A-G Gani Patail is not above the Law


April 11, 2014

A-G Gani Patail loses to Rosli Dahlan: NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW

by Din Merican

mh370-hishammuddinWilliam Pesek, a prominent Bloomberg columnist, wrote recently that the global outcry over the loss of flight MH370 has highlighted the country’s deepest flaws of incompetent people running the country.

The Fumbling Team of MH370

“The fumbling exposed an elite that’s never really had to face questioning from its people, never mind the rest of the world. The country needs nothing less than a political revolution,” said Pesek. And I agree. Nothing will change until the present political elite is made to pay for their ineptitude, incompetence and crooked ways by Malaysian voters.

At the international level, our political leaders will have to take the blame. At the national level, we are facing a crisis of our public institutions being headed by not just mediocre and incompetent people but also characters who are downright dishonest and who abuse the system with impunity– the rogues in government.

Rosli Dahlan wins against A-G Patail

Vazeer, a former practising lawyer before being made a judge, said he agreed that deliberate abuse of power by those holding a public office was misfeasance in public office.

Vazeer, a former practising lawyer before being made a judge, said he agreed that deliberate abuse of power by those holding a public office was misfeasance in public office.

That brings me to the news reports of this morning that my young friend, Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, has again won another case against A-G Gani Patail. For my readers’ convenience I have reproduced only the MKini report by Hafiz Yatim (below) that provides interesting links on this story that never ceases to inspire me.

Back in Time–To the Eve of Hari Raya (Aidil Fitr), 2007

It’s a sad story of how on the eve of Hari Raya 2007, Lawyer Rosli Dahlan (right) wasR Dahlan brutally arrested in his office in full view of his staff by the ACA (now MACC). He was then charged in a most sensational manner to deceive the public into believing that Rosli had hidden illegitimate assets belonging to the Director of Commercial Crimes, Dato Ramli Yusuff, in another sensational story fanned by the media dubbed as the “The RM 27 million Cop”.

All this was part of a conspiracy to eliminate Dato Ramli from the PDRM as Dato Ramli posed a threat to then IGP Musa Hassan and A-G Gani Patail. Rosli was made a victim because he dared to defend Dato Ramli despite warnings having been sent to him. Since then, Musa‘s former ADC had sworn a Statutory Declaration to expose IGP Musa Hassan’s links with the underworld.

A lot more was also disclosed about A-G Gani Patail’s association with shady corporate figures like the one in the Ho Hup Affair. The Internet was also abuzz with stories about how A-G Gani Patail went to Haj and had his son to share a room with a shady former Police Inspector who was once charged for corruption, Shahidan Shafie, a proxy of former MAS Chairman Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli.

Tajuddin Ramli and the MAS saga was among the many failures of Dr Mahathir’s Bumiputra corporate advancement project which culminated with MH370 disaster. The latest episode could sink MAS without tax-payers bailout forthcoming .

Tajuddin Ramli and the MAS saga was among the many failures of Dr Mahathir’s Bumiputra corporate advancement project which culminated with MH370 disaster. The latest episode could sink MAS without tax-payers bailout forthcoming .

That explains why A-G Gani never charged Tajudin Ramli for the losses of RM 8 billion that MAS suffered despite recommendations by Dato Ramli Yusuff. Dato Mat Zain Ibrahim, former KL OCCI also swore SDs about A-G Gani Patail throwing away the Batu Putih case for pecuniary gains.

Ramli YusuffYet Gani Patail remains as the A-G of Malaysia, leading many to speculate that he has a grip on PM Najib Razak because of Razak Baginda’s acquittal in the murder of the Mongolian beauty, Altantuya Shariibu. In that case, the A-G did not appeal against Razak Baginda’s acquittal.

On the other hand, the A-G has pursued criminal appeals against certain people like Lawyer Rosli Dahlan and Dato Ramli Yusuff (left). In the PKFZ case, A-G Gani Patail charged and appealed against the acquittal of Tun Ling Liong Sik which led to Tun Lingcalling him – “ That Stupid Fella”.

Back to Rosli’s case. Lawyer Rosli, he has fought a long and lonely battle, winning his acquittal and then suing every one of the mainstream media for defaming him – Utusan Malaysia, The Star and the NST, and winning against them one by one very patiently.

