Haris Ibrahim’s Take on Parti Makkal Sakti Malaysia

The New Indian Politics: Political Dancing to succeed the Parti Makkal Sakit (Sakti?) Malaysia Way

by Haris Ibrahim (dated September 25, 2009)

September 27, last year, some of us gathered at Dataran Merdeka to light a candle and wish RPK, who was then being detained under the ISA, ‘Happy Birthday’. You can read about that HERE.

Later, some of us moved on to join the HINDRAF folks who were also holding an anti-ISA candle light vigil that culminated in a gathering at the Sri Ganesha temple in Jalan Pudu.

A huge crowd had built up at the temple but one man, all fire and brimstone, had my attention.

Former Hindraf national co-coordinator R.S. Thanenthiran is the man circled in yellow

I could not understand most of what Thanenthiran (circled in yellow in picture) said, but he certainly roused the crowd to constantly break into a chorus of ‘Makkal Sakti’ and ‘Mansuhkan ISA’.

Just eleven days before this vigil, Thanenthiran was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying that HINDRAF ‘backed Anwar Ibrahim to become the country’s sixth prime minister for it believes that the opposition leader is the only person capable of putting the country back on the right track’.

Thanenthiran was quoted as saying :

“Anwar has assured that he will ensure a free and fair country based on equality, justice and democracy for all, something that Barisan Nasional has not given to Malaysians in its unbroken 51-year rule. He is now the best bet to instill some order to our political uncertainty. HINDRAF wants him to become prime minister and safeguard the Indian community from marginalisation”.

Well, Thanenthiran appears to have vindicated the adage we hear again and again that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics.

And the perception amongst many that to get anywhere in the world of politics, one (like the man who wears a lounge suit below) has to whore one’s own soul.

Thanenthiran in his dapper suit, a far cry from his street activism days. Photo courtesy of Malaysianinsider

In May, this year, Thanenthiran and his merry men moved to register a new political party. The stated objective of the new party, as reported by Malaysiakini, to spearhead “a political struggle for the betterment of the Malaysian Indian community”.

At that time, sources close to Thanenthiran indicated that this new party would not incline to either BN or Pakatan but would steer its own course.

However, the speed with which the new party, Parti Makkal Sakti Malaysia, secured registration by the Registrar of Societies was, for many, telling.

Malaysian Insider reported yesterday that Najib has been invited to and has agreed to be the guest of honour at the official launch of this new party this coming October 10th.

According to this report, Thanenthiran made many curious statements.

Whilst insisting that the invite to Najib should not be seen as detracting from the independence of this new party he nonetheless candidly shared that “We are working together with him as partners… we walk together for the benefit of the Indian community”.

This ‘working together’, as Thanenthiran disclosed, includes actively campaigning for the Barisan Nasional in the forthcoming Bagan Pinang by-election.

Why this about-turn?

Thanenthiran explains.

“It is true the BN did not do much for us in the past 52 years but the Pakatan Rakyat has done even less for us in the past two years. BN under Datuk Seri (Najib) is beginning to do for the Indians in major areas and we welcome it. We want to work with him to get a fair share of the nation’s resources”.

Getting a fair share of the nation’s resources is all well and good, but for whom?

The marginalised Indians?

Isn’t that what MIC and Samy Vellu have been saying all these years?

So is Thanenthiran and his new party, as Malaysian Insider suggests, merely filling in the seeming vacuum in BN’s divide and rule scheme brought about by MIC’s increasing irrelevance and inability to reform?

Three days before that vigil last September, Malaysiakini reported that Thanenthiran had challenged Samy to seek the forgiveness of Malaysia Indians.

“Samy Vellu should kneel and beg for (forgiveness) for his wrongdoings (against) the community if he is sincere and honest about seeking freedom for our leaders”.

Samy did better than that.

On  April 1 this year, Samy visited a recuperating Thanenthiran in hospital. Thanenthiran was recovering from a heart attack and, quite possibly, the disappointment of being overlooked by PKR as the candidate for the Bukit Selambau by election. Malaysiakini has a report of this HERE.

Was this the turning point for Thanenthiran?

Some two weeks after this visit, Waythamoorthy purged the HINDRAF leadership by suspending several who reckoned themselves as the top guns, including Thanenthiran.

Had Waytha got wind of some wheeling and dealing by those within the ranks of HINDRAF  to further their own agenda?

In a Malaysiakini report dated  May 21, this year, Thanenthiran, speaking on the formation of this new party, admitted to having led a delegation to meet PM Najib a month before.

