UMNO Politicians Play and We pay the Price, says Malek Imtiaz

March 31, 2009

by Malik Imtiaz Sarvar* @ The Malaysian Insider

They Play and We Pay the Price

The UMNO General Assembly has come and gone and, as has been the case for at least the last three assemblies, in its wake many of us have been left uneasy and in a state of disquiet.

Seeing the inner workings of the Leviathan’s mind is never an easy thing, even at the best of times. And these really are the worst of times.

Power lust has put a debilitating strain on our national institutions; they are in the mind of the public nothing more than lifeless marionettes in a caricature of democracy. The accumulation of money and influence has for some time now been the greater social good in the minds of many of those who claim the right to lead us. Governance has been wholly enslaved to the perverse politics required to feed this monstrous craving.

One does not have to go to great lengths any more to demonstrate these conclusions. After this last assembly, it is a matter of public record. Reading the speeches made, I was struck by how for many of those who attended the assembly there is no other way other than the UMNO way that they are familiar with: exclusive privilege through patronage.

While it could be said that these are matters concerning the internal workings of UMNO and, as such, really none of my business, this cannot be the case when UMNO stakes a claim on the premiership of this nation as it does.

The Federal Constitution does not provide that the president of UMNO must be the Prime Minister. That is, however, the understanding within the Barisan Nasional, whose component parties are compelled to leave the choice of that individual to UMNO’s admittedly skewed method of electing its President.

This state of affairs is made more complex by the expectation on the part of UMNO that it is entitled to govern this nation, a viewpoint it gives life to through its control over the wider system of governance.

The experience of the rakyat with matters of state has been a disappointing one and the general belief is that all constitutional bodies and agencies of the state will act to further the interests of UMNO and, where interests overlap, the Barisan Nasional.

Seen in this light, the internal workings of UMNO are a matter of national concern; the national interest underscoring the appointment of a prime minister is ultimately left vulnerable to those who are able to successfully wield influence at the UMNO General Assembly.

As I have written elsewhere, this is not the scheme envisaged by the founders of the Federal Constitution, which instead puts in place an appointment process grounded on His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s judgment as to who commands the confidence of the majority of members of the Dewan Rakyat.

For many in UMNO and the Barisan Nasional, however, political convention must trump constitutionalism. Both the party and the coalition have made this clear in the way in which concerns over the appropriateness of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as Prime Minister are being avoided.

This cannot be right. The unease that the failure to take appropriate steps to clear the air has given rise to is no small matter. It pertains directly to public confidence in the due administration of this nation.

If the positions were reversed, the same rationale would apply: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would not be an appropriate candidate until the accusation of sodomy by Saiful Bukhari is dealt with.

Public confidence is crucial to our survival. We are a nation in crisis facing external challenges of great magnitude. Part of the reason for this is the sustained maladministration that we have had to endure over a prolonged period of time. Put bluntly, the nation is not firing on all pistons and we are not nearly as prepared or resourced to deal with what we will have to when the full significance of world events hits us.

The choice of Prime Minister at this point is a crucial one. In addition to addressing Malaysia’s response to the global economic crisis and its impact on the rakyat, the next administration must address two objectives that are vital to our continued survival.

The first of these is the serious deficiencies in our current process of general and state elections. These go deeper than the issue of perceived Election Commission and police bias to the more fundamental question of whether democratic purpose is being achieved through a first-past-the-post system and the “weighted” delineation of constituencies. Electoral ethics must also be made a priority with scrutiny of the continued value of racial ideologies that serve no purpose than to divide us. True democratic process is the only way in which this nation can ensures that it remains competitive.

Second, the foundations of governance must be shored up. The doctrine of separation of powers must be re-entrenched to ensure the due application of checks and balances. For this, reforms must be carried out at more than a superficial level.

For this to occur, constitutionalism must be breathed into the organs and agencies of state once more. The Judiciary must be liberated from any and all political influence and be made as capable as it once was, with public confidence in the institution.

The legislatures of the nation must be allowed to return to previous glory when debates were permitted without fear or favour and the legislative chamber served a purpose higher than rubber-stamping the dictates of majoritarianism.

Above all, the Executive must be made accountable once again. This is what we need if we do not want to see this nation failing.

Momentum, however, threatens to propel us forward in that direction. The brakes need to be applied and our direction changed, impelled forward by the will of the rakyat with the Federal Constitution serving as our roadmap.

The question we must confront is, who it is that will be able to lead us in doing that? If I wonder whether Datuk Seri Najib considers himself capable of doing this, it is because he has said precious little to suggest that he has considered the precarious situation we are in.

I am also wary of the political forces that paved his way to the top that will impede him much in the same way as they did the out-going Prime Minister. There is also the matter of public sentiment concerning various matters that he either has been, or is seen to have been, involved in.

Ironically, the one person in UMNO who holds to a need for serious reform at all levels, Tengku Razaleigh, received only one nomination and could not contest the presidency. This was an error on the part of UMNO in my view. My fear is that the nation will have to pay the price.

* Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is the current president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) and a lawyer. He has been at the forefront of efforts aimed at promoting constitutionalism and the Rule of Law. His blog ‘Disquiet’, and weekly column of the same name with the Malay Mail, are widely read.

Musa and Syed Hamid Alblur, go back to school and study the fundamentals of a democratic society

Opposition banned from raising Altantuya and other issues
March 31, 2009

The opposition has been dealt with a severe blow in the run-up to the April 7 by-elections after it was barred from bringing up a number of controversial issues including the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu in their electoral campaign. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said that the ban covers all three by-elections – Bukit Gantang (Perak), Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak)

The impact of the home ministry ban was first felt in Bukit Gantang earlier today. A state PKR leader, who had no prior knowledge of the home ministry ban, said that the police have imposed several new conditions when issuing permits for the party’s ceramah in that Parliament constituency.

Among the main restrictions were:

* No instigating the crowd by questioning the Perak sultan’s decision

* No mention of the Altantuya issue must be made

In addition, PKR must ensure that the crowd at its ceramah is confined to a specific area where the event is being held. [see below] The police have warned that action will be taken if the crowd spills beyond the permitted area, said the state leader, Lau Teck Hai, who had applied for the permits on behalf of his party.

Lau, who is political secretary to PKR’s Kuala Sepetang state representative Tai Sing Ng, was told to go to the Taiping district police headquarters yesterday where he was informed of the conditions. Other restrictions included raising racial and religious issues.

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is expected to be in Bukit Gantang tomorrow as part of his campaign trail.

Ready to defy

Addressing a press conference on the matter this afternoon in Taiping, Perak PKR deputy chief Chan Lih Kang said the party was ready to defy the police on these restrictions. He also said that it would not appeal against the police decision to impose such restrictions.

“These restrictions are new. They have never been imposed before,” said Chan, who is also the Teja state assemblyperson.”We are not be appealing against these restrictions and will be not be adhering to them as well.” He said PKR is ready to face whatever action the police take against the party for breaching the conditions. “They cannot stop us from exercising our freedom of expression,” he said.

The controversial issues

However, PAS, whose candidate Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin is contesting the by-election, has not be officially told about these new restrictions. It is learnt that PAS was nevertheless told to stop its ceramah by 11pm so that this does not cause any disturbance in village areas. However with the announcement by Syed Hamid about the ban, it is evident that PAS too would be affected.