On April 15, 2008, Utusan Malaysia published a public apology admitting their wrongdoings and acknowledged that the Utusan Malaysia’s article “was written and published in a sensational manner to generate publicity which exceeded the parameters of ethical journalism surrounding the investigation of YDH Dato’ Pahlawan Haji Ramli Haji Yusuf who at that time held the post of Director of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of Police DiRaja Malaysia.”

Utusan's Apology

On January 15, 2013, the Star paid damages and admitted to its wrongdoings in a published public apology.

The Star's Apology

On October 18, 2013, the KL High Court found the NST and the MACC guilty of defaming Rosli and ordered them to pay damages of RM 300,000 and costs. This made history as it was the first time that the MACC was sued by a person and the MACC lost and had to pay damages.

Last year Rosli sued A-G Gani Patail, MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim and several other MACC officers for conspiracy, false and malicious investigation, abuse of power, abuse of prosecutorial discretion, malicious prosecution, prosecutorial misconduct and public misfeasance.

Read the MKini report below and you will discover that A-G Gani Patail had engaged Tan Sri Cecil Abraham , a senior private lawyer from Messrs ZulRafique & Partners (an UMNO law firm) to defend him, the A-G Chambers (A-GC) and the MACC.

I find that surprising since I am told that the A-GC has over 800 lawyers, making the A-GC the “largest law firm” in the country. By contrast, I am told that the largest private law firm in the country has a maximum of 140 lawyers.

 Putrajaya needs to review its policies as it can't afford to spend taxpayers' money on the AG's own legal problem.


Putrajaya needs to review its policies as it can’t afford to spend taxpayers’ money on the AG’s own legal problem.

That means the Government of Malaysia spends millions of ringgit to staff the A-GC in order to defend the government. Yet when the Government is sued, A-G Gani Patail engages private lawyers. Does that makes sense to you?

Is A-G Gani Patail admitting that he is not confident of the A-GC, which he heads, to defend him and the government in the face of the law suit by Lawyer Rosli Dahlan? Is A-G Gani Patail admitting that the A-GC is incompetent? Was that why Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah was asked to be an ad hoc DPP to prosecute the appeal against Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim? Or is there is a commercial logic to that? Is A-G Gani Patail outsourcing legal work to his friends in the private sector to reward them for covering up for his misconduct and incompetence?

Cecil Abraham sits in the MACC’s Operations Review Panel.

Cecil Abraham sits in the MACC’s Operations Review Panel.

I had a chat with Tan Sri Robert Phang who has always been critical of A-G Gani Patail. He told me a more worrisome story. Robert Phang questioned whether Tan Sri Cecil Abraham (right) is a fit to lawyer to defend the A-G because Cecil Abraham sits in the MACC’s Operations Review Panel, which advises on oversights in the MACC. One of the committee’s functions is to ensure that the MACC and other government agencies do not commit abuses. It is like an Ombudsman. If so, how can Cecil Abraham defend A-G Gani Patail and the other MACC officers whom Rosli has accused of fixing him? Is that not a conflict of interest?

Other lawyers tell me that Cecil Abraham is the senior lawyer implicated in the PI Bala SD case over the Altantuya murder. I am stunned by all these revelations. It seems that all the committees and advisory panels in the MACC and other government agencies are to cover up for their wrongdoings rather than to expose and correct them. No wonder our country is headed for doom !

Americk Sidhu, PI Bala's lawyer makes a startling revelation at the Bar AGM that Cecil Abraham confided in him that he prepared the 2nd SD on instructions from Najib.

Americk Sidhu, PI Bala’s lawyer makes a startling revelation at the Bar AGM that Cecil Abraham confided in him that he prepared the 2nd SD on instructions from Najib.

I am told that Rosli’s Statement of Claim against A-G Gani Patail contains very damning revelations about A-G’s misconduct. I am told that with every victory that Rosli gained against A-G Gani Patail, more and more civil servants and people are coming up to him to offer assistance and being more willing to be witnesses in his cases. This was unlike before when many were afraid to be associated with him.

Is that why AG Gani Patail does not want to go to trial and employ all kinds of delaying tactics in Rosli’s suit against him. Is that why A-G Gani Patail engaged Tan Sri Cecil Abraham to strike out Rosli’s suit? Otherwise, why is A-G Gani Patail so afraid to go to trial in Rosli’s case?

