Pakatan Rakyat and the Future of Malaysia’s Two Party Democracy

February 12, 2015

COMMENT: With Anwar Ibrahim back in Sungei BulohDin MericanY2 prison can Pakatan Rakyat coalition hold, given the strong and uncompromising stands taken by the secularist DAP and the theocratic PAS? That is the question. Without the glue that was responsible for making the Pakatan Rakyat coalition of PKR, PAS and DAP a reality, it is difficult to envisage an alternative force that can take over from the present regime that had held power since Independence. The spirit of 2008  that galvanized Malaysian voters has been extinguished. That is the sad truth.

I am personally not optimistic that a two-party system as presently constituted if PAS is obsessed with the hudud and DAP is uncompromisingly secular can be viable. So in the run up to the next General Elections, Pakatan Rakyat must get its act together and settle their ideological differences that can cause it to implode. A house that is deeply divided cannot stand.

UMNO-BN strategists knew the secret to weaken and eventually break up Pakatan Rakyat. They persecuted and put Anwar Ibrahim out of action, and continue to play the religion and race card to entice PAS to join their ranks in common cause. It is, therefore, naive to think that a two-party system as presently constituted can be a viable one.–Din Merican

Pakatan Rakyat and the Future of Malaysia’s 2-Party Democracy

by R B Bhattacharjee–The EDGE MALAYSIA

Malaysia's opposition leaders hold hands at the end of their People's Alliance conference in Shah AlamDAP’s Lim Guan Eng, Anwar Ibrahim and PAS’s  Hadi Awang

Although it has become common to acknowledge that a two party system has emerged in Malaysia following the unprecedented setbacks faced by the Barisan Nasional coalition in the 12th. and 13th. General Elections, recent events show that there is a long way to go before that concept can be said to have taken root in the country’s democratic system.

No doubt, the opposition parties had set aside their visceral differences to form an electoral pact in the run-up to the 12th general election in 2008. And following the surprise gains that they made in that election, Democratic Action Party (DAP), Pan Islamic Party  of Malaysia (PAS) and the People’s Justice Party (PKR) showed much promise as a new political force when they came together to form the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in order to establish the state governments in Selangor, Penang, Perak (at that time) and Kedah, besides Kelantan which  was already being administered by PAS.

Anwar-UbahThe Slogan for 2008 General Election

With five states under their control, it did seem for a while that Pakatan Rakyat was on its way to become an alternative  to the entrenched  political infrastructure created by Barisan Nasional.

Certainly, the groundswell of support for the opposition parties was an unmistakable sign that the people had become impatient to change the patronage of the ruling government for a new brand of politics that does not take voters for granted. At the same time, no politician worth his salt would be blind to the fact that voters would be looking for signs that the opposition coalition was intrinsically cohesive before they would be convinced about backing its bid to take power at the federal level.

Subsequently, it seemed that Pakatan Rakyat only needed to build on a common policy platform, grow its grassroots machinery, attract enough talent and avoid pitfalls that Barisan Nasional had fallen into to ultimately inherit the mantle of power from a political establishment that was showing serious of dysfunction.

Since the sea of change in voter sentiment in 2008, however, the Pakatan Rakyat grouping has come under severe strain on a number of fronts that collectively pose questions about its viability as an alternative federal government.

The well-aired conflict between DAP and PAS over the notion of Malaysia as an Islamic nation versus the supremacy of the secular Constitution is perhaps the most divisive of the issues that foreshadow the unmaking of Pakatan Rakyat. Not that the cluster of issues around this theme does not impact the Barisan Nasional too, but the dominant role of of UMNO in the coalition means that dissonance in the ruling coalition is very much muted by comparison.

The Islamic nation controversy illuminates the difficulties  confronting Pakatan Rakyat in its efforts to establish an inclusive political institution that can govern Malaysia’s diverse population without falling back on the self-defeating divide-and-rule paradigm that has become the default political culture particularly in recent years.

Hadi AwangPAS  is committed to Hudud

Far from clearing the way to build a race-blind, religious-blind society, DAP and PAS, which have been at loggerheads for decades over the establishment of a shariah-oriented administration, could only disagree to disagree on the matter in 2008 when it was expedient to announce the formation of Pakatan Rakyat as an emergent coalition bedecked with a string of states under its control.

Allah Issue SupportersThe Allah Issue

This is just not good enough, as demonstrated by their endless bickering over a slew of inter-ethnic and inter-religious issues that have bubbled up of late. Since the 12th general election in particular, the many difficulties between shariah and secular institutions show that the overlapping of theocratic and secular jurisdictions is an inherently problematic proposition.

