Tun Daim: Bukan Masanya untuk menukar Kerajaan


April 28, 2013

Tun Daim: Bukan Masanya untuk menukar Kerajaan

SUNGAI PETANI April 27, 2013- Malaysia akan berada dalam situasi bahaya sekiranya rakyat memilih pihak yang tidak berpengalaman untuk menerajui kerajaan pada pilihan raya umum ke-13 (PRU13).

Daim Zainuddin

Bekas Menteri Kewangan Tun Daim Zainuddin berkata, dalam keadaan krisis ekonomi yang melanda dunia ketika ini, ia bukanlah masa yang sesuai untuk rakyat menukar tampuk pemerintahan negara dengan menyerahkannya kepada pakatan pembangkang yang tidak mempunyai pengalaman.

“Sekarang ini krisis ekonomi dunia, di Amerika Syarikat, Eropah, Jepun, India, China, masalah ekonomi akan berlaku.Kalau kita ambil kerajaan yang kita tidak tahu, tidak ada pengalaman… lingkuplah negara kita, ” katanya kepada pemberita selepas menghadiri majlis perjumpaan Jentera PRU13 Parlimen Merbok di sini, hari ini.

Mengenai PRU13, Daim berkata, beliau berkeyakinan Barisan Nasional (BN) akan mengekalkan kuasa sebagai Kerajaan Persekutuan, dan BN  empunyai peluang yang cerah untuk mendapatkan kembali Kedah dan Selangor, yang kini ditadbir parti pembangkang.

Beliau berkata, ini boleh dicapai sekiranya pemimpin dan anggota Umno serta parti komponen BN bersatu. Mengenai insiden letupan ketika ceramah BN di Pulau Pinang dan Perak, Daim berkata, tindakan sedemikian dilakukan oleh mereka cuba mewujudkan rasa takut di kalangan rakyat. – Bernama

Najib Razak: Interview on Al Jazeera


April 28, 2013

Najib Razak meets Veronica Pedrosa on Al Jazeera

Caretaker PM Najib Razak recorded an interview with Al Jazeera a few weeks ago, apparently, and it aired yesterday.

It will probably go down as one more of Najib’s election related blunders to go along with waiting so long to dissolve Parliament and campaign as a Presidential candidate in a Parliamentary election.

Najib_Aljazeera_interview

Few things about the interview. Firstly, Veronica Pedrosa did a great job. Interviewers frequently get intimidated in front of Heads of State or, out of respect, avoid asking the most obvious and difficult questions. Veronica did neither and I respect her for that.

Secondly, Najib’s body language was off for the interview from start to finish. His legs were shaking. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. His face showed, at times a lack of interest, and at other times a real sense of discomfort with the questions.

Thirdly, on content Najib probably scored a low C. At a general sense he did his best to present himself as someone in a position of leadership who has some grasp of the difficult issues facing his country. However, whenever the interviewer asked about specifics Najib gave answers that probably hurt him more than they helped him.

For instance when asked about debating Anwar Ibrahim, Najib said that there are many ways to engage with people in an election and he was focused on other ways. He said a debate “probably won’t happen”. Well, is it a probability or a possibility or impossible? His answer was weak and showed that after 2 years of avoiding facing Anwar head-to-head he still doesn’t have a good answer to the question.

When asked about the Allah issue I think Najib really botched his response. The first part of the answer probably would have been OK a it reflects a sort of flimsy, neither here neither there attitude of let’s just sweep issues under the rug and try to get along. But when Veronica pressed him on the comparison between Malaysia and Lebanon, Najib once again did not have a solid answer and just said in Malaysia we’re different just because and that’s that.

The problem is that Najib may not even believe the position on non-Muslims not using the world Allah in Malaysia is a valid position. He is a Western educated self-proclaimed ‘moderate’ who is hardly a hardliner when it comes to issues of religion. Yet on this one issue he needs to pander shamelessly to the ultra right Malay base. Even PAS has relented on the position and said there is no problem here. So Najib lost big time on this one.

Which brings us to PAS. It is quite “un-statesmenship” like to berate and attack the Islamic Party of Malaysia during an election like Najib did. Basically when asked “What does PAS stand for” Najib poured scorn on PAS as if it was some antique relic party that still used candles and push carts and wrote on papyrus and animal skins.

