Sunday, May 08, 2011

Real Threats to Islam, 1Malaysia & the Making of Polarized Malaysia

The NGO Muslim Organisation in Defence of Islam (Pembela) has blamed Christianity as one of the biggest contributing factor to their alleged decline of Islam in Malaysia.

"It is clear for all to see, of the aggressiveness and confrontational ways of Christians in bringing cases to court, their police reports all over the country and their press statements whether on the Allah or Al-Kitab issue.

"They all have something to do with their movement in spreading Christianity amongst the people," said Pembela president Yusri Mohamad.

Adding that Christians are on a mission to convert Muslims in the country, he said that it all starts with “confusing” Muslims by using Islamic terms.

"It is their strategy to confuse Muslims by using terms and phrases which the Muslims commonly use," he said.

I feel sorry for Pembela president Yusri Mohamad, whom I had met years ago when I was running a policy think tank, and his desperation to find some recognition and fame for his little known movement.

If Christians are behaving aggressively they would not have referred their grouses to the relevant authorities including the judiciary and the police. There are many examples of groups behaving aggressively in the name of protecting their god and religion by resorting to violent struggle and suicide killing.

Yusri and his movement illogical allegations and attacks against Christians are a far larger threat against 1Malaysia and the spirit of multiculturalism.

It is a fact that Yusri, as a Muslim intellectual, should admit and acknowledge. The use of a common term "Allah" is not enough to confuse the Muslims into believing that Christian and Islam are the same religion. There are many other relics, rituals and prayers which clearly set apart and differentiated both religions.

Yusri, as a responsible Muslim activist, should assist to help bridge the misunderstanding and help to restore confidence within the Muslim community that they should not be afraid of something which had been practiced and used in the Middle East where the term of "Allah" has been shared by both Christians and Muslims for centuries.

Did Yusri attempt to do anything of the above? No, but members of his movement went even further by saying that globalisation, liberalisation and pluralism are threats to Islam. If Muslims cannot accept globalisaton and pluralism, they might find themselves being disconnected from the global society.

Islam, as a great religion, is far more diverse than what Pembela members thought. Malays are not the only Muslims in the world. There are more Chinese Muslims that the whole Malaysian population.

Christianity, globalisation, pluralism and liberalisation do not find Islam being a threat. Real Islam does not find them as threats as well.

What is threatening us and Islam are people who are determined to create conflict between us such as the allegations of parties trying to supplant Islam by amending the federal constitution in order to appoint a Christian PM.

Yusri and Pembela members cannot be so stupid to be taken by such senseless and brainless allegations. Who can amend the federal constitution especially on the position of Islam as the official religion? Barisan Nasional parliamentarians would need to support the move assuming that all Pakatan MPs agree to the resolution. The latter is already a tall order!

Next, we need the Council of Malay Rulers to approve and pass the resolution. This is almost next to impossible.

By alleging that there is such a move to usurp the position of Islam through a constitution amendment, is Pembela questioning the integrity of the Rulers and Members of Parliament in defending and protecting the sanctity of Islam in the federal constitution?

How many Christians are in the Council and Parliament?

If Yusri and Pembela members cannot answer such a simple question, they are not fit to call themselves the defenders of Islam.

Pembela, Yusri, Bigdog, Marahku and all other nameless and faceless bloggers taking an advantage of their anonymity to spread lies and malice are the real threats to 1Malaysia, the federation and Islam by peddling something dangerous and irresponsible. If Minister Hishammudin is calling for an investigation into these allegations, he must be prepared to be investigated too since he is a MP.

PM Najib must not take these threats lightly or he might face an unprecedented challenge to his leadership.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

13th GE: Battle for the Middle Ground

In the forthcoming 13th GE, political parties need to focus on the middle ground. The middle ground has enlarged partly due to poor publicity and internal issues faced by the opposition.

Apart from the Dap, both Pas and PKR are facing an unsettled electoral base. Erosion of support among the Malay and Indian voters is the biggest challenge facing the opposition.

For Pakatan, it is not good if only Dap is doing its part in winning the majority of Chinese voters. It is difficult to tell when Pas' patience may run thin if the party loses more Malay majority seats or loses Kelantan in the next GE.

Pakatan needs to address the Malay dilemma very quickly. The newly minted coalition has argued against the failure of NEP but it has not been able to do more by introducing an alternative policy to address the multifarious socio-economic issues faced by the community.

In the end, the return of Malay voters to the ruling coalition may be contributed by a lack of alternative policy or a new hope for the community rather than Umno's supremacy chant. The community would rather find comfort within a familiar environment than to venture out into the unknown.

Politicians must take note that 'ketuanan Melayu' to them is interpreted differently from the common people. Politicians want to preserve political power for themselves. Most of the Malay voters fear a worse backlash on their socio-economic situation and livelihood if their rights are no longer protected by the government. Not many Malays seriously believe that they are a far superior race compared to others.

They needed 'ketuanan Melayu' to protect their own well-being. Until and unless there is a programme to empower and to build the capacity of the community, Malaysia race based political model would continue to be effective and relevant. Dominant race based parties will continue to dominate.

