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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kempen anti-PPSMI ke Bkt Gantang, Bkt Selambau - Malayskini

Setelah berjaya mengadakan demonstrasi besar, Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI (GMP) akan melebarkan kempennya bagi menjelaskan pendiriannya membantah dasar kontroversi itu di dua pilihanraya kecil bermula hujung bulan ini.

Setiausaha gabungan itu Hasni Abas berkata ia akan turut serta dalam kempen pada pilihanraya kecil parlimen Bukit Gantang, Perak dan DUN Bukit Selambau, Kedah bagi terus menentang dasar Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris (PPSMI).

Dua pilihanraya itu - yang diadakan serentak dengan DUN Batang Ai di Sarawak - berlangsung antara 29 Mac hingga 7 April.

kuala terengganu by election ppsmi coalition handing memo to pakatan 150109 launching bannerGabungan itu pernah berkempen ketika berlangsung pilihanraya kecil parlimen Kuala Terengganu, Januari lalu.

Mereka menabur kira-kira 50,000 risalah yang menyifatkan PPSMI sebagai satu "pengkhianatan" terhadap bangsa dan negara (foto).

Kira-kira 8,000 aktivis bahasa, sasterawan Melayu dan penyokong pembangkang berarak ke Istana Negara dari Masjid Negara petang Sabtu lalu dalam usaha menyerahkan memorandum kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Tindakan mereka melanggar arahan polis - yang membenarkan mereka berhimpun di masjid berkenaan sahaja dan melarang sebarang perarakan - kemudian didakwa akibat didalangi parti-parti pembangkang.

Mengulas perkara tersebut, Hasni berkata "isu dalang tidak timbul" kerana GMP memang turut disertai oleh barisan aktivis bahasa, NGO dan parti-parti politik.

Bercakap dalam satu sidang media di Rumah PENA, Kuala Lumpur hari ini, beliau mengulas penafian pengerusi GMP Datuk Dr Hassan Ahmad semalam.

March 8 Special: Dr Xavier Jayakumar

Full circle for Azizah

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 – There is quite a difference between what Dr Wan Azizah Ismail would like to do and what she knows she has to, and will, do.

Ten years from now, for example, the 56-year-old would like “to imagine herself conducting a peaceful life and spending more time with her six children, grandchildren and relatives”.

Yet she knows it is an unlikely scenario. “My husband will probably need help, and I have to do what is right for my country and for my husband.”

That is, after all, what she has already done for over a decade, since she was forced to deputise for her husband – Malaysian opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar returned to active politics last year after spending years in jail on what most people believe were politically motivated charges. He has since been elected to Parliament, taking over the seat in Penang’s Permatang Pauh constituency that Dr Azizah had won in three previous elections.

And he is poised to officially take over the leadership of the People’s Justice Party, or Keadilan, of which Dr Azizah is chairwoman. The party has its roots in a non-governmental organisation she established in 1999 to fight for the release of her husband.

These changes are welcomed by Dr Azizah. “It is what I prefer. I feel I have come full circle. I was the wife of a politician, then I became a politician, and now I am going back to being the wife of a politician. It is fine. I am first and foremost a wife and mother.”

She also admits candidly, “I will never be as good a politician as Anwar. It is right that he takes charge”.

Things are not quite like that, though. Dr Azizah lacks Anwar’s oratorical skills and, unlike her husband, who was a firebrand student activist in the 1970s, she never got into student politics.

In this October 7, 2008, file photo, Wan Azizah accompanies her husband to court for the Sodomy II trial.

Educated first at a Catholic school, then at an elite private school, she went to Ireland to study ophthalmology while still very young. In Dublin, Malaysian politics was never a concern and she never developed political ambitions nor much political acumen.

Still, when forced to enter politics, she held her own, mostly thanks to a different set of qualities that turned her into an icon of the Reformasi movement that her husband had started.

To most Malaysians, she is no longer simply Anwar’s wife.

The first thing that strikes one about Dr Azizah is her gentle demeanour. Bespectacled, frail-looking and with a pale complexion, she speaks softly and has rarely been seen angry.

The second thing that strikes one is the strength of conviction those same softly spoken words carry. It is this combination that gained her wide trust and admiration.

Gayathry Venkiteswaran, executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, explains Dr Azizah’s trajectory succinctly.

“At the beginning, she was seen as Malaysia’s answer to (former Philippine president) Corazon Aquino, fighting the injustice inflicted upon her husband. But then she was able to use the platform provided by the party to raise the profile of democracy, justice and integrity on the national agenda. That’s something she should be recognised for.

“While awaiting Anwar’s release, Wan Azizah responded positively to civil society pressures and issues, and allowed for more of these to get highlighted. In so doing, for a while, she became the face of justice and democracy.”

He is disappointed that Dr Azizah sacrificed her parliamentary seat for Anwar, but Sim Kwang Yang, a former parliamentarian with the Democratic Action Party and now a prolific political writer, argues that vacating her seat does not mean she will disappear. “She has been a towering figure; she will still be involved and continue to inspire.”

Dr Azizah knows she is at a new juncture. And while questions about the future remain unanswered, she can now look back and assess what she has gone through, and Malaysia’s political situation.

The toughest time, she said, was having to stay strong during Anwar’s trials. He was arrested in September 1998, charged with corruption and committing sodomy with his wife’s chauffeur, Azizan Abu Bakar.

When arrested, he had just been stripped of the position of deputy premier and was the de facto opposition to long-serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamed. In April 1999 he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and, in August 2000, to nine years for sodomy. The latter sentence was quashed in a 2004 appeal.

Throughout the trials, Dr Azizah never doubted her husband’s innocence and provided an image of dignity, strength and stoicism.

In this July 31, 2008, file photo, Wan Azizah (left) submits her resignation as MP for Permatang Pauh at a press conference to make way for her husband to contest in the by-election. Standing at the foreground are her two daughters, Nurul Izzah and Nurul Nuha.

Among the reasons that pushed her to fight, she highlighted “the need for justice” and “the family’s honour”. Faith supported her in the darkest hours.

“I had to stand for justice. Facing it all was the only way to show that it was all fabricated. But I also had to keep the family together, and safeguard the honour of my family. With their father away and humiliated, I had to be there for my children. This is something that I felt very strongly about,” she said.

“But it was very difficult. I am only human and I did have moments of weakness. But Islam says that you will not be tested more than you can handle. This knowledge helped me. I knew I could stand it.”

Those who know her say that Dr Azizah’s spirituality is a very private matter. The most outward sign of it is the glove on her right hand; she started wearing it when her political career forced her to shake the hands of many men, something not allowed in Islam.

As she grew into the position of opposition leader, Dr Azizah had to withstand divisions in the party, electoral disappointments and harassment from the government.

The latter included attacks from then-information minister Mohamed Rahmat, who argued that she was “unfit to lead the Malays” since she had been “educated in Singapore” and had “Chinese blood”.

Her maternal grandfather was from Malacca (now Melaka) and had Chinese forebears, while her mother was brought up in Singapore.

Dr Azizah believes Malaysia is changing. “There is hope on the horizon,” she says.

“Anwar’s arrest marked the start, rather than the end, of the campaign for reform. After that, we had some reforms for a while. Then, in 2004, the prime minister changed, but unfortunately the new premier (Abdullah Badawi) did not do much. So now we have another wave that is pushing for change. But this one is stronger; it comes from the grass-roots.”

In June, Anwar’s former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan accused him of sodomy. An arrest warrant was issued on July 15.

“The new accusation of sodomy against Anwar is an attempt to stop this wave,” said Dr Azizah. “It shows that we have to work more, to work harder. Because whatever we have gone through, it has not yet resulted in the Malaysia we want.”

Unsurprisingly, Dr Azizah believes Anwar is the right man to lead the country. She says she is being “as objective as possible”.

“I think Anwar is today the best the country can offer. Mahathir was good in the early days, but he later deteriorated. Abdullah has some qualities, but I’m disappointed with what he has done. Current deputy premier Najib Razak has too many skeletons in his closet, and I fear that, with him, Malaysia will return to the darkest days of Mahathirism.”

Najib is slated to take over from Abdullah this month. There have been attempts to link the deputy prime minister to the murder of a Mongolian-born model, Altantuya Shaariibuu. Najib has denied any involvement and has sworn on the Koran that he never met Shaariibuu, 28.

Dr Azizah says Anwar has not changed much from the young man she met in 1978, soon after she returned to Malaysia from Ireland. She was working at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur when a mutual friend introduced them. She knew of Anwar but had never met him.

At that time, he was leader of Abim, a Muslim youth group, and he had set up Yayasan Anda, a foundation to train poor Malay youths. “He was already charismatic, a good orator and a principled man,” she said.

The couple married in 1980, despite initial objections from Dr Azizah’s father, a former senior officer in the Malaysian Special Branch, a police agency which specialised in “psychological war” against the communists. He was unhappy with Anwar’s 1974 detention under the Internal Security Act for allegedly being “pro-communist”. Anwar served 20 months for that accusation.

