Congratulations to Zunar and his Team at Suara KeADILan

Dear Zunar and the Team at Suara KeADILan,

My belated congratulations to you, buddy and the team of good men and women at Suara KeADILan on the occasion of your receiving “permit akhbar” from the  Ministry of Home Affairs after a 3-year wait. With this permit Suara KeADILan is now the official organ (lidah rasmi) of Parti KeADILan Rakyat. I am proud to be associated with a fine newspaper like Suara KeADILan.

I know Suara KeADILan will continue to be an excellent channel of communication between the public and our party and be an example of what constitutes good journalism. The bonding with the public is vitally important for our party and our partners in Pakatan Rakyat (PAS and DAP). There is growing interest in what we are doing in the five states of Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan. Given this interest, we can be confident that Suara KeADILan’s circulation will increase substantially from the current 100,000 copies per issue. Salam Perjuangan.—Din Merican

Raja Petra’s Reply

One very respected retired Chief Justice, who is known as an extremely straight and no-nonsense chap, remarked, if he had to be tried in court, he would not like it to be in a Malaysian court. He further remarked that the windscreens of the cars of judges are blacked-out not for security reasons but because the judges are ashamed to be seen by the public.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,

First of all, thank you for writing to Malaysia Today. (Read letter here). As promised, I have published your letter in toto without any amendments, additions, deletions, or ‘touch up’, though I felt some improvement to the language may have been necessary. Nevertheless, I was very careful in not ‘doctoring’ any parts of your letter lest I open myself to accusations of any sort.

I must admit I am pleased and honoured that the Press Secretary of the Deputy Prime Minister and likely future Prime Minister would take the trouble to write to Malaysia Today. As I have said so many times in the past, the only way to deal with the independent media is to engage it, not ignore it, for you ignore it at your own peril. And note that I have used the term ‘independent’ media and not ‘alternative’ media or ‘opposition’ media — because that is exactly what we are. In fact, what you call the ‘mainstream’ media, today, could actually be called the alternative media.

Now, on the points in your letter. A ‘trial’ by court of public opinion has been what we, the Rakyat, have had to rely on since 1998. Some say that the judiciary has in fact been compromised since 1988 after the sacking of Tan Salleh Abbas and his fellow judges. The fact that these half a dozen or so judges were recently honoured in a dinner graced by the Prime Minister where Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the government will spend millions of the taxpayers’ money to pay these judges their 20 years back-pay confirms that the Abdullah government, in which Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak is part of, agrees with the court of public opinion’s view of events that happened 20 years ago.

This opinion is of course strengthened by your very own de facto Law Minister’s statement, barely a few days after taking office, that the government should apologise to Tun Salleh and his fellow judges. This was of course shot down by the Cabinet, and instead of an apology, they are being paid millions of Ringgit, which Najib said should not be interpreted as an apology. Maybe Najib is right when he says that if the government pays out millions of Ringgit of the taxpayers’ money this should be only taken as 20 years back-pay and not be taken as an apology. Nevertheless, this still tantamount to an admission that the judges had been wrongfully dismissed, apology or no apology.

We must also not forget the statement by Justice Kamil when he delivered his judgement in the Likas election petition case. Yang Arif admitted that he always receives instructions from the top before he delivers his judgement on important or crucial cases. Justice Kamli also said that he is not the only judge to receive such instructions but that many other judges are also subjected to interference and instructions from the top and that they are told how they should rule. When asked who this person from the top is, he replied that we should know whom it is he means and he left it at that. No one had any misgivings as to whom Justice Kamil meant.

One very respected retired Chief Justice, who is known as an extremely straight and no-nonsense chap, remarked, if he had to be tried in court, he would not like it to be in a Malaysian court. He further remarked that the windscreens of the cars of judges are blacked-out not for security reasons but because the judges are ashamed to be seen by the public. This is coming from someone who is placed above normal men and when someone of that calibre makes such statements how can the public not feel that the Malaysian judiciary can no longer be trusted? As they say, let you be judged by your peers, and the judiciary’s peers have made their ruling.

Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,

To argue that we should leave this matter to the courts to decide is just not on. It can never be on until we see genuine and real reforms in the judiciary. And when the talk amongst legal circles is that, in September, the President of the Court of Appeal will take over as the new Chief Justice, this just erodes our confidence in the judiciary even further. Putting Umno’s lawyer in charge of the judiciary is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse or, as the Malays would say, putting the kambing in charge of the sireh. And you want us to leave it to the courts to decide? When you have highly-respected judges and retired Chief Justices openly condemning the Malaysian judiciary what do you expect the lesser-learned Rakyat like us to do?

Of course, you will say that one is innocent until proven guilty. That is a beautiful concept. However, if you believe such a thing is possible in Malaysia, then you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus as well. Do you remember Anwar Ibrahim’s trial ten years ago? Anwar was tried in a court of public opinion when they paraded that mattress in and out of court every day. What happened to that mattress? It was never part of the evidence and eventually just quietly disappeared out of sight. Was that not grandstanding for the media and TV cameras?

In Anwar’s case, he was not innocent until proven guilty. Though the Malaysian judicial system, which follows the British and not the French system, stipulates that a man is innocent until proven guilty, Anwar was assumed guilty and he was made to prove his innocence. The onus should be on the court to prove guilt but in Anwar’s case he was considered guilty and he had to prove his innocence. And the judge sent Anwar to jail because, according to the judge, Anwar had failed to prove his innocence.

We are therefore using the same ‘burden of proof’ on the present Deputy Prime Minister just like what the previous Deputy Prime Minister was subjected to. If this system of ‘prove you are innocent or else we have to assume you are guilty’ was good enough for Anwar then it is certainly good enough for Najib. Why should there be different standards between one Deputy Prime Minister and another? Should there not be one standard for all?

Note that Malaysia has a law called the Internal Security Act. When you are detained under this law, you are assumed guilty until you can prove you are innocent. And if you fail to prove your innocence then you are detained without trial indefinitely. Some Malaysians have spent more than 20 years under detention because the hapless person was not able to prove his innocence. Ahmad Boestaman, the famous Malay nationalist and independence fighter, was detained for 14 years or so. You may remember him. His son, Rustam Sani, died recently.

Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,

I must remind you that I too was arrested on Hari Raya Haji Day in 2001 after I walked into the police station to be with my wife who had earlier been arrested. Her ‘crime’ was for trying to help an old woman who had a knee injury and who was struggling to walk up a hill. The police arrested my wife, the poor old woman, and her daughter.

When I walked into the police station, Bakri Zinin, the current CID Director, assaulted me when I attempted to step outside to make a phone call. I was trying to step outside because a policeman shouted at me that I am not allowed to make a phone call inside the police station. But when I tried to step outside as instructed, Bakri assaulted me. He then instructed his officers to arrest me.

When I asked what my crime was and as to the reason I was being arrested, they told me they will think of something later. In the meantime they will arrest me first. I then insisted I be allowed to make a police report against Bakri but they refused to take my report. When I refused to accept no for an answer, they reluctantly took my report but nothing further was done after that. That police report made on Hari Haji Day of 2001 is probably no longer in the file.

Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,

I am glad you talk about respect for the law. I just wish you and Najib had said the same thing when they beat me up, handcuffed me, and threw me into the lockup without a charge back in 2001. Will I be accorded justice as well just like how you and Najib want to see justice done? Will Bakri Zinin be taken to task for beating me and for arresting me without any charge? Thus far, the only action taken against him is that he has been promoted from OCPD Dang Wangi to Director CID. Let us talk about justice when I see justice done to me as well. Until then we shall rule by law of public opinion, as that appears to be the only ‘system’ available to us.

I understand the concept of subjudice when commenting on an ongoing trial. So allow me to comment only on what the mainstream newspapers have already covered. The mainstream newspapers reported about a green Suzuki Vitara. The registration plate of the car was also mentioned in that newspaper report. Malaysia Today traced the owner of this car to an address in Ijok. On further checking with the SPR registration, it was confirmed that this person exists and his name, address and IC number tally with that in the JPJ registration.

The house exists and the neighbours confirm that the person concerned does live there and that the green Suzuki Vitara has been seen in front of the house. This, according to the newspapers, is the car that took Altantuya away after she was arrested in front of Razak Baginda’s house and taken to Bukit Aman.

Has this man been picked up? And, if not, then why since Altantuya was last seen alive driving off with him? Malaysia Today has revealed his name, address and IC number. And this man’s neighbours in Ijok confirm his existence and that of the car. Note that this was raised in the trial and was reported by the mainstream newspapers. So this is not mere insinuations and innuendoes.

In an interview in 2002 or 2003, Razak Baginda confirmed that his company brokered the submarine deal. He even mentioned the commission he had earned. This matter was confirmed by Razak himself and is documented in that interview. So this is also no insinuation or innuendo. And have we forgotten Razak’s wife’s outburst when she said that her husband is innocent and that it is not he who wants to become the next Prime Minister? Was Razak’s wife talking about Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Anwar Ibrahim or Khairy Jamaluddin? And was not Razak’s wife once a magistrate who would therefore know the law and know what constitutes subjudice?

Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,

I can go on but let the above suffice for the meantime. The issue of the changing of the judge after the filing of the Affidavit during the bail hearing (which was raised by Karpal Singh), the defence lawyers resigning because of threats from certain people (which Zulkifli Nordin confirmed), the changing of the entire prosecuting team the morning of the trial (which the prosecutor admitted when he asked for a one-month postponement), and much more are all documented and are on public record. Let the court of public opinion decide whether Malaysia Today is merely raising what is already well-documented or whether Malaysia Today is dabbling in insinuations and innuendoes.

Again, I thank you for your letter and really appreciate you taking the time to write to us. Let us together, in the spirit of Islam, the religion we profess, seek the truth and oppose transgressions — as made mandatory by Islam under the concept of amar maaruf, nahi munkar. From God we come and to God we shall return. And we shall be made accountable for all that we have done on this earth. And, in the eyes of God, those defending kemunkaran will be as guilty as those committing it. Let us not fear man for man proposes but God disposes. And nothing will befall us that God has not planned will befall us. Subjudice and contempt of court are creations of man that will not carry any weight in God’s court. So fear God because man even as powerful as Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers will be powerless to help you in God’s court where we shall all ultimately be judged.

Yours truly,

Raja Petra Bin Raja Kamarudin

Kenyataan Akbar Timbalan Perdana Menteri Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak

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Posted by Raja Petra
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Saya ingin merujuk kepada rencana yang disiarkan pada laman web tuan di bawah tajuk “Let’s Send Altantuya’s Murderers To Hell” pada 25 April yang lalu.Untuk makluman pembaca laman web tuan, saya membuat kenyataan ini untuk menjelaskan perkara sebenar, memandangkan ada sindiran- sindiran dan juga komen-komen yang tidak berasas yang dilontarkan terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak serta isterinya, Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor.

2. Artikel tersebut menuduh bahawa kononnya Timbalan Perdana Menteri dan isterinya ada kaitan dengan pembunuhan seorang wanita Mongolia; bahawa kononnya Timbalan Perdana Menteri pernah menyokong permohonan visa wanita itu; bahawa kononnya rekod imigresen wanita itu telah sengaja dihapuskan dan kononnya ada gambar yang dirakamkan (menunjukkan Timbalan Perdana Menteri dan isterinya) bersama dengan wanita Mongolia itu. Kesemua kenyataan ini merupakan kenyataan padang-dengar (hearsay) yang tidak pernah dibuktikan, tetapi pihak tuan sewenang-wenangnya menyiarkan kenyataan seperti itu seolah-olah ianya fakta, dan menjelaskan pendirian pihak tuan, dengan menyebut “ kami juga telah melaksanakan perbicaraan kami sendiri di mahkamah pendapat umum, dan kami telah mencapai keputusan kami sendiri.”

