Anything to Hold On to Power

May 30, 2012

Anything to Hold On to Power

by Mariam Mokhtar (05-28-12)@

No one in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s inner circle has the guts to tell him what others may be thinking of him, but we will. The PM is an opportunistic, power hungry egomaniac who will do anything to hold onto power.

His latest publicity gimmick should convince any doubters that Najib, his Cabinet and UMNO are petrified of the rakyat’s attraction to BERSIH 3.0.

UMNO is afraid to hold clean and fair elections.The results of previous elections may have been predetermined, but today’s discerning and less trusting public will not tolerate any cheating.

UMNO’s prolonged charade has eroded trust and despite its half-hearted jabs at reform, the rakyat doesn’t think UMNO can ever be taken seriously.

In an act of defiance against a rakyat which demands clean elections, Najib lauded around 10,000 petty traders in a grand function. The type of gathering, location and timing, were chosen for maximum impact.

NONEThe event was ostensibly for petty traders, some of whom complained about lost trade on April 28. It is significant that petty-traders had harassed BERSIH’s Ambiga Sreenevasan (in red) at her home, after the BERSIH 3.0 rally.

The Prime Minister, who prides himself on being a moderate, was not magnanimous enough to condemn violence, but appeared to reward civil disobedience, by offering financial incentives to the petty-traders.

This is a variant to his infamous “You help me, I help you” barb. He hopes to spur more acts of violence against BERSIH, the Opposition and select civil society groups with the hint, that they could be amply rewarded.

Holding the event on the eve of the one-month anniversary of the BERSIH rally, was an attempt to overshadow BERSIH. Even the venue, Dataran Merdeka, was a poor attempt at concealing Najib’s fear of BERSIH and contempt for the rakyat.

BERSIH was denied access to Dataran Merdeka because Najib feared the psychological impact on the rakyat. Dataran Merdeka is symbolic of Malaya’s struggle.

Najib detested the obvious connection that the rakyat would equate the BERSIH 3.0 event, with independence from UMNO, the modern-day oppressor. Such was his desperation that a court order was obtained to isolate the square.

Kuala Lumpur City Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail claimed that BERSIH could not hold its rally at Dataran Merdeka because of its political leanings.

“We stress that the use of Dataran Merdeka was rejected in line with Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur’s (DBKL’s) (policy to) reject any activities that have similar characteristics such as wanting to give ceramah, having political elements or dissenting elements, this is not the place for it”. (sic)

Fuad seemed to accommodate Najib by breaking DBKL’s own rules about last Saturday’s petty trader rally, which was reported as a BN backed “1Malaysia” gathering.

Najib’s insult to the nation, who had gathered for Malaysia’s largest show of support for clean elections was obvious. The Police were set on the rakyat and without mercy, tear gas canisters and water cannons were fired at them. Those who escaped were hounded and beaten up, journalists included.

Damansara Heights terrorised

Second, the quiet residential streets of Damansara Heights were terrorised by groups of people. If instruction did not come from the top, why else did the Deputy IGP condone the actions of the petty traders? Why were enforcement officers from KL unable to find any petty traders?

NONEThird, Najib’s fiscal measures for the petty-traders despite their civil disobedience, is a deliberate snub to the rakyat.

Lastly, but most importantly, the PM kept silent when members of the public, BERSIH and the Opposition, were attacked by UMNO party members and sympathisers.

More worrying is that none of Najib’s cabinet condemned the violence. Neither did the heads of religion, the community leaders or even members of royalty.

Most of the people who perpetrated the violence were Malay. And yet, the Muslim community is muted. There are many enterprising and resourceful Muslims but their silence is unfathomable.

It is this group that one wishes to reach out to. They need to speak to members of their own community, and explain that UMNO is “using them” and playing with them, like a cat plays with a mouse before it pounces on the hapless creature.

