Celebrating Ethnic Diversity–Congratulations Jakarta Post and Republik Indonesia


February 10, 2016

Celebrating Ethnic Diversity–Congratulations Jakarta Post and Republik Indonesia

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

 

It has been 13 years since democracy icon and late former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid restored to Chinese-Indonesians the right to openly express their ethnic identity, including the ancient tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year.

It was Gus Dur who lifted the New Order ban on anything related to Chinese identity in the aftermath of the September 1965 coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party. Indonesia severed ties with China after the aborted coup, but the two normalised relations in 1990, although discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians remained.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year, therefore, has always been a celebration of ethnic diversity in Indonesia, which was originally conceived as a pluralist nation. It is not simply about New Year feasting or the joy of giving and receiving angpao (gifts of cash in red envelopes) and basket cakes, but also the joy of sharing happiness with the other ethnicities that form Indonesia.

More than just New Year-themed entertainment with dragon and lion dances and red lanterns that decorate public spaces and shopping malls, the celebrations to mark the turn of the Chinese calendar underline Indonesia’s acceptance that cultural differences enrich rather than divide the nation.

After years of persecution and restrictions, Chinese-Indonesians now stand equal with other citizens, whose freedom of expression and fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution.

The case of Jakarta is also unique, in which the governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, belongs to the Chinese-Indonesian minority. Although his ascent to the gubernatorial post was thanks to former governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s catapult to the presidential post, Ahok has started to win the faith of many Jakartans. The real test of diversity for Jakarta looks to come in 2017 should Ahok seek another term of office.

Many do not like him, but very few of them dislike him for his ethnic or his religious backgrounds. His critics oppose his policies, which they deem as failing to help all the people, but the same people are quick to jump to his defence against intolerant groups, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who have attacked him simply for his ethnicity and religion.

Ahok himself has never been shy about his ethnic identity. He invites the public to call him Ahok, a Chinese “peranakan” pet name from his father. And many people also call him Pak Ahok with respect, not in some derogatory manner as some did in the past toward Chinese Indonesians.

Sixteen years of cultural recognition is probably not a very long time. Many Chinese Indonesians still remember the dark past, when they had to hide their ethnic identity and when their phenotypical features gave them away and increased the risk of being harassed on the streets.

But a lot of progress has been achieved. Not only do Chinese-Indonesians get to celebrate it publicly, but they can also share the happiness with all their fellow citizens.

Happy Chinese New Year, and may you be blessed with strength to outsmart the Fire Monkey. And may diversity turn Jakarta into a joyful, colourful and vibrant city for all to live in. — Jakarta Post


February 9, 2016

Dismay and Disappointment internationally over Malaysia’s Financial Scandals, says former Malaysian Envoy

by Jennifer Gomez

Putrajaya and Prime Minister Dato’Seri Najib Razak are facing an unprecedented onslaught amid the negative reporting globally about 1MDB related financial scandals, says Ex Envoy, Dennis Ignatius.

Dennis Ignatius, who was with the Malaysian foreign service for more than three decades, said there was increasing dismay and disappointment internationally over the direction Malaysia had taken.

He added that the negative press was bad for the country’s economy and Malaysia’s reputation as a moderate, stable and progressive nation was in tatters, squandered by leaders who were only concerned with personal power and personal gain.

“Today, we are viewed as corrupt, undemocratic, unstable and retrogressive, a nation heading towards extremism and intolerance,” the former ambassador to Canada told The Malaysian Insider through email.

Commenting on certain ministers and the Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Dato’ Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi’s defence of Putrajaya in the wake of the bad press over debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd and the RM2.6 billion donation received by Najib, Ignatius said even a single report by the likes of Bloomberg or the Financial Times had an impact more than “a hundred ambassadors peddling government propaganda”.

Ignatius, who also served as Malaysian Ambassador to Chile and Argentina, said Malaysia’s High Commissioner to UK could push the government line in letters to British newspapers all he wanted, but this would only go down well with the UMNO crowd at home and not with anyone else.

He added that politicians these days said things to burnish their own credentials within the party to score cheap points at home rather than try to win arguments abroad.

Below are excerpts from the email interview.

