Archive for April, 2008

Bad start for 12th Parliament

Its a bad start for the 12th Parliament, with Parliament setting the bad example of breaking and bending laws and rules to fit the whims and fancies of the Barisan Nasional government, whether during question time or in the first debate on the Royal Address.

Those who have seen the live telecast may want to give their views for the benefit of MPs.


After the apology over the keris

by Azly Rahman

We must resolve the keris controversy generated by Umno Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein, who has brandished the keris at the party’s annual assembly twice now.

At last year’s meeting, Umno Perlis delegate Hashim Suboh said at the end of the debate on economy and education issues: “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham, when is he going to use it? […] Force must be used against those who refused to abide by the social contract.”

This was in relation to Hishammuddin’s alleged weakness in dealing with demands from Chinese schools.

We live in a world in which signs and symbols of violence colonise our consciousness. From cave walls inscribed with images of Neanderthals clobbering a baby dinosaur, to production of images disseminated worldwide via the electronic media and Internet, we are confronted with violence.

We are creatures of signs and symbols manipulated by those who own the means of producing static and moving images. Objects of violence – of deaths and mega-deaths, of decimation and of demolition, and of the demonstration of defiance and destruction – all these, throughout history, have become symbols of choice for those in power. Read the rest of this entry »


Urgent Parliament motion on Wednesday for release of Hindraf 5 and 60 other ISA detainees

I have given notice to Parliament to have an urgent debate on Wednesday for the release of the Hindraf Five – M Manoharan, DAP Selangor Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah, P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan dan T. Vasantha Kumar – and over 60 other detainees currently held in Kamunting Detention Centre under the Internal Security Act (ISA), including some who had been incarcerated for over six years.

In calling on Parliament to urge the Abdullah administration to respect and comply with the wishes of the people as demonstrated in the March 8 “political tsunami” for a more democratic, accountable and progressive Malaysia, the government is reminded that the ISA detainees should not be denied their fundamental rights to an open trial if they are deemed to be threats to national security.

The refusal of the government to release the Hindraf 5 and the scores of other ISA detainees is proof that the Abdullah administration is not prepared to heed the people’s aspirations clearly articulated in the March 8 “political tsunami” to end its arrogant governance and to revoke its high-handed and undemocratic policies and laws.


Freedom From An Oppressive Government

by M. Bakri Musa

The greatest legacy the leader of a nation could bequeath would be freedom from an oppressive government. This realization comes to me when I compare Malaysia’s experience during the 1997 economic crisis to America’s current struggle with its massive debt mess.

The differences in reactions and consequences are attributable to one salient factor: Unlike Malaysians, Americans do not fear and are not dependent upon their government. Americans have a healthy skepticism towards their leaders and government, an attribute generally lacking among Malaysians.

With Malaysia in 1997 there was a general crisis of confidence, with widespread gloom and doom permeating the skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur as well as the suraus in Ulu Kelantan, and from the Prime Minister to the village penghulu. It also precipitated a deep and ugly split in the leadership that resulted in riots and ugly street demonstrations. The very symbol of our sovereignty – the ringgit – was devalued.

Like Malaysia then, America is today plagued with a mountain of debt on a scale a universe beyond what Malaysia suffered. The American dollar is also being debased, not by the government however as with Malaysia, but by the more powerful force of the marketplace.

The American tribulation is even greater, as the leadership – in particular President Bush – is viewed as ineffective and irrelevant. America is additionally burdened with an expensive and bloody war. Yet for all that, there are no riots or widespread doom and gloom. When Americans are disenchanted with their president or government, they throng the voting booths in record numbers to vote for a change. Read the rest of this entry »


12th Parliament Opens Today

The “political tsunami” 12th Parliament elected on March 8, 2008 convenes today for the swearing-in of the 222 elected Members of Parliament and the election of the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers.

