31 August, 2008

Merdeka and Malaysia Day Wishes with something to think about

Wishing all a Selamat Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

Are We A Free Nation?
-- A Joint Merdeka Day Message--
30 August 2008

Independence means that the nation is free from any imposed political domination, citizens are sovereign and are masters of their own destiny. For that to be true, they must at least be able to think freely, express and exchange opinion, and, obtain and disseminate information without fear or favour.

As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of our Merdeka and the 45th anniversary of Malaysia's establishment in two weeks' time, we should be celebrating our political adulthood. We should be proud that as citizens, we are a truly sovereign people, ruled by nothing more than the collective free will of our citizenship. We invite all Malaysians to ponder before lighting fireworks and joining the parade: Are we truly free? Are we truly sovereign?

Are we free? Just on the eve of Merdeka Day, one of Malaysia's most popular news portal, Malaysia Today, was blocked by internet service providers under the instruction of the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). This instruction denied millions of Malaysians, who have shunned the mainstream media, their primary information source. The MCMC has cited the Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, 1998 to force ISPs to use their best endeavour "to prevent his/her facilities from being used to violate any law in the country". It is unfortunate that MCMC acted without Malaysia Today and its editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin being convicted or proven in court of any criminal offence. By invoking the block, the MCMC contravenes the government's promise of no censorship and less regulation in the internet, when the multi-media super corridor was launched in 1998. It has also broken the law as Section 3 of the CMA states clearly that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet." So, What has produced MCMC to toe the political line rather than adhere to the law?

Are we free? Just two weeks before Merdeka Day, the Home Ministry decided that we cannot read two more books, on top of at least 1443 books that were banned since 1971. One of the two latest banned books is a volume titled "Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism" authored by international experts and edited by renowned Malaysian sociologist, Prof Norani Othman. The book was published three years ago, so why the ban only now? Did the Home Ministry censorship board take three years to understand its content? In fact, are they capable of reading and understanding an academic book when they have not even produce a book review to pinpoint its flaws? Can we be a free nation when bureaucrats whose reading ability is questionable are deciding what we can and cannot read? Their power to curb freedom of expression stems from the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) which requires all periodicals to apply for annual renewable permits, which can be revoked and suspended by the Minister at anytime at his absolute discretion. In 1987, under Operasi Lalang eitght newpapers were suspended. Operasi Lalang also saw the arbitrary detention of 106 socio-political activists.

Are we free? When questioning of government policies or the judicial process by citizens can land one in prison under the Sedition Act, 1948, when truth cannot be a defence against charges, where "seditious tendency" are broadly and vaguely defined, when newspapers can be suspended for allegedly containing seditious matter (Section 9), what's left of our public space to discuss issues that matter most and are therefore often termed "sensitive"?

Are we free? When there are 66 persons still detained arbitrarily and indefinitely without trial for opposing the government's policies under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, when the Minister can subjectively ban any publications deemed to be "prejudicial to the national interest, public order, or security of Malaysia", and his/her decisions cannot be reviewed by the judiciary. Are we free from the danger of arbitrary judgment of one politician? And, are we free when the very same repressive colonial laws that suppressed peoples' struggles in the pre-Merdeka era are still continued and used randomly by the present government even after Merdeka?

Are we free? When citizens have no freedom of information to learn about public policies and decision-making process, when politicians and bureaucrats can easily deny public access to details of lucrative contracts and concessions, justified under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), is it any wonder that corruption and power abuse become rampant? When we pay taxes and yet do not have the right to know how the money is spent, are we really the boss of the government? Or have we, the rakyat, instead become slaves to the very people we have elected?

Unfortunately, we are not free given the flaws and shortcomings in the CMA, PPPA, Sedition Act, ISA, OSA and other media-related laws. We will continue to be enslaved until we become truly politically free and democratic. We had merely replaced foreign colonial masters with domestic ones who rule over us by insisting that we are incapable of thinking and making our own judgment.

A true national independence is, therefore, overdue. It is possible only if all the media-related laws are put under thorough reviews and after taking on board the concerns of all Malaysians, regardless of economic interest, social-cultural background and political affiliation. A parliamentary select committee on media law reform must, therefore, be made a priority in our quest for independence, democracy and good governance. Calls to celebrate or to substantiate our independence by any political coalitions, are hollow if without a concrete commitment and roadmap to media law reform.

We call upon all Malaysians to press for the demand of media law reform by endorsing the 2008 Memorandum on Media Freedom on www.benar.org. The campaign for media law reform is extended to 27 October 27 2008, the anniversary of 1987 Operasi Lalang. Until we can ensure the freedoms of citizens and the media, Merdeka is not achieved. Let us fight for our second independence, this time from domestic authoritarianism – Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

A Joint statement by

1. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)

2. Benar for Free and Fair Media (Benar)

3. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)

4. Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)

5. Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI@Parliament)

6. Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)

7. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section (KLSCAH-YS)

8. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)

9. National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs)

10. People's Parliament

11. Empower (Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti, Selangor)

12. Sister in Islam (SIS)

13. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

14. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

15. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)

This statement was initiated by Benar and WAMI. For details, please contact Wong Chin Huat (019-3502823) or Maria Chin Abdullah (0133422931)


30 August, 2008

Malaysians Think Anwar is Innocent !

The majority of people in Malaysia think allegations of sexual misconduct against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim are false, according to a poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. 55 per cent of respondents share this view, while 11 per cent think the charges are true.

Polling Data

Do you believe in the allegations of sexual misconduct against Anwar Ibrahim ?

  • Believe: 11 %
  • Do not believe: 55 %
  • Not sure / No reply: 34 %

(Source: Merdeka Center for Opinion Research
Methodology: Telephone Interviews with 1,030 Malaysian voters, conducted Jul. 4 to Jul. 14, 2008. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.)

In 1999, Anwar—who served as deputy prime minister and finance minister during the Mahathir administration—was sentenced to jail on charges of sodomy and corruption. Anwar was regarded as Mahathir’s natural successor but had become a critic of the administration. Many Malaysians saw his conviction as politically-motivated.

In 2004, the Federal Court reversed Anwar’s conviction for sodomy and he was released from prison. Anwar’s wife, Azizah Ismail, formed the National Justice Party (PKN) in 1999. Anwar is now the leader of a coalition of opposition parties.

Last month, Anwar was arrested again, this time over allegations that he had "illegal sex" with a male aide. Homosexual sex is defined by Malaysian law as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Anwar pleaded not guilty, and has been released on bail.

On Aug. 22, Anwar decried the government’s tactics, saying, "Since the 1999 general election, they have used every means, threat and dirty tactic in the book to ensure they secure the landslide victories. This time, this by-election takes the cake and the prime minister, deputy prime minister, ministers and other BN leaders have jumped on the bandwagon on a free-for-all, no-holds barred smear campaign against me."


