UMNO’s Saifuddin calls for removal of Election Commission Chief!

by Eileen Ng
JANUARY 14, 2014

 Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Umno’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has joined the chorus calling for the removal of the Election Commission (EC) members, especially its chief, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.

He said there was a need for a new EC chairman, who was impartial, in the wake of the public’s loss of confidence in the commission.

“We need someone who is passionate, independent and who does not say things on behalf of BN,” he said, referring to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. “You are not helping BN anyway,” he said at an electoral forum last night.

Newly elected chairperson of electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 Maria Chin Abdullah had called for the removal of all EC members, citing loss of confidence.

She had said a petition drive would be launched to be delivered to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The statement came in the wake of an admission by former EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman that past redelineation exercises were designed to keep certain parties in power.

Abdul Rashid led the EC in managing six out of the 13 general elections, as well as four redelineation exercises.

Saifuddin, who is CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, said a more independent EC would enable both BN and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact to come together to negotiate on the proposed redelineation exercise.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the people had talked about reforming the EC for years and had even taken to the streets in support of electoral reforms.

He agreed that both Abdul Aziz and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, needed to be removed but noted that there was a “total mobilisation” by BN in defence of the two officials.

Rafizi said the lack of response from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Abdul Rashid’s admission was a manifestation of how BN was retreating instead of going forward towards bipartisanship to strengthen democratic institutions.

On the redelineation exercise, the first-term Pandan MP said PKR’s stand was that it should be done on a basis that ensured equitability and fairness rather than the number of seats.

“Any change has to be structural in nature. The dissatisfaction is not in the number of seats but how the seats were gerrymandered in such a way that Parliament does not represent the voices on the ground.”

He said the matter could only be resolved if all political parties agreed on an acceptance variance on the size of constituencies and an assurance that minority interests would be looked after.

Meredith L Weiss, visiting associate professor in Southeast Asia Studies at John Hopkins University, suggested that there was a need to come up with a mechanism on campaign financing to enable the EC to monitor not just candidates’ spending during general elections but also those who are donating to their campaigns.

Social activist Hishammuddin Rais alleged that the EC was doing a “con job” and that Pakatan Rakyat or any other alternative force would never win the general election if the same structure was in place.

“We need to change this,” he said.

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

January 4, 2013

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

by Dr A. Murad Merican@

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub with FriendsTan Sri Arshad Ayub and Friends

WHEN Tan Sri Arshad Ayub visited Ohio University at Athens, Ohio, on June 23, 1970, he made known his interest in establishing a journalism and communications programme at the then Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM). The early syllabus was based on language, liberal arts and professional specialisation.

Even before he visited Ohio’s College of Communication and its School of Journalism, Tan Sri Arshad had advocated the teaching of journalism in Malaysian higher education as far back as the mid-1960s.

Graduates from what began as the School of Mass Communication (popularly known in Bahasa Melayu as Kajian Sebaran Am) and now the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, should realise that their intellectual “father” is Tan Sri Arshad Ayub.

This dawned upon me while researching the beginnings of journalism education in Malaysia some years ago at Universiti Teknologi Mara archives. I met Tan Sri Arshad on several occasions. Once, we were on the same panel on the topic of education in Malaysia, and the other, having the honour of the man chairing a session in a seminar where I delivered a paper on life-long learning.

Many know of Tan Sri Arshad as a pioneering educationist. He was instrumental in ITM’s growth. He was a paradigm basher. He opened up minds, identities and values. Many know him as a task master.

But perhaps not many know him as an early advocate of the liberal arts and the humanities in Malaysian higher education. He introduced Russian, French and Arabic. Mandarin was made compulsory for business courses, and Tamil for plantation management. Then there was Logic, Literature, and History.

In one of his speeches some years back, Tan Sri Arshad stated that education is not a special copyright of any one individual organisation. It knows no boundaries. And there was no boundary when he was nurturing ITM back then. He was given a free hand to plant the seeds of education for the rural Malay: “The ‘how-to’ was entirely up to me.”

With the trust and vision for the future of the Malays given to him by Tun Abdul Tun Abdul RazakRazak, Arshad’s slogan for action was: “Just do it.” There was not enough time to think of a formal education system as it evolved. He reflected that the expansion was “too rapid that thoughts for a real system came after the deed”.

He attributed the brilliance in the vision of social engineering to Tun Razak. Tan Sri Arshad was not only the strategist, but also the thinker. He once recalled Tun Razak’s message in the first issue of Utusan Pelajar, an Utusan Melayu publication in 1970. Tun Razak stated that “The present young Malaysian must be developed into a scientific race.” The words “scientific race” caught Tan Sri Arshad’s attention.