The Altantuya issue has been used by the opposition, especially the PKR, to implicate incoming premier Najib Abdul Razak in the death of the Mongolian woman, a charge which the UMNO politician has repeatedly denied.

As in previous election campaigns, several posters of Altantuya and Najib have already found their way to Bukit Gantang. Altantuya’s remains were found scattered in a jungle reserve in Shah Alam, Selangor on October 19, 2006.

Two special elite policemen, who were bodyguards to VIPs including Najib, are facing murder charge. The verdict is expected early next month. The opposition has also been highlighting the manner in which Perak UMNO, led by Najib, ‘stole’ the state government from Pakatan.

Mohd Nizar has subsequently refused to step down as menteri besar although the Perak sultan had ordered him to do so. This led to him being accused of committing derhaka (treason) against the sultan. The by-election will see a three-cornered fight involving BN’s Ismail Saffian, Mohd Nizar  and independent candidate Kamarul Ramizu Idris. It is being held following the death of PAS member of parliament Roslan Shaharum on February 9 from a heart attack.

musa hassan pc 021107 reflect

In the last general election on March 8, 2008, Roslan defeated Abdul Azim Mohd Zabidi of BN and independent candidate M Mohganan by 1,566 votes. Meanwhile in Bukit Selambau, it is learnt that one additional restriction imposed on political parties is that all ceramah must be held indoors.

Watch what you say, warns IGP

Meanwhile in a related development, the police chief issued a warning to all political parties not to incite, provoke or utter words that are deemed to be seditious. Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan also said that they must avoid making unfounded and baseless allegations on their opponents or the party they represented.

“Police will be monitoring all political ceramah and will record them. We urge everyone including supporters not to provoke or taunt anyone during their campaigns,” he said in a statement today. Musa also added that the police would beef up security in all three by-election spots to prevent untoward incidents.

Najib’s Mentor lashes out at Badawi, his only mistake!!

Dr Mahathir – from London with spite
March 31, 2009

On Saturday in Kuala Lumpur. Just before the curtain fell on the 59th UMNO general assembly, the party’s 83-year-old former president made a grand entrance with his wife in tow. Looking debonair in a neatly-pressed deep purple stripped shirt and black slacks, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was given a rapturous welcome by the UMNO leaders and delegates alike.

After all, Mahathir and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Ali are the two pioneer party members bearing the respective membership numbers ‘000001’ and ‘000002’ of  UMNO Baru – the party born out of the 1987 crisis which saw the original UMNO being declared illegal.

It was a night of love, apparently masterminded by newly-minted UMNO president Najib Abdul Razak to bring his mentor and outgoing premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi together. Mahathir, who looked the sharpest of the lot on stage, awkwardly embraced Abdullah whom he had been attacking incessantly since a year after he had handpicked him as his successor in 2003.

It was a scene that surely deserved an Oscar nomination and one that made headlines the next day. The hatchet had purportedly been buried. Overwhelmed with emotion, Najib said he hoped Mahathir and Abdullah would together guide him through his tenure at the helm and offer him ideas for his unenviable task of rebuilding the party.

Mahathir who quit UMNO last May in protest of Abdullah’s leadership also vowed to return to the fold soon. Unfortunately, the dream was short-lived.

najib mahathir pak lah umno 2009 agm final day 280309 02My only mistake’

Fast forward to Monday in London.

The former premier, who is in Britain to attend a Palestinian conference, again let loose his stinging criticisms of his successor-turned-nemesis Abdullah. In a five-minute interview with BBC World’s Mishal Hussein at its London studio, Mahathir slammed his successor for sullying his legacy.

“Everything went rotten when Abdullah took over,” lamented Mahathir, who refused to acknowledge any shortcomings on his part for the problems in UMNO despite being asked several times.

“My mistake was to choose this man (as successor),” said Mahathir, who added that that was the only mistake he made in his two decades in power. Moving on to another one of his favourite targets, Mahathir fired several rounds at Abdullah’s son-in-law and newly-elected UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin for his influence over the government.

Mahathir’s vexation towards Khairy escalated last week when the latter defeated his son, Mukhriz, in the coveted UMNO Youth chief contest.

In a hard-hitting blog posting later, Mahathir – who during his 22-year tenure was accused of everything in the dictionary related to corruption – slammed the UMNO Youth movement for bringing shame on the party by endorsing a ‘corrupt’ leader.

The former premier also said that in 22 years in office, Barisan Nasional always won two-thirds control in Parliament but the last polls saw the ruling coalition suffering its worst ever setback, by not only losing its two-third majority but also several states.

It is this which increased the pressure on the premier to relinquish the reins although his term does not end until 2013. Ironically four years earlier, Abdullah secured the biggest ever mandate for BN, seizing control of 90 percent of the parliamentary seats. Mahathir appeared to claim some credit for the historic mandate in 2004, noting that the general elections had come just after he stepped down as prime minister.

But observers had pointed out then that it was precisely Mahathir’s exit coupled with his successor’s reform pledges had led to the boost in support.


Dr Mahathir Mohamad was interviewed by BBC World’s Mishal Hussein in London where the 83-year-old former premier was grilled on his legacy. The following is an abstract of the five-minute interview.

Mishal Hussein: One of Mr Badawi’s fiercest critics was his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad who was in power for 22 years. Dr Mahathir is here in London for a conference on the Palestinians and he is with me now in the studio. Welcome to the programme. I wonder first if I can ask what went wrong as far as Mr Badawi is concerned because this is a man that you groomed to take over from you but then you didn’t like what you saw.

Mahathir: Well, he did all the things that were wrong. In the first place, he brought in his family and involved them not only in party business but also government business. His main advisors are members of his family and the group of young people appointed by his son-in-law.

Mishal Hussein: But family involvement in Malaysian politics – dynastic politics – is nothing new. Your son has contested for a position within UMNO. You’re quite disappointed, weren’t you, when he didn’t actually get elected.

Mahathir: He got into UMNO – in active politics – only after I left, (from) becoming the prime minister. That was the condition. I told my children that they are not to be involved in party politics or politics in general until I have stepped down because I don’t want people to talk about my rising dynasty.

Mishal Hussein: But you would like to see the Mahathir name continue.

Mahathir: Well, if he deserves it, why not?

Mishal Hussein: All right, let’s talk about the man who is going to be the next prime minister, Najib Razak – also someone that you know well. What do you think of him? Would he be a good PM?

Mahathir: Well, his record shows that he is a good administrator but he has certain weaknesses and because of that we cannot really be very sure whether he would be able to handle the problems faced by the party and the government.

Mishal Hussein: It is not very encouraging, is it? I mean, this is the next leader from your party.

Mahathir: Yes, it is true. He is from my party. At least, he was from my party because I’m not a member now. But I want to say what I think is the truth. I don’t care who gets hurt, even my own party if it gets hurt, but if the correction has to be made, I will make the comments.

Mishal Hussein: I raise this because there seems to be a pattern of you grooming people, hand-picking them even. Anwar Ibrahim was one, Abdullah Badawi was another. Najib Razak to some extent is the third. And once they get close to power, or into power, you attack them.

Mahathir: No, I didn’t groom them. I had no choice but to choose one of them to be my deputy and they didn’t prove to be able to handle this, and I have to take action against them.

Mishal Hussein: Well, if you are so critical of the leaders that UMNO has produced, is it time for a change then? Perhaps this isn’t the party that should dominate Malaysia as it has done since independence.

