Permatang Pauh By-Election: Not a PKR Lily Please

April 22, 2015

Permatang Pauh By-Election: Not a PKR Lily Please

by Terence

COMMENT: Tomorrow PKR announces its candidate for the Permatang Pauh by-election. Nominations are for Saturday and polling is on May 7.

wan azizah 1If, as many expect, the choice is Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the party will have indicated that they are like UMNO – dependent on a reflex rather than an original proposition anytime.

Wan Azizah ought to be what she is qualified to be: a figurehead President of the party, placed there by reason of the travesties visited upon her husband by the powers-that-be.That placement is expedient: her aura of suffering is emblematic of the long drawn out travails of Anwar Ibrahim who, being out of public sight, needs someone in a lofty enough position in the party to reflect his privations in the public gaze.

But to employ Wan Azizah in a role that mistakes her aura for something more substantive would be self-deception, the way UMNO is condemned to permanent experience of the malady.

Presently, the country’s dominant political party is in the throes of choosing between the advice of the person singularly responsible for its woes and the nation’s and the assurance that all’s well that seems well from a man who is himself an product of the system well laid for it by his fiercest critic.

That not enough people in the party care to reflect on this mordant irony shows the depth of the hypnosis exerted on UMNO by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

After finding three Deputy Prime Ministers he essentially chose defective and two Prime Ministers that he actually selected dismally disappointing, his advice on prescriptive measures is being volunteered and may eventually be listened to.The fact that it is advice that must be taken to save the country from the Najib Abdul Razak-Rosmah Mansor imperium does not make it any less ironic.

After being a stand-in MP for three-terms for her disqualified-by-incarceration husband, and after having being supplanted in that role when Anwar was free of his legal trammels, Wan Azizah may yet again be deployed as a stand-in candidate for her spouse’s traditional seat.

Worse may well be in store. If she is successful in the by-election, the DAP may well consort with the rump of PKR that supports her to make her the stand-in Opposition Leader, in place of her gaoled husband, if only to keep PAS away from that role and also PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali from it.

If this article has reiterated the husband-and-wife relationship rather cloyingly, it is only to draw attention to the fact that PKR had set its face from birth in 1999 against not just the corruption and cronyism of UMNO-BN, but also its nepotism.

Unable to come up with another candidate? After 16 years of its existence, the party, if it fields Wan Azizah again in Permatang Pauh, would indicate that it is unable to come up with another candidate more suitable to stand-in for Anwar.

The party has such candidates but if it reflexively goes looking for one from within the Anwar family, it will be like its compatriots in Pakatan Rakyat, the DAP, who are as keen in establishing dynastic legacies around the families of Lim Kit Siang and the late Karpal Singh Deo.

Anwar IbrahimIf the PKR fields Wan Azizah, the party would be tone deaf to precisely what their iconic leader (above) has often warned them against: underestimating the intelligence of the masses, a quotation from Spanish thinker Ortega Y Gasset that Anwar often cites in his speeches.

It is in underrating the intelligence of the Malay voters in Permatang Pauh the last time they were asked for their opinion – in May 2013 – that Anwar incurred a 4,000-plus vote drop in his plurality.

He had slipped from a 15,000-plus vote majority in the by-election of August 2008 to an 11,000-plus majority in the general election of May 2013, losing in nearly all the Malay precincts in the state ward of Penanti, within the parliamentary one of Permatang Pauh.

This drop was incurred in an election where the tide of public sentiment ran strongly in favor of Pakatan Rakyat. One cause of the decline in the majority was the fielding of Dr Norlela Ariffin, an apology for a candidate. No use in reiterating who was responsible for the choice of Norlela.

The party has had to endure much mortification in choosing Norlela. Earlier this month, she had to be compelled by the PKR state leadership to call off a seminar she planned to organise on hudud for Muslim converts and had to be cautioned against publicly iterating her support for the PAS measure.

This argument against fielding Wan Azizah in Permatang Pauh could go on, but one finds no pleasure in shredding a lily.

