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Can Pakatan win GE14?

Posted: 12 Dec 2013 11:29 AM PST


Pakatan must realise that Umno is a formidable opponent with deep pockets, large armies and an uncanny ability to go into the elections with all the positives stacked in their favour.

Based on this statement made by Lim Kit Siang, it would seem that Pakatan has already won the GE14 and will form the next government come 2018, or thereabouts.


"Based on present redelineation, Pakatan Rakyat should aim to win 135 parliamentary seats in GE14 to capture Putrajaya, with PKR, PAS and DAP each winning 45 seats and a parliamentary majority of 48.

"The performance of the Pakatan parties in the 2008 and 2013 GEs have shown that the three component parties have their basic strengths.

"If we are prepared to persevere in a common patriotic cause – to save the country from corruption, cronyism, abuses of power, exploitation of the poor and downtrodden regardless of race, religion or region, extremism and intolerance.

"And put in place good governance, public integrity, accountability, respect for democracy, human rights, moderation and tolerance, we have no reason to be pessimistic about the future of the country or the outcome of the GE14." – DAP's Lim Kit Siang.

Based on this statement made by Lim Kit Siang, it would seem that Pakatan has already won the GE14 and will form the next government come 2018, or thereabouts.

Lim is quite confident even as the Umno-led Barisan Nasional is slowly but surely dismantling whatever "basic strengths" and "common patriotic case" that Pakatan may have to save this country from the corruption, cronyism and abuse of power perpetrated by the BN government.

Let's examine the facts.

Am I to believe that with all the overwhelming overt evidence of foul play, vote rigging, phantom, pendatang's and illegal voters that number in the thousands (so Pakatan tell us), nothing can be done to present irrefutable evidence to the courts to overturn ANY of the GE13 results?

If not the courts, why not present the evidence to the people and let us make up our own minds?

To date, nothing worth talking about has been done to substantiate the claims of vote rigging.

If Pakatan claims that the Malaysian courts only do the bidding of their political masters, then can someone explain to me why Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted of Sodomy Two?

The irresponsible actions of Pakatan in convening the Blackout 505 protests very quickly lost its momentum and became a predictable washout once the public realised the futility of it all.

Energy could have been better spent if Pakatan had responsibly galvanised the 53 percent electoral support they received at the GE13 and channeled it into an orderly structured mass movement that would eventually make BN understand that Pakatan is a political force to be reckoned with.

But this would require a massive, sustained and disciplined effort by Pakatan -something I suspect Pakatan is unable to do.

BN consolidating its hold

What has BN been doing since then?

Najib Tun Razak is firmly at the helm of Umno and BN. Given that he was unable to take back Selangor nor regain two-thirds majority in parliament, that by itself, is testament that BN is seriously consolidating its hold on power and making necessary adjustments to the realities of politics as it is post GE13.

Attacks on the Chinese voters have not abated – a politically astute decision by Umno given that MCA lost the Chinese votes to DAP.



7 years to 2020: thoughts on achieving the Malaysian dream

Posted: 12 Dec 2013 11:20 AM PST


2020 is significant because it is the year in which Malaysia expects to leave the crib of developing nations and enter the world of developed nations.

Rama Ramanathan, The Malaysian Insider

10th December was International Human Rights Day. This year, the date marks the 65th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948.

This year, the date has been chosen to also mark the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993.

The Vienna Declaration defined the vision. The Programme (plan) of Action created the means for making real progress towards that vision.

One of the things the UN excels at – and which makes it slow to release any document of significance – is working consultatively and collaboratively. The UN Secretary General's Message for 2013 Human Rights Day noted that preparation of the Vienna vision and programme "involved the participation of more than 800 NGO's, treaty bodies and academics."

To observe the date this year, the UN and Suhakam (Malaysia's Human Rights Commission) hosted a discussion in Kuala Lumpur titled "Road to 2020: Human Rights and Development".

The title is pregnant with meaning. Consider this: Why 2020? Why "and Development," instead of "Human Rights Development"?

In the context of Malaysia, it is important to recognize that we are one of the few nations which publish and implement 5 year National Development Plans. We are on our 10th plan (2011-2015) since independence. Less than a week ago, on 5th December, the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister's Department held the kick-off meeting for developing the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016 -2020).

2020 is significant because it is the year in which Malaysia expects to leave the crib of developing nations and enter the world of developed nations.

In public discourse, the goal of Vision 2020 is measured in average per capita income, with a goal of $15,000 per head of population.

