Ahad, 20 Oktober 2013

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Uncommon Sense with Wong Chin Huat: On the “Allah” judgement

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 01:28 PM PDT


(The Nut Graph) - Now, if the use of Malay for religious purposes is meant for Muslims only, can Malay still be the national language? How can a language be a national language if its use can be limited to a particular racial or religious group?

THE 14 Oct 2013 Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the ban on the Catholic Church from using "Allah" in its publication, The Herald, wasn't unexpected. And it has been criticised both nationally andinternationally, including by Muslims.

Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties and leaders from Sabahand Sarawak have also cried foul over the government's actions and the court's decision. And in what can only be described as confused, the cabinet has decided that despite the Court of Appeal's ruling, "Allah" can still be used in Christian worship and in the Bahasa Malaysia bibles in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Catholic Church can still appeal the appelate court's decision at the Federal Court and several quarters believe that would be the right thing to do because much is at stake. Dr Wong Chin Huat expounds on the implications of the Court of Appeal ruling, how Malaysia has come to this, and what needs to happen for the mess to be undone.

Read more at: http://www.thenutgraph.com/uncommon-sense-with-wong-chin-huat-on-the-allah-judgement/ 

Party Vote Leaves Malaysian Leader a Weakened Winner

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 01:22 PM PDT


Allies of Prime Minister Najib Razak fought off challenges from conservatives in high-stakes party elections on Saturday night, leaving Mr. Najib in firm control — at least for now — over the United Malays National Organization.

Abhrajit Gangopadhyay, WSJ 

But while Mr. Najib, who wasn't contested as his party's leader, kept allies in key party roles, he has been weakened, as shown by his recent tacks to the right to appease his conservative wing, analysts said.

And one conservative challenger who scored a large vote tally despite losing his bid to win one of three vice presidency slots — Mukhriz Mahathir, the chief minister of the northern state of Kedah — emerged as a potential formidable foe to Mr. Najib going forward.

The internal elections of UMNO are held every three years. The UMNO is Malaysia's largest political party that is at the core of 14-member National Front coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957. About 150,000 UMNO members voted through an electoral college, in which each of 191 party districts got to pick one person per contested post. The voting was held across the country.

The poll is politically significant because the party president is, by default, the premier of the country. The party's deputy chief is the deputy prime minister.

While those spots weren't contested, six people battled for three vice president spots.

The current vice presidents,  Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Rural and Regional Development Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal were pitted against Mohd Ali Rustam, a former chief minister of the western state of Malacca; Isa Samad, chairman of the state-run plantation company Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd., and Mr. Mukhriz. The incumbents won.

Among the challengers, Mr. Mukhriz, cornered most of the votes, winning in 91 out of 191 UMNO districts, compared to Mr. Samad and Mr. Ali Rustom, each of who won in seven districts. The voter-getting success of Mr. Mukhriz, who is the youngest son of Mahathir Mohamad – the former prime minister and Malay rights champion whose 22-year often-autocratic rule transformed agrarian Malaysia to one of the most industrialized economies in the region — suggests the strong support that Mr. Mahathir still enjoys within the party ranks.

"Mr. Mahathir will be Mr. Najib's number one opposition and source of headache," said Amir Fareed, director at political risk consultancy KRA Group.

Conservatives have rallied in the wake of the UMNO's weakest showing ever in national elections in May, when hundreds of thousands of urban voters — mostly the ethnic Chinese minority — deserted the ruling coalition in protest of its policies favoring ethnic Malay Muslims.

Strong backing from the rural Malay Muslims — UMNO's traditional voting bloc — saved the day for the ruling coalition.

Doubts, however, arose over Mr. Najib's leadership. Since then, Mr. Najib has reversed himself on several policy reforms, such as deciding to throw his support to additional preferential treatment for ethnic Malays in jobs and housing. 

Read more at: http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-358863/ 

So close yet so far for Mukhriz

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 01:20 PM PDT


The clearest hint of where the instruction could have come from lay in Pahang, where every single one of the 14 divisions gave their VP votes to Zahid, Shafie and Hisham­muddin. Not a single division in Pahang dared go against what they perceived as the wishes of Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Joceline Tan, The Star 

The big winner in the Umno elections was Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is now seen as a man destined for bigger things in the party.

THE media crowd were still crushed together around top Umno vice-president (VP) Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when another group of reporters started rushing towards the escalator area of the PWTC's fifth floor.

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and a small entourage were making their way up the escalator and people were waving and calling out to him.

It was a little after 1am and the Mukhriz group had come from his house, which is just a stone's throw from the PWTC.

Sometimes, the one who loses attracts more attention than the winner and that was the case as reporters and cameramen pressed around him.

The official results for the hot race were in.

Zahid had emerged as the top Umno VP with 185 electoral votes, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal was close behind with 174 and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein got 99.

Mukhriz had lost to Hisham­muddin by only seven electoral votes although his overall popular vote was more than that of Hisham­muddin.

It was a case of so close yet so far and his team was very disappointed. But you would not have been able to tell looking at Mukhriz as he inched his way through the media squeeze that night.

He kept the smile on his face but his brother Datuk Mokhzani, who was at his side throughout, looked rather tense.

There was quite a bit of sympathy for Mukhriz among the press corps because he had lost a good fight.

They appreciated that he had fought a clean campaign and the consensus was that he would have won had there been no instruction from high up for the incumbents to be retained.

The clearest hint of where the instruction could have come from lay in Pahang, where every single one of the 14 divisions gave their VP votes to Zahid, Shafie and Hisham­muddin.

Not a single division in Pahang dared go against what they perceived as the wishes of Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"Pahang is the Prime Minister's state and we made the decision to go with the incumbents," said Temerloh Umno chief Datuk Sharkar Sham­suddin.

Mukhriz's political path has hit a road bump or perhaps even a road block. Like it or not, his arch rival Khairy Jamaluddin is a step ahead.

Some claimed the top-down order also involved not endorsing either Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad because no one could quite explain how the pair had ended up with a dismal seven divisions each.

The shocker was that Ali received support from only one division in Malacca – his own Bukit Katil division. Tangga Batu, headed by Ali's mentee and Chief Minister Datuk Idris Haron failed to carry him.

"Datuk Ali is still popular but delegates voted in a pragmatic way. In Tangga Batu, the delegates' sentiment were swayed by the fact that there is an army camp in the area. They felt they had to give the vote to Hishammuddin," said Malacca Umno secretary Datuk Akbar Ali.

The delegates wanted to go with the guaranteed winner. But Ali will find hard it to live it down and his hardcore supporters regard it as a stab in the back.

But party delegates in general are signalling that the VP post must be the training pod for those with potential to fill the very top post.

It should not be for politicians who are past their prime to use to prolong their career.

Hishammuddin's narrow escape is a wake-up call. This son of a former Prime Minister was seen as a potential Prime Minister from the day he stepped into politics.

But his political future is less than clear after what has happened.

There was an undeniable groundswell of disenchantment with his performance as a Cabinet minister and political style and he will have to step up his game.

Critics say he will have to drop his bangsawan or aristocratic style and come down to the people.

The re-elected VPs and the new supreme council line-up are hardly what one would call a dream team for Najib.

But, said a Najib insider, it comprises people he can work with.

"Status quo also means less disruption. There is no urgent need to immediate reshuffle Cabinet posts and he can quickly get past the politics and get down to the business of running the Government," said the insider.

There were substantial changes at the supreme council level where half of those elected were new faces.

The new leadership line-up is unlikely to rock the boat and that, apparently, is the way the No 1 likes it.

Zahid will be the man to watch in Umno. His resounding victory shows that the Home Minister has captured the imagination of Umno members with his uncompromising crackdown on organised crime and his defence of the police force.

They are also drawn to his unapologetic rhetoric on issues of race and religion.

Zahid has what the Chinese call that kamceng or camaraderie thing going on with whoever he meets and it sits well on the Umno people.

Very few doubt that he will be contented to stay where he is after such a spectacular return to the top VP slot.

It is a topic that very few want to openly discuss.

The Malay culture is such that it is seen as inappropriate to discuss such high ambitions unless the posts become vacant.

But the assumption is that he will be in line for the deputy president post should it become available.

Zahid and Najib are both 60 and they were contemporaries in Umno Youth.

Given Zahid's age, very few see him as a contender for Prime Minis-ter in the years ahead but many do see him as a potential Deputy Prime Minister if he plays it right.

The big question is whether he will wait till the post is available or make a play for it in three years' time. 

Why we need GST

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 12:27 PM PDT


By introducing GST, the entire record-keeping process becomes much more rigorous and will definitely contribute to much better and more efficient collection of all taxes and duties in future.

Idris Jala 

It will broaden the tax base and help those most in need

There are many more myths than facts about the goods and services tax or GST which the government plans to introduce not long from now. I will attempt to dispel some of the myths associated with this tax and put the GST in perspective.

The first thing to remember is that the GST is only one of measures that the government will be taking to overhaul the financial system of the country to find new sources of revenue and improve the efficiency of tax collection. Other measures are being undertaken to reduce corruption, to reduce waste and create highly transparent procurement processes among others.

GST is part of a holistic programme of improvement for the government which will be combined with these other measures to help us on our way to achieve high income and developed status in a sustainable and inclusive manner. That target is getting per capita income up to US$15,000 by 2020.

