Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mongolia unimpressed by Najib's "1Malaysia"

Living in the shadow of Najib’s 1 Malaysia

Tunku Aziz | Malaysian Insider | 26 Sept 2009

SEPT 26 — I was in Seoul last Monday to participate in the World Forum for Democratisation in Asia (Third Biennial Conference) on “Sustaining Democratisation in Asia: Challenges of Economic and Social Justice” with some 200 delegates from Asia and the United States.

The conference brought together people from diverse backgrounds and of all ages, to seek ways of strengthening, and arresting the rapidly declining state of democracy in their countries. These men and women, all with impeccable credentials as human rights advocates, shared many of the same democratic values that have inspired human beings through the ages, all over the world, to make great personal sacrifices against humanly impossible odds in the name of justice and freedom from the tyranny of state-sanctioned human rights abuses, such as we are subjected to in Malaysia regularly.

I spoke on the panel on “Citizen Participation and Political Accountability.” In the audience were participants from Indonesia, the US, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia and Mongolia, among others.

I thought I was doing well, having made some rather important points on the need for citizens to take charge of their own destiny as freedom was far too important to be left to the tender mercies of politicians, many of whom were charlatans at best and untrustworthy to boot. I mentioned as an example how citizens’ active participation in the March 2008 general election in my country had succeeded in changing, albeit ever so slightly, the 50-year corrupt political landscape, a feat that was nothing short of miraculous given the corrupt and repressive environment against which they were fighting to change.

I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that interest in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “baggage” had extended beyond the shores of Malaysia. Blame the borderless cyber technology for this unwelcome attention. Before I could finish my final remark, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the personable Yale- and Princeton-educated Ms. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, advisor to the President of Mongolia. She wanted to know, in the nicest possible way, why Malaysian citizens had voted for a person of Najib’s known reputation to assume the highest political office, and, she continued, was it true that in the Altantuya Shaariibuu trial, the Malaysian judiciary was acting improperly to protect Najib?

We do not, of course, have direct prime ministerial elections in Malaysia. I explained that the prime minister was elected by his party; Umno. It says more about the integrity of the party than perhaps the person it elected to high office. Now, I am not unused to being asked all kinds of questions in my years of public speaking, both at home and abroad, but this, about the murder trial of Altantuya threw me off balance.

Ms Tsedevdamba was putting the proverbial cat among the pigeons. It caused a real flutter in my dovecot, no pun intended. My character and integrity would be put under close scrutiny, effectively on trial, and as in any trial, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would, I thought, be the best policy.

I am fiercely patriotic, proud of our many achievements in a number of important areas, but like many of you I often hang my head in utter shame and humiliation when I see the cynical manipulation of democratic principles by a government that seems to have lost its moral capital by developing an unethical and immoral political behaviour into a fine art form. To them who govern this country, the end would seem to justify the means.

In this respect, it is useful to remind ourselves what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when he was Prime Minister, used to proclaim, without a tinge of embarrassment, that we were a democracy because we held regular elections. It was not important to the emasculator (or perhaps constrictor is a more appropriate word in his case) of human rights that they might not always have been free and fair. What Dr Mahathir and his Umno friends have never appreciated, or deliberately failed to acknowledge, is the fact that democracy is not just about elections. It is what happens between elections that really is the point at issue...

[Read the full story here.]

Tunku Aziz, one of the prime movers in setting up Transparency International Malaysia, in happier times was regarded by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi as "one man (who) was able to harness his personal passion and deep commitment to the values of ethics and integrity, give it a larger purpose and meaning, and turn it into a force to transform society for the better." Why then was he left out of the MACC Advisory Group? He is regarded as being too outspoken for comfort and, therefore, difficult to handle.

Death of a former Mentri Besar

[From Malaysia Today...]

Ex-Pahang MB Abdul Rahim Abu Bakar dies

KUALA LUMPUR (25 Sept 2009) -- Former Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Rahim Abu Bakar died at his home in Jalan U Thant here at 7.10pm yesterday, believed to be due to a heart attack. He was 66. Abdul Rahim leaves a wife and four children — Roslina, 37, Rosnita, Mohd Rizal, 32, and Rosazreen, 25 and four grandchildren.

Abdul Rahim was born on February 7, 1943, in Beserah, Kuantan and started his political career as the state assemblyman for Beserah after winning the seat in the 1978 general election. An economics graduate from Universiti Malaya, he was Pahang Menteri Besar from July 19, 1978 to November 7, 1981.
— Reuters

RPK's rousing tribute to Rahim Bakar

Rahim Bakar was a most outspoken individual and the Pahang rakyat loved him. He would blast away, even in public, and there were no ‘sacred cows’ as far as he was concerned. In fact, whenever there were palace spies around, Rahim Bakar would purposely raise his voice so that they could hear what he says. Then he would sit back with an amused look on his face to see the spies scurry away to report to the Pahang Sultan what Rahim Bakar just said.

The best way and no other way to describe the relationship between the Menteri Besar and the Palace was that they were in a state of war. Rahim Bakar whacked the Sultan to kingdom come and he did not care a damn what the repercussions would be.

At that time, the Prime Minister was Tun Hussein Onn, a jewel and no-nonsense of a man. He was brought up in the British tradition and acquired his discipline in the British army. Hussein Onn would not tolerate any shit and in spite of his Johor Palace links he would keep the Royal Family on a tight leash and would offer them no slack.

It was always an unwritten rule that the nine Malaysian rulers would be allowed certain ‘excesses’. For states like Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, and so on, these excesses would include large tracts of timber concessions. States like Negeri Sembilan, which did not have too much timber land left, the ‘concessions’ would be in the form of pig farm licences. Why do you think they call that state Negeri Sembilan Darul Khinzir?

The Sultans would be given a certain timber ‘quota’ every year, which they are expected to use wisely. Most Sultans would have Chinese partners to work the timber concessions and for Pahang it was the infamous ‘Tengku’ Wong ...

[Read the full story here.]

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dr Rafick speaks out on the rakyat's behalf


by Dr Rafick

I received a call last night from a retired Army General of the Royal Malay Regiment raising his concern after watching some shocking news coming from the Sultan of Pahang which was shown on TV. His phone call led me to browse through the online Mainstream Media (MSM) and the online alternative media. It was abuzz with the news that the Sultan of Pahang had called upon the people to continue to support the BN government while officiating the opening of a bridge in Pahang.

I was equally shocked to hear what was uttered by HRH Sultan. In my mind, HRH has overstepped his professional, Royal and legal boundaries. His act of crossing these boundaries worries me as it might lead to bigger things in this country especially after the action of the Sultan of Perak and the King (Sultan of Terengganu) in handling the Perak and Terengganu constitutional crises respectively.

The law is very clear on the role of a Sultan. His role includes the appointment of MB’s as well as the religious head of the state. He is to remain neutral for the sake of the Rakyat. They used to be completely immune from prosecution until Tun Mahathir changed the laws. He has to be non-partisan and must make an effort to ensure that he remains neutral in all aspects of governance. When the Sultan makes a statement supporting a particular political party, it creates ill feeling among the Rakyat.

[Read the rest of Dr Rafick's clearheaded essay here.]

Dr Rafick, you're a wise old owl and I appreciate your guts in pointing out where the Sultan of Pahang has overstepped the bounds of royal decorum in urging people to vote Barasan Najis. Will he be appearing in ads next for airlines, casinos, and resorts? The Sultan of Perak stopped short of publicly endorsing Najib and Umno - but his refusal to dissolve the Perak state assembly in accordance with the request of the rightful mentri besar, Nizar Jamaluddin, certainly speaks volumes.

RPK, the ISA, and solitary confinement

RPK talks about the first ISA detention and his treatment under police detention and in solitary confinement. Continuing the series of interviews with Raja Petra Kamarudin - founder of Malaysia Today, thorn in the side of Najib's evil regime, and freedom fighter in exile.

Brought to you by C4productionhouse.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A forest is not an oil palm plantation!

To view animation click HERE!

Defend life - International Day Against Tree Monocultures, 21 September 2009

A community service message from the World Rainforest Movement. To embed this animated presentation on your blog, go here!

Zaid Ibrahim on Human Rights

"There are many who see the promotion of human rights as a threat to order and security and inconsistent with stability and public order. Others see it as detracting from more pressing economic issues which, they argue, should take precedence. Some have argued that because we have different cultural values, the concept needs to be modified and that it is necessary for us to be very selective of the kind of human rights we can have. But let us be clear.

Human rights do not challenge social stability and development. On the contrary, [human rights] promote these ideals by recognising the value and importance of each and every individual in society. What human rights do challenge, by definition, is authoritarianism."

Zaid Ibrahim and Tok Guru Nik Aziz exchange books as Anwar Ibrahim looks on with pleasure.

"Human rights are not and have never been a luxury wish list; they are not about promoting the rights of the individual without regard to the rights of the community. They are not about promoting selfish individualism as some would have us believe. They are about treating people with respect, with due regard to the due process of the law. If we have no capacity to respect the dignity and the rights of one individual, then be assured that we will also have no capacity to respect the dignity and the rights of many."

~ Zaid Ibrahim (keynote speech delivered on International Human Rights Day, 11 December 2008)

Zaid in animated conversation with human rights advocate Tian Chua.

Zaid Ibrahim on the Rule of Law

"The Rule of Law has no meaning if judges, especially apex court judges, are not prepared to enter the fray in the struggle for the preservation of human rights and the fundamental liberties.

Supreme Court judges in other jurisdictions have done so time and again. Though it is far less difficult to accommodate the will of the government, that must be resisted at all costs, particularly where justice so demands. Only then can we say that Malaysia is grounded on the Rule of Law.

To all our judges I say discard your political leanings and philosophy. Stick to justice in accordance with the law. As Lord Denning reminded us: Justice is inside all of us, not a product of intellect but of the spirit. Your oath is to the Constitution; shield yourself behind it. Without your conviction, democracy is but a concept."

Zaid Ibrahim (from a speech delivered at the LawAsia Conference, 30 October 2008)

"LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO VOTE UMNO!" ~ Hussein Abdul Hamid

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Let Them Eat Ketupat! Selamat Hari Raya!

Originally posted on 10 January 2009, I'm reposting this mainly because it opens with a nice picture of ketupats...

Life will never again be the same after March 8th, 2008. Not for any of the political parties whose fortunes have seen unprecedented reversals, nor for the quiet-living, tax-paying citizen. And certainly not for those of us who contribute to the nation by writing, reporting, performing on stage, or conjuring images in our studios.

What's so different about life after the political tsunami?

Obviously, the status quo is no longer static. Change is in the air and what seemed like an immovable object (the Umno/BN regime) has now encountered an irresistible force (the rapidly rising tide of an awakened and empowered rakyat).

In the aftermath of the March 8th tsunami, the "immovable" object was seen to have been swept half-a-mile downstream and turned upside down with its backside exposed for all to see and snigger at. Like the "unsinkable" Titanic that ignominiously sank, the "immovable" Umno/BN not only has undeniably been moved, it's in imminent danger of being forcibly removed altogether.

For more than half a century UMNO and its chief concubines MCA and MIC represented the vested interests of the propertied classes: the Malay aristocracy, the upper echelons of well-heeled Malayans and, of course, the foreign industrialists. It was a distinctly rightwing administration whose greatest fear and worst enemy was the bogus bogeyman called Communism. It tolerated a limited amount of pinkness in the form of strictly regulated trade unions and a feeble though stoical socialist party which for years featured the head of an ox against an industrial cog as its symbol (thereby defining itself as the political voice of no-longer-mute beasts of burden).

After the 13 May 1969 coup d'etat which saw the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman deposed by a military-style National Operations Council led by Abdul Razak bin Haji Hussein, the electoral map was redrawn to ensure that there wasn't the remotest possibility of any opposition party becoming so strong it could serve as a viable alternative to what was now ill-advisedly called Barisan Nasional or the National Front (which immediately brings to mind the British Neo-Nazi Party of the same name).

So it was pretty much business-as-usual for BN for more than three decades. As happened in the United States, business began to merge with politics until the demarcation between public and private interests became invisible. Entrepreneurs and bureaucrats hopped into bed together and gleefully screwed the comatose public for all it was worth.

