Saturday, February 14, 2009
The show is not over till the fat lady sings, goes the popular saying. And the fat lady has not sung yet. What will the final curtain be? Your guess is as good as mine. But I predict Perak will again change hands in the not too distant future.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
This is what Ooi Kee Beng said in his article, BN may pay a high price for Perak polarisation:
The change in government in the Malaysian state of Perak carries with it great implications for a long list of actors on both sides.
The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government of Mr Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin has been replaced by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition following controversial defections that left the state assembly with 28 on each side, and with three independents declaring support for the BN.
There has definitely been a shift in power and a realignment of forces has certainly taken place. However, what we are witnessing is far from being an endgame of any kind. The game goes on. Indeed, it is not even clear who the real winners actually are. A lot depends on the time frame one chooses to use.
In the short term, Premier-in-waiting Najib Abdul Razak certainly did gain an advantage — he did manage to outsmart the Pakatan Rakyat state government. He displayed to the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) that he does have leadership qualities, and that he has able advisers.
The Perak crisis undoubtedly improved Mr Najib's stature just in time for the Umno elections next month, when he is to become party president, and therefore Prime Minister of the country. But since his claim to the presidency is in no doubt, the practical advantage of his success in felling the PR government in Perak lies more in bolstering support for candidates he favours for other positions in the party than anything else.
One other person keeping an eye on the party elections is Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Mr Khairy is one of the three candidates trying to become the head of Umno Youth. After the trouncing that Umno received in last year's general elections, Mr Khairy had been trying to reinvent himself as a closet liberal on the verge of coming out.
Mr Khairy grasped the opportunity offered by the Perak crisis to defend a purported challenge to the Perak royal house, and called for Mr Nizar to be expelled from Perak. This return to hardline methods undid much of the hard work Mr Khairy had been putting into improving his image in the eyes of the general public.
PR's anger at losing a government caused leading members of the coalition such as Mr Nizar and Mr Karpal Singh, a Member of Parliament and a veteran of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), to express dissatisfaction at Sultan Azlan Shah. Mr Karpal went so far as to threaten to sue the monarch.
The popularity that the Perak sovereign had enjoyed before the crisis dropped sharply after he refused to dissolve the state assembly at Mr Nizar's request but instead granted the BN — which lost the state in last year's elections — to build a new government based on support from PR defectors.
The outraged Mr Karpal had also called for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to take responsibility for PR's defeat and resign. DAP's secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had immediately reprimanded Mr Karpal and advised him to use internal channels for expressing his dissatisfaction. Mr Karpal is under pressure from all sides to retrace his steps.
Mr Anwar is being given much of the blame for the crisis, seeing how he was the one who had been, since March 8 last year, attempting to engineer defections from the BN in order to gain federal power. Pressure on him to regain the initiative in the ongoing battle with Mr Najib is also mounting. Two upcoming by-elections will provide Mr Anwar with that chance.
In the long run though, the victors may have to pay a high price for the Perak "coup". What the four defectors in this Shakespearean drama will actually gain is not clear in any way. Aside from whatever might have been promised them by the BN, their political future looks very bleak indeed.
The two PR-defecting assemblymen were, and are, facing corruption charges. The BN offer for them to switch sides promised them some respite. But as with Mr Nasaruddin Hashim, the BN defector who triggered the drama on Jan 26 and who re-defected 10 days later, the duo cannot expect a long career in politics.
DAP's Hee Jit Foong's decision to fell the government — whether done for monetary gains, for position or to spite her party — has made her a hated person in her constituency, and it is a mystery how she imagines to continue being in the public eye after her defection.
The lesson that the PR has to learn from this is that it cannot hope to achieve stable and good governance in the long run if incompetence and a lack of commitment continue to riddle its ranks. Many of its state assemblymen gained positions beyond their ability to manage following the March 8 voter revolt. The PR will have to take on the uncomfortable task of dismissing inept loyalists and replacing them with new talents in some graceful fashion.
It will also have to imagine a life after Mr Anwar. To do that, it has to form coalitional institutions to keep dialogue and understanding alive among its members.
As for the BN, the price that it will have to pay will not be small. Further polarisation has now taken place, not least among Perakians, and much anger has been stirred up against Mr Najib's methods. This will make it practically impossible for non-Malay BN parties in the north to campaign in any effective fashion in coming elections.
The Perak crisis also reminds Malaysians that the war between the coalitions will continue for a long time to come, and where the peninsula is concerned, it will be fought in the electoral frontline states of not only Perak, but also Kedah and Negri Sembilan.
The writer is a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is March 8: Eclipsing May 13 (with Johan Saravanamuttu and Lee Hock Guan, Iseas)
On 8 March 2008, Barisan Nasional won 28 seats in the Perak State Assembly. Although Umno won 27 seats and MCA one, it was Barisan Nasional and not Umno or MCA who contested the general election. Therefore, it was Barisan Nasional and not Umno or MCA who ‘owned’ those 28 seats. The second biggest winner was DAP, who won 18 seats. PKR and PAS came in third and fourth respectively.
This means, technically, Barisan Nasional should have formed the Perak State Government as it won more seats than DAP, PKR or PAS, individually. No doubt, many will argue that Pakatan Rakyat won 31 seats against Barisan Nasional’s 28, so Pakatan Rakyat should form the government. But Pakatan Rakyat does not legally exist. It is an informal and unregistered coalition. Pakatan Rakyat did not contest the elections. Those who did were Barisan Nasional, DAP, PKR and PAS.
Yes, four parties and not two parties contested the elections. And these four parties were Barisan Nasional, DAP, PKR and PAS. And Barisan Nasional won the most number of seats, 28 in total. The next in line was DAP with 18 seats, followed by PKR and PAS that won less than ten seats each.
The Sultan of Perak should have sworn in Barisan Nasional as the new state government of Perak since it had the most number of seats. But it would have been a minority government and how long could a minority government have lasted? The first meeting of the state assembly would need to be held within six months. And if the COMBINED 31 seats of DAP, PKR and PAS pass a vote of no confidence against the 28-seat Barisan Nasional government, the government would have fallen.
Note I wrote ‘the COMBINED 31 seats of DAP, PKR and PAS’ and not ‘the 31 seats of Pakatan Rakyat’. Pakatan Rakyat does not legally exist. DAP, PKR and PAS do.
The Sultan of Perak was not being generous or was taking sides in the matter. He knew that a 28-seat state government would not last if the 31 non-Barisan Nasional State Assemblypersons passed a vote of no confidence against it in the State Assembly. So he allowed DAP, PKR and PAS to combine their seats and form the new Perak state government. The Sultan was just being practical.
But the Sultan could have sworn in Barisan Nasional as the new Perak state government if he wanted to. Then the new state government calls for the first sitting of the Perak State Assembly. Understandably, the opposition would call for a vote of no confidence.
This, however, does not mean it will be 31 opposition State Assemblypersons against 28 Barisan Nasional State Assemblypersons. We are just assuming it will be so. What if two opposition State Assemblypersons vote with Barisan Nasional? It would then be 30 against 29 and the vote of no confidence would be defeated.
The two opposition State Assemblypersons need not even resign from DAP, PKR or PAS. They can still remain in their respective parties and not join Barisan Nasional. All they need to do is vote with Barisan Nasional and the vote of no confidence would be defeated and Barisan Nasional would remain the Perak state government.
The Sultan had two choices. One would be to allow DAP, PKR and PAS to combine their seats and form a LOOSE coalition and probably see it collapse within six months due to crossovers. The second would be to allow Barisan Nasional to form the government and probably see it collapse within six months due to a vote of no confidence passed against it in the State Assembly.
Whatever it may be, both scenarios involve a possible collapse of the state government within a mere few months. But the Sultan chose the first option: to allow DAP, PKR and PAS to combine their seats and ‘outgun’ Barisan Nasional’s 28 seats by just three seats. This means a mere shift of two seats and the government of Perak will change hands.
And this did happen exactly as forecasted. And the same thing would probably have happened as well if Barisan Nasional had formed the Perak state government. And it would take just months for it to happen.
The Sultan had his reservations. Whether Barisan Nasional, or a loose coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS, formed the new Perak state government, the government would be unstable and may not be able to last. PAS held Kelantan with a one-seat majority in the Kelantan State Assembly and lasted. But PAS is different. The PAS people are more committed. We can’t say the same thing for DAP and PKR who were already quarrelling even before the government could be formed.
Note the quality of the PKR people. Even though it had more seats than PAS, it could not provide the Menteri Besar and had to pass the job over to PAS even though it had the least number of seats in the Perak State Assembly. PKR just did not have the quality people needed to become Menteri Besar of Perak. What hope can you give a party that lacks quality candidates?
