The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display


March 25, 2015

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

It takes a brave Malay woman to say what the whole nation is thinking, and it is amazing how many Malay men cannot wait to show the world the ugly face of the Malay psyche.

The threats of physical violence and rape on BFM host Aisyah Tajudin, for her satirical take on the Kelantan hudud law, have proven that despite receiving the ‘best education in the world’, many Malays remain shallow, servile and seriously stupid. Only insecure, egotistical Malay men would feel threatened, not just by the truth, but by a woman, and worse still, a Malay woman.

The rakyat’s problem is that Malaysia’s religious men aspire to become politicians, and its politicians pretend to be religious men.

The latest hudud debacle has very little to do with religion. It is about power. Power over the Malays in Malaysia. Power to overcome any non-Malay resistance. And power to crush any opposition, especially from progressive Malays, who represent the biggest threat.

Aisyah (above) wanted to liberate Malay minds, not conquer their bodies. Her video was for people to reflect and to ponder. She did not force her message on others, if they did not wish to accept them.

Aisyah discussed important issues, so we may understand some of our country’s problems. If she didn’t care for her country, she would have chosen to remain quiet, like 97 percent of the population.

The Malays are creative and in the olden days, songs, sajak (poems) or bangsawan (opera/plays) would relay any messages, from rulers to their subjects. Aisyah is merely continuing a rich Malay tradition. The Malays who reacted badly to her satire, are an uncultured lot.

Aisyah appealed to the Muslims’ faith and their compassion. The Malays who threatened her, revealed everything that Islam does not represent.The BFM host used ingenuity to drive home a message about hudud, in Kelantan. The bigots revealed their stupidity and inability to use their intellect, to counter her point of view. Their threats, to rape and kill, will force more moderate, but silent Muslims, to speak out. These bigots have also stained the moderate face of Malay Muslims.

BFM should not have apologised for making and airing the satirical video. The company probably had no choice. The government issues permits, and can shut down companies. In the past, companies had their computers seized, their editors harassed, their Muslim writers accused of being lesbian, gay, apostate or atheist, and issued with death threats, violence or legal action.

In the Charlie Hebdo massacre of January 7, terrorists used Islam as their excuse to mow down several people, including a Muslim Policeman. Disagreeing with the cartoonists, does not give the men a licence to kill. The terrorists’ actions further tarnished the image of Islam and gave the impression that Muslims lacked the ability to enter into intelligent discussion.

Silencing freedom of expression

The day after the Paris carnage, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysia needed the Sedition Law to prevent such attacks on Malaysian soil. The terrorists used bullets, in Paris, to silence freedom of expression, but Khalid uses the Sedition Law, to curb freedom of speech.

The IGP claimed that his role of policing Twitter, was to act like the referee of social media, and stop troublemakers. So, why are tweets from extremist and racist UMNO Baru politicians not censured? Khalid should leave Aisyah alone, and arrest the men who threatened her.

NIK RAINA INTERVIEW Using a slew of laws like sedition and blasphemy to condemn Aisyah, just shows his desperation. The IGP is mimicking the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department’s (JAWI) relentless pursuit of the Borders manager, Nik Raina Abdul Aziz (above).

Malays brought up on UMNO Baru’s diet of race, religion and royalty, have had their brains sucked dry. They have long forgotten how to think, to rationalise and to analyse.

By all means, blame UMNO Baru, but do not forget their new partners in crime, PAS. Both parties are desperate to take control of the Malay mind, but more importantly, their votes. It is all about power. Sadly, the late Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s experience of both him and PAS being betrayed by UMNO/Umno Baru, have already been forgotten by the PAS ulama.

PAS President Hadi Awang is desperate to force hudud through Parliament. This is about power. When it comes to absolute power, religion becomes a pawn, and a means to an end.

Hadi has fallen into UMNO Baru’s trap, and we are now being distracted by hudud, instead of tackling major issues like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), corruption, the goods and services tax (GST) and the flood victims.

