Freedom of Expression with Limitations


September 17, 2014

Freedom of Expression with Limitations

by Dr. Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com

Azmi Sharom 3There is a need for some laws and controls over people who would defame others or call for unacceptable things, like genocide.

IN the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion, indeed in some cases one might say uproar, over the use of the Sedition Act.

I have no wish to talk about the Act itself because it has been done to death in recent times. Furthermore, I am currently rather intimately involved with the Act as I was charged under it earlier this month.Instead, I would like to go back to the fundamental issue here, which is freedom of expression. Clearly the Sedition Act curbs freedom of expression. Is this a bad thing? Well, not necessarily.

You see, despite what some quarters might believe, no one in his right mind would want absolute freedom of expression. That would be ludicrous. However, before we begin to discuss what sort of restrictions on expression there should be, let us first examine our attitudes towards this particular freedom itself.

Naturally I can’t speak for anyone else, so this is a purely personal take. I think that the ideal is absolute freedom. In other words, absolute freedom of expression is the best thing to have. Unfortunately, we all know that in this world, reason and ­honesty are sometimes in short supply.

Therefore, there is clearly a need for some sort of laws and controls over people who would defame others or call for unacceptable things, like genocide.

However, when thinking about the controls and laws you want to impose, a person’s fundamental belief system comes into play. Hence, if you are like me and believe that total freedom is the ideal, then any restriction would be most carefully thought out and applied in order to disturb the ideal as little as possible.

Thus, freedom of expression itself is to be protected as much as possible and any limitation must infringe as little as possible on said freedom. There is no need to defend freedom of expression because it is a given, conversely one has to defend the need for laws that curb those freedoms.

Now, if you don’t believe that freedom is the ideal, then things would look very different indeed. Because there is no inherent appreciation of freedom, one would make laws that curb those freedoms to whatever extent one thinks is necessary for one’s own interest.

Perversely, the laws restricting said freedoms become the given and freedom of expression has to be justified.This is most undesirable because of all the civil and political rights that exist, freedom of expression is arguably the most important. Well, to be honest, in my point of view, it is the most important right of all.

So many other rights are intimately linked to freedom of expression, such as assembly, association, faith and the right to have a democratically elected government.Some people criticise freedom of expression as being an esoteric thing, something that bothers the so-called intelligentsia and not the ordinary man on the street. After all, how does speaking one’s mind put food on the table?

I would argue against such an idea. It is true that freedom of expression won’t feed the poor in a direct manner but, without it, how on earth can we expose poor policies that perpetuate poverty, or corrupt practices that take public money away from doing good and into the ­pockets of the dishonest, or wasteful ineffi­ciency?

To conclude, I reiterate the value of freedom of expression and its importance in making society a better place free from tyrants and despots.

But, what about the limitations that I mentioned earlier? What sort of control should there be?I would suggest that any laws that curb freedom to express oneself ought to be limited to matters such as incitement to violence, civil defamation and perhaps hate speech.

But whatever law one wants to create, great care must be taken in its drafting; great effort must be made in allowing as much open debate as possible and underlying it all the ultimate ideal of absolute freedom must always be kept in mind.

Of course any law, no matter how well drafted, would be an absolute mockery of justice if it is applied in an unequal manner, so the enforcement of the law must also be unpreju­diced.Now being the proponent of free speech is not an easy thing because one has to respect the right of everyone to express themselves, even those who may vehemently disagree with one.

So I shall end this column by saying, feel free to criticise what I have just said. After all, it’s your right.

