Loyal Followers

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Malaysia - an Islamic Country?

Despite what our founding fathers had intended it to be and what the Federal Constitution has expressly stated, Mahathir Mohammad unequivocally pronounced that Malaysia is an “Islamic country”. It did not stop there. The current government fully endorsed that. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of course agreed with what Mahathir had said. Najib, I suppose, would also say the same thing if he becomes the Prime Minister come March this year. Down the line, Zahid Hamidi insisted as such. Syed Hamid Albar, our Home Minister would even go and detain people without trial for “insulting” Islam. Khir Toyo, now ensconced in Oppositionsville, would kick up a ruckus if anything is said about “azan” in loudspeakers, even when the mosques officials deny that anybody had raised the issue. Well, in fact everybody in UMNO, either by acquiescence or active agreement, say that Malaysia is an Islamic country. On the other side of the fence, we of course have people like Zulkifli Nordin, who insists that it is his “fate” to defend Islam and consequently to impose his brand of Islam on everybody. As for PAS, well, let’s not even start talking about them.

The question then is, if Malaysia is an Islamic country, why in heaven don’t we practice true Islamic traditions? Put it another way, which part of Malaysia, as a country, is Islamic and which part is not? Or is it a fact that these politicians would offer such pronouncement if, and only if, they find that it is kosher for them to do so? And in the event kosherness dictates that it be pronounced that Malaysia is not an Islamic country, they would of course turn around and say Malaysia is not an Islamic country. Is that the case?

In Islamic history, the reign of the Abbasid Caliphate is generally and widely romanticised as the golden age of Islam. It was during the reign of the Abbasid that the Greek philosophical works were translated into Arabic, commissioned by none other than the Caliph himself. Cities were built with elegant and graceful architecture. Histories were revisited and written. Poems were composed and songs were sung at the Court before everyone would wine and dine into the night. Muslims, Christinans, Jews and even Zoroastrians would be invited to the Court where they would sit beside each other and partake in intellectual discourses and debates with none other than the Caliph himself.

It was during this time that Islam flourished. Islamic jurisprudence grew in stature and had in fact caught up with older and more widely accepted jurisprudence and schools of thoughts such as the Greek, Jewish and Christianity. The four major Islamic schools of thoughts had in fact been founded during the Abbasid reign. The four major people of the time, the Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians in fact studied each other and drew from each other’s experiences and beliefs in formulating their philosophical thoughts of and approach to their own religion. The Sufis, for example, had fashioned their religious approach towards unity with God from the ways of the Jewish and Christian ascetics and monks.

In an atmosphere as culturally and intellectually vibrant as Baghdad was during the Abbasid’s rule, inter-faiths and inter-religions relations were at their best. In Baghdad, Christians lived near a Jacobite monastery on the bank of the Tigris. Muslims would take part in Christian celebrations such as the Palm Sunday and likewise the Christians would honour the Eid-ul-Fitr together with the Muslims. The people were free to practise their respective religion, without fear and without any kind of compulsion. A medieval Egyptian historian noted that the mixing and matching of festivals “was a sign of mutual respect and brotherhood between the religions...moreover, some of the converts to Islam, as Muslims, continued their old practices even after accepting Islam.”[i]

In fact, it is well established that it was the inter-faiths tolerance which the Muslims in general had displayed which had made the Islamic expansionism agenda all the much easier to achieve in some parts of Asia and North Africa. Years before the Islamic expansionism had spread its wing into Egypt for example, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt was locked in bitter disputes with Constantinople over the true nature of Jesus Christ. The Coptic adhered to “monophysitism” which states that Jesus had one nature and that nature was divine. That ran counter to the Council of Chalcedon’s position on the matter, which held the position that Christ had both human and divine nature. The result of that disagreement was the persecution and inquisition of the Coptic followers in Egypt by the Byzantine ruler although both people belonged to the same religion and God. The Nestorian Christians of Iraq had also grown resentful of Constantinople over the true nature of Christ and whether Mary shouldbe thought as the mother of God rather than of Christ as a person.

The tolerance displayed by the Muslims towards the Jews and Christians mean that Egypt would surrender to the Muslim army of not more than 5000 led by Amir ibn al-As. The Egyptian Christians would later fight alongside the Muslims and helped them defeat the Byzantine garrisons. The Nestorians, needless to say, almost welcomed the Muslim’s conquest. Despite the might of its army, conversion to Islam was never forced, true to the teaching of the Quran where it is expressly stated that “there shall be no compulsion in Islam”. The Quran also states that the “people of the book” should be respected and their teachings should be accepted as the words of God. During the Abbasid, the majority of the people were the Jews, Christians and the Zoroastrians.

Perhaps the Abbasid’s willingness to learn and to engage the people at an intellectual level, regardless of how stark the contrast of thoughts on any given subject matter would be, was what which marked its rule as the golden age of Islam. The Abbasid rule was known for its tolerance for freedom of expressions and thoughts, even when such expressions ran completely contrary to the Caliph’s belief and thoughts. Such was the tolerance that the Coptic and Nestorians were more willing to live under Muslim rules rather than under Byzantine rule, notwithstanding the fact that the Byzantine was itself a Christian empire.

The 2nd Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mahdi, for example, would invite Nestorian patriarch, such as Timothy 1 to the palace for a theology debate. The Caliph would confront Timothy with questions on the nature of Christ and the fact that God, under Christianity, would have a woman bore His own son. Timothy on the other hand would question the validity of the Quran being God’s words as they, according to him, have not been corroborated by signs and miracles.