Of course, if some people believe Najib’s promises then they should naturally vote for him. No one is stopping them; but before that, they should analyse Najib’s policies, and see if any of them bear up to scrutiny.

At Saturday’s rally, Najib said, “Who threw sand into the rice bowl of traders? They did not care that traders would suffer……..But now this done by people, millions of ringgit have been lost by the traders.” (sic)

Petty traders may have lost millions on the day of the Bersih rally but what about the billions which Najib allegedly wasted over the years? What about the billions allegedly squirreled away during his tenure as the Defence Minister?

What about similar amounts which members of his Cabinet and the UMNO “extended family” have been accused of sequestering? What does that say about him?

Billions wasted

Will the petty-traders realise that if not for those wasted billions, there would have been more money available to help them and other members of the community? What does that also say about the petty-traders?

The petty-traders harassing Ambiga share Najib’s desire; they want UMNO to win. Dato Jamal Md Yunus who is the leader of the pack of disgruntled traders drives around in fast cars, owns a chain of restaurants, and has a luxury car-dealership thus benefiting from the Approved Permit (AP) scam.

Despite having no SPM qualifications, he is a millionaire. He became successful not through hard work but via political patronage. Jamal is no ordinary petty trader and thus he cannot represent the interests of the true petty-trader by being their President.

Jamal makes a mockery of petty traders; Najib mocks decent hard-working people. Najib is telling the rakyat that he is whiter than white and that he is a gift to democracy and the Malaysian public. He is not and we should not be fooled by his promises.

Najib takes from the poor to give to the überrich. He condones violence and electoral fraud. He is ineligible for election to the highest office in the land. Again, he distracts us from electoral fraud. There will be more similar side-shows in the days ahead.

Malaysian Bar Council says “NO” to Hanif Panel

May 30, 2012

UPDATE:  BERSIH will not participate in Hanif Panel

The Malaysian Insider reports (05-30-12): “BERSIH has joined the Bar Council in refusing to participate in the “Hanif panel” investigating police violence in the April 28 rally for electoral reforms, saying the probe would be “seriously flawed” under Tun Hanif Omar’s chairmanship.

BERSIH co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan repeated the council’s view that Hanif’s involvement in the panel, following the latter’s criticism of BERSIH3.0 protesters as communist sympathisers, would affect the impartiality of the investigation.

“Our stand has not changed. It is not personal, we have nothing personal against Tun Hanif but we think it is seriously flawed as he is chairing it (the panel). Justice must be seen to be done and he has already made a pronouncement about Bersih in a negative light, so we think he should not even be there (in the panel), let alone to chair it.”–Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

May 29, 2012

Malaysian Bar Council: “NO” to Hanif Panel,‘YES’ to Suhakam Probe

by Teoh El Sen |
Malaysian Bar Council  shuns the government panel headed by ex-IGP Hanif Omar, and instead will take part in Suhakam’s probe on human rights violations at the BERSIH3.0 rally.

The Bar Council has rejected having two similar inquiries to investigate human rights violations during the BERSIH 3.0 rally as it “serves no purpose”.

Bar Council Vice-President Christopher Leong said that it was improper for the government’s Independent Advisory Panel, headed by former IGP Hanif Omar, to proceed with the inquiry when Suhakam was already doing the same thing.

“What purpose would it serve to have two inquiries? asked Leong. When questioned if the Council would boycott Hanif’s panel, he said: “The Bar Council had stated earlier that it would take part in the Suhakam inquiry. Therefore we do not see what useful purpose would be served in duplicating the process and expending double the resources.”

“It is incongruous that the panel is proceeding with the inquiry when Suhakam, a statutory and independent commission, has stated that it would undertake such an inquiry,” said Leong, adding the responsibility to probe police violence and other issues during the April 28 should lie with Suhakam.

“Suhakam is the proper body to undertake the inquiry – it has the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so. The Suhakam Act 1999 provides for this,” he said.

