16 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Asia Sentinel

Long uphill fight to make progress

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Indonesia’s parliament just voted to curtail democracy at the grass roots level, the Indonesian police have banned the democratic right to protest against the move at an international forum on democracy the government is hosting on the island of Bali.

That’s almost as absurd as the military’s insistence in Thailand that it intervened to save democracy.

Nearly two decades into the twenty-first century, the struggle for democracy in Southeast Asia continues to battle strong headwinds. Sometimes, as in Thailand where the military seized power last May, this has resulted in a complete reversal of course.

In Indonesia, where for the first time one popularly president will shortly transfer power to another as a result of free and mostly fair elections, the sudden course correction forced by a parliament dominated by conservative forces has everyone spooked and worried for the future.  Will the long journey from darkness into light ever be smooth?

A wise and experienced politician in the region once said that the struggle for freedom was like driving a car uphill and that he could not envision ever being able to take his foot off the gas.

Arguably, this is a useful piece of advice for democrats everywhere, but it is particularly instructive in Southeast Asia where three generations of activists have been imprisoned, tortured or killed for their belief in freedom since the end of the colonial era only to see their countries lurch from the triumph of people’s power to betrayal and regression.

It’s not quite the same in other parts of the globe where democracy was fought for and flowered over a similar period. Transitions are real and sustained. In Chile and Argentina, the victims of repression are at last receiving justice. Kenya’s indicted president recently showed up at the International Criminal Court.

Here in Southeast Asia the word ‘transition’ imparts more ambiguity. Power changes hands more easily, but remains concentrated in the hands of the few. No attempt to eradicate corruption goes beyond scratching the surface and punishing the minnows. Impunity prevails, as victims of political repression are asked to bury the past to avoid opening up old wounds.

Thus while Indonesians celebrate the election of a new kind of grass-roots politician as president, a man who supposedly cares for the people, the atrocities of past violence since the 1960s, in which as many as two million Indonesians were killed, were not even considered important enough by anyone to be featured in the campaign.

The developed West cheers the outcomes it likes best, which are usually tidy and good for business. China’s influence now looms larger in Southeast Asia as good roads and high-speed railways start to pierce once remote borderlands. Chinese trade and investment as well as strategic support finds firmer footing in places where democracy is in deficit.

As a result, the United States, whose aim is to stem the tide of Chinese influence supposedly in the name of freedom, is forced to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in order to shore up old alliances and build new ones, as in the case of Vietnam where the Obama administration has just announced the relaxing of a ban on the sale of lethal arms.

Meanwhile, civil society perpetually struggles to be heard across the region. Noisy activists are either jailed or disappeared – as was the allegedly the case for environmental activists recently in Thailand and Laos. The public airing of injustice or inequality is often deemed unpatriotic or economically inconvenient.

Although, in a stunning challenge to this, a group of Cambodians have filed a case with the International Criminal Court alleging that “the ruling elite have illegally seized and re-allocated millions of hectares of valuable land from poor Cambodians for exploitation or speculation by its members and foreign investors.”

Points of light pierce the murky democratic dawn, but little more. Meanwhile, in Thailand martial law remains in force and it is illegal for more than five people to gather – even lone protestors eating sandwiches have been arrested. In Myanmar, a where democratic transition is said to be in full swing, journalists are subject to prosecution and are sentenced to hard labour.

Later this month a Malaysian court will likely jail the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whose party won the popular vote in the last election. And Indonesian lawmakers consider that after almost a decade of popularly elected mayors and district officials, it is time to reverse course and have them appointed.

It’s not as if people are demanding all that much change. One former official from Myanmar speaking at a conference of civil society actors in Bali ahead of the heavily guarded Bali Democracy Forum put it like this: what people want is a government that is capable, efficient, accessible, caring, responsive and, if possible, replaceable.

However, for established elites in the region it’s that last point about a genuine democratic system that is hardest to swallow. Power can be responsibly wielded, even in the name of the people, but is not easily surrendered.  As former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri once told a journalist colleague, all that is required is to let a little light into the system.

