Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vote for the independence of our parliament

This article has earlier appeared in the on 27/1/2017

The scandal surrounding the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the case of a RM2.6 billion deposit found in the personal account of Prime Minister Najib Razak have not only become local headlines but have also gained international attention.

This is because this nation has become Umno’s Malaysia where everyone must say yes and bow respectfully to the Umno president.

Our nation’s three major organs – the executives, parliament and the judiciary system – are all right under his thumb. This is why he managed to bulldoze through many oppressive laws for use against his critics and opponents in order to stay in power.

In Malaysia, the position of the prime minister has become too powerful. Checks and balances on him are currently non-existent because the institutions themselves have made him so.

As for our parliamentary system, no doubt there are some checks and balances on matters pertaining to governance and budgeting, but not as far as delving into the prime minister’s powers, or into the Prime Minister’s Department.

So, how do our members of parliament ensure that the prime minister rules with integrity and that he himself is corruption free? The answer is none, and if you do go any further, prison may await you.

Again, the mother of all corruptions and power abuses in the government is that there is no oversight mechanism to check the prime minister’s conduct in office under the current parliamentary system.

In this case, as long as Najib is still the prime minister, he is immune from any kind of public inquiries.

It is time for us to have in place a mechanism of “decoronation” of a sitting head of government on suspicion of corruption, power abuse or any other kind of scandals. How does Malaysia handle such a thing?

Look at how other nations are dealing with their scandalous leaders. How should we deal with it in the future?

Such measures, mechanisms or actions cannot be seen as unconstitutional because these efforts are part of the democratic practice where the people in particular possess the right to decide who should govern the nation, be it through general elections, parliamentary votes or peaceful street rallies.

Parliamentary scrutiny lacking

Our parliamentary system today still lacks the power to scrutinise the conduct and interests of the prime minister as well as his cabinet ministers.

In many parliament sessions, the prime minister and cabinet ministers were allowed to stay away to attend other “important functions” of their choice, a situation which rendered ineffective the question-and-debate sessions on governance and other crucial matters.

The rubber stamp nature of our legislature has indeed paved the way for top leaders to continue with their wayward ways without control, and if there are exposures, such information would be quickly suppressed.

To make matters worse, the supposedly “independent” investigating agencies were placed under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, which clearly shows that it is impossible for these agencies to act without fear or favour.

Parliament and people should play their role

However, the only avenue left for the nation to exert some kind of pressure on the prime minister pertaining to his conduct is still parliament, even if its checks and balances suffer from a lack of power.

Members of parliament from both sides of the political divide need to be especially mature in such a situation where they should carry out their responsibilities based on conscience, and not along their party lines.

The Dewan Rakyat Speaker had promised to carry out various parliamentary reforms he listed out last year. He also threatened to resign if these reforms were unsuccessful.

Where is he now? Why has he become voiceless recently? What more excuses could he give now that the deadline he set for his parliamentary reform initiative has passed?

So what should we, as the people of Malaysia, do? For starters, our priority should be for the good of the nation, and not for any political parties.

By giving an overwhelming majority to the ruling party will not necessarily make things move. It will not ensure a clean and efficient government of the day. Instead, it will only allow politicians from the party to become more powerful and continue with their power abuse and corruption.

We also need a strong opposition so that we can force it to move for more parliamentary reforms to develop stronger institutions and select committees to oversee both the prime minister and his government’s conduct.

In a nutshell, we should put our nation above any political party. Our mind should Merdeka.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Parliamentary reform first, shadow cabinet later

This article has earlier appeared in on 9/1/2017

The issue of an opposition shadow cabinet has suddenly surfaced again following a poser by an Umno cabinet minister on the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan’s readiness to govern the country should they win the next general election.

In response to the challenge, a leader from Pakatan Harapan component Parti Amanah Negara gave an assurance that the opposition coalition’s shadow cabinet will be announced this year.

So, what is so important about the opposition shadow cabinet today and why did Umno so often remind us that DAP’s own shadow spokespersons on ministerial portfolios are a sign that the party would dump its Pakatan Harapan partners in order to rule on its own should the opposition coalition win the next general election?

Is it logical for DAP to rule on its own when it will only contest 50 parliamentary seats out of the total 222 seats? Even if DAP makes a clean sweep of the 50 seats, can it rule on its own? We would like to remind Umno leaders to think and talk logically instead of making fools of themselves.

Now let’s talk about the Westminster parliamentary system that Umno is always poking at.

In a Westminster parliamentary system, the opposition bench is tasked with establishing a shadow cabinet after the formation of the cabinet by the ruling party, in order to provide checks and balances on the government’s activities and expenditures as well as to present an alternative policy to that of the latter.

The leader of the shadow cabinet is always the opposition leader who enjoys the same status as the prime minister. Members of the shadow cabinet too enjoy similar status as the ministers from the ruling party.

Members of the shadow cabinet in a Westminster parliamentary system benefit from annual government funding and research facilities to carry out their oversight activities and propose alternative policies to rival the government side.

And this is what we call a fully recognised shadow cabinet protected by the constitution and Westminster parliamentary system unlike the parliamentary system in Malaysia.

Many of us in Malaysia are still unaware of what a shadow cabinet really means and what is in the Westminster parliamentary system. Many also have the mistaken belief that the shadow cabinet ought to be established in any parliamentary democracy, which includes Malaysia.

Shadow cabinet recognised in Malaysia?

The truth is that a shadow cabinet is not just simply “an organisation” for the opposition bench in parliament where it can be established easily. The institution of a shadow cabinet requires total recognition by the Federal Constitution, provided with annual budget and research facilities.

In the case of Malaysia, it is not the opposition parties which did not want to have a shadow cabinet, but the reality is that such an institution is not recognised at all and there is no mention whatsoever in any parliamentary acts or laws that would effectively authorise the institution of a shadow cabinet.

Apart from this, opposition members of parliament are also not provided with their constituency funds, and if the opposition were to initiate a shadow cabinet in such a situation, would they have the necessary funds and research facilities provided to them? We are certain that they will not get even a cent for their work.

Furthermore, if the shadow cabinet were to come into existence on a voluntary basis, would Umno then complain that the shadow cabinet was Chinese dominated with few Malays, or that certain portfolios should go to the Malays or kick up other racial fuss?

So, what does Umno really look at in terms of an opposition shadow cabinet in Malaysia? Just to play up the racial card and to confuse the people politically?

Parliamentary reforms first!

It is premature to call for the establishment of an opposition shadow cabinet, and without the necessary parliamentary reforms, a shadow cabinet in Malaysia is impossible.

Why? Because parliamentary reforms have yet to kick in despite numerous promises made by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to push for this agenda to be implemented. A basic check- and-balance mechanism, such as having parliamentary oversight committees to oversee and scrutinise the performance and expenditures of government ministries, departments, agencies and GLCs, is still non-existent.

More often than not motions or resolutions put forward by opposition members were shot down by the Speaker on the excuse that they lacked importance or priority.

The administration of parliament itself is not independent at all because the entire parliamentary organ is under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, where a cabinet minister was appointed to take charge of parliamentary affairs.

Again, we would like to ask those Umno people which part of our parliamentary system today resembles the Westminster parliamentary system? If there is one, please identify which country. We doubt they could name one.

Truly, the Westminster parliamentary system has never existed in Malaysia at all despite claims and insistence by Umno and BN leaders that it does exist.

In this case, if the very basic reforms are not carried out in our nation’s parliamentary system, how are we going to see the bigger lot, i.e. shadow cabinet gaining momentum? Totally impossible.

If the system is not reformed, the institution itself is already a failure.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ulterior motive in outlawing foreign funding?

This article has earlier appeared in on 25/11/2016

Of late, leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, particularly from Umno, and many Umno-linked NGOs have shifted their anti-Chinese chorus to that of George Soros.

Sounds like Umno and its sponsored NGOs were deliberately making Soros a scapegoat for their political misadventure and to cover up various scandals linked to their leaders, in particular the 1MDB controversy and RM2.6 billion in the Umno president’s personal account.

Well, Umno has just made Soros a well-known figure in Malaysia today by claiming his involvement in an “attempt to overthrow the BN government”. Every Malaysian would be interested to know if Soros has been laying a plan to become “Prime Minister of Malaysia”.

It is all about foreign funding and the Jews when Umno and its associates are trying their best to discredit and bring down all the opposition parties and civil society groups. The momentum gained by opposition groups has caused Umno and BN leaders to panic.

Umno and BN leaders are horrified to learn that more people are supporting the opposition and civil society groups which are exposing more and more of the misdeeds in Putrajaya.

