A Royal Pardon me?

No one could have imagined Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad would voluntarily resign as Prime Minister on 24 February 2020, stepping down as the most powerful person in the country after winning the 14th General Elections less than 2 years earlier. But he did.

The rationalist’s explanation is that Dr Mahathir resigned on principle the moment he understood he no longer commanded the confidence of the majority of Members of Parliament, and therefore could not continue as Prime Minister. He did not wait for the YDP Agong to summon him to Istana Negara. He did briefly attempt to form a cross party unity government (the kind we now have under Kerajaan Malaysia MADANI), but he did not succeed because the Malay-based parties and a significant number of Malay Members of Parliament, declined to serve (or continue serving) in the same government as the DAP.

But for the humanist, what actually moved Dr Mahathir to surrender that which he cherished above all else – political leadership of the nation he built and shaped largely in his image – remains a mystery of the heart and not of the mind. When he placed his signature on his letter of resignation, some of us believe it would not have been possible absent a higher consciousness and divine intervention.

The matter of a royal pardon for Dato Sri Najib Razak can be viewed in a similar vein. For the rationalist it is all about cold facts and circumstances. For the humanist it is a matter of the heart and about sentiment. Specifically the hearts and sentiments of the Malays and the Malay Rulers. It is no longer about the judicial or legal process which properly – or some would argue improperly – concluded on 23 Aug 2022.

A royal pardon is the personal gift of a Malay Ruler. All manner of wrongdoers have been pardoned in the past: criminals, murderers and rapists among them. As Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir himself was part of the process of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim family’s appeal for a royal pardon from His Majesty SPB YDP Agong Sultan Muhammad X in 2018 – a pardon most vital for Dato Seri Anwar’s return to active political life without which he would not be Prime Minister today. A full and royal pardon whether for pauper or Prince is divine intervention conducted through mortal and ultimately flawed, men.

Underpinning any pardon is the notion of “ihsan”. Being merciful in the face of wrongdoing is a noble trait but it is rarely attained in the hearts of ordinary men let alone ruthless politicians. In the Surah Al Fatihah, Allah is exalted not once but twice as “The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful”.

Surah Al Imran 134 speaks of givers and forgivers to be among “the doers of good”.

‘Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good;’

Wallahu’alam. Allah knows best.

Ps. Aside from Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, there have been two other high profile royal pardons of politicians in the past: Datuk Harun Idris the ex Mentri Besar of Selangor in 1982 (jailed for corruption) and Datuk Mokhtar Hashim a former Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports in 1991 (jailed for murder). What do Harun Idris, Mokhtar Hashim and Anwar Ibrahim have in common? All three were pardoned by different YDP Agongs decades apart but during the tenure of the same man serving as Prime Minister: Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Perhaps after all said and done, it is the Good Doctor himself who is imbibed with ihsan within him.

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