Anwar Ibrahim at Georgetown University, Washington DC

November 21, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim at Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

Desperate Times for Democracy in Malaysia

by James Giggacher, Asia Pacific Editor

As Anwar Ibrahim’s fate hangs in the balance, Malaysia’s democratic chances are slipping further away, writes James Giggacher. 

Malaysia’s long-time Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s fate still hangs in the balance; his political future as tenuous as the sodomy charges brought against him.

Since October 27 he has been fighting a five-year jail sentence for allegedly sodomising an aide handed down by the nation’s Appeals Court in March – itself an overturning of an earlier acquittal by the High Court.

It’s the second time Anwar faced sodomy charges, the first being in 1998 during the failed ‘reformasi’ movement. If the Federal Court upholds this latest conviction, Anwar will also lose his status as an MP and not be allowed to engage in politics for years.


Anwar rejected the idea of living in exile to stay in Malaysia and face the charges. It’s his final appeal. A bold, courageous move; maybe a stupid one born from his unfailing naivety about the prospects for political freedom in his homeland.

It’s not the ‘crime’ he is charged with, or the evidence given in this final courtroom charade (underpants and KY jelly have featured), that is truly sordid. Rather, it is what the whole sorry saga says about the declining prospects for democracy in Malaysia.

Many inside and outside the country see the charges as nothing more than politically motivated and trumped up – the latest shot in a long running war against the most powerful threat to ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.

“The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim are a blatant attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine a critical voice,” said Amnesty International in a statement the day the court case started. “If Anwar Ibrahim is jailed, Amnesty International will consider him a prisoner of conscience.”

Anwar and his Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) coalition took incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional to the line in last year’s general elections, winning 51 per cent of the popular vote, but only 40 per cent of seats in parliament. But while GE13 was billed as the democratic dawn many had longed for so long, Anwar once again found himself on the sidelines. With no one to take up the mantle, the 67-year-old still finds himself leader of Malaysia’s “rainbow” opposition.

The ‘gerrymandering’ of seats saw Barisan Nasional win the election by 133 seats to 89. The result, their narrowest parliamentary win and worst result ever, spooked those who have ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since independence in 1957 using a volatile mix of ethnic-based politics and emergency powers, all managed by the velvet glove of economic growth.

This was compounded by the election results of five years prior; Barisan’s eroding base is a trend which had begun in 2008, when it failed to win the ‘moral victory’ of a two-thirds majority in parliament. Yet, a general upswing in support since then, let alone winning the popular vote in 2013, wasn’t enough to see the opposition remove Barisan’s grip on power. It’s largely because the political deck is stacked in their favour.

While the elections were “partially” free, according to key regional think tanks, they were far from fair.

ANU political scientist Edward Aspinall points to gerrymandering, as well as the fuzzy line between the state and government as key reasons why Barisan held onto government despite losing the popular vote. More worrying, they are indicators of Malaysia’s increasingly less than democratic system.

His colleague Ross Tapsell has also highlighted how Barisan were able to maintain control and domination over the mainstream media during the elections, even in the face of apparent freedoms brought in by online and social media.

GE13 also saw widespread claims of electoral fraud and irregularities; particularly around the integrity of the electoral roll, postal and early votes, and polling – all pointed out by Bridget Welsh at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies.

Instances of vote-buying and fly-in voters corralled to cast their ballots for Barisan were clear on the day. Meredith Weiss, a researcher from SUNY monitored the election campaign as part of a research project funded by ANU.

“Today has been punctuated most notably by calls of Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos, and other migrant workers, allegedly gifted with identity cards, then transported by the plane load to wherever their votes (for Barisan Nasional of course)  are most needed,” she wrote for New Mandala last May.

But it’s more than dirty politics at play; at the heart of the Anwar case is a Malaysia where political freedom is in freefall.

