Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided


March 29, 2015

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided

By Zurairi AR and Boo Su-Lyn

No Hudud in MalaysiaTHIS?

Hudud has for the past two decades largely been treated as a mere fringe topic among Malaysians, a political hot potato tossed back and forth between local parties as they canvassed for Muslim votes during elections.

But last week, when the Kelantan legislative assembly passed amendments to its Shariah Criminal Code II enactment — dubbed the hudud Bill — the controversial Islamic penal code quickly became a legitimate public concern.

Now, if PAS, the Islamist party that governs Kelantan, next succeeds at the federal level in getting more legislative amendments approved, hudud, an Islamic punishment system under Shariah law, will be implemented for the first time in a Malaysian state.

Although the law would only be confined to Kelantan, it must be noted that PAS’s manoeuvre in Kelantan has already roused the ambitions of other Islamist groups and scholars who wish to see hudud sweep the country. All eyes are also on Terengganu, which had also passed a similar but still ungazetted enactment with hudud elements in 2002.

The ball is now in Parliament’s court, but analysts and observers are already warning that should hudud get implemented in other states, the Malaysia we know today will head towards an irreparable divide.

A legal system divided

Malaysia has always practised a dual-track legal system, although for the Muslims, legal disputes on family matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the precepts of Islam, are dealt with under the Shariah law.

The implementation of hudud, however, will see the Shariah courts encroaching on offences already covered in the civil justice system, specifically the Penal Code. These include crimes like sariqah (theft) and hirabah (robbery). Hudud’s companion qisas, meanwhile will legislate the offence of murder, which is also already covered by civil law.

According to amendments in Kelantan’s hudud Bill, however, once enforced, hudud will only apply to Muslims. For example, a Muslim guilty of theft in Kelantan can be punished by amputation of his limbs, under Section 7 of the state’s hudud law.

But in the Penal Code, the same crime committed by a non-Muslim prescribes a maximum seven-year jail term or fine or both, according to Section 379 of the legislation.

The prospect of subjecting criminals to two different punishments for the same crime by virtue of their religious backgrounds, however, could prove complicated in a diverse nation like Malaysia, analysts said.

Hudud2OR THIS?

“How do you enforce this in a plural society? Of course it would lead to injustice between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially if the crime involves perpetrators of different religions,” political analyst Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan said in a recent phone interview.

“I think this contradicts the principles of Islam, where there exists variations and injustice in the punishment for the same crime.” At the crux of the argument is the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the country that is the bedrock of Malaysia’s foundation.

If hudud is to be implemented, it would mean that the Federal Constitution will have to be amended to legislate against crimes already under the Penal Code, said Nizam Bashir, who is both a constitutional and Shariah lawyer.

“What seems to be missing from the conversation at this point of time is what the framers of the Constitution has envisaged as the appropriate balance of powers in a federal system of government like Malaysia. Simply put, we were always meant to have a strong central government,” Nizam told Malay Mail Online.

“Having said that, this does not mean that states have no power or the monarchs’ role are trivialised in some way in the Constitution. It is far from that.

“But it is very clear that the central government was always meant to take centre stage on matters like crime, and one can see why as it would promote public order,” the lawyer added.

The same sentiment was expressed by Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru, who in a statement on March 20, said implementing hudud laws would fundamentally alter Malaysia’s secular Federal Constitution in ways never intended.

“If hudud were brought into the criminal justice system, it would result in the importation of Islamic penal law into a secular system. This would result in a rewriting of the Federal Constitution,” Steven warned.

Lawyers have also claimed that the implementation of hudud in Kelantan will lead to more constitutional challenges being filed in court against the Islamic penal code.Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew pointed out that the civil courts were forced to intervene in previous cases of Shariah courts overstepping their jurisdiction, such as M. Indira Gandhi’s child custody dispute with her ex-husband who is a Muslim convert.

“Certain aspects of the state enactment like sariqah or hirabah will be challenged in the civil courts because only the civil courts have the power to decide on constitutional issues,” New told Malay Mail Online, referring to the hudud Bill.

“And certain punishments like the death penalty and amputation will be challenged for violating federal law,” he added, noting that the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 limits the punishments Islamic courts can impose to three years’ jail, RM5,000 fines or six strokes of whipping.

These challenges are bound to widen the chasm between the two legal systems, especially with minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom alleging last year of a “new wave” of assault on Islam here, and accusing rights groups of colluding with enemies of Islam to put its religious institutions on trial in a secular court.

