KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 3 — Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Muhriz defended today the role of the so-called “elites” in Malaysia’s democracy, saying there needs to be a recognition that not all from the class affect the country’s democracy and institutions.
The founding president of libertarian think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) stressed that there was no correlation between the rule of the elites and the quality of leadership in the country.
“I think elites or families of elites have a stake in democracy as well,” he said at a conference on democracy in Southeast Asia here, responding to a participant who pointed out that he belongs to the “elite” class, despite discussing democracy.
“It is very important to identify the elites who abuse the instruments and machinery of the state to enrich themselves, and those who don’t,” he added.
The IDEAS president is also the second prince of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Muhriz Munawir.
He compared the situation with the country’s “early years” during the era of Tunku Abdul Rahman when Malaysia had strong institutions for checks and balances and freedom, even when the so-called “elites” were at the forefront.
Tunku Zain al-Abidin was speaking at a two-day conference titled “Democracy in South-east Asia: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects” featuring a host of other prominent world leaders, including former prime minister of Belgium Yves Leterme and former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
* Note: An earlier version of this story had misconstrued the remarks of Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Muhriz. This has now been rectified. We apologise to Tunku Zain Al-Abidin for the mistake.