January 24, 2019
Anwar Ibrahim with Richard Quest on TalkAsia
January 24, 2019
January 3, 2019
QUESTION TIME | If anything, Bersatu’s recent annual general assembly starkly shows one thing – that it is merely an extension of the old UMNO (Baru,) and will use the model of Malay supremacy,ty and put back in place corruption via patronage politics.
The only way to check that unfortunate retrograde policy is for the other Pakatan Harapan partners, especially those who have three to four times the number of MPs Bersatu has, to exert their combined muscle to rightfully regain more influence in the coalition and restore the original reform agenda pre-GE14.
At the AGM, Bersatu vice-President Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, also a former Election Commission (EC) chairperson, termed pushbacks against delegates’ demands to be given government resources to help the party retain power as “stupid”.
Bad enough that you have the former EC chairperson advocating breaking laws but this same person was shockingly appointed in August last year to head a Putrajaya committee that will make recommendations on electoral law reform in two years time.
This same Abdul Rashid had been heavily criticised by both PKR and DAP, the dominant parties in Harapan, over his tenure from 2000 to 2008 as the EC chairperson. This continues a tendency for Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint tainted,controversial and/or discredited people to important positions.
This includes Daim Zainuddin to head the Council of Eminent Persons; former Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor (who brutally assaulted Anwar Ibrahim and gave him a black eye while in Police detention) to negotiate security arrangements with Thailand and former discredited aAtorneys-General to important positions.
Abdul Rashid’s comments at the Bersatu assembly are particularly galling and provocative and advocate extra-judicial measures to keep and extend Bersatu’s hold on power. These are clearly against the law but Abdul Rashid (photo) received a misplaced standing ovation from Bersatu delegates.
“Looking at the situation now, we cannot defend our position as the governing party because the division chiefs are being left out. It is lucky that the Prime Minister gave me a job with a big salary so that I can support my division,” said Abdul Rashid, apparently referring to his appointment to the government’s election reform committee.
“But the others, we don’t need to be arrogant by saying we shouldn’t give them jobs, that we would be taking away the jobs of others, that we should not take this or that. That opinion, to me, irresponsible. In the election, we must win by hook or by crook,” he said.
He added that although he did not like the idea of using government resources, it had to be done.
“All division chiefs should be given activities so that they can have the opportunity to defend their divisions,” he said.
Abdul Rashid also urged the government to restore the parallel village chief system practised by the previous BN government. “And our people must occupy these positions,” he said.
Village chiefs are traditionally appointed by the state government but the previous BN government appointed parallel village chiefs in states not under its control. The Harapan administration has abolished this parallel system.
“All development projects should be channeled to these (parallel) committees and the division chiefs must benefit,” he said as the crowd cheered him on.
Blown to smithereens
It is unthinkable that this man, who clearly advocates moves against current elections laws, heads Putrajaya’s committee on electoral reform. If anything, he will probably advocate changes in the law to allow these offences to take place.
Harapan leaders should forthwith put their foot down and demand that Abdul Rashid be removed as the head of the electoral reform committee as he has clearly shown, by his words at a public gathering, that he is not a fit person to come up with electoral reforms which are up to international standards.
That he had so much support from Bersatu delegates for his views is worrying, with other leaders echoing his sentiments. While Bersatu head Mahathir has said that what Abdul Rashid says is his personal opinion, he should immediately review Abdul Rashid’s position as head of the electoral reform committee.
The original UMNO was founded in 1946 to champion Malay rights in the lead up to independence. Its founder Onn bin Jaffar left UMNO after the party refused to open membership to non-Malays. Tunku Abdul Rahman took over the helm and became Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.
That UMNO was de-registered in 1987 after the courts declared it illegal. Then prime minister Mahathir formed UMNO Baru or UMNO 2.0 and organised members of UMNO, who supported him to join this UMNO Baru, excluding others who did not. There was a breakaway group called Semangat 46 formed, headed by Mahathir’s then opponent , Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Mahathir altered the constitution of the original UMNO considerably by making it next to impossible to remove a sitting UMNO Baru President. This resulted in a progressive erosion of government accountability and transparency, eventually leading to 1MDB and its excesses. And UMNOMNO-BN’s first loss in the general election last year.
As droves of MPs start to desert UMNOo Baru, Bersatu may well become Umno 3.0 if it accepts these UMNOo MPs as members. That will irrevocably change the complexion of the coalition and alter the balance of power within Harapan.