Tan Sri Arshad takes the term “scientific” to mean “educated” — middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs that could transport Malays into more viable occupations in the private sector.

“Scientific” could also mean that it was “incumbent on us to change mind sets” — from accepting a general education system to a more precise and analytical one that can help develop the country’s resource with its nation building interest at heart.

To change mind sets, Tan Sri Arshad developed strategic alliances with foreign universities and funding bodies in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Human capital assistance came from the participation of Australian Services Abroad, the US Peace Corp, British Volunteers and the Canadian University Service Oragnisation.

Courses like accountancy, architecture, business administration and management, engineering, hotel catering and management, library science, and mass communication were initiated — the first of such courses offered in Malaysia at that time.

Tan Sri Arshad was a pioneer in the “twinning” concept — a process in capacity building. His long and illustrious career as a public servant deserves an appropriate recognition, as suggested by Azman Ujang (Letters, NST, Jan 1). He pioneered the pragmatic “hands on” approach to meet industry, manpower needs and economic advancement of the nation. At the same time, he was the first to introduce the concept of the humanities in Malaysian university education.

The little known journal ITM Quarterly, published in the early 1970s, contains some invaluable discourse in the intertwining nature of education in nation building, Arshad’s vision in the development of higher education in Malaysia and his ideal of the student as the new Malay intellectual.

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub liberated the Malay psyche.

Nadeswaran puts the record straight

January 1, 2014

Nadeswaran puts the record straight

by Citizen Nades (12-31-13) @

LEAVING our shores three weeks ago in high spirits and returning in the NewCitizen Nades Year, there was no reason to believe that there would be little need for adverse comments as the year comes to a close. The dawn of the New Year has always been looking at the past and charting the year ahead.

As this column is being written, the sound of the howling wintery winds echo in the background, but the news reports that I had been reading on the events in Malaysia in the interim period have created more concern than the bleak weather.

Over the past weeks, there had been plenty of reading on Malaysian affairs of the past as part of a research and in these challenging times for the media, I came across this gem in a column I had written more than six years ago.

“Newspapers can criticise, but it must be made responsibly and aimed at correcting things. This will help the party criticised to accept them (criticisms) positively.

“Leaders are only human and if there is nobody to criticise us, then we may be carried away by our positions. In a democratic system, our fate lies in the hands of the people, as such, it is best to be corrected early rather than be rejected by the people later.”Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak when launching the Pahang edition of the Bahasa Malaysia tabloid, Kosmo!, November 2006

najib-razak1To put it bluntly, this newspaper and especially this columnist have lived up to Najib’s credo. My criticisms have been responsive and responsible; accountable and answerable with the one aim – correcting the state of affairs in the various systems and bringing about a better quality of life for every citizen. We have never veered nor is there any agenda, as some critics view them.

What has made the Prime Minister change his attitude towards the media in the preceding years or are his ministers acting on their own volition without engaging their brains in gear?

In October, the Home Minister went into a frenzy, threatening to close down newspapers if his racist-laden speech and its unacceptable comments to his party members are reported. He also made a shocking endorsement of a group which had been classified as a “secret society” by the Police.

The latest to join the foot-in-the-mouth saga is Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and KL26_180513_HASAN_EKSPOConsumerism Minister Datuk Hasan Malek who said that people are supporting the increase in price of consumer goods arguing that the ministry had not received any complaints.

He was quoted as saying: “We haven’t received any complaints. My enforcement teams are on the ground engaging with the people to see if any goods are going up unfairly. We aim to work with other agencies such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Road Transport Department and so on to ensure action is taken if businesses raise prices unfairly.”

It has been repeatedly said in this column and elsewhere that nothing can be done if the neighbourhood hawker decides to charge RM10 for teh tarik as long as there is a price list. By the way, what has MACC got to do with increases? Is selling roti canai at RM15 each an act of corruption?

After becoming the butt of jokes for such callous remarks, his ministry chooses to attack the media. The hound dogs were let loose. Instead of facing the media and explaining the situation, the ministry used Facebook to go on a tirade: “… we also believe that such sensationalisation of news and eye-catching headlines should not be at the expense of misinformation that may create the wrong perspective,” the ministry said in the posting.

Dato Amar SinghSo, blame the media for everything without looking at themselves in the mirror!The latest to join this “elite” group was Kuala Lumpur Deputy Police Chief Datuk Amar Singh who said that the illegal assembly organisers (on New Year’s Eve) would also be setting up camps around Dataran Merdeka and would be bringing various weapons, including grenades and gas masks to stir up a commotion.

