Yes. Zaid, I agree with you “[T]he Malays…are not under seige.The institutions are such that the Malays are effectively represented, and there is no way the interest of the Malays can be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly”.
I wish to add that the Malays in general are not the problem. We are a proud and hardworking people. The concern today is that UMNO leadership is incompetent, corrupt and totally undemocratic. That leadership is now using draconian laws like the ISA to silence critics, for instance, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and others now held in Kamunting, Perak, and the Official Secrets Act and other statutes to deny the public access to information on the affairs of the country.
In order to rally the Malays back to their fold, UMNO leaders including Mukhriz Mahathir and his lot have been creating the impression that the Malays are under seige. Again, this is not true. UMNO is under seige because Ketuanan Melayu is a dismal failure.
Let us separate UMNO Malay leadership from the Malay leaders like Anwar Ibrahim and Ustaz Haji Abdul Hadi Awang and their colleagues in PKR and PAS who are an integral part of Pakatan Rakyat. They want change and have plans and programmes to make the Malays competitive and dynamic in a globalised world, while ensuring that Chinese and Indian rights under the constitution are protected. To that end, all forms of discrimination must be eliminated.
We the Malays cannot be the anchor of our nation if we are weak, incompetent and corrupt. To lead, we must be examplary in our conduct.So the Malays must realise now that UMNO is no longer relevant, that UMNO is an obstacle to Malay socio-economic development, and that we need new leadership with fresh ideas and programmes (UMNO wants more of the same failed policies)— for Malays and others so that together we can be a united and proud country where there is freedom, democracy and justice.—Din Merican
Zaid: Ketuanan Melayu has failed
|October 31, 2008|
The ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ model has failed, declared former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim in an incisive speech at the LawAsia 2008 conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
“It has resulted in waste of crucial resources, energy and time and has distracted from the real issues confronting the country,” said Zaid, who criticised the race-based policy despite being a member of the ruling Umno party which was set up to safeguard Malay interests.
Zaid also noted that ‘deputy premier in waiting’ Muhyiddin Yassin had suggested the need for a closed-door forum for leaders of the Barisan Nasional (BN) to develop a common stand, a renewed national consensus grounded on the social contract.
“This is positive step but it should include all political leaders and be premised on the social contract that was the foundation of independence,” said the lawyer by training who was made senator and subsequently minister entrusted with the task of reforming the judiciary by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi following the March 8 general election.
He quit last month in protest against the arrest of three individuals under the Internal Security Act (ISA) which provides for detention without trial.
Zaid said March 8 was a clear indicator that the ruling BN coalition no longer exclusively speaks for the people.
He also underscored the importance of promoting discourse and dialogue so that Malaysians learn to talk and to listen to one another again.”Communication and trust amongst the people must be re-established,” he said.
The former minister called on the BN government to abandon its ‘reworked’ concept of the social contract and embrace a fresh perspective borne out of discussions and agreements made in good faith with all the communities.
“It is time for us all to practise a more transparent and egalitarian form of democracy and to recognise and respect the rights and dignity of all the citizens of this country.”
Mukhriz singled out for criticism
Singling out Mukhriz Mahathir for criticism, Zaid said the UMNO Youth chief aspirant typifies what is perceived as the kind of UMNO leader who appeals to the right-wing of Malay polity.
Zaid also referred to the recent remarks made by the son of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad that there was no need for law and judicial reforms as it would not benefit the Malays,
“That he may be right is sad as it leads to the ossification of values that will only work against the interests of the party and the nation,” Zaid lamented in his 16-page speech.
“This type of thinking may pave the way to a suggestion in the future that we may as well do away with general elections altogether as they may not be good for the Malays for, if the justice that a revitalised rule of law would allow for is not to the benefit of the Malays, what is? More inefficiency, more corruption and a more authoritarian style of government perhaps.
“We are a deeply divided nation, adrift for our having abandoned democratic traditions and the rule of law in favour of a political ideology that serves no one save those who rule.”
According to Zaid, the obsession with the Ketuanan Melayu doctrine has destroyed something precious in Malaysians.
“It makes us lose our sense of balance and fairness. When a certain Chinese lady was appointed head of a state development corporation, having served in that corporation for 33 years, there were protests from Malay groups because she is Chinese,” he said referring to the controversy involving the appointment of Low Siew Moi as acting head of the Selangor Development Cooperation (PKNS).
“A new economic vision is necessary, one that is more forward looking in outlook and guided by positive values that would serve to enhance cooperation amongst the races. This will encourage change for the better, to develop new forms of behaviour and shifts of attitudes, to believe that only economic growth will serve social equity, to aspire to a higher standard of living for all regardless of race.
“We need to meaningfully acknowledge that wealth is based on insight, sophisticated human capital and attitude change. A new dynamics focused on cooperation and competition will spur innovation and creativity.
“Some might say that this is a fantasy. I disagree. How do we go about transforming the culture and values of the bumiputeras so that their ability to create new economic wealth can be sustained?
“By changing our political and legal landscapes with freedom and democracy.”
On that note, Zaid said Mahathir was right to have asked the Malays to embrace modernity but the 82-year-old statesman fell short by only focusing on the physical aspects of modernity.
“He was mistaken to think all that was needed to change the Malay mindset was science and technology. He should have also promoted the values of freedom, human rights and the respect of the law.
“If affirmative action is truly benchmarked on the equitable sharing of wealth that is sustainable, then we must confront the truth and change our political paradigm, 40 years of discrimination and subsidy have not brought us closer. There is a huge economic dimension to the rule of law and democracy that this government must learn to appreciate.”
Conflicts of jurisdiction require resolution
Zaid conceded that relationship between Islam, the state, law and politics in Malaysia is complex.
“How do we manage legal pluralism in Malaysia? Can a cohesive united Bangsa Malaysia be built on a bifurcated foundation of Syariah and secular principles? Will non-Muslims have a say on the operation of Islamic law when it affects the general character and experience of the nation? This is a difficult challenge and the solution has to be found.”
He quoted leading Muslim legal scholar Abdullah Ahmad an-Na’im who believed that a distinction should be made between state and politics.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he noted, believes that Islam can be the mediating instrument between state and politics through the principles and institutions of constitutionalism and the protection of equal human rights of all citizens.
“Whatever the formula, we can only devise a system that rejects absolutism and tyranny and allows for freedom and plurality if we are able to first agree that discourse and dialogue is vital. Democracy and respect for the rights and dignity of all Malaysians is the prerequisite to this approach.”
Zaid stressed that the conflicts of jurisdiction in Malaysia require resolution.
The civil courts, he said, are “denuded of jurisdiction” to deal with matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Syariah court.
“No court has been given the jurisdiction and power to resolve issues that may arise in both the Syariah courts and the civil courts. The present separation of jurisdictions presupposes that matters will fall nicely into one jurisdiction or the other.
However, human affairs are never that neat. What happens to the children of a marriage where one party converts to Islam and the other party seeks recourse in the civil court? Or when the Syariah Court pronounces that a deceased person was a Muslim despite his family contesting the conversion?
“Or where the receiver of a company is restrained from dealing with a property by a Syariah Court order arising out of a family dispute?
Where do the aggrieved parties go? I had suggested the establishment of the constitutional court, but that plea has fallen on deaf ears.”
Malays not under seige
The former minister had also touched on the use of draconian measures, which according to him have seen a marked increase in dealing with political and social tensions.
“Some people say that groups such as Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) advocate violence and therefore this justifies the use of such measures. They may have overlooked the fact that violence begets violence.
“Was not the detention of Hindraf leaders under the ISA itself an act of aggression, especially to people who consider themselves marginalised and without recourse?
“It is time that the people running this country realise that we will not be able to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully if we ourselves do not value peaceful means in dealing with problems.”
Zaid argued that the situation had been aggravated by the absence of an even-handed approach in dealing with organisations such as Hindraf.
“While I applaud the prime minister for calling upon the Indian community to reject extremism, should not a similar call be made on the Malay community and (Malay daily) Utusan Malaysia?
I call on the prime minister, both the outgoing and the incoming, to deal with such issues fairly. Start by releasing the Hindraf leaders detained under the ISA. The release would create a window for constructive dialogue on underlying causes of resentment.
“I also appeal for the release of (Malaysia Today editor) Raja Petra (Kamarudin) from ISA detention. He is a champion of free speech. His writings, no matter how offensive they may be to some, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be seen as a threat to the national security of this country.”
The Malays, Zaid said, are now a clear majority in numbers and the fear of their being outnumbered is baseless.
“They are not under seige. The institutions of government are such that the Malays are effectively represented, and there is no way the interest of the Malays can be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly.”
Eurocopter scandal: No inspection done on choppers
|Syed Jaymal Zahiid | October 30, 2008|
Defence Deputy Minister Abu Seman Yusop received a beating from Pakatan Rakyat MPs today when he openly admitted that the multi-billion ringgit military helicopters did not undergo any physical inspection.
Abu Seman, in his Budget 2009 winding-up speech, said the ministry’s technical committee had decided to buy 12 units of the Eurocopter Cougar EC 725 helicopters based on documents alone.
He also took pains to explain that the purchase of the helicopters had cost the government RM1.6 billion, instead of the RM1.1 billion figure given by the ministry’s secretary-general Abu Bakar Abdullah in a press statement last week.
His revelation sparked an uproar in the House and prompted several Pakatan Rakyat MPs, led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, to grill him.
“How is it that a government procurement as big as this did not undergo any physical inspection? I have eight years of experience as finance minister and we have never make procurements without first inspecting (the items),” thundered Anwar.
M Manogaran (DAP-Teluk Intan) took a swipe at the deputy minister, saying that “even when you purchase something as small as a Perodua Kancil, you would want to inspect it first, what more when it is helicopters worth RM1.6 billion.”
Anwar said various aspects have to be taken into consideration like the safety of the pilots should there be any defects in the helicopters and it was absurd of the government not to make such deliberations when procuring the helicopters.
He demanded answers as to why conflicting figures have been cited on the cost of the helicopters.
Abu Seman then replied that it was a mistake on his part as he had overlooked the fact that the services charge and ‘offset package’ like supplementary military hardware had added RM500 million to the original RM1.1 billion to make it RM1.6 billion.
Set up Royal Commission
At a press conference later, Anwar said he could not accept the reasons given by Abu Seman although he believes that the deputy minister was only “reading the text provided to him by his superior” and was not involved in the matter.
“This is a shocking revelation by the deputy minister. A procurement this big without a physical inspection being done is swindling the people’s money par excellence.
“How can you allocate RM1.6 billion for something that you have never even seen or (when you don’t) know if it works or not.”
