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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MP files police report, unearths dirt in sand company

By Muda Mohd Noor - Free Malaysia Today
KLANG: Kapar MP S Manikavasagam has lodged a police report, loaded with dirt, against the Selangor-owned sand and mining company Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd.

He also named three top executives of the company in his report filed with the district police headquarters here this afternoon.

Based on the information obtained, the PKR leader said the company has been allegedly mismanaged due to the “deviation” by some of its top officers.

He claimed that Kumpulan Semesta's accounts have not been updated, and this resulted in millions of ringgit not being collected.

“Kumpulan Semesta has also been providing excessive rebates and discounts to certain companies, and while its business targets were not met, some of its officers received two-fold salary increments and were paid four months bonus,” he said.

Manikavasagam also alleged in his police report that some sand miners obtained permits without paying royalty to the company.

Apart from this, he claimed that the company also issued “transport dockets” to illegal miners as well.

On top of this, the Kapar MP said the company had also allegedly permitted the ferrying of sand without payment first, resulting in “outstanding accounts running into the millions”.

This happened despite the company having a “pay first” policy, he added.

Full of praise for MB

Manikavasagam said he decided to lodge the police report after being requested to do so by Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim during a meeting this morning.

“I have submitted the documents on the (alleged) corruption in the company to the MB, and I have also furnished the names of the three officers for further action,” he added.

The 40-minute meeting took place at the menteri besar's office in Shah Alam.

Manikavasagam said that Khalid had praised him for his courage and determination in wanting to battle corruption.

The Kapar MP was also full of praise for the menteri besar.

“He told me to file a police report even if his (Khalid's) siblings are involved in such practices. I admire his spirit and his will to rid Selangor of corruption,” said Manikavasagam.

Yesterday, the PKR leader gave Khalid until Friday to set up an independent body to investigate the matter.

Failing which, Manikavasagam warned that he would file a police report.

Previously, he had snubbed officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) who wanted to pursue the matter, saying that he has no confidence in the watchdog.

Samy to chair 'moonless' CWC meet

By M Kumaran - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: With the tides turning against him, MIC president S Samy Vellu is said to have turned to the moon for help.

According to an MIC source, this is the reason why the 74-year-old party boss chose to hold the Central Working Committee meeting tomorrow.

Normally, the meetings are held towards the end of the month, and on Fridays.

However, the source claimed that Samy Vellu's trip to India last week with his son Vell Paari had led to a change in plans.

“Father and son carried out prayers in India, and the priests there advised them to hold the meeting on Amavasai (no moon day),” he said.

He claimed that the prayers were done to ensure that Samy Vellu does not face any “embarassment or arguments” during the meeting.

“The president was told that he would face no hurldes if the meeting is held on this day, since the moon has the power to influence people,” he said.

New deal for Maika Holdings

Several pricky issues are expected to be raised at tomorrow's meeting such as the Maika Holdings deal and the post-mortem results for the April 25 Hulu Selangor by-election.

Maika Holdings, MIC's debt-ridden investment arm, is to be rescued by prominent business tycoons G Gnanalingam and S Kunasingam through a special purporse vehicle called G Team Resources & Holdings Sdn Bhd.

This morning G Team Resources served a takeover notice to the Maika Holdings board of directors to acquire all its 125 million voting shares at 80 sen per share in cash.

The offer is based on the shareholders' original investment of RM100 million and 25 million bonus shares received in 1996.

G Team Resources' offer was however lesser than the one made in the past by a company linked to another tycoon, T Ananda Krishnan.

The MIC source said Samy Vellu is expected to take credit for the new deal during tomorrow's meeting, but he is hoping that the 80 sen offer will not draw flak from CWC members such as KP Samy.

KP Samy is closely linked to Samy Vellu's arch nemesis, former deputy president S Subramaniam, who was behind a court injunction which prevented Maika from disposing its insurance firm.

“This is where the 'Ammavasai' is expected to work its magic by keeping the critics silent,” said the source.

Maika Holdings, which has been the subject of numerous reports and allegations, is now helmed by Vell Paari, who is the company's chief executive officer.

'Samy holds the trump card'

Meanwhile, the source said the MIC president is also expected to touch on the issue of “sabotage” during the Hulu Selangor by-election.

