Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy


December 16, 2017

Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy

by Mat Sabu@www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | On December 13, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his own words, dropped everything on his lap, including a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, to attend the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey.

The goal was to register the Muslim world’s urgency and protest against the recognition of Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of Israel.” The OIC meeting was hopeless for several reasons.

First, Najib had already affirmed to the rest of the world, that US President Donald Trump is his golfing buddy and his friend.

In his trip to Washington in September 2017, Najib even boasted that Trump personally sent him to his official car, of all places in the basement of the White House.

The above is not hearsay. It came right from the horse’s mouth: Najib. It was Najib who showcased his tight bond with Trump.

 

 

Secondly, directly or indirectly, this has strengthened Trump’s resolve to gift Jerusalem to Israel. The false step by Najib is no less damning than the mistakes of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia.

Both the father and son praised Trump as a world-class leader when Trump made a trip to Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by his relationship with King Salman and MBS, Trump went one step ahead of the duo.

He immediately flew to Israel, and promised a radical change in the US policy on the Middle East. Such a radical change was, of course, the gift of Jerusalem to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo), whose popularity was not only sagging in Israel, but is also widely considered a dishonest and ineffective Israeli leader.

 

Second, Najib flew to Istanbul to join a chorus of leaders to admonish and reprimand Trump. But was that really the case?

The US Ambassador to Malaysia was not summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office nor Wisma Putra for a thorough dressing down. Even when the UMNO Assembly was ongoing, little attention was granted to the injustice of Trump.

Third, in a press release by Wisma Putra, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs merely affirmed that Trump should “reconsider his decision.” Wisma Putra did not express its vehemence against Trump.

Fourth, instead, it was the opposition front that raised a huge outcry on Trump’s utter betrayal to the Palestinians.

To the credit of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, she saw the betrayal as sufficiently serious to call for the possible boycott of US goods and services in Malaysia.

 

Fifth, Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo),  together with Amanah and Bersatu, challenged the whole treasonous act of giving Jerusalem to Israel when there are 86 countries, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, that do not agree with Trump. Even Pope Francis of the Vatican Council was against Trump wholesale.

Thus, what is the point of flying to Istanbul to block the proverbial horses that have been let out of the stable? Trump has betrayed the Muslim world not once, but from the very beginning of his presidency. He has passed the Middle East policy to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, who is a known Zionist.

Sixth, it shocking that UMNO and PAS still support Trump by not voicing out more openly, and by coming up with a series of measures to put a stop to this madness.

Fortunately, the 14th general election is just months away. Christians and Muslims, indeed all groups and races that are anti-Israel, can set things right: by voting out Najib, PAS and, indeed, UMNO, for coddling the Zionist conspiracy.

Malaysian foreign policy has never seen such a disaster until now. It is time to correct it with a new government that is not beholden to US Zionist policy.


MOHAMAD SABU is president of Amanah. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance


December 4, 2017

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

by Terrence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar and Mahathir who is the next Prime Minister

No Harapan–A Coalition of Convenience has seldom worked before

COMMENT| Over the now fast-fading year, two narratives have marked the politics of the opposition in Malaysia.

One is on the ostensible destroyer of constitutional government metamorphosing into improbable rescuer of the country from kleptocracy.

The other narrative is the man whose eyes have so long been firmly fixed on the main chance that the more it eludes him, the shakier his judgment of the paths by which to get there.

Critics who think Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s credentials as a democratic reformer are bogus, slight an important strand in the Machiavellian approach to his political craft: the salutary sense of responsibility for what he has wrought prompts the Herculean effort to set right what has gone wrong, for which he has been hugely culpable.

Image result for Anwar and Mahathir who is the next Prime Minister

Says Netto: “Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.”

On the other side of the opposition’s narrative equation is this: Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony. That enterprise is always useful. In life, it is the great antidote to insomnia; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.

All this is prologue for the point that last weekend’s pow-wow held by the opposition Pakatan Harapan to establish focal points for proceeding – such as who will be Prime Minister and who will be deputy should the coalition win an imminent general election (GE14) – was stymied for lack of consensus.

