10 Rs why we are not Independent; not Malaysia but Malusia


August 25, 2017

10 Rs why we are not Independent; not Malaysia but Malusia

by P Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | At the stroke of midnight heralding August 31, 1957, the Malayan flag was raised in front of Selangor Padang, Kuala Lumpur before a crowd of thousands and the Union Jack lowered ushering in an era of an independent Malaya which would become Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

Image result for Raising of the Malayan Flag at the Padang on August 31. 1957

The Pinnacle –August 31. 1957 and from then on it was a secular decline into Malusia under Prime Minister Najib Razak–August 31, 2017 and sinking fast due to corruption, incompetence, racism and religious extremism and ketuananism

In the morning, at an elaborate ceremony at Stadium Merdeka, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman cried out “Merdeka!” seven times, echoed by a capacity crowd at the stadium, before the new national anthem “Negaraku” was played for the first time publicly. You can watch a short video here and a longer one here.  If you have not seen them before, I recommend that you do.

In his speech that morning, the Tunku, as the Kedah Prince with a common touch was known to most Malayans, said the nation is based on a constitution and the foundations of freedom (kebebasan), democracy, independence, justice and harmony.

Hopeful faces from all communities and all walks of life packed into the stadium that day, but 60 years later have their hopes, dreams and aspirations been realised? Sixty years later, are we really independent? Sadly, no.

Here are 10 reasons why independence still eludes us.

1. We don’t have freedom in key areas. Freedom is the right to do what you want to do so long as you do not affect the rights of others. But in Malaysia, you can’t even express what you truly feel as many things are considered to be seditious.

Informed debates are out, different lifestyles are looked down upon, you can’t even start a newspaper without the approval of the Home Minister, you have religion interfering in administration and state matters and the Constitution being blatantly disregarded in the name of expediency and a higher law.

2. We don’t have democracy. Democracy is not just only about proportional representation but the right to air your valid opinions and to have the means to spread them to others without restriction. We don’t even have proportional representation because rural seats are given a lot more weightage, sometimes as much as 10 times urban ones. Constitutional safeguards for this have either been ignored or changed over the years. The ruling party holds sway over the mass media by extensive controls as well as ownership webs.

3. We have oppressive laws. The Sedition Act, Sosma, Poca, OSA and various provisions in other legislation provide extensive power to the police and the home minister designed to keep things under wrap and to stifle legitimate dissent. Some of these are even more draconian than the laws which were in place during the time of the British occupation, which is astonishing considering that we have been “independent” for over 60 years. (and we don’t have bola too!)

4. Our government is not transparent. Because the government does so much wrong, it shields so much of what it does, coming up with the infamous Official Secrets Act which dishes out a mandatory jail term for disclosing “secrets”. These so-called “secrets” are most often not even in the national interest to be kept secret but instead reflect serious corruption within government. Unjustly, those who unearth and reveal such secrets face heavy punishment under the law.

5. Our government is not accountable. Our government stopped being accountable long ago. Bad things get done but nobody is brought to account. Billions are lost but no one is charged in court. The same problems crop up over and over again and the same excuses are trotted out over and over again. We don’t ever learn from the past – and the reason is obvious. Corruption prevents correction. This and the previous point reflect the emasculation of our key institutions of check and balance, as our next five points indicate.

Image result for Mahathir the destroyer of institutions
Tun Dr. Mahathir is back to rebuild institutions which he conveniently destroyed

 

6. Our Judiciary is not independent. Mahathir Mohamad infamously put paid to what was once regarded as an independent arm of the government which will rule on the basis of existing laws and the Constitution, resulting in a number of decisions not being made in accordance with legal principles and precedents. This continues to haunt us today with judges now being increasingly influenced by religious beliefs rather than the law and by who is in power.

Image result for IGP Khalid Abu Bakar retires

Hey, Chief, after September, 2017, we don’t care too

7. Our Police are not independent. Selective implementation of the law with the opposition and dissidents feeling the brunt of Police action while government and ruling party elements often get by with a rap on the knuckles or no action at all when others face jail sentences for similar offences. The all-encompassing Sedition Act, OSA, Sosma and Poca have all been selectively used by the police.