Meanwhile, a Panel of Eminent Persons reviewing the 1988 judicial crisis found that Sacked Lord President Tun Salleh Abas was not only innocent of the charges levelled against him but was acting to uphold his constitutional duty to protect the doctrine of separation of powers.

It also concluded that the removal of Salleh and Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah subsequently was “non est”, that is, that they should not have been sacked.

The five-man panel comprised retired Chief Justice of India JS Verma, who chaired the panel; former Pakistan Supreme Court Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim; advocate of the Pakistan Supreme Court and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr Asma Jahangir; senior Malaysian lawyer Tan Sri Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman; senior Australian lawyer and former Lawasia president Dr Gordon Hughes; and senior Malaysian lawyer Datuk Bill Davidson.

Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, launching the Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons to Review the 1988 Judicial Crisis in Malaysia at the council auditorium, said: “It may have taken 20 years, but it is never too late for right to be done and for the truth to be told.”

In another development, The Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said The Malaysia Today news portal has no respect at all for religion even though the topic is very sensitive and the "fire of religion" could cause chaos and havoc.

Utusan Malaysia reported on Saturday that SKMM had banned Malaysia Today not for political reasons or because it was very critical of politicians such as Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, but because the website had insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The SKMM head Mohamed Shahril Mohamed Tarmizi told Utusan that the ban against Malaysia Today was because an article in the website had tried to draw parallels of the Holy Prophet to the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden.

Syed Hamid said countries take action when people profane religion "what more from a person (Raja Petra) who professes to be a Muslim."

"I thought personally when they (SKMM) took action - under current developments - that we were very slow to take action even though we are hurt very badly so often," he added.

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29 August, 2008

Sodomy and the backlash

A sweeping by-election victory takes Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, a step closer to power. The government seems blind to the danger signals.

AFTER an ugly, mudslinging campaign, a by-election on August 26th in the northern constituency of Permatang Pauh may have changed Malaysia’s political landscape permanently. The stakes were high. The main opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, bidding to return to parliament, had to win convincingly to keep up the momentum of his drive to unseat the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its allies, which have ruled since independence from Britain in 1957. The government, which lost its two-thirds majority (needed to change the constitution) in a general election in March, wanted at least to deny Mr Anwar a big majority. But he won by almost 16,000 votes, 2,000 more than in March, when his wife (with Mr Anwar above) defended the seat.

So Mr Anwar’s second shot at power remains on track. Ten years ago he was deputy prime minister and UMNO’s heir-apparent. But he was brought down by trumped-up charges of “sodomy”, a crime in Malaysia, after falling out with the then leader, Mahathir Mohamad. Mr Anwar was jailed for this and a further charge of corruption, then freed in 2004 after Dr Mahathir had handed the reins of power to the current prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. Mr Anwar has since built an unlikely opposition alliance. His own, multiracial People’s Justice Party (PKR) has teamed up with both the Islamic Party (PAS), which appeals to Malaysia’s Muslim, ethnic-Malay majority, and the firmly secular Democratic Action Party (DAP), whose main base is the ethnic-Chinese minority.

In June, soon after a ban on Mr Anwar’s holding political office expired, a young male aide made familiar-sounding accusations of sodomy, for which Mr Anwar will, again, go on trial soon. The government insists this is no put-up job, though to its embarrassment it soon emerged that the accuser had met Mr Badawi’s deputy, Najib Razak, and other government officials. In the by-election campaign, the government side constantly played video clips of Mr Anwar’s accuser swearing on the Koran that his allegations were true. In turn, the opposition reminded voters of the gruesome murder of a Mongolian woman, over which one of Mr Najib’s advisers and two police bodyguards are on trial.

Little of the mud slung in Mr Anwar’s direction seemed to stick. According to a poll by Merdeka Centre, an opinion-research outfit, the weekend before the by-election, 59% of voters in Permatang Pauh thought the sodomy allegation politically motivated, and only 11% deemed it the main issue in the election, compared with 32% who thought the economy was. Mr Anwar promises to abolish the policy of giving Malays preference for state jobs and contracts, arguing that it has mainly benefited the well-connected few. Ethnic Malays, by voting for Mr Anwar in large numbers, seem to have rejected the government’s charge that he is a traitor to his race.

Zaid Ibrahim, a lawyer whom Mr Badawi recently brought into his cabinet to lead the reform of a corrupt judiciary, says the lesson from the by-election is that voters are tired of personal attacks, and of the “overkill” tactics the government turns on its opponents. It should, says Mr Zaid, start showing the opposition some respect and engage it in a policy debate.

Other ministers, however, are much more relaxed about the by-election defeat. Shabery Cheek, the information minister, argues that the governing coalition has recovered from similar setbacks before. Furthermore, he says, Mr Anwar was campaigning in his home constituency, in a seat he used to occupy before his 1998 troubles, so his comfortable win was not that significant. Syed Hamid Albar, the home minister, notes that voters still gave the UMNO-led coalition a majority in the general election: this shows, he argues, that they still want the government in power, even if they also want to give the opposition a stronger voice.

For Bridget Welsh, an American academic who studies Malaysia, this laid-back view suggests that much of the government is “in denial” about the message the voters are sending. Hitherto, says Ms Welsh, Malaysians have been rather risk-averse. But ministers may be underestimating the effect that access to uncensored news, via the internet, is having in changing people’s views. To relieve the pressure for his resignation over the March election upset, Mr Badawi has promised to hand over to Mr Najib in 2010. Ms Welsh notes that since Mr Najib is popular within UMNO, but is seen outside it as a hardliner, his rise may not solve the party’s problem with voters.

Mr Anwar claims he is close to prising enough parliamentarians from the government benches to give him a parliamentary majority—he even boasts of taking power by September 16th, Malaysia Day. But this will be a tall order. His alliance has 82 seats in the 222-seat lower house. He would need comfortably more than the minimum of 30 floor-crossers to form a stable government—and in practice most would need to be Malays, ie, from UMNO rather than its non-Malay coalition partners. Most potential defectors will be loth to jump ship unless they feel sure the government is about to collapse.

Mr Anwar says it is not that important if he does not get enough defections by September 16th. He argues that the “climate of change” among the public, especially the Malays, means that the momentum behind him is now unstoppable. However, Tricia Yeoh, of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, a think-tank, says that to maintain it, the opposition leader must urgently press on with forming a credible shadow cabinet, to show that his disparate alliance has the “seriousness and capability” to take on the job of government.

