“Our lives begin to end
the minute we become silent
about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King
I would like to begin my article with the words of a great man – Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The person who has always inspired me in my life at one stage or the other. People cease to exist but what they do in a lifetime and the words they speak , last for ever in the ether’s of time.
So… What have we done with this one lifetime we have had? By asking what have we done? I do not mean – Have you changed the world? Have you been a prophet? Or have you been a revolutionary. I mean have you made a positive change to at least one persons life in your entire lifetime … even if it is to your very self? For every drop is a major contributor to the ocean which shall one day rain upon the parched earth from the clouds and make her breathe life in her womb. My aim is to awaken you to your true power, to enable and encourage my young friends to realize that we CAN emerge from whatever struggles and tragedies life has put us through as winners, and by winners I do not only mean professionally but as individuals who will live their life in abundance in every possible sphere.I hope to uplift, and to inspire more powerful ways to think and be by bringing simple stories and excerpts of people who have inspired me always
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim is of the view that Malaysians are mature enough not to overrate the intended abolition of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other laws that restrict civil and political liberties.
) said he expects the two laws that will replace the ISA to be just as restrictive, if not more stringent, than the version in use.
“I am certain (the) announcement is directed at winning the hearts of some Malaysians. However, I am certain they are not too naïve to consider this as sweeping reforms. I believe the rakyat will not be easily duped (into looking) at (premier) Najib (Abdul Razak’s) Apco-drafted statement and feel good.
“Two questions come to mind: When will the ISA be repealed? And what are the two laws which, according to inside UMNO information, will be just as strict and restrictive in replacing the ISA?
“How can UMNO do away with restrictive laws when, just last month, it had hailed and defended the ISA? (Now,) following the announcement, you find editorials commending its (planned) removal.”
Anwar said it must be remembered that the ISA was used to maintain Malay sovereignty and protect UMNO’s position in the government.He further asked do you all feel a sense of change with Thursday’s announcement as the ISA is still being viewed among UMNO circles to be critical for Malay rule, maintain its survival and Malay interests?
“However, now they see (its proposed removal) as a brilliant decision and a forward-looking decision made by Najib which saw editorials praising it.
“There are some professors coming up with heaps of praise without even asking what do you (Najib) mean, when are you going to abolish it, when are you going to present the new legislation, what are the main ingredients of the law and does it still restrict freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of movement etc?”
Reform may not go down well in UMNO
Anwar warned that the proposed reform may not go smoothly within UMNO circles because the party had its own motives for continuing on with the ISA so as to keep its role regarding ‘Malay survival’.
“For us, Najib has only given his categorical assurance that we (the BN government) will still be tough and will still have equivalent laws (as restrictive) as the ISA,” he said.
“This shows Pakatan’s pressure on the ISA for it to be abolished and repealed is successful. But we have to continue to view it sceptically as had been seen throughout history,” the Opposition Leader and Permatang Pauh MP pointed out.
The mainstream and government-controlled media, Anwar said, will continue to play on the issue
of the reforms and the pronouncement as being something very positive. He said the UMNO-controlled media had done so in the early 1980s where former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had painted a picture that there were democratic reforms and positive changes.
“However, what he (Mahathir) has done is he had destroyed the instruments of the government, there was separation of powers. I saw this as I was also there. I am confident the people will view the announcement made by Najib sceptically.
“There will be hype by the media of it being liberal and democratic. However, in the end the people can judge for themselves on the reforms proposed.”
Changes will not derail Pakatan preparations
When asked to comment whether such an announcement by Najib on Thursday would derail Pakatan Rakyat’s preparation plans, Anwar said it does not have any effect as the opposition is in the final stages of preparations, and the public are mature enough to evaluate these promises.
“It would not affect Pakatan Rakyat’s preparations as in Penang, Kedah and Perak all the party machinery have been mobilised and are ever ready to work together,” he said.
Anwar, who is also the PKR de facto leader, admitted there are some grouses especially in Johor, but he advised that Pakatan Rakyat should be allowed to work it out within the members of its coalition.
