Khalid Ibrahim’s Disgraceful Conduct is his legacy


August 15, 2014

Khalid Ibrahim’s Disgraceful Conduct  is his legacy

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

khalid-anwar

The political saga of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has been dragging on for far too long. Granted, it was triggered by power struggle within the party, but what started as an internal affair has now snowballed into a constitutional crisis involving the  Sultan of Selangor.

Malaysia practices a parliamentary system both at the state and the federal levels. It means that the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and Menteri Besars must command the support and confidence of the Dewan Rakyat or the state assembly in order to remain in the job, and the role of the rulers is largely ceremonial as is the case with other constitutional monarchies such as the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

Count not Thailand, where parliamentary democracy with a figurehead has again slipped into a coma. This is not to say the Sultan or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has no power whatsoever in terms of forming a government. Far from it. The Ruler is duty-bound to ensure a government can function effectively and efficiently, with the head of government being supported by the Dewan Rakyat or the state assembly. When this is not the case, the ruler ought to instruct the speaker to convene a special sitting on a vote of confidence, or the lack thereof.

As in other constitutional monarchies, the ruler in exercising his powers ought to be sensitive to the feelings of the members of the legislative assembly. Hence, when 30 of the legislators came out in support of Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, it became clear that Khalid Ibrahim had lost the confidence of the Selangor assembly.

While it was Khalid’s prerogative to sack the six state executive councilors as rightly pointed out by Professor Abdul Aziz Bari, at issue is whether Khalid was still a legitimate Menteri Besar at the time when the dismissals were announced.

I do not dismiss there may have been certain grievances on the part of Khalid in how the PKR leadership has treated him. However, what is now at stake is our constitutional monarchy that has been severely tested since 2008. Had Khalid chosen to step down in dignity and to prepare for a political comeback at the grassroots level, he could have safeguarded the royalty as well as the spirit of democracy.

Dragging the monarch into the show

HRH The Sultan of SelangorMonarchy is clearly part of Malaysia’s state institutions but it is also one that must take into consideration common sense and public opinion. We don’t just exhaust all our resources for an election and, after casting their vote, people are made to realise painfully that the man who has lost support remains in power by dragging the monarch into the show.

It is utterly ludicrous for some to liken Khalid’s situation now to that of Anwar Ibrahim back in 1998. In fact, the contrary is true. Khalid is behaving exactly like Mahathir Mohamad by abusing his executive powers just to stay afloat. Worse, he has defied the tradition by refusing to bow out gracefully despite losing more than half of the state assembly’s support, counting on time and the sultan to extend his shelf life.

Thatcher and BlairWhen Margaret Thatcher (left with Tony Blair) came to terms with the agony of her no longer enjoying the confidence of her own party in November 1990, she went to see the Queen not to seek support, but to resign her post as Britain’s Prime Minister. In Australia, both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard did the same in a most honourable fashion so that the sanctity of constitutional monarchy as well as parliamentary democracy could be preserved.

Then again, Malaysia is so different that, in the name of religion, race and royalty, a power-crazy politician can disregard the well-established institutions and principles in pursuit of personal gains.

Khalid has never impressed me, but I used to prefer him to the corrupt-to-the-core UMNO warlords like Khir Toyo. If anything, I had become more and more sceptical of his democratic credentials after his failure to rein in the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department over the seizure of the Bibles and his extraordinarily pro-UMNO stance on the Kidex project.

With the benefit of hindsight, one can safely say Khalid had acted in cahoots with UMNO over these two controversies.Whatever ‘achievements’ Khalid may have made over the past six years, he has destroyed them all with his intransigence and recalcitrance (a word made famous by, alas, Mahathir!). from now on, he will be best remembered as yet another infamous Menteri Besar who has contributed substantively to the demise of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy in Selangor, a legacy that is far more damaging than those by any of his predecessors.

The Malaysian Insider Looks at the Issues around The KI Saga


August 12, 2014

OPINION: The Malaysian Insider Looks at the Issues around The KI Saga

PKR’s move to remove Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as the Menteri Besar of Selangor seems to have been going on forever.

But make no mistake, this is not just some personnel change – the drama in Selangor has national consequences and even touches on the kind of country we desire. The Malaysian Insider looks at some of the issues raised by the saga in Selangor.

1) First in the World

Khalid ib3

Take a bow, Khalid. You are officially a one-of-a-kind politician. You have been sacked from your political party, are unwanted by two of the three component parties in Pakatan Rakyat, do not seem to enjoy the support of the State Exco but yet believe that you should remain as the Menteri Besar. The only chaps who are wholeheartedly supporting you belong to UMNO-Barisan Nasional. Surely that is telling.

2) Going overseas, now?

The Royals across the country love to say how they have the interests of the rakyat at heart and all that other mushy stuff.If this is a fact and not some self-serving statement, then the Sultan of Selangor should postpone his trip overseas and ensure that the Selangor crisis is resolved according to the Law and in a transparent fashion.

HRH The Sultan of SelangorHas Khalid misled HRH Sultan of Selangor?

The Malaysian Insider today reported that PKR has 32 signed statutory declarations from state assemblymen who want Khalid removed. That’s 32 out of 43 Pakatan Rakyat representatives, a clear majority.

Yesterday, Khalid said he had the backing of the majority. Someone is clearly lying. The Law as laid down by the Federal Court clearly states that there is no need to test the fitness of an MB on the state assembly floor and that what is needed is proof that he has lost the support of the majority.

