Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way


September 22, 2016

Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way

by Zakiah Koya

Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic above) is not just anybody, he is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and he has always been a between of yes-man and a silent man when he disagrees.

He has never said ‘No’ to the government policies, and he has always been diplomatic with his words when he disagrees, but there was never a ‘No’. He did say out once about removing race from all official forms, but that was said and never mentioned again.

However, he seems to be turning the table over now, when he has decided that enough is enough and that when his faith as a Christian is challenged by the very government he represents, he has to stand up and say ‘No!’. He has also decided that as he represents Sabahans who are of all religions living in harmony without any form of religious law dominating, he has to speak up for all of them.

And now, he is not only saying ‘No’, he is also threatening and this means business, for he is threatening that Sabah and Sarawak may just be tempted to go their separate ways from that of Peninsula Malaysia.

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It has all to do with the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act proposed by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and supported by mainly UMNO MPs, including the Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak himself.

The Star reported that Kurup as the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) had stated that Sabah and Sarawak may be tempted to go their separate ways if the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act are passed in Parliament. The law, he said, would have a divisive effect on the unity and understanding that was cultivated since the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

“If it (the Bill) is forced into Parliament and passed, I’m afraid it will trigger more feelings among the people of Sabah and Sarawak to go their separate ways. They (Federal Go­­vern­­ment) shouldn’t have the slightest thought of introducing this law,” he said yesterday.

This is no simple threat, for although PBRS is seen as a minority party in Sabah, its influence is strong as it comes from a bigger party Parti Bersatu Sabah. And Kurup would not have mentioned Sabah and Sarawak, had he not consulted his Sarawak counterparts in the cabinet. Perhaps he is the only one daring enough to say it and not afraid to lose his position.

The Syariah Courts Act amendment will ultimately permit the state legislatures to empower the Syariah Court to impose any form of hudud (islamic crime law) punishment other than the death penalty (for example, 100 lashes of whipping for an unmarried person guilty of adultery; or the amputation of hands for theft).

This is very much in line with the Kelantan state government wanting to implement hudud in the state, a main reason the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat broke up, after Hadi insisted and then cuddled up to UMNO to propose the Syariah Courts Act amendment Bill in parliament in the last session.

UMNO had openly come out in support, despite much opposition from MCA, and some grunts from the other non Muslim BN counterparts, but Kurup is the first one to say it out openly and talk about cessation, a much feared issue by BN.

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A Partnership of Political Convenience

Many Muslims too have openly spoken up against the Bill, for fear it is all a mere misuse of religion by overzealous PAS, in the name of exerting their political power.

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, who has been waning in popularity depend very much on Sabah and Sarawak support and in recent years, he has increased East Malaysian cabinet members as well as poured in millions into Sabah and Sarawak development.

If Kurup does turn the table over on Najib, it would be a major dent in Najib’s support and then it may just start the domino effect in Sabah and Sarawak.

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It is a fact that Sabahans and Sarawakians greatly cherish and value their religious freedom and will not stand for any imposing by any one religion alone, never mind it is the official religion. Even Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had said that many times and hinted it openly.

Kurup may have issued this threat politely, but it is something which must not be taken lightly by the government of the day, for Kurup speaks for many – Muslims and non-Muslims – and not for himself alone when it comes to the Syariah Courts Act Amendment Bill.

Malaysia: UMNO chipping away at the opposition


September 22, 2016

Malaysia: UMNO chipping away at the opposition 

by Peter Douglas

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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On  June 29 this year, Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang state and Secretary General of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), was arrested and charged with two counts of corruption and abuse of public office. The case at hand was Lim’s 2015 purchase of a house from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for below the estimated market value of the property. Members from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party first made public allegations about impropriety in the deal in March and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) quickly opened an investigation.

The minute details of the transaction and Lim and Phang’s links have played out extensively across government-aligned newspapers, websites, and television stations, as well as in alternative media. But the strength of the publicly available evidence remains murky at best. The government’s case will rest on the ability of the prosecutor to prove allegations that the house’s low price was tied to a separate sale of state government land in Penang to a company called KLIDC. For their part,the DAP, Lim, and Phang have denied the allegations, stating there was no connection between the house purchase and the land sale and no business relationship between Lim and Phang.

