Loyal Followers

Monday, July 20, 2015

Malaysia - the Moderate Country Which Bans a Website

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” – Newton’s 3d law of motion.

The Malaysian government has however, time and again, successfully modified that law. To the Malaysian government, Newton’s 3rd law of motion is also applicable to almost all its policies and initiatives within the political landscape that is unique to the Malaysian one. It is unique because Malaysia and its leaders are special. Not the kind of special that Jose Maurinho proudly ascribe to himself upon his entry to the English Premier League, but well, special nevertheless.

The Malaysian government rewrote that 3rd law thus:

“For every word spoken, there is an equal and absolutely opposite action.”

It is thus without surprise or any sense of irony that the website Sarawak Report has been blocked from access by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the authority set up by the Malaysian government to regulate and govern, among others, the multimedia industry and usages.
A long time ago, – well, it feels like it was one thousand years ago – when Tun Dr Mahathir launched the Multimedia Super Corridor, he caused the Malaysian government to give a blanket Bill of Guarantee (“BoG”). That BoG, among others, unequivocally and absolutely said that there would not be any internet censorship.

Of course, over the years, like many other promises made by us, that BoG had been amended and changed. Various provisos has been added in order to water it down. It now reads as follows:

“While the Government will not censor the Internet, this does not mean that any person may disseminate illegal content with impunity and without regard to the law. To the extent that any act is illegal in the physical world, it will similarly be outlawed in the online environment. Hence, laws prohibiting dissemination of, for example, indecent / obscene or other illegal materials will continue to apply.

In this regard, relevant ministries and agencies will continue to take appropriate actions and enforce those laws that are under their respective purview.”

The banning of Sarawak Report flies in the face of the literal meaning of that guarantee, a guarantee given to the whole world who wishes to invest in Malaysia in the multimedia sector.

Of course, the MCMC now quotes “national security” and “public order” as the reason for banning Sarawak Report. It says Sarawak Report loves to publish “unverified facts” and that action may affect national security and disrupts public order.

That is laughable.

How many times has this country been invaded by, say, Singapore or Israel as a result of Sarawak Report’s articles? How many times have Malaysians go to the street brandishing parangs and other weapons disrupting public order? How many riots have Sarawak Report caused by its publications of “unverified facts”?

Or was the Low Yat ruckus caused by Sarawak Report’s articles? Or was it an ordinary theft case – yes, thefts have become ordinary in Malaysia – spun out of control by racial supremacists with fertile imagination?

It is amazing that while we move with super-efficient haste against a website that seeks to make the public aware of financial shenanigans within our leadership on “national security” ground, some years ago we allowed Sulu gunmen to invade us, terrorised our villages and citizens, encamped themselves within our territory and later killed 18 of our brave policemen while our then Home Minister was busy with his photo-op with a set of binoculars as his prop! Or was it the other way round? The binoculars was busy with a photo-op with the Minister as a prop?

Quite recently, we were caught unaware with a death camp with mass graves within our borders!
National security you say?

Unverified facts? Slanderous and in fact libelous statements? Our Prime Minister has not been shy to bring court actions against those whom he thinks have defamed him. Why don't the Prime Minister or the whole government sue the pants off of Sarawak Report and its administrators? And perhaps obtain an injunction to stop them from further publishing all these unverified facts?

Or, is the fact that Sarawak Report is based in the United Kingdom got anything to do with the lack of Court action?

By the way, it also does not escape observation that the latest Sarawak Report's allegation - as well as the Wall Street Journal's - has not been effectively nor properly denied. If the facts were unverified, why not deny it in a clear, unequivocal and absolute term? Why hide between jargons and lawyer's letter to seek "explanation"? Deny it and be damn with it. 

Our Prime Minister took pride as the founder of a Global Movement of Moderates, amidst some well written speech, delivered with the supreme talent of an actor in the mould of Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman, in front of an awestruck audience at the United Nation and the august Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

A website of that movement was immediately out up. A CEO and a stable of committees and what haves you were instantly appointed. All bell and whistles. Statements were made. Visions were stated. Logos were made.

At the International Conference on the Global Movement of Moderates (ICGMM), our Prime Minister said:

"Indeed history has shown us the greater civilisation had to overcome greater struggles.

However at this critical juncture of our material progress, although conflicts and clashes persist, the room for dialogue and peaceful co-existence had grown even broader.

 Hence it is imperative that we incorporate a vision of mutual trust based on a mixture of methodical arguments and normative aspirations."

