Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heads must roll after town hall fiasco

SEPT 8, 2009 – Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim was given a rude awakening when the meeting that was meant to discuss the relocation of a 150-year old temple turned to chaos and almost a ruckus.
Khalid called for a residents’ meeting following the highly charged protest on the relocation of the temple made infamous by the stamping of a severed cow’s head in front of the Selangor state secretariat building.
The Selangor MB felt that he had to take matters into his own hand after experiencing first hand how the issue deteriorated turning into a very sensitive one with negative political consequences.
While it is too obvious that Umno has played an active role in riling up the local Malay residents of Section 23, Shah Alam; it also reflects the weakness of the Pakatan Rakyat local machinery so much so that it was unable to counter the propaganda that Umno has been feeding into the minds of the local Malays.
Pakatan Rakyat state representatives were unable to ride on their position, influence and most importantly their newly found authority and power to dispel or stem the flowing tide of divisive elements from Umno.
They had also underestimated the nature of the resistance against the state government reflected by the emotional and surreal cow-head protest.
Everyone except the local Pakatan Rakyat machinery and some state government officials expected Umno, through its agents, to subvert the meeting. Hence, it was very naïve of the organisers to expect the meeting to be held in a cosy and warm atmosphere.
The rest, as they say, is history and Khalid, of all people, should not have received the level of abuse that was directed at him.
This issue, if nipped in the bud, would not have deteriorated into a situation that reflected a loss of control for the state government.
Khalid also had to personally see into this matter and even went around the residential area in search of a new proposed location for the temple. In short, Khalid has had to troubleshoot this politically sensitive issue when it ought to be handled by more junior officers and legislators.
It also goes to show that Khalid has under him some civil servants, local councillors, state reps and even exco members that are unable, or unwilling, to carry out his aspirations for the people.
The relocation of the temple has been an issue for more than two decades and has been an issue to both sets of the communities for some time. The failure of the local machinery to undertake proactive measures as well as their inability to communicate more effectively with the local residents should not be allowed to go unpunished.
It would not escape the attention of Khalid that these passengers under him ought to be replaced by qualified, competent and more committed leaders to ensure that Pakatan Rakyat is seen as being proactive in their efforts to provide service for the people.
The current public relations failure on this issue is reminiscent of Pakatan’s problem on a national level, especially in dealing with the Malay-Muslim issue that seems to be the only trump card that Umno is able to hold.
If Pakatan especially PKR and Pas intends to breach the stranglehold that Umno has over the lay Malays, it has to find a more effective means of communicating to the Malay community as compared to the typical ceramah or sermons or the like.
Considering the hold that Umno has over Utusan Malaysia and TV3, the change among the Malays’ psyche towards Umno will definitely not happen in the nearest future. Paradigm shift among the general Malays must take place to ensure Pakatan’s continuity of administering the state and takeover federal on a national level.
Only then would the people of Selangor and the country be convinced to allow Pakatan Rakyat another chance to continue leading the state and realise the dream of leading the nation.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Sept 8, 2009

Umno reaps what it sowed

AUG 29, 2009 – Just days before the nation celebrates its 52nd Independence Day, the action by some mongrels who stamped and spat on a severed head of a cow in front of the Selangor State Secretariat building to protest against the planned relocation of a Hindu temple to their residential area has posed serious questions about the state of race relations in the country.
The planned relocation of the temple from Shah Alam’s Section 19 to Section 23 has drawn loud protest from a section of the local residents.
According to the protestors, the area is populated by 90% Muslims and the presence of the temple will affect their lives as Muslims.
The surprising thing is that the police stood by in full view of these acts. Their newly found restraint, unlike their heavy-handed clampdown on Hindraf, Bersih and recent anti-ISA demonstrations, is most unusual.
In keeping with his call for 1 Malaysia, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak called on the police to take swift action on the “outrageous action” by the protestors to put a lid on the provocative acts and stop communal tensions from blowing up.
As long as the so-called “sensitive subjects” of race and religion remain taboo, it will be easier for powers-that-be to retain hegemony, divide and rule the community to their liking.
These extremists, whether they parade themselves under the banner of some supposedly noble NGOs like Pembela, Perkasa, Hindraf, Dong Jiao Zhong or the like, live on the philosophy of radicalism, bordering on racism.
While these fringe groups are getting louder and louder, they actually have minute numbers in representation. Their mindless actions calling for parochialism and supremacy of one race is based on short-term and narrow minded political agenda.
This scenario is exactly what right-wing nationalist organisations like Umno have been hoping for and harping on.
The embarrassing performance by Umno and Barisan Nasional in the 2008 general election is being said to result in the dilution of Malay power.
When Umno and BN won almost 90 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election, they became big-headed and disregarded the minority voices, especially those from outside the Malay community.
Umno leaders marginalised them to the extent of discriminating against the impoverished and poor, especially those among the Indian community.
They also acted with disrespect to the Chinese community and accused them of taking advantage of the divided Malay community.
At the same time, Umno leaders became too engrossed with power and abused the New Economic Policy to enrich themselves as well as their cronies, which have turned off the Malays themselves.
Fast forward a couple of years from the humiliating 2008 general election and the Umno extremists have now crawled back into their shells and accentuate their hardline stance with a more extreme brand and rhetoric of Malay supremacy.
They are increasingly disassociating themselves from a significant 40 per cent of the nation’s population (non-Malays and non-Muslims) and, at the same time, splitting the Malays right down the middle.
The paradox between Najib’s 1 Malaysia and Umno’s raison d’etre is becoming even more evident and prominent by the day.
Led by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Umno is shifting even further to the right to the extent of dismissing his fellow cabinet members in defending some extreme pro-Malay stances adopted by Umno leaders and their mouthpieces.
Utusan Malaysia has been at the forefront of disseminating extreme pro-Malay and pro-Umno propaganda which is meant to sway the minds of the general Malays.
Articles, opinion pieces and news reports have been skewed to incite hatred towards Pakatan’s Malay leaders with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Pas’s Spiritual Leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat being the prime targets, accused of selling out the Malays.
While Anwar and Nik Aziz are being denigrated using the worst kind of terminologies available, the Malays are being fed with the illusion that the downfall of Umno will result in the downfall of the Malays.
The outcome of these charades and “wayang kulit” spiced up with venomous and spiteful antics as well as idiotic actions by Umno bigots are hallmark of desperation as well as fear of losing the accustomed power to rule the nation.
For them, power is everything even if it means destruction of the very fragile fabric of the society.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Aug 29, 2009

A Permatang lesson for all

AUG 27, 2009 — The decision was almost a foregone conclusion with PAS coming out tops in Permatang Pasir with a thumping majority of 4,551 votes despite the attempt by the Election Commission to limit the turnout in the by-election by having it in the fasting month and also on a weekday.
Umno's once swashbuckling electoral candidate selection and machinery has almost disintegrated to one that is non-functioning and disjointed.
The problematic candidacy of Rohaizat Othman is now being blamed as the sole reason for the humiliating loss when there are bigger and more fundamental reasons to be considered.
After the 2008 general election, there have been three by-elections within the bigger constituency of Permatang Pauh.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim contested the parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh to take over from his wife, current Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman contested the Penanti state seat to take over from the troublesome Mohd Fairus Khairuddin and now PAS's Salleh Man is the new state rep of Permatang Pasir after the death of previous representative Mohd Hamdan Rahman.
Now that the dust has settled, there are a few take-home notes for all parties involved.
Since the general election, the political temperature has been topsy turvy and of late, the tables have turned for both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional.
After the general election, Pakatan seemed to hold the upper hand and moved forward with much gusto and slight arrogance befitting a government-in-waiting as well as the clear favourite in the domestic political arena.
It was as if Pakatan was leading the way, with Umno and BN chasing and barking all the way behind them.
After a turbulent past few months highlighted by Datuk Seri Najib Razak's ingenious manoeuvre when he scooped Perak from under Pakatan's nose with a few Pakatan scoundrels abandoning Anwar's ship, coupled with some heavy-handed attempts by federal institutions to destabilise the Penang, Kedah and Selangor state governments; the momentum seemed to move slightly back towards Umno.
There seems to be a resurgent of spirit for Umno and BN, playing heavily the racial card to the fullest with extreme rhetorics that only served to alienate the non-Malays even more while slightly consolidating the support from Umno's own hardcore supporters.
In antagonistic fashion, PM Najib seems to be going in the opposite direction compared to the rest of his beleaguered party.
While Najib espoused the 1 Malaysia concept which is supposed to project a more inclusive face of BN, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the rest of the Umno leaders are revealing the true colours of a party that does not show any capacity of being tolerant or receptive to any values outside of the Malay race.
Muhyiddin has suddenly emerged as the fighter within Umno that believes religiously in Malay supremacy and that Umno holds the divine right to the throne of the country's leadership.
Muhyiddin is putting on the ultra Malay mask in his attempt to strengthen his base within Umno by showing that he would not abandon the sacred Malay Agenda mantra.
He is also positioning himself to be the anti-thesis to Najib's 1 Malaysia and is biding his time waiting for the perfect opportunity to go for the kill as he does not have the luxury of time and age as Najib or even the hungry-looking vice-presidents Datuk Zahid Hamidi or Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein.
Hence, Najib is watching these developments within Umno keenly and as long as he can keep Muhyiddin and the hawks within an arm's length, he would not rock the Umno boat.
Meanwhile, Umno's tactics of painting and highlighting the liberal face of Anwar as well as labelling him a traitor to the race at the same time have not manage to clock additional political votes.
At the same time, it has emboldened Anwar's supporters within Pakatan parties and the general public that the whole traitor and sodomy charges are meant to halt Anwar's charge towards Putrajaya.
Anwar also have major issues to grapple with in PKR and the umbrella coalition of Pakatan.
For the first time, Anwar has admitted that Pakatan especially PKR needs to strengthen its candidate-vetting process.
Anwar may not have the luxury of a pool of quality candidates in the last general election, but he will definitely have an abundance of top, credible, young and experienced leaders offering to stand under the banner of PKR in the next general election.
He must have his fingers crossed that his party and Pakatan do not self-destruct before the next general election.
With leaders like Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, Tan Yee Kew and the like, Anwar can be certain that he will be able to put up a credible line-up.
His own worry is that there needs to be an infusion of more high-profile Malay as well as young leaders to prop up PKR's image.
As it is, PKR has been beset by opportunists and moles that are being used by Umno as well as former PKR leaders to stir trouble within the young party.
Anwar will also need to enforce his representatives to buck up and clean up their acts, to remain the anchor party of the Pakatan coalition.
The old horses and young upstarts that were ushered into Parliament and state assemblies have to show commitment to fight for the welfare of the people, create opportunities for upward economic mobility and provide service for their constituents.
Another major concern to the Permatang Pauh parliamentarian is the constant feud between DAP and PAS.
Pakatan will need to find a mechanism to deal with outstanding issues and difference in ideologies.
This has to a certain extent affected the confidence of the very people that voted Pakatan in the last general election.
The boisterous conservatives' influence within PAS like Datuk Hassan Ali and Nasharuddin Mat Isa as well as from DAP like Karpal Singh and the like needs to be tapered down to allow a conducive environment for coalition building.
Both Anwar and Najib have their hands full, the one who is able to clean up his party's mess swiftly and more importantly keep his coalition intact will emerge as the big winner in the 13th general election.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Aug 27, 2009

