Towards a New National Ethos NOW

February 6, 2016

Towards a New National Ethos NOW

by R B Bhattacharjee

The current generation of Malaysians have an extraordinary opportunity to chart new pathways for the country in light of the ground shift that is taking place in its political, social and economic spheres.

Currently, the multiple crises that are playing out on the national stage present a rather disturbing picture of the state of the nation – reflecting a breakdown in accountability, misallocation of resources, radicalisation of cultural norms and a growing ethical deficit. In total, the trend is distinctly downhill.

Nevertheless, while the near term will tend to be chaotic, it is important that we do not succumb to negativity but focus our energies on nurturing a vision for Malaysia that will put the country on a path towards excellence.

To achieve this, we will need to find inspiration to transcend the petty squabbles, narrow viewpoints and selfish instincts of self-serving pressure groups in our midst that have kept our nation in a constant state of anxiety.

It is clear that these divisive voices occupy a public space that is disproportionately large because opinion leaders with a more wholesome vision have not given life to a holistic worldview that all Malaysians can espouse as their own.

This then is our challenge today: can we supplant the narrative of the extremists with an ideal of a plural, tolerant and progressive society? Failure will mean condemning future generations to a dismal fate under the tyrannical control of self-appointed guardians of society.

So, it is not only vital to invest in the socialisation of a common, yet diverse value system, this generation has a solemn responsibility to succeed in that endeavour.

As societal transformation often occurs on an inter-generational time frame, a key challenge will be to plant the seeds of this new thinking in institutions that involve the young – particularly the educational system, sports organisations and youth movements.

A vital measure in this context is to reform the school environment to promote the concept of egalitarianism as a basis for a just society. This will require a mindset change at a fundamental level to create a new sense of national consciousness.

There must also be a readiness to reinterpret the intent of constitutional provisions on issues like the special rights of the Malays, among other things, to align prevalent views on the nation’s charter with universal concepts of human aspirations.

The terrain is fraught with perils including racial and religious sensitivities that can derail attempts to explore alternative pathways that are more conducive to Malaysia’s progress as a contemporary society in the era of borderless exchange and globalisation.

Yet, we must find the courage to venture into forbidding areas of our composite nationhood in order to lay to rest musty ideas about inter-ethnic relations and mutual suspicions about acculturation, hidden agendas and an assortment of other hobgoblins.

Difficult as it may seem to discard old ways of thinking about ethnicity and cultural differences, it is worth noting that many Malaysians already incorporate colour-blind practices in significant aspects of their lives.

Children who are enrolled into international schools, for example, experience diversity and multiculturalism as integral elements of their learning environment.

Similarly, employees in multinational firms imbue policies promoting equal opportunity and cultural sensitivity as part and parcel of the organisational ethos.

People working in fields like the health services, engineering, research and management benchmark their performance to international standards and protocols that are insulated from ethnic markers of any kind.

These examples show that a significant segment of Malaysians are already operating in a universal framework of values, and that the time is really overdue for a bigger swathe of the population to be co-opted into this broader paradigm.

What remains is to overcome the inertia of our current trajectory and steer the country away from its disastrous current pathway towards a national vision that is open to the best virtues of an interdependent new world.

Nothing would be more tragic for the nation than to remain shackled by its self-inflicted deficiencies instead of leveraging on its natural advantages to build a dynamic, open and forward-looking society.

To realise that potential, we must be ready to undo past mistakes and adopt a fresh ethos that all Malaysians would want to buy into.

To find our bearings again, we only need to reaffirm the best aspects of our diversity that promote our common well-being and discard those habits that divide and separate us. It really ought to be a simple choice.

Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: You Couldn’t Make It Up

February 5, 2016

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak can use all the power he has at home to muzzle his officials in Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, the Auditor-General, Bank Negara Malaysia and threaten or charge his detractors and critics Din Merican @UCusing the Sedition Act and the Multimedia and Communications Commission.  But there is one thing he should know and that is, he has no influence whatsoever with the Swiss and Singapore authorities.

Switzerland and Singapore are global financial centers with solid reputation for  their commitment to the Rule of Law, integrity and probity, good governance, and professionalism. It is immaterial whether our authorities will cooperate with their regulators, they will proceed with their investigations.–Din Merican

Up & Down Asia

Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: You Couldn’t Make It Up

While Swiss and Singapore officials turn up the heat, Prime Minister Najib Razak hides his head in the sand.

I don’t know who Najib Razak’s friends are in Saudi Arabia, but I sure want a few.