In actual fact, PAS is a very modern party going through an amazing internal transformation and has come out the other end far more willing and capable to adapt to the time then UMNO has thus far shown any capacity for. My sense is Najib’s distasteful comments about PAS, if they make it to the grassroots, will backfire among middle of the ground Malays who respect the positions that PAS takes but are focused on outcomes for the country.

I suggest you take 20 minutes to watch the interview. It’s telling how the Prime Minister, after four years in office, still lacks the confidence and composure to answer a few difficult questions.

By comparison Anwar Ibrahim gave interviews on  Al Jazeera and CNBC (above) 15 days ago and generally performed much better.–Din Merican

Rosmah’s Gifts and Ethics


April 28, 2013

Rosmah’s Gifts and Ethics

FLOM

Recently Caretaker FLOM, Rosmah Mansor, said that she accepted all the gifts offered to her by foreign dignitaries because it would be rude not to accept them and what was a poor FLOM supposed to do?

“When people give you something, of course it’s not nice to reject it,” Rosmah wrote in a self-titled biography launched yesterday by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“And when I’m given the gifts, I wear them. Why would you want to just keep them in a safe when the items were given sincerely, are beautiful and can be used? It’s a waste if they’re just kept in a safety deposit box,” the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak added. (from Malaysian Insider here)

Well clearly there is another way to handle these situations. The Daily Beast is reporting that the Sarkozy’s used to lavish their friends with expensive gifts. The Obama’s received from the Sarkozy’s over $41,000 worth of bags, towels, etc. Hillary Clinton received three Hermes scarves.

How does the United States handle this? It’s simple. Sitting elected officials are not permitted to accept gifts from anyone. There are Ethics Committees in all branches of the US government that regulate what employees of the US government are allowed to receive and not receive. For example here is a snippet form the Senate Ethics Committee website:

No Member, officer, or employee shall knowingly accept a gift except as provided by the Gifts Rule.

A Member, officer, or employee may accept a gift, other than cash or cash equivalent, having a value of less than $50, provided that the source of the gift is not a registered lobbyist, foreign agent, or private entity that retains or employs such individuals.  The cumulative value of gifts that may be accepted from any one source in a calendar year must be less than $100.  Generally, gifts having a value of less than $10 do not count toward the annual limit.  See Senate Rule 35.1(a)

The White House/Executive branch has similar rules outlined in detail here. It’s clear why such rules need to be in place. When you are in the seat of power, small (or large) gifts from foreign and domestic agents can be used as leverage in any sort of negotiation that comprise the integrity of the relationship. The onus should be on the public servant to want to defend his integrity to the fullest degree.

Which takes us back to Rosmah’s absurd statement. It speaks for itself when you’re talking about a party which is propped up by patronage and corruption. Accepting a few Hermes scarves, Rolex watches etc. is practically a non-issue when you think about the billion of dollars squandered away in no-bid contracts, flawed procurements and under the table deals.

The need for greater transparency in these dealings is essential. But fundamentally, people must elect leaders who they believe have a strong ethical compass that would make them think twice about these types of transgressions.–Din Merican

Media should stop Fearmongering and encourage Malaysians to Vote


April 28, 2013

Media should stop Fearmongering and encourage Malaysians to Vote

whatithink-jahabar-120x0@http://www.themalaysiainsider.com

If you happen to be charitable and buy local newspapers, you’ll notice the headlines this past week has about Islamic criminal law hudud and rising violence in the GE13 campaign.

Add to that explosion of murders involving guns and knives. Today, the MCA-owned The Star daily front-paged the surge in electoral violence across the country, none of which occurred in the past 24 hours.

The popular English-language daily also reported Inspector-General of Police Secretariat’s Assistant Head Assistant Commissioner Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf said 1,166 cases of polls-related violence and intimidation had been reported since nomination day on April 20, with 43 people arrested so far.

Yet, campaign violence has been on-going for the past year in many ceramahs organised by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) that are often rattled by hired hooligans.PKR’s campaign bus has been stoned and splashed with red paint but has yet to deter crowds from attending the party’s gatherings across the nation.

