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  • Dr Navin C Naidu

Adversarial ad referendum

"The government should train, and direct the people in the acquisition of political knowledge."
–  Sun Yat-sen, first president of the Republic of China

The great statesman Sun Yat-sen was undoubtedly inspiring the governed to learn and earn political knowledge if the government shuns this crucial duty and obligation. This devastating blow to corrupt politics is immeasurable if this sagacious advice is robustly employed to train young minds.


The borrowed English word ‘referendum’, meaning a direct vote by the electorate on a proposal, law, or political issue, is amputated from the Latin ‘ad referendum’ which means for further consideration or for the approval of a superior. The deception of political weaponisation of such a superior is terrifying.


Referendum – the false mantra of independence movements – inspired colonies craving to be let alone. The crafty colonials used an old trick in legal constructs to advise their colonies to hold referendums to gauge the peoples’ aspirations while the clever superior prepared to pounce on any local adat that had the audacity to replace a colonial construct.


“The very least that our leaders can do is to offer a referendum to the people of the Borneo states whether they want to tear up MA63 or replace it with some other ‘agreement’, reported a news portal commenting on Minister Maximus Ongkili’s recent visit to the UK to eviscerate MA63. I heard plaintive violins when federal feathers were ruffled over this issue.


What’s the love affair with referendum? Borneo States still require a superior power to say what it means to be co-equal partners in a federation that has mystified constitutional scholars, lawyers, judges, statesmen and laymen alike? It is time to call a spade a spade! Leaders do not speak for the people until the people en masse speak up on the issue of state sovereignty minus suzerainty. Plainly put, pack and sack the unwanted superior.


A referendum for all that it is worth, or even a plebiscite – the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution – ought to listen to one superior and one superior alone, and that is none other than the people. A well-informed electorate is one that addresses every doubt, uncertainty, concern or question without an irritating, intervening and meddling superior.


“The Malaysian Constitution does not mention referendums at all. There have been no referendums in Malaysian history,” says Wikipedia, totally oblivious to the fact that every state or federal election under the watchful eyes of a corrupt superior carries the sceptre of ad referendum.


Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage claimed that “the referendum was clear. The British people voted to leave the single market and to take back control of our borders.” Poor chap failed to realise that people don’t count in the UK as Parliament is the ultimate superior. It can make or unmake any law to replace the old one that caused the UK to join the European Union in the first place.


Malaysian voters should demand ad judicium town hall meetings where all arguments are welcome that appeals to common sense, and not the common threads of the common law tethered to man-made uncommon laws, like referendum, enacted by a nosy superior. Such town hall meetings in every constituency would make a difference where people talk while the potential legislator, or incumbent, listens. Usually, it’s the other way round.


The Malaysian judiciary need not be bothered anymore with an adversarial superior lurking outside the contours of the Federal Constitution (FC). Political knowledge through explanations and applications of the doctrines, tenets and strictures of the law should enthuse judges to exercise judicial certainty, consistency and clarity without restraint or fear of reprisals. An occasion for the rebirth and rejuvenation of Article 162(6) FC?


Ad referendum to gear up, goad, guide and guard GE-15 now reposes in the (superior) people. The Election Commission must defer to the will of the (superior) People underscoring Article 153 FC that does not bifurcate the special positions of certain classes of people and the legitimate interests of other communities.


The Portuguese writer Jose Saramago had a scathing message to unwelcome and unwanted superiors: “It’s difficult to understand these people who democratically take part in elections and a referendum, but are then incapable of democratically accepting the will of the people.”

An intellectual diet of political knowledge will necessarily yield an intellectual feast to chew, taste and spit out all deceptions inherent in corrupt politics.


Click to read this article on the Sarawak Tribune

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