A society divided

The discrimination in punishment among Muslims and non-Muslims will also lead to bigger problems in society as Malaysians would be treated differently in the eyes of the law, Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

Already, clear divisions have appeared between those in support of Kelantan’s hudud and those who do not, as demonstrated in the recent case of BFM presenter Aisyah Tajuddin.

The young Muslim journalist earned heavy criticism over a satirical video produced by the popular business radio station where she was seen criticising the PAS government’s bid to introduce the law in Kelantan.

“This phenomenon will bring about clashes, discontent, and other problems … When the public is not being managed fairly, it will bring towards a discriminatory pattern,” warned the analyst, who is also a retired former head of Dakwah Studies Department in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Islam emphasises fairness. Under the roof of fairness, only then can you guarantee economic and social stability.”

RATNA_OSMANRatna Osman and Zainah Anwar

Meanwhile, the dismissal of women’s role in hudud also has women rights group Sister in Islam (SIS) worried over the treatment of women in the future, especially Muslim women. SIS’s Executive Director Ratna Osman pointed to Section 41 of Kelantan’s hudud Bill, which specifies that only an adolescent and fair male Muslim can stand as a witness in the cases of zina (illicit sex) and liwat (sodomy).

“This disqualified non-Muslims overall and Muslim women, and this contradicts with equality that is promised under Article 8 of the Constitution, that guarantees equality for all regardless of race and gender,” Ratna told Malay Mail Online.

“The fact that women are disqualified as witnesses in the code, is against the practise of Islamic laws on evidence,” she added, citing several hadith—collections of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and deeds—where women’s testimonies were accepted in criminal cases.

She also took issue with the provisions in Kelantan’s bill governing qazaf (false accusation of zina), which puts the burden of proof on women in cases of rape, and the li’an provision, which allows a husband to accuse his wife of adultery under a sacred oath.

“You will find because of this gender inequality, a lot of cases, in Iran particularly, where husbands are always using li’an as a means to put their wives in jail. It is an easy way out of marriage,” Ratna claimed.

She also pointed to how in other countries like Pakistan, it is always the women who are convicted of zina while their male partners escape prosecution.Apart from that, Ratna also noted the difficulty in criticising the implementation of hudud after Kelantan passed its hudud Bill.

The space of discourse, even among Muslims, is rapidly shrinking with the authorities now warning laymen against discussing hudud and religion in general, as the voice of discontent continues to grow unfettered online.

Against their critics, PAS has so far resorted to labels from “immorals” and “liars”, which Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob uttered when tabling the bill, to “parrots” and “unforgivable ignorants” in PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s open letter a week after.

A country divided

In its video, BFM and Aisyah had asked how exactly hudud would fill the rice bowls of Kelantan folks, especially as the state remains one of the poorest in the country. The question has still remained unanswered, but critics told Malay Mail Online that the trickle down effect of hudud’s implementation in plural Malaysia will inevitably impact even bread and butter issues.

“Why must we rush in hudud, when the priority should be on social justice, eradicating poverty, access to health services, urban cleanliness? There are a lot of things in Islam we can implement,” Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

“This hudud punishments will lead to bigger implications. If there is a huge case of theft, wouldn’t you have one race with fewer hands than the others? That is why we have to think this out thoroughly.”

There is already global fear that Malaysia risks losing its identity as a model of religious moderation and multiracialism if hudud goes ahead, as expressed by an influential group of retired Malay senior civil servants dubbed G25 on March 25.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak invariably touts Malaysia’s reputation to the international community and investors as a so-called moderate Muslim country, especially in his address to the United Nations as recent as September last year. But this image has continued to take a beating with recent actions taken by religious authorities, especially in the case of the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Having hudud nationwide might be the nail on the coffin for his campaign, according to some. “If hudud were ever to see the light of day in Malaysia we can be sure that there will be a massive outflow of investment, wealth and people from Malaysia,” tycoon and philanthropist Koon Yew Yin wrote in his blog on March 22.

“It is not only the locals who will leave. The international community—including foreign investors—has been more loud and vociferous in expressing concern about the growing Islamisation in the country.”

“Adoption by Parliament — even if a two-thirds majority is not obtained — will be the beginning of the end for moderate and inclusive Islam in the country. Is the Middle East model of fundamentalist Islam which has brought destruction and disaster the model that Malaysian Muslims want to follow? I do not think so,” he added.

On March 19, the Kelantan state assembly approved the Shariah Criminal Code (II) (1993) 2015 Enactment with 31 votes from PAS lawmakers supported by 12 from UMNO.