BN may be superior but Pakatan holds the future

JULY 27, 2009 — Some 16 months after the landmark political tsunami of the 12th general election, Malaysians are beginning to consider who to choose at the next polls.
Even though Barisan Nasional (BN) has a track record of 50-odd years in managing the country, it is a bit of mismatch if we are to compare it to the fledgling Pakatan Rakyat that managed to take control of five (now four) states after the 2008 polls.
If it is a track record that we are considering as a criterion, we cannot dismiss the endless mismanagement cases, wastages and abuse of power that go on in the country. And that goes for both BN and Pakatan.
If we were to consider apple for apple, BN edges Pakatan on paper and age.
BN can harp on the notion that the country has managed to be transformed from a largely agricultural state to one now on the brink of developed country status, even though it may take another 50 years or so for us to be bestowed that honour.
However, the country would have been in a much better state economically and socially had there been a more transparent and effective system of management.
The public service delivery system has always been blamed for the laggard upward movement of the country.
The bloated but still overwhelmed civil service is an indication that manpower and resources are not being utilised efficiently, hence resulting in wastage of energy, time and money.
After the mini-economic revolution engineered by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the early ‘80s until the ‘90s, the face of the country changed drastically.
Mahathir was more concerned with ensuring the country including his families and cronies got enough of the economic pie.
What was of less concern to Mahathir was the social development of the people, where democracy and civil liberties took a back seat.
Out went dilapidated buildings to be replaced by the dizzying heights of towers, smart buildings and the like. Rubber and palm oil estates were bulldozed to be replaced by factories and industries.
While the country's GDP per capita rose, it was still unable to catch up with our closest neighbour and rival Singapore. In the ‘70s Malaysia was on par with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan; now the country is sliding down the rung and is currently about five times poorer than Singapore.
Under Mahathir, material development brought with it massive corruption and abuse of power centred on one individual.
Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's brief tenure was earmarked by the decentralisation of power and seemingly wayward governance.
Corruption spiralled and as the economy went downhill, less money was available to satisfy Umno and BN's grassroots as well as national leaders, Abdullah's inability or incompetence was a recipe for disaster at the hands of the money-hungry Umno leaders.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s low approval ratings when he took over played to his benefit. Najib would find it much easier to announce and say the right things as all his predecessors had done.
The outcome was the stimulus packages I and II, followed by a liberalisation policy as well as the release of a few ISA detainees and his pet project “1 Malaysia”.
One thing is for sure, BN never learns even after more than 50 years of experience managing the country and its people. Its inability to clamp down on corruption, weed out incompetent leaders and consider the people's welfare will bring BN down.
Even though Pakatan is beset with problems and with the trigger happy BN media not holding back, it will only be beneficial for Pakatan. This is because Pakatan leaders have no room for error and no space to galivant like their BN rivals.
Even if Pakatan and BN share a similar desire to seek and hold on to power, the rape of public institutions and selective persecution by Umno-BN will eventually play into the hands of Pakatan.
Pakatan will have to mature fast and avoid childish tantrums between each other and focus more on substantive issues for the benefit of the people.
Even if the Pakatan partners have different ideologies and pursuits, their sacred philosophical foundation is not based on racism, supremacy and hegemony.
To many ordinary Malaysians, the actions and not creation of hope will make or break leaders as well as the government.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Jul 27, 2009

Honeymoon over for Pakatan

JULY 20, 2009 — The wafer-thin majority of 65 votes won by PAS's candidate, fishmonger Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, against his BN challenger, Kesedar officer Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, in the Manek Urai by-election certainly caught many by surprise.
PAS worked day and night to ensure that outstation voters, who they had banked on, came back; they got their wish of a high turnout of some 87 per cent.
Whether that was the reason, they did enough to stop the tide that was going BN's and Umno's way. What was surprising was the drop in the majority compared to the 2008 general election from some 1,352 votes to a paltry 65.
Looking back, PAS and Umno have always had similar strength in support, with about 30-35 per cent hardcore supporters and members each.
The rest of about 30-40 per cent are fence-sitters who will shift according to the local political climate and issues.
PAS has held Kelantan for so long that it is probably this that worked to the benefit of Umno. The people of Kelantan probably itched for a change in the method and style of governance and more importantly to one that can improve their livelihood.
The result in Manek Urai has rung alarm bells in all other three Pakatan states that the honeymoon for them is over.
Pakatan leaders in those states should have hit the ground running on assuming office in discharging their task of administering the states.
The Pakatan-ruled states of Selangor, Penang and Kedah have yet to show their capability in helping to boost investments, create and generate wealth as well as ensuring the public delivery service is prompt and efficient.
Longstanding land ownership issues in Selangor and Penang are abundant and have yet to be addressed even after 16 months Pakatan has been in power.
This has been slammed by business players as well as individuals due their applications for land being stuck in the Land Office for ages and yet to be addressed.
Kedah and Kelantan are beset by bread-and-butter issues concerning the economic status and livelihood of the mostly agricultural-based community.
Small and medium business people have also found it hard to make ends meet as the dire economic situation makes it tougher for them to generate, maintain and expand their sales.
Even though the economic malaise is affecting businesses nationwide, things are not improving as fast as they ought to in the Pakatan states.
Investments into Pakatan states are not forthcoming and this is directly affecting growth as well as employment in these states.
A witchhunt by some of Pakatan's overzealous leaders on companies with links to BN leaders is turning away giant conglomerates from investing in Pakatan states.
Pakatan states especially the jewel in their crown, Selangor, as well as the Pearl of the Orient, Penang, will have to move fast and strong in providing sound leadership, economically as well as socio-politically.
Barisan Nasional especially Umno has found renewed strength after a annus horribillus year or two. Backed by the recent favourable ratings based on Merdeka Center's survey on the performance of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as Prime Minister as well as the result in Manek Urai, Umno feels as it is on track to rehabilitation.
The concerted and continuous effort by Umno to subvert the minds of the Malays into rejecting the so-called liberal Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan has conjured considerable success.
The dilution of Malay power and role in the Pakatan states has conveniently been blamed on the rise of Anwar and Pakatan.
At the same time, inter-party squabbling between PKR and DAP on the Seberang Perai Municipal Council president issue as well as the PAS-DAP discord on the Kedah-Penang water issue are indications that all is not well within the coalition.
The intra-party fallout between the Erdogan and Ulama clans in PAS has also put off a lot of the once-favourable public opinion.
The temperature has risen a notch or two when the ever popular and influential PKR vice-president Mohamed Azmin Ali gave a thinly-veiled criticism towards his comrade Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, the Selangor Mentri Besar, in the august Selangor State Assembly on the need for a revamp in the state's exco line-up to serve the people better.
There has been clear evidence of non-performance among Pakatan reps — the notorious among them being the former Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mohd Fairus Khairuddin, who was duly replaced with the affable Datuk Mansor Othman.
Azmin's calculated critique towards Khalid's line-up did not receive an open rebuke from PKR's exco members except for one or two rumblings from DAP's exco members — namely Teresa Kok and Ean Yong Hian Wah.
It is time that Khalid, Lim Guan Eng, Azizan Razak and Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat cleaned up their act as their states cannot have water-carriers or excess baggage in their respective state governments.
As much as Anwar tried to be hands-off in the running and administration of the Pakatan states to allow the states to find their rhythm and carry on at their own pace, he has probably realised that it is he who has to prod and see that these states toe the Pakatan line together with the help of Datuk Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang.
If the dream of taking over Putrajaya is to remain alive, Anwar together with his former nemeses-turned-allies Kit Siang and Hadi will have to forge and formalise, if necessary, a structured, organised and effective coalition — not just from the top but right down to the grassroots level.
Anwar will also have to monitor closely and ensure that PKR and Pakatan reps in state assemblies and Parliament deliver the task that is expected of them with sound quality debate, solutions for improvement and that they keep in touch with their constituents at all times.
While the public has high expectations of Najib to deliver immediately upon assuming office, the exceptionally long 16 months’ honeymoon by Pakatan has put many Pakatan reps in their comfort zone. Alas, Pakatan can't afford to have leaders still in honeymoon mode, they need to deliver their 1,001 sweet promises to the people.
Only then will they stand a chance to open the doors of Putrajaya.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : July 20, 2009