What if UMNO does fall, either through defections in the short term or by losing the next election, and Malaysia gets its first alternation of power? Many institutions of state—especially the police, courts and civil service—are deeply politicised. But Ong Kian Ming, a political scientist, reckons that most would fall in line if the opposition takes power, as long as Mr Anwar avoids provoking them needlessly. Most big Malaysian businesses, despite their cosiness with the current government, would also prefer an Anwar government to a prolonged period of political instability. In the meantime the government looks likely to do everything it can to retain power. Except, it still seems, the one thing that might work: showing some tangible progress on the reforms Mr Badawi keeps promising but never provides.

- From The Economist print edition

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28 August, 2008

Cry, the beloved country.

Cyberspace crackdown ? Malaysia has blocked access to a popular news Web site that has often run afoul of authorities for its sensational political reporting.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the government's industry regulator, ordered local Internet service providers on Wednesday to cut off access to the Malaysia Today site, said a commission official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said that the prominent political website Malaysia Today had been banned because it published "libellous, defamatory and slanderous" content, according to Malaysiakini.

The Star reported that the ISPs were acting under a directive of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

The notices were sent out on Tuesday in accordance with Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

“This means that MCMC is allowed to block any particular website which has committed acts that contravene the local laws of the country, for example, sedition,” a source told the newspaper.

This move is going to put the government in the firing line. Critics are going to argue that the MCMC’s action contravenes Section 3 of the Act which prohibits any censorship of the Internet.

Also, when the government launched the Multimedia Super Corridor, it promised not to allow any censorship of the Internet.

It looks like Malaysia-Today is the only target of the government’s sudden crackdown on blogosphere. So far.

“At the moment, even Anwar Ibrahim’s blog has been spared. So it seems to be Malaysia-Today only, you know,” its editor, Raja Petra Kamarudin, told The Malaysian Insider.

The controversial blogger said that he was surprised by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) order to 19 Internet service providers (ISPs) to block his website.

“Well, I expected them to do something, but I just didn’t know what they were going to do. But in Malaysia we’re always expecting to expect anything, you know what I mean?”

He also managed to set up an alternative blog site at mt.harapanmalaysia.com and passed the word of the new DNS address through SMSes.

The decision to shut down Malaysia Today is totally unnecessary and unconvincing. Sue him, arrest him, charge him or whatever but Raja Petra Kamaruddin has the right to operate his website, writes Wong Chun Wai.

He has the right to write whatever he wants and if he steps out of the boundary, there are enough laws to be used against him. In a democracy, we don't have to agree with each other but we must defend the right of everyone to speak up - including RPK and other voices of dissent. It is not the job of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to decide what is seditious or libellious or slanderous. Let the proper authorities do the job. The MCMC order to internet service providers to block his site is myopic and ridiculous. It goes against the Multimedia Super Corridor Bill of Guarantees which promised no censorship. If it can happen to RPK, it can also happen to other Malaysian bloggers. The MCMC should just end this silliness.


27 August, 2008

Parti Keadilan Rakyat did not win the by-election but BN lost the by-election

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is set to be sworn in as a member of parliament tomorrow after a landslide by-election win marked his return to mainstream politics, reported Malaysiakini.

Anwar, a member of the Keadilan (Justice) party, won a decisive victory on Tuesday in a contest for Permatang Pauh, a constituency in his northern home state of Penang.

Pandikar Amin Mulia, the speaker of Malaysia’s lower house of parliament, said Anwar will be formally sworn in as legislator on Thursday.

This will allow Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister, to attend the tabling of the annual budget in parliament on Friday by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia’s prime minister.

His return to mainstream politics after a decade is expected to boost the opposition voice in parliament led by a loose coalition known as Pakatan Rakyat, or People’s Alliance.

Morale booster

“We will all be there to welcome Anwar as the leader of the opposition and the parliament will be very different with his voice,” Tian Chua, Keadilan’s information chief, told AFP on Wednesday.

“It is a real morale boost for the Pakatan Rakyat in parliament.”

Anwar’s landslide victory on Tuesday will not tip the balance of national power but he has vowed to topple the government and become the next prime minister with a promise for change.

He claims there are enough MPs from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition who are wiling to join him to form a new government by mid-September.

He needs the support of 30 defectors to make this happen.

Last month Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also Keadilan president, resigned from the Permatang Pauh seat to make way for him to contest.

Sodomy charge

Anwar’s convincing win comes despite a new charge of sexual misconduct for allegedly sodomising a male aide early this year.

He says the charges are part of a politically-motivated smear campaign by the government.

Under Malaysian law, sodomy is illegal even if consensual, and a conviction could see Anwar jailed for up to 20 years.

Anwar is scheduled to appear in court on September 10 to deny charges of sexual misconduct, which he says is a government conspiracy similar to that mounted against him 10 years ago.

In 1998 Anwar was charged with sodomy and corruption which led to his sacking from government and political office.

He was later convicted on both charges and served six years in jail before the sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004. The conviction for corruption remains.

Anwar has maintained that Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister who was his long-time mentor, had framed him in 1998 to prevent a power struggle.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has slammed his successor's policies after handing over power in 2003, said he believed many government supporters voted for Anwar so that Abdullah would realize his leadership is no longer wanted.

"Abdullah must take responsibility and resign now," Mahathir said.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad doubts that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could be the next prime minister despite winning the Permatang Pauh by-election on Tuesday.

The former prime minister believes that Anwar will not be able to get at least 30 Members of Parliament from Barisan Nasional to cross over to the opposition to form a simple-majority government.

"He (Anwar) may think that he can buy them but other bidders may have more money,"(Other bidders ?) he told reporters at Perdana Leadership Foundation here Wednesday.

"Parti Keadilan Rakyat did not win the by-election but BN lost the by-election," he said.

Dr Mahathir said he was afraid that the decreasing BN popularity within five months after the general election occurred not in Permatang Pauh only but was a trend in other constituencies as well.

He reiterated his call for his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down following this decline.

Meanwhile, dissidents in Malaysia's ruling party demanded the prime minister's resignation Wednesday after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returned to Parliament with a sweeping election victory.

Veteran government lawmaker Razaleigh Hamzah, who wants to challenge Abdullah for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization ruling party, said the results meant that "what scraps of credibility (Abdullah) had left after March 8 are gone."

Statement on the Result of the Permatang Pauh By-Election

26 August 26, 2008
YBM Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Member of Parliament, Gua Musang
31 Jalan Langgak Golf
55000 Kuala Lumpur

Today, five months after we met with the biggest General Election loss in our history, UMNO has suffered a landslide loss at Permatang Pauh. This despite the mobilization of the entire leadership and resources of a party that has held the machinery of government without pause for fifty years. This despite a campaign that embarrassed and divided the nation with its ugliness. It is time to face the music: it is we who have been buried:

- Our leadership is rejected by the rakyat and, moreover, is rejected by our own members. BN’s vote count was less than the number of UMNO members in the constituency.

