Want My Vote, Earn It

February 7, 2018

Want My Vote, Earn It

by Clement Stanley

Image result for Undi Rosak



With GE14 around the corner, I will not boycott the election nor will I spoil my vote. I owe it to myself, my children and their children to be a responsible citizen of this land. I grew up singing “Negaraku”, and Malaysia has been the only home I know. Why would I want to spoil my vote or boycott GE14?

Going to the polls is my right. So is my choice of the party I want to support. If there are people out there who believe they should show their contempt towards GE14 by joining the #UndiRosak movement or boycotting the election altogether, I would ask you to rethink this course of action in the interest of your country and how you can shape its future. Just for that one day in your life, the power lies in your hands to make a difference. Use it.

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The main battle will be between Barisan Nasional, led by Najib Razak, and Pakatan Harapan (PH) led by Tun Mahathir who has projected himself as only an interim leader. Yes, there will be other new political parties who sell themselves as alternatives but in reality, they know at best they will only act as spoilers.

So the choice really boils down to the future of this country. BN presents itself as a unified party, and any discontent within its ranks is left to the commander-in-chief, Najib, to make a final decision. One such case would be who among the coalition partners will stand in Cameron Highlands.

PH, on the other hand, is led by the witty, universally and well-respected seasoned commander-in-chief, Tun Mahathir.

The marked difference between the two is that while one takes command, the other has to play the role of peacemaker as his underlings seem to have their own agendas. The public dispute among the warring factions in PH does not give rise to confidence in the pact as a viable alternative to BN. How can you govern this country when you cannot see eye to eye on a simple issue of seat distribution?

I will cast my vote in favour of the party that I think can offer me stability. I don’t want to be a kingmaker for a day and a beggar for the rest of my days. If you continue to feud in the open and do not fall in line and stand firmly behind your commander-in-chief like BN does, I see no reason to waste my vote on you. I have more important things to worry about after that one day when I exercise my rights.

You want my vote? Earn it.

Clement Stanley is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


Malaysia: Is Emergency Rule Possible in 2018 in lieu of Elections?

February 5, 2018

Malaysia: Is Emergency Rule Possible in 2018 ?

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Tun Razak and National Operations Council

The NOC Post May 13, 1969

There comes an hour when protest no longer suffices; after philosophy there must be action; the strong hand finishes what the idea has sketched.”
― Victor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables’

COMMENT | You have to give credit to the old maverick, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Pakatan Harapan designate for the top job if the coalition comes into power. Not only is he comfortable slaying sacred Malay cows, he has no problems baiting the Najib regime as he does when he extols the virtues of street protest if the Prime Minister dares to declare an emergency in lieu of elections.

Would Najib declare an emergency? This is doubtful. The regime may be in a precarious position, but the UMNO regime still has the tools to successfully ensure electoral success and with the opposition in disarray, the longer it takes to hold an election, the better the chances for the Umno establishment to narcotise a weary electorate.

If the opposition was a cohesive force, then time would not be on Najib’s side but as it is, the longer he holds off, the more the opposition embroils itself in stupid “friendly fire” fiascos that only serves the Umno hegemon and makes the fence-sitting voters more convinced that they should vote for stability.

“The National Security Council Act also allows security forces to use lethal force without internationally recognised safeguards, and grants them broad powers to carry out warrantless arrests.”

But let us say for whatever reason, Najib does decide to use the emergency option. He really does not need the consent of the Agong to play that card. The National Security Council (NSC) law gives him the power to declare certain areas as security risk (and people should understand that “security” in this instance is widely defined) and he could stall an election for years, if need be.

Image result for quote about compassion dalai lama


If memory serves, the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief of Defence Forces have a seat at the council. This way, in theory at least, he could bypass the consent of the Agong is within the confines of the law, and he has the heads of the various security apparatus at his side. Scary stuff.

I have written about this law numerous times and people should really familiarise themselves with what it could have in store for Malaysians.