The focus on income is not surprising in a country with burgeoning debt (according to the BBC, 60 Malaysians declare bankruptcy daily), and credit markdowns by international ratings agencies (Fitch and S&P).

Public discourse needs to reintroduce into the conversation all 9 strategic goals of Vision 2020 – goals which give much consideration to Human Rights. Here's a quick summary of the goals:

- A united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny.
- A psychologically liberated, secure... society with faith and confidence in itself.
- A mature democratic society, practising... consensual, community-oriented... democracy.
- A fully moral and ethical society... imbued with the highest of ethical standards.
- A matured, liberal and tolerant society... free to practise and profess... religious beliefs.
- A scientific and progressive society... innovative and forward-looking.
- A fully caring society and a caring culture... strong and resilient family system.
- An economically just society... fair and equitable distribution of the wealth.
- A prosperous society, with an economy... fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

The discussion was pregnant with meaning. The passion and patriotism of the panellists was crystal clear.  Vision 2020 was recognized as the shared national vision and a note of urgency permeated the discussion.

The following paragraphs provide consensus assessments of where we are on our journey to 2020, and what we need to do to recover the direction and resume the pace of the journey.

7 years to 2020: assessments and recommendations

1. GTP and MDG. At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in October we convinced our peers that our Government Transformation Program (GTP) is moving us forward in economic development, in particular creating 3.3 million jobs. Malaysia has achieved its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ahead of time. This should mean good news in terms of right to housing, health and security. We must all be vigilant that public discourse about the GTP doesn't focus on economic prosperity at the expense of Human Rights.

2. UN Treaties. Vast attention is being given to restrictions on Human Rights in Malaysia due to the awakening of civil society. At the UPR, our peers gave overwhelmingly told us to ratify UN instruments. Yet, we still have not set dates for ratifying 6 of 9 core Human Rights treaties. We have even placed reservations on the treaties we have ratified. We must set targets and implement processes to ratify all the treaties and remove more reservations.

3. 11th Malaysia Plan. Although Suhakam is established by law, by the Yang di Pertuan Agung, to advise the government on human rights, the government doesn't listen to Suhakam. This is said by Suhakam, vast numbers of NGO's and international observers. We continue to think of Human Rights Plans as auxiliary to Development plans, not integral to them. The government must work with Suhakam and ensure the 11th Malaysia plan is based upon clearly spelt out (using UN language) Human Rights principles.

4. The people are ready, but the government is lethargic. The issues and concerns raised during the 13th General Elections are clear, thanks to the ease with which the New Media can be monitored. Citizens – who are better educated, urbanized and have moved into the middle class with its associated values – have expressed their hopes and expectations: the rakyat say they are ready for change, yet the government says otherwise. The government must tap the mood and energy of the people by more effectively engaging civil society.

5. The government still behaves like it's superior to NGOs. National leaders and heads of Government departments continue to view those who criticize current policies, implementation and results, as adversaries. They do not welcome members of civil society to discussion tables as equal partners; rather, they see them as people to be superficially consulted, e.g. by drinking tea together and having a meal together, rather than working together to craft new approaches to solve long-standing problems. The government must set clear measures to assess the outcomes of dialogue sessions – policy changes must be traceable to inputs from civil society.

6. Human rights defenders. The vilification of Comango by a handful of vocal NGO's and by some members of the government – including one Minister – signals disrespect for Human Rights on the part of the government. It also signals a lack of seriousness in pursuing all that is in Vision 2020. It will not do for the government to invite NGO's to share the burden, and then vilify the NGO's for doing so. National leaders must speak up to protect the UPR process and the participation of NGO's.

7. Political will. A recurrent theme was the recognition that change cannot happen without political will, i.e. a readiness to take firm positions, even if such decisions mean loss of perceived or actual popular support. It is not possible to please everyone all the time. National leaders must stop encouraging identity-politics and must start dismantling it.

8. A litany of embarrassments. On the world scene, we are amongst the last to ratify international covenants; we do not debate Suhakam's report in Parliament; we do not have a National Human Rights Action Plan; we pursue development at the cost of Human Rights (especially in the area of land rights); we tolerate the vilification and demonization of Human Rights defenders.

The way forward



PR’s ‘liberal’ problem

Posted: 12 Dec 2013 10:15 AM PST

The problem arises for liberals when citizens exercise their autonomy in a way that turns out to be hostile to autonomy itself. These rights permit citizens to develop homophobic, racist, or other views that deny the autonomy of others. But if these citizens try to gain enough support to turn these views into law, the liberal state steps in to prevent them from doing so. It will declare such laws unconstitutional and liberal courts will strike these down.

