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Sending mixed signals ... again

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 05:20 PM PDT

Lessons over the weekend may point the way on what to expect in the Umno elections on Oct 19.

Karim Raslan, The Star

UMNO elections are never boring, despite the fact that this year the top two posts remain uncontested.

The vastly expanded voter base and new election system is terra nova for Umno. What hasn't changed is the tension of the smoke-filled halls of the PWTC of elections gone by.

With the weekend's leadership contests for the party's three wings – Pemuda, Wanita and Puteri – Umno delegates have once again proved that the party can still surprise, confuse and yes, disappoint.

On one hand, delegates retained the progressive, if divisive Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin whilst also anointing Masjid Tanah MP Mas Ermieyati Samsuddin as the new Puteri head.

Khairy resisted the racial rhetoric of his challengers and remained rooted to the ideological centre.

This paid off as seen by his clean sweep of all the Youth divisions and it gives him the opportunity to remould Pemuda.

While it may infuriate certain retired Umno leaders, ultimately this is good for the party: it gives it a fighting chance to regain the centrist, urban and youth votes it has struggled with and largely lost.

Progressives like Khairy are essential for Umno's future.

It needs to move out of its rural heartlands. If it wants to do so, it needs leaders like Khairy, who more than tripled his majority in Rembau in the last elections where others plummeted.

It will also force Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah to redouble their energies because Khairy is the only Umno leader capable of shaking their hold of the younger Malay mindset.

At the same time, the Puteris have struggled to shine at national level.

Mas Ermieyati who had campaigned intelligently, focusing on the need to restore confidence in the wing will give them a second chance.

Indeed, it's reassuring that Umno's younger members have spoken so boldly when the ladies in red (Wanita Umno) have appeared so unconcerned with public opinion.

It's a shame that Shahrizat Abdul Jalil – who deserves to be congratulated for her victory and political acumen – didn't also see fit to run in the last general election. Victory in the general election would have silenced her critics.

As such (and this despite her strength in the party), she remains a weakened and controversial figure on the broader national stage.

Wanita showed great courage by refusing to be dictated to (especially by men) when they elected their leaders.

Despite what many Umno diehards feel, being popular amongst the general public is a good thing.

So what – if anything – did last weekend tell us about what's going to happen on Oct 19?

First: There's clearly some sort of an inter-generational shift going on within the party. Whilst the younger members want to move to the centre and reconnect with new constituencies, the older members are firmly focused on the above-mentioned Umno bubble (or is it a tempurung?) – a world where the only things that matter are Utusan Malaysia, Putrajaya, TV3 and the 38th Floor of the PWTC.

Second: Delegates don't like to be told who to vote for – which explains why the top two office-holders have not released their "laundry lists" or "menus" so to speak.

Third: Umno voters remain cautious and conservative. Having invested years, if not decades in building their respective networks, they're unwilling to jettison the personalities they've spent years if not decades supporting – ergo the party's love affair with what it sees as "gradual change".

Rocking the boat? No way.

Fourth: Whilst Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is still wildly respected and adored by party members, his influence on the delegates may well have been over-estimated. He is a catalyst – pushing and cajoling his "flock" into action – but no more.

However, when it comes to the details, the members will do exactly what they want, when they want.

What else would explain Khairy and Shahrizat's sweeping victories when neither of the two were Dr M's favourites.

Fifth: With more than 146,500 delegates voting under the new electoral system, it's impossible to meet all the delegates face-to-face. This has necessitated a much more mediagenic series of campaigns, with an emphasis on public perception of a candidate's achievements and potential.

It's to be hoped that this more modern and open process will equip Umno for the challenges of 2018 (or whenever the next elections are) as the built advantages of being "parti kerajaan" (i.e. a compliant media, control of government machinery, etc.) become less and less useful in the face of technological change.

As Umno members re-group to deal with the vice-presidential and supreme council contests, it's important for them to remember that they are selecting their line-up for 2018.

Again, those who are popular within Umno may not be vote-winners in the broader community. Losers are losers, winners are winners and Umno, if it wants to survive, needs to move with the times and dump the losers.


Who is confused over Allah?

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 04:44 PM PDT

Christians are not confused. Some Muslims, not all, are.

K Pragalath, FMT

In delivering his verdict yesterday, Justice Zawawi Salleh stated that there would be confusion among Muslims and Christians if Catholic publication The Herald continues to translate God as Allah.

"If the word Allah is to be employed in the Malay versions of The Herald to refer to God, there will be a risk of misrepresentation of God within Christianity.

"This is because the Christian concept of God as symbolised by the Trinity is absolutely and completely dissimilar to the concept of Allah in Islam.

"The potential for confusion is not confined only to Muslims but also to Christians," said Zawawi in his written judgment.

The decision to block The Herald from using Allah's name was a unanimous decision made by Zawawi Salleh, Apandi Ali and Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim.

Going by the various Christian groups that opted to seek a legal recourse in this case, I do not see Christians as being confused over the usage of Allah.  In court yesterday were representatives of different Christian denominations.