Malaysia’s reputation as a moderate, stable and progressive nation, a reputation that has taken us many decades to cultivate, is now in absolute tatters, squandered by leaders who are only concerned with personal power and personal gain. Today, we are viewed as corrupt, undemocratic, unstable and retrogressive, a nation heading towards extremism and intolerance.-Former Malaysian Envoy, Dato’ Dennis Ignatius

TMI: The international spotlight Malaysia is experiencing now, is it unprecedented?

Ignatius: In all my decades as a diplomat, ambassador and political commentator, I have never seen such an unprecedented level of scrutiny not just by the international media but by other governments as well. Never before has Malaysia received such sustained bad press, such negative reviews, such pointed criticism. This even goes beyond the criticisms that were forthcoming when Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim was jailed and that was already awfully bad.

I think there is now increasing dismay and disappointment internationally over the direction Malaysia has taken. For many years, the international community was willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt despite so many questionable policies because it viewed Malaysia as a valuable partner or perhaps it was hoping that somehow the government would come to its senses and correct itself. Now, there is frustration and increasing impatience over the unwillingness of the government to get its act together. We are becoming a liability to our friends, and neighbours, an embarrassment.

TMI: In the past, how did the Malaysian government respond to such things? Was it done through the Malaysian ambassadors or other channels? What we have now are ministers issuing statements against certain foreign reports, such as Communications and Multimedia Minister Dato’ Seri Salleh Said Keruak and in the case of the report in Financial Times (FT), the Malaysian ambassador to UK wrote to FT in protest.

The Lalang Minister from Sabah

Ignatius: Ambassadors are, of course, expected to press the government’s case with their host countries and to engage the foreign press. It is never an easy task, even at the best of times. Ambassadors can try to spin the truth (didn’t Lord Acton once say that an ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie on behalf of his country?), but there’s only so much they can do especially when the news from home is so devastating, when the facts on the ground are so compelling and when the government itself is being evasive and unconvincing. And it continues to spin lies with batting an eyelid.

In any case, a single report by a newspaper like Bloomberg or the Financial Times carries more weight and has more impact than a hundred ambassadors peddling government propaganda.

The strategy of buying their way out of bad press by hiring slick PR firms to plant feel good stories in the foreign media has undoubtedly backfired on them. Most western media are now wary of such PR people though there may still be unscrupulous journalists willing to obfuscate the truth for money.

And don’t forget that it is now much harder for governments to spin the facts because of the Internet and things like Facebook and Twitter. Local news goes global in an instant; opinions are formed and conclusions are made based on group connections that are extremely difficult to change. Undemocratic governments are rightly fearful of the Internet and seek to control it.

Our High Commissioner in London can, therefore, push the government line all he wants in letters to the Financial Times and other British newspapers, but it is clear that the series of scandals that have rocked the government have gone well past anyone’s ability to spin. His letter might go down well with the UMNO crowd at home but it will be scorned by almost everyone else.

Of course, it doesn’t help when our ministers also shoot their mouths off and talk  unadulterated nonsense. But you must understand that these ministers are not thinking about foreign reaction; they are fighting to convince their own supporters and their domestic constituency. They know they cannot hope to convince other governments or the international press; all they can do is to try to hold the line where it matters most to them – domestically.

Besides, so much of what is said these days by some of these politicians is simply designed to burnish their own credentials within the party, shameless and unprincipled apple polishers, rather than to seriously win over the international media. It’s about scoring cheap points at home rather than trying to win the argument abroad.

TMI:In your opinion, are Putrajaya and The Prime Minister facing an unprecedented onslaught?

Ignatius: I think that’s clear enough. And about time too. For too long the international community has been largely silent in the face of so much abuse of power – the jailing of Anwar, the use of draconian laws to stifle dissent, the harassment of the opposition, and the slow death of our once proud democracy. While human rights NGOs rightfully took the government to task, Western democracies stayed largely silent or just confined themselves to issuing pro forma protests so as not to jeopardise lucrative business deals or stay on side with a so-called “moderate” Islamic nation. US President Barack Obama, for example, shamefully coddled one of the most undemocratic leaders we’ve ever had instead of upholding the great democratic traditions of his own country. It simply encouraged the government into thinking that they could get away with anything, that they were too important to be criticised.

Malaysians, frustrated at not being able to find justice at home, subsequently went global with their concerns – the globalisation of our discontent as I called in a recent article. People like Khairuddin Abu Hassan appealed to foreign jurisdictions to take action and it has forced the international community to sit up and take notice, particularly when these scandals also violate the laws of a number of foreign jurisdictions.