Yesterday, Hanif Omar announced that 10 terms of reference have been set for the inquiry following its first meeting with the Home Ministry last Friday. Among others, the panel seeks to establish if there was random, widespread and wanton physical assault and brutality by police on the public and journalists.

The panel will also seek to establish if there were unlawful and unwarranted arrests of public and media professionals and whether any were assaulted and beaten. Also in the terms of reference is to review police’s standard operating procedure for crowd and assembly control.

Besides Hanif, other members of the panel are former chief justice of Borneo Steve Shim Lip Kiong, Kumpulan Akhbar Sinar Harian managing director Husammuddin Yaacub, Sin Chiew group legal advisor Liew Peng Chuan, Petronas corporate affairs senior general manager Medan Abdullah and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia psychologist Prof Dr Rozmi Ismail.

Hanif had reportedly said that he was “prepared to meet the Bar Council or any other parties” for mutual benefit.

Panel has no legal standing

Leong repeated that the Bar Council’s stand is that Hanif should not be a member on the panel based on his ‘anti-BERSIH’ views, and because the panel has no legal standing.

“This is not about his integrity. The Bar Council does not in fact question his integrity and respect that Tun had given invaluable service to the country. It is unfortunately about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel.”

Leong added, however, that the Bar Council “is always amenable” to meet Hanif to discuss the matter.

The 10 terms of reference are:

  • To establish the cause of the disorders at and around Dataran Merdeka, and in areas leading to it, as well as the nature of the actual disorders, that were reported to have occurred from 3pm on April 28.
  • To establish whether any unlawful or negligent acts, or omissions, were caused or urged to be caused by parties involved.
  • To establish whether enforcement agencies had adhered to proper and lawful procedures and action at all times particularly in the use of force.
  • To establish whether there was random, widespread and wanton physical assault and brutality by the police on members of the public and media professionals.
  • To establish whether there was lawful confiscation and/or destruction of photographs and video recordings made by the public and media professionals, and damage caused to their equipment.
  • To establish whether there were unlawful arrests of members of the public and media professionals and whether any persons were physically assaulted and beaten, and suffered serious injuries whilst in the care and custody of the police.
  • To establish whether there was an unlawful denial of access for lawyers to their arrested clients.
  • To establish the steps taken by the organisers of BERSIH 3.0 to ensure that their planned massive rally would remain peaceful throughout the rally and disperse peacefully thereafter.
  • To review Police standard operating procedures in respect of crowd and assembly control, and of addressing disorderly conduct and riots.
  • To examine any other matter to establish the truth.

A Global New Deal

May 29, 2012

A Global New Deal

by Jomo Kwame Sundaram (05-22-12)@Project Syndicate

Recent political developments, including the defeat of incumbent governments in France and Greece, suggest that the public’s tolerance for economic policies that do not reduce unemployment has collapsed. Indeed, given the alarming economic and employment situation in many countries today, with no prospect of recovery on the horizon, further political turmoil is likely unless policymakers change course accordingly.

The economic crisis has wiped out more than 50 million jobs after years of weak, job-poor growth and increasing inequality in the world’s rich countries. Since 2007, employment rates have risen in only six of the 36 advanced economies, while youth unemployment has increased in a large majority of both established and emerging markets.

In the near term, the global crisis is likely to become worse as many governments, especially in advanced economies, prioritize fiscal austerity and tough labor-market reforms, even as such measures undermine livelihoods, incomes, and the social fabric.[Click Here to READ]

New ILO Director-General: Guy Ryder

May 29, 2012

Briton Guy Ryder is the new ILO Director-General

The International Labour Organization (ILO) on Monday (May 28) elected former trade union leader Guy Ryder as the new head of the agency, succeeding Juan Somavia, its chief of 13 years.

Briton Ryder is the ILO’s current number two and was widely expected to take over the top spot at the UN agency which draws up and monitors international labour standards.

