10 April 2014

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bloombergview

President Barack Obama always knew his Asia tour later this month would be fraught with political landmines. The two nations that lead off his itinerary — U.S. allies Japan and South Korea — have been squabbling for more than a year over World War II history. Another, the Philippines, is one of Asia’s economic bright spots even as President Benigno Aquino’s government is locked into a dangerous maritime territorial spat with China — a country Obama would rather not antagonize.

But most problematic of all may be Obama’s time in Malaysia. Obama’s visit — the first by a U.S. leader to Kuala Lumpur in 50 years — was meant to celebrate a nation viewed as a high-tech hub of moderate Islam and a democratic contrast to China. Six months ago, Obama hailed Malaysia as “an example of a dynamic economy” and touted its multiethnic society as a model to others. Today, amid the global outcry over the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, such praise sounds naive. The past month has highlighted Malaysia’s deepest flaws, and all-too-few of its strengths.

The international press has pilloried Prime Minister Najib Razak‘s government for its initial response to the crisis, which was marred by conflicting information, poor coordination with neighboring countries, defensiveness, and an apparent lack of transparency. Fairly or not, since March 8 when Flight 370 disappeared on its way to Beijing, Malaysia has lost a great deal of its standing both in the region and around the world.

At the same time, Najib’s government has been clamping down on internal political dissent. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim once again faces the specter of jail on sodomy charges; Karpal Singh, chairman of the Democratic Action Party, is defending himself against sedition allegations. Local media outlets critical of Najib are on the defensive. The government has by contrast been silent on efforts by Islamic conservatives to limit who can use the word “Allah” — a campaign that has eroded Malaysia’s reputation for religious tolerance.

What can Najib’s government do, post-Flight 370, to improve its image at home and abroad? This isn’t a mere PR challenge. The country needs nothing less than a political revolution.

The Flight 370 crisis has fully exposed the dangers of allowing one party to rule a nation for six decades. Since rising to the top job in 2009, Najib has had to divert his attention from revitalizing Malaysia’s economy to maintaining the United Malays National Organization’s long hold on power. It’s a full-time job: For years populist handouts, gerrymandered districts, and political arrests secured the party comfortable majorities, but in last year’s election the ruling coalition lost the popular vote for the first time. Its ethnically Malay, largely rural base is dwindling.

Early on, Najib thrilled global investors by hinting that he would scrap his party’s 40-year-old affirmative-action policies, which favor Malays. But UMNO’s troubles prompted Najib to expand rather than eliminate such apartheid economics.

These affirmative-action policies stifle innovation and drive away investment. They disenfranchise the country’s Indian and Chinese minorities, forcing many of them to seek their fortunes overseas. Malaysia is blessed with enviable natural resources. But it is willfully squandering its equally enviable human capital.

The longer Malaysia sticks with the racial preferences, the more graft andopacity will worsen and undermine growth. The only way to unshackle the economy — which should be performing a lot more like South Korea than Vietnam — is to end such policies.

Najib could start by announcing specific targets and dates to scrap Malay-friendly quotas on hiring, preferential treatment for government contracts, and perks involving everything from education to housing. Civil-service and Cabinet appointments should be about ability and nothing else — not race, not sex, not age. Until and unless every lawmaker, ministry and government-linked corporation realizes they will have to answer for their actions and failings, the trust gap between Malaysians and their government will only widen.

Ending affirmative action would increase accountability and transparency within the government and the economy. It would bolster international confidence. The government’s handling of Flight 370 was no fluke. The fumbling exposed a political elite that’s never really had to face questioning from its people, never mind the rest of the world. That same political culture created and coddled national carrier Malaysia Airlines. Not surprisingly, even before this, the airline had fared poorly against peers amid growing global competition.

Six months ago, Obama could praise “Malaysia’s diversity, tolerance and progress” and “dynamic economy” as “a model to countries around the world.” The president’s speechwriters will have a hard time coming up with compliments that sound credible this time. Najib has the power to change that — if he has the courage.

7 April 2014

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The Telegraph

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, tells The Telegraph that country’s “sophisticated” radar would have detected the plane

The Malaysian opposition politician, Anwar Ibrahim, tells the Telegraph that he finds the Malaysian authorities lack of progress in finding missing flight MH370 “baffling”.

He says that Malaysia now needs to gather an international committee to salvage its reputation.