So, it is almost inevitable that a political coalition that juxtaposes secularist and theocratic  parties will become undone when it comes to a crunch. This is clearly the story of Pakatan Rakyat’s journey until now.

To conceptualise a political system that can survive the competing pressures of secular and theological worldviews, there is effectively no alternative to the separation of religious and state powers. The lessons of history, from church-state relations of Medieval Europe to the record of contemporary Islamic states, are quite clear on this score.

This means that the Pakatan Rakyat parties have to embark on a voyage of discovery to chart new territory that circumvents potential whirlpools of conflict in a multicultural society. Only when it has mapped the extent of this new sphere can it present to voters a workable alternative model to the current one that puts one group against another in a perpetual cycle of acrimony.

It is necessarily a work in progress. explored one area at a time, with each emerging issue between individuals, institutions and society in a variety of combinations pointing to gaps that need fixing, rights that need acknowledgment and duties that must be performed.

To expect an overnight alliance forged  in the heat of an electoral triumph to withstand the assault  of a political establishment that has been in control over five decades is in itself wishful thinking. Perhaps, it may even entail a deconstruction of current political parties and coalitions to allow new thinking about contentious issues to emerge. This is a work to be undertaken for the long term, with the interests of the coming generations in mind.

The Pakatan Rakyat leadership council cannot be expected overnight to resolve such a fundamental issue  that goes to the heart of power relations, socio-cultural  pluralism and concepts such justice and equity, among other things. Rather, Pakatan Rakyat leaders may give themselves some breathing room if they merely acknowledge that their mixed marriage is on the rocks.

Selangor’s Political Quandary : How did we get there ?

January 29, 2014

Selangor’s Political Quandary: How did we get here?

by Nathaniel Tan@

In December 2013, a man named Zul Hilmi was beaten within an inch of his life while detained by the Penang police. He may be incapacitated for life. Last week, 6,000 migrants were rounded up by the authorities, only a quarter of which were found to be undocumented and arrested. Nobody knows how many were victims of abuse and shakedowns.

This year, prices of basic goods and utilities continue to skyrocket, further breaking the backs of Malaysia’s working classThe country is falling to pieces, and what dominates our headlines?

dsai14PKR’s internecine struggles. I wish we could ignore it wholesale, but being weak and human, it seems I too, will be adding my voice to this regretful din. It seems to me that the dreaded day has come – the day where sanity deserts us in favour of much less savoury pursuits, the day that the line is at last crossed.

It’s been an emotional week or so, but I shall do my best to leave that out of this article for now, which will likely be the first in a series. For today, let’s just take a relatively impassive look at the road that brought us here, and do our best to see what is going on for what it truly is. After the recap, perhaps we’ll be in a better position to do more detailed analyses.

I must confess, I have been out of the state government loop for all the months since I lost my job there, and out of the party loop for years. The following is based on what I read in the same news everyone else reads, and a little based on my personal observations of the movers and shakers in this game over the years.


Let’s begin with a chronology. The first shot in this latest round of conflict comes in the form of a Sin Chew Daily report last week, saying that the PKR Supreme Council has decided to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Menteri Besar of Selangor.(It has been a running joke that PKR supreme council meetings are perhaps the least secret meetings in the country. If you want some information to leak, that’s the best place to table it.)

The following day, PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution held a press conference saying: No such thing, Khalid continues as MB.A while after that, Sin Chew sends out a mass SMS blast to its subscribers, saying that Khalid has resigned as MB. This very quickly turns out to be untrue, and a glaring embarrassment for Sin Chew.

Fast forward a few days, and Joceline Tan of The Star publishes an article saying that KhalidJoceline-Tan will soon make way for Anwar Ibrahim to take over as MB. At this point it was becoming like the boy who cried wolf. Imagine my disappointment when we were eventually forced to admit that Tan was, for once, more or less right.

The rumours ceased being rumours the minute Lee Chin Cheh stepped down as Kajang state assemblyperson. Some 18 hours later, Khalid announces at a press conference that Anwar will indeed be PKR’s candidate for Kajang.

This was a turning point for PKR, it certainly was for me personally.I cannot possibly state with confidence what really led to this sequence of events. I can only speculate, based on my views regarding the balance of probabilities (a term I learnt thanks to the Teoh Beng Hock legal team).

Azmin Ali wants to be MB, there are few things as obvious. He took this pursuit to the point of launching an open rebellion after GE13. Despite his failure, Azmin retained all his posts. While most seem to be concerned about his removal as Selangor state development agency PKNS director, I think the question we should be asking is; how did he retain the post for so long?