With foreign authorities investigating high level corruption and money-laundering in Malaysia, we may at last see some justice done.

TMI: In your opinion, how damaging are these international reports to Malaysia?

Ignatius: There is no doubt that the many exposés about corruption and malfeasance as well as the crackdown on the opposition, the stifling of the media and Internet, the restrictions on civil liberties and the whole hudud debate have been extremely damaging to Malaysia’s reputation.

Malaysia’s reputation as a moderate, stable and progressive nation, a reputation that has taken us many decades to cultivate, is now in absolute tatters, squandered by leaders who are only concerned with personal power and personal gain. Today, we are viewed as corrupt, undemocratic, unstable and retrogressive, a nation heading towards extremism and intolerance.

The economic consequences have been devastating as well. Respected financial commentators like Bloomberg are reporting an erosion of investor confidence. There’s too much political uncertainty, too many reports of corruption, mismanagement and sleaze and that always makes investors nervous. It is not for no reason that last year, foreign investors sold a net US$7.4 billion of Malaysia stocks and bonds and the ringgit fell 19%.

TMI: What can or should Putrajaya do, should ministers continue with their knee jerk reactions to reject the international reports or should there be more diplomacy?

Ignatius: Diplomacy? I don’t know that there’s a role for diplomacy in all this. Diplomacy can’t cover over scandal and corruption and neither is it designed to do that. The government must put its house in order, get real and undertake meaningful reform. It has to convince both Malaysians and the world that it can change for the better. Regretfully, there is no sign of that. Their strategy is to deny everything, keep insisting that everything is fine, vilify their critics and hope that it will all blow over. It’s the Mugabe method, I suppose.

TMI: What do you think about the Swiss attorney-general (A-G) making a public statement about the 1MDB probe. Minister Salleh Keruak said it was wrong of him to issue a public statement. Do you agree?

Ignatius: Of course the minister would want things done on a government to government basis, away from the glare of publicity. They want to try to control the message, put their own spin on the issue. By going public the way he did, the Swiss A-G, who by the way is free of political interference, brought the international spotlight back on the issue. It was nothing short of a slap in the face of our own A-G who conveniently dismissed the case against his boss.

It was a sign that the international community has lost confidence in the ability of Malaysian law enforcement to properly and fairly investigate the matter. I’m sure most Malaysians consider the Swiss A-G a hero, an example of what a real A-G should be like. More power to him!

And the latest reports that the Saudi foreign minister is now distancing his country from the so-called donation speaks, I think, of Saudi unhappiness and impatience that they are being dragged into the scandal. I wonder what our A-G will now have to say after so smugly dismissing the case.

Muslim Politics is not subsuming Malaysian politics


February 8, 2016

Muslim Politics is not subsuming Malaysian politics

PutraMosque-440

Power plays for notions of “Malayness”, and not Islam, continue to shape the nation’s politics, argues Manjit Bhatia.

I become very cynical whenever the awfully clichéd word “discourse” is thrown up as if it is the only term that can effectively describe political, economic or any other social science narrative. And so it turns out for Ooi Kok-Hin in his essay, The rise and rise of Muslim politics (in Malaysia), to which he lends repute to Bayesian probability.

Ooi begins with a bold claim — the politicisation of Islam in Malaysia has gained “momentum and influence” over the last 30 years. He also asserts that “society and the state” are becoming “increasingly Islamised” and to that extent “there is likely to be an increase in political Islam.”

If I were to add a third teaspoon of sugar to the one already in my Nescafe Blend 43 (usually black), my coffee definitely would be sweeter. I can measure that. But how does one measure an “increase in political Islam”?

At any rate, the sugar becomes the centre of how my coffee tastes, as much as would Ooi’s “Muslim-centered politics will play an increasingly important part in Malaysian politics, and the discourse in the public sphere will adopt the language of political Islam.”

Thus, Ooi claims, Malaysia’s future rests upon the “type of Islam practiced in society,” which is, he argues, “most likely to be the dominant, state-sanctioned political Islam that emerged victorious in its battle for supremacy over other types of political Islam”. When was it not state-sanctioned? Also, one’s unsure what Ooi means by “society”. It would be sacrilegious of him to suggest that Chinese, Indians (Sikhs included) and Christians in Malaysia practice Islam. It would be factually incorrect, too.