He said he could “vouch on behalf of the Malaysian army that they would definitely want to inspect the helicopters before purchasing it.”
Asked what he thought of all this, Anwar reiterated his demand for the government to set up a royal commission to probe the matter.
Earlier today, a decision on Anwar’s emergency motion to set up a royal commission to probe not just into the Eurocopter scandal but two other ‘mega-projects’ was deferred to Monday by the speaker.
A RM11.31 billion high-speed broadband project and the RM4.26 billion purchase of the Bank Internasional Indonesia by Maybank were the other projects Anwar had wanted to government to probe.
No ‘envelope’ journalism in Malaysia
|S Pathmawathy | October 30, 2008|
Malaysia does not practise ‘envelope’ journalism which is the norm in certain developing countries, claimed Information Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek today.
Speaking to reporters at the launch of World Development Information Day in Kuala Lumpur, the minister also said that absolute freedom of the press does not guarantee transparency or a dwindling of corruption.
“In countries that have press freedom, the people hope that the press will play the part of the ‘fourth estate’ in order to reduce corruption and promote good governance.
“But there are countries, where the press is granted unconditional freedom. However, this is not reflected in the level of corruption of the country. The press is free but corruption is still rampant,” he said.
In his keynote address earlier, Shabery said he was perplexed that although Malaysia has achieved “tremendous progress” in terms of income level, infrastructure facilities, investment opportunities and more, it was ranked far below in the world press freedom index.
“Malaysia has been undeservedly ranked as a country with little press freedom, very much below many other countries known to be aid-dependent and not even among the top 20 trading nations.
“This sometimes begs the question whether absolute or near absolute press freedom will bring about greater well-being for the people,” he noted.
“Just because we have curbs on sexually-explicit materials, are less tolerant about gay and lesbian rights or sensitive religious issues… we have been unfairly attacked as having an oppressive media environment.”
The minister said some counties which are ranked higher in the press freedom index may not weigh in equally with their corruption index.
Shabery refrained from providing examples of the supposedly corrupt countries but said it is a “well-known fact that some countries… practise ‘envelope’ journalism”.
“This shows that the connection between the free press and battle against corruption is not clear. It is not based on professionalism but on favouritism.
“The media which is supposed to keep watch on the government, turns out to be crooked and corrupt as they accept ‘envelopes’ from popular figures and in turn provide more coverage,” he explained.
The minister reiterated that such practices are not condoned by the government and the practice has not been heard of in this country.
Shabery also expressed hope that the proposed national media council will be established soon to monitor media activities and enable recourse against malicious reporting.
Asked whether the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) will be repealed, the minister said he would “like to see” less regulation but affirmed that he has no jurisdiction to decide on repeal of the law.
“Even in developed countries, although there is no need for a printing licence, they have a council to oversee the media to ensure that the media does not commit slander,” said Shabery.
He said the council is necessary to ensure the “do’s and don’ts” and that ethical reporting is adhered to in order to protect society.
“Given the far-reaching impact of the media we hope that only level-headed and responsible people will rum media organisations. We also hope that one day anyone can publish a newspaper without having to be subjected to many rules and regulation.
“Looking ahead the government takes the view that the media industry should expand in line with the nation’s progress… (where) people will have access to greater variety of sources of information and entertainment.
“However, one should be reminded that the business viability of such endeavours in a competitive environment depend very much on their content and presentation.
“We have already laid the foundations to open up the media industry but we need to open up at our own pace. But open up we will.”
Khamis, Oktober 30, 2008
STATISTIK EKUITI DAN BUMIPUTERA TIADA MAKNA
Tian Chua MP dan Hishamuddin Rais
Pembohongan ada pelbagai bentuk. Ada orang yang membuat janji tetapi tidak ditunaikan. Ada parti politik yang membuat manifesto pilihanraya tetapi sesudah menang dan berkuasa manifesto ini dilupakan. Ada menteri yang berjanji akan telus tetapi apabila berkuasa menjadi kukubesi. Ada menteri yang berjanji menentang nepotisma tetapi apabila berkuasa yang diutamakan ialah kaum keluarga. Semua ini pembohongan yang kita semua tahu, sedar dan faham.
Ada lagi satu pembohongan yang namanya – Statistik. Malah statistik adalah pembohong yang paling tersusun lagi licik lengok jalannya. Saya tidak pernah percaya kepada statistik. Saya menolak statistik sebagai patukan untuk dijadikan rujukan. Ini kerana selama ini saya melihat bahawa statistik ini boleh dimanipulasi dan ditunggang terbalikan. Statistik juga dijadikan senjata untuk mengolah pandangan orang ramai.
Mari kita lihat kes statistik tentang pencapaian ekonomi Bumiputera yang terus dihebohkan. Kes statistik ini menjadi heboh dan sengaja diheboh-hebohkan untuk tujuan mendapat sokongan politik. Mula-mula keluar satu angka statistik mengatakan bahawa Dasar Ekonomi Baru telah berjaya mencapai matlamat. Bumiputera sudah memiliki 45% ekuiti ekonomi negara ini.
Kemudian, satu lagi statistik yang mengatakan Dasar Ekonomi Baru belum berjaya. Bumiputera hanya memiliki hampir 19% sahaja. Kemudian satu lagi angka statistik keluar – bukan yang ini dan bukan yang itu – tetapi dipaparkan satu angka baru. Tiga angka statistik dimunculkan kepada umum. Membingongkan ? Tidak. Lupakan sahaja kerana ketiga-tiga angka ini tidak memiliki apa-apa untuk kita semua.
Saya tidak peduli sama ada Bumiputera memiliki 50%, 60% atau 100% ekuiti ekonomi negara ini. Angka-angka ini tidak memberi apa-apa makna kepada saya. Hujah saya menolak angka statistik ini cukup senang. Statistik ini hanyalah satu ‘omong kosong’. Statistik adalah angka-angka yang dikumpul tetapi dalam kehidupan harian kita ianya tidak bermakna.
Kalaupun Bumiputera memiliki 70% atau 90% ekuiti ekonomi negara ini, untuk rakyat seperti kita, ianya tidak akan mendatangkan apa-apa perubahan yang hakiki. Kalau kita Bumiputera naik bas tambangnya sama dengan yang Bukan Bumiputera, beli sayur harganya sama, bil lektrik, bil air dan harga top-up pun sama. Setiap bulan sewa bilik harganya sama. Di hujung tahun kos kehidupan bertambah – Bumiputera atau Bukan Bumiputera. Pemilikan ekonomi Bumiputera ini tidak ada sangkut paut dengan kehidupan harian kita, walaupun kita Bumiputera.
Katakanlah Bumiputera dalam negara ini telah memiliki 50% dari jumlah ekuiti ekonomi negara. Saya cukup yakin 50% ekonomi ini tidak akan dimiliki oleh semua Bumiputera. Jumlah 50% ekonomi negara ini mungkin dimiliki oleh 10 orang, 20 orang, 200 atau 200,000 orang Bumiputera. Apa yang terjadi kepada 16 juta Bumiputera yang lain? Mereka juga Bumiputera dan apabila statistik ini dirangka kewujudaan mereka juga dihitung sama. Jelas disini statistik ini tidak memiliki apa-apa makna.
Dalam ekonomi kapitalis, setiap individu dan warga diberi kebebasan untuk memiliki sebanyak mana kekayaan. Dalam ekonomi kapitalis disediakan ruang dan galakan untuk warga mencari dan mengumpul kekayaan. Jika kita faham ini maka bermakna kita semua sebagai warga akan mendapat peluang yang sama. Salah. Kita TIDAK akan memiliki peluang yang sama dalam ekonomi kapitalis. Peluang ini tidak wujud untuk kita yang tidak memiliki modal. Hanya mereka yang memiliki modal sahaja yang akan dapat mempergunakan peluang itu.
Bagitu juga dalam hal Dasar Ekonomi Baru ini. DEB ini telah menobatkan bahawa setiap Bumiputera di Malaysia berhak untuk memiliki 30% ekuiti ekonomi negara. Ini dongeng. Ini juga statistik. Mak Jah dari Felda Taib Andak yang memohon untuk mendapat projek membuat Istana Negara yang berharga 400 juta ringgit itu tidak akan mendapat melawan Maya Maju Sdn.Bhd. Mak Jah dan syarikat Maya Maju ini sama , mereka berstatus Bumiputera. Tetapi hakikatnya adalah berlainan. Ada hukum-hukum dan syarat-syarat lain yang TIDAK bertulis. Bumiputera ini hanya satu dongeng sama seperti statistik. Ianya tidak memiliki apa-apa makna yang hakiki.
Heboh-heboh statistik baru-baru ini bertujuan untuk mengolah persetujuan rakyat terutama Bumiputera untuk terus menyokong DEB. Dan terus menyokong gerombolan United Malays National Organisation. Amat jelas dari heboh-heboh ini ada dua pembohongan. Bohong pertama statistik. Bohong kedua ialah Bumiputera. Dua pembohongan ikat berikat.
Saya sedar ramai yang terpengaruh dengan pembohongan ini. Di sini saya ingin menerangkan terutama yang menganggap diri mereka Bumiputera. Saya harap mereka sedar bahawa konsep Bumiputera itu tidak ada apa-apa makna. Konsep ini juga sama dengan peratus statistik pencapaian ekuiti ekonomi Bumiputera – kedua-dua hanyalah ‘dondang sayang’ yang kedengaran tetapi tidak dapat dimasukkan ke dalam saku.
Selama 30 tahun ini bunyi perkataan Bumiputera telah dijadikan kempen oleh gerombolan United Malays National Organisation untuk mengumpul sokongan terutama dari orang Melayu. Rasa saya, manusia Bumiputera ini telah lama berdongeng bukan kerana ganja tetapi kerana mendengar bunyi dan statistik Bumiputera. Masanya telah sampai untuk kita bangun dari terus berdongeng dan berkhayal. Sila lihat disekeliling dan perhatikan apa yang sedang berlaku.
Ini bukan labun atau kempen politik kosong agar saya mendapat menjadi YB. Kalau tidak percaya apa yang saya tulis ini, sila pergi lawat Kampung Chubadak dekat Sentul di mana tanah yang di teroka oleh Bumiputera berpuluh-puluh tahun dahulu akan dirampas oleh pemaju… opps saya tidak jelas pemaju jenis mana – mungkin Bumiputera atau mungkin dari Nigeria atau mungkin dari gerombolan United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) yang buat ‘joint venture’ dengan gerombolan Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).
