Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A way beyond our impasse

Statement by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

(Malay version below this)

September 23, 2008

I write this as a Malaysian, as someone who, over forty seven years of political life, has had the privilege of playing some small part in the formation our country, the building of its institutions, and our achievement of a degree of economic sufficiency. I write out of deep concern about the present state of our country.

In the lives of nations as of individuals, there come moments of profound possibility, when the potential for self-transcendence and for self-destruction are simultaneously present.

As before some critical examination in our youth, we come to the daunting realization that we hold our future in our hands, when how we will fare many years hence, and whether we shall flourish or languish, will depend on how we conduct ourselves now, in this small window of time.

We are in a political impasse that threatens to metastasize into a Constitutional crisis. Political crises come and go, but the present crisis might well be the beginning of a cascade of failures leading to long-term instability and destruction.

1. Our impasse occurs at a time of heightened economic, political and security challenges. The global economy faces the prospect of a meltdown on a scale last seen in the Great Depression of the last century. As a trading nation, we are strongly exposed to its effects. Meanwhile, while we seem to have slept, the global economy is undergoing an epic transformation that we must either adapt to or are marginalized by.

2. This year’s ground-shfiting General Election result signaled a public sentiment that cannot be ignored. Malaysians want fundamental change, and they want it now, whether from within the ruling coalition or from outside it. The Malaysian demographic has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. We have seen the birth of a more sophisticated, demanding electorate that has rightly lost patience with incompetence and dishonesty.

3. The grievances of Sabah and Sarawak, which found only partial expression in the General Elections, remain unaddressed. This risks the very integrity of our Federation.

4. Misunderstandings over race and religion are ripe for political exploitation, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Post election promises notwithstanding however, the government now commands even less confidence than it did post March 8.

The public is in near despair over the prospects for change from within the ruling party. Rather than share the public’s sense of urgency, our present office-holders have redoubled efforts to frustrate renewal, cut off reform, and silence criticism. These efforts only underscore the weakness of the administration and its will to change.

We can no longer deny that in its present form, and under present leadership, the government, led by the party to which I have given my life, is now structurally and inherently incapable of providing the direction and confidence that the country needs, whether over the long or short term. The indications are there for all to see:

1. The government has been unable to respond to the economic crisis with even a basic plan of action. Business confidence has plummeted as capital flees the country. Our economic policy remains as uncoordinated and directionless as it has been in since the beginning of this administration.

2. The recommendations of two Royal Commissions of Inquiry have been ignored or watered down into insignificance.

3. In this context, Umno’s constitutional provision for the renewal of its leadership by triennial elections might have been expected to provide some hope of renewal. Instead of embracing this opportunity, however, the leadership of the party has retreated into the fantasy world of a “transition plan” which rides roughshod over the party’s constitution and the rights of its members. This risible attempt to treat public office and party trust as a private bequest between two individuals, one of whom wishes to hold office beyond his democratic mandate and the other to ascend without one, and the continuing effort to force feed the country with this notion, fools no one. Instead, and against background of rampant money politics, it kills the public’s hope of national renewal via Umno. Behind the babble about a “transition plan” the Prime Minister continues to be subverted by members of his own cabinet and subjected to thinly cloaked power plays to force his resignation.

This resort to a “transition plan” betrays a disturbing failure to grasp the meaning and purpose of public office. In the more mature society into which we aspire to grow, persons who demonstrate and moreover propagate such disregard for constitutional and democratic process would long ago have been disqualified from public life, let alone from national leadership. The news appears not to have sunk in that the public rejects leaders who shun the open light of democratic contest in favour of staged plays and backroom plots.

Given Umno’s core role in national politics, this is a dangerous state of affairs. Meanwhile the Opposition has made undeniable gains in the number of parliamentarians it commands. Beyond the hype and inflation, and regardless of whether Pakatan Rakyat now has “the numbers” to command a majority, what we cannot doubt is that support for the governing majority continues to erode, and that this erosion continues so long as there is no hope of real change in the type of leadership Umno provides. There is now a credible threat that the present government may at some time fall by a vote of no confidence, or by some otherwise constitutionally legitimate demonstration of parliamentary majority. After fifty-one years of rule by a single party, this is not a possibility that is well understood. It is justifiably viewed with trepidation. Neither sheer denial on the one hand, or inflated claims on the other, help the situation.

To all appearances, we are beginning to lose grip of the rule of law. The use of the Internal Security Act and of Sedition Laws to target particular individuals further erodes the credibility of the government. Our actions exacerbate rather than calm the fear that stokes civil and racial strife. In the present context of a leadership struggle within Umno and against a strong Opposition it is impossible to dispel the notion that these extreme measures are calculated to maintain certain individuals in power rather than to address verifiable threats to national security. Nothing does more to undermine the legitimacy of a government than plainly unjust acts. The ridiculous justifications given for some of these detentions has further undermined public confidence that the awesome powers of state are in safe hands.

