Malaysiakini : “I'm Jack's complete lack of surprise.” - Narrator, Fight Club
COMMENT | With Umno going full
metal far right, the only person in the largest opposition party who
seems to be talking any sense is former youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
His failed bid for the Umno grand poohbah post indicates that the old
guard and their old ways will continue to hold dominion over the Umno
base. Khairy’s rhetoric of Umno being a big tent party for the Malays is
from the playbook of the GOP, which makes similar claims. But
unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
A long time ago, when I first started writing for Malaysiakini, I made it known that Khairy was my bête noire.
No idea why I said it, but something about this young man rubbed me the
wrong way. I could go over the litany of his misdeeds, but that would
be hypocritical considering I have advocated for the motley bunch that
runs Putrajaya now. I have to take Khairy’s rhetoric at face value. With MCA down for the
count for the time being and MIC – god only knows what they’re doing –
the only opposition we have is a Malay one.
I doubt anyone could make a decent argument as to how Umno and PAS
are going to make an effective opposition for all Malaysians. This
leaves a few lone political operatives to hold the current establishment
accountable. Khairy is one of them. And it’s going to be one hell of job. Not only is he going to face
the online opprobrium of Pakatan Harapan partisans, he’s also going to
have to face the machinations of his own party. The reality is that even
at the height of his influence, Khairy was despised by the far right
elements who are now firmly in control.
A reader asked me, how I would react if Khairy joined Bersatu or any
other Harapan party. My answer is, why not? Have you seen the so-called
best and the brightest of Harapan? At least Khairy talks a good game and
has practical experience when it comes to the business of governing.
Besides, at this moment, there are games afoot between the various
Harapan power groups, which would make it very interesting if someone
like Khairy was in the mix. If he brings his base over to Harapan – and
he does have a base – it would be interesting to see how this impacts
the various Malay power blocs in the coalition.
Sticking with Umno
Khairy has publicly claimed that he is sticking with Umno. But does
Umno need or want him? Well, yeah, they need him, but they definitely
would not be sad to see him go. Right now, there is a middle-road Malay base which supports Umno, but
who are glad to see the back of the former grand Umno poohbah Najib
Abdul Razak. This same group is also despondent that Khairy lost and the
opportunity to reform Umno into an urban-based Malay political outfit
has gone up in smoke.
To be honest, I was a little taken aback by the emails I received and
the number of young Umno-aligned Malays who invited me to their chat
groups, all devastated that Khairy lost. They were articulate in their
views of how the party needs to reform. What really got to me was their
belief that they were the young generation that would reform Umno and
this was the beginning of a new ‘Malay renaissance.’
I think what Khairy gets right is that there is a movement within
Umno which understands that the far right gambit is one of diminishing
returns. As long as Bersatu has DAP and PKR as its wingmen, they control
the middle ground.
Umno, meanwhile, has nobody but PAS. At this moment, Prime Minister
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whether you like it or not, defines the Malay
middle ground, even if he does not have the base. Honestly, the Harapan
grand poohbah is slowly building up Bersatu, and adheres to the mantra
‘If you build it they will come’. This is the Malay future, as Mahathir
and his coterie define it.
So when someone like Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman claims that Khairy is “liberal,” and compounds it by saying
that: “We are going back to our principles according to the party
constitution. If he thinks we have to be more liberal compared to what
we have been doing now, then I beg to differ” is really dumb.
What do you think Khairy is doing but hearkening back to the days
when Umno was an effective means to govern with its centrist ideology –
well, for Malaysia - and its effective (English language) educated
The Malays who support someone like Khairy are talking about the
Malays and how Umno has failed in the agenda of making them modern and
competitive, while the party fat cats send their children to liberal
schools and lead extravagant lifestyles. Meanwhile, the average Umno-supporting Malay has to rely on handouts
to survive in this competitive ever-changing world. This is the
realpolitik when it comes to the Malay dilemma.
Indeed, when we talk about Umno back in the day of English-educated
bureaucrats, this is what these party ‘liberals’ want to go back to.
Does the Umno base want this? As Khairy said, it is difficult, but this
is what leadership is supposed to be about, right? When Mohd Arshad Raji
writes about how Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan understand a thing or two
about leadership, what do you think he is talking about?
There was a time when Umno the ‘liberal’ entity – staffed by
English-educated bureaucrats who took pride in their jobs before you
know who – decided that race and religion was a safer bet to ensure
compliance from the Malay community. Apparently, those were the days when all was good in our land of
plenty. Maybe that was not the case, but it sure as hell was better than
the way Umno turned into a bloated, lecherous ethnoreligious entity
which conned the majority into thinking it was the only game in town.
Khairy’s middle path is, in reality, Umno returning to its roots.
This is what the foolish in Umno do not understand. But Mahathir does,
which is why is he attempting to replicate the formula he had a part in
The problem is that he has to contend with the ethnoreligious
nonsense that he cultivated for years, and thus has to pay heed to the
rumblings from the cretins who insist that they need to shore up a
particular kind of Malay support – the same support which will diminish
if Harapan can handle the vagaries of the economy. That is the future.
If, as Khairy advocates, Umno has a homecoming in its return to its
centrist, educated roots, it may have a chance; but the old guard wants
to fight the future.
The fascist attacks against Fadiah Nadwa Fikri - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Malaysiakini : "It is said that there's a democracy... but clearly it's a lie.” - Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, lawyer
COMMENT | When I first heard that
this young lawyer was to be questioned by the cops over her allegedly
seditious article about the monarchy, I was ambivalent. I had not read
her article but the way how things are in Malaysia, the slightest
“provocation” meant that people were called up for saying the most
innocuous things. Then I read her piece.
Make no mistake, what Fadiah wrote is but one side of the argument. A
side which has been forcibly silenced over the long Umno watch and now
it would seem attempted to be silenced by the nascent power brokers in
Putrajaya. It is a side that many Malaysians subscribe to but who fear
speaking up for a variety of reasons. It is a side which is a game
changer when it comes to how politics is perceived, practised and
evolves in this country. This is the reason why some fear what she
Besides Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, where are all the other
political operatives who before the elections were shouting about how
the Umno state was a failed state because freedom of speech was
assaulted almost daily and the horrible Umnoputras were destroying
democracy? I guess not spooking the Malays does not extend to someone
like Fadiah because "these" types of Malays obviously do not count.
Let us not be precious. The ruling elite over the decades has
curtailed the power of the monarchy. The last attempt was a brazen power
grab by the former Umno regime through the National Security Council
(NSC) gambit. The current Pakatan Harapan grand poobah has done his fair
share of rabble-rousing when it comes to the power and the role of the
monarchy. When it is convenient to defend the institution of the
monarchy as a sacred cow of Malay/Muslim politics, political operatives
jump up and down attempting to outdo one another in burnishing their
ethnic and religious credentials.
All the while, the average rakyat, like what Fadiah describes, are
left to the whims and fancy of political operatives who do not wish to
change the paradigm because to do so would probably level the playing
field and require them to actually engage in the political process to
In my most recent article
about Harapan waffling on abolishing the NSC Act, I alluded to this
idea that curtailing (even further) the powers of the monarchy could be
done legitimately without retaining the NSC - "Recent events and the
shocking behaviour of royalty before and after the elections demonstrate
that perhaps we are better off with formalising certain powers of the
executive which further curtail the powers of the royalty. Those issues
which Mahathir - and yes, people like me - claimed were being taken away
from the royalty are perhaps better left in the hands of the executive
without any need of consultation with the royalty."
