Chicken Najib postpones UMNO party election for 18 months

June 27, 2015

Chicken Najib: UMNO polls delayed 18 months

Chicken Najib 2He is afraid to face his Moment of Truth

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
It will come when it will come.”
–William Shakespeare

COMMENT: Naijb Razak cites the examples of his predecessors in announcing that party polls would not be held as scheduled in 2016. Will UMNO leaders and members take this lying down? What will the Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin be a coward too by being party to this decision? UMNO-BN deserves to be voted out in the next General Election (14th GE) because in 18 months under Najib the country  will be in an absolute mess.–Din Merican

UMNO President and Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Friday that the Supreme Council has decided to postpone the party elections scheduled for 2016 to a date 18 months later from the scheduled date.

Speaking at a media briefing after concluding the bi-monthly UMNO Supreme Council Meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre, Najib said, “Based on Article 10.16 of the party’s constitution, it gives the supreme council the power to postpone the election, at the supreme council, division and branch level. The postponement cannot be more than 18 months from the originally planned date.”

“The Supreme Council feels that the public should be given the utmost priority, and thus, the focus should be on serving the public and their needs, on policy as well as the grassroots.”

Najib added that the move was not something out of the ordinary, as similar postponements had been made during the leadership of Mahathir Mohamad and his predecessor Abdullah Badawi, citing the same reasons. The decision also, does not make UMNO un-democratic, according to Najib, as the election will be done at the right time, when the new constitutional amendments were ready. “This will make the UMNO election more open with a better election mechanism.”

The UMNO Chief said the announcement on the postponement was being done well in advance so that persons involved would not plan for something that shifts their focus. “Any shift in focus may have adverse effects on their responsibilities to the party.”

“If it’s not announced now, a lot will be left to assumptions,” he added. Najib confirmed that the party was studying the weaknesses from previous party elections and looking at available proposed options, before deciding on the new election method.

Deputy UMNO President Muhyiddin Yassin had warned during the last UMNO General Assembly that the party elections should not be postponed no matter what and must be held as scheduled. “The members expect it.”

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction

June 26, 2015

COMMENT: Both GAPENA and Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka have a vested interest to preserve Bahasa Malaysia as the sole medium of instruction in our schools and universities. At least the Dewan has now acknowledged the importance of the English. In doing so, they realize that English is the language of diplomacy and commerce. GEPENA remains adamant.

I do not understand the need to have a law to enforce the use of Bahasa Malaysia and why make English a second language on the  false assumption that by using English, we will make Malaysians less Malaysian and the Malays less Malay. It has again to do with UMNO politics of xenophobia .We want Malaysians with a global mindset and multilingual proficiency to compete and excel in the 2st century world.

Ghazali_Shafie_(crop)I remember in the 60’s (Tun) Ghazalie Shafie, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs saying to my colleagues and I at one of our Friday prayer meetings that as  far as he was concerned English would remain the language of Malaysian diplomacy and in his Ministry we should read, write and speak English. He ,however, insisted that we use Bahasa Malaysia in our official dealings with our counterparts in the civil service and government agencies.

When I joined Bank Negara after leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1965, Governor (Tun) Ismail Tun Ismail Mohd Ali-2nd BNM GovernorMohamed Ali decided that we could use English internally but we had a duty to observe the ruling from the Government to use Bahasa Malaysia as the national language for official communication with the civil service.

Not just that. Governor Ismail set up a Bahasa Malaysia unit to oversea the implementation of  this directive. He did it in compliance with a directive, not  with a language law because he felt it was the right thing. to do. It was also the time when Bank Negara started to issue the Bahasa and English language versions of its Annual Report and Quarterly Economic Report. That tradition has continued to this day. I am proud to say that Bank Negara officers of the present generation are among the most proficient in the use of English and Bahasa Malaysia.

samdech-hun-senLet me say something about the Cambodian approach on the teaching of  Khmer language and English in their schools and universities. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen is a champion of Khmer Language,  arts,  and culture. When he was growing up, Cambodia was still under France and French was the official language. But he was educated in a Buddhist temple and served as a pagoda boy. He learned to read, write and speak Khmer. There were French schools which catered for the elite.

With the formation of the Royal Government in the early 1990’s, Samdech Hun Sen saw the value of English if Cambodia were to network in ASEAN and engage with the rest of the world. He decided to use English in public schools with Khmer as a medium of instruction. At the same time, he allowed private schools to use English as medium of instruction. and encouraged enterprising Cambodians to set up language schools to teach Mandarin, Korean, Japanese. French and other languages. At university level, courses are taught in  Khmer and English.