We cannot afford to allow these disturbing trends to play out their destructive course while we suffer a de facto leadership vacuum, and while the rule of law is uncertain and the Constitution not upheld.

Against this background I appeal to all parties to come together in humility, beyond party politics, to hold an honest discussion, in the spirit of shared citizenship and with the gravest attitude of common responsibility towards a longsuffering rakyat, about what is happening to our country and how we might agree together on a peaceful way beyond our impasse. We need to come together to find unity and direction out of this dangerous situation. In doing so, we might turn our crisis into an opportunity and renew our unity and sense of direction as Malaysia.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
31 Jalan Langgak Golf
55000 Kuala Lumpur

Kenyataan oleh YBM Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

23 September, 2008

Kenyataan ini saya tulis sebagai warga Malaysia yang sudah empat puluh tujuh tahun berkecimpung dalam bidang politik. Kerjaya ini meluangkan saya kesempatan istimewa untuk memainkan peranan kecil dalam pembentukan negara kita serta mengasaskan pelbagai institusinya, dan juga kejayaan kita mencapai kecukupan yakni ekonomi tidak tertakluk kepada ihsan negara luar. Saya tergerak untuk membuat kenyataan ini atas keprihatinan yang mendalam terhadap keadaan negara saya yang kini dilanda, antara lain oleh kemelut yang mengharu-birukan keadaan.

Dalam kehidupan seseorang individu dan dalam tempoh sesebuah negara berkuasanya, ia pasti menghadapi detik-detik penuh kemungkinan apabila pilihan yang wajar perlu dibuat, terutamanya tatkala berhadapan dengan persimpangan keupayaan yang secara serentak berpotensi untuk sama ada membawa keunggulan atau kemusnahan diri.

Sewaktu menapak ke alam kedewasaan dulu, kita menempuh banyak persimpangan dan perlu membuat beberapa pilihan. Begitu jugalah, kini kita peka betapa masa mendatang kita juga dalam tangan kita sendiri sekarang. Sama ada kita bakal maju dan hidup dalam kegemilangan atau mundur serta senantiasa menanggung duka lara, kini bergantung pada cara kita bertindak dalam tetingkap masa yang singkat ini.

Sekarang ini, kita dalam kebuntuan politik yang seumpama barah berbahaya yang cukup mampu untuk merebak lebih parah menjadi krisis Perlembagaan. Memang krisis politik perkara lumrah namun bertitik tolak daripada krisis yang kita hadapi kini mungkin tercetus rentetan pelbagai kegagalan yang menjurus kepada ketidakstabilan jangka panjang dan membawa kemusnahan, sebagaimana barah boleh membawa maut.

1. Kebuntuan kita ini tiba dalam senario di mana kita menghadapi cubaan hebat dalam bentuk keadaan ekonomi, politik dan keselamatan yang kian hari semakin mencabar. Ekonomi dunia bakal dirundung kemelesetan yang mungkin sehebat Zaman Meleset tahun 1930an dalam Abad ke 20 dahulu. Sebagai negara perdagangan, tentunya kita akan terdedah sepenuhnya kepada impak kemerosotan ekonomi global itu. Dalam masa yang sama, sewaktu kita alpa, ekonomi global mengalami ada transformasi besar-besaran. Maka, kita perlu mengambil langkah perlu dengan seberapa segera demi menyesuaikan diri dengan perubahan besar itu, seandainya kita tidak ingin terpinggir.

2. Keputusan paling menggemparkan daripada Pilihan Raya Umum pada tahun ini memanifestasikan sentimen rakyat dan pilihan yang rakyat nyatakan itu memang tidak boleh diabaikan. Warga Malaysia mahukan perubahan fundamental, dan mereka menghendakinya dilakukan sekarang, baik oleh atau menerusi pihak kerajaan campuran yang berkuasa sekarang mahupun daripada pihak di luar kerajaan. Sepanjang tempoh lima puluh tahun nan lampau, susunan demografi penduduk Malaysia telah mengalami perubahan dramatik. Sudah nyata bahawa kita kini mempunyai kalangan pengundi yang lebih bijak membuat pilihan dan bersikap lebih mendesak. Bolehkah kita mempersalahkan mereka jika mereka sudah bosan dan mula hilang kesabaran dengan ketidakcekapan dan ketidakjujuran barisan pemimpin mereka?

3. Kilanan yakni ketidakpuasan hati dan rungutan warga Malaysia di Sabah dan Sarawak, yang tidak diberi penghayatan sepenuhnya dalam Pilihan Raya Umum itu, masih belum ditangani sampai sekarang. Ini merupakan risiko maha besar terhadap integriti hubungan antara tiga pihak yakni Sabah, Sarawak dan Semenanjung Malaysia yang bersekutu menjadi Persekutuan Malaysia.

