Avoid Lying: New Year Resolution
Yes, my fellow Malaysians, you have done it. You truly deserve this Malaysiakini recognition as newsmaker of 2008. Congratulations, but let us not rest on our laurels.
Because of you, politics of our country can never be the same again. You have overcome fear of intimidation, marched with Anwar Ibrahim, Ustaz Haji Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang and their PR colleagues and BERSIH to our King’s Palace by the thousands despite threats of FRU brutality and chemical sprays to demand electoral reforms, participated in ISA vigils and helped Raja Petra, refused to accept the spin and empty promises of the Badawi administration and his UMNO-BN cronies, and voted against Barisan Nasional in the March 8 General Election. As Malaysiakini says, “you have all sent out the unequivocal message that you are no longer spectators, but movers and shakers of the nation”.
We can no longer be bystanders and allow politicians to act in defiance of the rule of law and we must continue our struggle for change and fight to free those ISA detainees who are still held in Hotel Kamunting and denied their right to have legal recourse. 2009 will be another critical year in our political history. We must take to the streets peacefully— if we have to– so that our concerns will be listened to and addressed by the government of the day.
As a blogger with the Raja Petra Group, I will walk with you in the name of justice and will write relentlessly on issues which are of our mutual concern. As a member of Parti KeADILan Rakyat, I will serve its cause for freedom, democracy and justice with renewed vigor.
Let us make 2009 a year where we can begin to transform our country into a liberal and democratic state where men and women are truly free to be what they want to and can be. We have the power to make our country a great and respected member of the international community.
Government should get out of our way; it must stop meddling into our daily lives. We are not a bunch of kids requiring nannies. We have shown the government that we can decide what is good for ourselves, families, friends and our country.
Mediocrity, racism, religious bigotry, corruption, and sheer incompetence must be things of the past.
Happy New Year, my Malaysian brothers and sisters. We have unfinished business to settle and we cannot afford to waste time. Welcome 2009 with confidence and together we will meet the challenges of slow economic growth, rising unemployment and inflation. Hidup dan majulah Malaysia.—Din Merican
And the Newsmaker of 2008 is…
|December 31, 2008|
The signs first surfaced late last year, but the intelligence reports, the alarming graphs and the ground readings were ignored.
Was it complacency or sheer arrogance that led the authorities to embark on a mission of vilification, arrests and charges in court?
The ‘shock and awe’ tactics did not work. Out of this, instead, grew the courage of convictions that was expressed in the outpouring of disgust which swept away decades of fear, differences and indifference.
For thinking the unthinkable and daring to achieve it, Malaysiakini proudly declares that its Newsmaker of the Year is…
We salute the silent majority which was sufficiently rankled to find its voice especially in cyberspace, a frontier which dissenters exploited to maximum benefit.
Blogs mushroomed – including that of the never-been silent former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He kept up a constant bombardment of successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his ambitious son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin and members of the Fourth Floor.
Ordinary people – as never before – huddled in desperate contemplation of a nation falling apart on the political, economic and social fronts.
They found unity in the diversity – everyone was pissed off but for different reasons, and there was no dearth of deep-seated, festering complaints:
The hammer-blows fell with telling accuracy on a ‘selfish, heartless, arrogant, ineffective, greedy and inconsiderate’ BN government led by the sleep-deprived Abdullah.
In January, a group of disgruntled young Malaysians even handed him a pillow and bolster, in recognition of his all-too-frequent ability to catch 40 winks in the middle of official business.
And still Abdullah was oblivious to the shift in sentiments – perhaps he believed a little too much in his pantang dicabar brand of governance and politics.
The final nail was supplied by Barisan Nasional component parties themselves, which imploded over a squabble for plum seats ahead of the general election on March 8.
All this while, the opposition front avoided pitfalls of the past and presented the public with a plausible alternative. Their veterans and newbies drew mammoth crowds to their ceramah nationwide, coaxing voters to shed inhibitions and embrace a ‘new dawn’.
The Year of the Rakyat
As with the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) in 2007, the general election of March 8, 2008 stamped the arrival of a new force in Malaysia.
In this, the Year of the Rakyat, Malaysians were shaken awake from deep slumber and kicked out of their comfort zone to make a conscious choice that, in turn, has shaken up the status quo.
YOU, the defiant, threw out the rotten, the corrupt and the inept in an election that was nothing short of inspiring.
YOU, the fearless, continued to press for reform and speak up against discrimination and injustice.
YOU, the marginalised, showed up with a six-year-old’s handwritten letters, teddy bears and roses to appeal to the better nature of those who have locked up husbands and fathers. When outlawed, you have refused to disappear.
YOU, the outraged, have turned up – some with young children – at weekly protests and candlelight vigils against the Internal Security Act, risking arrest in the process.
YOU, the supportive, wore T-shirts declaring ‘I’m with RPK’, paraded these before watchful eyes, and stood with blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin in his darkest moments of captivity.
YOU, the imaginative, gate-crashed the biggest party of the year – the UMNO ministers’ Hari Raya ‘open house’ – to take your message to the highest leaders of the land.
YOU, the brave, stood against bulldozers and barricades for days on end, resisting the demand to pay toll charges.
YOU, the indefatigable, cycled for 16 days from north and south to Kuala Lumpur, campaigning for attention to unresolved issues and impending concerns, in the face of police harassment to the last.
YOU have all sent out the unequivocal message that you are no longer spectators, but movers and shakers of the nation.
Yes, YOU are indeed worthy recipients of the Newsmaker of the Year award.
Report by Malaysiakini team.
What now, Malaysia?
|December 30, 2008|
How many shocks will it take for Barisan Nasional to realise that its days are numbered, unless it makes itself relevant to Malaysians?
Only true-blue supporters are waiting for the answer.
Others have already moved on to the ‘new dawn’ held out by Pakatan Rakyat in the five states that it has administered since the general election on March 8.
The year’s unresolved issues, therefore, revolve around the ‘what now’ of political transition on both sides of the divide. And whether the hitherto silent – from plebian to royalty – can keep politicians in line.
Here are 10 unsolved cases of 2008. This list is by no means complete. And don’t expect answers anytime soon.
Indian Malaysians any better off?
Riding high on its successful 30,000-strong people’s rally in Kuala Lumpur the previous November, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) started the year on a high despite the absence of five detained leaders and its chairperson who went into self-imposed exile.
The awakening of the Indian Malaysians and their Makkal Sakthi strategy had a direct impact on the results of the general election – they abandoned BN in droves. However, Hindraf is now outlawed, leaving supporters to mainly target the release of its leaders.
MIC became almost irrelevant – veteran president S Samy Vellu lost his Sungai Siput seat which he had held since 1974 and, consequently, his place in the cabinet. He is trying to keep its grip on the community by rebranding the party as a people-centric one.
Malaysiakini reported in July that two senior officials in government subsidiary Pempena Sdn Bhd were involved in scams that allegedly diverted millions of ringgit in tourism-development funds into private pockets.
It did not faze Tourism Minister Azalina Othman, who responded that internal auditors would probe allegations of corrupt practice in the company.
She was forced to reveal in Parliament that “some investments in the company are questionable”. A report released two weeks later revealed that the company had been making dubious investments that will have to be written off.
The report, though, was of limited value, failing to mention the RM10 million e-tourism portal.
The government also announced the purchase of 12 units of Eurocopter’s Cougar EC-725 choppers to replace the ageing fleet of Nuris at a cost that eventually settled at RM1.6 billion.
Mentari Services Sdn Bhd chairperson Capt (rtd) Zahar Hashim, the former UMNO Petaling Jaya Selatan division chief, exposed ‘irregularities’ in the deal and existence of a cheaper alternative.
The Public Accounts Committee jumped in to probe the matter. While it ruled out irregularities, it said there had been no physical examination of the goods – opposition MPs naturally demanded the release of the full report.
So far, all the government has done is to buy time by delaying the purchase until the economic situation permits it. The main questions posed by Zahar remain unanswered.
Royals check in
Better known for discretion in matters of politics and governance, the palace took active interest over the post-election appointment of the menteri besar in three states – Perlis, Perak and Terengganu.
A similar exercise of constitutional power was seen on Nov 26, when rulers of Selangor, Perak and Negri Sembilan expressed disapproval that the National Fatwa Council had issued a decree against yoga without consulting them in their capacity as heads of Islam.
Meanwhile, young royals chose to speak up on issues that their constituents were robustly debating.
Tengku Mahkota Kelantan Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra caused a stir with a speech on Malay unity and rights at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on April 12, leading to MCA president Ong Ka Ting and DAP chairperson Karpal Singh lodging police reports.
Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah addressed several conferences, including the annual Conference of Malaysian Judges on April 9. His views on good governance, Malaysian unity and judicial renaissance won him plaudits.
However, citizens have been less enamoured with a request for immunity from civil and criminal proceedings to be restored to the royalty. It had been withdrawn in 1993.
It is also becoming a norm for groups to petition the royalty to resolve their grievances. But there’s an old story about Pandora’s Box that they would do well to remember.
Controversies over Islamic matters made the headlines almost every month this year.
It started with another tussle over the body of an individual who was said to have died a Muslim. This time, his relatives were able to persuade the Federal Court of the invalidity of the claim.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stated the need to ensure that such tussles do not recur, saying that non-Muslims should inform family members before converting to Islam.
The religion came into the picture again when about 100 Muslim groups called for Islamic teachings and practices to figure prominently in the election agenda of political parties.
Later in the year, it was disclosed that PAS had flirted with nemesis Umno over possible collaboration for Malay-Muslim unity, until PAS leaders reiterated their commitment to the policies espoused by the opposition coalition.
It did not help Pakatan when leading PKR member, Kulim-Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin, figured prominently in protests against a forum on religious conversions organised in August by the Bar Council.
The controversies mounted, as Muslim students described the school uniform worn by girls as being too sexy and the National Fatwa Council banned the practice of yoga among Muslims.
There is nothing to suggest that religion will not continue to be used to divide and rule.
Battle to end ‘Malay supremacy’
The once-incontestable notion of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) came under siege after voters sent out a clearest demand yet for a ‘new Malaysia’.
On April 15, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim alleged that Malay supremacy is only advocated by Umno leaders to enrich the elite and that ketuanan Rakyat (People’s supremacy) is the way to go.
Many ordinary Malays accepted his point of view, which has become a rallying call for increasingly resentful non-Malays.
Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim agreed that the Malay supremacy concept has failed, and that an egalitarian form of democracy must be practised.
Kelantan Mentri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Abdul Mat pointed out that Islam is neutral and that Muslims who place nationalism and race ahead of religion are “disillusioned followers”.
Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon noted that the right term for the special position of the Malays is kedudukan istimewa as stipulated in Article 153 of the federal constitution.
Information Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek insisted that ketuanan Melayu did not imply a master-slave relationship, but refers to the institution of the Malay monarchy.
When MCA deputy president Dr Chua Soi Lek said the concept is no longer relevant, he was investigated under the Sedition Act 1948.
The debate is far from over.
For all his pledges of reform since November 2003, the premier delivered nothing at all to clean up the police force, return independence to the judiciary and add bite to the Anti-Corruption Agency.
This fed into the general election and unprecedented loss of faith in the premier, who will step down next March. Umno wanted him out earlier, but he wangled time to set key ‘reforms’ in place.
