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.

Vote for the Survival of the Malays urges Anina

January 21, 2018

COMMENT: Why do I post this Malaysiakini.com article? It is just to tell this unprincipled Malay politician turned civil society person that asking the Malays to vote for the survival of their race means voting for UMNO and Najib Razak, and his kleptos and Rosmah anak Mansor.  Unlike you, Malaysians are not stupid.

Voting to keep Najib Razak in power for another term is a disaster for our multi-ethnic nation. Malaysians today want regime change via the ballot box.

Image result for Din Merican

As for the Malays like this turn coat Anina and the incompetent Minister of Education Khalid, you should stew in your own juice.You should know that the future of the Malays depends on their character and grit, not on UMNO.

Shame on you and others like you for having to depend on the good graces of the most corrupt Prime Minister in this world, Najib Razak, for your survival.  You obviously do not have what it takes to compete and succeed in a multi-ethnic Malaysia.

Image result for robin sharma on integrity quoteA Message to all UMNO Malays and reminder to Malaysians in MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PAS,  Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan from Robin Sharma


For people like me and others of my generation, diversity is our nation’s strength; And competition and the capacity to overcome adversity build national resilience. To us, integrity and honesty, therefore, matter. These qualities define my generation of Malaysians.

To the Malays I say this: it is time we change our mindset and learn to reject handouts  and show the world that as a people we have dignity and integrity. 60 years of pampering by UMNO have weakened Malay society.

Fellow Malaysians make sure you go out in full force to vote in GE-14. We may not win because there will be massive fraud and all that gerrymandering. But give yourself the chance to make difference.

I am sorry, I am unable to vote because I lost my voting rights and could not vote in GE-13. That said, I reject UMNO-BN, the coalition of the corrupt and incompetent violators of Rukun Negara and the Constitution.–Din Merican

Vote for the Survival of the Malays urges Anina

by Annabelle Lee


As the 14th General Election looms, former Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) member Anina Saadudin has urged Malays to vote for a party that will ensure the survival of their future generations.

“Now, the Malays are split among five parties – Umno, Bersatu, Amanah, PAS and PKR. From a big race, we are now split into small groups. This is dangerous for our race. We need to think about the survival of the Malay race (in this country).

“So when you vote, don’t just vote for yourself but think about voting for the future, vote for your children and for the future of this nation,” Anina told a press conference at the soft launch of her new non-governmental organisation (NGO) – Empirical Malaysia.

‘We are not racist’

Registered last October, the NGO aims to produce empirical studies on economic issues faced by the Malays and the bumiputera.

“If Malay politics fails, then the economic situation of the Malays will fail because economic initiatives are dependent on the initiatives of political leaders,” Anina added.

She identified the main economic issue faced by the Malays to be a “disparity gap” in the economic ability between them and other races.

Anina also vowed to formulate empirical-based policy recommendations on how existing pro-bumiputera government schemes and policies could be improved to close this gap.

“Solving this (disparity gap) will help solve the bigger issue.It will bring unity to all races,” she said, stressing that defending the rights of one’s race did not mean one was racist.

Anina maintained her NGO was independent and not funded by the government, She also vowed never to attempt crowdfunding.

“We will get funds from private entities. That way, we will be free to comment on anyone, our hands won’t be tied.

“We don’t want to do crowdfunding because we don’t want to burden the rakyat. We don’t need millions, unlike Invoke,” she said, referring to the think-tank headed by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli.

Anina, who left Bersatu last September after lamenting that the party was badly governed by leaders who could not take criticism, added that she has left politics for good and would now focus on using Empirical Malaysia as her platform for activism.


Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?

January 9, 2018

Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
― Samuel Adams

COMMENT | A young reader ended his opening salvo of a lengthy email exchange with – “Sir, you were part of the problem.” I began the first of my responses, with – “Son, I am still part of the problem.” I get that young people are frustrated. They look around and they see old men with their old poisoned dreams leading the charge for a supposedly better future.

Image result for Mahathir in Pakatan Harapan

Dynastic Politics in Malaysia

Amongst other issues, this young man wanted to know if I was familiar with the writings of Hafidz Baharom and his piece – “Don’t vote if they don’t change” – and what I thought about young people not voting, and why it is that the opposition seems to be at war with activists and civil society groups.