As if Ooi has not already created a few problems in his opening two paragraphs, he starts to open a third can of worms. After alluding to rival forms of Islamism, he fails to mention which are competing for Malaysia’s political centre. An easy guess: Sunni versus Shi’ite.

But then, curiously, in the rest of his essay, Ooi seems disinterested in critically extending on his thesis of competing political Islamism. He redacts what he promised to discuss; instead, he revisits Malaysia’s undying obsession with its characteristic politico-ideological trait – race/racism wrought, of course, by religion; Islam, in this case. Three-quarters through, Ooi offers the clincher: “Overall,” he says, “religion is superseding race and royalty.”I don’t know how he arrives at this summation.

Notwithstanding his disjointed essay, and quite apart from his crude positivism, Ooi’s many problems cannot be covered in a short space. Nevertheless, I tender two counter-arguments. One, Ooi’s assertions are undermined because he presents an erroneous reading of his own country’s politics, historical and contemporary. Second, while UMNO has been sidling up to greater Islamisation, it’s only in name and for desperately opportunistic politico-ideological reasons (apropos Ooi’s claim that “the lack of substantive ideological debate is telling”).

Religion — as if only one is practiced in Malaysia — is not superseding race and royalty. It never will. Nor will Islam, whatever its variant. To be fair, Ooi is correct that the UMNO-dominated one-party Malay state has taken a great deal of shine to Wahabist Islamism. But the supplanting of race and royalty by religion is not being manifested for the positivist (survey-based) reason Ooi posits: that today Malay identity with Islam displaces Malay racial identity.

It would be wrong to construe this exchange as a turn towards Islamic fundamentalism or Islamic conservatism, for two reasons.

One, UMNO and its Wahhabist Islamism have actively and unapologetically denigrated Shi’ite Islam and persecuted its followers. This can be better understood in the context of the growing role of Saudi Arabia and its financing of Wahhabism as a bulwark against the spreading influence of Shi’ite Iran, theologically and geo-strategically. Neither afoot here is a perverse form of Huntingtonian clash of civilisations nor a (prophet) Muhammadian theological utopianism. This leads to the second point.

In no essential or substantive way is this vilification different to Malay-Muslim UMNO maligning Christianity and Christians and openly lauding its vile bigotry towards Judaism and Jews at every political opportunistic moment. And here’s one contradiction that flies in the face of Saudi influence-peddling — Riyadh’s “affinity” to Tel Aviv just as Iran steps up to carve out a greater sphere of influence from the Middle East and northern Africa to Southeast Asia.

When are the moments in Malaysia that the UMNO state is seen to peddle Wahhabist Islamism (these days in association with once arch enemy Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS)? These moments often relate to a crisis within the UMNO political movement, a party that is far from unified but riven by warring factions among its feudal-capitalist class. And when the moment is related not to the specificity of Islam’s place in Malaysia’s politics, which via its bastardised constitution, is incontestable, but driven principally by Malay support for UMNO, especially when it may seem to be rescinding.

 

And so residing at the centre of this schism is the increasingly warped, and thus desperate and dangerous, sense of Malay nationalism. Ooi would have done better if he had also stuck to an analysis of the notion of Bangsa Malaysia, the literal translation of which is the ‘Malaysian race’ or the ‘Malaysian community’. In other words, citizenship, but in an agency sense, not a literal one. But both Malay nationalism and Bangsa Malaysia are notions fraught with intractable problems — problems the UMNO state wants to keep as intractable as possible for as long as possible to ensure regime survival.

In fact, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia is anathema to the continued existence of the UMNO Malay one-party state in its present form. Maintaining the subservience, or ‘loyalty’, of the Malay population, most of whom are constitutionally given as Muslims anyway, is far more critical to the ruling UMNO Malay political elite and their dominant capitalist class for the reproduction of ersatz capitalist relations and real capitalist accumulation via manipulation by the state.

It is unfortunate that Ooi does not see that this politico-capitalist order has not changed since at least 1957. And if anything, it has intensified over the last four-plus decades. It has intensified because more and more urban, educated Malays, brought up also on a pluralist fodder of technological sophistication, are no longer aping the sycophancy of their elders by backing only and always UMNO. Today they have alternatives, such as the Malay-based, seemingly progressive, opposition parties in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Amanah (and PAS to a diminishing extent).

