Secession is not an Option


September 1, 2014

After 51 years of federalism in which the centre (Putrajaya) is dominant, the time has come for us Din MericanY to review the bases of our relationship with Sabah and Sarawak. Both states have grown and a few generations have gone, and now there is growing restlessness among Sabahans and Sarawakians. To some extent, Malaysia is already a success. We have created political awareness among the people there. But we have more work to do to achieve national integration.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has said that stern action will be taken against those in the two states who are advocating secession. They have threatened to take the issue of self-determination to the United Nations. The UN route to deal with our internal affairs is a retrogressive step since the issue was settled nearly three scores ago by both the Cobbold Commission and the United Nations team in 1963. Furthermore, I do not have much faith in the United Nations. I believe in our own ability to deal with our problems. We have the means and experience to manage our own affairs.

The idea of secession is not an option. Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia. That means we cannot entertain the idea of political separation. People advocating this separation should be warned to stop playing with fire. But a better  and more equitable deal for Sabahans and Sarawakians? Yes. According to Dr. Puyok, “[T]he federal-state conflict in Malaysia is caused by an “ideological clash” between federal and state leaders, imbalance in centre-periphery relations, and lack of meaningful engagement between federal and state administrative officers.” I agree with his point of view.

Let us, therefore, not ignore the concerns of Sabah and Sarawak. In stead, we should begin a new era of constructive engagement with our brothers and sisters in East Malaysia. Take integration beyond the level of political rhetoric, and deal with the fundamental issues concerning federal-state relations that have been swept under the carpet for far too long. In this regard, the Najib administration must act in earnest based on a clear vision of national unity and integration.

najib and his deputyProject Malaysia must be taken to a new and perhaps a more enlightened level. The feeling that we at the centre are a bunch of neo-colonialists (and thereby lending credence to President Sukarno’s claim that Malaysia is a “neo-colonialist plot” hatched by the British) must be eliminated.

Let us recognise for starters that what politicians and public officials say and do at the centre affect Sabah and Sabah. One case in point is the Allah issue. Another matter of pressing concern is revenue sharing. Prime Minister Najib should begin the dialogue with leaders of Sabah and Sarawak and civil society as soon as possible.  –Din Merican

Secession is not an Option

by Dr. Arnold Puyok*

Merdeka--57

After 51 years since the formation of Malaysia, the issue of secession has come to haunt the country once again. While the calls for secession by some quarters in Sabah and Sarawak are not as serious as it looks in the social media, anti-federal feelings are real and growing.It is not too late to “save” Malaysia. The federal structure was designed in such a way to preserve the uniqueness of each state in the federation.

The main problem faced by the country lies in the weaknesses in the implementation of the Federal Constitution. It is time that Malaysians – the young especially – to take a hard look at the country’s origin by studying the Federal Constitution.

Now, the Federation of Malaysia is said to be on the brink of collapse. The federal-state conflict in Malaysia is caused by an “ideological clash” between federal and state leaders, imbalance in centre-periphery relations, and lack of meaningful engagement between federal and state administrative officers.

Ideological clash

The ideological approach in federalism discusses the “ideological and philosophical foundation of federalism”. Ideologies clash because of differences in language, culture and religion. Malaysia’s federal foundation is essentially driven by Malay-Muslim ideology – a “copycat” of the previous federal structure under the Federation of Malaya – even though the later federal structure (the Federation of Malaysia) was significantly altered to accommodate non-Islamic and non-Malay territories of Sabah and Sarawak.

From 1957 to 1963, efforts to “build” the country through language and education were done with a strong Malay-Muslim flavour. With a strong federal support, Sabah’s Third Chief Minister Tun Mustapha Harun promoted a policy of “one language (Malay), one religion (Islam) and one culture (Malay)” as a basis for creating national solidarity in Sabah. This was opposed by many non-Muslim Sabahans.

Imbalance in centre-periphery relations

This imbalance is marked by centralisation of power by the federal government.Under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for instance, the federal government would use its constitutional and political power to force the state to prioritise federal than state needs.

The federal government would “punish” stubborn state leaders who refuse to subscribe to its agenda by declaring them “persona non grata” in the country’s decision-making process and also by reducing the compulsory federal allocation to the state.

