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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Living under siege part III: Ahmadiyah, a Renaissance view

Organisers remove death threats against 'anti-Islam' activists

  • A screen grab shows the death threats published on the '23December.com' underlined in red. Organisers have removed the slogans, which called for the "killing" of "those who challenge and oppose Islam", from the website.
Organisers of the mass protest scheduled for December 23 have removed slogans calling for the "killing" of "those who challenge and oppose Islam" on its promotional website lunched last evening.
The slogans on the website include "the ruling of those who break the laws and challenge Islam is killing them by the public", "today's law is to kill anti-Islam activists… and those who support them" and "ready to kill anyone who challenge the religion of Islam without regarding his party".
The slogans have now been removed.
Abdulla Mohamed, from the organisers, said the slogans were published by mistake.
"The slogans were sent to us by the participants of the protest and we uploaded them to the website without properly reading," he said.
"We corrected the mistake just after we found it."
Police spokesperson, Sub-inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the police received reports about the slogans but did not confirm whether they are investigating the case.
Press Secretary at the President's Office Mohamed Zuhair expressed concerns over the slogans.
"Citizens calling for the killing of fellow citizens is a matter of concern," he said.
"It will be a huge atrocity and a dishonour to the Maldivian scholars."
Zuhair dismissed the claims made by the organisers that the slogans were published by mistake.
"I don't think it was a mistake," he said.
"We believe it's an objective of the protest. Calling for such an action is unacceptable under Maldivian law or any other international practice."
The religious conservative Adhaalath Party President Imran Mohamed launched the website last evening.

Four years after ISA arrest, Uthaya says 'no regrets'

The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) co-founder P Uthayakumar said he has no regrets over actions taken, leading to his arrest under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on Dec 13, 2007.

“We have no regrets over Hindraf’s 18-point-demands struggle focused on the Indian poor.

“We have no regrets fighting against the might and tyranny of the Umno state-sponsored racism that segregates and excludes the Indian poor from the national mainstream development of 1Malay-sia [sic].

NONE“And also against racism in the 60 percent towkay (Chinese capitalist)-controlled corporate, banking, industrial and private sectors,” said Uthayakumar (left) in a statement today.

He singled out Umno as the main foe of Hindraf, for it had allegedly wanted to punish the movement and its leaders at “all and any costs” over the its rally on Nov 25, 2007.

“(The rally had succeeded) in ‘naming and shaming’ and exposing Malaysia’s Umno-racism [sic] for the first time at international fora,” he said.

Hindraf was founded by Uthayakumar and his brother Waytha Moorthy, who as lawyers, took up legal cases concerning religious conversions involving Hindus and cases involving demolition of Hindu temples.

Indian poor 'far more critical'

Waytha Moorthy went into exile before the rally as it was increasingly clear that Hindraf leaders would be nabbed, while Uthayakumar and four others were detained for more than a year under the ISA.

r kenghadharan reach home 050409 03The four are lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan (right), V Ganabatirau and businessman T Vasanthakumar.
Uthayakumar was detained the longest at 514 days.

He said Hindraf does not regret its mono-ethnic cause because the situation with the ethnic Indian poor is far more critical compared to other ethnic groups.

“Our critics tell us that there are also the Malay and Chinese poor. Our answer is we also have the poor Jews.

“But here we are talking about the magnitude of the critical Indian poor problems, to the point of being driven to contemplate or to commit suicide."

Uthayakumar argued that the unlike the bumiputera poor, some of who have traditional villages and ancestral land as their social safety net, Indian Malaysians do not.

He said there is an advantageous situation among Chinese Malaysians who have 617 ‘new villages’ as a safety net.

Struggle for Indians to stay afloat

He argued that the bumiputera and Chinese poor with land could live off the land.

“But for the Indian poor the only way out of their daily misery arising from poverty and inequality is to contemplate if not to commit suicide.

“Note that the Indian poor suicide rate arising out of poverty has been recorded to be 600 percent above that in the Malay community."