Well, as to the first part, I read everything that Hafidz writes. I already made my case as to why I think not voting is not an option. Mind you, I am not saying that Hafidz is wrong; just that I really want to see what happens if Pakatan Harapan takes control of the federal government. Does this sound flippant?


Here is the thing. In all my writings, I have made it clear that I do not think that corruption is the existential threat facing Malaysia. I think extremist Islam is. I want to see if a Harapan-led government with a strong non-Malay/Muslim voice stems the tide of what I believe will eventually destroy this country. That is why I am voting. Others, of course, have different reasons.

As for the opposition seeming to be at war with activists, many people who are involved in “civil society” (honestly, I am not familiar with the current nomenclature) have written to me describing a hostile environment when it comes to activism and oppositional politics. Things have become worse, with the ascension of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the bête noire of many activists – for good reason – as the captain leading the charge to oust current UMNO grand poohbah, Najib Razak.

Many long-time activists infused with fresh talent, who assumed that Harapan state governments would be more conducive to change, tell me that most times getting the “meeting” is easier than it is with the BN regime, but actually getting things done, is more or less the same. Often, they are admonished to not “bite the hand that feeds them,” which seems like a common rejoinder these days.

The corrupt Blue Rogues play the race and religion card to create fear for Malay support

There was a time when activism and oppositional politics were not mutually exclusive. There was a time when “civil society” and oppositional personalities worked closely to highlight issues that former minister Zaid Ibrahim termed the “real stuff.” I suppose that is the double-edged sword of civil society making “tremendous progress since 2008” as articulated in the “birds of feather” declaration.

I do not think civil society made tremendous progress. I think the opposition political elite made tremendous progress buttressed by civil society groups, who did not really understand the nature of the beast. There is this assumption that just because the politics of civil society groups and oppositional political parties aligned, there was some sort of understanding. Politicians say a whole lot of horse manure to get elected and count on activists to pass their message, but once elected rely on their bases (partisanship) to stay elected.


The rise of a credible opposition and contender to the throne of Putrajaya meant not that issues or principles were taking centre stage but rather the rise of a new cabal of political elites who were just as interested in maintaining power as their political opponents. What made it even more tenuous for civil society types and activists was that the alternative press and social media which was “issue driven” become partisan echo chambers, where party affiliation trumped anything else. In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us.

Many activists are in support of the “birds of feather” declaration. Actually, I know many people who belong to diverse “civil society” groups who support this initiative. Indeed, there is nothing in that declaration that any rational person would disagree with. Yet many opposition supporters write to me asking me to tell these “selfish” people not to rock the boat and destroy Harapan’s chance of removing the corrupt Najib and his cronies from power.

Civil Society activists

I know a few people on that list. I do not say this to name drop, but only that “selfish” is not a term I would use to describe them, ever. Furthermore, many of those groups in that list do far more constructive and productive work than some state administrations and definitely the federal government. To dismiss, mock or vilify what they say, especially if you (like me) have a different view, I would argue is, well – and I really dislike using this word – unpatriotic.

That is the only word I can think of especially when what these folks are reaffirming are democratic and egalitarian principles that would actually save Malaysia. If only political parties, like Hafidz writes, were not “too chickenshit to actually stand for something contrary to public opinion, and would rather coast along for fear of losing their vote base, while trying to convince the conservatives to vote for them.”

Someone asked if I was a “crypto-Mahathirista” since I had penned two pieces, essentially arguing that Harapan should commit to the game they want to play. I write too plainly to be a crypto anything. You can disagree with what I write. You can accuse me of many things but waffling or obscurantism is not on the list. So while I disagree with Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong, it is not because I think he is wrong but it is because for this election, I am committing to the game that I keep telling Harapan to commit to.

Lastly to answer the question in the title of this piece. It is not that the opposition is at odds with civil society. It is the opposition has become part of the establishment.The establishment is always at odds with civil society.

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

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/407723#1JRAw0XpVfA0WeQ7.99

Guna’s Take on Fake News

November 8, 2017

Guna’s Take on Fake News

One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.–P. Gunasegaram

by P. Gunaegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | One would think that fake news happens only in cyberspace and that mainstream/traditional news organisations are somehow not subject to reporting fake news. But that’s not necessarily true because when the media space is controlled like it is here, it produces an atmosphere which spews out fake news in billows.

