Saturday, October 20, 2007

Even God can’t sink Umno

by Raja Petra Kamarudin

“This ship in unsinkable, even God Himself can’t sink it!” screamed the newspaper headlines just before the Titanic sailed off on its maiden voyage.

The sinking of the Titanic was certainly a great tragedy. They were so confident that even God Himself could never sink it they did not provide enough lifeboats for every passenger because they never thought they would need them. While the higher-paying first class passengers faced no problems finding a seat in the limited lifeboats, the poor rakyat who could not afford the luxuries accorded the first class passengers only had one choice; a watery grave. But it was not a tragedy for everyone though. Decades later they made a movie about the incident and grossed hundreds of millions while Celine Dion made tons of money from the theme song.

Anyway, what does this whole episode teach us? First, the poor rakyat is always at the bottom of the food chain. Second, never tempt fate. Fate just loves challenges and will never shy away from proving you wrong. And this is something Umno should learn. But Umno being Umno, it will never take advantage of lessons of the past. It will keep repeating history to the detriment of the party. And today Umno is saying that even God Himself can’t sink the party.

On 15 October 2007, the Chief Minister of Melaka, Mohd Ali Rustam, officiated the People’s Progressive Party’s state convention and he sang the same old tune, Umno is unsinkable and even God Himself can’t sink the party. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit what he said, but this was what he was telling the assembly of PPP leaders and members in a very long-winded manner; one and a half hours to be exact.

Ali Rustam, the self-proclaimed ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno -- actually there is no such post but he likes to address himself as such -- stood on stage in front of the entire hall filled with PPP leaders and members and with fingers pointed said that PPP can leave Barisan Nasional. Leave today, or even tomorrow, said Ali Rustam, just don’t wait for the next election before leaving.

The PPP President and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk M. Kayveas, fidgeted in his seat, as did the entire hall. Ali Rustam was going berserk. He was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler jumping up and down, ranting and raving like a dog foaming at the mouth that had gone mad with rabies. Nobody reacted. Nobody could react. They were all too shocked to react and just sat there for the next one and a half hours as Ali Rustam told PPP and the entire non-Malay population of Malaysia that they are insignificant and Umno does not need them.

Ever wonder why Nazri Aziz told the Agong off and declared that he is nothing more than the Prime Minister’s clerk? The Prime Minister decides and the Agong just signs like a good little boy or else he will get sent to bed without any ice cream. Such is the arrogance of Umno. And if there were any doubts before this, 15 October 2007 laid that matter to rest once and for all when Ali Rustam repeated numerous times, “I was with Najib yesterday,” as if to send the message to all and sundry that he has Najib’s blessing to tell the Indians and Chinese that they can go back to India and China for all Umno cares.

Umno has ruled Malaysia for 50 years, said Ali Rustam, and they can rule for another 50 years more. And Umno does not need PPP, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, Sabah, Sarawak or anyone else to do this. Yes; and even God Himself can’t sink Umno like He could not sink the Titanic.

Ali Rustam should not tempt God or fate or whatever it is that he believes in. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is fond of relating the story of the mistake he made in 1969 when he told the Chinese he does not need their votes. 3,000 Chinese swung to PAS, said Mahathir. And Yusuf Rawa won that seat while the Grand Old Man of Malaysian politics was sent into temporary retirement. Even the great and very confident Mahathir will caution you about telling the non-Malay voters that you don’t need them. And surely Mahathir is a bigger man than Ali Rustam.

Well, that is probably what we think. But Ali Rustam does not think this way at all. He thinks he is the Chief Minister of the greatest nation on earth. Melaka is not part of Malaysia, said Ali Rustam, Malaysia is part of Melaka. This may sound strange to a student of history, and to ensure that you get a new twist to history, Ali Rustam warned the assembly that Melaka was once a great empire that included half of Thailand and half of Indonesia.

I thought that maybe in my old age my memory was beginning to fail me so I flipped through the pages of Joginder Singh Jessy’s and D.J. Muzaffar Tate’s ‘History of Malaya’ but could not find any reference to this. Maybe it is true, as they say, history is written by the victor, not the vanquished. But I was reading the history books written by Malayans and not those written by the Orang Puteh such as Stamford Raffles, R.O. Winsted, Barbara Watson, Leonard Y. Andaya or J. Kennedy.

Anyway, that just goes to show I am not really as clever as I thought I was. There are still many things about Malayan history that I am not aware of. And one thing that I was not aware of was that Melaka had once upon a time colonised half of Thailand and half of Indonesia. I suppose this is why Ali Rustam is the ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno and I am not. In fact, Ali Rustam is so clever he can become the ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno even when no such post exists.

Umno does not need any of the component members of Barisan Nasional, Ali Rustam went on. Umno has four million members and it can win the elections without the help of the rest of the component members of Barisan Nasional. Umno has been strong for 50 years and it will continue ruling this country for the next 50 years as well, Ali Rustam assured the assembly of PPP leaders and members.

PPP had better not ask for any seat in Melaka, Ali Rustam warned the assembly. If Perak wants to allow PPP a seat then that is up to the Perak Menteri Besar. That is his own decision and the party does not support him on this matter. After all the Perak Menteri Besar is a kaki bodek, said Ali Rustam to the shocked audience who could not believe they were hearing all this.

Maybe PPP was once a strong party, Ali Rustam added. When it joined Barisan Nasional it had four Parliament and 14 state seats, but that is an old story. Why bring up an old story? It is like Lee Kuan Yew talking about old stories. Now Ali Rustam was shifting his aim to the Island State south of the border, across the Causeway. Lee Kuan Yew is an old man, argued Ali Rustam, insinuating that the Grand Old Man of Singapore was getting senile, and he is illogical. And to emphasis the point, Ali Rustam repeated, “Yesterday I was with Najib,” as if to drive the point home that Najib is with him on this.

The punch-line that Ali Rustam wanted to deliver the assembly of PPP leaders and members is that the party is not going to be given any seat in Melaka. And to demonstrate that he meant business he asked PPP to leave Barisan Nasional. Leave now! What are you waiting for? Leave now! You want a seat is it? No seat for you! Who says Umno needs the component members, especially PPP? PPP means nothing to us. Leave now.

And as if what he had said thus far was not shocking enough, Ali Rustam took a swipe at the Pahang Menteri Besar. If the Pahang Menteri Besar wants to give you a seat in Pahang then that is his problem. He is crazy and he does crazy things. He can give PPP a seat in Pahang. Why ask from the other states? And the icing on the cake was when Ali Rustam said that if the Prime Minister gives PPP a seat then he has no balls (pengecut). Tak boleh ikut cara dia, Ali Rustam boldly declared. Yes, since Malaysia is part of Melaka and not Melaka that is part of Malaysia then this would certainly make sense.