Khalid’s assertion in the Palace will not do. The Perak Royal household is still reeling from the power grab because the public felt that justice and fairness were not served in that sorry episode. There will forever remain an asterisk next to the name of the Perak Royal Household because of that power grab.

The Sultan of Selangor should do everything to ensure fair play in this crisis. A good starting point is to postpone his overseas trip and find out who really has the support of the Assembly.

3) PAS must decide

Aziz and Hadi ShowIt’s The Aziz-Hadi Show now–Balik Kampong

Whether Khalid stays or finally steps down as MB, the dynamics in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have changed – for good. And that is a good thing. There have been too many compromises to make this coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS work. Some fundamental differences have been put on the back burner for too long and these have come back to bite PR.

Chief among these differences is the notion of equality. In coalition politics, all parties must have one vote and that vote must have equal strength vis-a-vis other partners. So if PKR and DAP decide on a course of action, PAS, despite its misgivings, must concede to the majority view. Similarly, if PKR and PAS agree on a seat allocation, then DAP must go along with the majority view.

Unfortunately, the hardliners in PAS, led by Party President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, seem to believe that the Islamist party’s vote carries more power. This is akin to the practice in Barisan Nasional where what UMNO says, goes.

There is also some queasiness in PAS about women leaders and standing up for the rights of non-Muslims and non-Malays. To be fair, it remains unclear if this is the majority view in PAS or the position of Hadi and other hardliners.

What is clear is that the PAS party elections next year will see a battle royale between the clerics and the professional class for the soul of the party. If Hadi and gang prevail, it is unlikely that Pakatan Rakyat will be a three-party coalition.

This development will be crushing news for Malaysians who want the two-party system to be entrenched. But surely it is preferable that parties with different ideas about right and wrong, race relations and gender acknowledge these yawning gaps and go their separate ways.

4) Leadership

Kajang MoveKajang Move is one Big Mess

PKR has made a mess of its Kajang Move. Obviously it has not indicated clearly enough the entire saga of the Kajang by-election, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s purported nomination, followed by his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and its implications for Khalid and the Selangor PKR. Or for that matter, its allies in Pakatan Rakyat.

How can its strategy to strengthen the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government have led to the brewing saga today – a Menteri Besar sacked from his party and without apparent support from the coalition that put him in office?

PKR keeps saying it is a party that believes in justice and transparency, but its leadership has a funny way of expressing those ideals. The Selangor saga will cost the party in the next general elections.

Because now it has a track record of a party that appears to lurch from crisis to crisis, some apparently self-inflicted. That does not augur well for a party that believes it can do a better job of running the country than its political rivals.

Crimes against humanity in Gaza


August 6, 2014

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.–Dennis Kucinich

Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a ‘buffer zone’ – or a bigger plan?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

It’s time to step back and ask if we want to support Israel if it wants to eject all Palestinians from their land

by Dennis Kucinich

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/gaza-buffer-zone-dennis-kucinich

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

GazaAmerican Taxpayers Should NOT be paying for this!

American taxpayers should not be paying for this. And the western world should stop rejecting serious inquiries about Israel’s moral inconsistencies, or allow it to benefit from cognitive dissonance and information overload amid the current crisis in Gaza.

There is a land grab going on. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has shrunk Gaza’s habitable land mass by 44%, with an edict establishing a 3km (1.8-mile) buffer zone, a “no-go” zone for Palestinians – and that’s quite significant, because a good part of Gaza is only 3 to 4 miles wide. Over 250,000 Palestinians within this zone must leave their homes, or be bombed. As their territorial space collapses, 1.8m Gazans now living in 147 square miles will be compressed into 82 square miles.

Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.

With Gaza’s land mass shrinking due to Israeli military action, it’s about time someone asked: What is the end game? Three weeks ago, Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, called for Gaza to “become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

Land GrabbingIs this not Land Grabbing?

Israel has a housing crisis? After the “no-go” buffer zone is evacuated, there will be 21,951 Palestinians per square mile in Gaza, while Israel’s population density stands at 964 persons per square mile.

Deputy Speaker Feiglin wants the Palestinians in Gaza to lose all of their land. One must not assume that Mr Feiglin or his Likud faction speak for the main government actors like Prime Minister Netanyahu. After all, Knesset politics are complex and divergent. But since Gaza has just lost control of that 44% of its land, it may also be time to ask: does the establishment of that 3km zone represent the unfolding of a larger plan? Is that the end game?

At the very point where an aroused public becomes aghast at the slaughter of Gazans, the western world becomes inured to the violence, hypnotized by the media’s cadence of body counts. The intolerable becomes normalized, and later ignored as old news. Which would seem a perfect time to leave in place the 3km zone – for security purposes, of course – and then advance the proposal that Palestinians crammed into the remaining 56% of Gaza simply … leave.

I assume the IDF acts with deliberation, under orders from the Netanyahu government. And I think the extraordinary and illegal forced relocation of over 250,000 Palestinians from 44% of Gazan land is a crime against humanity under the guise of establishing a “buffer zone” for security purposes.

Look at the region’s maps from recent history. Look at the steady erosion of Palestinian land and the acquisition of land by Israel, and you can understand that the present attack on Gaza is not about solely about Hamas. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s rockets. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s tunnels. It’s about land. It isn’t about kidnappings. It is about land. It isn’t even about meeting a housing crisis in Israel. It is about grabbing land from the Palestinians in Gaza and the natural resources that go with the land, upon the occasion of Israel’s military invasion of Gaza.

Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km “buffer zone”.

Gaza:Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law


August 4, 2014

Israel’s Blatant Violation of International Humanitarian Law (Part 1- 08-03-14)

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

Syed Hamid AlbarWE are witnessing before our very eyes the most blatant violation of international humanitarian law being executed by the state of Israel.

Somehow, there is so much complacency on the part of the international community, as if the loss of Palestinian lives is just another insignificant footnote in the chronicles of international affairs. It is allowed to continue without abatement and consequence because the state committing the offence is Israel; the only member state of the United Nations created by the UN.

The promise of the state of Palestine remains unfulfilled. There is so much of a guilt mindset towards Israel amongst Western countries, particularly the P5 Western members, for the sins and atrocities committed in the holocaust. It gives them comfortable justification that the Palestinians should pay for the wrongs they have done.

Generally, we have not heard any condemnation or statement of disapproval against Israel for the killing of children, women and other innocent civilians in the name of self-defence. In the diplomatic parlance of the UN, this is another example of the excessive use of force by Israel. These inhumane acts of violence seem to be acceptable when executed by Israel.

R2P (Chapter VII of UN Charter) cannot be applied in the instant case as its going to be vetoed or there will be a threat for it to be vetoed. The United States, for example, in recent years has used its veto regularly to protect the Israeli government from international criticism or any attempt to restrain its military from exercising its so-called right to self defence.

Gaza2Israel–Inhumanity Personified

The usage of veto by any member of the P5, according to critics, has rendered the role of the UN or Security Council (SC) to maintain global peace and security on issues of serious breaches of human rights, international law or even genocide, ineffective. Contrary to the desire of some members, the Human Rights Council convened a meeting to receive the report on the Israeli military actions in Gaza. The report findings showed there is evidence that the Israeli military action in Gaza amounted to crime against humanity. The report and recommendation of the Human Rights Council was for these to be further investigated.

However, the international media, mainly from mainstream Western media, in its eagerness to defend Israel can be considered guilty of spreading biased or slanted commentaries in favour of Israel.

All of us are against terrorism and acts of violence should not be used against civilian populations. Here, the social media has provided a more fair and balanced reporting of the episodes and tragedies as they are sourced from independent non-governmental organisations and people on the ground whom are without any vested interests.

In this way, it would be difficult to mislead the world again. We are told in international politics there is a need to factor in geopolitical and national interest considerations as propounded by Machiavelli and, in the modern day, by Hans Morgenthau realist approach.

In the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian/Israeli and Arab/Israeli conflicts, this stance is amply demonstrated. The UN, at this crucial time even when it has the legal and moral obligation to bring peace and security, could not do so. Even when the Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire, no one is listening as it does not possess the political influence to force Israel to comply. Strange though it may sound to ordinary citizens of the world, but that is the reality.

The truism is, the international community is aware of the serious breaches of international law and yet, it stood by to watch the Israeli regime continue with their operations, notwithstanding the clear proof by the UN that 75 per cent of those killed by Israeli actions are non-combatants — the civilian population of Gaza.

Of course, we observed differential treatment in dealing with the Arab Spring. Israeli military actions had used the precarious ground of the right to self-defence to provide legitimacy for their continued aerial bombing and incursion into Gaza.

It looks as if Israel has been given carte blanche to use excessive force when the state was never in real danger of being overrun or even threatened by the Palestinians. The international community currently construes the bombings of power stations, mosques, schools and civilians as legitimate.

gaza-under-attack_pictures_2012_free_gaza_gaza_4_by_palsun1

The fact that Gaza is the biggest open prison operated by Israel, and that they are in illegal occupation of Palestinian land, are not mentioned at all by the mainstream international media. By any standard, it is difficult to comprehend how the killing of civilians by Israel can be justifiable. Under the circumstances, the world will watch further carnage and destruction from the current military actions by Israel.

In order to confuse and deceive the world, stories are being churned out to blame Hamas for using civilians as human shields. For those who know or understand Gaza, they will realise that this small strip is densely populated and the population has nowhere to run when all borders are closed. It should be expected that any firing of missiles and aerial bombing are bound to hit the ordinary civilian population.

The argument given then is, deaths are inevitable collateral damage. This was the same logic used by former United States President George Bush in his war against international terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. The dissemination of misinformation and misguided perceptions by the international media was believable in the past, but today, with the advances in information technology and the increasing role of the social media, governments find difficulty to hide the truth from domestic and international scrutiny.

Before our very eyes, we see the exact nature of the collective punishment being inflicted as clear as daylight. These vivid images and portrayals being fed to the world, are indicative of how standards of international law of the civilised world have failed to be observed.

Israel seems to be given the right to do what it likes with impunity. This can be said to be the case since the state was created in 1948. Of course, this position all began with The Balfour Declaration of 1918, which started all the pains and sufferings of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel.

Israel, since the 1967 War, is the occupier of land that belonged to the Palestinian as stated even by the UN resolution. The sad part of the tragic Palestinian opera is that, nothing is done to stop it. Powerful nations usually allow for expansion of territories in a conflict on the basis of reality on the ground. This is another example that indicated the failure of the UN to enforce the Charter against the state of Israel.