Mahathir's 22-year reign as prime minister saw the rise of Rupert Murdoch wannabes like Robert Kuok, Ananda Krishnan, Vincent Tan, Yeoh Tiong Lay, Lim Goh Tong and Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. These card-carrying capitalists were empire-builders driven by their unstoppable ambition to be listed in Forbes Top 100. It's impossible not to tip one's hat in recognition of their vision, perseverance and sheer stamina. Yet they could never have amassed their vast fortunes without becoming intimate buddies with whosoever held the reins of political power.

And, of course, hobnobbing with power has unwholesome ramifications. More often than not. it's well-nigh impossible to draw a line between fair and foul practice. An old Greek saying cynically advises:

If you want to sleep well, make friends with your wife.
If you want to get fat, make friends with your mother-in-law.
If you want to get rich, make friends with the chief of police.

Nor could these go-getters have become billionaires by being overly sensitive to environmental and social issues. Many successful entrepreneurs find it advantageous to their public image to be seen as philanthropists - and many subscribe to "corporate social responsibility" programs whereby a tiny portion of their unimaginable profits is plowed back to the community in various ways.

A giant property consortium turned a verdant valley once populated by an Orang Asli community into a commercial-industrial wasteland. In exchange for their ancestral land each Orang Asli family was given a double-story link house plus a shophouse for them to rent out. A couple dozen kids were offered scholarships to study modern construction methods.

It all made for good PR, no doubt: spending RM335,000 of public funds on a special ceremony officiated by the PM to which all the Orang Asli headmen were invited and treated to one night's stay in a 3-star hotel, with a pair of leather shoes and a smart jacket thrown in. Nevertheless, what the developer had really done was erase the culture and memory of this Orang Asli community. Severed from their emotional links to the land, indigenous people soon cease to exist as such and become assimilated with the dominant culture.

Making a pile of money from ecocide and ethnocide is hardly laudable. I call these ill-gotten gains - like getting rich from turning youngsters into drug addicts and prostitutes. What if you're not directly involved with such unsavory activities - but happen to serve some big-shot wheeler-dealer as, let's say, his legal advisor or advertising and PR consultant? Does that make the money you earn any cleaner?

Looking at it from the strictly professional viewpoint, should a tailor refuse to make a suit for an underworld kingpin with blood on his hands? Should a dentist turn away a sex maniac minister who has been known to commit statutory rape? Not if the dentist happens to be a rapacious former chief minister, I suppose...

It would be practically impossible to do business if value judgments had to be applied to every situation. What if you happen to be chief legal advisor to Umno and have just been roped in to oversee a particularly shady operation? Or if you were a PR consultant whose professional services have been recruited to reverse the negative spin on the DPM's public image?

Supposing you were married to a high-powered banker and your hubby was invited to dinner at the finance minister's residence. Would you dress up in all your finery and make small talk with a woman everybody believes is capable of cold-blooded murder?

These are very real dilemmas plaguing a few of my former friends. I say "former" because a couple of them recently dropped me from their guest list as a result of my trenchant political views. It saddens me, to be sure, that in these times of tumultuous sea and sky changes, friends and even families are being split down the middle by polarized political affiliations.

I can imagine a similar situation playing out in America shortly after Bush ordered the bombing of Baghdad. What if you were at a family Christmas dinner and one of your brothers-in-law just happened to be a senior executive at Raytheon Enterprises - one of the top-earning defense contractors in America - and he thought extremely highly of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice? Would you, for the sake of diplomacy, stick to remarks about the weather and concentrate on the food?

Popular legend has it that Marie Antoinette, when informed that the peasants were rioting, wanted to know what it was all about. One of her attendants informed her that it was because the poor could no longer afford to buy bread. "Then let them eat cake!" Marie allegedly responded.*

I can already picture a similar scenario developing in Malaysia as the effects of the financial meltdown and widespread joblessness begin to be felt. As always it's the working class with low cash reserves that feels the pinch first. We're not far from the day half a million hungry poor will be on the streets demanding an increase in their weekly rice ration. And some Toh Puan daintily ensconced in a 24-million-ringgit mansion will turn to her maidservant and huff, "So let them eat ketupat!"

*I plead artistic licence with this well-worn and totally spurious anecdote. Marie Antoinette was much maligned in France simply because she happened to be Austrian. In truth she never actually made such a crass remark. My apologies to the memory of this hapless Hapsburg princess who suffered much and was grievously misunderstood.