Ahad, 16 Jun 2013

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MPs need to show they have more than just talk

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 05:36 PM PDT

Indulging in child-like behaviour and polemics simply because of the party badge has absolutely no place in any Parliament in a mature democracy. We will wait and see what our Yang Berhormats have to offer come June 24. For that will signal whether there will be order or disorder in the House that will last for the next five years.

The Star

THE first meeting of the 13th Parliament on June 24 promises to be exciting, but for all the wrong reasons.

From what we have observed so far, the perfunctory oath-taking ceremony and the election of the Speaker will be anything but dull.

The results of the 13th general election held on May 5 are by no means finalised with both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat filing a total of 50 petitions in the Election Court to challenge the results of certain seats.

That is part of the due process and no one will question the right of either side to do what is allowed by the law.

However, it is the antics that are being played out in the court of public opinion that are testing the patience of the public at large.

The briefing for all MPs before the new Parliament sits is a traditional affair whereby MPs are briefed on what is required of them as members of the august House.

Here is where the newbies will learn for the first time about the protocol, the Standing Orders, and what is expected of them in and out of the House.

It is a wonderful opportunity for the newbies to learn from the veterans and get to know one another.

There is a world of difference between the political talk in the heat of the elections and the standard of debate that we expect once these elected candidates don their official suits and play by parliamentary rules.

Yes, there will be the uncouth ones who think there is no difference but in the main, we expect high quality debate with substance. Now is the time for the MPs to show us that they not only have the gift of the gab, but are able to take on their opponents with facts and witty repartee.

The Pakatan MPs seek to score political points by boycotting this meeting. Even the sole DAP MP who attended found himself in the dock for daring to disobey party orders.

So what are these people talking about when they say MPs must be free to vote their conscience and not be bound by the Whip? That the way forward for a mature Parliament is when all are able to engage professionally and at times, rise above party lines, for the good of the nation.

And there was even further grandstanding when there was talk that Pakatan may even boycott the oath-taking ceremony. Fortunately, good sense prevailed though one can expect that even a simple ceremony like this can be turned into an opportunity to play to the public gallery.

As a nation matures, we should also expect the institutions to get better.

True, some of the institutions that are the foundations of our nation, like Parliament, have taken a battering through the years, and are in need of repair.

For Parliament, specifically, the years of a House dominated by one side are gone and the possibility of a full-fledged two-party system is within reach. But it is a work in progress and both sides must show us that they are capable of meeting our expectations.

Partisanship is a given in any democracy, but in all the mature legislative chambers in the world, the spirit of bipartisanship is also strong. And that requires all MPs, whatever their affiliation, to discern when is the time and what are the issues for which the nation expects them to be in one accord.

Indulging in child-like behaviour and polemics simply because of the party badge has absolutely no place in any Parliament in a mature democracy. We will wait and see what our Yang Berhormats have to offer come June 24. For that will signal whether there will be order or disorder in the House that will last for the next five years.


Leave the baggage behind

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 05:32 PM PDT

Malaysia must really grow up and not let the divisive and emotive issues long resolved to fester in the present environment.

Malaysians have made their choices. The victors have plenty of work to do and the least of their concern should be to talk about punishing those who did not vote for them. It is the people's right to vote for anyone or any party. A general election in any democracy is about the right to choose.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

WE are about two months away from National Day. We will be turning 56 years old, which is still relatively young in terms of nationhood. But we are not really that young any more.

The country will once again put on a flag-waving exercise as our leaders wax eloquent on patriotism and nationalism.

Malaysians can expect those inspiring TV commercials extolling how the people of this plural socie­ty have come together and proven the critics wrong that Malaysia would collapse as a country upon independence.

It is now more than five decades and we have remained strong. But wait a minute.

Just glance through the newspapers or read the online postings, and we get another picture – one that gives the impression that we are a country that is terribly torn apart.

Any investor wanting to put money in this country would look for another option because we have been sending messages to the world that we are at each other's throats and the country is waiting to explode, politically. Many of us, including those in the media, are still talking about issues that were emotionally debated in the 1950s, before the nation was born.

We are still talking about race and religion in a terribly shameless and sad way. These contentious issues were settled and resolved by our founding fathers. We should be moving on but instead we seem to be heading in the other direction.