In the run-up to the contest, Hulu Selangor MIC Youth chief V Mugilan was accused of working against party interest.

Previously, FMT also reported that Samy Vellu was mulling disciplinary action against his deputy G Palanivel on the same grounds as well. Ties between the two is said to have struck a sour note.

The MIC source said the president will not be initiating disciplinary action against anyone, “but he will hold the trump card since he has compiled all the evidence”.

Apart from these issues, Samy Vellu is also expected to talk about the pressure from Umno with regard to a leadership transition in MIC.

Judge blocks defence's access to Saiful's statement - Malaysiakini


There were some tense moments in court today when High Court judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah said he may initiate contempt of court proceedings against defence lawyer Karpal Singh.

*Please scroll to the bottom to see the latest updates
9.03am: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives with his wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and daughter Nurul Izzah, who is Lembah Pantai parliamentarian.
the charge against anwar ibrahim sodomy allegation trial 070808Among those seen in the public gallery are PAS vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, PAS Tumpat MP Kamaruddin Jaafar and PKR vice-president Azmin Ali.

Solicitor-General (II) Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden arrived earlier with his team of prosecutors. Also ready for today's court battle is the defence team including senior counsel Karpal Singh and Param Cumaraswamy.

Following complaints from the public over the limited seats available at the Jalan Duta Court Complex with some unable to get into the courtroom yesterday, the police have separated reporters from the public when they queue up.

Journalists are allowed to enter via the witness room, while the public enter through the main doors.

High Court justice Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah will make his decision later as to whether to allow the defence access to key witness Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's statement to the police.

NONE9.15am: Court starts. Mohd Zabidin dismisses Karpal Singh's application for access to complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's statement which he gave to the police.

Mohd Zabidin says that the attorney-general has wide discretionary power to charge a person under whichever section he deems appropriate.

Under the Penal Code, there are two alternatives for prosecutors to lay sodomy charges covering either consensual or non-consensual acts.

The decision to charge Anwar with consensual sodomy had long raised questions marks among observers, given Saiful's repeated claims that he was forced into having sex with his boss.

"Although there is material contradiction in the police report and the witness testimony, the witness's statement is not in conflict over the incident (of sodomy). Based on this reasons, Karpal's application is dismissed," says Mohamad Zabidin.

Judge asks the defence to continue the cross-examination of Saiful.

9.25am: Defence lawyer Karpal Singh applies for the matter to be appealed to a higher court. He also seeks a stay of proceedings pending the defence's appeal.

"We have now until the end of the month to persuade the Court of Appeal to give an early date (for the appeal)."

9.41am: Solicitor-General (II) Mohd Yusof said the trial should be allowed to proceed as Karpal's appeal against the judge's decision this morning can be made when the court has finished with the case.

Citing case laws, Yusof argues that the stay should not be granted, and that the appeal could be made at the final stage.

Yusof said Karpal could raise his objection over the admissibility of Saiful's testimonyat the final stage of the trial .

Karpal also complained that Yusof had come prepared to object to the stay application in expectation of today's ruling.

azlan9.46am: Judge Mohamad Zabidin warns that in light of the statement, there might be contempt of court proceedings.

This comes after Karpal made the allegation that Solicitor-General (II) Mohd Yusof had "came prepared" for today's trial and was ready to submit his arguments to object to the defence's application for a stay in proceedings.

Karpal apparently hinted that the solicitor-general already knew the judge's decision and had come ready to argue against his stay application.

The court stands down.

10.02am: Defence lawyer Karpal Singh argues that what he had earlier said regarding Solicitor-General (II) Mohd Yusof was not contemptuous of the court. All he wanted was time to reply to what the solicitor-general had submitted.

"I need time to reply. Give me half-an-hour or an hour to make a reply," he said.

Justice Mohamad Zabidin decides not to initiate contempt proceedings against Karpal.

He then allowed a brief postponement for Karpal to prepare his arguments on why there should be a stay in proceedings pending an appeal against today's High Court decision.

Karpal is seeking a stay to appeal against the Zabidin's decision to reject his application for access to complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's statement which he gave to the police.
10.15am: The court takes a break for one hour.

11.04am: Trial resumes.

11.15am: Karpal submits that the court should allow a stay as the defence had to file an affidavit along with a notice of motion.