Human Rights Watch says that since his shaky victory in GE13, Najib Razak has ushered in an era of deteriorating rights – including new and revised laws permitting detention without trial, arrests of opposition activists for peaceful protests, and attempts to shut down human rights NGOs.

Then there is the archaic Sedition Act.Provisions of the sedition law are extremely wide-ranging, and as Human Rights Watch notes, the way the law is worded makes it almost impossible to refute in court.

“The Sedition Act prohibits vague offenses such as uttering ‘any seditious words’ without defining what constitutes ‘sedition’ or ‘seditious words’. It broadly outlaws any ‘seditious tendency’ that would ‘bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government’,” reads an online statement.

Since May this year around 20 sedition charges have been laid or enquiries initiated, against opposition leaders, activists, university scholars, journalists and students – despite Prime Minister Najib Razak promising in July 2012 to repeal this catch-all act from a “bygone era”.

Legal proceedings are also still ongoing against two politicians and one NGO leader charged with sedition last year. Amnesty Intentional point to scores of others under investigation. Others say the number is as high as 40.

One of those is Rafizi Ramli – a 37-year-old politician from the opposition’s People’s Justice Party who has gained widespread prominence after a series of high-level corruption exposes.

Ramli is currently under investigation for writing about Anwar’s second sodomy case, and has also recently been charged under the Penal Code over a statement he made in February alleging political attempts to create racial and religious discord in Selangor.

In a recent interview with New Mandala Ramli pointed out the dire times for Malaysia’s democracy, opposition and Anwar. “Of course you have to be hopeful [for Anwar]. Being an opposition party that was born out of a personal tragedy that happened to him, we can only survive by remaining hopeful. So we remain hopeful that his ‘so-called’ legal problem orchestrated by the government will end very soon,” said Ramli.

“Yet at the same time we are very realistic that he will remain a galvanising figure against the ruling party, and so long as he is actively engaged with the public… we have to remain realistic that there is a high possibility he will be sent to prison again.”

Of course none of this touches on the economic stagnation that Malaysia is currently trying to beat off. Will the velvet glove finally slip? If Anwar and the broader opposition’s situation is anything to go by, it’s already been replaced by a clenched fist.

James Giggacher is Asia Pacific editor at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. His views do not represent the University’s or the College’s.

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

November 13, 2014

Your Choice: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

by William Leong Jee Keen

Morpheus: It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

Morpheus:This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (The Matrix)

Malaysians have taken the road of racism for 57 years because our minds have been imprisoned. A leader may show us a path to a better tomorrow but we will miss the turning if we cannot liberate ourselves from the prison of our minds. Only by choosing good over evil can we see the true path. The time for choosing has come.

anwar_ibrahim2He will not be silenced

After seven days hearing submissions from the defense and the prosecution, the five Federal Court Judges will decide whether to acquit or convict Anwar Ibrahim. If Anwar is convicted, he will be imprisoned for a term that will end his political career. The Opposition Leader said this is his final sacrifice, his last final service for Malaysians. He will not be silenced. But will Malaysians grasp the opportunity he paid for with his freedom?

Whether there are flying carpets, briyani suits and what happened to the missing KY jelly is for the court to decide. The target audience for the remake of the stage production of Sodomy I, updated by DNA forensic investigation replacing the old fashion mattress prop, is not the court. It is always the Malaysian public especially the Malay Muslims. The impresario, whoever he or she may be, thought Malaysians are either gullible or easily intimidated or both. Now Malaysians will show whether they are indeed a timid and feeble-minded audience or they are bold and resolute judges firmly punishing evil and rewarding the good. Malaysians will have to decide whether to take the red pill or the blue pill.

The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill are popular culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (the red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (the blue pill).

The term is popularized in the 1999 film, “The Matrix”, where the main character Neo (Keanu Reeves) is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain living in the “ignorance of illusion”, while the red pill would lead to living in the “truth of reality” even though it is a harsher, more difficult life.

