Ambiga talks to Cmdr (rtd) Thayaparan

March 24, 2016

Ambiga talks to Cmdr (rtd) Thayaparan

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”– Edward Abbey

“The progressive agenda of civil society will never change”. Yes,  Dato’Ambiga, but it is badly compromised when you allowed the former tin pot dictator to take the lead of the movement. He is the cause of our malaise. How can you and your associates (Maria Chin, Cynthia Gabriel, Hishamuddin Rais be so naive. –Din Merican

In a two-part interview, HAKAM President Ambiga Sreenevasan discusses the recent Citizen’s Declaration, articulates the need to reach out and move beyond partisan rhetoric and makes it very clear that the struggle for a just Malaysia is journey that everyone needs to make.

She is a passionate advocate for reform but does not allow polemics to get in the way of reasoned discourse.

We often hear from people who oppose the policies of former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. However, there are people who support him and his policies. How do you reconcile the progressive agendas of civil society and the underlying ideology of the former Prime Minister and those who support him, including ordinary citizens?

The progressive agenda of civil society will never change. Neither will the events of the past which has led us to our current situation.

Members of civil society and I have spent so many years of our lives fighting this government for the problems that have resulted in the current crisis we are facing. (Social activists) Maria (Chin)’s husband and Hisham (Rais) were held under the ISA. Why did we (including Cynthia Gabriel) choose to sign this Citizens’ Declaration?

The rallying point is that the country is on the brink of destruction and something has to be done and done now. If indeed we have all agreed that there is a crisis facing the country, the only issue that remains is what do we do about it?

What we are seeing with the Citizens’ Declaration is an alignment of diverse forces to face a crisis. What we need to do is to set aside our obvious differences for a higher cause. We need to stop the ship’s captain before he steers us into the iceberg.

It is also about appealing to a wider spectrum of people from both sides of the political divide and for them to know that it is okay to have differences but still work together to save the nation.

Don’t forget that whilst the reform agenda was largely suggested by civil society, everyone agreed to it and signed onto it. As far as we are concerned, there is consensus on the issue of reform.

History is replete with many examples of such temporary alliances that are formed to face and overcome an immediate danger.

In Malaysia, game changing political events always seem to happen in secrecy. Why were there no public consultations with citizens’ groups and publication of Mahathir’s original draft in the weeks leading up to the press conference?

Civil society was brought into the picture on the Tuesday before the signing (of the declaration) on Friday. There was little time for us to consult but we consulted as many people as we could.

We know that it was not extensive but we were working on a short timetable. We are now reaching out to our friends in civil society so that they can ask us questions and understand why we did what we did. We owe it to them to explain our actions.

Given the nature of the declaration, I am not in the least surprised that it was not disclosed widely to the public. If it was widely and openly discussed, I am certain it would not have seen the light of day.

What does civil society groups gain by aligning with the former Prime Minister who was the cause of the systemic dysfunction we now face?

First, this is a declaration signed by citizens. There are those in civil society who have said they will not sign the declaration but equally, there are those who are prepared to do so.

Ultimately, the advantage to civil society that I see is to ensure that in this move to bring change, the reform agenda is not left out of the conversation. Then there is the issue of (jailed opposition leader) Anwar Ibrahim. That too must be on the table.

The other advantage is that we now have an opportunity to reach out to a different audience and speak about the need for reform. There was a time when BN supporters would not hear of any reform.

We now have a chance to reach out to them to bridge this gap, to lessen the distrust and to get them to hear us out. To me, that is a big step forward.

In response to the scepticism from certain quarters, you said, “What is important is that we have someone committed to reform”. My question is, this declaration has its foundation in UMNO’s internal schism, how credible is the argument that the anti-Najib forces are willing or capable of instituting systemic reforms?

(I do not recall making that statement in precisely those terms!)We are not in power, so it is impossible to promise change as some people want us to. We cannot guarantee anything. What we are trying to do here is to galvanise people’s power to make a difference.

Whilst I understand the skepticism that the anti-Najib forces who come from the BN-UMNO background will institute systemic reforms, I do believe there is a shift in the thinking to some extent. Some of them have themselves suffered the effects of institutional failure and in particular the clamping down on free speech.

