Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition


May 13, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition

by Nurul izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/opinion/criminalizing-malaysias-opposition.html?ref=world&_r=1

World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.–Nurul izzah Anwar

Nurul IzzahKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Last Thursday, my mother was elected the new member of Malaysia’s Parliament from Permatang Pauh, a seat that was wrested away from the opposition through the politically motivated conviction of my father, Anwar Ibrahim, a former Deputy Prime Minister and the country’s Opposition Leader. In February, the highest court in Malaysia sent him to prison for five years on trumped up charges of sodomy. He is serving his third prison sentence since 1999.

In March, I delivered a speech in Parliament focused on good governance and judicial reform on behalf of my father. The reading was deemed seditious by the government, and I was arrested and locked up overnight.

The Sedition Act, which criminalizes speech uttered “to excite disaffection” against the government, is one of this administration’s favorite cudgels. Its definition is so broad that it gives the government sweeping powers to arrest and lock up critics under the guise of punishing “sedition” or in the ostensible pursuit of maintaining public order.

In the last two years, it has been used successfully to harass or prosecute scores of people, mostly government officials, including several members of Parliament. The cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was hit with nine charges under the Sedition Act — mostly based on tweets allegedly attacking the Judiciary over the verdict against my father. His artwork and cartoons were confiscated, and he is now out on bail.

In addition to harassing me and persecuting my father, the state has applied constant pressure on my mother, a state assemblywoman, in hopes that she will wilt both physically and psychologically. The Police have also hinted of their plans to interrogate my younger sister, Nurul Nuha, who is leading March 2 Freedom, a coalition to free my father.

We are running out of family members for officials to arrest on bogus charges. What’s most alarming is that the government’s actions are part of a much larger pattern of threats to the rule of law and human rights. In recent months, every week or so brings news of the politically motivated detention of a government critic. I am out on bail now, but my arrest is intended to silence me and to warn other would-be government critics.

The United Malays National Organization, known as UMNO, and its allies have been in power since independence in 1957. The tempo of state repression quickened two years ago after the 2013 parliamentary elections when the opposition won 51 percent of votes cast, versus 47 percent for the government.

Through gerrymandering and the creation of uneven electoral districts, the ruling coalition clung to power by holding on to 60 percent of the seats. The Electoral Integrity Project, an international organization, recently rated Malaysia as having the worst electoral-district boundaries in the world and among the worst election rules. This places Malaysia alongside countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Egypt.

The opposition’s showing at the polls two years ago was a political near-death experience for Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling party. It was answered with investigations, arrests and imprisonment.

Meanwhile, UMNO, whose main constituency has historically been the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, with help from its pliant coalition partners, has cynically raised the mercury on issues related to race, religion and the Malaysian royal family, so as to keep the mult-ethnic opposition coalition on the defensive.

Religious freedom in a country with sizable Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities is now endangered as public figures vying for popular support among Muslims have supported the persecution of religious minorities. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have been a prime target.

Last month, for example, in one high-profile incident, demonstrators in Petaling Jaya demanded that Christians remove a cross from the exterior of their church — and the cross was removed. And in 2013, Ibrahim Ali, a leader of Perkasa, a Malay supremacist organization, allegedly publicly endorsed the burning of Bibles.

Instead of focusing on dissenters, government officials should be doing their jobs. For one thing, Malaysia’s economy needs revamping. A sizable portion of the working population in a young country of 30 million citizens still remains eligible for welfare cash handouts. We are too reliant on natural resources. The gap between the rich and poor has been growing and is now among the widest in the region. Our education system remains weak and incoherently structured, creating an unemployable class with poor career prospects.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition that my party is a part of aims to focus on structural reforms in key economic policies with the goal of creating a clean and more effective government. Reducing inequality and the cost of living, providing affordable housing, good governance and a serious fight against corruption are our priorities.

Malaysia’s answer to extremism has been economic opportunity. Now that this deal is faltering, and now that the borders are porous — more than 1,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh landed on our shores on Monday — there is a risk that extremism could find a home here.

It’s encouraging that Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s former long-time Prime Minister, has recently become Prime Minister Najib’s fiercest critic, attacking him as corrupt and incompetent.