Uthayakumar claimed that both BN and Pakatan Rakyat do not care about the Indian poor because it was not politically rewarding to do so, and thus Hindraf’s struggle must continue.

azlan“Unlike the other communities, we in the Human Rights Party and Hindraf have never demanded any special privileges or supremacy. We are merely fighting to stay ... above the waters and fighting not to be pushed below the waters.

“In the interim we await the day biracial 1 Malay-sia [sic] would truly turn out to be 1Malaysia in the true sense of the word like in the Western civil societies.

“Where the poor Indians, Malays, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Iban, Bajau, Penan, Orang Ulu are all treated alike equally, granted equal opportunities, treated with respect, dignity and with humanity and all live in harmony like one big family."

As Sodomy II draws to close, Anwar predicts polls soon after

Anwar also said today he was using his trial to address the country’s flawed legal system. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today predicted that the general election would be held soon after his sodomy trial ends, saying that it was part of an elaborate plan to end his political career.
The Opposition leader told reporters that he was “prepared for the best, but expected the worst” when asked what he thought the judge’s verdict would be on his case.
“This is not coincidental, that the end of the case is going to coincide with (general) elections,” he said.
Responding to the prosecution’s closing submissions attacking his decision to testify via a statement from the dock, Anwar said he was using his trial to address the country’s flawed legal system.
“The system is flawed. It is why I issued a statement from the dock.
“It is not true that I have not adduced evidence to argue my case. I took a position through competent witnesses ... their only attempt is to demolish internationally-renowned doctors,” said Anwar, referring to foreign experts brought in by defence lawyers as witnesses for the case.
Complainant and star prosecution witness Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan has accused Anwar of sodomising him at the upmarket Desa Damansara Condominium in Damansara Heights here on June 26, 2008.
But the PKR de facto leader has repeatedly denied this, and opened his defence case by calling the sodomy charge a trumped-up allegation masterminded by Najib.
The former deputy prime minister said Najib wanted to end his political career and scupper Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) bid to take over federal government.
The trial resumes on December 15 with the defence replying to the prosecution’s submissions.
Trial judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah will then decide a date to deliver his decision on the case.

Has Rama become too big for his britches?