Another Abbasid Caliph, Al-Ma’mun would engage a Greek Orthodox priest named Abu Qurra to a similar debate. In the Court, Abu Qurra would stand and defend Christian theology even when that means going against the Caliph and his faith. Such was the openness and readiness to embrace knowledge and seeking the truth that the Caliph himself would indulge in intellectual discourses with head of other religions in his Court.

Now, if we could all come back to present day Malaysia. Discourses are of course not solicited nor invited. Opposite views are not welcome and are in fact prohibited. Discussions are also not welcome under the guise of protecting national security.

To Zulkifli Nordin and Zahid Hamidi I would like to ask, which part of Islamic traditions are both of you practising when both of you made so much hoo haa over the Bar Council’s seminar on the problems which some people face resulting from conversion to Islam last year? Why are there so much fear of intellectual discourse and the likes? When is it that Islam demands the imposition of one’s personal belief on another?

To PAS I would like to ask, on what ground do you stand in imposing your own personal belief, over matters such as the Rihanna and Avril Lavigne concerts, on others? Which part of Islam are you talking about?

To Syed Hamid Albar, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and also Najib Razak I would like to ask, if Malaysia is indeed an Islamic country, where is the inter-faith and inter-religion tolerance and acceptance displayed by your administration? If the Caliphs could be debated face to face and be told that his belief was wrong by the head of another religion, why is it that this government even refuse to lend a listening ear to any opposite views at all? Since when has suppression of opinions and intellectual discussions become part of Islam? And which part of Islamic traditions allow you to detain a person with an opposite view?

To the National Fatwa Council I would like to ask, don’t you all think that mutual respect and understanding would be better for a multi-cultural and multi-faith Malaysia?

To the Institute of Islamic Understanding I would like to ask, where is the efforts to make us all, the Muslims, better in all aspects? What books and thesis have you all read? What foreign language intellectual works have you all helped to or commissioned to be translated in Bahasa Malaysia for the benefit of all Malaysians in general and Malaysian Muslims in particular?

To Mahathir Mohammad I would like to ask, which part of the Abbasid reign is similar to your reign?

[i] Qasha 110;G Stange, “Baghdad During the Abbasid Caliphate” (London;Oxford University Press, 1924)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

P.036 - the BN's failure in the art of war

Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese general, who had also been credited with the authorship of "The Art of War", posits that the art of war is governed by 5 constant factors or elements. They are:

  • the moral law
  • heaven
  • earth
  • the Commander
  • method and discipline

While the moral law "causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives", the heaven would signify the natural elements such as day and night, cold and heat, which would have impacted any preparation for a war. The earth meanwhile signifies the distances, the size, the danger and security, the width and the narrowness of passages. The Commander on the other hand, must possess of virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. Method and discipline are to be understood as "the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure."

During the P.036 by-election though, the BN had none of the above!

Part of the Barisan Nasional's "moral law" initiatives and its "method and discipline" during the P.036 by-election was the laughable "bayar budi" slogan which was so earnestly and condescendingly employed about 3 days before election day. Prior to that, the BN was moved with all its financial might and prowess to make promises after promises to the folks of Kuala Terengganu, especially the Chinese folks. Early ang pows were given to 9000 folks of Chinese origin in full glare of the public. Money was pumped in for town halls and Chinese schools. For the Malays, of course there was the "world record" Class F Contracts Vending Machine which churned out millions worth of Class F projects out of nowhere. To top it all up, 23000 free laptops for year 5 students were promised come March this year!

Those were the BN's initiatives which were hoped to cause "the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives", to borrow Sun Tzu's words. Well, now we know that those initiatives failed miserably. In fact, they might have even backfired!

How could the government of the day appear in a by election and tell the people that "I am doing you good and I am giving you all these things and so please return my favour (or in Malay, "balas budi") by voting me?" Has the BN forgotten that as the government of the day, it was their duty in the first place, to bring development to the people and to distribute the country's wealth among the people all the time, as opposed to when the time suits them only (which means, during by election time)? And if it was their duty in the first place to do so, why then the people must regard the acts of providing the people with developments etcetera as charitable acts which the people should be thankful for and forever cherish such charity as a favour? And why should the people repay such so-called act of benevolence with a vote for the government? Isn't that a threat? Isn't that mass corruption? Isn't that warped thinking? Isn't that immoral?

Surely the plot was lost. In fact the plot wasn't there in the first place. Why should I, the people whom you were supposed to serve, be thankful to you for doing the very thing which you were supposed to do in the first place? I read with absolute disbelief of the "bayar budi" mantra about 3 days before election day. I thought it was almost nonsensical. And fair enough, the people thought it was such a joke that they voted against the BN!

At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if the two major races, the Malays and the Chinese, had even begun comparing the various "gifts" from the BN. The Malays were looking at the ang pows and would have thought the Chinese were being paid cash while the Malays were not. On the other hand, the Chinese would think "whoaaa...the Malay Class F contractors have got so much contracts!" Then the Malays were thinking "why are the Chinese schools and town halls getting so much?". The Chinese also would have thought that "the Malays got more because the 250 million dollar Crystal Mosque was way more expensive than the money given to the Chinese school and town hall." The Indian then thought, "haiya, we get nothing!". At the end of the day, nobody, except for the real BN hardcore, voted for the BN. It was a complete disaster.