Some of our politicians are even fuelling the political temperature by bringing up, or allowing, these issues to fester, even if it affects the unity of the people.

The Malays, Chinese, Indians and the other Malaysians have made the country what it is today. There would be no Malaysia without the contributions of all these ethnic groups. Go and read the history books.

Blame the British for the divide-and-rule system but the fact remains that the labour of the Chinese and Indian immigrants helped to build the economy.

The Malay farmers and fishermen fed the nation; the Malay policemen and soldiers kept the country safe to allow the Chinese traders to expand the economy; and the Malay-dominated civil service enabled the country to be efficiently administered.

In fact, many non-Malays joined the police force to fight against the communists because they believed in safeguarding their country – Malaysia. Each and every one of our forefathers has made Malaysia to be truly outstanding in the eyes of the world.

Many of the present Chinese and Indians are third or fourth generation Malaysians. We were born, raised and will die here in Malaysia. There is nowhere else and we will not choose anywhere else, because we are proud to be Malaysians.

Many of us, especially those who were educated in English-medium schools, cannot even speak and write in Chinese.

If there are employers who refuse to hire non-Chinese speaking employees, certainly it is not just the Malays and Indians. Many Chinese also fall in this category.

Let no Jurassic racist politician tell us that only certain ethnic groups are immigrants because most of us, if we trace our roots hard enough and are honest, would find that we have ancestors from another part of this world. That is history.

Similarly, the general election is over. We have lost enough productive time on the campaigning, which seems to have clouded the judgment and sanity of many Malaysians, turning them into petty political tyrants.

Malaysians have made their choices. The victors have plenty of work to do and the least of their concern should be to talk about punishing those who did not vote for them. It is the people's right to vote for anyone or any party. A general election in any democracy is about the right to choose.

No one should be made to feel pressured or threatened, in any way, simply because they did not vote for the winning ruling party.

And for the losers, please stop blaming the system and just move on. Come back in five years' time. Surely, both sides have to administer the states they won. For Pakatan, just accept the fact that you did not win enough seats to form the federal government.

While every National Day celebration is about remembering what our founding fathers have done, it should also be a time to review what we of this generation have done or not done. It is now mid-2013 and we have just over six months to another year. Surely, we should be worried about how much we need to catch up.

Young Malaysians, without the baggage of the past, have spoken out loudly during the elections. From the mainstream media to our ministers, surely we must acknowledge that it cannot be business as usual again.

The destiny of this country is in our hands. We need to make Malaysia a liberal, progressive and democratically open country.

Don't let our neighbours, which are starting to open up, catch up with us. Malaysia has to move forward faster and there is no time to waste. We are not young any more. We need to grow up.


Slim majority rattles swing state

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 05:25 PM PDT

Politics in Terengganu is about to get more lively and competitive as the ruling Barisan Nasional prepares to take on the biggest number of opposition backbenchers ever.

Hard as it is to believe, he said the cost of living in Terengganu is quite high and eating out in a restaurant sometimes costs more than in Kuala Lumpur. He also believes that the civil service were not completely with Barisan because they did not have a high regard for the state administration.

Joceline Tan, The Star

MENTRI Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said was a worried man as he waited for the results of the last few state seats to come in.

Ahmad had started the day confident of victory but by 9pm, he felt like the ground was about to give way under him. His nerves were frayed and he could hardly sit still, moving about constantly as he took and made calls on his mobile phone.

One Umno official has since described it as a "harrowing night". Terengganu has a reputation as a swing state and many thought that it was about to swing again on the night of May 5. Everything was hanging on the outcome of two seats – Kuala Berang and Bukit Besi.

It was only after 10pm that the official verdict came in. Barisan Nasional had pulled through in Terengganu by a slim majority of two seats. Barisan won 17 seats of the 32 state seats, PAS 14 seats and PKR one. The eight parliamentary seats were evenly split between the two sides.

It was a far cry from 2008 when Terengganu had given Barisan 24 state seats and seven parliamentary seats.

Hilmi: Taken over from his PAS ulama father in Manir. Hilmi: Taken over from his PAS ulama father in Manir.

Many are surprised that Ahmad survived the results and was sworn in as Mentri Besar for a second term.