He said Pakatan has an understanding between himself, (PAS president) Abdul Hadi Awang and DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang. “We will need to look after our joint interests. From feedback gathered in Kedah (during my visit recently) they want a change of the old (against UMNO). They are hoping for change and we will try and accommodate this. Please channel your grouses via the proper party channels.”
“As to discussions in Sabah and Sarawak, negotiations are going well with SAPP in Sabah but with SNAP we have yet to gain any feedback. I suspect due to the recent Sarawak polls it is difficult for us to work together with SNAP,” he said.
SNAP had initially worked together with PKR before pulling out and contesting against PKR in some seats.
accusing Priime Minister Najib Razak of two-timing the people with a false promise to repeal the draconian Internal Security Act, while at the same time he was also assuring his Umno colleagues that new replacement laws due to be enacted would be just as oppressive.
Last week, Najib had proposed to repeal the ISA and several other emergency laws that have long helped the Umno ruling elite to persecute political rivals and maintain their hold on power. Najib saw the move as a means to shore up his flagging popularity and also build a legacy for himself amid rising calls by Umno warlords to step down.
At a press conference on Monday, Anwar minced no words, warning the public to be wary of the latest announcements. He also demanded that Najib makes public the parameters for the two new laws, saying that the people had the right to know.
“In private sessions Najib has given Umno hardliners assurance that the replacement laws will still be tough,” Anwar told reporters.
“Two questions come to mind – when will the ISA be repealed? And what are the two laws which, according to inside Umno information, will be just as strict and restrictive in replacing the ISA? How can Umno do away with restrictive laws when, just last month, it had hailed and defended the ISA? Now following the announcement, you find editorials commending its removal.”
Only wants to be ‘hero’
The 64-year-old head of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition summed up the cynicism felt by Malaysians, whose eerie silence on the repeals plan is being closely monitored by Umno especially Najib’s rivals, who are expected to use this latest failure to seal his fate in their party.
A move to replace Najib as the Umno president began months ago and intensified following his mishandling of the July 9 Bersih rally. Najib had set the police on his own countrymen in a bid to prevent at all cost the peaceful demonstration for free and fair elections. The crackdown, which saw nearly 2,000 arrests, one dead and hundreds injured, had also been condemned by the US and the United Nations human rights commission.
Indeed, Malaysians’ lacklustre response to Najib’s latest proposal is a sign of how thin his credibility has become and proof that a recent survey showing a 6 percentage point plunge in his popularity rating was accurate. However, he and his core team of advisers including media and oil operative Omar Mustapha have insisted on pushing headlong with their own plans, making Malaysia a laughing stock to the international community in the process.
During his speech last week, Najib had said the repeal of the ISA and several other outdated laws would be brought to the “next” Parliament sitting, which commences next month. As for the new laws, Minister in the PM’s Department Nazri Aziz has said the earliest a paper could be brought to the House was mid 2012. This was contradicted by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who said the new laws could be ready before the end of this year.
Pundits say Najib wants only to be associated with the first leg of the plan, which is the repeals portion, so as to be a hero to the people and have the abolishment marked to his credit and recognised as his legacy to the country. However, Muhyiddin, who has all but publicly announced his challenge for the Umno presidency, wants Najib to be responsible for both legs.
Watch out for the next flurry
Chances are high that Najib will make another flurry of statements to delay the repeals, as the Umno supreme council is widely expected to take him to task over his latest mess.
Meanwhile, a seemingly oblivious Najib – in a bid to shore up enthusiasm for his plan – had over the weekend declared the repeals would make Malaysia “the best democracy” in the world.
However, Anwar warned against building castles in the air, saying he was confident the people would not be so easily duped.
“Do you sense any change? I am also certain they are not too naïve to consider this as sweeping reforms. I believe the rakyat will not be easily duped into looking at Najib’s APCO-drafted statement and feel good,” said Anwar.
Statesmen never die, they merely fade away into the annals of history but ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad is an exception – he just keeps on talking and calling the shots. No surprise that in the weeks leading up to the ISA repeals proposed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, the grand old man of Malaysian politics was issuing statements right, front and centre.
