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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Kenapa Mahathir haramkan Umno?


Send suggestions on rape laws to Verma panel, says Shinde


Chidambaram says a decision on special Parliament session only after panel submits report
Members of the All-India Students’ Association, the Revolutionary Youth
Association and women outfits participate in a protest march from Central
Park to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Members of the All-India Students’ Association, the Revolutionary Youth Association and women outfits participate in a protest march from Central Park to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
(TheHindu)Amid growing demand for stringent rape laws, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has asked all political parties to send their suggestions to the three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice J.S. Verma, formed on December 23 to suggest amendments to criminal laws to sternly deal with sexual assault cases.

On the other hand, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here on Monday that the government would look into the Opposition demand for a special session of Parliament to discuss need for harsh laws to deal with cases related to crimes against women, particularly sexual assault, only after getting the committee submitted a report.

Sources in the Home Ministry said Mr. Shinde was writing to all political parties, asking them to send their suggestions to the committee that would help in deciding need for stricter laws to deal with rape cases.

Reacting to the massive protests in the capital after the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, he had said the government favoured harsher laws to deal with the rarest of the rare rape cases. At present, the maximum punishment for a rape accused is life imprisonment. Notably, Mr. Shinde, who is also the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, had rejected the demand of the Opposition parties for a special session of Parliament.

LEBANESE AL-JADEED TV AIRS SAUDI CLERIC GIVING FATWA ALLOWING SYRIAN JIHADIS TO RAPE……….


By tundratabloids.com
Saudi Arabia, a place where one can still visit the seventh century, and not be in a museum.
muslim sex slave
You know as well as I do, that these perverts won’t contract with willing women, they’ll take anything they happen to catch on two legs, say their magic words, ”be married” for two hours and then dissolve the contract. Another example of why Islam resists reforming, they make up stuff as they go along to accommodate any new situation, just like their founder did.

NOTE: Oh, and they can’t rape anyone under 14 years of age, like they’ll intend to card their victims.

H/T: Islam Exposed (the truth about Islam)

“A Wahhabi religious cleric in Saudi Arabia, Muhammed al-Arifi, who is very influential in Jihadi circles, has recently issued a fatwa (religious edict) that permits all Jihadist militants in Syria to engage in short-lived marriages with Syrian women that each lasts for a few hours in order to satisfy their sexual desires and boost their determination in killing Syrians. He called the marriage as ‘intercourse marriage’. It requires that the Syrian female be at least 14 years old, widowed, or divorced.”

Syria rebels 'beheaded a Christian and fed him to the dogs' as fears grow over Islamist atrocities

  • Christian Andrei Arbashe, 38, was kidnapped and beheaded by rebel fighters in northern town of Ras Al-Ayn on the Turkish border
  • News came as pro-government forces celebrated their victory against rebels near Aleppo Airport

(Dailymail) Syrian rebels beheaded a Christian man and fed his body to dogs, according to a nun who says the West is ignoring atrocities committed by Islamic extremists.

The nun said taxi driver Andrei Arbashe, 38, was kidnapped after his brother was heard complaining that fighters against the ruling regime behaved like bandits.

She said his headless corpse was found by the side of the road, surrounded by hungry dogs. He had recently married and was soon to be a father.
Volatile fighting: The news of the kidnapping and beheading of Mr Arbashe came as pro-government forces celebrated their victory against rebels at the Air Defence Base in Tal Hassil near from Aleppo Airport last night
Volatile fighting: The news of the kidnapping and beheading of Mr Arbashe came as pro-government forces celebrated their victory against rebels at the Air Defence Base in Tal Hassil near Aleppo Airport last night

Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix said: ‘His only crime was his brother criticised the rebels, accused them of acting like bandits, which is what they are.’

There have been a growing number of accounts of atrocities carried out by rogue elements of the Syrian Free Army, which opposes dictator Bashar al-Assad and is recognised by Britain and the West as the legitimate leadership.

Sister Agnes-Miriam, mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated, has condemned Britain and the west for supporting the rebels despite growing evidence of human rights abuses. Murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery are becoming commonplace, she says.

‘The free and democratic world is supporting extremists,’ Sister Agnes-Miriam said from her sanctuary in Lebanon. ‘They want to impose Sharia Law and create an Islamic state in Syria.’
Fatal opinion: The man's brother had criticised the behaviour of members of the Free Syrian Army, seen here during heavy clashes with government forces north of Aleppo earlier this month
Fatal opinion: The man's brother had criticised the behaviour of members of the Free Syrian Army, seen here during heavy clashes with government forces north of Aleppo earlier this month

The 60-year-old Carmelite nun claims the west has turned a blind eye to growing evidence of a ‘fifth column’ of fanatics within the rag-tag ranks that make up the Free Syrian Army that they back to oust Assad.