“To save the image of the country and to save the country, the Malaysian authorities should say by now we must have an international committee representing various countries and operations

“I believe the government know more than us. They have the authority to instruct the air force… or Malaysia Airlines. They are privy to most of these missing bits of information critical to our understanding of this mysterious disappearance of MH370.”

 

1 April 2014

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By Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition Leader on MH002 enroute to London

 

“The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing.- Caroline Kennedy

 
Talking about political winds, it appears that lately, the Malaysian judiciary, particularly the judges of the superior courts, are caught in the whirlwind and are frantically racing against each other to please the powers that be of the day.

In the frenzy to curry favours from their political overlords, these minions have stopped at nothing to ensure that they will be the first to reach the finish line. Pots of gold await the backscratchers and lackeys. And where financial gratification may appear a tad blatant, there’s always elevation to the higher rungs of office to whet the appetite. Unlike Parliamentarians, judges will never be content to be Back Benchers. The preferred place is the front and the top where they can tower over ordinary mortals, even if they be law-makers or members of the Bar. They fear no one except their political masters because they know on which side their bread is buttered. And they shall not bite the hand that feeds.

Throwing judicial decorum to the wind, they bare their fangs and sharpen their claws in order to cow supplicants in their courts into submission, and in the process, their demeanour and conduct leaves no one in doubt about their bias. And though they know that an adversarial system dictates that judges must not just act impartially but must be seen to be so, they bend backwards to don the hats of prosecutor and executioner as well. When this happens, as indeed it is happening now with unprecedented frequency, we know justice has gone to the dogs.

It is happening because Prime Minister Najib Razak, in flagrant abuse of power, has launched a new campaign of political persecution. “Even if we can’t defeat them at the polls, all is not lost (remember Altantuya?). We still have our judges to do our bidding. See how they fall over each other at the snap of our fingers!”

This is the alarming trend in our judiciary where judges work hand in glove with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to deny leaders of the Federal Opposition, duly elected representatives of the people in Parliament, their right to justice. In taking this unconstitutional and nefarious line, they have turned the doctrine of the separation of powers on its head.

Hence, apart from me, MPs Karpal Singh, Azmin Ali, Antony Loke, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Syed Azman and Shamsul Iskandar just to name a few, are marked for the judicial abattoir by the executioners. It may be sodomy, it may be sedition, or it may be illegal assembly, or whatever. These bootlickers know less of law and the principles of justice than lording over the courts parading proudly as peacocks (and peahens) their colourful judicial plumage overflowing with the arrogance of power.

As for those judges who used to sit on the throne, there is still life after retirement. The involvement of former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad in the National Unity Front, closely linked to Perkasa, Malaysia’s icon of racism, while not shocking remains scandalous. It makes a mockery of the institution of the judiciary which he once headed and contradicts the principles of equality, equity and justice that the judiciary is supposed to stand for. Is it conceivable for a former chief judge to head an organisation that is adamantly opposed to the National Unity Consultative Council, and to be notoriously engaged in race-baiting and the trumpeting of the superiority of one race over other races in our multi-racial and multi-religious country?

It would appear that it is not only conceivable but that it is lauded with much fanfare by UMNO going by the prominent coverage given to it by the UMNO controlled media.

Incidentally, this is the same judge who, in his Federal court judgement, had written that “the court’s decision must only be based on the evidence adduced and nothing else and (hence) it had to acquit because of lack of evidence,” but qualified it with the illogical and manifestly asinine statement that “we find evidence to confirm that the appellants were involved in homosexual activities”. In other words, “we find him NOT guilty but at the same time guilty”. Anything more stupid, perverse and farcical than that cannot be found in our judicial annals (no pun intended) except for the judgements and pronouncements of Augustine Paul and Ariffin Jaka in respect of Sodomy 1 and the current decisions in respect of the application for expunging and the Sodomy 2 appeal. As they say, it has to take one stupid, perverse and farcical court to agree with another stupid, perverse and farcical court.

UMNO must fight its own political battles and not be such a coward to use the judiciary to help them fight the Opposition. How long more are our judges going to dance to tune of UMNO? When will they stop becoming stooges and lap dogs of UMNO leaders? How long more must the rakyat endure this sham? Who are the puppeteers in this shadow play? Are these judges not aware that UMNO will not be there forever to cover their tracks, or their backs, or that not only will history judge them, but that the rakyat are not going to sit idly by – forever – while they continue to pervert the course of justice?