To what purpose is this fearmongering about the spike in violence in the election campaign? If anything, the authorities have kept a firm hand to ensure most if not all ceramahs are conducted peacefully without any untoward incidents.

Let’s be clear about one thing. The media must help and encourage everyoneHudud to come out and cast their ballots. Not create an atmosphere of fear that will stop people from fulfilling their duty as a citizen on polling day.

Barisan Nasional (BN) Chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak also wants everyone to vote, naturally for him. A lower turnout will not do good for him or his political opponents in the May 5 polls.

Apart from the focus on electoral violence, the newspaper and the Umno-controlled New Straits Times have been reporting widely on the Islamic criminal law hudud championed by PAS but not PR as explained today by party Secretary-General Datuk Mustafa Ali.

Hudud has been an electoral issue to frighten non-Muslim voters for the past 23 years since PAS took the Kelantan government in 1990. Hudud helped break the Barisan Alternatif (BA) two years after the 1999 polls and it continues to haunt Malaysian politics.

Media on HududIt isn’t an issue that will go away if continued to be dredged up.Veteran MCA leader Datuk Lee Hwa Beng and even former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have however pointed out that it is impossible for hardline or Islamist politicians to ensure hudud is implemented in the country.

For one, there aren’t enough Muslim MPs in the federal parliament to get the law passed on their own accord. They would need the assistance of non-Muslim MPs who have gone on record to protest and not vote in any Islamic enactments in the state legislatures except perhaps the MCA in Selangor in 1988.

Newspapers can do better than frightening people about the possibility of hudud and fearmongering about the country’s security, especially those controlled by those who have been in power for so long. Let’s work towards a better Malaysia where news and analyses should be mature and informative and not descend into mud-raking and shrill propaganda.

* Jahabar Sadiq runs The Malaysian Insider.

Islamic Theocracy in Malaysia?


April 27, 2013

Islamic Theocracy in Malaysia?

by Dr Azhari Karim@http://www.nst.com.my

IS an Islamic Theocracy in the making in Malaysia?   If the entente between PAS and DAP survives the 13th General Election Malaysians must be prepared for an Islamic theocratic government to emerge and  run the country. This means it is more than hudud and the use of the word “Allah”.

imam_khomeiniWhat comes to mind is the Islamic Republic of Iran and its experience with a theocratic state based on Shiaism. Soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran took hold, Ayatollah Khomeini, who led the revolution even while in exile in Paris before this, put into effect his political philosophy of the velayat-e faqih (governance of the jurisconsult).

The concept represented Khomeini’s version of a politicised Islam of the Shia variety. Drawing heavily from Iranian traditions and Shia beliefs and doctrines, Khomeini presented himself as the supreme leader (vali-e-faqih). In this role, he functioned as both the legal leader of the ummah and also the imam on Earth.

As supreme leader, Khomeini exercised all state power single-handedly and decided on main foreign and domestic affairs. He was also responsible for the survival of the country. It was also explained that it was the ulama who should govern since they possessed superior knowledge of the laws of God.

To assist the supreme leader in his functions three decision-making institutions were established: the Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts and Expediency Council.

In practice, however, the theocracy of Khomeini was able to govern due more to the charisma of the supreme leader. This did not happen after Khomeini’s demise. Instead the ulama went through a period of power struggle and factionalism. Division between the conservatives and the progressives emerged with the assumption of the supreme leader’s position by Khatami and now Khamanei.

An interesting fact not to be dismissed is the guardianship of all the resources of the country held by the supreme leader. Oil, which Iran is fortunate to have in abundance, has not only contributed towards strengthening the paramount position of the supreme leader but also boosted the country’s coffers. In turn, successive governments after Khomeini have been able to use the revenue in various ways: some as alleged in published reports, in supporting foreign governments.

The question of comparison comes in here. In the case of PAS in Malaysia, there have been talks of them forming an Islamic welfare state if they win the general election. Again details have been scant in regard to structure and policies. Barisan Nasional has countered, saying it has already put one in place.

