MH 17: Malaysia’s “Quiet Diplomacy” triumphs


July 27, 2013

MH 17: Malaysia’s “Quiet Diplomacy” triumphs

by A. Jalil Hamid@www.nst.com.my

CAPPING nearly two weeks of intense international diplomacy, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak travels to the Netherlands this Wednesday for crucial talks relating to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 recovery and investigation.

Mark RutteHis meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte (left), in The Hague will focus on ways to secure full access for an international team investigating the cause of the crash at the site in eastern Ukraine.

Just five days into the July 17 incident, Najib scored a major diplomatic coup by securing a surprise deal with pro-Russian separatists that required them to surrender MH17 flight recorders, return the remains of the victims and allow the independent team full access to the crash site.Two of the three conditions have been met.

Needless to say, this is a major triumph for Najib’s “quiet diplomacy”. Both his political foes and the usually blunt Western media have heaped praise for his meticulous skills in the way the delicate process was handled: quiet, discreet, behind-the-scenes and effective.

It was, to say the least, a difficult situation. Just as how the MH370 episode unfolded, there was no precedent.

From day one, Najib took charge of the situation by assembling a small team of close advisers and workingNajib and Putin tirelessly on the phone with the leaders of Australia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

“For two nights in a row, I almost didn’t sleep because I was calling world leaders,” he quipped. His biggest break came when the Prime Minister, using back channels, managed to speak on the phone with Alexander Borodai, the self-declared leader of the Donetsk separatists and the man who controlled the crash site.

It was an excellent diplomatic approach, as Malaysia was unlikely to make a lot of inroads if we were to rely solely on the US and Europe — which, by the way, are quite wary of Russia over the Ukraine conflict — for help. In fact, 21st century international relations must consider “non-state actors” as influential groups. This is a known fact in contemporary international relations.

Najib’s negotiations with Borodai should not be equated with an endorsement of the separatist movement. He is just letting go of his stature for the sake of the family members of those who were on board MH17.His quiet diplomacy worked this time around because it is in Malaysia’s interest to get the remains and the black boxes out of the crash site quickly and safely.

The quiet diplomacy approach will also not drag us into the power game between Russia and the US. It is an open secret that Russia, which has a firm hold over Borodai, will not release the remains and the black boxes directly to the Americans.

Najib and ObamaWhatever US intentions are in Ukraine, the MH17 issue should not be turned into a political tug-of-war to further Washington’s interests in the region. Privately, some US diplomats, not surprisingly, had some reservations about the outcome of the Malaysian deal with Borodai.

The pro-Russian separatists and Russia also have to prove to the world that they are not the way Western governments and the Western media would like to portray them.

Qquiet diplomacy could prove to be our major foreign policy strategy going forward. We have seen howNajib and Abbott the Prime Minister had recently gained a reputation as a deal-broker by mediating the peace process in the southern Philippines. Najib’s diplomatic mettle could go down in history as a major lesson in crisis management and leadership.

Equally significant is the domestic impact of his move; even the Opposition had praised him for his astuteness and ability to secure the deal with the rebel commander.The key lesson here: quiet diplomacy can accomplish some things not otherwise possible.

Palestine radicalising Muslim Youth


July 27, 2014

COMMENT: The Obama Administration’s Middle East Policy has failed, and faileddinmerican miserably mainly because it continues to aid and support Israel’s illegal land grabbing activities, and condone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s  expansionist policies by military means to secure its borders. President Obama, a stooge of corporate interests and the Jewish lobby, refuses to realise that Israel–and the United States is a willing partner– is helping to radicalise Muslim Youths around the world to support the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people in the defense of their homeland. 

 “Solve the Palestinian issue — and half the battle is won. Or go on intimidating them at Israel’s own peril”, says my friend, Johan Jaafar and I agree. Anti-US sentiment is spreading fast throughout the Muslim world. The problems in Libya where the US must  now shut down its embassy, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Arab world are clear and irrefutable evidence of US myopia and  its unwillingness to deal with the root causes of unrest and instability in Palestine. Its policy of favoring Israel while advocating a two state solution is, therefore, hypocrisy  at best.

I have posted a number of articles on the Palestinian Question on this blog and have not received any comments from my American friends and readers on US Middle East policy. That is disappointing. I hope it is not a sign that Americans in general are disinterested observers of Israeli brutality and arrogance of power in Gaza and other parts of Palestine. A bully who is heavily dependent on American taxpayers for funding its military ambitions and housing is actually a coward. The Palestinians are a strong people with well honed survival skills, and can take on the Israeli Defense Forces, if they are well equipped. The Hezbollah in Lebanon have shown that Israel is not invincible. –Din Merican

Palestine radicalising Muslim Youth

by Tan Sri Johan Jaafar@www,nst.com.my (07-26-14)

PALESTINE is the single most important factor for the radicalisation of Muslim youth. We all know that. So, too, the leaders of the United States and Israel. For the last six decades, the Palestinian issue has been widely cited as the catalyst of the anger, anxiety and disgust among Muslims. Many among the young — some of them well-educated — embraced militancy.

Johan JaafarThe Muslim world watches with trepidation and a sense of hopelessness as Israel attacks what’s left of the little stretches of land called Palestine year after year. Life has been miserable for the occupants. Death is always hovering in the shadows. They live in an open-air prison ready for bombardment by the Israeli security forces, any time, and with the flimsiest of excuses. And it normally comes at the most difficult and challenging month — Ramadan.

This year’s Ramadan is no exception. The Israelis certainly know how to intimidate and inflict maximum insult on the Muslim world. There are few occasions when one hears Muslims the world over speak in the same voice. Palestine rallies Muslims unlike any other issue. And despite differing interests, Israel is the source of their anger. And of course, its No. 1 protector, the United States.

GazaGaza–Target of Israeli Bombing

The US has not lifted a finger to castigate the Israelis for the recent attacks. We have heard President Barack Obama say the right things about Islam and Muslims but yet to see him doing the right thing for Palestine. There are more than 800 deaths and thousands injured so far. The US has been mumbling about the right of Israel to defend itself. What about the horrendous images of carnage and devastation in Palestine? And the fact that the prime minister of Israel accusing Hamas for using “telegenically dead Palestinians” as a PR exercise?

I have seen the anger many times over. I was in Peshawar in the spring of 1989, where millions of Afghan refugees lingered in camps after the Russian invasion 10 years before that. President Mohammad Najibullah’s position was precarious. The mujahideen were emboldened. In Kunar Province and near Jalalabad I saw renewed determination to win the civil war. And they won.

A rag-tag army in kameez shalwar and sandals humiliating the second biggest army in the world? It happened. Afghanistan was a turning point in insurgency. Some of the mujahideen groups were well-funded, in part by the US. I met young commanders trained by the most organised Afghan faction, the Hisbi Islami at the so-called “Jihad University” in Peshawar. They were ready to face the world, anywhere, anytime.

Young Muslims from the world over came to support and die for a worthy cause. Afghanistan was a good enough, just cause. It was people’s struggle — qiam omumi, not unlike the intifada of the Palestinians. Fighting the Russians and later Najibullah’s forces was a noble thing to do. But 9/11 changed all that. With a stroke of a pen, they all became terrorists.

But nothing compares to Palestine. The simmering anger against Israel is beyond reproach. Palestine is the rallying cry against injustice. In his piece (NST, July 23) Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar asked what is it about the Palestinians that they have become the victims of so many injustices and tragedies? “No other people have had their land taken away and given to whom they did absolutely no wrong,” said the piece. READ: http://www.nst.com.my/node/16334

PalestinePalestinian Resistance

Israel has the right to exist but not at the expense of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have suffered enough. They are now sandwiched between high fences and a belligerent neighbour, and is a pawn in a geopolitical play. For millions of young Palestinians, they only know anger, misery and death.

Solve the Palestinian issue — and half the battle is won. Or go on intimidating them at Israel’s own peril. True, Israel has a superior army to suppress the population but they can’t go beyond the demands of human decency for another 60 years. If there is one race that understands the meaning of extermination, survival and injustices, it has to be the Israelis. Yet, they tend to forget their own history when they deal with the Palestinians. The US will face a daunting task to explain to the Muslim world why they are not really pushing for a final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is only anger and revenge to motivate the Palestinians for now, and the resolve to overcome the odds. They are hardened by years of suffering and fighting. They will endure the pain many more years to come. And many more young Muslims will be radicalised. Will the world just watch the anger that reverberates beyond the borders of Palestine?

Support Tabung Kemanusiaan Palestin Media Prima Bhd in collaboration with Mercy Malaysia and Perdana Global Peace Foundation. Donate generously.

 

 

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia


July 26, 2014

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia

by Karim Raslan@www.thestar.com.my

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Ceritalah/Profile/Articles/2014/07/26/Msia-can-learn-from-Indonesian-polls/

What’s striking is how much more advanced the republic’s elections have become, with the General Elections Commission uploading a photograph of each of the result forms from all 479,000 voting stations.

Jokowi. IrINDONESIA has a new President and – to the relief of many – it’s Joko Widodo or Jokowi as he is fondly known.

His extraordinary personal journey, from the slums of Solo to the Istana Negara, says as much about the man as it does about the republic itself, now into its 16th post-Reformasi year. The excitement is palpable but we must hope and pray that this fairy tale-like story, with its egalitarian hue, ends in real achievements and a better life for all Indonesians.

Even though I am a proud Malaysian, the 2014 presidential elections has reminded me of how our politics is so very disappointing.We used to regard Indonesia as a basket case. But they have shown that their democracy hasn’t impeded economic development. Moreover, it remains vigorous despite the determined manipulation of the pre-Reformasi elites.

Consider this fact – some 133 million voters cast their ballots on July 9 – much more than some 120 million who turned out in 2009 to re-elect President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

Still, many of my Malaysian friends kept (and are still) buzzing me about the elections.This was especially after his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, regrettably and petulantly refused to accept the results. The tone from my fellow Malaysians was generally along these lines: “My God! It was so close!

Will Bapak be allowed to win? Will there be violence?” This, I suppose, betrays the fundamental differences in politics between Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as what we can learn from our neighbour to the south.

First off, Jokowi’s margin of victory over Prabowo (70,633,576 votes or 53.15% of the popular vote to 62,262,844 votes or 46.85%) was by more than eight million votes and 6%.

A narrow win? Perhaps. But let’s not forget that Barisan Nasional only won 47.38% of the popular vote in Malaysia’s 2013 general election.

Indeed, the eight million-plus voters who propelled Jokowi to victory make up over 60% of the total voter turnout at the Malaysian polls last year. So while Prabowo can try to halt Jokowi via legal challenges – the fact remains that the Solo-born entrepreneur’s victory was clear and decisive.

But what’s really struck me is how much more advanced and sophisticated Indonesia’s elections have become.On polling night itself, various reputable polling houses were able to release “quick counts” that gave a remarkably accurate reading of the election results.

Over the weeks that followed, the “real count” by the General Elections Commission of Indonesia (KPU) was updated in “real” time on their official website. Parallel websites were also put up by civil society groups, monitoring the recapitulation.

Furthermore, the KPU actually uploaded a photograph of each of the result forms (dubbed C1) from all 479,000 voting stations.This is transparency. Having had to endure our own elections first-hand on live TV, I can say that the Indonesian election process was far more open and robust.

Jokowi

A Remarkable Journey to the Presidency

More importantly, Indonesia’s elections – and I’ve said this before – also featured lively and extensive debates between Jokowi and Prabowo plus their running mates: five separate nationally televised events, covering a range of subjects from the economy to foreign policy.

