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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Restraint over, war of words on Ayodhya begins again

NEW DELHI: Political faultlines on Ayodhya are becoming visible all over again, bringing to an end the brief restraint that greeted Thursday's Allahabad High Court ruling.

The BJP broke its silence a day after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav criticized the verdict for being high on belief and faith and low on law and evidence. The saffron party slammed home minister P Chidambaram for saying on Friday that the Ayodhya judgment offered no justification for the "criminal act" of demolishing the Babri Masjid.

In a tough riposte, BJP told the home minister not to jump to conclusions as the matter was in court. "He (Chidambaram) should not judge as to what happened in 1992. The matter is before a court and he should not jump to conclusions. Let the court decide," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

Congress wary RJD may use verdict in polls

While Mulayam had looked to play on perceived Muslim "hurt", Chidambaram had said, "The judgment in no way justifies demolition of the Babri Masjid. In my view, it remains a criminal act."

The remark came in response to a question at a media interaction, but Congress — general secretary Digvijay Singh spoke in the similar vein — maybe having its own reasons for talking of punishment for those responsible for the Babri demolition.

Many in political circles see Chidambaram's statement reflecting a school in Congress that feels action against those responsible for the demolition will enhance acceptability of the Allahabad HC verdict on Ayodhya title suit among Muslims unhappy with the court order. Though a court verdict, Congress leadership is apprehensive of its fallout. It is worried by efforts by rivals to create an impression that as Congress is in power at the Centre, it may have had a role to play in the events.

The effort of SP chief to stoke the angst in the Muslim community by harking to his orders for firing to stop the Babri Masjid from being attacked by kar sevaks in 1990 was also aimed at refreshing memories of the destruction of the mosque when Congress ruled at the Centre.

Congress is keeping its fingers crossed about the strong prospect of RJD's Lalu Prasad taking a leaf out of Mulayam Singh's book as he tries to stop Congress from raiding his Muslim vote bank in the ensuing Bihar poll. Javadekar also targeted Mulayam Singh and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan for their remarks after the judgment was pronounced by the Allahabad HC on the title suit.

Read more: Restraint over, war of words on Ayodhya begins again - The Times of India

Three days after a Ram idol was placed under the Babri Masjid's central dome, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru shot off a letter to UP chief minister G B Pant directing that the mischief be undone. His reason: "A dangerous example is being set there, which will have bad consequences."

But Nehru's concerns were overridden by the local administrator, Faizabad's deputy commissioner K K Nayar. Even as he acknowledged that the installation of the idols was "an illegal act", Nayar refused to remove them from the mosque. His reasoning was that "the depth of feeling behind the movement ... should not be underestimated."

It was against the backdrop of this battle between secular and sectarian views that the first of the four title suits was filed on January 16, 1950. In allowing the idols to remain where they were placed on December 23, 1949, and in placing religious sentiment above the rule of law, the Allahabad high court verdict 60 years later seems to have preferred Nayar's position to that of Nehru.

Though thousands of pages in this verdict have been devoted to quotes from Hindu scriptures, it made little effort to examine the illegality of the 1949 act. The mischief played with the idols, in a bid to convert a masjid into a mandir, was central to the adjudication of the title suits.

Yet, the three judges on the bench, despite delivering separate judgments, adopted the common approach of treating the forcible installation of idols as a fait accompli. They did not dare question its legality or validity. This, despite the fact that the bench had, in May 2009, specially called for and placed on record the original file of the district administration that dealt with the 1949 episode.

The verdict could have been radically different had the judges mustered the courage to analyse this crucial issue. Advocate Anupam Gupta, who grilled an array of leaders on the Babri Masjid demolition before the Liberhan Commission, told TOI: "Since the title suits had derived from the installation of idols, the judges would have had to acknowledge that the Hindu claim was based on a patent illegality and that nothing said about the history of the Hindu belief prior to 1949 would have cured this illegality."

In its anxiety to be pragmatic or conciliatory, the high court also pulled its punches on the demolition of the mosque in 1992 although it was a violent interference with the subject of the title suits. While it dwelt extensively on the Hindu "bent of mind" in the context of the belief about the exact location of Ram's birthplace, the high court did not attempt any such analysis of the mentality that propelled the demolition.