Until today no one knows what triggered Ali Rustam’s outburst that 15 October 2007. It was as if the message to the Indians and Chinese is that Umno does not need them anymore. The latest poll shows that the non-Malay support for Barisan Nasional has gone below 50% while the Malay support is still above 70%. This would mean that the non-Malay parties in Barisan Nasional may not be able to deliver the votes if the general election is held within the next month or so.

Ali Rustam seems to feel that Umno ruled Malaysia for 50 years without any help or support from the non-Malays and they can continue to do so another 50 years without any problems. Of late Ali Rustam has been demonstrating his contempt for the non-Malays. His move to kill the pigs in Melaka and drive the Chinese pig farmers out of business is one case in point. He boasted to all and sundry that he wants to show the Chinese that he is the boss, something his predecessors were not able to and did not dare do. The pig farmers and their family and friends command a lot of votes and it is better that the government leaves them alone. All the Chief Ministers before this adopted this policy but Ali Rustam wanted to show them that he decides and he calls the shots. And this is what he told the PPP convention that 15 October, “I decide.”

Ali Rustam believes that the Prime Minister will announce the dissolution of Parliament on 9 November followed by the general election on 25 November. If this happens then the Chinese would be with the opposition. Ali Rustam realises that how much you may court the Chinese it would be futile. Therefore, since you cannot get their support anyway, you might as well whack them. It makes no difference anyway.

Of course, many would ask why whack the Chinese? Well, PPP in Melaka is led by a Chinese and it would be Chinese and not Indians who matter, though the Indian support for PPP is nevertheless strong since it has a large Indian membership.

This is Ali Rustam’s version of keris waving. The fact that he repeated many times, “I was with Najib yesterday,” was his way of telling the world that he is Najib’s de facto number two. This means if Najib goes up to become the Prime Minister then he would be the Deputy Prime Minister. To become the number two in Umno is not up to the voters. It is up to the Umno divisions. So he must come out looking like a Malay hero from Melaka a la Hang Toh Ah and Hang Jer Baht, never mind that these two may have been Chinese rather than Malays. And this ranting and raving about Melaka once being an empire that ruled over half of Thailand and half of Indonesia fit nicely into the theme. But Ali Rustam probably thought that Kayveas and his PPP members are all illiterate rubber tappers who never read history when he said that Malaysia is part of Melaka and not Melaka that is part of Malaysia.

But why the need to repeat so many times that he was with Najib the day before? Everytime he dropped a bombshell he would add that he was with Najib the day before. What was his message here? Was it that he was delivering Najib’s message or that Najib has endorsed what he is saying? Or is it to demonstrate that he is Najib’s number two?

Anyway, whatever it may be, Ali Rustam has made it very clear that Umno does not need anyone. Umno has managed 50 years without depending on anyone and it can carry on another 50 years without them. Is this Ali Rustam’s or Najib’ message: that if the component members do not deliver the votes then they will be kicked out of Barisan Nasional? When MCA did badly in 1969 it was proposed they leave the Alliance Party since the Chinese no longer support them. The only difference this time around is that Umno is telling them before instead of after the general election.

There is much speculation on who will be Najib’s Deputy when he takes over as Prime Minister. This question has been satisfactorily answered on 15 October 2007. Ali Rustam made it clear that he and not the Prime Minister makes the decisions. As far as Ali Rustam is concerned the Prime Minister pengecut, the Perak Menteri Besar is kaki bodek while the Pahang Menteri Besar is gila who does crazy things. Yes, that leaves only him remaining as the most suitable candidate to become the next Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Hmm.....should I seriously consider migrating?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The national hoopla on "Eight Virtures and Eight Shames"

Ba Rong Ba Chi
by Andrew Swerdloff

Earlier this month, President Hu Jintao declared the importance of developing an "advanced socialist culture" when he met with members of the Tenth National Meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's political advisory body. President Hu explained his socialist value system by laying out a list of do's and don'ts:

1. Love, do not harm the motherland. Serve, don't disserve the people.

2. Uphold science; don't be ignorant and unenlightened.

3. Work hard; don't be lazy and hate work.

4. Be united and help each other; don't gain benefits at the expense of others.

5. Be honest and trustworthy, not profit-mongering at the expense of your values.

6. Be disciplined and law-abiding instead of chaotic and lawless.

7. Know plain living and hard struggle; do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures.

The system aims to refresh and define China's values by amalgamating traditional Chinese values with modern virtues. It also aims to "add to efforts by communist leaders to assure the public that they are fighting corruption and trying to close the gap between an elite who have profited from China's economic reforms and the poor majority". Hu made it clear that he intends to promote this concept to the masses, especially young people, and "make it part of social norms." On the same occasion, Hu further proclaimed, "In our socialist society we must not allow the boundaries to be blurred when it comes to right and wrong, evil and kindness, beauty and ugliness. What we support, what we resist, what we oppose and what we promote all must be crystal clear" (China Daily, March 13, 2006).

So far, Hu's "socialist concept of honor and disgrace" appear to be well received and supported by government officials, scholars, members of the PLA, and the media. For example, Wu Guangzheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, during an inspection tour to Jilin Province, urged all to uphold the new concept of advanced socialist values and to increase officials' awareness of clean governance. He especially encouraged leading officials to play an exemplary role in implementing Hu's new concept of values.

Another government official, Liu Yunshan, a member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat and head of the Publicity Department of the CCP Central Committee, supported Hu's socialist concept and sponsored the incorporation of these principles into textbooks to better popularize the concept across the country.

Members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) also expressed their acceptance and appreciation of Hu's socialist values. Upon hearing about Hu's morality system, two musicians from the PLA even turned the so-called "eight virtues and eight shames" (or eight honors and eight disgraces) into a song. According to military sources, these musicians taught the song in a PLA barrack in Beijing, and it became a huge hit. One possible reason why Hu's new value system has been so widely accepted, according to Sheri Liao, an environmental activist and former philosophy teacher, is that "the nation is starting to take an interest in and adopt a friendly attitude to traditional culture and values" (China Daily, March 13, 2006).

Besides leaders from the Party, government and military, Hu's socialist virtues also received support from businessmen, religious leaders, and scholars. For example, during the CPPCC annual session of 2,280 delegates, businesspeople, religious leaders, and dignitaries in various fields closed out the annual session with a resolution praising Hu's list of virtues and pledging to "make it part of social norms." Zhang Kangkang, a novelist and a CPPCC delegate, voiced her approval of Hu's socialist values. She believes that the Party's earlier campaigns to induce the youth to embody certain socialist virtues were not effective and that Hu's newly defined principles are better suited for the Chinese people. Sheri Liao, one of China's best-known environmental activists, also approved of Hu's socialist value system because the language used to describe it is neutral and apolitical and the concept is very populist and middle-of-the-road. This makes it appealing to many of the Chinese people. She believes that the Chinese people have lost the moral compass since Deng Xiaoping initiated his aggressive economic reforms and that Hu's socialist virtues will help restore some of that lost bearing.