Malays can still be pious without having to become wannabe Arabs. Malays are in danger of losing their history and their culture, which go back several centuries, long before Parameswara was born.

If Malays do not reclaim their true identity, the only reference to Malay culture will appear at cultural shows, for the benefit of tourists, and at Tourism Malaysia performances worldwide. The religious indoctrination by power-hungry Malay men, has reduced Malays to a poor imitation of Arabs, and turned multi-cultural Malaysia to a ghetto-nation.

Hudud does not belong in multicultural Malaysia. Aisyah’s video made us think, and that is what the bigots fear most.

Rape, Murder, Hudud?


March 24, 2015

READ THIS:

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/hudud-a-cause-for-hubris-and-hypocrisy

Rape, Murder, Hudud?

by Dr.Azmi Sharom@ http://www.rakyattimes.com

Azmi SharomAs I feared – no one can speak against hudud. Non-Muslims don’t have the right and Muslims must just obey because, according to PAS, this is God’s law.

In fact, if you question it, you deserve to be burnt and raped, as has been the threat against a BFM radio newsreader. I thought murder and rape are also against God’s law. But perhaps in the minds of some, two wrongs do make a right. Or perhaps there is a clause that says that murder and rape are OK as long as they are committed in the name of God.

 I am very angry. I am angry for the following reasons:

As usual, when anything about Islam comes up in this country, there is a tendency for all reason to go out the door. This is shameful because Islam has prided itself on being a faith of reason where knowledge and the written word were emphasised in the very first revelation.

The disgusting behaviour of the thugs who threatened Aisyah Tajuddin of BFM Radio for her participation in a video questioning the implementation of hudud is an insult to the religion into which I was born and raised. Yet, I hear nothing from the “defenders of the faith” against these people. Perhaps it is because they don’t like what Aisyah said? If that is the case, then what they are saying is that if you don’t like what someone thinks and says and if another person threatens serious harm to him or her, it is OK to just keep quiet. In other words, consent through silence.

And already some PAS people are making sounds that this is something that cannot be debated and cannot be questioned. This, from a party that claims to be democratic. “Islamic democrats” – some of their number describe themselves. Where is democracy if we can’t discuss the laws which govern us? Where is democracy when a person lives in fear of being demonised, just because his or her ideas differ from those of the “Islamic democrats”?

Hadi3Haji Abdul Hadi Awang al-Hududu

I have always held the belief that if those in PAS or anyone else wants to implement hudud or any law that they think is so fantastic, then it is their right. If they want to make this a country governed by their Ulama Council, it is their right.

But if you want to change this country, you have to do it by the rules. You must obey the Constitution and you must allow democratic space for full and open discussions. And you must defend the right of people to take part in those discussions.That is the only just way. Or does justice not matter anymore?

 

PAS’ Hudud Folly–PART 2


March 19, 2015

PAS’ Hudud Folly–PART 2

by Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

Bridget-Welsh-2COMMENT The introduction of the hudud amendments today in Kelantan have yet another origin beyond democratic dynamics within the party. They are based on a calculated effort to win votes, namely to strengthen the support of PAS’s core supporters and to strengthen the position of PAS vis-à-vis the coalition partners inside Pakatan.

Ironically, the hudud measures do neither, and potentially undermine the party’s standing as a national party and within its own electoral base. In this second piece, I lay out how misguided the revitalized hudud initiative is for a political party whose stated aim is to hold national power.

Over-reacting to UMNO pressure

In the defensive mode of the PAS party leadership, the party have been responding to others rather than setting its own course. The most effective actor influencing PAS has been UMNO.  Opting for offensive attacks, UMNO has successfully convinced PAS that is it losing ground among Muslims.

Despite winning more of the popular vote nationally in G-E13 and winning more seats and gains in their vote share in Malay heartland seats (except Kedah and Perak where party infighting affected results), many in PAS have the perception that they lost ground.

