‘OBAMA THE HYPOCRITE NAJIB THE HYPERCRITE A BRILLIANT FRAUD
a person who is hyper and a hypocrite
In his Malaysia day speech last Thursday, Prime Minister Najib Razak declared in the following words, “I would like to announce on this historic night, the Internal Security Act 1960 will be abolished.”
However, he immediately went on to say that “…two new pieces of legislation will be formulated under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution … to maintain peace and well-being”.
Some of us may not have immediately understood the ominous meaning of the use of those words “Article 149″. Article 149 is the obnoxious part of the Constitution that allows the draconian ISA to exist as a valid law.
If Article 149 were not there, the ISA and all other laws that provide for detention without trial in this country such as the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) 1985 would be struck down as unconstitutional and void.
Article 149 allows such laws to violate the fundamental rights part of the Constitution such as Article 5, 9 and 10 which guarantee the protection of public trial, amongst other protections, and yet operate “legally”, so to speak.
So what did Najib really do last Thursday night? In a disingenuous manner, he left some Malaysians thinking he was making a ‘historic move’ and ridding this country of the evil ISA and detention without trial for good. Nothing can be further from the truth. He was doing verbal sleight of hand. Now you see it, now you don’t!
He did not quite explain that with the two new laws to be formulated under Article 149, he would be in fact be reinstating detention without trial, albeit supposedly in a more palatable fashion which is yet to be seen.
In other words, he only stated his intention to remove the ISA and reinstate it again in new clothes we are yet to see. The proverbial old wine in new bottle?
Platitudes about ‘political transformation’ and ‘practising functional and inclusive democracy’ and ‘becoming a full-fledged developed nation’ are meaningless if Malaysians are stlll to suffer detention with trial with power given to the Minister to order indefinite detention.
Even if Najib says that the power of the minister to detain will be only for ‘terrorism’, let us not forget that the detention of Saari Sungib (now Hulu Kelang state assembly representative), Tian Chua (now Batu MP), activist Hishamuddin Rais and seven others in April 2001 were supposedly because they were ‘stockpiling grenade launchers and Molotov cocktails’.
This foolish (because of its inherent idiocy) assertion for which no evidence was ever produced was in a written press statement issued then by none other than then inspector-general of police Norian Mai.
In other words, Najib’s mere verbal assurances that no one will be detained for political ideology are in reality meaningless platitudes because as you can see in the two examples given earlier, the police (and the minister by extension) can easily present anyone especially a politician as a terrorist.
Let us not forget that this is why arbitrary detention is the hall mark of oppressive despotic regimes.
Najib implies that the ‘special legislation’ formulated by advanced democratic nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom to handle terrorism is similar to the measures that we have had in place such as the ISA and preventive detention. This is downright misleading.
The United States reserves its obnoxious and notorious detention regime in Guantanomo Bay only for foreigners. Even then, it has been thoroughly (and rightly) criticised all over the world for violating fundamental rights. Malaysia, on the other hand, has regularly locked up and ill-treated its own loyal citizens without due process, and given Najib’s words, intends to continue to do so.
The special law in the United Kingdom only allows them to detain a problematic foreigner who if deported back to his country of origin will be subjected to torture and detention by the authorities there. Citizens in the UK would not tolerate for a minute what we do to our own people in the name of the ISA and similar laws.
Pakatan Rakyat’s position is set out in writing in our Buku Jingga. We said that a Pakatan federal government will abolish the Internal Security Act and other laws that allow for detention without trial while simultaneously rescinding all existing emergency declarations.
We are gratified to see that Najib has decided to adopt our view that we have to unshackle ourselves from the emergency declarations of the past. The continued existence of these declarations had long been an unfortunate target for mockery both here and overseas particularly because there was no semblance of an emergency like situation anywhere in the country for decades now.
Pakatan will certainly support a resolution in Parliament to rescind these declarations and will also urge that all ordinances passed there under must also be annulled forthwith without waiting for the six-month period provided for in Article 150(7).
However, we part ways with Najib in his intention to maintain the repulsive practice of detention without trial which will no place in a new era of government under Pakatan Rakyat.
We will instead undertake comprehensive reform of our police force and other security agencies. We will ensure that our police force will be given sufficient powers, training and resources in order to carry out their primary responsibilities, i.e. prevent crime and maintain public order professionally efficiently and independently whilst respecting the fundamental rights of our people.
The writer is Subang MP and a member of PKR’s central leadership council and political bureau.
The recent announcement by the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of pending political reforms is an important step in the right direction for the country.
These reforms are needed to complement the earlier economic ones. The prime minister’s boldness in enacting these reforms has been applauded by all quarters, except for Malay supremacist groups such as Perkasa who have been agitating for the harsher use of punitive laws against groups opposed to their notion of Malay rights and who are against any liberalisation of the status quo.