Azmi Sharom (azmisharom@yahoo.co.uk) is a law teacher. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

BOOK REVIEW: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Political Order and Political Decay’


September 16, 2014

Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Political Order and Political Decay’

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy(Vol.2)

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama published an essay in The National Interest entitled “The End of History?” that thrust him into the center of public debate. Although often misunderstood and maligned, its central argument was straightforward and sensible: With the collapse of Communism, liberal democracy stood alone as the only form of government compatible with socio­-economic modernity. Over the years since, Fukuyama has continued to argue the case, and has now summed up his efforts with a two-­volume magnum opus that chronicles global political development from prehistory to the present. A quarter-century on, he remains convinced that no other political system is viable in the long run, but concludes his survey with a sobering twist: Liberal democracy’s future is cloudy, but that is because of its own internal problems, not competition from any external opponent.

Francis-Fukuyama

Fukuyama (above)began the first volume, “The Origins of Political Order,” which appeared in 2011, by stating that the challenge for contemporary developing countries was how to “get to Denmark” — that is, how to build prosperous, well-governed, liberal democracies. This, in turn, required understanding what “Denmark” — liberal democracy — actually involved.

Drawing on the insights of his mentor Samuel Huntington, Fukuyama argued that political order was all about institutions, and that liberal democracy in particular rested on a delicate balance of three distinct features — political accountability; a strong, effective state; and the rule of law. Accountability required mechanisms for making leaders responsive to their publics, which meant regular free and fair multiparty elections. But elections alone were not enough: A true liberal democracy needed to have its institutions of accountability supplemented by a central government that could get things done and by rules and regulations that applied equally to ­everyone.

Fukuyama showed how throughout human history these three factors had often emerged independently or in various combinations. China, for example, developed a state long before any existed in Europe, yet did not acquire either the rule of law or political accountability. India and much of the Muslim world, by contrast, developed something like the rule of law early on, but not strong states (or, in much of the Muslim world, political accountability). It was only in parts of Europe in the late 18th century, Fukuyama noted, that all three aspects started to come together simultaneously.

“Political Order and Political Decay” picks up the story at this point, taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of modern development from the French Revolution to the present. Fukuyama is nothing if not ambitious. He wants to do more than just describe what liberal democracy is; he wants to discover how and why it develops (or does not). So in this volume, as in the previous one, he covers a vast amount of ground, summarizing an extraordinary amount of research and putting forward a welter of arguments on an astonishing range of topics. Inevitably, some of these arguments are more convincing than others. And few hard generalizations or magic formulas emerge, since Fukuyama is too knowledgeable to force history into a Procrustean bed.

Thus he suggests that military competition can push states to modernize, citing ancient China and, more recently, Japan and Prussia. But he also notes many cases where military competition had no positive effect on state building (19th-century Latin America) and many where it had a negative effect (Papua New Guinea, as well as other parts of Melanesia). And he suggests that the sequencing of political development is important, arguing that “those countries in which democracy preceded modern state building have had much greater problems achieving high-quality governance than those that inherited modern states from absolutist times.” But the cases he gives as examples do not necessarily fit the argument well (since Prussia’s state eventually had trouble deferring to civilian authorities and the early weakness of the Italian state was probably caused more by a lack of democracy than a surfeit of it). In addition, he surely understands that authoritarianism is even more likely to generate state weakness than democracy since without free media, an active civil society and regular elections, authoritarianism has more opportunities to make use of corruption, clientelism and predation than democracies do.

Perhaps Fukuyama’s most interesting section is his discussion of the United States, which is used to illustrate the interaction of democracy and state building. Up through the 19th century, he notes, the United States had a weak, corrupt and patrimonial state. From the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, however, the American state was transformed into a strong and effective independent actor, first by the Progressives and then by the New Deal. This change was driven by “a social revolution brought about by industrialization, which mobilized a host of new political actors with no interest in the old clientelist system.” The American example shows that democracies can indeed build strong states, but that doing so, Fukuyama argues, requires a lot of effort over a long time by powerful players not tied to the older order.

Yet if the United States illustrates how democratic states can develop, it also illustrates how they can decline. Drawing on Huntington again, Fukuyama reminds us that “all political systems — past and present — are liable to decay,” as older institutional structures fail to evolve to meet the needs of a changing world. “The fact that a system once was a successful and stable liberal democracy does not mean that it will remain so in perpetuity,” and he warns that even the United States has no permanent immunity from institutional decline.