Umno and BN leaders were cracking their head on how and why these opposition parties and civil society groups could have so much money to fund their activities against the government. They decided to use Soros as a punching bag to solve their dilemma. It is easy, they would just say Soros wanted to replace Najib as prime minister of Malaysia. Does it make any sense?

With Soros dragged into the country’s political scene, Umno and BN leaders were quick to initiate plans to ban political funding from foreign-based foundations and institutions. The hidden agenda is to ensure these anti-government groups run out of funds and out of steam in their campaigns to expose wrongdoings of the government.

Just look at how quick and efficient the police, Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM), the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are in hauling up individuals, institutions, think tanks, news portals and civil society groups which are deemed to be opposition minded.

And yet they could not trace any fault in these opposition-minded groups at all. So, they decided to come up with a new law to restrict the fund flows into these groups.

Two Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, Paul Low and Azalina Othman Said, have stressed that such a law will be applied fairly on all parties, but who on earth would believe their assurance?

The beneficiaries of new funding law

Well, everybody in Malaysia who is aware of the misdeeds of Umno and BN leaders in the government would certainly know that the new anti-funding law will surely benefit Umno, BN and their associates at large.

Why? Because pro-Umno or pro-BN organisations like Perkasa, Pekida, Isma, JMM, PPMM or even the red shirts group would not have to depend on foreign funds because they could get their share from Putrajaya, Umno or BN-controlled parliamentary or state constituencies or any GLCs out there.

This proposed law will certainly ensure that opposition parties and certain civil society groups would run dry in their funds. This is because the law will now clearly spell out what or why foreign funding should be banned for opposition parties or civil society groups because the ultimate goal is to stop financial flows into these organisations to prevent their growth.

In our case, there are no clear justifications for this kind of law. In other countries there are anti-foreign funding laws too but they were made specifically to prevent crimes, terrorism or any acts that would threaten the public safety of those nations.

But in Malaysia, such laws are being designed to purge opposition and dissenting groups fighting for democracy, freedom of association, freedom of expression and other features of human rights.

The authorities are known to be super quick and efficient in cracking down on organisations unfriendly to Umno. With another piece of legislation in hand, these authorities would certainly be happy to make their rounds even more effective to clamp down on those who criticise, oppose or protest against unjust policies or actions of Putrajaya.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The lingering distrust of EC

This article has earlier appeared in on 21/10/2016

Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, particularly from Umno, and top officials of the Election Commission (EC) have always wondered why many still do not trust the EC. Why view the electoral body and its functions with much suspicion?

The latest redelineation plan by the EC has heightened this atmosphere of mistrust, with both sides of the political divide voicing their concerns on the proposals.

Opposition parties from Pakatan Harapan and PSM, and BN’s predominantly Chinese component parties — MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and LDP – have criticised the EC proposal for promoting racial polarisation.

The complaints and objections range from proposing constituencies that are overly Malay and overly Chinese, widening disparity in number of voters between constituencies, reduction of mixed race composition, and confusion among voters on voting districts.

The main grouse of the critics is that opposition parties and BN’s “Chinese-based component parties” would be wiped out in GE14 and a more dominant Umno-based government would emerge after GE14.

The proposed redelineation could see 12 parliamentary and 34 state constituencies in the peninsular undergo a name change while in East Malaysia the EC has proposed 13 new state constituencies for Sabah, bringing the total number of state seats in Sabah to 73.
In response, EC officials were quick to deny claims of unfair redrawing of electoral boundaries, saying that the EC was exercising its roles and responsibilities as stated in the Federal Constitution.

Is the EC really independent?

The independence of the EC has been continuously questioned when the number of uneven constituencies has been increasing while the BN coalition has retained its power in Putrajaya without fail.

But a sudden wave of change swept through in 2008, causing Umno’s coalition partners MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP and PPP to lose most of their seats while Umno continues to remain dominant in numbers.

BN has since lost its two-thirds majority when the opposition parties made tremendous gain nationwide following that shift in voter sentiment.

But history has proven that whenever there is a redelineation exercise, BN is sure to win comfortably.

In 1999, when Malay votes were split following the Anwar Ibrahim incident and Chinese votes were solidly with BN, redelineation was carried out to create more seats with mixed race to balance out the Malay sentiment. This kept BN in power, with MCA and Gerakan making sound gains at that time.

However, the tide turned in 2008 when these seats with mixed race composition swung to the opposition side following an increasing show of racial and religious extremism on Umno’s part.

So, what can justify claims that the EC is not an independent institution? Well, the fact is that the EC is an institution under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, which is headed by the prime minister himself, who is also BN chairman and Umno president.

The staffing of EC from the top officials to the operation personnel is also determined by the Public Service Department (PSD), which also comes under the Prime Minister’s Department.

There is no hard evidence to demonstrate the independence of the EC in running the past general elections, and, of course, the so-called advantage enjoyed by BN in previous redelineation exercises only served to reinforce suspicions.

To affirm the independence of the EC, the electoral body will need to be put under the direct purview of parliament, to be scrutinised regularly by a parliamentary select committee on electoral administration. EC officials should also be recommended and appointed by parliament.

No oversight on EC

The EC conducts redelineation exercises regularly without fail, “in accordance with the Federal Constitution”, and presented its proposal to the cabinet for review and approval before it is tabled in parliament for voting.

The major concern here is, who oversees and scrutinises whatever that is being carried out by the EC? The Prime Minister’s Department or the cabinet?

Yes, BN leaders may say that it is either one of these two. But are these two fit to oversee and scrutinise the EC? These two outfits are part of the government headed by the leader of the ruling BN, who happens to be the president of Umno, the dominant party in BN.

Why is there such a big disparity in number of voters between rural and urban seats? Why should voters be moved from one constituency to another? People are demanding that the EC justify its actions in the redelineation exercise. But will we get all the answers?

The fear is that the EC or BN will use the Official Secrets Act (OSA) against those who persist in questioning and challenging it. There is no independent oversight committee at all to oversee and scrutinise the various activities of the EC to ensure it truly works in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

Until real electoral reforms are carried out, the EC will be seen as doing nothing but Umno’s bidding. Our distrust will continue to haunt it.

Friday, October 14, 2016

How does someone actually insult a religion?

This article has earlier appeared in the on 11/10/2016

Recently, an opposition member of parliament uttered a remark on the passing of PAS spiritual leader Haron Din in the United States.

The opposition MP tweeted “Adios Haron Din, may there be peace.” To the misfortune of the MP, his statement was quickly manipulated by many PAS leaders as “insulting Islam”.

In response to the allegations of those PAS leaders and the police reports lodged against the MP, the police top brass was quick and overly eager in wanting to arrest the MP for questioning. This was despite the fact that he had already shown his commitment to cooperate with the police and come forward to give his statement.

We are neither advocating the cause of the MP nor supporting the opposition party he represents, but the wisdom and characteristic of the police top brass should be questioned in this case.

Why prejudge the opposition MP as “guilty as seen” by announcing that he would be arrested even before his statement could be recorded?

Were the police so quick and efficient just because he was a “secular Chinese opposition member of parliament” who just wanted to say goodbye to a dead religious man in a secular and non-theological manner?

Let’s say if the MP were to say R.I.P. Haron Din (R.I.P means Rest in Peace in English), would those PAS leaders have taken it out of context and accused him of attempting to convert the dead “pious” man to Christianity while awaiting burial?

The same goes for the other person who wrote, “someone who made his career selling air jampi for any illness succumbed to his illness in a modern day hospital in San Francisco”. This person too was immediately arrested and brought to another state for remand and questioning.

Why the need for such a knee-jerk reaction by the police? Although Haron Din was a preacher, politician, bomoh and faith healer who was held in high esteem by many PAS leaders, it did not make him a prophet or someone on par with Allah s.w.t.

Umno leaders insulted Karpal Singh too!

When DAP deputy chairman and Jelutong MP Karpal Singh was killed in a road accident, everyone was shocked and saddened because we had lost a credible leader who went out of his way to protect our rights and the people.

All of a sudden, two Umno leaders emerged from nowhere and made harsh and uncouth statements welcoming the passing of Karpal with much “joy and celebration”.

One of the Umno leaders who insulted the late Karpal was Nawawi Ahmad, the Langkawi Umno MP, who wrote in his Facebook that he laughed at Karpal following his death and asked if anyone else would like to follow suit.

This was followed by a statement by another Umno man Zulkiflee Noordin, the former Kulim Bandar Baru MP who contested and lost in Shah Alam in 2013, who was quoted as saying that he was glad that Allah had taken Karpal’s life away to pave the way for hudud implementation.

The words of these two Umno men were gravely insulting, intended to provoke and to create disharmony while family members of the late Karpal were still mourning over the loss.

