Mujahid Yusof Rawa is a clown


Mujahid Yusof Rawa is a clown

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By THAYAPARAN– Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of the National Patriots Association.


Enough of beating up on a marginalised community. Does it make you feel strong and powerful? Do you know you endanger their lives and safety every time you attack them?”

– Ambiga Sreenevasan

COMMENT I have one question for Mujahid Yusof Rawa. If the LGBT “practices” are illegal, why isn’t the government rounding up LGBT people and incarcerating them? Mujahid asked this question of his critics before and babbled on about how these people have not committed any crime – “I have explained that (it cannot be done) unless they have committed a crime,”

However, we know that in Malaysia, if you are from the LGBT community – and Muslim – you will be whipped if your “practices” are discovered – “Two women convicted for attempting sexual relations will be fined and caned, a prosecutor said today, in a rare case against same-sex couples in the country.”

In a piece I wrote about the road to a theocratic state, I asked Mujahid to keep his mouth shut when it came to these issues, instead of playing to the far right crowd – “And no Mujahid, I do not want you to arrest them. I want you to keep your mouth shut about them, and instead create a counter-narrative that Harapan’s Islam is about promoting a first class education for your brethren, weeding out corruption in the political and religious class, ensuring the healthcare system is one of the best in the region, and ensuring a plurality of Islamic voices, so young people do not join extremist groups that pose a danger to the citizens of this country.”

Obviously, he did not take my advice. Instead, Mujahid has done what the Umno regime did before, which is demonise human rights groups, like Sisters in Islam and the WAO for standing up for the rights of disenfranchised citizens of this country in the recent woman’s right march, which he found offensive because it included the rights of the LGBT community.

I have never believed that Mujahid was a reformer like he claimed he was. His allies, who included many prominent non-Malay supporters, held Mujahid as an example of the kind of Islamic moderation this country would have if ever Harapan came into power. We now know that for the lie it was.

Obviously, he did not take my advice. Instead, Mujahid has done what the UMNO regime did before, which is demonise human rights groups, like Sisters in Islam and the WAO for standing up for the rights of disenfranchised citizens of this country in the recent woman’s right march, which he found offensive because it included the rights of the LGBT community.

I have never believed that Mujahid was a reformer like he claimed he was. His allies, who included many prominent non-Malay supporters, held Mujahid as an example of the kind of Islamic moderation this country would have if ever Harapan came into power. We now know that for the lie it was.

Mujahid is a big proponent of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, and Harapan seems enamoured of hate speech laws. But you can bet your last ringgit these laws would be used to safeguard the religion of the state and not crack down on hate speech that happens in social media. Marginalised communities like the LGBT community, who are routinely savaged by some Harapan supporters, will, of course, be exempt from these laws.

Want to know what real hate speech is? Read the comments on social media, describing the community in the most hateful language. Then compare those comments with the actions of the state and federal governments when it comes to this community. Bullies, especially those who weaponise religion and culture, always target the marginalised in communities before working up the courage to move on to bigger targets.

Consider what Mujahid said: “I am shocked by the actions of a handful of people today who abuse the democratic space to defend practices that are against the Islamic teachings.”

This is the kind of slimy double talk religious operatives engage in. Forget the fact that so-called moderate Muslims like Mujahid have always been accused by the Islamic far right of abusing the democratic space to go against the teachings of Islam (or their version of it). But since when do the teachings of Islam determine how our public spaces are used in this country? Is it in our Federal Constitution?

There are colonial-era laws against specific sexual practices involving same sex individuals, but where in our Constitution does it say we cannot use our democratic space to voice out issues that go against Islam? Harapan is attempting to blur the line between criticising Islam and insulting Islam, but this is exactly what the UMNO regime did, and religious operatives like Mujahid were telling non-Malays and Muslims to speak up instead of ignoring the corruption of the state and Islam.

I get that we cannot “insult Islam” and could get up to 10 years imprisonment for this, but is the Harapan regime’s policy that we cannot use our democratic space to go against the teachings of Islam, even if such teachings go against our constitutional rights? Is this official Harapan policy? Where are all the non-Malay political operatives who were speaking out against this kind of discrimination before May 9?

Mujahid also said that it was up to the Home Ministry to take action against the organisers of the rally for holding a rally without a permit. How many times, when the Harapan regime was the opposition, did they hold rallies without permits, and political operatives like Mujahid encouraged people to attend those rallies because it was our democratic and constitutional right?

I guess when people accuse PAS and UMNO of being hypocrites, we may as well add Mujahid to the list.