Over the past few decades, American political development has gone into reverse, Fukuyama says, as itsFukuyama From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy state has become weaker, less efficient and more corrupt. One cause is growing economic inequality and concentration of wealth, which has allowed elites to purchase immense political power and manipulate the system to further their own interests. Another cause is the permeability of American political institutions to interest groups, allowing an array of factions that “are collectively unrepresentative of the public as a whole” to exercise disproportionate influence on government. The result is a vicious cycle in which the American state deals poorly with major challenges, which reinforces the public’s distrust of the state, which leads to the state’s being starved of resources and authority, which leads to even poorer performance.

Where this cycle leads even the vastly knowledgeable Fukuyama can’t predict, but suffice to say it is nowhere good. And he fears that America’s problems may increasingly come to characterize other liberal democracies as well, including those of Europe, where “the growth of the European Union and the shift of policy making away from national capitals to Brussels” has made “the European system as a whole . . . resemble that of the United States to an increasing degree.”

Fukuyama’s readers are thus left with a depressing paradox. Liberal democracy remains the best system for dealing with the challenges of modernity, and there is little reason to believe that Chinese, Russian or Islamist alternatives can provide the diverse range of economic, social and political goods that all humans crave. But unless liberal democracies can somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay, history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper.

 

Malaysia Day Today


September 16, 2014

Malaysia Day Today

A Good Message from the Guys at The Malaysian Insider

i love malaysiaToday is Malaysia Day, and in the words of our founding father, “The great day we have long awaited has come at last – the birth of Malaysia. In a warm spirit of joy and hope, 10 million people of many races in all the states of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah now join hands in freedom and unity. We do so because we know that we have come together through our own free will and desire in the true spirit of brotherhood and love of freedom,” Tunku Abdul Rahman had said on September 16, 1963.

True spirit of brotherhood and love of freedom, the two ideals that all Malaysians must remember as we celebrate the 51st year of our nation. See, there is something Malaysians should never be ambivalent about and that is: loving this land of ours.

Granted, there are scoundrels masquerading as leaders and politicians in the country.Granted, the dream of a strong and vibrant two-party democracy is on the ropes, hoisted there by a trampling of the Constitution, greed and utter disregard of the law.Granted, too often these days, everything is seen through the prism of race and religion.

And granted that some of the most unjust actions these days seem directed at Malaysians, patriotic Malaysians.That should not mean we love our country less – in fact, that should spur all Malaysians to rally together for the country’s future sketched out by our founding fathers but dented by actions that seem to hurt us.

We have to speak up and stand our ground for Malaysia, be it on socio-political or economic issues, or even the most basic of rights – the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and equality before law.

Some of us will gather today in picnics across the country, watch the Malaysian flag flutter in the sky, attend a forum or two about the country – because we love our country.And we should continue to do so. After 51 years, we have to rely on ourselves to do what is best for Malaysia if our elected leaders cannot do it for us. We have to unite and make the Malaysia that the Tunku spoke about when Malaysia was formed.

“The Federation of Malaya now passes into history. Let us always remember that the Malayan Nation was formed after many difficulties during a long period of national emergency, yet its multiracial society emerged, endured and survived as a successful and progressive nation, a true democracy and an example to the world of harmony and tolerance.

“As it was with Malaya, so it can be with Malaysia. With trust in Almighty God, unity of purpose and faith in ourselves, we can make Malaysia a land of prosperity and peace.

“In doing so let every Malaysian in all the states of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah ensure that our Malaysia is truly worthy of the aims and hopes we have shared, the trials and stress, we have endured, in working together to achieve our common destiny,” said Tunku Abdul Rahman when ending his speech.