Or you could read the Cliffs Notes version with the scary highlights, courtesy of Amnesty International – “One provision, Section 18, allows the Prime Minister to arbitrarily designate any area in the country a ‘security area’, if he deems it a potential source of ‘harm’. ‘There is good reason to fear that the Act will be yet another tool in the hands of the government to crack down on peaceful protests under the guise of national security,’ said Josef Benedict.

“The special status given to ‘security areas’ could worsen Malaysia’s track record of custodial deaths and police brutality. Under Section 35, magistrates and coroners will no longer have to carry out inquests into deaths resulting from operations mounted by security forces within these areas.

“The National Security Council Act also allows security forces to use lethal force without internationally recognised safeguards, and grants them broad powers to carry out warrantless arrests.”

Image result for Rosmah Mansor

Rosmah Mansor–Chief of Najib’s Defence Forces–Greed and Worship of Power will destroy her in the end.

Of course, there are claims made that the Harapan leadership has plans if the Najib regime uses racial-religious tensions to suspend elections, and it is the duty of Malaysians to support (Harapan) politicians. And by support, I guess it means that normally timid Malaysians will have to go on the streets. Well, let us see how this plays out.

Breeding apathy

The DAP is demonised as anti-Malay and anti-Islam, so by encouraging its supporters to go on the streets, the leadership, not to mention the entire Chinese community, would be labelled by the government as subversive and part of the reason for the security crackdown. This, of course, would necessitate the entire (probably) DAP leadership being carted away in Black Marias.

PAS, if it is not firmly in bed with UMNO, will probably say that street protest is not the “proper” way to engage with UMNO and probably make some sort of deal with the Umno hegemon in the name of Malay/Muslim solidarity.

Amanah, of course, will attempt to make a stand. But since clearly it is the weakest of the opposition coalition in terms of influence and voter base, it will have to rely on the other component parties to make a stand. Who knows if Bersatu, which is in reality a cutout of some kind, can stir up support from an oppositional voting base which has within it a deep distrust of the old maverick. And not forgetting PKR, which of late has demonstrated it could not organise so much as an orgy in a brothel.

And let us not forget Sabah and Sarawak. Who knows how things will play out there since the populations of both states have a deep mistrust of peninsular politics and would probably sit this one out.

Image result for The Red Shirts
Image result for Pekida

So, this leaves a spontaneous outpouring of support fueled by social media against the ruling UMNO hegemon mainly in the urban areas. Urban areas are in many ways easier to control, and it does contribute to the narrative that people in these areas are purposely stirring up trouble for the country, and want to usurp the position of a particular race and religion.

Young people could possibly go out into the streets and wage a protest against the UMNO establishment, but does anyone really see this happening in Malaysia? If young people were truly engaged with the system and let’s face facts, if young people were brought up in a culture where protest and political involvement were encouraged, then maybe this could happen.

However, for the moment the hegemon provides a comfortable environment for the breeding of apathy. And let us not forget that many young people are not voting, and if they are not voting, which is the easiest thing in the world to do, what makes anyone think that they would brave the state security apparatus and demand that the Najib regime hold elections just so they could exercise their right not to vote?

Besides, nobody wants another May 13, certainly not the non-Malays. This would be the narrative of course. No matter what the hegemon engineers, it will be about race and religion.

Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin. Calling for an emergency or engineering a situation in which areas are declared security risks, is a move that demands cojones. It is a move in which the state security apparatus has to essentially wage a war against their own. Tyranny is a bloody business. Can the regime expect that the state security apparatus, and by this, I mean the foot soldiers, would actually turn their guns against their own?

During my military career and after, I have had the unfortunate life experience of meeting those men who do the bloody work for tyrants. Men and women who have been in deaths squad and other paramilitary outfits used to suppress dissent. Men who have turned on their own for the benefice provided by tyrants.

I do not see this in Malaysia. Not the banal evil of other kleptocratic countries. Let us not go there. If the Najib regime does call some kind of emergency using the tools available to him, I wonder if Malaysians – and by this I mean everyone from protesters, the security apparatus and politicians – would be able to turn on each other.

As someone who has been to nearly every one of these protests of diminishing returns, I know a few old timers – patriots even – who would have no problem being cannon fodder for the “cause.” After all, we started this problem, so we may as well contribute in finishing it or it finishes us.

