Malaysia’s Travel Ban


May 27, 2016

Malaysia’s Travel Ban: Administrative Stupidity or Political Insecurity?

by Azmi Sharom

http://www.thestar.com.my

BOY, was I worried last week. This paper reported that the Immigration Department was going to bar those who disparaged or ridiculed the Government from traveling abroad.

And those who did so overseas would be barred from traveling upon their return home. For up to three years!

Crikey. This was most concerning. In my job I speak about laws and government policies all the time; at home and abroad.We, lecturers, go to seminars and conferences and we discuss ideas.

So, even if I take special care to say only the sweetest things about the Government, I could still be faced with questions like “Why is your government-owned strategic development company facing so much trouble?”.

What a conundrum. Do I spout some inanity (“err … that is a good question, Malaysia is truly Asia. Thank you.”) or give my opinion and risk being unable to eat authentic Nasi Gudeg for three years?

I suppose I could say something brilliant like “Look, is that an ostrich in the aisle?”, and then make my escape. And furthermore, The Star reported that these disparaging comments can be done in any manner. Good lord, does that include private conversations?

What if I am in a café in Madrid and my Spanish host asks me, “Señor Azmi, why does your Government prevent people from going overseas to get human rights awards?”

What do I say then? “Manuel, I am Malaysian, I cannot answer your question. Please pass the paella.”

Then fortunately, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs comes swooping in and says that there will be no ban on travelling for critics of the Government.

Phew, that’s a relief then. I guess those guys in the Immigration Department just got together and decided amongst themselves to make up this policy.

I did not realise that government agencies had so much autonomy that they could make far-reaching unconstitutional, anti-human rights-type decisions without the OK from the minister or his faithful deputy.

Just shows what I know.

But then the Deputy Minister goes on to say that the ban only applies to those who are a threat to national security and who have violated the Constitution.So I guess Maria Chin is a national security threat and habitual violator of the Constitution then.

It is as though the Constitution is a high-born Roman lady in danger of being attacked by a ravaging Visigoth.How can a private citizen violate the Constitution?

Hey, we are not the ones who make laws that blatantly go against the Fundamental Liberties listed in Part 2 of the Constitution. We are not the ones who say that this is an Islamic state when the Constitution says no such thing.

We are not the ones who obtusely say that there is no separation of powers because the Constitution does not use the term “separation of powers” (even though the executive, legislature and judiciary are each given separate chapters and have clearly defined powers).

It is virtually impossible for a private citizen to violate the Constitution.Short of perhaps companies that treat their workers like slaves or practise gender bias.

So the idea that citizens who violate the Constitution can have their passports taken away is laughable.It’s as though by throwing big words into the mix, this ludicrous and unlawful attack on our freedom of movement is all hunky dory.

Really, all this business about keeping us stuck at home is ridiculous.Do we need to go overseas to belittle the Government when their actions can be spread far and wide via existing technology? Why worry about citizens belittling or disparaging them abroad when they do it so well by themselves?

Message to Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria


May 27, 2016

Message to Mullah Harussani Zakaria–Islam is not about exclusivity

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

http://www.malaymailonline.com

Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria with his political patron, Najib Razak

Warning: If this column starts to sound like you have read it before and you think that you are having a déjà vu moment, you are probably right. It sometimes feels like a broken record dealing with and responding to our recalcitrant and wayward religious authorities.

We have just been told that it is a crime to publish, and to read the Quran in non-Arabic languages without accompanying Arabic text.

Stop the press! All printing of the Quran in Chinese, Spanish, Afrikaans, Russian, Chechen, Indonesian and English around the world must cease! After all, if it is supposedly a wrong practise here, it must be wrong elsewhere too. After all, Islam is a global religion.

The recent warning from Harussani Zakaria, chairman of the Home Ministry’s Al-Quran Printing, Control and Licensing Board, is representative of what’s gone wrong with the practice and teaching of Islam in this country.

While Muslims in other countries are busy making their religion increasingly accessible, friendly and inclusive to those not of the Islamic faith, our religious authorities are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Far from sounding enlightened, progressive and welcoming, individuals such as Harussani are making Islam in Malaysia sound and appear to others as arrogant, irrational, suspicious and disdainful of other religions.

