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No tradition without representation

Posted: 05 Jul 2013 07:04 PM PDT

Still, though some ugly ethno-nationalist authoritarians hate our Westminster system (one called democracy a "cancer"), the concepts of elections and representation are embedded in our culture. 

Tunku 'Abidin Muhriz, IDEAS

I nipped down to the Dewan Rakyat this week and caught a glimpse of the parliamentary action that has been widely reported in the newspapers. The foyer around the chamber was buzzing with special officers and interns brisk-walking, hands clutching mobile devices and their bosses' bags, hoping that their efforts will make some difference to the country, or at least, enjoying feeling important in the corridors of power. I always gaze up to the portraits of long-forgotten Dewan Ra'ayat [sic] speakers and Dewan Negara presidents, who in their copious wigs oversaw debates in impeccable English enriched by witty retorts.

Reading the Hansard of the sixties it seems impossible that our august house could descend to a level where an MP (or newspaper) could ask a Malaysian citizen to leave the country because of a difference of opinion (or misreporting of opinions). Unfortunately this does now happen; tragically we are unsurprised by it, so routine it has become. Though the general election ejected some thugs, remnants of ugly ethno-nationalist authoritarianism continue to stain the Dewan Rakyat's plush chairs. Thankfully (and finally), now that the election is over, there are at least some sensible voices from coalition partners condemning these immature comments.

One of those asked to leave the country was Tony Pua, who along with Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah kindly launched my latest compilation of uncensored and unabridged articles (Roaming Beyond the Fence, RM39.90 at most bookstores!) on Sunday. I read some excerpts from the book to ignite discussion on issues that will be hotly contested in the next few years, including English-medium schools, subsidies and a lack of trust in national institutions. Their acceptance of the fact that patriotic Malaysians can have different views on policy issues is something that should be emulated by all parliamentarians.

Indeed we have already seen disagreement on issues even amongst the BN ranks at this early stage of the parliamentary sitting. I particularly enjoyed Kalabakan MP Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh stating matter-of-factly that, if faced with armed intruders at home, he would "ambik shotgun dan terus tembak". He was arguing that the response to the invasion of Lahad Datu was too slow and too tepid – a view that seemed to have cross-party support.

More current is the opposition from two ministers to a clause of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 that would allow the unilateral conversion of children to Islam. Theoretically, such open dissent should never happen in cabinet government, in which every minister is supposed to support the government in public (or resign, as Dato' Zaid Ibrahim did on the ISA). While questions are raised about the extent of discussion within the cabinet on such important measures, the growing momentum of opposition to a controversial, potentially abused piece of legislation will be welcomed by many quarters. (Still, even if it goes through, matters pertaining to Islam remain decentralised to the states, so this law would only apply in the Federal Territories.)

The doctrine of cabinet collective responsibility notwithstanding, the expressing of independent views from our politicians is a good thing. Our electoral system assumes that MPs are individuals who primarily represent their constituents. The phrase "political party" does not appear once in our Federal Constitution, and the appointments of Prime Minister, Menteris Besar or Chief Ministers are based on the likely support of a majority of individuals in the legislature regardless of party. This may become extremely important in light of the upcoming by-election in Terengganu.

As we have seen though, most Malaysians seem to vote more according to the party logo than the individual: when coupled with undemocratic means of candidate selection, it means good people end up being defeated and bad people end up continuing the stain the plush chairs.

Still, though some ugly ethno-nationalist authoritarians hate our Westminster system (one called democracy a "cancer"), the concepts of elections and representation are embedded in our culture.

On Tuesday the 18th Penghulu Luak of Gunung Pasir was formally introduced to the Yang di-Pertuan Besar at Istana Besar Seri Menanti. As per the adat, he was elected in a three-stage process after the demise of the previous penghulu (chieftain) by the lembaga (headmen) of Gunung Pasir, out of the Tanah Datar clan (not the Seri Lemak Minangkabau clan as misreported by a certain newspaper apparently ignorant of the fact that membership of a suku (clan) is matrilineal).

Each of the five luaks (districts) in the Tanah Mengandung – constituent parts of Negeri Sembilan which do not have an Undang – have their own histories and customs, but each penghulu is charged with upholding the democratic adat and representing their kinsfolk to the sovereign institution. Sounds familiar, no?

Read more here: 


Malay journalists leader lays out elaborate theory on another community, no guesses which

Posted: 05 Jul 2013 03:31 PM PDT

Lee Shi-Ian, TMI

Forging alliances with Malay opposition parties and using the democratic parliamentary process has been the cornerstone for the DAP's slow but inexorable rise to power in Malaysia, said Dr Alias Mohamed.

Alias, who is the president of the National Association of Malay Journalists and Writers of Malaysia and the Kelantan Malay Journalists Association, wrote in Utusan Malaysia that Malay leaders were worried that years of compromising with the Chinese would eventually lead to the loss of Malay authority and influence.

"The smooth strategy employed by Chinese leaders, despite their numbers being less than 30 per cent of the nation's 29 million population, culminated in a golden opportunity when they allied with Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS in the 2008 general election," Alias said.