This would place that meeting with Najib some three weeks after that visit by Samy at the hospital.

Political deals, it would seem, were being made at lightning speed.

And lo and behold, what emerges today is a re-branded and re-cast Thanenthiran, now perfectly kosher for Najib and UMNO.

And the Police.

In June, Malaysiakini reported that Thanenthiran said that  his new party would not follow in the footsteps of HINDRAF in going to the streets to pressure the government to look into the needs of the marginalised Indians in Malaysia.

In rationalising this change of strategy, Thanenthiran, in my view, let the cat out of the bag.

“Going to streets may make one popular, but it will not necessarily resolve the problems at hand”, is what he is reported to have said.

And that, it would seem, was what his street activism was all about.

Profile building.

The question that must now be asked, is whether the Malaysian Indian community will submit itself to another 52 years of marginalisation by being taken in by this political whoring?

Bagan Pinang may provide an early answer come  October 11. 2009.

Tun Mahathir for UMNO in Bagan Pinang, given his track record and clean image

Mahathir for Bagan Pinang (?)

malaysian insiderMalaysian Insider

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal (September 26, 2009)

UMNO's Best for Bagan Pinang

UMNO's Best for Bagan Pinang

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today reaffirmed his stand that Tan Sri Isa Samad should not be nominated to represent UMNO for the by-election in Bagan Pinang on October 11, 2009.

He also suggested sarcastically that UMNO should nominate him to stand instead of Isa if there were no other suitable candidate.

bagan-pinang-signpostHe stated it would be a shame on the part of UMNO and Barisan National (BN) as a whole if Isa won the by-election, and that this would directly impact the ruling coalition collectively.

“If I was in Isa’s shoes, I would step down immediately and support another UMNO candidate. I would want the party to not nominate me but instead campaign for someone else in the party who is more deserving and qualified,” said Dr Mahathir here today.

Dr Mahathir has been a vocal critic of the possible nomination of the former Negeri Sembilan mentri besar, who was punished with a three-year suspension after the party’s disciplinary board found him guilty of vote buying during the UMNO elections in 2004.

According to him, UMNO stands a strong chance of winning the Bagan Pinang seat because the area was an UMNO stronghold, but having a candidate who was found to have been involved in corruption does not speak well for UMNO and BN.

“If  UMNO cannot find enough candidates, just choose me,” Dr Mahathir quipped. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has set itself the target of capturing the UMNO stronghold but has acknowledged it as an uphill battle. Critics speculate that UMNO has a good chance of retaining the seat due to the high number of registered postal votes, which traditionally is a reliable vote bank for BN.

The Bagan Pinang Seat fell vacant following the death of incumbent Azman Mohamad Noor of Barisan National on September 4. He won the seat in the last general elections after defeating PAS’ Ramli Ismail with a majority of 2,333 votes.

Kugan’s Death: Action at last

September 29, 2009

Comment:  After intense public pressure, the government has finally decided to take action on the Kugan case. A cop, according to Malaysiakini (below), will likely be charged today. Details of the charge are not known at this juncture. More importantly, we do not know how high up the accountability totem pole in the police  force will this person be. In recent years we have seen double standards in the application of the law– in some cases, we have  politically motivated selective prosecution– with the all powerful Attorney-General as the final arbiter on whether or not a given case merits prosecution in our courts.

It is important for police personnel  and civil servants  to take extra care to ensure in their over-zealousness to do their job, especially to please people at the top of the pole and get promoted, they should not lose their humanity and good common sense; they should never take the law into their own hands. They cannot count on the protection of the superiors. Do what is right, even if it is at the expense of your job.

People at the bottom are always in danger of being scapegoated in order to protect the powerful and well connected.  That is the sad truth. It is also a universal problem, especially in situations where justice favors the strong and the weak becomes the victim.—Din Merican

mk50Malaysiakini reports on September 28, 2009:

Kugan’s death: Cop to be charged tomorrow (September 29, 2009)

After more than eight months since Kugan Ananthan breathed his last, at least one policeman is expected to be hauled to court tomorrow over the 23-year-old detainee’s death.

a kugan murdered assaulted indian youthThe latest development comes 48 hours after the deceased’s family and supporters failed in their bid to submit a petition to the King in protest over the snail-paced response from the authorities.

Contacted this evening, a senior police officer confirmed that a suspect would be charged tomorrow.

Although it could not be ascertained how many would face the rap, the source said: “I strongly believe that it is one person.”

