Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability


October 23, 2014

Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability

by http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serious questions

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

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

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

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

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

 

Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism


October 20, 2014

Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism (Part 1)

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

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

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

NEP

The inevitable rise of communal exclusivism

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

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

State partiality to overcome socio-economic inequality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rise of the NEP state 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post NEP Malay Anxiety Induced Exclusivism (Part 2)

Long and painful decline of the NEP State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

new-economic-model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part I (above)

JAWI impatient to punish Kassim Ahmad


October 18,2014

George Town, Penang

JAWI impatient to punish Kassim Ahmad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Malaysian Prime Minister’s 2015 Budget Speech


October 15, 2014

Malaysian Prime Minister’s 2015 Budget Speech

Below are my comments:

Najib at the Press ClubThe Budget Speech was a pathetic demonstration of our Prime Minster’s inability to come clean or present the big picture. The point is not about what he said but what was not said. Most of the 30 pages of the speech were devoted to the spending side which essentially was all about handouts and a laundry list of projects that will benefit  UMNO warlords and their cronies.

Very briefly:

GST & Income Taxes: The GST will yield RM 23.2 billion but with the repeal of Sales Tax (RM13.8billion), net increase will be RM 9.4 billion. This means a net burden on middle and low income households whose incomes are stagnating . This burden is on top of the hit from the withdrawal of subsidies on fuels. True enough the PM hands back in some by way of an increase in BR1M and a few other handouts. Nevertheless, the net outcome is that middle and low income households will bear the brunt. He next lowers corporate and personal income tax – the beneficiaries are the rich, the well-connected and the tycoons and their corporations.The budget ignores all sense of equity and fairness. The effect is that the wide income disparities that exist will be further widened.

Macro-Economic Picture: Najib’s speech hardly provides any details about the basic fundamentals that were used. He essentially painted the usual rosy picture – 5 to 6% growth in GDP. This is higher than what the IMF has projected ( 5.2%).  Najib does not say a word about inflation. Note IMF is projecting inflation at  4.1 % in 2015 a jump from 2.9% in 2014. The tables in the Treasury Economic Report show some detail — key is that Private Consumption and Investment growth will be slower in 2015. Overall growth will thus depend on the public sector.

The critical issue of public debt is dismissed in a sentence or two. He is telling us like the snake oil salesman “ Trust me, the deficit will be 3.0 % next year!” No details are given on how we  can get there! Nor are we told what the hidden contingent liabilities are or how much off budget borrowing there has been or will be in the year ahead. There is not  even a whisper about the ballooning size of private household debt last reported to be in excess of 85% of GDP.

 Najib also hardly makes mention of the huge illicit capital flight that continues or the brain drain that directly impact adversely on his vision of a knowledge based, innovative, high tech economy. He repeats the mantra of joining the ranks of the developed high income countries by 2020. That is a pipe dream given the lower rates of growth experienced in the recent past and now projected.

Here is a bombshell about which we hear not a pip from Najib or for that matter in the media. The bombshell is reported in the Treasury Economy Report. The Economic Report discloses that Malaysia’s external debt totals RM 729 billion, equivalent to 67.6 percent of GDP. This compares with a debt level of RM 335.6 billion or 31.1 percent of GDP before the revision. This more than doubling of the external debt cannot be swept under the carpet.  It should be sounding alarm bells.

The Report goes into a long discourse about revised international standards for debt reporting being the reason for a sudden rise in the level of foreign debt. Under the new definition non-resident holdings of local currency debt, loans and credits and non-resident financial flows are treated as external liabilities.

The Treasury Report offers a weak justification for the high level of external debt asserting that the rapid growth of the bond market has led to sizable increases in the participation by non-residents in lending in the Malaysian market.

However, the Report fails to point out that a sizable part of the debt is short-term (with a ratio of 47.6 percent to GDP). Such short term debt is by nature volatile and subject to flight in periods of uncertainty.  It would appear that we did learn lessons from the 1998 East Asia Crisis which was triggered by the withdrawal of short term funds. It is highly irresponsible to ignore the dangers and not have clear policies to address a potential devastating crisis.

 By the way, speaking of the Treasury Economic Report, here is an indication of sheer incompetence: Take a look at Table 1.3 – Key Economic Data of Selected Developing Countries. Yes, the Whiz kids in the Treasury have taken upon themselves the task of reclassifying Australians and the Russians as part of the Developing World.  It is also noteworthy that Asia’s third largest economy (India) does not merit mention.

Bottom line: Judging by the way the Government is managing the economy, by 2020 we shall as a country, already trapped in the middle income group,  move into the sub-category of Highly  Indebted Countries.

