Thursday, April 30, 2009

N.H. Chan: An inconvenient judge

Chan tells why he feels compelled to speak out.

If the Sultan had executive powers to rule, it is legally wrong, so they could apply for judicial review of the Sultan's decision. But I pointed out in my first article he has no executive power to rule because he is not an executive monarch, he is a constitutional monarch. What he did was morally wrong.

By Debra Chong
Picture by Choo Choy May

IPOH, April 30 — Chan Nyarn Hoi lives in a modest two-storey semi-detached house in a quiet lane near the state stadium in Perak with his wife, a dog and seven large Japanese carp.

At 74 years old and with ruddy smooth cheeks under a full head of snowy white hair, few would connect him to the acerbic, no-nonsense former judge Datuk N.H. Chan, who has in the last couple of months done the unthinkable: fire away missives at judges who have trampled on the Federal Constitution in deciding issues related to the power grab in Perak. His lengthy articles have reminded Malaysians of a time gone by when towering individuals sat on the Bench and simplified the Perak constitutional crisis for the common man.

Still seething over the events that transpired in Perak and decisions of the apex court, he says that if Malaysians are upset with the state of the judiciary and think that the present crop of judges are not up to the mark, they should exercise the power of their vote to change the state of affairs in the country.

Born in Ipoh on March 27, 1935, Chan was admitted to the Bar in 1961. He was a lawyer for almost two decades before becoming a High Court judge and moving to Kuala Lumpur.

He was among the first batch of High Court judges to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, set up in 1994 to act as an intermediate court between the High Court and the apex court.

Chan's first book, “Judging the Judges”, was published in 2007 and is a collection of his articles for the Perak Bar. Only 1,000 copies were published.

His second book, “How to Judge the Judges”, is expected to come out some time in the middle of the year. The final draft has just been sent to the publishers. They wanted him to include the Perak saga as well, but because it is ongoing, he had to draw a line somewhere. He has included some information in the epilogue.

In an exclusive interview, the former judge, who was recommended to the Bench by none other than Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak and a central figure in the present crisis, tells The Malaysian Insider why he feels compelled to speak out.

Q: Unlike many former judges, you have been very vocal in your criticisms against the judiciary. What drives you?

A: In the first place, I am not against the judiciary. I am sure there are some good judges around, only they have not manifested themselves in the present constitutional, should I say, crisis in Perak.

I expected James Foong JCA (as he then was, he is now a Federal Court judge) to do the right thing but he failed to do that. I suppose it takes great courage for a Court of Appeal judge who sat as a winger in the Federal Court to give a dissenting judgment.

Now, back to your question. When I became a judge I had to be true to my calling which is to know that the essence of justice is fair trial and the duty of the judge is to administer it according to law.

Lord Devlin in his book “The Judge”, wrote on page 4: “...impartiality and the appearance of it are the supreme judicial virtues. It is the verdict that matters, and if it is incorrupt, it is acceptable. To be incorrupt it must bear the stamp of a fair trial.”

And at page 85 he said: “The first — ought one to say the whole — duty of the judge is to administer justice according to law.”

Back to page 3, the book said: “What is the function of the judge? Professor Jaffe has a phrase for it — 'the disinterested application of known law' (Jaffe in his book “English and American Judges as Lawmakers”, page 13)”

This means that the judge's only duty is to do justice in the disinterested application of known law. Known law means basic law and the term includes both common law and statute law.

The judge who gives the right judgment but does not appear to be impartial is useless to the judicial process. After that, the judge's whole duty or function is to decide the case according to law on the admissible evidence before him.

And what do you call a judge who does not administer justice according to law? A renegade judge? So now you know why I am so vocal when I admonish the errant judges who did not apply unambiguous law as it stands.

Q: You have been especially blunt in your views over the issues in Perak. Why so?

A: You mean for calling a spade a spade? What do you call a judge who doesn't follow or apply easy to understand and unambiguous statute law as it stands?

Like Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution which says: “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

This law applies to all members of the legislative assembly — it does not matter if you are DAP or PKR or MCA or Barisan Nasional or any political party. Even a child could understand the plain meaning of the words. We do not need the Federal Court to interpret (meaning “explain the meaning of”) the words for us. Nor do we need any law professor from Singapore to tell us Malaysians that the courts should have the power of judicial review over what has transpired in Parliament or a Legislative Assembly.

There is separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary of this country. We all know that one can apply to the courts for a judicial review over executive actions. But there is no such thing as judicial review over what transpired in the legislature — if there is such a thing then we can have judicial review over the passing into law of certain Acts of Parliament that we don't like — like the ISA.

A long time ago when I was a High Court judge, I have sentenced many criminals to death without qualms. But personally I am against the death sentence because it is barbaric. But as a judge I must apply the law as it is.

To quote Lord Denning: “It is their [the judges] duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it — and do so knowingly — they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.”

I would never dream of doing such a thing.

Q: Why did you choose to air your views so publicly? I'm trying to understand why you got involved.

A: I'm only an outsider and I don't care. But when everybody is missing the point and all that — and some of them have not even read the Perak Constitution, I thought I better explain why the people are angry.

Q: Why do you think the people are angry?

A: Do you know why the Perakians were up in uproar against the Sultan of Perak?

It's because, as any lawyer will tell you, especially as he was Lord President before, that before you make a decision, you cannot see the parties. If you want to meet any of the parties, both of them must be present. You never do so by seeing one and then making a decision. The moment you do that, to the losing side or to any observer will think you have been influenced. So it's the impression that counts.

They were angry with the Sultan because they can sense it in their bones that it is wrong to make a decision to see the other side first.

Q: Is the Sultan morally wrong or legally wrong?

A: If the Sultan had executive powers to rule, it is legally wrong, so they could apply for judicial review of the Sultan's decision. But I pointed out in my first article he has no executive power to rule because he is not an executive monarch, he is a constitutional monarch. What he did was morally wrong.

Q: You must have seen many things during your time as a judge. What is wrong with Malaysia’s justice system? What can be done to correct it? And what’s stopping the necessary changes from taking place?

A: I don't think there is anything wrong with our judicial system. It is the players that we should be concerned with — if we get the right people on the Bench, that is, those people who are not interested in power — because power corrupts, those fair-minded individuals who would administer justice according to law, then we will have a judiciary to be proud of.

We used to have that at one time. And if the general public think that the present crop of errant judges are not up to the mark, then the remedy is to use the power of the vote to change the present state of things.

At the general election of 1906 the common people of England toppled the Conservative Government of the day because they were unhappy with the decision of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale case which had virtually put an end to trade unions six years earlier.

That case had immense political consequences. At the general election of 1906 the opposition pledged complete immunity for trade unions.

Lord Denning said in his book “Landmarks in the Law”, page 121: “The result of the general election was like an earthquake. ... It was a sweeping victory for the trade unions. Parliament immediately passed the Trade Disputes Act 1906. It is probably the most important Act ever put into the Statute Book. It reversed all the judicial decisions against trade unions. The Taff Vale case was overruled. No trade union could thereafter be sued for damages for any wrongs done by its members. Its funds were unassailable.”