Parliament, as the vox populi, must make its voice heard before we reach the tipping point and the situation gets out of our hands. There is a tide in our affairs which, unless we seize it, will see our voyage for democracy and rule of law in shallows and in miseries. This is the rising tide of judicial impropriety, arrogance of power and transgression. As one of the three branches of government, Parliament must reassert the sanctity of the separation of powers principle. It is therefore morally incumbent and constitutionally expedient that Parliament acts accordingly to break up the illegal and unconstitutional collusion between the Executive and the Judiciary.

Anwar Ibrahim

1st April 2014

31 March 2014

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In the most farcical and disgraceful trial in modern history, the
Egyptian military junta under Dictator General al-Sisi, on Monday
sentenced to death 529 leaders and politicians of the Muslim
Brotherhood.

Most of the countries in the Arab world, with the notable exception of
Qatar, have neither lifted a finger nor said a word of protest against
this even as the EU and the USA have at least expressed some token
regret. Shamefully, the speaker of the Malaysian Parliament, no doubt
taking orders from the Najib administration, refused to allow the
matter to be debated in spite of vehement demands from the Opposition.

Following the military coup by al-Sisi and the scandalous sacking and
arrest of democratically elected President Morsi, Egypt has gone from being the darling of the Arab Spring to undisputed pariah state of the free world.

This latest act in a series of illegal, unconstitutional and morally
despicable acts by the military junta since the power grab underscores
the diabolical nature of the new Egyptian government set up
purportedly to restore “justice, freedom and democracy” that was
alleged to have been eroded under the administration of duly-elected
President Morsi.

On the contrary, the new regime has demonstrated beyond the shadow of
a doubt that it has no qualms about using the organs of state power
such as the army, police and the judiciary to oppress and repress the
Egyptian people. The fundamental liberties and human rights
safeguarded under the Morsi administration are thrown the drain.
Hundreds more political opponents are jailed without trial while
international journalists including three from al-Jazeera, are
detained without due process.

Backed by a well-orchestrated and sustained media campaign to
whitewash its actions, the ruthless regime of al-Sisi has massacred
its own people including women and children and unleashed other
atrocities with complete impunity.

Monday’s verdict to execute 529 opponents of the coup in a summary
trial that lasted less than an hour makes an utter mockery of the
judicial process and leaves no one in doubt that it is justice itself
which has been given the death sentence and that due process has been
sent to the firing squad instead.

The Egyptian people had paved the way for the full blossoming of the
Arab Spring when, with their blood, sweat and tears, they overthrew
Husni Mubarak, ending four decades of military dictatorship. Voted to
power via an internationally recognised electoral process, President
Morsi and law makers from the Brotherhood and other political parties
were slowly but surely steering the country to new directions in the
path of freedom, democracy and justice.

Tragically, the blatant coup last July engineered by al-Sisi, working
hand in glove with corrupt external powers, has turned the clock back.
The military powers that be appear to believe that this latest
crackdown on the Brotherhood, following the earlier outlawing of the
movement, will further weaken them.

In this regard, they are gravely mistaken. History has shown that
people who are pushed to the ground by perverse and prolonged acts of
oppression and injustice will emerge even stronger.

Anwar Ibrahim

31 March 2014

31 March 2014

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Azizah and I mourn the passing of Irene Fernandez, a champion of the weak, the poor and the marginalized, and a fighter of true grit in the face of persecution and constant harassment by the authorities.

This is truly a great loss to the nation and to Keadilan, she being one of co-founders.

Indeed, also a sad personal loss as she had been a close family friend and my colleague since our Malaysian Youth Council days.

Anwar Ibrahim

31 March 2014

27 March 2014

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Foreign Policy

As hundreds of young men are sentenced to death for the killing of one policeman, the state is gearing up to crush its Islamist enemies.

gyptian Judge Saeed Youssef Mohamed presided over the mass trial of 683 people on charges of murder, incitement to violence, and sabotage on March 25 — including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie — in the southern Egyptian city of Minya. The defense lawyers in the case boycotted the proceedings, but Mohamed demanded that the case go forward anyway.