3. Rencana berkenaan juga menggambarkan seolah-olah penyiasatan polis dalam kes ini penuh kelemahan dan kecacatan serta proses perundangan berkaitan kes ini juga dikompromi dengan tujuan menyembunyikan pesalah sebenar dalam kes itu. Gambaran ini pihak tuan nyatakan dengan ayat “ show trial in the Kangaroo Court”dalam rencana terbabit.. Walaupun pada hakikatnya tuduhan-tuduhan dalam kes ini adalah tertakluk dalam bidang kuasa polis dan institusi kehakiman, Timbalan perdana Menteri berhak untuk mengulangi pendiriannya dalam “mahkamah pendapat umum’ ini bahawa beliau tidak pernah kenal, malah tidak pernah bertemu dengan mangsa dalam kes bunuh ini. Maka segala tuduhan-tuduhan liar yang mengaitkan Timbalan Perdana Menteri , sama ada secara langsung atau secara sindiran, adalah tidak lain dan tidak bukan berniat jahat untuk mencemarkan nama baik Timbalan Perdana Menteri pada mata rakyat Malaysia.

4. Dakwaan seorang saksi dalam perbicaraan kes Altantuya bahawa konon-kononnya si mati pernah makan bersama dengan Razak Baginda dan individu bernama “Najib Razak” tidak pernah disahkan, malah kredibiliti saksi itu juga tidak pernah diteliti. Dakwaan kononnya ada gambar si mati dengan Razak dan Timbalan Perdana Menteri juga tidak pernah dibuktikan oleh mana-mana pihak melainkan gambar rekaan yang terbukti palsu serta dibuat dan dikeluarkan oleh Ketua Penerangan PKR, Tian Chua. Jika benar gambar seperti yang didakwa itu wujud, mengapakah ia tidak dibawa ke dalam perbicaraan kes bunuh itu sebagai bahan bukti? Apakah “gambar” yang ghaib itu hanya boleh dijadikan bukti dalam “mahkamah pandangan umum” yang disebut dalam rencana itu?

5. Butiran kes, mengenai penglibatan Razak Baginda dan dua anggota polis yang dituduh, akan terungkai sepenuhnya dalam perbicaraan kes ini. Saya ingin menyatakan di sini bahawa dakwaan kononnya kes pembunuhan Altantuya ini pula bersangkut paut dengan pembelian kapal selam oleh Kerajaan Malaysia adalah tidak berasas sama sekali dan dakwaan itu dibuat semata-mata untuk menjadikan dongengan yang timbul sekitar kes ini lebih menarik.

6. Dato Sri Najib sekian lama menahan dan mengelak dari membuat sebarang kenyataan tentang kes ini kerana ia melibatkan tuduhan terhadap individu-individu yang beliau kenali. Sebarang kenyataan daripada beliau sudah tentu mengundang pelbagai tafsiran atau dianggap sebagai mencampuri urusan mahkamah, memandangkan perbicaraan kes itu sedang berlangsung. Suka diingatkan di sini bahawa pernah berlaku dalam sejarah negara ini, seorang bekas Timbalan Perdana Menteri didapati bersalah atas tuduhan menyalahguna kuasa apabila beliau cuba menutup penyiasatan salahlaku seksual terhadap dirinya.

7. Seperti yang dinyatakan sendiri oleh tuan dalam rencana itu, ada isu berkaitan “subjudice” dan penghinaan mahkamah, apabila membincangkan kes ini secara terbuka. Semua pihak, termasuk Dato Sri Najib, rakyat Malaysia, dan juga pelawat asing yang berada di Malaysia perlu menghormati undang-undang dan peraturan negara ini dan dalam konteks kes ini, menghormati undang-undang dan peraturan tersebut bermaksud tidak membuat pelbagai spekulasi atau kenyataan tentang kes yang sedang dibicarakan. Justeru, amatlah tidak adil tuduhan-tuduhan liar dan tidak berasas berkaitan perkara yang sebegitu serius dilemparkan sewenang-wenangnya terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri bagi tujuan menjatuhkan maruahnya pada pandangan umum.

8. Dalam rencana tuan, ada disebut “hal ini bukan hal politik dan tidak harus diuruskan sebagai hal politik”. Timbalan Perdana Menteri amat bersetuju dengan pandangan ini dan berpendapat bahawa kes ini perlu mendedahkan kebenaran, dan diselesaikan dengan seadil-adilnya. Namun begitu, jelas sekali ada pihak yang tidak berminat untuk mendapatkan pengadilan yang sebenar untuk Altantuya. Sebaliknya mereka hanya berminat dengan aspek politik kes Altantuya ini. Harapan saya agar pembaca-pembaca laman web tuan dapat membezakan antara apa yang benar, separuh benar, dan apa yang sebenarnya pembohongan dan penipuan yang nyata. Maklum sahajalah, seseorang ahli politik itu diadili di “mahkamah pandangan umum”.

9. Akhir sekali, ingin saya tegaskan di sini, bahawa, memandangkan tuduhan-tuduhan liar yang dilemparkant terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri itu adalah sangat serius dan membawa kesan negatif terhadap maruah dan imejnya, beliau tidak akan teragak-agak untuk mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap pihak yang bertanggungjawab.

Terima kasih.

Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad
Setiausaha Akhbar kepada Timbalan Perdana Menteri


After the Malaysian polls, parties must embrace new competition in policy-making

April 26, 2008

Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

THE remarkable results of the Malaysian general elections of March 8 almost certainly mean that the country’s politics has changed forever. Five states are in opposition hands and the government has lost its two-third majority in Parliament. At the individual level, a sense of empowerment is widely felt in the northern states that fell to opposition parties.

Even supporters of Barisan Nasional (BN) parties such as Gerakan, which governed the state of Penang for 38 years, are pleasantly surprised by the sense of relief felt in coffee shops and on the streets.

With this change in political climate comes a mindset shift. Suddenly, a concept of “new politics” has appeared in contrast to “old politics” and to the discourses that emanated from the race-based system of the BN.

Public enthusiasm has entered the political arena in a way not seen in decades. This is evidenced by the sharp increase in membership that opposition parties have experienced over the last month, as well as by the sudden rise in popularity of all the newspapers in the country.