Once married, Anwar joined Umno in 1982 and began a meteoric political rise – helped, Dr Azizah said, “by his ability to relate to and connect with people, but hampered by his excessive trust in others, which caused him many problems”. These two sides of Anwar’s personality are still present, she said. “I also still admire his strength to bounce back.” – South China Morning Post

Anwar's Sodomy II trial now at High Court

Anwar and his wife Dr Wan Azizah with supporters at the court complex. – Picture by Choo Choy May

By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 – This morning Sessions Court judge Rozina Ali Yusoff authorised the transfer of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial to the High Court with immediate effect despite objections from his legal team.

Chief counsel Sulaiman Abdullah argued to delay the transfer until the original Sessions court judge SM Komathy Suppiah, who is on leave today, could hear it.

However, Justice Rozina ruled that there was no prejudice on her part to transfer the matter to the High Court.

Outside the Sessions court, Anwar told reporters the prosecution is “bent on pushing this forward as fast as possible.”

“It’s only when they can’t fight politically, they can’t have elections in Perak ... so they abuse the courts. They use the AG’s chambers, they even use Gani Patail,” said Anwar.

“But I’m not focused on this, I’m focusing on the three by-elections.”

Anwar’s trial at the High Court will be heard before Judge Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, the same judge who overturned Sessions Court judge SM Komathy Suppiah’s earlier decision to hear the case in her court.

Judge Zabidin has fixed 24 days, from July 1 to 24, for Anwar's trial. He also extended Anwar's Sessions Court bail.

Najib's Challenge: Clean up UMNO

Moreover, Mr. Najib brings to the job much political baggage. In particular there is the case involving an adviser to Mr. Najib of a Mongolian woman who was shot and blown up with specialized C4 plastic explosives in Malaysia in 2006.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Barry Wain, Far Eastern Economic Review

Malaysia’s planned leadership transition at the end of March from Ahmad Abdullah Badawi to Mohamed Najib Razak masks a fundamental reconfiguration of Malaysian politics. The United Malays National Organization is in long-term decline, after losing support among Malays for at least a decade. Non-Malays are increasingly reluctant to back the 12 other parties in the UMNO-led National Front coalition, especially those representing ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, given their limited ability to influence government policy. Doubts that the National Front will be viable much longer without a major overhaul are mounting at a time when the political opposition is surging, reorganized and invigorated by the charismatic former deputy premier, Anwar Ibrahim.

NajibThe magnitude and complexity of Mr. Najib’s challenge can be gauged by the fate of the hapless Prime Minister Abdullah, who is being forced out early in his second term by UMNO power brokers after losing five of 13 state governments and the National Front’s two-thirds majority in Parliament in last March’s general election. Mr. Abdullah recognized what needed to be done: He won a landslide in 2004 by promising to end pervasive corruption, substitute transparency for cronyism and inject integrity into weakened state institutions. When he failed to deliver, obstructed by entrenched UMNO interests and hobbled by lassitude, he was punished by the electorate last year—and UMNO’s inexorable slide resumed.

Mr. Najib’s background doesn’t recommend him for the role of reformer, which is what is required to recover the affection of disenchanted voters. The son of the country’s second premier, Abdul Razak Hussein, and a nephew of Hussein Onn, the third premier, Mr. Najib is from an aristocratic family that is staking its claim to be Malaysia’s first political dynasty. A cousin, Mr. Hussein’s son Hishammuddin Hussein, is education minister and head of UMNO Youth. The youngest member to sit in Malaysia’s Parliament, Mr. Najib was only 22 years old when he was elected to represent the Pekan constituency formerly held by his father, who died in office in 1976. At 23, he was a deputy minister and at 29 he became chief minister of his home state, Pahang. Since joining then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet at 32, Mr. Najib has held senior portfolios for the past couple of decades, without questioning the ethnic-based political system or proposing significant innovations in his areas of direct policy responsibility. “He is not only part of the system,” says one close associate and supporter. “He trusts the system. He is the system.”

Moreover, Mr. Najib brings to the job much political baggage. In particular there is the case involving an adviser to Mr. Najib of a Mongolian woman who was shot and blown up with specialized C4 plastic explosives in Malaysia in 2006. The adviser, the woman’s former lover, was cleared of ordering her death in a protracted court case that drew harsh public criticism and left vital questions unanswered. Two members of an elite police bodyguard unit assigned to Mr. Najib, who were asked by the adviser to “do something” about the woman because she was blackmailing him, have to answer murder charges. The adviser said he had contacted the two policemen through Mr. Najib’s aide-de-camp, and one of them, a chief inspector, testified that the aide-de-camp had instructed him to help the adviser.

Before the adviser was charged, Mr. Najib sent a text message to a lawyer representing his adviser saying that the adviser “will have to face a tentative charge but all is not lost,” according to a transcript of their exchanges. One of the country’s most popular bloggers and online journalist-editors, Raja Petra Kamarudin, faces sedition and libel charges after allegedly implicating Mr. Najib and his wife in the killing. Although Mr. Najib has denied ever knowing the victim, taking the unusual step of swearing his innocence in a mosque, he has been unable to stem an avalanche of gossip, speculation and serious analysis, much of it circulated on the Internet.

Mr. Najib also has long been embroiled in allegations of corruption in the purchase of big-ticket weapon systems during his two lengthy terms as defense minister (1990-95, 1999-2008; he retained the defense portfolio after becoming deputy prime minister in 2003), when he drove an aggressive military modernization program. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, a Washington-based think tank, foreign arms manufacturers use well-connected Malaysians as lobbyists, paying them commissions of 10% to 20% to win contracts. Malaysia’s political opposition says much of the money goes to people closely associated with UMNO, including Mr. Najib’s contacts, though the police and anticorruption authorities have not investigated particular cases to the satisfaction of complainants.

For example, the 115 million euros “coordination and support services” payment for Malaysia’s purchase in 2002 of two new Scorpene and one reconditioned Agosta submarine for 1 billion euros was paid to Perimekar Sdn. Bhd. Perimekar at the time was owned by a company called K.S. Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd.—later by two other companies as well—which was in turn owned by Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda, the Najib adviser who stood trial for abetting the murder of the Mongolian woman. The Defense Ministry denied paying a commission and said Peremkear was awarded a genuine contract to support the acquisition of the submarines.

Why UMNO would opt for such a beleaguered leader says a lot about the mood of the party and the depth of the crisis confronting it. Just how much Mr. Najib represents the old order and not a fresh start is reflected in one salient fact: Although Mr. Najib at 55 years of age is considerably younger than Mr. Abdullah, 69, Mr. Najib has been active in politics longer. And yet, within UMNO Mr. Najib is the only candidate to succeed Mr. Abdullah as president. After a series of rule changes during the lengthy Dr. Mahathir presidency, UMNO is tightly controlled, with power concentrated at the top—at division, state and national level—and the 3.2 million ordinary members having little say in party affairs. UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a finance minister from a bygone era, attempted to challenge Mr. Najib, but needed nomination by 30%, or fifty-eight, of UMNO’s 191 divisions, one of many rules adopted to protect the leadership. Tengku Razaleigh got one nomination, his own Gua Musang division.

Musa Hitam, a former deputy prime minister and respected party elder, has diagnosed UMNO’s problem as one of old age, with “introverted” party leaders preoccupied with self-interest and oblivious to public concerns about corruption, abuse of power and lack of accountability. The accuracy of his assessment was demonstrated as UMNO heavyweights maneuvered late last year to discard Mr. Abdullah, reluctant to allow him time to implement promised anticorruption, judicial and other reforms. Indeed, influential sections of UMNO strongly resisted the reforms, apparently fearful that independent agencies and courts might put an end to many of the money-making arrangements that have alienated the public. No discernible progress was made in combating so-called “money politics,” an entrenched system of payments in cash and kind that puts a price on nearly every post in UMNO in expectation of contracts and other business opportunities in return.

UMNO, of course, is not Mr. Najib’s only immediate concern. With limited experience in finance, he must prepare to steer Malaysia through the global recession that is engulfing the region. He also is under pressure to address the extremely sensitive issue of affirmative action, still known colloquially by its original name, the New Economic Policy. This is a source of acute unhappiness among not just ethnic Chinese and Indians, but also increasing numbers of Malays without the right political connections. Economists and business executives blame the nep for undermining Malaysia’s competitiveness when China and India loom large, while much of the corruption that taints UMNO can be traced to abuses in various nep programs to assist bumiputras, predominantly Malays.

Mr. Najib as well must match wits with the opposition’s Anwar Ibrahim, a skilled, articulate and seasoned political strategist whom Mr. Najib was happy to acknowledge as a superior when they were allies in UMNO. Mr. Anwar has long declared that Mr. Najib is not an acceptable leader of Malaysia while he fails to clear doubts about both the murder and military commissions. It may not quite add up to a perfect storm that will break over Mr. Najib’s head when he is installed as premier, but he is unlikely to be given the customary honeymoon period that would allow him to settle in with ease.

