Only Malaysians can save Malaysia


October 9, 2017

Only Malaysians can save Malaysia

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar

Two Respected Malaysian Activists–Farouk A. Peru and Mariam Mokhtar

COMMENT | The Malaysian Special Branch is one of the most effective in the world. Its main role is intelligence gathering and the analysis of the information, for use by other government departments.

Predictions of the Special Branch about voting patterns and trends are highly respected. However, recently it was unable to tell Najib Abdul Razak and his cabinet the lie of the land, and how the rakyat will vote in the 14th general election (GE14). That does not augur well for the prime minister, who must call GE14 soon.

We are a divided nation, with Malays pitted against non-Malays, Muslims against non-Muslims, and East Malaysians against peninsular Malaysians. Fracture lines also exist within the communities, for example among the Malays.

The saying “Divide and conquer” has been used by successive Malaysian governments. Despite Najib’s boasts that the economy is doing well, and that everything is under control, he has delayed calling GE14? Why?

Image result for najib razak and zakir naik

Is Prime Minister Najib unable to contain UMNO extremists and Zakir Naik or is he fermenting unrest  by using race and religion so that he can declare Emergency Rule? 

The recent steep rise in religious and racial intolerance, which has resulted in events like the Oktoberfest being cancelled and deemed a national security risk, is indicative of Najib’s increasing loss of control over the overall situation in Malaysia.

The bigots in the various government departments need to control the masses. Religion is their answer and Najib has provided them the means. Enter Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of PAS. They are like a tag-team. Hadi has provided Najib the legitimacy to act in the name of Islam. Take one away, and their grip on the Malays is rendered useless.

Rallying call to reject the opposition

On a daily basis, we find the Malays being fed an unwholesome diet of the lies that the non-Malays would conquer them, if the Opposition, in particular the DAP, were to triumph in GE14. The rallying call to reject the Opposition is that the Malays will be driven back to the kampung, Islam will cease to be the official religion, mosques will be removed and Malay will soon be a forgotten language.

Image result for najib razak and zakir naik

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Zahid Hamdi  who refuses to be outdone by his boss also embraces Indian Fugitive Zakir Naik

You may laugh and wonder why anyone should believe this rubbish, but when you tell this to many so-called “educated” Malays, you will discover that they actually believe this inflammatory rhetoric.

So, why should the Malays feel threatened? They hold top jobs in the civil service. They have no problems obtaining government grants, government contracts and government licences. Education is tailored to their needs, especially after one former  UMNO education minister decided that the pass mark be lowered for Malays who sit for public examinations.

The Malays are  admitted into the civil service and the armed forces. The royal households are all Malays. You are correct to point out that only those with “cable” (connections) to the top will prosper. But then, who are these people? Are they not mostly Malays? In other countries, this knowledge would be seized upon, questions asked in Parliament and protests demanding swift action, but not in Malaysia. Are we that cowed?

More fearful of Jakim’s officials, than of God

The Department of Islamic Development in Malaysia, Jakim, with its RM1 billion budget, spends much of its time policing our morals and telling us how to live our lives. Many of the Malays who do as Jakim tells them, are more fearful of this department’s officials, than of God. The irony is that we ignore the Quran because we are too lazy to learn.

Malaysians who can afford the fees send their children to study in international schools. Malaysians buy properties overseas so that they can send their children to schools in that country. This shows that they have no faith in the Malaysian education. Instead of demanding that the government improves the situation, they simply allow the system to get worse.

Image result for Mat Rempits and Minah Rempits

Mat Rempit and Minah Rempit in Action and then this (below)

Image result for Mat Rempit killed in accident.

 

Why are many local graduates unable to get jobs? Why do many Malay teenagers drop out and end up being Mat Rempit in stead of finishing school?

Many Malaysians are rant and grumble about with the state of economy, the education system and the simmering tensions in the country, but they are too scared to do anything about it. Why do they leave it to a few activists  when they can take part in the movement for change?

You, too, have the power to change Malaysia. You can contribute your best. It may be in the form of one article, one poster, one talk, one interview, or one vote. It takes  a flutter of a butterfly to create a tsunami to  remove UMNO-Baru from the seat of government in Kuala Lumpur/Putrajaya, which it has held since Independence.