- Within and among our component parties we ran a poorly coordinated and listless campaign against a motivated Opposition.

- What scraps of credibility the Prime Minister and his Deputy had left after March 8 are gone.

Today’s report card, delivered to a Prime Minister who is accountable also as Liaison Chief of UMNO Penang and Chairman of BN, is impossible to hide: he does not have the minimal credibility needed to run the country day by day, let alone to take it in the new directions we need to go in a complex world. He may not have the credibility needed to keep the country together. This dangerous situation cannot continue, and it will not.

I appeal to the members of UMNO and of BN’s component parties to stand by UMNO in our hour of crisis, and to take a sober historical perspective. The people of Malaysia and along with them, Umno’s ordinary members, have found their democratic voice. They demand leadership that can be trusted to unite our people, to restore confidence in our institutions, and forge a clear national direction. Today is proof that this wave cannot be held back. UMNO must change. We must begin by renewing our Party leadership. I am confident that by December, we shall.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah


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25 August, 2008

Permatang Pauh By-Elections - BN loss could hasten Pak Lah's exit ?

A big victory for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Permatang Pauh tomorrow could spoil Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi"s two-year succession plan, and force an earlier handover of power.

Even his loyalists in Umno concede that the mutterings about the sense of drift in the country and the lack of strong leadership in Barisan Nasional have grown louder in the last few weeks, and they expect party officials to call for a quicker transfer of power to Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak if Anwar wins the by-election by a larger majority than the 13,000 margin his wife managed on March 8.

A party official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, told The Malaysian Insider: "The BN machinery has not been at its best.

There is no cohesion among the parties and little fighting spirit. If Anwar wins big, questions will be raised about the preparations and leadership. Ultimately, it will fall on Pak Lah."

A heavy defeat at the hands of Anwar tomorrow will only serve to deepen the gloom and force coalition partners to consider their future in BN and cast major doubts on whether Abdullah can help them regain their lustre.

The situation is less grim in Umno but Cabinet ministers and senior politicians are wondering whether Abdullah will be able to stay on till mid 2010, saying that they are concerned that the PM may not be up to the task of steering the country through this more challenging economic times.

There have not been any calls for him to step down recently but this silence masks a sense of despair among ministers and senior politicians.

Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim says he has no qualms about toppling the government with legislative defections, saying the country cannot afford to wait four years for the next elections to bring about change.

"Four years will be disastrous for the economy, the political system, the judiciary," Anwar said late Saturday.

Anwar's aides say at least 30 lawmakers in the governing coalition intend to defect if he enters Parliament. A former deputy prime minister with ambitions for the top job, Anwar has said he will bring down the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by Sept. 16.

Anwar also rejected criticism that a government formed by defections would have no moral authority to rule. He said the opposition would have come to power anyway had the elections been totally fair.

Also, the country is reeling from economic mismanagement and corruption, and should not have to wait for four years for a change of government, he said.

"No, 1, you have a situation where the election was stolen from you. No. 2, there is no direction, no leadership. Can you imagine - with this leadership, this policy, this crime rate, this economy - can the country manage and survive for four years?" he said.

"My point is, we will lose a lot if we wait for four years," he said.

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23 August, 2008

Saiful's Swearing On Quran Will Not Influence Jawi Investigation

The swearing on the Quran by Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan to prove sodomy by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, will not influence the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Affairs Department's (Jawi) investigation into the "qazaf" (slander) claim made by Anwar against the youth.

Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan swore on the Quran before scores of press members and religious officials at the Federal Territory mosque that he was sodomised by his former boss Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Saiful said: “I swear that I was sodomised by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on June 26, 2008.

“If I make a lie in this confession, then I am making a falsehood against Allah, and I am willing to accept His suffering, curse and damnation until Judgment Day,”

“It is time to honour my responsibility as a Muslim and to stand up for the truth. I deeply understand that if I am lying, I will be cursed by Allah, and woe will befall me, my family and for generations to come."

Jawi director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali said this was because the "sumpah laknat" (swearing in the face of divine retribution) made by Mohd Saiful, 23, and the investigation into the alleged "qazaf" offence had no connection.

"The investigation into the 'qazaf' offence is carried out according to the legal process and the decision will be made by the court, whereas the swearing was done in the mosque.

"Because of that, the 'sumpah laknat' made by Mohd Saiful will have no bearing on the 'qazaf' investigation," he said after opening a Muslim women's seminar on "The Challenges of Today's Adolescents" organised by the Terengganu Girl Guide Movement, here Saturday.

Che Mat said Jawi had completed taking statements from the two involved in the case which would be brought before the court soon.

On July 9, Anwar lodged a complaint with Jawi and asked for action be taken under the "qazaf" provision in syariah law against Mohd Saiful for accusing the former deputy prime minister of sodomising him.

Section 41 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 provides that anyone who makes a false accusation of committing "zina" (illicit sex) against another without producing four male witnesses or a sworn oath by the accused, is liable to be fined RM5,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both, if found guilty.

Meanwhile, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Saiful's act of swearing on the Quran was not wrong as it was a tradition practised by some Muslims.

While not disputing the views of some Muslim scholars who felt what Saiful did was wrong, he said some Muslims swore on the Holy Book as an act to prove themselves and Saiful wanted to show the world that he was speaking the truth.

'He has done it with proper guidance of the imam of the mosque. Of course in court it is a different thing,' Mr Muhyiddin.

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22 August, 2008

Permatang Pauh - Abdullah pre-empt move to 'buy' election

Malaysiakini reported that Abdullah's government announces that price of RON97 petrol will go down by 15 sen from RM2.70 to RM2.55 per litre at the pumps beginning midnight, a reduction of 5.6 percent.

The government announces that price of RON97 petrol will go down by 15 sen from RM2.70 to RM2.55 per litre at the pumps beginning midnight, a reduction of 5.6 percent.

Petrol and diesel price will drop by between eight sen and 22 sen a litre from Saturday.

The price of RON97 petrol will be reduced by 15 sen to RM2.55 a litre from RM2.70, while RON92 would be 22 sen less at RM2.40, from RM2.62

The retail price of diesel would drop by eight sen to RM2.50 a litre.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah ahmad Badawi announced the new prices in a statement after Friday's Cabinet meeting.

He said the prices were determined by taking into account the actual price from Aug 1 to 21 and the 30 sen per litre subsidy borne by the government while the subsidy for diesel, based on the new price, was 50 sen a litre.

