Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MCA Election: Who to Watch?

Read my full views on NST:

Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said it was not simple for MCA to change structurally and to break out from its mould."Whether they are sections aligned to Ka Ting or not, unless there is a shift in political balance in the party, there will not be a shift in the alliance."

He added that the pattern of the division elections was similar to the one before that, with strong personalities winning, with the exception of supreme council member Datuk Lee Hwa Beng who lost his Kelana Jaya division chief post to Wanita chief Ong Chong Sian.Khoo also said the party will not be truly renewed if there was no radical change on where they stand in Malaysian politics on the whole and their position in BN in particular.

He also said that the race for the party number one and two posts would not bring too many surprises, with his money on vice-president Datuk Ong Tee Keat coming in as president and current Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai as his deputy.

"The delegates will be practical with their choice and will realise the need for leaders to be outspoken and not dogged by controversy," said Khoo.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Qualified Doubt

Malaysiakini.com has a telling revelation: "No evidence of sodomy". There is no evidence that Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan was sodomised, according to the doctor who examined him four hours before he lodged a police report alleging he was sexually assaulted by PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim.

He first went to Hospital Pusrawi (Pusat Rawatan Islam) in Jalan Tun Razak - a government-linked Islamic medical institution - at about 2pm.

He was examined by Dr Mohamed Osman Abdul Hamid, the medical officer on duty.
The doctor said that the patient had alleged he was assaulted by the intrusion of a piece of "plastic" in the anus.

Mohamed Osman, according to his medical report which was recorded at 2.14pm, found "zero active bleeding", "zero ulcer or pus", "zero tear and scar" in Saiful's anus.

He also stated that Saiful appeared "alert", "comfortable", "not pale" and did not show any fever symptoms.

Now the doctor has gone missing.

Now, this revelation has created more questions. I am surprised that Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, PM Abdullah Badawi, Deputy PM Najib Razak and other senior BN leaders were not briefed in this medical report.

If no, why not? If yes, why are they still insisting that Anwar Ibrahim should undergo a DNA test? What is their motive in doing so?

With this medical report revealed, the BN government and the police will be hard pressed to come out with a proper explanation on this matter.

I have said in my previous article that Anwar, like other ordinary Malaysians, must be granted his constitutional rights to a fair trial and justice.

When will he get his?

Someone must, sooner or later, tell us the truth. Then, get on with governing the country.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

PM Abdullah's Choice

At this juncture, I quite amazed by the PM's choice of political action. So far, he has maintained that the talk between PAS-UMNO will continue. He defended his party's right to seek alliance.

Abdullah had revealed that Umno and Pas had been holding talks to address issues on Islam and Malay unity.

I cannot help but to question his choice at this moment. Why is the PM so eager to hold talks on Malay unity and Islam when the country is facing bigger challenges at hand - inflation, slowdown, poor consumer sentiment and others?

By seeking a new alliance with PAS, has he given up on his partners in BN? Is he giving a higher priority on Malay unity over Malaysian unity? Communalism over Multiracialism?

Dr Mahathir concurs, "“In a muzakarah, only PAS and Umno will have discussions, so what would the MCA, MIC and Gerakan have to say? So, we leave them behind when actually they are part of the party (coalition)”.

I have spoken to a top leader from a key component party in BN. He told me that there is no major crisis in his party but he viewed the ongoing political schism in BN and UMNO very carefully. He is aware that the current leadership crisis in UMNO, worsened by personality crisis, will affect his party through the coalition.

In the next general election, the fate of other component parties in BN rested on the decisions and action made by UMNO.

In the end, they may have no choice but be forced to review their partnership in the coalition. This will impact UMNO beyond its own imagination.

UMNO-PAS collaboration and partnership may not necessary be a bad thing for Malaysians. If it happens, at least we know now the extremists are lumped in the same basket. Thereafter, Malaysians must work together to deny them of their divisive sectarian interests.

How long more can this nation continue to endure such silly political maneuvers?
Abdullah has a CHOICE - between Communalism and Multiracialism.
His BN partners have a CHOICE too - between Survival or Irrelevance depending on Abdullah's pick.
The panelists are interested to discuss some of these crucial topics at the 31st July forum.

For those who have not registered, places are limited and you might not be able to grab a seat at the forum.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is there Malay Disunity?

It is most ironic that the UMNO-PAS Malay unity talk failed to raise a pertinent question. Is there real Malay disunity? What are the symptoms and implications of the disunity? What are the social threats to the society?

In the last eleven general elections, the Malay voters were expected to show their allegiance for UMNO by voting en bloc for the party and its coalition partners in BN. This did not happen in the last general election.To make matter worse, other communities have deserted the BN too.

UMNO sees this as an opportunity to drum up communal sentiments, hoping to divert Malay support back to its party. Unfortunately for UMNO, time has changed. Many Malaysians including majority of the Malays have seen through the political ploy of UMNO.

Unlike before, not many Malay voters who voted for the opposition are going to believe that the lost of support amongst non-Malays for the UMNO led BN is tantamount to a challenge against Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacism).

In fact, it is time of the party to learn to accept the fact that the Malay community has grown more sophisticated than UMNO as a political entity which claimed monopoly of Malay representation.