Mahathir: The party essentially is a very good party. It has functioned very well for 50 years and now we find under the leadership of Abdullah, the party has really become rotten, (it) has not been able to win the usual results that we have had in the past elections.

Mishal Hussein: So everything went wrong when you stepped down, is that right?

Mahathir: No, everything went wrong when Abdullah took over.

Mishal Hussein: Which is about the same period of time.

Mahathir: It is not the same because it could have been somebody else. Najib was actually the senior vice-president. He should have been designated the new prime minister after me but I thought he was young and I thought I will give Abdullah to assume, hold, some opportunity to lead the country.

Mishal Hussein: Let’s look at some criticisms of UMNO though. It’s been called corrupt. It’s been called detached from the people. Abdullah Badawi even said it is complacent. It is facing death. I mean these are the kinds of thing that don’t happen to a party overnight. Isn’t there anything that you would take responsibility for? You led the party for 22 years.

Mahathir: I led this party for 22 years. I never failed to get the support of the people in any election. I invariably get two-thirds majority. The first time we did not get two-thirds majority was after five years of Abdullah’s administration.

Mishal Hussein: Did you make any mistakes in those 22 years?

Mahathir:The mistake that I made was to choose this man.

Mishal Hussein:That was the only mistake that you made in those 22 years in power?

Mahathir:Yes, because immediately after I stepped down, the party won with an overwhelming majority. If I had left a party which is bad, they would never have won in 2004 with such a huge majority.

It can happen in Malaysia, if we allow reckless and uncontrolled public spending

Dear Fellow Malaysians in Bukit Selambau (Kedah), Bukit Gantang (Perak), Batang Ai (Sarawak) and elsewhere,

This is in Zimbabwe (below) , fortunately not in Malaysia, at least not yet. But we can suffer the same fate as this young Zimbabwean boy if we are not careful and when we allow reckless spending by the present government as it seeks to stimulate the economy over the next 2 years, running into hundreds of billions of ringgit. Members of the Opposition including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who, as a former Malaysian Minister of Finance, is the voice of prudence, tried to caution the government about its scatter-gun approach to public spending.

Visiting the neighborhood grocer!
...Join Keralites, Have fun & be Informed.

What we need is a government that is competent, accountable and transparent. Inflation follows when we recklessly reflate the economy with public expenditure, which will only benefit cronies, party supporters, and favored companies. The UMNO-BN government is inclined to this when Najib Tun Razak recently presented his rm60 billion package.

It is reported just a few days ago in the mainstream media that the new Prime Minister is likely to spend another rm200 billion in 2010. Where is the money coming from? From our savings, or tax revenues or disposal of key government assets or external borrowings or even from the IMF. IMF? God forbid.

Please vote carefully. Make sure that you vote the party which has the best programmes to resuscitate our sagging economy. Based on its record of economic management since Badawi came to power in 2004, the UMNO-Barisan Nasional will not do the job for us. It does not have a proper economic recovery plan to help our country emerge from the worst economic crisis the world has witnessed. Even the 1929 Great Depression pales in comparision to the one we all will be facing in the coming months. —Din Merican

Barisan Rakyat SMS Campaign starts now

Breaking News (Melalui sms) : Ceramah Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Bukit Selambau, 31hb. Mac, 2009, jam 10 malam, JDM Bukit Rusa; hubungi Saiful 0123211162. Bersatu mempertahankan kemenangan rakyat! Sebarkan.

From Haris Ibrahim (of Barisan Rakyat Bloggers)
Taiping, Perak and Din Merican in Kuala Lumpur

Barisan Rakyat SMS Campaign starts today: Let us Win in Bukit Gantang (Perak), Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak). It’s People Power for Freedom, Democracy and Justice. So, Vote for Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) in Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak) and PAS in Bukit Gantang (Perak ). We can make a big difference.

Reject UMNO-Barisan Nasional and Bring Positive Change to our Beloved country and free our people from corruption and abuse of power of the present regime which will soon see Najib Tun Razak as Prime Minister and Muhyiddin Yassin as Deputy Prime Minister. God save us from these plutocrats and Mahathirism.–Din Merican

March 31, 2009

Haris Ibrahim reports:

Don’t imagine even for one moment that SPR’s decision to fix all three by-elections simultaneously was an independent decision, without any consideration of the best interests of their political masters. It’s to stretch the resources of the Pakatan Rakyat to breaking point. But there’s one resource that Pakatan has that BN cannot break. You and I. We are beyond the reach of BN. And Pakatan need us now, more than ever.

I’ll be in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau for the better part of the campaign period as well as on polling day. You can help, too, from wherever you are. We start our Barisan Rakyat sms campaign today.

First we want to alert the people of Batang Ai, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau that we, the rakyat have rejected the race-based politics of UMNO- Barisan Nasional. We want them to know that we, a nation of a single people, anak Bangsa Malaysia, have rejected UMNO-Barisan Nasional and its race-based divide and rule politics and have embraced the ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ slogan of Pakatan Rakyat (PKR, PAS and DAP).

Here is the first sms.

Rakyat menolak politik perkauman UMNO– BN. Politik perkauman UMNO– BN hancurkan perpaduan rakyat. Jangan diperdayakan dengan politik kaum UMNO– BN. Politik Pakatan Rakyat menyatukan rakyat. Rakyat sehati sejiwa menyelamatkan negara yang dicintai. Undilah PAS- PKR pada 7/4/2009. Hidup rakyat. Sebar kpd kwn2 di Btg Ai / Bkt Gantang / Bkt Selambau.

Next, we are going to wage war with the lying mainstream media (MSM)which will be telling all sorts of lies in the next week. Whilst those of us who will be out on the campaign trail will try to do what we can to neutralise this spin-doctoring by the MSM, again our outreach will not be able to match a full-blown sms campaign to alert the people to the lies that will be spread through the MSM.

Here is the ‘boycott the MSM’ sms.

Media massa arus perdana akan m’perdayakan rkyt & m’cari helah utk gagalkan PAS di Bkt Gantang dan PKR di Btg Ai / Bkt Selambau dgn berita palsu – utk menanam rasa syak wasangka terhadap PAS & PKR. Jom boikot! Jgn beli s/kabar. Jgn p’caya berita radio/TV. Sebarkan kpd kwn2 di Bkt Gantang / Btg Ai / Bkt Selambau .

Could anyone please translate these 2 sms’s into Chinese and Tamil and send it in to me as a comment so that I can then put it up my blog [], please?

Send these sms’s out to everyone you know in Sarawak , Perak, Kedah. Even if you do not know anyone in these three states or the constituencies in question, send them out to those whom you know with a request that they forward it to those whom they know. That way, there’s every likelihood that it will ultimately get to the good folk of in these three constituencies in due course. And keep sending the sms’s out again and again in the run-up to polling day on April 7, 2009.

Posted by Haris Ibrahim ( on www. and Din Merican (on

Anwar Ibrahim hits the Campaign Trial

Anwar to hit by-election campaign trail on March 31, 2009

Hafiz Yatim @
March 30, 2009

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim will officially hit the election campaign trail on March 31, picking up where he left off with abortive
anwar bukit selambau pkr candidate manikumar 200309 10 rallies in Bukit Selambau a week ago.