More energetic and purposeful than Mr. Abdullah, however, Mr. Najib is aware of the need to respond promptly to the multitude of challenges, according to the long-time associate. He points to the action Mr. Najib took after he nearly lost his parliamentary seat 10 years ago as an example of his ability to focus on a problem. In the 1999 general election, dominated by Mr. Anwar’s dismissal and marked by mass defections from UMNO, Mr. Najib’s 10,793 majority in Pekan fell to just 241 votes. Shocked and conceding he had been guilty of neglect, says the associate, Mr. Najib subsequently visited the constituency regularly and encouraged development that helped turn Pekan town into an industrial hub to complement its agricultural base. In the 2004 election, even allowing for the gains from Mr. Abdullah’s overwhelming victory and a drastic boundary delineation exercise that almost doubled the number of Pekan voters, Mr. Najib’s winning margin was stratospheric: 22,922 votes. And he substantially increased his majority to 26,464 last year, despite the government being struck by what was called an electoral tsunami.

Traditionally Malay, Mr. Najib has always taken pains not to appear overly ambitious, preferring to do his politicking behind the scenes with the help of allies. In retrospect, it was a sensible strategy under Prime Minister Mahathir, since he eliminated three prominent UMNO rivals, two of them his deputies, whom he felt threatened his leadership. Buoyed by his pedigree, Mr. Najib has long given colleagues the impression that he expects to inherit his father’s crown in time by patiently building bases in the bureaucracy, business and UMNO. His vast network of loyalists makes him the best connected politician in Malaysia. Many of his followers in the party go all the way back to when he was UMNO Youth chief, says political analyst Joceline Tan, and now a large number of them are heads of divisions, “powerful warlords who call the shots on the ground.”

Significantly, it was when Mr. Najib was acting head of UMNO Youth in 1987 that he sounded a discordant racial note, which raised questions about him in the minds of non-Malays and dogged him for years. It came as communal tension had been building for weeks and he led a huge rally in Kuala Lumpur to confront what was perceived as a Chinese threat to Malay special rights. In the air were ethnic grievances on both sides, though the immediate issue was the government appointment of non-Mandarin-speaking Chinese to administrative posts in Chinese-medium primary schools. As party barriers were overrun by ethnicity, two National Front members, the Malaysian Chinese Association and Gerakan, joined with the opposition Democratic Action Party on occasions in defense of Chinese interests. Mr. Najib was photographed at the demonstration with several other UMNO Youth leaders, wearing white headbands with fists raised, above a banner naming four high-profile opponents, all ethnic Chinese and Indian (though one was a Muslim) and the words, “destroy them.” Followers waved other banners bearing racially provocative slogans. “Our elders should not compromise anymore,” said Mr. Najib. “We are simply fed up.”

Over the years, Mr. Najib was thought to have lived down any suggestion that he is a Malay supremacist. Most analysts attributed his lapse to youthful enthusiasm to prove his Malay credentials and confirm his leadership of UMNO Youth. Almost nobody who knows him thinks he harbors anti-Chinese or anti-Indian sentiment. But the past may be returning to haunt him, as some opponents harp again on the 1987 incident and embellish it with all sorts of extremist actions. A recent opinion poll showing Mr. Najib’s support among Chinese and Indian Malaysians to be only half or one-third that of Malays indicated the campaign to paint him as an extremist may be having an impact. Mr. Najib himself remains sensitive to accusations of chauvinism. “I’m not racist,” he volunteered privately to an opposition member of parliament after last year’s electoral setback, pointing out he had Chinese friends to affirm it.

Another reason middle-class Malaysians remember the 1987 episode is that Dr. Mahathir used the ethnic conflict to justify the biggest crackdown on dissent in Malaysia’s history, codenamed Operation Lalang. The police arrested 119 people over a few months and held them without trial under the Internal Security Act. They included the then parliamentary opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang, other members of parliament and state assemblies, academics and many social activists who had not participated in the ugly communal exchanges. Some, including Mr. Lim, were jailed for two years. It remained a sore point in the community that none of the prominent UMNO protest organizers, especially Mr. Najib, was detained.

Mr. Najib did himself no favor when he declared in 2007 that Malaysia was an Islamic state and had never been secular, igniting a firestorm. His comment contradicted the historical record and split Mr. Abdullah’s cabinet and the community when the country was supposed to be celebrating 50 years of independence. While Mr. Abdullah sought to quell the debate with a statement that Malaysia was neither a theocratic nor a secular state but a parliamentary democracy, Chinese and Indians found a further reason to be wary of Mr. Najib.
Nonideological like most UMNO politicians, Mr. Najib has moved in and out of informal political alliances as opportunities presented themselves. Crucially, he supported Prime Minister Mahathir in 1987, when he was challenged for the party presidency by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who had been groomed by Mr. Najib’s late father.

Mr. Najib was part of Anwar Ibrahim’s so-called Vision Team that swept into office in UMNO in 1993, when Mr. Anwar marshaled so much support he forced then Deputy Prime Minister Ghafar Baba to withdraw from the contest for deputy president of the party. Comprising then Youth and Sports Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and then Selangor Chief Minister Muhammad Muhammad Taib, as well as Mr. Najib, the Vision Team took all three vice president’s posts, though the team disintegrated the following year.

Mr. Najib’s allegiance to Dr. Mahathir eventually paid off, though not before Mr. Najib suffered a huge disappointment and endured many anxious moments about his future. In 1998, Dr. Mahathir passed over Mr. Najib and chose Mr. Abdullah Badawi, a former member of Tengku Razaleigh’s dissident faction, to replace the sacked Mr. Anwar as deputy prime minister. Dr. Mahathir explained later that he hoped Mr. Abdullah would occupy the prime minister’s office for one term and then make way for the younger Mr. Najib. In fact, Mr. Najib—more personable, eloquent and better educated, with a degree in industrial economics—was Dr. Mahathir’s first preference to succeed him. But since he had dismissed Mr. Anwar as morally unfit and the government was under pressure from the sectarian Parti Islam SeMalaysia (pas), Dr. Mahathir opted for Mr. Abdullah, who did not smoke or drink and had impeccable Islamic credentials.

Although Mr. Abdullah duly named Mr. Najib his deputy in 2003, he did so only after Dr. Mahathir publicly pressured him, and Mr. Abdullah later showed no interest in retiring after his first term. As Dr. Mahathir waged open warfare on Mr. Abdullah from 2006 for abandoning many of the former premier’s projects and policies, he tried to goad Mr. Najib into open revolt against the prime minister, at one point branding him a “coward” for not doing so. But Mr. Najib preferred to wait for his turn, publicly playing the loyal deputy while working his extensive factional network in UMNO to ensure his succession.

Although long, Mr. Najib’s record offers few clues as to how he might approach his prime ministerial assignment, beyond acting cautiously and pragmatically. So light has been his ministerial touch, except in defense, that it is hard to establish where he stands on major issues, or how he would like Malaysia to adapt to the strong currents buffeting the country, from globalization externally to so-called “creeping Islamization” within. The charitable explanation is that he was long overshadowed by the dominant Dr. Mahathir, who involved himself in almost every major policy his administration pursued for 22 years.

One area where Mr. Najib did leave his mark is education, although typically it was Dr. Mahathir who took the initiative to liberalize policies in an effort to turn Malaysia into an education hub in the region. Education Minister from 1995-99, Mr. Najib introduced in 1996 the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act, which allowed private foreign universities to establish campuses in Malaysia and grant degrees. It was one of several measures that created more options for students, especially nonbumiputras. The number of private universities rose to 16 in 2001 from zero in 1995, while the number of private colleges more than quadrupled to 690 in 2001 from 156 in 1992. Mr. Najib also pleased nonbumiputras by amending other legislation so that the minister no longer had the power to convert Chinese- and Tamil-medium primary schools into national schools. The Chinese and Indian communities interpreted the move as strengthening existing commitments that they would continue to have their own mother-tongue education.

As a survivor who has been through the mill and does not fluster easily, Mr. Najib faces a challenge not unlike what confronted his father, Razak, after the 1969 general election, the only other time that the Malaysian government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority. After bloody racial riots in the wake of the poll and the suspension of Parliament, Razak broadened the three-party Alliance into the National Front by co-opting opposition parties to widen its appeal, and adopted the nep to help close the economic gap between the Malays and the Chinese. Nearly 40 years later, one key to Mr. Najib’s success may be to dismantle his father’s economic legacy, which is now impeding development, widening inequality and perpetuating ethnic fissures in society. Mr. Anwar has proposed a Malaysian Economic Agenda to replace the nep and help all needy Malaysians rather than bumiputras alone. As Mr. Najib’s brother, Nazir Razak, chief executive of Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd., the country’s second largest bank, observed, “It doesn’t take much genius to look at some of the present policies arising from the nep that are undermining national unity and also investment.”