Our current tax base is way too narrow – we depend too much on income tax, both individual and corporate. Out of some 29 million in people in Malaysia, only less than two million people pay income tax.

We cannot afford to go back to these same people and corporations and ask them for more and more tax – we can only hope that as their income increases, they will pay more tax. In fact, if we don't widen the tax base, there is absolutely no room to cut income taxes further.

For various reasons, including the fact that much income goes unreported, we need to broaden the tax base. A value-added tax such as GST, where a tax is paid on every step in the value-added process is a consumption tax and therefore taxes those who can afford to spend.

If you are making money but don't pay tax for various reasons, you still want to spend on the things that you want to have and to use. And when you consume, the government can capture a part of that as income for itself through the GST.

If you are concerned about being adversely impacted by the GST, it is important to remember that when GST is implemented we can zero-rate or set the tax rate at zero for any number of essential goods and this is what the government intends to do to ensure that citizens do not get burdened by taxes on essential items.

Also there is currently the sales tax as well as the service tax now of 6-10% which will be repealed once the GST is introduced. In the first few years at least, we expect that the GST will be revenue neutral for the government because gains will be offset due to the termination of the sales and service taxes.

But further out, the GST will help the government gain extra revenue. This will be because we expect more and more people to become affluent as measures to increase income bite and become reality. As consumption and affluence increases, government income from GST will increase in tandem.

What's in it for citizens? First, because essential goods and services that will be consumed such as food, public transport and education are likely to be zero-rated, consumers will not be paying extra taxes here. Second, as government revenue increases, it has more money to provide for social safety net programmes such as BR1M, the 1Malaysia cash assistance programme for lower middle and low-income groups.

But contrary to popular belief, GST implementation is like to be only sometime in 2015 if it is announced at the forthcoming Budget because you need a lead time of 12 to 18 months to prepare for the value-added tax.

Imagine say manufacturing a consumer product such as a bottled drink and that you are the manufacturer. You will have to buy all your inputs such as sugar, flavour, bottles and so on from suppliers. These suppliers will include a GST in their sales to you.

When you sell your bottled drink, you will have to add on a tax to your product which represents the GST. But you are entitled to claim a rebate on the tax to the value that you did not add, in other words the tax your suppliers added on. To do that you have to keep proper and complete records.

The government will be helping businesses, and especially small businesses to set up the record-keeping system for this so that there is a smooth transition to the value-added tax system without any major hiccups.

This record-keeping produces other attendant benefits as well. For instance, studies have shown that Malaysia has large capital outflows which can't be reconciled in the national accounts. As much as 80% of this is said to be from transfer pricing where firms transfer costs to various centres around the world to minimise the tax.

Once a GST is implemented it makes it very much more difficult to do so because complete records are kept at every stage of the value-adding process. There are records of who sells to you and at what price and the same for yourself, all along the chain. It is just a matter of going down the chain to see if you are playing around with your figures.

Not just capital outflows but all manner of other things can be tracked down too. It becomes easier for Customs to determine who is avoiding duties and for the Inland Revenue Department to check to see who is evading taxes.

Read more at: http://idrisjala.my/need-gst/ 

Sudah lah ‘Jib! You Haven’t Got it!

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 12:19 PM PDT


Back to Najib the briber, he is finally learning a painful lesson. That is, bribees, be they national or party voters, continue to escalate their price tag, especially if they know their targets are soft and lucrative. Najib is one such target. 

M. Bakri Musa 

Sudah lah 'Jib! You haven't got what it takes to lead modern Malaysia.

Humiliated by the recent national election and overwhelmed by mounting problems, Najib resorts to the typical tricks of third-rate Third World leaders. He travels abroad frequently to distract himself and Malaysians, and when at home he bribes his way through problems.

Barisan's loss in the popular votes during the last election was only the latest expression of this lack of confidence in Najib's leadership. The man has been coasting on the memory of his illustrious father, Tun Razak. For that reason Malaysians have been too generous in giving Najib a pass for so long.

The show cannot go on; the nation can ill afford it. There will be a splendid opportunity for the nation to be rid of his leadership without having to wait till the next national election, and that will be the upcoming parliamentary budget debate. All we need is for a handful of Barisan MPs (12 to be exact) to see through this character so he can be ejected from the Prime Minister's seat. He does not belong there.


Peripatetic Wanderer

Back to Najib's third-rate Third World leadership tricks, his most recent – and most expensive – was the junket that took him through San Francisco on his way to New York. That was literally around the world. Rest assured there will be many more such trips in his ultra-luxurious, custom-fitted full-sized Airbus jet, burning the rakyat's precious ringgit.

The only saving grace this time was his uncharacteristic prudence financially in landing his jet at Oakland instead of at the exorbitantly expensive SFO. Najib however, more than made that up by staying at the Fairmont Hotel in a suite that would have pleased the likes of King Saud.

In the 1960s, traveling extensively abroad was also the favorite refuge for Indonesia's Sukarno. It was left to his ministers back home to tell the rakyat to eat rats and thereby simultaneously solve two problems – widespread starvation and rat infestation.

More recently there was the example of Tunisian leader Zine el Abidene, now languishing somewhere in the Saudi desert with only his ill-gotten wealth to sustain him. Meanwhile he faces a death sentence at home and the Interpol has a search warrant for him. As for his wildly extravagant and obscenely ostentatious wife, a former hairdresser, she too has long ago abandoned him. She is also on the Interpol list for money laundering. Take a glimpse of her during her heyday; she has the uncanny resemblance of someone familiar to Malaysians, and not just in facial features.

Sukarnos's fate in contrast was less severe. At least he died and was buried in his native land. Something for Najib to ponder!

Malaysia is far from being Sukarno's Indonesia. That however, is setting a very low bar. It tells us how far we have fallen that the two countries are now often mentioned in the same sentence. While Malaysia is also infested with rats, Malaysians are thankfully not starving. Instead what we have are even more rapacious rats continually raiding the people's Treasury. The biggest of all is Najib.

Read more at: http://www.bakrimusa.com/archives/sudah-lah-jib-you-havent-got-it 

Despite court ruling, other ‘Allah’ legal challenges to proceed

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 12:15 PM PDT


(MMO) - These three cases involving Jill Ireland, Sabah SIB and the Herald's publisher have cast a spotlight on the rights of religious minorities in the country, especially Bumiputera Christians. 

Amid continuing unease over the effects of an appellate court ruling suggesting Muslim monopoly over "Allah", a lawyer in another case also related to the use of the Arabic word has sought to put distance between the two instances.  

Annou Xavier, the lawyer for Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, maintained the Sarawak-born Christian's legal challenge involving compact discs bearing the word "Allah" differed from case in which the Home Ministry banned the use of the word in the Catholic Church's weekly paper Herald as part of the publication permit.

"The principles in (the Herald) case and the principles in Jill Ireland's case [are] a little bit different," Xavier said when contacted by The Malay Mail Online.

"Different because (the Herald) case is about a permit issued by Home Ministry where the permit says you can't use the word in the weekly. In Jill Ireland's case, it is about her right of education and her right of worship.

"We will try to distinguish Jill Ireland's case from the Court of Appeal (ruling)," he said.

Last week, the Court of Appeal's Justice Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the home minister had acted well within his powers to disallow the Herald from using the word "Allah" in its Bahasa Malaysia section, which caters to the Catholic Church's Bumiputera Christians.

The court also controversially decided that "Allah" was not integral to the Christian faith and its practice.

"From such finding, we find no reason why the respondent is so adamant to use the name 'Allah' in their weekly publication. Such usage, if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community," the leading judge in a three-man panel had said when reading out from a summary of the judgment.

When asked how the judges' finding that "Allah" was not integral to Christianity would affect Jill Ireland's case, Xavier merely said that the judges had "went on a frolic of their own".

Xavier, who had also represented the Catholic Church in the Herald case, stressed that Jill Ireland's case will still proceed.

"As far as Jill Ireland case is concerned, we will go on with the case irrespective of decision of the Court of Appeal," he said, amid concerns that the ruling would not bode well for other court cases on the word "Allah".

The ruling also casts doubt over how the judiciary will rule on another similar court case brought by Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Church) Sabah, who is suing the Home Ministry for confiscating its Malay-language Christian education publications, which contain the word "Allah", in 2007.

Both the SIB Sabah case and Jill Ireland's case were put on the backburner in recent years pending the disposal of the Catholic Church's case.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/despite-court-ruling-other-allah-legal-challenges-to-proceed 

Why is MOE paying RM270 million to consultants for English-language training?

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 12:09 PM PDT


How is anyone expected to master a language, or any subject for that matter, with only three to four hours' worth of training a month?

Zairil Khir Johari, Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary 

Recently, it was revealed that the Ministry of Education (MOE) paid RM20 million to McKinsey & Co for their consultancy services in drafting the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025. 

However, it would appear that McKinsey's RM20 million MOE consultancy job is only the tip of the iceberg. According to a Parliamentary reply I received from the Minister of Education, the ministry has engaged three external consultants, namely the British Council, Brighton Education Group and SMR HR Group, in a three-year programme designed to "increase the capacity" of local English-language teachers. 