As a result, in a major blow to secularism, the high court allowed the vandals of 1992 to turn into the victors of 2010. This has made a mockery of the Supreme Court's 1994 declaration while reviving the Ayodhya title suits after a two-year limbo: "The Hindu community must bear the cross on its chest, for the misdeed of the miscreants reasonably suspected to belong to their religious fold."

Far from bearing the cross for the demolition, Hindu groups seem to have intimidated the high court into coming up with a solution that provides much cause for concern to Muslims and believers of secularism. By accepting faith as the determining factor for allotting the area under the central dome to Hindus, the system has shown no remorse to the affected community.

The high court's refusal to let the illegality of the 1949 and 1992 events have a bearing on the title suits will mean that there can be no closure to the Ayodhya dispute any time soon. Its partition scheme has ended up vindicating, however unwittingly, those very forces that had so brazenly undermined India's commitment to secularism. As jurist Tahir Mahmood puts it, "What had begun as a title suit ended up with a decree of partition. Religious beliefs and sentiments had triumphed over historical facts and legal precepts. The judicial anxiety reflected in the judgment is understandable but its legal tenability is not beyond reproach."

The consolation is that the verdict could have been worse if the judgment delivered by Justice D V Sharma, awarding the entire disputed site of 2.7 acres to Hindus, did not turn out to be a minority view on the bench. Sharma's judgment is an unabashed celebration of the fundamentalist Hindu perspective on the Babri Masjid.

The Ayodhya verdict actually fits into a pattern displayed by the Indian judiciary to suppress inconvenient facts. The Allahabad high court's failure to examine the implications of the 1949 and 1992 events is reminiscent of an infamous omission by the Supreme Court in its much touted judgment upholding Hindutva.

This ideology of Hindu hegemony received judicial approval because the Supreme Court, while equating Hindutva with the liberal ethos of Hinduism, steered clear of the fact that the term had been coined by Veer Savarkar to suggest that India belonged only to those for whom it is both birthplace and sacred land.

Thanks to this vital omission, the BJP derived much legitimacy from the SC verdict on Hindutva. It remains to be seen how, despite the restraint displayed by it for the time being, the BJP will politically leverage the verdict in the Ayodhya case. It is no coincidence that Nayar who defied Nehru's order to remove the idol from the Babri Masjid went on to become an MP of Jan Sangh, forerunner of the BJP.

Read more: Ayodhya verdict - The Times of India

Gandhi's birthday rings hollow for M'sian Indians

(Malaysiakini) The Human Rights Party Malaysia (HRP) called for the honouring of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday today with a permanent solution and land titles to poor Indian villagers, such as that availed to other communities.

NONEHRP pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar said, “As a permanent solution, we hereby call for all Indian villages and settlements nationwide to be forthwith granted land titles.”

He took to task both Pakatan Rakyat and BN for systematically “ethnically cleansing” the Indians one by one, by either offering them a token sum of cash or nothing at all without looking into solving the problem.

Uthayakumar also criticised the flats offered the Indians saying they were beyond the means of many in the community.

He pointed out that many were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty that prevented them from obtaining loans, and found their flats auctioned off and themselves back on the streets when they could not make the monthly instalments.

He further demanded that federal and state governments put a halt to further demolition of Indian villages and settlements that are part of the history of this country.

On an averagem almost every day some Indian poor is served an eviction notice or is evicted from their only homes, said Uthayakumar in an open letter to the government yesterday.
The letter was addressed to Premier Najib Abdul Razak, Federal Territory Minister Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Kedah Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak.

'Whither allocations for Indians?'

“Unlike for the Indian poor, there are even 507 permanent Chinese new villages with land titles nationwide receiving RM55 million allocation at RM500,000.00 per Chinese village,“ he claimed.

NONEHe alleged that there are similarly thousands of permanent villages with land titles for the Malay, Orang Asli, Kadazan and Iban poor.

He lamented that to this day the Indian poor do not have such equivalent benefits, saying they had been denied land titles from the start.

He was equally critical of the Pakatan Perak government that he said granted land for up to 110,000 Malays, Chinese and Orang Asli “but had conveniently forgotten the Indian community”.