The government’s handling of the case suggests it will be played out for maximum effect. It was quickly announced that the lead prosecutor for Lim’s case will be the Attorney General (AG) of Malaysia, Apandi Ali. Critics have raised questions about Apandi’s independence from government pressure, pointing to his close links with the ruling government. Apandi was picked by Prime Minister Najib Razak to replace the former AG Abdul Gani Patali, who was investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal. Upon taking office, Apandi closed the investigation on 1MDB and cleared Najib of all wrongdoing. Apandi even ran as an UMNO candidate in the 1990 elections.

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With Judiciary, Executive Branch and Legislature and Media under his total control, Prime Minister Najib Razak is able to act with impunity

There are several implications for the DAP and Malaysia’s other opposition parties in the near future.

First, the Lim case provides an opportunity to portray Penang’s DAP-led government in a negative light. The opposition has sought to use state-level power, particularly in Penang and Selangor states, to showcase an image of clean and efficient administration. Opposition politicians have complained that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition has put their activities under particular scrutiny. It is unlikely that Lim’s case (or other recent cases spotlighted in the media) will do much to dislodge the DAP’s power in Penang state in the coming election. But these cases serve to tarnish the opposition’s image.

The DAP also faces a delicate balancing act: fighting against what it sees as politically motivated charges, while still being seen to take seriously its own campaign messages of anti-corruption and transparency. Lim and his supporters have pointed out the irony that the MACC has vigorously pursued the house purchase case while the 1MDB corruption scandal has been largely untouched by domestic investigators.

Yet this defence does not exonerate Lim from contesting the charges and the government’s case in court. The DAP also faced criticism for its call for snap elections in the wake of the charges. Snap elections in Penang, Lim argued, would consolidate the opposition’s position and obtain a ’fresh mandate’ for the state’s coalition government. But DAP’s opposition allies in the Pakatan Harapan coalition strongly objected, since opposition unity to guarantee straight fights against Barisan Nasional is currently lacking. The idea was eventually abandoned.

Perhaps the biggest implication is that Lim, facing conviction and possible prison time, may be unable to contest in the next general elections, coming as soon as the first quarter of next year. For his part, Lim says he ‘cannot be saved politically’. Jailing opposition politicians to neutralise threats has been a predictable choice in the government’s ‘menu of manipulation’. Lim himself spent a year in jail after being sentenced under the Sedition Act; his father Lim Kit Siang was previously detained for 17 months. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was handed a five-year jail sentence in time to circumvent his party’s attempt to put him in office, and remains imprisoned today. Rafizi Ramli, Secretary General of Anwar’s party, PKR, was recently charged under the Official Secrets Act; like Lim, he may be unable to contest in the next general election.

Malaysia’s UMNO-dominated government is facing one of the most challenging elections of its long political hegemony. But its handling of Lim Guan Eng’s case suggests it still has a formidable set of tools to obstruct and defuse threats from its main opposition.

Peter Douglas is the pseudonym of a Kuala Lumpur-based researcher studying opposition politics in Malaysia.

Najib’s Handmaiden of Electoral Fraud


September 21, 2016

Malaysian Election Commission — Najib’s Handmaiden of Electoral Fraud

The final nail was knocked in the coffin of a fair, independent and non-partisan commission a long time ago. But that does not mean the Malaysian electorate should be made perennial pall bearers of that coffin.

by  Lim Teck Ghee

The public and opposition parties should be very concerned with the latest round of electoral boundary changes in the country’s parliamentary constituencies. This is yet another effort to rig the electoral system to ensure UMNO and BN dominance and political hegemony.