With all these happenings, what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said seems to be logical and reasonable. The reality is Israel can be said to be even more powerful than the SC without the necessity of being a permanent member. This argument is supported by the fact; she could do what her might thinks is right. Equally, it could dictate the most powerful nations to do what is in the best interest of Israel. In this context then, it would not be wrong to say Israel is controlling the world.

There is no need for the Jewish lobby to get jittery or condemn anybody for making the conclusion based on what is happening on the ground. This has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic. This labeling of anti- Semitism is most abused and is an attempt to instil fear on those who may have adverse comments to make on Israel’s military conduct.

The writer considers this strategy by Israel as amounting to coercion against persons or organisations from exercising their right to free speech.

PART 2: UN Apathy gives Israel a free rein in GAZA

by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia (04-08-14)

http://www.nst.com.my

NOT even for the sake of justice or humanity can any state or power be willing to act or speak against Israel for her failure to uphold international law. There are those who are idealistic that talk about the strength of numbers of the Muslim world or even call on the United Nations to take action consistent with its Charter. There is even talk by some members of the UN about the expulsion of Israel from the world body.

The truth is that even at the height of apartheid in South Africa in 1974, when a resolution was moved under Article 6 of the UN Charter to expel that country from the UN, it could not be passed as it was blocked by France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In short, Article 6 of the UN Charter is only good on paper because that article can be constrained by Article 5, where on issues pertaining to peace and security, the absolute power lies in the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council or SC), where any member can exercise the right to veto.

For these reasons, those who opposed the veto power of the victors of the Second World War, wanted it to be abolished to reflect the current geopolitical situation. Many of the provisions in the UN Charter are subject to the Security Council (SC) and the Permanent 5 (P5) (The United States, China, France, Britain and Russia) are an integral part of the system.

Ban_Ki-moon_A Powerless UN Secretary-General

We can be talking about the right to expel any member of the UN for blatant breaches of the Charter under Article 6, but Article 5 requires agreement of the SC and the P5. According to the records of the UN, out of the last 10 vetoes in the SC, eight of them had been exercised by the US and out of these, seven were because of resolutions’ criticism of Israel in some form or another.

The question is whether international politics and national interests recognise the elements of morality, ethical values and norms or even justice. The quick answer is: politics of big powers only recognise interests. Why should the world allow Israel to do anything it likes? Is there an unwritten understanding of the UN and the international community that Israel can do anything it wants with the legitimacy given by the right of self-defence?

Ideally, Israel must be treated like other members of the international community and thus made fully accountable for its actions. In short, they should be subject to investigation and their leaders can be brought to justice if they commit criminal acts contrary to international law. However, this can never happen.

Fueling all fightersAmerica’s Humanitarian Aid to Israel

Compare the military might of Israel and Palestine under occupation. The people, being walled up and with blockades imposed, have in reality made them no better than being prisoners on their own land. In other words, they are denied their basic human rights by Israel. Why is the world not dealing with these human rights issues? There are many reports by the UN and the Human Rights Council on the conduct of Israel in the occupied territory but these are reports that will be kept in the archives and cannot be acted upon.

There has been no action taken against Israel for possession of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The question often asked in the Muslim world is what kind of balance can we expect in this new global order? The entire Arab world is in turmoil with the interference of foreign powers to establish so called freedom and democracy.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya are now controlled by different dissenting and warring groups, bent on using violence to achieve their objectives.

Palestinians are struggling for their right to statehood. However, what was previously acceptable in the struggle for statehood and independence before 9/11, as acts of violence have now been categorised as terrorism.

Malaysia argues that acts of terrorism should not be limited to acts of non-state actors alone but should also include those committed by states. We cry and feel the pain suffered by the Palestinians for the last 60 years by an occupying force that shows no mercy. This is not because we are biased or prejudiced but that the Palestinians deserve to be given the right to have their own state.

The international community had agreed to a two state solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. Even the Muslim countries that did not accept the existence of Israel have now changed their position and see the current impasse can only be settled politically and not militarily.

The Israelis had not delivered on their part of the bargain. The arrogance of the Netanyahu government is glaring in full view for us to witness. The Muslim world cannot avoid but feel disillusioned with the mass killing of civilians especially women and children. Due to these senseless killings of innocent civilians the world and the whole of the Palestinian population are united against the Israeli military action.

The peace and security promised to the world today has become a dream or more accurately a nightmare, as we witness conflicts that have taken an ugly face. This is the time for the US to show her willingness to lead the world for the cause of justice and humanity and for peace and security.

The world should not return to the Cold-War period. If we want to see a world that lauds cooperation and competition that is fair and sustainable, it must be built together. There will be contradictions along the way but not open conflicts for destruction. We should applaud the decision of the South African government to sever diplomatic relations with Israel to register its unhappiness with the Israeli incursion and bombing of Gaza. Nearer to us at home, we should also applaud Indonesia for taking similar action against Israel.

israel-a-killing-machineAmerican Support enables Israel to violate International Law

All Malaysians should give their undivided support to their leaders for their ever-courageous stand on the cause of humanity and justice for the Palestinians. The actions of Israel in Palestine particularly in Gaza, now prove that Israel was never willing to resolve the Palestinian issue. The intention of the Zionist movement is to create a Greater Israel, chase out every Palestinian from their homeland, and settle them in different Arab countries.