In education, school syllabi do not reflect Malaysia’s multicultural outlook. Sabah’s and Sarawak’s unique historical and cultural background were not given due consideration. On the economic front, the government’s revenue and total expenditure were dominated by the federal – 96% and 80% respectively in 1990.

Lack of engagement

Owning a satellite dish by private individuals in Sabah is one of the many thorny issues in federal-state relations.

The federal government disallowed the use of a private satellite dish without licence. Sabah counter-argued saying that the federal government was protecting Astro and was victimising Sabahans, especially those in the rural areas who did not have the means to access to information.

Licensing requirements caused unhappiness and led to perception of federal officers’ lack of sensitivity to local needs.

There is also this issue of Sabah wanting to proclaim its natural sites as World Heritage Site. But the federal government refused to support the initiative unless those sites are federalised. Another “hot-button” issue is the state’s lack of autonomy in educational affairs.

The state has charged that it cannot manage school projects below RM500,000. Many schools, especially in rural areas, are in dire need of repairs and maintenance. However, these are slow as state officers need to wait for approval from their federal counterparts. Work progress is also affected by delay in payment to local contractors by Putrajaya.

Clear vision of national unity and integration

The first point of the Vision 2020 is “to establish a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny – a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one Bangsa Malaysia with political loyalty and dedication to the nation”.

But the questions are: how are we going to become a united Malaysian nation if we are still arguing over the year of our country’s founding? How are we to achieve the Bangsa Malaysia race if we continue to exclusively defend our rights – race, religious, and regional?

Our leaders must be extremely clear about where they want to bring Malaysia to. The concept of 1Malaysia looks ideal on paper but it has to be made workable in practice: is it a concept for the purpose of nation-building? Is it a concept for rebranding of government commercial products? Is it a concept to promote the country’s tourism industry?

Equilibrium in centre-periphery relations

It is time the federal government decentralised power as a way to lessen its dominance and to allow the state to develop independently according to its needs.

Apart from checking and balancing the power of the federal government, decentralisation, if applied effectively and judiciously, can also ensure effectiveness in public-delivery system.

Crucially, the state should be allowed to deal independently with its socio-cultural policy. Sabah and Sarawak should determine how they wish to preserve their people’s diverse culture, just like India’s “territorial linguism” and Ethiopia’s “cultural and linguistic autonomy”.

Our leaders could also enact a Territorial Integration Act to renew the commitment of federal and state leaders to abide by the Federal Constitution.It is a kind of “oath fellowship” that can be found in Switzerland to conserve differences and diversity.

The government should also establish a constitutional court to arbiter conflict between the federal and state governments – i.e. a special court in Germany – the Federal Constitutional Court — to check against the centralising tendency of the federal government.

Before decentralisation of power can be fully implemented, a National Council of Decentralisation orbm_puyok2 National Decentralisation Commission should be established to review aspects that are over-centralised and need to be decentralised, areas that are under-centralised and need to be centralised, and to review the concept of power sharing between the federal and state governments in light of Malaysia’s multicultural make-up.

Constructive engagement

The role of the State Federal Office needs to be strengthened so that federal priorities do not clash with that of a state’s.The government can also organise a yearly conference between federal and state administrative officers to discuss issues in implementation of federal and state programmes.

Secession threats are culminated in dissatisfactions of some sections of society. People who promote secession should be engaged in a civil and rational manner.The government must double the efforts to increase the sense of belonging of people from various races and religions. Malaysia is worth preserving but it also needs changing.

* Dr Arnold Puyok is a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/secession-not-the-solution-to-malaysias-problem-arnold-puyok

Happy Birthday (Selamat Hari Jadi) Malaysia


August 29, 2014

Happy Birthday (Selamat Hari Jadi) Malaysia

Kamsiah and DinDr. Kamsiah and I wish all Malaysians Happy Independence (Merdeka) Day. Yes indeed. On August 31, 2014 we will celebrate the 57th Anniversary of Independence.Let there be peace, harmony, prosperity and unity in our bountiful nation.

Before we forget, August 31, 1957 was when Malaya got its independence from the British. September 16, 1963 was when Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form Malaysia (leaving aside Singapore which left the Federation on August 9, 1965). Two different dates to commemorate independence.

