Tribute to Che Guevera: A Movie

My favorite icon is now a movie about revolutionary change and a man’s struggle against imperialism and his quest for justice. He lost his life in the jungles of Boliva. He is now being immortalised by Argentina, the country of his birthday, where it all began for him. Adieu, Che.—Din Merican

From My Friend Ghani:Transit Malay nationalists wait and see
A Ghani Ismail (May 29, 2008 )
Time in UMNO, having entered a state of transit since former party president and premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, bailed out on Wesak Day (May 19), is taking the party on a drift that feels like it is dragging endlessly.


Mahathir walked out on a spur after the cabinet decided to have him and party secretary-general Tengku Adnan investigated for crimes they may be charged with following the Lingam tape the Royal Commission found believable and hence, incriminating.

mahathir quits umno pc 190508 01In making his final appeal to deputy party president, Najib Tun Razak, to contest for number one, Mahathir is applying for the only certain course to defeat Pak Lah, but tearing to pieces Tengku Razaleigh’s hope to get the qualifying number of nominations (58 ) to enable him to contest for president. Ku Li is now regarded only as a reserve, a consequence of the former strongman’s move that must have appeared in his mind as unavoidable.

The Kelantan prince’s gutsy doggedness, however, is critically keeping the effort for leadership change alive in UMNO, Najib being as slow as a snail to warm up to the popular assumption in UMNO that he will surely win if he [finally] decides to contest against Pak Lah.

Najib’s uneventful calculative nature is forcing everyone to have to wait until nominations begin in July when the party holds the divisional meetings and begins the process of nomination. Each nomination carries with it 10 “bonus votes”.

Problems aplenty for Pak Lah

While theoretically it is possible for Najib to knock out Pak Lah by the count of the “bonus votes” alone the way Anwar had wrested the number two position from Ghafar Baba in 1993, Najib’s slowness in this winner-take-all is observably causing the worst state of nervousness in the party’s living memory.

Mahathir’s decision to depend solely on Najib taking the plunge has become to many somewhat illusionary and thus stretching time in UMNO simply because of the wait to see to believe that Najib will accept the nominations to contest.

Pak Lah, driven deeper and deeper into a horrid mess he caused himself is still unable to resolve Sabah’s poor representation in his new cabinet, that’s making Anwar Ibrahim’s claim to early regime change more and more credible.

The premier is now saddled with yet another eye-popper. Billions in oil royalty that ought to have been paid to Trengganu as “Wang Ehsan” are missing, apparently vanished from the books either by an act of great magic or by high-tech thievery.

A police report has been made, an amount of RM3 billion mentioned when the missing money could be as much as RM6 billion.

Prices, meanwhile, having climbed more than four percent in April, are still going up like the controls are not anywhere beyond the talking.

With subsidies now surpassing RM50 billion and have exceeded the development expenditure, Pak Lah must either find the means to effectively address the need for inflation moderation and manage the currency and food crises or Malaysia, it is generally felt, will soon be drifting on the current of investors’, consumers’ and workers’ nervousness that will soon qualify the nation as a failed state.

The premier is seen as trying to make much of the investments entering Malaysia Iskandar (Development Region) in Johor. But how relevant are these to the challenges the crises are posing?

Floor staffers of joints like MacDonald, Pizza Hut, Mr Tappanyika, Sushi and Kenny Rogers are merely paid an average of RM800 per month, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, and if lucky, they get an extra RM100 every three months as “incentive”.

Are we to seriously believe these workers can survive on that sum in Kuala Lumpur now? How will they be faring 12 months hence, while these outlets have to be striving against lower volumes because of the price hikes?

The problems we currently face are complex and they will stay for years to come.

The price of oil having reached US$135 per barrel and should surpass US$200 even without Iran being invaded is only one thing.

Singing the same mantra

It is the rising commodity prices and the manipulation of the food supply and distribution that are making the economic woes run into trends worse than those of the Great Depression of the thirties.

It is really useless to be repeating Malaysia is not affected by the sub-prime and the unsecured loans messes that are turning the world’s finances and economy into a wicked and painful game of profiteering. We know the big players are trying to recoup great losses by the manipulation of the commodity, food and currency trades.

But the point is about what we can do and what we will immediately do to avoid and to moderate the impacts of the deliberate disorderliness, and not over and over again repeat the useless mantra that our banks are not hit by the sub-prime scuttle and thus expect people to somehow feel good.

It is alright if the government is not going to be a party to the rising demands to find a peaceful world solution, like going for a new Bretton-Woods. But it is not alright to be singing the same mantra repeatedly since that is like saying clearly you have hit a mental block and should, indeed, quit as a government.

umno 2007 opening day 081107 najib and pak lahWe need to know how you plan to drive for self-sufficiency in the sectors that will be badly bashed, and underlining food which we are importing more than RM15 billion per year currently.

That sum can triple within the space of two years in the given circumstances, meaning Malaysia can become a bankrupt individual if the trends continue unabated.

The purchasing power of the ringgit is being squeezed in many more ways than the inflation. Consumption is already straining and will shortly worsen the negative effects on production, the upshot of which will translate into recession with inflation and yet continue showing positive growth, a poser nobody has yet dared to name beyond the 1985-87 coinage we know as “stagflation”, which is old hat.

It’s almost a surreal world event, except that the forced-sales of shares and bonds plus the properties the banks are auctioning are indeed real.

In other words, unless we quickly do something intelligent we are surely headed for a crunch.

We would be better off attending to national self-sufficiency and regional and inter-bloc economic co-operations by barter than to be securing marks in showing how good we are in complying with the WTO and the cosmo-global companies so we can get serially patted on the back from the big shots, before international TV.

Seeing we have no answers forthcoming from Pak Lah and his cabinet that can provide us with a reason to hope we’d be getting any better, rather than for Mahathir and Razaleigh to be wasting their accumulated experiences in this critical transit of time, surely we can gain much if they were to leave the distasteful aside and help guide the nation to secure the society from the decided drift that’s taking us towards breakdown.

People have come to assume as given that Pak Lah has bogged himself down and is in no shape either to rehabilitate Umno or to plan and manage the country’s needed economic adjustments. Everywhere people are saying the political puzzlement in UMNO and BN is simply arising from the fact he does not want to let go and would rather see the ship sink with him.

UMNO, as a mass organisation that has become power and money absorbed, cannot be expected to regain the spiritual quest of the early years that would be needed to move the members to act as Mahathir is asking them to do, which is to bail out and shout from the outside to demand Pak Lah quit before they will return to the party.

ku li tengku razaleigh interview 241106  smileHe may have done the right thing for himself, and with him his wife and a son, Mokhzani.

As for party members, some say they would be losing the means they have to aggress against Pak Lah should Najib choose to contest and/or if it has to be Ku Li they must back the chance for change.

Najib has said he fears the party will be divided should he contest for number one. Party members now say that will not happen unless Pak Lah lets the power go to the opposition and the horror of a president of that sort crashes the meaning and worth of UMNO like a mirror being smashed on the floor.

Sense of futility

Najib has successfully gained for himself the biggest single disappointment many can trace in the history for UMNO. He is seen not at all as a fighter, they say, and not as someone who places the nation and party above self.

He has lost for nothing a lot of goodwill and respect while the party is heavily inclined towards him no matter the Altantuya murder trial casting a wild shadow over him and his wife, Rosmah.

The popular belief is, unless a regime change actually happens, UMNO will not fragment beyond what has already occurred.

Any significant bleeding can only be expected to happen if Pak Lah were to stay as president beyond December, which would seem to be reflecting the sense of futility among the immortally impotent majority in UMNO’s 3.5 million members.

The nationalist Malays have apparently successfully castrated themselves.

Meanwhile, until the nominations for president and deputy president are made beginning July, time in UMNO will still be skirting reality and shunting in transit, bearing little hope to reduce the gigantic frustration and sense of self-defeat that has become almost second nature to the Malays in UMNO.

The zeitgeist has long been saddled on the fear of the “orang asing” (the aliens) and acknowledged little about internal rot and incompetence as causes of terminal political and economic failures.

The present crop of Malay nationalists in UMNO, caught in a bind such as now and fearing for Malay survival, can become very vocal in the evenings at coffee-shops but leaves to Mahathir the ravings and rantings in the attempt “to remove the gangrene”.

In 2004, most of the UMNO delegates that chose the current list of UMN supreme council members, had accepted bribes we were told. It was the first UMNO supreme council election held under Pak Lah’s leadership. The delegates were corrupt!

Now we learn anywhere between RM3 billion and RM6 billion of Trengganu’s oil royalty had not been paid to the state government. Where on earth did the money go?

No wonder time in Umno is in transit and waiting for something to happen, and which will, of course, probably from July. Hidup Melayu! Long Live the Malays!

ICJ On PBP: Sovereign Claims Must Be Defended

By Datuk Deva M. Ridzam*

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague last week delivered judgement on the competing territorial sovereignty claims by Malaysia and Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh (PBP) and two other features of Middle Rocks (MR) and South Ledge (SL).