Maybe Harussani is more knowledgeable than I am in this matter, but I am almost certain that this kind of paternalistic approach is neither in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad nor adhering to the principles of Islam. But what do I know? I don’t write or understand Arabic so Harussani can perhaps provide some enlightenment.

I am tired of our religious authorities treating Islam like it is some exclusive club and they alone determine who gets to join and the conduct of those who are members. Historically, we have seen this behaviour before where the clergy of an institutionalised religion attempts to impose a monopoly on faith and its teachings under the guise of “only the learned and knowledgeable” (i.e themselves) can communicate with God and not be led astray.

The reality has less to do with God but more to do with the very earthly pursuit of power and control over others. Over the years, the ever-expanding sphere of influence of Islamic institutions in Malaysia have gone increasingly unchecked and it can be argued that through their actions, have repeatedly violated Constitutional limitations and even expressed disdain for those limits. Yet, very few have dared to challenge them and even fewer have stood to defend those who have done so. Just ask Rosli Dahlan.

I have travelled to many places in the world where Islam has taken root and flourished. Based on my own understanding, Islam is not and has never been about exclusivity and superiority of faith.

It is arguably a violation of Islamic teachings to insist on exclusivity as touted by Harussani as it prevents others from acquiring knowledge, learning and understanding Muslims and Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself, through his own documented practises and teachings, practised inclusivity, humility, and believed in the importance of knowledge and most importantly, sharing it with others.

Exclusivity results in misunderstanding, ignorance, conflict, bigotry and irrational fear. It breeds contempt for others and arrogance.

One of the most common complaints and gripes by the Islamic authorities and clergy in this country is that they are frequently misunderstood and that others must seek understand and learn about Islam.

Fair argument, until you make important texts like the Quran inaccessible. Read the notice from the Kementerian Dalam Negeri again and you will realise that what it is actually saying is that reading the Quran is off limits to non-Muslims (need to take Islamic ritual ablutions to touch and read the Quran) and to those not proficient in the Arabic language.

Speaking of reading, I have struggled to explain to those who are non-Muslims how it is possible for a person to be able to read the Arabic in the Quran yet not understand a single word of it.

Because that is how the Quran is often taught (can a person be taught when the language of the lesson itself is not understood?) here in this country.

Harussani’s statement itself affirms that you can read without understanding and it is okay. I really don’t understand that and never have. Wouldn’t it be meaningless without understanding the words of what you are reading? Maybe it’s just me but that is my individual cross to bear.

Oh, final question for the mandarins of the Kementerian Dalam Negeri: is it also a crime to download digital versions of the Quran such as eBooks or apps in other languages? Are we allowed to think for ourselves or do we need to ask for your permission?

Those who demand for exclusivity and impose such restrictions and monopolies of knowledge convey a lack of depth in their awareness and understanding of how Islam is practised elsewhere around the globe and of its co-existence with other world religions.

Get a grip.

Pro UMNO Lawyer Shafee– Time to learn to eat the humble pie


May 27, 2016

Pro UMNO Lawyer Shafee: Time to learn to eat the humble pie– Who is “We”?

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah expressed his disappointment with today’s Kuala Lumpur High Court decision which dismissed his suit against lawyer Tommy Thomas, former Court of Appeal judge V.C George, the Malaysian Bar and former President Christopher Leong, claiming it was “erroneous”.

“Naturally, we are disappointed with the decision on the matter. However we take the position and certainly believe that the judgment is erroneous.In light of this, we will be filing an appeal together with a certificate of urgency and hope for the matter to be heard expeditiously by the Court of Appeal. We are taking steps to compile a record of appeal immediately,” he said.

Tommy Thomas

Shafee was the senior lawyer who was granted a fiat by then Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail to prosecute former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

However, upon gaining a conviction at the Federal Court against Anwar, he held a public talk at Kelana Jaya for UMNO Youth about the case.

Subsequently, the UMNO-linked lawyer also held talks elsewhere.