Why the need to have two national holidays, one we call Hari Merdeka and the other we label Hari Malaysia ? Let us decide if our national day is August 31 or September 16. This is a simple decision to make.Let us choose if we want to be known as Malaysians, not as Sabahans, Sarawakians, and West Malaysians. We are able to have a common time; yet we cannot have a common national day. That does not make any sense to us. Maybe that is not important enough to our political leadership. On the contrary, we think this issue must be addressed as a matter of top priority. Since the formation of Malaysia, we have not gone beyond the rhetoric of national integration. Read article by Balan Moses (below)

Having been to Sabah and Sarawak many times, Dr. Kamsiah and I are struck by the fact that there is no affinity between us. We have, in fact, become antagonistic towards and suspicious of one another. It is, therefore, time for us to address this issue of national integration seriously, and nip all the talk of secession from Malaysia in the bud. To do that we must give members of our multi-ethnic society a fair deal  to enable us to live the Malaysian dream as envisioned by Tunku Abdul Rahman and his colleagues at the time of  the formation of Malaysia.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Proclamation of Malaysia

AND WHEREAS it has been agreed by the parties to the said Agreement that as from the establishment of Malaysia the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore shall cease to be colonies of Her Majesty the Queen and Her Majesty the Queen shall relinquish Her Sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of the three States:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Praise to God, the Lord of the Universe, and may the benediction and peace of God be upon Our Leader Muhammad and upon all his Relations and Friends.

WHEREAS by an Agreement made on the Ninth day of July in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three between the Federation of Malaya, the United Kingdom, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore it was agreed that there shall be federated the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore with the Federation of Malaya comprising the states of Pahang, Trengganu, Kedah, Johore, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Selangor, Perak, Perlis, Penang[1] and Malacca, and that the Federation shall thereafter be called “MALAYSIA“:

AND WHEREAS there has been promulgated a Constitution for Malaysia which shall be the supreme law therein:

AND WHEREAS by the Constitution aforesaid provision has been made for the safeguarding of the rights and prerogatives of Their Highnesses the Rulers and the Fundamental rights and liberties of subjects and for the promotion of peace and harmony in Malaysia as a constitutional monarchy based upon parliamentary democracy:

AND WHEREAS the Constitution aforesaid having been approved by a law passed by the Parliaments of the Federation of Malaya and of the United Kingdom has come into force on the Sixteenth day of September in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three:

Tunku1stNOW in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, I, TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PUTRA AL-HAJ IBNI ALMARHUM SULTAN ABDUL HAMID HALIM SHAH, Prime Minister of Malaysia, with the concurrence and approval of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of the Federation of Malaya, His Excellency the Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore, His Excellency the Yang di-Pertua Negara of Sabah and His Excellency the Governor of Sarawak, DO HEREBY DECLARE AND PROCLAIM on behalf of the peoples of Malaysia that as from the Sixteenth day of September in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three, corresponding to the twenty-eighth day of Rabi’ul Akhir in the year of the Hijrah one thousand three hundred and eighty-three, that MALAYSIA comprising the States of Pahang, Trengganu, Kedah, Johore, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Selangor, Perak, Perlis, Penang,[1] Malacca, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak shall by the Grace of God, the Lord of the Universe, forever be an independent and sovereign democratic State founded upon liberty and justice, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony among its people and to perpetuate peace among nations.

Prime Minister
Kuala Lumpur
16th day of September 1963

MALAYSIANS: LET US BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE

by Balan Moses

http://news.abnxcess.com/2014/08/malaysians-let-us-be-the-change-we-want-to-see/

WHEN Tunku Abdul Rahman’s shouts of “Merdeka” rang out three times in the Merdeka Stadium on August 31 57 years ago, he was rejoicing in the freedom that Malayans would be enjoying in their new country.

No more the multitude of restraints in the clutches of a colonial master; no more the lack of a common identity as a nation; no more the lack of self-determination.

The other founding fathers from the Chinese and Indian communities would have felt similarly, joining the Malay prince in laying a common platform of rights and privileges for all.He probably envisaged a nation of perpetual sharing, an united nation where the running theme would be one for all and all for one.