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Pakatan Harapan has formally proposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his Deputy if the coalition triumphs in the next general election.–The Star.com.my

The reason: the Harapan presidential council’s choice of Mahathir as PM and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy should the coalition win GE14 was not assented to by the weekend’s conclave because the gaoled Anwar has to approve it first. So insisted the PKR complement at the weekend’s durbar.

PKR’s obduracy has had this ironic effect: their de facto leader who was the principal adhesive in the improbable opposition coalitions that had seminally denied the ruling BN its two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008 (GE12) and bested BN in the popular vote in 2013 (GE13) has now mutated to become the main impediment to the coalition’s progress.

This ironic development rendered the one-and-a-half day conclave sterile rather than what it should have been – decisive moment in the shaping of the Malaysian deliverance from the precipice to which 60 years of UMNO-BN rule has conduced.

When seen against the backdrop of the Registrar of Societies’ foot-dragging on recognising Harapan as a political entity and approving its logo, the outcome damages the standing of Sungai Buloh’s most famous resident.

Prior to this, Anwar Ibrahim was the most consequential leader of the post-May 13, 1969 era of Malaysian history – on account of his ability to reshape the assumptions of the people has long aspired to lead.

Now, after last weekend’s meeting, he appears to be churlish holder-up of the consensus that should have seen Harapan progress from the Mahathir-initiated Citizens’ Declaration rejecting kleptocracy of March 2016, to the moment last weekend of a decisive coalescence of the forces ranged in support of urgent political reform.

In one of those ironies in which history abounds, this moment is the antithesis of that watershed one just over a decade ago when in a brilliant act of political divination, Anwar leveraged on an unexpectedly impactful event – the Hindraf organised March in Kuala Lumpur of bedraggled Indian Malaysians on Nov 25, 2007 – to steer the electorate to a seminal denial of BN’s traditional supermajority in parliament.

How has this reversal come about? A politician of Anwar’s sensitivity has to be wading in a political river’s currents rather than marooned on its banks to have a feel of a shifting public’s pulse.

Incarcerated, he is abnormally dependent on what his cohorts tell him of what is happening beyond the walls of the prison.

Because PKR is a congeries of disparate political forces, different rapporteurs tell him different things.

If he had been out in the open air, his sensitive political antennae would pick up the important signals and act accordingly.

In prison, processing what he hears from others and filtering it through the distorting prism of his vaulting ambition, Anwar has become a weathercock, drifting on winds of circumstance.

That is the reason why he is sympathetic to a faction of PKR (factional strife in PKR is largely the result of his mishandling of rivalries within the party) which wants the 21 seats won by PAS in GE13 to be uncontested by Harapan, an issue that was raised over the weekend.

This is something that, if insisted upon, will result in PKR losing votes and may even eventuate in a DAP decision to go it alone in GE14.

The non-Muslim aversion to PAS is running at an all-time high and can turn against PKR if the party insists on cohabitation with what the “nons” see as bogus Islamists.

Attenuated from political realities, physically enfeebled by imprisonment, Anwar is out of sorts.

Meanwhile, battling age and infirmity, Mahathir is rising in the estimation of the leadership cohort of Harapan.

All of last week he was rumoured to be ill and in bed. But when the weekend’s deliberations began he rose to the occasion – to listen carefully, summarise succinctly what was said, render with clarity his take, and point the direction in which things should go.

It was as much a physical feat of endurance as it was a political tour de force.

Excepting an unenamoured few, all who watched and have been observing since the time of the Citizens’ Declaration of March last year know that when push comes to shove, the denizen of Permatang Pauh cannot match the nonagenarian from Titi Gajah, Kedah Darul Aman.

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Still a Force to be reckoned with in Malaysian Politics while Anwar Ibrahim Languishes in Sungai Buloh Prison

It appears that, as the great bard said, age cannot wither Mahathir nor the daunting challenges Harapan faces stale his resilience.

The narrative of national rescue, pace the weekend’s cogitations at the Perdana Leadership Centre in Putrajaya, has recessed for Sungai Buloh to take things in. Anwar risks more by stalling than by inaction caused by fear of being swept up by forces he can no longer control.

Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet– A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics


November 22, 2017

Thayaparan on The Najib Razak-Anwar Ibrahim Meet–A Rorschach Test of Malay Politics

“Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.”–S. Thayaparan
 

And that’s that.”

– Ace Rothstein (Casino)

COMMENT | The visit by the current Umno grand poohbah Najib Razak and the grand poohbah-in-waiting Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to the bedside of political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim who is recovering from surgery has become a kind of Rorschach test of how people interpret Malay political and social culture.

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Indeed, in Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegaram’s piece, he makes it very clear that for people who “understand” Malay culture, this meeting is nothing more than a meeting between two former allies turned political opponents at a time when one is convalescing.

It does not take someone with an in-depth understanding of Malay culture to realise that these meetings between Malay potentates present good optics – in press speak – to their political bases.  Anwar, who has been imprisoned and vilified by the UMNO hegemon, appears composed and magnanimous while Prime Minister Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Zahid present themselves as benign and mindful of Malay civility and compassion, even to rebels who would choose to usurp their power.

Despite establishment narratives that non-Malays – the Chinese specifically – seek to supplant Malay/Muslim power in Malaysia, the reality is that this could never happen. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this article, but since Malay powerbrokers hold the keys to Putrajaya, the sight of Malay political opponents meeting always arouses speculation and yes, insecurity amongst the non-Malay demographic, especially those invested in regime change.

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Beyond that, the meeting has fuelled speculation that a possible deal could be brokered between the disparate Malay power structures that have caused so much trouble for the current Umno regime. Not only has Najib have to deal with the charismatic Anwar, guard his flanks against the religious machinations of PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, but he also has to deal with the master of realpolitik Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is probably playing the last and great political game of his life. The stakes are high.

Here is a conspiracy for you. Perhaps the “delay” in the Registrar of Societies (ROS) registration of Pakatan Harapan as a coalition is to pave the way for a smooth transition of power between disparate Malay power groups and stifle the rebellion of the Najib refuseniks. Without a registered and formalised opposition, it would be easier to use legalese to justify unexpected mergers and yes, acquisitions.

Image result for Zahid Hamidi meets Anwar Ibrahim

Remember, this is not the first “deal” between Anwar and the Najib regime. There was also that deal brokered by Indonesia’s Jusuf Kalla in 2013 that both camps reneged on for various reasons. Why such a deal was needed – to respect the outcome of the general elections – is beyond me, but apparently, it was. I wrote about it, of course, when it first surfaced, once again questioning the type of “friends” Anwar has a history of investing in.

“About the only credible aspect of Jusuf’s opinion was his perception that both Anwar and Najib were confident of winning the recently concluded general election. I will note however that I am surprised in the former’s belief simply because the grassroots from the various oppositional factions were unsure of just how great the vocal showing of support would translate into votes.”

“‘How can you talk reconciliation when you demonise your opponent in this manner?’ asked Anwar to the Wall Street Journal when he acknowledged the deal but claimed it was void because of the virulent bigoted campaign waged by the UMNO state against its political opponents.

“The reality is that both sides have been demonising their political opponents. It is precisely these kinds of political stratagems, which many argue is against ‘Malay’ culture but offer no evidence to support this contention, who also argue that Malay solidarity trumps, ideology or anything else that could cause a split in the Malay polity.”

Endless possibilities

The most interesting part is the one “both sides said that the other had rejected a clause in the pact that the winner was to offer the loser a role in a ‘reconciliation government’.” This, of course, is interesting for a whole host of reasons but this was made at a time when former Prime Minister Mahathir was not part of the opposition alliance.

The inclusion of Mahathir in the opposition alliance has changed everything. Forget about the fact that a certain section of the electorate is disillusioned with this new alliance and are contemplating sitting out this election but more importantly, Malay power structures are hedging their bets when it comes to the final showdown between Najib and the man the opposition once called a dictator.

All these issues of electoral malfeasance are business as usual for UMNO and anyone who has ever been associated with UMNO, but what the regime really fears is the internal sabotage and the loyalty Mahathir commands in the bureaucracies at the state and federal level.