Showering people with gifts, cash and trips to nowhere as well as heavenly promises is not alien to the BN, in particular its chief protagonist, UMNO. That is in fact admitted nowadays by UMNO itself and has become the bane of UMNOlitics. Just look at the money politics which is endemic and has become deeply ingrained within UMNO nowadays. This "suap" culture seeps into national partisan politics and all hell break loose every time there is an election.

Therefore, as far as Sun Tzu's first criterion of "moral law" and "method and discipline" are concerned, the BN was a spectacular failure!

While the "heaven" signifies the force of nature in every war preparation, the "earth" signifies the infra-structural pre-planning which would obviously impact the war preparation. From the word "go", no, even before the word "go", it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Of course, "heaven", which is a natural element, could not be controlled. But it sure could have been managed better. Firstly, the by election came at a most inopportune of time. The public,especially the Chinese, still remember the "pendatang" remark. They also remember how a Chinese lady journalist was, albeit fleetingly, detained under the ISA for reporting about that remark while on the other hand, the perpetrator was left unharmed. Then, another Chinese lady, Teresa Kok, was also detained under the ISA for allegedly complaining about "azans' in loudspeakers. This despite a complete denial by the mosque officials! After that, Raja Petra was detained under the ISA too. He was then released and the Judge said his detention was unlawful.

Later came the harassments of the JERIT cyclists. And arrests of people who attended peaceful vigils against the ISA. In the middle of those things, Mukhriz Mahathir chose to emulate daddy by urging all vernacular schools be abolished!

These unfortunate events were fresh in the memory of the people during the election. Of course, the election had to be called because of the demise of the last MP and was therefore out of the BN's control. However, this serves to teach the BN government, especially UMNO, not to act rashly and in complete repugnance to the will of the people at all time. Lest they might have to pay dearly for such actions at the most inopportune of times, especially, during a by-election which they could not foresee!

After all those events, where the Chinese in particular, and the people in general, were treated like nobodies by the BN government, the BN suddenly was faced with a by-election. The "heaven" was not with the BN for sure. And with regret, the BN machineries had to suddenly kow tow to the people knowing that they could not turn back the clock and reverse whatever which had been done. And kow tow they did.

But they never said sorry. What they said was a denial that they had partaken in "extreme policies". They chose not to own up. Instead they chose to treat the people as little children who could be coaxed with little boxes of candies and sweet talks. Instead of managing the "heaven", they caused the heaven to bear down upon themselves!

And what about the "earth" element? Ah yes, the infra-structural pre-planning. Well, in my humble observation, it was a non-starter. A short observation of the past election voting record would show something really important. P.036 is a parliamentary constituency consisting of 4 state constituencies, namely, Wakaf Mempelam, Ladang, Batu Buruk and Bandar. Last election, PAS won the state seats in the first 3 state constituencies. Bandar, which is a predominantly Chinese area, went to the BN. Logic would have told all of us that PAS should have also won the Parliamentary seat then. Why was it that the late Razali, a BN man, was the victor in the Parliamentary election instead of the last PAS candidate? In the state seats, PAS won 3 and yet PAS lost the parliamentary seat Why?

It shows that the people were not voting for the party but the candidate as a person. Thus, although in the state seats, the people voted for the PAS candidate in the 3 seats, while voting for the parliamentary seats, the very same people, voted for the late Razali, the BN man. The people then could not care two hoots about the party which the candidate represented. It was the candidate as a person whom the people looked at.

If this was observed by the UMNO and the BN's top guns, surely Wan Ahmad Farid, Mister-who-is-difficult-to-smile-and-who-always-has-his-hands-in-his-pockets would be a bad choice from day one. Add to that, Wan Farid's brother is connected to the not-so-popular-among-the-common-folks Monsoon Cup projects. Add to that some more is the fact that he is a known Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's man. Add to that is also the fact that he was the one who defeated the late Razali in the UMNO division election, which was, according to sources, was very intense, to put it mildly. Compared him to the affable and ever smiling sweety faced Wahid Endut, the "earth" element was surely with PAS from the start. The BN had failed to analyse past election behavioral and voting patterns. They then fielded the wrong candidate. And the people reversed their voting behaviour and voted for the PAS candidate instead.

Another "F" for the BN on Sun Tzu's report card.

And lastly, but by no means the least, the "Commander". The Commander, according to Sun Tzu, must possess of virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. Who was the BN's commander? Well, it was Najib Razak, the current Deputy Prime Minister, UMNO Deputy President, UMNO President in waiting and of course, the Prime Minister in waiting (if nothing goes wrong, God willing, of course).

He spearheaded the Permatang Pauh's UMNO and BN campaign. What he did there was akin to going to a house and telling the owner that his son is a sodomite. He used another person to even swear in a mosque for that purpose. Then he tells the house owner to support him. Yea...nice! Sun Tzu would have turned in his teracotta suit somewhere beneath the Forbidden City! The house owner gave him the proverbial slap on the face and returned the favour by giving his son a win with a really huge margin. The Commander then hurriedly left the house living his supporter and his candidate alone to face the inevitable execution. Sun Tzu would have quartered and disemboweled him and fed his guts to dogs before granting him a final reprieve by beheading him.

But UMNO and the BN always stick with their leaders, notwithstanding that he wasn't so much of a leader, as proven by how he left his soldiers alone in Permatang Pauh. And so, he was again the Commander in P.036 KT.

