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.
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.
Sir, 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I am not condoning your detention of opposition figures under laws like the outdated Sedition Act, but there is a need to also silence the extremists who have for too long rampaged against what it means to be Malaysian.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.
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
March 24, 2015
This is hudud as practised in Afghanistan. We cannot have this type of barbaric law in our multiracial country which has a constitution to protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens. What is being played out in Kelantan cannot be allowed to spread to other states in Malaysia.
Malaysians must have the conviction to stand up against its implementation and tell PAS via their Members of Parliament that we reject any move to impose hudud, even though it is supposed to apply to only Muslims in Malaysia. When it comes to justice and freedom, we must speak with one voice. Hadi Awang must stop playing a dangerous game.–Din Merican
Afghan woman Farkhunda lynched in Kabul
An Afghan woman who was lynched after being falsely accused of burning the Koran was killed for tackling superstitious practices, witnesses say.
Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a Kabul mob last week, had been arguing with a mullah about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine.In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and beat her to death.
Farkhunda, 28, was beaten, hit by bats, stamped on, driven over, and her body dragged by a car before being set on fire.
A Policeman who witnessed the incident on Thursday told AP news agency that Farkhunda was arguing with a local mullah. Her father said she had complained about women being encouraged to waste money on the amulets peddled by the mullahs at the shrine.
“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” Mohammed Nadir told AP.
The Policeman who saw the incident, Sayed Habid Shah, said Farkhunda had denied setting the Koran on fire.
“She said I am a Muslim and Muslims do not burn the Koran,” he said. “As more people gathered, the Police were trying to push them away, but it got out of control,” he added. An official investigator has also said there was no evidence she had burned the Koran.
“Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burnt the Holy Koran,” General Mohammad Zahir told reporters at her funeral on Sunday. “Farkhunda was totally innocent.”
Police say they have detained 18 people over the incident, with more arrests expected. In addition, 13 policemen have been suspended for having failed to do enough to stop the attack.
Shukria, a woman visiting the shrine on Monday, told the BBC that the attack was “not just an attack on Farkhunda, but on all Afghan women. They have killed us all”. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation into her death.
The attack, near the Shah-Du-Shamshaira mosque and shrine, is thought to have been the first of its kind in Afghanistan.
Breaking with tradition, women’s rights activists carried the coffin at her funeral, a role usually performed by men. Farkhunda’s family initially claimed she was mentally ill, but this has since been retracted by her father who said he was told to say so by police to reduce the chances of violent reprisals against them.
March 23, 2015
The Curse of The Obsession With Single-Issue Politics
by Dr.M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California (received via e-mail)
We Malays are obsessed – and cursed – with the single-issue politics of bangsa, agama dan negara (race, religion and nation). We have paid, and continue to pay, a severe price for this. Our fixation with those three issues detracts us from pursuing other legitimate endeavors, in particular, our social, economic and educational development. Perversely and far more consequential, our collective addiction to bangsa, agama dan negara only polarizes us.
We, leaders and followers alike, have yet to acknowledge much less address this monumental and unnecessary obstacle we impose upon ourselves. The current angst over hudud (religious laws) reflects this far-from-blissful ignorance. With Malays over represented in the various dysfunctional categories (drug abusers, abandoned babies, and broken families), and with our graduates overwhelmingly unemployable, our leaders are consumed with cutting off hands and stoning to death as punishments for thievery and adultery. Meanwhile pervasive corruption and endemic incompetence destroy our society and institutions. Those are the terrible consequences of our misplaced obsession with agama.
If we focus more on earthly issues such as reducing corruption, enhancing our schools and universities, and on improving economic opportunities, then we are more likely to produce a just and equitable society. That would mertabatkan (enhance the status of) our agama, bangsa dan negara on a far more impressive scale.
Make no mistake, if we remain marginalized or if we fail to contribute our share, then it matters little whether Malaysia is an Islamic State or had achieved “developed” status, our agama, bangsa dan negara will be relegated to the cellar of humanity. Our hollering of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) would then be but a desperate and pathetic manifestation of Kebangsatan Melayu (Malay Poverty).
