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Monday, October 19, 2009

Iran vows swift response to attack ( Al Jazeera)

According to state media, an armed Sunni group claimed responsibility for the attack

Iran has promised a swift and crushing response to a suicide attack in the country's Sistan-Baluchestan province that killed 42 people, including 11 Revolutionary Guards commanders.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said on Sunday that those behind the bombing in the city of Pisheen would be "seriously dealt with".

According to Iranian state media, a Sunni group called Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, claimed responsibility for the attack.

But Tehran has also indicated it believes foreign elements were involved in the attack, the deadliest in Iran in recent years.

"We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of US action. This is the sign of America's animosity against our country," Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker, said.

US blamed

Mohammad Marandi, an assistant professor at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera the attack could further damage Iran's relations with the US.

In depth

"I think the greatest blow [from this attack] is to any Iranian trust with regards to the Americans," he told Al Jazeera.

"On the one hand, the Americans are talking about rapprochement and building a new future, yet at the same time we see the Americans supporting groups in [Iran's] Kurdish regions as well as in Sistan-Baluchestan."

But Washington has denied involvement with the group, which it has labelled as a "terrorist" organisation, and condemned the attack.

"We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives," Ian Kelly, the US state department spokesman, said in a statement soon after the blast occurred.

"Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false," he said.

Britain blamed

Tehran has also suggested that Saudi Arabia and Britain have supported Jundallah to stir up trouble in the border area and have linked the group to al-Qaeda.

Majid Tafreshi, an Iranian researcher at University College London who specialises in ethnic and religious minorities, said there were clues as to the involvement of Western nations.

"It's very easy to point at Saudi, to the British and Americans ... [but] it [Jundallah] is a local organisation"

Ali Nouri Zada,
director of Arab-Iranian Studies Centre

"Generally you cannot find any proof about this claim, but there are some clues," he told Al Jazeera.

"The previous American governments used to play with ethnic minority and ethnic religious groups to play with Iranian politics," he said.

"Also you can see in British media nowadays that people who are representative of this terrorist group are easily working and talking to British media and involved in politics and lobbying parliament ... while this group is on the terrorist list and its leaders on the wanted list of Interpol."

Other analysts have rejected the idea that the West supports Jundallah and other ethnic groups.

Ali Nouri Zada, the director of the Arab-Iranian Studies Centre in London, told Al Jazeera: "It's very easy to point at Saudi, to the British and Americans ... [but] it [Jundallah] is a local organisation,"

Frequent clashes

The southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan has been the scene of frequent clashes between security forces, ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents and heavily-armed drug traffickers.

Its population feels an affinity with the Baluch population across the border in Pakistan and both countries accuse each other of supporting Baluch rebels in the other's territory.

Following the attack, Ahmadinejad called for Pakistan to help Tehran apprehend those behind the attack.

"We were informed that some security agents in Pakistan are co-operating with the main elements of this terrorist incident... We regard it as our right to demand these criminals from them," he was quoted by the Fars News Agency as saying.

"We ask the Pakistani government not to delay any longer in the apprehension of the main elements in this terrorist attack."

Jundallah, which accuses Iran's Shia-led government of discrimination against Sunnis, has been behind a number of attacks on security forces in the region.

"This [attack] is not totally out of the blue," Abdul Sattar Doshoki, a Baluch political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

"It was expected because Jundallah have issued a statement saying they were going to carry out a suicide attack against those who align themselves with the Revolutionary Guards against their group."

Suicide attack

The blast occurred ahead of a meeting between Revolutionary Guards commanders and tribal chiefs, part of efforts to foster Shia-Sunni unity in the region. About 10 senior tribal figures were among the dead.

Television showed footage of three bodies covered with blood-stained clothing and of wounded people being taken to hospital.

Glass shards and other debris were scattered at the scene of the attack.

Among the dead, Fars said, were General Nur-Ali Shushtari, deputy commander of the Guards' ground forces; General Mohammad-Zadeh, Guards' commander in Sistan-Baluchestan province; the Guards' commander for the town of Iranshahr and the commander of the Amir al-Momenin unit.

The Revolutionary Guards vowed to hit back at those behind the attack.

"The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group," General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of Guards' ground forces, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

He said that the group "will never be able to launch another act like this in the country".

Like Tehran, the Revolutionary Guards has also accused the West of involvement in the attack, saying in a statement that "surely foreign elements, particularly those linked to the global arrogance were involved".

Sri Lanka claims billionaire trader funded terrorists

Raj Rajaratnam, the New York-based billionaire and hedge fund manager charged in an alleged insider trading scheme on Friday, was funding the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is considered a terrorist group by the US, the Sri Lankan government claimed on Sunday.

U.S. prosecutors lay out their case against billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

U.S. prosecutors lay out their case against billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, spokesman for the Sri Lankan defence ministry, told the Financial Times that the government had been monitoring Mr Rajaratnam for several years.

"[Sri Lanka-born] Raj Rajaratnam was involved in several schemes funding the LTTE. [He] wasn't under formal investigation because he was operating from the US . . . but he was still funding the LTTE frontline organisation."

Jim Walden, partner at law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in New York and Mr Rajaratnam's defence attorney, said his client was innocent of insider trading and would fight the charges in court. Mr Walden on Sunday denied that his client was a supporter of the LTTE.

The allegations about Mr Rajaratnam's background will underscore hedge fund investors' growing interest in the lives of the managers to whom they entrust their money.

Since the Madoff scandal last year, investor due diligence efforts have moved beyond fund account-checking. Deep background checks on managers and their personal lives are becoming a matter of course.

Meanwhile, the US authorities' case against Mr Rajaratnam represents a stepping up of the resources that are being committed to targeting insider trading. It is the first market abuse case based on wiretaps, a manpower-intensive tool usually reserved for racketeering and corruption, and could be the first in a series of fraud prosecutions brought by the new leadership of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Brig Nanayakkara alleged that Mr Rajaratnam had sponsored the Tamil Tigers for several years with "many millions of US dollars". However, he could not give specific details about how much Mr Raj had invested in the LTTE and how.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president, declared the country "free from terror" last May after the army killed Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the island's Tamil rebels, bringing to an end one of Asia's longest-running civil wars. The LTTE separatist fighters were renowned for their use of suicide bombers and for assassinating two heads of state.

US media reports have alleged that Mr Rajaratnam had been financing the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, which the US considers a front for the LTTE. However, Mr Walden told the Wall Street Journal that his client was innocent and had only been funding tsunami relief activities in 2005.

At that time, Mr Rajaratnam's name had already been linked to the LTTE. But he vigorously denied any involvement with the separatist organisation in an interview with the Sri Lankan Sunday Times, published on June 5 2005.

"I have funded orphanages in Mullaitivu, as much as I have funded education projects in Kalutara. I funded Vanni Tech as much as I funded Sunera Foundation. I know there is speculation, but I don't worry about it one bit," he was quoted as saying. "People don't understand philanthropy in this country...Here when you do charity people say that I have got political ambitions."

The billionaire founded Galleon, which became one of Wall Street's biggest hedge funds in 1997 and has minority stakes in many of Sri Lanka's top listed companies, including Commercial Bank of Ceylon.

Brigadier Nanayakkara said that none of the companies in which Mr Rajaratnam has investments in Sri Lanka were under investigation. However, he did not rule out that the government could take action in the future. "We will have to wait for the outcome of the current investigation in the US and then we'll look into [the companies'] possible role in financing the LTTE and if we can prove that the companies have sponsored the terrorists we will take action."

In Sri Lanka, news of Mr Rajaratnam's arrest was received with great surprise. Sri Lanka's Sunday Times ran the story on its front page with a strong headline: "Raj arrest triggers panic in Lanka."

Murli Reddy, the Colombo correspondent of the India daily The Hindu said: "Everybody in Sri Lanka is talking about his arrest. The guy invested a lot of money in the country, so that explains the great interest among people," said Mr Reddy.

The Sri Lankan government has stressed that it would provide US authorities all the support it needs in the investigation.