16 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Program Solidariti Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim

21 Oktober 2014 (Selasa)

1) 3.00 – 5.00 ptg – Bersama Masyarakat India Menjelang Deepavali

Lokasi: Little India, Jalan Tengku Kelana Kelang Depan Ajuntha (Sebelah Masjid India)

22 Oktober 2014 (Rabu) – Pulau Pinang & Kedah

1) 12 .00 tghari – Sambutan Rumah Terbuka Deepavali Yb Prof Dr Ramasamy TKM 2 Pulau Pinang

Lokasi: No11 A , Lorong 16 Tmn Tambun Indah, Simpang 4 , Batu Kawan, Pulau Pinang

2) 7.00 – 9.00 mlm – Sambutan Rumah Terbuka Deepavali Kedah Yb Dr Krishnamoorthy Adun Bukit Selambau

Lokasi: Jalan 5 , Cinta Sayang Resort Home, Sg Petani, Kedah

3) 8.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidarity Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Dewan Lip Seang Khor, Sg Petani (Depan Hospital Lama, Sg Petani)

4) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Tapak Expo Seberang Jaya, Pulau Pinang

Bersama YAB Lim Guan Eng, YAB Azmin Ali, dan Sdr Mat Sabu

23 Oktober 2014 (Khamis) – Pulau Pinang & Perak

1) 12.00 tgh – Sambutan Rumah Terbuka Deepavali Pulau Pinang

Lokasi: Dewan Jubli Home, Sg Dua, Pulau Pinang

2) 2.00 ptg – Perasmian Pusat Khidmat Adun Machang Bubuk Yb Lee Khai Loon

Lokasi: Pusat Perniagaan Alma

3) 5.00 – 7.00 ptg – Perjumpaan MPN Perak,

Lokasi: MH Hotel, Ipoh

4) 7.00 – 9.30 mlm – Rumah Terbuka Depavali Perak

Lokasi: Rumah M Tinagaran, Bandar Baru Tambun

5) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Batu 3, Temoh, Tapah, Perak

24 Oktober 2014 (Jumaat) – Terengganu

1) 9.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Dataran Pulau Warisan, Kampong China, Kuala Terengganu

25 Oktober 2014 (Sabtu) – Pahang

1) 9.00- 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Bandar Maran , Pahang

26 Oktober 2014 (Ahad) – Melaka & Johor

1) 6.30 – 9.30 mlm – Majlis Makan Malam

Lokasi: Flat Koperasi, Kg Baru, Machap Baru, Alor Gajah

2) 8.00 – 11.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

LOKASI : Taman Cheng Perdana, Cheng, Melaka (Belakang CIMB)

3) 8.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah Solidariti Bersama Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Grand Seaview Restaurant, Batu Pahat, Johor

27 Oktober 2014 (Isnin) – Selangor

1) 7.00 mlm – Solat Maghrib & Hajat

Lokasi: Kediaman Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Bukit Segambut,

2) 7.00 – 11.00 mlm – Majlis Makan Malam

Lokasi: Dewan MBPJ, Petaling Jaya

3) 8.30 – 12.00 mlm – Solidariti Bersama Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Lokasi: Stadium Kelana Jaya, Selangor

Turut bersama:

YAB Azmin Ali, YAB Lim Guan Eng, Sdr Mat Sabu
dan pimpinan utama Pakatan Rakyat

16 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Bekas Pengarah Pusat Kajian Politik dan Pilihan Raya Universiti Malaya (UMcedel) Profesor Datuk Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman mencatat sejarah tersendiri dalam pendidikan negara apabila 9 calon di bawah penyeliaannya berjaya menerima ijazah doktor falsafah (PhD) dalam majlis konvokesyen UM baru-baru ini.

Difahamkan, jumlah itu merupakan yang terbesar pernah dicapai seorang pensyarah Fakulti Sastera dan Sains Sosial sejak ditubuhkan pada 1959.