The Perak situation was a crisis waiting to happen. And it would not take that long to happen. One false move and the DAP-PKR-PAS loose coalition government of Perak would collapse. And it did collapse because two of the PKR people walked into a trap and found themselves faced with corruption charges.
But the problem does not end here. What happens to the corruption charges against those two ‘independent’ State Assemblymen? Will the charges now be dropped? If the charges are dropped then it would become too obvious. But if the charges remain and they face trial, then another problem crops up.
First would be what surfaces in the trial. If the trial reveals they were fixed up, then Barisan Nasional would look bad. But if they were not fixed up and really are guilty of corruption, Barisan Nasional would also look bad. Both ways Barisan Nasional would look bad. And if they are found guilty because they really are guilty then there will be two more by-elections in Perak, which the opposition will surely win. And we will end up with 30 opposition seats against only 29 from Barisan Nasional.
This means the Perak government will again change hands like it did last week, but this time from Barisan Nasional to a loose coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS.
Then we have the problem of Hee. She is expected to resign due to the pressure she is facing. This means yet another seat will fall vacant and yet another by-election will be held.
Maybe over the 11 months since 8 March 2008, the loose coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS was running Perak with uncertainty about its future. But the new Barisan Nasional government of Perak is not on any more solid ground than the previous government. It too faces the possibility of being driven out of office.
The show is not over till the fat lady sings, goes the popular saying. And the fat lady has not sung yet. What will the final curtain be? Your guess is as good as mine. But I predict Perak will again change hands in the not too distant future. And since the Sultan of Perak has already set the trend on how governments shall change, the same formula will have to be applied once DAP, PKR and PAS, combined, have more seats than Barisan Nasional. The knife, as they say, cuts both ways.
Karpal wants Anwar Ibrahim to take the blame for the Perak fiasco. At the DAP Pandamaran Chinese New Year open house earlier this week, I said, in my speech, that I support what Karpal said. Hey, we accuse Barisan Nasional of not respecting freedom of speech. If we don’t allow Karpal to speak his mind then how better are we compared to Barisan Nasional?
Anyway, while I support what Karpal said, the blame should not be placed entirely on Anwar’s shoulders. We are not like Barisan Nasional. Barisan Nasional looks for scapegoats. We are a loose coalition called Pakatan Rakyat. In Pakatan Rakyat we practise decisions by consensus. And decisions by consensus mean there must be collective responsibility. So no one person must take the blame. The entire leadership has to take the blame.
So, while it is well and fine that Karpal wants Anwar to resign, I was of the opinion that if resignations were in order then all the top leaders of the three parties must resign. The press reported that I said all three top leaders must resign -- Anwar, Lim Kit Siang and Hadi Awang -- which is not what I said. In fact, when the press asked me whether I meant the three top leaders, I replied, “Not three. Why three? It may even be 30. All those responsible for the decision that resulted in what happened in Perak are equally responsible.”
We seem to forget that one of the major beefs we have against Barisan Nasional is that they arrest and jail us or detain us without trial when we criticise the government. We demand freedom of expression. But we only want the freedom to criticise Umno or Barisan Nasional. We do not want freedom to criticise the opposition.
You can disagree with what Karpal said. But you must respect his right to say what he wants to say. If not, then we are just like Barisan Nasional. In principle, I agree with his demand for the resignation of Anwar -- in principle only as far as his right to demand Anwar’s resignation is concerned, although I do not share the same sentiments. But I disagree that it must only be Anwar who has to resign -- that is if we want him to resign. If there are going to be any resignations then many more have to do so in the spirit of collective responsibility. We do not want to see the lynching of scapegoats a la Barisan Nasional in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
In light of what happened in Perak recently and against the backdrop of the pro-Monarchy and anti-Monarchy demonstrations and the impending police investigation into the 200 or so police reports made against the opposition with regards to the allegation of sedition against the Sultan of Perak, it is timely we recap on what happened in 1983 and 1993.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Professor Mark R. Gillen
From its inception in 1957, the Constitution of Malaysia has provided an immunity to the Malay Rulers (or Sultans) against civil actions or criminal prosecutions. Early in 1993, the Constitution of Malaysia was amended to remove this immunity. Although the federal Constitution of Malaysia and the constitutions of the states of Malaysia leave the Rulers as mere constitutional monarchs, they have wielded considerable influence due, in part, to the traditional reverence of the Malay people for their Rulers.
The ability of the Government to bring about these constitutional amendments is noteworthy in light of the traditional reverence Malay people have for the Malay Rulers. The apparent public support for the changes suggests a shift in traditional Malay cultural values that appears to have irrevocably reduced the significance of the Malay Rulers in Malay society and in the politics of Malaysia.
The 1983 Constitutional Crisis
In 1983, the government proposed amendments to the Constitution, which for the first time brought the Rulers openly into conflict with the government and with UMNO, the party that had claimed to be the protectors of the Rulers since the time of the Malayan Union struggle. The proposed amendments altered the provisions with respect to the King's assent to bills deeming the King to have assented to any bill, which the King had not given his assent to within fifteen days. A similar amendment would have been required in each of the state constitutions.
The proposed amendments would also have provided for a change in the power to declare an emergency. The emergency powers give broad powers, upon the declaration of an emergency, to promulgate ordinances having the force of law at any time Parliament is not sitting. Prior to the proposed amendment it was the King, upon satisfaction that a grave emergency existed, who had the power to declare an emergency. The King was to act on the advice of cabinet. The proposed amendment would have given the Prime Minister the power to instruct the King to declare an emergency.
The amendments were apparently considered necessary because of an upcoming election for King in which the two potential candidates for the Kingship, following the order set out in the Third Schedule to the Federal Constitution, were Rulers who had caused problems for their respective state governments. It had been reported that one of the candidates for the Kingship had suggested that on becoming King he would exercise the power to declare an emergency and then seek to exercise governmental powers him self. Further, each of these Rulers had taken exception to the ten Chief Ministers of their states and had taken steps that ultimately led to the resignation of the Chief Ministers. Of particular concern was the forced resignation of a Chief Minister after two years of refusals by the Ruler to give assent to state legislation. The proposed amendments were sought to avoid any similar problems, which either of the two candidates for the Kingship might cause for the federal government upon becoming King.
The King, at the behest of the Conference of Rulers, refused to give his assent to the amendment bill. This was followed by political rallies by the Prime Minister and a media blitz which portrayed UMNO as the protector of the Rulers against radicals seeking the abolition of the monarchy and which exposed the allegedly extravagant lifestyles of the Rulers of the states of Perak and Johor. Eventually a solution acceptable to both the government and the Rulers was found. The final amended version of the Constitution provided that the King, within 30 days of the passing of a bill by both houses, would either give his assent to the bill or, if it was not a money bill, return the bill to Parliament with a statement of reasons for his objection to the bill.
If, on the return of a bill, the bill was again passed by both Houses it would again be presented to the King for his assent and the King would have 30 more days to assent to the bill after which time the bill would become law "in like manner as if [the King] had assented to it". The requirement for similar provisions to be adopted in state constitutions was dropped in return for an oral assurance that assent to bills passed by state legislatures would not be unreasonably delayed by the state Rulers. The amendments with respect to emergency powers were withdrawn. The compromise also included oral assurances that the Rulers of the states would not unreasonably withhold assent to state legislation and that the proclamation of an emergency would not be exercised unilaterally by the King.
The ability of the government to mount sufficient public support for a change to the assent provisions that would more clearly limit the powers of the King and, at least through an oral assurance, the powers of the Rulers, indicated a change in Malay society with respect to the importance of the Rulers. It suggested a decreasing importance of the Rulers as a symbol of, and in the protection of, Malay political supremacy. Nonetheless, there appeared to be sufficient public support for the Rulers to allow them to prevent a more substantial incursion into their powers.
UMNO's Justification for the Amendments and Opposition to the Amendments
UMNO's justification for the amendments was that they were necessary to protect the Rulers and preserve the institution of the Rulers as constitutional monarchs. In response to claims that the amendments represented the first step towards the creation of a republic, UMNO pointed to the amendments on sedition, which continued to make persons liable for statements in Parliament or a Legislative assembly advocating the abolition of the monarchy. Otherwise, amendments to the provisions on sedition were said to be necessary because although abuses by Rulers were known of in the past, little could be done because no one could voice criticisms of the Rulers even in Parliament or the State Legislatures and thus the public could not be made aware of the problems faced by the Government.