They have also been made to believe that the have lost their core support base among devout Muslims and rural Malays, as they have taken to heart the UMNO propaganda and concentrated on developments in Kelantan and Kedah, where the losses were most evident. The numbers for PAS’s performance are much more positive than the public framing of their performance.

najib-razak-Nik-AzizCollectively PAS lost 3 percent of Malay support, considerably less than in most of the elections historically except 1969, 1999 and 2008. In most of the states their gains were among Malays in termsof numbers. Significant gains in support were also gleaned from non-Muslims, ranging over 7 percent. Of the 21 seats PAS won, 14 of these would not have been possible without non-Muslim support.

But in politics, it is not reality that matters, but perception. Malaysian politics still centres around Malay politics, and for PAS there has been a growing sense that it is not winning Malays. In fact, there is a deep-seated fear that they are losing their core supporters. In fact, in some ways, they are right. PAS did lose among some devout Muslims, it lost in some rural areas, and it lost among women.

Part of the explanation lies with the appeal of other Pakatan parties for Malay votes, as PKR and even DAP has won over support. The main reason is UMNO’s successful efforts to infiltrate PAS’s core through support for religious education, funding to religious organizations and more effective engagement with young voters on the issues that matter to them, notably with a concentration on bread and butter issues.

For some analysts there has been a focus on UMNO’s confrontational race and religious campaign as the decisive factor undermining PAS, with PAS portrayed as betraying Islam. My own view places greater emphasis on UMNO’s calculated efforts to cut off PAS from its social networks, the critical use of resources and the ineffectiveness of PAS’s electoral campaign on a national scale.

These issues remain open for debate, but what is relevant for the revitalisation of hudud is that PAS believes it needs to appeal to its core – devout Muslims and rural Malays.

Standing tall, winning respect

In going back to hudud, PAS is also responding to another set of insecurities, the Democratic Action Party in particular and its discomfort in Pakatan more generally. The issues here are complex – racism, religious differences, style, strategy and personalities.

All the parties in Malaysia are grappling with an electorate that is less race oriented, but a political context that continues to be racially analyzed and framed. Racism is still deeply embedded, and had been stoked intensely in the past two years as UMNO fans discord for political ends.

Pakatan parties are also not immune from the issues of race as well, with considerable misunderstandings and cultural differences. The challenges of bridge-building on religion are even more challenging, particularly for PAS.

The G-E13 campaign and its aftermath has left an imprint on PAS, who has been portrayed as weak vis-a-vis its Pakatan partners.  It is seen as the weakest link. PAS was blamed by some for ‘not performing’ in the last election and it has been consistently portrayed as ‘the problem’.

This has fed insecurities. The image of PAS in the Malay language press has fanned these sentiments by building up the portrayal of the ‘weakling’. As the hudud issue has evolved the non-Muslim mediums have moved to portray PAS as the ‘villain’, with ‘aggressive’ DAP seen to be leading the accusations.

This has not sat well in PAS, even among the more progressive elements. PAS wants respect, it wants to be treated fairly and many feel that the response of its Pakatan partners have crossed lines. Hudud is in part about fighting back, for the party to be seen out of the shadow of others. Thus hudud has become yet another political tool to show UMNO, DAP and PKR that it is its own party.

Hudud is push, not pull

Sadly, this is a counterproductive strategy. By going forward with the hudud amendments, PAS has neither secured its Malay core nor secured its electoral gains. To explain my argument, I draw on surveys on hudud and focus groups.

Let me unpack my analysis. First of all, hudud is not as important a pull factor for Malays and even devout Muslims as PAS believes. Second, hudud is more alienating for some Malays and non-Muslims than PAS believes. Third, hudud serves to showcase PAS’ shortcomings as a party in national government, with a narrow focus that excludes and portrays negativity.

There have been two surveys conducted on the hudud issue, the Merderka Centre’s Survey of April 2014 reported in the press and the Asia Barometer Survey last September-October, coming out in a book later this year and outlined here. The findings are reasonably consistent.