PAS to determine its fate, DAP is key

JUNE 22, 2009 — It certainly seems that the issue of a unity government between PAS and Umno will not be settled in the near future.
After PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat came out strongly against the “liberal-towards-Umno” party deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa and urged him to join Umno, 10 out of PAS’s 19 MPs issued a statement declaring their support for Nik Aziz and rejecting PAS-Umno cooperation.
These 10 MPs are not only from the “Erdogan” or pro-Pakatan clan, they also include some very respectable ulama like Taib Azamudeen.
Surprisingly, vice-presidents Salahuddin Ayub and Mahfuz Omar, who are known for their pro-Pakatan stand and are even Anwaristas of sorts, played safe by not putting their name to the strongly-worded statement by the 10 MPs.
They are probably thinking of their VP positions or not wanting to incur the wrath of their president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, as Nasha is known to be close to Hadi.
However, they urged Nasha to meet Nik Aziz to resolve their differences behind closed doors.
Nik Aziz's outburst is probably due to his anger at the loss by his blue-eyed boy Datuk Husam Musa and several other Kelantan PAS leaders like Nik Amar at the recent party elections.
After it became public knowledge that PAS and Umno top leaders had held discussions and negotiations after the severe losses by Umno at last year’s general election tsunami, the cooperation took different twists and turns.
Former VP Ahmad Awang has also revealed that there had been attempts by certain PAS leaders to influence him to cooperate and form a coalition government with Umno in Perak a few days after the 2008 general election.
Some senior leaders in PAS and also most of their grassroots members were kept in the dark of the secret talks.
After it was revealed that the negotiations actually did took place, PAS used the term muzakarah and muqabalah to justify its indiscretion even though the party had agreed to form a pact with PKR and DAP.
During their brief rendezvous, Umno dangled the carrot to Nasha on the possibility of him being appointed deputy prime minister and Datuk Hassan Ali appointed Selangor mentri besar.
These very juicy positions have swayed the aqidah (faith) of these PAS leaders until now.
Hence, when the issue of a unity government was raised from the dead by Hadi, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was not receptive to the idea as it would mean that he would have to share his DPM's post or even lose it to Nasha.
However, sensing that this idea might not go anywhere and bound to be shot down due to Nik Aziz’s fierce resistance as well as the extensive damage that it may cause Pakatan Rakyat, Muhyiddin played along and poured oil on the flame, calling for the talks to be expedited.
PAS as a party is bound to lose the most if the unity government talks bear fruit and it joins Barisan Nasional.
Only individuals like Nasha, secretary-general Mustafa Ali and Hassan would gain the most with the hard-to-resist offer of DPM and MB.
Hadi will find it easy to legitimise the cooperation between the two parties with the fate of the Malay race and the position of Islam as their main concern.
PAS would also be able to reason that the party is merely undertaking to preach or dakwah or tarbiyyah its arch-rival Umno as justified by the dogmatic Youth chief Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi.
Any potential Umno-PAS government will not only split the party but also destroy the image of PAS as a friendly party to the non-Muslims and non-Malays alike.
While some Malays will genuinely feel overjoyed by the alliance of the two biggest Malay parties in the country, a significant proportion of the community will definitely quit PAS to join PKR.
After the 2008 general election, BN has harped on the dilution of Malay power and instilled the feeling in the older generation as well as the old-schooled Malay population that Umno is the final bastion for the Malays.
Even if some see it as psychological warfare by Umno, some of these fears are real and the issues will remain and will be the determining factor in Pakatan’s bid to rule Putrajaya.
DAP, portrayed as a chauvinistic Chinese-dominated party, will have to play a major role to ensure the small win in the 2008 general election becomes an overwhelming victory in the 2013 general election.
The softening of its overly defensive and overzealous stance especially on issues of race relations will go a long way to building the confidence of the Malays.
Championing issues which the Malays regard as sacred like the promotion of Bahasa Malaysia as the language that unites all Malaysians will build the affection of the Malays towards to party.
This can be done by improving the command of the language by some DAP MPs and assemblymen to the impeccable standard shown by veterans like Tan Seng Giaw.
Improving the infrastructure and livelihood of the poor (most of whom are Malays) especially in states like Penang will endear the Malays to the party even more.
DAP's unflinching defence of Islam as the official religion of the federation by improving the maintenance of rundown mosques or madrasahs through allocations and small projects can be highlighted to show its empathy.
If DAP can undertake these changes, not cosmetically but more importantly with sincerity, the party will be the key to unlocking the gates for Pakatan on its march towards Putrajaya.
Whether PAS remains a member of Pakatan in the next general election or not, the understanding of the mood and sentiment of the people must be astute and measured well.
PAS must choose between the short path that rewards certain individuals with positions of power or the realisation that the Malays can be won over with pragmatism not extremism.
Misreading the signals and real issues on the ground affecting all Malaysians by leaders of DAP and PAS will not enable Pakatan to espouse its viability and exude confidence with the people.
The notion that DAP and PAS represent the two extremes of Malaysian politics must be quashed to project a more progressive and moderate face of Pakatam to win the hearts and minds of the people.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : June 22, 2009

PAS reveal its claws to Pakatan partners

JUNE 14, 2009 – Soon after the party election results come trickling in, it seemed as if the Islamic party is heading in the opposite direction to its Pakatan Rakyat partners.
With proponents of “Unity Government” talks– Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Nasharudin Mat Isa – both voted into the top two posts, it was an indication that the party has yet to abandon the possibility of PAS-Umno cooperation.
Even though all the wings in PAS, except for the Dewan Ulama, have rejected the idea cooperation with its arch rivals, key players within the conservative-nationalists camp of the party seem to think that the party can gain more by collaborating with Umno-BN than with its current everyone-is-equal Pakatan Rakyat partners.
The new Secretary General Mustafa Ali and Selangor PAS Chief Hassan Ali, together with Dewan Ulama Chief Harun Taib, have now gained a new lease of life after they won and were handed strategic positions in the party.
After the 2008 general election, thay were the main players pushing to secure positions of power in Selangor in the negotiations with former PM Abdullah Badawi and former Selangor MB Khir Toyo.
However, their flirtations with Umno was shot down by their own party colleagues led by the revered Nik Aziz together with pro-Pakatan leaders – Husam Musa, Khalid Samad and the gang.
While it is odd that PAS is the one pushing for these unity talks, Umno seems to be playing along in this charade just to hammer the wedge home and widen the cracks that are getting wider among the Pakatan members.
Umno, still the single biggest party in terms of Parliamentary seats won, have had to play second fiddle to PAS in the current unity government brouhaha.
While it is naïve for PAS to think that it can gain more by collaborating with Umno rather than the current Pakatan set-up, it seems that PAS is bent on trying to cement its long-held belief that it should be the anchor in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
PAS leaders and members alike have these notion that, by virtue of being the oldest partner, they have to assume the “big brother” mantle in their dealings with their more junior Pakatan partners.
Hence, these flings with Umno are only meant to wedge in some jealousy and also to “blackmail” PKR and DAP with the threat that they will not be able to survive without PAS's support.
What some PAS leaders fail to realise is that if their fling turn into a full-blown affair, it is their own party rank-and-file who will abandon them in droves.
Hadi, Nasha and Mustafa underestimate the still outspoken but frail Nik Aziz, who has shown that he hasn’t lost any of his sting.
Nik Aziz has been against the “unity government” talks right from the start, and he even lambasted Hadi openly in the Muktamar.
The Malays are still enamoured with Nik Aziz and hold him in high regards due to his religiosity and simple life.
Nik Aziz has openly expressed his disappointment with Husam and Khalid Samad’s loss to Nasha and his coterie of bandits.
With Mustafa Ali plotting from behind the scene using the exuberance yet dogmatic face of Nasharuddin Tantawi and the network of young PAS conservatives as well as the suave politician Nasharuddin Mat Isa, including the ever nationalist and Biro Tatanegara-oriented Hassan Ali, the main agenda of diluting Nik Aziz’s influence in the top leadership of PAS has been achieved successfully.
However, PAS members have shown that they will not be swayed that easily by balancing the top leadership with reformist elements occupying all three vice presidents’ posts – Sallahudin Ayub, Mahfuz Omar and Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man – as well as putting in the moderate former Perak MB Nizar Jamaluddin as the highest ranking Central Committee member.
Sensing that he had to carry out damage control, Hadi has now changed his tune by adding the conditions that Umno satisfy the key criteria of restoring the independence of the judiciary, rule of law and respecting human rights before any talks with Umno can take place.
Even though certain Umno leaders have been over excited in their enthusiasm for the unity talks, it is clear that their agreement to the talks are only meant to draw PAS out and stir up conflict within the Pakatan coalition.
It is unimaginable that the veteran politician in Hadi is unable to read this gambit but the supposed on-the-table offer of the deputy prime ministership for Nasharuddin Mat Isa and Selangor mentri besar’s post for Hassan Ali have definitely turned their heads.
The position and posture of the party in the near future with regards to their membership of the newbie Pakatan Rakyat will determine the level of support for the party and at the same time affect Pakatan's march towards Putrajaya.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : June 14, 2009