The three consultancy firms have been contracted from 2011 to 2013 at a total cumulative cost of RM268.5 million, or RM89.5 million a year. As part of the agreement, the firms will provide 360 native English-speaking mentors (120 mentors per firm) throughout the three-year period. 

The parliamentary reply further states that a total of 7,500 teachers from 1,800 schools will be trained, with the responsibilities divided geographically. The British Council has been tasked to provide mentors to train teachers in Labuan, Sabah and Sarawak, while Brighton Education Group will train teachers in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Malacca, Johor and Negeri Sembilan. Meanwhile, SMR HR Group will train teachers in Penang, Perlis, Perak, Kedah and Selangor. 

In other words, close to RM270 million is being spent to hire 360 English mentors. This breaks down to RM250,000 a year for each mentor, or an extravagant sum of almost RM21,000 a month.

No matter what explanation MOE gives, there is no way they can justify the absurd amount of money being spent to provide what is essentially a three-years paid working-holiday to 360 native English mentors.

On top of that, based on ground reports and feedback received from teachers undergoing the programme, it would appear that the "mentoring" they receive ranges from only three to four hours a month. This immediately brings into question the efficacy of the mentoring programme, as how is anyone expected to master a language, or any subject for that matter, with only three to four hours' worth of training a month?

Furthermore, the total expenditure of RM270 million to train 7,500 teachers is equivalent to RM36,000 per teacher over three years. This sum is much more than what it would cost to enrol the same teacher into a properly structured English-language degree programme in a local university. For example, Wawasan Open University offers a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Studies at a total cost of about RM24,000, which is two-thirds the cost of the mentoring programme currently provided by the consultancy firms. Meanwhile, a six-month diploma course in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) would cost only RM4,500 at a local private college. 

While the objective of improving the quality of English-language teachers is admirable and should be pursued, there is absolutely no justification for MOE's penchant for hiring overpaid consultants, especially when cheaper and better options are readily available.


Allah Judgment: ipse dixit, we won’t fix it

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 12:03 PM PDT


The Judgments effectively say "if the Home Minister believes it," (in Latin, ipse dixit) that's good enough for the courts.


Many have spoken to me about last week's decision by the Court of Appeal upholding the Home Minister's prohibition on Christians using the word "Allah" in printed materials.

I've studied the decision. Here I lay out my observations and offer some concluding thoughts.

What the Judgments Say

(The Court of Appeal released 1 Summary and 3 individual Judgments. I also read the 31st December 2009 High Court Judgment. In what follows, "Judgments," refers to one or more of the 4 Judgments released by the Court of Appeal.)

1. Government-Islam has priority. Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution reads: "Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation."

Article 3 is in Part I of the Constitution, whilst Articles assuring the rights of liberty, no-enslavement, equality, free movement, speech, assembly, association, etc. are in Part II.

According to the Judgments, it follows from the preceding statement that rights in Part II have to be curbed to protect rights in Part I. (Note: the Constitution has 15 Parts.)

According to the Judgments, since Islam is mentioned before 'other religions' in Article 3(1), all non-Muslims in Malaysia must (1) agree with the government and the Court of Appeal that "Allah" describes only the Official Malaysian Muslim God, and (2) use another Name in place of "Allah." It matters for nothing that "Islam" and "other religions" are in the same sentence, all that matters is that "Islam" appears before "other religions."

2. Historical and global usage is irrelevant. Based on the preceding argument, the Judgments say it is not necessary to consider that (1) the Name "Allah" pre-dates Islam, (2) the Name is of Arabic (not Malay) origin, (3) the Name has been used for over 4 centuries by Malay-speaking Christians in Malaysia, (4) many Muslims in Malaysia do not object to Christians addressing God as "Allah," and (5) that Muslims in no other country object to non-Muslims referring to God as "Allah."

3. Judges' Private opinions trump global scholarship. The Judgments treat opinions gleaned personally from the internet by one of the Judges as worthy of more consideration than the opinions of eminent Christian leaders and scholars. The Judgments ignore the global presence of Christianity and the special significance of the Rome-centred Catholic Church led by the Pope. 

(The publisher of the Herald - Catholic Weekly is Tan Sri Datuk Murphy Pakiam. He speaks for the Catholic Church. The leaders of other Malaysian churches concur with Archbishop Murphy about the usage of "Allah" for God.)

Read more at: http://write2rest.blogspot.com/2013/10/allah-judgment-ipse-dixit-we-wont-fix-it.html 

Government is Playing Politics with ‘Allah’

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 11:59 AM PDT


Besides, the Government's argument has all along been that 'Allah' is to be used exclusively by Muslims. So how come it's all right for the Government to let the Sabah and Sarawak Christians use it too?

Kee Thuan Chye 

Firebombs didn't go off in mosques. Pigs' heads were not thrown into mosque compounds. These things did not happen after the Court of Appeal ruled against the High Court's 2009 decision to allow the Catholic weekly newspaper The Herald to use the word 'Allah' in referring to God.
They did not happen despite Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia's adding insult to injury by telling Christians to accept the verdict or leave the country. Its president, Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, said, "They can choose to move to another country if they cannot accept the supremacy of Islam and the royalty that protects the supremacy of the religion." It was irrelevant, uncalled-for and provocative, but the community that was targeted did not retaliate with violence. This of course is to its credit.
It did, however, react angrily to the verdict. Rev Eu Hong Seng, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, declared: "This is yet another erosion and infringement of the constitutional protection to the freedom of religious communities to profess and practise their faith and to manage their own affairs. The decision might encourage and fuel further misunderstanding and mistrust between the Muslim and Christian communities which will further undermine the unity of Malaysians."
Bishop Thomas Tsen, president of the Sabah Council of Churches, said, "It is not fair to say that using 'Allah' would confuse Muslim practitioners. No, we have always called our father in heaven 'Allah Bapak' or the Lord God 'Tuhan Allah'… We are sad and disappointed about this current ruling … it challenges the government's sincerity to see our people united."

Archbishop Bolly Lapok, chairperson of the Association of Churches, Sarawak, censured chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali for saying that the use of the word 'Allah' was not integral to the Christian faith. In strong terms, he said, "The church does not need an apologist from outside to decide what is integral or not integral to our faith. It is repugnant to the universal common sense."

Read more at:  http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/government-playing-politics-allah-165351643.html

Standing up for the right things, not the stable ones

Posted: 20 Oct 2013 11:56 AM PDT


(TMI) - Time for some honesty. Twenty-five years ago when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismantled one of the most respected judicial institutions in the Commonwealth and destroyed the concept of separation of powers in Malaysia, how many Malaysians were truly upset with his interference?

Not disappointed or perturbed, but truly upset.

Think back to the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas in 1988 and the suspension of Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh and Datuk George Seah.

Think back to the constitutional amendments pummelled through Parliament by Dr Mahathir, changes which essentially divested the judiciary of some of its powers.

No shame in admitting that the incident called the judicial crisis of 1988 barely registered a blip on the radar of most Malaysians.

The Bar Council led the charge, often taking on the Mahathir administration single-handedly in seeking justice for the wronged justices.

Opposition veterans like Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang shouted themselves hoarse on the far-reaching consequences of that politically-motivated intervention by Dr Mahathir.

But few were interested in listening to them, or even reading the book by K. Das on the darkest day in the history of the judiciary.

To the average Malaysian, what was happening to Salleh Abas and friends seemed so far away, so remote, something which had little to do with their quality of life. Few thought about what would happen to this country with a compliant and lame judiciary.

Very few wondered whether years down the road they would be denied justice because of the executive's involvement in the selection and promotion of judges.

Few even harboured the thought that the written judgments of Malaysian judges, once widely respected for clarity, competence and sense of fairness, would be caricatured as cut and paste jobs.

Perhaps, more Malaysians have been forced to finally think about the judiciary in the wake of the Court of Appeal's decision on October 14 on the Allah issue.

Read more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/standing-up-for-the-right-things-not-the-stable-ones 

The sins of the fathers visit the sons

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 08:40 PM PDT

So what was the just-concluded Umno party election all about? Was it about bringing change to Umno? Certainly not! It is about who is going to take over as Prime Minister once the son of Tun Razak is forced out of office. Is it going to be the son of Tun Hussein Onn or the son of Tun Dr Mahathir? And he who wins the Umno Vice-Presidency can then prepare himself to take on the Deputy Presidency and from thereon the Presidency of Umno, which also means the Prime Ministership of Malaysia.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The pro-Umno Bloggers are on the attack. They are not happy with the just-concluded Umno party election. They were hoping that Mukhriz Mahathir instead of Hishammuddin Hussein would win one of the three Vice-Presidencies.

A. Kadir Jasin is also on the attack (read below). He has repeated what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has to say about Najib Tun Razak -- which is not at all flattering. But then Kadir Jasin has always been Tun Dr Mahathir's 'mouthpiece'. So this is probably not at all surprising.

The issue here is that the son of Tun Hussein Onn won with just a nine-vote lead against the son of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. And they blame the son of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein for this narrow defeat.

This sounds like a proxy war between two dead one-time Malaysian Prime Ministers versus one still alive one-time Prime Minister.

Tengku Abdul Rahman did not like Tun Dr Mahathir. In fact, that is putting it mildly. Tengku Rahman actually hated Tun Dr Mahathir and he once said that Umno would perish at the hands of Tun Dr Mahathir.

