Congrats, Malik, for winning the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award

April 30, 2009

Congrats, Malik, on being nominated for and winning the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award from all of us in social and political activism . The citation reads as follows:

“Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, whose release he secured last year. In August 2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam and calling for his death was circulated in Malaysia. He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and spoken in a series of public forums on the need for religious freedom.

Those of us who know you for your stout and successful defence of Raja Petra Kamaruddin are proud of this international recognition of your work as “human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)”. I personally wish you all the best. May you continue in good health to stand up for the cause of human liberty, for which you received the 2009 Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award.—Din Merican

The truth about Malaysia

The efforts of civil society and alternative media have strived to show Malaysia in its true, anti-democratic light

o Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
o, Wednesday 22 April 2009 10.00 BST
o Article history

Architects of autocracies would benefit tremendously from studying the Malaysian model. It stands as a shining example of how, given the right combination of greed, ambition, maladministration and contempt for the rule of law, any democracy can be recast into an autocracy while preserving the veneer of democratic process.

At the time of its independence in 1957, Malaysia’s written constitution embedded the separation of powers and the freedoms so crucial to its checks and balances. But the vested interests of a hegemonic political elite has, over time, caused the system to mutate into one of rule by law that threatens the continued sustainability of the nation.

This is easy enough for anyone to see. The statute books contain a plethora of anti-democratic laws that are designed for, and applied to, one end: the regulation of information and opinion. This has allowed the suborning of a voter base much weakened by a divisive system of race politics; voters already made to feel that they should be voting one way rather than the other are not given the means to make an informed choice. This has allowed a semblance of democracy, even though the democratic process has been subverted.

There is no other way of explaining the continued existence of laws that vest power in the government to detain without trial for extended periods of time, or to subjectively regulate the print media or to brings charges for sedition and criminal defamation. These laws not only impede free access to vital information, they allow the suppression of legitimate dissent, a process aided by a seeming willingness on the part of key institutions of the state, such as the judiciary and the police force, to serve the interests of the government in such ways as they can. The police routinely clamp down on opposition rallies and NGO demonstrations while the judiciary cannot be relied upon to defend civil liberties.

When confronted about any of this, the government points to the electoral process and its consistent return to power. It sidesteps the extent to which it attempts to keep the voter ignorant or scared. It meets complaints about the system with defensiveness, even hostility, due to its inability to meaningfully justify its position and its unwillingness to respond to popular sentiment.

Fighting back has centred on efforts to increase access to information. In the general election of March 2008, the incumbent political coalition took a beating. It lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and lost control over four of the 13 states in which it had previously formed government. This was largely due to the unflagging and courageous efforts of civil society and the alternative media. A ragtag group of activists, bloggers and independent news sites strived to offer a different and more truthful view of Malaysia, while making Malaysians aware it was time for them to take ownership of the issues at hand.

Many of those involved were people I had come to know over the last decade or so in my work as an activist as well as a public interest lawyer. Of these, Raja Petra Kamarudin, a new media exponent of almost iconic status, was among the most influential. Unflinching and unrelenting, he galvanised reactions on a scale that many were unprepared for. He helped shape history last March.

That may be why he was charged for sedition and criminal defamation as well as detained was detained under the Internal Security Act soon after.

Amid concerns that a wider crackdown was underway and that I might also be on the detention list, I was instructed to seek an order of habeas corpus. Painfully aware of how exposed I was to executive scrutiny, I assembled a team of lawyers and made the applications. We were not hopeful, there had not been a successful challenge on merits since 1998 when the law had been amended to preclude judicial review. The high court, however, thought there were merits and ordered his release. He had been detained for some 55 days by then.

The situation is precarious. Malaysians want change and the elites that form the government are in no position to deliver it. Continued suppression and repression is the only way in which power can be preserved. That does not bode well for the nation.

Last night Malik Imtiaz Sarwar won the Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award at last night’s Index on Censorship awards

Justice (Rtd) NH Chan Interview

The Malaysian Insider

April 30, 2009

Justice (Rtd) NH Chan Interview

By Debra Chong in Ipoh, Perak

(Retired Justice) Chan Nyarn Hoi lives in a modest two-storey semi-detached house in a quiet lane near the state stadium in Perak with his wife, a dog and seven large Japanese carp.