UC PresidentAt the University of Cambodia, its President Dr. Kao Kim Hourn(left) made a far sighted decision to offer courses at undergraduate and graduate levels in both languages. At the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, courses will mainly be in English at the postgraduate level The university’s Language Development Center offers programmes for enhancing English language writing and speaking skills  to all students.

In short, because Cambodia practises multilingualism, parents are given  freedom of choice in their free market driven economy.  By adopting this open education policy, Samdech Hun Sen  who himself speaks Khmer, English and Vietnamese, is encouraging his people to be internationalists, without making them less Cambodian and less patriotic. –Din Merican

Malay Language Nationalists defend Bahasa Malaysia as Medium of Instruction

by Bernama

Latiff-Bakar2The Federation of National Writers’ Association (GAPENA) Chief 1, Abdul Latiff Bakar said that the time has come for the government to have a law which could act against agencies, departments and local councils which fail to uphold the national language in their official affairs.

“We have brought this matter up many times, but there has been no development. For now we can only comment but if there is a law, any party which refuses to obey it (upholding the national language) can be punished,” he said.

He also urged the Education Ministry to make it compulsory for the senates of institutes of higher learning to observe the regulation to uphold the national language in their administrations.

“As educational institutes, they have a big responsibility to uphold the Malay language and not just chase rankings,” he said as a panelist at the forum “Challenges of the National Language in the Era of Globalisation” here today.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), Awang Sariyan said that the DBP would conduct a language audit on six public universities in a move to ensure that universities in the country abide by the regulations. He added that the DBP had so far audited 37 of the 149 local councils in the country in a move to award star ratings for councils that used Bahasa Melayu in their official dealings.

“From the audit we conducted, the usage of Bahasa Melayu in official matters including advertisements is still unsatisfactory. However, there are some local councils which we give five stars, including the Shah Alam City Council,” he said in the forum.

He said the ranking was one of the initiatives taken by the government to encourage local councils to uphold Bahasa Melayu.

DBP chairman Dr Md Salleh Yaapar said the education system should retain Bahasa Melayu as its medium of instruction and its usage was not the reason for the weak command of the English language among students.

“We acknowledge the importance of English and are not opposing it…other languages can be used including English, but this is not an excuse for replacing Bahasa Melayu as the medium of instruction in schools,” he said.

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

June 25, 2015

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

by Professor Dr.Antoine Buyse

AntoineBuyseOratie150There are two kinds of thinkers, according to the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin: hedgehogs and foxes.

2. Hedgehogs are those people who try to incorporate everything in the world into one single vision or over-arching truth. By contrast, foxes are people who draw on a wide range of observations, ideas and perspectives. Their thoughts are manifold and they do not try and squeeze reality into one straightjacket. Put in scientific terms: foxes easily jump from one paradigm to another without asserting that any of them represents the final truth. Berlin developed this metaphor by building on a line from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus which runs as follows: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

3. Dante Alighieri, Plato, and Proust are, in Berlin’s view hedgehogs. Aristotle, Montaigne and James Joyce are foxes. Berlin, in his essay The Hedgehog and the Fox, specifically applied the metaphor to the famous Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy, author of the great 19th century novel War and Peace. Tolstoy was, to Berlin, the prime example of a fox who desperately tried to be a hedgehog.

So, you may wonder by now, what does this have to do with human rights? Let me assure you that you have not stepped into a lecture on Greek or Russian literature. Neither will this be a talk about animal rights. Rather, what I propose to do today is to use this metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog to look at the current state of human rights in the world and more specifically, to look at those who study human rights: that strange little tribe called academics.

I will do so by addressing how a number of academic fields have engaged with human rights and their biggest academic support group: the human rights lawyers. I will argue that studying human rights from non-legal perspectives, from different disciplines, is key to acquiring new insights in the legal academic study of human rights. Secondly, but no less importantly, this may lead to progress in the implementation of human rights on the ground, by a better understanding of factors that contribute to or, by contrast, hinder the ways in which people can use their rights to improve their lives.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the state of human rights in the world today. Close to home in the Netherlands, cities are struggling with the legal and practical issues of giving shelter and care to irregular migrants and the decentralization of social services. Discrimination in the police forces, lack of interest for the right to a safe living environment in the earthquake prone North of the country, and an absence of basic human rights knowledge among youngsters are all challenges we face. In Europe, the coming together of the human rights systems of the European Union and the Council of Europe has endured a setback veiled in the shape of an Advisory Opinion.

4. And on a much more worrying global scale, the conflicts that rage across Syria, Iraq and Yemen have caused thousands of deaths. In 2014 war crimes were committed in at least 18 countries. The Mediterranean is turning into a blue graveyard. Freedom of expression and of the press are under pressure in Hungary, Eritrea, Venezuela, Russia and many other places. It is estimated that arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression occurred in over 75% of the world’s states last year. It led Amnesty International to conclude that 2014 was a “devastating year” and an “ultimate low point”.