Semangat 46, an opposition party that was formed upon the break up of the former UMNO party, opposed the amendments, taking arguably the strongest pro-royalty stance of any party. While it agreed that some steps needed to be taken so that the Rulers could "hear the grievances of the Rakyat", it claimed that the proposed amendments interfered with the sovereignty of the Rulers and were a step towards the formation of a republic. They argued that the ultimate removal of the Rulers would take away an important aspect of Malay culture and tradition and a symbol of Malay unity.
The Democratic Action Party (DAP), a primarily Chinese opposition party, which is part of an opposition coalition with Semangat 46, originally supported the government in December when it expressed the need for action to be taken in light of the Gomez incident. It also initially supported the amendments. However, it abstained from voting when the amendments were introduced in Parliament in January. The reason they gave for the abstention was that the Constitution required the consent of the Rulers to amendments affecting their privileges and such consent had yet to be given. According to DAP, the consent was required before the amendments could be introduced in Parliament. DAP was accused of sacrificing its principles in favour of preserving their opposition coalition with Semangat 46.
The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), a Malay pro-Islamic party and part of the opposition coalition, supported the government's call for action and the move to lift the Rulers' immunity in light of the Gomez incident but later abstained from voting on the amendments introduced in Parliament in January. Although it claimed to be in favour of the removal of the Rulers' immunity because it was not in accord with the principles of Islam, it said that the amendments were not "comprehensive enough" and that it did not like the manner in which the wrongdoings of the Rulers were exposed in the House. PAS was arguably in a difficult position in that it may have wanted to avoid alienating the Kelantan royal family whose support could be influential in staying in power in the state of Kelantan.
The Rulers' Compromise
The decision of the Conference of Rulers not to consent to the proposed changes to the Constitution was followed by stepped-up pressure on the Rulers. It was announced that henceforth the payment for the expenses of the Rulers would be limited to those that were expressly provided for by the law. The government would no longer pay for the building and maintenance of rest houses, additional palaces, private wards in hospitals, yachts and aircraft. The refusal of the Rulers to give their consent to the proposed amendments was followed by a barrage of media coverage exposing alleged excesses of the Rulers. There were also further reports of influence by the Rulers in government affairs.
Eventually, on February 11, it was announced that a compromise had been reached and that the Rulers agreed to give their consent to the proposed amendments but with certain changes that were agreed to. There were two changes to the amendments tabled in the House on January 18. One was that a Ruler charged with an offence in the Special Court should cease to exercise his functions as a Ruler. Pending the decision of the Special Court a Regent would be appointed to exercise the functions of the Ruler. A Ruler convicted of an offence by the Special Court and sentenced to imprisonment for more than one day would cease to be the Ruler of the State unless he received a pardon.
A similar provision was added with respect to the King. The other change was that no action, civil or criminal, could be instituted against the King or a Ruler of a State with respect to anything done or omitted to be done in his personal capacity without the consent of the Attorney General. Overall, the modifications appeared to be relatively minor. The revised amendments were submitted to Parliament and were passed by both Houses on March 9, 1993.
Cultural Change and the Struggle for Power The Struggle for Power
The government argued that the amendments to the Constitution in response to the Gomez incident, by removing the immunity of the Rulers, were a step towards increased democracy in Malaysia. Viewed in their broader context, the amendments were part of an inevitable struggle for power between the executive branch of government and the Rulers. The removal of the Rulers' immunity does not, on the face of it, directly increase executive powers. However, the focus, in the midst of the amendment debate, on the alleged orders given by Rulers to government officials, pressure put on government officials to obtain government contracts and timber concessions, alleged extravagant expenses, and alleged interference in government affairs suggests there was more to the whole affair than just the removal of the Rulers' immunity.
In part, the allegations were made to put pressure on the Rulers to consent to the removal of their immunity. However, the exposure of these alleged extravagances put the Government in a position to crack down on the influence of the Rulers. The removal of the Rulers' immunity, and the apparent public support, may put the Government in a better position to leave the Rulers to pay for unbudgetted expenditures presented to state and federal governments after they have been incurred. The Rulers can now be sued for those expenses. Many of the alleged actions of the Rulers through which they exerted influence may now be the subject of legal proceedings before the Special Court. The form, which the removal of immunity ultimately took, also appears to give the executive additional leverage over the Rulers. Three of the five judges of the Special Court are the Lord President and the Chief Justices of the High Courts who are appointed at the behest of the Prime Minister.
The proceedings, civil or criminal, can only be undertaken with the consent of the Attorney General, and, in the context of criminal proceedings, expose a Ruler to the potential loss of his position as Ruler. This seems to give the government a significant tool for bringing an unwieldy Ruler into line. Indeed, as Raja Aziz Addruse, a lawyer and editor of the Journal of the Malaysian Bar (and member of a royal family), has said, the amendments will arm the Executive with the power to subjugate the Rulers through threats of prosecution for any offences, however minor. The Rulers will be at the mercy of the Executive. ... The power to prosecute is a powerful weapon, which, in the hands of the ruthless, can be abused to great advantage - not by prosecuting the alleged offender but by withholding prosecution in return for his cooperation.
Cultural Change and Why the Government Acted When it Did
Although the Gomez incident was the catalyst for the amendments, concerns about the influence and excesses of the Rulers had been raised in the past. At the UMNO generally assembly in November of 1990, a resolution was passed that sought to clarify the role of royalty in politics in light of alleged involvement of some of the Rulers in the October 1990 general election. In 1992, UMNO had drafted a set of guidelines for the Rulers to address some of the concerns. The Prime Minister also commented in his speech to Parliament on the introduction of the amendments that concerns about problems with the Rulers had been noted for quite some time. Thus, the Gomez incident was merely the opportunity the Government needed to muster political support to deal with the influence of the Rulers that had vexed the Government for some time.
The Government might have responded earlier to the increasing expense and influence of the Rulers and their interference in government. However, in the time between 1983-84 constitutional crisis and the 1993 constitutional amendments, the Mahathir government faced a serious leadership challenge in 1987 and a general election in 1990. The Mahathir government may have also felt the need for support from the Malay Rulers, particularly in the 1990 general election when they faced the challenge of Semangat 46, which claimed to be the champion of Malay causes and the true protector of Malay institutions such as the monarchy. Challenging the Rulers at that time would have risked the loss of Malay support crucial to any political coalition hoping to form the government.
By 1993, the position of the Mahathir government was more secure. The government coalition's dominant Malay political party was showing signs of increasing concern over the problems encountered with respect to the Rulers. They appear to have also felt the time was right for a challenge to the Rulers in light of even greater changes in the attitudes of Malays towards the Rulers than had been the case at the time of the 1983 constitutional crisis. In the 1983 constitutional crisis, the government had to accept substantially reduced constraints on the Rulers compared to those it had originally sought. Nonetheless, the government's success in amending the constitution to constrain the powers of the Rulers in 1983, modest though it may have been, had indicated that attitudes of some Malays towards the Rulers were changing.
The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced in the early 1970s facilitated an increase in the number of highly educated Malays. Malays educated either overseas or in Malaysian Universities were exposed to Islamic principles or concepts of democracy neither of which squared with the notion of an un-elected Ruler with broad powers. In the ten years that passed after the 1983 constitutional crisis, the number of highly educated Malays increased. Thus, the change in the cultural attitudes of the Malays towards the Rulers apparent in the 1983 constitutional crisis had, if anything, become more pronounced.
The NEP had also encouraged the development of a Malay entrepreneurial class. This new class of successful Malay business persons may have felt less need for the privileges accorded Malays through the quota system and citizenship provisions the protection of which was vested in the Rulers by the Constitution. Their interests were also affected by the business interests of the Rulers and the influence of the Rulers in obtaining government contracts, licences and timber concessions.
The Malay entrepreneurial class, as well as the non-Malay entrepreneurs, may have felt their business potential was constrained by the competitive advantage Rulers and their royal families could obtain through their influence. Many Malays may have also come to the view that the real source of protection for their special rights and privileges, to the extent they still hold these dear, is not so much through the Rulers as it is through the leverage they hold in the political process. These changes in the cultural attitudes of Malays permitted a more substantial challenge to the position of the Rulers than had been possible in the past.
UMNO and the governing coalition appear to have sensed that the support of the Malay Rulers was no longer necessary to secure the support of the Malay population. For the Rulers the consequence of this change in the attitude of Malays is that the importance of the Malay Rulers for the Malay people and in Malaysian politics appears to have been substantially, and probably irrevocably, reduced.
The removal of the Rulers' immunity was a significant constitution al development in Malaysia. The move of the executive to rein in the influence and alleged excesses of the Rulers was brought about with apparent public support that is perhaps somewhat surprising given the historical reverence to the Malay Rulers and their importance as a symbol of Malay unity. The Government demonstrated a willingness to crack down on influence and extravagance, a step they would have been unwilling to take if it meant the loss of the precious support of the Malays.
