Did Malaysia take the world for a ride and won the highest-ever 187 votes to be elected non-permanent member of UNSC under false pretences that we are a role model for moderation when moderation is under unprecedented attack?
First, I want to commend Malaysia for being elected for the third time and with the highest-ever 187 votes to be a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Regrettably however, Malaysia is not living up to the high international standards of moderation which Najib has set for the world despite the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s repeated statement that Malaysia’s election into the UNSC for the third time with such high votes was testimony of world recognition of Malaysia as a role model for other countries in the practice of moderation.
Have we taken the world for a ride and secured such high votes to be elected UNSC non-permanent member under false pretences that Malaysia is the very model of moderation against extremism, when in actual fact, Malaysia as a model of a peaceful, stable and harmonious multi-racial and multi-religious nation has never come under more intense unprecedented attack in the nation’s 57-year history resulting in moderation in retreat?
The volume, frequency and venom of hate speech on race and religion, promoting extremism and religious intolerance in the country in the past four years had outpaced all such hate speech in the country in the previous four decades.
The evidence of such immoderation and the rise of hate speech, extremism and intolerance posing unprecedented threat to moderation have been piling up relentlessly - in fact, in the ten days since Malaysia’s election as UNSC non-permanent member, there have been over a dozen examples of moderation under threat and attack by hate speech, extremism and intolerance.
The first most outstanding example is the current case of activist Ali Abdul Jalil, the victim of multiple sedition charges, who had to flee Malaysia and seek asylum and protection in Sweden because of oppression from authorities and gangsters.
Ali told Malaysiakini yesterday from Sweden via instant messenger that he feared for his life.
He said: "The police, gangsters, Perkasa, Malay right-wing groups, Umno groups are all looking for me, some of them have threatened to kill me and to beat me.
"Some even say that I am a traitor and I am not supposed to be treated like a person.
"Most of the Malay groups (such as) Perkasa are saying that I am rubbish and the police are not protecting me."
Ali said it was this sense of helplessness that finally pushed him to leave.
He said that whether he is granted asylum or not, he will not give up his Malaysian citizenship.
He said: "I am still a Malaysian and I am so proud to be a Malaysian because Malaysia is my home and my parents, family, brothers and sisters are still in Malaysia"
The day he returns home, he said, would be the day the ruling coalition falls from power.
"Hopefully the current Umno will collapse and when the government in Malaysia changes, I wish I can go back.”
Which MP dare to say he is more Malaysian than Ali, that he would not flee the country for political asylum in another country if he cannot get justice in the country and is in fear for the safety of his life?
Last month another Malaysian, Alvin Tan, who faces criminal charges under the Sedition Act and the Film Censorship for controversial online uploads, announced that he was seeking asylum after fleeing to the United States
I do not condone the offences of Ali and Alvin if they had committed offences, but something is very wrong and sick with our nation when they have to flee the country to seek asylum in a foreign land because they won’t get justice in Malaysia and even more serious, in fear of their lives.
Can any MP tell me of another Malaysian who had to flee Malaysia because he cannot get justice in the Malaysian courts, or even worse, in fear of his life because he was not safe in the country under anyone of the five previous Prime Ministers of Malaysia - Tunku, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah?
If there was not a single citizen under the five previous Prime Ministers who had to flee the country either because he cannot get justice in the country or in fear of his life, this is a terrible indictment on the governance and the practice of moderation under the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia!
The second example of the rise of hatred, extremism and intolerance is the case of the Organiser of the ‘I want to touch a dog’ event Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who had has been inundated with an avalanche of thousands of death threats and other hateful messages within hours of holding the controversial event, whether on his WhatsApp, phone or Facebook.
Wild and defamatory statements have also been leveled against Syed Azman and others involved in the event, which among others alleged that Syed Azmi is a Shiite or that he is a Christian or that he was trying to promote liberalism.
One can agree or disagree with the dog event organized by Syed Azmi, but what is completely impermissible are the deaths threats and the wild, baseless and defamatory allegations let loose against Syed Azmi on the social media.
Azmi has already lodged a report with the police and another with the Malaysian Communications Multi-Media Commission (MCMC) on Oct. 22.
It is shocking that the Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Shabery Cheek could “wash” his hands and disclaim responsibility, stating that MCMC won’t be acting against the death and violent threats against Azmi as this was the job of the police.
But Shabery’s lame excuse had not stopped the MCMC from acting immediately when the Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukriz Mahathir received death threats online earlier this year, resulting in the arrest of the blogger concerned within 24 hours of the lodging of the police report.
