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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The trouble is, they don’t listen

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I wish Zaid good luck. I agree that the opposition needs a major overhaul. But I am not sure that the existing party structures and cultures would allow him to do what he wants to do. Would PKR, DAP and PAS agree to be ‘put to sleep’ so that a true Pakatan Rakyat can emerge in its place?

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Raja Petra Kamarudin

On 13 October 2009, I republished a nine-year old article called ‘Sanggang - the BA’s wakeup call’, which was first published in Harakah on 1 April 2000. Harakah is the party newspaper for PAS, the Islamic Party of Malaysia.

On 26 November 2001, I wrote an article called ‘KeADILan’s true colours revealed - which is a shade of Umno’. What I wrote then could be regarded as quite tame compared to how I normally whack. Anyway, let’s see whether what I wrote eight years ago is still relevant. You can read the piece below.

I remember having dinner with Zaid Ibrahim and a group of friends from various civil society movements some time back. At that time he was still in Umno and not yet made a minister.

I spoke to Zaid about the possibility of him leaving Umno and, together with a group of, say, 10 or 20 Malay academicians and intellectuals, joining DAP. My wife and those from the civil society movements agreed and thought it was a good idea.

“Why DAP?” he asked. “I would have thought you would ask me to join PKR.”

“Not PKR,” I replied. “DAP. PKR is a Malay-based party so you and the 10 or 20 other Malays would just be more Malays amongst so many Malays. I think you should join DAP. DAP is perceived as a Chinese party. As much as DAP tries to shed its Chinese image it is not easy. So, if a group of 10 or 20 Malay intellectuals led by you join DAP, then you might be able to help DAP change its image from a Chinese party to a more multi-racial party. In fact, we should not even be using the term ‘multi-racial party’. We should use the term ‘non-race-based party’. Multi-racial is still racial, only that it is multi-racial. Non-race-based would be more what we would like to see.”

Zaid just smiled and said nothing. Was that a yes or was that a no?

“Anyway, you don’t have to say yes or no tonight,” I added. “Sleep on it. Take a few nights to sleep on it. Then come back in a few days and say yes.”

Zaid laughed and asked what role he could play in DAP. He did not see the logic of him leading a group of 10 or 20 Malay intellectuals to join DAP other than to make up the numbers and help give DAP a more ‘Malaysian’ image.

I stressed that DAP and PAS are the more difficult of the three in the opposition coalition. PKR is sort of in the middle, balancing the two. But it is a delicate balancing act. Ultimately, PKR can’t keep playing the role of ‘fence’ or ‘barrier’ whose only function is to keep DAP and PAS from going for each other’s throats.

Granted, thus far PKR has been able to keep DAP and PAS on opposite sides of the PKR ‘fence’. But in the end we must find a solution where DAP and PAS can meet in the middle and share a common platform. For this to happen both DAP and PAS must sacrifice some ground. It can’t be either PAS’s way or DAP’s way. It has to be a compromise. And I believe if DAP can be seen as less Chinese then we can convince the PAS people that DAP is not the enemy of Islam as some may be thinking. After all, DAP too now has Malays in the party, although liberal or intellectual Malays at that.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment a few days later when it was announced that Zaid had been made a minister. When we met even Zaid did not know yet he was going to be made a minister. He too was surprised. “Sheesh,” I told my wife. “There goes our plan.”

“Never mind,” my wife replied. “Zaid will not last in Umno. When he realises that even as a minister he can’t change the Umo culture he will leave. You watch.”

“I am not so sure,” I said. “When Anwar joined Umno he too said it was to change Umno. But instead Umno changed him. The same will happen to Zaid.”

“Not Zaid,” my wife insisted. “He will get disgusted and leave. Mark my words.”

True enough, it did happen as my wife had predicted. And after he resigned we again had lunch together with a few members of the civil society movements and tried to convince Zaid to form a new party. But Zaid did not see the prospects of a new party.

“Forming a party and running it costs a lot of money,” he replied. “I am not that rich and do not have the kind of money needed to run a party.”

“I am sure there are a lot of rich Malaysians out there who want to see a truly Malaysian party, not one based on race or religion. I am confident they would support this type of party and will contribute towards it. And this party would be able to attract middle-of-the-road Malaysians who view themselves as Malaysians rather than Malays, Chinese, Indians or whatnot. There are many who do not fit in PKR, DAP or PAS and would support a party that shuns race and religion as its platform.”

“It would cost too much money and we will not be able to sustain the party. And elections also cost a lot of money. We would not have enough funds to contest the elections,” Zaid argued.

“We don’t have to contest too many seats,” I replied. “Even if is just five parliament seats and ten state seats that would be enough.”

“Still, that would come to millions,” Zaid said. “We would never be able to find the money. And PKR, DAP and PAS would never give us seats to contest. We would be viewed as a competitor and politicians do not like competition. Which party is going to sacrifice seats for us?”

I could see Zaid was not keen on the new party idea so we just ate and talked about other things after I concluded, “Okay, sleep on it anyway. I still think you should form a new party. There are many Malaysians out there who want to see the emergence of a two-party system. And we believe you can play a role in uniting the opposition so that it can become a strong opposition, even if not the ruling party. Many Malaysians still feel that Barisan Nasional should rule. But they would like to see a strong opposition to keep the ruling party in check.”

“In that case I can still join one of the three opposition parties and do the same thing. I need not form a new party to do that.”

I, of course, disagreed because I felt that the three existing parties had a different culture, which would be very difficult to change. We need a new party with no fixed culture and which could be moulded the way we want it to be.

Anyway, the lunch ended with no resolution and, to my dismay, not long after that, Zaid joined PKR. He felt we could still achieve what we wanted, a strong and united opposition, with him in PKR. I did not think so and I told him so. But I was prepared to go along with it until I am proven wrong. And I was confident that I would be proven right.

Zaid had ideas, which are not a far departure from our own, and he needed to be ‘free’ to expand on them. In PKR he would be stifled and tied down by many of the ‘bad habits’ acquired over more than ten years and which are very difficult to change.

Now, Zaid has taken six months ‘sabbatical leave’. He wants to be free to focus on the plan to register Pakatan Rakyat and turn it into a legal entity. This would involve many things, not just a certificate from the Registrar of Societies. So the six months leave would enable him to focus on the colossal job ahead of him.

I wish Zaid good luck. I agree that the opposition needs a major overhaul. But I am not sure that the existing party structures and cultures would allow him to do what he wants to do. Would PKR, DAP and PAS agree to be ‘put to sleep’ so that a true Pakatan Rakyat can emerge in its place?

Time will tell. But if PKR, DAP and PAS face the next election as an informal coalition and not as one registered party like Barisan Nasional, then the future may not look that bright.

And this is my greatest fear. Politicians talk about struggles and sacrifices. But this is the last thing they would do if it involves their own interests. They want us, the people, to struggle and sacrifice. But they themselves are not prepared to struggle and sacrifice.

And this is what makes Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat no different.

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KeADILan’s true colours revealed - which is a shade of UMNO

26 November 2001

The media had predicted fireworks in Kemaman. Many had hoped that Parti Keadilan Nasional (keADILan) would break apart due to the intense infighting. Most people had expected nothing less than the worst when keADILan held its first party election last weekend in Kemaman, Terengganu. However, what came out of it, instead, was a delightful surprise. The members, in a demonstration of their maturity, elected a whole new team of leaders whom they felt would strengthen the party.

The media had played up the ABIM versus ex-UMNO issue to the hilt. They made it seem like there was a power struggle between two major groups in keADILan to wrestle control of the party. If this were so, then how come Irene Fernandez got in as the Women’s Deputy Leader and Tian Chua as one of the three Vice Presidents when both are neither ABIM nor ex-UMNO members?

The keADILan contest was just a normal contest for party posts. All political parties in Malaysia go through it. But when the other parties see a contest it is not a big deal. For keADILan, however, it is front-page news with doomsday predictions thrown in. Maybe, as this was the party's first internal contest, all eyes were on it to see how it manages its elections against the backdrop of a fierce fight.

