The Art of the Protest


November 22, 2016

The Art of the Protest

Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Recently, a government-backed bill sought to go further, punishing women who had abortions with up to five years in prison. Last month, Polish women responded with a one-day strike. On Oct. 3, tens of thousands of people, most of them women dressed in black, protested in major cities.

Poland is run by a nationalist, right-wing Roman Catholic party that controls Parliament, has taken over independent media, is disregarding rulings of the Constitutional Court and now proposes creating a militia outside the command of the armed forces.

It would not seem to be a government that would listen to such a protest. But three days later, its legislators voted down the abortion bill. Why? The government saw the size and speed of the mobilization, and its high concentration of young people, as a threat — one it worried could grow.

Yet they are not powerless. Seldom, in fact, has an out-of-power opposition been able to count on more resources — in broad support, political clout and moral authority.

But how these resources are used is what matters.If the purpose is to allow despondent or angry people to vent and show solidarity, then the anti-Trump protests going on in major cities already do that. But they will not reverse the election results, or alter what President-elect Trump seeks to do.

Protests can change policies, however — and often have. In other countries and throughout American history, ordinary citizens banding together have triumphed over governments, even when a single party holds sweeping control. Many of those protests used resources that the opposition to President-elect Trump enjoys today. They can learn from how those victories were won.

Plan, plan, plan. A half-century after the street struggles in Birmingham, no American movement has yet surpassed the strategic mastery of the civil rights movement. Civil rights leaders were fighting a war — nonviolently, but a war nevertheless — and they planned it as such. They mapped out protests to create escalating drama and pressure. They ran training schools for activists, teaching them how to ignore provocations to violence, among other lessons.

Provoke your opponent, if necessary. The turning point for civil rights came when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference allowed children to march in Birmingham (a decision criticized by many, including Malcolm X). Bull Connor, the city’s commissioner of public safety, ordered the police to turn attack dogs, night sticks and fire hoses on children marching peacefully — some of them 6 years old. The scenes made the nightly news and the front page of newspapers around the country.

The movement won by making a strong moral appeal to public opinion. It showed protesters making sacrifices for their cause. It lured opponents into violence that finally swayed the views of whites — a tactic similar to the playbook of Mahatma Gandhi in India, of forcing an oppressor to show his ugliest face. When that sight tips public opinion, government often listens.

Photo

Protestors organized by ACT UP on the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. Credit Tim Clary/Associated Press

Think national, act local. Protests are most effective when they aim for an achievable goal in one location, knowing that the real battle is for national public opinion. Movements work on two distinct levels, Mark and Paul Engler wrote in their important analysis of nonviolent strategy, This Is an Uprising. On a local level, the civil rights movement often failed; for example, the concessions won by the Birmingham protesters were vague and modest. But it was Birmingham that finally gave momentum to the passage of federal civil rights legislation.

Use humor. In Serbia, the Otpor movement mobilized the country against the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by using pranks to cut through fear. Its daily fare consisted of street actions that painted Milosevic as absurd: When the tyrant dedicated a new bridge, Otpor built one out of Styrofoam and held its own ceremony.

Srdja Popovic, an Otpor leader, calls this “laughtivism.” (Here is a Fixes column about his strategies.) It does more than counter fear. Humor breaks down defenses, creating an openness that allows people to consider your argument. “If the joke is good, even the police get it,” said Ivan Marovic, another Otpor leader.

When appropriate, be confrontational. It is hard to imagine how marginalized people with AIDS were during the Reagan administration — and how hopeless their cause, both medically and politically.

No group more proudly claimed the title of “outsider” than Act Up, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, founded in March 1987 in New York. Many of its members were dying. They were despised and reviled.

The Englers call Act Up an example of the power of the extreme outsider strategy: change through confrontation. It was noisy and angry. It was the first group ever to close down the New York Stock Exchange. Members scattered the ashes of loved ones on the White House lawn. They held a “Stop the Church” demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Act Up’s polarizing language, actions and style put off even some influential gay men, who told the group it was hurting the cause. (The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had heard the same criticisms.) But even many who were repelled by Act Up’s approach still heard its message.

Although people condemn your tactics, they can still support your issue, the Englers wrote.