4. Badi daripada salah faham dalam hal kaum dan agama memang ‘retak mencari belah’ yang siap sedia menjadi bahan eksploitasi dalam arena politik lantas mampu membahanakan kecelakaan yang maha dahsyat.

Tanpa mengambil kira segala janji pasca-PRU12, akhir-akhir kini, keyakinan rakyat terhadap pihak kerajaan merosot lebih jauh lagi berbanding keadaannya selepas tarikh 8 Mac itu.

Boleh dikatakan bahawa orang awam kini hampir-hampir putus asa untuk melihat perubahan dalam (barisan) parti yang memerintah. Kerajaan lebih cenderung untuk menggagalkan usaha ke arah perubahan malah berusaha mematikan segala kritikan terhadapnya walhal sepatutnya pihak yang berkuasa senada seirama dengan rentak tari atau sekurang-kurangnya memahami kegusaran rakyat. Maka jelaslah betapa lemahnya pihak pentadbiran dan betapa mereka langsung tidak bermaya atau berhajat untuk berubah.

Bolehkah kita menidakkan bahawa kerajaan sekarang, dalam bentuk dan kepimpinan yang sedia ada serta diterajui oleh parti yang menjadi tumpuan penuh kehidupan saya, kini tidak mampu, baik dari segi strukturnya mahupun dari aspek kewujudannya, untuk menyediakan hala tuju dan keyakinan yang negara ini perlukan, sama ada buat jangka panjang atau jangka pendek?. Tidak perlu bersuluh lagi sebab segala petunjuk dan petanda sudah jelas kepada semua:

1. Pihak kerajaan tidak berdaya bergerak balas terhadap krisis ekonomi dan tidak punya pelan tindakan asas untuk mengatasinya. Jauh sekalilah untuk setara dengan negara Asia Pasifik yang lain. Keyakinan kalangan perniagaan terus menjunam segandingan dengan modal yang meluru keluar daripada bank-bank negara kita. Dasar ekonomi terus tiada kelarasan, tanpa hala tuju dan masih berkeadaan sebagaimana keadaannya sewaktu pentadbiran sekarang mula memikul tanggungjawabnya.

2. Segala syor yang diketengahkan oleh dua Suruhanjaya Penyiasatan Diraja sama ada diabaikan sama sekali atau dilunakkan ke tahap saranan-saranan itu menjadi tidak signifikan dan tidak ampuh lagi.

3. Dalam konteks ini, peruntukan dalam perlembagaan UMNO yang membolehkan pembaharuan/perubahan kepimpinannya setiap tiga tahun sepatutnya boleh diharap untuk mencetuskan perubahan. Sayang sekali, bukan sahaja mereka mensia-siakan peluang ini malah pihak kepimpinan parti memilih untuk mundur ke alam fantasi bernama “pelan peralihan” yang dengan sewenang-wenangnya mengetepikan perlembagaan parti dan hak para ahlinya. Lelucon berupa cubaan untuk menganggap jawatan awam dan amanah parti sebagai warisan yang boleh diwasiatkan antara dua individu – yang seorang mahu terus berwenang melewati tempoh mandat politiknya manakala yang seorang lagi ingin ‘naik ke tampuk pimpinan’ tanpa berlandaskan mandat tersebut. Yang lebih lucu lagi ialah kesungguhan usaha mereka berdua bertekad ‘memaksa’ rakyat menerima garapan dan gagasan mereka. Namun tiada siapa pun yang tertipu. Sebaliknya, senario di mana politik wang berleluasa, telah menguburkan terus harapan rakyat untuk menyaksikan sebarang pembaharuan yang diusahakan oleh atau menerusi UMNO. Rakyat juga tahu betapa di sebalik hiruk-pikuk bergelar “pelan peralihan” itu, Perdana Menteri terus didesak oleh anggota kabinetnya sendiri yang menjalankan pelbagai taktik dan ‘jarum’ demi memaksa beliau melepaskan jawatannya.

Keputusan memilih “pelan peralihan” begini semata-mata membuka pekung pihak berkenaan yang langsung tidak faham erti dan tujuan jawatan awam. Adakah kita yang melarik impian menjadi negara maju tidak sedar yang masyarakat matang negara maju langsung tidak akan memberi muka apatah lagi tempat kepada sesiapa yang mengetepikan dan menularkan sikap tidak mengendahkan proses demokrasi dan perlembagaan sebegini? Mereka ini masih tidak faham-faham lagi bahawa rakyat menolak mana-mana pemimpin yang bukan sahaja mengelak daripada perlawanan terbuka mengikut lunas demokrasi malah lebih cenderung kepada wayang kulit yang mereka dalangi sendiri.