"The cabinet decided to bring forward the enforcement date for adjustment of the new petrol price," he said.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January to July increased by 4.4 percent to 109.8 from 105.2 recorded in the same period last year, the Department of Statistics said Friday.

The CPI was up by 8.5 percent to 114.7 from 105.7 versus the same month last year and was up by 1.1 per cent when compared with the previous month.

Among the contributory factors for the increase were the substantial rise in the electricity tariff announced by the government effective July 1 and the knock-on effect from the petrol and diesel price increase, it said.

The index for Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages for July compared to the same month last year showed high percentage change of 11.2 percent and the index for non-food rose by 7.3 percent.

The period between January and July showed increases in the index for food & non-alcoholic beverages at 6.9 percent and non-food 3.2 percent.

The index for food & non-alcoholic beverages rose by 1.5 percent while the index for non-food increased by 1.0 percent compared to the previous month.

The 4.4 percent increase in the CPI was brought about by increases observed in the indices of all the main groups except those of clothing & footwear and communication which dropped by 0.6 percent respectively, it said.

Notable among these increases were the main groups with high weights namely food & non-alcoholic beverages (+ 6.9 percent); Transport (+ 6.7 percent) and housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (+ 1.4 percent).

Other increases were alcoholic beverages & tobacco (+ 7.7 percent); restaurants & hotels (+ 7.0 percent ); miscellaneous goods & services (+ 3.4 percent ); recreation services & culture (+ 2.1 percent ); education (+ 2.1 percent ); furnishings, household equipment & routine household maintenance (+ 2.0 percent ); and health (+ 1.9 percent).

The three main groups, food & non-alcoholic beverages; housing, water, electricity, gas & other fuels and transport together accounted for 82.6 percent of the overall increase recorded for the current period.

The department said the month-on-month CPI was up by 1.1 percent were attributable to the increase shown in the selected main groups namely transport (+2.6 percent); food & non-alcoholic beverages (+1.5 percent); furnishings, household equipment & routine household maintenance (+1.0 percent); housing, water, electricity, gas & other fuels; restaurants & hotels and miscellaneous goods & services (+0.7 percent) respectively); Health And Recreation Services & Culture (+0.3 percent respectively); and alcoholic beverages & tobacco and education (+0.1 percent respectively).

Meanwhile, the index for clothing & footwear and communication showed a drop by 0.4 and 0.1 percent, respectively.

The 1.5 percent increase in the index for food & non-alcoholic beverages in July 2008 compared with that of previous month was the result of an increase in the index for food at home (+ 1.6 percent); food away from home (+ 1.2 percent) and coffee, tea, cocoa & non-alcoholic beverages (+ 0.6 percent).

Among the food items which recorded notable increase in the index in July 2008 compared with the previous month were cucumber (+ 9.4 percent); beef patty (+ 7.2 percent ); papaya (+ 6.1 percent ); selar scad (fish) (+ 6.0 percent); french beans (+ 5.9 percent ); mixed cereals (+ 5.9 percent); pears (+ 5.8 percent ); and spinach (+ 5.2 percent ).

Meanwhile, the index of some food items declined in July than the previous month.

Among them were long cabbage (- 5.0 percent); carrots (- 4.2 percent); round cabbage (- 3.9 percent); green apples (- 3.3 percent); and rambutan (- 2.7 percent).

A reclassification of items according to their durability and services rendered showed increases in the index for non-durable goods (+ 2.1 percent ); durable goods (+ 0.6 percent ) and services ( + 0.5 percent ); while the index for semi-durable goods dwindled by 0.1 percent.


21 August, 2008

How little our leaders know

Trust not these religious people. Many are fakes and phoneys. The Quran says these people will sell their religion for money. This is not what I say. This is what the Quran says. And would the Quran lie?

- Raja Petra Kamarudin

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is upset that some Blogggers are showing ‘disrespect’ by flying the Malaysian flag upside down. Actually, flying the flag upside down is internationally accepted as a sign of distress, not a mark of disrespect.

What the Prime Minister does not know is that Malaysia has been showing disrespect to our flag for more than 50 years. Amongst some of these displays of disrespect are:

1. The flag should never be used for any advertising purposes.

2. The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general.

3. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

4. The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organisations.

5. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

There are of course much more but these five above already demonstrates in what way Malaysia has been disrespectful to the Jalur Gemilang. So what’s with this anger towards flying the flag upside down, which is allowed, when Malaysia, in fact, has acted disrespectfully to the flag since the time of Merdeka.

On the matter of whether swearing on the Quran is allowed by Islam or, in fact, violates Islamic teachings, since the so-called religious scholars appear divided on what is right and what is wrong, allow me to refer to the Quran, which is supposed to be the main guiding light for all Muslims.

In an earlier article (Inventing new religious rituals ), I already explained that even the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, was not asked to swear on the Quran that she is innocent of the allegation of adultery. If the Prophet himself did not condone the act of swearing on the Quran, where then did this deviant practice come from?

What did happen is that the Prophet received a revelation from God about what to do to either confirm or dispel allegations of sexual misconduct. You can read this in Surah 24 (An-Nur) of the Quran.

And as to what to do in the event of a dispute when two people say opposite things, which means one of them is lying, you can refer to Surah 3 (Al ‘Imran) Verse 61 of the Quran which explains it very clearly.

The trouble with these so-called religious people is that they are trying to gain political mileage with the sodomy issue in the hope that Anwar Ibrahim may see a much-reduced majority in the 26 August 2008 Permatang Puah by-election, or, better still, lose the election. They are therefore twisting what Islam says in the hope that the simple-minded Malay voters in Permatang Pauh can be fooled.

The Quran has warned us about such people. ‘Religious people’ since time immemorial have been exploiting and distorting religion for monetary gain as well as to attain power. Religious people are very dangerous. They know they have the confidence of the majority of the people who are not only simple-minded but place great trust on people perceived as ‘men of God’.

This is not only a problem in Islam but in all religions as well. Trust not these religious people. Many are fakes and phoneys. The Quran says these people will sell their religion for money. This is not what I say. This is what the Quran says. And would the Quran lie when the Quran is regarded by Muslims as the word of God?


Read also:"Repression before reform in Malaysia"
By Baradan Kuppusamy


20 August, 2008

Badawi Govt Backs Israel ?

Anwar Ibrahim has accused his country's government of supporting the pro-Israel lobby in the US and Jewish groups inside Israel.

"I have evidence proving that the government is backing the Jewish lobby in the US and some parties inside Israel," Anwar told IslamOnline.net in an exclusive interview.

Mean time,Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister, who was accused of illegal sex with a man, the court proceedings so dismayed a Universiti Malaya law lecturer that he told his students to throw away their textbooks.