How uneven are our scales of justice?


January 9, 2017

How uneven are our scales of justice?

by Dr,Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore

Professor and Ambassadoor Koh is the first Singaporean to receive the “Great Negotiator Award”, given out by the programme on negotiation at Harvard Law School, which comprises of students and faculty from the university as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.

COMMENT In an exchange with Tommy Koh at a seminar on ‘Japan as an economic power and its implications for South-East Asia’ in 1974, the Singaporean diplomat reminded me that members of the legal profession did not comprise members of the world’s oldest profession, perhaps only second. That’s probably untrue as they could be third or fourth on this list.

Whatever anyone’s opinion of lawyers derived from personal experience is – we should not forget that lawyers generally sell their services to the higher bidder – there needs to be concern about how unevenly tilted the scales of justice in Malaysia have become.

Image result for Dr Lim Teck Ghee

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, there has been little discussion of this important topic though we have had a courageous whistleblower, Justice NH Chan, who called attention to the shortcomings of some of his former judicial colleagues in his book, ‘Judging the Judges’, subsequently printed in its second edition as ‘How to Judge the Judges’.

Image result for Justice NH Chan

Although Justice Chan, who sadly passed away recently, directed his criticism principally against his senior colleagues, his reiteration of the fundamental underpinnings of justice administration resonate in its relevance to the entire judiciary and other members of the legal profession.

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Members of the Judiciary–The judge must be fair and impartial. At the same time, it is important that even litigants who lose should feel that they had a fair trial.–Lim Teck Ghee

To him, the epitome of justice is a fair trial and this requires that the judge must do justice according to law – “this is what the rule of law is all about”. The judge must be fair and impartial. At the same time, it is important that even litigants who lose should feel that they had a fair trial.

Justice Chan also felt that the public should have sufficient knowledge to enable them to judge the performance of the judges.

However, even when there is public scrutiny – which rarely happens except in the most attention-grabbing of cases, say one in every tens of thousands – it appears to be well-nigh impossible to bring anyone from the judiciary – from the lowest subordinate magistrate level to the highest level of federal supreme judge – to book for any abuse of power, corrupt practice or judgment or judicial behavior seen to be unfair or unjust.

The Royal Commission’s no-action decision on the notorious VK Lingam case serves as a good example.Being fair and impartial means that each and all members of the judiciary especially have to rise above the factors of class, race or religion in arriving at judgment. Do integrity and impartiality constitute the norm or is the judiciary – as with the rest of the civil service – influenced by extraneous factors in the cases they hear?

To what extent, for example, are members of the judiciary influenced or affected by the racial identity of the accused and/or of the lawyers in the cases they hear? Are they likely to be more lenient when sentencing members from the rich and powerful strata of society or from members of their own racial grouping?

Are they biased against those from the poorer classes who do not have the services of sharp and expensive lawyers to ensure that they get a fair trial or against those from different racial or religious groups?

Seldom raised in public realm

To my knowledge, these and similar questions have seldom been raised or discussed in the public realm. Colleagues from the legal fraternity to whom I have addressed this question in private, although generally agreeing that the judiciary is far from being independent or free from political influence, argue that the scales of justice are generally evenly and fairly administered in Malaysia in terms of the influence and impact of race and religion.

The most recent findings in the 2016 Rule of Law Index conducted by the World Justice Project appear to contradict this view. This is Malaysia’s score on the following components of civil and criminal law

Civil Justice

No discrimination – 0.5
No corruption – 0.5
No improper government influence – 0.38
Accessibility and affordability – 0.5

Criminal Justice

No discrimination – 0.51
Due process of law – 0.57
No improper government influence – 0.39
Timely and effective adjudication – 0.53

Source here, p110.

What the data by this organisation seems to indicate – the index is based on over 100,000 households and 2,400 expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced, but we do not know the details of this sampling for Malaysia – is that one out of every two cases of civil and criminal justice in the country is tainted by discriminatory or corrupt action by the law enforcement agencies, including the judiciary.