At 74 years old and with ruddy smooth cheeks under a full head of snowy white hair, few would connect him to the acerbic, no-nonsense former judge Datuk N.H. Chan, who has in the last couple of months done the unthinkable: fire away missives at judges who have trampled on the Federal Constitution in deciding issues related to the power grab in Perak. His lengthy articles have reminded Malaysians of a time gone by when towering individuals sat on the Bench and simplified the Perak constitutional crisis for the common man.

Still seething over the events that transpired in Perak and decisions of the apex court, he says that if Malaysians are upset with the state of the judiciary and think that the present crop of judges are not up to the mark, they should exercise the power of their  vote to change the state of affairs in the country.

Born in Ipoh on March 27, 1935, Chan was admitted to the Bar in 1961. He was a lawyer for almost two decades before becoming a High Court judge and moving to Kuala Lumpur.

He was among the first batch of High Court judges to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, set up in 1994 to act as an intermediate court between the High Court and the apex court.

Chan’s first book, “Judging the Judges”, was published in 2007 and is a collection of his articles for the Perak Bar. Only 1,000 copies were published.

His second book, “How to Judge the Judges”, is expected to come out some time in the middle of the year. The final draft has just been sent to the publishers. They wanted him to include the Perak saga as well, but because it is ongoing, he had to draw a line somewhere. He has included some information in the epilogue.

In an exclusive interview, the former judge, who was recommended to the Bench by none other than Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak and a central figure in the present crisis, tells The Malaysian Insider why he feels compelled to speak out.

Question(Q): Unlike many former judges, you have been very vocal in your criticisms against the judiciary. What drives you?

Answer (A) : In the first place, I am not against the judiciary. I am sure there are some good judges around, only they have not manifested themselves in the present constitutional, should I say, crisis in Perak.

I expected James Foong JCA (as he then was, he is now a Federal Court judge) to do the right thing but he failed to do that. I suppose it takes great courage for a Court of Appeal judge who sat as a winger in the Federal Court to give a dissenting judgment.

Now, back to your question. When I became a judge I had to be true to my calling which is to know that the essence of justice is fair trial and the duty of the judge is to administer it according to law.

Lord Devlin in his book “The Judge”, wrote on page 4: “…impartiality and the appearance of it are the supreme judicial virtues. It is the verdict that matters, and if it is incorrupt, it is acceptable. To be incorrupt it must bear the stamp of a fair trial.”

And at page 85 he said: “The first — ought one to say the whole — duty of the judge is to administer justice according to law.”

Back to page 3, the book said: “What is the function of the judge? Professor Jaffe has a phrase for it — ‘the disinterested application of known law’ (Jaffe in his book “English and American Judges as Lawmakers”, page 13)”

This means that the judge’s only duty is to do justice in the disinterested application of known law. Known law means basic law and the term includes both common law and statute law.

The judge who gives the right judgment but does not appear to be impartial is useless to the judicial process. After that, the judge’s whole duty or function is to decide the case according to law on the admissible evidence before him.

And what do you call a judge who does not administer justice according to law? A renegade judge? So now you know why I am so vocal when I admonish the errant judges who did not apply unambiguous law as it stands.

Q: You have been especially blunt in your views over the issues in Perak. Why so?

A: You mean for calling a spade a spade? What do you call a judge who doesn’t follow or apply easy to understand and unambiguous statute law as it stands?

Like Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution which says: “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

This law applies to all members of the legislative assembly — it does not matter if you are DAP or PKR or MCA or Barisan Nasional or any political party. Even a child could understand the plain meaning of the words. We do not need the Federal Court to interpret (meaning “explain the meaning of”) the words for us. Nor do we need any law professor from Singapore to tell us Malaysians that the courts should have the power of judicial review over what has transpired in Parliament or a Legislative Assembly.

There is separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary of this country. We all know that one can apply to the courts for a judicial review over executive actions. But there is no such thing as judicial review over what transpired in the legislature — if there is such a thing then we can have judicial review over the passing into law of certain Acts of Parliament that we don’t like — like the ISA.

A long time ago when I was a High Court judge, I have sentenced many criminals to death without qualms. But personally I am against the death sentence because it is barbaric. But as a judge I must apply the law as it is.

To quote Lord Denning: “It is their [the judges] duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it — and do so knowingly — they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.”

I would never dream of doing such a thing.