We have to remember that the opposition is what it is today because even in the opposition, Malay/Muslim power structures war amongst themselves. Contemporary Malay opposition narratives are defined by the PAS ejection from the opposition, PKR and PAS doing a tango when PAS has already made it clear what it thinks of the opposition, the unthinkable inclusion of a “Malay” rights party (Bersatu) into a supposedly egalitarian alliance, and finally the various turf wars between Malay opposition politicians.

Considering the history of the participants, the backdrop of pragmatic politics and the state-sanctioned narratives of what it means to be “Malay”, it would be naive not to consider that deals could not be made between disparate Malay power structures.

We are not talking about genuine political movements but personality cults fuelled by racial and religious politics. If Anwar could reach a compromise with the former prime minister who was instrumental in his transformation from politician to political prisoner, why not some kind of deal with a potentate who if rumours are to believed wants a clean exit?

And if Najib can find common ground with Hadi Awang of PAS, even though this goes against traditional UMNO narratives about PAS, then why not find common ground as a means to reshape once and for all Malay power structures in this country much like the way how Mahathir did during his tenure?

Maybe the Najib-Anwar hospital visit was just an innocent meeting, but the most important thing the land of endless possibilities has taught me is that all deals are possible, but sticking to them is another story.

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

Ops Lalang: Time to set things right


November 1, 2017

Ops Lalang: Time to set things right

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad must assume ultimate responsibility for Ops Lalang

by Dato’  Dennis Ignatius

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Ops Lalang

The 30th anniversary of Ops Lalang has rightly generated much discussion about a dark chapter in our history when 106 of our fellow citizens were unjustly arrested and detained under the ISA. As a nation, we need to hear again the personal accounts of the detainees and their families, we need to confront the injustices of the past, if only to remind ourselves of the unfinished task of building a more just and democratic nation.

Taking responsibility

At the time, the government offered various reasons for the arrests including the need to forestall imminent racial riots. We know now that it was nothing but a sideshow to forestall a challenge to Dr. Mahathir’s rule from within his own party and to subdue opposition from without. And if racial tension had reached alarming levels, it was because the government then, as it still does today, sought to manipulate racial and religious issues to serve its own ends.

As Prime Minister and Home Minister at the time, Dr. Mahathir must assume ultimate responsibility for Ops Lalang. The then IGP was simply a willing accomplice, nothing more. To argue otherwise is both dishonest and disingenuous.

Dr. Mahathir may now concede that many of those who were detained were good people that he had simply demonised for political purposes but it is not enough. He should take personal responsibility and apologise to each and every detainee for the injustice he visited upon them.

Dr. Mahathir today is, of course, not the same man he was thirty years ago. He is now part of the political struggle for change and, though he is loathe to admit it, he is working to undo much of the damage that he himself inflicted upon our nation. I hope he will rise to the occasion by doing what is right.

Some have argued that insisting on an apology from Dr Mahathir would simply detract from the on-going efforts against UMNO-BN. On the contrary, an apology would immensely strengthen those efforts. It would also reaffirm that the struggle we are embarked upon is not simply about ousting an unpopular government at the next elections but about building a more just and democratic nation.

A national apology

UMNO-BN’s current leaders are no doubt relishing the fact that Dr. Mahathir is being taken to task over Ops Lalang but they should not be too smug. Some of those presently in government collaborated, acquiesced or defended Dr. Mahathir’s actions 30 years ago.

Image result for Najib Razak and Ops Lalang 1987The then IGP, (Tun) Hanif Omar was simply a willing accomplice, nothing more.

 

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, for example, was UMNO Youth Chief at the time and did his share of sabre-rattling in support of Dr. Mahathir. Other BN parties, for their part, never challenged Dr. Mahathir’s narrative or protested the mass arrests.

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And besides, if those in authority today disagree with Dr. Mahathir’s action, they have it in their power to set things right by issuing, on behalf of the government, a public apology to all those who were detained during Ops Lalang and awarding them appropriate compensation for the wrong that was done them.

After all, it was done for the judges whose removal from office Dr. Mahathir contemptuously engineered during the 1988 judicial crisis; there’s no reason why it cannot be done for the victims of Ops Lalang as well. It’s the honourable thing to do if there is still any honour left to be found in this government.

