29 September 2014

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Program berganti program mengisi masa senggang saya sebermula minggu lepas. Alhamdulillah hari ini saya berkesempatan hadir ke Program Syarahan ‘Memerangi Ekstremisme’ anjuran Diwan Reformasi, Demokrasi dan Upaya Masyarakat dengan kerjasama Pejabat Ketua Pembangkang Parlimen Malaysia di Unisel Shah Alam. Program ini menampilkan Prof. Dr. Abdullah Sheikh Abd Majeed Al-Zindani, Timbalan Dekan di Al-Eman University sebagai pengucap utama.

Dalam ucapan pengenalan saya menjelaskan betapa wujud prasangka dan tuduhan tersasar yang mengaitkan Islam dan Ekstremisme, pun begitu tidak menyeluruh. Aliran pemikiran di kalangan pemikir Muslim ada yang cenderung merungkai perihal kezaliman dan ekstremisme ini. Justeru dalam usaha dan upaya memerangi keganasan, maka wacana bersabit keadilan dan wassatiyyah (kesederhanaan) harus diutamakan, khususnya dalam adab al-khilaf.

Ini sejajar dengan apa yang dinasihati Sheikh Hasan Al-Hudaibi betapa ‘pendakwah bukan penghukum’. Seyogia perbincangan kitab tersohor Sheikh Taha Jabir Al-Elwani ‘Adab Al-ikhtilaf Fi al-Islam’ wajar dianjur dan dibedah sebaiknya.

Menyingkapi isu ini, seputar isu-isu keliling Pakatan Rakyat mutakhir ini, himbauan krisis di Selangor yang bermula bulan lepas menghampiri penghujung, inshaa-Allah. Diakui, persepsi rakyat ke atas Pakatan Rakyat dan KEADILAN khususnya pasti terusik, namun saya menyakini ini sebahagian daripada jalur-jalur proses pematangan politik. Meski media mengasak dengan pelbagai versi dan episod, perbezaan pandangan kalangan Pakatan Rakyat tetap diselesaikan dengan wacana santun di samping menghormati pandangan semua pihak.

Meskipun KEADILAN tegas dan percaya bahawa penyelesaian akhir harus disandar pada proviso dan peruntukan Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Selangor yang dipegang seawal krisis tercetus sehingga ke hari ini, makanya kita menyakini bahawa Kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat di Selangor akan terus memulakan era baharu disamping diperkukuh dengan penghormatan kita pada Sistem Raja Berperlembagaan yang menaungi kita.

Berkenaan ratusan pelajar yang dilarang dan dihalang dari menduduki peperiksaan kerana gagal membayar yuran peperiksaan juga telah saya rujuk kepada Menteri Besar dan tindakan segera harus diambil. Kerajaan yang mengamalkan tatakelola yang baik harus prihatin terhadap masalah rakyat bawahan. Ini masalah penguasa yang bicara soal bangsa dan negeri dengan ‘reserve’ berbilion-bilion tapi gagal urus soal pelajaran untuk anak-anak miskin.

Dengan kepimpinan Saudara Azmin Ali selaku Menteri Besar Selangor yang baharu, Selangor akan terus dipacu menjadi ikon untuk Pakatan Rakyat terus menyakinkan rakyat seterusnya menjejak Putrajaya inshaaAllah.

Seeru ‘ala barakatillah.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

26 September 2014

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Al Jazeera

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is the latest figure to be caught in the government’s widening sedition crackdown, in what one human rights group called “blatantly politically motivated”.

Anwar will be questioned by police on Friday, and his lawyers expect him to be charged with sedition. He is the highest-profile figure to be investigated for “seditious acts”. Lawyers say it relates to a speech he gave at a political rally three years ago, to mark the launch of a campaign relating to the 2006 murder of a Mongolian model, who was alleged to have had close links to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Fellow opposition MP Lim Kit Siang described the investigation as “the worst form of political vendetta and gross abuse of power”.

At least 25 cases are now going through the courts, according to Lawyers for Liberty, a legal NGO. Among those charged is Anwar’s own lawyer and opposition MP N Surendran.

If found guilty, all could be jailed for three years and banned from public office for five years after that.

Some have already been convicted. On September 19, student activist Adam Adli was given a 12-month sentence for remarks he made calling for the ruling coalition and its largest party, the UMNO, to be toppled.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) think-tank said he has begun to rein in what he says publicly. “It’s about making sure people remain compliant, don’t rebel too much, don’t talk too much, don’t criticise too much, and remain fearful to speak out,” he said.

‘Silencing the opposition’

N Surendran told Al Jazeera the crackdown reflects the government’s insecurity about its position in Malaysia, saying the arrests were designed to “silence the opposition and civil society”.

“In our entire history, the sedition act has never been used in this way before,” he said.

Many Malaysian news publications have portrayed the three elements considered most important in Malay society – race, religion and royalty – as being under threat.

This theme of a “threat” to Malay existence alleged by the government is an old one, but has come to the forefront since last year’s general election, in which the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition failed to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, and returned to power with its smallest-ever majority of seats in parliament.

The result was even worse than in the 2008 election, when Barisan Nasional coalition government lost its crucial two-thirds majority, which had allowed it to make constitutional changes at will.

Lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan said there is an atmosphere of insecurity – but among the dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, not the Malaysian people.

“It’s all about power. It’s about people who think they’re losing power. It’s about shoring up their power base. There’s no threat. How is the majority under threat? If you look at the figures, the administration, police, the army are mostly Malay. It’s not Malays under threat, it’s UMNO,” Sreenevasan said.

London-based rights group Amnesty International called on the government to repeal the sedition law.

“There has been a disturbing increase in the use of the Sedition Act over the past few months against individuals who have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions,” said Amnesty’s Rupert Abbott. “This crackdown is creating a climate of fear in Malaysia and must end.”

A request for comment from the Malaysian government was not answered by the time of publication.

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has defended the Sedition Act, arguing if it were abolished, “the extremists would be free to criticise the king and monarchy openly and even demand that the royal institution be dismantled. There is no law that can stop them”.

Identity politics

The crackdown is just as much about identity as about power, said Syahredzan Johan, the chairman of the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee.

One-third of Malaysians are under the age of 15, and this tech-savvy generation communicating through social media may be crossing cultural boundaries and coming together in ways the country’s much publicised “One Malaysia” policy has failed to achieve.

“Malaysians are grappling with how to move forward. For the longest time they have been boxed into these neat little categories of Malay, Chinese, Indian – and slowly, through social media, these categories are being broken down. Malaysians are seeing each other through more than just their ethnic identities; they’re seeing each other in the same light and seeing that they are not that different after all,” Syahredzan said.

The idea of social cohesion among younger Malaysians is unsettling the ruling party and a constitution formed on the basis of Malay supremacy, according to Syahredzan.

“This idea that maybe we’re not that different is a threat to the status quo. The sedition crackdown is because right-wing groups have put pressure on the government to take action against these groups which they see as threatening the status quo – the status quo being these [ethnic] categories, and also the status quo of not touching race, religion, or royalty,” he said.

Prime Minister Razak is trying to reform his party and appeal to younger voters with Facebook and Twitter accounts. But at the same time, he is under severe pressure from within the UMNO rank-and-file and right-wing Muslim groups such as Perkasa and ISMA.

‘The good old days’

Eric Paulsen from Lawyers for Liberty said with the growth of social media, Malaysians are becoming more outspoken online.

