Isnin, 19 Ogos 2013

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The role of public interest litigation in the quest for democracy in Malaysia

Posted: 18 Aug 2013 01:45 PM PDT 

No tradition of such litigation has emerged because the long-standing UMNO government has attempted to prevent citizens and judges from developing such a tradition.

Dr. R. Rueban Balasubramaniam, New Mandala 

After the recent general election, Malaysian democrats have again been frustrated. Once more, the United Malay National Organization ("UMNO") emerged victorious, though many believe this was the most fraudulent election in Malaysia's political history. Now, democrats are redoubling their efforts to reveal such fraud and to seek electoral reform at least with an eye to winning the next election.

Democrats take solace in the fact that UMNO is on very vulnerable political terrain; it cannot compete fairly within upon a democratic playing field, but they should not just exert political pressure on UMNO. They can use another strategy: public interest litigation designed to embarrass UMNO's ethnocratic political program, a program rooted in an authoritarian and discriminatory principle of Malay political dominance. Through such litigation, democrats can cast further doubt on UMNO's claim to exercise legitimate political rule.

At present, Malaysia has no tradition of public interest litigation. This, despite the existence of a supreme written Constitution that contains a bill of rights and provisions that protect important group interests within a rubric of legal equality and provisions that express the principles of the separation of powers and federalism, which guard against the excessive concentration of power in any single organ of government. It is plain that the constitutional framework imposes legal discipline upon political power in a way that is hostile to authoritarian rule that is readily amenable to public interest litigation.

Yet, no tradition of such litigation has emerged because the long-standing UMNO government has attempted to prevent citizens and judges from developing such a tradition. In the 1980s, after concerned citizens went to court to ask judges to check state authoritarianism by reference to constitutional norms, the government, led by Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, UMNO's most well-known ethnocrat and the country's longest serving Prime Minister, put an end to this practice. It sacked judges and amended the Constitution to limit judicial review. And, allegedly, the government rigged judicial appointments to produce a compliant judiciary.

Bracketing the question whether or not the courts are now well placed to develop a tradition of public interest litigation, it first bears noting that the conditions are right to revive public interest litigation. UMNO is weak. It no longer has a supermajority in Parliament and cannot amend the Constitution to suit politically expedient goals. Nor can it afford to appear to meddle in judicial affairs. Perhaps most significant is that UMNO lacks competent leadership. This is the result Dr. Mahathir's long reign as UMNO head. Fearing challenge from within UMNO, he did not groom an adequate leadership structure within the party, so when he retired in 2003, he left it without the intellectual wherewithal to survive.

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Village Security and Development Committees (JKKK): The frontline in Malaysia's next General ...

Posted: 18 Aug 2013 12:12 PM PDT 

There is yet another level within the system government that has been ignored and almost forgotten about within the public domain, although it has been a 'battle front' in the fight for 'winning voter hearts and minds' within Pakatan held states since 2008.

Murray Hunter

Malaysian society has been preoccupied with political discussion since the electoral 'tsunami' in of GE-12 back in March 2008. The result of the last election GE-13 left many feeling that the system, or distortion of the system, cheated them out of the chance of changing the political landscape of the country. However political aspirations, expectations, and debate has been primarily limited to the formal federal and state political arenas.

The Federal and State legislatures are not the only levels of government in Malaysia. Both the Penang and Selangor State governments have been toying with the idea of direct local government elections. However these initiatives have been blocked by both the federal Government and Election Commission (EC) on various grounds.

There is yet another level within the system government that has been ignored and almost forgotten about within the public domain, although it has been a 'battle front' in the fight for 'winning voter hearts and minds' within Pakatan held states since 2008. These are the Village Security and Development Committees (JKKK), which exist in all Malaysian states except Perlis.

The first participatory approach to rural planning occurred during the British colonial period where rural resettlement schemes to create 'new villages' were enacted as a major strategy to stem communist insurgent influence among rural inhabitants. These programs at the time were under British military control.

After independence, consultative Village Security and Development Committees (JKKK) were established under the Tun Razak era to assist in poverty eradication. They were however 'top down' in their approach, where village heads or ketua kampong were believed by the government to be able to articulate the needs and aspirations of kampong people to the district officers around the country, who were the prime implementers of rural development policy. Most of the planning and implementation of major resettlement schemes during this period like DARA, JENGKA, KETENGAH, and KESEDAR involved the local participation of JKKKs.

The Village Security and Development Committees are the 'eyes and ears' of government. The village head is responsible to the district officer and district councils charged with carrying out various government programs at the local level. This includes economic and infrastructure development, poverty eradication, and other general assistance programs involving various government agencies. Consequently the village head is seen as a representative of the state under the authority of the district officer, rather than a representative of the village.