Najib: Menzahirkan perubahan

Najib speaks with forked tongue - Malaysiakini

Najib Razak contradicted himself in his speech last Thursday at the Umno General Assembly. He spoke of the all-embracing 1Malaysia concept on one hand and of the need to retain the New Economic Policy (NEP) on the other. The Native Americans in old cowboy movies might have said that he spoke with a forked tongue.

How can you have the NEP and at the same time say that we are all 1Malaysia? The NEP is exclusive to a particular group of people, and such exclusivity sets them apart. There is no 1Malaysia; there are 2Malaysias.

umno agm egm 151009 najib give speech 05Does Najib not see that or is his 1Malaysia idea merely PR spin or marketing hype?

This central contradiction is what makes many non-Malays sceptical of what he is touting. The only non-Malays who will buy it are those who are not discerning enough or who are easily bought.

I'm almost tempted to include the Bagan Pinang voters in this category but their decision to support so strongly a politician with a corruption record in that recent by-election could be due to other concerns.

Why continue to have an affirmative action programme that is still based on race? Haven't we moved on since March 8, 2008? How much different is Najib's defense of the need for the NEP from that of his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein's pre-March 8 keris-wielding pledge to defend it against adversaries? It's merely less militant, that's all.

Najib slammed the Malays who say they no longer need “crutches” and called them arrogant. He asked, “What about the Malays who still require help? Is it fair if the group who still need crutches are denied help?”

Why hasn't he thought of providing help to people of all races who need “crutches”? Wouldn't that be more in line with 1Malaysia? All he needs to do is look at the Malaysian Economic Agenda proposed by Pakatan Rakyat. Go back to basics – have an affirmative action programme based on need. Isn't that the original intent of the NEP?

umno agm egm 151009 delegatesIt looks like Najib was invoking the NEP at the assembly expressly to play to the Malay gallery, to ensure that his regular customers will remain faithful. Meanwhile, the non-Malay customers can wait. He will find some other occasion in the future to throw them small gifts and lure them to buy his merchandise.

That's the kind of ploy we've been used to through the decades, but hasn't it exceeded its sell-by date? Shouldn't we reject it instead of fall for its trickery? Leaders of race-based parties like Najib must resolve their central dilemma – pander to their own race or be truly multi-racial. They can't have it both ways.

This time around, Najib has chosen to stick with tradition. We must hold leaders accountable for their doublespeak. Similarly, we have to insist that Ong Tee Keat stick to his promise of resigning as MCA president now that a no-confidence vote has been taken against him.

If Umno is not racist...

At the Umno assembly, Najib also said that the Malays are not racist. He is absolutely right; they are not. But what about Umno? He said it is not racist too.

If Umno is not racist, why did it organise forums after March 8 in which Malays were warned that Malay power was being eroded and that Malay land had fallen into non-Malay hands?

NONEIf Umno is not racist, why does it maintain an indoctrination agency like the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) which inculcates in young Malay minds the idea of Ketuanan Melayu and wariness of the other races? (For more on the BTN, read Dr Azly Rahman's chapter 'On the Problem of Ketuanan Melayu and the Work of the Biro Tata Negara' in the book Multiethnic Malaysia.)

If Umno is not racist, why does it allow the newspapers it owns, particularly in the Malay language, to run stories and commentaries that could easily be deemed seditious? Don't tell me that it's because Umno believes in the independence of the media and therefore does not intervene. I've been in journalism for more than 30 years and I know that's a lie.

Najib also pointed out that the true meaning of racism lay in the apartheid policy that once held sway in South Africa. Well, he was not quite the pot calling the kettle black because it is true that Malaysia does not practise apartheid like the National Party of South Africa did. But why do non-Malay parents have to work so much harder to send their children for tertiary education? Why do they have to outsource such education overseas?

university convocation 090507 01Why is there a restrictive quota for the intake of non-Malay students into our public universities? Why are there educational institutions that are strictly for Malays? And why was there so much hue and cry against Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim's suggestion for Universiti Teknologi Mara to offer 10 percent of its places to non-Malay students?

Why is only a small percentage of government scholarships granted to non-Malays? Why do some non-Malay students who top their classes not get such scholarships? Do the non-Malays not pay taxes?

Why is the Malaysian Civil Service so understaffed by non-Malays? And of which race are the overwhelming numbers of high officials in the civil service, universities, police force, army and so on?

Is it not just a subtler form of apartheid that Malaysia practices? And is it not a fact that ours is one of only a few countries in the world that institutionalises racial discrimination? So, what is Najib talking about? Whom is he trying to fool? What nonsense is this 1Malaysia?

Parames seeks welfare department' help

Soi Lek asks Registrar for reinstatement as MCA No. 2

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has filed an application with the office of the Registrar of Societies to be reinstated as deputy president of MCA, in a move that is set to intensify the party crisis.

The Malaysian Insider was told by government sources that the application was submitted recently.

In the application to the Registrar, Dr Chua is arguing that the Oct 10 EGM vote had effectively reinstated him as deputy president.

At the EGM, delegates had approved a resolution to annul the suspension of Dr Chua’s membership in MCA.

A separate resolution to specifically reinstate him as deputy president was defeated.

But Dr Chua is contending that the approval of the resolution to annul his suspension effectively means a return to the status quo — that is he should continue as the MCA No. 2.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Dr Chua’s camp had consulted top lawyers in crafting the original resolution, and the same lawyers had advised him to apply to the Registrar to be reinstated.

In the application, Dr Chua also contends that there should be no need for another EGM to sort out the party crisis.

If Dr Chua is successful, it will mean Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s appointment by the central committee last Thursday as MCA deputy president will be voided.

At the party central committee meeting last week, Liow was appointed deputy president while Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat refused to resign as president.

Ong had narrowly lost a confidence vote in last week’s EGM but is not obligated to resign because under the MCA constitution he can only be removed if at least two-thirds of delegates in an EGM vote him out.

Instead, he is calling for another EGM to decide on his future as party president.

A majority of the central committee, many of whom were his supporters previously, had asked Ong to resign last week.

Ong, who has said he felt betrayed by his “comrades”, is now locked in a battle with his erstwhile supporters in the central committee.

The crisis in the party had started after Ong pushed for Dr Chua to be sacked, using the latter’s 2007 sex scandal as a reason.

Dr Chua had resigned his government and party posts in 2008 because of the scandal, but won election as MCA’s deputy president last October in a remarkable comeback.

Ong has had an uneasy relationship with Dr Chua from Day One, and sought to sack him.

This led to the recent party EGM.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Dr Chua is currently not in favour of a second EGM or even fresh party polls.

He wants to be reinstated and work with Ong to set a transition period for the two of them to retire.

Islam’s growing role in Malaysian politics

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — In the current political climate, it is no longer possible to distinguish Islamic radicals from Islamic moderates. Despite official boasts about the country's diverse population and commitment to pluralism, Islam and the government have essentially merged.

For two decades, the ruling Umno-led government invested enormous public resources in building up a network of Islamic institutions. The government's initial intention was to deflect radical demands for an extreme version of Islamic governance. Over time, however, the effort to outdo its critics led Umno to over-Islamicise the state.

Umno's programme has put syariah law, the Syariah Court and an extensive Islamic bureaucracy in place, an effort that has taken on a life of its own. The number of Islamic laws instituted has quadrupled in little more than 10 years. After Iran or Saudi Arabia, Malaysia's Syariah Court system is probably the most extensive in the Muslim world. The accompanying bureaucracy is not only big but also has more bite than the national Parliament.

Islamic laws in Malaysia are based on religious doctrine, but codified and passed as statutes by state legislatures. Not much debate attends their enactment, for the fear of being accused of heresy keeps most critics from questioning anything deemed Islamic.

While Umno still trumpets its Islamic advocacy, the party is facing difficult choices, particularly as it wishes to maintain foreign investment in an increasingly polarised environment.

For example, Minister for Home Affairs Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein recently held a press conference to support Muslims who had demonstrated against the construction of a Hindu temple in their neighbourhood. The protesters had paraded a severed, bloodied cow's head in the street, then spat and stomped on it. This offended Hindus, who consider the cow a sacred animal.