Tomorrow, the Yang di Pertuan Agong will officially declare open the 12th Parliament with a royal address which represents the policy speech of the government.

On Wednesday, question time and debate will begin.

There are great expectations of the new Parliament. Let its curtain rise.


Hishammuddin’s apology – Malay keris-wielding antics laid to rest?

Two weeks ago, when speaking at the first public ceramah/consultation with DAP MPs, Excos, State Assembly representatives in Ipoh, I broached the subject when the UMNO Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussin will publicly apologise for his offensive, irresponsible and provocative “Malay keris” antics which MCA, Gerakan and even Umno leaders had blamed as one of the causes of the Barisan Nasional’s debacle in the March 8, 2008 general election “political tsunami”.

I said:

Hishammuddin should publicly apologise for his “Malay keris” antics and MCA, Gerakan and other Barisan Nasional leaders should demand in unison for such an apology and assurance of no repetition in Cabinet and Parliament.

Unless Hishammuddin is prepared to make a public apology and MCA, Gerakan and other BN leaders in Cabinet and Parliament take a public position demanding that Hishammuddin publicly apologise for his offensive, irresponsible and provocative “Malay keris” antics, it could not be said that Umno, MCA, Gerakan and BN leaders have learnt anything from the March 8 “political tsunami”.

The questions I want to pose tonight is whether Hishammuddin is prepared to publicly apologise for his irresponsible and provocative “Malay keris” antics and whether MCA, Gerakan and other BN leaders are prepared to demand in unison for such an apology and assurance of no repetition in Cabinet and Parliament as proof that they have taken seriously the voice of Malaysian voters in the March 8 “political tsunami”.

Now Hishammuddin has made his apology, although quite an ambivalent one. Read the rest of this entry »


Lee Kah Choon saga – opportunity lost for BN leaders after March 8 “political tsunami”

The Lee Kah Choon saga is an opportunity lost for Malaysian leaders to emulate the Malaysian voters in the March 8 “political tsunami” to rise above race, religion and political differences to work single-mindedly for the good of the people, state and country.

In the last Parliament, in keeping with the perverse notion of “Support Barisan Nasional, right or wrong”, a new rule was formulated for all Barisan Nasional MPs that they cannot support Opposition motions whether right or wrong and cannot vote according to their conscience but must toe the party line.

As a result, the then Chairman of the Barisan Nasional BackBenchers Club, Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad (now Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister) was forced in May 2006 to resign from his post to avoid disciplinary action against him for speaking up in favour of my privilege motion in Parliament to refer the then MP for Jasin, Mohd Said Yusuf to the Committee of Privileges over the impropriety of an MP asking the Customs and Excise Department to “close one eye” in a case involving the import of sawn timber in Malacca.

It was in disgust at such obtuse and petty-minded mentality where individual and party interests were placed above parliamentary, public and national interests that the Malaysian voters rose as one to teach the Barisan Nasional a salutary lesson in the March 8 “political tsunami”, depriving the BN of its hitherto unbroken two-thirds majority in Parliament and power in five states. Read the rest of this entry »


Renewal of Makkal Osai welcomed – now for immediate release of Hindraf 5

The government’s about-turn to renew the publishing permit of Tamil daily Makkal Osai which it banned last week is welcome as it would have otherwise destroyed the credibility of all reform pledges of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the judiciary and the anti-corruption agency.

The Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hamid Albar should learn the lesson of the Makkal Osai faux pax and not repeat the same mistake of complying obediently and blindly the dictates of the “Little Napoleons” in the bureaucracy and to bring to bear his higher duties and responsibilities as the Minister ultimately responsible for all decisions made by his ministry.

Now, it is for Hamid to order the immediate and unconditional release of the Hindraf 5 from Internal Security Act (ISA) detention in Kamunting.

