Ahad, 10 November 2013

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The Malay rulers: To be feared or respected?

Posted: 09 Nov 2013 11:55 AM PST


That kind of behaviour coupled with the continued insistence of a court language that is demeaning and the customs of sembah (to pay obeisance), have put the Malay rulers out of touch with a citizenry more aware of their democratic rights.

Sheridan Mahavera, The Malaysian Insider

Dr Syed Husin Ali has a few revolutionary ideas on how to turn the Malay rulers, who have faced a rash of criticism and venom over the past few years, into a respected institution of national and communal unity.

Not only would they be respected, says the Senator from Selangor, the monarchy could one day be looked upon as an impartial referee to the political rivalry that's turning Malaysia into a boiler room of ethnic and religious tensions.

But for this to happen, says Syed Husin, a former sociology professor, the nine Malay rulers must be willing to give up some of the privileges that make them royals in the first place.

This is the kernel of his new book "The Malay Rulers: Regression or Reform?"

The slim 83-page work is an update to his earlier book written in Bahasa Malaysia slightly more than 20 years ago titled "Isu Raja dan Pindaan Perlembagaan" (The Royalty Issue and Constitutional Amendments).

Immune no more

The update is no coincidence. In December 1992, the Parliament during the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed administration, passed a constitutional amendment that was to have a huge effect on the power of the Malay rulers.

The amendment effectively stripped them of immunity from prosecution in a court of law – a privilege they once had and which till the early '90s, some of them abused.

A little more than 10 years before that, the Dewan Rakyat also amended the Constitution to take away the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to block new laws by not giving his consent to parliamentary bills.

It was during the heady days of what is called "the 1993 constitutional crisis" that Syed Husin penned the original book in order to understand what was going on and what effect it would have on society.

"I was even invited by Utusan Malaysia (which was already an Umno mouthpiece) to write several articles on the issue. My writings were seen as a way to strengthen the reasoning for introducing those amendments", he said during a recent interview.

As he outlines in the book, although the 1993 amendment was sparked by several brutal beatings of ordinary citizens by members of the Johor royal family, the Barisan Nasional administration was unsure how it would be accepted by the people.

So it ran a media campaign through organs such as Utusan Malaysia and television stations which highlighted the excesses of the royals.

Besides the assault case of the Johor royal, cases of Sultans demanding choice logging concessions were also dredged up and publicised.

The argument then, as Dr Mahathir said during his speech to Parliament when tabling the amendment, was not "to remove the institution of Malay rulers, but to strengthen their position".

Slightly 20 years later, that position has been questioned and criticised again as the Malay rulers get caught up in the seismic shifts that rocked society after the 2008 general election.

20 years later

Though they have had some of their powers clipped, the Malay rulers have leveraged the influence, power and position they have as heads of state to take advantage of the new power dynamics between BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

This is seen, Syed Husin said, in how the Rulers of Perak and Selangor have acted in ways which seem detrimental to their respective Pakatan governments.

"After 2008, when Umno lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, they tried to get the support of the Malay rulers in their campaign against Pakatan.

"But they also had problems dealing with some of the royalty," said Syed Husin.

The Rulers of Perlis and Terengganu had rejected the Menteri Besar's candidates from the BN Federal government when they were forming the state administrations.

This landscape of intense political feuding, Syed Husin said, has emboldened the Malay rulers as they realise that their support is coveted by the two political coalitions and their civil society supporters.

"The Malay rulers themselves have become instruments to solidify power."

This has not gone down well with the public. While many have taken to Facebook and the internet to criticise the royals' behaviour and actions, others have been less civil.

Some of the Rulers have had crude caricatures of them posted on the web. Even worse are pictures, purportedly of their close relatives in compromising situations, being widely spread on Facebook.

Read more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/the-malay-rulers-to-be-feared-or-respected 


It's an Erdogan vs ulama showdown

Posted: 09 Nov 2013 10:34 AM PST


The power struggle between the ulama and Erdogans in PAS will be played out in the contest for the No 2 post between Mohamad Sabu and Datuk Nik Amar Nik Abdullah. 