“We don’t have the details pertaining to the case as the matter is being handled by the Attorney-General’s Chambers,” he added. It is believed that the police personnel would be charged at the Petaling Jaya Magistrate’s Court early in the morning.

Malaysiakini later learnt that there is a possibility the AG may defer his decision to charge the suspect tomorrow. Concerned groups have long complained about the lack of prompt action concerning the case, which exploded into a national issue after a video recording revealed severe lacerations on the deceased’s body.

Case classified as murder

Following the massive public outcry, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail classified the case as murder. Subsequently, 11 police personnel were reassigned to desk duties pending investigations.

petition to investigate kugan's death to istana 260909 kugan mother cryKugan died on January 20 at the USJ Taipan police station, five days after he was picked up in connection with a car theft case.

The deceased’s family had accused the police of foul play, and a second post-mortem commissioned by them revealed that the youth was beaten, burnt and starved prior to his death.

Two days ago, some 20 people, including Kugan’s family members, attempted to submit a petition to the King to call for a speedy probe into the case.

The group was led by opposition parliamentarians Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) and S Manikavasagam (PKR-Kapar).

Gobind had demanded that the attorney-general come forward and explain why nothing had been done in the past eight months. “The entire country cannot understand why the silence on the part of the AG, who had already classified it (Kugan’s case) as a murder,” he added.

The first post-mortem concluded that Kugan died due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. Also pending in court is a suit filed by Kugan’s mother against the police for seizing items from the office of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) pathologist Dr Prashant N Sambekar who performed the second post-mortem.

Harvard B-School Case Study:Najibo-nomics

September 28, 2009

The logic of Najibo-nomics

by Dr Azly Rahman (via e-mail)

azly rahmanFashionable it may seem to credit this or that “economic miracle” episode to this or that country to the name of its leader, economist, dictator, emperor, etc. – the larger picture of the historical march of “freakonomics” is neglected.

Freakonomics is what the global society was plagued with beginning with the American sub-prime-inspired crisis; a breakdown of the world’s casino-capitalist system.

Fashionable it may seem to cite this or that case-study to a proposed “Harvard” study, just like calling a university “Harvard of the East” or “Princeton of the Peripheries” or “Oxford of the Outbacks” or even “Cambridge of the Caribbean” – it misses the point of what and how casino capitalism works.

It misses the point that the world is undergoing yet another wave of perpetual revolution in the field of economic thinking.

Malaysians are into this fashionable game of assigning this or that terminology to this or that epoch of “economic cultural depression and how these are cured”.

Like the style of historicising that assigns this or that age to this or that person, resulting in epochs of historical vaingloriousness, Malaysians have seen periodisation of its capitalist march, in names such as “Mahathirism”, “Badawi-ism”, and now “Najibo-nomics”.

tun razakNot much was seen in names such as “Tunku-nomics” (after Tunku Abdul Rahman), Razak-ism (after Abdul Razak Hussein), and Hussein-nomics or Hussein-ism (after Hussein Onn).

Perhaps we did not really pay attention to how the pre-Mahathir era leaders address issues. We did not see words such as “Doctrine” attached as affix to these names to read “Tunku Doctrine” or the likes.

The Politics of Names

History that glorifies individuals is a result of historicising that involves forced authoring of name. Hence, dynasties in China are generally named after individuals and Empires in India, after their first rulers. In modern times, we saw terms such as “Thatcherism”, “Reaganism” or “Reaganomics” and perhaps “Obama-nomics” after we saw “Obama-mania”.

At the beginning of the century we saw Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, and the “Kennedy Era”. Then there were Hitlerism, Bismarkian era, and Tokugawa Period. The Islamic worldjfk_nc saw names such as Wahhabi-ism and Khomeini-ism.

Post-Independence Southeast Asia saw Marcos-era, Sukarnoism with its Marhaenism and Ganyang-Malaysia-ism replaced by Modern Day-Yudistira-ism of Suhartoism. We saw Lee Kuan Yew-styled Asian Despotism and the 22-year rule of Mahathirism.

As if there is not enough of the game of glorifying persons in history, the modern media too is continuing the politics of false-consciousness; masking the larger picture of oppression of those nameless masses in the march towards the perfection of casino capitalism.

Logic of Capitalism

Philosophically positioned, capitalism takes Nature, turns it into Technology, and engineers the evolution of culture that structures the divisions of classes of people, through the installation process of the “machine in the garden” and the transforming of human beings into labor and commodities.