By pulling from one extreme, Act Up shifted broad public opinion. The group started a global AIDS activist movement. It played a major role in changing the rules to expedite new AIDS medicines — and then it helped to bring down their cost. It forced insurance companies to cover treatment. It procured a patient voice in treatment. It was a major force behind the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program for uninsured and underinsured people with AIDS.

Pull out the pillars. Gene Sharp, an American academic who is the guru of strategic nonviolence, argues that every leader, no matter his power, relies on obedience. Without the consent of the governed, power disappears. The goal of a civic movement should be to withdraw consent. Pull out the pillars, and the whole structure falls.

Senior citizens and his police were two of Milosevic’s most important pillars. Otpor members worked on both whenever they were arrested (which was quite often). Grandparents got angry when high-school students were repeatedly arrested or accused of terrorism.

And every arrest presented a chance to talk to the police. At the barricades, Otpor led cheers for the police. Over time, the police got to know the students they kept arresting, and some came to admire the youths’ commitment to nonviolence. “Police officers would complain to us about their salaries,” said Slobodan Homen, an Otpor leader. He offered some advice for Milosevic: “If later you order these people to shoot us — well, don’t count on it.”

This strategy also works for policy change. Advocates for gay marriage won early victories among many churches, the American Bar Association and child development experts. This helped transform influential opponents of gay marriage into influential allies.

The most important pillar on policy matters is Congress: Presidents need to pass their bills. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush failed to pass signal legislative priorities, despite controlling Congress. This was not because of grass-roots activism, but because of lobbying and spending by powerful and wealthy groups.

Under Mr. Clinton, health care reform fell victim to, among other things, “Harry and Louise” ads featuring a fictional couple, financed by the health insurance industry.

Mr. Bush’s top priority in 2005, when he had just won re-election and control of Congress, was to allow people to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts. It was the focus of his State of the Union speech and town meetings he attended around the country. Yet he could not get it through Congress. “The simplest explanation is that President Bush overestimated the amount of political capital he had banked,” wrote William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution. “After all, he had prevailed by the smallest popular vote margin of any president re-elected in the 20th century. And there was evidence that the campaign’s bitter, divisive tone had taken its toll. As President Bush’s second term began, he enjoyed the lowest approval rating — just 50 percent — of any just-re-elected president since modern polling began.”

Exploit galvanizing events. During the 1970s, the United States built nuclear power plants. Lots of them. The first major protests came from the Clamshell Alliance, formed in 1976 to oppose the construction of the Seabrook Station plant in New Hampshire.

The Clamshell Alliance failed to stop Seabrook’s construction, but it gave rise to a grass-roots antinuclear movement. Groups around the country staged protests and sit-ins that slowed the pace of new reactor construction.

Then on March 28, 1979, Reactor Number 2 at the Three Mile Island station lost coolant and suffered a partial meltdown. The nuclear reactor industry never recovered.

Three Mile Island came 13 years after another partial meltdown, at the Fermi 1 reactor outside Detroit. Haven’t heard of it? One reason is that at the time, there was no movement ready to respond.

Events that galvanize public attention occur frequently. Most lead to nothing. But a few become sparks for sweeping change. What makes the difference is the existence of a prepared movement.

Thankfully, a galvanizing event need not be a nuclear meltdown. It does need to be an attention-grabbing drama where one side holds the moral advantage. When activists don’t have one, they have sometimes created one: think Bull Connor’s dogs, or Gandhi’s Salt March.

President-elect Trump has no popular mandate (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin larger than John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, or Al Gore in 2000). Even many who voted for him do not endorse some of what he advocates or represents. Many traditional pillars of Republican administrations are less than firm in their support, beginning with the wary Republicans in Congress — and some are starting out opposed, notably much of the foreign policy establishment. The president-elect, as Mrs. Clinton said, can be “provoked by a tweet.” He is impulsive. His campaign set a new standard for what Galston called a “bitter, divisive tone.” He and his advisers hold bigoted views that overwhelming majorities of the American people reject as immoral.

What terrifies many people about a President Trump, in other words, is also what makes, for civil resistance, a uniquely promising moment.

Nationalism in Malaysia in Extremis


November 17, 2016

The Edge logo

Nationalism in Malaysia in Extremis

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

Image result for Hidup Melayu

Malay Nationalism or Tribalism ala Ku Kluk Klan

One thing that shocked me when I first went to Sweden for my studies 35 years ago was how dirty a word “Nationalism” was in Western Europe. This reaction, I realized, was very much a reflection of how the concept was positively implanted in my mind while a schoolboy in Malaysia; but it also demonstrated how greatly human experiences can differ in different parts of the world.