It’s not hard to see why the defendants might not like their chances. On March 24, Mohamed handed down one of the world’s largest death penalty verdicts ever, ruling that 529 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi would face the gallows for killing a police officer and attacking a police station last summer.

None of the accused or their lawyers was present on March 24, when Mohamed issued his sentence. The presiding judge in this Upper Egyptian court issued his damning ruling after a trial that lasted just two sessions. The verdict has not only dealt another blow to Egypt’s reputation abroad, but it has shown how far some elements of the state are prepared to go in crushing supporters of the former Islamist government. It is impossible to know whether Mohamed was acting alone or on orders from the central government.

The defendants, many of whom are members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, were accused of jointly murdering Mostafa El-Attar, deputy police commander of the southern town of Matay. The killing occurred on Aug. 14 in the aftermath of the forced dispersals of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that left hundreds dead.

The 545 people in the mass trial were also charged with attempting to murder two security officers, participating in an illegal rally, and vandalizing public and private property. Only 16 defendants were acquitted.

The news of the mass death sentence sent shock waves across the world. Human Rights Watch referred to the ruling as a “sham,” while Amnesty International’s Middle East deputy director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said it was “the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences we’ve seen in recent years.”

Not everyone, however, condemned the ruling. Several figures within pro-government Egyptian media celebrated the expanding crackdown on Morsi supporters. “I salute the fairness and justice of our judiciary in defiance of those killers and all those who attack it,” said Ahmed Moussa, the presenter of a show on a private Egyptian satellite channel. “May they be 10,000 [sentenced to death], 20,000, not 500. We are not sad; we are happy.”

The extraordinary hearings, which began on March 22, were in shambles from the beginning. During the first hearing, 147 defendants were crammed into a courtroom cage that had been specially modified to fit the enormous number of people on trial.

Judge Mohamed yelled at the defense lawyers, accusing them of being disruptive and “discussing politics,” reported Reuters. The defense teams, meanwhile, furiously argued with him in an unsuccessful attempt to get the judge changed.

“We simply couldn’t prepare the court case in time. The case file is 4,000 pages long,” said Ahmed Shabeeb, one of the defendants’ lawyers. “The court didn’t even listen to our request for more time. We couldn’t defend them,” he said.

The hearing lasted just 45 minutes, during which key witnesses were barred from giving their testimonies. The judge then adjourned the session and demanded that the lawyers submit a written defense. “He didn’t even look at the evidence,” Shabeeb said.

Two days later, Mohamed forbade the lawyers from attending the final hearing and issued the verdict to a courtroom of police officers.

The verdict, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that Egypt will actually execute the 529 defendants. The case will next head to the Court of Cassation, which examines whether the legal process of criminal court cases followed the letter of the law. In this case, the procedural errors were so blatant that it is unlikely that the verdict will be upheld, said Karim Ennarah, a criminal researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

But even if the sentence is not carried out, the verdict has propelled Egypt back into international headlines for all the wrong reasons — and has wrecked some tentative signs of improvement in the country’s human rights environment. Prominent secular activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who has been in jail since December and is on trial for allegedly organizing an illegal protest and assaulting a police officer, was finally released on bail on March 23. Meanwhile, interim President Adly Mansour personally wrote letters to jailed Al Jazeera correspondents Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy promising them a free and speedy trial.

This ruling, however, is a sign that some elements within the Egyptian state still favor a drastic escalation of violence against Morsi supporters. Doing so might come at the cost of the rule of law: After the trial’s March 22 opening session, Tarek Fouda, head of the lawyer’s syndicate in Minya, said that the presiding judge had “veered away from all legal norms and that he breached the rights of the defense.”

Fouda promised to submit a report on what had occurred to Egypt’s justice minister. The Justice Ministry was unavailable for comment on the case.

“I think it’s safe to say all 529 people were not involved in collectively killing one police officer. That would be an unprecedented feat of group work,” said Ennarah. He said March 24′s ruling was part of an “alarming” six-month trend of Egyptian courts giving “reckless and brutal rulings to intimidate and terrorize opposition protesters.”

The families of those sentenced, meanwhile, have been thoroughly disillusioned about the state of the judicial process. For them, this is solely a political attack on supporters of the former Islamist government.