``What's admissible is irrelevant, what's relevant is not admissible,'' retired High Court and Court of Appeal Judge Shaik Daud Ismail said he told his class after the trial that convicted Anwar started in 1998.

A decade later, with Anwar facing similar charges, Shaik Daud, 72, says Malaysia's judiciary still needs reform.

``The system is crooked,'' said Shaik Daud, who calls himself politically independent.

In Malaysia, King Mizan Zainal Abidin appoints judges on the advice of the prime minister. Judges, not juries, deliver verdicts after hearing evidence from prosecutors and the defense.

The judiciary lost credibility in 1988 when then-King Sultan Iskandar Ismail dismissed Salleh Abas, Malaysia's chief judge, on instructions from a tribunal set up by Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister at the time.

Mahathir denied involvement in the decision, which followed a High Court ruling that his party was illegal because some regional branches weren't properly registered.

Read more here.



Yet another shit-for-brains move - Lavigne 'too sexy' for Malaysia, Islamists say

Malaysia has cancelled a concert by Canadian rock singer Avril Lavigne after the Islamic opposition slammed the show as being "too sexy".

The Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry said it was unsuitable for Malaysian culture and could not be held on August 29, two days ahead of the country's independence day.

The government's decision comes after the youth wing of a fundamentalist opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, called for the show's to be scrapped.

Lavigne, a Grammy-nominated rock singer who burst to fame with her 2002 debut album "Let's Go," plans to start her monthlong Asia tour with a performance in Kuala Lumpur on August 29.

The youth wing of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party said Lavigne's concert would promote wrong values ahead of Malaysia's August 31 independence day.

"It is considered too sexy for us. ... It's not good for viewers in Malaysia," said Kamarulzaman Mohamed, a party official. "We don't want our people, our teenagers, influenced by their performance. We want clean artists, artists that are good role models."

Kamarulzaman said he sent a protest letter to the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry and the Kuala Lumpur mayor last week, calling for the concert to be canceled.

Last ditch efforts are being made to stage the Avril Lavigne concert at Stadium Merdeka on Aug 29.

The organisers are expected to meet officials of the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry Thursday.

"We are optimistic that the ministry officials will listen to our appeals as there is support for the concert,'' a spokesman said.

It is understood that no official notice has been sent to the organisers, Galaxy Productions, on the status of the concert despite media reports that it has been called off.

The status of the concert appears uncertain as minister Datuk Shafie Apdal said the relevant authorities would make a decision on the matter this week.

However, he also said he did not want the concert to coincide with the Merdeka period and the tahlil religious programme on Aug 29.

"We don't want the day to be filled with such pop and rock culture. We should be instilling a good culture in the young but here we are allowing other parties to organise things," he said.

"All organisers, local and foreign, should adhere to the rules and regulations before promoting the concert and selling tickets to the public," he said, adding that the organisers should consult the relevant authorities.

On whether the Ministry's decision was in response to PAS Youth's call earlier this month for the concert to be cancelled, he said: "No."

Last year, pop singer Gwen Stefani made what she called "a major sacrifice" by donning clothes that revealed little skin at a performance here.

Also last year, Christina Aguilera skipped Malaysia during an Asian tour that included neighboring Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, while R&B superstar Beyonce scratched a planned concert here, moving it to Indonesia.

A Pussycat Dolls concert in 2006 was fined 10,000 ringgit (US $2,857) after the U.S. girl group was accused of flouting decency regulations.

19 August, 2008

The Bar Council Is Not And Has Never 'Anti' Any Religion

Press release by Bar Council

The Bar Council believes in the right of every person to profess and practise the religion of their choice.

The Bar is a multi-racial organisation comprising members of various backgrounds and faiths. The history of the Bar will show that the Bar Council has championed many diverse and sometimes unpopular causes, without fear or favour and regardless of racial or religious origin, with its sole motivation being that of upholding the rule of law. This is evidenced by, among other things, the numerous legal aid cases that we undertake yearly for the needy regardless of race, colour or creed, including for all those held under the ISA.

The Bar has never been, is not and will never be “anti” any religion as this runs counter to our core values.

The Bar Council believes in the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and international human rights norms. None of these values run counter to any religious tenets. In fact, they accord fully with them.

In April this year, the Prime Minister was reported in the press to have said at the National Islamic Council meeting that there ought to be rulings making it mandatory for individuals wishing to convert to Islam, to inform their family members of their intention to do so. The same suggestion as well as others were made today by SUHAKAM in a public statement. There are also views reported to have been expressed by IKIM that the syariah courts should not have jurisdiction over the civil marriage or its dissolution. These views are in the public domain. To date, no provisions have been enacted to resolve these matters.

Meanwhile, some of the court’s decisions have shown inconsistency in their approach to this question of the jurisdictional conflict.

Affected families therefore continue to be caught between the jurisdictional divide and their pleas for a remedy or solution remain unanswered.

The Bar Council forum planned on 9 August 2008 was meant to address precisely these issues which are in the public domain. It was meant to discuss the issues of conflict of laws facing these families and to consider what means were available to resolve the conflict. It was meant as a forum to hear the voices that are unheard.

The programme initially included an ex-Syariah Court Judge (currently a Syarie prosecutor from Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan) and a speaker from IKIM, both of whom withdrew shortly before the date of the forum. If one had only looked at the programme and the speakers invited and had heeded our various explanations and statements issued prior to the forum, it would have been apparent that those labelling the forum anti-Islam were plainly wrong.

Regrettably, the disproportionate responses to the Bar Council’s forum may now discourage those who have genuine grievances from speaking up. We have little to be proud of if the voices of those who cry for help are drowned out by those who speak more loudly.

There are those who would have us believe that the Malaysian public is not ready for such dialogue. We believe otherwise. We believe that the Malaysian public is ready, simply because Malaysians will not sit by and tolerate the suffering of others without trying to find a solution.

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
19 August 2008

Kulim Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin must be a man wearing many hats or many masks. After barging into the Bar Council forum, which he has now denied, and having earned the reputation for being the loudest protestor, he is now telling us that he was there as an exco member of Persatuan Peguam Pembela Islam, and not as an MP.

Open letter to Zulkifli Nordin: Resign!

Dear Zuklifli Nordin,

Thank you for finally coming out of hiding and delivering a much needed press conference. During the press conference you made the claim that one can "talk about Islam but you can't talk for Islam". In a similar vein I would like to make it clear that you and Pembela can talk about Muslims but you can't talk for Muslims. You certainly don't speak for this Muslim and I daresay there are many other Malaysian Muslims that you do not speak for. You and the other leaders of that demonstration have only brought shame upon Muslims and moreover brought Islam into disrepute because by your actions and words on the morning of 9th August 2008 you lend credence to the notion that Muslims are irrational liars who are prone to threats of violence and that our faith is too weak to be discussed in the open.