Malaysia’s Creeping Authoritarianism – Wall Street Journal

The government arrests Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his daugther Nurul Izzah in 2012. ENLARGE
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his daugther Nurul Izzah in 2012.

Malaysian politics are moving down a dark path. A month after the country’s highest court upheld the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges of sodomy, police on Monday arrested Mr. Anwar’s daughter for violating the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law increasingly used to chill political debate.

Nurul Izzah Anwar’s apparent offense was to criticize the judiciary last week in Parliament, where she is opposition vice president. In addition to reading a statement from her father condemning his trial as a political conspiracy, Ms. Nurul Izzah condemned Malaysia’s Federal Court for “bowing to political masters” and being “partners in a crime that contributed to the death of a free judiciary.”

Western diplomats have also criticized her father’s prosecution. “The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar, and his trial, have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts,” the U.S. State Department said last month.

Mr. Anwar was convicted on similar sodomy charges in 1999, only to have the conviction overturned after six years in prison. This time his accuser met with senior government officials—including Prime Minister Najib Razak, then the deputy prime minister—days before the alleged incident, but judges blocked Mr. Anwar’s lawyers from questioning those involved.

Mr. Anwar is 67, so a five-year prison sentence and additional five-year ban from politics could end his career. His multireligious coalition won 53% of the popular vote in 2013 but never took power from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has controlled Malaysia during its nearly six decades since independence.

The persecution of the Anwar family is a further blot on UMNO’s reputation. Mr. Najib promised to repeal the Sedition Act in 2012 but has since used it against more than a dozen opposition politicians, academics and even cartoonists such as Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar. In November he proposed strengthening the law with new provisions “to protect the sanctity of Islam and other religions.”

Creeping authoritarianism won’t slow UMNO’s rising unpopularity among young people, urbanites and ethnic minorities. Nor will it help Malaysia’s ties with the U.S., which are important for combating terrorism; Malaysian police arrested 19 Islamic State supporters plotting attacks around Kuala Lumpur last year. Nurul Izzah Anwar and Anwar Ibrahim should be released for their own sake and that of a democracy sliding into repression.

Obama Urges Prime Minister Najib to apply the Rule of Law apolitically

March 13, 2015

Obama Urges Prime Minister Najib to apply the Rule of Law apolitically


Barack Obama

The White House today expressed its disappointment over Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s guilty conviction for sodomy, and urged Putrajaya to apply the rule of law to promote confidence in the country’s democracy, judiciary and economy.

In a statement following the close of a petition launched by former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott to press for Anwar’s freedom, the Obama administration said the worry was compounded by the Malaysian government’s intention to expand the sedition law against critics, despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promise to repeal it.

The statement said the US had made its concerns on Anwar’s conviction clear through statements and interactions with Putrajaya and would continue to do so.

“The initial decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar, the decision to appeal the not guilty verdict, and the overturning of that verdict raise a number of serious concerns about the rule of law and the fairness of the judicial system in Malaysia,” the White House statement said.

It added that the two countries were committed to work together on the economy and security challenges, but said Washington would continue to urge Malaysia to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently and apolitically.

“History has shown that countries that uphold the human rights of all their citizens, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation, are ultimately more prosperous and more stable, the White House said.

The petition for Anwar’s freedom achieved 113,122 signatures, more than the 100,000 required to qualify a response from the Obama administration.

The Federal Court on February 10 upheld Anwar’s sodomy conviction and his five-year jail sentence.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy said yesterday more than 60,000 signatures were removed from a counter-petition to the White House on Anwar because they originated from disposal email services.

From more than 70,000 signatures initially, the petition that took issue with the Washington’s stand on Anwar’s conviction was reinstated online with around 12,000 signatures.

“The White House did remove 60,789 signatures deemed to be fraudulent because a vast majority of those signatures originated from

“Other fraudulent signatures originated from trashmail, sharklasers, and mallinator – all disposable email services. Those fraudulent signatures occurred over the life of the petition,” the embassy added.