Both countries, winner and loser alike, are bound by the decision of the ICJ. Otherwise, why did both countries go to the World Court in the first place if they had no intention of abiding by the Court’s judgement?

Even before the date of the verdict (May 23), both countries must have contemplated the Court’s would be one of the following scenarios, that:

1. Malaysia has sovereignty over PBP, MR and SL, but Singapore is allowed to continue operating and managing the Horsburgh Lighthouse;
2. Singapore has sovereignty over PBP while Malaysia has sovereignty over MR and SL; and
3. Singapore has sovereignty over PBP, MR and SL.

Now that the Court has rendered its decision, it is clear that Malaysia was right all along. The ICJ found that sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh (PBP) had always rested with Johor.

Singapore’s arguments, among others, citing the doctrine of terra nullius (empty land or no man’s land) and even the construction of the Lighthouse did not mean that Singapore ever had sovereignty over PBP.

Just to illustrate the point, no international or national courts have ever upheld the notion of terra nullius.

In the case of the Australian Aborigines, they won their most significant legal battle, when the nation’s highest court rejected the claim of terra nullius and ruled that Aborigines could be entitled to reclaim some of their land.

Be that as it may, Malaysia, however, failed to impress the ICJ on two crucial points.

For over 100 years, we did nothing to positively assert our ownership over PBP in any significant way, leaving every thing to the Britain. Then, we wrote that ‘give-away letter’ in 1953 giving away this piece of real estate in our waters to Singapore.

That ‘give away1953 letter’ was actually the first step in the slippery slope, which led Malaysia to virtually ceding sovereignty to Singapore.

Things did not stop there. Subsequently, the lack of action on the part of Malaysia to show that we wanted to continue to assert sovereignty over PBP only further went to undermine our position and thus did us in yet more.

Simply put, Singapore got PBP by the flimsiest of evidence. Essentially, it built up a case out of nothing. Why should it not do so? It has nothing to loose.

And we, on the other hand, failed to assert our claim through any manifestation of effective control. That would have meant we moving ahead in areas such as aids navigation, marine conservation, tide and current surveys, hydrography, etc, which we did not.

That is what sovereignty is all about – developing the means to effectively control what is rightfully ours – and establishing the reality that others who use our territory do so on our terms.

And this is what we precisely did in regard to Pulau Pisang (PP). Singaporeans operating the Lighthouse there are well regulated and they do so on our terms.

In other words, sovereignty claims unexercised or one that a country didn’t defend will gradually and eventually disappear. That precisely is what happened to our ownership or title to PBP, since that letter of 1953.

Though Singapore deemed the maps published by Malaysia in 1962, 1965, 1975 showed that PBP belonged to Singapore, the ICJ came to the conclusion the maps were not material in it arriving at its judgement.

However, the Court inferred that our production of those maps were part of a consistent pattern of behavior that gave the impression that we were acting in accordance with the spirit of the 1953 letter.

Singapore tried to convince the ICJ that there was a total rupture in history that changed fundamentally the sovereignty of PBP as well as the two other features. But that line of reasoning did not impress the Judges and, therefore, it failed to get all that it wanted.

As Middle Rocks does not have any structure built on it by Britain or Singapore, the original sovereignty remained with Johor/Malaysia. The status of South Lodge, however, is to be determined.

We should look at things in their proper context.

Malaysians should give credit to our team led by Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, the Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs, for having, in the first place, salvaged the country from a very bad situation.

They cannot be held responsible for the 1953 letter nor for acts of omission and commission of our leaders and officials since that date. In fact, our team tried their best in a difficult situation.

But we have, at least, now restored or reconfirmed our sovereignty over Middle Rocks, which is 0.6 nautical miles south of PBP. By doing so, we have been able to limit Singapore’s ability to act freely in the vicinity, including engage in reclamation works, which is one of its strategic goals.

In fact, we now have an equal standing in that part of the South China Sea.

We will eventually prove that South Lodge too belongs to Malaysia. This feature lies in the territorial waters of Middle Rock as it is merely 1.7 nautical miles south of it. Also the combined fishing area of MR and SL is quite considerable.

All told, the ICJ judgement went beyond a winner/loser scenario or, even, a winner-take-all verdict. It was a mid-way judgement of sorts.

In the 2003 International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) case on the Malaysian objections to Singapore’s land reclamation works, a provisional ruling was made that met the interests of both countries – a kind of win-win judgement – even if the ruling was clearly in Malaysia’s favour.

Kadir Mohamad was the same senior official who led our team in the case involving Sipadan and Ligitan and at the ITLOS tribunal.

On PBP, he and his team presented a most compelling case and conducted the debate (submissions and rebuttals) with restraint, forwarding arguments that made a lot of legal, historical and political common sense.

In the light of the foregoing, to criticise the Government for taking the matter to the ICJ without a strong case is also unfair to say the least.

There are, of course, risks to be run in bringing the matter before the ICJ. But the question is was there any other practical alternative?

Refusing to let our case be heard at the World Court is to suggest Malaysia is not confident in its claim.

More importantly, it will have also meant leaving Singapore in total de facto control as the have since their illegal naval blockade in 1986 over the entire area, thinking – as the Israeli’s do – that occupation is two-thirds of the law.

Also, is it in the larger interest of Malaysia and that of ASEAN – regional peace and security – to allow the hitherto situation to remain unresolved in perpetuity?

For some 150 years Singapore – and before that Britain – has been in effective – though illegitimate – control of Batu Puteh.

Malaysia, however, chose not to ‘militarily’ confront Singapore when it blockaded the area, preventing, among others, our fishermen in these waters or seek shelter on the three features.

Here again, this was not because we doubted our sovereignty over the features. Rather it was, on our part, an act of self-restraint and wisdom – something done in the letter and spirit of ASEAN.

Foreign affairs are normally a place for extreme caution. It is also, uniquely, an arena where countries speak and act for themselves and, in that process, reveal their true nature by their actions.

While Malaysia took the moral high ground by abiding with the principles of the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), Singapore ignored them by taking a hostile stance with its naval blockade. Singapore certainly lost some credibility as a result.

All told, under the United Nations Conference on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), Malaysia would negotiate with Singapore starting from the ‘base point’ that PEDRA BRANCA (BATU PUTEH) is nothing more than a rock, a geologic feature. It creates only territorial waters. It has nothing to do with the question of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or Continental Shelf.

What is even more important now is that Malaysia should from now on be extremely careful about the way we do things with Singapore.

For example, decisions on Iskandar Development must be carefully and transparently undertaken.

We should be vigilant so that we do not give semblance that it can be concluded in, say, 50 years hence that Malaysia had somewhat unwittingly and unilaterally deem that both Malaysia and Singapore had joint sovereignty over the Iskandar Development area.

This may seem far-fetched today. However, it does contain a few nuggets of possibilities. Close-door discussion and back channel deals could lead us to such a situation.

Remember, the Singapore Prime Minister during official talks last year in Langkawi wanted a ‘joint consultative body’ to be established to operate and manage Iskandar Development as though this too should be treated as a ‘Lighthouse of sorts”.

We should also resist and even reject outright any attempt to bring on broad extraneous issues about ‘this’, ‘that’ or ‘the other’ so-called “outstanding issues”: Water Agreements, the Points of Agreement (POA), the Bridge Saga, and the more recent fast train proposal.

After some 150 years, including 28 years of bilateral dispute, common sense, which often is in short supply, prevailed and both countries have brought the matter to closure.

* Datuk Deva M. Ridzam is a former ambassador and an occasional commentator on Foreign Affairs. The article appears in The Edge Malaysia (June 2, 2008), FORUM Page 54.

Che Det’s Rule of Law

Posted by Din Merican

By Che Det ( 24, 2008 )

Malaysia is a country which practices the rule of law. Our laws must cover every aspect of our societal life, so we will know exactly what we can do and what we cannot do. Prime Ministers in particular must have everything spelt out for them in this respect. This will enable them to be charged if they had breached the rule of law long after they had retired.

Governments, serving Prime Ministers and Ministers are well placed to initiate action against others. But when the Government, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister do something wrong, like cover-ups for example, then police reports may be made against them. But how can the person reporting be sure that the police will investigate without fear or favour.

I believe some reports have been made but so far there have been no results. Public confidence would be undermined if investigations by the proper authorities are not made. If the investigation is only to clear the name, then can we say the rule of law is being properly practised?

We therefore need to have more Royal Commissions manned by people of impeccable character like the ones on the Lingam tapes. The Commissions can then make proposals based on speculations and possibilities can then investigate the possibilities and probabilities and help clear those in power. When this is done we can say that this beloved country practises the rule of law.

Pulau Batu Mahathir: Another Perspective

Posted by Din Merican (May 30, 2008 )


Pulau Batu Mahathir
Neil Khor

May 29, 2008

There are three ways to maintain power, or rather three ways to convince others to submit to one’s will. The first strategy is to provide them with an alternative that motivates them to submit. The slave would rather toil under the hot sun than suffer the pain of the lash. Similarly, people prefer to be obedient to religious leaders rather than suffer in hell.