If the "moral law" and the plan to manage the "heaven" and earth" as well as "method and discipline" were all his, than I must say the verdict would be a total and an unequivocal "F". The wisdom wasn't there because of the above reasons. The benevolent act was temporary and was not at all sincere because it was clear to all and sundry that all those benevolent acts were undertaken with an ulterior motive and not due to their unflinching commitment to their duties and purport as the people's representatives.

As for courage, well, he again left his soldier alone to face the inevitable execution even before the official announcement was made. Even in a football final, the losing team, their manager and their captain would wait to take their runners-up medal and congratulate the winning team. Can we all imagine Alex Ferguson leaving the stadium before the prize giving ceremony in a European Cup final if Manchester United loses? Well, in the BN, this was precisely what happened. Nobody, not even the candidate, was present when the official announcement was made! Courage? A one legged cockerel has more courage in fighting a fox!

Now Najib says that it was just a "set back". Mahathir meanwhile says that it was Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's fault. Well, Najib was the Commander. He was the chief. And the General. In a war, the buck stops at his feet.

Najib also said that the by-election was not about him. Mahathir agreed.

Was it about him? I agree with both of them. No. It wasn't about him.

It was about the BN and UMNO. It was about the people. It was about Malaysia. It was about the people's insatiable thirst for change.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Equality in Islam

ا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." (49:13, translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

This verse is addressed to all the people, not only Muslims ("ya aiyuhan nas" - O mankind). It reminds that all of us come from the same origin. God made us into different tribes and nations so that we may know each other and live in peace with each other. Nobody is superior than the other except those who are most honoured, namely, he who is most righteous.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Justice - a Quranic demand

"Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition." (16:90 - translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

There are 3 degrees of goodness which are demanded, as well as 3 degrees of evils which are forbidden. The first degree of goodness is to do justice (" 'adl"), which is returning good for good. The next is is to do good ("ihsan") where the doer of good does not receive any benefit in return. The highest degree of goodness is where goodness becomes second nature to a person, where he would do good to all humanity whom he treats as his kindred.

The first degree of evil is doing shameful deeds (or indecency - "fahsya"), which does not necessarily affect others. The next degree of evil is denying truth or the doing anything which is not agreeable with the truth ("mungkar"). This may affect others. The highest degree of evil is committing of acts of tyranny or oppression (rebellion -"baghy"), which affect many and numerous people, including a nation or state.

In short, justice is demanded while oppression and injustice are considered evil. God admonishes the people (or group of people) who commit the later. Let this be a reminder to all of us and to our Government.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

the election vending machine...:)


Love Your Neighbours - a Quranic Guidance

وَاعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ وَلاَ تُشْرِكُواْ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالجَنبِ وَابْنِ لسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالاً فَخُور

"Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious;" (4:36 - translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

Islam does not discriminate between races, creed or breed. It is interesting to note that Muslims are to do good to neighbours who are not only near but also who are strangers. The world has become small. We are all in it together. Near or far. And we are to do good to one another, regardless of our faith, race, breed or creed.

Let's Read The Quran Campaign

We need your participation!
Campaign name: Let’s Read The Quran

On January 1st 2009, four friends Syed, Walski, Marina and Anas got together at Coffee-Bean Bangsar Village and decided to launch a campaign to encourage people to read and understand the Quran better.
This campaign is not only for Muslims, but also for our brothers and sisters who are Christians, Buddhists Hindus, Sikhs and those who believes in a God-Head but not so gung-ho about being in any brand of religion, too – come join us and share your ideas! You can join this campaign even if you are an atheist!
The goal of this campaign is to encourage people to read the Quran in the language they understand most and find in it areas of common values in our day to day living.
What is the Campaign all about?
Read the Quran in the language that you are familiar with.
When will the campaign start and end?
January 15th to February 14th (Happy Valentine’s Day!)
Participating blogs in the blogospheres.
So more people know what the Quran says and what the Quran does not say and to match it to what is really said in our daily lives.
Everyone who wants to – the more the merrier! If you have a Blog, Facebook, etc carry the logo/icon.
- To join the campaign, place the accompanying logo/icon at your blog.
- Write or share short articles based on the Quranic text.
- Share what you find in the Quran with family and friends.
- Ask questions about the Quranic message
- Read the Quran – eg click here
, www.altafsir.com
Peace and Thanks,

Marina Mahathir

Syed Akbar Ali
http://asylum60.blogspot.com and,
Anas Zubedy
Participating Blogs
1. 3540 Jalan Sudin

2. Anas Zubedy:
3. ARTiculations:
4. Being Human in the World:
5. Cowboy Malaysia:
6. Disquiet:
7. Jebat Must Die:
8. Lunch at the Lake Club:
10. myAsylum:
11. O.B.E.
12. OutSyed The Box:
13. Poetic Justice:
14. Rantings by MM:
15. Rapera:
16. Renovatio:
17. Rocky's Bru:
18. Write Away:
19. Writing By Amir:

Monday, January 12, 2009

P.036 by-election - has the BN committed "corrupt practices"?

There is no better time for any government of the day to announce the launching of development projects in any particular constituency than the time immediately preceding a by-election in that constituency and during the ensuing campaigning period. The people of Kuala Terengganu can't help but to feel that the Gods of developments and gifts have suddenly descended from the high heavens in the last week or so. If only by-elections could come every week than all of us could probably drown in handouts and heavenly promises.

