Congrats, Malik, for winning the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award

April 30, 2009

Congrats, Malik, on being nominated for and winning the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award from all of us in social and political activism . The citation reads as follows:

“Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, whose release he secured last year. In August 2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam and calling for his death was circulated in Malaysia. He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and spoken in a series of public forums on the need for religious freedom.

Those of us who know you for your stout and successful defence of Raja Petra Kamaruddin are proud of this international recognition of your work as “human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)”. I personally wish you all the best. May you continue in good health to stand up for the cause of human liberty, for which you received the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award.—Din Merican

The truth about Malaysia

The efforts of civil society and alternative media have strived to show Malaysia in its true, anti-democratic light

o Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
o, Wednesday 22 April 2009 10.00 BST
o Article history

Architects of autocracies would benefit tremendously from studying the Malaysian model. It stands as a shining example of how, given the right combination of greed, ambition, maladministration and contempt for the rule of law, any democracy can be recast into an autocracy while preserving the veneer of democratic process.

At the time of its independence in 1957, Malaysia’s written constitution embedded the separation of powers and the freedoms so crucial to its checks and balances. But the vested interests of a hegemonic political elite has, over time, caused the system to mutate into one of rule by law that threatens the continued sustainability of the nation.

This is easy enough for anyone to see. The statute books contain a plethora of anti-democratic laws that are designed for, and applied to, one end: the regulation of information and opinion. This has allowed the suborning of a voter base much weakened by a divisive system of race politics; voters already made to feel that they should be voting one way rather than the other are not given the means to make an informed choice. This has allowed a semblance of democracy, even though the democratic process has been subverted.

There is no other way of explaining the continued existence of laws that vest power in the government to detain without trial for extended periods of time, or to subjectively regulate the print media or to brings charges for sedition and criminal defamation. These laws not only impede free access to vital information, they allow the suppression of legitimate dissent, a process aided by a seeming willingness on the part of key institutions of the state, such as the judiciary and the police force, to serve the interests of the government in such ways as they can. The police routinely clamp down on opposition rallies and NGO demonstrations while the judiciary cannot be relied upon to defend civil liberties.

When confronted about any of this, the government points to the electoral process and its consistent return to power. It sidesteps the extent to which it attempts to keep the voter ignorant or scared. It meets complaints about the system with defensiveness, even hostility, due to its inability to meaningfully justify its position and its unwillingness to respond to popular sentiment.

Fighting back has centred on efforts to increase access to information. In the general election of March 2008, the incumbent political coalition took a beating. It lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and lost control over four of the 13 states in which it had previously formed government. This was largely due to the unflagging and courageous efforts of civil society and the alternative media. A ragtag group of activists, bloggers and independent news sites strived to offer a different and more truthful view of Malaysia, while making Malaysians aware it was time for them to take ownership of the issues at hand.

Many of those involved were people I had come to know over the last decade or so in my work as an activist as well as a public interest lawyer. Of these, Raja Petra Kamarudin, a new media exponent of almost iconic status, was among the most influential. Unflinching and unrelenting, he galvanised reactions on a scale that many were unprepared for. He helped shape history last March.

That may be why he was charged for sedition and criminal defamation as well as detained was detained under the Internal Security Act soon after.

Amid concerns that a wider crackdown was underway and that I might also be on the detention list, I was instructed to seek an order of habeas corpus. Painfully aware of how exposed I was to executive scrutiny, I assembled a team of lawyers and made the applications. We were not hopeful, there had not been a successful challenge on merits since 1998 when the law had been amended to preclude judicial review. The high court, however, thought there were merits and ordered his release. He had been detained for some 55 days by then.

The situation is precarious. Malaysians want change and the elites that form the government are in no position to deliver it. Continued suppression and repression is the only way in which power can be preserved. That does not bode well for the nation.

Last night Malik Imtiaz Sarwar won the Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award at last night’s Index on Censorship awards

Justice (Rtd) NH Chan Interview

The Malaysian Insider

April 30, 2009

Justice (Rtd) NH Chan Interview

By Debra Chong in Ipoh, Perak

(Retired Justice) Chan Nyarn Hoi lives in a modest two-storey semi-detached house in a quiet lane near the state stadium in Perak with his wife, a dog and seven large Japanese carp.

At 74 years old and with ruddy smooth cheeks under a full head of snowy white hair, few would connect him to the acerbic, no-nonsense former judge Datuk N.H. Chan, who has in the last couple of months done the unthinkable: fire away missives at judges who have trampled on the Federal Constitution in deciding issues related to the power grab in Perak. His lengthy articles have reminded Malaysians of a time gone by when towering individuals sat on the Bench and simplified the Perak constitutional crisis for the common man.

Still seething over the events that transpired in Perak and decisions of the apex court, he says that if Malaysians are upset with the state of the judiciary and think that the present crop of judges are not up to the mark, they should exercise the power of their  vote to change the state of affairs in the country.

Born in Ipoh on March 27, 1935, Chan was admitted to the Bar in 1961. He was a lawyer for almost two decades before becoming a High Court judge and moving to Kuala Lumpur.

He was among the first batch of High Court judges to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, set up in 1994 to act as an intermediate court between the High Court and the apex court.

Chan’s first book, “Judging the Judges”, was published in 2007 and is a collection of his articles for the Perak Bar. Only 1,000 copies were published.

His second book, “How to Judge the Judges”, is expected to come out some time in the middle of the year. The final draft has just been sent to the publishers. They wanted him to include the Perak saga as well, but because it is ongoing, he had to draw a line somewhere. He has included some information in the epilogue.

In an exclusive interview, the former judge, who was recommended to the Bench by none other than Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak and a central figure in the present crisis, tells The Malaysian Insider why he feels compelled to speak out.

Question(Q): Unlike many former judges, you have been very vocal in your criticisms against the judiciary. What drives you?

Answer (A) : In the first place, I am not against the judiciary. I am sure there are some good judges around, only they have not manifested themselves in the present constitutional, should I say, crisis in Perak.

I expected James Foong JCA (as he then was, he is now a Federal Court judge) to do the right thing but he failed to do that. I suppose it takes great courage for a Court of Appeal judge who sat as a winger in the Federal Court to give a dissenting judgment.

Now, back to your question. When I became a judge I had to be true to my calling which is to know that the essence of justice is fair trial and the duty of the judge is to administer it according to law.

Lord Devlin in his book “The Judge”, wrote on page 4: “…impartiality and the appearance of it are the supreme judicial virtues. It is the verdict that matters, and if it is incorrupt, it is acceptable. To be incorrupt it must bear the stamp of a fair trial.”

And at page 85 he said: “The first — ought one to say the whole — duty of the judge is to administer justice according to law.”

Back to page 3, the book said: “What is the function of the judge? Professor Jaffe has a phrase for it — ‘the disinterested application of known law’ (Jaffe in his book “English and American Judges as Lawmakers”, page 13)”

This means that the judge’s only duty is to do justice in the disinterested application of known law. Known law means basic law and the term includes both common law and statute law.

The judge who gives the right judgment but does not appear to be impartial is useless to the judicial process. After that, the judge’s whole duty or function is to decide the case according to law on the admissible evidence before him.

And what do you call a judge who does not administer justice according to law? A renegade judge? So now you know why I am so vocal when I admonish the errant judges who did not apply unambiguous law as it stands.

Q: You have been especially blunt in your views over the issues in Perak. Why so?

A: You mean for calling a spade a spade? What do you call a judge who doesn’t follow or apply easy to understand and unambiguous statute law as it stands?

Like Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution which says: “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

This law applies to all members of the legislative assembly — it does not matter if you are DAP or PKR or MCA or Barisan Nasional or any political party. Even a child could understand the plain meaning of the words. We do not need the Federal Court to interpret (meaning “explain the meaning of”) the words for us. Nor do we need any law professor from Singapore to tell us Malaysians that the courts should have the power of judicial review over what has transpired in Parliament or a Legislative Assembly.

There is separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary of this country. We all know that one can apply to the courts for a judicial review over executive actions. But there is no such thing as judicial review over what transpired in the legislature — if there is such a thing then we can have judicial review over the passing into law of certain Acts of Parliament that we don’t like — like the ISA.

A long time ago when I was a High Court judge, I have sentenced many criminals to death without qualms. But personally I am against the death sentence because it is barbaric. But as a judge I must apply the law as it is.

To quote Lord Denning: “It is their [the judges] duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it — and do so knowingly — they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.”

I would never dream of doing such a thing.

Q: Why did you choose to air your views so publicly? I’m trying to understand why you got involved.

A: I’m only an outsider and I don’t care. But when everybody is missing the point and all that — and some of them have not even read the Perak Constitution, I thought I better explain why the people are angry.

Q: Why do you think the people are angry?

A: Do you know why the Perakians were up in uproar against the Sultan of Perak?

It’s because, as any lawyer will tell you, especially as he was Lord President before, that before you make a decision, you cannot see the parties. If you want to meet any of the parties, both of them must be present. You never do so by seeing one and then making a decision. The moment you do that, to the losing side or to any observer will think you have been influenced. So it’s the impression that counts.

They were angry with the Sultan because they can sense it in their bones that it is wrong to make a decision to see the other side first.

Q: Is the Sultan morally wrong or legally wrong?

A: If the Sultan had executive powers to rule, it is legally wrong, so they could apply for judicial review of the Sultan’s decision. But I pointed out in my first article he has no executive power to rule because he is not an executive monarch, he is a constitutional monarch. What he did was morally wrong.

Q: You must have seen many things during your time as a judge. What is wrong with Malaysia’s justice system? What can be done to correct it? And what’s stopping the necessary changes from taking place?

A: I don’t think there is anything wrong with our judicial system. It is the players that we should be concerned with — if we get the right people on the Bench, that is, those people who are not interested in power — because power corrupts, those fair-minded individuals who would administer justice according to law, then we will have a judiciary to be proud of.

We used to have that at one time. And if the general public think that the present crop of errant judges are not up to the mark, then the remedy is to use the power of the vote to change the present state of things. At the general election of 1906 the common people of England toppled the Conservative Government of the day because they were unhappy with the decision of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale case which had virtually put an end to trade unions six years earlier.

That case had immense political consequences. At the general election of 1906 the opposition pledged complete immunity for trade unions. Lord Denning said in his book “Landmarks in the Law”, page 121: “The result of the general election was like an earthquake. … It was a sweeping victory for the trade unions. Parliament immediately passed the Trade Disputes Act 1906. It is probably the most important Act ever put into the Statute Book. It reversed all the judicial decisions against trade unions. The Taff Vale case was overruled. No trade union could thereafter be sued for damages for any wrongs done by its members. Its funds were unassailable.”