Moderation does not mean double standards in the upholding of law and order which undermines public confidence in the system of governance and justice in the country.
The third example of the deviation from moderation is the Universiti of Malaya clampdown to ban Anwar Ibrahim from giving a talk in the university this evening and the issue of a show cause letter to the Universiti Malaya Students' Association president Fahmi Zainol, over the programme entitled '40 Years: From Universiti Malaya to Jail'.
The University of Malaya seems more concerned in violating the academic freedom of students and academicians in the campus than ensuring that it restore its previous international reputation for academic excellence.
Recently, for the fifth year in succession since the launching of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings in 2010, not a single university including the University of Malaya had made it into the THE Top 400 University Rankings.
Unfortunately, this did not even rate a mention in the 2015 Budget speech although the Najib had challenged the University of Malaya nine years ago to be among the world’s Top 50 universities by year 2020, which is only five years away.
Three weeks ago, Najib twittered congratulations to the five Malaysian universities which were ranked higher in the Top 400 of the QS World University Ranking 2014, namely University of Malaya (UM) ranked 167 last year to 151; University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) from 269 to 259; University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) from 355 to 294; Universiti Sains Malaysia from 355 to 309; Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) from 411-420 to 376.
But there has been a deafening silence from Najib as well as from the DPM-cum- Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin this whole month over the exclusion of Malaysian universities in Top 400 in THE University Ranking 2014-2015.
Arguments which have been advanced to justify the boycott of UM and UKM in the THE Top 400 World University Rankings while continuing to participate in the QS World University Rankings are very weak and most untenable.
Would UM and UKM be excluded from the THE Top 400 altogether if they participate?
Four other Malaysian universities had participated in the THE World University Ranking 2014-5, but none made it into the Top 400 of the THE rankings.
It will be real shame to both UM and UKM if anyone of the four other Malaysian universities had succeeded in being ranked among the THE Top 400.
Although Najib challenged University of Malaya to be ranked among the Top 50 universities when he was Deputy Prime Minister in 2005, the former University of Malaya Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Professor Dr Ghauth Jasmon, had set a more realistic target when he was heading the university from 2008 to 2013 – to enter QS World University Ranking’s Top 100 by 2015.
Can UM achieve Ghauth’s target of entering Top 100 in QS World University Ranking next year?
This is an impossible mission, as UM’s best QS ranking is 151 this year.
University of Malaya should be more concerned why it has failed to achieve the much lower target set by Ghauth to be among the world’s Top 100 Universities (QS) by 2015, not to mention the Prime Minister’s superlative target to be among the Top 50 universities in the world by 2020, instead of trying to stop Anwar from returning as an alma mater to the University of Malaya this evening.
The fourth instance of the retreat of moderation in Malaysia is the deafening silence, whether from the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General, over the worst crisis of confidence in the nation’s history over the role and powers of the Attorney-General (AG).
This is the result of the escalating controversy over non-prosecution of Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali for his threat to burn the Malay-language Bible on the one hand and the sedition blitzkrieg against scores of Malaysians who had made inoffensive and non-incendiary statements to create a climate of fear on the other.
The continued absence of satisfactory accountability and acceptable explanation on the arbitrary abuse of the AG’s prosecutorial discretion not to prosecute Ibrahim Ali for the threat to burn the Malay-language Bible and the mass sedition blitzkrieg have raised serious questions whether the Attorney-General is committed to uphold the Rule of Law and to act as guardian of the public interest – the mark of a nation committed to the principles of wasatiyyah or moderation, in particular the qualities of balance, justice and excellence.
Clearly, there had been a change of prosecution policy on sedition cases, as this was rare before Najib’s premiership. Parliament and the nation is entitled to know and debate the reasons for such a fundamental change in the prosecution policy for sedition cases, but there has only been silence so far.
Gani’s predecessors as Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib from 1980 to 1993 and Tan Sri Mokhtar Abdullah (1994 – 2000) had their controversies when they served under the country’s most controversial Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir but Gani Patail had put both Talib and Mokhtar in the shade both in the volume and gravity of controversies since becoming AG in 2002.
Gani has gained another distinction of having been criticized by his predecessor, as last month Talib excoriated Gani Patail for undertaking to review the sedition cases against Pakatan Rakyat leaders, academicians and social activists like Prof Dr. Azmi Sharom after the charges were framed, as the barrage of sedition charges came across as “persecution” and not “prosecution”.
