Book Review: Ruslan Khalid’s Quest for Architectural Excellence


August 6, 2014

BOOK REVIEW:

Ruslan Khalid’s Quest for Architectural Excellence. A Malaysian Experience

A Review of Ruslan Khalid’s Quest for Architectural Excellence. A Malaysian Experience. Marshall Cavendish, Singapore, 2013. 308 pp. US$35.00; RM44.90.

by Dr. M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Ruslan Khalid

During World War II, British aviation experts were consumed with analyzing and fixing returning warplanes that had been fired upon, until it was pointed out that those damages were not critical as the planes could still fly. It was counterintuitive but logical; if you want to study critical damages, you examine downed planes.

Last year, the Talent Corporation spent RM65 million on Malaysian professionals abroad to entice them to return. It may be counterintuitive but the money would be better spent on those at home so they would not even consider leaving. If they are happy, the good word would spread, enticing those abroad to return.

Our wise elders counseled us of the trap of kera di hutan di susukan, anak di rumah mati kelaparan. (breastfeeding the monkey in the jungle while letting your child at home starve to death.)

An emigrating family, like Tolstoy’s unhappy family in Anna Karenina, is unique in its own way. Thus instead of studying “big data” on the brain drain, it would be more fruitful to analyze individual cases, not those who emigrate but the ones who return or stay.

One such professional was the late architect Ruslan Khalid. He died in November 2012, only days after final-proofing his autobiography, Quest For Architectural Excellence. The Malaysian Experience.

Product of London’s AA School of Architecture

Ruslan graduated from London’s prestigious Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture, and had a successful practice in London before returning home late in 1979. Among his clients while there was the Sultan of Pahang.

His final dozen years or so in Malaysia took only about a third of his 308-page book. Those running Talent Corporation would learn more from reading those pages than they would from gallivanting around the world enticing Malaysians to return.

It would also be a lot cheaper, and the book is an enjoyable read, quite apart from being informative. Ruslan wrote well, with elegance and passion. He also immersed himself into the upper crust of British artistic society, and we get a glimpse of that as a bonus.

Ruslan dedicated his book to “all late starters.” Presumably he considered himself one. On the contrary as is evident from the book, he was intelligent, insightful, and very resourceful. Those qualities however, were not recognized early or at all by his native country, nor are they readily assessed on a paper-and-pencil test.

He obtained only (his description) Grade II in his School Certificate Examination in 1952 and a scholarship to a third-rate British architectural school. He recognized that stark reality on his very first day on campus. For an institution to train designers of buildings and structures, the edifice was anything but inspiring. It was like entering a hospital or medical school where the foyer was dirty and ambience unhygienic; you have to be desperate to have any trust or confidence.

It reflected the foresight of his colonial interviewers that they awarded him a scholarship despite his Grade II; they saw his potential. After all he entered English school only two years earlier having previously attended only Malay and religious schools. It also reflected the wisdom of his teachers then that he had to take English classes at his Islamic school. Where are those educators today?

On his voyage to England he bunked with three top-scorer students. By the time they reached Bombay, he had already befriended a certain lady from the First Class deck while the other three were content jabbering among themselves. As luck would have it, she was the wife of a famous architect besides being one herself.

With uninspiring lecturers in a third-rate institution, Ruslan flunked his second year. Undeterred and confident of his talent, he pursued his craft through the old apprentice system. His portfolio, together with his contacts with many well-known architects, later paved his way into AA School as an advanced student on a British scholarship.

All these are interesting preamble. My interest however, is on enticing successful Malaysians to return, or what make them leave. So I will focus on this native son’s travails at home upon his return late in life.

Disappointments At Home

Despite having been a practicing architect for over a decade in London, his application for registration in Malaysia was summarily denied. He did not have the prerequisite two years of local public service. Not wishing to be desk-bound in some ministry, he opted for Universiti Teknoloji Malaysia. After all he had been a senior lecturer in London.

The ending was predictable, and came soon. He left after the minimum two years to pursue private practice, which led him to be editor of his professional association’s journal. He soon discovered that his profession at home was handmaiden for developers and the journal he edited was more advertising channel for the industry rather than advancing the art and science of local architecture.

I can attest to that. In 1977 my wife and I engaged a famous architect in Kuala Lumpur to design ourbakri-musa dream house. We chose him because his name was similar to mine, and with his foreign wife I thought he would appreciate our aspiration. We wanted a wooden house with local fruit trees for landscaping. Imagine our surprise when he answered our every query with, “Yes, we can do that!” without offering alternatives or critiquing our ideas.

Then at a public housing exhibition I encountered the firm of Goh Hock Guan; it had won first prize in that competition with its wooden house design. We chose it, and to our surprise were assigned to a young Malay associate. Surely he had been sent abroad on a government scholarship and thus should be pushing papers in one of those ministries, I thought.

Esa Mohamed too answered all our questions but he also warned us that while he was enthusiastic about our project, our house would have little resale value as it was not mainstream design. We nonetheless proceeded and were enthralled with his creation! Unfortunately by this time I had already decided to leave. We paid his fees and kept the blueprint. Esa went on to have a very successful career.

Thwarted Academic The Second Time

Back to Ruslan, a few years later UPM opened its architectural faculty. Eager to train future architects in his mold, he became its founding dean. Again the quick and predictable ending! Despite being on the Sultan of Pahang’s polo team and Prime Minister Mahathir’s riding companion, quite apart from having a half-brother in the cabinet, (Tan Sri Azmi Khalid) Ruslan was, as he wrote, “relieved of his duties.” Mahathir offered his services to have him reinstated, but bitten twice, he politely declined.

The one incident during his deanship was symptomatic of the country’s malaise and obsession with praises from foreigners. He had fought hard to improve the academic facilities when, unbeknown to Ruslan, the Vice-Chancellor hired a British consultant. As it turned out Ruslan knew him. Consequently the report was full of praise and confidence of the faculty’s future under Ruslan’s leadership. The VC used that as an excuse to deny Ruslan’s request, deeming that the faculty was fine as it was!

Again I can relate to that. As a surgeon in Johor Baru 1978 I fought hard to upgrade the hospital to be worthy of a teaching institution. Then came a British delegation sponsored by the ministry. At the exit conference the British spokesman could hardly restrain himself in praising our facility, egged on by the beaming smiles of local officials.

When he finished I spoke up. I told him that much as I appreciated his generous remarks, he had effectively undercut my efforts. The ministry would now not approve my request seeing that our facility was already doing well. Then to drive home my point, I told everyone that I had never been to a British teaching hospital, but if they were impressed with our facility, then I did not think highly of their standards.

datuk-ruslan-khalidAt the end of the meeting one of the surveyors sought me to apologize. I told him it mattered not as the damage had been done and that he surely would be invited again for the next survey, unless of course he was willing to submit an amended report. These ugly realities would never be uncovered in glitzy official reports or expensive consultants’ surveys; hence the need for personal accounts as with Ruslan Khalid’s In Quest for Architectural Excellence

Ruslan Khalid is now gone, may Allah bless his soul and put him among the righteous. Architect Ruslan bequeathed his extensive portfolios; native son Ruslan, this thoughtful and insightful autobiography. Malaysia would be poorer if it does not heed his wisdom.

Calculated Risks: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’


June 25, 2014

NY TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW

Calculated Risks: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’

In 1969, the night before a Wellesley College senior named Hillary Rodham gave a commencement address that would draw national attention, she was introduced to Dean Acheson, the legendary former secretary of state who had come to campus for his granddaughter’s graduation. “I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say,” Acheson told Rodham. At the time, many in the country were looking forward to hearing what Acheson had to say. He had just put the finishing touches on “Present at the Creation,” his landmark memoir that would come out a few months after his encounter with the young Rodham, providing a seminal portrait of his role in helping Harry S. Truman forge a new national security architecture at the outset of the Cold War.

Forty-five years later, Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered a memoir about her own time in the job Acheson once occupied. But “Hard Choices” is no “Present at the Creation.” Where Acheson offered a bracing, at times blunt, account of his four years as secretary of state — he eviscerated his wartime predecessor, Cordell Hull, and titled one chapter about Congress “The Attack of the Primitives Begins” — Clinton has opted for a safe and unchallenging volume, full of bromides and talking points.

To its credit, Clinton’s memoir is serious, sober and substantive. What it is not is revealing. Taking the reader along on her journey representing the United States as President Obama’s top diplomat, she provides a sophisticated analysis of many of the world’s most complicated hot spots, but no analysis of one of the world’s most complicated political figures. We learn about the progress of Botswana and the challenges facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, but we learn little about Hillary Clinton.

To compare “Hard Choices” with “Present at the Creation” may be unrealistic. Acheson was done with his career and wrote for history. Clinton is not and has not. Much as we may yearn for her to pull back the mask after more than two decades on the national stage, that’s hardly a practical expectation for someone with the Oval Office still on her to-do list. So perhaps it’s more fitting to compare her memoir not with the diplomatic histories of other secretaries of state but with the pre-campaign books of other would-be presidents. In that context, “Hard Choices” stands a cut above. It certainly demonstrates a greater mastery of the world than, say, “The Audacity of Hope,” by Barack Obama, or “A Charge to Keep,” by George W. Bush.

No fair-minded reader could finish this book and doubt Clinton’s essential command of the issues, whatever one might think of her solutions for them. She roams widely and delves into war and peace, terrorism and Russia, economic development and women’s rights. She knows the players and the history. If nothing else, she implicitly makes the case that if she were to occupy the Oval Office there would be no need for the kind of on-the-job training in foreign policy required by the last three presidents, including one she happens to know well.

Hers is a cold-eyed view of international affairs. “Our relationship with Pakistan was strictly transactional,” she writes, “based on mutual interest, not trust.” The administration’s demand that Israel stop building settlements “didn’t work.” And the desire to abandon autocrats like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was unwise: “Were we really ready to walk away from that relationship after 30 years of cooperation?”

In some ways, we do learn about one side of Clinton, the earnest wonk genuinely absorbed by the environmental and health implications of cookstoves in the developing world. When she devotes three pages to Mongolia, it’s because she finds each of the places she visits fascinating in its own way, as anyone who has traveled with her knows. Indeed, she devoted three pages to Mongolia in her last book, “Living History,” about her time as first lady. But she gives little sense of the other side of the Clinton story, of the politics and the ambition that drove her to the verge of the presidency. She discusses how her husband ordered missile strikes on Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998 without mentioning that it happened just after he admitted his affair with Monica Lewinsky and she was making him sleep on the couch. She gives little sense of the darker corners of Hillaryland, as her aides took to calling her world — a world characterized at times by feuding courtiers who vie with opponents, reporters and one another.

Even when she flavors the narrative with a little revelation, the portions are stingy. She got into “a shouting match” with Leon Panetta, then the C.I.A. director, over a proposed drone strike, but doesn’t say which one, who prevailed or why she dissented. She supported the military operation in Libya over the objections of Vice President Biden and Robert Gates, then the defense secretary, but doesn’t take us into the Situation Room to hear the debate. Indeed, much to the relief of the White House, she stays resolutely away from the sort of candor that marked Gates’s own recent memoir. In his book, for instance, Gates reported that he and Clinton tried unsuccessfully to get rid of Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and Douglas Lute, the White House coordinator for Afghanistan. “I’ve had it,” he quoted her saying. Clinton makes no mention of that. When she discusses internal debates, her adversaries are often vaguely described as “some of the president’s advisers.” There’s no score-settling here.

While Gates entitled his memoir “Duty,” Clinton might have called hers “Dutiful.” Every box that needs checking has been filled. Latin America? Check. Benghazi? Check. The book demonstrates that in at least one way she’s ready to be president — it amounts to a 600-page State of the Union address, in which every constituency and every issue receives due mention.