There is a well known Spanish proverb which says, “He who goes with wolves learns to howl.” So that if the electorate don't trust the judges they tend to put the blame on the government who put the judges there.

Q: Many ordinary Malaysians today feel powerless to affect positive changes to the institution of the judiciary because they lack legal knowledge. Do you agree with this view? How do you think they can work to bring about the change they want?

A: I think the real problem is this. In most cases when you read about a court decision in the newspapers, the judgment of the court is expressed in such a way that the average reader will not know if the judge is right. So invariably, we assume that the judge must be right.

I do realise the problem, so I thought I should try to explain the issue in simple language so that everyone will be able to judge for himself whether the judge is doing the right thing or not.

Lord Denning was famous for explaining difficult law in such a way that any lay reader can understand it. Now that they know how to judge the judges by reading my articles, they could, if they thought they have been short-changed by the judges, do the same thing as was done by the electorate in 1906 England. They have the power to change the government of the day by their vote in the next general election.

The opposition, in order to get the people's vote, could pledge to undo all the wrongs done to the community by the judges. They could pledge that if they were given the mandate of the people to form the next government, they would pass an Act of Parliament to overrule such unjust decisions of the Federal Court such as Adorna Properties vs Boonsorm Boonyanit, the Asean Security Mills, PP vs Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as well as all the decisions of the Federal Court pertaining to the Perak constitutional crisis which were not decided according to law — where the court had blatantly refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution.

They could also pledge to remove the errant judges from office. This is how it could be done.

In “What Next in the Law”, Lord Denning said, page 319: “Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.”

Yet the errant judges, especially the five in the Federal Court, have refused to apply Article 72 of the Federal Constitution as it stands.

In his book, “The Judiciary in Malaysia” (Asia Pacific Publications Sdn Bhd, 1994) the then Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Abdul Hamid Omar said, page 88: “... the provisions dealing with the removal of judges in pursuance of an address in Parliament … was modified to provide for a special tribunal to be established for the removal of judges.”

That is incorrect. Actually Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution only applies to judges of the Federal Court.

At the time of the fracas between the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1988, Article 125(3) of the Federal Constitution provides for the removal of judges of the Federal Court on the ground of “misbehaviour or of inability”.

Article 125(3) and (4) reads:

“125(3) If the Prime Minister, or the Lord President after consulting the Prime Minister, represents to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that a judge of the Federal Court ought to be removed on the ground of misbehaviour or on the ground of inability, from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a tribunal in accordance with Clause (4) and refer the representation to it; and may on the recommendation of the tribunal remove the judge from office.

“125(4) The said tribunal shall consist of not less than 5 persons who hold or have held office as a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court or, if it appears to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong expedient to make such appointment, persons who hold or have held equivalent office in any other part of the Commonwealth, and shall be presided over by the member first in the following order, namely, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President and the Chief Judges according to their precedence among themselves, and other members according to the order of their appointment to an office qualifying them for membership (the older coming before the younger of two members with appointments of the same date).”

The book “The Judiciary in Malaysia” said — this part is significant so do pay special attention to it — page 89: “Until the recent amendment in 1994, the grounds for the removal of a judge was 'misbehaviour or of inability', The Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994, however, substituted for the word 'misbehaviour', the words 'any breach of any provision of the code of ethics prescribed under Clause 3A...'. The effect of this amendment is that, besides the inability, either from infirmity of body or mind, or any other cause, properly to discharge the functions of his office, a judge may be removed if he has breached the code of ethics prescribed for judges.

“Article 125(3A) provides that the code of ethics shall be observed by every judge, be it, the judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court.”

This is what Section 2 of the Judges' Code of Ethics 1994 says:

“2(1) This Code of Ethics shall apply to a judge throughout the period of his service.

“2(2) The breach of any provision of this Code of Ethics may constitute a ground for the removal of a judge from office.”

So now we all know that any serving judge could be removed from office for a breach of any provision of the Judges' Code of Ethics 1994.

Section 3(1)(d) is the provision in the Code of Ethics to apply against the errant judges. It reads: A judge shall not conduct himself dishonestly or in such a manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto”.

I think the words in Section 3(1)(d) are clear enough — we all know what they mean. So that if a judge brings the judiciary into disrepute or discredit, as the errant judges have done by not administering justice according to law, they could be removed from office under this provision. It's a bit harsh, but it can be done.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Does Umno care what Malaysians think?

APRIL 24 — Come on Malaysia, stop feigning surprise and indignation.

Umno has always had a different value system from the rest of the country.

This is a party which has celebrated chauvinists, defended the corrupt and provided refuge for individuals with question marks draped over themselves.

So, why should it surprise Malaysians that Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (V K Lingam video clip fame) was re-appointed as the secretary-general of the ruling party and Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam (corruption) and Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (Approved Permits) were appointed to the supreme council by Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Their appointments merely confirm what many suspected — the bar is much lower for Umno. It also suggests that despite all the flowery talk of change, the new prime minister cannot toss out realpolitik considerations when making decisions on the country or party.

There was a major spin campaign by the Najib camp after he unveiled his Cabinet line-up several weeks ago.

They noted how several individuals touched by scandal were dropped from the line-up of ministers and how this signaled a desire by the PM to start with a clean slate.

Much of that spiel was puff and fluff.

More than eighty per cent of those appointed ministers were old faces and a sprinkling of them had dodgy records.

The fact is that Najib had to fall in line and follow the old BN formula of picking the Cabinet.

He had to reward component parties and loyalists, and make sure all states had representatives as ministers.

That is why the slim line Cabinet was jettisoned for a bloated one.

Similar considerations were at play today when he appointed Ku Nan, Ali and Rafidah.

Najib wants to be inclusive and cast his dragnet as wide as possible. He wanted Tengku Adnan Mansor because this chap is an operator, a true party warlord who can organise the troops and get his hands dirty if the need arises. He is also fiercely loyal to the party president.

So what if the Putrajaya MP was censured by the Royal Commission on the VK Lingam video clip for being one of the main actors who fixed the appointment and promotion of judges.

So what if the commission recommended that authorities investigate him and others for a slew of offences?

The commission in its report last year said that “having regard to the totality of the evidence and for the reasons stated, we are of the view that there was, conceivably, an insidious movement by Lingam with the covert assistance of his close friends, Vincent Tan and Tengku Adnan

Tengku Mansor, to involve themselves actively in the appointment of judges, in particular, the appointment of Tun Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim as the Chief Judge of Malaya and subsequently as Court of Appeal president.’’

The Attorney-General has since said that no further action will be taken against some of the individuals implicated.

But truth be told, Ku Nan’s involvement in this sorry episode was never a problem with Umno members.

They could not understand what the fuss of judge fixing was all about.

Indeed, they were upset that the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration made public the commission’s report.

In Ali’s case, he was probably co-opted into the supreme council to assuage his supporters who remain upset that he was barred from contesting the number two spot in the party after being found guilty of money politics by the Umno Disciplinary Board.

The Chief Minister who upset the Chinese community with some pointed barbs has played the role of loyal party man since being prevented from taking part in the party polls.

While chief ministers and mentris besar are usually appointed to the supreme council, if Najib wanted to make a statement about the importance integrity in Umno he could have overlooked Ali.