The Barisan Nasional has suddenly bounced into actions in Kuala Terengganu. Suddenly, it found that it has the required funds and resources to develop KT and to make the lives of the KT folks better than ever. Among others, the followings are the various actions taken or promised by the Barisan Nasional to the Kuala Terengganu folks lately:

  • the Star reported that the Terengganu state government will be giving 25000 laptops for free to all year 5 students by April next year. After that, a factory will be set up to manufacture 10000 units of laptops per month which are to be distributed to students in year 1, 2, 3 and 4. The first batch of 25000 laptops will cost the state government RM30 million.
  • a sum of RM2.7 million was distributed to 9000 needy Chinese folks on January 5th, a day before nomination day. This apparently is an annual event but in any other year, this handout would be made a week before or after the Chinese New Year.*
  • RM3.3 million was pledged by the Menteri Besar for the construction of a hall for the Chinese community in Bukit Kecil, with the ground breaking ceremony slated for Jan 13.*
  • the state government further approved RM2.8 million for the refurbishing of the sole Chinese school in Kuala Terengganu, SJK (C) Chung Hwa Wei Sin. The school's brass band will receive another RM200,000.*
  • RM110,000 was allocated to 40 Chinese religious organisations.*
  • the state MCA has obtained federal allocation worth RM205,000 for two temples while Education Minister Hishamuddin Hussien on Jan 5 announced a RM2,926,000 allocation for 10 Chinese schools in the state.*

* source: Malaysiakini report

  • Dr Azly Rahman in his blog has in the meanwhile cited a report in the New Straits Times that the state government had also promised to replace the zinc roofs houses of poor families and grant 4ha of land to anyone who wants to plant padi.
  • On 10th January, Malaysiakini reported that the Federal Government had awarded RM15.8 million worth of small infrastructural projects to 583 Terengganu based class-F contractors through a computerised ‘bidding’ system.

I am not going to judge the merit or demerit of all these actions. The government, after all, should know best. But allow me to firstly say something about the free laptop project. The express intention of this project is apparently to reduce the burden of heavy school bags which the students have to endure day in and day out. But excuse me. The first question which came to mind is whether the contents of all the text books have been digitalised and ready to be uploaded into the computer? If not, then the whole thing is a waste of money as students would still have to carry books. Instead of heavy school bags containing the books, now the students also have to carry the laptop!

Several other questions arise. How many of these students know how to operate a laptop? What if they lost the laptops? How is the teacher going to teach in the class? Will there be a big monitor together with a computer projector in every classroom in every government schools in order for these laptops to be used during lessons? Are the teachers trained to teach using laptops instead of books? How are homework going to be given and done? One laptop could only operate for about 3 hours (the longest) if operated on a battery and as such electrical power supply is needed. And the most obvious question here is how many power mains are there available in every classroom in every government schools? How about the soft wares? Can the students type? I am getting real worried here because I think all these questions have not been explored and attended to before this very well meaning project was announced. I would love to be proven wrong though. Please do tell all of us Mister Minister.

The purpose of this post however is not to criticise the various projects or handouts or to make conclusion as to the propriety of such acts. Ethically I personally believe it is wrong for any government of the day to announce handouts, developments projects and give free gifts, whether in cash or in kinds to the voters or the people of any constituency at which a by-election is taking place. The same applies in a general election.

Under a Westminster system of democracy, where the Common Law applies, the government, and every member of the Executive, is in a fiduciary position in relation to their powers and duties to the people whom they govern. This means they have fiduciary duties to all of us. What this simply means is that they hold the powers in trust for the people and they cannot therefore abuse such powers. They therefore can only exercise such powers for the benefit of the people and the nation. They cannot exercise such powers for their own benefit.

In exercising such powers too, they must avoid a situation of conflict of interest. What if they are in a position of conflict? Simple. If they are faced with a situation of conflict of interest - which means their personal interest conflicts with the interest of the people or the nation - they must not exercise the power. They must give the power to somebody else. Or if they can't do that, they have to wait until that conflict of interest does not exist anymore.

Now, we shall apply the above principle to the by-election in P.036. The present government - federal and state - is the Barisan Nasional. The by-election in P.036 is contested by a candidate from the BN, PAS and an independent. I think the BN government, whether the Federal government or the state one, is in an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to development projects, handouts and gifts during the period of the by-election. The BN government should not therefore embark on this sudden burst of economics activities in view of the by-election because it will give an impression, rightly or wrongly, to observers that such activities are done to influence the voters to vote in a particular manner.

What is the conflict? There will be an obvious inference that all these economics and social programmes are embarked upon by the government for the purpose of inducing the P.036 voters to vote for the BN candidate during the by-election. A question than arises. Are all these economics and social programmes undertaken by the government because the government thinks that they are indeed good for the people or because of some other extrinsic element, such as to induce the voters to vote for its candidate or a combination of both? That is, to my mind, the conflict.

As a self proclaimed good government who has by far thought only of the best interest of the "rakyat" and who has, according to Najib Razak, acted like a "welfare government" all these while, I am sure the BN government would not want to breach its fiduciary duties to the "rakyat". As a reminder, in Islam, a breach of trust, is one of the unpardonable sin, as far as I know.

So, in this respect, I really hope that the BN leaders are doing all the above acts with a clear conscience. Perhaps clearer than the crystal mosque, if I may add.

The above are my moral and ethical issues. The next is a legal issue.

Sorry. But at this juncture I have to bore all of you with some pertinent provisions of the law. Our election rules are mainly contained in an Act called the Election Offences Act 1954. This Act is mainly based on the Common Law principles and the provisions of the United Kingdom's Representation of the People Act 1948 (which later became the Representation of the People Act 1983). Because the Malaysians Act and the UK Act are similar, guidance could be had from the UK Courts on the application of the Malaysian Act.