In its simplest form, fake news is just manufactured news but there are degrees. Some are outright lies while others combine untruths with elements of true news to project an image which is not wholly correct while appearing to give the impression that it comes from accurate news sources.

It is most easy to do this online by setting up websites and/or blogs to propagate the news and manufacture news to the benefit of the sponsoring authority. Thus, political parties and candidates up for election pay so-called cyber troopers large amounts of money to boost their image in the eyes of the public.

Simultaneously they engage in activities to drag down the image of the opponents through smear campaigns, sometimes unearthing true stories and twisting the context and at other times broadcasting outright lies.

In Malaysia, as elections loom large and have to be held by August next year, this whole idea of fake news, especially on social media, has grabbed the attention of politician and layman alike, especially when US President Donald Trump, who has propagated fake news against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, accuses US mainstream media of fake news in repeated tweets.


But in Malaysia, the situation is very different. We have had fake news with us for decades now, especially during general elections, when more or less the entire regulated media industry gets commandeered by the ruling government – BN and its predecessors.

Look at for instance, how newspapers either directly owned by political parties or those close to them behave at election time – UMNO’s Utusan group, MCA’s The Star, as well as New Straits Times, RTM1, RTM2, TV3, and even ntv7, the other broadcast media.

It is as if the government can do no wrong, it is as if the opposition is a major threat to the unity of the country. The only viable party that can rule the country is, of course, the BN, everyone else will take the country to ruin.

So the heavily-controlled mainstream newspapers, magazines and broadcast organisations not just spewed fake news but engaged in regular propaganda blasts about how the government was so great, with documentaries about what it did, and through advertisements. The poor opposition is denied any airtime or space in the newspapers while the ruling party of the day runs riot over the opposition in all the various broadcast and print media.

Is it any surprise that the ruling party thrashed the opposition soundly in almost all the elections since 1969 (until the tide turned in 2008) when the opposition denied the ruling party two-thirds majority for a while? BN regained it following the collapse of many opposition parties into BN in the aftermath of oppressive measures following the May 13 riots shortly after the elections, riots which many consider to have been manufactured.


And then came 2008 – BN did not lose but soundly lost its two-thirds majority and five states in the general elections, its biggest setback yet. And the opposition finally began to think about riding into Putrajaya in triumph. In 2013, despite all of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts, BN did not regain the two-thirds majority although UMNO did better.

So what made the change in 2008 and 2013? In two words, social media, which remained largely uncensored and unregulated and which gave the opposition a lot more space than it ever did before – there was a new medium to send news out instead of just print and broadcast and it was accessible to all.

A game changer

The control of the print and broadcast media no longer ensured that only some news of the favourable kind reached the general public. In Malaysia’s case, social media stopped the avalanche of fake news spewing out of the mainstream manufactured news factories.

But unfortunately, with fake news making such an impact on social media in the US for instance, with Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the polls significantly attributed to it, the importance of social media is being increasingly recognised as a game changer for elections in Malaysia.

Thus, both Najib and his deputy have been increasingly talking about fake news on social media and the need to counter it effectively. But in all probability what they mean is that the true news is coming out from many sections of the social media, so we have to do something about it.


Their thinking goes something like this: We have to counter all these things which are true which are coming out from social media – we can blank it out from the print and broadcast media but we need a social media attack to counter these truths with lies.

Thus, we see Najib claiming in his blog rather preposterously that 1MDB will save RM200 billion in 20 years for Malaysia when the truth is that it has in all probability it has already lost as much as RM40 billion.

Expect this broadside by the BN on social media in Malaysia to increase – in the US, fake news may have reached epidemic proportions already, but in Malaysia, the process is just beginning but will increase very rapidly.

It is not going to be easy to differentiate the truth from the fake news but if you stick to respected and established online new organisations such as … – you know who they are, I don’t have to tell you – you will be safe.

Stick to independent news organisations who have a strong tradition of respect for truth, accuracy and balance and who cover both what the government as well as what the opposition has to say. Look at who are behind news portals – if they are not specific enough about ownership and editorial team, be suspicious.

Verify and crosscheck sources of information. Much is passed on over social media websites such as Facebook and WhatsApp with not even a mention of the source. If you want to check the source, type a key extract into a search engine and look at the results.

Please remember, especially at election time – you are more likely to get fake news and inadequate news of the right kind from mainstream media who have had a long track record compared to some of the online news portals who may not have as long a record.

