Monday, September 29, 2008
Take a look for yourself here - http://www.mmail.com.my/Comments_from_Teresa_Kok-as-s_blog.aspx
This is what's reported.
As you read it, do also go to Teresa Kok's blog and verify for yourself whether Malay Mail engages in "fair and accurate reporting" or not.
Malay Mail highlighted 6 comments.
Yet, I count that Teresa Kok's blogs generated easily over 100 comments in articles relating to her ISA detention and the issue of "food quality".
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/25/youll-cringe-as-you-eat/#comments - 10 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/25/syed-hamids-attack-on-murugiah-is-most-disappointing/ - 11 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/24/isa-makanan-anjing/ - 41 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/24/dont-turn-isa-into-outcry-about-dog-food/ - 6 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/22/syed-hamid-patut-cuba-solitary-confinement-sendiri/ - 23 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/22/senator-probes-dog-food-scandal/ - 21 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/19/isa-experience/ - 42 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/19/what-have-i-done-what-have-i-said/ - 10 comments
http://teresakok.com/2008/09/19/detention-is-political/ - 21 comments
Is this the most blatant government propoganda to discredit Teresa Kok amongst the public with no internet access?
Comments from Teresa Kok’s blog
September 26, 2008 Categories: News
When Seputeh member of Parliament Teresa Kok had allegedly described the food served to her during her detention under the ISA as "slightly better than dog food", she could not have predicted the firestorm it would spark off.
Kok’s comments drew numerous postings on her blog (teresakok.com) from Malaysians who recounted their own experiences at having to survive on meagre meals.
$Below are excerpts of the postings.
Did you know that while I was growing up 30 years ago, that was the meal that my grandmother packed for me?
You get to eat eggs and yet you complain. Have you ever thought about those who can’t even afford a decent meal and need to share one egg with the whole family?
There are families who sleep on the earth, not even on cement with cardboard. Rather than taking our taxpayers’ money to upgrade jail facilities, please give it to the needy, not criminals.
This is not a matter of the ISA food being bad. The statement you made sounded as though you were insulting those who are used to eating hard-boiled eggs. Maybe your life has been easier, always able to eat good food, so it is easy for you to link what the less privileged usually eat to dog food.
I was truly saddened by your statement. Dog food or not, whether you realise or not, that is the main course for a large number of Malaysians, not just for weeks but years.
Never mind the food, because nobody has died of starvation in our cells. Of course, we have to provide a decent meal to the detainees and prisoners. There must be international standards regarding this and we have to comply with these standards. The fact that you got two eggs, some curry and something else is far better than many poor Malaysians can afford. Right now, there are many people in the kampung who do not eat as well as this. Even my own sister-in-law is earning RM400 monthly working in a factory and eats plain rice with watery sardine curry every day. So, you have indirectly insulted perhaps one million Malaysians who would love to eat what you got during your detention.
● Think Tank:
The meal fed to you is what many Malaysians, myself included, are eating right now, and you mirrored it to dog food. Don’t forget that we are your voters.
Friday, September 26, 2008
It seems, another Indian temple is being torn down again - if we blindly accept without question the contents of The Star article here. Note that this report was issued first thing this morning and I also saw others carrying it the night before -
Friday September 26, 2008
MPAJ officers tore down temple despite state govt saying no
By DHARMENDER SINGH, EDWARD RAJENDRA AND A. LETCHUMANAN
KLANG: The Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) officers involved in tearing down a Hindu temple in Ampang acted against a state government directive not to destroy places of worship.
Ronnie Liu, who is chairman of the state’s local government, study and research committee, said the state had issued a directive to all local councils to halt action against places of worship when it came into power but the officers defied the order.
He said that in taking the action last month the officers also bypassed the committee on non-Muslim affairs headed by state executive councillors Teresa Kok, Dr Xavier Jayakumar and himself.
“I contacted the council president a day after the incident and asked him to investigate the matter and identify those involved,” he said.
“I was told that he has submitted a preliminary report to my office but I have not read it since I am away in China now so it would be unfair for me to comment further.”
Liu had said a day after the incident that he was upset with the council officers’ actions and threatened that they would face stiff action.
Meanwhile Human Resources Minister Datuk S. Subramaniam said the MIC was extremely disappointed with the state government and MPAJ for allowing the demolition to occur.
“If a temple needs to be relocated due to road expansion or some major development, it can be relocated with the agreement that a new place of worship be built,” he said.
MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has also condemned the demolition, saying that it went against the Opposition’s promise during the last general election not to demolish any temple.
“It is very uncaring of the local council to demolish the temple without first relocating it,” he said.
So, it seems that:
1. Fact: An Indian temple was demolished.
2. Fact: Three (3) Star Reporters were dispatched to investigate and write the article.
3. Fact: MIC was very quick to condemn the State Government, with both Samy Vellu and Subramaniam given space in The Star to condemn State Government.
4. Fact: The Star Reporters managed to track down Ronnie Liu who was away in China for his statement! (what diligence!).
5. Note: The Star Reporters did not appear to contact the local temple management. At least, the local temple management's view was not reported above. Why is that? Isn't it easier to contact a local person, than to contact Ronnie who was away in China? After all, wasn't there 3 and not just 1 Star Reporter to cover this story?
6. Note: The Star Reporters did not appear to contact MPAJ. At least, MPAJ's view was not reported above. Why is that? Again, isn't it easier to contact MPAJ?
7. Fact: Despite not contacting local temple management and despite not contacting MPAJ, The Star was quick to publish the above article.
Something doesn't "feel right", isn't it?
Anyway, what happened next?
Well, at 8.37 PM, the Star carried a short, follow up story here - http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/9/26/nation/20080926195028&sec=nation
This is what they print.
Friday September 26, 2008 MYT 8:37:15 PM
Temple demolished for renovation
KUALA LUMPUR: The Hindu temple in Ampang had been demolished by its own committee to make way for renovation and a face lift.
Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin said the public condemnation of the demolition and accusation lashed at the local council and state government was unfounded.
The PKR MP said MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy’s allegations were completely unfounded and untrue.
“The truth is the temple was demolished by its own committee to make way for renovation and a face lift. They did this of their own accord and did not consult nor seek approval from the state government beforehand.
“We did not even know about the demolition until it happened,” she said.
According to her, the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) was currently investigating the issue and was still waiting for the local council’s report.
Now, note this:
1. It seems this is a non-issue because the temple was NOT demolished under State & MPAJ approval, but was being RENOVATED by Temple Management!
2. An Ampang MP has bothered to check with MPAJ whereas in the first article, none of the three (yes - 3!) Star Reporters didn't.
3. The name of the Star Reporter for the second article is omitted. Is this done deliberately to minimize the credibility of this report?
So, what do you think is happening here?
Obviously, the 2 articles contradicted each other in terms of facts. The first article ass-u-med that the State Government had either lied to Selangor Rakyat, or was negligent in allowing an Indian temple to be demolished. And so, The Star went to town singing MIC's condemnation of the PKR State Government, which clearly created confusion if not hate amongst Selangor Rakyat against PKR State Government.
Then, we have the second article which dropped a bombshell! It was not a forced demolition by the state, but an active renovation by the temple management!
Which immediately raise these questions:
1. Was The Star genuinely negligent in its reporting of the first article?
2. Why is it - when there was 3 reporters assigned to the first article - that The Star failed to even check with MPAJ for the true story?
3. Why is it - when there was 3 reporters assigned to the first article - that The Star failed to even check with the temple management for the true story?
4. Why is it - when there are 3 reporters assigned to the first article - that The Star had no problems and appeared to be quick to seek not one but two (2) MIC views? Why was The Star so quick to politicize this news, when they haven't got all the facts?
5. And yet, how is it possible that despite the above, The Star reporters were able to be very diligent in their investigations - so much so that they were able to contact Ronnie Liu who happened to be outside the country at the time for his views ?!
6. Points 1. to 5. ass-u-mes that the second article is the true article because it is the later article. If so, didn't The Star realize that their first article was clearly a mistake?
7. If The Star realized that their first article was clearly a mistake, then, why didn't The Star issue an apology, and clearly state that the second article is a correction to the first article? Is The Star behaving responsibly by trying to sweep the first article "under the carpet"?
8. Didn't The Star realize that their first article has caused significant reputational and other damages to PKR State Government, by creating unnecessary negative impact on Rakyat's views towards the PKR State Government by virtue of their nationwide readership, when the first article was completely unfounded in its allegations?
9. Shouldn't MIC publicly apologize for being quick to unfairly criticize the PKR State Government on a completely unfounded basis?
10. This is obviously not the first time this happens. When will these lies / propoganda / poor quality reporting stop? Will our newspapers ever become a First World newspaper one day, or will it be relegated forever as a Third World newspaper? Is a change of government the only way to change this?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Can anyone insult an egg to the extent that it deserved filing a Police Report? Apparently so. Read here - http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=26013
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 24, 2008) : The Seputeh Umno Youth division lodged a police report today against Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, claiming she had insulted the Royal Malaysian Police and the egg, which is an essential food of the underprivileged.
The division’s deputy head Alawi Dahalin and several other members lodged the report at the Brickfields police station.
Alawi said he had heard Kok complain about the food she was given while detained under the ISA, at a press conference at the DAP headquarters in Petaling Jaya, shown on the night news on TV on Sept 20, a day after she was released from custody.
He said Kok had said the food she was served was "fit only for dogs".
"By saying this, she had insulted the police and the poor. Eggs are an important food for low-income earners and the poor. As an elected representative of the people she should not have said that," he said.
So, what do you think? As for me, I am simply flabbergasted by UMNO Youth's Police Report! Here's what I think:
1. A "genuine complaint" is not the same thing as an "insult".
2. Teresa Kok had genuine grievances on the quality of food served. The poor quality of food directly contributed to her suffering unnecessarily from diarrheoa. The Malaysian public has the right to know. There is nothing wrong to mention this in the press for ALL Malaysians to know.
3. The Deputy Minister in the PM's Department whose portfolio includes the Public Complaints Bureau sees it fit to even visit Kok personally to inquire - see http://teresakok.com/2008/09/25/syed-hamids-attack-on-murugiah-is-most-disappointing/. However, the Home Minister Syed Hamid thinks otherwise, and threatened Murugiah by saying "Murugiah had better look after his own ministry."! Has Syed Hamid forgotten to bring his brains with him, when he said this to the press?