Political loyalty cannot be used as a yardstick to measure social cohesiveness. UMNO's lost of support did not translate into socio-economic displacement or political marginalisation of the Malays. If fact, Malay representation in the legislative bodies and key institutions remained strong and significant.

The perceived threats to Malay special rights and the sanctity of Islam is an imaginary perception concocted by UMNO and its supporters to reaffirm its hold on the communal-based politics in the country. As a dominant communal party, UMNO cannot afford for the transition to non-communal and more Malaysian centric political model to materialise.It must be portrayed as the champions of Malay interests and special rights to remain relevant as a political entity.

However, the rise of other Malay majority political parties most significantly the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has dented UMNO's almost untouchable position in the community.The support garnered by PKR and its charismatic de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has proven that a large segment of the Malay community is ready to march beyond narrow communal polemics.

Anwar, during the last general election and until now, has been consistent in promoting his party's two key policies - the New Malaysian Agenda and People's supremacism ( Ketuanan Rakyat) - which are direct juxtapose to UMNO's communal biased New Economic Policy and Malay supremacism (Ketuanan Melayu).The fact that more than half of Malay voters in Peninsula Malaysia supported PKR's policies and dumped UMNO's should have gotten the latter to do some serious soul searching.

Unfortunately, the party has refused to acknowledge some of the policies serious defects and injustices. Instead, the party has argued for the continuation of these policies by using the equity onwership, inter-community income disparity and poverty level benchmarks of the Malay community as its prime justification.

These are, beyond reasonable doubt, the symptoms of the failure of UMNO's policy implementation and governance despite its near total control of all power levers in the country. If the party, at this crucial juncture, cannot fathom the real causes of its lost of popularity and accept that the BN coalition is now near defunct, it should not be trusted fully to run this country and hope to provide a brighter future for all Malaysians.

If the lack of support of Malay voters for UMNO and its coalition parties is seen as a sign of Malay disunity, then shouldn't the self-proclaimed "wira-wira bangsa" (communal champions) in UMNO evaluate what were the main causes?

Three words summed up the main causes. Arrogance, ineptness and inefficient are the main reasons. In short, the Malay voters were not misguided and influenced to ditch UMNO. They did so because there are evidences of poor leadership, political arrogance, power abuse, corruption, nepotism and inept governance. These are a powerful cocktail can even knock out an elephant.

It is time for UMNO leaders to sober up. It must take cognisance of the importance of promoting true inter-ethnic harmony, good governance, prudent socio-economic management and a progressive democracy to stay relevant and become powerful again.

Fixation over ethno-nationalism to fire up communal fervour and hope to turn this negative energy into political support will eat away whatever goodwill left in the party and the BN coalition.

At this moment, UMNO needs the coalition partners support more than anything else. The push towards this politically motivated Malay unity talk will affect other component parties badly. When comes to the question of survival and when these parties are forced to face a situation where it is a choice between UMNO or their own survival, the choice is straight forward.

Although many of us are willing to support Prime Minister Abdullah's reform agenda, there is caveat. Reforms made must benefit all Malaysians and not only a certain segment of the society.

He must have the wisdom to avoid any zero-sum game.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bangsa Malaysia Dialogue

I was asked by Wong, a Malaysiakini.com journalist, to comment on UMNO-PAS Malay unity dialogue and the possibility of us decending into worse than pre-8th March communal strife.

I told Wong there is such a possibility if politicians continue to manipulate communal sentiments to mask their own incapability to solve multitude of problems and issues faced by the nation. I expressed my disappointment on Prime Minister Abdullah's lack of focus and wisdom on what steps to take to help us through the difficult time.

Soon after the general election, PM Abdullah had recommitted to his reform agenda only to backtrack on a number of good initiatives. This is one of them. He claimed to be a PM for all and yet he is seen as a front runner promoting a Malay unity talk. DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang rightly asked, "Why not Malaysian unity talk?"

Like other concerned Malaysians, I hope the dialogue will not divert UMNO's attention away from the hard knocks of economic slowdown, rising inflation, growing joblessness and others.

This country cannot function well to overcome all the challenges it faces if politicians tasked to govern are not willing to do their job. The achievement of Malay unity does not provide a direct solution to these challenges if the unity comes at the cost of true national reconciliation.

PAS MP Khalid Samad has let the cat out of the bag and revealed the real motive of the dialogue. UMNO wants to rule in perpetual and it is willing to do anything to achieve its aim. PAS wants to Islamize this country and it will do whatever it can to achieve its dream quick. This is a sad reality for us, a nation which claimed to be Malaysia truly Asia.

How many Malays actually support UMNO-PAS communal and religious ambition? How can other BN component parties reverse their political fortunes under current scenario?

I was asked if it is right for MCA to call for a Chinese unity dialogue. I said no because such a move is stupid and counter productive to what we wanted for our politics in the near future. Communal politics will impoverish us and will lead this country towards social chaos.

I would like to urge rightly minded Malaysians to initiative our own dialogue - a Dialogue for the creation of a truly Bangsa Malaysia. Let us put our efforts together to figure out ways on how to get rid of communal and religious extremism from our society.