Clinton traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state, more than any of her predecessors, and she seemshillary-clinton-hard-choices determined to cite each one of them. (The index lists 105, but missed some she mentions, like Belarus, Brunei and Nepal.) At times, “Hard Choices” feels like the book you might have gotten by picking up your iPhone and asking Siri to write a politically safe memoir. “All the set-piece speeches and procedural mumbo-jumbo can often be deadly boring,” she concedes at one point.

If “Living History” left readers wanting to know more about the author’s relationship with the 42nd president, this new book leaves us wanting to know more about her relationship with the 44th. Unlike Acheson, Clinton had the challenge of forging a partnership with the man who beat her for the presidential nomination and then asked her to serve in his cabinet. By all accounts, she did a remarkable job of overcoming that history, and yet she doesn’t tell us how she did it or dwell on whatever personal or political trade-offs must have been involved.

Barack Obama is a peripheral figure in “Hard Choices.” Meeting with him just after their nomination battle was “like two teenagers on an awkward first date,” she allows, without much elaboration. He “took me to the woodshed” over impolitic comments by her special envoy to Egypt after he left office, she writes, without letting us hear Obama’s voice. They disagreed at pivotal moments — on cutting Mubarak loose, on arming Syrian rebels — but she mentions them only gently.

Clinton’s overarching philosophy as secretary of state seems primarily to involve engagement and hard work, the idea that showing up is as important as any treaty or ideology. Perseverance matters. Sometimes this pays off, as with the pressure campaign that eventually forced Iran to slow its nuclear program, temporarily at least. At times, though, this approach seems maddeningly inconclusive, as when Clinton works two mobile phones in the back of a car to hold together a peace deal between Armenia and Turkey, only to have it fall apart again later. She finds solace in the hope that someday the groundwork she laid will yield the breakthroughs that eluded her.

Rather than putting in place a new foreign policy, as Acheson did, Clinton portrays her tenure as a transition period and herself as just one runner in a relay race, passing along the baton. Acheson won a Pulitzer Prize for his memoir. Clinton seems to have a bigger prize in mind.

Bakri Musa reviews Dr. Syed Hussin Ali’s Memoirs


June 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

Malaysian Leaders’ First World Education, Third World Mentality
Review of Syed Husin Ali’s Memoirs of a Political Struggle.
 
Dr. Syed Husin Ali:  Memoirs of a Political Struggle. Strategic Information and Research Development Center, Petaling Jaya, 2013. 273 pp.

Reviewed by Dr. M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

bakri-musaThe deserved universal condemnation and merciless ridicule of the Malaysian authorities’ bungling of the MH370 tragedy did not arise in a vacuum.

From leaders’ refusing to entertain questions at their press briefings to radar operators ignoring intruding beeps on their screens, this unconcealed contempt for the public, and the accompanying lackadaisical attitude, is the norm.

Our leaders may have had First World education, alas their mentality remains stubbornly stuck in Third World mode. Their bebalism and tidak apaism make the Jamaican “It’s not my job, mon!” a valid excuse by contrast.

To readers of on-line news portals, I am not stating anything new here; likewise to ordinary citizens who have had to deal with governmental agencies. However, when these general inadequacies and gross incompetence in their infinite manifestations are put in print as in books, there is satisfaction, at least to their authors, that they are being documented for posterity. So when Malaysia degenerates (as surely it would) into another Nigeria with its endemic corruption, or Pakistan with religious fanaticism, scholars would have ample materials upon which to base their analyses. Until then these accounts serve as a much-needed antidote to the fluff and gloss that typify Malaysian official reports.

We owe these authors, from ordinary citizens to seasoned journalists, and opposition activists to members of the establishment, a huge debt of gratitude when they record their experiences. Dr. Syed Hussin Ali’s reflective autobiography, Memoirs of a Political Struggle, is one such valuable addition, tracing the nation’s social and political development, beginning with the decade before independence. Despite the title, the book is an autobiography more than a memoir.

Once pedantic readers get past the pedestrian I-was-born opening, the scholar in Syed Hussin gives us an unsentimental and detached view. As a politician, he details the many hypocritical ways of his peers. He relates an occasion when he was on a panel discussion with one Dr. Mahathir at the University of Malaya campus. Mahathir then was not yet prime minister but headed that way through his rising popularity as head of UMNO Youth.

Mahathir chided those “impure” Malay political activists. “Those of Arab descent,” Dr. Syed Hussin quoted Mahathir, “should not have any right to talk about political issues of this country.” His understated nonchalant riposte was, “I do not wish to talk about ancestry for otherwise I will have to talk about the rights of those of Indian descent.”

My purpose with this quote is not to showcase Mahathir’s hypocrisy (readers can readily find their own far more consequential examples) or highlight Dr. Syed Hussin’s not-widely recognized wit, rather to point out one significant observation. That is, you will never find such a panel discussion on today’s Malaysian campuses where contrasting positions would be presented. That is one the many destructive legacies of Mahathir.

Dr. Syed Hussin is, quoting Anwar Ibrahim, “in a category of his own, unique in terms of moral conviction, and not in the business of saying things to please people.” A sociologist, he gave up his productive academic career to turun padang and get involved in electoral politics. He is less successful in this second endeavor. Nonetheless with the victory of his party’s coalition in the last general election, he was appointed as a Senator from Selangor. A well-deserved appointment!

Dr. Syed Hussin Ali had a First World education (London School of Economics PhD), but unlike many in the country similarly blessed, he maintained those First World qualities. As an academic he was not content resting on his sterling academic qualification. His pioneering work on social stratification in traditional Malay society remains widely quoted.

In an enlightened administration, especially one that professes to champion the plight of poor rural folks, a man of Dr. Syed Hussin’s insight and talent would be co-opted to play a major role. Alas, UMNO is far from being enlightened, and its commitment to alleviating rural poverty is more an election gimmick, and a scheme to enrich its operatives through the many “development” schemes. Thus funds meant for poor livestock growers are siphoned to buy luxury condos in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Three qualities struck me about Dr. Syed Hussin. One, his humility, integrity and piety; two, his early socio-political consciousness, beginning right at primary school; and three, his thoroughly Malaysian experience and outlook. His rural upbringing in Batu Pahat, Johore, has much to do with his humility; his religious parents, his piety; and, being a former King Scout, his integrity.

When Anwar underwent surgery in Germany, Syed Hussin visited him using his own funds. One of Anwar’s operatives tried to reimburse Syed by handing him a bundle of $100 US notes, but he would have none of it. Unable to stop the man, Syed gave the money to his party’s treasurer upon his return. On another occasion, when as a scholar he was given a UNESCO research grant, he returned to his Dean the unused portion. That’s integrity! Anyone else would finagle a way to present his paper at the University of Hawaii or Bali with those leftover funds.

Syed Hussin's Memoirs

Dr. Syed Hussin grew up in colonial Malaya. To today’s young accustomed to incompetence, cronyism, and influence peddling, that was an entirely different era. While he did not hide his nationalistic and anti-colonial streaks, nonetheless that did not stop the authorities from selecting him to attend a scouting jamboree in Australia.

The other aspect to Dr. Syed Hussin’s path is that his schooling, extracurricular activities and political activism all took place in an environment involving Malaysians of all races. That was why he was so offended by Mahathir’s remarks at that panel discussion. He embodies the values and aspirations of a truly modern Malaysian.

Dr. Syed Hussin’s leftwing leanings began early. In a society obsessed with labels, and where political sophistication was rudimentary, it was not wise to identify or be labeled as a socialist, especially when memories of the brutal communist insurgency were still fresh. Dispensing with labels, what is clear is that this LSE educated scholar-researcher is committed to social justice, economic equity, and equal opportunities. What he abhors is leaders betraying their followers’ trust. This betrayal comes in many guises – greed and its associated corruption, incompetence and its bebalism or tidak apaism, or just plain stupidity and ignorance.

I wonder what would be his fate had Dr. Syed Hussin dispensed with labels and joined UMNO like so many like-minded Malays. The Fabian socialists would surely approve of Tun Razak’s generous redistributionist policies and massive state interventions in the economy. After all there was a time when the term kaum kapitalis (capitalist hordes) was an epithet hurled by the likes of UMNO’s Syed Jaafar Albar and Syed Nasir Ismail. Today with the spoils of crony capitalism, socialism is a curse; likewise social justice.

Had Dr. Syed Hussin joined UMNO, would he be as corrupt as the rest or would he be like the snake that would not lose its venom despite crawling among vines, as per the Malay proverb? I believe he would the latter, and the nation would have been richer for his contributions.

I detect a tinge of regret as Syed Hussin recollects his struggles over these years. Being a former sociologist, he of course tried hard to conceal his own disappointments. There is however, no settling of old scores, not even with his old jailors. There is a touching picture of a smiling Syed greeting his old tormentor from the Special Branch. That’s class! Contrast that to the vile-filled memoirs of many recently-retired politicians.

Make no mistake. Dr. Syed Hussin is capable of penning moving prose and be passionate in his writings. I remember reading his Two Faces. Detention Without Trial, and slamming down the book in anger at the authorities’ brutal and inhumane treatment of this great intellect and patriotic Malaysian.

This was his poignant ending to the short opening paragraph in Two Faces:  “One minute I was a professor, the next I was a prisoner.” I suppose his fate could have been worse. Consider that for Egypt’s Morsi it would be, “One minute I was president; the next, a prisoner.”

A generation hence when dysfunctional countries like Egypt would be our peers, we can look back and realize that there were committed and courageous Malaysians like Syed Hussin who tried hard to stem the slime. And our descendents would glow in the reflected glory of his many heroic efforts.

MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian


May 2, 2014

MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian

by  Lim Kit Siang

Hisham, Najib, and MuhiyuddinToday is not a good day to be a Malaysian as the world wakes up to critical and adverse media headlines on the Malaysian preliminary report on the missing MH370 Boeing 777-200 completing its eighth week of vanishing into the air with 239 passengers and crew on board without leaving any wreckage or clue as to what had happened on the fateful morning of March 8.

The Four Hour Gap

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens - and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens – and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

All over the world, the media splashed the shocking headlines of the admission from the first Malaysian official report that nobody noticed that Flight MH370 was missing for 17 minutes and no search was launched for another four hours.

Instead of answering the many questions that have been raised in the past eight weeks of the MH 370 disaster, both the preliminary report and the statement by the Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein accompanying it have only provoked more questions.

Firstly, the five-page preliminary report on the missing MH 370 had been described as “scant at best” in contrast to the preliminary report into Air France 447 which was released one month after the plane disappeared and which was 128 pages long, while a preliminary report into the Qantas engine explosion over Singapore in 2010 was more than 40 pages with diagrams and charts.

The table below is based on recorded communications on direct lines, summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared until activation of the Rescue Coordination Centre.

The table above  summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared on the first day .

The Malaysian government preliminary report makes one safety recommendation, for real-time air tracking to be installed on all commercial aircraft, viz:

“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.”

The same recommendation was made after the Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, though nothing was done to satisfy the proposal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

More pertinent, however, is why the preliminary report which was dated three weeks ago on April 9 was not made public earlier, and why the relatives of the passengers and crew on board the missing plane had not been briefed on its contents before its public release.

For the first time in 56 days, Malaysians are told that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had on the very same morning of the missing MH370, ordered the search and rescue operations to be extended to the Straits of Malacca, alongside that being carried out in the South China Sea.

Was this true that right from the very beginning of the search-and-rescue operation for the MH 370 on the morning of May 8, the search area had been extended from South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca?

If so, why didn’t Hishammuddin announce it earlier, instead of waiting for 55 days until yesterday in a statement accompanying the publication of the government’s preliminary report on the missing MH370?

It is to be noted that this new and hitherto unknown information to the public that the SAR operation area had right from the beginning on the same morning of the missing Boeing 77 been extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca was not disclosed in the preliminary report dated April 9 but in Hishammuddin’s statement dated May 1, 2014!