Penanti beckons for those who dare

MAY 11, 2009 — The impending Penanti by-election on May 31 following the resignation of former DCM 1 Mohd Fairus Khairuddin of PKR will definitely see a contest.
The only question remains is whether Umno will join the orgy of another manifestation of ‘democracy in action’ in Malaysia.
Penanti by-election has certainly added some spike to the recent spurts of political outburst in the country which includes the Perak Assembly ‘soap opera’, the Umno MB vs ADUN’s tussle in Terengganu, the release of 10 people including the 3 Hindraf leaders from ISA detention and the effort by the establishment to gag the media.
Penanti by-election was in danger of being another side show and low in relevance in the midst of recent political developments.
However, there seems to be some concerted effort directed towards Penanti, be it orchestrated or not.
PKR and DAP have resolved their public spat over the handling of Fairus’ resignation where CM Lim Guan Eng was peeved with the lack of information relayed to him.
DAP’s Lim Kit Siang revelation that Anwar has apologised to him is meant to only underline his relevancy in Malaysian politics.
On the other hand, Penang PAS’ intention of contesting the seat was immediately shot down by the party’s spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and election director Datuk Mustafa Ali.
Prior to PAS’ national leadership intervening, Umno’s remote chances of recapturing Penanti increased, however with Penang PAS’ interest in the seat dying down, PKR returns to the driving seat.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s initial intention for Umno to stay away from Penanti was received with anguish by Umno leaders including one former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The thought of Umno or BN not contesting a by-election when they have never missed before is akin to flying the white flag before even entering the battle field.
This was accentuated by Umno-commissioned reports that the ground in Penanti is beginning to show a change of heart and ready to give Umno a chance again.
However, those reports are known to be slightly exaggerated and tailored to sway opinion that Umno has a fighting chance in Penanti.
The fact of the matter is Penanti is too far beyond Umno’s reach and their participation there, if any, is just to make the numbers and make a one-way race a tinge more interesting.
A contest in the sleepy suburban constituency of Penanti within the stronghold of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim means that PKR and Pakatan Rakyat will have another chance to humiliate Umno in Anwar’s own backyard.
The way things are going in the rest of the country, Umno and BN are staring another defeat in Penanti after their embarrassments in Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau with Batang Ai as their only saving grace.
With campaign issues in abundance for Anwar & co, Umno and BN will have a torrid time to deflect the negative insinuations towards them — with the full brunt of the force coming from Anwar himself, Lim Kit Siang, Nik Aziz, Azmin Ali, Lim Guan Eng and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, just to name a few.
The fiasco in Perak will be used to explain to the people of Penanti on how Umno and BN will abuse and manipulate institutions as sacred as the judiciary and the state assembly to ensure their hegemony.
The release of Hindraf leaders from ISA will also be to the advantage of Pakatan as the detainees are expected to contribute to the campaign on Pakatan’s platform even though they were released by the government.
Pakatan will campaign on the ground that the government has admitted that the actual reasons for detaining these leaders under ISA is political, with no single detainee facing any charges of being a threat to national security.
Pakatan will definitely use this to denigrate BN and imply that BN has lost all moral standing to detain the Hindraf leaders and their release is to dampen the public sentiment against them.
With the odds stacked against Umno and BN, Najib made the seemingly ‘logical’ suggestion of not contesting the seat.
This was backed by Umno’s allies like MCA and Gerakan as they feel the result is a foregone conclusion not befitting the resources and monies that will be spent by the coalition.
The morale of Umno rank-and-file have been dented by the initial announcement that Umno might not contest Penanti.
However, after considering all the resolutions, memorandum and reports on Penanti; it is very likely that Umno will contest to restore some pride to a battered party trying to rise from the aftermath of 2008 general elections and the numerous losses in the previous by-elections.
Even if BN decide not to contest Penanti, it is almost certain that “a friendly party or individual” will be placed to contest the seat so as not to allow Anwar and PKR a free ride.
It will be almost a walk in the park for PKR in Penanti unless Najib can pull a rabbit out of the hat to turn the tide that for now does not seem to favour Umno and BN.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : May 11, 2009

The genesis of one 1 Malaysia

MAY 3, 2009 – The 1 Malaysia concept coined by newly minted Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak has been received with mixed response by political leaders and public alike.
The approving nods were mainly from non-Umno component parties within Barisan Nasional while the national Umno leaders and grassroot displayed some degree of uneasiness among.
There was however a sense of deja vu in this latest episode of “new leader, new concept”.
When former PM Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced his Islam Hadhari, the main intention was to capture the imagination of the Malay-Muslims; to lure the conservatives away from PAS as well as the liberals away from PKR.
Even though Tun Abdullah had the right credentials when talking about Islam, he underestimated the undercurrents among the Malay-Muslim community against the establishment.
And when such a concept involved religion, the wave of discontent were amplified even more to the extent that the ridicule insinuated Islam Hadhari to a new religion.
As the movement against the concept gained momentum, the issue was used as a potent weapon to annihilate the former PM.
As the new PM, Najib felt the need to push through some concept that would suit his image – that of an elitist and pseudo-liberal.
Hence, a concept that does not have a time limit or clear milestone, and an end product that remains vague, is something that Najib hopes would be able to buy him time while establishing his form of administration.
On one hand, the 1 Malaysia concept may be a masterstroke that could recapture the middle ground or bring Middle Malaysians back towards the Umno-BN fold.
This is because Najib and only a handful of Umno leaders realise that they cannot be appealing to the Malay voters only, as the general election 2008 and the numerous by-elections have shown that generally the liberal Malays and non-Malays in the Peninsular overwhelmingly rejected Umno and BN.
Due to the demographics of electoral constituencies, there are a high proportion of mixed seats, relative to high majority Malay or high majority non-Malay seats.
Hence, any party that appeals or capture this huge market would gain the upper hand in Malaysian politics.
This is also why PKR is called the party of the future due to its make-up and appeal to this “mixed” group.
This is also one of the main reasons that PKR is the biggest opposition party in parliament despite having a smaller membership base and limited resources as well as a stuttering party machinery.
Realising this fact, Najib will have to convince his fellow party leaders and the rank-and-file that Umno has to abandon the controversial yet low-yield mantra of Malay supremacy that has been the hallmark of Umno in the past decade or two.
Whether Najib has the political will to carry out this very ambitious but yet necessary strategic positioning is yet to be seen.
However, the early indications are that Najib is not afraid of taking risks in issuing public pronouncements and policies that appear to do away with the protectionist policies of the past. The announcement of liberalisation of part of the services sector as well as financial and banking sectors are some examples.
These announcements have been received with anguish and cynicism among the grassroots Umno leaders, who expect a hard time to convince the Malay community that the party will not abandon the Malay Agenda. An Umno without the Malay Agenda is akin to an Umno devoid of its soul.
If this “project” is undertaken decisively, it could either make or break Umno – it can become a party that disintegrates rapidly into oblivion or a party that is awakes and rises strong from its deathbed.
On the other hand, it is up to the people to accept this experiment or reject it.
This is because Umno in the past two decades has never had a tradition of being a moderate and inclusive party, and its wanting to change is not something that its leaders or supporters believe in wholeheartedly.
In fact, some go to the extent of accusing the new change in heart of the party in adopting slogans and ideas that has been championed by the opposition as being motivated by the desire of remaining in power.
There is no intellectual property rights on political slogans and ideas and, hence, it is perfectly legal for Umno or BN to imitate or hijack ideas of the Pakatan Rakyat to ensure that it extends its own expiry date.
Pakatan can claim the moral high ground even though that may not assure they will win elections.
The people will, however, demand that Najib deliver on its promises, as they will demand Pakatan deliver on theirs.
The time of public pronouncements and political promises without delivery ended on March 8, 2008.
The people have established and instutionalised an audit trail and place great importance on the bottom line and outcomes – and expectations are high.
Najib has began his premiership with the right moves. However, as his new slogan reads “Performance Now” it is only appropriate that he and his new cabinet members do just that – perform, now!

- published in The Malaysian Insider : May 3, 2009

Old style of new politics

APRIL 26, 2009 — While Malaysians’ resentment towards the battered ruling government of Barisan Nasional remains high, the caustic relationship and out-of-sync governance among Pakatan Rakyat component members are not giving much confidence to the people either.
The tit-for-tat spat between PKR and DAP leaders over the handling of the resignation of deputy chief minister 1 Mohd Fairus Khairuddin as DCM, Exco as well as Penanti assemblyman has put both parties on a collision course.
The subsequent cat fights and barkings of PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali, PKR Penang chief Datuk Zahrain Hashim with Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and DAP publicity secretary Tony Pua has dismayed the Pakatan supporters to the delight of Umno and BN.
This came about after some comments which smacked of annoyance by Guan Eng over the manner Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had handled the whole episode.
The elegant silence by Anwar on this issue has piqued Guan Eng who thought that he ought to have been kept in the loop on the updates of the situation at all times even though it is very much an internal PKR matter.
The public airing and display of disgust towards Anwar were not taken lightly and produced a blunt response from PKR leaders.
The elder Lim, Kit Siang entered the fray almost like a hero claiming that Anwar apologised is definitely not the whole truth and only intended to show that Guan Eng is in the right will further irate PKR leaders and supporters.
Pakatan has a long way to ensure some degree of mutual respect and conflict resolution process is put in place.
Prior to this, the dispute between Guan Eng and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Razak of PAS over the decision by Kedah to log for timber in the water reservoir catchment area had been blown up.
The antagonistic stance of Selangor State Exco Datuk Dr Hassan Ali of PAS towards Selangor MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim remains strong and has been a thorn in Khalid’s side for his corporate-style effort to develop the state.
To the general public, the top most state and national leaders in Pakatan are unable to show a united front what more astute governance and visionary leadership.
The only exception where peace reigns, would be the Kelantan government which is totally dominated by PAS as well as the former Perak Pakatan state government led by Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin and his trusted ally Datuk Ngeh Khoo Ham.
The stable Nizar-Ngeh partnership (even for a short while) would be something that the more experienced Guan Eng and Zahrain might be able to learn from.
All these niggling administrative haphazard as well as governance issues affecting the Pakatan component members at all levels has left a bitter taste among the hardcore supporters of the Opposition coalition.
Pakatan was voted in riding on the propaganda of politics of hope against politics of fear as painted by the opposition leaders of the BN.
However, while generally the state government's of Penang, Kedah and Selangor has proved to be a bit thriftier and slightly more accountable than their previous predecessors; these sensational outbursts by Pakatan leaders are recipes for disaster if not nipped early in the bud.
Pakatan is fortunate enough that prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has his hands full with the crisis in Terengganu and had to also deflect some of the criticisms against the appointment of certain quarters and dinosaurs into the Umno supreme council.
Had Umno been not too distracted, venomous attacks towards splitting the ideologically-diversed Pakatan further may had achieved some degree of success and put the coalition under even more pressure.
There are a lot of pull factors for Pakatan to stay united and work together for common benefit where the biggest incentive is a medium and long term consolidation and probably expansion of power.
This is a similar reason of the prolonged existence and continuation of the BN coalition for the short and medium term which is to retain power on the federal front where they have enjoyed for the past 52 years.
Both BN’s and Pakatan’s main cause of existence and their superficial camaraderie is based on the quest for power and influence.
It is with power that change may be affected with ease, which is supposedly what the people want.
However, will that change ever arrive in the fashion that we all hope for, when the basis of existence of both axes are for the sole reason of commanding political power?
It is not based on ideological pursuit but more on political convenience and compromise.
Hence, whether it is the old politics of new guards or new politics of the old guards; it should not be business as usual — corruption, excessive politicking and power abuse — as there is definitely no change in that at all.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Apr 26, 2009