He added that this was only the “tip of the iceberg” for titles given to the other communities.

“But a similar permanent solution ...has never been granted to the poor Indians. Why? Why are they are systematically “ethnically cleansed?” he asked.

“Why one rule for the poor Indians and another for the poor Malays, Orang Asli, Iban, Kadazan and Chinese? Why take advantage and bully these poor Indians who are powerless and helpless (economically and politically)?”

Uthayakumar claimed that small Indian farms and settlements were demolished by the Kedah state government, and reprised the saga of the demolition of Kg Buah Pala in Penang.

He also quoted several incidents of Indians being victimised of their homes although they had the rights to the land that they were occupying.

Ngeh flays Kula over quit threat

IPOH, Oct 2 – Perak DAP chief Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, accused as one of the protagonists behind M. Kulasegaran’s outburst last night, indicated today that he would not kowtow to his deputy’s emotional threat to leave the state leadership.

Instead, the state party chairman chose to castigate the Ipoh Barat MP for washing the party’s dirty linen in public when he published damaging statements on microblogging site Twitter.

“I regret that he should announce his intended resignation through Twitter instead of informing the state committee.

“As a responsible leader, we should all follow proper procedures and keep all internal matters within the party,” Ngeh (picture) told The Malaysian Insider this afternoon.

Ngeh and his cousin, Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming, have been blamed for Kulasegaran’s emotional outburst during a special leadership meeting held last night at Kampung Simee near here.

The Malaysian Insider understands that what was supposed to be a discussion on unity, turned into a bitter quarrel between the two feuding factions – Kulasegaran’s camp and the Ngeh-Nga camp.

For months, the two teams have had several run-ins with one another but the climax of their bickering occurred last night when Kulasegaran, who is also the party’s national vice-chairman, stormed off in a huff, leaving behind a threat that he would resign from his state party post.

Ngeh confirmed today that Kulasegaran had indeed mentioned his intention to bail from the state committee during the heated meeting last night but was cajoled to stay by other leaders.

“It was just an informal meeting between a few leaders. In the midst of it... before he left, he expressed his intention to resign and the leaders pursuaded him not to.

“However, he tweeted about it anyway,” said an upset-sounding Ngeh.

After last night’s meeting, Kulasegaran wrote on his Twitter timeline: “Just finished DAP leadership meeting in Ipoh. Sad day as I will announce what is lacking in Perak leadership 2molo n why I have 2 leave 4good.”

Later in the night, he told The Malaysian Insider via SMS that he had no intention to leave the party but was tired of his ongoing charade with the Ngeh-Nga cousins.

“Leaving DAP no way. But going open on internal problems. I am being run down by Ngeh and I can’t take it any more,” he explained.

It was later announced that Kulasegaran would be organising a press conference at 10.30am this morning to go public with his grouses against the two cousins.

More tweets, however, were seen on Kulasegaran’s Twitter account prior to the conference this morning and this time, the leader’s tone had somehow mellowed.

“Very disturbed about having d pc latter. My mind is unsettled as I c factional fight is seeing its ugly head in Perak,” he said in one tweet.

Shortly after that, Kulasegaran cancelled the press conference.

He said in his Twitter message: “Members and supporters asking me to reconsider. I will be away for a week n will then tell all if the need arises.”

In his last tweet at about 2pm, Kulasegaran said: “If ever there comes a time and point where I am no longer able to play any meaningful role, I shall merely retire from politics.”

His words were a clear indication that the veteran leader had likely decided to stay in as the Perak DAP’s deputy chairman.

However, the party is also heading for its state elections this November, and the internal bickering between the two feuding camps is expected to rear its ugly head once again.

Today, Ngeh made it clear that should Kulasegaran still press on with his intention to leave the state committee, he would respect the leader’s decision.

“If he still persists in resigning, we will respect his decision and we would like to thank him for his past services,” he said.

Ngeh also refused to comment on allegations made by Kulasegaran’s camp that the he and his cousin Nga had been attempting to round up their branches to gang up against them.

“There is a proper channel of discussion and a problem-solving process. I hope all party members will abide by the rules to discuss all matters internally,” he said.