To stir controversy and not know how to douse it is only going to create problems for the DCM II and DAP.
COMMENT
The on-going altercation between DAP national chairman Karpal Singh and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy serves as a costly lesson for both the party and the latter.
Ramasamy has been in the spotlight the past week for making a premature announcement in Tamil daily Makkal Osai on Nov 28 on party’s Indian candidates for the 13th general election.
This prompted the 71-year-old Karpal to chastise Ramasamy, who is also DAP’s national deputy secretary-general, for behaving like a warlord by promising seats for candidates of his choice.
Ramasamy, also the Penang DAP deputy chief, responded by calling the party to get rid of godfathers, in an obvious reference to Karpal.
Many party leaders and members felt Ramasamy’s godfather remark had undermined party elders such as Dr Chen Man Hin, Lim Kit Siang and Karpal.
While Karpal and Ramasamy are embroiled in a war of words, DAP’s arch enemy, Umno, is grabbing the opportunity to impress upon the rakyat, Penangites in particular, that the current internal crisis facing DAP is proof that unity is an asset this party cannot claim to have.
With Umno loyalists wasting no time scurrying about painting a bad picture of DAP, the rift between Karpal and Ramasamy needs urgent repair.
Karpal, once dubbed the “Tiger of Jelutong”, has been with DAP through thick and thin.
A former detainee under the now-defunct Internal Security Act (ISA), his affection for DAP is understandable and so is his anger towards Ramasamy for branding DAP veterans “godfathers” or “warlords”.
Ramasamy, an academician-turned politician, has miles to walk in politics. Perhaps it was his arrogance as DCM II that resulted in him making those remarks, which have backfired on him.
The no-nonsense Karpal give Ramasamy an ultimatum – either apologise or face the music for misbehaving. On Dec 11, at the Penang DAP convention, Karpal cautioned Ramasamy not to let power get to the former lecturer’s head.
The ferocious lawyer also demanded Ramasamy immediately retract and apologise for his godfather remark against the party’s veteran leaders, especially him.
Reminding Ramasamy that the position of DCM II was an honour to ethnic Indian community, Karpal said it was thanks to DAP that Ramasamy won in the 2008 general election.
Ramasamy has lots to learn as a politician
The incident brings with it hard lessons for Ramasamy who quit his lecturing job in Singapore to venture into politics. To stir controversy and not know how to douse it is only going to create problems for both him and the party.
Having labelled Karpal and the other veterans of DAP as “godfathers”, Ramasamy has given the impression that the party operates along the lines of “mafia-ism”, something which Karpal said was unthinkable as DAP is a party for all races.
If at all DAP works ala “mafia”, when really did Ramasamy realise this? Where did he gain the conviction that the very party which gave him his political break is all about mafia?
What about the sacrifices of veterans like Karpal and Lim Kit Siang? Do they amount to nothing?
Or has this DCM II become “too big for his shoes”, ambitiously confident about his future in politics?
Perhaps it has… for Ramasamy said he was willing to quit DAP if necessary and return to his hometown in Sitiawan.
Karpal is furious, too, that Ramasamy, with his announcement on party candidatures, had trespassed all party decorum, as it was seen as usurping the power of the central executive committee.
Ramasamy was also taken to task for promoting an unknown individual, lawyer K Mangaleswari, as a candidate for the Jawi state constituency.
Umno’s gain?
As it stands, Umno supporters in Penang have accused state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of performing poorly as a leader, so much so that they had the cheek to send him birthday cakes resembling human excreta.
Now, with the on-going spat between Karpal and Ramasamy, all these Umno opportunists need is to brainwash the people into believing that DAP is crumbling.
To MIC central committee member KP Samy, who also leads a group of former Hindraf leaders, the feud reflects the weaknesses of the Indian leaders in Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition representing PKR, DAP and PAS.
Samy claimed that Pakatan won the support of the Indian voters thanks to the efforts of Hindraf but post-2008, nothing had been done to help the Indian community.
“Can they quantify as to what they had done for the community? They should put forth a detailed manifesto of their guarantees to the community in the next general election,” said Samy.
More tongues have started wagging over DAP’s ability to serve the rakyat. Something has to be done soon to get the message across that the party in no way tolerates saboteurs while Ramasamy must not forget that “biting the hand that feeds it” will bring severe repercussions.
One such example was how Karpal refused Guan Eng’s effort in getting both Karpal and Ramasamy to shake hands as a show of easing the feud.
“I can forgive but I can’t forget… because of his insult of party veterans with his godfather remark,” Karpal said later.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

Dr M: Just say sorry, Ramasamy

All Karpal is asking for is an apology, the former Umno boss said.

SERI KEMBANGAN: In a strange twist of events, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad advised DAP leader P Ramasamy to apologise to his chief, Karpal Singh.

Referring to Karpal as “the godfather of DAP”, the former Umno president wondered if the spat between the two DAP men was nothing more than political drama.

“I don’t know if it is not sandiwara (drama), but we all know that the godfather of the DAP is Karpal Singh.”

“Everybody knows that Karpal is the godfather, and you have to be nice to him. If you insult him, you must apologise,” he told reporters at a press conference.

He said this after officiating at the Sailing the Sand of Sahara event at the Palace of the Golden Horses.

Mahathir was referring to the ongoing spat between DAP deputy secretary-general Ramasamy and DAP chairman Karpal.

Ramasamy was first thrust into the spotlight for reportedly making a premature announcement on Nov 28 about the party’s Indian candidates in the coming general election.

Karpal then accused Ramasamy of acting like a party warlord by promising seats to DAP candidates of his choice.

Annoyed, Ramasamy said that the party needed to get rid of its godfathers, apparently referring to Karpal.

Since then, DAP leaders have called on Ramasamy to apologise, with the latter claiming that he was ready to quit the party.

Though not mentioning Ramasamy by name, Mahathir said that all Karpal had been asking for, was for the former to apologise.

“He’s (Karpal) not asking for anything. He’s just asking for an apology. Just say I’m sorry,” he said.

