August 1, 2009: Anti-ISA Protest on a massive scale in Kuala Lumpur

mk50July 31, 2009

SHOWDOWN in KL streets on August 1, 2009

by Tarani Palani

PAS has made it compulsory for all of its members to participate in an anti-Internal Security Act (ISA) rally in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, said its vice-president Salahuddin Ayub.

He added that the party’s spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and president Abdul Hadi Awang have given the nod for the rally.

He also said the duo, who are Islamic scholars, had also decreed that the rally would not be haram or forbidden by Islam.

“Whether the gathering is deemed haram (by others) is immaterial because our top leadership has already given their blessing,” Salahuddin told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

The vice-president was responding to an article published in Berita Harian today which featured several religious authorities condemning the proposed gathering as being un-Islamic. Unfazed, Salahuddin said: “I urge PAS members not to be influenced by fatwas (edicts) issued by other parties.”

Some 50,000 PAS members are expected to take part in the gathering tomorrow.

Anwar, Hadi and Kit Siang to be there

The Abolish ISA Movement (GMI by its Malay abbreviation) and Majlis Permuafakatan Ummah (Pewaris) will stage two separate gatherings to voice their protest and support for the security law respectively.

The rallies are being called to mark the 49th anniversary of the passage of the ISA. Top opposition leaders who will be leading the anti-ISA rally include PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.

Despite stern police warning to call off the gatherings, both groups remain adamant. Salahuddin, who also sits in the central committee of GMI, said the police were notified of the gathering although no permit was obtained.

He stressed that previous gatherings planned by groups such as Bersih and PPSMI, tomorrow’s rallies are expected to be peaceful.

With the two interlocking ideological groups protesting simultaneously, there has been some anticipated tension as the two groups are set to face-off while taking the same route to the palace where both memorandums will be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Pro-ISA group to avoid Masjid Negara

But Pewaris this morning issued a statement saying that they have decided to avoid one of its meeting points – Masjid Negara – which would have brought it face-to-face with the rival group.

The pro-ISA group will now meet at only two points- Pasar Seni and Padang Merbok – before marching to Dataran Merdeka at 2pm.

Meanwhile, GMI plans to start its rally at 2pm from three locations – Sogo shopping complex, Masjid Jamek and Masjid Negara.

In a related development, students from a MCA-owned private university have been told not to attend the rally. The University of Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) has issued a circular today stating that “Utar wishes to advise all staff and students not to participate in any illegal gatherings”.

How P. Ramlee would have dealt with ISA agents

Pakatan Rakyat to be a formal alliance before GE13, says Zaid Ibrahim

The Malaysian Insider

July 31, 2009

Pakatan parties will seal pact, says Zaid

By Leslie Lau
Consultant Editor

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is working towards registering the alliance officially to underline its commitment towards being a viable alternative coalition to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), says Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

zaid-july31The former BN minister, who joined PKR less than two months ago, wrote in his blog yesterday that he was aware of the criticisms levelled at PR parties for not formalising a common platform.

“All the members of Pakatan are ready to serve the public in the name of Pakatan.In fact in all our daily activities we are already acting as members of Pakatan and not just members of PKR, PAS or DAP,” he wrote.

Since joining the federal opposition, Zaid has been given the task of coordinating the activities of the joint PR secretariat. The Malaysian Insider understands the act of formalising the alliance as an official coalition like Barisan Nasional has one major hurdle.

Under the rules of the Registrar of Societies, a political coalition must consist of at least seven parties. This means PR will have to attract more political parties to join its fold before it can be registered. But Zaid appeared confident that this could be achieved.

“The people will be given a real choice in the next elections; there will be one-to-one contests,” he said.

PR leaders are understood to be in talks with several political parties to join the alliance. But there are also ongoing talks between PKR, DAP and PAS to come out with common policies.

“I am aware of many critics who say Pakatan does not have concrete policies or even common policies. People say that because of our different ideologies Pakatan cannot be united like Barisan Nasional.”

He said PR leaders and members were already tired of being in opposition and have proven their abilities to withstand pressure from what he referred to as “dictatorial Barisan Nasional government.”

“They have been tested time and again. They have been jailed, detained under the ISA and their supporters are brave and strong.”

He claimed that Barisan Nasional’s strategy now was to create fissures among PR parties “because they are afraid of one-to-one contests.” While Zaid acknowledged there were weaknesses in the PR alliance, he said the leaders remained committed towards formalising their current arrangement and offering a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional.

Anwar Ibrahim is South-East Asia’s most extraordinary politician, says The Economist

Malaysia’s Chameleon

July 30, 2009
From The Economist print edition

The rise, fall and rise of Anwar Ibrahim, South-East Asia’s most extraordinary politician

PKR Adviser Anwar Ibrahim

PKR Adviser Anwar Ibrahim

ONE evening in mid-July Anwar Ibrahim was deep in the rubber-tapping state of Kelantan in northern Malaysia, urging a crowd of rural folk to vote for a devout fishmonger. The candidate was from the conservative Islamic Party (PAS). A tiny by-election for the state assembly PAS already dominates is ordinarily small beer (or would be, if PAS allowed such a beverage, which it does not). But Mr Anwar needs PAS. For the paradox is that without the Islamists, the alliance he leads of Malay modernisers, Indians and secular Chinese has little chance of driving the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from power. The coalition that UMNO dominates has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957. Mr Anwar longs for UMNO’s destruction. The feeling is mutual.

That morning, Mr Anwar had been in Perth where he had met Australia’s foreign minister. What had he been doing with Stephen Smith? “Plotting,” replies Mr Anwar, with a conspiratorial wink. Mr Anwar spends a lot of time abroad with national and religious leaders whose names he drops slightly too easily into an engaging conversational style. He moves like quicksilver from one intriguing subject to the next, but you get the uncanny sense that he is speaking to what interests you.

Mr Anwar thinks he will soon need international support. Two days after stumping in Kelantan, pre-trial hearings began in a case in which Mr Anwar stands accused of sodomising a political aide “against the order of nature”. Mr Anwar vigorously denies the charges. He says he is the victim of a political stitch-up. International outrage might help him. Much is fishy about the case. Photographs of the former aide who brought the accusations show him with UMNO members, including people close to the current prime minister, Najib Razak. The charge has been changed from sexual assault to “consensual sex”, yet his accuser has not been charged. (All homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.)

Mr Anwar has been here before. In 1998 he was charged with corruption and homosexual acts. In custody, he was beaten up by the chief of police. He spent six years in jail, mostly in solitary confinement, until his conviction was overturned. Upon release, his political career seemed over.

It is easy to forget now but for many years Mr Anwar led a charmed life. He made his name as an Islamist student leader in the 1970s and was even jailed under the draconian Internal Security Act. Then he shocked his former colleagues by joining UMNO, where his rise was spectacular. By 1993 he was deputy prime minister and heir to Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s long-serving leader. Malaysia seemed about to fall into his lap. “Ah,” says Mr Anwar, “the good old days.”

But during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, Mr Anwar moved too soon against his mentor, who after 16 years in power was not ready to bow out. Mr Anwar railed against the UMNO cronyism from which he had benefited. Livid, Dr Mahathir threw him out of the cabinet and launched Mr Anwar’s persecution. Mr Anwar’s reformasi movement sputtered out with his jailing.

Yet the hopes which that movement represented surged again after the general election of March 2008, and especially after August 2008 when Mr Anwar won a seat in Penang. In the election the ruling coalition lost its precious two-thirds majority which gave it power to change the constitution. It has since lost five out of six by-elections to Mr Anwar’s forces, which also control four of 13 states. In getting out its message, the opposition has been helped by an explosion of internet opinion that has undermined the influence of the UMNO-controlled mainstream media.

UMNO’s back is against the wall. Even its own officials admit to its arrogance, with corruption bound into the fabric of its power. The New Economic Policy (NEP, introduced in 1971) instituted racial preferences for majority Malays, when ethnic Chinese and Indians owned much of business. But instead of helping the poor, the NEP has enriched rent-seekers around the ruling party, while dragging down economic growth. Resentment has spread from Chinese and Indians to poor or pious Malays.

This has made possible Mr Anwar’s strange alliance. In calling for the end to the NEP, he says poor Chinese and Indians need help as much as Malays—but because there are more poor Malays than other races, they will still get the lion’s share of government help. It is a possible way out from the baneful influence of race on Malaysian politics. But the real strength of this alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) is that Mr Anwar’s charisma and political nous holds it together. Alas, that it is potential weakness, too.

Trials and tribulations

The challenges for Mr Anwar and his alliance will now multiply. For a start, Mr Najib, prime minister since April, has said the NEP must adapt, stealing some of his opponent’s thunder.

Then there is the time-consuming trial. Mr Anwar says he will win whatever the verdict. If he is acquitted, the government which brought the case will be discredited. If found guilty, tens of thousands of supporters will take to the streets. Mr Anwar hints tantalisingly at new information in a murder case that has gripped the country partly because of its links to Mr Najib. This, he suggests, gives him ammunition to fight back.

Intriguing, but it is unlikely to be enough. If Mr Anwar does go to jail, the alliance may not survive the loss of its leader. If he calls out his supporters—for something of the martyr lurks in him—he may be blamed for the ensuing chaos. And if he appeals to international opinion, his local supporters may question that.

This points to a trap waiting to catch the silver-tongued Mr Anwar, who deftly tells different audiences—religious or secular—what they like to hear. The same blogosphere that helped his meteoric rise may one day pay more attention to his chameleon qualities. Malaysians would then come to ask more closely: who and what exactly does Anwar stand for?

The Culture of Corruption: Can we trust our Government?

July 30, 2009

The Culture of Corruption

by G. Krishnan (

One Malaysia Prime Minister

One Malaysia Prime Minister

“No stone will be left unturned in finding out the real cause of death and, if there is any foul play, action will definitely be taken.” So says the Prime Minister to Teoh Beng Hock’s family.

Of course the above statement should come as a reassurance not just to Beng Hock’s family members but to all Malaysians. And the operative term here is “should”. That is the part that troubles me and is something that I find rather difficult to get over. Ideally, we should have confidence in Najib’s reassurance; we should take solace in the fact that the truth will be revealed; we should have faith that if there has been any criminal wrong-doing which led to or contributed to Beng Hock’s death, that justice would be served; we should have no hesitation about such an eventuality.

Just as we should be able to trust the fact that our government agencies designed to serve and protect the public are in fact themselves not infested with corruption. We should be confident that those who head these agencies are not themselves compromised and simply obedient political instruments of their political masters. We should be able to have faith that our corrupted political culture has not just tainted – but in fact is sharply reflected and entrenched in the working of government agencies such as the MACC and the police force.

Let me suggest the following: Any arm of the government – you name it – is only as good as the political culture practiced in that society. A society whose political culture is riddled with corruption, nepotism and cronyism will find that is various government institutions are but a mirror image of that reality.

And only when there is a genuine, serious political commitment in the leadership to weed out such a culture – rather than to even just tolerate it, let alone contribute to it – will there be a realistic chance for cleansing such agencies. Decades ago, Singapore was in a similar boat as us with respect to having rampant corruption. But something definitive happened – the leadership there made a serious commitment to stamp-out the culture of corruption. A systematic and sustained effort was made to pull this off. Today, when one thinks of countries in Asia where corruption is rampant, Singapore is not one that typically comes to mind.

Ask yourself this: Can we say the same about Malaysia? I think we all know the answer to that question. Indeed, Transparency International ranks Singapore – along with Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden as the top five countries in the world with the lowest level of corruption. Singapore did not get there by just plain talk about good governance, producing slogans year after year plastered all around the media and our billboards. Its leadership did something about it – and not just talked about good governance and all that other nice stuff that amounted to empty promises.

