Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shadows of the past stalk GE13 campaign

Shadows of the past stalk GE13 campaign
GE13 SPECIAL Less than one week before Malaysians cast their vote in what is arguably the most competitive election in history, the campaign has taken a worrying turn. In what has been part of a no-holds-barred strategy, the use of fear and division has come to the fore, especially on the part of the BN.

It is thus important to highlight some of the underlying forces that are being mobilised in this fierce contest and shed light on the political and economic interests that support them.
Indeed, this election is bringing to the surface many of the challenges of transforming a political system that has fed on insecurity.

Stoking emotions over religion

With regular reports of the hudud and ‘kalimah' (Allah) issues supposedly dividing the opposition featuring prominently in the mainstream press, and older stalwarts in the opposition being provoked to react often by a swarm of mainstream media journalists peppering questions to misquote and take out of context, the aim is to show that the opposition cannot govern while simultaneously stoking fears of religious marginalisation across communities.

pas muktamar 030611 audience 02PAS is continually painted as the harbinger of the dark ages, cutting off hands and wiping out non-Muslim freedoms. While the DAP is characterised as an enemy of Islam, which will undercut the position of the religion. These are very strong negative caricatures that do a disservice to the complexity of the issues and are just plain wrong.

Everyone appreciates that there are differences between the Islamist PAS and DAP, and these differences are part-and-parcel of the reality of the diversity in the country. Malaysians themselves are divided over religion, with many Malays supporting the introduction of hudud laws and others opposing them. Views also differ on the contentious ‘kalimah' issue.

One has to distinguish between the right to have different beliefs and the introduction of these in government. Pakatan Rakyat's manifesto is clear that the opposition agrees to support the religious freedom of all communities and decisions would be made on consensus. Many devout Muslims also appreciate that the country's moral foundation needs priority.

Legally, any hudud measure has multiple obstacles, from the passage from the Royal Council to a two-thirds vote in parliament. This is not going to happen in today's political context. As such, the fear provocation is just a political ploy harping back to early decades of misunderstanding and distrust.

In search of healing

For five years, the opposition parties have worked together to strengthen their common ground. The Pakatan manifesto is not calling for the imposition of religious law or taking the rights away from communities. Rather it is calling for greater introduction of shared religious principles.

The most prominent of these is the reduction of corruption in the system. It is also calling for honesty and more transparency. It is searching for healing, with a focus on justice. We see also the underlying clarion call for common respect and dialogue across faiths, a practice that only enhances bonds and mutual understanding.

The overall record of the opposition governments in office has been to protect faiths and enhance shared principles. One thing that unites the opposition is the shared interest in forging a moral compass in governance, where greed, impunity from the law and religion used to promote division are not the norm.

NONEThis is not to say the process will be easy. Anything in life worth fighting for is never easy. Globally, Malaysia's opposition stands out for bringing difference together. Arguably, no where in the world has the bond between secular and Islamists groups been stronger. Nevertheless, the hudud and ‘kalimah' issues are not going away, and discussions will continue.

It will take mature leadership to bring the dialogue away from the polarised simplisitic mantra of the past towards a more nuanced discourse. This will rest heavily on the skills of younger leaders from both sides of the political fence.

Najib Razak's government projects itself as a model for multi-ethnic religious cooperation. Yet, BN has been at the helm of promoting difference, and its record on religious understanding is mixed at best. Many of the sensitive issues of religion have been put in cold storage in the wake of the emotive church bombings in early 2010.

Its tactic to woo the non-Muslim religious institutions has been largely financial, with money given to repair and construct houses of worship, rather than to deal with the underlying concerns.

Whoever wins this election, the fact is that these issues are not going away anytime soon and will require a more inclusive dialogue for a more robust long-lasting respectful engagement over religion. Differences over issues is normal, what is important is how those differences are handled.

Mahathirism and racial insecurity

Besides the issue of religion, there has been the open use of racial insecurity as a means to mobilise voters. The formula is one of old politics - that of the bygone Mahathir era. Malays have been told their position is going to be usurped by the Chinese, while the Chinese have been sent threatening letters suggesting another May 13 riot.

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang continues to be accused of provoking the 1969 riots, even though he was not in Peninsular Malaysia when they happened.
NONERacial propaganda based on factual inaccuracies, such as the ‘Tanda Putera' movie - reportedly standing in the wings of mass public showings and currently screened in private - has now become so common place that everything spouted raises questions of credibility.

However, Malaysia has moved beyond this zero-sum racial paradigm. In numbers, the Malays supporting the opposition actually outnumber the Chinese, although a larger share of Chinese support the opposition. Pakatan's support is multiracial and the ethnic composition of its candidates highlights that politics is moving beyond race.

Mahathir and Mahathirites such as Ibrahim Ali and Zulkilfli Nordin want to hold it back, to move Malaysia back in time. The purpose is simple - to hold onto power. The tactics aim to scare, but where the BN is miscalculating is that their efforts are being interpreted very differently than in the past - as a case of sheer desperation rather than genuinely transformative.

Najib's record on 1Malaysia is being seriously questioned. How much these tactics are seen for what they are, or struck a cord of doubt will be known in the days ahead.

Political economy underbelly

Clearly, Mahathir and his politics aim to protect and extend his legacy, with little attention to the potential harm they will bring.

While the racial and religious cards are blatant, there are other economic interests at play that are part of this legacy protection. There are vested business interests seeking to keep the current government in power.

These groups comprised cronies with government-linked monopolies, those benefiting from special licences, and the illegal economy that is tied closely to those that might turn a blind eye for a payoff. These actors are heavily vested in the status quo and their financial interests and special relationships are tied to the existing government.

NONEIt is not a coincidence that wealthy tycoons have paid for dinners of multiple thousands, hosted entertainers at unknown costs, and in some cases are actually contributing to campaign funds for vote buying as well as guaranteeing the votes of their employees and distribution network.