“It’s not like the good old days, when there was full control over the press. But among the right-wing and Malay rights groups, there’s distrust around non-Malay and non-Muslim groups. If they feel their honour, race, or religion have been slighted they must react,” said Paulsen.

But observers say with state-controlled media outlets pumping out messages about how ethnic Chinese will take over the country, and how groups are trying to convert it to Christianity, even urban, educated Malaysians are starting to believe the “danger”.

“It’s an imagined threat,” said Paulsen.

In 2012, Prime Minister Razak abandoned Malaysia’s controversial Internal Security Act in 2012. That meant authorities lost the power to detain without charge opponents whom they believed were a threat. As a result, the government appears to have resorted to the next best thing – the Sedition Act.

This could explain the government’s reluctance to repeal the act. But even multiple arrests for sedition and the ensuing court hearings have their limits. “How many prosecutions can they do?” asked Paulsen.

It’s not clear how the conflict between conservative and progressive elements in Malaysia will eventually play out.

Some see a bleak future for Malaysia if the current crackdown continues. Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said he even suspects there could be a time in the future when Malaysia succumbs to military rule if UMNO’s dominance is overturned.

About the only thing that is not in doubt is that Malaysia is at a crossroads.

26 September 2014

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Abim.org

The debate on the term of Islamic state will constantly reappear in the political discourse in country that Islamic Party exists. It used to be a phenomenon during the post colonialism era when the Egyptian Islamic scholars (Muslim Brotherhood) were driven to bring back the institution of Islamic Caliphate. In 2009, I happened to write an essay entitled “Searching New Substance of Islamic Movement of the First Post Islamic Rise” in which I set out to discuss the articulation of remarkable social trends, political perspectives, and religious thought in Malaysia following the extension of Islamism era in 1960s-1970s from Muslim Brotherhood.

I had outlined some main points the Islamic revival in the year of 1970s. Among the major treasures including scattering of Islamic heritage, especially knowledge of materials and guidelines in solving the current problems and challenges, and the deep confidence of Islam as a potential solution to all diseases and healing of individuals and society. The Phenomena that occur during the era of 70’s is often referred to historians as the era of Islamic Revivalism Rise / Islamic Resurgence.

According to Gordon P. Means in his book Political Islam in South East Asia, “the persistence of some Islamic movement like Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) and Dar Al-Arqam in united the energy of da’wah finally yielded success a lucrative generation today. The Islamism era in which the Muslim Brotherhood’s dominance of global Islamist activism perceived by orientalist as a big failure.

Apart from due to undemocratic dictators who inhumanely persecuted Islamist, Esposito and Oliver Roy articulated the problem of vast majority of them when the Islamic Revivalism (Islah & Tajdid) was dragged into political Islam without preparation of complete blue print of the good governance as alternative to the so called secular state. The failure of Political Islam?

In a book “The Failure of Political Islam”, Roy shows that the recruitment of large numbers of alienated young men without much hope in the future has transformed political Islam into what he calls “neo-fundamentalism.” Unlike the actual Islamists, many of whom were serious intellectuals who tried to adapt to aspects of modernity, the neo-fundamentalists do little more than channel the discontents of urban youth into political opposition. Neo-fundamentalists worry about morals, mixed education, veiling, and the corrupting influence of the West, but they have no real political or economic program.

If they come to power they will resemble the repressive, one-party regimes that they are likely to replace, and will in turn face the opposition of these same disaffected classes. The evidence to date, however, from Iran and Sudan supports his view that Islamists in power are far from finding solutions to the social and economic problems of their peoples. Roy sees contemporary Islamic movements not as serious efforts to return to the classical paradigms of Islamic governance, but rather as a result of a failed modernization.

The poor ethics and attitude of the Islamists who run the politics contributed to the failure of political Islam. Implementation of Syariah for example, it is perceived as embarassing when the essential objectives of Islamic Law (Maqasid Syariah) to achieve justice is obstructed by the double standard and selective prosecution policies practiced by the official in the ”Islamic state”.

The late 1990s and early 2000 the trends had primarily shifted in stages when the Islamists no longer articulate the term Islamic Revivalism or Islamic state as the main idea of their movement but rather to conceptualize and strategize the rationale of transcending Islamism in social, political, and intellectual domains. Asef Bayat considered the transformation of this societal trend as “post-Islamism”.

Islamist becomes aware of their system’s inadequacies as they attempt to normalize and institutionalize their rule. The continuous trial and error makes the system susceptible to questions and criticisms. Islamism becomes compelled, by societal pressure to re-invent itself and the tremendous transformation in religious and political discourse by En-Nahda movement in Tunisia and AK – Justice and Development Party in Turkey exemplifies this tendency.

Rashid al-Ghannushi and Erdogan decided to follow the system which the mainstream familiar without irrationally imposed the Islamic rules or terms to alternate the policy. En-Nahda and Turkey post-Islamism were embodied in remarkable social trends – expressed in religiously innovative discourse by youths, students, women, and religious intellectuals, who called for democracy, individual rights, tolerance, and gender equality.

The advent of post-Islamism does not necessarily mean the historical end of Islamism but it means the birth out of discourse and politics. It is an attempt to turn the underlying principles of Islamism by emphasizing rights instead of duties, plurality in place of singular authoritative voice, historicity rather than fixed scriptures, and the future instead of the past.

Falling into Islamism net A paradox is how still certain of the Islamists, used to be more creative when under pressure, tend to loss perspective or fighting among themselves when confronted with a situation that is somewhat deals with the notion of liberalism, moderation, openness and equal rights.

Perhaps, the idea of some cleric-Islamist who fails to aware the tremendous change in the era of Post Islamism resulted in the movement to fall into Islamism net. They proudly subscribe the idea of rigidity, claim others who denounce their leadership as un-Islamic, bring the idea of Islamic Revivalism at the most extreme line, and often articulate the terms of Islamic state/rules without providing a tangible blue print as alternative to the society.

The scenario eventually recruits the young people to be irrational and perceive Islam as religion that cannot compromise at all with the individual choice and freedom, democracy and modernity in order to achieve what some have termed an “alternative modernity”. Worse still, this failure to appreciate the change of global trend indeed have reversed them back to the era of extremist Jihadist believing extremism as the only solution for Islam rather than mercy and compassion.

The extremist Jihadis around the world highlighted by media for instance indeed rooted from this failure. Perhaps, the prevalent perception among them is that idea of post-Islamism is an attempt to extremely dilute the Islamic principles. Post-Islamism is neither anti-Islamic, nor is it secular. Rather, it represents an endeavour to fuse religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty.

PREPARED BY: MUHAMMAD FAISAL BIN ABDUL AZIZ SECRETARY GENERAL MUSLIM YOUTH MOVEMENT MALAYSIA (ABIM)

25 September 2014

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The Nation

If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle IS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.

But what you won’t learn from media coverage of IS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.

Keane is a great example of this phenomenon. His think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which he oversees along with neoconservative partisans Liz Cheney and William Kristol, has provided the data on IS used for multiple stories by The New York Times, the BBC and other leading outlets.

Keane has appeared on Fox News at least nine times over the last two months to promote the idea that the best way to stop IS is through military action—in particular, through air strikes deep into IS-held territory. In one of the only congressional hearings about IS over the summer, Keane was there to testify and call for more American military engagement. On Wednesday evening, Keane declared President Obama’s speech on defeating IS insufficient, arguing that a bolder strategy is necessary. “I truly believe we need to put special operation forces in there,” he told host Megyn Kelly.