This process forced the candidates to articulate and argue for their respective platforms. The debates varied – some were boring and over-full of rhetoric. Others were scintillating.Whatever the case, the voters were able to decide for themselves as to the suitability of the two candidates.

Indonesia and Malaysia are united by language but separated by political experience. We are still living in the equivalent of Suharto’s New Order with a drastically curtailed and censored media while they are savouring a dramatically more open environment. So for those who question the scale of Jokowi’s victory, I say don’t just look at the result, consider the process.Isn’t it time we move forward?

Karim Raslan is a regional columnist and commentator. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. His online documentaries can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/KRceritalah. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

With his politicking and abandonment of principle, “Anwar has lost Malaysia forever”


July 25, 2014

With his politicking and abandonment of principle, “Anwar has lost Malaysia forever”

by Nathaniel Tan@www.malaysiakini.com

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/269832

DSAI

I never criticised Anwar publicly until the Kajang Move. Watching him continue to be obsessed about whatever little power he can fight over has been a continuing disappointment…Gone, it seems, are the dreams he sold us of a better Malaysia and a political movement based on firm principles. In its place is naked ambition, petty politicking, and greedy scavenging over whatever money that is up for grabs…with his abandonment of principle in favour of greed, it is certain that he has lost Malaysia forever.–Nathaniel Tan

COMMENT: First, he tried to topple Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, and failed. Then he tried to topple Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and failed. Finally, he tried to topple Najib Abdul Razak, and failed as well.

Even as Malaysia faces crisis after crisis, Anwar Ibrahim has now decided to set his sights even lower, and focus all his energies on toppling Khalid Ibrahim, the incumbent Menteri Besar of Selangor. There is a good chance he will fail there too. Anwar’s credibility is crumbling almost as fast as his integrity is disintegrating.

Anwar’s announcement that Wan Azizah will be the next Menteri Besar immediately brought to mind September 16, 20o8. It seems that once again, Anwar is bluffing. Instead of getting the numbers and then creating hype, he is creating hype in a sad attempt to get numbers. Once again, it is shoot first and ask questions later.

Anwar’s hope for September 16 was that if he could make everyone believe he had the numbers to take over the federal government by the crossover of parliamentarians, then more and more parliamentarians would join his cause and make the myth he was selling a reality.

When September 16 came, all of Malaysia saw Anwar revealed to be the fraud that he was – that he never had the numbers, and that he was doing nothing more than gambling with the nation’s future.

Tearing Pakatan apart

Instantly after Anwar announced PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the next Menteri Besar, PAS Selangor denied it had agreed to this move. This slams home the point that every anti-Khalid effort since the Kajang Move has achieved nothing except to tear Pakatan Rakyat apart.

At a Pakatan meeting that PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang (right) chose not to attend, Anwar failed to win the Islamist party’s endorsement for Wan Azizah, and was only able to achieve a joint statement saying “we’ll talk about it”.

PAS is very understandably asking why it should support PKR’s candidate (especially given how divided PKR is at this point), when it could very well push to take on the Menteri Besar’s position.

PAS appears to have had enough of browbeating and bullying by an ‘ally’ it sees as being all talk and no substance – the same party that PAS always has to support on the ground in elections because of PKR’s persistently hopeless or non-existent party machinery.

What would happen if PAS and PKR continue to be at loggerheads? Or if PAS decides to take the extreme measure of uniting with UMNO against PKR and DAP on the question of the Menteri Besar? Then, throughout Malaysia, Pakatan  Rakyat dies an early death at the tender age of six years.

All about increasing payout to water firm?

Already, as it is, one of the worst parts of this crisis is having to read sense from people we are so accustomed to spewing nonsense on. It is heart wrenching to see that, for once in their lives, it is the likes of Ibrahim Ali, Hassan Ali, Shamsuddin Lias (UMNO Opposition leader in Selangor), and even Utusan Malaysia taking the right side.

I’m sure some will be against what they say merely out of habit, but if we look at this objectively, it is painfully obvious that Pakatan leaders are bending over backwards to justify the unjustifiable. (I have already written no less than six articles addressing all the key issues used to criticise Khalid and ‘justify’ his removal.)

A theory that this coup d’etat has a lot to do with PKR favouring certain players in the waterRPK restructuring exercise that I alluded to some time ago is now breaking with even greater detail. Raja Petra Kamaruddin (right) has been wrong about a great many things, but he has been right on some; and I’m betting he is right on this one as well.

Consistent with this view is Rafizi Ramli’s blatant statement that the valuations of the water deal will change. I will bet significant sums of money that in this change, one water concessionaire will get a higher payout.

READ:http://www.malaysia-today.net/selangors-watergate-about-to-explode/ –by Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Puppet Rule

Wan Azizah is a great woman, and has always been personally very nice to me. She is an individual with a kind heart who has never given anyone cause to doubt her compassion or tenderness. In fairness, she cannot be said to have demonstrated the qualities of a strong leader.

I don’t think anybody harbours any illusion about who really runs PKR. Equally, no one harbours any illusion about who will run Selangor if Wan Azizah is elected Menteri Besar.

Already there are rumblings that should this change take effect, the ‘kontraktor berwibawa’ crony patronage system from Anwar’s days as Finance Minister will snake its way into Selangor’s administration. The very thought of it is probably already making Khalid balk.

Enjoying the accountability-free position of ‘de facto leader’, whatever that means, Anwar seems to want to extend his undemocratic portfolio to de facto leader of Selangor. This system and pairing is not only undemocratic, it has proven thoroughly ineffective.

PKR is easily the worst-run party in Malaysia. For one thing, countries the size of India and Indonesia are able to start nationwide elections after, and finish them before, PKR’s own farce of internal party elections.

Anwar’s influence in the party is equally in shambles. Even with the fielding of his candidate for deputy president Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution (left) to act as a third corner spoiler, Khalid is still toe-to-toe in the elections with the party’s other feudal boss, Azmin Ali – a clear indication that even the party grassroots want change.

Anwar’s other trusted lieutenant, Rafizi Ramli, has meanwhile fallen considerably behind in the vice-president’s race. In fact, Anwar’s only candidate that won in the PKR race was the one who won uncontested.

The death of principles

Once again, it’s hard to write these things. When I worked for Anwar, and was arrested one weekend, he came with others to stand vigil outside the Dang Wangi Police station, calling for my release. I apologise if writing the following makes me ungracious.

At the same time, I cannot forget another anecdote, that Nurul Izzah Anwar often shares when at events with Khalid. She regales audiences about how when Anwar was sent to prison, no high profile Malaysian dared to come and visit him in Sungai Buloh for fear of sharing his taint. No one except Khalid.

However, it now seems that all bets are off. When any politician reneges on his promise to relinquish power when he promised to, red flags and alarm bells should be blaring. Anwar’s excuse for not quitting after GE13, like he said he would, was, “we won the popular vote, so I’m not quitting,” immediately demonstrating that he had been bluffing all along.

How sad to see a man once regarded as intelligent, dynamic and principled make up such flimsy excuses and cling so shamelessly to empty trappings of power.

Should Khalid fail to step down after his second term as he announced, then he will deserve similar derision.

I never criticised Anwar publicly until the Kajang Move. Watching him continue to be obsessed about whatever little power he can fight over has been a continuing disappointment.

Gone, it seems, are the dreams he sold us of a better Malaysia and a political movement based on firm principles. In its place is naked ambition, petty politicking, and greedy scavenging over whatever money that is up for grabs.

A good friend reminded me: as we all long desperately to remove BN, the question we must ask ourselves is whether we are willing to sacrifice our integrity in order to replace BN. Does our desperation to reach these ends truly justify any and all means?

It remains to be seen whether Anwar will wrest Selangor; but with his abandonment of principle in favour of greed, it is certain that he has lost Malaysia forever.

The Persecution of Kassim Ahmad: A-G Gani Patail loses again


July 24, 2014

The Persecution of Kassim Ahmad: A-G Gani Patail loses again

by Din Merican

In the past two weeks, the mainstream media have been screaming the news that Kassim Ahmad had lost in his attempt to get leave to sue the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Syariah Chief Prosecutor and the Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI). It is as if they were gleeful that Kassim Ahmad had initially lost in the High Court and then failed to get a stay in the Court of Appeal.

The Malay media, especially Utusan Malaysia, portrayed that Kassim Ahmad will finally meet his doom in the Syariah Court for “menghina Islam”. That immediately made the already controversial Kassim Ahmad Islam’s Public Enemy No.1 in Malaysia.

But what stunned me most was that the Malay Muslim public was even quicker to label the counsel whoRosli Dahlan acted for Kassim Ahmad as also “bersubahat” or an accomplice to an enemy of Islam. Thus it was that my young friend Lawyer Rosli Dahlan who acts for Kassim Ahmad ended up being painted negatively as if he too was an enemy of Islam. I know Rosli to be a deeply religious person, and that such remarks would hurt him.

What most people do not realize is that Rosli is the 1st batch of the law graduates of the International Islamic University (IIU). I know Rosli is proud of his alma mater and fiercely loyal to the concept of justice taught by his mentor, the late Professor Tan Sri Ahmad Ibrahim.

I know that because on the occasions that I get to speak to him about civil rights including when we had lunch with the former US Ambassador John R Mallot, Rosli was passionate about the Rule of Law and justice and insisted that these two concepts are not just Islamic concepts but are the demands of the Syariah. John and I found that very refreshing that a UIA graduate is not insisting on the importance of implementing Hudud but was more concerned about the justice that an Islamic system would bring.

That gave me an insight as to why Rosli would defend Kassim Ahmad and persevered even as he faced initial failures when the High Court rejected his bid to seek Judicial Review against the Minister Agama, the Chief Prosecutor and JAWI. But today is a different story.

Today, most alternative media reported that Rosli succeeded in persuading the Court of Appeal that Kassim Ahmad should be given leave to challenge Minister Agama, the Chief Prosecutor and JAWI. Today, the Court of Appeal unanimously directed the High Court to hear the judicial review application filed by scholar -researcher and public intellectual Kassim Ahmad.

Today, Rosli perseverance in fighting for Kassim’s case paid off. Today, Rosli won against the A-G in Kassim Ahmad’s case (Malaysiakini’s report below).

But, one of the reporters also whispered something to me that many people may have forgotten. This is the end of Ramadan. In 2007, at this time of Ramadan, Rosli was brutalized by the MACC and that started his on-going battles since then with the AG and others whom he called the “rogues in government”.

What the reporter whispered to me was that after Judge Vazeer Alam ruled that the AG is not immuned from legal action brought by Rosli, A-G Gani Patail has been avoiding going to trial. And yesterday, A-G Gani Patail succeeded in getting a Stay Order so that Rosli’s case against A-G Gani Patail and 11 others will not see the light of to trial. READ : http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/a-g-gani-patail-is-not-above-the-law/

I was sad for Rosli, here he is successfully fighting Kassim Ahmad’s case, but , unknown to many he suffers another personal tragedy when his own case against AG Gani Patail cannot go on. But I know Rosli, he will not yield. He will not surrender. He will persevere. He is a fighter and I know he will fight to the end until he thinks justice has been served!

____________________________________

Malaysiakini article on Kassim Ahmad’s Judicial Review bid

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/269747

High Court must hear scholar’s review bid

by Hafiz Yatim@www.malaysiakini.com (07-24-14)

The Court of Appeal in a unanimously decision today ordered the High Court inKualaLumpur to hear the judicial review application filed by scholar Kassim Ahmad.In ruling that the civil court has jurisdiction to hear matters pertaining to questionable actions by Islamic religious authorities, the appellate court ordered the case to be remitted to the High Court to hear its merits.kassim-ahmadJustice Balia Yusof Wahi, who led the three-member panel, did not make an order as to costs. Sitting with him were Justice Mohtaruddin Baki and Justice Rohana Yusof.