The counter petition was started nearly a month ago after the petition in support of Anwar’s freedom was launched.

It said Malaysians were “outraged” with the White House’s statement expressingJohn R. Malott2 disappointment with Anwar’s jailing, and told the US to “stop interfering in Malaysia’s judiciary and rule of law”.

Malott’s petition, “Make the release of Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison a top priority for US policy towards Malaysia”, was also temporarily removed after standard fraud checks by the White House erroneously identified it as a petition with fraudulent signatures.

The embassy clarified on Wednesday that it was not the free Anwar petition but the counter petition which had fraudulent signatures.

The counter petition, titled “Respecting the Sovereign Nation of Malaysia”, reached 12,612 signatures as of this morning.



Khairy Jamaluddin, Sports and Sodomy 2 Roadshow

February 23, 2015

Khairy Jamaluddin, Sports and Sodomy 2 Roadshow

by Mariam

Khairy Jamaluddin, the UMNO Baru Youth Chief, is smarter than we credit him. The fiercely ambitious Oxford graduate is taking the initiative, showing UMNO Baru that he can lead.
Khairy Jamaluddin

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is facing his worst nightmare. His spectre is a Malaysian in an Australian detention centre. Khairy needs to prove that he will be ‘prime minister material’ if the top post becomes vacant.

Khairy is showing signs of being bored with his day job as Youth and Sports Minister. After Malaysia’s dismal performance in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, Khairy’s focus should be on promoting and improving our performance in sport. He should engage more young Malaysians.

The Ambitious Shafee Abdullah

Proving that he has too much time on his hands, the Minister has instead organised a roadshow. His co-star is the lead prosecutor in the Sodomy 2 trial, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.  They are trying to convince the public that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s guilty verdict was a just one.

There is probably an ulterior motive to the roadshow. Shafee has his sights set on being the next Attorney-General, whilst Khairy is taking pole position in the race to be the Prime Minister.

To most UMNO Baru members, Khairy shows promise and this will probably upset Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein, whom many consider to be another potential Malaysian Prime Minister.

Hishammuddin’s credentials? He spoke English better than any of the government officials who gave press conferences for MH370. His popularity received a boost after photos of him were circulated, sitting in a cramped economy-class seat en route to a meeting in Australia.

Nevertheless, Khairy has other endearing qualities. He has political pedigree by virtue of his father-in-law, former PM Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Khairy’s English is heavily accented, unlike most of his peers. He was educated in Singapore (United  World College South East Asia) and England (Oxford), and spent his childhood globe-trotting as the son of a diplomat.


Appearance counts – Khairy wears bespoke suits, because he knows that to look good is half the battle, especially when impressing his design-conscious supporters. Most important of all, Khairy is a “real man”. The reservist in the Territorial Army  (above) underwent commando style training, and has obtained his parachute wings. When some tudung-clad Malay girls were hugged on stage by K-Pop performers, Khairy was dismissive and tweeted, “…I hope Malaysian girls return to tall, dark and handsome men and not pale, skinny and pretty men. Those are not real men.”

To his credit, Khairy did not ask the girls to be investigated, unlike some of his party members.

Has Khairy done enough?

At UMNO Baru’s last General Assembly in November, Khairy proved his racist credentials with his outburst against non-Malays, warning them not to question Malay rights. Despite his image of a tough guy, Khairy has a sensitive side to him. The traditional practice is for the UMNO Baru Youth leader to be given a ministerial role, but in 2009, Najib snubbed him. Dejected, Khairy hinted to reporters that he might go on study leave and not stand for election in GE13. Pigs can fly!

So, has Khairy – the Youth and Sports Minister – done enough to upgrade sporting facilities in schools, universities and public areas? How has he promoted a more healthy and productive lifestyle in our youth?