While business interests are always involved in campaign financing, the scope and form of open involvement in this election is greater and more direct. The amount of money is also record-breaking, with lucky draws and prizes galore.

Thus, this is not just an election about the BN, but their economic allies, with many of these actors conditioned on special access and treatment. Many of these relationships were forged during the Mahathir era, as his legacy continues to shape this election.

The protection of special interests and issues of race and religion ironically have become drivers of change.

They are also raising the level of contestation and emotions, which is spilling over into violence. So far, this election has had the largest number of reports of intimidation and violence in decades, now over 1,400 incidents and three small bombings.
People are nervous as fear is being sowed openly and threats made. The burden now, more than ever, rests on the police to investigate and do their job, for leaders across the divide to look out for the common interest, not self-interest, and for wisdom and restraint to prevail.

It is essential not to let the past cast a shadow on the country's future.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She is travelling around Malaysia to provide her GE13 analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini. Bridget can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg

Ex-Umno man defends DAP against May 13 charge

Ex-Umno man defends DAP against May 13 charge
JOHOR Ex-Umno strongman Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar has become an unexpected ally in Pakatan Rakyat’s bid to counter the claim that DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang was behind the May 13 riots in 1969.

ghazali shafie king ghazThe former Batu Berendam MP, who is also the second son of former deputy premier Abdul Ghafar Baba, has claimed that the incident was the outcome of a “mini coup” orchestrated by Umno leaders including Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“What (then home minister Muhammad) Ghazali (Shafie, left) told (PKR de facto leader) Anwar (Ibrahim) and me, when we were in Umno Youth, was that the incident was a mini coup planned by Umno men, and that Mahathir was involved,” Tamrin said during two Pakatan ceramahs in Gelang Patah last night.

“(First prime minister) Tunku (Abdul Rahman) wrote in his column 'As I See It' in The Star two years before he passed away, that the incident was a deliberate seizure of power by Umno leaders who then blamed it on DAP and the Chinese.”

Lim Kit Siang is running in Gelang Patah, against incumbent Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman, in the hope of extending Pakatan’s 2008 ‘political tsunami’ to Johor.

NONETamrin’s disclosure supports the argument of academician Kua Kia Soong that the racial clash in 1969 was the result of a coup d'├ętat by then deputy premier Abdul Razak Hussein against the Tunku, and that Mahathir supported it.

Tamrin recalled that the Tunku had expelled Mahathir from Umno after the latter wrote an open letter calling for the Tunku's resignation after the riots.

“After the Tunku stepped down and Razak took over the premiership, he took Mahathir back into Umno and appointed him as education minister.

NONE“This shows that Razak was grateful to Mahathir (for pressuring the Tunku to step down),” he explained, adding that Kit Siang (left) was not in Kuala Lumpur during the clashes.

He said the continued reference to the incident by Umno, in order to frighten Malay voters, indicates that the BN is desperate.

With anti-establishment sentiment growing rapidly among Chinese Johoreans to Pakatan’s apparent advantage, Umno has flashed the race card to consolidate its support among the Malay electorate in Johor.

Its campaigners have been found distributing publicity material to Malay voters accusing DAP and Kit Siang of causing the May 13 riots.

To counter the charge, Pakatan has brought in several former Umno leaders including ex-law minister Zaid Ibrahim and former Selangor menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib to defend DAP and Kit Siang.

‘Which is the racist party?’

Speaking at his first ceramah in Taman Skudai Indah, to a mixed crowd of 300, Tamrin contrasted the track record of DAP and MCA to prove that DAP is “not a racist party”.

NONE“Since its formation in 1966, DAP has had more than 10,000 Malay, Indian and Punjabi members. During its first party polls, Daeng Ibrahim, a Malay leader, was elected as vice-chairperson.

“Since the formation of the party up to the last general election, a total of 55 Malay candidates have contested parliamentary or state constituencies on the DAP ticket.”

However, Tamrin (left) noted, MCA has never allowed a single Malay or Indian to become its member since its formation in 1951.

“So which is the racist party?” he asked.

“I have known Kit Siang since I became a MP in 1986 ... he has never gone against the rights of Malays. He has fought for the principle of a Malaysian Malaysia. How is that different from 1Malaysia? What is the difference? The difference is that Kit Siang is not corrupted.”

dap wong tack bentong ceramah 20130312 06 lim guan engTamrin urged the Malays to thank DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (right), who had been jailed for three years after speaking out for a Malay minor who was allegedly raped by an Umno leader.

He claimed that both former MCA president Ong Ka Ting and former deputy president Lim Ah Lek, who he had met recently, are anticipating that MCA will win a maximum of five parliamentary seats in the 13th general election.

“How to win? (MCA president Dr) Chua Soi Lek is the first general since the Ming dynasty who has not gone to war.

“Chua only won one war - the battle of Katerina Hotel, right?” he said, referring to the hotel in Batu Pahat where Chua was recorded on video, having sex with a companion.

Monday, April 29, 2013

In Perak, Pakatan sees victory in increased rural Chinese support

In Perak, Pakatan sees victory in increased rural Chinese support

April 29, 2013
Lim Guan Eng speaking to a packed crowd in the Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites in Ipoh on April 26, 2013. — Pictures by Choo Choy MayIPOH, April 29 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is confident of taking Perak this May 5 with increased support from Chinese voters in the rural Malay-majority seats as they have now warmed to voting in a non-Chinese to represent them.
The Chinese form the minority in many of these rural seats where PR parties, particularly Islamist PAS, had lost by small margins in Election 2008.

But Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming said that with PAS, the DAP and PKR now campaigning as one under the PR umbrella, the rural Chinese community has grown more comfortable voting for Muslim candidates from PAS or PKR.

“In our latest independent survey, we are quite optimistic. We have strong seats now... between 35 and 38. The best is 40,” he told The Malaysian Insider when met on the campaign trail in Trong, near Taiping, on Friday.

There are 59 seats in the Perak assembly. In Election 2008, the DAP, PKR and PAS collectively won 31 seats to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 28.