More importantly, it revealed to me how strongly we are intellectually captured by the language use of our times and our location.

But the Swedes are very proud of their country, so how come nationalism is frowned upon so badly? The same thing applied throughout Europe, at least until recently. Excessive immigration over the last two decades, coupled with declining economic fortunes and waning self-confidence has buoyed the ascendance of ultra-rightists groups in all countries throughout the continent.

So why was Nationalism so despised? Europe is after all the home continent of the Nation State.

For starters, Europe was always a place of endless wars often fought ostensibly for religious reasons between feudal powers. The arrival of the Nation state ideology helped to lower the frequencies of these tragedies, but only to replace it soon after with non-religious types of rationale for conflict. The American Revolution and French Republicanism added the new phenomenon of “government by the people”. The French case also brought into the equation the Left-Right Dimension that would define politics and political thinking for the next two centuries.

This conceptual division between Popular Mandate and Elite Rule expressed sharply the rights of common people on the one hand, and the role of the state on the other. Once this gap was articulated, conflating the two poles anew became a necessary task.

The three major articulations in Europe of this mammoth mission to bridge the divide and achieve a functional modern system were Liberal Democracy, Communism and Fascism. While the Anglo-Saxon world championed the first, Stalin’s Soviet Union perfected the second and Adolf Hitler developed the third to its insane conclusion. In Europe, it was basically these three actors who fought the Second World War.

Image result for Hidup Melayu

Malay Tribalism in Action

In Asia, Japan’s brand of state fascism ran riot throughout the region, rhetorically championing nationalism in the lands it took from the European colonialists.

While the National Socialism of the Third Reich died with Hitler, Fascism lived on in Franco’s Spain until 1975 and Nationalist Communism of Stalin continued in Eastern Europe until the early 1990s.

Nationalism in the rest of Europe after 1945 came to be understood with disdain as the longing of the Nation State for purity and autonomy taken to pathological lengths. It is after all always a defensive posture, as is evidenced today in its return in the form of right-wing anti-immigrant groups.

Image result for Hidup Melayu--Najib Razak

Maruah Melayu dijual ka-Cina untuk membela masa depan politik Najib Razak–Jualan Aset 1MDB

In Malaysia, nationalism was—and for many, still is—the most highly rated attitude for a citizen to adopt.There are obvious reasons for this, given the historical and socio-political context in which Malaysia came into being. Constructing a new country out of nine sultanates, the three parts of the Straits Settlements, with Sabah and Sarawak on top of that, was a more daunting task than we can imagine today. Furthermore, the contest was also against other powerful “-isms”, especially Communism and Pan-Indonesianism. These threatened to posit what are Malaysia’s states today in a larger framework, and would have diminished these territories’ importance and uniqueness.

Putting a new regime in place of the retreating British required a rallying idea; and what better than the very fashionable image of a new nation to whom all should swear allegiance. Malayan nationalism was thus born.

Image result for tunku abdul rahman

For Inclusive, Liberal and Progressive Malaysia–Escaping the Nationalism Trap

It is no coincidence that the path to independence became much easier after Malaysia’s major political party, UMNO, decided under Tunku Abdul Rahman to change its slogan from the provincial “Hidup Melayu” [Long Live the Malays] to the inclusive “Merdeka” [Independence].

But already in that transition, one can see the problem that Malaysia still lives with today. Is Malaysia the political expression of the prescriptive majority called “Melayu” [later stretched to become “Bumiputera”], or is it the arena in which the multi-ethnic nation of “Malaysians” is to evolve?

Image result for Trumpism in America

Nationalism in essence, and most evidently so in its narrow ethno-centric sense, is defensive and fearful, and understood simplistically and applied arrogantly very quickly show strong fascist tendencies. The issue is therefore a philosophical one.

What Malaysia needs today, is to accept the regional and global context that sustains it, and work out as best it can a suitable balance between Popular Mandate and Elite Rule which is clearly less belaboured and less painful than the cul-de-sac alleyway it has backed itself into.

OOI KEE BENG is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute) and the Editor of the Penang Monthly (Penang Institute). He is the author of the prizewinning The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (ISEAS 2006).