But large-scale protests as we have seen in other countries, I am sceptical, not when the opposition is in disarray and young people are marginalised from the mainstream oppositional process. I am more inclined to find it useful to look at other Muslim-majority countries rather than countries closer to home.

Because of our political system, Malaysia is due a reckoning. I do not think that the opposition at this time would be the harbinger of the shape of things to come, but I do know that when it does come, everyone will be touched.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.


Governing Singapore beyond Lee Kuan Yew

February 3, 2018

Governing Singapore beyond Lee Kuan Yew

by Cherian George*


*Cherian George is professor of media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. His research focuses on freedom of expression and censorship in Asia, as well as religious intolerance and hate propaganda. He is the author of “Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy” (MIT Press, 2016), which is based on research on religious nationalism in India, Indonesia and the United States.

One of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s most admirable acts of foresight was to usher out Singapore’s first-generation leaders in order to hasten the rejuvenation of the People’s Action Party (PAP). Giants like Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam and E.W. Barker retired from the government in the 1980s, when they were still younger than Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump were upon entering the White House. In the short term, this represented a massive underutilisation of talent. But that’s how determined Lee was to make sure that the next generation—Goh Chok Tong, Ong Teng Cheong, Tony Tan, S. Dhanabalan and others—would emerge from the shadow of their seniors to secure the future of the ruling party.

PAP exit management under Lee had one major omission, though. Himself. Lee felt he needed to stick around. Since his designated successor Goh Chok Tong had no objections, Lee didn’t accompany his first-generation comrades to the early retirement he had so strenuously advocated. After 1991, when Singapore got a new premier for the first time in 32 years, various terms were used to describe Lee’s new position. Senior Minister. Minister Mentor. Goalkeeper. Whatever the title, for the next 20 years, the simple political reality was that LKY was still around. At The Straits Times where I used to work, word came from way above my pay grade that we were not to say he stepped down. He stepped aside.

It could have been much worse. He could have held on to the top job like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who also won power in 1959 but would only concede it to death, 47 years later. Or like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who before he was ousted by the military was saying he’d run for another five-year term in 2018, at the age 94. Or he could have done a Mahathir Mohamad, who never met a potential or actual successor he didn’t eventually consider an enemy to undermine or incarcerate.

If Lee didn’t join this club, it wasn’t because he lacked self-belief or the stomach for undemocratic methods. Perhaps his autocratic tendency was tempered by his hyper-rational, unsentimental view of life. He knew time changes everything, and that people grow old, get weak, and die. So, while convinced that Singapore needed an omnipotent executive branch to run the place, he also knew its personnel would have to be rotated before they succumbed to their mortality. He also differed from the typical dictator in that his family was clean. Corrupt strongmen avoid the exit door because they fear it will lead them and their kin straight to prison. The Lees didn’t have that problem.

Whatever the reasons, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t follow the jealous despot script. Instead, he institutionalised a system of leadership renewal. Therefore, while the PAP as a party is unapologetic about its desire to dominate politics indefinitely, PAP leaders as individuals accept they have to make way for younger replacements.

Things could have been worse; but they could have also been better. Political self-renewal must mean more than replacing older leaders with younger ones. It may require systemic change as well. This is where the PAP fell short. Lee and his junior colleagues failed to adapt their governance model to the post-LKY era. They underestimated how much the system had evolved around Lee’s style and philosophy. After three decades, the state had become like a corporate computer system patched together by a brilliant IT guy who refuses to adopt off-the-shelf solutions used by other firms, and insists on installing his own custom-built software upgrades year after year. He is conscientious enough to train apprentices and write a voluminous troubleshooting guide. But only he knows how to get optimum performance out of his system. Eventually, the company will find out the hard way that it should have adopted more resilient open-source solutions that wouldn’t depend on their champion IT guy being on call 24/7.