When his claims were ridiculed and challenged, the inevitable had to take place – a denial. Amar Singh claimed he had been misquoted, a phrase that has been entrenched in our system of government.

“My statement about bomb threats and dangerous weapons was not directed at the NGOs involved but was based on a statement by an individual on Facebook before this,” he was quoted as saying. Why didn’t he say so at the press conference?

For the many who falter, trip over and waver (sometimes making fools of themselves), the media has become a convenient whipping boy. Instead of admitting to their follies, they choose to defend the indefensible.

So, what does the New Year hold for journalists? Are they going to continue to being scapegoats for the gaffes which our politicians, law enforcers and law makers make? Are they going to make a concerted effort to face them and make a stand?

R. Nadeswaran hopes the New Year will bode well for those involved in the dissemination of information to ensure corrective measures can be taken as propagated by the prime minister himself. Comments:

Support The HEAT and Media Freedom

December 27, 2013

MY COMMENT: Media freedom is a vital element in a democraticdato-din-merican society. Media must be treated with respect and no regime can survive long if it suppresses responsible media.History is littered with episodes of what could happen when a regime suppresses media. Curtailing media has more negatives than benefits, says Andreas Harsono and I agree.

Why is Najib afraid of the HEAT? Well because he is feeling the heat (note the pun) !! Govern properly, keep your promises and act in the national interest and you will be fine. Being Prime Minister is serious responsibility and if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen before you are forced out of office by your own party UMNO, or in GE-14. This is my simple message to the Prime Minister for 2014.Din Merican

Support The HEAT and Media Freedom (12-26-13)

Apart from Malaysians who support media freedom, the campaign to oppose the Home Ministry’s indefinite suspension of The Heat is also gaining traction among writers and activists in neighbouring Indonesia.

Well-known Indonesian author Goenawan Mohamad, a founding member of the Indonesia Journalists Alliance (AJI) Andreas Harsono (left) and popular novelist Ayu Utami have taken part in the third day of the daily tweet campaign condemning the suspension of the news weekly.

“The media can go wrong, but curtailing media has more negatives than benefits. Malaysian people lose the most,” Andreas wrote in his Twitter account @andreasharsono last night.

Andreas has been active in inviting his Indonesian compatriots to support the Angry Media Movement (Geramm), the informal group established to voice out against the suspension.

Goenawan (right) and Ayu also agreed with Andreas and asked their Indonesiangoenawan-muhammad2 friends to join in the condemnation of the suspension of The Heat.

The three are activists who have championed media freedom during the protests against the regime of former Indonesian president Suharto, back in the 1990s.

Prominent local personalities have also lent their support to The Heat‘s cause, including Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang and former BERSIH co-chaiperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“There already are laws on defamation. Why need to suspend newspaper? Only more damage to government image,” Tan said on his Twitter handle @tankengliang.

“There is a good reason why Harakah, Suara Keadilan and Rocket circulations are low. If it’s rubbish, people don’t buy them. Let people judge,” he said. Meanwhile, Ambiga said the suspension of the weekly was also an assault on the people’s fundamental freedoms.

“Suspending The Heat is not only an assault on the press, but an assault on the rakyat and our fundamental freedom,” Ambiga tweeted.

datuk saifuddin abdullahFormer Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (left), despite not making a specific reference to the news weekly’s suspension, said: “I support media freedom.”

Geramm will be organising a “Free the Media” forum at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall at 8.30pm tomorrow (December 27). Attendance is free and all are welcome.

Panellists include Steven Gan (Malaysiakini), V Anbalagan (former secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists), G Vinod (Free Malaysia Today), Masjaliza Hamzah (Centre for Independent Journalism), Hata Wahari (Reporters Without Borders), and Ronasina (an independent publisher).

Veteran journalist Zulkifli Sulong will moderate the session, which will, apart from the suspension of The Heat, also touch on violence and treatment of journalists by political parties and enforcement bodies.

Geramm is also organising a campaign among supporters of the free press to wear red every Friday, in sympathy with The Heat. Its Facebook account has 2,891 followers and its Twitter account, 972 followers.

Malaysia’s Political Outlook 2014: Key Challenges Facing Najib

December 26, 2013

RSIS No. 236/2013 dated 26 December 2013

Malaysia’s Political Outlook 2014: Key Challenges Facing Najib

by Yang Razali Kassim


Prime Minister Najib Razak’s top-most concern in the new year is not just UMNO’s dominance but also its very survival. Signals from the recent party general assembly point to a three-pronged strategy to achieve this aim.