The Liverpudlian, a former general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, beat eight other candidates including ex-French minister Gilles de Robien who came second in the six-round vote at the ILO headquarters in Geneva.

In a speech after the vote, Ryder said he was “profoundly grateful” to have been chosen and paid tribute to Somavia, describing him as a “giant” in the history of the ILO.

Alluding to his union background, he pledged to promote the views of all the ILO parties, while also pursuing the body’s goal of social justice at a time when the world of work “remains in crisis.”

“Our duty to the poorest and the most vulnerable must be paramount in the journey ahead,” Ryder said.

The ILO reported last week that youth joblessness is almost back at its peak following the outbreak of the 2008 global economic crisis and is unlikely to ease until at least 2016.

The search for a new director general was triggered when Somavia of Chile announced in September last year his intention to bring forward his scheduled departure date for personal reasons.

Somavia, 71, who has headed the ILO since 1998, will end his third term in September instead of March 2014.

Ryder, 56, has held various senior positions at the organisation and has acted as deputy since 2010.

The University of Liverpool and Cambridge graduate was employed in the 1980s as an assistant in the international department of the Trades Union Congress in London.He joined the ILO in Geneva in 1998, later heading up the office of the director general. A spell in Brussels followed with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and in 2006 he became the first general secretary of its successor, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), before rejoining the ILO as its deputy.

Under ILO rules the director general is selected by a secret ballot of the 56 members of its governing body — 28 governments, 14 employers and 14 workers.

The organisation, which last week formally welcomed South Sudan as its 184th member, will host its annual conference from May 30 to June 14, when Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will address more than 3,000 delegates.

Copyright © 2012 AFP.

AWSJ gets the frame and resultant snapshot askew

May 29, 2012

ASWJ gets the frame and resultant snapshot askew

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT: Often in politics, the way you frame a question is more important than the answer it may draw.

Perhaps that is why aficionados of the genre are inclined to recognise as its patron saint the station master who, when asked when the train would arrive, said: “That depends.” “On what does it depend?” the master was pressed. “That too depends,” he again equivocated.

The manner in which the Asian Wall Street Journal framed its question about Malaysian politics in its edition of last weekend reminded one of the wisdom of that station master as political oracle.

Under the headline ‘Malaysian People’s Court‘, the newspaper of the governing classes of Asia ran a editorial that suggested that it was inclined to view Malaysian politics as a geometrician, disregarding its inherent ambiguity and indeterminateness.

“The real question,” the AWSJ asked simplistically, “is whether Malaysian society is best served by a faster pace of change and the Opposition’s confrontational tactics.”

The paper was adverting to the April 28 protest organised by polls reform advocacy group BERSIH that saw violence erupt at its tail end.

anwar ibrahim paa charge bersih 3.0 court azmin aliThree BERSIH participants, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and two others from his party’s leadership cohort, were charged last week with violating the Peaceful Assembly Act, one of the reforms that the government of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak introduced in recent months as an earnest of its liberalising intentions, something that owed to the pressure generated by an earlier BERSIH demonstration.

The AWSJ, in its editorial last weekend, urged Anwar to plead guilty to the charge because it argued that his marching with the protesters on April 28 was an act of civil disobedience vis-a-vis the Act.

Hence, the AWSJ reasoned, Anwar should pay the fine and not pretend to be innocent. In other words, he cannot have his cake and eat it too. The AWSJ argued further that both government and the opposition should put their faith in the verdict of the Malaysia electorate in the general election scheduled to be held pretty soon.

Missed the crux by a mile

Its breathtaking simplification of the issues apart, the AWSJ’s editorial missed the crux of the BERSIH protest by a mile. It’s precisely over the authenticity of the electorate’s verdict that BERSIH, in recent years, has raised doubts on the basis of what it claims are anomalies in the electoral register that the Election Commission has not credibly dispelled.