But now that Tan Sri Cecil has lost this striking out application and the A-G is ordered to pay cost to Rosli, who is going to bear this cost? Should taxpayer’s money be used to pay for the misconduct of these rogues in government? If we taxpayers have to bear this cost, then A-G Gani Patail and the likes of him will never be repentant. There will never be accountability!

In my view, A-G Gani Patail must bear the full costs of his misconduct. He must be held accountable and he must pay the legal fees charged by his friend Tan Sri Cecil Abraham. I am also of the view that the MACC should sack Cecil Abraham from being on its Advisory Panel. Cecil Abraham cannot sit there to pretend that he is acting as a check and balance against the MACC’s misconducts whereas he is also covering up for the MACC when the MACC is sued by Rosli, and getting well paid by the Government using tax payer’s money!

Conflict of Interest

The conflict of interest is so clear and it is appalling that a senior titled lawyer like Tan Sri Cecil Abraham cannot see that. I also feel that the Bar Council should not stand idle arms akimbo with this revelation. The Bar Council should subject Cecil Abraham to disciplinary proceedings for breaching such common sense rule on conflict of interests. Cecil has dishonored the Bar and the Council must act against him!

Well Done, JC Wazeer Alam Mydin 

In that regard, I must congratulate Judicial Commissioner Wazeer Alam Mydin for having a fair sense justice in not allowing A-G Gani Patail to strike out Rosli ‘s claim. A judicial Commissioner is basically a probationary judge. For a probationary Judge to do this means JC Wazeer is indeed a brave man who would not tolerate public authorities who commit abuses and then claim immunity. It is indeed a brave probationary judge to stand up to the A-G and tell it to the A-G’s face that the A-G is not above the law.

The winds of change is blowing and judges like JC Wazeer Alam will be a credit to the judiciary. JC Wazeer Alam is indeed a brave man to make this iconic statement:

“The claim by AG of his absolute public and prosecutorial immunity is an anathema to modern democratic society.”

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April 11, 2014

A-G not immune to legal action, rules Judge

by Hafiz Yatim@www.malaysiakini.com

The Attorney-General is not immune to legal action, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled today.

Judicial Commissioner Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera said this in dismissing Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail’s application to strike out the suits by former Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Ramli Yusuff and his lawyer Rosli Dahlan.

Public authorities who abused their powers have been "insulated" from prosecution for "far too long" by using the Public Authorities Protection Act.

Public authorities who abused their powers have been “insulated” from accountability  for “far too long” by using the Public Authorities Protection Act.

“I am afraid that the notion of absolute immunity for a public servant, even when mala fide or abuse of power in the exercise of their prosecutorial power is alleged in the pleadings, is anathema to modern day notions of accountability.

“I agree that deliberate abuse of power by a person holding a public office is tortious and is referred to as misfeasance in public office.

“Such a tortious act can arise when an officer actuated by malice, for example, by personal spite or a desire to injure for improper reasons, abuses his power,” Vazeer Alam said.

“This is keeping with developments in modern jurisprudence that absolute immunity for public servants has no place in a progressive democratic society,” the judge added. The A-G and two other officers from the A-G’s Chambers were named in the respective suits filed by Ramli Yusuff and Rosli Dahlan.

They had sought to strike out the suits on the grounds that they should be immune to such action in carrying out their prosecution powers. Ramli had filed a RM128.5 million suit against A-G Gani, former IGP Musa Hassan and several Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers.

Rosli had filed a separate suit amounting to RM48 million against the same parties.The two are suing them for abuse of power, malfeasance in the performance of public duty, malicious prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct, among others.

Suits not filed out of time

Judicial Commissioner Vazeer Alam also ruled that the two suits for malicious prosecution were not filed out of time as this cause of action accrued upon the determination of the final appeal. He said that the court could not consider the period to be when Ramli or Rosli  were acquitted, as there were subsequent appeals against the acquittals made after this.

“As with Ramli’s case, the appeals lodged by the public prosecutor were dismissed in June and in November 2011. Therefore the filing of the action on Nov 1 last year is well within the time stipulated in Section 2 of the Public Authority Protection Act,” the  ruled,

Vazeer Alam also allowed the two to name the MACC in their legal action, since the MACC took over from the Anti-Corruption Agency.

Ramli had sued the defendants for their claim that he was the policeman in the Copgate affair and that he had RM27 million in assets.