There is a well known Spanish proverb which says, “He who goes with wolves learns to howl.” So that if the electorate don’t trust the judges they tend to put the blame on the government who put the judges there.

Q: Many ordinary Malaysians today feel powerless to affect positive changes to the institution of the judiciary because they lack legal knowledge. Do you agree with this view? How do you think they can work to bring about the change they want?

A: I think the real problem is this. In most cases when you read about a court decision in the newspapers, the judgment of the court is expressed in such a way that the average reader will not know if the judge is right. So invariably, we assume that the judge must be right.

I do realise the problem, so I thought I should try to explain the issue in simple language so that everyone will be able to judge for himself whether the judge is doing the right thing or not.

Lord Denning was famous for explaining difficult law in such a way that any lay reader can understand it. Now that they know how to judge the judges by reading my articles, they could, if they thought they have been short-changed by the judges, do the same thing as was done by the electorate in 1906 England. They have the power to change the government of the day by their vote in the next general election.

The opposition, in order to get the people’s vote, could pledge to undo all the wrongs done to the community by the judges. They could pledge that if they were given the mandate of the people to form the next government, they would pass an Act of Parliament to overrule such unjust decisions of the Federal Court such as Adorna Properties vs Boonsorm Boonyanit, the Asean Security Mills, PP vs Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as well as all the decisions of the Federal Court pertaining to the Perak constitutional crisis which were not decided according to law — where the court had blatantly refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution.

They could also pledge to remove the errant judges from office. This is how it could be done. In “What Next in the Law”, Lord Denning said, page 319: “Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.”

Yet the errant judges, especially the five in the Federal Court, have refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution as it stands.

In his book, “The Judiciary in Malaysia” (Asia Pacific Publications Sdn Bhd, 1994) the then Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Abdul Hamid Omar said, page 88: “… the provisions dealing with the removal of judges in pursuance of an address in Parliament … was modified to provide for a special tribunal to be established for the removal of judges.” That is incorrect. Actually Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution only applies to judges of the Federal Court.

At the time of the fracas between the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1988, Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution provides for the removal of judges of the Federal Court on the ground of “misbehaviour or of inability”.

Article 125(3) and (4) reads:

“125(3) If the Prime Minister, or the Lord President after consulting the Prime Minister, represents to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that a judge of the Federal Court ought to be removed on the ground of misbehaviour or on the ground of inability, from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a tribunal in accordance with Clause (4) and refer the representation to it; and may on the recommendation of the tribunal remove the judge from office.

“125(4) The said tribunal shall consist of not less than 5 persons who hold or have held office as a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court or, if it appears to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong expedient to make such appointment, persons who hold or have held equivalent office in any other part of the Commonwealth, and shall be presided over by the member first in the following order, namely, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President and the Chief Judges according to their precedence among themselves, and other members according to the order of their appointment to an office qualifying them for membership (the older coming before the younger of two members with appointments of the same date).”

The book “The Judiciary in Malaysia” said — this part is significant so do pay special attention to it — page 89: “Until the recent amendment in 1994, the grounds for the removal of a judge was ‘misbehaviour or of inability’, The Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994, however, substituted for the word ‘misbehaviour’, the words ‘any breach of any provision of the code of ethics prescribed under Clause 3A…’. The effect of this amendment is that, besides the inability, either from infirmity of body or mind, or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, a judge may be removed if he has breached the code of ethics prescribed for judges.

“Article 125(3A) provides that the code of ethics shall be observed by every judge, be it, the judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court.”

This is what Section 2 of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 says:

“2(1) This Code of Ethics shall apply to a judge throughout the period of his service.

“2(2) The breach of any provision of this Code of Ethics may constitute a ground for the removal of a judge from office.”

So now we all know that any serving judge could be removed from office for a breach of any provision of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994.

Section 3(1)(d) is the provision in the Code of Ethics to apply against the errant judges. It reads: A judge shall not conduct himself dishonestly or in such a manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto”.

I think the words in Section 3(1)(d) are clear enough — we all know what they mean. So that if a judge brings the judiciary into disrepute or discredit, as the errant judges have done by not administering justice according to law, they could be removed from office under this provision. It’s a bit harsh, but it can be done.

PKR Penang’s Dr. Mansor Othman: Avoid Racist Politics ala UMNO-Barisan Nasional

April 30, 2009

Mansor steers away from outdated politics
by Athi Veeranggan

mansor othman interview 300409 03Pakatan Rakyat candidate for the Penanti by-election Mansor Othman wants to give a new dimension and perspective to Malay leadership in Penang, away from the stereotype racist politics ala Barisan Nasional.

If elected as an assemblyperson and subsequently appointed as Penang Deputy Chief Minister 1, he stressed he would not be just another typical Malay leader embarking on communal politics. Mansor said he would provide a different vision of Malay leadership under the Pakatan state government by representing and carrying out beneficial programmes for all communities, especially the needy and underprivileged people.

He rejected the BN’s racial-based policies, in which a Malay leader would only take care of his community, a Chinese for Chinese and an Indian for Indians, as an outdated stereotyped politics that would only take the Penang backwards.

“Communal politics would do more harm and than good to the state and nation. I want to move away from it and be a Malay leader focusing on programmes to help all, not just Malays,” said Mansor, the PKR’s Penang deputy chief and national election machinery director.

He pointed out that UMNO-led BN governance style of divide and rule based on ethnicity was rapidly becoming an endangered species in the current political climate.

Mansor foresees that the concept of sharing and caring for all, with all and by all espoused by his party, the PKR and Pakatan coalition would be the future political fundamentals. “We in Pakatan are definitely moving away from racial based politics. “We must drive the country away from BN and UMNO style of communal politics. I will surely provide a new dimension and perspective to Malay leadership and politics in Penang,” he told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview yesterday.

If he were to become the next DCM 1, Mansor assured that he would tackle heads on the UMNO concoction that “Penang Malays have been neglected”. “I would to address and resolve the problem,” he said.

Rates a good chance of winning

He said he was looking forward to work closely with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to assist the state government to resolve various pressing issues such as housing, education and poverty. “I will compliment Lim and reduce his burden in administrative works,” said the former associate professor from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

When announcing party candidature for Penanti by-election, PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim said Mansor was chosen to contest Penanti “due to his strong academic credentials, political background and administrative experience”.

“We need him to assist the chief minister to carry out the state administrative task efficiently and effectively,” said Anwar. Mansor was among the founding member of PKN, the predecessor of PKR, in 1999 and was first and longest serving Penang party chief. If elected, Anwar said Mansor would be the party nominee for the vacant DCM 1 and an executive councillor post to fulfil the PKR quota in the DAP-led state government.

Both positions fell vacant when incumbent Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned effective April 8 after he was embroiled in a graft investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

And on April 16 Fairus resigned as assemblyperson for Penanti, which comes under Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency, a PKR stronghold.

Polling is on Sunday, May 31 and nomination falls on Saturday, May 23,2009.

Prior to Penanti, Mansor has lost all his electoral battles – to Zain Omar in the Balik Pulau parliamentary duel in 1999, to Ariff Shah Omar Shah in Seberang Jaya state seat contest in 2004 and to Muhammad Farid Saad by 2004 in Pulau Betong state constituency. But this time he is confident of finally breaking the duck and securing his first electoral victory. Despite UMNO’s delay in deciding whether or not to contest Penanti, he expects the party to finally field a strong candidate to challenge him.

“It’s not UMNO’s style not to contest,” said Mansor, who rated his chances at 60-40 given that Penanti is the territory of Anwar and PKR, and the people’s general mood for a change.

“But I am not over confident nor complacent.We have to work hard and ensure a big win,” he stressed.

Dr Mansor Othman is PKR’s man for Penanti By-Election

April 28, 2009

Mansor is PKR candidate for Penanti
by Athi Veeranggan

anwar ibrahim dr mansor othman pkr candidate for penanti state seat by election 280409 03Former academician and PKR state deputy leader 58-year-old Mansor Othman will be the party candidate for the Penanti by-election next month. This was announced by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to a crowd of more than 1,000 people packed into Yayasan Aman, Penanti tonight.

Among Pakatan Rakyat leaders present were Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, PKR national president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, state PKR chief and Bayan Baru parliamentarian MP Zahrain Mohd Hashim, state DAP chairperson and state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow and former deputy chief minister Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.

Since the seat fell vacant after its incumbent representative Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned on April 16, speculations were rife that Mansor was PKR supremo Anwar’s pick for the contest.

Mansor, a former professor from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), was Anwar’s political secretary when the parliamentary opposition leader was the deputy prime minister in the Barisan Nasional government. “He earned a Masters degree from USM and a Masters in Arts and a Masters in Philosophy in Yale University,” said Anwar in introducing Mansor to party supporters. Mansor, who is PKR Balik Pulau division chief, is also the party’s Penang deputy chief.

“He has served in PKR’s supreme council for 10 years and also served as the national deputy director of elections. In addition, he has served me honourably and with distinction as political secretary to the deputy prime minister from 1996 to 1998,” added Anwar.

The Penanti by-election was called by the Election Commission when Fairus resigned as the elected representative.

Polling day will be Sunday, May 31.

Earlier on April 8, he resigned as deputy chief minister 1 and executive councillor after he was embroiled in a graft allegation linking him to quarry operations on Penang’s mainland. He has since been cleared by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from all allegations.

anwar ibrahim dr mansor othman pkr candidate for penanti state seat by election 280409 01Last weekend, Fairus reiterated his stand to resign from Penanti, prompting the EC to call for a by-election. Polls will be on Sunday, May 31 and nomination falls on Saturday, May 23. The “Fairus” lesson has prompted Anwar to pick “a politically-strong Penang-based party senior leader” to contest Penanti.

Mansor is a highly-respected figure within PKR circle and could not be bullied by rivals as in the case of Mohammad Fairus, who was young, inexperienced and lacked political maturity. Apparently Anwar needs Dr Mansor to put order in the state PKR, which currently is being hit by factionalism.

Anwar has earlier hinted that the PKR candidate for the Penanti by-election will be the highly likely nominee for vacant deputy chief minister and exco positions in the Pakatan Rakyat Penang government. The posts, which included one of the two chief ministers positions, are part of PKR’s quota in the DAP-led state government.