One of the most effective fighting forces is the Jabat Al-Nusra, which has an ideology similar to Al Qaeda.

‘The uprising has been hijacked by Islamist mercenaries who are more interested in fighting a holy war than in changing the government,’ she said.

‘It has turned into a sectarian conflict. One in which Christians are paying a high price.’

The rebel attacked the northern town of Ras Al-Ayn, on the Turkish border, last month. The fighters entered the Christian quarter, ordering civilians to leave and leaving their homes.

‘More than 200 families were driven out in the night,’ Sister Agnes-Miriam says. ‘People are afraid. Everywhere the deaths squads stop civilians, abduct them and ask for ransom, sometimes they kill them.’
Threat: Sister Agnes-Mariam said that rebel fighters, pictured, are targeting Christians in Syria in a bid to make it a Muslim state
Threat: Sister Agnes-Mariam said that rebel fighters, pictured, are targeting Christians in Syria in a bid to make it a Muslim state

Militants wearing black bandanas of Al Qaeda recently laid siege to the Monastery of St James the Mutilated, located between Damascus and Homs, for two days in an attempt to prevent Christmas celebrations, the nun claims.

An estimated 300,000 Christians have been displaced in the conflict, with 80,000 forced out of the Homs region alone, she claims.

Many have fled abroad raising fears that Syria’s Christian community may vanish - like others across Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity.

Al Assad, a member of the Alawite Muslim sect, claims only his regime can protect Syria’s minorities from domination from the Sunni Muslims majority.

Meanwhile the fighting continues to rage with government forces retaking control of a key district in the city of Homs yesterday.

The latest violence comes after United Nations peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned of ‘hell’ for Syria if no political solution could be found.

Russia has stated the conflict is becoming increasingly militarised and sectarian and risks bringing chaos to the whole region.

Some 44,000 people have been killed since the uprising against the Al Assad regime began in March 2011.

Respect animals too

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to get his focus in order – it is not just the rakyat who need help and support – the animals need it too.
COMMENT

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened” – Anatole France, French poet, journalist and novelist.

As I stepped out to dry my laundry on a Wednesday morning of Oct 17, I was alerted to the piercing cries of a kitten. I looked around and found a box laced with a kitten inside it.

The hungry feline kept crying and unwilling to let it starve to death, I decided to do something.

For starters, I took the kitten to a veterinarian for a check-up and upon returning home I made calls to friends enquiring if they were interested in adopting the kitten –no one was keen.

The kitten was no pedigree and suffered from severe fungal infection, but still it was deserving of tender, loving and proper care, which it has since then been receiving from me, despite the fact that it has to wrestle for my time and attention from my five other cats.

Having been blessed with such pure and unconditional love from my six cats, I could relate to the hurt and anger of the pet owners who had sent their cats to a pet boarding centre in 2011 during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays. The pet owners were devastated to find their felines neglected, dehydrated, unfed and covered in faeces.

Some of the cats sent it for boarding did not make it home alive, having succumbed to dehydration and starvation.

That was what Shahrul Azuwan Adanan and Yushairi Khairuddin, owners of Petknode did when they abdicated their responsibility towards the 30 cats sent to their boarding centre in Damansara Damai.

And just how were the duo punished for their gross cruelty towards animals? Both were fined a total of RM6,000 for animal neglect with magistrate Elena Hong Tze Lan saying she could not sentence Shahrul and Yushairi to jail as she was bound by section 44 (2) of the Animal Act 1953 (2006 Amendment) which states that offenders must be given a chance to pay a fine before being sentenced to prison time.

In the end Shahrul and Yushairi were fined RM200 for each of the 30 charges against them after the two changed their pleas to guilty on June 12 this year. If they were unable to pay the fine, both would go to jail but for only a day.

Is this how the law regards animal life as worthy? In spite of the repeated calls for the Animal Act to be more forceful in dealing with animal abusers, the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) which has the statutory right to take legal action animal abusers seems unperturbed over the rising cases of animal abuse.

Why the indifference towards violence against animals? Does the animals’ inability to demand and fight for justice warrant an unbiased judgment against them?

Get rid of ineffective laws

In what was seen as the biggest case of animal abuse in the country, the RM6,000 fine against the Petknode owners was but a slap on the wrist, with the news leaving many animals lovers heart broken.

Shahriza Idrus, a volunteer with the Stray Cat Rescue and Treatment Community Help lamented that the penalty failed to serve as a deterrent and said the authorities need to “do something” about the Animal Act.