Left unsaid during his media appearances (and left unmentioned on his congressional witness disclosure form) are Keane’s other gigs: as special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater; as a board member to tank and aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics; a “venture partner” to SCP Partners, an investment firm that partners with defense contractors, including XVionics, an “operations management decision support system” company used in Air Force drone training; and as president of his own consulting firm, GSI LLC.

To portray Keane as simply a think tank leader and a former military official, as the media have done, obscures a fairly lucrative career in the contracting world. For the General Dynamics role alone, Keane has been paid a six-figure salary in cash and stock options since he joined the firm in 2004; last year, General Dynamics paid him $258,006.

Keane did not immediately return a call requesting comment for this article.

Disclosure would also help the public weigh Keane’s policy advocacy. For instance, in his August 24 opinion column for The Wall Street Journal, in which he was bylined only as a retired general and the chairman of ISW, Keane wrote that “the time has come to confront the government of Qatar, which funds and arms IS and other Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas.” While media reports have linked fundraisers for IS with individuals operating in Qatar (though not the government), the same could be said about Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where many of the major donors of IS reportedly reside. Why did Keane single out Qatar and ignore Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? Is it because his company, Academi, has been a major business partner to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s primary rival in the region?

Other examples abound.

In a Washington Post story about Obama’s decision not to deploy troops to combat IS, retired Marine General James Mattis was quoted as a skeptic. “The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn’t seem to be making progress,” Mattis told the paper. Left unmentioned was Mattis’s new role as Keane’s colleague on the General Dynamics corporate board, a role that afforded Mattis $88,479 in cash and stock options in 2013.

Retired General Anthony Zinni, perhaps the loudest advocate of a large deployment of American soliders into the region to fight IS, is a board member to BAE Systems’ US subsidiary, and also works for several military-focused private equity firms.

CNN pundit Frances Townsend, a former Bush administration official, has recently appeared on television calling for more military engagement against IS. As the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit that studies elite power structures, reported, Townsend “holds positions in two investment firms with defense company holdings, MacAndrews & Forbes and Monument Capital Group, and serves as an advisor to defense contractor Decision Sciences.”

“Mainstream news outlets have a polite practice of identifying former generals and former congressmembers as simply ‘formers’—neglecting to inform the public of what these individuals are doing now, which is often quite pertinent information, like that they are corporate lobbyists or board members,” says Jeff Cohen, an associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College.

Media outlets might justify their omissions by reasoning that these pundits have merely advocated certain military strategies, not specific weapons systems, so disclosure of their financial stake in the policy need not be made. Yet the drumbeat for war has already spiraled into calls for increased military spending that lifts all boats—or non-operational jets for that matter.

When the Pentagon sent a recent $2 billion request for ramped-up operations in the Middle East, supposedly to confront the IS issue, budget details obtained by Bloomberg News revealed that officials asked for money for additional F-35 planes. The F-35 is not in operation and would not be used against IS. The plane is notoriously over budget and perpetually delayed—some experts call it the most expensive weapon system in human history—with a price tag now projected to be over $1 trillion. In July, an engine fire grounded the F-35 fleet and again delayed the planned debut of the plane. How it ended up in the Pentagon’s Middle East wish list is unclear.

“I think an inclination to use military action a lot is something the defense industry subscribes to because it helps to perpetuate an overall climate of permissiveness towards military spending,” says Ed Wasserman, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School for Journalism. Wasserman says that the media debate around IS has tilted towards more hawkish former military leaders, and that the public would be best served not only with better disclosure but also a more balanced set of opinions that would include how expanded air strikes could cause collateral civil casualties. “The past fifty years has a lot of evidence of the ineffectiveness of air power when it comes to dealing with a more nimble guerrilla-type adversary, and I’m not hearing this conversation,” he notes.

The pro-war punditry of retired generals has been the subject of controversy in the past. In a much-cited 2008 exposé, The New York Times revealed a network of retired generals on the payroll of defense contractors who carefully echoed the Bush administration’s Iraq war demands through appearances on cable television.

The paper’s coverage of the run-up to a renewed conflict in the region today has been notably measured, including many voices skeptical of calls for a more muscular military response to IS. Nonetheless, the Times has relied on research from a contractor-funded advocacy organization as part of its IS coverage. Reports produced by Keane’s ISW have been used to support six different infographics used for Times stories since June. The Times has not mentioned Keane’s potential conflict of interest or that ISW may have a vested stake in its policy positions. The Public Accountability Initiative notes that ISW’s corporate sponsors represent “a who’s who of the defense industry and includes Raytheon, SAIC, Palantir, General Dynamics, CACI, Northrop Grumman, DynCorp, and L-3 Communication.” As the business network CNBC reported this week, Raytheon in particular has much to gain from escalation in Iraq, as the company produces many of the missiles and radar equipment used in airstrikes.

In addition to providing reports and quotes for the media, ISW leaders have demanded a greater reaction to IS from the Obama administration. In The Weekly Standard this week, ISW president Kim Kagan wrote that President Obama’s call for a limited engagement against IS “has no chance of success.”

ISW’s willingness to push the envelope has gotten the organization into hot water before. In 2013, ISW suffered an embarrassing spectacle when one of its analysts, Elizabeth O’Bagy, was found to have inflated her academic credentials, touting a PhD from a Georgetown program that she had never entered.

But memories are short, and the media outlets now relying heavily on ISW research have done little to scrutinize the think tank’s policy goals. Over the last two years, ISW, including O’Bagy, were forcefully leading the push to equip Syrian rebels with advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to defeat Bashar al-Assad.

For Keane, providing arms to Syrian rebels, even anti-American groups, was a worthwhile gamble. In an interview with Fox Business Network in May of last year, Keane acknowledged that arming Syrian rebels might mean “weapons can fall into radical Islamists’ hands.” He continued, “It is true the radical Islamists have gained in power and influence mainly because we haven’t been involved and that is a fact, but it’s still true we have vetted some of these moderate rebel groups with the CIA, and I’m convinced we can—it’s still acceptable to take that risk, and let’s get on with changing momentum in the war.”
That acceptable risk Keane outlined has come to fruition. Recent reports now indicate that US-made weapons sent from American allies in the region to Syrian rebels have fallen into the hands of IS.

Keane, and ISW, is undeterred. The group just put out a call for 25,000 ground troops in Iraq and Syria.

25 September 2014

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KENYATAAN MEDIA
UNTUK EDARAN SEGERA
25 SEPT 2014

PENDAKWAAN AKTA HASUTAN TERHADAP PEGUAMBELA SAYA OLEH PENTADBIRAN NAJIB RAZAK MENGHALANG PENDENGARAN YANG ADIL DI MAHKAMAH PERSEKUTUAN

Saya rujuk rayuan saya terhadap sabitan kes Fitnah 2 yang akan didengar Mahkamah Persekutuan pada 28 dan 29 Oktober 2014.

Perkembangan mutakhir cukup menjejas hak saya untuk mendapatkan pendengaran yang adil di dalam rayuan yang akan datang ini. Pada 19 dan 28 Ogos 2014, peguambela saya N Surendran telah didakwa dua kali di bawah Akta Hasutan, dan kedua-dua dakwaan ini berkait langsung dengan kes rayuan saya ini.

Kedua-dua dakwaan tersebut melibatkan perkara-perkara yang dibangkitkan beliau yang merupakan sebahagian daripada pembelaan saya di dalam rayuan di peringkat Mahkamah Persekutuan ini. Dakwaan pertama berkait kritikan terhadap keputusan hakim Mahkamah Rayuan yang mensabitkan saya. Kritikan ini melibatkan hujah-hujah yang akan dibangkit peguambela saya di dalam rayuan yang akan datang ini.