Anwar said the by-election was unavoidable because PKR had to choose a capable leader who can work closely with the chief minister and contribute efficiently to the state administration. The PKR leader’s stand dashes any lingering hopes harboured by current state executive councillor and Batu Maung assemblyperson Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim to succeed Fairus. However, Mansor has a black mark in his CV, a history of losing streaks in general elections.

Hopes to end unwanted record

Mansor lost to Zain Omar in the Balik Pulau parliamentary duel in 1999, to Ariff Shah Omar Shah in Seberang Jaya state seat contest in 2004 and to Muhammad Farid Saad by 294 in Pulau Betong state constituency. He hopes to end the unwanted record and stripped off his loser’s tag with a win in the Penanti by-election.

On paper, PKR looks favourite to retain the seat. Even the UMNO leadership recently hinted the party may not field a candidate. Penanti comes under Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency – a PKR stronghold. In the Permatang Pauh by-election last August, Penanti voters gave Anwar a thumping majority of 3,276.

PKR’s Abdul Rahman Abdul Kadir won the state seat in 1999 before losing it to Permatang Pauh UMNO chief Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid in 2004. He in turn lost to Mohammad Fairus last year. First-timer Mohammad Fairus took the seat with a majority of 2,219. He polled 7,346 votes against Abdul Jalil’s 5,127.

“Even though it is in Permatang Pauh, our stronghold, we shall not be complacent, arrogant and take things for granted. We must work harder to achieve a big win,” said the PKR leader. Anwar also called on Lim to consider Mansor, if he wins Penanti, as PKR nominee for the DCM post.

Mansor, a former university student leader, could have been Anwar’s original choice to be the state DCM 1. But it did not materialise due to his electoral defeat in Pulau Betong. Penanti will be the sixth by-election since the March 8 general election, five of which were snatched by Pakatan Rakyat.

Lim earlier reaffirmed DAP’s commitment to ensuring a PKR’s victory in the by-election and called on Penanti voters to teach another lesson yet again to UMNO and Barisan Nasional. Zahrain reminded party supporters to protect the pride of the party and Anwar, and ensure victory as Penanti comes under the “PKR political bastion”. And Mansor has said he is up to the challenge.

Malays being led like buffalos?, asks Ghani Ismail

April 29, 2009

Malays being led like buffalos

by A Ghani Ismail

UMNO’s will to fight was snapped at the very top following the losses at Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau on April 7. It has long been overwhelmed by contractors and businessmen and can only hope to retain its dwarfed stature in the Barisan Nasional (BN) via off-party means.

The party is apparently in grave need of NGOs, the para-military Wataniah outfit and state agencies like the Biro Tatanegara to fight the battles for the state-enriched Malay elite that is mostly dissociated from the people.

NGO queen Marina Mahathir, catching the call by the UMNO Youth vice-president, Razali Ibrahim for members of his wing to join NGOs, asked in her blog whether these chaps are expected to simply declare they are from UMNO Youth and then expect to be elected presidents of the voluntary outfits.

The tomcat-call isn’t at all new.It was voiced over and over again by office-bearers during the recent divisional meetings. It can’t be such a piece of cake. But rich contractors and businessmen now stud the starry sky of UMNO, many, if not most, winning their way through the ranks via vote-purchase. These are dissociated from the people. They do not fight politically. They do not know how.

Some said aloud they cannot fight because they are contractors who have now to depend on the largess of the ruling opposition in five (or four states) and in one federal territory.

It is this loud song of business distress that’s breaking the morale to bits in UMNO, now flung high as confetti after new president Najib Abdul Razak slumped to the ground following the unbroken losing streak running from March, 8, 2008 to April 7, 2009. He is himself a representative of the traditional and the entrenched elite.

Now unable to face another knockout in Penanti on May 31, Najib is certainly not an UMNO and BN leader who can be expected to regain lost ground. Worse, people are beginning to shun him and soon he may not be listened to any more.

‘Purchase’ and sleight-of-hand is looking like the only ways to regain the lost ground and lost states; like what happened in Perak which finally converted into a gain of merely five percent of Malay votes on April 7 in Bukit Gantang.

That gain was offset by 10 percent of Chinese votes going the other way, resulting in a bigger-than-ever loss for BN in that constituency. The thinking is simple: because a direct and comprehensive ideological dispute is impossible for UMNO to launch against Pakatan Rakyat, it will mean we have to be sitting through a political paradigm shift that will make democratic elections a grand market-place with outright purchases, infiltrations and sabotage of NGOs to counter civil society.

How will that ever work?

Directionless Malays

UMNO is no longer the party that was born in 1946 and which was sustained by voluntarism through the murderous communist insurgency, the main thrust of which ended in 1960.

But after the fight for freedom and democracy, it has now become a matter of furious greed and the party is merely a playground for the rich and connected. The questions members ask are about which Malays the party represents and what the leaders are fighting for, other than for their own business and financial interests?

The party is fractioned into factions of the New Malay, the indigenous Mafiosi with many members without a smear of nationalism in their nature.

The previous president and prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could have even made Malaysia to become like a vassal of Singapore, himself sometimes described as a ‘Singapore serf’, a thing unthinkable in UMNO until his tenure.

Singapore was made the anchor of the Iskandar Development Region in Johor and was apparently represented in Khazanah Malaysia and in ‘Level Four’ of the immediate former Prime Minister’s Department. And are Malay contractors and businessmen the answer to the cultural shifts that ought to have been a leap towards modernisation and integration in an industrial and digital setting?

Truth is, there’s hardly a Malay critical mass today worthy of spawning the much-vaunted Bumiputera Commercial and Industrial Community after more than 50 years since Independence or more than 30 years of the New Economic Policy.

The ‘New Malays’, dripping excessive Brute deodorant in their cosmetically sweetened spaces of BMWs and Mercedes, are definitely no match for the demonstration-hardened Marhaens, the Muslims of PAS and the volunteer activists of Pakatan demanding change to secure liberty, transparency and accountability. The government had been run by a dictator in the second half of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership, the man taking power over religion and the judiciary as well.

He slurped power and decided on his own everything the Malays had held dear or distressful, including the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English even in the rural schools. The result is a gaping question that hasn’t been answered to date – whither Malaysia?  There is also the problematic and arousing puzzlement about where the Malays are being led to, like buffalos in a padi field.

Najib has answered none of these questions. Has he the answers or will he eventually lead the Malays and the nation into one or another form of vassalage? In the given circumstances, it is the opposition that’s looking more and more the likely winner in the next general election. It is merely in need of a thorough cleansing to remove the dregs and the culturally bewildered.

Pakatan represents the larger segment of the people and Najib’s UMNO isn’t looking likely that it shall at all become relevant to the lesser-endowed among Malays and Malaysians alike. These form the greater body of producers in Malaysia.

A GHANI ISMAIL is a former newspaper columnist.

PKR’s Inspirational Wan Azizah is back

The Malaysian Insider

April 28, 2009

Wan Azizah back in the limelight as Parti KeADILan Rakyat asserts itself

PKR president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is back as the face of the party in a reshuffle to assert itself as a dominant voice in the Pakatan Rakyat, where it leads with 31 MPs.

PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday tasked his wife, who quit as MP in favour of him last year, to be the party spokesperson on issues emerging in the media. The move is also seen as putting her as his successor if he is convicted of a fresh sodomy charge.

PKR insiders alluded the latest reshuffle is to strengthen the party leadership and bleed in new faces for the next echelon of leaders as the Permatang Pauh MP faces the charge brought by former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan. “With the current political climate there is no telling what will happen next.” said PKR Kapar MP S Manikavasagam. He said Wan Azizah has led PKR for over a decade and has emerged as a leader in her own right who draws crowds just like her husband.

Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution said Wan Azizah had never stopped carrying out her functions as PKR president but was out of the media spotlight when Anwar returned to parliament as the opposition leader. Other party insiders said the latest move came as PKR has not played its role as the dominant opposition party despite having the most number of MPs in the Pakatan Rakyat.

“Unlike DAP or PAS there is virtually no statements on Government policy from PKR and the move by Anwar to get Wan Azizah to step up to the plate is both timely and necessary,” one told The Malaysian Insider. Since coming together as an electoral pact, senior PKR leaders have fallen behind their Pakatan counterparts such as DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and his son, party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who issue statements on policies every other day.

Party insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed out that Wan Azizah has been out of the public spotlight ever since she made way for Anwar to win the Permatang Pauh by-election. She has been comfortable with handing over the running of PKR to Anwar, they said. However PKR is now amending its constitution to enable grassroots supporters to have more say in the party and Wan Azizah in the forefront of implementing and explaining these changes.

Among changes are the appointments of more vice-presidents to represent various pressure groups while allowing members to elect leaders at the central level.

ONE-Malaysia, a cruel and dishonest practical joke?

posted by din merican–April 28, 2009

The Malaysian Insider
April 27, 2009

ONE-Malaysia : A Cruel Joke?
by Tunku Aziz

It never ceases to amaze me how simple and trusting we Malaysians are. We have heard all these promises before.

Pak Lah, the Mr Clean and Mr Nice Guy of Malaysian politics proclaimed his great mission of fighting corruption after 22 years of unprincipled and largely unaccountable governance under Dr Mahathir Mohamad. We lapped it all up, initially at any rate, and believed every word the spin doctors spewed out about Abdullah Badawi.

It was not too difficult a job for Abdullah Badawi, or anyone else for that matter, after Mahathir, to look ethically spotless, clean and pure as the driven snow. Badawi, with his religious credentials, gave every appearance of being the reformer that this country had been praying for. Alas, his leadership proved a total let-down for Malaysia.

What began as a journey full of hope and promise turned very quickly into a national nightmare. Abdullah, who skippered the good ship MALAYSIA, was in truth an incompetent and inept rating playing at being Admiral of the Fleet. We discovered soon enough that he could not tell north from south and a sexton from a pair of compasses. We had to put up with his erratic command, watching with increasing anxiety as he set the ship adrift aimlessly, with no prospect of ever making landfall.

Now let me move away from naval to boxing metaphors, and I hope I am not mixing them in the process. Abdullah had come to lead us laden with his own strange stock-in-trade. It was a mix, in no particular order, of Islam Hadhari that he himself could not explain to save his life, the memorably inane “Work with me and not for me” catchphrase, and the almost absurdly messianic anti-corruption clarion call that he had used to fool the entire nation.

I am embarrassed to admit, on reflection, that he had me fooled from Day One. Abdullah was persuaded by close family members and advisers that he was doing a brilliant job, and this was what he wanted to hear.