Even the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) offers Malays political alternatives in airing their grievances against the UMNO Malay one-party state that has singularly failed in creating upwardly mobile job opportunities and job security while lessening their living standards. Ooi claims “race and racial politics are in decline but are given a lifeline when injected with religion.” This used to be the case, but it’s not a viable one today. The lure of materialism and capitalism for Malays is irresistible, especially when they see the Malay political elite and the capitalist classes living the high life of vulgar materialism (not to be seen in a coarsely erroneous Marxian interpretation).

The urban, educated Malays do subscribe to an Islam but whose variant is the gentler, kinder, non-violent, non hate-mongering toward non-Malays/non-Muslims kind — the sort Irshad Manji notes as more ‘liberal’-informed in its outlook. Conversely, the most likely candidates to be ideologically indoctrinated by Wahabist political Islam are those who are schooled in madrassas, where the sermons are anything but the liberal (reformist) Islam variety. These are the Malays, the Muslims, who are more likely to back and join terrorist organisations like ISIS, and, interestingly, the UMNO state is ‘repudiating’ them. Somehow Ooi missed all these nuances.

And if the urban, educated Malays are affected by the putridity of Najib’s voodoo economics, they do not, on evidence, automatically seek refuge in Islam. Rather, they point fingers at the UMNO regime for failing them despite their inheritance of their Malay “special rights”, not Muslim or Islamic special rights. They do not, as opposed to Ooi, engage in the so-called discourse or language of political Islam. Indeed, they are more likely than not to engage in opposition or protest rallies in seeking equality and justice.

These young Malay graduates may seem slow in uptake, but it does not mean they’re taking up the cudgels of Wahhabist Islamism. And just because Malaysia’s monarchs have been silenced by constitutional orders ordained by the former premier-dictator Mahathir Mohamad, it does not mean that religion has superseded their position in Malay life, any more than religion has transplanted the Malay race. How can it when race and religion remain, as yesteryear, strongly synonymous with “Malayness” today?

Ooi mistakes the rise of Muslim politics for the power-play around Malayness or the “Malay way,” as Diane Mauzy aptly coined it 30 years ago. All of this is still to play for, and even harder to play for, by the increasingly desperate, crisis-prone and deeply scandalous UMNO-Malay one-party state primarily for its material survival. The sooner we understand this, the less likely we are to exaggerate claims that Malaysian politics is being subsumed by Muslim politics.

By any stretch of the imagination, in 2016 it’s still the old order in Malaysia — only that some of the ground rules are fast changing, though not necessarily in UMNO’s favor, it would appear.

Manjit Bhatia is an Australian academic, journalist, writer, and research director of AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk analysis consultancy. He specialises in international economics and politics, with a focus on Asia

 

My friend Abu Talib responds to this UMNO Fella Apandi


February 8, 2016

My friend Abu Talib responds to this UMNO Fella: A-G Apandi

by V. Anbalagan, Assistant News Editor

My principle is to assist them in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.It was also my directive not to prefer any criminal charge on any suspect unless the prosecution has sufficient, credible and admissible evidence to justify prosecution.–Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman

Former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman today said he had never directed investigation agencies, including the anti-graft body, to stop their probes.

“My principle is to assist them in the performance of their duties and responsibilities. It was also my directive not to prefer any criminal charge on any suspect unless the prosecution has sufficient, credible and admissible evidence to justify prosecution,” he said.

Current A-G Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had said he had followed in Abu Talib’s footsteps when he ordered the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close its investigations into the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International funds deposited in prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s private accounts.

“I am just following my master’s footsteps. Now he said I couldn’t do that. I am confused.I hope he can come to see me so that I can offer my explanation,” Apandi reportedly told Sin Chew Daily in an exclusive interview.

Apandi was a senior officer with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in the early 1980s when Abu Talib was the A-G. Abu Talib last week told The Malaysian Insider that the A-G, who is also the public prosecutor, had no authority to order MACC to close its investigations into the two cases.

“This is a case of public importance that has attracted worldwide attention. The A-G must help MACC to collect evidence as the source of the fund is outside Malaysia,” Abu Talib had said.

Today, Abu Talib said Apandi should refresh his memory of cases where he had directed an on-going investigation to be closed.”Frankly, I cannot remember,” he said.