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Scholarly studies by local and foreign academicians of similar exercises in the past have shown a clear pattern of the manipulation of electoral boundaries at both national and state levels. This together with the great disparity of voter numbers among the constituencies, use of the governmental machinery in support of UMNO and BN candidates; the incidence of phantom, postal and absentee voters; and various other irregularities and unethical practices have debased the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.

That these frauds against the opposition have strengthened UMNO’s and BN’s standing in Parliament and state assemblies by distorting electoral outcomes is beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In the last election, the BN polled 5,237,699 votes, or 47.4% of the vote. The opposition PR polled 5,623,984 votes, or 50.9% of the vote. However, the BN won the election with 133 seats against the opposition’s 89. The PR increased their vote by 2.9%, while the BN vote fell by 3.9%, yet the PR made a net gain of only 7 seats.

This outcome did not happen by accident but by deliberate design and manipulation. If the proposed changes go unchallenged, we can expect more skewed outcomes in the coming GE that will make a greater mockery of the “one person, one vote” principle.

Electoral Commission: Handmaiden of BN Hegemony

Malaysians are well aware that the Electoral Commission is the key stake player in ensuring free and fair elections. However, the EC has become another of the vital institutions established to safeguard and support our system of parliamentary democracy which have been coopted by the ruling establishment to maintain its monopoly of the government.

The framers of our original Constitution must be turning in their graves to see what has happened to the EC.

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The beginning of the end of the Electoral Commission’s independence took place in 1962 with the Constitution (Amendment) Act. According to Professor H. E. Groves, who edited the first major commentary on the Malayan Constitution, and was also dean, and president of various academic institutions, cited by Lim Hong Hai in his article, Electoral Politics in Malaysia: ‘Managing’ Elections in a Plural Society ( see http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/iez/01361005.pdf)

It is apparent that the new amendments as to elections converted a formerly independent Election Commission, whose decisions became law and whose members enjoyed permanent tenure, into an advisory body of men of no certain tenure whose terms of office, except for remuneration, are subject to the whims of parliament. The vital power of determining the size of constituencies as well as their boundaries is now taken from a Commission, which the constitution-makers had apparently wished, by tenure and status, to make independent and disinterested, and has been made completely political by giving this power to a transient majority of parliament, whose temptations to gerrymander districts and manipulate the varying numerical possibilities between “rural” and “urban” constituencies for political advantage is manifest.

Professor Groves wrote this critique in 1962. But even he must shocked at how the system of elections in Malaysia has been manipulated during the last 50 years to keep BN in power.

He would also probably agree with this latest critique of how UMNO-BN has been able to win the last GE:

The key fact about the Malaysian electoral system is that it is designed to preserve the power of the Malay Muslim population over all other racial and religious groups, and within that population, to ensure the dominance of the main Malay party, UMNO. Since only 54% of the population are Malay Muslims, and since not all of them vote for UMNO, this requires rigging the electoral system to ensure UMNO’s continued dominance. UMNO supremacy is also safeguarded by an alliance with small parties representing the Chinese and Indian communities (MCA and MIC respectively) in the National Front (BN) coalition. (Adam Carr, How They Stole the Malaysian Election)

Preventing Another Stolen GE

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Don’t let Najib and his 1mdb fraudsters get away–G0 and Register in full force and vote for a Better Malaysia. Remember you can make a difference. Otherwise you deserve Najib and UMNO-BN Government and Crooked Rosmah Mansor.–Din Merican

There are several short-term recourses that Malaysians have to check the EC’s latest attempt at gerrymandering.The first is that a group of no less than 100 registered voters of an affected constituency can protest. This, however, is on an individual and ad hoc basis when in fact the entire system of delineation needs to be put under scrutiny and reformed.

The second is for the public and civil society organizations to insist that the Commission provides a full explanation of the rationale for each change and also why changes have not been made in other constituencies. “No changes unless it is on a full, transparent, justifiable and accountable basis” should be the demand.

Meanwhile, leading members of the new party, PPBM, under whose watch similar electoral manipulation has taken place in the past, and who presumably harbour many secrets of previous electoral fiddling – especially Dr. Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Mukhriz – need to speak out and rally the opposition on this important development.