Just a week earlier, a young mother by the name of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was sentenced by the Syariah Court to six lashes of the cane and fined after she was caught drinking beer at a hotel. Although the caning sentence is still in limbo, Hishammuddin publicised his acceptance of the punishment by inviting the floggers to his office to demonstrate how an Islamic caning would be carried out. They used a chair as a mock target, and left him satisfied that Islamic caning can be appropriately used as a punishment for women.

Ironically, Hishammuddin is far from an Islamic hardliner. The son of the third prime minister, the grandson of Umno's founder, and a cousin of the current prime minister, he is widely considered to be modern, moderate and cosmopolitan.

A true hardliner is Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the Mentri Besar of Kelantan and the spiritual leader of the largest Islamist party, PAS, which now controls two state governments. However, Nik Aziz opposed the anti-Hindu protest, even calling a group of anti-Muslim protesters in Britain more civilised in their approach.

Hence, it is no longer accurate to think of PAS as a fundamentalist party and Umno as moderate. Party strategies are leading them in unexpected directions. Umno's more radical turn is being matched by PAS's attempts at moderation. PAS is aiming for the most unlikely of voters: non-Muslims, who account for 40 per cent of the population and who feel increasingly alienated from the Umno-led ruling coalition.

Umno, meanwhile, is intent on dividing the opposition coalition, of which PAS is a member. Led by former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition made significant gains in last year's general election.

Concerned about its losses, Umno has staked a claim to the defence of Islam. The “cow head” protest, which was led by Umno members, quickly gave way to racially charged manipulation of public sentiment. The formula is simple: portray Islam as being threatened by infidels, and then have Umno ride to the rescue of the besieged Muslim community.

The caning of Kartika, on the other hand, is not an example of political manipulation, and for this reason is perhaps more worrisome. Her sentence was roundly supported by modernist Muslim intellectuals, who insisted that it was justly applied and cannot be questioned because it had divine sanction. These are not politicians but former idealists who are happy that their goal of Islamicising the state is being realised. Most among them are anti-Umno and support PAS.

As a result, Umno finds itself squeezed between an Islamic lobby that presses for greater “Talebanisation” of the country and the rising voices of international critics, who cannot be ignored. The party needs both radical supporters and foreign investors to stay in power.

Balancing these two constituencies is becoming increasingly difficult for Umno. Islamic politics has now taken on a life of its own.

But the opposition too will be forced to figure out the role of religion in Malaysia if ever it gets an opportunity to form the government. Anwar, then a young Islamic radical, asked once: “How does one Islamicise government?”

Now he has to figure out how one governs an Islamicised government. — Straits Times

Najib's political masterpiece and conundrum

At the end of the general assembly, Najib, while urging his party to re-embrace the spirit of "voluntarism", promised to ensure allocations are given for programmes and activities. This is where the problem lies for the 63-year-old party.

By Chan Kok Leong, The Edge

UNLIKE previous general assemblies, two buzzwords littered the speeches and were on everyone's lips at the Umno 60th general assembly.

Replacing Ketuanan Melayu ("Malay Supremacy") were Bagan Pinang and Janda Baik.

The high from retaining the Bagan Pinang state seat had already begun last Tuesday, when delegates gathered to listen to the president's customary Umno general assembly pre-council speech.

Mingling delegates could not help joking and recounting their first Peninsular Malaysia by-election triumph that took place barely 48 hours earlier.

And standing tall amid the applause from the supreme council members awaiting the arrival of Datuk Seri Najib Razak was the diminutive Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad.

"Bagan Pinang" was used to mark the return of Umno, the return of all-round support for the pre-Independence party and marking of a new era under Najib.

The new president, his deputy, the three vice-presidents and wing leaders could not help highlighting the tourist destination spot in their speeches.

"Janda Baik" too earned its place in the many speeches.

Najib said the Umno retreat had helped the party leaders close ranks and marked a new beginning for the party, where top leaders will have to "do their fair share of the work".

"Like everyone else in Janda Baik, I had to wash my own dishes too," he remarked during his winding-up speech last Friday.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin promised that his movement will have a similar "team-building exercise" towards the end of the year.

The timing for Bagan Pinang and Janda Baik could not be any better, as it helped to end the gloom permeating the party after a string of unprecedented losses in by-elections.

"Had we lost in Bagan Pinang, do you think that we would be smiling today or if the constitutional amendments would have been passed so quickly?" Najib asked last Friday, before explaining why he had picked Isa to contest the seat.

Coming into the general assembly, which planned to expand the party electorate thereby removing the opportunity for its delegates to "enrich themselves" during party elections, it was a masterstroke by Najib.

His political ingenuity did not stop there.

After the bitter party election in March, Najib was able to bring in both former presidents — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi — under the same roof once again, albeit at different times.

Dr Mahathir attended the opening while Abdullah was in Dewan Merdeka to listen to his successor's speech in the closing.

Najib also thanked Abdullah for keeping his promise not to criticise him whilst continuing to lend his support to the younger man.

The move, though small, will go a long way towards uniting the different factions in Umno.

Yet, the work has only just begun for Najib and Umno.

Revealing the extent of the task ahead of him, Najib noted that the party had failed to register any new voters since its general election embarrassment in March 2008.

Another piece of cleverness, was the "inclusive" message preached by Najib, deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Khairy.

With Najib's 1Malaysia concept weaved into the general assembly, diners at the prime minister's function last Thursday night witnessed perhaps what will be a norm in many government functions.

Replacing routine performances was a potpourri of acts highlighting the various ethnic cultural dances and songs. There was a fusion song sung in Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia while different races performed a fusion of Bharatanatyam.

Even the emcees consisted of one Malay, one Indian Muslim, an Indian and Chinese lady, clad in their cultural costumes.

Throughout the general assembly too were banners and even programmes carrying the 1Malaysia logo.

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps not unusual that the habitual usage of "racial rhetoric" or "keris" was reduced to the barest minimum.

But then again, the race to be defenders of the Malay race is usually reserved for party election years.

Nevertheless, the shortened debates highlighted a common plea from the delegates — party funding.

At the end of the general assembly, Najib, while urging his party to re-embrace the spirit of "voluntarism", promised to ensure allocations are given for programmes and activities.

This is where the problem lies for the 63-year-old party.

From stories where Wanita members pawned their jewellery to fund Tunku Abdul Rahman's Umno and Merdeka efforts, the party has turned into just another corporate venture.

And with the loss of control in four states, where funding used to be in the form of "constituency allocations from the state governments", the party now has to dig into its reserves to ensure its members "serve" the people.

Amidst the economic recession, Najib will have to ensure adequate finances are secured to fund activities.

Speeches by Najib and Khairy were refreshing and inspiring as both sought to get the party to unite, embrace esprit de corps and re-evaluate their "special privileges" and discard the crutches.

But the message in essence is not new.

During the 2001 general assembly, in the longest-ever presidential speech (one hour and 53 minutes), Dr Mahathir chided his party members for being greedy, urging them to buck up and bring an end to money politics.

Ending his opening address with the poem Melayu Mudah Lupa, Dr Mahathir begged his party not to forget their struggles, to work hard and not be complacent.

That message has returned to haunt Najib and most of all Umno.

By Ian McIntyre, The Star After three decades of mounting challenges for the Umno presidency, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has decided to give up the figh

By Ian McIntyre, The Star

After three decades of mounting challenges for the Umno presidency, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has decided to give up the fight finally.

“I am too old. Too old,” he said when asked at the sidelines of the recent Umno special general assembly on whether he would consider contesting for the post with the quota system now abolished.

“I think it is time to give a younger person a chance,” he said.

However, the Kelantan prince will continue to be an active political commentator, providing insights into history as well as constructive criticism of both Barisan Nasional and the Opposition.

At the age of 72, he is the longest serving parliamentarian and Umno divisional leader but Tengku Razaleigh is likely to be featured in the annals of Umno history as the “nearly man.”

He came within a whisker of becoming party president at the infamous 1987 party elections, which eventually saw the party de-registered by the courts and the imposition of a quota system.