Other coalition partners, in particular, PKR and DAP, should clearly resist this and state their irreversible opposition to such moves, simply because all UMNO and BN MPs are tainted because they knew full well of the corruption and theft within 1MDB when they decided to stand for elections.
If all of the UMNO MPs are accepted within the Bersatu fold and become Harapan members effectively and those within Bersatu who call for extrajudicial measures to remain in power are not checked, it is inevitable that Bersatu will become UMNO 3.0 and the strongest party within the Harapan coalition.
With that, the hopes of the majority of Malaysians for a fairer, more equitable country, where everybody is considered Malaysian and where corruption is a thing of the past and accountability and good governance will be practised, will be blown to smithereens.
P GUNASEGARAM says we have to guard our newfound freedom zealously instead of surrendering it back to UMNO goons and gangsters who want a return to the past. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
February 14, 2017
Nothing was quite the same for me after reading that piece, which I’ve reread periodically throughout my life, finding things to challenge me each time. I always finish the essay feeling reawakened, aware that I’ve not done enough to make the world a better place by using whatever gifts I may have. Chomsky spurs me to more intense reading and thinking, driving me into action, which might take the form of writing an op-ed piece, joining a march or protest, sending money to a special cause, or just committing myself to further study a political issue.
The main point of Chomsky’s essay is beautifully framed after a personal introduction in which he alludes to his early admiration for Dwight Macdonald, an influential writer and editor from the generation before him:
Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology, and class interest through which the events of current history are presented to us.
For those who think of Chomsky as tediously anti-American, I would note that here and countless times in the course of his voluminous writing he says that it is only within a relatively free society that intellectuals have the elbow room to work. In a kind of totalizing line shortly after the above quotation, he writes: “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”
This imposes a heavy burden on those of us who think of ourselves as “intellectuals,” a term rarely used now, as it sounds like something Lenin or Trotsky would have used and does, indeed, smack of self-satisfaction, even smugness; but (at least in my own head) it remains useful, embracing anyone who has access to good information, who can read this material critically, analyze data logically, and respond frankly in clear and persuasive language to what is discovered.
Chomsky’s essay appeared at the height of the Vietnam War, and was written mainly in response to that conflict, which ultimately left a poor and rural country in a state of complete disarray, with more than 2 million dead, millions more wounded, and the population’s basic infrastructure decimated. I recall flying over the northern parts of Vietnam some years after the war had ended, and seeing unimaginably vast stretches of denuded forest, the result of herbicidal dumps – 20 million tons of the stuff, including Agent Orange, which has had ongoing health consequences for the Vietnamese.
The complete picture of this devastation was unavailable to Chomsky, or anyone, at the time; but he saw clearly that the so-called experts who defended this ill-conceived and immoral war before congressional committees had evaded their responsibility to speak the truth.
In his usual systematic way, Chomsky seems to delight in citing any number of obsequious authorities, who repeatedly imply that the spread of American-style democracy abroad by force is justified, even if it means destroying this or that particular country in the effort to make them appreciate the benefits of our system. He quotes one expert from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies who tells Congress blithely that the North Vietnamese “would be perfectly happy to be bombed to be free.”
“In no small measure,” Chomsky writes in the penultimate paragraph of his essay, “it is attitudes like this that lie behind the butchery in Vietnam, and we had better face up to them with candor, or we will find our government leading us towards a ‘final solution’ in Vietnam, and in the many Vietnams that inevitably lie ahead.”
Chomsky, of course, was right to say this, anticipating American military interventions in such places as Lebanon (1982-1984), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf (1990-1991) and, most disastrously, Iraq (2003-2011), the folly of which led to the creation of ISIS and the catastrophe of Syria.
Needless to say, he has remained a striking commentator on these and countless other American interventions over the past half century, a writer with an astonishing command of modern history. For me, his writing has been consistently cogent, if marred by occasional exaggeration and an ironic tone (fueled by anger or frustration) that occasionally gets out of hand, making him an easy target for opponents who wish to dismiss him as a crackpot or somebody so blinded by anti-American sentiment that he can’t ever give the U.S. government a break.