And that hatred is mutual. Tun Dr Mahathir played a prominent role in Tengku Rahman's ouster that saw Tun Razak take over as Prime Minister in 1970. Tun Razak then appointed Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman as his Deputy and when Tun Dr Ismail died in 1973 Tun Hussein took over.

When Tun Razak died in 1976, Tun Hussein took over as Prime Minister and he reluctantly appointed Tun Dr Mahathir as his Deputy -- because of pressure from the party -- when he would rather have appointed Tun Muhammad Ghazali Shafie as the Deputy instead.

And once Tun Dr Mahathir became the Deputy he made his move to oust Tun Hussein and took over as Prime Minister in 1981.

Since the 1950s Umno has seen power struggles for the top two positions.

First Onn Ja'afar was ousted. Then Tengku Rahman was ousted. Then Tun Razak died before he could be ousted, as did Tun Dr Ismail. Then Tun Ghazali was ousted. Then Hussein Onn was ousted. Then Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Musa Hitam were ousted. Then Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba was ousted. Then Anwar Ibrahim was ousted. Then Tun Dr Mahathir was ousted. Finally, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was ousted.

The only way you could avoid being ousted was to die in office like Tun Razak and Tun Dr Ismail.

So what was the just-concluded Umno party election all about? Was it about bringing change to Umno? Certainly not! It is about who is going to take over as Prime Minister once the son of Tun Razak is forced out of office. Is it going to be the son of Tun Hussein Onn or the son of Tun Dr Mahathir? And he who wins the Umno Vice-Presidency can then prepare himself to take on the Deputy Presidency and from thereon the Presidency of Umno, which also means the Prime Ministership of Malaysia.

So the son of Tun Dr Mahathir did not make the Vice-Presidency. The son of Tun Hussein did. Hence the son of Tun Hussein and not the son of Tun Dr Mahathir would have a better shot at the number two slot -- and thereafter the number one slot.

It is about the son of which ex-Prime Minister will take over once the son of another ex-Prime Minister is successfully ousted from power. This is what the just-concluded Umno party election was all about.

And that man who aspires to take over must be seen as more Malay and more Islamic than his opponents. And has Umno's history not shown that liberals eventually get ousted in favour of hardliners?

Umno can't change, say some liberals. Of course Umno can't change. If Umno does change then the top leaders would get ousted. But will Umno soon become extinct if it does not change? I fear not. I fear that PAS may become extinct instead -- unless it changes course and becomes more Islamic than Umno.

The animal called Umno is about Malay and Muslim supremacy. And unless Najib sees this he would soon join the long list of top Umno leaders who eventually get kicked out.

What happened yesterday was that the Malays have sent the top party leadership a message that Umno is about Malay political power and that there must be no compromise on this matter. And the only way that PAS is going to remain relevant is to become more radical than Umno. That is what yesterday's Umno party election means.

Welcome to the realm of Malay politics.

Hidup Umno! Hidup Melayu! Hidup Islam!


Umno can't change, will soon become extinct, says former NST chief editor

Jennifer Gomez, The Malaysian Insider

Umno is unable to bring change and just like the dodo bird, will soon become extinct, writes the former group chief editor of Umno-controlled New Straits Times.

The analogy of the now-extinct bird species from Mauritius was made by Datuk A. Kadir Jasin in his latest blog posting.

He writes that whether there were 2,000 or 140,000 delegates who took part in the just-concluded Umno polls, it is obvious that the party could not make the leap forward as it could not elect a fresh line-up of future leaders.

For Kadir, the only consolation in the Umno vice-presidential race is that those who were accused of being involved in money politics previously have been rejected.

According to Kadir, while the status quo for the VP line-up was a good sign for Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the same could not be said for the party. This is because it could not vote in a new generation of leaders except for a few who made it to the supreme council.

Re-elected vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's big win also puts him as the third in line to succession in Umno, after Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

As such, Kadir does not want to discount the possibility that Ahmad Zahid, who is the Home Minister, could turn from being a trusted ally to challenger for the top post.

He notes that Ahmad Zahid's stern stance on crime and national security differs from Najib's liberal image.

Ahmad Zahid's approach has steered clear from Najib's liberalism, something which Malays and Umno members shun, Kadir adds.

Kadir, a loyalist of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, then takes a swipe at Najib for abolishing preventive laws such as the Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance, which he says resulted in a spike in crime.

He says there is the possibility of a new alliance between Ahmad Zahid and re-elected Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin to further the former's political ambitions.

Khairy, explains Kadir, can ensure Ahmad Zahid receives more support being the Youth chief, adding that votes from the Youth wing would come in handy in the future.

The alliance would also be relevant given the duo's very different backgrounds and approaches. Ahmad Zahid could be the champion of the Malays and a local hero, while Khairy could be the savvy spokesman in the international arena.

Kadir says the fact that so many ministers and deputy ministers have been elected to the supreme council line-up means that they would not be able to speak out on behalf of the Malays.

He adds that only a handful in the line-up do not have high posts. And if these individuals could be sweet-talked, it would mean a total absence of independent voices for the Malays in the supreme council.

Kadir warns that there will now be only those who act as "yes men and women" to the party president.

He laments the lack of young blood in the party line-up, and points to the negative perception of the new generation towards Umno.

This, he writes, clearly distinguishes Umno from PKR, PAS and DAP which have many young leaders as well as a second echelon who are well-grounded in research and debate.


Najib entrenches power as reform drive fades

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 07:35 PM PDT

Despite that, Najib has not appeased all of his conservative rivals, signalling he will remain under pressure to rein in any reformist instincts. On Friday, Mahathir, 88, launched an outspoken attack on what he called Najib's "bad performance". Among other barbs, Mahathir said maintaining the status quo in the Umno hierarchy would hasten the party's demise after 56 years in power. He also blamed Najib for adding to Malaysia's debt burden with pre-election handouts, and criticised his economic development programmes for lacking credibility.


Internal voting for top posts in Malaysia's ruling coalition at the weekend have proved Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to be a canny survivor — five months after a poor showing at national elections — but at a cost to his reform agenda.

In May, Najib seemed dead in the water to some observers after presiding over the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation's (Umno) worst election result.

The internal Umno elections, however, confirmed Najib had seen off challenges from rival factions — including the son of influential former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mukhriz Mahathir, 48, fell just short of snaring one of three vice-president positions, all of which went to incumbents backed by Najib. Najib's allies also retained their dominance of the 25-member Umno Supreme Council.

Since coming to power in 2009, Najib had eased draconian security laws and pledged to phase out privileges for majority ethnic Malays that have hurt Malaysia's competitiveness.

Malaysia's large ethnic Chinese minority and most urban voters largely rejected the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition at the election and Najib has since reversed both policies under pressure from traditionalists.

Despite that, he has not appeased all of his conservative rivals, signalling he will remain under pressure to rein in any reformist instincts. On Friday, Mahathir, 88, launched an outspoken attack on what he called Najib's "bad performance".

Among other barbs, Mahathir said maintaining the status quo in the Umno hierarchy would hasten the party's demise after 56 years in power. He also blamed Najib for adding to Malaysia's debt burden with pre-election handouts, and criticised his economic development programmes for lacking credibility.

"The party finds it unable to reject him simply because there are really no other candidates... The result is they continue to support him despite his poor performance," Mahathir told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

Najib will present his government's budget for 2014 on Friday, under pressure from ratings agencies and investors to rein in Malaysia's high fiscal deficit and debt.

Mahathir, who argues that Umno has become too insular and needs to promote new talent, also accused Najib's government of pandering to the opposition with liberal social reforms before the election and not making good on his latest pledges.

"Most people don't think he is doing enough. A lot of people comment when he announces things. It is nothing new," said Mahathir, whose often authoritarian rule spanned 1981 to 2003.

May's election was the second straight poll in which the BN coalition saw its parliamentary majority shrink and the first in which it lost the popular vote to the opposition, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. The result exacerbated racial tensions in the Southeast Asian country as Umno-backed media blamed "ungrateful" Chinese voters for the setback.

Saturday's election of the three incumbent vice-presidents, all of them older than 50, will intensify criticism that Umno is out of touch with young and urban voters. Najib had tried to broaden the BN's appeal to different races, handing out cash payments to low-income Malaysians among other policies.

In September he reversed course by announcing a raft of new measures to benefit ethnic Malays, bolstering a decades-old affirmative action policy, in a move seen as crucial to ward off any challenge for his Umno presidency. Last month, his government pushed through a bill that brings back detention without trial, over strong criticism by civil society groups.

Najib likely isn't "in the pocket" of conservatives and could now tilt back to a more liberal, reformist agenda having balanced the different wings of the party, said Shaun Levine, a senior Washington-based analyst with Eurasia Group.

"He has to appease the conservative base but he must also ensure that foreign investors in particular are certain that Malaysia is not going over the edge economically," Levine said.

The Umno internal elections were the first under a new system introduced by Najib — who has popular grassroots support — that broadened the voting base in a bid to make the process more democratic and less beholden to powerful party "warlords".


Change by any other name is still change

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 06:41 PM PDT

So, back to my opening question: going by the just-concluded Umno party election, have we seen any change in Umno? Many of you will say 'no'. I, however, will say 'yes'. Umno has changed. It now realises what it needs. It understands that what it wants does not matter. What it wants will not keep Umno in power. And what Umno needs is to stay in power. And, to stay in power, it needs to give the Malays/Muslims want they want.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Two old friends bump into each other on the street after not having met for some time.