Overhauling the nep would take political courage, however, since any dilution of affirmative action potentially threatens the entire patronage network on which the UMNO edifice is built. And, in Mr. Najib’s case, he has been put in charge, implicitly, to nurture and protect the system rather than undermine or overturn it. His limited room for maneuver was obvious when he commented that the nep would be liberalized and eventually abolished. Although the backlash from vested Malay interests forced him to retreat, Mr. Najib persisted with the liberalization of rules covering new listings on Bursa Malaysia. Stressing that 30% bumiputra equity participation remains government policy, he said companies that could not attract bumiputra investors would be able to sell their shares to the wider public. A relatively bold move, it is likely to be the model as Mr. Najib proceeds with his juggling act: to maintain the form but gradually abolish the substance of the nep.

For similar reasons, Mr. Najib is unlikely to attempt to clean up UMNO, since that would antagonize the divisional warlords and others who delivered the votes for him and now expect to reap the business rewards. As the close associate of Mr. Najib puts it, “He won’t cut his own throat.” Having been protected from challenge by the widely criticized quota system in UMNO elections, Mr. Najib has retained it. And he has dampened expectations that he will put a quick end to corruption in the party, which is so endemic that Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen, chairman of UMNO’s disciplinary board, suggested the elimination of four subordinate wings, including the male and female youth sections, in an effort to reduce the number of internal elections and limit bribery to buy posts. Ruling out such radical surgery, Mr. Najib said vote-buying in the party must be fought with “political will,” thus adopting much the same stance as his predecessors.

Mr. Najib has talked often of the need for the National Front to change to meet public aspirations, warning that “If we don’t have the courage to change, the people will change us” at the next general election. But almost everything about Mr. Najib proclaims the status quo. Among other things, he has defended the Internal Security Act, adopted originally to counter communist subversion, though sometimes used by the government against legitimate political opponents and even by one faction of UMNO against another. While praising the Internal Security Act for keeping Malaysia safe from terrorism, Mr. Najib acknowledged “some controversies relating to how the act has been used lately,” which he said would be addressed at an unspecified point “in future.” As academic analyst Ooi Kee Beng wrote, “No nominee for the top posts in the coming party elections can be taken seriously as a possible agent of change.”

Leading the government campaign in two high-profile by-elections, Mr. Najib lapsed easily into old habits, notwithstanding his rhetoric extolling change. After Mr. Anwar scored heavily last August to regain his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat, conveniently kept warm for a decade by his wife, Mr. Najib called on UMNO to reclaim the party’s dignity by retaining the Kuala Terengganu constituency it won in 2008. UMNO fielded a deputy minister who, though locally born, had served as the prime minister’s political secretary and was seen as elitist and identified with Mr. Abdullah’s discredited leadership. To compound the error, Mr. Najib tried to buy victory the familiar way by doling out tens of millions of U.S. dollars in projects, including government contracts for nearly 600 Malay small-contractors on one occasion. Still he failed to meet the mood for change in the country, and the seat fell to the opposition.

Once in office, Mr. Najib is expected to rejuvenate the government by appointing a number of new ministers and tightening management of the country. He will try to meet economic goals by reducing waste and improving performance in a bloated and fairly inefficient bureaucracy, according to associates. Recognizing that he will not be able to disband the patronage network, the associates suggest, Mr. Najib will seek to open the system and spread the benefits more widely.

A pertinent question is how well the blue-blooded Mr. Najib can relate to ordinary Malaysians and persuade them he feels their pain in the economic downturn. One of the Four Noblemen of the Pahang Royal Court by virtue of an inherited title, Mr. Najib completed his secondary education at a boy’s college in Worcestershire before attending Nottingham University. Polished, with receding gray hair and moustache, he speaks competent English and cuts a worldly figure. “I am equally comfortable sitting in a surau in my constituency or having dinner at Simpson’s on the Strand,” he was once quoted as saying, referring to an upscale London restaurant. Some of his comments, though, have suggested he might be more at home with cosmopolitan diners than local worshippers. Mr. Najib’s recommendation, in response to unpopular fuel price rises in 2006, that people adjust their lifestyle, “like using public transport,” struck many as similar to the “let them eat cake” comment popularly attributed to Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution. Two years later, Mr. Najib still seemed to be grasping for the common touch, when he advised UMNO leaders to be humble and friendly towards “village folk,” whom he said were not hard to please. “When we are in our car, we cannot fall asleep as we won’t be able to wave back at them,” he said. “Otherwise they could feel hurt.”

A danger for Mr. Najib is that he has left himself exposed to ridicule by his fiercest political opponents, who will not accord him the minimum respect due to a Malaysian leader. At points during the Kuala Terengganu by-election, as in Permatang Pauh earlier, he was greeted with posters of the murdered Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, and chants of “Al-tan-tu-ya,” or worse. The protesters were invariably supporters of Mr. Anwar’s People’s Justice Party. Mr. Najib seemed to recognize the excruciating embarrassment when he sent a private message to dap leaders, Secretary General Lim Guan Eng and his father, Lim Kit Siang. Mr. Najib told a dap legislator he appreciated the Lims for not “being personal,” meaning that in their criticism of the Mongolian case they have stopped short of vilifying him.

Implicitly confirming that he sees Mr. Anwar as his prime threat and target, Mr. Najib also told the opposition legislator that he would like to find ways to cooperate with the dap-led Penang state government. pas has not given priority to the murder, believing most Malays have made up their minds and there are few votes to be won on the issue. While the dap has pursued the matter, it has focused more on the legality of the case rather directing accusations at Mr. Najib. In addition to making life uncomfortable for Mr. Najib over the killing, Mr. Anwar, with his organizational skills, is seen as the lynchpin of the People’s Front, which groups the three opposition parties. Mr. Najib recognizes that the Anwar bandwagon must be derailed if UMNO and the National Front are to survive.

Mr. Anwar and Mr. Najib have been headed for a showdown since mid-2008, when Mr. Anwar was charged, for the second time in a decade, with sodomy. After photos surfaced showing Mr. Anwar’s accuser, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, with a Najib aide, Mr. Najib said Mr. Saiful had visited his office three months earlier in relation to a government scholarship. Later, though, Mr. Najib admitted Mr. Saiful had visited his home and discussed the alleged sexual attack before lodging a police complaint against Mr. Anwar. Opposition claims of a conspiracy against Mr. Anwar included pointing the finger of suspicion at Mr. Najib.

Considering that opinion polls have shown that most Malaysians do not believe the allegations against Mr. Anwar and that they are damaging the country’s reputation, Prime Minister Najib could consider dropping the charges. It might relieve some of the pressure on the government and deny Mr. Anwar a platform to claim persecution and attract more sympathy and support at home and abroad. But judging by Mr. Najib’s intervention in Perak in February, in which he encouraged defections to topple the People’s Front state government, he is eager to indulge what have been called his “street-fighting instincts” against Mr. Anwar. The prospect of securing a conviction and eliminating Mr. Anwar from politics, however slim, may prove irresistible.

Some critics have suggested that Mr. Najib, with Dr. Mahathir’s backing, might be tempted to return to Dr. Mahathir’s authoritarian ways and use political turmoil as a pretext for detaining opponents or declaring emergency rule. But, initially at least, Mr. Najib hopes to win support by conversation rather than coercion. In September, he launched a website (www.1Malaysia.com.my), which he was at pains to describe as personal, not official, so the public could engage in “open and honest dialogue directly” with him. “I do not believe in the politics of ‘deceive, divide and rule.’ Returning to our long-held belief in unity and mutual respect is more important now than ever,” he said in his initial message.
Although Mr. Najib pronounced himself happy with the response, three months before he was due to replace Mr. Abdullah, only 41% of Malaysians thought Mr. Najib would be a good prime minister. Even the inept Mr. Abdullah had a 46% approval rating in the poll, conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre. After waiting more than three decades for his moment to lead the nation, Najib Razak is taking over “without the burden of overly high expectations,” as one report put it, but burdened on almost every other score.

Barry Wain, a former editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia, is author of the forthcoming Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mahamad in Turbulent Times.

REPRESSION, RACE, RELIGION AND ROYALTY

The Police are used to arrest and prohibit the people from exercising their constitutional freedoms of assembly and free speech. Peaceful demonstrations are brutally stopped by tear gas and water cannons of chemicals. Ceramahs in Perak are banned. Candle light vigils in Petaling Jaya are declared illegal. Lodging police reports are prohibited.

UMNO’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS OR DISASTER

Desperate Times and Desperate Measures

On the anniversary of People’s Power, Makkal Shakthi and Ren Min De Li Liang, a review of UMNO’s response to their worst showing in 51 years show that UMNO have failed to reinvent itself to meet the people’s aspirations for a healthy democratic competition of a two party system. On the contrary, it has chosen to go down the road of repression and racial extremism. The Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO President in waiting said that desperate times call for desperate measures. The power grab in Perak and destabilization attempts of the Pakatan Government in Kedah and Selangor are desperate measures. As UMNO loses its popular support it relies on repression to cling on to power thereby becoming an illegitimate regime. As a consequence, UMNO has to stir emotional issues of race, religion and royalty to mask its unlawful and undemocratic rule. This stratagem may work unless the people act with courage and conviction to resist this usurpation of the people’s powers.