Has his ministry successfully discovered and nurtured young, sporting talents? Current stars like world squash champion Nicol David will eventually retire, and Lee Chong Wei is embroiled in alleged abuse of drugs. These – and other ageing stars – will soon have to be replaced. They do not have the qualities of Peter Pan, like some who are still members of ‘UMNO Baru Youth’ although middle-aged.

Does Khairy possess the political will to clean up doping and corruption in sports, especially in football? We need new faces and an injection of fresh, creative ideas to promote sports. Is Khairy afraid of getting rid of the deadwood amongst sports officials?

When will he persuade his party that racism in sports is bad? Before racism crept into the sports arena, there were sporting heroes from all the communities. Competition is healthy, and racism should also be avoided when selecting sporting officials.

Najib’s future is looking bleak and his problems are not caused only by his fiscal measures, his 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the goods and services tax (GST), or the Sodomy II fallout.

Perhaps, this roadshow is to make Khairy stand out from the crowd and prove his worth. Both Najib and Khairy know that in the dog-eat-dog world of UMNO Baru, there are enemies around them and it is difficult to distinguish friend from foe. Najib is aware that his adversaries are circling him, like hyenas waiting for the kill. The stakes are high. No one can be trusted and people are watching their backs.

Is Khairy trying to justify Anwar’s conviction or is he trying to promote himself?

For Permatang Pauh by-election, PKR should break mould

February 22, 2015

For Permatang Pauh by-election, PKR should break mould

by Terence

COMMENT: A recall of the immediate prelude to the sixth general election in April 1982 should help bolster the point of what needs to be done by PKR for the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election.

4th PM of MalaysiaThe then Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was shaping to dissolve Parliament, having been in office for nine months after succeeding retired Hussein Onn the previous July.

Requiring as a newly-installed PM a fresh mandate from the people, Mahathir caused a huge surprise by reaching across the political divide to induct Anwar Ibrahim, then ABIM President and nascent leader of the Malaysian opposition, into UMNO.

The sensation of that induction had barely time to recede when Anwar was announced as the party’s candidate to wrest the Permatang Pauh seat, held by PAS, in the polls scheduled for late April.

Until the announcement of his joining UMNO was made, Anwar had been more likely to become President of PAS upon incumbent Mohd Asri Muda’s retirement although he did not hold a position in the party and neither was he a member.

The year prior Anwar’s credentials as the fledgling leader of the opposition were highlighted by his leadership of an informal coalition of NGOs and political parties which protested the amendments to the Societies Act set for tabling in Parliament in its March sitting and viewed as detrimental to civil liberties.

No surprisingly, that effort did not succeed against the crushing majority commanded by the ruling BN though it garnered a lot of publicity against a backdrop of heightened public sensitivity to human rights issues.

What Anwar’s joining UMNO did was to remove a potential leader for the Malaysian opposition, it being axiomatic that no effort to supplant BN in the seat of government could succeed without it being led by a credible Malay leader.

With one surgical move, the astute Mahathir cut the ground from under the feet of an opposition which had begun to sense that BN’s lengthy incumbency was starting to erode its appeal among voters who had commenced, albeit belatedly, to appreciate the need for a denial of a two-third majority to the ruling coalition.

In sum, clever tactics and strategy, deployed in anticipation of looming trends, can obviate its detrimental effects to interests favored by the strategists. That move by Mahathir would delay by a good 16 years the rise of a credible Malay leader to steer the opposition and garner support for it.

Anwar IbrahimAnwar would yet become that leader, but only after he had supped for 16 years with the incumbents before being shunned by them in a most humiliating manner in 1998. Today that humiliation has not ceased and the methods of its stamping have not altered but it comes after a move akin to the one deployed by Mahathir in April 1982: subversion of the adversary through enticement.

It was Kelantan UMNO who told PAS after GE13 in May 2013 that it would support its plan to implement hudud. Almost two years later, the Islamist party is bent on the measure and is now ready to enact the preliminary legislative moves for the implementation of the Islamic penal code in Kelantan, to the acute dismay of its Pakatan Rakyat partner, DAP, and the quiet remonstrance of a third member of the coalition, PKR.