“We don’t even consider it a verdict. At first we were surprised by the huge numbers on trial; now we just think it’s nonsense,” said Mohamed Hafez, whose two brothers, Hossam, 30, and Mostafa, 31, both businessmen, were sentenced to death on March 24.

Hafez told Foreign Policy that the investigation actually uncovered proof that his siblings are not in the Muslim Brotherhood — but they were sentenced to death anyway. “Maybe they’re trying to terrify people to stop going to demonstrations or oppose the regime,” he said.

The verdict comes just a few months before Egyptians are supposed to vote for a new president — a critical step in the military-authored “road map to democracy.” But as Egypt’s newest 529 occupants of death row can attest, the country remains a long way from the stability and rule of law that Morsi’s ouster was supposed to usher in.

“This is the largest death penalty in Egypt to the best of my knowledge,” Mohamed Zaree, program manager at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, concluded. “This is not a verdict; it is a massacre.”

27 March 2014

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Foreign Affairs

MH370′s Humbling Reminder About Technology — And Its Operators

The tale of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 evolves by the minute. Most likely it will have changed yet again by the time you finish reading this. But whatever the ultimate solution to the puzzle may be, it is not too early to start asking what it means.

Here are the facts as we understand them at the moment. On March 8, a plane en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing. There was no indication that anything untoward was happening before it stopped communicating with air traffic controllers. Shortly after it went silent, it began to deviate dramatically from its preprogrammed flight path — again, with no indication of trouble. The plane managed to cross the Malay Peninsula and head into the Strait of Malacca without attracting any attention before it disappeared from radar entirely. According to the British firm Inmarsat, the plane was still airborne somewhere along a giant arc stretching from the southeastern Indian Ocean to Kazakhstan more than seven hours after departing from Kuala Lumpur.

One clear lesson, as Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario, has recently argued, is that the countries of Southeast Asia are incapable of monitoring, let alone controlling, their airspace. They are also poor at mounting a swift, coordinated response to disaster. They excel, however, at blaming each other. This should raise eyebrows in Washington as the United States “pivots” to Asia. Their response illustrates that any cordiality among players in the region is but a thin veneer. It also calls into question the competence and reliability of the very states on which the United States would depend in the event of a serious confrontation with China. Perhaps even more ominously, China’s eagerness to outperform the United States in finding the missing plane would appear to have unseemly geopolitical overtones. It may even reflect Beijing’s sensitivity to domestic legitimacy, in view of the fact that most of the passengers aboard MH370 were Chinese nationals.

But there are larger lessons as well — lessons with more than just regional significance. First, the good news. There is no evidence, and by most expert accounts it is extremely unlikely, that MH370 vanished as a result of malfunction. When vital systems in modern airliners fail, they trigger alarms. Backup systems kick in. Pilots report trouble if they are in radio range. There is no indication that any of this happened. Modern airliners are marvels of engineering, so it is no wonder that the odds of being in a fatal commercial airline accident are a mere 1 in 3.4 million. Fewer than a quarter of the fatal accidents that do occur are the result of mechanical failure. You are safer in an airplane than in a bathtub.

The only onboard systems whose performance is in question at the moment in this case are the transponder, which enables ground operators to identify the aircraft and provides crucial flight information, and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which monitors system health and automatically relays faults to maintenance bases. These stopped working within minutes of the crew’s final, perfectly routine radio contact with ground controllers on the morning of March 8. It seems increasingly certain that these systems were switched off deliberately.

As far as anyone can tell, all of the ground-based hardware also worked. Primary radars, secondary radars, and radio communications all held up their end of the bargain in trying to maintain contact with MH370. Again, this is what we should expect. The relevant technology is very good, and is getting better all the time. TheHuffington Post notwithstanding, there is no valid comparison between MH370 and Amelia Earhart’s fateful final flight. A Boeing 777 operating in well-monitored airspace today is to Earhart’s plane as the Internet is to smoke signals.

Now, the bad news. Although the mechanical systems seem to have worked well, the human systems failed repeatedly, both at the individual and group levels. For one, if the disappearance of MH370 was deliberate, then existing security measures failed to thwart it. In addition, Malaysian military radar operators failed to notice, misperceived, or wilfully ignored the plane’s radar track as it headed westward. Thai radar operators noticed, but failed to report it because no one askedOther countriesmay have failed to notice or report the plane’s odd path as well because of incompetence, flawed procedures, or fear of embarrassment. For days after the plane disappeared, although there was ample information indicating that the jet had headed toward the Indian Ocean, Malaysia and an increasing number of other countries kept looking for it in the Gulf of Thailand.

There is even worse news. Much of the confusion and uncertainty could easily have been prevented. It is almost inconceivable that, nearly 13 years after 9/11, pilots can still turn off transponders by themselves. (In those rare circumstances when it might be desirable for a pilot to turn off a transponder, there is no technical obstacle to requiring an additional ground-based signal to do it.) Moreover, there is an eight-year-old technology available — Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B — that provides more detailed and more reliable flight and positioning information than does a standard-issue transponder. Although MH370 had ADS-B, and although amateurs on the ground picked up its signal, air traffic controllers did not. Across the world, countries have been slow to embrace it because of bureaucratic inertia and misplaced safety concerns. (In the United States, the FAA does plan to adopt it nationwide, but not before 2020.)

If ADS-B isn’t your style, continuous-broadcast GPS is another readily-available technology that airlines can use to monitor their fleets. But as Peter Parrish, vice president of operations for Latitude Technologies, which produces such a system, has lamented, “For some reason, the major carriers continue to rely exclusively on old technology to track their aircraft when one of our boxes could be tucked into an out-of-the-way spot on the aircraft to report location on a continuous basis, including on an accelerated basis right up to the point of impact in the event of a crash.” Ironically, while Malaysia Airlines’ regional subsidiary, MASwings, has embraced this technology, its parent company has not.

In one sense, the bad news is not surprising. Although technology advances by leaps and bounds, improvement in our mental ability to perceive and analyze the world takes place on an evolutionary timescale. Cognitive, bureaucratic, social, and cultural barriers to learning are ubiquitous. I have spent most of my professional career trying to understand why national leaders — who are almost always very smart people — make so many mistakes, and the answer is simply that they are human. As former Secretary of State Dean Rusk said to me toward the end of his life, “I’ve met and worked with a good many people whose names are in the history books or in the headlines. I have never met a demigod or a superman. I have only seen relatively ordinary men and women groping to deal with the problems with which they are faced.”

We have come to appreciate that our rapidly increasing technological sophistication — which has brought to us such benefits as safe, convenient air travel — carries with it great potential cost. It gives us a greater ability to destroy, of course. But, as my colleague Thomas Homer-Dixon, CIGI Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, has pointed out, it can also lead to the creation of vulnerable, overly-tightly-connected, and inadequately resilient systems unless we pay careful attention. We have great difficulty appreciating, apparently, that individuals and organizations are often the weakest links in those systems. National leaders don’t think of themselves or their counterparts elsewhere as ill-informed, confused, emotional, fallible, and perhaps even slightly mad some of the time. Nor do they think of the complex departments, ministries, agencies, and militaries over which they have authority and nominal control as marginally to severely dysfunctional virtually 100 percent of the time. But they are.

In a tense, heavily-armed region such as East or Southeast Asia, it would be a good idea for leaders to reflect on the limited capacities of individuals and organizations and the inevitability that they will make mistakes. And at no time are mistakes more likely than in times of crisis. The bizarre story of MH370 should make the importance of that insight painfully clear.

26 March 2014

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The Washington Post

IF YOU are perplexed by Monday’s announcement on the missing Malaysian airliner, no wonder. Prime Minister Najib Razak declared that the flight “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean, and the state-owned airline said that “we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt” that the plane went down in the ocean, far off its course to Beijing. Both announcements were vague; neither said much about why or how.

From the moment the plane went missing, the Malaysian government has been ham-handed in its dealings with grieving families and the global glare of attention. It delayed for hours saying anything after the plane first vanished, and over the next few weeks much of the information it disseminated was conflicting, wrong or misleading.

Such a bizarre disaster would be difficult for any government to deal with, and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion is expected. But the Malaysian government has shown signs of a deeper malaise that comes from a half century of rule without challenge or transparency. When the prime minister was about to make a statement recently, his spokesperson told reporters there would be no questions. According to Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, when reporters pressed for more access, the reply came back: “Go watch a movie.” When China, no champion of transparency, complains — as it did recently, asking for “more thorough and accurate information” from Malaysia — you know the depth of the problem.