Memandangkan UMNO merupakan teras politik kebangsaan, segala adegan yang plot ceritanya sudah terbentang untuk tontonan umum ini, memang mengundang bahaya besar. Dalam pada itu, bilangan Ahli Parlimen pihak Lawan kian meningkat. Tanpa mengambil kira kesahihan bilangan yang digembar-gemburkan itu dan sama ada Pakatan Rakyat kini benar-benar sudah ada “bilangan majoriti” dalam parlimen, tidak syak lagi, sokongan bagi barisan pemerintah semakin terhakis dan akan terus merosot selagi belum ada kejelasan dalam hal perubahan terhadap corak kepimpinan yang UMNO sediakan kepada barisan parti pemerintah. Sudah ada ‘kilat di air’ bahawa, pada masa mendatang, kerajaan sedia ada mungkin tumbang bahana undi tidak percaya, atau kesahihan majoriti ahli parlimen menurut landasan dan peruntukan perlembagaan. Ini memang tidak mustahil. Namun bagi kalangan yang telah berkuasa selama lima puluh satu tahun, kemungkinan ini sukar difahami apatah lagi untuk diterima. Malah ia terlalu digeruni. Hakikatnya, menafikan kemungkinan itu tidak membantu sesiapa. Begitu juga halnya dengan mendakwa sesuatu yang jauh melebihi bilangan sebenar.

Baik disoroti dari sudut mana sekalipun, amat jelas betapa kita sudah mula tenggelam punca dan sudah sukar untuk berpegang pada kedaulatan undang-undang. Penggunaan Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri dan Akta Hasutan terhadap individu tertentu hanya menghakiskan lagi kepercayaan rakyat terhadap kerajaan. Kita bukan sahaja tidak menenteramkan suasana malah kita mengapi-apikan ketakutan yang mampu mencetuskan sengketa, permusuhan kaum dan mengganggu-gugat ketenteraman awam. Berlatarkan pakatan lawan yang semakin kuat dan pergelutan kepimpinan dalam UMNO, sukar hendak percaya bahawa langkah-langkah melampau yang dikuatkuasakan itu adalah untuk menangani ‘ancaman terhadap keselamatan negara’ dan bukannya bertujuan untuk mengekalkan penguasaan individu tertentu. Penganiayaan yakni ketidakadilan ialah perbuatan negatif yang paling berdaya kuasa untuk merobekkan dan menumbangkan kemandirian dan kesahan sesebuah kerajaan. Justifikasi karut-marut yang diberikan sebagai alasan bagi beberapa penahanan yang dibuat itu benar-benar telah melenyapkan langsung keyakinan umum – rakyat kini sangsi sama ada kuasa yang mereka berikan melalui peti undi masih berada dalam selamat, yakni dalam tangan mereka yang sewajarnya menjaga amanah itu.

Bolehkah kita biarkan trend ini terus menelusur liku-liku berbahaya menjurus kepada kemusnahan? Sanggupkah kita biarkan tampuk pimpinan kita tanpa seorang pemimpin de facto (yang berkuasa biarpun tiada mandat yang sah) bagaikan kereta api tanpa kepala sedangkan kedaulatan undang-undang terabai dan Perlembagaan tidak diendahkan?.

Maka, dengan ini, saya merayu dan berseru agar semua pihak, segera mendatangi meja perbincangan, untuk membicarakan secara jujur tentang apa yang sedang berlaku dalam negara kita dan apakah bentuk daya usaha yang boleh kita lakukan secara aman untuk memecahkan kebuntuan kita dan mengatasi kemelut ini. Maka kita perlu bertindak dengan segala rendah hati dan semangat warga negara Malaysia, tanpa mengambil kira kita daripada parti mana. Kita perlu bersepadu mencari hala tuju untuk keluar daripada kancah kekalutan dan kekeliruan yang berbahaya ini demi kesejahteraan negara Malaysia dan kesemua warganya. Semoga bertitik-tolak daripada perbincangan kita, kelak kita berjaya mengubah krisis menjadi pencetus kecemerlangan negara di mana rakyatnya mempunyai kesatuan hala tuju dan matlamat..

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
31 Jalan Langgak Golf
55000 Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Message Of The KT By-election

If BN does not seriously carry out reforms, the Kuala Terengganu by-election result would have an impact on the state elections of Sabah and Sarawak. If Pakatan Rakyat manages to get Sarawak's regime, it may trigger the wind of party switching.

By LIM SUE GOAN/ Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily

Opposition party Pas has successfully taken away the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat which was once belonged to BN, giving another blow to the morale of the ruling coalition. BN should not see it as just loosing a parliamentary seat, but to pragmatically analyse the voters' message instead.

The first thing to be reviewed by BN would be why they have lost more votes instead of regaining loss ground from the 8 March general elections? BN gained 32,562 votes in the general elections last year but it managed only 30,252 this time, with 1,310 votes less. BN won by 628 majority votes in the 2008 general elections but it was defeated by 2,631 votes in the by-election, losing 3259 votes. In the 2004 general elections, BN gained 30,994 votes, showing that they are getting declining support in Kuala Terengganu.