Subsequently, Ramli was charged with the non-disclosure of some of his assets and the case against him was thrown out. Ramli’s lawyer friend Rosli was also hauled up as a result of this.

Ramli, who was a former state Police Chief for Pahang and Sabah, said in his statement of claim that his relationship with Gani soured in 2006.

This was after he met then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and recommended that former Malaysia Airlines chairperson Tajudin Ramli be prosecuted for the severe losses suffered by the company.

“But the A-G decided not to prosecute Tajudin. I even told the PM then that if the AG was reluctant to prosecute Tajudin, the CCID would have the necessary resources to conduct the prosecution.

“This earned me Gani’s permanent displeasure…” Ramli said in his statement of claim.

‘A brave decision’

After today’s court session, Ramli commended the judge for his brave decision. “I am not doing this for Ramli Yusuff but for the Police Force, some of whom have been victimised as a result of this. And I am also doing this for the serving government officers who have also been victimised.

“I am also seeking closure to an event that has affected my possible career advancement,” he said.

The RM27 million investigations had hindered his promotion to be the Inspector-General of Police, he added. This post was subsequently handed over to Musa Hassan.

Rosli, on commending today’s High Court decision, said abuses by the public authority have for too long been insulated by invoking the Public Authority Protection Act.

“Today, a brave judge has declared that absolute prosecutorial immunity is  anathema to the modern concept of democracy. This is to remind the public authorities that no one is above the law,” Rosli said.

Several Police Officers under Ramli’s charge have also been prosecuted as a result of the Copgate affair and all of them have acquitted and have been reinstated to their posts during former IGP Ismail Omar’s tenure.

Ramli was represented by Harvinderjit Singh, while Chethan Jethwani and Darvindeer Kaur appeared for Rosli. Senior lawyer Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, Rishwant Singh and Senior federal counsel Dato Amarjeet Singh represented the defendants.

Vazeer fixed June 18 for case management to possibly fix trial dates for the hearing.

UMNO in survival mode


January 1, 2013

UMNO in survival mode

by Dr Johan Saravanamuttu

johan-saravanamuttuRacial sentiments ran high, tears flowed, the rhetoric became warlike, the May 13 ghost was resurrected and even Allah (God) was invoked during the 66th UMNO convention which wound to its close on the first day of December 2012.

Gearing up for the “mother of all elections” due to be held within months, UMNO leaders were striking out a posture of solidarity and rallying the troops. However, belying the pomp, decibels and camaraderie was an undertone of the dominant political party of Malaysia losing much of its “mojo” and somewhat in a survival mode.

Milling around the convention premises and listening to the emotionally charged speeches of delegates, one could not but palpably sense that UMNO was a party under siege. UMNO, as the political engineer of the unbroken 50-plus-year rule of the Barisan Nasional (BN), may indeed have been responsible for the loss of the ruling coalition’s customary two-thirds majority of seats in Parliament and five state governments in the 2008 general election, its worst electoral outing to date.

The fact that the UMNO’s President Najib Razak, who is also the Prime Minister, has held Najibback from calling a general election up until today suggests that UMNO and its coalition partners continue to have doubts that their performance in the forthcoming election would be up to par. The window to call the election closes completely on April 28, 2013 by which time the government would have served out its maximum term of five years. The Election Commission would then have the option to hold the election within two months.

Thinkable Opposition win?

On the final day of the assembly, Najib vowed to win back the two-thirds majority of seats in Parliament but all indications are that the BN will fall short in the upcoming election. Serious political analysts see the BN winning only a simple majority of the 222 parliamentary seats up for contest and unlikely to wrest back all the state governments of Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor lost in 2008. Moreover, it may stand the chance of losing Perak, which was turned over when three Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers hopped out of the opposition coalition in February 2009.

UMNO’s 79 seats constitute about 36 per cent of the total number won by the BN and if its peninsula coalition partners MCA, MIC and Gerakan fail to retain their current hold on 20 seats, this could spell real trouble. Further haemorrhaging could occur in Sabah and Sarawak, where non-UMNO coalition parties hold 41 seats for the BN. Indeed, if things turn out much worse than before, the scenario of an opposition win is not unthinkable.

The argument advanced here is that UMNO and its partners in BN have lost its “first-mover-advantage” as the ruling coalition in Malaysia for the last five decades or more and now faces decreasing returns on institutional arrangements and processes that it has pioneered, particularly when a new successful player, in this case, the PR, enters the scene.

