Malaysia: The People Are Fed Up

By Farish A. Noor

At a recent Law Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, bluntly told the country’s lawyers that demonstrations and protests about the apparent mismanagement of the country will do little to change things but will only give the ‘wrong impression’ that ‘something is wrong in the country’, and that this will scare aware foreign investors. The Malaysian leader was alluding to a recent protest march organised by the country’s lawyers which saw more than two thousand lawyers march up to the Prime Minister’s office in the capital of Putrajaya demanding reform of the judicial process and serious enquiries into the conduct and election of judges in Malaysia. Perhaps the Prime Minister was also alluding to the planned march on 10th November organised by NGOs like BERSIH which have called for free and fair elections in the country, supported by opposition parties like the Peoples Justice Party (PKR), the Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) of Malaysia as well.

What began as a relatively small event has now grown into what may become a landmark moment in Malaysian history: The march’s organisers aim to gather 100,000 citizens at the Merdeka (Independence) Square of the city and then march on to the national palace to present their petition to the King (Agong) himself, calling for the Monarch to intervene and look into their complaints about the poor governance of the country on issues ranging from corruption to abuse of power by the leaders of the ruling UMNO party and the government. As Latheefa Koya of the People’s Justice Party notes: “BERSIH’s march marks a crucial point in Malaysian history where people from all walks of life, and not just political parties, demand free and fair elections in Malaysia. By doing so they are in fact calling for greater participation in the democratic process”. The King has already signalled that he is prepared to receive the petition, while other rulers such as Sultan Azlan Shah of the state of Perak have publicly bemoaned the state of the judiciary in Malaysia.

While it is true that Malaysia is not Burma, it is striking to note how intolerant the state is when it comes to popular expressions of the people’s will in the country. Predictably the Malaysian government has reacted to the proposed march on 10th November with the usual round of threats: Those who attend the demonstration will be regarded as trouble makers and due action will be taken, the government-controlled news agencies have already warned.

In response the President of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has called on all members of the party to attend the rally and to swell the numbers of participants instead. According to Hatta Ramli, one of the senior leaders of PAS: “This is to show that the members of the Islamic party are supportive of this move by the Malaysian NGOs to call for free and fair elections. It is going to be a peaceful demonstration, so why the need for such warnings? The Malaysian Human Rights Commission SUHAKAM) has stated that the Constitution allows for free peaceful assembly, so we are merely exercising our right to demonstrate our concern about the conduct of elections in Malaysia. This is the expression of popular democracy, of the people’s will and our intention to see that we have clean elections in Malaysia.”

Nor are the march’s organisers fazed by the threats of reprisals. According to Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who runs the country’s most widely-read online news site, “they (the government) have been issuing such threats for more than a decade now, so why should we worry? They insist that we apply for a police permit but we know that such a permit will be refused anyway. In some cases in the past permits were given but then withdrawn at the last minute, so this time we merely informed the police that we will be having the march and we will go ahead.”

The Malaysian government is worried that such a public display of dismay over the government’s record will focus attention on Malaysia in a negative way. Instead it has tried its best to spin the story of Malaysia’s successes one by one, the latest being the achievements of the country’s first astronaut who was sent to space on board a Russian rocket to dock with the International Space Station in orbit. But special effects and cosmic stunts have not altered the realities on the ground where Malaysian politics remains dominated by news of scandals involving corrupt policemen, politicians being accused of manipulating the judiciary and alleged links between the government, police and underworld mafia triads and gang bosses. One of the latest revelations involved the corruption behind the Port Kelang Free Trade Zone project, where running costs and overheads have caused the project’s costs to skyrocket from 1.8 to 4.2 Billion Ringgit (RM), leaving ordinary Malaysians shocked and stumped on how such projects can lead to such large kickbacks for so many well-connected individuals. What is more, all of this is happening under the eyes of the Badawi government, which came to power four years ago on the promise of ridding the country of corruption once and for all.

As the crucial date of 10th November gets closer, the machinery of the state along with its security apparatus will undoubtedly be cracked up to demonise the protestors and to prevent the march from happening. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi may lament the occasion as it sends out the clear message that the people are fed up with his lacklustre performance thus far, but it will hardly be the reason why foreign investors are leaving Malaysia: Indeed, if anything is to restore the faith of others in the country it would be the freedom to demonstrate openly and peacefully without threat of violence from the state.