But we need louder voices to condemn what’s happening here. World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.

Democracy at work in the United Kingdom


May 11, 2015

 Phnom Penh by The Mekong

COMMENT:  Public duty? Yes, in the United Kingdom, the cradle of democracy. Why? Because politiciansDin Merican lastest there treat politics as a call to public service. Men and women  who enter politics are individuals with outstanding credentials and generally clean record of service to Britons. They are part of the system that is open, transparent and accountable. The 2015 British Elections is shining example of true democracy at work. It was conducted peacefully and there is no talk of rigging and cheating. Clean and fair elections  was the order of the day.

In Malaysia, politics in recent years has become an opportunity for politicians to further their self interest. We no longer have leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Sambanthan and Tun Hussein Onn, who gave their lives in the service of the country. Today, our politicians are thieves of state, to whom the idea of public duty and national service is not their ethos.

Tunku, Razak, IsmailWe started out as a democracy with a  strong constitution which treats all citizens as equals under the law, guarantees freedom of  assembly, expression and speech, freedom of religion,  and clear separation of power between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The British left us with an outstanding civil service , an education system which was second to none, a judiciary system that we all can be proud of , and a dedicated Police Force. But the British were no angels. They also left with draconian laws like the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act.  But democratic politics was their legacy.

After nearly 58 years of UMNO-Barisan, our democratic system of governance has broken down and is in need of urgent reform. Over the last 6 years, we have seen our fundamental freedoms taken away from us. Our Parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary is compromised; our civil service is mediocre and incompetent led by a bunch of apple polishers;  our Police Force  which is headed by an Inspector General of Police treats us like enemies of state, not as taxpayers and citizens who should be protected from criminals; our fiscal management is in a total mess because we have a Finance Minister who regards our national coffers as if it were his own and mismanages our economy.  We  have rampant corruption and abuses of power.

As a result, we are far being a democracy as originally envisioned  by our founding fathers. In stead, we have become a nation divided by class, race and religion with a Prime Minister who answers to no one and who acts with impunity and in defiance of what you and I think of him and his Cabinet of incompetent, inept, mute and self serving Ministers. In short, we have become a racist and theocratic state led by men and women who no longer uphold the traditions of public duty–Din Merican

Democracy at work in the United Kingdom

by Mike Tan @www. the antdaily.com.my
The UK elections are over, and the Conservatives, under David Cameron, won an overwhelming 331 seats, its first such victory since 1992.
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, David Farage

While David Cameron takes his time to select his Cabinet, his rivals lost no time in taking responsibility for their parties’ poor showing in the elections. Three UK political party leaders – Ed Miliband of the Labour Party, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage of the UK Independent Party (picture above) – all resigned after their parties suffered big losses in the election.

All four men may have different political perspectives and ambitions, but they share one thing in common – the wisdom of knowing when to step down when their time is up. They neither hesitated nor shied from their final act of duty as leaders of a political party, announcing their resignations the day after the results were known.

They leave with the knowledge that their parties will continue with the political struggle, that there will be others who will take their place and helm the respective parties in the future. Their parties are full of ambitious and knowledgeable politicians, not mere sycophants and yes-men. This is why democracy is alive and well in UK.

Contrast that with MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who recently announced that MCA will work hard to reform the party. “MCA needs to work harder in the future. We need to effectively show the party’s role as part of the government to gain more support from the Chinese community,” he said.

It is no secret that support for MCA is at an all-time low, with the once-mighty party now only having seven parliamentary seats and 11 state assemblymen. MCA had suffered consecutive defeats in the previous two general elections, and is close to becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the Malaysian public.

To be fair, MCA was helmed by Dr Chua Soi Lek at that time, who had declared that MCA should not accept any government posts following its worst electoral defeat ever. In doing so, Chua did something no Malaysian political leader had ever done before.

Perhaps Malaysian politicians feel they have earned the right to ministerial positions in other ways than a good showing in elections, unlike their counterparts in the UK.