Atau sila pergi ke Kampung Berembang di belakang Jalan Ampang – tidak jauh dari KLCC opps…maaf kerana nama ini nama Mat Saleh. Lihat di mana rumah-rumah Bumiputera telah dibumikan. Atau ke Plentong di Johor Bahru. Lihat bumiputera anak beranak ini sedang tidur di atas bumi. Ini bukan statistik. Ini adalah manusia hidup yang boleh kita pegang dan lawan bercakap. Mereka inilah yang tidak termasuk dalam kajian dari pakar-pakar statistik yang asli mahupun dari pakar-pakar statistik ‘cap ayam’.(tt)—Hishamuddin Rais
source: The Malaysian Insider
October 30 — While premier-in-waiting Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a household name, few know what he stands for and what to expect of his premiership.
“The prince”, in its various meanings, perhaps offers a crude and simplistic insight into Najib’s possible behaviour as Prime Minister. With less than two weeks to go for UMNO divisional meetings and no rival nomination as yet to his candidacy as president, Najib looks set to become Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister in March next year.
It has been a long way to the top for the eldest son of Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
Najib’s career had a head-start because of his prestigious family name, but as the skeletons in the cupboard appear to pile up, Najib faces ever more challenges.
Born in 1953, Najib contested his late father’s seat of Pekan when the latter died in office in 1976. He was then slightly below 23 years old and still holds the record as the youngest Malaysian ever to enter Parliament.
Najib held several deputy ministerial appointments between 1978 and 1982. In 1982, at the age of 29, he was made the Menteri Besar of Pahang. He served two stints as Minister of Defence (1990-1995, 1999-2008), and served as Minister of Youth and Sports (1986-1990) and Minister of Education (1995-1999).
A decade ago, Najib was the other candidate in the race to fill the No. 2 post in UMNO and government left vacant as a result of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking.
But as Anwar was dismissed on alleged personal improprieties and misuse of power, then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad selected the unimpressive but religious and squeaky clean Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his deputy and later his successor.
Najib almost lost his parliamentary seat in the 1999 general election, winning with a 241-vote majority.He tried in vain to derail Abdullah’s ascension in mid-2003 and later swallowed his pride to serve as Abdullah’s deputy since 2004, biding his time to make his next move.
In the lead-up to the 2006 UMNO general assembly, Najib and Dr Mahathir were seen preparing the ground for a showdown with Abdullah. But Dr Mahathir was immobilised by a heart attack while Najib was mired in the unfolding Altantunya case. It was thus smooth sailing for Abdullah.
As support for Abdullah within and outside UMNO collapses due to the poor performance of Umno/BN in the general election and Abdullah’s failure to work a post-election second wind, Najib finally comes close to the job he probably sees as his birthright.
Apart from his personal failures, Abdullah’s downfall is, of course, in part the work of Najib the prince, the master of palace manoeuvres. Najib’s camp was said to be involved in sabotaging candidates parachuted by the Fourth Floor during the March 8 general election.
Initially, Najib reluctantly accepted a deal to succeed Abdullah in June 2010 but, in cohorts with Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, a groundswell of disaffection against Abdullah was manufactured, leaving Abdullah little choice but to agree to retire earlier.
Years ago in 1987, with an impressive power base and holding the balance of power in the Team A and Team B fight, in a move not unlike palace betrayal, Najib abandoned the Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah camp at the last minute and contributed to Dr Mahathir’s narrow win.
Having the most extensive internal networks within the government and UMNO, and long years of experience in factional trading in UMNO, unlike the hapless Abdullah, Najib is likely to be master of his own destiny in the twists and turns of Umno’s palace.
Najib may also excel as the Machiavellian prince, ever prepared to be hated so long as he is able to maintain power.
Even Abdullah, a man more humane in his outlook than most of his colleagues, failed to push for more civil liberties and democratic reform. Najib is unlikely to be a new democrat, as the fear of becoming Malaysia’s Gorbachev looms large. The Machiavellian-Mahathir recipe of authoritarianism will probably be reincarnated in Najib’s government.
Najib the prince’s Achilles heel could be his political blue blood and his inability to comprehend the common man’s life and needs. During the fuel hike in 2006, Najib’s “change lifestyle” statement was not unlike the “let them eat cake” comment commonly attributed to Maria Antoinette.
The alleged wrongdoings in the multi-billion Eurocopter and Sukhoi deals are just examples that add to the agony of low-level military personnel and reinforce Najib’s image as one who only cares for big-ticket weaponry.
The RM5 billion Valuecap move to prop up the market by using the life savings of the common man with the Employees Provident Fund is another blunder that manifests Najib’s failure to feel the layman’s pain in the face of the impending economic meltdown.
The Najib premiership is likely to be a combination of Najib the master of palace wayang kulit, Najib the Machiavellian authoritarian prince and Najib the blue blood who fails to understand the ordinary people.
|October 30, 2008|
The Federal Court today threw out an appeal by Munawar A Anees for his sodomy charge be remitted to the High Court so that he can argue his case.
Chief Justice Zaki Azmi, who sat with Federal Court judges Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, delivered an oral decision, stating that their written judgment would made known later.
Munawar’s counsel, Manjeet Singh Dhillon, had asked the country’s highest court to quash the Court of Appeal’s decision on the High Court’s dismissal of Munawar’s appeal against his sodomy conviction and sentence, and to order the High Court to allow him to argue his case.
Munawar, Anwar Ibrahim’s former speech-writer, had served six months in prison in 1998 after pleading guilty to allowing the then deputy premier to sodomise him.
Manjeet had submitted that High Court judge Ahmad Maarop had struck out Munawar’s appeal without hearing the merits of the case and the Court of Appeal had dismissed Munawar’s appeal against the High Court decision without giving any grounds.The Kuala Lumpur High Court had dismissed the case four years ago after Munawar, who is now living in United States, was unable to attend the hearing.
The Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court had on September 19, 1998, sentenced Munawar to six months’ jail after he pleaded guilty to allowing Anwar to sodomise him at Anwar’s house in Jalan Setia Murni, Bukit Damansara, in March 1993.
Munawar has served his sentence but filed the appeal in a bid to clear his name.
Anwar’s former speech writer
Munawar, a Pakistani-American writer who is a biologist by training and an internationally well-respected Islamic intellectual, was detained under the Internal Security Act on Sept 14, 1998.
The former aide of the ousted deputy prime minister was later charged alongside Anwar’s adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja.
They were convicted after pleading guilty to “allowing themselves to be sodomised” by Anwar.
They were charged with committing the offences at Anwar’s residences in 1993 and 1998 but no specific dates or time were given. They were each sentenced to six months’ jail.
However, in a statutory declaration issued 10 years ago, Munawar claimed that he had been forced to confess following brutal torture while he was in detention.
In the statutory declaration, he claimed that Special Branch officers had abused him mentally and physically.
After serving his sentence, he left for the United States where he currently works as a project management consultant with the US-based John Templeton Foundation.
|9/11 a double-edge sword for Muslims|
|Steven Gan | November 23, 2006|
|The aftermath of September 11 has turned out to be a double-edged sword for the Muslim world, said Islamic scholar and author Dr Munawar A Anees.
“The 19 hijackers who committed the ghastly terrorist act and allegedly professed Muslim faith gave a free-hand to Islamophobes in proclaiming that all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim,” he lamented. “Terrorist is now an alias for Muslim.”
While expressing alarm over the demonising of Muslims worldwide, Anees said the increase in intra-Muslim violence – which claims perhaps even more victims – was “equally reprehensible”.
“The phenomenal rise in Sunni-Shia conflict, indiscriminate killings of Muslims by Muslims through suicide bombings and similar acts of terrorism are of little help in building a social order on Islamic doctrines of freedom and tolerance.”
He cautioned that discussion on terrorism that focus solely on an imaginary ‘us and them’ divide fails to account for this bitter internal Muslim strife.
The hysteria of 1998
Anees, 58, a Pakistani-American biologist and an internationally well-respected Islamic intellectual, was caught in the hysteria of 1998 when then deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was purged from the ruling party, Umno.
At that time, Anees was Anwar’s speech writer and close confidant. On Sept 14, 1998 – two weeks before Anwar was himself arrested – Anees was nabbed under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention with out trial.
Held in incommunicado by the police for five days, Anees was tortured and forced to make a false confession of “allowing himself to be sodomised” by Anwar and subsequently spent four months in prison.
The ex-ISA detainee, who is widely regarded as a leading progressive social and scientific voice in the Islamic world, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Now based in Los Angeles, Anees has authoured half a dozen of books, including Islam and Biological Futures: Ethics, Gender, and Technology – published in 1990 – which discussed the problems of surrogate motherhood, abortion, and genetic engineering.
Anees offered a few suggestions on how to bridge the growing gulf between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
“Appreciation of diversity, humility to know and understand ‘the other’, tolerance for dissent, and respect for freedom and human dignity…,” he said.
In this final part of an email interview with malaysiakini, Anees also revealed that he did not attend primary schools in his early years, and explained his love affair with science, in particular biology.
Malaysiakini: Tell us about your early childhood
Munawar A Anees: We go through many transitions in life. I feel my journey from childhood through the age of maturity was a phenomenal experience. I was blessed with the most loving and affectionate parents who gave me ample opportunities for growth and fulfillment in a highly enriching atmosphere.
Our mother, Attiyyah Rahman, true to her name, body, and spirit, was indeed a blessing from the most Compassionate. Our father, Sheikh Zia-ul-Haq, a profoundly accomplished electrical and mechanical engineer who won national recognition for his work, nurtured us through an inspiring milieu.
Both of them, in their own unique ways, instilled in us a love for scholastic excellence and moral integrity. Abba Jan, our father, for instance, did not send me to any private or public school.
For my primary education, he arranged for private tutors who used to come home to teach me. As though that was not enough of a pampering, he himself crafted the first book for me, complete with colour illustrations and attractive text, to teach me the alphabet. Today, when I see someone assembling an e-book with text and graphics, it reminds me of Abba Jan.
He strongly believed that informed opinion facilitated critical decision-making in one’s life. He ensured that I had a personal subscription to Reader’s Digest, Time, and National Geographic, among others. With his generous support, as a high school student, I came to have a library of my own stocked with several hundred books and magazines. Again, not an ordinary feat by educational norms of the time and locale.
Some 40 years past, it may not seem something amazing that Abba Jan himself coached me in what today we term as sex education. But given the confines of conservative culture of Pakistan, it was certainly a daring step, a mark of his enlightened personality, for which he derived an inspiration from the Quran.
Deeply spiritual persons, Ammi Jan and Abba Jan did not provide us with the so-called secular education at the expense of the religious. For me and my ever-loving younger sister, Suriya, they appointed Quran scholars under whose guidance we finished the entire Quran many times over, followed by Urdu and English translations, exegesis (Tafsir), and the Prophetic Tradition. With her loving presence, Ammi Jan ensured that we fulfilled our ritual obligations such as prayers and fasting in the month of Ramadan.