Had the roles been reversed, I’m certain Khalid would have swiftly and surely met the political fate that awaits all those guilty of treason and mutiny.

The reason the punishment for treason is so strong is obvious, as who would tolerate keeping such blatantly disloyal people around, much less in power. Not being punished, Azmin simply continued his efforts.

People also like to describe what is happening as the Khalid-Azmin spat. I’m less certain however. If someone walks up to you in the middle of the road, and starts punching you in the face, are you having a spat?

Things started heating up this year because of the upcoming PKR elections.A long time ago I compared Azmin to Michael Corleone, the Godfather. (Spoiler alert: At the end of the first movie, Michael – who appeared weak and timid as the new Godfather – suddenly launches a brutal set of surprise attacks, in which he simultaneously eliminates all his competitors with extreme prejudice.)

At first, it felt like Azmin was trying to employ the same tactic.Along with the “If you can’t convince them, confuse them” media hullabaloo regarding Selangor, the controversy surrounding another of Azmin’s competitors, Nurul Izzah Anwar, also came to light around this time.

Malaysiakini article quotes devoted Azmin man Eekmal Ahmad as tweeting: “I don’t care who marries whom, who has a scandal with whom and why they were unfaithful. That is not my business.I have heard of this divorce issue awhile ago, and it is said that there is a third party. I don’t care about that. You live your life…”

If these words truly were as quoted, than they represent nothing more than disgusting, rank, hypocrisy. There is nothing more repellent than appearing to take the moral high ground while so blatantly spreading malicious gossip.

The question then becomes: Did the timing of these revelations indicate that this was yet another prong of the Godfather-style attack?

Conspiracy theories

Coming back to Selangor: Lee Chin Cheh was an Azmin-linked man who replaced the more independent-minded, well-regarded Lee Kim Sin in Kajang – one of the three seats in Selangor (the other two being Semenyih and Kota Damansara) in which I speculate Azmin’s politicking led to disastrous results.

Lee – to the best of my knowledge – is also the only man to be asked: Were you the one who made the leaks to Sin Chew? He vehemently denied the accusation.Lee was also ultimately the man who turned rumours into reality, with his resignation.

One could be forgiven for interpreting everything that happened up to this point as part of some Azmin-masterminded scheme.The twist comes when Anwar was in fact announced to be the candidate for Kajang.

This implies two possibilities. The first is that Azmin pushed for a compromise candidate,MB Khalid Ibrahim seeing that he could not unseat Khalid himself. Perhaps he hoped for a more pliant MB, who would be aligned to his interests.

While possible, I think the facts do not support this interpretation. Looking at the fallout, I believe that it is more likely that Azmin has always had his eyes on the throne, and has no intention of letting anyone besides himself occupy it.

Reading between the lines, I speculate that the truth is closer to the following. Anwar has begun to fear Azmin greatly, and is no longer confident of his own position. Instead of backing Khalid as an alternative to Azmin, it appears he is unwisely giving in to the endless complaints of PKR politicians about Khalid, who have never been satisfied with Khalid’s stubborn stance that principles trump political pragmatism.

(I can practically see said politicians – many of whom I have been honoured to consider friends – jumping up and down at such a characterisation. It saddens me, but be that as it may, we’ll save for another time the details about how it is only people in politics who have expressed serious dissatisfaction with Khalid.)

Anwar  along with many PKR liberals the rest of us love to love, has always seen little political capital to be gained from backing Khalid.

Azmin has a sizeable team of his own, which he maintains with an almost beautiful, strict adherence to the most traditional principles of feudal politics, but many people in PKR simply do not like or trust him either.

220px-Anwar_Ibrahim-editedSo, this team starts to think of a third alternative. Eventually, demonstrating the complete loss of perspective that infects far too many in the industry of politics, somebody says: How about Anwar for MB? (Is this a testament to his ability to make enticing promises about what will happen when he controls Selangor’s resources?

There are pages to be written about why this is a bad idea, but for now, let us say that this idea seems to check off enough boxes of enough people in PKR that the idea becomes a reality.

Of course, Anwar – the man who said he would step down after GE-13 if Pakatan Rakyat did not win – vehemently denies wanting to become MB. Clearly, there must be another reason why he now wants to add Kajang assemblyperson to his list of duties.