Shahrul Azuwan and Yushairi were charged under section 44 (1) of the Animals Act which provides for a maximum six months’ jail, a RM200 fine or both for each offence upon conviction.

Petknode had advertised its pet boarding services for as little as RM3.95 per night ahead of the Hari Raya celebrations last year.

In hindsight, the Petknode issue should serve as a lesson to all pet guardians to not fall for such a ‘too good to be true’ offer. The onus lies with them to do some ‘homework’ before sending their pets in for boarding.

Anyhow, the Petknode incident also revealed the apathy surrounding animal rights in this country, more so that shown by DVS, its lack of enforcement being blamed for the rise of animal cruelty in the city especially.

The scenario is no different in the case of the municipal councils which have been branded as ‘toothless’ due to the absence of enforcement of the by-laws.

Two years ago the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said a total of 657 animal cruelty cases were reported in 2009 with 90 % involving dogs and regrettably none were prosecuted.

For those cases that made it to court, the end result was a paltry fine issued to the perpetrator.

It seems that the abuse suffered by Sheena, a German Shepherd dog who was abandoned by her owner has failed to prick the conscience of both the law makers and authorities when it comes to delivering justice in cases of animal abuse.

Increasing the fine from RM200 to RM50,000 is not going to help if cases of animal abuse are not taken seriously by DVS.

Respect animals, get tough with the law

In March last year, a woman claiming to be depressed stomped on three kittens. While her cruelty was captured on CCTV and went viral, Chao Xiao Wei was let off with a mere RM400 fine with no jail term.

It is time that Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry which oversees the DVS ceases giving false assurances and starts taking cases of animal cruelty seriously. Its minister Noh Omar has to make an effort to study the animal cruelty laws that are enforced by countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Taiwan and Japan among others.

Going by animal rights lawyer N Surendran’s frustration that despite there being provisions for the municipal councils to take action against animal abusers and none had done so, it is clear that animal rights is not a priority in any way with our authorities.

For example, Section 10 of the 2007 local council by-laws state that any person who ill-treats a dog can be fined not more than RM2,000 or be imprisoned for not more than a year or both and yet the councils’ enforcement officers do nothing each time cases of animal cruelty are reported.

Surendran said the Malaysia animal laws are one of the worst in the world; here the 124-year-old London-based The Mayhew Animal Home and Humane Education Centre cannot agree more, its conclusion that the many cases of animal abuse in Malaysia depict a lack of respect for the animals.

Looks like Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to get his focus in order – it is not just the rakyat who need help and support – the animals need it too. And who better than Najib, who himself owns a cat, should understand this.

Wishing all of you a Blessed 2013!

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

The end of BN calendar?

2012 was a year where the ruling Barisan Nasional government further exerted its hegemony by stirring up racial and religious sentiments.
COMMENT

By Charles Santiago

As we rejoice in the New Year celebrations, the family of an odd job worker would be clamouring to figure out how he ended up dead in a police lock-up. K Nagarajan’s body was found with bruises. In a classic cover-up, the police say he died from a fall in his cell.

His family was not informed of his arrest until much later. The authorities are yet to explain the reasons for the wounds on Nagarajan’s body and the post-mortem report is still pending, after seven days.

His grieving mother wants an explanation. Chances are there would not be any from the police to provide closure for the family, as colourful display of fireworks light our sky above the KLCC.

Malaysia ends 2012 with yet another custodial death.

But this is nothing new as 10 people died in custody since last year, while 25 died in police shooting. According to statistics revealed by the Home Ministry, 209 persons died in police custody between 2000 and September 2012.

And 2012 also ends with threats from businessman, Deepak Jaikishan, saying he will reveal more dirt on the knots that tie corruption, land deals and the murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shariibuu to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife.

If Jaikishan keeps his promise, Najib would start his New Year with a bang of a different kind.

But the carpet dealer’s statements, although full of mysterious twists and turns, has failed to get anti-corruption officers off their feet. There are no investigations to check if Jaikishan’s claims are true and Najib has not been instructed to reveal his assets.

In sharp contrast, non-governmental organisations, activists, civil society members, the coalition for free and fair elections and every other dissident who questioned the government’s skewed policies were hit hard.

Suaram is facing severe persecution for trying to expose alleged corruption in the government’s purchase of French submarines, which is directly tied to Shariibuu.

They are being attacked for receiving funding from the Open Society Institute headed by George Soros and the government says it wants to introduce rules to prevent NGOs from receiving money from overseas which it claims could open Malaysia to foreign interference.