Malaysia has been consistent and right based on what Israel has done thus far. We understand the Holocaust and the killings of the Jews by the Nazis was a horrible crime of genocide but this should not prevent us from condemning what is happening in Gaza.

In 2004 the writer represented Malaysia and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and addressed the panel of judges at the International Court of Justice in the case of the Israeli Security Wall.In February 2004, the ICJ considered the Israeli argument cannot rely on the right of self-defence or as state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall.

The court asserted that the construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law. Therefore the construction of the wall, the blockade of Palestinian territories and assassinations committed by Israel cannot be considered as a just cause.

Every civilised member of the international community should not ignore the continued occupation and apartheid policy of Israel as described in the book written by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The statement by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Jews ruled the world, should not be misconstrued. This is his opinion and it’s up to us to be judgmental about it. Many scholars had written on the strength of the Jewish lobby in influencing US foreign policy. Whether its true or not true is for others to decide. How the media, electronic and print, had depicted events and victims are before the world to see.

Malaysia has been consistent with its position and views. The writer, when he was the Foreign Minister, met two Israeli foreign ministers at their request. When they asked why Malaysia could not have diplomatic relations with Israel or even some informal relationship with Israel like other Arab or Muslim countries, the answer the writer gave was: we would wait for a political solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Malaysia thought then, by agreeing to the two state solution, it would finally ensure peace and security in the region; since she did not consider that this problem could be solved militarily.

Gaming Israel and Palestine


August 3, 2014

Gaming Israel and Palestine

G.FriedmanBy George Friedman

We have long argued that the Arab-Israeli conflict is inherently insoluble. Now, for the third time in recent years, a war is being fought in Gaza. The Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel with minimal effect. The Israelis are carrying out a broader operation to seal tunnels along the Gaza-Israel boundary. Like the previous wars, the current one will settle nothing. The Israelis want to destroy Hamas’ rockets. They can do so only if they occupy Gaza and remain there for an extended period while engineers search for tunnels and bunkers throughout the territory. This would generate Israeli casualties from Hamas guerrillas fighting on their own turf with no room for retreat. So Hamas will continue to launch rockets, but between the extreme inaccuracy of the rockets and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the group will inflict little damage to the Israelis.

War Without a Military Outcome

The most interesting aspect of this war is that both sides apparently found it necessary, despite knowing it would have no definitive military outcome. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers followed by the incineration of a Palestinian boy triggered this conflict. An argument of infinite regression always rages as to the original sin: Who committed the first crime?

For the Palestinians, the original crime was the migration into the Palestinian mandate by Jews, the creation of the State of Israel and the expulsion of Arabs from that state. For Israel, the original sin came after the 1967 war, during which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. At that moment, the Israelis were prepared to discuss a deal, but the Arabs announced their famous “three nos” at a meeting in Khartoum: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace. That locked the Israelis into an increasingly rigid stance. Attempts at negotiations have followed the Khartoum declaration, all of which failed, and the “no recognition” and “no peace” agreement is largely intact. Cease-fires are the best that anyone can hope for.

For Hamas, at least — and I suspect for many Palestinians in the West Bank — the only solution is Israel’s elimination. For many Israelis, the only solution is to continue to occupy all captured territories until the Palestinians commit to peace and recognition. Since the same Israelis do not believe that day will ever come, the occupation would become permanent.

Under these circumstances, the Gaza war is in some sense a matter of housekeeping. For Hamas, the point of the operation is demonstrating it can fire rockets at Israel. These rockets are inaccurate, but the important thing is that they were smuggled into Gaza at all, since this suggests more dangerous weapons eventually will be smuggled in to the Palestinian territory. At the same time, Hamas is demonstrating that it remains able to incur casualties while continuing to fight.

For the Israelis, the point of the operation is that they are willing to carry it out at all. The Israelis undoubtedly intend to punish Gaza, but they do not believe they can impose their will on Gaza and compel the Palestinians to reach a political accommodation with Israel. War’s purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict. Even if Israel somehow destroyed Hamas, another organization would emerge to fill its space in the Palestinian ecosystem. Israel can’t go far enough to break the Palestinian will to resist; it is dependent on a major third-party state to help meet Israeli security needs. This creates an inherent contradiction whereby Israel receives enough American support to guarantee its existence but because of humanitarian concerns is not allowed to take the kind of decisive action that might solve its security problem.

We thus see periodic violence of various types, none of which will be intended or expected to achieve any significant political outcome. Wars here have become a series of bloodstained gestures. There are some limited ends to achieve, such as closing Palestinian tunnels and demonstrating Palestinian capabilities that force Israel into an expensive defensive posture. But Hamas will not be defeated, and Israel will make no concessions.

Sovereignty and Viability Problems

The question therefore is not what the point of all this is — although that is a fascinating subject — but where all this ends. All things human end. Previous longstanding conflicts, such as those between France and England, ended or at least changed shape. Israel and Palestine accordingly will resolve their conflict in due course.

Many believe the creation of a Palestinian state will be the solution, and those who believe this often have trouble understanding why this self-evidently sensible solution has not been implemented. The reason is the proposed solution is not nearly as sensible as it might appear to some.