The globally respected operating system that Lee rejected while he was in office was the democratic template of checks and balances to avoid over-concentrated power. Robust institutions insure against the mortality and fallibility of human leaders. Lee placed his bets instead on a conveyor belt of able men unfettered by onerous constraints. This had been Lee’s unique contribution to the founding generation of PAP leaders. The master political strategist opened up space for brilliant policy entrepreneurs like Goh Keng Swee and Hon Sui Sen to work their wonders. He did this partly with his persuasive skills, but also by pushing aside legal, institutional and human obstacles in the way of an increasingly dominant administration.

Lee failed to acknowledge that this formula couldn’t last indefinitely. His miscalculation produced at least two policy innovations that proved costly for the PAP, and for which the party is still paying a price. These were the elected presidency and the ministerial pay formula. Both were the products of a mind obsessed, as it always had been, with the challenge of protecting Singapore governance from the vagaries of public opinion and the popular vote. They were hatched during that period from the late 1980s to the 1990s when Lee was handing over to the second-generation leadership, and anticipating what might go wrong. And both became Frankenstein’s monsters that made his successors’ jobs harder, not easier.

The elected presidency was Lee’s insurance policy against a so-called freak election that could bring the wrong party into power. The insurgents might only last a single parliamentary term, but they could cause permanent damage in that time, Lee feared. They could raid the country’s financial reserves and replace key public sector appointment holders with incompetent cronies. Lee decided that the office of the president had to be given the power to veto such plans. This new executive role would require the president to be directly elected by the people.

Lee’s constitutional fix, meant to make Singapore more stable, ironically created one of its main sources of political uncertainty. The freak election scenario remains a whimsical notion; but in the meantime, presidential elections have opened up a new front to challenge PAP dominance. This has forced the PAP to shift more attention away from governance and towards politics—the exact opposite of what Lee spent most of his career trying to do. To address the risk that presidential elections will deviate from the government’s preferences, it has had go through various contortions, including reducing the power of the president in relation to the unelected Council of Presidential Advisers, raising the pre-qualification bar for would-be candidates (including reserving this year’s election for Malay candidates), and lecturing Singaporeans that they must not politicise the presidency. The rancour surrounding presidential elections—and the attendant cost to the unifying purpose of the head of state—had been predicted by Singaporeans who submitted thoughtful feedback during the Select Committee hearings leading up to the 1991 constitutional amendments. Lee had brushed aside their concerns.

The pay formula for ministers and senior civil servants was another radical idea born of Lee’s frustration with an obtuse Singapore public. He was justifiably concerned that skyrocketing private sector pay would weaken the public sector’s ability to recruit top talent. He was correct to conclude that the government could not let its remuneration lag too far behind. Where he went wrong was to decide that, instead of arguing it out in parliament every time it needed to revise its pay structure, the government should create an automatic formula pegging public officials’ salaries to those of top earners such as lawyers, bankers and corporate chief executives.

Singaporeans could see the fundamental flaws in the idea. A league table of top salaries in fields like banking and corporate management would show very high figures year after year, but those salaries were not going to the same people every year. Firms and individuals would enter and leave the list; they were in risky, competitive markets. Like boy bands, they might be at the pinnacle for only a few years. In contrast, the government’s stars would continue to get top dollar for a couple of decades, their pay being pegged to the private sector’s equivalent of Westlife in the 1990s, the Jonas Brothers in the 2000s, and One Direction in the 2010s. This just didn’t smell right. Many Singaporeans also had deep concerns about so explicitly marketising the relationship between leaders and led.

Lee Kuan Yew would have none of it. He was determined to do what he had always done: use his political clout to create a structural fix that, he thought, would put an end to unproductive debates and let the government get on with the job. Concluding his marathon speech during the 1994 parliamentary debate on the formula, Lee declared, “I say I am prepared to put my experience and my judgement against all the arguments that doubters can muster. In five to ten years, when it works and Singapore has a good government, this formula will be accepted as conventional wisdom.”

In the realm of embarrassing 1990s predictions, this one vies with 3Com founder Robert Metcalfe’s statement the following year:I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” For instead of depoliticising the question of public sector remuneration, Lee’s formula bequeathed to his successors possibly the era’s single most toxic policy move. Exactly as critics predicted, it infected government–people relations with cynicism and distrust.