It was one of those ironies of politics. Ahmad's predecessor Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh had led Barisan to a clear-cut victory in 2008 but could not get the royal nod to be reinstated as Mentri Besar.

But as some have pointed out, there were "omens", so to speak, that it would not be smooth sailing for Ahmad.

For instance, shortly before nominations, the Mentri Besar's Lexus, which was following the entourage of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, hit a cow and the headlights and bumper were damaged.

A few days later, Ahmad was driving alone and as he turned the corner to his house, a car crashed into the passenger side of his vehicle.

Then, several days before polling, Ahmad was trapped in a stalled lift for about 40 minutes after giving an interview to a radio station.

Three omens over two weeks is no laughing matter and on the eve of polling, Ahmad performed the solat hajat in seven mosques within his state seat, Kijal, to seek divine guidance. But there was, apparently, one more omen to come. Ahmad was on the way from Terengganu to Putrajaya to get the letter authorising his reappointment as Mentri Besar, when the car he was in broke down near Temerloh and he had to continue the journey in the accompanying car.

Generally, most people are quite thankful that there was none of the high drama that had occurred after the 2008 election between the Palace and Umno over the choice of Mentri Besar.

But the question being asked is to what extent is Ahmad to be blamed for the poor showing in the state. Many agree that he works hard, has no airs and is a genuine grassroots politician.

Wan Hakim: Appointed Barisan whip in State Assembly. Wan Hakim: Appointed Barisan whip in State Assembly.

But as one Umno politician put it, his style harks back to the 1970s and it simply does not work anymore.

Ahmad's kampung style has been in stark contrast to the all-systems-go method of Idris who was Mentri Besar from 2004 to 2008. The technocratic Idris had given the state a new airport, modern seafront esplanade, the Crystal Mosque, a Civilisation Park and a stadium although the roof collapsed twice. As a result, the people of Terengganu gave Barisan a big majority in 2008.

Research consultant Dr Azmi Omar, who used to head a Terengganu-based think-tank, had actually predicted to anyone who would listen that Terengganu would fall.

"You could say I was almost right," he said.

Dr Azmi had never been impressed by Ahmad's administration. On nomination day, he could see that not many in the Barisan line-up could be considered as "winnable candidates" and he thought PAS had a more impressive slate.

"PAS had new blood, you could see the transition. But the new faces from Umno were actually recycled faces. One new face was 68 years old. You call that a new face? It's like you went in to lose," he said.

To compound matters, the "old new face" was fighting a medical doctor from PAS. No prizes for guessing who won.

New faces

Dr Azmi said Barisan's place in power was saved by the young, new faces put in the four state seats in Setiu, all of whom won.

"They were fresh faces, degree holders, had no baggage and voters were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, I would have been right about Terengganu falling," he said.

One Barisan assemblyman put it this way: "We were missing the X-Factor."

Earlier on, there was criticism in PAS that there were too many ulama in the line-up. Party critics said the ulama class is good at saving souls but know little about the economy. A total of 15 ulama were put up to contest and only half of them won. But this is a new breed of ulama who have one foot in the old world and the other in the new world.

All the PAS candidates had university or college degrees. For instance, the new Manir assemblyman Hilmi Harun has a background in Islamic studies but is now reading for a PhD in political science in Australia. His father is PAS Dewan Ulama head Datuk Harun Taib. The new Tepuh assemblyman Hishamuddin Abdul Karim is a handsome Al Azhar graduate and was a religious officer in a GLC.

PAS in Terengganu put up the most number of new and well-educated faces and many credit secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali who is from Terengganu for that.

"A number of the Umno candidates were not suitable for the new political landscape. That's why we lost the young and first-time votes," said corporate figure Raja Ghazali Raja Abdul Rahman.

Raja Ghazali said several factors dragged Barisan down in the eyes of voters. Chief among them is the lack of development which had led to a shortage of jobs and business opportunities.

Hard as it is to believe, he said the cost of living in Terengganu is quite high and eating out in a restaurant sometimes costs more than in Kuala Lumpur. He also believes that the civil service were not completely with Barisan because they did not have a high regard for the state administration.

Like many others, Raja Ghazali thought the Barisan line-up included too many poorly-educated people or what the locals call calon cap ayam (ayam brand of candidates).