This led to Tommy filing a motion, which was seconded by George, at the Malaysian Bar AGM last year complaining about Shafee’s conduct in having the public talks.

Christopher Leong

Shafee then filed a suit to stop Tommy and George from tabling the motion against him and obtained an ex-parte injunction a day before the AGM.

Today, Justice Hanipah Farikullah dismissed the defamation suit and accepted the defendants defence of fair comment, justification and qualified privilege. The court found it was improper for Shafee to discuss ‘in camera’ evidence at a forum.

V.C. George

“For this court, evidence involving in camera evidence is not proper for an advocate and solicitor to divulge it to the public. To my mind, there is some substantive truth for the first defendant (Tommy) and the second defendant (George) in the defence of justification,” Justice Hanipah said, among others, before dismissing the suit.

Reform or Revolution: On Rosa Luxemburg


May 25, 2016

Reform or Revolution:  On Rosa Luxemburg

by Chris Hedges

On the night of Jan. 15, 1919, a group of the Freikorps—hastily formed militias made up mostly of right-wing veterans of World War I—escorted Rosa Luxemburg, a petite, 50-year-old with a slight limp, to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, the headquarters of the Guards Cavalry Rifle Division.

“Are you Frau Rosa Luxemburg?” Capt. Waldemar Pabst asked when she arrived at his office upstairs.

“You decide for yourself,” she answered.

“According to the photograph, you must be,” he said.

“If you say so,” she said softly.

Pabst told her she would be taken to Moabit Prison. On the way out of the hotel, a waiting crowd, which had shouted insults like “whore” as she was brought in under arrest, whistled and spat. A soldier, Otto Runge, was allegedly paid 50 marks to be the first to hit her. Shouting, “She’s not getting out alive,” he slammed the butt of his rifle into the back of her head. Luxemburg collapsed. Blood poured from her nose and mouth. Runge struck a second time. Someone said, “That’s enough.” Soldiers dragged Luxemburg to a waiting car. One of her shoes was left behind. A soldier hit her again. As the car sped away, Lt. Kurt Vogel fired his pistol into her head. The soldiers tossed Luxemburg’s corpse into the Landwehr Canal.

Karl Leibknecht, who had coaxed a reluctant Luxemburg into an uprising she knew was almost certainly doomed, had been executed a few moments before. The Spartacus Revolt was crushed. It was the birth of German fascism.

The killers, like the police who murder unarmed people of color in the streets of American cities, were tried in a court—in this case, a military court—that issued tepid reprimands. The state had no intention of punishing the assassins. They had done what the state required.

The ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany created the Freikorps, which became the antecedent to the Nazi Party. It ordered the militias and the military to crush resistance when it felt threatened from the left. Luxemburg’s murder illustrated the ultimate loyalties of liberal elites in a capitalist society: When threatened from the left, when the face of socialism showed itself in the streets, elites would—and will—make alliances with the most retrograde elements of society, including fascists, to crush the aspirations of the working class.

Liberalism, which Luxemburg called by its more appropriate name—“opportunism”—is an integral component of capitalism. When the citizens grow restive, it will soften and decry capitalism’s excesses. But capitalism, Luxemburg argued, is an enemy that can never be appeased. Liberal reforms are used to stymie resistance and then later, when things grow quiet, are revoked on the inevitable road to capitalist slavery. The last century of labor struggles in the United States provides a case study for proof of Luxemburg’s observation.

The political, cultural and judicial system in a capitalist state is centered around the protection of property rights. And, as Adam Smith pointed out, when civil government “is instituted for the security of property, [it] is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” The capitalist system is gamed from the start. And this makes Luxemburg extremely relevant as corporate capital, now freed from all constraints, reconfigures our global economy, including the United States’, into a ruthless form of neo-feudalism.

Wage slavery and employment are not determined by law but by the imperatives of the market. The market forces workers to fall to their knees before the dictates of global profit. This imperative can never be corrected by legal or legislative reform.

Democracy, in this late stage of capitalism, has been replaced with a system of legalized bribery. All branches of government, including the courts, along with the systems of entertainment and news, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. Electoral politics are elaborate puppet shows. Wall Street and the militarists, whether Trump or Clinton, win.