Public attention – local and international – has tended to focus on issues related to fundamental rights and freedoms, constraints on government powers, and open government.

However in a robust and thriving democracy, it is equally important to ensure that the rule of law – as experienced in practical, everyday situations by ordinary people – is also subject to scrutiny and reform so that it is fair and impartial in all aspects.

A good example of such public examination is that recently conducted by British Columbia in its 2012 Justice Reform Initiative which resulted in a white paper and road map for justice reform in the state. We are sorely in need of such an initiative or minimally a clear and useful dialogue on this often neglected aspect of the Rule of Law. Perhaps the Bar Council can take the lead in this exercise.


LIM TECK GHEE is a former World Bank senior social scientist, whose report on bumiputera equity when he was director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies sparked controversy in 2006. He is now CEO of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.

 

A Fairy Tale waiting to be Real: “Fake” Letter by Malaysia’s DPM from Ponorogo


December 26. 2016

A Fairy Tale waiting to be Real: “Fake” Letter by Malaysia’s DPM from Ponorogo

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.mariammokhtar.com/the-allegedly-fake-letter-written-by-malaysias-no-2-zahid-hamidi/

Around the time of the UMNO-Baru General Assembly, a “fake” letter, allegedly written by Zahid Hamidi, urging BN MPs and senators to force Najib to resign, was apparently being circulated.

Image result for Ambitious Zahid Hamidi from Pornorogo

The Man from Pornorogo–Zahid Hamidi

In it, the ambitious Zahid proclaimed himself PM and made Khairy Jamaluddin, his deputy.

Who would make a good DPM?

Zahid and Khairy are like chalk and cheese. Was Khairy made DPM to appease the rakyat?

Here are the choices:-

If Ismail Sabri were to become DPM, copy cat malls would emerge throughout Malaysia, just like with Low Yat Plaza II. Ismail has a fondness for turtle eggs,  and conservation would die out, along with the turtles.

Nor would you want Ahmad Maslan to be the DPM. Nasi goreng à la Ahmad Maslan, which is fried rice with lavish cucumber trim, would replace nasi lemak, as our national food.

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Having replaced Najib Abdul Razak, Zahid would not want emotionally affected politicians, like Hishamuddin Hussein, Najib’s cousin, in his Cabinet.

Khairy’s credentials

Khairy would make an excellent choice for DPM. In stark contrast to Zahid’s ‘jaguh kampung’ origins, Malaysians adore Khairy’s Oxford education.

Unbeknownst to many, the tall, dark and handsome Khairy is also the most talked about man in “mengaji and agama classes” (in-depth learning for Koran at home). The middle-aged Malay tai-tais – the ladies who lunch, most of whom come from Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, drive their ustazs up the wall. Poor ustaz cannot stop them chattering about Khairy, during their lessons.

With a Treasury strapped for cash, Zahid could trim his Cabinet, with Khairy holding four ministerial posts.

Image result for Khairy the Polo Man

Khairy could continue as Sports Minister, on account of his skills on a polo pony and his ambition as a wannabe ASEAN athlete.

With his impeccable English. Khairy could prevent embarrassing translations of Mindef documents, such as the “poking eye clothes” incident. He could  hold a rifle, and jump out of an aeroplane. He should make a good Defence Minister.

Having benefited from an overseas education, Khairy could also be Education Minister, and reinstate funding to send students to overseas universities.

Zahid would get more things done as PM

So what’s wrong with Zahid as PM? He brings out the best in Malaysian politics and has many fine qualities.

Yesterday, Najib dismissed the contents of the “fake” letter, and blamed the Opposition for underestimating the loyalty of UMNO-Baru members.

This is where Najib is wrong. Loyalty is Zahid’s forté. The greasy pole of politics is not difficult to climb, if you know how. The enemy is not the Opposition. The enemy is within.

During the late 1990s, Zahid was loyal to Anwar Ibrahim, who was DPM at the time. Zahid pestered the then PM, Mahathir Mohamad, to answer allegations about corruption. When Anwar fell, Zahid became the Mahathir’s sidekick and swore loyalty to Mahathir. Mahathir is now a nobody, whilst Zahid has become Najib’s right-hand man.