In a moment reminiscent of pots and kettles you chided the Bar Council for not having "learnt to respect the law, the constitution and also the views of other parties". Just what laws or aspects of the constitution did the Bar Council contravene? You claim that the Bar Council are anti-Islam when in truth, the Bar Council had arranged for a diverse range of speakers including a syariah lawyer as well as representatives from IKIM and JAIS. The Bar Council had also invited those leading the protest to take part in the forum. Were you merely ignorant of all this or was there instead a wilful attempt to deceive on the part or you and the other protest organisers? Ironically, it is you who should learn to respect the constitution and the views of other parties.

You state that it was the police and not the protest that stopped the forum. That is mere semantics as you are quoted as saying "I have negotiated with the Dang Wangi police to stop the forum at 9.30am or else we will act." Now you expect us to believe that the police would have stopped the forum if your protest had not taken place? Do you think we were born yesterday? Stop twisting the truth. You have already threatened to "do it again" if the Bar Council attempted similar forums.

You claim that Malaysian Muslims have been tolerant living under laws that are not Islamic. Would it surprise you if you were to find out that most Malaysian Muslims, like their fellow countrymen, are more concerned about the content and quality of the laws they live under rather than the labels of these laws? It follows that Malaysians of all backgrounds object to the ISA simply because it is unjust on any view, not because it does not carry an Islamic label. Do not be so presumptuous as to think you are capable of taking the lead to speak for all Muslims in this country.

You are keen to emphasise that to you Islam comes before PKR. However, the far more pertinent question for you to answer is whether Pembela or your collective constituents come first, and in my view by your actions you have placed Pembela above your constituents. As an illustration, consider if you had another Shamala or Revathi as a constituent. Would you be sympathetic to the plight of such a person? Could such a person count on your support? Would such a person even be comfortable now to approach you? Would you be willing to cross swords with JAIS or other Islamic authorities to seek justice for a non-Muslim? I am guessing the answer to all these questions is a resounding 'No'.

You maintain that you attended the demonstration as a member of Pembela and not as an MP. Since you are still in a state of denial I provided the above illustration to demonstrate how your actions as a member of Pembela have created a potentially calamitous conflict of interest with your responsibilities as an MP. Who would now believe that you can impartially serve the interests of all your constituents?

The only honourable course of action for you is to resign from your parliamentary post.

Make way for someone who will unite, not divide Malaysians and one who will make all the constituents their priority.

BY: Umran Kadir

(The writer is is a Malaysian currently on the lookout for a pupillage in England, having just finished his English Bar exams.)


18 August, 2008

PM backs Anwar accuser after mosque 'stunt'

Malaysia's premier has backed the young man accusing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy, after the man visited a mosque to swear to his claims in an act criticised as a political stunt.

Anwar has said the allegations made by Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 23-year-old former aide, have been engineered by the government to prevent him from seizing power after landmark March elections.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hit out at criticism of Mohamad Saiful after he was photographed last week at a city mosque, swearing on the Koran that he was telling the truth.

"According to Islam, an individual seeking justice should be respected, even though it may be a personal issue," the premier said

"There are those who question his method and whether he is following the right procedure but in his heart he must have a clear intention," Abdullah said.

"The incident must have been traumatic, otherwise he would not have lodged the police report."

Anwar was accused of sodomy in court this month, but the charge indicated the alleged sex act was consensual. Although under the law Mohamad Saiful would appear to be equally culpable, the government has said he will not be charged.

Mohamad Saiful said last Friday that the alleged sex act was not consensual, and that it "happened by force, without my permission."

He denied that his visit to the mosque, the day before Anwar formally registered for a by-election expected to return him to parliament after a decade-long absence, was aimed at undermining the opposition leader.

"It is just by coincidence that I made the oath today. God gave me the strength to do it," he said.

Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday came out in support of Anwar, saying he was innocent of the sodomy charges and that he hoped he would one day lead the nation.

"I think (the allegations) are wrong because I know Anwar and I believe totally in him," he told a press conference.

He also slammed Mohamad Saiful's action of swearing on the Koran as "unIslamic" and said that if he wanted to clear his name, he should go to the Sharia court as Anwar has already done.

Wahid, a liberal Islamic scholar, headed Indonesia's largest Muslim association, Nahdlatul Ulama, for 15 years before taking up the presidency from 1999 to 2001.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the spiritual leader of the conservative Islamic party PAS, which is a member of Anwar's opposition alliance, has also said Saiful's move to swear on the Koran was not in keeping with Islamic teachings.

"It is normal for Christians to swear on the Holy Bible and it seems that he wanted to follow the Christian way of doing it," he said, "In Islam... there is no need to hold the Koran."

Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and jailed for six years on sodomy and corruption charges, said Saiful's mosque visit was part of the government conspiracy.

"They are afraid of me being an MP and going on to become the opposition leader in parliament," he said last week.


Or, perhaps, it is just a lurid sex story returns to haunt Malaysia ?

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17 August, 2008

'Super Dan' lives up to his World No. 1 rank

21 - 12
21 - 8

Men's Singles World No. 1 Lin Dan of China thrashed Malaysia's World No. 2 Lee Chong-wei 21-12, 21-8 to win the gold in the Beijing Olympic Badminton tournament on Sunday, August 17.

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Desperate and tainted: Malaysia's leadership crisis

Martin Jacques
The Age

A FEVERISH atmosphere now grips Malaysia. The country is awash with rumours. Until the resignation in 2003 of prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, politics were entirely predictable. Now they are becoming highly unpredictable.

Malaysia is a great Asian success story. It has enjoyed a growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 20 years, and the fruits of prosperity are everywhere. Malaysia is the economic star of the Muslim world. The architect of this economic transformation was Mahathir, but since he stepped down, the country has been engulfed by growing doubts about his legacy and new priorities.

The turning point was the election last March. Ever since independence from Britain in 1957 the country has been ruled by the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of three racially based parties led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), leaving the opposition permanently enfeebled. In March, however, the Government gained only 51% of the popular vote compared with 64% at the 2004 election.

The Government still enjoys a healthy majority, but the election has undermined its self-confidence, hugely enhanced that of the opposition and transformed the mood of the nation; suddenly, change is in the air.

The Government has become defensive and fearful, symbolised by the weak leadership of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. Its defensiveness is illustrated by its latest legal assault on Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition coalition's leader and a former deputy prime minister.