Hew Wai Weng, in an article last year for the New Mandala, discussed the ‘Himpunan Kebangkitan Ummah’ (Ummah Awakening Gathering), noting: “The new Religious Affairs Minister Mujahid Rawa was criticised for ‘not defending Zakir Naik’ and ‘compromised on LGBT issues’. PAS leaders tried, through these criticisms, to portray a more ‘Islamic’ image compared with Pakatan’s Muslim leaders.”

Which is why, like an insecure person in a position of political and social power, Mujahid always has to display his religious and racial bona fides, because he is in a coalition which loudly proclaimed they were the progressive coalition of Malaysia.

Furthermore, he belongs to a moderate “Islamic” party – Amanah – which gets a lot of love from easily fooled non-Muslims, but which has, so far, merely conformed to the religious narratives of the Malay far right.

For most so-called progressives and the Malay right which supports Harapan, specifically the Bersatu faction, this is a non-issue. These people hate the LGBT community and understand their speech will always be protected by the state. Nobody cares that this is a government which claims to want to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, but has no problem using religion to suppress the voice and rights of those it considers politically expendable.

How toxic is Harapan’s Islamic agenda? Well, you have someone who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for insulting Islam and nobody in the Harapan political establishment has spoken out about it, excluding the always forthright Latheefa Koya.

Now, you have a minster in the Harapan regime attempting to hoodwink Malaysians into believing our democratic spaces can only be used for those issues which do not go against the teachings of Islam. Mujahid Rawa’s Islamic state of play is only going to get more toxic, and so far there is nobody in Harapan willing to confront it.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of the National Patriots Association.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Guna’s Take on the Politics of ICERD and Harapan’s Volte-Face

November 27, 2018

Guna’s Take on the Politics of ICERD and Harapan’s Volte-Face

QUESTION TIME | If we thought that UMNO-style gangster politics is dead and gone with New Malaysia, we have been very sadly mistaken as the recent issue over the ratification of the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) shows.

Somehow or other, the ratification of this convention has been taken to be a major attack on the special privileges of bumiputeras, including Malays, resulting in a cacophony of protests by UMNO and PAS, which were rather badly handled by the Harapan government.

It is no such thing.  There are enough safeguards and provisions in the IICERD for the special privileges of bumiputeras to continue and there are countries such as the US which ratified the treaty, saying its own constitution provides for those rights, and if there is any problem, then its constitution will stand supreme against ICERD.

Despite what Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said about having to amend the constitution, which would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, to ratify Icerd, most expert legal opinion is that there is no such necessity. In fact, Mahathir had said in September at the UN General Assembly that Malaysia would ratify six UN conventions, which includes Icerd.

The about-turn that Harapan made over Icerd is substantive for one very important reason: it has basically submitted to the blackmail of UMNO and PAS who had threatened not just demonstrations but violence. Demonstration organisers talked openly about creating another May 13 in videos that went viral, raising needless alarm and concern.

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The mute Malaysian Women Libbers

That will only encourage them to come up again and again with gangster-style tactics of violence and bloodbath when every issue of importance is debated. Capitulation to them now over an important issue in Malaysian politics will only make them raise their voices higher and their threats more severe in future.

What was terribly surprising was the silence and muted response by Harapan leaders over an issue which had been twisted and turned by the opposition UMNO and PAS into a highly explosive racial and religious one.

Social redress

There was no attempt to explain that ratifying the ICERD was in no way against bumiputera rights but was aimed at endorsing universal principles against any form of racial discrimination. ICERD specifically excludes special privileges for any community as a means of social redress for as long as that is necessary.

There are some who say that the Federal Constitution sets no limit on special privileges, but even that is not an issue as Icerd can be ratified subject to the primacy of a country’s own constitution as the US did when it ratified Icerd in 1994.

These concerns are addressed and allayed comprehensively in this article by respected constitutional scholar Shad Saleem Faruqi who deals with all the major legal and constitutional issues over ratifying ICERD.


Here are the concluding remarks of his article: “ Even if ratified by the executive, Icerd cannot displace Article 3 (Islam) (of the constitution), Article 153 (special position of the Malays and natives) and Article 181 (prerogatives of Malay Rulers). This is due to the legal fact that our concept of ‘law’ is defined narrowly in ArticIe 160(2) and does not include international law.

“The constitutional position on the ICERD is, therefore, this: Even if the ICERD is ratified by the executive, it is not law unless incorporated into a parliamentary Act. Even if so legislated, it is subject to the supreme constitution’s Articles 3, 153 and 181. Unless these Articles are amended by a special two-thirds majority and the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the Governors of Sabah and Sarawak, the existing constitutional provisions remain in operation.