When did you show interest in biology?
I published my first article on relation between biology and religion just after graduating from high school. I dared to submit it to an academic journal called Islamic Education and was elated by its acceptance with the editorial accolade: “You have an old head and a young shoulder.” That was a spurring moment and bowing to my inclination, my parents agreed that I pursued a career in biology rather than in medicine. I graduated from Punjab University, Lahore, majoring in biology and went on to finish my Masters degree in zoology from the same university.
Reciprocating the parental consent for biological research, I honoured their wish and qualified for the Federal Public Service Examination. After completing my training at the prestigious Civil Service Academy, with their permission, I resigned and proceeded for further studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, United States, where I earned a doctoral degree in Science and Environmental Studies, with additional courses in history and philosophy of science.
The lure for reading and writing inculcated by my parents ultimately led me to delve deeper into such diverse areas as history and philosophy of science, Islamic studies, and information technology. Through my research and writings, I sought a synthesis of epistemological currents at the core of these disciples. A large part of my work, however, remains devoted to the emerging field of bioethics and how it relates to Islamic values.
I remain eternally grateful to my parents for the priceless gift of enlightenment. The challenge that I face in their absence is not to lose sight of the ideals they set for us.
How did you meet your wife, Nadia?
We met in Paris a quarter of a century ago and Nadia has stood by me through thick and thin. The 1998 Malaysian tragedy turned this soft-spoken woman into steel. With her husband kidnapped, brutally tortured and held hostage, abandoned by erstwhile friends, and constantly hounded by police thugs, Nadia rose to the occasion with incredible strength and tenacity.
Above all, through her ingenuity, she ensured the safety of our children, Aisha and Omran, 13 and eight at that time. It is unthinkable how she lived under the darkest cloud of fear and threats with those two while they were so savagely robbed of their innocent smiles. With a huge physical and psychological burden and an acute dearth of resources, her provision for a totally uninterrupted education for Aisha and Omran is certainly a feather in her cap.
If at all I can think of an achievement that makes me proud, it is discovering and convincing Nadia to marry me! The way she brought up Aisha and Omran averted a great disaster that might have taken over their minds and persons in the aftermath of the 1998 lot. She not only succeeded in keeping them immune from the physical and psychological deficit out of this calamity but nourished them towards academic excellence, moral integrity, and self-identity – echoing the vision of Ammi Jan and Abba Jan.
What have you been doing since you left Malaysia?
After my return to America, it took me nearly two years to physically recover from this trauma. I spent that time under constant medical supervision. The extent of my physical impairment may become apparent if you realise that it took me nearly three weeks just to compose 1,000 words after Alvin Toffler asked me to contribute an article for the Library of Congress magazine, Civilization. I used to be able to do that sort of writing in couple of hours.
Among the most pronounced problems were short-term memory loss and difficulty in coherent speech and writing. Thanks are due largely to my dear friend, Dr Jamal Mubarak, for help with my medical rehabilitation.
In my efforts to resume normal academic activities, for almost four years now, I have been working as a special consultant to the John Templeton Foundation. Knowing its founder, Sir John Templeton, has taught me to look afresh on humility as one of the core Islamic values. Some of my current work relates to an exploration of the concept of humility as an epistemological agent and a catalyst for discovery.
What about your academic work?
I have also resumed lecturing and participation in academic conferences. In August, I had a successful workshop at the Jefferson Center for Religion and Philosophy, and this month I am invited to participate in a panel discussion on stem cells at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Washington, DC.
This would be followed by another event in Cancun, Mexico, on science and transcendence. As one of the founding members of the International Society for Science and Religion, Cambridge, England, I am currently involved in the work of its executive committee. More events are planned for early next year at the Pacific Council for International Policy and the Occidental College in Los Angeles.
You were considered for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. How did you feel about being nominated for such a prestigious award?
I was shocked and overwhelmed by this nomination. I felt there was nothing in my life that justified such a recognition. On the other hand, there are lots of other people who deserve to be nominated and awarded for their work on the path of peace.
It is true that the Malaysian tragedy provided me with a deeper insight into the human condition and I came to understand and share some of the experiences of other victims of torture and brutality. For instance, the Holocaust narrative had remained a distant thunder for me until I fell victim to atrocities. No comparisons are called for but for me, beyond text and images of the past, this episode served as a crack into the darkest niches of human behaviour that ultimately lead to such monstrosities as Holocaust and genocide.
I am reminded of J Krishnamurti who said: “What man has done to man has no limit. He has tortured him, he has burned him, he has killed him, he has exploited him in every possible way – religious, political, economic. This has been the story of man to man.”
But this must not remain the human fate. Freedom is a prerequisite for peace. Any act that violates the innate human right to freedom is a grave threat to peace. If we desire for peace then we must work for human freedom.
The ultimate human agony is the denial of freedom. It acts like a double-edged sword. One’s freedom of movement is taken away by one’s tormentors, while one’s conscience suffocates in a dungeon. A poignant grief sets in once there is a cognisance that both the body and the conscience have fallen victim to the act of tyranny.
The loss of freedom is more than a physical loss. It is the extinction of the light of conscience. The incarceration of innocents for nefarious political ends is a crime that strikes at the root of human dignity. And freedom without dignity is worthless. Freedom is the engine of human evolution. It is the catalyst that drives human imagination. It is the inspiration behind human achievement. No human progress is thinkable without freedom.
As a renowned Muslim scientist and scholar, what’s your opinion regarding the post-911 world?
The 9/11 tragedy provoked a series of transformations in America and across the world. In addition to those who perished in this attack, the wars now raging in Afghanistan and Iraq are the two obvious fatalities. For America, the loss of men now in Iraq is almost equal to that on September 11. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the combined human losses from internal strife and external interventions are running into hundreds of thousands!
A clamour for global sympathy for America – We are all Americans – manifested by the blazing headline of the French daily Le Monde has degenerated into apathy or even large-scale opposition over the last five years. At home too, the Democratic victory in the mid-term elections indicates a major swing in public opinion that may foreshadow major shifts in foreign policy.
Beyond the war and political theatres, there are intense currents to re-evaluate and re-orient several social and cultural policies. One of the biggest challenges is how to create a balance between the demands of national security and the norms of a democratic and free society. The critique of Patriot Act in America or opposition to secret surveillance and searches point to the pitfalls in achieving and maintaining the desired parity.
This war on terrorism is also being fought in the West.
The Muslim immigrants to the Western world face new pre-requisites to their integration into the host culture. Pressure is mounting upon them to rub off the sting of suspected fifth columnists. They are searching for solutions where multiculturalism is being questioned in terms of their participation at all levels including education, economics, politics, and freedom to travel.
The aftermath of this tragedy has turned out to be a double-edged sword for the Muslim world. The 19 hijackers who committed the ghastly terrorist act and allegedly professed Muslim faith gave a free-hand to Islamophobes in proclaiming that all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim. Terrorist is now an alias for Muslim.
More recent events give little indication that cultural profiling and stereotyping of Muslims is on the wane. If the recent surveys and daily reports from the Council on American-Islamic Relations are any yardstick then the rise in Islamophobia appears to be a highly disturbing reality.
The debate over the offensive Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet of Islam as a bloodthirsty warrior had not subsided yet when the Italian film-maker Renzo Martinelli’s ‘Il mercante di pietre’ (The Stone Merchant) portrayed all Muslim characters as terrorists [bringing] “back to mind Nazi propaganda against the Jews.”
In Germany, while delivering a lecture on faith and reason, Pope Benedict XVI found it fit to quote from a 14th century medieval text by the Byzantine Christian emperor Manuel II that criticised teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman”. Again, in Germany, controversy raged over limits of artistic freedom and religious respect. This time it was Hans Neuenfels’ adaptation of Mozart’s ‘Idomeneo’ that depicts the decapitated heads of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, and the Greek god, Poseidon.
In America, many Christian leaders are known to have followed the Byzantine suit. Fundamentalist preacher Franklin Graham, for instance, called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion”. Conservative Baptist Evangelist, Jerry Falwell said that “Muhammad was a terrorist.” And the televangelist Pat Robertson believes that “Islam is not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist”.
The banning of head scarf in France and the campaign against burqa (female face cover), led by Jack Straw and Tony Blair in Britain, are adding fuel to the clash of cultures, if not of civilisations. There is a growing perception and unease among Muslims that the “war on terrorism” is imperceptibly turning into a war on Islam. Political expressions reminiscent of the crusades and the calumny of “Islamic fascism” hardly serve as pacifiers.
How can terrorism be best fought?
From zealots to suicide bombers, terrorism has never been a monopoly of a given religion. Stereotyping and profiling a particular religion only reinvigorates militant and radical forces in their misconceptions while it alienates the majority of the followers.
For instance, at the slightest hint of an Islamophobic act some Muslims come out on the streets quenching the thirst of the world media for the most theatrical footage. Destruction of life and property and commission of violent acts fill the remaining gaps in the screenplay.
Moreover, an agonising increase in intra-Muslim violence and terror, that continues to claim perhaps more victims, is equally reprehensible. The phenomenal rise in Sunni-Shia conflict, indiscriminate killings of Muslims by Muslims through suicide bombings and similar acts of terrorism are of little help in building a social order on Islamic doctrines of freedom and tolerance.
Any discussion on terrorism merely focusing on an imaginary divide of “us and them” fails to account for the internal Muslim strife that also feeds into the broader arena. Here, a cue from history offers some comfort. Pope Urban II, who launched crusades against Muslims cast them as “vile, degenerate, and servants of the devil.” But it was Saint Francis of Assisi who said of Muslims that “they are our brothers and friends and we must love them very much.”
It may appear as though the likelihood of a peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims were a fantasy. Again, history comes to our rescue pointing to the period of convivencia in medieval Spain when the people of the three Abrahamic faiths enjoyed and deliberately promoted a remarkably harmonious and tolerant life.
Appreciation of diversity, humility to know and understand “the other”, tolerance for dissent, respect for freedom and human dignity, and loyalty to the professed ideals are some of the core elements of convivencia. In today’s troubled world, more than ever before, a dynamic revival of the spirit of convivencia remains our shared obligation and collective destiny.
|Judge Dr M’s policies fairly: Ex-ISA detainee|
|Steven Gan | November 22, 2006|
exclusiveFor someone who was jailed at the behest of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, biologist and author Dr Munawar A Anees surprisingly harboured some grudging respect for the former prime minister.