Both Nawawi and Zulkiflee seemed to be over-joyed with the passing of Karpal and wanted as many people as possible to “celebrate” the event.

If the police were to define the latest case as an intended insult to Islam and Muslims in Malaysia, then they should have done the same against both Nawawi and Zulkiflee because their actions and words seemed to have insulted the Sikh religion and the entire Sikh community in Malaysia.

But why were Nawawi and Zulkiflee let off the hook on the excuse that they were only exercising their rights to freedom of expression? Why was a set of laws applied differently to different persons according to their political affiliations?

Our nation is treading on dangerous grounds today because any words, statements, writings or postings may be deemed as insulting to the religion if such were to be manipulated by certain segments of society from a religious view point.
And for the sake of convenience and obedience, the top brass of our nation’s security apparatus tends to take sides and support the ruling party by efficiently acting against those who do not agree with Umno, Barisan Nasional (BN) or whoever affiliated to them.

Why prejudge people by describing them as “mulut gatal”, “biadap”, “kurang ajar” or other insulting words when statements have not been recorded from the so-called offenders who have not yet been produced in court?

So, we would like to ask why all the big fuss over the two statements on Haron and how they will cause disharmony, disunity or feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony on grounds of religion?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Can MACC be truly independent to do more?

This article has earlier appeared in on 22/09/2016

Recently, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), under the leadership of the newly appointed chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad, has made a string of arrests of high-ranking civil servants ranging from Datuks to Datuks Seri and Tan Sris.

Well, whenever MACC is helmed by a new chief, such enthusiasm seems to be bubbling. It begs the question of whether the new broom can sweep as well till the end.

Yes, Dzulkifli has adopted the right approach, according to many. But so did all the previous MACC chiefs, who had started well with a spate of arrests and prosecutions of corrupt public figures.

But they ended up being frowned upon by many powerful politicians and leaders because MACC was trying its best to go deeper into these corrupt elements, their source and associates.

And let us not forget what had happened to MACC last year when it was subjected to actions that demoralised its staff and made a mockery of its independence.

When MACC probed the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion found in the private bank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak, executive interference into MACC’s investigation became very clear from the swift transfer of some MACC investigation officials.

The police also raided the MACC headquarters and confiscated many of its investigation papers when the commission was in the midst of probing the 1MDB scandal and the alleged RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ to the prime minister.

The police justified their action by claiming that there was a possible leak of sensitive information to the public that may jeopardise the position of the prime minister.

This interference by the executive and security apparatus has indeed tarnished the image and reputation of the commission as a credible law enforcement body to combat corruption. It gave the impression that the graft busters were too weak and powerless to discharge their responsibilities in a proper manner.

Such a situation is indeed disturbing because it shows that the role of MACC can be undermined so easily by powerful politicians and leaders.

MACC’s efforts in combating corruption, power abuse and mismanagement in all sectors must not be weakened or even restricted by any executive decisions, the security forces, laws or other forms of interference by those in powerful positions.

In this case, MACC’s position ought to be strengthened to ensure the commission can carry out its roles, duties and responsibilities effectively, and without fear or favour.

MACC should be truly independent

Currently, MACC comes under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department from which it also receives funding for its operations.

Such an awkward situation often raises serious questions on whether MACC is really independent whereby all its operations and investigations are free from any outside interference.

MACC should be an independent entity solely responsible to parliament instead of the current practice of having to answer to the Prime Minister’s Department.

On the oversight panels, Section 14 of the MACC Act 2009 (Act 694) should be amended to reorganise the Special Committee on Corruption (SCC) into a full-fledged Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Corruption (PSCAC) as well as to widen its role from merely advising and examining to scrutinising the management and operational activities of the commission.

In other words, the PSCAC should act as a check and balance mechanism to ensure MACC adheres to the standard operating procedures agreed upon.

The current Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Operations Review Panel and Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel should be abolished and the roles of these panels should be transferred to the PSCAC.

The Complaints Committee (CC) should be transformed into an Independent Complaints Committee (ICC) where its members should be appointed by the Agong on the recommendation of PSCAC. It should comprise members of the public who have distinguished themselves in service of the nation.

Similar to the CC, the ICC should be tasked with handling complaints of misconduct of MACC officers, to identify possible weaknesses in the commission’s work and to make recommendations for improvement.

I believe that the PSCAC and ICC should be sufficient to ensure the effectiveness of the MACC as having too many oversight and advisory panels may be a duplication of efforts and waste of funds.

A service commission of its own

Another crucial area for MACC is on its staffing. Currently, MACC depends solely on the Public Service Commission (SPA) to supply the required personnel. In this case, the SPA too reserves the right to transfer any personnel to or from MACC, which on occasions may hinder ongoing case investigations.

MACC should be allowed to have its own service commission that is empowered to hire, fire, transfer, promote and reward personnel at its own discretion.

This way MACC would be in a better position to exercise professionalism and meet public expectation to combat corruption without any executive interference.

As long as MACC is not truly independent, we will continue to see mega financial scandals at the highest levels, the Auditor-General’s Report will see tons of wastage, mismanagement and power abuse every year and the big fish will roam free to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Racial and religious intimidation worsening

This article has earlier appeared in on 9/9/2016

‘Vote for PAS and your place in Heaven will be secured’; ‘Vote for Umno to prove that you are a pure Malay’; ‘Without Umno, the Malays will vanish from this earth’; ‘Vote for PAS, you uphold Islam to the highest’; ‘Vote DAP and you are betraying the entire Malay generations’; ‘Vote DAP, you are a traitor to the Malay race’; ‘Vote DAP, you are a kafir harbi’; Vote PKR, your Malayness becomes lesser’.

These words are usually coined among Malaysians by certain political parties who claimed themselves to be champions of the superiority of the race and religion today.

The intimidation of voters with such words or should we say, blackmailing, has become a norm today among competing political parties, their leaders and supporters in our nation in order to gain or regain support from the voters.

Are all these so-called racial and religious political parties running out of practical ideas and policies for our people and the nation until they have to resort to racial and religious provocations, intimidation and blackmailing to threaten voters into supporting and voting for them in general elections?

In the last general election, there were many incidence and evidence that saw pressure being put on vulnerable members of communities, particularly in rural areas to vote “for the race” or “the religion” they profess in order to demonstrate their “racial purity” or to “secure a place in Heaven”.

Failing to vote based on such would means their racial purity becomes lesser and they might end up in Hell instead. The communities particularly in the rural areas who are overly sensitive about their race and religion would certainly feel the heat when such fear are put upon them by those racial and religious political parties.

Electoral integrity threatened

Such racial and religious intimidation may cause these rural voters to superstitiously believe that they have no real choice in how they should vote or support.

In the last general election, many voters were frowned upon by leaders and supporters of these racial and religious political parties for being “unreligious” or “losing their ethnicity” because these voters had choose to vote for the opposition parties.

Based on the current political situation where Umno becomes more racial and religiously extreme while PAS has switched their Hudud gear to full steam ahead, the dangers to the integrity of general election like this are most likely to increase based on the fact that there are no electoral laws to ban such racial and religious intimidation.

In this case, the people should always remember and remind themselves that in politics or general elections, practical ideas, solutions and policy making should be the utmost priority in determining the next course for our nation rather than being constantly influenced or carried away by racial and religious bigotry.

Racial and religious political parties are certainly outdated and could threaten the growth of our nation if they were to continue to dominate.

Focusing on actual problems

The biggest problems in our nation today are corruption, power abuse and mismanagement in the government and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, coupled with rising inflation, high unemployment rate, economic uncertainties where our people are suffering from depleting household incomes and worst of all our nation’s integrity in the eyes of the international community is at stake.

Investors are losing their confidence, shutting down their businesses here and moving elsewhere, while our nation’s currency is stagnant in the lowest ever position in the history.

The crisis in our nation today is practically due to the many misdeeds of our nation’s top leaders, the government, their administrators and the ruling coalition. Millions of ringgit were missing from public coffers almost every year and all such has nothing to do with the race or religion at all.

All Malaysians, regardless of their race and religions are suffering economically and socially due to the fact that our nation’s leaders are leading our nation towards bankruptcy.

And now they are aggressively using the racial and religious cards to cover-up whatever crimes and misdeed they are in and trying shift the blame to those who voice their discontent and opposition to their rule over the current instability.

Will our people be able to realise and come together to unite against these racial and religious intimidations or blackmailing before it is too late?

Those so-called racial and religious political parties should stop their “racial purification” and “god-send” claims by acting as if they were holier-than-thou, and instead prove their worth on this earth by being practical and doing the common sense.

