Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Pak Lah: once a lame duck, always a lame duck

July 22, 2008

A helluva lot has changed since I last blogged.  My mind boggles at the events that have transpired and continue to transpire post 8th March 2008.  Since my last blog posting I’ve even managed a trip back to Malaysia.  It was too hectic to really be called a holiday but after nearly two years in the UK it was a long awaited trip home.

Yep, lots has changed.  Enough that I don’t even know what to believe anymore.  But one thing hasn’t.  And that one thing would be our lame duck Prime Minister.  Call me cynical if you wish.

Now, before anyone accuses me of harming the reputation of our illustrious Prime Minister without basis and thereby potentially falling foul of the law, let’s first look at the dictionary.  Dictionary.com defines “lame duck” thusly and I have bolded a few definitions that I (in good faith of course) believe apply to Pak Lah:

lame duck –noun

1. an elected official or group of officials, as a legislator, continuing in office during the period between an election defeat and a successor’s assumption of office.
2. a president who is completing a term of office and chooses not to run or is ineligible to run for reelection.
3. a person finishing a term of employment after a replacement has been chosen.
4. anything soon to be supplanted by another that is more efficient, economical, etc.
5. a person or thing that is disabled, helpless, ineffective, or inefficient.

I think we can all agree that he was ineffective before the elections.  The rising levels of crime and corruption would attest to this as well.  There was also the fact that he made like an ostrich and stuck his head firmly in the ground as far as the rakyat’s complaints were concerned.

Post 8th March 2008, he claims to have heard our “signal” and implores for the rest of UMNO to take note and act accordingly as well.  Since the elections Pak Lah has also said he will hand the reins over to Najib in two years bringing him within the first definition of “lame duck”.  But, as I will shortly explain, he continues to demonstrate that he is an ineffective leader.

In April 2008, in an attempt to persuade us that his head is now out of the sand Pak Lah dangled before the rakyat the propects of a Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC) (intended to be a souped up, more independent version of the ACA) and the idea of a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).  Promises like these are presented to us like carrots on a stick but before we utter “HEE HAW” and go galloping off in hot pursuit of these tantalising morsels let’s assess where we are and whether indeed Pak Lah has kept his word.

It’s pushing to close to 4 months since both the MCAC and JAC were proposed by Pak Lah.

First, the MCAC has yet to be set up but more importantly, it’s structure, appointment of top officials and the nitty gritty of it’s expanded powers has yet to be clarified.  Who cares if the MCAC has 20,000 or even 100,000 officers if it is not given adequate powers nor sufficiently transparent.  For that matter, it isn’t even clear what sort of a Parliamentary Committee the MCAC would be reporting to.  As a matter of good governance such a Parliamentary Committee should include members of the Opposition as well.

And now we turn to the JAC.  After something of a promising start the idea was shot down by ministers from within Pak Lah’s own party, UMNO.  Haris Ibrahim lists the reasons given as culled from a report from the The Malaysianinsider.  The reasons include fears over “loss of Malay control over a key institution“.  I don’t know about you but that statement infuraites me on many levels.  First, it implies that there are no brilliant Malay legal minds.  Second, it implies that EVEN AFTER 30 years of government assistance there are no brilliant Malay legal minds.  (UMNO Ministers basically suggested Malays are too stupid to be selected as judges in a merit-based environment! In fact, that seems rather seditious by inference – quick someone make a police report!)  Third, such a statement promotes a racist mentality that UMNO seems intent on perpetuating – this is evident from the fact that no other groups were making this point.  All UTTER BS in my view and Haris offers a very plausible suggestion why there has been a change of heart vis-a -vis the JAC.

The position now is that the JAC framework is to be “re-worked” before being presented to Parliament.  I wouldn’t advise you to hold your breath, people.  Remember the IPCMC?

And where is Pak Lah in all of this?

QUIET AS A MOUSE LAME DUCK!

Pak Lah, you’ve said you’re relinquishing the PMship in two years.  If that’s the case, what have you got to lose by fulfilling your promises to the rakyat?  If you can’t even do that, why bother waiting two years before throwing in the towel?

Makan gaji aje!

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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.

Shariah law in the UK? Part 2

February 11, 2008

I should begin with a clarification. Rather confusingly, the title of the Archbishop’s lecture was ‘Civil and Religious Law in England: a Religious Perspective’ while ‘Islam in English Law’ is the title of a series of lectures of which the Archbishop’s lecture is one. I should further add that in Britain today religious courts for Orthodox Jews and Muslims do exist though they are entirely voluntary in nature and as they are not recognised under the law their decisions are not binding.

