Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability


October 23, 2014

Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability

by http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang today issued a clarion call to Malaysians to demand that the Attorney-General’s Chambers submit to public scrutiny for its accountability.

Gani PatailIn a media statement referring to A-G Abdul Gani Patail’s announcement on Septtember 9 that his office would review the sedition charges against academic Azmi Sharom and others, Lim noted that seven weeks had passed “but nothing has been forthcoming on the outcome of this review, or whether such a review has taken place.”

He said the opaqueness of the AG and his office “is not maintainable in a modern democratic country committed to accountability and good governance principles.”

He urged Malaysian citizens and their representatives in Parliament to demand that the A-G’s Chambers “submit to public and parliamentary scrutiny for accountability. MPs and the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether in the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion on the basis of public interest, are these purely legal considerations or they also involve political considerations, and if so, the nature of these political considerations,” he said.

The DAP leader also referred to former A-G Abu Talib Othman’s criticism of Gani’s Abu TalibSeptember  9 statement. “Is he (The A-G) admitting that he was not fair and transparent when the accused were first charged, and that is why he is reviewing the cases now? Maybe he should clarify,” he quoted Abu Talib as saying. Lim said Gani, more than failing to clarify, had allowed the sedition blitz to continue.

Contrasting the sedition charges against opposition leaders and activists with the apparent immunity of Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali despite his call for the burning of Bibles, Lim said Gani was “fuelling the worst crisis of confidence in the nation’s history over the role and powers of the Attorney-General as a result of his silence over the escalating controversy”.

Serious questions

He said the A-G’s failure to provide an “acceptable explanation that there has been no arbitrary abuse of the A-G’s prosecutorial discretion … has raised serious questions as to whether he is committed to upholding the rule of law and to act as guardian of the public interest”.

KC VorahLim also quoted from a letter from former Court of Appeal judge K C Vohrah (left) that the Star published today. He said Vohrah expressed “the legitimate nagging concerns in many minds”. Vohrah called for the review and withdrawal of sedition cases based on three considerations:

1.The Sedition Act is an oppressive law and that many jurists and scholars consider sedition (based on common law seditious libel) as obsolete. Seditious libel came during a period when the divine right of rulers was not only accepted but believed to be necessary;

2.That once a person is charged for an offence under the act, looking at the state of case law in Malaysia, there is no defence that can normally be taken for offences, say, under the Penal Code or other acts creating offences. So it appears there can be no defence even of truth, lack of intention, presence of an innocent or honourable intention, absence of consequent harm, or even a lack of possibility or potential for consequent harm.

3.That the A-G before exercising his discretion whether to charge a person for sedition must ignore pressure from any quarter, political or otherwise, the noisy and the cantankerous, and the well-meaning and well-intentioned groups (who have not seen the oppressive implications of the law), and focus on whether it is reasonable to charge such a person in the context of all relevant circumstances in an age of “disagreement in ideas and belief on every conceivable subject” which are the essence of our life in modern Malaysia pushing on for developed status in 2020. http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Letters/2014/10/23/Doubts-in-administration-of-justice/

 

The Poorest Among the Poor in Kuala Lumpur


October 22,2014

The Poorest Among the Poor in Kuala Lumpur

The Poorest Among the PoorWhat is their Future?

I got this from a friend who is living abroad. I can now understand why he chose to make a living overseas. I thank him for taking the trouble to send this SABM article (below) and for reminding me that we have plenty to do to eradicate poverty.

This thread is an eye open opener for all us regardless of colour, race and religion. We have the poorest among the poor in our midst right here in Kuala Lumpur. The pictures you see tell a sad story. Our country which hopes to be a developed nation in 2020 cannot deal with the plight of our poor citizens. See how they live. Sorry to spoil the Divali party.–Din Merican

http://sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=808&catid=40&Itemid=76

 

Happy Divali to Men and Women of the Hindu Faith


October 22, 2014

Happy Divali to Men and Women of the Hindu Faith

DivaliHappy Divali to All Men and Women of Goodwill

From Dr. Kamsiah G. Haider and Din Merican

Dr. Kamsiah and I wish our friends, associates  and readers  who are of the Hindu Faith a Happy and Prosperous  Divali. We face many challenges today (and that is probably an understatement). It is going to take good brains and hard work to meet and overcome them. Let us, therefore, not take things for granted. In a globalised world, competition is the final arbiter between success and failure.