“In these marginal seats, the non-Malay votes are very crucial,” Nga said, making specific reference to Trong, the state seat where PAS had lost to Umno by a marginal 916 votes in Election 2008.
Nga added that like elsewhere across Perak, the loss in Trong was largely due to lagging support from the Chinese for PAS’s Norazli Musa, owing to their fear of the party’s Islamist stance.
Including Trong, PAS also lost in a total of 15 state seats in the 2008 polls, 10 of which were by slim majorities of below 1,000 votes while five seats were by majorities below 500 votes.

With this in mind, Nga said Chinese support from rural Perak could help bump up support from the community by 10 per cent and shift the balance in favour of PR this May 5.

“In Perak, we got over 70 per cent or so from the Chinese votes previously. If we can push this to 80 per cent, we can not only form the government but we can form a stable one to avoid crossovers,” he said.
The Perak PR government fell in Perak in 2009 after a short 11-month rule following the defections of three of its assemblymen.

In the 2008 election, the three parties won Perak largely due to enthusiastic support from the Chinese, particularly those from urban-centric seats in Kinta Valley.

The DAP had won all the 18 Chinese-majority seats it contested and lost only one of the seven parliamentary seats it contested — Kampar.

But this time, Perak DAP’s biggest star Lim Kit Siang has moved on from his seat in Ipoh Timor to contest in Johor’s Gelang Patah as a part of the party’s strategy to boost its campaign in the southern state.
A view of the big crowd which turned up to hear the DAP leaders.There were fears that Lim’s departure from Ipoh Timor would anger his supporters who voted him in for two general elections but, according to local DAP leaders, this has not been the case so far.

Despite Lim’s absence, they said, the presence of the DAP veteran is still felt across the Kinta Valley and Chinese support for PR here has continued to remain strong.

“They understand his reasons for going to Johor. And in fact, they are more concerned than upset... some would come to me to express worry that Kit Siang might lose in Gelang Patah,” said Thomas Su, who is standing in for Lim in the Ipoh Timor contest.

“Their political maturity here is very high. And response has just been fantastic, even though we no longer have big personalities here contesting.”

The incumbent Pasir Pinji assemblyman added that in many places, it is not just handshakes and cheers that greet DAP candidates on their walkabouts, but standing ovations and applause.

“Fantastic response. Our ceramahs have been great as well,” Su told The Malaysian Insider today.
On Friday, an ad hoc “teh tarik” session with Lim Guan Eng, the son of Kit Siang, drew a massive mob to the Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites here.

The event, which was meant to be a tea session, turned out to be an afternoon ceramah headlined by key Perak DAP speakers, including Su, Ipoh Barat incumbent M. Kulasegaran, and former Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar, apart from Guan Eng.

Standing room only as the crowd strain to see the DAP leaders speak.The room was packed to the rafters with eager onlookers, most among them Chinese, while those who arrived a few minutes too late found themselves squeezed into a thick queue that snaked out from the room’s entrance.
Organisers had only anticipated a maximum 400-strong crowd but at least 600 tried to crowd into the Pusing function room in the hotel, which only has a seating capacity of 400.
One nervous-looking hotel event co-ordinator told The Malaysian Insider that she had never seen such a mob for any function in the hotel before.
“They kept telling us that at most, there would be 400 people. But look at this,” she said.

After much jostling, the chairs in the Pusing room had to be removed from the hall to accommodate more of the impatient crowd.

Even from outside the doorway, some tried to snap photographs of the leaders as they took their turns at the microphone. Others were heard complaining about missing out on the speeches.

Inside the hotel lift to the lobby, strangers exchanged information on where the next ceramahs would be, even advising each other on the best time to arrive to avoid the crowds.

When met outside the function room, Canning incumbent Wong Kah Who told The Malaysian Insider that the event was proof of sound support from the Chinese voters in Ipoh for PR.

“Even we did not anticipate this kind of crowd. It is very encouraging,” he said.

Like Su, Wong said the lack of big names in PR’s fight for Perak has not affected support for the opposition, especially from the Chinese voters.

“No, our supporters have not left us. They have been very, very responsive so far,” he said.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Winds of change

Winds of change

Mark Baker

Mark Baker

Editor-at-Large, The Age

Rabble rousing … Anwar Ibrahim on the hustings in Kuala Lumpur. Rabble rousing … Anwar Ibrahim on the hustings in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Austral Press

It's nearing midnight in Penang. In a park surrounded by decaying concrete apartment blocks, a swelling crowd waits patiently amid the sticky heat and pungent aromas of food stalls, traffic fumes and open drains. This is a poor Malay neighbourhood, but there are Chinese and Indians here, too, a representative cross-section of multiracial Malaysia.

Suddenly a slim figure in dark trousers and white shirt emerges from the darkness through a side gate and the crowd erupts in jubilation, clapping, cheering and sounding horns. A squad of armed security men guides him through the crush and up towards the fluorescent glare of a makeshift stage. "There have been attacks by provocateurs at other meetings. We have to be careful," says a senior aide.

Anwar Ibrahim sits down briefly on the rough grass among the sweating youths in the front rows. He then mounts the stage, takes a microphone and steps back down to stand facing the crowd. "I will stay down here. This is better," he says. The audience roars approval at the intimacy of his gesture. "The time has come for change," he declares. "We can create a new environment. We can change the political landscape of this country. We can end the corruption, the cronyism, the wasteful spending. Enough! Enough! Enough!"
Friends in high places … Anwar (at left) with his then mentor Mahathir Mohamad (at right) in 1997. Friends in high places … Anwar (at left) with his then mentor Mahathir Mohamad (at right) in 1997. Photo: AFP
The day after this, thousands of people bussed in from across peninsular Malaysia will assemble in a stadium in Kuala Lumpur to hear a formal speech by Prime Minister Najib Razak, head of the Barisan Nasional coalition government. They will all have party-issued gift bags and party-issued "We Love BN" banners, and they will all applaud on cue for national TV. But tonight Anwar Ibrahim, leader of Pakatan Rakyat, Malaysia's tri-party opposition alliance, is giving a one-man show and no one has been paid to come.
He has no prepared speech. He speaks with passion from a script lived hard over long years of imprisonment and political exile. But there is no bitterness to it. Anwar jokes and teases the crowd and they lap it up.