PAS now plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud ― one will seek approval for the state to legislate punishment for crimes under the Penal Code.

The other seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965 to enable Islamic courts to mete out punishments like the death penalty for apostasy and amputation of limbs for theft. PAS has said it only needs a simple majority in Parliament, or 112 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/snapshot-of-malaysia-after-hudud-a-nation-divided#sthash.dOTRpc39.UE8fsUth.dpuf

Lee Kuan Yew’s Political Legacy–Matter of Trust


March 27, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew’s Political Legacy–Matter of Trust

by Bridget Welsh

Lee Kuan Yew 2

As Singaporeans mourn their charismatic leader Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), whose political acumen, drive and ideas defined the young nation and played a major role in its successful development, attention turns to assessment. Moments of transition always bring reflection, and this is especially the case with the passing of the man who both personified and defined Singapore. The fact that LKY has passed on in the pivotal year of the nation celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary only serves to reinforce the need for review.

There is good reason to acknowledge the accolades of a man who has been labeled as one of Asia’s most influential leaders. Most of the media, especially in the government-linked media of Singapore, lay out these reasons well. LKY was a force to be reckoned with, a complex man who made no excuses in his views and was direct in stating his opinions. He trusted few, but chose to collaborate with those who shared his hard work ethic with talent and ideas to develop the busy port of Singapore into a safe dynamic cosmopolitan city-state. He will rightly be remembered for not only putting Singapore on the world map, but as a model that is admired and respected by many the world over.

LKY was a man who was respected, but importantly not loved by all. He used fear to stay in power. From the inception of Singapore’s independence – when it was expelled from Malaysia – the ideas of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘survival’ were used to justify decisions. He promoted the idea that Singapore had to have a strong armed forces, requiring national service in 1967, to protect itself as a nation surrounded by the perceived threat of its Malay neighbors.

The enemies outside were matched by those inside, who had to be displaced and in some cases detained.  Among the most controversial were the arrests of men labeled as communists in Operation Coldstore of 1963 and Operation Spectrum of 1987 (a.k.a. the ‘Marxist Conspiracy’) that targeted social activists who promoted greater social equality and were seen as challenging LKY’s People’s Action Party’s (PAP) authority. Two other round-ups occurred with Operation Pecah (Split) in 1966, which coincided with the year of the arrest of Dr. Chia Thye Poh who was held under detention and restriction until 1997, and the arrests of the ‘Eurocommunists’ in 1976-77. Many others from opposition politics, business to academia faced the wrath for challenging and questioning LKY, his PAP and the politicized decisions of its institutions, castigated in the government controlled media, removed from position, forced to live in exile and, in some cases, sued and bankrupted. In the relatively small city state, it did not take much to instill a political culture of fear by making a few examples.

A main point of contention goes that LKY sparred with Western critics over democracy and human rights, with LKY dismissing these ideas as not part of ‘Asia’s values.’ The debate was never about differences in values, but the justification of holding power in the hands of a few for nearly five decades. Singapore’s political model is at its foundation about the elites, with Lee, his family and loyalists at the core. In recent years, reports in Singapore have highlighted a growing trust deficit in the PAP government that LKY founded. The real deficit that defined LKY and became embedded within the party he molded is that he never fundamentally trusted his people.

The group that received the special focus of LKY’s distrust was the Malay population, who now comprise over 10% of the country’s population. Even as LKY matured as a politician, he continued to reinforce negative stereotypes of this community that rioted over their grievances in 1950, 1964 and 1969 when LKY was in his early years in power, and with whom he expressed hard judgments about their religion, Islam. This distrust was shaped in part by a worldview that was not only shaped by his early experiences in political life but had sharp racial cleavages, drew from eugenics and believed in a clear social order. Part of LKY’s outlook prioritized women as homemakers and disparaged single women who opted not to marry or follow a career – another group similar to Malays that faced discrimination within LKY’s Singapore.

In the heyday of Singapore’s economic miracle, the 1970s through the 1990s, the LKY PAP government worked to win over the trust of its people. It did so by providing for the basic welfare of its citizens, with an impressive housing program, affordable food prices, a living wage, job security, safety, education and opportunity. This involved hard work of LKY’s founding team of PAP cadre, as well as the sacrifice of ordinary Singaporeans. It also reflected the wise realization of LKY that fear was not enough to stay in power. There needed to be a healthy balance of deliverables. The LKY decades of economic growth translated into real rewards – at least through the 1980s.