4. I personally find the flawed and distorted logic employed by UMNO Youth to be simply appalling and unacceptable! The attempt to equate the egg as a food for the under-privileged to gain sympathy or to even imply that Teresa does not understand the under-privileged, is simply downright insulting to all right thinking Malaysians! Isn't egg a food for all Malaysians regardless of social and economic status? :-)
Imagine if all Malaysians are as equally "sensitive". Should all Malaysians then lodge a Police Report against UMNO Youth for insulting the "egg" since the egg is also consumed by the rich, the middle class and the poor alike? Wouldn't the country be completely chaotic if all of us behaved in this frivolous and irresponsible fashion as UMNO Youth?
5. Doesn't UMNO Youth have better things to do than to lodge such frivolous claims and Police Reports?
6. Doesn't the Police have better things to do, real crimes to solve, than to accept frivolous claims from UMNO Youth?
7. Doesn't the Press and the newspapers have better stories to investigate, real news of substance to report, than to be diverted and having to report stupid acts like this? Doesn't UMNO Youth realize this?
8. Doesn't UMNO Youth realize - when looking at the bigger picture - that a much bigger and a far more serious wrong has been committed against Teresa Kok?
Doesn't UMNO Youth realize that detaining Kok under the ISA is simply wrong?
Doesn't UMNO Youth realize that at least 2 other parties - namely a certain exMB and a certain newspaper, and ignoring the role of the Police, the IGP, the Home Minister - are still at large, and still free, even though prima facie evidences indicate that they are the ones responsible for spreading lies to Malaysians which contributed to the wrong and unnecessary detention of Teresa Kok?
9. Doesn't UMNO Youth realize that the primary purpose of ISA detention is "prevention" rather than "punishment"? Isn't this simply wrong to serve anyone under detention with substandard quality food, to the extent of causing diarrheoa?
10. Bakri Musa wrote something which I find beautiful about the Islam religion, and it coincides with my understanding of many of the other worldly religions as well - http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2008/09/24/pak-lah-desecrating-ramadan/. Allow me to quote what he wrote here:
"As per the teachings of our Prophet, s.a.w., when we see an injustice, we are to do whatever in our capacity to stop it. If we are unable to do so with our hands (that is, physically), then we are to use our tongue (voice our disapproval). Failing that, then at least acknowledge in our heart that we disapprove of it, though that would be the option least pleasing to Allah."
UMNO Youth claims to represent Malaysian Malays and by default Muslims. So, in the case of Teresa Kok's detention under the ISA, is this detention "justice" or "injustice"? When Teresa Kok was served with food that unnecessarily caused her diarrheoa during her unnecessary detention, is this "justice" or "injustice"? When the Police had over a week to investigate and yet found no evidence to justify detaining Kok under the ISA, is this "justice" or "injustice"? If the answers to any one of these 3 questions are "injustice", then, why is UMNO Youth deafeningly silent? Doesn't UMNO Youth realize that remaining silent when an injustic is done is against the teachings of Islam, as quoted by Bakri Musa?
11. Is this action by UMNO Youth a good or bad role model for Malaysian youths? Why should any right-thinking Malaysian youth support UMNO Youth, let alone join such a distorted-thinking party?
12. Is this (filing a Police Report because Teresa insulted egg) UMNO Youth's version of Malaysia Boleh?
13. The world is still laughing hard at Malaysia for sending 50 of its MPs to Taiwan just because of the fear of 916, Malaysia has become a laughing stock in the eyes of the world with a repeat of DSAI's 2nd sodomy charge which is completely unoriginal in its plot, not to mention all the other hillarious acts apparently led and caused by the incapable and incompetent Malaysia Government. Will this latest act by UMNO Youth joins the long-list of "Malaysia Boleh" achievements in cementing Malaysia as a world leader in laughing stock, in the eyes of the entire world?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
(Source: Constellation Energy Group 2007 Annual Report)
No, it's not AIG even though there were talks that it could be, but Constellation Energy Group (CEG). In its website (http://www.constellation.com/) CEG describes itself as "A Fortune 125 competitive energy company based in Baltimore", "The nation’s largest supplier of competitive electricity to large commercial and industrial customers", "The nation’s largest wholesale power seller", "A major generator of electricity with a diversified fleet of power plants strategically located throughout the United States", etc., and 2007 highlights include "Provided a 52 percent total return to shareholders, assuming reinvestment of dividends", etc. In essence, a very large, apparently very profitable utility stock in the S&P500, and yet the share price got whacked hugely from a 52 week high of $107.97 on Jan 8, to a low of $13 on Sep 16, before Buffett steps in on Sep 19. Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican which is owned by Buffett will pay $26.50 per share in cash for Baltimore-based Constellation. This puts the deal at $4.7 billion and MidAmerican has also given CEG an immediate $1 billion infusion after shares of the nation's largest wholesale power seller plummeted and until then, liquidity concerns had analysts worried it would go out of business.
On the surface, $26.50 isn't the best deal. The French electricity giant Electricitie de France's (EDF) has revealed that last week it teamed with the private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and TPG Capital to make a bid of $35 a share for Constellation. That's $8.50 more than the $26.50 Constellation agreed quickly with Buffett. Apparently, the EDF's bid is "still valid.", since despite Buffett's $1 Billion injection last Friday, the deal isn't a completely done deal. According to a source, "In the end, it'll be up to (Constellation) shareholders to decide. EDF hopes they'll opt for the best price." Whilst the boards of both MidAmerican and CEG have approved the deal, the shareholders and regulators have yet to sign off. The transaction is expected to close within nine months.
The capitulation on CEG's share price happened on Tuesday, Sep 16, when the stock plummeted more than 50 percent before recovering somewhat in the afternoon. Analyst reports were out like vultures as usual. The next day, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services placed Constellation's investment-grade "BBB" debt ratings on CreditWatch "developing," meaning they may be revised higher or lower, or maintained. S&P said Constellation needed to shore up its balance sheet in the face of a broad loss of market confidence by closing a $2 billion credit facility, getting an infusion of $750 million to $1 billion of new equity, and selling assets -- or by selling the company outright. S&P said the inability to execute on a transaction or a series of transactions in the very near term would cause a downgrade to sub-investment grade. That would force the company to post an additional $3.3 billion in collateral, which is beyond the company's current available liquidity. That would put the company out of business. Citi Investment Research analyst Greg Gordon said in a report Wednesday that Constellation would have to settle for the best deal it could even though it may be less than the company's intrinsic value, much like Merrill Lynch & Co. did when it agreed to be bought by Bank of America Corp. recently.
So, why didn't CEG accepts EDF's offer when it plans to pay higher at $35 bearing in mind, EDF already owns almost 10 percent of Constellation and is a joint venture partner in the construction of four new nuclear power plants? The answer seems to boil down to 3 things. First, Buffett is a fast mover and a lot less bureaucratic than everyone else - he can make a major decision for Berkshire in less than 5 minutes. Second, he can immediately inject $1 Billion into any entity without the red tapes that everybody else has to go through. Third, there simply isn't any white knight stronger or as reputable as Buffett. Constellation Chairman & CEO Mayo Shattuck called the MidAmerican deal "the best overall solution for all our stakeholders." and added "Regardless of how you might interpret the various sources of a billion dollars of equity, there was no question in our minds that the billion dollars of equity coming from this source (Berkshire), with this backing and this history, meant a lot more than it would have in some other cases." The WSJ's Deal Journal calls it the "power of Buffett. Nothing soothes like Buffett's involvement. In a volatile world, he is as close to a sure thing as the finance world sees."
However, it will not be plain sailing for CEG and Buffett from here onwards. Everything that Buffett does "looks easy" but in reality is fraught with great danger, unless you really and absolutely know what you are doing. A shareholder lawsuit filed Tuesday calls into question the $4.7 billion sale to MidAmerican. “The price isn’t right and the process isn’t fair,” said John Isbister, an attorney with Baltimore-based Tydings and Rosenberg, the law firm that filed the suit. The action came as at least four other lawsuits were filed opposing the deal, and state lawmakers continued ratcheting up the rhetoric, calling for state regulators to reject the union with the Warren Buffett-owned company. Yes, Buffett may have bought at close to rock bottom prices which some say are perhaps only a quarter of its intrinsic value, but he buys when everyone is completely afraid (see the obvious 50% capitulation in price in one day in the chart above), and even then, it's still not plain sailing from here onwards. But in typical Buffett deal, he has nothing to lose - either he gets Constellation or he gets a $200m payment if he has to walk away. The desperation to secure a quickfix at Constellation was such that the company agreed to pay Mr Buffett a break fee of $175m plus another $25m for any fees and expenses incurred.
So if EDF's higher bid finally wins the day - and the French have until the Constellation shareholder meeting in December to convince the board - then Mr Buffett will get $200m and will have made a 20 per cent return on the $1bn cash injection he has paid into Constellation's account.
And what did yours truly did last night? He dipped his little toe in and followed Buffett by buying a small amount of CEG at $26.30. The stock price fell a little last night, to close at $26.11. Shucks. Never mind - no one can consistently buy at the bottom, especially when I simply haven't heard of CEG until recently, and simply don't monitor the US markets on intra-day basis (which is really intra-night and intra-morning here in Malaysia). And in the extremely unlikely scenario that should CEG reject both Buffett and EDF, then, I'm "hoping" the share price will at least go up higher than my cost **grin**. If I close both eyes (ignore the 20% factor and the time value of money), I can console myself that I did buy slightly cheaper than Buffett at $26.30 vs his $26.50! **grin**
Sunday, September 21, 2008
If you don't know what is Radio24, basically, it is a 24-hour news and talk radio station in Malaysia. Broadcasting in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, the station is owned and operated by the Malaysian national news agency, BERNAMA. The station's transmission covered the Klang Valley, which is home to 6.5 million people.
Because it is officially a Bernama Radio Station and covers Klang, I personally don't listen to it.
However, it made news (see link above). It seems Radio24 has committed a "crime", according to Minister of Information Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek. He was reported in Bernama (!) to have said "Expressing disappointment, Ahmad Shabery said the incident should not have happened, more so when it involved a radio station run by an agency under the purview of the ministry.". And "Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the ministry was conducting an investigation into the matter and he himself was awaiting a report before taking further action.".
Wow! Sounds like Radio24 has committed a crime that deserved Government investigation. Enough that the Minister of Information judged it guilty in public, even when the investigation is not yet completed.