Those were indeed less complicated times when people were more humane and there was anBalan-Moses-ENG NEW-1 unbelievable level of give and take among Malayans.Were there latent signs of uneasiness among the various communities? I really don’t know but history tells this child of the 50’s that life went on without major disagreement  among the people.

Was it because we were almost one against the British and that our commonalities as a people came into play for that day and time?  Perhaps.But as we prepare to usher in the 57th year of independence as a nation, we find ourselves split politically, racially and socially like never before.

Of course, there was May 13, 1969, but that should be seen as an exception to the rule that we have had a relatively good run as a nation with mutual respect being the order of the day.No amount of sugar-coating that we are still intact as a multi-racial nation will detract from the truth that a huge chasm has formed politically with the ruling Barisan Nasional at loggerheads with Pakatan Rakyat.

Both sides do not give or take any quarter from each other, going for the jugular in any situation to try and obtain the advantage.

On the religious front, we have an Islamist party with a stated policy of introducing Syariah Law if it ever came into power nationally winning 15 seats for itself in the most developed state in the country. It is currently calling the shots in the process of determining who the Menteri Besar of Selangor will be despite the fact that the multi-racial Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP together won 29 seats in the state legislative assembly in the last general election.

Najib and Merdeka

The Muslim-Christian divide is threatening to escalate to untold proportions with dialogue almost non-existent between the Muslims and Christians who form less than 10 per cent of the population. Some have tried arguing that there may be a semblance of racial and religious communities being at each others’ throats and that the ones threatening peace and order represent only a small segment of society.

Perpetual efforts are made to reinforce the point that the discordant voices do not represent the moderate majority in every community.But if this is the case, where indeed is the voice of the moderate Malaysian?

Where is the coalescing of moderates from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other communities in a single entity ready to engage with extremists of all creeds and hues?

All we are seeing are truly small groups of late from the various communities that are trying to speak in one voice as Malaysians but seeming to get nowhere. The mainstream politicians do not seem to want to move from their stated positions, digging in for the long-term with their policies that champion the rights of specific races.

Will there never be a time when we will proudly call ourselves Malaysians irrespective of our religion, race and colour? At the moment the only time probably that we proudly engage as Malaysians is when we are abroad and find strength in an alien society through a common identity.

The other is when out festivals come around and we attend open houses in a show of oneness that is largely scripted by those with power and influence.I am forced  to ask these questions as we approach August 31 as serious thought has to be given to the issue of where we stand as Malaysians.

I fear for the next generation of Malaysians who have never enjoyed the level of conviviality that those born in the 40s, 50s and 60s had with one and another in an era that we may never see again. It is imperative that every Malaysian drum into their children and grandchildren that this is our country and that our actions will dictate where we go in the future as a people.

And so fellow Malaysians, we have to do the right thing now for the future of our nation. Let us be circumspect when we act and speak as our actions and words cannot be truly retracted with damage never truly repaired.That is the nature of things and the sooner we realise this the better.

Happy 57th birthday Malaysia and may you see peace and prosperity always.

Kassim Ahmad and Borders: What more do you want, JAWI?


August 23, 2014

MUST READ this:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/judges-slam-islamic-authority-for-premature-raid-on-borders. Good news for Borders and its Lawyer Rosli Dahlan.–Din Merican

The Persecution of Public Intellectual Kassim Ahmad and the continuing Borders Saga: What more do you want, JAWI?

by Din Merican (August 22, 2014)

Kassim AhmadSome weeks back I wrote about the persecution of Kassim Ahmad who was sensationally dragged by Jabatan Agama Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) from his home in Kulim, Kedah to Putrajaya to be charged in the Syariah Court for just delivering a lecture at the Perdana Foundation of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. READ– (http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-persecution-of-kassim-ahmad-a-g-gani-patail-loses-again/)

Today, I wish to remind my friends and readers that some two years ago JAWI did a similar thing against a book by Irshad Manji. On May 23, 2012, Borders Bookstore in the Gardens Mid-Valley, Kuala Lumpur was raided in the most sensational manner by JAWI accompanied by a horde of mainstream press.