They should face the people with realities instead of always seeking for “divine intervention” in their political misadventures.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are we ready for a hung parliament?

This article has earlier appeared in on 21/7/2016

Are you all surprised or shocked when we say a hung parliament will be good for our nation today?

Yes, we suppose so. Some politicians will also condemn such an idea as crazy because it would not benefit them, their political parties, or help in their quest for power. They would reason that such a situation would only bring chaos to our nation.

Correctly said, because these politicians have been in power for decades and yet they are yet to show any maturity in matters of governing this nation.

A hung parliament is a situation where no political party or coalition of political parties from both ruling and opposition blocs obtain any absolute majority in number of seats in the parliament after a general election.

The ruling party or coalition may gain just a sufficient number of seats, or it may be called simple or narrow majority, while the opposition party or coalition may have increased its parliamentary seats but is unable to form a government because it lacks the simple majority required.

In simple definition, the ruling party or coalition does not have overall control of the parliament while the opposition would regard such a situation as a balanced parliament, thus benefiting it in terms of higher bargaining power when it comes to debating any issues, bills or tabling of motions.

Because of the current political situation in Malaysia, we are of the opinion that a hung parliament would be the best solution to stir our nation’s political parties in parliament to act with maturity and work harder for our people and the nation.

A hung parliament will pressure both sides of the political divide to come up with policies and alternative policies that are beneficial instead of politicking intensely and unnecessarily.

The lack of majority in parliament means the ruling party or coalition will have to be prepared to make greater concessions on policymaking, spending and control of the agenda with the opposition bench.

In this case, in order to be more convincing, the ruling party or coalition must strive harder to promote efficiency and openness in its governance by emphasising competence, transparency and accountability in its day-to-day administration to satisfy the public.

This will also stop the government from denying the various weaknesses and stirring up racial and religious issues to divert attention from the real issues.

A hung parliament would also force the ruling party or coalition to be more serious about tackling corruption, power abuse and mismanagement in the government in order to regain public confidence.

It will stop them from using laws to cover up such wrongdoings when they are exposed.

Apart from this, in a hung parliament, elected representatives from the ruling party would have to set their party and personal interests aside to work harder in the interest of the people, and also learn to work closely and professionally with their opposition counterparts to advance common goals and objectives for the betterment of our nation’s growth.

If politicians from the ruling party or coalition are mature enough in this situation, they could achieve good governance that will increase their reputation.

Opposition must act responsibly

In a hung parliament, the opposition elected representatives' responsibilities will increase. Instead of trying hard to bring down the minority government, the opposition must strive hard to ensure efficient checks and balances on the government of the day.

In this situation, the opposition could also push for a broader parliamentary reform, seek recognition for the institution of a shadow cabinet, to establish parliamentary oversight committees to scrutinise every aspect of every government ministry and to regain their rights to receive the annual constituency allocations.

Besides that, the opposition will also work harder to promote and present their alternative policies, provide checks on the government framework and spending, and debating various issues in order to pressure the ruling party to change or amend their framework for the benefit our people and the nation.

The absence of an overwhelming ruling party or coalition majority in the parliament does not imply an opposition majority as well. The opposition parties, currently working in a loose coalition framework, may also find it a bit difficult to unite against the government.

They may have policy or ideological differences and therefore, they too are more likely to strike bilateral deals.

A stronger parliament

Without a majority ruling party or coalition in the government seat, the parliament becomes the most important institution and thus powerful. The legislative process becomes more uncertain, but it is more inclusive.

In a hung parliament, bills may take longer to be passed as a stronger parliament will see active debates and heavy amendments to bills before they could be put to voting.

In today’s scenario, the ruling party or coalition with an absolute majority in the parliament will normally bulldoze all its bills through via simple hand-raise-vote with limited reviews, debates and no amendments.

A hung parliament will also pressure the Speaker to ensure all procedural aspects are adhered to, such as the importance of having votes via secret ballots, allowing longer time for scrutiny and debates over bills, motions, instituting inner reforms and to provide more democratic avenues in the legislative process.

In this situation the prospects of parliamentary reforms too are brighter, given the fact that the stronger opposition presence and a weaker ruling party or coalition could see both parties coming to a consensual mode more often in order to put things to order.

Lastly, how a hung parliament is dealt with depends on the maturity of our elected representatives.

Only political parties, politicians or elected representatives who are immature and self-centred would exaggerate the perils of a hung parliament by creating fear and worry among our people. This is because they are simply afraid of losing power and are acting out of personal interests.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Unlocking the rubber-stamp parliament

This article has earlier appeared in on 31/8/2016

It has been almost a year now since Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia has spoken of his plans for parliamentary reforms.

Pandikar also challenged the opposition members of parliament to resign from their constituencies if the parliamentary reforms do not take place under his stewardship.

What and where are the parliamentary reforms that Pandikar has promised about a year ago. Until today, these reforms are yet to take place.

Just exactly what did Pandikar mean by establishing a special chamber to discuss matters of public importance? Currently, we already have two chambers, the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat.

Then, why do we need another chamber for the parliament when the current two chambers are already sufficient to discuss matters of public importance.

Reforms should be focused on the existing chambers in order to enhance their effectiveness, instead of creating another one to deal with some sort of “special” or “important” matters.

Asides, there are also proposals to improve dedicated time to question ministers, shortening the notice period and to allow more time to forward additional questions within a sitting.

The question here is, are all these reforms sufficient to bring about an effective parliamentary system?

Such reforms are useless and ineffective if the Executive continues its supervision over the parliament. Currently, the parliamentary administration and its staffing as well as limited research support are still under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Department where speakers of both chambers report directly to the minister in-charge of parliamentary affairs.

Parliament needs to stand out independently

The most important part of a parliamentary institution is its total independence from the control of the Executive organ of this nation, just like the Judiciary system in a Westminster governing system.

Barisan Nasional leaders have always claimed the Westminster system is in place here in Malaysia, but the fact is that such has not existed since 1957.

The administration, staffing and research facilities of the parliament should be put under the purview of a separate and independent Parliamentary Service Commission which should be responsible solely to the Yang Dipertuan Agong, free from whatsoever connection with any governing elements in Putrajaya.

In this, the Parliamentary Service Commission should be the sole custodian of the entire legislation system instead of the Prime Minister’s Department, whereby the speakers of both chambers too should act independently without the need to make references nor consulting any ministers before he or she makes a decision.

The parliament should set its own rules and laws pertaining to the legislation system and its institution.

Did Pandikar ever realise that the independence of the parliament is a matter of public importance which should be addressed immediately?

Strengthening check and balance mechanism

What we have been observing until today is that Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat have played very small roles in determining the future and direction of our nation.

Scandals after scandals have been ripping our nation of billions of ringgit from the public coffers almost every year, and many were reported by the Auditor-General but actions against those culprits were too minor, at times too little too late because the parliament failed to play its check and balance role effectively due to its rubber-stamp nature.

The situation of today’s parliament is merely to say 'Yes' or 'No', where all bills are bulldozed through, debates and discussions are so limited that not all MPs have the opportunities to speak up.

The culture of no transparency nor accountability continues to pervade in our nation’s governing system and something must be done to impose oversight on the Executive.

The parliamentary oversight committees overseeing the performance and budgeting of ministries, departments and agencies as well as government-linked-companies (GLCs) are the most important check and balance mechanism which should be established in both chambers of the parliament.

In many nations that follow the British system, they have oversight committees to check on their government’s activities.

Even non-Westminster nations such as United States, Brazil and the Philippines too have congressional committees who organise public hearings to check on their administration’s policies and implementations.

Another effective check and balance mechanism at the higher level which should be in place in the parliamentary system is the institution of shadow cabinet which is yet to come into existence here in Malaysia.

The shadow cabinet is an institution established by MPs from the opposition bench to oversee the performance of the ruling party’s cabinet ministers to ensure that their policies and implementations serve the interest of our people.

Asides, shadow ministers are also tasked to present their alternative policies in order to check and improve existing government implementations.

We would again challenge any BN leaders who still insist that the Malaysian parliamentary system here is at par with the other Westminster nations to prove their facts one by one.

If that notion is indeed true, our nation’s public coffers will not be easily ripped off in billions of ringgit every year. This is because our parliament is standing and watching hopelessly due to many limitations in its system.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Are rallies capable of toppling the government?

This article has earlier appeared in on 24/8/2016 

Whenever there are rallies held in Malaysia, organised to seek reforms, just and fairness over important issues affecting our people and the entire nation, the Barisan Nasional government and their leaders are so quick to claim that these rallies whether it is civil society or opposition dominated were some kind of attempt to topple a “democratically elected” government of theirs.