Who wouldn’t covet a pal or two willing to toss you $700 million as a “gift,” no strings attached? That’s at least the Malaysian prime minister’s story, and he’s sticking to it. Politicians overseas, meanwhile, would sure love to have Najib’s electorate. Since the Wall Street Journal broke news of his good fortune, Najib has displayed a fatalistic willingness to take an entire economy down so he can stay in office. And his party harbors little fear of losing power.

There’s the “Twilight Zone” and there’s the “Malaysia Zone,” and just try discerning the difference. Najib-gate grew even more surreal last week when Malaysia’s attorney general suddenly cleared him of criminal or corruption charges. In a hastily-arranged press conference, Mohamed Apandi Ali said Najib had returned all but $61 million of that “donation” from the Saudi royal family. Somehow, Apandi kept a straight face as he declared the matter closed.

Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, was cleared of any wrongdoing by Malaysia’s attorney general in relation to almost $700 million entering his personal bank account via entities linked to 1MDB, the state fund set up by Mr. Najib in 2009.– Photographer: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg


But Swiss authorities couldn’t. On Monday, they detailed allegations that a state fund Najib controls may have misappropriated about $4 billion from state companies. Malaysia responded with outrage – outrage the Swiss dared bring transparency into the Malaysia Zone. “By making a public statement, in my opinion, it is not good because it not only strains ties between the two countries, but also creates bias in media reports,” Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid said and, yes, with a straight face.

Respect, Switzerland. Respect. It’s never easy to be a whistleblower, but that’s especially so when your main industry is helping the rich camouflage wealth. Reputational risk couldn’t stop Bern from shaming a Malaysian government used to pulling the wool over the eyes of its 30 million people. Not all Malaysians, of course, but those keeping Najib’s United Malays National Organisation in business.

Yet Malaysia Inc. went too far in the camouflage department for Swiss officials. Ditto for the U.S. and Singapore. U.S. officials are probing Goldman Sachs’s role as an advisor; Singapore seized a series of accounts amid investigations into money laundering and other alleged offenses related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the fund Najib created in 2009. Ostensibly, 1MDB was set up to spur economic growth. Instead, it’s emblematic of why Malaysia is becoming a smaller blip on investors’ radar screens.

The $700 million scandal is merely a symptom, albeit a gargantuan one, of a more important number: 54. That’s Malaysia’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perceptions index, and it’s down four levels from a year earlier. In 2014, Saudi Arabia trailed Malaysia five places. By 2015, Najib’s supposed benefactor leapfrogged ahead of Malaysia, ranking in the 48th percentile. The perception corruption has worsened on Najib’s watch (a Swiss one, perhaps?) can be found in everything from stock and currency gyrations to foreign-direct-investment trends to divergent political dynamics in Asia.

Indonesia, for example, jumped 19 places on Transparency International’s tables since 2014, even besting the Philippines (another nation cleaning up its act). The difference between Jakarta and Putrajaya? Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s methodical focus on eradicating graft, putting more government functions and services online and recruiting credible deputies is paying off. As Jakarta reduces opacity, Putrajaya is increasingly shrouding itself from the global media, local activists and its people.

THE TIDBITS THAT DO ESCAPE NAJIB’S FIREWALL are of the you-couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up-if-you-tried variety. In December, we learned the Federal Bureau of Investigation is eyeing Najib family assets in connection with Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Wolf of Wall Street” film (a company set up by his stepson produced it). Don’t forget perpetual efforts to imprison opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges from the late 1990s. Hence jokes that CBS’s next crime-scene investigation series should be “CSI: Malaysia.” Or about the irony of a government that can’t find a Boeing 777 having no trouble locating Anwar’s body fluids two decades later.

The controversy surrounding MH370, missing since March 2014, and 1MDB stem from the same problem: a political elite that cares about staying in power, not the people. That charge could be lobbed at the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan or America’s Republicans. But neither has held power continuously for six decades, as UMNO has. When the world looked Malaysia’s way amid the greatest aviation mystery since Amelia Earhart, the government was woefully unprepared for primetime. It should’ve learned then that circling the wagons and shutting the world out is a losing strategy.

Only, it didn’t. Najib’s team repeated similar mistakes with 1MDB. First, it dismissed the Journal’s July 2015 report following 1MDB money into Najib’s account personal accounts as some conspiracy to undermine Malaysia. Then, after Putrajaya could no longer ignore the storm, it effectively said “Oh yeah, that. It was a gift. Trust us.” Then, awkwardly, the attorney general whitewashed the crisis. The matter, Najib declared after the ruling, “has been comprehensively put to rest.”

Hardly, Swiss prosecutors retorted this week. Burying such a global scandal is no longer possible in a globalized world in which Malaysia competes for investment. The growing number of foreign probes -– and escalating ones at that –- risk denting Malaysia’s standing. They’re also as clear an explanation as any for why Malaysia is being left behind as Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighbors zoom ahead.