What this young lawyer wrote was clearly articulated, well-thought
through and needed to be said. It goes deeper than that though. It goes
to the heart of the kind of feudalism sans monarchy that is this
political system. When a certain group of Malays are exempt from the
harsh glare of the religious police for behaviour which get the average
not politically or socially connected Muslim in trouble, this is one
example of the feudal system which is the reality for the majority
While this is the reality of the majority community, it is also our
reality for obvious reasons. When Fadiah says this for instance – “Any
attempt to break the fortress built around this existing system in order
to democratise the space for people to assert their political existence
is often met with harsh criticism and rebuke. As a result, the power to
shape the future and direction of the country remains in the hands of
the privileged few, thus further alienating the voices of the many, in
particular the marginalised. Genuine democracy which seeks to place
people at its heart therefore remains out of reach.” This helplessness in the face of state power is felt by every Malaysians regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation.
Did I say political operatives do not want to change the paradigm? A
little nuance is needed. What I mean is, they do not want to change the
paradigm unless it suits their purposes. Now sometimes the agenda of
political operatives aligns with the rakyat but most times, especially
in Malaysia, we have been programmed to accept their agenda as something
pragmatic because sacred cows are in reality beasts meant to frighten
the rakyat from speaking truth to power.
Some folks will say, let the political operatives operate behind the
scene and do not rock the boat. This only emboldens elements which are
detrimental to democracy in this country. People hold their
representative accountable and if political operatives believe that they
know better and a compliant rakyat will shout down dissenters, they
will operate only when it suits their purposes and not the rakyat.
Look at the three questions Fadiah posed –
1. Mengapa golongan yang darahnya merah, semerah darah mereka yang
dipaksakan kepatuhan kepada golongan itu, mempunyai hak keistimewaan
tersendiri? 2. Mengapa golongan yang memerah hasil keringat mereka yang bersusah
payah berjuang untuk terus hidup dan mencari kehidupan yang manusiawi
perlu diberikan layanan dan pemujaan persis tuhan? 3. Mengapa golongan yang dikurniakan secara mutlak mengikut budi
bicara sendirinya kuasa besar dan kekayaan yang dirampas daripada mereka
yang diperhambakan, kebal daripada kepertanggunjawaban?
Do you think these three questions are important? Do you feel that
for far too long we have been under the thrall of an ideology which not
only forces us to make pragmatic decisions which has impeded our
identities, competitiveness and our sense of community in a
fast-changing world? Do you think these questions are seditious? Do you
think that our country is better off if we did not ask these questions?
Do you think that this supposed New Malaysia is the right place to ask
Keep in mind the political elites have been asking these questions in
their own way for their own agenda for decades. It is just that these
questions have been verboten for the average schmuck pushed around for
Are my questions seditious? Is this a crime on the same terrain of
terrorising a convenience store in the name of religion? Because that is
what it boils down to. People who do not want to be questioned and
accusing the people who just want a discourse of sedition. Is this the
new Malaysia where people are told not to rock the boat because to do so
would spook the majority?
Has anyone ever done a detailed study on what the majority wants?
Even if the opinion of the majority is divided, this is no reason to
shut down the discourse. This merely means that people have to win over
their detractors with reason. But reason has no place in the pen of
This is why attacks against this young lawyer are fascist. The
attacks are fascist in form and substance. The attacks are anathema to a
kind of Malaysia which is possible, if only more people have the
courage to begin the discourse and the state does not shut down the
discourse because their agendas are in peril.
I have been down on this whole New Malaysia idea. Honestly reading
what Fadiah wrote gives people a sense of optimism. Not that her side is
right (this is what discussions are for) but finally we are able to
have this conversation.
Mahathir’s patently unfair cabinet by P Gunasegaram
Friday, July 13, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | If fairness becomes
secondary to your desire to hold the reins of power and to exercise any
prerogative you may or may not have in your own favour, how much better
are you than your predecessors?
One can argue till the cows come home and one can muster all kinds of
distorted reasoning to support one’s beloved leader and current hero,
but there is only one fair way to allocate cabinet positions - it must
reflect at least roughly the proportion of parliamentary seats the
respective parties won.
Otherwise, it is simply not a reflection of the desire of the people
as shown in the polls and one can draw a clear and unwanted parallel to
the gerrymandering that has been prevalent in our polls for a long time
whereby some constituencies are several times the size of others.
Certainly not something that Pakatan Harapan, or the majority of
When we look at the composition of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s cabinet, it
is patently unfair and ridiculous. It represents a barely disguised
attempt to usurp power in favour of his own Bersatu, which won only 13
of 52 seats it contested in Peninsular Malaysia, by far the worst
showing of any of the component parties at a 25% win rate.
To illustrate how ridiculous the situation is, consider this: Bersatu
has 13 MPs and all but two of them have become either ministers (6),
deputy ministers (4) or menteri besar (Mahathir’s son Mukhriz who is
Kedah menteri besar). Probably all MPs but Mahathir, Muhyiddin Yassin
and Mukhriz are first-time MPs. So, up to eight first-time MPs have
become either ministers or deputy ministers.
What a travesty of justice when long-time parties such as PKR and DAP
who have many multiple-term MPs have been simply left out in the cold.
PKR had many Malay MPs who could have easily filled positions much
better than the raw, untested material that Bersatu had to offer besides
Mahathir and Muhyiddin.
Let’s look at the proportion of parliamentary seats of each party
relative to the proportion of members in the cabinet and deputies. The
numbers for cabinet positions and deputies are taken from this article in Malaysiakini, which also highlights the severe under-representation of PKR and DAP in the cabinet.
The figures speak for themselves. While PKR has 39% of seats in the
coalition, they have only 26% of cabinet positions. In contrast, Bersatu
with 11% of seats has 22% of cabinet positions, double what they are
entitled to. In terms of numbers, if the proportionate principle is
applied, PKR should have 10 to 11 cabinet positions instead of seven,
while Bersatu should have two to three instead of six.
The sequence of events indicates a devious, orchestrated and managed
attempt to shore up Mahathir’s power and give him much more control of
the country and how it is run by using so-called prime ministerial
prerogative to choose his cabinet, and using an organised campaign to
push such views across.
The talk about such prime ministerial prerogative - which comes up
over and over in online comments - is specious and holds no sway in a
completely different context where Mahathir’s party is a minority
partner in the coalition where the big boys are clearly PKR and DAP.
By using so-called public opinion, which sometimes is manipulated by
planted opinions, and the myth that Mahathir alone won the elections for
all Malaysians, he has chosen to ignore the basic rules in any
coalition - consultation and consensus as far as that is possible.
He inveigled himself into the hearts of DAP by offering its supremo
Lim Guan Eng the coveted finance minister’s position, apparently without
prior consultation with PKR which had the highest number of seats in
the coalition with 48. Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was
named deputy prime minister.
After that, Mahathir could do no wrong in the eyes of the DAP and the
DAP sang Mahathir’s praises and his so-called vision and foresight.
When PKR’s Rafizi Ramli questioned why Mahathir was being
non-consultative, he was roundly chastised - and rather rudely - by a
storm of cybertroopers.
