Sunday, June 22, 2008

Federalism: Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

Reading Malaysiakini and Malaysia-Today.Net we can see the strenthening of federalism in Malaysia. This is a sight that is very refreshing. I had written about this earlier (see but I strongly recommend this recent article by Dr Francis Loh, entitled "Restructuring federal-state relations" in Aliran magazine which is excellent even by his usual high standards (see
Federalism describes the dynamic legal, constitutional and administrative relations between the federal government and state governments. Over the past 50 years, due to the emphasis on giving revenue and many powers to the federal government many Malaysians, analysts and academics have despaired over the display of arrogant power by the federal government to the point that Professor Andrew Harding made the observation that Malaysia was very much a "unitary" state instead of a federal state. This was especially so in the Mahathir era.
But a refreshing change is setting in. With 5 Pakatan Rakyat states and a wavering Sabah (still nominally under BN control?) I am reminded of the phrase used as a book title by Nobel Literature Prize-winner Chinua Achebe, that was part of a poem by William Butler Yeats, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold".

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