Because of legitimate qualms about the authenticity of the electoral rolls, Malaysian oppositionists doubt that the verdict of the electorate in the coming election will be an accurate reflection of the people’s will.

According to them, this verdict – given claims that the electoral register has been padded with phantom voters and others who are not bona fide citizens of the country – may well be short of the electoral process’s distilled wisdom: vox populi vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God).

That’s only the core of the issue raised by BERSIH. The peripheral concerns it has raised are no less significant and critical to the fairness of the electoral exercise.

By denying access for the opposition to state-owned media, and through the appropriation of state machinery by the government for its campaign purposes, the electoral process is skewed in favor of the powers that be.

These concerns weighed but little with the AWSJ’s editorialist who seems to believe that Najib Razak is on to a substantively liberalising drive, about which a querulous opposition is unwarrantedly tetchy.

Never mind that this liberal drive is more glister than gold, the AWSJ is blasé about what has been evident in the last five years of Malaysian politics: demonstrations – their size and composition – have had a big role to play in the country’s electoral process; they conscientise the people and that influences the vote.

hindraf british petition rally 251107 asialifeThis is what the BERSIH 1.0 march and the Hindraf rally of November 2007 did to the vote four months later, in the general election of 2008.

A government of half-century’ incumbency was jolted by the results of the vote, out of its complacent assumption that its writ would last forever.

A public beguiled by media that is an adjunct of the government, an electorate in the grip of ignorance about discontent smoldering in neglected corners of the country requires the drama – it seems from Malaysia’s recent history – of a huge projection of people power on the streets to prod them out of their inertia and face up to doing something with their vote.

Demonstrations in Malaysia have become what election year primaries are in the United States: they are battles of attrition leading up to the war of collision which is the general election. No matter what the organs of government propaganda have made of the BERSIH3.0 protest of April 28, the facts of its undeniably huge size, its emancipating multiracial composition and its generational variety are filtering through to the consciousness of the powers that be, even as the calendar runs down on the next general.

All the powers that be can do is a series of improvisations in the increasingly forlorn hope that these will stave off the inevitable, which is not electoral defeat but something more insidious – the realisation that the government is the problem.

Tunku Aziz explains his resignation from DAP

May 28, 2012

Tunku Aziz  explains his resignation from DAP

by G.Vinod@

While the Federal Constitution does not bar a non-Malay from becoming a Prime Minister, existing conventions, customs and the country’s administration will not allow it to happen for now, said former DAP party vice chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.

Citing an example, he said the Prime Minister is duty bound to be present by the King, who is traditionally a Muslim, during official functions.

“Let’s say the King goes to a mosque for prayer, he will expect his Prime Minister to be present there (to pray) as well. So a non-Muslim Prime Minister may not be able to fulfill all his duties as the King’s first minister,” said Tunku.

However, the Kedah royalty did not discount the possibility of Malaysia having its non-Malay Prime Minister in the future. “Certainly (it could happen but), it will not happen in my lifetime. A lot of emotions are involved as we have to thread many things,” Tunku Aziz said.

Last week, Bernama reported DAP chairman Karpal Singh as saying that a non-Malay could become the country’s Prime Minister and that he would continue to fight for it as there was no law against it.

But PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat countered by saying that the Prime Minister of Malaysia must be a Muslim, although he could be a non-Malay.

They can’t even agree on a Shadow cabinet

Training his guns at Pakatan Rakyat, Tunku Aziz said that the opposition pact should announce its shadow cabinet before heading towards the general election.

“They can’t even even agree on a shadow cabinet till now. Pakatan needs to get its act together,” said Tunku Aziz.He added that the nation could ill afford to wait for Pakatan to decide on its government leadership, if they win the next federal polls.

He said irrespective of who wins, the government machinery would continue to run.“If they end up quarreling over posts after the general election, what’s going to happen to the country?” he asked. Tunku Aziz quit the DAP after having a fall out over his outburst in regards to the BERSIH3.0 rally on April 28.