Rafidah’s inclusion is not surprising.

Najib wants to close ranks in Wanita Umno and send a message that winners don’t gain everything, and losers don’t lose everything.

Despite being backed by Najib’s supporters, the former Minister of International Trade and Industry was thumped by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil for the top position in the women’s wing.

She was one of the Umno officials who played a critical role in convincing Abdullah that he would not be able to obtain 58 nominations from the divisions to defend the party president’s position.

Rafidah was a minister in Abdullah’s first term as PM but had to live with a big cloud over her head after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad questioned her over the distribution of Approved Permits.

She denied any wrongdoing but the former prime minister has never retracted his allegations that there was abuse in the AP scheme. More recently, the Opposition has alleged that APs were given to a company owned by her relatives.

Still, these allegations and question marks over her character may not matter much in Umno. So there is little downside for Najib to have appointed her to the supreme council.

What lesson should Malaysians take from this exercise?

Simple, that there is one set of standard for the men and women of Umno and a higher set for

the rest of the country.

It has been that way for a long time.

Does the party care what the rest of the country thinks? Apparently not.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eli Wong back at work


SHAH ALAM: Bukit Lanjan assemblyman and Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong reported to work at the State Secretariat at 9.30am Thursday after two months on leave triggered when revealing pictures of her emerged.

Wong, who arrived at the state secretariat building at about 9.30am in her official Toyota Camry, was greeted by reporters as well as fellow exco member Ronnie Liu who had been awaiting her arrival since 8.00am.

Liu had also made arrangements for 12 stalks of yellow roses to be presented to Wong, who is in charge of the state governments tourism, consumer affairs and environment portfolio, upon her arrival at the state secretariat.

Bkt Lanjan assemblyman and Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong reported to work at the State Secretariat at 9.30am Thursday.

Wong thanked members of the media profusely and requested to be allowed to go to her office as she had a 10.00am meeting with Tourism Selangor.

“I have a lot of catching-up to do in my office and have to prepare for the meeting,” she added.

Sporting a new hairstyle and a new pair of glasses, Wong said she had met Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim Wed night and had been briefed on what she had to do and the tasks awaiting her.

About her immediate plans, Wong said: “I just want to go back to my office and concentrate on my work as advised by the mentri besar and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“I want to thank the media, my family, party members and friends. Please allow me to go back to my office to do my work and to serve the people,” said Wong before walking to the lift to go to her second floor office.

When asked about former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s threat that the Barisan Nasional would exploit her situation to the fullest, Wong said that she was only interested in her job.

Meanwhile, when contacted this morning Dr Mohd Khir reiterated that the Barisan would exploit the situation to the fullest.

“We will use the matter against Pakatan Rakyat like how they use the Altantuya murder issue against Najib (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak),” he said.

He added he was not surprised with the outcome of Wong’s case as he had anticipated that this would happen.

He alleged that the Pakatan had also orchestrated the gatherings where Bukit Lanjan constituents had asked for Wong to continue serving them.

“They just showed a wayang show for everyone’s benefit,” he said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Wong said she had accepted the state government’s offer to her to remain in office.

“My only wish is to serve my constituents and the state to the best of my abilities and, with the help and cooperation of the people, make this state, this country, a better place for all,” said Wong.

“This is the hardest decision I have to make in my life and it is with the greatest humility that I accept the Selangor state’s offer.”

Wong had tendered her resignation as exco member and assemblyman in February, following the release of revealing pictures of her to the media by unknown persons.

Earlier Thursday, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim told a press conference that the state did not accept Wong’s resignation and wanted her to remain in both her positions.

Khalid was accompanied by almost all his exco members, including senior exco member Teresa Kok and state PAS commissioner Datuk Dr Hassan Ali, when he made the announcement.

He added that Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had been briefed about the decision to retain Wong.

Khalid thanked the Sultan for his stand in not interfering in political decisions and entrusting the state government to make a fair and just decision.

“The state government believes this is an appropriate and fair decision after taking into consideration views from all quarters, public interest and the fact that police investigations have to date failed to reach a conclusion,” he said, adding that Wong had to return to work today as her leave had ended yesterday.

Wong was granted long leave while the police conducted investigations and the exco debated on her status as exco member and assemblyman.

Khalid stressed that morality was of utmost importance to the state’s Pakatan Rakyat government.

“This principle is strictly adhered to. Should there be any conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the state government will not hesitate to initiate the necessary action,” he added.

However, said Khalid, the state government was also equally concerned about protecting the right to privacy and would do its utmost to protect that right.

He reiterated that Wong was a victim and that even though it was an issue of morality, everyone was innocent until proven guilty.

In her statement, Wong said the past two months had been traumatic for her.

“I have been stripped bare publicly, both figuratively and literally, by force and against my will.

“My personal life has been violated and assaulted by none other than criminals. Even up to this evening, I continued to receive threats from unknown persons.”

Wong said what had transpired was not a scandal but a criminal act which also translated into criminal intimidation and a form of political violence.

“If I chose to retreat into silence, it would in turn indirectly affect women, especially women politicians,” she added.

She said she was humbled by the encouragement and support shown by the media, her family and friends, non-governmental organisations, those who signed petitions asking her to remain in office and her constituents who had stood firmly behind her.

Related stories:

Wong to stay on as assemblyman and exco member
Wong to give up her exco post
MB: Anwar won’t meddle in decision over Bukit Lanjan rep
Cops get arrest warrant for Hilmi
Probe still on, so Eli Wong’s leave extended till April 15
Selangor Ruler upset and worried over invasion of privacy
It’s gutter politics, says Mahathir
Nude pix scandal hits PKR rep

It’s gutter politics, says Mahathir

CAMBRIDGE (Britain): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad believes that the circulation of Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong’s semi-nude photographs was politically motivated.

“In Malaysia now, we’re seeing a lot of dirty politics,” the former Prime Minister said in response to claims that she was a victim of a political smear campaign.

He added that a lot of things were happening in Malaysia which was related to politics.

Crossroads: Dr M chatting with Malaysian students after delivering his talk at Cambridge University in England yesterday.

“This is bad because it’s so easy to take pictures and get people into trouble,” he told The Star after giving a talk on “Malaysia At The Crossroads” at Cambridge University on Wednesday.

Dr Mahathir added that whether Wong would eventually resign depended on her party although she had offered to do so.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Look at Team Najib(1)

by Sakmongkol AK47
Some people erroneously think that it's acceptable to take in below average person as a leader. Such thinking may be difficult to defend. We want leaders who ARE above average. We don't want a jaga sekolah or a gardener to become a deputy minister do we?

The suggestion that having below average talent as leaders is all right, implies as long as a system is in place, we should be all right. That would contradict the experience of most countries. There, we observed that the calibre of people who run the system is more important that the system itself.

This observation is readily illustrated in our implementation of the NEP. The NEP was a system to implement corrective economic measures to create a just and more equitable society. Even after it has been renamed and replaced by other corrective systems or regimes, the targets of achieving Malay economic parity with other groups in Malaysia has not been achieved. Most agree that the chief cause for the sluggishness has been the talent implementing the system.