The strategic thinking of all of Malaysia’s political parties cannot but change to accommodate this. Where the opposition parties are concerned, the main challenge is to avoid disappointing voters. This is easier said than done for a variety of reasons.

First, state power is restricted by federal authority, and the depth at which state level reforms can go is in many areas consequently dependent on the goodwill of the federal government.

Second, the competence of their elected officials may not be what it should be, given how suddenly their former fate of being the eternal opposition was changed on March 8, 2008.

Third, there is an inevitable disconnect between what voters think the new state governments should achieve and what these governments wish to achieve or are capable of achieving.

But given how bad the state of governance was perceived to be before the elections, the public is bound to exercise patience with the new governments.

Member parties of the ruling coalition, on the other hand, are having a harder time adjusting to the new terrain. On the peninsula, most of them saw their strength radically diminished, even to the point of

The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had been growing in dominance within the coalition ever since it was formed, now must rely on support from East Malaysia to stay in power.

UMNO is thus in crisis again. The last time that happened was in 1998, when Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who was Prime Minister then, sacked his deputy Anwar Ibrahim. The subsequent revolt — the Reformasi — saw Umno suffering defeats at the hands of the opposition in the 1999 elections.

A decade before that, UMNO’s crisis involved being declared illegal in the aftermath of a political clash between Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was Umno’s highly-successful answer in the 2004 general elections to reverse the anti-UMNO swing among Malay voters.

By 2008, however, the answer had become the quandary. The same old names are back in the fray. In that context, Mr Anwar is the one who has most successfully reinvented himself and is now better placed than any of the others to decide the direction of Malaysian politics. His achievement of getting the opposition parties to work together has been much more significant than most had expected before this year’s

UMNO’s dilemma goes much deeper than merely a bad election. For one thing, the vehicle on which the party depends to stay in power is the BN. That coalition is looking very weak, making its claim of representing all races through its race-based member parties shaky indeed.

For another, its contention of representing the Malay community is no longer tenable. With the Parti Keadilan Rakyat now the largest opposition party in Parliament, the Malay vote is split three ways.

In declaring multi-racialism and social justice as its goals, KeADILan has captured the urban middle-ground among all the races. Its Islamic ally, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), in toning down its rhetoric on the Islamic state, has made major inroads into UMNO territory, making it acceptable to non-Malay voters for the first time.

UMNO is thus losing discursive relevance more quickly than it is losing political power. With a grand battle for the party presidency approaching, and Mr Abdullah’s position weakening, UMNO’s future has to go in one of two directions.

First, it can persevere for a return of its former glory and defend its badly-discredited techniques of patronage. To do this, it must rely heavily on its East Malaysian allies and retain the racialist character of governance. This conservative option will meet less resistance within the party but is also short-sighted in its ambitions. Its second and more long-term option is to adapt to “post-March 8 politics” and to accept the fact that its dominance has been broken for good.

It may still be the biggest party for now, but it can no longer take that status for granted. There are signs that Premier Abdullah is trying to respond to popular demands for change. He is doing this by honouring judges sacked for dubious reasons —although without apologising to them — by deciding to form a judicial commission and by wishing to make the Anti-Corruption Agency an independent body.

With four parties actually running state governments, it is inevitable that the essence of the “new politics” will be one of policy competition.

In the foreseeable future, UMNO PAS, KeADILan and the Democratic Action Party must act with the full consciousness that voters are watching and are endlessly comparing them one to the other.

Dr Ooi Kee Beng is a Fellow at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies. His latest book is Lost in Transition: Malaysia Under Abdullah.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

POLITICS-MALAYSIA: Equitable Distribution of Wealth – The Challenge

By Anil Netto

PENANG, Apr 27 (IPS) – With Malaysia’s opposition pact in the ascendancy after stunning gains in a general election last month, some are wondering how different their economic policies are likely to be if they do wrest power, as many expect them to do, eventually.

The Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance or PR), made up of the multi-ethnic People’s Justice Party (PKR), the Islamic Party (Pas), and Democratic Action Party, now has 82 seats in the 222-seat Parliament. It is now promoting a new needs-based Malaysian Economic Agenda to replace race-based affirmative action principles inherited from the New Economic Policy.

The alliance has control of five states in the peninsula which account for about 56 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They include three of the most industrialised states in the country — Selangor, Penang and Perak — and two among the poorest, Kelantan and Kedah.

The ruling coalition, meanwhile, is mired in factionalism and internal rivalry with the most attention focused on its dominant party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

In the months before the general election Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had announced a string of regional economic growth corridors to be spurred by multi-billion dollar infrastructure and other projects. Critics say it is a top-down model designed with little public consultation, its prime beneficiaries likely to be major well-connected corporations.

The government has traditionally worked on the premise of affirmative action principles outlined in the NEP, which favours the ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups. The NEP initially lifted broad segments of the majority ethnic Malays into the middle-class after it was first introduced in 1971. But critics say its race-based policies were later abused by ruling coalition politicians to award contracts and licences and allocate corporate equity to cronies and well-connected firms.

This, along with neo-liberal policies that cut taxes for the rich and slashed subsidies for essential services, contributed to a widening of income inequalities — one of the highest disparities in Asia.

There’s now a broad recognition that the NEP has run its course. “The NEP is good but its benefits are only enjoyed by some, as many Malays in the country, including those in Penang, are still poor,” said Lim Guan Eng, the chief minister of the DAP-led Penang state government. “The implementation of NEP has only made the rich richer and the poor poorer due to malpractices.”

The MEA, advocated by opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, is aimed at replacing the NEP with a policy that provides assistance to poor and marginalised Malaysians of any ethnic group who are in need. “We always stress that under out leadership, the interests of the Malays will be maintained, and we are always committed to building a new system that is fairer, more just and we will ensure that no one will be left behind without regard to their race or religion.” said Anwar in his blog.