The Chinese leaders had learnt from their past mistakes in 1969 when their blatant attempt to wrest powers from the Malay community failed. Alias claimed that during the reign of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, he was pressured several times into giving concessions and exemptions to the Chinese, including the allocation of additional seats.

"After 1969, the Chinese realised that only through the democratic process could their political ambitions become reality. The same problem plagued the next three Prime Ministers after Tunku, who were pressured to give the Chinese community universities and recognising their language," Alias said.

"The Chinese hope that the opportunity to rule will emerge once the democratic door has been opened for them to seize the chance. Whether it is through demographic changes, opportunities through weaknesses in the democratic system or through allying themselves with Malay and non-Malay political parties," Alias said.

"The Chinese are very well aware that they will not be able to control the country in a short space of time, especially without the support of Malay opposition parties such as PAS and PKR. DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng himself admitted before the election that he would be happy if they won 100 of the 222 parliamentary seats up for contest."

Lim, who is also the Penang Chief Minister, is alleged to have said he hoped that there would be chaos within Umno and BN which would point towards a change in the composition of parliamentary seats in the august House.

In this context, DAP calculated that they would rise to power through two methods, one, in the short term, the party hopes that power falls into their hands as chaos in Parliament would encourage BN MPs or other parties to jump ship and join DAP.

Second, in the long term, they hope that there will be a major change in the population demographic due to oversights from the Malay leaders in the ruling party who will continue to press for developments both urban and rural, hence, it will encourage the migration of Chinese communities to these areas.

In the 2008 general polls, with the cooperation of PAS and PKR and exploiting the dissatisfaction of urban voters with BN, DAP conquered Penang and for a short while, Perak. With the same modus operandi, DAP merged with PKR and PAS to rule Selangor.

DAP also won parliamentary seats in the Federal Territory as well. Excluding Perak, in the 13th general polls, they repeated their success from 2008 by winning in Penang, Selangor and Federal Territory where Chinese voters were the dominant force.

On the surface, the Malay votes shifted from PAS to Barisan Nasional. Although PAS returned to control Kelantan and almost snatched Terengganu, but its influence seems to be declining and in the May 5 polls, they sacrificed Kedah to BN.

Alias said the role played by Chinese-language newspapers and magazines in spreading their influence, such as language, culture and the interests of the community in the economy and politics, could not be denied.

In line with their race, whose numbers are increasing, besides the economic interests and political voice, which is getting louder, the Chinese community continues to plan and exploit the various channels of power and democratic instruments to strengthen and consolidate everything they have accumulated since 1957.



Which way for Malaysia after election petition?

Posted: 05 Jul 2013 03:26 PM PDT

It is too early to talk about the outcome of the lawsuits and what I am concerned about is, would the defeated party helplessly accept the court's decision like Gore or launch a new round of battle, after the court's decision is announced? 

Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily

The goal of national reconciliation seems still very far away. The Election Commission has so far received 60 election appeals, with some of them having their trial dates set.

It is the people's right under the law to challenge election results. Voters or candidates have the right to file election appeals as long as there is sufficient evidence.

According to constitutional experts, however, challenging election results in court is not easy. The judicial procedures are complicated and time-consuming. Most appeals might not be able to enter the trial phase due to technical problems.

The current political impasse in the country reminds me of the US presidential election in 2000.

The contest was between Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore, the incumbent vice-president.

A controversy broke out over the awarding of the state of Florida and the 25 electoral votes that came with it. Since the votes gained by the two candidates were very close, with Bush gaining only 1,784 more votes than Gore, votes were recounted again and again and appeals were filed.

The intense legal battle lasted for 36 days.

Eventually, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 vote that the Florida recounts could not be completed before a Dec 12 "safe harbour" deadline, and should therefore cease and the previously certified total should hold.

It put Gore in a hopeless situation and Bush won.

In fact, Gore received 543,895 more popular votes than Bush across the whole country.

However, the US President is decided by electoral votes. Therefore, although Gore won the popular vote, he still lost to Bush who gained more electoral votes.

For Gore, it was indeed a painful result.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision being accused of political bias, Gore still showed his respect to the rule of law and graciously accepted the defeat. He said, "While I strongly disagree with the court's position, I accept it."

He called for supporters to accept the finality of the outcome, put the country's interests before the party and unite behind the new President.

It is one of the most classic and controversial presidential elections in US history, not only because it is filled with intrigues, but also because it exposed the unfairness of the American electoral system of politics.

It could hardly be imagined that the Americans, who attach high importance to democracy and human rights, would still accept such a flawed electoral system even today.

The 13th General Election in Malaysia has also exposed a flaw in the electoral system.

Pakatan Rakyat lost the election even though it was able to win the popular vote. It has triggered a controversy over the electoral system, while leading to protracted lawsuits.

It is too early to talk about the outcome of the lawsuits and what I am concerned about is, would the defeated party helplessly accept the court's decision like Gore or launch a new round of battle, after the court's decision is announced?



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