Justice Balia said the court was satisfied that Kassim had passed the low threshold in establishing a prima facie case for the judicial review to be heard.He said the application related to the defendant (the religious authorities), being a public body, for initiating proceeding against Kassim, after he was charged under the Syariah Criminal Offences (FT) Act.

Appellant should not be shut off from remedy’

“The High Court judge concurred (in her judgment) that the issue is not confined solely to jurisdiction. The appellant is challenging the enforcement and administration of a public body. On this, the appellant should not be totally shut off from his remedy for judicial review and from ventilating the challenges,” the Judge said.The court, Justice Balia said, is also guided by the 1988 Supreme Court decision in the case of Mamat Daud, that an offence against an Islamic precept can be challenged by way of judicial review. “We therefore allow the appeal and order is granted for leave (permission) to hear the merits. We set aside High Court order (that it does not have jurisdiction),” he ruled.

Kassim, was represented by Rosli Dahlan , Bahari Yeow and Ahmad Khubayb, while senior Federal counsel Nor Hisham Ismail appeared for the Attorney-General’s Chambers.  Rosli also applied to the appellate court for a stay of Syariah High Court proceedings against Kassim, but this was objected to by Nor Hisham.

Following this, Justice Balia said he would order that an early date be fixed by the High Court. High Court judge Justice Zaleha Yusof on July 14 rejected Kassim’s application for a judicial review, following a preliminary objection by the Attorney-General’s Chambers that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Kassim, 81, named Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom, the Chief Syariah Prosecutor of the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI)  and the Malaysian government as respondents when he filed the judicial review application last month.

He complained that JAWI acted overzealously in breaking down the door of his house in Kulim, Kedah, to arrest him and take him to Kuala Lumpur in March this year.

JAWI has not authority in Kedah’

The octogenarian complained that JAWI had no authority to make the arrest as it  should be confined to the Federal Territory and the fatwa against his book was only applicable there and not in Kedah.

Kassim was charged in the Syariah High Court in Putrajaya on March 27 for with deriding Islam, under Section 7(b) of the Syariah Offences (Federal Territories) Enactment 1997, in his talk at the Yayasan Kepimpinan Perdana seminar, which was organised by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya in February.

The scholar is charged with stating that people appear to idolise Prophet Muhammad and that the aurat of a woman does not include her hair. He is also charged under Section 9 of the same enactment with violating the instructions of the religious authorities in delivering those views and for citing two books he authored, which have been banned by the Federal Territories Islamic authorities.

On May 6, the authorities levelled another charge against Kassim, but the charge was not read out in court when recording his plea.

In his judicial review application, Kassim is seeking several declarations: to quash the actions taken by JAWI, which includes the issue of the warrant of arrest against him; to set aside the charges he faces; to compel JAWI to give him the relevant documents pertaining to the charge; and to stop the authorities from prosecuting him.

He also sought a declaration that JAWI’s action was contrary to the Federal Constitution and a declaration that the Federal Territory fatwa is only applicable to those who live there and not in Kedah.
________________________________

Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy


July 24, 2014

Asia Pacific |​NYT Now. http://www.nytimes.com

Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Intervention on Flight MH 17 Pays Off

by Keith Bradsher, Chris Buckley and David M. Herszenhorn, July 23, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — It wasn’t an aide or a diplomat on the phone with pro-Russian rebels, trying to get them to relinquish the bodies and the “black boxes” from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 in eastern Ukraine — it was the leader of Malaysia himself.

najib and his deputyMalaysia’s Prime Minister and His Deputy. Muhiyuddin Yassin

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia played an unusual personal role, holding a series of cellphone conversations with a rebel leader and then coaching a Malaysian colonel on what to say as he passed through nearly a dozen rebel checkpoints on his way to the crash scene, according to a person who was with the prime minister much of the time.

Mr. Najib’s success has at least temporarily restored his standing at home, where his government was battered by accusations of incompetence following the disappearance in March of another Malaysia Airlines jet, Flight MH 370. The arrival of most of the bodies and the flight data recorders from Flight MH 17 at a Ukrainian military base on Tuesday brought an outpouring of relief and praise in Malaysia.

But Mr. Najib’s willingness to negotiate directly with Alexander Borodai, the rebel leader, has prompted disquiet outside the country about whether the prime minister had lent unwarranted legitimacy to a man the Ukrainian government has condemned as a terrorist.

Malaysian officials say Mr. Najib established a rapport with Mr. Borodai over the weekend, and finally reached an agreement with him on Monday for handing over the remains and the recorders, which the rebels had taken from the crash site, in territory they control near the Russian border. The plane, a Boeing 777-200 with 298 aboard, was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was struck by an antiaircraft missile on July 17.

Opposition politicians in Malaysia who had excoriated Mr. Najib through the spring over Flight MH 370 endorsed his actions on Wednesday at a special session of Parliament and in a series of earlier statements. A senior opposition politician, Lim Kit Siang, wrote on his blog that the prime minister “is to be commended for the breakthrough with the handover of the two black boxes.” And Lim Guan Eng, the Secretary-Ggeneral of the Democratic Action Party, a major opposition bloc, said that his party was “willing to stand together with the federal government to support their efforts to bring back the bodies to their families.”

Officials in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, insisted that Mr. Najib’s arrangement with Mr. Borodai did not involve any promise of formal diplomatic recognition or payment to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Political analysts said that Mr. Najib’s domestic political bonanza depended partly on that remaining true.

“If it emerges that there are issues behind this deal, then things will be seen in a slightly different way,” said Bridget Welsh, a senior Research Associate at National Taiwan University who specializes in Malaysian politics.

The Malaysian delegation in Ukraine incurred the anger of many Ukrainians by using the honorific “excellency” in referring to Mr. Borodai, who styles himself the leader of a breakaway republic. But, at least in public, Mr. Najib has not used the term, referring to the rebel leader only as “Mr. Borodai.”

Few Malaysians have followed the Ukrainian conflict in detail, so the question of legitimizing Mr. Borodai, who is a Russian citizen, has barely been raised here. The overwhelming priority has been recovering the bodies of the 43 Malaysians who were on Flight MH17, including two infants — an especially sensitive matter in a mainly Muslim country where prompt and proper burial of the dead is a strong religious imperative.

“Over here, people don’t care how the deal was done,” said James Chin, a Professor of Political Science at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Monash University. “All they care is that the bodies are coming back, so that the families have closure.”

But, Mr. Chin said, Mr. Najib’s political boost might not last long. When he announced the deal earlyTuesday morning, Mr. Najib predicted that the bodies of Malaysians would be in their families’ hands by the end of Ramadan, which in Malaysia will be Sunday. But Dutch and Australian officials now say that it could take weeks or months to identify the remains, which are first being flown to a laboratory in the Netherlands.

MH17 Crash Site2

“Now he’s smelling like roses, but I suspect it’ll end in tears,” Mr. Chin said of Mr. Najib.The Prime Minister sharpened his criticism of the initial difficulties in recovering the bodies and data recorders in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, but he continued to refrain from assigning blame for the downing of the aircraft.

For Mr. Najib, the loss of a second Malaysia Airlines jet in less than five months is an ordeal that began when he received a call at his Kuala Lumpur home late last Thursday telling him that Flight MH 17 had disappeared from radar. The person who was with him for much of that night, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a ban on commenting publicly about the Prime Minister’s private activities, said that Mr. Najib immediately summoned officials to meet him at an emergency response center at the capital’s airport.

Airport guards outside the response center were not prepared for the appearance of the prime minister’s motorcade, with its escort of armed guards on motorcycles, and initially refused to let it pass, while they tried to check with superiors by telephone, the person said. The prime minister’s security detail cut the wait short by bodily lifting the guards and carrying them to the side of the road, and then pushing up the heavy gate blocking the entrance road.

Mr. Najib was given Mr. Borodai’s cellphone number by someone whom Mr. Borodai trusted and who vouched for Mr. Najib, according to Malaysian officials. They declined to say whether the intermediary who set up the initial call was Russian.

Malaysia has long sought to avoid conspicuously taking sides in the rivalries among the United States, Russia and China, and many of its citizens are wary of American influence. While the Netherlands is a member of NATO, which many pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine see as a threat, Malaysia is a distant Southeast Asian nation that has stayed largely silent on the turmoil there.

Russia has invested years of effort in building up its relations with Malaysia, in which aviation has played a major role for more than a decade. Malaysia agreed to buy 18 Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia in May 2003, in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. In exchange, Russia agreed to train and transport to space Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon by profession who traveled to the International Space Station in 2007 and became a celebrated national hero, not least because he observed the Ramadan fasts in space under the guidance of a large team of religious experts.

At a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin in Vladivostok in 2012, Mr. Najib noted that he personally oversaw the deal for the Sukhoi jets, and added, “The time has come for us to broaden the relationship and to look into new areas of cooperative relationship with you.” The deal to recover the recorders and remains from Flight MH 17 may be the richest political dividend Mr. Najib has yet reaped from that relationship.

Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley reported from Kuala Lumpur, and David M. Herszenhorn from Kiev, Ukraine

 

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results


July 24, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results

Speech at the Emergency Session of Parliament (July 23, 2014)

Prime Minister Najib in ParliamentPrime Minister Najib Addressing MPs on MH17

“No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia…

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire”.–PM Najib Razak

MR Speaker Sir,

At about 11pm on Thursday, July 17, 2014, corresponding to 19 Ramadan, 1435, Hijrah, a date that will not be easily forgotten, I received a telephone call from the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof, about MH17.

As it turned out, even before the MH370 tragedy had abated, the unwelcome MH17 tragedy had happened.With divine provision, a tragic event had taken place. The world, in general, and Malaysians, in particular, were shocked by the unexpected tragedy of the reported crash of a Boeing 777-200 commercial aircraft of Malaysia Airlines, flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

In less than two hours, I arrived at the MAS operations rooms at KLIA (KL International Airport), along with several ministers. We were briefed by the MAS management on what had happened. Without wasting any time, I was in touch with several world leaders, among them President Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

At about 2am, I decided to send a special team to the crash site. Then, at about 5am, I called a special press conference to inform Malaysians and the rest of the world about what was happening at that time.

For the information of this august house, the flight had left (Amsterdam) at about 12.15pm local time and was scheduled to arrive at KLIA at 6.10am Malaysian time. The flight had on board 298 people, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew (members). Forty-three of them, including two infants, were Malaysians.  Malaysia Airlines confirmed having been informed by the Ukraine Air Traffic Control that it lost contact with flight MH17 at 10.15pm local time, about 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Message of Condolence

On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed profound sadness over the tragedy that had befallen the passengers and crew of flight MH17.

 I also extended condolences and profound sympathy as well, especially to all the family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims. It is hoped that all of them will remain steadfast and resolute in facing this most challenging moment of grief.

The government also declared that from 18 to 21 July, 2014, the national flag will be flown at half mast nationwide.Let us Muslims say the Al-Fatihah and the non-Muslims, observe a moment’s silence.

Important Facts

Some important facts for the scrutiny of this august house.