Whenever Law Ends, Tyranny Begins

According to the theory of government, each of us as individuals has rights. Each of us for the purpose of an ordered society gives some of these rights to the government. The government must exercise these rights and powers for the interest of the common good. John Locke in his Second Essay of Civil Government said that the government becomes a usurper and a tyrant when the powers of the government are exercised not for the common good but for their own private advantage. He said:

“Whenever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate, and acting without authority may be opposed, as any other man who by force invades the right of another.”

The history of civilization, is the history of the cycle of oppression and liberation. The word most frequently used to describe oppression is tyranny. According to tradition, once it is established that a ruler has become a tyrant, he forfeits the moral right to govern and the people acquire a right to resist and protect their interest against the injustice and oppression. A tyrannical regime has no legitimacy. It may be the de facto government and it may be recognized by other governments and is therefore the de jure government, but if it is a tyrannical regime, it is from a moral point of view, illegitimate. The people then have a moral duty to rise up and oppose the illegitimate regime.

UMNO used the ISA to detain the HINDRAF leaders, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Selangor Exco member, Teresa Kok and the Sin Chew reporter. This was not done to protect the common good but to protect UMNO’s rule.

The Police are used to arrest and prohibit the people from exercising their constitutional freedoms of assembly and free speech. Peaceful demonstrations are brutally stopped by tear gas and water cannons of chemicals. Ceramahs in Perak are banned. Candle light vigils in Petaling Jaya are declared illegal. Lodging police reports are prohibited.

Government institutions are perverted and subverted. Senior Civil Servants by disingenuous arguments make shamelessly biased decisions to panda to their political masters’ desires.

In Perak, the Election Commission refused to call for bye-elections after the Perak Speaker declared the 3 seats vacant. The State Secretary booted out the Menteri Besar and the Exco when a motion of no confidence on the Menteri Besar has yet to be tabled in the Assembly. The Police cordoned off the State Assembly Building to prevent the elected representatives from attending. The assembly secretary countermands the Speaker’s call for a sitting, then locks the doors of the assembly hall and throws away the keys for good measure. The state assembly has to be held under a refuge of a rain tree. We now have Rain Tree Democracy. The Judicial Commissioner disqualified a litigant’s duly appointed lawyer and appointed the opponent’s lawyer for the litigant against his wish. This is a kangaroo court dispensing Palm Tree Justice.

In Selangor, MACC issued a public statement that it had found there was a good case of corruption against the Selangor Menteri Besar, YAB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. If putting petrol into his car used for state official functions and donating cows to the poor are corrupt acts, why is receiving RM530 Million for buying a submarine not?! The Commissioner has violated the first principle of justice that a man is presumed innocent until he is convicted. The Commissioner had become prosecutor, judge and jury. In the case of Elizabeth Wong, there was a media frenzy in violating her privacy as the media rushed in like sharks to kill her political career. That was not journalism. That was gutter politics.

In Kedah, YB Arumugam had to resign as the state exco member and state assemblymen to safeguard his family from harm. After attempted bribery failed they threatened and kidnapped him to coerce him to crossover. Although he identified the perpetrator, the police released the perpetrator allowing him to make further threats. YB Lim Soo Nee and YB Tan Wei Xu received bullets when they rejected offers of several million Ringgit to cross over. Although a video had been taken by the then BPR officer of the negotiations and offer the only action taken by the MACC was to transfer the officer.

UMNO has betrayed the peoples’ trust in transgressing the powers given for its own ends. It has become a tyrannical regime.

The Illegitimate Regime

A tyrannical regime cannot continue to rule for very long without becoming more and more violent. As the majority of the people begin to demand their rights to put pressure on the tyrant, so will the tyrant resort to more and more desperate, cruel, gross and ruthless forms of tyranny and repression. The reign of a tyrant always ends up as a reign of terror. It is inevitable because from the start the tyrant is an enemy of the common good.

UMNO has lost the moral authority to govern. As the oppressed majority becomes more and more insistent and puts more and more pressure on UMNO, we will see UMNO taking more and more repressive measures. There can only be more and more detentions, bans, propaganda, declaration of a state of emergency and other desperate and tyrannical measures. This is because UMNO cannot reform. The people have a moral duty and obligation to oppose the illegitimate regime.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail wrote:

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. There are two types of laws: just and unjust. One has not only a legal but also a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility not to obey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all.”

It is our moral responsibility to oppose an unjust regime and to return the government to the people. Barack Obama is President of the United States of America today, because Martin Luther King Jr. and the people had dared to stand up for change. We have to make our stand today if we want our children to live in a just and fair society tomorrow. If not Malaysia will be a country where every one lives in fear. Harry Truman said:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

An illegitimate regime must be opposed. We must be brave enough to come out of the darkness of fear and step into the light of justice and liberty.

Assumptions for Sustaining the Repressive Regime

UMNO is counting on four assumptions to sustain their repressive regime:-

Firstly: A few in the ruling elite is able to oppress the majority through the use of force on the few dissidents to deter the others;

Secondly: There will be government officials willing to perform the various functions to maintain the regime. These include surveillance, arrest, the running of prisons and detention camps, controlling the court system and the general management of the government;

Thirdly: The opposition is fractious and will not be able to coordinate in a manner to offer an effective challenge;

Fourthly: The use of emotional and sensitive issues will provide the ideology required for the selected majority to sustain the regime;

This strategy is a time tested and proven formula. It was used with great success by Tun Dr. Mahathir each time he faced a challenge.

Vice Cannot Replace Virtue

The first assumption is based on the premise that all individuals are prudently rational individuals. It assumes that each individual acts where there is a positive payoff and not act when there is none. The assumption rest on the rational behavior of the individual that if he acts to seek change and there are insufficient others who do, there will be no change and he will suffer the sanctions by the repressive apparatus of the oppressors without any gains. If he does not act and there are sufficient others who do, there will be change and he will gain the benefits of change without incurring personal costs. Therefore it is rational for him not to act. This is the lone gunman theory. This is the reason why a lone gunman can hold several persons hostage. Each hostage knows that if all of the hostages are to pool their resources together, they will be able to overcome the gunman. However, they also know that the first to make a move will be shot. So they are unable to act because no one wants to be the first to be shot. This is why the Hindraf leaders have been detained without trial. Rallies are turned into illegal assemblies and Pakatan leaders are charged from sodomy, illegal assembly to corruption or visited by invasion of privacy and have their reputation smeared. This is the lone gunman warning the others that they will suffer the same fate if they try to move.

This assumption is flawed because the Pakatan leaders like Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Tok Guru Nik Aziz seek change not based on whether others will follow but that it is their moral duty and obligation to society to do so. They seek change because they believe in the moral values and virtues of a just society. The UMNO model does not work with individuals actuated by moral values. Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in his book, Asian Renaissance:

“The euphoria induced by the remarkable economic growth must also not blind us to the parallel rise in corruption, bribery, nepotism and abuse of power. Vice cannot take the place of virtue whatever may be the ends.”

These leaders believe in the values of truth, virtue, integrity and justice. They have no fear of the lone gunman. In challenging the regime, the assumption and hold of the lone gunman is broken. Their courage and conviction to seek change have given hope to the masses. The masses now dare to believe that change can happen. This is the meaning of the New Dawn, Harapan Baru, the New Hope. The many and diverse oppressed individuals and groups now dare to stand up. This is the meaning of Tsunami Politics. From Perlis to Sarawak, the long suppressed desire for liberty from oppression will gush forth. From every corner of the nation all will stand up together and UMNO will not be able to stem the tide.

Discourse is not Dissent

The second assumption that the opposition parties are fractious is flawed. Discourse is not dissent. The public and UMNO after 26 years of iron rule by Tun Dr. Mahathir are not used to public discourse. This is because in Barisan Nasional, UMNO brokes no dissent. In Pakatan, discussions are held until a consensus is reached in the course of which every party’s interest is taken into consideration. When all three parties are seeking truth there can be no dispute because there is only one truth. In the past each was seeking the truth from a different path, today, we all walk together on the same road to truth and justice. There is no coordination problem in Pakatan.

Government Servants

The third assumption that there will be officers who will do the oppressors bidding is also flawed. Although there are a few who have dishonored their profession, not all will fail. For each one that failed many others will carry out their duties with honor and dignity. There will be enough officers whose dislike for the illegitimacy and immorality of the regime will return the government agencies to the correct path.

Ideology

The assumption is that the emotional and sensitive issues will be sufficient for the Malays to keep the illegitimate regime in power. This is flawed because upon raising the consciousness of the Malays to the truth, this assumption will fail. The enlightened members of society must work hard to persuade the rest of the oppressed majority that the regime is fundamentally illegitimate because it is exploitative, it is corrupted and that the true benefactors of the corrupt system are the elitist oppressors and not them. Ketuanan Melayu will never bring harmony to Malaysia. Ketuanan Melayu cannot succeed because no regime can be sustained on hate, corruption, immorality and abuse of power. It is only with Ketuanan Rakyat that we will be able to raise the nation to the heights that God had intended when we see our diversity as our strengths and not our weakness

New Hope

The desperate strategy of repression, race, religion and royalty has serious flaws. It is a recipe for disaster for UMNO. There will be regime change. It is no longer a question of IF but a question of WHEN. Mahatma Ghandi said:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it… always.”