Anwar persecuted

The year 2012 also saw a continuation of the suppression of freedom of expression and information, with religious police JAWI confisticating copies of celebrated author Irshad Mani’s “Allah, liberty and love” in May.

And we also have the frantic passing of the Peaceful Assembly Act, a new law that is undemocratic and gives absolute power to the police with the power of appeal resting with the minister.

It was used as a tool to further harass the opposition, particularly opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar and his deputy were charged with helping to incite protesters to defy a court order and break through police barricades into Independence Square during Bersih 3.0 where tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding electoral reforms.

Even if Anwar receives the minimum penalty, he could lose his seat his parliament and be prevented from running in the upcoming general election. And the much-needed reforms are still up in the air.

The revelation that the government gave Malaysian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and stateless people in order to hold on to power has also been swept under the carpet.

We know the formation of a royal commission to look into this issue is mere shadow play.

The statistics are astounding.

Sabah’s population grew from under one million in 1980 to more than three million people today.

Foreigners make up 27 percent of that number, a larger proportion than the biggest indigenous group in Sabah.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Stateless Indians

The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, has always depended on winning an overwhelming number of seats in Sabah to remain in power nationally. But many ethnic Indians remain paperless and the government’s nationwide campaign to register stateless Indians is politically motivated to lobby Indian support and does not signal genuine concern for the community.

If this is not enough, the country’s investment policies only serve to make Malaysia a toxic dump- site.

Thousands of people have repeatedly protested against the opening of the Lynas rare earths plant saying its radioactive byproducts are a serious health and environmental hazard.

But despite the protests and legal action, the government granted Lynas a temporary operating license to process the minerals imported from Australia.

Now, in the face of continued opposition, the government says Lynas must ship all the waste products out of Malaysia or face the loss of its license. Lynas says it has no plans to do so.

But we all know it’s all just a charade and that Lynas would never have invested so much it unless it was confident of getting the government’s approval.

Malaysia’s education system is also on a slippery slope, forcing students to go overseas. And the government’s solution to stem decline in Mathematics, Science and English by proposing to bring in English teachers from India and give tax breaks to parents who enroll their children in the science stream is simply ridiculous.

In short, 2012 was a year where the ruling Barisan Nasional government further exerted its hegemony by stirring up racial and religious sentiments, continuing to discriminate the marginalised and targeting dissidents.

This has to stop in 2013.

Charles Santiago is DAP’s MP for Klang.

Allah' belongs only to Muslims and Islam: Jakim


(Bernama) - The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) today repeated its stand that the word 'Allah' is a holy word that belongs only to Muslims and Islam and cannot apply to non-Muslims and other religions.

Its director-general, Datuk Othman Mustapha, said the matter had been finalised at the 82nd meeting of the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs on May 5 to 7, 2008.

"Therefore, it is compulsory for all Muslims to protect it to the best of their ability. Any attempts to insult or abuse the word must be prevented according to the provisions stipulated under the Federal Constitution," he said in a statement here today.

He said statements made by certain quarters to create racial and religious disharmony just for the sake of gaining political mileage were very disappointing.

Hence, he said Jakim would like to urge all quarters to return to the rule of law to ensure that racial and religious harmony was well preserved and protected under the Federal Constitution.

Perutusan Tahun Baru 2013 Oleh Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim


Let 2013 end the national deformations and usher in an era of genuine national transformation by electing a new Pakatan Rakyat Malaysian government for the first time in 55 years

For nearly four years, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had been promising one transformation programme after another – government, economic, political, educational, social, etc all under an overarching slogan of 1Malaysia under one agency or another.

All these pronouncements and initiatives have achieved is to earn the nation the epithet of “The Acronym Nation” while national deformations in all aspects of national life have proceeded unchecked.

Najib’s four-year premiership will be remembered by Malaysians as an administration of plunging global indices, and this unpleasant fact has been underlined by three international reports in the last month of this year, viz:

Corruption - In the four-year Najib premiership, Malaysia’s Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) rankings sunk to the lowest depths in 18 years – No. 56 in 2009 and 2010, No. 60 in 2011 and No. 54 in 2012 as compared to the worst ranking of No. 23 under Mahathir and No. 47 under Abdullah – suggesting that corruption under the present Prime Minister is even worse than under all the previous Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.

No. 1 in per capita capital flight : Latest Global Finance Integrity report showed that on a per capita basis, Malaysia with a population of 28 million, is No. 1 in the world on illicit money outflow – whether in terms of black money siphoned out of the country for 2010, which is RM196.8 billion, or for the past decade (2000-2010), which is a whopping RM871 billion or equivalent to over RM31,000 for each of the country’s 28 million population.