This scenario has been given credence because PR has been gaining ground in Sarawak and Sabah since 2008, the two solid stronghold states of the BN. In the April 2011 state election in Sarawak, PR won a total of 15 seats which could well translate into six to eight parliamentary seats in the coming GE 13. In Sabah, two BN MPs, Lajim Ukin of UMNO and Wilfred Bumburing of UPKO, left their respective parties in July 2012 and have set up a PR-friendly entity. Earlier in 2009, the SAPP, led by former Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee, also weaned itself out of the BN. The BN’s total of 140 seats could well decrease significantly given these developments.

But what about UMNO itself, would it able to retain its current share of seats or increase them? Why does the party convention of 2012 evince an unmistakable tinge of defensiveness and insecurity?

UMNO’s predicament

To understand UMNO’s current predicament, it will be necessary to backtrack to 2008. UMNO held a little over half the Malay ground in terms of popular votes and seats in 2008. One estimate put Malay support for the BN at some 58 per cent. The BN itself won just over 50 per cent of the popular vote. It is hard to actually accurately measure the percentage of Malay support for UMNO throughout the country but on the basis of UMNO’s performance contra that of the Islamist party, PAS, in the Muslim heartland of the east coast and the northern Malay states of the peninsula, one could venture some more fine-grain interpretations of the Malay vote.

UMNO’s slippage in retaining Malay support has been evident over the years with the concomitant rising presence of PAS. An additional element is the PKR presence in the more urban Malay areas.

Perlis has remained an UMNO stronghold but even so there has been a slippage of 3.6 per cent of votes. The slippage in Kedah was particularly evident and this saw the government change for the first time to the PR. In terms of popular votes in Terengganu, the margin of change in the last election was low after a surge in 1999. The chances are that in the 13th GE, Kelantan will remain firmly in PAS’s grip and unless there is a reverse swing of votes in Kedah, it will remain under PAS leadership as well. There would be a distinct possibility for Terengganu to be back in the embrace of PAS.

After an unprecedented 16 by-elections held after the 2008 GE, it has been “even stevens” between BN and PR. This suggests that BN-PR strengths have largely remained unchanged and that the two-coalition system has continued to track.

Nizar JamaluddinOne particular by-election illustrating the weakness of UMNO vis-à-vis PAS was the contest for Bukit Gantang, a parliamentary constituency with an electorate of 55,471 voters lying on the outskirts of Taiping town. A former stronghold of UMNO, it passed into PAS’s hands at the 2008 election, the Islamist party capturing a credible majority of 1,566 votes. The death of the PAS MP forced the April 7, 2009 by-election which saw the charismatic Nizar Jamaluddin take on UMNO’s Ismail Safian.

In the event Nizar, the deposed Mentri Besar of Perak, won the seat with an increased majority of 2,789 votes. An analysis by PAS showed that Nizar may have won only 43 per cent of the Malay votes. The results showed that the more rural areas of Trong gave UMNO a majority of votes while the more urban regions around Sepang, Bukit Gantang proper and Kuala Sepetang gave Nizar sizeable majorities. Nizar won the seat by capturing a sizable portion of the Malay votes, but in Malaysian politics today, this is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. Nizar had to win the non-Malay votes by a good margin and he did.

Thus, in particular constituencies, non-Malay voters have become kingmakers whenever the Malay vote is split down the middle. It was clear that Nizar swept the non-Malay, mostly Chinese, votes, sometimes to the tune of 80 per cent. A field trip to Kuala Sepatang (formerly Port Weld), provided the author with the distinct impression that the Chinese fishing community seemed totally supportive of Nizar, who in his short tenure as MB had legalised temporary operating licence (TOL) land to Chinese farmers and other tenants.

For a comparison, let us now turn to the Tenang by-election in Johor held on January 30, 2011. This 14th by-election witnessed a resurgence of voter support for UMNO, but fell short of the 5,000-vote majority that it had expected. UMNO took the seat by a majority of 3,707 votes, some 1,200 more than what it gained in 2008 with a voter turnout of 9,833, which is only 67 per cent of the electorate. Widespread flooding in the constituency on voting day accounted for the low voter turnout.