(It is difficult, and probably very ungracious of me, to write these things of a previous employer who came and stood outside the police station in solidarity when I was arrested many years ago – something I will always appreciate. I have held my tongue for many years, and have never been given sufficient cause to speak ill. Yet I regretfully cannot stay silent forever.)

In denial

Azmin-KhalidAzmin wastes no time in putting on his spin. He is quoted as saying: “Anwar Ibrahim contesting there will send a message to the public that we are serious about Selangor and will use the state as a launchpad for Putrajaya.”

It would appear that PKR was not serious about Selangor previously. (Also, I like how people assume Anwar will win – but perhaps this was the plan of the Azmin camp all along, to finish Anwar off for good.Alternatively, perhaps at some later point, someone else will argue that instead of taking over the post, Anwar is being put there just to provide a counterbalance to Azmin, and so on and so on.

I am reminded of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the reduction of kangkung prices.These are all perfect examples of politicians who are submerged so deep in the foulness of their schemes, that they have quite literally lost touch with reality.

That they would imagine Malaysia’s collective stupidity to have reached the level where we would be swayed by such obvious rubbish is a sign that things have gone too far.

It is nothing short of sad that it has come to this. I personally feel that what has happened is a challenge to our integrity and conscience. I feel that we are being tested, to see if those who have been loyal to the cause all this while would blindly follow these ‘leaders’ anywhere.

If that is what they are expecting, they have another think coming. Politicians like to believe in grey areas, and there is merit to that sometimes; but quite frankly, sometimes black is black, and white is white.

NATHANIEL TAN found writing this article difficult and sad. He does not believe it is 100 percent proper for members of the party to say such things, and has thus with a heavy heart started making the necessary remedies.

UMNO’s Saifuddin calls for removal of Election Commission Chief!

by Eileen Ng
JANUARY 14, 2014

 Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Umno’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has joined the chorus calling for the removal of the Election Commission (EC) members, especially its chief, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.

He said there was a need for a new EC chairman, who was impartial, in the wake of the public’s loss of confidence in the commission.

“We need someone who is passionate, independent and who does not say things on behalf of BN,” he said, referring to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. “You are not helping BN anyway,” he said at an electoral forum last night.

Newly elected chairperson of electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 Maria Chin Abdullah had called for the removal of all EC members, citing loss of confidence.

She had said a petition drive would be launched to be delivered to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The statement came in the wake of an admission by former EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman that past redelineation exercises were designed to keep certain parties in power.

Abdul Rashid led the EC in managing six out of the 13 general elections, as well as four redelineation exercises.

Saifuddin, who is CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, said a more independent EC would enable both BN and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact to come together to negotiate on the proposed redelineation exercise.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the people had talked about reforming the EC for years and had even taken to the streets in support of electoral reforms.

He agreed that both Abdul Aziz and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, needed to be removed but noted that there was a “total mobilisation” by BN in defence of the two officials.

Rafizi said the lack of response from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Abdul Rashid’s admission was a manifestation of how BN was retreating instead of going forward towards bipartisanship to strengthen democratic institutions.

On the redelineation exercise, the first-term Pandan MP said PKR’s stand was that it should be done on a basis that ensured equitability and fairness rather than the number of seats.

“Any change has to be structural in nature. The dissatisfaction is not in the number of seats but how the seats were gerrymandered in such a way that Parliament does not represent the voices on the ground.”

He said the matter could only be resolved if all political parties agreed on an acceptance variance on the size of constituencies and an assurance that minority interests would be looked after.

Meredith L Weiss, visiting associate professor in Southeast Asia Studies at John Hopkins University, suggested that there was a need to come up with a mechanism on campaign financing to enable the EC to monitor not just candidates’ spending during general elections but also those who are donating to their campaigns.

Social activist Hishammuddin Rais alleged that the EC was doing a “con job” and that Pakatan Rakyat or any other alternative force would never win the general election if the same structure was in place.

“We need to change this,” he said.

Bersih– Art Harun’s Final Thoughts

July 14, 2011

Bersih – My Final Thoughts

Wise men profits more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.” – Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC) from Plutarch, Lives.

In my opinion, the biggest mistake that the government had made in the Bersih issue was to isolate a large section of society from itself, anger them and convert them into  Bersih sympathisers and/or supporters.

At some point of time before the Bersih rally – in my opinion it was about the time Pak Samad Said was hauled to the Police station – the Bersih movement had transcended its electoral reform objective into a full scale platform for the people to vent their frustrations, disappointments, angst and anger to the government.

Sasterawan Negara, Dato A. Samad Said

 To put it crassly, from that point of time, Bersih became a platform for many people to show their middle finger to the government, for whatever personal reason(s) they may have.