Issues of viability and sovereignty surround any discussion of a Palestinian state. Geography raises questions about the viability of any Palestinian polity. Palestine has two population centers, Gaza and the West Bank, which are detached from one another. One population center, Gaza, is an enormously crowded, narrow salient. Its ability to develop a sustainable economy is limited. The West Bank has more possibilities, but even it would be subordinate to a dynamic Israel. If the Palestinian workforce is drawn into the Israeli economy, both territories will become adjuncts to Israel. Within its current borders, a viable Palestine is impossible to imagine.

From the Israeli point of view, creating a Palestine along something resembling the 1967 lines (leaving aside the question of Jerusalem) would give the Palestinians superb targets, namely, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Given its history, Israel is unlikely to take that risk unless it had the right to oversee security in the West Bank in some way. That in turn would undermine Palestinian sovereignty.

As you play out the possibilities in any two-state solution, you run into the problem that any solution one side demanded would be unbearable to the other. Geography simply won’t permit two sovereign states. In this sense, the extremists on both sides are more realistic than the moderates. But that reality encounters other problems.

Israel’s High-Water Mark

Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. Neither of these prospects is likely. Israel’s economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are weak and divided. None of Israel’s neighbors pose any threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel’s position is difficult to improve.

Israel can’t radically shift its demography. But several evolutions in the region could move against Israel. Egypt could change governments, renounce its treaty, rearm and re-enter the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah could use its experience in Syria to open a front in Lebanon. Syria could get an Islamic State-led government and threaten the Golan Heights. Islamists could overthrow Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy and pose a threat to the east. Turkey could evolve into a radical Islamic government and send forces to challenge Israel. A cultural revolution could take place in the Arab world that would challenge Israel’s economic superiority, and therefore its ability to wage war. Iran could smuggle missiles into Gaza, and so on.

There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel’s already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel — some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable.

It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. But Israel does not think that it can reach accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security, a view based on a realistic reading of geography. Therefore, Israel sees little purpose in making concessions to the Palestinians despite its relative position of strength.

In these circumstances, the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats. From this perspective, the Israeli strategy on settlements makes sense. If there will be no talks, and Israel must maintain its overwhelming advantage, creating strategic depth in the West Bank is sensible; it would be less sensible if there were a possibility of a peace treaty. Israel must also inflict a temporary defeat on any actively hostile Palestinian force from time to time to set them back several years and to demonstrate Israeli capabilities for psychological purposes.

The Palestinian position meanwhile must be to maintain its political cohesion and wait, using its position to try to drive wedges between Israel and its foreign patrons, particularly the United States, but understanding that the only change in the status quo will come from changes outside the Israeli-Palestinian complex. The primary Palestinian problem will be to maintain itself as a distinct entity with sufficient power to resist an Israeli assault for some time. Any peace treaty would weaken the Palestinians by pulling them into the Israeli orbit and splitting them up. By refusing a peace treaty, they remain distinct, if divided. That guarantees they will be there when circumstances change.

Fifty Years Out

Israel’s major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.

Time is not on Israel’s side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. That normally would be an argument for entering negotiations, but the Palestinians will not negotiate a deal that would leave them weak and divided, and any deal that Israel could live with would do just that.

What we are seeing in Gaza is merely housekeeping, that is, each side trying to maintain its position. The Palestinians need to maintain solidarity for the long haul. The Israelis need to hold their strategic superiority as long as they can. But nothing lasts forever, and over time, the relative strength of Israel will decline. Meanwhile, the relative strength of the Palestinians may increase, though this isn’t certain.

Looking at the relative risks, making a high-risk deal with the Palestinians would seem prudent in the long run. But nations do not make decisions on such abstract calculations. Israel will bet on its ability to stay strong. From a political standpoint, it has no choice. The Palestinians will bet on the long game. They have no choice. And in the meantime, blood will periodically flow.

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/gaming-israel-and-palestine#ixzz39GnidByO

Can PAS be trusted to do it right for an Inclusive and Just Malaysia?


July 29, 2014

Can PAS be trusted do it right for an inclusive and Just Malaysia?

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Thank you, Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki.

mohd zuhdi marzukiThank you, for your honesty and bringing into the open what many supporters of Pakatan Rakyat have suspected for a while now and which The Malaysian Insider has touched on in the last few days: that the removal of Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as the Selangor Menteri Besar has become a sideshow.

The real issue is the percolating fight in PAS between those aligned to Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who are more comfortable sharing power with UMNO than with PKR and DAP.

It is a fight within PAS on whether the Islamist party should continue to preach the Pakatan Rakyat mantra of inclusiveness and justice for all Malaysians or return to its narrow path of Malay and Muslim supremacy. This battle in PAS will reach a crescendo on August 10 when the party leaders meet. But in the meantime, both factions – the moderate, professional class and the hardliners – are engaged in a sizzling behind-the-scenes war of words.

And this was the context in which Zuhdi’s WhatsApp message was leaked out. To be fair to the Director of operations of the PAS Research Centre, no one knows what comment from the other PAS CWC member or member elicited that response from him.

Besides calling Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a dictator and wishing that he retired from politics, Zuhdi also offered a political scenario out of the Khalid impasse: that PAS form a simple-majority government with UMNO and retain Khalid as Menteri Besar.

Zuhdi has been put to the sword on social media platforms and given the antipathy of the party grassroots towards UMNO, any move to join forces with UMNO could really split PAS down the centre. But that is a story for another time.