Father Lawrence Andrew and Emeritus Archbishop Soter Fernandez are Catholics.  However Council of Churches general secretary Hermen Shastri is Methodist. Sidang Injil Borneo that had a watching brief in court belongs to the Evangelical Christian Church.

Now that I have established that the Christians are not confused over Allah's name, let's look at the Muslim groups.

There were, among others, the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Malay rights group Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA).

ISMA's second vice president (II) Abdul Rahman  Md Dali even accused Christians of "constantly hatching plots to separate Islam from the Muslims".

Media reports stated there were about 200 Malay Muslim crowd at the steps of Palace of Justice that performed prayers, thanking Allah for a judgment that favoured them.

However it must be noted here that the Muslim groups and the 200 odd crowd do not represent the majority of the Muslims. Groups such as Perkasa would not gel with Muslim NGOs such as, for example, Sisters in Islam.

So now, who is confused?  And why is there such a confusion when Islamic studies have been part of
the education system for a Muslim student from young? Aside from that Muslim students have to attend religious classes.



Understanding liberalism

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 01:23 PM PDT

In a nutshell, being a liberal or a libertarian means believing in the rule of law, limited government, individual liberty and responsibility, and the free market.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, The Star

THE word "liberal" has been bandied about quite a lot lately. Most of the time the term is criticised for something completely unrelated to what the word actually means.

The word 'liberal' has been abused so much that, in some cases, the meaning has been greatly distorted. In America, the word has been stolen by those who generally believe in greater state intervention (e.g. Obama's Democratic Party).

In Malaysia, none of our mainstream political parties have a coherent philosophical foundation, while in the United States, the Democrats are on the left.

Classical liberalism is usually used in Europe to describe a political philosophy that in the United States would be called libertarianism. A libertarian's most basic belief could be traced back to the Abrahamic and Greek idea of a "higher law", a law by which everyone, including the ruling elites, could be judged. The advent of Islam strengthened this belief, and reinforced the idea that those in positions of power are not the ultimate source of authority. They too are subject to the law.

Libertarians believe in the "rule of law", not the lack of rules and laws. Libertarianism is a call for everyone to be subject to the same set of rules, with no one being above the law. This is the best safeguard that we have against dictatorship and totalitarianism.

Rule of law calls for equality between the ruled and the ruler. Since the ruling elite holds the key to coercive power – such as the ability to legislate, and control of the armed forces and the police – it is very important that their powers are limited.

If the ruling elites have unlimited powers to legislate and dictate, we will quickly descend into the rule of men. Hence we need a "limited government", which is another important principle of liberalism.

The government is an institution to which citizens delegate the authority to rule. It is this delegation that gives government its power. But the government is such a powerful institution that it can easily become a dangerous one, especially when it coerces citizens into obedience.

To prevent government coercion, the roles and powers of the government must be limited, usually through a written constitution that both enumerates and limits executive power with checks and balances.

This is an important point. The ruling elite exists because we the citizens empower them. The rakyat is the true master, and those in power are the servants. Not the other way round. We must do all that we can to prevent anyone in power from behaving like kings and this is why we must demand a limited government.

The concept of limited government implies the need to respect "individual liberty and responsibility". Individuals are free to choose how they live their lives as long as they do no harm to others, and they must be responsible for what they do. The religious ones must be free to practice their religions, while those who are not must be free to be so too.

Islam tells Muslims to be among the most liberal in this sense. In the Golden Age of Islam, a Muslim leader Rubi'e bin Amir proudly told Persian General Rustom that Islam was sent to free mankind from servitude to other men so that they serve only God. Of course, the rise of a new generation of human gods in Islam (and in other religions) deserves a treatment on its own, but we must be careful to distinguish the principles from the practice.

Perhaps most importantly, the concept of individual liberty demands that those in power must not encroach into what is private to the individuals. The government should only step in when individuals do harm to others, but otherwise they should leave us alone.

It is well known that liberals support free markets. But many are confused about why this is so. Some accuse free marketeers as supporting inequality between the haves and the have-nots. And others confuse between the actions of capitalists and principles of capitalism.

Libertarians support the free market capitalism because it is the only system that respects human dignity. The free market is the only system that truly gives people choice and prevents cronyism.

In a free market, businesses have to compete to please the rakyat, the consumers. But in a non-free market, businessmen can ignore the rakyat because all they need to do is to collude with politicians to gain favourable treatment and subsidies.

A non-free market system victimises the rakyat because it denies our freedom to choose. And more often than not, systems other than the free market result in the privatisation of profits and nationalisation of losses.

All the cronyism, nepotism and corruption that we see around the world are almost always the result of collusions between politicians and businessmen, which can only happen when the economy is not free and this is exactly what the free market wants to eradicate.

In short, and at a great risk of oversimplifying a complex issue, being a liberal or a libertarian means believing in the rule of law, limited government, individual liberty and responsibility, and the free market.

The next time someone accuses liberalism of this and that, I urge you firstly judge whether that person knows what he is talking about or not. We need to spot those who more often than not talk nonsense, and expose them for their ignorance.

> Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (


Progressives and Umno politics

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 01:13 PM PDT 

There must be real and substantial differences in their political views and thoughts before we can make this distinction. It's not necessary for us the rakyat to take sides in the Umno political contest by lending credence and respectability when none is expected from us.

Zaid Ibrahim

Last week I was immersed in the literary festival in Ubud, Bali, listening to well-known writers as they shared their progressive views on the many facets of the human condition.

Most people associate the word "progressive" to include far-sighted views on democratic systems of government, an equitable economy and a free society where personal liberty is well protected.

In political terms, a progressive country is one where laws protect the rights of all communities—including minorities—and where the courts are independent and well respected.

In other words, improving the human condition is the yardstick by which progressives are measured.

In the US, for example, the progressive movement of the 1890s  included the fight for progressive taxation, where the rich were taxed more; the fight for the rights of women generally, including their right to vote; and freeing education from the clutches of vested interests and the Church.

In the UK, reformists sometimes use the term "progressive" when they are not happy with either the Conservatives or the left-leaning socialists in Labour.

There is not much difference, however, among the three big parties on the "big issues", such as the meaning of democracy; the need for accountability and transparency in Government; the need for the Rule of Law  to be applicable at all times; or the idea that liberty and freedom for the people of Great Britain are guaranteed.

Their differences are more on budgetary priorities, healthcare services, school systems and the role of the state in providing socioeconomic services.

By now most of us have read about the great success of Khairy Jamaluddin and Dato Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil at the recent Umno polls.

Everyone was ecstatic that the so-called "progressive forces" in Umno had won. In their opinion, the fact that the relatively unknown challengers (whose names many people could hardly spell) failed to unseat the powerful incumbents signalled a major political shift in Malaysian politics.



Jakim, simply being stunningly stupid

Posted: 14 Oct 2013 01:07 PM PDT

If Jakim is talking about the same Islam, then I dare say that Islam having survived and flourished from that start in Medina in 622 to its current 1.5 billion believers are more than capable of taking care of itself.

CT Ali, FMT 

Islam, according to Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), is under threat and Muslims are being denied of their rights as Muslims.

And if Islam and Muslims are under threat, then Allah too is under threat! So says Jakim, but which Allah and which Islam is Jakim talking about?

Is it the Islam that began when Prophet Muhammad started to preach the revelation from Allah in the year 610 AD? The Islam that had it's tentative beginning from Medina in 622 AD where Muhammad first established his political and religious authority in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence?

The Islam that then spread through Arabia, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, India, in fact to about every corner of this universe making it the fastest growing religion in the world with over 1.5 billion Muslims?

Is it the Islam that has withstood so many Holy wars that first started in 632 after Muhammad's death? The many Holy wars that launched Islam into years of continual imperialist, colonists, bloody conquest and subjugation of others through invasion and war which at times even colonised the Christians and Jews?

Is it also the Islam that spread far and wide through the Islamic Golden Age until the Ottoman era ended when the Caliphate was abolished in 1924?

If Jakim is talking about the same Islam, then I dare say that Islam having survived and flourished from that start in Medina in 622 to its current 1.5 billion believers are more than capable of taking care of itself.

Allah, I am sure, is not threatened in any way by anything that Christians, Chinese, non-Umno members or anything else or anybody else can do. He can take care of himself!

Jakim should know that since all the Holy wars stopped, the spread of Islam had continued through Muslims who became economic migrants. Some landed in the then Malay archipelago many years ago – the same Malay archipelago that has now became Malaysia.

And what manner of Muslims do we now have in Malaysia?

We have Muslim sultans, cabinet members, top level Umno leaders doing all things unIslamic. We have many Muslim politicians who live beyond their means and live a life of depravity and excessive consumption.

There are many Muslims girls working as social escorts and waitresses in bars and dangduts bars and Malay girls working as prostitutes in massage parlours and private houses in KL and all over Malaysia.

There are so many Muslims practicing corruption in the police force and other government agencies. All the above and more are being done by Muslims in Malaysia.

What is Jakim doing?

What is Jakim doing about it all? Ignore what is in front of their eyes and instead tells us that there is a threat to Allah, Islam and Muslims, and that threat comes from Christians!

This is Jakim simply being stunningly stupid in the extreme. Most of all that is wrong with Muslims and Islam is within the Muslims themselves – as manifested by the actions of Umno which is made up of entirely Muslims.

If there is any threat to Allah, then it also comes from within that party too because of the manner they do their politics, which is totally against what Islam professes.

But before we fault Jakim, we must consider Jakim's position too. These men of Allah working in Jakim have nothing to do with Allah or Islam.

It is a man-made statutory body conceived by the Malaysian Council of Rulers to mobilise the development and progress of Muslims in Malaysia, and it now comes directly under the Prime Minister's Department.

Observe the two fundamental issues – conceived by the Sultans, and now under the Prime Minister's Department – a recipe for the creation of a self-serving body for the royalty and politicians – one that Jakim has now become.




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