Their ability to take the steps they did suggests a continuing change in the cultural attitude of the Malays to the Malay Rulers. The reduced degree of unquestioning reverence for the Malay Rulers and their symbolic significance appears to be more substantial than it was in 1983 given the relatively limited success of the Government in 1983 compared to 1993. The Malay Rulers had been exerting considerable influence in Malay society and politics in spite of the constitutional limits on their powers. However, the events of 1993 appear to have irrevocably reduced the significance of the Malay Rulers in Malay society and in the politics of Malaysia.
Professor Mark R. Gillen Faculty of Law University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — While Barisan Nasional may yet pay at the ballot box over its ruthless power grab in Perak, its aggressive foray has put Pakatan Rakyat on the ropes, with its parties mulling an uncertain future and the possibility of a powerful enemy it could do without — the Malay Rulers.
Beyond the prospect of dealing with a resurgent BN and Umno, adept at using the advantages that come with being in power, the PR parties of Pas, PKR and DAP will now have to tread very carefully in dealing with the royalty.
Yesterday, Selangor's Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah made it quite clear in a public statement that he was unhappy with what he perceived to be the rudeness shown against his uncle Sultan Azlan Shah over the latter's role in the Perak political impasse.
The Selangor Ruler, in his remarks, appeared to suggest that the institution of the Malay Rulers should not be challenged or threatened in any way.
"That is why it was important we did not name the Sultan in our suit," a senior Pakatan Rakyat leader told The Malaysian Insider.
"Tactically that would have been disastrous."
That was also why PR leaders have been trying to rein in Karpal Singh, the Jelutong MP and one of the country's most feisty lawyers, who has argued for taking Sultan Azlan Shah to court.
Karpal has become the focal point of pro-royalty protests organised by Umno in an attempt to whip up support for a party which had been rudderless and directionless since last year's poor electoral performance.
Just weeks before officially taking power as party president and prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is hoping to unite Umno in a common cause against a common enemy.
Now, with two by-elections to be contested, the results of which will be significant in determining Malaysia's future political direction, BN and Umno leaders will be glad that PR leaders have the added burden of trying not to further aggravate its ties with the royalty.
If PR parties choose to take on the royalty, it will be a distraction it could do without.
Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, who is maintaining he is the rightful Perak menteri besar, has taken great pains to emphasise he is not against the Sultan.
Constitutionally, he contends, Sultan Azlan Shah does not have the power to dismiss him as menteri besar.
But Umno has been trying to portray his refusal to resign as an act of derhaka, or treason.
While a recent opinion poll by the independent Merdeka Centre suggests a majority of the public in Perak back Nizar's contention that fresh polls should have been called, it is now clear that PR is no longer dealing with the Umno of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — The Indian Progressive Front, which claims to have some 300,000 members, plunged into a crisis after the Registrar of Societies declared as void the election of Puan Sri Jayashree Pandithan as party president on Dec 14 last year.
Among others, Registrar Datuk Md Alias Kalil, in a letter to the party dated Jan 30, declared that the appointment of Jayashree was not in accordance with the Societies Act 1966.
He also declared void the suspension of deputy president V. Senggutuan and vice-president M. Mathyalagan and the show-cause notice issued to 12 IPF supreme council members by Jayashree last December. The contents of the registrar's letter were released to the media by Senggutuan today.
"The ROS in the letter also declared that the IPF general assembly held on Dec 14 was unconstitutional. The letter also states that all those suspended be reinstated to their original position failing which action would be instituted under section 13 of the Societies Act.
"With the clarification, Puan Sri Jayashree is no more the party president. I have been reinstated as deputy president and thus I would take over as acting president of the party. Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been informed of this," said Senggutuan.
Although IPF is not a BN component party, it supported the ruling coalition.
The letter also said failure to abide by the rulings would result in action being instituted against the party under section 13 of the Act. The section would allow the registrar to cancel or suspend IPF, a splinter party of the MIC, as a registered society.
"Basically it means that if the orders of the registrar are not followed, then the IPF can be deregistered. I would be calling for a meeting of the old supreme council and decide on the next course of action of the party," he added.
At the Dec 14 IPF general assembly Jayashree was returned unopposed as party chief; while K. Murugiah was elected deputy president; and M. Sambanthan, S. Visvanathan and K. Naducheralathan, the three vice-presidents. It also named K. Velayuthan as party secretary-general and M. Thirumugam, treasurer.
The IPF leadership tussle began in May 2008, soon after the death of its founder Tan Sri M.G. Pandithan, who was MIC vice-president before he quit the largest Indian-based political party in the country to form IPF nearly 20 years ago. Pandithan died on April 30 after losing the battle to cancer.
On Nov 10, the IPF supreme council, headed by Jayashree, issued a three-month suspension order against Senggutuan, Mathyalagan and Youth chief R. Ravi Shankar.
Senggutuan was alleged to have violated party regulations while Mathyalagan was said to have issued contradicting press statements detrimental to the party leadership. Ravi was asked to relinquish his post as he was declared a bankrupt.
Mathyalagan, who filed a law suit against Jayashree's appointment as IPF president, failed in his bid to stop her from continuing after the court ruled on Dec 26 that section 18C of the Societies Act stated very clearly that the court could not entertain or determine any suit, application or proceeding on any ground in relation to party decisions.
The suspended leaders had also lodged a complaint with the ROS against the actions against them by Jayashree and the new supreme council and Md Alias' letter was in reply to the complaint.
Yesterday, Jayashree filed a suit against the ROS in an attempt to squash its latest ruling. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — There appears to be a major breakthrough in the request for an increase in non-Malay recruitment in the civil service, according to Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam.
Without revealing details of the decision, he said the matter was decided at a meeting which he attended with Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, Public Services Commission chairman Tan Sri Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri and Public Services Department director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam in Putrajaya yesterday.
“A memo (memorandum) will be issued (by the PSC) on the matter soon. Let’s wait for the memo,” the MIC secretary-general said in a statement today.
Subramaniam said he expected the decision to be discussed at the Feb 23 Cabinet Committee for Indian Development meeting to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The MIC wants an eight per cent Indian representation in the civil service.
Recently, party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had noted that the number of Indians hired as civil servants fluctuated between 3.5 per cent and less than five per cent annually.
He was also puzzled over a news report last December, which stated that non-Malays, especially Indians, were not interested in government jobs.
The report claimed that of the 486,802 applications to work in the civil service in 2007, Chinese and Indians only accounted for 1.78 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.
It had quoted Ismail as saying that the situation was difficult to change although the PSD was trying to reduce the gap among the races in the civil service. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — The government has released another three alleged members of a Southeast Asian terrorist network who had been imprisoned without trial for years, a human rights group said today.
Businessman Suhaimi Mokhtar was arrested in 2002, electrician Zaini Zakaria in 2003 and businessman Mohd Khider Kadran in 2004 under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial, during a crackdown on the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network.
They were freed from a prison centre on Thursday but must report weekly to police and remain within the districts where they live, said Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh of the Abolish ISA Movement.
"We welcome their release, but we are concerned with the selective release," he told The Associated Press. There are still some 40 detainees held under the Act, including four Jemaah Islamiyah terrorism suspects, he said.
Home ministry officials couldn't be reached for comment today.
The government jailed more than 200 suspects between 2001 and 2003, but many were released over the past few years.
Syed Ibrahim said the Abolish ISA Movement plans to hold a rally in March to demand the Act be repealed. Critics said the law is abused to silence dissidents, but the government defended it as necessary to protect national security and ensure stability.
At Jemaah Islamiyah's peak in early 2000, it had members in several Southeast Asian nations. Officials now say the group has been decimated in recent years in a regional crackdown supported by the United States and other Western governments.
Among the strikes attributed to Jemaah Islamiyah and affiliate groups are the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists; the 2003 and 2004 attacks on the J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and the 2005 triple suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali. — AP
Zambry - dissolve State Assembly or go down in history as the infamous “illegitimate Perak MB” and dragging with him Najib
Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir should cut the Gordian knot of the Perak political crisis by agreeing to the dissolution of the Perak State Assembly or he will go down in history as the infamous “illegitimate Perak Mentri Besar” and dragging with him Najib Razak.
If Zambry is a democrat and believes that he has the mandate from the voters of Perak to be Mentri Besar, he should not have any qualm in opting for the only decent, honest and honourable solution to the political crisis – dissolution of the Perak State Assembly to return the mandate to the Perak voters to elect the Mentri Besar and government of their choice.