Zuhdi has been on the defensive but really, he does not need to defend his remarks.It is good that voters know the thinking of those aligned to Hadi. It is important that voters understand that what is at stake is not a simple change of the Chief Executive of Selangor.

The PAS hardliners are entitled to change course, bail out of Pakatan Rakyat and return to the welcoming embrace of like-minded religious and racial chauvinists in UMNO. Apparently, PAS hardliners find it suffocating having to share power with DAP and PKR elected representatives, and they believe that Islam is under threat and that non-Muslims and liberal Muslims must be kept in their place.

HadiGood luck to the Hadi camp. But what about the so-called professionals and moderates? They know the position of the hardliners. Are they also going to turn their backs on a more inclusive Malaysia? Are they going to forget the legions of Malaysians who tossed aside decades of misgivings about PAS to vote for PAS candidates contesting under the Pakatan Rakyat banner in 2008 and 2013?

Are they willing to join forces with UMNO politicians with whom they have battled so vigorously on the corrosive issues of corruption, race and religion? In short, are the moderates going to sell out the people who put them in office?

It may have started out as the “Kajang move” or the grand plan to remove Khalid as Selangor MB, but today, it is much more than that. It is about the future of PAS, the future of Pakatan Rakyat. And allowing UMNO back into power through the back door.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/xxx1#sthash.WQT9sahn.dpuf

 

 

Khalid Ibrahim’s defiance may prove costly to PKR and PAS


July 26, 2014

Khalid Ibrahim’s defiance may prove costly to Anwar Ibrahim, PKR and PAS

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/269938

Terence Netto’s COMMENT: With him digging his heels in for the long haul, Pakatan Rakyat will discover that the remaining time on Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s watch may well turn out as Chandra Muzaffar predicted an Anwar Ibrahim premiership would: an “unmitigated disaster.”

That apocalyptic prediction, aired with days to go before General Election 12 (GE12) in March 2008, made the flesh of the then rapidly coalescing opposition to UMNO-BN creep horribly.

Never mind that the former Deputy President of PKR’s precursor, Parti Keadilan Nasional, had quit — in circumstances more to do with ego than with principle – after a few years of residence in the party he had helped found in 1999. Never mind, too, that his leaving had strengthened the reputed theory that intellectuals tend to be more bane than boon to a fledgling political party.

When Chandra (left) regressed to the extent of his truculent denigration of the moving force behind the reformasi movement on the eve of what was seen as a pivotal decision by the Malaysian electorate, his renunciation rankled like a case of apostasy of a prominent follower would in a Muslim community.

Several years down the road from its airing, Chandra’s dire prognostication of how an Anwar premiership would turn out is being played out in the saga of Khalid Ibrahim’s MB-ship of Selangor. In the last few weeks, even as it has become increasingly evident that Khalid has crossed the Rubicon in terms of some kind of accommodation with his own party with respect to his MB-ship, the notion that forces beyond Pakatan’s ability to manage are at work to help Khalid keep his job has become a suppurating wound in its flanks.

The wound has to be cauterised

The longer it lies exposed to the elements that are out to undermine Pakatan so as to gain UMNO-BN a return to power in the richest state in Malaysia, the more certain it will be that the 51.87% of the national electorate that voted Pakatan in May last year would not be encouraged to re-endorse the coalition at GE14, at least not the PKR and the PAS components of it.

At this juncture, both parties appear decidedly unreliable as trustees of the cause of political and economic reform of the country that the reformasi movement, galvanized by Anwar Ibrahim’s travails, had raised hopes for.

PAS’s insistence on implementing hudud in Kelantan and Anwar’s (right) seeming ineptitude vis-à-vis internecine feuding in PKR have combined to erode confidence in the two Pakatan components.

Only the DAP, in the tripartite Pakatan, appears steadily adherent to prior agreed goals of the coalition; by comparison, PAS and PKR are flaky.

Seeing as voters had how easily a PKR appointee as MB can turn out to be a quisling and keeping in mind that the top ranks of the party are riddled with former UMNO types cannot be very encouraging to voters who had cottoned on to the idea that UMNO-BN’s more than half-century rule had decayed irredeemably.

Khalid has to be jettisoned if the Pakatan government in Selangor is to renew its claims to the allegiance of those who voted for it in 2008 and 2013. But the signs are that Khalid has dug in for the long haul. He has done so in the belief he has the support of not only UMNO-BN, but also some quarters of Pakatan component PAS.

The latest indications of support for Khalid emanating from PAS President Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang tends to confirm that PAS has learned nothing from its troubles in Kedah in the 2010-12 spell when their MB, Azizan Abdul Razak, was under pressure from within the party’s ranks to quit. Hadi and company declined to give an incompetent MB the coup de grace just like how they are refusing now to cashier Khalid.

The upshot: Kedah was lost to UMNO-BN, with five parliamentary seats – three held by PAS and two by PKR – reverting to UMNO.

The longer Khalid is allowed to thumb his nose at the forces within Pakatan that want him out, the more certain it is that recriminations will mount in the PKR quarter at least, which would prompt critics from among that lot to muse on the magnitude of the misjudgment that has seen a man like Khalid morph into what he has become: a fifth columnist in PKR’s ranks.

Early signs of political ineptitude

To be sure, Khalid had shown troubling signs of political ineptitude on the very morning after Pakatan captured power in Selangor on March 8, 2008. He began discussing with Dr Hasan Ali, the then PAS chief in Selangor, the possibility of that man becoming deputy to him as MB.

