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Self-serving politicians and our future

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 03:40 PM PDT

Without doubt my underlying concern in giving Anwar Ibrahim/Pakatan Rakyat political power is what he and his peers will do with it.


I cringe when I read about the self serving decisions made by leaders within Barisan Nasional.

Even after 31 years as president of MIC, S Samy Velu arrogantly insists to holding the post of the chairman of MIC's education arm MIED, a post traditionally held by the party president. This is to ensure that he still has relevance in MIC.

MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek decided that MCA would not accept any government positions as they have not done better than the 2008 election results.

To what end has he decided on this? Initially it was to try and garner electoral support in the run up to the 13th general election. Now that that ploy has failed because the Chinese choose to vote for DAP, not only is the MCA president left with egg on his face, but he is left without meaningful representation on behalf of the Chinese in Najib Tun Razak's cabinet, Sabah and Sarawak know that the federal BN government is dependent on their support to form government.

Instead of using this to negotiate a better deal for their people economically, their political leaders use this as their bargaining chip to stay in office and continue with the plundering of Sabah and Sarawak's wealth.

In spite of our differences, can we agree that corruption must stop! Can we agree that once a government is elected, they should be left to serve out the term of their office – be it at federal or state level?

Can we agree that we all want good governance? Can we agree that we must treat others in the same manner that we want to be treated, and can we agree that we must all work towards our common good without losing sight of the need to respect the individual?

We need to overcome this schism that has already resulted in the most divisive general election ever in our history – an elected BN government that does not have the moral authority to govern because the opposition secured the majority vote but not the government.

We have seen BN declining at an extraordinary pace in these last two general elections.



Islam and modernity

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 03:08 PM PDT

Just as it is not reliable to measure the depth of the sea at low tide, it is not fair to evaluate civilisations and cultures at a low point in their history.

Shad Saleem Faruqi, The Star

A FORTHCOMING seminar in Germany is examining the question whether the Arab world (and by association Islam) is compatible with democracy, rule of law and modernity? It can be conceded that such a question is given credence by the involvement of some Muslims in acts of terrorism and the inability of many Muslim nations to achieve good governance and economic development.

Sleight of hand: Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that it is not reliable to measure the depth of the sea at low tide. It is not fair to evaluate civilisations and cultures at a low point in their history. Further, it must be observed that there is much sleight of hand in Western treatment of Islam.

First, in dealing with Muslims there is a willing confusion between the faith and the faithful. The wrongs of Muslims are attributed to their religion. But the same is not done, and rightly so, when Americans and Europeans commit horrendous crimes around the world.

Second, Islam is not a homogenous or monolithic religion. On any issue – whether terrorism, polygamy or dialogue with the West – the Muslim response is rich in diversity. But only the fanatical views are given media coverage in the West.

Third, the West evaluates Islam exclusively by reference to nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa. But there is more to Islam than its Arab adherents. The most populous Muslim societies are in Asia and have a right to be regarded as important torch bearers.

Fourth, the countries chosen as Islam's paradigm are often those where Western-installed or Western-backed repressive regimes are in control as in Egypt, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact a groundswell of democratic sentiment is sweeping most Muslim societies. Muslim masses desire and deserve freedom and good governance as any people anywhere.

Fifth, the pernicious role of the West in obstructing the growth of representative institutions in Muslim societies like Egypt, Algeria, Turkey, Iran and Palestine is blotted out. If electoral results produce a government not subservient to Washington, the West ensures that the government is overthrown.

Evidently, democracy is desirable but only to the extent it produces governments beholden to the West!

Sixth, Islam is judged by reference to its worst-run and unstable societies. For the Christian civilisation, the affluent, liberal democracies of post-World War II are regarded as standard bearers.

Seventh, in comparing civilisations, it is not fair to match the lofty ideals of one civilisation with the ground realities of another. If theory is compared with theory and practice with practice, it will be seen that the cultural distance between Islam and the West is narrower than is assumed.

From a large number of issues let me highlight just a few.