How very lovely of him.

On the website, lofty aspirations were declared. Among others:

“Digital Diplomacy. The advent of ICT/new media makes it possible for diplomacy to be conducted online, widens people participation and exposes the world to new challenges such as cyber war. This necessitates countries to have two kinds of diplomacy: one that is formal and one that is digital.

Democracy and Governance. Conflicts can be avoided if citizens of the world enjoy a certain level of satisfaction that is made possible through the practise of democracy, freedom, human rights and good governance.

Social Cohesion and Inclusive Development. Harmony and prosperity is achieved when there is unity, fairness and equality in citizenship, opportunity and ownership. These are pertinent domestic issues. But foreign policy begins at home.

Youth, Woman and Civil Society. These groups are the most important stakeholders whose expectations are becoming more complex. Issues such as higher education, employment and migration are fast influencing foreign policy. The way forward is to increase their participation in foreign policy decision making.”

This one bears repeating, because it sounds oh-so-nice and good. It makes me cry.

“Democracy and Governance. Conflicts can be avoided if citizens of the world enjoy a certain level of satisfaction that is made possible through the practise of democracy, freedom, human rights and good governance.”

And today what did our great government do? Yes. It bans Sarawak Report.

Laughable. If only it was not so tragic!

In this day and age, our government would do better if it could think why is it that many Malaysians and foreigners choose to believe the “unverified facts” published by Sarawak Report rather than falling for the “verified facts” forced unto the world by those who are entrusted with the job of verifying such facts?

Has that got to do with the immediate witch-hunting by our authorities against those who dare publish and “facts” rather than investigating the wrong-doings that are so apparent from those facts? Yes. We do love to shoot the messengers, don’t we?

Lastly, but by no means the least, in this day and age, only morons and idiots would think that a website and its contents can be effectively blocked.

That is indeed a sad and frightening thought.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Of Nazri vs TMJ

Not since the Dr Mahathir-led attacks on the Royals culminating in a Constitutional amendment stripping the Royals off their legal immunity in 1993 have we seen a very public spat between a member of the government and a member of the Royal family.

Granted, the intensity of the current spat between Minister Nazri and His Royal Highness the Tengku Mahkota of Johor is nowhere near that of the one in 1993. However, public reactions to the current spat on the ground as well as on social media brings into sharp focus the mind sets of the general populace as well as the co-relation between the 1993 collision and the current one.

Not many realise that there is a clear common denominator of the 1993 Constitutional crisis and the current Nazri vs TMJ spat.

At the centre of the two seemingly unrelated event is the question of immunity – or at the very least the perception of immunity - of those who occupy the highest seat in the State’s hierarchy. The premise of the challenge to this so-called immunity is the issue of responsibility, accountability and of course, equality.

In 1993, Dr Mahathir, in his capacity as the Prime Minister, led a motion in the Parliament to remove the immunity of the Royals from prosecution as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. He argued that the prohibition against criticising the Royals would finally results in the dignity of the Monarch being tarnished. It would also render the concept of Constitutional Monarchy a mere formality when in practice the Monarchs are free to do anything they like.

In his speech in the Parliament on 18th January 1993, Dr Mahathir said:

Di Britain dan di negara-negara lain, Ahli-ahli Parlimen bebas menegur atau mengkritik Raja. Adalah jelas bahawa menegur dan mengkritik Raja tidak menghapuskan kedaulatan Raja.

Sementara halangan ke atas teguran ini dikatakan akan memelihara kemuliaan Raja, tetapi apabila Raja tidak ditegur, maka ia tidak akan sedar akan kesalahan yang telah dilakukannya. Dengan itu, mungkin lebih banyak kesalahan akan dilakukan dan kesalahan ini mungkin akan menjadi lebih serius. Ini bukan sahaja akan mencemarkan kemuliaan Raja, bahkan juga boleh menimbulkan kebencian rakyat terhadap Raja. Tidaklah benar jika dikatakan larangan terhadap mengkritik Raja akan memelihara kemuliaan Raja. Sebenarnya kemuliaan Raja akan tercemar kerana larangan ini.
Dengan kemungkinan Raja menolak nasihat serta bebas daripada teguran dan sebarang tindakan keadilan, maka Raja sebenarnya bukan Raja Berperlembagaan lagi tetapi menjadi Raja mutlak. Sekali lagi Demokrasi Berparlimen tidak wujud kerana tidak ada tindakan undang-undang yang boleh diambil terhadap Raja yang tidak menerima nasihat kerajaan rakyat dan melakukan kesalahan.”