Q: Why did you choose to air your views so publicly? I’m trying to understand why you got involved.

A: I’m only an outsider and I don’t care. But when everybody is missing the point and all that — and some of them have not even read the Perak Constitution, I thought I better explain why the people are angry.

Q: Why do you think the people are angry?

A: Do you know why the Perakians were up in uproar against the Sultan of Perak?

It’s because, as any lawyer will tell you, especially as he was Lord President before, that before you make a decision, you cannot see the parties. If you want to meet any of the parties, both of them must be present. You never do so by seeing one and then making a decision. The moment you do that, to the losing side or to any observer will think you have been influenced. So it’s the impression that counts.

They were angry with the Sultan because they can sense it in their bones that it is wrong to make a decision to see the other side first.

Q: Is the Sultan morally wrong or legally wrong?

A: If the Sultan had executive powers to rule, it is legally wrong, so they could apply for judicial review of the Sultan’s decision. But I pointed out in my first article he has no executive power to rule because he is not an executive monarch, he is a constitutional monarch. What he did was morally wrong.

Q: You must have seen many things during your time as a judge. What is wrong with Malaysia’s justice system? What can be done to correct it? And what’s stopping the necessary changes from taking place?

A: I don’t think there is anything wrong with our judicial system. It is the players that we should be concerned with — if we get the right people on the Bench, that is, those people who are not interested in power — because power corrupts, those fair-minded individuals who would administer justice according to law, then we will have a judiciary to be proud of.

We used to have that at one time. And if the general public think that the present crop of errant judges are not up to the mark, then the remedy is to use the power of the vote to change the present state of things. At the general election of 1906 the common people of England toppled the Conservative Government of the day because they were unhappy with the decision of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale case which had virtually put an end to trade unions six years earlier.

That case had immense political consequences. At the general election of 1906 the opposition pledged complete immunity for trade unions. Lord Denning said in his book “Landmarks in the Law”, page 121: “The result of the general election was like an earthquake. … It was a sweeping victory for the trade unions. Parliament immediately passed the Trade Disputes Act 1906. It is probably the most important Act ever put into the Statute Book. It reversed all the judicial decisions against trade unions. The Taff Vale case was overruled. No trade union could thereafter be sued for damages for any wrongs done by its members. Its funds were unassailable.”

There is a well known Spanish proverb which says, “He who goes with wolves learns to howl.” So that if the electorate don’t trust the judges they tend to put the blame on the government who put the judges there.

Q: Many ordinary Malaysians today feel powerless to affect positive changes to the institution of the judiciary because they lack legal knowledge. Do you agree with this view? How do you think they can work to bring about the change they want?

A: I think the real problem is this. In most cases when you read about a court decision in the newspapers, the judgment of the court is expressed in such a way that the average reader will not know if the judge is right. So invariably, we assume that the judge must be right.

I do realise the problem, so I thought I should try to explain the issue in simple language so that everyone will be able to judge for himself whether the judge is doing the right thing or not.

Lord Denning was famous for explaining difficult law in such a way that any lay reader can understand it. Now that they know how to judge the judges by reading my articles, they could, if they thought they have been short-changed by the judges, do the same thing as was done by the electorate in 1906 England. They have the power to change the government of the day by their vote in the next general election.

The opposition, in order to get the people’s vote, could pledge to undo all the wrongs done to the community by the judges. They could pledge that if they were given the mandate of the people to form the next government, they would pass an Act of Parliament to overrule such unjust decisions of the Federal Court such as Adorna Properties vs Boonsorm Boonyanit, the Asean Security Mills, PP vs Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as well as all the decisions of the Federal Court pertaining to the Perak constitutional crisis which were not decided according to law — where the court had blatantly refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution.

They could also pledge to remove the errant judges from office. This is how it could be done. In “What Next in the Law”, Lord Denning said, page 319: “Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.”

Yet the errant judges, especially the five in the Federal Court, have refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution as it stands.

In his book, “The Judiciary in Malaysia” (Asia Pacific Publications Sdn Bhd, 1994) the then Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Abdul Hamid Omar said, page 88: “… the provisions dealing with the removal of judges in pursuance of an address in Parliament … was modified to provide for a special tribunal to be established for the removal of judges.” That is incorrect. Actually Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution only applies to judges of the Federal Court.