Our common destiny. And that destiny is to live as free people and make Malaysia a better country every day with a government that does not fear shadows as monsters or treat some of the people as enemies.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/on-malaysia-day-to-remember-our-ideals-and-rights#sthash.Y6KoJNut.dpuf

51 Years On, Sabah has yet to experience true Independence, says Simon Sipaun


September 15, 2014

To Brothers and Sisters in Sabah and Sarawak,

HAPPY MALAYSIA DAY and MAY GOD BLESS OUR COUNTRY

Fear Not, Despair Not. Have Hope because the best is yet to come for all of us. Secession isDr. Kamsiah and Din in Baju Melayu not the way to solve our problems and settle differences. 51 years in Malaysia is no mean achievement, and it is too painful to part, or even to contemplate it. Stay and make sure that what you, Dr. Kamsiah and I and our compatriots do for Malaysia matters, not the politicians, extremists and bigots in any colour, shape or form.

Our capacity to think and act rationally in our parliamentary system of government will lead us to freedom, justice, democracy, unity, peace and harmony. Let us all Malaysians rejoice together on Malaysia Day which falls tomorrow. We dedicate this tune to all of us. Let us dream together. Dr. Kamsiah and I certainly believe in Angels.–Din Merican

51 Years On, Sabah has yet to experience true Independence, says Simon Sipaun

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Mount KinabaluYet to Experience True Independence

the_land_of_the_hornbills

As the nation celebrates Malaysia Day tomorrow, over two weeks after marking 57 years of Merdeka, Sabahan Tan Sri Simon Sipaun  has mixed feelings – nostalgia for the ease of life of his youth half a century ago and cautious optimism for Malaysia going forward. To him, the people of Sabah (and Sarawak too) have never really experienced the true meaning of independence and the status of a sovereign state, even as talk of secession festers among some.

Simon2Sipaun (pic), former State Secretary of Sabah, now 76, and a patron of people’s movement Negara-ku, also reminisced about the days of North Borneo (which was renamed Sabah), when there was no talk of Malay supremacy or confusion over the use of the word “Allah” by Christians.

Sabah, together with Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak, formally formed the Federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963. Singapore left two years later. “It’s not that I’m against Sabah being part of the federation, I am merely stating a fact, that we have never really experienced Independence in the true sense,” he told The Malaysian Insider in a phone interview.

Sipaun said that 51 years ago, they did not have to deal with issues like Malay supremacy ideology, the use of the word “Allah”, and problems with illegal immigrants, among others.

“When we were North Borneo, we did not have to fear being arrested and not getting a fair trial, we did not have to experience the ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ political ideology.We did not have one race claiming superiority over the rest; we did not have a problem using the word ‘Allah’ in churches, the Muslims never said they were confused when Christians used it. And we did not have problems with illegal immigrants before September 16, 1963,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He added that when the Federation of Malaysia was formed, there should have been a new constitution, national anthem and flag to reflect the formation of a new country, but everything was adopted from what existed during the Malaya era.

“To use today’s language, everything was just cut and paste, the Constitution, the national anthem which was adapted from a love song and the flag, which was improvised. This is my personal opinion, but to me, we were a new country on September 16, 1963, and we deserved a new flag, a new Constitution and a new national anthem. So we have not really experienced what it feels like to be living in a sovereign nation where we get to determine our own future,” he added.

Sipaun said that Malaysian politics today was overly based on race and religion, adding that he hoped for ahishamuddin-hussein leadership that can be fair to all communities. “To be honest, I don’t care who runs the country or what race he belongs to, as long as the person is fair to all communities irrespective of race and religion.

Sipaun, however, believed that there was hope for the nation, especially with new movements like Negara-ku, which strives to heal the nation of its divisiveness.He is also banking on the younger generation, especially young Malay leaders who are more open and liberal in their thinking, to take the country forward.

He also lauded political parties like DAP and PKR, which have managed to attract people from diverse backgrounds. He said Malaysians needed to look back and learn from the past in order to move towards the future.