The question here is, are rallies here in Malaysia capable of overthrowing the BN government as alleged by many BN leaders, particularly of those from Umno?

What specific or concrete evidence do they have to immediately implicate that these kind of rallies were deemed violent and attempted coup similar to those which had taken place in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia or Egypt?

Are these BN leaders losing confidence on their own capabilities and leadership until they have to resort to such idea that someone out there are attempting to topple their administration?

If so, they are clearly admitting their guilt over their failure to run this nation in a proper manner which now sees mass dissatisfaction by the people over their rule and policies.

Is this why they are now using whatever means to crackdown on any kinds of criticism, dissent and opposition to their rule? Is this why they are now using various security or preventive laws on the pretext of curbing “terrorism” to purge the entire nation of any critics, dissidents and opposition figures?

The BN leaders should sit down and ask themselves right now, whether their actions are democratic or otherwise. They should ask, why are people condemning their administration all this while, instead of purging those who oppose them and trying to get rid of freedom of expression.

They should ask themselves why support for BN has been eroding and why did they lost their two thirds majority in the last two general elections.

As far as we have been observing, those people who have been participating in civil rights or opposition rallies to protest against various injustice, human rights violation and to demand institutional reforms were peace loving men and women who were all concerned of the deteriorating situation of this nation’s state-of-affairs, frustrated with the current system and policies, the current economic uncertainties, political instability, corruption, power abuse and mismanagement within the government framework, which are all affecting their incomes, livelihood and families.

These rally participants were merely ordinary patriotic Malaysians who wanted to know the wrongs this government has committed to this nation and why such negative elements were still continuing and pulling our nation backwards.

The people has their every right to demand explanations from the government on their various misdeeds such as corruption, power abuse, mismanagement or any scandals exposed.

And rightly, these people has never had any attempt nor plans to topple the BN government even if they had known of the many crimes committed from within, instead, these peace loving people would still prefer to vote for change at the ballot box despite knowing many unjust electoral.

Prove your innocence

We are not saying that the Bersih rally or whatever rallies are useless and ineffective because such will not bring about any changes of government or the ruling party. The objective of these rallies are not to topple any government but to serve as a strong reminder to the current government and the ruling party of their actual responsibilities to our people.

Peaceful rallies, demonstrations or just a simple show of dissatisfaction over certain issues are parts and parcels of a democratic process which the government of the day should respect. This is the fundamental right of our people.

Leaders with true democratic principles will allow peaceful rallies to carry on, will go down to the streets, hear their grievances, note down the various issues highlighted and then provide adequate answers, counter-proposals or solutions instead of mobilising a nationwide crackdown onto such.

Leaders with democratic principles will never allow nor sponsor any counter-rallies to disrupt or challenge other peaceful rallies or demonstrations to provoke the situation into chaos.

Leaders who uphold democratic principles will also never accuse nor label any peaceful rallies and demonstrations of any attempt to topple the government of the day.

We would like to ask the BN government and their leaders again. You have all the powers, all the equipment, all the most sophisticated and modern weapons, armours, armed personnel and the police force at your disposal. Do you intend to use all these security assets of yours against the people on the pretext of national security and prevention of terrorism when all such have never even exist in the first place?

If you claim yourselves to be “democrats”, come out and face the people with facts, figures, explanations and evidence that you are not wrong. If the RM42 billion was never swindled or misused, make public of all the findings, accounts and transactions.

A true democrat will never accuse any rallies or demonstrations of any attempt to topple the government.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Manufacturing slows in Europe and Japan

By WSWS Correspondent

Just days after reported second-quarter growth figures pointed to a marked slowdown in the US and Europe, new manufacturing data released yesterday provided further evidence of global economic stagnation. The continued slump in the real economy is in marked contrast to the ongoing and ultimately unsustainable speculative frenzy on international share markets.

The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for manufacturing for the euro zone in July showed a marked fall from 52.8 in June to 52.0 in July. Germany, with a PMI of 53.8, was the main factor keeping the overall index above 50, the dividing line between growth and contraction.

IHS Markit chief economist Chris William commented: “Expansions in output and employment are clearly being driven to a large extent by surging growth in Germany, while growth has almost stalled in both Italy and Spain, and contractions are being seen in France and Greece.” France’s PMI hit 48.6. Italy’s was the lowest in 18 months, and Spain’s was the lowest in 31 months.

In the wake of the British vote to leave the European Union, the Markit/CIPS PMI in the UK plunged to its lowest level since February 2013, falling from 52.4 in June to 48.2 in July. Capital Economics analyst Scott Bowman told Reuters: “Markit said that the deterioration was widespread across sectors and firm sizes, suggesting Brexit uncertainty was weighing on many firms.”

The Brexit vote also contributed to growing uncertainty in Europe, as a lower British pound promises to slow European exports to the UK. “We expect the UK leave vote to dampen confidence in the months ahead, leaving bleak prospects for a stronger momentum in the manufacturing sector,” Barclays economist Apolline Menut told the Wall Street Journal.

The economic picture was just as bleak elsewhere. Following last week’s growth figure of just 1.2 percent, well below expectations, the PMI figures for the United States released yesterday were mixed. While the Markit PMI for manufacturing was up, the ISM manufacturing activity index fell from 53.2 in June to 52.6 in July.

According to a Financial Times survey published last weekend, the US election campaign and uncertainly about policy direction were contributing to slower economic activity. The newspaper explained that more than two-thirds of the economists surveyed “said the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would act as a headwind to growth in the US, blunting large-scale investments until businesses have a better view of the regulatory, tax and government spending climate.”

In Asia, the Japanese manufacturing sector contracted for the fifth consecutive month, with the Markit/Nikkei PMI up from 48.1 in June to 49.3 in July—still below the cut-off point of 50. The sub-index for new export orders was 44.5, indicating that overseas demand fell at the fastest rate since December 2012 amid a strong yen and global slump.

China’s PMI for manufacturing showed mixed results. The official figure fell to 49.9 in July, while the private Caixin manufacturing activity index, which covers a greater share of smaller firms, increased from 48.6 in June to 50.6 in July. Economic growth for the second quarter was 6.7 percent, the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/09.

RHB Group economist Zhang Fan told the Wall Street Journal: “Business confidence remains weak. Investment has been sliding. The only efficient tool for the government to spur growth is pumping more money into infrastructure.” Far from boosting the economy, however, the stimulus measures are simply preventing a further marked slowdown.

Another significant indicator of global economic slump was the fall in US crude oil prices below $40 a barrel for the first time since April. The price fall, which is part of the broader collapse of commodity prices, reflected not only increased production by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but also stagnant demand and large inventories worldwide.

A comment by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s business editor Ian Verrender on Monday highlighted the growing signs of “a global economy in serious trouble,” even as “Wall Street finished the month on a tear, close to an all time record.”

After pointing to the low growth rates in the US and Europe, Verrender noted: “Stress tests of European banks again revealed massive problems in Italy’s banking system, while two major UK banks, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, performed poorly. The world’s oldest bank, Italy’s Bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena, was the worst performer, and was bailed out over the weekend … As Italy’s third biggest deposit taker, it’s a too-big-to-fail operation.”

He turned to the decision by Japan’s central bank last Friday to pull back from a desperate measure to stimulate the economy through “a new round of radical policy known as Helicopter Money … a process where the government rains cash down on the country with direct deposits into citizens’ and company accounts.”

Verrender commented: “The fact that it was a close call tells you that not only is it being considered, but that the global economy is in serious trouble. After decades of poor performance, Japan has embraced the most radical monetary policies the world has ever witnessed and on a scale that could never be imagined.”

Japan’s quantitative easing, however, is simply a more extreme version of the policy of pumping cheap credit into the economy that has been adopted by central banks around the world. Far from flowing into the real economy and stimulating business investment, the flood of money has simply led to an orgy of speculation on share and property markets.

Seven years after the global financial crisis, the breakdown of the capitalist system is worsening. The measures used to try to overcome the crisis are only setting the stage for a meltdown on an even larger scale, and at the same time fuelling rising geo-political tensions and a universal drive by governments to impose new burdens on the working class.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Turkish coup, US militarism and the collapse of democracy

by Bill Van Auken

One week after the abortive military coup to overthrow Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, there remains no doubt that Washington had a major hand in the bloody events that shook Istanbul and Ankara.

Turkish military commanders with the closest ties to the Pentagon have been directly implicated in the attempted overthrow, including the commander of the Incirlik air base, where the US stores its largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in Europe and from which it carries out its bombing campaign against Iraq and Syria. Multiple aircraft supporting the coup flew out of Incirlik under the eyes of the US military. After it became apparent that the coup would fail, the Turkish base commander asked the US for asylum.