Dakwaan kedua berkait kenyataan Surendran yang telah bercakap kepada media selepas pengurusan kes rayuan saya bahawa wujud satu konspirasi dalam dakwaan-dakwaan terhadap saya. Sekali lagi saya nyatakan bahawa dakwaan konspirasi adalah salah satu hujah pembelaan saya di mahkamah.

Di dalam kenyataan dari kandang tertuduh, sewaktu perbicaraan kes saya telah menyatakan:

“Keseluruhan proses ini tidak lain dan tidak bukan adalah satu konspirasi oleh Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak untuk menghilangkan saya dari persada politik dengan sekali lagi berusaha untuk memenjarakan saya. Oleh itu saya nyatakan bahawa saya tidak mempunyai kepercayaan bahawa keadilan akan ditegakkan dalam perbicaraan ini walaupun pasukan pembelaan telah berusaha bersungguh-sungguh. Sepertimana yang saya sebutkan sebelum ini, ini bukanlah satu perbicaraan jenayah. Ini adalah satu sandiwara yang dipentaskan pemerintah untuk memastikan saya tidak aktif dalam politik demi kelangsungan kekuasaan mereka.

Pada 1998, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad telah melakukan perkara ini dan tindakan ‘Machiavellian’ beliau menggunakan seluruh jentera Kerajaan telah memastikan saya dipenjarakan selama 15 tahun di atas kesalahan-kesalahan yang tidak pernah saya lakukan. Inilah kezaliman dan ketidakadilan yang telah diperlakukan terhadap saya dahulu. Dan inilah juga kezaliman dan ketidakadilan yang diteruskan hari ini.

Najib Razak melakukan perkara yang sama seperti mentornya, iaitu dengan mengerahkan keseluruhan jentera termasuk media, polis, Peguam Negara dan badan kehakiman untuk memastikan keadilan tidak ditegakkan dan saya dibuang dari persada politik tanah air.”

Kenapakah ia satu kesalahan jenayah untuk peguambela saya menyatakan hujah pembelaan saya?

Kenyataan-kenyataan peguam saya untuk membela saya kini dijadikan asas pendakwaan jenayah terhadap beliau. Ini satu penganiayaan. Ia jelas dilakukan untuk menakut-nakutkan pasukan pembelaan saya dan menghalang mereka dari melakukan tugas-tugas profesional serta mencabul hak saya dibawah perlembagaan untuk mendapat khidmat guaman yang baik.

Rayuan saya akan terjejas dan akan bersifat tidak adil dari saat ia dimulakan. Pendakwaan-pendakwaan terhadap Surendran ini hanya mengesahkan dakwaan konspirasi terhadap saya dan mengukuhkan kepercayaan bahawa pihak kerajaan berusaha sedaya upaya untuk memenjarakan saya.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

24 September 2014

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24 September 2014

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Amnesty International

The Malaysian authorities’ sedition investigation into opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is blatantly politically motivated and the latest move in a widespread crackdown on dissent using the colonial-era Sedition Act, Amnesty International said today.

Police in Malaysia this morning announced that they are re-opening a sedition investigation relating to  a speech given by Anwar Ibrahim, criticizing the government, made during a political rally in March 2011. He will be questioned by police on Friday 26 September 2014 and is, according to one of his lawyers, likely to be charged under the Sedition Act.

“This case is clearly political and smacks of persecution – the investigation should be dropped immediately. Anwar Ibrahim has been a favourite target of the authorities for more than a decade, and this appears to be the latest attempt to silence and harass a critical voice,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

Over the past months, Malaysian authorities have intensified their use of the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law that criminalizes criticism of the government, to target peaceful dissidents.

Two student activists have been sentenced under the Sedition Act in recent weeks. On 19 September, Adam Adli was sentenced to one year in prison, while Safwan Anang was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment on 5 September. In February, prominent human rights lawyer Karpal Singh was also found guilty of sedition. He passed away in a road traffic accident pending an appeal against his conviction.

At least 15 individuals – including activists, opposition politicians, journalists, students and academics – are currently facing charges under the Sedition Act and could face fines or imprisonment. Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer, Padang Serai MP N Surendran, is among those facing charges.

“The Sedition Act is an outdated and repressive piece of legislation that the authorities are using to target anyone who speaks out against those in power. It must be repealed immediately,” said Rupert Abbott.

“There has been a disturbing increase in the use of the Sedition Act over the past few months against individuals who have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions. This crackdown is creating a climate of fear in Malaysia and must end.”

In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak publically committed to repealing the draconian law stating that it represented “a bygone era”, but two years later his promise remains unfulfilled.

Additional information

Amnesty International has long expressed concerns about the 1948 Sedition Act. The law criminalizes a wide array of acts, including those “with a tendency to excite disaffection against any Ruler or government” or to “question any matter” protected by Malaysia’s Constitution. Those found guilty can face three years in jail, be fined up to MYR 5,000 (approximately USD 1,570) or both. It does not comply with international human rights law, and violates the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and also guaranteed in Article 10 of the Constitution.

23 September 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

Given what has happened in Selangor, it is perhaps instructive for us to go through the law and practice that regulate the appointment of, as well as the change in, a government.

Both the federal and state levels of government in Malaysia practice the Westminster mode of governance. As some of the states in the federation do not have hereditary monarchs, we actually have some little republics – namely Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak – within the same system.

Such is indeed an interesting subject for study. That, notwithstanding the powers given to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the rulers and the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, when it comes to appointing government, are actually the same.

For one thing such power is a creation of the Federal Constitution. Unlike the power pertaining to religion, for example. It is of course found in the constitution, but its origin is not from the Westminster convention.

As far as the power to appoint the government is concerned, it is the Westminster convention and practice that stand as the benchmark.

Indeed, this was the formula left behind by the Reid Commission. Such is also the case with the so-called discretion to dissolve the House. What is crucial here is that these powers should not be understood literally, unlike the notion of discretion in ordinary legislation. It goes without saying that the concept of discretion in the constitutional sense is quite different.

To argue otherwise would virtually render elections unnecessary. Such would also run counter to the principle of responsible government that is central in the parliamentary system like ours.

It also goes, within saying, that it is also within this framework that we have to discern the idea of constitutional monarchy.

As far as the rulers are concerned their power to appoint a menteri besar is different from the one they had in the constitutions framed under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948, under which they could just appoint anyone they pleased.

Under such a legal regime, the mentri besar appointed essentially holds office at the pleasure of the ruler concerned.

Then came constitutional monarchy

The position ceased to exist immediately after the constitutional monarchy came into being in 1959, the year the post-independence general election was held.

The notion of discretion on the part of the palace, as well as the power to dissolve the House, has to be understood within the framework of the parliamentary system, for which the prototype is the United Kingdom. Reference, the commission recommended, may also be made to other Commonwealth jurisdictions.

Having said that the law on the matter, whatever the provisions of the constitution say, is essentially this: that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the rulers and the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, have no say when there is a majority in the House and that majority group has indicated in whom their support for the head of government lies.

Their job in these situations is just to hand over the letter of appointment to the member of the House concerned. Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak (1984-2014, right) summed up the role of the palace here as merely “giving constitutional endorsement to the decision of the party in power”.

To say otherwise would run counter to the one provision that exists in all the federal or state constitutions: that the head of government – namely the prime minister, the menteri besar or the chief minister – does not hold office at the pleasure of the head of state.