But to assure Malays, he added that there are plans to introduce new mechanisms to channel economic aid to large groups of small traders within the Malay community and to ensure that educational opportunities, micro-credit schemes, social and welfare services and other forms of economic aid are available to the community. Civil society activist and economist Charles Santiago, just elected to Parliament on a DAP ticket, says Anwar’s PKR — and the DAP to a lesser extent — is committed to reducing the cost of living especially for the poor in the five states. Pas, for its part, is downplaying its Islamist agenda and is instead promoting the concept of a welfare state.

In PKR-led Selangor, for instance, the state government announced it would provide free water for the first 20 cubic metres to all residents in the state. The state’s chief minister also said he would be looking to raise the job skills among the youth.

”Transparency in contracts and open tenders are a big change (compared to previously),” Santiago told IPS. Another key goal is a fairer distribution of wealth. Others are hoping for a constructive dialogue on how to bring together progressive forms of ‘secular’ and Islamic community economics. They would like to see the political and intellectual resources of the opposition alliance harnessed and shared rather than used in an adversarial manner.

Santiago said he would like to see more public-public partnerships among the five PR-controlled states. There has been a start in this direction with the Selangor government hoping to learn from the experience of the publicly owned Penang Water Authority, regarded as one of the most efficient in the region in terms of low tariffs and low non-revenue water or leakages. Both states are also exploring how they can get their state agencies to cooperate and complement each other in human resources, education, physical development, and manufacturing.

Santiago will also propose that the five states under PR rule raise their food production. State governments, he said, could play a big role in investing in food production to mitigate the rising cost of living. The state governments could work on increasing yields, providing more subsidies to farmers, and strengthening farms managed by smallholders, including family-run farms, he told IPS.

So will the end of the NEP lead to radical changes towards a people-led economy? Not necessarily, warns political scientist John Hilley, author of the book ‘Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition’.

For one thing, the international private sector would view the removal of the racially-divisive NEP as another ‘necessary step’ on the road to a more open free-market, deregulated economy, he said. ”And this begs the bigger question, and problem, for the opposition (PR) of how to advance policy ideas that don’t just abandon ‘outdated’ social instruments for more market ‘solutions’.”

This he said was a serious dilemma for any socially ambitious ‘government-in-waiting’, fearful of anxious marketeers and capital flight. ”The blackmail threats and constraints of the global neoliberal (dis)order cannot be easily dismissed,” he told IPS in e-mailed comments. ”Yet, until there are imaginative efforts to craft and pursue people-led economics, the same social divisions, inequalities and business-first agenda will prevail.”

Support for a new social economics was clearly evident in the run-up to the general election in polls. Many Malaysians especially from the working class appeared drawn to election campaign pledges to increase subsidies for fuel and education, to do something about the rising cost of living and to reduce income inequalities between the privileged elite and the toiling masses. There has also been widespread public disenchantment over disastrous privatisation policies that have only enhanced corporate profits and elite salaries while undermining once cared-for public services.

Policies that would promote social investment and poverty-focused spending would thus probably be welcomed by the public. What is lacking though is the political will and radical creativity to realise such policies, pointed out Hilley, adding that the post-election phase ought to be used to explore and build credible alternatives to those proclaimed by corporate interests and the ‘market evangelists’.

He stressed that the key impetus for meaningful economic change would have to come from civil society itself — active NGOs, reformist lobbies, community groups, academic activists and others — rather than ”a hopeful reliance on politicians whose idea of ‘economic delivery’ becomes mediated by political office and tamed by the ‘realistic’ demands of big business”.

Anwar Ibrahim’s Interview—Australia

The Mandate is a mandate by Malaysians for CHANGE, not more of business as usual. I hope this interview will further clarify any linggering doubts about Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s political and socio-economic agenda. His vision and proposals are embodied the Malaysian Economic Agenda, which has been adopted by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR-PKR, DAP and PAS), and is in the PKR 2008 Elections .

Dato Seri Anwar is not, as some people, especially his detractors have said, a political “chameleon”. Being politically astute does not mean that he will abandon his political ideals, passion for freedom, democracy, justice and the Rule of Law, his vision and his passionate followers and supporters.

As he said in this interview, 6 years in prison in Sungei Buloh taught him a lot of things. PKR/PR is not UMNO-Barisan Nasional, and that is absolutely clear from this interview. He said he is a liberal democrat ( a prime minister in waiting who believes in free markets— and entrepreneurship—and distributive justice) and I have no cause to doubt him.

Dato Seri Anwar is a leader of this mandated movement for transformational change in Malaysia and has the full backing of all Malaysians who want to see a dynamic and competitive Malaysian constitutional state, and a model of good governance, respected by the community of nations.—Din Merican

Shariibuu says ‘hello’ to Abdullah and Khairy—Susan Loone

Photo: A very rush handshake.

Altantuya’s dad, Setev Shaariibuu, was in Parliament today. He waited half a day to meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Najib Tun Razak.

He did manage to meet Abdullah after lunch at the Parliament entrance. Shaariibuu was about to leave when Abdullah emerged. The dad went straight to meet him and shook his hands. He said he was Shaariibuu from Mongolia.

A surprised Abdullah said “Hello. How are you?”

Before Shaariibuu could reply, Abdullah walked away. To be fair, he was rushing to attend the afternoon session of the swearing in ceremony of the new MPs.

But I felt the least he could do is exchange some words and say words of condolences to Shaariibuu for the loss of his daughter. But alas!

After him, Shariibuu waited for Najib, but the later was no where to be seen.

But a few minutes later, Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah’s son-in-law emerged.

Shaariibuu managed to shake hands with him. He introduced himself again. Khairy replied “I know”.

Then Shaariibuu told him that he was waiting to see Abdullah, to which Khairy reply “Oh, really”.

He later told Shaariibuu he was attending a meeting and would catch up with him later.

After Khairy, Shaariibuu was again waiting for Najib. But we heard he had left the premises. Oh, Najib, where are you?

Ps. Shariibuu’s lawyer Karpal Singh said he had informed Abdullah that Shaariibuu had waited to meet him. The PM replied that he was VERY busy. What a shame!