Let me hear from you on what we should do to counter this dangerous communal fervour.
Come join me this 31st July at 4pm in E&O Hotel, Penang to talk about "The Future of Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia".
Panel speakers include Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Dr Anwar Fazal, Dr Neil Khor and myself.
This could be our starting point. Communal politics must not prevail if we are to have a good future for Malaysians.
Please RSVP. Email me at kpkhoo@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

UMNO-PAS Dialogue for National Unity?

Non-Muslims should not fear the Umno-PAS muzakarah (dialogue) because the talks will help to lead to national unity and stability, Umno supreme council member Mohd Shafie Apdal said.

Shafie said sensitive issues on religion and race should be resolved, or the people would continue to face conflicts, which in turn would cause security problems.

"If the talks can be seen as an avenue to seek solutions, I don't see why they cannot continue.

"As a minister in charge of unity, I welcome (such talks)," he added.

If he is speaking in his capacity as a minister, Shafie Apdal should be immediately sacked for making this statement.

In Malaysiakini.com, PAS Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad Khalid (right) claimed that the meeting was coloured with a racial agenda - to halt the predominantly Chinese DAP from making inroads into the Selangor government.

He said Umno wanted to work with PAS to stop DAP from securing positions in the state’s executive council.

Khir Toyo's allegations were stunning and revealed to us the hidden face of ugly communalism which will stunt instead of enhance national unity. He said:

As long as Anwar is important in Pakatan Rakyat the muzakarah will not succeed. Anwar does not want to see Malays unite and that is why he formed Pakatan that thrives on the ideals of equality to the extent of elevating other religions on the same par as the primary religion in this country, Islam," he added.

Khir said this was proven by the fact that Anwar was being supported by 'extremist' Chinese and Indians via opposition party DAP and the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

In the last general election, DAP secured nearly 65-70 percent of support from Chinese Malaysians. DAP got the support not because it projected an extremist image or promoted an extreme communal agenda. Khir has branded these Chinese Malaysians as extremists. His call is just a mirror image of himself. Nearly 65 percent of Indian votes went to the opposition.

It was on the contrary. As an election observer in Penang, I was quite impressed with the party's diversion from Chinese centric issues to champion nearly Malaysian causes such as good governance, accountability and transparency.

Barisan Nasional was rejected precisely for its role in promoting and practicing racist policies.

With such an ill intent revealed, Shafie Apdal must be mad to suggest that the dialogue is seeking to promote national unity. National unity based on the acceptance of racial dominance is not the right approach for Malaysians. How can the non-Malays be not worried when most of them are being termed as extremists?

As such, all Malaysians who are against racism must reject any dialogue which seeks to promote narrow communal interest.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Where to Gerakan?

On Saturday, I spoke to a member of Gerakan. He told me that some members in his party opined that the book on "Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia" is a political conspiracy against both the party advisor Dr Lim Keng Yaik and acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

As writers, both Neil and I are amazed by the allegations. Politicians must realise that their political actions come with a price. The price is public scrutiny of their track record as leaders. A criticism is poignant for the survival and relevance of the party.

Another state leader is disappointed for being painted negatively just because he was nominated to contest a state seat in the same parliamentary constituency as his sibling. We did not paint the negative perception of nepotism. The feedback gathered from various sources pointed to the same conclusion. It was a sugar coated arrangement for them so that no loser losses all.
Then again, politicians do not like to be criticised. Momentarily, the party leaders reacted to the near total electoral defeat positively. Now, it seems that they have eased back to their old comfort zone. A supporter of Gerakan who claimed to know Dr Koh as a personal friend for 22 years called me earlier today to express the same sentiment.

Yesterday, the 60 year old Gerakan acting head told the press "I will not be president for more than two terms. I don't intend to." He said this was to give young Gerakan leaders the opportunity to helm the party. Ironically, these young leaders will not be young anymore come another 6 years.

It does not matter how long his tenure will be if crucial issues in the party are not being addressed. Dr Koh leadership must address how Gerakan is going to back to its roots - being a truly non-sectarian party - if it continues to tolerate a dominant communal partner in a communal based coalition.

What are the party responses to both the New Economic Policy and the social contract? The failure of the NEP is very obvious. The policy was successfully communalised by UMNO to become a tool to project its communal hegemony through the power to redistribute resources. Sadly, the policy did not promote a just income distribution but used to enrich a selected few.

We cannot deny the existence of the social contract. It is not purely a constitutional contract but a political contract agreed collectively by BN leaders. Inevitably, this contract whilst was intended to protect the socio-political interests of a particular community has stunted nation building.

This contract runs contrary to the Gerakan ideology of Bangsa Malaysia.

Can the party, under Dr Koh Tsu Koon, ask for a review of these two crucial policies?

Without addressing these issues, there is no hope for the revival of Gerakan as a truly non-sectarian party.

Six years is not a long time but it is enough to lead the party to its eventual political death if nothing drastic and bold is being done to address these issues.

We will eagerly awaiting the responses of his leadership with another book on the future of non-sectarian party.

Will Dr Koh leadership lead to a new era of a stronger and purposeful Gerakan or the last nail on its coffin?

The ball is in his court.