Rueban Balasubramaniam, The Malay Mail


Right-wing defenders of ethno-Islamist rule criticise Pakatan Rakyat (PR) for advancing a "liberal" political programme. They say that under such a programme, society would be too individualistic and subversive of important and traditional values.

And this would not only challenge a Malay-Muslim vision of society but other conservative Malaysian values. In gist, PR's political programme would threaten the ethical identity of the state.

How should we respond to this critique?

Perhaps we might dismiss this critique as grounded in false assumptions about the ethical character of a group. All groups consist of individuals. And since individuals have rational and moral powers of judgement, which they are bound to exercise in ways that lead to disagreement about ethics, morality, religion, and politics, group-life will be marked by disagreements about value or what may be termed the fact of pluralism. Therefore, it is false to suppose that there is anything that can be identified as a group ethic or morality.

This objection to the critique is powerful but perhaps too quick. For, like it or not, ethno-Islamists have an actual basis of support in people who worry about the rise of the liberal state in Malaysia. And there are others who have nothing to do with the ethno-Islamist agenda who think the rise of a liberal society may pose dangers to their particular values and beliefs.

What exactly is this worry about liberalism?

Jurgen Habermas, arguably the world's leading living political philosopher, has identified precisely the kind of problem that I think is buried in the right-wing ethno-Islamist critique of PR, the worry that liberalism turns out to be hostile to those who adhere to values and beliefs that are hostile to liberalism itself.

Liberalism's core value is individual autonomy, that is, the individual's rational and moral powers to set, revise, and pursue his or her plan of life. This ideal explains liberalism's emphasis on individual rights and freedoms as necessary for the meaningful exercise of these powers. These rights are central to the individual's powers of autonomous self-realization.

It follows that liberals affirm the importance of the fact of pluralism as the mark of a healthy liberal society. If people are given a set of rights so they can attain their autonomy, then they are apt to also disagree about ethics, morality, religion, and politics. It is therefore important for the liberal state to embrace the principle of "toleration" in ensuring ample space for different ethical, moral, religious, and political perspectives as part of a healthy political culture.

The problem arises for liberals when citizens exercise their autonomy in a way that turns out to be hostile to autonomy itself. These rights permit citizens to develop homophobic, racist, or other views that deny the autonomy of others. But if these citizens try to gain enough support to turn these views into law, the liberal state steps in to prevent them from doing so. It will declare such laws unconstitutional and liberal courts will strike these down.

Hence, as Habermas argues, contemporary liberalism is defined by a serious contradiction: it grants individuals rights to pursue their individual autonomy and encourages the fact of pluralism. But because there is no guarantee that the pluralism that will arise is "reasonable" (disagreement within the boundaries of liberal autonomy) and may instead be "deep" (disagreement beyond the boundaries of liberal autonomy), the liberal state will end up simultaneously encouraging and discouraging the fact of pluralism. In this, the liberal state will seem oppressive to those who are drawn to deeply pluralistic views.

In its best iteration, I think the ethno-Islamist critique of PR alludes to this contradiction. Here, I am not suggesting that ethno-Islamists self-consciously make this objection. But their critique does signal a very serious political challenge for PR that goes beyond everyday political swashbuckling, the challenge that PR's political programme is intolerant of deep pluralism.

The challenge is serious because it has to do with the prospects of long-term social co-operation in Malaysia. Any plausible political programme for Malaysia must adequately respond to the fact of deep pluralism and must be able to engage perspectives that may turn out to be hostile to the liberal ideal of autonomy. Otherwise, citizens whose perspectives are not engaged are apt to view any proposed political programme as a threat to their values and sense of identity so they will not find it rational and reasonable to support that programme.

Currently, PR responds by saying that right-wing ethno-Islamists misunderstand liberalism. But this response does not address the present problem, which requires that PR explain the values that underlie its political programme and show how those values justify the practical aspects of that programme. As well, the explanation must reveal why it is both rational and reasonable for deeply disagreeing citizens to endorse the programme.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that PR has addressed this complex and daunting "liberal" challenge. As a coalition that wishes to construct a meaningful political alternative for Malaysians, it must address this challenge or run the risk of reproducing the evils of oppression and intolerance that increasingly beset Malaysian politics. PR must resist the impression that it may be intolerant of groups that do not endorse the ideal of liberal autonomy if it seeks to achieve its goal of supplying an adequate political alternative to the status quo.



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