Other countries – South Africa, Chile, Argentina, to name a few – have taken courageous steps to confront their dark past through an open accounting of the wrongs that were done. It’s time for us to do the same with Ops Lalang. It is the only way to bring closure to this dark episode in our history and a measure of comfort to those who were so badly wronged in 1987.

Tyranny triumphs when people do nothing

The other point that is worth remembering, as we mark the 30th anniversary of Ops Lalang, is that undemocratic rulers only succeed when there are people who go along with what’s morally wrong in order to get along, who bend their knees to what their heart denies, who turn away from the truth because it is inconvenient or who simply “menurut perintah” regardless of conscience or consequence.

I was Political Counsellor at the Malaysian Embassy in Washington DC when Ops Lalang took place. We were deluged by protests from concerned US politicians and civil society groups and it fell to me and my colleagues to defend the government’s actions, unwittingly repeating the falsehoods about racial tension, Marxist agitators and threats to our democracy and stability.

Now, whenever I hear the stories about how even women were tortured and mentally abused while in detention, how those in power manipulated events and people for political expediency, I am filled with dismay and remorse that I was part of the machinery that caused the detainees and their families so much anguish.

The truth is its not just Dr. Mahathir who is culpable but the entire machinery of government, the judiciary, the police, and the politicians; they may not have given the orders but they stood by and watched it happen, or worse still, allowed themselves to be used in one way or another.

To paraphrase a well-worn quote, evil triumphs when ordinary people do nothing in the face of injustice.

The unfinished struggle

The Ops Lalang detainees have modelled for us courage and determination in the face of injustice and tyranny. Years later, many remain committed and active, undeterred by their ordeal. It is now up to us to be inspired by their example and continue the unfinished struggle for justice and democracy in Malaysia.

Dato’ Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.

Dr Kua Kia Soong: An Insider’s View of Ops Lalang (October 1987)


October 29, 2017

Dr. Kua Kia Soong: An Insider’s View of Ops Lalang: Closure to this dark episode in our history

No, Mahathir may not owe these elite any apologies. But he certainly owes an apology not only to all the victims of Ops Lalang, but also to the former Lord President and the Supreme Court judges that he sacked in 1988, and to the Malaysian rakyat for all the financial scandals since the 1980s that have cost the rakyat billions of ringgit.–Dr. Kua Kia Soong

by Kua Kia Soong@www.malaysiakini.com

 

As with the pattern of ISA detentions under the Alliance and then the BN government, the mass arrests and detentions without trial of innocent Malaysian dissidents in 1987 was an attempt to create a climate of terror as a backdrop for Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s other agenda.

It was the prelude to the sacking of the Lord President (Tun) Salleh Abas and the suspension of five Supreme Court judges, who were about to judge the case brought up by Team B of UMNO challenging the party election results.

Geoffrey Robertson, a leading UK barrister said of the sacking that “the Tribunal Report recommending the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas is among the most despicable documents in modern legal history.”

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The reality was that if the highest court in the land had judged in favour of Team B in 1988, it would have been the end of Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister. Thus survival was Mahathir’s main agenda, and we the victims of Operasi Lalang were just the pawns in his game.

Did the human rights of innocent Malaysians matter to him? Does he need to apologise and show remorse now that he claims to have seen the light and become a born-again democrat?

Harapan leaders held Dr M responsible for Operasi Lalang

This was the declaration by all the Ops Lalang detainees including myself, Karpal Singh and the other Pakatan Harapan leaders today on the first anniversary of their detention in 1988:

“The year since this dastardly Operation Lalang has been an outrage for all freedom-loving and democratic-minded Malaysians. The Mahathir administration has made even more brutal attacks on the democratic institutions in this country.

“The doctrine of separation of powers has been dealt a serious blow by the threats to the judiciary not only through legislative changes but also by the scandalous suspension of five Supreme Court judges as well as the lord president.

“The subsequent dismissal of the Lord President and two of the judges demonstrated the depths to which the Mahathir administration is prepared to go to stay in power.