Zambry should know better than anyone that the illegal and unconstitutional power grab orchestrated by the Prime Minister-in-waiting, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is a great disservice to the cause of the healthy growth of parliamentary democracy in the country.
This is because Zambry should have realized by now that he has no credibility and legitimacy whatsoever as the Perak Mentri Besar among the people of Perak and Malaysia – which explains why he had such a short fuse in his first media conference as the illegitimate Mentri Besar of Perak on Tuesday.
Najib might have thought that with the toppling of the Pakatan Rakyat state government and the undemocratic power grab in Perak, he has achieved a great coup which will redound to his credit in the UMNO general assembly next month when he is formally anointed Umno President and the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
But he cannot be more wrong. Times have changed. Najib’s calculations might be right if such an undemocratic coup d’etat had been orchestrated in the past half-century, but in the era of the information age, where the people are not only exposed to more information but have higher expectations about accountability, transparency, rule of law, democracy and good governance, the illegal and unconstitutional power grab like the one orchestrated by Najib in Perak is completely unacceptable.
Najib is going to pay a very heavy price as he would be forfeiting the privileges of his First Hundred Days when he takes over as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia, for his every word and action as the new Prime Minister will come under the dark cloud because of his undemocratic, illegal and unconstitutional coup d’etat in Perak.
The recent opinion poll by Merdeka Centre that 74% of Perak voters felt that the state assembly should be dissolved to pave way for elections while 76% of voters felt that “the people, through elections” should decide on forming the Perak state government sends out clear and unmistakable messages of the people.
The choice is in the hands of Zambry, whether he wants to go down in history as the infamous “illegitimate Perak Mentri Besar” dragging Najib along with him or whether he is prepared to subordinate personal interests to the higher interests of Perak and democracy by agreeing to the dissolution of the Perak State Assembly to end the political crisis in Perak, which will also release Najib from the millstone of the illegal and unconstitutional power grab in Perak.
The events in Perak have led the Sultan of Selangor to come out strongly in the defence of the Sultan of Perak.
“Political developments, instances of street demonstrations and disputes between various parties, relating to the recent appointment of the new Perak state government, to the extent of displaying rudeness to the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, have saddened and disappointed me.”Read the Sultan's special press statement. [It was issued yesterday, the eve of the Sultan of Perak's Silver Jubilee celebrations today].
Selangor is one of the five states won by Pakatan Rakyat last March. Perak was, too, until the defections of 4 Aduns to BN that compelled the Perak Sultan to request Nizar (whom he had appointed as MB for the Pakatan state government last March) to quit and pave way for the BN, which now commands the majority in the state assembly, to form a new state government.
Nizar responded by begging to defy (menderhaka) and Karpal Singh, the DAP chairman, has vowed to sue the Sultan. Nizar has also filed a suit to challenge the appointment (by the Sultan, of course) of new MB of BN, Zamry.
What happens in Perak can happen in Selangor, and I think the Sultan of Selangor is aware of this.
“I hereby wish to advise with the utmost sincerity by taking into consideration the future of the religion, Malaysian nation and our beloved country. Please do not be misled by actions and behaviours that will only disgrace our integrity, invite high risks to our process of progress, and eradicate the foundations of national sovereignty through the display of rudeness, treachery, arrogance, ignorance in knowledge and lust for power."Interestingly, former Selangor MB Khir Toyo was picked up by police in Penang yesterday for taking part in a rally against Karpal Singh's "seditious remarks" against the Perak Sultan. The Barnama story, here.
The issue has also led to a major feud between a Malay blogger and a non-Malay blogger.
KUCHING, Feb 14 (Bernama) -- The use of technology and new mechanisms in agriculture introduced by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (MOA) has reduced the use of labour especially foreign labour by 165,698 workers last year, said its deputy minister Datuk Rohani Karim.
She said to increase yield of the country's main commodities like rice, meat, vegetables and fish, the ministry had given various subsidies besides giving advice; provided technology on planting and breeding; developed agricultural infrastructure; gave fertiliser subsidy; and provided marketing opportunities.
"These steps gave initiative to local farmers to increase agicultural yield and provided opportunities to farmers to conduct their operations to increase their income," Rohani said in her speech here today to officiate the 41st annual conference of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) organised by the MOA, DID and the Malaysian National Committee on Irrigation & Drainage (MANCID).
She said the involvement of the younger generation in the new technologies and mindsets in the agricultural sector was also important for the country's future.
According to her, now most of the farmers were elderly in their 60s and above and could not meet the needs and demands of the country food supply presently and in the future.
Rohani said through the National Food Security Policy an additional allocation of RM3 billion by the government could increase the national rice yield from 73 per cent sufficiency in 2008 to 86 per cent by 2010.
"This increase is important as the country still imports 657,900 tonnes of rice and this burdens the country's finances," she said.
She said an additional allocation through the National Food Security Policy would also be used to implement maintenance work and infrastructure development in and outside the country's rice bowls covering an area of 426,260he.
(Bernama) -- Perak police have received 70 reports filed by individuals, political parties and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), since Sunday, against statements by Pakatan Rakyat leaders which were seditious in nature.
Perak Police Chief, Datuk Zulkefli Abdullah said that out of the 70 reports received, 41 were on seditious statements while 29 were on other cases.
"Police have opened 17 investigation papers pertaining to sedition and we have started taking statements from several individuals involved," he said at a press conference, here today.
He said all the cases reported would be investigated by the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) under Section 4 of the Sedition Act.
Among the reports lodged previously were against DAP chairman Karpal Singh who was alleged to have insulted the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah when he stated that he intended to sue Sultan Azlan.
Meanwhile in PARIT, the Parit Umno division lodged a police report against Karpal following his statement that he intended to take legal action against the Sultan of Perak. The report was lodged at the Parit Police Station.
Parit Umno head Datuk Mohd Zaim Abu Hasan said Karpal's intention to file the suit against the Sultan was excessive and could cause the people's anger, particularly among the Malays.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people representing various organisations in Batu Kurau held a gathering to protest against the Pakatan Rakyat leaders over the issue.
In JITRA, Kedah, the Kubang Pasu Umno Youth movement lodged a similar report against Karpal. The report was lodged by the movement's head, Aminuddin Omar at the Kubang Pasu District Police Headquarters at 10am.
He also suggested that more stern action be taken against Karpal such as detaining him under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for sedition.
That is the dilemma we face. They accuse me of posting an article where certain parts of it are alleged to have been fabricated. But they refuse to tell us what the truth is so that we can establish whether there are indeed certain parts in that article that are fabricated.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin a.k.a. Pink Panther
What do you do when you chase a prey for two years and it is so fast on its feet and so elusive that you can’t get within ten feet of it? Well, you make it chase you instead. I mean, you can’t keep chasing your prey for the rest of your life in a never-ending story or else you will end up like the Coyote in that cartoon programme which has been chasing the Road Runner since I was a toddler and has still not caught it 50 years on.
But you have to be careful, though. While you want the tables turned so that the hunted now becomes the hunter, and vice versa, you have to make sure that your prey starts chasing you but does not actually catch you. And there must be an endgame to this whole thing. You do not want the chase to be just for chase-sake. There must be a trap that you lead your prey into -- who is now the hunter -- so that the chase ends with your prey-turned-hunter snared well and good.
And that is exactly what my trials are all about -- both the Sedition Act and Criminal Defamation trials. They are about making my prey transform into the hunter while I, who used to be the hunter, now becomes its ‘prey’. Then I run, with them chasing me instead. Whether they can catch me in the end is immaterial and a risk I have to take. But the fact that they are chasing me means they will have to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to catch me. And that is really what I want them to do so that we can take a peep under that stone and see the udang sebalik batu, as the Malays would say.
Thus far, the Sedition Act trial has been most enlightening. My Criminal Defamation trial has not started yet as we are still arguing as to which court is empowered to hear the case. And with the many appeals on this one issue still on the cards, that means it will be some time before we even come to the actual trial date.
Yesterday was the closing of this week’s session and the next session has been scheduled for the 23rd and 24th April 2009. The two days of hearing this week was just the cross-examination of Superintendent Gan Tack Guan. We are far from finished with Gan so we expect the April session to still focus on him. Even then we are not sure whether those two days in April will be enough to complete his cross-examination because Gan is so slow and evasive that it takes two hours just to get him to reply to one question, as Gobind Singh Deo said yesterday.
Gan was the Investigating Officer in the Altantuya murder investigation. And, since he made the police report against me, that means he is also the complainant in my Sedition Act trial. That was a stroke of luck for us, and the first booboo they made. He should not have been given the task of making that police report against me since he was also the Investigating Officer in the Altantuya murder investigation. But I suppose they thought he was the best person to make the police report against me since he was the Investigation Officer in the Altantuya murder investigation and therefore would be the one with the locus standi.