The sluggishness in implementation can be retraced to the tardiness at the top when we tolerated the inclusion of below average talent. Many are familiar with the saying, sluggishness at the top leads to jackass-lackadaisical implementation below.

It's no longer acceptable to have below average talent as team Najib. Otherwise it will still be labeled as half-past six. Very frustrating. We have a system. We need men to implement it. We need above average talent to do the job.

There's a place in the sun for everyone. But to each his own space and place. Being a leader, or a deputy minister or a minister is no average job. Consequently, we don't ill fit by putting someone who is below average there. In the Islamic religion it is said decline seeps in as soon as we do a misfit- putting a below average in an above average job or even an average person in an not an average job.

Despite my own misgivings about the term elite, when it comes to leadership of this country, the term brings with it, great significance. An elite corps is needed to lead and guide this country. That would sound unfair, but it is also reality. This country's fate and destiny would depend on a cadre group that will inspire and drive this country. Accordingly, the induction of people into this cadre group is the most important first task of the PM.

Let us take the 3rd pillar of the PM's motto. The performance bit is dependent on the quality of the leaders he has brought into the cabinet. I am not sure whether capability is the only criterion he has taken into account. No one has KPI-ed the selection process. Let us see who the doubtful inductees are.

That chap from Sarawak who happens to be the son of the Sarawak Chief Minister is said to be incapable of giving a decent answer in parliament. This seems to be the general impression which I obtained firsthand from many parliamentarians. In the past he has even been involved in pub brawls and was reported to have punched his lady friend in public. His indiscretions would make the revelation about KJ attending a party seemed a tame affair. Yet he is given a deputy minister's post. Political expediency appears to be a more deciding factor there.

Let us accept for the moment that Dato Seri Sulaiman's inclusion into Team Najib is seen as time spent at the apprenticeship phase. That would lend credence to widespread suspicions that he is being prepared for eventual succession to the CM's post in Sarawak. If this is the intention then his inclusion into the Dato Najib's team will serve only to further embolden BN's political enemies in Sarawak. A principal grouse in Sarawak is the almost universal rejection of the idea to have Taib Mahmud's son succeed him. The recent victory in Batang Ai must not be seen as renewed endorsement of Taib Mahmud. The swing towards BN occurred only at the last two days of the by-election. The sudden volte face is suggestive of a change in heart possibly brought about by massive dosage of monetary intakes.

The trio in PM' department.

The appointment of Koh Tsu Koon after losing Penang is a mystery. It can only be rationalised as helping out Gerakan to retain whatever depleting credibility that it has left. Tsu Koon lost the election and he bloody lost the state of Penang. How can a junior partner to UMNO as compared to MCA be asked to play a role in uniting? National Unity is now under the portfolio of Tsu koon. We shall wait what creative measures he will take to forge national unity.

I hope he won't do a Syed Hamid Albar on us by suggesting to the PM the banning in the usage of certain terms like bangsa Cina or the word PENDATANG. So after this there will no more PENDATANG tanpa izin.

Was the move to include Tsu Koon a last minute answer to forestall the self implosion of Gerakan? Maybe UMNO wants to retain Gerakan as an equaliser to MCA's increasingly aggressive posturing?

And when the Gerakan people hailed Tsu Koon's appointment as a super minister they forgot that the term should actually be supernumerary. Tsu Koon is just excess capacity. If you are a medical doctor, Tsu Koon's inclusion in team Najib is just a 3rd nipple. Politically, Tsu Koon's role is just as reserve player and an errand boy. He will just play class monitor overseeing the performance of the 40 deputy ministers. Has he got the resourcefulness and temerity to apply KPI on full ministers especially on the performance of UMNO deputy vice presidents?

I would like Tsu Koon to carry out a watchful surveillance on the performance of Hishamuddin. Hishamuddin's has a track record of bringing with him a battalion of his supporters into the ministry he presides. Will Tsu Koon set up a special squad to monitor the activities of Hisham's battalion?

Law and Parliament Minister.

The inclusion of the obnoxious Nazri Abdul Aziz is indeed a surprise. The Mahathir troopers should watch out for this man. When he was vociferously condemning TDM, I wrote some scathing criticisms of Nazri Aziz. He was extremely abusive, disrespectful and infuriatingly given free hand to run down Dr Mahathir. And I saw none of the current Mahathir lovers denouncing this man.

So what role does this peon of parliament now play? Ah he has been given the additional duty to look after the laws of Malaysia. This was the duty performed by Zaid Ibrahim before.

The real role that Nazri Aziz will play will be as Najib's hatchet man should TDM continue to berate the new administration. Nazri, I suspect will be the voice that Najib isn't. Nazri will say what Najib will not and dare not- berating Mahathir. Other than that, Nazri is simply included in Team Najib because they go back together a long time. The PM calls him brader.

Economic planning unit is now assigned to the vadey-for-breakfast Nor Mohammad Yaakob. Vadey is good for the bowels you know. We will need large intake of vadey in the morning to rein in the goodfellas in the Economic Planning Unit.

Nor Yaakob is probably included on account of his experience in economics. He played a pivotal role in the 1997 economic crises as Dr Mahathir's chief economic enforcer. He flew to South America to brief our own great Helmsman on the currency crisis then. Personally he is seen as a workhorse with the ability and capability to manage the EPU. At the same time, let us hope his son doesn't buy another Lamborghini to celebrate the father's success at being retained as minister.

About the Author:

Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of this blogger. He was ADUN of Pulau Manis, Pekan.(2004-2008) Trained in Economics at home and abroad. Sakmongkol was a legendary Muay Thai fighter. AK 47 is the Russian made firearm. Sakmongkol will punch, elbow, kick, knee opponents. If these fail, he will fire his AK47.

The Last UMNO Prime Minister

As it now stands, Najib is doomed to be the last UMNO Prime Minister. He will not be even a “one-termer.” He will go down in history as our shortest-serving Prime Minister. Worse, it will be recorded for posterity that he was the Malay leader who brought down a once glorious organization, UMNO, an institution his late father was so instrumental in setting up.

by M. Bakri Musa

Newly-sworn Prime Minister Najib Razak created a buzz when he released 13 prisoners detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and lifted the ban on Harakah and Suara Keadilan, publications of the opposition parties. He also promised “a comprehensive review” of the ISA, a statute long abused to silence the government’s critics.

Malaysians long yearning for a change applauded him. There were skeptics, of course.

Alas that was last week. This week the hopes of those citizens were cruelly crushed when they saw the real Najib with the announcement of his new cabinet. Far from being a team that would wow Malaysians, Najib’s cabinet was, as Tunku Aziz put it, “a team of recycled political expendables.” And a bloated one at that!

The skeptics were right; Najib’s earlier act was nothing but a big and cruel tease.

This roster of “political expendables” was the best that the man could offer, from a leader who only a week earlier warned his party that it should “change or be changed.” When given the ultimate freedom to choose his own team, Najib stuck to the tried and true, or what he thought to be so. So this was Najib’s brave version of “Berani Berubah!” (Dare to Change!).

Najib is incapable of change; there is nothing in him to suggest otherwise. He could not even recognize the need for one, much less respond to it. Change would be totally out of character for the man. Far from welcoming or be invigorated by it, change would threaten him.