I draw from the ABS findings, as I have run a series of tests to examine how hudud compares to other electoral issues such as the economy and corruption and importantly this survey includes East Malaysia.

Some observations:

  • The majority of Malaysians do not agree that the country is ready for hudud.
  • While a majority of Malays do agree the country is ready for hudud, there is a large share of Malays – 30.6 percent, who do not and many who have a lukewarm support for hudud, 28.8 percent. This is by way of saying only a third of Malays strongly support hudud.
  • Overwhelmingly, non-Muslims do not support hudud, with a larger share of non-Muslims strongly disagreeing with hudud than Malays who strongly support hudud.
  • A small share of non-Muslims believe the country is ready for hudud.
  • Females, including Malay females, disproportionately do not believe the country is ready for hudud.
  • There is considerable regional variation in the support for hudud, with support in the Eastern states of Kelantan and Terengganu considerably higher than the northern (Kedah, Perlis and Penang) and southern regions.  Strong support in the Eastern states for hudud does not translate into a majority.
  • East Malaysians have the least support for hudud.

Returning to the argument about why hudud amendments hurt PAS electorally, let me draw from the survey and my other analyses. To the point of attracting voters, numerically, the core strong support for hudud remains a minority nationally and even in the Eastern states of Kelantan.

Importantly, however, when these voters were asked – as they were in The Malaysian Insider survey and multiple other surveys such including the ABS – what is important in voting and whether hudud is important vis-à-vis other factors, hudud is less important. Religion generally only ranks high as a determinant for voting for a small share of the electorate, less than 15 percent, with this divided equally among Muslim and non-Muslim voters.

Hadi3To put this differently, hudud is not a vote-getter – resolving problems, bread and butter issues, good governance, honest government, good respected leaders and much more count more. Hudud does not win votes – good policies and good government do!

Introducing hudud does however lose votes for PAS as a party. There is serious trust deficit for this Islamist party, among non-Muslims, women and among some Malays. Focus groups identify the main source of distrust as hudud. It is not religion specifically, as many Malaysians across faiths want a moral government, but the perception that hudud is about ‘restrictions and control’, ‘unfairness’ and ‘backwardness’ – the respondent’s words.

When voters were asked why they voted for PAS that never had before, the reasons were ‘Pakatan,’ ‘ABU’, ‘Change the government’. The affinity to PAS specifically was weak. Hudud never came up.

When it was broached and voters were asked how they would vote if hudud was implemented, the response that emerged as ‘ABP’ – Anything but PAS. This provoked much stronger negative reactions than support for hudud among even the strongest PAS supporters.

The take-away is that hudud pushes away the voters that offer PAS an opportunity to move out of its core political base or even to strengthen its base within its core. With hudud, at this time based on these surveys, PAS, would not be elected on the national level and definitely not on its own.

Allah Issue SupportersA final finding is that by moving forward with hudud PAS has reinforced a negative image of itself among the electorate. It is seen as a one-note party – hudud, hudud, hudud – with many people not liking the rhythm or the song. The image of hudud remains significantly negative among the majority of the electorate who see this about punishment rather than empowerment, backwardness rather than the future and inadequate as a basis of government.

The Kelantan amendments may change this perception, but based on the studies to date, negative perceptions dominate.

The Kelantan and ulama leaders in PAS are going ahead. There has been little in-depth study of the impact of the hudud messaging on voters and this will be crucial as the situation evolves. The message sent so far is that the PAS leadership seems to prioritize their core support base rather than being a national party, and may not even bring them the gains they hope for.

Part I: PAS’s hudud folly – a political putsch

Part III will look at the implications of hudud for Pakatan and PAS’s longer term, highlighting that this experience offers opportunities to strengthen PAS and Pakatan.


BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University and can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

Obama is re-engaging with the region


November 22, 2012

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Obama’s Southeast Asia visit: re-engaging with the region

by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Barack Obama’s visit to Southeast Asia, which started on Sunday November 18 and is culminating with his attendance at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, underscores America’s stepped-up re-engagement in what is considered China’s backyard.