Double-whammy of decline in maths and science standards by Malaysian students when compared with foreign countries well as with past batches – In TIMSS 2011 for eighth-grade students, Malaysia is ranked No. 26 with a score of 440 out of 1,000 for mathematics and even lower for science at No. 32 with a score of 426, both below the international average. They are also the worst scores for Malaysia in the four TIMSS 1999-2011, i.e. in maths dropping by 79 points from 519 in 1999 to 440 in 2011; in science, dropping by 66 points from 492 in 1999 to 426 points in 2011.

These are not signs of national transformation but national deformations.

Let 2013 end the national deformations and usher in an era of genuine national transformation for Malaysians by electing a new Pakatan Rakyat Malaysian government for the first time in 55 years.

Happy New Year 2013 to all Malaysians.

(2013 New Year Message in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, 31st December 2012)

Lawyer wants to hold vigil for rape victim

The Sun Daily 
by Elly Fazaniza

PETALING JAYA (Dec 31, 2012): A Malaysian lawyer and social activist has called on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to show support and solidarity for the 23-year-old Indian national who died on Saturday after being gang-raped.

R. Kengadharan is calling for a candlelight memorial to be held at the hospital where she was warded and passed away in Singapore.

Kengadharan said he had sent a letter to the Singapore police commissioner Ng Joo Hee and the Singapore home affairs minister to allow the memorial to be held at Mount Elizabeth Hospital at 7.30pm on Saturday.

However, if the request is rejected, Kengadharan said he would arrange for one to be held at the Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur instead.

He hopes Malaysians from all walks of life will attend the ceremony.

"This rape is no longer a domestic issue but has created a global impact where it is imperative for government officials to combat this serious malaise," he told theSun yesterday.

"Currently, I have only received an acknowledgement letter from the government of Singapore's home affairs ministry and police commissioner's public relations officer. The application has been sent to the relevant departments for consideration," he said.

Two weeks ago, the medical student was raped by six men in New Delhi and sustained serious internal injuries. After undergoing three operations in New Delhi, she was transferred to Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital because of its multi-transplant facilities. However, she died there on Saturday.

Kengadharan urged local authorities to thoroughly study the response time to emergency-related cases and react more quickly to ensure a similar incident does not happen here.

"I am also appealing to the Indian government to assure the safety of our Malaysian students and tourists in India," he said.

Malaysia’s Umno in survival mode

umno-assembly-2012
by Johan Saravanamuttu

Umno itself faces the rise of an unprecedented number of young and more urbanised voters who have little appetite for neither its old-style racial politics nor its ersatz Islamism, writes Johan Saravanamuttu, who witnessed the recent Umno general assembly first-hand.

Racial sentiments ran high, tears flowed, the rhetoric became warlike, 13th May’s ghost was resurrected and even God was invoked during the 66th United Malays National Organisation (Umno)’s convention which wound to its close on the first day of December 2012.

Gearing up for the ‘mother of all elections’ due to be held within months, Umno leaders were striking out a posture of solidarity and rallying the troops. However, belying the pomp, decibels and camaraderie was an undertone of the dominant political party of Malaysia losing much of its ‘mojo’ and somewhat in a survival mode.

Milling around the convention premises and listening to the emotionally charged speeches of delegates, one could not but palpably sense that Umno was a party under siege. Umno, as the political engineer of the unbroken 50-plus-year rule of the Barisan Nasional (BN), may indeed have been responsible for the loss of the ruling coalition’s customary two-thirds majority of seats in Parliament and five state governments in the 2008 general election, its worst electoral outing to date.

The fact that the Umno’s President Najib Razak, who is also the Prime Minister, has held back from calling a general election up until today suggests that Umno and its coalition partners continue to have doubts that their performance in the forthcoming election would be up to par. The window to call the election closes completely on 28 April 2013 by which time the government would have served out its maximum term of five years. The Election Commission would then have the option to hold the election within two months.

Thinkable opposition win?

On the final day of the Assembly, Umno president Najib Razak vowed to win back the two-thirds majority of seats in Parliament but all indications are that the BN will fall short in the upcoming election. Serious political analysts see the BN winning only a simple majority of the 222 parliamentary seats up for contest and unlikely to wrest back all the state governments of Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor lost in 2008. Moreover, it may stand the chance of losing Perak, which was turned over when three Pakatan Rakyat (People Alliance) law-makers hopped out of the opposition coalition in February 2009.