Chinese print, televion and online media have created a hurricane to publicize Hu's new moral guideline. For example, the People's Daily published a commentary that praised and advocated Hu's "advanced socialist culture". The commentary stated that the thorough implementation of the "socialist concept of honor and disgrace" is a significant and pressing task for the country. It further stated that people should grasp the essence of the concept and learn how to tell right from wrong, good from evil, beauty from ugliness, and to apply it to their daily work. Other news sources such as China Daily and Xinhua have also described Hu's new concept as a theoretical new high in applying Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory to China's ongoing political and economic undertaking.

In a sense, Hu Jintao's new emphasis on socialist values is relevant. After two decades of reforms, the importance of morality in Chinese society has been replaced with a desire to become rich at all costs. Hu's formal explanation of a new, clearly defined socialist system reflects this change and the desire of the Party to address this issue. It is high time to contemplate when old ideologies, mission statements and goals are becoming increasingly irrelevant, what will be the new substitutes?

However, it remains to be seen if such top down mobilization and intensive campaign will work. In fact, the CCP itself is still in the middle of a 28-month long campaign to get its 70 million members to maintain the zeal and purity so as to better lead the Chinese in her peaceful rise. While the report card on the "baoxian" is yet to come out, indications are it is not working. All the funds and time that have been poured into the campaign seem to have generated little to make the Party and government more responsive and less abusive in the name of serving the people.

It is understandable why the elite stakeholders have expressed support for their "visionary" president and determined general secretary of the Party. It is also noticeable that we do not know how ordinary Chinese feel about this new campaign to distill yet another set of values that have all the rhetoric license and no legal deterrence at all. There is nothing wrong to purify the morality of the Chinese people but it seems to be a huge blunder to only focus on ideological fermentation and neglect installing other much more effective mechanisms that can better reduce corruption, abuse and unaccountability. A responsible government does not teach her people how to think and behave but asks her people to choose the best leaders, seeks approval of her people for her decisions, and makes it easy for people to find fault with her.

Another English version of the eight honors and eight shames is as follows:

1) The honor of loving the motherland ; the shame of endangering the motherland

2) The honor of serving the people; the shame of turning away from the people

3) The honor of upholding science; the shame of ignorance and illiteracy

4) The honor of industrious labor; the shame of indolence

5) The honor of togetherness and cooperation; the shame of profiting at the expense of others

6) The honor of honesty and keeping one's word; the shame of abandoning morality for profit

7) The honor of discipline and obedience; the shame of lawlessness and disorder

8) The honor of striving arduously; the shame of wallowing in luxury

Monday, October 15, 2007

BAKUN DAM: The Dam that wouldn't Die

From Asia Sentinel

Sarawak’s politically motivated Bakun Dam has a new Australian friend to help keep it going

The resuscitation of the controversial Bakun Dam as the result of an agreement to build a nearby aluminum smelter is the latest chapter in a long running saga to push forward the environmentally sensitive project closely linked to the longstanding Sarawak chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and his family.

The mammoth dam, one of the cherished mega-projects of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, has already wiped out 23,000 hectares of virgin rainforest, delivered the timber into the hands of timber barons and displaced 9,000 indigenous people. It is also a textbook example of how the New Economic Policy, Malaysia’s affirmative action program to improve the economic wellbeing of its bumiputera, or ethnic Malay majority, instead concentrates riches in a few hands.

On August 7, Australia-based Rio Tinto Aluminum signed a deal with Malaysian conglomerate Cahya Mata Sarawak, whose principal stakeholders are members of the Taib Mahmud family, for a joint study to build a US$2 billion smelter in Similajau, near Bintulu, 80 km inland from the dam itself. Expected to open in 2010, it will be one of the largest in the world, with initial production capacity is projected at 550,000 tonnes a year with the capability to expand to 1.5 million tonnes later.

Rio Tinto, with its projected takeover of Alcan, Inc., of Canada, is already expected to become the largest aluminum producer in the world. The smelter, which will use power from the Bakun dam, is expected to be the fifth and biggest aluminum plant for Rio Tinto, its external affairs manager Jim Singer told The Associated Press. Rio Tinto picked Sarawak for the project due to strong government support, a credible local partner, abundant electricity supply from the Bakun dam and robust demand in the region, Singer said.

Critics are livid. In a forum early this month organized by the United Nations Development Program in Kuala Lumpur to mark World Indigenous Day, Colin Nicholas, the coordinator of the Center for Orang Asli (Indigenous People) told local reporters that "From our point of view, by allowing the Rio Tinto project to go ahead, it is just like trying to cover up one natural disaster with another.”

“There was no open tender for the (aluminum smelter project) and no public announcement of it,” fumed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in an email to Asia Sentinel. “Combined, the smelter and the dam raise serious concerns about environmental impacts and the treatment of indigenous populations.”

Just as disturbing, to some observers, is the way Cahya Mata Sarawak, which means “light of Sarawak’s eye” in English and goes by the acronym CMS, has maneuvered itself into position to benefit from the dam.

Begun in 1974 under the name Cement Manufacturers Sarawak Bhd, the company originally produced Portland cement as a state-owned firm. Its transformation has been remarkable, according to a doctoral thesis submitted to the University of London in 2002 by Andrew Aeria, currently a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University Malaysia Sarawak in Kuching.

“The rapid growth and transformation of CMS since the 1990s has been nothing short of phenomenal, and is due to two main factors, namely the privatization and restructuring of CMS from a state-owned public-listed company into a private sector public-listed conglomerate owned by the Mahmud family, and the huge amount of state rents CMS secured for itself and its subsidiary companies from 1992 through political patronage,” Aeria wrote.

Aeria’s study tells the story in voluminous detail. Beginning in the early 1990s, Cement Manufacturers Sarawak Bhd, a state-owned company, bought major stakes in three highly profitable subsidiaries of the Sarawak Economic Development Commission – PPES Quarry, Steel Industries Sarawak and PCMS, for 117.4 million Malaysian ringgit, 50 million of that in cash, the rest covered by 13.48 million shares. For that, CMS got, in addition to the assets, 30.94 million ringgit in cumulative retained profits, according to the company’s annual reports. That moneyproved helpful, allowing CMS to acquire two other companies owned by the Mahmuds, namely Syrakusa Sdn Bhd and Concordance Sdn Bhd, via cash and share swaps. This resulted in the "privatization to the Mahmud family via a reverse takeover. Bank Utama, Sarawak Securities and Archipelago Shipping -- all Mahmud family companies -- were subsequently injected into CMS.