“The ICERD is not a law but only a pole star for action. Its ideals cannot invalidate national laws. The agitation against it is contrived for political purposes and perceptive Malaysians must not allow themselves to be exploited by politicians.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what Harapan has done by capitulating to UMNO-PAS and others threats of violence over Icerd at a demonstration to be organised on Dec 8. Now that demonstration is going to be a celebration of their “success” – how pitiable.

Here is the Prime Minister’s Office’s statement on the matter: “The Pakatan Harapan government will not ratify CERD. “The government will continue to defend the Federal Constitution, in which lies the social contract agreed to by representatives of all races during the forming of the nation.”

Narrow agenda

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A Janus-faced Malay Politician

“It was Mahathir, after all, who said point blank to the Malays that they should stop supporting UMNO because its leader was involved in the largest kleptocracy the world has known via 1MDB where RM42 billion was lost. Surely through proper information and education, most Malays can be made to realise that ratifying ICERD does not affect their rights or the rights of other bumiputeras.

But instead, the silence of Harapan leaders and their lack of defense of the reason why ICERD was to be ratified as part of the intentions voiced in their manifesto led to this issue systematically being used to whip up sentiment, spiralling up to the defence of Malay rights which it is not”.–Gunasegaram

That pathetic statement follows upon Mahathir’s volte-face over signing ICERD, saying the untruth that a constitutional amendment is needed to ratify the convention, and taking the easy way out instead of explaining to the Malays, who appear to be the only bumiputra group opposed to the ratification, what the real situation is.

It was Mahathir, after all, who said point blank to the Malays that they should stop supporting UMNO because its leader was involved in the largest kleptocracy the world has known via 1MDB where RM42 billion was lost. Surely through proper information and education, most Malays can be made to realise that ratifying ICERD does not affect their rights or the rights of other bumiputeras.

But instead, the silence of Harapan leaders and their lack of defense of the reason why ICERD was to be ratified as part of the intentions voiced in their manifesto led to this issue systematically being used to whip up sentiment, spiralling up to the defence of Malay rights which it is not.

And handing a victory on a platter to the gangster politics of UMNO, PAS and others who play up racial, religious and royalty sentiments and threaten violence, not in furtherance of Malay rights, but their own selfish, narrow agenda of capturing Malay votes and support.

It is more than a sorry state of affairs for it might lead to pressure on the entire Harapan reform agenda if a simple ratification of the ICERD can be turned into such a serious non-issue.

P GUNASEGARAM wonders how many more manifesto promises Harapan will break. E-mail:

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Rafidah Aziz : Time To End ‘Race Supremacy’

October 24, 2018

Rafidah Aziz : Time To End ‘Race Supremacy’

The New Malaysia must clearly be gender, colour and heritage-neutral, where the only priority is the good of the people and their nation.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, The Sun Daily

I ALWAYS feel privileged and honoured that I am a Malaysian, having this blessed land, Malaysia, to call my own, to commit my loyalty and allegiance to, and to sacrifice for. My nationality is Malaysian, although my heritage, and ancestry, as far as I know, is of the Malay race.

As a Malay, I am actually ‘stateless’, because people of the ‘Malay stock’ are all over the place – as citizens of countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, and South Africa.

Their nationality, ‘kebangsaan’, would be of the country to which they belong and owe allegiance to.

Similarly, an Indian national is from India, not from Malaysia. As also a Chinese is a citizen of China, not of Malaysia.

Citizens of Malaysia are Malaysians, regardless of ancestry and heritage. That is the undeniable fact. I am proud to be a Malaysian. I am certain my fellow Malaysians must feel the same way.

The dawn of New Malaysia brings with it new hopes and aspirations, a new beginning. Our nation is so blessed.

What is needed is good social and economic governance by those in whom we, the Malaysians, have put our trust and faith, to steer our nation successfully, through challenges and headwinds, in the ever changing environment in which we operate into the next century and the distant future.

The reset button had been pressed on May 9, 2018, setting in motion the various processes and measures, which needed to be undertaken to put Malaysia back on the right track. Expectations are high. But Malaysians must be realistic. Development does not happen in a vacuum.

Still Remember Zahid Famous Quote?-“ Malaysians Who Are Unhappy With The Country’s Political System Should Leave The Country ” – Who Should Leave Now?

Malaysia is an integral part of the global economic community and civil society.

With the erosion of borders, catalysed by the pervasive influences and advancements in all aspects of information and communications technology, there are both domestic and external factors and imperatives to take into account.

Policies need to be adaptable and able to successfully meet new demands and situations.The government must govern, and not allow itself to be distracted by unrealistic, selfish and even petty demands of some quarters.

The voice of the majority must be allowed to prevail and not to allow the fractiousness of discord among the small minority to perpetuate.

Already such pettiness and inward-looking attitudes have begun to seep in, into various dictates and rules, which border upon intervention into personal freedoms.