Menurut senarai nama yang dicatatkan dalam buku Istiadat Konvokesyen 2014 UM, keseluruhannya terdapat 33 penerima PhD dari fakulti itu pada majlis yang diadakan Isnin lepas.

Ijazah PhD itu disampaikan Canselor UM Sultan Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah Muizzuddin Shah.

Empat daripada 9 graduan PhD itu dari luar negara iaitu Indonesia, Mali, Iran dan Yaman manakala 5 lagi pelajar Malaysia.

Mereka ialah Mohamed Ali Haniffa (Malaysia), Mehdi Soltanzadeh (Iran), Salwa Ahmed Qasem Dammag (Yaman), Abu Hanifah Haris (Malaysia), Chaibo Fodie Makan Drame (Mali), Hasanudin Daud (Malaysia), Nur Atikah Tang Abdullah (Malaysia), Jazilus Sakhok (Indonesia) dan Jamal Hamil (Malaysia).

Hanifah mencatatkan sejarah yang tersendiri sebagai calon PhD di bawah penyeliaan Redzuan yang paling cemerlang apabila berjaya menyiapkan PhD dalam masa dua tahun setengah melalui program ‘fast track’, iaitu membuat PhD di bawah Skim Bright Spark dalam tempoh kurang tiga tahun.

Bagi program ini, calon cemerlang di peringkat ijazah pertama boleh membuat PhD tanpa melalui peringkat Ijazah Sarjana.

Mereka yang mendapat PhD di bawah penyeliaan Redzuan ini adalah dari Jabatan Sejarah serta Jabatan Antropologi dan Sosiologi.

“Biasanya seorang profesor atau pensyarah paling ramai mampu menghasilkan 2 atau 3 graduan PhD setahun.

“Namun dalam kes Redzuan ini, satu pencapaian luar biasa apabila berjaya mengeluarkan 9 calon PhD dan menerima ijazah mereka serentak tahun ini.

“Lebih-lebih lagi dengan kesibukan tugas beliau sebagai Dekan Fakulti Sastera dan Sains Sosial dan Pengarah UMcedel,” kata satu sumber dari Fakulti Sastera universiti itu.

Pada tahun ini juga, Redzuan merupakan penerima Anugerah Khidmat Cemerlang UM selama 13 tahun berturut-turut sejak 2001 dan penerima Anugerah Perkhidmatan Setia kerana berkhidmat selama 30 tahun dengan UM.

Beliau sebelum ini tidak disambung khidmatnya sebagai dekan fakulti itu, walaupun mendapat sokongan undi lebih 80% kakitangan akademik fakulti itu yang mahu beliau mengekalkan jawatan.

Pihak UM enggan secara telus mendedahkan undi yang beliau peroleh dan menjadikan tarikh persaraannya tahun depan alasan perkhidmatan beliau sebagai dekan tidak disambung.

“Menariknya, terdapat mereka yang sudah bersara dilantik memegang jawatan pentadbiran, termasuk sebagai ketua jabatan,” menurut sumber itu lagi.

Pada Mac lalu, Redzuan ditamatkan jawatannya sebagai pengarah UMcedel selepas tekanan politik ke atas pentadbiran universiti itu.

Perkara ini turut didedahkan Tan Sri Ghauth Jasmon, bekas naib canselor UM yang pernah menerima tekanan sama semasa menjawat jawatan tertinggi di universiti tertua di Malaysia ini.

UM menerima tekanan ini susulan kajian yang dibuat UMcedel didapati tidak memihak kepada parti memerintah, khususnya menjelang Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13 dan Pilihan Raya Kecil Kajang, walaupun kajian yang dilakukan ini dari sudut akademik diakui kewibawaannya dan boleh dipertanggungjawabkan.

Redzuan dalam kenyataannya awal Julai lalu berkata, jawatan beliau sebagai pengarah UMcedel tidak disambung walaupun kontraknya akan tamat hujung tahun ini.

Redzuan berkata, beliau menerima surat pelantikan sebagai pengarah UMcedel pada 28 Disember, 2013 bagi tempoh 2 Januari, 2014 hingga 31 Disember, 2014.