How I wish I could be more generous. For a more sympathetic commentary please read Tan Sri Dr. Ramon Navaratnam’s article [ http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/highlight/2014/10/14/many-thanks-for-the-goodies-mr-pm/%5D

–Din Merican

 

Najib’s Politics of Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua


October 15, 2014

Najib’s Politics of Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua

by Scott Ng (10-14-14)@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Najib at MCAGua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua

Last Sunday, the Chinese were reminded once again that their welfare and continued success in Malaysia depended on their giving support to Barisan Nasional. The reminder came from no less than the Prime Minister. And right on cue, the MCA applauded while opposition politicians worked themselves into a frothy rage over the idea that for a community to receive the benefits its taxes pay for, it must first show loyalty to a political party.

It’s the greatest show on earth, and it sounds so familiar that we’re sick to death of it. The idea of political patronage benefiting a community is a time-honoured tradition in most political cultures, and Malaysia has it down to an art form. Engage in a weekend of chest-thumping at annual general meetings to shore up the support base for the party, say all the things that you wouldn’t say on a regular week despite the same issue being addressed, wait for the Prime Minister to arrive, let him soothe the party’s ego with sweet nothings, drop a bombshell about how the race the party represents needs to support him, watch the sparks fly.

The past five years of Najib Tun Razak’s administration have seen this occur in a pattern, trotted out during AGMs and elections like clockwork, so much so that it’s almost baffling for the media to continue covering these events. It’s come to the point where the media could almost write a template for the story and just fill in the blanks with the actual quote once the words have left Najib’s mouth. Then add a follow-up piece based on the enraged reactions of the opposition and the general public.

We’re not saying these criticisms are baseless or groundless. But it is the same old song and dance we’ve heard and seen time and time again over the past five years of the Najib era.

An era defined

What will define that era, though? Well, one could argue Najib’s title could be that of Bapa Kemewahan, evidenced by his jet-setting habits, but one could also make the case that Najib’s reign could be summarised in a line he delivers ever so often: “I help you, you help me.”

Observe his comments at the holy festival of Thaipusam in 2012: “If you help me, I’ll help you. You trust me, I trust you. Nambikei (trust) between all of us. Malaysia will prosper, Indians will prosper, all races can go forward.”

Or perhaps Sibu, 2010: “I want to make a deal with you. Can we have an understanding or not? The understanding is quite simple. I help you, you help me.” And, of course, the latest variation is the comment made at the 61st Annual General Meeting of the MCA. “You can’t demand and then support DAP. You can’t demand and then support PR. You demand, you support BN, we will be fair to the Chinese community.”

I help you, you help me (Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua)

The implication is simply this: unless you back BN, do not expect fairness. Do not expect to receive the benefits your taxes pay for. Do not expect to be defended when your race and religion are maligned by extremists who are so good at hijacking a national discourse that we should all be engaged in—the one about where this country is headed and where it should be headed.

But one supposes the majority of Malaysians already know all of this. The question we should be asking now is, how much longer can we tolerate, allow, and accept such language from the “supreme”(!) leader of the country, who is supposed to represent all communities in this beautiful, occasionally haze-ridden land of ours? How much longer do we have to endure this same old song and dance, knowing it will happen like clockwork? How much longer must we be held hostage against our right to prosper in the country we were born in?

To quote Najib himself, “Enough. Enough.”

It is time for a new song and dance to replace the rhythms we have become too accustomed to. The MCA cannot expect to regain the support of the Chinese community when it stands by and applauds these sentiments. It cannot expect the return of the community into its arms when it defends—or excuses—the Prime Minister by saying “it’s lonely at the top” and that the Chinese cannot make the political failure of not supporting the middle ground. This is what MCA Religious Harmony Bureau Chairman Ti Lian Ker says in a blog article.

At the end of the day, the benefits due to the people should be reaped by the people, as the wealth of a nation is built upon the back of the men and women who daily enter offices or step into the streets to ply their trade and expertise, even as the economy and the cost of day to day living break their hearts and spines.

Failed experiment

But the crux of the matter is simply this: the racial experiment has failed. It’s not just the idea of race-based parties that is flawed. The concept of “race” itself is unsound. There has not been a single idea more destructive to the well-being of the human race than the concept of race beyond a simple classification system to denote which region of the world a person originates from, and even then the concept gradually becomes more and more flawed when you consider multiculturalism and multiracialism blooming in all four corners of the globe. One day, monoculturalism will be a rarity. Where then will we find ourselves should we insist on hanging on to this outmoded idea?