His two ‘reform’ Bills placed before Parliament were disappointing. The Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption Bill and Judicial Appointments Commission Bill revealed that the status quo will not change, but these were rushed through Parliament anyway.
In tandem with the Bills, proposals were tabled for a code of ethics for judges and for protection of witnesses.
Abdullah is due to re-table the watered-down Special Complaints Commission Bill in February but this is unlikely to be much more than another lame duck.
Premier-in-waiting Najib Abdul Razak will have a firm hand over the country’s most important institutions for accountability. What he will do with this is anybody’s guess.
No one expected the opposition parties to win big in the general election, least of all its own candidates. But it happened and parties in the ruling BN have been forced to see that they have to move with the times.
BN component parties realised quickly that UMNO had dragged them down, so they decided that they could no longer play second fiddle to the dominant party.
Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon and MCA deputy president Dr Chua Soi Lek have told UMNO to discard its ketuanan Melayu mindset, if it hopes to regain non-Malay support.
Even MIC, seen as the most docile in the coalition, has been critical of UMNO and urged it to change its stance, especially in regard to the predicament of Indian Malaysians.
There was a hurricane in the east – Sabah’s Sapp declared that it no longer had confidence in the BN and threatened to pull out of the coalition if the federal government did not heed its complaints – and withdraw it eventually did.
PPP then threatened to leave BN if the loathed Internal Security Act is not amended substantially by the next election. The response was, in effect, ‘expect no change, do as you like’.
MCA, at its annual assembly, demanded a second deputy premier’s post for its president to assist in expediting reform and to allow its representatives to head cabinet committees.
BN chairperson and premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has hinted at a scheme to allow supporters to become direct members of the coalition, without going through component parties. This is to respond to restlessness against race-based politics among those who see themselves as Malaysian first and last.
Whether BN can really walk its talk remains uncertain, as does the outcome of its special meeting in February since decisions will depend on consensus being reached.
Doomsday scenario for the economy
The year started optimistically enough. In January, the Sabah development corridor was launched to add to the regional projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
There was confidence that the economy would maintain its momentum, with some predicting that the second half of the year would “outshine” the first half, due to the high prices of palm oil and mineral oil.
Financial troubles, however, were brewing in Europe, Japan and the US. At the end of the first quarter, government-linked research group MIER forecast lower growth of 5.4 percent compared to 6 percent earlier.
By July, Bursa Malaysia’s composite index had registered the worst performance in the Asia-Pacific region. The government cut back on fuel subsidies and tabled a ‘stimulus package’ to the disgust of opposition parties, which came up with their notions of how the economy should be managed.
Bad news has kept coming in from all corners of the world, with no end in sight. It will take joint action to work out solutions.
But BN leaders have taken their eyes off administration since March, to secure their political future.
The momentary relief brought on by dropping world crude oil prices has yet to filter through to the sale of goods and services. As anxiety levels go up over bread-and-butter issues – and possibly high oil prices again, something will have to give…
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim must regret having marked Sept 16 as the date for opposition Pakatan Rakyat to take over Parliament and Putrajaya and making extravagant promises.
The day came and went without the promised change of federal government, amidst high anticipation among his supporters and panic in the BN ranks.
It all began a month after Pakatan’s powerful showing in the general election. Anwar capitalised on discontent among MPs in BN, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak who felt their loyalty had not been adequately rewarded.
With 82 federal seats in opposition hands, Anwar put about the claim that he had the support of at least 31 defectors to topple the government. BN retorted that Anwar was bluffing and resorting to sneaky tactics to destabillise the administration.
The mind-games and spin-doctoring continued into September 16. When the day passed, Anwar blamed various factors for the failure to make good his claims and has since repeatedly said he is in “no hurry” to take over.
To date, the only ‘defections’ have been two Sabah Progressive Party MPs who became Independents when their party left BN after a vote of no-confidence.
Worse still, Pakatan is expected to lose one of its MPs after a disgruntled S Manikavasagam, its representative for Kapar, vowed to quit the party and join the growing number of Independents by December 31.
With 2009 stretching before him, Anwar can have his pick of dates on the new calendar if he does not want to wait for the next polls due by 2013. There’s also that secret “list of defectors” to reveal, if it exists.
Testing times for UMNO and Najib
Ahead of the 12th general election, spray-painted messages in public places urged voters to choose ‘anyone but UMNO’. It was prompted by fury over the arrogance of the Malay-based party, with even its BN partners.
UMNO paid dearly for this in the polls, triggering an instant demand for accountability that led to the door of party president and premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He was told to go, despite his plan to hand over power to deputy Najib Abdul Razak in mid-2010.
The beleaguered Abdullah then brought forward his departure and also said he will not defend his post during the UMNO polls in March. Najib then won the presidency uncontested and, by convention, will become prime minister.
But the public finger-pointing by leaders and members has revealed serious fissures that have left the party’s future open to question. Both long-serving and younger leaders are impatient to step into slots being vacated – or which they feel should be vacated sooner rather than later.
A divided and unrepentant UMNO will see support being further eroded within and without BN.
All eyes are now on Najib and whether he will be able to pull off the party’s great escape – that is, if his lieutenants don’t turn against him.
Reports prepared by the Malaysiakini team.
Let Uncle Jay explain 2008 in America for you.
To dear friends Dato Ramish Chanda, Dr. Khoo Swee Joo, Joe Lopez, Ambassador John Malott and Mrs. Malott, Dr. Bakri Musa and Karen Musa, Dr Azly Rahman and Mutiara, Mr. Bean (The Prince from Kedah), Shrek and others living in the United States, I wish you all Happy New Year. May you continue in good health. Tough times ahead. But take comfort in the fact that tough times don’t last, only the tough and steadfast do.—Din Merican
Saudara dan Saudari sekalian,
Setiap kali tiba tahun baru, maka kita berkesempatan melakukan dua perkara: merenung kembali apa yang sudah kita usahakan sepanjang tahun yang bakal berlalu pergi serta menetapkan matlamat baru mahupun menjayakan apa yang belum kita capai.
Tahun 2008 merakamkan beberapa peristiwa bersejarah. Sekian lama kerajaan Barisan Nasional yang dipimpin UMNO tidak pernah digugat kedudukannya, namun tahun ini rakyat membuktikan perubahan tidak pernah mustahil untuk dilaksanakan. Nuansa politik perkauman yang dipantal bersama ketakutan ditolak rakyat.
Pilihanraya Umum ke 12 menyaksikan kerusi milik pembangkang bertambah dan menafikan Barisan Nasional majoriti 2/3. Harapan rakyat begitu besar, perubahan mesti dilakukan, makanya hasil dari persetujuan dan permuafakatan ketiga-tiga parti, PAS, DAP dan Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) melahirkan Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Sepanjang tahun ini tidak dapat dinafikan pelbagai cabaran yang datang untuk menggugat permuafakatan ini.
Hasrat Barisan Nasional untuk melihat kehancuan Pakatan Rakyat nampaknya menemui jalan buntu. Mereka lupa, asas kepada permuafakatan ini berpasak kuat dari cita-cita memperjuangkan agenda rakyat dan melakukan perubahan mendasar. Perubahan adalah tuntutan melewati sempadan kaum dan politik kepartian.
Negara kita berdepan dengan kedudukan ekonomi sejagat yang tidak menentu. Kesannya kepada rakyat semakin terasa. Kadar inflasi yang tinggi menyebabkan harga barang melonjak naik. Krisis keyakinan terhadap institusi keselamatan dalam negera juga terhadap siste, kehakiman ternyata tidak membanti menarik pelaburan bagi menjana eknomi negara. Kita tidak boleh lagi berada dalam keadaan penafian (state of denial). Kepimpinan yang menggalas beban pastinya menghakis kepercayaan rakyat. Pengurusan ekonomi memerlukan kepimpinan yang berpandangan jauh, tegas dan jujur.
Sering saya ulangi, negara ini dan rakyatnya yang berbilang kaum sudah mengharungi pelbagai rintangan bersama. Kita yakin dengan berlakunya perubahan, dan bila negara ini mula berada di haluan yang tepat, maka sekali lagi kita akan dapat melepasi cabaran ini.
Kami ingin mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan Selamat Tahun Baru 2009 kepada semua rakyat Malaysia.
Ubah sebelum parah, ubah demi maruah.
Selamat Tahun Baru 2009
ANWAR IBRAHIM & DR WAN AZIZAH WAN ISMAIL
Pak Lah, how would you like to be remembered? As the man who abandoned the nation in its hour of need or as the man who stayed and fought and who completed the job?
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Prime Minister’s Office
Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
Dear Pak Lah,
First of all, allow me to address you as Pak Lah, as you prefer your friends to address you. I may not be your friend in the real sense of the word — seeing that I am bent on cutting UMNO and Barisan Nasional down to size, plus your government has detained me under the Internal Security Act and is still trying to appeal the court’s decision to free me so that I can be sent back to Kamunting, not to mention the four criminal charges I still face which, if I am found guilty, can result in a total of more than ten years in jail if the sentences were to run consecutively.
Nevertheless, this open letter is not about me. It is about the future of this country. And my opposition to UMNO and Barisan Nasional is exactly that, about the future of this country, nothing more and nothing less. My aspiration is to finally see the emergence of a two-party system where no one party has a hegemony that has been the political landscape of this country for half a century since Merdeka.
I regard you not as the Prime Minister of UMNO, like how the UMNO members seem to think, but my Prime Minister as well. Maybe the UMNO members have forgotten that you are the Prime Minister of all 26 million Malaysians and not just of the 16 million Malays, or worse, the three million UMNO members. This is why I take it upon myself to write you this open letter seeing that you are my Prime Minister as well.
I know this may sound puzzling. Why do I still write to you and regard you as my Prime Minister when I oppose you so violently? Well, I also opposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he was Prime Minister for 22 years, plus Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he was number two to Mahathir. This is no secret and is, in fact, well documented. Under Mahathir I was also detained under the Internal Security Act plus taken in by the police a couple of times. But ever since Mahathir retired I treat him as a friend and did not carry any grudges about our past animosity. I would go so far as to say that I treat Mahathir with the respect due to an elder statesman and one-time Prime Minister of this country — hand kissing included.
Political maturity means we must be able to set aside our personal differences for the greater good of the nation. And we must be able to agree to disagree in a respectful and civil manner. This is what education means and going to school does not mean you have received an education. It just means you went to school. Education is about what you become after you leave school. And I would like to believe that I did not just go to school but received an education as well.
Pak Lah, your paternal grandfather, Syeikh Abdullah Badawi Fahim, was one of the founding fathers of PAS. This means PAS exists today because of your family. And the fact that Syeikh Abdullah went on to become the first Mufti of Penang is no small achievement. This proves your grandfather was able to set aside his political differences and serve the government he opposed for the sake of Islam and the nation. Today, how many are able to do this?
By the way, your grandfather served under my grandfather, Raja Sir Tun Uda, the Governor then, and Datin Seri Endon Mahmood’s family was close to my family even before you married her. So, in that sense, we are ‘family friends’, although political adversaries, and maybe you should be my Abang Lah rather than Pak Lah.
