Archive for March, 2008

BN and BR: Do not betray the voters

March 21, 2008

007

Skullduggery, espionage and defections – is this the latest James Bond film? No, this is the latest fallout from Malaysia’s 12th General Election – but I dare say no less thrilling than a good Bond film.

The skullduggery
The Barisan Nasional currently holds 127 140 of 222 seats in Parliament and if it lost 16 29 seats this would take it down to 111 – wiping out its simple majority and creating a ‘hung parliament’ – a Parliament in which no party or existing coalition has a majority. Alternatively, Barisan Rakyat has 82 seats and needs a further 30 seats to obtain a simple majority. To top it off, in states such as Perak, Barisan Rakyat won a majority by only a small lead.

A situation ripe for skullduggery – and by accounts there is much of it afoot with both sides accusing the other of trying to ‘buy’ MPs and assemblymen.

The espionage
The newly crowned UMNO Sec. Gen., Tengku Adnan (for his information I am not unemployed, I’m a student and I KNOW I am not a woman. He is never going to live that one down, is he?!) has stated that UMNO will be dispatching some “intelligence teams” (read: spies) to East Malaysia to determine whether BN MPs are being wooed by the Opposition.

Does anyone else spot the irony? Right now the words ‘UMNO’ and ‘intelligence’ are the last two words I would expect to see in the same line. Kind of like that other oxymoron: ‘military intelligence’.

So there’s our espionage thrown into the mix.

UMNO Spy?

Hmm…I wonder what kind of equipment the UMNO spies will have with them?

The defections

Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Richard Riot, an MP in Sarawak has left SUPP, a BN component party, citing that SUPP does not have the interests of the Dayak community at heart. Speculation is rife that Richard Riot and up to four other MPs are contemplating a defection to Barisan Rakyat.

According to Raja Petra:

“there were many planned defections before the 8 March 2008 election but Anwar told them to stay put in Umno and Barisan Nasional and make sure that they win their seats first. Only if the opposition wins with a large enough minority and all it needs are those few extra seats to form the government should they leave the ruling coalition and join the opposition.”

And there you have it folks: the defections.

Checkpoint Charlie Sign

The sign at Checkpoint Charlie, a site synonymous with espionage and defections during the Cold War

Checkpoint Charlie 1961

American and Soviet tanks facing off at Checkpoint Charlie in 1961

Now for the serious bit

What are we, the rakyat, to make of all this? Not even two weeks ago we voted for candidates on the basis that they represented a political party and now some us are faced with the prospect of our votes being undermined.

I for one, couldn’t be happier that BN was denied a 2/3 majority in these last elections. It means they cannot amend our Federal Constitution willy nilly as they have been doing for years. But I am happy that they have retained a narrow simple majority. Why?

First, Barisan Rakyat still have to prove themselves, remember?

Second, it keeps both BN and BR hungry. Hungry to gain more influence and seats and hopefully, hungry to please us, the rakyat, in the process. At least that’s how democracy is supposed to work.

Encouraging any of our wakil rakyats to defect to either side is facilitating a betrayal of anyone who voted for those wakil rakyats. In doing so it also undermines our democracy.

Instead of playing these games, both Barisan Nasional and Barisan Rakyat should be focusing on the real work – proving themselves to the rakyat.

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Why Must the Pot Insist on Calling the Kettle Black?

March 14, 2008

UPDATE: This post was published as a letter in a slightly different form on Malaysiakini.

“Don’t create an atmosphere that can cause racial tensions,” Abdullah Badawi said to the Barisan Rakyat government in Penang.

Perhaps he should be telling that to his supporters who held a demonstration outside the KOMTAR complex in Penang. Badawi challenges the Penang State Government to show him “which community has been made poorer because of the NEP”. A better indicator would be to determine which segment of Malaysian society has been enriched by the NEP and from there determine who has not benefitted from the NEP.

Clearly, it has not sunk in to Badawi and his henchmen yet that significant numbers of Malays themselves didn’t vote for UMNO or BN because they know that the NEP has only benefited Badawi and his ilk. The recent elections have even been described by one prominent commentator as “a rebellion of card-carrying members [of UMNO]” which was brought on by their “plain disgust” with the Badawi administration. These are people whose grandmothers in the past reputedly “sold their jewellery to help set up UMNO branches” What greater indictment can UMNO face than this?

An end to or restructuring of the NEP in its present form will only disadvantage the elites who have benefitted from it to the detriment of all poor Malaysians. Conversely, it will assist poor Malaysians from all communities. This is plain as day – it is only UMNO that wilfully denies this.