Without a radical redefinition of what a “Malaysian” is, we are doomed to this vicious cycle of something stupid being said and someone reacting to it, while we look on in impotent rage, saying to ourselves, “You’ll see come election time. You’ll see.”

It is simply time to look beyond our identities and focus on our common trait of being Malaysian, and act in concert according to that common ground. At the very end of the day, it just boils down to the fact that Malaysians are so very tired of bread and circuses. A strategy that has worked so well since 140 BC is still in play today, and the cycle of cheap food and raucous entertainment (or what is known as “politics” in the Malaysian parlance) will go on till the day we become aware of the excellent play before us and recognise it as such.

Until then, we just have to accept that by this time next year, Najib probably will again say, “You help me, I help you,” or some variation of it.

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions—everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”Juvenal, Satire X.

The Games Anwar Plays


October 14, 2014

The Games Anwar Plays

Azmin AliMy friend Netto has shed some light on recent developments in Parti KeADIlan Rakyat (PKR), especially Anwar’s destructive ways. The incumbent Ketua Umum is clearly not interested in bringing all factions together after years of internal feuding. In stead with the prospect of his return to Sungei Buloh getting brighter by the day, he is more concerned about ensuring that he remains dominant in its affairs.

By appointing his loyal supporters (Rafizi, Saifuddin Nasution, Sivarasa and his daughter Nurul Izzah) to key positions in PKR, he believes he can dictate by remote control what PKR can and cannot do. If he ends up in jail, Anwar wants to be able to revive the Free Anwar Campaign and rekindle the spirit of Reformasi which propelled Pakatan Rakyat into prominence in 2008 and in 2013, when the political opposition received some 50 odd percent of the popular vote.

I believe he is sadly mistaken. Times have changed. His credibility as leader of  Pakatan Rakyat has been called to question. His poor handling of the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis was actually his political Waterloo. It showed us that he can no longer command the support of PAS and keep the coalition intact. Even Lim Kit Siang doubts that Pakatan Rakyat can hold together for GE-14.

The Azmin Ali factor in PKR cannot be discounted. The new Menteri Besar of Selangor is a very astute politician who knows Anwar’s strengths and weaknesses well, but he has yet to show us what he can do to frustrate Anwar’s moves to control the party. At this point in time, Azmin is busy with the Budget 2015 for Selangor and rebuilding relations with PAS and DAP.

Obviously, Azmin has to consolidate his position in Selangor with a clear agenda for the benefit of Selangorians in terms of good governance and socio-conomic development. So far, he has been able to garner competent PKR advisers and strategists, some of whom are already working with him  as members of his State Ex-Co. He also has the resources at his disposal and the political stamina to wage a successful campaign against forces within his party who are bent on unseating him.

The fact that Azmin has maintained his silence while Anwar reorganises PKR is a sign that he is  neither helpless nor hopeless. I believe that he can count on PAS and DAP to back him when it came to a crunch. This is because he did not antagonize them during the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis where he showed himself be very loyal to his party and Pakatan Rakyat.

As a realist and a seasoned political infighter, Azmin is well aware that his strength in the final analysis is heavily dependent on his ability to  strengthen his party and bring the contending factions together.Only a strong, united and credible PKR can gain the respect of its coalition partners and voters. 

At some point, he must emerge from the shadow of Anwar Ibrahim, his former political mentor who, like Brutus, is now stabbing him in the back with his latest political plays.–Din Merican

Rise of a new “Ketua Umum” in PKR

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

 COMMENT: PKR declined the opportunity to bridge the gulf between its factions ahead of a possible jailing of party supremo Anwar Ibrahim, whose Sodomy II appeal is set for hearing at the apex court on October 28.

anwar-ibrahim-recentInstead of choosing to unite the party after an embarrassingly disheveled and long drawn-out internal election process, PKR on Sunday opted to deepen the cleavages within by appointing partisan leaders to key positions. This myopia would be the more debilitating should Anwar lose his appeal in the Federal Court against his conviction for sodomy at the Court of Appeal last March.

PKR has to be a unified and solidified force in the event that Anwar winds up in jail, the better it can parlay his incarceration into support for the party and the cause of comprehensive political reform of the country. By appointing partisans rather than neutrals to key posts, the party chose navel gazing rather than scanning the horizon as preparation for challenges it must face en route to the next general election.

The myopia behind this choice is in stark contrast to the inclusive nature of the decisions made by the candidate it declined to propose but was ultimately appointed to the post of Selangor Menteri Besar.