The JKKK system was overhauled in June 2009 by Premier Najib Razak to develop more active participation of village committees in the rural planning and implementation processes. The aim of these reforms were to develop a 'bottom up' orientation to empower the JKKK committees to develop their own project proposals and programs, and also oversee the implementation, under the supervision of both the Housing and Local Government, and Rural Development Ministries.

However it was soon found there was a deep lack of manpower and available skills at village level to achieve anything substantial. The Institut kemajuan Desa or Village Development Institute (INFRA) subsequently developed a series of programs to develop capacities of village residents. The results indicated that these courses were too standardized, formal, and theoretical to provide any real positive benefits. Moreover, many key JKKK people and those who had the interests of the community in mind did not for many reasons attend these courses.

This caused to whole program to be reviewed once again. An announcement of further changes is due later this year.

The Barisan-Pakatan Battlefield

Although the JKKK committees are based on state legislation, they have become centres of political conflict between the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. In Pakatan run states like Penang and Kelantan, the federal government created a parallel JKKKP system without any supporting legislative basis.

The importance of the committees could be clearly seen in the role they played in the recent Kuala Besut bi-election in Terengganu. The JKKK system is very capable of harnessing kinship ties in rural areas as an election tool to garner votes for the BN, and this is the major reason why the JKKKP was formed by the federal government after the 2008 election.

A close relationship between politicians and village communities has maintained the status quo for the BN in rural Malaysia.

The Pakatan Government is now also very heavily reliant on the committees to look after 'their voters' in Penang.

The JKKK has been seen by both sides of politics as a political tool to attack their political adversaries at the community level, rather than a community empowerment mechanism. Consequently it could be easily assumed that the system is now managed to with the sole objective of reaching people at village level for political influence rather than with any major intentions of gathering 'bottom up' information and consultation to aid rural planning and development process.

The Current Troubles with the JKKK(P) Systems

The current JKKK(P) process hosts many problems which need to be resolved if there are to be any real benefits to rural communities.

Primarily those people selected as village heads are usually those who herald political ambition. They often hold party positions within UMNO. This leads to a highly politicized system. Rather than focusing on bringing new farming methods to their areas, looking after village security, tackling social issues, and strengthening livelihoods through making available more entrepreneurial opportunities, many village heads use their position to obtain financial benefits. There have been cases of village heads leasing out communal lands to corporations without any benefits being derived by their communities. In places like Sabah, many village heads have benefitted personally through logging contracts, which have actually caused flooding within local communities due to lack of any land management. In many cases village heads have become brokers and patrons rather than representatives, focusing on intra-party affairs rather than rural development.

In addition, a number of village heads actually don't live in their areas of responsibility. In places like Rantau Panjang Kelantan, villagers must travel great distances to find their federally appointed village heads who are required to sign school enrollment forms.  

Through government appointed village heads, the ruling party is able to force it's will upon the village population. A small minority can dominate an unorganized majority. The village head's access to funds and services aids their ability to control many aspects of village life. The JKKK(P) structure ensures the exercise of state authority into the most remote communities of the country, and this is suppressing community empowerment. Village heads are political appointees, who along with district officers are too often seen as beneficiaries of development policies. In Malaysia today, the JKKK(P) is just used as another means to reward supporters.

The current community consultative process has taken on some of the worst feudal characteristics of Malaysian political institutions. The system has failed to provide policymakers with true feedback on community needs, enable efficient implementation and delivery of services, nor assist in creating any sustainable wellbeing of rural communities. The government has been forced to reform the system a number of times.

Turning the Corner?

If the village consultative process was structured in a more embracing way to attract more village cooperation, this process could have a major role to play in Malaysian rural life. Village consultative committees have the potential to be a game-changer. Not only could this very 'grassroots' political institution assist in the policy making and delivery process, but also act as a major medium of community empowerment that can possibly change the lives of many rural people. If communities were allowed to select their own representatives, coordinators, and leaders, and able to scrutinize them in a transparent, accountable, and responsible manner, the level of trust, respect, and acceptance of village leaders would drastically rise with far reaching impacts on the mainstream political process.

Village consultative committees should carry the hallmark of democratic accountability rather than be an extension tool of governments on both sides of the political spectrum. The village consultative system cannot be an extension of any political party or grouping. The leaders of community consultative committees must be those who are generally concerned with the wellbeing of their villages, where committee management must be along the lines of ...'of the people, for the people, and by the people' living in each locality. Absentee leadership should be seen for what it is; a past relic of feudalism.