Abu Talib also said Apandi would not have been in a confused state of mind if he had indeed followed in his footsteps.

“His decision in the circumstances has raised more questions than solve the allegations against the Prime Minister, the status of other investigations related to the activities of 1MDB and persons connected with the company,” he said.

He said that in all fairness to Najib and the public, and mindful that the RM2.6 billion came from outside Malaysia, Apandi should have given all the necessary assistance to MACC to complete their investigations.

“It may well be that at the end of the day, Apandi will find enough evidence to show that Najib had done no wrong under the law,” he added.

The public, said Abu Talib, was not likely to question Apandi’s decision (to clear the PM of criminal wrongdoing) if he had allowed MACC to collect evidence outside Malaysia.

“As it is, Apandi’s decision appears questionable and has cast negative perceptions on his impartiality, commitment to justice and rule of law,” he added.

Abu Talib said he was not answerable to Apandi and that he was free to exercise his constitutional right to comment on a case of great public interest, so long he did not cross the limits of freedom of expression.

“My comment is clear and made in good faith. There is nothing further to explain,” he said.He added that Apandi was welcome to see him if he wanted to learn and know more about the law.

 

Respect Citizens’ Right to Participation in Governance Mr Apandi Ali told


February 7, 2016

Malaysia’s  Attorney-General Apandi Ali told: Respect Citizens’ Right to Participation in Governance

by Edgardo Legaspi

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | It was a rather unfortunate statement from Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali (on harsher punishments for press who report on information leaks), one which may move Malaysia further backwards in its path toward transparency, accountability and democracy.

His reference to China is telling – as this is one of the most restrictive countries in the world – and it may indicate the direction he wants to the country to go. Malaysia has two states with Freedom of Information (FOI) laws (Selangor and Penang). This is a rarity in the region (only Indonesia and Thailand have FOI laws).

Now Apandi is threatening to strengthen the Official Secrets Act (OSA) by imposing harsher penalties on violators – and including medieval corporal punishment at that.

The A-G need not be too literal when looking at the constitution. It is true that the ‘right to know’ is not explicitly written in it, but it is generally accepted that freedom of information is an essential component to the practice of freedom of expression, as a guarantee to ensure public participation in governance.

This view is too literal. Is he also going to argue that Malaysia need not guarantee press freedom because it is not written in the constitution?He may well also argue that since Malaysia has not ratified the international covenant on civil and political rights, which is more explicit on FOI (“right to seek, receive… information”), that the country is not obliged to guarantee this right.

Secrecy means something to hide

As chief lawyer of the state, such a statement is irresponsible, as his duty is to promote the rule of law and public interest. It is not his job to defend politicians and government officials. On the contrary, his role is to protect the country and its people from abuse committed by such people.

The problem is that official secrecy is often used to hide corruption and state abuses.In these instances, whistleblowers must be protected as these disclosures are in the interest of the public and the country.

Who will be the Next Governor of Bank Negara and  who is the Replacement for MACC Top Post will confirm that 1mDB Cover-up is complete

Apandi’s statements are also a serious threat to freedom of the press.By threatening to prosecute journalists who disseminate information from whistleblowers, he is in effect telling the media to avoid covering such stories, or else face the risk of a criminal case.

The obligation of the media is to the public – to facilitate free speech and public participation by keeping citizens informed, especially about public affairs. To raise this threat of prosecution by forcing journalists to reveal their sources is a direct attack on the public trust that the media is trying to build.

Protection of journalistic sources is sacred in keeping this trust.It is precisely because whistleblowers face the threats and the risk of attacks from powerful people that protection of sources is at the core of journalistic ethics.

Related stories:

We’re truth seekers, not saboteurs, journalists tell AG

Rafizi: AG has no credibility to propose OSA amendments

Punishing the messenger, sparing the wrongdoer


EDGARDO LEGASPI is Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Executive Director.


 

A-G Apandi is an overzealous heck and should be impeached


February 7, 2016

The reluctant A-G Apandi is an overzealous heck and should be impeached

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Worst Attorney-General is unable to do what is right. Yet he claims to serve our King. Actually, he is just Najib’s apologist and henchman. He deserves to go down with our most corrupt Prime Minister. Our Parliament must move to impeach him.