Martin Luther King JrAmericans chose the red pill when Martin Luther King Jr was shot. The civil rights movement marched on because they knew oppressors would never give up their privileges on their own. President Johnson in his speech before Congress to pass the Voting Rights Bill allowing men and women to vote whatever the colour of their skin said:

“The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.”

In 2008, America elected a President based not on the colour of his skin but on the content of his character. They had overcome.

South Africans chose the red pill when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For the 27 years he was in jail, South Africans continued his struggle for freedom and equal opportunity. They fought for the idea, which Nelson Mandela in his statement from the dock said: “Was one he cherished, he hoped to live for but if needs be which he was prepared to die for.”

Mandela and TheronMandela and Actor Theron

Internal resistance to apartheid came from organizations dedicated to peaceful protests, passive resistance and armed insurrections. It came from Steve Biko, Bishop Desmond Tutu, white activists like Harry Schwarz, Joe Slovo and Trevor Huddleston. It came from the Black Sash, an organization of white women against apartheid. It came from students and churches. In 1994 the long walk for freedom was finally over, apartheid ended.

Anwar chose the red pill 16 years ago when he rejected the offer to go away quietly and instead took the path of “reformasi”. It took him from the heights of being the acting Prime Minister to the depth of being the lowest convict. On his release from prison, he crafted the New Economic Agenda for affirmative action based on needs and not on race and to restore the country’s international competitiveness. On his qualification to stand for election, he announced on April 15, 2008 at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman Kampong  Baru, the venue where Malay nationalists gathered to fight for independence, that while the constitutional rights of Malays would be protected, it was time to change from “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Ketuanan Rakyat”

The Eight of March  2008 General Election proved to be the birth of a new era where the millstone of race and religion which had been the burden for Malaysians to bear was finally shattered and it transformed the political landscape of the nation. In 2013, Pakatan Rakyat secured 89 parliament seats and won 52% of the popular vote but was thwarted by gerrymandering, and unfair electoral practices from forming the government.

When Anwar chose to awaken Malaysians and give them hope that there can be another Malaysia, he was fully aware he would be challenging the twin pillars of UMNO politics, the first is being thst Malay unity must be maintained at all cost and the second is that UMNO’s dominant political position must be maintained.

Anwar was aware that those who left UMNO would be ostracized and made an outcast of his community. UMNO had accused Dato’ Onn Jaafar, the father of Malay nationalism and founder of UMNO as having sold out Malay rights and his heritage when he formed the multiracial Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). Dato’ Haji Zainal Abidin bin Haji Abas, who with Dato’ Onn was one of UMNO’s founders and its first General Secretary became another example of UMNO’s punitive deterrence. He left UMNO to join IMP and later became the chairman of the United Democratic Party. He was completely alienated from the community.

Aziz Ishak, once out of UMNO was hounded, all kinds of charges were laid against him and he was later arrested under the Internal Security Act. However, nothing prepared Anwar for what they did to him.He was arrested, beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed and denigrated by scurrilous attacks against him and his family, ostracized, made an outcast and labeled a traitor to his own race. The raucousness of the venom, the ferocity of the hatred and the viciousness of the attacks were at levels never seen before. He is now more prepared mentally but physically he is not as strong and as young as he was 15 years ago.

If you choose the blue pill you will carry on in your blissful ignorance of illusion. You can choose to ignore and jettison the teachings of your religion, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or other faith and ignore your conscience not to harm your fellow men or to help him because the “common good” of your race demands that you disregard the needs of those of a different colour or religion.

The illusion however, demands that your life as an individual belongs not to you but to the group or society and in this case, to your race of which you are merely a part, that you have no rights and  must sacrifice your rights, your values and goals for the greater good of your race.