Battle for the holy grail

APRIL 18, 2009 — Even after the morale-boosting win by Pakatan in Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang, the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Malays remains a real problem for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim & Co.
In Bukit Gantang, PAS admitted that the votes from the Malays dropped from 47 per cent to 43 per cent.
This represents the final missing piece to Pakatan in its quest to complete the puzzle and seal its attempt to bring down BN.
However, it has not been smooth sailing for Pakatan in its attempt to snare the Malay votes from Umno.
Umno and its coterie of rogue NGOs are trying very hard to paint the Anwar-led Pakatan as one that will not be able to defend Malay rights and will sell out the Malays.
Umno has conveniently played up sensitive issues to prove to the Malays that they are on the losing side if Pakatan were to lead the country.
Umno has taken advantage and forced Pakatan to be on the defensive over issues like pig farming, the loud azan call, the suggestion to open up UiTM to non-Malays, the former Perak government's decision to award land titles to new villages, and many others.
Umno has to a limited degree succeeded in planting seeds of doubt within the general Malay psyche that a Pakatan government will dilute a heavily-Malay and pro-Islam administration.
Since independence, the government has always been pro-Malay in representation which can be seen in the number and seniority of Umno ministers in the Cabinet compared to the other BN parties.
This has been accentuated after the dark episode of May 13, whereby Tun Abdul Razak put in place the New Economic Policy followed by the setting up of numerous institutions for the sole benefit of the Malays like Mara, PNB and many others.
The Malays have had it easy and almost uninterrupted assistance as well as favourable positioning with the affirmative action policy in place for more than three decades.
The expansion of the middle class among the Malays and the wealth accumulation among certain Malays have been used to infuse a feel-good feeling among the Malays.
This has put the Malays in a comfort zone and made them generally contented with their easy-going life.
Hence, most Malays especially the older generation who have enjoyed the fruits of Umno's handouts for decades felt the need to repay and support Umno/BN in return.
These “oldies” are the ones who formed the thin layer of insulation for Umno to survive the political tsunami that hit the country the past year.
Umno would have been history if not for the sizeable votes that it secured from this age group.
Hence, PAS and to a lesser extent PKR are at a loss as to how to swing the psyche of the older generation Malays towards them.
PAS realises that for it to remain in a multiracial coalition like Pakatan Rakyat or the BN for that matter would be beneficial in the long run.
It would be easy for PAS to take the short-term route of sticking to the unipolar theme and rhetoric of Malay-Islam to gain immediate support as Umno's dominance dwindled.
However, this would mean a loss of opportunity for PAS to expand its catchment area to include non-Muslims.
The support of the Malays remains the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle to complete Pakatan's ambition to take over the federal government.
The key to Pakatan's effort to swing the Malays is to show that with DAP in the coalition it would not be to the detriment of the Malays.
Hence, the DAP-led state government of Penang has to show that it would be able to safeguard and elevate the status of the Malays together with the rest of the population even without the so-called Ketuanan Melayu championed by Umno.
DAP has to also taper down and dilute the perception of it being a chauvinistic Chinese party that is bent on dismantling the pro-Malay and pro-Islam policies in the country.
It is surely not enough to have one or two Malay leaders within their ranks to get the Malays to soften their phobia towards the party.
If this can be carried out successfully and with evidence of genuine sincerity, there will be hope for the coalition to be able to capture the minds and heart of the Malays.
On the other hand, Najib is attempting to repackage and rebrand the image of his pro-Malay administration with the “1 Malaysia” concept.
Umno leaders have done too much to antagonise the non-Malays and it is difficult to get the non-Malays to do a U-turn back to BN in the short term.
Hence, the “1 Malaysia” rhetoric represents Najib's hope to increase non-Malay support for BN.
While BN is going in one direction, Pakatan is going the other way, with no clear indication as to who will reach the finish line.
One thing is for sure, whoever succeeds has to understand that people's support is not absolute and they will be forced to deliver their promises.
So, don't promise the moon and the stars if you are just offering peanuts because you will be held to ransom.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Apr 18, 2009

Dearth of talent a cause for concern for PKR

APRIL 11, 2009 — Buoyed by the recent wins in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections, Pakatan Rakyat is riding high comforted by the fact that the momentum since the 2008 general election has not slowed down.
Even though Barisan Nasional managed to defend their bastion deep in the jungles of Lubok Antu, Pakatan Rakyat managed to afford a smile at their strong showing in Perak and Kedah.
With the by-elections over, Pakatan now has the opportunity to regroup and continue its battle against a battered BN under the newly minted PM.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim must be relieved that he now has a small window and some breathing space to address major housekeeping issues.
The cooperation between Pakatan component parties is beginning to have the look of a cohesive coalition.
The loose coalition during the 2008 general election has improved its strategic alliance by leaps and bounds thanks to the by-elections in Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.
Even though major ideological differences remain unresolved with regards to Islamic state and secular state issues, the coalition has managed to conveniently sweep the problem temporarily under the carpet.
The bigger headache for Anwar is the niggling and endless problems and scandals infecting his own party's reps.
PKR has had to battle allegations of incompetent, corrupted, disloyal and scandal-ridden leaders.
The issue of the revealing photos of Selangor state exco Elizabeth Wong threatens the image of PKR and places immense pressure on the fragile Selangor state government.
Wong has offered to resign her exco position and state assembly seat of Bukit Lanjan to safeguard the image of party.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has subsequently decided to wait for the completion on the investigations into the distribution and publication of the photos before deciding on her status.
This has added undue pressure on Khalid and Pakatan's Selangor state government on the back of news that the PKR state assemblyman for Pelabuhan Kelang may quit the party to join Umno.
PKR leaders together with moderate PAS leaders like Dr Lo' Lo' and Khalid Samad have backed Wong as the aggrieved party.
However, PAS president Datuk Hadi Awang is known to have demanded that Anwar resolve the issue as soon as possible.
In Penang, the issue of former Deputy Chief Minister Mohd Fairus Khairuddin, who was questioned by the MACC on allegations of power abuse and corruption, has compounded the problems faced by Anwar.
However, swift action in getting Fairus to resign from his post and exco seat has mitigated some of the cynicism directed towards the party.
In Perak, the Behrang and Changkat Jong state assemblymen who quit the party have tarnished the image of the party immensely.
These unfortunate series of events have brewed ill-feeling among PAS grassroots leaders who lay the blame on PKR and to a lesser extent DAP due to the defection of the three state assemblymen to BN and the eventual fall of the Perak state government.
The simmering discontent is threatening to split the Pakatan coalition in the silver state.
However, the subsequent wins in the two Bukits have temporarily healed the wounds originating from the successful coup d'etat engineered by new Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak.
The process of identifying candidates for elections would have to be overhauled to ensure that only those with credibility, ability and competency are selected as candidates.
There is a dearth of quality, capable and able young leaders in the top-most structure of the party.
While there are a clutch of PKR state assemblymen imparting their service with dedication and commitment, most of the young PKR representatives in Parliament and state assemblies have not performed up to the minimum standard.
There ought to be a major clean-up or re-aligning the focus of these young upstarts within the party to increase productivity in serving the constituents as well as debating issues of public concern in both the Parliament and state assemblies.
The public is demanding from PKR a high standard of service.
Thus, Anwar needs to ensure that PKR reps adhere to strict ethical guidelines as well as address the discontent among grassroots leaders of PAS, DAP and PKR.
He currently has his hands full due to problems originating from and involving PKR elected representatives.
More importantly, Anwar would need to put in place a strong structure to monitor performance as well as reprimand out-of-sorts PKR MPs and state assemblymen.
The public might not be so kind in the future if no serious, swift and decisive efforts are taken to address these concerns.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Apr 11, 2009