8. Our MACC is not independent. While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission suddenly seems to be active, its image is shattered by the omission of action against the largest theft in the country and probably the world as a result of which a huge sum of money came into the accounts of the prime minister. Also, MACC’s actions are quite clearly one-sided towards the opposition, ignoring many cases of corruption involving ruling party officials.

Image result for Paul LowMr Integrity Paul Low –We owe him a lot for allowing corruption to be rampant. We need more big talkers like him 

 

9. Our EC is not independent. The Elections Commission has not shown itself to be independent, allowing gerrymandering to realign boundaries of constituencies and allowing by a large amount proportional misrepresentation to continue by giving undue weightage to rural constituencies.

Image result for Apandi Ali

This A-G only serves UMNO and the Prime Minister

10. Our AG is not independent. The Attorney-General has famously decreed that the Prime Minister has no case to answer despite considerable evidence to the contrary, and especially extensive documented investigation by the US Department of Justice.

The latest appointment of the Auditor-General has been called into question because her spouse is a prominent UMNO member who declared that he will die for the Prime Minister. There are more reasons of course but these 10 are among the main ones.

Although this has culminated with Najib Abdul Razak at the top, it did not start with him. It started much earlier, pushed forward through a racial, racist party which thought that it knew what was best for the country and which twisted and turned this way and that to use religion and race to stay in power. It was not about Malaysians anymore – not even Malays.

It was corrupted by power and money, and along the way, as checks and balances were removed one by one giving the state enormous legislative, judicial, policing and administrative powers to ultimately protect the economic interests of its upper classes especially those in UMNO. Now, kleptocracy rules supreme.

This party must change or go so that freedom, democracy, independence, justice and harmony – the five foundations the Tunku mentioned – are restored, and restored in full. And it requires the efforts of all of us Malaysians, no matter how small or big, whichever community we come from, to ensure that happens. Our survival and the survival of our country depends on that.

 

 

Malaysians are forgetful


July 25, 2017

Malaysians are forgetful about scandals, that is why they keep coming back from Mahathir to Najib Razak

by R.Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

Forex, Maminco, Cowgate, Mara, FGV, 1mdb…what next?

 

COMMENT | Dr Mahathir Mohamed recited a sajak (poem) entitled ‘Melayu Mudah Lupa’ (Malays forget easily) at the 2001 UMNO General Assembly. After 16 years, is it still appropriate or does one word need to be changed?

Replacing “Malays” with the “Malaysians” would better describe how events and scandals of yesteryears have been consigned to the burial grounds and entombed.

But even the dead can be awakened for political expediency. After 30 years, the ghost of the foreign exchange market (forex) losses, said to run into billions of ringgit, has arisen from the grave – with hopes of it demonising the leading opposition figure, Mahathir.

So, a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) has been set up and will soon start the proceedings, in the hope of establishing a host of facts. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this – perfectly legal. Using provisions provided in the Federal Constitution, the system allows Joe Public to have privy and access to the reasons for decisions to the commitments made by our leaders and their reasons for doing so.

But what can RCIs do? What does our government do with the findings? What happens after the findings? Will they bring about changes or will they be consigned to gather dust in some steel cabinet in Putrajaya?

There have been many, but let’s look back at just two. The first was on the VK Lingam video and the other was the RCI on illegal immigrants in Sabah.

V.K. Lingam–Vincent Tan’s Correct, Correct, Correct Lawyer–Fixing the Judiciary with Tun Ahmad Fairuz

In 2007, a five-man panel chaired by the former Chief Judge of Malaya, Haidar Mohamed Noor, examined a video clip allegedly of lawyer VK Lingam (photo) being involved in the manipulation of judicial appointments.

Subsequently, Lingam was barred from practising in 2015, but he has since challenged the decision of the Bar Disciplinary Committee, which found him guilty of interfering with judicial appointments. The case is scheduled to be heard next month.