If Zahid becomes PM, his first duty would be to sack the IGP for incompetence. Despite having all the resources at his disposal, Malaysia’s top policeman cannot even locate and arrest a fugitive convert father.

The IGP, prefers to tweet rather than put men on the streets. He could tweet his followers, and ask for the public’s help to find the whereabouts of Mohd Ridhuan Abdullah, who is charged with kidnapping his seven year-old daughter from his former, wife, Indira Gandhi. Why hasn’t he done this?

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In the war against crime, Zahid knows who to turn to. In the past, Zahid considered the Tiga Line Malay triad as his friends. As it takes a thief to know another thief, Tiga Line gang members will make the best law enforcers in Malaysia.

With Zahid in charge, work for translators will increase. When he goes overseas, he can be like President Putin, of Russia or President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, and use translators.

An event always looks more prestigious and important, when translators are present. Waiting for a translator would also give Zahid more time, to cook up a good answer, if he were to be asked a tricky question, in front of the world’s press.

You’ve been to supermarkets with signs displaying “Buy One, Get One Free” (BOGOF). Zahid’s gobby daughter, who does not shy away from controversy and once blasted MAS stewardesses for being too old, would make a good guard dog, to protect her father’s reputation.

If President-elect Trump can elect family members to plum positions, why not Zahid? After all, 1MDB was also a family affair, with step sons helping themselves to the taxpayers’ money.

Anwar was deposed by Mahathir, as was Musa Hitam. Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked by Najib.

So is the post of DPM a poisoned chalice? Not really.  “The Chosen One”, aka MO1, has lifted the curse from the post of DPM.  Timing is all important and smart DPMs must strike when the going is good.

The Twitting IGP, UMNO State and Public Order


September 25, 2016

The Twitting IGP, UMNO State and Public Order

by Cmdr(rtd) S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get…”

– Raymond Chandler, ‘The Lady in the Lake’

I have a “guilt by association” complex when it comes to journalists or former journalists. While what I write has nothing to do with journalism, whenever a journalist is harassed – someone once told me, once a journalist always a journalist – I have an overwhelming feeling of simpatico for journalists who are threatened by the UMNO state.

Image result for Khalid Abu Bakar, UMNO and Politics

Agents of UMNO State–127,000 of them

It is ironic that in a fascist state or one trending to fascism, the written word sometimes becomes powerful in ways that could never be in lands of the free. It is also notable that in such states the Police Force always reminds citizens that it is the fair and just instrument of the state.

Reading the Facebook posting of Norlin Wan Musa (above) on the treatment meted out to her husband, former journalist Sidek Kamiso, is like reading the testimonials of people who live in countries where even the pantomime of democracy has been discarded in favour of whatever kind of tyranny that the state chooses to indulge in.

When Norlin asks, “What have we become”, the answer to that question is reflected in the actions of those who invaded her home, menaced her family and dragged her husband across state lines to face charges brought on by cowardly men who file Police reports as a means to stifle free speech. This is 1Malaysia in all its glory.

As I wrote when HRH Crown Prince of Johor discovered that the practitioners of the dark arts were monitoring him, “There is always that line a Malaysian crosses. That line that nobody used to talk about but these days the state assures us is there and there will be consequences if we cross it.”

What exactly are these “consequences”? If you are going to the United Nations with the intention of “addressing issues such as the refugee crisis and securing global peace”, then the least you can have is a security apparatus that does not issue threats to opposition politicians and harasses former journalists for tweeting about a deceased divisive religious operative.

Furthermore, it  behoves those who pontificate on such matters, especially on securing global peace and waxing lyrical about having “standard operating procedures (SOPs) and relevant laws in Malaysia to be adhered to by everyone”, to actually have a security apparatus that actually enforces such laws, without fear or favour, instead of patrolling the Twitterverse warning Malaysians against exercising their democratic right in calling for the removal of a sitting Prime Minister.