The CMS takeover also reflects the politics of New Economic Policy privatization exercises in Malaysia, which tend to favor hiving off profitable public enterprises instead of loss-making ones to well-connected individuals in the private sector, Aeria claims. Apart from cultivating cronyism and promoting rent-seeking, such privatizations deprive the state sector of lucrative sources of income end up raising the tax burden of ordinary taxpayers, he writes.

During the privatization and restructuring of CMS, numerous public-funded infrastructure projects also were channeled to CMS. These helped CMS maintain an extremely healthy cash flow and high annual turnover. They bolstered its restructuring efforts, hiked up the share price of CMS and helped CMS raise funds easily from banks and other money markets.

By 1996, the Mahmud family had consolidated the cement business, Bank Utama, Sarawak Securities, and Archipelago Shipping, turning the firm, now named Cahya Mata Sarawak, from a publicly-owned cement producer into a private-sector diversified conglomerate involved in stock brokering, road construction, water, quarry operations, steel bar manufacturing, trading, cement production and investment holdings.

“Taib Mahmud’s control over the levers of power and resources in Sarawak saw the SEDC (Sarawak Economic Development Commission) privatize profitable state enterprises to his family,” Aeria wrote in his thesis. “Similarly, his position of favor with the federal government meant that his family received various rents, principally a stockbroker license (to Sarawak Securities) that became a lucrative monopoly, and waivers on mandatory general share offers. Taib Mahmud’s powerful political position also meant that the companies linked to his family easily raised loans from the capital market.”

Taib Mahmud’s 26-year tenure as the chief minister of Sarawak also gave the company at least the appearance of having ready access to government power and favors during a time when the family company had a healthy cash flow and high annual turnover that drove up the share price. The company also got involved in numerous infrastructure projects.

“What is notable about these infrastructure projects is that most of them were secured via negotiated tender from the Sarawak government and its agencies without going through a process of competitive tenders,” Aeria writes. “Not only were many public sector projects channeled towards CMS but CMS also actively undertook a process of seeking out profitable public sector jobs like the maintenance of federal and state roads by the Sarawak Public Works Department estimated at between RM300-RM500 annually, and negotiated for their being transferred to CMS on a turnkey basis.”

Born in relatively modest circumstances, Taib Mahmud now is locally famous for wearing double-breasted suits and driving around Kuching, Sarawak’s capital city, in a cream-colored Rolls-Royce. According to Aliran Monthly, the reformist Malaysian magazine, Taib Mahmud’s spouse Laila and his children are the majority shareholders of Sitehost Pty. Ltd., Australia, which owns the Adelaide Hilton Hotel. Company records dated December 2000 show them holding 95 percent of the company or 9.5 million fully paid up shares, the magazine said.

Onn Mahmud, Taib Mahmud’s brother, his daughter Jamilah Hamidah Taib and her husband Sean Murray are listed as director-shareholders of SAKTO Corporation, a major real estate operator of non-residential buildings in Ottawa, owning and managing more than half a million square feet of prime office space with affiliate offices in the US, Asia, the UK and Australia. They also own SAKTO Development Corporation, a multi-million dollar development and construction company in Ottawa. Jamilah is the sole director of SAKTO Investment Corporation. “Now, it may well be that the Mahmud family is one of the best and most astute business families in Malaysia,” Aliran wrote. “And more power to them on that account. But much of their known wealth has arisen during the tenure of Abdul Taib Mahmud as Sarawak chief minister. Is there then any wonder why there exists so much public skepticism about the sources of Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family wealth? Would not a transparent audit do well to quash such obviously unscrupulous rumors once and for all?”

The construction of the dam, which had been under development in fits and starts since the 1960s, began to mesh with Cahya Mata’s capabilities in 1994, when construction began, led by a privatized joint-venture consortium called the Bakun Hydroelectric Corporation comprised of Ekran Bhd, the national power company Tenaga Nasional Bhd, the government of Sarawak, Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco) and Malaysian Mining Corporation Bhd (MMC).

The dam project itself is part of a grandiose plan to meet electricity demand in peninsular Malaysia, nearly 700 km away, via a high voltage direct current cable, since the entire island of Borneo, where the dam is situated, is unlikely to be able to use the amount of electricity it is projected to produce.

Thus an additional 300km line was also envisioned to feed power throughout peninsular Malaysia. Because of the distance of transmission, the underwater cables are expected to leak more than half of the wattage before the power reaches peninsular Malaysia. Even without Bakun, Sarawak’s installed electricity reserve capacity was estimated at 25 percent two years ago. At one point, the massive operation was projected to tie up the world’s entire cable-laying capability.

In 1996, Cahya Mata expanded its steel and cement production capacities in response to a massive economic boom in the construction sector. CMS’s new steel and cement plants were financed by large short and long-term loans from both local and international offshore money markets.

The Asian financial crisis, however, brought the Bakun dam project to a halt and forced the government to assume control from the consortium at an estimated cost of 1.6 billion ringgit to Malaysian taxpayers. It was revived in 2000 through a wholly owned-government company, Sarawak Hidro, along with the Malaysia-China Hydro JV consortium. (This also isn‘t Bakun’s first flirtation with an aluminum smelter. One was previously proposed for Similajau, to be funded by the international financier Mohamed Ali Alabbar as a joint venture between Dubai Aluminum Co. Ltd and Gulf International Investment Group. Those plans collapsed due to construction delays and squabbles over contractual terms. By 2004 most of the minor partners to the consortium posted losses or substantially decreased profits.)

The Asian crisis of 1997-1998 also resulted in a spectacular 439 million ringgit pre-tax loss for Cahya Mata for the year ending December 1998 and a reversal of fortunes to the tune of 670.7 million ringgit, primarily because of severe nonperforming loan losses in the company’s banking and financial services arms. By 1999, the company’s total debt burden ballooned to 787.33 million ringgit and resulted in a downgrade of its bonds.

Cahya Mata’s cumulative debts and financial troubles at the turn of the century meant that Bakun took on added importance. A large portion of its debt was secured by pledges of securities as collateral, the share price of which was tied directly to the terms of its debt. CMS’s share price dropped below RM3.00, Aeria wrote.

The revival of Bakun became an overnight confidence boost to Cahya Mata and strengthened the financial status of its majority owners as well as numerous other shareholders. But Bakun was more than just that. From a political standpoint, the dam was a major lifeline thrown at a very crucial time to Taib Mahmud, other client businesses having dealings with the conglomerate, and ordinary shareholders in Sarawak. This lifeline was thrown back in the form of a Sarawak majority party that delivered all 28 of its parliamentary seats to offset the federal Barisan Nasional’s losses of seats in national elections and helped Mahathir to maintain his critical two-thirds majority in parliament.