All the government had to do in the early days of Bersih 2.0 was to deal with Bersih and its demands. The demands were not about the escalating inflation and price of household items; not about Teoh Beng Hock or Sarbani; not about corruption; not about electricity rate hike; not about Astro price hike; not about the police, MACC or whichever agency.

The demands were just about a fair and just election or what was perceived by Bersih as such. That was it. It was politically related but not politically motivated. (For the uninitiated, there is a difference between the two). The fact that some opposition political parties were in solidarity with Bersih did not demote Bersih into a political party with the inevitable and attendant political baggage. 

The premise of Bersih was an idea, a thought. The idea was our election process is not fair. The resulting conclusion from that idea was that our electoral process needs reform or at least a change. That was all.

Being an idea, or a thought, Bersih operates and infects the masses insidiously. It is in their head that the idea is planted. It is not in their behaviour. A Bersih sympathiser or supporter, with the said planted idea, would not act in a way an Al-Qaeda member would. He or she was not going to strap C4 around his or her body, go to the mall on a Sunday, and buy the proverbial ticket to heaven by blowing himself or herself up.

Planted with that idea, a Bersih sympathiser or supporter would try to convince others that that idea was correct. That idea will infest and continue to infest.

The wearing of yellow t-shirts with the word Bersih was just a way or means employed by carrier of such idea to make known that he or she subscribed to that idea to the open world.

The yellow t-shirts were not even a manifestation of the idea which he or she carried.  With or without the yellow t-shirts, the idea still infests their mind. Similarly, the colour of the t-shirts, did not matter. It could have been pink for all they cared but the idea stayed the same. 

The idea, as I said earlier, was that the election process is not fair and it needs reform. And so, this was what, allegorically, the government was facing about a month before the rally. There were some yellow mosquitoes flying around in some wet markets; shopping malls; seminar rooms and o the streets. That was it. Nothing more.

It was like the proverbial bloody fly in the car cockpit. Irritating, yes. Annoying, yes. Threatening, absolutely not.

And how exactly did the government react to these handful yellow mosquitoes? Well, it took out some really large and heavy cannons and shot the mosquitoes!

The government firstly denied that our election process was not fair. That was okay. Because by doing that, the government was actually trying to supplant an opposing idea. But what it did later was beyond rationale. Any strategist, political or otherwise, worth his or her salt,  would cringe in disbelief.

It went out seizing the yellow t-shirts. People who wore the offending attire were arrested. How did arresting people wearing yellow and seizing the yellow item assist in erasing the idea which Bersih had planted? The idea was in the head. That idea did not reside in the yellow t-shirts.  That was  the government reacting according to the proverbial “marahkan nyamuk kelambu dibakar” (loosely translated, angry with the mosquitoes, burn the mosquito net) way.

First, the public reaction was one of disbelief. Soon it became a joke. The government, the police, the Home Minister and all else who were perceived to be the instigator to the act of banning the colour yellow became a big joke.

The joke then became even a bigger joke. That was when the government and its machinery, direct and indirect, embarked into phase two of their “war propaganda”.

I have stated in The Doctor is Not In that an oppressor would cling to every “fact”, even manufactured ones, to justify its oppression. I quoted Umberto Eco, in “Turning Back The Clock” who said:

“In general, in order to maintain popular support for their decisions, dictatorships point the finger at a country, group, race, or secret society that is plotting against the people under the dictator. All forms of populism, even contemporary ones, try to obtain consensus by talking of a threat from abroad, or from internal groups.” (emphasis is mine).

How true is that? Umberto Eco could have been talking about Malaysia actually. Did he have a digital crystal ball or what?

Barely recovering from shaking our collective head over the arrest of people wearing yellow, the government went into ape mode. Bersih was infiltrated by communists. It was also funded by Christian groups. Some Ministers and the Ploice then said there were evidence that Bersih had certain “foreign elements” bent on creating havoc and overthrowing the government.

All classic wartime propaganda. But really, who was at war? Nobody except for the government.

Sticking with the “war” theme, the government’s well known, but the most laughable and idiotic shit stirrer, Perkasa and its leader, Ibrahim Ali, launched a counter movement and called themselves Gerak Aman (Peace Movement, in English), with Ibrahim Ali as its “war general.”

So, we had a peace movement with a war general. And a war general without any war to go to. He then promptly issued a really peaceful statement, ie, the Chinese had better stocked up food and not come out to the street on July 9th.