"Hey, Mike, how are you? Haven't heard from you for some time."

"Yeah, I've been away over the last few months. Been in rehab."

"Yeah, I heard about that. And how is your drinking problem?"

"Oh, much better. I'm doing great. I don't drink any more."

"That's certainly great to hear. Well done." 

"I don't drink any less either."

I suppose that can either be taken as an improvement or a setback, depending on how you look at things and whether you perceive half a glass of water as half-full or half-empty. And how would you perceive the just-concluded Umno party elections? A step forwards or a step backwards (or many steps as the case may be)?

That would probably depend on whether you think that not drinking any more is good when one does not drink any less either. Or maybe you think there is really no change for the better although things may not be getting any worse as well.

Again, how would you perceive the just-concluded Umno party elections? Has Umno moved forwards? Has Umno moved backwards? Or has there actually been no change? 

To the alcoholic, not drinking any more is good even though he or she does not drink any less either. To the teetotaller, though, that would probably be seen as a setback. After months of rehab all you could achieve is to arrest the slide but not reverse it? That, to some, would be a disaster.

The Islamists look at Malaysia today and compare it to Malaysia of, say, 60 years ago, and would say that much has improved since the 1950s. Nowadays, most Muslim women dress 'decently' and wear a tudung compared to short skirts and bareback dresses as in the past. This, to the Islamists, is a great leap forward.

Liberals frown and sigh and say that Malaysia has gone backwards since the days or Saloma and P. Ramlee. What has become of Malaysia when Malay women today dress like Arabs in the desert whereas once they were so modern and sexy? And where has all the joget and ronggeng gone to, which was very much part of Malay culture back in the days before Merdeka?

People will change when there is a need for change. The question would be whether the change is for the better or for the worse. Better or worse would be how you perceive things and is not constant. The only constant thing, as they say, is change. But then if it changes how could it be constant? That is what we could probably call an oxymoron.

Umno would change if there were a need for change. Everything and everyone changes dependent on need. The only thing is: what would be this need? And this is where we enter the realm of the debate between wants and needs. There are wants and there are needs -- and most times people are confused between the two.

You need a car because you cannot get to work without one, especially when Malaysia's public transportation system sucks. But you do not need a BMW or a Mercedes Benz. That is not a need. That is what you want. Hence the difference between wants and needs, which most people cannot seem to differentiate.

The question of needs and wants would also come into play when we talk about the change, or lack of change, as the case may be, in Umno. Going by the just-concluded Umno party elections, has Umno changed? And if it has, has it changed for the better or for the worse?

Different people will have a different answer to this.

I would rather ask another question. Does Umno want to change? Or, more importantly, does Umno need to change?

Umno may want to change, or at least some people in Umno may want to see Umno change -- for example, people such as Party President Najib Tun Razak and Youth Leader Khairy Jamaluddin. But can Umno change if many people see no need for change in Umno?

So, what then does Umno need before we talk about what Umno wants?

In the past, Umno depended on their partners in Barisan Nasional. That was in the days when Barisan Nasional could win general elections with landslide victories and with more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament (plus the same in the state elections as well). Today, that is no longer possible.

The days of landslide victories and two-thirds majorities are gone. And, worse still, the days of the balance between Malay seats and non-Malay seats are also gone. Today, a Barisan Nasional victory just means an Umno victory with not much contribution from the non-Umno partners in the coalition -- except for those in Sabah and Sarawak.

In the past, whatever Umno does and says must take into consideration the backlash or affect on MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP, and so on. Hence Umno must try to be seen as more centrist than rightist. The survival of the non-Umno parties in Barisan Nasional depended on this.

That, however, is no longer important.

In the past, the more 'unIslamic' Umno is seen the more support PAS will get -- but then the non-Umno parties in Barisan Nasional will benefit. Hence, while Umno will lose some Malay/Muslim support to PAS, this loss can be covered or compensated by the gain in support that the non-Umno parties would get.

But now the non-Umno parties in Barisan Nasional can no longer hold their ground no matter what Umno does and says. And by being more liberal, and therefore be seen as less Islamic or less Malay-centric, would just send the Malays over to PAS.

So now what Umno needs to do is to win back the Malay support from PAS. Umno can no longer win back the non-Malay support. And for that to happen Umno must be seen as more Islamic and more Malay than PAS (and PKR, of course).

So what Umno wants (or what some people in Umno want) is no longer important. It is what Umno needs that matter. Needs come first and wants come later only when you can satisfy your needs.

So what Umno needs is to appear still relevant to the Malays as well as to the Muslims. What Umno wants is probably to appear more middle-of-the-road or more centrist. But it cannot appear too 'compromising' if that appearance would only mean the Malays will swing over to PAS.

If Umno thought that a 'softer' approach would help MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP and so on, then Umno would take this 'softer' approach. That, of course, is what Umno (or some people in Umno) would want to do if the situation permitted that.

But Umno can no longer worry about what it wants or what some people in Umno want. It needs to worry about what it needs. And what it needs is to stay in power. And the only way it can stay in power would be with the Malay/Muslim support. Hence Umno must be seen as more Malay and more Muslim than its competitors such as PAS and PKR.

In the recent general election, Umno came head-to-head with DAP in only one constituency -- Gelang Patah. Even then it was a choice that Umno rather than DAP made. In all the other seats that Umno won, it was against an opposing Malay candidate.

Hence Umno's survival depends on Malay votes, not Chinese votes. And Barisan Nasional's survival, too, depends on the Malay votes that Umno gets, not the Chinese votes for MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP, etc. Hence it is what the Malays/Muslims WANT that will become Umno's NEED. And if you can understand the difference between wants and needs you will understand this.

So, back to my opening question: going by the just-concluded Umno party election, have we seen any change in Umno? Many of you will say 'no'. I, however, will say 'yes'. Umno has changed. It now realises what it needs. It understands that what it wants does not matter. What it wants will not keep Umno in power. And what Umno needs is to stay in power. And, to stay in power, it needs to give the Malays/Muslims want they want.

Sounds complicated, does it not? It is actually not that complicated. Umno needs to change. It needs to know on which side its bread is buttered. And Umno will change to ensure that the Malays see it as the champion of the Malays and Islam.

That may be good for Umno. It may even be good for the Malays/Muslims. But that does not mean it is also good for the country. But then since when do politicians do what is good for the country? Even opposition politicians will not do that. It must always be what is good for the party and the future of the party plus the survival of the party.


AG: Home Minister is correct in “Allah” case

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:58 PM PDT

(Bernama) - The gist of the Court of Appeal's decision in "The Herald" case is that the Home Minister has the discretion to ban words which are prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial where national security and public order are concerned, said Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail.

In a statement today, Abdul Gani said that as long as the discretion was exercised legally, reasonably, rationally and proportionally, the court will not interfere with the Minister's discretion in these matters.

"The Attorney General's Chambers advises the public to respect and abide by the Court of Appeal's decision and to refrain from making any statement which may lead to contempt of court," he said.

Abdul Gani's statement was in response to the October 14 judgment allowing the Home Minister and Government of Malaysia's appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision of December 31 2009.

The High Court had allowed the application for a judicial review by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur (Titular) against the Minister's decision of January 7 2009 prohibiting the Titular from using the word Allah in the Bahasa Melayu text of the Herald.

Abdul Gani emphasised that the Court of Appeal's decision was only confined to the publication of the Bahasa Melayu text of the Herald.

According to Abdul Gani, in paragraph 30 of his judgment, Justice Abdul Aziz held that the Al-Kitab and the Herald were two entirely different publications.

"The Al-Kitab is the Malay version of the Bible meant for Christians and used in churches, whereas the Herald is an online newspaper accessible to Muslim and non-Muslim readers," he said.

"His Lordship went on to state that therefore the Minister's permission for the printing and publication of the Al-Kitab in which the word Allah appears cannot be treated in the same manner with reference to the Herald," said Abdul Gani.

The Attorney General said the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the constitutional protection afforded to the practise of one's religion was confined to practices which formed an essential and integral part of the religion.

"The court held that the use of the word "Allah" in the Malay version of the Herald to refer to God is not an essential or integral part of the religion of Christianity and therefore does not attract the constitutional guarantee under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution," he clarified. 


Let cool heads prevail

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:46 PM PDT

In highly contentious situations, it would be wiser to leave things as they are for the time being.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

YOU can't blame many Malaysians for being confused. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the use of the word "Allah" is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity and therefore could find no reason why the Catholic Church's weekly publication, The Herald, is so adamant to use it.

In short, the word "Allah" should be exclusively used by Muslims and The Herald should not be using the name in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.

The three-member panel chaired by Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali unanimously ruled in favour of the Government's appeal to set aside the 2009 decision of the High Court which had overturned the Home Ministry's decision that the church cannot use the word in The Herald's Malay language edition.

The Court of Appeal also ruled that its usage would cause confusion within the local Muslim community and cited Article 3(1) and Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution as grounds for its decision.

The court found that the Home Ministry's prohibition on the usage of the word in The Herald did not infringe any constitutional rights.