Ultimately, Technology subdues Nature and thrusts Humanity into a matrix of complexities that relegates human beings as cogs in the wheels of Capital.

Capitalism is a system of predatory economics, sanctioned by the evolution of power, knowledge, and ideology. It must be looked at not by the “epochs” of rulership of these or that kings, tyrants, or despots, but culturally as a system that has a logic and its own system of periodisation.

It requires the unmasking of the psychology and culture of human control, bondage, and the abuse of control apparatuses, in order to sustain an economic system that will naturally create a complex system of ownership rationalized through yet another system of production of culture as commodity, and production of strategies of mystification that provides false consciousness and happiness to those exploited by those who own the means of economic, cultural, and intellectual production.

The evolution of tribes, nations, and countries need not be seen as linear, following Rostowian idea of developmental economics, framed by Friedmanian doctrine.

The premises underlying these ideas need to be studied, critiqued, and made culturally relevant in all of our institutions of higher learning.

We must also demand our students to master the concepts and applications of radical economic ideas that put back human dignity in the march of meaningful human progress.

In this case, why not challenge them to explore ecological socialism and sustainable developmental paradigm by having them study the economics and social systems of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, such as the Penans, Ibans, and Kadazan-dusuns?

For too long, we have been so obsessed with creating wealth and destroying Nature rather than spreading wealth and preserving Nature.

The Middle Name

Back to “Najibo-nomics”.

hype_najibI do not think it is necessary to give birth to this name. I think there is, in the words of a research or case-study strategy, those who proposed that the name must triangulate the data of Malaysia’s claim to economic invulnerability.

One must not only study numbers crunched officially and bury human beings under those numbers that are then trumpeted across the globe.

One must go back to Malaysia’s timeline of economic history and look at the country from a culturally-kaleidoscopic perspective, from the lens other than what structural functionalists would use.

The world we inhabit in is not merely a celestial body tattooed culturally and stylized by economic numerology; we live in a structurally violent world of the powerful and the powerless, of the haves and the have-nots, and of increasing dehumanization as a consequence of the economic condition we are born into, exacerbated by the rapidisation of technology and the speed of politics.

In Malaysia, fifty years of glorifying this and that epoch and of periods and ruptures must, in any case study of political economy, be triangulated with data on the human and cultural consequences of development — this “developmentalist agenda” must be perceived from a human rights perspective.

How must Malaysians study the decades of racial disintegration, incidences of ethnic violence, nature of authoritarianism, breakdown of virtually all sub-social systems, etched patterns of economic apartheid, schooling and racial discrimination, abuse of the state ideological apparatuses, and finally the steadily rising billion-Ringgit benchmark of corruption this country has gauged in her way to becoming a failed state?

Those above are amongst the variables that need to be taken into consideration when one thinks of a good case study. Let us be more sophisticated when naming names.

Noam Chomsky: America’s Foremost Public Intellectual, and US Foreign Policy Critic

September 28, 2009

Noam Chomsky:  Public Intellectual and Critic of American Foreign Policy

MIT's Noam Chomsky

MIT's Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, a well respected public intellectual, has always been since his youth a political activist. Since 1965, he has become one of the leading critics of American Foreign Policy. He published American Power and the New Mandarins (1969) which is highly regarded as providing substantial arguments against American involvement in Vietnam. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Chomsky was active on campus with college students opposing the war policies of President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon (especially his incursions into and invasion of Cambodia).

Since 1969, the MIT Linguistics Professor published a series of books on US Foreign Policy in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They include Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs (2000), Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Edward S. Herman, 2002), Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (2003) and Failed States:The Abuse of Power and Assault on Democracy (2006). Chomsky continues to support civil society institutions in the efforts for social change, thereby continuing a tradition of intellectual and active social engagement of his youth. He strongly opposed the war in Vietnam and Iraq and talks about them and also about Barack Obama in these youtube interviews– Din Merican

William Buckley  and Noam Chomsky

Buckley Versus Chomsky

Noam Chomsky–911 Interview –Part 1

Part 2

Noam Chomsky on Barack Obama

Time to look at Malaysian Politics using a different set of lenses, says Farish Noor

September 28, 2009

Irrational Politics Revisited: How Conventional Political Theories No Longer Work In Malaysia

By Farish A Noor

nbt,farishIt is bad enough that academics and political theorists are badly paid and overworked; now it seems that we have to make sense out of a mode of politics that is, frankly, nonsensical and irrational in Malaysia.