Unfortunately for Najib, Malaysia has changed. Incapable of change, he is doomed to be changed come the next general elections, from Prime Minister to Leader of the Opposition. He will be our shortest serving chief executive, our Gerald Ford. Ford was the unelected American President who assumed office following Nixon’s forced resignation over the Watergate scandal. Like Ford, Najib too was not elected to the highest office. Ford was subsequently rejected by voters; the same fate awaits Najib.

For Malaysia, that would truly be a wasted decade, with the first half already being squandered by Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Badawi.

The True Najib

Najib is the obedient first son, the loyal subordinate, and the traditionalist aristocrat. He even inherited his father’s ancient tribal title, Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar! How quaint in this 21st Century! His career path has been straight and narrow, on a track that had been conveniently laid down for him by others who felt indebted or grateful to his illustrious father.

Najib has never shown a talent for striking new paths. Even his ascendance to the Prime Minister’s office was paved by others, in particular Tun Mahathir and Muhyyudin Yassin. Najib must remember that a favor offered is a favor owed.

Just as he was the obedient son, Najib was also the dutiful and loyal subordinate. His blind obedience to Abdullah Badawi drew the wrath of Tun Mahathir. As for experience, Najib has been dependent on paychecks from the public purse all his adult life. He never had to meet a payroll; he has no idea of the trials and challenges of that endeavor; nor does he appreciate the sense of accomplishments and independence of those who have.

This is not the profile of a leader capable of making radical changes that Malaysia so desperately needs now.

Unfortunately the track Najib is on now ends at his office. Ahead, for him and the nation, is uncharted territory, with steep hills to climb and wide canyons to traverse. Turning back is not an option, as that path so carefully crafted by earlier leaders is now destroyed for lack of maintenance and prudent use.

That Najib is now portrayed as an agent for change is more a tribute to his highly-paid public relations operatives and the all-too-eager-to-please toadies in the mainstream media. However, you could pedal a dud only for so long; sooner or later the ugly reality would emerge and the bubble burst.

When that inevitability happens, beware! Voters react with vengeance when they feel that they have been hoodwinked by their leaders. Ask Najib’s immediate predecessor, Abdullah. The by-election results since the last general elections are portends for Najib and his party.

Totally Inept and Inadequately Prepared

Najib assembled his cabinet only last week. Even then he spent that limited time talking with leaders of his Barisan coalition instead of with potential candidates. He is clearly being negligent. He knew he will be Prime Minster months ago; he should have been interviewing and short-listing candidates all along. Being unopposed as president of UMNO and thus freed from having to campaign, he had plenty of time to preview his choices prior to last week.

I am particularly concerned with the choice of his deputy. Did Najib have a private session with Muhyyudin before selecting him? Nowhere is it written that UMNO Deputy President should also be the Deputy Prime Minister. Najib is trapped by tradition.

Najib should have done a “Khairy Jamaluddin” on Muhyyudin, that is, keep him out of the cabinet and make him focus on rebuilding the party. God knows, UMNO needs intensive rehabilitation as much as its Youth wing, if not more so. Dispensing with Muhyyudin would strengthen Najib’s image as a reformer, quite apart from taking the sting out of having singly excluded Khairy from the cabinet.

Najib gave the very important Education portfolio to Muhyyudin. Is Najib assured that Muhyyudin agrees with him on the major policy issues, in particular the highly contentious matter of continuing the teaching of science and mathematics in English? Muhyyudin is unusually quiet on this.

It is equally hard to be enthusiastic on the rest of Najib’s team. This is what happens when you choose your cabinet based on pleasing others, especially those whom you owe favors.

Najib struggled to get his team, just like Abdullah and Mahathir before him. Like them, he too found the pickings slim as he fished only in the same polluted and shallow puddle of UMNO and Barisan. He did not have the courage to venture beyond.

Najib unwittingly revealed much in his first few days as Prime Minister. Thanks to his PR team, Najib managed to sound very positive, at with his promise of “a comprehensive review” of the ISA. That sent orgies of praise for the man in the mainstream media and elsewhere. The more perceptive (or skeptical) would note that he specifically did not mention anything about repealing it.

Then there was his announcement on the release of the 13 ISA prisoners “with immediate effect.” In Najib’s lexicon, “with immediate effect” means at least three days later! This shows how much he is in tune with the actual workings of the civil service.

If I had been Najib’s communications director, this is what I would have done. Knowing how easily our civil servants could screw things up, I would first check with the Home Ministry, specifically the Chief of Police and Prison Director, to arrange for the release of the prisoners. Send them to the nearby rest house at government expense if their families were not yet ready to receive them. I would then alert television stations and other news media so they would be there to cover it.

Only after assuring myself that all those meticulous preparations are in place would I have Najib make his announcement. Imagine the dramatic impact when the split screen on the nation’s television screens would also show the prisoners being released as he made the announcement. It would also showcase the crispness of Najib’s new administration. Had he done so, he would have been spared the embarrassment of his orders being delayed for days because of – you guessed it! – paperwork!

On the day Najib announced his new cabinet, the judge in the long running Mongolian model murder trial rendered his judgment. Najib had been trying hard to ignore the grizzly tragedy, but it kept cropping up at the most inopportune time. His strategy is to stonewall, banking that the success of his policies would make citizens forget the gruesome crime.

Najib is gravely mistaken in this. Even if his ethics were beyond reproach, Najib would find his policies a tough sell. Conversely, if he could clear up those sordid allegations (assuming of course he is innocent, a huge supposition) he would find that with his personal credibility now enhanced, the public would more likely buy into his policies. Stonewalling is no strategy.

As it now stands, Najib is doomed to be the last UMNO Prime Minister. He will not be even a “one-termer.” He will go down in history as our shortest-serving Prime Minister. Worse, it will be recorded for posterity that he was the Malay leader who brought down a once glorious organization, UMNO, an institution his late father was so instrumental in setting up. All destroyed in just two generations; the first to build it, the second to destroy. Truly a very Malay story!

For those who warmly applauded Najib on his first few days in office thinking that his was the dawn of a new day for the nation, I hope they would translate their disappointment into effective action. Deliver to Najib his own KPI (Key Performance Index) at the next general elections. It will be less than four years away; plenty of time to lay and grease the track for Najib’s (and UMNO’s) exit. ---M. Bakri Musa

Saturday, April 11, 2009

BN must win next by-election, says Ku Li

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah today warned that Barisan Nasional faces the prospect of losing the federal government if it is defeated in another by-election, calling for further reforms to meet people's expectations.

The Gua Musang MP said it was disgraceful for BN to lose all four by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia since the watershed general election last year.

"Not just a disgrace, but malu-lah (shameful)," Tengku Razaleigh told reporters at his house today.

The Kelantan prince might soon see if BN has recovered from its string of losses as speculation is rife that scandalised PKR Penanti and Bukit Lanjan assemblymen Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin and Elizabeth Wong will resign their seats.

"It makes me sad as an Umno chap that Umno has not won a single by-election so far.

"Before this, we place a candidate and sure as daylight we would win. Now we have to pray, work and throw money but we still did not win," he lamented.