The illusion further demands you are not to question why but to do and die. You are not to question what is the greater good for the Malays for one person to control Malakoff Corporation, Gas Malaysia, Aliran Ihsan Resources (water utility), Port of Tanjong Pelepas, Johor Port, Senai Airpor Terminal Services, SMART Tunnel, MMC-Gamuda, Proton Bhd, Edaran Otomobil Nasional, MODENAS, Honda Malaysia, Bank Muamalat, PUSPAKOM, Alam Flora, POS Malaysia, Defence Technologies, Tradewinds (M) Bhd which subsidiary BERNAS has a monopoly of rice importation and distribution, Central Sugar Refinery and smaller stakes in Malaysia Sugar Manufacturing which together holds a monopoly for sugar, hotels and property development companies.

The illusion demands that the individual sacrifice you are called upon to make is for the common good for the greatest number of your race. Your income from 2009 has risen by only 8.1% while your household expenditure increased by 12.1% and 88.6% from 1994. Your household expenditure for housing, water, electricity has gone up by 102% since 1994, transport 94.6%, food and drinks by 60.9% while your household debt has increased by 13%. It is difficult to make ends meet with the increased price of petrol, the higher tolls for privatized highways and bridges, the tariffs for the privatized water and electricity, even your rubbish and sewage collection have been privatized. You have no idea how to pay the increased school bus fares but you will be proud that you have contributed to the many monopolies owned by Syed Mokthar Al-Bukhary, one of you.

The illusion says your sacrifice in being unable to afford your own home is for the greater good. While you are seeking to rent a house, the rent-seeking elite buys luxury bungalows and condominiums. After payment of the car installments, credit cards, food and other bills you have no money for emergencies much less a holiday while the elites are flying first class and staying in five star hotels.

The illusion says your government has provided your children with a university education but they are not employable. The June 2014 World Bank Malaysian Economic Monitor reports 60% of the unemployed are aged 20-24 and 25% are graduates. Your children hold a university degree but employers find they lack soft skills; 47% inability to work independently, 49% lack problem solving skills, 51% lack analytical skills, 56% lack creative/critical thinking and 81% lack communication skills. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 Malaysian students rank 52 out of 65 countries and the bottom one-third among more than 70 countries in international assessments like Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMMS). The results show the education standard of our 15 year olds are three years behind Singapore, Korea, China, Japan and even Vietnam.

No matter how you seek to justify you cannot ignore that while a responsible government builds a floor for the weakest students to stand, it encourages the best and the brightest to fly as high as they can. It is wicked to clip their wings because 150 years ago their great grand parents came to work in the estates, railroads, tin mines or to seek a better life.

While all accept that the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are disadvantaged and neglected under colonial rule for more than 200 years and ought to be assisted what justification is there to allow Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Filipinos who came yesterday to enjoy these same privileges so the elite can maintain power?

The blue pill unfortunately, will not be able to provide the answers and will not save you from the rude awakening one day when Malaysia ends up like Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe.

If you choose the red pill, you will realize the painful truth that you yourself are part of the oppressed and you must fight for your own freedom and not that of the elites who can hardly claim to be identifiable with you.

Malcom X

Your life as an individual belongs to you and you have an inviolable right to live it as you see fit, to act on your own judgment, to pursue the values of your own choosing. The basic tenet is that each individual has an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men and women deal with one another as equals. The only happy society is one of happy individuals. We cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.

You will recognize that no race holds a monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of strength and there is more than enough room for all in this country. You will understand what Malcolm X said:

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the colour of the skin”

Anwar has given Malaysians the keys to the door of change, if Malaysians grab hold of them once opened the door cannot be shut but if Malaysians do not use them once shut the door cannot be opened.

What will you choose reality or illusion?

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
12 November 2014

Malaysian Politics without Anwar Ibrahim

November 6, 2014

COMMENT: Anwar Ibrahim is both a political icon and a game changer in Malaysian politics. A former anointed successor to Tun Dr. Mahathir, he was charged for Sodomy in 1998 and imprisoned for a considerable period of time in Sungai Buloh.