Thing is, Malaysia is an amazing and unique place and I urge anyone who hasn’t visited to check it out. Its breathtaking physical beauty is only rivaled by the energy of its multiethnic population, a thriving culinary scene second to few and enviable geographical placement as China, India and Southeast Asia blossom and change the world. Sadly, it’s run by a government that claims all’s well when the rest of the world knows something’s rotten in Najib’s Malaysia. And with a straight face.

Najib Razak to launch a Malaysian Shariah Index

January 26, 2016

Najib Razak to launch a Shariah Index to track Progress towards an Islamic State in Malaysia

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

It looks like the Prime Minister is not fiddling while the country burns or is he? In stead of focusing on the economy and matters of serious concern for the well being of the country, he seems to be singing of an old tune which he hopes  can save the nation.

March 28, 2016,  Najib Razak will  announce the creation of Malaysian Syariah Index report which seeks to track the implementation of the Islamic agenda and the level of syariah-compliance. Syariah requirements will be applied for the protection of Islam of life, the mind, protection of the race and protection of property.

Initial reports indicated that the index would be applied to only certain areas of life. However, it now appears that it will assess progress in the application of shariah law, politics, economy, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and society. This looks like virtually all aspects of life in the country will be subject to the requirements of Islamic religious standards. Is Malaysia an Islamic state?

According to the committee of wise politicians, bureaucrats, academicians and religious experts engaged in formulating the index this is the first such index in the world.

Many are not aware of the enormous difficulties and challenges faced by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) which, in collaboration with the International Islamic University of Malaysia and the Islamic Missionary Foundation, developed this scientific and all encompassing index.

Recently the Sultan of Johor was reported to have said that he did not understand why JAKIM needed nearly RM1 billion a year in allocations. A month earlier, Deputy Minister, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk had said the 2016 budget was not enough for the federal religious agency.

JAKIM has been very reticent on disclosing how its budget has been spent. But we can have no doubt that a fair chunk of its policy oriented budget – RM10 million or more? – has gone towards this pioneering effort which has involved possibly the largest number of local researchers engaged in a single project in the country’s history.

Taxpayers in the country who are always complaining about government extravagance should be especially appreciative that their contributions in this scholarly scientific work are being used to pave the way for their smoother passage through the pearly gates of heaven and to avoid the fires of hell. Also important to bear in mind is that innovation (and halal certificates) do not come easy or cheap.

Some are of the opinion that the index alone has definitely put Malaysia in the Guinness Book of Record. It should also land us in the forefront of religiously governed countries in the world, that is, if we are not already there.

Once the index is implemented, Muslims in the country will become the most religiously and scientifically monitored, and presumably also most religiously compliant society, in the world.

How will Malaysia’s Muslims View the Index?

In fact, it is difficult to know what Malaysian Muslims are thinking of, and how they will respond to this index, especially since it seeks to measure and to protect their minds, race (is there a Muslim race?) property and life itself from temptation, enticement, and all other kinds of pollution and evil surrounding them.


There have been a few voices of concern and dissent. But the country’s Islamic power elite and intelligentsia who hold the strings of power and monopolize the media have dismissed them as coming from unrepresentative, liberal, secularized, western value and morally bankrupt slivers of our society that are traitors to the religion and race .

As for the non-Muslims, they have kept a deafening silence which is increasingly their response to the waves of islamization coming to our shores. For now, UMNO’s partners in the Barisan will be reassured by the Prime Minister’s view that the proposed index is good for them.

In his keynote address on February 10, 2015 during the launch ceremony of the index held at Putrajaya, Najib noted that “if we together accept the values of discipline, trust, justice, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency as universal values, then we will accept the two functions of the Malaysian Shariah Index that I mentioned just now.”

And the Non-Muslims and Possible Critics?

Given the widely held view among UMNO ministers that non-Muslims, especially Chinese, are prone to practicing the antithesis of the values the Prime Minister has identified, the Barisan component party leaders will surely be grateful to Najib for stopping the rot that is taking place in non-Muslim society; and bringing non-Muslims up to syariah compliant standards.

After all, as the Prime Minister also noted, non-Muslims have readily accepted Islamic banking and halal certification. Islamic trolleys may be a bit difficult to accept by ordinary Malaysians but surely there should be a warm welcome extended to Islamic standards in law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and in the social spheres.

A critic of this historic breakthrough hitherto dominated by western trained social scientists has lamented that two key areas that have been in the news recently have been inadvertently left out by the distinguished panel of experts in developing this measure. He was referring to terrorism and corruption.He is wrong.