Apropos everything, this is the IGP, Khalid Abu Bakar who said “I don’t have a problem if they want to ban me from Twitter. If I’m banned, there are 126,000 others who will monitor it” – which just goes to show the priorities of our Police Force.

This of course brings us back to the threat the IGP issued to the Member of Parliament from Kulai, DAP’s Teo Nie Ching (photo), “not to make statements that could create public unrest”. Add to this the horse manure about dealing with a segment of society who have lost respect for the Force due to “incitement by certain parties” for their personal agenda.

The IGP also “reminded Police Personnel to be fearless when faced with challenges in the course of carrying out their duties”.

Politicising Police investigations

For insight into the “challenges” facing the institution the current IGP leads, please refer to my article ‘Behold our guardians of order’, the relevant section, reproduced here:

“All one has to do is refer to the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police published in 2005 to address “widespread concerns regarding the high incidence of crime, perception of corruption in the Royal Malaysia Police (Polis Diraja Malaysia, PDRM), and what did this commission discover?

“Under the appropriate euphemism of ‘challenges’ as reported in the press, three areas were highlighted that needed serious reforms. Those were:

1) widespread corruption in PDRM;

2) widespread non-compliance with prescribed laws and human rights obligations among police personnel; and

3) inadequate awareness and respect for the rights of women and children.”

I would argue that the only person “politicising” the issue of police investigations is the IGP himself.

First off, the IGP’s comment of a “segment of society” is either a reference to opposition supporters or the Chinese community. Furthermore, his comments about “certain parties” are a clear reference to opposition political parties or personalities, which is a loaded political statement. So much for non-partisanship of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM).

Remember, this is the country’s top cop who gloatingly warned Malaysians, “@PDRMsia is warning anyone, men and women, conspiring with him to be saner and not try to threaten Malaysia’s peace and harmony” after the arrest of Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen, and pompously proclaimed “Eric Paulsen is arrogant and thought he succeeded in inciting Malaysians to destroy the spirit of our 1Malaysia community.”

Then, there is the whole Jeff Ooi issue. More than a few readers have asked me what I thought about Ooi’s tweet and whether he should apologise, face sanctions or both. The short answer is:

1) I do not have an issue with what he tweeted.

2) I do not think he should be sanctioned by the state.

3) I have no issue with his party sanctioning him, for needlessly polluting the racial and religious waters.

As usual, I do take exception to the IGP “politicising” the issue by advising “politicians like Jeff Ooi” to be careful with what they post, again implying opposition politicians, when his establishment brethren have gone to town issuing threats and warnings without sanction from the PDRM.

Just one example of how the IGP distorts the discourse. When he writes of certain quarters inciting the public against the police, the assumption is that dissent only comes from the opposition and thus it is the opposition that has agendas against the institutions of the state. This is mendacity at its finest.

When the issue of the IGP refusing to carry out court orders and fulfilling his obligations to the people of Malaysia in the last unilateral conversion case was raised, the MCA put out a press statement stating:

“The IGP must not shirk responsibility by claiming that he is conflicted between the custody order of the Syariah Court and the apex court. The mother Indira Gandhi (photo) has been separated from her daughter (Prasana) Diksa for close to seven years already, whilst (Mohd) Ridhuan (Abdullah @ K Pathmanathan) is repeatedly in contempt of High Court orders awarding custody to the mother.”

And reminding the IGP that failure to discharge his duties will result in “people in contravention of the judicial decisions like Ridhuan will be emboldened to continue to break the law, knowing that their actions will be condoned by the IGP.”

Of course, there are many examples where the perpetrator and victim are sanctioned as evidence of how the UMNO state is fair and just – but this is beyond the scope of this article and fodder for another piece.

The day Ali Tinju’s wife makes a Facebook posting of warrantless sleep deprived by agents of the state invading her home and dragging her husband across state lines to answer charges filed against him, even though he was just exercising his right of free speech, is the day “that segment of Malaysian society” who have apparently lost respect for the PDRM may begin to rethink the idea that the PDRM is just another instrument of UMNO.

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey


August 8, 2016

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey

by Zainah Anwar

http://www.thestar.com.my

WHERE is the light and hope for change in the Muslim world today? The Arab Spring of five years ago has turned into an endless winter of despair.