While other countries, which seek to be highly competitive and advanced, find ways to innovate and reengineer, and to forge strong forward-looking mindsets there are moves already in Malaysia to reinterpret religion and social interactions, which will set us far back.

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We mistake Arabisation for Islamic virtues, focusing upon attire and veneer – thin facades, instead of on positive mindsets and good universally accepted good values.

We must all begin thinking of ourselves as being integral parts of Malaysia, as truly Malaysians.

We must rid ourselves of prejudices arising from narrow-mindedness and subjective considerations, which give room for xenophobic tendencies.


We must avoid divisiveness and intolerance, and accept the diversities in our differences in religion and racial and cultural heritage, and forge national strengths and resilience from the diversities.

We must appreciate the fact that though we are different, yet in many ways we are one as Malaysians, with similar aspirations and dreams, and hopes for ourselves, and for those coming after us.

National policies must be based on needs. There are bound to be differences in issues and needs among us.

These should be addressed specifically and in effective, targeted ways and approaches, and never based merely upon race.

Regardless of racial heritage, the needs of specific target groups of Malaysians should be addressed.

In the context of education, it should be education for all. The only justification for differentiation is between rural and urban populations.

Emphasis should always be on needs and recognition must always be based on excellence and meritocracy, especially when justifying specific and special support and consideration. Young Malaysians must benchmark performance against the global best.

Surely the well-to-do and the already successful, from any racial heritage, cannot be expected to invoke any reason whatsoever to justify ‘special attention’ and ‘privileges’ to be given, or worse still, to continue to be given.

The government of 2018 cannot be expected to implement restructuring policies which were initiated by the government of 1970. The policies then were premised on the cogent and pressing needs and demands of that era.

We cannot afford to be divided as we live and operate in an increasingly challenging and competitive regional and global environment.

It is detrimental and counter-productive to Malaysia and its people if some among us continue to play the old ‘race supremacy’ tune. Supremacy must always be that of our beloved nation, Malaysia, not of any group, race or religion.

We, as Malaysians, will only be highly respected globally when, from among us, rise young Malaysian citizens who are competent and skilled, and whose performance and achievements in their chosen field of endeavour are regarded as excellent, when measured by global benchmarks and standards.

When they can be proud to carry the Malaysian flag and be recognised by the world as successful Malaysians.

The New Malaysia must clearly be gender, colour and heritage-neutral, where the only priority is the good of the people and their nation.

We must constantly distance ourselves from the influence of the narrow-minded who continue to operate in archaic soot-covered and smoke-emitting chimneys.

We must forge ties that build and strengthen national resilience. Avoid divisiveness and fractiousness as these are recipes for erosion of unity among us. Embrace the politics of unity and national development.

Endeavour to prevent and eradicate the politics of hypocrisy, which clearly can never be premised upon the common good in this unique and diverse spectrum we call Malaysia. Malaysia is for all Malaysians. Sejahtera Malaysiaku!

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Us Our Freedom and our Rights Back

September 2018

Sabah and Sarawak: Give Our Freedom and our Rights Back

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

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Be Forewarned–Cry Freedom

The recent announcement by Tun Dr. Mahathir that the Pakatan Government is committed to returning Sabah and Sarawak their rightful status as equal partners in the federation can be seen in two ways.

If this announcement made in the Prime Minister’s first address to Sabahans since the new government came to power is a sincere commitment and quickly implemented in the key areas of concern in which the two East Malaysian states have had their status and rights undermined and their legitimate needs neglected, then it can help open a more amicable, less contentious and more stable chapter in the nation’s history and development.

However, if it is another political wayang speech aimed at generating a feel good response in the local population, it will reinforce the skepticism and cynicism that the Bornean states will still be treated as “stepchildren” by the new Pakatan government and that nothing will come out from Pakatan’s election manifesto promise of returning the status of the two states according to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 even after many more than 100 days of the new government has elapsed. Don’t open the flood gates of discontent and nationalism.

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If the latter is the case and/or if the process of the return of local rights and autonomy is delayed by foot dragging or deflected by the politics of disruption and divide and rule as practised by the Barisan Nasional government since the establishment of Malaysia  in 1963, we should not expect a meek or restrained response from an awakened and politicized younger generation of East Malaysians.

Rather, watch out for heightened political resistance from the East Malaysian states which may put the entire Malaysia enterprise in jeopardy.

What is Equal Partnership?

The call for an equal partnership of the three component parts of Malaysia is not simply about a greater share of cabinet minister-ships for the politicians of Sabah or Sarawak or a greater share of oil royalties or better roads. It is also not about just mobilizing a two thirds majority in Parliament to support amendments in the Federal constitution for Sabah and Sarawak to be equal partners in the Federation with the process ending there. Or providing East Malaysians the solitary carrot of a Deputy Prime Minister.