Inside sources have leaked that besides deviants, perverts, gays, lesbians, and other similar “scumbags” of Islamic society, the index is targeted at Isis types such as suicide bombers, militants and other extremists. However this targeting is of a different kind  since it is not the intention to physically identify or eliminate these extremist groups.

Instead, the index is a subtle strategy aimed at discouraging them from launching their acts of terrorism in Malaysia since they will be aware of the great effort that the Government is putting into ensuring that our economy and society meets the highest Islamic standards. This, in addition to the finding that Malaysians have abnormally high levels of sympathy for the IS terrorist group, virtually amounts to a double insurance policy against the occurrence of the genre of religious terrorism found in other countries.

As to the issue of corruption, the last word should go to the Prime Minister whose name will forever be associated with the index, besides the unfortunate and unnecessarily publicised episode of the political donation into his personal account.

Speaking at the appreciation ceremony held for the 133 researchers from five local universities that made up the index research team, the Prime Minister said that “[w]e cannot jump to conclusions based only on the general point of view. Sometimes, our views are influenced by our own personal experience. Maybe because the matter was not labelled as Islamic, or it was being influenced by political consideration, that had caused our conclusions to stray from the reality.”

Those adept at deciphering garbled political language have concluded that what the Prime Minister is saying is that the issue of “corruption” should not be part of the index.

Apandi, The Legal God, clears Prime Minister Najib Razak of Any Criminal Wrongdoing

January 26, 2016

Apandi, The Legal God, clears Prime Minister Najib Razak of Any Criminal Wrongdoing

by V. Anbalagan, Assistant News Editor

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali says today no one will be prosecuted in relation to the probes into SRC International and the RM2.6 billion channelled into the prime minister's bank accounts. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 26, 2016.

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, the Attorney-General said today, after close to six months of investigations into the RM2.6 billion channelled into the prime minister’s bank accounts and into Finance Ministry-owned firm, SRC International Sdn Bhd.

Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, who is also public prosecutor, today told a packed press conference at his office in Putrajaya there was “insufficient evidence” to implicate the Prime Minister.

“Based on facts and evidence, no criminal offences have been committed by the PM in relation to three investigation papers. I hereby order the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) to close the investigation papers,” Apandi said.

The three papers are one on the RM2.6 billion donation and two on SRC International which had taken a RM4 billion loan from the Retirement Fund Inc or KWAP. Apandi today also cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in relation to SRC International.

Apandi said that based on evidence from witnesses and supporting documents submitted by the MACC, the sum of US681 million (RM2.08 billion) deposited into the personal accounts of the prime minister between March 22, 2013 and April 10, 2013 was a personal donation to Najib from the Saudi royal family which “was given to him without any consideration”.

“MACC in their investigation personally met and recorded statements from witnesses, including the donor, which confirmed that the donation was given to the PM personally,” he said.

Apandi said he was satisfied that there was no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly.

Najib and Rosie2

No Case to Answer–NFA

“Evidence obtained from the investigation does not show that the donation was given as an inducement or reward for doing of forbearing to do anything in relation to his capacity as a Prime Minister,” said Apandi who read a statement from a prepared text.

Furthermore, the A-G said the Prime Minister returned US$620 million (RM2.03 billion) to the Saudi royal family in August 2013 because the money was not utilised.

“There (is) no evidence to show that Yang Amat Berhormat PM had any knowledge and, or was informed that the monies had been transferred into his personal accounts from the accounts of SRC International.There (is) no evidence that YAB PM had given any approval for the transfer of monies from the account of SRC International into his personal accounts,” Apandi said.

Based on the evidence, the A-G said he was satisfied that no criminal offence had been committed in relation to the said RM2.08 billion.

MACC last year opened investigations following reports in The Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report in July last year alleging that of the RM2.6 billion donation, RM42 million had originated from SRC International, a subsidiary of Najib’s brainchild, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

This was according to documents on the money trail provided by Malaysian investigators, WSJ and Sarawak Report said.A larger tranche of US$681 million was also transferred ino Najib’s accounts, originating from a British Virgin Islands company and going through Falcon Private Bank in Singapore, they reported.

MACC had recorded statements from more than 100 witnesses, including Najib and the individual who allegedly gave RM2.6 billion. The agency first submitted investigation papers to the A-G on December 31, and had the papers returned with requests for more explanations on January 18. It resubmitted the papers last week.

MACC’s Deputy Director of Operations Dato’ Séri Mohd Shukri Abdull earlier said the RM2.6 billion probe was still incomplete as investigators needed to collect documents and statements from individuals from several overseas financial institutions. Shukri added that the commission filed a request with the A-G to obtain mutual legal assistance (MLA).