There is nothing magical about implementing changes and reform. Even incompetent leadership, with even a minimal desire and determination to do so, can produce some, albeit limited, results. And we’ve had decades of UMNO dominance that has essentially given us more of the same.

As long as there is no political will to change the culture of corruption, it will shape how our government works. And so long as those who govern benefit from – and at the very least are not harmed by this culture of corruption – there is no incentive for them to change it. Well, unless of course if they are committed to a higher calling to create a better society.

Yes, we should expect that “no stone be left unturned” in uncovering the truth about Teoh’s death, and about Gunasegaran’s and Kugan’s deaths, and about the deaths of numerous others under mysterious circumstances while under the custody of the authorities.

This is what we should expect from our elected representatives. Maybe then we stand a chance to get leaders with a political will to change our culture of corruption.

PR Decision-Making Mechanism

July 30, 2009

Pakatan Rakyat Decision-Making Mechanism is a principal milestone, say Khalid Samad, MP

by Terence Netto

mk50Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad believes that the creation of a decision-making mechanism within Pakatan Rakyat is the principal milestone in the quest for a two-coalition system in Malaysia.

In remarks made at a seminar organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore earlier this week, the PAS legislator said such a mechanism was created by the Pakatan government that ruled Perak from March 2008 until it was ousted by the Barisan Nasional last February.

Khalid, one of the Malaysian Parliament’s least partisan voices, credited the DAP, which held the overall majority in the Perak State Assembly, for the success of the concept of consensual government whereby no policy would be passed if coalition partners were not in agreement.

He claimed the Pakatan governments of Selangor and Kedah have yet to emulate the mechanism successfully wrought by the Perak Pakatan government led by Nizar Jamaluddin, the PAS assemblyman who became menteri besar.

Khalid, a resolute believer in persuasion through reasoned argument, said the mechanism was necessary to obviate the impact of differing ideologies of Pakatan partners on decision making.

Overriding political ideologies

He explained that Pakatan coalition partners were propelled by a desire to provide responsible and transparent government in the five states where they were enthroned.

He said this motivation was sufficiently potent to override ideological differences among coalition partners such that the immediate policies that were being implemented were not held hostage to fundamental differences.

He added that the Pakatan desire to provide government that moves the “country away from racial politics that has been the defining character of politics under BN” overrode the centrifugal pull of clashing ideologies.

Khalid said the “fear of one race being sidelined” and the fear of another race coming into power “has always been the bogeyman that has been projected by UMNO-BN in order for them to stay in power”.

He said the Pakatan faced the challenge of educating the public that this “racial politics” was a tool employed by the BN to extend their hold on power rather than an actual danger posed by Malaysian society.

Cautionary note to Pakatan

According to Khalid, another challenge faced by Pakatan was how to manage change. He held that change would be better managed if Pakatan partners correctly identified the reasons why the public supported Pakatan in the last general election.

He said he personally believed the main reason why Pakatan did well was that the people were tired of BN’s corruption and racial politics.

He said attributions by PAS for their success to increasing Islamic consciousness and of PKR and DAP to their attractiveness to voters, were not necessarily correct.

Khalid cautioned that incorrect attributions for their success would lead Pakatan coalition partners to “bring about changes which probably society at large is not completely ready to accept”.

He said the management of change would be better effected if Pakatan emphasised the need for political socialisation and reconstruction of social values which were warped by UMNO-BN’s domination of access to Malay society through mosque, and surau, and through the positions of village chiefs and security committees.

Khalid said the values perpetuated by UMNO-BN were based on fear, suspicion and racialist policies. He added that Pakatan should counter this politics of fear and race with a “more positive political philosophy where issues of social justice, economic justice and the role of government in ensuring national unity” is emphasised. He said this philosophy must be imparted and explained to Malay society “in a more Islamic perspective”.

Farish Noor on Politics, Power and the Violence of History

July 29, 2009

Politics, Power and the Violence of History

By Dr Farish A Noor (received via

The guillotine, it ought to be remembered, was originally conceived of as a safe, clean, efficient and ironically ‘humane’ method of murdering people when it was first introduced. Dubbed the ‘revolutionary razor’ when it was first used to execute the enemies of the state at the outset of the French revolution (1789), it was seen as an improvement and advancement from the age of neo-feudal rule where the despotism of the King of France was manifest in the macabre and gruesome spectacles of public violence that were enacted in the kingdom against those who were seen as the enemies of the regime.

In time, however, it is clear that even this mode of public execution has been inscribed with negativity and regarded as a brutal way for the state to express its power in the public domain. Robespiere, Danton, Saint-Just were all victims of the same mode of state violence that they had originally supported and promoted, and it is ironic that Robespiere and his contemporaries met their end at the same guillotine that they had used to execute their enemies earlier.

The tale of the guillotine is an apt reminder of the historical impasse that Muslim societies are in today, and how the dream of Political Islam is now turning onto itself and demonstrating its internal unsustainable contradictions in no uncertain manner. In his landmark study of the regimes of violence and punishment before, during and after the Iranian revolution of 1979, Darius Rejali notes that the Iranian revolution – despite its distaste for all things secular, western and modern – was nonetheless a modern enterprise that was couched in the same secular, materialist and modernist premises it sought to distance itself from.

Today the Muslim world is witnessing an internal pluralisation on a scale that is unprecedented. Modern developments ranging for mass rural to urban migration, the urbanisation of Muslim societies (Iran was the most urbanised Muslim country in the world at the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979), mass education accompanied and aided by the rise in Muslim literacy levels, the availability of off-the-rack communications technology etc. have all conspired to create a Muslim global community that is wired up, networked and integrated and which lives in a virtual time-space that is forever present and immediate.

Yet despite these material advances that have been furthered by the march of global intellectual and financial capital and its attendant technologies, there remains a huge disconnect between the material-economic life of Muslims and their socio-cultural-religious realities.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that Muslim normative social, cultural and legal discourse has remained by and large stuck in the past, harking back to an age of Empire where Muslim power was dominant and where the epistemology of Empire – to paraphrase the term made popular by Ebrahim Moosa – remains the defining epistemic standard by which all utterances in the public domain are made. It is partly thanks to this disconnect that we witness the manifold contradictions that now exist in the Muslim world, where even the most materially and economically developed Muslim states may still cling on to an understanding of Muslim law and legal-social praxis that is  totally out of date, if not outright medieval and out of sync in 21st century realities.

A case in point in the present furore in Malaysia – long since regarded as one of the most economically developed Muslim countries in the world and a model for other developing Muslim states in South Asia and Africa – where a Muslim woman (Kartika Sari Dewi) has been sentenced to whipping by the Syariah court for the offence of drinking alcohol in public.

It is not often that such news reports reaches the wider global community for the simple reason that Malaysia has long since cultivated its image as a ‘model Muslim state’ for others to emulate and prides itself with the role it wishes to play as the cultural bridge-builder between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Yet this is the same Malaysia where books are banned on a regular basis, where the state-employed morality police regularly raids homes and public spaces to morally police the private lives of citizens, where the religious authorities see fit to pronounce judgements on all matters ranging from sexuality to the use of witchcraft, and where authors like Karen Armstrong are allowed to speak at conferences hosted in the capital while their books are banned and not allowed to be sold or read in the same country.

Furthermore it should be noted that in Malaysia today where Political Islam has made an impact thanks to the constant political instrumentalisation of Islam by the two main Malay-Muslim parties, UMNO and PAS, the public domain has been increasingly defined by Islam (of a politicised variety) and has shrunk as a consequence. Despite the heated political contestation between the two parties, neither PAS nor UMNO have shown any willingness to engage with other Islamist/Muslim actors and agents, be their alternative Muslim intellectual groups, NGOs, lobby groups, Muslim minority faith communities (such as the Shias or Ahmadis) and Muslim women’s groups.

It is telling that in the case of the sentence of whipping meted out to Kartika Sari Dewi in July 2009, both UMNO and PAS leaders claimed that the judgment was in keeping with Islamic law and ethical norms. The PAS leader Dr. Lo’ Lo’ Ghazali – who initially expressed her reservations over the judgement – later reversed her stand and came out in support of the Syariah judge who had meted out the punishment of whipping thus:

“When the Syariah Court passed the sentence I was shocked not by the decision but by the boldness of the judge. I congratulate him for it.”

On both sides of the political divide, the leaders of UMNO and PAS and the state’s religious authorities maintain that the punishment was in accordance with Islamic legal norms and ethical values; that the punishment was not intended to physically harm or mutilate the condemned but rather to ‘reform her’ through the ‘symbolic’ act of publicly whipping – and thereby humiliating her; and that such forms of public humiliation and punishment were carried out to maintain and police the ethical standards of society and to safeguard public morals.

In short, as was the case of the guillotine of the revolutionaries, the public act of whipping someone in public was presented as ‘humane’ and meant to serve the utilitarian needs of society as a whole and to maintain a sense of social order and cohesion – albeit through a regime of social policing, public humiliation, sanctioned (and therefore legitimate) state violence and social conditioning. This was yet another instance where Muslim law and social policing was and is understood in terms that deny the rights of the individual and the sanctity of privacy, private agency and the right to personally conduct one’s life on the basis of one’s own personal judgement.

To compound the matter further, practically none of the major political parties of the country have spoken out against the judgment, for fear of appearing to challenge the primacy of the Shariah court and legal system when it comes to the policing of the private morality and private choices of Muslims in particular. It would appear as if despite the hype and talk of how Malaysia is such a developed country in material-economic terms, its religious laws have evolved in a completely different direction from the march of capital in the country. What is more, with the exception of a small minority of dissenting voices emanating from Muslim lawyers, scholars and human rights activists, it would appear as if the normative ethical and moral standards of Malaysians – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – have been set by those whose moral standards are based on a legal and moral vocabulary that is traditionalist, essentialised and bound by scripture.

The legal reasoning that has gone into the justification of the sentence meted out to the condemned in this case – as with the legal reasoning that has informed so many other instances of moral policing, book banning, marginalisation of minorities – is one that is rooted in history, but that history happens to be one that is defined mainly by conservative scholars who have opted to highlight the evolution of only one stream of Muslim legal thought, the conservative tradition.

Muslim power and politics in Malaysia as in so many other Muslim countries is understood and foregrounded with history as its springboard, but we need to ask, which Muslim historical tradition is being used to justify the present-day policing of Muslims all over the world? And are there no other alternative historical traditions that we can consult? Where, in short, is the history of progressive Islam in the midst of all this sound and fury?

Jui Meng meets Malaysiakini (Parts 1 and 2)

EXCLUSIVE: Chua Jui Meng meets Malaysiakini (Part 1)-July 28. 2009

by Wong Pheak Zern

mk50Former health minister Chua Jui Meng, the most senior BN politician to have defected to Pakatan Rakyat, has described Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as a leader who conceals his iron fist in a velvet glove. “Najib is a decent man, I rather like him, he is a great PM, but he cannot be blameless because the PM calls the shots,” said Jui Meng.

“The PM in this country is too powerful – (he has) too much power over the institutions and parliament. I think it is time, and I hope that if Anwar (Ibrahim) ever becomes the PM, he will trim down these powers and give them back to the people,”, said Chua (left).

A former MCA vice-president and two-time unsuccessful candidate for party president, Jui Meng defected to Anwar’s PKR two weeks ago.