He believed that he had what was needed to punch above his weight. He did not realise until too late that the Islam Hadhari as he had postulated it was no match for the reality of UMNO politics with its long-established culture of money politics (for which, read grand corruption), in-fighting and back-stabbing.

Soon enough, he found himself out-pointed at every turn by his own seconds, Najib and Muhyiddin, whose protestations of eternal love and loyalty made with a straight face before the disastrous March 2008 elections seemed the height of black humour. They pushed all the responsibility for the electoral failure to Badawi, and with indecent haste, distanced themselves from him. They turned collective responsibility on its head. This was their interpretation. And now, they are now leading Malaysia.

I am recalling the Abdullah years as a way of reminding ourselves not to be tempted into swallowing the “right noises” that Najib is making, hook, line and sinker. He is apparently good at developing popular policies on the trot, and all his reform promises seem to flow so effortlessly and glibly off his silvery tongue and that worries many people who are looking more for substance rather than form.

His ONE- Malaysia is a case in point. How does Najib propose to give practical effect to his excellent concept given the reality of Malaysia’s race-biased policies of racial discrimination? Does he not see a contradiction? Is he clear in his own mind what he is talking about? For now, it remains a slogan and, without a clear vision of what ONE- Malaysia is intended to be, it could well turn out to be nothing more than a grand illusion.

Does he really believe that he has what it takes to reconcile UMNO’s pathological obsession with bumiputra rights on the one hand with the principles of inalienable equality for ALL Malaysians on the other? ONE- Malaysia without complete equality of opportunity is nothing if not a cruel and dishonest practical joke.

So, until Najib sets out his plan for ONe-1 Malaysia that accords with the conditions for a truly “Malaysian Malaysia” (with apologies to Lee Kuan Yew), I suggest, in a manner of speaking, we do not put the champagne on ice as it could be premature.

PKR’s Personnel Changes at the top with more to come


Anwar Ibrahim is not afraid of change. Why should he? After all, he has always been an agent of change (since 1998 when Mahathir removed him from UMNO on trumped up sodomy charges in addition to replacing him as Deputy Prime Minister). The changes he made in the party’s top leadership must be viewed as an ongoing exercise, designed to keep political leaders and other personnel on constant alert. But he is also cautious and inclusive.

Anwar Ibrahim’s style of management is creative yet decisive; he seeks to blend loyalty and experience with youth and enthusiasm. His overriding aim is to ensure that the party is strong and effective with focus on the big picture post March, 2008 when Parti KeADILan Rakyat almost overnight became a national party with the largest number of seats in Parliament from one seat occupied by PKR President Wan Azizah in 2004.

Malaysians expect to see a strong PKR and these changes at the top are also intended to complement changes he intends to make in the management of the party headquarters where professionals led by Secretary-General Dato Sallehuddin Hashim will be given increased responsibility.

It may be recalled that PKR’s Ketua Umum had earlier made some personnel leadership changes at the state level. More changes can be expected as Vice President Azmin Ali will head a special task force to further strengthen party leadership at the state and division levels.

I wish to add that credibility is a vital resource for an emerging national political force like PKR. Unless it is carefully developed and fortified on an ongoing basis, credibility could lost irretrievably.—Din Merican

posted by din merican–April 28, 2009

Shake-up in PKR management roles

April 27, 2009

anwar ibrahim wan azizah pkr congress 2008PKR has re-jigged the role and functions of several senior council members, to improve the party’s strength and machinery in order to upgrade services to the people.

Party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will, for example, monitor media coverage and immediately respond to any pressing matters. “She has to make her presence felt more,” said de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in a statement isued after the party’s monthly meeting today.

Deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali will concentrate on policy issues involving politics, economy, education and culture. He will also supervise matters pertaining to the Malays and the bumiputera community.

Vice-president Azmin Ali will relinquish his post as director of the election machinery, and head a task force with the other vice-presidents – Dr Lee Boon Chye, R Sivarasa, Mustafa Kamil Ayub and Jeffrey Kitingan – along with Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin and Wanita chief Zuraidah Kamaruddin. “Their task will be to strengthen the party in the various divisions and states,” said Anwar.

“They will also look at creating a positive atmosphere and instilling party discipline among the state and division leaders including MPs and state assemblypersons.”

Secretary-general, Dato Sallehuddin Hashim will manage the daily operations of the headquarters and the party machinery, including the management committee and membership recruitment drive.

Party machinery reorganised

Anwar also announced the reorganisation of the party machinery. Saifuddin Nasution is the new party election director, Fauziah Salleh heads the training committee, and Johari Abdul leads the new membership committee.

Tian Chua is the strategic affairs director, and Mustafa Kamil Ayob chairs the International Relations committee with Dr Tan Kee Kwong as his deputy. Lawyer Latheefa Koya is the new information chief, while Johnson Chong is the communications chief.

The disciplinary committee is headed by Yeop Adlan Che Rose while Abdul Halim Yusof has been retained as a deputy secretary-general. Paul Gadang, S Raveentharan and Sharifah Shahidah are three newly appointed secretaries-general.

Senior members in the Political Bureau are Dr Muhammad Nur Manuty, Dr Tan Yee Kew, S Manikavasagam along with N Gobalakrishnan
kalaivanar blasting pkr manikumar pc 030409 02and Wee Choo Keong.

16 sacked for anti-party behaviour

In a separate statement, the party announced the immediate sacking of 16 members for acting against its interests in the Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai by-elections on April 7.

Syed Husin said the decision was made at the party’s supreme council meeting last night. The 16 were dismissed for criticising the party or for declaring themselves to have quit the party. One stood as an independent candidate in the Bukit Selambau by-election.

Twelve of the sacked party members were from Kedah, and the rest were from Sarawak. Among those sacked from Kedah were B Kalaivanar (right) who had quit the party in anger after being overlooked as a candidate for the by-election.

Kalaivanar had then openly lobbied voters not to vote for PKR’s S Manikumar, who eventually won the by-election.

Penanti By-Election on May 31, 2009: Vote PKR/Pakatan Rakyat in Penang

April 27, 2009

Breaking News: By-Election in Penanti in the Parliamentary Constituency of Permatang Pauh on May 31, 2009

spr putrajaya penanti by election abdul aziz yusof 270409 02After the usual delay, the pro-Government Election Commission announced today that the by-election for the Penanti state seat in Penang will be held on May 31, 2009. The Election Commission, announcing the date this morning, has also fixed May 23 for nominations. Parti KeADILan Rakyat/Pakatan Rakyat will defend the state assembly state vacated recently by Fairus Khairuddin of PKR who held won the seat in March, 2008 and was hitherto Deputy Chief Minister I of Penang.

The PKR candidate will be announced by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim soon. In the meantime,despite all the time given to UMNO-BN by the Election Commission, the newly minted Prime Minister has yet to decide on whether his coalition will put up a candidate or he will use an independent, fully funded by UMNO, as proxy to take us on. Whatever he decides, PKR stands ready to meet the challenge. Let us hope UMNO has learnt the lessons of their resounding defeat in the August 26, 2008 by-election in Permatang Pauh which saw the return of favorite son and local hero, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to Parliament as Leader of the Opposition.

Penanti is an opportunity presented by the brave decision of my young friend and colleague, Fairus Khairuddin, to stand down after  the MACC cleared his name for alleged corruption. The voters of Penanti will have another chance to exercise their fundamental right to vote in favour of PKR and our struggle for change.

My bet is that UMNO will be forced to name a candidate, if not for anything, because they are too proud to back off from a challenge. Che Det will make sure of that, and we in PKR welcome him to appear in Penanti to campaign for the UMNO candidate. It will be a test of Che Det’s relevance and influence to 21st century Malaysia. He should remember the 2 Bukits (Gantang and Selambau) where his support for UMNO-BN candidate was an unmitigated disaster.

Furthermore, if UMNO takes up the challenge, we can be sure that they will throw in lots of money and “projek-projek kilat” to entice the voters in Penanti. I am equally sure the Royal Malaysian Police and its Federal Reserve Unit with its sophisticated riot control arsenal and helicopters will be deployed to preserve “law and order” at taxpayers’ expense. I can only recall what I saw Permatang Pauh last year. Not all the money in the world and the presence of the Police will deter the people of Penanti like those in Permatang Pauh from doing what is right and making the right decision.

Looking to the months ahead, I concerned about the fate of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the doyan of the Barisan Rakyat Bloggers and webmaster of the popular www. malaysia-today web-blog. He is reported to away from our country at this time because  his friends, admirers and supporters told him to go away as thet  know that the authorities are out to get him, whatever it takes. He would stance no chance in our courts. He has no choice but to stay abroad. So Raja Petra is in self imposed exile, out of Selangor and as far as he can get from Malaysia.

Of no less concern to me is the fate of  my leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR’s Ketua Umum, come  this July when his “sodomy” trial (Round 2) commences in our High Court. The ruling coalition knows that Anwar is the glue that binds the Pakatan Rakyat and the prime mover for democratic change. By pinning him down politically, or sending him back to goal, UMNO thinks the movement for change will be terminated prematurely. So, they will  bend the law, if necessary and stop at nothing  to incarcerate this Mandela-like champion of freedom, democracy and justice.

It is, therefore, important that the voters of Penanti elect in overwhelming numbers our candidate for their state constituency so that UMNO-BN will not act irrationally towards Anwar Ibrahim. I personally forward to participate in the May 31 battle for Penanti and with God’s help, we will prevail once again, as we did in 4 out of 5 recent by-elections.—Din Merican

We are working hard for a better Malaysia: Freedom, Democracy and Justice

The Malaysian Insider

April 26, 2009

We are working for Malaysias Future

By Nurul Izzah Anwar and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

There has been a lot of negative attention on the Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) lately. We have come under scrutiny over the recent events in Perak, Kedah and now Penang. As young leaders who have faith in the party’s vision and future, we believe that it is important to reflect on what we have achieved and examine the challenges ahead.

Keadilan is a young party, the result of a 2003 merger between Parti KeADILan Nasional, founded in 1999 and Parti Rakyat Malaysia, founded in 1955. It came about in part due to the Reformasi movement that emerged following the dismissal and incarceration of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. The movement, as laid out in the Permatang Pauh Declaration, was built on the idea of upholding the dignity of man and the need for the continuous betterment of society.