At the time of the fracas between the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1988, Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution provides for the removal of judges of the Federal Court on the ground of “misbehaviour or of inability”.

Article 125(3) and (4) reads:

“125(3) If the Prime Minister, or the Lord President after consulting the Prime Minister, represents to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that a judge of the Federal Court ought to be removed on the ground of misbehaviour or on the ground of inability, from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a tribunal in accordance with Clause (4) and refer the representation to it; and may on the recommendation of the tribunal remove the judge from office.

“125(4) The said tribunal shall consist of not less than 5 persons who hold or have held office as a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court or, if it appears to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong expedient to make such appointment, persons who hold or have held equivalent office in any other part of the Commonwealth, and shall be presided over by the member first in the following order, namely, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President and the Chief Judges according to their precedence among themselves, and other members according to the order of their appointment to an office qualifying them for membership (the older coming before the younger of two members with appointments of the same date).”

The book “The Judiciary in Malaysia” said — this part is significant so do pay special attention to it — page 89: “Until the recent amendment in 1994, the grounds for the removal of a judge was ‘misbehaviour or of inability’, The Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994, however, substituted for the word ‘misbehaviour’, the words ‘any breach of any provision of the code of ethics prescribed under Clause 3A…’. The effect of this amendment is that, besides the inability, either from infirmity of body or mind, or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, a judge may be removed if he has breached the code of ethics prescribed for judges.

“Article 125(3A) provides that the code of ethics shall be observed by every judge, be it, the judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court.”

This is what Section 2 of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 says:

“2(1) This Code of Ethics shall apply to a judge throughout the period of his service.

“2(2) The breach of any provision of this Code of Ethics may constitute a ground for the removal of a judge from office.”

So now we all know that any serving judge could be removed from office for a breach of any provision of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994.

Section 3(1)(d) is the provision in the Code of Ethics to apply against the errant judges. It reads: A judge shall not conduct himself dishonestly or in such a manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto”.

I think the words in Section 3(1)(d) are clear enough — we all know what they mean. So that if a judge brings the judiciary into disrepute or discredit, as the errant judges have done by not administering justice according to law, they could be removed from office under this provision. It’s a bit harsh, but it can be done.

PKR Penang’s Dr. Mansor Othman: Avoid Racist Politics ala UMNO-Barisan Nasional

April 30, 2009

Mansor steers away from outdated politics
by Athi Veeranggan

mansor othman interview 300409 03Pakatan Rakyat candidate for the Penanti by-election Mansor Othman wants to give a new dimension and perspective to Malay leadership in Penang, away from the stereotype racist politics ala Barisan Nasional.

If elected as an assemblyperson and subsequently appointed as Penang Deputy Chief Minister 1, he stressed he would not be just another typical Malay leader embarking on communal politics. Mansor said he would provide a different vision of Malay leadership under the Pakatan state government by representing and carrying out beneficial programmes for all communities, especially the needy and underprivileged people.

He rejected the BN’s racial-based policies, in which a Malay leader would only take care of his community, a Chinese for Chinese and an Indian for Indians, as an outdated stereotyped politics that would only take the Penang backwards.

“Communal politics would do more harm and than good to the state and nation. I want to move away from it and be a Malay leader focusing on programmes to help all, not just Malays,” said Mansor, the PKR’s Penang deputy chief and national election machinery director.

He pointed out that UMNO-led BN governance style of divide and rule based on ethnicity was rapidly becoming an endangered species in the current political climate.

Mansor foresees that the concept of sharing and caring for all, with all and by all espoused by his party, the PKR and Pakatan coalition would be the future political fundamentals. “We in Pakatan are definitely moving away from racial based politics. “We must drive the country away from BN and UMNO style of communal politics. I will surely provide a new dimension and perspective to Malay leadership and politics in Penang,” he told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview yesterday.

If he were to become the next DCM 1, Mansor assured that he would tackle heads on the UMNO concoction that “Penang Malays have been neglected”. “I would to address and resolve the problem,” he said.

Rates a good chance of winning

He said he was looking forward to work closely with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to assist the state government to resolve various pressing issues such as housing, education and poverty. “I will compliment Lim and reduce his burden in administrative works,” said the former associate professor from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

When announcing party candidature for Penanti by-election, PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim said Mansor was chosen to contest Penanti “due to his strong academic credentials, political background and administrative experience”.