Umno’s 79 seats constitute about 36 per cent of the total number won by the BN and if its peninsula coalition partners MCA, MIC and Gerakan fail to retain their current hold on 20 seats, this could spell real trouble. Further haemorrhaging could occur in Sabah and Sarawak, where non-Umno coalition parties hold 41 seats for the BN. Indeed, if things turn out much worse than before, the scenario of an Opposition win is not unthinkable.

The argument advanced in this article is that Umno and its partners in BN have lost its “first-mover-advantage” as the ruling coalition in Malaysia for the last five decades or more and now faces decreasing returns on institutional arrangements and processes that it has pioneered, particularly when a new successful player, in this case, the PR, enters the scene. (For an exposition of the notion of increasing returns in path-dependent analysis, see Paul Pierson, “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics,” The American Political Science Review 94, no. 2 (June 2000): 251-267.)

This scenario has been given credence because the PR has been gaining ground in Sarawak and Sabah since 2008, the two solid stronghold states of the BN. In the April 2011 state election in Sarawak, the PR won a total of 15 seats which could well translate into six to eight parliamentary seats in the coming GE 13. In Sabah, two BN MPs, Lajim Ukin of Umno and Wilfred Bumburing of Upko, left their respective parties in July 2012 and have set up a PR-friendly entity. Earlier in 2009, the SAPP, led by former Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee, also weaned itself out of the BN. The BN’s total of 140 seats could well decrease significantly given these developments.

But what about Umno itself, would it able to retain its current share of seats or increase them? Why does the party convention of 2012 evince an unmistakable tinge of defensiveness and insecurity?

Umno’s predicament

To understand Umno’s current predicament, it will be necessary to backtrack to 2008. Umno held a little over half the Malay ground in terms of popular votes and seats in 2008. One estimate put Malay support for the BN at some 58 per cent. The BN itself won just over 50 per cent of the popular vote. It is hard to actually accurately measure the percentage of Malay support for Umno throughout the country but on the basis of Umno’s performance contra that of the Islamic party, Pas, in the Muslim heartland of the East Coast and the northern Malay states of the Peninsula, one could venture some more fine-grain interpretations of the Malay vote.

Umno’s slippage in retaining Malay support has been evident over the years with the concomitant rising presence of Pas. An additional element is the PKR presence in the more urban Malay areas. The table below shows the percentage of votes won by parliamentary candidates of the Opposition (mainly Pas and PKR) in Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu from 1995-2008. (Extracted from table in Johan Saravanamuttu, “Twin Coalition Politics in Malaysia since 2008: A Path Dependent Framing and Analysis” Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2012, p.105.)
percentage-of-opposition-votes
Perlis has remained an Umno stronghold but even so there has been a slippage of 3.6 per cent of votes. The slippage in Kedah was particularly evident and this saw the government change for the first time to the PR. In terms of popular votes in Terengganu, the margin of change in the last election was low after a surge in 1999. The chances are that in the 13th GE, Kelantan will remain firmly in Pas’ grip and unless there is a reverse swing of votes in Kedah, it will remain under Pas leadership as well. There would be a distinct possibility for Terengganu to be back in the embrace of Pas.

After an unprecedented 16 by-elections held after the 2008 GE, it has been ‘even stevens’ between BN and the PR. This suggests that BN-PR strengths have largely remained unchanged and that the two-coalition system has continued to track.

One particular by-election illustrating the weakness of Umno vis-à-vis Pas was the contest over Bukit Gantang, a parliamentary constituency with an electorate of 55,471 voters lying on the outskirts of Taiping town. A former stronghold of Umno, it passed into Pas’ hands at the 2008 election, the Islamic party capturing a credible majority of 1,566 votes. The death of the Pas assemblyman forced the 7 April 2009 by-election which saw the charismatic Nizar Jamaluddin take on Umno’s Ismail Safian.

In the event Nizar, the deposed Menteri Besar of Perak, won the seat with an increased majority of 2,789. An analysis by Pas showed that Nizar may have won only 43 per cent of the Malay votes. The results showed that the more rural areas of Trong gave Umno a majority of votes while the more urban regions around Sepang, Bukit Gantang proper and Kuala Sepetang gave Nizar sizeable majorities. Nizar won the seat by capturing a sizable portion of the Malay votes, but in Malaysian politics today, this is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. Nizar had to win the non-Malay votes by a good margin and he did.

Thus, in particular constituencies, non-Malay voters have become kingmakers whenever the Malay vote is split down the middle. It was clear that Nizar swept the non-Malay, mostly Chinese votes, sometimes to the tune of 80 per cent. A field trip to Kuala Sepatang (formerly Port Weld), provided the author with the distinct impression that the Chinese fishing community seemed totally supportive of Nizar, who in his short tenure as Chief Minister had legalised Temporary Operating Licence (TOL) land to Chinese farmers and other tenants.