Hamid cannot again pass the responsibility of the continued detention of the Hindraf 5 to the civil servants as he must bear full and final responsibility for the government’s refusal to heed the voices of the people in the March 8 “political tsunami” that the Malaysian Indians have legitimate grievances about their long-standing marginalization of their citizenship rights in the country, and the Hindraf 5 should be rewarded instead of being incarcerated for bringing the plight of the Malaysian Indians finally to the attention of the government and nation. Read the rest of this entry »


Rustam Sani – Patriot and Intellectual (1944-2008)

by Bakri Musa

I am saddened to hear of the sudden death of Rustam Sani. In Rustam we had a true patriot, one whose love for the country is pure. It is so because it came from the head as well as the heart. It is patriotism unadulterated by the pursuit of material wealth, public adulation, or political power. A genuine intellectual, he was not one to fit his ideas to the fashion of the day.

He recognized early the heavy duty and responsibility of being a patriot. His was not one consumed with endless exhortations. As the son of a renown nationalist, Rustam must have been immersed in the patriotic fervor and fiery speeches of his late father, Ahmad Boestaman. Yet at a very young age he knew that the new independent Malaysia would need leaders who not only love the country but also be well equipped with the necessary skills and intellect to lead it.

Consequently he focused on his school work fully aware that he was among the fortunate few among the youngsters to have the privilege of attending school. From his local sekolah attap (village school) in Behrang Ulu and the Methodist School Tanjong Malim, he went on to the University of Malaya via Victoria Institution. From there it was on to graduate work at Kent and Reading in Britain, and later, Yale.

He was a scholar as well as a practitioner of politics. His intellectual accomplishment was never diminished by his political involvement. He had penned more academic papers and popular commentaries as well as books than many fulltime academics. It was only yesterday that I read his latest (and alas his last) posting on his blog. Rustam was in his usual sharp element; that posting was a trenchant commentary on Mahathir’s interview on BBC’s Hard Talk. Rustam was also to have launched his latest books, Failed Nation? Concerns of a Malaysian Nationalist, and Social Roots of the Malay Left, later this month. Imagine two books! Read the rest of this entry »


China-Bashing Season Has Begun

By Farish A. Noor

While the simplistic thesis put forward by Samuel Huntington in his work ‘The Clash of Civilisations’ reads like a paltry script from a bad movie, it has to be said that bad scripts are often the most believable and effective. It was Huntington who predicted that in the wake of the Cold War a new sort of conflict would arise, namely one configured along cultural-civilisational differences between the developed Western world and the mysterious, exotic and threatening East.

The two cultural blocs that were said to be the future adversaries to the West were the Muslim world and China, respectively. In the case of the former, it was opined by Huntington that with the demise of Communism the potential threat of Islam would be realised sooner or later for the simple reason that Islam and the West shared ‘bloody frontiers’ that were marked by centuries of conflict. This thesis, however, is patently false to anyone who has even the slightest idea of the history of Islam and the non-Muslim world, for the fact is that the frontiers of the Muslim world are not marked by violence nor stained by blood, but rather remain porous horizons marked by the eclectic culture of Islamic mysticism or Sufism: From Southeast Asia to China, from Africa to Europe, the furthest frontiers of the Muslim world are precisely where mysticism and the Muslim practice of inter-cultural dialogue and cultural cross-fertilisation flourished the most.

Related to Huntington’s fear of Islam was his fear of China, dubbed the ‘sleeping giant’ by Napoleon more than a century ago and which till today has yet to truly realise and demonstrate its full economic potential. Huntington’s crude thesis argued that in time the West would have to realise that non-negotiable cultural differences exist between the Western world and the Orient, and that these cultural differences would ultimately serve as the catalyst for an all-out confrontation between the West and China. Read the rest of this entry »


Passing of a great Malaysian patriot

Shocked this morning to hear of the passing away of a great Malaysian patriot, Rustam A. Sani, 63, academician, scholar and political activist suddenly at about 2.30am at his home in Gombak.

Deepest condolences to his wife, Rohani, his children Azrani and Ariani and grandaughter, Arissa.

Together with Fong Kui Lun, DAP National Treasurer and MP for Bukit Bintang, I paid my last respects to Rustam at his Gombak home.

Rustam is one of the great Malaysian sons and daughters who have made incomparable contributions to Malaysian nation-building but who have not been given proper national recognition and yet who continued to give his best for the betterment of the country through his writings and ideas till his last breath.

Rustam’s passing is an irreparable loss to Malaysia.


ACA director-general finally admitting “interference” in anti-corruption investigations?

“This is what the public wants. We want the same, too…What we want is to be independent in carrying out investigations with no interference.”Director-General Ahmad Said Hamdan, ACA director-general.

Is this response by the ACA director-general to the proposed revamp of the Anti-Corruption Agency into the Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption, announced by the Prime Minister yesterday, an admission that there had been interference all this while into the ACA investigations, resulting in its inability to nab the 18 “big fishes” targeted at the beginning of the Abdullah premiership four years ago and the country’s plunge in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rankings from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 43 last year?

If so, the time has come for the ACA to open its books to fully account for all cases of interferences into all past corruption investigations into high-profile personalities, political or otherwise.


Anti-Corruption reform – Abdullah pre-empting parliamary question directed to him next week

It has become the practice for Cabinet Ministers to pre-empt questions which MPs have given notice in the forthcoming parliamentary meeting by giving answers before the questions are actually asked on the dates they are listed.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has proved that he is no exception and is beginning to answer my first question for question time in the 12th Parliament beginning next Wednesday, which asked him “to outline the top ten priority reform measures which his government will implement in the next 12 months to demonstrate that he has heard the voices of the people in the March 8, 2008 ‘political tsunami’”.

This morning, Abdullah announced that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) will be made a full-fledged commission by year-end and will be answerable to Parliament.

He said said this was one of the four key reform initiatives that would be carried out by the government in the move to address the public concerns on corruption in the country.

The commission’s workforce would be increased to 5,000 officers over a period of five years and the government would also introduce legislation to provide a comprehensive protection for whistle blowers and witnesess in corruption cases.

Furthermore, the government would also take immediate steps to improve the public procurement process through measures targeted at addressing specific problems in the system. Read the rest of this entry »


Apportioning The Blame

by M. Bakri Musa

It is tempting – and comforting – to blame everyone for the failure of Prime Minister Abdullah’s leadership, or to take the other extreme and heap the blame entirely on the hapless man.

Both approaches would be inadequate if not wrong. The corollary to “everyone is at fault” is that no one is. That would be a collective “cop out,” an abrogation of personal responsibility. Even if it were that rare instance where everyone is indeed responsible, there would still be the different degrees of culpability that would have to be acknowledged.

Blaming Abdullah entirely would also be inadequate. If nothing else, that would reveal the glaring inadequacies of the system, like its lack of checks and balances.

When a Turkish Airline jet crashed over Paris in 1974 because its cargo door blew out, the blame was not put entirely on the sloppy mechanic – although his negligence was clearly the triggering event – rather on the design flaws that would not indicate when doors were not properly secured. Firing the poor mechanic (though that was done) would not prevent future similar accidents, but improving the design with better indicator lights did.

An insight of modern “failure analysis” is that catastrophes are often not the result of a single major error, rather the cumulative effects of a series of minor mistakes each compounding the other until a critical stress point is reached when the whole thing would blow up. We are all familiar with the story of losing the war for the want of a nut. Read the rest of this entry »


Reflections on a sinking Bahtera Merdeka

Dr. Azly Rahman

Bonda senyum riang (Mother smiled with joy)
Menerima bahtera merdeka… (In receiving the ship of Independence)

– words from an old song of the 70s

With apologies to the late American social critic Gore Vidal, my piece this week was conceived over the weekend at a speech at Harvard University, during which I spoke about the “ambiguities of freedom” in post-March 8 revolution in Malaysia.