Din and KamsiahWhile today we all celebrate this Festival of Light and leave all our daily cares behind momentarily, let us remember that come tomorrow we must get back to reality and work hard for a better future for our beloved country and the world. To do that we must take full advantage of our rich diversity. We must never for one single moment allow politicians and extremists in our midst to cloud our humanity and divide us. We are all human beings,  equal in the eyes of our Creator.

With this mind, permit us, Dr. Kamsiah and I, to quote the greatest Indian Leader of the last century,  Mahatma Gandhi for inspiration: I am a Hindu because it is Hinduism which makes the world worth living. I am a Hindu hence I love not only human beings, but all living beings.Mahatma Gandhi


Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism


October 20, 2014

Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism (Part 1)

by Dr. Wong Chin Huat (10-19-14)@www.themalaysianinsider.com

The rise of communal exclusivism among the Malay-Muslims may not be so much because of ideational shifts than because of the deeply-rooted anxiety over the uncertainty in the post-New Economic Policy Malaysia.

And this calls for an alternative to “state partiality” as a solution to “socio-economic inequality”, a core idea in Malaya/Malaysia’s nation-building.

NEP

The inevitable rise of communal exclusivism

It’s heartening to read about a Muslim organising a “I want to touch a dog” programme for Muslims to overcome their fear of dog and, in a larger context, to bring down one of the many barriers that segregates Malaysians. It’s heartening because otherwise what we read in the news are more often about the rise of communal exclusivism, from more restrictions demanded in the name of “sensitivity” to the outright claim that Malaysia is a “Bumi Melayu Islam” (the Land of Malay-Muslims). I avoid using the term “extremism”, which should be reserved for advocacy of violence.

For many, this rise of communal exclusivism is a sad departure from a moreNajib inclusive Malaysia in earlier decades, some would say before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government. I hold a crueler view. It is simply as inevitable as the collapse of Soviet Union after its tremendous success in transforming Russia into a global super power.

State partiality to overcome socio-economic inequality

Think of it this way. Malaya/Malaysia, as the main successor state of British Southeast Asia, not only had a population that was diverse in origin, faith, language and culture.

Its cultural diversity largely overlaps with socio-economic inequality – with the ethnic minorities over-represented in modern economy and education than the ethnic majority, creating reinforcing cleavages. Such a situation posed a big challenge in decolonisation – will independence lead to the dominance of the ethnic minorities and the further marginalisation of the ethnic majority?

If so, prolonged colonisation could buy time for the backward majorities to build themselves up.This was not only the argument raised by many Bornean leaders against the hasty Project Malaysia, for fear of dominance by Malayans and Singaporeans.

The call for Malaya’s independence was first made by the communists and leftists – including the Malays – before it was adopted by UMNO and the Alliance.

One way to avoid the marginalisation of ethnic majority after decolonisation is simply denying the ethnic minorities franchise, which was basically why the Malayan Union introduced in 1946 – a multi-ethnic unitary state – was staunchly opposed by the Malays and eventually replaced by the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu in 1948 – a more ethnocratic federation.

The argument for excluding the ethnic minorities was based on their refusal to be assimilated linguistically and religiously. One may phrase the debate as one on the 1946 Question – “can the citizens be different yet equal?” and see its centrality in Malaya/Malaysia’s political history.

The communist insurgency broke out in 1948 however denied the British and the Malay elite the luxury of delaying decolonisation.The pragmatic solution was “state partiality” in favour of the Malays as a response to their collective disadvantage in “social inequality”.

The Malays were given constitutionally enshrined “special status” in exchange of citizenship and economic freedom for the non-Malays. The non-Malays were given qualified religious and linguistic freedom – they can practise their faiths but any conversion has to be one-way street in favour of Islam, and they can keep their mother-tongue schools but these schools are to be gradually phased out through purposeful marginalisation and negligence.