The news spread like wildfire that JAWI had raided an international book chain and seized books by Canadian writer Irshad Manji – “Allah Liberty & Love”.That was exactly what JAWI wanted – big publicity  to sound to the rest of the world that it is the custodian and defender of Islam in Malaysia against the Kafirs (Infidels) who are out to destroy Islam. The only problem with that raid was that the book had  not been banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs when JAWI raided Borders.

The book was only banned 3 weeks later on June 14 ,2012. Like the Mongol hordes who stormed Baghdad and  captured and destroyed the biggest Muslim library in history, JAWI needed a war booty. But JAWI was not interested in the books in Borders. JAWI wanted a trophy as a measure of that successful raid.  Furthermore, JAWI needed to charge someone for a crime that was not a crime at that time to assert its power. That was when JAWI realised (but it did not have the courage of conviction to admit)  that it had a problem.

JAWI and the Syariah laws are only applicable to Muslims because these are personal laws in Malaysia. JAWI also discovered that it could not charge Borders because it was a company, and a company did not have a religion.

JAWI could not charge the author because Irshad Manji is Canadian and the Canadian Government would fight JAWI if JAWI managed to get their hands on her. Neither could JAWI charge the General Manager of Borders who was responsible for choosing to sell the book, one Stephen Fung, because Mr. Fung is a Christian. But that did not bother JAWI one  wee bit. It needed a trophy.

JAWI just went down the line and pounced upon a poor Malay Muslim store manager, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Rashid and charged her for selling a book that  allegedly offended Islam. That was the beginning of Nik Raina’s nightmare. Overnight, she became an enemy of Islam. Overnight, her life changed and the Malay Muslim community  was made to believe that Nik Raina was a supporter of LBGT.

A few weeks later, Ezra Zaid (son of former Law Minister in Badawi’s Cabinet, Dato Zaid Ibrahim), the publisher of the Bahasa Malaysia version of the book titled” Allah Kebebasan dan Cinta” was also charged. That started the unending saga of this insanity.

Nik Raina CaseJAWI thought they had an easy task that these two Malays would just plead guilty and not fight the powerful religious authority. But JAWI did not count on the fact that Borders is owned by Berjaya Corporation, whose new head honcho, Dato Robin Tan, has a different view of the world. The young Robin Tan is not one who would bow to the bullying tactics and threats of JAWI. To make things more exciting, the Chief Operating Officer of Borders is a feisty lady lawyer named Yau Su Peng who would not tolerate any injustice against her staff.

I have written about this on several occasions. READ (http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/?s=The+Borders+Case&submit=Search). What I wanted to say was that this– now two years later the Borders saga has not ended despite Borders and Nik Raina having won their cases in the Civil High Court. It appears that JAWI just simply refuses to back down. These bureaucrats of Islam think they are a force unto their own. They are under the illusion that they exist separately with unfettered powers that cannot be countermanded even by our High Court.

My reporter friends tell me that unknown to most Malaysians, yesterday and today, Borders’ lawyers and the government lawyers from the A-G Chambers have been battling it out in the Court of Appeal No. 4 to finally determine whether JAWI can charge Nik Raina for an offence which, in fact, was not an offence at the time of the raid. What a waste of taxpayers money, and the Court’s time.

I was surprised. I would have thought that Borders case is a very simple one. Common sense and logic will  tell us that JAWI cannot do such a thing. But the problem is that the Attorney-General, that notorious Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, is behind JAWI. He filed an appeal against the High Court decision of Tudung Judge Dato Zaleha Yusuf. How can Borders and its agent be charged with an offence when there was no offence at the time of the JAWI raid on the Borders Mid-Valley bookstore? This is ridiculous to say the least. Only in Malaysia that this can happen.

Why would the A-G encourage JAWI in their silly actions? Since it was the A-G who appealed, the Court of Appeal Judges will have to take things seriously. I am told that the Court of Appeal hearing was presided by Appeal Judges, Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, Dato’ Zawawi Salleh and Dato’ Umi Kalthum. I hope these Appeal Judges will deliver a decision that will appeal to the public’s logic and common sense, and not embark on some excursion of legalities, which does not serve the public interest.

While all these are taking place, my contacts in the Majlis Agama have asked me to tell Lawyer RosliRosli-Dahlan Dahlan (right) to tone down or face the consequences. Apparently, the Jabatan Agama now regards any lawyer who goes against them as the enemy and will have to face dire consequences.