Second, provide them with compensation that will buy their submission. We get big bonuses for spending 12 hours a day in a ‘monkey suit’ and smiling at our bosses. Politicians may vote or even cross the floor for such compensatory benefits.

Third, and perhaps most effectively, power can be maintained by conditioning people to think in a particular way. Malays are ‘weak’ and if not adequately protected, they will ‘fall victim’ to their fellow Malaysians. Over time, Malays no longer differentiate between their own legs and the crutches that hold them up.

In my last letter, I mentioned that we are currently witnessing the ‘endgame of the Mahahtir myth’. The Mahathir myth is made up of a combination of threats, compensation as well as conditioning. It is all held together in the personality of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Let us take the Pulau Batu Puteh case as an example of how Mahathir maintains power. His first act upon returning to Malaysia from Japan on Tuesday was to create a smokescreen. Anyone who believes that 300 people turned up at Subang Airport spontaneously is very naive. Mahathir’s statement nails his successor as both weak and a sell-out. ‘Abdullah is more afraid of Singapore than of UMNO members,’ the former premier said.

This was followed-up the next day by his comments on his website. There he accuses Abdullah of being basically an ungrateful traitor tonthe Malay race. What Mahathir is doing is to transform Malaysian national sentiment over the Batu Puteh incident into a cogent example that Malays are losing their grip on power. But instead he reveals that Abdullah is ungrateful to him and that it is Mahathir who is fast losing power, not the Malays.

A simple recounting of facts soon dissipates this smokescreen. The Batu Puteh incident was sparked off in 1980. Coincidentally, marking Mahathir’s rise to the highest office in the land. In the succeeding
22 years, the public knew very little about the lighthouse or the island. Now we learn that in 1994 Dr Mahathir decided to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after bilateral talks ground to a halt.

From 1994 till 2002, Mahathir, Malaysia’s greatest prime minister ever and presumably the most powerful Malay leader the world has even seen, helmed the case. Old treaties were found in London’s Public Records Office to establish the ownership of the island.

But at the same time, Mahathir allowed Singapore to continue managing the lighthouse, stake its claim over shipping incidents and compile data showing proof if its de facto ‘ownership’.

What did the Mahathir administration do from 1980 till 2002 as evidence of Malaysia’s ownership of Pulau Batu Puteh? Did we ask Singapore for joint administration of the lighthouse? Plant a flag in Middle Rocks? Negotiate on behalf of our fisher folk? In 2002, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi inherited Batu Puteh, a legacy which came with the premiership.

We have lost Batu Puteh and most Malaysians have accepted the verdict rationally. But we all feel a sense of loss, the kind Indonesians felt over Sipadan and Ligitan. Abdullah must publish a chronology of what his predecessor did that would have made a difference in the ICJ. The public must be told that rhetoric and secret maps do not impress ICJ judges.

Here is a perfect example of how Mahathir maintains power by manipulating public sentiment. But if we have lost Pulau Batu Puteh, and if Mahathir use the incident to his advantage, we must remind him that he shares some of the responsibility. It was his belligerent style of diplomacy and refusal to listen to professionals which led the case to fall into the lap of the ICJ in the first place.

So behind the smokescreen, we see Mahathir’s tactics laid bare. He made a claim in Johor that the Malays were losing power. Then he resigned from Umno and left for Japan. There, he gave a speech warning of racial strife owing to the ‘weakness’ of Abdullah Badawi.

Knowing full well that Batu Puteh might fall to Singapore, he arrives back in Subang to cheering crowds presumably a hero, a Malay patriot indirectly blaming Abdullah for losing Batu Puteh.

Facts have a way of exposing synthetic personalities and their naked grip on power. It was Mahathir’s diplomacy that led us up the path to the ICJ and to the outcome we see before us. So, as an old song goes, the Malaysian public is ‘Bewitched, bothered and bewildered…no more!’

Ask Rosmah Mansor to Answer, not only in London but also in Washington D.C.

M’sian missions going ‘overboard’ for VIP wives?

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
May 29, 2008

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has rejected allegations that his wife, Rosmah Mansor, was given special treatment by M’sian embassies abroad.


Also joining him in denying charges of improprieties in the way VIP wives are treated by Malaysian missions while they are travelling abroad was Foreign Minister Rais Yatim.

rosmah mansor najib wife shopping 290508Mohd Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) raised this issue at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday with emphasis on Rosmah, who allegedly went on luxury shopping sprees, with her large purchases transported back home at the expense of the Malaysian High Commission in London and national carrier MAS.

The overseas missions apparently were required to go overboard in ‘helping’ Cabinet Ministers and their wives. In defence of Rosmah, both the ministers stressed that the claim was untrue.

Najib added that Azmin was being “petty and frivolous”.

azmin aliThe issue began during the Supplementary Supply Bill debate, when Azmin (left) highlighted reports he received.

“The complaint that we have received is that many of the officers at the embassies abroad are ordered to receive these pembesars (VIPs) and their wives even when they are holidaying,” he said.

“Certain personalities among the wives of Cabinet Ministers spend huge sums, go on shopping sprees for luxuries, refuse to pay taxes at the airport or to (Malaysian Airline System) MAS, and the foreign affairs ministry has to bear the said expenses,” he added.

This, he summed up, made the embassy neglect their official obligations.

To a question from Mohd Puad Zarkashi (BN-Batu Pahat), Azmin said he has proof of his claims from the embassy in London itself.

Ibrahim Ali (Independent-Pasir Mas) agreed with Azmin and mentioned he knew of embassy staff who were made to accompany VIPs to karaoke joints and entertainment centres.

Speedy response

rais yatim 03In his winding-up speech, Rais informed Parliament that he had just received a fax from the Malaysian High Commissioner in London denying Azmin’s allegations.

The fax, according to Rais, explained that the High Commissioner only helped with Rosmah’s arrival and departure.

“They did not pay anything for her and with this explanation, it is up to Azmin to accept it as something that he needs to explain for later,” said Rais.

“This matter does not need to be extended because there are bigger things to discuss. Our embassies will give help to Malaysians abroad but to claim this, the ministry says it is not true,” he stressed.

Azmin then interjected to say that while he had nothing against embassies helping Malaysians in difficulty, however the issue at hand was the special treatment that certain Malaysians receive.

“I think you should be sincere in this. Not every Malaysian gets the same welcome when they go overseas,” said Azmin, citing the treatment faced by students involved with opposition party functions and PKR officials when overseas.

Azmin also expressed surprise at the efficiency and speed of the investigation into the matter.

“If the Minister says he received a fax from the Ambassador, I congratulate the Ambassador for responding in a few hours.”

“It is impossible that in that short time frame, that the Minister can carry out investigations,” he claimed.

At a press conference held later, Najib reiterated his denial of Azmin’s enquiry into his wife’s actions.

“It’s not true anyway,” he added.

Ezam Mohd. Noor: UMNO’s Anti-Corruption Czar for Badawi (?),Good Luck, Malaysia

PM’s Anti-Graft agenda won Ezam


Syed Jaymal Zahiid & Soon Li Tsin
May 29, 2008

The government’s post-March 8 anti-corruption agenda was the main attraction for former PKR leader Ezam Mohd Nor to rejoin the party that once expelled him for being overly critical.


ezam joins back umno pc 290508 02The former PKR Youth chief reiterated at a press conference held at Shah Village Hotel in Petaling Jaya today that he did not rejoin UMNO because he was offered any position as speculated.

He characterised his new role as being a regular member with a strong principle of ‘statesmanship’ who wants to contribute to his country. According to him Abdullah had already given him the mandate to pursue his reform agenda as long as it benefited the country.

“When Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) will go through thorough reform, I sense that he is committed in changing things,” explained Ezam, who was former head of GERAK, an anti-graft watchdog.

He added that only through rejoining UMNO and BN can he pursue his struggle to eradicate corruption and said that he saw ‘no other formula that can realise this quest’.

In response to a question on BN’s lack of serious commitment to reform in the past, he replied, “Tell me who in the past government has made such kind of policies? Only this administration has done so and I am convinced that the government will implement the reform promises they have made.”

Curiously he has relinquished the chair of Gerak which he set up to combat graft to retain its non-partisanship, while maintaining joining UMNO is a continuation of his anti-graft efforts.

Ezam: Review ISA

ezam pc 290508 01Asked on the Internal Security Act (ISA), Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the Dangerous Drug Act, Ezam assured that his views remain the same and the ISA should be reviewed along with any law that detained people without trial.

Ezam surprising took the opportunity to present an opinion on the concept of Ketuanan Melayu.

“Other races respect the rights of Malay Muslims as the leaders of this country and we in turn must respect them. The Malay foundation must be maintained but the term of Ketuanan Melayu must be replaced,” he explained.

His parting shot to PKR was that the party had deviated from its original spirit of fighting for justice.

“PKR now is a party that fights for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (Justice Party) and not keadilan (justice) anymore. I am not the only one who believes that PKR is an unjust party but other former and even current PKR members as well,” he said.

ezam joins back umno pc 290508 03Sitting next to Ezam was former PKR vice-president S Nallakaruppan (right) who then formed his own party, the Malaysian Indian United Party.