This was the so-called Merdeka Compromise – minimum disruption to the status quo to satisfy everyone with a gradualist soft assimilation goal to pacify the Malay nationalists.

Rise of the NEP state 

Of course, the Merdeka Compromise failed to make everyone happy. Much to the chagrin of UMNO’s leadership, while Chinese-based opposition parties picked up more seats by avoiding multi-cornered contests, the Malay voters deserted UMNO in large numbers.

In 1964, PAS won two votes for every five votes won by UMNO. In 1969, PAS won two votes for every three by UMNO. The Merdeka Compromise was too slow to lift the Malays economically or culturally. The May 13 riot and the subsequent Emergency Rule provided the convenient and necessary juncture for UMNO under Tun Razak to reorganise Malaysia.

Officially, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was an economic policy to eliminate poverty and to restructure society. Unofficially, it represented a completely different policy paradigm. It was to affirm the Malays politically, economically, linguistically, religiously and culturally so that they could feel the benefit of independence – that they are the master of this country. The non-Malays can be on board to share power but they shall never dictate or have real veto power.

In that sense, the first Malaya/Malaysian state born on 1957 ended in 1969. The NEP was more than a policy for Malaysia. Rather, Malaysia was a state for the NEP. The policy officially ended in 1990, but its spirit lives on in other names, earning it the moniker “Never-Ending Policy”.

The “Malayanisation” of the Malaysian state and society has certainly alienated the non-Malays, who responded with brain drain and capital flight.This was the expected cost – and it may not be undesirable if the voids would be filled up quickly with Malay talents and Malay capitals.

Politically, up until 2008, the non-Malays – more precisely – alternated their response by dividing their votes between the ruling coalition and the opposition, with pendulum shifts between the two camps in response to UMNO’s restrictive or reconciliatory moves.

It frustrated the UMNO elite that the Chinese refused to be subjugated but the Chinese support for the opposition was at most a nuisance except for the 1990 and 2008 elections. Constituency delineation ensured that their political weight – on solo– is insignificant.

Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism (Part 2)

Long and painful decline of the NEP State

The Achilles’ heel for the NEP state was, in management’s term, the agency problem. The person mandated to do something – the agent – does not act in the best interest of the person who places the mandate – the principal – but rather pursues his/her own interest.

If the NEP state elite – from politicians, bureaucrats to state enterprise managers – have no private interests but only pursue the Malay agenda, then 20 years would be enough for the state to empower all marginalised Malays and groom all talented Malays.

And the lifting of the Malays would induce pluralism and open up the political space for the NEP state to be phased out. But the NEP state is virtually a one-party state. State partiality to the Malays (vis-à-vis the non-Malays) does not mean state impartiality to all Malays. Rather, it means partiality to UMNO Malays, more precisely, those with the right connection and family ties.

To benefit maximally from the NEP state, a Malay needs not only to support UMNO in the general election, but also to support the right factions in UMNO elections. Family ties matters. Old boy fraternity matters. Business partnership matters.

Like in China’s one-party state, “guanxi” (connection) is an important currency for charting political and economic fortunes in UMNO.This leads to three inherent problems threatening the long-term survival of the NEP state.

First, it weakens the nation’s competitiveness with its failure in promoting meritocracy and curbing rent-seeking. Plagued by cronyism, the Malays simply cannot build up their strength to fill up the void left by the non-Malays.

Second, it replaces inter-ethnic inequality between the Malays and the non-Malays with intra-ethnic inequality within the Malays, providing the social basis for the political division of Malays.

Third, the factionalism in UMNO leads to schism at times of economic crisis, producing new parties like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s Parti Semangat 46 (S46) in 1990 and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Nasional/Rakyat in 1999. These parties then helped bring together PAS and DAP, the two grand opposition parties with rather opposite programmes.

Combining these three factors, the NEP state has been rigorously challenged in 1990, 1999, 2008 and 2013 in the span of six elections. If Pakatan Rakyat is not broken before GE14, it would be the fifth challenge.

new-economic-model

It would be wishful thinking for anyone to think that UMNO will rule forever and Dr Mahathir can be the father of a future Prime Minister like Tun Razak. But the ending of the NEP state puts too much at stake. It does not just trouble UMNO elite and dynasties. Many ordinary Malays – middle class and working class – conditioned and convinced by the NEP state that they cannot live without it are also worried.