He is currently in Bangkok, delivering a keynote lecture entitled ‘Global Economic Crisis and the Future of ASEAN’ at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

Anwar was a notable absentee at the nominations process yesterday for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak, and the state seats of Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak).

His aide, who did not want to be named  when contacted said that Anwar’s participation in the Bangkok conference had been arranged before the Election Commission announced the nomination day for the by-elections to be held on April 7.

Anwar was earlier in Manama, Bahrain, for the annual Al-Barakah banking group’s ‘Islamic Banking Conference’ and then stopped in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, for discussions on global economic problems. “He will hit the campaign trail by going to Bukit Selambau tomorrow. He will spend at least two days (of the campaign period) in each of the three constituencies to ensure the opposition’s victory,” said the aide.

Campaign schedule

Anwar is scheduled to be in Batang Ai (on Wednesday) and Bukit Gantang (Thursday), before returning to Bukit Selambau on Friday. He will again cover Batang Ai (Saturday), Bukit Gantang (Sunday) and Bukit Selambau (next Monday).

There is a 15-way battle for Bukit Selambau, which V Arumugam won in the general election last year as an Independent. He then joined
PKR but abruptly vacated the seat and his Kedah exco post. The current candidates are S Ganesan (MIC), S Manikumar (PKR) and 13 Independents.

In Bukit Gantang, Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin from PAS will fight it out with BN’s Ismail Saffian and Independent Kamarul Ramizu Idris. Batang Ai will see a straight fight between Malcolm Mussen Lamoh (PRS) and Jawah Gerang (PKR).

Batang Ai, Sarawak: Terence Netto reports

Deep into a BN bastion
by Terence Netto

March 30, 2009

Kampong Ruai Panjai in Lubok Antu is at least three kilometres off the main road, accessible via a dirt track whose undulations make a journey there a seat-jarring experience even for visitors borne in a comfortable SUV.

Although the turn in off the main road is only about a kilometre from the town of Lubok Antu, the longhouse appears located back of the beyond – such is the feeling one gets when bouncing along the track, with thick undergrowth and tall lallang on either side screening you from trees visible beyond. The unkempt belt of green on either side is impenetrable.

The 20-door longhouse at the end of the journey is indistinguishable from most other Iban habitations of its kind, except that on this night the row of four-wheel drives parked on either side of the final 50 metres of the dirt track indicates that a function is in progress in the verandah.

It was at Ruai Panjai, a supposedly BN stronghold, that PKR candidate for the Batang Ai by-election, Jawah Gerang, chose to kick off his nightly ceramah round.

For Jawah it was not that curious a place to start, given that he was the five-term MP for Lubok Antu – from 1987 to 2008 – first for Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak when it was in the opposition, and then for BN when PBDS joined the ruling coalition.

Residents of this longhouse were solidly for him and BN in the recent past. Would they switch their allegiance to PKR as Jawah and many former PBDS-cum-Parti Rakyat Sarawak (Batang Ai is a PRS-allocated seat within the ruling BN coalition) members have done.

Ruai Panjai’s residents remember Jawah from his previous campaigns but it was debatable whether they had adjusted quickly enough to his change of allegiance, for the place was festooned in BN flags and the only posters visible were that of Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, his mild-mannered BN opponent.

Neither Jawah’s fiery tone when he spoke nor the content of his speech – a denunciation of the errors of commission and omission of the government of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud – comported well with the facts of political history such as Ruai Panjai’s fealty to BN and Jawah’s only recent shedding of the BN platform.

However, the applause that punctuated Jawah’s more fervent rhetorical flights could not be said to have been merely polite and only the audible jabbering of a middle-aged man at the far end indicated that an otherwise attentive and appreciative audience was not unanimous in reception to their former parliamentarian.

Follow Selangor’s example, vote Pakatan

“He has chosen to start his campaign where it’s probably hardest for him to get votes,” whispered Maxwell Roggis, a former aide of Jawah’s who was involved in several of his past campaigns.

“That’s just like Jawah – to take the fight deep into the opposition before going to the places where he can be more confident of support,” added Roggis, who felt that Jawah’s combativeness was a plus point.

“People are in a restive mood, over Native Customary Rights land, unpaid compensation for the resettled in the Batang Ai dam project and other issues,” explained Roggis.

Jawah also brought along to the ceramah Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim who followed up Jawah’s fire with the bricks and mortar of welfare-oriented government, to wit, the PKR-led Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor where water is partly free, the elderly are entitled to medical benefits, the newly bereaved receive financial assistance, promising poor students have better access to scholarships, and women receive extended maternity leave.

“We have done all this in one year,” piped Khalid, listing the achievements of his administration in Selangor. Glancing about the grim conditions in the longhouse, Khalid asked: “What have you all got in 45 years in Malaysia with all the land, oil and other resources Sarawak has?”

“Vote like how your fellow citizens did on the Peninsula last year. Vote for change and for the people’s right to ownership of the country’s land and its resources,” said Khalid to thumping applause.

Aspects of the evening’s ceramah programme and its reception by the audience suggested that Jawah Gerang had chosen well the political company he currently keeps.

Pictures from Batang Ai, Sarawak: Nomination Day (March 28,2009)

Pictures from Batang Ai on Nomination Day (courtesy of PY Wong of TindakMalaysia)

PKR William Leong (MP Selayang), MB, Selangor Khalid Ibrahim

PAS Dr. Mohd Hatta (MP Kuala Krai)

PKR Sabah showing their support.

Anti-BN slogan from the Dayaks.

PKR supporters raising the stakes.

Start of PKR Procession.

PKR supporters marching to the nomination centre.

Jawah Gerang (PKR), followed by Selangor’s MB Khalid Ibrahim.

Bukit Selambau’s Manikumar is a winner for PKR


bukit selambau by election 300309 kalai vanar pcIt is indeed unfortunate that B. Kalaivanar of our Jerai PKR division together with 500 supporters, according to this malaysiakini report, decided to quit our movement for change. Having made his choice, I wish him all the best in his future political endeavour. He is now free to support to MIC and Mr. Samy Velu, knowing fully well that MIC, not PKR, did nothing for the Indian community for decades. Even Maika Holdings, the vehicle for Indian economic empowerment, is in shambles due to mismanagement and Indian savings were lost.

People often disagree for reasons best known to themselves.To disagree is common, but to quit is rather unusual. A committed man to the cause of freedom, democracy and justice stays on, overcomes the odds, and makes sacrifices.

Anwar Ibrahim and the men and women of Reformasi 1998 are examples of what it would take to change the political landscape of our country. They made the supreme sacrifice and suffered economic hardships and political repression but they are still around fighting for freedom, democracy and justice. Their spirits are strong and their resolve unwavering. Now it is just a matter of time before PKR and Pakatan Rakyat will be in Putrajaya with the help of AlMighty God and the Malaysian people.

To expect our Jerai man to do that is like barking at the moon. He abandons his cause just because his party leadership picks another candidate to stand in Bukit Selambau. Too short sighted and impatient. He should look at himself closely and honestly and understand why he was deemed not suitable to contest this ADUN seat and resolve to do better and ready himself for 2013 or thereabout. In stead he quits with a band of 500 misguided support.

PKR is a party founded on democratic principles. It allows open debate and free expression of views. But at the end of day, a decision has to be made by the top leadership of our party. The decision to field local boy, S. Manikumar was taken after a careful assessment of a number of potential candidates.