Furthermore, Najib himself did not seem to know that he had ordered the search area to be extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca the very same morning of the missing aircraft, for he made no mention of such extension in his press conference on May 8 held just after 7 pm where he announced the expansion of the search area after the SAR mission team found no wreckage in the plane’s last location before it disappeared from radar at 1.21 earlier in the morning.

Najib had said then that the first phase of the search efforts focused on the area where the plane’s signal was last picked up, had proved unsuccessful in locating it, and the search area was being “expanded as wide as possible”.

Civil Aviation Department Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic–on Hishamuddin’s left), mh370-hishammuddinwho was present at Najib’s press conference, spelt out the meaning of this expansion of the search area by saying that “we are searching in Malaysian and Vietnamese waters”.

The next day, on Sunday, 9th March, Azharuddin told the press that the search operation had been expanded further from the initial 20 nautical miles in the South China Sea to 50 nautical miles – no mention whatsoever of its expansion to the Straits of Malacca.

Unless Hishammuddin can give satisfactory explanation for these new additional discrepancies in the latest official accounts of what happened in the first crucial days of the SAR for the missing MH 370, he has only himself to blame if the government preliminary report and his statement accompanying it suffer a serious credibility gap.

This is why a report by an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH 370 disaster would have greater credibility than a unilaterial statement by Hishammuddin, especially when new facts suddenly surface as if to embellish the government’s version of what happened in the crucial first few days of the MH 370 disaster.

Fatal omissions

Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudThere are many fatal omissions in the government preliminary report – for instance, the failure to explain the many flip-flops, contradictions and confusions in the information given out by the various authorities, for instance, the initial information that MH 370 had lost contact at 2.40 am when it was subsequently established that the aircraft disappeared from the Malaysian air traffic controllers’ radar at 1.21 am Malaysian time.

But the most fatal error which still cries out for explanation is why it took another four hours before the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation was launched, when time is of the essence in such cases as the sooner a SAR mission is initiated, the greater the possibility of finding the wreckage and casualties.

Under civil aviation emergency standard operating procedures, an Uncertainty Phase (INCERFA) should be invoked within 30 minutes when there is concern about the safety of an aircraft or its occupants.

An Alert Phase (ALERFA) should be invoked when there is apprehension about the safety of an aircraft and its occupants, or when communication from an aircraft has not been received within 60 minutes.

A Distress Phase (DETRESFA) should be invoked when there is reasonable certainty that the aircraft or its occupantsw are threatened by grave and imminent danger – or when following an Alert Phase, further attempts to establish communications with the aircraft are unsuccessful

All these emergency standard operating procedures were violated in the MH 370 case, for ALERFA should have been declared at 1.51 am, ALERTA at 2.21 am and DETRESFA before 3 am to lauch a full-scale SAR operation instead of delaying until 5.30 am that day!

Another grave omission is the role of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the military radar in the MH 370 disaster.

Lim Kit Siang is the DAP Adviser & MP for Gelang Patah

 

RIP Karpal Singh


Karpal killed in accident near Kampar
By Radzi Razak and Susan Loone

image
Veteran opposition MP and lawyer Karpal Singh was killed in an accident near Kampar in Perak this morning.

His long-time personal assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, 39, was also killed.

Karpal’s son Ram Karpal and the driver were believed to be injured in the accident which occurred at 1.10am near 301.6km northbound marker along the the North-South Highway.

Malaysiakini learnt that Karpal and his son, who is also a lawyer, were heading north for a court case later today.

Contacted later, an Ipoh police spokesperson told Malaysiakini that it is believed the MPV collided with a lorry which switched lanes without indication.

Karpal’s other son and Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo (left) told The Star that his father had died on the spot.

“My brother Ram is slightly injured but we are trying to get through to him,” he added when the daily contacted him at 3.30am.

According to a police statement later, Ram and driver of the ill-fated car, C Selvam, were not injured. However, Karpal’s Indonesian maid suffered severe injuries and she is warded at Ipoh’s Hospital Permaisuri Bainun.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry involved in the road accident that killed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh this morning has tested positive for drugs.

The driver of the lorry, which was hit behind by Karpal’s car, and its three passengers escaped without injury.

The police said the MPV carrying Karpal and four others hit the slow moving lorry at a hilly stretch of the highway.

The five-tonne lorry was carrying a load of cement, steel and mosaic tiles.

Karpal, 74, was involved in a previous car accident in 2005 where he was paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

The vocal politician graduated from University of Singapore and started his law practice before running for Parliament in 1978.

His long tenure as Jelutong MP and fiery speeches in the Dewan Rakyat earned him the moniker “Tiger of Jelutong”.

Karpal had recently relinquished his post as DAP chairperson pending the disposal of his appeal against a sedition charge.

Last month, the High Court found him guilty of uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009.

PM offers condolences

image

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak conveyed his condolences via Twitter.

“I have just landed at Ankara when I heard the news that YB Karpal Singh died in a road accident. My condolences to the family,” read the premier’s tweet.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

May his family be brave and steadfast in this trying times. Malaysia has lost another fighter for the people.

Other netizens also expressed condolences and shock over Karpal’s passing.

“Shocked and sad news! DAP chairman Karpal Singh passed away in accident tonight. Malaysia has lost a truly patriotic son,” wrote Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming.

“Our dear Mr Karpal is no longer with us… I just can’t accept it…,” said Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching.

The bodies of the two deceased, Karpal and Michael, arrived at the Ipoh general hospital at 7.20am.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) and his deputy Mohd Rashid Hasnon, and former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin were there.

They conveyed their condolences to Karpal’s sons Gobind and Jagdeep. Karpal’s wife was seen crying, while a relative tried to prevent photos from being taken. The bodies were sent for post-mortem.

BN's Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

BN’s Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad and also the Chairman of KTMB posted an insensitive collage which he made light of the death of Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, claiming that it was “not serious”. He however deleted the posting after it became viral.

Gobind said that the family expects the post-mortem to finish at 10.30am, after which they will bring the body back to their family home in Penang by 1pm.

He added that he was informed about the accident at 2.15am, and together with his wife, rushed to the scene. Gobind and his mother, Gurmit Kaur, managed to see Karpal’s body.

The funeral for the veteran politician is expected to be either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, he added.

“Mr Karpal has family and friends overseas and we are waiting for them to return for his funeral,” he said.

“His body will be kept in our ‎family home along Jalan Utama (Penang),” he added.

Gobind said Ram, who sustained slight bruises, is well.

He also thanked all well-wishers for their support and requested the public to give the grieving family some privacy.

“We will be keeping everyone informed with regular updates,” he added.

At about 8.30am, a man believed to be Karpal’s driver, Selvam, was seen approaching the forensic department in the hospital. He was sobbing but was taken away by several people from the scene.

It is learnt that Karpal’s body will be cremated at the Sikh cremation hall at 11am on Sunday.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

The DAP has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader, the nation lost a brilliant legal mind and the rakyat a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak defenceless and dispossesed.

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates


February 5, 2014

 

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates – Review

by Dan Roberts, The Observer, 2 February, 2014

Republican Robert M Gates’s account of his years in the Bush and Obama administrations is sometimes catty yet full of insights

Obama and GatesIn a town blighted by partisan rancour, Robert Gates’s memoir of his time as secretary of defence under both George W Bush and Barack Obama has largely been read as a political morality play: a sober warning of what goes wrong when you mix tribes.

Despite a reputation as someone able to rise above party squabbles, the elder statesman once nicknamed Yoda by White House staff has ended up embarrassing a trusting Democratic Administration with a surprisingly un-Jedi-like account of his time as a Republican behind enemy lines.

However, there is more to this book than catty, if entertaining, swipes at Washington’s great and good; readers outside the beltway will come away from reading Duty with a more meaningful insight into the world’s military capital. Indeed, for anyone trying to understand how America’s most liberal president in decades could allow drone assassinations, Guántanamo Bay and NSA surveillance to continue largely unchecked during his time in office, this memoir has a very different moral to that seized upon by DC’s self-obsessed pundits. Though not a dominant driver of such controversial policies, Gates reveals himself as an emblem of the continuity that sustains this increasingly militarised country regardless of who is in the Oval Office.

Since joining the CIA in 1968, Gates served six other presidents before he was put in charge of the Pentagon’s 3 million employees and $700bn budget by Bush the younger at the recommendation of his father. And although there is more warmth to the book’s early chapters chronicling the last days of that dynasty’s reign in office, this consummate company man makes clear that Obama’s decision to reassure security hawks by retaining him was a lot less of a shock to the system than everyone assumed at the time.

“Although Obama, to my mind, is a liberal Democrat and I consider myself a moderately conservative Republican, for the first two years, on national security matters we largely saw eye to eye… as loath as partisans on both sides were (and are) to admit it,” writes Gates.

“I’m no peacenik,” he fondly quotes Obama telling him. “My staying in place would show foreigners that US resolve would be undiminished.”

The book’s much-publicised attacks on Obama’s senior advisers do reveal some differences of style between the two administrations. Vice-president Joe Biden incurs the most wrath for opposing the military’s proposed troop surge in Afghanistan. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” says Gates.

Former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and current UN ambassador Samantha Power come under fire, too, blamed for opening up a “poisonous” “chasm” between the White House and the Pentagon over everything from gay rights in the military to intervention in Syria. And Obama is politely criticised for adding to the mistrust by failing to act like he really enjoyed continuing to pour troops into America’s disastrous foreign wars. “As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” recalls Gates of one planning meeting.

History may ultimately judge Obama’s reticence more favourably than the military’s reluctance to admit defeat, but the brass nonetheless succeeded in persuading the president of the need for the troop surge. Gates also convinced Obama to retain another Bush-era spook, current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who infamously went on to lie to Congress over the extent of NSA mass surveillance on Americans.

The detailed fights to protect defence spending and clear disdain for civilian politicians makeRGates Book-Duty clear that the Pentagon remained in safe hands throughout Gates’s four-and-a-half years in office. But Duty is not the memoir of a neocon warmonger. Gates writes intelligently and candidly of the anxieties of sending men to die and makes clear he largely disliked his “deployment to the Washington combat zone”.

Some sections detailing military deployment negotiations will prove as dry as Afghan dust to anyone not wearing green, but overall the book is a rewarding read and a rare insight into the ongoing capture of the Obama administration by Washington’s security establishment.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/02/duty-memoirs-secretary-war-robert-gates-review

Western Education is not bereft of Ethical and Moral Values


December 11, 2013

Western Education is NOT bereft of Ethical and Moral Values

By Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: In a much-awaited speech on the reform of higher education 220px-Anwar_Ibrahim-editedin Muslim societies, Anwar Ibrahim disagreed with the popular notion among Muslims that Western education is devoid of an ethical and moral dimension.

Anwar said this notion, widely disseminated in Islamic intellectual circles, has been a hindrance to the development of Muslims, particularly in the scientific and technical spheres.

“… [T]here is a general perception among the discourse of many Muslim scholars that Western education and philosophy is secular and bereft of an ethical and moral dimension. To my mind, this is unfounded,” declared Anwar in a keynote address to a symposium organised by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Washington DC on Monday.

Malaysia’s parliamentary opposition leader, highly regarded abroad than at home for his intellection, observed that the misperception of Western education as ethically vacant was also shared by intellectuals in the West.

He said seminal Western thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith were concerned to base their philosophies on a moral core, but that Smith, in particular, “the icon of ‘capitalism’, has been seriously misread”. Anwar argued that the “moral sentiments” that were an integral part of Smith’s economic propositions were “not at loggerheads with Islamic percepts”.

He likened Smith’s concern for morality in economics with Islamic thinker Ismail Faruqi’s conception of a good economy as the expression of Islam’s spirituality.

FaruqiTo Faruqi, “the economy of the ummah and its good health are the essence of Islam, just as Islam’s spirituality is inexistent without just economic action.”