The final nail was knocked in the coffin of a fair, independent and non-partisan commission a long time ago. But that does not mean the Malaysian electorate should be made perennial pall bearers of that coffin.

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Proud to be American in the Land of the Brave and Free–Madeleine Albright


September 21, 2016

REMINDER: All are welcome to The University of Cambodia. Listen to Ms Elizabeth Fisher Martin (pic) for her insights on the ongoing Presidential 2016 Campaign featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. America’s choice affects us all in ASEAN and Asia. See  you on our campus tomorrow at 9.oo am.–Din Merican

Betsy Fischer Martin

Proud to be American in the Land of the Brave and Free, says Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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Madeleine Albright

I came to the United States as a refugee when I was 11 years old. My father was a diplomat and a strong supporter of democracy in Czechoslovakia, so when the Communists took over, we were forced into exile as refugees. In November 1948, we were welcomed to the United States of America.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is the most important thing that ever happened to me. My father said that when we were in Europe during WWII people would say, “We are sorry for your troubles and hope that you have everything you need; by the way, when will you be leaving to go back home?”

But in America, people said: “We are sorry for your troubles and hope that you have everything you need; by the way, when will you become a citizen?”

America resettles more refugees than any other nation because it reflects one of our noblest traditions as a nation: providing support to those who are most vulnerable.

With the world facing the largest mass displacement on record since World War II, it has never been more important for world leaders to follow America’s example and work together to do more to support refugees.

Today, President Obama is hosting a Refugee Summit meeting to encourage more world leaders to step up and make new commitments to support the critical work of resettling refugees and helping them rebuild their lives. You can watch the President’s speech here at 3:35 PM Eastern.

Under President Obama, we’ve increased the number of refugees resettling this year to 85,000 – including 10,000 Syrian refugees. Starting next week, the United States will commit to resettling 110,000 refugees from around the world over the coming year.

And with refugees undergoing the most rigorous screening of any kind of traveler, he’s shown that we can welcome refugees while ensuring our own safety.

As a former Secretary of State, I can tell you that President Obama’s leadership in this global crisis is critical to our national security.

When countries with insufficient resources take in refugees, it creates more instability, not just at the frontlines of this crisis, but around the world. If we were to slam the door in the faces of refugees with certain religious backgrounds, we would defy our history and our principles of pluralism and diversity. As we talk to other nations about what more needs to be done to tackle this crisis, it’s important that President Obama is setting this example.

When I came here as a child, I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and beholding the Statute of Liberty. I did not have to face refugee camps or the kind of danger that many refugees endure. But like all refugees, I shared a hope to live a safe life with dignity and a chance to give back to my new country.

Together, we can help refugees rebuild their lives and live with dignity once again.

Thank you,

Madeleine Albright
Former U.S. Secretary of State

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Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC


September 20, 2016

Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC

 by FMT Reporters

Opposition leader stresses the present, not past, is his main concern following daughter’s push for apology from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar-Mahathir

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his former mentor-turned-nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad have issued a joint statement against the National Security Council (NSC) Act.

The statement, which was confirmed by Anwar himself, voices concern that the NSC is a threat to democracy in the country. “We notice that almost all institutions in the country, such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Attorney-General and Bank Negara are fully under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s control.”

The two former UMNO leaders said that the NSC denies the right of slain officers or civilians to a post-mortem to determine their cause of death, adding this will lead to higher chances of wrongdoing.

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“This act has cast aside the role and powers of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Council of Malay Rulers in the realm of public safety and freedom.”

Thus, Anwar and Mahathir said they were united with the people to fight the NSC, and to bring change and reform to protect the rights and freedoms of Malaysians and to bring progress to Malaysia once more.

Anwar told reporters when met at the High Court here today (September 19) that the joint statement is a good initiative. He also responded to questions regarding his daughter, Nurul Nuha Anwar, asking Mahathir to apologise for the latter’s transgressions against him in the past.

