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Lessons from Egypt upheaval

Posted: 17 Aug 2013 04:05 PM PDT

The bloodbath, over which Malaysia and other countries have expressed a deep regret, has plunged Egypt into deepening chaos and emboldened the brutal military regime that showed little or no interest at all to put the country back on the road to democracy.

A. Jalil Hamid

THERE have been a series of paradoxes in a volatile Egypt. Firstly, an 18-day-old revolt spearheaded by the young people of Egypt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular uprising, tens of thousands leapt to their feet, bouncing and dancing in joy on news of Mubarak's ouster.

"Lift your head high, you're an Egyptian," they had cried. Repeating the tense of the revolution's war cry, they screamed: "The people, at last, have brought down the regime".

Then in the last two months -- in a bizarre twist of events -- we saw a seemingly democratic movement urging the military, which backed six decades of the autocratic rule by Mubarak, to topple a democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, who succeeded Mubarak.

The political turbulence in the post-Mubarak era in the most populous Arab country could be described as the proverbial "out of the frying pan, into the fire". Egyptians' taste for democracy proved to be short-lived, falling back into the trap of the powerful military.

The euphoria over the downfall of strongman Mubarak soon fizzled out as Egyptians lashed out against Morsi's government over soaring food prices and rising unemployment.

"Liberal" political parties, upset by Morsi's leadership that tried to forge ahead with his government's Islamic agenda, then decided to join forces with the military to topple his Muslim Brotherhood's supremacy in Egypt.

The secular-liberals, who had earlier failed to make much inroads in the country's elections, found it politically expedient to join hands with the generals to oust the Brotherhood government.

With Morsi arrested and his power seized, his supporters had retaliated with massive protests in Cairo and other big cities. The protests turned yet into a bloodbath on Aug 14, when armed police stormed thousands of the Brotherhood's supporters and peaceful demonstrators camped beside a mosque and a university in Cairo.

In the ensuing mayhem, more than 500 people were killed and nearly 3,000 injured with the violence spreading to other cities, including Alexandria and Suez and a score of churches were burned down. A month-long state of emergency was declared across the country.

The bloodbath, over which Malaysia and other countries have expressed a deep regret, has plunged Egypt into deepening chaos and emboldened the brutal military regime that showed little or no interest at all to put the country back on the road to democracy.

The Wall Street Journal said the events on Aug 14 showed that Egypt could be heading into a "murderous civil war" that could be a tragedy for the country.

The generals' worst mistake, however, is to ignore the chief lesson of the Arab Spring, The Economist wrote. "This is that ordinary people yearn for dignity. They hate being bossed around by petty officials and ruled by corrupt autocrats. Instead, they want better lives, decent jobs and some basic freedoms."

A democratic transition for countries such as Egypt, which has never tasted a proper democracy, will be long and painful. It is not going to be simple and easy in the first place.

What complicates things is the repression unleashed by the new military rulers in Egypt. The road to democracy should not be paved with violence and civil disobedience.

In the case of Egypt, democracy should not be an end but a means to achieve greater good. The ultimate goal is to serve the people by meeting their basic needs and preserving their rights.

The lesson for Egypt is that there is more to democracy than just winning elections. From the people-led Arab spring, it has now ominously turned into a generals' summer.


Thin line between politics and family

Posted: 17 Aug 2013 03:42 PM PDT

Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz fended off criticism about appointing his son as his special officer but the cosy nexus between politics and family exists in almost every political party.

Joceline Tan, The Star

DATUK Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz almost outshone superstars like Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe a few days ago – or at least their models at the wax museum in Shah Alam.

The Tourism Minister hammed it up with them – he tried out a kungfu move on Bruce, stroked Marilyn's cheek and draped an arm over the shoulder of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who looked happier than he ever looked when alive.

It was rather too much action for a museum but not even the owner of the museum was about to tell him that.

Besides, Nazri might have told him, "I don't give a damn", because that was what he said when the media queried him about his son being listed as a "special officer" on the Tourism Ministry website.

It will probably go down as one of his more famous or should it be infamous quotes?