He said this was also the reason he agreed to become a patron of Negara-Ku, adding that its principles were in line with his own.”They seek fairness for all communities and that is my vision and hope for this country as well,” he said.

Negara-Ku was launched in July as a people’s movement in an effort to heal Malaysia and restore hope, given the recent challenges that threaten the peace and harmony of its multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.

Headed by activist Zaid Kamaruddin, Negara-Ku’s patrons are prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, national laureate Datuk A. Samad Said, and Sipaun, who was the former Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

A total of 68 civil society groups and NGOs have endorsed Negara-Ku, which is aimed at mobilising and empowering people to return to the basics of the Federal Constitution, Malaysia Agreement and Rukunegara.

The Home Ministry, however, declared Negara-Ku illegal as the Registrar of Societies (RoS) had not received an application from the group to register it as a body. –http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

September 16: Time for Sober Reflection and Renewal


September 15, 2014

September 16: Time for Sober Reflection and Renewal

by Malaysiakini  http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/274584

STAND UP for MALAYSIA

zoom-malaysia-logo

As Malaysia Day approaches, Putrajaya is reminded of the need to address discontent in Sabah and Sarawak over the perception that it is often left out of the Federation, said NGO Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). For instance, its chairperson Tan Yew Sing contended, Malaysia has traditionally celebrated National Day together with Independence Day of West Malaysia on August 31, and the anniversary is often counted from 1957.This is despite the Malaysian Federation, the union of West and East Malaysia, coming into being on September 16, 1963.

“In recent years there has been rising discontent, especially from our Sabah and Sarawak brothers andshabery sisters, with the way our National Day is traditionally celebrated,” said Tan.  However, Tan said Communication and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek’s announcement that from next year onwards August 31 will be clearly stipulated as Independence Day is a “step in the right direction.”

He added the Minister should go a step further by defining Malaysia Day on September 16 to also be National Day. “The Federal Constitution defines Merdeka Day as August 31,1957, it does not give a specific definition for National Day.As such the selection of a date for National Day is a matter of administrative action,” he said.

Irony in using Sedition Act

Tan also expressed concern about the recent string of arrests under the Sedition Act 1948, pointing out that it was ironic to use a colonial era law post-independence.”The British introduced the Sedition Act as a means to suppress the opposition to their rule. How ‘merdeka’ (independence) are we today if the law that the British used to advance their colonial interests, has not only being enhanced after our independence, but also has been applied selectively?” he said.

Tan added despite these prosecutions, groups that have been perpetuating hate speeches appear to go unpunished. As a coalition of NGOs from different backgrounds, GBM urges all the citizens of Malaysia to be part of the effort to bridge our differences – ethnically, spiritually or ideologically – and prove that diversity is strength that needs to be upheld as part and parcel of our nation building,” he said.

 

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems


September 14, 2014

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.theantdaily.com

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe academics who are responsible for writing the history of Malaysia are better suited to work in the kitchen. Being expert at cooking the books, the tripe they feed us, is not history, but just a record of UMNO’s, UMNO-Baru’s and Islam’s milestones. Nothing else matters.

As a test, how many Sarawakians, or Malaysians, are aware that Sarawak achieved its independence from the British on 22 July 1963? Every school child knows that August 31 celebrates the independence of the Federated Sates of Malaya from the British, but do they realise the significance of September 16, 1963?

Some people are convinced that the rising discontent amongst East Malaysians is because Putrajaya has ignored their needs.Others disagree. They blame the leaders of East Malaysia, for being timid and beholden to Putrajaya.

It is bewildering that the man in the street blames politicians for the state of his country, but fails to recognise the folly of his ways. The people of East Malaysia are not blameless. Over several decades, the East Malaysians have voted for BN and returned the same party, which they repeatedly accuse of mistreatment.

