Thursday, December 31, 2009

Politics of the monkey-judge

First of all let me wish all Malaysians a happy new year as we begin 2010. May 2010 be a wonderful chapter in our lives, happy, prosperous, meaningful and enriching as well.

Blogging on serious , high-brow subjects may be out of tune with readers' much deserved holiday and relaxation with family member s and loved ones. But perhaps light story telling would be okay, not too intrusive or much of a ‘card-spoiler’ (kacau daun)

On this very quite first day of 2010, I am reminded of the story of the monkey-judge, which is well represented in many cultural traditions, in various versions. It is a charming story with many insights to reflect upon.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the story, it runs such. Two parties are at loggerheads, in heated arguments on their respective rights and claims over a banana. Having exhausted their arguments and patience over the issue, they agree to refer the matter to the court, presided by the monkey-judge, presumably of high standing and great reputation in arbitrating between disputing parties. Both parties agree to abide by the decision of the illustrious monkey-judge.

In the midst of tension and hostility between the disputing parties, the monkey-judge decided to apportion the banana equally in the name of justice. He broke the fruit clumsily and regretfully into two rather unequal and disproportionate portions, with one much longer than the other.
The monkey-judge was however rather pleased with his decision, quite oblivious to his blunder and indiscretion.

Upon being presented with the court decision, the aggrieved party protested vehemently over the injustice of being awarded the smaller portion of the banana and made known to the monkey-judge their displeasure in no uncertain terms. The advantaged party of course welcome the decision , paying great tribute to the wisdom and justice of the monkey-judge.

Faced with the vehement protest of the aggrieved party, and the real prospect of losing their support, the monkey-judge makes amend. He bites the longer portion in the hope of making the two portions equal, but as is customary of a blunderer, he bites more than he can chew, now making the other portion longer and bigger in turn, which of course leads to the same protests all over, only this time with the parties changing their status as the aggrieved or the advantaged, either cursing or lauding the monkey-judge in superlative terms.

Thus the process repeated itself, over and over again, with the monkey-judge continually trying to please and win support, losing sight of his original goal of justice for all. The more he bites, and misjudges, the more discontent he creates overall, with the compliments coming only as a passing or ephemeral phase. In the end, the monkey-judge consumes the whole banana, leaving the disputing parties agape, in confusion and disillusionment…

In a plural society and nation like ours, our beloved Malaysia, leaders can learn a lot from the story of the monkey-judge and the banana, be it BN, PR, DAP, PAS, PKR and others. Politics is not a simple matter of pleasing the crowd or playing up to the gallery. Partisan politics devoid of absolute principles and values such as social justice, fair play, equality, can only make a ‘monkey-judge’ of leaders, taking them no where except a blind alley.

In evolving specific policies and campaigns, such as 1Malaysia or the education policy and education system, BN leaders would have to be mindful of the proper balance between the legitimate interests and rights of the both Malays and non-Malays. Half-baked and naive liberalism, insensitive to history, context and absolute principles and values, may only lead to deeper and new problems, far from solving existing ones.

For both BN and PR, the policy of pandering to one section of the population while alienating another, then wooing back the later, while alienating the former, in a vicious cycle all over again and again, would be counter productive for their politics. In the end it could spell their very downfall as the whole population wises up to their monkey game

PKR, DAP, PAS need to be sensitive and tactful. In our extremely complicated politics with delicate balance, rhetoric, populist tendencies, slogan churning, playing to the galleries will only lead us into blind alley in terms of nation building which improves our lives.

What about the common man in the street, any lesson from the light story? On my part I resolve not to entrust my destiny, that of my family, loved ones, my beloved nation, fellow citizens, to the monkey-judge.That would wreak havoc in our lives!

Wishing you a happy new year once again. I hope my monkey story did not spoil your holiday and merry making!


  1. With too many monkey-judges in various guises around, sorry not to join you sir to wish for a happy new year.

    But my ever optimistic friend never forgets to remind me that whenever there is a dream, there is hope.

    Yes. In that case, happy new year to you sir.

  2. Dal

    I understand fully what you mean. However, your optimistic friend is wise too Indeed there is always hope even in the worst of time.Cheer up and my best wishes to you for the new year!

  3. pakpandair,

    Despite the doom and gloom one sometimes sees on the horizon, let me also wish you a happy and propserous new year.

    The monkey judge not withstanding, I'm expecting a fair share of the banana (or the cake, or what have you) not for this year alone, but for all times. Not just for myself but also for my children, grandchildren and those after them. According to what we deserve, based on Article 153 of the Constitution, whereby the Special Position of the Malays allows the YDP Agong, through the Government of the day, to promulgate policies like the NEP.

    Indeed, those in power must be mindful of the proper balance between the legitimate interests and rights of the both Malays and non-Malays. These have all been enshrined in the Constitution and the Constitution must be properly read and interpreted. It's absolutely skewed to think of equality mentioned in general terms in one Clause and not fully respect the entire Article with so many Clauses like in Article 153. Tun Dr Mahathir has very justifiably said in his blog that there is no equality when there is Article 153. No two-way about that. That which has been painstakingly discussed, negotiated and agreed by the Malay and non-Malay leaders at Merdeka in exchange for citizenship for the non-Malays who were stateless at that time.

    I especially like your words, "Half-baked and naive liberalism, insensitive to history, context and absolute principles and values, may only lead to deeper and new problems, far from solving existing ones." I can only shout encore, encore ... hear, hear.


  4. hmmm... macam kenal aje monkey judge ni..? Namanya Najib ke?

  5. Maju,

    I couldn't have said it better than your post, hence nothing to add.

    Yes, what is requiered of leaders is firm informed commitment to principles based on deep understanding of our history and particular socio-historical context,such as social justice for all, Malays and non-Malays

    Monkeying around in a maze of conradictions, flip-flopping,pratting and backpedalling,would only confuse the nation and sow much illwills all around. Both BN and PR should heed.


    Now, don't let your imagination run wild and see only monkey-judges around, though admittedly there are many of them. But as the tradition of movies and dramas say, my story is only fiction, and the characters do not coicide with the living, alive or dead

    Best wishes to you both for the new year