We have been stressing before that BN must show voters the signs of change or carry out reform plans in order to win the by-election. Only by this, they could attract voters who were supporting Pas to vote for BN. But today's situation is, some who were originally BN's supporters have switched to vote for Pas.

"The existing BN's so-called reform, which is putting political interest as the starting point, is not comprehensive."

After the 8 March general elections, Umno continued with its racial politics. Malay newspapers also played up racial issues with biased view points. The defeat in Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections showed that the people were no longer pleased by BN's racial politics and thoughts. It must change its course to restore the people's confidence.

If BN does not seriously carry out reforms, the Kuala Terengganu by-election result would have an impact on the state elections of Sabah and Sarawak. If Pakatan Rakyat manages to get Sarawak's regime, it may trigger the wind of party switching. BN is currently holding 30 parliamentary seats in Sarawak, if it loses the state regime, it would affect its federal regime.

Therefore, BN General Assembly scheduled for February would be its opportunity to get a re-start. BN should invite non-governmental organisations, intellectuals and academics to propose specific reform suggestions. The existing BN's so-called reform, which is putting political interest as the starting point, is not comprehensive.

Moreover, under the global financial tsunami threat, BN must pay attention to two points to avoid throwing itself into confusion again.

First of all, the BN government must do a good job in economy. It must immediately and accurately implement a stimulus package. It would be hard for it to defend its regime when the country is facing a recession.

Secondly, BN must perform better than Pakatan Rakyat, not only in terms of policies, but it must be more open-minded and liberal than the Opposition. If BN fails to do so, the people would be more assured to support Pakatan Rakyat.

BN has again suffered a defeat in the recent by-election. But this is also a great chance for the ruling coalition to get a new start. BN is having the full right to decide its path.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sharp Slap to UMNO’s Leadership

M. Bakri Musa

The humiliation suffered by UMNO in the January 17, 2009 by-election in Kuala Trengganu, a seat previously held by one of its Deputy Ministers, is further proof that the party’s thumping in the March 2008 General Elections was the beginning of the end. Getting rid of its leader Abdullah Badawi will not alter UMNO’s fate; a future with Najib Razak will be no solution either.

The party is no longer salvageable; UMNO is now beyond redemption. Its leaders and members are incapable of appreciating and thus adapting to the profound changes now gripping the nation. As Tengku Razaleigh aptly put it when commenting on the results, “We are in uncharted waters with no one at the wheel.”

There are of course exceptions to the current lack of talent in UMNO’s leadership, but they are rare. Zaid Ibrahim had some sensible ideas on reforming the judiciary for example, but look what they did to him! Tengku Razaleigh’s speech at the recent ASLI economic conference was simply brilliant; he rightly pinpointed the major problems facing our nation and offered sensible strategies to approaching them. His was an insight and articulation Malaysians should expect of our leaders. There again however, he was essentially ignored by UMNO’s leadership hierarchy in his recent quest for the top slot.

In this by-election UMNO resorted to its old corrupt ways that had served it well in the past. There were the sudden announcements of generous public funds to key constituent groups as well as the usual co-opting of government agencies to do Barisan’s bidding. If those tricks were not enough, there was the literal stuffing of envelopes with cold cash for voters and reporters.

Judgement on Najib Razak’s Leadership

The victory by PAS candidate Wahid Endut is even more impressive considering that future (come this March) Prime Minister Najib Razak literally made his temporary home in Kuala Trengganu during the entire 11 days of campaigning, returning only briefly to the capital to take part in the Tahlil prayers on the anniversary of his father’s death.

Those voters viewed the upcoming transfer of power from Abdullah to Najib less a promise of better things and more a threat of the same tired corrupt and corrosive ways of the past. The political status quo would only further divide instead of bringing us together. Malaysians were rightly fed up with this.

Win or lose, this election would not alter the political reality; Barisan would still maintain its majority in Parliament. In perception however, this loss only reinforces my earlier “beginning of the end” and “beyond redemption” assertions of UMNO. Undoubtedly these were the reasons that compelled Najib to expend his political capital and risk his reputation by actively campaigning.

Ignored by voters, Najib tried to rationalize the outcome by dismissing it as a “minor setback” with “no impact on the national political landscape.” He was reduced to declaring that Barisan was “still relevant.” Pathetic!

I would have expected that as Finance Minister, Najib would be busy in Putrajaya dealing with the rapidly evolving global financial crisis now threatening our nation. Instead there he was in Kuala Trengganu acting like Santa Claus distributing candies to voters. They gleefully took the gifts, but being adults (and Muslims, at least most of them) they did not believe in Santa Claus, or Najib Razak.