It emerged Wednesday that a warning of the impending coup had come from Russia, which relayed intercepted radio communications between the coup plotters to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known as the MIT. The warning was shared with the Turkish president in time for him to flee barely a half an hour in advance of a special operations squad sent to the seaside resort where Erdoğan was vacationing with the mission of either killing or capturing him.

Is it plausible that the CIA and the US military, with their massive deployment in the region and the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance network at their disposal, would not have been aware of the same communications?

If they weren’t relayed to the Turkish government by the American military and intelligence apparatus, the reason is clear. They were in on the coup plot. Obama didn’t want Erdoğan warned; he wanted him dead.

Then there was Washington’s original reaction to the coup, which came from Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Moscow. Kerry limited himself to expressing American hopes for “stability and peace and continuity within Turkey.” There was no mention of defending a democratically elected government against military overthrow, not to mention any expression of concern for the fate of the country’s president, Erdoğan.

What precisely Kerry was referring to in voicing support for “continuity within Turkey” can only be understood in the context of the last 70 years of US-Turkish relations. In 1947, at the outset of the Cold War, the US promulgated the Truman Doctrine, committing itself to the defense of both Greece and Turkey against what it alleged was Soviet aggression.

US aid, military advisors and an aircraft carrier group were rushed to Turkey to assist it in rebuffing Moscow’s demand for free passage through the Turkish Straits, the strategic passage connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. In 1952, Turkey was brought into NATO and, over the course of four decades, remained a pivotal country in the US military drive against the Soviet Union.

In the interests of maintaining this “continuity,” Washington supported a series of military coups in Turkey, the first in 1960 against Turkey’s prime minister, Adnan Menderes, whose fate (he was hung) was sealed after he turned to Moscow for economic aid.

Erdoğan, first as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and then as president, has posed similar problems. In the interests of securing the grip of his right-wing Islamist party, the AKP, he has pursued a nationalist policy that has repeatedly antagonized Washington. In 2003, Turkey refused to allow the US to use its soil to attack Iraq. In 2010, it failed to back the US drive for UN sanctions against Iran. And in 2013, it shocked Washington and NATO by announcing plans to purchase a Chinese anti-missile system.

Relations have further deteriorated over the war for regime change in Syria, where Turkey is the principal backer of Islamist militias tied to Al Qaeda, while Washington has increasingly solidified ties with Syria’s Kurdish militia, which is in turn aligned with the PKK, the Turkish Kurdish movement with which Ankara is at war.

Most recently, there is Erdoğan’s apology to Moscow over the deliberate shoot-down of a Russian warplane in November 2015 and a move toward rapprochement with the government of Vladimir Putin.

In the wake of the coup, Erdoğan spoke with Putin well before a phone call with Obama. And, in a conversation Tuesday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Erdoğan declared, “We are determined to resolve regional issues by joining hands with Iran and Russia, and with our efforts to return peace and stability to the region.”

US imperialism has no intention of brooking such a strategic realignment in the region. Resort to an attempted military coup was no doubt a criminally reckless policy. If it had succeeded, the likely result would have been a civil war and a death toll that would have made the bloody US-backed coup in Egypt pale by comparison.

US imperialism has already wrecked Iraq, Libya and Syria, killing and maiming millions in pursuit of its geo-strategic interests, so why not Turkey as well?

The tensions with Turkey have emerged in the context of a global eruption of American militarism. The coup took place barely one week after a NATO summit in Warsaw outlined plans to execute a massive escalation of military deployments on Russia’s western border and preparations for a direct, i.e., nuclear, confrontation with Moscow.

In Asia, US imperialism has made it clear it intends to use a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration against Chinese claims in the South China Sea as the pretext for a major military escalation against Beijing.

To that end, the Obama administration dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to Australia to deliver bellicose speeches threatening China with US military might and, more pointedly, to instruct the Australians that, whether they liked it or not, they would be dragged into the US war preparations. “It’s never a good bet to bet against the United States,” he threatened.

The US is moving toward a military confrontation on a scale not seen since the end of the Second World War. It is determined to crush all obstacles in the path of its war plans. Great shocks are coming in the wake of the American November elections, if not even before.

The growth of militarism and preparations for world war are incompatible with the maintenance of democratic forms of rule anywhere on the planet. The drive to war is intensifying and accelerating a turn toward dictatorial methods in country after country, a turn that is rooted in the profound crisis of world capitalism and the unchecked growth of social inequality and class tensions in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown.

In Turkey itself, the defeat of the imperialist-backed coup has spelled not some flowering of democracy, but the consolidation of a right-wing dictatorship in which Erdoğan has arrogated to himself the power to rule by decree, while carrying out the arrest and firing of tens of thousands of people thought to oppose him and moving to restore the death penalty.

In answer to moralizing capitalist critics in the West, the Turkish president has retorted that he is only doing the same thing as French President Francois Hollande, who is now ruling under what is becoming a permanent state of emergency, imposed on the pretext of combating terrorism but directed against mounting social tensions and working class unrest.

Whether the abortive coup of July 15 marks the end of the attempts by the Turkish military to seize power is itself an open question. With fully one-third of its general staff under arrest, the country’s armed forces are in a state of turmoil. Moreover, Washington is not about to passively permit Turkey to drift out of its strategic orbit.

The Turkish events have provided a stark lesson for the working class. It is impossible to defend basic social and democratic rights outside of a unified international struggle against imperialist war and militarism and the capitalist system in which they are rooted.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where is Pakatan’s direction?

This article has earlier appeared in on 6/7/2016

The results of the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar parliamentary by-elections clearly indicated the people’s choice and dissatisfaction.

In disarray, Pakatan Harapan has taken the people’s views for granted. Have Pakatan leaders learned from the outcome? Yes, blame BN over some cash inflows and vote buying, but what about themselves?

As the two by-elections had given confidence to the once-bitten Umno-led BN coalition, the prospects of a snap general election being called either at the end of this year or in early of 2017 seems to be coming into reality as BN leaders have been doing the ground work and dispatching their goodies since.

The major problem here is that the people are very disappointed with the way BN is running this nation because of its corrupt and swindling nature which cause billions of ringgit loss from our nation’s coffers almost every year.

Asides, afraid of its unpopularity and increasing criticism against its administration, BN is moving towards dictatorship to consolidate its power by strengthening of several security related laws, awarding more political security powers to the security forces, in order to purge voices of dissent, freedom of speech and to stem out the influence of opposition figures in order to rid-off support for opposition parties.

The people wanted a change for their nation and voted for the opposition parties to send their representatives into the parliament and state assemblies in the last two general elections in the hope they could place a foundation towards Putrajaya in future.

Unfortunately, Pakatan Harapan has not shown any progress in regards to its common policy, political framework and ideology.

Coalition or just working together?

Pakatan seems like a coalition only for elections, where its component parties, PKR, DAP and Amanah would gather during elections and they would later disperse after the occasion was over.

Is such an opposition coalition an effective machinery to garner support? The parties are still going by what they are used to be called - PKR, DAP and Amanah.

From Pakatan Rakyat to Pakatan Harapan. The initial Pakatan was dissolved following the departure of PAS due to its insistence of hudud implementation. The moderates in PAS who wanted to remain in the Pakatan coalition later quit and formed a splinter party, Amanah in order to continue their stance.

While leading the opposition coalition, PKR was also reluctant to completely dump PAS due to its partnership with the Islamist party in the Selangor state government. Both PKR and PAS have factions who are for and against the current loose formation in the state.

At the same time, a powerful faction within PAS had also handed an olive branch to its once arch rival Umno in order to seek its help to pave way for the hudud bill to be presented in the parliament.

All such moves had in fact thrown our people into deeper dilemma and more confusion over the actual directions of these political parties and what are their leaders’ actual stand on many issues.

PKR-DAP-Amanah or PKR-PAS or PAS-Umno? Our people now seems to be overly confused over the intention of these kind of political cooperations and the parties that they had voted for in 2008 and 2013 respectively.

Umno unleashing its kill

In this situation, Umno had seized every opportunity to put the opposition coalition and its component parties into disarray by first hitting PAS’ head against the wall over its hudud ambition. Umno is indeed successful.

Umno then dispatched PAS to disrupt the current framework in Pakatan by confusing some PKR leaders into supporting their cause, instigating the latter to pull out from the newly-born opposition coalition, force-dissolution of the Selangor state assembly to pave way for a state election.

The attempt was never successful but it had then done a lot of damage in Pakatan and the Selangor state government. As a reward for the “successful sabotage”, the Selangor Umno liaison chief was given a ministerial position in the recently cabinet reshuffle.