History is repeating itself, for we all remember that Mahathir was highly vocal when the call came for Abdullah Badawi’s ouster, to the point that Mahathir stated that he may have made a mistake in choosing Badawi as his successor. Would Mahathir say the same for Najib now?
Already Mahathir is of the opinion that a delay in the calling for GE-13 would be better for BN and would allow time for Najib to review his list of candidates. But many pundits say Najib’s problems have nothing to do with the candidates list and everything to do with his inability to be prime minister for all Malaysians.
Perhaps this is the crux of the problem. Najib is only prime minister of his UMNO party. He owes the premiership to the UMNO supreme council because he hasn’t bothered to seek a mandate of his own despite taking over from Badawi since April 2009.
Currying favor after a plunge in popularity
Najib’s popularity now stands at 59 per cent, a leap away from his highest rating of 79 per cent in May 2010. And though the initial knee-jerk reaction from those around him was laughable, the slip in popularity was taken seriously by the ruling elite and further strengthens the idea that any call for election within the immediate time-frame would prove disastrous for Najib and BN. For Najib to remain as Prime Minister; he needs to win GE-13 and win big.
Thus, the call for reforms by Najib may merely be a move to curry favor from middle Malaysia, many of whom have decided that they should vote anything but UMNO in GE13.
The call to rid Malaysia of the Internal Security Act, the end of the 3 emergency declarations and the annulment of a key clause in the Publications and Printing Presses Act are all aimed to win back middle Malaysia and the intellectual youths. Yet, in doing away with all these things especially the ISA, Najib is sending a message to Mahathir – that he is the boss and Mahathir has to accept that.
The simplistic approach taken by Najib to publicly announce the end of the ISA is contrary to Mahathir’s views. When asked recently, Mahathir said the ISA was still relevant. In September 2007, Mahathir had said that if the people felt that the ISA was no longer good and valid for Malaysia, then they should vote in parliamentarians who were against such laws. But until then, the ISA would stay. “Its up to the Government and the people to decide. This is a democratic country”.
Mahathir’s remark still holds true, even with Najib’s promise to end the ISA. Parliamentarians still need to debate and approve the repeal of the ISA. Many BN parliamentarians have been staunch supporters of the ISA and may not support the abolishment unless they receive firm instruction to do so from their party heads. In the divided UMNO leadership, this means two contrasting sets of instructions may be issued to their MPs. The hardliners aligned to Mahathir may decide not to support Najib’s repeal.
The same can be said about the 3 emergency declarations. Mahathir kept these 3 emergency declarations intact throughout his 22-year rule. Why would he wish to do away with them now, when he faces the strongest challenge to his power? Make no mistake, Mahathir may have retired in 2003 but he still calls the shots for many of the things that happen in Malaysia.
Another Najib fiasco
A state of emergency allows security forces to act against anyone they deem a threat to national security without the need to present them before a court of law. A case in hand was the detainment of the PSM 6 under the Emergency Ordinance. The 6 members have yet to stand within a proper court of law to address the charges against them. Under the guise of an Emergency Ordinance, BN has been able to maintain a firm grip on their opponents.
So one needs to wonder what Mahathir will whisper to his lieutenants in UMNO upon hearing that the very vehicle the party has used against its political rivals is to be removed.
No doubt about it, things are heating up in the background among the UMNO elites. Chances are high there may be a reversal of sorts when the party actually gets to grip with all the groundwork needed to implement Najib’s promises. Mahathir’s faction may not directly challenge the ISA’s removal as that would make them look like extremists but they will ensure that the new replacement laws Najib also promised will give them the same protection.
So in the end, what has Najib done. He has tried to strike out on his own but did not dare to challenge Mahathir head on. Hence, the placatory replacement laws. Again, Najib’s political honesty and sincerity is in doubt and Malaysians are beginning to demand that before any general election takes place, not only should the repeal leg of all the oppressive laws be completed, but also the replacements laws be made known and agreed upon. This is to ensure that a situation of falling from the frying pan into the fire does not occur. Again, is this feasible given the time that needs to be taken to draft the new laws.