Joining him will be seven other former PKR youth chiefs.

They are Annuar Shaari (former PKR division chief for Permatang Pauh and private secretary to party de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim), SD Johari Mohd Yasin (former Selangor PKR Youth chief), Mohd Nazmi Rosli (former Selangor PKR Youth secretary), Ahmad Daud Che Ghani (former PKR Perlis Youth chief), Azwan Din Hamzah (former PKR Youth executive council member), Khairul Annuar Ramli (former PKR Kedah Youth chief) and Abdul Ghani Haron (former PKR Youth executive councillor member).Ezam rejoined UMNO yesterday after submitting his membership form to Abdullah.

Lifetime members

Meanwhile former PKR members Anuar and Khairul today submitted their lifetime membership forms to join UMNO today.

Anwar’s ex-political secretary Anuar and former PKR Youth exco member Khairul gave their forms to UMNO deputy president Najib Abdul Razak in Parliament.

ex pkr member joins umno najib parliament pc 290508 01During the brief press conference, Najib said he met Anuar “a long time ago” and it was just a coincidence that he turned up today after Ezam joined the party yesterday.

Asked to comment on the phenomenon of having more politicians joining UMNO, Najib said: “The people can make their own interpretations and draw their own conclusions about this.”

During the press conference, both revealed that they were joining UMNO out of free will and had left PKR last year after losing faith in Anwar’s leadership.

ezam seven ex pkr members joins umno 290508Anuar expressed that he wanted to go back to the roots of the struggle for race and religion though UMNO.

As for Khairul, who ran as an independent in the Kulim state seat during the March 8 general election, he said he left PKR because “Anwar was making different statements to PAS and DAP”.

He enthused that UMNO would serve as a better platform for him compared to PKR.

Ezam and Nalla were also present when the duo presented their forms to Najib, who remarked that Nalla was a firm supporter of Barisan Nasisonal even though his party was not a member of the coalition.

Watch the 10-min video of Ezam’s press conference in

Dato Deva Ridzam on Pedra Branca

Source: nstonline

May 29, 2008

By : Deva Ridzam

Foreign affairs is an arena where countries reveal their true nature by their actions and Malaysia should bear this in mind in bilateral relations with Singapore, writes DEVA RIDZAM.

MALAYSIA was right all along. The International Court of Justice found that Pedra Branca had always belonged to Johor.

Singapore’s arguments, among others, citing the doctrine of terra nullius (empty land or no man’s land) and even the construction of the lighthouse did not mean that Singapore ever had sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

However, we failed to impress the ICJ on two crucial points.

For over 100 years, we did nothing to positively assert our ownership over Pedra Branca in any significant way, leaving everything to the British.
Then, we wrote that fateful letter in 1953 giving away this piece of territory in our waters to Singapore.

That 1953 letter was actually the first step down the slippery slope that led Malaysia to virtually ceding sovereignty to Singapore.

Things did not stop there. Malaysia’s continued inaction only further undermined our position.

Simply put, Singapore got Pedra Branca by the flimsiest of evidence. Essentially, it built up a case out of nothing.

Why should it not? It had nothing to lose.

And we, on the other hand, failed to assert our claim through any manifestation of effective control.

That would have meant our moving ahead in areas such as navigation aids, marine conservation, tide and current surveys, hydrography, etc, which we did not.

That is what sovereignty is all about – developing the means to effectively control what is rightfully ours – and establishing the reality that others who use our territory do so on our terms.

In other words, sovereignty claims undefended will gradually and eventually disappear. That precisely is what happened to our ownership or original title to Pedra Branca, especially since that letter of 1953.

Though Singapore deemed the maps published by Malaysia in 1962, 1965, 1975 showed that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, the ICJ came to the conclusion the maps were not material in its judgment.

However, the court inferred that our production of those maps was part of a consistent pattern of behaviour that gave the impression that we were acting in accordance with the spirit of the 1953 letter.

Singapore tried to convince the ICJ that there was a total rupture in history that changed fundamentally the sovereignty of Pedra Branca, as well as the two other features.

But it failed to get all that it wanted.

As Middle Rocks does not have any structure built on it by Britain or Singapore, the original sovereignty remained with Johor/Malaysia. The status of South Ledge is to be determined.

We should look at things in their proper context.

Malaysians should give credit to our team for having, in the first place, salvaged the country from a very bad situation. They cannot be held responsible for the 1953 letter nor for acts of omission and commission of our leaders and officials since then. In fact, our team did their best in an extremely difficult situation.

We have, at least, reconfirmed our sovereignty over Middle Rocks, 0.6 nautical miles south of Pedra Branca. By doing so, we have been able to limit Singapore’s ability to act as it wishes in the vicinity, including engaging in reclamation works.

We will eventually prove that South Ledge, too, belongs to Malaysia. This feature lies in the territorial waters of Middle Rocks as it is merely 1.7 nautical miles south of this feature. Also, the combined fishing area of Middle Rocks and South Ledge is quite considerable.

All told, the ICJ judgment went beyond a winner/loser scenario, or even a winner-take-all verdict. It was a midway judgment.

In the light of the foregoing, to criticise the government for taking the matter to the ICJ without a strong case is also unfair, to say the least.

There are, of course, risks to be run in bringing the matter before the ICJ. But the question is, was there any other practical alternative? Refusing to let our case be heard at the World Court would have suggested Malaysia lacked confidence in its claim.

It would have also left Singapore in total de facto control, as they have been since their naval blockade in 1986 over the entire area, on the basis that “occupation is two-thirds of the law”.

Also, would it have been in the larger interest of Malaysia and Asean – regional peace and security – to allow the previous situation to remain unresolved in perpetuity?

For some 150 years, Singapore, and before that Britain, had been in effective though illegitimate control of Pedra Branca.

Malaysia, however, chose not to object when Singapore prevented our fishermen working these waters or seeking shelter on the three features. Here again, this was not because we doubted our sovereignty over them. Rather it was an act of self-restraint and wisdom – something done in the letter and spirit of Asean.

Foreign affairs is normally a place for extreme caution. It is also, uniquely, an arena where countries speak and act for themselves and, in that process, reveal their true nature by their actions.

While Malaysia stood on the moral high ground by abiding by the principles of the Asean Treaty of Amity and Co-operation (TAC), Singapore lost credibility. It ignored TAC by taking a hostile stance with its naval blockade of an entire area.

Under the United Nations Conference on the Law of Sea , Malaysia should negotiate with Singapore starting from the “base point” that Pedra Branca is nothing more than a rock.

It creates only territorial waters. It has no effect on exclusive economic zones or continental shelf considerations.

Be that as it may, what is even more important now is that Malaysia should be extremely careful about the way we do things with Singapore. For instance, decisions on the Iskandar Malaysia must be carefully and transparently undertaken.

We should also resist and even reject outright any attempt to involve other so-called “outstanding issues” in this: water agreements, the points of agreement, the bridge saga and the more recent fast train proposal.

Datuk Deva Mohd Ridzam is a former ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg and Cambodia.



Dato Deva was our country’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia at the time when I was living in Phnom Penh (1992-1997).

His comments in this article are those of a former career diplomat with a distinguished service record to King and country. Arguably, and certainly in my book, he is the most outstanding Malaysian Ambassador to have served during the most difficult and fragile period (1991-1996) in Cambodia’s history.

That aside, I post his article which appeared in the NST (May 29, 2008 ) to bring yet another perspective. Dato Deva’s article deals lucidly with issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Pedra Branca saga, which ended in Singapore’s favour, is a sad reflection of the way we in Malaysia go about running the affairs of state since Independence. Our failure in this instance to assert our sovereignty over Pedra Branca— the International Court of Justice acknowledge that “… the Sultanate of Johor had original title to Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh” (page 25 of ICJ Judgment, May 23, 2008)— costs us this strategic rock.

The implications of this loss are rather serious because land is always sacred (for example, Palestine). One cannot but be amazed, therefore, at the Badawi Government’s rather laid back reaction to our loss of sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

Now that Pedra Branca is over, the blame game should stop. It is not a question of Malaysia being afraid of Singapore but one of acknowledging where we erred. The only way to stop the blame is for the Badawi Government to present a White Paper to Parliament. This White Paper should give a full account of what had happened during the whole episode with concrete proposals on how we can prevent its recurrence.

With regard to bilateral relations, Dato Deva advised that we “should be extremely careful about the way we do things with Singapore”. Singapore is known to be very professional, thorough and clear headed in their dealings with “others”. Their public officials are driven by a passionate “pursuit of the national interest.” They are hard nosed realists, not sentimentalists. In order to negotiate well, we need to understand Singapore’s history, its rugged society culture and psyche and modus operandi.