It was quite apparent that the contest was between groups and not individuals as nearly every delegate was armed with a complete list or chai of who to vote for. There may have been about three or four variations to this list but the main players would be what were perceived as the ex-UMNO group of Abdul Rahman Othman, Saifuddin Nasution and Azmin Ali and the ABIM group of Dr Mohd Nur Manuty, Mustaffa Kamil, Anuar Tahir and Ruslan Kassim.

As in any block-voting, an entire team would be voted in and the other sidelined. In this case, the perceived ex-UMNO group came in as the winner. How unhappy the “other side” was at losing was demonstrated when most who lost did not attend the closing session of the AGM. It was estimated that only about 300 of the 1,004 delegates turned up, which puts to question whether there was any quorum for the closing session.

Party President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail tried to justify the high absentee rate by explaining that many had to return to their hometowns or go back to work. But no amount of explaining could dispel the impression that these were sore losers who would rather boycott the remaining session of the AGM because they did not get voted in.

If this is the attitude of the losers then maybe it was best that they did not win. Everybody knows how to manage victory. Only the matured know how to manage defeat. And if this is a demonstration of how they manage defeat, then they are certainly not matured enough yet to lead the party.

The campaigning was another source of anxiety. Some of the campaign tactics were rather dirty and centred on character assassination. In the euphoria to win seats and defeat their rivals, some candidates would resort to anything just as long as they win in the end. It was good that these people did not win, as this is certainly an unhealthy culture that should be rejected.

KeADILan preaches justice and fair play and urges the populace to reject the corrupt Barisan Nasional and its leading partner, UMNO. However, some of the keADILan leaders demonstrated that they are no better than the BN or UMNO leaders. Why, therefore, would Malaysians need to kick out the ruling party just to replace it with a party that has the same practices and culture?

The next party contest will be in March 2002 when the more than 120 division posts will be up for grabs. If the recent AGM was anything to go by, expect an equally intense and filthy contest during the division elections. If this happens, this would be the beginning of the end for the party.

Many supporters are disgusted with what they saw over the last month or so with reports of dirty tactics a la UMNO and even fisticuffs and punch-ups at Majlis Pimpinan Tertinggi (MPT) meetings. Some of the die-hards are now becoming cold towards the party and no longer want to support it. They feel keADILan has deviated from the right path and has become just another political party. Worse than that, it has become another UMNO-like party.

If keADILan wants to continue getting the support of the people, it needs to demonstrate that it is a matured and responsible party. The test would be in March next year when the campaigning for the divisional elections heats up. If the Kemaman affair is repeated, then expect many to turn their backs on the party for good.

HRP’s Deepavali massage to Malaysian Prime Minsiter Najib Razak

HRP’s Deepavali massage to Malaysian Prime Minsiter Najib Razak is to include and not to exclude the Malaysian Indians into the national mainstream development of Malaysia, stop all Human Rights violations against the Malaysian Indians as per Hindraf’s “Malaysian Indian Minority and Human Rights Violations Annual Report 2008” fulfill Hindraf’s 18 point demands to the Prime Minister dated 12/8/2007 (see below)

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Rape a weapon of war in Congo, activists say

(CNN) -- Rape has turned into a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the number of attacks on women having grown threefold over the past few years, human rights activists said Friday.

A Congolese rape victim, left, at the Heal Africa clinic in Goma on August 8, 2009.

A Congolese rape victim, left, at the Heal Africa clinic in Goma on August 8, 2009.

Anneke van Woudenberg, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Christiane Amanpour that 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Eastern Congo since 1998, and the condition of women has become more dire as the Congolese army has pressed a military campaign against armed groups in the countryside.

"Rape is being used as a weapon of war in eastern Congo. So we notice and we have documented that when armed groups walk into town, they will rape the women and girls, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately, in order to punish the local population," she said. "It's the easiest way to terrorize a community."

http://dysonshow.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/drc_civil_war_congo.jpg

Congo has witnessed one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II, with a death toll estimated at more than 5 million. Most of the dead have come not from direct violence, but the consequences of the fighting: disease and starvation. While the war formally ended six years ago, fighting persists in eastern Congo, and women are paying a high price.

"One of the other sad realities is that the majority of those who are raped are adolescent girls, 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds. Their lives are often ruined by this. And I think we've got to take more seriously -- protection of civilians is not just protecting them from death. It's protecting them from rape," van Woudenberg said.

There have also been reports of members of the Congolese army, particularly high ranking officers, attacking women. In May, the United Nations handed over the names of five top military officers accused of rape. Two of the senior officers are being detained in the capital of Kinshasa and the three others must report to authorities under close observation. They are awaiting trial.

Still more must be done, aid groups say, starting with the establishment of a special court made up of Congolese and international judges and prosecutors to investigate rape allegations.

"I think they've got to start holding to account the generals and colonels who are either themselves responsible or who allow their troops to rape. And so far, those are the guys that have been untouchable," said van Woudenberg. "No general has yet been held to account in Congo for rape, and it's high time that that changes."

Congo has taken some measures to try to curb the sexual violence. In 2006, its parliament passed a law criminalizing rape, with penalties ranging from five to 20 years. Penalties are doubled under certain circumstances, including gang-rape and if the perpetrator is a public official.

Kabila's wife, Olive Lemba Kabila, has launched a public campaign speaking out against rapes of the nation's women and girls.

The army has also started a zero-tolerance campaign in which commanders have emphasized to troops that they must respect human rights and protect civilians from harm, according to the U.N.

The United Nations maintains in Congo its largest peacekeeping force anywhere in the world. But the forces have been ineffective at stopping rape.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the former head of U.N. peacekeeping, told Amanpour that the international forces face a serious problem: Too few troops assigned to the vast inaccessible reaches of eastern Congo.

"In the Kivu provinces, there are 10 million people," Guehenno said. "If one applied the counterinsurgency ratios that the U.S. Army thinks of -- say, 20 per 1,000 -- that would mean 200,000 troops in Congo -- 200,000 accountable troops."

"The U.N. is in a tough spot, to be frank, because if it did not give any support to the Congolese army, probably the Congolese army might prey even more on the population," Guehenno said.

Part of the problem stems from the tactic applied by the Congolese government to quell previous armed rebellions against Kinshasa by incorporating insurgents into the ranks of the national army, leading to a military that paid scant attention to human rights, and the rights of women in particular.

"What needs to be done is to have a state in Congo that can control its territory and that has the confidence of the people," Guehenno said. "The violence in the Kivu, the violence in Ituri, it is the result of a vacuum, the fact that there is no administration, there is no credible state, there is no justice. And so that vacuum is being occupied by various militias.

"And, unfortunately, when the Congolese army integrates a militia without sorting between the killers and those who could be integrated, it just adds to the problem."

Van Woudenberg called for international pressure to force the Congolese army to bring abusers to justice.

"My worst fear is that we're going to continue to see those individuals responsible for rape being promoted. My hope is that the women and girls of -- of eastern Congo in particular -- will continue to speak out. I think we've seen immense courage from those women and girls to say, 'No, we've had enough.'"

Pakistan faces new wave of Taliban attacks

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's army chief briefed the country's top leaders Friday on the tenuous security situation as the government combats a new wave of attacks believed to have been orchestrated by Taliban militants.

Pakistani authorities remove bodies from the scene of Thursday's deadly attacks in Lahore.

Pakistani authorities remove bodies from the scene of Thursday's deadly attacks in Lahore.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani called on army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani to address the leaders of Pakistan's political parties, Gilani's spokesman told CNN.

In the high-level meeting, Kayani "gave a detailed briefing on the prevailing national security situation and its ramifications in the future," according to a statement about the session from the prime minister's office. Those who attended the meeting condemned recent militant attacks and "agreed that these elements pose a serious threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the state," the statement said.

Kayani was also expected to address an impending ground offensive in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's lawless tribal region, according to an official in Gilani's office who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official would not say if a decision would be made during Friday's meeting about the start date of the ground offensive.

Pakistan's military has stepped up its campaign against Taliban militants in the tribal region, carrying out airstrikes on militant hideouts in South Waziristan that military officials said are aimed at softening up targets before the ground troops move in.