And finally, please support those who supply good, fair information at reasonable prices (less than 60 sen a day) by subscribing to them (instead of sharing passwords indiscriminately), and take out advertisements with them and donating to them. It’s a small price to pay.

The sad truth is that information that is free is more likely to be tainted. Now, who was it who said that there is no such thing as a free lunch?

P GUNASEGARAM says truth often lies hidden under a pile of lies. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Rethinking Southeast Asian civil society

November 7, 2017

Rethinking Southeast Asian civil society

by Kevin Hewison@www.newmandala.org


In the mid-1990s, there was a lot of enthusiasm for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the expansion of civil society in Southeast Asia. At the time, there was an efflorescence of activism as activists campaigned against trade agreements, foregrounded gender issues, worked to reduce poverty, improve health, protect the environment, advocated for workers and consumers, exposed corruption, bolstered human rights and agitated for democracy.

Image result for rethinking civil society in southeast asia

The optimism of the decade was driven by a feeling of confidence that democracy was taking root in the region, growing on a foundation of thriving capitalist economies. The resonance of 1960s modernisation theory was palpable—the “Third Wave” of democratisation was said to be washing over the region. This was emphasised by the triumphs of popular uprisings in the Philippines (1986), South Korea (1987), Thailand (1992) and Indonesia (1998). These events were associated in the theory with the rise of the middle class and an expansion of civil society.

Two decades later, this optimism has faded. There is now more pessimism about civil society and democratisation. To understand these changing perspectives, it is necessary to give attention to recent political events, and rethink how we conceptualise civil society and its role in Southeast Asian politics today.

Civil society and democratisation

The notion of “civil society” has meanings embedded in the development of capitalism and the end of absolutism in Europe, and the consequent reduction of the weight of the state. The idea of a space relatively autonomous of the state developed quite late in colonial and postcolonial Southeast Asia. While anticolonial, socialist and communist movements, religious and educational organisations, trade unions and the like were established from the late 19th century, they were usually repressed.

When writing of civil society in late 20th century Southeast Asia, analysts tended to emphasise the non-state nature of civil society organisations (CSOs). Many have agreed with David Steinberg, who defined civil society as:

composed of those non-ephemeral organizations of individuals banded together for a common purpose or purposes to pursue those interests through group activities and by peaceful means. These are generally non-profit organizations, and may be local or national, advocacy or supportive, religious, cultural, social, professional, educational, or even organizations that, while not for profit, support the business sector, such as chambers of commerce, trade associations, etc.

The organisations mentioned can be formal or informal, may be charitable, developmental or political. Yet when considering democratisation, authors usually associate civil society with efforts to expand political space. Some authors identify a “political civil society,” where “non-violent … organisations and movements … seek to promote human rights and democratisation…”. Their efforts mean that the political space of civil society becomes a site of intense competition and struggle—including for the organisations that occupy this space.

Civil society and political conflict

Image result for Indonesia Ahok Protest


But this conceptualisation of civil society—one which views the groups making up civil society as only being non-violent and peaceful—is too limiting. Civil society and its political space is open to many groups, not just those considered “democratic” and “progressive”. That space can also be occupied by state-sponsored, right-wing, anti-immigrant and anti-democracy activists, and many others considered nasty, fascist, and reactionary. That the groups occupying civil society’s political space will sometimes be violent, and will oppose other groups, should be no surprise when we consider that all societies are riven and driven by conflict over all manner of resources.

Thinking this way of political space and civil society is not uncontroversial. Much of conventional political science, heavily imbued with modernisation theory, has romanticised civil society as the natural domain of individual and group freedoms, and sometimes conceived of NGOs and CSOs as representative interest groups. Such a perspective treats conflict and division as pathological, and misses the fact that political space is created through contestation with the state and with other groups in society. It is a view that fails to give sufficient attention to how civil society groups have actually behaved.

Contestation within civil society

Image result for malaysia bersih 5 rally

Bersih Movement in Malaysia

When we think of civil society as a site of struggle, it becomes clear that it is not always a ballast for democratisation. Islamic militias in Indonesia, racist Buddhist gangs in Myanmar and right-wing ultranationalists in the Philippines and Thailand are not forces for a democratic society—yet each undoubtedly occupies the space of civil society.