In 2013, the former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Steve Shim, chaired a five-man panel to investigate “Project IC”, in which citizenship was allegedly given unlawfully to illegal immigrants in Sabah during the Mahathir administration for electoral support.

‘Project IC probably existed’

After hearing 211 witnesses and recording more than 5,000 pages of evidence, the panel concluded that “Project IC” probably existed. It recommended the formation of a permanent secretariat, along with either a management committee or a consultative council, to address the issue of illegal immigration in Sabah.

But the immigrant problems still continue to prosper across the porous borders between Malaysia and The Philippines.

Against such backdrops, what would yet another RCI bring about? For a while, the proceedings will be the talk of the town, after which, it will enter into a sleep mode to be awakened when yet another scandal surfaces on our shores.

The Cowgate Scandal–The Gatekeeper got awa ,thanks to UMNO

Can someone update Malaysians on the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp)? On July 25, 2013, NFCorp chairperson Mohamad Salleh Ismail (photo) told a press conference that Japanese company, Kirimitonas Agro Sdn Bhd, had agreed to purchase its entire shares and related companies, and accordingly take over all the assets and liabilities, including the RM250 million loan with the Malaysian government.

Two weeks earlier, the then Finance Minister II Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, told Parliament that the government had recovered RM79.9 million from the RM250 million it loaned NFCorp.

Ahmad Husni said the government also sealed NFCorp’s assets worth RM23.3 million – two pieces of land in Putrajaya, two units of real estate in Menerung Township Villa and three plots of land in Gemas.

“Out of the RM250 million, close to RM80 million has been received and RM170 million is yet to be received,” he said when winding up the debate for his ministry on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address in the Dewan Rakyat then.

Ahmad Husni said the Finance Ministry took three steps to resolve the NFC project controversy, namely bringing the case to court, taking over or getting back the amount owed and the assets, and finding a new company to continue the project.

And they drive around in their Porsches…

What happened to the real estate that was seized? Can someone give Malaysian taxpayers a status report on the case? After all, RM250 million belonging to the people was given in loans and surely, the least we can expect is some decent, truthful answers. No need for an RCI to tell us how the money for cattle breeding was used to buy luxury condos and property.

Almost two years ago, Mara, its associated companies and senior officials were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They were involved in a multi-million ringgit scandal where buildings (student accommodation) in Melbourne were bought at inflated prices and the difference filtered down to some people’s pockets.

Police reports were made; the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission briefly detained a couple of people, and the Mara Chairperson was replaced. So, what happened to the investigations? Have the crooks been brought to book? Some of them are driving around their Porsche cars, acting as if nothing ever happened.

The construction of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) was the biggest financial scandal in the country prior to the emergence of an entity called 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Six people were charged and all were acquitted. But, if no one is guilty, then the question is: Where did our money go?

The government continues to service the loans taken by the developer. Even as this is written, the Port Klang Authority (PKA) owes the Treasury billions of ringgit. By the year 2051, PKA’s commitment will accumulate to RM12.4 billion. How is it going to get the money? As a regulatory body, its revenues are meagre. Did anyone think about an RCI to get to the bottom of the issue? Bottom line: The loan will be written off and we, the people, will have to bear that burden.

Image result for The Mother of All Malaysian ScandalsThank You MCA and MIC–Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua

There are dozens of other instances or issues that may not be of the magnitude of the forex losses but have made headlines that require some form of inquiry. The obvious one is the 1MDB, which has made headlines all over the world for the wrong reasons.

But does the government have the political will and determination to get the bottom of all these, especially the Mother of all Scandals?

 

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Ugly Feud with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reflects the shallowness of Malaysian politics


July 19, 2017

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Ugly Feud with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reflects  the shallowness of Malaysian Politics

Possibility of snap election looms as ex-leader backs a jailed former foe

by Takashi Nakano, Nikkei staff writer

http://asia.nikkei.com

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (Photo by AP), left, and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad are sniping over the state of the country’s leadership.