Under Obama’s watch, the United States has ‘pivoted’ or ‘rebalanced’ its foreign policy intentions and resources toward Asia for the 21st century. But domestic constraints and persistent problems in the Middle East, South Asia and elsewhere will hinder the United States’ ability to manoeuvre in Asia. The rebalancing is a smart strategy, but America’s resource constraints and geographical challenges will be its long-term spoiler.

The focus of the visit was mainland Southeast Asia, a sub-region that is pivotal to America’s pivot. America, a sea power with vast continental resources, wants to reclaim its place in a different fashion than when it was last there, during the Indochina wars of the last century. China has always been present in Southeast Asia geo-strategically, their historical influence having spanned centuries. The states that make up the region have hedged between the two giants.

Obama’s first stop was Bangkok. This is unsurprising, as Thailand is a friend of 180 years and was a treaty ally through the Cold War. He then headed to Yangon in symbolic support of Myanmar’s reform momentum.

His Yangon visit was designed to propel the democratic transition in what Obama’s predecessor labelled an ‘outpost of tyranny’. The Obama presence in Myanmar was the first step toward making up for years of sanctions, which placed the US government and private sector behind the curve, while China and ASEAN made deep inroads. Phnom Penh was the final stop, for the increasingly important strategic dialogue between the 18 members of the East Asia Summit.

Underpinning the Obama visit is the United States’ relatively small but symbolically significant US$50 million Lower Mekong Initiative, which aims to assist in infrastructure development and capacity building in mainland Southeast Asia. But despite this assistance, mainland Southeast Asia is increasingly leaning toward Beijing’s orbit in a new formation that can be referred to as ‘CLMT’ — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

A generation ago, the mainland half of ASEAN was known as the ‘CLMV’ — ‘V’ being Vietnam. But the conflict in the South China Sea, where China’s aggressive role is fiercely resisted and America’s presence is warmly welcomed by the ASEAN maritime states, has set Hanoi apart. At the same time, Thai ties to China have warmed inexorably. For example, Thailand’s position on the South China Sea has been that it is beyond the scope of ASEAN as a whole and should be settled bilaterally.

China and Vietnam have cooperated at the highest levels on trade, investment and diplomacy, but their rift in the South China Sea has trumped the bilateral relationship. The Philippines is even more confrontational vis-à-vis Beijing, and has leaned on the United States for backing and reassurance. The same might be said of other nations wary of China’s intentions in the contested seas, including Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Through a new system of bolstered treaty alliances and strategic partnerships, the United States’ role and its maritime power is challenging Beijing’s dominance in maritime Southeast Asia.

Moreover, the interests and concerns of the maritime Southeast Asian states are increasingly divergent from those of CLMT. CLMT were either silent or supportive of Cambodia’s pro-China stance at the annual regional ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh in July 2012 (the meeting at which ASEAN failed to produce a joint statement due to the insistence of the Philippines and Vietnam on including language on the South China Sea disputes).

It appears that maritime Southeast Asia is increasingly leaning toward Washington, whereas mainland Southeast Asia is more influenced by Beijing.

Obama’s presidential foray should not set out to antagonise Beijing. China and the United States have significant relations and strong commercial ties. China is America’s largest creditor and America is China’s largest export market. Such cooperation is preferable to open rivalry.

Regional discussions and meetings on peace and stability in Cambodia should thus focus on regional architecture. The discredited notion of a G2, whereby Beijing and Washington would together dictate regional outcomes, should be revisited up to a point. A working regional framework must rely on mutual understanding and accommodation. The ASEAN states have more to gain from partial implementation of the G2 than a complete rivalry between the two superpowers.

If China moderates its South China Sea claims and the United States reassures Beijing that its rebalancing toward Asia is benign, maritime and mainland ASEAN states would not be caught between the two superpowers. Southeast Asia could then be a source of security and stability for all of Asia.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.

Brand Malaysia: “Orang Utans and Pandas don’t cut it anymore.”.