 Fact No. 1: The total number of deaths. For your information, Malaysia Airlines listed the passengers and crew based on nationality. The updated list as at July 18, 2014, based on nationality is as follows:

Netherlands — 192

Malaysia — 43 (including 15 crew and two infants)

Australia — 27

Indonesia — 12 (including one infant)

United Kingdom — 10 (including one dual national from UK/South Africa)

Germany — four

Belgium — four

The Philippines — three

The United States — one (dual national United States/Netherlands)

Canada — one

New Zealand — one

This brings the number of people killed to 298, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew. The number includes 83 innocent children and three infants.

Fact No. 2: The MAS flight path was certified safe. As for the flight path used by MAS, I have to explain that the flight path of MH17 was one that was certified safe and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or ICAO, as well as Ukraine, the air space of which it traversed. Furthermore, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, had also stated that the air space traversed by the flight was safe.

For example, 15 of the 16 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines used this route to get to Ukraine. European airlines also used the same flight path and traversed the same air space. In fact, several hours before the tragic incident, several commercial aircraft of several Asian nations also used the same flight path.

For your information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted a report from Eurocontrol, 400 commercial flights, among them 150 international flights, traverse the air space over eastern Ukraine daily. In fact, two days before the tragedy, 75 flights of various airlines used the flight path that was used by flight MH17. Even on that day, flight MH17 did not receive any instruction to alter the flight path.

Fact No. 3: MAS flight in good physical and technical condition. As for the physical and technical condition of the flight, MAS issued a statement on July 18, 2014, verifying that flight MH17 was in good condition. MAS also confirmed that all systems of the flight were in good working order, particularly the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and the transponder.

Fact No. 4: International Law. The shooting down of the aircraft was not only a cruel act, but one that violated the principles of international law by way of the Convention on International Civil Aviation or better known as the Chicago Convention and which is recognised by the United Nations as per Resolution 1067 (1996).

In this matter, the UN had unanimously approved a resolution to urge the separatists to provide unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. It also called for all military activity, including by the armed groups, to be stopped immediately in the vicinity of the site to enable the international investigation to be conducted in safety.

I have instructed the Attorney-General to look into this matter thoroughly to ensure that any action to be taken by Malaysia is in accordance with the international law applied in matters of such a nature.

Malaysia’s Demands and Call

For the information of honourable MPs (Members of Parliament), on July 17, 2014, several hours after the crash of MH17, officials in the United States and Ukraine claimed that the flight was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

If these claims are true, we strongly condemn this inhuman, uncivilised, barbaric, savage and irresponsible act by those who are believed to have shot down the ill-fated flight MH17.Nevertheless, for the moment, we are not pointing fingers at anyone until the facts have been obtained.

I am made to understand that the region where the tragedy occurred is under the control of a separatist group. Nevertheless, I felt angry and disappointed over two matters:

Firstly, when I was informed that they did not regard the crash site as a prohibited area and did not adhere to the international standard practice of ensuring that evidence is not removed or impaired.

Secondly, the delay in attending to the tragedy, which resulted in the failure to accord the bodies of the victims the honour and dignity they rightly deserve.

In addition, Malaysia called on the ICAO, as the guardian of civil aviation security worldwide, to issue a resolution strongly condemning the attack on flight MH17, as had been done in cases of a similar nature. Furthermore, the shooting down of the flight MH17 commercial aircraft is a most cruel act and a brutal and violent crime.

As stated in Annex 13 of the ICAO Convention, the government of Ukraine has to assume responsibility to undertake an investigation as to the cause of the crash. A report on the investigation has to be given to the next of kin of the victims as provided for in the ICAO guidelines.

Of course, Malaysia would offer unwavering support to participate in this investigation. For the record, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, and Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, were among those who had gone to Kiev, Ukraine.

Malaysia also welcomes the call for an investigation by an independent international team on the crash and urges all quarters to cooperate to ensure that the probe can be completed. We demand and support an independent international investigation into the tragedy. Those responsible for this tragedy have to be brought to justice.

Last Friday, we sent a plane with a special team of 133 people, comprising a SMART (Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue) team, technical officers, a medical team and Jakim officers to the crash site. A special investigation team was also set up, comprising representatives from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States.

MAS sent 40 staff to Amsterdam to provide assistance and moral support to the families of the victims.Furthermore, I received many telephone calls from world leaders who expressed their support and sympathy and promised to extend aid in whatever form that they can. On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed thanks for the support they and the world community have extended to Malaysia.

MH17 Crash Site 3The Crash Site

Three Successful Deals

In principle, the treatment accorded to the bodies of the victims was wrong, but following consultation with the head of the separatist group, we managed to avert further damage. It is unnecessary for us to announce every action taken. Sometimes we must work quietly in the service of a better outcome, especially when negotiating with the head of a separatist group, with the desire to ensure that the bodies of the victims can be retrieved and given a decent burial, even though time has passed.

On Monday, July 21, 2014, under difficult circumstances, I was forced to make a risky decision in the best interests of the bodies of the victims of the tragedy and to be certain of the reality of what had happened.In this matter, I consulted Alexander Borodai, the head of the pro-Russia separatist group, because the region is under their control. The consultation yielded three deals:

First, all the recovered bodies of the MH17 tragedy victims, estimated to be 282, were taken from Torev to Kharkiv in Ukraine by train before being flown to Amsterdam, along with six members of the Malaysian recovery team at 1am on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, and arriving there at 11am local time. Following forensic work in Amsterdam, the bodies of all Malaysians will be brought back to our country as soon as possible. I undertook to do this and will do everything I can because I had promised the families of the victims when I met them that, as far as possible, the victims can be laid to rest before Syawal. Only then will the families of the victims have peace of mind.

Second, the two black boxes of flight MH17 were handed over to the Malaysian team in Donetsk at 9pm Ukraine time on Monday, July 21, 2014. Without the black boxes, it will be difficult for us to carry on with the investigation. The black boxes have been handed over to the investigation team led by the Netherlands and will be sent to London for further investigation.

Third, all the members of the independent international team of investigators are to be given access to the crash site and a guarantee of safety to undertake a comprehensive probe into the MH17 tragedy. However, this has yet to be fully realised.

Solidarity and Unity

MH17We Malaysians Mourn the Loss of Lives on MH17 and MH370

In fact, this has been a very tragic calendar (year) for us. Nevertheless, in this difficult period in the month of Ramadan, we must strengthen our solidarity and unity in facing this situation. God willing.  No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia.

Therefore, do not engage in any speculation that can cause embarrassment to the victims of the tragedy and their families. This is not the time to splash on the social media stories which can be factually wrong or false.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Opposition leader (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and the Gelang Patah MP (Lim Kit Siang) and the leaders of other political parties for having likened the MH17 tragedy to genocide and for calling for the murderers to be brought to justice.

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire.

Conclusion

Although we have done a lot, much more remains to be done. We may be up against challenges and various obstacles, but we will never give up halfway.

As such, we urge that the investigation must be conducted by an independent team to ascertain the cause of the crash of flight MH17. Some questions demand immediate answers, such as to whether the aircraft was fired upon with a guided missile, who was the perpetrator of the crime and what was the motive for the attack.

Furthermore, was the shooting premeditated, with the intention to shoot down a commercial flight, or a mistake? All of these require clear and authentic proof.

No matter what we do, we cannot bring back the dead. Imagine how a 1-year-old child will grow up without the love of its father, namely Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi, the co-pilot who perished in the tragedy. More saddening is that the mother has lost her husband.

What about the fate and future of Amarpal Singh? How depressed will this medical student be whose cost of study had been borne by his father who was a victim of the tragedy?Just imagine what grandmother Jamillah Noriah Abang Anuar of Kuching, Sarawak, would be feeling, having lost six members of her beloved family.

Personally, I am able to feel what they are going through. My step-grandmother was one of the victims. More saddening is the fact the world has lost a group of scientists who were involved in AIDS and HIV research. These people were on their way to attend the International AIDS Conference in Australia.In fact, there are many more stories that I cannot mention here. For example, the Netherlands lost 192 of its people in the tragedy. The number is very large when taken as a ratio of the population of that country.

I am of the opinion that geopolitical upheavals do not benefit anyone. They just make people suffer when they lose their loved ones and the world stands to lose competent human beings.

As for the families of the victims of the MH17 tragedy, I wish to tell them not to be worried because, so long as we do not have the answers, we will not stop seeking the truth. No matter how difficult it may be, we will demand justice for the sake of the families of the victims.

Let us walk through this difficult time together, united in grief. Hopefully, God will give us assistance and enlightenment for a solution in the end.Above all, during this blessed final days of Ramadan, let us indulge in more prayers and hope that God will guide us to a solution through our efforts. We must believe that any period of hardship that we pass through will be followed closely by a period of ease, as set by God.

 http://www.nst.com.my/node/16916 –BERNAMA

dm-1205Our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has shown that when he takes charge, matters can be resolved expeditiously. As in all things, leadership with decisive action matters. I congratulate him for a task well done. He must now know that he has to take charge in times of crisis. More of the same, Sir, when crisis and tragedy beckons. Take charge and Malaysians will stand with you. Together, we shall overcome as we Malaysians are a strong people in body and spirit.–Din Merican

 

On Secularism


July 24, 2014

On Secularism

By Dr. Wong Chin Huat@www.themalaysianinsider.com (07-23-14)

Dr.Wong Chin HuatSecularism has been seen largely demonised amongst Muslims in Malaysia but widely embraced by Muslims from Indonesia in the east to Tunisia in the west. Does religion explain this stark difference?

While theologians may offer nuanced ideational explanations, allow me to offer a simple analysis from the perspective of group competition and power relations. Secularism is fundamentally about the impartiality of state in the religious sphere, and by derivation, full religious freedom for all. This could mean at least three things to different people.

First, it is about the relationship between the faithful and the atheists. Second, it is about the relationship between the faithfusl of different religions. Finally, it is about the faithfuls of different denominations within the same religions.

Secularism has been a dirty word for Malaysian Muslims largely because of the two legacies: the Kemalist legacy in Turkey and the British legacy in Malaya.

The Kemalist Legacy

Beyond Malaysia, hostility is the natural reaction of many Muslims to the militant secularism espoused by Kemal Atartuk. In Kemalist Turkey, generations of religious Muslims were suppressed and marginalised because of their faith, until the recent rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The state does not only refuse to be partial to practising Muslims but has become partial against them. Like atheist states, militantly or absolutely secular states see religion as a threat to their own existence. This is completely different from the past Muslim Empires – not unlike most polities with an established faith – which were explicitly partial to Muslims.

Perhaps more upsetting for many Muslims is that, in the making of Turkish nationalists, Kemal Atartuk denied Muslims both inside and outside of Turkey their political identity as Muslims protected and united by a Caliphate.

On the ruins of Ottoman Empire, the last Caliphate which met its end soon after its humiliating defeat in the First World War, Atartuk wanted to radically Westernise Turkey both politically and culturally so that it could cease to be the “Sick man of Europe”.

Not unlike what was advocated by some nationalists in China, then the “Sick man of Asia”, for Atartuk, modernisation required a thorough break with one’s own cultural root and imitating the enemies.This is of course emotionally traumatising and enraging for many Muslim nationalists, for whom Islam is the symbol of resistance and political unity.

Why secularism is seen as synonymous as atheism or anti-Islam by many Muslims is then perfectly comprehensible.

The indirect British Legacy

Interestingly, the negative image of secularism may have its second root in the British colonialisation, despite the British’s conscious efforts in grooming the Anglophile, conservative and secular Malay elites. Unintended consequence if you will.

What happened? If secularism essentially means state impartiality towards citizens of different faiths, then in the context of Malaya/Malaysia, it would have to mean impartiality between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is at the heart of the 1946 question.