Anwar held that the Islamic percept ‘inna al din al mu’amalah’ (religion is indeed Man’s treatment of his fellows) made it imperative for Man to “order human life so as to make it actualise the pattern intended for it by its Creator”.

He said Muslim societies would not be productive if it they do not “emerge from the exercise of finding fault” with Western systems. Quoting from a host of Islamic philosophers ranging from the 11th century’s Al Ghazali to the 20th century’s Naguib Al-Attas, Anwar made the point that education in Muslim societies must “proceed on the basis of rationality”.

He defined rationalism the way Faruqi conceived it as not “the priority of reason over revelation but the rejection of any ultimate contradiction between them”.

Anwar acknowledged that the rationalist strain in the interpretive process (ijtihad) left its exponents vulnerable to the charge of espousing secular thinking.

The pursuit of Knowledge

From the time of Muhammad Abduh, the 19th century Egyptian thinkerMuhammad Abduh famed for pushing for the modernisation of Islamic education, Anwar said that Islamic modernists had to combat the suspicion of attempting to “introduce secularism through the back door of ijtihad” but that this allegation was misconceived.

“On the contrary, what Abduh did was to subject the moral and epistemological premises of secular modernity to scrutiny and he came to the conclusion that Islam’s modernity was both non-Western and non-secular,” said Anwar.

In his oration, Anwar did not explain how Islam’s modernity could be both non-Western and non-secular. Neither did he expatiate on “Islamisation of knowledge” which he said would immunise Muslims from the excesses of the liberalist mindset that would lead to the placing of reason above revelation.

He seemed surer, though, of his thesis that current approaches to the Islamisation of knowledge in Muslim societies tended to place a preponderance of focus on the social sciences, whereas he said it was in the technological and scientific disciplines that Muslims were lagging behind non-Muslim communities and where the quest for knowledge, therefore, needed greater emphasis.

Anwar reminded that the ‘Bayt-a-Hikmahof’ (Golden Age of Islam) gave birth to not only philosophers but also to eminent scientists. He attributed this to the holistic pursuit of knowledge that he credited to the Quranic injunction on the use of the intellectual faculty.

He said the “Quran enjoins the use of reason as provided by the senses, and the truth grounded on revelation”. He concurred with Faruqi that Islam was ‘the religion of world-affirmation par excellence’.”

Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us, says DAP Legal Bureau


August 25, 2013

DAP Legal Bureau to The Attorney-General: Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us

http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com (08-24-13)

The DAP legal bureau today offered its services to prosecutors in the high-profile murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, suggesting that an overworked Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) may have led to the acquittal of two former Policemen previously convicted of the killing.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

This comes as Segambut MP and bureau member Lim Lip Eng lodged a police report in Jinjang here over the Court of Appeal’s decision to free ex-police commandos Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar of their conviction in 2009 of the gruesome murder.

“Give DAP legal bureau the fiat (authorisation order), we will make sure the correct person is prosecuted and convicted,” Lim said in a statement here. Lim said the bureau was offering its help to the AG-C due to the high-profile nature of the case.

“Maybe the AGC is short-handed. We just want to offer our help; together we can solve the case,” he said.

Take a leaf from Appointment of Shafee in Sodomy II

He pointed out that the move was permissible by law, citing the recent appointment of lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Muhammad Shafee was given the authority by the Attorney-General to lead the prosecution team in its appeal against Anwar’s acquittal on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar’s defence team, however, filed a motion in the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya yesterday to disqualify the appointment.Earlier today, PKR’s R. Sivarasa criticised the Court of Appeal over the two former policemen’s acquittal, saying it should have ordered a retrial instead.

The Subang MP stressed that the appellate court was empowered to do so, especially when there were a number of key witnesses who were not called during the High Court trial that led to the duo’s conviction in 2009.

“There is ample power under the law in section 60 of the Courts Judicature Act 1964 to order a retrial which is regularly done in appeals,” Sivarasa said.

Acquitted instead of Retrial

In a decision that stirred controversy yesterday, a three-man panel of the appellate court unanimously allowed Azilah and Sirul’s appeal.

Azilah and Sirul, both formerly with the Police’s Special Action Unit (UTK), had been found guilty in 2009 of the murder of Altantuya in Mukim Bukit Raja in Klang between 10pm on October 19, 2006 and 1am on October 20, 2006.

The Mongolian model’s murder trial had been surrounded by political intrigue due to links drawn from the personalities involved in the case.

Azilah and Sirul had been part of a security detail for then-Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak while Abdul Razak Baginda, who was charged with and later acquitted of abetting the duo, was a former adviser to Najib.

During the course of their trial, it was revealed that Altantuya was shot and her body blown-up with explosives in a jungle clearing on the night of October 19.

The duo had been charged under section 149 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Sirul and Azilah were both released from Tapah Prison yesterday after the Court of Appeal overturned the decision.

 http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=150322:so-incompetent-let-us-help-you-prosecute-convict-the-correct-person-dap-offers-ag&Itemid=2#axzz2czPjbR5J

 

The Passing of Hussain Najadi


July 30, 2013

MY COMMENT: It is with great sadness I learned of the passing of Hussain Najadi who I knew since the 1970s when he was the Founder-Managing Director of Arab-Malaysian Bank. After the sale of Arab-Malaysian Bank, Hussain returned to Bahrain, the country of his birth and spent 15 years in a gaol. He has written his memoirs entitled The Sea and The Hills: The Life of Hussain Najadi. It is an autobiography on Oil, Politics, and Justice. In it he reflected on his life and the events that led to his incarceration in a bahraini prison for 15 years.

Najadi and his memoirsThe late Barry Wain, who is the author of The Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir in Turbulent Times, wrote:

“…Hussain Najadi’s philosophy, which he called ‘ the golden triangle’, was to harness Western technology, management, know-how, and machinery with Asian natural resources and labour and Arab capital. Arab-Malaysian became the first to pump petrodollars into East Asia,channelling all its non-Malaysian currency funding through its branch in Bahrain. Most of the bank’s  foreign business was done in member countries of the fledging Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with Mr. Najadi declaring himself ‘ a great believer in regionalism’.

If anyone expected Hussain Najadi to be apologetic about Ara-Malaysian’s early success and defensive about the swirling gossip, some of it personal, they did  understand him and his style. Exuding the supreme confidence that irritated his critics, he announced his intention to become the leader of wholesale and corporate banking in Malaysia in five years, a target he reached in two years (of the bank’s founding). He then lifted his sights to be the biggest with five years, a goal he achieved this time with fours year to spare…”, Introduction to The Sea and The Hills

“This book”, Hussain wrote,” is an affirmation of belief in life’s purpose, of a spirit of adventure, and of unbridled optimism. The dramatic arc of my story rises in success, surely, but cannot be said to crash in tragedy; the setbacks I have faced have fed my further growth as wave feeds energy to wave…The holistic moral of any man’s life story–and I have no doubt each man has own lesson to learn–is best appreciated when seen from a distance, with benefit  of time and perspective. Only then is the landscape laid out in its full beauty: the hills and valleys, the glittering sea on the horizon..” Hussain Najadi’s spirit of adventure, vision and entrepreneurship, and faith in humanity deserve our admiration, most certainly mine.

I saw Hussain at the ASEAN Leadership Forum, organised by ASLI/CPSS at the Sunway Hotel and Resort on July 18, 2013. I told him that I had read his memoirs with great interest. I was particularly pleased that he was able to explain his imprisonment in Bahrain. He told me that we ought to meet for lunch after Puasa so that he could give me an autographed copy of The Sea and The Hills. As fate would have it, this lunch will not happen.

He is survived by a son, Pascal Najadi, who is a very successful banker himself. To Pascal and his family, my wife Dr. Kamsiah and I extend our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Hussain Najadi under very tragic circumstances.  Al-Fatihah.

I still wonder if our streets, our homes and our communities are safe. It is no longer a matter of perception as Najib and his former Home Affairs Minister Hishamuddin Hussein seem to have us believe. I also wonder what the newly minted IGP, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar is doing about fighting crime. And Idris Jala must stop spinning on this issue.–Din Merican

Hussain Najadi, Founder of Arab-Malaysian Bank killed

http://www.malaysiakini.com (07-29-13)

Arab-Malaysian Bank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi was gunned down in Kuala Lumpur today, Police said. Kuala Lumpur Deputy CID Chief Khairi Ahrasa told Bernama the couple was attacked from behind by two assailants.

ambank
The attack took place in a car park near the Kuan Yin Temple on Lorong Ceylon at 2pm. Hussain was with his wife at the time. Hussain, 75, was shot twice on the torso while his wife, 49, was shot on the arm and leg. He succumbed to his injuries while his seriously injured wife has been warded.

Khairi said preliminary investigations suggested that three men aged between 35 and 40 years were waiting for Hussain outside the temple.

The former banker and financier was said to have met a friend at the temple to discuss business matters. “The suspects escaped in a taxi. The motive is yet to be established but it is believed to be related to business,” Khairi said.

A witness told the national news agency that he heard more than five shots being fired.  Hussain is an Iranian with permanent residency status.

Son expressed shock

Pascal NajadiMeanwhile, his son Pascal Najadi has expressed shock over the murder of his father.”I was shocked upon hearing about the killing in Kuala Lumpur, which was carried out in broad daylight,” he told Bernama in a telephone interview from Europe.

Pascal, who holds dual Swiss and British citizenship, urged the Malaysian authorities to do their utmost to apprehend the culprits involved in the killing of his father and bring them to justice.

Pascal, 45, who is also a banker, said the irony was that his father was murdered in Malaysia, a country for which he had so much affection, having called it home for more than four decades. He said he came to know about the killing, a few hours after it took place and that he was also informed by the MalaysianPolice.

Hussain founded Arab Malaysian Banking Group in 1975 before it changed hands in 1982, to what is known as Arab Malaysian Bank or Ambank.

Shooting in Penang

In Nibong Tebal tonight, a man was shot on his right thigh by unknown assailants while driving in a car with his friend along Jalan Mengkuang, near Bukit Mertajam.

According to Bernama, Penang CID chief SAC Mazlan Kesah said  the victim, aged 30, was with his friend in a car during the 8.30pm incident.

“Initial investigations revealed that the victim was from Jalan Mengkuang and the two were heading to the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE). When he stopped at a traffic light, two men on a motorcycle came close to the car and one of them fired at the victim, hitting his right thigh,” Mazlan said at the Seberang Perai Selatan police headquarters tonight.

He said the victim, who had a number of criminal records, was rushed to the Kulim Hospital for treatment while his friend was not hurt. “We are investigating the motive for the shooting,” Mazlan said.

State of Current Affairs in Wisma Putra


June 12, 2013

MY COMMENT: Criticisms and constructive proposals by ex-Malaysian diplomats (Dato’ Deva Ridzam and others) on the  current state of Wisma Putra have not produced any positive change in the performance of the Ministry. What we get are knee-jerk responses from the Ministry (the one below is the most recent) when it is criticized. In stead of taking some initiative to reimage itself and improve public perception, Wisma goes on the defensive. The truth be told. The Secretary-General and his staff have little influence on the making of foreign policy of the Najib administration. Now, whose fault is that?

The Prime Minister apparently relies a coterie of advisors in his PARLIMEN / ANIFAH AMAN / KIMANISoffice to develop new initiatives on the foreign policy front. Most of the initiatives have come from the Prime Minister himself.

It is well known that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anifah Aman, has neither passion nor the requisite background for the job. He prefers to focus on domestic politics in Sabah. 

Furthermore, the Prime Minister knows that Wisma Putra is no longer what it used to be. Unless serious reform is undertaken, Wisma Putra will continue to punch below its weight.  As a result, the Prime Minister relies a coterie of advisors in his office including his special envoy Tan Sri Kamil Jaafar to develop new initiatives on the foreign policy front.Din Merican

State of Current Affairs in Wisma Putra

by Megawati Zulfakar (06-07-13)@http://www.thestar.com.my

Professional direction in the Foreign Ministry is a far cry from the golden years of Malaysian diplomacy.