Islamic militias have re-emerged at various times during Indonesia’s reformasi era and engaged in mobilisation and violence. While the use of violence might exclude such groups from the romanticised approaches to civil society, militias have occupied a space created by democratisation, even if their activities are meant to mobilise anti-democratic groups and against some freedoms. A recent example of such anti-democratic opposition was seen in the defeat of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) in the 2017 Jakarta governor’s election. The Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI) joined with several political parties to oppose Ahok in an acrimonious contest that involved the mobilisation of Islamic identity in huge demonstrations that targeted Ahok as a Chinese Christian portrayed as “threatening” Islam. Eventually, Ahok’s opponents gained the support of elements of the state to jail him on charges of blasphemy and inciting violence.

In Myanmar, religious groups have also engaged in racist and xenophobic activism. Radical Buddhists such as the ultra-nationalist 969 Movement and Ma Ba Tha (Myanmar Patriotic Association) have been able to mobilise mass demonstrations against Muslims and have fuelled extreme communal violence since 2012. Such groups have also been supported by elements of the state and by elected politicians, all the while taking advantage of the expanded political space created by Myanmar’s political transition to mobilise and propagandise.

Image result for Radical Buddhists in Myanmar
Buddhist monks walk during a prayer ceremony for the victims of the recent unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay, at Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar’s capital Yangon on Friday, July 4, 2014. (Reuters)


Indonesia and Myanmar demonstrate how extremists use the political space of civil society, and elements of electoral democracy, to oppose and challenge the freedoms that have come with democratisation. These groups are connected with some of the most regressive elements that continue to populate some state agencies. So far, they have not managed to destroy the political basis of these new democracies. But to see how the political space of civil society was used to re-establish authoritarianism in a Southeast Asian “democratic success story” of years past, we only need to turn our eyes to Thailand’s decade of high-octane political contestation.

Thailand: civil society for military dictatorship


Image result for thailand red shirts vs yellow shirts

The Yellow and Red Shirts of Thailand

Thailand’s recent political mobilisations have been designated by the colours that define their motivations. Their massive street demonstrations mobilised many, including NGOs and CSOs. The broad Red Shirt movement and the official United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship bring together supporters of electoral politics, those opposed to military interventions, and supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra. The Red Shirts, of course, developed to oppose the anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirt movement. The latter initially coagulated as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), wearing yellow to announce their royalism. Yellow Shirts tend to support the status quo, are anti-democratic, ultranationalist, and supported the 2006 and 2014 military coups.

In the 1990s, Thailand’s civil society, dominated by middle class interests, gained a reputation for opposing the military’s domination. NGOs and CSOs also tended to support the liberalising ideas that permeated the so-called People’s Constitution of 1997. When Thaksin was elected under the rules of this constitution in 2001, his government gained the support of many NGOs and CSOs. This support was forthcoming because of Thaksin’s initial nationalism, and his attention to grassroots issues and poverty eradication. That early support quickly drained away, with Thaksin coming to be viewed as authoritarian and corrupt.

The PAD, which was formed to oppose and bring down the popularly elected Thaksin, came to include many CSOs and NGOs which, at the time, would have been bundled into the broad category of “progressive civil society”. As the anti-Thaksin campaign expanded, the middle class, including spokespersons for civil society groups, began to denigrate the grassroots. The latter appreciated Thaksin’s “populist” policies and, especially in the north, northeast and central regions, voted for his parties in large numbers. Mobilised Yellow Shirts vilified this grassroots support for Thaksin, labelling those who voted for his party as ignorant, duped or bought.

As pro-Thaksin parties won every election from 2001 to 2011, the Yellow Shirts began an inevitable shift towards the denigration of the electoral processes itself, while declaring themselves the protectors of “true democracy”. The Yellow Shirts—the PAD and its clone, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)—emphatically rejected electoral politics, arguing that electoral victories amounted to a dictatorship of the majority. In the 2013–14, PDRC protesters opposed an election called by then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Yellow Shirts blocked candidate registration, prevented the distribution of ballot papers, and tried to prevent voting on polling day. The PDRC argued that no election could be “free and fair” until the “Thaksin regime” had been destroyed. Their ultimatum was that the Yingluck government had to be thrown out, replaced by an appointed government and an appointed “reform” committee to purge those associated with Thaksin’s rule.