Both of us became involved in the party when the Reformasi broke out, though under different circumstances.Izzah, who was a 17-year old university student then, was forced into the public eye as she was Anwar’s eldest daughter. Nazmi, who was a year younger and still in school, was reflecting on how the forces that were unleashed could somehow offer something new to Malaysian politics that had atrophied under Dr. Mahathir. As Izzah travelled the country giving ceramahs not only to defend her father’s innocence but also increasingly to articulate the meaning and significance of the Reformasi movement to ordinary Malaysians, Nazmi attempted to explore the possibility and meaning of a new politics for the younger generation as a writer in the alternative media.

We became acquainted in 2001, as part of a group of young Malaysian professionals finding ways as to how we could contribute to change in our country. In spite of the party’s small presence then, we were all excited and idealistic to be part of the cause to lay the foundations of a truly progressive Malaysian political party.

Three years later, the party was dealt a blow when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hijacked our message of reform and won an overwhelming victory in polls conducted under dubious circumstances. The party was left with a solitary Parliamentary seat. Soon however, Anwar was released and engaged in a conversation with those inside and outside the party. He charted a more multiracial agenda, against the advice of many. Some were clearly discomfited by this development and left the party. They either could not accept the shift or felt that no matter how idealistically attractive this paradigm movement was, it spelt political disaster.

But like many young members of the party, we felt that this was the right path to take, the logical extension of Reformasi. Nazmi, in particular decided to take the next step by working for Anwar after completing his studies. We were joined by very experienced professionals such as Ibrahim Yaacob and Din Merican, along with talented young Malaysians such as Harvard graduate and blogger Nathaniel Tan as well as UTM student leader and Silicon Valley engineer Sim Tze Tzin.

As the 12th General Elections loomed, both of us along with Sim and Ibrahim were considered as possible candidates for seats. We were reluctant at first, but as many others refused to run under KeADILan’s banner-feeling that the party would surely be defeated- we decided to do it. Izzah was 27, and Nazmi, 26, making us among the youngest candidates in the elections.

It occurred to us from very early on that the young Opposition candidates should work together. Together with our colleagues like Tony Pua and Hannah Yeoh from DAP, we campaigned hard in each other’s constituency, drawing inspiration from the courage and conviction of ordinary Malaysians who wanted change. It was truly people’s power – Makkal Sakti – that defied the odds and trumped cynicism. We were fortunate to win our respective seats and be a part of the now legendary story of the 8th of March.

KeADILan as a result increased its Parliamentary presence from one to 31 seats. Not only that, four states along the West Coast fell to a coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS that eventually became the Pakatan Rakyat. What was more impressive and significant was that a multiracial band of MPs and state assemblypersons won on KeADILan’s ticket, making KeADILan the most successful experiment in multiracial politics in Malaysia to-date.

But the reality of victory also dawned upon us as the euphoria of the 8th of March faded away. We had to meet the manifold expectations of our constituents who voted us in. We had to ensure that the voices of the people were heard in the legislatures and corridors of power. Nazmi and many other state assemblypersons in the five states had the added responsibility of actually governing, trying to make a 50-year establishment embrace reform and progress.

We immediately saw the limits of operating within the confinements of a governmental system that had become dominated by the executive branch. The people of Kuala Lumpur as a Federal Territory remain dependant to the autonomous and powerful KL City Hall. With no say on budget allocations and choice of Mayor, improvements in housing allocation, delivery and services remain marginal at best. They, unlike their counterparts elsewhere do not have the right to vote for a State Assembly. That is why the movement towards holding local council elections – that can and will start in Pakatan Rakyat states – must persist.

Being wakil rakyats meant that we could no longer confine ourselves to criticising from the sidelines, but actually delivering on our promises to the voters. This involved meeting our constituents that brought their problems to us continuously at all hours. This touched and exposed us to the challenges they, the ordinary men and women of Malaysia have to face each and every day and how we have to do everything within our power to help them better their lives.

We also began to realise that change is unavoidable, especially in our own parties. All political parties evolve, and this process is more often that not tumultuous. In the US for example, the Republicans were the party that freed the slaves under Abraham Lincoln. Now, the Democrats, who opposed Lincoln’s reforms in the 19th century nominated Barack Obama as their Presidential candidate in 2008, who as we know is the country’s first African-American Commander-in-Chief. Nothing is constant in politics, least of all political parties.

In Malaysia, UMNO, which was once a party of teachers and village officials, is now a party of racial demagogues and crony-capitalists. On the other hand, DAP and PAS that used to represent a narrow range of constituencies have become more open and inclusive than ever before. The example of Bukit Gantang and the many mixed constituencies that returned a Pakatan representative last year is testament to this.

The growing momentum for change is bearing down not only on UMNO and the Barisan Nasional but also on Pakatan Rakyat. The former responding to this challenge by dithering and relying on the most dishonest sort of triangulation. The latter is, though the path has not always been smooth, is heeding the call.

KeADILan grew from a small coalition of people that came together during Reformasi to a Malaysian political party that is based on hope, progress and a new brand of politics.

Just over a year ago before the elections, when we campaigned across the country, many were surprised that KeADILan still existed. When we walked up the rusty elevators in Kampung Kerinchi and Desa Mentari, we had to convince ordinary Malaysians that we could offer a genuine alternative to the government.

When we called up our contacts and acquaintances to help out, we became used to both polite and direct rejections. The path we took was certainly not the path of least resistance, but it was the choice of our conviction. Today, Malaysians from all walks of life, including Malay doctors, Indian college students and Chinese businessmen come together in good faith in our divisions.

We have committed Christians and pious Muslims in our committees. All are eager to hoist the party flag that the people hardly recognised before. We have unsung heroes like Muslim activist Mohamed Ali Ghazali, small businessmen S. Meng Yee and Vinod Sharma, all working behind the scenes, doing their bit for the party without any thought or expectation of reward. Our victory has made it easier now to get people come and join KeADILan, but we still have to make sure that they understand the struggle and sacrifices that the road ahead demands.

We spoke about renewable energy, economic co-operation, climate change, refugees, urban planning and public transport in Parliament and the State Assembly, but all of this was swept under the radar of the controlled mainstream media.

Our young Pakatan colleagues, including Yusmadi Yusoff in Parliament as well as Amirudin Shari and Gan Pei Nei in the Selangor State Assembly have all made an impact in their speeches that impressed everyone in the legislature. In our constituencies we have set up free health clinics, voluntary tuition centres and crime fighting campaigns by empowering the community. Yet, the mainstream media prefers to focus on sensationalised stories rather than substantive news.

Obviously, any growing organisation will have its ups and downs. Just as we should be credited for our successes, it is just as important that we must be accountable for our shortfalls. We cannot deflect our own undoing. Some are clearly our own weaknesses, but others reflect the lack of human capital and institutional structure that is a problem across the Malaysian political spectrum. As we continue to build KeADILan and Pakatan Rakyat as a party of the future, be prepared for more ups and downs. But we are a democratic and open organisation, and we always prefer to resolve our difficulties in the open rather than under the cloak-and-dagger of spin.

The important thing is that in spite of all the difficulties we have faced, we continue to attract the best and brightest Malaysians to push for an inclusive political party, a party that upholds our main objective of establishing a just society and a democratic, progressive and united country.

We have, stated above done a lot for the people, but we do not for one second expect them to be satisfied with just this. We do not ask for support or gratitude in return, but simply that Malaysians continue the spirit of the 8th of March and pressure the Federal Government to increase our civil liberties and political freedoms.

Malaysia’s leaders need to always listen and learn from the people, and this is something that we, the young leaders of KeADIlan and Pakatan pledge to do.

The service and dedication that we have rendered to the people will continue as long as we hold office and beyond. We consider this to be the true meaning of ‘putting the people first’. We will do this even in our own house.

KeADILan is in the process of revamping our constitution to ensure that the party is able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We want to empower to our grassroots. Our Youth and Women’s wings too, are engaged in massive training exercises from Perlis to Sabah to build the party’s human capital for the long-term. We have sought to improve our election machinery to complement the experience of our partners in Pakatan Rakyat.

We are also open to the idea of more far-reaching reforms to devolve power to the ordinary members of the party, including having party primaries for national leadership positions or even for to select Parliamentary, State Assembly and Local Council candidates. We can institutionalise debate as part of the campaigning for party positions. We can go further in ensuring that one of the  objectives of our Women’s wing is to make the idea of having at least 30 per cent of our leaders and election candidates as women a reality.

We understand that some Malaysians might get tired with all the drama that has transpired thus far. Some might be losing patience with us. But the choice is clear between the potential of KeADILan and Pakatan Rakyat driven by the young compared to the BN’s tired false power-sharing model where the shadow of the past looms large.

KeADILan will continue to fight for change. The first battle is to fight to change ourselves for the better.

NURUL IZZAH ANWAR, 28, is Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai as well as Keadilan Lembah Pantai Division’s Pro-Tem Head. She graduated from Universiti Tenaga Nasional in electronic and electrical engineering before furthering her studies at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, US in International Relations. She maintains a web presence at

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD, 27, is Political Secretary to the Selangor Menteri Besar and State Assemblyman for Seri Setia. He is also a KeADILan Youth committee member. A graduate of King’s College, University of London in law, Nik Nazmi blogs at

Yet another thorn in Malaysia-Indonesia Relations

posted by din merican–April 26, 2009

The Alleged Abuse of Mahohara Odelia Pinot: Now is the Time for Malaysians to Act

By Farish A. Noor

There are times when I can only say that I am ashamed to be a Malaysian citizen. This holds particularly true when I find myself back in Java, the land of my ancestors, and am asked the same question time and again: “Why are Malaysians so racist and why do they look down on us Indonesians?”

I am at a loss for words when confronted with a question so frank and stark, for the realities are likewise blunt and brazen. The fact is that Malaysians have developed a reputation akin to Singaporeans, who are seen by their neighbours in Southeast Asia as racist, arrogant, condescending and downright uncivilised in their conduct towards others.

The recent report on Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers and refugees underscores the bitter truth that Malaysians have been denying for so long: That racism, abuse and discrimination against foreigners in Malaysia has become so commonplace that it is now normalised.

To complicate things further, the recent revelations of the abuse of a young Indonesian model, Manohara Odelia Pinot, by none other than a member of one of the royal families of Malaysia, has only added to the image of Malaysia as a nation with scant regard for the fundamental rights and dignity of human beings who do not possess a Malaysian passport. Already the Indonesian press is awash with all the lurid details of the story in question; of how a girl of 15 was allegedly seduced by a man older than her, only to end up marrying him and then be made to suffer abuse at the hands of someone who perhaps felt that he was above the law.