No wanting to give up, Umno then initiated yet another attempt to destabilise the Penang state government by implicating Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng in corrupt practices over the purchase of a secondhand bungalow and for allegedly the land rezoning.

Citizens’ Declaration and Sarawak clash

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been critical of the Umno-led government under Najib Razak since RM2.6 billion was found in his personal account and the RM42 billion 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

In pursuing for his call for Najib’s resignation, Mahathir had initiated a nationwide Citizens’ Declaration in order to gather support for his cause. To achieve such, he even resigned from Umno and joined forces with many opposition parties and civil societies.

Surprisingly, Pakatan leaders were quick to embrace Mahathir’s pursuit as one of theirs, thus accidentally putting the former prime minister into the position of a “de facto opposition leader” or should we call “effective opposition leader” of our nation.

It seems like the Pakatan leaders had forgotten their de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and the parliamentary Opposition Leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

This situation had irked many opposition supporters because it has been too awkward and confused. Has Pakatan run out of effective leaders of their own until they have to depend on Mahathir?

The recently Sarawak state election saw PKR-DAP clash over several seats had also disappointed voters and opposition supporters who had hoped that the opposition parties could make some changes in the state. It is a clear picture that the state Pakatan was in disarray as it could not agree over some seat allocations.

The people were asking if similar clashes would repeat come next general election? The people are matured to realise that disorganised opposition parties would never take on Umno and BN effectively.

In the end of the day, BN will still be the government of the day.

Pakatan is unable to stand together as one, with one common goal to change our nation for a better, be accommodating to embrace other opposition parties outside their coalition into their fold.

We are all asking ourselves again, to vote or not to vote? Are we able to change our nation for the better come the 14th General Election?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lessons for the opposition from Sarawak polls

This article has earlier appeared in on 30/5/2016

The recent Sarawak state election on May 7 has exposed the true colours of the opposition. They can only expect worse come the 14th General Election if the bickering parties do not buck up and patch things up.

The Sarawak Barisan Nasional won handsomely, getting 72 out of 82 seats in the enlarged state legislative assembly.

The opposition Pakatan Harapan suffered a major setback, winning only 10 seats with DAP getting seven, down from 12 in 2011, PKR retaining its three seats, and Amanah finishing empty-handed.

Opposition parties outside of Pakatan such as PAS were also wiped out.

So, was it because of the Adenan factor? Some say it worked, but it certainly was not the only reason for the swing back to BN.

The fact is that BN won with a landslide because the field was gravely uneven, where the ruling state coalition enjoyed all the advantages in terms of finance, logistics, mainstream media, communication channels and of course the immigration control.

We also have to acknowledge the fact Sarawak BN has been in power for decades and has tightened its grip over every single corner of the state.

The return of the urban votes to BN was also partly due to Sarawak Chief Minister and state BN chairman Adenan Satem’s hint that a Chinese would be appointed as one of three deputy chief ministers if candidates from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) were voted back into the state legislative assembly. (In the end, no Chinese was made a deputy chief minister.)

Besides that, the state BN had also used its administrative powers to forbid the entry of opposition campaigners into many villages, longhouses and other rural areas, on grounds of “security and unity preservation”.

Another significant factor was the lower voter turnout, including fence-sitters who stayed away, which worked to the advantage of Adenan.

According to the Election Commission (EC), the voter turnout was only 70% of the 1,109,795 registered voters. This was sharply lower than that in the 2011 state elections which saw a turnout of more than 80%.

One reason for the low turnout could be that some BN supporters, especially those in the rural areas, skipped polling in the belief that BN would form the government anyway.

But the more pertinent scenario seemed to be a boycott by many opposition supporters who were unhappy with the way opposition parties were flexing their muscles against each other.

The continuous bickering between DAP and PKR had led to many unnecessary multi-cornered contests in the state polls. Such bickering had in fact killed the chance of Pakatan Harapan even before nomination day.

A costly affair for the opposition

When the opposition parties won big in the last state elections in 2011, DAP and PKR knew very well it was because the electorate had given them the mandate in the hope that they would build on the momentum to defeat the state BN in the next round.

Instead of being motivated to strengthen their unity, the opposition parties became more fragmented and self-centred. The results of the recent polls spoke volumes.

DAP was overly ambitious, trying to venture forcefully into areas and cultures which it was unfamiliar with, while PKR was too impatient by wanting to go all out, claiming it was in the right position to represent the natives in the state.

PAS was thrashed by voters for being religiously extreme while Amanah made its debut in an unconvincing manner.

Apart from that, until today Pakatan Harapan has not demonstrated any goodwill towards local opposition parties in the land of the hornbills by allowing them to join the opposition coalition at the state level.

Given BN’s firm grip on the state, it is an uphill task for the opposition to penetrate the Sarawak heartland.

Pakatan Harapan parties should reach out to local opposition parties such as Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak-Baru (PBDS Baru), Parti Reformasi Negeri (Star), Parti Ekonomi Rakyat Sarawak Bersatu (PERSB), Sarawak Workers’ Party (SWP), Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) and remnants of the once powerful Sarawak National Party (SNAP).

If Pakatan Harapan had worked in unity with these local opposition parties, costly multi-cornered contests could have been avoided and these opposition parties could have made some inroads.

In other words, the opposition paid the price for being impatient, greedy and arrogant.

Another thing that the opposition parties should have learned and analysed is the fact that Sarawak BN has long kept many parts of the heartland away from development, education, technology and many basic facilities.

We can attribute BN’s continuous victory in the state to the lack of understanding and concern among the majority of Sarawak natives on issues of governance.

The rural majority are generally not interested in any political rhetoric. They are only concerned with basic amenities like water and electricity supply, roads and other infrastructure.

Win the hearts of these people first before you walk into their areas with your loud speakers and banners.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mission accomplished for PAC report?

This article has earlier appeared in on 14/5/2016

The multi-billion ringgit scandal of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is far from over. The prime minister was hoping that the people would slowly forget about the whole episode and “move forward”. Just what kind of “move forward” is he expecting from us?

The 1MDB report released by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) consists of many kinds of twists and turns which have left many readers and observers gravely confused and wondering if the sole purpose of this report was to absolve the prime minister of any blame or wrongdoings in the scandal.

Well, from the eyes of a lay person, it is clear the report is implying that Prime Minister Najib Razak was in no way responsible for the scandal, even if he had signed many of those documents, blindly or whatsoever. The prime minister has nothing to do with decision-making in 1MDB. The prime minister is merely the chairman of the advisory board and he has no direct discretion over its financial and operational matters.

The PAC report was tabled in Parliament and made public but a related report by the Auditor-General remains classified under the Official Secrets Act.

The grave disappointment over the PAC report is that it ignored many parts of its own inquiry into the 1MDB controversy and failed to include details that had either directly or indirectly mentioned the involvement of the prime minister. The question on whether PAC has deliberately omitted certain parts or modified the report is left unanswered.

The first thing the PAC report has concluded is that former 1MDB chief executive officer Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi is solely responsible for the entire mess in 1MDB, followed by the failure of the board of directors to scrutinise the management activities and its financial flows.

What the PAC failed to report

In its report, the PAC mentioned that the 1MDB management had on several occasions failed to adhere to the instructions given by the board of directors and had even commenced business transactions prior to specific approval from the board itself.

The PAC has reportedly failed to reveal that the 1MDB management had bypassed the board by reporting directly to the prime minister to seek his approval and instructions on several business transactions.

Former PAC chairman Nur Jazlan Mohammed reportedly mentioned that 1MDB has its own source of authority, not from the finance ministry but directly from the prime minister who is also the first finance minister, in this case bypassing the government’s due process framework.

So, why did the PAC and its current chairman not go deeper into this issue given claims that it was the prime minister who was pulling the strings in many of 1MDB’s most important business decisions?

Was the PAC’s sole mission to save the prime minister from any possible exposure, disgrace or later impeachment? Is the ex-CEO fully responsible?

The PAC report has insisted that Shahrol be held fully responsible over the billion ringgit mess and that he should be further investigated by the relevant authorities.

The PAC has also urged the authorities to act against Shahrol immediately over the mismanagement and losses of 1MDB.

The question here is why the seeming rush and insistence on picking on Shahrol? Is he being made the scapegoat?

If it is true that Shahrol is solely responsible for the fiasco, why was no action taken against him in the initial stage? Is PAC aware that although Shahrol was no longer the CEO, he retained his directorship in 1MDB and was even transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department to become a director of Pemandu agency, instead of being suspended or sacked from the establishment?

And yet, after the report was released, he was still directing and issuing policy instructions in the government as if nothing happened at all.