15 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


The world is no longer shutting its eyes to the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s obstructionism and violence

In the end, the result was emphatic. After three and a half hours of debate, MPs voted to recognise the state of Palestine by 274 votes to 12.

To be sure, the vote was non-binding and has no effect – for now – on government policy, as Israel’s dwindling number of hardcore supporters will point out. And Israeli officials will affect unconcern, claiming that the emoting of MPs in a second-rate ex-imperialist power with delusions of grandeur means nothing.

Don’t believe a word of it. As reports of last-minute lobbying from Jerusalem make clear, Israel knows it cannot afford to ignore this result – for two reasons. First, it provides a stark barometer reading of opinion in much of the Western world, where Israel craves respect and acceptance. Second, as a damning verdict on Israel’s recent policies from an influential global power, the vote will contribute to its deepening international isolation and prompt other countries to press against the occupation.

If you need proof of just how friendless Israel’s hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country’s natural allies. Arch-Tories such as Nicholas Soames (whose grandfather Winston Churchill is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political hero) spoke eloquently in favour of Palestinian statehood. And Richard Ottoway, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said that despite having been “a friend of Israel long before I became a Tory”, its recent policies had “outraged me more than anything else in my political life”, concluding: “If Israel is losing the support of people like me, it is losing a lot of people.”

Not a single MP on either set of benches dared to express support for Israeli policies such as this summer’s devastating assault on Gaza or the ever-expanding settlement project (which experts warn may be about to destroy any chance of dividing Jerusalem between the two sides as part of a future peace deal). And Israel was criticised in terms that until recent years were considered taboo: Labour MP Andy Slaughter’s comparison of the West Bank occupation to South African apartheid drew only murmurs of assent around the chamber. Even most of those who expressed misgivings about the motion preferred to follow the Tory leadership and abstain rather than openly oppose it.

But – with Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made his determination to resist Palestinian statehood clear, as well as a gaggle of ministers with even more hardline views – what practical effect can Parliament’s decision have on the brute facts of the conflict?

Israel’s government and its supporters are trying to have it both ways, calling the motion irrelevant while claiming simultaneously it will damage the “peace process”. But, as several MPs pointed out last night, the peace process is a chimera – and even John Kerry’s recent efforts to impose an unfair “solution” on the Palestinians were, as the US secretary of state openly stated, largely stymied by a diehard Israeli government opposed to any compromise whatsoever.

That’s why, in the absence of any prospect of meaningful talks between the two sides, international pressure, combined with nonviolent ground-level resistance from Palestinians, may well be the only hope of bringing the century-old dispute to a resolution. And as a permanent UN security council member, a close ally of the United States, and a leading EU power the UK has more ability than most to add to the groundswell of global opposition to Israel’s rampant occupation policies.

Of course, Israel will not be swayed by any mere act of parliament: ending the occupation would likely require sustained economic and diplomatic pressure from the international community. But, as an article in the Economist has pointed out, the campaign for sanctions against Israel is gathering steam. Last night’s vote will add weight to claims that Israel must change its ways or one day face harsh consequences.

No doubt Israel’s increasingly reality-detached government will, for now, succeed in shutting its ears to the voices calling for a halt to its obstructionism and violence. But, as the House of Commons showed last night, the world is no longer shutting its eyes.

15 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Leading American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky commended the British parliamentary vote to recognise the Palestinian Territories as a state on Wednesday but stressed that the US held the keys to a Palestinian state.

“The vote in the British parliament is an illustration of the kind of action that can add to the growing effort that can pressure the influential states in the world,” he told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday.

While only symbolic – British Prime Minister David Cameron abstained from the vote and it will have no official effect on policy – Chomsky said that the overwhelming show of support for a Palestinian state among British lawmakers reflected a wider will among Europeans, “and to some extent, Americans,” to distance themselves from “the very explicitly criminal actions Israel is taking” in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Chomsky, a fierce critic of US foreign policy and Israeli actions in the Palestinian Territories, also praised a recent decision by Sweden to recognise Palestine as a state – making it the first country in Western Europe to do so – and acknowledged comments made by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday, in which he indicated the prospect of a vote in Paris on the same subject.