For instance, everyone is talking about the assemblyman who only studied till Form Three but is now a state exco member.

Yet, it is not as though Barisan does not have quality people. For instance, engineer and Air Putih assemblyman Wan Hakim Wan Mokhtar is educated, smart and sincere. His father is Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Wan Ahmad who was the Mentri Besar when Terengganu fell to PAS in 1999.

Everyone agrees that Wan Hakim is more than worthy of a state exco post. But the palace has old issues with his father and the son has been unable to move up. However, Ahmad recently made Wan Hakim the Barisan whip in the state assembly.

There has also been much mention of Ustaz Azhar Idrus, a charismatic preacher from Kuala Terengganu as a factor for PAS' near win. Ustaz Azhar does not have any fancy religious degrees but he has three beautiful wives and is a witty and interesting speaker. He is also known as Ustaz YouTube, loves photography and has 1.2mil Facebook friends. He was not a candidate but he was on the PAS campaign circuit.

Religion and Malay politics go hand-in-glove, and PAS in Terengganu still commands the moral voice.

The close race had also caused quite a bit of excitement among state PAS leaders, including party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang who had gathered at the party headquarters in Kuala Terengganu to wait for the results.

But Hadi also had a heart-stopping moment when a TV station wrongly announced that he had lost in Marang. On the contrary, Hadi came almost within touching distance of the Mentri Besar post.

Not everyone relishes the idea of having Hadi up there again, given his unremarkable track record but he would definitely have had a more qualified team to work with had he won.

Reporters had gone to Hadi's house in Rusila near midnight on May 5, hoping to get a reaction statement. The lights were still on in the house but they were told that Hadi was exhausted and had gone to bed.

There has been all sorts of speculation that Ahmad had threatened to jump if he was not reinstated as Mentri Besar but those close to him dismissed it as "stupid lies". They said he is not like that and that "he is with Umno, heart and soul".

Ahmad has since come across as rather defensive about the election results. On election night, he was clearly annoyed, even angry, when reporters quizzed him about the narrow win.

The jury is still out there as to what exactly went wrong, but many have concluded that unless some radical changes take place, Barisan will have trouble holding on to Terengganu in the next general election.


Beyond Black 505

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 04:01 PM PDT

Pakatan should concentrate on ensuring a fair delineation of electoral constituencies. 

Zefry Dahalan, FMT

The Black 505 rally scheduled for June 22 in Kuala Lumpur is expected to draw a crowd that is even larger than the record-breaking one that Bersih gathered for its third rally last year.

However, cynics are asking whether the Black 505 series will achieve anything more significant than giving vent to the anger felt by Pakatan Rakyat and its supporters over perceived unfairness in the conduct of last May 5's general election.

Will there be a revision of the results of the 13th general election? Will the government revamp the Election Commission (EC)?

Will the EC chairman and his deputy lose their jobs?

Perhaps the most important question is whether another big rally will ensure a free and fair 14th general election.

Most observers would answer "No" to all of the questions above.

Even if the Election Commission (EC) were to promise to implement new procedures to ensure transparency in coming elections, no reasonable observer is going to take it seriously.

The indelible ink fiasco in the recent election illustrates how the BN-friendly commission can foul up things at the last minute.

Perhaps the best thing for Pakatan to do now is to ensure that it has a significant say in the re-delineation of electoral constituencies so as to prevent the kind of gerrymandering that BN used to do when it controlled more than two thirds of Parliament.

A fair and even delineation will help Pakatan win more seats in the 14th general election.

Except perhaps in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, population increases in most rural areas since the 2003 delineation have not been significant enough to merit the creation of new seats.

Delineation exercise

In many urban and semi-urban areas, however, the numbers of registered voters have far exceeded parameters determined by the EC.

For example, the semi-urban parliament constituency of Kapar in Selangor had 112,224 voters for the 12th general election. This number increased to 144,369 for the recent election. In five years' time, assuming a similar increase, there will be 176,514 voters.

Pakatan should demand that Kapar be split into three parliament seats for the next election.

In fact, in Selangor alone, nine other parliament constituencies now need to be split.

They are Serdang, Subang, Hulu Langat, Gombak, Puchong, Selayang, Kota Raja, Kelana Jaya and Shah Alam. Each has more than 100,000 voters.