Criticism of the Archbishop has been widespread and has included senior members of his own Church. Some of the criticism has been legitimate, such as why should he, as the most senior priest in the Anglican Church, be advocating greater adoption of Muslim rather than only Christian law. However, much of the initial reaction in the press has, rather predictably been knee-jerk. These have ranged from a misunderstanding to a wilful ignorance of what the Archbishop said. For instance, there have been claims that the Archbishop advocated a parallel legal system, similar perhaps to the one found in Malaysia. However, the Archbishop clearly stated both during his lecture and during the Q&A session that he was advocating nothing of the sort. This point should be clear to anyone who bothered to read his lecture.

What struck me upon a close reading of the Archbishop’s lecture was that while it focused primarily on Shariah law, the main arguments he employs can be applied to any religious law. Two broad suggestions were made in his lecture. The first concerns why secular law should accommodate aspects of religious law and culture. The second relates to some preliminary thoughts on how religious law should be accommodated. I hope to address both in turn.

WHY SHOULD SECULAR LAW ACCOMMODATE RELIGIOUS LAW?

The Archbishop primarily puts forth a notion that each of our identities are a result of “multiple affiliations”; that on one level we are all equal citizens in the eyes of secular law but at the same time that many of us maintain other identities as religious believers and as adherents to vastly different cultures. He goes on to suggest that a universalist system of law which denies or marginalises this latter group of identities has failed in its purpose to fully give life to the values and aspirations of a society. He advocates a greater incorporation of religious law to prevent any further marginalisation of communities whose identities and values are not encompassed in Britain’s present universalist system of law. This would include Muslims, but also Orthodox Jews and Catholics. The purpose of a universalist system of law, he claims, is not to relegate these other components of identity (i.e. religious and cultural identity) to the private realm, but merely to monitor and regulate the public manifestation of these other forms of identity to ensure that they do not define human liberties in incompatible ways. Indeed, he refers throughout to a set of inalienable “liberties guaranteed by the wider society” that should not be encroached upon by any law, religious or otherwise.

Yet, following his argument to its logical conclusion, would not the imposition of an inalienable set of rights still detract from legitimate religious or cultural practices and beliefs where the two conflict? The suggestion of a core group of human liberties or rights that sit outside the ambit of our religious and cultural identities begs the question, from where do these rights spring? Moreover, who would decide on what these rights are?

These questions look suspiciously like the same ones already faced in today’s Britain with its overwhelmingly secular laws.

HOW SHOULD RELIGIOUS LAWS BE ACCOMMODATED?

The Archbishop suggests the introduction of religious courts through a process termed “transformative accommodation”, whereby individuals are at liberty to select the particular court through which they seek the resolution of certain matters or disputes. As mentioned above, he suggests that such courts should not be in a position to impede upon a set of “liberties guaranteed by the wider society”. He asserts that through such a free market mechanism religious courts/communities will have to balance the temptation to remain inflexible and committed to particular principles versus the risk of alienating its own adherents/people.

To his credit the Archbishop admits that the disadvantage to such a market-based approach is the likely competition for loyalty that will ensue. However, as pointed out to me by a friend that attended the talk, he does not follow through with this by commenting on how such a competition is likely to cause all religions/cultures that are involved in such a scheme to be so diluted in an attempt to seem appealing that very little of the original religions and cultures may be left. In the face of such a possibility, such a reductionist model for religions is rather perplexing coming from someone who is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

CONCLUSION

Without addressing the source of any inalienable rights the Archbishop’s arguments for why religious law should be incorporated are incomplete. Perhaps more problematically, the Archbishop’s suggestion of jurisdiction shopping appears to me to be a recipe for greater confusion, chaos and divisiveness.

Rather than allowing for what he refers to as “supplementary jurisdictions” why can’t Britain retain its current unified system of law but make provisions for a single body that can represent the spiritual and cultural values of the population? This body may then be consulted during the legislative process though its recommendations should not be binding but merely be intended to guide or inform legislators.

As a final point, in these two posts I’ve touched on the sensationalism with which the Archbishop’s comments have been treated. This reaction is something I hope to discuss in my next post.