One important criterion is winnability. This requires consultation with people on the ground, taking into account the considered views of our party leadership, our friends in Pakatan Rakyat (PAS and DAP), and our strategists and campaign operatives. Anwar made his decision in the best interest of the party he leads. He does it time and time again unfailingly.

Anwar knows that he cannot please everyone when he made his choice, but he and his colleagues are confident that given clean and fair elections, Bukit Selambau’s Manikumar can emerge a winner of the contest between PKR-Pakatan Raykat and UMNO-led Barisan Nasional on April 7, 2009. Mani  is a likeable person, has local knowledge, and enjoys considerable support from Bukit Selambau voters, cutting across ethnicity and culture. Furthermore, we have assembled an excellent strategy and campaign team to support Manikumar. We can win in Bukit Selambau—Din Merican

PKR’s Kalai quits over by-election snub

by S Pathmawathy

March 30, 2009

Jerai PKR division leader B Kalaivanar today resigned from the party along with 500 supporters, claiming that party leader Anwar Ibrahim had forgotten all that he has done for the opposition party.

He is also upset that Anwar had overlooked him as a candidate for the Bukit Selambau by-election. “I am very unhappy with Anwar and PKR. The party has not done anything for the Indian community,” he told reporters at a press conference in Sungai Petani. “They have become ungrateful,” he added.

The Jerai division was also dissolved today following Kalaivanar’s decision to quit the party. About 500 members from the division have opted to follow Kalaivanar out of the party.

Kalaivanar also hinted that he would be throwing his support behind the Barisan Nasional in the forthcoming by-election on April 7. “That will be known in the coming day,” he said.

His resignation from the party was widely anticipated when the party picked greenhorn S Manikumar for the polls, where the party candidate will be facing MIC’s S Ganesan and 13 independents. Kailaivanar, 45, had previously claimed that he stood a good chance of winning the seat as he has a strong grassroots support in Kedah, especially among the Indian community.

He stood as a candidate for the Gurun state seat in the last general election but lost. The former PKR leader, who was Kedah PKR Indian Community Development Committee chairperson, plans to concentrate on his non-governmental organisation work.

Malaysian Police only police some streets, not others

Once again the Malaysian police have shown their professionalism and commitment to public safety. When asked about BN supporters attacking Karpal Singh’s car on nomination day at Bukit Gantang Perak police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said Karpal Singh had taken the wrong route to enter the Taiping Municipal Council Hall instead of the one assigned to supporters of the opposition parties.

Therefore – according to the police – it’s OK to attack him and vandalize his car?

See The Star.

Of course with the recent deaths of Malaysians held in custody and the plethora of reports showing corruption in the Malaysian police force, including the Royal Commission, this is not much of a surprise.

The UMNO Fox makes a grand entrance at UMNO’s Annual General Meeting

March 30, 2009

Business Times, Singapore

Mahathir Upstages Badawi on last day of the UMNO General Assembly

By S. Jayasankaran

Even as he was making his farewell appearance before UMNO members, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got upstaged by his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad. Last Saturday (March 28), when UMNO leaders, including Abdullah, were delivering their winding- up addresses, Dr Mahathir strolled in casually to rousing applause and even posed for pictures with the hapless Abdullah and soon-to-be premier Najib Razak.

Dr Mahathir had been scheduled to attend the assembly on Thursday but was a conspicuous no-show. He explained in his blog on Friday that it wasn’t because his son (Mukhriz) had lost in the contest for UMNO Youth leader (to Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin) but because “the Youth has openly accepted the practice of money politics”.

Two weeks earlier, Khairy had been found guilty of money politics by UMNO’s disciplinary board but had been let off with a warning.

Dr Mahathir used that to assail him, UMNO and his father-in-law, saying that the Youth “had destroyed the image of UMNO and the Malays”. He concluded thus: “I felt that I would be tarnished if I was in an assembly of people who accepted corruption.”

The sentiment didn’t last long, apparently, because he was there the next day accepting all the adulation heaped on him by the very people he had scorned. You had to feel for Abdullah. But even if Dr Mahathir hadn’t showed up, one wonders if the outgoing PM could have exited in a blaze of glory. His speech, for example, was brilliant except that it was marred by delivery: it was frequently interrupted by bouts of coughing that did little to add sparkle to what was otherwise splendid, content-wise.

And one went away with the distinct feeling that his party did not agree with what he said. When Abdullah warned against returning to “the old ways” of curbing dissent and clamping down on individual freedoms, the delegates sat on their hands and there was little applause.

Indeed, much of Abdullah’s tenure was like his speech: good intentions marred by poor delivery. His legacy is one of a fundamentally decent individual who may have been overawed by the enormity of the task facing him.

Najib has an even more enormous task awaiting him: he is beset with a sharply slowing economy and a need to inspire renewed confidence among a citizenry growing mistrustful of government. He is aware of this and has repeatedly spoken about the need of “reforming” UMNO and forming a “credible” government with a Cabinet line-up that inspires trust.

But Najib is shackled by tradition, and party tradition dictates that he look for Cabinet choices among the leaders that Umno elects. And although various commentators have tried to put a kind face on things, many among the 25-man Supreme Council the party elected last Thursday hardly inspire trust.

Najib gets sworn in this week. And he is likely to announce his line-up and his national agenda to a curious country next week. He will have much to ponder upon. The only thing he can be sure of is that his predecessor Abdullah is unlikely to criticise anything he does. Dr Mahathir, on the other hand, will have no such scruples.

Two Versions of the same story, one by Rocky Bru (Ahairuddin Attan)

Yang peliknya, ada orang itu suatu ketika pernah duduk dalam kerajaan. Tapi kini bila sudah menjadi pembangkang, tiba-tiba dianggap bersih seperti malaikat, putih bersih seperti bayi yang baru lahir. Hakikatnya saya dan kita semua tahu siapa dia sebenarnya.

—Najib Razak on Anwar Ibrahim in his Acceptance Speech on March 28, 2009

The Malaysian Insider

Kuala Lumpur
March 30, 2009

UMNO leaders’ embrace at party congress spells for Anwar Ibrahim

The past, present and future prime ministers of Malaysia put years of backstabbing and badmouthing aside when they embraced at the UMNO party’s congress – and that could spell trouble for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

It was a stunning moment of public unity for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad and incoming leader Najib Razak, a trio whose brawling has been a boon for the opposition.

The moment came on Saturday after Dr Mahathir – who resigned from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in 2007 out of anger with Abdullah – walked into the venue with his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah. Abdullah was winding up proceedings on the final day of the five-day congress of the party, which has dominated Malaysian politics.

The delegates cheered the elderly couple and Abdullah, repeatedly labelled “good for nothing” by Dr Mahathir, saw them coming. He praised Dr Mahathir as a great leader – and invited him up on stage. Dr Mahathir formally shook hands with his successor, but Abdullah broke the ice, pulling Dr Mahathir in and embracing him warmly. Najib joined them in the embrace – and delegates went wild.

The Malay language Mingguan Malaysia ran the photograph under the banner headline: “Finally, united again!”. Denison Jayasooria, political scientist at the National University of Malaysia, said the moment may prove vital. “I think their rapprochement is for real, and has been forced on them by the political realities that UMNO is politically retreating and also because the UMNO grassroots are demanding they close rank,” he said.