The optimism of a long-awaited democratic transformation in the Middle East brings us today authoritarian rule in Egypt, civil war in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and the barbarism of Islamic State (IS) on the global stage. Only Tunisia remains a source for hope with a peaceful democratic change of government, and an active civil society determined to push the reform process forward.

But what is even sadder is that the two Muslim countries that many Arabs saw as models of the kind of democratic developmental state they aspired to in 2011 are also today in turmoil.

Turkey and Malaysia are no longer a source of hope to the Muslim world as their leaders become mired in political and financial turbulence and their governing institutions undermined.

In 2011, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey went to Egypt and promoted the compatibility of  Islam with democracy and pluralism. He presented his party and government as the model that Arabs should be looking to emulate. The world welcomed the success story he was touting.

Similarly, Malaysia’s success story in economic development and a political framework to govern an ethnically divided society was another model touted to the Arabs to follow.

But how fast hopes are dashed. Even before the failed military coup, Turkey was already isolated in the Middle East as Erdogan was accused of taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, and aligning himself with conservative forces, and undermining his own rhetoric on democracy, pluralism, and rule of law.

And now, Turkey is in chaos as all major institutions of government, judiciary, military, police, schools, universities and media outlets have been purged of much of their leadership and staff or forced to shut down.  A party and its leader that had aspired to turn Turkey into a global player and leader of the Muslim world as the country approaches 2023, the 100th  anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, is today decidedly authoritarian, and wrecked with instability and uncertainty.

Erdogan’s grandiose Vision 2023 seems illusory in the light of a colossal purge of tens of thousands of leaders and personnel that will have long term effects on its people and its governing institutions. How do you rebuild and bring together a country ripped apart at all levels towards your vision of a Grand Turkey by 2023?

In Malaysia, the politics of race and religion is the only antidote this government knows to counter the avalanche of evidence of malfeasance in office. This government has all but abandoned any pretence at pursuing a reform agenda to address long festering disgruntlement among the urban middle class and its eroding popular support.

As he took office in 2009, the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia ominously warned his party to change or perish. He called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separate us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed.

But the top news story on the BBC World service on August 1 ominously implied that Malaysia was heading the way of Turkey. From the promise of reform in 2009, we have instead adopted the National Security Council Act which gives the Prime Minister unprecedented powers to declare security zones where troops may be deployed, citizens may be evacuated, search and arrest can be made without a warrant, curfew can be imposed, force can be justified and inquest into deaths can be dispensed with. And no judicial action can be instituted against any act of the National Security Council.

A leader who knew if the party did not change it would perish in 2009 found little courage nor will to bring real change. For the first time in its history, it lost popular support winning less than 50% of the votes in the 2013 general elections and it performed from bad to worse in two successive elections.

The signals are clear. The last poll conducted by the Merdeka Centre in October 2015 saw support for the government among Malays down to an unprecedented 31%, plummeting from 52% in January that year. The government’s overall approval rating also nose dived to 23%, the lowest ever since polling began in 2012. In 2013, the Barisan Nasional went into the general elections with a 43% approval rating and saw its worst electoral performance ever.

If at all, things have gotten from bad to worse since then as investigations into 1MDB and individuals and companies linked to it in the United States, Singapore,

Switzerland, Hong Kong, and reportedly six other countries promise to reveal more evidence documenting all manner of violations and transgressions. Now, if only the Barisan can look at the transformation that has taken place in Taiwan and South Korea.

It is possible for strong and dominant ruling parties in the face of defeat to transform themselves, embrace democratic values, remain a major force in a new democratic era, and even win again in freer and fairer elections.

But by now, we know this government and its leadership is devoid of will and courage to do what is right, even for its own long-term survival.

So is the only alternative then a headlong plunge into emergency rule? Are the Red Shirts priming for chaos should Bersih 5.0 take place, thus providing the perfect opportunity to declare an “emergency” in all but name and elevate the National Security Council into power?