Despite the military offensive, militants have continued to strike with relative impunity inside Pakistan -- raising concerns about the ability of the government's security forces to maintain control.

The latest militant attack happened Friday in Peshawar, when a suicide car bomber detonated near a police station, killing 13 people -- most of them civilians -- authorities said.

Security personnel opened fire on the car when the bomber drove through the gate of the police compound, said Shafqaat Malik, head of a police bomb unit. The vehicle exploded seconds later, Malik said.

The dead include three policemen, two women and a child, Peshawar police official Akhtar Munir said. Ten others were injured.

Friday's violence comes a day after militants launched a string of attacks that killed at least 30 Pakistani police officers and civilians, Pakistani authorities said. At least 10 attackers also died.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for three of the attacks on Thursday against two police training centers and the country's Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore.

Fears were shaken in Pakistan after a weekend standoff at Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi, outside Islamabad. The military blamed Taliban militants in South Waziristan for planning the attack in which five militants held dozens of hostages inside the army headquarters for some 22 hours. Eleven military personnel, three civilians, and nine militants were killed in the siege.

A day later, at least 41 people were killed and 45 were wounded in a blast Monday at a security forces checkpoint in the volatile Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan.

The attacks show "once again that the militants in Pakistan threaten both Pakistan and the United States," White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Thursday.

He spoke the same day U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation providing an additional $7.5 billion in assistance to Pakistan over the next five years. The Obama administration is working on a comprehensive review of U.S. strategy in both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had rushed back to Washington this week to report on opposition inside the Pakistani Parliament to the Kerry-Lugar bill, which outlined a five-year package of non-military aid. Some Pakistani politicians claimed the aid bill was an American attempt to micro-manage Pakistan's civilian and military affairs

Pak Lah at the Umno EGM/AGM

Husband discovers wife’s body in burglary-homicide

KUANTAN, Oct 17 — The wife of a food outlet operator was found murdered in her house in Taman Sungai Isap, near here, early this morning.

Kuantan OCPD ACP Mohd Jasmani Yusof said victim Fatimah Zaharah Sulong, 53, was believed to have been smothered while she was asleep between 2am and 4am.

Her body was found by her husband upon his return home from their food outlet in Kemunting here.

Preliminary investigation showed that the intruder broke into the house through a window in one of the rooms and Fatimah Zaharah's handbag was missing, Mohd Jasmani told reporters here.

The body had been sent to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital for a post-mortem.

Meanwhile, the husband, Sallehuddin Mohd Yatim, 59, said he and his wife took turns to man the outlet, with him working at night while she worked in the daytime.

He said he decided to return home after his calls went unanswered and found his wife's body face down on the bed. — Bernama

Et tu, Brute?

Alone in the crowd. Ong feels he has been abandoned by his ‘comrades’. — Pictures by Jack Ooi

By Neville Spykerman- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Embattled MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat today played the victim, and lashed out at his “fair weather comrades” in an apparent reference to members of the party’s central committee who have turned against him.

The transport minister, who has refused to resign despite losing a confidence vote at the party’s EGM last week, appeared to accuse his political opponents of hatching a hate campaign against him. He provided no examples of such a campaign today when met by reporters at a function here.

Asked if he felt betrayed, the MCA president said there was no need to raise any sentiments of hate.

“What makes my heart ache or painful, is how easy friendship is destroyed by political self-interest.”

He lamented that his “political comrades”, who had been fighting alongside him, had let the current political storm affect their relationship.

When asked if he was referring to Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai or members of the MCA central committee, Ong said there was no need to make specific reference, because it was not good and he “may get into trouble.”

“You are asking me about my honest feelings, I want to be truthful and this is exactly what I wrote in my diary,” said Ong.

Ong chose not to say if he feels betrayed by Liow. — Pictures by Jack Ooi

Despite the ongoing political crisis, Ong portrayed a “business as usual” attitude today by officiating the opening of the new Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Foo Clan Association building at OUG square. He also said he was touched by the messages of support he was receiving via e-mails not only from the Chinese community but also from other members of the public who want him to continue.

On Thursday, Ong refused to resign despite a call from the majority of the members of the party’s central committee, who eventually appointed Liow as the new deputy president to replace Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

However, after the meeting Ong said he would call for a new EGM to decide if the party should have fresh polls or retain him as president. Some central committee members have argued that there is no need for another EGM as Ong’s resignation could end the leadership crisis.

But the wheels are already in motion for EGM II which will have only one resolution: to support the president and remove the entire central committee.

The legal implications of such a resolution are still being debated. Central committee members have claimed that fresh elections can only be triggered if two-thirds of its members resign.

It is also unclear how delegates at EGM II can be asked to vote out the entire central committee without ousting Ong, who is also a member of the committee.

Razaleigh on Chinese funerals and escaped crocs - Tenku Razaleigh

The following is an abstract of the keynote speech by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the launch of the book Multi-ethnic Malaysia.

I am honoured that you have asked me to address you today. I am not a scholar. All I can offer today are the personal views of a Malaysian who has seen a little of the history of this marvelous country, and tried to play my part in it.

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 04I say a marvelous country, because Malaysia, for all its frustrations and perils, is truly special, truly beautiful. We are a coming together of communities, cultures, traditions and religions unlike anything anywhere else.It is not in political sloganeering or in tourist jingos that we find our special nature. We recover it only by paying attention to the concrete details of our everyday life and our particular history. Wonder is found in the details.

Let me tell you a story:

I grew up in Kota Bharu. My father was fond of Western cuisine and had a Hainanese cook who prepared the dishes he enjoyed.

One day, while the cook was feeding the tigers in our home, a piece of meat got stuck in between the bars of the cage.

(I should explain that we had a mini zoo in our home. My father was fond of animals and we shared a home with tigers, a bear, crocodiles and other creatures in the compound. The animals were very fond of my father. The tigers would come up to him to have their backs stroked. The bear would accompany him on his walks around the garden. The crocodiles made their escape in one of Kota Bharu's annual floods, which I always remember as a happy time because of the water sports it made possible. My father sent us out to look for them. What he expected us to do when we found them I am not sure.)

To return to my story, one day the cook was feeding the tigers, and a piece of meat got stuck between the bars of the cage. The cook tried to dislodge it. As he did so, he failed to notice the tiger. The tiger swatted his hand. Within 24 hours, our poor cook was dead from the infection caused by the wound.

Our family was in grief. He was dear to us all. He had no known relatives. So my father took it upon himself to arrange a full Chinese funeral for the cook, complete with a brass band and procession, and invited all the cook's friends. We children followed in respect as the process wove its way through the town.

Your own stories, if you recall the actual details, will be no less strange than my own. Some of the details here might scandalise people in these supposedly more enlightened times. They don't fit into the trimmed down, sloganised narratives of who we are and how we came to be.

This is over the years we have allowed politics to tell us who we are and how we should remember ourselves. We have let political indoctrination, jingoism, and a rising tide of bad taste overcome our memory of ourselves. We have let newspapers, textbooks and even university courses paint a crude picture of who we are, what we fear and what we hope for.

This depletes our culture, but there is also a political consequence. The picture that our current politics paints of us is devoid of wonder, and therefore of possibility.

Our politics has become an enemy of our sense of wonder. Instead it has sown doubt, uncertainty and fear. These are disabling emotions. It is not by accident that authoritarian regimes everywhere begin their subjugation of people by cutting them off from their past.

Systematically, they replace the richly textured memories of a community that make people independent, inquisitive and open with prefabricated tales that weaken them into subjugation through fear and anxiety. They destroy the markers of memory, the checks and balances of tradition and institution, and replace them with a manufactured set of images all pointing to a centralised power.

Our path to the recovery of a sense of nationhood is not through an equally crude reaction, but through a retrieval of our personal and collective memory of living in this blessed land and sharing it each other. The work done by the contributors to this volume are part of a civilising project to bring to light the fine detail of who we are, against the politicised and commercialised caricatures that have made our racialised politics seem natural and inevitable.

Our own stories, individually and as a country, are full of curious processions, walking bears, and escaped crocodiles. We should begin to wonder again at this amazing country we find ourselves sharing. In that wonder we shall recover what it is we love about being who we are, who we are amongst, and we shall more fiercely defend not just our own, but each others' freedoms.