I like “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” and other essays from this period by Chomsky, because one feels him discovering his voice and forging a method: that relentlessly logical drive, the use of memorable and shocking quotations by authorities, the effortless placing of the argument within historical boundaries and the furious moral edge, which — even in this early essay — sometimes tips over from irony into sarcasm (a swerve that will not serve him well in later years).
Here, however, even the sarcasm seems well-positioned. He begins one paragraph, for instance, by saying: “It is the responsibility of the intellectuals to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective.” He then refers to the 1938 Munich Agreement, wherein Britain and other European nations allowed the Nazis to annex the Sudetenland — one of the great errors of appeasement in modern times. He goes on to quote Adlai Stevenson on this error, where the former presidential candidate notes how “expansive powers push at more and more doors” until they break open, one by one, and finally resistance becomes necessary, whereupon “major war breaks out.” Chomsky comments: “Of course, the aggressiveness of liberal imperialism is not that of Nazi Germany, though the distinction may seem rather academic to a Vietnamese peasant who is being gassed or incinerated.”
What he says about the gassed, incinerated victims of American military violence plucks our attention. It’s good polemical writing that forces us to confront the realities at hand.
What really got to me when I first read this essay was the astonishing idea that Americans didn’t always act out of purity of motives, wishing the best for everyone. That was what I had been taught by a generation of teachers who had served in World War II, but the Vietnam War forced many in my generation to begin the painful quest to understand American motives in a more complex way. Chomsky writes that it’s “an article of faith that American motives are pure and not subject to analysis.” He goes on to say with almost mock reticence: “We are hardly the first power in history to combine material interests, great technological capacity, and an utter disregard for the suffering and misery of the lower orders.”
The sardonic tone, as in “the lower orders,” disfigures the writing; but at the time this sentence hit me hard. I hadn’t thought about American imperialism until then, and I assumed that Americans worked with benign intent, using our spectacular power to further democratic ends. In fact, American power is utilized almost exclusively to protect American economic interests abroad and to parry blows that come when our behavior creates a huge kickback, as with radical Islamic terrorism.
One of the features of this early essay that will play out expansively in Chomsky’s voluminous later writing is the manner in which he sets up “experts,” quickly to deride them. Famously the Kennedy and Johnson administrations surrounded themselves with the “best and the brightest,” and this continued through the Nixon years, with Henry Kissinger, a Harvard professor, becoming secretary of state. Chomsky skewers a range of these technocrats in this essay, people who in theory are “intellectuals,” from Walter Robinson through Walt Rostow and Henry Kissinger, among many others, each of whom accepts a “fundamental axiom,” which is that “the United States has the right to extend its power and control without limit, insofar as is feasible.” The “responsible” critics, he says, don’t challenge this assumption but suggest that Americans probably can’t “get away with it,” whatever “it” is, at this or that particular time or place.
Chomsky cites a recent article on Vietnam by Irving Kristol in Encounter (which was soon to be exposed as a recipient of CIA funding) where the “teach-in movement” is criticized: Professors and students would sit together and talk about the war outside of class times and classrooms. (I had myself attended several of these events, so I sat to attention while reading.) Kristol was an early neocon, a proponent of realpolitik contrasted college professor-intellectuals against the war as “unreasonable, ideological types” motived by “simple, virtuous ‘anti-imperialism’” with sober experts like himself.
Chomsky dives in: “I am not interested here in whether Kristol’s characterization of protest and dissent is accurate, but rather in the assumptions that it expresses with respect to such questions as these: Is the purity of American motives a matter that is beyond discussion, or that is irrelevant to discussion? Should decisions be left to ‘experts’ with Washington contacts?” He questions the whole notion of “expertise” here, the assumption that these men (there were almost no women “experts” in the mid-’60s) possessed relevant information that was “not in the public domain,” and that they would make the “best” decisions on matters of policy.
Chomsky was, and remains, a lay analyst of foreign affairs, with no academic degrees in the field. He was not an “expert” on Southeast Asia at the time, just a highly informed and very smart person who could access the relevant data and make judgments. He would go on, over the next five decades, to apply his relentless form of criticism to a dizzying array of domestic and foreign policy issues — at times making sweeping statements and severe judgments that would challenge and inspire many but also create a minor cottage industry devoted to debunking Chomsky.
This is not the place to defend Chomsky against his critics, as this ground has been endlessly rehashed. It’s enough to say that many intelligent critics over the years would find Chomsky self-righteous and splenetic, quick to accuse American power brokers of evil motives, too easy to grant a pass to mass murderers like Pol Pot or, during the period before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein.