SINGAPORE — An ugly feud is intensifying between Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, with Mahathir throwing his support behind an old nemesis in hopes of unseating the administration, and Najib sniping back.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years through 2003, and the country’s profile on the world stage grew under his hard-charging leadership. He has vocally criticized Najib, who has been in power for over eight years — and is in sight of a yet longer term — but has recently come under fire amid an embezzlement scandal. Rumors have swirled that Najib may dissolve parliament this year, leading to a general election.

The two figures’ mudslinging, if it drags on, may diminish Malaysian politics in the eyes of observers at home and abroad.

The enemy of my enemy

In 1998, Mahathir sacked Anwar Ibrahim, then Deputy Prime Minister, who stood in opposition to him. Anwar was then arrested and imprisoned for six years on charges of sodomy and corruption. In Malaysia’s last general elections in May 2013, Anwar led an opposition coalition against Najib’s ruling one, but in 2015 was convicted of fresh sodomy charges and given another five years behind bars.

Anwar Ibrahim © Reuters

Early this month, Mahathir told The Guardian, the U.K. newspaper, that the popular Anwar had been “unfairly treated.” “The decision of the court was obviously influenced by the government,” he said, “and I think the incoming government would be able to persuade the King to give a full pardon for Anwar.” The statement sent shock waves across the country.

Since the time of Anwar’s first arrest, the independence of the Malaysian Judiciary has been in doubt. Mahathir’s championing of Anwar even at risk of drawing fire for his own past actions shows the intensity of his drive to topple the Najib administration.

In June, at the International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Mahathir also said that Malaysia’s present administration was doing badly by the country, and that he hoped for the opposition to score an electoral victory and drive Najib out of office.

Najib quickly fired back via his blog. He said it was “ironic that Mahathir now needs Anwar, the man he sacked and jailed,” and that the former prime minister’s “crusade is motivated not by the national interest, but by selfish personal interest.”

No winners

Najib, having built up a stable political base, appears to have the upper hand in this fight. Mahathir cannot hide the shrinking of his political clout. And while Anwar’s popularity may run deep, he cannot run for office from prison. With the term of the lower house of Malaysia’s Parliament set to expire next June, Najib is waiting for the moment to play his trump card: the right to dissolve the legislative body.

But the Najib government has a major Achilles’ heel in the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MDB. U.S. authorities are investigating the apparent misappropriation of at least $4.5 billion from the fund, and several people close to the Prime Minister have been implicated.

Najib’s administration has objected, noting that Malaysian authorities conducted extensive inspections and no crime came to light. But overseas authorities have turned a stern eye. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, for instance, has taken steps to punish a number of financial institutions and people whose actions contributed to the 1MDB scandal.

The ties between Mahathir, Najib and Anwar not only show the fierceness of Malaysia’s power struggle, but expose the shallowness of its political benches. Since it won independence in 1957, the country has not undergone a significant change of government, and it has not cultivated a culture in which the politicians that will bear responsibility for the next generation sharpen one another in friendly rivalry.

With its per-capita gross domestic product having reached the $10,000 level, Malaysia is at a crossroads and in need of a new growth model. Its ruling and opposition parties are constantly bickering instead of engaging in more robust economic debate, casting doubt on the nation’s hopes of joining the ranks of the world’s developed countries.

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad


July 12, 2017

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

– John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton

COMMENT | So now we have proof that UMNO members “cover” for their president. We have proof that the corruption of UMNO Presidents are covered up by UMNO members. We have proof that UMNO members will overlook any kind of malfeasances to keep their leader in power.

Image result for Mahathir and Zahid Hamidi

All UMNO Leaders are filthy rich

We have this proof because UMNO Vice-President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is now acting Deputy President of the party, admitted as much when he told former Prime Minister and de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad to shut up or recite Quranic verses to Allah, whichever comes more easily.

This is what Zahid said: “He unveils the flaws of the present leaders, don’t forget we also used to cover his flaws. Don’t let it be our turn to show his shame and ‘scabs’. There is so much that we can reveal.”

Let us unpack this statement. We can discern three important facts from it.