“We need him to assist the chief minister to carry out the state administrative task efficiently and effectively,” said Anwar. Mansor was among the founding member of PKN, the predecessor of PKR, in 1999 and was first and longest serving Penang party chief. If elected, Anwar said Mansor would be the party nominee for the vacant DCM 1 and an executive councillor post to fulfil the PKR quota in the DAP-led state government.

Both positions fell vacant when incumbent Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned effective April 8 after he was embroiled in a graft investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

And on April 16 Fairus resigned as assemblyperson for Penanti, which comes under Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency, a PKR stronghold.

Polling is on Sunday, May 31 and nomination falls on Saturday, May 23,2009.

Prior to Penanti, Mansor has lost all his electoral battles – to Zain Omar in the Balik Pulau parliamentary duel in 1999, to Ariff Shah Omar Shah in Seberang Jaya state seat contest in 2004 and to Muhammad Farid Saad by 2004 in Pulau Betong state constituency. But this time he is confident of finally breaking the duck and securing his first electoral victory. Despite UMNO’s delay in deciding whether or not to contest Penanti, he expects the party to finally field a strong candidate to challenge him.

“It’s not UMNO’s style not to contest,” said Mansor, who rated his chances at 60-40 given that Penanti is the territory of Anwar and PKR, and the people’s general mood for a change.

“But I am not over confident nor complacent.We have to work hard and ensure a big win,” he stressed.

Dr Mansor Othman is PKR’s man for Penanti By-Election

April 28, 2009

Mansor is PKR candidate for Penanti
by Athi Veeranggan

anwar ibrahim dr mansor othman pkr candidate for penanti state seat by election 280409 03Former academician and PKR state deputy leader 58-year-old Mansor Othman will be the party candidate for the Penanti by-election next month. This was announced by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to a crowd of more than 1,000 people packed into Yayasan Aman, Penanti tonight.

Among Pakatan Rakyat leaders present were Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, PKR national president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, state PKR chief and Bayan Baru parliamentarian MP Zahrain Mohd Hashim, state DAP chairperson and state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow and former deputy chief minister Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.

Since the seat fell vacant after its incumbent representative Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned on April 16, speculations were rife that Mansor was PKR supremo Anwar’s pick for the contest.

Mansor, a former professor from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), was Anwar’s political secretary when the parliamentary opposition leader was the deputy prime minister in the Barisan Nasional government. “He earned a Masters degree from USM and a Masters in Arts and a Masters in Philosophy in Yale University,” said Anwar in introducing Mansor to party supporters. Mansor, who is PKR Balik Pulau division chief, is also the party’s Penang deputy chief.

“He has served in PKR’s supreme council for 10 years and also served as the national deputy director of elections. In addition, he has served me honourably and with distinction as political secretary to the deputy prime minister from 1996 to 1998,” added Anwar.

The Penanti by-election was called by the Election Commission when Fairus resigned as the elected representative.

Polling day will be Sunday, May 31.

Earlier on April 8, he resigned as deputy chief minister 1 and executive councillor after he was embroiled in a graft allegation linking him to quarry operations on Penang’s mainland. He has since been cleared by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from all allegations.

anwar ibrahim dr mansor othman pkr candidate for penanti state seat by election 280409 01Last weekend, Fairus reiterated his stand to resign from Penanti, prompting the EC to call for a by-election. Polls will be on Sunday, May 31 and nomination falls on Saturday, May 23. The “Fairus” lesson has prompted Anwar to pick “a politically-strong Penang-based party senior leader” to contest Penanti.

Mansor is a highly-respected figure within PKR circle and could not be bullied by rivals as in the case of Mohammad Fairus, who was young, inexperienced and lacked political maturity. Apparently Anwar needs Dr Mansor to put order in the state PKR, which currently is being hit by factionalism.

Anwar has earlier hinted that the PKR candidate for the Penanti by-election will be the highly likely nominee for vacant deputy chief minister and exco positions in the Pakatan Rakyat Penang government. The posts, which included one of the two chief ministers positions, are part of PKR’s quota in the DAP-led state government.

Anwar said the by-election was unavoidable because PKR had to choose a capable leader who can work closely with the chief minister and contribute efficiently to the state administration. The PKR leader’s stand dashes any lingering hopes harboured by current state executive councillor and Batu Maung assemblyperson Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim to succeed Fairus. However, Mansor has a black mark in his CV, a history of losing streaks in general elections.