The bahtera/jong/ship that was supposed to bring this country and its people to this mythical magical and elusive place called ‘Vision 2020’ is going down fast and will perhaps sink by May 13, 2008 – 50 years after it was built with confidence and with a new hope for a multi-cultural Malaysia that promised justice for all.

The Titanic of Malaysia’s independence is giving way. The Ides of March and April Showers that transformed into a tsunami and that will bring May Flowers of Power of the Sixties sensibility – all these will bring down the United Malays that is neither. The Malays were neither pure Malays nor united. Nor was Umno even a national organisation. Neither national nor organised, especially at the brink of its sinking.

And Johoreans – the creators of UMNO – must now be the ones crying out loud on board the UMNO sinking ship. Little did they know that they accidentally built in the seeds of contradiction and the antithesis of patriotism into foundations of the Bahtera Merdeka. Read the rest of this entry »


5 DAP MPs did not submit a single question for Parliament – apologies

I was taken aback when Chong Zemin put up the post that a blog had disclosed that there are 29 MPs who did not submit a question for the coming parliamentary meeting starting at the end of the month, and that five of them are from DAP.
The five DAP MPs cited are:

• Charles Anthony Santiago – Klang

• Er Teck Hwa – Bakri

• Hiew King Cheu – Kota Kinabalu

• John Fernandez – Seremban

• Dr. P. Ramasamy – Batu Kawan

I have checked with the five DAP MPs and they have confirmed the mistake of missing the deadline for the submission of questions, i.e. April 8, 2008, for the month-long inaugural meeting of the 12th Parliament starting on April 28 – although they would still be able to take part in the supplementary question stage of the daily 90-minute question time.

The Party had reminded DAP MPs not to miss the deadline for questions and lose the opportunity to pose questions in the first meeting of Parliament (an important aspect of the work of Opposition parliamentarians) but mistakes are still being made.

Work pressures as new elected representatives, lack of experience with parliamentary standing orders and breakdown of communications have contributed to the five DAP MPs not fielding a single question for the first meeting of the 12th Parliament.

These are not acceptable excuses as voters in the March 8 “political tsunami” have high expectations of DAP MPs and they have the right to expect the new batch of Opposition MPs to live up to a higher benchmark of parliamentary performance and to subject them to scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »


Goodwill ex gratia payments to Anwar, Guan Eng, Syed Ahmad Idid and Operation Lalang ISA detainees?

(Speech at the DAP Teluk Intan Public Ceramah/Consultation with DAP MPs, State Excos and State Assembly members at Teluk Intan Municipal Hall on Friday, 18th April 2008 at 9 pm)

When the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced on Thursday night the payment of unspecified “goodwill ex gratia payments” to the six wronged judges in the 1988 judicial crisis, Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh, he skirted the “rights and wrongs” and the “legality and morality” of the Mother of Judicial Crisis which plunged the country into two decades of judicial darkness.

The victims of the 1988 Mother of Judicial Crisis and the ensuing two decades of judicial darkness, with three of the four chief justices during the period, Tun Hamid Omar, Tun Eusoffe Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz compounding the travesties of justice by the judicial system, were not just the six wronged judges in 1988 but also included innocent, high-minded, idealistic and patriotic Malaysians who want the best for the country. In fact, a whole generation of Malaysians were victims of the 20 years of judicial darkness!

Will the Prime Minister extend goodwill ex gratia payments to the other victims of the two decades of judicial darkness like former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Idid (the first whistleblower from the judiciary with his 112 allegations of corruption, abuses of power and misconduct against 12 judges in 1996) as well as to the 106 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees in the 1987 Operation Lalang? Read the rest of this entry »


PM’s judicial reform speech – disappointing

I was disappointed by the speech of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on “Delivering Justice, Renewing Trust” hosted by the Bar Council last night.