We should now be preparing ourselves to face the Singaporeans again to deal with delicate issues of territoriality and maritime boundaries in connection with Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks, and South Ledge and other outstanding bilateral matters. We can no longer afford to blink if we are genuinely interested in protecting our national interest. It is too important to be left in the hands of those who have no other interest than their own. —Din Merican

Finally, Nijhar,my Friend and Varsity Mate Resigns from Malaysian Indian Congress: GoodBye Sam

Nijhar quits after row with Samy Vellu

May 29, 2008

By : Annie Freeda Cruez

KUALA LUMPUR: MIC Vice-President Tan Sri K.S. Nijhar has resigned after a heated row two weeks ago with party chief Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

A senior MIC official confirmed that Nijhar, the highest ranking Sikh in the party, had submitted his resignation and that an official announcement would be made today.

Nijhar, when contacted, declined to comment but said the party would make an announcement on the matter.

The former Subang member of parliament’s decision to quit the party comes on the heels of an argument with Samy Vellu during the MIC central working committee meeting on May 15.

Reporters waiting outside the room saw a visibly upset Nijhar storming out, slamming the door behind him after shouting: “I never knew you to be such a cruel man. How can you simply sack a man?”
It was later learnt that Nijhar was upset with the expulsion of former Kapar division chairman S. Subramaniam, better known as Jumbo Maniam.

Meanwhile, a source close to Nijhar said his resignation was not linked to the incident but to make way for new blood. “He had to go sooner or later to give way for new blood and decided to call it a day,” said the source, who did not say why Nijhar had chosen to quit mid-term.


Loyalty has its limits. My classmate at University of Malaya, Tan Sri Nijhar, has had enough of the MIC President. His patience and forebearance have been tested and the time has come for final reckoning. Well done, Tan Sri Nijhar. I wish you had done it earlier. I suppose, it was a matter of strategic timing for impact!

Samy Velu who has a fantastic record of misdemeanors (Maika Holdings is one example) and corrupt politics should have been thrown out of office aeons ago. He destroyed the credibility of the Indian community by playing, like past MCA leaders, UMNO type feudal politics while sucking up to UMNO leaders at the expense of the interest of party members.

It took a “Black Swan” like HINDRAF to shake up the Indian community. Malaysian Indians now realise that MIC is an anachronism, given the never-seem-to-end leadership of Samy Velu and his cohorts (which until recently included Nijhar himself).

Makkal Sakti became a major force during the 2008 Elections which saw the ruling UMNO-led Barisan Nasional lose its hegemony over Parliament and its control over 5 state governments (Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan. In its wake, MIC lost its bearing and influence over Malaysian Indians.

The majority of our Indian brothers and sisters are with Parti KeADILan Rakyat-Pakatan Rakyat. It is about time that those are still sticking to Samy Velu to move over.—Din Merican

Separating Punditry from Sober Comment

By Din Merican

Political analysts Ong Kian Ming’s and Oon Yeoh’s editorial brace, “Should Anwar apologise?” and “Can Anwar be trusted?” in are examples of armchair punditry that reminds us few sights can match for hubris and imperiousness that made by journalists when they get on their high horses and pontificate.

The temptation to go padding about Mount Olympus while editorially holding forth on the grime of those who struggle in its valley ill-befits practitioners of the Fourth Estate in their necessary task of informing with fact and enlightening with insight appraising citizens, the final arbiters in the democratic process.

Aside from the puerile notion that it is possible in the political arena to find players who are paragons of consistency and virtue, the two articles descend to a level of generalisation about the conduct of Anwar Ibrahim while he was in government (April 1982 – August 1998 ) that would make an effective rebuttal all but impossible.

One is reminded of the response of Dr. Samuel Johnson when he was asked who he felt was intellectually superior — man or woman. “Which man, which woman,” replied the English writer, famed for his ability to plunge through the miasma of contention to grasp the essence of an issue.

However, it is not with Johnsonian wit that the bloviations of Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh’s are to be met; Francis Bacon’s “May we not be wise above measure or sobriety, but cultivate truth in charity” would better reflect the spirit of this reply to the contention that Anwar Ibrahim — in the UMNO phase of his career — has a lot to be contrite about.

Therefore he should tender an apology (rather like Hilary Clinton – who has yet to — for her support of the attack on Iraq) if he wants to secure the votes and empathy of the likes of blogger Haris Ibrahim and company. Post-apology, Anwar can start afresh, rather like Adam and Eve in the garden before eating the forbidden fruit. How very liberating!

Apart from the quaint notion that politicians ought to apologise for actions that they took based on their intuition and judgment – we are not talking here of peccadilloes for which apologies can and must be tendered – the idea that they constantly stand before the bar of public (and media) judgment which can magisterially hand down, based on some moral calculus, assessments in tablets of stone, displays a profound naivety before something called the law of unintended consequences, from which nobody is exempt.

A certain awareness of, some humility before, this law stays the rush to judgment on actions and policies that can weigh on those fairly bogus scales of history in ways in which right has led to wrong and vice versa.

In short, politicians do stand constantly before the bar of public judgment, but the more immediate the latter’s edicts the more certain they are myopic. Still, the idea that they constantly stand before that bar is valuable, for its humility-inducing aura, not so much for the perspicuity of the bar’s immediate judgments.

No doubt, Anwar Ibrahim has done things to be apologetic about, notably his silence during the time of Salleh Abas’s judicial impeachment in 1988 and his quiescence during Operation Lallang in late 1987. Even then, any judgment of his conduct must be tempered by knowledge of the authoritarian character of the numero uno at that time, whom he subsequently defied and paid the price. No small price that!

It is not as if Anwar did not pay the forfeit for his quiet on those two critical counts. He has been a part of all that he has met and though much has been taken from him, much abides, to paraphrase some lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’.

His six years in solitary confinement on charges that now appear increasingly trumped-up, though not absolving, have muted the memory of his derelictions while in government. Let us not discount how past errors, especially when commiserated within the lonely walls of prison, can be the prelude to grand retrievals.

Should history afford him the opportunity, there is good possibility that Anwar will proceed, not by touching his forelock in apology to the likes of Haris Ibrahim, estimable though their contributions have been to the new — post-March 8, 2008 – era of Malaysian politics.

Anwar Ibrahim would likely proceed the way Bismarck counseled statesmen – by listening to the rustle of God’s mantle in history and catching the hem of it for a few steps, an attitude that is a mix of sobriety and humility.

Dr M restless in retirement

by Stanley Koh

May 27, 2008



Most retired politicians who are more than 80 years old would probably live wisely, following a lifestyle of simplicity. Freeing the heart of hate. Freeing the mind of worry. Giving more and expecting less.

But Malaysia’s fourth prime minister’s voice continues to grumble like prolonged thunder, like an endless storm.

mahathir interview 050308Called the ‘Father of Modern Malaysia’, Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears to be pressing his self-destruct button – it could destroy what remains of his 22-year legacy, including the respect and goodwill that he has in the hearts of many Malaysians.

His character was shaped by his strict upbringing by a conservative father and school teacher, Mohamad Iskandar, and also by his experiences during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya.

“His father nurtured his enquiring mind, encouraging him to think for himself and to speak out,” says a reference to Mahathir’s simple beginnings in the ‘Encyclopedia of Malaysia’.

Hence, it is of no surprise that Mahathir is considered by far the most vocal and oratorical prime minister the nation has had.

Many are also familiar with his bitter experiences at an early age. The Japanese invasion during World War II interrupted his schooling for three years. He had to run a stall selling fried bananas in Pekan Rabu, Alor Setar.

He entered politics covertly during his schooldays, sneaking out at night to post pamphlets opposing the Malayan Union. He became one of the youngest members of UMNO when it was inaugurated on May 11, 1946.

Mahathir graduated in 1953 with a medical degree from University of Malaya in Singapore and set up practice. Many patients called him Dr UMNO.

His political career was marked by expulsion from the party in 1969, but he was invited back in March 1972. At the age of 55, he became prime minister.

At the peak of his popularity, he was described by Third World nations as a “truly global statesman”.

good bye malaysia mahathirHowever, there has been a dark side to his administration. Many Malaysians now have serious misgivings from his ‘politics of patronage’.

Many serious ailments and negative characteristics have since been passed down to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – among these, oppressive laws, dictatorial policies, corruption in the civil service and judiciary, abuse of power.

Sense of Outrage

Mahathir was almost treated like a celebrity immediately after he retired in November 2003 as Prime Minister and UMNO president. But he did not stay out of sight for too long.

He returned to ‘active politics’ in June 2006, initiating his first volley of political attacks against Abdullah. Critics accused him of fomenting the very institution he had spearheaded.

If ‘egotism’ is defined as the art of seeing in oneself what others cannot see, then Mahathir has indeed caused much bewilderment among Malaysians in relation to his behaviour. Many formerly loyal and subservient cabinet ministers whom he groomed and promoted have abandoned him in disillusionment or betrayal.

The tears shed and emotional sadness among rank-and-file UMNO members when he stepped down, is now either sublimated by political fatigue or subjugated by a sense of outrage.

umno 2007 agm rafidah aziz and wanita 051107Wanita UMNO chief Rafidah Aziz responding to Mahathir’s resignation from the party, reportedly said: “I’m shocked and disappointed because Dr Mahathir seems to be punishing UMNO over issues he is dissatisfied with. Don’t use the party as a hostage to achieve what you want.”