I tried many times unsuccessfully to call Rosli. First, I wanted to wish Rosli Happy Birthday. Second, I wanted to alert him of what I had heard. When I finally spoke Rosli, he sounded sombre and puzzled. When I told him what I had heard, he was not at all surprised.

He told me that my warning came a bit too late.  “It has already happened Din. They had to do it. On my birthday, they served me with a Notice to Show Cause in the Kassim Ahmad’s case”, he said.

I was speechless. I tried to calm Rosli only to hear him saying this, as if to himself –“I have kept my Syariah Law practice since 1988, not as a livelihood but because I felt I could serve to help develop the law. I don’t make any money Din. But if they want to disbar me just for fighting these sort of cases, is it worth it Din?”

I am now thoroughly disgusted with JAWI (and also the A-G Chambers). Why the need to do this to Rosli Dahlan. Apa Mau Lagi, JAWI (What more do you want, JAWI) – shoot the Messenger? ( READ :http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/rosli-dahlan-an-emerging-human-rights-and-civil-liberties-lawyer/)

Symmetrical characters, parallel fates


August 19, 2014

Symmetrical characters, parallel fates

COMMENT by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

Men of destiny seek proof of their greatness by exercising a license to go too far, and as the fear grows that destiny may have played a terrible joke on them, they double and redouble the stakes on the wheel of fortune. In this way they destroy themselves.-Terence Netto

hype_najib1Now that the cat has sprung out of the bag and is dashing about among a wider public, the only news would be if anyone has died of shock from the revelation that Dr Mahathir Mohamad has withdrawn support for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

After months of premonitory sniping at the Premier by his satraps, notably A Kadir Jasin and Zainuddin Maidin, the man himself has come out in the open with a formal declaration of hostilities. There is no more cogent example of déjà vu nor self-parody than the producer himself reiterating he is about to re-start a familiar business – the demolition of a sitting PM.

A fortuitous benefit of this incipient extravaganza – to the federal opposition, Pakatan Rakyat – has been the confirmation that their self-destructive shenanigans in Selangor have furnished the opportunity to the premier demolisher of incumbent PMs to fix on this as the most opportune time for the unleashing of his decanal decapitation of national head honchos, not to mention a few deputies as well.

The wonder is that anyone at all, at this advanced juncture of their career trajectories, could be surprised at how the two protagonists, one of the drama about to start and the other of an already running one in Selangor, confirm a truism of classical Greece – that character is fate.

Character here is taken to mean the way in which a person confronts the things that happen to him, a number of which may come about as a consequence of his characteristic behavior. Fate is the sum of the decisive things that happen to a person, whether as a result of his characteristic behavior, or fortuitously, at the behest of some transcendent power.

That the characters of Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim have fed off each other is by now a staple of Malaysia’s modern history. Malaysians are beginning to realise that the one’s career could not have been possible without the other and vice versa.

Truly, the reformasi movement would not have been catalyzed into something urgent and insistent without what Mahathir did to Anwar in September 1998 and how the latter reacted to the events.

Before September 1998, the movement was an inchoate yearning; after Anwar’s jailing and obloquy, reform became a national agenda. Mahathir would not have been able to prolong his tenancy of the PM’s office – 22 long years – without Anwar’s lieutenancy for 16 years of that tenure.

Certainly, the accretion of power to the office of the PM and UMNO President could not have taken place without Anwar’s tacit support, as heir presumptive to Mahathir.

The long running drama of their interaction since they first met in 1971 and their influence on the life of this nation over the last four decades is so pivotal that our history itself becomes confused with their own biographies which goes to illustrate historian Thomas Carlyle’s theory that humanity advances by means of these demi-gods or ‘heroes’.

Succumbing to the danger of self parody

But as the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson cautioned: “Every hero becomes a bore at last”: the two are presently in danger of inducing a yawn in arenas they once bestrode as giants. If it happens it would be due to their succumbing to the danger of self-parody each is tempted to flirt with, Mahathir more so.