“What we want is not something symbolic, but something that is useful for peace,” Fabius said.

Russia said on Sunday that it planned to back Palestine’s UN Security Council resolution, announced by President Mahmoud Abbas in September, which sets a two-year deadline for the implementation of a two-state system, including the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Some 130 countries worldwide already recognise the Palestinian Territories as a nation state, despite American and Israeli disapproval.

In 2012, 138 of 147 countries at the UN General Assembly voted to accord Palestine “non member observer state” status at the UN. The US was one of eight that voted against the motion.

‘Palestinians should look to South Africans’

Chomsky stressed that despite a shift in perspective in Europe, a resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would remain out of reach until the United States was “ready to accept that settlement”.

“There will be great efforts to prevent [a settlement] on the part of the US and its close allies – Canada and Australia,” he said. “There will be one roadblock after another”.

Responding to questions by FRANCE 24, Chomsky said that in order to change the mindset in Washington, he believes the Palestinian leadership should focus on addressing the American public. “I think there will be no significant progress in this conflict until pressure from the American population induces the government to take a different stance,” he said.

He compared the Palestinian deadlock with that of other “third-world nationalist movements,” citing Vietnam, East Timor and South Africa. “They all understood the significance of developing solidarity and support among the American population to the extent that they can influence the modification of policy,” he said.

Chomsky, who was described by the New York Times in 1979 as the “most important intellectual alive,” was arrested and briefly jailed in 1967 during a major anti-Vietnam war demonstration.

US to blame for Islamic State?

Questioned on the Islamic State militants’ looming invasion of the Syrian town of Kobani, Chomsky called on Turkey to recognise its importance in saving the border town “from destruction at the hands of ISIS,” which he said could be a major massacre with enormous consequences. “Turkey’s role is critical in this,” he said.

Chomsky also criticised the US for its “sledgehammer” effect on Iraq’s sectarian balance during the war started in 2003, implying Washington’s responsibility in creating conditions that spawned the so-called Islamic State group.

Returning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he attacked what he called the “anglosphere”.

“If you look at the international scene, the strongest support for Israeli policies has been among the offshoots of Britain: the US, Australia and Canada,” he said.

“These are settler colonial societies, societies where the English colonists came and virtually exterminated the indigenous population. Why might this be related to support for Israel? It’s not hard to figure out.”

Chomsky said that the countries had not come to terms with their “extermination of the indigenous populations”.

But with growing support for Palestinian rights even in the UK and among other western European nations, Chomsky warned that the US, Canada and Australia would not be able to “divorce themselves from the world”.

15 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


In the aftermath of the Selangor menteri besar crisis, which left the opposition coalition on the brink of collapse, DAP’s grandmaster Lim Kit Siang had called for the top leaders to meet in an attempt to bridge the chasms.
However, there has been no news of such a meeting. Perhaps it was done under the media radar, but even so, information was bound to leak out.
Even before the dust could settle on the Selangor imbroglio, Pakatan Rakyat parties were once again at loggerheads over the Oktoberfest beer festival.
And now with Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal with regard to his sodomy conviction slated for Oct 28 and Oct 29 at the Federal Court, the burning question is whether Pakatan would survive if the opposition leader is sent to prison.

Prior to Anwar spearheading the opposition bloc, the notion that DAP and PAS, with their diametrically opposed ideologies, being partners in a coalition would have been dismissed as a political fairy tale.
But Anwar achieved the impossible.
And despite the glaring differences, he managed to keep the two parties on the same vessel, thus giving hope to opposition supporters that Pakatan is truly a viable option to replace BN.
In his absence, it is difficult to imagine any other leader in the Pakatan framework being able to fill his shoes and keep the coalition intact.
In 2001, when Anwar was serving his prison sentence over his first sodomy conviction, DAP had quit the then Barisan Alternatif after locking horns with PAS.
Umno’s strategy for Pakatan implosion
Perhaps Anwar’s political rivals also sense this.
There is no point in waging a battle against Pakatan as a whole. The most effective strategy would be to chop off the head vis-a-vis incarcerate Anwar.
And perhaps this is the reason behind Anwar’s case being expedited.
By removing him, BN is banking on Pakatan imploding due to the irreconcilable differences between PAS and DAP.
In its attempt to pry open the opposition, Umno has already launched a campaign to constantly remind PAS that it is being shoved about in Pakatan.
Umno websites are replete with articles of party leaders accusing PAS of deviating from its struggle.