Wisma PutraSEVENTEEN years. That’s how long it took for Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar to release his memoirs after retiring as Wisma Putra’s Secretary-General.

It is definitely well worth the wait.Even more memorable when one of his good friends, Malacca Governor Tun Khalil Yaacob launched the book. His former boss, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also attended the event.

Kamil's MemoirsIn Growing Up With The Nation, Kamil wrote about his childhood years in Kulim, going to school in Bukit Mertajam and Kuala Kangsar and eventually continuing his studies at University of Malaya.

It was during his years at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar that he formed a strong bond with a few friends including Malaysia’s former permanent representative to the United Nations Tan Sri Razali Ismail and Tun Khalil.

After graduating in the 60s from the University of Malaya and much persuasion from Razali, Kamil joined the External Affairs Ministry, then led by Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie.

Kamil gave a glimpse of the legendary Ghazali’s legendary “whipping” – his description of the on-the-spot training. Ghazali was known for striking fear among his officers and even journalists then.

His first serious brush with the law (you need to read the book) got him his first posting abroad – Thailand – where he witnessed the peace treaty between Malaysia and Indonesia in 1966 after the “Konfrantasi” years.

The young Kamil described the actual signing of the treaty as almost banal with everybody crammed in a small room to witness the event. Only brief statements were made.

With Malaysia undergoing peaceful separation with Singapore a year earlier, the fledgling country started to be more aware of its own national interests and concerns in the conduct of international relations and diplomacy.

Malaysian diplomacy moved from anti communist, pro-Western stance to one that was more neutral and non-aligned.

It is a memoir that will take readers on a journey through time to Bosnia Herzegovina, North Korea and growth of ASEAN among others. One interesting chapter is when Kamil spoke of working with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Wisma Putra’s Secretary-General for more than seven years.

Dr Mahathir’s deep involvement in foreign policy kept the Ministry virtually on its toes all-year round. This was the beginning of Malaysia’s growing diplomatic profile and that bred confidence, even among diplomatic officers.

Kamil may have physically left Wisma Putra but he is still aware of the goings-on in the Ministry.“That is why I am saddened when I now hear disturbing stories of our diplomats’ lack of professional direction. And worse, I also hear stories of a hiatus between political and professional leadership,” he wrote in the book’s preface.

It is pertinent to note that Kamil has retired as Secretary-General for nearly 20 years. He still compares Wisma Putra with days gone by.But then again he is not alone.

Keen observers also lament the lack of intellectual thought and strategic KSU, Wisma Putraplanning in formulating sound foreign policy. Serving diplomats, however, lay the blame on previous administrations for the structural problems facing the Ministry now.

“True, those were the golden years but for us in the ministry now, we question their failure to plan for the future of the Ministry especially on human resources development. We are inheriting the problems as a result of lack of foresight by previous leaderships.

“During Dr Mahathir’s time we were opening up missions everywhere that we faced an acute shortage of personnel when not enough hiring was done.

“When we keep on posting officers overseas, we can hardly spare people to keep up with the increasing workload and send people for training.We are really stretching our human resources, and with whatever limited annual allocation Wisma Putra gets, how do you improve on quality? Politicians come and go but professionals stay on.”

Another diplomat said while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak provided clear political direction for foreign policy, the problem lies with the lack of quality professionals to implement and see it to fruition.

“The world 20 years ago was different, Dr Mahathir could get away with almost anything. The world today is much more complicated that you have to make adjustments.

“There is diffusion of power between China and the United States. You have to manage this carefully. During Dr Mahathir’s time, getting foreign investments was a lot easier but now getting FDIs is much more competitive,” he added.

He admitted though that a little bit of tweaking can be done to improve the way things are done.

“Maybe we should have regular pre- and post-Cabinet meetings or we do not take too much time to make decisions. Perhaps the media too should be better informed on the latest developments on issues Malaysia is involved in,” said the officer.

Among the media fraternity, Wisma Putra is well known as an unfriendly Ministry. Said a Putrajaya-based senior correspondent: “Of course we have been receiving statements via e-mail from the Ministry, but who are these people behind the e-mails.

“Do they bother contacting us? Maybe their standards are too high. Officials from other ministries will call us for a follow-up but not this Ministry.If it is difficult for us to get in touch with the officers to check on news breaks, what more the Minister. Maybe their term for being friendly is when they invite us for ‘buka puasa’ and open house events.”

Officials from other agencies also question when diplomats do go for postings, how much value do they put in their work including interacting with other Malaysian agencies.

There has been talk about closing some missions but it remains just that. A little change in how the Ministry does things will do good for Wisma Putra and its officers. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time before the whole country suffers in the realm of international relations and global affairs.

Mergawati can be reached at merga@thestar.com.my

______________

June 12, 2013

http://www.thestar.com.my

Wisma Putra at the Forefront–Response

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to Mergawati Zulfakar’s article “State of current affairs in Wisma Putra” (The Star, June 7). We appreciate her interest on the Ministry’s development and evolution over the years in advancing and protecting Malaysia’s interests internationally.

The Ministry certainly takes pride in the specific era of the Ministry’s history characterised by Mergawati as the “golden years of Malaysian diplomacy”. Those are the years when Malaysia faces specific external challenges which warranted approaches that befits the era.

Whilst the fundamental principles of Malaysia’s foreign policy remain the same, Malaysia’s diplomacy continues to be built and expanded in responding to the dynamic and evolution of national interests as we move toward attaining a developed nation status.

As advancing Malaysia’s interests abroad is not static and diplomatic approaches changes or evolved over the years, the ministry is constantly undergoing transformation in its diplomatic approaches to address the shifting global environment, changing geopolitical realities, managing issues, and identifying opportunities for Malaysia.

At the same time, the ministry’s international priorities also move in tandem with the nation’s objective to attain Vision 2020 and driven by the various government transformation programmes.

In characterising certain era in the history of Wisma Putra as the “golden years of Malaysian diplomacy” we unfairly overlooked the sacrifices and contributions of many others.

Beyond the so-called “golden years” asserted by Mergawati, there are many other accomplishments of Wisma Putra such as non-permanent membership of Malaysia to the United Nations Security Council, Chairmanship of the Non-Align-ment Movement, Chairmanship of Organisation of Islamic Conference, Chairmanship of ASEAN and the Presidency of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, just to name a few.

Under the Prime Minister’s stewardship, Malaysia’s foreign policy orientation continues to make tremendous leaps forward. Malaysia’s relation with China is advancing at a rapid phase.

The annual bilateral consultations (renamed Strategic Consultation in 2010) reflect the growing importance of Malaysia-China relations. Both countries are also adhering to the letter and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in South-East Asia which continues the peace and stability that benefits China and the South-East Asian region.

New initiatives, under the foreign policy umbrella was also introduced. Among them, the Global Movement of the Moderates (GMM), where Wisma Putra has been at the forefront since its inception.

GMM was expounded by the Prime Minister at prestigious platforms including Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, East-West Centre, the Asia-Europe Meeting, the ASEAN Summit and the Com­monwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

The GMM which was adopted by the 20th Asean Summit in Phnom Penh will be promoted within the ASEAN member states to achieve global peace.

At the same time, the recognition that Malaysia’s received as the facilitator in the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front successful conclusion of the framework peace agreement has further increased Malaysia’s credibility in the international fora.

Wisma Putra has always maintained good and friendly relations with the media. We always strive to share with the media prompt and accurate information.

However, accuracy and content of the information requires verification and thought as these issues and events transcends our borders as well as taking into account the scope of our bilateral relations with the relevant countries. It should not be misinterpreted then as lacking of communication between Wisma Putra and the media.

The Ministry has been and will always be resilient in advancing Malaysia’s abroad using approaches that are appropriate and required to effectively achieve Malaysia’s foreign policy and interests internationally with the available resources it has.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Putrajaya

Moulding a new breed of Foreign Service Officers


May 27, 2013

Moulding a new breed of Foreign Service Officers

Balan Mosesby Balan Moses (05-26-13)@www.nst.com.my

GETTING THE JOB DONE: Nation can use services of veteran diplomatic practitioners schooled in unconventional diplomacy

IT was a veritable who’s who of the old diplomatic crowd that gathered last Wednesday to celebrate one of their own who had literally written the book on the kind of diplomacy that they were weaned on and went on to be master of.

The school of unconventional diplomacy of yore was amply and ably represented at the launching of Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar’s memoirs — Growing up the Nation — with many really using it as an excuse to meet the crowd that they were most comfortable with.

The banquet hall at the hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur was almost bursting at the seams as seasoned hands crowded the limited space to share notes from the past, catch up on the latest on the diplomatic grapevine or just shoot the breeze with some of the same ilk.

Deva RidzamThat they were made of almost the same cloth could be seen from their vintage with the likes of Tan Sri Albert Tallala, K.T. Ratnam, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, Datuk Khor Eng Hee, Datuk Tan Koon San, Datuk Syed Ariff Fadzillah, Datuk Deva Mohd Ridzam (left), Datuk Abdul Majid Khan and Datuk S. Thanarajasingam present to support Kamil, their compatriot and comrade in arms.

Also present was former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose career profile was laced with years of hands-on diplomatic experience that eventually held him in good stead as foreign minister. His presence at the august gathering was also courtesy of the fact that he and Kamil went back many years to their youth and later in the diplomatic service.

It was obvious to me, and others there, that these men and women had many 170px-Khalil_Yaakobtales to tell which would never see print or even be heard because they did things their way, often the unconventional way, which would be frowned upon by the contemporary set of diplomats.

One of their own — Tun Khalil Yaacob (right), the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Malacca, erstwhile diplomat and good buddy of Kamil from the Malay College Kuala Kangsar — was given the honour of launching the book which he did with panache as he delved into a common past with friends like Kamil and Razali who went on to etch their names in the annals of Malaysian history.

Khalil was spot on as he lamented the paucity of books by retired diplomats as opposed to books by greying politicians.

Surely, the reason for the absence of books by diplomats could be the fact that they were “complicit” to many things in the heady days of diplomacy in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when one may have had to think outside the box in a mission thousands of kilometres away from Wisma Putra in tackling issues.

Kamil JaafarCertainly that was the way Kamil (left) operated as he played diplomatic legerdemain with the bureaucracy in his ministry and in the civil administration to get things done fast and efficiently to protect the interests of Malaysia and Malaysians abroad.

He was a master in unconventional diplomacy by his own tacit admission in his book, never looking back as he blazed new trails on the international circuit with “collusion” from former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who gave him as much rope as he wanted on specific tasks.

As Secretary-General in 1989 (after 27 years in the foreign service) and until his retirement in 1996, he can be presumed to have given the same amount of latitude to his subordinates in the Foreign Ministry in getting the job done to protect Malaysia’s interests at home and abroad.

Razali (right), in his extempore address made with the abandon of a man who has Raz2seen and said it all, touched on the fact that Kamil had the “effrontery and impudence to write this book”.

The former Malaysian permanent representative to the United Nations  said Kamil had done very well as a diplomat in dealing with his political master (read Dr Mahathir)  who gave him free rein “as long as nothing went wrong”.

I am told that this has not quite been the situation for some time as politicians sought to supersede the career diplomat in crafting the foreign policy of the state, something that would not have gone down well with people like Kamil who knew the craft inside out and were not influenced by politics.

Much has been written about the average diplomat of today who are unable to match the language skills of the likes of Kamil or Razali who could mesmerise English-speaking audiences with their adroit use of language complete with nuanced interjections.

Language skills notwithstanding, the relatively free hand that the executive gave to the diplomatic service is perhaps a thing of the past, never to be enjoyed again by the foreign service. This is what even former political leaders like Dr Mahathir have decried as they mourned the loss of multi-talented diplomats who used a mélange of diplomatic skills, personal charisma, national aspirations and that “x” factor that seems to be in short supply today to further the interests of the nation abroad.