It covers a much larger and complex spectrum of perceived injustices, discriminatory treatment and broken promises endured by the two states especially during the past 30 years.

According to pro-equal status activists, key grouses include the following:

  • disproportionally meager returns from the two states’ oil and gas resources

  • de-secularisation and creeping Islamisation

  • internal colonization by the federal civil service establishment which has marginalized local Sarawakians and Sabahans in the running of their own states

  • Putrajaya’s collaboration with corrupt state leaders which has enriched a small minority and despoiled the environment at the expense of the native communities

  • Dr. Mahathir’s infamous “project IC” which resulted in a massive influx of illegal immigrants, their registration as voters in Sabah, and the consequential adverse repercussions on the local citizenry.

  • Politically parties from West Malaysia should not allowed to establish branches in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is noteworthy that when the Cobbold Commission set up in 1962  to determine whether the people of North Borneo supported the formation of Malaysia submitted its report, it had deemed necessary to emphasise the following:

“It is a necessary condition that from the outset Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interests to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take-over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not be generally acceptable and successful.”

This concern has now come home to roost. Today we are seeing more than resistance to the loss of local autonomy promised in the initial Malaysia agreement. New local parties that are emerging are not simply seeking the rescinding of the constitutional amendment of 1983 which downgraded both the states from equal status to one of the 13 states of the Federation. They are also pushing for a larger agenda of socio-economic and political change through return of the rights and interests of the states as enshrined in the 20/18-point Agreements, the London Agreements and the Inter-Governmental Reports.

At the same time, less restrained individual and unorganized groups (through the social media) are also now in larger numbers posing the unthinkable and potentially seditious question as to whether the two states are better off independent than to remain in Malaysia.

What will happen next is in Putrajaya’s ball court.We can expect constitutional change to be a slow and protracted process and to possibly take more than a few years to be successful.

Meanwhile issues of local autonomy especially in economy, education and religion resonate strongly among all communities, especially with the more urbanized and highly educated. The sentiment that the two states has been badly treated by Putrajaya is a widely shared one especially among the young who resent what they perceive as the re-colonization of their state by federal officials pushing the Putrajaya line. These issues can and should be corrected immediately.

However, whilst Putrajaya continues with soothing words about the rebalancing of state and federal rights and powers, the actions of various agencies of government indicate that the old regime’s mindset on race and religion as operationalized by key civil service agencies still remains; and the opposition and intolerance to democratic aspiration for equal status and rights has not changed.

The case of the recent arrests and alleged manhandling of young protesters calling for stronger state rights and demanding equal education opportunities, better public transport and job opportunities among 10 demands is a salutary example.

As one of the leaders of the youthful assembly calling itself Pandang Ke Sabah (Look Towards Sabah) rally noted after the police crackdown on the group of protestors:

“It’s the morning of Malaysia Day, for God’s sake and it was really peaceful. We thought now that we are living in the era of Malaysia Baru, we are free to speak our minds.”

More disappointing and shocking was the recent written reply by the Education Ministry in Parliament that the use of English as a medium of instruction in schools in the two states would violate the Federal Constitution, National Language and Education Act. The new Minister of Education must have approved of this contentious and highly questionable ruling.

In response, Sabah’s  deputy chief minister, Datuk Seri Madius Tangau pointed out that the right to use English as a medium of instruction in national schools was in accordance with the Malay­sia Agreement 1963 and was in no way illegal nor an attempt to challenge Bahasa Malaysia,the national language. He also noted that It was not only not unconstitutional, but a right and the way forward.

Sarawakians and Sabahans can expect many similar instances of Putrajaya’s intransigence and inflexibility before they can win back their equal status and rights.

Malaysia: An Agenda for Law Reform after GE-14

May 18, 2018

Malaysia: An Agenda for Law Reform after GE-14

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Palace of Justice, Istana Kehakiman II | by Firdaus Mahadi Putrajaya, Malaysia

When Malaysia’s unexpected new Pakatan Harapan government seeks advice about law reform, it will surely consult the many capable Malaysians with expertise in this area: current and former judges; members of the Bar; legal academics, and scholars of the Malaysian constitution and its history; the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM); and the many civil society groups and social movements that now share an accumulated wealth of experience and wisdom.

Malaysians certainly do not need well-meaning foreigners to tell them what is wrong with their legal system, or how to fix it. That is why these suggestions are addressed to inform an Australian and international audience interested in these matters.