So, what is this "crime" that Radio24 is alleged to have committed?
According to the same Bernama piece ...
"Ahmad Shabery was asked to comment on the broadcast of an interactive programme by Radio24 on the topic "Which is more important, the transition of power from Pak Lah (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak or a reduction in the fuel price?"
Is that all?
Is it a crime for Malaysians to discuss such matters openly?
How is it a crime?
Ask yourself - what would your answer be to this question?
Which is more important - Transition of Power? Or Reduced fuel price?
My guess -- 99% will say Reduced fuel price.
Especially in Klang Valley where traffic jams are prevalent, and the monthly cost of fuel is higher than average.
So, what's wrong with asking such a question and effectively seeking a public referendum (albeit a very limited scope)?
Personally, I think they can ask better questions which are more doubtful (such as "Should Malaysia Constitution be amended so that the tenure of the Prime Minister is fixed for the next 5 years, rather than being capable of being terminated as soon as he ceases to command the confidence of the majority?"), than such one-sided question where the answer is obvious.
But I won't say it is a crime to ask such question. So much so, that the Minister of Information had to publicly condemn such acts.
"Expressing disappointment, Ahmad Shabery said the incident should not have happened, more so when it involved a radio station run by an agency under the purview of the ministry."
Is The Minister of Information dissappointed because Malaysians were asked by Radio24 to evaluate "which is more important"??
Since when is it a "crime" to ask "which is more important?"
Isn't the ability to weigh which factor is more important critical in the daily life of every Malaysian Citizen?
Isn't this what we are doing at every General Election - to weight which Party is better? Which factors are more important?
Or are Malaysians being brainwashed by Government Propoganda that it is wrong to think for one-self?
Is the Minister of Information suggesting that since it is a crime for Radio24 to ask this question publicly, then, it is also a crime for all Malaysians to ask this question privately?
Is the Minister of Information suggesting that Malaysians should be dumb and unquestioning?
"Which is more important, the transition of power from Pak Lah (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak or a reduction in the fuel price?"
Even more disturbing is this statement uttered by the Minister of Information - "If you do not agree with government policies, don't be a government employee. Resign," he said.".
Is the Minister of Information giving a clear statement to all Government Employees that it is their job to make Pak Lah, Najib & UMNO looks good, even if it is at the expense of Rakyat's interest to have lower fuel prices?
Is this the kind of Government that Malaysians want?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
My own view is that in the present environment, it is imperative that MPs cross over based on their own conscience on what is the Right Thing to do for 27 million Malaysians. If they don't cross over and by not crossing over, it perpetuates the present numerous crimes that we've seen by the government, then, this is simply not right.
I appreciate the many arguments for and against crossing over. But at the end of the day, to effect change, we must take a position - whether we are for or against crossing over. We must constantly bear in mind what are the Right Things to do for 27 Million Malaysians, because every decision - including a no decision - is a decision in itself, with serious repercussions.
Speaking for myself, the MPs who cross over acting on their conscience for what is best for Malaysians have my full moral support and endorsement as Rakyat.
13 September 2008
The Morality of Members of Parliament Crossing the Floor
Response to Bar Council and Others
The Bar Council, Haris Ibrahim and Sean Ang are reported in the New Straits Times on September 10, 2008 to have said that Members of Parliament crossing the floor to join another party is legal but immoral. It is therefore necessary to draw the attention of the public to several fundamental principles with regard to the issue on the morality of MPs crossing the floor.
Crossing the floor to sit as a member of parliament in another political party is nothing new in parliamentary democracies. It has been described as the height of treachery. It has also been praised as the stuff which parliamentarian heroes are made of. The great Sir Winston Churchill is perhaps the most famous parliamentarian to cross the floor and switch allegiance on more than one occasion. There is no dispute that crossing the floor for money or personal gain is both immoral and a betrayal of the voters’ trust. However, when the MP crosses not for personal gain but in the interest and welfare of his constituents then he should be commended.
The Arguments for Immorality
The argument that crossing is immoral is that the MP was elected on his erstwhile political party’s ticket and that is amounts to a fraud on his voters. This argument is founded on two assumptions. The first is that the MP’s seat belongs to the political party. The second is that the MP was voted in based on his party’s platform and policies. The assumptions are wrong and the argument has failed to take into consideration several objectives and purposes of certain fundamental principles of a parliamentary constitutional system. Upon a proper understanding of these fundamental principles it will be seen that far from being immoral, the ability for MPs to cross the floor is not only moral but part of the democratic process.
The Electoral System and the Power of the 222
The argument that the voters have elected the MP on the party’s ticket and that the seat belongs to the party and not the MP arises from a confusion over the nature of the electoral systems in use. There are two major electoral systems in the world’s democracies:
• The first is the constituency-based electoral system. By this system, voters in each local area or constituency elect an individual candidate. The person who wins the majority of votes in each constituency becomes a member of parliament. The party with the majority of MPs forms the government. In this system, the individual MP and not the party holds the seat. This means the MP can cross the floor and still keep his seat
• The second is the proportional representation system. By this system, the electorate in a large area, for example, a province or a country votes for political parties. The political party chooses the people who will become MPs. Each party is allocated a number of seats proportional to the number of votes it receives in the election. In this system, the seat belongs to the party and the MP who crosses the floor cannot keep his seat.
The electoral system used in Malaysia is the constituency-based system. Therefore the argument that the MP has stolen his party’s seat when he crosses the floor is not supported upon a proper understanding of the constituency based electoral system. The constituency based system provides for individuals and not political parties to be the candidates for elction to the Dewan Rakyat. This is shown by independents, persons who do not belong to any political party, to contest. The candidate is elected not only on the policies and political ideology but also his personal character and capability. The policies and manifesto of the individual candidate will substantially be similar with the policies of other candidates from his party but there will also be differences according to the specific needs of the constituency and the candidate’s own capabilities. The party ticket is therefore a grouping of individual candidates professing to hold similar policies and ideology. However, the constituents are voting for the individual candidate based on his policies, his personal capabilities and personal commitment.
The party ticket argument also fails to give effect to the provisions of Article 43(1) and 43(4) of the Federal Constitution. Article 43(1) provides that the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is to appoint the Prime Minister who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat. Article 43(4) provides that the Prime Minister is to tender the resignation of his cabinet if he ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat. The effect of our electoral system and the operation of these two articles is that the constituents have given the power to the majority of the 222 members of parliament to decide who, from amongst them, is to be the Prime Minister. The tenure of the 222 and their power is fixed. It continues until the next general election. The tenure of the Prime Minister, however, is not fixed and not immutable. It is subject to the Prime Minister continuing to enjoy the confidence of the majority of the 222 throughout the term of the Parliament. By its very nature the confidence enjoyed by the Prime Minister is capable of being lost and changed. This can be due to many factors including where the Prime Minister is unwilling or unable or inept in performing his duties or has failed to properly implement policies or no longer enjoys the confidence of the people or if there is a shift of public opinion as to the desirability of keeping him in office. The power to remove the Prime Minister in practice includes and requires the members of parliament crossing the floor. It is this ability to cross the floor that ensures that only a capable Prime Minister can hope to see the end of the Parliamentary term. The failure for the MP to act is that he will be unlikely to be re-elected by his constituents at the next General Election. It is thus the MP’s moral duty to cross the floor if necessary to ensure that an inept Prime Minister do not remain in office.
The MPs Duty and Good Conscience
The argument that the MP betrays his voters by joining another party glosses over basic principles governing an MP’s duties and his need to exercise independent judgement. The word “democracy” comes from the Greek word “demokratia” which means “government by the people”. The MP is elected to be the voice of his constituents and not to be the voice and handmaid of his political bosses. The MP and his constituents are the conscience of the Executive. The Honourable K. Rozzoli, Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly has described this as follows:
“A democratically elected Parliament is the only true voice of the people and accountability to the people it serves is the basic plank of a democratic system, however, no matter what forms of statutory accountability we bring to bear, true accountability lies in the conscience of both the people and their representatives.”
The Honourable Speaker also explained that an MP’s duties owed to his constituents prevail over that to his political party:
“The primary duty of a member is to his constituents who live within the electorate…The second duty is to help people outside the electorate… The third duty is to the Parliament, both to the institution itself and to the general dignity and process of the Parliament… The duty which exists to one’s political party is, I believe, not a duty. It is something we assume as an extra curricular activity.”
The paramount duty of the MP is therefore to act in the interest and welfare of his constituents and the next in the order of priority is to the Parliament. The Parliament, is the second pillar of government. It is one of the three institutions in the concept of the separation of powers of the government. It is to act as a check and balance to executive power. The Parliament is the avenue, through the principle of parliamentary privilege, by which the people may explore alternatives to the Executive’s proposals, to expose a wrong or an injustice. The people vote their parliamentarians to guard their liberties and to query the activities of the Executive and its servants. It is in the ability of the Parliament to challenge the Executive that provides the real restrain to an overzealous or unwise use of authority. The Parliament is therefore not created to be “a rubber stamp” of the Executive. The parliamentarians have a duty to be independent minded and are not put there by the people to be “yes men” for their party bosses. The British had more than a hundred years ago derided members of parliament who followed party orders without questions. William Schwenk Gilbert in “Iolanthe” lamented:
“When in that House MP’s divide
If they ‘ve a brain and cerebellum too
They ‘ve got to leave their brains outside
And vote just as their leaders tell ‘em to”
In more mature democracies, it is not unusual for members of the House of Commons to cross the floor or those members who generally support the Government to speak and vote against the Government. It is not unusual for members of the US House of Representatives or Senate to sit on either side of the House in a division. It is because of this that a democrat like Joe Liberman can follow his conscience to endorse a Republican John McCain as presidential candidate. It is because of this that a President Nixon can be impeached for Watergate. The problem in Malaysia is that no BN MP has in 51 years crossed the floor of our Dewan Rakyat. The Government controlled media had ensured that any vote against the ruling party or even a dissenting voice is labeled as an act of treachery. The idea of BN MPs crossing has therefore been quickly castigated as immoral without examining whether good conscience demands that the MP cross the floor resolutely according to the needs of his constituents’ interest or to remain in sterile stupor according to the dictates of his party bosses. The Watergates of Malaysia shall until then be destined to remain unearthed, unheard and unseen unless and until those elected to be the voice of their constituents find the courage to act according to their conscience. For so long as members of parliament from the ruling party conduct themselves as the proverbial three monkeys of “hearing no evil, seeing no evil and speaking no evil” about their party bosses, then the independence of Parliament does not exist. There is no check and balance by the Parliament of the Executive and only a “rubber stamp”. The political tsunami that swept away the shackles to an independent judiciary must now also free the legislature from its bondage.