It must be clear that we are facing a crisis due to a failure of the institutions and rampant corruption. Hence the need to reach out and convince them of this at a time when they are prepared to listen.

True reform is only possible when the majority of the people of Malaysia, on both sides of the political divide, see the need for it and demand it. If this means forging a temporary alliance to make this happen, so be it.

The original draft only paid lip service to reform, is this not a warning sign that the primary purpose is dislodging Najib and not serious systemic reform and how do the movers behind this declaration hold those who signed accountable for their actions or inactions?

First, I disagree that it was mere lip service.All the signatories have signed up for the reform and the opposition members and civil society must ensure it becomes a reality. Whilst the main agenda for some may be the removal of Najib, this is in my view, a necessary first step in any event.

This Prime Minister should not remain for all the reasons that are obvious to us. We have to take it on faith that those who signed the declaration will also ensure that they keep their word on reform. If they do not, then we will continue our fight. We will be no worse off than we are now in that regard.

Further, I do not believe that it will reflect well on the signatories if they ignore the reform agenda.

The best way to ensure reforms is to convince the public whom we speak to that it is vital for the survival of our beloved nation. This is the reaching out I spoke of earlier. These are the conversations across the political divide that we need to have. The Citizens’ Declaration gives us the opportunity to do that.

Tomorrow: Ambiga talks about countering negative perception on working with Dr M.


12 thoughts on “Ambiga talks to Cmdr (rtd) Thayaparan

  1. As Sanusi said, Citizen Declaration will not bring Najib down so it in no way lead the reform movement or lead the change in this country so Mahathir does not really lead..Making the Citizen Declaration adds to UMNO’s disintegration – that helps with change.

    What the Citizen Declaration real problem is it does not really deal with the single most important factor propping up Najib – Hadi’s PAS.. While Hadi’s PAS is not part of it, it does not take them on..That is a guarantee that the Citizen Declaration does not lead the change in this country..

  2. Hadi is not the main factor in propping up Najib. UMNOb is, lest you forget that Najib became PM because he is President of UMNOb and UMNOb elected reps made him PM and only UMNOb elected reps can remove him as PM.
    Hadi is just taking advantage of the infighting in UMNOb to further his agenda. He’s a wily coyote this PAS leader.

  3. There is an inherent assumption that Dr M does not care that it was him who planted the seeds of the monster UMNO Baru. As we age, we ourselves have come to realize of our mistakes of younger years and zeal to do good by taking shortcuts and those shortcuts in hindsight were a bigger mistake. No matter how cunning Dr M is, I believe that he has come to that point in life, where the riches and power no longer matters, but that history will remember him as a savior of the country does. Even he should know that if his son is to take the helm, what good would that be if the country is completely bankrupt? Malaysians can no longer be risk adverse in taking up a challenge to change the course of where the country is heading. Divided, we will not change this country for better.

  4. “Hadi is just taking advantage of the infighting in UMNOb to further his agenda.” OM

    Yup, i’ll second that. But his ‘halal’ goose is also cooked when it comes to the urban and semi-urban constituencies. PAS is about to implode, as the confusion is growing day by day. You can’t tame a drunk camel, my friend. But i guess his focus was always the rural heartland of the Peninsula and his approach is a classic medieval Arabic war stratagem.

    However, the rapprochement with the moderates will be long and arduous, should the ‘impossible’ happen. I guess it really depends on the number of stents floating around his coronaries and sheer determination.

    Jibros may’ve bit off more than he can chew.. FLOM is not pleased. PKR, esp the Azmin faction seems to be able to see thru the feint, while DAP is keeping up ‘pretenses’. Whoever said that ‘democracy’ is predetermined by ‘Bangsarites’?

  5. “As Sanusi said, Citizen Declaration will not bring Najib down”….true.

    For perspective, the current number of CD signatures is fewer than Teresa Kok’s majority in her Seputeh seat alone.

    We’ve seen online petitions aplenty; they will plateau at 50K or so. Even the Free Anwar one just scraped past 110K.

    It’s really just symbolic – either a warm-up, or the sputtering end in itself. And with the PAS-Ikatan sham marriage designed purely to split votes at UMNO’s command, the prospects for change in GE14 are far worse, even though Najib’s situation is likewise far worse.