But in less than 24 hours, senior Sarawak and Sabah leaders, including Muslims, quickly came out to clarify that the court ruling was just restricted to The Herald.

They assured the sizeable Christian bumiputra voters, who include many loyal Barisan Nasional supporters, that the court ruling did not apply to them in their daily prayers and devotions.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Depart­ment Nancy Shukri was reported as saying that "the Government has nothing to do with the outcome of that decision".

Nancy, who is also the de facto law minister, said the decision against the use of the word "Allah" is confined only to The Herald.

Put simply, the court decision was not a blanket ruling against the usage of the word by non-Muslims.

A news portal also cited Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar as having the same view.

It quoted him as saying that the Cabinet decision to allow the use of Allah in Bahasa Malaysia or native language Bibles in Sabah and Sarawak and the assurance given by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2011 still stand, thereby suggesting that the Government does not believe that the word is exclusive to Muslims.

Both Nancy and Wan Junaidi are from Sarawak, where Nancy is MP for Batang Sadong and the latter is MP for Santubong.

I am sure the two leaders know their constituents very well and that their statements reflected the sentiments in the state.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup also weighed in, saying that "all political parties and leaders should engage the people in productive dialogues to ease tensions".

The Sabahan leader said they should exercise maximum restraint by not engaging in a "holier-than-thou" contest.

"I urge all parties for the sake of national unity to be cautious with their statements, not to be provocative with their unwarranted statements and stop creating fear to the extent that certain communities begin to question the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution in our country," he said in a statement last week.

If you read what Kurup has said, between the lines, it is obvious that he is concerned about the court decision.

But as Malaysians discuss this issue, it must be remembered that a huge section of Muslims share the sentiments that the word should be used only by Muslims.

I have spoken to many of my Muslim friends and colleagues, and they have shared their thoughts with me frankly. For that, I am thankful that we are still able to discuss even the most delicate issues rationally and calmly.

From their perspective, there is this genuine fear that the word "Allah" could be manipulated by over-zealous Christian evangelists, explaining that "the name Allah is still something basic and fundamental to Islam".

Former National Fatwa Council chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim reportedly said that "the name Allah, from a philosophical point, its definition and concept is not equal with the name Tuhan, God, Lord and so on in the usage of other religions".

But the reality is that the court's decision has been interpreted in so many ways now. If it's merely restricted to The Herald, then no one should attempt to extend the court ruling to other sections.

The concerns of Christians, especially those who only speak and read Bahasa Malaysia, are equally genuine. They will continue to read the Bahasa Malaysia Bible or the Bahasa Indonesian Bible, which uses "Allah", and for practical purposes, how can anyone stop such worshipping?

Likewise, it is downright confusing to tell Christians in Sabah and Sarawak that they can make reference to Allah in their states but not in peninsular Malaysia.

What then happens when our Sabahan and Sarawakian brethren come over the peninsula for work or travel?

There are many churches in the peninsula, including in Kuala Lumpur, that are attended by Sabahans, Sarawakians and Indonesians – with all the services in Bahasa Malaysia – and surely we cannot be telling them that they can't pray according to their own ways.

The same predicament, I suppose, is also faced by the Sikhs, as the word "Allah" appears 37 times in the Sikh Holy Book. The Babas also use the word "Tuan Allah" in some churches in Malacca. The Christian orang asli in the peninsula, likewise, worship using the Bahasa Malaysia Bible.

For the time being, it is best that we let cool heads and wisdom prevail. Often, it is wiser to just let things remain untouched and to let things be. A non-conclusive situation is sometimes, ironic as it may be, the best way out.


A mixed bag

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:42 PM PDT

Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak seems delighted with the new team that has emerged in Umno but whether they will be an asset or give him more headaches remains to be seen.

The right wing segment of Umno thinks he has been too soft and given too much to the non-Malays and yet not get their support in the general election. They feel that Umno must take stands and push for policies that reflect the ethnic reality on the ground where bumiputras make up 67.9% of the population and Muslims comprise 59% of the population.

Joceline Tan, The Star

WANITA Umno leader Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil was in great demand last week. No less than the incumbent Umno vice-presidents (VP) had sought her out as the bridge to reach out to the Wanita Umno delegates.

It was not as though the VPs did not have access to the Wanita wing as they rushed to wrap up their election campaign. What they wanted was basically Shahrizat's endorsement. They knew that if she endorsed them, it was as good as having the endorsement of the senior ladies.

Shahrizat's command over the Wanita wing is beyond dispute after she won a second term as Wanita Umno leader in spectacular fashion. She holds the women in the palm of her hand.

Shortly after she knew that she had crossed the finishing line, she arrived at the PWTC accompanied by her entire family – husband, daughter, two sons and daughter-in-law. It was evident that she also regarded the results as some sort of vindication of the way she and her family were vilified over the National Feedlot Corporation.

The results showed that the ladies see her as a victim of perception in the entire affair and that they still have faith in her leadership even if others in the party are concerned about how people outside Umno will judge her re-election.

Many in Umno have seriously under-estimated her political clout. Beneath that soft, refined and womanly exterior lies nerves of steel.

She accepted the victory without losing her composure while several among her loyal team of women grew emotional and could be seen dabbing at their eyes the whole evening.

It was likely that their tears were not just for her win but also for what she has gone through the last two years. They knew that she went through hell and back.

"We are not surprised over the support for Kak Ijat. She is one leader who really goes to the ground and she takes us with her," said Pahang Wanita chief Datuk Rosni Zahari.

Shahrizat's win may not burnish Umno's image among those outside the party, but it should give Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak the peace of mind that the wing is intact, united and loyal.

Following his equally impressive re-election as Umno Youth leader, Khairy Jamaluddin is now being touted as the "future of Umno" by his supporters and even some of his critics.

Khairy entered politics amid much controversy. But his stint in the wilderness after winning the Youth post the first time around has turned out to be one of those blessings in disguise.

That challenging period of his career has been held up as a testimony that he is a fighter, someone who can thrive in adversity and does not give up easily. He has earned his stripes and the respect of many in the party.

"He passed the test, he'll be an asset to Umno. He is someone who can stand up to the opposition," said Juhaidi Yean Abdullah, a former aide to an Umno minister.

Khairy, said Juhaidi, is the man to watch over the next five years.

"He has traction with the age group that Umno wants to attract. He is smart and argues well, never mind that he is not photogenic," said a former Putrajaya official.

When the Youth chief described his win as an endorsement of his "progressive leadership", he was addressing the audience that went beyond the boundaries of Umno. He was basically telling those outside Umno that the party's future will encompass progressive politics and that he hopes they will come along with him.

"As a friend, I am proud of Khairy's progressive politics. It will make Umno more relevant to the Malaysian electorate. We need leaders who are willing to stand up for that," said former Umno Youth official Datuk Zaki Zahid.

This will be Khairy's challenge in the years ahead. He will have to find an equilibrium between like-minded members who want the party to move towards the centre and the more conservative and right-wing members who want the old Umno.

There is a great deal resting on the shoulders of the new Puteri Umno leader Mas Ermieyati. The Puteri leadership after Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said's exit has not lived up to expectations.

It has lost its oomph and some of the men at the division level feel that these young members are not pulling their weight. One Umno division chief has often complained that during Umno events, the Puteri girls are more interested in using their handphones to snap pictures of themselves with Umno leaders.

Ermieyati has to galvanise the wing and create new programmes that can give the wing a higher profile rather than just eye a deputy minister post. She has to look deep into these issues and make the wing more meaningful to young Malay women, especially those in urban areas.

This Umno election is taking place against a vastly different political landscape from that which Umno is used to. It is no longer the king of the hill that it used to be. Umno as a party is still holding up well against its arch-rival PAS but it has been let down by its component parties which have crumbled against the advance of DAP and PKR.

Umno is often portrayed by its detractors as a party of extremists but it comprises members ranging from the ultra-conservative to those with more open views on social and political issues.

"Umno is not a communist party or a party of zombies where everyone thinks and says the same thing. Our members have ideas and aspirations. We can agree and disagree about where the party is going and that is what we see now.

"The important thing is to come to consensus at the end of the day and to not lose sight of the core values of the Malay struggle," said former Penang Umno strongman Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad.

A clearer picture of the new team that Najib is leading will be available by today when the full results of the vice-presidents (VP) and supreme council are verified.

The popular view was that the last team was a transition team that comprised those from the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi era as well as the Najib men. But the vastly expanded voter base that brought in the new team also means that they are quite a mixed bag of people.

The question being asked is whether they can gel with what the president wants to do.

"The president is a very amiable person who can work with almost anyone. His relationship with the two former prime ministers is proof of how he handles extraordinary situa­tions and people.

"He does not hold grudges, he does not show his temper nor is he a reactive person. His one big fault is that he is often too nice, even to those who cross him," said a political insider.

Najib, said the insider, has a vast network of political friends who go back to his days as the leader of Umno Youth. They are very loyal to him and he relies on them but generally, he is ready to accept who the grassroots have chosen.

But Najib is also facing this tug-of-war going on in the party between those who want the old Umno and those who want to move forward. His problem is a bigger version of that confronting his Youth chief.

The right wing segment of Umno thinks he has been too soft and given too much to the non-Malays and yet not get their support in the general election.

They feel that Umno must take stands and push for policies that reflect the ethnic reality on the ground where bumiputras make up 67.9% of the population and Muslims comprise 59% of the population.