Backed by Bangkok’s middle class, including CSOs and NGOs, PAD and the PDRC campaigned for a “democracy” that rejected voting and elections. They wanted a greater reliance on selected and appointed “representatives”, usually opting for a royally- appointed government of “good” people. This paternalism was taken up by protesters, who claimed to champion transparency and anti-corruption while begging the military for a coup. Such Orwellian doublespeak was also in evidence when the military responded and seized power in 2014. The junta defined a coup and military dictatorship as a form of “democracy”. One pronouncement called on:

all Thai citizens [to] uphold and have faith in the democratic system with His Majesty the King as Head of State. [The] NCPO [junta] fully realizes that the military intervention may be perceived by the West as a threat to democracy and a violation of the people’s liberty. However, this military intervention was inevitable, in order to uphold national security and to strengthen democracy (emphasis added).

The result has been more than three years of military dictatorship that has narrowed political space and heavily restricted much civil society activism. Red Shirts had championed electoral politics, arguing that winning elections should count for something and reckoned that electoral democracy was the appropriate platform for political reform. Under the military junta, they have been demobilised, jailed, and repressed.

Interestingly, most of the PAD and PDRC-affiliated NGOS and CSOs have either supported, or at least not opposed, the junta. Some have continued to receive state funds. However, the relationship with the junta remains tense, not least because the junta sees some of these groups as contingent supporters, worrying about their capacity for mobilising supporters and considering them more anti-Thaksin than pro-junta. Few high-profile leaders of these groups have expressed regrets about having supported the 2006 and 2014 coups.

Complicating “civil society”

The travails of electoral democracy in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand are not unique in Southeast Asia. Certainly, any notion that increased national wealth results in a civil society that becomes a “natural” ballast of democratisation should be rejected. Democratisation does increase the space identified as civil society. However, this space is not always a stronghold of progressives. As a site of struggle, civil society can be occupied by groups that are anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist, and sectarian. As the experience of Thailand and other countries has made clear, much abstract talk of “civil society” runs the risk of crediting its constituent parts with a uniformly pro-democratic outlook that they manifestly do not hold.

This post appears as part of the Regional Learning Hub, a New Mandala series on the challenges facing civil society in Southeast Asia, supported by the TIFA Foundation.

Raja Petra’s Short Story–Indian and White Women

Raja Petra’s Short Story–Indian and White Women

My friend, now on the other side of the political divide and an apologist for Prime Minister Najib Razak, is a fiction writer. Raja Petra is fun to read if you wish to wish to find comic relief and cope with the political nonsense that has transformed Malaysia into Malusia.

That Prime Minister Najib Razak is the most corrupt leader in our country’ s history is fact, not fiction. He is also a liar.  Raja  Petra disagrees with the majority of us.

Image result for Din Merican and Raja PetraPete as I know him

That Raja Petra, Pete as I know him, has abandoned his cherished civil society causes– for which he was charged under ISA, sent to jail and later released– is a fact. It is  also a fact that he has let his friends like the late Bernard Zorro Khoo, Magick River’s Antares (pic below), Haris Ibrahim, Art Harun, Lim Teck Ghee, and yours truly down et.al down.

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The Late Bernard Zorro Khoo and Magick River’s Antares

Pete  has changed his mind.  He seems to have adopted John Maynard Keynes’ dictum,  “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” But have facts changed? –Din Merican

This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance or similarity to people already dead, still alive, or about to die, is purely coincidental and we would like to apologise in advance if anyone makan cili rasa pedas


by Raja Petra Kamarudin

This is a tale of an Indian woman and a White woman colluding to oust the Prime Minister of a country that they say is going bankrupt. Hence the country needs to be saved, the Indian woman and the White woman say. To save the country they will oust the Prime Minister and replace him with an Indian Prime Minister who used to be the Prime Minister for 22 years and who was the reason the country is going bankrupt in the first place.

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The fictional Indian woman and the fictional White woman

The Indian woman and the White woman then came out with a plan. They will accuse the Prime Minister of stealing RM42 billion of the country’s money and will spread this story far and wide. The Indian woman and the White woman were brought up to believe if you keep repeating the same lie over and over again and if you can get many other people to repeat it as well, especially other White people from White countries such as the United States, then even black can become white and white can become black.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

The problem, though, while it may have been a good plan, this Indian woman and White woman got distracted. Before the Prime Minister can be ousted, and before the old Indian Prime Minister who ran the country for 22 years and practically bankrupted the country can take over, the Indian woman and the White woman allowed their anti-Islam prejudices to get the better of them. They also tried to oust the President of the Islamic Party.