Principles of government: Denial of state sovereignty is a cardinal principle in Islam long before the writings of Locke and Rousseau. The government is a trustee of the people. Its duty is to rule by consultation (3:159).

Islam and knowledge: There is collective amnesia in Europe and America about the West's debt to the Islamic scientific and cultural heritage.

Economic development: There is a common perception that Islam is the cause of underdevelopment. A UN report indicates that out of 47 low income countries, 25 are Muslim-majority countries. It is submitted, however, that contrasting data is available. For example, on World Food Day, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation issued a list of 37 countries that require "exceptional external assistance" because they are unable to feed themselves. Twenty-six of the 37 countries were non-Muslim countries.

Violence: Muslim societies do generate a great deal of political violence but Western culture produces more street violence. As to terrorism, Muslims have no monopoly over it especially if we view this abomination in all its manifestations, including wars, threats to use nuclear arms, targetted killings, drone attacks and economic strangulation.

Women: Muslim treatment of women has brought Islam much bad publicity. Actually, Islamic rules on modesty for both genders were meant to de-emphasise sexuality and exploitation. Issues of polygamy, unequal shares in inheritance and admissibility of evidence have been tackled in some Muslim societies with democratic imagination.

World view: There is no denying that the world view of the West and of Islam has much in contrast. One is based on secular materialism and value relativism; the other on faith. One separates temporal and spiritual authority; the other unites them.

One protects the values of all with equal indifference; the other provides positive guides for behaviour and rejects the view that everything can be relativised. One calls for individual liberation; the other extols submission of the individual to the eternal values of God.

Whether Muslim societies must be condemned for such "backwardness" or praised for resisting the onslaught of a sex-laced media culture is a matter of opinion. 

> Shad Saleem Faruqi is Professor of Law at UiTM.


Do not blame the East Malaysians for supporting BN

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 12:34 PM PDT 

If certain West Malaysians are perplexed, annoyed or disappointed as to why most of their East Malaysian friends keep on supporting BN when the national coalition appears to have lost its appeal on the mainland, all they need to do is to put themselves in their shoes.

Jaikol Situn, Barrister-at-Law (Gray's Inn); LLM; LLB; BA (Hons)

Political bickering should have toned down by now since the 13th General Election is done and dusted, but as I am still getting all sorts of insinuating and often offensive remarks about my fellow East Malaysians for having thrown BN a lifeline yet again, I am obliged to respond accordingly. If certain West Malaysians are perplexed, annoyed or disappointed as to why most of their East Malaysian friends keep on supporting BN when the national coalition appears to have lost its appeal on the mainland, all they need to do is to put themselves in their shoes.

The East Malaysians account for just 20% of the Malaysian population of 29 million, or roughly equivalent to 7 million people, the majority of which are Dayaks (Iban, Kenyah, Penan,  etc) and Kadazandusun-Muruts, the natives and original people of Malaysia. If you are aware of how minorities in other parts of the world choose their government, they generally keep faith with the incumbent presumably for continuity and political stability, even if misconceived and misplaced, rather than aligning themselves with an untried alternative government with rather grandiose ideals.

You might think my observation is nothing new, but put religious issues into the equation, and you would appreciate a more complicated scenario. This is because at least 75% of these natives are Christians. In Sarawak, Christianity account for at least 40% of the State population, and if you take away the 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Sabah, a similar percentage exists there. To illustrate my point, the election results of P169 Kota Belud perhaps show a typical voting pattern amongst the Christian electorate.

Kota Belud had 51,467 registered voters of which 45% were of the Kadazandusun/Christian ethnicity, 50% Muslims mostly of the Bajau and Sama community and the rest Chinese, Sino-Kadazandusuns and others. The results of the election based on 84% turnout, were as follows: BN 21,768; PKR 16,673; STAR 2,709; Independent No.1 (Muslim) 979; Independent No. 2 (non-Muslim) 185; and spoilt votes 1,109. On the logical assumption that Kadazandusuns/Christians were more likely to vote for either BN or STAR, you can deduce that at least 11,000-12,000 (or 56 - 61% of Kadazandusuns/Christians) voted for BN, whereas the majority of Muslim voters defected to PKR and the Muslim Independent candidate.