5 Should we then abandon all hope, as if entering Dante’s Inferno? Well, arguably, in the longer run, the picture does not seem that bleak. The various forms of extreme violence that catch our attention in today’s news reports are not entirely representative. The psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature has argued that history shows a somewhat irregular, yet overall steady decline of violence between human beings.

6 He ascribes this decline to various civilizing and pacification processes of which one is of particular interest for us today. These are the so-called rights revolutions, as Pinker dubs them. Movements for citizens’ rights started in the eighteenth century and gained particular momentum in the second half of the twentieth century. They expanded to rights movements for women, racial and ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, disabled people, and children, and yes, even to animals. One of the key factors enabling this development is a leap of imagination and empathy: the fact that we can imagine how other humans suffer from injustice and that they are in many ways similar to ourselves. This empathy for the other, stretching far beyond people’s own circle of family and friends was nurtured, according to historian Lynn Hunt, by the novel.

7 The eighteenth century saw this new literary genre rise and spread. Novels like Pamela by Richardson and Julie by Rousseau enabled readers on a much wider scale than ever before to empathize with people who were oppressed. It is no coincidence in Hunt’s view that the first declarations of human rights, with the American and French ones as the most famous examples, were created in those very same decades that these novels were read. Although human rights were not, as the title of her book claims, invented in the eighteenth century – the idea is of course much older and the relevance in national and international politics much more recent – Hunt does bring home an important point about human rights. They are imagined. Indeed, just like the country of the Netherlands (which was imagined in this very grand hall a few centuries ago in the Union of Utrecht), but also money, or Mickey Mouse, human rights are figments of our very fertile imaginations, as another historian, Yuval Harari, has put it.

8 This very capacity to imagine things is in his view what distinguishes humans from other animals. Like humans, animals may laugh or even fool each other, but imagining non-existent things is not something a single fox or hedgehog is capable of (at least as far as we humans are aware). This skill of imagination enables us to cooperate, for good or bad, in larger groups. And these products of our imagination have very real consequences in reality – people may kill in the name of their country, buy goods across the globe with their money or build entire theme parks for their favourite cartoon character.

The leap of imagination towards human rights did not happen in one go, however, and faced several setbacks after it flourished in the Enlightenment. The nineteenth century saw a turn towards nationalism which, far into the twentieth century, remained stronger in the West than universalist ideologies, whether they were about civil and political rights or the rights of workers. No wonder then that the first large-scale international rights agreements, in the period between the two World Wars, concerned the protection of national minorities: in many ways these minorities were perceived as a country’s own nationals who had ended up in the wrong state. It was only after the Second World War that the universalist movement came back in full force, even if only for a short time, in the years of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And even then, nationalist prejudice still lingered. The most conspicuous example is that one of the people considered to become a member of the Human Rights Commission, Hersch Lauterpacht, was rejected as an option by the legal advisor of the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom. He stated, and I quote:

“Professor Lauterpacht, although a distinguished and industrious international lawyer, is, when all is said and done, a Jew fairly recently come from Vienna. Emphatically, I think that the representative of His Majesty’s Government on human rights must be a very English Englishman imbued throughout his life and hereditary to the real meaning of human rights as we understand them in this country.” End of quote

9.The drafting of the Universal Declaration itself is a telling example of both cooperation and differences of views between different disciplines. For not only politicians and lawyers were involved, as one may expect. Both philosophers and anthropologists took an interest in the genesis of this key human rights document. This involvement was closely connected with one key question: how to produce a document that truly reflected global values, that could truly be called universal? As the drafters struggled with what to put in the text and what not, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO came to the rescue. It established a Committee on the Theoretical Bases of Human Rights, consisting of mostly philosophers. This group sent out questionnaires across the globe and across cultures asking whether the norms present in human rights could also be found in their own traditions. People ranging from Mohandas Gandhi to Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, responded. To the philosophers’ delight they were able to find a range of common principles across cultures similar to many of the rights the drafters of the Universal Declaration were construing, sufficient at least to justify that a global document could be called universal. Of course, this agreement was only a common denominator and it was agreement mainly on what the norms were, not on their justification. As one philosopher on the UNESCO Committee liked to say: “Yes, we agree about the rights but on condition no one asks us why.”

10 This justification problem, although it did not prevent the creation of the Universal Declaration, has continued to haunt the international human rights movement ever since. The interest of philosophers in human rights has continued to this day, amongst others here in Utrecht by the vibrant research group of our dear colleagues of the Ethics Institute.