Tun Dr. MahathirMen of destiny seek proof of their greatness by exercising a license to go too far, and as the fear grows that destiny may have played a terrible joke on them, they double and redouble the stakes on the wheel of fortune. In this way they destroy themselves.

By claiming at the commencement of his unseat Najib campaign, after the fashion of Brutus, that it is not because he loves his leaders less but that he loves the people and country more, Mahathir is parodying what Anuar Musa, then a young delegate from Kelantan to the UMNO general assembly in 1983, who quoted from the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar the words Brutus used before stabbing Caesar. The Roman emperor was surprised that a friend like Brutus could be part of squad of assassins with regicide in mind.

Anuar cited the quotation in the course of rhetorical flights faintly critical of Mahathir’s leadership of UMNO. Mahathir’s response was characteristically brusque. “Brutus stabbed Caesar” he reminded the UMNO delegates. In other words, back-stabbers are back-stabbers, their lofty motives notwithstanding.

If Mahathir unseats Najib, the wheel would have come full circle in his career: he began his ascent to the top of the greasy pole by destroying one UMNO President (Tunku Abdul Rahman) and is set to end his career by destroying the son of the man (Abdul Razak Hussein) who gave him the chance to rise after a display of Oedipal rage against the Tunku.

If PKR allows Anwar to convert the party into his personal fiefdom, his thrust to the top of the totem pole that began with his rebellion against nepotism, cronyism and corruption in 1998 would flirt with what could well be a fatal contradiction. Not for the first time in history would pivotal allies-turned-adversaries have symmetrical characters/parallel fates.

Indonesian Ulamas opt for Moderation with real deeds and political will


August 19, 2014

Indonesian Ulamas opt for Moderation with real deeds and political will

by Dr. Farish A. Noor (08-18-14)@www.nst.com.my

farish-a-noorIN the shadowy world of underground radical movements, alliances are formed and broken on a regular basis. Often, this is part of the tactic to keep their opponents guessing and may, sometimes, be intended to cloud the real manoeuvres and alliances that are being formed behind closed doors, sometimes without the knowledge of the ordinary members of the movements themselves, who remain clueless as to who they really serve and whose agenda is being advanced.

This was the case last week, when radical group Jamaah Ansar-ul Tauhid (JAT), under the leadership of notorious ulama Abu Bakar Bashir, broke up into two factions after Bashir demanded that the rank-and-file of the movement follow his lead and make a pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), or IS, movement, led by Abu Bkr al-Baghdadi in Iraq-Syria.

It was reported that half of the members of JAT refused to do so and were expelled by Bashir. More startling still was the revelation that among those kicked out of JAT were the sons of Bashir himself. That such groups fall apart almost as soon as they are constituted is not new and not unique to this particular case.

Bashir was formerly the leader of Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia (MII), but when he demanded that MII accept him as Caliph for life, he was soundly defeated by his own movement, who argued that nobody should be given that much power over a movement like MII. (Bashir, in turn, argued that there was no democracy in movements like MII and that the position of leader should be reserved only for the most deserving, namely himself.) After being expelled from MII, he formed his own breakaway JAT movement, which now seems to have broken up again.

Notwithstanding these convolutions and internal revolts, these groups are troublesome, to say the least, and their violent actions across Indonesia have rendered terrible damage to the reputation of the country, scaring off visitors and investors alike, who have written Indonesia off as a country in perpetual crisis and on the verge of collapse.

That such small groups can do so much damage is particularly true today in the age of global media and sensationalism, where one isolated bomb attack in an obscure part of the country can be made known to the whole world in a matter of minutes.

It is, perhaps, this sense of fatigue and irritation with such radical groups that the government of Indonesia has “manned up” and confronted the problem head-on.

Over the past few weeks, the country’s Religion Minister Lukman Saifuddin (right) has openly declaredlukman-hakim-saifuddin that IS was a threat to all religious communities in the country; the government and security forces have declared them a danger that has to be prevented from spreading; and, some leaders of radical groups, like Fron Pembela Islam, have already come under arrest.

The most recent proclamation against IS came from Majlis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the country’s highest institutional body of religious scholars (ulama), who declared that IS’ actions were un-Islamic, and that its violent deeds were contrary to the teachings and ethics of Islam.