Taib Mahmud himself has faced numerous corruption allegations by critics over his 26-year career as chief minister, most recently earlier this year when Japanese media reported that he had been implicated in a 1.1 billion yen timber export kickback scheme involving a cartel of nine Japanese timber shipping companies through Hong Kong-based Regent Star, which is linked to Taib Mahmud and his family. He has not been charged and has publicly denied any wrongdoing. He recently said he would sue several Malaysian publications for defamation over articles relating to the case.

When Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came to power in 2003 as Malaysia’s prime minister, he vowed to cut back on the number of mega-projects that Mahathir had lumbered the country with, telling delegates to the 57th United Malays National Organisation’s 57th general assembly that he would turn away from Mahathir’s economic strategies. “That era is over,” he told the delegates. But Abdullah Badawi has been weakened by a series of missteps and scandals, and meanwhile Bakun dam soldiers on.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Face To Face: Raja Petra Kamarudin

A Reason for Discourse
with Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob

Raja Petra Kamarudin, dubbed the ‘Asian Reformist’, is changing the way Malaysians look at themselves. Sometimes seemingly shy, but never backing down from confrontation with the powers-that-be, he is somewhat of an enigma. Face to Face talks to the man behind Malaysia Today and uncovers this reformist.

1. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Malaysia Today has been hugely successful. Into its 3rd Anniversary, would you do anything different in terms of the stated objectives and direction of Malaysia Today?

Raja Petra: I suppose if I died and was born again I would still live my life exactly the same way I am living it now. I know this sounds blasphemous coming from a Muslim considering that Islam does not believe in reincarnation. But I am of course speaking figure-of-speech-wise. In that same spirit I would not do things any differently as far as Malaysia Today is concerned.

2. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Malaysia Today seems to be down or inaccessible more often these days. Is this the result of attacks from Umno cyber-troopers as you alleged? It appears that they are close to shutting Malaysia Today down completely.

Raja Petra: Initially the problem was bandwidth. I had to increase our bandwidth multi-fold and bandwidth costs money. That is why I sometimes whack those who post ‘junk’ in the blogs. They are using up valuable bandwidth and this would deny the other more genuine readers access to Malaysia Today, especially those who do not have Broadband access and have to depend on dialup.

Anyway, I have resolved the bandwidth problem. All you need is money to buy more bandwidth, that’s all. And as a ‘pensioner’, so to speak, I am surviving on my pension. Therefore I do not have income or bottomless pockets and it was certainly painful to have to increase my expenditure on the website. Since I started Malaysia Today three years ago my expenses have increased ten-fold. I also have about half a dozen staff to pay and some of them are on fixed monthly salaries.

The current problem we are facing has nothing to do with money or bandwidth. We have been attacked many times, sometimes two days in a row, with DOS (denial of service) attacks. On Monday last week we were shut down for seven hours and the following day for six hours. I have since beefed up our security.

Again, all it takes is money…..sigh…..

But we are not the only one getting hit. Screenshots and Harakah too were attacked. I believe they are attacking all ‘anti-government’ websites. Yes, they might finally try to close us down for good. But I don’t know how they are going to do it. Maybe they will find something to charge me with and lock me away. I really don’t know and I can’t be bothered. In fact, I challenge them to do their worst.

3. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: You have vowed to keep Malaysia Today an open avenue for all views yet the comments posted on your site are now the subject of legal contention. You talk about the inability to monitor the bulk of comments posted and now practice some form of censorship. I put it to you that you have strayed from your promise?

Raja Petra: We see thousands of postings a day so how can I read everything on top of searching for news items, updating the site, editing, all which I do myself, plus writing as well? I probably read about 10% or less of the comments so invariably many junk postings get through.

But a friend is scanning through the comments and editing or deleting those he feels are overboard, obscene, racial, and so on. I have given him full authority because it would be impossible for him to contact me and discuss case-per-case each posting. I trust my friend’s judgement and leave it to him to decide what gets thrown out.

There are of course certain parameters we work within. For example, postings such as Keling Pariah, Malay dog, Chinese pig, fuck your mother’s arse, and such profanities, definitely get thrown out. I don’t think anyone can accuse us of unfair censoring if we clamp down on these types of postings.

But other than that we are quite liberal and many are actually unhappy about this. They feel we are allowing or even encouraging Malay and Islam bashing. My contention is that when Malays shout and scream about Ketuanan Melayu and label this and that Islamic or un-Islamic then they are inviting comment or criticism.

Sure, non-Malays or non-Muslims criticise Malays and Islam respectively. But the question is: whose fault is this? When you walk around naked then you can’t fault people for calling you cuckoo. Don’t walk around naked, then no one will have any reason or opportunity to insult you. We are stripping the Malays and Islam naked for all and sundry to see, so expect the criticism. Stop screaming about Melayu and Islam and no one will scream back. But then Malays think that since this is a Malay-Muslim country they have every right to scream about Melayu and Islam and that others should never dare scream back. That is when the problem starts.

4. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: How do you feel after being named as a leading ‘Asian Progressive’ by World Business Magazine (May 2007)?

Raja Petra: Actually, it’s second most progressive, not leading. But I really don’t know how they named me although they did mention the criteria applied. But that is only the opinion of one journalist from one journal. I am sure others will not agree with his opinion. So I am not popping champagne just yet.

5. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Critics charge that you change ‘teams’ from Anwar Ibrahim to Tun Dr. Mahathir, that you are disloyal to your chosen allies. What would you say to the critics?

Raja Petra: Why must everything be looked at in terms of teams? I did not support Anwar when he was in the government. I supported Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in his Semangat 46 days. Of course, I did support Anwar for awhile, but that was before he went up the Umno ladder. I was in fact closer to PAS since the late 1970s.

I support causes, not personalities. If that personality carries a cause I can relate to then I rally behind him. If I do not like his cause or feel that he has abandoned the cause then I move on. Life is too short to bitch and whine. If we meet eye-to-eye, we talk. If not, we walk.

Politicians carry this concept of ‘if you are not with me then you are against me’. Even Bush is like that. Why can’t I not be with you, yet not be against you? Today, Tun Dr Mahathir is the closest thing we have to an opposition. He is doing the job of the entire opposition. I like that and can relate to it. That does not mean I overlook his mistakes of past. But if he can redeem these mistakes and make up for what he did by correcting things, then that is all I care.

Even God forgives you if you repent and turn over a new leaf and make up for your past mistakes. Are we above God that we can choose to reject Mahathir for what he was rather than look at him for what he is now? This country needs saving. And if the opposition will not do that then we have to work with the next best thing.