Rayer and gang the real traitors, says Indian NGO

“They declined to take an Indian exco seat when Guan Eng offered it in 2008.”

KUALA LUMPUR: A NGO representing Indian students has joined the DAP fracas over godfathers and warlords, branding a couple of Penang state assemblymen as traitors to the cause of Malaysian Indians.

The Malaysian Tamil Students’ Progressive Association (Matsap) said today that assemblymen RS Nethaji Rayer (Seri Delima) and A Tanasekharan (Bagan Dalam) were not fit to criticise Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy since they had refused to sit on the Penang executive council when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng offered them the position in 2008.

“They are Indian traitors,” said Matsap’s secretary general, A Kalaimughilan.

He also did not spare DAP chairman Karpal Singh’s son Jagdeep Singh Deo, who is the state assemblyman for Dato Keramat.

“Most of the senior DAP leaders know that Lim initially offered two exco posts to Indian representatives in the state,” he said. “One was taken up by Ramasamy. The next slot was offered to Jagdeep.

“But I learnt that he refused, giving the excuse that he needed to take care of his family’s legal firm.

“Then the ball was passed to Rayer. He too gave the same excuse. Then, finally, the ball went into Thanasekharan’s court, the only other Indian rep from DAP. But he kicked the ball back to Lim, asking him to decide on the matter.”

Kalaimughilan said this was “clear evidence” that the three placed their personal interests above the Indian community’s interest.

Kalaimughilan said it was out of respect for the three as “fellow Indians” that he had kept silent over the matter for more than three years.

“But the moment they start attacking a respectable academician like Prof Ramasamy in public, I have a duty to tell the public that these men are not fit to criticise him.

“It was because of them that the Indian community was deprived of another exco post. In politics, you must grab every opportunity to fight for the community’s interest.

“I’m not a racist, but when a Chinese leader offers you an exco post even when you didn’t demand it and you refuse it, you’re clearly insulting not only the Indians but Lim as well.”

Kalaimughilan urged Penang DAP to choose Indian leaders who are fully committed to politics as candidates in the coming general election and not those who give a higher priority to their personal careers.

He also called on the DAP leadership to allow Ramasamy to continue with his job. “His service is still needed by the Penang Indians,” he said.

Brothers arrested under EO despite being acquitted

Even though the EO will cease to exist in six months' time, police are still using it to detain two brothers.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Emergency Ordinance (EO) will be repealed in six months but police are still bent on using it as they have detained two brothers without trial.

The Alternative Action Team (AAT) submitted a memorandum to Suhakam, on behalf of a family from Ipoh claiming that the police had abused their powers by wrongfully detaining two of their family members under the EO.

AAT president B Kalaivanar said the brothers – S Murugan, 31, and S Ramakrishnan, 28 – were detained at their home in Batu Gajah in January over a murder case.

When taken to court, the siblings, who do odd jobs for a living, were acquitted of the charges.
“However, the police rearrested the duo on the spot for another murder case,” said Kalaivanar.

Subsequently, the duo were detained under the EO for 60 days at the Bagan Serai police station before being transferred to the Machang detention centre in March.

Criticising the police, Kalaivanar alleged that the police threw various accusations at the brothers just to justify their abuse of power in detaining them.

“They were accused of committing a murder in Batu Gajah and being involved in a jewellery shop heist. They were even accused of stealing a cow,” he said.

Main breadwinners

Kalaivanar urged the police to charge the duo in court so that Ramakrishnan and Murugan can get a trial to prove their innocence.

“While we have Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak revoking archaic laws such as the EO, the police seem to be bent on using it,” said Kalaivanar.

On the jewellery store robbery claims, Kalaivanar said that it was not necessary for the police to use the EO to arrest the duo as CCTV recording at the shop could lead them to the real culprit.

Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Shaani Abdullah promised to look into the matter, but reminded the family that the EO would only cease to exist in six months’ time.

“However, Suhakam is always against detention without trial. Everyone deserves a fair trial and we will check with the Home Ministry on this case,” he said.