Your maternal grandfather, Ha Su-chiang, was a Chinese Muslim from Hainan. Your late wife, Endon, is said to have Japanese blood while your current wife, Dato’ Seri Jeanne Danker a.k.a Jeanne Abdullah, is of Portuguese descent. Have we ever had such a multi-cultural Prime Minister before this (notwithstanding the four Prime Ministers before you were also not ‘pure’ Malays, if we really want to get technical)?
I feel your family background is unique and can serve as the best example of what a multi-cultural Malaysia should look like. If I had my own way I would ban same-race marriages. Malaysia should pass a law that you must marry outside your race and not marry someone from your own race. Anyway, that would certainly not be realistic and is just my wishful thinking.
If there is something Malaysia really needs is an end to racism. What is currently happening is alarming. What’s with these demonstrations by the ultra-Malays protesting the non-Malays questioning ‘Malay rights and privileges’? Are these Malays trying to push Malaysia to the brink of race riots like what we saw in May 1969? Have they forgotten the concept of freedom of opinion? Are they implying that only Malays have the right to speak and all others must shut up?
Pak Lah, you must no longer keep quiet. You must call for an end to all this racist rhetoric before the fire burns out of control. Have you forgotten that you too have Chinese blood and that the non-Malays are as Malaysian as you and me? Malaysians, Malays or otherwise, have equal rights and this means the right to speak their mind, without fear or favour.
Anyway, back to the purpose of this letter. I am of the opinion that you should not retire in March 2009 as you had planned to do so. When you made that decision to retire, Malaysia had yet to face a severe recession, which we can’t deny is going to hit our shores like a Tsunami and earthquake both rolled into one in the months to come. Since you made that announcement to retire, the situation has changed so drastically that it may be prudent for you to reconsider your earlier decision.
Pak Lah, how would you like to be remembered? As the man who abandoned the nation in its hour of need or as the man who stood and fought and who completed the job? A captain is never the first to abandon ship. He must be the one who leaves last and goes down with the ship if need be. That is the mark of a good captain and is what you should also strive to be.
The recession is not your fault. It is a global thing and Malaysia is merely a victim of circumstances. But it will be your fault if you do nothing to address the impending doom. There are times we can’t avoid crashing. But the captain should not keep the passengers in ignorance while he seeks the safety of retirement. You, Pak Lah, can afford to retire. You have the financial means to do so. But I can’t say the same for the rest of the 26 million Malaysians who are surviving from hand to mouth.
You have never been to jail, Pak Lah, not even to a police lockup. I have, more than once, and the reality of the suffering of this nation is very prominent behind the high walls of a prison. Do you know that prison warders and policemen earn less than RM1,000 a month? How do they survive? How will they survive in three month’s time when their Ringgit will be worth less than half the value today? And I am not yet even touching on the life of the most unfortunate prisoners who are in prison because they had to steal just to fill their bellies that had not seen food for days.
You will probably be jet-setting around the world by the time all hell breaks loose next year. The rest of us, however, will be forced to stay back in Malaysia, pondering on where our next meal will be coming from. And many will be forced by circumstances to resort to a life of crime just to stay alive. And Malaysians will remember and curse you, the Prime Minister who abandoned them and retired to an easy life while they tighten their belts to ward off hunger or go steal from their neighbours if they can’t stand the pangs of hunger.
It is time politics is set aside for the good of the nation. You need to bring in to your government people who know what to do in times like these. Your Finance Minister said that Malaysia is not facing a recession and never will. This is like a pilot telling his passengers that all is well while he slowly creeps to the back of the plane with a parachute strapped to his back. Come on, Pak Lah, the country is sliding down a slippery slope. Please tell the people this and ask them to brace for the crash. And, at the same time, get the government to do something about it and not keep announcing good news to lull everyone into complacency.
It is your patriotic duty to stay and fight the recession, not to abandon ship. But you can’t do it alone. And the nincompoops you have in government can’t do it either. If you are not prepared to ask the opposition for help by forming a ‘unity government’, at the very least bring in people from outside UMNO to do the job like how Singapore normally does. Why do you think Singapore is much better run and its Dollar is stronger than the Ringgit? Singapore doesn’t care if you are a PAP member or not. They bring in the best brains for the job even if you are not a ruling party member.
The people you have in government are archaic and outdated. They are goods with an expired shelf life. And the only reason they are in government is because they are UMNO warlords. This must end. We need to see some meritocracy. People must be given the job because they are capable and not because they are UMNO gangsters who can rouse 10,000 people and get them to march on the streets. That would be the only way to save this country when the Tsunami cum earthquake hits our shores around the time you want to leave in March 2009.
Barisan Nasional won the election on 8 March 2008 because you are the Prime Minister. If you had announced, before 8 March 2008, that you would be retiring a year later and would be handing the country to your Deputy, then the results would have been very different. Barisan Nasional would have been kicked out and, today, Pakatan Rakyat would be running this country. You would be betraying the voters by leaving in March 2009 when they gave you the mandate to rule till midnight of 7 March 2013.
If you want to leave then dissolve Parliament in February 2009 and call for fresh elections in March 2009. Let the voters decide if they really want Najib Tun Razak as their Prime Minister. This is the right of all Malaysians. Who are you to choose the Prime Minister on our behalf?
Mahathir retired on 31 October 2003 and handed the country over to you on 1 November 2003 — just before the election, which should have been called by November 2004. He gave you one year to get a fresh mandate from the voters. And you held the elections five months later where you received your mandate, the best ever in the history of Malaysian elections. Then you obtained a fresh mandate in March 2008 and, one year into your second term, you leave without consulting the voters as to whether they agree to the change in Prime Minister or not.
If you want to leave, then either hold fresh elections first, or else wait one year before the next election, say sometime in 2012, and then call for elections a few months after that. This way the people can decide whom they want as Prime Minister. The way it is done now is like the people were tricked into voting for one Prime Minister and suddenly discovers they are getting someone else they never chose. As I said, it is not up to you who becomes the Prime Minister. It is up to the voters. And the voters chose you, not Najib.
You can retire as the UMNO President. That is your prerogative and is an internal UMNO matter. But you need not also retire as Prime Minister even if you are no longer the UMNO President. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia does not stipulate that the Prime Minister must also be the UMNO President.
Article 4 (1) of the Constitution says: This Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
This means the Constitution takes priority and precedence over all other matters, such as what UMNO desires. UMNO does not appoint the Prime Minister. The Agong does. And the Agong appointed you and not someone else as Prime Minister. Who are you, therefore, to decide who becomes Prime Minister? Are you above the Agong? On this matter Article 40 of the Constitution says as follows:
2) The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions, that is to say:
(a) The appointment of a Prime Minister;
(b) The withholding of consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament;
This means it is not up to you whether to dissolve Parliament and whether to appoint a new Prime Minister. You can only request this but the matter is entirely up to the Agong. So you need to first consult the Agong and see whether His Majesty is okay with your idea or not. And if the Agong says, “Beta tak pekenan”, then you go back to your home in Putrajaya and continue running this country until, the latest, midnight of 7 March 2013.
Most people have had enough with UMNO throwing its weight around to the point of even ignoring the powers of the Rulers. We need you to restore the independence of the four branches of government that we used to have up to 20 years ago — the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Monarchy. That should be your first task and you should stay until you get that done.
Next, we need to reform both the general election system as well as the UMNO party elections. The gerrymandering is ridiculous. How can an ‘UMNO’ seat be just 5,000 voters while an ‘opposition’ seat is as high as 120,000 voters? If the gerrymandering is eliminated and the variation between seats is not more than 15%, like how the Reid Commission recommended, then the opposition would not need to garner 60% of the votes to form the federal government. Even back in May 1969, when the gerrymandering was not yet that bad, the opposition garnered 55% of the votes and was still not able to form the federal government.
The 58 nominations to qualify to contest the UMNO Presidency and Deputy Presidency is another ridiculous ruling, which makes a mockery of democratic elections. And we are yet to touch on the corruption in Umno, which has erroneously been called ‘money politics’. Even the UMNO Disciplinary Board is sighing and lamenting and is saying that UMNO is in its death throes all because of corruption. UMNO is on self-destruct mode and no one dare deny that.
You see, we from the civil society movements do not want to see UMNO dead and buried, as what the opposition would like to see. What we want to see instead is an UMNO minus its arrogance and high-handedness and a strong opposition in Parliament and the State Assemblies. Who that ruling party may be and who is the opposition is not of too much concern to most of us, as long as they are almost equally matched and both respect the wishes of the voters. Currently, the ruling party that you lead has no respect for the voters and treats the voters with contempt. You insult the intelligence of the voters and think that we are all fools. And we are worried that your anointed successor will be even worse.
Sure, you are not the best Prime Minister we ever had, that I do not deny. But you are also not the worst. And we believe it can get worse if you hand the reins over to Najib. Let’s not pretend that Najib does not have any baggage with the many allegations of corruption made against him and that huge question mark of the Altantuya murder hanging over his head, which has yet to be satisfactorily settled.
It is not that we want you so much. It is more that we don’t want Najib. And we resent the fact that you are deciding on our behalf that Najib is going to be our Prime Minister. Let the voters decide this in 2012 or 2013 during the next general election. If the voters still give Barisan Nasional the government, knowing that Najib will be taking over soon after that, then I rest my case. If that is the voters’ choice then I have no quarrel with that. But, as it stands now, the voters voted on 8 March 2008 on the basis that you, and not Najib, would be the Prime Minister.
I think I have already rambled on far too long and maybe I should stop here. Anyway, my friends don’t call me ‘cheong hei’ for nothing, so forgive my long-windedness. I hope you will seriously consider what I have said. This is not just my personal opinion. This is the feeling of most Malaysians.
I would like to end my open letter by wishing you a Happy New Year and hope that, next year, when I again write to you on New Year’s Eve, it will be still as Prime Minister and not as ex-Prime Minister.
Raja Petra Al Haj Bin Raja Kamarudin
Bukit Rahman Putra
30 December 2008
In the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election, PAS, PKR, DAP, PRM, MDP, PASOK and PSM endorsed the People’s Declaration or Deklarasi Rakyat, which was launched by the civil society movements at the Blog House in Bukit Damansara in Kuala Lumpur.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
The title of my piece today is ‘borrowed’ from the book, ‘Opening the door to your heart’, by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk. In the first chapter of the book, called ‘Two bad bricks’, Ajahn talks about how he built his first wall. It is very difficult, of course, for one with no bricklaying experience, Ajahn lamented, and he challenged the readers to try building one. Nevertheless, he finally completed the wall and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
To his horror he noticed that two of the bricks were crooked and he felt these two ‘bad bricks’ spoiled the appearance of the wall. He then asked the abbot for permission to tear the wall down and to start all over again. The abbot, however, told him to leave it as it is. Since then Ajahn felt ashamed of his shoddy workmanship.
One day, a visitor visited their monastery and expressed admiration for how the monks had built it from scratch with their own hands and without any outside expert help. Ajahn pointed out that the monastery was actually far from perfect because one of the walls had two bad bricks. The visitor replied that he did not notice it because all he saw was the 998 good bricks, not the two bad ones.
