Colourful characters are plenty in politics. But at the top of the global heap we have some leaders who take eccentricity to a whole new level. They may or may not be part of the so-called ‘Axis of Evil’ but they definitely seem to be part of the ‘Axis of the Bizarre’. Here’s my take on the weird species that lead .
Is this the man?
The custodian of the dying ember?
The man who generations to come will remember as the last man standing, before the new dawn set in?
Is this the man who is going to set in an even more harsh regime?
To ensure he and his team will have a long run on the nation?
Driven by chauvinism, and detested by the international as well as the domestic society?
Is this the start of a dynasty in the Malaysian Public Life?
Does this mean that we Malaysians are so incapable that we need a select few families to tell us how to live our lives?
Are we so dependent that all aspects of our lives need to be controlled?
Are we so handicapped that we need these political dynasties to teach how to interact with each other?
CAN WE THE MALAYSIAN PEOPLE RISE TO THE OCCASSION WHEN THE NATION NEEDS US?
CAN MALAYSIA DEPEND ON US THE VOTERS
Parliament, Karpal asked Najib if he had raised a keris at an UMNO youth rally in Kampung Baru in 1987 and uttered racist words to the effect that the blood of the Chinese would be spilled.
Najib flatly denied making such utterances.
The next day, in response to Najib’s denial, RPK published a post entitled‘In response to Najib’s denial in Parliament yesterday’ in which Pete reproduced a press release by YB Lim Kit Siang dated 27th April, 2007.
In that press release, YB Lim alluded to a Government White Paper entitled “Towards Preserving National Security” wherein the goverment had reported that, quoting YB Lim, ” in an Umno Youth rally led by Najib on 17th October 1987, banners bearing strong words were displayed, including one which said: “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD” ‘.
Yesterday, I got my hands on that White Paper.
It’s a damning document of the messages of hate that emerged from that rally 22 years ago.
I also got my hands on reports on 18th October, 1987 of that rally that appeared in our then still largely independent MSM.
Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Anwar had said,“I was not at the rally, I was the Umno vice-president then… it was organised by Umno Youth and by Najib, (so) I have to just take Najib’s assurance and denial in Parliament,” and “…I am not in the position to discuss or accuse Najib, because I am not aware of what he had said,” and“To be fair, my only statement is that, Najib has denied… but documents and banners are available (and) there were very extreme positions, racist and extreme demands and statement (on them),”and “it is best for Najib to make it clear, if there were excessive (statements) made… and admit it, so that we can move on”.
Let me just say now that what Anwar is reported to have said is amply supported by the White Paper and the news reports of 18th October, 1987.
Yesterday, the Malay Mail reported Karpal as now saying that “I wanted to know if he said it, and he gave his answer, let’s just leave it as it is, the matter should not go on further,” readmore click belowAnwar had said,:documents and banners are available (and) there were very extreme positions, “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD” ‘
After the murder of Altantuya, a charitable soul contacted Shaaribuu Setev, the father of the young woman : Datuk Syed, honorary consul of Mongolia in Malaysia. “I am ready to do everything to help you”, said the diplomat to Shaaribuu Setev. His dedication even pushed the amicable Datuk Syed to make revelations to the father. “The Malaysian governement is ready to spend one billion of tughrik (mongolian currency, equivalent to 500,000 euros) to cover up the case”
The Samajwadi Party pedalled to a podium finish in the UP polls, but a five-year-old Supreme Court order asking the CBI to inquire into an alleged disproportionate assets case of Mulayam Singh and kin could queer their victory pitch.
Going by the popular perception that the CBI heeds to the Centre’s command in political cases, the Yadavs could ill-afford not to take note of the spoiler that the Congress-led UPA may prove for them. And the danger is neither far off nor improbable to be brushed aside. For, on October 26, 2007, the CBI had filed an application in the SC seeking permission to proceed ahead with the case on the ground that during the preliminary probe it had stumbled upon prima facie evidence on the alleged DA case of the SP chieftain, his sons, Akhilesh and Prateek, and daughter-in-law Dimple.
The CBI’s plea that as an independent agency it did not take instructions from the government was filed in the court that was in the midst of hearing a petition filed by Akhilesh seeking review of the SC’s March 2007 order passed on a PIL. The SC had ordered the CBI to submit the preliminary probe report to the Centre for further action.