September 4, 2012

http://www.thestar.com.my

Brand Malaysia: “Orang Utans and Pandas don’t cut it anymore”.

by Dato Dennis Ignatius (08-30-12)
duta.thestar@gmail.com

According to Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Cabinet Minister and CEO of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit  (PEMANDU), the Government is in the midst of a major exercise to rebrand the country and promote a more vibrant image abroad.

A national branding unit with a RM30mil budget and a dedicated team of officers has been established in the Prime Minister’s Department to spearhead the project.

International management consultants have also been hired to give strategic advice and assist in the rebranding exercise.

Malaysia has undoubtedly had its successes. Dynamic development strategies, successful investment promotion, innovative tourism marketing, a reputation for racial and religious tolerance, an innovative foreign policy and world-renowned corporations like Petronas helped make Malaysia a respected name globally.

However, during the past decade in particular, a series of unfortunate developments has left brand Malaysia in tatters, as I noted in this column more than two years ago (“Brand Malaysia reeling from a thousand cuts”, February 4, 2010).

Racial and religious extremism, corruption scandals, significant outflows of local capital and talent, a lack of transparency and accountability, intense and highly divisive politicking and a perceived democracy deficit have taken a ruinous toll.

And all this at a time when it has become far more challenging to sustain national brands. In a world of real-time communications and social media, global opinions are shaped before local policy makers can even react.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for example, recently expressed concern that xenophobic comments and postings on the Internet by Singaporeans were damaging Singapore’s international reputation.

Furthermore, where previously national branding was centred mostly around tourism, today a cutting-edge global reputation hinges upon quality of life, business environment, justice and good governance as much as anything else. Orang utans and pandas don’t cut it anymore.

Malaysia has not fared too well in this new branding environment. We were ranked 43rd out of 113 countries that were measured for brand strength by FutureBrand, one of the branding industry’s pioneers and a collaborator in the Malaysian rebranding exercise.

With the exception of culture and tourism, Malaysia did not score highly in any of the other categories (value system, quality of life, good for business, etc.) that FutureBrand considers in assessing a country’s overall brand.

The Government’s move to take stock of how we are presently perceived by the world at large is, therefore, timely. We might also need to consider repositioning our nation beyond the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tourism specific brand that served us well these past years.

To be effective and productive, however, the rebranding exercise must be grounded in a realistic appreciation of what branding is all about.

Branding can help focus and project the essence of a nation, its values, its culture and the unique qualities it brings to the world. It cannot serve as a substitute for sound policy or camouflage obvious weaknesses. Merely developing a nice jingle or a catchy phrase by itself will not substantially improve a nation’s image.

It should come as no surprise that the countries with the best and most recognisable brand names are countries with free and open societies which have found a way to empower their people, ignite their creativity and marshal their talents.

As FutureBrand explains on its website, “from progressive politics to a sense of openness and freedom of speech, a country that is geared around its people … will always score highly”.

Countries like Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, the United States and Sweden, therefore, did well while Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Cambodia did poorly.

We don’t, of course, need expensive foreign consultants to tell us all this; it’s common sense and already obvious to most Malaysians. What we do need, more than anything else, is the political will to address the underlying causes of our declining national brand.

There can be no doubt that if we seriously tackle the very issues that regularly make headlines in our own media, our international image will improve dramatically. The unique and amazing strengths of Malaysia, after all, remain undiminished; they just need to be given proper expression.

We also need to keep in mind that building and sustaining a successful national brand requires long-term consistency, commitment and attention to detail, something that we don’t seem to be particularly good at.

Take, for example, the KL International Airport (KLIA). We spend time and money to promote it as a world-class airport only to see these efforts undermined by repeated heists at the airport. According to local media reports, there were three major heists at KLIA in the last few months alone.

It doesn’t take an expert to tell us that if KLIA is perceived as lacking in security, it will never realise its full potential as a competitive regional hub.