He felt that the losses in the April 7 Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang polls were not necessarily a vote of no faith in newly-appointed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak but a future loss would reflect badly on his new administration.

"I do not think we can afford to lose anymore support. We have lost so much already," he added, referring to BN losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament and four more states in Election 2008.

Tengku Razaleigh said BN must marshal all its resources to get the support of the people in the next polls or "in three or four years, they will all be kicked out of office."

When asked if the increased majority for the opposition in the two Bukit by-elections showed that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was ineffective in returning support to BN, he replied: "I think you have answered the question."

He pointed out that Najib's administration must be genuine in its efforts to reform as it cannot implement what it has in store for Malaysians without the backing of the people.

Tengku Razaleigh said that reforms were necessary as people were not happy.

"If not they will support you. If people are still blind or in denial, then they should hang up their political hats.”

Tengku Razeleigh added that as an Umno member, he was "desperate" but still "hopeful" despite the party appearing to be a "sinking ship."

As such, he denied that he had plans to join PKR as has been rumoured.

"I do not think that I am going to leave Umno for now. But one can never tell about the future," he said.

Tengku Razaleigh had called the press conference to deny that he had called the new Cabinet line-up "neat" as reported by state news agency Bernama.

press conference - tengku razaleigh's rebuttal
Tengku Razaleigh’s official weblog

Is the new government in such desperate need of endorsement that Bernama has to manufacture it ?

Bernama quoted me today as hailing the new cabinet and saying it “could solve the country’s economic problems.” This is a laughable misrepresentation of what I said, and a poor indication of the more open and truthful information order we are told we can look forward to.

I am calling a press conference at my office at 31 Jln Langgak Golf today, Saturday 11 April, at 3.15pm to discuss my actual view of the cabinet, the economy, and what the recent by-elections tell us

April 10, 2009 19:53 PM

A Neat Cabinet - Razaleigh

GUA MUSANG, April 10 (Bernama) -- Gua Musang Member of Parliament Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has hailed the new cabinet, describing it as "neat" and capable of restoring the people's confidence in the Barisan Nasional (BN).

He said that changes were inevitable if the BN was to win the hearts and minds of the people.

"The previous cabinet is not that neat. We shall see how the new cabinet performs... I truly hope that the new leadership will be able to change things for the better," he said.

He was speaking at the opening of the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tengku Indera Petra 2 Parent-Teacher's Association annual general meeting today.

Tengku Razaleigh said the new cabinet would be able to strengthen the country's economy despite the current global economic downturn.

The new leadership should be given the opportunity to bring changes, said Tengku Razaleigh, who once offered to contest the Umno presidency but could only manage one nomination -- from the Gua Musang Umno division. -- BERNAMA

Looking for answers in Batang Ai

By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — The defeat of the PKR in the April 7 Batang Ai by-election is a shock to many Sarawakian especially for the new generation of better educated, technologically savvy and upwardly mobile indigenous Dayaks who saw the contest as a battle between Dayak nationalism and "occupation" by a local Melanau elite allied with Umno in the Federal capital.

There is considerable recriminations and soul searching among educated Dayaks over why Batang Ai was lost, who should be held responsible and what the future holds for a change of regime in the resources-rich state which is also one of the poorest in the federation.

The blame game is rampant in Dayak-based blogs and websites and numerous reasons are being given for the defeat, from a shortage of funds and other resources to wrong choice of candidate in Jawah Gerang and money politics by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud.

Some are also blaming the Iban voters for the defeat, pointing to their greed, materialism and folly for failing to see Dayakism as a new force and always staying with the Barisan Nasional to take the goodies dished out in return for their votes.

The Dayak predicament has parallels with the sorry situation of Indians in the Peninsular before the Nov 25, 2007 mass protest.

Like the Dayaks, they too were neglected, marginalised and politically alienated, leading to a build-up of a critical mass that sparked the revolt against the MIC/BN.

Like the Dayaks, Indians too supported the BN for decades and were rewarded for their political loyalty with the occasional trinkets.

But most of the rewards were pilfered by the MIC, leaving a new generation of Indian youths entering the job market without skills and competing with millions of foreign workers for low-paid jobs.

Their rising anger and frustration at their predicament created ideal conditions for a political revolt.

In Sarawak the conditions are far from ripe for a political revolt although Dayak intellectuals at a major conference recently in Miri believed conditions were ripe and a Dayak revolt was gathering ground and that the Batang Ai by-election was the spark.

The huge numbers that gathered for PKR dinners in major towns were read as clear signs that a revolt had started and that it would soon consume the rural Dayaks and provide a critical mass for political change.

Today the same intellectuals are deeply disappointed that the spark failed to light and are giving numerous reasons for the failure.

The fact is Batang Ai is remote, not easily accessible and the PKR methods of mobilisation using IT technology was worthless in a constituency that has few telephone lines and the vast majority are reachable only by boats.

It is remarkable that nearly all of the 200 Chinese voters in Lubuk Antu, the frontier cowboy town that services the interior, voted for PKR.

The only reason for this is that they had superior information and were motivated by the major changes in the political landscape happening in the country.

It was the same superior information that saw thousands of Chinese and urban Dayaks attending PKR dinners in the major towns of Sarawak in the months preceding the Batang Ai by-election, giving the impression a March 8-type groundswell was blowing.

In comparison the Dayaks in the interior were hapless and at the mercy of the only source of information available to them — radio and television — which was controlled by the BN.

A much touted plan by Sarawak PKR to get “educated and politically motivated” Dayak volunteers to combat the information deficiency by going to the interior and staying in the longhouses and campaigning daily did not materialise.

For some reason the laptop-carrying Dayak intellectuals stayed where they were and preferred to battle in cyberspace and not risk the river journeys, live in the longhouses and suffer great discomfort.

The BN also very cleverly manipulated the Ibans, saying PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should be rejected because he is an “outsider” and not a Sarawakian.

They explain the presence of BN leaders from Peninsular in the by-election campaign as “honoured guests” permitted to visit and bring presents for the Ibans, who form 90 per cent of the voters.

Besides, the PKR candidate Jawah, a five-term MP for Lubuk Antu, also had a difficult time explaining why the constituency he had represented for so long was so underdeveloped.

In the last four days of campaigning, a whole army of federal and Sarawak ministers descended on Batang Ai and dispensed “instant noodle” development aid like providing birth certificates, fuel, ICs and also “duit jalan” (pocket money).

“The rural Ibans are very honest and simple folks. They tend to respect all authoritative figures like government ministers,” said Sim Kwang Yang, former DAP MP for Kuching.

“To take the gifts and then vote for the opposition seems like an act of bad etiquette. Being trustful people, they are also gullible to all kinds of promises, election after election,” he said.

They are also mostly peasants working the land, the jungle and the rivers for sustenance and therefore are disconnected — both in their needs and world view — from the urban Dayak elite.

To them their immediate needs are paramount, not the promise of a paradise in the future.

The PKR’s defeat in Batang Ai is not a total loss unless the lessons are learnt — one of it is misreading dinner crowds as a Dayak revolt.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


The new ministers and deputy ministers will take their oath of office at Istana Negara at 9.30am Friday.