At the same time of the announcement of Lim as finance minister,
other announcements of the core team were Muhyiddin as the home
minister, which should have been offered to PKR considering that
Mahathir was only going to be transitional prime minister until Anwar
took over. Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu took on the
Mahathir delayed the announcement of the full cabinet until July 4,
an unprecedented almost two months after the elections. Instead he,
simultaneously with the core ministers group, announced a Jedi-like
council of elders or Council of Eminent Persons as it was formally
known. This was headed by his close friend and controversial former
finance minister Daim Zainuddin who many are uncomfortable with to this
This council seemed to be taking care of important matters instead of
a properly constituted cabinet. Other members were former Bank Negara
governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Hassan Marican, Hong
Kong-based Malaysian tycoon 94-year-old Robert Kuok, and economics
professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
Meantime, Mahathir’s tone became more vague about when he will step
down as prime minister. Before he joined Harapan and Anwar’s campaign to
oust Najib Razak, he said that he was not interested in becoming prime
minister - he only wanted to help remove Najib. That changed to he does
not mind that if the people wanted it but it will only be for a
transition period of perhaps two years.
And then he said that he may have to stay on longer if it was needed
and left open the date when Anwar would replace him. That has raised
much concern within PKR, although many did not voice it the way Rafizi
did, there is definite uneasiness within PKR about Mahathir’s
But this did not seem to be the case with DAP, which struck a cosy
relationship with Mahathir post Lim becoming finance minister, with both
echoing each other about how bad the debt situation in the country was
but providing little substance to their argument, as this article explains.
In fact, insiders say DAP played a big role in convincing Harapan to
accept Mahathir as interim prime minister in favour of the straight and
honest Wan Azizah who was considered not to be savvy enough when it
comes to politics.
In fact, when the king asked Wan Azizah to form the new cabinet as
the leader of the party with the highest seats (remember, they all,
except for Warisan, contested under the PKR symbol), she politely turned
him down and said the coalition has chosen Mahathir as the prime
minister. Wan Azizah then went on to ask the king to pardon her husband,
which he readily agreed to.
But Mahathir is not one to necessarily honour the spirit of
agreements, which in the case of his position in Harapan meant that he
needs to consult Harapan leaders even if he is prime minister. This is,
after all, the new Malaysia. The prime minister’s party can no longer
rule by itself. He needs the support of the others. His prerogative can
be removed by his coalition partners by removing him as coalition
leader. That is the way it should be. No more dictatorship through the
exercise of prerogative.
DAP’s cosy relationship ended when Mahathir did not make adjustments in his final cabinet list. Rumblings of discontent
over the final cabinet list spread through the DAP and Mahathir was
criticised for not selecting members from the list submitted by the
Harapan’s mistake was not to agree on cabinet composition criteria
before agreeing to Mahathir as prime minister and now the PM was
exercising his prerogative. But it is a prerogative that must be
exercised judiciously, repeat, judiciously.
In fact, one name which reports say he chose was PKR’s Azmin Ali (below)
for the powerful economy ministry although this was not proposed by PKR
because Azmin was already sworn in as Selangor menteri besar. That may
have been done to further dilute Anwar’s influence by raising the
alternative scenario of Azmin becoming prime minister in the future.
Prerogative does not mean a licence to appoint whoever and appoint
political novices who have no proven expertise in any area into the
cabinet. Two examples will suffice - Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman and Rina
There is no record I could find of Syed Saddiq ever having held a
job. This 26-year old goes from a student straight into the cabinet as
youth and sports minister when they are so many other more capable
leaders within Harapan. Rina is rural and regionaldevelopment minister
and was a former Umno politician. On the other hand, her deputy is
prominent PKR lawyer and social activist R Sivarasa, one of those who
has tirelessly been campaigning for decades against BN. How unfair is
Surely, this kind of blatant unfairness is not what Harapan wants.
Mahathir’s excesses - and he does not have the power in terms of
parliamentary seats to do this - can only be checked if the two main
long-standing partners in Harapan stand together as one and do not let
themselves be divided by anyone, and most of all the ever-wily Mahathir.
The lesson PKR and DAP should learn is to stick together and be
united and remember why they wanted to overthrow BN in the first place.
Otherwise, Mahathir is going to prove to be a menace in future insistent
on doing it his way without due consultation. Note: This article is the first in a series about Malaysia post-GE14.
The next article deals with the question: Did Mahathir win the
elections for Malaysians?
P GUNASEGARAM says we must never again surrender our right to question and criticise - fairly. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is Zakir Naik still in our country? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Malaysiakini : “You perceive the force of a word. He who wants to persuade should
put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The
power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense... Give
me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world.”- Joseph Conrad, author
COMMENT | It is really a funny question, right? When I say “our” and there are people who were born here, like Letchumie Sinnan
who has been given the run around by the bureaucracy for 20 years and
been stuck in permanent resident limbo, while a demagogue, alleged money
launderer and extremist sympathiser like Zakir Naik get feted by the
political and social elite.
Meanwhile, there are thousands of Indians and Chinese who have to eke
out a living and contribute to the economy but are not considered
citizens of this country. Over the years, I have met and attempted to
help - in my own small ineffectual way - dozens of Malaysians to get
their MyKad. It is really galling to witness a religious hatemonger like
Zakir Naik being defended by the political elite in this country of the
Islamic persuasion, while so many - a legion, I would say - have no one
to speak up for them.
The fact there are Indians and Chinese in this country who are
considered, for whatever reasons, permanent residents (if they are
lucky) and the state wilfully refuses to recognise them as citizens,
while Zakir Naik gets to spread his horse manure in comfort, is an
insult for anyone who has served this country, either in the state
security apparatus, in the teaching profession or whatever else capacity
that has made this country what it is today.
Let me say this. I bet my last ringgit that all these Malaysians who
have been denied their citizenship, who have been given the run around
by the bureaucracy and who toil in menial jobs unable to get a foothold,
I bet that they have contributed more to this country than the radicals
like Zakir Naik. All those people I have attempted to help over the
years display a profound love and loyalty to this county, even though
they have been marginalised.
Someone like me often wonders, how could you love this country when
it doesn’t even recognise you? How can you be loyal to this country when
it has willfully abandoned you? We live in a great country is their
common refrain. Yeah, a great country, where the likes of Zakir Naik get
to say what he likes and (now) to be deported only if he misbehaves.
Tell me, what does “not creating problems” mean? What would it take for Zakir Naik to be kicked out of this country? What exactly is the threshold here? We all know that Zakir Naik uses words to instigate, demean and mock
other cultures and religions. We know that his words are meaningful to
large sections of the Malay polity, even though they may not understand
We know that he remains unrepentant since he has probably met with
every Malay power broker of note in this country. So, what exactly does
misbehaving mean? His kind of Islam is supposedly the antithesis of the
kind of Islam Harapan wants to propagate. Or is it?
Kudos to P Ramasamy, the Penang deputy chief minister II, for giving it his all
when it comes to the extradition of Zakir Naik. What I want to know is
why aren’t the rest of the Harapan gang coming out with a unified
comment on this issue. Are the major power players in Harapan reserving
comment? Are they too busy, thinking up ways of how not to spook the
Freedom of speech?
Every time I write about Zakir Naik, I get many emails from people –
Malays – berating me for insulting this man. I sincerely do not get it.
When I provide evidence – Zakir Naik’s own words – of the racist,
bigoted and inflammatory speeches he has made, it is ignored. When I
explain why non-Muslims would be offended by what he says about our
religions, it is ignored or dismissed, as not understanding his intent.
When I attempt to provide an analysis of why, even if you were not
religious, Zakir Naik’s words amount to incitement against secular
democracies, I am told that he is an expert and thus qualified to speak
about everything under the sun. Why do we need this man in our country?