When the matter was crucially poised before the court, there was a change in political equations with SP’s 39 MPs rescuing the UPA during the 2008 trust vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal. Indebted by the SP’s help, the UPA decided to pay back.
The CBI filed another application on December 6, 2008, seeking permission to withdraw its October 26, 2007 plea. The logic behind the flip-flop – a grave error in the calculation of assets had led the agency to believe that the SP chief and his family members had amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph reserved orders on the plea. After three years, the order is yet to come and Justice Joseph has retired. This would warrant a fresh hearing in the case and possible fresh trouble.
Why are you interested in Malaysia? If asked such a question, the majority of foreign observers, scholars and students of Malaysian politics would most likely mention ethnicity, religion (Islam) or what is broadly categorised as “identity politics.” Even if identity is not their primary interest, not one of them is likely to deny that collective identities are a crucial aspect of contemporary Malaysian politics dominated by the multi-ethnic ruling coalition, National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN).
What will Malaysian politics look like if BN ever lost power? Would identity, either ethnic or religious, recede from politics if the opposition, People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat, PR), came to power? Or would it fuel politicisation of identity even further to threaten otherwise relatively oppressive but peaceful inter-communal relations?
Life without BN
Possible answers to these questions in part depend on the type of regime that the opposition coalition—comprised of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS)—wishes to establish. The opposition pact was first and foremost formed and sustained to challenge and bring down the authoritarian rule of BN where the Malay-Muslim based United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is dominant. The establishment of some form of democratic rule is their next goal. Indeed, their platform, “Ubah Sekarang, Selamatkan Malaysia! (Change Now, Save Malaysia!)”, published in the run-up to the 2008 elections emphasizes the following initiatives: expansion of democratic rights and institutions such as independent judiciary; creation of a just and fair society that provides all people with equal opportunities regardless of ethnicity, religion and culture; elimination of corruption and other unfair and discriminatory practices that hinder equal and fair distribution of public resources; growth with equity; and elimination of undemocratic apparatuses and practices, most notably the Internal Security Act (ISA). The absence of aforementioned initiatives under the current regime provided a common ground for opposition parties to come and fight together, leading to their impressive electoral ascendancy in 2008. The question remains however: Is the PR platform sufficient to convince their multi-ethnic constituencies to oust BN from power to build a new democratic Malaysia?
Buttressing the ‘supremacy’ of one race
Complication about Malaysia’s regime change and democratic transition is derived from the very nature of the current regime. It is not only authoritarian in a conventional sense of the term, but also highly ethnocentric and illiberal, thereby denying equal rights and freedom to minority citizens based on their ethnic/religious identities. Under this regime, the majority Malay (and therefore Muslim) population have gained an unparalleled amount of power, wealth, status and opportunities as their birth rights since independence. UMNO and its major coalition partners in BN, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), were formed and allowed to survive primarily to represent and protect political and material interests of Chinese and Indian minority communities. In the post-NEP period, the regime has become even more protective of the communal interests of the Muslim-Malays while gaining authoritarian characters.
Under this ethnocentric pro-Malay regime, state institutions and a bureaucratic infrastructure were constructed in a manner to buttress supremacy of the state, UMNO and the Muslim-Malay community, while undermining civil society, civil rights and the well being of minority communities. Furthermore, the same regime has granted an unprecedented amount of power, resources and authority to the Islamic state bureaucracies in order to cater to the religious interests and spiritual well being of a growingly pious Muslim-Malay community. The results of such maneuvering are now obvious in a wide range of policy areas including law, education, welfare and economy. Consequently, post-NEP generations of minority populations feel increasingly alienated and discriminated against despite the fact that some communal grievances were mitigated by the inclusive multi-ethnic national vision and continuous growth under Mahathir (together with currently opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim) till the multiple crises following 1998.
Against this backdrop, it is of little surprise that the Hindu-Indian community has formed a powerful opposition against the regime. In 2007, the opposition was organised to form an ethno-nationalistic movement, Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force), to express the socio-economic grievances and political demands of the community. The state’s violent suppression of a street protest organised by the movement further deteriorated the already uneasy relations between the BN regime and minority communities, arousing anti-regime sentiments even further with particular damage done in urban areas.