Our constitution a Western imposition?

One place for us to begin this process together is our federal constitution.

The spirit in which Malaysia came to be is captured in our constitution. At the moment of our independence, Malaysia possessed firm foundations in the rule of law and was permeated with a spirit of constitutionalism.

The constitution is the ultimate safeguard of our fundamental liberties. These are liberties which cannot be taken away.

One view put out by those who are impatient with these safeguards is that our constitution is an external and Western imposition upon us, that it is the final instrument of colonialism. People have drawn on this view to subject the constitution to some higher or prior principle, be it race, religion or royalty.

Of course, the proponents of such views tend to identify themselves with these higher principles in order to claim extra-constitutional powers. These are transparent attempts at revisionism which erode the supremacy of the constitution. We should have the confidence to reject such moves politely but firmly, whoever advocates them, whatever their social or religious status.

The truth is that our constitution was built by a deliberately consultative process aimed at achieving consensus. The Reid Commission was proposed by a constitutional conference in London attended by four representatives of the Malay rulers, the chief minister of the federation, Tunku Abdul Rahman and three other ministers, and also by the British high commissioner in Malaya and his advisers.

This conference proposed the appointment of an independent commission to devise a constitution for a fully self-governing and independent Federation of Malaya. Their proposal was accepted by the Malay rulers and Queen Elizabeth.

The Reid Commission met 118 times in Kuala Lumpur between June and October 1956, and received 131 memoranda from various individuals and organisations. The commission submitted its working draft on Feb 21, 1957, which was scrutinised by a working committee. The working committee consisted of four representatives from the Malay rulers, another four from the Alliance government, the British high commissioner, the chief secretary, and the attorney-general.

On the basis of their recommendations, the new federal constitution was passed by the Federal Legislative Council on Aug 15, 1957, and the constitution took effect on Aug 27.

As you can tell from this narrative, the commission solicited the views of all sections of our society and had, throughout, the support and participation of the Malay rulers and the Alliance government. The process preserved the sovereignty of the Malay rulers.

The resulting document, like all things man-made, remains perfectible, but most certainly it is ours. It brought our nation into being, and it is our document.

The question of whether the federation should be an Islamic state, for example, was considered and rejected by the rulers and by the representatives of the people. Had we wanted to be ruled by syariah, the option was on the shelf, so to speak, and could easily have been taken, because prior to this the states were ruled by the sultans according to syariah law.

The fact that we have a constitution governed by common law is not an accident nor an external imposition. We chose to found our nation on a secular constitution after consultation and deliberation.

Our country was built on the sophisticated and secure foundation of a constitution that we formed for ourselves. For us to continue to grow up as a country we need to own, understand and defend it.

Sadly part of the memory we have lost is of our constitution and of the nature of that constitution. Today, in the aftermath of the scene-shifting election results of March 2008, people are restless and uneasy about the ethnic relations, and about their future. There is a sense of anxiety about our nation that is often translated into fear of ethnic conflict.

I think we should not fear. On an inviolable foundation of equal citizenship, the rights of each and every community are protected. These protections are guaranteed in the constitution. What we should be uneasy about is not so much ethnic discord, which is often manufactured for political ends and has little basis in the daily experience of our citizens, but the subversion of our constitution. Such subversion is only possible if we forget that this constitution belongs to us, protects us all, and underwrites our nationhood and we fail to defend it.

Our country had a happy beginning in being built on firm foundations in the rule of law. A strong spirit of constitutionalism guided our early decades. The components of that spirit are respect and understanding for the rule of law, and the upholding of justice and liberty.

That spirits is antithetical to communal bickering and small-minded squabbling over fixed pie notions of education, economy or whatever. That spirit has declined and with it has come all kinds of unease. It is time we recovered it. With its recovery will come our confidence as a nation once more.

The political framework of this country cries out for reform. But reform is not about the blind embrace of the new. That would be to fly from disorder to confusion. Our path to reform must come from a recovery of the "old" living spirit of constitutionalism, and the "old" values of freedom and justice, and the "old" memories each of us carries in themselves of what is good about our nation.

The power of the free vote

I have warned that Umno, like any other political party that has been in power for so long, must reform, or it will be tossed out by the people. The people themselves have had a taste of the power of their free vote.

They know that parties and governments answer to the people, and not vice versa, they want a repeal of draconian laws, and they have lost patience with corruption. They seek accountability, justice and rule of law. The people are ahead of the government of the day, but the principles they want to see applied are universal, and they are enshrined in our constitution.

It is not just Umno that needs to reform. The entire political system needs to change, to be in greater conformity with our constitution and in the spirit of the Rukun Negara, which says from these diverse elements of our population, we are dedicated to the achievement of a united nation in which loyalty and dedication to the nation shall over-ride all other loyalties.

We should not expect our political parties to reform of their own accord. Leaders who owe their position to undemocratic rules and practices are the last people to accept reform. The people must demand it. I say we need a movement embraced by people at all levels and from every quarter of our rakyat, to establish a national consensus on how our political parties should conduct themselves from now on.

What we need now is the rise of an empowered public. Democracy in Malaysia is fragile so long as public opinion remains weak. Our hope for a more democratic future depends on our ability to build a strong public opinion. It's good news that a vigorous body of public opinion, aided by information and communication technologies, is in making on the Internet. I myself rely on it through my blog. If not for my blog, what I say would scarcely get out in the mainstream media.

We need a freedom of information act, and I call for the repeal of the Printing Presses Act. It is silly that we limit the number of newspapers while every person with a blog or a twitter account can publish to the world. In limiting the printed media we have only succeeded in dumbing it down, so that those who rely only on the printed mass media and the terrestrial broadcast channels are actually the poorer for it.

Stopped from entering posh restaurant

Let me end by returning to the theme of racial harmony. I repeat: the constitutional guarantees are ironclad. We ought to feel secure in the constitution's protections of our rights. A free people must be a secure people.

Another story:

In 1962, when I was a delegate to the United Nations, the late Tun Ismail and I went out one evening to a posh restaurant on New York's East Side. The maitre d' turned us away firmly. No, he said, the restaurant was closed for a private function. We could see clearly that the restaurant was open. We understood that we were being denied entry because were “coloured”. This is despite the fact that our reservation had been made through UN's offices.

Today, in 2008, an African American man is president of the United States. He has just won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 46 years, and well within my lifetime, how far things have come. Had you told me in 1962, after that incident, that a black man would be president in my life time, I would not have believed you. This change did not happen without struggle.

From Leo Tolstoy to Henry Thoreau to Gandhi to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, we see a thread of conviction about the overriding ethical claim of our common humanity. It is more important that we are alike in being sons and daughters of God than that we are different. This is also the thread of a spirit and method of resistance. Where all reasonable persuasion fails, the final "No" to wrongdoing, the place at which the citizen stands up to defend something fundamental, is through peaceful resistance.

I allude to this only as a reminder of the final redoubt of the free citizen. Things may or may not have come to such a bad state that we must rise in this fashion, but let us be conscious of the power we hold in knowing just who we are and what we are capable of as ordinary citizens.

If the authorities do what is unjust, ride roughshod over constitutional rights and deny the sovereignty of the rakyat and the primacy of our constitution, we rest secure in the knowledge that history shows us that the just cause, defended stoutly, persistently and peacefully, will prevail. And sooner than we might expect.


TENGKU RAZALEIGH HAMZAH, Gua Musang MP, is a former finance minister and former Umno vice-president.

LGE's Legacy by Megat Jittendran

Dear Friends,

It’s so easy to undermine the credibility of laymen, politicians, villagers, journalists or media organisations.

Ask DAP cyber troopers. They have the skills, organisation and knowledge on how to do it.

Currently these cyber troopers are operating from Levels 28 and 52 of Komtar, which houses the Chief Minister Kapitan Lim Guan Eng and his side-kick Indian chief mandore DCM 2 P Ramasamy.

What they do?

They monitor the mainstream media and cyber space daily without fail on any stories deemed critical against the pro-capitalist Kapitan Lim’s government.

Once they spot one, hell will break loose in the cyber space.