Another discipline also took an interest in the Universal Declaration: anthropology. In a statement sent to the Human Rights Commission in 1947, the American Anthropological Association warned that the Declaration should not become a mere reflection of the values of Western Europe and America. Since each human being was not only an island in itself, but a social being functioning in a group and in her or his own culture, a truly universal document should reflect the common elements among these cultures and not, implicitly or explicitly postulate the supremacy of one culture over another. One should, the anthropologists argued, avoid to make human rights part of “the white man’s burden” and thereby blemish it with all the problems of colonialism and imperialism. The anthropologists’ statement has later often been misread as cultural relativism, as opposed to the universality of human rights. But the anthropologists were not claiming that creating a universally valid text was impossible. Rather, they added to the concerns of the philosophers about the ‘why’ of human rights, concerns of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Not all of the norms and values about right and wrong that one may identify are shared across the globe. As the anthropologists put it, “The saint of one epoch would at a later time be confined as a man not fitted to cope with reality.”

11. And the practice or expression of common ideas widely differs across cultures. The anthropological interest in human rights did not limit itself to its cradle, the Universal Declaration. Indeed, in the past decades a large amount of research has been done into how human rights are perceived, talked about, practised and yes, even imagined.

12 Where a stubborn universalist might be a hedgehog trying to fit it all into one system, many anthropologists better resemble the foxes, being very aware of the enormous variety in human rights practice. Thus even an experience I once had in the train is an example of that practice and imagination of human rights: the old couple sitting next to me complained that they were forced to take public transport as their human right to park their car in their city of destination was not guaranteed. In more academic terms, as the anthropologist Mark Goodale put it a few years ago, the meanings of human rights “are constituted most importantly by a range of social actors (…) within the disarticulated practices of everyday life.”

13 And, one may add, anthropologists have also found their way to courtrooms of human rights litigation, and not as suspects or prosecutors, but to study the proceedings and their interaction with the social context in which these cases occur.

The rise of human rights later also spawned interest in other fields of research, from international relations to political science. The work of Risse and Sikkink on norms cascades and of Beth Simmons on how human rights are mobilized are just two of the many examples of theorizing on how both international and national rights can become a force to be reckoned with inside states.

14. As this practice grew in both democracies and countries in transition, research on human rights also increased. A search in Google Scholar shows that in 2014 alone over 45,000 books and articles mentioning the words “human rights” were uploaded.

These are staggering amounts, even for the most optimistic and voracious reader trying to stay up-to-date with the state-of-the-art on the topic.

The developments in different disciplines briefly mentioned here show that many researchers from other fields than law have shown interest in human rights. So, what about the lawyers? The rise of international human rights after World War II meant that apart from constitutional lawyers, legal researchers in the fields of international and European law started to study the issue. Later on, researchers in criminal law and private law joined them. Critical legal studies, feminist, utilitarian, marxist, and other critiques on human rights have all helped to point out and gradually decrease the blind spots of Lady Justice. These critiques have shown, for example, that the initial human rights treaties were too focused on the public rather than the private, and on, for example, torture rather than domestic violence.

Thus, human rights have increased in numbers, pervaded more fields of law, and gained traction in a large number of countries. Their understanding has increased from a negative approach to one in which positive obligations for states are prominently represented, ranging from protection against threats to life to fostering equality, as legal scholar Sandra Fredman has convincingly shown in her work.

15. This broadening of human rights has come at a price, however. The very extension of the number of rights, which we can call human rights proliferation, may have extended protection or at least attention to new groups, but it has also led to criticism that the wide scope of rights is rather a sign of inflation, detracting from a supposed traditional core group of rights which would be more important. Eric Posner, for example, in his recent book with the ominous title The Twilight of Human Rights, argues that the very multiplication of rights will lead to their demise. He contends that attaching a rights label to an increasing number of societal claims is counterproductive. According to Posner, [and I quote]

“the idea of a rigid legal framework will gradually dissolve into a soup of competing and unresolvable claims about which interests deserve human rights protection, which interests do not and how much weight should be placed on each of them.” [end of quote]

16. He contends, moreover, that many of the international human rights protection systems have remained ineffective. Along similar lines, Stephen Hopgood traces the, in his view, fatal problems facing human rights, in his The End times of Human Rights.

17. Human rights are part of the Western liberal tradition and power. The demise of that power, especially of the United States, weakens human rights. Nationalism and religion reflect a resurgence of different values and it is not just rogue states like Syria or North Korea who challenge the human rights system, but also large, emerging powers. If one would follow Posner or Hopgood, one would not even need to consult Nostradamus to believe the end is near.

Indeed power balances in the world are shifting. Indeed the United Nations human rights system is not the most effective legal system the world has ever seen. And indeed the proliferation of rights causes new dilemmas of dealing with competing claims taking the shape of human rights. International human rights are not an iron shield but rather a frail safety net that can break if stretched too far by those trying to attack it. But Posner and Hopgood miss out on a number of crucial points.