It looks that the ISA reforms may fizzle out in the style of Najib’s previous proposals such as the New Economic Model. Without political will and courage, it is really a waste of time to give the populace false hope.
For real change to happen in Malaysia, there must be real reform and this means a total removal of the current state of affairs. Simply making announcements would not do justice to those who have been fighting for years against the ISA and the Emergency laws.
Mrs. Gandhi with M.G. Ramachandran,Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. In the post-emergency elections in 1977, only the Southern states returned Congress majorities
The downfall of Indira Gandhi began after India won the war against Pakistan in 1971. The Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty with electoral corruption for the 1971 elections. In 1975, Indira Gandhi called a State of Emergency under Article 352 in which she ordered the arrest of her opposition, who later joined together and formed the Janata Party
In 1977, Indira Gandhi and her party, Indian National Congress
, lost the election to the Janata Party, a coalition of virtually all of Indira opponents. After the elections, Gandhi found herself without work, income or residence. The Congress Party split during the election campaign of 1977: veteran Gandhi supporters like Jagjivan Ram and her most loyal Bahuguna and Nandini Satpathy – very close to Indira, the three were compelled due to politicking and possibly circumstances created by Sanjay Gandhi – to part ways. The prevailing rumour was that Sanjay had intentions of dislodging Indira. The Congress Party was now a much smaller group in Parliament, although the official opposition.
Once the Janata Party came into power, they aimed to return all Indian citizens the freedoms taken away when Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency. The leader of the Janata Party was Jayaprakash Narayan
who kept the party united. The other party leaders of the Janata Party were Morarji Desai
, Charan Singh
, Raj Narain
and Atal Bihari Vajpayee
. Unable to govern owing to fractious coalition warfare, the Janata government’s Home Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh, ordered the arrest of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi on several charges, none of which would be easy to prove in an Indian court. The arrest meant that Indira was automatically expelled from Parliament. These allegations included that Indira Gandhi “‘had planned or thought of killing all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency’”.
However, this strategy backfired disastrously. Her arrest and long-running trial, however, gained her great sympathy from many people who had feared her as a tyrant just two years earlier.The Janata coalition was only united by its hatred of Indira (or “that woman” as some called her). With so little in common, the government was bogged down by infighting and Gandhi was able to use the situation to her advantage. She began giving speeches again, tacitly apologizing for “mistakes” made during the Emergency. Jayaprakash Narayan died on 8 October 1979, which broke the unity of the Janata Party and Desai took his place. Desai resigned in June 1979, and Charan Singh was appointed Prime Minister by Reddy after Gandhi promised that Congress would support his government from outside.
After a short interval, she withdrew her initial support and President Reddy dissolved Parliament in the winter of 1979. In elections held the following January, Congress was returned to power with a landslide majority.
For a country living in a state of emergency, India seemed surprisingly normal last week. Shops remained open and crowds thronged the streets; trading continued on the stock exchanges and schools held classes; even the trains ran more or less on schedule. Indeed, for most of India’s 600 million citizens, it apparently was business as usual. If anything, life in New Delhi seemed more orderly than ever: the typically mad swirl of traffic was restrained, and queues for buses were models of decorum.
State of Emergency. Despite the surface calm, however, reported TIME Correspondent William Stewart from New Delhi, there was no question that India and its imperious Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, were struggling through a political crisis that would profoundly affect the country’s future. The state of emergency, proclaimed on June 26 at Mrs. Gandhi’s behest, had suspended political freedoms and given her near dictatorial powers. Banned were 26 minor political factions representing the most extreme leftist and rightist movements. More than 1,000 political dissidents—of all ideological shadings—already have been jailed, uninformed of the charges against them and with no hope for a speedy trial. Though their names have not been made public, government spokesmen admit privately that the prisoners include many leaders of India’s opposition parties, as well as elder statesman Jayaprakash Narayan, 72, an associate of India’s pacifist father-figure Mohandas Gandhi (see box following page).