Chua ultimately made way for Liow in December 2013.Liow quickly reversed Chua’s decision, taking the much-coveted Transport Minister’s post for himself. Chua’s son, Chua Tee Yong, became deputy finance minister as well. Yet MCA remains as it always has been – doing the same thing, or rather, not doing anything at all, if you listen to its critics.

Liow has yet to lead MCA as president into a general election, and thus he remains untested. His track record thus far, however, has not been good.Under his leadership, MCA avoided contesting the Bukit Gelugor by-election and lost the Kajang by-election, both held in 2014. In all honestly, MCA had little if no chance of winning, so it made the right move to avoid contesting against DAP, but had to put up a fight in Kajang, where it predictably lost.

Liow would argue that he and MCA have not been given a chance to prove themselves in a general election. He might even claim that his call for reform will be the first step to a drastic change in MCA and ultimately lead to Chinese voters supporting the party once again.

It’s true, Liow hasn’t proven himself yet. But rest assured, nothing will stop him from taking a ministerial position after the next general election, unless he is forced to step down, like his predecessor.

In UK, political party leaders lead their parties to victory before becoming ministers. In Malaysia, they become ministers before leading their party into elections, and even if their parties suffer humiliating defeats.

That is the difference between the democracy practised there and what goes on here in our country. And in a way, this somewhat explains why Malaysia will never ever be great like Great Britain. – The Ant Daily

Attorney-General A Gani Patail: Time to Go


May 3, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Attorney-General A Gani Patail: Time to Go, says UMNO-owned Mingguan Malaysia

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/a-g-no-longer-up-to-the-burden-awang-selamat-claims

Gani Patail 2Under-fire Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail likely no longer wants the “burden” of being Malaysia’s Attorney-General, UMNO-owned Mingguan Malaysia said today citing his allegedly poor health.

Saying that Gani was again facing a new wave of criticism over past failures to prosecute cases of sedition involving insults against Islam and the royalty, the editors writing under the Awang Selamat pseudonym said the A-G was being viewed as an obstacle to demands for stern action.

“That is the general perception. But sometimes Awang sympathises with the A-G, Gani Patail who is always being bashed for the weakness of others. “Rumour has it that Gani is on leave due to health issues… Personally, Awang feels Gani should not be further burdened with this heavy and challenging duty. His commitment and service for the past 12 years is undeniable,” they wrote.

The paper added that Gani’s contract is due to expire soon, and said he was not likely to want to remain in the post even if offered an extension as he is at a point in life when family and health are of greater importance.

“Let someone new navigate the challenge. Who will this be?”

Selective Prosecution

Gani is regularly accused of selective prosecution from both sides of the political divide. Pro-establishment voices claim he is not stern enough with incidents involving perceived insults against the Malays, Muslims and the Malay Rulers. Opposition leaders in turn accuse him of intentionally targeting them as well as dissenters against the government while ignoring provocation against non-Muslims.

Gani came under intense criticism last year after it was revealed that his office chose not to prosecute PERKASA President Datuk Ibrahim Ali for the latter’s call for Muslims to burn copies of the Bible, purportedly as the Malay Rights leader was acting in defence of Islam.

Political Violence: Retiring the Word Terrorism


April 27, 2015

RSIS

No. 101/2015 dated 27 April 2015

Political Violence:
Retiring the Word Terrorism

by James M. Dorsey

Synopsis

Founders of many modern states, including stalwarts of anti-terrorism like Israel and allies in the war on terror like the Kurds, achieved goals with political violence that killed innocent people and would be classified today as terrorism. Political violence should be recognised as a reflection of deep-seated social, economic and political problems — rather than demonised through terms like terrorism or evil.

Commentary

RECENT DOCUMENTS uncovered by German magazine Der Spiegel trace the rise of the Islamic State to a network of former Iraqi intelligence officers loyal to toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In 2003 they were deprived of their jobs with no future prospects when then US administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer disbanded the Baathist military and security forces. They were aided by Syrian military officers and officials who saw the group as a buffer against a feared US attempt to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The history of the rise of the Islamic State as an extreme Sunni Muslim rejection of discrimination by a Shiite majority in Iraq and repressive dominance by an Alawite minority in Syria revives the notion of “one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist”. That notion is similarly embedded in the policies of both Western nations and conservative Arab regimes concerned about their survival. They not only forged  cooperation with Turkey’s Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) but also Gulf support for the jihadist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al Nusra that is locked in battle with Islamic State and in Western distinctions between good and bad foreign fighters.