It suddenly dawned upon Ajahn that all this while he was upset about the two bad bricks without noticing the 998 good ones. And to think he actually wanted to tear the wall down because of these two bad bricks while not realising he would be destroying 998 good bricks in the process.
Yes, many see half a glass of water as being half empty rather than half full. And that is also how we see people and situations. We only notice and become concerned about the two bad bricks while totally overlooking the 998 good ones.
And how do we see PAS (the Islamic Party of Malaysia)? Do we see it for the blunder that Husam Musa made during his recent debate with Khairy Jamaluddin or do we see the 998 good bricks in PAS? Husam blundered big time with his retort on Hudud — thanks to the very clever Khairy who trapped Husam into a corner that resulted in the latter blurting out without thinking. Not only was Husam wrong in saying that Pakatan Rakyat has not dropped the Hudud issue, when it is PAS and not Pakatan Rakyat that is propagating Hudud, but he was also wrong in not repeating what he had said so many times in the past on the matter of Hudud and the Islamic State.
And what was it that Husam and many of the other PAS leaders said so many times in the past? They had said that while the Islamic State is still very much the ideal of the party, PAS, however, is prepared to drop it from their agenda as they realise they will never have the two-thirds majority in parliament to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State.
PAS is pragmatic. Without a doubt they are an Islamic party, so they can’t but talk about Islam. This must be expected just like how the Christian Democrats would never stop talking about Christianity or a Hindu party stop talking about Hinduism. But turning Malaysia into an Islamic State would be a tall order if you do not have at least 150 seats in Parliament. And, as has been pointed out many times in the past, how to get 150 seats when PAS contests only 60 seats and wins not even half those seats?
In other words, I would like to do it but will not because I just can’t do it. I suppose the same goes for many Muslims who would like to marry a second wife but will not because there is no way they can marry a second wife without their first wife skinning them alive — and we are not talking about foreskin here. Wanting it in your heart but actually doing something about it is a separate matter altogether.
So, PAS has two bad bricks, maybe even ten. But there are one million PAS members, grassroots leaders and national leaders. Are we going to judge and sentence PAS because of two bad bricks, or even ten? Are we going to tear the wall down because of two bad bricks? What about the 998 good bricks, the one million other PAS members and leaders? Do these count for nothing?
Let us look at just some of the 998 ‘good bricks’ in PAS.
In 1990, when PAS first formed the government in Kelantan together with Semangat 46, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the Menteri Besar, summoned the Hindus for a meeting and offered them permission to build a temple in the state. The Hindus were delightfully surprised. For more than a decade they had tried to get the Umno government to approve their request to build a temple but with little success. Suddenly, even before Nik Aziz could warm his seat, he summoned the Hindus for a meeting to grant them permission to build a temple — even though they had not approached the new state government to ask for it.
In the past, pigs could not be slaughtered in ‘Umno’ Kelantan and pork had to be brought in from the other states. Now, under the new PAS-led government, the Chinese can slaughter pigs in the state.
Yesterday, the Umno-backed Malay NGOs sent PAS a petition protesting the slaughter of pigs in ‘Umno’ Melaka. Hello, why protest to PAS about what is going on in an ‘Umno’ state? And why does the PAS Youth Movement not also send a petition to Nik Aziz to protest the slaughtering of pigs in Kelantan since PAS is supposed to be more radical and intolerant than Umno?
Liquor and beer can still be purchased and consumed in Kelantan, contrary to what is being reported. (The same thing happened in Terengganu when PAS ruled the state from 1999 to 2004. Liquor and beer were not banned). Furthermore, the Chinese can now do business without any hindrance and they no longer need to pay bribes to get things done or approved like in the days of ‘Umno’ Kelantan.
And so on and so forth, the list goes on.
These are but some of the ‘happy stories’ that people relate and there are certainly many, many more. But people do not want to look at the 998 good bricks. They would rather focus on the two bad ones and keep harping on them till the cows come home.
Can we look at PAS’s 998 good bricks and then compare the party to Umno with its so many bad bricks? Sure, Umno does have some good bricks. The party is not 100% bad. But the Umno bad bricks far outnumber its good bricks and you need to use a fine toothcomb to look for these good bricks.
It appears like Hudud is the main and only issue for most to reject PAS. Actually, Hudud is not even an issue any longer. It was a stupid slip that Husam made and which the mainstream media is going to town with. But is life only and all about Hudud, a law which can never be implemented anyway? Surely there is more to life than just Hudud.
What about good governance, transparency, the independence of the judiciary, restoration of the rights of Malaysians, plus an end to corruption, racism, abuse of power, wastage of public funds, and much more? Are these no longer important? Do these 998 good bricks become irrelevant because of the two bad bricks, which were not really that bad in the first place but was a mere perception issue?
In the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election, PAS, PKR, DAP, PRM, MDP, PASOK and PSM endorsed the People’s Declaration or Deklarasi Rakyat, which was launched by the civil society movements at the Blog House in Bukit Damansara in Kuala Lumpur. These are the 998 good bricks that we should focus on. These 998 good bricks overshadow the two bad bricks — the blunder Husam made in his debate with Khairy.
Maybe during the Kuala Terengganu by-election campaign PAS should reiterate its stand and reinforce its support for the People’s Declaration. Let the voters, in particular the Chinese, Indians and liberal Malays, see that PAS is committed to reforms and to the propagation of a civil society (masyarakat madani). PAS needs a makeover. It is suffering from a serious image problem. And it is a victim of mainstream media propaganda. PAS needs to correct public perception about what it stands for.
I challenge PAS to prove its critics wrong. Re-endorse the People’s Declaration and prove, once and for all, that a civil society and not the cutting off the hands of thieves is the priority of the party. In response to the move by PAS to, again, endorse the People’s Declaration, the civil society movements, even those whom PAS labels as ‘deviant Muslims’, will go down to the ground to explain the issue to the voters. This, we promise PAS.
I can assure you of one thing. Even those who are not Muslims plus those, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who are opposed to the setting up of an Islamic State and Hudud will be campaigning for PAS in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Re-endorse the People’s Declaration and see whether this happens or not.
December 30, 2008
by Din Merican
Yes, friends of mine have called to ask what is going on in Parti KeADILan Rakyat. They have long lost faith in the worth of reading and watching the mainstream media. Last night I watched TV3 Prime News which made fun of Anwar Ibrahim’s 916 takeover of the Federal Government with a clip of lame duck Prime Minister Badawi’s comments on the matter.
Yet, the morning papers, The Star and Utusan Malaysia especially, are addictive as nicotine and though they may have little faith in their credibility, my friends still read them. Hence they cannot avoid the hype given to the alleged turbulence in PKR Selangor and by extension Pakatan Rakyat Selangor, particularly in The Star. And they cannot resist yielding to the temptation to ask people whom they think ought to know what is going on.
Some are probably put off by my nonchalance about the whole thing. A few are not amused when I contend that it is a crisis in subprime issues. From some time last year, we began hearing the phrase “crisis in subprime loans” in connection with the plague of bad loans meted out to weak borrowers in the US housing market. We now know that this plague, together with inflated stock prices, has triggered a concatenation that has ramified into a crisis of Great Depression (1929-31)-like proportions in the United States, the world’s biggest economy. Thus “sub prime” became part of the lexicon of economic and political pundits. For a fuller treatment of this crisis, please read Nobel Laureate in Economics 2008 Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.
Allow me to make one thing clear: I do not deprecate the troubles we have in PKR Selangor and PR Selangor by borrowing the word “subprime” to describe the issues whose inflammation, aided and abetted by a hostile mainstream media, has led to a war of words between some PKR and PR interlocutors in Selangor. But these issues –alleged tardiness by the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in reacting sympathetically to storm victims, culpable municipal dismantling of a Hindu temple, relocation of a bus-cum-taxi terminal from one part to another part of Klang — are local issues, not questions of national significance.
Am I being frivolous? Am I nonchatantly playing down issues that may be small but which can serve as a microcosm of how PKR leaders deal with matters that test their mettle to govern such that if they fluff these tests, they will flunk the bigger challenges to their capacity for effective and farsighted governance? I think not.
We in PKR know that local issues are important. We must be solicitous about them and their impact on the ordinary citizen. We must handle local issues with care, or risk alienating the common person who collectively in a democratic system of government holds the reins of power in our country.
Having said that, I hold that I am not being academic when I claim that the core of many of the issues whose alleged mishandling has riled a couple of Selangor PR representatives can be put down as simply one of trade-offs: how much you will give up of a good thing A to realise how much of a good thing B.
It is an intellectual-cum-imaginative exercise, a way of looking at issues and choices in a multi-angled manner, one that recognises that in public policy, even with respect to local issues, there are few completely self-contained situations. When such an approach is taken, you develop a give-and-take attitude that garners satisfaction from the fact that what you lose on the roundabouts, you may gain on the straights. This tack keeps you flexible, agile,focussed and poised to sweep the advantages that accrue to a patiently and intelligently constructed position.
I hold that this is the attitude of a good people’s representative. Such a person rejoices in compromise, is patient when baulked or stalled,and is preservering in his long term aims that have the common good at heart. Such a representative eschews ultimatums, is well honed in persuasion skills, and seeks to make adversaries his friends.
Happy New Year and All the best. May Almighty God protect our country, you and I, our families and friends.
Rumblings against Khalid
|Stanley Koh | December 29, 2008|
By governing standards, some may agree that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition rule in Selangor is still on a learning curve since the political
tsunami on March 8 when the opposition parties of PKR, DAP and PAS snatched control of five states from the Barisan Nasional.
But that should not be cause for much comfort as lately, leadership fissures and cracks are appearing in the Pakatan rule in Selangor.
Recent squabbling through the media among various Pakatan leaders in Selangor and a PKR state leader threatening to resign has prompted the party’s deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali to call for an urgent political bureau meeting next week to resolve the related issues.
“I urge various leaders in Pakatan to stop taking their differences and conflicts to the media,” Syed Husin (left), who is also PKR disciplinary board chairperson, said in a statement issued to the press recently.
Principally involving certain Selangor PKR and DAP state leaders over local issues which have been widely reported, some PKR sources diagnosing the latest ‘leadership ailment’ in Selangor seem to agree that the tiffs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Some sources within PKR reason that strong political leadership at the top level in Selangor would have prevented some of the ‘hiccups’ from currently taking place.
A high party source confirms the PKR grassroots leaders in Selangor are blaming Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s lack of political acumen in resolving the on-going Klang Sentral Terminal issue together with other matters which have snowballed into the PKR’s Kapar Member of Parliament S Manikavasagam threatening to resign.
The latest episodes seem to highlight the gathering momentum of dissatisfaction against Khalid’s role and performance as the menteri besar of Selangor.
These frustrations and disillusionment within PKR ranks are also likely to be raised at a party supreme council meeting slated for the middle of next month.
“For a start, there is this perception that Selangor under PKR leadership is just not moving ahead compared to other states under Pakatan leadership,” a PKR insider who declined to be named, said.
Blamed even for meritocracy
“Certainly, Selangor has not come out with any development plans or vision except for ad hoc projects. Besides the obsession with free water, the review of certain land dealings and a proposal for a pig-framing area, the menteri besar is perceived to be lacking in political will or is simply showing apathy in attempting to rejuvenate Selangor-state-owned companies.