On the position of supreme leader, the closest Pas has is to agree on theKERAJAAN PAS present Murshidul-am PAS (spiritual leader) who could perhaps fit the bill. But when it comes to issues of religious stature, credentials and jurisprudence, the present incumbent has yet to prove himself a “par excellence”.

Such a government when led by such a person can never qualify as an imamate in the Shiaism sense or let alone a caliphate by Shafie/Sunni standards.

On the number of experts that PAS can muster, it still remains an issue when thus far, most of their pronouncements on major religious and spiritual issues, again as reported in the media, have lacked strong grounds on doctrines and jurisprudence.

As to the application of hudud, the failure to agree among PAS members and between them and members of other political parties allied to them on how it is going to be implemented and who could be prosecuted, have confused both would-be supporters and detractors alike. Surely, hudud cannot be all there is to an Islamic theocracy a-la-Iran or any other model as practised in the other West Asian countries.

Generally, it is hard to imagine such a government taking shape in Malaysia. Malaysians have enjoyed its democracy for the last 56 years and are not about to let go of its diverse and multicultural society, open economy and federalist system of government, however imperfect.

BN’s Femme Fatale: The Power of Women


April 27, 2013

BN’s Femme Fatale: The Power of Women

bridgetwelshby Bridget Welsh@http://www.malaysiakini.com

GE13 SPECIAL; Apart from civil servants, another decisive group in GE-13 are women. They comprise 51.7 percent of the electorate and regularly turn out in high numbers, especially in semi and rural areas.

In close races, how women vote can make the difference. Numerically, women are largely in the urban areas, but disproportionately they are more influential politically in the more rural areas, as men are often outstation for employment.

najib and rosmahLet’s take a look at how women can shape and have shaped the election so far, recognising that they will make an important impact this election and the trends are moving against the BN.Traditionally, women disproportionately support the incumbent government more than men in the range of 5-8%.

NONEThe BN gender advantage varies by ethnicity; it is more pronounced among Malays, Indians and East Malaysians, although almost non-existent among Chinese. The gap also varies by class, as it is most pronounced among women in the lower classes.

The reasons for this gender gap are multiple, but four factors stand out. First, traditionally the UMNO campaign has had the strongest women’s branch, Wanita UMNO, and this group has played a major role in winning support. It has been the female face for the BN.

It is important to note that UMNO historically was the first to include women actively in politics.Second, women have less access to alternative forms of information outside of the mainstream media, as they often have less time to surf the Internet due to family responsibilities and do not attend ceramah at night in as high a number as men due also to the same family responsibilities.

Third, women, particularly those in the lower classes, are more responsive to the incentives of money. On the front line of managing the household economy, women find the extra funds useful for families and at the same time feel more obliged to repay the support.

Finally, women are also seen to be more responsive to the fear tactics adopted by BN, and worry about the impact on their families. From information to fear, women generally appear more risk-adverse and this favours the incumbent government.

Yet, over the past few elections, this gender gap has been narrowing. The trend has been toward more women supporting the opposition. In fact in the urban areas among the Chinese, women are more likely to support Pakatan than BN.

Polling has also found a sharp increase of ordinary women engaged in politics in Malaysia from 2003 onwards, as seen by the composition of the rallies, protests such as BERSIH and anti-Lynas and a female expansion of civil society at the local level.

From the broad trends, the gender gap this election will likely narrow further. Trends suggest more women in Malaysia are awakening politically, and clamouring in favour of change.

More attuned to local issues

One of the reasons for this movement in the voting pattern of women has to do with the salience of different issues in the GE-13 campaign, as well as the outreach efforts by both camps.

Among women themselves, different groups, such as single versus married, have different sets of concerns. Yet, there are a few broad commonalities across women.

While men and women alike tend to prioritise concerns over cost of living, women disproportionately highlight greater concerns with issues tied to the family, such as education, weigh social problems such as drug addiction more heavily, and especially in the urban areas are deeply concerned with rising crime.

The tragic murder of Irene Ong Ai Sam in Bukit Gasing has brought to the fore the legitimate concerns regarding safety, and had a special impact for women who identify strongly with the mother-daughter bond.

One in four Malaysians are reported in surveys that either themselves or a family member have been a victim of crime, and disproportionately many of these crimes, such as robbery, affect women.