Menteri Besar Azmin Ali , the party’s No 2 by an emphatic margin in the internal polls in which much was done to prevent his victory, had moved in the initial weeks of his appointment as MB to bring together not only contending forces within PKR but also within the Pakatan Rakyat coalition that dominates the state legislature.

That collaborative spirit is unrequited within PKR, judging from who the party chose to appoint to key positions after meetings of its political bureau and its central leadership council two days ago.

In naming Rafizi Ramli to the Secretary-General’s post, PKR has preferred a lighting rod to aRafizi neutral in a position that is possibly the most sensitive in an overall scheme, if that be the intention, to unite the party after a prolonged bout of internecine feuding that preceded the party polls, wore it down as it proceeded apace and dogged the simultaneous struggle to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor MB.

After an experience that tumultuous, one would think the last person to appoint, after the dust has begun to settle, to the position of party secretary-general would be Rafizi, who had been the stormiest petrel in the entire boondoggle.

The former Deputy Chief Minister of Penang and current MP for Nibong Tebal, Mansor Othman (right), was widely touted as the likeliest to replace the incumbent Sec-Gen Saifuddin Nasution, an out-and-out Anwar flunkey. Colourless and self-effacing, Mansor is the sort of operative more suited to the tasks of the backroom rather than the frontal positions that his past as Deputy Chief Minister and Penang PKR chief had thrust upon him. Mansor is also known to enjoy good ties to all the factions in the party.

Polarising figure

This is unlike Rafizi who has become a polarising figure in the party. He was previously not so, or chose not to be divisive until shortly after last year’s general election.

This was a smart choice because Rafizi, having had no past in UMNO from which several of the key PKR players had emerged and are thereby tainted, found it wise to stay above the partisan fray within the party, keeping his sights on the financial and economic issues that plague the country, a field of concern at which he is adept.

But after observing the seeming indifference of Azmin at a post-mortem of PKR’s performance in the 2013 general election held in Penang in August last year, Rafizi shed his customary cool and plunged into the partisan fray.

A few months later, when suspicion within the party mounted over Khalid Ibrahim’s deals withKhalid Ibrahim3 the federal government over ownership and management of Selangor’s water assets and related questions over new tolled highways and seized Bibles, Rafizi went full throttle in his assumed role as saviour of the party.

He saw Khalid and Azmin as leaders to be got rid off and proceeded to hurl himself into the task. A more nuanced survey of the situation – the personalities involved and their track records – would have yielded the view that Khalid was the more insidious threat to PKR’s vision and ideals.

Instead Rafizi opted to tar both with the same brush and strategised in the party polls to get Saifuddin elected in a three-cornered fight – the other contestants were incumbent Azmin and Khalid – for the Deputy President’s post. This caused the election exercise to degenerate into block voting, a recipe for mediocre selection.

Rafizi nearly became a casualty of the process; in the final rounds of the staggered vote, he homed in on one of the four elected vice-presidential slots. Had he stood alone, untethered to any camp, he may have nailed one of the four veep positions with ease and another of the ‘stand alone’ candidates, N Surendran, may have come thorough had there been no block voting.

Inherited aura

In the event, Azmin retained his No 2 post with ease, to the distress of his opponents in the party whose devotion to democratic ideals is limited by whether it conforms with their preferences.

Nurul IzzahBesides the post of Secretary-General, PKR has opted to appoint individuals opposed to Azmin to other critical positions: the new election directors are Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Nurul Izzah Anwar, who owes her lofty position in the party hierarchy to nothing more substantive than the aura she inherits from his father.

In the selection of co-directors of a position that will impact the selection of candidates for the next general election, the party did not see fit to appoint at least one person from among the Azmin faction. Latheefa Koya , the lawyer who virtually built up the party’s legal and human rights bureau and who topped the vote for the central leadership council, has been replaced by R Sivarasa.

Latheefa has had her run-ins with Rafizi who in the event that Anwar winds up in Sungai Buloh will be the new de facto ‘Ketua Umum’ of  the party.

A political party saddled with improvisatory titles will find ways to retool them for its rising parvenus. As for its stauncher adherents, like the new MB of Selangor, they will have to rely on the cunning of history, or if you may, the cunning of reason to see them through, as it has in Selangor where the Palace was constitutionally wrong but politically right in appointing Azmin as the MB.

PKR’s ‘Ketua Umum’, Anwar Ibrahim, is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi to the effect that what is morally right cannot be politically wrong and what is politically right must also be morally right. The problem is he’s rather better at preaching than he is at practice. The pity of it is that that’s being found out about him just when he is at the receiving end of a load of ghastly practices.