“Capitalist accumulation requires for its movement to be surrounded by non-capitalist areas,” Luxemburg wrote. And capitalism “can continue only so long as it is provided with such a milieu.”

Capitalism searches the globe to exploit cheap, unorganized labor and pillages natural resources. It buys off or overthrows local elites. It blocks the ability of the developing world to become self-sufficient.

Meanwhile, workers in the industrialized world, stripped of well-paying jobs, benefits and legal protections, are pushed into debt peonage, forced to borrow to survive, which further enriches global speculators.

An economy built on credit, Luxemburg foresaw, transforms a regular series of small economic crises into an irregular series of large economic crises—hence two major financial dislocations to the U.S. economy in the early part of the 21st century—the dot-com collapse of 2000 and the global meltdown of 2008. And we are barreling toward another. The end result, at home and abroad, is serfdom.

Luxemburg, in another understanding important to those caught up in the pressures of a single election cycle, viewed electoral campaigns, like union organizing, as a process of educating the public about the nature of capitalism. These activities, divorced from “revolutionary consciousness”—from the ultimate goal of overthrowing capitalism—were, she said, “a labor of Sisyphus.”

We who seek to build radical third-party movements must recognize that it is not about taking power now. It is about taking power, at best, a decade from now. Revolutions, Luxemburg reminded us, take time.

In an understanding that eludes many Bernie Sanders supporters, Luxemburg also grasped that socialism and imperialism were incompatible. She would have excoriated Sanders’ ostrichlike refusal to confront American imperialism. Imperialism, she understood, not only empowers a war machine and enriches arms merchants and global capitalists. It is accompanied by a poisonous ideology—what social critic Dwight Macdonald called the “psychosis of permanent war”—that makes socialism impossible.

The nation, in the name of national security, demands the eradication of civil liberties. It defines dissent as treason. It creates a centralized system of power that ultimately—as has happened in the United States—serves the dictates of empire rather than democracy. Democracy becomes farce, or in our case, a tawdry reality show that coughs up two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in American history. Society devolves into what Karl Marx called “parliamentary cretinism” or what political theorist Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism.” Democracy is a facade.

Capitalism is ruled by two iron dictums—maximize profit and reduce labor costs. And as capitalism advances and consolidates power in a world where resources are becoming scarce and mechanization is becoming more sophisticated, the human and environmental cost of profit mounts.

“The exploitation of the working class as an economic process cannot be abolished or softened through legislation in the framework of bourgeois society,” Luxemburg wrote. Social reform, she said, “does not constitute an invasion into capitalist exploitation, but a regulating, an ordering of this exploitation in the interest of capitalist society itself.”

Capitalism is an enemy of democracy. It denies workers the right to control means of production or determine how the profits from their labor will be spent. American workers—both left and right—do not support trade agreements. They do not support the federal bailouts of big banks and financial firms. They do not embrace astronomical salaries for CEOs or wage stagnation. But workers do not count. And the more working men and women struggle to be heard, the harsher and more violent the forms of control employed by the corporate state will become.

Luxemburg also understood something that eluded Vladimir Lenin. Nationalism—which Luxemburg called “empty petty-bourgeois phraseology and humbug”—is a disease. It disconnects the working class in one country from another—one of the primary objectives of the capitalist class.

As parties on the left and the right—in our case, the corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans—vie to be more patriotic and hawkish, they deify the military and the organs of internal security. They revoke basic civil liberties in the name of national security and law and order. This process grooms a segment of the population, as we see in Trump rallies, for fascism.

Nationalism, Luxemburg warned, is always a tool used to betray the working class. It is, she wrote, “an instrument of counterrevolutionary class policy.” It unleashes powerful forms of indoctrination.

As the contagion of nationalism erupted at the outbreak of the First World War, liberal European parties, including the German Social Democrats, swiftly surrendered to right-wing nationalists in the name of the fatherland despite many preceding years of anti-war rhetoric. Luxemburg saw this betrayal as evidence of the fundamental moral and political bankruptcy of the liberal establishment in a capitalist society.