Rosmah and NajibMALAYSIAN PRIME Minister Najib Razak approaches 2014 with one big worry on his mind: how to win – decisively – the next general election (GE) that has to be called by 2018. The last one seven months ago on May 5 saw his ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition making its worst showing since 1969: despite winning the majority of seats, BN lost the popular vote to the opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim.

As the new year begins, the big signal from Najib is that “1Malaysia” will probably have to be set aside as an electoral strategy. This is significant as it could mean that his vision of a unified, cohesive and inclusive plural society that was much touted in the 2013 GE – is as good as cast to the backburner.

Najib’s conservative swing

At the recent general assembly of UMNO, the anchor party of the multi-racial BN coalition, 1Malaysia was hardly mentioned in Najib’s keynote speech. Yet when resolutions were debated, one delegate sought to kill the whole idea, calling for 1Malaysia to be replaced by “1Melayu” – or 1Malay, referring to the majority community that UMNO represents.

Najib did not respond in defence of 1Malaysia. Instead his entire rhetoric during the assembly was primarily about advancing the Malay and Muslim agenda – signifying a major refocusing on this core constituency as UMNO gears up early for the 14th GE.

Unchallenged as president in party elections prior to the assembly, Najib has one TDMeye on his own political survival. The still influential former Prime Mnister Mahathir Mohamad has been uneasy about the BN’s worst showing at the May 5 polls and may want to ease Najib out, just as he did to Najib’s predecessor Abdullah Badawi. As his popularity dips due to some economic belt-tightening policies expected in the new year, Najib’s swing to appease the UMNO conservatives is not surprising.

Party hardliners are convinced that the multi-ethnic BN’s political survival rests increasingly with UMNO, whose survival in turn rests on the Malay constituency, which is synonymously Muslim. While 1Malaysia was designed to embrace all the races, its failure to attract the non-Malays, especially the ethnic Chinese, at the last

GE has weakened Najib’s hand.

The conservative faction’s argument is this: Forget about winning over the non-Malay vote and focus on expanding the Malay/Muslim ground. UMNO is strong enough to stand on its own; while the BN coalition won 133 seats overall in GE13, UMNO alone, as its anchor, won the most seats with 88 – even more than any of the opposition parties, whose combined tally of 89 seats was just one more than UMNO’s. In other words, it is UMNO that will remain the backbone of the political system. Thus Malay political power will be pivotal to the country – from political stability and security to economic progress and development.

UMNO’s three-pronged strategy towards GE14

This conservative logic formed the bedrock of the “back to basics” strategy that was spelt out by Najib, whose speech was themed “Fortifying the Future”. Going forward, UMNO will pursue three strategic thrusts – or what Najib called the “three messages from the assembly”: The first is a turn towards Islamic Shariah; the second is a stronger Malay and bumiputra agenda, for which, he said, UMNO need not be apologetic; and the third a “transformed UMNO” as a “party of the 21st century”. It is significant that UMNO as the “party of the future” will become not just more Malay, but Islamist at the same time.

Becoming more Islamist for a Malay-nationalist party like UMNO is an equally significant shift. Ideologically-driven Islamist parties actually find ethno-nationalism objectionable. UMNO clearly is positioning itself as the primary political vehicle for the Malay and Muslim constituency, thus raising the prospects of an all-out contest for power with the opposition Islamist PAS, even as UMNO – paradoxically – woos PAS for unity talks.

Umno's embelmUMNO’s drift towards a more Islamist identity was marked by a highly controversial drive to pitch itself as the defender of Sunni Islam in the face of what it paints as the growing threat of Shiism in the country. The federal constitution would be reworded to define the official religion as “Islam Sunnah Wal Jamaah” or Sunni Islam, not simply Islam. That this move is partly politically-motivated is seen in the immediate targeting of the PAS deputy leader as a closet Shia and therefore a threat.

The second thrust of a greater push for the Malay and bumiputra agenda is clearly aimed at solidifying the Peninsular-East Malaysia axis around the Malay core. Najib conceded the crucial role of the “fixed deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak in BN’s ultimate win in the last GE. As many see it, if not for these two states, there would have been a change of government in Malaysia. With Najib’s renewed emphasis on the Malay and bumiputra agenda, the New Economic Policy that officially ended in 1990 but was unofficially continued, has finally been resurrected in all but name. CEOs of all government-linked companies have been given KPIs to realise this goal on pain of seeing their contracts not renewed.

