13 February 2014

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TMMO

Putrajaya should first remove all restrictive laws governing the media and allow free coverage for all parties before proclaiming that the Malaysian media is “freer than it has ever been”, PKR said today.

In a statement here, PKR vice-president N. Surendran labelled the proclamation by the Prime Minister’s Office false and “laughable”, pointing to the recent suspension of local weekly, The Heat, and Putrajaya’s rejection of a newspaper permit for FZ Daily, which currently publishes its news on the Internet.

An interview with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on BFM radio was also barred from the airwaves, Surendran said.

“Further, the government completely bars opposition access to television and radio, including public-owned media such as RTM.

“This is not just undemocratic, but blatant abuse of public resources and funds by the government for the benefit of the BN political coalition,” he said, referring to the ruling Barisan Nasional pact.

Surendran suggested that Putrajaya remove laws like the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, which gives power to the government to grant or revoke publishing licenses of any newspaper.

He said despite amendments to the law in 2012, newspapers have continued to operate under the threat of having their licenses revoked.

Even worse, Surendran pointed out, editors are often summoned to explain articles deemed critical of the government.

“Instead of issuing ridiculous statements that the media is free, Putrajaya must immediately repeal the PPPA and allow free access to TV and radio to the opposition and civil society,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office denied that press freedom in the country has deteriorated, saying that Malaysian media is freer than it has ever been.

The declaration came after news that Malaysia tumbled 23 places to land at 147th spot in the World Press Freedom Index for 2014, putting it below Thailand, Indonesia and even Myanmar.

13 February 2014

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TMI

Jika ketua Pemuda Gerakan mahu Adun dan ahli Parlimen meletak jawatan sebagai pilihan sama ada sebab atau tiada sebab, dihukum adalah idealisma budak-budak muda yang biasanya dipengaruhi emosi.

Ada sebab tertentu mengapa orang muda yang berpolitik boleh mencadangkan dikenakan denda hingga RM100,000 atau lebih. Ada politiknya maka dia membuat cadangan demikian.

Tetapi kalau seorang profesor yang memimpin ramai pelajar membuat cadangan sedemikian, maka kita boleh bertanya, macam mana dia boleh diangkat jadi profesor.

Biasanya orang politik daripada parti yang berbeza suka mencabar lawannya seperti wakil rakyat meletak jawatan dan bertanding semula bagi menguji pengaruh masing-masing.

Seorang wakil rakyat dicabar meletak jawatan disebabkan dia tidak buat kerja, atau dia membuat kenyataan bodoh yang tidak melayakkannya jadi wakil rakyat.

Apabila wakil rakyat itu menyahut cabaran, maka ini memberi peluang kepada yang mencabar untuk bertanding. Tidak perlu dia menunggu tamat tempoh untuk mencabarnya.

Orang sepintar Lee Kuan Yew itu sendiri semasa sebelum berkuasa dan menjadi pembangkang juga mencabar musuh politiknya baik seorang mahu pun semuanya meletak jawatan bagi menguji populariti masing-masing.

Orang mencabar biasanya ia ada harapan menang jika diadakan pilihan raya kecil. Dan bagi yang berani menyakut cabaran pula merasa dia mudah mengalahkan si pencabar bila piihan raya diadakan semula.

Tetapi mengapa sekarang ada parti politik tidak suka Adun atau ahli Parlimen parti lawannya meletak jawatan seperti di Kajang itu? Adakah PRK akan memakan belanja besar dan membazirkan duit rakyat bagi mengadakannya?

Mengatakan belanja besar itu dalih saja. Sebenarnya cakap seperti itu ialah kerana ia tidak yakin ada harapan memenangi PRK itu. MCA tiada harapan menang di Kajang, apa lagilah Gerakan. Bila ada PRK mereka terpaksa bertanding. Penat kerja, banyak belanja habis, keputusannya kalah.