The truth is that UMNO themselves betrayed the poor Malays. The results show that the Malays and everyone else have caught on to UMNO’s little game. Now UMNO is trying to stoke racial tensions in an effort to drum up support for themselves. As usual UMNO doesn’t give a damn if ethnic relations are further damaged in the process.

The Penang state government is not a Chinese government. Nor is it a DAP government. It is a Malaysian government and it must remain so.

Perhaps Pak Lah and most of the rest of UMNO don’t understand yet that the time for racial politics is past us. Pak Lah, when you said you wanted to stay on despite BN’s stellar losses I was willing to give you a second chance. I thought that since you had little to lose you might actually try and clean up UMNO and BN. That you might actually try and keep some of those broken promises and perhaps leave something of a positive legacy. Was I wrong to trust you again?

Lim Guan Eng’s statement expressing a desire to end the NEP is no different than statements made by Anwar Ibrahim or PAS. What all Malaysians want, irrespective of their race or religion, is a system that assists all poor Malaysians. And this is what the Barisan Rakyat parties have promised us. The sooner UMNO and Pak Lah realise this the better.

Pak Lah, are you still the leader of UMNO? You say that you are still the Prime Minister for all Malaysians. If you can’t control the racists and troublemakers in your own party perhaps you should just leave so that we Malaysians can get on with our lives. Malaysians are not going to be duped into falling for racial politics again.

Racial politics is out of fashion Pak Lah. Get with the times or get lost.

The same goes to any other politician who relies on the divisive politics of race to secure support.

Kissing A Sharp Object

Racial Politics Alive and Well?

March 13, 2008


A joint interview of Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang by Riz Khan which was broadcasted by Al Jazeera yesterday.

Towards the end of the interview Kit Siang refers to his party’s objections to Nizar Jamaludin. As we all know, Kit Siang has since apologised to the Perak Sultan and the Perak Regent. I would agree that Kit Siang’s public objections were damaging to the united image of Barisan Rakyat, as was his earlier assertion that Barisan Rakyat does not exist.

Nevertheless, I think to label Kit Siang as “passionately opposed to Islam”, as Raja Petra has, is unfair and is equally damaging to Barisan Rakyat, considering the influence that Raja Petra has. Kit Siang has stated that the agreement that the parties had arrived to was that one individual each from DAP and PKR were to be offered as candidates for the position of Perak MB. Like everyone else I am left wondering why on earth Kit Siang had to go public with this disagreement rather than discussing it behind closed doors. Nevertheless, the PKR candidate for Perak MB was a Malay-Muslim so it is unfair to accuse either Kit Siang or DAP of being ‘anti-Islam’.

It is clear from Raja Petra’s latest intriguing post that we do not know the whole story.

However, I believe we can all agree that what Malaysia needs now is cool heads – not political infighting, finger pointing or verbal abuse.

Yet we are today also confronted with PKR’s Syed Husin Ali objecting to the arrangements for the exco in Perak. Syed Husin Ali’s objection is clearly based on racial grounds – which undermines the premise that the 8th of March 2008 signalled the death knell for racial politics in Malaysia.

So, what are PKR, DAP and PAS going to do about it?

As a commentator on another blog said (I can’t remember where), I’m even willing to vote for an African if that person is honest and will work for the betterment of all Malaysians.

Yes the rakyat want transparency…but we also want to be able to believe that our representatives can work together!

So get behind those closed doors and sort it all out.

Now!

Kamariah Ali UPDATE

March 13, 2008

Kamariah Ali 3

I was informed by a reliable source that last Thursday Kamariah received a stay of execution pending her appeal in the Shariah Appeal Court.

I have no idea yet when her appeal is to be heard, nor whether she is being held in custody on remand or whether she has been released on bail pending her appeal.

If anyone knows, please let me know.

Kamariah Ali 2

Kamariah Ali

March 11, 2008

This is Kamariah Ali.

Kamariah Ali 1

Remember her face. Remember her name.

Does she remind you of a kindly elderly lady you know? Your nenek perhaps?

On 3rd March 2008 as Malaysia was reaching the peak of election fever Kamariah Ali was sentenced to two years in prison by a Shariah court in Kelantan – again.

She was previously imprisoned for 20 months in 1992.

Why are they imprisoning her you may ask? Because she dared to profess her belief in something other than the Islam that is mandated and sanctioned by the State.