This is the provision that stands as the pillar for the concept of responsible government in the cabinet system; something that differentiates the British system from the American one.

It was the adherence to the essence of the Westminster system that explained the reason why Queen Elizabeth II stayed in the background when Conservative leader David Cameron (left) and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg negotiated the terms for a coalition government after the 2010 British general election, where no party held an absolute majority to form the new government.

And as soon as the two parties agreed to their terms, the Queen just sent for the Conservative leader to form the government, upon which the caretaker government led by the outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Brown ceased to exist.

This incident was particularly significant for, at least from the perspective of the Malaysian constitution, as it could have revived her prerogative powers. But such was the discernment and tact the British Sovereign had; something that explained why she has often been said as “never put her foot wrong”.

It must be pointed out that, from the point of the palace as a constitutional monarch, it is unconstitutional for him to ignore the majority and to start screening the “candidates”.

Job of palace in a clear majority

A constitutional monarch has a crucial role to protect the constitution, but in order to do that he must not allow himself to be dragged into the mud. A monarch that is no longer seen as reigning above party politics would not be able to play the role of the father figure assumed by monarchs such as King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand.

In situations where there is a clear cut majority and one of them has already been named as the head of the government, the job of the palace is just to appoint that person.

In the words of Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, “(The Yang di-Pertuan Agong) appoints (and does not select) the Prime Minister. Correspondingly the Rulers at the state level appoint (the Menteri Besar).”

It was said that there was a certain amount of apprehension, given the personality of Labour leader who won the post-War general election in Britain. But somehow, the then British Sovereign – King George VI – set aside his personal feelings and chose to follow democratic dictates.

Similar patterns of ceremonies have prevailed in Malaysia at the federal level and these are indeed an overwhelming evidence of how the law is understood and practised in the country.

Thus it was not a mere coincidence that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong chose to stay aloof over the transfer of power between Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra and Abdul Razak Hussein in 1970.

As the former head of judiciary  Raja Azlan Shah said, His Majesty was just giving a constitutional approval for the decision made by Umno leaders. Another round of ritual was put on display when Razak died and his deputy Hussein Onn filled the shoes left by him.

Whatever happened between Hussein Onn and Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1981 the National Palace did not interfere and it just, as a matter of ritual, handed over the appointment letter to the Mahathir as the new prime minister.

And when Mahathir’s turn came in 2003, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong did not stand the in the way: his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came and collected the letter of appointment without any fuss. The same thing took place when Umno decided that Najib Razak should take over from Abdullah in 2009.

Similar patterns of events took place at the state levels, where the heads of state merely put into effect what has been decided by the majority party in the state assemblies. This year, two such incidents took place: in Sarawak in April and then in Terengganu in May.

Palace merely stamped majority decisions

It was apparent that in all those instances, the palace merely presided a formal ceremony that gave the decision made by the majority party a stamp of constitutional approval.

And this should have also been the case in Selangor in 2014, when PKR decided to sack Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim. Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who has put up 30 signed declarations of support in her favour, should have been allowed to go through the rituals that took place at federal level, as elaborated above.

It is perhaps worth mentioning one incident involving former prime minister Razak Hussein and Sultan Idris Shah of Perak after the 1974 general election. Razak insisted on the appointment of one Ghazali Jawi as the state menteri besar, something that he knew was unacceptable to the ruler.

As it happened, Razak persisted and, amazingly enough, the latter relented. In Selangor too the appointments of governments have been plain sailing in the foregoing years.

In fact, when Abu Hassan Omar was submitted as the menteri besar designate to replace Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who had to resign in 1997, the Abu Hassan was not even a member of Selangor State ssembly: he was still a minister in the Mahathir administration.

Later, when the more experienced Abu Hassan but was said to be uncooperative in the acquisition of Putrajaya, Umno replaced him with a rookie, the unknown Dr Mohd Khir Toyo. On both occasions the Selangor palace could have put up some constitutional questions – but it somehow it chose to go by the Umno decisions.

As such, what has happened since early August, including the snub on Anwar’s request to have an audience on Aug 10, was rather puzzling. And more so when the palace secretary made it clear last week that it was a practice for the p[rime minister to be given an audience to present the candidate for the menteri besar’s office.

Appointment given based on party position

It must be pointed out that the audience granted to the prime minister was on the basis of his position as party leader, not as the head of the federal government. Therefore, constitutionally speaking, similar treatment should have been accorded to Anwar as leader of the Pakatan Rakyat, the majority party in the Selangor State Legislature.

Admittedly, there could be situations where the monarch, even as constitutional monarch, might assume a proactive role. Not to pursue personal interests, but to protect democracy and constitutionally.

This was the background for my answer to those who cited the refusal of the Sultan Terengganu to abide by the majority rule in 2008 to justify what happened in Selangor in 2014.

I have admitted, however, that the ruler was in no doubt wrong on the appointment rule, but he might be entitled to be given the benefit of the doubt given the character of the incumbent, the candidate submitted by Umno for the post of menteri besar.

The same could be said with regard to the Perlis case. In fact, here, the ruler might even be saved by the appointment rules themselves. The ruler of Perlis, to my mind, has a stronger ground to ignore the name submitted by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the then Umno president.

However, having said that, it must be admitted that those deviations must not stand as the standard rule; it has to be treated as a mere exception and this only applies when the system has yet to become fully democratic and transparent.

One has to admit that given the lack of institutional support in Malaysia, there are times when we have to rely on the palace to do the unthinkable: to prevent the corrupt and autocratic candidates from assuming the post. However, it has to be said that Wan Azizah does not fall into this category.

In any case the palace should have granted Anwar a hearing, should it have reservations about her. This was what the ruler of Perak did in 1974, though Razak went on to insist on his choice.

Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, it may be said now that given that Tunku Abdul Rahman did not take the move to unseat him lying down, the National Palace could have delayed the replacement process.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the outgoing premier argued then, queried the need to impose emergency. In fact, more questions can be asked now: such as, why the deputy and not the prime minister himself, who presented the advice to declare emergency?

Whatever the answers to these questions, it has to be stated that there were two different Yang di-Pertuan Agong at that point of time. The one who declared the emergency was the Sultan of Terengganu, while the one presiding the change of prime minister was the Sultan of Kedah, who, incidentally, is now serving as the head of the federation for the second time.

Back to Selangor, it is really disturbing to see certain quarters putting up banners and organising rallies supporting the palace for reasons that may not be constitutional.

The more so when this is led by characters such as the Selangor Umno strongman Noh Omar. Does he not realise that it was Umno, after losing Kelantan in the 1990 general election, that once demanded that the rulers’ power to appoint the menteri besar be abolished?

22 September 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Guardian

Thomas Piketty is a French economist whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century has swept American discourse. Four experts – Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen, Stephanie Kelton and Emanuel Derman – take on why that is

There’s been a bizarre phenomenon this year: a young, little-known French economist has written a 700-page tome about economic inequality – dense with data, historical examples from France, and a few literary references to Jane Austen.

That’s not the strange part. This is: it’s a bestseller.

Somehow, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty has become a conversation piece among well-read people. Its graphic red-and-ivory cover is inescapable. Early in its launch, it hit No 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and the paper version – a doorstop in punishing, heavy hardcover – sold out in major bookstores.

Piketty’s main argument is this: that invested capital – in the stock market, in real estate – will grow faster than income.