What possible service has he done for Malaysians that warrant the
political elite to think of him as someone who is an asset to this
And here's the thing, if there was freedom of speech like the kind
Zakir Naik has for everyone, nobody would have an issue with him. But we
have blatant double standards that border on malicious. It is the smirk
which tells us that he can say things without consequences but the
‘kafirs’ have to take it.
The last time I wondered if Zakir Naik was a security threat, I got hate mail up the wazoo. Here’s what I wrote
- “However, Zakir is a special case. In a time when the Islamist agenda
in this country is taking new forms and the agenda is promulgated by
new alliances, a preacher like Zakir who specialises in deepening
already established cultural and religious rifts is a threat to national
I get it. I see all these huge rallies, and the Malay/Muslim hegemons
don’t want to be the Muslims who deported Zakir Naik to India. The
country, which even our local preacher took a dig
at in a poem which managed to insult the Hindu community, but he
insisted was a personal letter to the prime minister of India. Nobody
wants to be the pious Malay/Muslim political leader who said that Zakir
Naik does not belong in this country. Ramasamy (photo above) hammers the point home when he
reminds the Malaysian government that they deported Chinese Uighurs and
Sri Lankan Tamils back to their countries of origin.
What is the hold up
with Zakir Naik? Why is he a special case? You know what I think. I think the reason why Zakir Naik is not
deported – secret deal or not – is that the Malaysian government does
not consider what he is alleged to have done in India a crime. They
probably justify those charges as religious persecution against a
beloved Muslim preacher. They probably think that anyone who disagrees
with what Zakir Naik says is Islamophobic.
Why is it, for some people, the beauty of their religion is only found in the vilification of other religions?
The problem with Mujahid’s ‘moderation’ - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Malaysiakini : “It needs a new face with new ideas, but everything stays in
order to improve. So, the question of doing away with Jakim has not
arisen at all.” – Mujahid Yusof Rawa
COMMENT | A recent Nancy Graham Holm article in Huffington Post, which examines the fallout from a BBC4
radio programme about ‘progressive Islam’, is worth reading because it
highlights issues that are germane to the kind of Islamic politics this
new Pakatan Harapan regime is attempting to propagate.
The man now in the Islamic hot seat is the always-charming Mujahid Yusof Rawa. In a Malay Mailinterview,
he assured people that the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim)
and its bloated budget were "vital" to the smooth running of the
government. He also claimed that under the previous administration, a
"huge" amount of the budget went into the pockets of various state-level
religious operatives for various reasons, which included Islamic
As for the think-tank under his purview, the Malaysian Islamic
Strategic Research Institute (Iksim), he said that he would consult the
Council of Rulers when he has to decide on its fate. Siti Kasim is right when she mocks
Mujahid for enabling Jakim and its huge budget, and his dodge of
getting the royalty involved when it comes to Iksim – a private
think-tank that has nothing to do with royalty. What new ideas can Mujahid bring to Jakim? If everything has to stay
in order to improve, then what is the point of new ideas anyway?
Big on rhetoric
Mujahid talks in platitudes, never in detail. His answers lack
nuance, but are big on the feel-good rhetoric some supporters lap up.
How's this for you: new ideas are welcome, and maybe what Mujahid should
be doing is rejecting old ideas which have done nothing but divide this
country and the Malay-Muslim majority.
In a series of interviews with Malaysiakini, he proclaimed many ideas that rational Malaysians want from the Islamic discourse and ministries in this country. Many were no doubt impressed with the political and religious
sentiments expressed by the head honcho of religious affairs in the
Prime Minister’s Department. However, a cursory examination of his
statements reveals that Mujahid’s rhetoric does not stand up to
Let us take this statement
for instance. “When it comes to morality, that is their personal space.
But don’t publicly encourage it in the open because it then becomes an
offence under the law.”
This seems ‘reasonable’ on first reading, right? But then why do
religious authorities intrude in the personal spaces of Muslims and
non-Muslims at all? Why do religious authorities raid homes and private
establishments looking for transgressions? Is Mujahid claiming that
under this new administration, these practices would stop? Is he
claiming that Muslims would be allowed to live in peace however they
choose, as long as it is in private?
By the way, some of the things some religions consider an “offence
under the law” are upheld as human rights in functional democracies all
over the world. Some of the things Islam and other religions consider ‘haram’ or ‘sinful’ are accepted basic human rights in the rest of the democratic world.
Mujahid claims that Harapan does not want to politicise religion, but
this of course is complete horse manure. If you really did not want to
politicise religion, then you would not have to look to any kind of
Islamic jurisprudence or alternative views to justify policy decisions
you make. In his own words, he claims that in order to contemporise
Islam, he needs to look at other Islamic sources. The claim that Islam
is not partisan is ludicrous.
And that is the problem right there. PAS, for instance, in wanting
amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act
355, is in keeping with their ideological and religious stance.
The question, is, why hasn’t Harapan come out and declared that they
are against Act 355? If this wasn't an issue about politics – and as
Mujahid himself contends that parties that make use of racial and
religious issues are no longer relevant – then this really should not be an issue or problem for Harapan.
Change takes time?
But reality without the Kool-Aid is different. It is a reality that
demands so-called moderate Muslims – especially political operatives –
to indulge in the moderate pablum when they are actually choosing to
commit to the same kind of Islamic agendas to remain in power. Never
once do they think that the paradigm needs to be changed. Why is that?
Some Harapan political operatives and supporters knew very well what
kind of Islamic agendas were in Harapan, but chose to spread the dogma
of moderation and mock the naysayers.
Therein lies the rub. Mujahid wants an Islam that is convivial and
not confrontational. However, when a religion – any religion – is made
the religion of the state, it is, by very definition, potentially
confrontational. Non-Muslims have to understand then when it comes to
Islam in this country, secular rules of engagement do not apply.
Mujahid, for instance, does not seek counsel or guidance from a wide
range of secular knowledge that has proven beneficial to the advancement
of societies all over the world. Instead what he seeks is how to shape
his moderate views within the Islamic canon. Take the issue of unilateral conversions for instance. Sure, there
was that bill that was pulled by Umno, but there really is no need for
deeper study or alternative views on this issue in Islamic
jurisprudence. Unilateral conversion is religious kidnapping.
It is an
obscene attempt to impose a religion sanctioned by the state on a child
who has no choice. The solution is simple. Ban it. No parent can
unilaterally convert a child. Would someone like Mujahid ever say, “no parent can ever unilaterally
convert a child”? He may find it in some obscure Islamic jurisprudence,
or who knows, maybe even consult the work of the late Kassim Ahmad –
but non-Muslims would still be at the mercy of the possibility of him
finding something ‘fair’ in the Islamic canon or not finding anything at
Former Umno minister Zainuddin Maidin even challenged Mujahid to close down tahfiz schools. Why not? What kind of syllabus do these schools have? Where do their teaching aids come from?
The House of Saud has admitted
that it ‘exported’ a virulent brand of Islam, and if the United
Kingdom's experience is anything to go by, then we now know that the
syllabus inspired by or from the kingdom does nothing but preach hatred
towards non-Muslims and Muslims who do not subscribe to their version of
religion, one which unfortunately has a firm grip in Malaysia.
Would Mujahid do something as revolutionary as reforming the Islamic
schools here in Malaysia? As usual, people say that change takes time.
Have we not heard this all before? Have we not heard the religious
rhetoric of moderate political operatives or religious scholars who say
change takes time? The reality is that they are merely stalling for more
time. This country and the Malay majority were not always like this.