These past few weeks reflect Najib Razak’s leadership priorities and sensibilities. Kuala Trengganu voters were rightly not impressed. Neither am I.

Greasing UMNO’s Slide

Come this March, Najib Razak will be the party’s (and thus country’s) leader. He will have as his deputy Ali Rustam, Muhyyiddin Yassin, or the Double Muhammad Taib, individuals with tainted pasts and less-than-impressive resumes. Sobering thought!

Barring divine or other intervention, this will also be the team that will lead UMNO and Barisan Nasional into the next General Elections scheduled no later than March 2013. UMNO has its leadership convention every three years; theoretically it could change its leadership before the next general elections. However, the party has a tradition of “no contest” for its top two positions and a past pattern whereby leaders would conveniently postpone the leadership convention till after the general elections.

That would be great news for Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat, further enhancing its chance of assuming power. This may occur even sooner if Barisan Members of Parliament, sensing the political change, were to abandon their parties. The shift could also come earlier if, as expected, Sarawak were to call an earlier election. Then there is the volatile political situation in Sabah.

The objective of any political party is in assuming power. Anything less and you will be relegated to the status of a perpetual fringe party. While that may satisfy the purists in your party, you risk being permanently dismissed by voters. The country’s political graveyard is littered by the ghosts of many such parties.

Then there is the crucial difference of being voted into office because of the positive choice of voters rather than their rejecting your opponent. Anwar Ibrahim and his fellow leaders in Pakatan Rakyat are fully aware of this. It is not enough for Malaysians to be fed up with Barisan Nasional, we must be sold on the promise and potential of a Pakatan Rakyat administration.

As leader of the party that is the centre of the political, racial and other spectra of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, Anwar has adroitly handled the many competing interests within his coalition by focussing on their commonalities and less on their differences. Differences there are, and they are many and consequential; they could potentially fracture the coalition. If that were to happen, it would crush the hopes of Malaysians long yearning for a change.

Besides, there are enough commonalities of purpose among the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat, from eradicating corruption and strengthening our institutions to reducing poverty and fostering economic development, among others. Ameliorate them, and you would have the cheers and votes of those currently advocating for an Islamic State, “Malaysia for Malaysians,” or Ketuanan Melayu.

Tackling each of these problems (and all must be addressed at once) would challenge the ingenuity of even the most enlightened and committed leaders. There is no need to harp on their differences. All these could be done without getting entangled with such highly divisive and emotional issues as hudud or special privileges. Besides, those slogans as “Islamic State,” “Ketuanan Melayu” and “Malaysia for Malaysians” have now become meaningless, having been corrupted to being code words for those with more sinister motives.

The corruption and incompetence of the Barisan coalition should motivate Pakatan leaders to focus on solving the glaring and pressing problems of our nation. That would be the sure way to power, quite apart from greasing the downward slide of UMNO and its Barisan Nasional coalition. ---M. Bakri Musa

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the result of the Kuala Terengganu By-Election

by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
January 18, 2009

Barisan Nasional has been humiliated at the polls for the third time in ten months. I am full of admiration for the hardworking party members who toiled for two weeks on a local struggle. But we lost because of a national problem. The rakyat reject UMNO in its present form and style, and they reject its leadership.

Despite ringing signals from the rakyat through March 8 and Permatang Pauh, UMNO either has not heard the call for fundamental change, or is unable to respond to it.

Money, machinery and incumbency could not trump the call for change. BN will lose, and will in the end lose everything, until we respond fully and sincerely. But the response from the leadership yet again is that this “should not be interpreted as voters having spurned BN.” Our leadership remains in denial. Loyal members of UMNO and the BN will feel they are on a sinking ship.

UMNO has lost by a large majority in a 90% Malay constituency. We lost because of Malay votes in a state whose government we control. We threw the national resources of a party in Federal power at this election, and still we lost.

Actually this was more than a referendum on the leadership. It was a test of the relevance of UMNO in its present form. If UMNO is no longer relevant to the Malays, the BN formula is dead. The Chinese will have no reason to support MCA, and so on. The power-sharing, consensual bargain on which our political system has been based since Independence is broken.

There are serious implications to this. We have always claimed that social peace in Malaysia is built on this bargain. A party leadership in denial is unlikely to form a government with the realism and guts to face an economic meltdown that it also denies is happening. We are in uncharted waters with no one at the wheel. ---Tengku Razaleigh's Official Weblog

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sime Darby drops plans to buy 51% of IJN

Tuesday January 6, 2009

Latest News

Sime Darby not buying stake in IJN

Sime Darby Bhd has dropped its plans to acquire a 51% stake in the National Heart Institute (IJN). In an announcement to Bursa Malaysia on Tuesday, the company said the decision was based on public sentiment and feedback it received after the government deferred its plan to allow Sime Darby to start talks with the Finance Ministry on the IJN stake. More story here

Publication Permit for Herald - the Catholic Weekly

by YB. Khalid Samad, MP
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 13:13

EVEN though the Home Ministry recently approved the publication permit for the Herald – the Catholic Weekly, only publication in English, Tamil, and Chinese is allowed. Publication of the weekly's Malay language version has been held back, pending a court decision on the use of the word "Allah".