I take it for granted, as I suspect Chomsky does, that in foreign affairs there are so many moving parts that it’s difficult to pin blame anywhere. One may see George W. Bush, for instance, as the propelling force behind the catastrophe of the Iraq War, but surely even that blunder was a complex matter, with a mix of oil interests (represented by Dick Cheney) and perhaps naive political motives as well. One recalls “experts” like Paul Wolfowitz, who told a congressional committee on February. 27, 2003, that he was “reasonably certain” that the Iraqi people would “greet us as liberators.”
Fifty years after writing “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” Chomsky remains vigorous and shockingly productive, and — in the dawning age of President Donald Trump — one can only hope he has a few more years left. In a recent interview, he said (with an intentional hyperbole that has always been a key weapon in his arsenal of rhetorical moves) that the election of Trump “placed total control of the government — executive, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.”
Chomsky acknowledged that the “last phrase may seem outlandish, even outrageous,” but went on to explain that he believes that the denial of global warming means “racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life.” As he would, he laid out in some detail the threat of climate change, pointing to the tens of millions in Bangladesh who will soon have to flee from “low-lying plains … because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today’s pale in significance.”
I don’t know that, in fact, the Republican Party of today is really more dangerous than, say, the Nazi or Stalinist or Maoist dictatorships that left tens of millions dead. But, as ever, Chomsky makes his point memorably, and forces us to confront an uncomfortable situation.
Intellectuals need to take on this “dangerously ill-informed bully in the White House”and Malaysia’s most corrupt and intellectually challenged Prime Minister Najib Razak and other kleptocrats. Speak the Truth to Power–Din Merican
As I reread Chomsky’s essay on the responsibility of intellectuals, it strikes me forcefully that not one of us who has been trained to think critically and to write lucidly has the option to remain silent now. Too much is at stake, including the survival of some form of American democracy and decency itself, if not an entire ecosystem. With a dangerously ill-informed bully in the White House, a man almost immune to facts and rational thought, we who have training in critical thought and exposition must tirelessly call a spade a spade, a demagogue a demagogue. And the lies that emanate from the Trump administration must be patiently, insistently and thoroughly deconstructed. This is the responsibility of the intellectual, now more than ever.
November 18, 2016
by Eric Loo
Trump did not win the US presidency because he appealed to “Americans who have been left behind – those who want to see their government more focused on their interests and welfare”.
Trump won because he unashamedly exploited the myopic mindsets of white Americans “without college degrees” and “white evangelical Christian” single issue voters who can’t see the forest for the trees. They see the world in black and white. They can only understand a globalised economy as one of ‘us against them’.
Trump played to the socio-economic angst and racist streak of the predominantly white demographics who longed for the good ole days of white sliced bread and peanut butter jelly, when America was ‘great’, when women stayed home as homemakers, when men were, well, macho men to be rightfully served by submissive women.
Trump’s repugnant rhetoric targeted the white Americans’ irrational fear and intense dislike of the establishment, of the elites, of the media, of non-Whites, and anyone who look like Muslims. (By the way, he said he’d ban immigration – and visits – by people from countries compromised by Islamic terrorism, and that includes Malaysia).
This is Barrack Obama, not President-Elect Donald Trump
Trump shows it’s okay to grope women, belittle people with disabilities, avoid paying federal taxes, and make a quick buck from other’s miseries and losses. Trump has basically normalised what many see and feel as overtly vulgar, deplorably racist and covertly sexist. Out of the woods will we see these folks emerge emboldened over the next four years.
Here’s where the irony’s striking in Najib’s pat on Trump’s back. As reported in Channel News Asia, Najib said: “I know him personally, and he’s not someone who’s a stranger to me.” Indeed.
Trump will begin his presidency amidst public conviction of his carnal transgressions and ongoing investigations into his financial frauds and tax evasion, just as Najib is being dogged by the 1MDB financial scandals and political implications from the murder of a Mongolian model.
Like Trump, Najib has so far have remained untouched. (I blame our mainstream journalists for their lack of tenacity in continuing to investigate and report on Najib’s transgressions in the public interest.)
Skeletons hidden in the closet
Despite that both Najib and Trump have skeletons hidden in the closet, Americans generally hope that the Trump campaign persona was just that – a Machiavellian persona. The world hopes that Trump will transform into someone worthy of occupying the White House in January.