It is still not too late today to use our veteran diplomatic practitioners schooled in the ways of unconventional diplomacy to mould a new breed of Malaysian foreign service officers who can deal with the real world in tested and proven ways of the past.

Malaysia’s Top Diplomat Kamil tells his story


May 21, 2013

Malaysia’s Top Diplomat Kamil tells his story

“The life of a diplomat and foreign policy maker can be pretty much routine and humdrum during the best of times. However, there is no lack of excitement and thrills.”–Ambassador Kamil Jaafar.

In the Preface to his memoirs, Growing Up with  the Nation,  Special Envoy of the Prime Minister and  former Secretary General to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Kamil Jaafar says “[T]he subject of this book will be a personal, subjective account of my life and career as a diplomat. It is my intention to try to explain the decision-making process preceding the policy formulations of Malaysia’s approach to a number of specific international issues as well as Malaysia’s understanding of regional priorities.” (Preface, xii).

Kamil's MemoirsHe has been able to discuss in depth with insight and eloquence issues like the formation of ASEAN, bilateral relations with Indonesia and the Philippines over the formation of Malaysia and the Sabah claim and Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, the Cambodian conflict in the context of the Vietnam War, Malaysia’s engagement with China following the historic visit to the PRC by our Second Prime Minister Tun Haji Abdul Razak in 1974 (see pic below), the civil wars in Somalia and Sudan, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Malaysia’s role in the Middle East  especially over the Palestine Question receives good coverage in his memoirs.

Tun Razak visit China in 1974Ambassador Kamil also discussed territorial disputes that continue plagued our region. His account of his years in Japan as our Ambassador makes a very interesting read from my perspective. I recall my meeting with him in Tokyo over dinner and he told me that he admired the Japanese people and their rich culture, work ethics, and proud history. He handled the Japanese well and for that he should be congratulated. He is without doubt an excellent representative of our country to Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, China,Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Nations.

In dealing with complex issues and difficult problems throughout his 34-year career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he  showed lots of patience and tact, using excellent interpersonal and negotiating skills, and bringing into play his breadth of knowledge and well rounded education in history and politics he had at the University of Malaya,coupled with his hands-on training in diplomacy and international relations in Wisma Putra under the stewardship of then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, (Tun) Ghazali Shafie.

On his former boss, Ambassador Kamil had this to say”…It is generally recognised that the Ghazali Shafieearly batches of the Malaysian Foreign Service were the product of Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie’s moulding. His aggressive and inquisitive stye, coupled his quick temper, put a fear in our young hearts. Those who survived the full blast of his temper when thing went wrong were later transformed into a dedicated and professional core of officers that would serve the country right into the 21st century.

Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie made great demands on us all and once you learned to face the challenge you begin to appreciate  and value his style of on-the-spot training, even when it felt like a whipping. Yes, he whipped us into shape…” (p.31)

The Postscript to his memoirs merits carefully reading because it contains invaluable pointers on the conduct of Malaysia’s foreign policy. Ambassador  Paramjit S. Sahai, former High Commissioner of India to Malaysia (1996-2000), who wrote the Introduction to Growing Up with the Nation noted:

” ‘Postscript’ is couched in highly philosophical tones. Even though Tan Sri Kamil claims that he would try to avoid forcing Malaysia’s foreign policy into any theoretical mould, be it described as ‘predictive, scientific or deductive’ he is not unmindful of the challenges coming from global governance, trans-nationalism, power politics versus issue politics. He unhesitatingly states that it would not be in Malaysia’s national interest to ‘compartmentalise our practice of diplomacy into being Islamic and non-Islamic’ as Malaysia’s existence ‘is founded on cultural pluralism and social justice, built upon communal tolerance and individual dignity’. Prima facie, it has to be ‘based on the need to protect, defend and promote its national interests’ while ensuring that ‘communitarianism and normative values form part of that world'”

The memoirs is a candid and heart rending story of a boy from Kulim-Bukit Mertajam, North Malaysia who was privileged to have have an excellent education from school ( Bukit Mertajam High School and Malay College Kuala Kangsar) and University of Malaya. That boy blossomed into an impressive Malaysia’s top diplomat and Special Envoy of the Prime Minister. I recommend Growing Up with a Nation as an excellent read on Malaysia’s Foreign Policy.–Din Merican

NOTE:  The launch of Growing Up with the Nation by HE Tun Datuk Seri Mohd. Khalil bin Yaacob, Governor of Malacca, will be at the Hotel Impiana, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur on May 22, 2013 at 4.30 pm

Kamil Jaafar–The Diplomat Extraordinaire of My Generation


May 19, 2013

Kamil Jaafar–The Diplomat Extraordinaire of My Generation

COMMENT: Kamil Jaafar (he insists that I forget the “Tan Sri” 170px-Khalil_Yaakobbit when I address him) was my senior at MU and Wisma Putra (I joined the Foreign Service in 1963 when Tun Ghazalie Shafie was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs) and housemate together with Tun Mohd Khalil Yaccob, the present Governor of Malacca (right) and a host of other foreign  service colleagues at No 272, Jalan Brickfields/Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Kuala Lumpur in the heart of Little India.

Despite his many achievements as Malaysia’s top career diplomat, the First Among Equals, Kamil remains the simple and kind man that I knew when we first met at Bukit Mertajam railway station when we took the train to MU at Kuala Lumpur. Of course, he was not really that nice on the train!

Razali IsmailHe and another Kedahan, (Tan Sri) Razali Ismail (left), who was President, United Nations General Assembly in 1996-1997, ragged me throughout the night.  But I suppose the ragging brought us together to this day.

I promised Kamil that I will review his book, Growing Up with the Nation after it is launched by our respected friend, the Governor of Malacca on May 22, 2013 at 4.30 pm at Hotel Impiana, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur. My wife Dr Kamsiah and I will be there and hope you will join us at the launch.–Din Merican.

The Tiger of Wisma Putra still has his bite

by Balan Moses@http://www.nst.com.my

RESPECTED AND REVERED: After 51 years of diplomatic service, the imposing former Secretary-General has stories to tell

Kamil JaafarTHE giant who greets me at the door of his spacious condominium unit in the upmarket Jalan U Thant suburb of Kuala Lumpur is wearing a wide smile, inimical really,  on the diplomat extraordinaire never known more than three decades in harness to smile.

He might have smirked, but that was par for the course, fitting the carefully cultivated image of the uncaring senior civil servant, who tolerated subordinates (and superiors), only as long as their actions and professional philosophy were in consonance with his.

But if anyone is looking to read about a Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, who ran roughshod over everyone, was vengeful and worked only for his glory, nothing is further from the truth as “I never harmed anyone and I never kept anything in my heart”.

“If you did well, you were promoted and gained my trust and respect. If you did not see things the way I did (in the larger interest of the nation) and fumbled, you were on your own,” he says a little past midway into the interview for this column on his memoirs — Growing Up With the Nation — to be launched on Wednesday (May 22, 2013).

“Of course, I even scolded ambassadors (and a few others in various capacities) at airports and other places, with many afraid to even talk to me after that,” the 76-year-old says, admitting that his temper sometimes got the better of him.

But again, I get the feeling that even those episodes were crafted to fuel the image of the hard-boiled bureaucraft who did not suffer fools gladly, when he was actually just a man on a personal mission to serve his country to the best of his abilities using the manpower available.

The smile for me this morning is part of a countenance reserved for friends and people that Kamil likes, a compliment for a story I wrote nine years ago in my column “Diplomatic Dealings” about him that he fancied.

The breezy welcome from the former number one diplomat at Wisma Putra, more famous for his scowls and penetrating gaze than the expansive countenance he is wearing today, is courtesy of the fact that he will be baring all about his 51 years in diplomatic service (the last 17 years or so on national service as special envoy to the Prime minister) at Hotel Impiana in three days’ time.

The 189cm-tall Kamil, a little thicker around the waist, more jowl than cheek and slightly slower in movement than in 2004, is in his element, casting a commanding eye over all he surveys at home. It is not very much unlike the towering presence he had at Wisma Putra as secretary-general, frightening lesser beings into acquiescence with a look that told you where you stood in his esteem.

Kamil is almost curt on the phone in his baritone that has lost a little of the boom it held in years past, but is still respected enough to be listened to carefully by his wife, Lena Hultgren Kamil, son, Tariq, daughter, Yuhanis, a wide range of friends and acquaintances.

If there is an occasional observation of a seemingly lack of steel in his overt personality, I feel it is just another side to the multi-facetted life of the man touted as the most famous non-conventional diplomat that Malaysia has ever produced.

The cloak-and-dagger stuff of the spy (he refuses to be buttonholed in this genre) is still very much evident to me in the almost whispered requests to steer clear of issues “better less spoken about”.

This is vintage Kamil at its best, always putting the nation first as he had since he began serving the nation under founding Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1962 and continuing under five Prime Ministers, including Dato’ Seri Najib Razak (son of second Prime Minister Tun Razak Hussein, for whom he probably had the most personal affection for…”he was a very kind man”).

“This is my first and last book, Balan. Don’t expect to interview me on another book,” the tiger that roamed the corridors of Wisma Putra says in an almost threatening growl, sans a few of the proverbial “teeth” that gave him his bite in office.

Kamil beams as I ask him who will launch his book as the honour goes to old friend and bosom buddy of 56 years, Tun Mohd Khalil Yaacob, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Malacca, one of four classmates (also prefects) at Malay College Kuala Kangsar, who wrote new chapters in the schools annals with their mischief.

“We did a lot of havoc like going to the prefects’ room and sneaking a few cigarettes. At night, we used to leave the school and go for packets of char kuey teow in town and come back before dawn. We also used to take laundry money from students under our charge, use it for a taxi to town to live it up before giving what was left to the dobi and telling him he will get the rest the next month,” he says, chuckling at the incident that occurred in the 1950s.

His four partners-in-crime rose to high office in different areas of calling; Khalil became the head of a state; Tan Sri Razali Ismail became Malaysian special envoy to the United Nations; Sallehuddin Alang joined the French Foreign Legion; while the late Dalil Awin became a senior executive here.

All these episodes find print in his memoirs, written in a style that could be termed “diplomatese”, in the sense that the memories are strong in their profundity, but are often played out in a style that lacks the colour and character of a true-blue novelist. But then, Kamil has never claimed to be a writer, admitting in his low-key manner that “I speak better than I write”.

I am convinced that the veracity of his stories, told in a frank, guileless and breathtaking manner, will embrace and captivate the reader to a great extent.

The man who has worked with Kings, Prime Ministers and Statesmen has vignettes for some of them in his book, that traces his genesis from a gangling kampung boy in Kedah to a respected and towering figure in international diplomacy.

“Tunku Abdul Rahman was almost like a father to me. He used to tell his wife, Sharifah Rodziah, that I looked like my father because of our height. I remember one night in Bangkok, when I had to physically dig up the remains of his younger brother as he wanted them to be reburied in Kedah.

“It was a terrible night, with heavy rain and thunder, almost like out of a ghost movie, and there I was, a middle-ranking diplomat in a Muslim cemetery in a Buddhist country, up to my arms and knees in mud.”

Tun Abdul Razak was also almost like a father to Kamil, constantly wanting him to take up a diplomatic position in London, which the latter gently demurred as he wanted to be at home to do national service here. On Tun Hussein Onn, he says the old soldier was made of the stuff of legends, with his razor-sharp ethics that were premised on the fact that “one must not do to others what you do not want others to do to you”.

Dr Mahathir.Kamil reminisces that Hussein (he always had a ruler and pen with him) took his own time with decisions, which sometimes did not work in consonance with the demands of a Foreign Ministry that worked around the clock. But his career truly took off under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with whom he had a special chemistry based on a shared belief that Malaysians were no lesser beings than others, “especially whites, who sometimes thought we were second-class people”.