My analysis is further corroborated by the fact that Kota Belud is the stronghold of the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church, a denomination which has a large following in both States and has its headquarters in Lawas, Sarawak. Adherents to the faith have been using Bibles in the Indonesian Language before independence. They are well-known for being highly principled and pious. I know this for a fact having so many Christian relatives and friends in the Kota Belud area. From the vote count breakdown, we can be pretty sure that a lower percentage of Christians voted for PKR on the basis that despite the "Malay Bible" controversy instigated by BN, they were not so keen on PR taking over due to their preference to maintain the status quo as I have earlier mentioned. Contrary to what people like Ibrahim Ali have been barking about, the Christians in East Malaysia are actually staunch supporters of BN much like the Christians in Syria who are loyalists of President Assad, or the Christians of Iraq who once supported Saddam Hussein.

Of course money politics was partly to blame and it cannot be denied that BN have created a society that is over-dependent on Government support and handouts, but to the Christian natives, this too may have a divine explanation. If a BN agent came for a visit to a long house in a far flung tribal village on the eve of an election and gave them RM50 each (who knows, it might have been much more) as alleged, these meagre amounts would be like manna from heaven, and prayers and supplication duly answered, and would therefore gladly return the favour. To these God-fearing Malaysians, they would not have cared less even if the money was negligible. Their religion has taught them to appreciate little things in life and not to expect more. Indeed, a Sarawakian Chinese friend of mine who lived amongst the natives opined that Christianity was one of the major obstacles of PR winning overall in Sarawak.

I have heard people in the national capital venting their frustration and anger on East Malaysians by making unkind remarks such as "Let them rot for supporting BN". Quite frankly, these natives, particularly the Christians, would not mind doing so. They are used to living in harsh and God-forsaken environments in the jungle of Borneo, mind you. Furthermore, those of the Christian faith draw strength and comfort from two or three powerful verses of their Bible. Firstly, that "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God", and that it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven, and secondly, that Jesus actually encouraged his followers to support the government of his day by saying "[His] kingdom [was] not of this world". Do not be surprised if many natives follow these teachings to the letter.

So, our West Malaysian friends who are unhappy with the election results are well advised not to point fingers at their East Malaysian counterparts for PR's failure to wrest control of Putrajaya. If you were in their position, you could not blame them for doing so. Be enlightened on the fact that to most West Malaysians, their political struggle is mainly for equality, fairness, respect and pride, but to most Sabahans and Sarawakians, particularly the natives, their political struggle is for sheer survival. To those of the Christian faith of whatever ethnicity in these two States, their political struggle or understanding is also heavily influenced by biblical teachings. Therefore, the inability to appreciate, understand and deal with the rather complicated political issues faced by East Malaysians would be fatal for any political party vying for their support, as PR have probably now realised or learnt.

Advantage Shahrizat - thanks to new role

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 10:09 AM PDT

The appointment of Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil as an adviser with ministerial status to the Prime Minister has been hailed as recognition for the women's wing by her supporters while others have decried it as a disadvantage to her challenger Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

Joceline Tan, The Star

PENGERANG MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is more athletic compared to the ladylike Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil. But the last few days has seen Shahrizat sprint ahead in the race for the Wanita Umno leadership.

It has all to do with the appointment of the incumbent Wanita chief as an adviser to the Prime Minister on matters pertaining to the development of women entrepreneurs and professionals.

It is no small appointment because it comes with ministerial status and perks although it is not equivalent to a seat in the Cabinet.

The appointment has drawn mixed reactions.

Her legion of supporters in Wanita Umno are overjoyed. They think she is getting the recognition she deserves because they felt that she was unfairly penalised for what happened with the National Feedlot Corporation or NFC issue.

