In the name of the sultan
If family legend is to be believed, I am descended on my father's side, from the great Malay warrior Panglima Nayan himself. My lineage is supposedly traceable to the warrior-general who once served the court of the Kedah sultans.
Though in the chequered past that colours all legends, family history also point to an early life of piracy, or more palatably referred to as the very honourable practice of 'privateering'.
Panglima Nayan apparently warred upon the 'enemies' of the state on the high seas, in order to prove his 'kahar', the Malay word for 'mettle' in the northern Kedah dialect, to the eyes of the sultan and his military advisers.
In the tradition of my great ancestor, my lineage on my father's side pride ourselves collectively as those who fulfilled the two criteria of the warrior-caste: Tillers of the land and military service.
My uncles, grand uncles and distant relations have had their names listed in the ranks of the police, special constables and military regiments.
My late father broke slightly from that tradition as he served not in the martial service but as an Administrative and Diplomatic Officer (PTD) in the federal government, but still in that tradition of honoured service.
Most retired to the livelihood of agriculture and husbandry, in the traditions of warriors stretching from the legionnaires of ancient Rome to the Malay warriors of our beloved land.
My late father himself, after retiring from government service, bought two small fruit orchards that we would go over to as a family to tend on the weekends. One son in particular (hint, hint) had to pull barbed wire and hammer in wooden posts to build fencing.
It is only fitting that those who shed their life's blood defending the land would stand to benefit from the fruits of the earth.
'The right to question'
But other than the gifts of land, there is another right that all those who shed blood in service of the state and the sultans deserve.
The right to receive loyalty in return from those that they so loyally serve and the right to question unjust rule.
This is enshrined all the way to the early annals of Malay history in the part-historical part-mythical texts of Hikayat Sejarah Melayu, in particular the tales of the first Malay king Sang Sapurba and his prime minister Demang Lebar Daun.
There is a compact between the people and the King, a social contract. The king promises to look after the rights and well-being of the people as they surrender their loyalty and right of rule to the king. In addition the king also promises to listen to any legitimate grouses.
The agreement was compiled into the 'Persetiaan Demang Lebar Daun', our very own Magna Carta. But as opposed to a compact between a king and his nobles it is between the king and the people.
It is only in Tun Sri Lanang's Hikayat Hang Tuah that loyalty is considered blind, such that the great Malay admiral Tun Tuah saw no wrong in enticing and kidnapping foreign princesses, give up his love and kill his blood brother unquestionably in the name of his loyalty, if the tales are to be believed, to a very emotional and petulant sultan.
But Tun Sri Lanang probably balanced that with the addition of the character of Hang Jebat who personified the royally trod-upon justice for the rakyat.
Some say Tun Sri Lanang was commissioned by the British to write the tale as it is, to make the Malay people obey their sultans blindly, and by proxy become unquestioning servants of the British Queen and Empire, since the sultans themselves were coerced into 'listening' to the advice of the colonial office residents.
Some of these speculations, on the residents' part at least, is easily verifiable historical fact.
'Loyalty not one-sided'
But to return to Hikayat Sejarah Melayu, of particular import is the fact that the histories and myths took particular pains to mention that the loyalty prescribed is not one sided.
As related in the tale of the king's string of consorts and the 'disease' that they develop once consummating their marriage to the king.
It is only after the king promised to honour his obligations to the people in return for their loyalty that he was 'cured' of his lamentable fate, with the Demang himself surrendering his daughter to be the king's consort and surviving their first night without any afflictions, protected as it were by the compact between king and rakyat.
While some might contest my arguments as being based on myths and legends, it would do us all well to think that if the 'Hikayat Sejarah Melayu that our Malay rulers draw their legitimacy from is to be dismissed as myth and legends and figments of some writer's imagination... well need I say more?
As such, if there is anyone right now who reserves the right to comment on the royals and to defend or vilify them at all, and to receive the same loyalty in return for the rakyat's money poured into maintaining their royal lifestyles, if no longer life's blood, I claim that right as befits my blood, inheritance and monthly PCB tax payments deducted from my salary.
Members of a certain Malay-based party (UMNO) who grew fat on public-funded projects and helped a former premier, who is a Malay of Indian descent (Dr Mahathir), bind and gag the rulers from their rightful place in our constitutional monarchy, probably should not have that right.
On that same vein, the deputy premier (Anwar Ibrahim) who sat on that particular premier's right hand during his royal putsch, but now leads the opposition, probably should not have that right either.
A such it distresses me to hear NGOs sponsored by a particular Malay party lodging police reports saying that they are defending the honour of the royalty, despite being once a party to the dismantling of royal power.
It distresses me to see Malay rulers being dragged hand and foot into plots and means by which the ruling regime plots and schemes to rid opposition-led states of their rightfully-elected governments.
'The real enemy'
I am not sure if the royals do so willingly or are being strong-armed by the government's ability to call a royal before the courts, another of their 'innovative' and sneaky constitutional amendments, or sugared up by contracts of railway double trackings or water transfer tunnels.
But I do hope that the royals will remember not only their rakyat-granted privileges, but their responsibilities as well. If not to the amended constitution that a certain premier shredded, then to the spirit of the social accord of 'Persetiaan Demang Lebar Daun'.
Family legends teems with tales of our heritage, one of the more famous one is about the ancestral keris, or Malay dagger once belonging to Panglima Nayan.
It is said that the blade was bound to a spirit of the land whose mandate was to preserve the sovereignty of our soil.
The traditional weapon had to be tied to the central beam of the family home as Japanese troops or members of the local Kempeitai passed by, shaking in its sheath for the blood of the enemies of the land.
While the sacred weapon was long lost to the depths of an abandoned well after the Japanese came searching for weapons in local households, I somehow think that if it were present now, it would be shaking with fury at the real enemy that is seeking to use if not go against the Malay rulers.
This time not foreign but perhaps... domestic.
“Ampun tuanku! Patik rakyat mohon sembah bicara.”
HAZLAN ZAKARIA is a member of the Malaysiakini team.
Article courtesy of Malaysiakini: In the name of the Sultan