Strict censorship has prevented the once lively Indian press (some 830 daily newspapers) from printing anything other than official handouts about the crisis. Government proscriptions against “unauthorized, irresponsible or demoralizing news items” last week were extended from articles and editorials to cartoons, photos and even advertisements. This further muzzling of the press may have been in response to a few cases of surreptitious sniping at the government’s measures; in Kerala, for example, one paper ran a cartoon depicting Mrs. Gandhi dressed as Louis XIV with a caption reading “I am India.” The censors also closely monitored the dispatches of foreign newsmen. Last week the government summarily expelled Washington Post Correspondent Lewis M. Simons, who had stirred official ire by reporting that the army did not solidly back Mrs. Gandhi.
Although it shocked world opinion, Mrs. Gandhi’s suspension of civil liberties was technically within the bounds of India’s constitution. Last week she defended her actions in a series of radio addresses and speeches. Instead of apologizing for suspending political rights, she emphasized that some authoritarianism was needed to thwart “a deep-rooted conspiracy” that would have “led to economic chaos and collapse,” making India “vulnerable to fissiparous tendencies and external danger.”
Using the kind of argument that has always been favored by dictators seeking to justify their abrogation of political processes, Mrs. Gandhi declared: “In India, democracy has given too much freedom to people.” Newspapers and opposition politicians, she added, “were trying to misuse [democracy] and weaken the nation’s conscience.”
Apparently in response to the largely negative world reaction, Mrs. Gandhi tried to mend some foreign policy fences last week. Singled out for special attention was the U.S.—a nation for which she usually reserves biting sarcasm or sanctimonious criticism. When she received a group of visiting American teachers, the Prime Minister was all smiles, stressing that her country “is seriously trying for better relations with the U.S.” and that President Gerald Ford would be welcome to visit India.
No Evidence. Despite the fusillade of accusations against the imprisoned political leaders, the government has released no evidence supporting its charges. Thus many veteran Western diplomats in New Delhi question whether there was any such alleged “conspiracy.” To be sure, the opposition’s determination to gain power might have led to some violence, but it may also be true that Mrs. Gandhi views the imposition of a state of emergency as a convenient method of retaining power. Judging by her own statements and those of her supporters, there is little question that she equates her own survival as Prime Minister with the long-term welfare of India.
Sense of Urgency. As if to prove that, Mrs. Gandhi proposed a 20-point reform program that if enacted, might move India well along the path toward a socialist society. Among her proposals: liquidation of the debts of the rural poor, abolition of indentured labor, division and redistribution of large landholdings, increased public housing in rural areas, expanded irrigation networks, and severe new penalties for black marketeers, tax evaders and smugglers.
There was little in this sweeping reform program that had not been previously proposed. Thus some critics argued that it was primarily aimed at deflecting attention from the suspension of political liberties. They note that the Prime Minister hardly needed an emergency to effect these reforms, because her Congress Party—which controls 355 of Parliament’s 516 seats, as well as 19 of India’s 22 state governments—has the power to vote into law any economic programs she wishes.
In fact, however, the ethnic and geographic differences within the huge country have often meant that enacted reforms were not vigorously enforced by the states, which have considerable power under India’s federal system. With the new clout given the central government by the emergency, New Delhi may now be able to force the states to execute reforms. The emergency might also create a sense of urgency within the Congress Party and a willingness to close ranks even on the normally divisive economic issues.
The big question remains when and whether Mrs. Gandhi will relinquish her authoritarian powers. Senior government officials insist that the emergency will end “as soon as possible.” According to some Western diplomats, that timetable could mean anywhere from a year to 18 months. The Indian constitution requires that a state-of-emergency decree must be approved by Parliament within 60 days in order for it to remain effective. If the Prime Minister were to convene Parliament while opposition leaders are still imprisoned, she would be risking a potentially widespread outcry. On the other hand, freeing the political prisoners would allow them to use Parliament as a national platform from which to resume their attacks. Given the alternatives, Mrs. Gandhi may be tempted to ignore the constitution and not recall Parliament, but still insist that the emergency is in force.
Nation’s Spirit. In her radio address last week, the Prime Minister declared: “There is a chance now to regain the nation’s spirit of adventure. Let us get on with the job.” Whether India in the future will be approaching that job peacefully and democratically is very much up to Mrs. Gandhi—and what she does in the next few months.