Anees, 58, who was arrested under the Internal Security Act eight years ago possibly on orders of Mahathir, refused to allow his bitter personal experience to colour his opinion of the former strongman.
“The 1998 tragedy notwithstanding, when Mahathir also held the portfolio of home minister with the authority to order draconian detentions under the ISA, political squabbles should not diminish Mahathir’s contribution to the Malaysian society.”
According to Anees, who was speech writer and close confidant of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s staunchly nationalist policies must be fairly judged.
“While it would be erroneous to build a personality cult either around Anwar or Mahathir, it is equally spurious to let their contributions fade in a political haze,” he said.
“Nations who fail to pay due homage to their leaders enjoy little respect.”
Anees, a Pakistani-American writer who is a biologist by training and an internationally well-respected Islamic intellectual, was caught in the hysteria of 1998 when Anwar was purged from the ruling party, Umno.
He was arrested on Sept 14, 1998 and held in incommunicado by the police for five days, tortured and forced to make a false confession of “allowing himself to be sodomised” by Anwar and subsequently spent four months in prison.
In this second part of an email interview with malaysiakini, Anees talked about his emotional reunion with Anwar, his views on the spat between Mahathir and his handpicked successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and his gratitude to those who stood by him in his darkest hour.
Malaysiakini: When did you meet Anwar after he was released in September 2004?
Munawar A Anees: Our first meeting took place in London in early 2005, about three months after Anwar regained his freedom. I was invited there for an international conference on bioethics and Anwar was in Oxford. It was an emotional reunion. Our meeting lasted for just about 30 minutes. I was sad to see Anwar’s physical condition since he was still complaining of pain.
The next meeting was a few months after, at Anwar’s invitation in Washington and we spent four days together. I wanted to know about his plans for the future as much as he was curious about mine. We discussed a lot of issues of common interest particularly living in the post-9/11 world. Anwar and I remain in regular contact with each other through email and phone.
Do you think Anwar has a future as an opposition leader?
Anwar’s flair for leadership is a given fact, straight from his days at Abim (Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia). So the question as to whether he will prove to be a better leader in the opposition or in the government does not arise. One can argue about the style of leadership but Anwar’s track record leaves little room for doubt.
If I am not mistaken, he was perhaps the one who held the highest number of portfolios, some twice: sports, agriculture, education, finance, and then deputy prime minister. Not to mention International Islamic University and Unesco. Of course, sitting on the treasury benches gives you an added advantage to implement your programmes, something that the opposition is deprived of, usually.
In a democratic system of governance, therefore, the role of leadership must be assessed in terms of values rather than political positions. On that count, Anwar’s past leadership carries several points to his credit. Unlike Mahathir, he is not known to be an institutional builder. He is a man of ideas with a global span.
While Mahathir physically translated his vision of Malaysia as a developed nation through infrastructure and urbanisation, Anwar held a similar view but on the intellectual landscape. I vaguely recall Mahathir’s positive comments on this complementarity during one of his interviews to Asiaweek.
What is your opinion of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi?
I met Prime Minister Abdullah only once while he was not in Mahathir’s cabinet. That was prior to his assuming the charge of Wisma Putra. Anwar’s press secretary, Khalid Jaafar, and I were sipping coffee one afternoon in Bangsar when we spotted him walk by. He was kind enough to join us. I found him to be a person of mild manners and courteous.
Unfortunately, the Malaysian tragedy has kept me from knowing him more closely. But whatever I read in the media since he became the prime minister tells me that under his leadership Malaysia is going through a refreshing change.
Mahathir’s long presence on the Malaysian scene and his dynamic policies had certainly raised the level of popular expectations. To sustain that momentum of growth continues to be the immediate challenge for Prime Minister Abdullah.
Similarly, it would be interesting to observe how his initiative on Islam Hadhari leads to some tangible progress, particularly at a time when both internal Muslim disputes and Islamophobia are acting to tarnish the image of Islam.
And how do you feel about Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s meddling in the current government?
In the tradition of Voltaire, I defend Mahathir’s right to say whatever he wants to but I am discomforted to know that he has chosen to publicly criticise Prime Minister Abdullah. This seems to run contrary to the grace of an elderly statesman. At the same time, as Anwar has stressed, legitimate criticism must be addressed.
The 1998 tragedy notwithstanding, when Mahathir also held the portfolio of home minister with the authority to order draconian detentions under the ISA, political squabbles should not diminish Mahathir’s contribution to the Malaysian society.
From a more human perspective, Anwar has admirably defended Mahathir’s right to express his opinions. He is even reported to have said that Mahathir was free to join a political party of his choice. This creates a healthy atmosphere where personal differences are set aside in the interest of political stability. Likewise, Prime Minister Abdullah’s visit to see Mahathir after he suffered a mild heart attack is commendable.
Mahathir’s staunchly nationalist policies must be fairly judged. While it would be erroneous to build a personality cult either around Anwar or Mahathir, it is equally spurious to let their contributions fade in a political haze. Nations who fail to pay due homage to their leaders enjoy little respect.
Tell us, what happened after you were released from prison in 1999?
Consequent to the torture that I endured at the hands of the Special Branch, I remained hospitalised as a cardiac and psychiatric patient for almost 126 days.
The then foreign minister of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, took extraordinary measures in twice summoning the Malaysian high commissioner to Pakistan to ensure that I received some humane treatment. The High Commissioner of Pakistan to Malaysia, Musa Javed Choohan, and his senior staff personally oversaw compliance.
In spite of their efforts, I was kept round the clock handcuffed to my hospital bed. After regaining my freedom, I was driven from the hospital straight to the official residence of the high commissioner of Pakistan where I stayed for a few days before I left for Islamabad. I spent my first evening at his high commissioner’s residence mingling with a lot of well-wishers and feasting upon a fabulous dinner.
(Lawyer) Manjeet Singh Dhillon (left), the man who epitomises goodness in all its manifestations, went yet another extra mile in facilitating my departure from Malaysia. He and (lawyer) Balwant Singh Sidhu accompanied me and Nadia to the airport and waited till my plane left the tarmac.
The two protocol officers from the Pakistan High Commission, who escorted me through the immigration desk, succeeded in convincing the immigration officer – who had raised the spectre of a travel ban – to let me go. Grateful acknowledgment is made to Foreign Office in Islamabad and the entire staff of the Pakistan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for their valuable support.
After finishing their semester at the French school, (daughter) Aisha and (son) Omran had left earlier in December for Paris with (wife) Nadia’s elder brother, Dr Bekkaye. Nadia, though left alone but not relenting on her mettle, stayed back and took care of some paperwork and other chores. She had disposed off or given to charity much of the household belongings.
What happened next?
My arrival in Islamabad was a moving moment. My elder brother, Mubasher Ahmad (may God bless his soul), who had worked tirelessly to ensure that no further harm came to me, went into an ecstasy after seeing me alive. I still feel the triumphal joy that he exuded. But no comfort came close to the loving embrace of (mother) Ammi Jan, studded with prayers and tears. Suddenly the pain was transformed into a bliss. So precious is the touch of mother!
(Younger sister) Suriya was there in her glory with her wizard son, Ali Waqas, and so were my other sisters, Khair-un-Nisa, Qamar-un-Nisa, and my elder brother, Muzaffar Ahmad, with their families. They all had prayed and strived for that day of freedom. In spite of geographical distance, their support helped Nadia in those difficult times. They made it possible for her not to feel alone.
In the crowd at home, I was thrilled to see one of my students, Tariq Ismail. He was instrumental in staging protest demonstrations in front of the Malaysian High Commission in Islamabad, mass distribution of leaflets, and in mobilising public opinion in my favour.
At home, as I struggled to retrain my fingers on the keyboard, another surprise was waiting for me: some 65,000 email messages from friends and concerned individuals from all over the world. It was an absolutely humbling experience! In the wake of these overwhelming emotions expressed by known friends and unknown well-wishers, not even a book-length “thank you” note would suffice. I bowed my head in gratitude.
When did your wife joined you?
After about two weeks, Nadia (right) reached Islamabad and deservedly received a glorious welcome. She was buried under colourful garlands for her extraordinary feats. She merited and received the choicest hugs and kisses from Ammi Jan. But time would put her to much more severe challenges in raising Aisha and Omran without the loving presence of their father.
From Islamabad, I went to Paris and gave lasting hugs and kisses to Aisha and Omran for their resilience in the face of this terrible misfortune. I was amazed at how Nadia’s enchanting love kept these little ones unscathed and fully self-composed. They showed no sign of deficit in their academic achievement. But deep inside, I could sense the emotional scars.
Both of them, cruelly removed from the comfort of their home to the forced beginning of a new and arduous life, have now turned into knights for human rights. I realised how distress acts as a spark to ignite the innermost core of human virtue. This reminds me of a similar phenomenon when there was an outpouring of human sympathy after a devastating earthquake in Pakistan last year. A recent documentary, ‘When the Mountains Moved’, elegantly captures those precious moments in human behaviour.
What are your children doing now?
In Aisha’s footsteps, Omran (left) ctively engaged in the Model United Nations where he is the youngest elected student. He is expected to graduate from high school in 2008. Aisha has advanced to her fourth year in medicine on a dual MD/PhD track.
After Pakistan, where did you go to next?
Before returning to America, I wanted to personally thank some of my friends who had launched a highly effective campaign on my behalf. Spearheaded by Naseer Ahmad from Canada, they put up a coalition called Friends of Dr Anees. Their website, kept alive by an incredible dedication of Safeer Rammah, Baseer Hai, Anees Ahmad, Dr Naeem Siddiqi, Dr Jamal Mubarak, and Dr Kamal Mubarak (webmaster), attracted enormous traffic particularly from Malaysia where the official media was maintaining a cloak of secrecy.
Recalling what was the state of the Internet at that time, the Australian Financial Times paid them rich tributes for putting the Internet to a highly efficient use in mobilising world opinion against atrocities committed to advance a heinous political agenda.
While my web warrior friends maintained the pressure, the print media did its own magic. Take, for instance, Nathan Gardels, a long-time friend and editor of the Los Angeles Times/Global Viewpoint Syndicate. After Nadia called him on that fateful day, he sprang into action. Following some discussion, Alvin Toffler immediately wrote a lengthy piece in the International Herald Tribune demanding Mahathir to free me.
Later, Nathan went for a personal interview with Mahathir. Moreover, in his prestigious New Perspectives Quarterly, he published excerpts from my statutory declaration and gave wide coverage to the events. Do I have words to thank friends of this moral stature?
The climax of my visit to Canada was reached in a tearful but joyous embrace with Margaret John from Amnesty International. We were joined for dinner at her place by the former president of Singapore, Devan Nair and his wife Dhanam. From thereon, for several years, Devan remained a source of wisdom until he passed away.