This becomes clearer if we compare Malaya/Malaysia, with Indonesia. There, the Dutch colonisation not only did not create a religious majority as the communal core for the future nation. It led to the emergence of Christian communities, not just in remote islands like Ambon and Flores, but also in the main island of Java, fragmenting the indigenous communities.

Secularism became the rational choice of Indonesian nationalism both during and after the colonial era. Like multi-religious India, Indonesia may break up if secularism is replaced by the explicit dominance of any faith and religious assimilation creeps into the nation-building agenda.

In Malaya, the British moved beyond the port colonies of Straits Settlements to actively intervene in the inland Malay states only as late as 1874. Taking the lesson from the religiously-triggered Indian mutiny in 1857, the British decided to opt for indirect rule in the Malay states to minimise disturbance.

In doing so, the British not only strengthened the Malay states but, through affirming the Malay rulers’ power in religious affairs and Malay custom, also religion as the ethnic boundary of the Malays. That is the historical basis of why “Malays” are by definition Muslim, as stipulated in the Article 160 of the Federal Constitution.

With the Malays being all Muslims and the non-Malays being largely non-Muslims, secularism in the sense of state impartiality towards citizens of different faiths may basically reduce the differential in citizenship rights between the Malays and non-Malays.

In other words, secularism as religious equality is inherently contradictory to the logic of building a Malay-nation, an agenda crystallised in 1946 and established two years later.

Granted, UMNO’s Anglicised, Anglophile, conservative elites led by Tunku, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein and pre-Reformasi Mahathir never wanted an Islamic state.But they only upheld secularism as intra-Muslim religious freedom – in the sense of minimum penetration of the state by religious authorities, but not interfaith religious equality.

In fact, for Sabah and Sarawak, 51 years of Malaysia has been largely a process of erosion of secularism to serve the agenda of Malay nationalism, where non-Muslim Bumiputeras are to gradually become Muslim Bumiputeras and eventually Malays. Aggressive conversion of non-Muslims into Islam under Tun Mustapha’s USNO and Harris Salleh’s Berjaya was much despised by Christian Bumiputeras in Sabah.

Years before the word Allah became an issue, non-Muslim Bumiputeras had complained about religion-based discrimination in public sector employment and the enjoyment of Bumiputera privileges.

Many “liberal-lifestyled” Muslims supported UMNO in the past because it stood for intra-Muslim religious freedom, as compared to policing of Muslims advocated by hard-line Islamists in PAS. The question is: if secularism as interfaith equality must be weakened by the day to maintain the regime, how long can intra-Muslim religious freedom remain?

The intra-Christian origin of Secularism

Secularism has no future in Malaysia if it remains a dirty word and not a glorious cause for the Malay-Muslims. But should Malay-Muslims uphold secularism? Can secularism actually benefit the Malay-Muslims?

The answer is a clear “No” if secularism is still seen in the lens of Kemalist legacy, that it means de-Islamisation for the sake of modernisation. But why should secularism mean the denial of one’s civilisational root? Where the Arab Spring started, Tunisia under an Islamist government has just adopted a secular constitution and guaranteed religious freedom and equal citizenship.

From an ethno-nationalist perspective, the answer is also a clear “No” if this is all about giving the minorities equality.But this is where the history of secularism in Christian Europe should be revisited.

Secularism was not born out of the need of Christians to deal with the pagans, Jews or Muslims, or to grant these infidels religious freedom. Religious tolerance was not a virtue of Christians in the medieval Europe. The Jews were treated much better in the Muslim Empires than the Christian States. Neither was secularism established to advance atheism.

Secularism was much driven by faith. Rivalry between the kings and the Catholic Church and the growth of secular thought and capitalism did not turn Christian Europeans into atheists. These forces only divided Christians into Catholics and Protestants, many of whom died to defend and advance their faiths.

Today’s rigid view of secularism as absolute separation of state and religion is too much rooted in post-Revolution France, which influenced Kemalist Turkey.

Some one and a half centuries before that, the order of proto-secularism was actually laid by the 1648 Westphalia Treaty to end religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.

The treaty, on which today’s international system of sovereign nation-states are founded, affirmed the “religious freedom” of both the states and their subjects. The kings and princes were free to decide the official state of their polities, but their subjects were also free to choose their faith and entitled to equal treatment before the law. Religious disputes were resolved through secular procedures that excluded religious reasoning.

Secularism thus freed Christians of different denominations from unnecessarily deaths in the name of faith, and later by extension, provided for religious freedom for non-Christians including Muslims. While Christian Europeans later continued to die over nationalism and ideologies in the centuries to come, the Westphalian secularism removed religion from the list of reasons to kill.

One only needs to look at today’s European Union to see the benefit of secularism. Can the European Union simply be possible if the states need to choose between Catholicism, various denominations of Protestantism and Orthodoxy as her official religion?

Ever wonder what would happen to Palestine if the Arab League can be united like the EU? Ironically, the self-styled Caliphate of the Islamic State (formerly Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) actually hopes to unite the Muslims by slaughtering all who oppose their rule – the antithesis of secularism.

Hundreds more times of Muslims had to die in the wars in Syria and Iraq – hell will break loose if Saudi Arabia and Iran directly enter the battlefields – because these Muslim states were, are and can be partial either to Sunnis or Shias or Alawites. Muslims die and suffer, not so much over the theological differences as for each group’s survival.

Coming back to home, can Westphalian secularism benefit the Malay-Muslims? Yes, if the goal is to have the space to be both more pious and more united, as per the Amman Message, which recognises as valid all the main schools of Islamic thought – Sunni, Shia, Ibadhi, Ashari, Sufi and Salafi?

After all, spirituality is about what we can believe while dominance is about what others cannot believe, lest we get confused.

 

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17


July 22, 2014

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17

Close to 500 people flooded the roads near the embassies of Russia, Ukraine and also the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur today in a BN-organised demonstration to seek justice for the victims of the MH17 tragedy. Clad in black t-shirts which read “Justice 4 MH17″, the protestors also included members of several NGOs including right-wing NGO Perkasa, reports Malaysiakini.

Lest we forget about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Israeli aggression. There must be justice for them too. We criticize Russia but we forget that the United States is supporting Israel and US weapons are being deployed in Gaza. Russia in turn supports the Bashir Al–Assad regime. What is the difference? It is the big power game of using proxies to fight their wars. Please listen to Chris Hedges in this video (below).–Din Merican

MH17: Options available for Malaysia


July 22, 2014

MH17: Options available for Malaysia

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

MH17 Crash Site 3

MOUNTING evidence points to Ukrainian separatist and Russian responsibility in the shooting down of MH17. And, in­­deed, video shots as clear as daylight show the Russian-supported rebels stealing and looting at the wreckage, tampering with and era­sing eviden­ce of the grisly deed, carrying away the black box – and unconscionably carting away and refusing to hand over the dead bo­dies for identification and decent burial.

Given our inability to strike back hard, the options Malaysia has in response to the downing of MH17 are limited to diplomatic and legal measures. To make these measures effective, the plan of action must be well prepared: form an alliance of victim nations and pursue the perpetrators vigorously.

The options Malaysia has, given limited power and influence, will be subjected to international geopolitical considerations and the vagaries of international legal process. How­ever, it does not mean we are po­wer­less to do anything except to confine ourselves to big, loud statements.

We can seek the support of kindred spirits to bring to justice the perpetrators who downed MH17 with the BUK (SA-11) surface-to-air missile. An alliance of victim na­­­-tions, comprising countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, should be formed. States willing to support the investigation into the horrible act of terror, even if it was a mistake, should be engaged.

This alliance should be collecting its own evidence from now. It actions should not wait for an international investigation which looks unlikely to be unimpeded. The United Nations can condemn and call for an international investigation. These resolutions, as we know, are more often than not disregarded.

MH17 Crash Site 4

Free access to the area where the wreckage and mutilated bodies are strewn has been denied. Evidence from the crashed plane has been re­­moved. Even if the black box would only register the explosion when the aircraft was struck and even if the BUK missile self-destructs on impact, there are voice and communications recordings which would be relevant. So why has the black box been taken away?

At the same time, people in the rebel-held territory of the Ukraine have looted the wreckage, the common crime of thievery following a heinous crime against humanity.

All these acts – from the firing of the missile to the removal of evidence to the denial of access to the looting – violate clear rules of international law. Even if it cannot be positively identified who fired the missile and rebels who have trespassed the law will not be released, the available evidence points the finger at Russia.

Russia provides the arms. Russia protects the rebels. Russia helps them violate international law and the sanctity of the victims. Russia calls the shots.The intercepted conversations, first on the firing of the missile and its aftermath and next on the remo­val of evidence and bodies at Russian behest should be tested for their authenticity.

When confirmed, it is good evidence to go by in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice. American intelligence reports now show the trajectory of the missile and, subsequently, the transportation of remaining missiles back into Russian territory.

The Chicago convention of the International Civil Aviation Organi­sation (ICAO) provides clear rules on the conduct of investigation, on the safety of civil air flight and against the tampering of evidence.

The Ukrainian government, although it does not control the expanse of territory where the aircraft came down, has been making numerous statements about the removal of evidence and rebel use with Russian aid of the BUK missiles, which had downed at least two of its military aircraft. It should hand over what evidence it has.

In the case where Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 was shot down on September 1, 1983 by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor jet, the ICAO condemned the attack. The United States Federal Avia­­­tion Authority revoked the li­cence of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot to fly to and from the US, a denial that was not lifted until April 29, 1986.

Similar sanctions should be considered by ICAO, the US and other countries in the case of MH17 amidst the mounting evidence pointing at Russia and the consequences of its actions. There should be no fear to act against a country in the horrible wrong, which might otherwise not just get away with it but would conspire to violate further international norms of behaviour.

Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back to the Soviet Union days of lies and deceit, threat and bluster, coupled with his own megalomania. Putin is a bully, a thug world leaders find extremely difficult to deal with. At a meeting with Angela Merkel in 2007, his Labrador Koni was allowed in to unnerve the German Chancel­lor, who was bitten by a dog in the early years of her life.

The black arts operate at the Kremlin. It is little wonder that thuggish behaviour at the centre sends signals for drunken gangsterism among rebels Putin supports.

With KAL007, the Soviet Union suppressed evidence which was not released until eight years later, following the collapse of the communist regime. Now there is another re­gime seeking to resurrect that control of people, territories and information with no regard for the rights and lives of others. This is unacceptable.

Whatever evidence is available should be examined for the pursuit of civil damages for the acts of violation and denial. A group led by the Dutch, who suffered the most number of deaths in this act of terror, should be set up to pursue this line of action. Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation in the industry has been severely but unjustly damaged, should join in this effort to extract some measure of recompense.

More importantly, Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

It can then join forces with states such as the Netherlands and Austra­lia, who are signatories, to institute legal action against individuals and agencies in the Ukraine and Russia, who are also signatories.

Let’s be realistic. After the initial shock-horror reactions, states will return to tending to their own affairs to serve their own national interests and, in time, will not be so incensed by murderous violation of international safety, violation of laws, and acts of brazen and drunken thuggery.

Even now, despite his most welcome strong support and call for ASEAN solidarity with Malaysia, Pre­sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot be expected to put Indonesian interests second. Indeed his spokesman said Indonesian relations with Russia were excellent and there was no reason to disturb them.

The Chinese ambassador at the UN advised caution and not jumping to conclusions, as the Security Coun­cil issued a statement last Friday con­­­­demning the attack on MH17 and called, in hope more than expectation, for full, thorough and independent investiga­tion.