“From here on, they will consolidate and train their guns on Anwar … Anwar is the key, he is the glue that is holding the opposition together.” Anwar, who goes on trial for sodomy this month, was repeatedly attacked during the UMNO meeting.

Former UMNO youth wing leader (now one of the Vice Presidents) Hishamuddin Hussein led the charge last Tuesday, accusing him of various “crimes” including criticism of Malaysia’s royal families, generating negative media reports in the international press and tarnishing the country in foreign forums.

Najib, who is taking over as prime minister on Thursday, lambasted Anwar’s morality. “As opposition leader he claims to be as innocent as angels … like a newborn baby, but we know who he really is,” Najib said, without naming Anwar.

Tian Chua, a senior leader in Anwar’s Keadilan party, said the repeated targeting of Anwar was “sad”. “They demonised him, and made veiled threats of entrapment and imprisonment,” he said, adding that he believed the rise of Najib would herald a new era of repression.

Chua cited a recent ban on two opposition publications, the suspension of opposition lawmakers and police action to break up opposition rallies as examples of the hardline policies favoured by Najib. “Repression will worsen after Najib takes power,” he said. “Anwar is prepared for the worst.”

UMNO will face its next electoral test on April 7, with three simultaneous by-elections. In Bukit Gantang in Perak state, a seat in the national assembly is up for grabs. The other races are for state legislature seats.

Some 15,000 opposition supporters and 5,000 from the ruling National Front coalition turned out yesterday to nominate their candidates. – South China Morning Post

My Paper
March 30, 2009
by Ahairuddin Attan (aka Rocky Bru)

Najib’s nifty first moves

Yesterday (March 29) was Nomination Day for three by-elections scattered around Malaysia, which will prove a tough test for Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Yet, as Malaysia awaits his swearing-in as the next prime minister this Friday, his first moves at the UMNO party general assembly last week suggest he may be equal to the huge challenges facing him.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition he will helm has lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, ceded four states to an opposition alliance and – after the gruelling UMNO elections – is saddled with unpopular names like Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin in the line-up. Then there’s the economic gloom.

Yet even a constant Najib critic like the blogger known as Sakmongkol, a former lawmaker, has acknowledged the new leader made the right moves.

First, in his acceptance speech as UMNO chief last Saturday (March 28) , Mr. Najib projected humility and made no attempt to use his new platform to take potshots at political opponents inside or outside UMNO. Malaysians will like that. Not once, for example, did he mention Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition chief who has been demonising him endlessly.

Second, Mr. Najib is trying to bring together former premier Mahathir Mohamad and outgoing leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, saying he was planning a meeting with the two statesmen to bury the hatchet and help him rebuild UMNO and Barisan Nasional. The Mahathir-Abdullah spat is often cited as a key reason for last year’s BN elections flop.

Malaysians are also encouraged that their future prime minister seems to be on the ball with regard to the economic meltdown.

Mr. Najib announced during the UMNO meet that he will launch a website to show the people just how the new RM60 billion (S$25 billion) mini-budget will be sourced and spent. This shows, one netizen remarked, that Mr Najib cares about being transparent.

There is talk he may engage former finance minister Daim Zainuddin to strengthen Malaysia’s ties with other countries.This should go down well too. The UMNO elections have given Mr Najib a line-up of leaders drawn from different corners of Malaysia, giving him a good chance to unify his fractious party as he fights corruption.

Even if BN loses all three by-elections taking place next Tuesday, all the blame won’t be heaped upon the new captain at the helm. And I haven’t even mentioned Mr Najib’s chance to wow Malaysians with a dazzling Cabinet line-up, which should show how serious – or not – he is about making changes in the government.

Of course, Malaysians will recall that his predecessor also had an excellent start after taking charge in 2003 – before things began falling apart.

The Battle for Batang Ai begins: PKR Vs UMNO-BN

Lubok Antu gets ready for 10,000 supporters
Joseph Tawie | March 28, 2009

batang ai state seat past results 110309About 10,000 people are expected to accompany the two candidates to the nomination centre in Lubok Antu tomorrow (March 29, 2009) for the Batang Ai by-election.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud will lead the BN side of 5,000 people to accompany Malcolm Mussen Lamoh to the centre. An equal number from PKR will be led by Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim to accompany their candidate Jawah Gerang.

Whether this by-election in Batang Ai will be a straight fight or not will be known tomorrow. So far, two candidates have also expressed their interest to contest as independents.

For BN and PKR, the by-election is an important affair. The ruling coalition will go all out to prove that it has not lost any support from the people, the Dayak community in particular.

On the other hand, PKR will launch a serious attempt to break into the predominantly Dayak area which will have significant implications in the next election.

Posters, banners up

Meanwhile, roads leading to Lubok Antu are literally lined up with PKR posters and banners, something not seen in the past. The PKR candidate is also being assisted by thousands of DAP and PAS members from West Malaysia. Khalid is expected to arrive in Lubok Antu this evening by road and will spend the night there. Much of the campaining is taking place in longhouses either reachable by road or by river in this constituency.

The main issue is that the Ibans feel that they have been marginalised under the Taib government especially in respect of their NCR land, something the BN campaigners will have to disapprove if they do not want lose the support of the Ibans.

For the past few days, Iban ministers have been announcing millions of ringgit worth of projects for the constituency.

It’s PKR vs BN at Batang Ai
by Joseph Tawie

March 29, 2009

batang ai nomination day 290309 04Sarawak’s Batang Ai state seat by-election will see a straight fight between the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Barisan Nasional. Former five-term MP for Lubok Antu, Jawah Gerang, of PKR is to face BN candidate Malcolm Mussen.

Johnny Chuat, an Iban blogger and publisher of an Iban magazine, who entererd the nomination centre at about 9am failed to submit his papers as an independent. Coming out of the centre, he wore a PKR shirt and met his supporters, telling them to support Jawah Gerang.

There were some tense moments when objections were raised against the two candidates, but the returning officer, Nelson Mujah Girie overruled the objections and accepted both nominations.

The returning officer made the announcement at 11.30am.

batang ai nomination day 290309 02The large crowd estimated at 10,000 exchanged friendly taunting, but there were a few tense moments among the PKR supporters when the police started to seize PAS flags. PKR Dominique Ng intervened and talked to a senior police officer. Later Ng told Malaysiakini that the police refused to allow PAS flags to be displayed at the field among the DAP and PKR crowd.

‘Dayakism in action’

The police told Ng that PAS was not a participating party in the by-election and according to the rules of the Election Commission, any party which was not involved should not be allowed to join the crowd displaying its flags.

Ng told the police that if that was the case, then SUPP, SPDP and PBB should also not be allowed to display their flags. But the police replied that they were parties in the Barisan Nasional, whereas Pakatan Rakyat was not a registeredd body. After a long argument, the police allowed the PAS contingent to join its partners, saying that it was all a miscommunication.

A former senior BN leader commented on the number of so many Dayak lawyers present at the nomination centre to support the PKR. It shows “Dayakism in action”. Many ordinary Dayaks from professionals down to rural dwellers have taken a greater interest in the Dayaks’ political predicament while using PKR as the main vehicle to articulate their fears and hopes.