"We are prepared to file it this afternoon. This is a requirement set by the Federal Court - that an affidavit must be filed," he said.

Karpal goes on to say the defence is not seeking to delay the trial but must file the application and affidavit and serve it on the prosecution.

"That is what the law says," he said.

Prosecutor Yusof, however, argues that the cross-examination of Saiful should continue while lawyers prepare the necessary documents.

NONEKarpal (right) retorts by asking why petty issues are being raised and questions the rush.

"We are bound by the Federal Court ruling where an affidavit must be deposed stating the special circumstances. It must not be from the statement from the Bar.

"If the proseution wants to go ahead, it would be in violation, and, similarly with the court, it may commit contempt."

11.22am: Justice Zabidin rules that until a proper application has been filed, trial should continue.

11.23am: Saiful takes the stand.

11.28pm: Saiful says he spent about 20 minutes with then deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak at the latter's house in Taman Duta.

11.37am: SAC Rodwan Mohd Yusof has been called into the courtroom regarding the meeting he had with Saiful at Hotel Melia. Saiful identifies Rodwan.

11.41am: Saiful tells the court that he complained to SAC Rodhwan Mohd Yusof about his "problem" in a room at Hotel Melia. “He did not take (my) statement and did not ask me to lodge (a police) report (against Anwar).

Saiful says he met Rodwan again the next day (June 25) at Concorde Hotel.

11.47am: Saiful adds that he had also contacted IGP Musa Hassan to complain about his "problem" with Anwar.

11.49am: Saiful says: “I contacted Musa on June 25 in the morning and talked to him for about one minute.”

He explains how he got police chief Musa Hassan's phone number. According to him, he overheard a conversation in which Musa's phone number being called out when he was in Najib's house and stored it.

NONEHe called Musa once using the number, and that was it.

11.57am: Saiful say he also got to know Ezam Mohd Noor when he was brought by one 'Rahimi' to meet him at around midnight on June 27, (the morning of) 28.

"I was with Rahimi and his uncle Tuah," says Saiful.

12.05pm: Court adjourns for lunch break.

12.05pm: Court adjourns for lunch break.

Mahathir Fans Fear of Racial Politics

Image(Asia Sentinel)Former prime minister to appear at Malay rights rally on the anniversary of massive race riots

In what can only be regarded as a gauntlet flung down to Malaysia’s minority races, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is due to provide the keynote address for a mammoth Malay rights rally in the eastern state of Terengganu on Thursday, May 13, the 41st anniversary of the worst racial riots ever to occur in the country.
Some 10,000 people representing some 45 Malay-rights groups are expected to attend the rally in a stadium in Kuala Terengganu, according to local newspapers. The organizer is a Malay rights organization called Gerakan Kebangkitan Rakyat, or Gertak for short, which means “scare” in the Malay language.
Leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, condemned the plans to hold the upcoming event. PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub and secretary-general Mustafa Ali described it as dangerous and “bordering on extremism.”
 “We are taking serious steps (on this) so that the public is aware and told that (the organizing group) are dangerous, and that the people should stay away from them,” Salahuddin told local media.
The May 13 incident, as it is known, was a traumatic episode that seemingly remains fresh in most Malaysian minds despite the fact that it occurred in 1969. Although officially only 196 people were officially listed as killed during the riots, which went on sporadically for more than two months, some estimates are that as many as 2,000 people were killed, mainly in Kuala Lumpur as ethnic Malays and Chinese battled it out. The riots ultimately resulted in the suspension of parliament.  To this day, Malaysian politicians on all sides refer to the riots constantly.
The riots were also the wellsprings of the New Economic Policy, instituted in 1971, an affirmative action program established for ethnic Malays, who at that time occupied the bottom economic rungs of Malaysian society, while the Chinese largely ran the economy.  Expected to last only until 1990, it was reconstituted under a new name, the National Development Policy, but stayed basically unchanged.  It is still referred to by most as the NEP.  And, critics say, it has largely failed.
But doing away with it at this point appears extremely difficult if not impossible. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is calling for a New Economic Model that would cut back on some Malay privileges to increase national competitiveness. However, his efforts have generated a growing backlash among ethnic Malays and in public pronouncements he has indicated that the special position of ethnic Malays will be maintained in some form.
The 84-year-old Mahathir has played an increasing role in demanding special rights, or ketuanan Melayu.  He has appeared at a series of rallies to point out that the concept of special rights goes back to the founding fathers of the country despite the fact that equality is enshrined in the Constitution. 
Mahathir’s comments themselves have been relatively mild, however. In his blog, Che Det, which is read by tens of thousands of Malaysians, he wrote recently that “The BN must remember that in the 2008 election it lost a lot of seats. Where it won the margins are very small. If a few hundred Malays decide not to vote BN, even the seats that it had won would be lost in the 13th General Election.  UMNO and the Government are facing a dilemma. In trying to win over the Chinese with allocations and abolishing New Economic Policy provisions, the BN will lose Malay support as indeed it did in 2008. On the other hand no matter how the Government try to satisfy Chinese demands, the Chinese have clearly rejected the BN.
“The opposition is no alternative. They have shown no capacity to rule.  Playing race politics in Malaysia is dangerous. This country may find itself being governed by a weak Government. There will be more politicking and more racial conflicts. There will be instability and chaos. Then everyone, whatever race he may be will suffer.”
Race politics are raising problems for Najib, who has allocated US$24 million to be spent through the US public relations giant APCO on his 1Malaysia campaign designed to bring the country’s three disparate races together and to seek to rebuild the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition.
It is also raising problems for his New Economic Model, which has been delayed repeatedly since he took office in April 2009 as he attempts to maneuver the fine line between economic liberalization and alienating his base.  After a major speech at the end of March giving broad outlines, the details have been delayed until the release of the 10th Malaysia Plan, probably next month.
His decision to remove a long-standing requirement demanding ethnic Malay participation in 27 economic sub-sectors and a requirement that 30 percent of IPO shares go to ethnic Malays caused unease among his constituents.  In particular, an NGO named Perkasa has been growing rapidly and appealing to Malay outrage over perceptions of cuts to Malay privileges.