“He should remove the deadwood in the 100 state-owned companies including incumbent board members who have failed to perform.
“The lack of strategic economic initiatives and a lack of a clearly-defined blueprint for Selangor is just one of the many fundamental weaknesses of the PKR leadership under Khalid,” the source said.
Malaysiakini, however, learnt that an economic and social development blueprint for Selangor was in fact drawn up as early as May this year but for unknown reasons was neither implemented nor officially announced.
Despite these grouses directed at Khalid, the MB has also won some favourable reviews in comparison to his BN predecessor. DAP’s MP for Petaling Utara Tony Pua reasoned that Khalid’s unpopularity within his party stemmed from the fact that the Selangor menteri besar has refused to play political patronage.
In fact, one of the major criticisms directed at Khalid (right) was his refusal to give ample opportunities for loyal PKR supporters (on the basis of meritocracy and not cronyism) to partake in development activities in the state.
“Hence, certain quarters view Khalid as more of a corporate leader rather than a shrewd politician but there is nothing wrong with this,” Pua reasoned.
“Under his leadership, there are more people-oriented community projects like the ‘Warga Emas’ (insurance for elderly) and more education scholarships for children from poor families,” said the DAP leader.
Brushing aside complaints against Khalid’s leadership, Pua added, “The bulk of the opposition leaders do not understand business management. The transition from street protests to understanding the operation of businesses is a big jump’.
Pua also argued that Khalid has been singled out for criticism compared to other Pakatan chiefs in the smaller or lesser developed states. This was because Selangor was one of the biggest industrial or money-spinning states.
“Hence, the expectation from him (Khalid) to perform is so much higher,” Pua concluded.
Determination to move forward
Criticisms against Khalid from within his party’s rank-and-file have nevertheless been gathering momentum. As one PKR insider recently confided, “Patience for Khalid is really running thin”.
According to the source, time is running out with renewed speculation of a possible snap polls in the third quarter of next year following a changeover in the UMNO leadership. PKR is understandably jittery over poor performance and undelivered electoral promises.
One of the complaints directed against Khalid was his lack of political will to implement a declaration of assets by all Selangor state executive councillors. A disillusioned PKR party supporter said, “The excuse he (Khalid) gave, something about security reasons, is unacceptable.”
“There is definitely a consensus within the party ranks that Selangor must be governed well and Khalid’s performance will inevitably reflect upon PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“Some are already saying that Anwar’s leadership is on the line. If he (Anwar) cannot govern Selangor well, how is he going to govern the whole country?” he added.
Another DAP leader supportive of Khalid’s leadership was Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (left) who said that sometimes it was not fair to push the blame to the Selangor menteri besar.
“Tackling the (Selangor) state bureaucrats who for decades have been under BN rule is not an easy task. Some welcome changes while others resist the changes and are not as cooperative,” she said.
Some top PKR officials are facing pressure from the public as well as from within the party that Selangor under Pakatan rule must dynamically move forward with or without Khalid at the helm of the state leadership.
This determination is not likely to go unnoticed in the months ahead.
“Election campaign promises must be kept. There must be a speedy implementation of environmental ‘green’ zones and an economic blueprint with a vision before the next general election,” a party source said.
“Otherwise, we in the PKR leadership in Selangor will merely be a trespassers before BN takes back Selangor,” said a PKR leader who in the same breath said that he hoped his prophecy would not come true.
|December 29, 2008|
Groundbreaking change does not happen overnight, at least not in Malaysia where it takes a special blend of circumstances to rouse people to fury.
That process started late last year and spilled over into this year. From then, it was only a matter of time until pent-up frustration burst. And it did.
History was made, but it did not stop there. It has been an exhilarating and inspiring year – it will be a long time before anyone climbs down from the emotional high.
Counting down, we take you through the best and the worst of 2008.
Breaking down barriers
It started off as a lonely crusade by residents against a highway concessionaire, but ended up in a power tussle at the very top that has ended relatively happily-ever-after.
Flashback to 2005 when determined residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras began their stand-off against an unwavering Grand Saga Sdn Bhd.
The company built a concrete barrier across an access road to a new highway. Residents were forced to take a longer route out of their housing estate and through traffic jams – incidentally via the toll booths – to get to the highway.
Forming an action committee, they filed a suit against the company. To get their point across, no fewer than 18 protests were held at the site of the barricade, drawing the police to ‘dispersal duty’ including arrests.
The ding-dong situation came to a head after the March 8 general election. The change of government in Selangor to one under Pakatan Rakyat was the ray of light the residents needed.
Documents showed that the barricade was on state land, so officials ordered that it be dismantled. Residents tore it down with alacrity on April 21, only for Grand Saga to rebuild it two weeks later, under the supervision of some 200 police personnel.
Clashes ensued, the worst of which occurred on May 27 when more than 10 people were seriously injured. Technician Chang Jiun Haur alleged he was repeatedly beaten by police personnel.
Police countered that Chang had run over an officer while leaving the scene in his car, and investigated him for attempted murder. However, he was then charged with reckless driving.
The Selangor government’s intervention produced a U-turn in the federal government’s position, which had been widely seen as supportive of the highway concessionaire up to then.
Visiting the scene after the fracas, Works Minister Mohd Zin Mohamed announced that the access road would stay open until the court disposes of the residents’ legal suit.
The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has held an inquiry into the allegation of “excessive force” used against Chang. Its report is still pending.
WHAT’S NEXT: It will be an anxious wait for residents in general and Chang in particular, as the saga winds down.
Altantuya still haunts us all
Who was involved in the killing of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu? Not political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, according to the Shah Alam High Court which acquitted him of abetment on Oct 31 without calling for his defence.
The prosecution decided not to appeal, a first in such cases. But lawyer Karpal Singh, who is holding a watching brief for Altantuya’s family, has filed for review of the judgment.
In the meantime, two ‘elite squad’ police personnel – Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar – will have to make their defence against the primary charge of murder.
Two years after Altantuya’s death in 2006, the case still threw up surprises. Opposition MPs even took the matter to Parliament, seeking unsuccessfully to file a special motion to debate it in view of the allegations that have surfaced.
Private investigator P Balasubramaniam caused a sensation with details of his statutory declaration (SD), which alleged that deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak had links with Altantuya and that she had demanded RM500,000 in commission for closing a deal on the purchase of submarines.
The next day, though, Balasubramaniam retracted the document in a second SD. Najib duly denied any relationship with Altantuya or that pressure had been exerted on Balasubramaniam to withdraw his allegations.
As police began a probe into the conflicting SDs, Balasubramaniam and his family went ‘missing’ but were later confirmed to be living in a neighbouring country.
Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin added to the mix with a purported expose claiming that Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor had been at the scene of the crime with two army personnel. Rosmah denied this and the army officers are suing Raja Petra for defamation.
The irrepressible blogger then revealed that senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had exchanged text-messages with Najib, in seeking Razak’s release while under remand.
Following his acquittal, Razak rose to the defence of Najib and Rosmah, saying they were not involved in the case – and that the issue had nothing to do with the Scorpene submarine purchase.
WHAT’S NEXT: Hope is ebbing that the ‘real’ story behind the gruesome incident will ever come out. But there is still the rest of the murder trial to go, alongside the police probe and defamation suit.
Chua rises from the ashes
In January, then MCA vice-president Dr Chua Soi Lek saw his political career end abruptly as he owned up to his part in a sex scandal that had been secretly video-taped and circulated earlier.
Admitting “I am the man in the tape”, he initially said he would allow the prime minister and MCA president Ong Ka Ting to decide his fate, hinting that he was a victim of a political conspiracy within the party.
But in less than 24 hours, he announced his immediate resignation from all party and government posts.
There was no writing him off. In the party election 10 months later, he made an incredible comeback as he was elected deputy president.
He faced off main rivals secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan and vice-president Donald Lim on Oct 18, winning with a mere 114 votes.
Chua had the general election results to thank for this, with the rank-and-file screaming for accountability over MCA’s abject performance as well as for reforms.
WHAT’S NEXT: The immediate question is how MCA will handle this hot potato, for he seeks to return to the cabinet. However, his ‘tainted’ past and rivalry with new party president Ong Tee Keat stand in the way.
Hits and misses for judiciary
Try as they might, politicians were unable to get it right about the judiciary. For every apparent step forward, there has been a hidden step backwards – from the appointment of a new chief justice to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill.
Zaki Azmi replaced Abdul Hamid Mohamad as chief justice in October, but has been dogged by senior lawyer and Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Karpal Singh who is most unhappy over the appointment.
This follows Zaki’s alleged admission of ‘bribery’ as a practising lawyer, although he has clarified that he was misquoted in a news report.
Also drawing criticism was the government’s ex-gratia payment of more than RM10 million to six senior judges – including former Lord President Salleh Abas – who were sacked in 1998. It appeared that offering them an apology would have been better appreciated.
In December, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tabled the JAC Bill, dubbed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz as the “first step to judicial reform”.
Others were less certain, but their reservations did not stop the Dewan Rakyat from rushing it through.
During the year, too, Sarawak High Court judge Ian Chin made the astounding revelation that then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had subjected some judges to “boot camp treatment” and had intimidated judges into making pro-government decisions.
This led to a public exchange between the two, ending with the former opting for early retirement in view of the stress suffered.
WHAT’S NEXT: Now that the JAC enactment has killed off the dream of independence, will the judiciary have sufficient pride to redeem itself without ‘external’ help?
Police ‘protection’ for the vocal
THE ISSUE: To say that the police took enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to ridiculous extremes this year would be an under-statement.
Even by its standards, the force did not cover itself in glory when it hastily detained Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng after her report on an incendiary speech by Bukit Bendera Umno division head Ahmad Said in Penang.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, at one point, said this was for “her own protection” as death threats had been received. But, giving in to instant pressure from many quarters – including Barisan Nasional component parties – the police released Tan within 18 hours.
DAP’s Seputeh parliamentarian Teresa Kok and Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin, were held for longer periods after their arrest on Sept 12. Raja Petra won freedom through a rare victory in court.
The arrests triggered a series of protests and candlelight vigils by civil society groups, while BN component party PPP threatened to leave the ruling coalition if there are no substantive amendments to the ISA by the next general election.
Worse for the BN, de facto law minister and prominent UMNO member Zaid Ibrahim resigned to protest the arrests. His subsequent presence at opposition-led events resulted in him being sacked from the party.
WHAT NEXT: The BN has ‘no intention’ of amending the ISA, let alone repealing it. The ball is back in the court of those who want to see the last of it.
Fuel price highs and lows
The government raised the petrol price to RM2.70 in June – a jump of 40.6 percent that left consumers severely traumatised as the direct and indirect impacts were felt.
The decision was made in order to cut spiraling expenditure on subsidies, said to amount to RM56 billion this year, and was the latest in a series of price hikes that began last year.
Bewildered analysts and economists wondered why Malaysia, a net producer of crude oil, was withdrawing subsidies at a time when national oil and gas company Petronas was making record profits.
Opposition parties got into stride, organising protests, even as Pakatan Rakyat claimed that it would do better as the new federal government on Sept 16.
Just two months later, the government began reducing fuel prices through a monitoring scheme based on drop in the world price. Since August, there have been seven reductions.