Itulah logiknya maka mereka menganjurkan supaya didenda wakil rakyat yang memilih meletak jawatan secara sukarela. Orang mencadangkan supaya didenda wakil rakyat seperti itu adalah kumpulan seperti musang yang mengatakan anggur masam setelah tidak dapat mencapainya.

Mungkin meletak jawatan seperti dikatakan memperolok demokrasi dan kebebasan berpolitik.

Tetapi jika Adun merasakan dia tidak dapat menjalankan tugas dengan baik disebabkan kelemahannya, maka meletak jawatan adalah baik supaya gantinya dapat memberi khidmat yang lebih baik.

Jika didapati ada wakil rakyat yang tidak berguna, kerja tidak dibuat, meletak jawatan tidak mahu, ia adalah lebih buruk daripada yang meletak jawatan.

Yang penting ialah rakyat dan kawasan mendapat khidmat baik daripada wakil rakyat. Kalau yang tidak berguna itu tidak meletakkan jawatan kerana tidak mahu didenda RM100,000, yang rugi ialah rakyat dan kawasan kerana wakil rakyat malas dan poteng.

DAP menunggu saja presiden MCA meletak jawatan di Parlimen Bentong kerana DAP percaya Tiong Lai boleh dikalahkan dalam PRK.

Tiong Lai tidak akan letak jawatan bukan kerana PRK berbelanja besar tetapi dia belum tentu menang.

Tentang profesor yang berfikir seperti budak-budak itu, tidak dapat hendak dibayangkan jenis pelajar yang dilahirkannya. Univeriti bukan sekadar mahukan pelajarnya dinamik, tetapi perlukan profesor dinamik bagi melahirkan graduan dinamik.

Hukum yang dicadangkan itu, bukan untuk melahirkan Adun dan ahli Parlimen yang dinamik dan berani, tetapi ia akan melonggokkan wakil rakyat yang pasif.

12 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The coalition for clean and fair election Bersih has called on the police to drop its investigation against PKR’s would be Kajang by-election candidate under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

In a statement, Bersih said that the constitutionality of the Act is still pending in court.

“Bersih is currently challenging the constitutionality of the Act in its counterclaim in the suit concerning the Bersih 3 rally, in which the police are demanding a compensation of RM112,000 from us for damage of police vehicles.

“Bersih will stand by Anwar Ibrahim or any candidate against any unconstitutional violation of their right to peaceful assembly,” it said in a statement.

It added that “selective” use of the Act against a by-election candidate undermines the fairness of the polls.

Berita Harian yesterday reported that police have opened investigation papers under the Act to probe Anwar over a campaign rally he hosted in Kajang.

This followed Election Commission chief Abdul Aziz Yusof’s remark that the EC cannot act as the campaign period will only commence on March 11.

In response, Anwar had said that although BN has yet to name a candidate, BN leaders have been actively campaigning for the coalition through statements in the media.

‘No such thing as voters overly-informed’

On this matter, Bersih said that although the campaign has not officially begun “there is no such thing as voters being overly informed”.

“Unofficial campaign before nomination cannot do voters any harm as they get more time to consider their option and the consequences of their choice,” it said.

However, it said the EC is “duty-bound” to act on any electoral misconduct even those outside the official campaign period.

“The EC is duty-bound to ensure the Kajang by-election, as any other election, to be free of bribery, treating, intimidation, outright vote-buying, hate speech against any social groups (be it ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender or lifestyle), smear campaigns, one-sided media reporting and violence,” it said.

It also clarified a report by The Malaysian Insider where Bersih was reported to have stated that both BN and PKR have contravened election rules by campaigning before March 11.

Chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah clarified that what she had said was that the EC was not being even-handed by singling out Anwar over the issue of early campaigning.

“Bersih calls upon all media to uphold the highest standard of professionalism in their reporting to ensure fairness to both the reported parties and the public,” it said.

12 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

 

Business radio station BFM has been barred from broadcasting its interview with PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim on the Kajang by-election.

The interview was initially slated to be aired on the station’s Evening Edition, which is a drive-time programme.

It is understood that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had ordered the station to can the interview.