By the time the war was over, 11 million soldiers on all sides, most of them working-class men, were dead. Capitalists, who had grown rich from the slaughter, had nothing to fear now from the working class. They had fed them to the mouths of machine guns.

Luxemburg distrusted disciplined, revolutionary elites—Lenin’s vanguard. She denounced terror as a revolutionary tool. She warned that revolutionary movements that were not democratic swiftly became despotic. She understood the peculiar dynamics of revolution. She wrote that in a time of revolutionary ferment, “It is extremely difficult for any directing organ of the proletarian movement to foresee and calculate which occasions and factors can lead to explosions and which cannot.” Those who were rigidly tied to an ideology or those who believed they could shape events through force, were crippled by a “rigid, mechanical, bureaucratic conception.”

Revolutions, for Luxemburg, were as much the product of mass struggle as its instigator. She knew that revolution was a “living” entity. “It was formed not from above,” but from the “consciousness of the masses.” And this consciousness took years to build. A revolutionary had to respond to the unpredictable moods and sentiments that define any revolt, to the unanticipated responses of a population in revolt.

Lenin, to achieve power during the 1917 revolution, was forced to follow her advice, abandoning many of his most doctrinaire ideas to respond to the life force of Russian Revolution itself. “Lenin,” Robert Looker wrote, “was a Luxemburgist in spite of himself.”

A population finally rises up against a decayed system not because of revolutionary consciousness, but because, as Luxemburg pointed out, it has no other choice. It is the obtuseness of the old regime, not the work of revolutionaries, that triggers revolt. And, as she pointed out, all revolutions are in some sense failures, events that begin, rather than culminate, a process of social transformation.

“There was no predetermined plan, no organized action, because the appeals of the parties could scarcely keep in pace with the spontaneous rising of the masses,” she wrote of the 1905 uprising in Russia. “The leaders had scarcely time to formulate the watchwords of the on-rushing crowd.”

“Revolutions,” she continued, “cannot be made at command. Nor is this at all the task of the party. Our duty is only at all times to speak out plainly without fear or trembling; that is, to hold clearly before the masses their tasks in the given historical moment, and to proclaim the political program of action and the slogans which result from the situation. The concern with whether and when the revolutionary mass movement takes up with them must be left confidently to history itself. Even though socialism may at first appear as a voice crying in the wilderness, it yet provides for itself a moral and political position the fruits of which it later, when the hour of historical fulfillment strikes, garners with compound interest.”

I have covered uprisings and revolutions around the globe—the insurgencies in Central America in the 1980s, two Palestinian uprisings, the revolutions in 1989 in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania, the street demonstrations that brought downSlobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Luxemburg’s understanding of the autonomous nature of revolt is correct. A central committee, like Lenin’s Bolsheviks, because it is ruthless, secretive and highly disciplined, is capable of carrying out a counterrevolution to take control of and crush the democratic aspirations of the workers. But such organizations are not the primary engine of revolution. The messiness of democracy, with all its paralysis and reverses, keeps revolution alive and vibrant. It protects the population from the abuse of centralized power.

“Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor,” Luxemburg said.

The consequences of not carrying out a revolution against corporatism are catastrophic. This makes Luxemburg vital. She warns us that in a crisis, the liberal elites become our enemy. She cautions against terror and gratuitous violence. She urges us to maintain open, democratic structures to ensure that power rests with the people. She keeps us focused on the ultimate savagery of capitalism. She understands the danger of imperialism. And she reminds us that those of us committed to socialism, to building a better world, especially for the oppressed, must hold fast to this moral imperative. If we compromise, she knew, we extinguish hope.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/reform_or_revolution_20160522Hedges

 

Chris Hedges Again


May 25, 2016

Chris Hedges Again–Daring and Upfront as always

Mr Hedges  is a radical thinker, dissenter, and public intellectual of our time. I have always enjoyed his books, lectures, and ideas. Political correctness is not in his lexicon. Here are two interesting lectures on contemporary issues which are of concern to all of us, except to  those who are beneficiaries of the capitalist-corporatist  system and neo-liberalism.–Din Merican

Here  is another from Chris: