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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

PKR’s Kulim rep threatens to quit

(The Star) PUTRAJAYA: Kulim state assemblyman Lim Soo Nee of Parti Keadilan Rakyat has threatened to quit Pakatan Rakyat if it continues to implement policies that do not benefit the Chinese.

However, he said he would not defect to the Barisan Nasional, which he said had made a good offer for him to hop over to the coalition.

“If I was (going) to defect to Barisan, I would have done so last year and I would not make it public that I had been approached,” he said in an interview with China Press.

He said that if he were to assess the performance of PAS, which led the state government, he would rate it as “fail”.

“However, if the state government starts implementing policies that take care of all races and gains the trust of the people, it will become a state government that passes the test,” he said.

When asked what kind of policies are considered “not doing any good to the Chinese community”, Lim said one of them was the mandatory installation of glass cubicles by pork sellers at markets.

“The state government should place emphasis on improving security in the state and other problems that concern the people instead of touching on such sensitive issues,” he said.

Therefore, he hoped that the state government would introduce more policies that would benefit the people to gain the support of the Chinese community.

Hee faces the heat

(The Straits Times)

Teo Cheng Wee looks at why Hee Yit Fong is getting more heat than others.

LAST Wednesday, four opposition assemblymen in Perak switched allegiance to Barisan Nasional, returning power to the ruling coalition.

The move upset many Malaysians because it was seen as an illegitimate way of taking power and many hit out at the defectors.

But in the aftermath, one of the defectors appeared to be bearing the brunt of the unhappiness: DAP assemblyman Hee Yit Fong.

In the days after she quit the Democratic Action Party (DAP) to become a BN-friendly independent, she has received considerable abuse on the Internet and in real-life.

Voters and DAP leaders like Mr Lim Guan Eng labelled her as a traitor, and angry constituents have burnt photos and effigies of her.

The attacks have targeted her family as well.

Her brother told the Chinese press last week that he had gotten so many angry phone calls at the family home that they had to take the phone off the hook.

Other reports said that market stalls won't sell her family any produce and that her son had been missing from work, presumably to escape abuse.

Not surprisingly, news portal Malaysian Insider described her as "possibly the most hated woman in Malaysia right now".

In comparison, the other three "frogs", as party-hoppers are called here, seemed to get away easy.

Mr Mohd Osman Jailu, Mr Jamaluddin Radzi and Datuk Nasarudin Hashim have not had to endure the level of vitriol that Ms Hee has.

But Ms Hee's position is different from the rest. For one, she is the only Chinese among the four defectors.

She has had to bear the brunt of the anger from Perak residents, particularly the Chinese, because she was seen as a representative of her race, who stood to lose the most in a change of government.

Out of the 28 assemblymen in Perak's newly formed BN government, 27 are from Umno. Only one is from the Malaysian Chinese Association. In the previous state government, the Chinese-based DAP held 18 of the 31 seats from Pakatan Rakyat.

For the Chinese, it means that their representation in the state government has plummeted.

Among all the defectors, Ms Hee is also seen as having the least reason to jump. Mr Mohd Osman and Mr Jamaluddin were said to have been baited by the dropping corruption charges against them. This allegation was denied by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, but speculation remains strong.

And while some may call it double standards, Malaysians are holding Ms Hee to higher standards because she was a DAP assemblymen. DAP members, as the public sees it, are supposed to be more loyal, principled and less swayed by money.

In the latest development - which won't help her cause - sources say she will be offered a Perak exco post and an official Toyota Camry car that comes along with the job.

It is an ironic turn of events, considering that she was said to have defected because she wasn't given a Camry when she was the state deputy speaker under the Pakatan Rakyat administration.

She was not one of the six exco members sworn in by Perak's Sultan Azlan Shah today (Feb 10), but there are still four more slots to be filled in the exco.

Well aware of the anger, she has not returned to Perak since her defection, and has been trying to clear her name in the press.

She told reporters that she was forced out of DAP and that they would have kicked her out anyway, even if she didn't jump ship.

She reiterated that she was sidelined by the powerful Perak DAP leaders and cousins Mr Ngeh Koo Ham and Mr Nga Kor Ming, and had no choice but to resign.

In a Sin Chew Daily report today (Feb 10), she also denied that she received a rumoured RM 20 million payout from BN, or that she will get an exco post.

A China Press commentary today, however, spoke up for her. It expressed "sympathy and pity" for Ms Hee, saying that even if the public was upset with her, that it was unfair to target her family, who might not have much say in her final decision.

However, she must have seen this coming and should not shift blame elsewhere for her predicament, the commentary said.

"One thing is for sure. If Ms Hee wishes to continue her political career, she will need to put in 10 times the effort that a normal assemblyman does."

It looks like a long road ahead for "the most hated woman in Malaysia".

Derhaka, Flunkies and UMNO Thuggery

Press Statement by MP Klang, Charles Santiago

First we have a democratically elected Pakatan Rakyat government ousted in a well-executed coup. The shameless tactic was engineered by deputy prime minister Najib Tun Razak to shore up his image as an adept politician ahead of a power transition next month at the ruling UMNO internal elections.

Then we have an overzealous politician, Khairy Jamaluddin, calling for Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin's citizenship to be stripped. His rallying cry came at a demonstration attended by mostly UMNO members.

News reports say that Khairy worked the crowd to such frenzy that they were united in their view of killing any person who had committed treason. Mohammad Nizar was not just betrayed by elected representatives who were encouraged by UMNO to switch loyalties. He is now also branded a traitor.

Khairy incited the crowd and perpetrated hatred. The police, on the other hand, stood watch while protesters burnt posters of Mohammad Nizar. The aspiring politician must be frantic to score brownie points with UMNO members to burnish his image as party loyalist. After all he is gunning for the top UMNO youth post.

Pakatan leaders and specifically Mohammad Nizar were accused of inciting the people who had turned up at Kuala Kangsar to protest against the swearing in of Zambry Abdul Kadir. But there is not a whimper from UMNO and Barisan Nasional about Khairy's blatant attempt to create further chaos in Perak.

DAP Chairman and prominent lawyer, Karpal Singh, has also fallen prey to UMNO's political thuggery. It is his democratic right as a citizen to file a legal suit against the Ruler. But branding Karpal and Mohammad Nizar as traitors clearly shows that UMNO is trying to use the monarchy as a political tool.

Before the dust on the defection game could settle, we are faced with the resignation of another opposition leader, V Arumugam. He claims to have been threatened and offered RM5 million to join Barisan Nasional. We are also hearing similar allegations from other opposition representatives in Perak.

The Malaysian public are seething with anger over the unconstitutional takeover of Perak. Reports of dirty strategies by UMNO and the Barisan Nasional coalition government would only serve to further annoy the people.

Therefore, the MACC and police should act immediately and independently on the reports lodged by Arumugam, claiming he has been under the gun from UMNO and Barisan Nasional. The findings of these investigations must be made public as the people have a right to know if ruling politicians are using dubious means to compel elected representatives to cross over.

What can I say about Khairy? It is redundant to urge UMNO leaders to warn Khairy to zip up. They themselves brandish the sword and sneak in racist remarks to create fear among the public.

But such foolish calls should stop. Or they would create further political and inadvertently economic instability in the country.


Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang

016-6267797

By-elections: Non-Malays could swing vote

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — With the dust barely settled on the Kuala Terengganu by-election last month, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is thrown into two more by-elections in which many unresolved controversies are likely to hold sway. The sudden by-elections in Perak and Kedah will take place in two seats that have a significant non-Malay voter base.

“The non-Malay votes will play a decisive role in these two by-elections,” said electoral analyst Ong Kian Ming.

That is not good news for the BN.

Through regular surveys, it would appear that while the Malay support for BN may have held since the March general election last year, the non-Malay support has fallen.

If it had its way, the BN will not want to face voters at a time when pro-opposition sentiment is boiling over. But it has no choice, as the law requires that the by-elections be held within 60 days of the seat becoming vacant.

The Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak fell vacant when the Pas MP Roslan Shaharum died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday.

The Bukit Selambau state seat in Kedah was vacated when its PKR assemblyman V. Arumugam reportedly quit over claims that he was being pressured to defect. He is still missing but Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Azizan Abdul Razak has announced his resignation. So far, there is no word to the contrary.

Allegations have surfaced that Arumugam had married a second wife in contravention of the law. The PKR has claimed that he married her only through religious rites, and did not register it. He is still legally married to his first wife.

Although in different states, both seats have significant numbers of non-Malay voters, making it very hard for the BN to wrest them away.

“The mood of the day is against the status quo, especially among the non-Malay voters and the young,” said Professor Agus Yusoff, a political analyst.

The voter breakdown for the Perak parliamentary seat is 63.5 per cent Malay, 27.1 per cent Chinese and 9.1 per cent Indian. For the Kedah state seat, it is 50.2 per cent Malay, 19.3 per cent Chinese and 29.5 per cent Indian.

Ong's study showed that about 53 per cent of the Malays voted for BN in Bukit Gantang last March. Only about 35 per cent of non-Malays did so, sharply down from the 85 per cent in 2004.

As for the Kedah seat, the Malay support for the BN was a high 63 per cent, with the non-Malay vote at a low 26 per cent, according to the study.

The non-Malay vote had plummeted in March last year because of resentment over the heightening race rhetoric at that time.

The situation has not improved much. “Umno didn't change, it didn't come clean on issues, or deliver on promises to change,” said Agus.

Two major controversies that have special resonance for the minority communities, are still raging.

The first is the BN takeover of the Perak government last week. It angered many voters, and will become the biggest issue in the Bukit Gantang by-election.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition may take full advantage of this by fielding former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin as a candidate.

“I believe Nizar is a symbolic figure in view of the present circumstances,” said DAP state chief Ngeh Koo Ham.

Nizar was popular among the non-Malays, and his move to approve permanent land leases for Chinese new villages and vernacular schools was hailed. There is concern now among villagers whether the BN government will continue this policy.

The new BN Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir has said it was too early to decide.

The non-Malay vote in Perak will be very difficult for the BN. This is clear from the response to the defecting Chinese assemblyman Hee Yit Fong. The locals were so enraged that her family is taking the brunt of their anger.

In Kedah, the major issue that will play among the non-Malay voters, especially the Indians, is the perception of continued marginalisation of the community. This had lost the BN most of their Indian support last March.

The BN is likely to be further hobbled by a MIC candidate. The party is hugely unpopular with the Indian community.

As a result, analysts believe BN's strongest voter bank in both seats will be the Malay votes. In Perak, Umno still has a fairly strong standing in the community. Of the 28 BN assemblymen, 27 are from Umno.

“The Malay vote is fairly status quo, but the young voters may be different. They may swing away,” said Agus.

The Malay dissatisfaction over the perception of their diminishing political clout, especially in Perak where their numbers form less than half the population, could also come into play.

But it will be hard work for the BN. — The Straits Times

Malaysia's Opposition Faces More Trouble

ImageAs the coalition crumbles, leaders turn on each other

Malaysia's painstakingly crafted opposition movement appeared to be coming apart with stunning swiftness this week as it finally lost, apparently for good, one of the five states it had won in March 2008 national elections, and appeared to be threatened in a second.

As late as last month, after having picked up an important by-election in the state of Terengganu, the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition headed by Anwar Ibrahim was looking forward confidently to state elections in the East Malaysia state of Sarawak that must be held sometime over the next year or more, where it thought it could knock off the long-serving chief minister. Now, however, it finds itself on the defensive in several areas, its leadership fighting among themselves.

Although Pakatan Rakyat, the coalition of Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan Rakyat, hold a healthy 22-14 majority in the Kedah Assembly, one coalition lawmaker, V Arumugam, was forced to resign Monday in the midst of a sex scandal, cutting the majority to seven. There are widespread reports that the United Malays National Organisation, the lead party in the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, is sparing no effort to peel away other Pakatan lawmakers in advance of intra-party elections next month.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak appears to have taken over full control of the effort to claw back UMNO support after a year of what appeared to be indecision and party infighting as forces aligned with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad battled it out with those aligned with the weakened Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has all but disappeared from political activity. He is expected to step down as prime minister after official elections next month.

The continuing political turmoil, however, continues to threaten investor perceptions, with the Bloomberg news service reporting Tuesday that both JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, now a unit of Bank of America, had issued warnings that the country's stock market could suffer as a possible snap election in Perak disrupts the government's ability to tackle slowing growth.

"The polls will prove a serious distraction at a point when the government should be focused on reviving the domestic economy with well-thought-out stimulus measures and execution," JPMorgan analyst Chris Oh was quoted as saying. "The economy and consequently the stock market should be big losers as a result."

In the meantime, the opposition's leadership appeared to be falling on each other, as Karpal Singh, the national chairman and longtime stalwart of the Democratic Action Party, denounced Anwar Sunday and said he was unfit to lead the opposition coalition, saying his attempts to woo Barisan lawmakers away to join the opposition in September created the foundation for the Barisan's stunning tit-for-tat coup by persuading Pakatan lawmakers in Perak to leave the opposition.

Karpal also denounced his own party leaders, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, for their handling of controversies involving of Islamic law in the Islamic-majority nation. He was later joined by Raja Petra Kamaruddin, perhaps the country's most popular blogger and a longtime Anwar ally, saying Anwar, Lim Kit Siang and Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of PAS, should all resign and accept collective responsibility for the Perak statehouse debacle.

In the meantime, UMNO leaders continued to work whip up Malay public sentiment against the opposition coalition and particularly against Karpal Singh after he threatened to take Raja Azlan Shah, the highly-respected Sultan of Perak, to court in an effort to reverse the sultan's decision to name a new Barisan chief minister in the state when the Assembly was still tied 28-28. The youth wing of UMNO, which traditionally has been more activist than the main party, marched on Karpal's law office Tuesday, shouting slogans and denouncing him for insulting the country's royalty. They offered to demonstrate in front of his Kuala Lumpur office until he apologizes for the perceived slight against the royalty, which until recently had been regarded as increasingly irrelevant – especially after former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took away much of their political clout starting in the 1980s.

The DAP in particular sought to downplay Karpal Singh's outburst, with Lim Guan Eng issuing a statement that his party continues to support Anwar as the parliamentary opposition leader. Lim was quoted in local media as saying that "DAP's leadership has been consistently urging the government to enact an anti-hopping law even before the Perak crisis, and we have expressed support of our 28 MPs. As BN does not have a two-thirds parliamentary majority, the support of DAP's 28 MPs will be required to effect any constitutional amendment for such an anti-hopping laws."

The coalition's fading former majority in the northern state of Perak took yet another blow Monday when a PAS assemblyman, Roslan Shahrom, died of a heart attack while bicycling. At the same time, an arrest warrant was issued for another former Pakatan lawmaker who declined to turn up in a Perak court on charges bribery charges over a property transaction. The Pakatan coalition has charged that the bribery allegations were politically motivated.

The opposition coalition has always been an unwieldy one, split between the DAP, a Chinese chauvinist party, Anwar's moderate, middle-class Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and the fundamentalist PAS. The only glue holding the three together appears to be a desire to take power – although the same could be said of the three major ethnic parties that make up the Barisan Nasional.

The opposition coalition, however, continues to maintain its healthy minority in the Dewan Rakyat, the national assembly, after having picked up two important seats in by-elections last year. One brought Anwar back to electoral politics when he won his Penang seat in the fact of heavy spending on the part of UMNO. PAS won the second for the opposition in January in Terengganu.-Asiasentinel

Ministry Proposes Penalty On Malaysians Who Abuse Travel Facility In UK

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 10 (Bernama) -- The Foreign Ministry will propose to the Cabinet to impose a penalty on Malaysians who abuse the six-month visa-free travel in the United Kingdom by overstaying.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the penalty would be imposed on them upon their return to this country as a deterrent to them.

He said the move was in response to the UK government's decision not to introduce visa requirement for Malaysian passport holders which it had mulled over. The decision was conveyed by Wisma Putra in a statement yesterday.

"The penalty, however, does not involve Malaysian students studying in the UK as they are given a special approval," he told reporters, here, Tuesday.

He, however, did not elaborate on the kind of penalty to be imposed or the amount involved.

In another development, Rais said his ministry would study before making a decision on the request by Tamils in the country that the government send humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, which is facing a humanitarian crisis as a result of clashes between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Rais had earlier received a memorandum on the need for the government to send humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka.

The memorandum was handed over to him by Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam who was accompanied by several Indian community leaders.

Karpal: I will take action

Hindraf Uthaya's Message

Gobind plays safe in party-hopping dispute

By Debra Chong-The Malaysian Insider

PETALING JAYA, Feb 10 — While DAP chairman Karpal Singh has stuck out his neck in demanding the resignation of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, his son and first-term MP Gobind Singh Deo prefers to stay on neutral ground.

The Puchong MP told reporters here today that he fully supported his father’s view that “party hopping is unethical and strikes at the very core, which is the rakyat’s trust in the candidates in elections”.

Gobind also agreed with the battle-hardened politician in insisting on the creation of an Anti-Defection Law.

But when it came to supporting the “Lion of Jelutong” who has been under fire for demanding Anwar quit his post as Opposition Leader in Parliament, Gobind – nicknamed the “Little Lion of Puchong” — produced a surprisingly meek outlook.

“Whether or not Anwar Ibrahim should step down as the Pakatan Rakyat leader, I leave to the national leaders to decide. I will not comment,” Gobind told reporters at the Sessions Court here.

He refused to be drawn into a discussion if the DAP chairman had a point that Anwar “should be asked to take responsibility for his style of politics that advocates crossovers”.

Gobind said he had “a lot of respect for Anwar Ibrahim” who succeeded in pulling together the three political parties despite their diverse ideologies.

Kedah BN chief: We did not force Arumugam’s departure

ALOR SETAR, Feb 10 — The state Barisan Nasional (BN) today denied it has anything to do with the resignation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) assemblyman for Bukit Selambau, V. Arumugam.

Kedah BN chairman Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the BN had never offered any money or persuaded Pakatan Rakyat (PR) assemblymen to join the national coalition.

He said that the claims by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak that Arumugam’s resignation was due to pressure because BN had offered him RM5 million to defect, was a wild accusation and an attempt at shifting the blame to the BN.

“No one has come to pressurise him to join the BN; the issue of BN offering money does not arise at all,” he told reporters after meeting the state MIC liaison committee here.

“There are two things here,” Mahdzir said, “Firstly, the PR is facing internal problems and secondly, due to the internal problems, some of PR assemblymen are leaving to join the BN.”

He said Arumugam was actually having problems with the palace and as a menteri besar, it was Azizan’s responsibility to sort the things out and not pointing fingers at others.

Mahdzir said that PR was also worried that the political crisis in Perak would spill over to Kedah.

He also questioned the validity of the resignation letter as it was not read out by Arumugam himself.

“Now it is up to the Election Commission to ascertain the validity of Arumugam’s letter,” he said. — Bernama

Prosecutors wrap up in prolonged ex-minister corruption case

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — The prosecution in Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam's corruption hearing wrapped-up its case in the High Court here today after calling 31 witnesses since it was first heard in early 2007.

Justice Suraya Othman fixed three days, from April 28, for submissions by the prosecution and defence in the case.

Among witnesses called to testify were former Sabah Resource Development and Enterprise Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup and former Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd chief operating officer Tan Sri Munir Majid.

Kasitah, a former Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister, as well as the former chairman of the Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) is charged with using his position as SLDB chairman for his financial gain by taking part in the decision to approve the sale of 16.8 million Sapi Plantations shares held by the board to Briskmark Enterprise.

He is also alleged to have deceived SLDB by omitting to disclose an offer by PPB Oil Palm Sdn Bhd to allocate five shares of the company for each share of Sapi Plantations in the proposed public listing.

Earlier, Investigating Officer Kasim Othman, the last prosecution witness called to testify, told the court that he did not know of an agreement between Datuk Wasli Mohd Said, a former director of Briskmark Enterprise, and the prosecution to review all charges made against Wasli if he agreed to be a witness in Kasitah's case.

Wasli has also been charged with corruption in the Kota Kinabalu Sessions Court in connection with the case.

Kasim said he also did not know that a representation had been made to the Attorney-General's office by Wasli's lawyer asking to drop two charges in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, five other corruption charges in Kota Kinabalu as well as 95 charges under the Money Laundering Act involving RM23.6 million.