The more hard-headed among them feel betrayed and think that Umno must now take care of the Malay ground because it is the Malays who are keeping the Barisan Nasional in power. The more level-headed members feel hurt by the non-Malay rejection but they also understand that Najib must continue to engage the middle ground.

All this is taking place against a backdrop of great concern among party members over the way issues concerning the Malays such as Islam and the Malay Royalty are being openly questioned.

Najib has to navigate a fine line to appease the right-wingers while trying to bring the party towards the centre where the bulk of the votes lie in the next general election. It remains to be seen whether his new team will be able to assist him or be a hindrance to him.

But for now, said Dr Ibrahim, Najib can give himself a pat on the back for putting in place a bold new system of election in his party that has been implemented with remarkably few road bumps.

And for many of those who won, their immediate concern will probably be whether the Prime Minister will include them in the Cabinet reshuffle that is widely expected in the months ahead.


The pettifogging Jakim

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:34 PM PDT

It is in Jakim's best interest that it focuses on its 'core' business, that of 'Islamic development', instead of attempting to act smart on issues like human rights.

Leading the 'hate the non-Malays' campaign is the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, better known as Jakim, which has taken to inciting the Malays against the other races through the most despicable of ways, through the Friday sermons.

Jeswan Kaur, FMT

All religions are branches of one big tree – George Harrison

The Oct 4 court verdict that 'Allah' can no longer appear in the Herald weekly publication has revealed more than meets the eye. Not only was the ruling a gross abuse of the judiciary, the decision also exposed the deep-rooted hatred the Malay zealots have for the non-Malays.

Leading the 'hate the non-Malays' campaign is the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, better known as Jakim, which has taken to inciting the Malays against the other races through the most despicable of ways, through the Friday sermons.

Post-the court ruling favouring Putrajaya in the Herad case, Jakim on Friday once again decided to play devil's advocate. This time, it  claimed human rights abuses never happened in Malaysia.

Instead, in its Friday sermon, Jakim said complaints of human rights abuses against Malaysia (read Barisan Nasional government) was actually part of a masquerade to further the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) agenda.

This move, claims Jakim, was all about undermining Islam and that there was an international conspiracy to challenge the position of Islam in the country and the local rights groups particularly Commango, a coalition of NGOs campaigning for LGBT rights, were acting as its agents.

"As of recently, there is a concerted plan undertaken by certain quarters on the name of human rights. It is undermining and challenging the principles of freedom allowed in Islam.

"It is not only moved by quarters in the country, but, with the advent of new media, these groups are getting the support of international liberal groups," read the sermon.

Is this Jakim's modus operandi of raising awareness on Islam among the people, by twisting and manipulating the religion to achieve its own interest?

Does Jakim not know that spreading lies via religion no less a sin, as it continues to do, trying to hoodwink the Malays into believing that the superiority of Islam is under threat?

And how does promoting human rights threaten Islam's standing, domestically and globally?

Threatening national harmony

Trying to dismiss the fact that Malaysia has no record of human rights abuses has only made Jakim a laughing stock, for its sheer desperation in trying to win brownie points from Putrajaya.

Or is Jakim being pressured to deliver the federal government's stand on Islam, using all means possible?

Where human rights abuse goes, the world knows that Malaysia holds a shameful record; human rights groups and international human rights watchdogs have time and again taken the BN government to task for failing to uphold the tenets of human rights, as enshrined both in the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

Jakim does not have the guts to admit that the government has turned the country's human rights commission Suhakam into a 'toothless tiger'.

Suhakam's many recommendations put forth by its first and second chairmen Musa Hitam and Abu Talib Othman respectively were never given due hearing by the government.

In 2008,  the accreditation sub-committee of the International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institution (ICC) demanded justification from Suhakam on why the human rights body must not be downgraded from the 'A status to 'B'.

Had this been done, it would have deprived Suhakam of certain access privileges within the United Nations system.



Zahid: Pro-opposition media made me famous

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:27 PM PDT

The negative publicity by pro-opposition media had indeed brought success to Zahid in retaining his position in Umno. 

Alfian ZM Tahir and Lisa J. Ariffin, FMT

Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has expressed delight after triumphantly retaining the vice-president's seat in the Umno election last night.

Zahid who obtained the highest votes at 185, was followed by Mohd Shafie Apdal at 174 and Hishamuddin Hussein at 100.

Speaking at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), the former Minister of Defence thanked the grassroots members and his Bagan Datoh division for their trust in returning him as Umno vice-president.

"I thank everybody in the machinery, my friends who have helped me and the delegates who have put me back among the Umno leadership,"

"The agenda for transformation within Umno will be executed in order to assist the president and deputy president for the 14th general election. God's will, the agenda will help retain Umno's position as the backbone for Barisan Nasional," he said in a statement.

Zahid then added that the transformation agenda is decisive as it would convert Umno into a more relevant political party; rejuvenating it with fresh ideas from newly- elected candidates in the supreme council.

He also stresses out that he would certainly give serious attention to opinions coming from the youth wing and the women's' division wing.
"I am confident with my principles, I do not want to become a seasonal leader who only exist during elections, I will be with the grassroots and I will listen to what they have to say," Zahid said.

The Perak born politician then thanked online newspapers and magazine as well as pro-opposition news portals, describing that the media coverage given to him have made him popular within the party.

"Thank you to pro opposition news portal for making me famous, by giving me 'bad media' coverage and I hope they do not regret it,"



No transformation in Umno, says Pakatan

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:23 PM PDT

The status quo in Umno proves the party only wants power and favours from their leaders, not change, says Pakatan Rakyat

Anisah Shukry, FMT

The reinstatement of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin Hussein and Shafie Apdal as Umno vice-presidents in the party's polls last night proves one thing: Umno delegates don't want change; they want power – and the favours that come with it.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders said this when asked to comment on the new lineup of the ruling party, which saw incumbents retaining their posts, and the most powerful in government maintaining positions in the Umno supreme council.

"What new lineup? It's the old lineup!" laughed PKR vice-president Tian Chua when contacted for a response.

"But on a more serious note, we can see that Umno is not posed for change. All this talk about progressives in Umno fighting against conservatives is nonsensical. Delegates have only voted for those in power in the government.

"Mukhriz Mahathir lost the vice presidency post because he is only a Menteri Besar of Kedah. He was up against ministers who could award projects from across the nation to cronies, whereas the projects he could offer would only be in Kedah," said Tian Chua.

Yesterday, in the fight for the vice-presidency position, both former Malacca chief minister Ali Rustam and Mukhriz had lost to the three incumbents, who are also ministers in their own right.

This was despite the fact that Ali had resorted to playing "the race card to the hilt" and resorted to "Chinese-bashing", while Mukhriz had the support of his father, the former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed to help him through the polls.

"So the negative culture of Umno continues. There is no real reform in any way, because delegates will keep voting in those who can 'help' them, regardless of the candidate's character," said Tian Chua.

PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar said that this meant leaders with bad track records would continue to be elected by Umno, to the detriment of Malaysians.

"There was no transformation process in last night's Umno elections. Instead, those who won are those proven to have failed to manage the country and their own ministries well, as revealed in the Auditor-General's 2012 report," PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar told FMT.

"I hope that with the reinstatement of the Umno leaders, the society can evaluate for themselves what this means, and they are able to vote wisely in the coming elections," the Pokok Sena MP added.

'Mahathir's waning influence'

Pakatan also hailed the decline of Mahathir's influence in Umno, but said that while the man himself was slowly becoming irrelevant, his legacy of corruption would still live on in Umno.

"[Mahathir was] irresponsible, ruthless and reckless in playing the race card, reiterating the preposterous allegations and lies since his failed attempt to racialise the Gelang Patah battle in the 13th General Elections that the Chinese in Malaysia were out to oust the political power of the Malays and dominate Malaysian politics," said DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang.

"But the Umno party elections yesterday is further confirmation that Mahathir's aura and magic have been on an unchecked decline, not only among the Malaysian and Malay public from his 13th general elections campaigns in Gelang Patah, Shah Alam and Pasir Mas but also inside Umno."

But his waning influence would not signal a better Umno, stressed Tian Chua.



We want to slaughter cows, so back off, Muslim group tells Hindu parents

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:18 PM PDT

(TMI) - A Muslim non-governmental organisation has rejected criticisms by some Hindu parents over the practice of slaughtering animals in school grounds by saying Muslims should not bow to pressure on the issue.

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia's (Isma) deputy president Aminuddin Yahaya (pic) said Muslims must have the courage to defend their own religious practices.

"Why should we bow to pressure from them (Hindus)? It is as if we do not have our own identity. This is our country and it is an Islamic country," he was quoted by news portal Malaysiakini as saying.

"We want to slaughter cows, who cares? What is the percentage of the Indian community in Malaysia? Only 1% or 2%," he said, adding Malays were over 60% of the population.

Aminuddin was referring to Hindu parents who complained about the use of school grounds to slaughter cows, considered sacred to Hindus, during the recent Hari Raya Haji celebrations.

On a separate issue, Aminuddin said Isma had no problem if Christians wanted to use the word 'Allah' in their prayers.



Is the right to practise one’s religion absolute?