Anwar Ibrahim may be an inspirational leader to Pakatan members but his on-going sodomy trial and unending sexual allegations may have taken their toll on his party and the coalition. Most of the leaders in PKR are Anwar's cheer leaders. None of them are ready to step up and step out of Anwar's shadow.

The party depends too much on Anwar to persuade the Malay voters to support the party. Unfortunately, the de facto leader is not in the right position to help his party to galvanize the middle ground.

On the other hand, the Umno led Barisan Nasional is making too many conflicting moves which may not help the coalition to make any significant gains from the middle ground too.

The return of some Malay and Indian support should not be misconstrued as a return of popular support for the coalition.

The lost of Malay and Indian support in the last GE was somewhat contributed by Mahathir's relentless attacks on Abdullah Badawi which had led to an internal strife within Umno and partly Indians unhappiness with Samy Vellu.

With both Abdullah and Samy out of the way, the coalition should claw back at least 5-15% support from both communities. The gains made are actually from Barisan own core supporters which had chosen to vote against them in the last GE.

PM Najib has tried to win over the middle ground through his NEM and 1Malaysia initiatives. However, several conflicting moves e.g. 1Melayu 1Bumi, Perkasa, Pembela, Muslim NGOs, sex video, abuse of power, corruption, overstaying leaders etc. made by his allies are going to dent his hope of winning over the middle ground.

Next GE is going to be a very polarized one for Malaysia. There are two sides of Malaysian politics: urban & rural politics.

Urban politics is largely dominated by a large middle ground. These voters expect less politicking and are less tolerant of bad governance and arrogant politicians. Most of them are expected to still vote against the Barisan if the coalition does not change its political strategy drastically to represent a more responsible and moderate face.

Rural areas are probably going to vote for status quo. They are still somewhat insulated from the issues and challenges by urban folks including inflation, high cost of living and others.

However, a government is run from the city. Policies are being formulated in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The world, when measuring Malaysia's development and affluence, would be looking at Kuala Lumpur and not Lenggong or Kudat.

So far, no one is winning the battle for the middle ground yet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

MCA & A Statement of Fact

MCA's decision not to accept any posts in the Cabinet should its results at the next general election be poorer than that of the 2008 polls will truly embody the spirit of democracy, said party deputy president Liow Tiong Lai.

Whatever MCA decides to do after the next GE is a private business of the party. But the MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek obviously did not propose this action without a clear intention. The message is directed at the Chinese voters that they risk losing representation if they continue to vote for the opposition parties.

It is quite clear that Dr Chua was reacting to the outcome of Sarawak state elections where the Chinese voters, along with other urban voters, had ditched the ruling coalition and voted for the opposition. It is not clear if the outcome will be emulated in the Peninsula Malaysia.

If Chua's call was to help stem the further erosion of Chinese support for the party, it is without a doubt a poor political call. The call will not lead MCA anywhere. It is not going to help MCA restore or win back the support of Chinese voters.

This is a statement of fact. It is a fact that most Chinese voters do not think highly of MCA representatives in the government.

MCA needs to do more than just exercising its democratic rights to join the government or not. The party needs to work a lot harder to win back its credibility. MCA's representation in the Cabinet must be good for something. Good for what? This is a fundamental question the party must answer quickly.

Otherwise, Chua would have to brace for a potential sabotage from his own party members who may want to see zero MCA representatives, especially his allies, in the government. In the last party elections, Chua defeated his opponents by receiving less than 50% of popular support from the delegates.

To ensure its own survival, the party must move away from the practice of insider politics. The party must be willing to embrace and attract new and highly critical members into the party. The party needs to be revitalized with younger blood. This is something lacking in the party hierarchy.

Next, the party needs to engage the federal government like it is really in the government. Socio-economic policies which are not beneficial to the country must be contested and debated in the parliament and in the Cabinet. The party must be proactive trying to improve policy making and implementation at the federal level.

The party must argue against corruption, wastage of public funds, protectionist policies, racism, poor governance and others which are truly beneficial to the people.

It is a statement of fact that the MCA is not doing any of the above as part of the ruling coalition. As such, the party's intention to leave the government should it performs badly at the next GE will not attract any sympathy.

It is a statement of fact too that the party is going to suffer a possible political extinction if it really performs badly in the next GE and is not included in the Cabinet.

It is a risk I am not too sure if Dr Chua can personally justify as a president of MCA. He needs better advisers.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Anwar Ibrahim & The Perfect Decoy

If the 1999 sodomy allegation & trial did not stop Anwar Ibrahim and his loosely assembled coalition from denying Barisan Nasional its two thirds majority in 2008, what makes the the ruling government think that it can end Anwar's political career with the current "hooker" sex video?

Anwar has provided a perfect decoy for the Pakatan coalition for some years now. It is Anwar who has diverted the Barisan's attention away from attacking the leaders of Dap and Pas. Dap leaders are able to continue working quietly and peacefully to strengthen their political base throughout major cities in Malaysia.