I met Susan Loone, Dr. Setev Shaariibuu and his lawyer, Mijiddorj Munkhsharuul last evening (7.15pm) at one of the new restuarants in Bangsar Village, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Our meeting was brief because he had to rush to Kuala Lumpur International Airport to take a flight via Inchon, South Korea to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Raja Petra and his wife, Marina and their lovely daughter were there too.

From our conversation, I was able to learn firsthand how he felt losing his daughter, Altantuya who would have been 30 years old on April 28. I could see the strain on his face of having to bear this terrible loss, and the responsibility of taking care of his sickly grandson, and his family.

I told him that Malaysian public is very concerned as evidenced by their reactions to Raja Petra’s “No Holds Barred” piece which carried on just two days ago. He replied that the Malaysian public should be kept informed about the case and his own plight since the mainstream media is not doing so.

I told Dr.Shaariibuu that I was aware of the situation and some civil society organisations and bloggers are sympathetic to his plight, but we all have to be careful because there is an ongoing trial and we should not do anything that can regarded as “sub judice”, or be in contempt of the Courts.

After hearing her lawyer’s translation of my comment, Dr. Shaariibuu looked at me and smiled. I felt for a moment that we did not connect. Understandably so, here I was talking about some legal mambo jumbo, and he was concerned about getting a fair trial, and justice for Altantuya. —Din Merican

A Son’s Tribute: MGG Pillai, Father of Online Journalism

Sreejit Pillai

April 28, 2008

I regret profoundly that my father, MGG Pillai, did not live to see the momentous developments which nearly toppled the ruling Barisan Nasional government last month.

Today, the April 28 is the second anniversary of my father’s passing away. For my family and me, hardly a quiet moment of self-reflection goes by without him appearing in our thoughts.

While my family and I are sad that he did not live to see the developments of March 8, MGG Pillai would have been immensely gratified to know that the cyberspace journalism which he started four years before the emergence of Malaysiakini, has flowered into an immovable force fueled by the hunger for justice and righteousness.

It was gratifying to note that in the post-euphoria that swept this nation after March 8, some bloggers still remembered MGG Pillai as a giant which sowed the seeds that moved boulders.

While it is almost certain that his name will gradually float along the river of history, and the next generation of bloggers may not be aware of his contributions, MGG Pillai would not have minded that one bit. He would be happy to know that his efforts in educating readers for the past 40 years were not in vain. My father was never one to chase glory and pomp all his life unlike many of his contemporaries who succumbed to the money trail.

Many of his contemporaries chased the fat dragon which promised status and prestige. I knew some of them because I called them “uncle” and sat on their laps when I was a little boy when they visited my father for coffee and conversation. Later, some of them abandoned journalism, got rich beyond their dreams and occasionally pitied my father for being too idealistic.

Stay true to journalism

My father never viewed journalism as a stepping stone to gain favours from politicians and businessmen; he never aimed for grand sounding posts like chief news editor, group chief editor and all the privileges that came with big titles.

He was more interested in writing fair, balanced commentaries and reports for any media interested in his work, be it a small newspaper in the Caribbean or some of the biggest names such as The Times, Newsweek, Spectator, The Independent and Washington Post. It was not the medium that he cared about; it was far more important to him that his message and his thoughts could be relayed to readers.

MGG Pillai just wanted to write, enlighten readers and stay true to the pure ideals of journalism. This trade does not promise riches, just the nobility of being true to one’s self and the satisfaction of facing one’s Maker that one lived a honest, earnest life when the fleeting moment of one’s mortality fades into eternity.

A few days before my father passed away, in conversations with visitors, he had reaffirmed his belief in what he was doing is noble and true to the craft of journalism. “If I can open the eyes of even one person to bad governance, I would be satisfied.” MGG Pillai, on the verge of death, did not waver in his beliefs and I am proud to call him my father.

Author Paulo Coelho wrote in ‘Like the Flowing River’, “a warrior of light knows that certain impossible battles deserve to be fought, which is why he is not afraid of disappointments, for he knows the power of sword and the strength of his love … If he does not struggle against what is wrong – even if it seems beyond his strength – he will never find the right road.”

MGG Pillai fought impossible battles all his life and faced disappointments in his professional career; he paid a price for his idealism and beliefs but in the end – when it matters the most – he found the right road. MGG Pillai persevered right till the end.

He will always be my warrior of light.

MGG PILLAI (1939-2006), revered by many as father of Malaysia’s Internet journalism, died two years ago at the age of 67. He was a Malaysiakini columnist for many years and was unrelenting in his campaign on judicial corruption.

Vox Populi: Demise of a towering Malaysian

Freedom From An Oppressive Government

(with permission)

M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

April 28, 2008
The greatest legacy the leader of a nation could bequeath would be freedom from an oppressive government. This realization comes to me when I compare Malaysia ’s experience during the 1997 economic crisis to America ’s current struggle with its massive debt mess.

The differences in reactions and consequences are attributable to one salient factor: Unlike Malaysians, Americans do not fear and are not dependent upon their government. Americans have a healthy skepticism towards their leaders and government, an attribute generally lacking among Malaysians.

With Malaysia in 1997 there was a general crisis of confidence, with widespread gloom and doom permeating the skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur as well as the suraus in Ulu Kelantan, and from the Prime Minister to the village penghulu. It also precipitated a deep and ugly split in the leadership that resulted in riots and ugly street demonstrations. The very symbol of our sovereignty – the ringgit – was devalued.

Like Malaysia then, America is today plagued with a mountain of debt on a scale, a universe beyond what Malaysia suffered. The American dollar is also being debased, not by the government however as with Malaysia , but by the more powerful force of the marketplace.

The American tribulation is even greater, as the leadership – in particular President Bush – is viewed as ineffective and irrelevant. America is additionally burdened with an expensive and bloody war. Yet for all that, there are no riots or widespread doom and gloom. When Americans are disenchanted with their president or government, they throng the voting booths in record numbers to vote for a change.

Our Inherent Freedom

In Islam, a ruler is denied “the right to take away from his subjects certain rights which inhere in his or her person as a human being.” Meaning, freedom from oppression is not a gift bestowed by the ruler upon the ruled, rather the natural state. Or to put it in the language of the Quran, the will of Allah! Citizens would consent to giving away those rights to the ruler only upon a demonstrated need for the greater good.