Malays threatened by their leaders

MARCH 31, 2009 - The recent congregation organised by a right wing Malay NGO, Perkasa has threatened to steal the thunder from Umno.
Led by controversial Pasir Mas MP Datuk Ibrahim Ali and former Hulu Klang assemblyman Datuk Fuad Hassan, Perkasa has put forward resolutions as a façade to safeguard the Malay race.
For a start, Perkasa seem to be competing for the same target group with Malay-Muslim political parties - right wing nationalist Malay supremacists.
The resolutions passed by Perkasa demand for a return of the supreme position of the Malay Rulers, for Malay rights to be upheld including the restoration of New Economic Policy (NEP) and the strengthening of the Malay economic position.
The assembly was attended by some 1,500 people from 65 NGOs and could have been considered a curtain raiser to the Umno general assembly which ended recently.
In a democracy, any formation of a group or NGO should be allowed to prosper as long as they subscribe to the rule of law, whatever their inclinations might be as long as they are not anarchic.
The theme of Perkasa assembly that the "Malays are in danger" seem to be a bit far fetched and is designed to instil a feeling of being under threat of extinction.
If indeed the Malays are under threat, where is the threat coming from?
Are the Malays under threat from the other races?
Or are the Malays under threat from its own race, which I can be persuaded to agree.
Or as I am more inclined to believe, is that the perceived threats to the Malays are mere illusions or false threats than actual significant threats by design.
The 'dilemma' that has befallen the Malays has been made into a political tool to project certain individuals and organisations that being portrayed as the ultimate champion of the Malay race.
However, as the Malays become more educated, they tend to take these self mutilating attempts by politicians with a pinch of salt.
The Malay community has had a long history of parochial and feudal system entrenched within the society.
In the past, the community would usually submit to the whims and fancies of its leaders - from the Malay rulers right up to former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Never before have the Malays raised up to show their disgust and anger on the excesses, abuse of power and maladministration of their own leaders like they did in the 12th general elections last year.
This tide maybe attributed to the wave of advances in information technology that allowed people to access news and opinions which are now much more readily available.
An ever increasing young population has also contributed to this phenomenon creating a more inquisitive and critical society.
Wealth creation has led to a bulging middle class among the Malays and has developed a thinking that the Malays need not hang on to their leaders to survive.
In short, the Malays have begun to realize their true worth and that they will not allow their leaders to take them for a ride.
Even though the older generation still hold their leaders in high regard and have not shifted out of the stale paradigm, the rest of the Malay population are starting to warm up to egalitarianism which many hoped is not a masked heroism.
The Malays are beginning to shift their allegiance from one icon to another - dismissing and ridiculing an old and haggard warlord and replacing it with a zesty rebel.
The Malays have begun to reject an old system in favour of the new guard, many a time influenced by emotion and hate rather than backed by a rational and an objective mind.
The worry is that heroism will lead the Malays back to their old mantra of "the leader can do no wrong", which is exactly what the Malays do not need.
There ought to be a more thoughtful and pervasive debate among the Malays on the state of their affairs - politics, economy, social, etc.
The lack of objectivity among the Malays is borne out of frustration and anger that their anointed leaders have time and again abused and misappropriated their rights.
The lack of depth of discussions on the Malays is a reflection of the failure of the Malay academia and intellectuals.
The discussions seem to be revolving around quotas and shareholdings rather than paradigm shifts, information knowledge or transformational process.
The sentiments seem to be centred on minute significance like the keris or that sort of thing.
The Malays are now being offered with two political icons as their choice - a battered and bruised Umno-BN that underwent a rejuvenation process or some say cosmetic surgery led by Najib Razak and high riding PKR-Pakatan but lately beset with internal problems and scandals led by Anwar Ibrahim.
To the politicians or these so-called heroes, the Malays, just like any other race in this world, are human beings and are not commodities that can be sold or traded with throat roaring shouts to defend their honour when these leaders themselves are the ones reaping all the benefits, leaving crumbs for the rest.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Mar 18, 2009

Where to turn to?

MARCH 18, 2009 — The Umno party elections scheduled on March 24 – 28 has been touted as the single most important event that will make or break the party.
The biggest, most dominant and oldest party in the country is at the crossroad to choose the path of reform, continue their current malaise or shift further to the right.
However, the question remains whether the 2,600-odd Umno delegates realise the gargantuan responsibility that they shoulder.
Their decision will determine whether the party will turn upside down or is on the way towards rehabilitation.
Political and economic success after success bred complacency and established a mentality that the party will outlast its expiry date and have perpetual reins of the country.
The ability of Umno to use its political acumen coupled with law enforcement to their benefit has enabled it to prolong its lifespan.
Important events that took place in the country have shaped Umno into what it has become at the current being.
The British handed the country’s Independence through Umno in 1957 on a silver platter as compared to PKMM who has taken a more confrontational stance against the British.
PKMM clashed with the British and with their evident leftist ties, the British accused them of having communist ties which did not endear themselves to the British.
At this time, the British were considering to dispose their ‘assets’ from their worldwide empire as it is draining on their slowly depleting resources.
The British were seeking to hand over Malaya into hands of prospective leaders who would continue to be on friendly terms with them.
Hence, when the Cambridge educated Anglophile royalty Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj led Umno diplomatically ‘demanded’ Independence from the British, they were more than happy to oblige to the request.
Since then, Umno never looked back and recorded overwhelming victories in the subsequent polls with the help of preventive detention and emergency laws to clamp down on dissidents and opposition voices.
Following 1969 general election, Umno and the Alliance (Perikatan) faced heavy losses to the Chinese dominated Gerakan and DAP in Penang, Perak and Selangor as well as to Pas in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.
With astute political strategies, Umno and the Alliance led by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein managed to persuade Gerakan and Pas to join a new coalition called Barisan Nasional (BN) in 1972 to ensure that they will submit to the leadership of BN and to reduce competition.
Umno then systemically designed the fall of Pas in Kelantan and its subsequent sacking from BN in 1977 which caused Pas more than a decade to rise back to its glory in the East Coast.
Umno has shown signs and symptoms that it will do whatever it takes to maintain hegemony.
The swearing in of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 as the Prime Minister who was notoriously called the Ultra Malay by Tunku Abdul Rahman added a new dimension to Umno’s façade.
Dr Mahathir continued the politics of development which was started by Tun Abdul Razak and expedited the country’s economic activities even further which brought tremendous wealth to the country especially to its party leaders.
The judicial crisis of 1988 was the beginning of Umno’s slow decline, where Dr Mahathir showed his ruthless streak in abusing the country’s institution.
Umno and its members were beholden to Dr Mahathir and gave him a blank cheque to undertake any actions whatever and whenever he deems fit.
With unquestionable powers and an expanding economy, corruption and power abuse began to infect Umno and its leaders.
The sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and the following street demonstrations in 1998 – 2000 has fast tracked the decline of Umno in the eyes of the people.
To the general public, Umno has begun to lose its relevance due to its arrogance in managing power to the extent that it is bent on keeping power at all cost and its leaders’ tendencies to indulge in blatant corruption.
The landslide win due to the hope and promises of the sixth PM Abdullah Badawi in 2004 general election has temporarily shelved the demise of Umno.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Backed by clear evidence of a corrupted system and their leader’s racist rhetorics, the people sent Umno a clear message that they are running out of time.
This culminated in the embarrassing loss of 2/3rd majority in parliament and the fall of 5 state governments to the Opposition coalition in the 2008 general elections.
Umno looked restless and agitated and with the tremendous pressure and calls for him to quit, Abdullah decided to relinquish his Umno Presidency and the country’s premiership in March 2009.
The choice is currently in the hands of the 2,600 odd Umno delegates nationwide to pick a line up that will determine whether Umno is serious about reform or it intends to heighten its Malay supremacy agenda or remain in the lackadaisical quagmire they are in at the current moment.
Umno still has a role to play in nation building and the development of the country provided that it project signals that it is receptive to change and appears to suit to the needs and wants of the people.
What the people do not need is an Umno fighting for Malay Supremacy with utter disregard for the other races and with corruption and abuse of power hanging over their neck.
Maybe it is worth for the Umno delegates to reflect on the history of the party and ask themselves whether they want the party to continue its ways leading to oblivion or change to remain relevant in the eyes of the people.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Mar 18, 2009