"I only knew about the representation when Wasli testified in this court on June 19 last year," he said when cross-examined by defence counsel Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Kasim, 51, who is now the Malaysian Anti-Corruption deputy director, also said he did not know about a police report lodged by Wasli on Dec 20, 1999 against the Anti-Corruption Agency that he(Wasli) was ill-treated by the ACA officers when being detained for investigations. — Bernama

ELECTION COMMISSION TO DECIDE ON FRIDAY ON BY-ELECTIONS

The Election Commission has announced that it will decide on Friday, 13 February 2009 when it will call for a by-election for Bukit Gantang's parliamentary and Bukit Selambau state assembly seat with the death of the MP for Bukit Gantang and with the resignation of State Assemblyman for Bukit Selambu respectively.

picture courtesy of Agendadaily

SULTAN OF PERAK SWEARS-IN 'DUBIOUS' PERAK STATE EXCO FROM BN


At about 10.35am, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, who is now in the centre stage of criticism from his subjects, proceeded to appoint the 'dubious' line-up of new Executive Councillors from the unscrupulous UMNO-led Barisan Nasional faction while the previous Exco members have not been legally and rightfully dismissed.

With this unprecedented event, Perak has 2 line-up of Exco members. A totally mockery created by the 'unpopular' Perak Palace.

news n picture courtesy of Agendadaily

DAP PERAK FORUM IN CHIN WOO HALL

Watching the news on day to day basis especially with BN PRO media feels very bored. Many of us aware that most of the news been aired are after the spinning process. It seems like daily you hear 1 or 2 UMNO or BN PRO leaders kept talking bad on PAKATAN GOVT NEGERI PERAK. One of the principle reasons for entering the Political war was the threat of BN’s COU’D ETA in forming the GOVT in Perak. A forum was arranged yesterday in Chin Woo Hall, Jalan Kampar and more than 2000 DAP members and publics gathered and wanted to know more on happenings of Perak’s current politics.

The Cost Of Winning

One cannot be faulted for thinking that those who claim the right to lead us understand that the system of constitutional democracy put in place by the Federal and State Constitutions circumscribes the authority and power of the Yang diPertuan Agong and their majesties the Malay Rulers.

They surely appreciate that this is particulars so in matters of governance where even if a royal discretion or prerogative is involved, such as is invoked where a Mentri Besar is appointed, such discretion is guided by constitutional prerequisites and that the process of checks and balances must necessarily inform the exercise of such discretion.

An aspect of this process is the taking of legal challenge against the Ruler concerned. The constitutional crisis’ in East Malaysia in 1966 and 1994 saw challenges against the Governors of Sarawak and Sabah respectively, for instance. The constitutional framework makes no distinction between a Sultan or Raja and a Governor where the exercise of such discretions is concerned. Both categories of personages are understood in law to be exercising constitutionally delineated discretion. Such exercises of power are open to being scrutinized by the courts of this country.

It is for that reason that it is said that the doctrine of separation of powers, so crucial to efficacious functioning of democracy, safeguards citizens from autocratic action on the part of any organ of this country. This is the bedrock that gives foundation to the sacred principle that no person is above the law.

I believe that this notion of guided discretion prompted the Prime Minister to say last March that the appointment of Datuk Ahmad Said as Menteri Besar by the Regent of Trengganu was unconstitutional. It is also a belief that the Regent had overstepped the constitutional limits of His Highness’ discretion that prompted UMNO assemblymen as well as UMNO agencies to protest the appointment and to stand by their preferred candidate, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh. A similar situation in Perlis led to a well-publicized crisis within UMNO at around the same time.

In these incidents, and others like them, political parties and individuals had for their own reasons voiced their disagreement with the decision of a Ruler in the belief that the Ruler erred in going beyond what was legally permissible. There was no legal prohibition to them doing so, a state of affairs that remains unchanged. Such action cannot be criminalized for being seditious as the voicing of opinions aimed at showing that a Ruler had been mistaken is allowed. All leaders are capable of making mistakes and being able say that they have done so is a necessary part of democratic forms of government.