Even former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right) jumped on the bandwagon, recalling how PAS had once condemned Umno for working with non-Muslims but was now doing the same.
He also warned that PAS was treading a perilous path by forging political cooperation with a powerful non-Muslim entity, DAP.
Lest we forget, there are also some powerful factions in PAS, especially among the conservative circles, who believe that to safeguard Islam and the position of Malays, the Islamic party must join hands with Umno.
On the other hand, Anwar’s incarceration could become a rallying point to unite the fractious opposition parties and consolidate their union.
Hence locking up Anwar might backfire on Umno.
There are some who believe that he is more dangerous behind bars, heralded as a symbol by his supporters for the struggle against oppression and tyranny.
It remains to be seen whether the hope and aspiration of the 52 percent of Malaysians who voted for Pakatan in the last general election would be crushed by the gavel of the apex court.

15 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Dr Ali Mazrui – A Towering Intellectual

Dr Ali Mazrui, a towering figure in the academic world and one of the foremost intellectuals from Africa, died on Sunday 13th October at the age of 81.

He was also a dear friend with whom I had the honour and privilege of knowing since the early days of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Washington. I have particularly fond memories of long discussions with this giant of an intellectual during my fellowship at Georgetown University – after my release from incarceration in Sungai Buloh. My family and I are also greatly indebted to him for his principled stance on the injustice of it all and I treasure the missives sent to me.

I first got to know of Dr Ali Mazrui when I was an undergraduate studying sociology at Universiti Malaya. He was such a prolific writer that it’s hard to keep up but two of his earliest are etched in my memory: Towards a Pax Africana (from his Oxford PhD dissertation) and Violence and Thought. Another one not to be missed is Cultural Forces in World Politics.

In terms of ideology, he rejected both Communism and Capitalism preferring instead to propound his own form of liberalism with its epicentre in Africa.
His position on Islam is progressive but he remained a staunch opponent of the Iraq war and had been critical of America’s propensity to stir up trouble and violence in her foreign policy.

May God shower mercy on his soul, accept all his good deeds and bless him with eternal peace.


16 October 2014

14 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Daily Sabah

By Ibrahim Kalin

While the world’s attention has been focused on Kobani over the last two weeks, the Assad regime continues its bloody war. Most recently, the regime killed scores of people in Damascus and dropped barrel bombs in several cities. More people are fleeing Syria, adding to the number of millions of refugees and internally displaced people. With the rise of ISIS, the Assad regime has not become a lesser security threat for the Syrian people and neighboring countries. To the contrary, the carnage and chaos it causes continues to be one of the most fertile and disastrous breeding grounds of extremism in the Middle East.

In the meantime, ISIS continues to advance to new territories in Iraq and Syria. After ISIS was stopped at the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, it began to move toward Baghdad again. It made significant advances toward the Iraqi capital over the last few weeks. It remains in control of Mosul and other swaths of territory. It will not be a big surprise if ISIS makes a surprise attack on Baghdad when the world’s attention is turned to Kobani.

While all this happens and ISIS kills Sunni opposition groups, Shiites, Western journalists, Yazidis, Christians and so on, it is yet to carry out any attacks on the Syrian regime. Is this not strange? ISIS is using the weapons it captured in Iraq and Syria in its current barbarism. In Syria, it uses the Russian-made weapons it seized from the Syrian army. In Iraq, it uses the American-made heavy weaponry it seized from the Iraqi army. With other opposition groups weakened or destroyed, it has no shortage of fighters joining from around the world.