However, critics and cynics have questioned whether the reforms are being undertaken by the government to gain popularity and to counter the increasing potency of these civil liberty issues in the coming general elections.
Concern has also been expressed on whether the new laws to deter terrorism may be misused by the authorities and may have the same effect of stifling legitimate dissent.
Also the proposed decision to abolish annual licencing for the print media under the Printing Presses and Publications Act is really a minor improvement since the home minister’s decision not to renew a licence is final and cannot be disputed in any court of law.
At the same time, there also appears to be no move to rescind or amend the Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act which have been used to muzzle legitimate political dissent.
For now though, Malaysians should comfort themselves that the proposed new laws will – if truly implemented – take some powers away from the Home Ministry and return them to the judiciary.
This makes the role of the judiciary even more important to ensure that there is no abuse of power by the executive.
Restore the independence of judiciary
Separation of power of the main branches of the state is a core characteristic of all democratic systems. Adherence to this key concept is also critical to the protection of constitutional rights and the attainment of Vision 2020′s lofty goals.
The drafters of our constitution had laid the groundwork for this by specifying “the supremacy of the law and the power and duty of the Courts to annul any attempt to subvert any of the fundamental rights [contained in the constitution] whether by legislative or administrative action or otherwise” (Reid Commission Report, para 161).
Since 1988 however, the independence of the judiciary has been compromised by numerous actions which have undermined its powers and circumscribed its responsibility to defend the constitution from legislative and other pressures.
If the prime minister is really serious about his “commitment to making Malaysia a modern, progressive democracy that can be proud to take its place at the top table of international leadership”, the restoration of the independence and integrity of the judiciary must be his next reform.
Among the necessary steps for this reform process to take place are the following:
- Establish an independent judicial commission to ensure transparency and objectivity in the appointment and promotion of judges and to protect judicial integrity.
- Ensure the judiciary has the exclusive authority to decide whether an issue submitted for its decision is within its competence as defined by law.
- Require all executive decisions to be subject to judicial review.
The public’s impression of a compromised judiciary was very much at the heart of the recent Perak state government coup d’etat which saw the ousting of the Pakatan Rakyat government and its replacement by what many Perakians – including myself – regard as the illegitimate government of the BN in February 2009.
At that time, I had made the appeal to the Sultan of Perak in my open letter in the following manner: “To the letter of the law a government must be answerable, and the one standing above politics must be accountable as well.
According to US diplomats in a leaked WikiLeaks cable, the BN victory in Perak was a “successful political power play both in terms of brute and refined power”.
The diplomats also commented that “(This) reminds us that of the two coalitions, only the BN has the clout, money, and ability to manipulate the government system (Election Commission, Courts) to muscle its way to power,”
Until the separation of powers is fully established and respected, we can expect more such anti-democratic power plays and for the “modern and progressive democracy” that the prime minister aspires towards to remain a distant goal.
|The United Nations General Assembly has adopted 690 different resolutions between 1947-1990 on matters dealing with Palestine [EPA]|
Failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel’s 40-year occupation, in the words of UN former Secretary General Kofi Annan, would “continue to hurt the reputation of the United Nations and raise questions about its impartiality”.
No cause has consumed as much UN paper work as the plight of the displaced and occupied Palestinians. But hundreds of its resolutions on Palestine have not been respected let alone applied for over half a century.
Nowhere has the UN ideals and mechanisms been more mired in power politics than in Palestine. The efforts to neutralise UN intervention have been championed mainly by the United States. This week’s efforts by the Obama administration working on behalf of Israel took advocacy into a whole new level.
Washington has vetoed more than 40 UN Security Council resolutions critical of its policies some of which were drafted by its European allies. A quick look at today’s Middle East makes it clear that such obstructions worked for the interest of neither party, nor for peace and security in the region.
Cold-War rivalries have also contributed to UN paralysis in the Israeli Palestinian-Arab conflict, which explains why more than half of the 690 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly from 1947-1990 have been ignored.
But what justifies sidelining the UN ever since, while keeping it at an arm’s length from a two decades of Peace Process?
The short answer is a double standard.
All major post-Cold War conflicts have seen direct UN involvement including, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and of late, Lebanon, South Sudan. Not the Palestine problem. It was deferred to the US sponsored diplomatic process even though Washington’s close relations with Israel rendered it anything but an impartial broker.
Not only was Palestinian Israeli conflict snatched out of the world body, most relevant US resolutions critical of Israel were ignored by the US sponsors.
Only after the peace process failed to yield a solution a decade later, did the Bush administration allow the United Nations to join, and even then, only as a junior partner in a newly formed International Quartet that includes the European Union and Russia, all of whom are members of the UN!