It is now seven weeks since Gani responded on Sept 9 to massive public outrage at the sedition blitzkrieg, announcing that the AG’s Chambers would review the sedition charges against Azmi and others, but nothing has been forthcoming on the outcome of this review, or whether such a review had taken place.
Do the Prime Minister or the de facto law Minister Nancy Shukri (Batang Sadong) know anything about this review of the sedition charges by the AG’s Chambers, or are they completely in the dark as they are unable to demand any accountability from the AG’s Chambers apart from reading their prepared answers in Parliament?
MPs and the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether in the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion on the basis of ‘public interest’, are these purely legal considerations or they also involve “political” considerations, and if so, the nature of these “political” considerations.
The recent letter by the Court of Appeal Judge, K.C.Vohrah on “Doubt in the administration of justice” (Star October 23, 2014) express the legitimate nagging concerns in many minds.
Vohrah, who had been with the AG’s Chambers for 16 years in the 70s and early 80s, said the AG’s prosecutorial discretion under Article 145(3) of the Constitution to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence is “an awesome power which has to be exercised bona fide and with great professionalism and care.”
He said: “And any perception that the A-G when exercising such powers, is biased, selective or acts under ministerial pressure or pressure from any group will bring disrepute to the office of the A-G and cause grave misgivings as to the fair administration of the legal system. And when mistrust arises in regard to the exercise of such powers it would be to the discredit of the Government.”
Vohrah has joined in the call for the review and withdrawal of cases where persons have already been charged based on three considerations:
- The Sedition Act is an oppressive law and that many jurists and scholars consider sedition (based on common law seditious libel) as obsolete.
- That once a person is charged for an offence under the Act, looking at the state of case law in Malaysia, there is no defence that can normally be taken for offences, say, under the Penal Code or other acts creating offences – whether truth, lack of intention, presence of an innocent or honourable intention, absence of consequent harm, or even a lack of possibility or potential for consequent harm.
- That the A-G before exercising his discretion whether to charge a person for sedition must ignore pressure from any quarter, political or otherwise, the noisy and the cantankerous, and the well-meaning and well-intentioned groups (who have not seen the oppressive implications of the law), and focus on whether it is reasonable to charge such a person in the context of all relevant circumstances in an age of “disagreement in ideas and belief on every conceivable subject” which are the essence of our life in modern Malaysia pushing on for developed status in 2020.
Will the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General heed the voice of reason and sanity of the overwhelming majority of thinking and reasoned Malaysians?
Fifth, the Gerakan President and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong recently said the 1Malaysia campaign, which appears to have run out of steam since the last general election, needs Tongkat Ali to give it an urgent boost so that the campaign could be “long lasting”.
This applies not only to Najib’s 1Malaysia campaign, but to his “Global Movement of Moderates” movement in Malaysia.
In the latest survey finding by Pew Research Centre, nearly one-third of Malaysians see religious and ethnic hatred as posing the greatest danger to the world, a concern shared by Indonesia amid simmering religious tensions in both countries and the rise of violent militant Islamist groups.
The Washington-based research group’s Greatest Dangers in the World survey showed 32 per cent of Malaysians cited religious and ethnic hatred as the biggest global threat today.
In the global survey of 44 countries among 48,643 respondents, Malaysia is one of the 12 countries which see religious and ethnic hatred as posing the greatest danger to the world.
The Pew Research Centre study was conducted from March 17 to June 5. If it is conducted today, the saliency of religious and ethnic hatred as posing the greatest danger to the world would have risen to a higher pitch as a result of the continued upsurge of extremism and religious intolerance, to the extent that Najib’s brainchild, the Global Movement of Moderates and GMM operatives are regarded as subversive and “seditious”, gravely hampering their operations to promote moderation in Malaysia.
On Sept. 27, Najib made the most commendable speech at the United Nations General Assembly setting out the moderation agenda for the world, declaring: “The fight against extremism is not about Christians versus Muslims, or Muslims versus Jews, but moderates versus extremists of all religions. We therefore need to rally a coalition of moderates; those willing to reclaim their religion, and pursue the path to peace.”
I have no doubt that in international forums, where Najib had expounded his global cause of moderation, whether the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the East-West Centre in Hawaii or at Asia-Europe (ASEM) conferences, had Najib been asked whether those who threatened to burn the sacred books of different religions are extremists, his answer would be a categorical and unqualified positive.
But back home in Malaysia, his government finds excuses for Ibrahim Ali’s threat to burn the Malay-language Bible on the completely unacceptable and outrageous grounds that Ibrahim Ali was protecting the sanctity of Islam and that his action is protected by Article 11(4) of the Malaysian Constitution.