Adam Adli–Challenging the Corrupt and Unjust


November 16, 2016

Adam Adli–Challenging the Corrupt and Unjust

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Activism, or doing what you think is right for the nation, comes at a heavy cost.

Image result for Adam Adli and Din Merican

The Iconic Che Guevera

One student has seen his dream of becoming a lecturer dashed because of his activism. He has been in and out of court rooms. He has been threatened with jail. He has been put on remand and he has been fined. When he is not defending himself, he is trying to sort out the nation, which he believes is run by the corrupt and the unjust.

Would you want to swap places with Adam Adli, the student who shot to fame when, on an impulse, he lowered a flag bearing the image of PM Najib Abdul Razak?

Image result for Adam Adli

This young man had everything going for him, but his conscience was pricked by issues of justice, governance and democracy. Little did he realise that following the dictates of his conscience would lead to his downfall.

While most of us suffer quietly or moan in the company of friends, the proactive Adam sought to open our minds, show us what it means to fight repression and tell us that when votes are stolen, the country is no longer operating as a democracy.

It all started in December 2011, when Adam, who was then studying at the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, lowered the flag depicting Najib’s image and replaced it with a flag bearing the words “Academic Freedom”.

He was only trying to expose the repressive nature of the Universities and University Colleges Act.

An unforgiving university administration suspended his student status, first for 18 months and then indefinitely. He could have graduated by now and could be living his ambition of teaching in a university.

But the suspension could not cow him. He continued with his activism. In May 2013, at a forum at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Adam questioned the results of the 13th general election and urged Malaysians to get rid of the current government. That speech cost him dearly. He was found guilty of sedition in September 2014.

Image result for Hishamuddin Rais

Activists for Freedom, Justice and Human Dignity

Adam is appealing against his conviction. He hopes that like his mentor, Hishamuddin Rais, he will escape jail and be fined instead.But the prosecution is appealing against the High Court’s decision to allow him to pay a fine of RM5,000 instead of going to jail.

On Monday, Adam was told that his appeal would be deferred until December. Perhaps this is another tactic to wear the student leader down.

Adam once said, “Why should university students be afraid of those whom we have elected. They should work for us. Do not be afraid to criticise our leaders, no matter who they are.”

Whatever their reasons for prolonging Adam’s mental agony, little do the authorities realise that he is the new face of the fight against the Sedition Act. He is one of our catalysts for change.

What a pity it is that the authorities would persecute Adam, who is upholding justice, but allow Red Shirt leader Jamal Yunos to run free even though he threatens to harm others, especially those fighting to realise true democracy in Malaysia.

The secrets to Trump’s shock victory–A Message to Prime Minister Najib Razak and UMNO


November 10, 2016

My message to Prime Minister Najib Razak and UMNO, Do not take us for granted. You cannot stop change when the time is right–Din Merican

I have consistently stated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and temperamentally prepared candidate  ever in the history of US politics for POTUS. I was confident that she would have given her Republican rival a trashing on November 8, 2016 as I watched the event live on CNN at the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh. I was wrong.

I was shell-shocked when she lost to a political novice who will now occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC next January. The American voters have spoken; they want change and they go it.

I respect that and congratulate Donald Trump on his success. To Secretary Hillary Clinton, I say thank you for your gallantry and statesmanship.

If there is any consolation  for me and others who favored Hillary, it is that she won the popular vote convincingly. But in America, the winner must command 270 electoral votes ( Donald Trump got some 280 plus votes) to be POTUS. Not only did Trump become President-Elect but he also helped the Republicans gain control of the Senate and the House of  Representatives. He, therefore, deserves credit for beating the odds.

Let me say a few words about the politics in Malaysia. It is divisive and racist. Our government is dysfunctional. Our leaders in Putrajaya are corrupt and incompetent; our Parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary no longer administers justice; our civil service is an extension of UMNO;  our economy is tanking; our foreign policy is heavily tilted towards China for Najib’s political survival; our nation is deeply in debt; the cost of living is rising; and 2017 promises to be a  difficult year for every Malaysian except for Najib and family and the UMNO cronies.

Ignore the signs at our own peril. Of course, there are people like Ramon Navaratnam and other self-appointed apologists like him who think otherwise.