Kamariah Ali is a follower of Ayah Pin. He of the famous Sky Kingdom…yeah the giant teapot.

Kampung

The Sky Kingdom

Laugh if you will. Laugh at her beliefs. But how would you feel if someone laughed at you because you believe that God chose an illiterate man in the desert to be His Messenger, or because you believe meditation can lead you to a higher plain of existence or because you believe in a god deity that possesses the head of an elephant?

Worse still, how would you feel if someone jailed you for professing a belief in any of those things? How would you feel if the government bulldozed your home while they were at it.

And you thought bulldozing of homes only happened in Gaza?

Gaza Bulldozer

Bulldozer demolishing homes in Gaza

Think again. It happened to Kamariah’s home and that of many others right here in our beloved Malaysia in 2005.

Sky Kingdom After

Sky Kingdom after bulldozers flattened it

 

teapot03.jpg

Another view

Is this what Islam is about? Jailing little old ladies in their 60s because they refuse to conform? Because they refuse to say they believe in something they don’t? I don’t think so. Do you?

Her appeal (presumably against the sentence and conviction) was supposed to have been on Thursday 6th March. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find any news about her appeal. Can someone tell me what happened during her appeal on 6th March?

The reality is that while she is still recognised as a Muslim by the Shariah court in Kelantan they will continue to persecute her again and again and again, which is precisely what they have been doing as apparent from her repeated jailing for apostasy.

I stand up for Kamariah’s right to profess a belief in whatever she wants, a right enshrined in our Federal Constitution, just as I would stand up for any of your rights to believe in whatever you want.

My heart cries for poor defenceless Kamariah and yet all I can do is write and highlight her plight to you. I’ve written of the plight faced by Kamariah and her co-religionists before but the persecution continues and so I continue to write. I say that the euphoria of the People’s Victory of 8th March is hollow when there continues to be Malaysians imprisoned simply for saying “I believe”.

This is Kamariah Ali.

Kamariah Ali 1

Remember her face. Remember her name.

Her continued persecution is a blight on the collective conscience of all Malaysians, including your conscience and mine.

Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat UPDATE

March 11, 2008

I was overjoyed to read [via Malaysiakini, subscription required from tomorrow the day after tomorrow!] of several commitments already made by both the newly minted Penang MB Lim Guan Eng and Selangor MB front-runner Khalid Ibrahim.

Incidentally, did anyone else notice the NST’s oversensationalised front page yesterday – Khalid fails to get Sultan’s consent to form Selangor government? Got me all excited…it was simply that the Sultan of Selangor sensibly wanted to meet with PAS and DAP reps first. At least The Star took a more sedate and accurate approach today – Selangor Sultan wants state to have a strong coalition govt.

Guan Eng has committed to three of the points raised in my ‘Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat‘, and then some! It’s not surprising given that most of what I included touched on well known issues and are related to issues that civil society has been kicking a fuss over for some time. Nevertheless, Guan Eng deserves credit for reaffirming his commitment so quickly by:

1. Stating the he wants to do away with the NEP in favour of non-racial or religious policies.

2. Stating that he wants to restore local government elections and in the meantime appoint professionals and NGO representatives in the municipal councils.

3. Ordering top government servants to publicly declare their assets
Over and above these, he has also committed to:

4. Enacting a Freedom of Information Act (an important step towards greater government transparency and accountability)

5. Pursuing investor friendly policies

6. Seriously addressing the people’s other concerns (e.g. concerning the unwanted development of Penang Hill and the cancelling of the Sungai Nyior tol, amongst others).

Khalid too has already publicly stated his commitment towards pursuing local council elections and a Freedom of Information Act. I expect Khalid will make known more of his intentions once the Sultan of Selangor confirms his choice for the MB of Selangor.

These are excellent starts for both Penang and Selangor. I look forward to reading similarly heartening statements from the Barisan Rakyat MBs of Kedah, Perak and Kelantan…and if Malaysians are lucky, perhaps from BN-controlled states too.

Wow…still need to pinch myself…this truly is Malaysia’s chance to shine…dreams really can come true people! However we must remain steadfast and vigilant.

P.S. I’m sure many of you have been taking advantage of the opportunity to read Malaysiakini for free during this past week. From tomorrow onwards the English section goes back to being subscription based, although the letter remain free to view. If you haven’t already purchased a subscription, I’d urge you to do so. RM 150 really isn’t that much for a year, is it?