Even something like consuming alcohol in the Muslim community has
changed. Except of course if you are rich. Does anyone remember how it
was back in the old days, before religious operatives monopolised the
way Muslims thought and behaved?
My question is simple. How can people think that Mujahid is the
reformer he claims to be when he thinks that Jakim only needs a new
face, and his new ideas came from the same source?
They have become rent seekers. Others have to work, you are like parasites and it's a form of protection racketeering (jizya). Stop spinning and get your head out off your butt, apparently buried too deep. - Extracted from Malaysiakini
Malaysiakini : “These policies have been abused and misused by certain strata of
the administration to benefit just a very few selected Umnoputras up
the food chain, while many Malays have been ignored.” - Rais Hussin, Bersatu supreme council leader
COMMENT | I have no idea why Bersatu leader Rais Hussin would take issue with the comments of Amercian professor Meredith Weiss in the lefty magazine Jacobian since it is a rather benign piece on the Pakatan Harapan victory on May 9.
And, of course, Rais ends the way how some Malaysians end their
critique of any argument, resorting to the ad hominem of the “armchair
critic” and "… the safe confines of her ivory towers in the US” as if
Malaysia is some sort of hotspot instead of a stable democracy that
rejected a kleptocrat.
When Western academics and whistleblowers dissed former prime
minister Najib Abdul Razak, they were embraced - but any hint of a
criticism or insight on the current Harapan new deal is scorned.
Rais objects to the “why” this rejection of Umno came about and the
obstacles (ideology in this case) for truly reforming the system which
Weiss claims are the “ketuanan” ideology (bumiputeraism) and personality
politics that dominate the Harapan regime. Anyone reading the article will find nothing offensive and certainly not anything resembling the literary ramblings of the New Yorker.
More importantly, what Weiss claims is something the outlier
political pundits have been saying since the Harapan win, which
predictably has been drowned out by the schizophrenic Harapan political
operatives and the faithful. It must be swell (so far) for this new administration that people are
not shouting “apartheid” whenever a Harapan political operative talks
about “Malay” rights in some form or another.
Rais himself acknowledged that the previous government’s Malay
rights-based initiatives would not be ditched but reformed so they help
the average Malay and not the Umnoputra. The current Bersatu grand
poobah latest comments on Khazanah echo the samesentiment. Has the average Malay been damned by the system set up to “lift them
up”? The answer is, maybe it is the system that is the problem.
The same fable that the “Malays” need that little something extra to
compete is what drives the various Malay hegemons squabbling for power
amongst themselves. Malay political power structures use the same
methods to ensure compliance in the Malay community but with varying
degrees of compromises to their non-Malay allies.
Meanwhile, nobody from the establishment then and now pays attention
to academic studies which point to a different narrative of bumiputera
equity and the other sacred cows of Malay/Muslim political power
structures. Try asking academic Dr Lim Teck Ghee about the reception his
study received from the previous Umno administration. What do you think
the current Harapan administration thinks of it?
The bumiputera agenda is always defined by its proponents as a means
to elevate the Malay community. There is nothing inherently racist about
this system, they argue, but it has always been "abused" by various
Malay power structures. This is the foundation of the bumiputera system.
In essence, a noble endeavour corrupted by political operatives.
Never that, a priori, this system has no place in any functional
democracy. There’s always this element of pragmatism non-Malays have to have
when we talk about this issue and acknowledging that the cost of sharing
power with Malay power structures (especially those in conflict) means
that we share power not as equals but as serfs to an ideology that has
duped this country royally for years.
I acknowledged this spirit of “voluntarism” in another piece:
“Is there some clarity in thinking this way? Is there merit in
believing this pragmatism trumps the kleptocracy of the state?
Pragmatism in knowing, but not saying, that it is in nobody's interest
to change the system but instead replacing the power-brokers in the
hopes of maintaining some kind of social and political equilibrium?”
Been there, done that
The new Malaysia discourse by non-Malays is defined by those
participating actively seeking to impose dogma, causal cynicism and, of
course, those optimistic that there is indeed a place for all of us
under the Malaysian sun. All of which are used by the various Malay
power structures (and their enablers) to sustain the Malay agenda. It’s
the social contract in one form or another.
Some folks have asked me why I have not weighed in on the DAP
kerfuffle about the ministerial posts and honestly, while I think the
specific candidates are not the best and brightest that DAP has to
offer, I think these types of power struggles and displays are part and
parcel of the political process.
However, what irks me is that yet again, this is not so much an issue
of craven political opportunism but rather that the racial undertones
are obvious. And frankly, when people tell me to trust the current
leadership when it comes to their choices of political appointees in the
various ministries, I would say, “Thank you but been there, done that.” Rais puts forward the idea that change takes time but I would argue
it is hampered by an ideology that stalls any kind of racial and social
reform. The Fitch Group recently cautioned that the lopsided composition
of power that favours Malay political structures in the new Harapan
government is a time bomb that lies nestled in the Harapan regime. I
would argue that it is, but one of many.
“While the number of cabinet positions that was allocated to each
party was in rough accordance to their seat count, the two largest
parties, centrist PKR and secular DAP are under-represented
whereas the Malay-dominated parties Bersatu and Amanah enjoy
over-representation. This has likely resulted in some dissatisfaction
among PKR and DAP and in our view, will potentially emerge as a
flashpoint in inter-party relations within the Harapan coalition.”
Sooner or later, non-Malays are going to demand more from their
political leaders believing that this is a new Malaysia and this is
where things will get messy. While there are many enablers in the
non-Malay power structures, there are also many who want to change this
country and believe the old ways of doing things are not what they
signed up for. This, I believe, will be the major flashpoint in
non-Malay power structures.
Removing political appointees does not demonstrate a commitment to
political reform. Who replaces them and how subservient or not they are
to their political masters is what demonstrates a commitment to reform. I
can’t speak for anyone else, but Malaysians are used to window
If politicians say the right things, some people are impressed. But
it is rarely followed by action. These issues get lost in the news cycle
and before long, another BN has replaced the old one. The excesses of the previous government are easy to slash. What is
harder is to slash the system that enabled such excess. “Ketuanan
Melayu”, “bumiputeraism” or whatever else Malay power structures and
their non-Malay enablers choose to term their systemic racism, it is
what had led this country to its kleptocratic status.
Weiss rightly pointed out that rancid ideology and personality
politics will hamper whatever genuine reforms the Harapan government is
capable of carrying out. And this is the key. We are still in the early
stages. Harapan is capable of carrying out such reforms if it so
Rais is only half-right when he argued that the Malays do not need
Umno. What he forgets to mention is that the Malays need something like
Umno, which means Bersatu. Or at least that is conventional Malay
politics. Non-Malay political structures need that too. As long as this
is the case, there is no new Malaysia.
What does RM1.1b worth of BTN hate get you? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Tuesday, July 03, 2018
Malaysiakini : “When we don't know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” - Chuck Palahniuk, ‘Invisible Monsters’
COMMENT | Okay, I will admit to
being pretty bummed out that the Department of Islamic Development
(Jakim) was not axed. I mean think of all the money we would save and
there would be less of a need for kids to break open their piggy banks. But sure, I get it. It would look bad for the new administration if a
federal religious authority was axed. As it is, the Malay far-right
crowd are claiming that this new administration would destroy ‘bangsa’
(race) and ‘agama’ (religion) and culling this particular body would
reinforce this perception.