Hopes to end unwanted record

Mansor lost to Zain Omar in the Balik Pulau parliamentary duel in 1999, to Ariff Shah Omar Shah in Seberang Jaya state seat contest in 2004 and to Muhammad Farid Saad by 294 in Pulau Betong state constituency. He hopes to end the unwanted record and stripped off his loser’s tag with a win in the Penanti by-election.

On paper, PKR looks favourite to retain the seat. Even the UMNO leadership recently hinted the party may not field a candidate. Penanti comes under Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency – a PKR stronghold. In the Permatang Pauh by-election last August, Penanti voters gave Anwar a thumping majority of 3,276.

PKR’s Abdul Rahman Abdul Kadir won the state seat in 1999 before losing it to Permatang Pauh UMNO chief Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid in 2004. He in turn lost to Mohammad Fairus last year. First-timer Mohammad Fairus took the seat with a majority of 2,219. He polled 7,346 votes against Abdul Jalil’s 5,127.

“Even though it is in Permatang Pauh, our stronghold, we shall not be complacent, arrogant and take things for granted. We must work harder to achieve a big win,” said the PKR leader. Anwar also called on Lim to consider Mansor, if he wins Penanti, as PKR nominee for the DCM post.

Mansor, a former university student leader, could have been Anwar’s original choice to be the state DCM 1. But it did not materialise due to his electoral defeat in Pulau Betong. Penanti will be the sixth by-election since the March 8 general election, five of which were snatched by Pakatan Rakyat.

Lim earlier reaffirmed DAP’s commitment to ensuring a PKR’s victory in the by-election and called on Penanti voters to teach another lesson yet again to UMNO and Barisan Nasional. Zahrain reminded party supporters to protect the pride of the party and Anwar, and ensure victory as Penanti comes under the “PKR political bastion”. And Mansor has said he is up to the challenge.

Malays being led like buffalos?, asks Ghani Ismail

April 29, 2009

Malays being led like buffalos

by A Ghani Ismail

UMNO’s will to fight was snapped at the very top following the losses at Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau on April 7. It has long been overwhelmed by contractors and businessmen and can only hope to retain its dwarfed stature in the Barisan Nasional (BN) via off-party means.

The party is apparently in grave need of NGOs, the para-military Wataniah outfit and state agencies like the Biro Tatanegara to fight the battles for the state-enriched Malay elite that is mostly dissociated from the people.

NGO queen Marina Mahathir, catching the call by the UMNO Youth vice-president, Razali Ibrahim for members of his wing to join NGOs, asked in her blog whether these chaps are expected to simply declare they are from UMNO Youth and then expect to be elected presidents of the voluntary outfits.

The tomcat-call isn’t at all new.It was voiced over and over again by office-bearers during the recent divisional meetings. It can’t be such a piece of cake. But rich contractors and businessmen now stud the starry sky of UMNO, many, if not most, winning their way through the ranks via vote-purchase. These are dissociated from the people. They do not fight politically. They do not know how.

Some said aloud they cannot fight because they are contractors who have now to depend on the largess of the ruling opposition in five (or four states) and in one federal territory.

It is this loud song of business distress that’s breaking the morale to bits in UMNO, now flung high as confetti after new president Najib Abdul Razak slumped to the ground following the unbroken losing streak running from March, 8, 2008 to April 7, 2009. He is himself a representative of the traditional and the entrenched elite.

Now unable to face another knockout in Penanti on May 31, Najib is certainly not an UMNO and BN leader who can be expected to regain lost ground. Worse, people are beginning to shun him and soon he may not be listened to any more.

‘Purchase’ and sleight-of-hand is looking like the only ways to regain the lost ground and lost states; like what happened in Perak which finally converted into a gain of merely five percent of Malay votes on April 7 in Bukit Gantang.

That gain was offset by 10 percent of Chinese votes going the other way, resulting in a bigger-than-ever loss for BN in that constituency. The thinking is simple: because a direct and comprehensive ideological dispute is impossible for UMNO to launch against Pakatan Rakyat, it will mean we have to be sitting through a political paradigm shift that will make democratic elections a grand market-place with outright purchases, infiltrations and sabotage of NGOs to counter civil society.

How will that ever work?