Mat Sabu enjoys a national reputation in the party whereas Nik Amar is known largely in Kelantan. Nik Amar comes from a well-known ulama family but he has not ventured far beyond the pond, unlike Mat Sabu who has taken the bullets for his party and is known from north to south for his oratory skills.

Joceline Tan, The Star 

DATUK Nik Aziz Nik Mat's son Nik Abduh is known for having political opinions that are quite independent of his father's politics. But as many people would know by now, Nik Abduh is, at heart, a filial and respectful son.

Last Friday, the 82-year-old PAS mursyidul am was unwell and could not make it for his weekly Friday morning lecture at the PAS headquarters in Kota Baru. He asked Nik Abduh to stand in for him.

Nik Abduh, who is a splitting image of his father, was the right man for the job – he is the Pasir Mas MP, the deputy PAS Youth chief and a religious scholar in his own right.

But there was more to it than just giving a lecture on behalf of his father – Nik Aziz also asked his son to deliver a "special message" which is now the talk of PAS circles in Kelantan.

Nik Abduh: Forced to deliver a difficult message from his father.

Nik Abduh told his audience that he had a message from his father which he was reluctant to voice out. But he said that if he did not deliver the message, he would have to answer to his father.

His father wanted him to convey that anyone, whether ulama or non-ulama, could contest for the leadership of PAS in the party election taking place in two weeks' time.

There were gasps of surprise from the audience.

Last month, Nik Aziz caused ripples when he said that the two top posts in PAS should be filled by the ulama or religious scholars. A few days later, he pulled back from his earlier stand and said there is an ulama in every Muslim.

The latest flip-flop was basically an attempt to level the playing field between the ulama and the non-ulama in the party election.

But it was his choice of mouthpiece which showed what a consummate political animal that this revered preacher is. Nik Aziz's son is known as an Islamic hardliner and part of the group that believes that the president and deputy president posts must be held by the ulama.

Nik Abduh was put in a spot having to deliver a message that he did not agree with. But he could not possibly disobey his own father who is the head of the Syura Council, the party's most powerful body.

Tuan Ibrahim: An ulama who hails from old school of thought.

Ulama or Erdogan? That is the big question hanging over PAS as it prepares to elect a new leadership line-up. The stage is set for a showdown between the ulama group and the Erdogan camp.

And this could not be more apparent than in the contest for the deputy president post between incumbent Mohamed Sabu and Datuk Nik Amar Nik Abdullah who is Kelantan deputy Mentri Besar. Mohamad or Mat Sabu, as he known, is with the Erdogans whereas Nik Amar is an ulama.

The ulama comprise the Islamic scholars, preferably those who come from the most prestigious Sunni seat of learning in Al-Azhar and who have a conservative view of politics.

The Erdogans are mainly those who went to secular schools and have a more worldly view of politics. Many of them are also activists like Mat Sabu. Many of the leading Erdogans were driven to join PAS after the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and have become influential in the party.

For several months now, the pro-ulama group has been working quietly behind the scenes to reassert its dominance in the party election.

The leading figure behind this group is the tall, handsome and ultra-conservative Dewan Ulama chief Datuk Harun Taib. Harun suffered a stroke several years ago and everyone thought his political career was over. But his supporters said God had other plans for him. He recovered and is now the leading conservative voice in PAS.

Harun and his ulama group worked out to ensure that there would be only one ulama candidate in the contest for deputy president. They wanted to avoid a repeat of the 2011 party polls where two of the three candidates were ulama. This split the pro-ulama vote and Mat Sabu ended up as the victor.

Mat Sabu is seen as a threat to their policy of "kepimpinan ulama" or leadership of the ulama. The ulama have nightmares at the thought that Mat Sabu could by some unforeseen circumstances end up as president of PAS.

Salahuddin: Fadzil's death sparked off contests for No 2 post.

"If something were to happen to Ustaz Hadi, who will take over? What will happen?" said Pendang chief Datuk Taulan Mat Rasul.