Studies show that women are more attuned to local issues than national ones. It is thus not surprising that many of the Himpunan Hijau environment group protestors were female.

The test in this election will be whether women think nationally and make the connection between their children’s future and the national results.

The BN’s strategy has been to keep the campaign with women local, using largely financial incentives and, in the past few days of the campaign, racial insecurity and fear.

NONEPakatan’s strategy toward women has been less clear, as outreach toward women has been uneven, but largely incorporated into the ‘change’ umbrella.

The two sides point to different sections in their manifestos, with the BN broadly promising gains in micro-finance and empowerment, while simultaneously touting its school vouchers and single mother packages.

In this latter group, the BN has been especially effective as the financial incentives have made an impact for this vulnerable community, especially among Indians and in East Malaysia.

Pakatan has developed a Women’s Initiative, which is geared largely toward married women, but offers the innovative idea of a retirement and emergency fund for housewives, training opportunities for all women and greater voice in government.

It is clear that both sides recognise the voting power of women, and have extended programmes, despite the limited public attention and knowledge of these initiatives.

Deteriorating BN record

Ordinary voters are not fully swayed by the promises, however. They are often actually influenced more by what happens in the campaign itself or the record in government.

BN is resting on its money-and-fear formula, while Pakatan is appealing to principles of cleaner government and fairness. The record of Najib Razak’s administration on women is coming into question, as he has served as women’s minister.

NONEThe women’s minister who was in cabinet, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, was dropped for the National Feedlot Centre corruption scandal.

That the caretaker Pemier felt he was best suited to be women’s minister or could not find a suitable replacement in his coalition has already cast a cloud on the sincerity of attention to women’s issues.

It was blighted further by the faux pas in October 2012 when Najib claimed that Malaysia did not need women’s organisation as women were already empowered.

While significant gains have been made historically, Malaysia’s ranking is low globally at 120. There are persistent obstacles women face, from the difficulties of single mothers and higher levels of female poverty to political inclusion.

One area that is especially acute is protection on issues of family law. The share of Malaysian women in parliament, 9.9%, is lower than the global average of 18%.

The number of women’s Ministers (1) and Deputy Ministers (6) in the BN has dropped as a share of the overall cabinet since Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took office, as fewer women, especially elected women, have been given decision-making power.

The perception of the most powerful woman in the Najib government is his wife, Rosmah Mansor, who has not stood for election.

There is no clear success that Najib can point to in his four years in office for women. In fact, there are worrying trends.

Consider the issue of political representation further. The decline of women at the top of the BN corresponds to less influence in all of the main coalition parties, except Gerakan.

In UMNO, MCA and MIC women leaders have been either marginalised or, in the case of UMNO, scandalised.MCA dropped its most prominent woman, Ng Yen Yen, while the MIC did not field any women for parliament. Tian Lian Hoe of Gerakan has emerged as one of the strongest and more reputable BN women leaders, but she is still not a minister.

UMNO’s dropping of the Deputy Wanita UMNO leader is now well-known, but the persistent low of fielding women as candidates is not.As the table below shows, the share of women fielded for Parliament and State Assembly (DUN) for UMNO has remained stagnant since the 1999 election. UMNO was in the vanguard for women’s political representation in Malaysia. It is now on par with PAS for fielding women.

Wanita UMNO as an organisation has been facing serious decline, and its ability to even influence its own members to field women has waned. Many in Wanita UMNO feel slighted.

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The BN has not significantly increased its representation of women, especially at the national level. MCA has dropped the number of women fielded from seven to four, while no women from MIC will be contesting for Parliament.

The Opposition in contrast has increased its fielding of women, especially PAS. PKR top the number of women fielded for the Opposition, but PAS has the biggest increase over the past elections.This is a long way from their position in 1999, and speaks to a quiet revolution of women’s empowerment in the party.

Nevertheless, the Islamic party is still among the lowest in fielding women. The majority of seats fielding women are at the state level, and there is a shift in the numbers of women from the national level to the state level for women in parties like the DAP.

For the first time in history, the BN collectively with East Malaysia is now tied with the opposition in fielding 77 women each. Clearly, the BN has lost the advantage in fielding women.