It would have been a diffe­rent statement if most of the passengers had been Chinese, or Chinese inte­rests were damaged and at risk. This is the way of the world. Malaysia must look after its own interests.

When it is stated we want to bring the perpetrators to justice, we must be clear on how we might get there. We should be clear about the avenues open to us and about states sharing a common interest who can be persuaded to act with us. We should determine our options and how we might realise them.

We owe it (how often this is said) to the victims and to our national airline which has suffered so much, maybe fatally this time, to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must show these are not mere words that are uttered lightly. We have the duty to protect our citizens and to ensure safe passage of our vessels in accordance with international law and practices.

The downing of MH17 is a tragedy of horrific proportions. We grieve. But we must also do something about it to get at the evil perpetrators. It is a matter of national interest and honour.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid is Visiting Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also chairman of CARI and Bank Muamalat. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone, asks Tony Gosling


July 20, 2014

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone where 10 aircraft have been shot down?

by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:06
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Put yourself in the position of a certain passenger boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight at Amsterdam for the twelve hour trip to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning.

Given a previous Malaysian flight’s mysterious disappearance it’s likely he was not the only boarding passenger who was a little nervous when he joked on social media, “If we disappear, this is what the plane looks like.”

Settling down on the flight then watching the moving map display on the seat in front, you might perhaps see the word ‘Ukraine’ edge its way across from the right of the screen. Would you not be a little uneasy in the knowledge that quite a lot of planes have been blown out of the skies there recently? That there’s a war on?

Check out David Cenciotti’s ‘Aviationist’ blog and you’ll see that 10 aircraft have been shot down in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Five MI-24 Hind and two MI-8 Hip helicopters, as well as military transport planes, one AN-2 and an AN-30. On July 8, the latest transporter, an Il-76 was shot down at Lugansk when the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine closed their airspace indefinitely to civilian aircraft. But why did the air traffic control regulators keep directing planes over eastern Ukrainian territory at higher altitudes?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but on any of hundreds of flights over Ukraine in the past month I might even have been tempted to tug the sleeve of one of the cabin staff. Asking them brusquely to get reassurance from the captain straight away that we would not be passing through the very airspace where so many planes had so recently been brought down.

So what was the plane doing there?

Malaysian Airlines was quick to point out that the Ukraine war zone had been declared ‘safe’ for them to fly over by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Was this the same authority that was party to closing Europe and the North Atlantic for almost a week for Eyjafjallajökull’s ‘volcanic ash cloud’ drifting out of Iceland? Canceling the flights of around 10 million passengers? Yet they fail to close a war zone where they know ground-to-air missiles are flying around?

I do hope ICAO Regional Director Luis Fonseca de Almeida will apologize in person to all the victims’ families before he resigns and hands himself in for questioning. Of course, this is not the only arm of the UN and other parts of global governance to be failing, crippled, and where the people appointed to run it seem to be pliable stooges rather than independent-minded enough to be up to the job? Let’s hope too that the Malaysian authorities will heed the voices in their professions warning against relying too much on help from international bodies which may be used against them.

As for who’s responsible, it’s unlikely the shooting down was a random ‘pot shot’ by Ukrainian separatists who would have nothing to gain and only further isolate themselves by such an act. There are also doubts as to whether they have access to this sort of weapon system, more advanced than any that appears to have been used so far. Which is presumably why ICAO and Malaysian Airlines thought 30,000-foot high airliners were safe from shoulder-launched missiles.

Appearing on BBC TV’s Newsnight, weapon systems expert Doug Richardson said the relatively high altitude airliners fly at offers “no protection” from what he believes was probably a former Soviet ‘Buk’ missile, developed in the 1970s, that did the dirty deed.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Shot across bows of Russian presidential jet?

Then there is the proximity of the MH17 shoot-down to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who happened to be flying home, west to east, from Brazil. Russia’s equivalent to Air Force One, the Ilyushin-96 ‘Board One’ was roughly half-an-hour’s flying time, about 200 miles (320km), behind the Malaysian plane as it passed near Warsaw just before the doomed jet entered Ukrainian airspace, which the presidential jet avoided.

As the Western powers’ anti-Russian sanctions are failing to bite and the Kiev government they back is losing on the ground, this may indicate a NATO motive for the attack. If so this sort of audacious act may also be an early test of loyalties by the West’s power elite of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. The message being, “Watch that you don’t get any troublesome ideas of making your own minds up on the matter.”

The timing of the attack is intriguing too, being the day after a historic agreement Putin signed, along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to create a BRICS World Development Bank.  Quite possibly the greatest challenge since Bretton Woods in 1944, to the dubious monopoly of the World Bank, was indeed signed on Wednesday by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

For those that muse on the obsessive nature of those that spend their lives pursuing ever more money until the day they die, there is a shocking recent history of nations and their leaders coming to a sticky end that dare to oppose the global monopoly of the petrodollar, and that of the enforcers at the World Bank and IMF.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein didn’t know what fate lay ahead when he announced in November 2000 that he was taking the first steps toward setting up a bourse, or oil exchange, which traded in euro rather than dollars. Two-and-a-half years later, weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist had been ‘found’ in his country and the bombs were raining down, Saddam and his fellow countrymen was illegally invaded under orders from Messrs. Bush and Blair and the nation plunged into the sort of chaotic hell which is now spreading like a plague around the Middle East and from which one wonders if it will ever emerge.

Similarly when debt-free Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and his shuttle diplomacy had secured agreement from enough African leaders to announce the creation of an African reserve currency, the African gold dinar, he found his country up in front of the United Nations Security Council on a fabricated charge of ‘bombing his own people’. On May 1, 2011, the weekend of William & Kate’s royal wedding in London, one of Gaddafi’s sons and three of his grandsons were blown to pieces in an airstrike and NATO began to bomb the country – blessed with the lowest infant mortality rate on the African continent – back to the Stone Age.

Although no ground troops were allowed by the UN, mercenaries were sent in, and on October 21, Gaddafi was finally executed with a bayonet up his backside. National governments in the West these days really do seem to have become an irrelevant side show when the power of the military dances to the tune of the unrestrained mega-resourced muscle of the IMF and its friends.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Why Malaysian Airlines?

‘To lose one plane may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.’ Though it might seem trite to borrow from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’, is it really pure coincidence that both this and the March ‘disappearance’ of MH370 have been with unfortunate Malaysian jets? Neither appears to have been an ‘accident’, so could both be acts of aggression, acts of war against Malaysia? If so why, and by whom?

Malaysia is a genuinely independent nation torn between East and West. Like Ukraine and so many other medium-sized independent countries, Malaysia is finding it very difficult to stay independent. As the world inches towards what many believe may become an enormous world war, brought on by the collapse of capitalism, it is becoming increasingly impossible for small and medium-sized nations to remain independent. So yes, there is likely to be pressure on the Malaysian leadership to make alliances and this, perhaps, could simply be an attempt to intimidate, to force their hand.

It’s comforting to repeat that nobody wants an economic collapse and nobody wants a world war, but it wouldn’t be the first time that ruling elites have deployed these two chestnuts as a ‘double whammy’. Making a fortune out of a crash is easy when you can see it coming and, as well as being an archaic ‘human sacrifice’ to the old gods, war is the best way to distract everybody who might be thinking of locking you up. For anyone who dares to look, the evidence is there that the US decided to step up the projection of their already ruinous military power at the time of the 9/11 attacks, probably as a reaction to the waning power of the dollar.

As Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War and of the US chapter of Veterans For Peace, said when interviewed for Venezuelan State Television, “There are no rules, this is World War III. The rule book went out the window on September 11th.[2001].”

As a regular attendee at US Marine Corps intelligence briefings Jimmy was in a position to know rather more than the West’s public, media or politicians do about how far down the mission line covert policies of the White House and Pentagon have crept.

And here’s the rub. Malaysia are one of the world’s feircest opponents of the phoney ‘war on terror’, former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman even convening a tribunal in 2011 to try Bush and Blair for war crimes. Endorsed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad the tribunal found: “Unlawful use of force threatens the world to return to a state of lawlessness. The acts of the accused were unlawful.” Malaysia has done what the UN and The Hague’s International Criminal Court dare not.

European and North American countries have realized too late in the day that only by keeping stiff exchange controls can they stay sovereign nations. Without them international finance capital will move in with infinite resources to destroy everything that stands in its way, from media to parliaments, nothing can withstand them. Even the courts now are finally about to be co-opted into the service of the tax evading transnational corporations should the secretly-negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) be signed later this year.

The courts will then be theirs to overturn any parliamentary decision the corporations don’t like, and they have been saving up lots and lots of cash to pay the very best lawyers in the world, to make sure they win.

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

No shortage of people who’ll shoot down an airliner for you

With the privatization of war in the West, points out UK charity War On Want, “repeated human rights abuses” are being “perpetrated by mercenaries, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians and torture. Unaccountable and unregulated, these companies are complicit in human rights abuses across the world, putting profit before people and fanning the flames of war.”

So if you want somebody to fight a nuclear war, conduct a massacre, or shoot down an airliner for you nowadays you can buy those services on the free market. The proliferation of private military companies since 9/11 suits the military industrial complex very nicely, thank you.

But how has the world come to the point where such companies have state protection and business is, quite literally, booming?

The problem again, is the global banking giants who have been shown in court, time and time again, to be hand in glove with the intelligence services and international drug cartels. Whether it’s Iran Contra with drugs flying one way and guns the other, or HSBC’s piffling $2 billion fine in 2012 for money laundering, they are not just criminals who are above the law, they are now shaping it in their own private interest.

It is not just the Asian, Pacific and South American power blocs they seek to control who will be watching them, but their own people, those they depend on to survive. With every evil act they think they’ve got away with, they are painting themselves into a corner as the Trans-Atlantic edifice they are trying to control crumbles beneath them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy


July 20, 2014

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy

 

MH17

 
COMMENT: by John Ling@www.malaysiakini.com

“In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?”–John Ling

When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, he had done so on the back of a campaign that promised hope and change. Among other things, he urged a ‘reset’ in relations with Russia.

This would be the cornerstone of his new administration – a radical approach in ‘soft diplomacy’. One designed to defuse tensions with America’s former adversary and pave the way for warmer ties. This was a monumental undertaking, but with a young and vibrant president now in the White House, it looked like it might actually have a chance of succeeding.

In Geneva in March 2009, we witnessed what appeared to be an initial thawing in relations between America and Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with the cameras of the world looking on, she presented him with a big red button made out of plastic.

The word ‘reset’ was prominently stenciled on it, accompanied by a Russian translation. However, in an unfortunate gaffe – perhaps an omen of things to come – Clinton’s aides had messed up the Cyrillic words on the button.

Instead of ‘perezagruzka’, which would have been the correct translation, the one that was used instead was ‘peregruzka’, which meant ‘overcharged’. It was an embarrassing mistake, but Lavrov appeared to be a good sport, laughing off the error.

Good start short-lived

Around the same time, President Obama noted that Vladimir Putin (below) had recently stepped down as President of Russia, and in his place, Dmitri Medvedev had ascended to the highest office in the land. Like Obama, Medvedev was a former academic and of a similar age.

Naturally enough, Obama perceived the new Russian President to be a transformational figure, and it was in that spirit that he wrote a secret letter and instructed a trusted aide to hand‑deliver it to Moscow. In the letter, Obama expressed a willingness to make American concessions in return for Russian goodwill.

In an age of wireless communication, this unorthodox approach was a throwback to simpler times. Nothing short of remarkable. In Malaysian culture, we might call this ‘giving face’.