Making it safe to offer advice

As a preliminary measure, in order to ensure that experts and the public can openly discuss law reform proposals without fear of reprisal, the government will need to announce a firm commitment to repeal the Sedition Act, and then follow through once Parliament is summoned. Sedition law has no place in a properly functioning democracy, and for too long Malaysians who disagree with the government, state agencies, or political pressure groups have been the subject of vexatious police reports, investigations and prosecutions.

Pending the repeal, it would be improper to commence new investigations and prosecutions, or to continue any currently in the system. The same applies to other laws that intimidate Malaysians from speaking freely on matters of public importance.

Making law reform processes expert and independent

At present there is no independent and expert statutory body that can investigate whether current laws should be repealed or amended, and make recommendations based on those findings.

That work has instead been done by civil society organisations such as Bersih (the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections), JAG (The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality), HAKAM and the Malaysian Bar. In the past, SUHAKAM, which has a mandate to advise the government on legal changes necessary to make Malaysia compliant with its human rights obligations, has also made many recommendations but has usually been ignored by the government of the day.

Establishing an independent law reform commission that could investigate the need for legal change, invite public submissions (including from civil society groups like those just mentioned), circulate discussion papers and draft reports for public comment and then make an informed recommendation to government, could only assist the systematic and thorough renovation of Malaysia’s legal system.

Importantly, such a body could measure how far existing laws comply with the constitution, and make recommendations accordingly. It should examine the constitution as well. Crucially, it could investigate and facilitate informed public debate about the advisability of retaining the constitutional provisions that allow government to proclaim a State of Emergency (article 150) or legislate to combat subversion (article 149). Much mischief has been done under cover of these two provisions—laws permitting detention without trial, for example—and it is surely time for a mature discussion about their continued existence.

Furthermore, some of the most divisive issues in Malaysian public life have involved interpretation of the meaning of constitutional rights and freedoms, and the intersection of civil and Syariah law. Allowing these debates to be ventilated in a civil and reasoned manner through a Law Reform Commission could be an important step towards solutions.

The way that Parliament makes law is also crying out for reform. Parliamentary scrutiny of legislation has been inadequate. The opposition parties usually do not see a bill until it is tabled, which hobbles their ability to make meaningful proposals for amendment. Now the boot will be on the other foot and the Pakatan Harapan government will have the advantage over what is left of the BN coalition in the Dewan Rakyat.

If it is committed to meaningful reform, the entire process of introducing and debating bills will be revised. In Westminster-style legislatures the elaborate system of standing and special select parliamentary committees can, with the aid of expert testimony and public submissions, subject proposed legislation to thorough investigation and analysis. This process has long broken down in Malaysia, but it could be restored.

Making law publicly accessible

An essential element of the Rule of Law is that law is public. People and entities subject to the law should be able to find it and read it, even if they require assistance to interpret and apply it.

At present, Malaysian laws are not all freely available. True, the Federal Constitution and many principal statutes can be accessed without charge on the Laws of Malaysia pages of the Attorney General’s Chambers’ website, but there is room for improvement. The site is not up to date and only the most recent version of an Act can be accessed. This means it is impossible to tell whether, and if so, how, the Act has been amended because amendments are not noted, and historic versions of the law are not kept on the site for cross reference.

Being able to keep track of amendments can be important for a whole range of reasons, including working out the best interpretation of the current law by comparison with the old version. The PDF version of the Federal Constitution does contain some notes and references to amendments, but non-lawyers will have difficulty working out what these mean and how to access the amending laws and previous versions of the constitution (there are many, because the constitution has been amended frequently). The e-Federal Gazette (on a different section of the AG’s Chambers’ website) carries more current information, but it is difficult to use.

Subordinate legislation (also known as subsidiary or delegated legislation) includes the rules, regulations, notices and so forth made by the government agencies by under delegation from an Act of Parliament. These sorts of legal instruments are difficult to find on the AG’s website too—perhaps intentionally.

Lawyers, government departments and law schools that subscribe to legal databases can access more current versions of Malaysian statutes, see how amendments have been made, search for rules and regulations made by authority of the statute (although database coverage is patchy here), and follow the hyperlinks to legal cases decided under those laws. But the cost of these services makes the law beyond the reach of the public.

The new government could cooperate with the Free Access to Law Movement and the ASEAN Legal Information Portal to make all current and historic law—statutes, case law and subordinate instruments—easily accessible to the Malaysian public.

Depoliticising investigations and prosecutions

It is beyond doubt that Malaysians have lost faith in the impartiality and professionalism of public bodies responsible for investigation and prosecution of criminal misconduct—such as the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission—and the regulation of the media and of elections—the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Election Commission, respectively. The impartiality and judgment of the police has been questioned.