“Civil liberties have been further eroded by new changes to the law. It is quite clear, therefore, that this so-called Operation Lalang was a signal for calculated repression and intimidation of the Malaysian people and to divert attention from the irresolvable problems confronting the ruling party and coalition.”

Dr M cannot erase history

Mahathir cannot escape from the historical records in, among others, my “445 Days under Operation Lalang,” DAP’s “The Real Reason,” Carpa’s “Tangled Web,” Amnesty International’s “Operation Lalang: Detention Without Trial under ISA,” K Das and Suaram’s “The White Paper on the October Affair and the Why? Papers.”

And judging from the comments on the “Black October “affair by eminent persons both local and international, we can see clearly who they held responsible for this dastardly affair – it was certainly not the inspector-general of police!

In the words of Tunku Abdul Rahman himself:

“UMNO was facing a break-up. Prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory over Tengku Razaleigh (photo).

 

The Evergreen UMNO loyalist

“The case alleging irregularities brought by UMNO members was pending in court. If the judgement went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament.

“A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community…

“It’s a police state when you can go and arrest people at will without giving any reason other than they think they are a security risk. I do not concede Dr Mahathir’s contention that his measures are predicated solely on the extreme tension between Malays and Chinese last month which brought the country close to serious racial rioting…

“It’s not a question of Chinese against the government but his own party, UMNO who are against him.”

Tun Hussein Onn, Amnesty International, Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Commission of Jurists, Asiawatch, European Parliament, Australian parliamentarians,  Malaysian Bar Council – they all held then Prime Minister responsible for the detentions.

Closure on this dark episode in our history

What is an apology after all? We are not asking for compensation. Let me remind Mahathir that Malek Hussein was awarded RM2.5million as compensation for his ISA detention by a High Court judge. Multiply that a hundred times and it would still be insufficient to compensate some of us who were detained for more than a year.

An apology on this occasion is for Mahathir to declare his regret, remorse and sorrow for having inflicted pain and suffering on victims of Ops Lalang, the top-ranked judges of the judiciary and other democratic institutions in Malaysia.

For any closure on this dark episode in our history, and any hint of humility towards reparation, such an apology is vital to:

  • Document and confirm the facts surrounding what actually happened;
  • Specify the harm done to victims and their loved ones through Mahathir’s actions;
  • Highlight the ways in which democratic institutions and human rights were violated;
  • Demonstrate Mahathir’s acceptance of moral responsibility for what he did in 1987/88;
  • Express publicly Mahathir’s regret and apology for what was perpetrated on the victims; and
  • Demonstrate specifically what kind of reform Mahathir is now committed to.

The leaders of Harapan who insist that Mahathir does not need to apologise for his arrest and detention of more than a hundred innocent Malaysians in October 1987 do not seem to realise the consequences of their actions.

Pakatan Rakyat betrayed Freedom loving Malaysians by associating itself with the man who destroyed our Constitution.

Now if Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak decides to step down in the light of the 1MDB scandal or after GE14, will the Harapan leaders then “forgive” him just like they have “forgiven” Mahathir?

If they think there is no need for Mahathir to say sorry, why does Najib have to say sorry if he decides to go? Why does Najib have to step down if he is charged with corruption since the Penang CM has not stepped down?

No impunity for kleptocrats

This is what I am getting at – in human rights, democracy and justice, miscreant autocrats and kleptocrats cannot get away with impunity. Impunity refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations, rule of law flouters and the corrupt to justice and constitutes a denial of the victims’ right to justice and redress.

Let us not forget that some of our elite did rather well under Mahathir – some got favoured contracts including legal contracts, others gained from his privatisation policies in all areas from energy to private higher education; some politicians who were not physically tortured under Ops Lalang actually wore their ISA detention as a badge of honour to boost their political careers. They might even want to thank Mahathir for his autocratic reign.

As one of these Harapan leaders has recently confessed: “Under Mahathir, we could hold our heads high, not like now under Najib…”

No, Mahathir may not owe these elite any apologies. But he certainly owes an apology not only to all the victims of Ops Lalang, but also to the former Lord President and the Supreme Court judges that he sacked in 1988, and to the Malaysian rakyat for all the financial scandals since the 1980s that have cost the rakyat billions of ringgit.