Many say that the present problems facing our country are Mahathir’s doing. Well, in that case then that is even more the reason why Mahathir should be the one to correct them. Anyway, if Mahathir will not do it, who will? I don’t see anyone else doing it.

So I support Mahathir in his effort to correct the wrongs. I will also support anyone and everyone else who wishes to bring about reforms, even Khairy Jamaluddin if he wants to reform the nation.

6. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: I put it to you that in your widely read articles, your enemies often suffer personal attacks. Do you agree?

Raja Petra: True, but once you are a leader then you no longer own a private life. You are a public servant so you become public property. You are in office because of us and we are paying your salary. So we own you and what we own we can do what we like with it.

I don’t care about Siti Nurhaliza or Sharifah Aini or whoever. They are not in public office and they are not earning their salary from money we pay the government in the form of taxes. They can do what they like, even screw around and hold sex parties. But if you are a Yang Berhormat, civil servant, and so on, then we are watching you. We own you. And if you get out of line and we will screw the daylights out of you.

7. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: The common view is that you are opposed to the administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Is this fair comment and if so what is your ultimate goal in this context?

Raja Petra: I have been opposed to the administration since Hussein Onn’s time. I have nothing personal against Pak Lah. I just don’t like the way this country is run. It is not enough we have a CEO. We also need accountants and auditors. Look at me as the auditor. Our job is to hassle the CEO, the Board of Directors, accountants….. to make sure they are doing their job and are not having their hands in the till. I support Tengku Razaleigh for Prime Minister but you can bet your last dollar I will also give him a hard time when he finally does become Prime Minister….. as I know he will.

8. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: You allude to the heightened public profile/statements of members of the Royal families of the country lately as one of tacit support for your cause….. Comment?

Raja Petra: The Royal Family has been fed up with the way this country is being run for almost 30 years now. This is not something new. But they have always been very careful about what could be perceived as interfering in the administration of this country. But there is a limit. Everything has a limit and I think this limit has been reached. Just because the Royal Family kept quiet for 30 years out or respect and so that the government does not lose face does not mean they didn’t care.

And what makes you think it is wrong for the Royal Family to speak out? Malaysia is supposed to be a democratic country which practices freedom of speech. Why should the Royal Family be denied its fundamental right just because they carry a Tengku or Raja in front of their names. Members of the Royal Family too are citizens of Malaysia, pay taxes, and vote in the elections. That gives them the right as any other Malaysian to express their views.

And the Royal Family has just about had it with the way this country is being managed. It is time for change and the Royal Family is calling for change. Of course, protocol does not allow the Rulers to make official statements so they don’t. But their family members are not prohibited from speaking out. It is not illegal to speak out. In fact, as Muslims, it is their Islamic duty to speak out.

9. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Quote: - “Perhaps I can show that the Royal families are not a total bunch of useless leeches” - Are you attempting to reassert the powers of the Royal families back to the time of the pre-constitutional crisis of 1993?

Raja Petra: What do you mean? Reassert which power? You mean the Royal Family had its powers removed? Maybe up to very recently the Royal Family kept silent but this does not mean because they have no power or that their power was removed.

In 1993, as you say - actually it was in the 1980s - it was another group of people sitting on the throne. Today, it is the sons of those who sat on the throne in 1993 who are now sitting on the throne. The 1980s bunch was the pre-Merdeka bunch. Today, you are seeing the post-Merdeka bunch. Times have changed.

These vocal members of the Royal Family are products of a Western education, the borderless internet, Globalisation, and what have you. They are all well-read and highly-educated, unlike the past Rulers. We are no longer dealing with people born and raised in the kampong. These are professionals who know what is good for the country.

10. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: In a recent public lecture, you stated that the opposition parties are disunited and have no real prospect of winning an election. What kind of realistic change then can you hope to inspire under the present circumstances?

Raja Petra: It is three opposition parties against 14 in Barisan Nasional. BN has 6 million members against the opposition’s 1 million or so. It is not an equal contest.

The BN has the entire government machinery and media at its disposal to be used as its election machinery. BN spends RM1.5 billion in the elections against the opposition’s RM10 million or RM20 million. For Sabah alone it will cost about RM200 million. And that is just 25 out of 219 seats, slightly over 10% of the seats. Sarawak is another 28 seats. These two states give BN 25% of the seats in Parliament. Added to Perak and Johor, BN can already form the government.

BN speaks as one voice although it consists of 14 parties. The opposition speaks as three voices. The race is lost even before the gun goes off.

In 1969, the ruling party won only 45% of the votes but still formed the government, although without a two-thirds majority. In 1999, BN got 54% of the votes and retained its two-thirds majority. The opposition can never win unless there are massive reforms in the electoral system. The gerrymandering and postal votes are stacked in favour of the ruling party.

Actually, the opposition should just boycott the elections until the system is reformed. Participating in the election just gives BN legitimacy. Let them win 100% uncontested. It will not be as legitimate as them winning 90% through fraud, which is what is happening and will continue to happen. And it really does not matter if the opposition is united. They will still get whacked to kingdom come….. and it is even worse now considering that they are not united.

11. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Furthermore, you estimate that in 50 years time, Bumiputera, Malays in particular will exceed 80% of the nation’s population. Does this mean that the Bangsa Malaysia of 2007 will look a lot less like in 2057?

Raja Petra: The Malay population is increasing faster than the non-Malay population. When this nation celebrates the 100th Merdeka Anniversary in 2057, Malays will by then form 80% of the population. Not only is the Malay birth rate higher, but non-Malays are leaving the country. So it is double jeopardy. The Bangsa Malaysia can still happen but the Malays will form the majority, a higher majority than even now. Bangsa Malaysia is something in the mind. In reality the Malays will dominate this country.

Malaysia is actually a time-bomb with no solution in sight and we may even see that time-bomb go off in our life-time. I just hope the government realises that the clock is ticking and I hope it has a clue on how to defuse the time-bomb. If not, Malaysia will not be a nice place to live, if it is not already that. At the moment the government appears clueless though, in particular our sleeping Prime Minister.

12. Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob: Malaysians are known for their vocal opposition but secret approbation for the status quo. Do you think that this election will be any different? What do you predict the political outcome of the anticipated general elections will be… Realistically..?

Raja Petra: Malaysians talk only. They say one thing but they do the opposite. They will vote for stability, at least as they perceive it, at the expense of human rights and other issues which they regard as western notions.
As long as they have money in their pockets they don’t care about corruption, how many people die in the police lockups, whether ten more Altantuyas get blown up with C4, whether 20 more demonstrators get shot, and what have you.

People are such. People are selfish. If you touch what they own they will get very violent. As long as they are okay that is all that matters. The country can go to the dogs, and it is. So they will vote for BN because only BN can give them what they want. Everything else can go to hell.