What are not allowed under the Act? Among others, a cluster of improprieties, which are termed as "corrupt practices" are not allowed. For the purpose of this post, I will deal with the relevant corrupt practices one by one.

Firstly, "treating" is not allowed and is an offence. In short, the law prohibits any person from giving any treat to any voter with the intention to influence such voter to vote in any particular manner. The "treat" may take the form of food, drink, refreshment, provision, money or ticket. It is obvious that not every treat is prohibited. If PAS provides drinks to their worker, that is not treating. If an UMNO member sees a beggar and he or she gives food or money to the beggar, it is not treating. The giving of food, drinks or money must be for the purpose of influencing the voter to vote in a certain manner. That is treating and it is prohibited.

In a case known as re East Peterborough Election (1875) HEC 245 (CAN), voters were treated to drinks at a tavern by an agent of the candidate. That was held to be a treating. In Youghal (Borough) case (1869), the candidate announced himself to be a candidate on 29th July. The Parliament was only dissolved in August. He however began treating the voters earlier on. The Court held that that was a prohibited treating (although it took place even before the nomination). The Wallingford case (1869) 19 LT 766, coincisely explains treating. It says "where meat and drink are given away for the purpose of gaining popularity, and thereby to affect the election, that is evidence of corrupt practice."

Secondly, bribery is prohibited and is an offence. Basically, under the Act, an act of giving or promise to give money or any valuable consideration to any voter for the purpose of influencing the said voter to vote in any particular manner is bribery. This is an interesting subject.

In a case called Kingston-upon-Hull Central Division (1911) 6 O'M&H 372, a person distributed coal to persons who were entitled to relief. He also gave some treat to school children when an election took place. He argued that he did all those thing without any corrupt motive. The Judge, Justice Ridley, held that even though he gave it without corrupt motive at the time the acts were planned or designed, "if an election becomes imminent later, he will go on with that design at his risk and if he does so he will be liable to be found guilty of corrupt practices, that is to say that he has done a thing which must produce an effect on the election".

As far as charitable acts or gifts are concerned, the case of Strafford (Borough), Chawner v Miller (1869) 21 LT 210, bears some interesting illustration. Here goes.

A candidate was in the habit of giving 250 pound to his agent for distribution as Christmas gifts every Christmas. The money was distributed by his agent during an election of the borough. The candidate never checked how the gifts were distributed nor did he ever tell his agent how to distribute the same. Justice Blackburn said as follows:

"When I find charities are distributed in a borough by...candidates, and are distributed without check by the election agent of the borough, I am not charitable enough to draw any other conclusion than that they do it with the intention of giving the voters money, in the hope and expectation that it will influence the future election".

I am sure the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat will find that case interesting enough. Finally, allow me to draw attention to another interesting case, namely, the Megantic Case (1884)9 SCR (Can). The facts are really interesting.

Here, the candidate gave $100 to Mr X to be used for the purpose of an election. While visiting an area which was part of the constituency, the candidate and Mr X met a local leader. The local leader professed that he was not happy with the candidate and that although he was going to vote for the candidate and his party, he was not going to work that hard to support him. In the absence of the candidate, Mr X asked the local leader whether he wanted money for his church. The local leader said he wanted to build a town hall and he needed money for that purpose. $20 was put on the table. When saying goodbye to the candidate and Mr X, the local leader said, "Gentlemen, remember that this money has no influence as far as I am concerned with regard to the election". The candidate did not ask for the money back.

Interestingly, the Judge held that the act of giving the money was not an act of liberality or charity. It was a gift with a view to influence a voter favourably to his candidature. Additionally, although the money was given in the candidate's absence and initially without his knowledge, he finally knew about the payment and did nothing to stop it. Therefore he was guilty of corrupt practice.

The above are but some examples of the decisions by the Common Law Courts in respect of allegations of bribery and treating during an election. These pronunciation of laws are applicable here as our election laws are similar to that of the UK's.

The purpose of this post it to create awareness of the law in relation to the various acts and to discuss the application of such laws in the UK. As such, I am refraining myself from making any conclusion.

In arriving to any decision, the Court would of course have to consider all explanations offered by the BN. It must be noted that the BN government has said that:

  • the laptop project was to ease the burden of school children from carrying heavy school bags.
  • the award to the Class F contractors were already planned under the economics stimulus announced much earlier (last year) and the finances are now available for the same to be done.
  • the cash gifts to the Chinese people are part of an annual event and was also planned during the lifetime of the previous MP.
  • the BN government is committed to helping the poor and the programmes are aimed at helping the poor.

It is then up to our Courts to decide whether such explanation would be acceptable if a case is brought before the Courts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

P036 by-election - political dynamics at play

The Kuala Terengganu P036 by-election could not have come at a more inopportune time for Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO, as well as Najib Razak in particular. As we all know, the Barisan Nasional is still reeling from the effects of the March 8 general election last year. The main coalition of UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have seen testing days after that general election with all parties going for each other's throat on issues close to their respective heart. Issues on Ketuanan Melayu; teaching of Maths and Science in the English language; marginalisation of the Malaysian citizen of Indian origin; distribution of the economics pie are but some of the issues which saw the BN main component parties shouting and screaming at each other with the obvious goal of championing each party's racial agenda and outlook.