To say that such action amounts to treason is wholly incredible. Treason requires an intention to wage war, to cause bodily harm or death or to cause the deposing of a Ruler. Saying that the Ruler is wrong may be impolite or offensive but it can by no stretch of the imagination amount to treason, nor has it ever been suggested to amount to such.

Until now it would seem.

Mr Karpal Singh and his Pakatan Rakyat associates are in the line of fire and ironically, UMNO and its agencies have put them there. The charge: that they have committed treason and sedition in having publicly taken the position that the Sultan of Perak erred in having decided to allow the Barisan Nasional to form a government in Perak.

How what it is Mr Karpal and associates have said and done amounts to treason or sedition eludes understanding, just as how it differs in principle from what was done in Trengganu or Perlis last March. In as much some may have disagreed with those who protested the decisions of the Rulers in those States, they were entitled not only to their views but also to express those views. Their right to do so is a cornerstone of a system founded on the Rule of Law, one that Tun Mahathir relied on to strip away royal immunity when he was Prime Minister.

It is possible to infer from the manifest lack of basis for the fiery denunciations that behind them lurk questionable political objectives. The imminent UMNO assembly is more probably than not a factor that has shaped the way in which the recent “win” in Perak has been approached since.

The posturing and rhetoric is further so threatening in nature that it is not unreasonable to infer that a campaign of intimidation is underway. Its objective is self-evidently the communicating of a message to those inclined to challenge the legal validity of the appointment of the new Mentri Besar: that they do so at their own peril. Such conduct could fairly be characterized as being intended to subvert the due process of law. If so, this is a punishable contempt of court.

More worryingly, such conduct incites. Too often, political leaders get so lost in their politics to the extent that they fail to see that their rallying cries potentially have a less desirable kind of influence. In all societies there skulk individuals who take it upon themselves to force through a conclusion that they believe their community requires in supreme acts of deliverance. All they need is to receive the right message. Our leaders warn us about playing with fire yet they forget sometimes that it is they who ignite sentiments with potentially devastating consequences.

The situation in Perak has caused anger and pain. It may be that the only way in which the chapter can be closed is through a decision of the courts. For many, the decision itself may be less important than the process. An airing of grievances, such as a court hearing will allow for, is more often than not essential to the achieving of reconciliation. Resolution of this nature can only be in the interests of the state and its government, whoever forms it.

Though the Barisan Nasional may have won the day in securing the right to govern, it must ask at what cost to itself and, more importantly, to the rakyat. In this case, the winner does not take all.

(Malay Mail; 10th February 2009)

BN To Prepare Early To Face By-elections - Abdullah

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 10 (Bernama) -- Barisan Nasional (BN) will make early preparations to face the by-elections in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak and Bukit Selambau state seat in Kedah, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.

"We should start our preparations now. We have to work very hard to win these seats," he told a news conference after opening a public service officers' conference at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) here.

The Bukit Gantang seat fell vacant following the death of Pas member of parliament, Roslan Shaharum, due to a heart attack yesterday while the Bukit Selambau seat was vacated by former Kedah executive councillor V. Arumugam of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), effective yesterday.

Abdullah said that all parties would play their roles as soon as the Election Commission (EC) announced the dates for the two by-elections.

Hard work and unity among BN component parties would be crucial to win the seats, he said.

Asked on Umno's strategies for the by-elections, Abdullah, who is Umno president, said he would discuss the matter with his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and other party leaders.

"At the moment, we have not discussed about candidates," he said, adding that the BN would not necessarily use the same strategies in each by-election.

He said that the BN would answer each and every issue that would be raised during the campaign.

"What is important is to be fully prepared for the by-elections."

In the 12th general election last year, Roslan polled 20,015 votes to win the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat with a majority of 1,566 votes.

He defeated BN's Datuk Seri Azim Mohd Zabidi of Umno and an Independent candidate M. Murganan, who polled 18,449 and 872 votes respectively.

In Bukit Gantang, Arumugam, who contested as an Independent candidate, polled 13,225 votes to win the seat by a 2,362-vote majority, beating BN's S. Krishnan of MIC who polled 10,863 votes.

He later joined PKR and was appointed state executive council member when PKR, Pas and DAP formed the Pakatan Rakyat state government