The implications of that are deep: to have invested capital, you must have money already. If you rely on income, as most people do, you will likely never catch up to the wealth of people who are already rich. The 1% and the 99% enshrined by Occupy are not an anomaly of our time, Piketty’s research suggests. It’s a structural feature of capitalism. Piketty’s work – which has been in progress for over a decade – is a natural pairing with the Occupy movement, which also questions the premises of capitalism.

You can see the appeal of such an argument, which has driven the book to become a cultural touchpoint. Seattle quoted Piketty in its minimum-wage law. The book has had so many reviews and articles that it’s possible for someone to feel as if they have read it even without cracking the cover.

Which raises the question: why this book? The themes that Piketty brings up have been enshrined in discussion about progressive economists for decades. No fewer than three Nobel Prize winners – Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Robert Solow – have all devoted much of their careers to studying inequality. On Friday, 19 September, I moderated a panel at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth that included Solow as well as economists Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts. For 90 minutes, they hammered out the implications of Piketty’s work — and the discussion ended with much more to say.

I decided to ask star economists and finance experts who have devoted their careers to issues of inequality and the American economy: why is Thomas Piketty a bestseller? Is he required reading? Their thoughtful responses are below, and they include some surprises – including one who has decided not to read Piketty at all.

Oh, and it’s pronounced like this: Tome-AH PEEK-a-tee. Now, over to the experts.

Stephanie Kelton

Stephanie Kelton is chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is also editor-in-chief of the top-ranked blog New Economic Perspectives.

What explains the Piketty phenomenon? The book, which has sold more hardcopies than its e-book alternative, commands so much real estate that it will crowd out a few old favorites when it takes a stand on your shelf. The title, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, doesn’t exactly carry the titillating allure of a bestseller like, say, Fifty Shades of Grey. It looks and sounds like what it is – a scholarly tome that sets out to investigate changing patterns of ownership in the economy’s most dominant resource, capital. Who owns the world’s stock of tangible and financial assets, where did they get them, and how did the distribution of ownership change through time?

While it is easy to see why a book like this would receive such intense interest from economists, who are engineered to concern themselves with questions like these, it is, perhaps, more difficult to understand how Capital became a book that would top the summer reading lists of thousands of beach-bound, working class adults. My own guess is that Capital was the right book at the right time.

The Occupy movement laid the groundwork for a great debate. What was happening to America? Were we witnessing the rise of a plutocracy or the emergence of a meritocracy? Chris Hayes and Joe Stiglitz made the case on the left, while Tyler Cowen and David Brooks provided a counter-narrative for the right. Both sides had a loyal following, but it was Piketty whose meticulous examination of the evidence, seemed to provide the impartial proof audiences were craving. The left was right. The wealthy owed their fortunes to their forefathers and the Congressman who wrote the loopholes for their tax accountants to exploit. It’s a conclusion that confirmed many priors, which probably explains much of its success.

Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen is professor of economics at George Mason University and author of the recent book Average is Over.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been a hit for several reasons, most notably the quality of the work. But I’d like to focus on a neglected reason why the book has found so much support, namely it appears to strengthen the case for redistribution.

Most previous commentators focused on income inequality. Bill Gates or JK Rowling have earned more than CEOs or authors in the past, while incomes in the middle class or lower middle classes are often stagnating below what previous generations could expect. That’s a labor market issue – namely that some individuals are not very much demanded by employers.

The obvious questions are then a) how can we make low-earners more productive, and also b) how can we improve education?

Perhaps most importantly, as these issues get processed by the public there is a common attitude – whether justified or not – that many of the lower earners are partially or fully responsible for their own plight. The egalitarians don’t tend to win these policy debates.

In the simplest version of the Piketty model, wealth grows more quickly than does the economy as a whole and thus the picture changes. The relative losers are no longer low earners but rather anyone who is not a capitalist. Any disparity is due not to their shortcomings in labor markets but rather to their lack of a high initial endowment.

Furthermore redistribution will work like a charm, at least provided the redistribution is enough to give the poorer individuals some capital to invest.

If you are an activist who favors lots of redistribution, the Piketty story is a lot easier to tell yourself and to tell your audiences – and that is yet another reason for its popularity.

Emanuel Derman

Emanuel Derman is a professor at Columbia University, where he directs the program in financial engineering. His latest book is Models.Behaving.Badly: Why Confusing Illusion with Reality Can Lead to Disasters, On Wall Street and in Life – one of Business Week’s top ten books of 2011.

Economists are the new nuclear physicists, turned to by governments for advice as though they are heirs to the power of the scientists who created Hiroshima. Macroeconomists now advise central banks on monetary policy, and behavioral economists tell political parties and governments how to nudge citizens to do what politicians and economists deem to be right.

I make my living teaching finance, the branch of economics concerned with putting a value on assets such as stocks, bonds, mortgages and options.

Though I should, I can’t bring myself to read Thomas Piketty.

I wish I could. I have nothing against him or his work, which seems well-intentioned and directed at improving human welfare. I am just spiritually weary of the ubiquitous cockiness of economists, though Piketty sounds as though he’s less guilty of this than most of the pundits in the daily papers.

The best model in my field, finance, is the Black-Scholes model of options pricing, which, according to Steve Ross, an MIT economist himself, “ … is the most successful theory not only in finance, but in all of economics.” I’ve spent most of my professional life working on options theory, and I understand it well. More importantly, I understand its limitations in describing the behavior of complex human beings and markets via simple assumptions and mathematics. But limited though it is, finance is much more reliable than economics.

Economics is the study of how to utilize limited resources to achieve good ends. And good, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, defined by humans. But economists don’t agree with each other about ends or means. They can’t agree on the efficacy of money printing or austerity. They keep changing their minds every few years about conventional wisdom while at every instant appearing to be certain that they are right. My gripe with economists is not that their models don’t work well – they don’t, look at the role of central banks in the financial crisis – but that they seem so reluctant to acknowledge the riskiness of their advice. And yet, beware their fearsome unelected power. Anyone visiting from Mars last year and asking to be taken to our leader would undoubtedly expect to meet Bernanke.

As a result their public arguments have an incestuous yet masturbatory quality that is exhausting to follow. The only field more self-confidently but just as regularly wrong as economics is nutrition, whose recommendations to shun butter/margarine or red meat/carbohydrates regularly reverse themselves.

Natural scientists (physicists, chemists, biologists) have had frightful power, and not always used it well. But at least they can more or less agree about truth and efficacy. Economists cannot, except by using statistical regressions which are often flawed and prove little.

So I cannot currently bring myself to read over 600 pages by an economist. One day I do hope to read Piketty’s book.

J Bradford DeLong

Brad DeLong was a deputy assistant secretary of the treasury from 1993-1995, and is now a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, a research associate of the NBER and a blogger for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

I like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century a lot. It follows Larry Summers’s advice – which I have always thought wise – that the further ahead in time we want to forecast, the further back in time we should look. It deals with very big and important questions. It takes a broad moral-philosophical view, rather than a narrow technical-economist view. It combines history, quantitative estimation, social science theory, and a deep concern with societal welfare in a way that is too rare these days.

But I thought it would be a book for a narrow audience: me and a few others. I expected people who did not have the souls of accountants to start to snore at Piketty’s numbers, numbers, numbers and more numbers.

What we can think about is why the soil was fertile: why was there the potential for a mass-audience viral explosion of interest in Capital in the Twenty-First Century rather than our standard set of viral propagation memes – cat videos and Buzzfeed’s Twenty-Seven Things You Won’t Regret When You Are Older?