To ordinary Malaysians, Mahathir’s ‘impromptu’ resignation from UMNO is seen as a desperate act to force Abdullah to step down. Few party leaders and members have emulated Mahathir’s move.

More damaging in the eyes of Malaysians has been his recent ploy, which is perceived as playing the racial card to further his selfish interests.

Mahathir claimed: “The Malays have loosened their grip on political power to the point where the non-Malays no longer respect them and their institutions.” He also said that everything deemed as Malay privileges has been challenged by non-Malays.

His message contained a hidden barb for Abdullah for ‘not doing anything’ to counter the situation or to strengthen the Malay position.

To some, Mahathir has become a man of contradictions, singing a different tune compared to his previous enunciation of a ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ when he was premier.

Mahathir’s Predicament

It is said that genius and eccentricity share a porous boundary particularly afflicting renowned practitioners in the arena of realpolitik.

“But politicians (or power itself) are abject because they merely embody the profound contempt people have for their lives,” noted philosopher Jean Baudrillard.

“One should be grateful to politicians for accepting the abstractness of power and ridding others of its burden. This invariably kills them but they get their revenge by passing into others the corpse of power.”

mahathir dr m umno kulai johor 300307 satrizeMahathir’s outspokenness during his tenure had earned him enormous respect, but he is now perceived to be a “troublemaker”.

In ‘Mahathir vs Abdullah: Covert wars and Challenged Legacies’, Nathaniel Tan wrote: ““Tun Dr Mahathir’s ‘return’ to politics (spurning his retirement) was undoubtedly vigorous; whether it was vicious or valiant remains a controversial point of contention.”

Malaysiakini columnist Sim Kwang Yang wrote in the same publication: “… for a few months now (in 2006), the former PM has come out with his guns blaring, like the aged gunslinger in America’s Wild West, looking for his last hurrah!

“One must wonder: during these sunset golden years of his life, does he not want to spend more time relaxing in his garden, playing with his grandchildren, as Marlon Brando did in The Godfather? Is he not human after all?

“One can understand how difficult it is for a person devoted to a distinguished career in public life to retire gracefully.”

Newsweek writers Ron Moreau and Tony Emerson had, in 1999, described Mahathir as the longest serving ruler in Asia and “perhaps the most confusing; a man of modest personal tastes,” in an exclusive interview at the administrative capital, Putrajaya.

They also asked for his response to criticism that he had built ‘a palace (the prime minister’s residence) fit for a pharaoh’.

putrajayaMahathir shot back: “They can call me a pharaoh if they like. It’s not for me. I won’t be around much longer. It’s the residence for the prime minister, not Dr Mahathir the pharaoh.”

Pharaoh or not, there is general consensus that Mahathir is not likely to lose his voice and nothing will stop his habitual outrageous, stinging rhetoric.

The Edge writer P Gunasegaram, in an article published in The Sun, wrote: “Mahathir’s time is up – it ended some three years ago when he gave up power (2003). To try to hold onto it by using his image and influence to force things is regrettable and will backfire on him eventually. It is more than time to move on.

“But we Malaysians often have this habit of shooting ourselves in our feet, blowing up larger than life political posturing into political crises instead of getting on with matters that matters. Mahathir is counting on that.”

Really, time is the only capital that any human being has and Mahathir, in retirement, should realise that it is one thing that he cannot afford to lose.

But HG Wells summed it rather nicely when he said, “The past is but the beginning of a beginning and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.”

This probably describes Mahathir’s predicament.

Bakri Musa’s Take on UMNO Politics

Posted by Din Merican (with permission)

M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

May 26, 2008

The furor over Tun Mahathir’s quitting UMNO cannot hide an increasingly obvious and ugly reality:  Abdullah’s incompetence as Prime Minister.  Ranting and raving against Mahathir will not alter this singular fact.

Only an ardent few – his family members, closest advisors, and those beholden to him – believe that Abdullah has executed the duties of his office diligently.  These individuals will forever remain faithful to him even if he were to drive the country to ruins.  Consider that Saddam Hussein and Shah Pahlavi still have their ardent admirers today. For others, their only excuse for wanting Abdullah to stay is for “party unity.”

Mahathir’s poser to Abdullah’s putative successor Najib Razak on whether he is loyal to UMNO or to Abdullah is a dilemma shared by all party members.  Najib as well as all UMNO members would do well to re-read our classic Hang Tuah-Hang Jebat legend, and in particular ponder the fate of not only the two protagonists but also the sultan and the Melaka sultanate.

In 1987 when UMNO was split, a consequence of the Mahathir-Razaleigh rivalry, the party was weakened but it survived because it had a strong leader.  Early in its history when its first president Datuk Onn left the party, the impact was minimal as the party was strong and it had a cadre of capable young leaders like Datuk Razak.  This time however, both the party and its leader are weak.

If party members were to shy away from doing the dirty but necessary job of removing Abdullah from the leadership of UMNO, and thus the Prime Minister’s office, then others would by default remove that office from him, and from UMNO.  With every delay, Abdullah (and UMNO) gets weaker while Anwar Ibrahim (and his Pakatan Rakyat) becomes stronger.

Seeing Through Abdullah

Like Mahathir, most Malaysians believed in Abdullah, at least initially as evidenced by his overwhelming electoral victory in 2004.  Barely four years later, they, like Mahathir, are sorely disillusioned.

Some still believe (or more correctly, hope) that Abdullah could yet salvage his leadership.  This hope for a miracle is misplaced.  Incompetence cannot be readily remedied, especially in someone with a demonstrated flat learning curve.  Besides, the highest office in the land cannot be used as a training ground.  We cannot have an “intern” Prime Minister; the stakes are just too great.

If Abdullah could not lead when he had a commanding mandate, what chance is there for him now that his hold is tenuous at best?  He is already consumed with putting out political brush fires, distracting him from his most important task of leading the nation.  Abdullah is now clearly damaged goods; Malaysia deserves better.

Only a tiny minority saw through Abdullah and recognized his emptiness right from the very beginning.  It is more with sorrow than vindication that I admit to being in this group.  I would have preferred to have been proven wrong.

I have never met Abdullah; my assessment of him is based entirely on his records and accomplishments, or lack thereof.  Perhaps because of this I am not swayed by the man’s put-on piety, seeming humility, or servile loyalty.  Those attributes are held in high esteem in Malay culture, which may explain why many, including the shrewd Mahathir, overestimated Abdullah’s ability.

Abdullah was a longtime civil servant rising to Deputy Secretary-General in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports before entering elective politics.  Respectable enough achievement, but then that ministry is not exactly the hotbed for superachievers.

Before being kicked out of the Cabinet in 1987, a casualty of the Mahathir-Razaleigh rivalry of the time, Abdullah had served as Minister of Education, and later, of Defence. One is hard pressed to discern his legacy in both positions.  A measure of his worth was that the best he could do outside of government was as a ticket agent … in his sister-in-law’s travel agency!  That was the private sector’s valuation of his talent and experience, despite having served in two most senior and prestigious portfolios.

Later when he rose up the UMNO hierarchy, Mahathir invited him back to serve as Foreign Minister and later, Home Affairs.  In the latter position he was responsible for the Police.  Our current inept and  corruption-ridden police force is his legacy.

Mahathir’s Mistake

You have to give credit to Mahathir.  Not only did he admit to his colossal mistake in selecting Abdullah back in 1998, he is also making a vigorous effort to undo it.  Admitting to or rectifying your error is a rare attribute among leaders.

Abdullah has yet to learn this essential lesson.  Merely uttering that you are taking responsibility, as Abdullah did for his party’s routing in the last election, is not enough; you have to act on it.

The current crisis in UMNO is not, as is widely commented upon, simply a battle between Abdullah and Mahathir.  The fundamental issue is Abdullah’s incompetence, and its impact on the nation.

Winning an election is a partial measure of effective leadership; it is not the only or the full measure.  Abdullah’s predecessors Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn were both successful at elections, yet when their leadership was found wanting they withdrew gracefully.  Britain’s Margaret Thatcher also had the grace to resign when support for her was declining even though she had led her party through three successive electoral victories.

Abdullah has neither the grace nor the competence of Thatcher.  He is too syok sendiri (self indulgent) with the perks of his office, with its luxurious corporate jets and palatial mansion, to even contemplate resigning.  It is easy to be stubborn in such circumstances.  Like a dumb mule surrounded by lush hay, Abdullah will not move.  It will continue mindlessly chewing the cud, oblivious of the turmoil it caused.  It is well to remember that a mule with too much hay will inevitably succumb to lethal gas bloat.

Many consider Mahathir’s resigning from UMNO an irrational act as that would only hasten the ascent of his old nemesis, Anwar Ibrahim.  To me, however, Mahathir may be signaling something significant.  He must believe (or have reasons to) that Anwar’s chances are real and strong.  By resigning now, Mahathir would be spared the fallout from UMNO’s inevitable implosion.  He could then with a satisfied smirk remind us, “I told you so, this Abdullah is a disaster!”