Perhaps the cause of the dilemma that is faced by many academics today lies in the fact that we were trained in rational choice theory and the assumption that human being are, and can, work and live as rational agents who are capable of making rational choices in life. That was certainly the predominant ethos in the 1960s to 1970s, when it was assumed that nation-building was a rational process to be driven and determined by technocrats who at least attempted to plan and develop the country along rational lines. It was assumed, for instance, that with the accumulation and division of wealth then the comfort zones of all communities would slowly expand and that greater income and capital equality would lead to a more equitable society that was more tolerant and harmonious.

It was also assumed that with mass rural migration to the urban industrial zones the nature of social relations and social bonds would become more contractual and rationalised, and that primordial loyalties to birth-places, clans, essentialist notions of identity and feudal modes of politics etc would diminish with the passing of time.

These were the pipe-dreams of technocrats and social scientists who perhaps spent too much time in the laboratories of the developed world and failed to see the prevailing social realities of Malaysia in the face. Social scientists (and I include myself in this list of losers) failed to note that despite the superficial trappings of progress and development, Malaysian society and culture remained mired in the politics of communalism, feudalism, narrow ethnic and racial communitarianism and the like. We earnestly believed that science and technological advancement would open up new opportunity structures and introduce new social arrangements where identity politics could be reconfigured on perhaps a less essentialised basis.

But we failed to note the social realities on the ground: Despite the prattle about modernity and modernisation, Malaysian politicians – of all parties – practised and perpetuated the mode of neo-feudal politics where loyalty to the leader was paramount and ideology was secondary.

We failed to note that even the most seemingly secular-leftist parties in Malaysia could not transcend the parochial and primordial politics of race and ethnic solidarity. We failed to note that despite the rise in literacy levels the most popular reading material in the country remained the tabloid press and sleazy magazines that featured an incessant dose of bomoh and pontianak stories, rape stories, sex scandal stories and the like. We failed to note the level of superstition, anxiety and apprehension towards modernity in a country that boasted of having the tallest twin towers in the world, but where people believed that the 41st floor and the 3rd level basement of the same building was haunted. In short, we failed to note that Malaysia was a hybrid nation that was only superficially modern.

Today we are trying to make sense of Malaysian politics and it is painfully and embarrassingly obvious that the politics of the country is senseless. The instances of apparent public insanity among our politicians is plainly demonstrated for all to see: Leaders of the BN coalition talk about racial equality and respect while some of them openly unsheath weapons and talk of racial supremacy in public. Politicians talk of respect for communities yet do nothing when a cow head is cut off and paraded in public in a protest against the relocation of a Hindu temple.

Opposition politicians talk about presenting themselves as the new alternative to national politics, but begin their gambit to power by banning alcohol, music concerts and generally upsetting every liberal minded Malaysian they can find. And now the new Makkal Sakti party is set to add yet another party to the already overcrowded landscape of Malaysian politics, after having first supporting Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat to the hilt, only to do a u-turn in public and to denounce the Pakatan and openly support the Barisan.

It would appear that two important developments happened :- First, the horizon of possibility of Malaysian politics has expanded to a hitherto unprecedented degree, and where anything – and literally anything – can happen tomorrow. The erratic behaviour of Malaysian politicians and Malaysian political parties means that it is now practically impossible to predict what the respective politicians and parties will do next. Political alliances are made and broken at a drop of a hat, and political loyalties seem more focused on personalities rather than ideologies than ever before.

Second, the erratic and unpredictable nature of Malaysian politics today signals the return to short-termist politics in the narrowest sense of the word, where long term national interests are no longer held to be important and all that matters is winning the next by-election (and not even general election).

The lack of national focus and a view of Malaysia’s place in the world now and into the future was aptly demonstrated during the recent spat between Malaysia and Indonesia over cultural claims over batik and other forms of art and culture that is equally shared between the nations. Malaysia’s response was so lame and slow as to give the impression that the country’s foreign policy at present is aimless. Why? Because the political elite of the country at present have been engaged in a prolonged exercise of introverted navel-gazing and self-preservation instead.

In the midst of all this, analysts and scholars can no longer explain or understand Malaysian politics. How does one explain a party that claims to be the spokesman of a minority community which then decides to join forces with the very same groups that have been denigrating that minority in the first place?

Without sounding overly pessimistic or derisive, perhaps the time has come to abandon the old and outdated paradigms of rational choice theory when looking at the Malaysian political model; and to see if the time has come for a new paradigm altogether. Now more than ever there is the need to seriously analyse and understand the nature of Malaysian politics, but perhaps outside the sphere of the rational, objective and scientific.