In Semenanjung Malaysia, race and religion are used to divide people; but Putrajaya doesn’t have much to do in East Malaysia. Politicians from East Malaysia are so disorganised, they cannot even agree among themselves.  Malaysia Day, September 16 was only proclaimed as a national holiday, after five decades of neglect. Did East Malaysian politicians suddenly awake from their slumber?

Sabah and Sarawak should enjoy equal status with Malaya and yet, their roles have been diminished to mere states. Despite being major oil and gas-producing nations, they remain the poorest and third poorest “states” in Malaysia.

East Malaysians are angry at the disproportionate allocations from the oil revenue. They fear the unchecked rise of extremist Malay and Muslim groups, which threaten the social fabric of East Malaysia. The Allah issue and Bible row have heightened their fears. Where are the collective voices of the East Malaysian Christian and non-Muslim leaders?

Taib-Mahmud-300x199He kept UMNO-Baru out of Sarawak

The repellent Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sarawak’s Chief Minister for over three decades, may have displaced many indigenous people from their lands, may have kept the rural people ignorant, and ignored their plight, but he did keep UMNO-Baru out of Sarawak.

If East Malaysia were to secede (?), Semenanjung would lose the BN fixed deposit. West Malaysians will lose the oil revenue, but at least the electoral playing field will be evened-out.East Malaysians wanting self-rule, claim that the increased petroleum revenue, will help rebuild Sabah and Sarawak. More money does not equate to happiness.

East Malaysians boast that with secession, Sabah and Sarawak will become as developed as Singapore and Brunei. Without a change of attitude of its people, nothing will happen. East Malaysians proclaim that Sarawak and Sabah need leaders who are as “strong” as Singapore’s former PM, Lee Kuan Yew. No one should be that naïve! The irony is that Singaporeans look to Malaysians, to learn to rid themselves from their dictatorship. Singapore’s PAP government dreads the day UMNO-Baru is toppled.

Singapore is not free from corruption. Ask knowledgeable Singaporeans and Malaysians who are not blind. Malaysians are terrible at concealing their “bad” practices.One well known Sarawak lawyer, who normally represents members of a prominent Sarawak family, alleged that money from Sarawak’s ill gotten gains is stashed in Singapore, which he dubbed “the new Switzerland”. It is widely known that Dubai is the money laundering capital of the Middle East; Singapore fulfils that role for Southeast Asia.  Secession won’t necessarily stop the exploitation of the rural people.

Singapore deports or jails, anyone who shows the slightest whiff of dissent. Malaysians who protested in Singapore, about Malaysian issues, had their work permits revoked. A British author who wrote about Singapore’s death penalty was jailed. The Singapore government fears that its own people might emulate foreigners, who display any freedom of expression.

Bruneians enjoy many free perks, but has anyone wondered why Bruneians flock to border towns like Miri, for “normality”? Stop waxing lyrical about a place where double-standards are practised, where the subjects are ruled by hudud, but those draconian laws do not apply to the chosen few.

Secession is not a panacea for East Malaysia’s problems. Are East Malaysians patient? The situation will get worse before it improves. Skilled and experienced East Malaysians will be needed to rebuild their countries, but will they return?

Under Taib, the environment was at the mercy of loggers and indiscriminate “developers”. Large tracts of forest and coastline were destroyed. Secession won’t save the environment, unless the corrupt politicians who offer their cronies protection, are weeded out first.

Dayak Headhunter

Politicians line their own pockets with the rakyat’s money. After secession, will politicians share the extra revenue with the rakyat, or will they continue to siphon most, if not all, of this extra money? Does one become less greedy, when more money becomes available?

Increased revenue from oil may result in the average East Malaysian, receiving RM800 instead of the token sum of RM500. Will he then forget the promised roads, bridges, schools and hospitals?Nothing will change unless corrupt politicians are charged and punished for their crimes. Democracy can return, once a free media, an independent police force and judiciary are installed, and incorruptible politicians are elected in a clean and fair process, in Sabah and Sarawak.-www.theantdaily.com