    What happens next is critical, but “what happens next” may just be a brutal sweep against all forms of Opposition.

    The country is “led” by a certified criminal.

    We always have to remember that.

  6. No all people who oppose to Citizens’ Declaration are due to Dr. Mahathir’s leading the pack. I oppose the Citizens’ Declaration because it clearly intents to remove PM from within UMNO without genuine parliamentary impeachment process, and intents to start a coup that violates (may I say, rape) the Constitution. Dr. Mahathir just happens to still believe he lived in the ’60, ’70, and ’80, where he could start Malay-styled covert coups whenever he liked to do so.

    The last thing that Dr. Mahathir can serve the country is to be the bad guy supporting the coup and failing to execute the coup when vast majority of people actively reject the coup. Malaysia politics would reach its next level of maturity when it rejects coup even if that rejection means to stand by Najib who is accused of, and most likely is actually marred with, corruption.

    Ambiga’s prognosis of Malaysia situation is way off. She argued that “it must be clear that we are facing a crisis due to a failure of the institutions and rampant corruption.” Keeping in mind that Najib still enjoys 44% approval rating – not horrible compared to other democratic countries – and our economy still enjoys 5% growth rate, the so-called crisis does not justify a coup. The cost of a coup is steep because a successful coup signals this generation still believes in anarchy, not constitutional system.

    The choices of Malaysia are bad, but are clear: orgy in raping the Constitution or work mostly fruitlessly to contain corruption.

    Only the leftist progressive will justify the coup with so-called higher principles. When pressed with what they mean by higher principles, they mumble “human right and democracy”, not knowing the Constitution is the foundation needed to nurture the “human right and democracy” in the first place.

  7. CLF Hadi the wily coyote is an opportunist. He wants to take advantage of the chaos in UMNOb to secure a bigger foothold in the Malay heartland. He’s a pusher offering the religion dope to the kampong folks. Unfortunately he doesn’t have what it takes to administer a state especially Trengganu.
    You had indicated a desire to bum around the beaches in Trengganu, but not too close to Rusila or Rhu Rendang as Hadi has a house besides the mosque there.
    UMNOb in its desperation in maintaining the power to rule will even go to bed with the devil much less the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party. HAdi feels his offer of engagement or bertunang will not be rejected by UMNOb. He is a very unprincipled politician. He forgets that the Oil Royalty that became Wang Ehsan cost him the state government.

  8. “…..not knowing the Constitution is the foundation needed to nurture the “human right and democracy” in the first place.”

    Ok. Please demonstrate how this declaration is unConstitutional ?

  9. Conrad,

    Behind this declaration, it is again an attempt to remove PM from within UMNO’s internal politics. This is unconstitutional. The attempt to remove PM from within UMNO’s internal politics is yet disguised as people’s declaration as if the Constitution allows removing PM through a declaration when there is no such provision in the Constitution. Such disguised coup is stated in item 36 of the declaration:

    36. For all these reasons, we, the undersigned citizens of Malaysia agree and support:

    a) The removal of Najib as PM of Malaysia through non-violent and legally permissible means.

    b) The removal of all those who have acted in concert with him.

    The Constitution is very specific about how to remove a PM. If the intent of the drafter is in alignment with the Constitution, there is no need to use a vague phrase as in “legally permissible means”; it should just say “election” or “parliamentary no confidence vote”. The item 36.b reveals even more of the coup attempt since many people work in concert with a PM and many of them are not even elected official; The question is how election or “parliamentary no confidence vote” could remove all those who have acted in concert with him? Answer: this is a precursor of a coup.

  10. Apologies from the late reply Shiou.

    You have yet to demonstrate how this CD is unconstitutional. There is nothing “vague” about the term “legally permissible means” nor is it unConstitutional to demand that a sitting Prime Minister and his cohorts be removed by his party.

    Legally permissible means includes those mechanism which you mentioned but also any other legal means of the State and the PM’s political party.

    By your warped definition any calls for removal would be deemed “unconstitutional”. In fact I would argue that your definition, is fascist in nature.

    Your attempt to subvert the meaning of the CD, to suit your narrative of an attempted coup is worrying. Not as worrisome as your obliviousness to the reality that the only party subverting the Constitution is UMNO.

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