The bottom line, therefore, is that if we want a better international image we must start by cleaning up our own act. Foreign consultants can help with spin, packaging and presentation, but it is up to us to make the policy changes that alone can build and sustain a successful national brand.

 

Dr Dzul on Kerdau and Merlimau


March 7, 2011

After Kerdau and Merlimau–Reform or Face a National Revolt!

by Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad  (March 6, 2011)

I’m fully conscious of how the BN’s mainstream media (MSM) would demonise and ostracise me for what I’m about to say. I’m nonetheless going to say it in simple and unequivocal term. Simply put, if I were to call the shot in N28 Kerdau by-election, I would want my party to boycott the election. Period.

The BN’s MSM would then have a field day in making PAS their punching bag and would go to town for weeks on end on this huge political meal. They would be apparently vindicated for all their claims that the opposition is bankrupt of ideas and issues to fight them on any further political contestation.

On the back of the looming 13th General Election (GE) coming ever closer, the decision to boycott would arguably be a political suicide for PAS and the Pakatan. Political analysts might argue that the opposition has finally succumbed to the psychological war of the BN’s ‘propagandist firepower’. It doesn’t take a pundit to tell you that.

That’s the usual ‘in-the-box-kind-of-thinking’ that invariably ends up in political parties quite unwilling to brace drastic unconventional ideas and maneuvers. That’s the thinking that underpins the predictable decision of most political parties of whatever ideological persuasions in the face of challenging situation.

What’s my rationale for proposing this drastic action? Am I already conceding defeat on the 11th hours? Am I now perceived as mitigating the adverse impact of another PAS’ defeat? Say what you like.

I’ve been part of the strategic teams of many a by-election especially after the 12th GE. Some we have won and others we lost. The sweetest victory was of course Kuala Terengganu and the more bitter defeat was Galas. On both occasions power changed hands.

Quite contrary to the idea of running from defeat, I have a strange feeling that Kerdau is fast making me upbeat especially towards its finishing line. I’m not commenting on Merlimau as I’m not aware of the realities on ‘ground-zero’ in that BN’s state of Melaka.

Let me say it again. I’m not looking for an upset in Kerdau but is seriously hoping for a reduction of the majority the BN’s candidate secured in the last GE.

I’m not being wishful but given our campaign ‘blitz’ which put the Pahang’s MB defenceless to the finishing line, this writer is hardly surprised if the voters so decide to protest against UMNO-BN’s decades of malaise and negligence.

No one in his right frame of mind would miss noticing that Kerdau is a ‘cowboy’ town. After 53 years Kerdau has never got on to be in the radar of development. It’s the PM’s home state mind you. So simply said again, I’m not running from defeat.

However, this piece is at best purely academic as far as a boycott is concerned, as polling is well underway for both Merlimau and Kerdau, before this writer could publish or upload this piece.

But I felt the compelling need to say and share it with the entire nation, before the results are announced this evening. I’m dead serious. If anything this piece and the likes of this writing, if widely enough read and disseminated, could very well be the genesis of a pending ‘national revolt’, not quite like the middle-eastern turmoil now on world stage that Najib dreaded.

But strangely quite alike though, as it will also represent the utter disdain and hatred of the rakyat or the citizens, for what is here now dubbed in “Political Science” as an ‘Electoral Authoritarianism’ (EA). Malaysia is now listed as one by the author of ‘The Logics of Electoral Authoritarianism”, Professor Andres Schedler (2006).

Simply defined, EA is how government abuses power as to distort and contain a true electoral competition and denies equal access to the media of competing parties and subverts a free and fair election.

In the eyes of an enlarging enlightened sections of the Malaysian electorates and citizenry, Malaysia is indeed guilty of perpetuating ‘electoral authoritarianism’ with impunity. For that, Najib and his cohorts please take note!

If PM Najib wants to put the “Ben-Ali-Mubaarak-Gaddafi-type Revolt” at bay in our beloved land of Malaysia, act urgently to redress and reform the many excesses and sins on ‘electoral authoritarianism’ that has continued unabated for far too long in this country!