This, however, exposes them to another problem. Granted, he has locus standi, since he was the Investigating Officer in the Altantuya murder investigation. But this also means he has first-hand knowledge of the investigation and would therefore be able to answer in great detail what transpired during the investigation. And this was when they realised their mistake.
Gan, however, refused to answer all the questions posed by Gobind. In the beginning, he proudly claimed he was the Investigating Officer in the murder investigation. When he realised this means he must now tell the court in detail everything about the investigation, he changed his story and said that he was just the supervisor of the investigating team and that other officers had done the actual investigation. He is now trying to give the impression he is not that knowledgeable about the investigation after all since he did not do the actual investigation. He just supervised a team of other investigators and, therefore, he does not know so much.
Gan is a Superintendant of Police with 30 years experience in the force and now attached to Interpol. But he wants the court to believe he is not too clear about the details of the Altantuya murder investigation -- an investigation that he led. And he kept repeating, “I can’t remember”, “I am not able to reply”, “I don’t know how to reply”, and so on, to every question, even when directed to do so by the Judge.
At one point, the Prosecution tried to stop the cross-examination by telling the court that the truth of the matter is not material to the charge. In other words, it does not matter whether I told the truth or I lied in that article I am alleged to have published -- ‘Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell’. Whether I lied or not is not important. Even if I told the truth that would still tantamount to sedition and I would still be guilty.
Then the Prosecution tried to argue we should not look at the article paragraph by paragraph. This was when they discovered that certain paragraphs that had been marked as false were instead true. The court should look at the article in its entirety, argued the Prosecution. Never mind if some paragraphs are seditious while others are not. The article should be looked at in totality and we should not look at just parts of it.
This, again, got them into a corner. The police report that Gan made against me said I had fabricated parts of that article. He then marked four paragraphs where, according to Gan, had been fabricated. In the charge, it said I had fabricated nine paragraphs. Gan said four. The Prosecution said nine. This is already an inconsistency. Now the Prosecution wants the court to ignore the four or nine paragraphs and instead look at the article in totality.
But the police report and charge said that parts of the article had been fabricated. Why do they now want the court to look at the article in totality? Is this an attempt to move the goalposts halfway through the game? It would be contempt of court for me to comment on this matter so I will certainly not make any positive allegation at this stage lest I face yet another charge on top of the many I already face. But their inconsistency and constant ‘shifting’ can’t help but give this impression and I would be shirking my duty if I do not point this out to the readers, contempt or no contempt.
They can’t seem to make up their minds as to what ‘crime’ I have committed. First it is four paragraphs of the article that I was alleged to have posted are seditious. Then it is nine paragraphs. Now it is the whole article that is seditious. Every time they come up against a dead-end they shift the goalposts. If I did not know better, I would suspect they are bent on getting me by hook or by crook and by using fair or foul means. But I will not accuse them of such things, as I am sure the Malaysian justice system would never resort to such underhanded tactics just to put a dissident and critic of the government behind bars.
Since my so-called crime of sedition is the result of certain paragraphs in the article, which I was alleged to have posted, are said to be fabricated, we would then need to get to the truth. Once the truth has been established, we can then compare it with the article I was alleged to have posted and determine whether it is indeed true that certain parts of it had been fabricated. And this is where the testimony of Gan is most crucial.
But Gan would not answer all the questions which Gobind posed to him. He forgets, he is not able to reply, he does not know how to reply, and so on. He just refuses to reply to anything that he is asked. How, then, do we establish the truth? And if we can’t establish the truth, how, then, do we determine whether there are any lies in the article, as they allege?
That is the dilemma we face. They accuse me of posting an article where certain parts of it are alleged to have been fabricated. But they refuse to tell us what the truth is so that we can establish whether there are indeed certain parts in that article that are fabricated.
When asked whether he conducted any investigation to establish if some parts of the article have indeed been fabricated, Gan replied that no investigation had been carried out. How, then, does he know for sure that certain parts of the article have been fabricated if no investigation had been carried out? To this, Gan replied that he based it on assumption. And why does he assume so? Because, Gan replied, he never came across any of these facts during the Altantuya murder trial and no one came forward to volunteer any information to prove the article correct.
In others words, since no one confirmed certain parts of the article as true and since he did not accidentally stumble on such information, then he assumes them to be false. And it is not his job to investigate if indeed certain parts of the article had been fabricated. Since he is not aware of these facts then he assumes them to be false. Simple! What he is not aware of has to be false. There is no other way of looking at it.
And that is how Gan, a police officer with the rank of Superintendant and 30 years experience in the force and now attached to Interpol, comes to conclusions. He looks at what he knows. And what he does not know must be assumed to be false. And based on this assumption I must be sent to jail. I must be sent to jail not because I committed a crime. I must be sent to jail not because I am alleged to have posted an article with some part of it considered seditious. I must be sent to jail because I am alleged to have posted an article where some parts of it are not of the knowledge of Gan and therefore must be assumed to be false.
Welcome to Malaysia, the land of boleh.
P.S. ‘Pink Panther’ used to be my nickname back in the 1970s and was my e-mail ID in the mid-1990s. Tengku Ismail Tengku Ibrahim of Kuala Terengganu can testify to this. And, of course, Superintendant Gan is no Inspector Clouseau but more like the Keystone Cops.
The Magistrates Court has fixed March 16 to 18 for an inquest into the mysterious death of actress K. Sujatha two years ago.
Magistrate Mohd Faizi Che Abu, sitting as the coroner, set the three days for the hearing on Friday.
Sujatha, 29, had also worked as a secretary to S. Vell Paari, the Maika Holdings chief executive officer and son of MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.
The actress of several Tamil dramas, movies and commercials, died at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang three days after she was admitted on June 25, 2007.
She was believed to have swallowed weedkiller at her apartment in Sentul here.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Geethan Ram Vincent, who is assisting the coroner in the inquest proceedings, said seven to eight witnesses would be called to testify in the proceedings.
Among them is Dr S.P. Sakthiveloo, one of the general practitioners who had treated her at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang.
Sujatha’s family was represented by lawyer Datuk K. Kumaraendran and lawyer Datuk S. Satharuban held a watching brief for Dr Sakthiveloo.
Also present during the proceedings was PKR supreme council member S. Manikavasagam, who said he was shocked by the delay of the inquest.
“I am shocked that after two years an inquest is called. It should have been called within a few days of her death.
“It is a clear cut case and the investigation officer had said the case is being investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code,” he said, adding that he is expecting to be subpoenaed as a witness.
Her death had resulted in Manikavasagam, who is also Kapar Member of Parliament, lodging a police report on Aug 8, 2007 on behalf of Sujatha’s family at the Brickfields police station and appealing to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan to form a taskforce to investigate the case.
It also saw former Sentul police chief ACP K. Kumaran filing a lawsuit against Manikavasagam and three others in relation to a news report on her death which allegedly defamed him.
Now busily writing in his razaleigh.com weblog, the Gua Musang MP referred to Umno's previous leaders who had united the people to make Malaya independent and Tunku Abdul Rahman's bold vision of forming Malaysia "decided upon after much care and thought," the fruit of "mutual consent by debate and discussion, inquiries and elections".
"Today's Umno, under its present leadership, is probably beyond reform. Our leaders are the problem, and they have structured the party, bullied and bought it, so that they cannot be replaced by those who would lead to serve," Tengku Razaleigh wrote in his latest post.
He pointed out the party then had the confidence and leadership to envision a new nation not once but twice with a calibre of leaders to draw diverse communities into it and to found it on the rule of law, saying it had the confidence to unite people under a vision of common good.
"Contrast the breadth of vision we had 50 years ago, and our method of naming and solving our problems then, even in the face of serious threats to our security, with how we conduct ourselves now, having surrounded ourselves with self-made threats while real challenges such as education and the economy go begging," Tengku Razaleigh said bluntly.
"Umno's most recent achievement has been to wrest power by underhanded means from a democratically-elected state government. In doing so we came across as the party of the desperate, not the confident.
"Contrast the broad field we ranged over, with the narrow stage we now strut before a shrinking audience," Tengku Razaleigh lamented in reference to the adverse public reaction to Umno's move to unseat the Perak Pakatan Rakyat government.
But he held out hope for the Malay nationalist party that was founded in 1946 to defend the rights of the Malays and the Rulers and that had formed an alliance for independence in 1957.
"But no other party can do what Umno once did, and must do again," the Kelantan prince concluded.