No, if foreign investors are giving up on Malaysia it has more to do with the plethora of corruption cases involving members of the police, the routine abuse of power by the elite and the deplorable reputation of the Malaysian judiciary and civil service at present. And the responsibility for these failures lie not in the hands of the Malaysian people, but in the Malaysian government itself- headed by none other than Badawi himself.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 12:41 pm

    To truly develop space technology, Msia needs to build rocket launchers and a space launch center, and not waste resources by buying seats in other countries’ spacecraft

  2. #2 by Jimm on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 12:50 pm

    This government will blame everyone except themselves for any form of negative impact to Malaysia.
    Come on … SCOMI have been awarded far too many projects both domestic and international market .. what does that means ?
    Our ‘screwed up’ national car project which bended eventhough AFTA have been agreed upon, again been put into international shame over and over again.
    Space tourist ?

    What ??? All these are rakyat faults…..

    All those investors that comes into this country … who are behind the ‘commission’ scheme ???
    When we packaged their incentives for investing in this country, why are there ‘kickbacks’ for those ‘involved’ individuals ?
    Why those GLCs involved in JV are getting ‘endless’ fundings and at times such a big amount when the total JV cost already a concerned subject ?

  3. #3 by Jimm on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 12:52 pm

    Dont’ blamed the rakyat on the ‘wrong impression’ of this country.

  4. #4 by Jimm on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 12:53 pm

    The level of corrupts practices under government’s approval and allocation of projects to SCOMI is ….. the true reflections.

  5. #5 by St0rmFury on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 1:11 pm

    See you guys on November 10, permit or not this anak Malaysia is going to be there.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 1:29 pm

    The Nov 11 proposed gathering of 100,000 anti-BN protestors at Merdeka Square and subsequent march on to the national palace to present their petition to the Agong, calling for the Monarch to intervene on the poor governance of the country ranging from corruption to abuse of power by the ruling UMNO party will never ever be given a police permit.

    On the other hand, a state of emergency may be declared and the leaders of the gathering arrested for “disturbing the peace”

  7. #7 by Godfather on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 2:01 pm

    The Sleepy Head has truly been sleeping. His close circle of advisors headed by his SIL has been telling him that all is well, and that the noise is only coming from a small group of bloggers. They don’t understand that the undercurrent of dissent is strong. The desire to have alternative news is also strong, so no matter what they do to cover up their misdeeds or abuse or neglect, the rakyat knows.

    The investors also know that our system is now corrupt to the core, and that the enforcement agencies are puppets of the ruling party. They know we don’t have an impartial judiciary, they know that their rights can never be protected in Bolehland.

    So sad, Mr Sleepy Head. So much so that I think you are better off continuing to sleep and let people power take over.

  8. #8 by sotong on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 2:13 pm

    Daulat Tuanku!

  9. #9 by AhPek on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 2:16 pm

    Malaysia needs to be saved from this bunch of thieves,liars,race and religious fanatics, so for all those who profess to love this country you have to come on 10th Nov 2007 to walk your talk.The threat from authorities should be ignored because this has been their modus operandi to perpetuate power and we’ve allowed them to prevail so far.That is why they can plunder without any sense of shame.That is why they can ride rough shod over the common people of the country.
    WE must show that this behavior must be put to a dead stop on the 10th November 2007!!!

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 2:37 pm

    November 10 gathering may not be on at all as another operation lalang may be sprung on Deepavali to lock up all evil spirits (as far as Umno is concerned).

  11. #11 by k1980 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 3:00 pm

    two Hindu temples being demolished in one day without a valid court Order or any Notice for that matter.

    And what will samy do?

  12. #12 by optimuz on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 3:17 pm

    It is pointless if we keep voicing our displeasure in cyberspace only. It is all to convenient to sit behind your desks and type away..

    Walk your talk! For once…put all your fears aside..yes, they may come after us…what then? Do we forever curl up into our shells and go back to cyber – bitching??

    I want a future for my kids…therefore, I will be there..what about you?

  13. #13 by Godfather on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:06 pm

    Yes, I will be there.

  14. #14 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:14 pm

    Are you sure people are fed up? Majority or minority? Come the next GE, most people will still vote for BN. BN rules, OK? Pathetic or not, it’s up to individuals to decide.

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:23 pm

    “Two Hindu temples being demolished in one day without a valid court Order or any Notice for that matter.”

    A pre-Deepavali gift from BN.

    Why should BN worry about support of Indian Malaysians? Who can they vote if not for BN? Who can they depend if not on SamyV?

    Umno supremo can bash PPP without any fear from Umno itself. “Umno’s disciplinary board will not act against the Umno vice-president over his ‘PPP can leave BN’ remark.”

    Expect more keris waving and bashing of non-Malays next week during Umno’s general meeting. If non-Malays don’t like the act and talks, just feel free to leave. Go away and disappear – the same old message from Umno.

  16. #16 by Godfather on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:38 pm

    It does not matter that UMNO doesn’t need my vote. It does not matter that UMNO does not need the votes of non-Malays. It only matters to me that my vote is for the Opposition.