We must take action, we must strive and persevere but we can take heart that in the end truth and love always wins. Think of it … always.

Sigh……how do we educate Malaysians?

Image

Today, I want to talk about these three news items from The Star. I admit I have already elaborated on these issues in great detail in the past. For all intents and purposes, I am merely repeating myself. But it appears they are still harping on these issues so I have no choice but to continue flogging what I view as a dead horse.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

1) Massive gatherings mark Prophet Muhammad’s birthday
The Star

Muslims from all walks of life came together in massive gatherings to celebrate Maulidur Rasul yesterday. (Read more here: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/10/nation/3443858&sec=nation)

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2) Lam Thye: Why question English policy now?
The Star

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has defended the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and Science.

“Why question it now? I am surprised that there are groups who are questioning the policy after it has been in place for six years. There is nothing wrong with the policy, although there might be weaknesses in its implementation,” he said when contacted yesterday. (Read more here: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/10/nation/3440633&sec=nation)

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3) Make stand on Islamic state, MCA Youth tells DAP
The Star

The DAP should stop being “two-faced” and declare its stand on the Islamic state issue, said MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong.

Dr Wee said that whenever PAS spoke about an Islamic state, DAP would contradict the party’s Islamic state agenda before the media and public.

“It appears that DAP is playing a two-face role, whereby DAP rejects the Islamic state in front of non-Muslims but supports hudud and qisas when dealing with PAS,” he said in a statement. (Read more here: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/3/10/nation/3441315&sec=nation)

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On the first item above, about the massive turnout to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, I have this to say.

There is nothing wrong in celebrating birthdays -- whether it is your Prophet’s, your wife’s, your parents’, your children’s, your friends’, or whatever. But can you imagine celebrating your close friend’s birthday and then slandering him or her after that? Would this not be viewed as hypocrisy? If you treasure or value that person enough to want to celebrate his or her birthday, would you not want to say nice things instead of bad things about him or her?

You honour a Prophet not merely by marching on the streets and by chanting praises to him -- although, as I said, there is nothing wrong in that if that is how you wish to celebrate the birthday. Of course, some Muslims would regard this is bida’ah or a deviant practice. They would argue that Prophet Muhammad decreed that Muslims must follow his example and since here are no records of Prophet Muhammad ever celebrating his birthday would that, therefore, not be considered as deviating from what the Prophet had decreed?

Anyway, today I do not wish to engage in a debate as to whether celebrating the Prophet’s birthday is wrong or right. In case you did not know, according to what the historians tell us, Prophet Muhammad died on his birthday so you are actually celebrating both his birthday and ‘death-day’ at the same time.

If you really want to honour the Prophet, then the best way would be to do so by following his teachings. And what, you may ask, did the Prophet teach us?

To answer that question would require volumes upon volumes of thesis and could never be covered in these four or five pages. I will, however, in as brief as possible, try to summarise my thoughts on the matter.

There are many Hadith or sayings of the Prophet, which are considered part of the holy text and a close second to the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam. Some of these Hadith relate the story of Abu Hurairah, the most notable of narrators of Hadith, as being horse-whipped by Omar, the Second Caliph of Islam -- who ruled after Abu Bakar, the First Caliph. According to this particular Hadith, Omar once whipped Abu Hurairah and ordered him to never again write any false Hadith or else he shall be whacked all the way back to Yemen, Abu Hurairah’s country of origin as well as that of our Malaysian Minister, Syed Hamid Albar.

Another Hadith relates how, one night, Omar could not sleep and was tossing and turning in his bed. He was feeling guilty because he had written down what the Prophet had said and he knew that was wrong. He got up and burned what he had written and only after that could he sleep soundly.

Then, yet another Hadith, relates the story about Prophet Muhammad walking by and, seeing Abu Bakar writing something, asked him what it was he was writing. Abu Bakar replied he was writing what the Prophet had said a short while ago and it is said the Prophet got angry and told him to destroy what he had written. The Prophet then instructed Abu Bakar to inform all others who had written anything he had said to also destroy them. The Prophet did not want anything other than the Quran on record to avoid disputes in future.

Now, these are all accepted Hadith. But these Hadith relate stories about how Prophet Muhammad has banned Hadith. The Prophet wants only the Quran to be the guidance for Muslims.

Maybe the Prophet knew something we all don’t. Can you see how, when the non-Muslims whack Islam, they use the Hadith as their point of reference? These people quote the many Hadith in their arguments to ‘prove’ that Islam is not what it appears to be. Take yesterday’s letter from The Anti Jihadist (RPK, a liar for Islam, or just incredibly ignorant?) as a case in point.

If you accept Hadith as valid, then many Hadith relate stories of Prophet Muhammad forbidding Hadith. How do Muslims reconcile this issue? But if you don’t accept Hadith, as many Muslims today do not, then the issue is a non-issue. But then the Hadith that relates stories of the Prophet forbidding Hadith would also go out the window.

The best way to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s teachings would not be by marching and chanting. The best way would be to remember him by remembering his teachings. But Muslims are still very ignorant as to what his teachings are. So they resent what they perceive as non-Muslims criticising Islam. They consider this a crime.

Prophet Muhammad was the person who delivered the Quran -- not only to Muslims, but to all mankind. And if the Quran was what the Prophet taught us then Muslims must be aware that the Quran never forbade criticism. Instead, the Quran asks us to engage the critics in a civil, matured and gentle manner. No harsh words should be used and we must not be confrontational in our approach. This is what the Quran says so this is also what the Prophet wants us to do.

But do Muslims do this? First they want to ban any criticism of Islam or of the Prophet. They want to make it a crime and to punish anyone who they perceive as insulting Islam or the Prophet. And non-Muslims judge Islam by what Muslims do, not by what the Quran says. Yes, non-Muslims have a low opinion of Islam. But this is only because we act in a manner that gives Islam this poor image. And they will quote certain Hadith to support their arguments, which in the first place the Prophet has clearly forbidden, according, ironically, to the Hadith itself.

Muslims need to go back to the drawing board and try to ‘rediscover’ Islam. That would be how the Prophet would like to be remembered. That would be also how the Prophet would like his birthday cum death-day celebrated. And Muslims would be doing the Prophet a great service by first understanding Islam so that they can then make the non-Muslims also understand Islam.

On the second news item about the English language, Lam Thye was only half-right. He only spoke about the weak implementation of teaching English for science and maths. Actually, we have a weak education system, full stop.

When we stifled the education system by banning students from thinking that was when our education system started going downhill. The Japanese learn in Japanese, the Thais in Thai, the Indonesians in Indonesian, and so on. If you want to go to France to study you need to first learn French. Has using languages other than English ever been a problem for non-English speaking countries?

However, in these countries I quoted, they allow students to think. In Malaysia, we do not allow the same. We even have laws that make it a crime for students to get involved in politics.

Students must be allowed to think. They must be allowed to dissent if they wish to. Only through activism will students develop. Telling students what they can and cannot think does not help them develop. This is where the problem lies.

They can speak Swahili for all I care. But as long as they are allowed to think and can think for themselves then they can develop into the type of people we would like them to. But to treat students as if they were children would mean they would grow up to become children.

Innovation can’t be stifled. By stifling the freedom to develop means we are stifling growth itself. And that is why Malaysian students can’t develop. It is not about the language. It is about what we have not allowed them to become.

On MCA’s challenge to DAP: DAP has said time and again that it is opposed to the Islamic State. Why keep harping on the issue? How many times does DAP have to repeat it is opposed to the Islamic State?

DAP opposes the Islamic State. It has said so many, many times. Can we now let the matter rest before this develops into a Muslim versus non-Muslim skirmish the likes of ‘May 13’? Really, who needs a religious ‘war’ painting the streets of Kuala Lumpur red like what we have seen in many other countries?

MCA is hoping that DAP will melatah and say something silly so that this will drive a wedge between the three component members of Pakatan Rakyat. The Malays call this cucuk. They want to cucuk DAP so that the party utters some negative comments about PAS and/or Islam.

I really hope DAP will not be stupid enough to walk into MCA’s trap. Some of the DAP leaders have been in politics since I was still a schoolboy, but sometimes they act like amateurs who don’t know a trap even if it bit them in their backsides.

MCA is trying to make it appear that Islam is bad and therefore DAP must, yet again, whack the Islamic State to show it is not also bad. Hello…..where are Umno and the Islamic NGOs? Aren’t they going to make police reports and demonstrate in front of the MCA headquarters in Jalan Ampang? MCA is turning the Islamic State into a bogeyman, and on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on top of that.

Hudud and Qisas are laws which the Muslims regard as God’s laws. No doubt Malaysia is a Secular State and not a Theocratic State, so Islamic laws can’t be imposed in this country. But why can’t we leave it at that? Why must MCA paint a scenario that PAS is bad because the Islamic laws that PAS talks about are bad -- and therefore DAP must prove it is not also bad by whacking PAS? The issue is presented as an Islamic State is bad and unless DAP whacks Islam then DAP is also bad.