Opposition parties, while certainly sharing such unusually strong anti-regime sentiments emanating from civil society, were not able to translate these divisive ethnocentric sentiments and demands directly into political action. Instead, they have chosen to stay mute on fundamental issues that they do not wish to discuss or negotiate, that is, issues related to communal identities and religion.
Moreover, they strategically framed their anti-regime cause in universal democratic terms so as to forge a critical coalition with civil society forces across communal boundaries. They did so precisely because they need one another to maintain a multi-ethnic coalition front in order to beat BN. They and electorates are aware that the opposition parties and their interests, just like their opponents in the ruling coalition, are defined and restrained by competing identities: PKR is Malay-Muslim dominant and led by the most charismatic and powerful Malaysian Muslim leader to date, Anwar Ibrahim; DAP is non-Muslim based and dominated by ethnic Chinese; and PAS is a puritanical Islamist party. These constituencies have made significant efforts to compromise on issues regarding their core identities and interests in order to achieve their political goals and survival. Such compromise was handsomely rewarded with a significant 2008 increase in votes for the PR.
The tragedy of Malaysian authoritarianism is that authoritarian rule has grown stronger alongside the growing dominance of UMNO in BN and the Malaysian polity as well as its avidly pro-Malay and pro-Islam characters throughout 1980s and 1990s. The highly politicised identities—and state, political, economic and socio-cultural institutions created to serve the identity-based interests over several decades—will not easily go away even if regime change rids Malaysia of authoritarian rule and the BN falls from power. Popular interests and demands will continue to be defined and organised through collective identities based on ethnicity, religion, culture, or some combination of these characteristics.
This situation will lead to another tragedy: a tragedy of Malaysian democracy and regime change. As a result of the institutionalisation of politicised identities, demands for democracy, freedom and equal rights for all Malaysians are readily interpreted in zero-sum terms to connote a reduction of the special rights and privileges preserved for the Malay-Muslim majority. Regardless of whoever takes over the BN, the new regime will have to negotiate and balance contending communal demands and interests.
Can the Malays accept a new deal
The key question here is whether Malaysians, especially the Malay-Muslim community, are ready to accept a new set of deals, terms and conditions set by the new democratic regime along the line suggested by PR. All possible signs thus far seem to suggest that they are not. According to public surveys conducted by the Merdeka Center between 2008 and 2010, a large majority of Malays, especially those in the lower income categories, strongly favour the reservation of special rights and privileges. They are also extremely anxious about policies and concessions that appear favourable to non-Malay communities. It is important to remember that Malay votes for UMNO/BN were constant between 2004 and 2008 and many still think that UMNO supremacy is necessary to protect their special rights.
More alarmingly, such anxiety among a community perceived to be under threat or siege at a time when the regime is undergoing unpredictable transition is a ready recipe for communal tension and potential violence. Indeed, it was when the BN adopted policies and allocated resources in ways seen disproportionately favorable to the non-Malay communities, especially Chinese, that ultra-nationalistic Malay movements such as Perkasa gained popular approval and appeal. Some UMNO elites were willing to allow these movements to exploit racist rhetoric and symbols in an effort to provoke anti-minority sentiment and violence.
Regime transition means that UMNO will be in the opposition. It is not unlikely that UMNO elites will use such racist rhetoric and movements more freely and aggressively to regain power they have lost, deteriorating already uneasy ethnic relations even further. We are also unsure if PAS will remain moderate once it gains power in order to have access to the conservative religious bureaucracies and patronage that have expanded dramatically under UMNO. According to Ashutosh Varshney, a renowned scholar of ethnic violence, ethnic peace is more likely when rivaling communities have developed associational interactions and ties—and social capital—across ethnic boundaries so as to withstand attempts to instigate racial hatred or antagonism. If this proposition and legacies of institutionalized political identities mentioned above offer some guide to predict Malaysia’s democratic future, we are left uncertain whether the much-waited transition to democracy will in fact bring a peaceful and happy future for all Malaysians as many had wished.
Kikue Hamayotsu is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA. Her research focuses on comparative politics, identity politics, religion and politics and regime transition and quality of democracy in the Muslim world with special reference to Indonesia and Malaysia. Her current interest include: religious parties and electoral politics, religious intolerance and violence, and finding a way to move Australia closer to North America.