In July 2009, Obama, encouraged by Medvedev’s optimistic reply, flew into Moscow for his first official visit to the nation. The two leaders met in congenial fashion. They seemed like a natural fit for each other. And a grinning Obama took the opportunity to solidify America’s commitment to a reset in relations with Russia. All in all, it looked like an unqualified triumph for hope and change. Not bad for a president who had been in office for barely six months.

Russian reset in tatters

Five years on, however, Obama’s Russian reset is in tatters, and the world we find ourselves in now is a far cry from that buoyant period. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has regained presidential power, and he is currently pursuing an agenda of ultra-nationalist expansion. A former KGB officer in his youth, he has spent a lifetime perfecting the black arts of murder and intimidation.

As a result, Russia today has become a nightmarish country. It’s a place where free speech is crushed,MH17 Crash site 2 political dissidents are assassinated, and government‑sanctioned thugs roam the streets, attacking everyone from homosexuals to foreign students.

Putin has placed the whole of Russia under his iron will, and he is now driven to expand its influence abroad. Soft diplomacy is not what runs in this man’s veins. Rather, he craves the aggressive projection of power, Soviet‑style. The invasion by proxy of Eastern Ukraine and the senseless shoot‑down of Flight MH17 serves as a testament to his vision.

While the world mourns this horrific tragedy, President Obama, for his part, is looking increasingly haggard. Right‑wing critics have savaged his attempt at soft diplomacy with Russia, calling it naive and idealistic. They claim it never should have been attempted in the first place. The Russians, it would seem, have perceived Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness, and they have since exploited it to the fullest.

Malaysia blissfully ignorant

In Malaysia, most of us have remained blissfully ignorant of the storm that’s been brewing for the past couple of years. Even as Putin’s brand of ultra-nationalist fervour has taken hold, we have chosen to invest in the Russian aerospace, oil and gas industries. We have sent our children to study the Russian health sciences. And even after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, our political leaders did not respond with a note of protest. No one had the gumption to call a spade a spade.

But now, like it or not, we have been drawn into Vladimir Putin’s dysfunctional world order. It’s not what we asked for. It’s certainly not what we wanted. But innocent blood has been spilled; hundreds of civilians have been murdered with no warning.

And to make the atrocity worse, Putin loyalists have interfered with the site of the crash, making a fair and transparent investigation all but impossible. In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?

JOHN LING is a Malaysian‑born author based in New Zealand. You can find out more about him and his work at johnling.net

 

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter


July 18, 2014

The Negara-Ku Charter

On a daily basis, we are confronted with serious challenges that have begun to undermine the very foundations of our Nation. The peace and harmony of our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society are under threat.

 Ethnocentric and race-based politics and communally-minded politicians continue to derail the process of inclusive nation building and the formation of a Bangsa Malaysia national identity. Importantly, religion is now increasingly used as a main marker of identity, and as a boundary maintenance mechanism to polarise the people.

There are political parties and their affiliates that are not focused on nation building, rather on building their respective power bases. These parties on both sides of the divide pursue their agenda that are transactional and short-term, not transformational and long-term.

The mobilisation and manipulation of race, ethnicity and religion have resulted in increasing intolerance, bigotry and extremism. There is also an emerging sub-culture of political violence. These are symptomatic of dangerous under-currents in our society.

The State, by default or design, has failed to address these pernicious developments. The State has also failed to play the role of an honest broker in managing conflicts in our society.

We believe the majority of the People want to end this brand of divisive ethno-religious politics.

We want to take ownership, fully cognisant, that Malaysia is a nation where her people are inextricably bound by a shared history, commonweal, and destiny.

We have to act before our society descends into the abyss of instability.

The “NEGARA-KU” Coalition aspires to mobilize and empower the People: -

1. To resist all forms of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, extremism, and violence;

2. To oppose all forms of discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustice;”

3. To strive for a socially inclusive society;

4. To exhort the State and its Institutions to respect, adhere and uphold the Rule of Law; and

5. To demand adherence to the principles of stewardship, integrity, accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance.

We will strive to do this by returning to the basics:-

The Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land;
The Malaysia Agreement; and

The Rukunegara as the guide for national objectives and values.

By this process of engagement and empowerment we endeavour to”HEAL THE NATION” and “RESTORE HOPE” in our future.

_________________________________________

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter

Press statement in conjunction with Press Conference at Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Friday July 18, 2014

Ambiga2Leaders of the Negara-Ku Movement

We, concerned Malaysians, take note and fully concur with the  Negara-Ku Charter launched by the People’s Movement to heal the nation and to restore hope for our shared common future.

We are in the midst of epochal challenges and changes in which all Malaysians must stand together to fight the forces of racial bigotry and religious extremism.

To safeguard our fragile multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural unity, we must resist those who seek to destroy Malaysia and what it stands for which are the principles contained in the Constitution of the Malaysia Agreement of 1963.

We call on all Malaysians, especially our political leaders, to endorse this charter, embrace its values and principles fully and strive to uphold it wholeheartedly and unflinchingly in our personal and public lives.

List of Signatories

AB Sulaiman (Writer)

Ahmad Chik (Business and Community Leader)

Andrew Aeria (Academic)

Anwar Fazal (Educationist)

Art Harun (Lawyer and Commentator)

Azmi Sharom (Academic and Commentator)

Bah Tony Williams-Hunt (Community Leader)

Chong Ton Sin (Publisher)

Din Merican (Commentator)

Dominic Puthucheary (Lawyer)

Foong Wai Fong (Commentator)

Gurdial Singh Nijar (Academic)

Jannie Lasimbang (Community Leader)

Koon Yew Yin (Business and Community Leader)

Lim Teck Ghee (Academic and Commentator)

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (Lawyer)

Ramon Navaratnam (Business and Community Leader)

Sharaad Kuttan (Commentator)

Sharom Ahmat (Educationist)

S. Thayaparan (Commentator)

Tan Pau Son (Business Leader)

Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Commentator)

Wong Chin Huat (Academic and Commentator)

Tricia Yeoh (Commentator)

Zainah Anwar (Community Leader)

PAS President stands in the way of Khalid Ibrahim’s Ouster


July 17, 2014

SELANGOR: PAS President stands in the way of Khalid Ibrahim’s Ouster as Menteri Besar

ANALYSIS by Amin Iskandar and Eileen Ng@www.themalaysianinsider.com

HadiFinding a solution to the issue surrounding Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s shaky position as Selangor Menteri Besar may take longer than previously thought because PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang does not see any benefit in making any change at the moment.

Although opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had yesterday proclaimed that the so-called Kajang move will continue and that his party hopes to resolve the matter before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the PKR defacto leader realises without Hadi’s support, the move to replace embattled Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim will not be successful.

Hadi’s stand remains despite Khalid losing support from both PKR and DAP and is now considered a liability to Pakatan Rakyat, possibly causing them to lose Selangor in the next general election.

Selangor PAS had also unanimously agreed for the second term Menteri Besar to be replaced with a leader they can work with but they will not make any moves without Hadi’s blessing.

From the start, Hadi had opposed the Kajang move, which was aimed at making Anwar the Menteri Besar in Malaysia’s richest state but the plan was scuttled after the Court of Appeal found him guilty of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

A Pakatan senior activist told The Malaysian Insider that privately, Hadi disliked the PKR de-facto leader because in their younger years, the duo had competed against each other to capture the Muslim ground in the country.

“If Datuk Fadzil Noor is still PAS president, Anwar’s political moves will be easier because there is no animosity between the two,” said the activist in referring to the former PAS president who grew close with Anwar after the latter was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998. Fadzil died in 2002.

“Hadi is envious of Anwar because Anwar is recognised as a Malaysian Muslim leader by the international community because of his vast understanding and grasp of international politics. Moreover, Anwar is fluent in English.

“This is why a few PAS leaders met with Ku Li before last year’s general election to offer him the post of prime minister if Pakatan takes over Putrajaya,” said the activist in referring to Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Gua Musang MP.

Anwar and KhalidA Tussle between Anwar and Khalid

Additionally, Hadi wants Khalid to remain because the latter had ensured his interests in Selangor are taken care of. Hadi’s son-in-law, Zaharudin Muhammad is the religious head of state-owned company Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Berhad (KPSB).

Khalid had also appointed Raja Idris Raja Kamarudin, the brother of popular blogger Raja Petra as the Chairman of a few of the state’s sister companies, such as KPSB, Kumpulan Hartanah Selangor Berhad (KHSB), Central Spectrum (M) Sdn Bhd and CeresTelecom Sdn Bhd. Raja Idris enjoys a close relationship with Hadi, which was formed while the latter was the Terengganu Menteri Besar between 1999 and 2004.

During the time, Hadi appointed Raja Idris to sit in Amanah Saham Gemilang (ASG) and be the Chief Executive Officer of TDM Berhad, which is one of the east coast state’s biggest companies.

However, Dr Ooi Kee Beng, the Deputy Director of Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies believes Anwar will go all the way to replace Khalid.”I think if push comes to shove, Anwar will go ahead with it. It will look silly if Pakatan can’t get rid of one man who is acting not according to the party’s agenda. So I think Anwar will try to push through this… he can’t back down,” he said.

PAS, he said, is trying to “punch above its weight” in this matter but pointed out the Islamist party will have to live with the fact a change will happen and that the next menteri besar is very likely not going to be from their ranks.

As Selangor is the crown jewel of PKR, Dr Ooi does not foresee the party giving up on the coveted Menteri Besar post.PKR cannot risk losing Selangor and I don’t think things will go that far,” he said to a question whether this issue might result in Pakatan losing Selangor. For PKR to lose Selangor, they might as well give up… they can’t do that. They have to retain control of the MB position”.

As for the role of the Sultan, Dr Ooi said his political power should not be overplayed as the monarch’s power is mostly nominal and formal. “I don’t think he can stop the removal of a person. The question is whether he will accept the new candidate. He has to have a very good reason why he does not,” he said.

Hours after Khalid announced that he will stay in power until the end of his term, Anwar reiterated yesterday that the Kajang move will go on, reminding party members that it will benefit everyone. He had said the move’s objective was to spur change and lift Selangor’s capability further.

“The court decision was manipulated to hinder my advances. The Kajang move was meant to push for change. As I have said before, the rationale was that although we appreciate and acknowledge all the efforts being done right now, all the successes and benefits, there is room for improvement, to push the boundaries and convince the people further,” he had said.

Last Monday, PAS Secretary-General Datuk Mustafa Ali said Khalid’s fate will be decided by the Pakatan council, which is expected to meet before the Hari Raya celebrations.

“Maybe we will meet before Raya as we have not convene a meeting for a long time. Issues to be discussed might include the Menteri Besar,” he was quoted as saying.

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia


July 15, 2014

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/harsh-islamic-law-malaysia/

It is beginning to look like the issue of implementing seventh-century Islamic law requiring the amputation of limbs and stoning of adulterers has crested in Malaysia and is receding.

The issue attracted widespread concern among human rights groups and the international investing community as well as within the country itself, with Chinese, Indians and other minorities loudly objecting to any attempts to enact such a law, not only because they deemed it as barbaric, but because they fear it would spread from Muslims to wider segments of the population.

Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the rural-based fundamentalist Islamic party with its roots in the poverty-stricken east coast of the country, had threatened to introduce two private member’s bills in the parliament in June when Parliament reopened its session. PAS, as the party is known, had been pushing for introduction of hudud, the Islamic system of punishment under Shariah law, in the state of Kelantan, which it controls. It needs federal approval for implementation, however.