18. Even if in international relations the balance of power changes, human rights continue to make inroads in many countries, also less-liberal ones, by way of active courts and justifiability of rights, and human rights education. Even if the global human rights system is not the strongest, several regional ones are relatively effective, including the Strasbourg-Luxembourg twins here in Europe – even if they do not always acknowledge they are close family. As for the increasing number of competing claims, lawyers have long devised and are still devising new and practical ways of dealing with them. And even on those points where these critical authors are partly right about the weaknesses of human rights practice – Posner mentions the lack of empirically-informed approaches – matters should be improved not left to fade into a twilight zone. Put differently, if human rights protection systems are like an ambulance stuck on the road, we should repair the engine, not discard it. Fighting illegal and arbitrary action by states and non-state actors alike is simply too important.

19. What can academic researchers do to engage in these issues and to help and improve matters on the ground without turning into activists themselves? Mixing activism and research where one weakens the other, is indeed a perennial risk for human rights researchers. You may not be surprised that legal research infused by insights from other disciplines is what in my view is necessary. Lawyer-hedgehogs need hedgehogs from other disciplines, and a few foxes amongst themselves, to connect the lot of them. For indeed, the metaphor of the foxes and the hedgehogs of Isaiah Berlin, with which I started this lecture, cannot just be applied to literature and writers, but also to academia.

20. There are researchers who try to incorporate everything they find into one all-encompassing system. And others who apply a variety of methods to critique various models and systems, not particularly bothered by a striving for unity or coherence. This is not simply a contrast between deductive science and inductive, empirical research. Nor is fox science automatically better than hedgehog research or the other way around. Great thinkers can be found among both groups of academic animals. Rather, it has a lot to do with each researcher’s personal preferences.

The metaphor can be applied to legal thinkers too. The famous book A Theory of Justice of John Rawls is an attempt at a coherent whole and could be compared to the work of a hedgehog.

21 Michael Walzer’s Spheres of Justice was partly a reaction to the ideas of Rawls.  Walzer constantly engaged with and criticized the catch-all theories of others and argued that there are no ready-made solutions for just societies. This makes his work more that of a fox. His thinking can be read as a plea for a more complex and layered egalitarianism. Finally, Ronald Dworkin explicitly identified with one animal in his book, Justice for Hedgehogs.

22.In his work, he tried, not always successfully, to argue for a coherent notion of what human dignity would entail. What is important for law, in my view, is to supplement the almost inherent quest for coherence and system-building that lawyers display – a hedgehog endeavor – by an openness to other perspectives, insights and disciplines – to become a bit like foxes when necessary.

23.So what should happen in academia, in research? I am not arguing that other disciplines should start to show some interest for human rights. They have. Nor am I saying that lawyers should finally start going beyond black letter law. Many do, including a great number of colleagues present here today. We need both those who deepen the knowledge deep in the trenches of their specialization and those who build bridges across those very trenches. What I would say, rather, is that we should all become a bit more aware of each other’s work, the lawyers and the non-lawyers. To connect the legal study of human rights more firmly with insights and research on those same rights by other disciplines. By establishing a chair on human rights in a multidisciplinary perspective, Utrecht University shows commitment to this aim of connecting the dots. None of us should lock ourselves up in our own field like pedantic, know-it-all hedgehogs. But most of us researchers also do not have the time and means to become foxes who can easily jump from one disciplinary perspective to another – few are, in other words, like Roald Dahl’s fantastic Mr Fox. Even combining just two disciplines takes years of study. That is why we have to join forces to solve problems that cannot be tackled by one discipline alone. And we can do so through cooperation.

24. Let me give you one example from my own research on how to bring insights from other disciplines to bear on law. This concerns the issue of freedom of expression in relation to violent conflict escalation. Put differently, the question of when do words kill? Freedom of expression is, like most human rights norms, an open norm. But some norms are more open than others. What is seen as acceptable speech widely differs from one society to another and what shocks, offends, or disturbs is different for each individual. Explicit commercials, the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo, or the comments of politicians may all stay within, or cross, the limits of freedom of expression, depending on whom one asks. However, there is one almost universally accepted limitation to free speech and that is speech that incites to or otherwise causes violence. This rarely concerns instances in which someone literally gives orders to shoot, as a commanding officer would shout to a soldier. Most situations do not lead to an easy ‘I know it when I see it’. After all, the links between a specific speech on television, a cartoon in a newspaper, or a radio broadcast on the one hand and the escalation of violence between groups on the other are not always as self-evident as during the Rwandan genocide.