Aiyoyo MCA. Be careful with what you say. I am liberal enough to allow dissent and criticism of Islam and/or the Prophet. I will not ask for your blood to be spilt. But there are people like JAKIM and JAKUN who will make police reports and will ask you to be detained without trial under the Internal Security Act.

Hell, even I who have been accused of being a Muslim ‘apologist’ because I am always defending Islam have been accused of insulting Islam and have suffered detention. What more you MCA people who are trying to use Islam as the whipping boy in your efforts to whack DAP? I mean, whack DAP if you want to. But why must you whack DAP on grounds that DAP has not whacked Islam enough?

A NOVICE IPOH HIGH COURT JUDICIAL COMMISSIONER MISINTERPRETES LAWS OF MALAYSIA, INSTEAD USES UMNO LAW

Various legal experts have clearly proven that the Judicial Commissioner at the Ipoh High Court, Ridwan Ibrahim had wrongly interpreted the law when he applied to hear and decide on the cases pertaining to the current feud faced by the Pakatan Rakyat and the Barisan Nasional parties.

The JC had barred the Perak Speaker's personal lawyers from representing for him on the objections raised by the Opponent's lawyers by misinterpreting Section 24 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956, by suggesting that the Speaker is a public officer and need to be represented by a State Legal Officer, when the same legal officers had appeared for the opponents in another matter which tantamount to conflict of interest while this State Legal Officer have not received the Speaker's permission to represent him or have they been advised about the matter.

But surprise to many, Article 132, Clause (3) of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the public service shall not be taken (b) to comprise the office of President, Speaker, Deputy President, Deputy Speaker or member of either House of Parliament or of the Legislative Assembly of a State.

With this revelation it clearly illustrates that the Order granted by this novice JD from the Ipoh High Court is a illegality since Section 24 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act does not apply.

Further more, Article 72, Clauses (1) to (3) Federal Constitution clearly spells out that (1) the validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any Court.

So now you know from the Federal Constitution itself that the validity of the suspension of Datuk Dr Zambry and his six Exco members from the Barisan Nasional by the Speaker in the State Assembly cannot be questioned in any court and the Speaker's decision is binding, lawful and need to be followed without question.

The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of our nation and for this novice JC to misinterpret it, clearly shows his complete incompetence in the law or he has invented a new law - UMNO LAW to replace out Federal Constitution or Laws of Malaysia so that his appointment tenure could be extended and he be elevated if he were to assist this unscrupulous UMNO-led Barisan Nasional federal government to wrest power through the back door. (Even the Minister-in-charge was unaware that this JC's appointment expired on 28 February 2009 and only came to realise this after a blog report was made after the 3 March 2009 court episode). Rightfully, the JC should have been prevented from hearing this case and/or disallowed into the Court premises.

If this novice JC had seeked the assistance of the eminent Counsel Tommy Thomas to submit as an amicus curiae, this case would not have turn this ugly and created such a mess, indirectly undermining the independence of the judiciary while creating a mistrust on every Judicial officer by the rakyat.

Syed Nadzri - Parallels between Razak and Najib

New Straits Times

TOWARDS the end of one of his meetings with editors a few weeks ago, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was casually asked how he felt about his impending ascension to the prime ministership with the country going through such a turbulent time.

In the thick of verbal activities going on around him at that moment, that question unfortunately got lost in significance.

But the deputy prime minister, ever his cool self, somehow did manage a spontaneously succinct reply which I thought was noteworthy.

He just smiled and said: "It's nothing compared with what my father went through because he took over the reins in far more challenging conditions. The country was reeling from May 13."

Then a distraction forced the subject to be abruptly cut off.

But prevailing conditions do have a way of bringing out this kind of topic in conversations every now and then -- like in the chat I had with a minister a few days ago.

Yes. Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib's father, first assumed the national commander's role as head of the National Operations Council in 1969 when the going was so rough and furious. The May 13 race riots had just broken out (till today it is dubbed the darkest period in the nation's history), and as a result of the disturbances, emergency rule was declared and the Constitution was suspended for more than a year with the NOC running the country.

There was much tension in the air, the ruling Alliance did very badly in the May 11 general election, Penang fell to the opposition led by Gerakan (Kelantan remained under Pas), Umno was split following pressure on party president and prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to quit, race relations were at a very low ebb and the government was faced with subversive threats from communist insurgents.

Notice the parallels of some of the above with the present, the convergence extending even to a racially-charged funeral procession held for a chauvinistically-proclaimed martyr who had been shot by police just before May 13.

The similarities don't end there -- there were accusations that the MCA, then the only Chinese partner in the Alliance, was too pro-Malay; and, coincidentally, a few days before Razak formally took over the helm, Kuala Lumpur was strangely also paralysed by floods.

Though he was already running the country by virtue of his position as NOC head, Razak only officially became Umno president at the party's general assembly -- its first since the riots -- on Jan 23, 1971. With that he became Malaysia's second prime minister.

Razak, as Tunku always mentioned, was a workhorse. In the book K. Das and the Tunku Tapes compiled by Kua Kia Soong, Tunku had this to say about his successor:

"Tun Razak might not have been lucky as I was because he did not have a Tun Razak to help him, in the way that I had. All those ministers were new except for one or two who were with him in the early days.

"And then perhaps Tun Razak's ways of doing things were different from mine because he was a very hard worker."

Records show that this no-nonsense approach to prevent a recurrence of May 13 was quite evident when Razak took over as he immediately announced his priorities, including amending the Constitution to ensure that "sensitive issues" would not be challenged simply through blatant politicking and abuse of the democratic process.

And there lies the inevitability of lining up the similarities in the challenges and uncanny parallels faced by dad and son -- in different eras, of course -- with Najib well on the road to becoming the country's sixth prime minister 40 years on.

Which brings me back to the chat with the minister late last week which, given the current climate as well as the background of the person I was speaking to, was an eye-opener.

The senior politician said the challenges facing Najib seemed to be as difficult if not more demanding than those faced by his father despite the tribulations of May 13. But, like his father, Najib would sail through, he added.

In addition to all those parallels mentioned above, the minister said Najib would have to contend with not only MCA but also other senior Barisan Nasional partners losing support, particularly the MIC and Gerakan.

Then, the minister said, Najib was also up against a concerted smear campaign by the opposition, bloated in proportion and viciousness by the huge strides in information and communication technology.

"There was no Internet, instant text messaging and mobile phones 40 years ago," he noted. "Today, slander can travel twice or three times the speed of sound under the guise of anonymity."

Then, of course, there is the looming global economic crisis which is said to be the worst in history. Najib is tackling that today by unveiling another stimulus package in Parliament.

So I asked the minister how he sees Najib in the face of all these challenges.

"From his behaviour and expressions, especially during big and important meetings, Najib appears to be well in control," he replied.

"He will do well like his father, the workhorse."

And yes, Razak would be 87 tomorrow if he had lived.

Of God's many names and the use of 'Allah'

OF the 99 beautiful names of God (al-asma' al-husna), three, namely "Allah", "al-Rahman" and "al-Rahim", are most favoured.

This is known by all 114 suras of the Quran, except for one, beginning with the typical Islamic phrase, the tasmiyah: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim ("In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful"), a phrase that includes all the three chosen names of God.

Similarly, every Quranic recitation in the five daily prayers begins with the tasmiyah. Of the three names, God has chosen only two, that is, "Allah" and "al-Rahman", by which He may be called.

The reason for the exclusion of "al-Rahim" is probably due to its repetition of the meaning of "al-Rahman". They obtain from the same root, rahima (to be kind, compassionate).

It is reported that the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab, explained this repetition by saying that "al-Rahman" is meant for Muslims and "al-Rahim" for the rest of mankind.

This understanding endorses the principle that God is universal, omniscient and omnipresent. He is the creator and cherisher of all without exception.

"Allah" is the Arabic equivalent of "God", and the two words have been used synonymously by all people throughout the history of religion.

God has made Himself known to Muslims by His 99 illustrious names, which consist of His attributes that occur throughout the Quran.

The self of God is not known to us; we only know Him by these names and attributes -- such as Ghafoor (forgiving), Wadood (loving), Kareem (noble), Lateef (gracious) and Haleem (perseverant, patient).

When read together, they also set the ethico-cultural optima that Muslims should emulate and manifest in their conduct within the family, in society, and at all times.

Belief in one God, or monotheism, is the central theme of the Islamic principle of tawhid, the oneness of being, which means that there is only one God and essentially also one humanity.

Tawhid permeates every aspect of Islam, in that the presence of God in the universe is the connecting force that binds the whole of the created universe into coherent parts.

Tawhid also implies unity of the human origin in one and the same creator, an article of the Islamic faith implying an innate sense of belonging for all members of the human fraternity.

God, therefore, belongs to the whole of humanity and no sect or section of humanity may deny this sacred link to anyone.

God created Adam and breathed into him of His own spirit and then created from it its pair, and from them a multitude of humans that scatter on the face of the earth.