But seriously, the Biro Tatanegara (BTN), spared? When the Selangor
and Penang state governments banned their students and civil servants
from attending these courses, it seemed as if political operatives
finally got it. Even Kelantan jumped
on the bandwagon, stating that they would not send their people for
these brainwashing initiatives unless the BTN “curriculum was not
changed in accordance with Islam.” So maybe PAS only got half of it.
Where did I get that RM1.1 billion figure? Well, Wong Chun Wai wrote a pretty good piece for The Star – Pretty hate machine
– which neatly defined the problem with the BTN courses. And he should
know, right? I’m kidding, Wong, it’s the new Malaysia so everyone has
got a say. But seriously folks, people have heard stories about the BTN
courses. There were testimonials of the kind of horse manure that goes
Has anyone really visited their official website?
I do, pretty often. The images there serve a purpose. Loads of images
of Malay civil servants and the activities that BTN carries out. This
provides a narrative that the dominant Malay majority are the ones who
actually serve the state, serve the country and in essence, serve the
political party - Umno - that supposedly serves the Malay community.
This is a powerful narrative captured in images and it is amplified
when minions of Umno used to claim that it is the non-Malays who are not
patriotic, it is the non-Malays’ religions which threatens Islam.
Some would argue that there are a few bad apples in the organisation,
so get rid of them. Well in Wong’s article, he quotes former minister
in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nazri Abdul Aziz, who in 2009 pushed
back on the horse manure in Parliament that the work of a few bad
apples sullied the programme - “Don’t think that people outside do not
know about the syllabus based on patriotism for Malays. They know what
the syllabus is all about, so who are we to say that it did not happen?
You want to lie? You make people laugh.
“I mean, there are people who attended the courses who came out very
angry. There were many instances of the use of words like Ketuanan
Melayu. It is ridiculous. Do they want to say that Malaysia belongs only
to the Malays and the government is only a Malay government? Should
only the Malays be given the spirit of patriotism? Other races are not
patriotic about their country?”
Okay, you may say, fine, reform BTN. Sounds simple, right? Has anyone
stopped to think, why this organisation is needed? Forget about what it
is costing taxpayers but why would there ever need to be a government
agency instilling “patriotism” in the civil service and students? Why
would the state need to do this except to ensure that people are
brainwashed into voting for them?
No more propaganda, please
Is the new BTN going to be about the Bangsa Malaysia Kool-Aid? Is the
new BTN going to be about how there are no race and class divisions in
this country and how everyone has to “save Malaysia”?
Think about that. Think about how this current government is
desperately attempting to assure the “Malays” that they would be taken
care of and that they have nothing to fear from non-Malay political
structures. This kind of thinking is because of the BTN and other
propaganda arms like it.
Remember that MCA and MIC and all those other BN, non-Malay power
structures turned a blind eye to the brainwashing and hate speech coming
from BTN and just assumed that all this was part of the social contract
and the means to ensure compliance in the Malay community. Do
non-Malays want they, ‘new Malaysia’ non-Malays representatives, to
follow the same kind of thinking?
So, what does RM1.1 billion – over the years – get you? For the
Malays, it is - “The Chinese are rich”, “don’t spook the Malays”,
“liberalism is a threat to Islam”, and the rest of the propaganda that
defined Umno dogma. What did it get the non-Malays? Every time as a
non-Malay, you have to worry about not rocking the Malay vote - the
tendrils of the courses of BTN touched you even though you may not have
attended any of its “courses”.
Every time you hurl some invective against the system anonymously
online, using racial insults or religious bigotry, it is because of the
boot of Umno dogma you may feel - depending on your economic status - in
the real world. Every time, you have to think not as a community but
rather consider how this plays out in the majority Malay polity, you
have been touched by the BTN courses.
You fear or hate Islam? You cheer when you read articles telling like
it is to the Malay community by other Malays? All this is part of the
propaganda, the culture that is really part of what it means to be a
non-Malay Malaysian and this is the function of the BTN. BTN not only
taught Malays how to hate and who to direct it against, it also taught
the non-Malays how to react.
For years, we voted in successive BN governments and if DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang’s numbers
on the BTN funding is to be believed, the figures have increased. This
would mean that we were literally endorsing the hate coming from this
organisation. Do you really trust this new administration to reform this
institution? Do you really want your tax ringgit spent on an
organisation whose function is to instil a sense of patriotism in the
civil service or students or whoever they target?
COMMENT | Wong Chin Huat’s piece
on why Malaysian’s cannot afford Umno’s abrupt meltdown was
nerve-racking because it would be dismissed or worse ignored during this
moment of great political euphoria.
With Umno’s accounts being frozen and DAP’s Lim Lip Eng asking
if MCA and MIC’s accounts should be frozen too, it brings to mind what
Heinrich Heine observed: “We should forgive our enemies, but not before
they are hanged.”
The two big takeaways from Wong’s piece is that the destruction of
Umno would cause an infusion of Umno blood into Harapan or would
radicalise a Malay base which voted for Umno and PAS. Wong is correct on
both scenarios, and as I have argued in numerous pieces – much to the
consternation of my editors – the existential threat facing this country
is Islamic in nature.
How long Harapan can maintain the middle ground when it comes to this
issue remains to be seen. There will eventually come a time when either
Umno or PAS or both demand that Harapan demonstrate its Islamic
commitment, and it remains to be seen if Harapan can withstand such
assaults, or if the supposedly all-powerful non-Malay component members
stand up to this kind of religious intimidation.
Crippling the opposition may seem like a good strategy for the
short-term, but I do not think it is incumbent on the government to
offers incentives for Umno or the opposition to remain a viable
alternative. What the opposition has to do is come up with narratives of
their own, and while some think Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is
senile for talking the way he does, he’s right when it comes to the
realpolitik of power.
While Umno frogs crossing over to Harapan means a temporary infusion
for the various Malay power structures, the reality is that the
demographic who voted for these frogs may not cross over themselves.
Indeed, in the short-term this may seem like a win, but the only thing
it does is breed resentment which almost always leads to radicalisation.
Saying “it’s the economy stupid” is axiomatic. As long as Harapan
maintains a grip on its fiscal responsibilities and the economy is
viable things should go smoothly. All these ethnocentric rumblings will
be on the backburner. Indeed, regardless of any provocations thrown up
by Umno – in whatever form it is in – or PAS, nobody would be in the
mood to rock the boat.
However, economic and social reforms should go hand in hand with
reforms on religious institutions and whatever else that maintains an
ethnocentric grip on the majority. Umno may just be a vehicle, but the reality is that the ketuanan system is more than just a political party. The system confronts us when the current Harapan grand poohbah talks about how the Chinese are rich, or when Anwar Ibrahim warns us not to “spook the Malays.” The system also includes those non-Malays who enable such narratives because this is the new Malaysia.
More and more, it seems that the only opposition we will have is an
Islamic one. Whoever controls Umno – the newly minted president may be
removed from the board – will realise that PAS is the only viable
candidate when it comes to regaining power. In fact, an Umno bereft of
most of its 1MDB-tainted funds is a kind of tabula rasa for a reengineered radical Malay right.
With Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the helm and the Abdul Hadi Awang faction
in control of PAS, the opportunities for mischief are great. Attempting
to cripple this Islamic alliance by the Harapan regime will results in
more blowback than profit. The PAS people I have spoken to are biding their time until Hadi and
his coteries get their just desserts. Make no mistake, they are not some
progressive element within PAS, but rather the more virulent kind of
Islamists whose ideology – if one can call it that – is intoxicating for
a variety of reasons, but chiefly because state stupidly encouraged
such nonsense for decades.