For the first half of the last century, our fixation was, as to be expected, on nationalism. Our forefathers were consumed with the struggle to be free from the clutches of colonialism, and the right to be independent. With merdeka a reality in 1957, the obsession then shifted from negara to bangsa, from merdeka to bahasa (language). Today with Malay language specifically and customs generally accepted as the national norms, our mania has now shifted to agama.
While our passion for negara and bangsa had a definite and definable endpoint (independence and Malay as the national language respectively), what is the goal with our obsession on agama? ISIS Malaysia? And as for entry into heaven, only Allah knows that.
We have forgotten, or are unaware in the first place, the price we paid for our earlier obsessions. Consider our nationalistic fervor of yore. While we Malays were consumed with treating the colonialists as white devils and fighting them, non-Malays seized every opportunity to work with and learn from them. In our smugness and misplaced sense of superiority we asserted that we had nothing to learn from those colonials and outsiders, blithely ignoring the obvious evidences to the contrary, just like the Japanese before the Meiji Restoration.
As a result when independence came, non-Malays were much more equipped to take full advantage of that fact while we Malays were still consumed with endlessly shouting merdeka and rehashing an established reality. A decade later we found ourselves marginalized while the non-natives were busy taking over opportunities left behind by the British. Then like a wild boar caught in a trap of its own making, we lashed out at everyone and everything, with ugly consequences for all.
It took the brilliance and foresightedness of the late Tun Razak to first of all recognize the underlying pathology and then craft an imaginative and effective remedy.
As for our struggle for independence, let me inject a not-so-obvious observation. Our merdeka came less from the battles of our jingoistic warriors, more from British realization that colonialism was no longer chic. Indeed it became an affront to their sensibilities. I would be less certain of that conviction had our colonizers been the Chinese or Russians. The Tibetans and Chechens will attest to that.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the British for another reason. They cultivated sensible leaders amongst us and dealt harshly with the radicals. Consequently we were blessed with post-independent figures like Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak while spared the likes of Sukarno and Ho Chi Minh.
Had we been less arrogant culturally and instead learned from the British, we would have been able to give full meaning to our merdeka. There was much that we could have learned from a nation that ushered in the Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Age.
Folly of The National Language Obsession
The May 1969 race riot should have taught us the obvious and very necessary lesson that we must prepare our people well so they could make their rightful contributions and not be left behind. It did not. Instead we shifted our obsession, this time to language. Bahasa jiwa banga (Language the soul of a race), we deluded ourselves.
With that we sacrificed generations of precious and scarce Malay minds to the altar of the supremacy of Bahasa. We also squandered what precious little legacy the British had left us, specifically our facility with English. Imagine had we built on that!
Yes, Malay is now the national language, a fact affirmed by all. Less noticed or acknowledged is that while non-Malays are facile with that language they are also well versed in others, in particular English. Not so Malays, with our leaders eagerly egging on our fantasy that knowing only Malay was sufficient.
With English now the de facto language of science, commerce and international dealings, not to mention the language of global consumers especially affluent ones, our Malay-only fluency is a severe handicap. We are lost or ignored abroad, or even in Malaysia within the private sector. Again we are being left out because of our misplaced obsession.
The sad part is that we are only now just recognizing this tragic reality. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyyddin (who is also in charge of education) was stunned to learn that our students fared poorly in international comparisons. He is still stunned for he has yet to come up with a coherent solution.
Our Current Delusion with Religion
Judging from the current obsession with hudud, we have learned nothing from our earlier follies with bangsa dan negara.
Faith is a personal matter. This is especially so with Islam. Our Holy Book says that on the Day of Judgment we would be judged solely by our deeds. We cannot excuse them based on our following the dictates of this great leader or the teachings of that mesmerizing ulama. Islam is also unique in being devoid of a clergy class. There is no pope or priest to mediate between us and Allah, or a prophet who died in order to expiate our sins.
The now vociferous and overbearing ulama class imposing itself upon us is a recent innovation (bida’a) in our faith. As is evident, this obsession with hudud does not bring Muslims together. Far from it! Hudud also creates an unnecessary chasm between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam should bring us together.