This was followed by some silat organisation declaring that it will “wage war” against Bersih participants. The next day this organisation appointed itself as the “3rd line of defence” of Malaysia, an appointment which was duly accorded official approval by none other than the Prime  Minister himself later.

At this point in time, the government’s handling of the Bersih issue had moved from disbelief-dom, to jokes-ville and now to a surreal and burlesque town. The government had then managed to anger the Bersih sympathisers and supporters; isolated the Christians and Chinese; and turned itself into some kind of a mixture of Robin Williams and Russell Brand (no insult meant to Katy Perry, of course).

Ambiga, the  Chairperson of Bersih was instantaneously declared as an enemy of Islam. Quite how Bersih’s electoral reform agenda became intertwined with race and faith is quite beyond many to conjure. But enemy of Islam she was. That managed to isolate the non-Muslims and even the  thinking Muslims form the government’s stance.

 So, after that, the pesky yellow mosquitoes problem had turned into a full scale stampede of biblical proportion, joined in by the elephants, lions, tigers, snakes and what have you. Congratulations.

The climax of all of these – the mother of all fcuk ups – to me, was the mounting of roadblocks during the morning peak hours from Wednesday the 6th of July onwards.

By this time, even the normal apathetic middle-class Malaysians who could not even be bothered to register themselves as voters became agitated and upset.

This apathetic middle-class are a very comfortable lot. They will not move their ass to do anything if that would mean bringing themselves out of their comfort zone. Finding the TV remote control is bringing themselves out of  their comfort zone, to these people. They will not be arsed to do anything until and unless they become uncomfortable.

And of course, being stuck in a traffic jam in their second-hand BMWs, Benz and whatever was uncomfortable to them. And they told themselves, enough with this crap. I am going to show my middle finger to the police!

By this time, almost the whole section of the urban society was isolated by the government. Even the civil servants who were late for work were thinking of joining the rally.

Speaking of the police, apart from being busy carrying guns and waving the traffic to pass by, they managed to find parangs and molotov cocktails at Sogo. There you  have it. Bersih was bent on creating havoc.

Why parangs? Why not guns and bombs? And to think about it, the molotov cocktails were made in plastic bottles. Who in their right mind would make molotov in plastic bottles, hullo? From which university did the guy graduate? Off campus? Online course?

Disbelief. Joke. Burlesque. Ridicule. Anger.

What a transformation. The easiest thing to do was to fight the idea that our election process needs reform. That was all that was needed. An idea is fought by firstly, showing that that idea is not quite correct. Or that it was not credible. Then neutralise that idea with a better and more acceptable idea.

An idea is not fought by arresting the people having that idea. Or by banning a colour depicting subscription to  that idea. Or by declaring the person heading the movement perpetuating that idea as anti-Islam. Or that it was Christian idea. Oh my God. Fail!

Now, let’s not talk about what happened during the rally. Suffice if I say that the people joining the rally were not the hooligans they were made out to be. We all could watch all the YouTube videos and decide for ourselves.

The thing which I want to comment about is this. If the government’s handling of Bersih before the rally was beyond belief in its irrationality and unreasonableness, its handling AFTER the rally is not any better, if not far worse.

The IGP became a laughing stock when he quickly announced that only 6000 people attended the rally. Then the Home Minister chipped in to say the police was fair and in fact very restrain in their approach on the 9th of July. The Prime Minister said the police were a picture of tranquillity and displayed a monk-like attitude towards the rally goers.

Ha ha and ha.

KL Police: No tear gas fired into the hospital !!

The Minister Liow denied teargas was fired into compound of Tung Shin. Chua Soi Lek, not be left out, chipped in to say the police had to teargas the hospital in order to protect the patients. And today, 11 doctors from that hospitals states their willingness to affirm affidavits under oath that the police did in fact shoot water and teargas into the compound of the hospital on July 9. They said the Police even entered into the buildings to search for rally goers. (the full report is here).

The Prime Minister had left for the UK. The mainstream media went ape-like in blaming Anwar and mocking his injury. This obsession with Anwar Ibrahim is actually quite irritating. let me tell you all something. Most rally goers did not give a hoot about Anwar that day. That day was not about Anwar. It was about their middle finger which they had wanted to point to some others.

The international press – which of course, in the government’s book, are always bias and out to pursue their secret agenda against our country – have not been kind to the government. Even the Jakarta Post editorial (Malaysia is rich but not free) was not flattering. Yesterday, Bloomberg’s William Pesek was scathing in his opinion. Pesek is an influential writer and Bloomberg is a reference  point for many foreign investors. (his article is here). So, what’s the plan here?