Crackdown on Opposition Politicians is possible as Najib seeks to stamp his authority

posted by din merican–March 28, 2009
March 27, 2009

Najib Altantuya gets core but not dream team, crackdowns to intensify

By Wong Choon Mei

Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin – the president’s man – won the coveted No 2 post in UMNO, salvaging some face for his newly-confirmed boss Najib Razak, whose prestige took a wallop after members voted in candidates aligned to his predecessor in two other key positions.

Najib was confirmed as president of UMNO earlier in the day. He succeeded outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who agreed not to seek re-election after an internal rebellion last year that was purportedly hatched by Najib and his mentor Mahathir Mohamad. Muhyiddin had also played a key role in Abdullah’s ouster.

But on less solid ground now is Najib. Not only his party, but the entire nation, is rating him based on whether he can get his men through to form his dream team to govern the country. As UMNO is the ruling party, those who win key posts this week can expect to be included in the cabinet once Najib takes over as prime minister early next month.

However, it is clear that despite Muhyiddin’s win, Najib has not won the hearts and minds of UMNO members. Instead, his popularity has waned, due in no small part to a recent string of crackdowns against dissent and a ruthless purge attempted against leaders close to Abdullah.

In the race for the deputy president’s post, Muhyiddin beat Muhammad Muhammad Taib, the Rural Development Minister close to Abdullah. He polled 1,575 votes against Muhammad’s 916.

For the three vice-presidencies, Zahid Hamidi secured 1,592 votes, Hishammuddin Hussein obtained 1,515 and Shafie Apdal 1,445 to win. All three were backed by Najib.

However, Khairy Jamaluddin – Abdullah’s son-in-law – defied the odds to clinch the Youth chief post a day ago. He defeated two other challengers including Mukhriz – Mahathir’s youngest son and the hot favourite to win.

At the same time, Shahrizat Jalil won the Women’s chief post, ousting long-time Mahathir ally Rafidah Aziz. In the supreme council, the top decision-making organ, 17 of the 25 elected members are regarded as being aligned to Abdullah.

These victories will temper Najib’s control over the party. Although his core team is in place, two key wings are now with the Abdullah camp and many of those who owe his predecessor a favour in positions of influence. There will be pressure on him to show who is boss.

“The damage to Najib has already been done. This is a clear sign that there will be multiple centers of power that will be undermining Najib from within which makes his challenge of trying to govern the country in the midst of a serious global economic slowdown even more daunting,” said political analyst Ong Kian Ming.

A return to authoritarian repression

More desperate moves can now be expected from Najib and Mahathir, as they push to tighten their grip in both the party and the country. The stakes have been raised and opposition politicians are already bracing for a crackdown, including the arrest of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“Khairy’s win will take away some of the humiliation that Abdullah was subjected to in the past weeks. There is still some support for him in UMNO,” said KeADILan information chief Tian Chua. “But we should not be too naive about it and Pak Lah should not feel too secure. His enemies can any time hang Khairy with formal charges of corruption.”

“There is widespread expectation that Anwar will be arrested very soon. There will some trumped-up charge or other, but the real intention is to secure some breathing space for Najib to stamp his authority on the country,” said a political analyst.

Even Abdullah acknowledged the increasingly oppressive regime pursued by Najib and his advisers. Since agreeing to the power transfer last October, he has left most of the day-to-day governance of the country to Najib.

“Sadly, there are those who feel that we do not need to pursue reforms,” Abdullah said in his final presidential address. “They believe that UMNO will regain its glory if we revert to the old ways – the old order, by restricting the freedom of our citizens and by silencing their criticism. If we revert to the old path I believe we are choosing the wrong path; one that will take us to regression and decay. It is a path that I fear will hasten our demise.”

The stigma of corruption

Meanwhile, critics of the flamboyant Khairy have slammed his election as a further sign that UMNO was insincere about ridding itself of corruption.

“The stigma is there. No matter that he and Ali Rustam were singled out. It is still money politics, it is still corruption and there should be no excuse not to bring in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. If they are innocent, they should be cleared. If they are guilty, they should be charged,” said Tian.

As part of the purge attempted by the Najib camp, the 33-year old MP for Rembau was accused of vote buying and issued a warning letter last week. Popular vice-president Mohd Ali Rustam – the front-runner in the race for the deputy presidency – was disqualified from contesting on similar grounds.

Outraged UMNO grassroots raised a hue and cry, putting Najib and Mahathir on the defensive. Political watchers predicted a swathe of sympathy votes would swing to the Abdullah camp in protest of the aggressive move. Part of that prediction came true, with Khairy and Shahrizat breaking through, although Muhammad Muhammad Taib faltered.

Said Kian Ming: “Khairy will no doubt play the role of the loyal Youth chief but he will remember what Najib tried to do to him. And when the time comes when Najib’s back is against the wall for Khairy to support Najib, then the daggers will be unsheathed, presumably, not only by Khairy but also by others, including Mohd Ali.”

The Weekend is upon us again, sit back and ponder the fate of our nation this Earth Day

March 27, 2009


The weekend is upon us again. While UMNO is busy with their annual convention thing, blaming everyone else except themselves and make dangerously racist speeches, we who are more sensible and less myopic should relax on Earth Day. Let us reflect upon what politicians in power in our country have been doing all these years (since 1957 and after 5 Prime Ministers in charge of the ship called Malaysia), raping our resources and destroying our environment with no concern for the future generations, only obsessed with their own self gratification, and shamelessly misusing their mandate to govern.

We have allowed the existing UMNO-BN regime to get away with it and we must now decide what we must do with this culture of corruption and abuse of power, recognising that we, each and everyone of us, are responsible for allowing this present state of affairs to persist. We did something in March, 2008, but that was not enough. We must do more in the future. We must change the government via the ballot box the next time around.

At present, we face the threat of political intimidation and repression and our fundamental rights under our constitution are being trampled upon. Our leaders in the Opposition face a clear and present danger of  the return of Mahathirism by a new and insecure Najib leadership. They are being denied their freedom to speak even in Parliament; they also face the possibility being dragged to Kamunting or Sungei Buloh under ISA.

How can we restore trust in our institutions of governance including our Judiciary which is the last bastion of justice? The New Straits Times is welcoming the new UMNO team with Najib Tun Razak and Muhiyuddin Yassin as the TRANSFORMERS who will bring new vigor and reforms in the same way that Badawi had promised when he was first appointed UMNO President with Najib by his side as Deputy President in 2003. That new vigor could be political intimidation and repression of the voices of freedom and justice

Politics aside, let us go country and western and soul this weekend and I have pleasure in presenting Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash and Isaac Hayes for your listening pleasure.—DJ Din Merican

Glen Campbell–Gentle on My Mind

By the Time I get to Phoenix

True Grit

Johnny Cash–I Walk the Line

Folsom Prison Blues

Issac Hayes Live at Montreux Jazz Festival

Politics in an Age of Unreason

March 28, 2009

Politics in an Age of Unreason

By Farish A. Noor*

So now the bomohs (witch doctors) rule the roost it would seem. The news that a magic charm or spell was found hidden surreptitiously under the desk of none other than the Prime Minister of Malaysia does not bode well for the future of this country of ours. It may make the headlines under the ‘Strange but True’ column of foreign papers, but this historian has grown somewhat jaded by now by such ridiculousness dressed in the garment of wonderment and fantasy. No, this was no laughing matter (and if we did laugh, it was a pitiable laugh at best).