Those who believe in God are repeatedly asked in the Quran to remember Him often and nurture God-consciousness into themselves through zikir (remembrance), whenever they can.

It should be obvious, then, that in reference to all monotheists, there is no restriction whatsoever regarding the use of the word "Allah" when mentioning Him partakes in the spirit of remembrance, invocation and doa.

This is the basic position of Islam.

However, when Allah is mentioned in a context that amounts to distortion and abuse, if the usage is clear in its abusive import and wording, it may amount to blasphemy, which is an offence.

In the event of more subtle varieties of misuse, that is, when a good use is intended to obtain a bad result, the position may be ascertained under the principle of sadd al-dharai or blocking the (lawful) means for obtaining an unlawful end.

For instance, commerce is lawful by itself but when it is used as a means of usury (riba) or of hoarding and profiteering that inflict harm and distort the normal flow of trade in the marketplace, then the means towards such ends should be blocked.

This can also be said of marriage, which is lawful, but if someone enters into it for quick gratification, to be followed by an abusive divorce, the marriage in question is unlawful, and the authorities are within their rights to prevent it.

This may also be said of the use of "Allah" if the purpose is to convert unsuspecting Muslims, as occurred in some parts of Indonesia, whereby a specious parallel is drawn by Christian missionaries between Islam and Christianity in order to entice Muslims to embrace Christianity.

It is a question to some extent of differentiation between the upright and the deceitful propagation of a doctrine.

If there are equivalent words, such as "Tuhan", but "Allah" is used instead for purposes of proselytisation, then it could well amount to distortion of the kind that violates the sensitivities of the Muslim community as well as taking advantage of the ignorance of its targets.

If Christianity does not accept Islam as a valid religion to begin with, then for Christian missionaries to select only the word "Allah" out of Islam for purposes of proselytisation is tantamount to a misapplication of the term.

Had they recognised Islam as a valid religion, the issue might have begged a different answer. Moreover, the Christian doctrine of Trinity is also founded in an understanding of God that cannot claim acceptance in the Islamic doctrine of tawhid.

Allah's illustrious name may thus be used by all monotheists, Muslims or non-Muslims, for its intended purpose, but if it is used in a way that amounts to distortion and abuse, be it by a Muslim or non-Muslim, it should be obstructed by recourse to the principle of sadd al-dharai.

This principle should not be too liberally applied, however, and confined only to manifest instances of abuse.

The writer is the founding chairman and CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, Malaysia

Rakaman Ucapan Anwar Ibrahim di Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat”

Rakaman Ucapan Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim di Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat” di Shah Alam pada 8 Mac 2009
Video ehsan TVAntara

PEJABAT DATUK SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM

Perbicaraan Anwar: Hakim Terburu-buru Pindah Kes ke Mahkamah Tinggi

Mahkamah Sesyen hari ini telah memindahkan kes perbicaraan Anwar Ibrahim ke Mahkamah Tinggi sekalipun ianya mendapat bantahan keras dari pasukan peguambela Anwar.

Peguam Sulaiman Abdullah memfailkan bantahan awal memohon keputusan tersebut didengar di hadapan Hakim SM Komathy Suppiah namun ditolak oleh Hakim Rozana Ali Yusoff.

Rozana merupakan hakim yang mendengar prosiding di Mahkamah Sesyen hari ini memandangkan Komathy dilaporkan sedang bercuti.

Peguamcara II, Yusof Zainal Abiden telah memohon supaya kes tersebut dipindahkan selepas hakim Mahkamah Tinggi, Mohd Zabidin Md Diah memutuskan sijil pemindahan kes yang ditandatangan Peguam Negara, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, boleh diterima di bawah Seksyen 418A Kanun Prosedur Jenayah.

Bagaimanapun, Sulaiman berhujah bahawa di bawah seksyen tersebut, kes berkenaan sepatutnya dijalankan di hadapan hakim yang mendengarnya (Komathy).

Sementara itu, Yusof berhujah bahawa mahkamah harus memindahkan segera kes tersebut kerana Rozana hanya membantu dan mahkamah harus menerima apa juga perintah atau penghakiman yang telah dibuat.

Sulaiman pula membantah dan mengulangi bahawa seksyen berkenaan memberi arahan khusus bahawa kes itu disebut di hadapan hakim yang mendengarnya (Komathy).

Rozana bagaimanapun menolak bantahan Sulaiman dan berkata bahawa perintah telah dibuat dan oleh itu, mahkamah tidak perlu lagi menunggu Komathy balik bertugas.

Beliau juga berkata tidak wujud prejudis terhadap kes tersebut jika ia dipindahkan ke Mahkamah Tinggi hari ini.

Dalam satu kenyataan, Anwar menyatakan keputusan tersebut merupakan satu bentuk ‘pendakwaan politik’.

Tegas beliau, fokus utama kini ialah tentang pergolakan politik di Perak serta tiga pilihan raya kecil yang akan diadakan di Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang dan Batang Ai.

Anwar turut mempersoalkan tindakan hakim yang kelihatan cukup terburu-buru untuk memindahkan kes perbicaraan tersebut.

Pada 6 Mac lalu, notis rayuan berhubung keputusan Hakim Zabidin — yang membenarkan permohonan pemindahan perbicaraan ke Mahkamah Tinggi oleh pasukan pendakwaan – telah difailkan oleh pasukan peguambela Anwar di Pejabat Pendaftar Mahkamah Tinggi dan Pejabat Pendaftar Mahkamah Rayuan.

Sementara itu pada 7 November tahun lalu, Hakim Komathy menolak permohonan untuk memindahkan kes tersebut, sambil berkata “kes ini menimbulkan situasi yang unik di mana sebarang pembabitan Abdul Gani Patail dalam kes ini akan menjejaskan keyakinan rakyat terhadap kehakiman kes jenayah”.

Komathy juga dilapor berkata, terdapat persefahaman bahawa Abdul Gani Patail tidak akan terbabit dalam kes ini. Jaminan itu diberikan oleh Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad selepas ditemui Presiden PKR, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Abdul Gani masih disiasat oleh Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) yang dulunya dikenali sebagai Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR), ekoran laporan polis yang dibuat oleh Anwar yang mendakwa berlaku pengubahan bahan bukti dalam kes ‘mata lebam’ pada 1988.

Perbicaraan ditangguh ke tarikh 1 hingga 24 Julai akan datang dan jaminan bon peribadi dilanjutkan sepanjang prosiding.

PEJABAT DATUK SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM

'Kulim massacre': A family's nightmare

By Athi Veeranggan ( Malaysiakini)

Twenty days after R Dilip Kumar was shot dead by police on Feb 17, his family is still struggling to come to terms with their loss - and the explanation given by the cops.
MCPX

Dilip's uncle, S Letchumanasunder, father A Ragoo, youngest brother Tamilarasan, mother S Selvarasy and sister GeethaHis mother, S Selvarasy, 41, (second from left) said she is unable to sleep because of recurring nightmares about Dilip Kumar, the second of her eight children.

Met in Butterworth over the weekend, a tearful Selvarasy said she keeps envisioning Dilip Kumar’s suffering.

"I can feel how my son would have yelled in pain when he was shot," she said.

She was accompanied by her husband A Ragoo, 42, brother S Letchumanasunder, 32, daughter Geetha, 18, and youngest son Tamilarasan, eight.

6 indian shot by police in kulim kedah 230209 03Dilip Kumar, 20, was among the six men shot dead at a house in Kampung Kamunting, Karangan, some 15km from the Kulim industrial town.

The others were contract worker R Elangovan, 38, LS Santana, 34, contractor R Pannir, 28, crane driver S Vadivelan, 29 and carpenter S Gurusamy, 50.

Police alleged that the six were involved in several armed robberies in Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor.

However, the incident has caused an uproar in view of previous cases of extrajudicial killings and deaths in custody.

Selvarasy said she does not believe the police description of Dilip Kumar as a robber.

"It’s a lie. He did not have a gun, a car, a motorcycle, a driving licence or even a bank account registered under his name. He was penniless. Would a robber be penniless?" she asked.

She pointed out her son did not have a police record even for a traffic offence, let alone for criminal activities or gangsterism.

"We want justice for my son," she said, describing the police as murderers.

Was the truth hidden?

The family has hired senior lawyer and DAP parliamentarian Karpal Singh to pursue the matter in court, while Letchumanasunder has lodged a police report.

Ragoo_A_2_modRagoo (left) said that he found his son’s body was wrapped only in a towel, when he identified it at the mortuary.

He suggested that the police have hidden the truth, that Dilip Kumar had just come out of the bathroom after a shower, when he was fatally shot.

Ragoo said Dilip Kumar was an odd-job worker for Elangovan, cutting grass and providing cleaning services. Earlier media reports had stated that Dilip Kumar was a lorry attendant.

"He spent most of his time at the Ayappan temple (in Kulim)," said Ragoo, saying his son had gone to India between Jan 5 and 20 on a special pilgrimage.

The family had only met him a handful of times since his return as he was spending his time at the temple, added Ragoo.