Nazri has since explained that his son Muhammad Nedim is not a gazetted officer but is employed as an aide to help him in constituency duties.

Nedim's name would not have attracted much attention had it not been for the fact that he does not have a sterling reputation and has made news for all the wrong reasons in the past.

The most used photo of Nedim shows him looking uber cool in aviator glasses and smoking a cigar and, truth be told, very few people can associate him with political work.

The minister was his usual macho self when brushing off media questions about it but he also came across as rather defensive.

Family in politics is always a tricky matter.

Even when everything is above board, there is always that element of doubt of a conflict of interest, somewhere and somehow.

But, as everyone would have noticed, the Pakatan Rakyat side which is always so quick to jump on everything and anything Umno has been strangely silent.

No prizes for guessing why – very few politicians have not dabbled in a bit of nepotism now and then.

"For Nazri to employ his son is not something unusual. Both sides of the political divide do it," said author and social historian Dr Neil Khor.

The reality, said Dr Khor, is that Malaysian politics has developed in such a way that there is only a thin line between the business of politics and family business.

Barely a day after the Nazri-and-son episode, a Chinese language paper reported that two exco members of the Penang government also had family members on the payroll.

PKR's Abdul Malik Kassim, state exco member for religious, domestic trade and consumer affairs, had employed his sister as his administrative assistant in his Komtar office since 2008.

Another state exco member Chong Eng, who is also the DAP women's chief, had her newly-graduated son on the payroll although she has insisted that he was hired at her personal expenses.

The public tends to be very accommodating when small and struggling parties in the opposition have family members in their hierarchy.

Family is loyal and dependable and you can send them to pick your laundry and run other personal errands and they cannot complain that it is not part of their job.

But today, parties like PAS, DAP and PKR are in power in several states and people are watching.

The same applies to the Barisan Nasional which used to get away with a lot but the freedom of the Internet has made politics akin to living in a house without curtains.

Everyone and everything is up for scrutiny.

The public is often more concerned about whether such arrangements are done at the expense of taxpayers' money.

But for members of political parties, their gripe is whether politics and family deals an unfair disadvantage to those who are not part of the family.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quite particular about this. His elder son Datuk Mokhzani dabbled in Umno Youth politics without getting anywhere and Datuk Mukhriz only made it big after his father's exit.

Datuk Seri Hadi Awang also deserves credit. The party wanted his son to be a candidate in the general election.

But he was adamant that it would not be appropriate unless he stepped aside.

Sarawakians were not impressed when Tan Sri Taib Mahmud's son Datuk Suleiman won in the general election and went on to become a deputy minister because the handsome and debonair politician was better known for his highflying lifestyle than his political acumen.

Family ties are to be found in almost all Malaysian political parties.

Lim Kit Siang's son is now the leader and Chief Minister of Penang.

Karpal Singh has two sons deep in DAP politics.

In MCA, there is Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek and his first born Tee Yong, the Labis MP.

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu's son Vell Paari was a very influential MIC figure when his father was up there but is struggling now.

Many used to think that Khairy Jamaluddin's position in Umno was thanks to his Prime Minister father-in-law.

It was only after Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down that Khairy was assessed for his own merit and it is only now that they are convinced the Youth and Sports Minister has got what it takes to be there.

Then there is the papa-mama-daughter triangle of power in PKR.

People did not mind when the party was struggling in the wilderness because the party had to use whatever resources to hold together. But now the family is being looked at for what it is – nepotism.

"But all these people get elected so what does that say about us? We get the government we deserve. At some point, there will be problems because family interests may trump public interest," said Dr Khor.

Politicians have made so many promises about new politics the last few years.

But nepotism is a close cousin to cronyism and they are simply so old politics.


Nazri’s flamboyant special officer

Posted: 17 Aug 2013 03:13 PM PDT

How will Mohd Nedim who is best known for his temper and his penchant for 'life in the fast lane' serve as a good role model to youths in Nazri's constituency?