To Muslims the Koran is the word of Allah, its message for all mankind and till the end of time. That is a matter of faith. While hudud is based on the Koran it is not the Koran. The present understanding of hudud is but the version interpreted by the ancient Bedouins. It is the handiwork of mortals, with all its imperfections. We should not be bound by it but be open to more enlightened readings of the holy book.
We paid dearly for our earlier obsessions with race and nationalism. What would be the price this time for our fixation with religion? Look at the Middle East today. Ponder Nigeria with its Boko Haram. Contemplate being under the brutal ISIS, the messianic Talibans, or the puritanical Saudis.
We have yet to recover from our earlier follies with nationalism and Bahasa, yet we blithely continue making new ones with our current obsession on religion. The mistakes we make this time could well prove irreversible.
Dispense with this public fixation with religion. Instead focus on adil and amanah (justice and integrity), the tenets of our faith. We cannot be Islamic if we are devoid of both. This should be our pursuit, from eminent Malays to not-so-eminent ones, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
If our leaders do not lead us there, then dispense with them and pursue our own path forward. Unlike the earlier colonial era, this time there is no superior power except for Allah to guide us find and groom enlightened leaders. We are on our own. As per the wisdom of our Koran, Allah will not change our condition unless we do it ourselves.
Dr. M.Bakri Musa’s latest book, Malaysia’s Wasted Decade 2004-2014. The Toxic Triad of Abdullah, Najib, and UMNO Leadership, has just been released. It will be available soon at major online outlets like Amazon.com.
March 22, 2015
Tun Musa Hitam urges UMNO to make a stand on Hudud
The former Deputy Prime Minister said hudud is not suitable for a country like Malaysia, expressing his disappointment over UMNO’s slow response on the issue.
“I am disappointed that UMNO appeared to be shocked (by PAS’s move) and until now have yet to decide on its stance. I have been worried about this for some time,” he said in a statement from Cordoba, Spain.
“UMNO must take a firm stance. This national issue has a very long implication to the country, both domestically and internationally,”
He said as UMNO could not afford to be seen as trying to outdo PAS on this issue.”Don’t try to be more PAS than PAS themselves. UMNO should not be trying to out-PAS PAS!”, he said.
With PAS’s partners, DAP and PKR deciding not to support PAS’s hudud bill should it be tabled in Parliament, the onus is now on UMNO and Barisan Nasional to clarify whether it supported the bill.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to make an announcement on BN’s stand on PAS’s hudud soon. Several BN component parties had given their views during the recent meeting and it was up to the Prime Minister to disclose it.
Musa, who is also the former UMNO Deputy President, said when it comes to hudud, the people should not be surprised with PAS’s hudud bill as the party has been championing the issue consistently for a long time.
“And to the opposition parties in Pakatan Rakyat, do not pretend you are not aware of it too,” he said. At the same time, Musa reiterated his stance that hudud is not suitable for a country like Malaysia.
“As a former UMNO leader, I strongly believe in my heart that since its establishment until today, UMNO’s stance too has been that hudud is not suitable for a multi-religious, multi-racial country like Malaysia,”
Musa said that if he was wrong about it, UMNO should make a decision on its stance immediately and not brush off the matter. “The nation will not the only one that is going to pay for the consequences, UMNO too will feel its bad effect, more so that it has served the country for so long, Do not let this destroy UMNO from within… don’t self destruct.” he said.
PAS Pesident Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private members’ bill in Parliament during the current sitting ending April 9 to enable Kelantan to implement amendments to the state’s hudud laws which have drawn outrage from his own PR allies.
The conservative Islamist leader sent a notice to Parliament on March 18, after the Kelantan state assembly unanimously approved the Shariah Criminal Code 11 1993 (Amendment 2015), or hudud bill.
Hadi’s notice, which was confirmed by a senior party leader who said it was to amend Act 355 (Shariah Courts) which limits the powers of the court and is an impediment to implementing the hudud law.
Act 355 or the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965 limits the shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM3,000 in fine, five years’ jail and six strokes of the rotan.
An amendment is required in this law to enable the Kelantan hudud amendments to take effect. However, PAS allies PKR and DAP say hudud laws are not part of Pakatan’s common stand.
Why Not Hudud
by Hafidz Baharom@www.malaysiakini.com
Throughout the years, many have tried to get me interested in my Islamic faith, from Quran lessons at the Iqra’ Institute to my name suddenly appearing on the registration roll for a religious school which I did not attend.
Aslan’s book detailed how even the early scholars of Islamic jurisprudence found themselves tortured by the very people who were tasked to implement ‘God’s Law’. Armstrong’s latest book, ‘Fields of Blood’, details how religion itself left a bloody trail in history from the definition of scapegoat all the way up to the schisms in religion.
Every historian highlighting the Crusades from a Christian point of view have highlighted the phrase that launched their armies to the Holy Land; God wills it. Those three words have been the scapegoat for the murder of intellectuals and scholars, the hanging of African-Americans during the age of slavery, the decapitation of people in Saudi Arabia, the burning of a Jordanian pilot in war-torn Syria and now, the passing of hudud law in Kelantan.
In each and every case, God is used as a justification for violent treatment against mankind, from maiming to hanging to amputation, decapitation and even having a human barbecue. The exact same reason was paraphrased to establish Israel at the expense of Palestinians, inevitably launched the Second World War, and even the attacks in Paris.
Even then, one side had argued that slavery was a God-given right. Similarly, I would wait for the law to be put to the test. Will the people of Kelantan all around Malaysia found to be in offence of their laws be dragged across state lines to be held accountable, similar to how slaves who escaped were dragged kicking and screaming across the Mason-Dixon Line?
Leading to a schism?
Will we see other states suddenly legislating against these actions and thus, leading to a schism which will lead to a similar separation as America experienced? Unfortunately for us, we don’t have a Lincoln who would threaten a civil war or an end to the hudud implementation.
Kelantan is one of the poorest states in the federation of Malaysia. It has seen its natural resources plundered for the wealth of the few and for all its talk of being ‘Islamic’, there is nothing Islamic about inequality in wealth and opportunities which the state suffers greatly from.
A quick look at the statistics provided by the relevant authority shows that the state has an increasing number of its population venturing out to other states to pursue education and jobs.
So I only have this to say to the members of the Kelantan state assembly; if you truly see value in implementing God’s Law, have it apply on yourselves to the fullest extent before applying it to anyone else.
God’s law dictates you pay true tithes on your business and empty out your baitulmal annually and give it to the poorest of your people. Have you done so? God’s law dictates you are only lease holder for the Earth, yet I notice no such harsh penalties for pollution and illegal logging. Why is that?
There are many aspects of God’s law that is not even looked at or bothered by the Kelantan state assembly, and this would make them all hypocrites. So, what does God’s law dictate on these people? To be frank, it would mean their special privileges under Article 153 would all be revoked.
This is all, of course, the rambling views of someone who looks at religion from a historical aspect with a layman appreciation of Islam.
I was taught that to preach religion, one had to actually follow it to the letter before doing so. Thus, why would I support a law which I would never in my life follow to the letter, Godly or not.
After all, not everyone in this country even believes in the same God, let alone the existence of a god. As such, do you punish someone who does not even believe in the same fate you do that awaits them? What if you’re wrong? And the most important question of all; what if you’re wrong? Would you be willing to bet your afterlife on your actions?
This is basically the main point of God’s covenant in all laws He so dictates. It’s a risky thing to bet your life, it is truly another to bet eternal damnation for your wrongdoings.
I’d rather not bet the wrath of my deity on punishing others while I myself do not adhere to His will. But since Kelantan wishes to do so, I hope they have considered the consequences of such a covenant.
March 20, 2015
The Art of the Matter–Art Harun
PART III: PAS’s folly – awareness and containment
In the introduction of the Kelantan hudud bill its architect declared that those who question whether the legislation would bring in equal justice are “liars and immoral”.
This unbecoming language is what one expects of a fanatic dictator, rather than a genuine democratic leader. It speaks to the decay in the political fabric of Malaysia that is coming from leaders, who have lost the plot in having a national consciousness and the broader decline taking place in democratic governance.–Bridget Welsh
by Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: In the introduction of the Kelantan hudud bill its architect declared that those who question whether the legislation would bring in equal justice are “liars and immoral”.
This unbecoming language is what one expects of a fanatic dictator, rather than a genuine democratic leader. It speaks to the decay in the political fabric of Malaysia that is coming from leaders, who have lost the plot in having a national consciousness and the broader decline taking place in democratic governance. Given the passage of the Kelantan hudud bill, what are the likely political implications that will evolve from this measure?
Some political parties will begin the politics of containment, while others will fan division and will continue to use hudud for political gains. As of now, it is important to remember that no hudud measure will take effect. They are all measures on paper.
With respect to those who favour these measures, on many levels hudud does not holistically reflect the ideas of justice embodied in Islam or any faith for that matter and brings to light serious questions about fairness and administration of the rule of law for all of Malaysia’s citizens.
The stoning, chopping and whipping urged in the enactments are now threats over the public without adequate protections; they make up the politics of fear that has been deeply engrained in the Malaysian political landscape.
No implementation does not mean that there measures are not unimportant. Quite the contrary. The people of Kelantan in particular will be hurt economically by the bill, as its leaders across the political divide failed them in thinking holistically about their development.
Real questions can be asked about priorities and timing, namely whether Kelantan in the wake of the floods should be introducing these measures. Questions about fairness also can be asked about who will be potentially affected by these measures, those who engaged in corruption that contributed to the flooding or ordinary citizens.
These are beyond the issues of minority rights, religious freedom and the rights and protections of the constitution that emotionally divide the country in views.
There will be other important political tests ahead as well. Unlike in the two previous pieces, this piece looking at the broader political consequences of the passage of the bill yesterday. The fluidity of Malaysian politics will create opportunities ahead. The hudud issue will likely only remain a weapon of division if national leaders continue to wield it as one.
Sharing blame – a missing ‘vote of consciousness’
In opting for a touted ‘vote of conscience’ for UMNO members in Kelantan, the Najib Abdul Razak government did not lead. In fact, the Najib administration effectively took the stance of allowing the reintroduction of Kelantan hudud law to move forward without opposition.
This was driven by Najib’s weakness, not strength. It will feed extremist religious divisions and make the task of governing Malaysia’s multi-ethnic mosaic more difficult. Najib’s inaction speaks to his failing leadership as Prime Minister and as the leader of UMNO.
It is sadly not the first time when a divisive issue emerged and the PM went missing. Najib may not be able to survive in office until GE-14 and his inaction on the hudud law will only make his struggle for survival in office harder.
Najib’s weak leadership over hudud does in fact have damaging consequences beyond himself. By most measures, Malaysia’s position in the region economically and politically has taken a serious beating in the last year, from airline disasters to the recent poor performance in the stock market caused by the shocking 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
The Kelantan hudud bill will add to these negative perceptions, and hurt the country by discouraging investment and reinforcing the view that the country does not effectively offer protections in the rule of law.
To date, every country or region that introduced hudud – all in political efforts to shore up political legitimacy – has suffered an economic and political backlash. Malaysia does not have the resources of a Saudi Arabia and Brunei to weather yet another storm as effectively.
For Najib, there will be two tests ahead for the hudud bill. The first will be whether the UMNO leadership will move ahead with implementing hudud legislation at the national level. PAS with less than 10 percent of the Parliament do not have the numbers to go ahead. UMNO will be the national driver.
UMNO’s hudud partnership with PAS is driven by the goal of destroying the opposition and PAS in particular. Of late, the actions of the Najib government have repeatedly shown an apparent willingness to carry out actions that damage the country to hold onto power.
A national constitutional amendment allowing hudud is supposedly currently not on the cards, despite PAS ulama grandstanding, but given the climate of crisis and weakness that surrounds both Malay parties and the apparent void of national statesmanship leadership of Najib’s government, not to be ruled out.
The second test is whether Najib will direct its members to follow a ‘vote of consciousness’ rather than one of ‘vote of conscience’. This is a vote that at its core gives all Malaysians confidence in their place in the country and faith in their constitution. It is not one that adopts the practice of the ‘politics of tyranny or the majority and punishment’ carried out in the supposed name of democracy by the conservative PAS ulama.
Whether Najib will be conscious enough to provide wise national leadership in his politically beleaguered state is unclear. One should not underestimate the betrayal, fear and anger that many Malaysians across faiths feel about the passage of this bill that divides the country.
High costs of UMNO primacy and insecurity
The political effects of unanimous support for the Kelantan hudud bill goes beyond UMNO. It was not just Pakatan that was betrayed by its coalition partners, the same happened to the parties within the BN. UMNO has been adopting a primacy for some time, which has deepened post-GE13.
Gerakan, MIC, MCA and other component parties in East Malaysia will all have to come to terms with this act of UMNO and conservative PAS ulama political partnership. They have to come to terms with the fact that they are also allied with a party that supported hudud.
The Kelantan hudud bill will have ripple effects from the cabinet to the Sarawak elections. The pressures inside the BN component parties is there, and they face the same problem as Pakatan partners do over the hudud issue. The glue that keeps Barisan together is power and money, but there has been a similar sense of betrayal at play.
As discussion of the bill evolves, expect pressure within the BN to rise, with Najib becoming the target of these frustrations. He failed to protect the component parties within the BN. A key test ahead will be how the component parties manage in the shadow of UMNO dominance.
Where that pressure will be most felt will be is in East Malaysia. UMNO will now have to face the music in Sabah, and the vote yesterday will assure that in the short-term UMNO is not entering Sarawak. But, it is hard for East Malaysians to distance themselves from the action of their fellow party members in Kelantan, as they are of the same party.
Their politics of containment have already begun in East Malaysia and they are coming on less reception ground. Since before 2013 there has been a powerful wave of federalism taking root in East Malaysia and this will likely deepen.
Another key test ahead will be the how UMNO can convince its East Malaysian partners to work with them, when this UMNO ‘vote of conscience’ showed a lack of consciousness of genuine national leadership of all of Malaysia’s citizens.
Pakatan separation inevitable, not irrevocable
The main immediate focus however is understandably the opposition, the coalition and individual parties. It was PAS conservative ulama intention to break up Pakatan, but they and their hudud partnership with UMNO is not exclusively responsible for the opposition coalition’s strains.
As I have written elsewhere, the causes of Pakatan’s problems cannot be boiled down exclusively to hudud or to PAS, there must be some shared responsibility. The Kajang move, differences in style and the reality of catering to different constituencies have made for a problematic marriage.
The Kelantan hudud bill will now force the opposition partners to come to terms with the issues that have divided them. This is never easy. Addressing Kelantan hudud will be the Pakatan’s greatest test.
On all sides questions are being asked. How do you work with a partner you no longer trust, a partner who you see as selfish, a partner who is unable to fulfill responsibilities and a partner who thinks and claims to represent a core group of views that are so different from your own? Most would say you don’t. Others would say you have to try.
As with every problematic relationship, there is a need for distance and reflection. Statesman leadership requires that a difficult decision be carefully considered. How Pakatan will solve this problem will reveal how it will govern, and unlike UMNO it does not have the same resources and bounty of position to woo support and keep the coalition together.
The strategic response to the hudud issue divides all the Pakatan parties. The Kelantan PKR representative’s vote and Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin’s Ali’s own alliance with PAS ulama point to some of these ambiguities.
Pakatan will face even more public pressure than the BN component partners. The decision will have spillovers for governance in Penang and Selangor. While both of these governments can survive without PAS, there will be political implications for exclusion.
Pakatan partners will likely need to enter a long cooling off period for assessment and review. Urgings for freezes have already begun. This distance will allow the path ahead to emerge.
After the PAS election this June, it will be clearer whether the PAS members will vote for a leadership that has opted for personal power and undermined the party’s option at national power or will allow for the possibility of collaboration.
As the opposition moves forward, PAS will need to show that it has something to offer politically besides its focus on hudud and reaffirm its commitment to Pakatan emphatically in its party polls.
The other Pakatan component parties will also have to find common ground, work toward respecting the choices of others, move away difference, and strive to build a stronger fabric of leadership for Malaysia. Pakatan will now have to engage in its own politics of containment and national consciousness.
There are limited reasons for optimism, but the possibilities of learning on all sides offers promise and a path ahead.
BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.