Jui Meng, who has the distinction of being the longest serving health minister – nine years in all – talked to Malaysiakini last week at his home in Bukit Damansara.

He said that despite having left MCA, he was still a friend of party president Ong Tee Keat. “I think he is a man that does what he says, and says what he does, a straightforward man, I like that kind of person,” said Chua, a four-term parliamentarian for Bakri in Johor.

But the same cannot be said about Chua Soi Lek, the deputy president who is said to be making clandestine moves to oust Ong. Jui Meng strongly hinted that Soi Lek is being backed by UMNO.

“I said very clear during an address in my division assembly that today there are two MCAs – one elected by the delegates of central committee, and the other by the external forces.

“I see that Soi Lek is using his position to garner support for a future fight, so there are two MCAs, you cannot get away with it. You ask the people on the street, they will tell you that there are two MCAs, not of Tee Keat’s making, but one made by an external force.”

The following is the first of a two-part interview.

Malaysiakini: On the timing of your crossover to PKR, why did you pick now?

Chua: Very simple. The opposition coalition is under threat, both from conflicts within, but most importantly, threats from outside.

Were you thinking about this (the defection) for long, or was it a sudden decision?

It was a very quick decision.

How quick? Was it within weeks?

It was very fast. It was almost as though I was meant to do that. You know how it works in life – you may think about it, and then you put it at the back of your mind. But I have been thinking – whether I should do this or not – for quite some time.

I love this country, and I have been in politics since May 13, 1969. In my heart, Malaysia is a beautiful country, with rich resources… then I see what is happening here. Why is it that there are still large segments of the Indian community poor, and the poorest states in Malaysia are the Malay states, why are the natives of Sabah and Sarawak suffering from poverty?

Hasn’t God created this country with so much wealth so that the people can flourish and prosper together and live as one nation? These are the thoughts that have been going on in my head.

How long have you been thinking about this disparity?

I have been thinking about this even when I was a MCA member from 2005 to 2008, when I was bidding for the MCA presidential election, I had time to think about it.

A combination of events is shifting in this nation. This country is so wealthy. Dr Mahathir asked about the huge revenue to the government from petroleum, where is the money? Why is there so much poverty in Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah? It doesn’t make sense. Something doesn’t gel there.

What was the catalyst?

I don’t think you can say that there was any catalyst. A combination of events is shifting this nation.

When did (de facto PKR leader) Anwar Ibrahim talk to you?

Only recently. Approaches have been made to me, not by Anwar, but by others. I was offered a parliamentary seat even before the general election in 2008 and after the 2004 GE. I said to them, ‘Sorry, I had an agenda within the BN’.

I was hoping to reform in MCA … and hopefully there will be some respect for MCA under a new leader of UMNO, and MCA can have its own stand on policy matters.

When was your first meeting with Anwar?

[No answer].

Why didn’t you join PKR after the 2008 GE, after the MCA lost many seats?

Well, the thing is this, I lost at the national level, but I won at the divisional level after a hard fight. I can’t just leave my people and abandon them, and go over to one of the opposition parties, whichever it may be. I can’t just abandon them. I’d like to have a good start and a good ending.

Some people interpret that after the recent war of words between you and (MCA deputy president) Chua Soi Lek, you seem to have found a new alliance with (MCA president) Ong Tee Keat.

No, I did not seek a war with Chua Soi Lek. After he got himself in a big mess with the scandal of the (sex) video. I was the only MCA leader that said something to comfort and bless him, expressing my sympathy to his wife, children and family. And I had no reason to do that.

He allied himself against me for several years now. Various things developed, I could see him coming to Bakri, my constituency, when he was the state-level chairman of Johor. I knew he would marginalise me, but there are certain things which you just keep to yourself.

Did Soi Lek see you as a threat?

Perhaps. I wouldn’t know why he would do that. In politics, certain things are more obvious than other things. Then he came out with statements, undermining me, in Sin Chew Daily.

It was quite a big article in the newspaper, national edition, not Johor edition, saying that I literally sabotaged the Barisan Nasional during the general election.

You cannot impale my honour and get away with it for your own political motives, which is why I have to come up and defend myself. I didn’t seek a war, he did, and I just have to clear my name.

You have been a good friend of Tee Keat. But now that you have crossed over to PKR when he is facing internal problems, it does not look very good for him.

Before I leave, I made sure that I made my message very clear. On both occasions, when I was campaigning for the MCA presidential election, I came out – with no governmental and party position, except for my divisional chairmanship – with 36 percent (support) and the last one, 40 percent.

I have some standings in the party, and people recognised that. My reform was a statutory reform – it was not “play, play” reform, but real reform.

So you don’t think Tee Keat will be able to bring about reforms?

When I saw Tee Keat being threatened, I told myself ‘that is my friend, this is the guy who stood by me’, so I must do something to support him. When we fought in the presidential election, we fought on principles – no matter who wins, we remain as friends after the election.

Ong Tee Keat is still my friend, therefore I will stand by him. I think he is a man that does what he says, and says what he does, a straightforward man. I like that kind of person. So I said I will give him support, the central delegates will give him support. I did it not once, but twice.

At the last divisional AGM (annual general meeting), I told the people that this would be the last AGM that I would be addressing after 23 years. I sent very clear signals, my divisional people knew for some time that my heart is not in this local petty politics.

Some MCA sources claim that you are past your prime but you are still ambitious.

That was a fallacy first created by (former MCA president) Ong Ka Ting, (by) linking age to performance. This theory is nonsense, (it) forced all the young people to leave the party. You can be young and feel old, you can be old and feel young.

For me, if you have a passion for something, you are still young. I remember David Yeoh, a former senator, who said that, ‘I am 72 today, but I am prepared for a fight, I am prepared for the struggle. And when I joined PKR, I feel 27.’ This is because he have passions. Well, so have I.

Do you think there will be a huge number of MCA members who will follow your footsteps by joining PKR?

I have not asked anybody to do so. I came out, and came out myself, with my principles (intact). I had stated my principles clearly, they know that I had spoke about clear reforms in the MCA during the two presidential elections. They understand my heart. Those who are prepared to identify with my stand, about how I feel that this country should evolve, if they want to come, please come.

When people crossover, they usually evaluate the level of influence a leader has by looking at the number of members following his footsteps. To me, that is not the most important thing. Just be true to yourself. When you are true to yourself, you are a one-man army.

Are there any indications that members in your former division will follow you?

I don’t know about that. But I had signed an agreement with my deputy, who actually fought against me at the divisional election, saying that I will pass it on to him, with the condition that my divisional members can choose to go or stay. He will appoint my secretary as his secretary, treasurer, so on and so forth, which he did. So it was a happy separation from the division. My people are taken care of.

People are saying that you are unable to bring your own people across.

Does it matter? Only time will tell who will follow me. I do have calls. I would not pressure them to do it tomorrow, it is still early.

A big group of several hundreds of MCA people from Sungai Besar are coming to support Anwar in a function. You see what is happening in this country, more and more people are saying the two-party system is under threat.

Does that mean you have given up hope on Tee Keat in bringing reforms in MCA?

I am hoping that he would. Although when he fought for the party election … I can see that he’s trying, especially in the PKFZ (Port Klang Free Zone) issue. But in BN, there is only one dominant party, and they call all the shots.

In fact, I told Tee Keat, your presidency is going to be tough, the expectation of the people is very high… the options are very limited. For example, where is the PKFZ report, which he said he was going to distribute it to the members of parliament? MCA didn’t call the shots. As the minister of transport, Tee Keat didn’t call the shots.

Unless the big boss says you can release, you can’t release. I understand that Tee Keat is facing external forces, I told him to expect that.

I said very clear during an address in my division assembly that today there are two MCAs – one elected by the delegates of the central committee, and the other by the external forces. There are two MCAs, very clearly.

I see that Soi Lek is using his position to garner support for a future fight, so there are two MCAs, you cannot get away with it. You ask the people on the street, they will tell you that there are two MCAs, not of Tee Keat’s making, but one made by an external force.

That external force seems to be UMNO. In your speech the other day, when you were announcing that you are joining PKR, you had made it very clear that UMNO was undermining the two-party system.


How do they do that?

Very obvious. MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) goes into Perak, suddenly very hardworking, extremely competent, and arrested two of the Keadilan YBs – and the two are very critical – and charged them for corruption.

This shows how they are systematically using the institutions of this country. Perak has been a big blow for democracy. I was one of the MCA leaders who said back in the early days that we should call for an election in Perak.

Then we have so many other issues one by one, all the government agencies created by the constitution … the police and MACC are meant to protect the interest of the people … but they have been used.

I mean, it was so obvious, when you want to do something, do it cleverly, but they did not even try to hide it, they do not care anymore.

People are upset, that is the most stupid thing any government can do. The people will say, enough is enough, time is up for you, we are the ones deciding what will happen to this country in future, not the government.

In many ways, Najib has been told to change, if not the people will change the government. The March 2008 general election is a demonstration of change wanted by the people. For the first time in a long time, people from all races want change together.

The MACC was expected to be a better version of the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency). Former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi sought to create MACC as an independent agency.

I am sure Abdullah meant well when he created this organisation – to make sure that the interests of the people are protected, but the operators of the organisation had let themselves and the people down.

So is Najib worse than Abdullah in using government machinery?

Unlike Abdullah, we now have an iron fist behind the velvet glove. Najib is a decent man, I rather like him, he is a great PM, but he cannot be blameless because the PM calls the shots. To say that he does not have a substantial influence, I would not be telling the truth.

The PM in this country is too powerful – (he has) too much power over the institutions and parliament. I think it is time, and I hope that if Anwar ever becomes the PM, he will trim down these powers and give them back to the people.

Do you think Anwar will be able to do that?

I hope he can do it. I had address this to him when I join PKR. ‘There were some people who don’t think highly of you in the past. You must really implement the Malaysia agenda and manifesto’, he replied: “Chua, I went through six humiliating years in prison. I think one must go through the … experience in order for you to have a character change.”

So what kind of role will you play in PKR?

I have a great sense of freedom, all the shackles of the past – the MCA monoracial culture – have been broken off me. It was an amazing sense of freedom.

MCA – Chinese, Chinese, Chinese, we must have more Chinese people like in China, Chinese language must be our first and formal language, that kind of thing.

And now I have come to a multiracial party, I said: “Look! I love the Malays of this nation, I took good care of the Malays when I was the minister of health, I would like to do something for the Malaysians, I do not want to see poor Indians, Malays, and Chinese.

So you felt shackled by MCA because of their approach and their racial politics?

I am only using the word “shackle” to express how free I feel, but it doesn’t mean that I was shackled during the 23 years in MCA, but I felt restrained.

I love the multiracial approach, I see in PKR a unique opportunity to change this nation and the way the government has been working.

Part 2: Chua Jui Meng meets Malaysiakini (July 29)

At 65 and having served as a four-term parliamentarian, former MCA vice-president Chua Jui Meng believes that he can contribute to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in a different role.

“Quite honestly, I will prefer to become a senator, not MP, who has to take care of a constituency,” he told Malaysiakini in an interview at his house in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, last Tuesday.

Chua, who two weeks ago was the most senior Barisan Nasional politician to have defected to the opposition, reiterated that he joined PKR without setting any prior condition that he would be given a top post.

Asked to compare the prime ministers he had served during his long government career, Chua gave top marks to Dr Mahathir Mohamad but described Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as “the best friend of the opposition”.

“Mahathir was a class leader – his mind, the way he worked, the way he carried himself. I don’t have much to say about Abdullah, he had let down a lot of people and friends.”

While he said it is a too early for him to evaluate the performance of current premier Najib Abdul Razak, Chua warned that the government’s move to prosecute Anwar a second time for alleged sodomy would backfire.

According to the former health minister, Najib has done very well by BN’s standards but he stressed that “the standards of BN are no longer acceptable to the people”.

An edited version of the second of a two-part interview follows.

Malaysiakini: When you talked to Anwar (Ibrahim) before you joined PKR, there must have been some discussion about the role you could play in PKR. What is your future in PKR?

You may find it very strange … I joined PKR without (setting) any condition. I did not say things like, ‘Look, I want to become a MP, I want to choose this parliamentary seat, I want to become the vice-president after the next election, I want to become a minister once you have established a government’.

I felt this was something that I should not do. So I told Anwar, I’d come to PKR without condition. Anwar has an agenda to bring all the opposition parties and races together, he still has a long way to go.

Would you prefer to contest for a MP’s post in the next general election?

Quite honestly, I would prefer to become a senator, not a MP who has to take care of a constituency. Look, I am 65 – for 15 years, I was a member of the administration… Now that I am in PKR, my role is to make sure that Anwar is able to set up a government after the next general election.

There are rumours that former BN leaders are being marginalised after joining PKR…

I understand that. I have seen on the websites, where they say that I am going to be marginalised… They even ask ‘Do you trust a guy from MCA?’ I understand the sentiment. I do not get angry, I appreciate how they feel. It’s for me to work it out, to show them in future who I really am.

I do appreciate the fact that they are saying that there is a lack of experience in PKR. Anwar has to bring in different types of people, those who can burn a hole in your heart in their speeches, and those who know how to manage all the contradictions that occur on a daily basis within the party and administration. He needs to make a match of all these different people.

Some say Pakatan is only an alliance to gain political power and that there is no clear agenda within the coalition. The people have high expectations. Do you think PKR will be able to cope with this?

Any political force that is in the process of transition will go through some pain before it can really settle down and push the agenda forward. This is nothing strange. Look at BN – after more than 50 years, you still see contradictions within.

Within UMNO, huge contradictions have taken place, (and this has also happened) within MIC, within the Gerakan. But as long as you have the mainstream media on your side, these will be patched up by the press – they will know how to manage the news deliberately, how to present it.

For PKR, we don’t have that kind of main media, so when little pimples shown on their face, the media will take a magnifying glass and said: ‘Wow! That guy has cancer!’ But it’s only a pimple. But I understand where PKR is coming from, and there will be no more wild cards.

How is your relationship with DAP?

I would say quite good, considering the fact that I was a member of the administration of this country. To me, the key for everything is to have a heart to forgive – that is the secret of every successful politician, to look beyond the problems of yesterday and find a common mission.

I have learnt to let go, and I do not harbour anger and hurt towards to opposition, because once you do that, you can never bring yourself to work for the greatest good.

Any advice to PAS? You mentioned in a speech that UMNO is trying to bring PAS in on the issue of the ‘unity government’, which was one of the reasons why you joined PKR.

Yes, the other reason is the sodomy charge against Anwar. There will be no more ‘unity government’ talk. I will make sure that PKR will be a more cohesive force with clear policies – whatever you have promised, you must do.PKR and DAP are quite at ease with many Pakatan policies, but there is definitely strong opposition from within PAS. I think these problems have been resolved. The Manek Urai by-election was an eye-opener for PAS.

Some people say the by-election would further split the two factions in PAS…

They would be committing harakiri (political suicide)… PAS only won by 65 votes… your fifth straight win in the by-elections, just enough to make all of us humble.

Do you think the Pakatan momentum has stalled?

I do not think so. When I ran twice for the MCA presidential election, very few people commended me, the public didn’t come to me and say ‘Well done, I like your reforms, hope that you will win’. Never.

When I lost the MCA presidency, how many congratulatory messages did I receive? (But) for the messages I have received for my crossover, I would say that 98 percent were heart-warming, some of them have only one word – congratulations!

The people know what is going on, I had not been sleeping over the last three years, looking at the world in MCA’s eyes. I was really looking for reforms, and I have been talking to many Malays, and I was surprised to know that a lot of them want change.

Do you think PKR can take Johor in the next elections?

The menteri besar of Johor said ‘Chua Jui Meng is caged in Bakri’ (parliamentary seat), but the rules of the game have changed. I told Ghani (Othman, right) at the last GE that, despite UMNO’s (prediction of) a major sweep, a tsunami (would hit) our shores. But it did not come (to Johor) – it came all the way to Malacca and stopped there.

This was because Johor has always been seen by its communities as having a moderate government (which) never goes to extremes. Most of the time it is quite stable in its approach, so the tsunami didn’t hit (the state). The only place it really hit, out of the 26 parliamentary seats, was my seat (Bakri).

But during the elections, you did not really campaign for the opposition.

No, if you look back at all the general elections (and at) those people who were dropped, very few of them (have joined) the procession on nomination day. But I was there leading the procession. I was in the constituency throughout the GE. I spoke in a public dinner, asking the Bakri people to support the BN candidates.

So (MCA deputy president Chua) Soi Lek was wrong to accuse you of sabotaging BN?

He knows he was wrong. The newspaper reports were there, it was covered in the Chinese newspapers.

But do you see any approach or strategy that the Pakatan in Johor can adopt?

The government in Johor is moderate – but people were saying over the last one year, if only we knew that the tsunami would hit this country, we would have voted differently.

Why was Johor shielded from the tsunami?

Johor was well-known for having mixed constituencies, many of the seats have no predominant race. (In) my (former) seat, for example, the majority were Chinese – 53-55 percent, and Malays were 42-43 percent, the Indians were about 2 percent, so it is a ‘mixed’ seat.

When you have a ‘mixed’ seat and people interact more frequently than in monoracial areas, they are more moderate in their thinking. They are more supportive of the government of the day; they would not think that they have a choice. In Johor, they thought that it was to be the (same) old story again.

The opposition hasn’t got that kind of support from Malays, compared to all the other parts of Malaysia.

Yes, for example, in Bakri and Muar, the Chinese voted for PAS, and for the other places where BN won, the majority was not big. So I think that there were changes, but these were not amplified.

Do you think BN can regain momentum?

My campaign during the MCA party election was: enough of superficial reforms, we want deep reforms. For example, the New Economic Policy (NEP) came about the time of Tun (Abdul) Razak, Najib’s father, it was meant to give Malays a good push forward in the economic field, people accepted that (it is) a sacrifice the Chinese and Indians have to make.

A lot of people don’t realise that the 9th Malaysia Plan has made it even more burdensome for them to achieve their goals. There are little concessions here and there, (such as) the 30 percent of listed companies for bumiputeras. But from what I know, most people do not own listed companies, so the government has gained instead of the ordinary people.

The dismantling of the FIC (Foreign Investment Committee) is supposed to attract more FDI (foreign direct investments), but I can give you one example. China would never come to Malaysia to list its companies. Last year, it listed over 100 companies in Singapore, but not a single one in Malaysia.

Very simply, the Chinese think ‘no way they are going to give 30 percent of listed companies to one single race, no matter what race you are’ [...] As for the two stimulus packages launched by Najib, if you ask the people ‘Have you benefitted?’, they will say ‘I don’t feel it at all’.

So where has the money gone? Mahathir asked this brilliant question – he said his government in 22 years had only RM160 billion revenue from PETRONAS, and last year they had got RM268 billion, so where did the money go? These are very grave (questions) for which the people want answers.

Now Malaysians are fed up, they say: ‘We have had enough, using our names to create wealth among certain people’.

How do you see Najib’s ‘1Malaysia’ slogan? Some say there are a lot of contradictions in it.

A slogan will always remain a slogan. I have heard many slogans in my life. A slogan is the shadow of the real thing. We have had enough of beautifully-worded slogans.

What do you think of Najib’s performance over his first 100 days as PM?

By the standards of BN, he has done very well, but the standards of BN are no longer acceptable to the people.

What do you think the standard of Pakatan Rakyat should be?

High moral standards.

Critics say Pakatan has became arrogant and members of the Selangor exco are involved with gangsters. There are complaints against those who have gained government powers.

I am not able to make a judgment on that since I do not really know what is going on behind the play of the mainstream media. I would assume that the mainstream media is amplifying whatever little blemishes we have. I do not expect perfect people in Pakatan, but I would expect integrity.

How would you describe UMNO? Is it still the same?

There is no way it would not be what it is. The culture is deep inside. It will always come up with slogans and speeches.

What do you think of the performance of the government agencies, given your long time in service?

We need more independence in this country. Some of them are just taking orders from the government, even though their heart might not be there.

Having been the longest-serving health minister (nine years), do you believe in the ‘curse of MCA health ministers’?

I don’t believe in that kind of stuff like feng shui, it’s up to the incumbent. Even by standards of the world, minister of health usually do not last very long. In fact, I am one of the longest-serving health ministers in Commonwealth countries.

As a politician and a Christian, has there been any time when your faith clashed with your political role?

It will not clash with political views if you are consistent in what you believe. My personal faith is consistent with my political career. I can’t divorce it from my career. They must be one.

You are the second former cabinet minister who has joined Pakatan Rakyat. Do you think there will be more former ministers joining you?

I hope they will have the same passion as I have, to make this a beautiful country, it doesn’t really matter whether I am given a top political post or not.

You have served under Mahathir and Abdullah, what do you think of them?

I am talking here in terms of their performance. Mahathir was a class leader – his mind, the way he worked, the way he carried himself. I don’t have much to say about Abdullah, he has let down a lot of people and friends.

Abdullah’s performance?

He was the best friend of the opposition.

What about Najib?

It’s still early to say, he had just past his 100 days (in office). He has not made it very easy for the opposition, he is different from Abdullah. But there will be huge tsunami in Malaysia, in terms of persecuting Anwar and the opposition.

Has Najib been copying a lot of Pakatan policies?

I do not see that. He can never copy the agenda of reform that Anwar has. With Anwar, we can see eye to eye, saying that NEP must go. I don’t think they can do that because it has been the source of their wealth. Can you imagine the Malay (Umno) voting against the NEP?

But many Malays are said to be going back to UMNO…

But many more are going to Pakatan Rakyat.

What do you think UMNO will do in future?

They will keep on trying to split Pakatan through PAS. This is the one thing that we should give credit to UMNO, it is very persistent.

There are not many unfavourable comments about you crossing over to PKR?

Once you forgive others, people also forgive you back. If I had taken a tone of bitterness and hatred when I lost for the second time in MCA presidential election, they would have blasted me equally when I decided to leave MCA.

What keeps you going on? You had been defeated twice in the presidential election, some people compared you to (former MCA vice-president, left) Yap Pian Hon, who was known to have ‘nine lives’, you chose to take an even bigger step by joining PKR. What’s your strength?

My strength is my belief in my country, in making it a better place. After my loss in the presidential election, I said: ‘Yes, I have lost, but the spirit will never die’.

Do you think MCA can end all the controversies it is facing now?

It is in the culture of political parties, that there will always be fights, you can’t stop the fights in UMNO, MIC or Gerakan or whatever party, people will always have differences in views, it’s unavoidable.

People are saying that MCA is facing one of the worst splits in its history.

It is a bad split, I would not be able to say whether it is the worst in its history, because there were very bitter fights in the past, in the early years of its formation.

The two-party system is under stress now, it is under attack, the principal source of the stress is the external attacks, trying to abolish the Pakatan Rakyat, to remove Anwar and ‘cage the tiger’. I strongly disagree with that move.

People may have believed the government when it was trying to (destroy) Anwar (with) the sodomy charge, but now a huge number of people, especially the Malays, do not believe that Anwar had committed sodomy. If you jail Anwar now, there will be a huge tsunami, especially among the Malay communities – (and it will be) greater than the 1999 incident.

How do you see the fight between (MCA president) Ong Tee Keat and (deputy president) Chua Soi Lek?

No comment.

Uses and Abuses of History

History, often used and many times abused

By Lord Patten*

Lord PattenIn her brilliant book, The Uses and Abuses of History, the historian Margaret Macmillan tells a story about two Americans discussing the atrocities of Sept 11, 2001. One draws an analogy with Pearl Harbour, Japan’s attack on the United States in 1941.

His friend has no idea as to what this means. “You know,” the first man replies, “it was when the Vietnamese bombed the American fleet and started the Vietnam War.” Historical memory is not always quite as bad as this.

But international politics and diplomacy are riddled with examples of bad and ill-considered precedents being used to justify foreign policy decisions, invariably leading to catastrophe. Munich — the 1938 meeting between Adolf Hitler, Édouard Daladier, Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini — is a frequent witness summoned to court by politicians trying to argue the case for foreign adventures.

Britain’s disastrous 1956 invasion of Egypt was talked about as though Gamal Nasser was a throwback to the fascist dictators of the 1930s.

If he were to be appeased as they had been, the results would be catastrophic in the Middle East.Munich was also produced as a justification for the Vietnam War and President George W. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq.

1930s “appeasement” — a word that elides diplomatic engagement and the rejection of military options — was said to remind us of what would happen if South Vietnam was not defended and Iraq not invaded.

We know what happened in both countries. But analogies are not always wrong, and those that were wrong in the past could prove correct today.

One of the arguments for the Vietnam War was the so-called “domino theory”. If South Vietnam was to fall to the communists, other countries in Southeast Asia would tumble before communist insurgency. Things turned out very different. Vietnam proved to be the end of the line, not the beginning. Pol Pot’s wicked regime murdered millions in Cambodia until Vietnam intervened.

Elsewhere in the region, capitalism, promoted by the opening of markets, triggered growth and promoted stability. Globalisation produced its own domino effect. The dominoes toppled; GDP rose; millions were lifted out of poverty; literacy rates soared; child mortality figures fell. Maybe, if not there and if not then, dominoes are more relevant to foreign and security policy today.

In America and Europe at the moment, many people are calling for the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces from Afghanistan.

We are told that NATO and the West cannot build a nation there and that the goals that have been set for establishing democracy and prosperity are unattainable. NATO soldiers die in vain. Sooner or later the Taliban will sweep to power again, at liberty as happened before to throw acid in women’s faces.

It is vanity to think that anything can be done to prevent this. Better to cut and run than stay and die, and who is to say that the result will embolden Taliban terrorists? They do not necessarily share the same aims as al-Qaeda. There have certainly been mistakes in Afghanistan.

After the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the West did not commit enough troops to extend the national government in Kabul’s authority over the whole country. The Bush administration had turned its attention to the preparations for the Iraq war. Development has been slow.

The build-up of the Afghan army and police has lagged. The poppy crop has grown. Sometimes the military response to insurgency has been too tough; sometimes too light. The West has courted trouble in appearing to isolate the Pashtun. So the West can do better.

There is no doubt about that. But the case for quitting is bad and touches on Pakistan’s future as well as Afghanistan’s.

Leave Afghanistan to the Taliban, hoping against hope that they will become better-behaved global citizens, and what is the effect likely to be on Pakistan? Here come the dominoes — wrong in Vietnam but not necessarily in the South Asian subcontinent. Afghanistan is Nato’s great test.

The alliance has promised to see the job through. So if it abandons the job now, leaving the country to poverty, prejudice, and poppies, what then will happen?

Why should anyone in Pakistan believe that the West is serious in wanting to sustain that country as a Muslim democratic state? Would such a decision help turn the tide against the Taliban? Would it encourage the middle-class professional and urban workers in Pakistan, disgusted by the excesses of the extremists, to dig in and see off fundamentalism? Would it strengthen the more moderate elements in politics and the military?

You can rely on us, the West would be saying, but don’t look next door to Afghanistan, where you will see that you can’t rely on us. If Pakistan, nuclear weapons and all, were to fall to the extremists, the consequences in terms of encouraging the export of terrorism would be dire.

Think about Kashmir. Think about India. How would India’s government view the future if Pakistan falls into the hands of fundamentalists? So the West should see the job through in Afghanistan — do it better, but do it. Sometimes the dominoes do topple over, one by one. That is not a prospect that anyone should welcome in South Asia.

— Project Syndicate

*Lord Patten, a former EU commissioner for external relations, chairman of the British Conservative Party, and was the last British governor of Hong Kong, is currently Chancellor of Oxford University and a member of the British House of Lords.

Zaid Ibrahim speaks his mind as always

posted by din merican–July 28, 2009

Zaid Ibrahim’s Keynote Address at The Oxbridge-Malaysia Dinner Dialogue Series hosted by the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Malaysia

July 9, 2009 Bankers’ Club, K. Lumpur

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your invitation for me to speak today. When I accepted your kind offer, I was ‘party-less.’ But things have now changed. I have drawn my line in the sand. And I have chosen sides. Today, I am a proud member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Today I am persuaded by the argument that for Malaysia to have democracy and the Rule of Law, we must have a new government; a viable inclusive government of the people; a government for all Malaysians. Today I am dedicated to the cause of securing the success of Parti Keadilan and Pakatan Rakyat, and ensuring that it galvanises the best talents and ideas to form a robust alternative Malaysian political force to lead the nation, to deliver true integration and nationhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This country was established as a secular multicultural and multi-religious democracy a’la the Westminster model. The Constitution, however, provides for a special position for the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. They unfortunately omitted to include the Orang Asli in this special category, although they were naturally the first original inhabitants of this country. All they got was a Jabatan Orang Asli. The special provisions for Bumiputras under Article 153 do not make them more special than other citizens, for the fighters of independence did not envisage an Orwellian society where some are more equal than others. The acceptance of equality of rights as citizens is central to the success of our Malaysian journey.

When the Prime Minister announced his ‘1Malaysia’ slogan, I asked if that meant he would make a declaration that all Malaysians are equal. The answer was not forthcoming till today. All he said was rights must be understood in the context of responsibilities. Another fuzzy reply When critics asked if ‘1Malaysia’ is an affirmation of the rights of ALL the citizens under the Constitution, an affirmation of the multicultural and multi-religious nature of our country; and that the principles of Rukun Negara will continue to be the mainstay of our society, I say no. My detractors then say that my views are fodder for the egos and insecurities of those who detest the constitutional position of the Malays. They say I work too hard at being a Malaysian and by doing so, I have forgotten my roots and responsibilities to the Malays. And that no right thinking Malay, who truly understands what is at stake, would ever support me. I know my heritage. I know my humble beginnings. And I know my roots and responsibilities as a Malay. They are wrong.

To them, let me say this: UMNO – being hidden in a cave for so long and concealed from the real world -have almost abandoned the idea of a shared and common nationhood. They believe that for so long as the MCA and the MIC remain with them as partners of convenience; that is sufficient to build a nation. They think it’s sufficient to forge a new nation by electoral arrangements. The MCA and the MIC also think it’s sufficient for nationhood if they remain business partners of UMNO.

A new united Malaysia can only come true when UMNO changes and abandons racial politics and the politics of racial hegemony. Or when the Malays can be made to understand that patronage, authoritarianism and nationalist extremism, which underpins UMNO’s style of leadership, does more harm to the community and the country than good. That Malays themselves must break from the shackles of narrow nationalism so that they may realise self-actualisation and emancipation. The first is difficult to achieve but I take it as my responsibility to try and achieve the second.

Let me now get into the subject of the speech by giving you an understanding about how UMNO ticks. This, to me, is critical in order for you to appreciate what hope we have for the preservation of the Rule of Law and Democracy in Malaysia. At the heart of UMNO’s philosophy on leadership is a conviction that there is an inherent, almost ‘divine’ right to retain power at all costs. This is so for two reasons: Firstly because they assume that they are the only political force, by way of Barisan Nasional, to offer a workable power-sharing leadership of this nation. And secondly, because they believe that the Malay hegemony that UMNO maintains is necessary to prevent the Malays from becoming marginalised. It is these beliefs that are at the centre of UMNO’s self-indulgent sense of indispensability and self-importance that is today causing them to steer the nation to an authoritarian rule. It is this sense of self-importance that is accountable for the authoritarianism in leadership and government. It is this that has helped justify in their minds their right to quell anyone who threatens the status quo, whether it be a group of politicians or activists protesting against abuses in government or a group of Indians protesting against their treatment and lack of opportunities or a previous Deputy Prime Minister who was no longer in step with the ‘Big Boss.’ It does not matter. Self-preservation demands expedience at all costs to resolve any impending threat.

But there is more. Since the hegemony is protected by policies that benefit the elites and other powerful forces, this sense of self-importance become even more dangerous. Because it justifies why real checks and balances against governmental abuses can be done away with. It justifies trampling on fundamental safeguards in the Federal Constitution in the last 20 years.

But there is more. If you are on the cause of preserving the rights of the elites, the oligarchs, then it brings you no shame to have a former UMNO lawyer as Chief Justice; in fact, you become proud of that achievement. Even if the Attorney-General had committed many errors in the discharge of his functions and duties, a well-known fact amongst the legal fraternity, you will not change him; nor would you change the Chief of Police despite so many reports of transgressions committed by him. All for the ‘Malay cause’ they would say! And if you are on the Bench writing your judgement on the Perak fiasco; you can tailor it to suit your master’s political interests, and you will be lauded for that. The ‘Malay Cause’ is everything. The Constitution can wait; sound legal reasoning can wait, justice can wait..

But there is more. Many in UMNO see the hegemony as a ‘be all and end all,’ with the power sharing between component parties as being a means to an end. Ketuanan Melayu, a mantra of Malay supremacy, has gained ground instead of receding over time. More accurately it is Ketuanan Elit Melayu as the majority of the Malays have found out to their dismay.

What is the price that we ultimately pay as a nation, if this pernicious doctrine is embraced by many? Clearly to start with, we would continue to be cursed with a non-transparent government without the capability of functioning in a way that respects the rule of law. We will be cursed for having laws that oppress, that curtail and suffocate the basic freedoms of the people. We now have a set of rules for the elites and one for the rakyat, one for Barisan Nasional and one for Pakatan Rakyat.

If the public believes that the government is not beholden to a set of commonly revered values and principles, and its actions are tainted by racial biases, there will continue to be physical and emotional segregation of communities, regardless of how many times we change the slogans to break such divisiveness. The notion of creating a free and democratic Malaysia therefore becomes unachievable.

The ultimate price that the country suffers from the present political culture is that the Malays and non-Malays will continue to be denied a sense of ownership of Malaysia’s nation-building journey. And instead of becoming partners in this voyage to mature nationhood, they continue to bicker and remain suspicious and distrustful of one another. Because of this segregation, the government is unable to set a new direction for the country. Because of racial polarisation, the people are not ready to accept a multi-racial dimension for this country. As a result, we are not able to enact or even discuss comprehensive national policies whether it is regarding the police, education or judicial and civil service reforms. The distrust of the communities will prevent objective appraisals and solutions to the problems.

Ethnic interests take precedence over national interests. National interests become a strange and fearful concept. And there will continue to be a brain drain of Malaysian talents who would have decided that they would rather make their homes elsewhere. This is a high price that the country can ill-afford to pay given the increasingly challenging global outlook.

Authoritarianism, patronage, and nationalist extremism from any quarter destroy the key ingredients necessary for the Malaysian community to really build on and retain that wealth and knowledge. Competitiveness and true economic and scholastic success, is a function of instilling in the hearts and minds of beneficiaries a set of new behaviours, around the capacity and desire to take personal accountability, to trust one another, to be achievement-oriented, to develop a sense of curiosity, a sense of solidarity that go beyond our own ethnic clans and groups; so that together, we are to be able to build this country. We must do away with unprincipled politics, with Machiavellian methods but instead seek to change with reforms that encourage the development of a viable democracy and a prosperous country for all.

The government says it hopes to amend up to 33 laws, which involve discretionary powers to the Home Minister, beginning with the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) in the next Parliament session. Let’s hope and see if this will bear fruit. Authoritarianism in government will continue albeit in a different guise, unless the whole of the ISA, Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act and similar such laws are abolished. This would be an example of good governance. However authoritarian policies will most likely continue while corruption is rampant when the elites need protection from their misdeeds. Najib will not be able to change any of these.

Perak State Government

The whole cloak-and-dagger story of intrigue about the overthrow of the Pakatan Rakyat government gave rise to much suspicion about Najib’s style, well before he took office. He could have allayed fears that he would not be one to resort to below-the-belt tactics in his leadership by calling for fresh elections. Najib’s unwillingness to dissolve the Perak Assembly has gotten the country deeper into a political quagmire. By doing so he will also help the Federal Court judges from having to come up with a convoluted legal reasoning, like that of the Court of Appeal, to please the Prime Minister.

Malay Unity Talk

This is again Najib’s idea to strengthen himself. If PAS were to support UMNO under the guise of a ‘unity government,’ a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional at the next elections will be seriously undermined. Najib wanted the internal difficulties between Pakatan Rakyat parties to continue and fester as the mainstream media went full steam ahead to ensure Pakatan’s demise. Let me assure you that such a scenario will not happen. Pakatan will only get stronger. Pakatan has its weaknesses but we do not have the culture of hegemony. We do not suppress dissent. Hence you will hear of occasional disagreements. You will hear of occasional flare-ups; but PAS, Keadilan and DAP are committed to finding ways to strengthen their partnership. They will not break up. Instead they will form a formidable coalition that will be ready to provide an alternative government to the people.

Today Malaysians are suffering the deleterious effect of a stagnating world economy, and the GDP will contract by 4.4 percent according to the World Bank. FDI’s continue to fall while talent is being lost. The standard of education and the skill sets including the command of English, necessary for the workforce to remain globally competitive continues to plummet. Now after spending billions on teaching Science and Maths in English in the last 6 years, the Government has announced the reversal of the policy effective 2012. One wonders if the farcical National Service programme, which is
neither a national service nor an educational programme will be scrapped too.

Crimes and home security issues have increased since 2003 and these remain major concerns of the people. In the 1998 case of Anwar Ibrahim, allegations by the investigating officer himself of tampering with evidence by the IGP and the A-G have not been answered satisfactorily. Of course the government had formed a certain panel comprising three ex-judges deliberating in a secret place. Not surprisingly the Panel cleared them. The findings of the Royal Commission in the Lingam case have not been acted upon in a satisfactory manner also. And many high profile cases reported to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) remain unattended. Such is the state of the Rule of Law in Malaysia. Will Najib attend to these issues? Certainly not.

All Najib can do is to announce the scrapping of some outdated policies that he had little choice but to do it anyway, as part of the demands of the international and ASEAN trade agreements. After decades of the NEP, the 30% equity requirement in companies listed amongst the 27 services sub-sectors are taken away. Also the Foreign Investment Committee regulating investments in Malaysia, have been scrapped. The reasoning of the government, which is disputed by many Malays, is that the Bumiputra participation in the relevant services sub-sectors are satisfactory and hence the removal of the quota requirement. Whilst the move has made Najib popular in the short term, it will come back to haunt him. Economics and social justice require him to address the larger question of disparities in income of the people. The plight and grievances of ordinary people will not be redressed by one or two populist policies.

On the question of the preservation of the Rule of Law and Democracy, Najib did nothing and probably will continue to do nothing. He should have acted as if he has only 100 days before his reign comes to an end. He should have embraced Roosevelt’s dictum, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and embarked on far-reaching policies to give back judicial power to the Courts, to give back integrity, trust and respectability to governmental institutions like the Police, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Election Commission; that of which Malaysia desperately needs. In doing so, he can show the people he was prepared to sacrifice his neck if that is required of him.

He should not have started the Perak Debacle but since it had already gotten under way, he should have had the courage to win back the support of the people by allowing for the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly. Instead of embarking on the inane idea of UMNO-PAS unity – confirming the suspicion that he is like his Deputy who only understands UMNO-PAS unity at the expense of everything else – Najib should have called for a national debate amongst all leaders of major political parties for a serious discussion on key and core values for the country.

The problems in our country are not race or religion based but BN has worked very hard to make them so. It’s always about the Rakyat against the elites or the powerful oligarchs that run and control the country’s institutions and wealth. The Rakyat for too long have become pawns in this political game where the race and religious issues are being played out to divide them.

Najib should have started his administration with pushing through a Race Relations Act that will punish racism and racist speeches and writings from all quarters, even if it’s from leaders of his own part and from Utusan Malaysia. This single greatest impediment to Malaysians being united and working together for the common good is racist policies in Malaysia.

Racism here is not the same kind that the Anglo Saxon whites have over blacks and coloureds (or vice-versa) for many years. It’s not the apartheid kind of racism where whites generally believe they are superior to blacks and coloureds in genetics and all spheres of life. Our racism is driven more by ethnic distrust and ethnic rivalry for the economic cake. They are mainly economic and culture in nature based on the fear that the wealth of the country will be taken away by the Chinese and vice-versa. But it’s just as divisive and dangerous. It refers to both institutionalised racism and those
exhibited by individuals. Malaysia needs to combat this problem because it’s particularly acute. Because we have three major races that did not have the luxury of time for natural assimilation or the time to gel and live in harmony, we need legislation and governmental support to push through the unity factors and manage the divisive factors found in the community.

To bring about a truly united ‘1Malaysia,’ our Prime Minister must not always refer to the deprivation of the Malays suffered under the British. No amount of wallowing of the past can change history nor can we just tell the Chinese and the Indians how grateful they should be for events taking place 100 years ago. Equally he cannot just be happy that he has the MCA and the MIC taking care of the non-Malays. He has to do more to make sure that the non-Malays are equally responsible and generous with the Malays. Will they open their businesses to the Malays? Will they give credit on the same terms they do to their own clans?

But at the same time, the people, including the Malays, must be convinced that democracy and a functioning bureaucracy are good for them. That they have a better chance of realising their potentials and benefiting from their rights and privileges under a government that respects just laws. They must resist corruption by all means at their disposal.

The notion of Bangsa Malaysia will not detract or take away anything from them but instead they become a part of a larger and more diverse community where they too can experience the generosity, beauty, strength and richness of Malaysian cultures. They will benefit from the solidarity of people from all walks of life and their worldview will change to make them stronger and more confident of themselves.

A Prime Minister of this country must not succumb to the idea that force and repression will prevail over the people’s will. The Prime Minister of this country must not suffer from the delusion that the Police, the Army, the Courts, the Election Commission and the Attorney-General could strike fear in the hearts of the people to the extent that they will and must retreat. No leader in ancient and modern times has survived the outrage of the masses. Today we have witnessed a new sense of outrage; outrage against the abuse of power, against inequality, outrage against the continued persecution of Anwar Ibrahim, and outrage against the policies of divide and rule.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The winds of change have never blown so strong. Today the rakyat has spoken and they want their voices heard. They want a new beginning, so that this country, which we all call home, will be transformed into a dynamic, open and vibrant democratic sanctuary. A sanctuary where we live without fear of police harassment, without fear of wearing black or yellow, without fear of detention without trial, without the nausea of reading newspapers whose editors have to toe the line to keep the papers alive. We will make this country such that we have room and space for all of us to have our dreams and hopes come true.

But the window of opportunity has opened for one central reason. And that is because the people now have a choice; between the establishment that has led the country astray over the last 50 years or a viable alternative in Pakatan Rakyat that can inclusively carry the hopes and aspirations of all Malaysians, no matter they be Malay, Chinese or Indian. For without this alternative, the self-indulgent and delusional sense of self-importance of UMNO and its cohorts in Barisan Nasional will continue to impose itself.

No doubt Keadilan is a new party, and Pakatan Rakyat is in its infancy, and the coming together of different political parties to find a common thread with which to build meaningful solidarity to work together, is a long andarduous journey. Let us not kid ourselves. Many challenges lie ahead to make it a truly viable alternative political force to Barisan Nasional and acceptable choice to all Malaysians. And the traps and snares to trip up this fledgling alternative are being laid everywhere; the ‘Unity’ talks being just one.

My colleagues and I in Pakatan Rakyat must be cautious and yet courageous, patient yet purposeful, tolerant yet principled, to ensure that Pakatan Rakyat steers clear of these traps, and that we build a truly robust and secure alternative from which the electorate can choose to form government. We must desist from any temptation to go back to the ways of the past, in which opposition parties represent their own narrow factional interests, only to grant a walkover victory to the status quo.

As for Parti Keadilan Rakyat, it must soldier on come what may, as a party that will protect the people regardless of race and ethnicity. The ‘special’ position of the Bumiputras and Islam as mandated by the Constitution will be honoured but it will do so in an open transparent manner, as a democratic multi-racial party that observes the Rule of Law will be obliged to do. Keadilan will not champion racial politics and will not seek racial hegemony. We are a lot more humble than UMNO but we will be fearless in the defence of the rights of the Rakyat against powerful oligarchs and vested interest groups. We will make the public institutions in this country respectable and full of integrity. These institutions will regain the respect and the trust of the people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We do not live in a world of black and white. We live in a world full of different colours, shades and textures. No truer is this than in Malaysia. I can stand here and tell you of my immense sense of pride and affection in being a Malaysian, just as I can do the same about being Malay. And I believe that we all are just as capable of feeling that way about being Malaysian and yet similarly proud of being Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban, no matter who we are.

And it is this mix of seemingly conflicting values, which when blended and tempered with courage, tolerance, good faith and framed by universally held moral and civic values, that makes the canvas of Malaysia so rich, so powerful and so full of potential. Let us preserve this living piece of art and ensure that it continues to beautify and enrich our personal lives, as private citizens.

For if we fail, then the providence with which we are blessed today to make a breakthrough change, will disappear as quickly as it came; and we will be back to square one.. Our future and that of our children and their children, depends on our success. Failure is not an option. God favours the brave.

Thank you.

Umapagan: Read Galbraith, O’Rourke (and Adam Smith), Steinbeck

July 28, 2009

by Umapagan Ampikaikan

Required Reading for these troubled times

I OFTEN find myself in uncharted waters when discussing economics. It is an intellectual space that is so utterly alien to me. The concepts confound me. The jargon confuses me. The terms seem made-up, like so many curious amalgams, concoctions, fictions: “securitisation”, “sub-prime”, “adverse self-reinforcing dynamic” (a phrase that I later discovered simply means “downward spiral”).

I understand the virtue of hedging assets 30 to 1, or 50 to 1, or 90 to 1. I know that it made us rich for over a decade, but I am unable to grasp the logic behind it. I often find myself at a loss to what’s going on. Clueless. I’m stuck somewhere between the doomsayers and those idiots who refuse to acknowledge that there even is a problem. I don’t know whom to believe.

I find financial weeklies to be a wonderful cure for insomnia. The only reason I buy the Financial Times is that it is pink.

So it should come as no surprise that my understanding of our current economic state is derived entirely from one of those emails — chained in cyberspace — that invariably finds its way to your inbox. It goes a little like this:

It is the summertime in some small coastal European village. The place is deserted. There is a gloom in the air. Troubled economic times have left everyone in debt. The town folk live entirely on credit.

One day, an affluent tourist comes into town. He goes to the only hotel, lays a E100 (RM500) note on the reception desk, and asks to inspect the rooms in order to choose one.

The hotel owner grabs the money and runs to pay his debt to the grocer. The grocer takes the money and runs to pay his debt to the farmer. The farmer takes the money and runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his pesticides and fuel.

The supplier of pesticides and fuel takes the money and runs to pay the town prostitute who, in these difficult times, has been servicing her clients on credit. The prostitute then runs to the hotel and pays off the E100 she owes for the rooms she rented when she brought her clients there.

The owner of the hotel then places the E100 note back on the reception desk as to not arouse the suspicion of the tourist.

Just then, the tourist comes back from inspecting the rooms. He tells the hotel proprietor that none of the rooms were to his liking. He takes his money and leaves. No one has earned any money and yet the entire town is out of debt. Problem solved. Crisis over.

In fact, the contents of that allegorical chain letter may have been the entire basis of my economic education. It was a sobering revelation. One that finally forced me to put down the Shakespeare and pick up the Sachs. so, I have decided to put together a short primer, for the bookshelves of all those souls who find themselves adrift in the same boat. My choices may not be particularly novel or previously undiscovered. They do, however, provide social and historical context that is indispensable for our current condition.

- The Great Crash 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith. If there is one book that is required reading for our times, it is Galbraith’s treatise of the lead-up to the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

The parallels between 1928 and 2008 are astonishing. The names of the players will seem all too familiar; Goldman Sachs, National City Bank (now Citibank), Standard, Poor (now Standard & Poor’s). The game contained all the same elements; speculation was rife, property bubbles were bursting, and there was an overwhelming arrogance that nothing could possibly go wrong. Ever.

But what makes the book artful is its sheer accessibility. The technicalities are kept to a minimum and the prose is a absolute pleasure to read. And while it may be too simplistic to pick up this history and read into it the present, it is nonetheless an invaluable source if things do end up heading in the same direction.

- On the Wealth of Nations by P.J. O’Rourke. I am quite certain, that there are many people, throughout the course of the last 230 years, who have actually read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations from cover to cover. I am not one of those people. In fact, I found it impossibly hard to get past the first 70 pages (introduction excepted).

Smith’s magnum opus, an account of economics during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, advocated a free economy as being more productive and beneficial to society. It lay the groundwork for capitalism and the free market. It was a revolution.

And all of that I learned from the blurb at the back of the book. For it is, like Swann’s Way, like Paradise Lost, like Timon of Athens, something you’re never really going to read.

And you don’t have to, because P.J. O’Rourke already has. On the Wealth of Nations can best be described as “the good bits” version of Adam Smith’s oeuvre. It is O’Rourke riffing on Smith. It runs fewer than 200 pages (introduction included) and proves that one does not need to read Smith to grasp his essence.

- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I find that literature often offers a more accurate understanding of our economics that all of the modern mathematical models and data analysis. It presents us with the scene rather than just the statistic.

John Steinbeck was something of a prophet. A novel rooted in the tragedies of the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath traces the exodus of the Joad family from Oklahoma across America in their doomed quest towards the promise land that is, in this case, California.

The novel is an excellent portrait of its time. It is a meditation on the labour market at its shortcomings. It is an unintended history of a particular moment in the transition of economic thought. It explains causes, but more importantly, it enlightens us to consequences. It is riches to rags, it is angry, and it speaks directly to the harsh realities of 2009.

BIG Brother agents can fix you prim and proper

July 27, 2009

How BIG Brother agents can fix you prim and proper

by Raja Petra Kamarudin

RPK7-1There is currently a controversy raging in Malaysia. This particular controversy involves a mysterious and anonymous website that suddenly appeared accusing two DAP Selangor leaders and EXCO members of having links with the Chinese underworld. This website also insinuates that these two are behind the death of Teoh who was thrown off the MACC headquarters in Shah Alam.

In case you may have forgotten, this is the modus operandi of the Malaysian Police. What would you expect when it comes to DAP Selangor EXCO members when even the Deputy Minister of Internal Security was subjected to the same thing. And the subsequent police investigation revealed that a very senior police officer, the current Director of the CID, was behind the website that accused the Deputy Minister of receiving a RM5.5 million bribe as an inducement to release three Chinese underworld bosses from detention.

… Once you understand how the Malaysian Police operates and how they set up this website to frame their own Deputy Minister, you will understand how and why they are doing the same to the DAP Selangor leaders and applying the same modus operandi on top of that.

And remember one more thing. In the Deputy Minister of Internal Security case, the MACC worked hand-in-hand with the PDRM. The Police framed their own Deputy Minister and the MACC pounced on him and hauled him in for interrogation. And the Director of the CCD, whom the Deputy Minister instructed to launch the investigation, was also roped him, as was his lawyer who acted on his behalf.

Basically, don’t play-play with those who walk in the corridors of power in Putrajaya and Bukit Aman. Cross them and they will fix you up good and proper. And with the MACC, PDRM, the AG’s Chambers and the judiciary all working as a team, rest assured you are screwed if you ever try to fight your case in court.

In fact, the courtroom is exactly where they would like you to be because that would be the best place to get you and give it ‘legitimacy’ on top of that. “Hey, we gave them a fair trial,” they would scream, as they put the noose around your neck and tighten the cord.

Human Rights Lawyer for Selangor at Inquest and Royal Commission

The Malaysian Insider

July 27, 2009

Malik Imtiaz Sarvar for Selangor at Beng Hock Inquest and Royal Commission

Malik Imtiaz Sarvar

Malik Imtiaz Sarvar

The Selangor government has appointed leading human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar to act for the state administration at the Teoh Beng Hock inquest.Malik will also be representing the state when the Royal Commission of Inquiry starts its proceedings.

“The state is determined to ensure that the rights of the late Teoh, his family and other state officials who will be testifying at both proceedings are protected at all times,” said Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim today in a statement released by his office.

The inquest into the death of Teoh, a DAP political aide will be held from July 29 to August 12 at the magistrate’s court in Shah Alam.

Teoh, the political aide of Sri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on July 16 outside the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office here.

The day before, he had been taken in for questioning by MACC officers as part of their investigation into the misuse of state allocations by DAP assemblymen.

His death – the circumstances surrounding it and how he died – has left many questions in the minds of Malaysians and a huge outpouring of grief and outrage continues till today.

Despite Teoh’s family, Opposition politicians and the people in general calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate his death, the Cabinet decided otherwise. There will be a royal inquiry but it will look only into MACC’s interrogation procedures and whether Teoh’s human rights were violated, while his death will be left to an inquest.

Real Leaders unite us

July 27, 2009

Real Leaders Bring Us Together

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

Dr. Bakri Musa

Dr. Bakri Musa

In having to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) following the death of one of its witnesses, Prime Minister Najib clearly demonstrated his lack of leadership and inability to be in command of a rapidly evolving crisis.  Essentially, events forced Najib’s hand; he was reacting, not leading.

Najib is not a leader, at least not the type Malaysia desperately needs today.  His meteoric rise in the party and government is less an expression of talent, more the gratitude his party has for his late father.  For his part, Najib has not shown any indication that he benefited from those splendid opportunities.  On the contrary, like a spoiled child, those amenities merely indulged him. Unfortunately for Najib, more so for the nation, there are no ‘training wheels’ to the Prime Minister’s office.

Najib’s deputy Muhyyuddin is in the same kampong league.  Earlier, Muhyyuddin dismissed calls for a royal commission, insisting that the Police and the MACC are quite capable of undertaking the investigations.  It reflected his low standing in the cabinet that many, including fellow UMNO minister Rais Yatim, pointedly pushed for the setting up of the commission.  Even the lowly UMNO Youth leader did not share Muhyyuddin’s faith in the Police and MACC.

Consider a different scenario.  If upon his return from his Middle East trip, Najib had summoned his Home Minister Hishammuddin and the Director of MACC for an immediate briefing.  They, of course, would not be able to give a coherent explanation.  Whereupon Najib would at a press conference announce his directing the MACC to put the involved officers on immediate administrative leave pending a full independent investigation.

Had Najib done that, with his commanding baritone voice, he would have projected an image of a decisive leader who was on top of the situation.  He would also put an immediate end to the current ugly spectacle of an unfortunate death degenerating into a polarizing political and increasingly racial issue.

As senior statesman Tengku Razaleigh noted, there have been too many deaths while under custody, and Teoh Beng Hock’s demise marks a watershed in the attitude of the public towards the government, setting a new low.  This essence is missed by many in the government.

The ordering of a coroner’s inquest or Royal Commission should have been an executive decision; Najib does not need to involve his cabinet.  The cabinet should be deliberating substantive issues, like how to make our economy competitive or reform our rotting education system.

Najib should have learned how his late father handled the national tragedy of the May 1969 race riot.  Tun Razak stood in front of the cameras and in a solemn voice and serious demeanor announced the immediate imposition of martial law and a “shoot to kill” order for the police and military.  He struck a reassuring and take-charge image, in stark contrast to the hapless weeping Tengku Abdul Rahman, who was then Prime Minister.

The world may condemn him as a dictator or worse, but there was no disputing that Tun Razak established law and order quickly. To put that in perspective, the modern flare up of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland began at about the same time as our 1969 riot.  Today, while to most Malaysians that nightmare is but a dim distant memory, the folks in Northern Ireland are still busy settling old scores.

The evolving public furor over Teoh’s death shows every sign of continuing its destructive downward spiral, fed by racist opportunists of all flavors and colorations, with Najib on the sideline reacting and not leading.

What stunned me were not the responses of the bigoted and uneducated; their chauvinistic views were expected and perhaps excusable because of their ignorance.  It would be too much to expect them to have a perspective beyond their clan or kampong.  To them this crisis is nothing more than yet another ethnic Chinese-Malaysian victimized by Malay officialdom, or the belligerent Chinese not missing an opportunity to mock Malays.

What took me back instead were the responses of those ‘educated’ ministers and leaders.  They just could not comprehend the public outrage over the MACC’s interviewing a ‘friendly’ witness into the wee hours of the morning and who would later be found dead outside its premises.  Perhaps those civil servants were trying to impress the public on how diligent and hard working they were in attending to their duties!  If that was how MACC’s personnel treated their ‘friendly and cooperative’ witness, I shudder to think the reception a suspect would get.

Far from expressing condolences to the poor bereaved family, these ministers went on to impute evil motives on the victim and those who were outraged by the needless tragedy.  How would these ministers feel if it was their son who had been victimized?  Don’t they have any empathy?

To their credit Najib Razak and his Women’s Affairs Minister Sharizat Jalil did convey their condolences to the family of the deceased.  The two were the exceptions.  Najib was even thoughtful enough to send his personal representative to the funeral.  The vulgar behaviors of the others, especially Muhyyuddin, were eagerly picked up by the toadying commentators and columnists in the mainstream media.  They fueled the fire.

In seeking answers and justice to this cruel death, we must refrain from injecting additional unnecessary and divisive elements.  The case is complicated enough; there is no need to inject or impute extraneous factors.  As The Star columnist and law professor Azmi Sharom rightly observed, people are angry over the needless death of a young Malaysian, not a young ethnic Chinese, and what they perceive as the abuse of power by MACC officers, not the abuse of power by Malay officers.

We need to mobilize the masses to this injustice.  We are a democracy and public opinion matters.  Thus far public outrage has caused the cabinet to set up the Royal Commission, but that is not enough.  Without continued public pressure the commission’s findings would suffer the same fate as befell the Police Commission and the one investigating the so-called Lingam Tape.  Nothing happens.  We need continued public pressure so the coroner’s inquest and the Royal Commission would be conducted openly and transparently, their findings readily available.

There is an art to mobilizing public opinion, and I am not attuned to its many subtleties.  However, I do know that many share my disappointment that at one public rally over Teoh’s death most of the speakers were unable to convey their outrage in our national language.  Many were young and presumably born and raised in Malaysia , yet they were unable, unwilling or uncomfortable to speak in our national language.  That is definitely not the way to go about seeking broad pubic support.

I was similarly unimpressed with the rallying cry of HINDRAF, Makkal sakthi (People Power).  That would be fine to gain public support in Kerala, but if it is fellow Malaysians you wish to influence, then you had better articulate your arguments in our national language.  HINDRAF would have converted a few more to it cause had it substituted its slogan with Kuasa Rakyat.

Being a plural society Malaysia faces many challenging and continuing centrifugal forces threatening to rip it apart.  We need leaders who must recognize this grim reality and then mobilize countervailing forces that would bring us together.  We need leaders who would view our diversity not as a liability but an asset, and a valuable one at that.

Unfortunately his much-touted slogan of “1Malaysia” notwithstanding, Najib Razak is not that kind of a leader.  Neither is his deputy Muhyyuddin Yassin.  Instead, we need leaders the caliber of Tengku Razaleigh, Anwar Ibrahim and Zaid Ibrahim.  The challenge for Malaysia is to make sure that they prevail.

Justice for All must be our Quest

July 26, 2009

100 days of Najib is long enough. His One Malaysia is unravelling. We now know that One Malaysia is just a slogan and the man himself  is remote from reality. He is too aristocratic and too distant from us ordinary Malaysians to understand our problems and the challenges we as a nation and people have to meet day in and day out.  He has surrounded himself  advisors and supporters who want to protect the corrupt system of governance, So we must usher in change and bring justice to all Malaysians.

We must connect with leaders who are in touch and can empathise with us and who have fresh ideas and programmes to revive our economy, fight corruption, improve our quality of life and protect our environment.  We want change towards a new Malaysia where we can be what we choose to be  according to our respective talents, abilities and effort. But change is tough and hazardous to say the least.

Why?  I would like to quote the Florentine diplomat and author of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli who said, ” It should be considered that nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders. For the introducer has all those who benefit from the old order as enemies, and he has lukewarm defenders in all  those who might benefit from the new orders”.

If we want to bring change for Malaysia and to restore our national honour, then we must be passionate defenders of a new order based on Justice for All Malaysians, not lukewarm defenders of a new order.—Din Merican

Vox Populi

July 26, 2009


vox populi

“Mahathir’s recent comments are clearly racist, revealing his true character, and I have lost every respect for this man who, in my opinion, has taken the nation to ransom.”

On Dr M, just stay retired

The Smaller Mamakdir:
I wish to respond to the letter, ‘Dr M, just stay retired’. Contrast this to that other old veteran Ku Li, who is advocating greater racial and national unity through encouraging change and acceptance of a more egalitarian Malaysian society. On the other hand, Mahathir seeks to rejuvenate his waning influence through a divide-and-rule strategy.

Mahathir’s recent comments are clearly racist, revealing his true character, and I have lost every respect for this man who, in my opinion, has taken the nation to ransom. Why should a man like him keep destablising the country when his projects like the crooked bridge are abandoned?

Always Malaysian:
Some quarters argued that Dr M has honed his ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics into a perfect art. But this may no longer be effective with the emergence of the new and free media. Nevertheless, the public needs to be educated and enlightened on how such a strategy is being employed from time to time, regardless of whether the ruling coalition or opposition partnership may be using it. This is part and parcel of further enhancing the democratic process in the country.

Will we see a series of articles on this issue in the foreseeable future on the local and even foreign case studies of this devious art of ‘divide and rule’, the modus operandi of its proponents, how to detect such its manifestation, how can the public combat this socio-political menace and avoid being divided to the nation’s detriment, etc?

Exposure is needed so that the public will be better informed when making political choices through the ballot box.  Malaysia is not to be divided up and ruled! Malaysia is for all Malaysians!

Ong: Maybe the MACC advisers are not resigning because they want to follow Tun Mahathir’s example. For many years, Mahathir has been complaining that although he is the PETRONAS adviser, his advice is never sought, and when he takes the initiative to give advice, his unsolicited advice is ignored. These MACC advisers obviously remember Mahathir’s slogan “Pimpinan Melalui Teladan”.

However, the MACC advisers cannot be compared to Mahathir if  their work performances are evaluated. When Mahathir sees something in PETRONAS  which he feels is not right, he takes the initiative and springs into action with his advice and criticisms despite that they are likely to be ignored.

All the MACC advisers may be a lot younger than Mahathir, but unfortunately they appear to be a lot more lethargic compared to him. Their eyesight are not so good. What the general public can see, these advisers cannot see. Their hearing are also impaired. They cannot hear the public pleas to them to start acting their roles as advisers and watchdogs. They only manage to hear when such pleas turn to shouts.

What a pity – if only these MACC advisers follow Mahathir’s leadership by example. They do not also follow Mahathir’s example of springing into action even though knowing that any such action is just for show.

On Cabinet approves royal commission

Disappointed: A royal commission has been approved by the cabinet to look into the cause of Teoh Beng Hock’s death? No! It is only there to look into the MACC’s interrogation methods.

So, who will look into Teoh’s cause of death which is what Malaysians really want to know? The court-appointed magistrate’s inquest findings will only represent the judgment of a single person instead of a team of people from the royal commission. There is something wrong somewhere!

GH Kok: In view of Teoh Beng Hock’s death and the pattern of MACC assault on Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government prior to that, we also hear of mysterious attempts to sabotage the Penang state government through the Kampung Buah Pala issue.

The pattern is slowly emerging of an elaborate and systematic attempt to undermine the Pakatan state governments by unseen hands working through federal agencies and other parties.

There are also theories that Najib plans to call for a general election in 2010 and therefore the pressing need to undermine and weaken the Pakatan before calling for the election.

It seems that all available weapons are now being used against Pakatan. There seems to be no limits. It started with Perak and now the campaign is in full flight simultaneously in Penang, Selangor and Kedah.

In view of this assault, it appears that Teoh Beng Hock is but a collateral damage. How many more victims of this “war” are we going to see? We the rakyat of Malaysia must stand firm against this assault.

We must keep our eyes and ears open and not participate in questionable activities. We must report to the press (online press) any suspicious happenings in our area or in the course of our daily life. Let the light shine on all happenings in every nook and cranny of this country.

The federal civil servants, who are always suppressed and bullied by their political masters, may they too shed light on all such abuses of their agencies. Bring it all out into the open and let the whole world see the truth. Courage is needed for the price of democracy is eternal vigilance.

Remembering Walter Cronkite: Journalism is a business of the heart and mind

July 26, 2009,8599,1912335,00.html

The Man with America’s Trust: Walter Cronkite (1916-2009)

by Tom Brokaw*

The Incomparable Walter Cronkite

The Incomparable Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was the most famous journalist of his time, the personification of success in his beloved profession, with all that brought with it: a journalism school named for him, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the adulation of his peers and audience.

Yet I always had the feeling that if late in life someone had tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Walter, we’re a little shorthanded this week. Think you could help us on the police beat for a few mornings?” he would have responded, “Boy, oh, boy — when and where do you want me?”

Cronkite loved the news business, plain not fancy. He began as a teenage stringer for Houston newspapers and then made his way into radio before being hired by the United Press, the spunky cousin of the Associated Press. During World War II, Walter was UP’s man in London, a colleague of the legendary Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, later of the New York Times; Andy Rooney, then with Stars and Stripes; and Ed Murrow, the incomparable voice of CBS News. Murrow was stunned when Cronkite turned down an offer to become one of Murrow’s Boys, as the CBS all-star lineup was called. Cronkite preferred the all-news-all-the-time sensibilities of UP.

At UP, he joined combat missions on B-17s, covered D‑day and the Battle of the Bulge, reported on the Nuremberg trials and was stationed in Moscow at the beginning of the Cold War. When Murrow finally lured him to CBS, Cronkite became a man for all seasons, anchoring political coverage, briefly hosting CBS’s The Morning Show (with a puppet, no less), giving America history lessons with You Are There and The Twentieth Century.

Hard to believe now, but when Cronkite took over the CBS Evening News, he was the challenger, not the champion. The stylish Huntley-Brinkley Report was the dominant broadcast in what was still a new phenomenon: the idea that at the end of the day everyone with a television set could hear and see what had happened that day.

As an impressionable teenager in the heartland, I was transported to events in ways I could not have imagined, and it was then that I began to think, Maybe one day I can be a part of all that. Now, looking back, I am eternally grateful to the men (and they were all men) who produced the broadcasts for Huntley, Brinkley and Cronkite. They persuaded their entertainment-oriented bosses that network television was a powerful force in journalism that was not to be underestimated.

Never was that truer than on a fateful Friday in November 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The image of a shirtsleeved Walter Cronkite trying to control his emotions as he broke the news of the young President’s death was an iconic and seminal moment in elevating broadcast news to a new level.

We almost never saw our national anchors in shirtsleeves showing any kind of personal emotion. In retrospect, Cronkite’s demeanor was restrained and appropriate, a reminder to the audience and young journalists that this was a business of the heart as well as the mind.

The larger lesson of that day was that everyone in this vast land had instant, common access to the same information on walter_cronkite_07events large and small. And there was no shortage of large ones: Vietnam, the civil rights movement, assassinations, the counterculture, space shots, Watergate.

Through it all, Walter Cronkite became the enduring face of network news as the authoritative yet approachable figure in the newsroom. As managing editor, Cronkite was old school: Give me the news, especially the news from the nation’s capital. As a student of the form, I marveled at Cronkite’s consistency. Night after night, the news might change, but Uncle Walter could be found at the head of the table. When he did break from his objective cadence, it was not trivial: there was his famous commentary on Vietnam and, later that year, his personal remarks from the anchor booth on the rough tactics of the security guards at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

When I was taking over Nightly News, some mutual friends had a small dinner, and Cronkite rose to offer some advice. “There will be nights,” he said, “when you think you’ve done a brilliant job on a big story. You’ll leave the studio with the echoes of praise from your colleagues ringing in your ears. And once outside in New York, you’ll realize there are millions of people in this city alone who didn’t watch and who don’t give a damn what you just did.”

That was a line I remembered at the end of many days. To those of us of a younger generation, Cronkite was never paternalistic. He didn’t like many of the changes in network news, but he was always generous. In the end, what endeared him to so many was that he always seemed like a man you were as likely to find walking down Main Street as knocking back drinks at Toots Shor’s or manning his yacht, asking all around him, “What’s the latest news?”

If I told him this week, “Walter Cronkite died,” he’d laugh and say, “Walter who? Never heard of him.”

Tom Brokaw, formerly anchor and managing editor for NBC Nightly News, is now a special correspondent for NBC