When politicians like Nazri think little of the rakyat's perception and believe it fine and fit to bring his flamboyant son on board the ministry, it is a sign that nothing is ever going to change for the better in the country, not until unscrupulous politicians like Nazri make an exit from politics.

Jeswan Kaur, FMT

'Staying above the law' – this is what politicians in this country enjoy the most, not the fact that they are here to serve the rakyat.

From cronyism to nepotism to flouting traffic rules gay abandonly, Malaysian politicians especially those from the Barisan Nasional camp, have done it all – shamelessly at that.

Seasoned politicans like S Samy Vellu decided it was his 'right' to determine when to quit politics, irrespective of the fact that the rakyat had long rejected him.

Then there was former Women, Familly and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Jalil who feigned ignorance when confronted with the 'cowgate' scandal that saw her husband and children being accused of misusing the RM250 million loan meant for the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) a cattle-rearing project to purchase luxury condominiums, a Mercedes and fund vacations.

While deputy prime minister Muhyidddin Yassin tried defending her, the NFC fiasco brought about Shahrizat's downfall as a cabinet minister in April last year, leaving her with only the Wanita Umno head post.

But do Malaysian politicians' ever bother learning from their misdeeds? Hardly.

Now, it is veteran politician-cum Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamad Nazri Aziz who beliefs 'he is law unto himself'. Barely three months after being tasked with the Tourism and Culture Ministry, Nazri thought he could do with an 'extra hand' and guess who he chose to rope in – his scandalous son, Mohamad Nedim as his "special assistant".

Nazri claims that Mohd Nedim will not be on the government payroll and would receive his dues from the former for tasks related to youths activities in Nazri's constituency in Padang Rengas in Perak.

Just who is Nazri trying to kid? How will Mohd Nedim who is best known for his temper and his penchant for 'life in the fast lane' serve as a good role model to youths in Nazri's constituency?

How did Nazri pull such a feat is anyone's guess. However, if there is one thing the rakyat has learned from the 'cowgate' scandal and now the Nazri-Nedim 'pact', it is this – nepotism, cronyism and corruption (NCC) are to remain as the hallmark of Malaysia.

BN has lost the rakyat's trust

The 2008 and 2013 general elections outcomes are sordid revelations of the people's rejection of the Barisan Nasional government. The rakyat's unhappiness stems from the fact that the BN politicians show no signs of repenting from their old habits of indulging in NCC.

When politicians like Nazri think little of the rakyat's perception and believe it fine and fit to bring his flamboyant son on board the ministry, it is a sign that nothing is ever going to change for the better in the country, not until unscrupulous politicians like Nazri make an exit from politics.

Is there no 'higher-ups' whom Nazri is accountable to when it comes to hiring and firing? Or is that he has absolute freedom to do as he wishes, opening the doors of the Tourism and Culture Ministry to whosoever he likes?

Just how will Mohd Nedim contribute to the ministry, given his violent background and flashy lifestyle?

The rakyat has not forgotten the March 2012 incident where Mohd Nedim was alleged to have assaulted a security supervisor of the upscale Mont Kiara condominium.

As predicted, Mohd Nedim was never prosecuted by the authorities and not back in 2004 when a spat involving him and a 23-year-old law student left the latter dead.

Just like his father, Mohd Nedim too seems esctatic that he is 'untouchable' by the laws of this country.



Read but consider the 'fluidity'