This picture paints a thousand words. I hope he has more faith in blogging now.
Picture from www.chanlilian.net

Friday, July 18, 2008

Different Fortunes

At the Al-Jazeera's Studio with anchor Kamahl yesterday, I was asked about possible political conspiracies. Hence, here are my thoughts:

When asked about the Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy allegations, I was tempted to rule out any political motive initially but the development of the case has made me changed my mind. Both sides of the political divide have politicized it to the benefit of one and detriment to the other.

Members of Anwar’s led coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have charged at the ruling regime for conspiring with his accuser, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, and the police to derail Anwar’s plan to take over the federal government by 16th September. Saiful is painted as an opportunist and a puppet of a certain top leader who is also beleaguered by a damning accusation.

Moreover, Saiful has appeared very gungho and even challenged Anwar to an Islamic swearing to prove his innocence. Saiful’s action did not help to strengthen his case when his behaviour is contrasted with other traumatised sexually abused victims.

Since then, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat de-facto leader has benefited from a surge in popularity and public sympathy. Anwar is a clear winner in public perception. Reeling from the first sodomy charge against Anwar ten years ago and the lack of public confidence in key institutions in the country, this accusation is less sticky and has lost an element of surprise. The public did not react with awe but instead grew tired of such political drama.

The manner in which Anwar was detained outside his house by a group of special task force in balaclavas before the police deadline has delivered a crucial blow to the police already battered public image. Despite Federal CID director commissioner Mohd Bakri Zinin claim that Anwar might renege on his promise to show up, the action was still too dramatic. Anwar is a well-known politician and not an undercover terrorist.

Strategically, it is no surprise if Anwar were to announce his candidacy in a parliamentary by-election in the near future. Riding on the wave of his popularity and public sympathy, he is widely expected to win hands down.

In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor was accorded a different treatment when the police went to take her statement. She was treated, rightly so, courteously. Meanwhile, Najib was not even required to give his statement although the manner in which two statutory declarations filed on two consecutive days by an important witness, private investigator Balasubramaniam, was highly suspicious.

In Anwar’s case, the police are now looking at legal options to compel him to give his DNA to them. However, with nothing much revealed in the Raja Petra’s statutory declaration against Rosmah the police have detained the former and charged him with a criminal defamation offence. Since these cases involved important public figures, the police should hold a public conference to explain and divulge details which led them to the conclusions. Both cases have a similarity – based on accusations – but were treated very differently by the relevant authorities.
This way, it is little known how the police are able to convince Malaysians that they will act without fear or favour.

Politically, the Barisan Nasional will continue to suffer from the perception gap and credibility deficit. It cannot afford to politicise these cases. Hence, Minister of Internal Security Syed Hamid Albar contradictory statements did not help the image of his government. First, he claimed that the police decided to be “flexible” and released Anwar Ibrahim on bail although the offence was a non-bailable one. Then, he acknowledged that the police had yet to formally charge him with any crime.

Syed Hamid’s statements made a mockery of our rule of law. If Anwar is formally charged with an offence, there should not be a need for the police to show any flexibility. But he is innocent until proven guilty and like any Malaysians, he should be treated with the full protection of his constitutional rights.

As such, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s leadership transition plan and reform agenda looked very shaky at the moment. Perception is very important in politics. To ensure a successful transition and the preservation of his reformist legacy, Abdullah must ensure a solid public support and confidence in the top leadership. If Anwar is required to endure the full process of law to measure his credibility, so must any other leaders inflicted with similar accusations. This is a peril of public office.

Thus far, the proposed reforms on both the judiciary and the police force are taking a snail pace. The restoration of service gratuity to judges sacked during the 1988 judicial crisis is only a tip of the iceberg. His cabinet members, especially those from UMNO, have refused to support the proposal by de-facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim to create a peer-based Judiciary Commission to appoint and promote judges.

Constitutional amendment which will help to restore judiciary independence is still in the pipeline. The proposal to set up an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission is not on the menu.

Ultimately, Abdullah’s reform pledges will be severely tested by the manner in which the V.K Lingam judicial appointment fixing scandal, Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy accusation, Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor alleged involvements in the Altantuya’s murder and other landmark cases will be handled by both the judiciary and the police.

It is pertinent for his reform-centric administration to focus on strengthening some key institutions to ensure their empowerment to carry out their duties above politics and perceived favouritism. The freeing of the Anti-Corruption Agency from the Attorney-General office and by according it with a direct prosecution power is a step in the right direction.

Now, all eyes are on the reforms of both the judiciary and the police. Politicians must not put Malaysia’s international image in jeopardy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Forum Panelist - Dato' Anwar Fazal

Anwar Fazal is a leading international civil society person who has contributed much to our society in areas of consumer, health environment, human rights and social ethics. Deeply concerned about the social injustices, especially those unconscionable marketing practices by the transnational corporations in developing countries, he has strived to and has succeeded in bringing these to international attention way back in the 1970s.

Anwar Fazal is a founder and one of the prime movers of several local and global citizens movements, among them the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) founded in 1969, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) formed in 1979, Health Action International (HAI) in 1981 and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) formed in 1982. His determination and driving force helped establish the much-needed Consumer Interpol in 1981, which was a consumer and environmental alert system to monitor the global trade in hazardous products and technologies. The 1990s saw him involved in setting up the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the Water Watch Asia, the Sustainable Transport Action Network (SUSTRAN), Waste Wise Asia, the Asian Partnership for International Migration (APIM) and the Malaysian Society for Transparency and Integrity.