The PAP had prided itself on its willingness to make unpopular decisions in the country’s long-term interest, but now when ministers resisted the popular will, their motivations would be questioned—of course they don’t care about the people, they only care about their high-paying jobs. The market-pegged formula also made people contemptuously unforgiving of inevitable mistakes—this is what million-dollar salaries get us? Another serious unintended but predictable consequence was to make the civil service resistant to change, by disincentivising risk-taking among officers earning salaries many know they can’t command elsewhere.

Lee Kuan Yew admitted to making mistakes, especially in pushing zero population growth too aggressively in the 1970s. But he couldn’t really be faulted for that one, since practically every government looking at similar demographic trends arrived at the same policy prescriptions. In contrast, Lee’s ideas to restructure of the presidency and public sector pay in the 1990s were idiosyncratically his own. And they were not cases of random error but systematic error, as scientists would put it. They resulted from his peculiar obsession with protecting the state from the unpredictability of democratic politics. He had more or less succeeded in doing so in earlier decades—like that special IT guy, constantly troubleshooting and tinkering. But he overestimated his ability to design plug-ins for Singapore’s operating system that would continue to function smoothly after he left.


He does not deserve all the blame. As he phased himself out of day-to-day government, it was up to his younger colleagues to stress-test his legacy clinically and redesign the system accordingly. If they were too in awe of his status as supreme architect of PAP software, that was their fault, not his.

That’s why my heart fell when he became the first casualty of the PAP’s 2011 general election setback. Sure, it was ill-advised of him to spout warnings during the campaign that voters in the five hot seats of Aljunied would “repent” if they elected the opposition (they ignored him and did). But the strong anti-PAP swing was due to cabinet’s collective blunders in the preceding years that had little to do with Lee.

Lee Kuan Yew’s political legacy – a matter of trust

Shamefully, he—jointly with Goh Chok Tong—was allowed to announce his resignation a week after the election, and before colleagues whose presence in cabinet Singaporeans had been querying for years. It was an undeservedly ignominious end to a government career that would be eulogised profusely four years later.

Lee and Goh said they were doing it to indicate “that the PM can and will revise and revamp his policies … to give PM and his team the room to break from the past, and … to make it clear that the PAP has never been averse to change”. When he accepted their resignations a few days later, Lee Hsien Loong allowed their rationale to stand—to “leave it to me and my team of younger ministers to take Singapore forward into the future”—thus throwing out of the window two decades of PAP assurances that Lee Kuan Yew’s presence in cabinet had never been an obstacle to progress, since ministers had minds of their own.

For more than a decade, Lee Kuan Yew had been codifying his beliefs in his memoirs and other books. This exercise was a symptom of the PAP’s understandable anxiety that its unique formula for good governance would not survive him. But it also contributed to the old pragmatism of the PAP giving way to dogmatism. After LKY’s final, emotional exit in February 2015, the depth of his influence became even more apparent. LKYism became a kind of quasi-theology, with members of the governing elite falling over one another to cite his words and acts, and thus show that they were the legitimate interpreters and inheritors of Singapore’s ultimate oracle. Being “against Mr Lee’s values” emerged as a damning label to stick on opponents within the establishment. Lee had long been called the founding father of the republic, but in 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean took the quantum leap of declaring that all of us—as individuals, not just collectively—are “sons and daughters” of Lee Kuan Yew. Of course, Teo did not actually possess the power to rewrite everyone’s birth certificate, but the remark revealed Lee’s place in the minds of the PAP’s senior leadership.

Teo’s declaration came during the parliamentary debate on the Lees’ feud over their family bungalow at 38 Oxley Road. This was a debate that engrossed the establishment and most ordinary Singaporeans. It centred on what to do with the building that was Lee Kuan Yew’s private residence during his adult life. The debate missed the point. The question we should be asking is how much room to give to the Lee Kuan Yew that will reside in the Singaporean mind long after his death.

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This essay is extracted from Cherian George’s self-published anthology, Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World Nation’s Arrested Political Development. The book is his first for a general audience since his 2000 volume, Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation.



FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

February 3, 2018

FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

by FA Abdul@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | “Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”

Image result for Fa AbdulMs. FA Abdul

These were some comments I received from friends when I shared posts about Bersih 2.0 rally on social media a few years ago. Clearly, they did not think much about the movement then, what more of its ability to bring about changes in the government through a peaceful protest.

However, it never stopped the rally organisers form keeping the movement going until Bersih 5 in 2016. At the same time, supporters of the rally continued marching the streets of Malaysia with their yellow spirit intact.

For those who took part in the rallies, their protest meant something. It was beyond their campaign’s objective which was to demand for a clean and fair elections.

Everyone who participated in those rallies had their own reasons for marching on the streets. Some wanted a new government; some wanted racism and bigotry to end; some wanted the corrupt to be prosecuted; some wanted Bangsa Malaysia; yada yada yada.

They all wanted change. However, despite wanting things to change in Malaysia, they were wise enough to know that the changes they desired, was not going to come just rolling to their feet following street protests. They knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Image result for Bersih 4.0Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican joined BERSIH 4.0 in 2015 because they wanted  clean, free and fair elections to elect a government which is competent, accountable and transparent. They supported civil society activists–Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin, and Haris Ibrahim et.al. In 2018, Malaysians are being put in a situation of having to choose either Pepsi (UMNO-BN) or Coca Cola (Pakatan Harapan). What would you do?–Din Merican


Yet, they continued taking part in the rally from 2011 to 2016. And some, even began wearing their Bersih yellow T-shirts proudly every Saturday throughout the years.

What were they trying to achieve? Nothing much, really. They just wanted to make a statement – that they were unhappy with the current situation and wanted things to change.

Today, we come across another movement who claim to be unhappy with the current situation and want things to change. Yes, I am talking about the #undirosak movement.

Just like the Bersih supporters were condemned back then, today the #undirosak supporters, too, are condemned using similar words.

“Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”


Oddly, most of those who are throwing this flak are none other than those who used to march the streets of our country proudly clad in their yellow Bersih tees.

Image result for UndiRosak movement

While they believed it was their right to freedom of expression to make a statement (never mind how others perceived it) today they seem to be quick enough to mock and bully others who choose to stand on the same principle.

Why the hypocrisy? Voting is a statement. Be it a cross for BN or a cross for the Opposition. A spoilt vote is also a statement. A stronger one, if I may say so. I may not support the #undirosak movement, but I respect their stand and I acknowledge their statement. I don’t expect others to do the same – but at least respect their right to do so.

Everyone has the right to dissent and protest. Bersih rally supporters had the right back then and the #undirosak supporters should be given their right today.

Image result for UndiRosak movement

Malaysia’s Born Again Democrat and Reformer

After all, what is democracy if not the freedom to protest?

FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert Facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot.

First the harassment, now they are missing

January 29, 2018

Image result for bertrand russell
Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure–Bertrand Russell

First the harassment, now they are missing

Image result for The Missing pastor koh

COMMENT | The commonality between the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh and activist Amri Che Mat is that both had a history of harassment by state (federal?) religious authorities. Is this connective tissue important? I would argue that it is.

The people have been told not to draw conclusions. This is difficult when the state security apparatus charged with investigating these crimes are also part of the systemic harassment working in concert with religious authorities to ensure that either a certain kind of Islam is practised or that non-Muslims do not engage in activities which are deemed detrimental to Muslim Malaysians.

Image result for Najib Razak the abductor

The Home Affairs Minister

This, of course, is a broader pattern of harassment, where anyone can make a “report” against certain non-Muslim personalities or groups, claiming “proselytisation” and the state security apparatus (again working with religious authorities) would descend upon those accused and attempt to gather “evidence” of crimes against the Muslim/Malay community. The fact that till this day no evidence has been adduced for the numerous police reports various groups have made, says something about the validity of these claims.