At a time when so many governments seem paralysed before the advance of IS radicals, Indonesia has, at least, shown that it will take a stand and pay the political cost for doing so, if necessary.

The fact that the strongest criticism against IS has come from ministers, senior police and army commanders, and now, the all-important MUI, tells us something about the tone and tenor of Islam in Indonesia today, and that it is one of the few Muslim-majority countries in the world where terms like “moderation” and “tolerance” are not merely sugar-coated platitudes to be taken lightly, but where to be moderate means having to demonstrate your moderation with real deeds and political will instead.

Whither PAS: Stay or not to stay,that is the Question


August 1, 2014

Whither PAS: Stay or not to stay,that is the Question

by Boo Su-Lyn (07-31-14) @www.themalaymailonline.com

http://m.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-selangor-mb-crisis-a-tussle-for-pass-identity

HadiThe divergence within PAS over the Selangor Mentri Besar’s post exposes a deeper dilemma that goes to the core of its identity — the party must weigh a return to its core ambition for an Islamic state at the risk of permanently breaking its links to Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The issue is simply a catalyst for conservatives to steer the party back to its fundamental roots, one source close to PAS said. The conservatives see PAS as losing its way and voice within the multicultural PR pact, forcing the party into compromises on issues such hudud, the Islamic penal code, and “Allah”, the Arabic word for god that Muslims here consider exclusive to Islam.

For them, whether Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim remains in his job or otherwise and the consequences of an exit from PR, both for the party and the coalition is largely irrelevant, the source added.

“They want PAS to focus on an Islamic state and not compromise,” the source said.“They know they won’t win. But the struggle is more important than winning now. Real victory is in the afterlife,” the source added.

The gap between PAS and PR, already widening since the party was rebuffed over its ambitions for hudud in Kelantan, has opened into chasm after top PAS leaders said Khalid should stay, departing from a deal to replace him said to have been reached earlier.

Just days after senior leaders from PKR, PAS, and DAP agreed to consider the nomination of PKRDSAI President Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for the job, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and acting ulama wing chief Datuk Ahmad Yakob unabashedly threw their support behind Khalid.

According to the source, the Islamist party’s top leadership has discussed various scenarios including leaving PR in Selangor but not elsewhere, becoming more assertive, breaking ties with PR allies PKR and the secularist DAP to work with UMNO, or striking out on its own.

At the end of the discussion, PAS was divided into the so-called progressives who want the party to stay in PR, and the conservative clerics together with the Kelantan, Terengganu and Selangor state committees that want the party to leave the coalition.

The discussions also concluded that those desiring a break away from PR will decide later if they want to work with Barisan Nasional (BN) lynchpin UMNO, a Malay nationalist party.

“UMNO is secondary. The priority is to not compromise (on the goal) to create an Islamic state,” the source said. The conservatives in PAS are more powerful as they are institutionalised as the Dewan Ulama at the national and state level, while the progressives, otherwise known as the Erdogans, do not have a formal structure.

dr-dzul“The Erdogans are many, but they don’t have anything similar so their voices are divided. Hence, they’re weak,” said the source. The progressives include Dr Hatta Ramli, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Khalid Samad, Datuk Mahfuz Omar, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Datuk Husam Musa.

The antithetical ideologies between the Islamic PAS and secularist DAP were put aside in the 2008 general election when both parties worked together with PKR, led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and denied the long-ruling BN its customary two-thirds majority in parliament.

The political cooperation was then cemented as the PR pact. The three parties did not include hudud in their common policy framework, and went on to gain even more ground in the general election last year although they failed to unseat BN.

PAS — whose core vote bank is in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu — made significant inroads in west coast states in the 2008 and 2013 general elections, bagging 23 and 21 parliamentary seats in total respectively.

But despite the successful tie-up, underlying concerns over the compatibility of the pact’s three disparate parties never subsided, with irregular flare-ups reminding observers of the deep-rooted differences among the three. The on-and-off conflict between the DAP and PAS, which has always sought to introduce an Islamic penal code, dates back to the 1990s.

Their short-lived alliance under Barisan Alternatif, which was formed to take on BN in the 1999 general election, broke up in 2001 when DAP pulled out citing irreconcilable differences with PAS for its insistence on creating an Islamic state.