Click here for his full biodata.

Forum Panelist - Dato' Dr Toh Kin Woon

Dr. Toh Kin Woon is a previously elected member of the State Legislative Assembly, Penang and Penang State Executive Councilor for Education, Economic Planning, Human Resource Development, Science, Technology & Innovation. He received his M.A. in Development Economics at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom with distinction and later on his PhD in Economics at the University of Malaya.

Recent awards that he has received are the 2005 Outstanding Individual Award for Human Resource Development from the Asian Regional Training and Development Organization, Lim Lian Geok Spiritual Award for 2007 and the Asian Public Intellectual (API) Fellowship for 2008/2009 by the Japan Foundation for research in the Philippines and Japan.
Forum on "The Future of Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia" in conjunction with the book launch of "Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia" will be held on 31st July at 4pm.
Venue: E&O Hotel
Registration: Email your particulars to kpkhoo@yahoo.com or neilkhor@gmail.com

Book Launch and Forum - Update

One more panelist:

Dr Ooi Kee Beng has confirmed participating in our launch and forum as a panelist. Kee Beng is one of the reviewers of the book. He is currently away in Europe.

The other panelists are Dato' Dr Toh Kin Woon and Dato' Anwar Fazal.
Photo courtersy of Lensa Malaysia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Bad Decision

From Malaysiakini.com:

Star Online quoted Federal CID director Bakri Zinin as saying that Anwar was supposed to have gone directly to the police headquarters immediately after giving his statement to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) in Putrajaya.

"However, we were informed that after he left the ACA headquarters in Putrajaya, he had changed his route and was heading back to his house in (Bukit) Segambut.

"He was arrested as we had reason to believe he was not going to show up. We wish to point out that Anwar had initially agreed to meet us on Monday but failed to keep his appointment."

Yesterday, the same Bakri Zinin told a room packed with newsmen that Anwar is given until 2pm today to appear himself at the Police HQ. However, Anwar was arrested between 12.55pm to 1.05pm outside his residence at Bukit Segambut.

Even if Bakri has a legitimate reason to doubt Anwar's promise to show up at his office by 2pm, he should have kept his promise and adhere strictly to the deadline given to Anwar to do so.

This knee-jerk reaction exposed Bakri's lack of professionalism and poor handling of the case. He should bear in mind that Anwar is not just anybody but a top opposition leader who has a huge following in the country. Moreover, Anwar has prevailed in the public perception about his involvement in the alleged sodomy case.

This action, coupled with rumours of another crack down against opposition leaders, will not put the current Abdullah administration in a good light. Already, the police is suffering from poor public perception and a good number of people actually believed that the police are being used as a coersive political tool by the ruling regime to snuff out any opposition against the regime.

At any moment, the police must demonstrate their independence. They must not only seen to be fair but also act fairly at all times.

This incident (of which no arrest warrant was shown to suspect - updated) and the arbitrary decision taken by Bakri Zinin confirmed our fear that the police will act at its own whim and fancy if there is no IPCMC to ensure the police are not above the law.

Bakri must explain his action. Failing to do so, the Bar Council and Suhakam must intervene to get proper explanation from the government.

Anwar is innocent until proven guilty. I would like to urge the relevant authorities to ensure he gets his fair defence and trial at an open court.

Oil Debate

I would like to congratulate both debaters, PKR Adviser Anwar Ibrahim and Information Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek, for putting up a good show at last night's debate.

The one-hour debate, entitled “Today we form the Government, tomorrow the fuel prices will go down” was organised by online news portal Agenda Daily and was broadcast live over TV9, Astro Awani and Bernama TV.

Several newspapers have came out with their verdict. NST says there is no clear winner in the debate. Anil Netto writes in Malay Mail, "While mainstream media reports suggested that there were no clear winners, comments on blogs showed the vast majority felt that Anwar's arguments sounded more convincing."

Earlier, Ahmad Shabery pledged to resign if he failed to defend the government's decision to lower subsidy. There is not need for him to do despite the outcome of the debate. Ahmad has shown an openness in political discourse which will not be possible under the hawkish ex-minister Zainuddin Maidin (who was defeated in the last general election).

Some observations:

Both Anwar and Shabery did well by respecting the debate rules and regulations. However, Shabery, despite his advantage of being a member of the Malaysian Cabinet, did not take his chances well to explain to the audience what the government intends to do with the savings, to manage energy consumption to ensure no wastage, to manage inflation and to promote a sustainable use of energy in the future.

He wasted to much time on unsubstantiated and unqualified attacks on Anwar. In closing, Shabery criticised Anwar for his opposition stance, citing that he challenged the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein when he formed Petronas and also challenged former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he improved Petronas’ performance.

Ahmad Shabery also took a political dig on Anwar, saying that if Anwar had been in power, open debates such as these would never have been allowed.

Meanwhile, Anwar's focus on the government's inefficiency in managing public resources was effective and convincing. He charged at the government's inability to manage the economy by allowing retail fuel price to escalate drastically. The price increase is manageable by the government if it had decided on a gradual increase.