Do not take the rural Malays and other Malaysians for granted. No power in the world can stop change from happening when the time is due.  Change is long overdue in Malaysia. Our patience has been tested to the limit. For optimists like me, change is coming sooner rather than later. All we have to do is to make it happen.

The politics and administration in Putrajaya is as pathetic as that in Washington DC. The Americans have spoken and Malaysians will do the same with Najib Razak and UMNO. Ignore our concerns and you will face defeat and may end up in jail for 1MDB and other misdemeanors.–Din Merican

 

The secrets to Trump’s shock victory

by Nathaniel Tan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: Donald Trump wins. My wife puts it best: “We live in the Age of The Kardashians. As long as you can create enough hoopla as a one-man circus, you can make it.”

For some reason, she also always refers to Trump’s “locker room” comments as “catch the kitty”, and seems to think that anything to do with cats always wins.

On more serious notes, let’s speculate and reflect on how Trump won, and what we might learn from this debacle.

Repeating Bush’s victory conditions

My view is that Trump won in circumstances similar to those which propelled George W Bush to victory in 2004.

These men share a number of similarities. They were widely denounced around the world as idiots, they ran a campaign amidst a backdrop of global terrorism, and they faced rather placid, uninspiring Democratic nominees.

Image result for Hillary gracious in defeat

Bush’s chief strategist was Karl Rove, and he had a devastatingly simple approach for 2004.

He said: Look, there are millions of right-leaning Americans out there who aren’t voting. Forget compassionate conservatism and centrism, swing hard to the right, inspire right-leaning Americans to come out and vote (when they usually don’t), overwhelm the opposition.

This ended up working beautifully. Rampant fear-mongering, and positioning Bush as a decisive, hawkish leader opposed to John Kerry’s flip-flopping weakness led to a resounding electoral success – while the rest of the world watched on, dumbfounded.

Twelve years later, we appear to be experiencing very similar disbelief and shock – and likely for very similar reasons.

Voter turnout appears to be reaching record highs this year, suggesting that Trump has somehow inspired a lot of people who don’t usually follow politics to come out and vote for him.

Political messaging – the simpler the better

My guess is that inspiration stemmed from simple political messages. I’d bet that for voters the world over, the primary reason for voting for one candidate or another can be summarised in less than three sentences at most.

The results suggest that Trump’s message that foreigners were ruining America for (mostly white) Americans because of weak leadership struck a simple chord, and gave people a convenient outsider to scapegoat – which is always easier than looking inwards.

Combined with rampant fear-mongering and the IS bogeyman, Trump likely succeeded in selling the story that he was the best candidate available to protect America against the many threats it apparently faced. Indeed, terrorism is in some ways the Republican party’s best friend.

Trump’s anti-establishment attacks probably also resonated, especially against Hillary Clinton’s epitomisation of the established, entrenched and privileged political elite. Bernie Sanders would have likely fared better in this regard, but it’s hard to say whether that would have been enough to beat Trump.

Trump’s criticisms of the establishment were not entirely off point either. The old lumbering structures have developed over time (and not just in America either) to favour incumbents, and to encourage keeping power in the hands of an elite club. Sanders’ defeat is a case in point.

We also cannot discount the possibility that many Americans might not have been ready to vote for a woman president.

Twitter no, nuclear weapons, yes

Whatever the reasons, most people with any progressive leanings are reeling from the results.

Nobody seemed to believe Trump could win. Clinton was already shifting her focus from the traditional swing states and targeting traditionally Republican states in anticipation of some sort of landslide victory.

Even Trump seemed to run out of steam the last couple of weeks, making comments that seemed to lay the ground for post-defeat strategies.

With the votes being counted though, it seems that America’s nuclear arsenal is now being put in the control of a man whose own staff couldn’t trust with a Twitter account.

Global fallout

The global implications of this election are scary indeed. It sounds like Vladimir Putin will be delighted to have an American president that admires him, and around whom Putin can probably run circles.

Image result for The Corrupt Najib Razak

It feels like it’s been a season of swinging to the right. Britain votes out of the European Union, fueled by sentiment similar to those espoused by Trump. Rodrigo Duterte is voted into power in the Philippines; called by some the Trump of Asia, he promptly abandons traditional ally America in favour of authoritarian China (and Najib Abdul Razak soon follows suit).