As such, Ngeh noted that it was “not true” that the Perak DAP was on the verge of self-destruction.

He acknowledged that there would likely be fierce competition during the coming state party elections but noted that this was healthy in any democratic process.

“Just because there is an election does not mean there is faction-fighting,” he said.

Ngeh added that despite Kulasegaran's outburst, the unity plan between the two camps would still press on through internal discussions.

“As a chairman, I always, at any point in time, want unity in the party. There may be issues sometimes but any issue can be resolved internally,” he said.

Muhyiddin insists NEM protects Malay agenda

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 – The Najib administration’s New Economic Model (NEM) will continue to protect the Malay agenda and Bumiputera affirmative action polices, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.

The deputy prime minister also stressed each of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) protects Malay participation in the economy.

“Many Bumiputera entrepreneurs have asked where is the Malay agenda in the New Economic Model. I assure the Bumiputera business leaders that NEM is committed to the involvement of the community in the country’s economic sectors.

“We do not need to explain each of the NKEAs to see that the NEM protects Malay and Bumiputera participation In the country's economy,” Muhyiddin (picture) told reporters after attending an event by the Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The chamber earlier announced that it was launching a “Malay” lab to study the socio-economic status of the community.

“To support the government because Idris Jala has conducted so many labs, the chamber will launch a Malay lab. We have decided to establish a Malay socio-economic lab which will be in line with the government’s Malay agenda,” said its president Syed Ali Alattas.

Pemandu’s CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala recently launched National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) Lab Open day for the public

The deputy prime minister said the lab was in line with government’s policy.

“I support 100 per cent the efforts by the chamber to establish a Malay lab because it is in line with the government leadership to ensure the Bumiputera affirmative action policies remains in the New Economic Model.

“This will help the government in its efforts to have greater involvement of Malays and Bumiputera in all aspect of the economy,” he added.

Pemandu has identified 12 NKEAs which include oil and gas, palm oil and related products, financial services, wholesale and retail, tourism, information and communications technology (ICT), education, electrical and electronics, business services, private healthcare, agriculture and Greater Kuala Lumpur revitalisation.

The government will be using recommendations from the NKEA labs to formulate initiatives to transform the nation into a high-income economy though it’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP).

DAP crisis: Kulasegaran calls off PC, will go on leave

IPOH: Perak DAP deputy chairman M Kulasegaran today called off his press conference at Wisma DAP in Medan Istana, believed to have been persuaded by the party's top leadership.

The press conference was cancelled five minutes before it was scheduled to start at 10.30am.

Kulasegaran, who is Ipoh Barat MP, was reported to have wanted to hold the press conference to expose the efforts taken by the "Ngeh-Nga" cousins (Perak DAP chairman Ngeh Khoo Ham and secretary Nga Kor Ming) to weaken leaders who could not see eye-to-eye with them.

Kulasegaran was also expected to voice his dissatisfaction over the state DAP leadership and announce his resignation as state deputy chairman at the press conference.

When contacted by Bernama, he said he was advised to go on leave by the party's leadership.
Kulasegaran also gave a week for the relevant parties to solve the crisis as he left for a holiday overseas.

Meanwhile, Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir described the DAP crisis as "scabies which had turned into larger and ugly sores".

"What is happening in the party shows the true colours of the leaders, who, all this while, have been putting up an act in front of the people.

"They are only concerned about their personal agendas and not so much for the people who support them," he told reporters after opening the Third National Retired Malaysian Naval Officers Association Conference and Hari Raya do here today.

- Bernama

Soosai to be charged with murder next week

CHENNAI: Alleged fraudster Michael Soosai, the Malaysian fugitive who went into hiding in India about 10 years ago before his capture last month by Tamil Nadu police, will be charged here next week for the murder of a compatriot.
Soosai, 47, will face a charge of killing lorry driver N Subramaniam in Cheyyur, near Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu in 2004.

The killing was triggered by a family matrimonial altercation.

"All the court processes are going on, Soosai will be charged in a week's time," Assistant Commissioner of Coimbatore police M Selvarajan told Bernama today.

It is learnt the police have initiated further investigations on the alleged criminal activities of Soosai who was captured in a hotel in Chennai early last month, along with his wife, Rajeswari.