'RM1.5m First Lady ad', MP demands probe

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been urged to probe the astronomical amount spent on an advertisement placed in the New York Times regarding Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The two-page spread in colour had described Rosmah as the “First Lady” of Malaysia and is speculated to have cost around RM1.5 million.
In a statement today, an opposition leader called on the anti-graft watchdog to sniff along the money trail to determine the source.

“MACC must immediately investigate where the money came from for the advertisement,” said PKR's Zuraida Kamaruddin, who is also the MP for Ampang.

The ad, placed in April during Najib's visit to the US, was to congratulate Rosmah for being conferred an international peace award.

It was signed, “Best wishes from family and friends in USA and Malaysia.”

'Placed on behalf of M'sian govt'
Zuraida said New York Times executive director Dianne McNulty had confirmed that the ad was placed by an advertising agency on behalf of the Malaysian government.

“And not by friends and family as stated in the advertisement,” she added.

“Looking at the figure (money involved), it is the responsibility of MACC to investigate this matter in the same manner it swings into action when it comes to Pakatan Rakyat-ruled states.

“I want the source (of the money) to be explained in order to establish that there was no abuse of public funds just to satisfy the 'lust' of those in power,” she said.

On the same issue, the PKR MP claimed that it was wrong to describe Rosmah as the "First Lady" of Malaysia, since this title belongs to the queen.

“This (the first lady description) was done based on the whims and fancies (of certain individuals) without referring to the constitution,” she said, adding that  Article 32 is clear on this issue.

“I condemn the attempt to raise the status of an ordinary person to a much higher level, which is also an act of treachery against the royal institution in this country,” said Zuraida.

Anwar fails to get Saiful's written statement

FMT ALERT KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court this morning ruled against Anwar Ibrahim's application to obtain Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's written statement from the prosecution.
Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah also said that there was no contradiction from Mohd Saiful on the sodomy incident allegedly committed by Anwar.

The judge further ruled that it was the Attorney-General's discretion to frame a charge against an accused person.

Following this Anwar's lawyer Karpal Singh applied for a stay of the trial, pending his appeal over the dismissal of the application for Mohd Saiful's written statement.
Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, after a brief recess, ruled that the trial should continue and ordered Mohd Saiful to take the stand again for him to be cross-examined by Karpal.
Yesterday Karpal sought the court to order the prosecution to submit Mohd Saiful's written statement after claiming that there were discrepancies over the charges framed and Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's testimony.