However, it is still available for download on the station’s website.

It is normal practice for radio stations to submit a list of guests and topics for the MCMC’s reference.

It is also noted that this is not the first time that BFM has been barred by the MCMC from airing an interview.

Among other instances, the MCMC had ordered BFM not to air its interview with Irshad Manji, a Canadian book author who has drawn opposition from conservative Muslim groups due to her liberal stand on Islam.

BFM is a Klang Valley-based radio station that can be received in parts of Negri Sembilan and Malacca.

The station has built a reputation for its more liberal and bold approach towards business and current affairs reporting, which sets it apart from Malaysia’s ‘big three’ private radio groups – Media Prima Radio Networks, Star Publications (M) Bhd and AMP Radio Networks.

It was founded by Malek Ali and last year, 23 percent of its stakes were reported to have been acquired by The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd.

12 February 2014

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12 February 2014

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11 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The temperature was close to sizzling. So I decided to remain indoors and seek respite from boredom in the realm of online videos. Then I chanced upon an epic scene.

The hero flips a cigarette into the air, whips out a pistol, points it upwards, and fires without looking. The bullet ignites the cigarette, which he then catches between his lips with ease.

For the uninitiated, this might lead to a stabbing pain in the chest medical practitioners refer to as myocardial infraction. But for the rest of us, this is Rajnikanth! The reigning superstar of Indian cinema, whose outlandish celluloid antics have defied logic and the laws of physics for decades.

But far from being ridiculed, he is revered and loved, with a fan base numbering in the millions, transcending racial, age, language, cultural, social and even geographical barriers.

Peculiarly, it is the same people who cheer and applaud when Rajnikanth executes his mind-numbing stunts, who are quick to condemn other heroes for bludgeoning common sense.

Somehow the superstar has been given a carte blanche to push, or rather butcher, the boundaries, which his critics and rivals have trouble understanding.

Across the ocean. In Malaysia, there is an individual with similar appeal. He is not an actor but is often accused of theatrics worthy of an Oscar, or at least, the Indian movie award.

And like Rajnikanth, Anwar Ibrahim too is an enigma. Both rising above the odds when none expected them to do so.

BN undone by its own doing  

Despite having advanced well into their 60s, the two men still possess an electrifying presence and the voltage is lethal when in front of the camera or on stage.

From being labeled a racist and religious bigot when he was the second-in-command for the coalition which fate later dictated that he opposed with a vengeance, Anwar is now perceived as a messiah (by the loyalists) as well as a necessary evil (by the rest) to deliver Malaysia from the stranglehold of a diabolical and corrupt regime.

Much to the frustration of his adversaries, the mud-slinging fails to deter or weaken him. On the contrary, the attempts to soil his reputation tend to backfire and make him even stronger.

All allegations against him are dismissed as baseless, all videos and photos doctored, all evidence – including traces of semen – tampered with or planted, the police and judiciary are in cahoots with their political masters to throw him behind bars.

And those within the opposition who crossed swords with him have, from riding atop the wave of popularity, sunken into the political abyss with a Judas-like infamy.

With the Sodomy II appeal now being heard, the powers-that-be are also in a conundrum as to which Anwar is more dangerous – the one who is left to roam the streets as a free man or the one kept locked behind bars.

But the people cannot be blamed for disbelieving the allegations leveled against the opposition leader and his comrades.

Decades of arrogance, blatant abuse of power, corruption, racism and a slew of other misdeeds have led them to view with contempt and disdain all that is associated with BN.

Exacerbating the situation, characters like Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Dr Mahathir Mohamad never fail to remind Malaysians that no matter how bad Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar are, BN is much worse.

Take for example how Zahid, without the slightest regret nor reprimanding those responsible, had dismissed the calls to punish the NGO which offered a bounty to those who would film themselves slapping a woman DAP MP.

When confronted with such remarks, one cannot be blamed for feeling the urge to put a palm to his face instead, hoping that it would jump start the portion of his brain that is responsible for sensible thinking.