New trends in fielding women

Given the gains over time the baton of political empowerment of women is moving from the BN to the Opposition.What is striking about the women’s candidates is the increasing diversity in backgrounds and impressive credentials of those fielded.

In PAS, we find singers such as Wan Aishah Wan Ariffin in Jempol, along with doctors and lawyers such as Mumtaz Md Nawi in Kelantan.

NONEIn the DAP, there are pharmacists such as Alice Lau (right) in Lanang. In Pakatan, the professional backgrounds has risen compared to the past.

Some of the women have served in politics, such as Kasthuriraani Patto in Batu Kawan, one of the few Indian women fielded nationally.

The woman candidates like orator Siti Aisha Shaik Ismail in Tambun and master’s degree holder Aiman Athirah Al-Jundi in Jelebu are young and dynamic, bringing new ideas and energy to the campaign.

The BN’s women candidates have not raised the same excitement, with concern with the fielding of Jessie Ooi fielded in Kuala Kubu Baru for the MCA, for example, whose infamy was a incoherent political tirade.

Yet, there are many bright women contesting, such as Mary Yap in Tawau, a teacher who has strong local roots, and Halimah Mohd Sadique of Johor.

What is important to note is that the women candidates in the BN have not received the same attention. In fact, what has drawn attention has been negative, such as the alleged actions of Hamidah Osman of Perak UMNO who was blacklisted by Bersih.

This election does see, however, more women fielded than ever before, reflecting a national trend of growing female empowerment, but these numbers are far below global averages and targets within the parties themselves.

One factor that may have contributed to this is the dirtiness of this campaign, discouraging women from contesting.

Attacks on women can backfire

The women in this campaign, however, face fierce fights. An estimated 80% of women fielded in this campaign are in difficult races at the parliamentary level.

Some of these such as Pengerang, Jelebu and Tambun are real uphill battles. The same trend is replicated at the state level. In some cases, such as Ampang women are campaigning against each other, diminishing the chances of women to get into office.

The incumbent women, especially those that pose threats to the legitimacy of BN and have been strong performers, have been targeted.

NONENo where is this clearer in the campaign, however, than in the contest of Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin against Nurul Izzah Anwar (right).

Here the unelected federal minister has been using public money to win himself a seat, as he has taken personal credit for projects under this ministry, while simultaneously pouring in his personal funds gained in the lucrative construction sector.

For years now, Nurul Izzah has been targeted to be ‘brought down’. Parallel examples can be found in Teo Nie Ching now in Kulai and Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud of PAS who has to work hard to win Kota Raja, although these candidates have more promising chances.

What has become part of the political targeting has been the use of personal attacks against women. This happens on both sides, with Rosmah Mansor receiving arguably the most attacks.

She is portrayed as corrupt and controlling her husband, with these criticisms perhaps the sharpest within UMNO itself.

This reflects a gender dimension of the campaign, the perceived role of what a political wife should be with resistance for women taking a prominent role, especially when they are not the one elected into office.

teo nie ching and jinggo gan babyAttacks on political candidates have extended to Nurul Izzah, Kamilia Ibrahim and Teo Nie Ching (left) from smut videos, calls of ‘traitor’ allegedly by no less than Rafidah Aziz herself now stationed in Kuala Kangsar to the recent disgraceful leaflets ridiculing Teo’s new motherhood role and breast feeding.

To make use of motherhood is not acceptable. The fact is that attacks on women backfire when they are perceived to be unfair, as shown in the past.

One only needs to look at the impact of attacks on Teresa Kok from 1999 onwards to see how foolhardy attacks on women can be politically.

Women stand as another group in this campaign that will set the direction for the country. They will shape who will lead their children, who will make the decisions that will shape their lives and who will be the leadership models for society.

From crime and security to the dignity of women, these issues will influence women in the polls. How national they are in voting will be decisive.

Despite the BN gender advantage, the underlying trends in political participation, campaign issues, fielding of women and attacks on women point to potential gains for Pakatan and for more women entering parliament. This will be a woman’s election, whatever the outcome.


DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She is traveling around Malaysia to provide her GE13 analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini. Bridget can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.