Singapore’s trajectory of sharing the benefits of development has followed a pattern of diminishing returns, as the country now boasts the highest per capita of millionaires and is the world’s most expensive city, with a large number its citizens unable to save and afford the lifestyle promised in the nation’s early narrative. As much as LKY deserves credit for Singapore’s success, he also should be seen to be part of today’s shortcomings.

Elitism has bred arrogance, and a distance between those in power and those governed. Most of the new leaders of the PAP have come from subsequent wealthy generations that do not fully understand the sacrifices of the country’s working poor – shocking in number – and the obstacles elderly and young people face in an era of high costs. Years of following the LKY’s example and being told that the PAP is made up of the ‘best and brightest’ has imbued a mindset of superiority, a lack of empathy, and frequent dismissal of difference in engagement with the public.

While LKY’s son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has worked to win over support, he has suffered consecutive drops of support in the two elections he has led since he assumed office, failing to match the 75% popular vote height of the predecessor Goh Chok Tong in 2001. Unlike in the information controlled era of his father, Lee Hsien Loong is not able to effectively censor and limit public discussions in today’s wired and connected Singapore.  His recent expansion of social services and incentive packages that provide small sums for pensioners, modest support for health and childcare and tax reductions for the middle class are a drop in the bucket for the growing grievances and costs faced by ordinary citizens.

This has to do in part with the challenge Lee Hsien Loong faces in dealing with his father’s legacy. In 2007 LKY claimed that he governed without ideology. This was not quite true. The ideological foundation of LKY’s pragmatic tenure was materialism. This obsession with money, saving it and forcing the public to save it in rigid regulated ways, assuring that government funds were only given to those ‘worthy’ and loyal and defining the value of the performance of his government ministers by pegging their salaries to growth numbers comprised the lifeblood of LKY’s state. With annual ‘bonuses’ to perform, there is a focus on short-term gains rather than long-term investments.

The irony is that it is not even clear how much money the government of Singapore and its linked companies actually have. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world that does not follow the International Monetary Fund guidelines on its budget reporting. It also does not transparently report losses in many of the financial accounts of the government linked companies (GLCs). Lee Hsien Loong has had to tackle head-on the ingrained pattern of limited government spending on social welfare and services, as he attempts to move away from his father’s restrictive parsimony and secretive mindset that originated from a lack of trust in people

Lee Hsien Loong also has to address the problems of a government dominated economy. Singapore Inc. emerged out of the political economy LKY put in place, with the government and its linked companies controlling over half the country’s economy and undercutting almost all domestic business. LKY did not trust local capital, and did not want to strengthen an alternative power center to his own. As such, Singapore’s economy is not a genuinely competitive one. It favors big business, especially property developers, and those allied with government rather than independent entrepreneurs. Those in the system have apparently disproportionately benefited from it, although the exact amounts and assets remain unknown. The accumulated assets of individuals remain hidden as the estate tax was removed in 2008. What is known is that workers have limited rights in the LKY-shaped political economy. A recent example is the sexual harassment bill passed in parliament that excludes employer liability. The harsh response to the bus driver strike in 2012 is another. Much is made about the limited corruption of Singapore, but few appreciate that the country ranks high on the Economist crony-capitalism index, an important outgrowth of the government dominance of the economy. The ties between companies and government are close, at times with government and family members on their boards and a revolving door that never really closes.

Singapore’s economy also favors foreigners. LKY was to start this trend, with the appeal to outsiders for capital rather than a focus on domestic business. Foreigners may have been easier to engage, as they could always be kicked out. Foreign investment has been extremely important in Singapore’s growth numbers initially in manufacturing and later in services. To maintain global competitiveness, keep wages low and maintain high growth numbers, Singapore also turned to foreign labor – cheap workers to staff their construction sectors and to work as domestic help and foreign talent to bring in ideas and the occasional sports medal. This prioritization of outsiders has fostered resentment. When LKY assumed office he worked to force a nation, but with his passing many in Singapore feel the government he left behind is working for others and undermining the fabric of the nation. The crowded trains, strain on services and displacement of Singaporeans in the job market and advancement have angered many, who now see LKY’s legacy as one that in fact left many Singaporeans vulnerable and worried about survival.

No one can take away LKY’s contributions. He lived a long meaningful life, and shaped the lives of all Singaporeans. This does not mean that there is agreement on what he left behind. Singapore now faces the challenge of moving beyond LKY’s ideas and shaping a more promising future for all of its citizens. An integral part of this dynamic will be moving away from fear, promoting more effective policies for inclusion in the economy and society and building trust. It starts with placing more trust in Singaporeans.