Controlling the narrative
Here is where I disagree with Chin. While I do not know if Malaysians
have really ever wanted a colour-blind system, I would argue that Umno
did impose its brand of ethnic nationalism on the Malay polity – the
most successful purveyor of which is, of course, the current Harapan
grand poohbah. The problem now is that PAS is free to control the
Islamic narrative unless the Harapan state imposes its own.
For someone like me, a non-Malay, the only acceptable narrative is a
pluralistic one. A marketplace of ideas that should keep us safe from
the machinations of the deep Islamic state, Umno and PAS and yes, maybe
even Harapan. The problem with this is that it probably won’t work
because there would be very little political will for something which
gives more freedom to Malay-Muslims because they will not be easy to
control. People should be concerned. When PKR, DAP and PAS joined forces, it
opened up whole other avenues for the Islamist party. Look how that
turned out. Can you imagine an Umno and PAS combination?
As it is, if the Merdeka Center poll
is taken at face value – and why should it not – there is a base in
Umno which views cooperation with PAS as something beneficial. And
here's the kicker: they were always there, except that the political
elites of Umno kept these burners low.
The outcome of this Umno election is tricky. The new/old power
structures could subscribe to their moderate Malay base and make
strategic deals with PAS when it comes to the rural heartlands. This is
because most urbanites only think these people are ignorant and backward
and don’t give a crap about them, except when it comes to the old
maverick convincing them that the alternative coalition will look after
Harapan has to get its act together. It has to undertake major
reforms in the way how they deal with the rural heartland. They have to
reform institutions which Umno used to spread its poisoned narratives,
but more importantly they have to stop with this nonsense that this is a
new Malaysia, all the while sending contradictory messages to its
More important still, the political operatives from Harapan should
stop making inane comments about Umno and PAS. If there are allegations
to be investigated then let the so-called independent bodies do the
work, while Harapan political operatives get down to the hard work of
saving the country instead of taking pot shots at the old regime. Of course, it would be worse if Umno dissolves into Bersatu. Then
this would just leave PAS and a Malay base which now understands that
Umno could never be trusted and that PAS was right all along.
Furthermore, who knows if the political careers of these frogs is
sustainable. Of course, some people think that the Umno base are all
waiting for dedak, and they will doubtless be sorely surprised
when a resurgent Malay right rears its head.
Racial and religious
tensions in this country will be on the rise, and will only get worse if
and when Mahathir steps down.
Does Mat Sabu want M’sia to remain a rogue Asean nation? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, June 30, 2018
Malaysiakini : "Najib’s rights are far more numerous and superior in comparison with the rights and powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.” – Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the National Security Council law
COMMENT | I just don’t get it. The current Pakatan Harapan grand
poobah says because they (Harapan) thought they could not win the
elections, they made strong promises. Bersatu supreme council member
Rais Hussin claims that the promises were not plucked out of thin air
but instead the election manifesto was the efforts of a wide range of
political operatives and various stakeholders. Now the disputed debt in
this country is the Harapan excuse as to why their 100-day promises
cannot be met.
Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegeram and Rais Husin and
anyone actually reading the Harapan 100-day manifesto would understand
there is a whole load of promises that could be kept
in the first 100 days which would not incur any expenses. I once wrote
that if Harapan manages to do quarter of what they said they would do,
they would be a better government than BN.
Now it is all about rebranding or reshuffling. BN government agencies
and programmes that were supposed to bring ruination to this country
have been rebranded Harapan-style, with the expectation that nobody
cares because of the euphoria - as Rais calls it, I say Kool-Aid - is
strong and folks who think otherwise are kicked to the curb.
I get it. I really do. When people are baying for the blood of people
from the establishment and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that
certain people are needed to remain in place, even if they did
something wrong, that is the reality of politics. You do not destroy the
bureaucracy by burning it to the ground. That is stupid. However, this
should not be used as an excuse to shy away from promises made which
does not incur expenses and that gives democracy back to the people.
Now Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (popularly known as Mat Sabu) says
that the National Security Council (NSC) Act is supposed to be
“reshuffled”. It’s all about how this Act is actually a “good vehicle” for government minions to serve the state. All that is needed is a few legal provisions to be "reshuffled".
What the hell have they been giving him to smoke in the Defence
Ministry? This is especially when people like his boss, Prime Minister
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and just about all the
big guns in Harapan had previously argued that the Act would be used on
the opposition, usurped the power of the Agong and as Kit Siang claimed,
with this law, Malaysia would replace Myanmar as a rogue state.
This is what he said - “When the Najib government regards democracy
and human rights activists as bigger threats than ISIS terrorists as
envisaged by the monstrous NSC bill, Malaysia is replacing Myanmar as
the rogue nation in Asean.”
Okay, I am not an objective person when it comes to the NSC Act. My public statements
on this issue were brazen calls for street demonstrations and my
frustrations as to why this never happened are a matter of public
record. When Mahathir first started attacking this law as diminishing
the powers of the Agong, he met with pushback from Universiti Malaya
professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is now in the Council of Eminent
Persons, or whatever it is called.
– “In sum, the grounds of challenge against the NSC Act mentioned by
Tun Mahathir may not be sustainable in law.” But he also wrote – “The
NSC Act is an ordinary law passed by a simple majority under
Parliament’s ordinary law-making powers. It is not a law under Article
149 (to combat subversion). As such, several issues of fundamental
rights violation are relevant.”
Of course, as former Federal Court judge Sri Ram Gopal and others point out, this law did bypass the consent of the rulers.
Why keep the law?
So, two points. The first point of this law, as many Harapan
advocates claim, diminishes the power of the Agong and the second, that
it violates basic human rights and legitimises the authoritarian power
of the state in the hands of one person. So, you may say, you know what, maybe the diminishing of the powers of the royalty is a good thing, right? I am down with that.
Recent events and the shocking behaviour of royalty before and after
the elections demonstrate that perhaps we are better off with
formalising certain powers of the executive which further curtail the
powers of the royalty. Those issues which Mahathir - and yes, people
like me - claimed were being taken away from the royalty are perhaps
better left in the hands of the executive without any need of
consultation with the royalty. And if this is the case then, why retain this law? Just pass laws
which further restricts the powers of the royalty and for further more
definite issues, wait till you can amend the constitution with the
necessary two-thirds majority. Indeed, reshuffling what aspects of the
law? The gross human rights violations?
Which brings us to point two. We have a manure load of draconian laws
in this country which Harapan claimed that they would end. For heaven’s
sake, there was even waffling on the Anti-Fake News law a few weeks ago
and Harapan decided that it was not worth the public anger to retain
such laws. So, this idea of tweaking a law which Harapan had claimed was
destroying the role of the Agong and putting us into Trump s**thole
terrain is absurd.
Why even reshuffle the bad parts of this law? What does the Council
of Eminent Persons, which Shad Faruqi is part of, think of this new
development? Does Harapan want its grand poobah to have powers more
superior than the Agong? Maybe it should be this way. After all, a
former Umno prime minister, and now Harapan big cheese, has been doing
that for years, right?
We have enough “security laws” to deal with the type of warfare –
including psychological – against the kind of extremism – Islamic – that
poses a danger to this country. Not to mention, willing partners and
assets which have been sidelined for far too long, because the former
regime was mired in corruption scandals.
I'm glad there are Harapan leaders willing to go on record
stating clearly that this law has to be removed. For the life of me, I
cannot fathom why Mat Sabu would even consider such a move. Maybe some
folk in Harapan really do not understand why this piece of “monstrous”
legislation needs to be removed or maybe, just maybe, they think it is a
good thing, now that there is really no opposition in this country.