However, Anwar did not elaborate how his coalition intends to manage several main issues e.g. over consumption/wastage due to subsidy, improvement of economic conditions due to global cost pressure and possible financial meltdown and enhancing competitiveness.

I agree that no one is a clear winner although Anwar had a slight edge over Ahmad Shabery for the latter's tendency to hit below the belt.

The winners are the public. It is time for political discourse to move beyond personality and sectarianism towards more issue centric.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Foolish Decision, Mr Minister!

According to a Malaysiakini report, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar claimed that his ministry had received crucial information indicating that a demonstration was to have been staged in Parliament today.

This was based on "two political speeches, two blogs and two SMS (text-messages)", he said in parliament. While refusing to divulge details, he cited one text-message as having urged people to show their support for the emergency motion of no-confidence that was to have been debated yesterday.

Syed Hamid should not read too much into blogs and text messages. After all, this was an advice from his colleagues such as Zahid Hamidi. Surprisingly, the government, which urged the public not to trust bloggers, had acted contrary to their own reminder.

The government should not react on rumours. The police should have been more professional in handling these false messages and investigate their source. If there were trusted and accurate information on the perpetrators, the police should have made pre-emptive arrests and not to bring the entire city to a standstill. This action is unscrupulous.

Now, Syed Hamid must be made accountable for his decision. He is holding public office and anyone holding such as a position must show the highest integrity and commitment to the people. He must provide a detailed explanation to us.

My guess is this is not the case of safeguarding public safety. The BN government is still using the same old tactic to frustrate commuters and drivers so that they will blame it on the opposition. Syed Hamid should remember that the directive to erect roadblocks around KL was his ministry's call and not the opposition's.

I was one of commuters who had my journey delayed by almost an hour. From the feedback I have gathered from those affected, they blamed the BN and not the opposition. Syed Hamid should have reflected harder before making such a foolish decision.

Picture courtesy of Malaysiakini.com

Monday, July 14, 2008

Invitation to Book Launch

The future for Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia
A Forum Organised by Trafalgar Publishing House & Sponsored by E&O Hotel

Thursday 31st July 2008 at 4pm
E&O Hotel, George Town, Penang

This forum brings together academics, civil society activists and politicians in a discussion about the future of non-sectarian politics in Malaysia. Non-sectarian politics is defined as politics free of narrow sectarian interests especially those related to race and creed. Panelists will speak on the history of non-sectarian politics in the country; defining multi-ethnic politics in Malaysia; Malaysia post-2008 General Elections; and future trends for non-sectarian politics.

The forum also hopes to stimulate discussion and further thinking about the trajectory of Malaysia's major political parties? It also asks whether the way Malaysians voted in 2008 was a fluke or the strengthening of multi-ethnic politics.

The forum speakers are Dato' Dr. Toh Kin Woon, Executive Director of SERI and former Penang State Exco Member; Civil Society activist Dato' Anwar Fazal; political analyst Khoo Kay Peng and historian Dr Neil Khor.

Included in the event is the launching of “Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia”.

The Programme

4.00 pm Registration of Guests
4.15 pm Arrival of Special Guests
4.30 pm Speech by Dato' Seri Nazir Ariff, Chairman of Trafalgar Publishing House
4.45 pm Launching of the book “Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia”
4.50pm Tea
5.00 pm Forum: “The Future of Non Sectarian Politics in Malaysia”
6.00pm Q & A
6.30pm Function Ends


As places are limited, we hope you can confirm attending the function by emailing neilkhor@gmail.com or kpkhoo@yahoo.com; all telephone enquiries can be directed to Ms Mazeeta Hassan (mazeta.hassan@e-o-hotel.com) at 042222181.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Al-Jazeera on Fuel Protest

Catch the show on AJE Astro 513 at 11am & 2.30pm Friday (11 July), Sat (1opm), Sun (1.30pm) and next Tues (6.30pm). I am one of the guest commentators.

Book Launch

Our book on "Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia" can be found in MPH bookstores throughout the country.

In case you cannot find it at the bookstore near your place, please place a booking with the management. Other bookstores which will carry the book include Kinokuniya, Borders, Popular and Times. Those living in Petaling Jaya, KL and Penang can also place an order with me. The advantage is you will get an autographed copy!

A launch and forum will be organised in Penang on the 29th July at the E&O Hotel, Penang. Further information will be posted here.



The Star by Joceline Tan:

The Voice of Politics: (Blogger is a Gerakan Youth member in Penang)

VeonStead: (Blogger Khaw Veon Szu was the BN Tanjung parliamentary candidate)
Dr Hsu Dar Ren: (Blogger is a medical doctor and a division leader of Parti Gerakan) - New!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Georgetown and Malacca - World Heritage Sites

The citizens of Malacca and Penang rejoiced as they celebrate the inscription of their state capitals as World Heritage Sites.

Besides an increase awareness and commitment towards heritage conservation, George Town and Malacca should also see a boost in tourism from the new recognition.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants more efforts to be made to improve the facilities and cleanliness of George Town and Malacca.

Meanwhile, Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Shafie Apdal said the Federal Government had no problem working with both the Penang and Malacca state governments to preserve their historical heritage.

"The preservation of these heritage sites is not based on political interests, but on the interests of the nation," he said, adding his ministry would be seeking additional allocations from the Federal Government for conservation and maintenance.