Beyond the call of volunteerism, Margaret made such a remarkable personal contribution in securing my freedom that continues even to this day. A magnificent and caring friendship with Margaret and her husband Brian are among the blessings that I count on. Amnesty International and its worldwide teams of volunteers deserve our most profound gratitude for making freedom possible by keeping the hope alive.
For long, one of my closest friends, Afzal Janjua, with whom I have spent some of the most productive and fulfilling years of my life in America, unfortunately remained unaware of my predicament in Malaysia. But his sustained support after my return has undoubtedly fully compensated for his absence. Afzal’s inspiring presence is one of my cherished treasures.
Tomorrow: Dealing with the post-9/11 world
|Q&A: Sukma’s discharge vindicates all of us|
|November 21, 2006|
The following is the first of a three-part
interview with Dr Munawar A Anees where he tells malaysiakini, among others, about the days leading up to his arrest.
Malaysiakini: What is the latest status with your legal cases in Malaysia?
Munawar A Anees: What the Malaysian judiciary has up its sleeves is anybody’s guess. More than eight years have elapsed since the beginning of this catastrophic cycle of events and there seems to be no end to it. After a long and agonising wait, when I traveled to Malaysia in April this year, several appeals came up for a short hearing but nothing has been heard since then.
It is heartening that under Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi there appears to be a move for greater independence of the judiciary. This bodes well for restoring the reputation of Malaysia as a country governed by the rule of law. Anwar Ibrahim’s release was the first successful litmus test. The recently concluded case of Sukma, for instance, offers further evidence to that effect though the celebration of justice was spoiled by comments from the prosecution quarters.
More salt was rubbed into the wounds by Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, the de facto law minister, who adamantly stated that: “We cannot be apologising every time we drop a charge against someone. This is not the system here, (and) not even a communist country like China (would do that).” He further expressed “the view (that there was nothing in the legislation which) requires the government or its agency to tender an apology when a charge is dropped.”
If legislation has been the sole arbitrator, as so piously implied by minister Nazri, then he needs to help me find one piece of Malaysian legislation under which, in September 1998, I was searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused, threatened, blackmailed, tormented by police tout acting as lawyers, brutalised to make a totally false confession, hospitalised for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.
Unless minister Nazri wants to turn the clock back on Prime Minister Abdullah’s initiatives and take pride in emulating the example of communist China.
How do you feel about Sukma’s discharge?
Sukma’s discharge vindicates Anwar Ibrahim and all others falsely implicated in a plethora of concocted cases that failed the test of evidence as much as that of common sense. But this case carries more meanings for me since both Sukma (left) and I, being foreigners in Malaysia, were the chosen targets. We were brought in front of those kangaroo courts on the same day and at the same time with the same trumped-up charges.
The captain of the sycophantic media, the New Straits Times, took the lead by putting the blaring headline: “We were sodomised” – attributing it to our (horribly forced and utterly false) confessions. Has not the time of reckoning come for the Malaysian media too as it is for (then NST editor-in-chief) Kadir Jasin to explain to the world how Anwar Ibrahim, sitting heavily bruised in a jail cell, could snatch a comet to come up with the “self-inflicted” injuries?
I recall people were pouring out on the streets in support of Anwar’s call for reformation and an increasing number of them were being arrested. Perhaps that caused a severe shortage of handcuffs with the police. That is why they made Sukma and I share a handcuff. We were then bundled off, just like dragged animals, to Kajang (prison) in an overcrowded lorry barely fit for animal transportation.
In this ordeal (lawyer) Manjeet Singh Dhillon has marvelously acted as a saviour to us. He stepped in within the first week. It was when Yacob Karim, a callous and culpable police-appointed lawyer, was trying to exploit my condition to convince me not to lodge any appeal against the court rulings. From that time on, Manjeet has never looked back. He not only has offered me consistent legal defence for the last eight years but displayed an unparalleled commitment to the ethical dictates of his profession.
I certainly hope that Prime Minister Ahmad would continue to implement programmes at all levels of governance in order to build a culture and tradition of law and justice in Malaysia. My counsels, Manjeet Singh Dhillon and Balwant Singh Sidhu, will pursue my long-pending appeals in the hope that justice be served sooner than later. As the old adage goes: justice delayed is justice denied.
What brought you to Malaysia? How did you meet Anwar Ibrahim?
My first encounter with Anwar Ibrahim dates back to mid-70s. While pursuing my studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, there were just a few Malaysian students at the campus. One called Hussein, whose full name evades my memory, approached me with the request that the Malaysian student group had invited Anwar for a lecture and if I could accommodate him for a couple of nights at my apartment. I readily agreed.
I had some idea of his role as a student leader and his initiative in establishing Abim (Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia). I certainly felt privileged at an opportunity to host him. He impressed me with his oratory and his vision for the Muslim world.
Contrary to today’s demonisation of things Islamic (which is partly our own doing with the rampant intra-Muslim killings and inexcusable targeting of innocents by suicide bombers) that was a time when Islamic resurgence was in vogue. Like many others, as a young student, I was going through a flux of certitude and doubt. Anwar and I struck a chord but then lost active contact for over a decade.
In the meantime, God had blessed us with (daughter) Aisha (left). As she grew so did the concern for her education. (Wife) Nadia was not in favour of raising her either in France or in America. While we were weighing the pros and cons of Pakistan or Algeria (birthplace of Anees and Nadia respectively) as our destination, I was invited to a conference in Kuala Lumpur.
My first visit to Malaysia left me deeply impressed. In my earlier travels, I had chosen Turkey to be the only favourite. But Malaysia convinced me to enlarge my solo collection of favourites.
When did you meet Anwar again?
Anwar and I met after a very long time. He had become minister of education and engrossed in educational reforms. Beside his promotion of Bahasa Baku, reading habits, and other curricular innovations he wanted to raise the level of intellectual engagement in Malaysia.
At several universities he had incepted a series of talks known by its weighty title: Intellectual Discourse. Anwar asked me if I would be interested in joining him in the realisation of our common vision that shunned extremism and promoted Islamic ideals of justice, liberty, and knowledge .
I returned to France convinced of having found a niche where Aisha could prosper while retaining an organic link with her broader cultural heritage. In spite of the tragic sequence of events in September 1998 that resulted in incalculable physical, psychological, financial, and social losses to our entire family, we do not regret our decision to have brought Aisha and (son) Omran to Malaysia.
Nostalgic it may appear but Malaysia transformed itself so dramatically that we continue to miss what we saw there upon our first arrival. A mellowed living, caring people, and a clean and safe environment seem to have been replaced by a hasty lifestyle, traffic jams, perpetual haze, and all the woes of rapid urbanisation.
Prior to your ISA detention on September 14, 1998, did you expect to be arrested?
It was around the last week of August 1998 that our dear friend Alvin Toffler came to town. At Mahathir’s invitation he had joined the Advisory Panel of the Multimedia Super Corridor. During that visit Toffler met Mahathir and discussed several issues, including the banning of the movie Schindler’s List.
In fact, I drove Toffler to Prime Minister Mahathir’s office. Nadia was just returning from Paris with the children after their summer break. Neither I nor Toffler had any inkling of the impending doom. A few days prior to when Anwar was sacked, I attended the birthday party of one of his daughters in a restaurant in Petaling Jaya. We had sensed that something was brewing at the top.
Before Nadia returned to Kuala Lumpur on August 31, she called me from Islamabad and we briefly discussed the matter. She expressed some caution but I reassured her. I had neither a reason nor a fear of being falsely implicated in the acrimonious exchange between Anwar and Mahathir.
Anwar’s unceremonious dismissal by Mahathir on September 2 shocked us but we had never thought that this matter would lead to a catastrophe forcing us to live with it for the rest of our lives.
Are you still being troubled by your appalling experience in Malaysia?
Yes, there is always a fleeting nightmare. A sudden knock at the door frightens me. There is a lingering loss of memory, though for brief moments. Often a feeling of utter helplessness overwhelms me. Excluding any possible age-related factor, I am still not at my optimal level of performance in speech or in writing.
Like the rest of the world, Nadia (left) and I know that this tragedy has nothing to do with the people of Malaysia. It was nothing but a wicked plot hatched by those who had little or no respect for human dignity. As a result, we continue to suffer from enormous losses to our physical and emotional health and financial condition. With each passing day, the accumulated financial losses are becoming more and more pronounced, which in turn are taking a very heavy toll on all of us.
In spite of the adversities we endured in Malaysia, we have come to admire the people of that country. During our stay for over a decade in the beautiful land – that we took pride in calling our second home – we developed lasting friendships and look forward to an occasion to renew our links. We are eager to meet those who, in the face of imminent danger, resolutely stood by us. We extend our deepest respects to them.
Our heart goes out to those who risked their personal safety and defied intimidation. One such Malaysian hero was our driver, Ali. It is through ordinary people like Ali that Malaysia lives in our hearts.
Tomorrow: My reunion with Anwar
|posted by Din Merican (October 30, 2008)
Munawar Anees’ mission to clear his name
|Steven Gan | November 21, 2006|
exclusive The withdrawal of sodomy charges against Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja has given hope to another man who was caught in the 1998 purge against the then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
“Sukma’s discharge vindicates Anwar and all others falsely implicated in a plethora of concocted cases that failed the test of evidence as much as that of common sense,” said Dr Munawar A Anees, who was Anwar’s speech writer and close confidant.
Anees has vowed that he would not let up in his bid to clear his name.
He told malaysiakini in an email interview that he was back in Malaysia in April this year when several of his appeals were heard.
It was the first time he set foot in the country since leaving Malaysia in January 1999 after serving his jail sentence.
“The overwhelming feeling was that of the fear of being falsely implicated in yet some other conspiracy, but as the days went by, I felt comfortable,” he said of his return.
He left a week later after his brief court hearing, and he said nothing was heard about his case since then.
Arrested under ISA
Anees, 58, was among the three men who were charged in court for having sexual relations with Anwar – the other two were ex-deputy premier’s adopted brother Sukma and fashion designer Mior Abdul Razak Yahya, who sewed and embroidered some of the clothes worn by Anwar’s wife.
Anees was detained under the Internal Security Act – which allows detention without trial – on Sept 14, 1998, two weeks after Anwar was sacked from his deputy prime minister’s post by the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
According to Anees, he was kidnapped, tortured and forced by the police to make a false confession of “allowing himself to be sodomised” by Anwar and subsequently spent four months in prison.
Armed with the ‘confessions’ of the three men, the police arrested Anwar on Sept 20, 1998 and later charged him on several counts of corruption and sodomy.