1) Zahid does not dispute that the current UMNO leader and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has “flaws” and in this case, the only flaws that the current de facto opposition leader Mahathir is unveiling are the numerous corruption scandals that are plaguing this regime. You would note that the UMNO acting Deputy President is not disputing those flaws, indeed he acknowledges them as human “weakness” that every UMNO politician (leader) has.

2) He acknowledges that UMNO members “cover” the flaws of their leaders. So, as an UMNO member, he is admitting that over the years Umno has engaged in acts to cover the possibly criminal or unconstitutional acts of their leaders to safeguard the position of Umno and the position of the President of UMNO and the office of Prime Minister of this country.

3) That by claiming “there is so much we can reveal”, Zahid is admitting that UMNO members have evidence of wrongdoing and have purposely concealed these alleged criminal acts from the state security apparatus, the Judiciary, the Press but more importantly, the public.

So, let me be clear. What Zahid’s statements reveal is that (1) UMNO members know that their leaders are corrupt (flaws); (2) that UMNO members cover for their leaders; and (3) UMNO members have evidence of the wrongdoings of their leaders.

How do UMNO members cover for their leaders? Now, I am just spitballing here, but they would have to ensure that their leaders are insulated from the banalities of accountability. This would mean that independent institutions that are meant to investigate and prosecute the “flaws” of politicians would have to be accountable to members of UMNO, whose primary goal is to cover for their leaders.

This would mean that the security apparatus, the judiciary and the press would have to answer to UMNO because these would be the institutions that the UMNO leader and Prime Minister would need “covering” from.

In other words, UMNO members, like Zahid and every other UMNO member who are covering for their dear leader, are collaborators and/or accomplices to the crimes committed by their President. I am merely clarifying what the acting UMNO Deputy President said.

Image result for Mahathir and Zahid Hamidi

Partners in Power or Rivals for Power?

So, when UMNO members defend the indefensible, when they claim that their leaders have done no wrong, when every state apparatus clears UMNO leaders of wrongdoing, what we are left with is the knowledge, articulated by the UMNO deputy president, that all this was done because UMNO members cover for their leaders.

So, this means that the so-called Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the foreign exchange market (forex) issue of the past is merely an attempt by UMNO members to “reveal” the wrongdoings of Mahathir? This would also mean that this RCI is indeed politically motivated in defence of the current UMNO President and Malaysian Prime Minster because Zahid publicly threatened to “reveal” the “shame” and “scabs” of the former Prime Minister.

And why was Salleh shocked?

So, let’s take this issue of the “appointments as additional judges to the Federal Court”, which has received a fair amount of justified criticism from members of the Bar and former judges. Former Chief Justice (CJ) Abdul Hamid Mohamad had warned that “an extension of a CJ’s tenure beyond the 66 years and six months may compromise the independence of the Judiciary”.

In other words, what the Najib regime is doing may affect the independence of the Judiciary. This brings us to Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak’s shocking revelation that Mahathir, in his interview with The Guardian implied that jailed political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim “was fixed up by a corrupt Judiciary and the Judges were dishonest”.

Here is the problem. If UMNO members cover for their leaders and the only way they can do this is if they control the apparatus of the state, then why is it shocking that a former Prime Minister implies that the state, through the Judiciary, covered up a political problem for an UMNO President?

If UMNO members cover for their leaders, and the only way they can cover for their leaders is by controlling the apparatus of the state and concealing evidence (as articulated by Zahid), then why is it a surprise to the Communications and Multimedia Minister that the former Prime Minister implies a conspiracy by the state (during his tenure) to imprison a political opponent?

If by stacking the Judiciary in favour of UMNO politicians means that it would be easier to “cover” the flaws of UMNO Presidents, then why should we be surprised by the fears and warnings that this would lead to an unnatural relationship between the executive and the Judiciary as articulated by former CJ Abdul Hamid?

With this in mind, how can we not believe that this move by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) to compel the DAP to hold a further round of its central executive committee (CEC) elections is anything but a political gambit by the UMNO state to neutralise a political opponent of a compromised UMNO President before the upcoming general election?