Apandi said today since no criminal offence had been committed, there was “no necessity” for Malaysia to make a request for an MLA to any foreign states to complete the investigation by the MACC in relation to the donation.


Thayaparan on TPPA

January 24, 2016

Thayaparan on TPPA

The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.― Lao Tzu

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) long opposition against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement culminates tomorrow ( January 23) at Dataran Merdeka. Kuala Lumpur.


They and a host of other disparate NGOs hope for a huge turnout of Malaysians opposed to what they claim is an ideological struggle against the corporate hegemons that attempt to subvert the will of the people and an UMNO government complicit in playing geopolitical games at the expense of the rakyat.


For the first time, the TPPA has divided academics, politicians and NGOs who usually find themselves comfortably ensconced along partisan lines. Indeed, Lim Teck Ghee’s well-argued and timely piece ‘Should we sign on or stay out of TPPA?’ ends with this rejoinder:

“The TPPA is neither a poison pill nor a panacea. While there is a price to pay, the government has made the right choice by opting to join it. The discipline that the TPPA will demand will further the cause of the rule of law and force the government to think twice before embarking on rule changes. Membership will force the government to reconsider and amend existing rules that have the effect of furthering protective and rentier practices.”

Meanwhile DAP’s Charles Santiago and Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of IDEAS, have been involved in a spate over the former’s contention that the TPPA would affect access to affordable medicine.

In Wan Saiful’s words, “I fully support YB Charles Santiago’s demand for the Ministry of Health to be more engaged and work together with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in communicating the impact of the TPP on healthcare in Malaysia, but is regrettable that the DAP MP was selective with facts to support his arguments and he turns a deaf ear when answers are given to address his concerns.”

The problem here is that answers have not been provided. What the UMNO government has done is allowed the discourse to be dominated by proxies (from both sides of the political divide) who cherry pick points of contention or create strawmen arguments in an attempt to avoid the responsibility of explaining the effects of their (BN) secretly negotiated trade deal on the lives and livelihood of ordinary Malaysians.


Suaram Adviser Dr. Kua Kia Soong, meanwhile reminds TPPA proponents that “The TPPA is clearly more than just a trade deal; it also imposes parameters on non-trade areas. This is the point stressed by (economist Joseph) Stiglitz. It sets new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and internet freedom, requiring countries to maintain compatible regulatory regimes; facilitate corporate financial transactions; establish copyright and patent protections to govern intellectual property rights and to safeguard foreign investors.”

The average Malaysian is either unaware of the importance of this agreement or mistrusts a government mired in corruption and financial scandals. The secrecy in which this deal was made has angered opponents of this agreement in many countries and in Malaysia’s case, the Malaysian International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) offered this when it comes to the secrecy involving the negotiating text:

“A level of confidentiality is required for two main reasons: (a) regulations and the evolving process of negotiations and rules surrounding the TPPA oblige negotiators to maintain confidentiality of the negotiating texts and (b) negotiators advancing the interests of Malaysia strategically do not want to publicly disclose their bargaining positions to ensure the best outcome during the negotiations.”

No comprehensive human rights impact assessment


Meanwhile PSM last year noted that Malaysian negotiators were in no position to conclude the talks held in the United States because there was no comprehensive “Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) study to examine the impact of the trade treaty on Malaysians when it is signed and implemented”.

Apparently “in mid-2014, MITI initiated a cost-benefit analysis study (CBA) for only two specific areas, namely – impact on bumiputera policy, SME and national interest. We were informed that the bumiputera policy and SME CBA study is undertaken by Teraju, while the national interest analysis is done by ISIS (Institute of Strategic and International Studies [ISIS] Malaysia). But till today, the findings of both studies have yet to be released.”

PSM list several points of concern that this agreement would have an impact on human rights. Readers are encouraged to read more at their official site but briefly, they are:

1) Right to food

2) Right to healthcare and well-being

3) Right to basic amenities

4) Right to education

5) Right to housing

6) Rights of citizens and environmental protection

7) Rights of workers

8) Rights of indigenous communities

I am extremely skeptical of how exactly this trade agreement negotiated in secret would have any significant impact on the institutional dysfunctions that plague this country. Perkasa and the rest of their right-wing kind may find themselves unlikely allies with secular, socialist and oppositional forces of this country but the rhetoric coming out of Putrajaya and even emissaries of the United States is that nothing will actually change when it comes to the racially-motivated agenda of the ruling regime.