So they plotted to plant a story that the Prime Minister has bought off the President of the Islamic Party for RM90 million. Then they said another Islamic Party leader was bought off for RM200 million. And that was why, the Indian woman and the White woman said, these people decided to bring the Islamic Party out of the opposition coalition.

The fact that they did not bring the Islamic Party out of the coalition and instead the coalition was closed down is a small detail. The fact that the State Assemblymen in the opposition-run state refuse to resign even when told to do so because they still want to be part of the state government is another small detail. They say the Islamic Party left the coalition because of the bribe, which they said is RM90 million and now say is RM200 million.

The White woman then mocked the President of the Islamic Party and dared him to sue her. If her allegations are false then the President of the Islamic Party should sue her. So he did and now the White woman is upset and says that the President of the Islamic Party and the Prime Minister are colluding to smear her good name and destroy her sterling reputation. She is also counterclaiming for damages because, according to her, she is suffering from severe stress, anxiety and distress.

Why this White woman is so kaypoh about another country that has nothing to do with her is a mystery yet to be solved. Her own country is so kecoh and yet she does not talk one word about her own country and talks non-stop about another country that has nothing to do with her. Racism is so high in her own country and Muslims are being attacked but the newspapers do not talk about it. Even the capital city of her country is regarded as the most dangerous city in Europe, especially if you are Muslim.

Some say she is being paid a large sum of money to attack the Prime Minister and help the old Indian Prime Minister who bankrupted the country to take back power. I doubt it, though, because White people are noble and honest and surely they cannot be bribed. We seldom hear about White people doing bad things like non-White people. The fact that Hitler was White is coincidental and cannot be used as the measurement for all White people.

It is equally puzzling as to why the Indian woman talks so bad about her adopted country when she became very rich because of her adopted country. In her own country about 100 million Indians are involved in the prostitution industry. That is more than three times the population of her adopted country. Children are kidnapped from villages and teenage boys and girls are sold into prostitution. If they try to escape they are murdered and one person admitted on TV that he has personally murdered 500 people who tried to escape.

If this Indian woman were back in India she would probably be working in a brothel pimping children for a living. Yet she condemns her adopted country and does not say a word about the appalling conditions in her own mother country. The English call this looking a gift horse in the mouth. Muslims call it kufur nikmat — kufur coming from the word kafir.

Anyway, the White woman was told to show proof to support her allegation that the Prime Minister bribed the President of the Islamic Party for RM90 million. But she could not. Instead she told the court the Indian woman was the one who told her the story. When the media asked the Indian woman she replied ‘no comment’.

So it looks like either the White woman got the Indian woman into deep shit or the Indian woman got the White woman into deep shit. Anyway, whatever it may be both are now in deep shit. Nevertheless, the White woman has fingered the Indian woman as the person who started the story.

And this is not the first bribery story the Indian woman started, mind you. In an earlier incident this same Indian woman started the story about the Chief Minister of an opposition state being bought off by the Prime Minister regarding his Islamic Bank case. The poor Chief Minister was forced to resign because of that story and the person who went all over the country carrying this story was sued in court and eventually had to apologise to settle the case out of court.

So this Indian woman has been traced to more than just one bribery story. She somehow gets an orgasm when she tells stories about people receiving bribes. Considering some people get an orgasm when they have sex with corpses in a mortuary it makes sense that the Indian woman gets aroused when she spreads false stories about people receiving bribes.

Anyway, that is the tale of the Indian woman and the White woman who spread false stories in the hope of bringing down the Prime Minister and replace him with an Indian Prime Minister who ran the country for 22 years and practically bankrupted the country. Whether they are prostituting themselves for a lot of money or whether they get sexually aroused by doing this is not known at this stage. What is known, however, is that the White woman has shifted the blame to the Indian woman while the Indian woman refuses to say anything.

But then this is what the Indian woman is so fond of doing. She throws stones while hiding her black hands and lets others take the fall for it. And then she tells the Prime Minister that whoever wants to form the government will need the Indian votes or else, without the Indian votes, they cannot win the elections. And then they talk to both sides and offer their votes to the highest bidder like in an auction.