What if the CBI does a somersault again? The fallout could be grave: prosecution of all the four important members of the SP first family.
: Gandhian Anna Hazare’s Mumbai protest was a damp squib to end 2011, a year that saw him become an anti-graft icon. But if Team Anna was hardly noticed in the frenetic poll campaign, victors genuflected to the altar of transparency and the vanquished mulled the lessons.
And it wasn’t just Akhilesh. Leader of oppositionSushma Swaraj also chose to call the mandate in five states as against “corruption, price rise and communal politics” of the Congress.
The claims gain a degree of credibility with the decisive manner in which the Congress was shown the door in Goa and was unable to cleanly oust the BJP from Uttarakhand. BSP chief Mayawati’s fall from grace is also attributed to corruption cases despite an even record on law and order and development.
As psephologists pour over data to analyse how the public voted in five states, poll watchers feel clean governance and strong development credentials can no longer be underestimated as a fanciful notion that is bound to be subsumed by the politics of caste and communities.
Uttar Pradesh has not turned casteless, but the premium on governance is increasing, forcing Akhilesh to promise that the “goonda raj” associated with the SP in the past will not return.
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said, “The election has taught a lesson to political parties that the public will not be fooled. This is a demand for a strong and effective system to tackle corruption.”
His colleague Prashant Bhushan saw it a little differently, saying that though corruption and Lokpal were major issues, people had been forced to choose an evil to “avert a bigger evil”.
Team Anna’s cynicism about the political system did not rub off on voters, who cast their votes in record numbers. But the transparency agenda saw the BJP having to back-pedal after the inclusion of scam tainted Babu Singh Kushwaha.
The Congress has steadfastly denied Team Anna’s electoral influence but the defeat in the recent Mumbai municipal poll is an unmistakable warning.
In public, Congress leaders maintained Hazare was not relevant to the results. “I do not think Team Anna was really … I was in Punjab for 15 days and I did not see their campaign reflected in any newspaper ortelevision channel,” I&B minister Ambika Soni said.
Team Anna member Kiran Bedi sought to take credit for the Congress defeat. “The Congress resistance to widespread anti-corruption movement cost them heavily … Recall the Badals, the BJP, the Left parties came to Jantar Mantar and publicly committed for an independent effective Lokpal and Lokayukta. The Congress did not,” she tweeted.
NEW DELHI: Congress leaders Digvijaya Singhand Salman Khurshid’s repeated references to the Batla House encounter failed to convert Azamgarh into a winning proposition, with Muslim majority pockets in the district emphatically rooting for the Samajwadi Party.
Two suspected terrorists Atif Amin and Mohamed Sajid, both from Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh, were killed in the encounter on September 19, 2008, at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi. Two others from the same locality, were arrested in which a inspector of Delhi Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, also got killed.
The killing sparked a controversy, with people from Azamgarh alleging that the suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists were innocent youth who were killed in cold blood.
However, although the SP leader supported the demand for judicial inquiry into the “fake” encounter, central agencies are not bothered that his return to the helm in Lucknow would be a hindrance for anti-terror measures in the areas in UP that have repeatedly featured in investigations.
In his last term, Mulayam had refused to enforce the ban on the outlawed Islamic radical outfit SIMI, while his previous tenure was marked by the escape of a Guyana-born terrorist from a religious seminary under controversial circumstances.
However, sources in intelligence agencies stress that Mulayam was far more restrained in raising the issue of Batla House encounter before and during the campaign. Although SP discard Amar Singh had also harped on the allegation, it was Digvijaya who had set the cat among the pigeons by endorsing the charge against police whose action has been justified by his own government several times. SP reacted by emphasizing that how their leaders – a reference to Amar Singh’s visit to Batla House along with Ram Gopal Yadav, who was the first to raise the fake encounter issue.
Mulayam Singh also said that while Congress’ solidarity with those protesting against the encounter was fake since they were unable to persuade their own government to agree to a judicial inquiry. The charge gained credence both because P Chidambaram decided to support the version of the agencies, and because the Salman Khurshid dragged Sonia Gandhi in the controversy by claiming that she had broken down after seeing the pictures of the victims’ bodies.