Constitutional Convention and Expression of Public Morality
The ability for members of parliament to cross the floor is the expression of public morality and not of immorality. Article 43(4) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution provides that the Prime Minister is to resign his cabinet upon ceasing to command the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat. Our Constitution is modeled on the British Westminster Constitution. It is a collection of constitutional conventions and customs. It is the outcome of centuries of constitutional evolution. It has distilled and crystallized the essence of the expression of public values and public morality. The convention to provide members of parliament with the ability to cross the floor and thereby bring about the removal of a government is thus an expression of public morality.
The ability to allow MPs to cross the floor recognizes that there may be a significant shift in public opinion that does not require fresh elections but needs to be reflected in the Parliament. The ruling party may be unable or unwilling to implement policies promised to the electorate. This can then be given expression through the MPs crossing the floor. It is this ability that curtails the power of party bosses and makes for a more vibrant political atmosphere. It provides for greater democracy and greater sensitivity to public opinion during the Parliamentary term otherwise it inculcates the Executive to become an authoritarian regime relying in the knowledge that it does not have to account to the people for the next five years.
The improper use of the ISA, the Sedition Act, the requirement of police permit to prevent the people from exercising its right of free speech and freedom of assembly and the abuse of power to shut dissent must not have to wait for general elections every five years. It is the duty of the 222 to ensure that the Executive power remains in check. It has become even more imperative that the BN MPs be able to vote according to their conscience. Yesterday, 12th September 2008, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Selangor State Exco member and Member of Parliament for Seputeh, Ms Theresa Kok and the reporter from Sin Chew Daily News, Ms Tan Hoon Cheng who published the Ahmad Ismail speech have been detained under the ISA. Now is the time to act, the nation cannot wait for five years.
The Tectonic Shift after 308
Since the March 8 General Elections, the Barisan Nasional leaders have shown they are unwilling, unable or indifferent in addressing the challenges facing the nation. Despite, the global shortage of food and the increasing price of essential food products, the Barisan National leadership has refused to dismantle the monopoly given to Bernas in the privatization of the distribution of imported rice. With the global economic slowdown and rising inflation and the US going into stagflation, the BN leadership increased petrol prices by a massive and unprecedented increase of 70 sen causing inflation to jump to 8% per annum. It then did a flip flop by reducing the petrol price to 15 sen but this is too little too late to stop the galloping inflation led loose by the irresponsible increase. The property sector and the construction industry have come to a standstill due to the substantial increase in the price of building and construction materials. The SMIs are crying for help as the sudden jump in operation costs in electricity, petrol and transport costs threaten to put them out of business. Violent crime continues unabated after the General Elections. Murders, rape and robberies haunt the people every day. This indifferent and inept performance has led to a shift in public opinion of tectonic proportions after the March 8 General Elections. The Barisan Nasional leadership has failed. They have shown to be unworthy of commanding confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament. Good conscience demands the BN MPs who still wish to hold true to the duty to their constituents have an obligation to cross the floor. It will be immoral for them not to.
The ability of the Members of Parliament to cross the floor and by doing so bring about a change in the government is part and parcel of the democratic process. It is a form of check and balance. It ensures that the sitting government must continuously be sensitive to the needs and opinion of the people or risk being removed before expiry of its term. The famous words that a democracy is said to be a “government of the people by the people and for the people” must include the right of the people to remove the government when it no longer represents the people. When Members of Parliament cross the floor acting according to the dictates of the people and not the dictate of the party bosses, they are acting morally and not immorally.
William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament for Selayang
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
Saturday, September 13, 2008
If you prefer to watch a video on ISA than read about the ISA, then, this you-tube video is highly recommended.
Interestingly, this video is dated 9 Sep, which is just 3 days prior to RPK, Tan and Kok's ISA detention yesterday.
For me, what I took away from that video (coupled with my readings and understanding of the ISA) is that the ISA detention law is truly draconian. It strips away the basic, fundamental human rights in many ways once someone is detained under the ISA. It puts far too much power on a select few in the ruling government to decide who is a threat to national security. As the comedian said - if I don't like the colour of your hair and detain you under the ISA, there's nothing you can do against that. And worse, the grounds for the detention can never be challenged in a court of law. Furthermore, detention can be indefinite. Literally, if you are detained under ISA, the fate of the rest of your life rests in the hands of a select few, namely the Home Minister and the Prime Minister. Which means for the rest of your mortal life, if you seek freedom from ISA detention, then, they would be your God as long as they remain the ruling government.
Every right thinking Malaysian must ask for the ISA to be abolished or amended substantially so that fundamental human rights are still preserved. I don't know if the latter is possible, but human rights groups all over are calling for ISA to be abolished completely, and to be replaced with existing, more transparent laws.
If your streamyx connection is slow, pause the video, and it should continue to download. Go away, do something else, and come back later and play it.
People & Power - Malaysia's Internal Security Act - 9 Sep 08
Yesterday, human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz blogged this when RPK was first arrested:
"The Government must also do its part and explain clearly how RPK is a threat to national security and why he has been detained. He had presented himself everytime he was asked to at police stations and in court. ..."
I shared his opinion as I blogged here last night - http://fusioninvestor.blogspot.com/2008/09/rpk-detained-under-isa.html
Why? Because only by giving clear explanation will the Government have a chance to win back Rakyat's trust. Without a clear explanation, the Government will create even more distrusts amongst Rakyat.
Unfortunately for the Government, they continue to choose to give a vague explanation, and created even more distrusts amongst Rakyat:
"PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Today news portal editor Raja Petra Kamarudin was arrested under the Internal Security Act for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order.
Raja Petra, 58, who was arrested under Section 73(1) of the ISA, is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam."
Instead of explaining HOW RPK is a threat to national security, the 2 sentence above simply asserted that he is a threat.
When one simply say X = Y, logically, does the assertion make it so?
Yes, in public relations exercises, it is a well known principle since Hitler's time that when X = Y is repeated with enough times, more and more people can be led to believe that X = Y so long as the truth is suppressed and the economy is fine. But those were the days before the Internet.
Today, such an article in The Star has little impact.
It leaves Rakyat wondering HOW is RPK a threat to national security.
It leaves Rakyat wondering if ISA Detention can be used against anyone that the Government doesn't like.
It leaves Rakyat wondering what wrong have RPK committed?
Again, the charge is RPK is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious.
The Government has simply not explained HOW it is seditious.
As a long-time MT reader, I can say that I have personally never found any one of MT's article seditious when I read them.
So, if its readers don't find it seditious, it begs the question by all right-thinking Malaysians - who finds it seditious?
The Government has also charged that it belittles Islam.
Again, HOW does it belittle Islam?
Specifically and exactly which part of RPK's writings is the problem?
If the Government cannot be transparent with the problem, if the newspapers cannot even quote or even refer to the problem, how can the Government expects bloggers to know the solution?
How can Rakyat knows what to write and what not to write when the big stick - as draconian as the ISA - is used on something with Rakyat doesn't know?
All great religion teaches us to not fear the truth.
To seek the truth at all times.
What does the Government fear?
Why can't the Government point to specific article - specific paragraph - specific sentence that shows how RPK belittled Islam?
Because I for one - as a regular reader of MT - have yet to find any of RPK's article belittling Islam or any other religion, despite reading thousands of MT articles.
But I'm willing to be corrected and I keep an open mind.
I do differentiate between the article written by RPK, against the individual comments that do not belong to RPK.
If the Government has a problem with certain individual commentators, then, point out specifically the problem comment and who commented that, so that RPK is given the chance to explain why he left it there and not delete it or ban that commentator, etc.
In other words, why is such a trivial issue (disliking comments) requires such a draconian act like the ISA to resolve?
Doesn't the Government realize that in blogosphere, every blogger - not just in Malaysia but around the world - is theoretically exposed to the same problem of extreme commentators? Is every blogger in the world a criminal to the same extent as RPK and deserves ISA detention? Surely not! There are more bloggers in this world than there is space in the entire Malaysia, let alone Kamunting Detention Centre!
So, notwitstanding The Star article which simply doesn't explain anything or add anything new and merely repeats the same message which led me to think it is simply Government Propoganda, I strongly urge the Government to please clearly explain to Rakyat exactly HOW is RPK a threat to national security?
Similarly, I urge the Government to do the same for Tan and Kok.
Explain to us Clearly HOW these 3 individuals are a threat to national security.
Explain to us Clearly HOW individuals like Ahmad Ismail is NOT a threat to national security.
Otherwise, don't be surprised if Rakyat comes to the conclusion that since Ahmad Ismail is an UMNO member, the Government plays favoritism, by detaining others except UMNO members.
And don't be surprised if Rakyat comes to the conclusion that the present Government simply don't have Rakyat's best interests in minds, despite the constant rhetorics.
And don't be surprised if more and more Rakyat prefers Pakatan Rakyat to be the next ruling Government.
In conclusion, I strongly urge The Government to either explain clearly how the 3 individuals are a threat to national security, explain clearly how the 3 individuals have caused social unrest, test these assertions openly and transparently in the court of law.
Or if not, release them immediately. And repeal the draconian ISA.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The MT (Malaysia Today) website is highly popular with its readers - many will be hugely upset with the latest arrest. The current political climate is still fragile with 916 looming and the very recent racist remarks. As tensions run high, it is even more important to remain calm, be fully informed, and do not over-react at all times. The last thing we want is another May 13, 1969 or another Ops Lalang with the Opposition rounded up.
A show of solidarity has been planned for RPK at Kelana Jaya Stadium at 8 pm, Monday, 15 September 2008. Please attend, if you are able.
Until then, this is a perfect opportunity to be fully informed on issues relating to ISA. For example, what is the ISA? How can someone like RPK can be arrested under ISA? What is the history of ISA and is this still relevant today? Why is it "draconian"?
As many of you will know, Wikipedia and Google are 2 of my favorite resources. Wiki carries a relatively good info on the ISA here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Security_Act_(Malaysia). I will extract and highlight some of the parts which I think could be relevant, and provide my commentaries also within the context of RPK's detention.
What is the ISA?
The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) (Malay: Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri) is basically a preventive detention law.