BN knows this. They know what makes the voters tick. And they will play to the voters’ gallery and win the elections. The voters are fools and BN knows this. But the voters are happy fools so that is all that matters. And Malaysia Today will continue whacking. And the readers will continue whining. But they will continue voting in the same government, ‘the only government capable of running this country’, as how they normally argue in justifying voting for the ruling party. And I will wait for death to come and claim me. And they will bury me and all will be forgotten. Not much prospects for the future is it? Sheesh…..I think I will also migrate.

Thank you, Raja Petra, for talking to Face to Face.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Article 32(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that there shall be a Supreme Head of the Federation to be called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. His Majesty shall take precedence over all persons in the Federation and shall not be liable to any proceedings whatsoever in any court except in the Special Court established under Part XV (Articles 182 and 183). The Constitution also provides that the Raja Permaisuri Agong shall take precedence next after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Present Agong: His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah

The Status and Powers of The Yang di-Pertuan Agong

Articles 32(1) and 32(2) of the Federal Constitution state that:

32. Supreme Head of the Federation, and his Consort

(1) There shall be a Supreme Head of the Federation, to be called the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who shall take precedence over all persons in the Federation and shall not be liable to any proceedings whatsoever in any court except in the Special Court established under Part XV.

(2) The Consort of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (to be called the Raja Permaisuri Agong) shall take precedence next after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong over all other persons in the Federation.

Articles 182 and 183 of the Federal Constitution provide that:

182. The Special Court

(1) There shall be a court which shall be known as the Special Court and shall consist of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, who shall be the Chairman, the Chief Judges of the High Courts, and two other persons who hold or have held office as judge of the Federal Court or High Court appointed by the Conference of Rulers.

(2) Any proceedings by or against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of a State in his personal capacity shall be brought in a Special Court established under Clause (1).

(3) The Special Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to try all offences committed in the Federation by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of a State and all civil cases by or against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of a State notwithstanding where the cause of action arose.

(4) The Special Court shall have the same jurisdiction and powers as are vested in the inferior courts, the High Court and the Federal Court by this Constitution or any federal law and shall have its registry in Kuala Lumpur.

(5) Until Parliament by law makes special provision to the contrary in respect of procedure (including the hearing of proceedings in camera) in civil or criminal cases and the law regulating evidence and proof in civil and criminal proceedings, the practice and procedure applicable in any proceedings in any inferior court, any High Court and the Federal Court shall apply in any proceedings in the Special Court.

(6) The proceedings in the Special Court shall be decided in accordance with the opinion of the majority of the members and its decision shall be final and conclusive and shall not be challenged or called in question in any court on any ground.

(7) The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may, on the advice of the Chief Justice, make such rules as he may deem necessary or expedient to provide for the removal of any difficulty or anomaly whatsoever in any written law or in the carrying out of any function, the exercise of any power, the discharge of any duty, or the doing of any act, under any written law, that may be occasioned by this Article; and for that purpose such rules may make any modification, adaptation, alteration, change or amendment whatsoever to any written law.

183. No Action to be instituted against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or a Ruler except with the consent of the Attorney-General personally

No action, civil or criminal, shall be instituted against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of a State in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him in his personal capacity except with the consent of the Attorney-General personally.

The Position of The Yang di-Pertuan Agong (and the others in order of priority)

1. Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
2. Raja Permaisuri Agong.
3. Nine (9) Rulers and Acting Rulers.
4. Four (4) Yang Dipertua Negeri.
5. Former Raja Permaisuri Agong receiving Royal pension from the Federal Government.
6. Prime Minister.
7. Deputy Prime Minister.
7A. Courtesy - Heir Apparent (Tengku Mahkota/ Raja Muda).
8. Members of the Darjah Utama Seri Mahkota Negara (D.M.N.).
9. Members of the Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara (S.M.N.).
10. Members of the Seri Setia Mahkota (S.S.M.)
10A. Courtesy - 10A. The Four Dato Undang of Negeri Sembilan and Tengku Besar Tampin, Negeri Sembilan.
11. Chief Justice of the Federal Court.
12. President of the Senate.
13. Speaker of the House of Representatives.
14. Former Prime Ministers.
15. Former Deputy Prime Ministers.
16. Members of the Cabinet.
17. Secretary to the Cabinet Chief Secretary to the Government.
17A. Courtesy - Menteri Besar and Chief Ministers.
18. Attorney-General.
19. Chief of the Armed Forces Staff.
20. Inspector-General of Police.

Executive Functions (Article 39)

Although the Constitution (Article 39) accords the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with executive authority, subject to the provisions of any federal law and of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, Parliament may by law confer executive functions on other persons.

Except as otherwise provided for by the Constitution as regards his position and authority, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong usually acts in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or more specifically, of the Prime Minister, in the exercise of his functions. However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is entitled to and at his request, any information concerning the government of the Federation which is available to the Cabinet.

Although the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to act on the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister or after consultation with or on the recommendation of any person or body of persons (other than the Cabinet), His Majesty may act in his discretion in the performance of the three following functions, that is to say:

1. The appointment of a Prime Minister;

2. Consent or the withholding of consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament;

3. The requisition of a meeting of the Conference of Rulers concerned solely with the privileges, position, honor and dignity of Their Royal Highnesses, and any actions at such a meeting.

The appointment of a person (a Member of Parliament) as the Prime Minister is based on his ability to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives. The appointment of members of the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers is made on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Articles 39 and 40 of the Federal Constitution state that:

39. Executive Authority of Federation

The executive authority of the Federation shall be vested in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and exercisable subject to the provision of any federal law and of the Second Schedule, by him or by the Cabinet or any Minister authorized by the Cabinet, but Parliament may by law confer executive functions on other persons.

40. Yang di-Pertuan Agong to act on advice

(1) In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution, or under federal law the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution; but shall be entitled, at his request, to any information concerning the government which is available to the Cabinet.

(1A) In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution or federal law, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to act in accordance with advice, on advice, or after considering advice, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall accept and act in accordance with that advice.

(2) The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions, that is to say:

(a) the appointment of a Prime Minister;

(b) the withholding of consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament;

(c) the requisition of a meeting of the Conference of Rulers concerned solely with the privileges, position, honour and dignity of Their Royal Highnesses, and any action at such a meeting,and in any other case mentioned in this Constitution.

(3) Federal law may make provision for requiring the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to act after consultation with or on the recommendation of any person or a body of persons other then the Cabinet to exercise any of his functions other than:

(a) functions exercisable in his discretion; and

(b) functions with respect to the exercise of which provision is made in any other Article."
Judicial Functions

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong also plays a significant role in the judiciary. It is the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, the judges of the Federal Court, the judges of the Court of Appeal and the judges of the High Courts on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. His Majesty may also appoint any person qualified as a judge of the High Court to be a Judicial Commissioner (who has the powers of a High Court judge) on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Chief Justice of the Federal Court (a transitional stage before being appointed as a High Court Judge.)