The religious elite admit that Mat Sabu is an asset to the party, but mainly as an orator, entertainer and rabble-rouser. They cannot accept him in a post that will put him in line for the presidency.

The ulama had initially wanted Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man to contest against Mat Sabu. In fact, Tuan Ibrahim is widely seen as a potential future president of PAS.

He is a religious scholar from the old school of thought that regards excessive political ambition as part of nafsu or lust. The quest for power and posts is often equated with ego and pride, something that pious Muslims aspire to overcome. Hence, they are always somewhat reluctant to fight for a post.

Tuan Ibrahim has a sweet smile and gentle manners but there is an uncompromising man beneath all that.

He believes that the "Allah" word must be exclusive to Muslims. He has slammed the Catholic church for going to court on the "Allah" issue, calling it a "hostile act". He also described the Christians' insistence on using the "Allah" word as a "ridiculous demand".

That is why the ulama group wanted him up there. He speaks what is in their hearts.

Tuan Ibrahim had contested the No 2 post in 2011 only because Nik Aziz had personally coaxed him to do it. He lost and, this time, he wants to go for something lower, namely the vice-president post.

As a result, Nik Amar is now the torch bearer for the ulama group.

Mat Sabu was said to have heaved a sigh of relief when Tuan Ibrahim pulled out. He knew he would not stand a chance against Tuan Ibrahim but has a fighting chance against Nik Amar.

Mat Sabu enjoys a national reputation in the party whereas Nik Amar is known largely in Kelantan. Nik Amar comes from a well-known ulama family but he has not ventured far beyond the pond, unlike Mat Sabu who has taken the bullets for his party and is known from north to south for his oratory skills.

Whether Nik Amar succeeds or fails will depend on how fervently the party wants to have an ulama on the reserve bench below their big star Hadi.

However, PAS insiders said that Mat Sabu's biggest hurdle now is the way the pro-ulama group has poisoned the minds of members about him. El Haraki, an anti-Erdogan fan page on Facebook has accused him of having Syiah leanings among other things.

He said this campaign has been the "most horrible" in his 35 years in PAS.

El-Haraki which means social movement is said to be initiated by the young Turks among the ulama group and their attacks have been aimed at the leading Erdogans in PAS, namely Datuk Husam Musa, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Khalid Samad, Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Dr Hatta Ramli.

The Erdogans have been labelled parasites in PAS. But supporters of the Erdogan group have slammed those behind El-Haraki of being a tool of Umno, of dividing the party and of fitnah or slander.

A lot is at stake for both camps in the contest for the No 2 post.

As the popular vice-president Salahuddin Ayub put it, the No 2 post has been controversial ever since the death of their beloved president Datuk Fadzil Mohd Noor.

Back then, Fadzil was the president and his deputy was Hadi. The two top posts were incredibly stable because members respected the men sitting there. But when Hadi moved up to the top post, the scramble to fill the deputy post began and is still going on.

A PAS insider in Selangor said the ulama are quite dominant if the mood in the Youth wing is any indication. The young ulama have swept the posts in the Youth wing.

For instance, 90% of the new Dewan Pemuda line-up in Selangor is dominated by ulama figures. In Perak, young ulama candidates won in all the posts and only the Perak Youth chief is not an ulama.

"But don't underestimate Mat Sabu's chances, he is a fighter," said Kota Baru division chief Datuk Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah.

The fact that the party lost ground to Umno in the general election is being used as proof that the party's political approach and alliances need to be reviewed. The party's long term aim is to replace Umno as the party for the Muslim and Malays.

The ulama think that the party must revert to its original path whereas the Erdogans think the party must change to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters. Their dilemma is not different from the contestation of ideas and opinions taking place in Umno between those who long for the good old days and those who want to push forward.

"Ulama or non-ulama, we are all in PAS. It is like husband and wife having quarrels. At the end of the day, we are still in the same house," said Wan Rahim.

But the power struggle between the ulama and the Erdogans has been brewing for sometime and this muktamar will determine who will hold the upper hand.


Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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