Those who contacted her were informed of the appointment which took effect on Aug 15, which was also her 60th birthday. That very day, her close circle had gathered at the National Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Kebajikan Negara) which she is using as her office to celebrate with a simple meal of chicken rice and cake.

But the reaction from the rest of the party has been a little more muted.

Even the Prime Minister, the man behind the appointment, seemed rather taciturn. There has been no official announcement and when asked by the media, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's response was to "just leave it as it is".

The Umno circle does not quite know what to make of it. But what they do know is that a government post carries weight in a party election and the appointment, coming on the threshold of the party election, could be interpreted in a number of ways.

At one level, it simply means that Najib is giving recognition to the Wanita wing.

At another level, it could mean that Najib has no problems with Shahrizat defending her Wanita post or even that he is endorsing her.

Azalina, on her part, finds it "a bit confusing".

"I thought that such advisory posts are only given to those on retirement mode," she said somewhat bitterly.

Whichever way one looks at it, the appointment has lent Shahrizat an unfair advantage over Azalina, who is struggling because she does not have the network or access in the women's wing. Some said the Wanita contest is no longer a level playing field.

The year 2012 had been terrible for Shahrizat. The NFC issue has dragged down her public image, but her support in the Wanita wing is undiminished.

Her new status has given her newfound confidence and she has moved quickly to appoint her loyalist from Perak, Datuk Hamidah Othman, as National Entrepreneurial Group Economic Fund (Tekun) chairman. Another loyalist Datuk Rosni Sohar has been made an appointed member of the supreme council.

These women will help deliver the votes for her and some say, also for Najib.

The Umno election this time will be determined by delegates from 20,342 Umno branches nationwide. Every branch will send five or more delegates, which will include the Wanita head of each branch, to vote for the new leadership line-up. That adds up to more than 20,000 Wanita votes out there.

Najib has seen the extent of Shahrizat's command over the women in the party and he knows that these senior ladies' vote can sway the election.

As such, some think that Shah­rizat's appointment has a lot to do with the Umno president trying to touch the hearts and minds of these women delegates.

Kedah exco member Datuk Suraya Yaakob, who has confirmed that she is contesting the deputy Wanita chief's post, admitted that the Wanita mood is very much with Shahrizat.

Suraya has often been associated with Azalina because they have been part of a tight clique since their Puteri Umno days.

On Monday, after a special briefing on the new election process for the Wanita grassroots leaders, Suraya approached a number of the ladies to inform them that she was going for the number two post.

The first question many of them asked her was: "YB, who are you supporting? If you are with Kak Ijat (Shahrizat), you have our support."

That is the sort of grip that Shahrizat has over the ladies.

During the Johor Umno committee meeting last weekend, Mentri Besar and state Johor chief Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin had declared that Johor will support Johor candidates vying for posts in the Umno polls.

Johor Wanita chief Sharifah Azizah Syed Zain who was at the meeting did not say anything at the time.

But she issued a statement the next day, saying: "Although Azalina is a Johorean, we will elect the Wanita leader based on merit. Parochialism does not have a place in this election."

It was a strong and independent statement from a staunch supporter of Shahrizat.

It will take a miracle for Azalina to beat Shahrizat, but she is still expected to get at least 30% of the vote, which will come from those critical of Shahrizat's leadership, the remnant hardcore supporters of Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as well as the Puteri girls who have moved into the Wanita ranks.

The Shahrizat-Rafidah fight in 2009 was seen as the Steel Magnolia taking on the Iron Lady. The Shahrizat-Azalina contest has been painted as Wanita-versus-Puteri because Azalina was the former Puteri chief.

The two women used to work as corporate lawyers before plunging into politics, but their temperament and political styles could not be more different.

The ringtones of their mobile phones alone says a lot. Shahrizat's phone sports a soulful nasyid tune whereas Azalina's phone has a catchy hip-hop number.

Both women have their own plans and vision for how the Wanita wing should grow. But as expected, this contest is going to be less about who can really deliver than who the women on the ground can relate to and like more.


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