In essence, it allows anyone to be arrested without the need for trial in certain defined circumstances (see below).
History of ISA
ISA 1960 was actually inherited by Malaysia after it gained independence from Britain in 1957.
Preventive detention first became a feature of the then Malaya in 1948 primarily to combat the armed insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party.
The Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948 was made, following the proclamation of an emergency, by the British High Commissioner Sir Edward Gent. It allowed the detention of persons for any period not exceeding one year.
The 1948 ordinance was primarily made to counter acts of violence and, conceivably, preventive detention was meant to be temporary in application. The emergency ended in 1960 and with it ended the powers contained in the that ordinance as it was repealed.
The power of preventive detention was however not relinquished. In 1960, the government passed the Internal Security Act under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution.
How does ISA work?
In essence, ISA permits the detention, at the discretion of the Home Minister, without charge or trial of any person in respect of whom the Home Minister was satisfied that such detention was necessary to prevent him or her from acting in any manner prejudicial:
(a) to national security or
(b) to the maintenance of essential services or
(c) to the economic life in Malaysia.
(Section 8(1) of the ISA)
Under what grounds is RPK arrested under ISA?
To be honest, I am not sure at this point in time what is the reason for RPK's detention. In my simplistic lay-person mind:
(a) I simply just cannot see how RPK nor the MT website is a threat to national security. Especially when compared to remarks uttered by Ahmad Ismail, and many other worse acts done in the past, such as Hishamuddin's keris antics, or even DPM Najib's keris bathing with Chinese blood remarks in the late 80s.
(b) I also simply cannot see how RPK or the MT website will affect the maintenance of essential services. Especially in Malaysian context where maintenance of essential services is done at variable standards ranging from excellent to extremely poor.
(c) And I seriously doubt how RPK or the MT website is prejudicial to the economic life in Malaysia.
So, I am extremely puzzled as to why RPK is being detained.
Malik Imtiaz, a human rights lawyer and a blogger has this to say in his blog here - http://malikimtiaz.blogspot.com/2008/09/rpk-isa-and-rest-of-us.html
I quote: "The Government must also do its part and explain clearly how RPK is a threat to national security and why he has been detained. He had presented himself everytime he was asked to at police stations and in court. He has been charged, has not attempted to flee the jurisdiction and has indicated his desire to defend himself in court. Access to Malaysia Today has been permitted. And though four police reports have recently been lodged against him by agencies linked to the Government, a consideration of those police reports in the bigger picture would reveal the unreasonableness of his being detained on the basis of what has been alleged in those reports. The Government must make the basis of its decision clear and why it is RPK cannot be tried in an open court."
To me, the key words are "Explain CLEARLY". Not just any vague explanation. It must be clear that when first explained, most people can honestly say "yes, I understand". It must also be capable of withstanding reasonably intelligent scrutiny.
According to Wiki: Article 151 of the Malaysian Constitution gives to any person detained without trial (under the special powers against subversion) certain administrative rights. By the terms of Article 151 the authority, on whose order a person is detained, shall, as soon as may be, inform the detainee of the grounds of detention and the allegations of fact on which the order is based.
According to MT here, the grounds of detention has been given: http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/12576/84/
4:00pm Marina's recieved a 'notis penangkapan' from Chief Inspector Azrin Abu Bakar, stated reason of detention. The notice sounds like this:
"...penulis telah menyiarkan rencana-rencana di laman web memburukkan kepimpinan negara dan menghina kesucian agama Islam sehingga menimbulkan kekeliruan kepada rakyat..."
He's being detained because he has confused Rakyat?
Is this a valid reason to detain someone indefinitely under the ISA?
If anything, RPK's writings have clarified a lot of things that has been happening in this country, instead of causing greater confusion. How can one confuses things when one speaks the truth? Specifically, which part - which article - which paragraph - which sentence - of his writing is supposed to have caused "confusion to Rakyat"?
And what is the implication of this alleged "confusion"? Is the impact of the alleged confusion on Malaysian society so bad that it deserved indefinite detention without trial? Why can't RPK be charged and trialed in the open court as he has demanded many times before?
Furthermore, is his case really that serious, when compared to numerous other people in this country that have "caused substantially far larger confusion to Rakyat"? For example, Ahmad Ismail? If Ahmad Ismail is not detained under ISA, then, why should RPK be detained when his article has far lesser elements of racism?
Dear, oh dear! I am sorry Mr Home Minister, but I simply failed to understand the grounds of RPK's detention.
It simply seemed grossly unfair to any right thinking Malaysian.
You will need to do a better job at CLEARLY EXPLAINING to Rakyat why you are detaining RPK indefinitely under the ISA.
And this thing about alleging RPK to "give a bad name to the current leaders of the country". What exactly are these "bad names"? Notwitstanding that, can anyone honestly say that whatever bad names that have been uttered, are they not deserving? Surely our country's leaders are not surprised that millions of Malaysians have been giving "bad names" to our country's leaders well before Mar 8 GE results? Did the leaders change? What about after Aug 26 Permatang Pauh by-elections results? And the government only charge RPK under ISA today, on Sep 12 2008, which is 4 days prior to 916?
And the alleged insult on the Islam Religion - as a regular MT reader, I am extremely puzzled since my own personal experience reading thousands of his articles gave me a reasonably good impression of him as a genuine Muslim, and it simply didn't occur to me at all that he would deliberately insult Islam. In fact, I cannot recall a single instance when he insulted Islam! And I am certainly not confused as a result of reading his writings. If the truth be told, I am actually very confused with the grounds for RPK's ISA detention which have yet to be given in substance, than his writings.
Length of ISA Detention
A person detained under the ISA during the first 60 days is held incommunicado, with no access to the outside world. Furthermore, lawyers and family members are not allowed access to the detainee during this initial period.
If a two-year detention order is signed, the detainee is taken to the Kamunting Detention Centre to serve his or her two-year term, during which family members are allowed to visit.
The power to detain seems to be restricted by Section 8(1) to a period not exceeding two years but the restriction is really illusionary because, by virtue of Section 8(7), the duration of the detention order may be extended for a further period not exceeding two years and thereafter for further periods not exceeding two years at a time.
The extension to the detention order may be made on the same ground as those on which the original order was based, or on different grounds.
In short, the length of detention can be indefinite.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has recently recommended that the ISA be repealed and replaced by new comprehensive legislation that, while taking a tough stand on threats to national security (including terrorism), does not violate basic human rights.
It would be interesting to see if SUHAKAM will come out with a statement demanding for an immediate release for RPK, further to my earlier article on Muhammad Shafee Abdullah here questioning if both are the same or different person -
Criticisms of the ISA
The ISA is one of the most controversial Acts enacted under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution.
According to Wiki: "Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world whose Constitution allows for preventive detention during peacetime without safeguards that elsewhere are understood to be basic requirements for protecting fundamental human rights. "
Not surprisingly, the Opposition has criticized the ISA for many reasons. The implementation is often labelled as a political tool by the ruling government to suppress the Opposition, rather than genuine preventive detention for national security or other reasons specified in the ISA law. For example, many of the Opposition members in the past (e.g. those from PAS, PKR and DAP) have been detained under ISA before and subsequently released.
Furthermore, according to Opposition leader Tan Chee Koon ... "This infernal and heinous instrument has been enacted by the Alliance Government at a time when the emergency was supposed to be over. Then it promptly proceeds to embody all the provisions of the Emergency Regulations which during the Emergency had to be re-enacted every year, but now it is written into the statute book ad infinitum...
The fact that it is a violation of fundamental human rights cannot be disputed. For example, the detention without trial aspect. Imagine simply being locked up for an indefinite period, with absolutely no right to even be trialed in court, and no opportunity to even prove one's innocence, or to even defend oneself against charges by the government. Or the indefinite period detention aspect, instead of a limited period. Or the detention being made at complete discretion of the Home Minister aspect - there are so many flaws here, where arbitariness would inevitably come into consideration (since there is no clearly written guidelines and case-by-case interpretation can potentially vary extremely widely). Also, changes in Home Ministers, or changes in Prime Ministers, or changes in ruling government, or simply a change over time, or for any other reaon could result in different absolute or relative standards being applied as to the grounds of the ISA detention with varying degrees of un/fairness. And so forth.
But the surprise is that even BN and UMNO has criticized ISA in the past too, including Badawi and Mahathir previously!
In 1987: Badawi stated "Laws such as the Internal Security Act have no place in modern Malaysia. It is a draconian and barbaric law."
In 1988: Badawi went on record to state "If we want to save Malaysia and Umno, Dr Mahathir (then Prime Minister) must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics."
In 2003 when Badawi became Prime Minister: the ISA "a necessary law," !
Badawi further said "We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society."
Oh dear! With RPK's detention, has Badawi done another flip-flop again? How will he now explain that RPK's detention under ISA is "never misuse"? Where are the "proven threats" by RPK?
Not surprisingly, Mahathir is also similar in his duplicity with the ISA:
In 1966: when Mahathir spoke out in support of the Internal Security (Amendment) Bill 1966 as a backbencher, he stated that "no one in his right senses like[s] the ISA. It is in fact a negation of all the principles of democracy."; However, after becoming Prime Minister, he had little if any hesitation using the law to suppressed what he termed racialism but was seen by some as a move against his political opponents, the most notable of events being the infamous Operasi Lalang in 1987.
(And as an aside, one did not hear him promoting the use of ISA against Ahmad Ismail to "suppressed racialism" too.)
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer by experience, training nor profession. This is merely a layperson's current personal understanding of ISA formed by applying independent critical thinking based on various related materials on the topic. If you require pesonal assistance on ISA, please consult your own professional legal advisor.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Palm Oil Trader, Dorab Mistry, claimed to "have had a very good run over the last 30 months with each of my crude palm oil price forecasts coming true".
It's a well written article, mentioning a lot of interesting facts and factors potentially affecting CPO prices. It even has a prediction on future CPO prices, which most CPO traders would be interested in.
"If crude oil prices stabilise around US$ 100 per barrel with a 10 percent range, then I believe CPO futures need not go lower than 2200 Ringgits for the next few weeks. At that level we should see strong demand growth. Soya oil, on the other hand, needs to decline in price substantially from its current levels. If biofuel use of vegetable oils was not around, the price level would be unthinkable."
Enjoy the article.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Anyway, I find the article very engaging, and surprised myself by reading it till the very end!