While my Christian friends applaud the decision to renew the permit, they are understandably upset over the prohibition to publish the weekly in Malay. This, they say, is due to the fact that the majority of Christian Malaysians are in Sabah and Sarawak, and Malay is their first language. The prohibition to publish the weekly in Malay is thus seen as a serious affront on their freedom of religion.

I personally find the position taken by the Home Ministry untenable and see no reason why the Malay language version of the Herald should be put on hold.

I believe all these problems are the result of the ignorance and confusion of Muslims in Malaysia about their own religion. Having lived under the leadership of Umno/Barisan Nasional and its brand of Islam, who can blame them? This misunderstanding is turned into policies that, although well intended — i.e. "for the sake of Islam" — portray a negative image of the religion.

This is akin to the prohibition on women to learn to read and write in the old days, for fear that they would write love letters to men. These women were kept uneducated and ignorant. Islam, on the other hand, demands of its followers, men and women alike, to strive in the pursuit of knowledge.

The first misunderstanding is in the false equivalency that "Malay is Islam" and "Islam is Malay", which makes Malay the language of Muslims. Newsletters in Malay for religions other than Islam is a form of a culture shock for many Muslim Malaysians, who, of course, forget that if any language has a right to claim such a position, it would be Arabic. Yet we find Christian Arabs comfortably delivering sermons in church in Arabic throughout the Arab world. They even use the word "Allah" with no objections from the Muslims there because, as every Arab knows, the word "Allah" means "God".

The second misconception is that once other religions are presented in the Malay language and the word "Allah" is used for God, Muslims would become confused and susceptible to changing their religion. Although I agree that many Muslims are neither practising nor understanding Islam as well as they should, this weakness cannot be addressed by taking steps that imply an intrinsic weakness within Islam. This only suggests that Islam is unable to hold its ground and argues its case to prove that it is the religion from God, revealed through the prophet Muhammad. The problem has to be addressed by ensuring that Muslims are better educated about their own religion.

The negative and defeatist attitude upon which these "policies" are based will lead to restrictive laws for non-Muslims, curbing their activities for fear of Muslims being influenced and converted. Unfortunately, this would then lead to an impression of Islam being restrictive and oppressive, creating a very negative impression of Islam among non-Muslims. The cost would then be the loss of potentially strong and devout Muslims from among the currently non-Muslim population who genuinely care about religion, truth and God. The Muslim community loses them for the sake of ensuring that weak, uncaring, and peripheral Muslims stay Muslim.

I have always been of the opinion that Muslims must project the beauty and strength of Islam, its emphasis on justice and truth, and its respect for the rights of all communities. Through this, many will come to Islam's fold. Unfortunately, there are those who do not share this confidence in the ability of Islam, on its own merit, to win over hearts. They become defensive and apologetic. By doing so, they do great injustice to Islam.

I appeal to the Home Minister to reconsider his decision.

WalLahu ‘Alam

Khalid Samad


Monday, January 05, 2009

Testing time for Pakatan Rakyat

By Deborah Loh

DIFFERENT ideologies notwithstanding, Pakatan Rakyat partners PAS, DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) will once again test their brand name as a coalition in the Kuala Terengganu by-election on 17 Jan.

Having proven their ability to work together in the Permatang Pauh by-election in August 2008, the alliance now faces a slightly different test of their mettle.

For one, the Kuala Terengganu by-election is PAS's battle. And lately, cracks within the Pakatan Rakyat over issues such as the implementation of hudud law have become more apparent. Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's silence has not helped clarify PKR's stand on the matter to non-Malay, non-Muslim Malaysian voters, who form about 11% of the seat's electorate.

Secondly, it has been 10 months since the Pakatan Rakyat took over the state governments in four states — Penang, Selangor, Perak and Kedah, with PAS retaining Kelantan — and their performance has come under increasing scrutiny. There have been some hiccups, including the 50% housing quota for bumiputera in Kedah, the arrests of two Perak exco members for alleged corruption, and dissatisfaction with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim's handling of a pig farm project.

Thirdly, the Pakatan Rakyat has had to deal with public scepticism over its much ballyhooed but failed attempt to take over the federal government on 16 Sept 2008.

Though the coalition will undoubtedly put on a united front in Kuala Terengganu, it will be interesting to see whether these underlying issues make any difference to its campaign.

Everything can be explained

PKR vice-president Azmin Ali (right) believes that voters will understand and support the Pakatan Rakyat if the answers to these problems are well articulated.