When the courts hand down irrational or poorly reasoned judgments at the end of a tainted investigation and prosecution, then they, too, lose credibility. Internationally, the best-known instances are perhaps the repeated criminal prosecutions of Anwar Ibrahim for corruption and sodomy, and, alternatively, the failure of Malaysian authorities to properly investigate former prime minister Najib Razak (and those associated with him) over the millions missing from the sovereign wealth fund (the “1MDB scandal”). But there are many more instances.

The story of Malaysia through its constitution

Malaysia’s Federal Constitution no longer embodies the spirit and intentions of the country’s founders. 22 August, 2017

There have been too many police reports of sedition that should never have been entertained, lodged by attention-seeking right-wing ratbags out to harass people whose views they cannot tolerate; too many times when the Public Prosecutor (the alter-ego of the Attorney-General) has appealed an acquittal on specious grounds, or sought an increased penalty, because the defendant is a critic of the government. And the blatant misconduct of the Election Commission is too recent to need describing here.

In the Westminster system of government, it is difficult to avoid the political nature of the Attorney General’s office. Requiring the A-G to be a Member of Parliament—as Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto promises—does not solve that problem. But separating out the function of the AG from the Public Prosecutor is necessary to remove the appearance of political bias in prosecutions, and that too is in the manifesto (Promise 15). Similarly, more thought should be given to ensuring the independence of the Solicitor General, whose office is currently enmeshed with prosecutorial functions too.

In civil litigation, the Attorney-General—and the Solicitor General—could consider how to teach the government to act as a “model litigant”. Essentially, this means that when the government or a state agency sues or is sued by a citizen or entity, the state does not act oppressively by relying on technical defences, taking advantage of the comparative lack of resources between the parties, denying and contesting issues of fact that it knows to be true, denying legitimate claims or prolonging litigation. (Some Australian guidelines are here and here). If state governments adopted this practice, then it would apply to the way the various State Islamic Departments conducted litigation too.

Moving forward…?

Perhaps proposals like these are already being considered by the newly constituted Committee on Institutional Reform, established by the also newly convened Council of Elders. Given the expertise and deep experience of the Committee members, they will doubtless offer wise and pertinent counsel.

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What is open to doubt, however, is the willingness of the new government to heed the voice of law reform, given that after just a few days there is already public disagreement between Prime Minister Mahathir and two key government MPs (Nurul Izzah of PKR and Lim Guan Eng of the DAP) over repeal of the draconian Anti-Fake News Act, even though abolishing it was one of Pakatan Harapan’s campaign undertakings. Predictably, Mahathir is not so sure this is a good idea any more. But whatever he thinks, it seems clear the Malaysian electorate plainly expects the new government to carry out fundamental reforms. It would be tragic to see those hopes dashed by a government that calls itself the Alliance of Hope.


  • Associate Professor Amanda Whiting is Associate Director (Malaysia) at the Asian Law Centre, University of Melbourne. Her research is principally in the area of Malaysian legal and political history; human rights institutions and practices in the Asia-Pacific region; and the intersection of gender, society, religion and the law, with particular reference to Malaysia.

    She is the co-editor (with Carolyn Evans) of “Mixed Blessings: Laws, Religions and Women’s Rights in the Asia Pacific Region” (Martunus Nijhoff, 2006); and (with Andrew Kenyon and Tim Marjoribanks) of “Democracy, Media and Law in Malaysia and Singapore: A Space for Speech” (Routledge, 2014). She is currently writing a history of the Malaysian Bar.


Mahathir Mohamad–Malaysia’s Man of the Moment: Can Malaysia be cured?

May 13, 2018

Mahathir Mohamad–Malaysia’s Man of the Moment: Can Malaysia be cured?

by  Cyril Pereira

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The antagonistic Malaysian King and his new Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

He is not motivated by greed. Mahathir neither drinks nor smokes. He does not golf. He did not amass wealth. He wanted absolute power. He had no qualms destroying anyone who challenged him. He was, like the late Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, Machiavellian in outfoxing rivals and ruthless in decapitating them.–Cyril Pereira

The six-decade stranglehold of Malaysia’s ruling coalition is smashed. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, two months shy of 93, emerged from retirement to ignite citizens to overthrow a shamelessly kleptocratic regime. Citizens astonished at the fall of UMNO waited anxiously as the Palace juggled technicalities, delaying swearing-in the seventh prime minister till 9.30 pm on May 10.

Sultan Muhammad V had revoked Mahathir’s Kelantan State award in February for derogatory remarks about Bugis pirates. He is now the king. Kingship rotates among the nine hereditary rulers of Malaya. Mahathir allegedly also plotted to depose his father as Sultan in 1993. That rancor remains.