I confess that I do not know. I do have a guess. My guess is that the book-buying upper-middle class of America today is greatly distressed when it looks at the world around it, specifically at two things.

The first is that our society today is largely failing its non-migrant non-college-completing majority, in that for all of our cheap electronic toys, life is no easier than it was a generation ago in spite of an enormous explosion of technology and productivity.

The second is that they now know of a plutocracy that did not use to exist and makes us very uneasy. Last generation’s Michigan governor and American Motors president George Romney lived in a large-but-not-abnormal house and bossed a company that created lots of good jobs at good wages. This generation’s Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital CEO Mitt Romney has seven houses worth perhaps $25m in total, and bossed a company whose core business model appears to have been exploiting legal anomalies like the fact that pension funds have little control over their money after it’s invested.

And because the book-buying upper-middle class does not trust the entrenched positions of America’s ideologues, they are looking for fresh thinking – which a foreigner like Piketty, whose positions are not those of any large American political faction, provides.

Now Piketty’s grand argument may be wrong. It could be that in the future, capital will turn out to complement rather than substitute for labor, and the wealth accumulation of plutocrats will generate their self-euthanasia as a social class by pushing down the rate of profit.

It could turn out that growing fortunes will be a lot harder in the future than Piketty thinks it will. It could turn out that our plutocrats as a social class will decide to play the status game of spend-their-money-and-change-the-world rather than enrich great-grandchildren that they will never see.

My guess is that the grimmer elements of Piketty’s forecast have only a 50-50 chance of coming true even if plutocrats achieve and maintain a lock on politics for the next three generations. But that is much more than enough to worry about the scenario he paints, and figure out how to guard against it.

22 September 2014

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TMI

From all accounts it appears that the Selangor palace has shortlisted three potential candidates for the post of the next Selangor menteri besar (MB), to bring to a close the crisis that has been raging for these several weeks past.

The question on everyone’s lips is, will the crisis be finally resolved?

More importantly, are we about to witness the reordering of the fundamental construct on which our Constitution is based?

These questions are raised in the context of the fact that none of the three candidates, on the face of it, have thus far been shown to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the legislative assembly.

And this “majority command” – on high established legal authority – appears to be the only criteria for the appointment of an MB.

This is what a “constitutional monarchy” in the context of our Federal Constitution is all about.

Many on high have elaborated on the exercise of the discretion by the Sultan in appointing an MB – from the chief justice (“must appoint someone who has the command and confidence of the majority of the members of the state assembly”) to former lord president, Raja Azlan Shah (the king‘s role “no more than giving constitutional endorsement to the decision of the party in power”).

Undoubtedly, His Royal Highness has his own mechanism for ascertaining who in His judgment commands majority confidence. This should be made readily transparent to avoid the risk of an unsettling disquiet by the people. Unexplained, it may spawn constitutional complexities and possible challenges which may unduly extend, rather than resolve, the crisis.

This is especially crucial since, so far, majority support has been demonstrated through acceptable legal means for only a single named candidate from the ruling party.

22 September 2014

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Politico Magazine

“Arab civilization has collapsed. It won’t recover in my lifetime.”

With his decision to use force against the violent extremists of the Islamic State, President Obama is doing more than to knowingly enter a quagmire. He is doing more than play with the fates of two half-broken countries—Iraq and Syria—whose societies were gutted long before the Americans appeared on the horizon. Obama is stepping once again—and with understandably great reluctance—into the chaos of an entire civilization that has broken down.

Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms. With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf—which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos—and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

Is it any surprise that, like the vermin that take over a ruined city, the heirs to this self-destroyed civilization should be the nihilistic thugs of the Islamic State? And that there is no one else who can clean up the vast mess we Arabs have made of our world but the Americans and Western countries?

No one paradigm or one theory can explain what went wrong in the Arab world in the last century. There is no obvious set of reasons for the colossal failures of all the ideologies and political movements that swept the Arab region: Arab nationalism, in its Baathist and Nasserite forms; various Islamist movements; Arab socialism; the rentier state and rapacious monopolies, leaving in their wake a string of broken societies. No one theory can explain the marginalization of Egypt, once the center of political and cultural gravity in the Arab East, and its brief and tumultuous experimentation with peaceful political change before it reverted back to military rule.

Nor is the notion of “ancient sectarian hatreds” adequate to explain the frightening reality that along a front stretching from Basra at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Beirut on the Mediterranean there exists an almost continuous bloodletting between Sunni and Shia—the public manifestation of an epic geopolitical battle for power and control pitting Iran, the Shia powerhouse, against Saudi Arabia, the Sunni powerhouse, and their proxies.

There is no one single overarching explanation for that tapestry of horrors in Syria and Iraq, where in the last five years more than a quarter of a million people perished, where famed cities like Aleppo, Homs and Mosul were visited by the modern terror of Assad’s chemical weapons and the brutal violence of the Islamic State. How could Syria tear itself apart and become—like Spain in the 1930s—the arena for Arabs and Muslims to re-fight their old civil wars? The war waged by the Syrian regime against civilians in opposition areas combined the use of Scud missiles, anti-personnel barrel bombs as well as medieval tactics against towns and neighborhoods such as siege and starvation. For the first time since the First World War, Syrians were dying of malnutrition and hunger.

Iraq’s story in the last few decades is a chronicle of a death foretold. The slow death began with Saddam Hussein’s fateful decision to invade Iran in September 1980. Iraqis have been living in purgatory ever since with each war giving birth to another. In the midst of this suspended chaos, the U.S. invasion in 2003 was merely a catalyst that allowed the violent chaos to resume in full force.

The polarizations in Syria and Iraq—political, sectarian and ethnic—are so deep that it is difficult to see how these once-important countries could be restored as unitary states. In Libya, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s 42-year reign of terror rendered the country politically desolate and fractured its already tenuous unity. The armed factions that inherited the exhausted country have set it on the course of breaking up—again, unsurprisingly—along tribal and regional fissures. Yemen has all the ingredients of a failed state: political, sectarian, tribal, north-south divisions, against the background of economic deterioration and a depleted water table that could turn it into the first country in the world to run out of drinking water.

Bahrain is maintaining a brittle status quo by the force of arms of its larger neighbors, mainly Saudi Arabia. Lebanon, dominated by Hezbollah, arguably the most powerful non-state actor in the world—before the rise of the Islamic State—could be dragged fully to the maelstrom of Syria’s multiple civil wars by the Assad regime, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah as well as the Islamic State.

A byproduct of the depredation of the national security state and resurgent Islamism has been the slow death of the cosmopolitanism that distinguished great Middle Eastern cities like Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo and Damascus. Alexandria was once a center of learning and multicultural delights (by night, Mark Twain wrote in Innocents Abroad, “it was a sort of reminiscence of Paris”). Today Alexandria is a hotbed of political Islam, now that the once large Greek-Egyptian community has fled along with the other non-Arab and non-Muslim communities. Beirut, once the most liberal city in the Levant, is struggling to maintain a modicum of openness and tolerance while being pushed by Hezbollah to become a Tehran on the Med. Over the last few decades, Islamists across the region have encouraged—and pressured—women to wear veils, men to show signs of religiosity, and subtly and not-so-subtly intimidated non-conformist intellectuals and artists. Egypt today is bereft of good universities and research centers, while publishing unreadable newspapers peddling xenophobia and hyper-nationalism. Cairo no longer produces the kind of daring and creative cinema that pioneers like the critically acclaimed director Youssef Chahine made for more than 60 years. Egyptian society today cannot tolerate a literary and intellectual figure like Taha Hussein, who towered over Arab intellectual life from the 1920s until his death in 1973, because of his skepticism about Islam. Egyptian society cannot reconcile itself today to the great diva Asmahan (1917-1944) singing to her lover that “my soul, my heart, and my body are in your hand.” In the Egypt of today, a chanteuse like Asmahan would be hounded and banished from the country.