In his congratulatory note to Trump, Najib said that politicians “should never take voters for granted”. Indeed, listen to your own counsel, Prime Minister. Bersih 5 is scheduled to take to the streets again on November 19. Are you listening to the rakyat? Why aren’t you listening to “those who want to see their government more focused on their interests and welfare”?
Yes, heed your own counsel, Prime Minister. There’s no need to grovel to Trump who your other golfing buddy Obama had described as “the guy who had spent 70 years on this earth showing no regard for working people”, the guy whose vision for America was “dark and pessimistic”, and the guy who was “insecure enough that he pumps himself up by putting other people down”. And, Trump’s “no stranger” to you?
Fact checks by the US media throughout the campaign had consistently shown that Trump had peddled falsehoods, blatantly lied and cajoled his audience for suckers. Trump’s character quirks, intellectual inadequacy and egomaniacal disposition played out in his three debates with Hillary Clinton.
I was in a daze watching the live reports of the election. I was stunned when Trump’s electoral votes crossed the 270 mark. Just as I was elated when Barack Obama became the first black US President in 2008, I expected Hillary Clinton to be the first female US President.
I had planned to visit the US for a winter holiday leading up to the presidential inauguration in January. I won’t be visiting the US for a while.
That will be the day when Trump and his administration can demonstrate that they truly are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” – a sort of direct democracy as defined by the greatest Republican president of all time, Abraham Lincoln in his dedication to the soldiers killed during the civil war at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Nov 19, 1863.
Here’s where the Electoral College voting system, which Trump himself said was rigged and a “disaster for democracy” could falter in truly representing the people’s voice. Hillary Clinton won more popular votes (by 280,646) than Trump. But with each state weighted by number of electoral votes under the Electoral College system, Trump culled 290 electoral votes (20 more than the 270 needed to win).
It brings back memories of 2000 when Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore lost to George W Bush.
The Electoral College voting system was set up to ensure a fair representative election outcome. But commentators are revisiting the inherent problems with the system given that Hillary Clinton had painfully lost the election despite winning the popular votes.
Trump’s victory had stunned the pollsters, the pundits, the media, the millennial Americans, and the world in general. Trump supporters were even unprepared. Some saw it as a miracle. ‘White Christian evangelicals’ believed it was an answer to their prayers.
Blind faith in Trump is indeed foolish, if not downright stupid. Trump’s no ‘answer to prayers’. If he was, he did not bear any fruits of the Holy Spirit during his campaign – “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Trump’s the antithesis of fundamental Christian values.
By contrast, Hillary had cited on numerous occasions during her campaign verses from Galatians 6:9 “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.”
There’s a lingering hope, however, that some electoral college voters – the ‘faithless voters’ – would go rogue if they could see a better alternative, another Republican who is more worthy or rather less unpalatable to occupy the White House.
I wait for December 19 when, as CBS had reported “the final outcome doesn’t become official until Congress counts the votes in early January after electors in each state cast their ballots for president and vice president in mid-December.”
Anything’s possible in politics.
ERIC LOO worked as a journalist and taught journalism in Malaysia from the late 1970s to 1986. He is now Honorary Senior Fellow in Journalism at University of Wollongong in Australia. Email: email@example.com
February 3, 2016
By: Kassim Ahmad
I am a patriot, a plain Kassim Ahmad, who a long time ago politely refused an UMNO offer for a datoship.Being from a poor oppressed classed, I began early as a rebel (with causes, of course!) and soon became the leader of the Malayan People’s Socialist Party (1968-1984). In 1984, seeing the collapse of international socialism in the world I left the party and made a strong patriotic statement by joining UMNO in 1986. My aim of reform could not take off. I am still an UMNO member, albeit very critical of UMNO.
On the same day when my UMNO memberhip application was approved, my widely discussed book Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula was released. After two months of extensive discussions, including an ABIM-organized public dialogue, it was banned by the religious establishment in the country.
Several state muftis penned books to rebut my book, repeating their old and tired arguments, which I have already refuted in the first place. However, I wrote another book entitled, Hadis – Jawapan kepada Pengkritik (1992), briefly dismissing the muftis’ several books, but at the same time giving more details about the Quran.