When police raided his house in the state of Andhra Pradesh recently – from where he was said to have conducted cross-border scams – investigators unearthed more falsified documents.

"We found three birth certificates belonging to his children, all falsely created. These documents were from the Hyderabad Municipal Authority but upon checking, they turned out to be false.

"His (Soosai's) name on the birth certificates was Rajasingam. Now, we are also checking his account with an Indian bank here," said Selvarajan.

According to Coimbatore police, Soosai hired an Indian lawyer and sought for bail which was denied by the court.

"We totally opposed bail, we have six cases against him, namely five for cheating and one for murder," said Selvarajan.

Soosai and Rajeswari are in jail in Coimbatore.

The former fugitive is wanted in Malaysia for at least 20 fraud cases, mostly involving false cheques, amounting to about RM1 million, and was also alleged to have faked his own death in Malaysia, about 10 years ago.

- Bernama

Umno Cuba 'Bunuh' Tengku Razaleigh

(Buletin Online) - Naib Presiden PAS Dato' Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man menyifatkan tindakan Umno menawarkan Ahli Parlimen Gua Musang untuk menjadi calon Barisan Nasional (BN) yang akan bertanding pada pilihanraya kecil Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Galas sebagai satu tindakan 'pembunuhan secara halus' karier politik Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Walau bagaimana pun, menurutnya, PAS sedia berhadapan dengan siapa sahaja yang dicalonkan oleh Umno dan BN, meskipun Perdana Menteri Dato' Seri Najib Razak

"Saya fikir itu pembunuhan secara halus karier politik Tengku Razaleigh (Hamzah), walau bagaimana pun, bagi PAS, kita sedia hadapi siapa sahaja calon (yang dinamakan oleh BN), cuma (Tengku Razaleigh) sebagai seorang veteran dalam parti (Umno) dan meletakkan Tengku Razaleigh (sebagai calon) dalam pilihanraya kecil dalam DUN saya fikir itu merupakan tindakan dari sudut politik jangka panjang, bukan satu tindakan yang betul," ujar Dato' Tuan Ibrahim.

Beliau berkata demikian ketika diminta mengulas cadangan Timbalan Presiden Umno, Tan Sri Muhyidin Yassin yang mahu mencalonkan Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah sebagai calon BN bagi DUN Galas.

Sebelum itu, beliau berkata PAS Pusat akan mengadakan mesyuarat pada Ahad 3 Oktober bagi membincangkan persiapan menghadapi pilihanraya kecil DUN Galas.

Menurutnya, antara perkara penting yang akan dibincangkan adalah menentukan siapakah calon PAS yang akan bertanding dalam pilihanraya itu.

"Agenda penting adalah kita akan bincang tentang persiapan pilihanraya DUN Galas. Kita sudah kenalpasti di peringkat negeri (Kelantan) ada beberapa tokoh yang kita senarai pendekkan untuk dibuat keputusan diperingkat jawatankuasa (PAS) Pusat yang kita akan angkat kepada Majlis Syura," jelasnya.dalam sidang media yang diadakan selepas majlis perasmian Ijtimak Tarbawi anjuran Pemuda PAS Pusat disini 1 Oktober.

Katanya, PAS akan memilih calon dikalangan anak tempatan kerana menurutnya faktor calon adalah penting dalam pilihanraya kecil pada kali ini.

"Dalam senarai yang panjang beberapa nama itu ada campur-campur, (ada) beberapa tenaga muda dan tenaga profesional tapi keutamaan, kita lihat faktor calon itu penting dan InsyaAllah, kita pilih daripada anak tempatan," katanya.

PKR, DAP, enough is enough!

Blogger buddy Richard Loh of Penang shares his thoughts HERE.

Ethnic outbidding and red herrings

By Mavis Puthucheary

Ethnic outbidding is a favourite pastime among Umno politicians and they have become very good at some “innovative” ideas. We have been treated to “Ketuanan Melayu” and the declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

Now we are told that as the Malaysian Constitution does not state that the prime minister should be a Malay, there is a chance that of this happening if the opposition coalition captures power at the federal level in the next election.

What are we to make of this “warning”?

