Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bar Council President praises Nizar's administration of Perak

[This excellent letter from Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan to the Bar Council Bulletin was posted on What A Lulu...]

Letter to the editor: Protection of the rights of the underprivileged must continue

THE shocking display of vitriol against Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin of Perak by certain groups claiming to advance patriotism in Perak is a disconcerting trend.

In a modern and robust democracy such as we claim to be, threats against those who hold different views, seek to enforce their legal rights, or seek to challenge authority in a court of law are seriously misplaced. We cannot, on the one hand, claim to be a modern democracy that respects dissenting views, and on the other, ask for archaic modes of "punishment" (like chasing someone out of the state) for holding those views.

It is also necessary to remember that under Nizar's administration in Perak, many significant steps forward were taken on issues that affect the Orang Asli and other underprivileged and marginalised groups.

I write this piece to put on record what I believe to be the most significant events from a human rights perspective: events that members of the Malaysian Bar and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were pleased to be part of. Issues that had remained outstanding for many years saw quick resolution in the last 10 months in Perak under Nizar's administration.

They include the following:

  • As menteri besar, Nizar cancelled all logging and plantation activities in Orang Asli settlements around Gopeng that affected more than 2,000 Orang Asli.
  • State exco and assemblyperson A Sivanesan announced the return of approximately 400 acres of Orang Asli ancestral land to the Orang Asli that had been earmarked for logging activities by the previous government in Mukim Teja near Gopeng.
  • The state government announced the return of approximately 500 acres of Orang Asli ancestral land to the Orang Asli of Kampung Chang, Sungai Gepai in Bidor, which had been earmarked for a Botanical Garden by the previous government.
  • A special task force on Orang Asli land rights was set up to formally recognise all Orang Asli customary land in Perak. The task force committee comprised two tiers. The second tier was exclusively managed by the Orang Asli communities themselves, and meeting halls in the state secretariat building were provided to the Orang Asli for their use.
  • The administration commissioned a special Orang Asli officer for the state of Perak whose function was to resolve all problems of the Orang Asli within the state.
  • A series of consultations with the public and NGOs on development activities in Ipoh was held. For example, public opinion was sought in relation to the proposed development of Yau Tet Shin Market.
  • Both Malay and Chinese [Malaysian] residents of new villages and Kampung Tersusun are now being granted permanent land titles in stages.

The Malaysian Bar must put these events on record as we have worked for years on some of these issues and were happy to see positive results achieved in a short span of time.

We hope that the same importance will be given to these matters and that they will continue to progress without delay. In fact, we call on all state governments to be proactive in relation to issues that concern the Orang Asli, the marginalised and the underprivileged.

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
11 February 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Who knows the origins of this odd little prophecy that has been going around for at least a couple of decades. The prophecy is supposedly a formula to predict the succession of Malaysian prime ministers starting with the first, Tunku Abdul Rahman; then Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Badawi... and, it would appear that the N would be Najib Razak.

When I first heard about the R-A-H-M-A-N prophecy, the question that immediately sprang to mind was: does this mean Malaysia will only have six prime ministers? What happens after RAHMAN? Do we become a republic where the office of prime minister will be superseded by that of president? Or will the country disintegrate into shambles and end up annexed by Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand? Only recently the thought struck me that the RAHMAN prophecy was probably initiated within Umno and it's supposed to track the six presidents of Umno before the party destroys itself through internal rot and infighting. Najib Razak has no contenders as the next Umno president (Tengku Razaleigh, to his credit, received only one nomination because he refused to pay the required fee to Umno division chiefs). As soon as Abdullah Badawi steps down as Umno president, Najib automatically takes over, thereby fulfilling Umno's R-A-H-M-A-N prophecy.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean Najib will become PM. Anybody with even one functioning braincell can see that the Altantuya trail leads straight to Najib's doorstep. The only ones who can't see it have either been paid off with submarine dividends or they happen to be the AG or IGP.

With the swift and irreversible decline of Umno, Najib will have the dubious distinction of being the last president of the Ketuanan Melayu party before it sank out of sight into a quagmire of its own making. Even if Najib does appoint himself PM, his tenure will most certainly be short-lived. Nobody can rule a country at gunpoint - and that's what Najib would have to do to stay in power, such is the man's unpopularity.

So let's say Najib gets to play PM for a couple of months and then there's a vote of no confidence against him in parliament. The Agong will dissolve the government and allow for a snap election - which Pakatan Rakyat will easily win with Anwar Ibrahim at the helm. That would place Anwar as Malaysia's seventh PM and put an end to 52 years of Umno-dominated BN misrule.

Think on this scenario and perk up, folks.

Pic by TV Smith


In the aftermath of Najib's underhanded overthrow of the Pakatan state government in Perak, many debates have been raging as to whether Karpal Singh was justified in demanding that Anwar Ibrahim step down as leader of the Pakatan Rakyat. Anwar has hordes of vociferous detractors, all of whom claim to know things about Anwar the public doesn't - and yet they obstinately refuse to divulge what terrible secrets they're privy to that would instant disqualify Anwar Ibrahim as our next Prime Minister, if the information were made public.

Well, unless Chandra Muzaffar, Anas Zubedy, KTemoc, Ghani Ismail and other "anti-Anwaristas" come up with irrefutable evidence that Anwar Ibrahim has ordered out-of-favor mistresses to be cruelly murdered, or has billions stashed away in the Bank of Israel under Paul Wolfovitz's name, or is in truth a Singaporean covert operative assigned to oversee the systematic dismantling of Ketuanan Melayu and the NEP... I'm going to stick with Anwar as our first and most obvious option for PM for the following reasons:

1) He has the most experience in government (not just in politics); and while some might say that being the Sorcerer's Apprentice for 16 years is reason enough to disqualify anyone, I'd say his overt rebellion against the Evil Sorcerer has redeemed him in my eyes;

2) Anyone who has read the Tao Te Ching, The Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Rabindranath Tagore, Kahlil Gibran, the Complete Works of Shakespeare (5 times from cover to cover, I hear) and who can articulate a coherent thought on his feet is worth negotiating with;

3) Anwar has been consistent in voicing his concern for humble folk since his student days, except for a few years when he was rising up the ranks of Umno and he consciously groomed himself to become a self-confident global statesman by joining a riding club (at least he avoided golf, which would have revealed an utter lack of originality :-);

4) It's an asset to be able to communicate easily with the humblest as well as the most lofty segments of society - and Anwar has that gift firmly in his grasp;

5) Having been at the receiving end of Mahathir's gross abuse of repressive laws and misuse of the police force against all political threats, Anwar is unlikely to succumb to the temptation to be just another tinpot despot;

6) Anwar has fulfilled, in my book, all the identifying marks of a culture hero (pity not many have the required mythological understanding to perceive these criteria as significant and valid, but I personally live by these ancient codes and, just as an example: every mythic redeemer/messiah must undergo battle with his or her own deep unconscious, experience ego death and be resurrected on an elevated plane the way Gandalf the Grey fought the Balrog, died and was reborn as Gandalf the White);

7) Anwar's intelligence is not rigid but adaptable and flexible; the man isn't bound by dogmatic beliefs and principles (hence his being stupidly labeled a chameleon and manipulator - well, chameleons are NOT inherently "evil," just well adapted to survival!). His effortless charisma and oratorical prowess are a distinct advantage, so long as political leaders depend on speechifying to attract a following.

8) Anyone who has ever met Wan Azizah Wan Ismail or Nurul Izzah Anwar will understand why I say these two feisty women may ultimately be Anwar's greatest assets. When he was abducted by balaclava-clad police from his own house on 20 September 1998, beaten up by Police Inspector-General Rahim Noor, subjected to the ugliest mock trial in memory presided over by that despicable wormtongue Augustine Paul, and then thrown in prison for six years... his wife and daughter were thrust into the limelight and both blossomed into inspiring political warriors in their own right. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Anwar will forever be grateful for the support and strength of these women in his life - and because of that he will always have a healthy respect for the Sacred Feminine.


Zaid Ibrahim seems like a brilliant, affable person who doesn't need to be in politics but simply can't stay away and I certainly appreciate and admire what he has done by quitting Umno over his disapproval of Hamid Albar's misuse of the ISA. But that's about all I know of the man. Before I can endorse Zaid as PM material I shall have to track his actions a bit more. Anwar I have tracked since 2 Sept 1998 - and in my eyes Anwar Ibrahim's response to political calamity and crisis has been impeccable and impressive. Even while suffering the iniquity of wrongful imprisonment and a painful spinal disorder, Anwar kept a cool head, a forgiving heart, and maintained his dignity like a true king.

Nizar Jamaluddin is the man of the hour, having proved his mettle as Mentri Besar of Perak under duress. So obvious are the man's winning qualities, his being a PAS member seems totally irrelevant - although some may express a wee bit of anxiety that Nizar may prove a tad conservative in certain areas (for example, Nizar made a gaffe when he proposed that HIV-positive citizens be quarantined and received a fair bit of flak from NGOs and the public; however, to his credit, Nizar immediately apologized for not knowing enough about the issue and graciously withdrew his remarks).

Raja Petra Kamarudin has been nominated as potential PM by countless readers of Malaysia Today. Recently, there was even a suggestion that RPK inaugurate his own political party, independent of but aligned with Pakatan Rakyat. No doubt the man commands a massive following of admirers who appreciate his sticking his neck out for truth, justice and freedom. However, it appears to me that RPK is so accustomed to playing the role of maverick he would feel completely claustrophobic in public office, because he would no longer be free to express his feelings off-the-cuff as he is so good at doing. Personally, I feel RPK would be just the man to appoint as Special Adjudicator of the IPCMC, charged with the onerous task of cleaning up the PDRM. It would be a form of national service for him, from which he can be released after he's finished the job, which ought to take him no more than two years.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Malaysiakini, 8 Feb 2009

Dear Karpal,

You have been banging your head against the BN brick wall for nearly 40 years. I have long admired and loved you for your indomitable warrior spirit, which reveals you to be of authentic khalsa pedigree. With your brilliant grasp of the law you have stood out as one of the finest legal minds in the region. The few times we have met I noticed you almost glowed with the aura of a saint, and I saw you as a spiritual warrior who would fight to the death for what you believe to be right.