He later concluded in the same speech:

Kekebalan Raja atau Sovereign Immunity adalah suatu prinsip feudal— satu konsep kononnya 'The King can do no wrong". Mengikut Dr. Hogg dalam bukunya "Liability of the Crown", dengan izin, konsep ini berasas kepada alasan bahawa seorang Raja tidak boleh didakwa dalam mahkamahnya sendiri…..

Jika Malaysia ingin menjadi sebuah negara yang mengamalkan Demokrasi Berparlimen dan Raja Berperlembagaan, kekebalan yang diberikan kepada Raja-Raja perlulah dihapuskan.”(Source: Parliamentary Hansard)

Dr Mahathir was very wise in reminding the Parliament – and thus, Malaysia as a whole – that an institution that cannot be criticised or taken to task for whatever it does is bound to be disliked. Such institution would soon commit wrongdoings after wrongdoings. That institution would soon cease from being answerable and Constitutional.

Immunity from criticism and due process of the law is thus an anathema to the concept of democracy and representative governance. It is feudal in nature and premise. It has no place in modern States, especially those that profess to be democratic, more  so any that profess to base its administration on the Westminster model.

Dr Mahathir managed to bulldoze his idea in 1993 largely due to the support of the populace. Had the populace risen to object then, it would be doubtful if Dr Mahathir would have survived the political consequences of his action. The rural Malays’ – who formed the bulk of the Malaysian political voice during election – affinity for the Royals is well known.

However, Dr Mahathir angled his arguments well. He managed to turn the issue on its head. What would we be if certain quarters have immunity; if they are above the law? That struck a chord. And a right chord it was.

If in 1993, the immunity enjoyed by the Royals was the issue, the Nazri-TMJ spat centred on the reverse, namely, why can’t the current government be questioned or taken to task? What is wrong with the people asking questions and even criticising the government and its leaders?

It all started of course with the TMJ raising heckles after the Prime Minister’s absence at his Nothing2Hide town hall talk, a town hall talk which is now infamous for its cancellation due ostensibly to the threat of public disorder and disharmony. The TMJ rather sarcastically asked how is it possible to have nothing-to-hide talk with someone who would want to hide everything. His Highness then angled his message wisely:

To those who are entrusted, don’t blame the people for losing confidence and trust in you; but think why the people have lost confidence and trust in you.” (Translated from Bahasa Malaysia).

Minister Nazri then famously told TMJ to keep quiet. He also said that Dr Mahathir has no standing to debate with the Prime Minister because he is just another layman.

TMJ replied that “you are a Minister and not God!” Essentially the gist of TMJ’s rebuttal is that a Minister, or anybody within the governing apparatus, is answerable to the people and the people have a right to question; to criticise and to demand answers. In other words, they are not immune from the law and from the inner workings of democracy.

This of course struck a chord. And like Dr Mahathir’s chord in 1993, TMJ’s chord is a populist one. Hence the support that he receives from the public.

If there was any lesson to be learned from these two episodes, it is without doubt that the people would somehow unite when it comes to demanding full or at least, substantial adherence to democratic process. The time of hoodwinking the people with empty rhetoric and threatening the people with anti-sedition laws as a reply to legitimate questions have passed.

It is 2015. Let’s face the reality.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The PAS-UMNO Marriage

That PAS has long desired to bed UMNO is no secret.

It is no more a surreptitious act. The dates between the two are no more arranged in dark secret places. If they are a couple in Kelantan or Terengganu, they might have even been arrested for riding a motorbike together.

And the Prime Minister’s recent public statement that a UMNO-PAS “co-operation” is not impossible lends credence that PAS’ wet dream is shared by UMNO as well. It is of note that even UMNO is very happy and satisfied with the result of the recently concluded PAS general assembly – or in PAS parlance, the “Muktamar” - where all the moderates in PAS were defeated.

The signs have been there for the past two years. Even three. And when the Dewan Ulamaks in PAS managed to bulldoze a resolution to cut ties with DAP without even a debate or a vote from the floor during the recent Muktamar, the deal is sealed; the bed is bought, black PVC cat suits as well as whips and chains are all ordered. A sado-masochist merger will soon set Malaysia’s political grotesque stage ablaze.

The question is – will this be good or bad for Malaysia?

First of all, what will happen to Pakatan Rakyat now that one of its constituent has decided to cut ties with another one of its constituent? The after-effect of the Muktamar was immediately felt. Lim Guan Eng less than cryptically told the PAS excos in his government to resign.