Karpal said that while Anwar was charged with allegedly committing consensual sex with Mohd Saiful, the witness had said that it was not consensual.

Solicitor-General II Mohamed Yusof Zainal Abidin, who led the prosecution team, had replied that it was the discretion of the Attorney-General, as the prosecutor, to charge any person under any section.

Uproar in court

Earlier today, following the judge's morning ruling against the witness statement application, fireworks exploded in the courtroom with Karpal alluding that the prosecution seemed to be aware of the decision that was to be made.

At one point, judge Mohamad Zabidin threatened to charge Karpal with contempt proceedings. Matters turn to normal after Karpal explained his argument to the court.

Anwar, 63, is charged with sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful, 25, at Unit 11-5-1 Desa Damansara Condominium, Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara, between 3.01pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.

He is charged under Section 377B of the Penal Code and faces up to 20 years' in jail and whipping upon conviction.In his opening statement, Solicitor-General II Mohd Yusof had told the court that the prosecution would adduce evidence to show that the semen specimen taken from Mohd Saiful's anus was confirmed by the Chemistry Department to be Anwar's.
Anwar is represented by Karpal, Param Cumaraswamy, CV Prabakharan, Ram Karpal Singh Deo, SN Nair, Mohd Radzlan Jalaludin and Marisa Regina Fernando.
Meanwhile, Mohd Yusof is assisted by seven deputy public prosecutors, Nordin Hassan, Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria, Wong Chiang Kiat, Noorin Badaruddin, Farah Azlina Latiff, Mira Mirna Musa and Naidatul Athirah Azmad.

An 'underground' battle for power and influence

By Zainal Epi - Free Malaysia Today,

SIBU: The battle is supposed to be heating up but Sibu is all calm and peaceful. People are going about their daily chores as if nothing unusual is taking place.
The only tell-tale signs that a by-election is going on are the few posters and banners, maybe 500 or so, hung at certain roundabouts and roads. All else appears tranquil.
It seems the battle for Sibu is a tame affair – but only on the surface. Beneath it, an “underground” war for power and influence is being fought in this business town, situated beside Sungai Rejang.
With its flourishing port and shipbuilding industry, Sibu, with its 54,695 voters, will decide who will be their “taiko” (big brother) on May 16.
Barisan Nasional's Robert Lau Hui Yew is slugging it out with DAP's Wong Ho Leng, with independent candidate Narawi Haron also in the fray.
However, the din of nightly ceramah is absent. There are no well-known speakers present to win over the voters nor campaigners to plot their candidates' strategies. Occasionally, when some big guns did show up, they were able to attract only about 300 people.
In the face of a largely apathetic crowd, the contestants preferred to conduct walkabouts rather ceramah.
But to the main combatants, the stakes are high. In this Foochow land, the fight is all about gaining control of the vast network of local and international businesses.
Built on swamp land, the town, some locals claim, is slowly “sinking” because the foundations of the buildings are not solid.
The ideologies of the warring political parties do not seem to be the core issue nor are national and federal issues raised by the DAP. It appears that the loyalty of the voters is to their employers who invariably work for businesses owned by the Lau family or the family of another taiko who is said to be backing the DAP candidate.
Desperate missiosn
Nevertheless, for the Chinese voters, issues related to economic development and education are their main concerns.
“As long as a political party can deliver, we will be loyal to the party while for our daily bread and butter, we are loyal to our employers,” said a local employee.
Thus, the political rivals will have to do a lot of work to woo Chinese voters whose fate is not bound up with that of their bosses. For them, what they want is development and the party that can deliver it will get their votes.
The Malay voters seem to be a complacent group since most of them are civil servants, with some into small businesses and rubber plantations.
With just four more days to voting, the DAP is in a desperate mission to win over voters whose minds are already made up.
PKR and PAS are not seen much on the campaign trail, which the DAP appears not to mind. The thinking in the DAP camp is that if its Pakatan Rakyat partners show up too often, it might undermine DAP’s attempt to storm the Chinese stronghold.
In the meantime, life is Sibu goes on as if nothing is happening.