On Dr Mahathir, he says they worked extremely well in “unconventional diplomacy”, which fitted the former Prime Minister’s bill as both had the force of will, commitment and character to help the downtrodden in places like Bosnia and Kosovo.

“I became an arms runner of sorts when I helped arrange for delivery of weaponry to the Bosnians, who were at the mercy of Serbs around them. Dr Mahathir and I shared a personal commitment to the Bosnians that went beyond the pale of our jobs.”

Kamil may be getting on in age, but the sharpness that sometimes riled others at senior levels in government is still there.

“Wisma Putra committed a faux pas a little while ago in the case of Bahrain, where there was a disconnect between the reality and the advice given to the leader of the land (Najib). This would never had happened back then.”

There is more new ground touched upon as Kamil meanders into Malaysian politics, which he has always studiously steered clear off, but here again, his comments are in relation to foreign policy.

“The ground under our feet is shifting after what Malaysians collectively did at the recent general election.Our foreign policy is shaped on a multiracial, multilingual and multireligious character at home and represents the sociopolitical make-up of the nation.”

Kamil wants the powers-that-be to address the problem fast,  “with special attention paid to communitarian and normative values as these are important and at the core of our social fabric”. The former diplomatic craftsman also remembers people like Farah Aidid, the Somali strongman, who  gave him a walking stick which “he said had kept him alive for years, but you know that he died the month after giving me the souvenir”.

Kamil tries to laugh the deep laugh that rang through his office and that of his friends  (he has great memories of his late friend, historian and author, Dr Chandran Jeshurun)  years ago,  but is unable to do so, no thanks to a 50 per cent lung capacity,  courtesy of scores of Camel cigarettes for a major part of his life.

Dr Chandran Mohandas JeshurunIn Memory of Chandran“I never cry when giving speeches,  but I cried when delivering his eulogy,” says the characteristically unemotional  diplomat,  never known for asking for a quarter  and certainly giving none to no one of his childhood friends, fellow Malaysian visionary and noted historian.

Today, Kamil says the days of unconventional diplomacy are over and that he never bothered to pass on the tricks of the trade that he wrote the book on in his heydays between 1962 and 1989,  when he ruled the heap at Wisma Putra. The world at large, however, should never forget that the slightly bent (crouching) tiger still has much fire in his belly, a phenomenon  that Malaysians may witness (if he so decides to) at the launching of his book.

After all, he is still the Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and who knows what demands the nation may still make of the man who managed more delicate scenarios in foreign service than a hoard of diplomats across the board will ever handle in their lifetime.

Deepakism and 55 Shades of Spin


January 11, 2013

Deepakism and 55 Shades of Spin: The Wheels of Deception keeps on turning

by Mariam Mokhtar (01-07-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Deepak JIf the carpetman Deepak Jaikishan has aspirations of changing career and writing books for a living, he should not give up his day job of flogging carpets too quickly.

For many weeks, he tried to enthrall the Malaysian public with stories of senior politicians and lawyers breaking the law, of underhand business tactics and broken promises, and the abuse of power by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his family. Sadly, his stories did not live up to expectations.

Shakespeare’s line, ‘All the world’s a stage’ suits Malaysians very well. All of us are acting our roles according to the script, but the identity of the author is not known, just yet.  The rakyat are the bit players, who appear happy that they are sharing the limelight with the stars. Some of us fail to realise that we are being sucked in by this great show.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, we should ignore this play and concentrate on the bigger picture.  We are so desperate to see the end of corrupt rule and the downfall of UMNO, Najib and his ‘self-styled First Lady’, Rosmah Mansor, that we wish Deepak’s spin will have a fairy-tale ending. It won’t.

The contents of the e-book ‘The Black Rose’ are neither earth-shattering nor revelatory. Much of what is written is already known. Deepak the carpetman is no saint. He is like a mercenary who plans an offensive only if the price is right. He told another online portal: “I cannot be bought. I am not for sale. I am priceless.” When his motives were questioned, he exposed his true colours.

Referring to the botched business deal relating to a Defence Ministry project which involvedWanita UMNO Selangor Chief RP Raja Ropiaah Raja Abdullah, a Wanita UMNO member who is close to Najib, Deepak said: “I think it’s unfair, it’s my land. I paid for it, I get a pittance and she gets the lion’s share. She got the appreciation (value) but I got nothing. I only got what I put in.”

Does the majority of the rakyat keep quiet because the deal involved UMNO, a woman, Najib’s close colleague or a Raja? Deepak made his exposé only because he was let down by equally greedy people. Even when he said he would reveal sensitive information, he has chosen to do it in installments, just like a soap opera.

Why trust a man who boasted, for weeks, about the publication of ‘The Black Rose’, then denied that he wrote the e-book with the same title? He said: “My version is completely different from this one, I have nothing to do with it.” So, where is Deepak’s e-book which he said would be published on January 2, 2013?

Why books?

Why do some Malaysians feel it necessary to publish the ‘truth’ in a book? The ‘self-styled First Lady’ wants to relate her version of Malaysian political back-stabbing in her biography. Deepak also said he would write a book after Rosmah’s book comes out.

He subsequently changed his mind and said he would publish a 26-page booklet, but publication of this book was eventually delayed and Deepak said he would then publish an e-book. Deepak blamed the delay on PKR’s Rafizi Ramli who had divulged details of jewellery allegedly being bought for Rosmah by Deepak.

People will ask, ‘Why books?’, as Malaysians are not known for being avid readers. Rosmah is probably doing it for prestige. Perhaps, she is trying to gauge the rakyat’s love for her, by their reaction at the pre-launch.

Is there a more sinister motive for Deepak’s series of installments? Are they a clever ploy to distract us from whatever UMNO has in store for the rakyat, in the last lap of the race to GE13?  In Malaysia, money talks. There are few men or women of integrity, and everyone has a price.

After 55 years of independence, UMNO has run into the buffers. It is facing an internal crisis and its political survival depends on the outcome of GE13. UMNO will cheat and bribe people. It has engineered acts of violence to intimidate the public.

So, is Deepak and his carpet-tales, a clever decoy to distract us for as long as possible? Will Malaysians ever learn to distinguish between drama and real life? Can Malaysians learn to take control of their lives?

Studies by the French have shown that men who are in need of attention will woo their conquests with gifts and sweet-talk them with things they want to hear.  Once these men have had their way with the women and achieved orgasm, the men will roll over and fall into a deep sleep.

Substitute the word ‘men’ with ‘UMNO’, ‘orgasm’ with ‘GE13′, ‘conquests’ with ‘rakyat’ and you’ll get the general idea: after the election, the rakyat, like some women, will be left frustrated and insecure.

The woman knows that one thing is certain. The same ritual will be repeated when the man wants more sex. That is what happens every five years, when UMNO wants to woo the rakyat.

50-shades-of-grey-matterThe fastest selling paperback in history, the erotic novel ‘50 Shades of Grey’ tells the sexual relationship of Christian Grey, a man with sado-masochistic tendencies, and his absolute control over the naïve student, Anastasia Steele.  The innocent Steele is mesmerised by the billionaire Grey, with the large ego. He seduces Steele and tells her that she will be happy under his power.

Malaysia’s story could be told in a novel called ‘55 Shades of Spin’. UMNO is the dominant, aggressive subjugator with many dark secrets, like Grey. UMNO has exercised absolute control over an impressionable and submissive rakyat, like the naïve Steele, for 55 years.

UMNO and the rakyat are locked in a violent relationship, with the rakyat being forced to obey the rules and surrender itself completely to Umno or face punishment.

It is time for the rakyat to take charge, to be the dominant partner and dictate the future of the country. We don’t need men spinning yarns to tell us what is right or wrong, nor do we want men and women who keep silent in the face of allegations of corruption and murder, whilst pretending everything is all right. Now, the rakyat must wise up and stop being raped by UMNO.

‘Joseph Anton: A Memoir,’ by Salman Rushdie by Donna Rifkind (10-12-12)


October 16, 2012

NY Times: On Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton

A Fictional Character

‘Joseph Anton: A Memoir,’ by Salman Rushdie

by Donna Rifkind (10-12-12)

Salman Rushdie’s memoir is many books in one book. It’s a personal story that takes place at the center of an international crisis: the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1989 denunciation of the author’s fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” as a work of blasphemy against Islam, and his call for Rushdie’s death.

It’s a portrait of the artist as a young man that describes his influences, obsessions and ambitions as well as his rise in the publishing world. It’s a record of his relocation from Bombay to London to New York, where he settled in 2000. It’s an intimate tale of fathers and sons, of the beginnings and ends of marriages, of friendships and betrayals.

At the same time, “Joseph Anton” is a large-scale spectacle of political and cultural conflicts during an era in which, Rushdie writes, “incompatible realities frequently collided with one another.” The death decree, or fatwa, would come to be seen by some as an early signal of a clash of absolutes that would lead up to 9/11 and into our tinderbox present — of the continuing struggle between religious belief in the immutable word of God on one hand and secular faith in the unconditional right of free speech on the other.

One unifying theme that emerges from this multilayered account is the concept of flight — though here that word assumes a double identity. Flight from the fatwa meant a “fretful, scuttling existence” in which the author, a 41-year-old British citizen, abandoned his home in the London neighborhood of Islington and dashed from one safe house to another around the United Kingdom. While Rushdie located and paid for these dozens of hide-outs himself, the British government provided him with nine years of round-the-clock protection by the “A” Squad of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, who in turn answered to Britain’s intelligence services.

If flight meant forced departure, for Rushdie it also meant an insistence on certain freedoms. Most critically, he would not give up his literary life, his flights of fancy. Battling depression and writer’s block, he managed during this time to write a major novel, “The Moor’s Last Sigh,” along with a charming children’s book called “Haroun and the Sea of Stories,” at his young son’s insistence. He collected a volume of short fiction (“East, West”) and another of essays (“Imaginary Homelands”). He wrote book reviews, poems and op-ed essays. Whether large or small, every completed piece of writing felt, to him, like “victory over the forces of darkness.”

Who shall have control over the story? Who has, who should have, the power not only to tell the stories with which, and within which, we all lived, but also to say in what manner those stories may be told?” Rushdie is right to pose the conflict over “The Satanic Verses” as a question not of ideology but of power and control. And he is right to claim his own story after many humiliating years of surrendering that story to other people, most of whom transformed it for their own purposes.

But the question of control is also a tricky issue in Rushdie’s own writing. His novels are giant winged contraptions, packed to capacity, hurtling across time and space, “pitting levity against gravity,” as he describes one of his airborne protagonists at the beginning of “The Satanic Verses.”

At their best, Rushdie’s imaginative machines attain lift and remain thrillingly aloft. At their worst, their centers cannot hold, and they spin into pieces. In “Joseph Anton,” which Rushdie has composed very much like a novel, both these scenarios come to pass. There are sections where the narrative soars, and more than a few in which it plummets.

One of the memoir’s novelistic approaches is its perspective, which shifts from the autobiographical “I” to “he.” It’s not as mannered a choice as it sounds in a narrative consumed, as much of Rushdie’s writing is, with the multiplicity of identity. “He was a new self now,” he realized after news of the fatwa reached him.

In fact he split into several selves: not just the Salman his friends and family knew but also a “Rushdie” reviled by screaming demonstrators in England and abroad, “an effigy, an absence, something less than human”; and reproached, too, by many unsympathetic compatriots in the Western press.

The sense of fracture was heightened when the Police insisted he invent an alias so he could write checks without being identified. He came up with “Joseph Anton,” the first names of two favorite writers, Conrad and Chekhov. Not lost on him was the peculiarity that a man who invented characters for a living had now “turned himself into a sort of fictional character as well.”

In early sections — among the best in the book — the author reveals that his actual surname was itself an invention. His father, a nonpracticing Muslim, changed his “fine old Delhi” name to Rushdie in homage to Ibn Rushd, the 12th-century Spanish-Arab polymath who wrote commentaries on the works of Aristotle and made a forceful case, 800 years before the uproar over “The Satanic Verses,” for rationalism over Islamic literalism.