Many thought it was the end of his political career, but the irrepressible  Anwar rose from the ashes, so to speak, to lead a loose coalition of odd partners comprising DAP, PAS and his own Parti KeADILan Rakyat in the 2008 Elections. It fired the imagination and passion for change of Malaysian voters and that, in turn, brought a rather quick end to the Badawi Administration. In 2009, Najib Tun Razak became Prime Minister.

anwar_ibrahim2A Political Icon and Game Changer in Malaysian Politics

Despite spending time in and out of our courts defending himself against another charge of sodomy, Anwar again led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in 2013 General Elections well. Although it did not take Putrajaya, PR won 51 per cent of the popular vote. Yet Sodomy 2 refused to go away. Anwar was found not guilty by the High Court but on appeal, the Najib administration was able to overturn the verdict and now Anwar’s political future will be decided by the Federal Court in the next couple of days. If he is convicted, he returns to jail.

True, he will not able to be in politics directly. In stead, he will become our prisoner of conscience and may be able to revive the Reformasi Movement from the walls of his prison. It would be a serious error if Najib assumed that he would be able to break up PR, by taking Anwar out of the equation.

PR may not survive in its present form. That in part will depend on how secular DAP and  islamist PAS can accommodate each other to keep the coalition intact and be ready to face GE-14. It is going to be tough since PAS has become enigmatic of late. Internal conflicts inside, PAS is very susceptible to the idea of unity with UMNO for race and religion. That makes it an unreliable ally. 

I do not rule out PKR as a  significant political force. A new young dynamic team of young leaders like Nurul Izzah Anwar, Rafizi Ramli, Nik Nazmi has emerged. I will also not underestimate the influence of Anwar Ibrahim on this new generation in PKR, and his hold on his prodigy Azmin Ali, Menteri Besar of Selangor. But Anwar must know that he can no longer dictate party policy once he is in jail. He must leave PKR leadership to act on its own.–Din Merican

Malaysian Politics Without Anwar Ibrahim

by Scott (11-04-14)

Anwar Ibrahim will today meet with one of three fates: a conviction, which will see him back behind bars and barred from politics for what is likely to be the rest of his natural life; a delay in the Federal Court decision, which will keep him and the rest of the nation in suspense for some time; or freedom from his shackles and another chance to wrest control of Malaysia’s ultimate political power.

Whichever of these outcomes comes to pass, one thing is becoming exceedingly clear – the age of Anwar Ibrahim is over. Some may have a negative knee-jerk reaction to this assertion. However, the signs are certainly pointing that way for contemporary Malaysia’s greatest revolutionary. At 67 years old, he has had two cracks at the bat and almost brought down the government that packed him away into prison for years.

Through the years, we have seen massive rallies in support of his cause, and his undeniable charisma is evident to those even watching him walk by. Anwar Ibrahim is indeed the greatest political revolutionary of our time, and even his enemies cannot deny his achievements if they are honest with themselves.

Since the political tsunami of 2008 that rode upon his leadership and charisma, there has arisen a new guard of young and dynamic politicians waiting in the wings for their time to come. The focus should be on cultivating these future leaders, preparing them for the day they will pick up the fight for Malaysians of all stripes. Like it or not, in 10 years, it is these leaders who will either be leading our government or continuing Anwar’s good fight, and that in itself makes it worthwhile for the old guard to invest in their future.

But a more immediate issue arises should the court rule in favour of the prosecution. Pakatan Rakyat will suddenly be left without a clear leader. The loss will be especially painful for PKR, which was built around his personality and upon his struggle. Without their focal point, the way forward for PKR is cloudy at best.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) was formed in 2003, a merger of the older Malaysian People’s Party and the National Justice Party, which was born from the Reformasi movement. Today it has gained a reputation as a centrist party, with lawyers, civil society crusaders and social justice advocates bolstering its ranks of disaffected Barisan Nasional members. Originally led by Wan Azizah, the party celebrated the return of Anwar to politics in April 14, 2008, and promptly installed him as their de facto leader.