These statements serve to only strengthen the speculation that it is Umno’s hands which are stained with chicken blood and an assortment of other mindless antics designed to stoke tension with the aim of safeguarding the balance of power regardless of the consequences.

Neck on chopping block

So against this backdrop, it is not surprising that many in BN consider the Kajang by-election a waste of time and funds.

In the past, the queue of hopefuls would have been around the block but now it would be difficult to find even one, apart from a handful of court jesters, who would be willing to put his or her neck on the chopping block.

Contesting a PKR seat won with a comfortable margin is bleak enough a prospect, let alone having to lock horns with a superstar.

Imagine 12-days of grueling campaign, traveling on foot from door-to-door in the heat, shaking countless of sweaty palms, speaking at various ceramah, visiting morning and night markets, kissing babies and elderly aunties, planting trees, grilling satay… And doing all of these, knowing that an electoral whipping is in store.

What more if the candidate is from MCA and is forced to explain to the large number of Chinese voters how come there are people slaughtering chickens, spilling blood on banners, calling them ungrateful immigrants, wanting to revoke their citizenship, while Umno leaders keep silent and MCA leaders can only issue press statements in protest and nothing more.

Despite the avalanche of criticism about the engineered by-election, no political pundit would dare predict a defeat for the PKR candidate. So apart from Anwar being struck by lightning before filing his nomination papers, the outcome appears to be sealed.

During a recent interview with Malaysiakini, Anwar, in responding to Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s description of the former as a “political animal” and himself as a “corporate animal”, replied in jest, “We are not animals”.

But if one observes the animated and calculated responses to the questions posed during the interview, and the glint in his eyes when answering them, it is obvious that he is a political beast that thrives on a diet of challenges.

One only hopes that the beast does not devour the trust and faith that the majority of the Malaysian electorate has placed in him.

11 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

In one ancient fable, a frog falls into a pail of milk. Unable to scramble out, the creature thrashes around, seemingly drowning. Eventually, however, his frantic struggles churn the milk into butter – and he hops away.

The lawyers for Anwar Ibrahim are hoping for something like the successful coda to the above struggle when they try today for probably the last time to disqualify senior counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from prosecuting the appeal of the Sodomy II acquittal.

The appeal is scheduled to be heard at the Federal Court tomorrow and the day after (Feb 12-13).

Previous attempts by the Anwar defence at Shafee’s disqualification were rejected by adjudicating panels whose vision of the law leads them to prioritise normatively inert and liberally amoral technical grounds over what gives the law ballast: its need to locate its reason to be on moral principle.

Thus far Anwar’s lawyers’ arguments have revolved around Shafee as being unable to be the disinterested officer of the court he would have to be to prosecute the case in the service of justice.

His past involvement as counsel in cases brought by Umno or people linked to the political party was said to have rendered him an interested party and therefore unable to prosecute, in the requisite disinterested manner, the appeal of the acquittal of Anwar in Sodomy II.

To assume a position that past involvement in Umno does not disqualify a lawyer from playing the deputy public prosecutor’s role in a court case against Anwar Ibrahim would be like arguing that Bashar al-Assad’s behaviour in the Syrian civil war does not disqualify him from a major role in any post-war arrangement for peace in that country.

Adjudicating panels in this saga of attempted disqualification held that they needed more flagrant grounds for Shafee’s removal as DPP from the appeal of the Sodomy II acquittal.

The most recent attempt at disqualification was marshaled on the grounds of Shafee’s involvement in an episode that had also involved former senior police officer, Mat Zain Ibrahim, a cop whose past experience of the subterranean byways beneath the surface of our criminal justice system has left him with a lasting legacy of suspicion.

The episode’s convoluted threads allegedly led up to embroil attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail but again the courts remained unconvinced that Shafee’s part in the tangled trail disqualified him from being DPP.

The smoking gun

Going into today’s proceedings, the Anwar team’s due diligence of the case has unearthed what could be regarded as the ‘smoking gun’.