Someone died during the rally. Have we heard a word of sympathy or condolence from the government’s side? I have not. All we had was the usual defensive “don’t blame me” statements.

Are we human? Or have we stopped being human? Since when?

Stepping forward to be of service to the public

By Neville Spykerman

SHAH ALAM, March 8 — They are young, smart and highly opinionated; pretty typical of young corporate climbers anywhere in the country. But these seven people have given up, or are putting on hold, promising careers in the private sector for public service in Selangor.

While some campaigned for political parties and were caught up in the euphoria of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) unexpected take-over of Selangor two years ago, others came on board simply to help make a difference and have remained apolitical.

There is 26-year-old Iliyas Jamil, formerly a management consultant with Shell Brunei, who now works as an economic development officer for the mentri besar’s office.

“In the career I left, I worked to improve a company. Here, I can make an impact on a state,” said the UK graduate — in economics — when asked what compelled him to take a pay cut for public service.

But it has not been smooth sailing all the way. Adjustments had to be made as everything in government — even if it is Opposition-led — takes a longer time.

“Previously I could just send out an e-mail, but here a letter may take a few days because I would need a reference number and everything needs to be filed.”

Making a difference (clockwise from left): Ginie Lim, Iliyas Jamil, Noor Amin Ahmad, Sangetha Jayakumar, Brian Yap, M. Devendran. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Iliyas, who is coordinating the state government’s Klang River rehabilitation and development project, added that he’s not involved in politics though.

Like Iliyas, Noor Amin Ahmad joined the state government to try and make a difference in Selangor.

The 28-year-old forestry and science graduate who previously was an associate with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs is now an assistant communications officer with the state.

“I may not agree with all the state’s policies but I believe I can bring about change from within,” he said.

Then there is Brian Yap 32, who gave up a better-paying job — he himself admits was more “fun” — because of his “belief in the country and its people” which he points out has been heading in the wrong direction for a long time.

“Talent is being wasted because of bad governance and corrupt leaders,” said the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong.

He admits though that working with the state government and its civil servants is not easy.

“It’s difficult to change things, but it’s necessary to get things done,” said the journalism graduate.

Yap, who worked as a writer/columnist and former editor of a lifestyle magazine, added he has always been interested in social-economic issues as well as politics. However, he is not a member of any party.

Law graduate Sangetha Jayakumar, 27, says she was in the middle of chambering during the last general elections and could not wait to join her father, Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar as a member of his staff.

“I could not just sit back after Pakatan Rakyat took over Selangor, I wanted to be involved.” said Sangetha, who has put a career in law on hold.

“My father never wanted me here, I want to be here,” she said.

However, she admits there have been moments where she feels frustrated and overwhelmed.

“While there are civil servants who work very well with us, there have been cases of clear sabotage.”

She said there was a state event where a book written by former mentri besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo was deliberately slipped into goodie bags which were to be handed out to participants.

However, Sangetha said such incidents have taught her to always be on her toes and vigilant.

Also working with Dr Xavier is 26-year-old finance graduate M. Devendran who is a field officer.

Formerly a database analyst, Devendran joined the state after he was retrenched during the economic down-turn last year.

“It’s been a fulfilling and learning experience, especially when dealing with the demanding public.”

Devendran, whose role includes disbursing funds to temples, said he sometimes faces unreasonable people who want more than the state can give.

“Sometimes they accuse us of being no different that the previous state government and don’t understand that we have our guidelines,” he said, adding that he has had to bite his tongue and accept the criticisms.


Mohd Rafizi Ramli (left) gave up a high-paying corporate job to be a civil servant because he did not want to be “an armchair critic.” — Picture by Choo Choy May

Mohd Rafizi Ramli, 33, formerly a general manager at Pharmaniaga Berhad but who now works with the Selangor economic adviser, said he “took the plunge” because he did not want to be an armchair critic.


“I believe you cannot be waiting on the sidelines if you really want to see change happen,” said the engineering graduate who went on to become a chartered accountant.

Coming from a corporate environment, Rafizi said he is still adjusting to government bureaucracy.

“In a company, speed is important but in government, it’s normal for decisions and processes to take a longer time.”

Journalism graduate Ginie Lim, 29, who joined the state government as its public relations officer last year, says her role provides her a platform to make a difference.

“I was initially reluctant to take up the position but I did try to promote ‘new politics’ which is not based on race but common values,” said the PKR member and party worker.

She said her task is sometimes hampered by bureaucracy.

Lim said she feels that civil servants in general want to get their jobs done but are constrained by the system.