To complete the three-pronged strategy, UMNO will go all out to win the young voters. In the next GE, some six million new voters will be casting for the first time. The majority are likely to be anti-establishment and anti-UMNO. They could make a difference whether there will finally be a change of government or not in GE14. No wonder Najib made it clear: UMNO must win over the young voters and master the social media with which the young are savvy.


UMNO’s eagerness to recover its eroded political ground has seen it responding in unexpected ways, with implications yet to be fully fathomed. Its readiness to march to its own drumbeat is a warning to friend and foe alike that the rules of the game will be set by UMNO alone.

To its ethnic-based political allies in BN, which are facing their own internal crises, the message is that the BN power-sharing system will be on UMNO’s terms. To the opposition, the message is clear: whoever controls the Malay and Muslim ground will control power – and it is not going to be the opposition, which is not homogenous ethnically and ideologically.

UMNO is desperate to win. Going forward, all communities will be forced to ponder what this means for them and the country.

Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman: Please tell us the Truth

December 10, 2013

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman: Please tell us the Truth

MY COMMENT: Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told me over theDin MericanX telephone yesterday that it was true that he had asked Rosmah to help via her links to Susan Mubarak, the wife of the now deposed President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak to secure the release of a Malaysian student who was detained for alleged spying. He added that he tried various other channels for the same purpose.

AnifahAmanI was not convinced by Anifah’s assurance since I was told that the Malaysian student was released well before Rosmah could call Susan. Now I read the following report (below) from The Ant Daily. It would appear that Rosmah’s role in this episode has been grossly exaggerated at the UMNO General Assembly to deflect public criticism over her use of the Government’s executive jet for her trip to Qatar and Dubai.–Din Merican

Did Rosmah really rescue Malaysian student detained in Egypt?

by Hazlan Zakaria @

Rosmah and NajibDespite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s exhortations of his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s role in securing the release of a Malaysian student detained by Egyptian authorities in 2010, questions remain as her involvement was not evident in international news reports except for articles carried by national news agency Bernama and several local papers.

One such article, part of a series that extolled Rosmah’s role in the release, is among the collection listed on the Prime Minister’s Office website dedicated to the “Wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia”.

Another article that spoke of her role was published in The Star on January 7, 2010, along with others that followed suit. Other papers also published variations of the Bernama article.

Najib had announced this as one of Rosmah’s unsung deeds, in response to criticisms over her use of an executive jet paid for by public funds for a non-official trip. He said this during his speech on the last day of the 67th UMNO general assembly in Kuala Lumpur on December 7.

However, Naijb incorrectly said that the student was accused of spying. In fact Malaysian student Ibrahim Mohd Azmi was arrested as part of Egyptian riot Police crackdown on the Viva Palestina Lifeline convoy 3 that was awaiting transit into Gaza.

He was taking pictures of riot cops attacking the Viva Palestina convoy volunteers when he was arrested. Egyptian riot police raided the compound the convoy was in after activists demonstrated refusing to exclude 59 non-medical vehicles from their convoy into Gaza. Ibrahim was one of seven Viva Palestina convoy members detained, while several others were hurt in the raid.

And while the PM boasted that Rosmah’s sacrifices for Malaysia, such as her alleged help in securing the release of the student, was rarely mentioned by him, it was curiously plastered all over the local papers.

International diplomatic cables and reports, however, carry a different tune. The US Embassy in Cairo sent a message to several stations on January 11, 2010 describing the event. A copy of the cable can be accessed on the Wikileaks website.

A portion of the cable reads “…the demonstrators had ‘detained’ two Egyptian police officers in return. Turkish MP Murat Mercan (one of 5 Turkish MPs traveling with the convoy) had mediated a release of the demonstrators and police after a couple of hours.”

Similarly, press releases by Viva Palestina credited British MP George Galloway and Turkish MPs, who the movement said “struck a deal with Egyptian authorities, part of this deal was that the 7 detainees were released without charge”.

The deal was the release of two Egyptian riot cops captured by the convoy volunteers in return for the release of the volunteers detained without charge and the convoy’s agreement to defer the nine vehicles from their trip to Gaza.

The international reports show that negotiations were between Viva Palestina, Turkish and British officials with the Egyptian authorities, no mention of a Rosmah intervention. It is also strange that no international media picked up on the matter, at least none that the antdaily can at the moment search for online.

It is not known who is stealing whose thunder here but as far as the negotiations went, it is unclear how Rosmah’s unofficial links to the wife of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, as claimed by Najib, had helped.