Harsh realities

Indeed, PKR and Anwar Ibrahim are stuck together like Siamese twins sharing a heart. The idea of one being divorced from the other is almost impossible to imagine, but political realities are much harsher than we’d like to believe. In the case of a conviction or an Anwar unable to play the game of politics, what then happens to PKR?

It’s likely that in the short term we will see the coming to power of Azmin Ali, who served Anwar for years as his most trusted advisor, and has now ascended to the position of Menteri Besar of Selangor.

Azmin AliAzmin is something of a controversial figure in his party. There are in fact several factions within PKR that do not want to see him assume leadership. But in the inevitable chaos surrounding the exit of Anwar, it’s safe to assume he will take charge, though Rafizi Ramli may have other ideas regarding that situation.

Ultimately, we can foresee Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s daughter and Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, assuming leadership of the party. There will be obstacles, with some trying to hold her back, but Izzah has the chops and rapport with the public to assume the presidency in the future.

But for now it’s more important that the party seize the moment and look towards a new platform. After spending so long being Anwar’s warhorse, the People’s Justice Party will have a chance to rebrand itself as more than just that and focus on justice for the people. PKR’s infighting has lessened the value of the name somewhat, and the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis made it look petty and impotent, with it’s grand political strategy falling around its ears. At this point, its main concern should be rebuilding it’s credibility by focusing on the issues and not the individual.

There are many pressing, deeply concerning issues that loom before the Malaysian public – the rising cost of living, the potential unavailability of cheap medicine due to data exclusivity in the TPPA, the implementation of the GST and so on. While some of our opposition politicians have been active in articulating these issues, they’ve been drowned out by the noisy drama of Malaysia’s political circus. It’s time for PKR to find consensus, strengthen its image and go about the job of speaking for us in the corridors of power.

As for Pakatan Rakyat – well, that is one kettle of fish we don’t envy Anwar’sHadi3 successor for. The opposition coalition is the strongest yet in Malaysian history, and came ever so close to unseating Barisan Nasional in the last general election. But the cracks are obvious. The media have taken notice of the distinct lack of PAS support at Anwar’s hearings, reduced to the token MP here and there, but nothing like the mass of humanity that PAS can call to its side at a moment’s notice.

Coupled with the internal conflict within PAS itself and the constant hearsay of PAS exploring a unity government option with UMNO, it looks as if the tenuous ties that bind Pakatan Rakyat are fraying, and badly.

Direct conflict

To say that PAS and DAP’s differences extend to their ideas about good governance is, of course, more BN propaganda spin than truth. But then again, the best lies are two parts truth and one part lie. The two parties are beginning to show that they might become polar opposites, especially now that PAS’ ulama faction has begun to flex its muscles. The liberal agenda of DAP, though often exaggerated by cybertroopers, comes into direct conflict with the ultra-conservative stance of some in PAS, and hence we see tension erupt into open conflict every once in a while.

Lim GEWithout the central figure that is Anwar, the future of Pakatan largely relies on the three parties finding a point of consensus with each other. In truth, all three are politically symbiotic in that the appeal of each party is enhanced and weaknesses are shored up by the others. Without the DAP, PAS could not appear as widely popular to the urban vote. DAP would find it hard to spread word out without PAS’ far-reaching network. And PKR provides a centrist platform to find common ground on the divisive issues.

This relationship is on the verge of dissolution, and a future without Anwar may see PAS or at least its most conservative elements striking out on their own, unless the three decide on the fundamental level upon which they can cooperate for political benefit and thus solidify the foundation of the coalition. Life after Anwar does not have to be bleak. But it will be hard.


The Real Power in Malaysia is not our Prime Minister

November 5, 2014

The Real Power in Malaysia is not our Prime Minister

by Zaid Ibrahim (11-04-14)

The so-called “Malay moderate” leaders normally expound their sugar-coated liberal ideas in international forums and always in English because they know that the Malay-Muslim audience at home will miss it completely.