Trump isn’t likely to be someone who truly respects human rights, and probably has more in common with dictators than American presidents of the last century. What scary things these portend for global geopolitics only time will really tell; so far, crashing global markets have expressed their opinion in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps there are some things we can learn from this locally as well.

Exiting our urban bubbles

The most obvious lesson is not to be overconfident of course.Another lesson is to never let our urban bubble prevent us from understanding a demographic as a whole.

The media made it look like the entire world (understandably) thought of Trump as a buffoon. This was probably largely true of many urban Americans; but urban Americans and the America the media imagines (or rather sells to) don’t decide elections.

Malaysia has a similar significant urban/rural divide. All major urban areas have solidly voted opposition in recent elections, but Barisan Nasional remains firmly in power off the back of rural support.

It’s an area and a (much less visible) demographic that the opposition truly does not understand well, and surrounding oneself with like-minded urbanites is unlikely to change this status quo. As an aside, this is also probably the reason PAS’ relevance will be unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

The third-party effect

Worth noting as well is the effect of third-party candidates. After Trump and Clinton, the two most significant candidates for president were Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

At at least one point in the night, Johnson and Stein were having a visible effect on the elections. Their combined number of votes at that point in Florida and Michigan – key battleground states – were double that of the difference between Trump and Clinton.

This means that if (a very big hypothetical of course) those individuals voted for Clinton instead of Trump, there’s a good chance the election would have gone to Clinton instead.

As our next general election approaches, I think it is safe to say that three-corner fights will almost certainly result in BN victories.

This is not to say that we should blindly support whichever Pakatan we still believe in. I believe that in the long run, our best hope lies in a movement which does not really exist yet.

In the meantime, while it is foolhardy to say that one on one fights will guarantee victory against BN, I think it is equally foolhardy to imagine that three (or more) corner fights will produce anything but a BN victory.

Bridging gaps

It’s easy to rant and rave about how America will truly elect any idiot whatsoever President.

In the end though, if we don’t want to continue living these realities, we really have to move out of our comfort zones, stretch out our imagination and really develop better respect for those who live far away from us, watch different TV shows, and vote differently.

Only then can we start bridging the gaps we need to in order to make our aspirations come true.


Harvard educated and smart NATHANIEL TAN has only ever caught actual kitties; never metaphorical ones.

Najib in Power:Parliament, Civil Service, Police, Judiciary, and UMNO have failed the Malaysian People


September 20, 2016

Najib in Power:Parliament, Civil Service, Police, Judiciary, and UMNO  have failed the Malaysian People

by  P Gunasegaram

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Najib the crook

After all his failings and lies over his brainchild, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), and at least US$3.5 billion (RM14 billion) embezzled from it, and as much as US$7 billion (US$28 billion) unaccounted for, why is it that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak remains in power?

How could a nation keep a Prime Minister who is directly and indirectly responsible for the biggest fraud in Malaysian history and perhaps the biggest fraud ever in the world in power? The Minister of Finance Inc (Najib is Finance Minister, too) owns all of 1MDB, he was chairperson of the advisory board and the memorandum and articles of association of 1MDB required him to sign off on all major deals.

In other countries that practice true parliamentary democracy, that would have been enough to nail him and kick him out hard if he had not already resigned by then, but not here. Why?

Just because he was Head of UMNO and Barisan Nasional or BN when the coalition won the last elections in 2013, it does not convey on him an automatic right to remain prime minister until the next elections.

A Prime Minister can be removed if he does wrong under the law but for that to work you need independence of both investigating and prosecuting authorities. Najib circumvented that by removing the previous Attorney-General (Gani Patail) under highly suspicious circumstances. At the same time, the country’s corruption-fighting body saw wrenching changes while central bank officials were questioned by the Police for possible leaks of information over that US$681 million “donation” that went into the accounts of Najib at AmBank.

When dissent within his party began to surface, he took action against senior party officials culminating in the expulsion of his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin who, together with former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has now formed a new party.

That served as an example for any others who might want to challenge Najib’s leadership of UMNO and resulted in UMNO top guns and other heads of political parties within the BN coalition keeping mum and voicing their support for Najib.

UMNO party elections have been postponed to after the next general elections, preventing would-be contestants from ousting him. It looks like no one within Umno is capable of organising a revolt or rebellion and to force an extraordinary general assembly which could remove him as party chief and hence prime minister.