For a comparison, let us now turn to the Tenang by-election in Johor held on 30 January 2011. This 14th by-election witnessed a resurgence of voter support for Umno, but fell short of the 5,000 vote majority that it had expected. Umno took the seat by a majority of 3,707, some 1,200 more than what it gained during 2008 with a voter turnout of 9,833, which is only 67 per cent of the electorate. Widespread flooding in the constituency during voting day accounted for the low voter turnout.

Tenang practically exhibits the peninsular template of Malay-Chinese-Indian distribution (49-38-12, and 1 per cent “others”) and its result was seen by some as a barometer of the state of play in Malaysian electoral politics. The Umno candidate Azahar Ibrahim may have swept more than 80 per cent of the Malay vote. The Pas challenger, Normala Sudirman, evidently won the Chinese vote, but the numbers may have shrunk somewhat since 2008. This was thought to be because of the low voter turnout among the Chinese. She was able only to win a majority in the 95 per cent Chinese polling area of Labis Tengah but lost in Labis Timor and in Labis Station, which had lower Chinese percentages.

The DAP claim is that she still picked up the majority of Chinese votes. DAP publicity chief Tony Pua suggested that Umno’s Azahar Ibrahim received 83.3 per cent of Malay votes, up four percentage points from 2008. This was helped by an 81 per cent turn out by Malay voters. The Indian vote also went to BN, but the community had a low 40 per cent turnout. The by-election was marred by massive flooding and many voters had to be ferried to polling stations in police boats.

The Tenang by-election result was already predictable before voting day and only the margin of victory was at issue. As such, the interesting points to be made concern the different styles, tactics and approach to by-elections of Malaysia’s twin coalition system: Umno clearly optimized on a strategy of using its copious resources and electoral machinery with great effect, while Pas floundered under the weight of Umno’s monopoly of state resources.

The by-election outcomes beg the question of what is animating politics on the ground today and here is where we could turn to the recent Umno assembly for some pointers. ( BN went on to win the final two by-elections on 6 March 2011 in Malacca, namely, in the state seats of Merlimau and Kerdau, previously held by Umno. The Electoral Commission ruled in April 2011 that they would be no further by-elections as three years had elapsed since the last election.)

A considerable amount of time and energy was devoted by delegates to pillorying and mocking Pas for its inability of fulfilling its promise of an Islamic state and watering down its agenda to that of a negara berkebajikan (welfare state) because of the objection of its alliance partner DAP. Thus Umno continues to target Pas as its main opponent. The delegate from Perlis, a religious scholar, Fathul Bari, played two video clips of the recent Pas convention, showing PasS spiritual leader Nik Aziz leading a prayer calling for Umno’s destruction and allegedly dubbing Umno members as murtad (apostates). The Umno delegates jeered loudly, evidently scandalised by Tok Guru’s venom for the party.

But herein also lies Umno’s Achilles heel; constituted originally as basically a secularist political party, it has increasingly been forced to meet the challenge of Pas’ Islamist politics and so far it has fared rather poorly. The more religious Muslims who support Pas consider Umno’s attempts to be ersatz.

The contestation of Umno with Pas on the Islamic terrain has to be understood in the context of Pas’ relentless critique of Umno as a corrupt, unethical party and one incapable of implementing Islamic values and policies. Umno’s riposte has been merely to up the ante on its own Islamic credentials. All Umno prime ministers since Mahathir have attempted to implement a host of Islamisation policies, recruited religious scholars and proponents into the party, and have termed Malaysia an “Islamic state”.

Under Najib, the government has introduced the notion of wasatiyyah (moderation) which inter alia accepts the presence of other faiths but without putting them on par with Islam. Najib in speeches before and during this assembly openly rejected the notions of “liberalism” and “religious pluralism”. Delegates during the assembly attacked Pas for supporting LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) rights and pointed to Pas’ support of Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenivasan as evidence of this. (Ambiga, also a former Bar Council President, was slotted to chair a session to discuss LGTB rights in the Seksualiti Merdeka Festival in November 2011. The festival was stopped by the government.)

It is of supreme irony that Umno, the erstwhile Malay secularist party now postures itself as an Islamist party while Pas, the putative Islamic party, has begun to take on more progressive agendas and stances on contemporary issues.

A defensive Umno

A defensive Umno has evidently moved beyond its familiar attack of non-Malays – symbolised by the ‘keris rattling’ of Umno Youth – to a more frontal confrontation with its religious foe Pas. Put differently, Umno’s polemical terrain appears to have shifted one remove beyond its preoccupation with the notion of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy).