Tenang practically exhibits the Peninsula template of Malay-Chinese-Indian distribution (49-38-12, and 1 per cent “others”) and its result was seen by some as a barometer of the state of play in Malaysian electoral politics. The UMNO candidate Azahar Ibrahim may have swept more than 80 per cent of the Malay vote. The PAS challenger, Normala Sudirman, evidently won the Chinese vote, but the numbers may have shrunk somewhat since 2008. This was thought to be because of the low voter turnout among the Chinese. She was able only to win a majority in the 95 per cent Chinese polling area of Labis Tengah but lost in Labis Timor and in Labis Station, which had lower Chinese percentages.

The DAP claim is that she still picked up the majority of Chinese votes. DAP publicity chieftony-pua Tony Pua suggested that UMNO’s Azahar received 83.3 per cent of Malay votes, up four percentage points from 2008. This was helped by an 81 per cent turn out by Malay voters. The Indian vote also went to BN, but the community had a low 40 per cent turnout. The by-election was marred by massive flooding and many voters had to be ferried to polling stations in police boats.

The Tenang by-election result was already predictable before voting day and only the margin of victory was at issue. As such, the interesting points to be made concern the different styles, tactics and approach to by-elections of Malaysia’s twin coalition system: UMNO clearly optimised on a strategy of using its copious resources and electoral machinery with great effect, while PAS floundered under the weight of Umno’s monopoly of state resources.

The by-election outcomes beg the question of what is animating politics on the ground today and here is where we could turn to the recent Umno assembly for some pointers. (BN went on to win the final two by-elections on March 6, 2011 in Malacca, namely, in the state seats of Merlimau and Kerdau, previously held by UMNO. The Electoral Commission ruled in April 2011 that they would be no further by-elections as three years had elapsed since the last election.)

A considerable amount of time and energy was devoted by delegates to pillorying and mocking PAS for its inability of fulfilling its promise of an Islamic state and watering down its agenda to that of a negara berkebajikan (welfare state) because of the objection of its alliance partner DAP. Thus UMNO continues to target PAS as its main opponent. The delegate from Perlis, a religious scholar, Fathul Bari, played two video clips of the recent PAS convention, showing PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz leading a prayer calling for UMNO’s destruction and allegedly dubbing UMNO members as murtad (apostates). The UMNO delegates jeered loudly, evidently scandalised by Tok Guru’s venom for the party.

But herein also lies UMNO’s Achilles heel; constituted originally as basically a secularist political party, it has increasingly been forced to meet the challenge of PAS’s Islamist politics and so far it has fared rather poorly. The more religious Muslims who support PAS consider UMNO’s attempts to be ersatz.

The contestation of UMNO with PAS on the Islamic terrain has to be understood in the context of PAS’s relentless critique of UMNO as a corrupt, unethical party and one incapable of implementing Islamic values and policies. UMNO’s riposte has been merely to up the ante on its own Islamic credentials. All UMNO Prime Ministers since Mahathir have attempted to implement a host of Islamisation policies, recruited religious scholars and proponents into the party, and have termed Malaysia an “Islamic state”.

Under Najib, the government has introduced the notion of wasatiyyah (moderation) which inter alia accepts the presence of other faiths but without putting them on par with Islam. Najib in speeches before and during this assembly openly rejected the notions of “liberalism” and “religious pluralism”. Delegates during the assembly attacked PAS for supporting LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) rights and pointed to PAS’s support of Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan as evidence of this. (Ambiga, also a former Bar Council President, was slotted to chair a session to discuss LGTB rights in the Seksualiti Merdeka Festival in November 2011. The festival was stopped by the government.)

It is of supreme irony that UMNO, the erstwhile Malay secularist party, now postures itself as an Islamist party while PAS, the putative Islamist party, has begun to take on more progressive agendas and stances on contemporary issues.

A defensive UMNO

A defensive UMNO has evidently moved beyond its familiar attack of non-Malays — symbolised by the “keris rattling” of UMNO Youth — to a more frontal confrontation with its religious foe PAS. Put differently, UMNO’s polemical terrain appears to have shifted one remove beyond its preoccupation with the notion of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy).

This said, Malay supremacy still reared its head and remained as an important trope of the Shahrizat A Jalillatest UMNO assembly. It was clearly invoked in the speeches of the women’s chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (right) and Deputy Youth leader Reezal Merican Naina Merican. One spun out the familiar threat to non-Malays of the possible recurrence of a May 13 event should UMNO lose the Malay vote while the other famously announced that UMNO was a party anointed by God.