GEORGE TOWN, Feb 13 – Penang police detained Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo, the former Selangor mentri besar, after breaking up an illegal protest by Umno members here today.
Protesters had planned to march to DAP politician Karpal Singh's house but dispersed after police threatened to arrest them.
Mohamed Khir and a local Umno youth leader were picked up by police after leaving the scene of the protests.
They were taken to the state police headquarters for questioning and released later.
It is not clear if they will face any criminal charges.
Mohamed Khir had planned to lead the march to Karpal's house.
Karpal has become a focal point of Umno protests ever since he threatened to take the Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah to court over his role in the current political impasse in Perak.
Sultan Azlan Shah had denied consent for Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin's Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration in Perak to dissolve the state assembly after three seats were declared vacant by the state Speaker.
Instead, Sultan Azlan Shah invited Barisan Nasional (BN) to form a new state government, in a controversial move which PR leaders say is unconstitutional.
Since then Umno youth groups have been organising a number of small protests around the country in an attempt to whip up support from conservative Malays against PR leaders, especially Karpal.
Last week, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is contesting the Umno Youth chief's post in next month's party elections led a 1,000-strong rally in Ipoh against PR.
Mohamed Khir, who is also contesting the same post, tried to emulate his rival today but unlike in Ipoh, police put a stop to it.
KLANG, Feb 13 — The Selangor sultan today became the first royal to break his silence and quell debate over the Perak’s palace decision to switch governments, saying “the extent of displaying rudeness to the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, have saddened and disappointed me”.
Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj advised those who challenged the rights, role and position of the Rulers, which were enshrined in the Federal Constitution, to think carefully and evaluate deeply the
consequences before taking any action,. Bernama reported today.
“Political developments, instances of street demonstrations and disputes between various parties,
relating to the recent appointment of the new Perak state government, to the extent of displaying rudeness to the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, have saddened and disappointed me,” the sultan said in a press statement titled “Affirmation Regarding the Political Turmoil in Perak Darul Ridzuan”, which was released from Istana Alam Shah, here.
“I hereby wish to advise with the utmost sincerity by taking into consideration the future of the religion,
Malaysian nation and our beloved country. Please do not be misled by actions and behaviours that will only disgrace our integrity, invite high risks to our process of progress, and eradicate the foundations of national sovereignty through the display of rudeness, treachery, arrogance, ignorance in knowledge and lust for power,” the Sultan said.
Sultan Sharafuddin said the fact that the Sultan of Perak was his uncle and that both Royal families of the two states had a long-standing historical relationship added to his sadness and disappointment.
He said he knew Sultan Azlan as a very knowledgeable person with vast experience in the legal service and judiciary, appropriate with his former position as the Lord President.
Sultan Azlan and his Royal family also had distinguished educational credentials and qualifications and were always sensitive to the needs of the people to the extent that most of his actions were based on a knowledge of culture, holistic considerations and principle of consensus with experts on the relevant issues, Sultan Sharafuddin said.
“What we have seen and (are) still seeing for the past week in Perak has prompted concern among those who care so much for their religion, race, country, stability, wellbeing, civilisation, security and our future together,” he said.
“In light of this occurrence, we now know which is glass, which is diamond. In fact, we could now understand the truth inside those people who ‘burn the net out of anger with the mosquito’,” he said.
Sultan Azlan appointed Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new Perak Menteri Besar on Feb 6 when the coalition government comprising the DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS lost the majority in the State Legislative Assembly, and this had caused dissatisfaction among the leaders and supporters of the coalition.
As a result, supporters of the coalition held street demonstrations near Istana Iskandariah, Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar to the extent of obstructing the car of the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
In addition, former Perak menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin was reported to have disagreed with the Sultan of Perak when his request for the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly did not get the Royal consent while DAP chairman Karpal Singh had incurred the anger of many people following his intention to sue Sultan Azlan Shah on the matter.
Sultan Selangor said the increasingly worrying situation at the global and regional levels warranted the people to strengthen unity despite their differing viewpoints.
“There are times when we can retract statements that were wrongly said, but these are precarious times where wrongful action can lead to disastrous consequences.
“I pray to Allah the Almighty to place us in his loving care, and continue to shower us with a clear heart, peaceful soul, wiser thoughts, easier path, the right actions, harmonious relationship and strong self-belief to manage the country together in facing future progress of our nation,” the Sultan of Selangor said. — Bernama
Bukit Gantang/Selambau by-elections on April 7 - another example of craven subservience of Election Commission to serve Umno interests
The Election Commission has provided another example of its craven subservience to serve Umno interests in fixing the simultaneous nomination and polling dates for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak and the Bukit Selambau state assembly seat in Kedah on March 29 and April 7 respectively.
Clearly, the fractious and internecine Umno party elections until March 28 had been the primary consideration of the Election Commission when deciding on the two by-election dates, so that the by-election campaign for the two constituencies will be held after the Umno party elections and Datuk Seri Najib Razak has officially taken over UMNO and become the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
But these are the very considerations which an independent and self-respecting Election Commission has no business to take into account when fixing election dates, as it has only reinforced strong public perceptions that the Election Commission is a mere Umno tool at the beck-and-call of the top Umno leadership.
The Election Commission has made dubious history in the fixing of the election dates for the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections, stretching to the constitutional limit of the 60 days when they should be filled from the date of vacancy.
The by-elections of the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau constituencies will be held on the 57th day from their vacancy, as compared to the 27th day for the Permatang Pauh by-election and the 51st day for the Kuala Terengganu by-election.
In his six weeks as the new Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had taken two decisions which have further undermined public confidence in the independence, professionalism and integrity of the Election Commission as they clearly serve Umno’s political agenda – the unconstitutional rejection of the Perak Speaker’s decision on the resignation of two PKR state assemblymen/executive councilors resulting in two state assembly vacancies (facilitating Najib’s illegal and unconstitutional grab for power in Perak) and today’s decision to fix the by-election dates calculated to best serve the political interests of Umno.
The Election Commission should reconsider to fix earlier by-election dates to demonstrate that it is not beholden to any political party’s dictates – even coming from Umno!
Debra Chong and Edward Cheah, themalaysianinsider.com
PETALING JAYA, Feb 13 – Kota Alam Shah state lawmaker M Manoharan who is detained two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA) has been allowed out to visit his only daughter in hospital today.
Manoharan arrived at the pediatric section in the University Hospital (UH) close to 3pm and was immediately escorted into the children’s ward.
The doors were closed and locked instantly, barring the media from following inside.
Manoharan was not handcuffed.
He looked visibly thinner after over a year spent behind the high security walls of the ISA Detention Centre in Kamunting, Perak.
Despite that, he was neatly dressed in a white shirt, with its sleeves rolled up over dark trousers and shoes. He also sported a trim beard.
He did not address the reporters, and only directed a very brief question about the stability of the Selangor state government to DAP Seri Kembangan assemblyman, Ean Yong Hian Wah.
Reporters were later told Manoharan would be allowed to spend two hours with his daughter.
The daughter, 11-year-old Shivaranjini, was admitted early yesterday morning, about 1am, after complaining of having trouble breathing, her mother S Pushpaneela, 47, told reporters outside her ward here earlier this afternoon.
Pusphaneela added that the doctors told her Shivaranjini’s blood pressure was very high, “equivalent to an adult’s”.
“Her blood pressure is 135,” Pushpaneela said, but did not explain what it meant.
Although Pushpaneela said her daughter’s condition is stable for now, she continues to worry for Shivaranjini’s health.
“There’s something not right with her. The doctor will tell me after the blood test,” Pushpaneela told reporters in a calm voice.
She related how Shivaranjini shares the tightest bond with her father, among the three children (there are two boys) and seemed to take be hardest hit following Manoharan’s detention under the ISA in late 2007 for leading a mass street rally in Kuala Lumpur demanding rights for the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia.
A short reunion... ISA detainee M Manoharan, the Hindraf leader, holding his daughter Shivaranjini who was warded in University Hospital. Looking on is his wife Pushpaneela who has been running his service centre in Kota Alam Shah while Manoharan continues his detention in Kamunting, Perak. That was this afternoon. By now Manoharan would have been transported back to his cell up north. >Read More
The daughter was most upset after learning an appeal for her father’s release was dismissed by the Federal Court two days ago.
“She saw on TV... that detention remains,” Pushpaneela recounted.
Shivaranjini suffered breathing difficulties thereafter.
The family last saw Manoharan at the weekly scheduled meeting in Kamunting last Sunday.
Special Branch later relented and allowed one reporter to enter the children’s ward and observe the family reunion for a few minutes.