  17. #17 by Filibuster on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:44 pm

    I find it an absolute disgrace that the country is run so poorly that even coverups, pre-election “favors” etc are unable to prevent the country from looking as how it is. You would think that BN is better at covering up all their problems and showing a “feel-good image”.

    All factors taken into account, it is important to show others that we, the people know what is going on and are willing to fight for the right thing. People ask “why do BN need to stop it?” etc, “only small thing mah, as Nazri said”. The main thing is that such a walk/protest etc, especially when it’s supported by a multiracial base would send the biggest message to those blindsided by the Government for so long – that something is wrong with this country, and that something has to be done; thus destabilising support in different areas.

    True, that extremism/media control/power showing exercises may paint the picture that the Government is strong, and will STILL win the Election, however much effort is put into such efforts. But I think in this case, common sense will prevail, (on the condition that everyone is given the chance to EVALUATE their options FAIRLY).

  18. #18 by ktteokt on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 10:11 pm

    They have totally forgotten what was written in the Holy Rukunegara and yet they sent our “Spaceman” into outer space to read this great “document”!!!

  19. #19 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 10:30 pm

    Much of this so-called “poor governance of the country on issues ranging from corruption to abuse of power by the leaders of the ruling UMNO party and the government” was started during the Mahathir Administration and bequeathed as a legacy from it.

    The BERSIH march’s organisers should invite Tun Dr Mahthir to l
    lead the march from Merdeka (Independence) Square to the national palace to present their petition to the King (Agong).

    And TDM should accept the initation as a measure of contrition – and atonement – for how his policies have placed the nation in her present predicament.

  20. #20 by straight talk on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 10:40 pm

    This is the efficient delivery system envisaged by Bodohwi. Deliver the judiciary to the excutive…deliver the Election Commission to the Executive…The ACA and PDRM now have reworked the laws..don’t mess with our GoodFather the Tengku…even the police personel not protected.. And of course the Artorney General will ensure that all illegal activities are allowed to prosper under this Government…So Bodowi is not so stupid after all….
    He got the delivery system he wants

  21. #21 by limkamput on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 11:35 pm

    forgive me, i am blur. November 10 gathering, may i know the time and place, anymone?

  22. #22 by 4th_wife on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 11:52 pm

    Bodohwi fair badly in his studies especially maths, in school he cannot get a maths answer correct most of the time. His answer to maths question is always inconclusive, open ended. In politics and as head of government everything he does has similar result, always inconclusive and cannot get a straight correct answer.

  23. #23 by dawsheng on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 12:05 am

    “The BERSIH march’s organisers should invite Tun Dr Mahthir to l
    lead the march from Merdeka (Independence) Square to the national palace to present their petition to the King (Agong).”

    If he meant what he said, he should be there. But with all the excitements that’s going to happen there, I am afraid his heart might just stop beating. All senior citizens should just stay at home.

  24. #24 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 4:44 am

    “We are not in the business of cheating the people.” Sleepy Head, 2005.

    Has to be the joke of the century from the Imam of Islam Hadhari.

  25. #25 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 6:24 am

    Even the lawyers are fed-up!

    Extract from RPK’s blog:

    Lawyer Fahri Azzat pointed out that the crux of the video shows how corruption cripples the justice system and the country as a whole.

    “Corruption ruins people and brings the Bar down. Why? Because it is a betrayal of trust and you can’t trust anybody any more.

    “So we are like flies trapped in the web of corruption. There is no institution, no government authority that will or want to help us. They are there to keep us deluded, distracted and denied.”

    In his emotional speech, he appealed to lawyers to be brave in confronting this fact, and then outlined the ineffectiveness of the PM in dealing with this issue.

    “Is the PM going to help us? I don’t really think so. He may say nice things about us but I don’t know if he remembers them the next week.

    He’s not interested in the Bar or the law. He is just interested in officiating events, smiling at cameras warmly, dispensing the most pedantic of homilies. I don’t blame him. People do what they do best and this is what he does best,” he said with tongue-in-cheek.

    He pointed out that the lawyers can expect no help from the judiciary, Parliament, the government, Anti-Corruption Agency, the attorney-general and the police.

    “Let’s face up to reality. It is because they want to be in power. Anything that works to the benefit of the people means the detraction of power from the elite in power.

    “We are on our own. All we have is each other and people who feel the same way. That’s all you have. I hope we can look deep in ourselves and say ‘enough’ because if not, it’s over.”

    During the session, an excerpt from the book ‘May Day For Justice’ by K Das was read out by his daughter, Jo Kukathas, a director of the Instant Café Theatre.

    In it, the author described how court doors and Parliament gates were locked in attempts to deny then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas a fair trial in 1988. He was later sacked.

  26. #26 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 6:46 am

    Sorry, Extract is from Malaysiakini, on rumblings at the Malaysian Law Conference.