Defied, misled, misinformed

The PAC also said Shahrol had effectively defied, misled and withheld critical information from the 1MDB board of directors in matters concerning various business proposals and decisions.

In this case too, the PAC also failed to check the source of authority that Shahrol had obtained from and depended on.

While Shahrol may be brave enough to defy or mislead the board of directors, it is unthinkable that he would dare to act without the prime minister’s approval given the fact that such an approval channel does exist informally as mentioned earlier. Otherwise, he would have been fired from his position and disgraced a long time ago.

Furthermore, in the memorandum and articles of association (M&A) of 1MDB, Section 117 clearly states that all businesses of 1MDB must be approved by the chairman of the advisory board, who is Najib.

This situation allows the management of 1MDB to bypass the board of directors and the finance ministry, and it is possible that the management team led by Shahrol was instructed to bypass the other approving channels by going straight to the prime minister’s office.

That is why the board of directors and the advisory board have never met because the prime minister himself could make most of the decisions.

Come on, it is not difficult to fathom who actually pulled the strings at 1MDB. So, please stop hiding under the sand, pretending that the people would forget about this sooner or later.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Can ‘Save Malaysia’ really save Malaysia?

This article has earlier appeared in on 26/3/2016

Our nation is now in terrible darkness, both socially and economically. A lot of things happening in Putrajaya have undermined the confidence of the people and the international community. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and its dominant party Umno are becoming like a tumour growing in the heart of our nation.

Why? It is all because of the alleged RM2.6 billion scandal of Prime Minister Najib Razak and the RM42 billion debt chalked up by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), where Najib chairs its advisory board. The Najib government has given a new twist to the definition of “donation” based on the RM2.6 billion channelled into Najib’s personal account.

Amid this brouhaha and political acrimony, here comes the Citizens’ Declaration initiated by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. On March 4, Mahathir, who is Najib’s chief critic, joined hands with political leaders from both sides of the divide and civil society figures to sign the declaration aimed at pressuring Najib to resign as prime minister so as to save Malaysia from its current crisis.

Certainly, the unprecedented gathering of political friends and foes took the people by surprise. But many also wonder if this movement will ever last or succeed in driving the prime minister from his seat.

Some opposition leaders and civil society champions were seen rushing to support the move, for a variety of reasons. Some were taking advantage of what they believe is an opportunity to effect real change, and yet others were simply riding on the momentum to take advantage of one another.

Umno splitting?

Many observers are of the view that Umno is being torn apart following the sacking of Muhyiddin Yassin as deputy prime minister and his suspension as Umno deputy president, and also the ousting of Mukhriz Mahathir as Kedah menteri besar and Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal from the Cabinet.

Former Batu Kawan Umno division vice-chairman Khairuddin Abu Hassan has also been sacked from the party and prosecuted for his relentless pursuit of the RM2.6 billion donation scandal.

These Umno rebels have found support among a group of Umno branch chairmen, who teamed up as Gabungan Ketua Cawangan Malaysia (GKCM) to mount pressure on Najib, who is Umno president, to quit. GKCM is now on a nationwide drive to explain to Umno members its anti-Najib stand and the current political crisis.

On the other hand, plans were reportedly being hatched by Umno supreme council members who are strongly behind Najib to have the rebellious faction, including Muhyiddin, sacked from the party in order to curb the resistance from within.

If the sackings happen as predicted, there will be a massive split within Umno in some of the major states, particularly Kedah, Johor, Perak and Sabah. However, the top Umno leaders aligned to the party president are adamant that any impact to such cleansing will be minimal.

So, what does this Save Malaysia mean to these Umno rebels? Save Umno, Save BN?

Role of opposition and civil groups

Leaders of the opposition parties and civil societies who embraced Mahathir in the Citizens’ Declaration initiative have been criticised by some for allegedly abandoning their struggle for real institutional reforms.

Let’s not rush into labelling them with such words. The majority of the opposing front stepped forward in the belief that differences should be temporarily set aside to focus on removing a corrupt leader from power to prevent further power abuse that would jeopardise the entire nation.

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin reasoned that the electoral reform group decided to lend support because the declaration also demanded some institutional reforms that the group is currently pursuing.

Others had decided to support as they had seen other options as ineffective, insecure or risky while some opposition leaders had also acknowledged their weakness in such coordination.

Veterans and leaders from PKR, DAP and Amanah were present at the launch of Citizens’ Declaration. So too were Muhyiddin and Mukhriz. But the presidents of PKR and PAS, and secretary-general of DAP were conspicuously absent.

What next?

The concern over this Citizens’ Declaration is whether there exists a plan on how to manage the nation in a post-Najib era. Will there be a grand coalition to govern or a caretaker administration will take over this nation until a general election is called?

Even if this Save Malaysia campaign succeeds in driving out Najib, what next and who will succeed him? Same batch of old guards within Umno? If this is the case what is the purpose of Save Malaysia when in actual fact Umno’s old guards are still in charge?

Can this Save Malaysia guarantee us a snap election to let the people determine what is best for the entire nation if Najib’s departure takes place?

Malaysia deserves better; we Malaysians deserve better. If there is no real change, we would only be running round and round and round, coming back to the same old problem at the end of the day.

So, can these politicians give us some clear picture on what kind of a better Malaysia they are fighting for? Is this for our people or only among themselves?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pakatan should stop political appointments in GLCs

This article has earlier appeared in on 18/3/2016

The Pakatan Harapan government in Penang was recently embroiled in a controversy over the sacking of two PKR assemblymen from the boards of state government-linked-companies, InvestPenang and Penang Hill Corporation (PHC).

The termination of the services of Ong Chin Wen (Bukit Tengah) and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga) was announced by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, in retaliation for their decision not to vote against an Umno motion to halt land reclamation projects in Penang.

PKR, however, defended its two state assemblymen, saying its elected representatives are allowed to vote according to their conscience and the people’s interests.

To add salt to the wound, the DAP-led state government appointed Seremban MP Anthony Loke to the board of PHC to replace Cheah.

The state government has reasoned that Loke’s appointment was based on his capacity as the party’s shadow minister for tourism and culture at the federal level while PKR leaders have argued that Loke was unfit for the position because he is not a Penangite.

Politicians and GLC

First of all, why should the Penang state government appoint politicians to sit in the board of directors of state GLCs?

Do these politicians really serve well and contribute their knowledge and expertise to the GLC concerned? I don’t subscribe to claims that these politicians could help the GLCs.

Why should the directorship of GLCs be a political appointment? These positions should be filled by those who are really qualified so that they can motivate these GLCs towards quality service and excellence.

If the GLC boards are filled by political appointees just to satisfy the lust of political parties to gain support, it would defeat the purpose as these politicians would be merely sitting there getting 'gaji buta' without contributing anything at all.

Furthermore, such appointments are also open to power abuse and corruption if they are not checked.

So, where is Pakatan Harapan’s pledge for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) which they have been fighting for all this while?

Such political appointments are certainly a Barisan Nasional legacy, and we wonder why Pakatan should continue with the practice.

Okay, it may be a coincidence that Loke happens to be DAP’s shadow minister for tourism and culture and might be able to help and advise the Penang state government on federal policies related to state tourism, but what about other politicians who are now sitting on the boards of the state GLCs? Do they really contribute to the GLCs they are attached to?

As far as we know, these political appointees are in the GLCs just because of their affiliation with PKR, DAP or Amanah. The same goes for their counterparts in the Selangor state government.

Advisory or oversight panels for GLCs

To be fair to the people who elected them, these elected representatives, whether state assemblymen or members of parliament, should not hold any positions in business- and profit-oriented GLCs.

The reason is that elected representatives are chosen by the people and they should serve the people’s interests by becoming the eyes and ears of the public.

Instead of sitting in the boards of GLCs, elected representatives should take on the role of members of advisory or oversight panels in the GLCs to ensure these state-owned entities discharge their roles and responsibilities in accordance with the people’s will and expectations.

This is the real kind of CAT that the Pakatan Harapan state governments should aspire to achieve instead of continuing the BN legacy of awarding supporters with GLC directorships.

If left unchecked, such appointments can certainly open the door to power abuse and corruption. We have witnessed massive losses of billions of ringgit not only in federal departments, agencies and GLCs but also government offices, agencies and state GLCs of BN-controlled states.

Therefore, if Pakatan Harapan wants to demonstrate to the people the competency, accountability and transparency in its governance, then start the ball rolling in a different way instead of doing it the BN way.

If you appoint politicians to the boards of GLCs, it will be politicised. And if you decide to fire these directors, it will again be politicised. Does all this kind of politics benefit our people?

None at all.