Trying to stop PAS, especially after a national meeting of ulama in Serdang this weekend, a body adamant for hudud in Kelantan, is like arguing with the deaf.

What then about the future of Pakatan, the opposition coalition on the cusp of something that was not imaginable in 1982 – the supplanting of UMNO-BN in the seat of power – hope for which glimmered in 1998 and now, a wearying 17 years later, is an imminent prospect, especially after Anwar’s renewed incarceration?

Frankly, it’s bleak if Pakatan, especially PKR and DAP, do not submit to the logic of one’s necessity which is to do something that will shore up the Pakatan ground and scythe it from under the feet of those within the coalition who are determined to row it into turbulent waters.

Right now, Pakatan is like a boat with oarsmen rowing in opposite directions – it will capsize. To prevent that calls for a move resembling Mahathir’s clever strategy in 1982 in turning Anwar from oppositionist to collaborator. The move was mould breaking, its panache stemming from the surprise of the gesture and its hint at promising possibilities.

Breaking new ground

PKR, with DAP support, can break new ground by loaning Permatang Pauh to PAS and fielding its Vice-President Husam Musa in the upcoming by-election for the seat vacated by a convicted Anwar.

Husam is under interdiction by the assertive ulamak wing of his party which seems determined to weed out progressives like him. This is a retrograde move by the ulamak, a move reflective of a mind-set that prefers ideology over reality, essence over existence.

If the blood-thirsty 20th century taught humankind anything it is that the irruption of ideology into political realities is the recipe for much political woe.

But the religious inebriates of PAS contend they are only going about God’s business which incidentally is what the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq say they are doing. Only a PKR move of panache and sensation akin to Mahathir’s 1982 move with respect to Anwar can waylay a PAS ulamak-driven gallop of Pakatan’s to the precipice.

PAS ulamak will doubtless not allow the move but what does that matter now that they are set to drive Pakatan apart while maintaining their fidelity to the coalition.

PKR can argue with more conviction that the move is not to drive a wedge between progressives and conservatives in PAS but to keep the party within the opposition coalition. One paradoxical argument begets another.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.

Anwar Ibrahim’s Return to Sungei Buloh and its Implications

February 21, 2015

Anwar Ibrahim’s Return to Sungei Buloh and its Implications

Najib Razak, Rosmah MansorNajib needs Divine Help

The verdict is finally out. After months of speculations over Anwar Ibrahim’s fate, the Malaysian Federal Court has upheld the guilty verdict for the former Deputy Prime minister over the charge of sodomy. The verdict was particularly surprising for some within the Opposition circles who were confident that Anwar would be freed. The verdict has in theory sealed Anwar’s political fate given that he will be in prison for five years and be barred from assuming political office for another five years. This – at 77 – would render him too old to become the next leader of the country. The verdict is likely to have long term consequences for both Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and Malaysian politics.

Prosecuting Anwar Ibrahim

anwar_ibrahim2Anwar will not surrender

Anwar Ibrahim is a key figure in Malaysian politics. He will long be remembered for changing Malaysia’s political landscape. Dismissed as a spent force following his ouster from the ruling party – the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) – and subsequent jail term for sodomy and corruption, against all odds, he rose from the political doldrums to lead the PR to its best electoral performance in 2008. In 2013, the coalition bettered this performance by winning the popular votes.

Drawing a lesson from the old play book of former Prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, the Malaysian government appealed against his earlier acquittal for sodomy. The charge was first brought against him by a former aide, Saiful Bukhari. The court proceedings were viewed by many as clearly biased against the defence team. For instance, the court allowed DNA evidence obtained illegally to be admitted in the case.

The perception that Anwar has been unfairly treated by a corrupt government will once again galvanise support for the opposition leader especially amongst younger Malaysians. Hence, the guilty verdict has created a martyr out of Anwar and this could potentially be more threatening to the Malaysian government.

Can PR survive without Anwar?