Tengku Razaleigh had also mooted a campaign in the recent party elections to contest the presidency against both Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and current president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He could only muster one nomination which was from his own Gua Musang Umno division.

The quota system was introduced to rein in excessive jostling for posts besides preventing the party from being taken to courts but instead, some exploited the loopholes for their own benefits and gave rise to the Umno divisional heads to become “warlords”.

Known as a “gentleman politician”, Tengku Razaleigh is someone who enjoyed ties with the who’s who among the nations politicians and headed Semangat 46, a splinter of the original Umno which broke up in 1987.

“I am a loyalist but if Umno does not heed the change for structural changes, I may reconsider (about the prospects of joining another party),” he added.

Why the Pakatan Rakyat government was brought down in Perak


Nazrin’s succession to the Perak throne depends on the goodwill of the federal government. But only if the state government is a Barisan Nasional government will there be this goodwill. If Pakatan Rakyat remains the state government, then expect Nazrin to pay the price when his time comes to succeed his father.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

We all know what happened in Perak. What many do not know is why it happened.

If you can remember, it took one week for the Perak and Selangor state governments to get sworn in after the March 2008 general election. The Sultans of these two states wanted to first ‘discuss the matter’ with the Pakatan Rakyat State Assemblypersons. The Sultans then set certain terms and conditions before agreeing to swear in the new Pakatan Rakyat state governments.

This gap of one week allowed the old Barisan Nasional state governments time to remove and destroy quite a lot of very damaging evidence of the wrongdoings of the previous governments.

The one-week delay also allowed Barisan Nasional to negotiate the possibility of PAS teaming up with Umno to form the state governments in Perak and Selangor. Umno even agreed that PAS would become the Menteris Besar of these two states. And, to add icing to the cake, Umno even agreed to allow PAS to implement Islamic laws in these two states.

But PAS stayed loyal to their two other partners in Pakatan Rakyat, PKR and DAP, and they declined Umno’s offer. Finally, the two Sultans had no choice but to swear in the Pakatan Rakyat state governments in Perak and Selangor. But this did not stop them from plotting behind the scenes on how to bring down the governments.

The Sultan of Selangor was quite prepared to consider the whole matter a fait accompli. After all, Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor had a clear majority and it would be quite difficult to buy off so many State Assemblypersons. But Perak was another matter altogether. Pakatan Rakyat’s majority in Perak was thinner than in Selangor.

As soon as the new state government had been put in place, the Sultan of Perak began asking for this, that and the other. The Pakatan Rakyat Perak state government would have been quite prepared to tolerate some of the demands of the Perak Palace for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with the Palace. But what the Sultan and his family wanted was just too excessive and the Pakatan Rakyat Perak state government had no choice but to say no to the Sultan’s demands.

And this, of course, upset the Sultan. So, when Pakatan Rakyat lost its majority in the Perak State Assembly, it did not take too much persuading for the Sultan to agree to swear in a new Barisan Nasional state government.

At first, the Sultan was not too sure whether he should kick out the Pakatan Rakyat state government in favour of a Barisan Nasional government. When the Pakatan Rakyat Menteri Besar, Nizar Jamaluddin, went before the Sultan to request that the State Assembly be dissolved to make way for fresh state elections, the Sultan said he would think about it first. But immediately after that the Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, went to meet the Sultan and the Sultan was persuaded to reject the Pakatan Rakyat request to dissolve the State Assembly and instead he swore in Barisan Nasional as the new state government.

Najib’s ‘persuasion’ was simple. Nazrin, his son, should not be the Raja Muda of Perak. And this means he should also not be the next Sultan. And in the event that the Sultan dies, as surely he will one day, the federal government will not support Nazrin as the next Sultan of Perak. See what happened to Negeri Sembilan. Although the Yamtuan appointed his son as the regent, this does not mean he becomes the next Yamtuan.

So, Nazrin’s succession to the Perak throne depends on the goodwill of the federal government. But only if the state government is a Barisan Nasional government will there be this goodwill. If Pakatan Rakyat remains the state government, then expect Nazrin to pay the price when his time comes to succeed his father.

Furthermore, the Sultan and his family has asked for a lot of things from the Pakatan Rakyat state government, all of which they rejected. Umno will ensure that the Sultan and his family get whatever they want if Barisan Nasional takes over as the Perak state government.

And with that Pakatan Rakyat’s fate was sealed. The Sultan swore in Barisan Nasional as the new Perak state government and Pakatan Rakyat was sent into the opposition aisle.

What was it that the Sultan and his family wanted which Pakatan Rakyat said no to and which Barisan Nasional has now said yes? Yes, let us see how in just a few months the Sultan and his family has suddenly become one of the richest royal families in Malaysia, of course, at the expense of Pakatan Rakyat.

1. Umno gave the Sultan a piece of state land known as lot 183578. The land is approximately 600 acres in size and is at Tanjong Tualang in the district of Kinta. This land has been parked under the name of the Sultan’s proxy, Mohamed Khaair Johari Hj Osman.

2. Umno gave the Sultan a 1,000-acre timber concession along the 11km Gerik-Kupang highway in Ulu Kenderong, Gerik, Hulu Perak. This concession was originally given to Universiti Utara Malaysia. However, it was later revoked and given to Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak whose Chairman is Raja Datuk Seri Ashman Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Shah.

3. Umno gave the Sultan seven timber concessions at compartments 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 49 in the Kenderong Forest Reserve in Hulu Perak. The seven lots, which come to approximately 600 acres, were parked under two proxy companies of the Sultan -- Syarikat Zotonjaya Sdn Bhd and Kibaran Wang Sdn Bhd.

4. Umno is about to approve a proposal for reforestation involving 10,781 hectares. 5,781 hectares is at the Gunung Besout Forest Reserve in Southern Perak while 5,000 hectares is at Pondok Tanjung in the Larut Matang district. The company that will get this huge project is Permatang Utama Sdn Bhd (company registration number 513583-D) whose Executive Chairman is Datuk Seri Ismail Farouk Abdullah, the Sultan’s son-in-law.

5. Further to that, Datuk Seri Ismail Farouk Abdullah was allowed to take over the state-owned Casuarina Hotel in Ipoh for a negotiated cut throat price of only RM43 million whereas it can fetch a far higher price on the open market. The hotel is located in one of the most prime land in Ipoh and just the empty land alone is worth a huge amount of money.

It is not that the Perak Royal Family is destitute. It is more like they are greedy. Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Azlan Shah is a Director of GAMUDA BERHAD and is Malaysia's 25th richest person with assets worth over RM 773 million. This makes her the second richest woman in Malaysia after Puan Sri Chong Chook Yew, who occupies the number 18 slot with more than RM 1 billion in assets.

Gamuda Berhad has been awarded more than RM10 billion worth of contracts. It also operates and maintains 230 kilometres of highways plus is a major township and property developer with four township projects involving more than 30,000 houses.

So there you have it. Perakians, in particular the Malays, think that the opposition is not showing the Sultan of Perak the respect he deserves. What they do not know is the Sultan does not deserve any respect. And many are also not aware why the Sultan wanted Pakatan Rakyat kicked out of Perak.

Now, we hope, they do.

The children of Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Yussuf Izzuddin Shah Ghafarullahu-Lah, the Sultan of Perak

From left: Tunku Datuk Seri Kamil Tunku Rijaldin and his wife Raja Datuk Seri Yong Sofia, Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Ismail and his wife Raja Datuk Seri Azureen, Raja Muda Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah and his wife Tuanku Zara Salim, Raja Kechil Tengah Perak Raja Datuk Seri Ashman Shah and his wife Datin Seri Noraini Jane, Raja Datuk Seri Eleena and her husband Datuk Seri Ismail Farouk Abdullah.

Change, we must


We must not only read the letter of the law but also look at what was behind the spirit of the law. And the spirit of the law would have to be considered against the backdrop of the prevailing conditions at that time, say 1,200 years ago.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

(Bernama) -- The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), in collaboration with the Islamic Science University of Malaysia (Usim), will introduce the "Permata Ilmu" programme for Muslim students from next year.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom said the programme would be offered to smart students aged between eight and 18 years.