What is the direction Malaysia is heading at the rate hate speech, extremism and intolerance are having a field day and allowed to operate with immunity and impunity despite their inflammatory and incendiary statements?
Would the Global Movement of Moderates one day go defunct, or be deregistered or simply be neutered and defanged?
Sixth – the recent “pendatang” furore is not only proof of failure of Najib’s 1Malaysia policy and Global Movement of Moderates initative, but the 57 years of UMNO/BN Malaysian nation-building.
Apart from Sabah, which is a special case by itself, the overwhelming majority of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, are local-born and 100% Malaysians – a figure which can be as high as over 95 per cent for Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
Whether the ancestors of Malays, Chinese or Indians are immigrants, there can be no cause or justification for any Malaysian to describe another Malaysians from different ethnicity as “pendatang”, especially when the term is loaded in a very derogatory, pejorative and even abusive sense.
This is in fact questioning the citizenship rights of Malaysians, which is entrenched as one of the four “sensitive” rights in the Malaysian Constitution in 197i, whereby it becomes an automatic sedition offence to call for the withdrawal of a Malaysian’s citizenship.
Since the 70s, there is a National Unity Department in the Prime Minister’s Department, but all the tens and even hundreds millions of ringgit of budget expenditures for over four decades for this department in the PM’s Office had been a total waste and loss when 57 years after Merdeka, extremists are hurling the “pendatang” label at ordinary, loyal and patriotic Malaysians in the latest upsurge of hate speech in the country.
Calling loyal, patriotic Malaysians born, bred and who will die in Malaysia as “pendatang” must be condemned as a form of extremism which Najib had denounced in the United Nations and international forms since becoming Prime Minister.
As questioning the citizenship rights of another Malaysian is a sedition offence under the four entrenched sensitive clauses in the Constitution Amendment Act of 1971, can the Prime Minister inform the House how many cases of sedition prosecutions had the Attorney-General initiated as the questioning of citizenship, including the hurling of “pendatang” labels, have become quite frequent in recent years.
Seventh, how can Malaysia claim to be a moderate country when we continue to be so low down in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the past two decades?
We are even losing out to Indonesia and China in the anti-corruption front.
In the first TI CPI in 1995, Malaysia was ranked No. 23 out of 41 countries with a middling CPI score of 5.28.
Nineteen years later, after numerous anti-corruption campaigns, two major anti-corruption legislation, the “elevation” of the former Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) into Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the National Integrity Plan, the 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme with massive infusion of public funds and increase of staffing, Malaysia has now fallen in the TI CPI 2013 to No. 53 out of 177 countries, struggling with CPI score of 50/100 – a ranking lower than ever recorded under the two previous Prime Ministers, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.
In comparison, Indonesia was ranked at the very bottom of No. 41 in 1995 with CPI score of 1.94 while China was ranked No. 40 with a CPI score of 2.16 in 1995. Now Indonesia is ranked No. 114 with a CPI score of 32/100 while China is ranked No. 80 with a score of 40/100.
At the annual average rate of Indonesia and China’s improvement on TI CPI ranking and score in the past five years, with Malaysia struggling to remain in the middling CPI score, Malaysia will be left behind by Indonesia and China in less than a decade, even well before 2020.
Is there a strategy by Najib and MACC to avert this disaster?
I had recently referred to the “day-and-night” difference in anti-corruption efforts between Malaysia and lndonesia.
Although anti-corruption in Malaysia was recently in the news, with arrests of custom officers and those involved in illegal logging activity in Sarawak, which made quite a splash in the local news media, they belong to the “flies” category going by China’s anti-corruption campaign against “tigers and flies”.
With the recent survey by Ernst & Young that Malaysia is ranked as one of the most corrupt nations and listed as a country which is most likely to take shortcuts to meet targets when economic times are tough, Malaysians are entitled to ask: Why the MACC is just catching “flies”, where are the “tigers”?
Or to use Malaysian lingo, where are the “sharks”, as the MACC and its predecessor the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had not been able to send a single “shark” behind bars for the past 33 years under three Prime Ministers – Najib, Abdullah and Mahathir – when both jails in Indonesia and China are full of “sharks” or “tigers and flies”!
Indonesia recently made world headlines about its seriousness and commitment to fight corruption when its new President, Joko Widowo tasked Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) with the assignment of assessing and clearing candidates for his Cabinet.