This is a country where rehabilitation camps exist to help facilitate the educational process of Malaysian chopping to leave their faith for whatever reasons or as a safe house to coerce people who have been indoctrinated into the faith. Consider the case of M Revathi who was detained in the Ulu Yam rehabilitation camp – “Her detention was twice extended to six months, during which time she says religious officials tried to make her pray as a Muslim and wear a headscarf.”

This, of course, does not take into consideration the numerous “secret” facilities for Muslims who want to leave the faith or are charged with “deviant” teachings and are held and “re-educated”. Furthermore, because press freedom in this country is what it is, any serious investigative pieces on the correlation between the state and enforcement agencies, when it comes to Islam in this country, is deemed “sensitive”.


This is a country where the court had to strike down the cross-border arrest of the late Islamic scholar and public intellectual Kassim Ahmad (photo) by the federal religious authorities – “Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad today won his legal challenge against Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) as the Court of Appeal found the religious body’s actions, including a cross-border arrest and a detention exceeding 24 hours, to be illegal.”

We live in a country were deaths in custody are routine. To assume that such incidents have nothing to do with how the state security apparatus operates is naive. With this in mind, it is also naive to assume that the state security apparatus, religious authorities and the various provocateurs in the establishment operate individually and not with some greater purpose in mind.

Is it really a stretch to believe that interested parties wishing to avoid legal scrutiny would act in a covert manner to detain persons suspected of transgressions against the state in terms of their religious beliefs or activities? Is there not enough circumstantial evidence to establish the fact that when it comes to the state-sponsored religion, religious authorities acting in concert with the state security apparatus have crossed legal boundaries and acted mala fide (in bad faith)?

Sloppy ransom demand

Let us take the Koh case, for instance. Are we to believe that a suspect who has been questioned before and cleared of any wrongdoing suddenly become the only suspect in the case of the missing pastor?

Are we to believe that the so-called ransom, which when distributed amongst the various accomplices would amount to less than four thousand ringgit, was the goal of this kidnapping? Are we to assume that a person who carries out a sloppy ransom demand is behind a sophisticated paramilitary-style kidnapping?

There are two possibilities. Either the state security apparatus was sloppy in its initial investigations (which is a possibility) or that the alleged Uber driver is innocent (as he has claimed) and there is a conspiracy at play in this case. All of this did not happen in a vacuum. All of this happened in an environment where the pastor had been accused by elements of the state, including the state security apparatus, of activities deemed transgressive towards Islam in this country.

In the same way, Amri was harassed by the Perlis state religious authorities for promoting teachings deviant to the state-sanctioned religion, in this case, Shiaism. Who made this claim? Well, the ever-popular Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the sometime darling of the opposition (but not mine, read here) made this claim and was apparently present during the raid on the home of the missing activist.


Coincidentally (again?), Suhakam was told in 2001 by the Shia Action Community that – “six Shia Muslims were arrested under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) between Oct 20 and Jan 5, and that three were still detained.”

Now, this was back in the bad old days of the ISA but the point here is that people detained, in a covert manner, for activities deemed harmful to the state is not unheard in Malaysia.

We are asked to believe that the disappearance of these people is nothing more than routine kidnappings for pecuniary gain or, like those cases of deaths in custody, sudden deaths. That it suddenly inexplicably happens. Now, of course, if the state security was credible, this would not be so hard to believe.

Actually, a credible state security apparatus would never make such claims. However, since state religious bodies have no authority to detain people, the state security apparatus is dragged into the religious conflicts, schisms and the political opportunism of publicly-funded religious authorities. This makes them participants in this state of play.

People often ask me what I would like to see the opposition do in their first 100 days in office. One of the important issues I want the opposition to address is these unexplained abductions.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.


Standing up for Justice–Activist Bilqis Hijjas

January 28, 2018

Standing up for Justice–Activist Bilqis Hijjas

by Thor Kah Hoong


Image result for bilqis hijjas


COMMENT | Justice, as an icon, is represented as a blindfolded woman holding up a scale, symbolising the meting out of judgment solely based on the law and the facts of the case, the societal standing of accuser and accused having no part in the consideration.

Big, small, justice must be, will be served in an even-handed fashion. There is also the clichéd truism of the wheels of justice grinding slowly but surely.