This is the final bit of evidence that should expose like no previous argument Anwar’s lawyers had adduced in past disqualification exercises did – that the grounds on which Shafee has proposed to proceed for the appeal possess a fundamental flaw.

Shafee has said the main issue in the acquittal was whether the DNA exhibits that were under the care of investigating officer, DSP Jude Pereira (right), were tampered with.

He has said that he found no evidence to indicate that the exhibits were tampered with by Pereira.

The problem here, as it has been with Shafee himself, is the track record of Pereira.

In an inquiry conducted by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) on the arrest of five legal aid officers in May 2009, Shafee as chairperson had found key witness Pereira seriously short of integrity in the latter’s testimony.

The matter is on public record in the Suhakam archive. Pereira was a key witness in the Sodomy II trial. At the High Court trial judge Zabidin Mohd Diah found he could not rely on Pereira’s testimony to vouch for the DNA exhibits’ integrity.

Shafee would have to explain how a person he found wanting in truthful testimony in the Suhakam inquiry can, in the sodomy acquittal appeal, be relied on for integrity of his handling of the DNA exhibits.

In other words, the past is about ready to catch up, if not with Shafee then with Pereira.

11 February 2014

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TMI

Had Tunku Abdul Rahman been still around, he would have been disappointed with the elements that are trying to divide Malaysia and its people.

The nation’s first prime minister had considered himself to be the happiest premier in the world, but had he been alive today, he would be Malaysia’s saddest man due to the raging racial religious tensions.

With his legacy of unity being threatened, speakers at a forum held to commemorate Tunku’s 111th birthday last night in Kajang said there is a need to secure his legacy to ensure the nation remains united.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said Tunku wanted peace, love and harmony, which he lamented seemed to be in short supply in recent months.

“Never before has Malaysia been so divided and polarised, with the last eight to nine months being the worst. Today’s forum is for us to think of what we have lost in our 56 years of nation building.

“Tunku would want to see a united country. Is Malaysia more united or divided now? Has the issue of race and religion become more polarising?” he said at the forum in last night.

The veteran politician noted that during Tunku’s time, there was certain civic and gentle chivalry that seemed to have gone down the gutters today.

Described as a prime minister for all Malaysians, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said her father and his colleagues were among the ones who were inspired by the Kedah prince turned premier to work together to develop the nation.

“At that time, the spirit of nationalism was reigning high but what inspired people to work for the country was Tunku – he made everyone feel they belonged and that was crucial to build and develop the country,” she said.

If Tunku was alive today, what would he say to the way Malaysia is today?

“I would think he would say the same thing… that unity is our fundamental strength. He would be disappointed at attempts to divide us. He hated racism, as shown by his vocal views against apartheid,” she said.

Anwar tells of his encounter with the late former prime minister at the forum, saying that he was widely described as a gentleman. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, February 11, 2014.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said during Tunku’s time, the former premier, widely described as a gentleman, was accepting of criticism even against his leadership to ensure the country continue to grow.

In sharing a personal anecdote of Tunku in his twilight years, the former deputy prime minister said he hosted a dinner which was attended by the statesman.

“He was telling the attendees ‘you know this young man? He was a great fighter but he became tired. So he joined Umno’. I just bowed my head and didn’t say anything,” he said.

Anwar, who was sacked from his post and party after falling out with former long-serving prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1998, reminded Malaysians to adhere and return to the spirit of the Federal Constitution.

“We must have tenacity of purpose to defend the spirit of the Constitution. We will be stronger if we remember and adhere to some of Tunku’s principles which many had forgotten,” he said.

He also took to task those who condoned the actions of groups who threaten assault against DAP Seputeh MP Teresa Kok over her Chinese New Year YouTube.

A group of Islamic NGOs had slaughtered two chickens and offered a RM1,200 to anyone who slapped Kok over her video which allegedly insulted Malays.

“You have every right to question Teresa, but you have no right to insult the intelligence of Malaysians and giving the go ahead for everyone to be threatened with slaps. This is crazy,” he said.