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed boldly states “The bumiputera agenda has been recognised by our friends in the TPPA negotiations. Contracts reserved for bumiputeras will continue”, which to my mind at least should raise danger signals to anyone who advocates a meritocratic playing field or if you like, a free or fair-playing field.

This sentiment is echoed by Putrajaya’s friend US Trade Representative Michael Froman, who said in a forum organised by IDEAS, that “Minister Mustapa and Prime Minister Najib has been very clear from the start on TPPA, how important the bumiputera policy is to Malaysia” and “And our view is, it is really the sovereign decision of Malaysia what direction they take the bumiputera policy in the future.”

The “bumiputera policy” as articulated by the US Trade Representative is in the context of alleviating poverty but the reality is that the so-called policy is code for racial supremacy and political hegemony.

Attempting to correct the perceived “imbalance” among the various communities in Malaysia as discussed by some of the other participants at the IDEAS forum, ignores the fact that the reasons for such imbalances were the policies that were carried out post-1969 and the machinations of successive administrations that redefined the so-called bumiputera policies as a means to maintain political and racial hegemony.

So the big question is should Malaysians turn out in support of for these disparate groups on Jan 23 when they are clearly divided on the issue of the TPPA. The answer in my opinion is yes. If you do not support the TPPA, you should attend the protest march to stand in solidarity with groups which you may have nothing else in common with.

If you do support the TPPA, you should attend the rally tomorrow to remind the government that the implementation of this trade pact should be done in good faith and the so-called progressive ideas contained in the implementation of this agreement will be closely monitored by a skeptical rakyat.

My opinion should not be construed as a ploy to increase numbers but rather as an acknowledgement that diverse views on this issue should be carefully considered or rejected based on rational consideration of information that should have been available to the public.

That when a deal is negotiated in secret and the views of various stakeholders are ignored or not even assessed, this spells trouble especially for a regime that is on the brink of a dictatorship.

And less people think that I’m against a free market, I’m a firm believer (much to the dismay of certain of my ideological – left and right – leaning friends) in these words of the late Harry Browne: “The free market punishes irresponsibility. Government rewards it.”

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.


To UMNO Prime Minister–Enough of Islamic State Nonsense

January 20, 2016

To UMNO Prime Minister–Enough of Islamic State Nonsense, that’s Mahathirism-Anwarism-Dollah Kok Lanasism(1986)

by Dr.Clive Kessler


That the doctrine of Ketuanan Melayu, of Malay ascendancy and primacy and domination, is a key principle of the Constitution, one that is deeply and pervasively embedded throughout its many clauses and pages? Simply, that this claim is a crude “try-on.” An outrageous, and outrageously over-reaching, “ambit claim.”A third-rate “con job.”One that could persuade only the ignorant.And that is precisely to whom it is these days addressed and targeted.–Dr.Clive Kessler

Enough of this nonsense! Enough already! Malaya and then Malaysia was created as a secular nation. Denial of this basic fact has become commonplace in recent times.

Malaysia-What's wrong

Ketuanan Melayu –First Order Political Bunkum

The pioneers in promoting the revisionist myth that there was or is nothing secular in the nation’s origins or about its Constitution have been the creative legal innovators and myth-makers of the PPMM: Persatuan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association) –- notably Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar — and their like-minded associates in CENTHRA, the Putrajaya-based and Saudi-friendly Centre for Human Rights and Advocacy, headed by on Azril Mohd Amin.

Their lead is followed, and their disruptive views are echoed, by a horde of Utusan Malaysia scribes and ideologues and, in their wake, a claque of well-connected writers and publicists and ambitious politicos. In the absence of any clear refutation, their increasingly unchallenged view now threatens to become “the default position”, the received and undeniable truth.

But are they right?  In short, no. And for three main reasons.

1.  The explicit and the implicit.

A key and basic tenet of their position is that the word “secular” can nowhere be found in the Constitution. Therefore, they hold, the Constitution and nation cannot be secular. It is in no way tainted in even the slightest way by any suggestion of secularist principles or ideas.

And since it — the word — cannot be found there, and since Article 3 affirms that, in its public international personality, Islam is the emblematic religion of the state, then (so they argue) Malaysia must be, on core constitutional and historical grounds, an Islamic state — or, at the very least, one that has been authoritatively launched from birth on an irrevocable path towards becoming an Islamic state based upon Shariah law.


Malaysia-Secular and Diverse Constitutional Democracy with a Monarch for All

Some now even go further. They now argue that, since Article 3 is allegedly “the best known” article of the Constitution in public consciousness (on what grounds or empirical evidence they claim this they do not say), it follows that Article 3 is the key or central article of the Constitution as a whole and that, in resolving all contested matters, Article 3 (in their own strong, revisionist sense of its meaning) takes precedence over and must “trump” all other legal arguments and considerations and constitutional niceties.