This said, Malay supremacy still reared its head and remained as an important trope of the latest Umno assembly. It was clearly invoked in the speeches of the women’s chief, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, and deputy youth leader Reezal Merican Nainan Merican. One spun out the familiar threat to non-Malays of the possible recurrence of a May 13 event should Umno lose the Malay vote while the other famously announced that Umno was a party anointed by God.

On a more defensive plane, a young delegate representing the Umno clubs abroad struck a resonance with all and sundry when he started to sing a Biro Tata Negara (BTN) propaganda song lamenting the surrender of indigenous lands and possessions to foreign occupiers. (BTN or the National Civics Bureau organises orientation programmes for Malay students and civil servants.)

But the tear-jerking episode conveyed a subliminal message that Umno Malays have lost sight of the multi-racial politics advocated by its traditional leaders such as Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak. Without doubt, the Umno deputy youth leader Reezal Merican took racial politics to a new high when he implied that the Malays were God’s chosen people.

Predictably, the Umno’s president opening address emphasised the crucial character of the 13th GE for the party’s future and its survival and he alluded to the significance of the 2.9m new voters. Again, this suggests that Umno is not at all confident that it has captured the youth vote. Indeed, young people were conspicuous by their low attendance at the Umno assembly. Some 10 or so Umno overseas club members were visible and the Puteri Umno (young women’s wing) were clearly outnumbered by the Umno makciks and pakciks (older folk). Speeches by Puteri representatives were underwhelming and drew little fire.

The president’s speech was devoid of new policies as he trotted out the successes of his policies of economic, political and governmental transformation. There was no mention of how the government has addressed the egregious problems of corruption and crime. He clearly avoided any reference to the cyber rumblings that linked the first family to a land deal involving the Ministry of Defence alleged by one Deepak Jaikishan. Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid also demurred responding to the Deepak allegations. (At the point of writing, Deepak, a businessman and carpet dealer, has sued Selangor Umno women’s leader Raja Ropiaah Abdullah’s company Awan Megah for breach of contract and for allegedly cheating him of millions of ringgit. Awan Megah was awarded a RM100m privatisation project to set up an intelligence centre by the Defence Minister, it was alleged. Deepak had also intimated that he was responsible for the recanting of a statutory declaration by private investigator Balasubramanian which had stated that Najib Razak had a relationship with the murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu (See The Malaysian Insider, 30 November, 2012, and a Free Malaysia Today interview on video below.)

Najib’s 45-minute concluding speech provided hints of the problems afflicting the party. He spoke of finding “winnable candidates”, the problem of “saboteurs” and chose to praise in the same breath both ex-premiers Mahathir and Abdullah Badawi, known to be in different Umno camps. Further cyber noise from former Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan that the Home Minister had interfered in his handling of arrests of persons of standing over criminal activities also failed to draw any strong response from Hishammuddin Hussein, the minister in question. With the goings-on inside and outside the party, there were more than enough suggestions that the party was faction-ridden.

More tellingly, certain personalities appeared likely to be dropped as candidates in the coming GE. It has been common knowledge for a long time that the Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah’s son-in-law, may not be selected to defend his Rembau seat because of alleged blocking by Mahathir, who would like to see his own son Mukhriz rise in the party hierarchy. There have also been incessant rumours circulating that Deputy President Muhyiddin was ‘plotting’ for the president himself to under-perform in the GE, while Najib’s cousin, vice president Hisham-muddin, awaits a leg-up to the next level should Muhyiddin falter.

Conclusion

As the 66th Umno Assembly concluded and the impending 13th General Election looms large, Malaysia’s de facto ruling party may not be able to find the means to check its path-dependent decline. After more than five decades of unparalleled success in helming Malaysia save for a hiccup in 1969, it now faces the prospect of a possible loss of control of the federal government following the disastrous electoral outcome of 2008.

Path-dependent decline has even been more evident in its coalition partners, the MCA and Gerakan, two Chinese-based parties which have lost their historical advantage to the DAP. Leadership problems and haemorrhaging in the MIC has meant a splintering of the Indian vote mostly mopped up by the Opposition front. Other coalition partners in Sabah and Sarawak have fared much better up till now but some decline is evident in last year’s state election in Sarawak and in recent party defections in Sabah.

Umno itself faces the rise of an unprecedented number of young and more urbanised voters who have little appetite for neither its old-style racial politics nor its ersatz Islamism. Furthermore, factionalism within the party leadership despite an outward show of solidarity is bound to affect its effectiveness in securing desired electoral outcomes.