PAS’s election director Dr Hatta Ramli said despite his Islamist party and Tunku being political rivals, they had always respected the former prime minister for being down to earth and non-confrontational.

He said during Tunku’s governance from the mid-1950s until 1970, there was no such thing as Malay supremacy.

Rivalry aside, Hatta said he and he party always respected Tunku for being down to earth. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, February 11, 2014.

“If we ask Tunku whether he is a Malaysian or Malay first, he would have said the former,” Dr Hatta said.

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim regaled the audience with a series of anecdotes about Tunku, whom he had heard much about from the former prime minister’s peers, especially former Bank Negara governor Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali.

In calling Tunku a “real gentleman with integrity”, Khalid said Tunku was instrumental in starting the Merdeka tournament football competition and the Islamic Development Bank. He also mooted the regional political and economic grouping Asean.

For Khalid, nothing beats seeing Tunku’s race horse winning the Melbourne Cup. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, February 11, 2014.

In sharing a personal experience, Khalid said when he was a student in Australia, he went to a Melbourne Cup horse race and was surprised to see a man with a songkok with the winning horse.

“I realised that was my prime minister. His horse won the Melbourne Cup,” he said.

10 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

Pakatan Rakyat’s decision to field Anwar Ibrahim in Kajang ignited a firestorm and drew many dissenting views.

But for Pakatan to break out from the stalemate since the May 2013 election, this is a brave and strategic move.

Kajang could be the fiercest battle in Anwar’s decades of political career, as well as his riskiest bet – it certainly appears that the daggers are out for him. But these are necessary birth pangs as we search for a post GE13 breakthrough.

My political scientist friend Wong Chin Huat reminded me that in 2005 I had mooted the idea of Anwar contesting a state seat in Selangor.

The logic was to gun for Putrajaya by first controlling Shah Alam. However, at that time Anwar was barred from contesting until after April 2008.

There were two reasons for the Putrajaya via Shah Alam route.

Firstly, although the menteri besar holds limited powers, as far as the Malaysian public is concerned, the MB position befits a high profile almost on par with the prime minister.

An internal GE13 post mortem by the Pakatan secretariat found that among Malay voters, there was no nationwide voting trend.

In Terengganu and Perlis, due to Umno infighting over the respective MB’s post, Pakatan’s popular votes increased. In Kedah dissatisfaction against the late MB Azizan Abdul Razak (right) cost Pakatan precious votes.

In other states, Pakatan’s Malay support increased as well as decreased without a unified voting pattern. In several states Pakatan’s lack of a clear MB candidate also proved to be a chink in its armour.

The point is that state politics is very important in the minds of the Malay voters.

Huge difference

Secondly, the ground often shifts faster than we think. There is a huge difference between the political scenario in 1998 and that of 2005, the stark contrast between Reformasi and the post-Mahathir era.

In former prime minister Abdullah Badawi’s (right) heyday, BN controlled 91 percent of seats and 64 percent of the popular vote – it was a bleak season for the opposition post-GE 2004. Hence I mooted the idea for Anwar to go for Shah Alam.

By the time the embers of 2008 smouldered, ten years had passed since Anwar was the deputy prime minister, something the younger generation of voters are too young to remember. Hence the need for Anwar to reinvent his political legacy.

The GE14 must be held before or by 2018. By then, a child who was one year old when Anwar was sacked in 1998, would have reached the voting age. It would have been 20 years since the ‘98 Reformasi era.

In 2008, there were 10 million (10,740,227) registered voters with 76 percent turnout on election day. In 2013, the total number of registered voters was 13 million (13,268,002) while another three million or so had reached 21 years, but had yet to register as voters.

Each year there are about 500,000 Malaysians turning 21. All in, total number of voters could potentially reach 18 million in 2018, almost double that of in 2008.

To reach this generation of new voters, we need to translate the idealism and spirit of 1998 into practical policies and results.

In the current soul-searching period since GE13, both BN and Pakatan are seeking for a point of breakthrough.