It is no secret that ISIS received substantial support from the Assad regime since the spring of 2014 when the Free Syrian Army (FSA) took major hits in the battle. This was also when the international community failed to provide help. ISIS moved into territories cleared by the Assad regime’s aerial strikes whose main targets were the FSA and other opposition groups. As ISIS took control of much of the north of Syria, Assad felt secure because ISIS territories created some sort of a buffer-zone between Damascus and the opposition-held areas in the north.

The PYD was already doing that for Assad in the Kurdish-populated areas: instead of joining the Syrian opposition, the PYD and its military wing, the HPG, formed multiple alliances with the Assad regime on the one hand and the PKK on the other. Turkey sought to engage the PYD and its leader Salih Muslim but on the condition that it severe its relations with the regime in Damascus. Instead of taking a clear position, the PYD continued to play double games, jeopardizing its own position in a tricky and brutal war. It was not just Turkey but also the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan as well the Americans that warned the PYD leadership of avoiding shady deals with the regime.

Let’s ask again: why has ISIS not carried out a single serious attack on the Assad regime? If, as some claim rather preposterously, Turkey supports ISIS because it opposes the Assad regime, why have we not seen any serious battles between ISIS and Assad forces? Why is ISIS moving away from Damascus and other regime-held major cities and instead moving to the north, i.e., Turkish-Syrian border and east, i.e., north-western Iraq?

The Assad regime and its allies find ISIS a helpful tool; it is their useful idiot that they can use against the moderate Syrian opposition to divide and weaken it. ISIS is also an effective instrument in the propaganda war where ISIS’s scenes of beheadings, barbaric and horrible as they are, are fully used to shadow the killing of more than 200,000 people by the Assad regime. It also provides a cover, though a temporary one, for the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Assad and his commanders.

In Iraq, ISIS is a coalition of impossible allies. Moderate Arab Sunni tribes, ex-Baathists and Saddam commanders, Islamic opposition groups and even some Naqshbandi groups have all joined ranks with ISIS against what they see as an oppressive, dysfunctional and sectarian Baghdad. What binds them is not an ideology of Wahhabism, though this is what appears on the surface, but rather a politics of solidarity against a common enemy. What will convince these groups to part ways with ISIS is a new security and political architecture in Iraq where all will feel equal and empowered.

It looks like the only party not afraid of ISIS is the Assad regime. ISIS is yet to make any advances against the regime. It is as though the territories of the so-called Islamic State do not include the territories held by the Baath regime in Damascus. It even looks like the Assad regime is happy with the ISIS threat as it provides a comfort zone for it. ISIS must be fought against and defeated. But this should be done with a proper strategy that addresses the root causes of the problem.


14 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


The government has yet again rejected the application of Malaysiakini for a publication permit for a daily newspaper, despite the courts twice ruling that the independent news portal has the right to publish.

In a letter received by Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran last week, the Home Ministry said the rejection was because the news portal “often causes controversy” by publishing news that could “distress” the people.

Home Ministry’s Publications Control and Al-Quran Text Division head Hashimah Nik Jaafar also stressed that the reports “could cause hatred towards national leaders”.

“The ministry has decided not to approve the application for a publication permit on the basis that the news published by the Malaysiakini online portal often causes controversy and is not neutral…

“Such news, if published in the print format, will cause shock and distress among the people. Sensitive issues are also published in the form of news, commentary, opinions and readers’ comments which could cause hatred towards national leaders,” Hashimah said.

She also pointed out that the application states that the editor for the print version will be the same person as the online version, indicating that the type of news “will definitely” be the same.

Five ‘contentious’ articles

According to the Home Ministry, among the contentious reports published by Malaysiakini are compilations of readers’ comments on the Terengganu menteri besar crisis five months ago.

The item, ‘How much will Najib spend to keep Terengganu?’ published on May 14, 2014, has also prompted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in an unprecedented action, to sue the portal for defamation.

The Home Ministry also found issue with a commentary by think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) that condemned Najib’s lawsuit against Malaysiakini.