I had expected more, much more, than what was announced by Abdullah, viz:

• Ex-gratia payment for “the pain and loss” suffered by the late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and their families, Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh and Datuk George Seah in the 1988 Judicial Crisis. .

• A Judicial Appointments Commission;

• Review of the judiciary’s terms of service and remuneration to ensure that the Bench can attract and retain the very best of the nation’s talent.

The thunderous and prolonged applause which greeted Abdullah’s recognition of the “contributions of these six judges to the nation, their commitment towards upholding justice” and acknowledgement of “ the pain and loss they have endured” in the 1988 judicial crisis cannot hide the general disappointment that the Prime Minister had fallen far short of expectations to ensure a fair and just closure to the Mother of Judicial Crisis in 1988.

It is precisely because the “contributions, pain and loss” of the six wronged judges cannot be equated with mere currency that the ex gratia payment is grossly inadequate. The six wronged judges deserve a full and proper recompense.

Furthermore, the victims of the 1988 “Mother of Judiclal Crisis” and the series of one judicial crisis after another which rocked the nation for two decades were not just the six wronged judges, but the Malaysian people and nation for 20 years because of the ravages to the system of justice which became a laughing stock to Malaysians and the world. Read the rest of this entry »


A Wave of Change Across Southeast Asia? But counter-currents too

By Farish A. Noor

The latest results from the governorial elections in the provinces of West Java and North Sumatra, Indonesia, would suggest that a sea-change of sorts is taking place in Indonesia. Shortly after the shock election results following the General Elections held in Malaysia earlier this year, the governorial elections of Indonesia has led to the victory of the Justice and Prosperity party (PKS) and the National Mandate party (PAN), both of which are Islamist in character and both of which trace their ideological and intellectual geneaology back to the Islamist Masjumi party of the 1950s that struggled to make Indonesia an Islamic state until it was finally banned by President Sukarno in 1960.

What do these results entail and what does it say about the state of Indonesian politics today? More importantly, should the victories of PKS and PAN be seen as the victory of political Islam, and does this signify a shift towards a more Islamist-inclined politics for the rest of the country?

For a start, we should begin with some important observations comparing the results in Indonesia with the recent results in Malaysia. In both cases, the parties that won fielded candidates who are young and relatively unknown compared to the older veterans of the more established parties like Golkar in Indonesia. Yet, as was the case in Malaysia recently, it was precisely the relatively younger age and lack of exposure that perhaps accounted for the victory of the candidates of the PKS and PAN, for they were certainly not associated with the older modes of politics in the past and were not involved or implicated in many of the long-standing political and economic scandals associated with the old regime that dates back to the time of former President Suharto. Read the rest of this entry »


Umno and BN’s post-March 8 schizophrenia

Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders should end its post-March 8 schizophrenia – claiming to have finally heard the voice of the people and yet still refusing to “walk the talk” of reforms like closing down the Tamil daily Makkal Osai, continued detention of Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and stonewalling the proposal for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to keep crime low and make the country safe for Malaysians, visitors and investors.

Such political schizophrenia seizing Umno and Barisan Nasional has become a daily staple in the mass media, as illustrated by the following two headlines today:

Najib tells BN: Win over support from non-Malays (NST);

Makkal Osai loses licence – Tamil daily’s application rejected (The Star)

Has it occurred to the Umno and Barisan Nasional leadership, including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, that the best way to ensure that the Barisan Nasional will lose even more support from the non-Malays are high-handed, arrogant and undemocratic actions like the closure of Makkal Osai, the refusal to release the five Hindraf leaders, P. Uthayakumar, newly-elected Selangor DAP State Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah A. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan and T. Vasantha Kumar or refusal to give Uthayakumar the best medical treatment while under ISA detention?

In fact, such political arrogance and contempt for human rights will also offend all right-thinking and justice-loving Malays, as illustrated by the March 8 “political tsunami” which saw Malaysians voting across racial and religious divides. Read the rest of this entry »