25. Yet, freedom of expression cases in relation to violence do reach courts and are subject to legislation and policy-making. Moreover, most judges may believe that they need to call in an expert when they are dealing with a medical case, but they often see freedom of expression cases as falling within their own area of expertise. A consequence of this has been a somewhat misguided emphasis on utterances of hatred as somehow leading up to violence. It is no coincidence that the legal notion of hate speech has become used so much in the past decades. But is that truly the key to correctly assessing such matters? And if we accept that context somehow matters, which context should judges and policymakers consider?

26. It is here that the open norm of freedom of expression needs some fleshing out, aided by insights from a field in which the escalation of violence has been a core theme of research: conflict studies. As I have argued in my research over the last few years, these insights may contribute to better legal and political decision-making in three different ways.

27. First, conflict researchers have shown that in many violent conflicts between groups, instilling fear, especially a fear of being lethally attacked, has been found to be an important factor in the process leading to violence. Such fear may lead to the acceptance of the use of violence as a legitimate means to solve a perceived inter-group problem.

28. Thus what I have dubbed “fear speech,” expressions aimed at instilling (existential) fear of another group, rather than “hate speech” may be more relevant when assessing violent conflict escalation. Hatred is not irrelevant, but it is not as such the triggering factor. The emphasis of lawyers, including human rights lawyers, on hate speech may thus be an example of looking for a solution to a legal problem in the wrong direction. Secondly, context matters. This is not something lawyers would deny, but they would have to concede that it is not always easy to identify which factors are relevant. In a human rights test of free expression, contextual factors mostly appear in the third leg of the three-pronged test of limitations, as for example in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the test of necessity in a democratic society. It may be clear to anyone that if someone outside on the Dom Square calls for the extinction of all blue-eyed people in Utrecht, it may have little effect. A similar call to violence against religious minorities may, by contrast, be very effective in the midst of a town square in Syria or Iraq today. Again, insights from conflict studies may help to see which factors – the position of the speaker, the medium used, or the exact wording chosen – are truly relevant. Again, a judge may or may not look at the relevant factors. Thirdly, we know that a very good indication for the outbreak of violence is recent earlier violence. While this fact in itself is not very helpful, it does become a tool for analysis if we use framing theory to look at this earlier violence.

29. For indeed, the way in which an earlier incident of violence is framed in the media or through gossip – as an instance of thug violence or as an attack of one ethnic group on another – may pave the way respectively for law enforcement or violent conflict. The chosen wording or imagery in an expression is thus important, as it may explain, justify or motivate violence. Framing theory insights provide useful tools of analysis here.

What this single example of freedom of expression and violence shows is that legal scholarship and practice may be usefully assisted by insights from other bodies of knowledge, if translated and handled with care.

In conclusion, what I propose to do in my own research in the coming years is to try and build and extend the bridges to other disciplines. The example of fear speech is an illustration of this. In this way, I will try to be a fox, bringing in different perspectives whenever that can enrich and further our legal understanding of human rights. On the other hand, part of my work will also remain very much that of the hedgehog looking for consistency of the system, in the more positivist, legal study of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights treaties. Never the twain shall meet? Well, maybe hedgehogs and foxes at times can. Just like Tolstoy was a fox desperately trying to be a hedgehog.

And finally, each of you may now start to wonder whether you are yourself more of a fox or a hedgehog.

Malaysian Opposition told to end its strategic crap

June 25,2015

COMMENT: It is true what my friend and fellow journeyman, Dr. Wong says. The opposition, whatever its form or shape, must stop being washy-washy (in typical Anwar Ibrahim style) and deal with serious and pressing issues, if it hopes to form the next government. Voters have a right to know where the (new) opposition stands on national unity, economic policy, social and civil rights issues.

Stop fudging and sweeping serious national matters under the carpet. Over the last seven years, the Opposition has been vague, incoherent and myopic. “Strategic ambiguity” has led to the break up of Pakatan Rakyat. Just end Anwar’s daydreaming of becoming Prime Minister. The now defunct Pakatan Rakyat was perceived to be about Anwar’s ambition.

Being the government is not politicking; it is about governing Malaysia for the rakyat. This is also my message to Wan Azizah, Azmin Ali and PKR. If you want to be with UMNO and PAS ala Hadi, by all means do so. It is your choice and we as voters will know to do with you. My message to Anwar Ibrahim is this: End your politics from prison.–Din Merican

Malaysian Opposition told to end its strategic crap

by By Alyaa

The opposition should stop its “strategic ambiguity” over pertinent issues if it plans to change the government come the next election.

Wong Chin HuatA Fellow of the Penang Institute- a think tank linked to the Penang state government – Dr. Wong Chin Huat was responding to PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim who said that the new opposition would be stronger together with the help of NGOs.

“Which group getting involved is not as important as to whether there can be an emerging national consensus, moving forward post-BN.