  27. #27 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 7:16 am

    Reading the lawyers’ grouses just reignite my anger at Mahathir. He set the country down the road to ruin, and the hypocrite just sits there and decries the lack of freedom and the lack of trust in public institutions. May God grant him a long life – long enough to see Bolehland go up in flames, and long enough perhaps to repent in public.

  28. #28 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 7:25 am

    It is never the money that is fritted away by the bandits during the Mahathir era, and continuing to be fritted away during the Badawi era. All these can be recovered over time given hard work and good luck. It is the guarantees of personal freedom and security that get fritted away with little or no chance of recovery – those “little” things that differentiate humanity from the barbaric – that could doom future generations to a life of wandering as guests in other countries as Bolehland degenerates into a Zimbabwe or a Burundi.

  29. #29 by k1980 on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 8:52 am

    The cause of lack of sleep, the Tok Guru is FED UP!
    Women who wear figure-hugging clothes are giving Muslim men sleepless nights and distracting them from prayer, a prominent cleric said yesterday.

  30. #30 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 8:56 am

    While I appreciate Dr. Noor, very logical argument against the illogical ones of the PM, he is patronising of the PM that the argument is about logic. The truth is the fight here is about power and control, not about the logical thing to do. More correctly its really about leadership and the lack of it.

    The PM either cannot afford or afraid of the risk of a Royal Commission that can open up a whole can of worms for UMNO besides paying the political price of being seen to be weak by his party members for not facing down the lawyers. He learned his lessons with the Royal Commission on the police force which he still have not put the genie back in the bottle.

    This is especially so with election certain within the next six months. He cannot afford a weakened machinery going into this election.

    Malaysians are not just fed-up. They know they need leadership otherwise there will be hard prices to be paid in the future. Consider our current growth rate of about 5.8% which they are trumpetting despite falling short and projecting a similar one next year. Singapore is projecting conservatively at 7-8% for 2007, yet is projecting only 4-6% for 2008. The most optimist analyst predicts Malaysia will fall short of its projection.

    Tunku Abdul Rahman says Malaysia should be like one big family. It has become one but its a middle-upper-class dysfunctional family. So long as lots of money is coming into the family, all gripes and unhappiness is swept under the carpet. Soon as money start to dry up, family members will start to look after its own self interest and the family start to tear itself apart. Unless that family can find new leadership, it will fall apart.

    That is what is happening and we all know it…

  31. #31 by sotong on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 9:34 am

    Govt policies, including NEP, should not be about winners and losers to build a strong, united, caring, modern and progressive nation……sadly it is!

  32. #32 by chloo on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 10:22 am

    According to a veryyyyyyyy top and veryyyyyyyyyyy smart gov official, the no of people that is attending should constitute a majority of the population, the gov does not look into the needs of the minority….100,000 is minority is what the gov will say. I think you need at least 13 million people attending this before they will even look at it…..

  33. #33 by boh-liao on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 11:40 am

    Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (PAS) claimed that women who wear figure-hugging clothes are giving Muslim men sleepless nights and distracting them from prayer.

    Yup, women like Sari Yanti Mohamed Nazari (shown in the Star today) would give men of his kind sleepless nights.

    What’s the cure? Very simple indeed. Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat should consult our PM – the art of Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  34. #34 by sotong on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 2:33 pm

    The difference between human being and animal is human being have self control.

    If one behave like an animal, treat him/her like an animal.

  35. #35 by boh-liao on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 8:06 pm
    Liew Chin Tong wrote:

    Umno is doing rather well among rural Malay electorates.

    It is the mostly non-Malay, urban constituencies that are worrying
    the BN coalition. These are usually ignored by Umno, except when non-Malays happen to hold the balance and the party’s future in the Malay heartlands is uncertain.

    Rural areas are enjoying a prolonged boom from the high prices of resources like palm oil and rubber. The rural sector also gets subsidies, projects and handouts from the government, funded by petroleum income.

    – So, from the news comment, we can see that Umno has done its homework. The votes that matter are the Malay votes and the Malays are not fed up.

  36. #36 by yellowkingdom on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 11:35 pm

    Get Tun Mahathir to lead the march on Nov. 10th.!? Let the poor guy rest, for he may just succumb to the pressure to his heart.
    I may not like him for the troubles we are now mired in, but we still need him to continue the struggle for a just and fair government.
    Let Tun regain his strength and vigour to fight the evils he has perpetrated in his 22 years of power.

  37. #37 by Billy on Saturday, 3 November 2007 - 7:22 am

    If the UMNO do not need proper court orders to demolish places of worship, then shouldn’t it apply to the rakyat as well in having to apply for police permit to hold a rally? Holding a peaceful rally is enshrined in the constitution, while demolishing temples and suraus are not. So what makes them (UMNO) think they are above the law????

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