Mahathir can be seen as the “Father of Crony Capitalism” in Malaysia. According to journalist Barry Wain, Mahathir squandered close to RM100 billion during his reign as Prime Minister.

The leader of the opposition knows of these scandals more than anyone else in this country – during the 1980s, he called Mahathir’s privatisation of our national assets, “piratisation” which is a ruder word than “kleptocracy.”

This is not to mention the billions lost through the Proton fiasco and its costs to the environment and the failure of a public transport system in the country.

And don’t forget the RM5 billion arms deal that Mahathir signed with Margaret Thatcher in 1988 also led to allegations of “commissions” paid to UMNO which led to the “arms for aid” and “buy British last” furore in 1994.

Sorry is all that he can’t say

Leaving all that aside – all we are asking for now is for Mahathir to say “sorry” for that dastardly deed in October 1987 when he took away so many days of our freedom (445 days of my life) and made us withstand torturous days. And he can’t even do that?

Sorry does seem to be the hardest word for some autocrats. According to law professor Andrew Harding, “What Dr Mahathir has done in 1987 is to sacrifice, for the sake of a transitory, temporary and possibly illusory political advantage to himself and his supporters, the priceless asset of judicial independence…

“It is the Constitution, as the supreme law, entrusted to the judges, which is the best guarantee that the executive, once elected, will not act dictatorially.”

Thus, on this 30th anniversary of Operation Lalang,

  • We call on all Malaysians who cherish justice, human rights and the rule of law to demand the end to detention without trial and to restore the rule of law in Malaysia.
  • We demand a public apology and a sincere expression of remorse from Mahathir for depriving so many innocent Malaysians of their freedom and making them endure the torture of detention under Ops Lalang.
  • We call on the BN and Harapan to commit to setting up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission and to ratify the UN Convention against Torture in the first 100 days after GE14. Suaram demands a thorough investigation into all allegations of torture and for the torturers to be accountable for their actions.

KUA KIA SOONG is Suaram adviser.

The passing of Kassim Ahmad, the quiet Public Intellectual


October 16, 2017

NOTE:

This moving gut wrenching tribute to my late friend and public intellectual, Pak Kassim Ahmad who passed away October 10, 2017 escaped my attention. It is accounts for why its appearance on this blog was delayed. My sincere apologies for that.

Image result for kassim ahmad and din mericanAn Iconoclast and Quiet Revolutionist, Jebat and Rebel with a Cause but most of all a devout Muslim

 

Thayaparan is  an interesting writer who is known to say what he means in plain, very readable, and direct English. I enjoy reading his pieces in malaysiakini.com and thank him for this fitting tribute to a man who never forgot his roots from Malaysia’s Rice Bowl Kedah  with a passion for knowledge and ideas, a Malaysian who did his best to speak the truth to power. He single-handedly took on Malaysia’s bigoted religious establishment and won, and left an imprint in legal history. –Din Merican

The passing of a quiet Public Intellectual

by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | For Kassim Ahmad, a discourse has no winners or losers, only people interested in discovering their faith.

“According to government data, the objectives of the NEP have yet to be achieved. But I think the Malays have this consensus… these special privileges that have made them comfortable. They have this comfort zone where they face no challenges. Because of this, they don’t see the necessity in putting in the effort to progress. So they are weak and lack competitiveness. It is better to end something that does no good to the people anymore.”

– Kassim Ahmad

There is this meme as to the kind of Muslim the late Kassim Ahmad was. To his admirers, the persecution of this public intellectual demonstrated the fear the state had to what he wrote and said, and this made him the poster child for the kind of Islam they believed was “acceptable” in a multiracial and multi-religious country like Malaysia.

To his detractors, he was a purveyor of falsity that threatened Muslim solidarity and he was a puppet of the “opposition” whose writings and speeches would cause the collapse of Malay/Muslim political and religious hegemony.

Indeed, some opposition supporters would be perplexed of some of the things he said about certain opposition politicians and the UMNO state would be perplexed at some of the positions he advocated after they had branded him a deviant and an “enemy” of Islam.