Is this supposed primacy of Article 3 explicit? No. Just implicit, implied, inferred.These authors are in fact very familiar with the idea of the explicit and the implicit, of what is tersurat and what is also tersirat, what is in the words and what is behind them, “between the lines.”

These same authors and creative doctrinal and Constitutional myth-makers are elsewhere quite happy to argue that the controversial idea of Ketuanan Melayu — which did not exist when the basis and terms of the Constitution were negotiated between 1955 and 1957, and which only achieved currency after it was coined by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad (aka Dollah Kok Lanas) in 1986 — is a foundational principle of the Constitution.

How do they argue this?They say that, while the term itself is not used and does not appear explicitly in the Constitution, the idea is there, implicit and immanent, in Article 153 (the “Malay special rights” provision) and in the web of meanings linking that Article to other related articles of the Constitution.

The idea, they insist, is there behind the words and between the lines.They cannot find it there explicitly. They impute its presence, and in that way “build back” this post-1986 idea into the foundational meaning and conceptual texture of the Constitution. Even though the word itself cannot be found there!

On these inferred or imputed grounds they insist that Ketuanan Melayu is a key constitutional principle, that it is, and always has been, a part of the “social contract” that enabled the Constitution to be adopted and promulgated — and that people are now obliged in perpetuity to uphold that constitutionally “retrofitted” principle or doctrine as part of the nation’s founding “social contract”: as a key principle of the nation’s core official character and identity.

The stark contrast of approach here in these two related matters (their anti-secularist, pro-Islamic state reading of Article 3 and the imputing or inferring of Ketuanan Melayu as constitutionally based and embedded) proves one thing: that their ways of arguing are not consistent and principled but arbitrary and opportunistic.That is no basis for solemn and serious Constitutional reasoning.

2.  History

Article 3 does not say that Malaysia is a secular nation, but it does say that Islam is its official emblematic religion: therefore Malaysia is in no way secular. On far stronger and clearer Constitutional grounds, it can be said to be Islamic: even an Islamic state, or one in the making.

That is the revisionist position. It is one that is ignorant of history.It is one that is even based upon a wilful refusal to acknowledge the history of the Constitution and its origins in the so-called “Merdeka Process” and “Merdeka Agreements.”

To serious scholars the facts are clear and well-known.That the ideologues and revisionists do not care to accept them is another matter. But not one that adds any credence to their position or authority to their arguments.

The entire “Merdeka Process” was quite explicitly about creating Malaya as a modern, progressive, democratic and secular nation.

For a while it was thought that the word secular might be used explicitly in its Constitution. But, to allow for certain Malay sensibilities (including the fairly widespread Malay misunderstanding of the term “secular” as meaning or entailing “atheistic”), it was decided that the idea would be left unsaid — largely because it did not need to be spelled out.

But the secular idea was basic to the emerging Constitution and pervasive within it. The proposed basis of nationhood could not be seen or understood as anything but a modern secular Constitution: one that sought and was designed to create a progressive nation prospectively grounded in the popular sovereignty of its people, all of its people.

Nor, equally, in a balanced way, was there to be any formal mention of Islam as a key principle in the Constitution. This, it was felt, would add further weight to the Constitution’s and the nation’s secular, plural, inclusive and democratic character.

This was how things stood until the final evening of the long drafting deliberations of the Reid Commission. That was what the members of the Commonwealth-based Commission had thrashed out and agreed upon.

Suddenly, at the last moment, something happened.Some say that he had been lobbied heavily. Others say that a personally bitter argument erupted over Kashmir between the Indian member of the Commission, Judge B. Malik, and the Pakistani member, Judge Halim Abdul Hamid.

At all events, on the last evening the Pakistani member broke ranks. He would no longer be bound by the agreements already reached.  The Constitution might remain implicitly secular, he conceded, but there should be some mention of Islam as the formally emblematic religion of the new state, as part of its international identity and personality in the world family of nations.

Held over a barrel, and with their bags already packed, the other members of the Commission agreed to accommodate Judge Halim Abdul Hamid’s last-minute requirement — on the understanding that the added affirmation was to be purely nominal or symbolic: that it would have no flow-on effects upon any other Constitutional matters, and that it would not compromise or diminish (as had been agreed in extended discussions) the modern, democratic and secular character of the Constitution as a whole and of the nation to be founded upon it.

On that basis, and with little choice in the matter in the face of one man’s sudden intractability, the other members of the Commission agreed to Judge Abdul Hamid’s extraordinary last-minute requirement.

But what is significant now is not the dramatic personal ins-and-outs of the Reid Commission and its workings.It is what followed from that last minute accommodation of Judge Abdul Hamid’s exercise of a shock, peremptory veto.

Many, especially the negotiators for UMNO’s partner parties, were deeply disquieted by this last-minute development. So they sought and received formal assurances — which, on the grounds that they were sincerely meant and offered and so would remain binding, they accepted.

This assurance was approved and issued by Tun Abdul Razak, on behalf of UMNO and his successors who would later lead it, in the form of a document (now a key part of the official collection of British government published documents recording the decolonization process in Malaya) that was intended as a codicil, or accompanying explanatory document, to the Constitution itself — and specifying the terms of the agreement of all parties to it.

As is well-known, the Alliance Memorandum stated that “although the religion of Malaysia would be Islam, the observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practising their own religion, and shall not imply that the State is not a secular State.”

If there is any such thing as a Malayan and Malaysian “social contract” by which people remain bound, this is surely a key part of it. “Pacta servanda sunt” is a key principle of law: solemn agreements are to be solemnly observed and punctiliously upheld.

Those who these days loudly shout that “the social contract” must be respected and that it entails, and has always entailed, general acceptance by all Malaysians (and especially non-Malays), in perpetuity, of the doctrine of Ketuanan Melayu would do well to recall and abide by that obligation here in this matter.

They owe it not only to others, especially their non-Malay and non-Muslim fellow citizens.They owe it to themselves, if they are to live honourably and honestly and decently with their own recent political past — with themselves.

3.  Context.

To assess accurately whether or not Malaysia is foundationally a secular or an Islamic state, it helps to consider its Constitution.Not just legally, in lawyer-like manner, clause by clause but more broadly. Historically.

In the light of comparative political and Constitutional and social and intellectual history.There is no need to try to hunt down, as the decisive and tell-tale indicator, whether the word “secular” appears in its political or conceptual lexicon.And there is no need to get too fancy or philosophical about this matter.

All one has to ask is:

What kind of a Constitution is Malaysia’s?

Is it culturally and doctrinally and conceptually a Buddhist Constitution?

Is it a Hindu Constitution?

Is it an Islamic Constitution?

The answer is no, three times no.

What is it then? It is a modern, liberal-democratic Constitution.A modern Constitution, born of a modern and progressive and largely secular age, one that is couched in secular terms, and formed upon secularist assumptions.There is no other way to understand or classify or to typify it.

It was drafted and promulgated and enacted as the modern Constitution of, and for the continuing growth and development of, a modern, progressive, inclusive, pluralistic but cohesive, and secular society and nation.

A Constitution that — while it acknowledges and finds an honoured place for the ancient royal mystique and semi-sacred aura of its traditional Malay rulers, for their world-focusing daulat — was nevertheless founded upon the consent of its many and diverse subjects; meaning, on the principle of “popular sovereignty” (here the modern Malay word, often confusingly, is kedaulatan).But remember, as one always must, that daulat and kedaulatan, despite their being linguistically and etymologically cognate terms, are two entirely different things.

They are born of, stem from, and are anchored within two entirely distinct, different and mutually incommensurate universes of political meaning.The Rulers have daulat, the nation is built upon and (like all modern nations) is an expression of the sovereignty of its people.

That is where modern political legitimacy comes from.The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is a Constitution that rests upon and which affirms the principle of popular sovereignty.That is what modern Constitutions and nations are. That is their “ontology”.

And, yes, Malaysia’s Federal Constitution is — or was by initial intention and design — a secular Constitution. One for a society that was, or was to become, an increasingly secular nation.

One that would not be hostile to religion but hospitable and equitably hospitable to religious and human diversity.Malaysia and its Constitution were incontrovertibly established as secular, on secular foundations and principles and assumptions.The struggle these days — and it is now no easy struggle — is to keep it that way.

4.  In conclusion

So what can one say about the claim that Malaysia is not, and never was and was never intended to be, a secular state? That its Constitution is not secular and makes no provision or space for secular principles?

That Article 3 establishes Malaya and Malaysia as, at least prospectively but irrevocably, an Islamic state operating on the basis of Shariah law? That the doctrine of Ketuanan Melayu, of Malay ascendancy and primacy and domination, is a key principle of the Constitution, one that is deeply and pervasively embedded throughout its many clauses and pages?

Simply, that this claim is a crude “try-on.”An outrageous, and outrageously over-reaching, “ambit claim.”A third-rate “con job.”One that could persuade only the ignorant.And that is precisely to whom it is these days addressed and targeted.

Dr. Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.