It is arguably the latter that is the hardest. LKY lived in an era where societies trusted their leaders. He was given the benefit of the doubt. The PAP remains a relatively closed institution, with the distrust of those not inside deeply embedded. Today in the age of social media and instant messaging there is not as much leeway to work behind closed doors. There is an urgent need to forge genuine dialogue, connectivity and understanding that moves beyond materialism, and reignites the sense of belonging that LKY forged in his early years.

Singapore today has become a more politically divided nation, with those who strongly defend LKY’s incumbent government, die-hard opponents and the majority in the middle. As the country marks its 50th year it moves toward a different narrative, the task at hand is to forge a new Singapore story, one in which LKY is a valued part of its past, but not a constraint on the dreams and aspirations of Singaporeans’ future.

Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate of the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University where she conducts research on democracy and politics in Southeast Asia.

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2015/03/24/lee-kuan-yews-political-legacy-a-matter-of-trust/

READThe Interview with Dr. Michael D. Barr

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2015/03/25/assess-lee-kuan-yew-which-one/

To be both fair and informative in writing an assessment of Lee Kuan Yew requires a level of detachment that seems to be uncommon. Certainly his devotees, whether in Singapore or overseas, don’t usually come close to achieving it as they echo versions of Lee’s own story of how he took the country ‘from Third World to First’, often taking umbrage at those who are more critical. For those of us who are, indeed, more critical, the temptation is to focus on the Lee Kuan Yew who engaged in ‘brass knuckle politics’, and ignore the achievements.

Many of us have friends who have suffered brutality at his hands – or who have been intimidated or suffered discrimination by the system he put in place. It is not easy to put such personal connections aside and give credit where credit is due. Yet despite these burdens, I am pleased to say that this is a temptation in which critics have not generally indulged for a couple of decades now.

At the time of writing it is now a few days since Lee died and while the devotees have been as adoring and banal as one might fear, his critics have been consistent in recognising his formidable achievements. Their (our) record of even-handedness in this regard is only partly inspired by respect for the dead and for his family. Rather it is a recognition of the complexity of this man. As much as some of us might prefer not to articulate it, he was, in all the conventional senses of the use of the term, ‘a great man’ with a long list of achievements to his name.

His critics might (and do) quibble that he did not do this on his own; that he was the leader of a team of talented men (women generally did not need to apply). And this is indisputable.

We complain that the self-serving narrative of his success would have us believe that he built it from ‘a fetid swamp’ (to quote Greg Sheridan in The Australian a few days ago) and we know full well that this is just plain wrong. He and his colleagues had a lot of valuable material to work with: much of it a legacy of British rule (e.g. the administrative system, the Naval Base and English as the lingua franca); some a gift of nature (such as the port); or the luck of geography (being on the Straits of Malacca, near a rising East Asia).

We complain about a long list of seemingly unintended consequences for those who have been left behind by Singapore’s success or crushed by the dominant elite, and we rightly fear that many of these consequences are not as unintended as they appear at first glance – that they are, in fact, implicitly intended and explicitly accepted as part of the deal.

Yet I cannot think of a single critic who denies his record as a successful builder and who doesn’t feel obliged to put on record some recognition of his achievements. I just wish that those of his devotees who know better could find the honesty to recognise his failings so that more casual followers of public affairs would have a chance of reaching a more balanced perspective.

With this preamble behind me, I would now like to reproduce an interview I did with Zarina Hussain of the BBC last week, a few days before Lee died. Zarina used half-a-dozen sentences of the interview in a piece titled ‘How Lee Kuan Yew engineered Singapore’s economic miracle’, which was published on the BBC website, but most of it has not been reported. I have just tidied up some of the grammar.– Associate Professor Michael D. Barr from the School of International Studies, Flinders University is the author of ‘The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence’ and ‘Lee Kuan Yew: The Beliefs behind the Man.’

Tun Dr. Mahathir: Lee Kuan Yew and I


March 27, 2015

Tun Dr. Mahathir: Lee Kuan Yew and I

by Tun Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT No matter how friendly or unfriendly we are, the passing away of a man you know well saddens you. I cannot say I was a close friend of Kuan Yew. But still I feel sad at his demise.

Kuan Yew became well-known at a young age. I was a student in Singapore when I read about his defence of the labour unions.