The programme is modelled after the "Permata Negara" programme mooted by the prime minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

"These smart students will be identified by the school or parents and they will be required to sit for tests which cover religious knowledge as well as science and technology," he told reporters after attending a convocation of Kemas kindergartens in Guar Chempedak division, here today.

For a start, the Permata Ilmu programme would be offered to 100 students, he said.

"Through this programme the government hopes to create a pool of future leaders who are well-versed in religious matters as well as in science and technology," he said.


Knowledge (ilmu), as we were taught in school in the 1960s, is not about what you know, but about your ability of being able to find information when you need to know. 20 years on and Malaysia’s education system changed. From objective it became subjective. No longer were students taught how to think. They were taught how to memorise. Memorising does not require thinking. You can even memorise Greek and Latin, even if that is not your mother tongue, although that does not mean you know what you are memorising.

And that is how religious education is being perpetuated. Muslims are made to memorise verses of the Quran, sometimes the entire Quran. But that does not mean they understand what these verses mean.

The Qadi or court officials between the mid-600s to the mid-900s took pains to research and interpret the law as laid down by the Quran. By the year 1000, though, they were no longer allowed to use discretion, as in the 300 years before that. Their job was merely to rule based on earlier research and interpretation, although some of those rulings may no longer be applicable to the current situation of that time.

Okay, let us move away from Islamic laws for the meantime and instead look at Malaysia’s secular laws. We have a law called the Internal Security Act. This law was passed by parliament in 1960.

When they tabled this law in parliament it was hotly debated. The opposition leader in parliament then, Darma Raja Seenivasagam, who was also the leader of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, why the need for such a draconian law that allows for detention without trial -- which is a violation of the Federal Constitution of Malaya?

Tun Razak explained that they need this law to combat the communist insurgency. There are about 800 or so communist terrorists operating in the Pahang jungles and along the Malaysian-Thai border and the ISA, if approved by parliament, will be specifically used to combat this problem. Tun Razak assured parliament that the ISA will be used for no other purpose other than to combat the communist insurgency in Malaya.

And with that assurance the ISA was passed into law with the support of the opposition as well.

In 1979, Malaysia signed a peace treaty with the Communist Party of Malaya and, technically, the Emergency was officially declared over. But the ISA was never abrogated or rescinded. The law remained and later was used against political dissidents, currency and passport forgerers, and whatnot. This is a violation of the very purpose of the law as approved by parliament and which also goes against what Tun Razak had promised parliament.

If we go by the letter of the law, no harm has been done because the ISA does not specify that ‘this law is only applicable to communist terrorists and to combat the communist insurgency and for no other purposes’. But if we go by the spirit of the law, then the ISA has been wrongly used.

This would therefore raise the issue of legal and moral. While it may be legally right to use the ISA against those who oppose Umno and Barisan Nasional (since the ISA does not say that it CAN’T be used against those who oppose Umno or Barisan Nasional), is it morally right to do so? So, what may be legal may not be moral. And therefore the morality issue also needs to be looked into. And this means just looking at the letter of the law is not enough. We also need to look into the spirit of the law and if it is legal, but at the same time immoral, then the law needs to be abrogated or rescinded.

And to use the argument that some Umno people use, in that the ISA is required to protect Malay interests, is both illegal as well as immoral. How can the ISA be good for the Malays when more than 90% of those detained under the ISA are Malays?

Even if we want to extend the use of the ISA -- from combating terrorism or the communist insurgency to anything under the sun that threatens national security -- detaining people who question Ketuanan Melayu can never be viewed as threatening national security.

And this brings us back to the laws passed by the Muslim Qadi more than 1,000 years ago. Then, they needed to interpret the law as they saw fit, taking into consideration the social, economic, and security conditions, say, in the year 700. In other words, the Qadi used discretion in applying the laws as the application or punishment for certain crimes was not always specified.

To sum up, the Qadi ruled according to what they thought best at that time but which may no longer apply today.

And this is not only the case for Islamic laws. Even the west had laws that would never be accepted today but which, say in the year 1200, were considered suitable. For example, if you kill a deer, you would be put to death. If you speak against the Monarch, your ears would be cut off. If you refuse to accept that Jesus was the Son of God, you would be burned alive at the stake. If you oppose the state, you would be put to death and your wife and children sold into slavery. And so on and so forth. Those laws were legal then, but, today, such laws would never pass the morality test.

And the same should apply to Islamic laws that may still be considered legal -- since they have never been abrogated or rescinded since they were passed -- but would never pass the morality test today.

Islam has never outlawed slavery. Technically, I can still buy a slave and no one can stop me from doing so. And if it is a female slave then I am permitted to have sex with her. I will never be subjected to the 100 lashes punishment for adultery.

But will society, today, tolerate me buying slaves from a slave market and using the female slaves for my sexual pleasure? It is legal, so what are the police going to do about it? They can’t do a damn thing.

Take the 80 lashes for drinking that I wrote about earlier. If you really want to punish a Muslim for drinking then it must be 80 lashes and not six lashes and a RM5,000 fine. Either you apply Islamic law or you don’t. You can modify it any way you want.

But the Shariah court in Pahang saw fit to modify the law from 80 lashes to only six lashes and a further fine of RM5,000. Why six lashes and a fine of RM5,000? Why not 80 lashes as what earlier Qadi had ruled?

This is because the punishment for drinking is not mentioned in the Quran. The 80 lashes was what Zayd ruled and which was accepted as valid. And Zayd’s ruling was based on the fact that 80 lashes is also the punishment for false allegation of adultery and he considered drinking the same as the crime for false allegation of adultery. That was Zayd’s take on the matter and that was his ruling, not the Quran’s ruling.

So maybe the Pahang judge thought that six lashes and a fine of RM5,000 is good enough for today’s environment. That is why he reduced it from 80 lashes to six lashes and a fine of RM5,000. And this means laws are not carved in stone. They can be changed, if change is necessary, even Islamic laws.

So, while I welcome the move, as reported by Bernama above, to better educate Muslims, it must be an education system based on research and critical thinking. We must not only read the letter of the law but also look at what was behind the spirit of the law. And the spirit of the law would have to be considered against the backdrop of the prevailing conditions at that time, say 1,200 years ago.

Have these conditions changed? Would, therefore, the spirit also have changed? And in that case, does the letter of the law also need to change?

This is what we must teach the young and impressionable minds so that Islam is made a dynamic religion that does not fear change whenever change is due. And if we stick hard and fast to the rule that only the Prophet’s way is the correct way and that any Muslim who apes the non-Muslims becomes an apostate (as some Muslim scholars are of the view), then we would have to sell our cars and buy horses and camels as the motorcar is a non-Muslim invention and certainly not something that the Prophet ever moved around in.

Vijiaykumar A/L Krishnan(25) assaulted in Tapah Prison

Siapa yang bersalah?

Penjara adalah dianggap satu-satunya tempat yang dikatakan paling selamat bagi banduan-banduan yang dijatuhkan hukuman ataupun mereka yang masih menunggu keputusan serta individu yang masih dalam tahanan reman. Selain daripada itu, Penjara juga mempunyai peranan yang lebih penting dimana banduan-banduan juga diberikan peluang untuk merealisasi kesalahan mereka melalui menjalankan aktiviti pemulihan moral.

Tetapi situasinya pula berlainan kepada pemuda India yang bernama Vijiaykumar A/L Krishnan yang berumur 25 tahun dimana beliau telah diserang oleh banduan lain. Kejadian yang diklasifikasikan sebagai ngeri ini berlaku pada Vijiaykumar pada 13 haribulan Oktober 2009 pada jam pukul 8.00 pagi semasa beliau berada didalam Penjara Tapah.

Yang lebih mengejutkan adalah beliau telah mengalami kecedaraan parah sehingga pihak Penjara terpaksa menghantar beliau ke Hospital Tapah untuk rawatan seterusnya. Mungkin perkara sebegini adalah perkara yang biasa berlaku tetapi bagi pihak keluarga pula ianya seolah satu tragedy yang tidak dapat dilupakan sepanjang hayat.