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:11 PM PDT

"Under Article 3(1) the practice of religion must not disturb peace and harmony." This is in addition to the restriction under Article 11(5) of the Federal Constitution that allows for regulation of religious practices on the ground of public order, public health or morality.

Mohamad Hafiz Hassan, TMI

Is the right to practise one's religion or belief absolute?

The Malaysian Bar certainly thinks so following its view that the words "in peace and harmony" in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution in their ordinary meaning provide for the right of other religions to be practised unmolested and free of threats.

But such a view is tenable only if there is no distinction between the right to profess, have or adopt a belief and the right to practise or manifest a belief.

A reading of Prof Shad Faruqi's Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia is instructive on this. At page 329 of the book, the widely respected constitutional scholar writes:

"Article 11(1) grants to all individuals protection in matters of conscience... "

Under this clause citizens as well as non-citizens have the right to three things:

·  to profess
·  to practise, and
·  subject to Article 11(4), to propagate their religion.

The first refers to beliefs and doctrines. The second refers to exhibitions of these beliefs through acts, practices and rituals. The third is about attempts at propagation and transmission of one's belief to others in order to convert them to one's faith. The law distinguishes between inner beliefs and overt acts. The right to beliefs and doctrines is generally regarded as absolute. Practice and propagation are, however, allowed by Article 11(5) to be regulated on the ground of public order, public health or morality." (Emphasis added).

Prof Shad Faruqi's reference to the distinction between inner beliefs and over acts mirrors another legal view that refers to the freedom of religion as consisting of freedom in two components:

·         the forum internum, and
·         the forum externum.

The first represents the right to profess, maintain, change, have, or adopt a religious belief. It relates to an individual's inner faith and conscience. The second, which is distinct from the first, is the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance (see for example, P Van Dijk and G J H Van Hoof, et. al., Theory and Practice of the European Convention of Human Rights, 1998).

International instruments on freedom of religions (such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or ICCPR, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) provide for, and embrace, both the forum internum and forum externum.

Importantly, however, the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief (the forum externum) is not an absolute right [see Johan D. van der Vyver, 'Limitations on the Freedom of Religion or Belief: International Law Perspectives', 19 EMORY INT'L L. REV. 499, 505 (2005)]. The freedom to manifest one's religion or belief if often referred to as the more public freedom of religion. Because the public manifestation of religion has the potential to interfere with the rights of others or to pose a danger to society, it is not absolute. It is subject to limitation such as can be seen under Article 10 IPPR and Article 9 European Convention.

The above should suffice as a reply to the view that Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution provides for the right of other religions to be practised unmolested.



Threat to Malaysian students backfires as Anwar draws bigger crowd in Australia

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:05 PM PDT

Trinna Leong, TMI

A warning emailed to Malaysian students in Australia against attending a programme featuring opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had the opposite effect. It piqued interest and drew a large crowd to his talk at Adelaide University yesterday, said those who attended it.

The event received overwhelming response, forcing organisers to change the venue to a bigger hall to accommodate some 900 people, 300 more than initially expected.

Those who attended the talk said that the crowd, a blend of Malaysians and Australians, were curious to hear Anwar speak after news that Malaysian offcials warned students was reported by the Australian media.

The email from the Malaysian Students Department was addressed to students sponsored by the Public Service Department (JPA), warning them against attending the Festival of Ideas programme in the university where Anwar was featured.

Allan Chin, 28, told The Malaysian Insider that the warning was free publicity for Anwar.

"I know of people who knew about the event because of the threat and hence attended. It's free publicity for Anwar," said Chin, a Malaysian working in Adelaide, speaking over Facebook.

At the event, Anwar was interviewed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Waleed Aly. He took questions on the Allah controversy, the results of the 13th general election and freedom of speech.

Anwar also defended Malaysian students who were told they could lose their scholarships if they attended the event.

"Anwar said that people from all religions should be free to describe their God as Allah and it is absurd that Malaysia is the only country that is 'pro-Allah'," said Chin, referring to the recent Court of Appeal ruling barring Catholic weekly Herald from using the word Allah.

Jerad Tan said it had been very frustrating to get the email from the Malaysian students office, noting the Festival was a forum to share ideas and knowledge, not a political rally.

Being in Adelaide for decades, a Malaysian-born woman who did not want to be named, said the email was shocking and very silly.

"They are students, telling them not to come will make them more curious," she said.

"They are intelligent people, how can you think they will not think for themselves?"



Eschewing change, Umno keeps to the president’s men

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 04:01 PM PDT

The Malaysian Insider

Yesterday's Umno polls have thrown up one fact – that nothing has changed even with a new electoral system and talk of transformation in the Malay nationalist party.

The vice-presidential and supreme council line-up shows almost the same old faces. No one new or with exciting ideas has received enough votes to break into the chummy old boys club that is the Umno supreme council.

But the Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia talked about "winds of change blowing" through the party in its weekend edition Mingguan Malaysia today, citing the strong support for Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir.

The 48-year-old son of the popular Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad received 91 votes, just nine short of Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who managed to retain his vice-presidency.

Would that be a change, considering that Mukhriz represented the hopes of those who long for the good times under Dr Mahathir's leadership?

Would that even be a transformation for party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak?

The fact is, the Umno grassroots followed their division leaders, keeping most of them and their peers in power in the latest party elections.

There is virtually no change in the leadership from division level except for those who retired or those who had lost badly in the general election. The warlords remain in power from division right up to state and national levels.

The grassroots have in effect endorsed the status quo and are happy with it, and if anything, the support for Mukhriz is just an expression for the previous status quo before Tun Abdullah Badawi's short rule.

Umno members would be deluded to believe talk that the winds of change had blown through the party in the elections. Instead, Najib has cemented his hold on the party as most of his preferences went through, some for the second time since he took power in 2009.

Change in Umno will not come from within for a long time until there are more new faces than old in the supreme council and office bearers.



Zeti: Malaysia not experiencing asset bubble

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 03:57 PM PDT

(Bernama) - There is no reason to believe that Malaysia has seen the formation of an asset bubble that is about to burst, as the country has addressed many of the issues and risks related to it, says Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

She said three series of macro prudential measures had been introduced this year to avoid the very risk of the formation of such a bubble asset.

She was responding to a question on whether Malaysia is experiencing an asset bubble that would burst if China's economy tumbles and as global interest rates rise, as reported recently by the foreign media.

"Conditions between now and in 1997/1998 are different. We are now on a growth path," she told a press conference in conjunction with the South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) 30th Anniversary Conference on Greater Financial Integration and Financial Stability, here today.

Zeti said domestic demand was driving Malaysia's economic growth and the country was not at the epicentre of the recent global financial crisis.

"Our financial intermediaries remain resilient and the supply of credit was never disrupted," she added.

She said financial intermediation was continuing and financial markets continued to function.

"There is confidence in the financial system. This is the result of the focus over the last decade on financial reforms that have strengthened the foundation of our financial system.

"We believe that credit growth has moderated to a sustainable pace that supports the growth of the economy. In this regard, we continue to monitor conditions," Zeti added. 


Najib strengthens hand in Umno polls

Posted: 19 Oct 2013 03:53 PM PDT

(AFP) - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak strengthened his hand in ruling-party elections but analysts said questions remain over his stop-start plans to reform Southeast Asia's third-largest economy amid resistance from conservatives.

Najib was unopposed as president of the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) in the party's polls, the final results of which were tallied late Saturday.

But other posts were closely watched to determine whether Najib was losing ground to powerful conservatives upset with his earlier pledge to liberalise a controversial system of preferences for the Muslim Malay majority, and other reforms.

Analysts said Najib appeared to have held off conservatives, for now.

"On the surface of it, Najib's leadership of the party is undisputed," said Ibrahim Suffian, director of leading polling organisation Merdeka Centre.

"His team will be able to push some reforms, but the right-wing element of the party is not extinguished. There will have to be some compromise."

The Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, through which Umno has ruled the multi-ethnic, Muslim-majority country for decades, has won national elections by diminishing margins as voters tire of its race-based politics and authoritarian rule.

Najib, now 60 and in office since 2009, responded by advocating political and economic reforms to win back support, but has been restricted by hardliners keen to protect Malay dominance.

Najib has already backtracked on key reform moves including a cautious pledge to water down Umno's decades-old affirmative-action policies for Malays in education, housing, and economic opportunities.

The system is resented by the sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities and economists view it as a drag on national competitiveness.

Najib was seen to be under heightened pressure from Umno right-wingers since May elections in which he led Barisan to its worst polls showing ever, though it clung to power.

But the three party vice-presidents, who are close to Najib, defended their positions, narrowly fending off a challenge by Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, son of conservative former strongman leader Tun Mahathir Mohamad.

Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Najib had a firmer mandate but may be held back by his "own timidity".

"It's a mixed bag where reforms are concerned. I don't think Umno or Najib himself is totally clear where they want Malaysia to go," he said.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 with an iron fist, developing it from a rural backwater to an economic success, but was widely accused of trampling rights and allowing corruption to flourish.

Though retired, he is now viewed as the focus of conservative resistance to reforms.

Barisan has steadily ceded parliamentary ground in recent elections to a multi-racial opposition alliance.

The alliance advocates an end to corruption and Umno authoritarianism, and replacing the race-based Malay preferences with needs-based social aid. 


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