Yet if his father’s “fearless skepticism” was his gift to young Salman and his three sisters, a dire home environment was his curse, for Anis Rushdie was so wrathful an alcoholic that Salman’s mother admitted she survived the marriage by developing a “forgettery” instead of a memory. In 1961, 13-year-old Salman was only too willing to leave his hometown, Bombay, for boarding school in England, where he was lonely and unpopular, and on to Cambridge, where, as a history student, he first learned about the “satanic verses,” a set of lines expunged from the Koran.

These absorbing coming-of-age passages are followed by equally engaging recollections of Rushdie’s London jobs as an advertising copywriter, where he developed his distinctive verbal bounciness. Those jingly effects and aphorisms pop up in the memoir as well (“Life was lived forward but was judged in reverse”).

And he vividly conveys the exhilaration he felt in the mid-1970s while dreaming up his first big success, “Midnight’s Children,” scene by scene, finding the tools and tone to tell his story: “India was not cool. It was hot. It was hot and overcrowded and vulgar and loud and it needed a language to match that and he would try to find that language.” Rushdie also comes across as tenderly devoted to his two sons, Zafar and Milan, and grateful to many of the individual police officers who guaranteed his and his family’s safety for nearly a ­decade.

If “Joseph Anton” builds up a lot of reader-friendly capital in these sections, it exhausts that capital rather too freely as the story continues. While the first days of the fatwa unfold grippingly, there’s a steep drop in momentum as the years drag on. Not even as talented a writer as Rushdie can avoid writing about tedium without becoming tedious himself. Clichés abound: “The house was beautiful but it felt like a gilded cage”; “What was he,” he wonders while contemplating moving to America after his ordeal is over, “but a huddled mass yearning to breathe free?”

As that last quotation suggests, Rushdie shows a cheerful willingness throughout the memoir to show off his less than dignified side. These scenes can be bleakly funny: when the police persuade him to wear a wig to avoid recognition in public, he tries it out on Sloane Street in London and is immediately the center of amused attention. “Look,” he hears a man say, “there’s that bastard Rushdie in a wig.” But there are occasions in which his goofiness grates and creates an uncomfortable dissonance in what is, after all, a sobering chronicle of state-sponsored terrorism that resulted in the murder of Rushdie’s Japanese translator and near-fatal attacks on his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher.

It’s of course lots of fun to read of the author’s unflagging bedazzlement at mingling with all kinds of celebrities, from Playboy bunnies to Heads of state, and in his access, post-fatwa, to every sort of party. (“Willie Nelson was there! And Matthew Modine!”) It’s fun also to render cheap sideline judgments during the many instances of score-settling here (particularly unflattering are Rushdie’s portrayals of his ex-wives Marianne Wiggins and Padma Lakshmi; his publishers at Penguin and Random House; and the former New Yorker editor Robert Gottlieb).

Are readers likely to remember mostly these juicy bits, and if so, how will that affect Rushdie’s literary legacy? “It was as a writer that he wanted to be defended, as a writer that he wanted to defend himself,” he eloquently states. But with “Joseph Anton,” is he risking becoming the kind of writer whose books are not so much read as skimmed for their potential provocations — a barbarism he’s fought against for nearly a quarter-century? Read all of “Joseph Anton,” then, for its lessons in how books are used, and whether they matter.

Donna Rifkind is writing a book about the screenwriter Salka Viertel and her Hollywood émigré salon.

A version of this review appeared in print on October 14, 2012, on page BR10 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: A Fictional Character.

Reflections of a World long gone


May 17, 2012

Reflections of a World long gone

By Karim Raslan (05-15-12)@http://www.thestar.com.my

Lawyer and diplomat PG Lim shows us she is very much the original lady activist through her colourful memoirs, Kaleidoscope.

WE are not a nation of writers. Malaysians aren’t great diarists or memoirists. Indeed, our collective Malaysian story – our national narrative – has tended to lose out in terms of subtlety, intimacy and diversity precisely because of this weakness. However, the lawyer and diplomat PG (Phaik Gan) Lim’s memoirs Kaleidoscope provides us with a superb addition to the dominant and at times tiresome, national narrative.

The book also reminds us that history is an accumulation of different stories, perspectives and experiences and that we are diminished as a people if we disregard the diversity at the very core of what it is to be Malaysian.

PG’s account is elegantly written, insightful and deeply felt. In Kaleidoscope, PG reveals a hitherto unknown talent as a story-teller as she weaves the great events of the 20th Century with her own personal triumphs and failures.

It’s also been an eye-opening read for someone such as myself, who’s known PG for nearly 30 years. The book has made me realise that she’s very much the original lady activist – a forerunner to Irene Fernandes, Zainah Anwar and even Teresa Kok – principled, unflinching and always, always on the side of the dispossessed and down-trodden.

Moreover, PG’s shift from activism and opposition politics to national service (she was to be an Ambassador for over nine years in New York, Vienna and Bruxelles) underlines both the high regard with which the establishment viewed her as well as the less divisive nature of politics back in the 60s and 70s.

Indeed PG (along with Tan Sri Dr Aishah Ghani) was one of only two women on the National Consultative Council which was set up by the National Operations Council in the wake of the May 13 riots and the suspension of the Malaysian Parliament.

Born in 1915 in London, the daughter of a prominent Penang-based lawyer, Lim Cheng Ean, and a British Guyana medical student, Rosaline Hoalim, PG grew up amidst great wealth and an enormously supportive family.

She studied at the famous Light Street Convent School before pursuing a law degree in Girton College, Cambridge, in the late 1930s.

PG was to be shaped by both her mother’s independent, strong-willed nature as well as her father’s well-known civic-mindedness (he served on the Straits Settlement Legislative Council alongside Tan Cheng Lok and H.H. Abdoolcader).

Indeed PG’s large posse of over-achieving and good-looking brothers and sisters have left an inedible stamp on Malaysian public life.

Entering legal practice after the Second World War, PG went on to carve a name for herself as a fearless lawyer and a champion for labour rights, at a time when plantation workers in particular were very poorly treated.

These earlier sections of the memoirs are the most illuminating and exciting. PG conjures up the rich, culturally intriguing milieu of Baba Nonya life in pre-War Penang, the uncertainty of the Japanese Occupation (not to mention the gutlessness and perfidy of the retreating British forces), as well as the exuberance of post-Independence life in Kuala Lumpur.

Along with the magisterial roll-out of history, PG also touches on her own personal disappointments. She’s unflinching in this regard as she recounts her two failed marriages: proof that successful women face multiple challenges.

PG never shied away from controversial or difficult cases, from Confrontation-era insurgents being threatened with the death penalty to trade unionists seeking better conditions for workers – there was no cause too big or too small for her.

Indeed, it’s interesting to compare the current trade union activism with the events of the 50s and 60s.

PG’s interests extended way beyond activism. She was a major stalwart of the Art’s Council which, in turn, became the nucleus of Malaysia’s National Art Gallery.

The book reflects her varied interests. She was a voracious reader, she fenced and punted in Cambridge, while also being an active supporter of the arts.

Kaleidoscope provides us with a view of a world that has long disappeared, of a Malaysia that was and could have been. It reminds us of a time when it was still possible to learn French and Latin in a Malaysian school. Of a time when Malaysia had a Labour Party and when the various races mingled without resentment or reserve.

This was a time when politicians behaved like gentlemen and honest debate was not seen as a form of treason.

Her life and writings are a firm rebuke to the gutter politics that Malaysian public life has descended to. As she writes at the conclusion of Kaleidoscope:

“I remember my father telling me, if you are right in the causes you champion, you should be fearless in pursuing them. I sometimes feel Malaysians are too timid to champion worthy causes. Technology now provides us all with greater opportunities to get our voices heard.”

PG Lim is a great Malaysian: bold, brilliant, principled and utterly human. Her story is an integral part of our national narrative. Read it.


Dr. UMNO breaks his silence on BERSIH3.0


May 3, 2012

Dr. UMNO breaks his silence on BERSIH3.0

by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT After a period of quiet – a tell-tale sign he’s not sure what to make of the play – Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Monday ended his silence on BERSIH 3.0 with comments that show how deep in Josef Goebbels’ debt he often is.

The Nazi propaganda minister was an exponent of the “big lie”, a tactic that holds that the more brazen the lie you deploy the harder it is for the target to deny it.Just as the humanist is often baffled by the deliberate will to evil, so are the honest frequently befuddled by the bare-faced mendacity of others.

In remarks made at the launch of the Bahasa Malaysia version of his memoirs ‘A Doctor in the House’, Mahathir claimed that Bersih was out to foment revolution.

The former Premier has got things the wrong way round. For the sake of hypothesis, one would have to recap events of 25 years back, inserting BERSIH’s existence before the pivotal UMNO election of April 1987.

If, say, there was a polls reform advocacy group like BERSIH well before the UMNO election, the party would conceivably have prevented 13 illegal branches from participating in its internal polls that year, a move that led to a court case which saw the late Justice Harun Hashim declare UMNO illegal.

Historians may well look back on that sequence of events as having led to a revolution whose pivotal trigger was the removal of Salleh Abas in 1988 as the top judge of the country.

As consequence, the era of the imperial prime minister and of UMNO as hegemon began, a revolutionary reversion from what was the norm before – the Prime Minister as primus inter pares (first among equals) in Cabinet and the same status for UMNO within the ruling BN.

Collateral damage

A host of debilitating ills stemmed from the imperial premiership and UMNO’s hegemony: the judiciary was rendered compliant, and the civil service and police force became adjuncts of the UMNO President and Prime Minister of the country.

Collateral damage in the business sphere from these deviant developments saw the fortification of the politics-business nexus that has directly led to the plutocracy Malaysia has become.

Talk of the changes to the election process that BERSIH has for the past five years been espousing, how many must now be wishing that BERSIH had existed a long time ago for it conceivably would have prevented the revolution to Malaysia’s constitutional mores that issued from the participation of 13 illegal branches in UMNO’s elective exercise of 1987.

That event was the trigger for a cascade of deviant and corruptive effects on Malaysian politics. It would take a revolution to remove these effects from the body politic; so deeply have the viruses infected the national political bloodstream that mere transfusions would not suffice to rejuvenate it.

NONEConsider Mahathir’s argument, aired while expatiating on the issue of BERSIH last Monday, that the fact the Election Commission’s chief and deputy are members of UMNO do not render their status as impartial interlocutors untenable.

Mahathir argues the point of their membership’s dormancy as invalidating the claim that mere membership had rendered them inherently biased.

It is the sort of argument that would get you laughed out off any democratic saloon.But the argument is to be expected from someone who allowed the most corrosive deviation from judicial norms to occur on his watch as Prime Minister.

This was the decision to allow the Chief Judge of Malaya (Hamid Omar) to be on the panel of the impeachment proceedings against the Lord President (Salleh Abas) when an adverse finding against the latter meant that the former would be elevated to take his place in the judicial hierarchy. Something like that is simply not on in the canons of natural justice.

A Humpty Dumpty situation

It is said of Mahathir that he never encountered a rule he did not like; in the event he did, he simply changed it. When a predecessor of the current EC chief (also like the present one, a former secretary general of the Home Ministry) suggested to Premier Mahathir that some rules of the electoral process that favoured incumbents needed to be altered to become more even handed, he was given what was, knowing Mahathir, a typical reply.

The former EC head was told that just because a rule favoured the incumbents was no reason to change it. Never mind that a disposition of that sort is inherently autocratic; it is when it claims that the opposite tendency, which when long violated can rise to the protesting proportions that Bersih summoned last Saturday, is called dictatorial and revolutionary, we have arrived at the Humpty Dumpty situation.

Which is: “A word is anything I say it means.” It would take a revolution to put right a situation like that.