Meanwhile, Israel has disregarded tens of resolutions, “censuring”, “calling”, “urging”, “recommending”, or “condemning” its attacks, settlement, deportations, occupation, etc.
Likewise, all pleas and demands for humanitarian and political interventions fell on deaf ears. The only time the UN was allowed to act, was in 1997 when it sent few international unarmed observers to the occupied city of Hebron. Alas, they weren’t mandated to speak publicly about the ongoing violations.
For the past four decades, Israel has violated all relevant UNSC council resolutions such as the resolution 465 of 1980 that strongly deplored all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure of status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.
It also rejected Resolution 476, which reaffirmed the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories ongoing since the 1967 war. The only UN Security Council Resolution that was accepted by the US and Israel as the basis of the diplomatic process, i.e. 242 of 1967, was also systematically violated. Israel has been expanding its settlement activity when the resolution notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”.
Paradoxically, Israel was created by a UN recommendation for Partitioning Palestine in 1947, and was accepted as a new UN member on the basis of its commitment to respect its resolution, and specifically UNGA 194 regarding the return of the Palestinian refugees.
Now that all other venues have been tried and failed, including 18 years of bilateral negotiations, the UN Security Council must carry its responsibilities by demanding that Israel carry its obligations under UN charter and by recognising the Palestinian right for self-determination in a state of their own. Period.
Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst.
Perhaps the title isn’t fair. The storm that awaits Barack Obama at the UN is not entirely of his own creation.
He did not create half a century of US foreign policy based on support for authoritarianism and occupation in the Arab and larger Muslim worlds. It was not Obama, but his predecessors – going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who cosied up to the Saudis and promised them unlimited protection in return for unlimited access to all that oil.
It was not Obama but Richard Nixon who put geostrategic considerations ahead of pushing for a robust and fair negotiating process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, when there were only a few settlements and Israelis and Palestinians had not yet moved towards ideological extremism and terrorism as their chosen means of communication.
It was not Obama but Jimmy Carter who toasted the Shah’s health in 1977, as Iran was primed to explode in revolutionary fervour (Mr Carter’s introductory joke – “There’s one thing I can say about the Shah: He knows how to draw a crowd”, – did turn out to be prescient, but not in ways he imagined). Carter did set a very high bar with the Camp David Accords – more than half of which were devoted to the Palestinian issue – but he never pressed Israel to honour the spirit of the Accords once it became clear that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had no intention of doing so. This was a mistake that quite possibly cost Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat his life.
And it certainly wasn’t Obama who gave Taliban “freedom fighters” their first billions in cash and US weapons, or who smiled while Saddam Hussein launched a ruinous war on Iran and Israel entrenched its settlement enterprise. Ronald Reagan will have to take the blame for those, if anyone’s bothering to keep score anymore.
Obama didn’t launch the first Gulf War, or even the second.
He didn’t waste the 1990s shepherding a peace process that only the most incompetent of shepherds would have imagined would lead to the oasis of peace. He can’t be blamed for doing nothing to press US allies from Morocco to Pakistan to clean up their acts and move towards democracy as the post-Cold War era of globalisation, with all its promise, began to take shape. That was, of course, Bill Clinton’s affair.
The current president didn’t ask to inherit two wars and the world’s most powerful and profitable military-industrial complex that feeds off – and directs – these wars. How precisely do you take on a trillion-plus-dollar-a-year monster that has spent the better part of a century not just protecting but constantly expanding its turf, turning back any attempts by politicians to rein it in, regardless of their party or the rationality of their arguments?
The game is rigged, but so what?
In fact, perhaps Obama never had a chance. He might have dined with Palestinian professors back in Chicago, but there was no way he would have been allowed near the presidency if he actually internalised the historical narrative represented by Palestinian history and that of the Arab and larger developing worlds. Yes, he’s half African and grew up partly in Indonesia, and can give really nice speeches about the need for the peoples of the world to build a common future.
But more than anything, Obama is a product of the US political machine – from Harvard to Chicago to the White House. And you don’t go through that meat grinder and come out at the other end with many principles left intact.
Even if Obama can’t be blamed for the system – an-nitham, to use the entirely appropriate Arab connotation of the term – he must take responsibility for how many opportunities he has squandered and just how far US strategic designs have moved from the emerging realities in the Middle East and North Africa.
There are many arguments to be made for and against PA president Mahmoud Abbas bringing a statehood bid before the UN. Indeed, in a seemingly strange irony, one of the most eloquent arguments against the bid comes from Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, who explained that “there’s no shortcut, there’s no magic wand that can be waved in New York and make everything right … The reality is that nothing is going to change. There won’t be any more sovereignty, there won’t be any more food on the table.”
|“The reality is that nothing is going to change. There won’t be any more sovereignty, there won’t be any more food on the table.”
– Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN
But of course, the reason for US opposition to the statehood bid – namely, US policy that supports Israel’s ongoing entrenchment of its occupation in the West Bank against the wishes of the entire world – is left unstated. Indeed, Rice and the Obama Administration are being patronising in the extreme by arguing that the push for a vote represents a “miscalculation” and a “gap between expectation and reality [that] is in itself quite dangerous”.
Instead, the reality is that the Obama administration, and the US foreign policy system it represents, are the ones who have badly miscalculated.
Palestinians understand quite well that this vote is largely symbolic. But with nothing to lose and the US hopelessly titled towards Israel, if the Palestinians can extract a political price by increasing the amplitude of the wave of anger of the newly empowered “Arab street” (a term that after decades of mis-use finally has some analytical bona fides) in response to the planned US veto in the Security Council, Palestinians will for once have played their historically bad hand well.
Letting both the US and Israel know that the continuation of the status quo will no longer be painless is better than most other alternatives. It also begins to create a narrative of fairness and equality for Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel, since according to Obama’s own words, Palestinians deserve no less than Israelis a sovereign state of their own.
If the coming intifada can follow the best practices of the Arab democracy revolts and remain largely non-violent in the face of the various forms of violence Israel will likely deploy against Palestinians, this new narrative will play an important role in beginning to level the diplomatic playing field between the two sides, weakening the US position in the process.
Even the weak smell blood
Of course, a change in narrative is unlikely to threaten decades-long US policy imperatives on its own, but it can make them much more difficult to protect. In the process it would weaken Obama’s standing at home and abroad, something people around the region, and in the US, are beginning to sense more clearly as summer turns to autumn.
Aside from the Palestinian issue, the other major element of the perfect storm Obama is facing at the UN concerns US opposition to the pro-democracy movements across the region. Most Arabs remember quite well how Obama refused to the use the “D-word” – democracy – during the heat of the uprisings in Tunisia and especially Egypt. Particularly in Egypt, the utter silence of the US administration while the military junta continues with serious violations of the rights of Egyptian democracy advocates has further tarnished Obama’s image in the bellwether country of the Arab Spring.
US unwillingness to press fully for the removal of Syrian President Assad or Yemeni President Saleh, and its even starker silence in Bahrain – never mind Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and other monarchies that have managed to repress their fledgling democracy movements – only further alienates the US (and Europe as well) from the historic momentum of the region-wide protest movement.
These policies ensure that the US will be in a far weaker position when this struggle plays itself out than it was at the start, when the US could have stood firmly on the side of the young protesters. Supporting the overthrow of Gaddafi won’t score Obama or the US more broadly many points, because everyone understand that Gaddafi was never a friend, but merely a useful client who, like Saddam Hussein before him, could easily be sacrificed if doing so served broader interests.
Indeed, the protesters know how deeply implicated the US has been in the existing authoritarian order in the Arab world. If a few hundred Egyptians almost tore apart the Israeli embassy, think what thousands might do next time, especially if there is something resembling a real transition to democracy after the upcoming elections and the government has to respect their sentiments.
The protesters understand full well that the three core US goals in the Middle East – protecting key oil-producing allies and their clients, ensuring the stability of the Israeli and Egyptian military complexes, and maintaining the power of the larger US “weapondollar-petrodollar” complex – are inimical to the interests of real democracy. As these protesters become empowered, Obama, who began his presidency with such eloquent words about a new age of cooperation and common purpose, will be left even more isolated in the region.
A system in retreat?
And as Obama looks weaker, the system will search for alternatives that can shore itself up, even if it means further militarising the country, against the needs of the vast majority of Americans. And with a weakened and even more dangerous United States careening towards its own slow Armageddon, we might well witness the “clash of civilisations” that neocons have long prayed for.
|It might not be fair for history to let Barack Obama take the fall. But history doesn’t care who’s right or wrong.|
Only the civilisations in question won’t be drawn from religion, tribe, or nation. They’ll be separated by money, power and utterly opposed visions of the future: a global Arab Spring led by third world youth and their Western peers (including, one might dare to hope, millions of unemployed working-class Americans who will no longer sit and support their own impoverishment), versus the dynamic of repression, expropriation, intolerance, and violence of a “nitham” that has linked the world’s elite – from Washington to Tehran to Beijing – in a bloody embrace for decades.
It might not be fair for history to let Barack Obama take the fall for such an outcome. But history doesn’t care who’s right or wrong. It only cares who’s smart or strong. And on both counts, it looks today like the US under Obama’s leadership is getting weaker and dumber, while its adversaries – from the Arab street to the Chinese State Council – grow more adept at frustrating its wishes with each passing year.
Barack Obama has very little time or manouevering room to change this dynamic, but a bit of honesty at the UN would be a good place to start.
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. He also is the author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam and the soon-to-be-published An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989