Like a tiger leaping over its prey, they will pounce immediately on such article, story, comment or whatever.

Their family motto is ‘defend Kapitan’s government at all cost.’

When they sense that they could not defend Kapitan’s iron fist rule with correct facts, they spin the issue raised with lies, misinformation, misrepresenting facts, smearing campaigns, character assassination and underhand tactics.

Their easy targets in their blog spots and comments would be the interviewer and interviewee.

For instance, if Hindraf were to criticise Kapitan for misreading, mishandling and mismanaging the High Chaparral fiasco, the cyber troopers would first attempt to defend their boss with facts.

When they realise that they were bankrupt of ideas leaving Kapitan open helplessly for substantiated attacks, they would resort to dirty tactics to snipe at Hindraf and its leaders.

They would carry out smearing campaigns to undermine Hindraf with lies, misrepresentation of facts and misinformation.

They will raise irrelevant issues to attack Hindraf.

They also hit journalists hard by undermining the interviewer credibility raising unscrupulous and unsubstantiated allegations of biasness, irresponsibility and having hidden agenda.

But the journalist produces a story favouring Kapitan Lim, he or she would not be attacked at all.

How come the journalist escaped criticisms from DAP cyber troopers this time?

One automatically retains his or her credibility if one were to write something favourable to the Kapitan.

Kapitan Lim and co also use their cyber troopers to lodge malicious unsubstantiated complaints to editors on journalists perceived as hostile to his government.

The complaints would be lodged by his cyber troopers either using official capacity or fake names.

But the strangest part is certain editors are influenced by these poison pen complainants and put truthful and hardworking journalists under unnecessary pressure to avert these ‘flying’ complaints.

If the cyber troopers have the balls, they should have exposed their true identity, such as their real name, IC no, corresponding address and contact numbers.

Media bosses, who entertained such complaints, should first demand this transparency from the complainants, who cowardly hide behind a false identity.

Only then the affected journalists can defend themselves legally.

Otherwise, journalists have every right to decline clarifications on issues raised in the poison pen letters posted by certain anonymous characters.

Who are these Kapitan troopers anyway?

Don’t be shocked if these troopers include even elected representatives.

Prior to the last general election, DAP party leaders, including Kapitan Lim himself, comprised these troopers.
But now since DAP has financial capacity and political cloud, Kapitan’s government can easily hires full time cyber troopers, under the guise of personal aides, to do the dirty job for him.

These cyber troopers may well include elected representatives, special assistants and political secretaries to state executive councilors.
So be cautious when talking to these aides the next time.

They may well be checking on you to snipe in cyber.

Kapitan Lim had also adopted another tactic of divide and rule.

He tells something to the Chinese press to maintain the Chinese support to his government, while telling something else on the same subject in other media channels.

He does not care about other communities’ support so long the Chinese blind support is with him.

He spins, lies and spread false stories to portray himself as champion of the poor, the marginalised, needy and all communities.

But truth is, although he represents a party advocating socialism, Kapitan Lim heavily champions the capitalists cause.

If a professional journalist were to highlight this, he or she would be crucified in the cyber space by the Kapitan troopers.

Kapitan Lim also imposes unofficial bans on certain journalists and media groups from his functions and press conferences by not releasing any statements or invitations to them.

This understandably prevents the journalists or media groups from writing his side of stories on any subject.

Through this underhand tactics, he prepares ammunition for the Kapitan troopers to fire at certain journalists and media groups of being bias and having hidden agendas.

This tactics are also extended and expanded to other people, such as individual activists, human rights organisations, politicians, political parties and businessmen.

One has go down the memory lane to recall and review on how the former DCM 1 Fairus Khairuddin was ousted from his office.

Of late, Kapitan has stopped having press conferences to avoid media scrutiny over his mismanagement and misrule when he finally realised that his honeymoon with journalists was over, especially after the Kampung Buah Pala debacle.

Even the once Kapitan-friendly Chinese journalists have begun to question his acts and deeds.

Prior to this, he was holding at least three press conferences daily to highlight even petty issues.

His press conferences was so regular that he earned the nickname ‘PC King’ within months assuming the top executive position of Penang government.

Even a DAP legislator once lamented that the Kapitan was living in a myth that he could run his state government through press conferences.

Compared with his three predecessors, Kapitan Lim holds the world record for having highest number of press conferences within a short period of time.

Kapitan’s version of press freedom is freedom for his troopers to blast at full force against anyone perceived critical against his autocratic style of governance.

But little did he realise that what goes by comes by as well.

If the people can vote him in, they will also vote him out one day.

Either Kapitan is arrogantly stupid or stupidly arrogant for not realising this reality.

Remember no Penang Chief Minister has ever left office undefeated.

Even the once mighty Lim Chong Eu bite the dust finally, ironically in the hands of Guan Eng father – Lim Kit Siang.

One has serious doubts that Kapitan Lim would be exemption to this rule especially when realising that he had made more enemies among journalists and media groups than any of his predecessors in such a short period of time.

If the Chinese blind support to him comes to an abrupt end, Kapitan Lim could just be a one term wonder.

Megat Jittendran

Zaid takes six-month leave, crisis in PKR?

Why we speak out on Kartika - Malaysiakini

Fair but robust criticism of legal judgments and laws is a wholly acceptable practice. In every democratic state it is a frequent occurrence. It is what makes a system of justice and law-making stronger.

In the past it was largely lawyers at the forefront of such criticisms. However, with the information age and globalisation, there is a rising tide of awareness of such matters amongst the public in Malaysia.

It is heartening to see the public join in the outcry against injustice and unjust laws. It is stimulating to read the arguments for and against a viewpoint, and with this comes the realisation that we should neither take the Malaysian public for granted nor should we underestimate their ability to reason and debate sensibly.

NONEWhich is why the lodging of the police reports against JAG (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality) on the Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno (left) caning issue so disappointing.

I must at once disclose my interest. I am an executive committee member of Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), a JAG member, and I was not present at the press conference on Oct 1 only because I was overseas.

Nevertheless, I fully endorse JAG's stand in relation to the Kartika caning. It was a stand taken after due consideration of all legal and human rights factors and this basis is set out in full in the JAG memorandum of Aug 25.

Those persuaded by these arguments will continue to support them until and unless they are persuaded otherwise, not by threats, but by sound and logical arguments.

The aim of those who lodge police reports alleging a range of offences including sedition is clearly to intimidate and to suppress views that do not accord with theirs. Unfortunately, in today's Malaysia, that is no longer acceptable.

You're non-Muslim, why are you interfering?


Forcibly shutting down discussion does a disservice to one's cause. It gives an impression of close-mindedness and an inability to argue a case on principle or merit. I would invite them to look at things differently.

We should also deal with the all too-familiar-statements that “these are God's laws you are questioning” and “you are non-Muslim, why are you interfering?”.

Firstly, no one is questioning God's laws. What is sought is a discussion of the human interpretation of these laws. It appears that even each Syariah state enactment differs. So where is the seditious tendency in asking for these laws to be looked at and reviewed?

The other point about non-Muslims being involved must also be confronted. I would do that by asking in turn what the role of society at large is in the face of what they perceive to be an injustice, regardless of the religious underpinnings.

Recently in Aceh, laws have been proposed that call for death by stoning as a punishment for adultery and flogging for other offences. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned these laws as constituting torture. It would be wholly inappropriate to say that the HRW should not interfere because they may not understand Islamic law.

Kartika Sari Dewi ShukarnoWe must remember that in the case of Kartika's caning, there was international condemnation apart from the outcry amongst members of the public in Malaysia.

In this day and age, what we do in Malaysia or what anyone does in any part of the world will be open to comment and scrutiny by anyone in any part of the world. We should just get used to it.

There is a more compelling response. No one can, nor should they ever be permitted to, shield from scrutiny any action that impinges or imposes on the dignity and the physical and mental well-being of another. The dangers of allowing that are obvious.

Just imagine if that had occurred in the case of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia. We all fight the ISA together even if most of us are unlikely to ever be subjected to that legislation. We fight it on principle alone and because we do not believe any of our brothers and sisters should be subjected to it.