However, ever since the political tsunami of 8 March 2008, you have become a lot grouchier and much more pugnacious. Initially, I figured it would take you a bit of time to adjust to the new political realities wherein the DAP, which you have loyally served for so many decades, is no longer confined to playing the perennial role of Loyal Opposition. Indeed, along with its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat, the DAP must now get used to being in charge - just as Lim Guan Eng has had to swiftly adapt to being the Chief Minister of Penang, not just somebody paid to give BN a hard time in parliament and maintain the illusion of democracy.

When you're in charge, there is no longer any advantage in being perceived as "strident" or "quarrelsome." Indeed, when one is in power, one must become more accepting and understanding of others, and speak in gentler - but more authoritative - tones.

In recent days we have all witnessed the magnificent spirit of enlightened and noble leadership that Perak MB Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin personifies. He has stood up firmly and with impressive dignity to being dismissed as MB by the Sultan of Perak - and he has done so without a trace of rancor or rudeness. We could point to this and call it the silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud: the constitutional crisis in Perak and the kurang ajar manner in which YB Nizar has been mistreated by the BN faction has brought forth shining qualities within this young leader we otherwise would never know existed. YB Nizar has conducted himself with such impeccable aplomb and courage, Malaysians are now saying he is PM material - and indeed I agree he is.

What's remarkable is that YB Nizar's appeal as a leader transcends all party lines and racial barriers. We see him as a good, intelligent, approachable, humble, inspiring man - not as the PAS Mentri Besar of Perak.

Well, it's Nizar's job on the line - and he has never once blamed Anwar Ibrahim for the current political imbroglio. Nor has he threatened to sue the Sultan for making an arguably unwise decision, possibly swayed by business considerations.

Now more than ever the rakyat would like to see a strong, united Pakatan Rakyat focused on replacing Umno/BN as the federal government. Not one where every other leader is a loose cannon that can scuttle the ship anytime for the most absurd reasons. True, the Pakatan Rakyat espouses the spirit and not merely the letter of democratic ideals - and therefore must allow for dissenting views on various issues.

Nevertheless, it is one thing to voice disagreement and quite another to attack your political allies and colleagues in such a truculent and aggressive manner as to cause internal injury. The last thing we want is to see the Pakatan Rakyat coalition disintegrate before it has even had a chance to govern the nation.

Dear Karpal, in my humble opinion, Anwar is a highly intelligent man, albeit openly ambitious (and that is hardly a crime). If there are painful lessons to be learnt from the Perak party-hopping debacle, I have no doubt Anwar will very quickly learn them. There is absolutely no call to publicly whack him on the head with your umbrella. Anwar's detractors will certainly view this as extremely comical and seize upon your criticism as fuel for their gigantic spin machines.

Your demand for Anwar to step down as Pakatan leader at this juncture is unjustified and perhaps even suicidal. Without Anwar's powers of persuasion and his moderating influence, fundamentalist voices (from both ends of the spectrum) will rise to the fore and ruin all our hopes for authentic change in Malaysia.

Dear Karpal, I value honesty and outspokenness above most other traits. I am not in politics because, like you, I'm inclined to have a short fuse - and when angry am capable of shooting my mouth off and hurting a lot of people's feelings. But you, Karpal, are a veteran politician and really ought to know better, especially as you approach your 69th solar orbit. Clearly, the patriarchal control freak latent in your DNA is beginning to emerge and with increasing frequency. I have seen 90-year-old Sikh patriarchs scare the living daylights out of their burly 40-year-old grandsons. Please, dear friend, don't give in to those destructive propensities. Good families have broken down and become dysfunctional because of uncontrollable irascibility on the part of white-bearded, stern-faced patriarchs with absolutely no sense of humor and who cannot tolerate new ways of doing things.

May I suggest that you take a break from the emotionally charged atmosphere in Perak? Take time out to recuperate from the psychic toxins of being immersed for so many decades in a BN-dominated parliament. Be a child again with your grandchildren, a loving, inspiring father to your wonderful progeny, an affectionate husband to your supportive wife, and a wise, compassionate friend to the multitudes who adore and respect you as a living saint.

And I'm sure you have in you the goodness of heart and wisdom to apologize to Anwar for your outburst. Leave the fate of this nation in the collective hands of the rakyat - or of God, if you happen to be a believer. Come back and rejoin the fray when you're well rested and together let us fulfil the aspirations of a beautiful young nation.