The reporter — from The Star — later shared that father and daughter were affectionate to each other. The meeting was expected to be emotional in lieu of the court decision and Shivaranjini’s hospital admission.
Asked how she felt to see her father again, Shivaranjini said: “I feel happy but sad.”
The lone reporter related that her doctor informed the family that the child’s breathing difficulties were induced by “emotional pressure”.
Manoharan said that his daughter often broke-down whenever they spoke on the telephone.
“I’m also emotionally affected by it,” he was reported saying.
He drew a stark example about his daughter; when she on December 6 last year travelled alone from their home in Selangor to Kamunting Detention Centre, in Perak— without informing her mother.
Manoharan said he is planning another appeal for a writ of habeas corpus on grounds that as an elected official, he must be allowed to carry out his duty to “serve the people”.
He said he was extremely upset that the appeal for a review for the release of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders from ISA had been rejected recently.
He noted that the Selangor state legislative assembly will sit for their second term on March 10.
He hopes the government will allow him to serve the people in his constituency this time, after missing the first one last year.
“My wife is shouldering all the responsibility. My family is in disarray. And my constituency is in a limbo,” Manoharan told The Star, adding “I’ve yet to see my constituency until today.”
Manoharan was escorted out from the children’s ward at 5pm.
A couple of different sources have alerted me to a fairly large police presence - perhaps a hundred or more - around Karpal Singh’s residence in Penang.
Riot police trucks are in the area and roads blocks have been set up around the Waterfall Road/Western Road area.
Reports blog reader tan, tanjung bunga:
I passed Karpal Singh’s residence at around 3.00 pm: lots of FRU personnel and other policemen in the vicinity of his residence, with FRU personnel also lining-up in front of his gate and dozens of media people positioned opposite the gate. You can imagine the traffic jams in the whole area!
From your post, it’s possible that the security personnel are trying to protect Karpal’s residence from the Umno demonstrators! Congrats to them then for protecting a citizen!
It is believed that Umno demonstrators have been blocked from heading towards Karpal’s residence.
It is understood that Karpal himself is not at home at this time.-Anil netto
PETALING JAYA, 13 FEBRUARI 2009
Berdekad-dekad lamanya etnik Tamil di Sri Lanka Utara dipinggirkan secara politik dan ekonomi. Di saat dunia merasakan operasi ketenteraan mutakhir tentera Sri Lanka merupakan satu kejayaan menumpaskan gerila Tamil, ramai seakan-akan melupakan nasib minoriti Tamil.
Pertempuran sengit di antara tentera pemerintah dan gerila Tamil di Sri Lanka berlarutan sekian lama. Namun yang membimbangkan kita adalah mangsa dikalangan rakyat, terutamanya penduduk Tamil di utara.
Pemerintah kini melarang liputan media antarabangsa dan menyekat bantuan kemanusiaan. Maka secara tegas kami mendesak pemerintah Sri Lanka dan gerila Tamil untuk menghentikan serangan ke atas penduduk awam.
Laporan meluas mengenai mangsa awam rakyat Tamil tambah meyakinkan kita untuk menggesa agar tindakan ganas sedemikian perlu dihentikan segera.
Sebaik nama Tan Sri Aziz diumumkan sebagai pengerusi baru Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR), saya kaitkan prestasi dan rekod baiknya dalam perkhidmatan awam. Kebimbangan saya hanya keupayaan beliau mengendali SPR yang tercemar sebagai alat ampuh pimpinan UMNO-BN yang tidak mampu memikul amanah dengan jujur dan adil.
Agak mengejutkan kerana harapan tipis kecundang dalam tempoh singkat. Keputusan SPR mengenepikan keputusan Speaker DUN Negeri Perak mengenai perletakan jawatan ADUN menjurus kepada kesediaan mudah SPR menjadikan diri sebagai kuda tunggangan. Tan Sri Aziz gagal membedakan antara tugas seorang KSU dengan Pengerusi SPR.
Dan kini dengan menganjak tarikh pilihanraya kecil Parlimen Bukit Gantang dan DUN Bukit Selambau selewat mungkin satelah selesai pemilihan Umno, SPR bertindak keterlaluan menurut telunjuk Dato’ Seri Najib.
Kepada Allah SWT kita berserah disamping kerja kuat dalam saf untuk memastikan kezaliman, penipuan dan rasuah ditumpaskan.
Irony again! It looks like the Police is going all out to protect Karpal Singh from any untoward incident as he looks bent on stating his position on law and lawfulness and even taking a Sultan to court.
If Karpal is harmed in any way, the two Bukit by-elections will be as good as bye-elections!
Khir Toyo 'picked up' over aborted protest
Athi Veeranggan | Feb 13, 09 4:27pm
Former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and a local Umno Youth leader were picked up by the police for questioning in an aborted protest march against veteran parliamentarian Karpal Singh in George Town today.
Mohd Khir’s car was stopped at a junction near Waterfall Hotel as he was leaving with his aides and Permatang Pauh Umno Youth chief Mohd Zaidi Said. They were then escorted by a patrol car to the city police headquarters in Jalan Patani for questioning.
Mohd Khir, an Umno Youth national leadership aspirant, and Mohd Zaidi were later released after police recorded their statements.
Sporting a songkok, and wearing a white shirt and black pants, Mohd Khir was earlier about to lead a protest march from Youth Park in Waterfall to Karpal’s house, located about a kilometer away.
Umno Youth had planned to demonstrate outside Karpal's house at 3pm over the DAP leader’s intention to file a lawsuit against Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah.
However, Mohd Khir and the protesters aborted their plan about 10 minutes before the protest was scheduled to start when the police warned them of stern action.
The police, including members of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), appeared to outnumber the protesters.
Police also stayed guard outside Karpal's bungalow to thwart any untoward incidents and seized banners with anti-Karpal, anti-Pakatan, pro-Malay and pro-Umno slogans.
Police chief: It's an illegal gathering
Addressing those present with a loud hailer, Mohd Zaidi said: "Even though the police may have stopped us today, our Malay spirit will never die."
He also took the police to task for stopping their peaceful demonstration.
The protesters started chanting 'Hidup Melayu' (Long Live Malays) and 'Daulat Tuanku' (Hail The King) when the police moved in to arrest Mohd Zaidi.
At this juncture, the protestors, some of them sporting red headbands with the words 'Daulat Tuanku', managed to rescue Mohd Zaidi and whisked him away to a nearby car.
However, Mohd Zaidi was later picked up together with Mohd Khir.
The crowd dispersed immediately when George Town police district chief ACP Azam Abdul Hamid raised his voice and gave them a five-minute deadline to disperse.
Azam later told reporters that the gathering was illegal and the police would have arrested the protesters if they had started to march to Karpal’s house.
Earlier, the police stopped and turned back several buses and vans ferrying protesters at several check points from reaching Youth Park.-Jeffoii
MERSING, Feb 13 (Bernama) -- The Barisan Nasional (BN) welcomes the decision by the Election Commission (EC) to hold by-elections for Bukit Gantang in Perak and Bukit Selambau in Kedah, simultaneously on April 7.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also BN chairman, said the coalition was confident of wresting the two seats from the opposition and would make preparations to face the two by-elections.
"The chances of winning (the two by-elections) are bright. What is needed is to plan the campaign well, work hard and cooperate well. Avoid infighting, everyone must wholeheartedly support the candidates selected," he told reporters after witnessing an amphibious assault demonstration by commandos from the Iskandar Camp here Friday.
Abdullah, who is also Defence Minister, said that although nomination for the two by-elections would be held on March 29, a day after Umno's general assembly, it would not pose any problem for Umno.
In fact, he said, it would give an opportunity to Umno members to give their full attention to facing both by-elections.
"With Umno's elections over, the members will be free to fully focus on the by-elections. This is good for us," he said.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had announced the dates for the two by-elections at a press conference in Putrajaya today.
According to the Prime Minister, the BN's defeats in the Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections had served as useful lessons to the coalition and that it would be better prepared this time around.
He also said the BN members were in much higher spirits now following the success of the BN in forming the government in Perak.
"There is renewed commitment to serve the people even better. It augurs well for the BN," he said.
On the choice of candidates for the two constituencies, Abdullah said it was the practice of the BN to field candidates from the component parties allocated the seats.
"The selected candidate must give the best service to the people irrespective background or race," said Abdullah.
Asked about calls by various non-governmental organisations for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to apologise for adopting a non-committal attitude to the unruly incidents that took place in Perak last week, Abdullah said Anwar should understand he had made a mistake but it was up to the opposition leader whether he wanted to apologise or not.
"The Royal institution must be protected because it is enshrined in the Constitution. Their role is specified and we must respect it," he said.