Meanwhile, the detainees’ brother, S Prakash, 29, believed that his brothers are innocent and hoped the authorities would release them soon.

“It’s very hard for us now as they were our main breadwinners. Our father is also too old to go through all this,” said Prakash.

Press Release: Malaysian Bar Urges the Malaysian Government to Accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court without Delay


ImageThe 10th Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court opened at the United Nations in New York City on 12 December 2011.  Both the Malaysian Government and Malaysian civil society (represented by the Malaysian Bar), will attend these meetings.

Malaysia participated in the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court in Rome in 1998.  It was also a signatory to the Final Act of the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.  However, it has yet to become a State Party to the Rome Statute.

In March 2011, the Malaysian Government announced its intention to accede to the Rome Statute.

The events leading up to this announcement were encouraging.  On 27-28 May 2010, the Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, made a promise at the Kampala meeting of the Parliamentarians for Global Action to submit the accession papers to the Rome Statute to the Malaysian Cabinet upon his return from that meeting.

Then on 7 June 2010, all members of the Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament, unanimously supported a series of 15 motions in the aftermath of Israel’s attack on the fleet of ships carrying humanitarian aid bound for Gaza.  Two of the motions are of particular relevance:

Motion 5: calling on like-minded countries to bring a resolution to the United Nations Security Council to refer Israel’s attack (on the aid ship) to the International Criminal Court.

Motion 7: proposing that Turkey consider action under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Then in February 2011, the Malaysian Parliament played host to a two-day Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on the Universality of the International Criminal Court.  This was organised by the Parliamentarians for Global Action.  The Consultation brought together parliamentarians from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, Vanuatu and Malaysia.  It was also attended by the Speaker of the Parliament of Kiribati, the Attorney-General of the Maldives, and additional participants from Ireland, Italy, South Korea, the Netherlands and Malaysia.  The keynote address of the Consultation was given by the guest of honour, H.E. Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the President of the International Criminal Court.

The Malaysian Bar was pleased to have participated in this Consultation.  The Malaysian Bar, together with the Malaysian Coalition for the International Criminal Court, has been involved in the campaign to persuade the Malaysian Government to accede to the Rome Statute since 2006.  This would be consistent with Malaysia’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is responsible for upholding the highest possible standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Malaysian Government should honour its promises and pledges to meet those standards when it sought and obtained re-election to the Human Rights Council in 2010.

What is interesting is that three of the countries that participated in that Consultation have since gone on to become State Parties to the Rome Statute.  On 23 August 2011, the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines passed SRN546, concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute.  On 30 August 2011 it deposited its instrument of accession.  On 14 June 2011, the Parliament of the Maldives voted to accede to the Rome Statute.  On 21 September 2011, it deposited its instrument of accession.  On 2 December 2011, Vanuatu deposited its instrument of accession.

The speed in which these countries have commenced and completed the process of accession to the Rome Statute, especially that of the Maldives, is exemplary and is to be applauded.  This is to be compared and contrasted with that of Malaysia.

Although it hosted the Consultation in February 2011, and announced in March 2011 its intention to accede to the Rome Statute, the Malaysian Government has still not deposited its instrument of accession.  The oft-given and oft-repeated reason for this is that the Malaysian Government wishes to ensure that implementing legislation is in place and that its other domestic legislation is in accord with the requirements of the Rome Statute before it will actually accede to the Rome Statute.

Some of the issues it has raised pertain to compatibility with Syariah law, the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the constitutional Supreme Head of State of Malaysia, and the existence of the death penalty in Malaysia.  No time-frame for any implementing legislation has been announced.  Indeed, the particular division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tasked with drafting the implementing legislation has been disbanded and its responsibilities transferred to other divisions.  

One has only to look at countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Jordan, Maldives, and Tunisia to see that countries with a predominantly Muslim environment have been able to accede to the Rome Statute.  Further, one has only to look at Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom to see that countries with a constitutional monarchical system of government have also been able to accede to the Rome Statute.  The Malaysian Government need only consult with the governments of these nations to understand how concerns about the Syariah and the constitutional monarchy have been addressed.  