Another “controversial” report cited by the ministry is an article on the government’s private jet, in which Najib and his wife were believed to be on board, being spotted in various European cities in August this year.

The ministry also frowned on an article quoting the Malaysian Indian Progressives Association (Mipas) slamming police chief Khalid Abu Bakar for saying he was taking the “middle path” in an inter-religious custody battle.

The final article cited is on the arrest of Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh over the Penang Voluntary Patrol Squad (PPS) issue. Journalist Susan Loone was arrested for sedition over the article.

All the five articles cited, other than the Yoursay item, were published in the website’s Bahasa Malaysia section.

Back to square one

On Oct 1, 2012, the High Court quashed the Home Ministry’s decision not to award Malaysiakini publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd a publication permit for a daily newspaper.

Judge Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim ruled that the ministry’s decision was “irrational and improper” and breached the constitutional right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to a publishing permit.

He ordered Malaysiakini to make a fresh application to the Home Ministry. Following the decision, the ministry filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

On Oct 30, 2013, a three-member Court of Appeal panel unanimously rejected the government’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s decision.

When the government did not appeal to the Federal Court – the country’s highest court - Malaysiakini submitted a new application to the Home Ministry early this year.

Editor-in-chief Steven Gan, who is not surprised by the latest setback, said Malaysiakini will take the matter back to court.

“We are back to square one. Malaysiakini will again be challenging this asinine decision by the home minister, and we hope that this time the courts will order the government to issue us a publication permit.”

13 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


PKR today stood by its decision to submit only one name as the Selangor menteri besar candidate, saying that it would have sent in another name if the Sultan had rejected its first candidate.

Party de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said that it was the prerogative of the party which commanded the majority to hand in as many names as it wished.

“If we give one and it is rejected, we will give another name to replace it. So what is the problem,” he replied to Tanjung Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar, who asked him why PKR did not submit more than one candidate as requested by the Sultan.

Noh, who is also Selangor Umno chief, had asked the Permatang Pauh MP to explain why PKR did not do this in Selangor but had sent than one name to the Sultan of Perak when it took over the state in 2008.

“So next time, Umno will also have to give three names to the Agong,” said Anwar, referring to the prime minister’s position, as other Pakatan Rakyat MPs cheered.

13 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


PARLIAMENT Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim today cited Umno founder Onn Jaafar’s campaign against feudalism in defending Pakatan Rakyat’s brush with the Selangor palace over the appointment of the state menteri besar.

Anwar said this in reference to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s budget speech last Friday, in which Najib mocked the opposition for earning the Selangor ruler’s wrath by submitting a single candidate for menteri besar, despite a request for multiple candidates.

“”I would like to explain this matter because I do not want this ‘murka’ (wrath) term (to be misused). Murka means we go against or disrespect the ruler.

“I have never issued any statement that questions the position of the Malay rulers or insulted them, inside or outside the House.

“But I would like to stress this principle: the late national leader and Umno founder Onn Jaafar, whom I respect, stressed that the founding of Umno was to free minds and the country from the practice of feudalism,” Anwar said when debating the budget speech in Parliament this afternoon.

13 October 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today slammed Putrajaya over its tough stance on defaulters of National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), saying that the government should instead go after tycoons and businessmen who owe the country billions.

The opposition leader said the government was focusing on youngsters instead of recovering debts and loans from the rich.

“I am upset because the debts owed by 1MBD, carpet dealer Deepak Jaikishan, Perwaja, Tan Sri Tajuddin (Ramli) and some billionaires are not considered a problem.

“But youngsters who owe PTPTN are the core of their discussion and the issue is being brought up again and again,” said Anwar in Parliament today.

He also said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s use of a hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad) to drive home the importance of settling debts was out of context.

“In this context, if the person is in debt due to an unfair system, such as if I am poor and I want to study… I have no other option but to borrow money while the responsibility to help lies with the government, then there must be a consideration.

“The people mentioned in the hadith are the rich who owe money and make millions (of profit),” said Anwar.

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