Since the 8th March general election, the federal government has not shown any positive reaction towards the gesture of Penang CM Lim Guan Eng's call to work closely with the federal government to help develop the state.

In his statement, Lim hoped Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would work together with the state to ensure the preservation of all heritage buildings and sites.

Many of us who are prepared to give Abdullah another chance to walk his talk have been disappointed with his progress so far. Last week, the PM had decided to cancel two major projects in Penang e.g. the monorail and PORR.

Although environmental groups rejoiced over the decision not to proceed with PORR, most of the groups agreed that more have to be done to improve public transport system in Penang.

The federal and state governments need to work together to enhance public safety and quality of services in the state.

PM Abdullah must be able to put interests of the state above politics and approve special allocation for both Penang and Malacca to help preserve, upgrade and restore their heritage sites and promote their new world heritage status.

Saiful's Dare

Saiful Bukhari claimed he is a victim. Now, he even challenged PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to solve the matter either through mubahalah (malediction) or take oath in front of ulamaks (religious figures).

In an e-mail sent to local TV station, Saiful said: “The truth will prevail. Falsehood will surely be exposed.”

He ended the e-mail by challenging Anwar to set the time and date to solve the matter through mubahalah.

“Just inform me of the time and date. I am not afraid to keep my promise,” he added.

For me, Saiful did not act like someone who can be easily manipulated or sexually abused against his will. He fights back and he would have done the same if an act so despicable was done to him against his will.

Now, his reaction begets more questions. I do not want to be judgemental but I am sure Saiful does not need the mubahalah to tell us the truth if he was violated against his will.

Tell us the whole truth. A challenge to take oath in front of religious figures is a mere political play.

Surely Saiful does not want to be 'violated' again, this time as a political pawn.

Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim had lodged a report with the Federal Territory religious department against Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan for falsely accusing him of fornication. Anwar had filed a defamation suit against Saiful when he made the allegations against Anwar.

Saiful cannot act like a politician and claimed to be a victim.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

National Crisis

I am not in KL and was not able to update my blog regularly. But I have been thinking very hard about some of the problems, controversies, stunning allegations and issues besetting us and the nation in the last few days.

Today, at a lunch with a prominent retired politician we shared some of our concerns about the country.

Imagine, the P. Balasubramaniam's SD drama, the sodomy allegations against Anwar Ibrahim and RPK's SD against Rosmah. These cases have created bad public perceptions against our national leaders.

Worse, many Malaysians are now confused and disappointed with politics in the country.

It stinks!

It is unfortunate that many of us have lost our trust in some key institutions in the country. Allegations of case tempering by judges, manipulations in police investigation and sensational involvements of political personalities in some of the most controversial cases are worrying. Together, they pose a great risk and challenge to Malaysia's credibility.

As Lim Kit Siang puts it, the P. Balasubramaniam's about turn is now making more people believing the his first SD. This is unfortunate. The more we wanted the public to gain access to real information and facts, the more confused they have become.

Is there law and order in the country? Is there transparency in our justice system? Is there a credibility gap or wedge between the people and the government? Can we correct our battered public image?

Governments around the world are focused on fighting inflation, social-economic challenges and other challenges including job creation but ours is busy with political assassinations and contestations.

We have had enough of all these nonsense. I have said that we demand all parties involved to come out clean on everything. It is disappointing to note that politicians, who wanted our mandate to rule, after getting the mandate are neglecting their responsibility.


Here, I share Wong Chun Wai, Marina Mahathir and other's call to "to post their disgust at our politicians and ignore all these press statements, press conferences and their lies, excuses and explanations for the next 24 hours."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Damning Allegations on DPM Najib

The drama continues today with another statutory declaration lodged against DPM Najib Razak. Balasubramaniam, the private investigator hired by Abdul Razak Baginda released a shocking statutory declaration.

He claimed that he had told the police that Razak said he was introduced to Altantuya by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a diamond exhibition in Singapore and that Najib told him that he (Najib) and Altantuya had a sexual relationship and that "she was susceptible to anal intercourse."

Never mind the 'anal intercourse' part but I thought his declaration would have made more impact if he had made it at a neutral location and not at the PKR headquarters with the presence of Anwar Ibrahim.

Read Najib's statement:

"The statutory declaration, which I consider as a horrible lie, a mere fabrication with malicious intention and slanderous element which aimed to smear my image. I am very sure that this is a very desperate attempt to divert attention from the sodomy allegation that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is facing now.”

As a result of Balasubramaniam's decision to choose a non-neutral platform, Najib is trying again to divert the need to answer to his allegations.

I have said in my previous posts that these two (now three) cases are of the highest priority to the nation because they involved top personalities in the country - both are 'prime ministers in-waiting' although we understood that there can only be a prime minister at any point in time.

If both men wanted to lead this country, you and me they must be able to win over people's confidence in their leadership. Public perception is key to a political leadership. At the moment, public perceptions against both men have been distorted.

I would like to urge the civil society organisations, responsible media organisations and the Bar Council to play crucial roles in the process of seeking the truth in these cases.

Civil society organisations and individuals must stay above politics for the sake of the nation. We cannot afford any deceit or malice to sip into our justice system. This is a time to act and stay alert for the sake of the country.