To me, it is very clear. If we do not speak up for those who are afraid or reluctant or for those who are weak in the face of what we see as unfair treatment, then we betray our covenant to each other as a society of civilised peoples.

Politicians fail to show leadership

I lament the lack of leadership from the politicians on matters that touch upon religion. Few politicians (from either side of the divide) have shown the courage to take on the task of confronting the issues. To their credit, PAS has apparently said they are prepared to hold a dialogue with JAG on the Kartika caning, and we should take them up on this offer. Surely this is a preferred option to threats and intimidation.

Amartya Sen, a nobel prize winner in economics in his book 'The Idea of Justice' attributes the absence of a backlash on the Indian Muslim population in India after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 to a great extent to “the public discussion that followed the attacks to which both Muslims and non-Muslims contributed richly”. A valuable lesson is to be learnt from this.

We must fight the urge to constantly shut down discussion. The temptation to do so as an easy way to avoid thorny issues may always be present. However, therein lies the road to misunderstanding and isolation. We must appreciate that the world is changing and that there is a clamour for dialogue as a means of fostering understanding.

Malaysia in all its multi-ethnic glory is well placed to set an example for the rest of the world in promoting peace and understanding, where people of various cultures and belief do not merely “tolerate” each other, but live in harmony. We must leave a legacy for the generations to come that when we had to face up to a difficult task in our history, we chose the path of openness and dialogue rather than force and suppression.

Let this be the start of our golden age of discourse. Let us all talk to one another. More importantly, let us listen.

AMBIGA SREENEVASAN is former president of the Malaysian Bar.

What many Malays do not know

Image

In other words, rulings and punishment would be ‘tailored’ to suit local conditions. This means discretion based on local conditions and situations and whatnot would apply. So the Shariah was not static but dynamic.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

(Bernama) -- Students of the Syariah Law Faculty of Universiti Malaya (UM) have launch a "Friends of Kartika" club to demonstrate support for the part-time model who has expressed he wish to be caned by the authorities over her transgression with alcohol.

UM Students Representative Council secretary, Shah Rizul Ayuni Zulkiply told a press conference here today that the objective of the club was to demonstrate support for Kartika by the Muslims students in the university.

She said the club was confident that the decision by Kartika to accept the punishment was a means of correcting herself and be guided by the teachings of Islam.

Kartika was recently fined RM5,000 and ordered to whipped six times by the Kuantan Syariah High Court after she pleaded to consuming alcohol at a hotel in Kuantan some time last year.

*************************************************

Many Muslims, Malays of course included, do not realise that there are 6,346 verses in the Quran (Koran) but only about 80 verses or so touch on the issue of ‘laws’. That is slightly over 1% of the Quran. How, therefore, did the Shariah or Islamic law come about?

The Shariah was developed over 300 years from the mid-600s to the mid-900s, after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Some of it was adapted from the Quran, which was revealed over 22 years during the time of the Prophet. The verses of the Quran were not revealed all in one go but came down in bits and pieces as the situation demanded and whenever a ruling needed to be made.

For example, there is the story of how certain people in Medina accused the Prophet’s youngest wife, Aishah, of adultery with a young handsome Arab man. This came about when Aishah was making a journey in the desert and when the caravan stopped she went to answer the call of nature, invariably away from public view. The caravan, not realising that she was missing, continued its journey and she was accidentally left behind.

She returned to the caravan site and discovered that the caravan had left, leaving her behind, so she sat there hoping that they would realise they had left her and come back to fetch her.

But the caravan did not realise she had been left behind until they stopped for the night. So they decided to camp there since it was already getting dark and they would go look for her the next day come daylight.

In the meantime, this young Arab man on his horse came along, saw this woman in a veil sitting all alone in the desert and he immediately recognised her as one of the Prophet’s wives. He had never met Aishah before and of course could not recognise her face -- in fact, Aishah’s face could not be seen because of the veil -- but he knew she was the Prophet’s wife because of the veil that she wore.

At that time only the Prophet’s wives wore veils.

He took her on his horse and pursued the caravan and it was not till the next day they caught up with the caravan. Imagine the people’s surprise when they saw Aishah sitting behind this young man on his horse.

And that started tongues wagging.

Ali, the Prophet’s companion, cousin and son-in-law, who later on became the fourth Caliph (which means ‘successor’) of Medina, felt that a Prophet could not afford a scandal and because of the allegations of adultery against Aishah then probably the Prophet should divorce her.

This troubled the Prophet because he really loved Aishah, who was his favourite wife. Although he refused to divorce her he did leave her and after three days the ruling on adultery was revealed. The Prophet happily went back to Aishah to tell her what had been revealed.

Those who commit adultery should be whipped 100 lashes and those who wrongly accuse someone of adultery should be whipped 80 lashes. And that was what the Quran stipulated as far as punishment for adultery is concerned.

The old pre-Islamic tribal laws for adultery was, of course, stoning to death.

While the Quran forbids the drinking of intoxicating substances, it is ‘silent’ on the punishment. But over 300 years from the mid-600s to the mid-900s, one Qadi (Kadi), the equivalent of a court official during the time of the Caliphs, decided that the punishment for drinking should be the same as that of the punishment for false allegations of adultery, meaning 80 lashes.

So, if Kartika is supposed to be punished according to ‘Islamic law’, then why a fine of RM5,000 and six lashes? Should not the correct punishment be 80 lashes as decided by the Qadi during the era of the mid-600s to the mid-900s? The Qadi during the time of the Caliphs did not impose a fine plus six lashes. It was 80 lashes.

We must remember that the Shariah was not carved in stone, so to speak. It in fact never existed during the time of the Prophet. It developed over 300 years after the Prophet had died. And by the year 1,000 there was no longer any discussion or ‘development’ allowed.

In other words, the Shariah ‘stood still’ for more than 1,000 years until now, 2009. What had been decided before the year 1,000 was accepted as final and complete and any further ‘innovation’ was declared haram and classified as bida’ah (the Arabic word for ‘innovation’).

But the Shariah itself varied from city to city and from time to time. Let us focus on just two seats of the Islamic Empire at that time -- Medina and Kufa. Medina was ruled by the four Caliphs -- Abu Bakar, Omar, Othman and Ali -- while Kufa was ruled by its governor, Muawiyah, which became the seat of the Umayyad Empire.

In Medina, the punishment of cutting off the hands of thieves would apply if the item you stole exceeded the value of three dirhams while in Kufa it was ten dirhams. This means if you stole a bicycle in Medina your hands would be cut off while it was a motorcycle in Kufa, to use this analogy as a ‘modern’ yardstick. Then, in other parts of the Empire, even stealing a loaf of bread could mean your hands would be cut off.

Different Qadi at different times and different places over those 300 years decided on rulings and punishments based on ‘local conditions’. They would take into consideration local tribal customs, the state of emergency (whether they are at war or at peace), how society functions, the ‘value system’ of the society at that time, and whatnot.

In other words, rulings and punishment would be ‘tailored’ to suit local conditions. This means discretion based on local conditions and situations and whatnot would apply. So the Shariah was not static but dynamic.

For example, in Medina, the man of the household would negotiate a woman’s marriage ‘contract’ such as dowry and so on. Women must stay out of the entire thing and just accept what has been decided. In Kufa, a woman can negotiate her own terms and can make her own decisions regarding her marriage. So the price for ‘sacrificing her virginity’ is hers to decide in Kufa, while in Medina the man of the house decides the woman’s ‘worth’.

The greatest tragedy in Islam was when by the year 1,000 or so they decided that no further ‘innovations’ would be allowed. So, for more than 1,000 years, Muslims have had to live by the rules decided long before the year 1,000 by people who took ‘local conditions’ into consideration in making these rules.

Even then, the rules were not consistent. They varied from place to place and period to period. They changed as and when the Qadi decided they needed to be changed. And some Qadi were strict while others were pragmatic. And when the Umayyad Empire was toppled and the Abbasids took over, the rules were again changed, right up to the time of Harun Al Rashid.

During the time of Harun Al Rashid, a power struggle ensued between the Caliph and the religionists. As a compromise, a deal was struck whereby the religionists would decide on the laws and the Caliph would merely implement the laws. If Harun Al Rashid had resisted he would have been ousted just like the Umayyads before that.