I first met Kuan Yew when I was a member of Parliament in 1964 after Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963. We crossed swords many times during the debates. But there was no enmity, only differences in our views of what was good for the newborn nation. He included me among the ultra= Malays who was responsible for the racial riots in Singapore. Actually I never went to Singapore to stir up trouble. Somebody else whom I would not name did.

The Tunku attended the inaugural meeting of the PAP and was quite friendly with Kuan Yew. He believed Kuan Yew was a bastion against Communism. But when the PAP contested in the Malaysian elections in 1964 with Malaysian Malaysia as its slogan, Tunku felt that the PAP’s presence in Malaysia was going to be disruptive for the country.

When I became PM in 1981, I paid a courtesy call on Kuan Yew. It was a friendly call and he immediately agreed to my proposal that Malaysia and Singapore times which had always been the same should be advanced by half an hour. I explained that it would be easier adjusting our time when travelling as we would fall within the time zones fixed for the whole world at one hour intervals.

I am afraid on most other issues we could not agree. When I had a heart attack in 1989 and required open heart surgery, he cared enough to ring up my wife to ask her to delay the operation as he had arranged for the best heart surgeon, a Singaporean living in Australia, to do the operation. But by then, I had been given pre-med and was asleep prior to the operation the next day.

My wife thanked him but apologised. She promised to ring him up after the operation. She did the next evening.
When he was ill, I requested to see him. He agreed but the night before the visit, the Singapore High Commissioner received a message that he was very sick and could not see me.

Still when he attended the Nihon Keizai Shimbun annual conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, which I never failed to attend, I went up to him at dinner to ask how he was. We sat down together to chat and the Japanese photographers took our pictures promising not to put it in the press. I wouldn’t mind even if they did. But I suppose people will make all kinds of stories about it.

Now Kuan Yew is no more. His passage marks the end of the period when those who fought for independence led their countries and knew the value of independence. ASEAN lost a strong leadership after President Suharto and Lee Kuan Yew.


DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD is a former prime minister of Malaysia.

Mr. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak: End your silence on what really matters.


March 27, 2015

Mr. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak: End your silence on what really matters.

by Scott Ng

In this open letter, the writer tells Najib he can reclaim leadership by preventing Malaysia’s destruction at the hands of extremists.

 COMMENT
najib-on-hududOur dear leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak, you are no stranger to controversy. Every time something happens that requires your attention, you famously remain silent for what could be considered an inordinate amount of time. Often enough, the excuse of your weak mandate is given when asked why you don’t act.

Indeed, as a sitting Prime Minister who failed to secure a two-third majority in Parliament for the ruling coalition, you can be considered politically weak to some extent. In your mismanagement of our country’s socio-political landscape, we have seen extremism mushroom like never before. It has driven a wedge between us Malaysians, with battle lines being drawn everyday by NGOs like ISMA beating their chests over Malay-Muslim rights, innocent store managers crucified by government Islamic bodies, the return of authoritarian abuse of the law, and even thought policing via social media.

If there was ever a time for strong leadership, it is now. Even as the ship sails on in stormy waters, you can still salvage your situation, given the new-found support you have received from more than 150 Umno division heads and the component parties of Barisan Nasional. Despite your loss of public support, you now have been given a mandate by the coalition in hope that it will give you the clout to properly govern the country.

Najib and RosmahSir, you now have political capital and support in your hands. You’ve come down hard on the opposition, and I am not so much of an optimist to hope for that to change any time soon. Your attacks on Pakatan Rakyat may be reprehensive to some, but we recognize that it is part and parcel of the game of politics, especially here in Malaysia.

So, rather than attempt to have you change your mind on Pakatan, I suggest this instead: use your power and authority fairly, and go after those who threaten to derail the peaceful lifestyle of Malaysians, who threaten our unity and harmony with the assertion of an extreme, puritan agenda that ignores the spirit of our Federal Constitution.

Sir, you have sat back for too long and allowed the extreme elements of our society free rein to terrorize the people with threats of what should happen if they believe their rights have been maligned, with no thought for the protections provided in the Federal Constitution. Some of these elements come from your own party.

I am not condoning your detention of opposition figures under laws like the outdated Sedition Act, but there is a need to also silence the extremists who have for too long rampaged against what it means to be Malaysian.

We have come to a very dangerous precipice as a country, and only you as our Prime Minister, as the leader of our country, have the authority to pull us back from the brink of self-destruction.

Direct Challenge

Under your watch, the heinous Islamic State has begun to take root, and more established extremist groups like the Hizbut Tahrir have become emboldened enough to say we should forsake the democracy upon which this country is founded. This is a direct challenge to you as the democratically elected leader, and you should not stay silent any longer.