Against a unity government

MARCH 14, 2009 — It is a fact that too much politicking has affected governance in Malaysia with calls and demands for an establishment of a unity government growing louder by the day.
This was captured well by the full-page advertisement in The Star where businessman Anas Zubedy called for a political truce between both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat and asked them to concentrate on the business of governing.
This has been made more dire and dramatic with the deteriorating economic health of the country, where recession is almost inevitable.
The King and Sultan of Kedah have also joined the chorus and called for the people to be united in facing challenges that are threatening to tear the social fabric.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah proposed a unity government between Pakatan and BN to diffuse all the conflicts, and was seconded by Pas president Datuk Hadi Awang as well as several leading Umno figures like Agriculture Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.
However, will this “unity government” be the solution to ensure that the focus will be on governing the country and reduce politicking?
Following the 1969 general election, a unity government called Barisan Nasional was formed in 1972 replacing the Alliance (Perikatan) with the inclusion of Gerakan and Pas into the ruling coalition, albeit for a relatively short period.
Back then, the country had just come out of a bloodbath in the form of the May 13 riots and the heavy losses endured by the Alliance to the DAP and Pas.
The unity government, which was supposed to bring about a political ceasefire, didn’t stop the politicking.
In fact, it was for this reason that Pas was kicked out of BN due to accusations and counter-accusations between Umno and Pas trying to outmanoeuvre each other especially in Kelantan.
In 1977 the federal government time enforced emergency rule in Kelantan under the authority of Mageran for several years, which temporarily halted the Pas stranglehold on Kelantan for many years until a resurgent Pas came to the fore under the tutelage of Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
Closer to recent memory, after the 1999 general election where Umno lost many seats to Pas and the Barisan Alternatif coalition, a similar unity government model was espoused to ensure that the Malay voice stays united and not divided.
Umno, reeling from the aftermath of demonstrations and condemnation following the sacking and imprisonment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had to offer Pas the olive branch using the banner of Malay unity.
However, the whole notion of Malay unity totally subsided following BN and Umno’s landslide win in the general election of 2004.
It is very clear that a pattern is being recycled over and over again, abusing the mantra of unity government or Malay unity whenever the axis of power is seen to be drifting away from Umno-BN towards the opposition (now in the form of Pakatan Rakyat).
Whilst the slogan of unity government or Malay unity is being overplayed in the print and electronic media, subversive elements are attempting to revert power back to the old guards in order to retain hegemony.
This resulted in the current political impasse following the coup d’etat in Perak and currently making its way into Pakatan-ruled states like Selangor, Penang and Kedah.
The federal or state government and its institutions should be able to function regardless of anyone at the top.
The impartiality of these sacred institutions must be upheld with vigour and the observance of the rule of law must be strictly adhered to without the interference of partisan politics.
The confused state in Perak reflects an overwhelming interference of partisan politics in the running of these institutions, and civil servants playing the all-in-one role of judge, jury and executioner, like in Perak, may just repeat itself in Selangor, Penang and Kedah.
There is little justification and practically lesser need for a unity government as it will only breeds compromise and reduce political competition to provide the best service for the people.
While some exuberant politicians will try and pull apart society with their racially-charged rhetoric, it will also reveal their true colours and the voters will decide whether they deserve to be elected again.
However, which is of more urgency is that there needs to be a strict and sacred separation of powers between institutions of governance and partisan politics.
Only then will we see the politicians actually act as servants of the people rather than their current filthy state and greed for power.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Mar 14, 2009

Lunacies of hope and fear

MARCH 8, 2009 - Today, the nation celebrates the first anniversary of the day that promised much for our blessed country.
Or so we thought.
We placed our hopes for the scenery and skyline of Malaysia to be transformed into one that translates into prosperity and harmony to every single citizen.
Everyone was brimming with confidence that that very day is the defining moment that will mark a change for the betterment of Malaysia.
We thought our rights will be respected, we thought we would be accorded the freedom that we crave and we thought we will have substantial and significant role to play in building the nation.
Did we hoped for too much? Maybe just a tad too much.
One thing is certain, the political landscape have definitely changed, maybe too drastic for some but change it definitely was.
Those who voted in Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Perak have been awarded with new chief executives and wholesome revamped state cabinets that we thought would realize all the hopes and dreams that we invested by marking that "X" on the voting slip.
While we are still waiting for meaningful changes to our lives, we have been presented with mixed outcomes which are exasperating and at the same time comical to say the least.
Perakians are confused now more than ever after the bloodless and the very expensive coup-de-tat by the BN.
We saw how an unknown leader from an orthodox Islamist party lead a state government comprised mainly of supposedly chauvinistic political leaders with dynamism, cohesiveness and consensus building.
However, that leader was unable to keep some recalcitrants to stay within his coalition and the rest they say is history.
On the other hand, Selangor saw a corporate leader turned chief executive of the richest state in Malaysia.
While Selangor enjoyed cheap water bill and a more friendly local council, news coming out from the state was inundated with controversies involving maintenance of the MB's Lexus, cows to be slaughtered and a proposed high tech pig farm.
In Penang, the people welcomed a new Chief Minister who started off on the wrong foot wanting to dismantle the New Economic Policy (NEP).
As he picked up fast the tricks of the trade, he leapfrogged into one of the most popular CM in the country.
Meanwhile, Kedahans experienced almost zero conflict from both sides of the divide until recently.
The extreme Ustaz has pleasantly and surprisingly turned out to be a very wise man with very moderate views.
Meanwhile, UMNO and its BN coalition members were embroiled in a slugging contest among themselves.
We also saw politicians and patriot wannabies attempt to pull the society apart with their highly charged racist rhetorics.
We saw how the powers that be try to strike fear into the hearts of Malaysians through threats and coercion using outdated repressive acts.
So, have our lives changed? Yes but...
Too many resources -time, money and manpower- have been wasted on excessive politicking whilst both the old guards and the newbies lose track of the needs and wants of the people.
In a time of dire economic conditions, the nation and the people need to be prepared to be protected from the aftermath of an impending recession.
We must not allow these sly and extreme elements to disrupt and sway our focus from the real issues at hand i.e. the economy and welfare of the people.
The government, be it Pakatan or BN, must not run away from the priority to resuscitate the economy and at the same time address the welfare of the nation.
It is timely that the politicians from BN and Pakatan who many a times add that bit of cynicism in our daily lives to start pulling their weight and live up to expectations as our vote (read : trust) for them is not absolute.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Mar 8, 2009

A winning formula marred by rogue practitioners

FEB 17, 2009 – Despite our official make-don't-know strategy, the global financial blackhole is pulling the country inexorably into the doldrums of a recession.
Exports are shrinking as our customers go broke, what little gets sold fetches less as commodity prices plummet, and rising retrenchment are all hitting the domestic economy hard.
With the market taking its sweet time to correct itself, proponents of big government are making their voice heard.
The financial crisis is feeding these anti-market elements' push to circle the wagons of protectionism and blame the market for all the ailments – from failing industries to loss of jobs to rising suicide rates, etc.
To these control freaks, the market is not able to regulate itself and direct Big Brother intervention is required to ensure the working population's welfare is safeguarded.
They would have us believe that efforts to re-nationalise industries must take priority and are essential for economic recovery.
Former prime minister and best friend of privatisation, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has now called for a more direct and active role by the government and also for more money to be pumped into the local economy.
During his two decades of rule, he has been the ultimate champion of trade and initiated the massive privatisation policy of national assets, taking the cue from his then British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher.
However, the privatisation of national assets, government contracts and procurement during his era did not pass the basic minimum standards of accountability and transparency.
This resulted in a lot of wastage, lopsided contracts and the ever-present spectre of cronyism. Among these lopsided agreements are the Independent Power Producers' (IPP) agreement with TNB, highway concession, and many others.
It is ironic that Dr Mahathir himself is now calling for an end to the IPP agreements that is draining away billions of taxpayers' monies.
The problem is not so much the privatisation of national assets per se but it is about putting in place standards that pass the acid test of accountability and transparency, as well as focusing on delivering the best services to consumers.
The privatising of national assets should be aimed at achieving higher efficiency, reducing government liability and generating more revenues. In short, creating wealth.
However, the opposite is the case for Malaysia where concessions were awarded to companies that neither add value nor provide a more efficient service.
What is even more exasperating is that the government ends up bailing out these failed projects. All borne by the long-suffering taxpayer, of course.
In a globalised world economy, it is a definite step backwards if the country takes a more protectionist view on trade.
Free trade is essential. But it is also important to ensure fair trade.
Re-nationalising industries is not the answer to protect the rights of consumer or the public.
Establishing a big government presence in business will not allow for promotion of innovation and creativity. It will, indeed, diminish any competitive edge we have.
The evolution of the telecommunication industry has seen the benefits go to the hands of the end consumers. With choices aplenty and intense competition focusing upon satisfying the need and wants of the consumer, this process has hugely benefitted the public.
The success story of the telecommunications industry can and should be replicated in other industries.
Malaysia is a trading nation and hence should rigorously push for reduction on trade barriers as well as promoting free and fair trade initiatives.
With the impending second stimulus package of about RM10 billion stimulus package about to be announced, it is hoped that any stimulus package is done not to over protect or over regulate the market but to catalyse the market with virtues of competition, value added benefits and infuse the market with high standards of efficiency.
Only in a globalised economy and with free trade will more lives be lifted out of poverty. Despite appearances, markets can regulate themselves if high standards of accountability and transparency are upheld.
Free trade does not only ensure the survival of the fittest but, more importantly, it promotes the best ideas as well as delivering the best service for the consumers.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Feb 17, 2009