Especially if you cancel your subscription to that Mainstream Media Newspaper…mostly they’re good for wrapping up your nasi lemak but that’s about it… 😉

Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat

March 11, 2008

UPDATE: This post was published as a letter in Malaysiakini.

The 8th of March 2008 will go down as a proud and historic day for all Malaysians – the day that the politics of race and fear were dealt a stunning blow by Malaysians of all races, colours and creeds. It was also the day on which Malaysians sent out a message to all political parties in the country – pay heed to what we say or you will be voted out. The next five years will tell us just how well Malaysia’s political parties understood this message.

The hard work of meeting the people’s expectations must now begin. There is much to do and it is somewhat bewildering as to where to start. I thought I could help by coming out with a list of suggestions in ten areas that I believe should, even during these very early days, be at the top of the Barisan Rakyat coalition’s agenda. Many of the points I have included should come as no surprise as many of them have already been promised by the various component parties of Barisan Rakyat.

While I am directing this list primarily to Barisan Rakyat, I don’t believe the rakyat would complain if Barisan Nasional also choose to adopt any or all of these items into their agenda. In fact, if they hope to fare even better in the next General Election, I would encourage Barisan Nasional to do so.

(1) The rule of law

Push for the use of all emergency laws and powers to be curtailed immediately – among others, the use of these laws includes the power to detain individuals indefinitely without trial, the power to arrest individuals without a warrant and the forced eviction of squatters. The continued arbitrary use of these laws undermines the rule of law and the need for the government to be transparent and accountable.

Push for the immediate release or charge of all Internal Security Act (ISA)detainees.

Push for the repeal or amendment of the ISA and other repressive laws as well as any other laws that contain ouster clauses, always being guided by the objectives of strengthening the rule of law, making the government more accountable and making government processes more transparent.

(2) The New Economic Policy (NEP) / National Development Policy (NDP)

Push to transform the NEP/NDP into a means tested benefit scheme that will assist the poorest sections of Malaysian society, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political persuasion.

(3) Minimum wage

As promised by PKR, push for the implementation of a minimum wage in Malaysia. Other developing countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and China have already introduced minimum wage legislation. Research by the International Labour Organisation has found that the introduction of a minimum wage does not have a negative effect on employment and is a proven method of reducing poverty in developing countries.

(4) Assets of those holding public office

Lead by example: Have all Barisan Rakyat Members of Parliament and State Legislators publicly declare their assets. This should be able to instituted fairly quickly provided the political will is there.

(5) Corruption

Push to have the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) report to Parliament instead of the Prime Minister.

Push for the further prosecution of any corrupt politicians/civil servants and former politicians/civil servants whilst ensuring that investigations and any subsequent prosecutions are made as transparent as possible.

(6) The Judiciary

Push for the immediate establishment of a Judicial Appointments Committee to restore confidence in the Malaysian Judiciary and to ensure that the best and brightest people are appointed to the Bench.

Article 121(1) is an amendment to the Federal Constitution that effectively made the Judiciary subservient to Parliament (and by extension, the Executive). Barisan Rakyat MPs should push for the amendment of Article 121 (1) so that the power of the courts is once again derived from the Federal Constitution instead of Parliament. This is in keeping with the Separation of Powers doctrine which advocates an independent Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

(7) Local Council Elections

Lead by example by taking steps to institute Local Council Elections in Barisan Rakyat controlled states as soon as possible.

(8) The Royal Malaysian Police (RMP)

To restore the reputation of the RMP and restore public confidence in the RMP, push for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

(9) Freedom of expression

Promote robust and responsible public debate on all issues of public interest to Malaysians – a good starting point would be to push to allow Malaysiakini to sell their newspaper in printed form across Malaysia.

(10) Implement a scorecard system

A number of the points mentioned above are consistent with the People’s Declaration – a statement which was endorsed by all the component parties of Barisan Rakyat. In serving the people of Malaysia, please remember to adhere to the principles that you endorsed.

Over and above this, to ensure that you remain responsive and in touch with the needs and desires of the people market research should be carried out as soon as possible to determine the particular needs of the people within individual constituencies. The results of this research should be made public and serve as a scorecard (or in management parlance, Key Performance Indicators) for each elected representative. It would be advisable for each elected representative to make public exactly how they intend to meet the needs of their constituents.

Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive list. There is much more that can be done to ensure that Malaysia is able to reach its full potential. However, I believe the above suggestions in the ten areas are excellent starting points and their implementation will ensure that Malaysia’s New Dawn remains dazzlingly bright.