That Najib remains PM, and UMNO President, is first and foremost a reflection of the poor leadership at the top of UMNO. Except for Muhyiddin, Shafie Apdal and Mukhriz Mahathir, no significant UMNO leader has opposed Najib over 1MDB and other matters. If enough UMNO top leaders join in the clamour against Najib, Najib will have to go – you don’t even have to wait for a grassroots revolt.

Let’s take it from the top. Najib’s current deputy, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, continues to make noises of support for Najib. This one-time solid Anwar Ibrahim supporter, jailed under the Internal Security Act (ISA) with Anwar in 1998 under Mahathir’s rule, must know that if UMNO goes into the polls with Najib at the top, its chances of winning would be much eroded. But he does not want to make the mistake his former boss did of moving too hastily.

Image result for Hishammuddin Hussein Onn the idiot

The UMNO Idiotic Minister of Defence

And then, with the exit of Shafie Apdal, comes Hishammuddin Hussein, Najib’s cousin and son of the Third Prime minister, Hussein Onn. Najib was son of the second. If Hishammuddin had his father’s guts, principles and integrity he would have no choice but to voice his opposition to Najib. But no, he does not but condones Najib.

Image result for Khairy Jamaluddin--Man in a Hurry

Ambitious But Unprincipled 

And then there is UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin – suave, dapper and Oxford educated.  A man in so much of a hurry to get to the top that one can’t expect him to be steadfast and upholding and give up what may, yes, get him to the top.

No ‘scrotal gumption’

For all three of them, does good politics dictate that they must support Najib no matter what, even if he allows Malaysia to be turned into a kleptocracy? Do they all not have the “scrotal gumption” – to borrow two words from former Court of Appeal judge Mahadev Shankar – to at least this once put nation and people above their own personal ambitions, and do what’s right even if it is risky?

Who knows, their political ambitions may be furthered if they do that because a majority of Malays themselves are likely to support their actions. Polls indicate Najib’s support among Malays is at an all-time low of 25 percent.

Remember Mahathir’s meteoric rise after he lost his parliamentary seat way back in 1969, criticised then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, got expelled from UMNO and then became Education Minister in 1974 after he was given a seat to contest by Tunku’s successor, Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib’s father?

Clearly they don’t make young UMNO leaders like they did before. And clearly too UMNO politics were rather devious even then. And MCA and MIC, what say you? Does Liow Tiong Lai for a moment think that the ordinary Chinese think his support for Najib is justified? What about the Indians, Dr S Subramaniam, do you think they support Najib right now?

Over in Sabah and Sarawak, do Kadazans and Dusuns and others actually support Najib? And shouldn’t leaders of parties like PBS and PBB be more circumspect of their support for Najib as leader of the coalition? How about it, Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Adenan Satem? Is it not time to make your views felt?

Umno after all had only 88 seats out of 133 seats at the end of the last elections in 2013 in the 222-seat Parliament. UMNO cannot rule without its partners no matter what some of their leaders say.

The combined opposition had one more than UMNO with 89 seats. If all of UMNO’s partners moved over to opposition, the government is toppled. In fact, if only 23 out of 44 defect, down comes Najib’s government. Surely they are collectively in a position to make some threats but why don’t they? Lack of scrotal gumption again?

He could be removed by Parliament – by a vote of no-confidence which will precipitate general elections if enough people vote with their conscience and not along party lines.

Image result for Malaysia'a dysfunctional Parliament

Najib stays in power because not enough elected representatives from the ruling coalition will say a word against him, let alone vote against him. UMNO has failed the people, MCA has failed the people, MIC has, and likewise Gerakan. The East Malaysian parties have also failed the people.

Ultimately, Malaysia’s elected representatives in Parliament collectively failed the people – they let a terribly tainted Prime Minister continue in office. Now all that is left is for the people to pressure the representatives to do their job and if they do not, kick them out unceremoniously when the time comes.  That will teach them to do the right thing the next time around.

Johor’s Intellectual HRH Sultanah Zarith Sofiah launches Visions for Peace


May 13, 2016

Johor’s Intellectual HRH Sultanah Zarith Sofiah launches Visions for Peace

by Zaid Ibrahim

The Star Online

Malaysia needs an extensive communications channel committed to explaining concepts which remind us of the value of multiculturalism, diversity and understanding.

Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Idris Shah tonight launched a book entitled 'Visions for Peace' at the KLGCC Bukit Kiara in Kuala Lumpur April 23, 2016. — Bernama pic

Johor’s HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah Sofiah with Datin Halimah Zain Yusuf of PCORE

THE launch of the book Visions for Peace by the Permaisuri of Johor, Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, who is also patron of the Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE), at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on April 23 was memorable for many reasons.

The main attraction for me was Raja Zarith’s speech, which was short but full of courage and hope. “I have often lamented on the erosion of values and principles which stand in the way of our hopes and dreams for a better Malaysia,” she said.

It was especially poignant when she asked, “Why should we not uphold these noble values? Why should we not have lofty principles to guide us in life? Why should we not be guided by the tenets which our faiths and religions teach us?”

This was a brave and timely call, especially when many are already asking if it is not already too late. The continued struggle by the people for Malaysia’s heart and soul, between the religious and secular, is the source of our difficulties. While some are comfortable with democracy, and want to accept the reality of multiculturalism, believing that we can find true peace and unity only by harnessing the strength of our diversity, others are totally opposed to this idea. They prefer the “unity” of one racial or religious group over all others and seek to maintain control on the basis of identity.

Some believe in the value of fairness and human rights, as evident in our religious obligations to treat all of God’s creations with fairness and justice, but others see this as inimical to their beliefs and even as a threat to their culture and morality; even posing a threat to their positions as “political masters” of the land.

Many believe that democratic rights and common values should be the foundation of society and are willing to trust political leaders elected by the people to manage the affairs of the country.

Many others, however, are making equally strong demands for a religious country where theologians are the true leaders of the land and where democracy is desirable only if politics can be won by the new class of leaders whose claim to fame lies in their “divinely inspired” knowledge.

As a result, the narratives of the past – the Rukun Negara, democracy, human rights, religious freedom and fundamental liberties – are spoken about today without conviction and only in terms of their “limited” application.

Religious morality has become the new tool of social differentiation, which makes it impossible to integrate the various communities in our country. It’s indeed laudable and gratifying that HRH Raja Zarith and her team of dedicated reformists have initiated a movement to bring back the values of the “old school” into the lifeblood of the country, as a modern and civilised democracy where people are guided by reason and conscience and want to live in peace and harmony.

At the book launch, it was evident that PCORE was made up of well-educated Malaysians who could provide a fresh outlook to help the country move forward. I did observe, however, that many who attended the launch (including myself) were in their 50s and 60s – many were ardent voices of reason and moderation, perhaps because they were educated under the “old school system”, have an open mind and live in middle class suburbs.

I just hope the young and those living elsewhere in the country share the same mindset. It is a blessing that we have as leaders of the moderate movement those privileged elites who are willing to engage with political leaders on major issues and make the case of reform in key areas such as education and politics.

At the same time, the message articulated in the book and other PCORE seminars needs to penetrate the far reaches of the country so every Malaysian regardless of background has the opportunity to listen to these views.

The effectiveness of PCORE as a group will be more widespread if they have the ability to influence and lobby policymakers effectively. Politicians will take notice of public initiatives only if they sense that support for such initiatives is strong and that the lobbyists are influential individuals themselves.

Towards this end, I suggest that Visions for Peace and other works be translated into Bahasa Malaysia (if not already done) and that the chapters on various topics such as unity, multiculturalism, harmony, balance of the environment and social cohesion be read and explained over a special radio service.

Malaysia needs an extensive communications channel committed to explaining concepts such as those articulated in Visions for Peace to remind us of the value of multiculturalism, diversity and understanding.

These broadcasts should be made on a regular basis and I call on the Government to allow the establishment of a dedicated national radio station, which I think could be managed admirably by PCORE.

The significance of radio is two-fold: if the Government truly believes that fresh ideas on national unity, diversity and democracy are important, then it must be willing to be a partner in disseminating these ideas. The Government should not fear a fresh view of these concepts if it is useful for national development.

For PCORE, radio can be a useful tool to spread the message of moderation, conscience and reason while discussions and debates on air about some of the key issues will help enlighten people who are otherwise subjected only to a fixed line of thinking.

Unless PCORE has the tools and is allowed by the Government to have access to these tools to do its work in spreading new ideas, its ability to change values and mind-sets, and its efforts to help give voice to those seeking to find the light at the end of the tunnel, will be limited and this would be most unfortunate.