Like a statesman once said, "Politics cannot be the sole business of running others down but do nothing else".

I hope media organisations will provide with undistorted news and information leading to the investigation and judicial processes to seek justice for the aggrieved parties. For the past few days, I am not totally impressed with both the new and old media.

Finally, I would like to urge the Bar Council to set up a special committee to monitor these cases to ensure that the judicial and enforcement systems are impartial and untainted.

Malaysians must take control of our own destiny. These cases are beyond the personalities involved. The credibility of the entire nation is at stake.

No Medical Report on Sodomy

The Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) Wednesday denied that it issued a statement on the results of the medical examination conducted on Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, who was allegedly sodomised by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

HKL director Datuk Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain, in a statement issued here Wednesday, said the hospital did not release nor reveal any information, findings or made any conclusion concerning the medical examination on Mohd Saiful."We have abided by and complied with all procedures in handling such cases professionally," she said.

Now, NST must explain where it got the scope for the news report it published yesterday which concluded that Saiful was indeed sodomised or involved in anal sex.

NST must publish an explanation for its report. Otherwise, people will smell conspiracy again.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

New Media Versus Old Media

Both the old and new media saw an opportunity to put up a show of strength again. Anwar's sodomy allegations gave them a new avenue to play their game. Only this time, their object is Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the accuser.

Blogs have gone on an overdrive to paint a negative picture of Saiful. On the other side, old media such as the NST is trying to reverse public opinion about him. Not to be left out, Janna Syariza, the fiancee of Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, has declared that she will stand by her man through the “monstrous battle that is looming ahead”.

I can't understand what 'monstrous battle' she meant here. The approach to the allegations is really simple.

I heard that the medical report on Saiful's condition is already out. We don't need rocket scientists to help us or the police understand the report. It should read whether or not a 'penetration into the anus' of Saiful did happen. Was there a fresh or old tear?

Update: NST

Checks yesterday also revealed that doctors at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, after a battery of tests, found indications that Mohd Saiful had engaged in anal sex.

Can the evidence prove that Anwar was the aggressor? Is Saiful a victim? What is the motive of the accuser?

Apart from some suggestions that it will not be possible for a 61-year old man to forcefully 'rape' a 23-year old man by himself (bad back included), were there any other individuals involved? Did Saiful name them?

We do not need speculations, allegations, assumptions and worse politicisation of the case. Just get down right to the facts and findings.

I have said that Malaysians are growing tired and suspicious of all politicians. We must get down to the bottom of this case and someone must be made to pay for the stupidity or crime.

So, why can't the police act on the medical report immediately? Need the help of rocket scientists?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mukhriz's Deadline to Abdullah

Looking back at a news report on Mukhriz's ultimatum to Abdullah to relinquish three positions before July: Prime Minister, UMNO President and BN Chairman.

NST: "He claimed several other members have given Abdullah an ultimatum, that is to quit all three positions before the branch elections start in July.

He said although Abdullah has made it clear that he would not leave the party despite Dr Mahathir’s resignation, many Umno members will pressure him to do so by conducting road shows and campaigns.

“Many people are of the opinion that he should leave immediately and this is the feedback that we get from members and even veterans,” he added.

Now the spotlight is on Mukhriz since the deadline has expired today. Abdullah is still the PM, UMNO President and BN Chairman. He is poised to seek re-election in the next party election.

What is Mukhriz going to do?

Constrasting Reactions

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, will not sue Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin for alleging her involvement in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

“I have nothing to say. I have given my statement to the police and that’s it,” she said.

Asked if she would sue Raja Petra for defamation, she said she did not want to address unnecessary issues because she had other bigger things to attend to for the people and for the nation.

Asked why she would not address such a serious allegation, she said it did not matter.
“If you are innocent, what is there for you to address? I am not a politician and I am not running for any post. I’m just the wife of a politician,” she said Tuesday during the Asia-Pacific Conference on Children’s Book Publishing.

I am quite surprised by her reactions. If she wants to attend to bigger things, this is it. As an important personality in the country, she could help us by bringing culprits who spread lies and malices to book and help to ensure that such actions will not be repeated again.

RPK has made damning allegations, through a statutory declaration, against Rosmah and this action must not be left off the hook if she is convinced of her innocence.

Rosmah said she is not a politician but a wife of a politician. What is the difference? If the allegations do not hurt her image personally, she should consider the possible damage on Najib's political credibility.

Based on my observation, it is BEST for Rosmah to sue RPK for malice and defamation. Her reactions may not ensure that there will be no further allegations against her. If this is not serious enough - accusing her of playing a part in the murder - what is?

Meanwhile, PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim has filed a suit against his former aide for lodging an allegedly malicious false report against him and defaming him.

He also lodged a police report against police chief Musa Hassan and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail for allegedly fabricating evidence in his trials 10 years ago.

Funny that Anwar has lodged a police report against the chief of police and yet he does not trust the police. Hence, I do not think he is expecting any action against the IGP and AG. He is merely doing it for the record.

A colleague told me she received an email from a researcher from Germany asking what kind of country she is living in.

We are going to be a butt of joke internationally. I suggest that we take those culprits to task once we get down to the bottom of these two high profile cases.