“The opposition needs to also address the Malay anxiety by finding a win-win solution post-National Economic Policy (NEP). Then they have a chance to talk about changing the government,” said Wong to Malaysiakini.

The political scientist pointed out one of the major problems with Pakatan is, that it had tried to stay strategically ambiguous for the past seven years.

“They think they can avoid this question by getting into power first, and then dealing with the issues. But it’s not going to work.
Whether the opposition would be stronger depends on whether they can resolve these two questions,” he said.

He also pointed out how Pakatan had been the opposition’s third attempt to be ambiguous, the first being in the form of Gagasan Rakyat and Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) in 1990 and the second in the form of Barisan Alternatif.

“The opposition’s fourth attempt cannot go on with strategic ambiguity and hope that it will work,” he said.

Secular federation

Elaborating further on the two issues that need to be resolved by the opposition, Wong said the new opposition coalition must be very clear in that they must defend Malaysia as a secular federation.

“There must be at least a temporal agreement for 10 years that there will be commitment to preserve secularism.If not, then this is not going to work because the same thing will pop up sooner or later.

“That kind of commitment (by the opposition) needs to be clear; no more wishy-washy telling the people that they should allow them to test the waters first because the voters are already tired of it,” he said.

Meanwhile, explaining further on the Malay anxiety should there be no policies that would defend them like the NEP, Wong said it had been one of the reasons why syariah law had come to the forefront.

“That’s been a reason why Pakatan has been attacked all these while due to the argument that if Pakatan comes into power Malays will be weakened.The opposition must offer something attractive to the Malays. To survive, it needs to have a more concrete solution; an alternative to NEP-like remedies. “Otherwise half of the population will say why do they need to change the government,” he said.

Wong said the opposition should come up with a new policy which could effectively help the Malays more. “It must come out with a new policy which would help the Malays more than what the NEP did,” he quipped.

Although the state of Pakatan, whether it still existed or otherwise remains open to interpretation, it is undeniable that the opposition needs to gather its wits and come to a united stand on various issues should it want to obtain the support of the rakyat.

Paul Krugman : Racial hatred is still a potent force in the US

June 24, 2015

Paul Krugman : Racial hatred is still a potent force in the US

by Paul

America is a much less racist nation than it used to be, and I’m not just talking about the still remarkable fact that an African-American occupies the White House. The raw institutional racism that prevailed before the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow is gone, although subtler discrimination persists. Individual attitudes have changed, too, dramatically in some cases. For example, as recently as the 1980s half of Americans opposed interracial marriage, a position now held by only a tiny minority.

Paul KrugmanYet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Of course, saying this brings angry denials from many conservatives, so let me try to be cool and careful here, and cite some of the overwhelming evidence for the continuing centrality of race in our national politics.

My own understanding of the role of race in US exceptionalism was largely shaped by two academic papers.

The first, by political scientist Larry Bartels, analysed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon – it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 per cent in the deep South.

The second paper, by economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors – who are not, by the way, especially liberal – explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing – or refusing to implement – Obamacare.

For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?

The answer is: 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 per cent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.

And it’s not just health reform: A history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.

So will it always be thus? Is America doomed to live forever politically in the shadow of slavery?

I’d like to think not. For one thing, our country is growing more ethnically diverse, and the old black-white polarity is slowly becoming out-dated. For another, as I said, we really have become much less racist, and in general a much more tolerant society on many fronts. Over time, we should expect to see the influence of dog-whistle politics decline.

But that hasn’t happened yet. Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin. — The New York Times

* New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is an American economist who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work on international trade and economic geography.


Get serious about fighting corruption

June 24, 2015


READ THIS by DAP Senator Tunku A. Aziz:

One lesson we should never ever forget is that politicians as a breed are pathological liars. There are naturally one or two who are reliable and decent.But seriously, you would probably be better off trusting a cat with a plate of fried fish. Opposition politicians are no exception to this universal truth. So keep an eagle eye on them too, including me, just to be on the safe side.–Tunku A. Aziz (2011)

Corruption exists because people vested with power can act with impunity. Our system of governance breeds little Napoleons and big ones and rapacious rent seekers at all levels. Only the little ones are charged and punished. We as citizens are forced to bribe to get anything done.

Therefore we need a total revamp of our public administration and make politicians in power and public officials accountable for their actions. An all-powerful Executive Branch is unacceptable. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton). Our present system is rotten.

Gani Patail 2Attorney-General with Power without Accountability

For example, we have to take a critical look at Article 145 of the constitution to ensure that the power of the Attorney-General is subject to oversight by a constitutional court. At present, he has “the power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial”[ art. 145 (3)]. The Attorney-General has security of tenure since he cannot “…be removed from office except on the like grounds and in the like manner as a judge of the Federal Court”. [art.145(6)]

But we should not act on a piecemeal basis. In stead, we should  establish a Royal Commission to review our Constitution and make appropriate recommendations. We need a system of public administration that is open, transparent and accountable.