WHAT’S NEXT: Absolutely no cheer, as prices of essential goods are not coming down and job losses as well as falling incomes take away any relief felt by motorists.
Deja vu in sodomy charge
The ‘Sodomy 2.0′ version unfolded on June 28 when PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s 23-year-old former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan lodged a police report. He claimed to have been sodomised by Anwar in a condominium in Damansara.
To many, it was unreal. Ten years ago, Anwar had faced a similar charge which saw him being jailed until the conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal in 2004.
In the latest episode, he was arrested on July 16 by balaclava-clad police – a scene reminiscent of that in 1998 – but freed a day later after being questioned and made to undergo a medical examination.
His supporters claimed that the government would detain him pending trial, ostensibly to prevent his campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election. But when Anwar claimed trial on Aug 7, he was freed on a RM20,000 personal bond.
Much else has happened outside the courtroom, including the allegation that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had a ‘hidden hand’ in the matter since he had met with Saiful prior to the complaint. Najib has denied this.
Saiful’s complaint was challenged when a medical examination – done on the same day he lodged the police report – allegedly found no signs of sodomy.
He then swore on a Quran in a mosque to back his claim, but the shadow of political interference fell over this as well. The imam who witnessed the oath-taking said he was instructed to do so.
WHAT’S NEXT: The sodomy trial has not made much headway since August, as technical arguments have prevailed. The court is expected to hear the substantial arguments in the coming year.
Clash of the titans
Wouldn’t something be amiss in Malaysian politics if the nation’s top two leaders aren’t pitted against one another? The year did not disappoint in this respect.
BN’s disastrous showing in the March general election brought out a metaphorical keris in Umno – this time the business end of it was pointed at party president and premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Initially, it was unclear who was holding the dagger, given the groundswell of discontent over the coalition’s ‘gift’ to the opposition – four state governments, failure to re-take Kelantan and voters’ rejection of many veteran leaders.
Although ‘undur Pak Lah’ messages appeared on banners in public, Abdullah’s decimated team backed his leadership. Former party head Dr Mahathir Mohamad merely intensified the noisy bombardment from the sidelines.
Abdullah came undone when the economy came under pressure due mainly to the spike in global crude oil price and the US credit crunch. There was no hiding the resentment now.
Adding to the panic, PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim drummed up his claim of being able to take over the federal government by Sept 16. With Umno due to hold elections in December, the tussle at the top fed into the bickering at the bottom.
Abdullah finally reacted, swapping his finance portfolio for Najib’s defence portfolio and holding out the lure of direct transition to his deputy. It might have worked except that Umno vice-president and senior minister Muhyiddin Yassin took exception to the cosy arrangement.
On Sept 21, at the Umno supreme council meeting, Abdullah was confronted by the very leaders who had supported him. They pushed him to state by Oct 9 if he planned to contest the polls, before the nomination process began.
In what appears to be a face-saving move, although Abdullah claimed that it was done to prevent the rift from widening, a compromise was struck with Najib.
Polls were moved to March and Abdullah agreed to relinquish the presidency – by convention, also the premiership – to Najib if the latter had enough support in the party. Najib took the post uncontested, with 98 percent of the nominations.
WHAT’S NEXT: There is trepidation about a return to the dark days of ‘Mahathirism’ under Najib’s tenure, alongside talk that the out-manoeuvred Anwar is only biding his time to let the latter’s skeletons out of the closet. Muhyiddin’s moves merit a close watch as well.
Anwar completes his comeback
The Aug 26 Permatang Pauh by-election was called after incumbent Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail of PKR vacated the parliamentary seat, so that her husband Anwar Ibrahim could return to active politics.
Dubbed as the ‘mother of all by-elections’, it was held at a time of intense speculation about a takeover of the federal government by Pakatan Rakyat through defections from ruling lawmakers.
The contest was hyped by PKR as Anwar’s ‘road to Putrajaya’, possibly as a morale booster for more BN parliamentarians to cross over to the opposition alliance.
Anwar had held the seat from 1982 but was unable to contest the 1999, 2004 and 2008 general elections due to his conviction for corrupt practice and subsequent five-year ban on participation in active politics. The prohibition was lifted in April this year.
During the 10-day campaign, BN played up the sodomy allegation against Anwar but PKR pulled out its trump card at the eleventh hour when an imam admitted that he was instructed to witness an oath-taking ceremony by accuser Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
The campaign saw money pouring into the constituency from both BN and PKR.
Anwar made a triumphant return with a bigger majority of 15,671 over his rivals – BN’s Arif Shah Omar Shah and Akim president Hanafi Hamat – and was sworn in as Opposition Leader in Parliament.
WHAT’S NEXT: Watch the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election, the second since the general election in March. Will the BN make an impact or will it see the loss of another seat?
Public whipping for BN
When Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the dissolution of the Parliament on Feb 13, many BN politicians thought that the 12th general election would see the ruling coalition retaining its two-thirds majority in Parliament.
However, Malaysians decided otherwise on March 8 after a 13-day campaign, and deprived BN of its majority in the House. The opposition won 82 out of 222 parliamentary seats, with an all-time high of 31 seats for PKR, 28 for DAP and 22 for PAS.
Equally devastating for them was that opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat won four states and retained Kelantan – all of it contributing to BN’s worst results in electoral history.
BN partners MCA, Gerakan, MIC and PPP all suffered heavy defeats, with casualties including their national leaders. Umno, which had claimed that it could win enough seats to form the federal government on its own, only won 79 seats, falling way below its projection.
Voters dealt the telling blow because of issues such as inflation, shortage of goods, fuel subsidies, rising crime, mismanagement, corruption, tainted elections and racial inequality.
Simmering anger among Indian Malaysians – long regarded as BN loyalists – resulted in a swing towards the opposition.
WHAT’S NEXT: PM-to-be Najib Abdul Razak can expect a torrid time when he takes over in March, as he faces not just political turmoil but economic uncertainty – not to mention a waiting Anwar Ibrahim.
Tomorrow: X-Files of 2008
Reports prepared by the Malaysiakini team.
December 29, 2008
by Din Merican
There is an undertow to the year-end holiday season, already eerily quiet from worry about scudding clouds on the economic horizon. On the grapevine the sound of the undertow seems like the buzz of money politics.
The buzz does not just issue from the party that is in the throes of an extended election process, one already described by UMNO’s disciplinary chairman as the most venal in recent history. The buzz also arises from the effort of choreographers of the leadership transition within the same party who are desperate to shore up its threadbare legitimacy. They must reckon crossovers by some opposition MPs to Barisan Nasional ranks would give badly needed credibility to a coronation oozing credibility faster than the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.
Now PKR cannot cry foul if it is the target of crossover bids. That would be like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. PKR has been sedulously courting BN MPs, especially from Sabah and Sarawak, to cross over to its ranks to make a parliamentary plurality for the Pakatan Rakyat to take over the Federal government.
But nowhere in that effort were there evidence-backed claims that financial inducements were offered would-be renegades. In short, that effort was devoid of money politics, notwithstanding loudly trumpeted claims by the BN Backbenchers Chairman and his chorus boys that money indeed was offered. Had they a shred of evidence to back their claims, the ACA would have acted with unseemly haste to nail the PKR offenders. Witness how fast the ACA acted to charge two PKR state assemblymen in Perak for alleged corrupt practices in connection with a development project in the Kinta Valley.
The BN’s reciprocal attempt to induce crossovers to their side of the aisle has not exactly been fraught with claims, backed by evidence, of money offered intending renegades from the opposition. But telltale signs of BN burrowing in gaps in PKR ranks are plain to see — the sudden withdrawal of a BN election petition for the Kulim-Bandar Baru seat being case in point. Would that have happened if the PKR MP had not been in a spot of bother with his party over his strange behavior on a matter of public interest? Now you have the PKR MP for Kapar in high dudgeon over matters where, apparently, no great principle is at stake and which can be resolved in the give-and-take that is the common coin of the political realm.
To attribute PKR’s current problems with a couple of its MPs, not to mention a Deputy Chief Minister, to BN mischief would be far-fetched. But it would not be unreasonable to surmise that when and if push came to shove, they depart the PKR fold, as one at least appears adamant on doing, they would not stay unaffiliated, party-wise, for long. In that event, it would be interesting to see how they can advance their political struggle under the party of their choice, assuming of course that had an agenda consonant with PKR’s project to build an egalitarian Malaysia where sectarian concerns are subordinated to an overarching justice in which all citizens can flourish.
If the cardinal lesson of the 8th March 2009 general election was that the BN should reform or its curtains, the salient point of the subsequent nine months is that the BN will find reform as difficult as Robert Mugabe finds the notion of sharing power, leave alone relinquishing it.
This does not mean that PKR should be lackadaisical about dispute resolution structures within it; it is that departures from the party fold, not due to principle, cannot be reckoned as loss.
It should be a wake-up call for all Malaysians, particularly those who have a say in the outcome of what happens in March, to see the kind of reputation Najib Tun Razak has in the eyes of the international community. The best I have heard people say about him is that he is polished and is more decisive than the current prime minister.
Imagine walking into a negotiation as PM Najib. Let us see negotiating a bi-lateral trade agreement, or a land dispute. Or let us say we would like to secure favorable investment conditions with another country. Our next PM starts making demands. Later in the day he receives a note from someone saying that if he pushes to hard, information may come to light about some of his skeletons. The next round of negotiations he quickly rescinds his demands, capitulates, and the Malaysian people are left out to dry. Trade terms are lousy. Investment remains tilted in other country’s favour.
This is what baggage means. It is not just an embarrassment. It is bad for our country and for our people.
It is also interesting to note that one person, Dr. Terence Gomez, a political scientist, in the article believes Najib as PM will accomplish even less than Badawi by way of reform. That means less than practically zero.
A new leader mired in accusations
ONE could certainly say that Najib Razak was born to be Malaysian prime minister. He is the son of Abdul Razak, the second man to hold that job following independence from Britain, and the nephew of his successor, Hussein Onn. Elected to parliament aged 23, on his father’s death, he rose to become deputy to the present prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. However, Mr Najib, expected within months to become the country’s sixth post-independence leader, will enter under a cloud of allegations, including ones linking him to a murder case, all of which he categorically denies. But some Malaysians will be wondering if he is a fit person to lead them.
Facing a revitalised opposition, in an election earlier this year the governing coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), lost the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution. Since then, the knives have been out for Mr Badawi. Despite his efforts to cling on he is being forced to quit next March.
The contest to succeed him as party president, and thus prime minister, at first promised to be lively. But party officials, fearful of the challenge from the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim (a former UMNO deputy leader), chose to hang together rather than hang separately. By November 2nd Mr Najib had won enough nominations to block his only rival, Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, from getting on the ballot-paper.
Like Mr Badawi before him, Mr Najib comes to the job promising reforms, including of the system of preference for members of the ethnic-Malay majority for state contracts and jobs. Mr Badawi achieved little, though he allowed a bit more freedom of expression than had his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. Expectations for Mr Najib are lower still. It is possible, notes Edmund Gomez, a political scientist, that he will use the worsening economic outlook as a pretext for reverting to Mahathir-style repression.