Full link here - http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=11381
My highlighting here. Enjoy!
The all-powerful executive
Zainon Ahmad and Llew-Ann Phang
Updated: 12:08AM Sat, 01 Oct 2005
DR SHAD SALEEM FARUQI is professor of law and legal advisor at Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, and has been associated with the faculties of law at the International Islamic University Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He graduated from Wesleyan University, USA, at the age of 19 and has been studying and teaching law for over three decades. He has written on the Malaysian constitution and on Islam, democracy and good governance. He has been involved in several international and national projects, been consulted by Fiji, East Timor and Iraq on their constitutional documents and had helped draft the constitution of the Republic of the Maldives. He told ZAINON AHMAD and LLEW-ANN PHANG that the trend of executive dominance of the legislature and of the judiciary is pronounced everywhere in the world.
Q: Prof. Do you think we are being old fashioned if we were to ask you whether this so-called separation of powers in the government between the executive, legislative and judiciary still exist?
A: It much depends on whether you look at things structurally or you look at things functionally. If you look at things structurally, then we do have an executive branch, a judicial branch and a legislative branch but functionally of course, the executive has begun to dominate all three organs. And the executive is now basically the heart of the government process. It was not meant to be that way. There was meant to be a check and balance between the three. They are supposed to be the pillars of government but standing apart. All of them supporting the super-structure called government but standing apart. That separation seems to have been overtaken by political events.
However, let me mention this, that we were never really meant to be entirely separated like in the USA. Our system calls more for check and balance rather than separation because at the level of the executive and the legislature, there was always an overlap because the PM and members of his cabinet sit in parliament and, therefore, are part of it, are answerable and accountable unlike in the USA where the president and his cabinet are totally separate from the legislature. So, to sum it up then, in Malaysia, structurally, there is still some separation, especially at the level of the judiciary. But functionally, I have to say, the executive has begun to tower over everyone else. And part of the reason, I think, is the people have given to the government - consistently - a two-third majority.
So Parliament dominates the legislative sphere. In the area of the judiciary, more and more tribunals are being created to decide on cases --- where the judicial function of deciding cases is handed over to specialised agencies or tribunals.
So there is truth to what Datuk Seri Rais Yatim said in his book Freedom Under Executive Power in Malaysia in which he argues that over the years, the executive has become much more powerful than it was meant to be?
I think Datuk Seri Rais Yatim certainly hit the nail on the head. But the alarm he is sounding about had been sounded a long time ago. As early as 1932 when Lord Hewart, one of the English law lord, wrote a book called The New Despotism.
In which he talked about the growing power of the executive?
Yes. The trend is that the executive is beginning to control parliament and is getting more and more involved in decision-making, even in the judicial sphere through tribunals. So the executive is now dominating all three organs of the state.
You see, we tend to think of disputes as belonging to the judicial branch. Well, that's the general impression. But not all are settled by the courts anymore. For instance income tax disputes, labour disputes, students being expelled, licences withdrawn, houses to be demolished, planning permissions --- these are all involving rights, duties --- and they're decided by the executive through tribunals exercising what could be called quasi judicial functions. Then there are advisory boards on preventive detention. Courts do not even examine the matter as it is done purely by executive-appointed tribunals.
So the executive does make hundreds and thousands of quasi judicial or judicial decisions where the courts have absolutely no say. And Lord Hewart was not alone in sounding the alarm. Someone wrote a book Bureaucracy Triumphant. There was also a book called The Passing of Parliament --- that parliament has died. So actually, in the (19)30s, (19)40s, in England, this alarm was being sounded. The trend of executive dominance of legislature and of the judiciary is pronounced everywhere in the world.
That means this is not something unique to Malaysia, that it is also happening elsewhere?
Yes. The simple reason for this is that state functions have grown and with state functions growing, state powers have grown. The traditional institutions, mechanism, principles and procedures for checking these powers have failed.
So parliament, which is supposed to question the executive on its policies, on its programmes, has failed too. Is that what you are saying?
Yes. MPs are supposed to question the executive branch or the front benchers. But how much can MPs ask in the one-hour question time? At the most 10-12 questions are asked.
Or six or seven only.
That's about it. And parliament does not sit every day. So it's more like a part-time institution. Whereas the government works 24 hours a day and its tentacles spread everywhere. How can a part-time institution control an over-time institution? The executive is an over-time institution. There are about 800,000 public servants, if not more, and they do many things. It is difficult for parliament. Thus, the amount of discretionary power that developed over the last one century is just unbelievable.
It's the same in England?
It's the same in England. But in England there are some differences. One difference is this--- that parliament does exercise check and balance over the executive in many areas. Reason for this is that the opposition is very strong. The Opposition has nearly 50% or 45% of the seats. And then there the tradition of the free press is very strong. They have very strong NGOs. We have some of that but nevertheless there are lots of qualitative differences. But everywhere in the world executive is beginning to dominate. A recent British parliamentary report said that "parliament legitimates, it does not legislate."
So basically, it's a rubber stamp?
Not in so many words but it is. It signs, it approves. It puts the chop. It's a fact that the policy behind the law is contributed by the ministers or the departments. The timing of the Bill is decided by the government. The minister then pilots the Bill through. The date the bill is introduced is decided and even the date the Bill is likely to be passed.
Let's go back to what you said just now --- "parliament legitimates, it does not legislate". This means that our MPs should no longer be referred to as lawmakers as they no longer make law.
True, true ... Actually no doubt about it, in the lawmaking sphere, the executive has become more important than parliament for a number of reasons. One is that, as I mentioned earlier, the policy behind the law is executive policy. The timing for the law is determined by the executive. The executive then uses its brute majority to push the bill through.
Without any change?
Ah, I did some research on this. Something like 80% of the Bills over a period of five years from 1991 - 1995 were passed without a comma or a fullstop being amended. About 15% of the Bills were withdrawn by the government. Because of MPs' input, or inputs by the NGOs, or international pressure, the government decided to withdraw and relook at the Bill. Only 5% of the Bills did Parliament make any impact in terms of amendments, and these amendments are incorporated by the government. So, it is quite clear that the legislative process is basically an executive process, not a parliamentary process. So you can actually say that the centre of gravity of the entire legislative process has shifted from Parliament to Putrajaya.
So there is no point talking about a world-class parliament when there is already a trend of executive dominance. And the dominance all the more real with the government controlling 90% of the seats.
Let me clarify this. Much depends on what the functions of Parliament are. In traditional consitutional theory, parliament performs four separate functions. Law making - in this area, one has to admit parliament legitimates, it does not legislate. Executive is more important than parliament in the law-making sphere. Secondly, the control of national finance. Here, the control of parliament is even weaker than the legislative sphere. Financial policy is basically executive policy. Parliament merely votes the budget. But large parts of the budget are voted without any debate whatsoever because time runs out.
You spend about 20 days or so discussing the budget. How much can you discuss? As you newspaper people have observed, the budget debate is used to hit the government on the head about everything else other than the budget. From potholes to education policy to illegal immigrants. So, the realities of the budget are that the executive determines the votes - how much money will be spent on education, on defence, how much will be allocated to UiTM and to other universities. I think the executive determines and the MPs basically, legitimate (it).
[Seng comment: In short, I would grade our Parliament a D for "law making", and an F for "control of national finance"!]
Well, it need not be that way. But it is that way because of our system?
Exactly. In our system, if the budget fails, the government will have to fall because the budget vote is an issue of confidence. MPs may criticise, they may have their say but the government will have its way. MPs may have their say but the government must have its way because if the budget is defeated, that will amount to a vote of no-confidence in our system of parliamentary democracy. Unlike in the USA where the president's budget is often rejected and the president stays as the president. But here, that's impossible.
So in the legislative sphere, government has become more important in the sphere of control of national economy. Parliament basically legitimates. It looks into broad policies but that's about it.
The third function?
You call that the deliberative function. MPs deliberate on policy, they ask questions, they size up the government, they require further information. I think on that, question time does serve its purpose. It highlights problems of national policy, it highlights problems of the constituents. I know question time doesn't get a full and fair coverage in the papers. Actually a great deal of very critical stuff is uttered on the floor of Parliament during question time. But of course, question time is not entirely effective as I have said earlier.
And then there is a fourth function ---constituency function. MPs are supposed to be the voice of the people, to highlight the problems of the people in Parliament and to give feedback to the government. I think on that, the Malaysian MP does a good job. He goes back to his constituency, he keeps his ears close to the ground, his fingers on the pulse beats of the nation. Somebody has done comparative studies, of Malaysia and Japan and Korea, have found that the Malaysian MP is closer to his constituents then MPs in Korea and Japan. Of course, it's a matter of interpretation.
Why do you say it's a matter of interpretation?
Now, this author who wrote this report says this is because of under-development of certain aspects in Malaysia. He feels that the Malaysian MP is able to provide a voice to his constituents better in Malaysia then in other countries because in other countries, citizens have better recourse to the courts, better recourse to the media and better recourse to other remedies. He said because these other remedies are under-developed here, therefore the MP has become the predominant voice in raising the grievances of the citizens.
But I would like to say the Malaysian MPs are doing a good job in providing redress to his constituents. Every MP plays a one-man public complaints bureau role and I think for that, we have to pat them on the back.
Now despite the growing dominance of the executive in the legislative sphere, surely we can still aspire for a more active parliament. Surely there must be something we can do to make our parliament world class. Whatever that means these days.
Certainly. A great deal can be done to improve things. For example, in the legislative sphere, I think we need to make use of the Select Committee procedures. They are in the book. As far as I know, since Merdeka, I am told, only about six times have we appointed this committee. I understand one is sitting right now to look into the criminal law.
This committee can provide very useful feedback to the government on what specialists in the area say. This committee can meet upstairs and invite citizens groups, scholars, and any affected party to give feedback on the Bill.
But as I said, only about six times since Merdeka, we have this. I would like to say something about the unusual and undesirable practice that Bills are embargoed till the day they are presented in Parliament. Bills should be made known to the public even before that. So we can still have a better parliament. So I'm making a number of suggestions.
Number one is we should resort to the Select Committee Procedure more often. (Secondly,) Bills should not be embargoed as they should be made available to the public for further comment. Thirdly, there is a procedure for private members Bills. We should give monetary support to MPs to draft private members Bills. In the UK the procedure is MPs who wish to introduce private members Bills apply, to take part in a ballot. The top 10 in the ballot will receive financial assistance because drafting a Bill requires expertise, money, time so they will receive monetary support.