Under its provisions, hudud would impose age-old punishments for certain classes of crimes under Shariah law including theft, sex out of wedlock, consumption of liquor and drugs and apostasy. As an indication of the modern inapplicability of the laws, there appear to be no punishments for corporate crime, which is rife in Malaysia. Corporate crime hadn’t been thought of when the Shariah laws were written hundreds of years ago.

But with a rising crime rate and concerns especially over violent street crime, the issue caught fire with the Malay public, egged on by such Malay nationalist organizations as Perkasa. One United Malays National Organization source said UMNO members of parliament were being intimidated into agreeing to vote for it or being thought of as “bad Muslims” by the country’s rural population.

However, it has horrified the 35 percent of other races that make up the country’s polyglot population of 29.6 million. It also posed a huge problem for the Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party opposition coalition made up of the Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party, the moderate urban Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat headed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the fundamentalist PAS.

How much real political momentum was behind the measure is uncertain. PAS President Abdul Hadinajib and his deputy Awang announced in April that he would introduce a private member’s bill in the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament, to pave the way for the introduction in Kelantan. Shortly after, despite the fact that PAS is an opposition party, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom told local media that the Federal Government would back PAS on the matter, an almost unheard of parliamentary action, especially in Malaysia.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister, later proposed the establishment of a national-level committee to study the effect of the law, including bringing in experts from overseas, and that PAS and UMNO would participate in the formation of the committee. But three months later, no committee has been announced, and it appears unlikely that it will be.

There is some thought that the threat of backing the hudud bill was a subterfuge on the part of UMNO strategists because of its potential to split the opposition. Especially the Democratic Action Party headed by Lim Kit Siang and his son, Lim Guan Eng, were outraged by the thought of such a law, as were most urban Malays. Indeed, referring an issue to a committee is a time-honored and effective way to bury such a plan. The threat of implementation drove Chinese voters to stay from polls in an Perak by-election when DAP, in an effort to widen its appeal, ran a Malay candidate. Although she was attractive and intelligent, she lost.

The UMNO source said at the time Hadi Awang was considering introducing the bills that he feared the northern tier of Malay-dominated states would likely implement it on their own if it passed for Kelantan.

It was also to apply only to Malays and not the Chinese, who make up 23 percent of the population, Indians, who make up 8 percent, or ethnic groups in East Malaysia, most of whom are Christian.

But, as former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – who became a prominent voice against enactment of the law, said: “There are Muslims and non-Muslims in our country. If a Muslim steals, his hand will be chopped off but when a non-Muslim steals, he goes to jail. Is that justice or not?”

Tun Dr. MahathirMahathir has been perhaps the strongest voice opposing any such law, ironically despite the fact that he has been a moving force behind the strident Malay nationalists who have been calling for its passage. It has once again shone a spotlight on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who has once again backed away from taking a strong stance.

Najib stood in the presence of President Barack Obama while Obama praised the country as a modern, moderate Malay society, but he has sent contradictory signals. He has said there would be no hudud in Malaysia but at a meeting of a religious group in June, Najib said the federal government has never rejected implementation of hudud although there are “loopholes and shortcomings” that must be addressed. He called for a meeting of Islamic scholars to interpret shariah law to ”scrutinize and to exercise ijtihad (an Islamic term for independent reasoning) so that justice can be served.”

“When they ask Najib to stand up, he holds his balls and looks the other way,” said a longtime western observer who asked not to be named.

In recent weeks, a wider spectrum of Muslims has come out against implementation. Anwar, who himself has been relatively muted on the subject, has come out against it in force as well, telling the PAS contingent of his coalition that any attempt to pass it would wreck the coalition.

As Mahathir has said, although the law would apply only to Muslims, it sets up the specter of a dual classThe Silent One of punishments, with a Chinese, Indian or other minority facing perhaps two months in jail for theft, for instance, and a Malay facing the prospect of losing his hand. Adultery in Malaysia is rarely punished today for any of the races and although it is not talked about, it is rampant among the leaders of UMNO. Under hudud, ethnic Malays would face death by stoning.

Other Islamic organizations with a less harsh agenda have suddenly found their voices. That has included Sisters in Islam, whose executive director Ratna Osman said hudud punishments were not necessarily Islamic but instead were common in medieval society. Islamic Renaissance Front chairman Ahmad Farouk Musa questioned whether hudud is applicable in today’s society.

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany


July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophyI once saw a picture at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany. Dated July 4, 1954, it depicted a group of men with broken teeth, crutches and in worn-out clothes shouting for joy over West Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup Final.

The West Germans had just barely recovered from the horrific World War II, and Hungary had been widely tipped to win the title. Still, West Germany went on to claim the crown as a dark horse, and the game is known historically as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’ (‘the Miracle of Bern’; Bern is the Swiss capital where the final was held).

The 1954 World Cup was particularly meaningful to West Germany for several reasons: it was the first time that Das Lied Der Deutschen (the Song of the Germans) was played at an international sporting event since the end of WWII, signifying the return of the country into the world community, while defeating the then communist-ruled Hungary was hailed as an ideological triumph.

Two decades later, West Germany was showered with greater global recognition when it hosted the 1974 World Cup and was crowned champion. If 1954 symbolised West Germany’s international acceptance, 1974 probably took on a greater significance in that the country demonstrated proudly to the world its reemergence as an economic power, rising from the ashes of the catastrophic Nazi regime (which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), preceded also by the 1972 Olympics.

It was most ironic that, while Britain and France, the two WWII victors, were mired in incessant labour strikes as industrial production came to a virtual halt, West Germany’s economic development and standard of living continued to improve by leaps and bounds.

Then came the eventful autumn of 1989, when the Eastern Blocs were on the verge of drastic revolution. Berlin Wall, 1989Many East Germans drove their Trabants right up to the Berlin Wall and demanded that the gates be opened.

When their calls went unanswered, they took out sledgehammers and chisels and started dismantling the wall themselves, and the (in)famous wall did come tumbling down within weeks. Welcoming the Ossis was not only the far advanced Volkswagen produced by the Wessis, but also the abundantly available commodities in the shops in West Berlin.

When West Germany beat Argentina to claim the World Cup title on  July 8, 1990, East German fans erupted in euphoria publicly for the first time. Three months later, East and West Germany became history.

Rebranding the country

When the reunified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the German government at the time made use of the opportunity to rebrand the country as a Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen), seeking to promote to the world Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Beethoven, philosopher Jürgen Habermas and many other modern achievements alongside football.

It represented a conscious effort on the part of the Germans to remind the international community that, having faced up to historical issues squarely, it was time that Germany should be free to celebrate its achievements for and contributions to the world.

The reunified Germany failed to win the World Cup in 2006, but many a European country was impressed with a new Germany that was not only confident and forward-looking, but also warm and hospitable, so much so that the British tabloids, usually relishing in insulting Germany with WWII references, toned down their wording and English fans could be seen waving the German flag during the semi-final between Germany and Argentina.

Now that Germany has once again made it to the final, the question whether the reunified country will win a historic World Cup is again in the mind of many, for a win on this coming Sunday (Brazilian time) would go a long way in affirming Germany’s coming of age, and I wish them all the best.

After all, no other competition arouses one’s nationalistic sentiment and sharpens political differences more than football – with the exception of an actual war. Seen in this light, what Germany destroyed last Tuesday was not just Brazil’s world status as a land of football, but it’s very national identity as well.

For historical reasons, the Germans are not used to overt symbols of nationalism, but it does not mean they should tolerate idiotic insults such as Bung Mokhtar’s ‘Hitler tweet’ in the wake of Germany’s thumping victory over Brazil. It is outrageous because no other countries have demonstrated so much goodwill and sincerity in dealing with historical baggage as Germany, especially when the country has shown no signs of relenting in pursuing justice for the victims.

Bung Mokhtar’s brainless tweet is more than a personal gaffe because it exposes the quality (or the lack thereof) of UMNO politicians. The fact that he continues to be a wakil rakyat is an utter shame to Malaysia.

NOTE: Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Rio . It was thriller. witnessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong contingent of German fans while the rest of the world witnessed a spectacle of great sportsmanship and fine football. –Din Merican
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JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People


July 14, 2014

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People

by Citizen Nades/R. Nadeswaran@www.thesundaily.com (07-13-14)

KEN CLARKE, a Minister in the Cabinet Office in England, claimed the cost of paying for an 11p rulernadeswaran on his expenses. He also claimed for a pack of pens costing £21.73, and a pack of adhesive notes for £14.27.

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed for a glue stick costing £4.68 and a box of clips costing 8p, and printer cartridges costing £133.57. Vince Cable, the business secretary, claimed 43p for a pair of scissors. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara bought a pair much cheaper – 24p.

Cameron, who earns £142,500 a year, raised eyebrows by claiming 7p for a “bulldog” clip in January, even though processing the claim would have cost four times as much as its value. He also claimed 26p for “banner bar tags”, and 38p for a staple remover.

How do we know these trivial details? They were from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which processes and monitors MPs’ expenses. Last week, it released figures for February and March which showed that MPs claimed about £3.6 million in expenses. It processed over 32,000 claims. The bulk of the expenses was attributed to train tickets from their constituencies to Westminster in London.

Everyone has access to these records and one can check the amount claimed by his or her MP. Malaysia is said to have adopted the Westminster system and one wonders why we did not adopt this principle of openness and transparency.

Our lawmakers have been shouting themselves hoarse on so many other inconsequential matters like the World Cup football and even glorified Adolf Hitler, but yet choose to remain silent on matters of public interest such as their own expenses.

It is not a matter of prying into their private affairs. No one is even suggesting that they have and still are making unjustified claims. It’s just that the path to transparency must start from the doorsteps of Parliament which dictates policy and draws up legislation.

While it is common knowledge that previously two or three lawmakers were charged with making false claims, shouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest that the claims are scrutinised by the same people who pay their salaries and elected them to Parliament?

In the absence of any requirement, would any MP in the name of transparency, take the first step by putting up their expense claim on their website? Wouldn’t this be a noble gesture which will propel or compel others to follow suit?

Any takers?

WE NEED TO KNOW

Steve Shim RCIThe Members of The Steve Shim RCI on Illegal Immigrants

FOR a few days last year, I was at the High Court in Kota Kinabalu listening attentively to witnesses who testified at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Illegal Immigrants in Sabah. They included the former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his then Deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The inquiry heard some startling evidence including “Project IC” where illegal immigrants were given blue identity cards to enable them to vote for the ruling party. The inquiry was also told that some were asked to assemble in a community hall where they were issued documents which afforded them “protection” from the immigration authorities and the police.

There were even accusations that this project was done at the behest of national leaders who afforded support and protection in this clandestine operation. There were also accusations that officers from the National Registration Department sold blue ICs and were subsequently held under the Internal Security Act.

The inquiry was headed by former Chief Judge of Borneo Tan Sri Steve Shim, which started on January 29 last year, heard from 211 witnesses, and ended on September  23. The report was presented to the government in May this year.

However, Putrajaya has withheld making public the findings without providing any reasons. Our leaders have remained silent. The people of Malaysia, especially the Sabahans, are eagerly awaiting the findings as they have often said that “we are strangers in our own land” and that “the population of immigrants has exceeded the locals”. They also complained about social problems and the public health system bursting at its seams because of the presence of the foreigners.

Right-minded citizens will agree that the findings and the implementation of the recommendations of the panel will go a long way in placating and pacifying the anger of Sabahans who are being displaced by foreigners.

R. Nadeswaran says that our lawmakers must be in the forefront leading and demanding for transparency. Comments: citizen-nades@the sundaily.com