The Malaysian Bar is of the view that it is not a pre-requisite and neither is there a necessity for domestic implementing legislation to be in place prior to a country acceding to the Rome Statute.  In order to identify immediately with the goal to end impunity for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, it is more important for countries to accede to the Rome Statute as quickly as possible.  Thereafter, work can progressively be undertaken to bring domestic legislation into compliance with the requirements of the Rome Statute, and for the introduction of implementing legislation.

The Malaysian Bar wholeheartedly concurs with Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, that joining the International Criminal Court would not threaten or compromise Malaysia’s sovereignty.  The fact that the International Criminal Court operates on a principle of complementarity means that the international jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is carefully balanced with the jurisdiction of the Malaysian courts.  

In order for the international community to comprehensively address the issues of crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression, the support of all countries is important.  Malaysia, as a leading nation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, should pursue a course of action commensurate with the role that it seeks to play in these organisations and bodies.

As it stands, in the context of Southeast Asia, only Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste are members of the International Criminal Court.  Thailand signed (on 2 October 2000) the treaty that brought about the Rome Statute but has yet to accede.  As such, only these three countries will enjoy the right to nominate candidates to all the organs of the International Criminal Court, including the offices of judges, the Prosecutor and the Registrar.  We note that the Philippines, which has only recently become a State Party (on 1 November 2011), nominated a candidate to become a judge of the International Criminal Court from the Asia-Pacific region.  Their candidate was successfully elected yesterday, 12 December 2011.

The Malaysian Bar, and also on behalf of the Malaysian Coalition for the International Criminal Court, calls upon the government of the member states of the Rome Statute to continue their engagement with and encouragement to the Malaysian Government to expedite the depositing of the instrument of accession to the Rome Statute.  We also call on them to offer the relevant expertise to the Malaysian Government in its drafting and implementation of the necessary domestic legislative changes.

The Malaysian Bar, and also on behalf of the Malaysian Coalition for the International Criminal Court, calls upon the Malaysian Government not to delay any further and to deposit its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute immediately.

Lim Chee Wee
President
Malaysian Bar

New Reality Voters Will Determine 13 General Election Outcome - Saifuddin

SHAH ALAM, Dec 13 (Bernama) -- Umno supreme council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has opined that the kingmakers in the 13th general election would be the group of "new reality voters".

Saifuddin, who is also Deputy Higher Education Minister, claimed neither the Barisan Nasional (BN) or Pakatan Rakyat comprising the DAP, PAS dan Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) had enough support to form the next government and were equally dependent on the group to give them the score.

In special a discourse entitled "PRU 13 Undi Siapa Jadi Penentu" (13GE - Whose votes will determine the outcome?) here today, he said the "new reality voters" comprised groups that used the new media not only to communicate, share and operate online but adopted it as a lifestyle.

"They form a loose network among themselves, yet are close-knitted, producing ideas or reasoning, and acting without concerns for bureaucracy," he said as a panellist at the discourse organised by the Sinar Harian newspaper.

Saifuddin said the "new reality voters" were also aware that politics and democracy go beyond elections or becoming a people's representative for the BN or Pakatan Rakyat and they wanted the involvement of the youth, workforce including professionals, media and university students in the process they perceived as democratic.

The lone BN panelist, and facing an audience of mostly opposition party supporters in the auditorium, Saifuddin maintained that BN still stood a good chance of winning the next general election.

He said from feedback, those who voted in protest against the BN in 2008 had "returned to the fold".

"I feel a majority of them have accepted that the BN is committed and serious in wanting to make changes, via government, economic and political transformation as initiated by the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak)," he said.

The other panellists were DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar, KITA party chief Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya's Media and Social Science Studies Faculty, Associate Prof Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah.

International Islamic University, Malaysia's Humanities and Revelation-based Knowledge Kulliyah Lecturer Dr Maszlee Malik acted as the moderator.

Lim said for Pakatan Rakyat, winning depended on their control of parliamentary seats in Sabah (25 constituencies) and Sarawak (31 constituencies).