The underlying humor and interracial goodwill which Malaysians have always had in abundance has been uncorked. A new era dawns. It may trigger nationwide optimism to reverse the distrust, ethnic and religious exceptionalism that has poisoned governance since the racial riots of May 13, 1969.

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A Dejected Najib Razak–The Venal Politician who brought down UMNO that ruled Malaysia for 6 decades

As citizens ballot-booted the venal Najib Razak, the man who unseated him has much to answer for too. There is residual slow burn at how Mahathir frog-marched the country to his drum beat of Malay nationalism. Two generations of non-Malay youth were denied government jobs, university places and fair access to scholarships.

Fate hands Mahathir a second chance. Can he cure the nation of the crippling disease he injected into its veins? He has had enough time for introspection. He has asked for forgiveness. Citizens across the racial spectrum voted his return. Some even hail him as the nation’s savior.

Mediocrity rules

What is utterly contradictory is that Mahathir engineered the rot in Malaysian governance. He entrenched racist policies, destroyed English as the medium of education, privatized public assets into piggy banks for cronies, marginalized non-Malay citizens and turned the civil service, police and military into ethnic preserves.

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Malaysians rejoice over Najib Razak’s Defeat at GE-14 on May 9, 2016

Under Mahathir, public institutions allowed mediocrity to fill the ranks and froth to power. His Deputy Anwar, the leader of ABIM, a Muslim youth movement, embedded an Islamic religious authority in the PM’s office, which infects the civil service and spooks citizens. The previous excellence of Malaya faded. Its best brains emigrated.

This distortion of politics, economics, religion and governance was stamped with impunity under the swagger of “Ketuanan Melayu,” (Malay Supremacy). Mahathir sought to conjure a Malay class of instant millionaires – as a counterbalance to the wealth of Chinese businessmen. That bombed. The non-Malay poor were ignored.

Economic overreach

Mahathir’s misguided ambitions did not stop there. He tried to corner the London Tin Market and trigger a run on the pound sterling. He abused Central Bank foreign reserves for these misadventures. That was not the end of it. He raided Petronas and the Employees’ Provident Fund to bail out corporations that imploded under the leadership of UMNO cronies.

The national airline MAS, the shipping corporation, steel corporation and the ill-advised national car project Proton were pumped with pointless infusions of cash from public savings. All failed. Chinese banks in West and East Malaysia were strong-armed to sell to more cronies — paid for by politically induced loans.

While goofing-up business and the economy, Mahathir’s quid-pro-quo deals siphoned cash into the UMNO treasury for patronage and campaign funds. He amended the party constitution to eliminate challenges to him. Development budgets were channeled through local party chiefs so all could snout from the public trough.

The massive redistribution of public wealth into private crony pockets was also driven by huge infrastructure spending. That was adroitly handled by his Public Works Minister, Samy Vellu, leader of the coalition Indian party, from 1980 to 2008,  an unbroken grip of 28 lucrative years. Malaysia has excellent highways.

No checks-and-balances

The press was emasculated, independent judges sacked, and the constitutional oversight of the King curbed. Mahathir was thorough in removing checks-and-balances on his rule. He remained the unchallenged boss for 22 years. He is praised for capital controls and pegging the ringgit during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, ignoring IMF advice.

He is not motivated by greed. Mahathir neither drinks nor smokes. He does not golf. He did not amass wealth. He wanted absolute power. He had no qualms destroying anyone who challenged him. He was, like the late Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, Machiavellian in outfoxing rivals and ruthless in decapitating them.

Under his watch, illegal immigrants from Sulu in the southern Philippines flooded into Sabah. They sport blue identity cards denied to thousands of Chinese and Indian Malaysians. Bangladeshis followed. A tacit policy of open entry to Muslims brings Bosnians, Pakistanis, terrorist plotters and scamming Nigerians into the capital.

Man of the hour

Did guilt, outrage at kleptocracy or an urge to re-script his legacy spark the nonagenarian warrior to accept the GE-14 challenge? Mahathir reconciled with veteran oppositionist Lim Kit Siang and his son Lim Guan Eng, both of whom he incarcerated under internal security laws. He apologized to Anwar and family for jailing him on sodomy charges.

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Free at Last, Free at Last soon

That remorse is notable from a proud man who never before acknowledged he was wrong about anything. Perhaps leading a multiracial coalition against a protégé who leveraged his legacy into bizarre extremes showed him how ridiculous it all was.

Mahathir is the man of the hour. His new cabinet of reform-minded Malaysians think beyond race and creed. Let the doctor and his team now rebuild a nation all citizens can embrace. It may take another two generations to repair. Better late than never. He will be remembered with affection and respect by all Malaysians.

Cyril Pereira is a journalism consultant in Hong Kong. He is from Malaysia.