Lebih anehnya adalah, pihak Penjara langsung tidak memaklumkan kejadian ini kepada pihak keluarga ataupun kepada Peguam Vijayakumar. Apabila ditanya, pihak Penjara hanya berminat hendak tahu bagaimana pihak keluarga Vijiyakumar dapat maklumat ini.

Apakah paras tanggungjawab dan kuasa pihak Penjara dalam melindungi hak asasi seorang banduan? Selain daripada itu apakah yang menyebabkan pihak Penjara berpendirian untuk tidak mahu memakluman kejadian ini kepada pihak keluarga mangsa?

Saya difahamkan bahawa seramai 6 orang banduan telah menyerang beliau semasa berada dalam penjara dengan niatnya untuk membunuh beliau. Disebabkan beliau kurang berdaya untuk menahan serangan itu, saya difahamkan Vijiyakumar mengalami kecederaan parah pada bahagian kepala dan bahagian badannya pula dihiris dengan pisau.

Persoalannya, bagaimanakah banduan boleh mendapat batang besi dan pisau

semasa berada dalam Penjara? Adalah sistem kawalan dipenjara Tapah boleh dikatakan kurang effisien dalam melaksanakan tugasan yg diberikan kepada mereka. Dimanakah pengawal-pengawal berada semasa kesemua banduan dikumpulkan pada satu tempat kurung? Bagaimanakah kecederaan yang seteruk ini boleh berlaku.? Bukankah Penjara Tapah mempunyai sistem kamera untuk memantau tingkah laku banduan demi keselamatan mereka?

Saya juga difahamkan bahawa, ada juga layanan berbeza diberikan diantara banduan oleh pihak Penjara. Benar atau tidak mereka yang mempunyai pengalaman sahaja yang tahu kebenarannya.

Pada pandangan, saya ini adalah kejadian yang kedua bagi Vijiaykumar dimana pertama kalinya beliau dikatakan diserang oleh beberapa anggota polis di Balai Polis Chemor kerana disyaki mengedar dadah. Semasa beliau menyerah diri dibalai Polis Chemor dihadapan orang ramai, salah seorang pegawai Polis berjawatan tinggi, berjanji pada pihak keluarga dimana tidak akan berlaku apa-apa kecederaan lagi pada beliau. Kini beliau boleh menafikan bahawa ianya berlaku dalam Penjara, tetapi siapakah punca yang menyebabkan beliau diserang dalam Penjara? Bukankah tuduhan dengan bukti yang direka sendiri oleh pegawai penyiasat menjadi punca utama dalam isu ini?

Kes Vijiyakumar masih belum diputuskan dan perbicaraan baru bermula pada 5 & 6 Oktober 2009 dimana beliau diwakili oleh Peguam Augustine Anthony. Pada peringkat awal permohonan jaminan beliau juga ditolak atas alasan-alasan yang tidak berasas.

Ibu bapa kepada Vijiaykumar sudah hilang kepercayaan pada pihak Penjara dan takut keselamatan anaknya tidak boleh dijamin oleh mana-mana pihak serta meraka berasa kemungkinan besar anak akan dibunuh dalam Penjara. Dapat pihak Penjara boleh memrikan jaminan serta penjelasan yang kukuh kepada pihak keluarga bagi menjaga nama baik Institusi Penjara Malaysia?

Pada masa yang sama Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia juga patut menjalankan siasatan bersama salah seorang wakil keluarga ataupun Peguannya demi menegak keadilan Vijiyakumar.


1Malaysia / Ketuanan Rakyat talk

By Haris Ibrahim,

As I mentioned in an earlier post, SABM will be hosting a dialogue on 31st October, 2009 with political parties on both sides of the divide to appraise them of the SABM Charter and to elicit if they will endorse the same and work with us on taking our “One People, One Nation” message to the rakyat.

Ee Chia and Colin’s efforts unearthed 33 political parties supposedly in existence Malaysia.

We could only get the contact details of 21, though.

Invites to our dialogue have been sent out to the following 20 parties and the protem committee of 1 party awaiting registration.

1. DAP
4. MIC
5. PKR
6. Parti Rakyat Malaysia
7. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
8. Parti Bersatu Sabah
9. Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak
Parti Rakyat Sarawak
11. Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia
12.Liberal Democratic Party
13.Parti Reformasi Negeri Sarawak
14. Pertubuhan Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Bersatu
15. People’s Progressive Party Of Malaysia
Parti Punjabi Malaysia
Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu Sarawak
18. Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party
19. Sabah Progressive Party


21. Protem Committee of the Human Rights Party Malaysia

The invite to the Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party will go out tomorrow as their contact details were just obtained a little while ago.

DAP and the Human Rights Party of Malaysia have confirmed their attendance.

I spoke to someone in PKR a little while ago. Was asked to check back on Wednesday.

Will keep you posted.

The New God of UMNO

By M. Bakri Musa

In his celebrated novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan (RSJ – Spikes Throughout the Pathway), Shahnon Ahmad chronicles the seemingly endless traps of poverty endured by a kampong family. Or in his elegant words, “bencana-bencana yang tidak bisa langsai selagi jantung berdegup [dan] nadi berdenyut … ” (never ending cycle of calamities endured as long as your heart beats and pulse throbs). Shahnon asserts that the pain could only be felt by those willing to reflect on and empathize with the struggles of our pap-pak tani (peasant farmers).

This thought haunts me as I reflect on the hoopla surrounding the recent UMNO General Assembly. The soaring rhetoric of “1-Malaysia” and of reform is a universe away from the world inhabited by RSJ’s main character, Lahuma. The irony strikes hard as the Lahumas are the very people UMNO professes to champion.

The biting irony does not end there. Many of the Assembly participants, including the high-flying ones, are only a generation or two away from the deprivations so painfully detailed in RSJ. Those agonizing memories must have been seared into them by their parents and grandparents. That should motivate anyone to do something to alleviate the debilitating poverty still experienced by so many today.

Yet I did not sense even an inkling of that sentiment at this grand gathering of self-declared “defenders of the Malays.” Even more bizarre is that these UMNO delegates still have friends and relatives in abundance who continue to suffer the pain of peasant life. And let’s face it, stripped of their political patronages many of the currently high-living delegates would be reduced to a Lahuma existence overnight.

I doubt that many of the delegates have heard of Shahnon Ahmad, let alone read his novels. Hence they would not know what I am writing about. I once tried to buy his books at one of KL’s major bookstores, only to be greeted by the sales clerk’s response of, “Shahnon siapa?” (Who?) A stinging indictment of our education system!

Thus a brief summary of RSJ is warranted before proceeding. The book describes the endless cascading calamities of droughts, floods, and infestations suffered by one poor farmer (Lahuma). His tragedy (but not the book) ends with his unnecessary death, from an untreated trifling sliver injury. His demise compounds the anguish of his wife, who goes berserk and ends up being locked in a cage by her fellow villagers.

Shahnon’s depiction of the tyranny of poverty is a universal theme. We see this in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the travails of a sharecropper’s family in drought-stricken Oklahoma of the Depression era, and Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, also about a peasant family, this time in pre-revolution China.

Today, the descendents of Steinbeck’s Tom Joad are busy running the thriving agro-businesses in San Joaquin Valley, while Buck’s Wang Lung’s grandchildren are actively trading in US Treasury papers.

In contrast, Lahuma’s cicit (great grandchildren) are still scraping a harsh living in their disintegrating kampong; his fears of their being reduced to begging painfully prescient. Over half a century of unchallenged UMNO leadership, Malays are reduced to begging: begging for handouts from their government, begging for economic scraps from non-Malays, and begging for respect from others.

UMNO leaders may have been to Oxford and resided in sophisticated capitals of the world, alas scratch their hide and the ‘kampongness’ oozes out of the pores. They are still trapped by the same cultural genes as Lahuma’s. Where he is crippled by religious fatalism – “Mati hidup dan susah senang dipegang oleh Tuhan” (Life and death, hardship and ease, are in Allah’s hands) – UMNO members are ensnared by the political variety. They believe their fate is in the hands of the party; it is their savior, their new god – UMNO dulu, kini, dan selama nya! (UMNO – Then, now, and forever!)