Malaysia, ruled by the same governing coalition since independence, has enjoyed strong economic growth, and we had hopes before last year’s election that, if the vote was free and fair, the country would be on a path toward a more competitive democracy. Mr. Najib has taken steps toward modernization and reform, but the election fell short. Mr. Najib’s coalition won a majority of seats in Parliament largely through gerrymandered districts, while the opposition coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim won a popular majority and disputed the outcome. Clearly there is rising popular discontent with corruption, authoritarianism and ethnic favoritism of the ruling powers.

It is especially disturbing that the government has renewed its politically motivated prosecution of Mr. Anwar on dubious charges of sodomy in order to sideline him from politics. On March 7, he was sentenced to five years in prison by a court, overturning a 2012 acquittal. The move had the effect of removing him from eligibility to run in an important by-election. The use of the sodomy charge is shameful and archaic, but as Graeme Reid of Human Rights Watch pointed out this month in Foreign Policy, if upheld, it could effectively remove Mr. Anwar from politics for 10?years. Malaysia should not tolerate this brazen manipulation.

It is entirely premature to say what happened to the airplane. But it is not too early for Malaysia’s rulers to draw lessons from their unsteady performance of recent weeks and commit themselves to transparency and openness. Their alternative is not working.

 

26 March 2014

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Malaysiakini

Pakatan Rakyat akan mengusulkan rasa kurang senang mereka dengan badan kehakiman di Parlimen tidak lama lagi dan akan mendesak Speaker Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia untuk menyatakan pendiriannya.

Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim berkata pihaknya akan meperincikan cara untuk membawa perkara itu ke Parlimen susulan keputusan kes Liwat II dan sabitan kes hasutan MP Gelugor, Karpal singh baru-baru ini.

“Ke mana lagi kita mahu pergi jika bukan Parlimen? Ke jalan raya?” kata Anwar pada sidang media di lobi Parlimen hari ini.

Beliau turut menuduh yang badan kehakiman kini semakin bersikap perkauman dan tidak melindungi hak golongan minoriti.

“Seolah-olahnya seperti ada pertandingan dalam badan kehakiman untuk melihat siapa yang lebih pro-Umno.

“Pertandingan ini membunuh kehakiman,” katanya.

26 March 2014

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Malaysiakini

To the casual political observer, two facts from the recent Kajang by-election would have stood out.

Firstly, the turnout decreased from 88 percent in GE13 to 72 percent. Secondly, the majority of victory decreased from 6,824 in GE13 to 5,379 – a drop of 1,445 votes.

On the surface, these results may seem like a negative reflection on Pakatan Rakyat’s and specifically PKR’s campaign as part of the ‘Kajang Move’. But a more careful analysis of the results reveals important findings that are positive for Pakatan, moving forward.

Pakatan increased its popular vote from 56.8 percent to 59.7 percent, a 2.9 percent increase. While this increase may not seem significant, one has to take into account that the lower turnout most likely decreased Pakatan’s popular vote.

Most of those who did not vote for a variety of reasons – did not return from outstation, it was the start of the school holidays, and thought that the outcome was already decided – would have been Pakatan voters, especially the younger voters whose turnout decreased more than the older voters (more on this later).

Secondly, Pakatan won in 14 out of 16 polling stations (not including postal and early votes) in the by-election compared with 12 out of 16 polling stations in GE13.

In Sungai Sekamat, a 78 percent Malay polling station, Pakatan turned a 239-vote deficit into a 45-vote majority. In Taman Delima, a 74 percent Malay polling station, Pakatan turned a 123-vote deficit into a three-vote majority.

Even in the remaining two polling stations which Pakatan lost – Sungai Kantan and Batu 10 Cheras – the deficit was reduced from 420 to 225 and from 157 to 151 respectively (See table below).

Secondly, Pakatan managed to increase its share of Malay votes from 35 percent in GE13 to 46 percent in the by-election.

This 11 percent increase is no mean feat, considering the continued attempts to perpetuate a climate of religious and racial intolerance by certain groups in Malaysia such as Perkasa, as well those who sacrificed a chicken and gave a reward of RM1,200 to anyone who slapped Teresa Kok, MP for Seputeh, over her‘Onederful Malaysia’ YouTube video.