If more than four decades of NEP state cannot lift the Malays effectively, what will happen if the non-Malays are treated more fairly once Pakatan Rakyat comes into power? Will Malays not be worse off?

Putting the foot down that Malay-Muslims control this country hence becomes important for the Malays. The rise of Perkasa and now more powerful Isma is a reflection of this mentality. UMNO’s stern stand on the “Allah” issue can be understood in this light.

By harping on the Malays’ sense of insecurity, the ultra-right outsourced agents of UMNO’s ethno-nationalism has been successfully pushing PAS – more precisely, its conservative action – to outdo Umno in playing to the gallery.

This explains the revival of the hudud agenda and the obsession to try to ban everything from Valentine’s Day to Oktoberfest. The backlash against DAP and PKR leaders joining the fest has less to do with morality than the frustration of seeing the non-Malays’ defiance of PAS.

Hadi3If it had been driven by morality, why did PAS invite three Chinese supporters to drink cans of beers in its operation room in Wakaf Tapai in Marang (Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s constituency) during the 2008 elections? Where were today’s protesters then?

It’s time we face the elephant in the room. Until the Malays can overcome their anxiety on how they may fare in a post-NEP Malaysia, the non-Malays will see more protests in the name of “sensitivity”. It’s time we think deep on an alternative to a flawed solution – state partiality – to a real problem – socio-economic inequality.

Part I (above)

In Praise of Dissent (Reasoned Discourse) and Freedom


October 20, 2014

In Praise of Dissent (Reasoned Discourse) and Freedom

by Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com.my

When you allow people to express themselves peacefully and when you ensure one group does not harass another group, what you would be achieving in the long term is a peaceful society.–Azmi Sharom

Azmi Sharom 3LAST Sunday a group of people gathered at the Speakers Corner in Penang to protest against the Sedition Act. They did not get very far because a bunch of, now how shall I put this politely, unruly humans shouted abuse at them and harassed them to the point where it was impossible to continue.

Now I think these fellows who wanted to stop the gathering have just as much right as anyone else to voice their opinion. Apparently, they will defend the Sedition Act till their dying breath.

What a wonderfully dedicated lot of humans they are; so very committed, so very brave. Maybe they should get a medal.However, I would like to point out a small point regarding the right to assemble and to speak.

This is not meant for those courageous men who so fearlessly chased away a couple of tourists from Speakers Corner. I am sure their craniums are already full to overflowing with whatever it is they like to put in there and I doubt there is any room in that space between their heroic ears for any new ideas.

No, this message is for the Police. I want them to know about certain international standards regarding protests and counter-protests. I am using international standards because I am certain our men and women in blue would like to be an international-standard police force. Surely they want to be seen as one of the best police services in the world.

Anyway, back to the lesson. Everyone has the right to assemble and speak their mind on issues they think are important.Conversely, those who dislike their point of view also have a right to assemble and speak their minds.

The job of the police, nay, the duty of the Police, is to allow both groups the space with which to express them. However, when you have competing groups, the blood might rise a bit higher than normal and thus, there could be a possibility of unpleasant clashes.

This is why it is the police’s job, nay, duty, to ensure the groups are kept separate.In this way, everybody’s right to expression is upheld. It is not the Police Force’s job to pick sides. It is not their job to allow one group to chase another one away. In fact, it is the antithesis of what they are supposed to do.Now ideally I would like to have a Police Force which truly appreciates the values of a democratic country.

It would be wonderful beyond belief if they understand that when they protect the citizen’s right to speak,they are in truth protectingthe very essence of our independent nation – that is to say, a nation built upon the promise of civil liberties, Democracy and the Rule of law. But if this is too abstract a concept to be passed on, allow me to make another argument.

When you allow people to express themselves peacefully and when you ensure one group does not harass another group, what you would be achieving in the long term is a peaceful society.

Let me explain. If I am going to organise a protest and I know there will be a bunch of unruly humans who will try to break my gathering up, I could do one or two things. First, trust the Police to keep us apart.Or secondly, gather a group of people to confront the unruly humans. The second option could very easily lead to fisticuffs and a whole lot of overweight men wheezing for breath.