He quotes Lincoln on the impossibility of fooling all of the people all of the time. He sings unaccompanied a version of a popular Malay song about trees shaking in the wind. But this time it's Najib who is shaking - to winds of change being fanned by Anwar Ibrahim. The assembled crowd reverberates with laughter.
Black and blue … the black eye inflicted on Anwar in custody by police chief Rahim Noor in 1998. Black and blue … the black eye inflicted on Anwar in custody by police chief Rahim Noor in 1998.

The journey to this moment began 15 years ago when Anwar, then Malaysia's deputy prime minister, anointed successor to Mahathir Mohamad, and one of the rising stars of Asian politics, was abruptly sacked by his mentor and accused of corruption and sex offences. Then came prison, two trials, a further ban from political office and unending vilification by former friends and colleagues. That journey will reach a conclusion on Sunday, May 5, when Malaysians vote in the most closely fought election since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957.

In January last year, Anwar returned to the austere chambers of Kuala Lumpur's High Court for the conclusion of his second trial on charges of sexual misconduct. He arrived to find the court registrar and her deputy in tears. "We will pray for you, sir," they whispered to him.

The women, like many of Anwar's supporters, were convinced the charges were politically motivated and that his conviction was inevitable. The accusation that Anwar had had sex with a former male aide was raised just months after the opposition scored big gains in the 2008 national elections and as Anwar prepared to return to parliament in a by-election.
Flying the flag … Malaysian PM Najib Razak in 2012. Flying the flag … Malaysian PM Najib Razak in 2012. Photo: AFP
But the verdict, after an exhausting two-year trial, was to shock everyone. Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah stepped into the court and spoke for just 90 seconds. He declared DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution to be unreliable and acquitted Anwar. "Thank God it didn't succeed," says Anwar. "That would have been the finish for me. Everyone was convinced I would be convicted and I still don't know why I wasn't. Maybe it was the judge's conscience in the end."

There was no such judicial introspection a decade earlier, when Anwar was convicted and jailed on charges that he and his supporters insist were fabricated.

The relationship between Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister and his deputy fell apart in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. As finance minister, Anwar had committed to austerity measures suggested by the Inter-national Monetary Fund to rescue the battered Malaysian economy. But Mahathir claimed the cause of the problem was a conspiracy by global financiers and backed a slew of lavish bailouts for failing Malaysian corporations, including his son's shipping company. Anwar also upset Mahathir by moving to tackle widespread corruption in the government and embracing political and social reform, as many Malaysians cheered the unrest that brought down the Suharto regime in Indonesia in May 1998.
Pucker up … young boys kiss the hand of Anwar in his Penang electorate. Pucker up … young boys kiss the hand of Anwar in his Penang electorate. Photo: Vincent Thian
Mahathir abruptly sacked Anwar that September. Three days later, police used tear gas and water cannon to break up the biggest protest rally in Malaysia's history as more than 50,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in support of Anwar. Malaysia's reformasi movement was born.

That night, Anwar was arrested and detained. A week later he appeared in court with a black eye, the result of a beating in prison by police inspector general Rahim Noor (Rahim was later jailed for two months for the assault). He was eventually sentenced to six years' jail for abusing his ministerial position by directing police special branch officers to pressure witnesses to retract allegations that he'd had sex with his family's driver and an illicit affair with the wife of his private secretary (both homosexuality and adultery remain criminal offences in Malaysia). A subsequent trial saw him also convicted for the sexual offences themselves.

The verdicts were later upheld on appeal to the Federal Court. This was despite evidence that Anwar's driver had three times denied having sex with his employer and compelling evidence that police had threatened witnesses and manipulated evidence. The appeal judges also ignored an admission by police special branch chief Mohamad Said bin Awang that in 1997 - a year before Anwar's sacking - he had sent a report to Mahathir dismissing the allegations of sexual misconduct as a whispered smear campaign.

Anwar says his time in prison and subsequent years in which he was barred from political office have strengthened his resolve to see fundamental change in Malaysia. He wants to free Malaysia's government-controlled mainstream media. He wants to restore the independence of the judiciary and the bureaucracy and to make the security services accountable. And he wants to end a culture of endemic corruption and cronyism.

"The last 15 years have certainly changed me," he says. "You talk about freedom or reform. It is not the same when you actually understand what it is to be denied your freedom. My passion for justice is far more pronounced now. In prison I saw so many guys who were beaten up, black eyes, but they were never reported in the media. I was fortunate that the whole world saw what happened to me. I knew, when I saw it happening to so many others, that I can't allow this to continue."

Anwar, now 65, is not bitter that he has had to wait so long for a chance to claim the leadership position that he was poised to inherit when Mahathir retired in 2003. Unlike many of his supporters, he says he has forgiven Mahathir for orchestrating his political downfall. This is despite the continuing attacks on his character from the elder statesman and his successors in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling coalition.

"Mahathir, in a sober moment, did say once [to the UMNO leaders], after the second trial, 'Why do you use the same script as me? The way it was done, the sodomy charge, you should not use the same script twice.' But I don't want this to be seen as a sort of Anwar-Mahathir battle. It's not personal. To me, he is obsolete, except to defend the business interests of his children. What else does he do? Does he talk about reform? He is just defending his own policies; he wants to maintain his legacy. But beyond that, it's just about his family."

He says the 87-year-old Mahathir only retains influence within UMNO because of its weak leadership. "They feared him when he was in power but that is no longer so."