First of all, we must distinguish the legal or constitutional aspects from political realities. In all democratic constitutions the person who becomes the prime minister is either directly elected by the people (in a presidential system) or is the leader of the party that has won the majority of seats in the elected house of parliament.

The Malaysian Constitution does not deviate from this basic democratic principle.

In reality, because democracy practices majority rule, in a multi-ethnic society, the prime minister is from the majority ethnic group.

However, this may not always be the case. In political parties that ideologically based rather than ethnic based, there is a strong possibility that the leader of the party would be from a minority group so if that party wins the elections, he or she would become the prime minister. But whether or not a person from a minority group gets elected would depend on the procedures adopted in the party for selecting their leaders.

Thus in India, the Congress Party elected a person from a minority group to be their leader and now prime Minister. In Singapore however, the highly centralized cadre system of the People’s Action Party mitigated against a non-Chinese being selected as leader of the party and prime minister.

When Barrack Obama was elected president of the United States, a lively discussion ensued in the local press about the possibility of a person from a minority group becoming prime minister.

At that time Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister, revealed that this matter was broached 20 years ago when a person of the right calibre was found.

However, according to the report, Lee left his name out of the list because “he felt Singapore was not yet ready for an Indian prime minister” (Straits Times November 15, 2008).

So much for the party’s creed of multiculturalism and meritocracy.

In Malaysia because Umno is the largest party in the multi-national coalition that has been in power since Independence, the prime minister has been from this party, and because this party is largely Malay, the person has been a Malay and Muslim.

Indeed, the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister have “traditionally” been filled by the president and deputy president of Umno. The MCA has made repeated requests for a second deputy posts to be created for their leader but this has been rejected. .

Second, is the possibility of a non-Malay prime minister more of a reality than before? I don’t think so. True we have a new coalition that is a real alternative to the BN. Even so this new coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) can only capture power at the federal level, if it has the support of the ethnic majority – the Malays.

Indeed with nearly 70 percent of the parliamentary seats in peninsular Malaysia Malay-majority seats, the possibility of a non-Malay prime minister is extremely remote.

Then why is this matter raised at all especially as it has not come from the non-Malay leaders but initiated by Mahathir and taken up by factions within Umno?

In order to answer this question we need to understand a little about the leadership motivation and behaviour of Umnoleaders especially Mahathir. It should be pointed out that this is not the first time that this issue has been raised by Mahathir but in a different context and tone.

In 2000 Mahathir, as Prime Minister, opened the 47th Annual General Assembly of the MCA by announcing his “confidence that a non-Malay would one day become the prime minister” (New Straits Times June 18, 2000).

Initially the announcement was hailed by non-Malays and members of the international community as a sign that Malaysia was moving away from racial politics. The Economist proclaimed that the prime minister has a dream that the nation’s next leader might well come from the Chinese, Indian or other ethnic minority (June 30, 2000).

Soon it became clear that this was nothing but rhetoric used by him to please his audience.

Within days of this announcement, an article appeared in the press entitled “Non-Malay PM: more rhetorical than real” (New Straits Times June 27, 2000). In this article Abdullah Ahmad explained that Mahathir only stated what was constitutionally correct, nothing more. Why Mahathir chose to raise this matter at the MCA’s annual assembly was never made clear.

According to Abdullah Ahmad, Mahathir’s real concern was the loss of Malay support in the 1999 elections. In that same article Abdullah Ahmad explained that Mahathir was “dramatizing” the issue in order “to create a certain impact within Umno and warning the Bumiputera that unless they stop warring among themselves the possibility of a non-Muslim becoming Prime minister – no matter how remote – exists” We are even more confused.

Why would Mahathir choose to deliver a warning to Malays and other Bumiputera at a meeting of the MCA?

But the matter does not end here. In a recent speech Mahathir again is reported to have issued a warning to Malays that they risked losing political power if the PR captures Putra Jaya from the BN.

How is it possible for Malays to lose political power when it would be through the exercise of their power that a PR government would come into existence?

It seems that Mahathir has resorted to yet another one of his twists and turns to argue his case. He is, intentionally one suspects, linking Umno with the myth of Malay political superiority in order to convince the public that they should vote for Umno and the BN.