His father Lim Kit Siang said the Pakatan is dead. Is Pakatan really dead? As much as Pakatan looks to be dead, it is doubtful that it is actually dead. Kit Siang’s statement is his normal mind-games, the type of which being frequently employed by wily foxes that are old-hands at the games they play, such as Tun DrM or Alex Ferguson.

If Pakatan could emerge amidst three very different parties with different ideals and background, fuelled by one common goal against a common opponent, what is there to prevent Pakatan from continuing even though PAS has opted to marry its long-time macho boyfriend and live as a jewellery-bedecked trophy wife of the moment?

To dismiss Pakatan Rakyat as a dead force would be to deny the collective goal that Malaysia’s political opposition has. Granted, Anwar Ibrahim is in jail. PAS is gone. So what? What has changed? Barisan Nasional is still in power. The political nemesis is still around. And that political nemesis is showing signs of breaking up themselves.

It must be remembered that Pakatan Rakyat is a creature that is more than used to handling crisis after crisis. It has so far survived all that have been thrown at it by the government, despite its meagre resources, especially finance wise. Pakatan Rakyat may be weakened by PAS’ unilateral decision, but Pakatan is a battle-hardened outfit that proves times and again its ability to emerge stronger and more united after every crisis.

By comparison, the current internal strives within the driving power of Barisan, namely UMNO, far outstrips the ripple of discontent caused by PAS within Pakatan. What is happening within Pakatan, in the form of PAS’ adulterous deception of its partners, has been going on for a long time. In fact Kit Siang himself predicted what would happen during the recent PAS Muktamar. What PAS did came as no surprise at all.

MCA and MIC are a dying force. MCA is aimlessly struggling for political leadership and support. The Chinese – the race that it once claimed to represent – has by far abandoned tgeir hopes with MCA. MIC is dead and buried. It has become as irrelevant as Samy Vellu, its erstwhile Chief.

Externally, Sarawak has become more and more vociferous of its rights and entitlement. It may declare its undivided loyalty to the Barisan but everybody knows that Sarawak is a State that is feared by Barisan Nasional nowadays. Adenan Satim has proven to be a leader with a mind of his own – a rare commodity among Barisan leaders nowadays. Sabah on the other hand continues to be the Barisan’s safety deposit. However it is a State with no less than three warlords eyeing for power. It is not all happy moments for Sabah internally.

Contrast that to the internal struggles within UMNO and Barisan Nasional now and by comparison Pakatan Rakyat is as serene as a morning in early spring.

The time has come for Malaysia and Malaysians to face the prospect of two ultra-conservatives-right-wingers merging or working together. On one hand we have UMNO, a party founded on quasi-libertarian principles but has in recent time found it necessary to retrogress into a cocoon of nationalistic and parochial idealism in order to maintain its patrimonial grip on Malaysia’s political landscape. On the other hand, we have PAS, a party which seemingly had opened its arm to non-Muslims with its “welfare State” posturing thereby adopting a “moderate Islamist outlook” – if that is even possible in reality – but had in recent time proven that all those posturing are just political deception born out of political necessity to gain power.

So now we have an ultra-right-wing Malay based party working together with ultra-conservative-Islamist Malay based party.

The Malaysian political divides has never been so clearly defined between ideologies until now. Until PAS and UMNO working together that is. The stark contrast between conservative Malaysians and educated and more liberal Malaysians has never been so clearly defined.

In GE 12 and 13 we saw the dividing line taking shapes along the rural and urban boundaries. PAS and UMNO marriage would further cement this divide with an added flavour, namely, between Islamisation and nationalistic patrimonialism against moderates and liberal Malaysians espousing Constitutionalism and fairer governance.

This divide was rearing its head in GE12 and 13. But with UMNO-PAS marriage, it would finally be well defined. The choice is now clear. Do you want an ultra-conservative-Islamist Malaysia? Or do you want a moderate and liberal Malaysia tied to the Constitution and good governance?

Of course this ideological fight would shed none of its economic class, social demography and race and religion elements. However, finally we can say that two large and general divisions have emerged in Malaysian political landscape. And these two divisions will largely decide the outcome of future general elections.

More pertinently and immediate though, is what will become of the Barisan Nasional as and when PAS joins in the party (pardon the pun). MCA has always shown allergic reactions to PAS’ hudud wet dream. Will it leave the Barisan? If so, will it join the Pakatan? If it did not leave the Barisan, what would it do? What about the Christian-based party from Sabah and Sarawak within the Barisan?
The possibilities, as is always the case in Malaysia, is endless.