My arguments, with respect to a boycott call on Kerdau by-election and now urging immediate reform, are essentially premised on, but not limited to the following basis and evidences.

  1. Najib now infamous saying, “We don’t buy votes, but if you support us we can increase your allocation tomorrow or later. But show support for Barisan Nasional first”. Now that could only equal to his atrocious words of “You help me, I help you” in Sibu i.e his promise of delivering RM5 million on Monday if Robert Lau wins on Sunday now is iconised as the ultimate of ‘vote-buying’ in the lexicology of our local EA. If that is not vote-buying, what is?
  2. Najib began as early as on the second day of the campaign period to blitz Kerdau with ‘goodies’ and handouts as follows: RM400,000 for a hall in Kampong Seri Kerdau, RM150,000 for a Balai Bomba, RM100,000 for Hindu Temple and RM9.25millions on a water treatment plant in Batu Sawar. That’s a hefty RM10.4million, well exceeding the constituency budget allocation. Where are funds coming from? UMNO’s coffers or cronies’ or tax-payers’?
  3. Abuse of usage of public premises for party political campaign listed below:
    1. Public Field in Teluk Sentang,
    2. Mosques and Schools in Batu Sawar,
    3. Community Hall in Jengka 23 Felda,
    4. Broadband Centre for Jengka 25
    5. Community Hall in Kuala Tekal
    6. Kerdau’s Felda’s office.
  4. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan’s announcement that the federal government will settle the CESS payment of RM13,000 for each settler in Jengka 22 next Monday is a surely a covert inducement for settlers to vote for BN come polling day for the Kerdau by-election on Sunday. (Cess payments are monies deducted from the sale of rubber for the purpose of replanting rubber plantations with oil palm. However, when settlers made the decision to switch from rubber to oil palm in 2004, cess payments worth RM12,000 that each settler had accumulated over the course of more than 20 years were not paid by Felda. Felda had paid the settlers RM5,000 each but the Land Development Authority still owes the settlers RM13,000 each, including interest). The bone of contention is why only pay those in the Jengka 22 in the N28 Kerdau constituency, while all Felda settlers Pahang have long been waiting for what are rightly theirs!
  5. The vicious and baseless attack on Dato’ Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, the Director for PAS’ Strategic Centre for the N28 Kerdau by-election by the MSM. The footage was widely covered and repeated by the BN’s TV channels including the ‘independent’  TV3.  This should be the last straw of it all. Seen and peceived by many as failing to respond to all the allegations of a failing Pahang state, as concertedly attacked by PAS’ election machinery, as depicted by Auditor General’s report, UMNO took the final hours of campaign to level a smear campaign on him, accusing him of abusing and capitalizing on a Felda settler’s financial hardship to his advantage. All these heinous hate campaign were fortunately clarified by those involved but wasn’t at all featured in the BN’s MSM. Abuse of MSM and denial of opposition’s right to MSM has become more rampant of late.

Based on a snap-shot of the abuses and excesses of a regime that practices “Electoral Authoritarianism”, I for one would not have hesitated to give the Election Commission and now Najib an ultimatum –Respond or face a National Revolt!

For the information of all well-wishers of democracy and in all fairness to us in PAS/Pakatan, we had submitted on 2 occasions, memorandum to the EC, MACC and the PDRM in protest of all these abuses and subversion of democracy.

It does not take a lawyer to be telling you that Najib and his cohorts are abusing the provision of the Election Offences Act of 1954 aimed at curbing abuses and corrupt practices of contending parties in an electoral process.

It is the conviction of this writer that Malaysia may not well see the equivalent of the Middle Eastern upheaval soonest. But if this regime persists and perpetuates “Electoral Authoritarianism” with little or no regards for the demands of electoral reform by both civil society and opposition political parties, Najib is indeed courting the like of another and bigger peaceful assembly of 500,000 protestors @well-wishers of democracy prior the 13th GE.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Member, PAS Central Working Committee and Malaysia MP for Kuala Selangor.