Many are wondering why Abdullah is not coming out swinging at his tormentor.  There is a reason for Abdullah’s reticence.  His entanglement in the UN’s Iraq Oil for Food Program scandal is only a hint and a glimpse.

I am reminded of J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director who was the most feared and powerful man in Washington , D.C. , simply because he held so many secrets of important people.  Nobody dared touch him for fear that he would spill the beans.

Mahathir was Prime Minister for over two decades.  He is also a shrewd observer of human behavior and a meticulous record keeper.  Think of the many shenanigans committed at home and abroad by our sultans, ministers, and other senior officials that were simply hushed up, let alone prosecuted.  Those who are tempted to sneer at the old statesman better have pristine personal and official backgrounds; otherwise they would be well advised to maintain their “elegant silence.”

Notice Mahathir’s immediate stinging riposte to Shahrir Samad and Musa Hitam recently.  In so doing Mahathir sends a not-so-subtle message to his other detractors, including those on the Royal Commission on the Lingam Tape, that their stinking laundry too could be aired out for all to see and smell.  As Prime Minister, Mahathir must have had more than his share of favor seekers, shameless flatterers, and the outright corrupt who groveled before him. He could easily expose them. If that is blackmail or vengeance, so be it.

I have a different take on Mahathir’s behavior. Far from being blackmail or nasty vengeance, such ugly revelations could prove to be a necessary national catharsis.  Much as I hate to see what would be revealed, it would be good to have all the rot finally out in the open.  The hope is that the subsequent shame will effect some change.

As a former physician Mahathir knows only too well that the best if not only remedy for a long festering abscess is to lance it wide and deep, letting all that trapped putrid pus out.  Only then could the healing begin.  If that were to happen, we can all thank Mahathir.  The man may yet make his greatest contributions after he retired.

Batu Puteh: Police report lodged


Rahmah Ghazali
May 26,2008

Johor PAS lodged a police report today against former foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar for having been ‘careless’, resulting in the loss of sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore.


abdul ghani othmanabdul gani patailAlso named were two key individuals who were alleged to share responsibility in the matter – Johor Menteri Besar Ghani Othman (right) and Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail (left).

Johor PAS information chief Mazlan Alimin, who was accompanied by about 30 people, said the government had been careless and irresponsible in allowing Singapore to occupy the uninhabited island.

“They did not do anything against Singapore when it constructed buildings and a light house on the island,” said Mazlan after lodging the report at central police station in Johor Baru.

“This (gave the impression that) the government had recognised Singapore as the owner (of Pulau Batu Puteh).”

pulau batu puteh putih judgement 230508Last Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favour of Singapore, in the 28-year sovereignty dispute with Malaysia over Pulau Batu Puteh, a strategically-located island about half the size of a football field.

Mazlan said Johor PAS has been fighting to stake sovereignty over the island since 1992, by submitting a number of memoranda to the government. It has also held protests at the Pulau Batu Puteh jetty.

While he said he respects the ICJ decision, Mazlan noted that “this is an embarrassing result” for Malaysians.

‘Set up tribunal’

He further called for a special tribunal to be set up to separately investigate the trio named in the police report.

“The 58-page ICJ verdict should be made public so that (people) know what triggered the outcome,” he said.

Mazlan added that Johor PAS is working with several lawyers to consider whether the government can be taken to court over the loss of the island.

Malaysia claimed original title to Pulau Batu Puteh while Singapore, which knows the islet as Pedra Branca, argued that sovereignty had passed to it tacitly. It has operated the Horsburgh Lighthouse on the island for more than 130 years without any protest from its neighbour.

The court found that the Malaysian sultanate-turned-province of Johor had held the original title but had taken “no action at all” regarding the island for more than a century.

Pulau Batu Puteh, a granite island, is considered important for its strategic position and impact on territorial marine boundaries. It lies 7.7 nautical miles off Johor on the eastern approach to the Singapore Strait from the South China Sea. (See map below)

The 16-member panel in a 15 to 1 decision said Malaysia has sovereignty over one of the island’s two rocky outcrops – Middle Rocks, which lies south of Pulau Batu Puteh.On the other outcrop named South Ledge, the court handed a 15 to 1 judgment stating that it belonged to “the state in the territorial waters of which it is located”.

The court however did not specify whether the territorial waters belong to Malaysia or Singapore.

pulau batu puteh 140508 pulau batu putih

Pulau Batu Puteh: A Point of View



by Matthias Chang

Singapore Got The Mansion

Malaysia Got Some Rocks Which Cannot

Be Used To Put Up Even A Kampong Hut


We won half and Singapore won half. So I

Say it’s a win-win situation …”



Summary of Criticism

1) The Legal Team

I am a lawyer and had studied International Law for my Bar Exams in 1975 under the distinguished Professor Ian Brownlie C.B.E. Q.C. member of the English Bar, Chairman of the UN International Law Commission, Emeritus Chichele Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford, member of the Institut de droit international, Distinguished Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford.

Ian Brownlie is the “leader” of the foreign team advising the Singapore government. A brilliant choice!

(a) Foreign Component

The foreign component of the legal team of Malaysia and Singapore are internationally renowned experts in international law and I have no doubts that they discharged their responsibilities admirably. But tactically, the Singapore “foreign component” had a critical advantage in that Ian Brownlie is the Chairman of the UN International Law Commission, and Mr. Alain Pellet is a member and former Chairman of the UN International Law Commission. And Ian Brownlie is not just a brilliant Lawyer (Q.C.), he is also a lawyer who has a profound grasp of geo-political issues.

To dispel any misperceptions and misunderstanding, I am not suggesting that they can influence the ICJ judges, but having served in such a critical position, Ian Brownlie and Alain Pellet have the inside track on the current thinking and or the approach of the ICJ in such disputes. After all, the UN International Law Commission sets the direction and the development of international law. I am therefore not surprised that Singapore went the extra mile to secure their services – a brilliant strategic appointment.

This dispute is not a mere dispute of ownership and sovereignty over some patches of rocks etc. but a strategic battle for control of territorial waters and sea lanes.

(b) Local Component

Both countries for obvious reasons had Ministers to provide the political imput and the critical linkage to their respective Prime Ministers. But, it cannot be said of Abdullah Badawi, our Prime Minister that at all material times, he was “hands-on” in this strategic battle with Singapore – especially when he had conceded so many issues to Singapore (the bridge, airspace, the Iskandar project etc.).

Singapore had a battle-ready Commander-in-Chief, whereas Malaysia’s leader was sleeping and out of touch.

Once again, I must praise Singapore for their brilliant tactical move in having the Chief Justice Mr. Chan Sek Keong as part of the legal team. It reflects the seriousness and total commitment of Singapore to win this case at all costs!

Why was having the Chief Justice as part of the legal team another brilliant strategic appointment?


A good advocate does not necessarily make a good judge. But a judge knows the inside workings of the judiciary and how consensus is established amongst judges in arriving at a decision. Therefore, in submitting on behalf of Singapore, the Chief Justice would know how to play to the strength and weaknesses of judges and would be able to offer critical advice to the rest of the team. The Judges of the International Court of Justice must have been impressed by the presence of the Chief Justice. I stand to be corrected, but this could be the first case in which a Chief Justice appeared before the Court. Even if I am wrong on this score, it can be said without fear of contradiction that it would be very rare for a Chief Justice to advance a case for his country.

My US$ Trillion dollar question is – Where was our Chief Justice when it was apparent that Singapore would be using all their “heavy” weapons?

Sad to say, our Judges, including the Chief Justice were all too busy fighting among themselves for the coveted top three jobs in the judiciary to be bothered about this mundane affair. It has no significance to them. I am not surprised that they took the attitude, “this has nothing to do with the judiciary, we judges hear cases, we do not partake in advocacy – even if the country’s strategic interests are at stake.”

We may dislike Singapore and disparage their system of administration, but there is one thing we must admit and learn – when they go to battle, any battle, anyone from the highest to the lowest can be and must be recruited if it serves to ensure victory. Should we be surprised that we keep on losing to Singapore?

The independence of the Malaysian Judiciary is meaningless, if at such critical juncture it is not able to play any role at all. Leadership is sorely lacking!

The Malaysian Bar Council is likewise irrelevant. It is so arrogant and conceited that it cannot see beyond its ugly nose. Like the judiciary, it is a den of vipers and its primary aim (as reflected by the conduct of past and present Chairman) is to promote it’s preferred slate of judicial candidates for higher office.

(c) The Research Component

If the research component is the same as the one that was assembled to do battle with Singapore on the Water Dispute, then I am not at all surprised that we lost this crucial battle to Singapore.

In both cases, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad was the point man.

The team that advised the then Prime Minister (which is almost the same team as the present one) took the view that Malaysia had a weak case. The Prime Minister was so disappointed in their collective attitude that he instructed me to embark on an independent research and to ensure that no stones were left unturned.