The truth was that Kassim Ahmad was a devout Muslim who believed that his faith was hijacked by interpreters who had agendas of their own that were not compatible with his own interpretation of what would lead to a liberated world.

He had many young followers of his work who often told me that what was inspiring of his interpretation of Islam was that it did not foster fear but hope and that through questioning of what they were told and taught, they would be liberated from the falsities that were all around them.

He encouraged dissent, especially on his own writings, and he was cognisant that ultimately this was a discourse that had no winners or losers, only people who were interested in discovering their faith.

 

Unfortunately for him, the world is a cruel place. Those who make the claim that theirs is really a religion of peace do not have the empirical evidence to support such a claim. Indeed, the persecution of Kassim Ahmad was evidence that thinking was verboten.

Image result for kassim ahmad and din merican

 

The duplicity, arrogance, and illegality of the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) in its persecution of this religious scholar is a matter of public record. Indeed, not only was Kassim Ahmad targeted but also his long-time advocate Rosli Dahlan.

There were things he said and wrote about that a person could disagree with. Depending on your own belief system, they were roads that Kassim Ahmad walked that you would have no desire to travel on but what separates Kassim Ahmad from the petty religious bigots that persecuted him was that he would never dream of imposing his beliefs on others.

Indeed, he welcomed discourse. He welcomed the challenges his ideas inspired. He wanted Muslims to think about their religion, but more importantly, think for themselves. His was a quiet revolution of the Muslim soul.

Blind faith

This is an example of what baffled him – “Malaysia happens to be a strong upholder of hadith(s). Sometimes the so-called experts, appearing on the Forum Perdana every Thursday night, quote the hadiths more than the Quran.

“Muslim scholars, Bukhari and five others, collected many thousands of so-called hadiths and classified them as authentic or weak 250 to 300 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. These are collections of the Sunni sect. The Syiah have their own collections of so-called hadiths.

“To my mind, these fabricated hadiths are a major source of confusion and downfall of Islam.”

If ideology and religion is the lens through which some view the world, it is understandable (for those who know anything about Islam) as to why someone like Kassim Ahmad would find succour in this religion which has been weaponised here in Malaysia and the rest of the world. A religion he thought –  which is different from “believed” because he put in a great deal of effort and time into “thinking” about his religion – could be a salvation to the problems of the world.

Here is another snippet in his own words – “In the University of Malaya in Singapore, I joined the leftist Socialist Club and later joined the People’s Party of Ahmad Boestamam, and quickly became its leader for 18 years! Somehow or other, I did not feel real about the power and success of socialism. It was simply to identify myself with the poor to whom I belong.

“I was therefore critical of things I inherited from my ancestors. The first scholar I criticised was Imam Shafi’e for his two principal sources (Quran and Hadis). The book ‘Hadis – Satu Peniliai Semula’ in 1986 became the topic of discussion for two months, half opposed and half supporting me. After two months, it was banned.”

Anyone who has read what this scholar believed his religion was about, would understand that Kassim Ahmad’s sympathies for the marginalised were paramount in his belief structure. You could make the argument that his beliefs gave structure to what he eventually hoped rational Islam could accomplish.

Having the mindset of being critical of what you inherited from your ancestors is the most potent tool an adversary of state-sponsored repression could have. This was why they feared this quiet scholar who simply spoke of things that his interpretation of his religion inspired in him.

His intellectual contribution to Islam was anathema to people who believed that blind faith was true faith and his steadfastness in not disavowing what he said, his noncompliance to the diktats of the state was a wound that would not heal for those who wish to impose their beliefs on others.

When I read of how the state persecuted him, I understand why he posed such a threat. If Muslims realised that their interpretation mattered then the so-called scholars would lose their influence and their hegemony of the debate would vanish. Kassim Ahmad was a constant reminder of what would happen if people embraced a religion that they had thought out for themselves.

In a time when the Islamic world is suffering from a dearth of outlier voices, the passing of Kassim Ahmad is a great loss not only to Malaysians but to the other sparks in the Muslims world waiting to be ignited by people who choose not to subscribe to fear but who genuinely want to understand their religion.

I will end with this quote by Henry David Thoreau. Hopefully, it means something –

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfil the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”

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