The issue of a non-Malay prime minister is a red herring to distract people from asking the real question: what is the source of Malay political supremacy and why does it reside only in Umno?

Instead of dealing with the real issues, these leaders create bogeyman which they frighten us with. In this case the argument they offer runs like this: Umno gained for the Malays a position of political supremacy which is now in danger of being diluted because the PR leadership, though Malay and Muslim, is not working in the interests of the Malays.

The issue of the non-Malay prime minister is brought up in order to discredit the PR leadership. These leaders, though Malay and Muslim are accused of being “not really independent and a tool of others”.

So also PAS leaders have been accused of not abiding by their Islamic principles.

It seems strange that Umno which had always taken a more moderate middle ground with regard to political Islam has shifted to a position which makes PAS seem more moderate than Umno.

In the past voters were told not to vote for PAS candidates because of their strong Islamic principles – it was claimed that once they took power they would integrate Islamic values into all aspects of Malaysian society. But now we are told not to vote for PAS candidates precisely because they have shifted their extreme position to one that is more accommodating.

All this would be laughable if it did not have potentially a sinister side to it. In claiming Malay political superiority, Umno leaders have conveniently forgotten that even when they have won their seats in Malay-majority constituencies they have done so by getting the support of the non-Malay vote especially in straight fights between Umno and PAS.

In the 1999 and in elections Khoo Boo Teik pointed out that Umno’s parliamentary representation was less than the combined number of seats held by its coalition partners.

“The mutual access that Umno and its non-Malay coalition partners enjoyed came to Umno’s rescue in the ethnically mixed constituencies, in a reversal of past trends when it was the non-Malay component parties that needed saving. Ironically that result merely restored Umno’s unquestioned dominance of the BN framework” (Democracy and Elections in Malaysia, 2005) ,

A similar result happened in the 2008 elections when Umno was rescued by it partners in Sabah and Sarawak. As Khoo points out, the results of the 1999 elections hold dire implications for Umno “relevance” to the Malay electorate.

The results of the 2008 elections have all but shattered the illusion of Umno as the institutional party of government. The only way it can regain its position in the political system is to take an extreme pro-Malay stance, instilling fears of losing their political power as a way to unite the Malays under their leadership.

It is in this light that one should view the possibility of some groups taking up the issue of a non-Malay prime minister to demand that the constitution be changed to ensure that the prime minister is both Malay and a Muslim.

The fact that such a requirement is contained in some state constitutions with regard to the Mentri Besar, makes such a demand not as far-fetched as it otherwise might be.

It must also be borne in mind that as the space for public participation increases it also allows for the growth of civil society organizations that are organized along ethno-religious lines.

In such a situation there is a real danger of ethnic outbidding reaching a level where any remark, however innocuous, is interpreted in racial terms.

It is important that the PR political leadership not fall into the trap where they find themselves having to “prove” they are more pro-Malay than Umno by supporting such a constitutional amendment.

* Mavis Puthhucheary is the co-editor of “Elections and Democracy in Malaysia” (UKM Press) and contributor to the volume “Sharing the Nation: Faith, Difference, Power and the State 50 Years After Merdeka” (SIRD). ”

Umno Ready For Opposition's Onslaughts

BESUT, Oct 2 (Bernama) -- Umno is ready for the Opposition's onslaughts in the run-up to the Galas state by-election, said Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

He said although the Opposition might mislead and sow the seeds of discords among the people, Umno would answer them diplomatically.

The people could now judge for themselves the antics of the Selangor and Penang governments, which eventually threw their administrations in disarray, he told reporters at an Aidilfitri open house hosted by the Terengganu Umno Liaison Committee at Dataran Putra, Kampung Raja here Saturday.

On the appointment of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as the Barisan National election director for the by-election, Hishammuddin said he was selected based on his vast experience.

He said Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would discuss with Tengku Razaleigh on the possibility of fielding him as the BN candidate in the by-election.

On the security of the by-election, he said as the constituency could only be reached through one access road, it would be easier to provide security in the area.

The Galas state seat fell vacant following the death of its incumbent, PAS' Che Hashim Sulaima, 48, on Monday from cancer.