A nation on the brink of failure

By Stanley Koh - Free Malaysia Today
COMMENT We can forgive the typical Malaysian his sneer and scepticism when he hears politicians promising change. We can even understand it if he has despaired that things will ever get better.
With all the news we have been getting lately, many are wondering whether we are on the brink of becoming a failed nation.
A policeman shoots a child dead. We are shocked, but then we remember that there have been many extrajudicial killings before and that, in many of the cases, there have been no closure for the victims’ families. The government sets up an independent panel to inquire into the latest shooting, and we are reminded of the royal panel that probed the VK Lingam tapes and got nowhere.
The government announces its intention to go for nuclear power. This scares us, because it is the same government that lost jet engines to thieves and the same government that spent millions of ringgit buying a submarine that had to be repaired before it could dive. Can the same government ensure the safety of a nuclear power plant?
A local warlord raises the spectre of another May 13, and we recall the kris wielding of the current home affairs minister and, before him, the current prime minister. We wonder if Umno will ever stop threatening racial violence every time it feels cornered. But we have no doubt that if clashes do happen, it is the opposition politicians who will be rounded up and imprisoned without trial.
Indeed, we have yet to see any evidence that those who have been ruling over us are capable of change.
To the Chinese community, the ruling regime is best described by two idiomatic expressions: “hu zuo fei wei” and “hu e bu quan” (literally, “acting wildly in defiance of moral law or public opinion” and “spending money like soil”).
Both characteristics are sustained by hypocrisy. We are told that 1Malaysia is a sort of road map leading towards a great sense of unity among Malaysians, that the project embraces everything that is good—a determination to wipe out corruption, a more open government, etcetera, etcetera.
So far, the fight against corruption seems more like a campaign to put opposition politicians behind bars. We may have to wait forever for the result of investigations into how Khir Toyo got the money to build his mansion, to name only one case.
As for a more open government, one wonders if the prime minister—or his wife—even understands that openness must go hand in hand with robust debate. The media must be allowed to air the widest spectrum of views on current affairs and perennial concerns. Instead, media organisations must take directions from Mrs Prime Minister, whom no one elected to office.
Can a political leadership that staunchly defends race-based policies, media censorship and other draconian laws and that speaks the political dialect of lies, evasion and self-denial be capable of guiding us to a happier future?
A funny story
The answer may lie in a funny story currently making the email rounds. It goes like this:
A little boy waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store is approached by a man who asks, “Son, can you tell me where the post office is?”
The boy replies “Sure. Just go straight down the street a couple blocks and turn to your right.”
The man thanks the boy and says, “I’m the new pastor in town. I’d like for you to come to church on Sunday. I’ll show you how to go to heaven.”
The boy replies with a chuckle, “Oh, come on! You don’t even know the way to the post office.”
Given our seemingly hopeless situation, should we give up the fight and forget about seeing change for the betterment of our nation?
Perhaps we should remember the following words of Martin Luther King Jr:
“Our survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.
“And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride your back unless your back is bent.”
Perhaps it is time that we reward our failed government with a broom and replace it with a wiser government that exercises power prudently and with a conscience.

Politicised mosques

PARTI Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)'s Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is under attack yet again, this time for characterising the Selangor sultan's "decree" for mosques not to be politicised as a "personal opinion".
It all started when Selangor executive councillor in charge of religious affairs Datuk Dr Hasan Ali delivered a pro-Pakatan Rakyat sermon at a mosque during the April 2010 Hulu Selangor by-election. Hasan is also the Selangor PAS chief.
It was in response to this that the sultan ordered for mosques not to be used for political activities.