While Pakatan’s support among the Chinese did fall from 80 percent to 75 percent, this can largely be explained in terms of the lower turnout, especially among younger and likely pro-Pakatan supporters. As long as BN cannot overcome its negative image among younger Chinese voters, its deficit among this group of voters is likely to remain significant.

The Indian vote is harder to estimate. Given the small percentage of Indian voters, it is likely that Pakatan’s support among the Indians increased slightly from 60 percent to 65 percent, looking at the results from the polling stations with more than 15 percent Indian voters.

Greater support from young voters

Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, is the increase in Pakatan’s support among the youth.

For the unfamiliar, voters cast their votes according to polling streams or ‘saluran’. They are arranged according to age, with the older voters in saluran 1 and the younger voters in the later saluran.

The average vote won by Pakatan in the final polling stream or saluran for each polling station increased by seven percent, from 59 percent in GE13 to 66 percent. In comparison, the average vote won by Pakatan in the first polling stream or saluran – the saluran with the oldest voters – for each polling station remained the same at 49 percent.

What this means is that the increase in the support for Pakatan from 57 percent in GE13 to 60 percent in the by-election came mostly from the younger voters.

At the same time, the turnout rate among the youth saluran fell from 87 percent to 69 percent, an 18 percent fall. In comparison, the turnout rate among the oldest voters – the first saluran – fell from 83 percent to 73 percent, only a 10 percent fall. What this means is that if the turnout rate among the younger voters had fallen by a smaller amount, Pakatan’s support as well as majority would have increased.

This is significant because the youth vote – the final polling stream – has always been the most liable to swing to either side. This is why BN poured so much resources into youth-related programmes and branding activities such as 1M4U and the 1Malaysia Youth Fund.

If the Kajang by-election is a bellwether for a larger trend nationwide, then it heralds well for Pakatan.

The older voters who are more likely to be BN diehard supporters are slowly but surely being replaced by younger voters whose political allegiance is not certain.

They will be more influenced by issues which will hurt BN and help Pakatan – cost of living increases especially with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), high profile corruption cases, abuses of power, Bersih and electoral reform, environmental concerns, just to name a few.

They are also more likely to be swayed by social media that will compensate for the effects of BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) cash handouts.

Challenges for Pakatan remain

The challenges for Pakatan to increase its vote share are still significant. Pakatan has to find ways to motivate younger people to register and to turn out to vote. Pakatan has to minimise its infighting so as to not turn off potential supporters.

It has to continue to showcase Penang and Selangor as models of governance in contrast to what BN is doing in Putrajaya. Pakatan has to increase its effectiveness as a check and balance on the BN government at the federal level and in the BN governed states. It must also strengthen its leadership at the local level, especially in the marginal seats and states.

This work is ongoing. And while the Kajang by-elections may not have been as decisive of a victory as Pakatan would have wanted, the underlying trends do point positively for Pakatan moving forward towards the next general election.

(Only data from 14 out of 16 polling stations were used because two polling stations only had two polling streams or saluran.)

26 March 2014

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TMI

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) said today that Pakatan Rakyat will raise issues of judicial misconduct in Parliament next week, following concerns over the impartiality of judges.

The opposition leader voiced his concerns over the conduct of former judges and a series of judgments that he claimed was contrary to the rule of law and principles.

“Pakatan Rakyat will have to make a forceful stand on the misconduct of the judiciary. We insist that Parliament be more assertive and do not use the standard line that there is a separation of powers,” he said at a press conference at Parliament.

nwar’s remarks came following the appointment of former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad as the chairman of National Unity Front, an organisation linked to Malay rights group Perkasa.

He also vowed to defend the rights of the Malays and Muslims “within the boundaries of law”.

25 March 2014

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I offer my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the
239 passengers and crew of flight MH370 which has been announced by
the Prime Minister to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

There are no words to describe their pain, anguish and sorrow in the
face of this tragedy and all concerned must give them full support and
assistance in the days and months ahead no matter what it takes. Not
only should the media give them space and privacy but the authorities,
in their investigation, should show the greatest consideration to the
grieving families of the crew members.

Efforts to find the wreckage must be continued. That must remain the
priority even as many questions remain unanswered. The people, in
particular, the families and loved ones have a right to know all the
information and evidence concerning the crash particularly as to why
the government is certain, beyond reasonable doubt, that flight MH370
has crashed in the Indian Ocean.

Anwar Ibrahim

25th March 2014

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