Wouldn’t it be better if the cops were to just do their duty and prevent such things from happening?After all, they are always going on about how important peace and security is.Besides, wheezing fat men are most unsightly.

By the way, in case the police think it is better not to let people gather at all, may I point out two things? One, it is our right to gather and to express ourselves. And  Two, if you don’t allow people to speak peacefully and if they get frustrated at the suppression of their rights, that is when people turn to unlawful means to get their message across.

Therefore, no matter how you look at it, if the Police of Malaysia are truly concerned about peace, then they have to get their act together and start behaving according to international standards of respecting everybody’s right to express themselves. Here ends the lesson.

JAWI impatient to punish Kassim Ahmad


October 18,2014

George Town, Penang

JAWI impatient to punish Kassim Ahmad

by V.Anbalagan, Assistant News Editor, The Malaysian Insider

Activist Kassim Ahmad’s trial in a shariah court on Monday (October 19, 2014) for insulting Islam and defying the religious authorities will proceed as scheduled.

Rosli Dahlan (new)Counsel Rosli Dahlan said the Kuala Lumpur High Court today dismissed his client’s application for an interim stay of the case pending the outcome of an ongoing judicial review.

Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad said there were no exceptional circumstances to allow the application sought by Kassim. “Civil courts cannot interfere with Shariah Court proceedings although there is a pending judicial review,” she said.

In an immediate response, Kassim said he would attend court in Putrajaya on Monday to defend himself. The 81-year-old said he was not afraid of the religious authorities.”I will make the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) regret what they have done to me,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Rosli filed for the stay yesterday after the shariah court insisted on proceeding with Kassim’s case despite the High Court having fixed November 17 to hear the judicial review. The counsel said he was informed by a religious court official in Putrajaya on Wednesday that the Federal Territories shariah chief prosecutor and Jawi were not agreeable to an adjournment.

“The irony is that the shariah chief prosecutor and Jawi are parties to the judicial review filed by my client. I am dumbfounded why the religious court wants the matter to go on, based on the insistence of interested parties,” he had told The Malaysian Insider.

On July 24, the Court of Appeal ruled that the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear the judicial review application to challenge the shariah prosecutor’s decision to charge him.

Rosli said following the Court of Appeal’s ruling, religious authorities and the government had asked for some time to file their court papers before the High Court could hear the merit of the case.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench, chaired by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, in allowing Kassim’s appeal, had said the conduct of the chief prosecutor and Jawi could be scrutinised.

On July 14,Jjudge Datuk Zaleha Yusof allowed the Attorney-General’s preliminary objection against the judicial review, citing that the subject matter was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the religious court. However, Balia said a shariah criminal matter did not come within the meaning under the Federal Constitution.

“Shariah offence is only an offence against the precept of Islam,” he had said, adding that the bench was bound by a 1988 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Mamat Daud vs public prosecutor.

The bench chaired by the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas said all offences created under state shariah enactments were for violation against precepts of Islam.

The offences include consumption of alcohol, eating and drinking in public during day time in the fasting month, and going against a fatwa by religious authorities.”It (Kassim’s) is not a criminal matter and therefore subject to judicial review,” Balia added.

Kassim had filed a leave application for judicial review on June 26 and named Minister in the PrimeKassim Ahmad Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, the chief prosecutor, Jawi and the government as respondents.

He is seeking, among others, an order to strike out the chief prosecutor’s decision on March 27 to prosecute him for allegedly insulting Islam and defying the religious authorities.

He wanted his case in the Shariah Court to be suspended, pending the decision of the judicial review.Kassim also wanted all actions and decisions by Jawi enforcement officers who raided and seized his publication materials, as well as detaining him from Kedah to the Federal Territories, to be revoked.

He sought a declaration that the action by the Jawi officers and the prosecution against him was ultra vires and contravened the provisions in the Federal Constitution, Federal Territories Shariah Acts and Kedah Shariah Enactments. Kassim also sought a declaration that the offence of violating a fatwa (edict) issued in the Federal Territories only applied to Muslims in that locality. – October 17, 2014

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