NEW TEAM: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister 1: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

Deputy PM and Education Minister: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Ministers in Prime Minister’s Department
Unity and Performance Management: Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon
Law and Parliament: Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz
Religious Affairs: Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Datuk Jamil Khir Baharum
Economic Planning Unit: Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop

Deputies: Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Senator Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, Datuk SK Devamany, Ahmad Maslan, Senator T. Murugiah

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
Finance Minister II: Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah
Deputies: Datuk Chor Chee Heung, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussein

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
Deputies: Datuk Wee Ka Siong, Datuk Puad Zarkashi

Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat
Deputies: Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, Datuk Robert Lau

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
Deputies: Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop, Jelaing Mersat

Information, Communications, Arts and Culture
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim
Deputies: Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, Senator Heng Seai Kie

Energy, Green Technology & Water
Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui
Deputy: Noriah Kasnon

Plantation Industries and Commodities
Tan Sri Bernard Dompok
Deputy: Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin

Rural and Regional Development
Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal
Deputies: Datuk Hassan Malek, Datuk Joseph Entulu

Higher Education
Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin
Deputies: Dr Hou Kok Chung, Saifuddin Abdullah

International Trade and Industry
Datuk Mustapa Mohamed
Deputies: Datuk Muhkriz Mahathir, Datuk Jacob Dungau

Science, Technology and Innovation
Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili
Deputy: Fadillah Yusof

Natural Resources and Environment
Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas
Deputy: Tan Sri Joseph Kurup

Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen
Deputy: Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abdul Taib

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries
Datuk Noh Omar
Deputies: Johari Baharum, Rohani Abdul Karim

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Deputy: Datuk Dr Abdul Latif

Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor
Deputy: Datuk Yong Khoon Seng

Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai
Deputy: Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shilin

Youth and Sports
Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek
Deputies: Datuk Razali Ibrahim, Wee Jeck Seng

Human Resources
Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam
Deputy: Datuk Maznah Mazlan

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri
Deputy: Datuk Tan Lian Hoe

Housing and Local Government
Datuk Kong Cho Ha
Deputy: Lajim Ukin

Women, Family and Community Development
Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
Deputy: Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun

Foreign Affairs
Datuk Anifah Aman
Deputies: Datuk Lee Chee Leong, Senator A. Kohilan Pillai

Federal Territories
Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin
Deputy: Datuk M. Saravanan

So much effort by BN for so little gain

The result of the Bukit Gantang polls shows that the campaign the BN carried out before the by-election to discredit Nizar and brand him a traitor has indeed failed. This puts further pressure on the Sultan to defuse the crisis in his state by calling for new elections soon.

The Malaysian Insider
Thursday, 09 April 2009

The results of the triple by-elections that the Election Commission took so much trouble to put on the same day, and a weekday at that, and suitably after the dominant Umno had held what was expected to be a disruptive party election, failed to convince Malaysians that the winds of change were now blowing against the opposition.

The Batang Ai state seat in Sarawak was closely watched for signs of whether Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his allies had made any headway in persuading Malaysians in Sarawak to consider an alternative to the Barisan Nasional government. The increased margin that the BN attained seems to suggest that he has as yet not made any impression, at least among the hill Ibans.

To what extent he has gotten through to those living in the sprawling state’s urban and coastal areas has yet to be measured. The battle for votes in Sarawak is a protracted one, and the Batang Ai by-election has to be seen as a mere skirmish won by the defending forces.

The by-elections in Kedah and Perak, on the other hand, carry significantly more immediate import, mainly because these states constitute the frontline for the proverbial shooting war between the BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

Where Bukit Selambau is concerned, there was fear among PR supporters that the Indian vote might be badly split to the opposition’s disadvantage, and that the record number of contestants — 15 of them! — might tip the balance in favour of the BN, as had traditionally been the case.

Had this proven to be true, then some bad infighting within the PR was to be expected. If Hindraf, the Hindu rights organisation that played such a decisive role in the successes enjoyed by the opposition last year, had been hesitant in its support for Anwar, then one more weak point would have revealed in the PR’s position.

As things turned out, the Bukit Selambau loss suffered by the BN component party, the MIC, is most likely to be the final nail in its coffin.

Nowhere was the running battle between BN and PR more intense than in Perak. Not only was the Bukit Gantang seat a parliamentary one, unlike the other two, the opposition candidate was Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, the mentri besar who is being sidelined through BN-orchestrated defections.

The key role played by the Perak sovereign, Sultan Azlan Shah, in naming a new government to replaced the PR, had placed the PR in the difficult position of disobeying him without being disloyal to the monarch. The opposition feared that some rural Malay votes would be lost because of that.

The result of the Bukit Gantang polls shows that the campaign the BN carried out before the by-election to discredit Nizar and brand him a traitor has indeed failed. This puts further pressure on the Sultan to defuse the crisis in his state by calling for new elections soon.

Had either Bukit Selambau or Bukit Gantang been lost to the BN, there would have been some grounds for the Najib administration to contend that voters were growing disillusioned with the PR.

That would also have given the new premier reason to believe that his series of tactical moves was working, and that would have encouraged him and his advisors to stroll that path and lighten the reforming of Umno, the BN and Malaysian governance in general.

The bigger picture that emerges after April 7, 2009, is that the voter revolt that started in March the year before has not lessened in strength despite the concerted offensive by the BN.

Alongside aggressive actions such as the takeover of power in Perak through defections and the criminal charges levelled against Anwar and others in the opposition camp, the government’s offensive also involved softer tactical moves such as the release of 13 detainees held without trial under the Internal Security Act, including two Hindraf leaders; the lifting of a short-term ban put suspiciously recently on two opposition party newspapers; a comforting calling for “One Malaysia, People First, Performance Now”; and promises of institutional reforms.

The charm offensive included the return of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad into Umno just in time for him to campaign in Bukit Gantang. The poll result suggests that that this tactic actually backfired, and the usefulness of Dr Mahathir may be limited, at least during elections.

What the BN can comfort itself with at this time is that Batang Ai was the first by-election it has won since the general election. Small comfort perhaps, especially when one compares with the increased margins with which the PR has won the other four by-elections carried out since that fateful day; but it is comfort that is rare at the moment.

An edited version of this article was published in TODAY Singapore.

The writer is Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is "Arrested Reform: The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi" (Refsa 2009).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

SNAP suspends deputy president

Tuesday April 7, 2009

KUCHING: The opposition Sarawak National Party (SNAP) has issued a showcause letter to its deputy president Ting Ling Kiew to explain why he should not be sacked for supporting Barisan Nasional in the Batang Ai by-election.

Pending his reply to the letter within 30 days, the party has suspended the membership of the former Bintulu MP.

The disciplinary decision was taken at the party’s emergency central executive committee meeting at the SNAP headquarters yesterday.

Party secretary-general Edmund Stanley Jugol said the meeting also unanimously decided to suspend central executive committee member Augustine Sating, also for supporting Barisan in the by-election.

Sating has also been issued with a similar showcause letter.

Jugol said the party leadership was embarrassed by the statement made by Ting to newspapers pledging support for Barisan during his meeting with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last week. Party president Edwin Dundang urged party members to stand united behind its leadership.