Klang is another candidate for re-delineation. In 2008, it had 77,816. The number increased to 97,252 in five years. By the time the 14th general election comes around, it should easily pass the 100,000 mark.

If each of these 11 seats in Selangor were split into two, Pakatan could easily add 11 more to its tally in Parliament.

BN will undoubtedly demand the creation of new seats in the rural areas where it is confident of voter support, but it would not gain much advantage over Pakatan unless EC could come up with a justification to use different parameters for rural areas.

Outside Selangor, there are many more urban and semi-urban seats that need to be split.

These include Gelang Patah (106,864 voters), Seremban (102,507), Johor Bahru (96,515) and Kota Melaka (92,511).



Politicising Agong’s birthday

Posted: 15 Jun 2013 03:46 PM PDT

There is nothing wrong in Malaysians criticising the Agong's speech and to question the election results as both actions are their rights guaranteed by the federal constitution. 

Jeswan Kaur, FMT

Have our rulers lost touch with the grassroots reality? The 'glass wall' that separates the rulers from the rakyat so often leads to their failure in listening to the rakyat and their problems.

At best, the rulers as the rakyat see it symbolise the Malay heritage; reality however has proven that politics always supercedes the monarchy, many a times at the expense of the rakyat's welfare.

Apart from the time and again reminders to the people to keep away from the issue of the Malay rights and privileges, the rakyat has yet to recall a subject or issue that has affected the country's rulers to the extent that they make it a priority to raise the matter at the available platform.

One good avenue which avails itself to the rulers is the speech they make in conjunction with the celebration of their official birthday.

Sadly, this platform too has been hijacked by the BN government to push for an agenda of their own.

One example is the speech made by the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, which was broadcast live on May 31, the eve of the official celebration of his birthday.

In his speech, the Agong called on Malaysians to accept the 13th general election results for the sake of the country's peace, stability and security.

However, to PKR de-factor leader Anwar Ibrahim, the Agong's speech was in no way going to halt his plans in going ahead with is Black 505 rally to protest against the alleged rigging of the May 5, 2013 general election.

The June 15-planned rally was postponed to June 22 due to the unavailability of the venue Padang Merbok on the previous date.

But to the BN sycophants, Anwar's insistence in executing the rallies is nothing short of his disrespect for the Agong.

Anwar however begs to differ for he believes the Agong's speech was not worth heeding for it was fabricated by the Prime Minister's office.

Anwar alluded that the BN federal government had used the Agong's speech to 'pressure' the rakyat to accept last month's general election results; this stand has gone on to earn Anwar the 'traitor' tag, with some BN MPs going so far as to suggest that an Anti-Treason Act be put in place to 'safeguard' the Agong.

Constitution reigns supreme

The irony of it all however is that the Agong's speech enjoys no immunity and can be questioned, said constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari.

Indeed, who better to 'separate the wheat from the chaff' if not Abdul Aziz, the former law lecturer at International Islamic University Malaysia who courted controversy in 2011 when he described the Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah's intervention in a raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church as unusual and inconsistent.

And the very Umno MPs who then accused Abdul Aziz of treason are today creating a palaver by crying foul over Anwar's gumption to question the Agong's and labelling the PKR adviser a traitor.

Abdul Aziz matter-of-factly says there is nothing wrong in Malaysians criticising the Agong's speech and to question the election results as both actions are their rights guaranteed by the federal constitution.

"We must always remember that in this country, it is the constitution that reigns supreme and everybody, including the Agong, is subject to it.

"No one, and this includes the Agong, has the power to deny the rights guaranteed under the country's laws and constitution.

"These include the right to question the election results, so long as this is done in accordance with the constitution," he told Malaysiakini.

But then as before, Umno-BN is paying no heed to Abdul Aziz's words, the latter who like many Malaysians holds the view that the Umno-BN government has spared no effort in distorting the notion of the Agong as the symbol of authority even to the point of condemning those MPs who criticised the Agong's speech.

"As in any Westminster system, such a speech is essentially the government's speech and policy even though it is read out by the monarch. As such the criticism is neither disrespectful nor seditious."

Hence, Anwar did nothing wrong by questioning the Agong's speech.



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