Public anger

Prime Minister Najib Razak struggled and failed to find a way out and he has nothing new to offer to the discourse.

As Najib’s (right) handling of economic matters has aroused public anger, his approval ratings have taken a nosedive and left him vulnerable to attacks from the usually racially charged pro-Mahathir camp.

After GE13, Anwar too seemed to be stuck politically. At the same time it would not be prudent for the Pakatan-rule Selangor leaders to continue its public spats. Something serious must be done now.

In politics, standing still is as good as losing ground. Although in GE13 Pakatan managed 51 percent of the popular vote, it was not good enough to win federal power.

Pakatan needs to demonstrate a breakthrough in terms of discourse and results as to maintain that margin, and gain more fence-sitters’ votes.

People actually ask, is the timing right? To me, if we need to start over, it is better to do so now than wait for another two years. If we wait further to make this move, then it would really be too late.

For those who question whether Kajang is a ‘demotion’ for Anwar, I will say this: Anwar is Pakatan’s candidate for prime minister, and the move to raise his profile as a state leader before aiming for national leadership is a strategic move for this season, in line with our overall strategy.

10 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) has apologised to PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was denied entry to Japan last month when he arrived to speak at an event.

SPF chairperson Jiro Hany, who extended another invitation today, said he would do all he can to ensure that Anwar will be able to enter Japan this time, to participate in a forum on ‘Democracy in Muslim world’ slated for the end of this month.

“I am the host responsible for guests to be comfortable and I am very responsible for the great embarrassment to … Anwar,” Tokyo-based Jiro (left) told reporters today after a closed-door meeting between the duo in Damansara, Selangor.

“I apologise to him and ask him that good relations between Anwar and my foundation will not be affected by the incident.”

Anwar accepted the invitation and said he “forgives” Japan for the incident. Immigration officials at Narita Airport had refused him entry to the country on Jan 19 because of his prior conviction.

Jiro said the SPF had written to Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Defence Ministry seeking an explanation.

“Up to the present (time), I am not satisfied with their explanation,” he said.

If it is proven that Japan made a mistake, he said, the government should also apologise to Anwar.

Anwar, asked if he still believes Putrajaya had a hand in the fiasco as he had earlier claimed, said he is over it.

“Let’s move on … this is just one experience. I will therefore accept his (Jiro) invitation to visit Japan on Feb 26,” he said.

10 February 2014

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Malaysiakini

The Lunar New Year celebrations last week ushered in the Year of the Horse, in which former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad may hope for some good fortunes, given that Chinese Malaysians used to refer to him rather fondly as Lao Ma, or Old Horse, based on the Chinese transliteration of his name. (These days, however, the nickname has come to be synonymous with racism and bigotry.)

As he is busy attending open houses across the country, it is quite certain that, his mind sharp as ever, the ex-premier has not lost sight of the political changes on the ground. We must not forget that the Pakatan-administered state of Perak fell to Umno exactly five years ago through treachery and conspiracy as, rather inauspiciously, many were lulled into a false sense of security during the Lunar New Year break.

It is also worth reminding that the Perak coup happened as the hawks in Umno – edged on by Mahahthir and tacitly supported by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (left) – had been putting pressure on PM Najib Abdul Razak to prove his worth as successor to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The short-lived Pakatan rule in the Silver State is now history, but the painful lesson must not be forgotten.

Fast forward to 2014, it is increasingly clear that Najib’s hold on power is being weakened by forces beyond his control. Following Kedah MB Mukhriz Mahathir’s failure to make it to the Umno top leadership, Mahathir’s wrath can barely be concealed.

To pre-empt Mahathir and also to consolidate his position, it is only natural that Najib has been seeking to exploit the rifts within PKR, especially between Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and the party’s warlord Azmin Ali.

Meanwhile, radical groups such as Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) are turning each and every public issue into a racial or religious dispute in an attempt to heighten tensions, hoping also that the rising crescendo will eventually warrant a rule by decree.

