The thought of meeting members of the royal family affects Malaysians in different ways. Many are indifferent but some become starry-eyed and splash out on a new outfit, a trip to the hairdressers and an expensive facial, just for that brief 10 seconds, when they may or may not receive the cursory royal glance or handshake.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the people who most dread having a royal audience are those who have received honorary titles. The wife of a 'Datuk Seri' confided that the prospect of meeting royals fills her and her husband with gloom.

As an example, she said that if the royals discover that the couple is vacationing overseas at the same time as the member of royalty, then the couple is expected to spend a part of their holidays with the royals and his entourage, and help finance the royal vacation. Nowadays, honours come with financial burdens.

Royals attracting scandal

With the impending official visit of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, on Thursday, Sept 13, comparisons are now being made between them and members of Malaysia’s extensive royal families.An article in a Sunday newspaper on Sept 9, polled several Malaysians to see if they thought that any of the Malaysian royalty were comparable to Kate and William. The survey concluded that the Raja Muda of Perak and his consort fit the bill, but pundits disagree.

Last year, William married his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, when they were both 29-years-old. The young couple live in rural Wales where William is based as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.
Kate goes shopping in the local supermarket, does not have any domestic help, and they live a very normal life. They do not fit the image of pampered royals who can only exist with a retinue of servants.

In other parts of Europe, royals attract scandals. Last April, King Juan Carlos of Spain, the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was forced to apologise to the Spanish people for going on safari whilst the Spanish people faced an economic crisis. There was public outrage over his expensive lifestyle and his hypocrisy as head of the WWF.

Princess Stéphanie of Monaco had a relationship with her bodyguard, gave birth to two of his children, then divorced him before giving birth to another child, whose father she would not identify. She then had an affair with an elephant trainer and lived in a circus caravan before she married, then divorced, an acrobat.

Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew, was photographed with her toes being sucked by a Texan milionaire. A few years ago, the News of the World taped her offering “access” to her former husband, for a large sum of money.

Money, sex and scandals are never far from the royals. The public is aware of these because other countries have a free press.

Umno needs the royals and vice versa

In Malaysia, protocol is a one-way street, name dropping is a favourite pastime and rules are made to be bent. Malay reserve land has been sold. By who and to whom? VVIPs in charge of companies which allegedly have a paid up capital of RM2 are awarded billion ringgit contracts despite a lack of experience or knowledge. Who would dare complain if a VVIP was involved? The threat of sedition means investigations rarely get off the ground.

A few Malaysians are aware that some members of royalty allegedly spend most of their time overseas, only to return for official functions. They do not like the confines of a strictly conservative Malay culture and the influence of Umno, but are quite prepared to benefit from them. They escape to London, or Monaco to gamble.

Ordinary Malaysians when they travel, are angry, because some are ejected from their first class or business class seats to accommodate members of the extended royal entourage. The national carrier is allegedly not happy because excess baggage charges are not paid in full.

When at home, members of the public are allegedly turfed out of various venues to accommodate members of royalty. At other times, the rakyat is forced to the side of the road by outriders of royal processions. How different from England, where Prince Philip drives his own taxi, and the Queen manages with one outrider.

Umno needs the royals just as much as the royals need Umno. Umno may want to build a political wall to defend Putrajaya or cleanse our history with its own version of events. If the majority of Malays were to discover the foibles of the VVIPs, and find out that they are human after all, then royals would no longer be placed on a pedestal, to be worshipped and used as an instrument of the devil to woo the populace.

Any attempt to embarrass Umno and criticise the VVIPs, will illicit a nasty response from Umno. Umno constantly reminds us that royalty is under threat and will also imply that Malays will die out because of this. We need to look across the Straits of Malacca to see the fallacy of this argument.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim urged Malays to stay united. Malays need to ask: Against whom? And why?

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

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