I am also someone whose ancestors came from India-a mamak.But  I do not have the problem of wanting to be more Malay than the Malay. Anyway, who is a Malay? He is actually a constitutional construct. Even Ridhuan Tee Abdullah is Malay when he is a Malaysian Chinese. What is great about being a Malay who depends on UMNO’s handouts?  Only mamaks with tons of hang-ups like him, Chief Secretary Hamsa Ali, and Secretary-General to the Malaysian Treasury Irwan Sirega are prepared to sell themselves to the Malaysian political demon for status and name recognition.–Din Merican

source: http://www.malaysiakini.com

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali dismissed his predecessor Abu Talib Othman’s opinion that he did not have authority to close the RM2.6 billion case, adding that all he did was based on what he had learnt from the former A-G.

“I am just following my master’s footstep. Now he said I couldn’t do that. I am confused.I hope he can come to see me so that I can offer my explanation,” he was quoted as saying by Sin Chew Daily in an exclusive interview.

Last week, Abu Talib slammed Apandi alleging that the AG had no authority to order the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close its investigations into the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal accounts.

“Under Article 145 (3) of the Federal constitution, the A-G has power only to institute, conduct and discontinue any (criminal) proceedings, but has no authority to order any investigation agency to close its investigation papers.

“This is a case of public importance that has attracted worldwide attention. The AG must help the MACC to collect evidence as the source of the fund is outside Malaysia,” said Abu Talib.

Didn’t request Swiss AG to close 1MDB case

In a related matter, Apandi also insisted that he never requested his Swiss counterpart to close the European nation’s own investigations into 1MDB during a meeting last September.

“I never said that… That’s a lie. I never mention any 1MDB cases. It was a courtesy call… If the Swiss needs any help, I will provide…The meeting was about mutual legal assistance. We could help at any time, that’s it.”

Apandi said the meeting between him and Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber was also attended by Deputy Solicitor-General Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah and an officer from Lauber’s office.

He said the office of the Swiss Attorney-General had requested the help of the AG’s Chambers through the Foreign Ministry, though the official request they filed only reached him on February 4.

However, Apandi said he has yet to read the Swiss document.The A-G’s Chambers, he added, will extend its help to the Swiss under the mutual legal assistance protocols, though he refused to disclose details as it is “top secret”.

Last week, Reuters reported that a Malaysian official strongly urged Lauber to drop his 1MDB-related investigation during a meeting last September.Prior to Apandi’s decision to close the cases against Najib, Lauber through his office had reportedly made a request to Malaysia for assistance in his country’s 1MDB probe into possible violations of Swiss laws related to bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

Lauber also reportedly said that Najib was not a suspect in the Swiss probe.Apandi subsequently said he would take all possible steps to assist Swiss authorities but clarified that the investigations into the RM2.6 billion donation made to Najib were entirely separate from those into 1MDB.

Gani only worked two days a week

Apandi also said that his appointment to the nation’s top legal office is valid and constitutional.

He said the health problems afflicting his immediate predecessor, Abdul Gani Patail, is an open secret. Abdul Gani, he added, needs to have dialysis three days a week, which rendered the former A-G capable of working only two days each week, minus the weekend.

In contrast, Apandi said he has been working tirelessly since taking over from Abdul Gani.”You see, with the workload of the A-G, I could not take leave after I assume office. I work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I even have to work from home (after office hours),” he said, adding he has to maintain communications with his officers via email at all times.For example, he said, he has to work until one in the morning if a case is urgent.

Sacrificed wealth to join public service

Apandi also said he made “financial sacrifices” when he left his private legal practice to join the public service. Nevertheless, he said he was honoured to serve the country and the Agong.”I never ask for this job (AG). I was offered to be made A-G.”

Previously, Apandi said he could earn RM15,000 a case when he was in private practice, excluding the additional legal consultantation fees.”At that time a judicial commissioner could earn a basic salary of RM17,000. For me, that is nothing. Add on other allowances, it would only reach no more than RM20,000.”

He said he has invested money earned from his private legal practice into property, including Wisma Apandi which was build in his hometown of Kota Bahru.

The building, he said, has given him good rental income. Apandi was appointed A-G after his predecessor Abdul Gani was let go purportedly due to “health problems” last July, which coincided with a cabinet reshuffle which saw the deputy prime minister, who had been vocal on the 1MDB scandal, removed.

In late January, he cleared Najib from criminal wrongdoings in the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International cases.