To UMNO folks, the party has replaced Allah as the source of bounty and benevolence, as well as the punisher and decider of their fate. Corrupt leaders are forgiven not by Allah but by the party. The benevolence does not end there. Isa Samad had his political corruption sentence reduced, and then he was rewarded to be the party’s election candidate. Khairy Jamaluddin had his “money politics” conviction essentially pardoned, and then blessed by being head of UMNO Youth!

With such compelling examples, no wonder UMNO members turn to their new god with the gusto of a fresh convert. Just as Lahuma would never question Allah’s design, UMNO members too would not dare question their god and risking his wrath.

There was one obvious departure with this recent Assembly. Gone were the obligatory race-taunting theatrics, shrill calls for defending the ‘honor’ of the Malays, and other ugly chauvinistic displays. Time will tell whether this shift represented a change of heart or tactic.

My take is that this is more of the latter. For one, UMNO leaders have not been known to utter anything sensible. When they do, one wonders whether it comes from within or merely the parroting of poll-tested printouts from their public relations hire. For another, there is a huge gulf between what those leaders preach and practice.

UMNO’s latest obsession is combating corruption and rejuvenating the party. At least that is the impression their leaders give. Yet when given an opportunity to demonstrate its resolve, as with the recent by-election in Bagan Pinang, the party chose a tired and tainted character to be its standard bearer. I would have thought that it would pick someone who best exemplified the “new, rejuvenated” UMNO.

In judging UMNO leaders (and thus Prime Ministers), there was only one who understood the plight of our Lahumas. Because he understood them, Tun Razak was able to craft imaginative and effective policies, such as his massive rural development schemes, in particular FELDA.

The Tun’s massive expansion of educational opportunities (Gerakan Lampu Suloh – Operation Torch) brought light to the families of the Lahumas, enabling them to escape the trap of poverty. His expansion of health facilities in rural areas (Klinik Desa) ensured that they would not die unnecessarily from simple treatable diseases.

Tun Razak did not belittle or poke fun at the cultural beliefs or biological heritage of the villagers. While they fervently believed that their fate was in Allah’s hands, Tun Razak demonstrated there was much that his government could do to persuade if not prod Allah to alter that destiny. He was more persuaded by another Quranic verse: Allah would not change the condition of a people unless they first make an effort at it. As leader, Tun Razak felt a great obligation to help his people change their conditions by bringing education, health care, and development to the villages.

He could not care less about Malay leadership, Ketuanan Melayu, Glokal Malay, or any other cutesy slogans. Take care of those three basics (health, education and economic development), and the rest will take care of themselves. There are no shortcuts; stunt or showy development projects cannot replace the real need for improving our schools and healthcare, or bringing development to rural areas.

Now that the delegates are back home to savor the memories of their brief moments in the limelight, I am left wondering what specifically did they do that would directly impact the lives of our villagers. None! The Pak Lahumas would continue enduring their dreary life, one that has remained unchanged for the past half a century under UMNO rule, save for Tun Razak’s brief tenure. If UMNO gets its way, that life will remain the same for the next few generations.

Pondering the fate and empathizing with the plight of our pak-pak tani are furthest away from the thoughts of these UMNO leaders. They will however, make a brief and perfunctory show of both come election time, when our Lahumas can expect gifts of kain pelakat, in return for their votes of course.

PKR’s growing pains?

By Shanon Shah

Pacifier with PKR logo superimposed
Is PKR having teething problems? (pacifier © yenhoon /

THE Bagan Pinang by-election on 11 Oct 2009 initially looked like it was going to be a three-cornered fight. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)'s former Teluk Kemang branch leader Shahruddin Abdul Hamid tried to submit his nomination on 3 Oct 2009, but it was rejected by the Election Commission because his seconder was not a local.

A couple of days later, Shahruddin announced his support for Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, Tan Sri Isa Samad. On 8 Oct, Shahruddin tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview that he had joined Umno.

Isa (centre) wins Bagan Pinang by-election

The analysis about the nine by-election results including Bagan Pinang's aside, what else are we learning from these polls?

For one, it seems as though a pattern is developing with PKR members during by-election season. For example, in the Bukit Selambau by-election in April 2009, a good number of the 13 "independent" candidates were disgruntled grassroots PKR leaders. And then in the Penanti by-election in April, former local PKR leader Aminah Abdullah grabbed headlines when she promised to "expose" corruption and abuse of power within PKR as part of her campaign.

What gives? No other peninsula-based party seems to have these sorts of problems that PKR does. In fact, the level of disgruntlement among these former PKR leaders can get quite vicious. But what really is the problem?

Is it that PKR is a relative newcomer to the political scene in Malaysia, and these are merely teething problems? Could it be an attempt at sabotaging the party? If so, is the sabotage internally driven or externally plotted?

Elements of sabotage

Chong (pic courtesy of Jonson

PKR communications director Jonson Chong says that there is definitely sabotage at play, and it originates outside the party. "It is an abuse of the democratic process — every time there is a by-election, the BN will try to entice one of our (PKR's) people or others from Pakatan Rakyat (PR)," he tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

PKR vice-president R Sivarasa agrees. He tells The Nut Graph, "If the sabotage were internally driven, you would see this sort of thing happening constantly, and not just during by-elections."

"For example, look at the MCA with its ongoing infighting," he says in a phone interview. "That's the signature of an internally-driven conflict."

It appears that Sivarasa and Chong have hit the nail on the head. When The Nut Graph asks Shahruddin what motivated him to leave PKR, he says, "At the local level, the PKR tree is shady, it fruits abundantly, but its roots are brittle." When asked to decipher this cryptic message, Shahruddin says instead, "I wanted to contest here (in Bagan Pinang), but I was told that if I wanted to contest I had to resign, so I resigned." And then he says he was invited to join Umno, and thought why not, since he already knew Isa.

But when quizzed further about why he was leaving a party that is multiracial and talks about clean governance to join a race-based party that is tainted with corruption, Shahruddin is at a loss for an answer. "I wasn't in PKR for that long. I only joined after 2004. Before that I was an Umno member for more than 20 years."

Apparently, Shahruddin left Umno in 2004 after Isa contested in the general election and won the Jempol parliamentary seat. Isa was then appointed Federal Territories minister and that's when trouble began in the local Umno division. "There were tussles for positions," says Shahruddin, by way of explaining why he left Umno for PKR.

Growing pains

Sivarasa (file pic)

But Sivarasa says that this is not something he is overly concerned about. He points towards the DAP, which had its own headaches with leaders crossing over to the BN in the 1970s. Chong agrees that such dynamics are an "unfortunate fact about new organisations".

Therefore, Sivarasa says there is no need for the party to have a screening process for new members. "We are signing up around 10,000 new members every month. Some will eventually say they don't buy into the party and leave. But more people are joining every day."

Sivarasa says his alarm bells would go off only if the party's national congress adopted "some weird position" that altered the party's direction. "But if tomorrow a branch or a division walks out on the party, they are just a speck in the party's membership."

But does this not mean that the party will face a ticking time bomb every time a by-election is announced? Chong does not discount the fact, and says, "Hopefully by the next party elections (in 2010), we should have consolidated the party leadership and cleaned up unfortunate elements."

Immediate impacts

Fariz Musa (file pic)

PKR Youth deputy chief Fariz Musa tells The Nut Graph that such shenanigans do affect cohesion within the Pakatan Rakyat (PR). "PR solidarity was really tight and strong before this in Bagan Pinang. But when Shahruddin initially announced that he wanted to contest under PKR, it created some amount of distrust between PAS and PKR," he admits in a phone interview.

"But ultimately, Shahruddin's failure to file his nomination impacted upon Umno itself, meaning that Umno failed to split the vote here (with a third candidate contesting)," he says. Although with Isa's thumping victory at the polls, the argument that Umno wanted to split the votes seems a little bit shaky. In fact, having a third candidate may have helped the PR lose with a smaller majority to the BN in Bagan Pinang.