Concerning this crippling of the DAP, this quote from Lim Kit Siang’s blog needs to be addressed.

“In fact, it has led even independent observers to swallow hook, line and sinker to believe in these fake news and false information. For instance, one independent commentator described the whole ROS fiasco as ‘a ticking time bomb of DAP’s own design’ that should have been addressed a long time ago in a transparent manner. How is the ROS fiasco ‘DAP’s own design’?”

Which is the more plausible proposition?

1) That I have swallowed hook, line and sinker the fake news and false information of this regime and its propagandists.

Or

2) That I was sincerely questioning the strategies (as it were) of an opposition political party that is in the cross hairs of this regime, the state apparatus that they control and the propagandists who serve them.

I will leave rational readers to decide which they think is more plausible. Ultimately, muzzling Mahathir says more of the collective guilt and complicity of UMNO members, rather than the agenda of the former Prime Minister turned de facto opposition leader.

On Public Office: The Malaysian Judge misjudges


April 30, 2017

On Public Office: The Malaysian Judge misjudges

Image result for Din Merican

Comment: Najib is first of all an ordinary citizen like you and I. Like us, he is subject to the laws and regulations of Malaysia. Citizen Najib can, therefore, be sued and charged in our courts, and if found guilty he can be sentenced and sent to Hotel Sungai Buloh or Hotel Kajang as a guest of our King.  He has the right to appeal to the higher courts against a conviction.  Next, he is professional politician, an elected Member of Parliament for Pekan, Pahang, currently Prime Minister of Malaysia and incumbent UMNO President.

In my personal opinion as a citizen, Najib is to intents and purposes a public official. It does not take a 31-page opinion to prove that Najib Razak is not. As a public official, Najib has a fiduciary duty to act in accordance with the Constitution which defines his duties as Prime Minister. As an ordinary person, he is not above the law. Is the law an ass? I am unable to understand why High Court Judge Abu Bakar Jais thinks otherwise.  Where did he go to do law, I wonder. –Din Merican

Definition of Public Office Is Who Appoints And Who Pays!

Image result for High Court Judge Abu Bakar Jais

High Court judge Abu Bakar Jais (pic above) in his controversial ruling yesterday that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is not a public official or public officer has detailed his grounds for the judgment in his 31-page decision.

Justice Abu Bakar said Najib’s lawyers argued that in initiating the suit, former UMNO leaders Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Anina Saadudin must first prove the offices that Najib occupies – as Prime Minister, Finance Minister, BN chairperson and UMNO President – are all public offices.

“The defendant maintained he is not a public officer and therefore cannot be liable for the tort of misfeasance in public office,” the judge said in throwing out the suit. Najib, he noted, also contended there is no fiduciary duty owed by him as PM, Finance Minister, BN chairperson and UMNO President to the plaintiffs.

“There is no mutual trust and confidence placed between the parties for a fiduciary relationship to exist,” Justice Abu Bakar said.

Our comment

by The Sarawak Report

The public appointed Najib and the public pays Najib.In return, Najib on assuming office swore to serve the public faithfully and honestly. He was given a position of immense trust in charge of the nations finances, which the judge acknowledges he may have abused.

Yet this judge has opined that Najib is nevertheless not accountable to the public and that there is no duty of trust nor any obligation not to betray his terms of office, as would pertain to a teacher, parking officer or judge.

This law officer has decided that Najib is above the law and that democracy is about electing which dictator you want to have steal from you next – your money and your liberties included.

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia


March 14, 2017

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia–Political Islamism out of UMNO’s desperation

by Rashaad Ali

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/08/gauging-support-for-islamic-law-in-malaysia/

Image result for The Hudud Thing in UMNO's Malaysia

The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang

The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.

Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.

Image result for ruu 355

Hudud –The  Political Hypocrisy of  It All

Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.

But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.

Image result for zaid ibrahim dapThis Guy does not  know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?

The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.

The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.

The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.

As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.

Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.

Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.

It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.

The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.

As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.

Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This article was first published here on RSIS.