In that sense it was a power-sharing contract of sorts, a separation of the church and state, as they would say in the west. No longer did the state have the power to make laws. The religionists took over this function. But in this case, while the ‘church’ had the powers to make the laws, the ‘state’ was obligated to enforce them or else get kicked out.

Muslims, in particular the Malays, have to understand how the Shariah came about and how it developed over 300 years after the death of the Prophet until what it is today. And they must also understand how ‘time stood still’ for more than 1,000 years because of the many power struggles between Medina and Kufa (which saw the Muslims split into Sunnis and Shiahs, until today), the Abbasids and Umayyads, and the Caliphs and the ‘men of the cloth’.

Imam Malik had a different view and his Muwatta’ lies testimony to this. Zayd too had a different view and it was he who decided on the 80 lashes for drinking where during the time of the Prophet this had not been the case. Abu Yussuf in fact even went into conflict with Harun Al Rahid as to what the proper interpretation of the law should be. And Malik was even whipped and jailed because he and the Caliph disagreed on the doctrine.

And Malaysian Malays, most who follow Imam Shafie, would certainly disagree with Malik, who not only made it legal to keep slaves but also the slave owner is allowed to have sex with female slaves. That is not considered adultery or extra-marital sex since the slave is your property anyway.

This law has never changed until today although I would not know where one can buy female slaves nowadays.

I say we should open the doors for the reinterpretation of Islam and allow ‘innovation’, which has since been outlawed by Islam. And we need brave Muslims to study the history of the Shariah and decide what applies in this day and age and according to the environment we live in.

If we really want to split hairs, then even the Amanah Saham, which many Malays invest in, is haram. Any profit made through no effort of your own is considered usury, according to Zayd, and is therefore haram. Are we prepared to follow Islam to the letter or do we just want to pick and choose what suits us and conveniently ignore the rest since it would be profitable to do so?

That is my take on the Kartika issue and I sincerely apologise if my views differ from that of ‘mainstream’ Muslims. After all, even Malik and the Caliph disagreed on the doctrine of Islam and he was punished severely for that.

Ultimately, what we have today is what the victors or what those in power have decided for us. Those who disagreed but did not have the power to voice their opinions lost out and their views, whether correct or otherwise, died with them.

Do we not say the victors and not the vanquished write the books?

MCA’s EGM II may still end in impasse

By Clara Chooi - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — The din of dissent during Thursday afternoon’s MCA central committee meeting was only broken by the deafening silence of party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

Repeatedly, he was asked by central committee members why he was refusing to resign even after losing a confidence vote at last weekend’s party extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

And repeatedly Ong kept silent.

“He could not even explain why. He was asked many, many times why he wanted so badly to cling on to his post when he himself had said earlier he would resign.

“He was silent and could not explain,” a member of the party’s central committee told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

Instead Ong told the central committee he was invoking his powers as party president to call for a new EGM.

In a prepared blog posting that was put up immediately after the heated meeting, Ong said that since the decision to sack Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was made collectively by the central committee and the presidential council, the onus and responsibility should be shared.

But the central committee member who spoke to The Malaysian Insider claimed that the presidential council, of which he was also a member, had been railroaded into sacking Dr Chua.

He said many of the presidential council members had been uneasy with the decision to sack Dr Chua for bringing the party into disrepute because of his sex scandal in 2007. But they agreed out of respect for the president’s wishes.

Not getting off here. Ong is calling for yet another EGM. — Picture by Jack Ooi

“Of course not. There was disagreement. But he went ahead with it. Now, he wants to bring everyone down with him. Why should we pay for his mistakes?

“He is a very selfish and irresponsible president who is not willing to face the consequences of his own actions,” said the source.

The decision to sack Dr Chua had led to last weekend’s party EGM. Ong lost a confidence vote and Dr Chua was reinstated as a party member even though he lost a vote to specifically reinstall him as the party No 2.

The Malaysian Insider understands that on Thursday the central committee had attempted to force Ong to resign.

More than 20 of the 42 members had signed a petition calling on him to quit, but the combative Ong refused.

Under MCA’s constitution, a party president can only be removed by a vote from at least two-thirds of national delegates at an EGM. Ong lost last weekend’s vote by only 14 votes.

Yesterday, MCA secretary-general Datuk Wong Foon Meng, a close ally of Ong, said EGM II will have only one resolution, which is to support the president and remove the entire central committee. The legal implications of such a resolution are still being debated.

Wong said the party’s legal affairs bureau was still studying the draft. Some central committee members have argued that the bid by Ong to force fresh elections could be an exercise of futility. This is because the party’s constitution states that the only way to call for fresh polls is when the CC is dissolved, through the resignation of two thirds of its members.

The likelihood of such a thing happening, however, is close to nil.

It is unclear if an EGM can force just the central committee to resign without also removing the party president who is also a member. It is clear, however, that neither Ong nor the central committee members are willing to resign.

Whatever happens, MCA may still be in deadlock.

Car thief caught after high-speed chase

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 – A man suspected of stealing two cars within two weeks was arrested in Simpang Tiga, Masalam, Rawang, near here, today.

The 39-year-old suspect who was in a stolen Proton Wira crashed into several cars and a trailer while being chased from Kampung Kenanga in Rawang by police.

Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahim Abdullah said a police patrol car which was at the Chinese cemetery area in Kampung Kenanga saw the suspect behaving in a suspicious manner.

“Realising the presence of the police, the suspect sped off, forcing the police to fire a single warning shot into the air. But the car headed towards Selayang.

“After the suspect’s car crashed into several cars and a trailer, he tried to escape to a nearby petrol station. However, he was arrested with the help of another police patrol team.”

Abdul Rahim said police investigation found that the Proton Wira was stolen in Desa Jaya, Kepong last week.

It was the second car stolen by the suspect within two weeks. – Bernama

Dr M dismisses Khairy’s call to end ‘siege mentality’

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

PETALING JAYA, Oct 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday brushed aside Khairy Jamaluddin’s call for Malays to end their siege mentality, pointing out that perhaps “some of us are already successful.”

But the former prime minister said there were still many Malays who found it hard to make a living.

Dr Mahathir said last night he believed Malays still had a siege mentality because of their relative poverty.

“Maybe the average Malay feels that he is under siege, so to speak because he does not earn enough,” said Dr Mahathir.

He was commenting Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s speech at the Umno general assembly.

“Well, maybe some of us feel that we are already successful, so we don’t need to be under ‘siege’,” said Dr Mahathir.

Khairy had this week urged Malays to end their siege mentality and emphasise Malay leadership as opposed to Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy.

His call to end the siege mentality was virtually blacked out by Umno’s Malay-language newspapers. Only English-language newspapers, vernacular and online media published stories emphasising the siege mentality part of his speech.

Khairy was also criticised by a number of right-wing Umno blogs, with many likening his remarks to something which Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would say.

When asked last night, Dr Mahathir — a fierce critic of Khairy — declined to say whether he agreed or disagreed with the Umno Youth chief’s remarks.

“I’m not saying I’m agreeing or disagreeing with what he (Khairy) said. I don’t have to agree or disagree with anything.”

Khairy has been forced to defend his remarks after receiving flak from right-wing elements in the party.

A Zaid Ibrahim message : Let the people decide

By Haris Ibrahim,

Zaid held a press conference at his home at 3pm a little while ago.

Zaid PC I reproduce below the text of his press release that was distributed at the press conference.

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“Effective today, I will be taking 6 months leave from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). This means that I will not be attending the political bureau meetings of the party. A letter to that effect has been delivered to the Secretary-General of the party.

I joined PKR because of my interest to try and put together a common policy platform for Pakatan Rakyat (PR). This common poicy framework for the coalition of the 3 parties, PKR, DAP and PAS respectively, are now in the final stages and I expect to submit the policy framework to the leadership of the respective parties next week.

That being said, a lot more work has to be done inunderstanding the concerns of the members and the rakyat. A lot more work still needs to be done to provide a cohesive foundation for the coalition and this involves meeting various leaders and members of the respective parties parties. With the Pakatan Rakyat Convention due to take place in December 2009, I need time to finalise the policy framework which hopefully will be approved by the leadership of the respective parties.