What are the limits in ‘New Malaysia’? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Please lah. Don’t be stupid!” – Art Harun, top blogger
COMMENT | The quote that begins
this piece was a rejoinder by top blogger Art Harun to Finance Minister
Lim Guan Eng in this whole “Mandarin” statement imbroglio. Art puts it well - “But please do your job as a minister as you
should be (doing). After all, you were the one who so proudly proclaimed
‘I am not Chinese, I am Malaysian’. You are showing the wrong signal.
The wrong attitude.” - a sentiment which was echoed by the sometimes
ornery but always friendly email group of Malaysiakini subscribers I often find myself part of.
To be honest, I find all of this rather dumb. The problem with the
Bangsa Malaysia ‘Kool Aid’ is the negation of race and the hypocrisy of
action(s) that precede or proceed it. It is always better to acknowledge
your ethnicity and the reality of racial and religious politics in this
country rather than put forward a hypocritical narrative that the
non-Malays have to subscribe to in order to share power with the
majority Malay community.
What is really disheartening is that the same propaganda does not
apply to the Malay community except when they are called “racists”, an
example of which, when Art had to qualify his statement - “I am not
racist. And I am not talking about Malay rights or the proverbial
‘mertabatkan Bahasa Melayu’ and stuff.”
This particular issue really does not concern me. What I found
interesting is when Lim said this - “The new Malaysia is an inclusive,
respectful and diverse country. While safeguarding the status of Malay
as an official language, we also need to master the use of other
languages in order to increase our competitiveness.” And Art’s reply -
“Don’t be arrogant and dismissive of this. You are really pushing it.
There is a limit to the ‘new Malaysia’,”
Forget about the Mandarin language snafu, for a moment. Lim and Art
raise interesting points. What are the limits in this new Malaysia? For
the record, when people go on about new Malaysia, I have no idea what
they are talking about. I think for most people who voted Pakatan
Harapan, it merely revolves around expectation.
They expect the state security apparatus to get on with the reform
programme. They expect that race and religion will somehow not be issues
either because the Harapan regime will not make them so, or that the
former regime has lost its ability to fabricate them.
The reality is very different. What are the limits of this new
Malaysia? In other words, what are the sensitivities of the majority
community that we should be mindful of when it comes to race and
religion? That’s what I thought at first. Then I said, screw it. There’s
something wrong here.
I get emails in Bahasa Malaysia all the time. The volume now is the
same as the mails in English. Young Malay people always email me about
current issues to keep me informed of their activism, or articles/blog
posts in Malay that I may find interesting. Sometimes the going is difficult. Regional dialects and the fact that
some of the lingo is beyond me. Most difficult is when they write in
“pakar” BM. I muddled through it though and what really gets me, whether
conservative or liberal, the issues more often than not are not so much
about race but religion. Sometimes the two get conflated but what do
you expect, right?
I read this great letter by Abdullah Afiq in Malaysiakini - Navigating fear and loathing in ‘Malaysia Baru’-
and thought, why the hell are not more people reading this? What he
writes is the kind of stuff I get from the young Malays who write to me. Forget about this whole Mandarin gaffe, the real action of where this
new Malaysia really is, is in what a young Malay like Abdullah Afiq
describes in his letter. Abdullah Afiq, is right when he says
“activists” groups like Malaysian Muslim Solidarity (Isma) are
attempting to control the narrative in social media as to what it means
to be Muslim. But what can Harapan do?
Here are a couple of things that directly relate to what Abdullah
Afiq writes about. Abdullah Afiq believes that religious “authority”
should spread their word on social media, although he qualifies this as
religious scholars who are cognisant of the time they are living in,
which I assume means those of a progressive bent – no pun intended.
However, what is really important here is that the powers of the
state should not be used to impose any kind of religious narratives on
young Malay people. Here are three points that I think test the limits
of this new Malaysia much better than the language fiasco that Lim found
1. Mohamed Tawfik Ismail (Umno MP for Sungai Benut from 1986 to 1990)
said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) should be shut down
instead of re-evaluated. This was in response to Putrajaya that a
committee would be formed to re-evaluate this religious organisation.
How much money is spent on funding Jakim? What has Jakim done to
create an atmosphere of peace and stability in this country between
Muslims and non-Muslims? If Islam is in the hand of state rulers, Tawfik
is right to challenge the existence of this body on constitutional
Beyond closing it down, what should be done is an extensive audit of
this organisation. I want to know where the money went, who it went to
and what was done it with. I believe when the curtain is finally pulled
what we would discover is that very unIslamic things were done by very
people who impose their brand of Islam on the average Malay rakyat
through their outsourced moral police.
Keep in mind, this is the institution that decries excessive laughter. The state should not control the Islamic narrative insofar as
providing a stable ground for a marketplace of ideas. Isma and their
kind have every right to attempt to forge a narrative but it should not
have the backing of the state. Also liberal “Muslims” should not have
the backing of the state, either.
Indeed, when it comes to religion, the best narrative the state can
offer is that the state, while “Islamic”, believes in a plurality of
voices, which is what the former Umno regime attempted to halt.
So when Abdullah Afiq writes something like this “…when a fellow
Malay proudly admits that he is a homosexual looking for a boyfriend,
the majority did not know what and how to respond” - at least anyone who
does this will be relieved that the state (notwithstanding silly
colonial laws about homosexuality and the like) will not use religion to
come down like a house of bricks on him or her and the only thing
sanction will be the vicious tweets or comments by people who disagree
with these choices.
2. Apostasy. Look, two years ago, when Najib Razak was the grand poobah, he made it clear in the Rooney Rebit case, that the executive can interfere to his heart’s content when it comes to the way how Islam is practised in this country.
We are talking about freedom of religion here. A right supposedly
guaranteed to all Malaysians. When Abdullah Afiq writes,"…When a fellow
Malay renounces God in a thread… and the majority did not know what and
how to respond.” – and if the Umno grand poobah knows how to respond,
then the laws should reflect this attitude - that supposed sacred cows
are not so sacred after all.
Obviously, this is not a Sarawak issue only. Or Sabah, for that
matter. The former Umno regime has never presented any proof of
proselytising by Christian activists. What we do know is that there is
enough anecdotal evidence that Muslims for whatever reasons want to
leave their faith, as described in Abdullah Afiq’s letter.
If Najib as the former grand Umno poobah can decide for whatever
reasons this does not apply in Sarawak, who is to say the Harapan regime
cannot make the make the same strategic move when it comes to Islam in
3. Harapan has to finally resolve this issue of unilateral conversion. Okay, thought I would slip this in here. Remember last year when the tabling of the proposed amendments to the
Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 was postponed? Then deputy
prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed
that this was because "…The attorney-general (AG) has been asked to
study the feedback and look into the proposed amendments together with
"This is to ensure the amendments will not be against Islamic fatwa
or the Federal Constitution," said the deputy prime minister.” Guess what? I think Zahid is right. I think that new AG Tommy Thomas
should look into this and finally the bill would be tabled in
Parliament. Unilateral conversion is a form of religious kidnapping. The
fact that the former Umno regime saw no issue with this demonstrates
how easy it is to define this new Malaysia as in opposition to
everything Umno did.
Creating a new Malaysia is not that difficult. Testing the limits is
not such a hazardous endeavour. All that is needed is the will to do
what Umno did before with fiat, but this time through the proper legal
and legislative processes.