SNAP deputy president faces the boot

By Raynore Mering

KUCHING: Sarawak National Party (SNAP) deputy president Ting Ling Kiew could be booted out of the party for staging what has been described as an attempt at a ‘coup-d-tat’ last week.

An emergency central executive committee meeting (CEC) was convened by president Edwin Dundang Bugak yesterday, where it was decided that show cause letters will be issued to Ting and SNAP Batang Ai chief, Augustine Sating.

The duo will have 30 days from yesterday to reply, fai-ling which they are deemed to have been expelled. But if they reply, the CEC will meet to decide whether to expel them from the party based on their replies.

In the meantime, Ting and Augustine have been suspended from the party.

SNAP secretary general, Edmund Stanley Jugol, said in a press statement after the meeting that the comments made by Ting in the newspapers on April 1, 2009, were “very irritating, embarrassing and putting the party into ridicule and disrepute”.

“Having analyzed and debated the sequence of events that led to (acts of commission) by Ting and his group of three, particularly in accordance to the statement published in The Borneo Post on April 1, 2009 it was unanimously decided that very stern disciplinary action will be taken as provided by Article 5 of the party’s constitution, which necessitates that Ting Ling Kiew be served with a show cause letter, effective today April 6, 2009…as to why he should not be expelled from the party.

“A similar disciplinary action is also taken against Augustine Sating for going against the party’s decision by supporting the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate in the Batang Ai by-election,” said Stanley.

He said under the party’s constitution, Ting and Augustine would be suspended from the party until the CEC decides on their appeal if any. “The president wishes to take this opportunity to urge SNAP members to remain calm and united in supporting the CEC and the party leader-ship for having been able to defend the party from being taken by certain people unconstitutionally by staging a coup-d-tat,” he said.

On March 31, Ting flew to Putrajaya to meet the then deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, to urge him to help save SNAP and to assure him of the party’s support for BN in the Batang Ai by-election.

Ting told The Borneo Post later that evening that during the 20-minute meeting, he communicated the wishes and hopes of the CEC members to the prime minister in-waiting and assured him of their support for the BN in the Batang Ai by-election. When asked what Najib, who was sworn in as the Prime Minister on Friday, said to him, Ting replied: “Datuk Seri said for him SNAP (situation) only the technical thing because of the Registrar of Societies.

“But for the BN record at the federal level, they never sacked SNAP and SNAP also never resigned from Barisan. So because of the court case, we are just hanging like this.”

SNAP was deregistered by ROS in 2001 following a leadership crisis and since then, it has battling the deregistration order in court, leaving the party in limbo.

He was accompanied on the visit by SNAP senior vice president Kebing Wan and a former BN leader, Datuk Salleh Jaffaruddin. Ting claimed to have the support of the majority of the 16 SNAP CEC members.

So far, those who have come out in the open with Ting were Kebing, SNAP treasurer general Larry Linang, and CEC member William Sirai. Augustine is also a CEC member.

Ting had also claimed that Dundang was unaware of his meeting Najib but he was not concerned, adding “we have the majority with us”.

He pointed out that Dundang has already committed himself to Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Reacting to Ting’s actions, Dundang said on Wednesday that it was an “act of betrayal”, adding: “It is the biggest joke for SNAP on April 1st and the joker is Ting himself,”

When asked yesterday why no action was taken against the other CEC members with Ting, Stanley said it was because Ting was responsible for the statements in the media while the rest were just following him.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It’s a betrayal: SNAP chief

By Mohamad Abdullah

MIRI: Sarawak National Party (SNAP) president Edwin Dundang Bugak yesterday hit back, slamming and decrying the recent action of deputy president Ting Ling Kiew and his group as an act of betrayal to the party.

ANOTHER CRISIS: Dundang showing the report in The Borneo Post of Ting’s purported backstabbing of him.

He said based on SNAP’s constitution only its secretary general — in this case, Stanley Jugol — and president have the power to call for the CEC meeting; not the deputy president.

“It’s the biggest joke for SNAP on April 1 (which is April Fool’s Day) and the joker is Ting Ling Kiew himself,” Dundang told The Borneo Post in an interview at his residence in Pujut 4 yesterday.

“I am sorry to say that Ting has misled the incoming prime minister,” Dundang said in response to The Borneo Post headline story, ‘New twist to SNAP drama’ yesterday.

He said it was pointless to bring SNAP as a party to the Minister of Home Affairs when the party’s appeal against deregistration is still with the court.

Dundang was referring to the deregistration of SNAP by the Registrar of Societies on Nov 5, 2002.

The latest development makes it seem that the party, which used to be a major force in the state’s political scene, is unable to rid itself of the protracted crisis.

SNAP has certainly failed to regain its past glory since giving birth to the now defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) in the 80s and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) at the turn of the millennium, both following irreparable leadership crises.

But yesterday, hardly cowed by what had happened in Putrajaya, Dundang said Ting and his group could leave SNAP and join Barisan Nasional (BN) individually any time they wished to.

“It’s a pity that the incoming prime minister is being fed lies on April Fool’s Day,” Dundang said, adding that Ting never called for a CEC meeting let alone got the 16 people for a sit-down as reported in the press yesterday.

According to Dundang, if there was such a meeting it was one that was attended by three people — Ting, senior vice-president Kebing Wan and one other person.

Dundang said he had in fact contacted most of the CEC members and all denied that they had attended any emergency meeting chaired by Ting.

“The way I see it, it is a fabrication by Ting for his own political agenda,” Dundang said, adding SNAP was still intact and that he (Dundang) still enjoyed the support of thirteen other CEC members.

Dundang went on to say that even though he was stunned by yesterday’s report he was not surprised by the leading player, Ting.

He said Ting was capable of such a move as he had always been the troublemaker in the party.

“For the record, he was sacked no less than twice from the party during the time of Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min as president.

“SNAP only took him back at the 2003 AGM, believing that he had turned over a new leaf,” he said.

Tuesday’s development, he said, proved that the party was wrong about Ting as it was another act of backstabbing by the party’s No. 2 of his superior.

Dundang said by virtue of the democratic principle as practised by SNAP, Ting and his followers could leave the party any time.

Justifying SNAP’s position to work with the opposition, he said the party had been refused by BN since 2002 while PR had accorded it equal respect and recognition.

Dundang also called on SNAP members not to be confused and misled by the “recalcitrant group of three”.

On Tuesday, Ting and Kebing met Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, saying their action was driven by their love for the party and they would support BN’s candidate Malcom Mussen Lamoh in the Batang Ai by-election.

Ting also urged party members not to trust leaders who jumped like frogs and reject political opportunists.

He claimed that in their 20-minute meeting with Najib in Putrajaya, the deputy prime minister said the situation affecting SNAP was only a technical matter while the national BN had never expelled SNAP.

He also claimed that Najib had said the BN had not received any letter from SNAP of its wish to leave the government coalition.

Meanwhile, bloggers in Sarawak went into overdrive in their speculation of the latest twist in SNAP’s saga, with some even predicting that Najib, during his coming visit to Batang Ai soon, would announce acceptance of the party into BN’s fold.

Observers here said if that happened Dundang would be an embattled president.