Sultan of Selangor (Wiki commons)
PAS spiritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat joined in the fray, saying it was not wrong to use mosques for political campaigning. Nik Aziz was soundly attacked by Umno leaders and the Umno-controlled media.
It was then that Zaid posted his comments about the sultan's decree being a "personal opinion". The PKR political bureau chief was promptly accused of disrespecting the monarchy, and had a police report lodged against him.
Few, however, are questioning the separate assumptions behind this spat on whether mosques can be politicised:
Is it true that mosques have never been politicised in the first place, according to the teachings and traditions of Islam?
Is there a new and rising trend of mosques being politicised in Malaysia, in particular?
If mosques are indeed being politicised, is this good or bad?
Historical realities
Islamic scholar Prof Dr Abdulkader Tayob has studied the relationship between mosques, imams and sermons in South Africa and also throughout Islam's history. In his book, Islam: A short introduction, he quotes prominent Iran-born scholar Prof Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr's conviction that the earth and nature are Islam's "primordial mosque".
In other words, a Muslim can pray and prostrate anywhere on earth, as long as the space meets standards of ritual purity. Nevertheless, Tayob points out that Islamic jurisprudence then sought to define the sanctity of religious spaces, or mosques, for community use.
Tayob goes on to say that the issue becomes more complicated when the subject of the congregational Friday prayer comes up. There are certain rules that need to be fulfilled in order to perform Friday prayers according to Islamic jurisprudence; for example, the quorum of at least 40 worshippers and the pre-prayer sermon.
Tayob points out that in the Shi'ite tradition, "the Friday congregation could not even go ahead without the permission of the ruler". In short, Friday congregational worship in Islam has historically been the expression of a political community.

Prayertime at the National Mosque (Public domain; source: Wiki commons)
The swift evolution of the Islamic polity, however, meant that Sunni Muslims dropped the requirement to obtain the ruler's permission. Nevertheless, Tayob stresses that this does not mean mosques in Islamic capital cities lost all importance.
According to him, "As a mouthpiece of the reigning political ruler, such a mosque continued to espouse the sometimes tenuous legitimacy of the ruler. The Friday sermon was obliged to acknowledge the reigning caliph, and sometimes became a signal during periods of political instability.
"When a preacher stopped mentioning the name of a prevailing ruler or substituted it with another, it was an indication that the palace inhabitants had changed. Clearly, the mosque now became simply the site from which the political fortunes of the elite were announced."
This tension between the political and the religious has since defined the nature of Friday sermons in Islam. Tayob observes: "Mosques in contemporary Islamic cities usually serve the interests of ruling political regimes, and their leaders are carefully chosen for the purpose."

Muhammad Khusrin (Wiki
For example, in contemporary Malaysia, it is the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), under the federal government's administration, that writes Friday sermons for public consumption. According to the Jakim website, these sermons are to be used by the various state and district religious departments.
But according to Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) director Datuk Muhammed Khusrin Munawi, state syariah laws clearly forbid mosques from being politicised.
Who defines "politics"?
Perhaps it is useful here to define what "politics" actually means. In its narrower sense, "politics" refers to the art and science of government. At its broadest, it refers to any activity concerned with the acquisition of power. To "politicise" someone is merely to make that individual politically aware, or to take part in political discussion or activity.
And so, when Jakim's 8 Jan 2010 sermon, Akidah benteng kekuatan ummah, actively protested against the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, it could have been construed as a political stand. After all, it is largely the Umno-led federal government and several right-wing Muslim groups that are behind the attempt to prohibit the use of "Allah" by non-Muslims.
In fact, several Muslim groups held post-prayer protests at mosques across the nation against non-Muslim use of "Allah" that very Friday. No palace representative rebuked them then for politicising mosques over an issue that even Islamic experts and scholars themselves remain divided on.

Demonstration at the National Mosque on 8 Jan against the use of "Allah" by non-Muslims
The politicisation of mosques in Malaysia also occurs outside of the Friday prayer structure and sermon mechanism. Take the emergence in Malaysia of Hizbut Tahrir, a self-professed "political party" whose main goal is to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate. Hizbut Tahrir now has access to Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Aziz, a major mosque in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, to run its programmes and spread its political ideology.
Hence, it is unclear what exactly the Selangor sultan meant when he "decreed" for the end of politicisation of mosques. Fact is, mosques have been politicised throughout Islam's history and are intensely politicised in modern-day Malaysia, often under the watchful eyes of officialdom.
Further, in theory, we could flip the issue. Mosques could be politicised to educate Muslims — about responsible and accountable government. Muslims could be "politicised" — to become more aware about democratic principles and processes essential for building a better Malaysia for all citizens.
But could any mosque possibly do this when virtually all discourse on Islam is so tightly regulated by the state? These could be worthwhile issues — for both Malaysian Muslims and non-Muslims — to discuss calmly and at length.
Sadly, the debate now revolves around a spat among political parties. Some are even appealing to the monarchy's authority to silence discussion and debate, hence robbing Malaysians of yet another opportunity to better understand political Islam in Malaysia.