Tabloid reports in Indonesia tell of how the young woman was physically abused with a razor blade – allegations that can only be substantiated if and when the girl is allowed to meet her mother, Daisy Fajarina, who in turn claimed that she was not allowed to visit Malaysia to check on the welfare of her daughter who had also been summarily taken away from her by a private jet that flew back to Malaysia from Mecca, Arabia.

Needless to say, I am speechless at the revelations that have made the rounds already here in Indonesia. In Malaysia, meanwhile, the news of the alleged abuse of Manohara Odelia Pinot has hardly made the headlines, and that is something we have come to expect from a nation that is perpetually in a state of denial.

My concern lies in the fact that this case once again demonstrates the blatant double standards and self-delusion of Malaysians who continue to entertain the fiction that ours is a civilised country, on the basis that we have managed to cobble together bricks and concrete to fashion what was once the tallest building in the world (though no longer). Tall buildings, garish airports and vulgar shopping malls do not a civilised country make.

What defines a nation as civilised is the level of humanity and compassion that we can show for our fellow human beings, on a universal basis, that transcends the boundaries of gender, religion, ethnicity, class and citizenship.

How much longer will we – Malaysians – accept and tolerate the abuse of foreigners in our midst before we realise that distinctions of national identity and citizenship are artificial political constructs that should not obstruct our demonstration of humane solidarity with others? The relative silence of Malaysians in such cases is one of the reasons why my Indonesian friends and comrades often get the impression that Malaysians are insensitive and racist, in toto.

For now, one can only hope that the voice of Malaysian civil society will be strong enough to break the walls of silence that surrounds the manifold cases of abuse and ill-treatment of foreigners in the country. The case of the young model-wife Manohara, however, is set to be a potentially embarrassing and complicated diplomatic issue as it involves individuals of high profile and social standing. Furthermore that such alleged abuses could have been meted out by someone of such social status suggests that the rot in Malaysian society extends all the way to the top of the social pyramid. Malaysia is now in the eye of Indonesians who will expect to see the truth come out and justice done if needed to.

Will Malaysia and Malaysian society do the right thing and demand the same? Or will we remain in our state of blissful ignorance and denial, while the world watches us enact our pantomine of collective hypocrisy for all to see?

Bakri Musa’s Review of Zaid Ibrahim’s “Saya Pun Melayu”

posted by din merican–April 25, 2009

Saya Pun Melayu and Me too
by Dr. M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

Book Review:  Saya Pun Melayu (I Am Also A Malay)

Foreword by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

ZI Publications Sdn Bhd, Petaling Jaya, 2009.  312 pages.  RM 35.00

saya-pun-melayu-cover-lo-resThe Annual UMNO General Assembly is also the season and reason for the release of new books on local politics written in Malay.  It must be a profitable venue and time, for the number of new titles keeps growing each year. Foreigners may mistake this to reflect a healthy intellectual discourse, or at least a vigorous political debate.  The reality however, is far different.  With such titillating titles as “50 Dalil Mengapa XYZ Tidak Layak …”  (Fifty Reason s Why XYZ Is Unfit For … ) and the promiscuous use of “half-past six English,” this “genre” poisons the political atmosphere, quite apart from degrading our national language. As for content, these books are nothing more than warong kopi (coffee shop) gossips transcribed.

Observers and political scientists hoping to gain an insight on Malaysian politics would do well to avoid these books.  And they have.  These books will never be cited in reputable publications or quoted by respected commentators. Enter Zaid Ibrahim’s Saya Pun Melayu (I Am Also A Malay).  It too was released to coincide with the recent UMNO General Assembly.  There the similarity ends.  This gem of a diamond sparkles with insights and wisdom.

Zaid Ibrahim’s book, Saya Pun Melayu: Greater Impact Than The Malay Dilemma

Like a diamond, Zaid’s  book too has innumerable multifaceted sharp edges that cut through rock-headed politicians.  I would be insulting Zaid if I were to compare his thoughtful and well written book to the thrash that littered the hallways of Dewan Merdeka, Putra World Trade Center, Kuala Lumpur, where the recent UMNO General Assembly took place.

A more appropriate comparison would be Mahathir’s The Malay Dilemma, written some 40 years ago and also at a time when UMNO and Malays were going through a critical crisis.  This book will have an even greater impact than The Malay Dilemma.

Like Mahathir’s, the first run of this book quickly sold out, but unlike Mahathir’s, this book has not been banned.  This is not due to any greater enlightenment on the part of the authorities today, rather a tribute to Zaid’s skillful and subtle approach.  Whereas Mahathir is frontal and polemical, meant more to shock if not insult readers, Zaid, ever the accomplished corporate lawyer, takes a softer and polite approach.

In contrast to Mahathir’s anger and indignant rhetoric, Zaid is more sorrowful — with disappointment too—over UMNO’s current malaise.  Zaid persuades us with his rational arguments; Mahathir barrages us with his accusations.  Mahathir caters to our baser emotions and sense of victimization and guilt; Zaid to our intellect and pristine values of our culture.

Our culture goes for Zaid’s “halus”(refined) ways, of subtleties and obliqueness.  Thus he is devastatingly effective, as, for example, in upbraiding his former cabinet colleagues who are lawyers.  Rais Yatim, Syed Hamid Albar, Hishammuddin Hussein, and Azalina Othman, among others, are chastised for failing to live up to their professional ethics and obligations as shown by their disrespect for the due process of law and basic human rights.

Written in the Malay language, Zaid’s polite criticisms are very damning.  It would be difficult to maintain this tone in this style had the book been written in English.  The translator should ponder this point.The book is in three parts.

The first is the author’s reflection on and prescription for our nation’s current predicaments.  Zaid tackles such “hot” issues as Ketuanan Melayu (Malay hegemony), the rule of law, and the role of the monarchy in a democracy.  It also includes his very brief tenure as Abdullah Badawi’s Law Minister.

The second is an memoir of sorts where he traced his humble origin in a village deep in Ulu Kelantan to become a highly successful corporate attorney who created the nation’s largest law firm.  It also includes his tenure in UMNO politics and his current philanthropic projects, where he has been recognized by Forbes magazines as Asia ’s Inaugural Heroes of Philanthropy.  The last part contains short profiles of Malaysians he admires (which includes former Chief Justice Salleh Abbas, Nik Aziz and Anwar Ibrahim), his hopes on the future of Malays, and the current state of Malay politics, specifically UMNO’s.

UMNO No Longer Represents Malays

One could be readily misled in assuming that those rent-seeking, keris-brandishing, and race-taunting types that infest and polute UMNO represent the best if not the essence of the Malay race.  Or that the angry menacing Mat Rempits, the jungle version of Hell’s Angels so eagerly being embraced by UMNO Youth, are the future of Malays. Zaid’s ideas and approaches are the antithesis of UMNO’s.

In deliberately choosing the simple title, Zaid is emphasizing that his is also a legitimate if not the prevailing viewpoint.  To me, Zaid represents more of the essence of Malayness while those corrupt pseudo modernized UMNO types just happen to be Malays.  They are the ones who soil our culture, give it a bad odor, and annihilate Malay honour and dignity.

Zaid Ibrahim writes teasingly that he has already set a record of sorts by being the shortest serving cabinet minister!  Here is another observation also worthy of the record books.  He is the only minister whose reputation is enhanced on leaving office!  Not to belittle Zaid’s own fine personal qualities and considerable achievements, that says a lot on the caliber of the people leading Malaysia today!

He takes to task UMNO leaders for presuming to speak on behalf of all Malays.  It is clear now that they do not.  In the chapter “Masa Depan Melayu” (The Future of Malays) in Part III, Zaid suggests that Malays must be outward looking, willing to learn from others, and not be obsessed with empty slogans like Ketuanan Melayu or Satu–Malaysia.  The road to Ketuanan Melayu, he writes, is not by shouting your lungs out at every gathering, rather through diligence, hard work, and most of all, superior education.

Zaid relates his experience as a university student leader on a three-month trip to America visiting the top campuses (“Memburu Cita Cita, (Pursuing You Dreams) Chapter 8 Part II).  This was in the 1970s, the height of the anti-Vietnam protests.  He was struck that even though America was at war its government was still tolerant of dissent. I have met many Malaysians who have lived for many years in America and yet they miss this important aspect of American exceptionalism.  Their America is the shopping malls, porno shops, and blighted downtowns.

Decades later as Abdullah’s Law Minister, he was appalled when the government of which he was a part detained dissenters like Raja Petra and Teresa Kok under the ISA.  Not surprisingly, Zaid’s departure from the cabinet soon followed.

Zaid’s ideas and observations resonate with me, as well as many Malaysians.  Here is the voice of a successful Malay professional and a member of the political elite.  That he now quits UMNO is a loss for it but a gain for Malaysia. Another blessing is that he is now free to pursue his philanthropic works as well as his involvement in NGOs.  And being an effective critic of the government!

In my opinion, the most valuable part of the book is his brief memoir (Part II).  Zaid clearly subscribes early to the values he writes about.  His divorced father took him away from the village to live with him in Kota Baru where he could attend an English school ( Sultan Ismail College ). When he reached secondary level he felt the urge to leave, to see the greater world beyond.

He chose English College in Johor Baru, at the very opposite end of the peninsula.  The school, however, accepts new students only if their families were transferred there.  So he wrote to the principal stating that indeed he had a “family” (his distant cousin) transferred to the Army base there.  His father willingly signed the letter for him and supported his decision.

Unlike in Kota Baru where his classmates were almost exclusively Malays, down there he had an environment more reflective of Malaysia. From there he went on to Sekolah Tun Razak in Ipoh for his Form Six, where he excelled in debates, and then to UiTM for his law studies.

Except for about seven months in London at one of the Inns to qualify for the Bar, and the earlier trip to America , Zaid spent his formative years in Malaysia .  It is remarkable that he could have such an open and receptive attitude.  We have many who spent years at the best British universities only to return quickly to their old kampong mentality upon coming home.

Zaid  Ibrahim has what the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck refers to as a “growth mindset,” in contrast to a “fixed mindset.”  Those with the growth mindset believe that their fate is dependent on how adaptive they are in seizing opportunities, and on their ability to grow and gain from their experiences.  They do not believe that their fate is dependent on what nature had bestowed upon them, the benevolence of some remote emperor, or what had been written in the book of life.  The “fixed mindset” view their talent and ability as fixed, and that their lot in life is ultimately tied to their innate nature, especially their intelligence and ‘giftedness.’