By continuing to attack Anwar on his recent sexual misconducts, the action helps to highlight and magnify the hypocrisy in Barisan's own camp when dealing with its own leaders' marital problems and sexual misconducts.

Without Anwar, the Barisan component parties would have stepped up worse racial pressure against the main benefactor of the growing discontent in cities, the Dap.

Meanwhile, Umno and its associated organizations/allies are expected to push the gas pedal on racial issues by claiming that the Chinese community aspires to take over the running of this country.

MCA has started the ball rolling by declaring that it will not seek positions in both federal and state governments should the party loses more seats than 2008. It means that the Chinese voters must vote for the party if they want Chinese representatives in the cabinet.

It is best for the party to quickly understand that the community wants more than mere representation. They wanted a voice and representatives who can help to carry their voices, concerns and aspirations into parliament and government.

MCA president Chua Soi Lek said that he supported Malay special rights enshrined in the federal constitution. It is pertinent for those promoting Malay special rights to fully understand the spirit of Article 153. The privileges are rooted in history.

Article 153 was intended to help create a fairer and just distribution of wealth and resources among Malaysians of all races. It was not intended to create a two-tier citizenship or to suppress the rights of other communities. It was not meant for those Malays who are more than capable to compete in the economy.

The founding fathers had understood that any policy which is implemented solely based on ethnicity, in the long run, will create social division in the society.

Today's political reality has proven the founding fathers right. The affirmative policy which was intended to correct the economic and social imbalances in the society has turned in a political tool to create and to embolden social division in the country. It is sad to note that Malaysians are permanently divided into two social classes - Bumiputera and Non-Bumiputera.

MCA cannot issue such threat without understanding the socio-political history of this country.

The party wants to build a museum to highlight the achievements and contributions of Chinese community in the country. What is the point of celebrating the past if the party cannot assure the community of a better future? What is the use of the museum if the party cannot help to restore the facts and correct the discrepancies in history textbooks?

Anwar Ibrahim is a perfect decoy for the opposition and they should thank him for being a punching bag of the Barisan.

Meanwhile, the ruling government should know when to stop when it is obvious that the people's patience is growing thinner. It should spend more time trying to solve myriad of issues e.g. rising cost of living, lack of economic and job opportunities, access to affordable housing, education, public transport etc.

Barisan Nasional did not lose or win seats based solely on Anwar. Votes are lost when the coalition failed to deliver good governance and socio-economic progress.

Vote MCA or Else...

MCA President Dr Chua Soi Lek has warned the Chinese community that their support for the opposition may cause no Chinese representation in the ruling government. Dr Chua had criticized the SUPP for still accepting government positions in the Sarawak after the latter was badly thrashed in the recent elections.

I am surprised that the MCA president did not learn from the party he had criticized. SUPP was using the exact same strategy in Sarawak. In Sibu, the party had asked the voters to keep the only Chinese minister in the state assembly. Wong Soon Koh did win but his win was controversial.

The other 7-term incumbent, George Chan, was not so lucky when he was defeated by a young Dap upstart in Piasau.

It shows that the Chinese voters do not really buy a lack of representation threat.

MCA's leadership is too outdated. It does not matter if Liow Tiong Lai, Kong Cho Ha, Ng Yen Yen and Chor Chee Heung are in the cabinet or not.

Chinese voters no longer cast their votes based on race or ethnicity. They would prefer to vote for good governance, equality, greater voice and respect as citizens and a better future. They want the government to address issues related to corruption, a lack of economic growth, public safety, higher living costs, education and others.

The fact that Chua has given an ultimatum to the Chinese voters has shown that he needs better advice in political strategy. If the Alliance can learn to become more inclusive after the 1969 political debacle, the Barisan Nasional should be able to use the lesson of 2008 and 2011 (Sarawak) to move towards a broader and fairer political participation from all Malaysians.

The reluctance of Barisan Nasional especially Umno and MCA to move beyond racial politics is going to inflict a worse political defeat compared to 2008. In politics, anything is possible. Even a day can be deemed too long.

Chua must address his party internal weaknesses if he wants to win back the votes. This is not the 70's or 80's where the Chinese voters were haunted by the ghost of 1969. Mahathir had used the threat very effectively.

If even 1969 ghost had been exorcised, what is there to make MCA feel that the Chinese are afraid of no representation in the government?

It is Barisan Nasional lost if there is no Chinese representatives in the cabinet. Barisan's greatest strength has always been its ethnic inclusiveness. By taking a hard line position on the Chinese, it is going to push more minority parties to leave the coalition. A fully Umno dominated coalition government is not going to work in multiracial Malaysia.

Dr Chua might have bitten more than what he can chew. Najib's over enthusiasm to dance to Chua's tune may actually backfire badly on the coalition. Some fence sitters may now vote against the Barisan because of the threat which they may find unfair and disrespectful.

MCA should focus on delivering on its political promises than playing this risky trick. It should come clean on the PKFZ if the party wants to redeem itself.

There is already growing discontentment with Chua's ultimatum to the Chinese voters. Ignore these voices at his own peril.