Lately, there have been reports of the political frictions of the PKR leadership with regards to Sabah and Sarawak and that I was in some way involved. I wish to reiterate that I am not involved in PKR leaders to meet the members, which I have accepted. Similarly, I have also been invited to meet some leaders of Sarawak in Kuching. I see no sinister motive in these invitations.

I have no interest in the internal politics of PKR, nor of any of the other parties in Pakatan Rakyat. Neither do I aspire to asume a leadership role in PKR. I made this very clear to Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim when I joined the party. I only want to be a facilitator to bring about the realization of a strong, credible and united opposition – an opposition with a strong leadership, sound common policies and structures to be a meaningful alternative to Barisan Nasional (BN). Only a strong united opposition can restore democracy in this country and can provide good policies to the people.

We must move beyond the BN bashing and sloganeering stage. Only clearly defined policies and a united leadership of Pakatan Rakyat can convinve Malaysians that we are a suitable choice for the rakyat. I hope that from my meetings, dialogues and discussions with the members of the 3 parties at all levels, the dream of a united opposition can be realized.

I also refer to the statement by the Prime Minister on 13th October, 2009 about myinvolvement in money politics when I was in UMNO.

When I was made a minister, one of the first thinngs I did was ask the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to investigate the findings of money politics against me by the UMNO Disciplinary Tribunal. I believe I was framed by UMNO and found the findings of the Tribunal flawed, where basic rules of evidence were ignored. I felt that a Minister should be free of such misconduct, especially when the Governmennt had committed itself to rid corruption in the country. I believe my request was acted upon by the ACA and they commenced investigations. I have not heard of the findings till today.

The Prime Minister should not take jibes at me when it suits him. He should be more interested in the truth. I therefore wish to appeal to him, tooo instrcut the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) tp complete its investigation and the findings disclosed to the public. I am prepared to face the charges if there is evidence of corrupt practice. But if I am innocent, then the Prime Minister should hold his peace and refrain from making such statements in the future”.

_______________________________________

I asked Zaid whether, given his statement that he would be goiing to Sabah and Sarawak notwithstanding the directive from the party top leadership to the contrary, this would not suggest a falling out between himself and the top party leadership.

Zaid said there was no falling out between himself and any in the party leadership.

I then asked Zaid if he concurred that PKR was facing a crisis of sorts in Sabahh and Sarawak and, if so, what he thought was needed to resolve the criisis.

Zaid acknowledged that PKR was facing a crisis of sorts in East Malaysia. The solution, he felt, was to let the people of Sabah and Sarawak decide for themselves on matters of their local leadership. Zaid said that this ought to apply not just in Sabah and Sarawak but anywhere else as well. Let the democratic process take its course.

This, he said, was the message he would be taking to with him to Sabah and Sarawak.

I asked whether this was a Zaid message or a PKR message.

“I will be speaking for Zaid Ibrahim”, he replied.

Will Najib succeed?

By Shanon Shah
thenutgraph.com


Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at a press conference
after the closing of the general assembly

"THIS 60th Umno general assembly is among the best I have attended," party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared in his winding up speech today, 16 Oct 2009. "This assembly has made the most significant, radical and huge amendments to the party's constitution in the history of our struggle," he said.

Najib is probably right about the constitutional amendments on 15 Oct, in which seven major areas for change were agreed to by a 2,500-strong delegation in less than an hour. But the delegates' debates on his policy address left much to be desired.

Yes, all the delegates cried, Umno needs to change. Umno needs to win back the people's support. And how is Umno supposed to do this? Pulau Pinang delegate Shabudin Yahaya said the party needed to set up its own ulama wing. He also suggested that the party needed to set up its own television network and newspaper, as if the government-controlled terrestrial stations and Umno-controlled Malay-language press weren't enough.

Malacca delegate Datuk Idderis Kassim said the party should not be afraid of PAS. He then went on an incomprehensible treatise on how ogling a woman is okay when it is done the first time, but becomes sinful when it is done again.

Selangor delegate Abdul Shukur Idrus lamented on the party's loss of support among Malay Malaysians. Perchance, he theorised, the problem was that Umno had only focused on giving out material goodies to the people without teaching them how to be grateful.

And Johor candidate Datuk Samsol Bari Jamali accused those who say Umno is racist of being racists themselves, masquerading as multiculturalists. Compromise with other races, he said, but not at the risk of diluting Malay privileges.

What change?

Yes, the delegates wanted change, but it is clear many are still stuck in the axis of Umno's malaiseMalay supremacy, to be sure, but also money politics and authoritarianism. In fact, an overwhelming number of delegates whinged about needing "peruntukan" — financial allocations — to reform the party effectively.

To be fair to Najib, he did not give in to this whinging in his winding up address.

"Do you need peruntukan to stop being lazy and start being hardworking? No, you don't," he said. Do grassroots leaders need peruntukan to stop being so arrogant and start being humble? No, he said. Do they need peruntukan to stop finding fault all the time and start being constructive? Again, he said no.

The thing is, there were delegates who shouted "yes" to all three questions from the back of the hall. Which raises the question of whether the majority of Umno members and leaders understand what it really means to reform the party.


Najib greeting delegates on 15 Oct

Therefore, it is to Najib's credit that he was far more convincing and charismatic in his winding up address than he was in his messy policy speech. "It is difficult to change people," he said. "But we can improve and strengthen systems and processes so that people are forced to change for the better."

Yes, Najib had finally gotten to the heart of the matter — systems and processes need to be strengthened, and they need to be transparent so that individuals can be held accountable. But again, did the rest of the delegates understand this? Not an easy question to answer, but Najib continued with a warning anyway: "Do not try to exploit the system.

"We must present Umno as a clean party with integrity, one that the rakyat is comfortable with," he said. "Let people see us as champions of the rakyat, not a party to get contracts from."

Indeed, trying to get Umno to change must be like herding cats. But herd the delegates Najib did in his winding up speech. Never mind that he did not manage to truly address the issue of the party's history of authoritarianism in government, Malay supremacy and political Islam. The silver lining is that he chose to honour an important principle of governance, and his rhetoric was solid.

Past ghosts

But here's the rub. The much-touted constitutional amendments are actually an attempt to roll back on earlier changes that were ironically made to solve Umno's leadership crises and endemic corruption.


Tengku Razaleigh (Wiki commons)
Take Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's 1987 challenge to unseat Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad from the party presidency. Razaleigh had only garnered 20% of nominations from some 192 divisions nationwide, and yet managed to get 50% of votes from delegates at the general assembly.

And so, when the party splintered into Umno Baru, led by Mahathir, and Semangat 46, led by Razaleigh, Mahathir introduced the 10-vote bonus system. With this system, any candidate who secured nominations to contest for top posts received an automatic bonus of 10 votes.

But then, Mahathir's headache came back when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mounted a successful challenge to Tun Ghafar Baba for the deputy presidency in 1993. After gaining enough nominations, Anwar managed to defeat Ghafar with only his bonus votes, and this was the impetus for the introduction of Umno's much-maligned quota system.

Mahathir maintains that both the bonus vote and quota systems were introduced to curb money politics, even though he now supports the removal of the quota system. But here's the complicating factor. Anwar was a critic of the nexus between political parties and businesses, but was not averse to politicians cultivating close personal relationships with business figures.

The question then is, did Anwar take money politics out of the general assembly in 1993 only to inject it and spread it at the grassroots level? How then did he manage to unseat Ghafar so swiftly?

This is the party's dirty history that has come back to haunt it. The constitutional amendments that Najib's leadership is spearheading look wonderful and indeed historic on paper. They are most likely even genuine attempts by his leadership to eradicate money politics in the party, and to make it more democratic and inclusive.

But will it curb money politics in Umno, or will the ghosts of Umno's past help spread money politics further at the grassroots level? Will Umno leaders with the most access to money still be the ones winning elections and rising in the party's ranks?

The silver lining is that Najib is one Umno leader who has identified the problem correctly, for the most part. He also knows the rakyat is watching.