Anwar and NajibTwo of a Kind?

This is true of both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Leader of the Opposition Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Their actions are, however, diametrically opposite to what they profess to believe.

Let’s see how they handle the issues of “liberalism” and “pluralism”:The state religious authorities have labelled Muslims deemed “liberal” and “pluralistic” in outlook as “deviants” (i.e. those who have strayed from the true path of Islam). This accusation is cruel and totally unjustified. It should not have been made by the state religious authorities and certainly not by those who claim to be religious and pious men.

Muslims the world over take pride in the fact that their religion is “simple” and has no clergy that act as intermediaries with God.This is not the case in Malaysia. Here, there are religious authorities who have usurped the power of God and pass judgement on Muslims long before they die and long before The Day of Judgement.

Forty years ago it was PAS that labelled UMNO “infidels” but today this is no longer merely a game of political point-scoring. Now it goes to the core of religious belief: if you do not follow the rulings of the state religious authorities, you are not a Muslim.

What do the religious authorities teach? Liberalism and pluralism are sinful. That’s why the authorities have effectively banned Sisters in Islam by labelling the group “deviants”.

But what is so wrong about being liberal? A liberal is merely someone who has forward-looking and progressive ideas. Being liberal means just being “open minded” about things.

When the Prime Minister said that UMNO Selangor had to think outside the box and come up with new ideas to retake the state, he was being liberal and progressive. You can also say that, in the context of UMNO, Najib, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin are liberals and progressives while Utusan Malaysia, Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Datuk Ibrahim Ali and ISMA are conservatives.

There is nothing “sinful” about this classification. But another dirty and sinful word is “pluralism”. The religious authorities seem to think that it means all religions are the same and that Islam is on par with other religions in Malaysia—Muslims are therefore prohibited from being pluralistic because Islam is the only true religion.

The religious authorities should learn to relax a little.In the context of our country, pluralism does not mean what they think it means. We use “pluralism” as a way of saying all religions have the right to exist in this land. It’s not a measure of which one is truer than the other. It’s not a judgement about which religion is better.

As Muslims, we believe of course that Islam is better—but no one is preventing us from believing this. Equally, Hindus (for example) are entitled to their own set of religious beliefs in what constitutes the path to salvation.

This pluralism this is not merely “permitted” in our country, it is a fundamental characteristic of our nation enshrined in the Federal Constitution. On the other hand, what is certainly not permitted is religious hegemony.

Pluralism means we accept that there are different religious faiths in the country and that our fellow-citizens have the right to practise those faiths freely. It is the idea that we must coexist peacefully. That’s the essence of Article 11 of our Constitution and the religious authorities really should not be afraid of the word.We are a democracy. Furthermore, we have recently been elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We should have the courage to lead by example.

But what are our political leaders doing about this?Instead of calling up the religious authorities to explain to them the dangers of their rulings and how they violate our constitutional freedoms—and how Muslims will be adversely affected by such rulings—our political leaders have done nothing.

Recently, Anwar was at his usual charismatic best when delivering a talk at a posh hotel to some “Muslim democrats”. He said there was nothing wrong with pluralism and liberal ideas but also that he would not change the decision of the religious authority in Selangor where his party is in Government.

Najib, on the other hand, has been acting as he has always been, expressing an “elegant silence” on everything important happening in the country.

ZaidgeistWhat is abundantly clear to Malaysians who care to see is that Malay political leaders are afraid of the religious authorities.Our leaders are like the Imperial Chinese eunuchs who would always obey the Emperor for the privilege of living in the Palace and having control over state finances.

In this matter, there is no difference at all whether UMNO or the Pakatan Rakyat has political power and occupies Putrajaya—today the real power in our lives emanates from the religious authorities.