Two weeks ago, the Sessions Court freed Sukma for sodomy after the charge was withdrawn.
This followed an order by a higher court – the Court of Appeal – for a retrial after it found Sukma’s guilty plea for letting Anwar to sodomise him as “manifestly unsafe” because of suppression of evidence which could have proven his innocence.
In the email interview, Anees said Sukma’s case carried more meaning for him as they were sentenced on the same day and shared the same handcuff as they were sent “like dragged animals” to Kajang prison.
Both men later argued that their confessions implicating Anwar were signed under duress and that their plea of guilt was not made voluntarily.
Anees was also particularly piqued by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz who on the day after Sukma was freed told Parliament that there was no legislation which requires the government to apologise whenever a charge is dropped.
If that was the case, Anees pointed out, there was also no legislation sanctioning the treatment he received from the police following his arrest eight years ago.
“I was searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused, threatened, blackmailed, tormented by police tout acting as lawyers, brutalised to make a totally false confession, hospitalised for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.”
Anees had written extensively about the five days when he was held incommunicado by the police in a chilling statutory declaration.
“They stripped me of all self-respect; they degraded me and broke down my will and resistance; they threatened me and my family; they frightened me; they brainwashed me to the extent that I ended up in court on Sept 19, 1998 a shivering shell of a man willing to do anything to stop the destruction of my being,” he wrote.
The 55-page document, which was penned while he was in prison, was later presented in court as part of his appeal against the six-month jail sentence meted out to him after he ‘confessed’ of letting Anwar to sodomise him.
Anees, a Pakistani-American writer, who is a biologist by training and an internationally well-respected Islamic intellectual, has over the past four years been working as a consultant for the United States-based John Templeton Foundation.
The ex-ISA detainee, who is widely regarded as a leading progressive social and scientific voice in the Islamic world, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Now based in Los Angeles, Anees has authoured half a dozen of books, including Islam and Biological Futures: Ethics, Gender, and Technology – published in 1990 – which discussed the problems of surrogate motherhood, abortion, and genetic engineering.
In the three-part interview with malaysiakini, Anees spoke at length on, among others, his reunion with Anwar and his views regarding the war against terrorism.
Tomorrow: My reunion with Anwar
|New CJ vows action against errant judges|
|Andrew Ong | October 29, 2008|
Newly-appointed Chief Justice Zaki Azmi has pledged to act against a “small” number of judges who have failed to perform their duties.
“I will not hesitate to take stern and drastic action against this small group if the situation warrants me to,” Zaki said today in his maiden speech as the country’s top judge.
He noted that errant judges have tarnished the image of the judiciary and that this has to be resolved before the situation worsens.
“If there are cases of ampu-mengampu (currying favour), I say ‘stop it’,” he said, without elaborating.
While complimenting judicial staff for improvements in the Court of Appeal, he pointed out that it is possible to make changes if everyone works together.
“I acknowledge that I have been rather rough and direct, but together we have managed to do it,” he said, also calling for more efficiency in the delivery of justice.
Zaki was addressing some 50 people – mainly fellow-judges – who attended a swearing-in ceremony at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya.
Judges Alauddin Mohd Sherif and Arifin Zakaria took their oath as Court of Appeal president and Chief Justice of Malaya respectively.
Zaki reminded the judges that they are public servants and that those who are unable to serve at their very best should leave the judiciary to pursue their interests.
“Not matter how important our personal interest, we must remember that public interest is far more important,” he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan – who attended the ceremony – said Zaki had delivered a “hard-hitting” speech.
“I think it was a no-nonsense and tough speech… He is off to a good start with that speech,” she said.
During his 18-minute speech, Zaki made no mention of criticism of his past relationships with Umno and the corporate world.
Zaki, 63, was promoted to chief justice after having served 10 months as Court of Appeal president since December 11 last year.He was appointed No 2 in the judiciary after serving just three months as a Federal Court judge.
He was the first Federal Court judge whose appointment bypassed the convention of prior service in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
October 30, 2008
source: The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, October 30 — With a hit count reaching almost nine million in just one year, it would not be wrong to describe former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s most successful blogger.
His blog, chedet.com, routinely attracts hundreds of comments, and is frequently quoted by the mainstream media. Ironically, he started the blog only because he was blacked out in the media for his harsh criticism of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Five years to the day since his retirement in 2003, Dr Mahathir’s influence seems to be growing steadily as Malaysia readies for a new prime minister by the end of March next year.
His every move is dissected for its significance. When he showed up at International Trade Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Hari Raya open house last week, it stirred much excitement as it was perceived as an endorsement of the minister. This can count for a lot in the upcoming election in UMNO, whose members still love him.
Is Dr Mahathir making a political comeback? Not exactly. But there is a strong belief that his influence is on the rise.
Observers suggest that he could have a big say in the next administration after he played a key role in securing the early retirement of Abdullah, who was blamed for the poor showing of the Barisan Nasional in the March polls.
Many believe that Dr Mahathir’s skilful manoeuvres behind the scenes were instrumental in getting Deputy Premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak to persuade Abdullah to retire earlier than his original plan of June 2010. The whiff of resurgent power has sent UMNO leaders and the media flocking to Dr Mahathir again, and he is back in the limelight after five years of being out in the cold.
“His views are being reported more widely, precisely because many people think that he will make a comeback,” said political analyst Ong Kian Ming. Professor Agus Yusoff, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, agreed that this was one perception, but felt that the bigger reason was the weakness of the current leadership. “His views are being heard now because people are looking for better leadership. They see Dr Mahathir as experienced, and his views relevant,” he said.
Things have come full circle for Dr Mahathir, 82. His star dimmed soon after his retirement when Abdullah won a massive mandate in 2004. But the former premier soon sprang back into limelight after he began to give voice to public misgivings about Abdullah’s weak administration.
His attacks gripped Malaysians for months in 2005, but they soon wore thin — until the March election that saw the BN suffer heavy losses. His campaign to topple his successor gained unstoppable momentum, returning him to a position of influence. Dr Mahathir’s recent blog entry criticising the reach of vote-buying, or “money politics”, in UMNO was debated widely in UMNO circles.
His most recent acerbic comments on Najib’s alleged young advisers sparked even more talk. In a blog entry on Tuesday, he warned Najib not to repeat the mistake of cloistering himself with young advisers as Abdullah had, to the anger of UMNO.
Dr Mahathir named consultancy firm Ethos as the Deputy Premier’s adviser, and claimed that it also had links to Abdullah’s young advisers.
“They (Ethos) are interested in getting a portion of the EPF worth RM300 billion to manage its investments, apparently with returns of up to 40 per cent,” he wrote, referring to the Employees Provident Fund. The management of Ethos was quoted in The Edge business weekly recently about their interest in managing part of EPF investments. Najib has not responded.
Political observers believe that he will not marginalise the former premier, especially after seeing how Dr Mahathir’s constant sniping damaged Abdullah’s reputation.
“Najib will certainly prefer to have Dr Mahathir inside as an adviser rather than outside lobbing criticism at him,” said Ong.
This has led some people to predict a return of Mahathirism, suggesting a stronger hand on government than Abdullah’s looser style. But Najib’s supporters have denied this perception. “Najib is not a puppet, he will have his own way and will want to make his own mark,” said Agus.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir’s every move and word will continue to be watched, and his blog can expect to hit the 10 million mark very soon. — The Straits Times
|Fall in oil prices, Government must revise budget|
|Beh Lih Yi | October 29, 2008|
|Is there any immediate risk of the government running out of money?
This question is increasingly being raised as the government’s revenue estimation in Budget 2009 may be significantly affected by the plunge in global oil prices.
In Budget 2009, tabled on Aug 29 by then finance minister and premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the government had used US$125 per barrel as the benchmark to estimate the revenue it would earn from sales of crude oil.
However, global oil prices have since dropped by half – to about US$65 per barrel – and this is expected to adversely affect the government’s income as over 40 percent of the federal budget comes from state-owned oil company Petronas.
Economist Lim Teck Ghee, who is director of think-tank Centre for Policy Initiatives, said the government would run a “great risk” of running out of money if the global economic meltdown is prolonged.
“Government revenue will fall drastically if the recession continues for a few years. Not only would Budget 2009 have to be revised but the entire Ninth Malaysia Plan will have to be reviewed,” he told Malaysiakini.
Lim urged the finance minister to immediately revise the budget by taking into account the fall in oil revenue, which contributes close to half the national revenue.
The government’s basis for projected oil revenue in Budget 2009 appears to have been a misjudgement.
Unlike Malaysia, the world’s largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, had used oil prices of US$65 per barrel in planning next year’s budget.
Given the global economic slowdown, most economists do not expect oil prices to go beyond US$100 per barrel anytime soon.
‘Revise Budget figures’
Another economist, Dr Yeah Kim Leng, argued that it is crucial for the government to slash its spending as announced by Abdullah yesterday.
Abdullah said that all ministries would be required to put on hold all non-essential projects.
“It’s not an issue of running out of money. It’s either the fiscal deficit will increase or the government will have to reduce its spending and look for new resources,” the chief economist of rating agency Ram Holdings Bhd said when contacted.
“The impact will not be that great because the amount of the oil subsidy (the government pays) will be much less (when the world oil price drops) – there are some compensating elements,” he noted.
Citing the example of Abdullah’s decision to put on hold the RM1.7 billion Eurocopter deal, Yeah said it was essential for the government to cut down its expenditure.
He echoed Lim’s statement that the government should re-examine its spending in Budget 2009 or the fiscal deficit would balloon.
The opposition has called on the government to table a new budget to take into consideration the fall in oil prices and the global economic crisis.
Bapa saya menyertai perkhidmatan kerajaan pada tahun 1958, selepas tamat belajar di Universiti Malaya (waktu itu di Singapura). Selepas tiga dekad dan melalui empat orang Perdana Menteri dari Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj hinggalah Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad beliau bersara sebagai seorang pegawai kanan kerajaan. Apabila beliau bersara, Negara sedang melalui kemelut krisis kehakiman.
Sepanjang tempoh itu, bapa saya sering meluahkan bagaimana kakitangan kerajaan asalnya sebuah institusi yang cukup dihormati, bukan sahaja di negara kita malah di seluruh rantau Asean. Namun, ketika zaman Mahathir, kakitangan kerajaan semakin hilang kebebasan mereka dan ahli politik (khususnya Mahathir) menjadi semakin berpengaruh.
Selepas mengambil alih Kerajaan Negeri Selangor, saya menjadi bukan sahaja ADUN, tetapi juga Setiausaha Politik kepada Menteri Besar. Kini, saya dapat melihat sendiri secara dekat fenomena ini.
