Friday, October 31, 2008

Zaid Ibrahim, you have my highest respect

This report from Malaysiakini is of immense historic significance as it reveals the clarity, courage and brilliance of erstwhile de facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim who resigned in protest against the recent spate of ISA arrests. Below is the Malaysiakini scoop in full, with a link to the complete text of Zaid's masterful speech at the LawAsia Conference 2008 today. If there are other thinkers of Zaid's caliber to be found in Umno, then there may still be a tiny spark of hope for Barisan Nasional. However, I have a distinct feeling Zaid Ibrahim will soon be thrown out of Umno just for speaking the truth.

Oct 31, 08 2:32pm

The 'Ketuanan Melayu' model has failed, declared former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim in an incisive speech at the LawAsia 2008 conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

"It has resulted in a waste of crucial resources, energy and time and has distracted from the real issues confronting the country," said Zaid, who criticised the race-based policy despite being a member of the ruling Umno party which was set up to safeguard Malay interests.

Zaid also noted that 'deputy premier in waiting' Muhyiddin Yassin had suggested the need for a closed-door forum for leaders of the Barisan Nasional (BN) to develop a common stand, a renewed national consensus grounded on the social contract.

"This is a positive step but it should include all political leaders and be premised on the social contract that was the foundation of independence," said the lawyer by training who was made senator and subsequently minister entrusted with the task of reforming the judiciary by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi following the March 8 general election.

He quit last month in protest against the arrest of three individuals under the Internal Security Act (ISA) which provides for detention without trial.

Zaid said March 8 was a clear indicator that the ruling BN coalition no longer exclusively speaks for the people.

He also underscored the importance of promoting discourse and dialogue so that Malaysians learn to talk and to listen to one another again.

"Communication and trust amongst the people must be re-established," he said.

The former minister called on the BN government to abandon its 'reworked' concept of the social contract and embrace a fresh perspective borne out of discussions and agreements made in good faith with all the communities.

"It is time for us all to practise a more transparent and egalitarian form of democracy and to recognise and respect the rights and dignity of all the citizens of this country."

Mukhriz singled out for criticism

Singling out Mukhriz Mahathir for criticism, Zaid said the Umno Youth chief aspirant typifies what is perceived as the kind of Umno leader who appeals to the right-wing of Malay polity.

Zaid also referred to the recent remarks made by the son of former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad that there was no need for law and judicial reforms as it would not benefit the Malays,

"That he may be right is sad as it leads to the ossification of values that will only work against the interests of the party and the nation," Zaid lamented in his 16-page speech.

"This type of thinking may pave the way to a suggestion in the future that we may as well do away with general elections altogether as they may not be good for the Malays for, if the justice that a revitalised rule of law would allow for is not to the benefit of the Malays, what is? More inefficiency, more corruption and a more authoritarian style of government perhaps.

"We are a deeply divided nation, adrift for our having abandoned democratic traditions and the rule of law in favour of a political ideology that serves no one save those who rule."

According to Zaid, the obsession with the Ketuanan Melayu doctrine has destroyed something precious in Malaysians.

"It makes us lose our sense of balance and fairness. When a certain Chinese lady was appointed head of a state development corporation, having served in that corporation for 33 years, there were protests from Malay groups because she is Chinese," he said referring to the controversy involving the appointment of Low Siew Moi as acting head of the Selangor Development Cooperation (PKNS).

"A new economic vision is necessary, one that is more forward looking in outlook and guided by positive values that would serve to enhance cooperation amongst the races. This will encourage change for the better, to develop new forms of behaviour and shifts of attitudes, to believe that only economic growth will serve social equity, to aspire to a higher standard of living for all regardless of race.

"We need to meaningfully acknowledge that wealth is based on insight, sophisticated human capital and attitude change. A new dynamics focused on cooperation and competition will spur innovation and creativity.

"Some might say that this is a fantasy. I disagree. How do we go about transforming the culture and values of the bumiputeras so that their ability to create new economic wealth can be sustained?

"By changing our political and legal landscapes with freedom and democracy."

On that note, Zaid said Mahathir was right to have asked the Malays to embrace modernity but the 82-year-old statesman fell short by only focusing on the physical aspects of modernity.

"He was mistaken to think all that was needed to change the Malay mindset was science and technology. He should have also promoted the values of freedom, human rights and the respect of the law.

"If affirmative action is truly benchmarked on the equitable sharing of wealth that is sustainable, then we must confront the truth and change our political paradigm, 40 years of discrimination and subsidy have not brought us closer. There is a huge economic dimension to the rule of law and democracy that this government must learn to appreciate."

Conflicts of jurisdiction require resolution

Zaid conceded that relationship between Islam, the state, law and politics in Malaysia is complex.

"How do we manage legal pluralism in Malaysia? Can a cohesive united Bangsa Malaysia be built on a bifurcated foundation of Syariah and secular principles? Will non-Muslims have a say on the operation of Islamic law when it affects the general character and experience of the nation? This is a difficult challenge and the solution has to be found."

He quoted leading Muslim legal scholar Abdullah Ahmad an-Na'im who believed that a distinction should be made between state and politics.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he noted, believes that Islam can be the mediating instrument between state and politics through the principles and institutions of constitutionalism and the protection of equal human rights of all citizens.

"Whatever the formula, we can only devise a system that rejects absolutism and tyranny and allows for freedom and plurality if we are able to first agree that discourse and dialogue is vital. Democracy and respect for the rights and dignity of all Malaysians is the prerequisite to this approach."

Zaid stressed that the conflicts of jurisdiction in Malaysia require resolution.

The civil courts, he said, are "denuded of jurisdiction" to deal with matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Syariah court.

"No court has been given the jurisdiction and power to resolve issues that may arise in both the Syariah courts and the civil courts. The present separation of jurisdictions presupposes that matters will fall nicely into one jurisdiction or the other.

However, human affairs are never that neat. What happens to the children of a marriage where one party converts to Islam and the other party seeks recourse in the civil court? Or when the Syariah Court pronounces that a deceased person was a Muslim despite his family contesting the conversion?

"Or where the receiver of a company is restrained from dealing with a property by a Syariah Court order arising out of a family dispute?

Where do the aggrieved parties go? I had suggested the establishment of the constitutional court, but that plea has fallen on deaf ears."

Malays not under seige

The former minister had also touched on the use of draconian measures, which according to him have seen a marked increase in dealing with political and social tensions.

"Some people say that groups such as Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) advocate violence and therefore this justifies the use of such measures. They may have overlooked the fact that
violence begets violence.

"Was not the detention of Hindraf leaders under the ISA itself an act of aggression, especially to people who consider themselves marginalised and without recourse?

"It is time that the people running this country realise that we will not be able to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully if we ourselves do not value peaceful means in dealing with problems."

Zaid argued that the situation had been aggravated by the absence of an even-handed approach in dealing with organisations such as Hindraf.

"While I applaud the prime minister for calling upon the Indian community to reject extremism, should not a similar call be made on the Malay community and (Malay daily) Utusan Malaysia?

I call on the prime minister, both the outgoing and the incoming, to deal with such issues fairly. Start by releasing the Hindraf leaders detained under the ISA. The release would create a window for constructive dialogue on underlying causes of resentment.

I also appeal for the release of (Malaysia Today editor) Raja Petra (Kamarudin) from ISA detention. He is a champion of free speech. His writings, no matter how offensive they may be to some, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be seen as a threat to the national security of this country."

The Malays, Zaid said, are now a clear majority in numbers and the fear of their being outnumbered is baseless.

"They are not under seige. The institutions of government are such that the Malays are effectively represented, and there is no way the interest of the Malays can be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly."

[Read the full text of the 16-page paper presented by Zaid Ibrahim at LawAsia 2008 on 31 Oct 2008: Malaysia - a lost democracy?]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It depends on who you regard as "errant"...

Today's breaking story in Malaysiakini presents a strong whiff of what's in store for us - that is, if the master of all manipulators, Mahathir Mohamad, gets his way (as he did for 22 long years, from 1981-2003).

Only yesterday (though it seems like at least a month ago) Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan commended newly appointed Chief Justice Zaki Azmi on his "tough" maiden speech wherein he vowed to take action against "a small group" of "errant" judges.

I guess it depends on who the new CJ regards as "errant" - what if he's subtly referring to judges who have refused to play the Umno game? After all, Zaki Azmi has dedicated his entire adult life to serving his political party. It's well nigh impossible to see how he can possibly perform his duties in a non-partisan manner. In his shoes I would disqualify myself and graciously decline the post, in order to save the Malaysian judiciary from falling into further disrepute and ignominy.

Then another headline caught my eye: "Justice Chin to resign on Dec 1." Now here's one judge the Malaysian public would like to see promoted, for having the courage to blow the whistle on Mahathir's Soviet-style judicial "boot camps."

On June 13, the Bar Council president responded to Justice Ian Chin's stunning revelations by saying: "Should we not be alarmed by the chilling disclosure of a ‘boot camp' which strikes at the very heart of the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers?" She then called for a serious investigation into Ian Chin's allegations of the Executive (meaning, Dr M) attempting to influence younger members of the Judiciary by packing them off on "compulsory retreats" where they were subject to pep talks by Dr M ideologues.

Things are indeed unfolding swiftly. Zaki Azmi was appointed Chief Justice despite nearly 26,000 concerned citizens and members of the legal profession signing a petition to the Agong, beseeching him to restore the judiciary by appointing the seniormost judge to this pivotal position (rather than someone long associated with Umno, no matter how qualified he may be).

The very next day, the Federal Court presided over by the new CJ tosses out Dr Munawar Anees's appeal, thereby shutting the door firmly on Umno's shameful past and saving Mahathir's reputation from being dragged through the mud. No justice for Dr Munawar Anees means no justice for Anwar Ibrahim - and, by extension, no justice for the rakyat either.

May I humbly suggest that the new Chief Justice persuade Ian Chin to withdraw his resignation, as such honest judges are rather hard to come by. Indeed, Ian Chin's commitment to justice and truth ought to be rewarded with a promotion. If the new CJ lets a good man like Ian Chin go, it would give the rest of us cause to suspect that his definition of "errant" is totally at odds with the rakyat's.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UMNO: Moving all the way to the right

Viewed these videos from Malaysiakini earlier and couldn't help getting incensed by the kurang ajar (uncouth) attitude shown by the Polis Di Raja Malaysia - little wonder so many call them the "Polis Raja Di Malaysia" and fear Malaysia has become "a police state."

Yet we can hardly put all the blame on lowly-paid personnel in uniform recruited and trained to carry out orders from their superiors without question. Were they ever told - and repeatedly reminded - that their primary task is to serve the rakyat, not the interests of a political party named Umno?

Former IGP Abdul Rahim Noor told an outright lie, denying any knowledge of how Anwar Ibrahim got so badly bruised while under police custody, when he himself assaulted the erstwhile deputy prime minister (and, according to subsequent sworn testimony, had to be held back by his colleagues or he might have beaten the helpless prisoner to death).

How does a person with so little self-control and absolutely no comprehension of the law, not to mention a sense of justice, get to be Top Cop in Bolehland?

Well, why do some people spend so much money buying Rottweilers? This aggressive breed of canine apparently originates from Roman times when they were used to herd and guard livestock. I read with interest what the Wikipedia has to say about Rottweilers:

The Rottweiler is a steady dog with a self-assured nature, but early socialization and exposure to as many new people, animals, and situations as possible is very important in developing these qualities. The Rottweiler also has a natural tendency to assert dominance if not properly trained. Rottweilers' large size and strength make this an important point to consider: an untrained, poorly trained, or abused Rottweiler can learn to be extremely aggressive and destructive and, if allowed to run at large, can pose a significant physical threat to humans or other animals. They can be strong-willed and should be trained in a firm and consistent manner. The owner must be perceived by the dog as the leader. If the owner fails to achieve this status the Rottweiler will readily take on the role. Aggression in Rottweilers is associated with poor breeding, poor handling, lack of socialization, natural guarding tendencies, and especially abuse. [emphases added]

Anyone can see the dangers of allowing an errant police force free rein to bully members of the public they perceive as powerless and harass those named as enemies of their political masters. If your child gets savaged by a Rottweiler, the dog's owner must be held fully responsible. I'm willing to bet money that owners of vicious dogs are themselves nasty pieces of work and have serious issues with abuse of power.