As desperate citizens and civil society gather together to prevent what they see as the inevitable, is there any institution that they can depend on to do what is right for this country before we lose forever the path – no matter how flawed – so painstakingly negotiated and treaded by our past leaders?

 

Jakarta Governor points the way for London Mayor Sadiq Khan


June 2, 2016

Jakarta  Governor points the way for London Mayor Sadiq Khan

by Kishore Mahbubani*

 

The election of Sadiq Khan, a practising Muslim, as Mayor of London was rightly celebrated across the world. It confirmed that openness and tolerance, hallmarks of western civilisation, are alive and well. More surprising, perhaps, is that this spirit can be found in parts of the Islamic world, too.

Indonesia is the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Its capital city, Jakarta, is run by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Christian popularly known as “Ahok”. This is highly significant. Why? As recently as 1998, Jakarta saw anti-Chinese riots in which more than a thousand people were killed. Mr Purnama and his family had to defend themselves with sticks, Molotov cocktails and machetes.

After 17 months as Governor of Jakarta, Mr Purnama remains immensely popular. He has made some bold changes: closing down trendy but disruptive nightclubs, cleaning up red-light districts, evicting people from slums (while providing them with better housing) and dredging clogged-up canals.

He has also demonstrated his willingness to make difficult policy choices, such as discontinuing a long-stalled monorail project in favour of a more cost-effective and efficient light rail system. Even more significantly, an underground railway, which had been held up by bureaucracy for more than 25 years, is going ahead.

Mr Purnama also believes in transparency. The entire budget of the city of Jakarta is online. Citizens can scrutinise all spending. Even his mobile phone number is public, meaning that he receives a large number of text messages, many of which he responds to personally. The city’s inhabitants feel that their lives are improving.

 

The City of Jakarta skyline

This is why the attacks on him by hardline Islamist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, also known as Front Pembela Islam, are not working. In theory, appeals to religious loyalties by such groups should work against Mr Purnama. In practice, however, they have failed — suggesting that in Jakarta, as in London, a corner has been turned. The big question is why.

One reason could be greater access to information. A little-known fact about Indonesia is that its social media penetration rates are among the highest in the world. There are more than 80m users of social networks in the country. In the new climate of transparency, there is increasing evidence for Mr Purnama’s claim that conditions in Jakarta are improving.

How to succeed politically? Be prepared to die. I am ready to die. Tweet this quote

Corruption is also declining in what was a notoriously corrupt city. Video clips of Mr Purnama berating officials of the city’s transport administration have gone viral. Despite the traditional Javanese preference for avoiding confrontation, he has adopted a brash, in-your-face style that has clearly angered many. He has acquired enemies.

When I met him earlier this year, I asked him for his views on how to succeed politically. He replied: “Be prepared to die. I am ready to die”.

His courage is obvious. And for a Chinese Christian in a largely Muslim society to have displayed such courage could have been politically suicidal. Instead, it has proved to be a vote-getter. A grass roots campaign to put him on the ballot as an independent candidate to run again as governor in 2017 has drawn wide support from the city’s predominantly Islamic population. He has received more than enough nominations.

Mr Purnama’s success in Jakarta is not just a local phenomenon. It demonstrates that we are moving into a new world in which people make more informed and rational decisions on the basis of greater access to information. The citizens of Jakarta are aware how backwards their city had become, even in relation to its Asian peers. So when a Chinese Christian promises that he will study best urban practices from Singapore and Taipei and bring them to Jakarta, they support him.

This is why I believe that we are witnessing globally a fusion of civilisations, not a clash of civilisations. Societies around the world are beginning to learn best urban practice from others.

The brash Chinese Christian Governor of Jakarta is popular among the Islamic population of Jakarta because he says to them, in effect: “You can see on your phones how the rest of the world has moved ahead. Follow me, and I will bring the world’s best practices to Jakarta.”

In theory, an Islamic population ought to have been reluctant to follow a Christian leader. In practice, they are embracing him. This is as significant as the election of Mr Khan.

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani is Dean and Professor in the practice of public policy in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy NUS, Singapore.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f510a93e-27f8-11e6-8ba3-cdd781d02d89.html#axzz4ANX79Mlk