Pertama sekali, kita perlu mengucapkan penghargaan kita kepada majoriti besar kakitangan kerajaan yang dapat bekerjasama dengan baik dengan Pakatan Rakyat bagi membolehkan peralihan kuasa berlangsung walaupun ada masalah-masalah kecil.
Namun, apa yang tidak dapat dinafikan bagaimana institusi-institusi kerajaan di negeri Selangor, seperti di seluruh negara, tidak berada pada tahap memuaskan. Bermula dengan zaman Mahathir, parti politik mula mendominasi institusi-institusi kerajaan, dengan kuasa dipusatkan pada orang-orang politik. Menteri Besar akan menurunkan “pena sakti” di atas kertas-kertas cadangan projek pihak-pihak tertentu, dan jabatan-jabatan kerajaan akan melaksanakannya. Tiada “cost-benefit analysis”, pandangan-pandangan jabatan kerajaan tidak diendahkan dan prosedur-prosedur tidak dipatuhi. Pembahagian tugas antara ahli politik sebagai pembuat dasar dan kakitangan kerajaan sebagai pelaksana dasar sudah dicabuli.
Hasilnya, keputusan-keputusan tidak lagi dibuat untuk kebaikan rakyat dan negeri Selangor, tetapi untuk kepentingan ahli-ahli politik dan kroni-kroni mereka. Projek-projek dilaksanakan tidak semestinya kerana keperluan rakyat, tetapi untuk kepentingan politik. Kalau perlu pun projek tersebut, kosnya tidak kompetitif kerana dipilih bukan berasaskan kebolehan dan kos terendah.
Nasib baik, dalam musim pemilihan Umno tahun ini, mereka tidak lagi memegang tampuk Kerajaan Negeri Selangor. Kalau tidak, lebih banyaklah projek-projek yang akan dijalankan sebagai sebahagian daripada kempen merebut jawatan Umno memandangkan Selangor ini dilihat sebagai lubuk emas.
Ahli politik datang dan pergi, tetapi institusi kerajaan akan terus wujud. Institusi inilah yang akan memastikan Kerajaan Negeri berfungsi dengan baik untuk faedah rakyat Selangor. Institusi berfungsi sebagai “software” dalam pembangunan. Singapura, misalnya, membangun dengan pesat sehingga menjadi antara ekonomi terkaya di Asia dengan gabungan infrastruktur yang baik (hardware) dan institusi yang cemerlang.
Tetapi amalan BN hari ini menumpukan kepada “hardware” (kerana ada ruang memperkayakan kroni dan mengisi dana kempen) sedangkan “software” terabai. Penerima anugerah nobel ekonomi, Douglass North, menyifatkan pemerkasaan institusi sebagai kunci pembangunan ekonomi. Akibatnya, ekonomi Malaysia gagal bersaing dengan negara-negara seperti Korea, Taiwan dan Singapura yang dahulunya berada pada tahap sama dengan negara kita.
Pemerkasaan institusi akan membantu keputusan berasaskan kriteria, bukannya nafsu serakah ahli politik. Ia juga akan membebaskan potensi dan keupayaan kakitangan kerajaan bagi membangunkan negeri Selangor, bebas dari campurtangan orang politik. Sememangnya, reformasi ini memerlukan keazaman politik yang tinggi, memandangkan Pakatan Rakyat perlu mengawal nafsu untuk memusatkan kuasa kepada kita pula. Tetapi ini amatlah penting, sehingga akhirnya, kita akan lahirkan sistem yang tidak terlalu bergantung personaliti politik dan menjamin kepentingan rakyat terjaga.
Inilah cabaran terbesar Kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat. Sekiranya kita berjaya, kita akan wariskan Malaysia yang baik untuk anak-anak kita.
KUALA LUMPUR: In a vast office at the top of one of the world’s tallest buildings, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sits at a broad, glass-topped desk, scribbling his thoughts on a pad of unlined paper.
For 22 years Mahathir was the most powerful person in this land, and his thoughts were commands as he reshaped the country in his own grand image.
But he has become an irritant and a spoiler five years after stepping down, turning against his handpicked successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and he has fallen victim to the press controls he perfected as prime minister.
It is mainly a system of self-censorship in an atmosphere of pressure and intimidation that produces an obedient press and has seen the closure or banning of many publications. “Where is the press freedom?” he exclaimed two years ago, apparently surprised to be suddenly ignored. “Broadcast what I have to say! What I say is not even accurately published in the press!”
Earlier this year, like many other inconvenient critics, he joined what seems to be a political wave of the future, creating his own acerbic blog – http://www.chedet.com - an online journal where he vents in both English and Malay several times a week.
Around the region, bloggers like him are becoming a fifth estate, challenging the government’s monopoly on information in Singapore, evading censors in Vietnam and influencing events in places like Thailand, Cambodia and China.
In March, political experts say, Malaysia’s bloggers helped tip the balance, contributing to the biggest upset the governing party, the United Malays National Organization, had suffered since independence in 1957. For the first time in decades, it fell below two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, and it lost control of 5 of 13 states.
Two months after that, in May, Mahathir went digital, cutting and thrusting with elan.”It is time the so-called intellectuals realize they were being duped by the Master of Spin,” he wrote on Aug. 21, referring to his bitter enemy, Anwar Ibrahim, who was his deputy prime minister and now leads the opposition.
“The pious Muslim, who is also the bosom pal of Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-con Jew, the killer of Muslims,” he said, referring to the former U.S. deputy secretary of defense.
Blogging on September 3, he offered a sort of mission statement. Many people are with him as he harasses the government, he asserted. “But they are not prepared to say it openly. That was why I started my blog. About six million had visited my blog site and tens of thousands have commented and supported me.”
In case anyone doubts this, he posts the comments, by the dozens and hundreds, page after page, day after day. It turns out he has a lot of fans out there. “Amazingly brilliant!” reads one comment. “I can’t stop laughing… you made my day Sir!”
“HAHAHAHA …This is your BEST posting so far, my dear Tun!!” reads another, referring to Mahathir by an honorific.
“Dearest Tun,” reads another, “You are sooooo right.. spot on.. bulls eye..” And just to clear up any possible misunderstanding, another writes: “You, sir, are the most brilliant politician Malaysia has ever been blessed with.”
In the upheaval of the March election, several bloggers, following an opposite trajectory from that of Mahathir, used their online popularity to win seats in the national or state parliaments.The most prominent was Jeff Ooi, 52, a former advertising copywriter who was one of Malaysia’s first political bloggers, in 2003, at http://www.jeffooi.com.
“The government doesn’t have a clue how to handle bloggers,” he said in an interview. “If I were a dictator I would be despairing. What do you do against this?”
The government’s assault on Ooi – “very hostile,” he said – included threats of imprisonment without trial, attacks in the government-friendly press and defamation lawsuits, which are popular among leaders in Southeast Asia.
But that only seemed to make him a hero, and when he decided to run for Parliament with the opposition Democratic Action Party, he already had a big head start.
“As a person that has consistently faced threats as a blogger, I had a kind of iconism and imagery that this is someone you can trust, someone the government fears, someone you need to put into Parliament,” he said.
But he said it is much harder to blog from the inside. “The trade-off is that I have to write with measured words,” he said. “I am no longer my old self. I thought I had to take it to a higher level, and a lot of readers are getting disappointed. It isn’t the same blogger that they used to know.”
Earlier this year, Ooi said, he attended a public forum with Mahathir, and he claims that he is the one who persuaded the old war horse to get blogging. “I threw him a challenge,” Ooi said. “A blogger shares a few prerequisites. One, he is strongly opinionated. Two, he could be controversial. And, thirdly, he is an agent provocateur on issues.
“I thought Mahathir fulfilled all three.” The result, Ooi said, was “a miracle, he scored about 10 million visitors within months.”
Now, a convert to free speech, Mahathir is using his blog to champion the most recent victim of government censorship, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the country’s highest-profile blogger, who posts his slash-and-burn commentary on his site, http://www.malaysia-today.net. The site has been blocked, but readers are redirected to another address, which continues to be updated.
The government has fallen back on the kind of tactics that Ooi said it threatened against him, charging Raja Petra with sedition and locking him up for two years without trial for comments he has posted.
Mahathir, the country’s former strongman, sounded almost like Che Guevara when he said in his blog that the arrest showed “a degree of oppressive arrogance worthy of a totalitarian state.”
Furthermore, locking people up is futile, he said in an interview in his sky-high office. There is no way the government can arrest all the bloggers, even if it wants to. At least, he said, “I hope so. Otherwise I’ll be in, too.”
October 29, 2008
Anwar Ibrahim speaks to Bloomberg TV
|Kuek Ser Kuang Keng | October 29, 2008|
|International accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has begun auditing the controversial government ‘soft loan’ provided to Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), among other contentious issues.
Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairperson Lee Hwa Beng told Malaysiakini that a six-member team led by a PWC senior manager has been conducting the probe.
“Auditing started this month and is expected to be completed by year’s end. Whether or not the report will be made public will be decided by the transport minister,” he said.
He said the audit team has been given authority to interview all current and former staff-members as well as board members. Letters have been sent to all relevant parties and individuals involved in the probe.
“We hope everyone will cooperate with the auditors,” Lee said.
He also said the appointment of an international audit firm is to build confidence that the probe is being conducted by an independent entity.
On why auditing has been delayed – when an announcement on this had been made in May – he attributed it to procedural requirements.
“PKFZ engaged the services of PWC by direct appointment instead of calling an open tender, he said. As such, approval had to be subsequently sought from the Finance Ministry.
The audit exercise was announced by Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat, following a public outcry over a RM4.6 billion ‘soft loan’ given by the government.
Ong said details of repayment would be properly audited and disclosed at the appropriate time, to avoid any misconception of a government bailout.The project came to public attention after news reports raised issues linked to land acquisition and questioned if the project would become a ‘white elephant’.
PKFZ, owned by PKA, was conceptualised as a regional hub for export and transhipment of manufactured goods costing RM1.85 billion. But the cost rose to RM4.6 billion by the time the project was completed.
‘Business picking up’
On PKFZ’s performance, Lee claimed that business has picked up. Since May, proceeds from annual rental have doubled from RM7 million to RM15 million.
“Besides operating the port, our job is to get more tenants to occupy the industrial buildings in PKFZ,” he said.
Lee and new chief executive officer Lim Thean Shiang were appointed to the PKA in May.
Ong had entrusted Lee with appointing the auditor and to assist the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should the latter conduct a probe.
Lee, however, said there has not been any follow-up on the matter by the PAC since he took over the post.