On a more defensive plane, a young delegate representing the UMNO clubs abroad struck a resonance with all and sundry when he started to sing a Biro Tata Negara (BTN) propaganda song lamenting the surrender of indigenous lands and possessions to foreign occupiers. (BTN or the National Civics Bureau organises orientation programmes for Malay students and civil servants.)

But the tear-jerking episode conveyed a subliminal message that UMNO Malays have lost sight of the multiracial politics advocated by its traditional leaders such as Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak. Without doubt, Reezal Merican took racial politics to a new high when he implied that the Malays were God’s chosen people.

Predictably, the UMNO’s President opening address emphasised the crucial character of the 13th GE for the party’s future and its survival and he alluded to the significance of the 2.9 million new voters. Again, this suggests that UMNO is not at all confident that it has captured the youth vote. Indeed, young people were conspicuous by their low attendance at the UMNO General Assembly. Some 10 or so UMNO overseas club members were visible and the Puteri UMNO (young women’s wing) was clearly outnumbered by the UMNO makciks and pakciks (older folks).Speeches by Puteri representatives were underwhelming and drew little fire.

The President’s speech was devoid of new policies as he trotted out the successes of his policies of economic, political and governmental transformation. There was no mention of how the government has addressed the egregious problems of corruption and crime. He clearly avoided any reference to the cyber rumblings that linked the first family to a land deal involving the Ministry of Defence alleged by one Deepak Jaikishan.

Zahid HamidDefence Minister Ahmad Zahid (left) also demurred responding to the Deepak allegations. At the point of writing, Deepak, a businessman and carpet dealer, has sued Selangor UMNO women’s leader Raja Ropiaah Abdullah’s company Awan Megah for breach of contract and for allegedly cheating him of millions of ringgit. Awan Megah was awarded a RM100 million privatisation project to set up an intelligence centre by the defence minister, it was alleged. Deepak had also intimated that he was responsible for the recanting of a statutory declaration by private investigator P. Balasubramanian, which had stated that Najib had a relationship with the murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Najib’s 45-minute concluding speech provided hints of the problems afflicting the party. He spoke of finding “winnable candidates”, the problem of “saboteurs” and chose to praise in the same breath both ex-premiers Mahathir and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, known to be in different UMNO camps. Further cyber noise from former Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan that the Home Minister had interfered in his handling of arrests of persons of standing over criminal activities also failed to draw any strong response from Hishammuddin Hussein, the minister in question. With the goings-on inside and outside the party, there were more than enough suggestions that the party was faction-ridden.

More tellingly, certain personalities appeared likely to be dropped as candidates in the KJcoming GE. It has been common knowledge for a long time that the UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin (left), Abdullah’s son-in-law, may not be selected to defend his Rembau seat because of alleged blocking by Mahathir, who would like to see his own son Mukhriz rise in the party hierarchy. There have also been incessant rumours circulating that Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin was “plotting” for the president himself to under-perform in the GE, while Najib’s cousin, vice-president Hishammuddin, awaits a leg-up to the next level should Muhyiddin falter.

Conclusion

As the 66th UMNO General assembly concluded and the impending 13th general election looms large, Malaysia’s de facto ruling party may not be able to find the means to check its path-dependent decline. After more than five decades of unparalleled success in helming Malaysia save for a hiccup in 1969, it now faces the prospect of a possible loss of control of the federal government following the disastrous electoral outcome of 2008.

Path-dependent decline has even been more evident in its coalition partners, the MCA and Gerakan, two Chinese-based parties which have lost their historical advantage to the DAP. Leadership problems and haemorrhaging in the MIC has meant a splintering of the Indian vote mostly mopped up by the Opposition front. Other coalition partners in Sabah and Sarawak have fared much better up till now but some decline is evident in last year’s state election in Sarawak and in recent party defections in Sabah.

UMNO itself faces the rise of an unprecedented number of young and more urbanised voters who have little appetite for neither its old-style racial politics nor its ersatz Islamism. Furthermore, factionalism within the party leadership despite an outward show of solidarity is bound to affect its effectiveness in securing desired electoral outcomes. — aliran.com

* Dr Johan Saravanamuttu, a long-time Aliran contributor and former Aliran trustee, is currently Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. –www.themalaysianinsider.com