Good and bad fighters

‘Bad foreign fighters’, angry at the human and political cost of combatting political violence with a military rather than a predominantly political campaign, are the thousands who have joined the ranks of Islamic State; ‘good foreign fighters’ are those who have gone to Syria to fight with the Kurds against the jihadists, particularly during last year’s battle for the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

The notion is also evident in the US National Intelligence’s most recent report to Congress that for the first time in years no longer includes Iran or the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a terrorist threat to US interests.

The list of internationally – recognised political leaders who can trace their roots to political violence and terrorism is long. Yet, they and their predecessors disavowed what is termed political violence once they achieved their goals. The list includes Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, whose ideological roots like those of former Israeli leaders Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, lie in the use of political violence and terrorism in pre-state Palestine without which the State of Israel most likely would not have been established. Both Begin and Shamir were wanted commanders of Irgun, a group denounced as terrorist by the British Mandate authorities.

Similarly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hails from a movement that was long condemned as a terrorist organisation. While nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians, recognition of Palestinians as a people with national rights and the creation of the Palestine Authority would most probably not have occurred without Palestinian attacks in the 1960s and 1970s on civilian targets.

Finally, the PKK, an organisation deemed terrorist by Ankara and its Western allies as well as its Syrian counterpart, the YPG, are de facto allies in the fight against Islamic State, the jihadist organisation that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq that employs brutality as a means of governance. The list is far longer: think of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), the aging leaders of Algeria or the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The sole common denominator of all these examples is not an ideology but a political grievance and a belief, right or wrong, that the odds were stacked against them and that violence was a necessity rather than a goal in and of itself. Political violence is a tactic most often employed and frequently with success by those opposed to forces with overwhelming military might.

A moment of lucidity

All of these men and groups who today are either respected political leaders or on their way to returning to the international fold saw political violence as a means of the underdog to secure their perceived rights and right an injustice rather than as a criminal philosophy and practice implicit in the use of the word terrorism.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a moment of lucidity, implicitly recognised the underlying politics when he last year acknowledged that American Muslims had stressed to him that the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace was fuelling anger on the streets and recruitment by Islamic State. “People need to understand the connection of that … it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,” Kerry said.

All of this is not to justify the use of political violence, the killing of innocent civilians or the extremist ideology and brutality of groups like Islamic State. Nor does it justify the indiscriminate torture of large numbers or mass rapes of women as a means of control. It is, however, recognising a political reality however unpleasant that may be.

Debunking de-politicisation

That reality involves acknowledging political violence for what it is and debunking efforts to depoliticise the roots of political violence that only serve to evade often painful political choices involved in confronting underlying grievances. It also involves accepting that it is politics, rather than military force and law enforcement, that offers the tools to effectively resolve situations that produce political violence.

It also serves to spotlight the fact that terms like ‘terrorism’ and ‘fighting evil’ turn the struggle against political violence into a zero-sum game in which victory constitutes the elimination of barbarians who, with problems unresolved, bounce back from setbacks in new, far more brutal guises.

Bombastic statements by Western leaders designating political violence termed terrorism, particularly in the case of jihadists, as an existential threat and an epic struggle against a form of totalitarianism comparable to that of fascism and communism, has only served to raise the profile and appeal of brutal perpetrators like Islamic State. The numbers speak for themselves: University of Maryland research shows that jihadist attacks had tripled in 2013 compared to 2010.

Political violence may be a scourge, yet it is fundamentally an act of politics. Recognising this makes politics rather than predominantly military force the appropriate response. A first step towards that recognition would be removing the term terrorism from the debate in a bid to eliminate ideological prejudice that serves vested interests and at best complicates the search for real solutions to real problems.

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Click HERE to read this commentary online.

Why is MACC and Abu Kassim so dishonorable in the Trial of Rosli Dahlan?


April 6, 2015

READ THIS:

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/294390

Breaking News! Why is MACC and Abu Kassim so dishonorable in the Trial of Rosli Dahlan?

by Din Merican

 Abu KassimTake Responsibility and Apologise

This morning‎, the trial of Rosli Dahlan against Utusan Malaysia, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and 15 Other Defendants was supposed to start before High Court Judge Datuk Su Geok Yam. The courtroom was packed with reporters, Rosli’s wife and family and MACC officers. Also seen were Dato Ramli Yusuff and Tan Sri Robert Phang.

Judge Su noted that a majority of the Defendants including Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim and Kevin Morais, the source of all these problems, were absent. Instead the MACC appeared through 6 counsels including 2 paralegals. The most notable was that MACC is no longer represented by the Attorney General Chambers but by private senior lawyer Tan Sri Cecil Abraham.

Now, that’s an expensive switch! In a turn of events, counsel for Utusan Malaysia informed the court that they want to settle the case and want to make a public apology to Rosli Dahlan in open court. ‎ This is great!

Utusan has crumbled even before the trial starts. Judge Su invited Rosli to come forward and sit in one of the counsel’s chairs while Rosli’s wife, family and friends then listened attentively to senior Legal Manager ‎ and company secretary of Utusan Encik Shirad Anwar reading the following public apology in open court: “

1.On  October 12, 2007, while the Muslim community were preparing to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, we had published a news article about the arrest and prosecution of Lawyer Rosli Dahlan with the title “Police Lawyer failed to declare asset charged in court today” (“the Article”)

2. Shortly after the publication of the Article, upon demand by Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, we had among others, on  April 15, 2008, published at page 4 of Utusan Malaysia newspaper, an unconditional and unreserved Public Apology to Lawyer Rosli Dahlan (hereinafter referred to as the said Public Apology”), the contents of which are as follows.

3. That we had made several allegations which were untrue against Lawyer Rosli Dahlan as follows:

3.1. That he is a Singapore citizen who carries out legal practice in Malaysia, whereas he is truly and indeed a Malaysian citizen;

3.2. That he has breached the laws of the country by refusing to make an asset declaration, whereas he had indeed made the said declaration;

3.3. That he had hidden the asset of a Senior Police Officer who was under investigation by the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency), whereas he never did that;

3.4. That he is of malevolent character and had acted deceptively in his dealings to frustrate the ACA investigations, whereas he had always fully co-operated with the ACA and his actions were always within the requirements of the law.

3.5 Our said article has given a totally wrong depiction of Lawyer Rosli Dahlan as a foreign lawyer who had acted in a manner contrary to the proper behaviour and ethics of an advocate and solicitor.

3.6 We acknowledge and expressed our deepest regrets that the said article was written and published in a sensational manner to generate publicity which exceeded the parameters of ethical journalism surrounding the investigation of YDH Dato’ Pahlawan Haji Ramli Haji Yusuff who at that time held the post of Director of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of Police Di-Raja Malaysia.

4. We hereby again, upon request and with the consent and express agreement of lawyer Rosli Dahlan, repeat the contents of the said Public Apology referred to above and hereby again unconditionally and unreservedly apologise to lawyer Rosli Dahlan for our said untruthful article and we regret the damage that we have caused to him.

5. We further acknowledge that lawyer Rosli Dahlan has been conclusively discharged and acquitted by the court from all charges made against him by the ACA which is now known as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The question on everyone’s mind is why then is MACC not apologising? Why waste taxpayers’ money engaging expensive Cecil Abraham to defend a wrong that was committed to an innocent professional? I say to MACC – be honorable. Own up, apologise and pay up! Don’t waste the Courts’ time and taxpayers’ money to defend yourself.

Mr. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak: End your silence on what really matters.


March 27, 2015

Mr. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak: End your silence on what really matters.

by Scott Ng

In this open letter, the writer tells Najib he can reclaim leadership by preventing Malaysia’s destruction at the hands of extremists.

 COMMENT
najib-on-hududOur dear leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak, you are no stranger to controversy. Every time something happens that requires your attention, you famously remain silent for what could be considered an inordinate amount of time. Often enough, the excuse of your weak mandate is given when asked why you don’t act.

Indeed, as a sitting Prime Minister who failed to secure a two-third majority in Parliament for the ruling coalition, you can be considered politically weak to some extent. In your mismanagement of our country’s socio-political landscape, we have seen extremism mushroom like never before. It has driven a wedge between us Malaysians, with battle lines being drawn everyday by NGOs like ISMA beating their chests over Malay-Muslim rights, innocent store managers crucified by government Islamic bodies, the return of authoritarian abuse of the law, and even thought policing via social media.

If there was ever a time for strong leadership, it is now. Even as the ship sails on in stormy waters, you can still salvage your situation, given the new-found support you have received from more than 150 Umno division heads and the component parties of Barisan Nasional. Despite your loss of public support, you now have been given a mandate by the coalition in hope that it will give you the clout to properly govern the country.

Najib and RosmahSir, you now have political capital and support in your hands. You’ve come down hard on the opposition, and I am not so much of an optimist to hope for that to change any time soon. Your attacks on Pakatan Rakyat may be reprehensive to some, but we recognize that it is part and parcel of the game of politics, especially here in Malaysia.

So, rather than attempt to have you change your mind on Pakatan, I suggest this instead: use your power and authority fairly, and go after those who threaten to derail the peaceful lifestyle of Malaysians, who threaten our unity and harmony with the assertion of an extreme, puritan agenda that ignores the spirit of our Federal Constitution.

Sir, you have sat back for too long and allowed the extreme elements of our society free rein to terrorize the people with threats of what should happen if they believe their rights have been maligned, with no thought for the protections provided in the Federal Constitution. Some of these elements come from your own party.

I am not condoning your detention of opposition figures under laws like the outdated Sedition Act, but there is a need to also silence the extremists who have for too long rampaged against what it means to be Malaysian.

We have come to a very dangerous precipice as a country, and only you as our Prime Minister, as the leader of our country, have the authority to pull us back from the brink of self-destruction.

Direct Challenge

Under your watch, the heinous Islamic State has begun to take root, and more established extremist groups like the Hizbut Tahrir have become emboldened enough to say we should forsake the democracy upon which this country is founded. This is a direct challenge to you as the democratically elected leader, and you should not stay silent any longer.

Silence them before they destroy us all. Prime Minister, you now have that mandate in your hands, even if it was not handed to you by the people. In acting against the extremists in our society, you will have the people’s mandate because whenever we read the headlines in this day and age, we become a little more scared to step out of our houses, or to step foot into certain parts of town. We have sealed our mouths because now even the most innocuous statement invites vitriol and even death threats.

This is not the Malaysia you or I grew up in, and you know it. In fact, this Malaysia pales in comparison with the golden hope that we were just after Merdeka, or even at the height of Mahathir’s less-than-benign reign. We are better than this, and the first show of courage must come from you, Prime Minister. You must step up and say enough is enough, and the people will join their voices to yours.

Sir, you have craved the people’s approval for the longest time, resorting to what your critics say are blatant bribes to win the hearts of the people. It is far easier than that to gain approval. Show us we can believe in you to save us from the galling rise of fundamentalist extremism, which twists the tenets of peaceful religions to suit a twisted narrative of us-vs-them that is tearing this country in half.

Now is the time to act. The heated socio-political-economic situation of our country is a pot that is boiling over, and only you can do something about it.

I implore you Sir, be our leader at this time, when we need a leader most. You can change the course of history and reclaim the narrative of this nation so that it can again become the keystone of your “global movement of moderates”, which remains an inscrutable proposition for as long as you allow the extremists in this country to hijack the national narrative.

Now is the time to be the leader you wish to be. How you will be remembered may well reflect on how you handle this situation. Will you preside over a nation torn by chaos and strife, a nation where those who grew up side by side fight to the bitter death over skin colour, over ideology, over religion? Or will you be the one to overcome the odds and unite us against the greatest threat to our way of life?

How you will be remembered is in your hands, Prime Minister. If you must come down on the opposition, show us fairness and come down hard on everyone who threatens the peace of this nation, who challenges the Federal Constitution, who gives a bad name to Malaysia. If you will not, you risk being remembered as someone who, like Nero of Rome, fiddled away while his country burned to the ground. Be our Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and