Many a leader, evil and benevolent, have used this rationale to take away this precious rights away from citizens. Even otherwise civilized societies are not immune to this seduction, as evidenced by the easy passage of the Patriots Act in America. Citizens have only themselves to blame if they were to grease the path towards their own enslavement.

Government oppresses less through sheer size and more through exercising unchecked powers. Scandinavian countries have large governments, yet their people are not oppressed or threatened. These governments get voted in repeatedly.

They use their might not to oppress citizens but to emancipate them. The police force is used (rightly) for discouraging and apprehending criminals, not for spying on innocent citizens or harassing political dissenters. Public funds are used to build daycare centers and affordable housing, not detention camps and police barracks.

The Indian government is also large, though in terms of absolute budget size it is smaller than most of the Scandinavian countries. Yet the Indian government remains oppressive and intrusive in the lives of its citizens, caricatured by the ubiquitous “Permit Rajs.”

By modern standards, Stalin and Mao Zeedung had access to more limited resources and far primitive instruments of controls, yet they were able to maintain a tight grip on their people, even long after those leaders were dead.

A repressive government led by well-intentioned and capable leaders can achieve wonders in improving the lives of their citizens, as seen with Singapore . Even when the leaders were less well intentioned and less capable, they could still do remarkable things, as with Indonesia ’s Suharto.

Nonetheless oppression is still oppression no matter how seemingly sophisticated the guises and excuses. Singapore effectively controls its citizens through inane and intrusive rules as well as punitive laws like its libel statutes. South Korea ’s General Park justified his on the pretext of economic efficiency and national security. It worked only temporarily in South Korea ; it will be the same with Singapore . Sooner or later citizens’ yearning for freedom will emerge. Once the flame of freedom is lighted, it can be doused only temporarily.

Let Your People Be!

In America , when someone says, “I am from the government, and I am here to help you!” it would be treated as a line from an unoriginal comedian. In Malaysia , it would be taken as a solemn promise, even though it is rarely fulfilled. This reflects the control the government exerts over Malaysians, or more charitably, the citizens’ faith (misplaced) in their government.

In America , Ronald Reagan became the most popular modern president by promising to “take the government off citizens’ backs!” In Malaysia , whenever citizens’ groups meet over a problem, their resolutions would inevitably begin with, “The government must do this and that!” That reflects an ingrained dependency syndrome.

It was not always so. There was a time when citizens especially Malays would never trust the government. It was easy then as it was a colonial one, manned by people of a different race and skin color.

Rulers exert their grip on citizens primarily through fear a la Saddam and Stalin, or rewards a la Singapore . Both are effective; the second however is more enduring as citizens could delude themselves into believing that they are doing the state’s bidding on their own volition.

Thus through a carefully crafted system of rewards, Singapore quickly reduced its birth rate. It was so successful that the government is now desperate to reverse course! Singapore ’s positive reinforcements prove more effective than China ’s odious and punitive laws.

There is a third route, cara halus (subtle way), unique to Malay culture where rulers exerts a emotional hold on their subjects through a collective sense of terhutang budi (debt of gratitude). It is predicated upon the cultural belief encapsulated in the saying, Hutang budi di bawa mati (we bring our debt of gratitude to our grave). Malays would willingly put themselves (and their children) into endless servitude to the sultan in return for some perceived favors, sought or unsought. Such controls, reinforced by cultural norms, are even more powerful.

UMNO leaders play on these collective cultural guilt trips when they continually harp on their pivotal role in Merdeka and Ketuanan Melayu. “Be grateful!” “Kacang lupakan kulit” (Bean forgetting its pod); “Melayu Mudah Lupa!” (Malays forget easily!); these are the phrases bandied about to emotionally enslave Malays.

For added insurance, the UMNO government also uses fear through such oppressive laws as the ISA, as well as rewards of massive patronages via the New Economic Policy. Hence the strong grip the UMNO government has on Malays especially. This communal guilt trip is just as enslaving as Stalin’s harsh police state.

As long as citizens are not liberated and emancipated, they will never realize their full potential. Their creativity will forever be stifled; their talent stunted. The best that they could achieve would be total obedience, otherwise known as servitude.

More dangerously, such citizens would go berserk once that control is suddenly gone or destroyed. Long reduced to human robots, they are unable to think or act independently. Today’s Iraq is a tragic reminder of this reality. This fate awaits all closed societies.

If that were to happen to Malaysia , it would be the greatest tragedy, for both ruler and ruled.

Ku Li: Sabah crossover a possibility

April 27, 2008
Chan Kok Leong
Another leader within the Barisan Nasional fold warned today at a forum in Subang Jaya that Sabah MPs may yet abandon ship.Speaking to a gathering of Umno members this afternoon, Gua Musang parliamentarian and Umno stalwart Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah told of a chance encounter with PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim recently.

“I was on the same plane with him (Anwar) and I asked him ‘How confident he was that he will form the next government?’ said Tengku Razaleigh.

“He smiled and said ‘I’m very confident'” the 71-year-old veteran told a stunned crowd.

tengku razaleigh forum 260408 ku li speakingTengku Razaleigh, also known as Ku Li, explained that the opposition’s repeated boasts to the media about taking over is not far-fetched at all.

“All it takes is 30 members to make the switch and we will have a new federal government,” he said.

In the March 8 polls, BN lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament when its candidates won only 140 seats. Opposition parties PKR, DAP and PAS won the remaining 82 seats.

The three parties – now called Pakatan Rakyat – also captured four states in Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Perak while PAS retained its control over Kelantan.

Sabah Umno different

PKR is now said to be courting BN reps especially in Sabah and Sarawak, in a bid to wrest the required 30 parliamentary seats to form the federal government.

Furthermore, if one remembers history well, said Ku Li, Sabah Umno is very different from its Peninsular counterparts.

Before 1988, Sabah Umno did not exist. But following a confidence crisis over Usno chief Tun Datu Mustapha’s leadership of Muslims in the state, the party was de-registered.