But the prospect of a fight between two well-defined opposite ideologies representing the conservative-Islamists and moderate-liberals is probably the best thing that could happen to Malaysian politics.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In the PAC We Trust

That 1MDB is a crumbling house of cards is a given.

Everyday a fresh new expose would be splashed all over the internet. Of course these revelations – of the cringing kind – would not even get a second’s mention on TV3 or a line in our traditional media, but every Ahmad, his Proton and his cat, would know about them. They would discuss them. And get angry because of them.

There is a feeling of mass betrayal permeating the city. But life goes on for some.

Yesterday, no less than Bank Negara’s Governor, Tan Sri Zeti revealed that Bank Negara had received a report from the Singapore Monetary Authority about an account connected to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in BSI Bank Ltd in the republic. She of course declined to reveal the nature of the report saying that the international community would not co-operate with us if we release such information that are extended to us.

Well, I wouldn’t want to argue with that save for saying we could always ask the provider of the information whether it would be alright if we release such information on the ground of public and national interest.

However, if we tie up that news with the recent allegation that certain banking documents have been found lacking in accuracy – I am being kind here – we could than make our own guess as to the nature of the report by the Singaporean Monetary Authority.

Over the past two days, the proceedings by the Public Account Committee are much anticipated. It is thus disappointing to note that 1MDB current CEO has chosen to attend a meeting instead of attending the PAC hearing.

Apparently he said he “looked forward” to defending 1MDB before the PAC. However his action in preferring to attend a meeting abroad instead of attending the PAC meeting to defend 1MDB is contrary to him “looking forward” to doing so. I mean, if someone had been looking forward to doing something, wouldn’t he or she want to do that thing as soon as possible rather than postponing it?

The urgency of the PAC hearing can never be overly stressed. Any postponement, no matter how short, of the PAC proceedings may give rise to events or acts which may hamper a full investigation by the PAC. Documents can be lost. Data can be erased. Witnesses can be influenced or could forget, conveniently or otherwise, their testimonies. Loss of memory, momentary or otherwise, may suddenly infect them. 

The PAC is probably our last collective hope for some kind of truth regarding everything that has been happening in 1MDB. Looking at the powers that the PAC has – as well as the composition of the PAC, where a mixture of Barisan Nasional MPs and Pakatan Rakyat MPs could be found – it is only to be expected that the common people have high expectation of the PAC grilling all those who are connected with 1MDB to find out the truth.

The PAC is a creature of the Parliament, being one of the Select Committees established pursuant to nothing less than the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat. Rule 77 (1) of the Standing Orders expressly creates the PAC, whose functions, among others are to examine such accounts of public authorities and other bodies administering public funds as may be laid before the House and the prepare a report on such examination.

It is also given the power to “send for persons, papers and records, and to report from time to time”. Meaning it can summon and subpoena any person it deems necessary to appear before it for the purpose of such examination it is carrying out.

Standing Order 80A expressly gives the power to the Parliament to enquire into “any acts, matters or things as are made punishable as contempt under the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Ordinance 1952, any acts or omission by any party.”

And in section 9 (a) of the aforesaid Ordinance, one of the act which constitutes contempt of the Parliament and is therefore punishable is “disobedience to any order for attendance or for production of papers, books, records, or documents made by the House or any committee duly authorized in that behalf, unless the attendance or production be excused as provided in section 19”.

Quite clearly, the PAC is equipped with the requisite powers to perform its functions and duties under the Standing Orders and the Constitution.

The PAC must remember that it may be the only viable hope to uncover the truth behind all that have been said about 1MDB.

All other investigative authorities have been infected with a sudden and complete paralysis when it comes to investigating 1MDB. In fact the police force, the MACC and Bank Negara have so far been in a coma of sorts. Quite why, we could only hazard a guess.

Being so, the PAC may be our last hope. The last hope of the people to know the truth. And probably even the last hope of 1MDB, its Board of Directors and its advisors and consultants to defend themselves.

Thus it comes as a great disappointment that the CEO’s absence has not been dealt with in a more forceful way. Nevertheless, we bow to the collective wisdom of the PAC in granting the CEO the postponement that the CEO sought.

We can just hope that the PAC would act in the best interest of the nation, without fear or favour. And I am sure YB Nurjazlan and the members of the PAC would be up to the task.