Mr Anwar has failed to carry out his threat to topple the government through a mass defection of parliamentarians. Even so, there is a palpable FIN DE ReGIME air around UMNO. Mr Badawi, Mr Mahathir and other leaders are publicly lamenting how corruption and cronyism are rife in the party. But his opponents say Mr Najib is hardly the man to restore confidence. In the latest scandal to which they are linking him, the defence ministry (which he oversaw until recently) has deferred a big order for helicopters following questions about their high price. A parliamentary committee this week cleared the government of wrongdoing, but admitted not investigating whether “commissions” were paid.
In an earlier case, a company the opposition claimed was linked to Razak Baginda, an adviser to Mr Najib, was paid juicy fees for services provided over a contract for the purchase of French submarines. A Mongolian woman, said to have worked as a translator in the negotiations, was shot dead and her corpse destroyed with explosives in 2006. Mr Razak was put on trial over her killing, along with two policemen. The case has dragged on for months and seen various odd goings-on, including changes of judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers at the start of the trial. A private detective signed a statutory declaration implicating Mr Najib, retracted it the next day, saying it had been made under duress. Calls by the victim’s family for Mr Najib to testify were rejected. On October 31st the judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to make a prima facie case against Mr Razak.
The policemen’s trial will continue. A blogger[Raja Petra Kamaruddin of Malaysia-Today] who linked Mr Najib’s wife to the case is on trial for criminal libel. None of this, however, seems likely to interfere with Mr Najib’s accession to the prime minister’s job. A bigger threat may yet emerge from the resurgent opposition and Mr Anwar, who nurtures a long-thwarted ambition to take the job himself.
I wish to urge and plead to various leaders in Pakatan to stop taking their differences and conflicts through the media, especially the BN government controlled ones. This includes not only the Selangor MB and the Kapar MP, but also the Selangor Speaker and the Klang MP.
They should sit down to discuss and settle these differences and conflicts internally. There are various channels and procedures existing to do so.
In the absence of the President, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and the Ketua Umum, Sdr Anwar Ibrahim, who are away until January 6, I shall be calling a meeting of the Political Bureau this Wednesday, to discuss the main and related issues in order to find suitable solution.
The issue on the Kapar MP threat to leave PKR has been blown out of proportion by certain BN government party controlled media. They have distorted statements by some Pakatan leaders in order to portray as if the opposition alliance is in disarray.
Obviously, their intention is to draw public attention away from the series of crises in the BN and also within major components of the government coalition, leading to the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election.
ISU MP KAPAR
Saya ingin menggesa dan merayu kepada semua pemimpin Pakatan agar berhenti mengemukkan perbezaan serta pertentangan mereka melalui media, terutama yang dikuasai parti pemerintah BN. Ini termasuk MB Selangor serta MP Kapar dan juga Speaker Selangor serta MP Kelang.
Mereka harus duduk berbincang dan mencari jalan penyelesaian secara dalaman. Ada beberapa saluran dan prosedur bagi berbuat demikian.
Oleh kerana Presiden, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail dan Ketua Umum, Sdr Anwar Ibrahim berada di laur negara sehingga 6hb Januari, saya akan memanggil mesyuarat Biro Politik hari Rabu ini, untuk membincang semua perkara berkatan dan mencari penyelesaian.
Masalah ancaman MP Kapar hendak keluar dari PKR sudah terlalu dibesar-besarkan oleh sesetengah media yang dikuasai oleh part pemerintah. Mereka menyelewengkan sesetengah kenyataan pemimpin Pakatan untuk menunjukkan gabungan itu berpecah.
Memang jelas, tujuan mereka ialah untuk menarik perhatian awam dari kemelut dalam BN dan juga parti-parti komponen utmanya, terutama sekali menjelang pilihanraya kechil Kuala Terengganu.
Dr Syed Husin Ali
Timbalan Presiden PKR (email@example.com)
28 Disember 2008
Source: The Malaysian Insider (December 28, 2008)
KUALA LUMPUR, December 28 — Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali wants leaders in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact of Pas, DAP and PKR involved in a war of words to stop airing their differences in the media.
“I wish to urge and plead to the various parties in Pakatan (Rakyat) to stop taking their differences and conflicts through the media, especially the BN (Barisan Nasional) controlled ones.
“This includes not only the Selangor MB (Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) and the Kapar MP (Member of Parliament S. Manikavasagam) but also the Selangor speaker (DAP’s Teng Chang Khim) and the Klang MP (DAP’s Charles Santiago),” he said in a statement here today.
Manikavasagam announced on Friday that he would quit PKR, saying he was dissatisfied with Khalid and the way the menteri besar ran the affairs of the state.
Khalid had responded yesterday by saying that Manikavasagam was free to resign if he wanted to and that he was not interested in meeting the MP or asking him to reconsider his decision to quit.
Santiago, however, was caught in a quandary after Teng accused him of having been bought over by the BN and not behaving like an opposition leader.
“They should sit down and discuss and settle their differences and conflicts internally. There are various existing channels and procedures to do so,” said Syed Husin.
“He said that in the absence of PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who are away until Jan 6, he would call a meeting of the political bureau on Wednesday to discuss the main and related issues “in order to find a suitable solution”.
“The issue of the Kapar MP’s threat to leave PKR has been blown out of proportion by certain BN-controlled media. They have distorted statements by some Pakatan (Rakyat) leaders in order to portray as if the opposition alliance is in disarray.
“Obviously, their intention is to draw public attention away from the series of crises in the BN and also within major components of the government coalition, leading to the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election,” Syed Husin added. — Bernama
December 28, 2008
Pakatan Rakyat and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA are planning a massive ‘BERSIH’ – type rally in March, 2009, called MANSUH.
You guessed it.
It’s to call for the repeal of the ISA and the freeing of all ISA detainees.
As a prelude to that massive rally, and with a view to disseminating information, a mini rally is scheduled for tomorrow.
Details appear below.
Venue : Stadium Bandar Baru Bangi
Date : 29th December, 2008
Time : 9-11pm
Posted by Haris Ibrahim
December 28, 2008
Kerongcong musik is uniquely Indonesian. It is relaxing, stimulating to the soul, and fires the imagination. There can be no a better way to reflect upon developments in 2008 and to usher in 2009.
We have Barak Obama and his change agenda for America elected as the first African-American President in November 2008, and in Malaysia we saw the emergence of Pakatan Rakyat with Anwar Ibrahim as its leader as a political force, sending the UMNO-Barisan Nasional regime into retreat with its capture of 5 states of Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan. Malaysians also denied the ruling government its two thirds majority in Parliament, the first time in our 51 year history, thereby transforming our politics. In 2009, we will start with the Terengganu by-elections and move forward to Sarawak and make 2009 another year of political achievements.
Our neighbour Thailand has a new and very handsome Oxford educated Prime Minister and can begin 2009 with renewed confidence. Indonesia will elect a new President in 2009.
These positive developments should not detract us from the reality of slower economic growth, high unemployment and inflation. It is going to take a lot of sacrifice and hard work for our country to recover. More importantly, it will require strong leadership in government to formulate policies to deal with the effects of a global economic slowdown unseen since the 1929 Great Depression.
May I take this opportnunity to thank Raja Petra Kamaruddin and his wife Marina Abdullah, Bernard Khoo, Haris Ibrahim, Malek Imtiaz, Art Harun, Antares, and my other blogger friends for making 2008 a truly special year. Let us continue our campaign to bring all ISA detainees home to their loved ones, and work hard to close the Kamunting Detention camp in 2009. I am also grateful to all my readers and respondents for visiting my blog and their support and I look forward to your continued engagement. We may be not agree most of the time, but your views and ideas are very useful feedback on how you see the issues.
As my blogger friends already know, 2008 is a major turning point in my life and may 2009 will be meaningful and enriching for me. — DJ Din Merican
The Dayak Dilemma, Part 2
|Sim Kwang Yang | December 27, 2008|
|Although the demographic composition of the various ethnic communities is vastly different from that in West Malaysia, there have been tremendous pressure from Kuala Lumpur for Sarawak politics to conform to the racial equation that exists in the Umno-led alliance on the Malayan Peninsula even before Merdeka.
The idea that then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and Sarawak chief ministers Rahman Yakub and his nephew, Taib Mahmud (both from the partisan Rakyat Jati Sarawak, or Berjasa) shared was the creation of a Sarawak alliance dominated by Muslim/Malay/Melanau leaders with subservient Dayak and Chinese partners.
From the very beginning prior to and after Merdeka, there was this heavy tendency for federal intervention into Sarawak politics to ensure the creation of a Malay nationalist polity through Malaysia. Even then, Umno was determined to create Sarawak in its own image. This tendency at the Malayanisation of Sarawak politics was resisted by the first Iban chief minister, Stephen Kalong Ningkan of the Sarawak National Party (Snap).
For this and many other reasons, Stephen Kalong Ningkan was forcibly removed from office by a federally initiated declaration of emergency and a constitutional amendment in Parliament. A stop-gap Iban chief minister Tawi Sli was elected, and after the general election of 1970, Rahman Yakub – a Muslim Melanau – stepped in to take over the helm of Sarawak government. Muslim Melanau dominance has continued to this day.
Both Rahman and Taib were consummate Machiavellian politicians. Through their masterly manoeuvre, Berjasa and Parti Negara Sarawak (Panas) merged into a single party, finally uniting all the Sarawak Malay and Melanau Muslims under one umbrella. A further merger with the Dayak-based Parti Pesaka Anak Sarawak (Pesaka) to form the Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu Sarawak (PBB) in 1973.
Until today, PBB is the dominant partner of the Sarawak Barisan Nasional. PBB itself is a political vehicle for Melanau/Malay/Muslim dominance with a subservient Dayak arm in Pesaka, and a subservient Chinese BN component, the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp), within the BN coalition. Umno indeed has succeeded in creating Sarawak politics in its own image.
As a result of federal intervention, the leaders from the minority Malay and Melanau communities have been able to enjoy political dominance in Sarawak, defying the logic of the politics of race in Malaysia.
Endless series of internal strife
This project for Melanau and Malay dominance in Sarawak politics has been much aided by the fractious divisiveness among Dayak politicians. In the years before and after Merdeka, the two Dayak-based parties, Snap and Pesaka, had been at loggerhead with each other over regional and historical rivalries between the Ibans of the Second and Third Divisions of Sarawak.
Snap left the Sarawak Alliance to fight for state control from the political wilderness. They almost succeeded in 1974 when they won 18 out of 48 seats in the Sarawak state general election that year. But unable to sustain themselves, they decided to rejoin the state BN soon after.
The subsequent history of Dayak politics until this day has been an endless series of acrimonious internal strife, leading to waves of formation of splinter Dayak parties. Unable to remember those dizzying series of Dayak political upheavals, I sought the help of Joseph Tawi, author of the book ‘The Broken Shield – A Chronicle of Modern Dayak Politics’, and the host of a blog by the same name.
This is what he has to report:
“PBDS was formed on July 17, 1983 when Daniel Tajem (left) was sacked from Snap for allegedly supporting an independent candidate. PBDS then joined BN-plus government. PBDS left the BN coalition on March 9, 1987, when they joined forces with Permas to form the Maju group to oust Abdul Taib Mahmud. They won 15 seats in the state election that year, but eight YBs (elected representatives) defected to Snap and PBB.