The former UMNO minister is always learning from others and improving on what they had done.  He writes of his early experience articling in a prestigious law firm where he was offered a position.  That was definitely a career coup, a young lawyer’s dream.  What soured it were the whisperings among his colleagues that he was offered simply because the firm wanted to increase its Malay representation.  After much soul searching, Zaid declined the offer.  That must have shocked those senior partners.  Another “dumb” Malay refusing to seize opportunities, they must have thought!

Zaid too must have questioned himself a thousand times in the years following that tough decision, especially when he had difficulty trying to borrow from MARA (a measly RM25,000.00) to start his own firm.  In the end, he created ZICO, a law firm that easily bested the one where he articled.  Not only is it the largest, it is also one of the few that could handle the complex needs of multinational corporations, and the first to venture abroad. That is where a growth mindset could lead you.

Going back to MARA, an institution I am a never a fan of, Zaid relates an incident visiting his alma mater soon after being appointed Law Minister.  He wanted to spend a few minutes to give the students a “pep talk.” On the appointed day, he was surprised by the overflowing crowd.  Then as is typical, the Vice Chancellor, one Ibrahim Abu Shah (a “Dato’ Seri Prof. Dr. ” no less! and a Laksamana bodek at that) hogged all the allotted time, pouring embarrassingly effusive praises on Zaid.  He was left with a scant few minutes!

A few months later, after Zaid resigned as a minister and gave his talk at the Asean Law Forum where he challenged the wisdom of Ketuanan Melayu, that same Ibrahim called Zaid a traitor to our race!  As Zaid says, our intellectuals are also now speaking like politicians.  Zaid may not realize this; they do so because they are essentially politicians who happen to wear academic robes.  Scholars and intellectuals they are not.

I wish all Malaysians would read this book.  Our policy makers would benefit more from reading this instead of the World Bank’s dense treatises on rural poverty.  The tribulations of his childhood that Zaid so well described are still very much the reality today for a vast number of young Malays.

Zaid was fortunate in that his father saw the value of a good education.  Many parents are trapped between needing their children to work to lessen the family’s burden and going to school.  If our government were to adopt programs like Mexico ’s Progresa where parents are being paid for keeping their children in school, then we would help those parents make the right decisions that would benefit them and the nation in the long term.

If UMNO members and leaders were to read this volume they might just be disabused of their delusion of Ketuanan Melayu and ethnocentric mindset.  On the other hand, they might not like it when they realize their own stupidity.  For young Malays, Zaid is an inspiration and aspiration of what is within their grasp if only they could see through the skulduggery of Ketuanan Melayu that is being perpetrated upon them.  For non-Malays, this book might just erase some of their negative stereotypes of Malays they harbor.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book not only because of the remarkable personal story but also for the style of writing.  Malays writers writing in Malay (and often also in English) tend to use non-declarative sentences.  Thus instead of saying, “I like vanilla ice cream!” they would write, “On matters of ice cream taste, I like vanilla!”  The latter takes nearly twice as many words, and the reader also has to shift gears.

This book is a valuable contribution to the political discourse, and it comes at a time when it is badly needed.  Rest assured that this book will be talked about for years.

Songs from Indonesia for April Lovers

April 25, 2009

What about some Indonesian songs for this weekend? Good idea, I think, since the month of April is a very special one, Easter and Spring and all that we associate with the blossoming of flowers and love.

After consultation with my Cik Cun, I have chosen to feature Melly Goeslow, Ost Delova, Harvey Malaiholo with Malaysia’s Lady of Jazz Sheila Majid,  Ruth Sahayana and Broery Marantika with Dewi Yull for our listening pleasure.It is also time of the week to sit back, reflect and make plans for next week.

I dedicate these lovely melodies to Manohara Odelia Pinot, P. Balasingham and his family, Dr. Othman and his loved ones of Pusparawi Hospital and Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Marina Abdullah and their family. Wherever they may be, I hope they are safe.  I do not know where they are all now, but our newly minted One-Malaysia Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, should know given that he has access to information from military intelligence and the Special Branch. One also assumes that Najib has a conscience to ensure that they are not in harm’s way. Great weekend, my friends.—DJ Din Merican.

Melly Goeslow– Apa Artinya Cinta

Ost Delova—Aku Ingin Menjadi Mimpi Yang Indah

Harvey Malaihollo and Malaysia’s Sheila Majid—Begitulah Cinta

Ruth Sahayana- Kaulah Segalanya

Broery Marantika and Dewi Yull–Kharisma Cinta

SakAK47 speaks of the Mambo Jumbo in Malaysian Politics

April 24, 2009

On Overspending and Self Deception.

by Sakmongkul AK47

Is the PM overspending his political ammunitions? His advisors must counsel him from moving too fast in too short a time. He does not need to be caught in Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening‘s:-

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

The PM marches to the beat of his drums. He has so far shown himself as nimble footed. But he must also be surefooted. But if he announces too many before they are even digested, then he will have overspent the arsenals in his munitions store. If he doesn’t pace himself, he won’t last 20 years as PM.

Take the case of One Malaysia. No one has yet provided a coherent exposition of what the concept of One Malaysia is. The Information minister has done nothing except cajoling people to understand the concept. What is there to understand, if it has not been outlined in detail?

If it’s everyone to his own one Malaysia, then we have 26 million versions of One Malaysia. Will this mean the supremacy of the rule of law and democracy? That will mean, no one is accorded any inbuilt privileges. Does it mean the supremacy of Malays over other races? What about the constitutionally guaranteed position of Malays and their interests? These contentious issues must be ironed out. Until it is spelt out clearly, the concept is unnerving to Malays.

Will it mean, under the concept of One Malaysia, the government is committed to equality of opportunities? Seems to me, we have been belabouring ourselves demanding equality in outcomes which to me, is inherently wrong. Will the government then take the bold step is stating explicitly that equality in opportunities does not mean equality in outcome? In other words, the outcome of one’s efforts will now depend purely on merits and not on enforced legislation.

As it is, One Malaysia is like the Islam Hadhari concept. Everyone knows Islam as do everyone, Malaysia. But the Hadhari and One are nebulous concepts. The PM can’t expect people to interpret liberally what he means unless his ideological putar-alams come out with a clear exposition of what it is. Otherwise the concept will be like Siberia; everyone knows where and what it is, but no one wants to go there.

He has just announced the scrapping off a 30% almost mandatory requirement of Bumiputera participation in certain sub sectors of the service industry. That industry is a big contributor to GDP and perhaps the most accessible to Bumiputeras. Now that is opened up, it means Bumiputeras have to compete with others.

Is relaxation of the rule a sign of things to come? When he announced the dismantling of the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Cooperative Development, it was met with general disproval from Malays. It wasn’t just a question of the abolition of a ministry, but one that is charged with assisting and developing Malay business community. The scrapping off was seen as de-emphasising of policies specifically aimed at the Malays and is seen as a step disowning Malay interests.

The boldest step yet is the liberalisation of the 30% rule in 27 services sub sectors. Investors do not require the mandatory 30% bumiputera participation anymore. MITI secretary general, Tan Sri Rahman Mamat, said the liberalisation was done in consultation with the players who expressed their readiness to compete in an open market.

Hurrah to that. Ok we will accept that. But just out curiosity who are the players? The big boys who made it good during the unfettered and jolly good days of NEP? Are they the putera bangsawans and UMNO puteras? Mukhriz is at MITI- his string of hotels will certainly benefit because he is ready to compete. He will enjoy a captive market.

The statement by the MITI SecGen must be scrutinised in more detail. While saying that the big boys are ready, he has also stated the liberalisation needed to be done because Malaysia has no choice. So which is it? Was the relaxation undertaken because the Bumiputera services industry players are ready or because MITI has no choice?

Was it a precondition to allow Malaysia in its trade negotiations such as the free trade agreements? That one of the loose ends the ministry needed to tie is this Bumiputera requirement. That if Malaysia does not liberalise, Malaysia cannot enjoy market access?

Eventually, the smaller bumiputera players will be reduced to peripheral participants in supplying the requirements of foreign firms based here. Yes, maybe they will supply trained masseuses, blind and not blind, maybe supply, as one sardonic commentator said- just nasi lemak to bigger industry players.

I hope we are not singing songs of praises forcing ourselves to accept the lie we are ready to compete in the services industry just because baby Mukhriz is there. That is the impression I get from reading some bloggers.

PKR Press Statement: Liberalisation Move raises Questions

Press Statement
24 April 2009


PM Najib Razak’s announcement on the moves to liberalise the 27 services sub-sectors raise a number of basic questions.

Firstly, what does he really mean by “liberalization”? Is it merely confined to the lifting of 30% bumiputera equity? What are the efforts for socio-economic upliftment of the poor and marginalized from all ethnic groups? In this connection what does liberalization of the health and social services imply? Najib needs to explain this very clearly because  liberalization is closely related to privatization. Health is one of the key social services that can be used by a responsible government to promote and preserve the welfare of the people at large. It should never be privatized.

Secondly, in the context of globalization – which is often seen as a new form of neo-colonialism underpinned by the free market system – the processes of liberalization, deregulation and privatisation are closely interlinked. Does this mean the denial of the role of the state? With the serious recessions now being experienced in the West, isn’t free market and neo-liberalism already found wanting? Can these processes guarantee greater welfare for the ordinary people? Or will they only further the interests of big businesses from the global capitalist centres and the local counterparts that collaborate with them?

Thirdly, Najib hopes that his liberalization move will improve Malaysian international economic competitiveness which has been sliding over the past few years. But is competitiveness the only or main thing? Is it useful to have improved competitiveness if it does not guarantee greater benefits to the workers, farmers and other low income groups, but instead create concentration of wealth, wider socio-economic gaps and  worsening of  comparative poverty?

Finally, Najib seems to assume that with his liberalization move there will be more inflow of foreign direct investments. This need not necessarily happen. Isn’t the Prime Minister aware that many negative factors, such as chronic corruption and absence of independent judiciary, together with constant violations of basic human rights can drive away potential investors? Furthermore, why should there be such obsession on the FDI for growth and development? Why don’t we draw lessons from those developing and developed countries that have managed to industrialise and develop by depending more on the mobilization of domestic capital?

Dr Syed Husin Ali
Deputy President
Parti Keadilan Rakyat


24hb. APRIL 2009

Saya dengan penuh tawaduk merakamkan kesyukuran yang tidak terhingga ke hadrat Allah SWT dengan segala Keagungan dan KebesaranNya yang telah menganugerahkan keadilan dan pembelaan terhadap kebenaran saya.

