22 February, 2008

Malaysia at crossroads

Leading Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim said it was "shameful" that the government was holding snap elections before he is allowed to stand for office.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dissolved parliament last week to pave the way for elections in March, before Anwar will be eligible to stand because of a ban.

"It is unprecedented that you would call elections after 3 years with a more than two-thirds majority," Anwar told reporters.

"The only reason you can give is to deny me an opportunity to participate in the elections."

Anwar, a former finance minister, was jailed in 1998 on corruption and sodomy charges which have been condemned as politically motivated.

The sodomy conviction was quashed but the corruption count bars him from politics until April.

"It is shameful that Prime Minister Abdullah would choose to call the elections [now]," Anwar added at a press conference organised by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Anwar said he was hoping his Keadilan party would win at least 25 seats in the upcoming poll, and that the three-party opposition coalition could win a majority, if the elections were fair.

"The so-called elections are certainly not fair or free. There is no access to the media in Malaysia, the list of voters is still being challenged and there are hundreds and thousands of phantom voters," he said.

He added that rampant postal vote fraud and the fact there were thousands of voters registered in each constituency over 100 years old also added to suspicion the elections would favour the ruling party. He said one of at least 20 Keadilan candidates would stand down if they won a seat, so a by-election could be held for him when he is eligible.

Anwar was a star in the ruling United Malays National Organisation and seen as heir apparent to then- premier Mahathir Mohamad before his spectacular fall from grace.

The elections have also been marred with Chinese and Indian voters flexing their ethnic muscles.

Under Malaysia's "social contract" hammered out by the nation's founding fathers, the majority Malays will have an unchallenged hold over politics in return for non- interference in Chinese domination of the economy.

Today, ethnic Chinese are starting to wonder whether they have been shortchanged and are likely to put the long-standing deal to the test in general elections expected next month, one report said.

Chinese businessmen in Penang, Malaysia's only state where Chinese form a majority, complain that government-linked companies (GLCs), almost all run by Malays, shut their doors to non-Malay businesses.

"We cannot do business with GLCs because they favor those with Malay partners," said Khor Teng Tong, president of the 103-year-old Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

He said Penang Chinese businessmen, worried about rising costs and a slowing economy, could snub Badawi's ruling coalition in the polls.

"In the past, support for the government was around 55-60 percent. This time, 45 percent is already considered good," he said. "So the government must work harder."

Malaysia is heading into one of its most racially charged election campaigns for many years, with ethnic Indians also complaining of unfair treatment at the hands of the government dominated by Malays.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said last week racial tensions could contribute to a "slight dip" in support for the coalition, which is considered certain to retain power but with a reduced majority.

Malaysia's worst race riots, in 1969, killed hundreds of people in the capital and led to the introduction of an affirmative action policy favoring Malays in education, jobs and business.

No one is predicting riots this time around, but an emboldened Chinese opposition could force the government to soften its pro-Malay stance, analysts said.

Many of the grouses are about the pro- Malay New Economic Policy, which critics say has benefited state firms and a few well- connected Malay businessmen.

The NEP has to a certain extent discouraged foreign investors. Even free-trade talks with the United States have stalled since Kuala Lumpur insisted that Malay firms continue to be given special access to government procurements.

Malays and other "native sons," who make up 60 percent of the population, provide the main political support for Abdullah's United Malays National Organization party. UMNO is the bulwark of the 14-party coalition, which has ruled since independence in 1957.

In fact, UMNO, which currently has 110 seats in the 219-seat parliament, can form the government on its own.

Indians, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Malaysia making up just seven percent of the population, say they have been left behind as the country’s Muslim majority and ethnic Chinese population reap the rewards of economic prosperity.

An examination of monthly household income of all three ethnic groups shows Indians are lagging behind, with average annual growth of just 3.5 % over the five years from 2000, compared to 3.6 % for Chinese, and 4.9 % for Malays.
(The Asian Pacific Post)

Visit Malaysia in 2008?

After Malaysia just had it's "Visit Malaysia" year there is little reason why someone would want to visit this country in 2008. The stream of disturbing news and incidents just does not seem to come to an end.

Most severe is certainly the discrimination of its ethnic Indian citizens, which starts to show some similarities with the apartheid politics, as formerly known, from South Africa.

Denying people basic rights to demonstrate against their obvious discrimination and indefinitely detaining activists without any trial is simply beyond any standard of civilization.

It is not only racial, but also religious discrimination which seems to be pursued by the Malaysian Authorities.

Thanks to them, now God is to be used with a copyright: Allah (c) -- is only to be used by Muslims despite the fact that Christians referred to God as Allah even before Mohammed was born.

After all, there is only one God. This sort of narrow minded religious understanding would deserve merely a raised eyebrow if it would not sadly affect the lives of Christians in Malaysia.

And finally there have been too many incidents about forced last-minute-conversions from Christians to Muslims, resulting in a Muslim burial. With this attitude, it may seem logical that Sharia court rulings are happily applied to non-Muslims also.

In which direction is Malaysia heading? For now it is certainly the wrong one. Who would want to visit a country like this, where behind the shiny facade too much is rotten?

Therefore Malaysia should be boycotted as a tourism destination in 2008 -- hopefully there will be more inviting news in 2009.


(Taken from Jakarta Post)

Malaysia needs an Islam to call its own. Just as it needs a Christianity to call its own, a Buddhism that is its own and a Hinduism that is its own. Why?



Blogger Hafiz Noor Shams said...

Sorry if this comes as an intrusion but there is an effort to get as many bloggers as possible to blog about bloggers whom are running for public offices on one particular day. One blogger candidate per day.

Below is the list:

1. Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Friday, February 29)
2. Tony Pua (Saturday, March 1)
3. Elizabeth Wong (Sunday, March 2)
4. Jeff Ooi (Monday, March 3)
5. che’GuBard (Tuesday, March 4)

Please join! For more information, visit http://maddruid.com/?p=1563

February 23, 2008 3:58 PM  

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