“I am still learning how to get around the red-tape in order to get information out to the public and the press.”

While all seven of them continue to grapple with their new roles, one thing is clear. They are living example of what Gandhi said about change: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


March 8 sparked Spirit of Defiance

March 5, 2009

March 8 sparked spirit of defiance

by Aidila Razak

Two years since the opposition won five states in the 12th general election on March 8, 2008, the euphoria has all but died down, no thanks to rampant politicking on both sides of the spectrum.

Speaking alongside social activist Haris Ibrahim to a full house at the Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya last night, author Kee Thuan Chye made no bones about the sorry state of Malaysian politics.

But the author of bestselling book March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up said that Malaysians must regain the optimism to “make irreversible the trend to take Malaysia out of the dark ages”.

“After March 8, I hoped the government would undo the damage that had been inflicted on our country by the man who screwed up our institutions, created a culture of fear, fostered the negotiated contract, invested our money in white elephants – and still doesn’t know when to shut up,” said Kee, without naming the person.

He accused Barisan Nasional coalition leader Najib Abdul Razak of confusing Malaysians by simultaneously expounding national unity through the 1Malaysia concept and yet tacitly supporting Malay rights group Perkasa.

Malaysians now braver

Rather cheekily, Kee said the image of its MCA president Ong Tee Keat confined to a wheelchair – while recovering from knee surgery – while accompanying Najib on his Chinese New Year rounds, epitomised the current state of MCA.

Most disappointing, Kee noted, was the fact that Pakatan Rakyat too has failed to live up to their promises made during the run up to March 8, and failing to fufill their pledge to topple BN through defections in the Sep 16 fiasco.

NONE“(Pakatan leader) Anwar (Ibrahim)’s attempt to take over government on Sep 16…merely exposed his true ambition—to be prime minister, above all else… (Does Pakatan) have their act together or not? Can they be trusted?” he asked.

Having painted a gloomy picture, Kee however, changed tack by reminding them that March 8 has led to a fundamental change in Malaysian mindsets.

“Malaysians are becoming more courageous…we are struggling to shake off the culture of fear and I think we are succeeding. There is a new spirit of defiance now,” he said.

Kee noted that Malaysians are no longer afraid of racial and religious clashes, and are wise enough not to be provoked by groups marching with animal heads or desecrations of places of worship. The most precious gift that March 8 has given the nation, Kee said, was the gift of choice.

Choose without fear

“Choice is what we have now. We should exercise that choice – for the betterment of our country. And exercise it without fear,” he said to roaring applause.

NONEHe was followed by Haris who reminded the audience, who were mostly comprised of middle-class professionals not to turn a blind eye to marginalised groups.

The audience were so taken by the two speakers that some asked if they would represent them by standing in the next elections, and to change the system from the inside.

“I’d rather be on the outside and do what little I can because politics will compromise my principles,” replied Kee.

Haris, however, reluctantly appeased the audience by saying that he will stand for elections, but only if he cannot find another credible candidate to do so. The forum ended after two hours, leaving many disappointed with the short Q&A sesssion.

Zahrain’S Resignation: KeADILan Has No Place For Opportunists

February 12, 2010

LATHEEFA KOYA ,Information Chief, Parti KeADILan Rakyat : Press Statement

Parti KeADILan Rakyat views the resignation of Bayan Baru MP Dato Seri Zahrain Mohd Hashim with regret but not surprised, and recognises it as part of a necessary streamlining process to ensure that the party and its coalition partners in Pakatan Rakyat are best positioned to serve the people in the future.

Zahrain’s resignation is clearly a pre-emptive move as he is facing a disciplinary proceeding following his recent press attacks on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, and it is likely that he would have been sacked had he been found guilty. A show cause letter had been issued to him on 8th February 2010 requesting him to respond by 12th February 2010.

Parti KeADILan Rakyat recognises its duty to uphold the will of the people as expressed by the voters at the March 8, 2008 general election. Its stance is clear. Those who do not believe in the struggle for social and economic justice are not welcome in the party. The painful process of weeding out opportunists will have great long-term benefits to truly effect change in Malaysia.

This comes at a time when the party is facing many challenges because the ruling Barisan Nasional views it as a clear threat to its thus far unbroken hold on power. These challenges include the current trial of PKR leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on a unjust charge. At this time of increased pressure, those who are lacking in commitment may waver and leave the party, betraying the rakyat who elected them and exposing their true agenda.

However the party is determined to continue to hold its representatives accountable to the mandate entrusted to them by the people.