Inevitably we are forced to conclude that rightwing political parties like Umno tend to favor fascistic policing of the general populace. Simply because rightwing politics appeal to the extremely rich who realize that the social status and privileges they enjoy are usually gained at the expense of a docile and ill-informed rakyat.

Truly democratic governments tend to lean to the left, emphasizing community benefits over individual profits. America, for example, started out preaching Athenian-style democracy; but as a small segment of society began to accumulate vast amounts of wealth and property, fascism took root in the form of massive militarization and an increasingly brutal police force.

The CIA was known to recruit most of its officers from Yale University, headquarters of the secretive Skull & Bones fraternity, mainly because the Agency was primarily focused on preventing a worldwide popular uprising against tyranny (which would upset the supercapitalist apple cart). Since a large number of Yale alumni are the scion of well-heeled families, this would ensure that the Agency would always serve the vested interests of the privileged class - and not the American people in general.

We are witness to a massive awakening in Malaysia. Third and fourth generation Chinese and Indians no longer view themselves as immigrants; they have grown a deep root in Malaysian soil. Their grandparents and parents struggled hard to carve a niche for themselves - and now the young Malaysian is plugged into a fast-evolving planetary mind that transcends artificial boundaries. Even the grandchildren of native rice-farmers, fishermen and rubber tappers have been exposed to the world and will no longer tolerate being rudely addressed by public servants, no matter how high their rank - and, of course, the Polis Di Raja Malaysia are really just another branch of the civil service, entrusted with maintaining law and order - without fear, favor or prejudice.

The sort of police misbehavior we have seen in recent times - from the mishandling of public rallies like Bersih and Hindraf to the commando-style arrest of Anwar Ibrahim over a spurious accusation of sodomy - reveals the kurang ajar nature of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

Imagine harassing and browbeating a small group of Indian women for attempting to petition the prime minister over a perfectly legitimate grievance. They were merely hoping against hope that their menfolk detained under the ISA would be released in time to celebrate Deepavali, that's all. Why weren't they allowed to hand the Deepavali greeting to an official from the Prime Minister's Department? They would have simply turned around and gone home, mission accomplished. Can't let these Indians get too uppity, I suppose. Loyar buruk semua! Next they'll be demanding equal status as citizens!

Zorro's Fart Chamber is too merciful a punishment for Hamid Albar and his Umno colleagues. They deserve to also be vomited, urinated and defecated on. As home minister, the despicable Potatohead Gestapoman must bear full responsibility for the way his police force is further worsening the Barisan Nasional's already stinking image of arrogance compounded by stupidity. However, for Abdullah Badawi and his deputy to say and do nothing every time something like this happens implies that they are totally aligned with this damning example of Umno's unpardonable pigheadedness and dangerous jingoism.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Deepavali Prediction

A dear friend I've known for more than 40 years showed up yesterday with a beautiful companion. I already had several other visitors who came to spend a mellow Sunday afternoon at the river. As usually happens when a group of convivial friends assemble on my scenic veranda, we soon were discussing the political impasse that has brought deep furrows to many a Malaysian brow.

There was talk of the obscene manner in which the Umno old guard was throwing their financial support behind Najib's quest for prime ministership out of sheer desperation. Their fear and panic are quite understandable. Indeed, they are essentially fighting to save their own skins, and certainly not because they give two hoots about the welfare of this country. The possibility of a Pakatan Rakyat government is all too real to them - notwithstanding the jeers and taunts of ill-wishers and establishment pundits who point fingers and wag tongues at the apparent "failure" of Anwar Ibrahim's 916 takeover plan.

Umnoputera capitalists who built their business empires on the fast track during Mahathir's 22-year reign, are petrified by the thought that a new government will implement genuine reforms of the judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Agency and the police; unmuzzle the mainstream media and - in the process of a massive spring cleaning - uncover a terracotta army of cobwebby skeletons, thereby exposing them to prosecution and public humiliation, leading to enforced exile or even imprisonment.

Anyway, my old friend said something that pricked all our ears. Apparently, he has been consulting a medical astrologer named Dr K who practises traditional Indian horoscopy in combination with powerful astrological software. Not only can he generate detailed horoscopic charts on his computer in a matter of seconds, he also happens to be unerringly intuitive in his interpretation of the data.

In February 2008, weeks before the general election of March 8th which altered the political destiny of Malaysia, this astrologer had dropped a hint that the nation was in for a couple of years of extraordinary upheaval: by the end of 2008, he said, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his son-in-law would be removed from power by their own party. At the time, my friend was skeptical about this prediction - it seemed so totally unlikely.

But now, seven months after GE12, Dr K's prediction is beginning to manifest with uncanny accuracy. So my friend started taking seriously what Dr K had told him in February this year. The astrologer's specialty is medical diagnosis and prognosis, but his methodology could easily be applied to corporations and entire countries.

And what Dr K had predicted, in addition, was that Umno's power succession plan was ill-fated and would end in utter disarray. By early 2009 there would be a vote of no-confidence against whomsoever inherited the PM's job, resulting in Parliament being dissolved and fresh elections called. A new government would be voted in and Umno would take on the role of parliamentary Opposition.

This would not spell the end of Malaysia's political and financial turmoil - but if we successfully navigate our way through the turbulent sea changes of 2009, Malaysia will rise like a phoenix from 2010 onwards. Dr K concluded: "If you were thinking of taking all your money out of Malaysia, that would be a foolish move. From 2010 onwards this country will shine like a beacon of peace and prosperity in the world."

I've always felt that this country was born under a lucky sign. And that the day will soon come when all of us can celebrate our unity in glorious diversity - and the wealth of genetic resources that is the true legacy of having been visited and influenced by so many different cultures, ancient and modern. Happy Deepavali, folks, one and all!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


It would have been so easy to uplift the spirits of the entire nation - and particularly the Indian community - just by releasing the Hindraf 5 in time for them to celebrate Deepavali with their families.

Indeed, if I were a prime minister on the way out, I would have seen this as a perfect opportunity to redeem my lacklustre track record in office with a spectacular gesture of clemency, goodwill and reconciliation.

I would have repealed the ISA, freed all the detainees, and denied the Pakatan Rakyat the pleasure of doing so when they take over the government - as must surely happen, sooner or later (when enough BN politicians succeed in sprouting some gonads). Instead, we get THIS ungracious small-minded act of unmitigated malice...

Andrew Ong | Oct 23, 08 6:08pm | Malaysiakini

The six-year-old niece of detained Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar was arrested with 11 others when they attempted to submit a letter at the Prime Minister’s office in Putrajaya today.

P. Vwaishhnnavi (right) is the daughter of Hindraf chairperson P. Waythamoorthy who is currently in self-imposed exile in London. Her mother K. Shanti was among those arrested.

Police Watch Malaysia coordinator S. Jayathas, who was also held, claimed that they had been told that they were part of an illegal assembly for having gathered near the entrance of the building.

“We were trying to obtain permission from the security guards for Vwaishhnnavi to submit her letter. They said that we were from Hindraf, but we insisted that we were 'concerned Indians' who were accompanying Vwaishnnavi,” Jayathas said when contacted.

They are currently at the Putrajaya district police headquarters, but police chief Abdul Razak Abd Majid declined comment when contacted.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman confirmed the arrest of eight men and three women during the incident. He clarified that Vwaishhnnavi has not been arrested and is in her mother’s care.

He also said the 11 are being investigated under the Societies Act. (The Home Ministry had imposed a ban on Hindraf on Oct 15, declaring it an illegal grouping.)

I call upon the joyous spirit of Deepavali and Makkal Sakthi to permeate the dense minds in Umno, so that even the most debased and debauched amongst them may see the light and achieve their own redemption.

May these benighted bodoh sombong (arrogantly stupid) souls find the inner strength to transcend their own genetic and cultural limitations - and finally emerge from beneath their hereditary tempurungs (coconut shells) into an exciting new world of infinite possibilities.

A world where we can proudly proclaim our Bangsa (race) as Manusia (human) first and foremost; and then as Malaysians of diverse and many-splendored ancestries.

I tip my cap to the unknown Photoshop wizard who created these hilarious images. They are works of art indeed, and perfectly capture the playful and festive spirit of Deepavali - as all true souls would wish it to be!