Working close to 18 hours a day for a week, I was able to compiled 14 volumes of critical documents (approximately 1,500 pages) and assembled a team of senior practicing lawyers. The critical document (and our nuclear weapon) was the letter written by none other than Mr. Lee Kuan Yew that no documents, notes, letters, memos etc. exchanged between Malaysia and Singapore will be binding as they were written on a “without prejudice” basis, and that unless and until a formal agreement has been signed by the respective Prime Ministers, nothing is deemed agreed!

When this crucial letter was brought to the attention of the said legal team (which they were not aware) they sheepishly conceded that Singapore had no case against Malaysia!

I do not know whether the team has learnt a lesson from that experience and that for this case, a more thorough effort was mounted. I certainly hope so. But I have my doubts, as Tan Sri Kadir Mohamad is still the point man. In fact, he was appointed by Abdullah Badawi as the “Adviser” and on my retirement as Political Secretary to the then Prime Minister, he moved in and occupied my then office.

2) The Legal Arguments

1) Introduction

For the purposes of this article which is written for the benefit of the public, I do not intend to provide an exhaustive analysis of the judgment of the International Court of Justice. But, I would like to highlight some salient points which will expose the perverse conclusions of the said court that “sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh passed to Singapore” as a result of events in the last eighty (80) years.

From the submissions of the respective parties and the judgment of the Court, it is clear that Malaysia and Singapore adopted the common strategy of having all or nothing in determining whether it has sovereignty over:

a) Pedra Branca /Pulau Batu Puteh

b) Middle Rocks

c) South Ledge

as they are “geographically linked”.

Pulau Batu Puteh is a granite island measuring 137 m long, with an average width of 60 m and covering an area of about 8,560 sq m at low tide. It is situated at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Singapore, at the point where the latter open up into the South China Sea. Pulau Batu Puteh is located at 1º 19’ 48” N and 104º 24’ 27” E. It lies approximately 24 nautical miles to the east of Singapore, 7.7 nautical miles to the south of the Malaysian state of Johor and 7.6 nautical miles to the north of the Indonesian island of Bintan.

On the island stands Horsburgh Lighthouse which was erected in the middle of the 19th century.

Middle Rocks and South Ledge are the two maritime features closest to Pulau Batu Puteh. Middle Rock is located 0.6 nautical miles to the south and consists of two clusters of small rocks about 250 m apart that are permanently above water and stand 0.6 to 1.2 m high. South Ledge, at 2.2 nautical miles to the south-south-west of Palau Batu Puteh is a rock formation only visible at low tide.

I trust that you will now agree that Singapore was given “the mansion, while Malaysia was given some rocks which stand only 0.6 to 1.w2 m high”! In short, Malaysia was given crumbs to save face! But our current Foreign Minister says that it is a win-win situation.

How stupid and ridiculous can one get?

2) Applying Imperialist’s Logic

a) Ownership by Sultanate of Johor

After reviewing the history of the Johor Sultanate and the Dutch and British rivalry for control of South East Asia and the insidious role of the East India Company as an instrument for colonial conquest and occupation, the Court concluded:

“The territorial domain of the sultanate of Johor covered in principle all the islands and islets within the Straits of Singapore, including the island of Pulau Batu Puteh. It finds that this possession of the islands by the Sultanate was never challenged by any other power in the region and can in all circumstances be seen as satisfying the condition of ‘continuous and peaceful display of territorial sovereignty. The Court thus concludes that the Sultanate of Johor had original title to Pulau batu Puteh.”

The Court then reviewed the Imperialist Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 wherein the two colonial powers divided South-East Asia into two separate spheres of influence. The argument by Singapore that by this time the islands in the Straits of Singapore (including Pulau Batu Puteh) were terrae nullius and therefore subject to appropriation through “lawful occupation” was rejected by the Court. The Court concluded that notwithstanding the aforesaid Treaty:

“that as of the time when the British started their preparations for the construction of the lighthouse on Pulau Batu Puteh in 1844, this island was under the sovereignty of the Sultan of Johor.”

b) The 21st September 1953 Letter

On 12th June 1953, the Colonial Secretary of Singapore wrote to the British Adviser to the Sultan of Johor on the status of the island. We know that at the material time, British Advisers had tremendous influence. Why was there such an enquiry when it was very clear that the Sultan had ownership and sovereignty over the island at all material times? The British using this subterfuge must have been preparing the ground for a letter to be issued disclaiming sovereignty over the island. In a letter dated 21st September 1953, the Acting State Secretary replied that “the Johore Government did not claim ownership of Pedra Branca.”

Surely, if the Sultan was indeed disclaiming ownership and sovereignty to the island, any reference would be that of Pulau Batu Puteh as the island was known as such to the Sultanate. The fact that the letter used the Portuguese name of Pedra Branca is evidence that the British contrived to issue this letter. The letter did not say that it was the Sultan that was disclaiming sovereignty. It was the Johor government, which was under British control. Thus we had a situation whereby a British administration in Singapore was writing to another British administration in Johor as to the status of an island belonging to the Sultan and by a stroke of a pen, hijacked the island for their own strategic use.

The Court, applying Imperialist logic dismisses Malaysia’s contention that “the Acting State Secretary was definitely not authorized and did not have the legal capacity to write the 1953 letter, or to renounce, disclaim, or confirm title of any part of the territories of Johor.”

The Court applying bizarre logic then concluded:

“In the light of Johor’s reply, the authorities in Singapore had no reason to doubt that the United Kingdom had sovereignty over the island.”

This is perverse Imperialist logic! Why should the Sultan for no rhyme or reason and out of the blues disclaim or renounce sovereignty over the island? This the Court never explained.

It is abundantly clear that the ICJ used this letter as the main basis (giving its historical context) for their majority decision that sovereignty passed to Singapore. The other secondary reasons (issue of maps) relied on by the Court which of itself are never ever sufficient and or conclusive to support a claim for sovereignty as they can refuted by other countervailing documents.

I am fortified in my view as one of the judges, though agreeing with the majority opinion that Singapore has sovereignty over the island observed that the Court failed to appreciate impact and consequences that at the material time when the letter of 1953 was issued, the Sultan of Johor was under the “colonial control” of the British Colonial administration. I quote:

“While relations between sovereign colonial Powers fell within the ambit of international law, it is difficult to argue that dealings between the United kingdom and the Sultanate of Johor were based on relations between sovereign, equal subjects of international law. Thus, the sovereignty acknowledged to indigenous authorities was inoperative vis-à-vis colonial Powers, the authorities’ sole obligation being to submit to the will of the powers. Under these circumstances, the Sultan of Johor could not broach the slightest opposition to a decision by the British.”

Judge Parra-Aranguren was more devastating in his dissenting opinion and considered that “the findings made by the Court in the judgment demonstrate that judicial reason can always be found to support any conclusion.”

This is indeed a grievous indictment as to the integrity of the judgment and the judges that formed the majority opinion. I believe that this may be the first time that a fellow judge has questioned in such a dramatic way the integrity of the judgment of his fellow judges.

I wonder whether the Malaysian Bar and its Chairman, Ambiga has the courage of its convictions to expose this perverse judgment. In his dissenting judgment, Justice Parra-Aranguren supported my contention that the Court applied imperialist logic with regard to the effect and implications of the 21st September 1953 letter.

Additionally, the said judge exposed the fact that the conclusions offered by the majority opinion contradicts and are in conflict with their own findings of fact. For example, the bulk of activities of alleged “Singapore control” over the island was post 1953 and that both parties had agreed and the Court found that 1980 was the critical date for the purposes of the dispute as to sovereignty over the island.

Therefore, Singapore was only “actively involved” in the island for about 20 odd years. Yet, in an earlier decision in 2002, the Court handed down a judgment that a period of 20 years of activity is “far too short” a period to establish sovereignty [case: Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria, ICJ Reports 2002, page 352]

Such activities cannot in law undermine historical title, which title was acknowledged as having being with the Sultan of Johor. There is the added confusion in the said judgment [para 222] in that the Court expressly acknowledges that “ownership is in principle distinct from sovereignty.”

This is where I believe the Malaysian team screwed up big time. The judge observed that at all material times, the Sultanate of Johor used the term “ownership” and not “sovereignty”.

The judge also observed that there have been a few instances where in international litigation, “ownership” over territory has sometimes been used as “equivalent to sovereignty”. Be that as it may, the fact remains, that “ownership” and “sovereignty” are two distinct and separate concepts!


This article written for the public cannot encompass the entire legal arguments in support of my contention that the judgment of the ICJ is perverse.

There are urgent lessons to be learnt from this case. But I am not hopeful that Malaysia will more vigilant in protecting itself from predator states like Singapore from hijacking our lands.

This case seems to rest on the same principles in which Israel was founded. The myth and propaganda [specifically by Golda Meir] for the creation of Israel in Palestine was that Palestine was a land without any people, and that the Jews were people without a land.

Therefore, it was right and proper to take the land away from the Palestinians.

Singapore do not have enough land for its people. It has attempted to reclaim land even on the island of Pulau Batu Puteh, besides the use of the strategic lighthouse. Singapore claims that Johor has no sovereignty over the island. Therefore, the island belongs to Singapore.

Matthias Chang

24th May 2008

Kuala Lumpur

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)