Out of its ashes rose Sabah Umno, Ku Li reminded the crowd.

“As such, you can’t expect Sabah Umno to feel the same way about Umno’s struggle to uphold Malay rights as us,” said the former finance minister.

Added to the fact that Anwar was the man who had helped set up Umno in Sabah then, his relationship with many Sabah leaders remains strong, said Ku Li.

Tengku Razaleigh, who is eyeing the Umno presidency, said he informed party chief Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of this but was brushed aside.

tengku razaleigh forum 260408 brochure“Politics is about possibilities and Sabahans crossing over is very high up on the list,” he told reporters after the forum.

Asked to comment why Sabah politicians may want join PKR, he said that they were still unhappy despite the prime minister’s visit there early this month.

“Some of them are not happy with the number of cabinet positions they received while others feel that Sabah has been left behind. But the reports I’ve got point to dissatisfaction among the people there,” said Tengku Razaleigh.

The Kelantan prince is not the first senior BN politician to voice his concerns as Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak also expressed similar sentiments yesterday.

Will run for president

During the forum with former Selangor Umno leaders Mazlan Harun and Fahmi Ibrahim, Ku Li repeated his intention to contest for the presidency.

He told the members, who were mostly from Subang Jaya, that if he gets the mandate, he intends to “go all the way”.

Tengku Razaleigh was responding to a question if he would continue if Abdullah facilitates a transfer of power to Najib before party polls in December.

On the transfer of power, Ku Li was of the opinion that it wasn’t right. Repeating his earlier comments he said there was no provision in the party constitution for transfers of power.

“Party politics is not about inheritance like from a father to son. Umno is a democratic party and changes in the leadership should take place at the polls,” said Ku Li.

“If we want the other people to respect Umno again, democracy must be returned to the party, starting with picking electoral candidates to the party president.”

He also urged Umno members to help him make this change by nominating him as a candidate for the president’s post.

Besides Subang Jaya, Tengku Razaleigh will also be addressing members in Batu Pahat, Sungai Petani and Sabah in the weeks ahead.

“We’ve not really planned anything but as long as I’m invited, I will go and speak to the grassroots everywhere,” said the Umno veteran.

Mr Cool Tony Bennett: Rags to Riches

Guys and gals, this is the ultimate from Mr. Tony Cool Bennett. Great Voice, excellent arrangement and just very upbeat. What a better way to spend Sunday evening. Here’s to you wonderful people. Remember we will make Malaysia great, not those guys in power who are out of touch with reality.—Dee Jay Din Merican

Anwar: Malays have nothing to fear

Andrew Ong
April 26, 2008

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said Malays have nothing to fear despite their smaller representation in several Pakatan Rakyat state governments.

This is because the new Pakatan state governments, which champion the concept of Ketuanan rakyat (people’s power), will not conceive policies that are detrimental to the Malays.

“I will not compromise on this issue. Nor will Pakatan members. We will not conceive any policy to the detriment of the Malays. That issue does not arise,” he pointed out.

Anwar said this when asked about uneaseness among certain quarters that the position of Malays had eroded following their reduction in numbers in the two state governments and the appointment of non-Malay speakers in the Perak and Selangor state legislative assemblies.

Immediately after the general election, Malay groups had protested against the new DAP-led Penang government over the new Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s remarks pertaining to the New Economic Policy.

Following this, Kelantan Regent Tengku Faris Petra had in a controversial speech said that the position of the Malays were being “challenged” and called on Malays to be united.

Apology or not, Umno the same

Acknowledging that the reduction in the number of Malays in the Penang, Perak and Selangor state governments as a political reality, Anwar said it doesn’t mean that policies will be skewed against the Malays.

“There can be a Chinese chief minister in Penang and a Malay menteri besar in Selangor. What is more important is that we have a unequivocal commitment to defend the rights of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion,” he added.

rustam sani book launch 260408 anwar rustam wifeOn Umno Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein’s apology for waving the keris during the past three Umno general assemblies, Anwar said that PKR would accept it and that the former should not repeat his act.

“The crux of the matter is not the keris as a symbol. What matters is his attitude which shows arrogance and the use of racial issues in politics.

“That is still being continued. They are raising issues about pig farming, Malay supremacy…claiming that the Malays are now very angry against the Selangor government…this sentiment is still strong in Umno,” he added.

Anti-hopping laws

On a related matter, Anwar was non-committal when asked to state his stand on the new ‘anti-party hopping’ laws which Barisan hopes to introduce.

He also refused to be drawn into commenting on whether such laws would be unconstitutional.

“We have to look and discuss about it first,” he said.

He also refused to be drawn into the debate on whether it was ethical to poach for Barisan Nasional MPs to make up the numbers necessary for Pakatan Rakyat to form the next federal government.

“History has shown that dozens have hopped into Barisan. Itu halal semua (that is all kosher to them),” he said.

Anwar had been repeatedly claiming that Barisan MPs are waiting for the opportune moment to leave their parties and join forces with Pakatan.

Asked whether his Pakatan peers – DAP and PAS – shared his sentiments on the need to poach for Barisan MPs, Anwar attempted to skirt the question.

“Don’t worry about that. At every stage we have had elaborate discussions and meetings with party leaders. I have said enough on the subject. We have to move on. Let the Umno and Barisan worry. You should not be unduly worried”.

rustam sani book launch 260408 anwar stageAnwar was speaking to reporters after launching two books penned by the late Rustam Sani.

Earlier in his speech, Anwar had praised Rustam as an “extraordinary public intellectual” who had helped PKR draft their 2008 election manifesto.

Rustam’s two books, Social roots of the Malay left and Failed Nation? Concerns of a Malaysian Nationalist are now available on

Johnnie Ray: Just Walking in the Rain (1956)

Let me take you down memory lane to 1956. It was an interesting period in America and Europe—one of economic prosperity and cultural renaissance, at least as far as jazz and pop music were concerned. Here is Johnnie Ray singing “Just Walking in the Rain” his hit of that period. Good Sunday, friends.—-Dee Jay Din Merican