Directionless Malays

UMNO is no longer the party that was born in 1946 and which was sustained by voluntarism through the murderous communist insurgency, the main thrust of which ended in 1960.

But after the fight for freedom and democracy, it has now become a matter of furious greed and the party is merely a playground for the rich and connected. The questions members ask are about which Malays the party represents and what the leaders are fighting for, other than for their own business and financial interests?

The party is fractioned into factions of the New Malay, the indigenous Mafiosi with many members without a smear of nationalism in their nature.

The previous president and prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could have even made Malaysia to become like a vassal of Singapore, himself sometimes described as a ‘Singapore serf’, a thing unthinkable in UMNO until his tenure.

Singapore was made the anchor of the Iskandar Development Region in Johor and was apparently represented in Khazanah Malaysia and in ‘Level Four’ of the immediate former Prime Minister’s Department. And are Malay contractors and businessmen the answer to the cultural shifts that ought to have been a leap towards modernisation and integration in an industrial and digital setting?

Truth is, there’s hardly a Malay critical mass today worthy of spawning the much-vaunted Bumiputera Commercial and Industrial Community after more than 50 years since Independence or more than 30 years of the New Economic Policy.

The ‘New Malays’, dripping excessive Brute deodorant in their cosmetically sweetened spaces of BMWs and Mercedes, are definitely no match for the demonstration-hardened Marhaens, the Muslims of PAS and the volunteer activists of Pakatan demanding change to secure liberty, transparency and accountability. The government had been run by a dictator in the second half of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership, the man taking power over religion and the judiciary as well.

He slurped power and decided on his own everything the Malays had held dear or distressful, including the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English even in the rural schools. The result is a gaping question that hasn’t been answered to date – whither Malaysia?  There is also the problematic and arousing puzzlement about where the Malays are being led to, like buffalos in a padi field.

Najib has answered none of these questions. Has he the answers or will he eventually lead the Malays and the nation into one or another form of vassalage? In the given circumstances, it is the opposition that’s looking more and more the likely winner in the next general election. It is merely in need of a thorough cleansing to remove the dregs and the culturally bewildered.

Pakatan represents the larger segment of the people and Najib’s UMNO isn’t looking likely that it shall at all become relevant to the lesser-endowed among Malays and Malaysians alike. These form the greater body of producers in Malaysia.

A GHANI ISMAIL is a former newspaper columnist.

PKR’s Inspirational Wan Azizah is back

The Malaysian Insider

April 28, 2009

Wan Azizah back in the limelight as Parti KeADILan Rakyat asserts itself

PKR president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is back as the face of the party in a reshuffle to assert itself as a dominant voice in the Pakatan Rakyat, where it leads with 31 MPs.

PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday tasked his wife, who quit as MP in favour of him last year, to be the party spokesperson on issues emerging in the media. The move is also seen as putting her as his successor if he is convicted of a fresh sodomy charge.

PKR insiders alluded the latest reshuffle is to strengthen the party leadership and bleed in new faces for the next echelon of leaders as the Permatang Pauh MP faces the charge brought by former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan. “With the current political climate there is no telling what will happen next.” said PKR Kapar MP S Manikavasagam. He said Wan Azizah has led PKR for over a decade and has emerged as a leader in her own right who draws crowds just like her husband.

Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution said Wan Azizah had never stopped carrying out her functions as PKR president but was out of the media spotlight when Anwar returned to parliament as the opposition leader. Other party insiders said the latest move came as PKR has not played its role as the dominant opposition party despite having the most number of MPs in the Pakatan Rakyat.

“Unlike DAP or PAS there is virtually no statements on Government policy from PKR and the move by Anwar to get Wan Azizah to step up to the plate is both timely and necessary,” one told The Malaysian Insider. Since coming together as an electoral pact, senior PKR leaders have fallen behind their Pakatan counterparts such as DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and his son, party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who issue statements on policies every other day.

Party insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed out that Wan Azizah has been out of the public spotlight ever since she made way for Anwar to win the Permatang Pauh by-election. She has been comfortable with handing over the running of PKR to Anwar, they said. However PKR is now amending its constitution to enable grassroots supporters to have more say in the party and Wan Azizah in the forefront of implementing and explaining these changes.

Among changes are the appointments of more vice-presidents to represent various pressure groups while allowing members to elect leaders at the central level.