This started the movement for the review of Hadith as well as for going back to the Quran, not only in Malaysia, but internationally. Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula has since been translated into English and Arabic. I am glad to say that today the Turkish Government is undertaking a major project of Hadith re-evaluation.
I admit that I was a rebel, and still is. At the core of Malaysia’s problems is corrupt UMNO, the backbone of its ruling BN Government. In 1946 when UMNO was first formed it was a poor idealistic Malay party embraced en mass by the Malays in their enthusiasm and quest for Merdeka.
To cut the story short, via the bloody May 13, via great Razak’s Mageran (the Council for the Regeneration of the Country) and his extraordinary vision, Malaysia is what it is today, one of the most progressive countries among the developing world.
At the same time, as it is wont in human affairs, deterioration sets in, as complacancy grows among the ruling elite. UMNO became corrupt, and has perhaps reached the point of no return today. In this atmosphere of gloom when financial scandles abound, pessimism is in the air. Oh Lord! Do we need a second Mageran, ask the thinking part of Malaysia?
The people ask, “What are we to do? Can anything be done? Such voices rise from the depth of the soul of the people, voiced by their intellectuals, the likes of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Dr. M Bakri Musa, HRH Sultan of Johor, HRH Sultan of Perak Dr. Nazrin Shah and HRH the Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail.
Yes, indeed. What is to be done? Can corrupt UMNO be reformed? Can weak Pakatan Rakyat take over? Where is our Saviour? Where is our Imam Mahdi? When is the Second-Coming (of Jesus Christ)?
Unfortunately, all these wailings are of no avail. Man has been created as God’s vicegerent on earth, to rule the earth and change it to His liking. Oh Man! Rise up to your calling! “I created you free,” God said. So wait no more! Act!
Enumerate the things you must do in order of importance. First, you must reform UMNO. Once the difficult task of reforming of UMNO is over, all other problems will be resolved: wastage in manpower in Government, increasing productivity by optimum use of assets, trimming the Government, the need for good governance, increasing salaries of lower-rung Government servants, overcoming periodic floods in some states, eliminating traffic jams by decreasing private cars and increasing and improving public transport, and doing away with tolls, and such like actions to make life more comfortable for all Malaysians.
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com
November 21, 2015
READ THIS: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/320493
US President Barack Obama was familiar with the problems facing Malaysia including corruption and the erosion in the Rule of Law, said civil society leaders who met with him today.
Negaraku patron Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan said they sought to raise as many issues as they were able in the brief time allotted, but said she believed that Obama already knew the salient points of the topics they discussed.
She said Obama also assured them that the US’ dealings with nations accused of abuses did not mean that his country was not concerned over the various issues raised against such governments.
“We raised what you would expect us to raise, which would be the corruption, 1MDB, TPPA, the arrests of civil society members…” Ambiga said when pressed to divulge the topics broached during the rare meeting.
BERSIH 4.0 Chairman Maria Chin Abdullah then interjected to explain that the arrests they had complained about were those involving civil society groups as well as local lawmakers.
Chin said the arrests were of concern given the proximity of the next general election, claiming that such arrests would prevent the federal and state lawmakers from contesting.
In Malaysia, only convictions that result in prison terms of over 12 months or fines of above RM2,000 result in disqualifications from becoming a lawmaker.
Ambiga also said that they impressed upon Obama the deterioration of institutions and Rule of Law in Malaysia, citing the alleged interference in the investigations into 1Malaysia Development Bhd, among others.
She said they had pointed out the manner of Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s removal as Attorney-General as well as alleged meddling into the proceedings of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Accounts Committee, among others.
“Since the last time he came here, things have gotten worse. We made that very, very clear… ” she said.
Bar Council Chairman Steven Thiru, who was also in the meeting, said he had informed the US President of Malaysia’s regression in the Rule of Law, and that of many of the institutions vital to a healthy democracy.
He said the US could not sit idly by while countries undergo regressions in this area. “I made a very strong point to him that what we see here today is the unparalleled erosion of the Rule of Law by people who talk about the Rule of Law, but really what they mean is rule by law,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Earlier, Chin said she had also highlighted the incongruity between Putrajaya’s globally professed moderation and its actions at home that appeared to encourage extremism, including the tacit support for the pro-Malay “Red Shirts” rally here on Malaysia Day.
Obama met today with several leaders of Malaysian civil society, during which he said the “US stands behind the important work that they are doing on a day-to-day basis.”