At the same time we must ensure that no party or coalition is given two-thirds majority to enable it to amend the constitution ever again. For that to happen we must have electoral reforms to ensure free and fair elections supervised by a truly independent Elections Commission. So back to the Constitution, and why not.–Din Merican

 Get serious about fighting corruption

by Wan Saiful Wan

We must separate the roles of the Attorney-General as legal advisor to the Government and Public Prosecutor who prosecutes cases in court.

IT has become fashionable for critics to express dissatisfaction every time the Auditor-General presents his report to Parliament. So when the second report this year was tabled on June 15, the reaction was generally expected.

But the reaction from Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed is particularly important. Nur Jazlan, who is also Ideas’ Council member this time, says that he is disappointed with the performance of many Government agencies because they have failed to improve.

Nur JazlanPAC Chairman Nur Jazlan

He also said that not long ago he praised Government officials for showing improvements every time the Auditor-General’s report is published. But he felt compelled to retract that praise because this time it was particularly bad.

He went on to say that many of the problems originate from the attitude of civil servants. Apparently the quality of our civil servants has deteriorated, and they don’t even bother to read the rules.

When the PAC Chairman makes such a bold statement, you know that there is something really wrong in the way civil servants manage our money. It is ironic that the Prime Minister recently announced a bonus for our civil servants despite such abysmal indictment.

Under Nur Jazlan, the PAC has been doing a much better job in identifying weaknesses in Government machinery and in demanding accountability. In fact, thanks to the PAC, the public now knows about the risk posed by Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd, a Government-linked company that has one of the biggest liabilities among Malaysia’s GLCs. The company has been off the audit radar for almost 10 years, despite the large amount of debt that it has accumulated.

The work of bodies like the PAC is important in our push for better governance in the country. The issues the PAC looks into are not necessarily about corruption.Their responsibility is wider, covering also problems such as leakages and failure to adhere to published policies and procedures.

Fighting corruption, on the other hand, is more commonly associated with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). I am still waiting to see if the MACC would act on a recent admission by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that a Special Branch report found that around 80% of our border enforcement officers are involved in corruption.

Nevertheless, I am very aware that even if the MACC were to start an investigation, that is only half of the journey. The other half lies outside of the MACC’s jurisdiction, and that is the prosecution of corruption cases.

TS Abu KassimTan Sri Abu Kassim of MACC

Our system is designed in such a way that the MACC, just like the Police, can only investigate and not prosecute. Prosecution is the sole discretion of the Attorney-General, who doubles up as our Public Prosecutor.

I have no problem with the MACC not having the power to prosecute. In fact, I think it is right to keep prosecutorial powers away from the investigation agency. Back in 2012, we at IDEAS looked into this issue and compared the experience of Indonesia and Hong Kong in fighting corruption.

We published the findings in July 2012 and concluded that it really does not matter whether or not the MACC has prosecution power. Instead, what is most important is the integrity of the Judiciary and the Attorney-General’s Office.

Any effort to improve the quality of MACC, therefore, will have to be accompanied by reform in both the judiciary and the Attorney-General’s Office. Focusing on the MACC alone is not sufficient.

If we want to see a more effective fight against corruption we must separate the roles of the Attorney-General as legal advisor to the Government and Public Prosecutor who prosecutes cases in court.

Let me justify that with a simple analogy using the case of the allegedly corrupt border enforcement officers.Let’s say the MACC do investigate the allegation and find that the problem runs all the way up to Ministerial level.

The MACC then passes the files to the Attorney-General. How much confidence do we have that the Attorney-General will prosecute his friends in Cabinet? It is obvious that as legal advisor to the Government, he is conflicted. How can he prosecute the very party he is supposed to advise?

There are actually many more proposals to improve the MACC that deserve public attention. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest you search for reports published by the Special Committee on Corruption now chaired by Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang. This bipartisan committee, whose membership consists of members of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, regularly comes up with some very good ideas.

One of those ideas is for the MACC to be given independence in recruiting their own officers. This suggestion has been mooted since 2010 and it makes a lot of sense. To be truly independent, MACC cannot continue to be dependent on seconded staff from the Public Service Commission, because this creates a conflict of loyalty.

But unfortunately, this idea has not received the attention that it deserves from the Government. There are times when I ask myself if our Ministers are really serious in the fight against corruption. For if they are really serious, why are they ignoring sensible ideas coming from a committee whose membership is from among their own colleagues?

Don’t they realise that the longer they choose to do nothing, the more people will feel that they have things to hide?

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is Chief Executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (


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