“In the 1991 state election, PBDS put up 34 Dayak and Chinese candidates. They were trounced and managed to retain only seven seats. They applied to rejoin state BN after the results were announced on Sept 29, 1991. Finally they rejoined BN on May 31, 1994.
“Power struggle in Snap in 2002 resulted in the expulsion of Tiong King Sing and the formation of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), followed by the deregistration of Snap on Nov 5, 2002. SPDP was registered on Nov 8 after three days of application.
“PBDS was deregistered on Oct 21, 2004 following a power struggle. Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) was registered on the same day. One year later, power struggle occurred in PRS. Since April this year, the crisis has been solved.
“Those remaining partyless members numbering about 100,000 after the deregistration of PBDS wanted to form Malaysian Dayak Congress. But the ROS (Registrar of Societies) rejected the application submitted on May 6, 2005 on grounds of security under Article 7 of Societies Act. Now appeal is still on to the Home Ministry. Now more of the ex-PBDS members are joining PKR.”
The above account shows you how messy Dayak politics can be in Sarawak. The obvious conclusion is that Dayak political leaders are too prone to fight to the death whenever there is a power struggle within their party. Their inability to resolve their differences is the despair of their supporters and commentators. The logical rhetorical question is this: if they cannot find unity among themselves, how can they hope to unite the diverse Dayak people?
The all-powerful ROS
But there is more than meets the eyes.
The shrewd observer would immediately note how awesome the power of the Registrar of Societies (ROS) can be, in dissolving political parties, in deciding which faction should retain control of the party, and in approving within days application for the formation of a new political party by a certain faction, while similar applications by other factions can be rejected on flimsy grounds.
Another salient point is this. Upon the split of a Dayak party into two factions, the new party formed by the faction favoured by the Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud would almost immediately be accepted into the Sarawak BN, leaving the other faction in the cold. Whenever this happens, Taib consolidates his near absolute control over Sarawak politics once again, at the expense of Dayak bargaining power within the state BN.
The root cause of this particular aspect of the Dayak dilemma lies again beneath the demographic reality of Malaysia. Although the Dayaks collectively constitute the largest ethnic community within Sarawak, they form a mere 5% or 6% of the total population of Malaysia. Generally, Dayak political leaders feel that they must belong to the Barisan family in order to be effective to serve the Dayak people. Being in the opposition at federal or state level is not a long-term option.
Once exiled to the political wilderness, Dayak politicians will be excluded from the vast network of largesse made available to BN YBs by the state government administration, such as minor rural development projects and agricultural subsidy schemes.
Worst still, opposition Dayak candidates will have to face the monumental task of winning at the poll in the next general election. Electoral contests in the rural and semi-rural constituencies in Sarawak are notoriously expensive, and vote buying in one form or another is the norm rather than the exception. In sharp contrast, BN Dayak candidates have at their disposal seemingly inexhaustible campaign funds.
They need statemen, not politicians
In this context, the arrival of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in a big way in recent days offer many fresh and interesting opportunities for political redemption for Dayak politics in Sarawak.
The Pakatan Rakyat, of which Anwar Ibrahim is the leader, already controls five state governments in West Malaysia. They have shown how federal opposition parties can form government at the state level and bring in reform for the benefit of the people.
They have also announced their intention to march to Putrajaya, and so offer hope for Dayak politicians to free themselves from this fatal slavish dependence on the federal BN.
It is now a famous lesson that if aspiring reformers want to bring meaningful change to their own society, then they must first reform themselves. As Obama used to say on his campaign trail, “We are the change that we seek.”
It is now obvious that appealing to mere ethnic unity has come to a dead end for Dayak politics. If Dayak leaders want to liberate their people from the bondage of ignorance and poverty, they must seek alliance with similarly depressed and disenfranchised ethnic communities to form a pan-Sarawak people’s movement for radical change. They must rethink their agenda, and begin a new conversation based on the common good of all. They need statesmen, not mere politicians.
In this critical process, PKR offers a suitable vehicle, because their ideology speaks of Ketuanan Rakyat, or people’s dominance. To resolve the Dayak dilemma, the Dayaks will have to seek redress in more universal inclusive and non-ethnic terms.
To be continued next week…
SIM KWANG YANG was Bandar Kuching MP from 1982-1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who wish to learn more about Sarawak politics around the time of independence in 1963, the two authoritative scholars are Michael Leigh and Vernon L Porritt.
|posted by din merican–december 27, 2008
Will others be banned from Sarawak?
|Tony Thien | December 26, 2008|
|The state government may use its immigration powers to deny entry to more Peninsula-based politicians, including PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, in the face of what is seen as growing local support for the opposition.
This followed the ban imposed by the state immigration authorities on N Gobalakrishnan, PKR parliamentarian for Padang Serai (Kedah), two days ago to attend a party seminar outside of Kuching and to pay a Christmas visit to his adoptive Iban parents in central Sarawak.
The opposition parliamentarian flew in at 5.15 pm on Wednesday and was told by immigration officers at Kuching International Airport that he had been denied entry.
According to the state immigration, Gobalakrishnan had to apply for a permit to enter Sarawak under section 66(1) of the Immigration Act.
As a rule, Peninsular Malaysians need not apply for an entry permit so long as they carry their passport with them.
The immigration officers also informed Gobalakrishnan that they were acting on a directive from the state secretary’s office.
The MP had initially refused to be deported. However, he eventually board the 9.50pm AirAsia flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
He had instructed his party colleague, Padungan state assemblyperson Dominique Ng, who is also a lawyer, to challenge the ban in court.
Given the Christmas eve’s incident, there are worries that the state authorities may now try to invoke the same law to stop national-level party leaders from coming to Sarawak.
The opposition has made Sarawak a key battleground in its bid to oust the ruling BN government in the next state elections due at the latest by 2011.
Ng (right) told Malaysiakini today that while he appreciates the importance of the special provision in the Immigration Act resulting from the 1963 agreement in the formation of Malaysia to protect the interests of Sarawakians from being swarmed by workers from other parts of the country, the action against Gobalakrisnan was however politically-motivated.
The latest development came on the heels of PKR supreme council’s decision to appoint the parliamentary opposition leader and MP for Permatang Pauh to be the party’s state chief in both Sarawak and Sabah.
The party has planned a series of activities, including dinner gatherings ,seminars and training courses in the coming months, and Anwar has also instructed all PKR elected representatives to visit Sarawak on a regular basis ahead of the state election.
The latest activity was a two-day seminar for election workers held in Sri Aman, about 240km from Kuching, on Dec 22 and 23, which was to be attended by Gobalakrishnan.
Several top PKR Dayak leaders however made it to the seminar. They included Ngemah Gabriel Adit (right) – an Independent turn PKR state representative – state PKR deputy chief Nicholas Bawin, former Lubok Antu MP Jawah Gerang, former Sri Aman MP Jimmy Donald and a well-known Orang Ulu lawyer Baru Bian, who is expected to be named party candidate for Ba’kelalan in northern Sarawak.
The response to the seminar was tremendous, according to Bawin, a former president of Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) who is also expected to be named PKR candidate for the predominantly Iban state constituency of Batang Ai.
“There is a groundswell of support throughout Sarawak for PKR,” Bawin told Malaysiakini.
At the seminar, former MP Jawah and over 1,000 of his supporters in Lubok Antu handed their membership forms to PKR secretary-general Sallehuddin Hashim.
Taib angered by debate in Parliament
The ban on Gobalakrishan came as a surprise as he had visited Sarawak previously.
The MP was a guest of the state government during the recent Gawai Dayak celebrations and was given VIP treatment with a chauffeur-driven car, said Ng.
Apart from his intention to attend the PKR seminar in Sri Aman, he was to go to Kapit, a town in central Sarawak, to celebrate Christmas with his adoptive Iban parents in Nanga Sut.
Gobalakrishnan said he believed the decision to bar him from entering the state was linked to a speech he made in Parliament in support of fellow parliamentarian, DAP MP for Bandar Kuching Chong Chieng Jen, regarding corruption in Sarawak.
He said he later met Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s son Sulaiman (left), who is deputy tourism minister, in the Parliament lobby.
According to Gobalakrishnan, the deputy minister had warned him that he (Sulaiman) would finish off PKR in Sarawak.
Sulaiman, who took over the parliamentary seat of Samarahan from his father at the March 2008 elections, was said to have been angered by the PKR MP’s remarks about his family-controlled business group, CMS, in Parliament.
|posted by din merican–december 27, 2008
Gobalakrishan: I know why I was kicked out
|Rahmah Ghazali | December 26, 2008|
There are two key reasons why Peninsula-based parliamentarian N Gobalakrishnan was banned from entering Sarawak on Wednesday.
According to the Kedah MP, he was kicked out of the state because the opposition is increasingly becoming a threat to the Sarawak government and for his speech in Parliament attacking long-time Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Having visited Sarawak many times, Gobalakrishnan said did not face any problems with the state immigration until two days ago. The authorities however did not give any reason for the ban.
Gobalakrishnan said his most recent visit to the state was last week when he was in Lubok Antu, south of Kuching, to help the locals in their Christmas preparation.
“Why is the ban imposed on me now? This is definitely political,” said Gobalakrishnan. “In the last few months, I have visited several longhouses and I have garnered support from the locals, especially from the Dayak people.”
In addition, he said the state government had invited him to attend the Gawai Day celebrations in June.
“Why the sudden U-turn?” he asked.
He vows to challenge ban in court
Gobalakrisnan vowed he would not to let the matter rest.
He intends to challenge the ban in the Kuching High Court. According to him, the state authorities have violated the Immigration Act.
“They had used article 66 (1) where the state chief minister has the right to deny entry to anybody. But under the article 66 (1)(c), any individual from a body formed under the federal constitution should not be denied entry. The Dewan Rakyat falls under the federal constitution,” he argued.
On Wednesday afternoon, the first-time MP was refused entry into Sarawak by immigration officers at the Kuching International Airport.
Gobalakrishnan was there to attend a PKR seminar outside Kuching and visit his Iban adoptive parents in Kapit, a town in central Sarawak, for Christmas.
In recent weeks, PKR has beefed up its campaign to dislodge long-time chief minister Abdul Taib from power after 27 years.
Party leader Anwar Ibrahim has also called on opposition parliamentarians to visit the state on a regular basis to touch base with voters ahead of a state election which must be held in two years.
Taib has however dismissed the possibility of Sarawak falling into the hands of the Anwar-led opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.
Punished for criticising Taib
Gobalakrishnan also believed that the entry ban against him was because he questioned the Sarawak strongman in Parliament during the debate on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) bill last week.
At the debate, MP for Bandar Kuching Chong Chien Jeng had alleged that Taib had awarded multi-million ringgit road construction contracts to family-owned company CMS Group – whose chairman was his own son, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, now deputy tourism minister.
The main shareholder of the company also include another of Taib’s son, Abu Bakar Taib, who is the deputy chairperson and Taib’s wife, who controls a major stake in the company.
Chong took the Anti-Corruption Agency to task for failing to investigate the matter as the numerous multi-million ringgit construction contracts were awarded to the company by the state government without open tenders.
Gobalakrishnan then stood up and backed Chong in his assertion.
The Kedah MP said he would bring up his entry ban in Parliament when sittings resume in February.