Silence them before they destroy us all. Prime Minister, you now have that mandate in your hands, even if it was not handed to you by the people. In acting against the extremists in our society, you will have the people’s mandate because whenever we read the headlines in this day and age, we become a little more scared to step out of our houses, or to step foot into certain parts of town. We have sealed our mouths because now even the most innocuous statement invites vitriol and even death threats.

This is not the Malaysia you or I grew up in, and you know it. In fact, this Malaysia pales in comparison with the golden hope that we were just after Merdeka, or even at the height of Mahathir’s less-than-benign reign. We are better than this, and the first show of courage must come from you, Prime Minister. You must step up and say enough is enough, and the people will join their voices to yours.

Sir, you have craved the people’s approval for the longest time, resorting to what your critics say are blatant bribes to win the hearts of the people. It is far easier than that to gain approval. Show us we can believe in you to save us from the galling rise of fundamentalist extremism, which twists the tenets of peaceful religions to suit a twisted narrative of us-vs-them that is tearing this country in half.

Now is the time to act. The heated socio-political-economic situation of our country is a pot that is boiling over, and only you can do something about it.

I implore you Sir, be our leader at this time, when we need a leader most. You can change the course of history and reclaim the narrative of this nation so that it can again become the keystone of your “global movement of moderates”, which remains an inscrutable proposition for as long as you allow the extremists in this country to hijack the national narrative.

Now is the time to be the leader you wish to be. How you will be remembered may well reflect on how you handle this situation. Will you preside over a nation torn by chaos and strife, a nation where those who grew up side by side fight to the bitter death over skin colour, over ideology, over religion? Or will you be the one to overcome the odds and unite us against the greatest threat to our way of life?

How you will be remembered is in your hands, Prime Minister. If you must come down on the opposition, show us fairness and come down hard on everyone who threatens the peace of this nation, who challenges the Federal Constitution, who gives a bad name to Malaysia. If you will not, you risk being remembered as someone who, like Nero of Rome, fiddled away while his country burned to the ground. Be our Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and

Kamil Jaafar’s Tribute to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew


March 26, 2015

READ THIS:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/03/lee-kuan-yews-singapore

It is an impressive record of achievements.–Din Merican

Kamil Jaafar’s Tribute to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

by Tan Sri Kamil Jaafar*

Singapore’s first Prime Minister transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World country. And he took all steps to protect the country from outside threats.

AMONG the leaders of our region for whom, for different reasons, I have great respect and even admiration, are the late President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, President Sukarno of Indonesia, and King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew  also falls into this category of leaders of our time, and his passing away is certainly a loss for the region.

This was a man who transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World country. In his dealings with the world at large, he was truly a remarkable statesman.

The British, in their military wisdom, created fortress Singapore, but soon found out that their guns were pointing the wrong way. Lee, in his time, also created fortress Singapore. Only this time, the guns are pointing the right way. Johor.

It is understandable that he took this position as, in his mind, the geopolitical realities indicated that the threat could come from Malaysia and, by extension, from Indonesia. Being surrounded by a Malay world could, in time, lead to instances of instability that would threaten the young nation of Singapore.

This is the siege mentality that the former Foreign Ministry secretary-general, Tan Sri Kadir Mohamad, mentions in his book, Malaysia-Singapore Fifty Years of Contentions.

This siege mentality led Lee to state to the Malaysian Chief of Armed Forces in 1990 that “… he would not hesitate to move his troops if in any future Malaysian Government, such as one controlled by the Islamic Opposition Party, should ever threaten to cut off the island’s water supply …”

The mutual suspicion and mutual mistrust led to this uneasy and testy relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. From Malaysia’s standpoint, we never entertained any aggressive intentions towards Singapore. There were never any reasons for Malaysia to do that.

We have already removed several irritants in our bilateral relations. There is still unfinished business to tackle but I believe we can now sort things out in ways that would work for the benefit of both countries.

We already made a good start in putting ASEAN as a basis of a constructive and meaningful relationship. I do not think we will want to destroy what we have built through hard work and sweat.

Lee and Deng

Finally, we cannot forget that it was Lee, looking at the geopolitical realities of the time, who advised China’s Deng Xiaoping in 1980 that having the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) radio station broadcasting from Chinese soil “… was not a good indicator of China’s warming relationship with ASEAN”.

Deng subsequently told the CPM leader, Chin Peng, to transfer the  station out of China. It was moved to Thailand. For that we can be thankful to Lee Kuan Yew.

Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar is a former Wisma Putra secretary-general (1989-1996) and former counsellor at the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore (1968). The views expressed are his own.

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25


March 25, 2015

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Group of 25Malaysia will send a signal to the world that it has abandoned moderation should the PAS-led Kelantan government be allowed to enforce hudud in the state, said the G25, a group of retired high-ranking Malay civil servants who want a rational discourse on Islam.

The group said Malaysia would be seen as a country governed by religious laws that were subjected to the interpretation of clerics, and urged Putrajaya to protect the Federal Constitution as the country’s supreme law.

“Since Independence, this country has chosen the path of moderation. The Prime Minister has continued to steer the government along this path and has launched the Global Movement of Moderates to show to the world that the country is committed to the principle of moderation.

“The imposition of PAS’s hudud laws will signify to the world that Malaysia has abandoned the moderate path. We will be seen as a country governed by religious laws which are subjected to the vagaries of interpretation of the ulama who are also fallible human beings,” G25 said in a statement.

The group said that a multiracial country with an open economy like Malaysia could not afford to alter the secular character of its Constitution to allow for the implementation of PAS’s hudud enactment.

G25 added that it supported Dr Chandra Muzaffar’s view that the Federal Constitution was not un-Islamic, and said any attempt to amend the Constitution to allow hudud’s implementation would violate the Malaysia Agreement.

It also raised doubts as to whether Kelantan’s hudud law, as detailed in the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code (11) Enactment, 1993 (Amendment 2015) would succeed in upholding justice, given the diversity of juristic interpretations of the law.

G25 added that the Kelantan government was pushing for hudud without even having met the conditions required for its implementation, as outlined by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Chairman of the World Union of Muslim Scholars.

Al-Qaradawi had said that a society must ensure the economic needs of the people were met, employment opportunities were provided for all, and poverty was eradicated before hudud could be enforced, said G25.

“In light of the above elucidation by Sheikh Qaradawi, can any state in Malaysia claim to have satisfied the pre-conditions in order to allow for the implementation of Hudud?” said G25.

The group also cited Islamic scholar Professor Hashim Kamali, who analysed PAS’s original 1993 enactment and found that it “failed to be reflective either of the balanced outlook of the Quran or of the social conditions and realities of contemporary Malaysian society”.

Hashim, who heads the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), also said, “the Hudud Bill exhibited no attempt to exercise Ijtihad (creative thought) over new issues such that would fulfil the ideals of justice and to encourage the development of a judicious social policy.”

G25 said that a perusal of the 2015 hudud enactment revealed it continued to emphasise punishment rather than repentance and rehabilitation as espoused in the Quran.

“Many other prominent Muslim scholars such as S.A.A. Maududi, Salim el-Awa, Muhamad al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Zarqa and Cherif Bassiouni have opined that the application of hudud as an isolated case without providing the necessary context and environment is not only unrealistic, but is more likely to induce the opposite result and frustrate, rather than satisfy, the Islamic vision of justice and fair play.

“In addition, they emphasise that the Hadith, as recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari, and which is also a legal maxim, provides that Hudud must be suspended in doubtful situations,” said G25.

Hadi3PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private member’s bill in Parliament during the current sitting ending April 9, which, if passed, would allow the Kelantan government to enforce hudud in the state.

The bill is to amend the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965, which limits the power of the Shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM5,000 in fine, three years’ jail and six strokes of the rotan.

An amendment is required in this law to enable Kelantan to carry out hudud law, after the state assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (Amendment 2015).

If tabled in Parliament, Hadi’s private member’s bill only needs the support of 112 MPs, or a simple majority, for it to be passed if the full house of 222 MPs are sitting.

Barisan Nasional (BN) has yet to issue an official statement in support of hudud, while BN Back Benchers Club Chief Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the 87 Muslim UMNO MPs and 10 Muslim PBB MPs may vote based on their conscience.

However, UMNO MP Datuk Nur Jazlan has already stated he will not support the enforcement of hudud, while Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz became the first minister from the party to dismiss attempts to implement hudud in Malaysia, saying such talk was “stupid” as it could never legally happen.

De facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri yesterday, similarly dismissed the chance of hudud being implemented in Kelantan, saying the private member’s bill on the issue will not get a single vote from Sarawak lawmakers in Parliament. –
– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/hudud-laws-will-signal-malaysia-has-abandoned-moderation-says-g25#sthash.4yJaYLbV.dpuf