To top it up, these main component parties also have internal issues to be settled. MCA saw a change of top leadership in an election which was more than a little uncivil and divisive resulting in its President and Deputy being elected from two different and opposing camps. As for MIC, it is as good as a dead horse. While Samy Vellu says he wants to re-brand MIC he forgets that re-branding MIC would most certainly involve his removal from the party as he has become synonymous with all that is wrong with MIC itself.

Most importantly is the internal wave of discontent which UMNO is going through from March 8 2008 until today. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been blamed for everything which has befallen UMNO so far. This blame culture and movement has been led by none other than its former President, Mahathir Mohammad. It has taken steam sometime in the middle of last year and at the end a power transmission timeline was agreed. That entails Abdullah relinquishing his Presidency in March this year to Najib Razak, the current Deputy President.

But that does not end there. As it is, there are now 3 persons eyeing the Deputy posts come March this year. The 3 VP posts are seeing a fight between 10 stalwarts. The Youth chief is also seeing a massive fights. In fact, UMNO is so full of infightings that it makes the Palestine conflicts rather tame in comparison. To add to all these, money politics have reared its ugly head and UMNO leadership is at a loss on how to solve these really dirty games.

If the Permatang Pauh by-election sounded the death knell for Abdullah, the P036 by-election is a sure test for Najib Razak's leadership. And it couldn't come at a worse time. The selection of Wan Ahmad Farid as UMNO's nominee for the election is not without significance. The fact that Wan Ahmad Farid - a known supporter of Abdullah in UMNO - is chosen as UMNO's nominee is widely seen as proof of Abdullah's influence in UMNO although Abdullah is supposedly on his way out. This is admitted even by Mahathir Mohammad who lamented that Wan Ahmad Farid is Abdullah's proxy and that he (Wan Ahmad Farid) is not the best man for the job.

Come what may, the obvious loser in all these would be none other than Najib Razak. Firstly, the nomination of Wan Ahmad Farid, a known Abdullah man, gives the impression that Najib Razak is powerless and not strong enough to stop Abdullah from still calling the shots even within 2 months from his retirement. That does not bode well for Najib and his supporters.

Secondly, win or lose, Najib would still lose. It is a lose-lose situation for him. If Wan Ahmad wins the election, the impression would be that his victory is caused by the "Abdullah factor". It would be Abdullah's great choice which wins the election. Not Najib's.

In the event of a loss, the world would come crumbling down on Najib. The blame would be on him. Allegations of sabotage would surely surface. However, the damndest conclusion in that event would be that the people of Kuala Terengganu, and Malaysia in general, has demonstrated that Najib's leadership is not welcome. The people do not want Najib as Malaysia's next Prime Minister. That would be the natural conclusion.

It must be remembered that Najib was entrusted to spearhead UMNO's and the BN's election campaign in Permatang Pauh. He failed miserably due mainly to his wrong approach, strategy and tactics. How could you go into someone's house and tell the owner of that house that his son is a sodomiser? The result of that is for all to see. Anwar won with a bigger majority. Najib (and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) left Permatang Pauh even before the official announcement of the result!

In the event of a BN loss, P036 would be seen as an indictment of Najib's inability and his perceived tainted past (and present). It would be concluded as an almost unequivocal non-endorsement by the people of his leadership style, his visions, his political posturing on a wide range of issues which are close to the people's heart nowadays.

It is therefore quite obvious, that come what may, Najib would be the biggest loser in P036. Whatever the result of this by-election might be, it is obvious that the UMNO infighting would continue to ravage the party. Both the Abdullah and Najib faction would claim victory in the event of a win for Wan Ahmad Farid. And both would blame each other in the event of a loss. At the wrong end of this argument would be Najib Razak.

On the side of the fence, a victory for Wan Ahmad Farid, would, on the face of it, indirectly sound a loud "NO" to hudud and PAS' seeming unwillingness to let go of that issue. In that event, Pakatan Rakyat would have some soul searching to make. The loose alliance between a motley crew of parties with different views and ideas which strike, among others, at the most basic of issues, namely, whether Malaysia should be a secular or Islamic state, would not, in the long run, work if such issue is not analysed deeply and an acceptable common ground is found and agreed upon.

Husam Musa's statement that PAS would implement hudud during his debate with Khairy Jamaluddin shows the emotional, rather than rational, side of Husam and PAS as a whole. Khairy was being clever and he was digging a huge hole in front of Husam when he unnecessarily asked Husam about hudud. Husam did not see that hole and loudly and proudly proclaimed that PAS would implement hudud to a thunderous applause. Husam won the day but in a single stroke Khairy has managed to find a bullet which the BN could use during the by-election. Hudud, a non-issue before that day, has become an issue suddenly. Husam fell into the hole like a led balloon!

If PAS wins, there will be conclusion made that the people, including the non-Muslims, may not be adverse to hudud. Again, Pakatan Rakyat would have some soul searching to make. And the Barisan Nasional too. Hudud laws, and its implementation, is not an easy subject and it touches the nerves of all and sundry, not only the Muslims and the Malays . It involves international perception, international finance and investments, non-Muslims and Muslims alike. It involves the very basic structure of Malaysia. It involves the basic premise of Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as its official religion. Contrary to all political posturing by the likes of Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah and the present UMNO leadership, everybody knows that Malaysia is NOT an Islamic state.