An ongoing legal case illustrates this.

The alleged offence was committed on August 31, 2015.

Until the alleged offender was charged in court on September 24, the ensuing three weeks must have involved the police interviewing witnesses and the offender, preparing a report for Bukit Aman that then makes it to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. He appoints a deputy public prosecutor who starts preparing a case.

Image result for justice is blind statue

People who have had to appear in court soon discover what their lawyers never warn them about – the tedium of waiting four or five hours for their case to be mentioned, which usually leads to a lot of motions (pun intended) being passed from both sides, that lead to new court dates while one party or all think over things.

Days over months and years, getting up early in the morning to drive through heavy traffic in hope of finding a miraculous illegal parking spot outside the Duta court complex.


The symbol of a dysfunctional Malaysian Judiciary where Judges no longer administer the Law. In stead, they form the core of a kleptocracy led by Malaysia’s most corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak

After who knows how many man/woman/hours spent in court – (as a writer, I miss the time before the repressive climate of political correctness banned “sexist” words like “mankind” and “chairman”) – how many thousands of words spewed, how many trees died to supply the paper for thousands of pages of documents, a magistrate granted an acquittal last year, July 1.

Now the High Court says, on appeal, that the magistrate erred, that the prosecution has a case, so it’s back to square one.

Back to the government asserting that over two years ago, Bilqis Hijjas threatened public order and offended by dropping yellow balloons with inflammatory words like “Justice,” “Democracy,” “Free Media” in the vicinity of the prime minister.

I am sure the learned judge has a legal basis for the calling for a retrial.But shouldn’t the High Court be involved in weightier cases, like assault with a deadly weapon rather than assault with deadly balloons?

Don’t judges and magistrates have an intractable backlog of cases to clear? Isn’t the A-G’s department so overworked, outside counsel have had to be recruited to helm cases for them?

I can understand why the phrase “free media” can be considered appalling, abhorrent, a dangerous idea that must not be allowed to take root. We can’t have scurrilous journalists, manipulated by foreign enemies, purveying fake news that besmirch our elevated, squeaky clean international standing.

But justice being asked to adjudicate on an insult implied in the word “Justice”? That’s a laugh of an irony. Compound that by suggesting that the yellow colour of the balloons is an effrontery, and we are well into twisted black humour ala-Monty Python.

You bloody fool’

Reminds me of a play of mine in 1987. As was the practice, the script had to be vetted by Special Branch. The producer, Ivy Josiah (photo), informed me Special Branch was banning the production because there were close to 30 objectionable words and scenes from which the public had to be spared.


I had to see an inspector, late 20s, to plead my case. He told me there were over 20 four-letter words in the script.

The script was a comedy about Malaysians going through a day from dawn to night, the cast largely speaking English, but also Malay, Chinese dialects, Tamil, and I didn’t remember writing a single “eff”.

When he told me the offensive four-letter (actually six-letter) word was “bloody,” what could I say but immediately reply: “You bloody fool.”

The inspector was stunned. Ivy, sitting behind me, audibly gasped. She thought the appeal was dead at that moment.

After I got his attention, I explained that from my childhood, friends in jest and teachers and parents in assessment had used the term freely. I pointed out that theatre audiences were largely educated middle-class people and hardly likely to rush out after a play to storm the barricades and start an uprising. Reason won the day and I got my permit.

Yes, during the run of the play, there was one night KL was on edge because a soldier was roaming around nearby Chow Kit with a rifle, but I swear he did not come to see the play and was pushed over the edge by my comedy.

The charge made against Bilqis comes under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955. 1955! A British law so antediluvian and forgotten no lawmaker had felt a need to revise it in six decades. The deputy public prosecutor must have had to do extensive archaeological digging to dust off a law he could apply.



To cap this legal mountain out of a molehill, if Bilqis is convicted, she will be slapped with a RM100 fine. The government wants its pound of flesh – RM100. Hasn’t it learned anything from the many recent revelations of its agencies expending way too much money acquiring assets worth much, much less?

THOR KAH HOONG is a veteran journalist.