***

The jihadists of the Islamic State, in other words, did not emerge from nowhere. They climbed out of a rotting, empty hulk—what was left of a broken-down civilization. They are a gruesome manifestation of a deeper malady afflicting Arab political culture, which was stagnant, repressive and patriarchal after the decades of authoritarian rule that led to the disastrous defeat in the 1967 war with Israel. That defeat sounded the death knell of Arab nationalism and the resurgence of political Islam, which projected itself as the alternative to the more secular ideologies that had dominated the Arab republics since the Second World War. If Arab decline was the problem, then “Islam is the solution,” the Islamists said—and they believed it.

At their core, both political currents—Arab nationalism and Islamism—are driven by atavistic impulses and a regressive outlook on life that is grounded in a mostly mythologized past. Many Islamists, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (the wellspring of such groups)—whether they say it explicitly or hint at it—are still on a ceaseless quest to resurrect the old Ottoman Caliphate. Still more radical types—the Salafists—yearn for a return to the puritanical days of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. For most Islamists, democracy means only majoritarian rule, and the rule of sharia law, which codifies gender inequality and discrimination against non-Muslims.

And let’s face the grim truth: There is no evidence whatever that Islam in its various political forms is compatible with modern democracy. From Afghanistan under the Taliban to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and from Iran to Sudan, there is no Islamist entity that can be said to be democratic, just or a practitioner of good governance. The short rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under the presidency of Mohamed Morsi was no exception. The Brotherhood tried to monopolize power, hound and intimidate the opposition and was driving the country toward a dangerous impasse before a violent military coup ended the brief experimentation with Islamist rule.

Like the Islamists, the Arab nationalists—particularly the Baathists—were also fixated on a “renaissance” of past Arab greatness, which had once flourished in the famed cities of Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Córdoba in Al-Andalus, now Spain. These nationalists believed that Arab language and culture (and to a lesser extent Islam) were enough to unite disparate entities with different levels of social, political and cultural development. They were in denial that they lived in a far more diverse world. Those minorities that resisted the primacy of Arab identity were discriminated against, denied citizenship and basic rights, and in the case of the Kurds in Iraq were subjected to massive repression and killings of genocidal proportion. Under the guise of Arab nationalism the modern Arab despot (Saddam, Qaddafi, the Assads) emerged. But these men lived in splendid solitude, detached from their own people. The repression and intimidation of the societies they ruled over were painfully summarized by the gifted Syrian poet Muhammad al-Maghout: “I enter the bathroom with my identity papers in my hand.”

The dictators, always unpopular, opened the door to the Islamists’ rise when they proved just as incompetent as the monarchs they had replaced. That, again, came in 1967 after the crushing defeat of Nasserite Egypt and Baathist Syria at the hands of Israel. From that moment on Arab politics began to be animated by various Islamist parties and movements. The dictators, in their desperation to hold onto their waning power, only became more brutal in the 1980s and ‘90s. But the Islamists kept coming back in new and various shapes and stripes, only to be crushed again ever more ferociously.

The year 1979 was a watershed moment for political Islam. An Islamic revolution exploded in Iran, provoked in part by decades of Western support for the corrupt shah. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and a group of bloody zealots occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks. After these cataclysmic events political Islam became more atavistic in its Sunni manifestations and more belligerent in its Shia manifestations. Saudi Arabia, in order to reassert its fundamentalist “wahhabi” ethos, became stricter in its application of Islamic law, and increased its financial aid to ultraconservative Islamists and their schools throughout the world. The Islamization of the war in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation—a project organized and financed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan—triggered a tectonic change in the political map of South Asia and the Middle East. The Afghan war was the baptism of fire for terrorist outfits like the Egyptian Islamic Group and al Qaeda, the progenitors of the Islamic State.

This decades-long struggle for legitimacy between the dictators and the Islamists meant that when the Arab Spring uprisings began in early 2011, there were no other political alternatives. You had only the Scylla of the national security state and the Charybdis of political Islam. The secularists and liberals, while playing the leading role in the early phase of the Egyptian uprisings, were marginalized later by the Islamists who, because of their political experience as an old movement, won parliamentary and presidential elections. In a region shorn of real political life it was difficult for the admittedly divided and not very experienced liberals and secularists to form viable political parties.

So no one should be surprised that the Islamists and the remnants of the national security state have dominated Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. In the end, the uprising removed the tip of the political pyramid—Mubarak and some of his cronies—but the rest of the repressive structure, what the Egyptians refer to as the “deep state” (the army, security apparatus, the judiciary, state media and vested economic interests), remained intact. After the failed experiment of Muslim Brotherhood rule, a bloody coup in 2013 completed the circle and brought Egypt back under the control of a retired general.

In today’s Iraq, too, the failure of a would-be authoritarian—recently departed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki—has contributed to the rise of the Islamists. The Islamic State is exploiting the alienated Arab Sunni minority, which feels marginalized and disenfranchised in an Iraq dominated by the Shia for the first time in its history and significantly influenced by Iran.

Almost every Muslim era, including the enlightened ones, has been challenged by groups that espouse a virulent brand of austere, puritanical and absolutist Islam. They have different names, but are driven by the same fanatical, atavistic impulses. The great city of Córdoba, one of the most advanced cities in Medieval Europe, was sacked and plundered by such a group (Al Mourabitoun) in 1013, destroying its magnificent palaces and its famed library. In the 1920s the Ikhwan Movement in Arabia (no relation to the Egyptian movement) was so fanatical that the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who collaborated with them initially, had to crush them later on. In contemporary times, these groups include the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Yes, it is misleading to lump—as some do—all Islamist groups together, even though all are conservative in varying degrees. As terrorist organizations, al Qaeda and Islamic State are different from the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative movement that renounced violence years ago, although it did dabble with violence in the past.

Nonetheless, most of these groups do belong to the same family tree—and all of them stem from the Arabs’ civilizational ills. The Islamic State, like al Qaeda, is the tumorous creation of an ailing Arab body politic. Its roots run deep in the badlands of a tormented Arab world that seems to be slouching aimlessly through the darkness. It took the Arabs decades and generations to reach this nadir. It will take us a long time to recover—it certainly won’t happen in my lifetime. My generation of Arabs was told by both the Arab nationalists and the Islamists that we should man the proverbial ramparts to defend the “Arab World” against the numerous barbarians (imperialists, Zionists, Soviets) massing at the gates. Little did we know that the barbarians were already inside the gates, that they spoke our language and were already very well entrenched in the city.

18 September 2014

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KENYATAAN MEDIA
UNTUK EDARAN SEGERA
18 SEPTEMBER 2014

PENJELASAN MENGENAI AMALAN (CONVENTION)

Merujuk kenyataan Y. Bhg. Dato’ Hj. Mohamad Munir Bin Bani dan Istana Selangor mengenai soal amalan (convention), ingin saya jelaskan: saya hanya menyatakan apa yang berlaku dalam pengetahuan saya terutama sepanjang saya dalam kerajaan UMNO-BN, sejak 1982 hingga 1998. Sekiranya ada kekhilafan berlaku, saya mohon ampun dari DYMM Sultan Selangor.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

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