Shariah law in the UK? Part 1

February 8, 2008

Sensationalism? Picture from The Sun newspaper, UK:

Archbishop1

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, entitled ‘Islam in English Law’. My initial interest in his talk stemmed from the fact that I believed it to be historical in nature. I was wrong. The day before his lecture there was a report in the Times Online entitled “Does Islam fit with our law?”, which foreshadowed that the talk was likely to be focused on the incorporation of aspects of Islamic law into the English legal system.

Upon reading the Times Online report the immediate question that occurred to me was, just why should the common law of England and Wales incorporate aspects of any religious law? While it is true that the common law has its roots in Christian tradition it has, over a period of hundreds of years, been divorced of any allegiance to any religious doctrine or dogma. The result is that the common law of England and Wales today is very much a secular law, and all the better for it. As an example, in the England of olde, one would not be infringing the law when discriminating against or persecuting religious minorities, including Catholics, Jews and Muslims. Today, this could hardly be said to be the case.

Of course, the common law is not perfect. No one claims it to be so. Indeed, the greatest strength of the common law is its openness to change. The common law as it stands today is a testament to man’s powers of logic and reason. Religious law in contrast is characterised by an unswerving allegiance to tradition and dogma, with any modifications to suit the demands of modernity viewed as a cop out. This of course forms part of a wider struggle between tradition and modernity.

My primary objection to the application of religious law outside of the personal sphere (by which I mean imposing only on one’s self) does not stem per se from the fact that religious law is supposed to have been ordained by God. Instead it stems from the fact that religious law, in comparison to its common law cousin, is much more rigid and less amenable to change.

Would a law once again influenced by dogma and tradition be sufficiently dynamic and diverse to cater to the needs of a diverse population? Further, would chaos not ensue should all religious communities want their own laws in place?

These thoughts formed the basis of a question that I emailed to the organisers of the lecture in the hope that the Archbishop would answer it.

And answer it he did, for that was precisely what his lecture was centred on.

Today, the Archbishop has been overwhelmingly condemned by most quarters (including prominent Muslims) for the comments he made last night and he is featured in the headlines of many of the major British newspapers, not to mention all the tabloids – “Victory for Terrorism” says The Sun (not our theSun, but the British newspaper). He even made it to the pages of a Malaysian newspaper.

I will discuss my thoughts on his lecture in the second part of this post which will be up tomorrow.

A Vote for Change…

January 30, 2008

I recently received an interesting comment from someone named Rem regarding my last post Why the Paranoia?

It reads as follows:

The question is not whether he deserves (or not) a second chance. The real question is — who deserves the ‘chance’ then?

PKR? I would rather eat my own pubic hairs in public!

DAP? There’re many ways to insult my intelligence, but going for this one is not the option I would consider.

PAS? Well, may be… a considerable choice. At least, at the 2.0% level of confidence. Not signficant, though.

And yes, the people do respect the government — if you mean ‘people’ as in ‘the majority’. But if the ‘people’ you’re referring to are your clans and the ever-loud minority — then yes, the respect isn’t there.

If there’s a better choice, with ‘the current state’ of our government, I’m sure the majority will be more than willing to switch. Unfortuntaley, this is only an IF. In reality, there isn’t any!

Most people are happy to settle for less, than going for none.

I thought Rem’s were worthy of some comment and include my riposte to Rem below.

ON MY ‘CLAN’ AND THE EVER-LOUD MINORITY

Rem, I’m not quite sure whom you seem to think my ‘clans’ are. If by my ‘clans’ and ever-loud minority you are talking about those who are willing to stand up and be counted on matters of principle and are willing to stand up for the rights of anyone, irrespective of that person’s political persuasion – then yes I am a proud member of that ever-loud minority or those ‘clans’.

 

WHY I AM SAYING ‘NO’ TO BN

I will make no secret of the fact that ten years ago at the height of the Reformasi movement I was a staunch supporter of the BN. Though even at that time the BN did not necessarily represent good governance to me, they did represent economic stability and as someone who thought like an economist the BN made the most sense to me back then. The Opposition, on the other hand, were a motley crew whose only common purpose was to displace BN. To a great extent I maintain that the latter remains true.

In recent years, however, my position has shifted slightly but with dramatic effect. The state of the economy is still the jewel in the crown as far as I’m concerned as it affects the man in the street and his ability to provide for his family. However, I now approach the whole subject with a much longer term view. Unlike our last Prime Minister, Pak Lah has shown that he understands little about economics. Further, despite all the hype, he has managed to muddle his way through one term and curtailed certain freedoms along the way. Rather than promote responsible discussion of ‘sensitive’ issues, public discussion, particularly in the media remains verboten. If memory serves me correctly, he has already closed down 3, possibly 4, newspapers where Dr. M closed down 3 in 22 years. Not to mention our government’s foot dragging when it comes to reform – for instance we are promised that corruption will be nipped in the bud and yet we still see many of the same Ministers who have been dogged with claims of corruption for years. Added to this, Malaysia’s brain drain continues unabated.