Anwar Ibrahim may have rising popular support on his side in his quest to end UMNO's 56-year reign, but everything else seems stacked heavily against him: a ruling elite that will spend whatever it takes to preserve its power and perks; a government that is in pork-barrelling overdrive to shore up its position; an electoral system corrupted by the mother of all gerrymanders.

All of Malaysia's mainstream media is either owned or controlled by the government. The judiciary is subservient to the executive. The bureaucracy - and particularly the police and internal security agencies - is deeply politicised. Key figures in the government and their business backers have built fortunes through patronage and corrupt deals. Malaysia has been ranked the third-worst country in the world for illicit capital outflows, with about $25 billion a year being illegally siphoned out of the country.

The government has been shameless in seeking to buy electoral favour. More than 20 per cent of the country's budget is spent on consumer subsidies, including about $8 billion a year on keeping petrol prices down. Twice in recent months the government has given 500 ringgit ($155) cash handouts to lower-income families and it has promised the money will keep rolling after the election. The day before he dissolved parliament, Najib announced a 1000 ringgit ($310) bonus for every employee of the state oil company, Petronas - and told them they should repay the generosity by voting the government back in.

Malaysia has an electoral gerrymander that would have drawn a blush to the cheeks of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who ruled Queensland long after his party had ceased attracting anything like a majority of votes. At the 2008 national election, Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat coalition won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote but took just 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament. The government held the rural seat of Putrajaya with just 6008 votes while the opposition needed 112,000 votes to take the urban seat of Kapar, in Selangor state.
Analysis by Bersih, the Malaysian corruption and election watchdog, has found that the gerry-mander means it is feasible for the ruling coalition to achieve a simple majority in parliament with as little as 18.9 per cent of the popular vote.

Bersih chair and former Malaysian Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan says the electoral rolls have been corrupted, with hundreds of thousands of migrants from Indonesia and the Philippines being given identity cards to bolster support for UMNO. "We have real concerns and the failure of the Electoral Commission to do anything about it is deeply worrying," she says.

Despite these obstacles, the 2008 national elections were a watershed that saw the UMNO-led coalition lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since independence. The opposition parties, forever the fringe dwellers of Malaysian politics, proved themselves a viable alternative, also winning control of five state governments. The result has convinced Anwar he can win this time. Private government polling is said to point to a potential swing of 7 per cent to the opposition, and political analysts believe that if the opposition gets more than 100 seats they will be able to horse-trade with minor parties to secure a parliamentary majority.

"All we need is a few percentage points more,'' says Anwar. ''Was there gerrymandering in 2008? Yes. Was there a fraudulent process then? Yes. Were the entire resources of government used? Yes. Will they use more money this time? Yes, because we have done more to criticise and expose the cronyism and the billionaires. They are being named. But I still believe we can do it."

He expects a tough and dirty campaign but is encouraged by Najib's comment to journalists after dissolving parliament that the government will ensure a smooth transition if it loses. "For the first time we have a prime minister saying that he will surrender power peacefully in the event that the opposition wins the election. This means a lot because what he said goes down to the security apparatus, the police and the army. It should influence the way they behave."

Anwar believes that message will be reinforced by the fact that the opposition has won the backing of several top-ranking military officers, including former army chief Hashim Hussein, who will be one of its candidates in Johor. He says the government's decision to stretch its five-year term to the limit proves it is worried. "They are not confident," says Anwar. "Although technically it is legal, morally it is unacceptable. They are very nervous."

The opposition's prospects have also been boosted by a surge in the number of younger Malaysians who will vote for the first time in this election. More than three million of them have been added to the electoral rolls, a 25 per cent increase in the voting population since 2008. The explosion in social media and independent news websites means younger Malaysians are better informed than their parents' generation. "The opposition has the upper hand in the social-media wars and it is likely to be a big factor in this election," says Steven Gan, editor-in-chief of Malaysiakini, the country's most popular news website and a tough critic of the government.

At Friday prayers in the village of Sama Gagah, in the heart of his Penang electorate, Anwar Ibrahim holds court in a small, crowded mosque. He wears flowing Malay robes and a black felt songkok. The men embrace him and the young boys pay obeisance, kissing his hand before touching it with their foreheads.
His address is a deft blend of politics and piety. "As good Muslims we cannot be corrupt. We must purify our hearts and souls to do good to people. Even though we are in an election campaign we must respect others. We have to follow the path of God."

He talks of his time in prison. "That was God's test of me. And I thank God for that time to obtain virtue and knowledge. It gave me time to study the Koran. Although people slandered me and falsely accused me, I did not retaliate. I had faith in God and I came through it."

Critics fear an Anwar government would steer Malaysia down a more radical Islamic path. His coalition includes the fundamentalist Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the opposition platform would allow a greater role for shariah law in Malay Muslim communities.

Anwar began his political career as a firebrand student activist, co-founding the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia in 1971 and serving as president of the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students. His first taste of prison came in 1974, when he was jailed for 20 months under the Internal Security Act - which allowed detention without trial - for leading student protests against rural poverty. Anwar retains the respect of many conservative Malay Muslims and their leaders. "I am very Malay, very Muslim in my views," he says. But he is as much a political secularist and pragmatic internationalist as he is a man of faith.

He attended the prestigious, anglophile Malay College Kuala Kangsar in Perak - known as "the Eton of the East" - and is still fond of Shakespeare and English literature. Western leaders who became friends during his time as finance minister admired him as an intellectual, someone willing and able to straddle the divide between East and West. Anwar has also championed the role of women in Malaysian politics and the opposition is fielding a much stronger team of female candidates in this election than the government. His wife, Dr Wan Azizah, ran his party and held his seat in parliament during his political exile, and his daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, is an impressive young MP tipped as a future leader.

If he wins next Sunday, Anwar is confident effective democracy and clean government can be restored in Malaysia without major upheaval. He says there is no comparison with the challenges faced in countries such as Tunisia, which he visited soon after its liberation in the Arab Spring.