In campaign to defend democracy, U.S. should start with Malaysia

Najib and ObamaThis Big Talker engages in Empty Rhetoric, and in Barack Obama he finds a willing Partner to hoodwink the Malaysian People

Najib wants to have his cake and eat it too. He serenades President Barack Obama and promises to be all sorts of moderation. Najib is manifestly dishonest in the press conference standing next to Obama when asked about the Anwar case. He talks about making Malaysia competitive in the 21st century in speeches to the Council on Foreign Relations and to business leaders around the world. But at home he’s doing the same old same old thing – persecuting political opponents, stifling debate on campus and suffocating academic freedom. He cannot have it both ways.He must stop the bull and get down serious business of governance.

While President Obama is unlikely and incapable of doing anything publicly, this type of negative press undermines countless man hours of Najib’s PR machine that has been at work since 2009. They will have to start working on another scope of work at the cost of 20 or 30 MM to repair the damage. Send the bill the the Rakyat! – Rusman

 From the Washington Post

AT THE United Nations in September, President Obama, citing “relentless crackdowns” around the world against dissent and civil society, promised“an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.”Even when it was “uncomfortable” or “causes friction,” he pledged, his administration would step up to defend persecuted activists and “oppose efforts by foreign governments to restrict freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and expression.” So far we haven’t seen much follow-up on that promise, but the opportunities to do so are abundant.

One of the most urgent lies in Malaysia, a U.S. ally (can we say a poodle!) that has launched an extraordinary crackdown on opposition leaders, academics and journalists. In the past two months, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has charged nearly two dozen activists under an outdated colonial-era sedition law, that mandates three years in prison for acts that “excite dissatisfaction” with the government. Mr. Najib promised as recently as 2012 to repeal the law; instead, the government is prosecuting critics merely for speaking out, publishing articles or uploading videos.

At the same time, the government has revived an odious criminal case against Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Opposition and one of the Muslim world’s foremost liberal democrats. Mr. Anwar was charged in 2008 with homosexual sodomy, which Malaysia shamefully still treats as a crime. Though he denied the charge and was acquitted in a 2012 trial, an appeals court this year reversed the verdict and handed him a five-year prison sentence. This week his final appeal is being heard by Malaysia’s highest court. If he loses, the 67-year-old Mr. Anwar will be imprisoned and banned from politics. Even if he wins, he, too, faces prosecution under the sedition law.

It’s not hard to guess why Mr. Najib might have broken his pledge to repeal the statute and reversed what was previously a cautious march toward greater freedom in his majority Muslim country. Last year, his ruling party for the first time lost the popular vote in a general election, to a coalition led by Mr. Anwar.

Gerrymandering preserved the government’s parliamentary majority, but the ruling establishment Mr. Najib leads appears to have set out to crush the opposition before the next election, due in 2017. The campaign is particularly destructive because Malaysia, unlike many other majority Muslim countries, does not currently face an internal terrorist challenge, though some Malaysians are known to have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. By eliminating peaceful means of opposition, Mr. Najib risks making extremist options more attractive.

Mr. Obama has made a point of cultivating Mr. Najib and his government as part of his policy of “rebalancing” toward Asia, and so far the administration has had little to say about the political crackdown. Perhaps, Obama wants to ensure that Malaysia sign the one sided and much criticised TPPA In March, it cautiously expressed concern about Mr. Anwar’s prosecution. But as Mr. Anwar has argued his appeal this week there’s been no sign of the “stronger campaign” Mr. Obama promised. The verdict is expected next week; if Mr. Obama is genuinely willing to incur “friction” with allies in defense of human rights, now is the time to do it in Malaysia.

Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya (October 27, 2014)

October 28, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya

Anwar at UM

Anwar Ibrahim spoke with passion to students at the University of Malaya last night (October 27, 2014). He asked his audience, why is the government in power is so scared of a simple human being like him that they won’t allow him to speak in the campus of his alma mater. Where is academic freedom, where is academic excellence and where is our dignity as a people? He spoke of racism and disunity, corruption and abuse of power. Listen to him.–Din Merican