PAS itself is in the middle of a leadership tug of war. It is replete with factions where the Hadi, Nik Aziz and Anwar factors provide endless supply of political entanglement. Hadi is the Islamic state chieftain. Nik Aziz heads the more rationale and pragmatist group and is known to be the sympathisers for Anwar's reformist agenda.

P036 is thus more than what it seems. It is not only about the Barisan Nasional against the Pakatan Rakyat. It is about the survival of political ideologies within component parties of these two. It is also about the fight within the component parties.

The voters in P036 should be so lucky to know that their one vote each may in more than one way decide the future of Malaysia. They should therefore all come out and exercise their right to vote with a clear conscience and unhurried in their choice.

Happy voting.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Malaysia's Funniest Man 2008

Malaysian Insider proclaims Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysian of the Year 2008. ARTiculations... hereby proclaim him as Malaysia’s Funniest Man 2008.

And the award goes to...Mahathir Mohammad.

Mahathir should be awarded or crowned as Malaysia's Funniest Man of 2008. He merajuk with Pak Lah and he left UMNO thinking there would be an exodus from UMNO. As it turned out, only Sanusi Junid, his wife and his son Jani followed suit. Even Mukhriz did not.

He then continued to critisise UMNO from outside UMNO. Had people done that during his reign as UMNO President, he would have said "it is none of your business!". He then told UMNO supporters not to vote for UMNO just to show their unhappiness at UMNO leadership. But at the same time, he accused Zaid Ibrahim of sabotaging UMNO and supporting other parties. He is obviously one damn funny character.

Then he became obsessed with UMNO elections. He wanted those whom he think would follow his "outside orders" to win. He threw his obvious support for some candidates and poured scorn on others. He of course supports his son Mukhriz, his protege Najib and Muhiyuddin. Others he accused of money politics. He even threatened UMNO's disciplinary board. He said if actions are not taken by the board against these evil money politicians, he would expose them one by one. He assumed the functions and cloak of a complainant, investigator, prosecutor and Judge. That is so Mahathir. Nothing new about that. Then what happened? After making innuendos about the identities of those whom he thought had been involved in money politics and making a meal out of it, he said he has got no proof after all! Uahahahahahaha...he's such a funny man, this Mahathir.

He now laments the fact that UMNO is infested to the root with money politics. He says now that the leaders are not doing enough about it. Funny. Because he knew all the while that money politics thrived in UMNO during his 22 year reign as its President. He himself had cried about it once during UMNO General Assembly. What did he do to combat money politics other than crying? He did nuts! And now he laments, complains, whines, shouts and screams about it. He is one funny man.

He now blames Pak lah for all the bad things in UMNO and all the corruptions in Malaysia. He accused Pak Lah of cronysm and nepotism. How very funny that is. First of all, he was the one who chose Pak Lah as his successor in true UMNO tradition of power transmission (meaning the outgoing President has the right to choose his successor who would of course continue to protect the outgoing President's interests). Then when Pak Lah exhibited signs of being his own man and decided to scrap Mahathir's favourite crooked bridge project, he turned against Pak Lah. Isn't that a bit more than funny? I think it is. He is totally blameless for anything and everything. Other people are all wrong except for him.

Than he instigated UMNO members to challenge Pak Lah. However he realised that it is difficult to do so because of the provisions in the UMNO Constitutions or election regulations giving massive advantage to incumbent and imposing various difficulties on any challenger. Mahathir than shouted and screamed that those provisions are unfair and ought to be removed. Hahahaha...he forgets that he was the one who inserted those provisions in the first place. He did that to make it difficult for him to be challenged when he was the UMNO President. He wanted to cling to his position no matter what. So he ensured that he could not be challenged. Now when he wanted Pak Lah to be challenged, he suddenly found that those provisions are undemocratic and demanded that those provisions be removed. ROTFLMAO!!! Uahahahahaha... ur da funny man Mahathir.

He then went about saying Pak Lah destroyed UMNO. Of course he forgets that he was the one, through his Counsel in the UMNO 11 case, argued that the original UMNO was an illegal society and ought to be deregistered. When the Court did so, he said it wasn't him but the Court which declared UMNO illegal. He then registered UMNO Baru, which is the current UMNO. How funny is that? Robim Williams does not even come close. Eddy Murphy pales in comparison to this man.

Then he said bloggers should be more responsible forgetting that he was more than irresponsible. Apart from making innuendos in respect of those whom he believed were involved in money politics, he also stoke up racial sentiments when it suits him. Then he tells Malaysians and politicians not to stoke up racial sentiments. Oh ur such a foony foony man Mahathir.

Before that, he was angry to the bone with the findings of the Royal Commission on the Linggam video tape. He said the Royal Commission was unfair on him and had made findings which are not supported by evidence. He accused the Royal Commission of making findings based on assumptions. But at the same time, he also assumed that Anwar Ibrahim was a sodomite. And he assumed Pak Lah and KJ and everybody else as corrupt. Whatever it was, this fighting old man never challenge the finding of the Royal Commission in Court. Perhaps he could not trust the Courts too. Why is it that he could not trust the Courts? Well, he should know the answer because he is the most knowing, the most clever and the most wise. He is the man.

He had 22 years at the top. He pioneered absolutism in Malaysia. He is the father of tolled highways; independent power producers; sodomy charges; Formula 1 racing; Le Tour de Langkawi (although he abhors the Monsoon Cup for one reason or another!); tallest twin building in the world, longest teh tarik in the world and everything which is the thickest, thinnest, biggest and everything else. Now, he is Malaysia’ Funniest Man 2008.

Long live Mahathir.