"We still have a functioning civil service, even though it is getting more decadent compared with the level of professionalism in the past. We have an army that is not too political and we have police, some of whom can remain quite professional. The economy has growth of about 5 per cent, which could be better but is okay."
Anwar promises to abolish all controls on the media and to end the use of the courts to hound political critics and rivals. Harder will be the task of tackling corruption and dealing with those "who have stolen billions". He says that while serious crimes must be dealt with, he doesn't want retributive justice and is prepared to forgive lesser transgressions.

Beyond the glitter of the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur and the brash modernity of the country's federal administrative centre, Putrajaya, Malaysia remains a country with vast disparities between rich and poor. Many Malays in rural areas and members of the minority Indian community live below the local poverty line of 700 ringgit ($220) a month. Anwar seethes at the injustice. "There is still abject poverty," he says. "Infant mortality among the Penan people in Sarawak is among the highest in Asia and this in our richest state, where the leaders plunder billions annually."

As we drive towards another night rally, Anwar winds down his window to greet and touch hands with the cheering supporters lining the road. "I am blessed that people continue to give me their support and hope. Their affection keeps me going. The rural areas have never been our stronghold but now we are seeing signs of growing support. Some are influenced by the incessant propaganda in the media and by all the cash handouts, but many are fed up with it all."

Anwar knows the obstacles to victory, but believes they can and will be overcome. "I mean, how much can they cheat? I genuinely believe I can do it. I have the wisdom, the hindsight of prison, the experience of government that helps ensure I can lead this country and, damn it, I want to prove it."

With that, he steps from the car and is consumed by another sea of jubilant supporters, for whom an Anwar victory would mean as much as it does for the man who has travelled so far and so hard to reach this moment.

May 13 riots, race card played up in Johor

May 13 riots, race card played up in Johor
JOHOR The stiff political contest in Johor has turned into an ugly battle with the race card being flashed and the May 13 racial riots being made the bogeyman again to create fear, especially among Malay voters.

On Friday Malaysiakini witnessed BN campaigners distributing leaflets in a night market at Taman University, Skudai that accused DAP Gelang Pahat candidate Lim Kit Siang as the mastermind behind the 1969 tragedy.

The leaflets also attached an interview of former Kuala Lumpur City Hall director-general Nordin Abdul Razak published in Umno-owned Mingguan Malaysia in which he claimed he saw Kit Siang with anti-Malay demonstrators during the incident.

NONEYesterday a DAP campaigner in Tanjong Piai parliamentary constituency showed Malaysiakini a booklet entitled ‘DAP racist' which he alleged was distributed by the rival camp in Malay villages.

Comprising 26 pages, it accused DAP of causing the May 13 incident, being a proxy of Singapore's ruling party Peoples Action Party to spread the influence of its then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the peninsula, and turning Penang into a "second Singapore".

It compiled several controversial remarks made by DAP leaders before such as secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, chairperson Karpal Singh, national publicity secretary Tony Pua, Perak chief Ngeh Koo Ham and secretary Nga Kor Ming, and incumbent Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson M Manoharan, to back the allegation that DAP is against the Malays and Islam.

NONEAlthough the identity of printer and publisher of these campaign material were not stated, which is a violation of election regulations, fingers were pointed at Umno.

Raising the sense of insecurity of the Malays by portraying Pakatan Rakyat as a threat to Malay rights has been a tactic repeatedly used by Umno during elections to unite the community under its flag.

This approach is particularly effective in Johor, where the Malays have been indoctrinated with a strong sense of Malay nationalism and supremacy under Umno's political hegemony for almost seven decades.

However, Pakatan was quick to drive its machinery to counter the racial charges.

DVDs of Kit Siang's interview with party organ Roketkini have been distributed in Malay villages. He explains in the interview that he had nothing to do with May 13 incident as he was not in the Klang Valley when it happened.

dvd of testimony on lim guan end mat sabu samad said 270413 01Another DVD which contains the testimonies of PAS deputy president Mohd Sabu and national laureate A Samad Said on DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng is also being distributed in Malay villages.

PAS leaders, who command a higher influence within the Malay community, are giving their best to defend their comrades in DAP against racist labels.

The Islamic party's vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, who is contesting both the parliamentary constituency of Pulai and state constituency of Nusa Jaya, told the Malays in most of his ceramah that the dominant political position of the Malays will never be compromised by the Chinese.

Using the number of seats contested by the three parties, Salahuddin stressed that DAP is given the least.

Leaflets printed by PAS list out the seat allocations among the three parties in 2008 general election to convey the same message.

"Is (PKR de facto leader) Anwar (Ibrahim) a Chinese? Is Tok Guru (PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat) a Japanese?

"The agong is Malay, the royal family is Malay, the district officer is Malay, the chief justice is Malay, the inspector-general of police is also Malay. Why are we so afraid? Can Lim Kit Siang chase us all away?

"Are we going to burn down Nusa Jaya? Are we going to evict the Malays?" he queried during a ceramah in a Malay village located in Pulai on Friday night.
Prominent leader
The coalition also roped in prominent leader like former Umno minister Zaid Ibrahim to convince the Malay constituents that Kit Siang is not and never was an anti-Malay leader.

NONEZaid (right) was later invited to be the adviser to the DAP in tackling Malay sentiment.

In addition, Kit Siang has been issuing statements in Malay language since nomination.

In his latest Malay statement released yesterday, the veteran politician pointed out that the DAP has fielded Malay candidates in each general election since its first election in 1969, contrary to Umno which does not accept non-Malays as members.

"As many as six Malay representatives from DAP have won state and parliamentary seats, including Ibrahim Singgeh and Ahmad Nor."

In this general election, DAP has fielded three parliamentary candidates in the peninsula - Mahdzir Ibrahim (Tanjong Piai), Zairil Khir Johari (Bukit Bendera) and Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz (Raub), as well as other bumiputra candidates in Sabah and Sarawak.

With the campaign intensifies in the final lap, it would not be surprised to see more racist sentiments and fear being raised to frighten the voters.

The electoral result on the night of May 5 will tell whether racial politics is ready to leave Malaysia.