He also plays down the hudud gaffe and says that PAS's stand is neither new nor alarming.

"PAS has made it clear that hudud is their party ideology, but when it comes to our collective politics, we fight together on common goals like democracy, fighting corruption and human rights. If we can articulate this well to the Malay electorate, they will understand," Azmin tells The Nut Graph.

He also believes PKR can explain why the Pakatan Rakyat is still not in federal power. "We'll say that we have tried our best, that there was harassment and intimidation of the MPs who were to cross over; that our attempts to move a motion in Parliament and to meet the prime minister were rejected."

PKR strategist Saifuddin Nasution says while the Pakatan Rakyat state governments are still on a learning curve, they have not suffered any major scandal that could be used against them.

"There's nothing major that can shake the stability of our five state governments, whereas the Barisan Nasional (BN) has scandals like the Eurocopter purchase, the high-speed broadband project and others."

He adds that the Pakatan Rakyat has taken steps to form a clear structure for achieving consensus between the three parties, including weekly meetings between the heads of each party.

"We're actually more united now," PKR strategist Saifuddin (left) says.

It appears that PKR's role in the campaign may mainly involve explanations for their perceived failures. If PAS is not convinced with Azmin's arguments, it might limit PKR's one-to-one contact with voters in Kuala Terengganu and utilise the party's orators to draw crowds at the ceramah instead.

PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa says operation meetings between the three parties are under way to plan their campaign strategy. "KT is the most urban seat in Terengganu, so PKR, which has the image of being more appealing to urban Malays, will be helping us in this aspect."

Nasharuddin also expects hudud law to be a non-issue. "We'll explain to non-Muslim voters what PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has said, that it will only be applicable for Muslims."

DAP permanent election committee secretary Liew Chin Tong believes PAS will want to maximise its chances by utilising PKR and the DAP fully, because the stakes in this by-election are high.

"This by-election comes right before Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over the Umno presidency and the prime minister's post [after March 2009]. Imagine the psychological consequences to the BN if they lost."

Coming together

The three Pakatan Rakyat parties have only really campaigned together in recent elections, starting with Ijok, Selangor (28 April 2007), the March 2008 general election, and the Permatang Pauh by-election (26 Aug 2008).

Prior, by-elections were fought largely alone by the contesting party or with one other opposition partner. Anwar, who was released from prison on 2 Sept 2004 after serving six years for corruption, only made brief appearances in several by-elections until Ijok.

He spoke at ceramahs for the PAS candidate in the Pengkalan Pasir, Kelantan by-election on 6 Dec 2005. It was a closely fought race narrowly won by Umno by a 134-vote margin, leaving PAS with a single-seat majority in the Kelantan legislative assembly.

PAS and PKR paired up to campaign in the Batu Talam, Pahang by-election (28 Jan 2007), but ended up boycotting it to protest against alleged bias by the Election Commission. The Umno candidate won by a 5,857-majority against an independent candidate.

The DAP and PKR, meanwhile, campaigned together for the first time in the Chinese-majority state seat of Machap, Malacca (12 April 2007). For this seat, the DAP focused on Chinese Malaysian voters while relying on PKR to reach the Malay Malaysian electorate.

Though the seat went to the MCA by a 4,081 majority, the Machap by-election was seen as the first step in future PKR-DAP cooperation. It highlighted the two parties' similar ideologies — DAP's Malaysian Malaysia, and the PKR's non-racial, needs-based approach to economic and welfare policies.

All for one

Ijok marked the strongest cooperation between PAS, PKR and DAP, and showed the coalition's appeal in racially-mixed areas. Malay Malaysians comprised about 50% of the electorate in Ijok, while Indian Malaysians were around 28% and Chinese Malaysians 20%.

Although the BN candidate from MIC won Ijok in the by-election, Chinese Malaysian support for the BN was said to have dipped by 10%, thanks to keris-waving at the previous year's Umno Youth general assembly, among other national issues played up by the opposition. In the 2008 general election 11 months later, Ijok went to PKR.

Anwar ran the show in the Permatang Pauh by-election on 26 Aug 2008, and bettered his wife, PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail's performance in the general election five months earlier. It was a stunning political comeback for the former deputy prime minister, no less because he was facing fresh sodomy allegations brought against him by a former aide.

"Permatang Pauh saw the best cooperation ever between the PKR, PAS and DAP," Azmin says. "PAS focused its machinery in the Malay state seats of Permatang Pasir and Penanti, while the DAP took Seberang Jaya and the Chinese areas. Now in Kuala Terengganu, PAS will take the lead and PKR will play a complementary role."

Whether this formula will work in Kuala Terengganu remains to be seen. With the BN expected to pull out all the stops to retain the seat, the Pakatan Rakyat will hope that voters will overlook the differences within their coalition.