Pengumuman SPRM yang telah membebaskan saya dari segala tuduhan itu adalah suatu manifestasi kebenaran saya yang telah selama ini saya pertahankan. Ternyata usaha keji pihak-pihak tertentu yang telah menabur fitnah hingga menyebabkan luka terhadap saya, keluarga dan Parti Keadilan Rakyat tidak diizinkan Allah untuk menyanggah kebenaran saya. Syukur, Alhamdulillah. Saya juga telah mengarahkan peguam saya untuk mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap individu-individu, ahli-ahli politik serta media-media tertentu yang telah mengaibkan serta menabur fitnah terhadap saya. Saya dengan ini mengulangi ketegasan saya untuk meletakkan jawatan selaku ADUN N12 Penanti serta menyatakan sokongan penuh kepada kepimpinan Parti Keadilan Rakyat di bawah teraju Ketua Umumnya, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Justeru, anugerah Allah SWT yang tidak ternilai ini yang telah memberikan kejayaan kepada saya dalam membela kebenaran saya telah memberi kekuatan baru kepada diri saya sendiri, keluarga dan seluruh pencinta kebenaran dan keadilan. Sesungguhnya bernarlah firman Allah SWT di dalam Al Quran yang mafhumnya berbunyi “…Dan apabila datangnya al Haq(Kebenaran) itu, maka kebathilan pasti akan musnah.”

Salam Perjuangan.
Yang Benar,

Penanti is waiting for action to show that PKR is the party to represent them

April 24, 2009

Comment: Differences can exist between partners and associates. Let us, therefore,  not make a mountain out of the Fairus episode. The Pakatan Rakyat coalition is working very well. In Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan we are cooperating to deliver our promises and commitments to the brave voters who defied the UMNO-led and fractious Barisan Nasional during the March 8, 2008 general elections. In Perak, the UMNO political coup derailed our plans, but we will be back in the next few years. Because we are not the government there, that does not mean that Perakians who voted Pakatan will be abandoned.

The by-elections in Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang were a reaffirmation of confidence of the rakyat for Pakatan Rakyat led by Anwar Ibrahim. Four victories against one defeat in Batang Ai (PKR did well there, despite evidence of electoral fraud and vote buying) is no mean achievement I think Mr. Sim is unduly pessimistic and it is difficult for me, therefore, to accept his conclusion that “the people do not really like the Pakatan Rakyat all that much”. In truth, UMNO and Barisan Nasional, especially the newly minted Prime Minister Najib, are worried of yet another bashing, this time in Penanti which is within the Parliamentary constituency of Permatang Pauh which voted overwhelmingly for its hometown hero, Anwar Ibrahim, last August (2008).

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, Fairus Khairuddin, has been an unfortunate victim of the ongoing and massive  UMNO anti-PKR campaign which specifically targets Anwar Ibrahim and his close associates. The mainstream media in particular UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia/Mingguan Malaysia and TV3 is known to launch negative campaigns against PKR’s Ketua Umum and the party he leads. Even the Election Commission Deputy Chairman, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, joined in the fray and was quoted by the NST today as saying  that Fairus “has every right to want to change his mind and remain, as he was rightfully chosen by the voters in Penanti”.

I personally know Fairus well. He often discussed his academic plans and his silat gayong activities with me. That was even before he became  a candidate for the Penanti state seat in 2008. For all his faults, he strikes me as a promising politician. He is still young and can always make a comeback a few years down the road, having learned from the political school of Hardknocks. He has conducted himself with grace and dignity, despite attempts by UMNO  to irritate and pressure him into making rash moves. But he did not fall into their trap.

I am confident that Fairus will not be dissuaded from doing what is right and proper for PKR and our struggle and agenda for reform and change. If he is reading this blog, I want to know him that he is my friend. He can always count on my support. I wish him all the best as he seeks to advance his education. My sincere advice to Fairus is that he should step back, reflect and then take two steps forward all in the name of PKR and our mission of service to the rakyat. —Din Merican

War clouds over Penanti

April 23, 2009

by Sim Kwang Yang

This must indeed be another sign of the kind of new politics that has arrived in Malaysia. Before 2008, whenever a by-election is pending anywhere in Malaysia, the punters would have put their money on Barisan Nasional. They were those sad times that even if you put the BN symbol on a cow, I would still expect the poor animal to win the by-election hands down!

After the March 8 general election,however, the BN traditional formula of racial posturing, media manipulation, development Maggie Mee, and downright vote buying seem to have lost their magic, as they lost four by-elections in a row within one year in West Malaysia. The forthcoming Penanti by-election looks like another losing battle for the BN. This kind of anticipation in favour of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat before a by-election was unheard of just a few years ago.

Last day of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Najib Abdul Razak takes over as prime minister in Putrajaya. It is also unprecedented that the BN chairperson and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has floated his idea that BN should stay out of the Penanti by-election. This is a good sign. It means that the Election Commission will not rule the PKR state assemblyperson for Penanti Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin’s resignation letter as invalid. One can never be sure about such thing in Malaysia.

Najib’s reticence about BN participation in the Penanti by-election, at least in his public statements, seems to have arisen from his feeling that the Malaysian public are by-election fatigued. By-elections are expensive, as the mainstream media are quick to echo. The BN government has to  concentrate on managing the nation’s economy within the frosty winter of an economic meltdown. The by-election is unnecessary, and so on.

The  Chief  Chinese representatives in the BN cabinet, Ong Tee Kiat of the MCA and Koh Tsu Koon of Gerakan, immediately purred in concurrence. I will be surprised if they do anything otherwise.

The real truth behind Najib’s unwillingness to engage BN in another electoral tussle with the Pakatan coalition is simply that he is afraid to lose another by-election to the opposition, thereby giving steam to the opposition machinery in a long-running precarious war for the hearts and minds of Malaysians.

Having been nurtured in a political greenhouse, perhaps the second generation of any political family dynasty can never display the kind of iron in the soul as shown by the first generation of political leaders. That kind of fighting spirit cannot be transmitted through the biological genes.

Do we need this by-election?

Is the Penanti by-election necessary? That depends on your political ideology. I have not met this Fairus chap, but in the past year, there have been incessant complaints about his incompetence in this important job as the deputy chief minister of Penang state. He must be one of those young chaps swept into office unexpectedly by the political tsunami of March 8 last year. Some new young YBs learn faster than others, I suppose.

Finally, he was investigated by the MACC for some shady deals. We know that MACC can be selective in their investigation of public complaints. You can choose to ignore them, until you are charged and convicted in a court of law. In this case, Fairus chose to resign. You can interpret this act as PKR holding their elected representatives to a higher moral standard than BN. Then, the by-election is indeed necessary, in support of a cleaner, more transparent and more accountable type of politics.

(In the case of Elizabeth Wong in Selangor, her decision to continue on as elected representative and executive councillor is morally acceptable, because she is a victim of a crime, and not a suspected criminal.)

So the die is cast. There will be a by-election in Penanti, unless the EC comes out with a ridiculous ruling to prevent one. Then, even in these early days, we hear discordant voices from both the belligerent parties, offering Malaysians valuable lessons in understanding party politics on our curious land.

Having been properly rehabilitated into the UMNO fold by the Najib’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of power, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has opined aloud that BN and UMNO should indeed plunge headlong into the Penanti by-election on pains of being seen by Malaysians at large as fearful and cowardly.

He even offered to head the fight himself. His sentiment has been echoed by the Penang Umno people as well. (Someone on the Internet has suggested that Mahathir be nominated to be the BN and UMNO candidate for Penanti. Wouldn’t that be something to watch and write about?)

Now I wonder. If Najib goes along with Mahathir that UMNO should indeed face down the opposition challenge in Penanti, he will just entrench the perception among many netizens that he is just a stooge PM to his puppet master. His prestige and glamour as the newly-minted premier of 26 million Malaysians will be vastly diminished.

On the other hand, if he persists with his initial unease, and decides eventually to stay out of the Penanti by-election, he may incur the wrath of the former prime minister and draw a stream of sustained attacks from this self-appointed gadfly of UMNO. Why, he may even go down the path of his predecessor! Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown indeed.

What’s happening within Pakatan?

Meanwhile, DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng proclaimed very publicly of his great displeasure about how he was kept in the dark about Fairus’ resignation. This sparked off a very unsightly war of words between the DAP and the PKR luminaries in support of their respective party supremo. As an old man watching from the sideline with some knowledge of the inner working of political parties, I cannot help but be amused.

If what Guan Eng claimed is true, then PKR top bosses had indeed erred. Out of respect for Guan Eng and inter-party protocol within a vibrant political coalition, he should indeed have been consulted and informed beforehand, even if you could argue that this is an internal matter within PKR.

On the other hand, you could argue that Guan Eng is no longer just an opposition leader, but the chief minister (Zai Siang) of the Penang state. As the old Chinese proverb says, the stomach of the chief minister should be big enough for you to row a boat in it.

He could have just swallowed this slight from PKR, and seek private channels of communication within the Pakatan coalition framework to remind PKR top dogs the need for future mutual consultation. Or are there inner channels of communication inside the mammoth Pakatan structure?

One should not be surprised that the supporting casts of both DAP and PKR leading lights jumping into the verbal exchange. Party men are a bit like members of the Mafia underworld. When their godfather is under attack, they form a ring around him out of their instinct of undying loyalty to protect the boss of bosses.

Meanwhile, the PAS people in Penanti have also expressed their interest in contesting in the by-election.

For those of us who are used to UMNO’s monolithic voice monopolising all BN narratives, this Pakatan internal discordance is both worrisome and refreshing.

The faint-hearted supporters of Pakatan would be worried sick that the opposition coalition is not really sustainable.

Other more adventurous souls will herald this spate of public disagreement between Pakatan components as yet another sign of this new politics, and welcome this diversity within the coalition as proof that the opposition parties are more democratic, playing out their disagreement in the public space rather than sweeping them under the proverbial carpet.

Meanwhile, within the bowel in the nadir of the ruling class of Malaysia, there is this noise jostling for prominence, claiming for the election laws to be amended, to avoid “unnecessary” by-elections. The question then is: who is to say whether any by-election is “necessary” or not.

In retrospect, I have to conclude that the people do not really like the Pakatan Rakyat all that much. Fortunately for the opposition, people just dislike the BN more!

SIM KWANG YANG was MP for Bandar Kuching in Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at