One recalls the blanket order issued by some political parties last year just before the general elections of March 2008, to the effect that politicians should refrain from calling upon the services of such practitioners of the ‘black arts’. That political parties have to issue such warnings in the first place speaks volumes about the state of Malaysian politics today, a primordial politics that is being enacted in an age of unreason.

As a scholar in Britain in the 1990s I remember reading a report about a Latin American country that had fallen into an economic tailspin of unprecedented proportions. As inflation rose to the level of more than a thousand percent, the hapless citizens of that unfortunate country wondered aloud about how their country’s economy could have fallen apart in so short a space of time.

It later transpired that the Cabinet Minister in charge of Economic Development and Finance had consulted a Latin American equivalent of a bomoh too. In the middle of the night he had snuck out of the capital in his air-conditioned luxury car to meet up with the half-naked savant in the steamy jungle. In the witch doctor’s primeval hut a chicken was readied for the task. The fowl’s belly was split open and the entrails were laid out for inspection. The witch doctor took a look at the shape and form of the animal’s liver, kidneys and intestines, and then gave his expert opinion as to how the country’s economy should be managed over the rest of the fiscal year. The Cabinet Minister dutifully took down notes and made the necessary changes to the budget. In a week’s time the economy had crashed and in this case at least we cannot blame the chicken for the economic collapse. The rest is history, and a sad one at that…

I shudder at the thought that Malaysia today may be heading in the same direction. We pride ourselves with the thought that we have the most beautiful international airport in the region; and that our capital boasts of having one of the tallest buildings in the world. But the word on the street is that one should not linger too long on the forty-first floor of the KLCC tower for fear that one may bump into the resident ghost who tarries along the corridor in the dead of night. And of course magic spells have the tendency to end up under your table if you happen to be the Prime Minister as well.

My despondent character is hardly improved by these revelations. Indeed it brings me closer to suicide every time I read of such nonsense that passes as politics in our benighted country.

Malaysian politics is in dire need of a heavy dose of reason and rationality. For too long we have become accustomed to a primordial politics based on sentiment and couched in narrow essentialisms of race, ethnicity, language and religious differences. Yet to build a modern nation-state and to engage in the effort of nation-building, it is our rational critical faculties that we need to draw upon. The abstract idea of a plural and democratic Malaysia is not the result of the bomoh’s arcane craft, but rather the result of careful planning and micro-management of a host of social and cultural variables.

Looking at where we are today, with a country that continues to be split along ethnic, racial, linguistic and religious lines, one is compelled to ask: Can Malaysia survive the next 50 years and will we remain on the map? The recent calls for the protection and promotion of exclusive racial interests that were uttered prior to the UMNO general assembly all point to the return of primordial politics with a vengeance. Worst of all, almost all of the politicians in this country have retained the ethnic-communitarian card till today.

This, my friends, is the real danger we face in Malaysia at the moment. Faced with an economic crisis of gargantuan proportions, we are a nation in denial and unable to address the realities of the world face-to-face. Running to the bomoh and hiding behind the rhetoric of racial exclusivism are the same thing: A pathetic attempt to escape from the real issues that may make or break this nation, while we perpetuate our collective conceit that we are a developing state-in-waiting. For our sake, and for the sake of the future generations of Malaysians, reason and rationality will have to make a comeback in no uncertain terms.

*Dr. Farish Noor is  Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Najib the Reformist for UMNO and Barisan Nasional?

Can Najib be the reformist Abdullah failed to be?

By Ooi Kee Beng

March 28, 2009

New PM’s future depends on him being tough against his own. Corruption is seen to have corroded the party at all levels and many suspect that the only way it can reinvent itself is to lose power, just as the Kuomintang in Taiwan had to do.

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng, Today Online

FIVE years after the 2004 general elections gave unprecedented support to Mr Abdullah Badawi, he leaves office a disappointed man eased out by his party’s leadership. He also leaves behind a disappointed population that hoped he would reverse the downward trend of governance in Malaysia. He also hands over office to a man who, unlike him, will start his term under tremendous pressure to perform.

Mr. Najib Abdul Razak, the eldest son of the country’s second Prime Minister, will, barring any last minute move by his political enemies, become the sixth Prime Minister of the country. This is a role he – and his wife – seems to think is destined for him to play.

In fact, he will be holding not one, but three if not four, pivotal positions at the same time. According to tradition, the country’s Prime Minister is also the president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) as well as the chairman of the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional.

Chances are, he will take on at least one other major portfolio. He became Finance Minister only recently and will therefore probably continue to be such. The Home Ministry is one further administration that he might be tempted to control directly.

The immediate challenges Mr. Najib will face as Prime Minister radiate from this triple pyramidal system of government that Malaysia has always had.

Forming a Cabinet that will bring the “massive change” that he recently promised Malaysians is his first Herculean task. His first picks have to come from among UMNO’s leaders. He will have to accommodate newly-elected leaders of the various wings of the party as well as from among the supreme councillors.

In doing this, he has to balance the various factions within the party. Alienating any of them badly will increase chances of defections to the opposition further down the road. UMNO’s biggest problem at the moment is its inability to win support from among young Malays. It is losing urban areas to Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the rural north to Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

Corruption is seen to have corroded the party at all levels and many suspect that the only way it can reinvent itself is to lose power, just as the Kuomintang in Taiwan had to do. After making hard choices from among UMNO’s leaders, Mr Najib has to, in keeping with the BN’s claim to represent all major ethnic groups, place prominent non-Malay allies in middle-rank portfolios.

Given how parties such as Parti Gerakan Rakyat and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) were decimated in last year’s general elections, their leaders who had lost their Parliamentary seats will have to be made senators first before they can constitutionally become Cabinet Ministers. Doing this repeatedly will inevitably be taken as a snub by voters.

Not giving high positions to leaders such as Gerakan’s Koh Tsu Koon and MIC’s Samy Vellu will, however, almost definitely estrange them and their supporters. Barisan Nasional’s biggest problem at the moment is its inability to regain the Indian vote, and the uncontested re-election as MIC president of Mr Samy Vellu, the man blamed for alienating the Indian community, undermines the raison d’etre of the coalition further.

Constrained by the power balance of his party and of the damaged coalition that he leads, Mr Najib, at the personal level, has no choice but to seek the moral high ground. This will take some doing, seeing how the murder trial of the Mongolian woman, Ms. Altantuya Shaaribuu, continues to haunt him.

All the new Prime Minister can do is to hope that the affair will fade away from public consciousness after the court’s verdict is handed out next month. “Revelations” about his connection or lack of connection, to the sordid murder case is no longer an option for him.

Instead, Mr Najib will have to drown himself in the work of softening the worst effects of the emerging economic crisis. Serious dialogue with civil society – if not with the opposition parties – is a tactic he has to adopt, not for its own sake, but because that is the only way for him to project himself as a Prime Minister for the country, not for party or coalition. That is also the only chance he has to slow the flow of voter support away from the Barisan Nasional.

Relying only on UMNO and the Barisan Nasional merely strengthens the image of insularity and arrogance that voters punished the government for last year. The optimism and pro-activeness that Mr Najib needs to project depends on his ability to keep his three major roles apart.

He has to persuade Malaysians that he is the nation’s leader, first and foremost, and not the defender of his party’s and his coalition’s vested interests.His political future depends on him acting tough against his own. Radical reforms from the top are the only answer.

Dr Ooi Kee Beng is a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is Arrested Reform:The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi.