Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within


June 14, 2017

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong.”

– Abraham Lincoln

COMMENT | The Prime Minister has again made this extraordinary claim – “In the end, 10 people died because we had no loyalty. All there was is a readiness to betray who? Our rakyat” – with regards to the “Sulu incursion” while reminding uniformed personnel to be loyal in preserving the country’s security.

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Keep Praying, Prime Minister, your lucky streak is running out unless you treat Malaysians Fairly

I will repeat the same questions I had in an article I wrote when the Prime Minister first made this claim of betrayal – “This, of course, brings us to the next set of questions. Who were those covert agents? What sort of investigations and which agencies were involved in routing out these ‘covert enemies’? Why weren’t the press and the people of Malaysia notified that our soldiers were killed because of leaked information? Were the families of the soldiers who were ‘sacrificed’ notified that their deaths were the result of an ambush because of leaked intelligence?”

I expect no answer, of course. A few friends have written to me “explaining” that “civilians” may have compromised troop movements and that is what our prime minister meant by “betrayal”. If you believe that civilians had compromised troop movement, I suggest we have a far greater problem than most people believe.

Of course, in this particular rejoinder the Prime Minister claims – “When our own people betrayed their comrades, when they fed information to our enemies, our enemies surrounded and ambushed…” – which implies that our men were betrayed by their “comrades”, in other words, by security personnel, which is worse but yet again no explanation will be forthcoming.

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Perkida–The Militant Arm of Najib’s UMNO

What if the liberalisation of the public sphere since the Mahathir era paved the way for the emergence of civil surrogates of political parties? What if the so-called “civil society” was used as a veil to hide and promote the rise of militants who are in fact sub-contractors of political parties discourse and actions?

Were those families of the 10 people who died told that their loved ones perished because they were betrayed by their “comrades”? Was there an investigation into these treasonous acts? Was there accountability? It does not matter, does it?

And are the Malaysian uniformed services “Muslim” uniformed services? I get that the majority who serve are Muslims but why does the Prime Minister feel the need to draw on Islam to remind the uniformed services to be loyal for the security of the country? The answer to this, of course, is obvious. Non-Muslims are constantly told that we are not patriotic enough, that we shelter under the security provided by brave Muslims and most importantly, there have been far too many Umno politicians and “activists” who remind us that government institutions are in reality “Malay/Muslim” institutions.

So yes, the Arabisation process being what it is, the professional standards of our uniformed services at the level it is, and this constant need to remind Muslims that loyalty to country means loyalty to the political establishment, it is no surprise that religion would be used to bolster support. Of course, if you are a non-Muslim in the uniformed services, you could either learn from this Islamic analogy thrust upon you or tune out.

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BTN (Biro Tata Negara) cannot be allowed to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion, and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

I have said it before and I will say it again. I despise the propagandising of the state security apparatus. This happens all over the world. The Prime Minister’s rejoinder was delivered at a function organised by Wanita UMNO – a wing of a political party – so this was a political event and not a government event.

Of course, in this country, the lines are willfully blurred so I wonder what would happen if Pakatan Harapan, or God Forbid the DAP, organised a Ramadan event to honour the sacrifices of our uniformed services. Would these service people who embraced the “gifts” doled out at this Umno event be accepting to gifts offered by the opposition? Or would they be told by a government flunky not to intrude where they are not wanted?

I will just regurgitate what I wrote when another organisation was advocating loyalty to the establishment –

“Ultimately when we pledged to serve the king and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.”

‘We have been lucky’

The Prime Minister is right when he claims that peace does not happen by accident, but because of the work done by the security services of the state. However, he should be aware that peace happens because of luck, too. We have been lucky. While pre-emptive action is a necessary component of national security, the element of luck also plays an important part.

With all the propaganda spewed against non-Muslims, we have been lucky that external forces have far more insidious designs that merely slaughtering non-Muslims in this region. These designs target Muslims and is about a specific Islamic ideology and a war against Islamic plurality.

I have talked about this briefly in my piece cautioning against snuggling up to the House of Saud but as far as domestic policy is concerned, I wrote about the corrosive effects of Islam as propagated by the state on the security of the nation.

If even Najib is not safe from Islamic enemies, two points need to be considered when it comes to our “luck” in avoiding the kind of carnage that other countries have faced from their home-grown Islamic extremists.

When it comes to propaganda against the non-Muslims –

1) “Just recently, instead of sanctioning the genocidal rhetoric of the Pahang Mufti, Najib, who portrays himself as a PM for the people, said, ‘we cannot compromise on the Islamic struggle in this blessed land. We reject those who dislike Islam and know who they are and their collaborators.’”

And when it comes to the enemies within, who would destabilise the security of the state and the state security apparatus.

2) “The UMNO state security apparatuses have acknowledged that IS (Islamic State) sympathisers could emerge from anywhere, even from UMNO’s bureaucracy, which has for years sustained an anti-non-Muslim sentiment for political reasons.”

Islamic extremism and terrorism do not happen in a vacuum. It happens in environments which are conducive to the kind of extremism that groups like IS propagate.

You can have all the pre-emptive action that you want but as long as there are citizens willingly to carry out terrorist acts, work with foreign agents to destabilise the government and have cover to spout their nonsense because it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between state-sanctioned propaganda and that which is advocated by foreign Islamic extremists, this is the environment that will eventually lead us to be another statistic in mass Islamic violence.

Now as far as foreign Islamic extremists are concerned, I doubt they would collaborate with non-Muslims, simply because they consider non-Muslims as filthy infidels – although the narrative has always been that non-Muslims corrupt Muslims, so perhaps there may be some non-Muslims who are susceptible to the money that these Islamic extremists get from the most mainstream of sources – so the obvious potential collaborators are those who are disenfranchised and been fed on a diet that Islam is under siege in this country.

Think about it this way. If there are people who are willing to betray their comrades in an incursion by foreign participants, how long do you think our luck will hold against the dark foreign Islamic cults aligned against us and their local proxies who are willing to betray the rakyat of Malaysia?


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

Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia


June 9, 2017

Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia

by Dr. K. John@www.malaysiakini.com

I am genuinely angry and tired of much “false religiosity” which is found in many cultures and belief systems in Malaysia. I call all such unexamined cultural beliefs, worldviews; whether one is consciously aware of the existence of such implicit beliefs, or assumptions, or lack thereof.

Recently two examples of false religiosity were made evident in the Malaysian public square. I have addressed one of them through a previous column. Find it here.

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Zahid Hamidi and other Disciples of Zakir Zaik (Dr Asri Zainal Abidin–5th Left)

It related to misinformation and misguided statements made by Dr Asri Zainal Abidin, the current Mufti of Perlis. If I am not wrong, the post of any mufti is a public service appointment on behalf of the state government and they usually act as formal advisors to their rulers.

In this column I will address the second example of the same kind and quality of false religiosity.  But, before that, let me state a more positive note.  One of my connections (a Muslim friend) sent me a good and correct teaching (by WhatsApp) about what is truth in Islam, as an Abrahamic religion. I am glad such clear teaching is available, and many thanks to modern technology. He was responding to that earlier column.

In January 2017, the media reported that Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam was found guilty of a charge by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department, or JAIS, in the syariah court case for “illegal preaching”. And, as a consequence of such a punishment, it was also reported by the media that he may also be disqualified from being an MP, according to Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, Shad Saleem Faruqi.

More recently, in a similar vein and mode, this past week, JAIS again made a statement criticizing a local mosque which invited another elected member of Parliament to address them publicly inside their local mosque. JAIS used the name of the Sultan of Selangor, saying that he was “angry” about the matter. JAIS also issued a statement publicising the matter and then decrying the so-called wrong-doing and highlighting the anger of the Sultan of Selangor. My question: is not anger also sin, especially in the month of Ramadan?

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What Offence Did MP S. Sivarasa commit doing his duty as Subang Member of Parliament? Matters can become ridiculous in Malaysian politics under Najib Razak

I have serious problems with such false or mislabelled religious jurisprudence which denies any human being the full rights of citizenship, and especially that of  Members of Parliament. Khalid Samad is a Muslim representative but the latest charge is against R Sivarasa who is MP for Subang, and the mosque is well within his constituency. Sivarasa was performing a formal function as a people’s representative disbursing public funds.

Khalid Samad was sharing his faith and virtues in terms of Islamic thought, philosophy, and his personal life experiences with Palestinians as a result of his recent visit to Gaza. I therefore ask, so what is wrong with what he or Sivarasa did in the mosque?

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Can someone explain to me, in serious theological or logical terms, what is wrong with such sharing of truths from his heart about his first-hand experiences learned in Gaza? Or, why could Sivarasa not be present as a people’s representative within a mosque?

Do mosques belong to JAKIM or JAIS?

Do these mosques actually “belong to JAIS”? Are all mosques then under their direct administrative jurisdiction? I was under the impression that there is no Islamic equivalent of ecclesiology. Where in our Rule of Law system is such a hierarchy of jurisprudence provided for?

If such mosques are in fact directly under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) which is a federal government department with a minister in cabinet, what is the legal basis of such provisions? Why and how then was the one green lung behind my house converted by JAIS into a mosque after the fact? (For more information on this issue, please refer to this article and a reply by the state legislative assemblyperson for Kampung Tunku.)

What can be there be any legal or religious basis of such thinking?  Are all mosques in Malaysia funded and therefore built by JAKIM with zero funds from federal income tax revenues? Or, is it totally and fully funded by zakat or other such funds?

How then would such a financial administration and authority system be established within the nine Malay states? What about Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak? Is there a specific state enactment which establishes all these mosques under the full control and determination of some form of state Islamic administration? I ask because I am now a Selangor resident; who is seriously upset about the state administration of both land and religion.

JAIS’s simplistic thinking too may be simply partisan and political. To them, Khalid Samad had no certification to preach at this mosque. Did he really preach or teach the wrong Islamic doctrine? Really, and is not every Muslim allowed to stand up and speak about his experience of faith after a standard prayer at any mosque?

My understanding of the history of Islamic thought is that such sharing in the mosque was always encouraged, while it was dependent on the listeners to ponder the accuracy of such preaching or teaching. Is not this human attempt to control and manipulate religious thought reaching serious and partisan levels? Is that true Islam?

G25 and a moderation movement

G25 is a community of ex-public servants of Muslim faith who publicly made a statement committed to pursuing a just, democratic, peaceful, tolerant, harmonious, moderate and progressive multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious society in Malaysia. They extolled two simple and clear Islamic principles or virtues:  ‘wassatiyah’ (or moderation) and ‘maqasid syariah’ (the higher intentions of a comprehensive well-being of the people) which affirms justice, compassion, mercy, and equity.

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The Gutsy, Outspoken and Moderate Muslim  Tawfik Tun Dr. Ismail (TTDI)

It was one Old Putera G25 member, Tawfik Tun Ismail who framed his personal views about JAKIM and then went to declare them publicly. TTDI, as he is fondly known among Old Putera, first questioned the role and full legal authority of JAKIM in its current capacity as a created and established federal department. JAKIM is a federal department set up under the Prime Minister’s Department of the government of Malaysia.

The then-media publisher The Malaysian Insider which published that story and raised the issue too has since been closed down. All these records of truths of interest can still be found on the internet though. I fully agree with TTDI and want to support G25 as a true movement for moderation.


KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

Legendary Motorcycle Author Robert Pirsig Dies Aged 88


June 8, 2017

COMMENT: What do Farouk A. Peru, a much younger man at least a few decades apart chronologically speaking, and I (78 years old last May) have in common? Well for starters, we are Facebook pals; we  love to read and pen our thoughts in print; we appreciate culture and the arts and all things of beauty; we are unafraid to express our views openly and critically; we are Muslims; we are Malaysians and we enjoyed reading ZEN.

We admire Singapore’s Pak Othman  Wok, and Robert Prisig who wrote Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (first published  in 1974 and that was when I read it). Both men have since died, and May God Bless their souls.

I stumbled upon Farouk’s article  on Prisig’s magnum opus and also learned of his passing in The Malay Mail this evening (see below).

Like Farouk, I recommend the Zen book (which is subtitled An Inquiry into Values) to my young readers. It is tough reading at first, but it gets easier as you go along with the help of a good English dictionary. But to assist you, I would recommend The Guide Book  To ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Ronald L. DiSanto, Ph.d and Thomas J. Steele, S.J., Ph.d (New York: William Morrow, 1990). I congratulate Farouk for reading the book and for his article.–Din Merican

Legendary Motorcycle Author Robert Pirsig Dies Aged 88

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert Pirsig has died at the age of 88. Pairing motorcycles with philosophy, Pirsig was responsible for inspiring countless motorcycle journeys and road trips.

The book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” sits on bookshelves all over the world. It’s by no means a book about Zen, nor is it a book that tackles the mechanics of motorcycles – it’s a story about a father and son journey aboard a motorcycle that takes them across the western United States. It’s not necessarily a road trip book either. In fact, it’s hard to classify exactly what the book is, but that doesn’t matter – and that’s the beauty of it. It was a book that appealed (and still appeals) to audiences over the world, and is an essential book for any motorcyclist. If you’ve ever been drawn to the road, you and Pirsig would have a lot in common.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence authot Robert Persig

Robert Pirsig: 1928 – 2017

An announcement by Peter Hubbard, the Executive Editor of William Morrow & Co, recently announced the death of one of our favorite authors. Robert Persig passed away on April 24th 2017, “after a period of ill health.”

Zen was first published back in 1974. Pirsig had been rejected by more than 100 publishers before the iconic, semi-autobiographical book ever hit the stores. Despite the difficulty finding a publisher, Zen became a best seller. Pirsig described the nature of the book as an effort to “set out to resolve the conflict between classic values that create machinery, such as a motorcycle, and romantic values, such as experiencing the beauty of a country road.”

Robert and Chris Pirsig

Born in Minneapolis, Robert Pirsig was very well educated and went on to earn a degree in Philosophy, working as a technical writer and English teacher before suffering from mental illness. His battle with mental illness resulted in a motorcycle trip with this son Christopher in 1968 through the western United States, which would become the inspiration for his story.

The preface to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the best way to sum up his iconic book: “What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.”

Robert Pirsig and his motorcycle

If you haven’t read it, we urge you to pick up a copy and enjoy Pirsig’s journey along with him and his son. It’s a great American story and should be celebrated – and a fantastic read for all of those who appreciate the liberty and freedom associated with the open road.

Here’s to you Robert Pirsig, and thanks for your wonderful insights. You will be missed.

Robert Pirsig

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility, it’s right. If it disturbs you, it’s wrong, until either the machine or your mind is changed.” – Robert Pirsig 1928 – 2017

Read Robert Prisig’s ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENCE

By Farouk A. Peru (April 28, 2017)

Not one but two writers whose works made an impact on me died. It seems that 2017 is doing to authors what 2016 did to artistes! I had written about the death of Othman Wok and now I find out Robert Pirsig has died.

Often at times, authors or film-makers are defined by a single work but that work is a true magnum opus. They never again replicate the sheer tremor of these works but they do not have to. The deed is done; they have imprinted their names in the annals of literary history.

In the case of Robert Pirsig, that work is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (henceforth, Zen, first published in 1974 ). This narrative has been available in Malaysian bookshops since my own childhood, as I remember.  However, it was only in the early 90s when I picked up my first copy. It was after my SRP and the bookshop was the MPH in Section 14 which has long since closed down.

It was in the New Age/spirituality/philosophy section and I needed something completely different from the boring schoolwork I had been ingesting since the beginning of 1991.

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Zen was not about actual Zen (the Buddhist originated tradition), as I found out on the bus home. Rather it was about a journey undertaken across the American north from Minnesota to California by the unnamed narrator and his son, accompanied by their friends for the first half of their journey.

It was set in the 60s or early 70s. What attracted me to it at first was the journey itself. I loved narratives of long-forgotten places. America, being the gigantic nation that it is, has plenty of places which are unknown even to Americans themselves.

One could liken the geography and culture to the milieu found in Annie Proulx’s works and the visuals akin to the film Brokeback Mountain. Of course, the tagline of Zen being “An Inquiry into Values”, one would rightly expect a philosophical discussion.

One would not be disappointed either but Pirsig delivers it so surreptitiously that readers would feel as if they had “gone under” in surgery and woken up with some philosophical knowledge!

Pirsig ingeniously used the literary device of a third person, thought to be the alter ego of the narrator. He named him Phaedrus who, like the Phaedrus coined by Plato in his dialogues, was an interlocutor, midwifing the truth for readers through his own experiences.

Phaedrus had mental health issues like Pirsig himself but was a child prodigy. These similarities are obviously telling us who Phaedrus represents.

Rereading this book in 2014 (I had found a milestone edition with an introduction by Pirsig himself), I found that Pirsig may have oversimplified philosophy just a little.  His East/West dichotomy saying Eastern is more intuitive and the West more rational had become too simplistic for my liking. Perhaps if he meant dominant trends in each tradition, I would have been more amenable to his view.

To me, philosophy as a subject cannot be extricated into several self-containing traditions. Rather it is a complex network of ideas which feed off its own nodes which we may not even be aware of.  Plato, for example, may have derived his ideas from Egyptian thought, thus undermining the very idea of Western philosophy!

Be that as it may, I would still highly recommend Zen to anyone who is looking for a digestible story while at the same time expand his philosophical mind. The book has, after all, sold five million copies. No small feat for a manuscript rejected 121 times before finally getting published!

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

 http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/farouk-a.-peru/article/why-you-should-read-zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenance#sthash.5FDvKLu7.dpuf

The Paradoxes of Power–On Being Brutally Frank


June 7, 2017

The Paradoxes of Power–On Being Brutally Frank

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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Having struggled against what Winston Churchill famously deplored as the ‘black dog’ of depression through most of my life, I’d kind of hoped to have it trained or even totally tamed by now.

But as I head into old age, I find it’s hounding me more relentlessly than ever. So relentlessly, in fact, as to threaten to rob me of the very weapon I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against its deadly aggression, writing.

Thank goodness, however, the thought of being both mentally and verbally dumbstruck by depression paradoxically strikes me as just too depressingly disempowering for words.

Especially in light of my recent realisation in the course of university studies I’ve embarked on as an adjunct to writing in my counter-attack against terminal depression, that so much remains to be thought and written about power in its every manifestation from the multifarious and mostly still mysterious forces that drive and/or comprise the entire universe, to the combination of physical, mental and verbal powers that make us humans the most powerful of all currently-known animals.

Except, of course, for all those ‘lesser’ creatures with the power to either keep us alive, like the ‘good’ micro-organisms in our digestive systems do, or else, as in the cases of so many viruses and virtually countless other so called ‘germs’, to kill us off in great numbers.

In short, the human race is paradoxically both the most powerful living force on Earth, and powerless to exist without lots of apparently less-powerful animals, not to mention without continuing supplies of the planet’s vegetables, minerals,drinkable water and breathable air.

A situation that seems to me well within most people’s intellectual powers to appreciate and act on. But unfortunately the power of the human mind is paradoxical to such an extreme degree as to be little if anything short of pathological, as demonstrated by our numerous environmental, economic and political atrocities.

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Knowledge may well be power, as Francis Bacon declared, but the first false lesson that most of us learn, in our ignorant, impotent infancy, is that our very helplessness or total lack of power paradoxically makes us all-powerful in our demands on those around us.

And though life rudely disabuses us of this illusion by the time we’ve achieved the power to walk and talk, we’re so enraged by the realisation that we’re not, after all, all-powerful, that we throw tantrums characteristic of the stage commonly known as the ‘terrible twos’.

Next thing we know, the process called ‘education’ apparently imbuing us with the alleged power of knowledge, but at the same time disempowering us in our ability to distinguish mathematics-style fact from historical and other versions of opinion or outright fantasy like religion, all the while subjecting us to a regime of discipline designed to turn us into just-powerful- enough-to- be-useful citizens, or what French intellectual-academic Michel Foucault (1926-84) called ‘docile bodies’.

Docile bodies are, of course, precisely the kind of workers, consumers and subjects most desired by exploitative economic so-called elites and repressive, self-serving political regimes.

And thus, for those of us aspiring to sufficient power to live our lives to their full potential, it’s vital to be able to perceive the power dynamics of our society if we’re not to become passive victims of it.

For this reason I’m a great fan of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), the renowned French sociologist, anthropologist and educationalist who investigated the possibility for people to grow outward and upward from their ‘habitus’ (environment of birth and upbringing) through the achievement of a share of not just economic, but also social, cultural and other forms of ‘capital’, a term he equated with power.

And even more helpful, at least to me, are the various forms or vectors of power that Proctor (2002), Cattaneo 2010) and others have identified as indicators of the dynamics of power in any given situation.

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In Malaysia, for example, it’s abundantly clear that the UMNO-BN regime perceives itself as having ‘power over’ rather than, as it piously pretends, ‘power with’ the people. In fact it plainly has ‘power for’ its own members, cronies and supporters.

And that it shamelessly employs its ‘historic power’ (which in UMNO-BN’s case includes the power to rewrite history in its favour), and not only its ‘role power’ (witness its obsession with grandiose titles and ‘honours’), but also its ‘religious power’.

Though frankly this last is a debatable blessing, as the persistent claims by current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his Deputy that they’ve been chosen by Allah could be interpreted as either chosen to lead the people or sent as a curse to mislead and bleed them.

But in any event, in their determination to cling to their ‘power over’ the people, they leave no stone unturned in their efforts to strictly limit Malaysians’ ‘freedom to’ oppose, criticize or achieve legal protection against or redress from them, and ‘freedom from’ repressive laws and constant surveillance.

All of which goes to explain that obviously one of the reasons I’m feeling more depressed than usual right now is that I’m still failing to help rid Malaysia of these crooks despite writing almost 500 columns over the past 11 years, or in other words doing everything within my power to do so.

And besides the disempowerment of disappointment, there’s also  the fact that advancing age is inevitably robbing me of muscle-power, staying-power and every other kind of power you can think of, except, I fondly if possibly mistakenly hope, brain-power.

Unlike the ancient Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who, though he still appears both mentally and physically hale and hearty, seems to have progressed, or rather regressed all the way through his second childhood back to his second bout of infancy, complete with its paradoxical illusion of omnipotence.

Meanwhile Mahathir’s and my relative junior, Najib, is still fighting hard to stave-off the ultimate power paradox proposed by G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), the so-called Master-Slave Dialectic.

In many peoples’ opinion, Najib turned from his own Master to Rosmah’s Slave long ago. And soon, if only the US Department of Justice would get its act together, we all look forward to his dialectic or even electoral transformation from high-flyer to felon.

MALAYSIA: Malay Politicians have nothing productive to do except play Sharia Politics


June 5, 2017

MALAYSIA: Prime Minister Najib Razak has nothing productive to do except play Sharia Politics

by John Berthelsen@www/asiasentinel.com

Image result for najib and zakir naik

Anything and everything to  remain in power.

When Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat, or Parliament reconvenes on July 24, its most controversial order of business is a measure that could send the country down the road towards an Islamic dictatorship, a bill that would allow for the imposition of shariah law in the rural eastern state of Kelantan. But critics say it could spread to infect both other states and ethnic groups.

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With Politicians like this man (pic) who needs enemies to destroy rule of law

But it is not the pressure of the country’s 19.5 million Muslims that is causing the push for more powerful shariah courts and penalties. It is the politics of the country’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who is under fire for the country’s biggest-ever scandal and rising inflation and crime, and who believes he can preserve the United Malays National Organization’s national sway by appealing to Islamic sentiment.

Since independence, Malaysia has been regarded as one of the world’s most prosperous, moderate and democratic predominantly Muslim states. It has sizeable Chinese, Indian and other minority populations. Its Malay population is mostly urban and relatively laid back.  But Najib, beset by the 1Malaysia Development Bhd mess, in which US$4 billion has disappeared – as much as US$2 billion into his own pockets – and which is US$11 billion in debt from mismanagement and theft, believes he needs every single Malay vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to prevail in elections that could come late this year.

That means going after the Malays in the kampungs, the rural villages, through their religion. The vehicle he intends to use is a bill sponsored not by his own coalition but by the opposition’s Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, the rural-based Islamic party that is seeking to implement sixth-century shariah law in Kelantan, the one state it controls. It was tabled suddenly in the middle of the last night of parliament before it recessed in April.  It is the first time the coalition has ever allowed the introduction of a private member’s bill by the opposition.

Theoretically it would put Najib himself in danger, having been caught in a Port Dickson love motel with singer-actress Ziana Zane in the 1980s, enraging his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and by having been named as ‘Public Official 1” by the US Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Unit in the theft of US$1 billion from 1MDB.  But like the victims of the Duterte drug war in the Philippines, and black residents of the United States, it is the poor who will take the brunt of being flogged or stoned or going to prison for up to 30 years for what would be misdemeanors for non-Muslims. The kleptocrats of UMNO will remain unscathed.

Whether the parliament would actually act on the proposed Sharia Act (355) when it returns is unclear. Najib is a canny politician who has been tantalizing PAS about passing it since December of 2014, when it was first proposed. There is some belief he is using it only as bait for PAS support and will find a way to delay a vote until after national elections, which could come as early as August or September. However, today it is shaping up as a wedge issue that will determine whether PAS abandons its long and tenuous relationship to the opposition coalition headed by the jailed Anwar Ibrahim.

“He is definitely riding a tiger on this issue,” said Tawfik Ismail, a former parliamentarian and leader of the opposition to the measure who is suing Parliamentary Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, alleging that it is unconstitutional under Malaysia’s national charter, which guarantees freedom of religion and which requires the sultans’ permission. UMNO, he said, is seeking to boost itself as Malay chauvinist party, abandoning its longstanding mandate as the leader of the country’s multifarious religious status.

In the 2013 General Election, the Barisan Nasional coalition lost Peninsular Malaysia to the opposition but in fact was saved by the votes of mostly Christian and animist ethic groups in East Malaysia. As Tawfik points out, today those states are in near rebellion against the shariah measure. On May 7, 20 East Malaysia community leaders wrote an open letter asking that the bill be rejected, with the hint that they could leave the government.

Najib faces a growing quandary and not just from the Sabah and Sarawak Christians – but from an attack from the other side. Last month, Nasrudin Hassan, the PAS information chief, introduced the cudgel of the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election, in which Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the most honest and capable governor the sprawling city has ever had, was defeated largely because he is Chinese and Christian. He has since been jailed for two years on blasphemy charges.

“When you insult Islam, don’t think Muslims will not act by ­rejecting you as a leader. The Jakarta election has proven it,” Nasrudin told local media, a broad hint that Najib had better keep his promise.

“What has been clear from the start of debate on shariah law is that Prime Minister Najib sees exploitation of religious tensions as a means to an end – that is, his continuation in power in the next election,” said Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch. “He appears unconcerned that his cynical political ploy to woo PAS and its supporters will escalate tensions between the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities, and undermine the secular, multi-racial and multi-cultural vision of the founding fathers of Malaysia. That’s because Najib’s priority is self-preservation, which means maintaining his authority at all costs so that he can keep stamping out the smoldering embers of the 1MDB scandal that otherwise could re-ignite and consume him.”

The problem with shariah law, according to Imran Imtiaz Shah Yakob, a Malay lawyer, is that it is unlikely to be confined to Kelantan, the PAS stronghold. Instead, Imran told Asia Sentinel, if Parliament gives PAS the authorization to implement shariah law there, the overwhelming rural Malay populations of Terengganu and the northern tier of states such as Perlis, mired in poverty and with drug and crime problems, are likely to demand it as well.  Even Selangor, the wealthy urban state surrounding Kuala Lumpur, Imran said, is conceivably susceptible.

“The alternative that Najib and PAS are toying with would mark the beginning of a descent into darkness, intolerance, rights abuses, and possibly religious-based communal strife that could tear Malaysia apart,” Robertson said.

As an editorial in the Chinese newspaper Sin Chew aid, the rise of extremism threatening religious harmony is a consequence of political problems. Now, the editorial said, “we are making economy, religion and even administration to serve the needs of politics, to an extent that even the civic society finds it difficult to reverse this trend because the country’s biggest Malay opposition party is not on their side. The biggest risk in Malaysian politics lies with the fact that a handful of individuals are in firm control of their parties without an effective checks and balances mechanism in place.

Currently the shariah courts hear civil issues affecting only ethnic Malays, who by definition must be Muslims. They can impose maximum penalties up to three years of jail time, fines of RM5, 000 (US$1167) and up to six strokes of the cane.

But under the amendments, adulterers and drinkers of alcohol could be subject to up to 100 strokes of the cane, fined up to RM100,000 and subject to as much as 30 years in prison.