What was egregious about that move was that Hassan had the previous night been in negotiations with Mohamad Khir Toyo, the UMNO-BN MB unseated by the Pakatan win in Selangor. The negotiations, premised on an UMNO-PAS unity government for Selangor, broke down over Hassan’s insistence on being the MB-designate.

A man of vaulting and dangerously unmanageable ambition, Hasan would go on to create a lot of tension in the Pakatan government in Selangor until PAS put an end to his dissidence by sacking him in January 2012.

Khalid had no clue on how to bring to heel a person whose vaulting ambition he had unwittingly spurred. Anwar has a clue on how to dispose of Khalid, but it appears he can’t get PAS to sign on.

If PAS cannot be persuaded to endorse the removal of Khalid, then the leader who was the principal adhesive in the, hitherto, improbable coalition between secular DAP and theocratic PAS will have been gravely undermined by one from his own quarter. The irony is too bitter for comment.

It will seem for far too often in his career such that one can draw a damaging inference, Anwar can’t quite tell friend from foe. There is a reason why he can’t; let’s leave that for another time. Suffice the flaw is of the gravest magnitude.

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.

 

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)

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
________________
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

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.


July 13, 2014

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

by Ahmad Zakie Shariff (received by e-mail from the writer)

Malaysia2

Can You See Our Future?   This is for all you out there trying to make sense of the environment around you – the social worker whose soup kitchen has been directed to close down, the CEO who’s looking for ways to better the company he’s been tasked to improve, the mother who’s wondering why the Ringgit does not stretch as far as it did.

Look around you – at current events that, if left unchecked will evolve a future none of us are prepared for – the high profile statements that some of our leaders have mouthed off recently; the sometimes heavy handed actions of some people in authority. I cringe at how little forethought is used before something is said or done. They must surely have considered the potential impact of their actions.

You see, anyone who is a leader must understand that their every word, their every action is scrutinized and analysed, and as such amplified.

Now ask yourself: do these people have a clear and broadly shared understanding of our nation’s ability to shape the future? Are they ‘lighthouses’ shining far enough to guide distance ships or are they merely weak ‘torchlights’ shining the very few dark metres ahead? If like me, your answer is the latter, then let me tell you that there is hope: we CAN collectively influence and own our future.

As with companies, I believe that every nation has the opportunity to shape its own destiny. I believe it is possible to create a broad and enticing new opportunity horizon for the people; a lack of resolute leadership (read weak) need not limit a nation’s ambition nor its accomplishments.

These beliefs are not a product of simple-minded optimism, but of deep conviction that Malaysians are meant for better things.

At the time of independence, Malaysia’s leaders were clearly ahead of the people. The creation of a new democratic monarchy with universal suffrage, anchored by a well-thought out constitution, was a leap of faith the government took with a trusting, young country.

Fifty-seven years on, however, it seems that the roles have reversed. The people have gained more confidence and are reaching for the stars. Some of Malaysia’s leaders however, seem more timorous – happy to be stuck in an outmoded past, unwilling to change – our politics have become more tactical than visionary.

But there has been a transformation in Malaysia over the last decade. It did not involve the people toppling a monarch or bringing down a wall, but it did involve a society throwing off something huge – throwing off the shackles of comfort zones and a ‘government knows best’ mentality and replacing it with energy and boundless aspirations.

Anyone can spawn a revolution. Yet many Ahmads, Ah Chongs and Anthony Dasses today, inclined to regard themselves as victims, have lost confidence in their ability to shape the future of the nation. They have forgotten that historically it has been the dispossessed – from Gandhi to Mandela – who have led revolutions. Notwithstanding all the sombre incantations that “change must start at the top,” one must ask how often monarchy has led a revolution.

We are evolving as a nation and we suffer from growing pains – no nation is spared that throughout history – Malaysia is no different.  But I know this: I know the shape of Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

That is why I believe that we need loud, engaging, spirited arguments about how and why Malaysia and Malaysians need to go about influencing the right choices – and never resign themselves to fate.

But we need to do it in a spirit of respect for one another. We are many trying to be one and we need to hear representative voices from all constituents in order to shape our collective future.

The American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “There are always two parties, the hj-ahmad-zakieparty of the past and the party of the future; the establishment and the movement.” A substantial truth lurks in this observation: the future belongs not to those who will not tinker with things that ain’t broke, but to those willing to challenge the biases and prejudices of ‘’the establishment’’. The future belongs more to “the movement”, the unorthodox and the unreasonable than it does to those who are afraid to challenge the unknown.

I write this in the spirit of gently prodding my fellow Malaysians to imagine and deliver on a different future by refusing to settle any more for a Malaysian politics and governance that falls short of the talents possessed and needed by the Malaysian people.

No matter what ills have beset our nation in recent times, I am an optimist, a sober optimist, but an optimist nonetheless about the future of my country.For did someone not remind us that it is better to light a candle than to continually curse the darkness?

 

A Poem for this Weekend


July 13, 2014

A Poem for this Weekend

William-Ernest-Henley2I am the Master of my Fate

I dedicate this Henley poem to  Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Teoh Beng Hock, Bernard Zorro Khoo and Irene Fernandez, and fellow Malaysians who are in the forefront of our struggle for Democracy, Freedom and Justice. –Din Merican

INVICTUS

( The Unconquerable Soul)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.