While it was Anwar’s political savviness that initially brought the three opposition parties, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Democratic Action Party (DAP) and People’s Justice Party (PKR) together, he has in recent times been the source of contention between the three parties. Both PAS and DAP leaders have registered their displeasure in what they deem as Anwar’s unilateral style of decision-making.

Matters came to a head when Anwar initiated the controversial change of Selangor’s chief minister. Both DAP and PAS leaders were incensed by the failure of Anwar to consult them on the issue. However, it was the conservative PAS leaders including party president, Hadi Awang who refused to support the candidature of Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the new chief minister. This tension was further exacerbated when PAS recently announced that the party will be tabling a hudud bill in the Kelantan state assembly, a move clearly rejected by its PR partner, the DAP.

While some have argued that these developments are clear signs that the PR is at a brink of collapse, the recent court verdict might be the instrumental factor that could reverse this trend. First, the jailing of Anwar could unite the opposition in the face of adversity. In a sign of solidarity with Anwar, all PR leaders attended the PR’s presidential council meeting in February. This was the first time that Hadi attended the meeting in more than a year. Second, this development will force PAS leaders to rethink their political strategy.

Even the most hard-core of the party’s supporters are likely to demand party leaders to focus on the bigger issue of justice and unseating the BN government in the next election knowing fully well that the political mileage that PAS is likely to gain. Most importantly, the younger leaders of PR who have had significant experience working within the PR framework are likely to come forth in charting the future direction of the party.

Privately both PAS and DAP leaders admit that members of the two parties work closely at the grassroots level. In other words, the opposition alliance can still survive without Anwar. Perhaps with Anwar being out of the picture, the argument can even be made that the PR has a better chance of surviving since all parties must now coalesce around the new opposition leader.

Azmin Ali–Key Contender for Parliamentary Opposition Leader

Azmin AliPerforming well as Selangor’s Chief Minister

There is little doubt that Azmin Ali will emerge as a key contender for the position of Opposition leader. Both the top leaders of PAS and DAP, Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang do not have a national appeal and are viewed as divisive figures. Wan Azizah, Anwar’s wife is likely to be rejected by PAS. The party had – earlier last year – rejected her candidature as chief minister of Selangor. This leaves Azmin as the most qualified candidate who is acceptable to both DAP and PAS. Like Anwar, Azmin possess the charisma and political savvy reflected in his current tenure as Chief Minister of Selangor.

Najib’s Political survival

Najib as 1MDB advisorHe’s looking Lost

The recent verdict has also discredited the current administration and Prime Minister Najib Razak even further. Regardless of whether the Malaysian judiciary has been impartial in this case, the Malaysian and international public perception is that the case and final verdict was politically motivated. Anwar’s conviction has been blamed on UMNO and Najib himself. Public sympathy for Anwar might trigger a bigger swing away from UMNO and BN especially amongst the younger voters. Anwar himself predicted that his imprisonment will result in an increase in popular votes for the opposition.

Some UMNO conservatives have applauded the verdict. Zainuddin Maidin, former information minister and a staunch ally of Dr Mahathir, praised the judges for placing the integrity and sovereignty of the country’s laws above everything else. This does not mean that attacks against Najib have ceased from this group. In the immediate aftermath of the verdict, Dr Mahathir seems to have upped his ante noting that there is “something rotten in the state of Malaysia”. In essence, he is suggesting that the Malaysian political system is in a state of decay.

The falling oil prices, plunging commodity prices and soaring household debt, suggests dire straits ahead for Malaysia and Malaysians. Increased public sympathy for Anwar, internal opposition and a looming economic crisis have left doubts as to whether Najib can survive as Prime Minister of Malaysia. Najib’s survival currently hinges on whether any senior UMNO leader is willing to mount a challenge against his leadership.

Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment has far-ranging consequences not only for the opposition and Malaysians, but also for the government. It could prove to be the Najib and UMNO’s Achilles heel.

Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman is assistant professor and coordinator of the Malaysia Program at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).