As neighbours such as Indonesia become more democratic and progressive we in Malaysia seem to be falling behind. Is it any wonder that our levels of Foreign Direct Investment have been declining while Indonesia has been experiencing a rise in FDI? Where do you see Malaysia in 20 or 30 years time?

 

WHY I AM VOTING FOR THE OPPOSITION

Let’s be realistic here. A vote for any of the Opposition parties in the next GE will not deprive the BN of a 2/3 majority. What then is the point of voting for the Opposition, you may ask. First, the purpose is to send the BN a message that we are displeased with their performance. Second, it is to attempt to impose a greater degree of check and balance. The judiciary has already made subservient to Parliament by virtue of the constitutional amendment to Article 121. And Parliament is subservient to the BN (due to its 2/3 majority). Who then is in a position to influence the executive arm of government?

The answer is a stronger Opposition. A stronger Opposition will mean a stronger voice to offer a check and balance against what I increasingly regard to be a coalition government that is stuffed full of arrogant fat cat politicians.

 

It’s high time we began demanding for more rather than being content to settle each and every time for less…and less…and less – for who knows what we will be left with in the end.

 

In conclusion, and not intending to sound too Obama-esque, A vote for the Opposition is a vote for change.

A vote for the Opposition is an expression that we, as Malaysians, are insisting on greater accountability. Now where, pray tell, is the harm in that?

Why the paranoia?

December 11, 2007

Once again, Malaysiakini has kindly posted my letter on recent events in Malaysia. If you can’t tell from the letter, I was (and still am) a bit peeved…just a bit.

While the whole HINDRAF issue exploded, I’ve remained silent, mostly just to see how it would all start to play out. Now we know. The government has showed its hand by coming out very heavyhandedly not just against HINDRAF but also BERSIH and even lawyers whose only crimes were to walk in unison and obstruct the removal of banners in celebration of human rights.

The point of my letter is that the Prime Minister has been given an ample mandate and ample time to clean up his own party. Yet he has failed miserably in this regard. Instead he lashes out at easy targets. Do you think he deserves a second chance?

Is this flexing of muscles intended to deter independent minded individuals? It won’t. Is it intended to impress the public? It won’t. Is it intended to shore up votes? It won’t.

Despite claims that the government of the day enjoys much support and has nothing to fear it is appearing to be increasingly paranoid. Just look at how they barricaded the roads leading to Parliament simply to prevent BERSIH from submitting a memorandum to Parliament. The memorandum objects to a Bill that proposed increasing the retirement age of the EC chief to 66.

Why the paranoia? Obviously we’re not seeing the whole picture. Let me know what you think might be fuelling all this.

While you’re at it please tell me if you think he deserves a second chance.

A Yellow Ray of Hope

November 13, 2007

Malaysiakini very kindly published my letter here.

In line with what I set out in my letter Lim Kit Siang (subscription required) in Parliament yesterday urged the government not to “politicise the gathering by saying that it’s a racial gathering. There was nothing racial about it. People from all parties and races were present so it is a national issue and not a political issue that can be played up by the ruling government.”

Kit Siang goes on to say that “We are serious in this matter, and we are not playing politics. The real question here is whether the electoral roll has many defects. We saw thousands of people in the gathering. Is the government ready to give a positive response instead of making baseless and wild accusations?”

As I asked in my last post – why is this being made into a partisan issue? If BN were smart they would have taken a different approach.

What did our esteemed Law Minster, Nazri Aziz, have to say about the rally? Ah yes, he of the imaginary Witness Protection Bill fame (erm it was supposedly all his press secretary’s fault). Also, let’s not forget that he’s also famous for screaming racist/perkauman in Parliament over 40 times in the span of a few minutes….here’s a video documenting part of that performance if you’re in the mood for some comic relief.

Well, according to Nazri it is pointless to try and understand the reason behind the rally as the “brains of opposition members do not function well.” According to him it’s all a “pondan matter”…yeah…I don’t get the analogy either.

But then…I’m a mere mortal and not a political master like he is. He’s got a great job though don’t you think? He gets to say as many slanderous things as he wants all day in Parliament without fear of impending lawsuits. It’s a perk he seems to take full advantage of.

