Archive for April 16th, 2009

A Heartening Election – Indonesian voters turn away from religious extremism

by Sadanand Dhume
Wall Street Journal Asia
April 15, 2009

Against a backdrop of missile launches on the Korean peninsula and violent protests in Thailand those looking for a spot of calm in Asia may alight on an unlikely candidate: Indonesia. Largely peaceful parliamentary elections last week — the third consecutive free polls since the end of Gen. Suharto’s 32-year rule in 1998 — highlight the strides made by a country that not so long ago was in danger of becoming a byword for chaos and random violence, a Southeast Asian Nigeria or Bangladesh.

Most heartening of all has been the Indonesian electorate’s affirmation of its legendary moderation. The top three parties in the incoming parliament — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri’s left-leaning Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and Suharto’s former political machine, Golkar — are all nonsectarian. They stand for the country’s founding ideology, the live-and-let-live doctrine of Pancasila, and draw their supporters from each of the country’s five major faiths. Islam-based parties saw their cumulative vote-share shrink to about 20% from 38% five years ago. Mr. Yudhoyono, known as the “gentle general” for his military past and avuncular manner, is the overwhelming favorite to win July’s presidential election. Read the rest of this entry »


BN biggest “ethnic prison” – why Najib Cabinet failed 1st KPI over Utusan’s inflammatory “Bangkitlah Melayu” headline

Nobody doubts that if the Chinese and Tamil press had yesterday published on their front page the headlines “Chinese Arise” and “Indians Arise” respectively like Utusan Malaysia’s front-page headline “Bangkitlah Melayu”, followed by a report calling for greater unity among the race to face the other races, this will be a major and instant agenda in yesterday’s first meeting of the Najib Cabinet meeting followed by dire consequences for the Chinese and Tamil newspapers concerned.

No Minister will raise any objection that stern and immediate action be taken against the Chinese and Tamil papers for publishing such inflammatory and racist material, especially as it would be making a complete mockery of the overarching philosophy of the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced only 12 days earlier.

Why then the double standards by the Najib Cabinet as the chauvinistic and inflammatory Utusan Malaysia front-page headline and report were not raised at all at yesterday’s meeting?

After the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Najib called on Malaysians to break away from being in an “ethnic prison” and to think as one. Read the rest of this entry »


Fairuz resigns, another by-election in Penanti

Another by-election within 60 days, a second one in Penang, following the resignation of former Penang Deputy Chief Minister Fairuz Khairuddin from his Penanti seat.

A Star reporter was just on the line asking for my comments on Fairuz’ position and was surprised when I told him that MalaysianInsider and Malaysiankini have reported Fairuz’ resignation as state assemblyman.


Congrats OTK – the gall to accuse others “politically bankrupt” when MCA could garner at most 5 or 6% of the Chinese votes in Bukit Gantang by-election

It is said that a politician who is cornered often make ferocious statements or wild allegations to cover up his weaknesses or mistakes.

This is what MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat did in the last two days in his blog postings, accusing me on Tuesday of being “politically bankrupt” and alleging yesterday that I am behind a mysterious conspiracy to lay a trap bent on using him “to pit a particular community against certain national leaders”.

Let me advise Tee Keat to sober up and not to be so paranoid, as he is acting like children who see shadows from the trees at night and imagine monsters from noises in the closet. Read the rest of this entry »


Indonesian Elections: Dreaming of Gajah Mada in a Modern Democracy

By Farish A. Noor

While doing fieldwork on the island of Madura last week, I stopped for a while to do one of those necessary things we all need to do sooner or later: get a haircut. My colleague and fellow academic Toharudin and I stopped by a small, somewhat forlorn barber’s shop in Sumenep and set down on the rickety chairs as we were shaved and made to look semi-civilised at least.

In due course, the conversation with the barber turned to politics and the recent elections of 9th April. Pak Sulis, the barber, opined thus: “I am happy that the Partai Demokrat (Democratic Party) won the highest number of votes for the Parliamentary elections, and I hope SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) will be elected as the President. He has done so much for the country: brought peace to Aceh, fought against corruption, and he needs another term to consolidate and build the country further. We need continuity now; the five years after the fall of Suharto were too traumatic for people like me.”

Pak Sulis’ opinion was matched by the electorate who gave the Partai Demokrat the highest number of votes and consequently seats at the recent elections. But what was interesting for me was how this man – who admitted that he was semi-literate and whose education stopped at the age of 11 – was more concerned about actual political results than empty rhetoric. Pak Sulis, like millions of ordinary Indonesians, want to see their democracy succeed. And to make their point the Indonesian people voted for the three main parties whose ideologies were secular, nationalist and development-oriented. All in all the sectarian nationalist parties and the Islamic parties that were seen as being religiously sectarian were ousted. Read the rest of this entry »