In 1998 he was charged with sodomy and imprisoned for 15 years, but released in 2004 after the appeal court overthrew his conviction. Fearful of his return to politics, the Government has again charged him with sodomy. In a recent poll, two-thirds believed the charges were politically motivated. Even the UMNO-run New Straits Times displayed a transparent lack of conviction in the charges. The sodomy charge is designed to discredit Anwar in the eyes of Malays and keep him from parliament. It is the unimaginative act of a Government running scared.

The Government, meanwhile, finds itself mired in another scandal - the murder of a young Mongolian translator in 2006. A political adviser of Najib Tun Razak, the ambitious Deputy Prime Minister, is standing trial, together with two bodyguards. The fact that an attempt was made to remove all traces of the body with special explosives, the use of which can be sanctioned only by the highest authorities, has encouraged widespread speculation that Najib and his wife were involved.

The Government has only itself to blame. The media is closely controlled and widely disbelieved. The vacuum of information and opinion has been filled by two websites - malaysiakini.com and malaysiatoday.com - which have become highly influential, outspoken and merciless towards the Government.

The growing lack of confidence in the Government is fuelled by systemic corruption, especially in UMNO, and a widely held view that the benefits of economic growth have not been shared equitably, with poorer Malays and the Indian minority losing out badly. Corruption is rife in UMNO, which has become a vehicle for personal enrichment.

But the old order will mount a desperate fight to ensure its own survival. Too many people have got too much to lose. The greatest fear must be that as it weakens, underlying racial tensions will be exacerbated and exploited. Malaysia is multiracial in a way true of few societies outside Africa: with Malays accounting for about 60% of the population, the Chinese for some 25% and Indians 8%, this is a country that depends on a racial consensus for its stability.

Such racially diverse societies are extremely difficult to govern, and it is to Malaysia's credit that it has combined economic growth with relative racial harmony. Undoubtedly the system of positive discrimination in favour of Malays has outlived its usefulness, but any reforms will be difficult and potentially fraught. Hopefully the kind of change that Malaysia now requires can, in time, be achieved without losing its most precious achievement. But there can be no guarantees.

Martin Jacques is a visiting research fellow at the London School of Economics Asia research centre.


16 August, 2008

Photographers assaulted !

The continuing roughing up of reporters by these ruffians does not help the image of PKR, even though the leadership does not endorse the thuggish behaviour. All parties including PAS have their security staff but PKR has got the worst reputation. Instead of being defensive, claiming they are unsure whether these are PKR men, the party leaders should just enforce better discipline and organise these personnels more effectively.

Two press photographers were assaulted by about 30 people wearing Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) T-shirts during the nomination for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election Saturday, resulting in one of them taking a severe beating and losing his RM15,000 digital camera.

The mob had set upon Mohd Sairen Mohd Nafis, 26, of the New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad (NSTP), when he was photographing Barisan Nasional (BN) workers while standing on a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

He said the crowd pulled him off the vehicle and he fell to the ground and "I was dragged for about 15 metres before being punched, slapped and kicked in the head, hands, legs and body".

The assault went on for 10 minutes before Halim Berbar, a foreign press photographer, went to his aid, and Halim too was beaten up by the mob, Mohd Sairen said.

Both photographers were rescued by the police and Mohd Sairen, who was injured in the hands and body, lost his camera.

Deputy Prime Minister and BN deputy chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is the BN election director, advised both photographers to lodge police reports to facilitate an investigation.

"I urge the authorities to take the appropriate measures to ensure that such an incident is not repeated," he told reporters after a meeting with the BN election machinery in Jalan Tanah Liat, here.

Penang PKR secretary Abdul Malik Abul Kassim had given an assurance several days ago there would be no repeat of assault of journalists following an incident involving Guang Ming Daily photographer Loh Hooi Hoon who was allegedly roughed up by PKR supporters when she covered Anwar's ceramah here on Aug 3.

On Aug 4, Guang Ming Daily photographer Loh Hoay Hoon, 25, lodged a police report saying she was assaulted by a group of people the previous night as she was leaving after covering a ceramah (political address) by PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

She claimed that PKR supporters had tailed her to the carpark after the public forum around midnight and surrounded her, adding that she was kicked, choked and hit on the head.

15 August, 2008

Opposition coalition split over Anwar's power bid

Anwar Ibrahim's opposition coalition is showing signs of strain, ahead of Saturday's nomination for Permatang Pauh's by-election.

Members of Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS), at their annual assembly in Ipoh, appeared to be at odds over whether to throw their full support behind Anwar in the upcoming by-election in Permatang Pauh.

On Thursday, the party's more outspoken youth wing refused to endorse Anwar as the next prime minister if the opposition Pakatan Rakyat were to seize power.

During his keynote address, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang told the party's 2,000 strong delegates that PAS - which was regarded as a "kingmaker" in the last election - will not allow itself to be taken for granted.

He said: "Let's not be reckless and allow ourselves to be sidelined. We can't allow ourselves to be submerged as if our role is only during election."

While the party president is non-committal on Anwar's bid to become the next prime minister, other party liberals expressed their full support for him.

The party's Secretary General Kamarudin Jaafar said the fate of PAS, Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) are intertwined, given that they jointly rule the states of Selangor and Perak.

"We will give our full support at the national level, as well as at the state and the Parliamentary constituency level to ensure that Anwar not only win, but hopefully wins with a much bigger majority than obtained by his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah," said the PAS secretary general.

PAS also reiterated that the party will never forge a political alliance with UMNO, despite the ongoing unity talks.

While a PAS-UMNO merger is unlikely, the ongoing talks has sparked a huge backlash among PAS grassroots and further destabilised the party.

This highlights the fragility of the opposition coalition where its component parties do not share a common political platform. PAS is fighting for an Islamic state while DAP is for Malaysia for all Malaysians.


Malaysia is a rare multiracial success. But its stability is being put to the test

A feverish atmosphere now grips Malaysia. The country is awash with rumours. Until the resignation in 2003 of the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad - after 22 years in office - its politics was entirely predictable. Now it is becoming highly unpredictable.

Malaysia is one of the great Asian success stories. It has enjoyed a growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 20 years, and the fruits of prosperity are everywhere to be seen, from the magnificent twin towers in Kuala Lumpur to the expressways and traffic congestion. Without doubt Malaysia is the great economic star of the Muslim world. The architect of this economic transformation was Dr Mahathir, but since he stepped down the country has been engulfed by growing doubts about his legacy and the emergence of a new set of priorities.

The turning point was the general election last March. Ever since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957 it has been ruled by the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of three racially based parties led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which has dominated Malaysian politics, leaving the opposition permanently enfeebled and embattled. In March, however, the government gained only 51% of the popular vote compared with 64% at the last election in 2004.....