Moving along…my apologies for the late update but attached below are a picture and a video from the small BERSIH rally (minus teargas, chemically laced water and unprovoked kicks to our necks) on Saturday. For many months now, since the Lina Joy decision really, I’ve been in a state of deepening despair over the situation in Malaysia. The events of Saturday were a ray of hope to me – a yellow ray of hope.

The people have spoken but will the-powers-that-be listen and act accordingly? Only time will tell.

Irrespective…Daulat Tuanku!

BERSIH Rally London 2

 

Anyone Else Confused?

June 15, 2007

Taking a little breather from revising to quickly share my thoughts with you on a recent televised discussion.

Going by it’s name, Malaysia’s Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM) is tasked with enlightening the rest of us about Islam. Why is it then that I am feeling rather confused after watching a panel discussion with its Director-General, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas?

Dr. Al-Attas was part of a three person panel which also included Dr. Farish Noor and lawyer Lim Heng Seng. The discussion was centred on issues related to the Lina Joy decision and it was broadcast on Al-Jazeera several days ago. To my pleasant surprise it was recently uploaded to YouTube. I include the two part video below.

Two areas I’m still scratching my head over:

1. Dr. Al-Attas claims he doesn’t believe apostates should be killed. He then waffles about whether apostasy is a punishable crime.

2. Dr. Al-Attas implies that it would be absurd for Malaysia to implement hudud law. But he then questions why the ambit of the Shariah courts have not been extended to criminal law.

HUH?

Confusing?

You decide.

And be sure to let me know once you’ve figured out what he’s trying to say.

 

PART 1

 

 

PART 2

-UK-

How Will The World See Us Tomorrow?

June 4, 2007

Exams are a mere 2 days away and as much as I hate the thought, I must go into hibernation for a bit. I will be back after the 20th of June so don’t go solving Malaysia’s problems before then.

Before I do that though, let me deviate from the legalistic ramblings and focus on perception. In particular, how the rest of the world sees Malaysia with all that’s been happening.

Who cares what the rest of the world, in particular the decadent West, may think of us, you may ask?

The reality is that our economy relies on trade and tourism. According to MATRADE, Malaysia is ranked among the 20 largest trading countries in the world. Not bad when you consider the size of our population. MIER estimates growth to hit 5.8% in 2008, a pretty respectable figure.

However, if the Asian Financial Crisis has taught us anything, it is that perception is king. Any hint of political or economic instability/weakness and say farewell to investors. Tourism of course is linked to political and social stability. And ten years after the Financial Crisis, there are many more destinations for investors and tourists.

Hence, it would be foolish and shortsighted to simply say ‘to hell with them’ when our economy is so integrated with the outside world.

How then is Malaysia being portrayed by some of the most influential English news organisations in view of recent events? Here’s a selection:

The BBC: Despite what our Information Minister says, the Beeb has produced a very factual, almost clinical report with minimal commentary.

TIME closes its piece on the following note: “In an era where Islam is so often partnered with extremism and autocratic governance, Malaysia was held up at the annual conference as a model of a moderate Muslim nation committed to safeguarding the rights of its diverse population. But the Federal Court’s verdict on Joy’s case, which represented her last legal recourse, may undercut that reputation.

Al Jazeera makes mention of Malaysia’s ‘faith restoration camps’ and mentions the phrases “regressive” and “unconstitutional“.

The Guardian has this to say: “The court’s decision comes as tensions grow between the Muslim Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who are mainly Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.”

The Economist talks of a creeping Islamisation and concludes with this thought provoking sentence: “Constraints on individuals’ rights to choose their beliefs are usually backed up by claims that religions are somehow ‘under threat’: a curious lack of faith—in faith itself”

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) NY Times mentions rules on bumiputera ownership and says that the ruling underlines “the increasing separateness of Muslims from people of other religions” and adds that “the split on the court mirrored the discord in Malaysian society, where ethnic and religious tensions have begun to increase in recent years.”

[EDIT: My mistake…the link above was to the NY Times. However the IHT paints an equally unflattering picture of Malaysia.]

The Economist and the IHT especially are read by business people around the world.

Looking at it objectively, if your introduction to Malaysia was through articles like the ones above, would you want to invest your client’s money or book your two week honeymoon in Malaysia? It’s no use whether you agree or disagree with the various assessments. The reality is, the damage is done.

I doubt you’ll find a busier Ministry in Malaysia right now than the Ministry of Truth Information.