Posted: 17 Aug 2013 12:08 PM PDT


ASK any Umno member about who they think will win the party vice-president contest, and more often than not you'll hear them going "Zahid". 
Mohsin Abdullah, fz.com 
This despite the fact there are three VP slots and you expected three names. It's that "Zahid" is the overwhelming favourite to retain his seat leaving other contenders to fight it out for the remaining two.
"Zahid" is of course Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former defence minister and currently home minister, who won the vice-presidency in 2009.
"At the rate it's going, Zahid is more popular than (Umno president Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak). Look at all the blogs," said an Umno insider. 
The "blogs" he was referring to are the ones run by Umno bloggers which have been highlighting Zahid's "statements" extensively. But come to think of it, so too have the media – mainstream or otherwise. 
As for the "statements", well the focus has been on Malay interest, Malay rights, Malayness, nationalism and of course Islam. Quite a number of times "controversial", triggering "concerns" among non-Malays but obviously the very things Umno wants to hear. 
What's the word to use? "Ultra", said a political observer. Hard word, perhaps, but with such "very Malay image Zahid's going to win", said the observer. Hence are we to assume that to win an Umno election, one must be "very Islamic, very Malay"?
"Yes, perfect combo. Very Malay, veryJawa, very appealing," said the Umno insider.  
Zahid is of Javanese descent and Najib has often, in front of Umno assemblies, referred to Zahid as "Jawa" and at the same time called the other VPs – Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Shafei Apdal "Turki" and "lanun" respectively.
Hisham's grandfather Datuk Onn Jaafar is said to have had Turkish blood while Shafei's "sea-faring" ancestors earned him the nickname "lanun" which is Malay for pirates. 
But Najib's "nick-naming" the trio is not seen by Umno as derogatory but rather something done in jest. In fact, it is also seen as a "sign of intimacy" with the logic being "he won't be calling them (funny) names in public if he is not close to them".
And that "friendly gesture" can be expected to feature in the campaign running up to party polls. 

Read more at: http://www.fz.com/content/read-consider-fluidity#ixzz2cHpMZ3k9 

Broken windows: Crime and the cops

Posted: 17 Aug 2013 11:57 AM PDT


This country may be a house of cards, presided over by the blinkered and venal; but broken windows or not, we are the glue that binds

Sheila Santharamohana, Aliran

I first read, a few years ago, about the "Broken Windows" theory on urban decay, and the contributory roles both the community and the police have on crime.

Used successfully by former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, the theory suggests untended behaviour and property will encourage crime as any impression of neglect shows no one cares and no one is in charge.

Thus, a community flourishes if members maintain order, care for their environment and one another's children.

But if disorder creeps in in the form of vandalism, the breakdown of common courtesy or a tolerance for bad behaviour, then the same stable community, could soon become a hotbed of fear and crime. Of course, the theory has its detractors, but in light of escalating crime, we can learn much.

Broken window 1: Monkey see, monkey do.

As part of the experiment into this theory, a car was abandoned in a poor neighbourhood and another one in a wealthy neighbourhood.

In the former, the car is stripped of all its valuable parts in an hour while the car in the wealthy part of town remains unmolested for a week.

Then, a window of the second car is smashed. Within minutes, it is a free for all – even the most respectable residents do not hesitate in random acts of vandalism. Hours later, the car is a shell, like the first in the poor neighbourhood.

The researchers concluded the broken window was a signal to everyone that there would be no consequences for actions on property that no one is clearly responsible for.

Allow me to draw a similarity with conditions in Malaysia.

The perception in Malaysia is that the authorities do not dare call the actions of the powerful few into account.

We have grown cynical, as the law and the justice system refuse to make government leaders and the police accountable to the office they hold.

The rest of us lose faith in the selective nature of our investigative and judicial system while enterprising others manipulate it until the system becomes an old joke.

BBC news report in 2005 alluded to how the underworld survives in the country.

In 2007, the ex-IGP, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, decried the covert hand of leaders who frustrated police efforts in fighting crime by urging them to "keep one eye closed".

Recently, a former drug pusher confessed in an interview with Free Malaysia Today that he had allegedly paid the cops in Negri Sembilan and Malacca a monthly RM30,000-RM50,000 (Free Malaysia Today) as protection fee on top of cash, gifts, holidays for top cops and festive ang pau.

Soon after, MyWatch's chairman was shot, after receiving a death threat originating within fortress IPD of Jelebu (Free Malaysia Today) and before he could disclose the names of corrupt cops.

In response to a public outcry against gun-crime, the NST gives us a lesson on ballistics (NST, 2 August 2013), the police demand the return of the EO, and our PM makes vacuous statements.

So what are the rakyat to make of this?

Read more at: http://aliran.com/14896.html 

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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