Still, that doesn't remove the fact that if past trends are anything to go by, every time a by-election crops up, PKR will have to brace itself for an internal surprise.

What complicates things even more is that PKR itself traces its origins to Parti KeADILan Nasional — a party formed around former Umno deputy president and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. It is constantly attracting ex-Umno, and by extension other ex-BN, leaders to its fold.

The flux of members joining and then defecting could just be part of the growing pains of a young party. But they also seem tied to the party's own history and the nature of BN and PR politics in Malaysia. The question is, will this make or break PKR?

Najib rode on the wave of Bagan Pinang

Image The Sun
By Zainon Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 18, 2009) : Datuk Seri Najib Razak was, finally, fully endorsed as the Umno president.

If ever there was any lingering doubt or dispute among party members as to who is the supremo of Umno, last week’s 60th general assembly put paid to it.

He was, of course, elected at the last assembly six months ago and was handed the reins of the party at the end of it but many had held their breath until he was sworn in as the sixth prime minister in April before acknowledging him.

Even then the reform measures he implemented, including his liberalising of certain sectors of the national economy after decades of the New Economic Policy and even his 1Malaysia concept, caused disapproving noises to rumble within the ranks and file of the party.

But he worked relentlessly to explain his policies and capitalised on the Kampung Janda Baik retreat or workcamp for divisional and other leaders to strengthen the party esprit de corps among them last month to rationalise his policies to them.

And the just-concluded general assembly crowned his efforts.

Najib realised after the setback the BN suffered at last year’s March 8 general election a major overhaul of the party was needed and new policy directions were required to arrest further erosion of support and to win back those voters who had lost faith in the party.

The effort should have started immediately after March 8 like what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did immediately after the little setback Umno suffered in the 1999 polls. He worked hard, announced he was retiring and handed power to "Mr Nice Guy" Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who led the BN to its biggest victory ever in 2004.

When Najib finally held the rein of power in his hands a year had already gone by after the March 8 "tsunami".

Nevertheless he set to work immediately and announced to the nation his reform agenda to make Malaysia "whole" again.

But, at the same time, he realised that even as he sought to win back the support of the other Malaysians with his 1Malaysia concept he must have his own party, the source of his strength as leader of the BN, solidly united behind him, and as quickly as possible.

And it was one reason why the 60th general assembly was held last week, just six month after the last one. Najib himself during his speeches at the assembly reminded the delegates many times that there is so much to do and that "time is not with us".

Thus, in his two-hour long opening speech, he dwelt at length on his reform agenda for the party, the ruling coalition and the government.

If that speech was not convincing enough, his final speech at the end of the assembly swung it for him.

In that final speech to the delegates, among whom was Abdullah, he employed all his oratory and public speaking skills, sometimes bonhomie and affable, sometimes pleading, at other times serious and foreboding, sometimes funny and sometimes stooping to embrace the earthy way many delegates love to express themselves to tell them "we must change".

He bowled them over with his insistence that "we must change" when he referred to the constitutional amendments on the abolishment of the quota system saying that he wants no safeguard for his position.

Why should he fear the members as after all he was party president because they wanted him to lead them.

He said if he failed them they certainly have the right to remove him, and they should. After he said "I leave it to members to decide on my position," the delegates went wild and shouts of Hidup Najib! were heard.

At certain times, he stirred their emotions like a street demagogue, like when he asked them at the end of his rounding-up speech whether they wanted to change, and their reply was a thunderous Ya.

Do you want to work hard now? Ya. Do you want to be close to the rakyat? Ya. Do you want to make the party strong? Ya. Do you want to serve the rakyat? Ya.

Some Umno members who came as observers were cynical about the ya to this and ya to that of the delegates.

They said hopefully their commitment is real this time. In the past their commitment lasts until they have returned to their hotel rooms and folded away their "Umno uniforms" into their suitcases.

There were times when Najib was like a lawyer in court making his submission before members of a jury, gesticulating this way and that, pointing this way and that, and turning this way and that, and sometimes showing his side profiles and sometimes facing them.

After such a stellar performance how else could the jury rule, except in his favour. But as he himself admitted it, the BN big win in Bagan Pinang was a significant help.

"Imagine if we were to lose?" he quipped.

Thus, there was no end to the praises heaped on Tan Sri Isa Samad, the man who was disciplined by Umno for involvement in money politics but chosen as the candidate for Bagan Pinang. Najib explained to the delegates why Isa was chosen.

Isa was a local boy, popular Umno leader of Teluk Kemang, where Bagan Pinang is, and popular with the Malays and non-Malays. Even after he was punished he remained a loyal Umno member. So why should Isa be punished a second time?

And now for Najib, having emerged as the undisputed leader of Umno, and winning the right to tell other parties of the BN to put their houses in order, comes the hard part: Convincing the whole country that the new BN way is the way to go.

Anwar: Oppostion Must Stay Vigilant

From Malaysiakini
By Terence Netto

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the role of the opposition in a liberal democracy was to stay vigilant against the abuses of executive power and move society towards poverty eradication and equitable distribution of wealth.

Speaking at the Dudley Senanayake memorial lecture in Colombo late last week, Anwar praised the former Sri Lankan leader for standing up for liberal democracy and for combating poverty in stints as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, particularly between 1965 and 1970.

Anwar essentially rehashed arguments on the philosophical bases of liberal democracy already familiar from his frequent iteration of them in international forums, but with one difference.

Instead of citing, as he habitually does, John Locke, the 17th century English philosopher who furnished the intellectual scaffolding for the erection of liberal democratic government, Anwar adverted to Albert Venn Dicey, a 19th century English theorist of the rule of law who was not only in favour of judicial remedy for executive abuse but also, it appears, for judicial activism, a different and more controversial stance.

A quotation from Dicey deployed by Anwar in the Senanayake lecture hints at the latter. Dicey said that “the rule of law is as valuable a principle today as it has ever been. For it means that the courts can see to it that powers of officials, and official bodies of persons entrusted with government, are not exceeded and are not abused, and that the rights of citizens are determined in accordance with the law enacted and unenacted.”

In this context, law “unenacted” must allude to the power of judges to make law, an issue of no small import in democracies where ordinarily the function of making the law is considered the legislature’s and that of interpreting it is the judiciary’s.

Theorists of the separation of powers are as wary of legislative overreach, which is the passing of laws having no constitutional warrant, as they are of executive abuse and of judicial activism, which happens when judges usurp the legislative function by creating rights for citizens from lacunae in the constitution.

Still, this was not the main thrust of Anwar’s argument in the Senanayake lecture, themed ‘The Role of the Opposition in a Liberal Democracy’.

Catering for the needy

Its gist was the opposition’s role as vigilant monitor of executive abuse, backed by an independent judiciary’s willingness to act as a check not only on executive abuse but also to review and restrain excesses of the legislature.

Anwar reiterated the usual platitudes on preventive detention laws having no place in a liberal democracy – Malaysia’s hoary, old and discredited Internal Security Act should be jettisoned – without saying how an opposition in a democracy would comport itself if government is menaced by a small and determined band of nihilistic terrorists, as Pakistan seems now.

Would it be in favour of preventive detention laws in the face of such dire threats, in which case constitutional principle would be at variance with practice, or would it insist on rendering the full panoply of due process to suspects?

Anwar’s reticence on this score was supplanted with exuberance on the necessity of liberal democracy to cater to the needy. He said it was no use if a liberal democracy cannot enable a market economy to produce growth, protect freedom, remove poverty and redistribute wealth.

He held that a “liberal democracy is meaningless without the state institutionalizing social safety net programs such as social security or social insurance.”

Ha added that “apart from fighting poverty and redressing other social inequities, we should never lose sight of the importance of supporting strong families, education, and protecting the environment.”

Anwar concluded by asserting the social democrat’s credo: “The paramount aim must be the attainment of a system which allows for a more equitable distribution of wealth, without which it is indeed a mockery to speak of freedom and democracy, whatever hardcore libertarians may tell us.