It is in this spirit that village consultative committees can start to look after the real interests of their respective communities with a deep sense of local purpose. The interests of the young, old, single mothers, disabled, and unemployed can be considered in this setting, where advice can go out to the relevant authorities that should serve rather than try to direct these communities.

This is where the crux of change must take place.

It's not about infrastructure and first class facilities, it's about mindset. The narrative of domination must be reframed to the narrative of serving. if this is achieved, then communities will be able to develop their own savings cooperatives and operate micro-credit schemes without any external assistance, rather than be, dependent upon handouts by domineering political patrons.

Self management and independence brings a sense of pride that rural people in Malaysia deserve. It's time rural people gained the respect they deserve rather than being manipulated by the party political process.

Village consultative committees must be primarily concerned with the development of a sustainable community lifestyle that also respects cultural integrity. To achieve this, special efforts must be put into developing the necessary capacities for the youth to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that can be a source of both value as an enterprise at the individual level, and also create social value within the community. The current system has miserably failed on this premise.

Many people involved in Malaysian rural development will be looking closely at the new scheduled reforms that will be announced by Premier Najib Razak later in the year.

However there is a major drawback. Any change of government in the next general election requires political support from the rural heartland. The next election will be won and lost here. One of the keys to winning the rural heartlands will be control of the JKKK(P) system and the influence these committees can bring upon rural voters.  This is where the frontline will be drawn for GE-14.


Village Consultative Committees are most likely to remain subservient to ruling interests for this purpose.

Membuka pintu dialog

Posted: 18 Aug 2013 11:58 AM PDT 

Konvoi Rumah Ibadat Seremban membawa peserta memasuki masjid, kuil, gurdwara, gereja dan tokong. 

Sesungguhnya Nabi Muhammad menggalakkan dialog antara agama. Hakikat dan fakta ini nampaknya kurang diketahui sekelompok umat  Islam di Malaysia; khususnya pemimpin agama Islam yang menganggap kedudukan mereka "lebih tinggi dalam agama, jadi mereka tidak boleh duduk sama taraf dengan Bukan Islam" (The Malaysian Insider, 1 Ogos 2013).

Uthaya Sankar SB, TMI 

Setiap orang Islam sewajarnya mengajak orang Bukan Islam (Tidak Islam; Non-Muslim) untuk berbincang tentang konsep ketuhanan, kehidupan selepas kematian, perayaan dan sebagainya dalam amalan budaya masing-masing.

Demikianlah juga ditekankan oleh Telaga Biru Sdn Bhd pada bahagian "Kata Penerbit" buku Fiqah Berinteraksi dengan Non-Muslim (2009) tulisan Mohammad Nidzam Abd Kadir. Maka jangan pula ada puak yang menuduh saya mempromosikan dialog antara agama secara yang kononnya bertentangan dengan seruan Rasulullah dan ajaran Islam.

Istilah "fiqah" atau "fikah" merujuk kepada ibadat dan hukum-hakam syarak dalam Islam. Buku setebal 186 halaman ini yang terbahagi kepada 12 bab membicarakan pelbagai topik yang amat wajar untuk bacaan golongan Muslim; khususnya dalam suasana pelbagai "fatwa" (tanda kutip) dikeluarkan saban hari.

Bagi golongan Bukan Islam pula, pembacaan buku ini akan memberikan maklumat yang amat berguna juga; sama ada untuk memahami pelbagai perkara dan hukum-hakam pergaulan dengan rakan-rakan dan jiran-tetangga beragama Islam, atau untuk bersedia apabila diajak terlibat dalam dialog sihat berkaitan agama.

"Dakwah kepada non-Muslim mestilah dengan berhikmah, nasihat yang baik dan dialog. Proses ini memerlukan kita umat Islam bukan sahaja mengetahui agama Islam sahaja tetapi perlu juga mengetahui asas agama-agama lain," Mohammad Nidzam mengingatkan pembaca Islam.

Saya menerima senaskhah buku yang tepu dengan ilmu ini daripada Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia Negeri Sembilan sewaktu menyertai Konvoi Rumah Ibadat di Seremban, Negeri Sembilan pada 17 Februari 2013. Buku berkenaan saya baca dari semasa ke semasa untuk menimba ilmu dan meningkatkan pengetahuan.

Petikan ayat-ayat Quran disertakan dengan terjemahan Bahasa Malaysia bagi memudahkan pemahaman. Beberapa terjemahan akan saya petik dalam makalah ini.

Seperti kata penerbit buku ini, orang Islam sepatutnya tidak menghalang orang Bukan Islam daripada membaca ayat-ayat (terjemahan) Quran; sebalik perlu bertanya sama ada ayat-ayat yang sama terdapat dalam agama mereka. Nah, inilah satu cara dialog antara agama!

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