Friday, April 26, 2013

'Teh Tarik with Guan Eng'

'Teh Tarik with Guan Eng' on 27/4/13 (this saturday) 2.30pm at kinta Riverfront Hotel. plz share!

Ceramah at Taman Loke Lim, on 26/4/13 at 7pm

All welcome to a Ceramah at Taman Loke Lim (near caltex petrol station tasek industrial area) Ipoh today at 7pm.. See you all there..

43pct back Anwar as PM, 39pct for Najib

43pct back Anwar as PM, 39pct for Najib
Anwar Ibrahim has a slight edge over Najib Abdul Razak as a prime ministerial candidate, according to a survey by Universiti Malaya's Democratic and Election Centre (Umcedel).

The survey, involving 1,407 respondents residing in Peninsular Malaysia in early April, indicated that 43 percent of voters believe Anwar was qualified to be prime minister while 24 percent of voters disagreed and the rest were unsure.

azlanAs for Najib, 39 percent of voters said he was qualified to be the prime minister, while 31 percent disagreed. Another 30 percent were unsure.

Interestingly, 54 percent of Malay respondents said Anwar was qualified to be prime minister while only 28 percent said the same for Najib.

Among first-time voters, 48 percent of respondents believed Anwar to be qualified as prime minister while 25 percent of respondents said the same for Najib.
Compared to Umcedel's last survey results in January, Najib's rating had dropped four points while Anwar and increased by one point.

In terms of Malay respondents, Najib's rating had dropped by 18 points while Anwar's rating had rose by nine points.

Anwar seen as 'more Islamic'
Both Najib and Anwar are pretty much neck and neck in other areas.
Najib has a slight edge in terms of "friendly-ness" compared to Anwar.
Fifty-four percent of respondents believe Najib to be more "people-friendly" compared to 46 percent who said the same for Anwar.

“Of course Najib is higher (in the polls) - he appears on TV almost every day, compared to Anwar who only appears when there is something not good about him,” said Umcedel director Mohd Redzuan Othman at a press conference today.
Najib is also seen as slightly more capable administration-wise compared to Anwar, while Anwar has a slight lead in terms of accountability and vision to develop the country.
However, Anwar has a clear lead in terms of exhibiting Islamic virtues, with 43 percent of respondents stating that he has such values, as compared to 37 percent saying the same for Najib.
Sex video doesn't sell
Meanwhile, the survey also found that 62 percent of respondents said they were not influenced by a sex video of an alleged Pakatan Rakyat leader floating on the Internet.

azlanThirty nine percent of the respondents said they were convinced that the sex video was a piece of "Umno propaganda" aimed at making personal attacks, while 39 percent said they were unsure.

Twenty two percent of respondents disagreed that the clip was "Umno propaganda".

“It appears that the smear campaign that is going on (in the mainstream media) on Anwar, is not really having a bad effect on him,” said Redzuan.

Meanwhile, the 63 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to see a debate between Najib and Anwar while 19 percent disagreed with the idea.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Zaid tells Malays to reassert their identity: VOTE FOR KIT SIANG!

Zaid tells Malays to reassert their identity: VOTE FOR KIT SIANG!

Saying the Malays had accepted the idea of sharing power with other communities in the past thus replacing traditional power structure hitherto dominated by Malay rulers, former minister in the Prime Minister's Department Zaid Ibrahim  said they should now continue to pursue such a path.

Slamming UMNO leaders' statements threatening racial discord if DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang defeats BN's Abdul Ghani Othman in Gelang Patah, Zaid urged the Malays to prove to the world that they are not a people out to create trouble as depicted by prime minister Najib Razak and UMNO strongman Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"Now the Malays have been asked to answer more big questions in Gelang Patah. Do they want moderate, sensible politics in multiracial Malaysia? Do they want racial harmony to continue? Or will they endorse the vile sectarian politics of Dr Mahathir Mahathir and his progeny Najib Razak?" asked Zaid.

He said Malays must kill off all attempts to raise spectre of violence and showcase to others of the community's moderation.

"We have to reassert our identity in this election. We are moderate sensible people. We listen to issues and we decide to vote based on the facts before us. That’s the kind of Malays we are, the genuine Malays of this country," said the former Kota Bharu member of parliament.

Zaid praised Kit Siang as "one of the finest parliamentarians we have", saying the DAP leader was far from being a racist "the kind we have in Perkasa and its patron", he added, referring to BN's strongest ally supported by Mahathir.

"Despite his (Kit Siang's) stern look and the fact that he rarely smiles, he is a good man... We judge a leader not by his colour or race but by his deeds. Put the records of service between Kit Siang and Ghani Othman on the table... and compare and contrast. There’s no need to go on a rampage as some irresponsible leaders want you to do," Zaid stressed.

There are 106,864 eligible voters in Gelang Patah, 52 percent of whom are Chinese, 34 percent Malays and 12 percent Indians.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Karpal maintains DAP’s stand on hudud

Karpal maintains DAP’s stand on hudud

By Opalyn Mok
April 24, 2013
GEORGE TOWN, April 24 ― DAP’s earlier choice to use the PAS logo did not mean the party now agreed to hudud laws being imposed in Malaysia, said party national chairman Karpal Singh.

“PAS allowing us to use their party logo does not mean we have shifted our stand on the establishment of Islamic state or hudud laws,” he said in a press conference at his elections operations centre today.
Karpal (picture) said Malaysia is not an Islamic state but secular, pointing to a landmark decision on the issue by the Federal Court in 1988.

“The introduction of hudud to the legal system would mean one system but two laws, which is impossible to impose,” said the incumbent Bukit Gelugor MP popularly known as the “Tiger of Jelutong”.

He was responding to PAS deputy spiritual leader Datuk Dr Haron Din’s statement that the Islamist party was confident its Pakatan Rakyat ally will accept hudud law because it was willing to contest using the PAS logo.

Two days before nominations, DAP was in an uproar when the Registrar of Societies (RoS) issued a notice to the party stating that it did not recognise the central executive committee line-up elected in the party elections last December.

This led DAP to fear that the authorisation forms by its secretary-general Lim Guan Eng would not be recognised, effectively preventing party candidates from being able to contest under the rocket symbol.
The PR allies then held emergency meetings, during which agreements were made for DAP to use the PAS logo in peninsula Malaysia or the PKR logo in East Malaysia.

This became moot when RoS issued a letter on the night before nominations stating DAP could still use its logo for the elections this May 5. All DAP candidates’ nominations forms were accepted without any problems.

“Although PAS has said hudud is only for Muslims, the implementation of two systems will cause conflicts and chaos,” Karpal reiterated.

As an example, Karpal said that if a non-Muslim and a Muslim were to be jointly charged for the same crime under the Penal code and hudud system respectively,  it would be impossible to have a trial.

He pointed out that the Federal Constitution also does not provide for an Islamic state.

“If PAS wants to amend the Federal Constitution, DAP or PKR will not allow it,” he said.

“I don’t think PAS would insist on amending the Federal Constitution,” he added.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vote to ensure a better Malaysia

Vote to ensure a better Malaysia

Press Statements
pampletPress statement of Group of Concerned Citizens on the General Election

We are a group of Malaysians from diverse ethnicities, religions and backgrounds including military, academic, business, professional and the not-for-profit sector. We have been drawn together by our love for our country and our concern that this general election may see further setbacks in our aspiration for a better society.

Malaysians need a better government and good governance, especially in these tumultuous times of heightened racial discord and religious hatred and extremism.

If we succeed, we can be a modest example for the rest of the world in the way we tackle our racial and religious differences and in our resolve and actions to ensure social justice and the fair distribution of the wealth of our land.

Past governments and politicians have too often failed us by abusing the public treasury for private gain, by concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, and by debasing our democratic rights. For some years now, we have been one of the top countries in the world in terms of illicit outflows of money. According to Global Financial Integrity, the total 10-year estimate of financial outflow for Malaysia was RM871.4 billion for 2000-2010. No country in the world can afford such a high level of capital flight.

The coming elections provides us an opportunity to exercise our individual and collective right to decide on who will lead this country in the next five years and manage our finances, economy and society in a fair and just manner. If we choose badly we will have only ourselves to blame.
click on picture to enlarge

We wish to share with voters in this election pamphlet, which is being disseminated throughout the country, our concerns as well as our position on the principles and values that can propel our country towards that better society that we seek and which all Malaysians deserve and can be proud of. We believe that most Malaysians share not only these concerns but also our expectations of the high moral and ethical standards from the parties and politicians that will soon come into power. 

We hope that this election message – a non-partisan one – will be etched in the minds and memories of those who will shortly take political office as well as of all voters so that the promise of moral and good governance is in the forefront of national priority, not just during the election campaign period and particularly on election day but every day during the next four or five years.

Other citizens and civil society organisations wishing to endorse this or a similar message are free to adopt or adapt it, and disseminate in their own names.

Civil society leaders endorsing this message:
Ahmad Farouk Musa
Arshad Raji
Azmi Sharom
K J John
Koon Yew Yin
Lim Teck Ghee
Masjaliza Hamzah
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Ramon Navaratnam
Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh
Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim
S Thayaparan
Zaid Ibrahim

Who is the cause of racial polarisation in Malaysai?

Speech. By M.Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Kluang on Monday 22nd April 2013.

( Among the speakers to night were Sdr. Liew Chin Thong candidate for Kluang, Sdr. Tan hong Pin, for Mengkibol , Khairul Faizi candidate for Mahkota and PAS Candidate for Ayer Hitam  and Sdr. chaandran of JB

The Ceramah at Taman Keluang Barat was aimed exclusively for the Indian crowd  and I spoke in Tamil.) 

On Racial Polarization

Look at what happens to Johor Umno politicians. MB Ghani Othman is known to be one of the more rational leaders in Umno. He has tried to be multiracial in his approach. The DAP acknowledges these virtues in a leader even though he is from a party that rarely has anything good to say about the DAP.

But see what Ghani has been saying after he was nominated to contest against our stalwart Lim Kit Siang. Ghani saidChinese votes for Kit Siang would be a sign of racial polarization of Johor’s voters who were not like that before,

Now we all know who is responsible for racial polarization in this country. I remember that it was a very own son of Johor Umno who warned in 1985 against the trend towards racial polarization which was becoming evident then.

That son of Johor Umno was none other than the former deputy prime minister and deputy president of Umno, Musa Hitam.

He said in 1985, as I recall, that Malaysia is not like Saudi Arabia, not like Iran, not any other country in the world. Malaysia, said Musa Hitam, was unique.

Friends, I know, what Musa Hitam meant. He meant that Malaysians can cross racial and religious divides simply from the goodness of individual hearts interacting with neighbors, pupils interacting in schools, students interacting in universities and colleges, young men and women interacting in the sports arena, colleagues and mates interacting in the workplace.

In all of these places of interaction, Malaysians knew that the goodness of the human heart overcomes all barriers of race and religion.

But who made the situation such that it was difficult for people to interact. Who did that and who has been doing that so that Musa Hitam observed the trend in 1985 and uttered his concern and his warning against that trend.

Now Ghani says a vote for Kit Siang is a vote for racial polarization. Ghani should consult his fellow and senior Johorean, Musa Hitam. Only then he would not blame Kit Siang for a phenomenon that his party was responsible for and for which he blames the DAP.

This is what Umno causes to happen to even its better politicians. It gives them amnesia and deviates them from their better selves.

Friends, I tell you, Ghani Othman is the latest casualty of the bankruptcy of Umno-BN.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

All welcome to a Ceramah at Waller court Ipoh to day at 7pm

Venue: Waller court (Kepayang)
Speakers: Nga Kor Ming, Chee Khing, Dr.Jayabalan, M.Kula