“The problem is that all of this happened so sudden. I had no opportunity to speak to my children.I  have explained it to my children. It is enough. We have suffered immensely.”

Last week, Nurul Nuha had urged Mahathir to own up for his accusations and other actions that led to her father’s arrest and conviction for sodomy and corruption in 1998.

Anwar said his concern now was the present, and that he was appreciative of Mahathir’s support against the NSC, adding that “reformasi” is still important. When asked whether he had forgiven Mahathir, Anwar responded by saying that he had forgiven a lot of people.

On September 5, Mahathir turned up at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to show his support for Anwar’s suit against the government over the NSC. It was the first time in 18 years that the two adversaries had met.

Hillary Clinton’s Worst Week in Washington


September 19, 2016

COMMENT by Din Merican

Wait for the Debates starting later this month. At the end of the day, it is the American voter who will have to make an intelligent choice come November 8, 2016.

Even a pro-Hillary observer like me will admit albeit grudgingly that the Democrat Presidential Nominee is on the ropes this week. That she has to depend on the likes of the popular Obamas (Barack and Michelle) and other prominent democrats  like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to campaign for her is a clear sign that she is on the defensive over the issue of trust. She has not so far been able to deal with this “character matters” issue satisfactorily. She needs to put it off the agenda before the elections, and do it fast. To some the question is will the real Hillary stand up?

However, I have not changed my view that Hillary Clinton is the more qualified of the two to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC come January 2017. My view is that Hillary Clinton has the foreign policy experience –a crucial prerequisite for a 21st century US President–and track record of public service (as First Lady, US Senator for New York and Secretary of State) to be a worthy successor to the Obama legacy. She will be good for Asia and ASEAN.

That said, Donald Trump is now in a strong position to win the race. So, it is for Hillary to lose by default. And that to me will be the mother of all upsets in American Presidential politics.

For your information, The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia in conjunction with The US Embassy, Phnom Penh will be hosting  a public lecture by Ms. Elizabeth Fisher Martin, an award winning TV journalist, on September 22, 2016 at 9 am in our campus. All are welcome.–Din Merican

THE FIX–The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton’s Worst Week in Washington

by Chris Cillizza

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/18/hillary-clintons-worst-week-in-washington-2/?hpid=hp_special-topic-chain_fix-clintonweek-1046am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

This was the week in which everyone in the political world woke up to the fact that we now have a real race for president between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That’s bad news for the Democratic nominee.

The week began with Clinton falling ill at an event honoring the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. We found out later that she was suffering from pneumonia, a diagnosis she had received 48 hours earlier but had shared only with a small circle of campaign advisers.

That series of events ignited a national conversation not only about Clinton’s health but also about her tendency toward secrecy — neither of which represents ground where she or her campaign wants to be fighting.

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Even as Clinton’s team was working to quiet her health rumors — they released a letter from her personal physician making clear that she was battling a mild pneumonia — and the candidate herself was taking some time off the campaign trail to recuperate, a slew of national and swing state polling came out showing Trump with the momentum in the race.

Ohio, Florida and Nevada — among other swing states — are moving in Trump’s direction. At the national level, Clinton’s lead over Trump has shrunk to less than a point — 44.9 percent to 44 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Clinton got some better news as the week ended. Trump held a bizarre event to disavow any belief that he spent the past five years questioning whether President Obama was born in the United States. (He did.) And Clinton got a boost Sunday morning with a new non-partisan poll in Pennsylvania showing her up nine points in a close to must-have state for Trump.

But what once looked like a blowout for Clinton no longer looks like any such thing. And the longer the race stays close, the more the pressure ramps up on Clinton. She is the one with the demographic and electoral edges, the one everyone expected to win. Trump is already playing with house money, having won a GOP primary campaign that no one — maybe not even he himself — thought he would. Pressure can do funny things to a person.

Hillary Clinton, for watching a blowout turn into a nip-and-tuck affair, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Each week, I award the Worst Week in Washington to an inhabitant of Planet Beltway who stands out for all the wrong reasons. Email me with your nominees.