In defence of monarchy...minus the politics

FEB 10, 2009 — The political crisis in Perak which led to the dismantling of the Pakatan government and the ushering in of the new Menteri Besar from BN has thrown the nation into serious debate about the role and relevance of the monarchy.
Many are perplexed at the incredible speed at which the King of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah came to a decision and concluded that previous Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin does not have the confidence of the majority of the assemblymen.
This is because the question of the validity of the 'resignation letters' by the three former Pakatan assemblymen and whether they can legally hold on to their seats remains in the air and can only be decided by the courts of law — not by the monarchy nor by the Election Commission.
Hence, Sultan Azlan's act of appointing Datuk Dr Zambry Kadir as the new Menteri Besar of Perak has opened up the debate on the extent of the role of the monarchy in the affairs of the state.
After the 2008 general election, we saw an evidence of the monarchy taking a more active role in the affairs of the country.
The delay in the appointment of the Menteris Besar of Perak and Selangor is due to the fact that the monarchy wants an assurance that the state governments will be one that is stable and able to command the majority of the elected representatives of each of the state.
This was also due to the fact that the opposition parties entered the general election as individual parties as the Pakatan Rakyat coalition was only formed much later.
In the case of the delay in the appointment of Menteris Besar of Perlis and Terengganu, the choice of the BN as Menteri Besar of the states did not gain the blessings of the Rulers of both states.
In this case, the Rulers of Perlis and Terengganu have shown their hands and exerted their limited and very much ceremonial powers in determining political outcomes of both states.
Umno's national leadership and the states of Terengganu and Perlis were both thrown at the deep end with the refusal of the Rulers to accept their MB candidates, and the state monarchs' throwing in their own preferred—throwing the party into turmoil.
The monarchy was revived with renewed strength following its humiliation at the hands of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who pushed for the constitutional amendments to reduce the power of the monarchy.
However, the incidence in Perak rightly or wrongly has blemished the institution and viewed with lack of respect and devoid of decorum.
Most viewed the monarchy of Perak as the most enlightened, most progressive and most liberated among the nine royal households in the Malay states.
Hence, some take cognisance to the fact that Sultan Azlan — who was also the former Lord President — would have decided for the benefit and the good of all Perakians.
However, it must be said that most of those disenchanted with the decision that led to the appointment of Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir is mainly due to their prejudice and to a certain extent their hatred towards anything UMNO or BN.
Had Sultan Azlan accepted Nizar's pleading and agreed to dissolve the state assembly, he would be called the saviour of democracy and the beacon of hope by these same people who are currently denigrating him.
The Perak royal household which has long been held in high regards due to their academic and intellect prowess as well as their modern, liberal and progressive outlook in the public sphere has now been targeted for public ridicule by the same group of people.
The separation of partisan politics and the monarchy is needed now more than ever.
The monarchy has long been under the power of and muzzled by the political powers so much so that it has never been able to exercise its role as the guardian of the people.
The renewed strength and vigour of the monarchy after the 2008 general election has once again being pulled into the midst of a political altercation both by BN and Pakatan.
The institution needs to be seen as being free of partisan politics in order for it to fulfill its constitutional role as the guardian of the people and every decision that it makes must be seen as fair and impartial without any political power play at hand.
The role of the institution has to be redefined and accorded its rightful place according to the provisions of the constitution.
Constitutional monarchy is our system and the monarchy as an institution and defenders of the people is very much relevant in our society.
As nothing is absolute, the faith and hope that we place with the monarchy is dependent upon the institution serving its subjects with justice and fairness.
"Ampun Tuanku, sembah patik harap diampun"

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Feb 10, 2009

Erdogan's heroics belies moral standing

FEB 6, 2009 — The World Economic Forum's forum on the Gaza conflict was one that drew a lot of interest due to its sensational and international significance.
High-profile panellists in the form of Israeli President Shimon Peres, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa increased the value of the forum itself.
The whole world was awaiting the forum anxiously and they were not disappointed.
All the panellists criticised the extreme military actions by the Israel Defence Forces and the rocket attacks by Hamas.
Peres was the final speaker and defended the actions of the IDF in the face of Hamas' rocket attacks.
Erdogan, who wanted to rebut the arduously lengthy and self-fulfilling sermon by Peres, was stopped in his tracks by the moderator David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, on the pretext that time was up.
Erdogan was clearly upset at the imbalance of time given between him and Peres, ranted at Peres and Ignatius while storming off the stage.
More than anything else, Erdogan was upset by the standing ovation and round of applause given by the audience after Peres' speech.
The audience was mostly business leaders who came from all corners of the earth and their warm reception to Peres hurt the ego of Erdogan.
This caused Erdogan to raise his voice while trying to be courteous in calling the Israelis murderers and the cause of Palestinian women and children's suffering from their acts of aggression.
He then stormed off the stage, briefly stopping to shake hands with Moussa after accusing the moderator of being unfair to him and vowed not to attend Davos anymore.
Turkey and Egypt are among the few Muslim nations that have direct economic and diplomatic relations with Israel.
After the escalation in Gaza turned into an invasion, the only country that decided to call off its ties with Israel was Qatar.
There was muted response by Turkey and Egypt, at the most trying to be brokers for peace but unable to state their displeasure to US and Israel.
It is disgraceful that Turkey and Egypt did not take any significant measures much earlier to put Israel against the wall and to ensure that humanitarian crisis did not deteriorate further.
Turkey, a secular Muslim nation, allowed the US to use its airfield that killed innocent lives in the Iraq War and also Gulf War.
However, Erdogan finds it difficult to put his Muslim values into practise and has often had to bow to the demands of the influential Turkish army and also abide by the numerous economic and diplomatic agreements with US and Israel, among them.
Hence, he had to bow to the demands of the US and also Israel, what more with Turkey's application to join the European Union being dangled to cajole Turkey into submission.
Egypt, on the other hand, has almost zero moral high ground in its involvement in the Gaza conflict.
At the height of the escalation of the conflict, Egypt's refusal to open its borders to help ease the suffering caused a spike in the humanitarian crisis.
Egypt's worry that Ikhwanul Muslimin may infiltrate its borders was its utmost concern and not the welfare of its Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Even though Amr Moussa currently holds no formal leadership position in Egypt, his appearance in the forum as the Arab League secretary-general has further denigrated both Egypt's and the Arab League's standing.
Egypt and the Arab League's inability to support and help empower the people of Palestinians is one of the causes why the people of Palestine are so impoverished.
Egypt received a lot of assistance and aid in monetary and equipment from the big economies due to its "friendly" stance towards Israel.
Long-serving Egypt President Hosni Mubarak has destroyed and obliterated the essence of democracy in Egypt with his almost autocratic style backed by the monies and arms from the US and its allies.
It is clear that the Davos forum was meant to be a show of heroism for the consumption of both Peres and Erdogan's supporters at home.
Erdogan was given a hero's welcome and tributes came pouring in from all over the world especially the Muslim countries.
This goes to show the dearth of an icon or champion in the Muslim world who can bring them forward and progress.
Erdogan is slowly but surely trying to build his reputation in the Muslim world and put himself on the world map.
However, his public outburst may be best served through more beneficial channels.
If Erdogan is serious enough, he ought to take the lead to initiate a multilateral, international community strategic alliance to pressure Israel to adhere to international human rights and war crimes charter/declaration.
But then again, if our daughters and sons as well as our elderly fathers and mothers are maimed by the shelling and bombing by a certain armed forces we would definitely be harsher and not as diplomatic as Erdogan's timid outburst.

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Feb 6, 2009

Peace for Palestine : Hope or fantasy?

JAN 28, 2009 — The end of the Gaza invasion by Israel's Defence Forces has been received with a huge sigh of relief by many especially the Palestinians.
With Egypt agreeing to tighten its border with the Gaza Strip from arms being smuggled in and France taking a mediatory role, Israel pulled back its army from Gaza unilaterally.
However, the aftermath of the invasion left many homeless and killed over a thousand innocent lives.
Egypt's role as a peace mediator for Israel to halt its invasion has also revealed Cairo's hypocrisy.
Egypt's insistence of not opening up its borders to Palestinian refugees during the conflict worsened the humanitarian crisis.
Palestinians tried to flee from Israel's attacks to Egypt only to find that its Arab neighbour was unwilling to open its doors for their safety.
Egypt was worried Ikhwanul Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) elements from Palestine would enter its territory due to the Ikhwanul's close ties with Hamas.
Due to this worry that this might cause political instability in its own backyard, the Palestinians — women, children and the elderly — were left to fend for themselves.
Palestinians are akin to pariahs in their own land and in the Greater Arabian peninsula.
Palestine is a land full of mystique and theological history with endless conflicts constantly tearing apart its people and causing destruction to the land.
Moses once led his followers in an escape from the vengeance of Pharaoh's army — sketched in the Bible and the Quran.
The Crusades began after the turn of the 11th century with holy wars fought on the command of the Pope to liberate the Christian Church in Jerusalem from Muslim rule.
Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume wrote in 1761 that the Crusades "engrossed the attention of Europe, and have ever since engaged the curiosity of mankind".
This has been depicted in many Hollywood movies with the most recent being "Kingdom of Heaven" where Saladin (Sallahudin Al Ayubi) conquered Jerusalem, allowing Muslims, Jews and Christians to live side by side.
Palestine was also part of the Ottoman Empire and came under the British rule soon after, in the early 20th century.
Periods of peace and harmony in the land of Palestine were few and far between.
With modern-day Palestine divided by the British to absolve the international community's sins that befell the Jews during the Holocaust, the holy land of Palestine was once again in turmoil.
Israel was created and became a sovereign state, while Palestine never achieved independence until today.
By the start of the 21st century, many drew parallels with contemporary politics, from the creation of Israel to accusations that western powers were perpetuating crusading behaviour in their dealings towards the Islamic world.
These accusations are very much the popular sentiment of many Muslims towards the West — before it was the British and now the United States — of being the defenders of the atrocities by Israel towards the Palestinians.
However, the modern-day conflict that is besetting Palestine is one that is not just a religious issue — Islam vs Judaism — but an international, political and a humanitarian one.
The quality of life of the Palestinians is in such a sorry state, lacking in basic amenities what more after the latest acts of aggression by Israel.
Everyone is looking to the stewardship of the newly sworn in US President Barrack Obama to pursue justice for the Palestinian people for a sovereign state to call their own and also for Israel to be secure surrounded by its Arab neighbours.
With Obama impressed by the social justice elements in Zionism and likening the plight of the Jews to the plight of the African Americans epitomised by the civil rights movement in the US, one wonders what kind of just solution is envisioned by Obama to end the suffering of the Palestinians.
However, pessimism creeps in when the newly endorsed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once declared that Jerusalem is innately and wholly an Israel city when Palestinians are demanding for East Jerusalem to be their capital.
To those who believed in the "new era of openness" and the much hyped "politics of hope" created by the bandwagon called Obama-mania, they will almost certainly be disappointed.
Putting high expectations on Obama to deliver a just solution for both parties is being naive and too hopeful.
This is so because of the inability of Obama's administration to face the huge outcry in the US and Israel if Israel is seen to be at the losing end of any deal with the Palestinians.
Obama is in between a rock and a hard place on this highly emotional issue of Palestine-Israel.
While everyone is praying that Obama has the political will to do what is right, the Obama-mania bubble might just burst sooner than you can say "Oh Bummer!".

- published in The Malaysian Insider : Jan 28, 2009