Jokowo, who was inaugurated President last Monday (Oct. 20), dropped eight of his candidates for the Cabinet after the KPK objected to their appointment. Jokowo announced his new Cabinet yesterday after submitting new names to KPK to replace the eight as he wants good and clean Ministers who can pass the screening by the Corruption Eradication Commission.
Will the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, follow Jokowi’s example and submit new Cabinet appointments to a credible anti-corruption commission for clearance and drop those who fail to secure clearance?
I was in Sabah over the weekend, and I asked why the MACC is so quiet, inactive and impotent in Sabah, when Sabah tops the country as an administration which has one of the worst corruption problems.
Is the MACC, the Prime Minister and the Sabah Chief Minister prepared to make Sabah a model of corruption-free administration instead of topping the list of among the most corrupt administrations in Malaysia?
The gloom felt by Malaysians at the puny anti-corruption efforts are not relieved when they are inundated with disastrous, ambivalent or downright inane news headlines like “Malaysia one of the most corrupt nations, survey shows” (Sept. 27), “No plan to boost law to probe into ‘high-living’ civil servants” (Oct.8) and “Top cop looks to ordinary Malaysians to keep police in check” (Oct. 23).
There is not a single word of mention of anti-corruption efforts in Najib’s 2015 Budget speech.
Can he explain why Malaysia is losing out so badly to Indonesia and China in anti-corruption efforts and results, with not a single “big fish” or “tiger” landed in Malaysia so far whether under the present Prime Minister or the two previous Prime Ministers, covering 33 years since 1981 when the catching, prosecution and jailing of “big fishes” or “tigers” have become quite commonplace in Indonesia and China?
How does Malaysia’s record of rampant corruption and poor anti-corruption efforts stand with Malaysia’s commitmernt to wasatiyyah or moderation agenda at home?
Eight, with Jokowi’s inauguration last Monday and the formation of his Cabinet yesterday after clearing the KPK’s screening, we are seeing a new face and fresh hope for Indonesian democracy.
In contrast, Malaysia stands on the brink of another political convulsion with Malaysians and the world awaiting the Federal Court decision in the next two days on the appeal of the Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim against the Court of Appeal conviction and five-year jail sentence in the Sodomy II case.
I find it shocking, unbelievable and outrageous that the Attorney-General is counter-appealing against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s five-year jail sentence in the Sodomy II case when the Federal Court sits to hear Anwar’s appeal against his Court of Appeal conviction and sentence on March 7.
It has been reported that the prosecution has counter-appealed and wants Anwar to be jailed for more than five years contending that the Court of Appeal’s five-year jail sentence is “manifestly inadequate”, “does not reflect the gravity of the offence” and “fails to serve the ends of justice from the perspective of public interest”.
There are forces among those in power who want to get rid of the Opposition, by “hook or by crook”, but I want to ask the Najib whether he is so cruel, callous and heartless as to want Anwar to be jailed for 20 years and not released until he is an octogenarian?
Is this in conformity with Najib’s preaching of wasatiyyah or moderation with its emphasis on the principles of justice, balance and excellence?
In Indonesia, it is become commonplace for the movers and shakers of the political elite, including Ministers, to be convicted and sent behind bars – not for the most far-fetched of offences, but for clear and specific violations of the law such as corrupt practices, like:
- the former Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng sentenced to four years in jail in July for receiving Rp 4 billion ($330,000) and $550,000 in bribes connected to the construction of the Hambalang sports training centre in West Java and his appeal was rejected a few days ago;
- in early September, the former Energy and Mining Minister Jero Wacik named as a suspect in an alleged extortion case to raise nearly Rp 10 billion ($585,000) for his ministerial operational fund;
- and in late September, the former chairman of President Susilo Bambang Sudhoyono’s Democratic Party, Anas Urbaningrum sentenced by the Corruption Court to eight years in jail, fined Rp 300 million (US$25,200) demanded restitution payments of Rp 57.5 billion and $5.2 million after finding him guilty of corruption and money laundering.
Malaysians and Indonesians can understand the Indonesian authorities appealing against Anas’ sentence to eight years in jail, which was less than half of the 15-year prison term sought by the Indonesian prosecution.
But what could be the “public interest” in the Malaysian prosecution in appealing against Anwar’s five-year jail sentence, apart serving the ulterior political objective of the powers-that-be to kill off the Parliamentary Opposition Leader?
I hope that good sense and sanity can prevail, and the wasatiyyah or moderation agenda be the basis of the Najib government, guiding the policy directions of the Attorney-General and that the prosecution would withdraw their counter appeal at the Federal Court tomorrow.