Mahathir was instrumental in the downfall of Tunku Abdul Rahman nearly 45 years ago, and the chances of his striking at Najib can never be ruled out. After 1969, both Penang and Kelantan, run by Gerakan and PAS respectively, went on to join BN, changing the country’s political landscape drastically.

Should Mahathir be successful in engineering another so-called crisis a la 1969, would Penang, Kelantan and Selangor be strong enough to resist the temptation of supping with the devil if their leaderships are not strong and cohesive enough?

A plot or a strategic move?

The latest political twist in Selangor has caught us by surprise. Some say it is a plot to outsmart Abdul Khalid, others see it as a strategic move to rein in Azmin’s faction. The truth is, it is a bit of both, plus a pre-emptive strike at Umno.

Since the Kajang state seat was vacated, I have seen many take great umbrage at opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for dragging the electorate into what is widely perceived as party infighting. The amount of criticism levelled at the entire PKR leadership is no doubt unprecedented, for want of a better word.

But let’s face it: power struggle is a normalcy, rather than an exception in party politics. In this regard, I would say the infighting within Umno is far more serious than Pakatan’s. But because Umno has at its disposal immense resources, the party can keep most grudgingly happy, hence the luxury of not having to resort to the electoral process in resolving the conflicts among the various factions.

While I do not fully agree with a by-election without a cause, I see far greater dangers in Umno exploiting the differences within Pakatan in Selangor for its own gains. Mahathir and his gang are working hard to weaken Najib’s administration by seeking to radicalise our society with the issues of race and religion, thinking that they can control the damage after Najib is gone while Mukhriz is put in a No 2 (or even No 1!) position.

While arousing the fear of the Malays, the Mahathir clan is also using Pakatan leaders’ personal issues to paint the latter in an extremely bad light. We have witnessed this in the utterly discredited Sodomy I & II, and also the virulent attacks on PKR assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong five years ago.

DAP MP Teresa Kok may have been unwise in producing a not-too-funny Lunar New Year video, but the hysterical reactions by some are indicative of the ugliness ahead. The great uncertainties, left unchecked and unaddressed, can eventually become a norm in the contest for public space.

One must not underestimate the impact of a small group of people as such. As Indian anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has rightly observed, where one or more of these forms of social uncertainty come into play, violence can create a macabre of certainty and become a brutal technique about ‘them’ and ‘us’.

So, expect more to come as both sides head to Kajang.

All that Umno needs to do is to successfully create an impression that Pakatan is equally as problematic, so why not opt for the devil you know?

‘Blood is thicker than water’

Through writing, social activist Marina Mahathir helped her father keep the support of the so-called neutral elites (or Bangsar liberals?) back in the late 1990s, and I can see she is employing the same tactic again, albeit far smarter this time. She may have an issue with Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, and rightly so, but I doubt she would say no to her brother assuming Umno leadership. After all, blood is thicker than water.

And how on earth would a self-styled liberal have chosen the most illiberal prime minister in this country’s history to pen a foreword for her book, ‘In Liberal Doses’?

Until and unless Marina (left) has faced up to the fact that Mahathir is THE patron of Perkasa, I will continue to take her words (and publicity stunts) with a large pinch of salt. Of course, I won’t stop others from blindly worshipping her.

In short, the Mahathir clan is seeking a very formidable comeback with far more dangerous, destructive consequences this time. Ignore the deadly influence of the old man at one’s peril. He is getting old and time is not quite on his side.

Nothing will satisfy him other than having his son securely installed as a future prime minister and his ‘legacy’ safeguarded, and nothing delights him more than seeing his mediocre son emerge victorious and the Anwar-led Pakatan ruined to pieces. Only then would he be laughing all the way to his grave.

I may not go all out to argue for the strategic move by Anwar, but I will not at this time mount a campaign to undermine the opposition either, knowing all the odds staked against them.

Perhaps standing idly by is the best one can do. If you want to save your pride of non-partisanship by going all out against Anwar, go ahead, although I am quite certain history will not be too kind to those who have played some role in resurrecting the ghosts of Mahathirism.

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