Fourthly, I think, all MPs must have legislative assistants or support staff. Support staff consisting of researchers on economic matters and even in legislative matters. In countries like the Philippines, which is economically much worse off than us - not as well off as us - each congressman has four legislative assistants. We don't give to our MPs any assistant. I think each MP must have legislative assistants to do their research for them, to draft their speeches for the debate on the Budget --- the impact of the Budget on, let us say, fishermen, on rubber tappers, on the poor.
I also think we should have an Institute of Parliamentary Affairs. If we can have ILKAP for the judiciary, INTAN for the administration, why can't we have an Institute of Parliamentary Affairs to train our MPs in improving their institutional efforts.
This is done in other countries?
Yes, in many other countries. I have travelled to the Philippines often, I am involved in some groups there. There are special groups to train MPs to perform their Parliamentary function. Not only to train MP in Parliamentary procedures but also to sensitise MPs to the problems of the poor, the marginalised. Sensitise them, for example, on gender issues and assist them with information, with background research on what they can raise in Parliament. So I think we need to assist our MPs. We are not being fair to our Parliament and to our MPs.
Now let's go on to our constitution. It has been amended so many times that many people are of the view that it is no longer our original "document of destiny" or "our national charter" or that the spirit of the original document has been diluted. What do you think?
Well, there is no doubt about it. The constitution has been amended many times. Up to this year, I think there have been about 42 amendments. In 48 years. However, each amendment contains a number of clauses and if you were to count the number of clauses that have been amended and re-amended and re-amended, up to 2001, I have counted about 644 amendments.
In other countries, like the USA for instance, you amend Article 3, that's one amendment. Article 4, that's another amendment --- amendment number two. And if Article 5 is amended, then it is amendment number three. Here, what we do is, in one Constitutional Amendment Bill, sometimes we amend 40 Articles in one go and we count that as one amendment. Actually, it should be possibly, 40 amendments. So that's what I was saying. There have been about 42 Amendment Bills passed since Merdeka but each amendment bill often contains scores of amendments.
If you were to count each clause as a separate amendment, we have about 650. Six-hundred and forty-four up to 2001. If you count up to 2005, it will be about 650, or so, times the provision of the Constitution that have been re-written or amended from time to time.
Other countries, are their amendments also this numerous?
Well, there is no uniform pattern. If you look at the American Constitution, it's been amended only about 30 times in 230 years. And they jokingly say America is the frozen continent when it comes to amendments because things just don't thaw that easily.
What about India?
India is like Malaysia. Partly rigid, partly flexible. In India too, many amendments have been passed but in India what has happened is that the courts have risen to the ocassion and have told Parliament that "you cannot amend the basic structure." In Malaysia, that argument has been raised and rejected by our courts. Our courts have said as long as the government follows the proper procedures, it can amend anything.
Regardless of whether the spirit of the Constitution still remains or not?
Yes. The danger of rejecting the basic structure is this. I'm just giving a hypothetical example. Let us say tomorrow, the government of the day says let us amend the Constitution to extend the life of Parliament from five years to 25 years. As long as the two-third majority is obtained, that amendment can be passed but that amendment would totally destroy the democratic basis of the Constitution because that means for 25 years, there will be no elections.
Remember in Sri Lanka, one day they passed the law, they said "okay, no elections this time". And the government just continued for another five years. Britain too had extended the life of parliament several times.
What happens if an amendment extends the life of parliament to 20 years or 25 years?
Well, it's a case of using the Constitution to destroy the Constitution. In which case, the Constitution will contain the seeds of its own destruction. The basic structure argument is highly contentious because it raises the question of who should decide what is basic? The government of the day or the judges? Anyway, what is basic structure? So suppose you take away the immunities of the rulers. Was that part of the basic structure? The late Tun Suffian Hashim in the Faridah Begum case said "yes, it is". So, it's a controversial doctrine.
Anyway, amendments of the Constitution always pose a political dilemma. The dilemma is this. The Constitution has to be open to change because life is always larger than the law and the law has to keep moving. Otherwise, it will just fall behind. As someone nicely said: "The Constitution that will not bend will have to break".
What is your comment on Article 10 of our national charter which provides for freedom of speech, assembly and association. Did the original drafters of the constitution really wanted us to have all those freedoms?
Well, my impression is Article 10 does not safeguard free speech very well. In the chapter on fundamental rights, some fundamental rights are very well protected or better protected. For example property, for example religion. But two or three fundamental rights were always left at the mercy of Parliament. Liberty was one of them and fundamental right to speech was another.
Article 10 Clause 1(a) from day one said all citizens are entitled to freedom of speech and expression. Article 10 Clause 2 says Parliament, may by law, impose on the above right, restrictions on eight grounds - public order, national security, incitement and offence, friendly relations with other states, contempt of court, contempt of Parliament, defamation, morality.
And Parliament has used public order, national security grounds to enact laws like the Police Act whereby permits are needed to march, to assemble; Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act. So actually from day one, freedom of speech and expression was not one of the better protected rights.
And these rights have become more proscribed today?
Yes, I would agree with you since 1971, the restrictions have been further enhanced because of the 1971 Constitutional Amendment. We call it the Sensitive Matters Amendment. Now sensitive matters cannot be questioned, even in Parliament. So the law of sedition applies fully in Parliament. So freedom of speech and expression was never really as well protected even on Aug 31, 1957.
But I acknowledge, it has been subjected to further restraints. However, talking of personal freedoms and amendibility of the Constitution, it is quite clear fundamental rights have been subjected to more and more restraints over the years. Executive power has been enhanced more and more, over the years.
Are there features of the constitution that have remained intact?
Many other features of the Constitution have remained largely intact... federal-state relations have generally remained the way they were at the time of (19)57 and (19)63, when Sabah and Sarawak came in. We have a federal-state division of power.
For example Islam. Since 1977, the government has strived very hard to have a uniform Muslim family law. It has not been easy because states want to maintain their power. I think the multi-racial, the multi-cultural, the multi-religious aspects of our Constitution have remained largely intact. I think when the Constitution was built, there was an overwhelming spirit of accommodation, tolerance, give and take. I think that has largely remained intact. It is also quite clear, human rights have contracted while state power has been enhanced, especially in the area of emergency powers of the state.
Last time, subversion laws had a time limit. The time limit was restricted. Last time emergency powers could be questioned in the courts. Now the Constitution clearly says the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's exercise of emergency powers cannot be reviewed, questioned in any court, on any ground whatsoever.
Isn't there anything in the constitution that can prevent frequent amendments?
There are other procedures. But the two-third majority rule has obviously not worked well up to now. But if at some future time, the government loses its two-third majority, amendments will become difficult. We have to remember in politics, nothing is permanent.
Do you think enough has been done to promote legal literacy in our "document of destiny" that is our Constitution?
Of course not. Not enough has been done. The Constitution is not taught in our primary or secondary school. It's not taught in universities except in law schools. And the law school began teaching the Constitution only in 1972. From 1957 - 1972, the Constitution was not taught anywhere. Even now, the Constitution is taught as one subject. We do not teach, for example, a special course on human rights. Or let us say, federalism.
In many countries, federalism is a separate paper. The Constitution is not really taught for our civil service examinations. Our local authority officials, our university officials, I think they are not really familiar with the fundamentals of our Constitution. I have to say this that the Constitution is basically marginalised. It's not the force it ought to be. It is not given the central place in our policy making, in our law-making that it ought to be given.
You mean to say that it should be a much referred to document? That we should refer to it for guidance like the way we refer to our holy books?
In the secular area, the Constitution is the beginning point of what is allowed and what is not allowed. Often, nobody pays any heed to the Constitutional provisions. Legislation is replete with clauses which say the minister shall, in his absolute discretion, be allowed to do such and such. With all due respect, absolute discretions are unconstitutional because they violate the spirit of Article 8 - equality before the law. If the minister has absolute discretion, then he can treat like as not alike and that would be a violation of equality before the law.
Our laws are replete with situations where, for example, the attorney-general has a plethora of laws - a multiplicity of laws - and he can pick and choose which law to apply. I think multiplicity of laws is alright, provided there is some clear-cut policy which guides the AG in exercising his discretion as to which law to apply in which particular situation. Let me give you an example. For arms - there are three separate laws. Arms Act - seven years penalty. Firearms increased penalty, at 14 years penalty. ISA death penalty.
Now, the Attorney-General has absolute discretion to choose which law to apply in which case. I think this violates the spirit of Article 8. I think the laws should provide a guideline to the Peguam Negara as to which circumstances will attract the Arms Act or the Firearms Act or the ISA and the courts must enforce these guidelines. So I think, executive actions are taken in blissful disregard of the Constitution. Laws are passed in blissful disregard of the Constitution.
Another example. Say I have to supply copies of my book to the National Library. I am happy to do so, but Article 13 Clause 2 says nobody's property can be taken away without adequate compensation. With all due respect, the National Library must give me the price of my book. Now the motive is noble, we must be build a repository of national information. Yes, but there is a right to property for a good purpose or for a not-so-good purpose. Nobody's private property can be taken away without adequate compensation. I think the law requiring people to give his book is in blissful disregard of the right to property. I have nothing against the law but what I am saying is executive actions, legislative actions are taken without regard to the Constitution.
In Shah Alam, for example, for the last 15 years, Christian groups were asking for a church to be built. Those who denied them this right or delayed this right, I think, know very little about the Perlembagaan Persekutuan and they know very little about Islam and Islam's spirit of tolerance. I think the delay was contrary to the spirit of freedom of religion in Article 11. I think the delay was against the spirit of tolerance in Islam.
What is your take on the criticism of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by some Asian and African leaders?
Actually, I have a lot of admiration for this doctrine. I think it has a great many truths which are worthy of great respect, transcendental truths, universal truths. But on the other hand, from the Third World perspective, some things can clearly be pointed out.
The Universal Declaration tends to reflect a world view, a cultural view which will be more suitable for a Western society then for an Eastern or Southern society. To give you two or three points on this, I think, there is excessive individualism in this document. It tends to ignore the fact that human beings are social beings. That they belong or they seek to belong to groups, that along with the individual entity, they have collective entities, cultural rights.