Apart from the abovementioned powers, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may also extend the tenure of office of a judge who has reached the age of 65 years. However, such extension shall not exceed six months after he has attained the age of 65 years. A judge of the Federal Court may resign his office at any time by writing under his hand addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

On the matter of removing a judge from office, the Federal Constitution provides that the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice of the Federal Court after consulting the Prime Minister may make representations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that a judge of the Federal Court ought to be removed from office on the grounds of breach of any provisions of the code of ethics or on the grounds of inability to discharge the functions of his office owing to infirmity of body or mind or any other cause. After receiving such representations the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a tribunal and may on the recommendation of the tribunal remove the judge from office.

It should be noted that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not vested with the authority to remove a judge from office of his own free will. Only after receiving representations made by the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice of the Federal Court and on the recommendation of the tribunal, may the Yang di-Pertuan Agong remove a judge from office.

However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may act in his discretion to either accept or reject the recommendation of the tribunal to remove a judge or to allow the judge to continue in his office.


His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong having been satisfied, in accordance with Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, that a grave state of emergency exists threatening the security, life, economy or public order in the Federation or in the States, may issue a Proclamation of Emergency.

Article 150 of the Constitution provides that:

150. Proclamation of Emergency

(1) If the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened, he may issue a Proclamation of Emergency making therein a declaration to that effect.

(2) A Proclamation of Emergency under Clause (1) may be issued before the actual occurrence of the event which threatens the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that there is imminent danger of the occurrence of such event.

(2a) The power conferred on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by this Article shall include the power to issue different Proclamations on different grounds or in different circumstances, whether or not there is a Proclamation or Proclamations already issued by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Clause (1) and such Proclamation or Proclamations are in operation.

(2b) If at any time while a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, except when both Houses of Parliament are sitting concurrently, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that certain circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such ordinances as circumstances appear to him to require.

(2c) An ordinance promulgated under Clause (2b) shall have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament, and shall continue in full force and effect as if it is an Act of Parliament until it is revoked or annulled under Clause (3) or until it lapses under Clause (7); and the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to promulgate ordinances under Clause (2b) may be exercised in relation to any matter with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws, regardless of the legislative or other procedures required to be followed, or the proportion of the total votes required to be had, in either House of Parliament.

(3) A Proclamation of Emergency and any ordinance promulgated under Clause (2b) shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and, if not sooner revoked, shall cease to have effect if resolutions are passed by both Houses annulling such Proclamation or ordinance, but without prejudice to anything previously done by virtue thereof or to the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to issue a new Proclamation under Clause (1) or promulgate any ordinance under Clause (2b).

(4) While a Proclamation of Emergency is in force the executive authority of the Federation shall, notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, extend to any matter within the legislative authority of a State and to the giving of directions to the Government of a State or to any officer of authority thereof.

(5) Subject to Clause (6a), while a Proclamation of Emergency is in force, Parliament may, notwithstanding anything in this Constitution make laws with respect to any matter, if it appears to Parliament that the law is required by reason of the emergency; and Article 79 shall not apply to a Bill for such a law or an amendment to such a Bill, nor shall any provision of this Constitution or of any written law which requires any consent or concurrence to the passing of a law or any consultation with respect thereto, or which restricts the coming into force of a law after it is passed or the presentation of a Bill to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for his assent.

(6) Subject to Clause (6a), no provision of any ordinance promulgated under this Article, and no provision of any Act of Parliament which is passed while a Proclamation of Emergency is in force and which declares that the law appears to Parliament to be required by reason of the emergency, shall be invalid on the ground of inconsistency with any provision of this Constitution.

(6a) Clause (5) shall not extend the powers of Parliament with respect to any matter of Islamic law or the custom of the Malays, or with respect to any matter of native law or customs in the State of Sabah or Sarawak; nor shall Clause (6) validate any provision inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution relating to any such matter or relating to religion, citizenship, or language.

(7) At the expiration of a period of six months beginning with the date on which a Proclamation of Emergency ceases to be in force, any ordinance promulgated in pursuance of the Proclamation and, to the extent that it could not have been validly made but for this Article, any law made while the Proclamation was in force, shall cease to have effect, except as to things done or omitted to be done before the expiration of that period.

(8) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution:(a) the satisfaction of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong mentioned in Clause (1) and Clause (2b) shall be final and conclusive and shall not be challenged or called in question in any court on any ground; and (b) no court shall have jurisdiction to entertain or determine any application, question or proceeding, in whatever form, on any ground, regarding the validity of(i) a Proclamation under Clause (1) or of a declaration made in such Proclamation to the effect stated in Clause (1); (ii) the continued operation of such Proclamation; (iii) any ordinance promulgated under Clause (2b); or (iv) the continuation in force of any such ordinance.

(9) For the purpose of this Article the Houses of Parliament shall be regarded as sitting only if the members of each House are respectively assembled together and carrying out the business of the House.


Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces

His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the Supreme Commander Of the Armed Forces as provided for in Article 41 as follows:

41. Supreme command of the armed forces

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the Federation.

Power of PardonThe Yang di-Pertuan Agong is also seen as the fountain of mercy. He is vested with the power to grant pardons and reprieves in respect of offences triable by court-martial and all offences committed in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan. This is provided for in Article 42 of the Federal Constitution.

The Special Position of the Malays and Natives of Sabah and Sarawak

One of the important duties of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. This is clearly stated in Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution as follows:

153. Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits etc., for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak

(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.


Fallacy: The Prime Minister’s wife is the ‘First Lady.

Fact: The Raja Permaisuri Agong is the ‘First Lady’ (Article 32.2).

Fallacy: The previous Prime Minister has no power/authority.

Fact: The previous Prime Minister is above the Cabinet Members (Menteris Besar/Chief Ministers), Chief Secretary, Attorney-General, Chief of the Armed Forces Staff, and the Inspector-General of Police.

Fallacy: The Agong must appoint the Prime Minister from amongst the leadership of the political party with the majority seats in Parliament.

Fact: The Agong can act on his discretion in the appointment of the Prime Minister (Article 39).

Fallacy: The Agong must dissolve Parliament once the Prime Minister advices him to do so.

Fact: The Agong can withhold consent for the dissolution of Parliament (Article 39).

Fallacy: The Agong cannot interfere in the running of the country.

Fact: The Agong can declare an emergency if he is satisfied it is prudent to do so (Article 150). Under this emergency proclamation, the Agong can issue other proclamations which will be above judicial review and unchallengeable in court even if it violates the Constitution.