We have rights --- religious rights, we have linguistic rights. So this calls for recognition of our collective identity. Of our identity as part of the group. Not only in Asia actually ... In Africa, tribal loyalties are very, very important. The Universal Declaration tends to emphasise individual rights. It tends to treat the individual as an island unto itself. Actually, all of us sit in the centre of a large number of circles of loyalty. And there is the loyalty to our family, to our community, to our tribe, to our nation, to our religion and I think, from hour to hour, these loyalties acquire a new priority (laughs).
So I think we have to accept that human beings are not just lone individuals - lone rangers. They are part of group(s). Another very grey drawback in this doctrine is it tends to emphasise political and civil rights over socio-economic rights, but I have to say that this over-emphasis on civil and political rights was corrected by the International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights.
I think now international law does recognise that food is as important as freedom. That bread is as important as the ballot box. This International Covenant on Economic, and Social and Cultural Rights 1966 does acknowledge that besides freedom of speech, right to association assembly we also need to give to people some socio-economic rights.
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in one of his speeches, excoriated the Europeans for their hypocrisy when it comes to human rights. He referred to their demonic ways in dealing with slaves and prisoners and were responsible for the massacre of innocent villagers in countries they colonized?
Actually, I am fully and enthusiastically in support of the point of view promoted by Tun Dr Mahathir. I commend him for his courage in pointing out that the human rights record of the West is indeed demonic, shameful and we need to expose it. However, let me qualify my statement by giving two ideas. Number one - double standards are not a monopoly of the West. I think most of us in Asia, Africa also suffer from double standards. We criticise and condemn some human rights violations. We turn a blind eye towards others.
For example, in many of our neighbours, in our own backyard, sometimes, human rights violations take place but in the interest of Asian solidarity, we tend not to criticise. So double standards are not a monopoly of the West. Secondly, I have to mention that in the past Europe and America had a horrendous record of human rights. Whether from slavery to colonialism, to genocide, to the way they have used atomic weapons on innocent civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, racism, racial profiling, America has bombed 28 nations since World War II. They sell weapons of mass destruction to Asian and African countries that can hardly afford them, they have predatory economic policies that rob us of our basic rights, their economic institutions - Bretton Woods Institution, World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund) are basically there to safeguard their interest at our expense. They export their toxic waste to us. Their human rights record is horrendous. Anybody who knows history will have to admit that the worst violations of human rights in the last few centuries were in Europe and America.
But they get away with it?
Now, there are many reasons why America and Europe get away with these things. One is this - they are the dominant civilisation. Of course, civilisations rise and fall but 19th century belonged to Britian, 20th century belonged to the USA and now this century, also I think - at the moment America is the sole-super-power. They have captured our hearts, our minds, the appeal of their hedonistic culture. The glitter of the media personalities, their music, their fastfoods, their clothing. They have mesmerised us. There is no doubt about it, our basic assumptions of right and wrong, good and bad, wholesome, not so wholesome is guided by them.
Is it because they control the world media?
Absolutely. Ah, yes they control the media. And they control the education too. They control virtually every aspect of our existence - our concept of beauty is basically determined by them. In Malaysia, whitening creams are being sold. This is racism. What is wrong with our skin? What's wrong with it? It's racism for someone to tell that I must lighten my skin. Why don't you sell skin-darkening cream to the Americans. I mean, why is it that in language, evil and bad things are dark and good things are light and bright? There are a lot of prejudices, so I think the glitter of their civilisation has mesmerised us.
Our young people have basically adopted the culture, the thinking. I have to be very frank with you. If I go to Hilton Hotel, I'll be reluctant to eat with my hands the way I do at home because good manners, culture, civilisation is basically as the West defines it. Our concept of beauty has been hijacked. Our girls are trying very desperately to look like Barbie Dolls but how can an Arab girl or a Fiji girl or an Indian or a Pakistani girl look like Barbie Doll?
About the UN. A major effort was launched recently to reform it at the initiative of secretary-general Kofi Annan. But it has failed. To many people there was never any doubt at all that it was going to fail. What do you think?
Actually I personally attended a conference in Iran on UN reform where secretary-general Kofi Annan sent a very-high-powered representative and at that UN conference in Tehran, it was generally accepted that reform of the structure of the UN, especially of the Security Council, was not going to succeed because any reform will be vetoed by the permanent members.
You see, the Security Council, in my view, is one of the most despicable, racist, international agencies in the world today. Out of five veto-wielding members, four belong to Europe or North America. They are caucasians, they are Christians. The only one veto-wielding member from Asia is China. The entire Hindu civilisation, the entire Islamic civilisation, the whole of Africa, the whole of Latin America is not represented amongst the five veto-wielding members.
So in your view, the United Nations always was, and still is basically, an institution to represent the interest of the victors of World War II. They have rewarded themselves with certain privileges which they are not going to give up.
Yes. And in addition to that, it is basically an institution to reflect the interest of the former colonial powers, of the Christian civilisation of the White civilisation and Latin America, Africa, Asia except China, are actually totally marginalised. So the reform of the Security Council is basically to take away their veto power. Will they be willing give this power up? I mean in all fairness, why should anyone have a veto over an international institution? Why should there be five permanent members? There should be no permanent members.
I think the Security Council is a despicable, undemocratic, racist, religiously-bigoted institution. However, reform in this area was never going to succeed because any proposal would have been vetoed. They were trying to pay lip-service by saying okay, they will have a three-tier membership - five permament members with the veto power, a few more permanent members but without veto powers and then there willl be some non-permanent members. That may succeed but, to me, that would be a fig-leaf to find the original nakedness of an undemocratic, racist, colonial structure.
I have to say very bluntly, the UN in its charter talks about equality of nations. If there is equality, then how come you have a veto and I don't? How come you're permanent and I'm not? So, I think the whole idea of permanent members, veto-wielding members is undemocratic. But of course, we have to be realistic. This reform will not succeed because the permanent members will veto.
But there are other areas that could be reformed to make the world body more beneficial to the whole world especially the Third World countries. Many people were very hopeful that in the socio-economic area, in the area of poverty eradication, in the area of UN having a role in making this world less cruel in terms of economic distribution, the UN could have played a role. But what happened?
Now this is the biggest disappointment. The Western world is not prepared actually to tackle vigorously, problems of poverty. I believe, and I am fortified in my belief by a number of Western economists who say, poverty can be eradicated. It can be conquered.
All that is needed is a certain amount of GNP (gross-national-product) allocated to poverty eradication scheme. That's where the great disappointment comes. The Western world, especially the United States under the present regime, is not committed to poverty eradication, social justice. They are basically committed to predatory policies. Economic predatory policies whereby actually in the name of free trade they are basically out to exploit globalisation today.
The World Trade Organisation and all these other international institutions and international arraignments are basically meant to benefit those who are already powerful. It is not a level playing field. It's a field whereby those who are strong will grow stronger and those who are weak will actually decline further into the abyss of despair.
One of the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution is freedom of religion. Which states that every person has the right to profess and practice his religion which I assume that a person also has a right to change his religion and profess a new religion of his choice to stop professing and practising of his present religion. What has happened to that right?
Freedom of religion was one of our better protected rights. It was our pride and joy, really. I don't think there is any other multi-racial country in Asia or maybe around the world where there is such incredible diversity. Such close-balance between the Malays and the non-Malays, you know in terms of population-wise. The non-Malay groups are extremely large especially take note of Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and yet, we have lived together without civil-war, without racial confligurations, religious riots.
There are a few exceptions, of course, with (19)69 was the most drastic one. We have had an incredible amount of religious, racial, linguistic harmony and I think it was largely because of the vision, the courage and the large-heartedness of the leaders at the time of Merdeka who decided to follow the middle-path and I think there is something about the Malay community itself. The Malay community, up to now, has been very accommodating of diversity, of tolerance.
I have to say this; that lately - and by lately I mean in the last 15-years or so - there are some very negative developments. I think there is a fair amount of religious overzealousness. I think there is some intolerance. There is some extremism that is taking hold. I hate to put it this way but increasingly there is Taliban-isation of Malay and Muslim society taking place. Taliban-isation ... I am personally, bewildered, how religion of Islam, so universalistic, with so much emphasis on pluralism, on tolerance, on diversity as a gift of God. How a Malay community so open to accommodation of others, how there is now a predominance of overzealousness.
Issues, for example, of apostasy laws are being passed to send apostates to rehabilitation centres, deviationists are being treated with utmost severity. The moral policing of society is increasing. As I said earlier Taliban-isation, more and more Taliban-isation is taking place. Our religious school teachers are telling our kids, telling our young kids in primary schools and secondary schools, they must not visit each other's festivals, houses over festivals, they must not send Chinese New Year cards and Deepavali cards and Christmas cards. What is happening?
Do you know for sure that what you say is happening? That Muslim religious teachers telling their Muslim students not to visit their non-Muslim friends in their homes.
My kids are coming back from school and say: "Ustazah kata ... Ustaz kata". And I say: "No, you don't listen to them. These are all our fellow-human beings. You must visit them and they are also children of God. God allowed this diversity to take place". I quote to them from the Quran – "If Allah had wanted, he would have made the whole world into one community" but He did not. Yes, you can be sure of that. It is happening.
What can we do to stop it? If as you say extremism is taking hold what can we do to prevent it from spreading?
I think we need to adopt a tough stand. I think leadership - political leadership, political will - is needed in this area. In my view some of what is happening is not in accordance with Islam. Islam, as I understand it. It is not in accordance of the Constitution.
To give an example from Islam, I don't think Islam mandates sanctions for all transgressions of Islamic morality. I don't think Islam mandates punishments for people who don't say their prayers. It is wrong not to say your prayers. Prayers are wajib (compulsory) but I don't think this is a matter for the state to punish. I think this for Allah to punish.
Increasingly we are passing laws to punish people who don't say their prayer. At one time, it was only for Friday prayers. Now there are states who are passing laws for other prayers as well. Now, this is what I would call Taliban-isation. Yes, there are state enactments that are being enacted for other prayers as well. They're punishing people for not fasting. I think a lot of this moral policing, too, I don't think Islam requires it. Islam too, has a sense of privacy. There is a concept of privacy.
Now, officers are hiding behind bushes, they are hiding under floorboards, peeping through. I don't think that's Islamic. I don't think Islam allows that. I think there is a right to privacy in Islam. I think in Islam there is no compulsion. Islam recognises pluralism, Islam recognises tolerance so I feel a little bit uneasy about this attitude towards apostates, attitude towards deviationists. I think as long as deviationists and apostates are not belligerent to Islam. I think we must leave them alone.