Sunday, September 27, 2015

Integrity And Other Agendas by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

The greatest tribute that Malaysians can pay to the memory of Kevin Morais and others like him who had sacrificed their lives fighting against the abuse of power is to protect and strengthen those institutions tasked with ensuring that integrity and good governance define our identity as a nation.
Each and every one of those institutions --- from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to Bank Negara --- is under some sort of stress and strain today.  Fulfilling their amanah (trust) --- doing what they are required to do by law and convention --- has become a major challenge.  Why are they in such a situation today?
One, we continue to be burdened with a neo-feudal psychology which accords precedence to  unquestioning loyalty to a leader, however wrong he may be, over allegiance to values, principles and institutions associated with integrity.  The neo-feudal leader himself expects such blind loyalty and cultivates it assiduously through material rewards and allurements.
Two, in a society where communal consciousness is pervasive there is always a tendency among a significant segment of society to demonstrate fidelity to communal identities, institutions and personalities. Such fidelity often results in the subordination of values such as integrity and honesty.
Three, when loyalty to communal identity becomes obsessive, it is not difficult to whip up fear and hatred of the other to a point where collective fear overwhelms concern for integrity or righteousness. The manipulation of fear, by no means confined to ethnic and religious sentiments, is sometimes a tool that elites employ in order to perpetuate their power.
Four, when a party has been dominant for a long while  --- as the Barisan Nasional was until 2008 --- and has not been held in check by a culture of accountability and transparency, it develops a mindset that is dismissive of anything that questions its exercise of power. Integrity is often the victim of such a mindset.
Five, a major episode in the life of a nation that devastates the integrity of a vital institution of governance can weaken the principle and practice of amanah in society as a whole for decades to come. This is what happened in Malaysia in 1988 when the head of the Judiciary was removed on flimsy, fabricated charges and senior judges dismissed.
For all these reasons, institutions which are expected to preserve and protect values and principles such as truth, justice, integrity and honesty have not been able to function as well as they should. The investigations into 1MDB and the 2.6 billion ringgit in the Prime Minister’s personal bank account which have been hampered and hindered by various moves and manoeuvers underscore this. In more concrete terms, the PAC has been immobilized. There is still no action on the report submitted by Bank Negara to the Attorney-General which called for enforcement. There has been very little progress in apprehending key individuals wanted in both the 1MDB and 2.6 billion investigations. The Prime Minister has yet to sue the Wall Street Journal for alleging financial improprieties on his part.  Those who are concerned about integrity in public life are understandably disillusioned about the whole situation. This may explain why some of them may have sought external avenues to address the malaise.
There is no doubt at all that foreign actors who are focusing upon the current controversies in Malaysia have their own agendas. Given the orientation of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post, one is not surprised that they are exploiting the controversies to achieve their own goals which may include regime change in Putrajaya --- a possibility which I had alluded to in an article on 17 February 2015. Apart from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s explicit support for Hamas which has incensed Israel and its backers in the United States, it is also quite conceivable that Malaysia’s military cooperation with China reflected in the four day joint naval exercise between the two nations in the strategic Straits of Melaka from 18 September 2015 --- the biggest that China has conducted with any ASEAN state --- has upset some circles in Washington D.C. It has also been argued that the targeting of Najib in the US media may be part of the attempt to ensure that Malaysia signs up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.
Whatever the motives, it is obvious that the Malaysian government’s acts of commission and omission on 1MDB and the 2.6 billion ringgit account have provided foreign manipulators with a lot of ammunition to hit Najib. This is why it is extremely urgent to tell the whole truth. The yet to be completed report of the Auditor-General which would be the basis for the reconstituted PAC to finish its work, and the finalization of the MACC’s investigations, together with Bank Negara’s report which is with the Attorney-General, should reveal the truth about 1MDB and the 2.6 billion account. Foreign investigations may also help.
The Malaysian people should send a clear message to our government. The investigations into the two related controversies should be closed and the whole truth should be made known to the nation and the world by the end of this year. To allow the controversies to drag on into 2016 will only bring our nation to the edge of the precipice.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar has been writing and speaking on integrity in public life since the nineteen seventies.                             
Kuala Lumpur.

26 September 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Of UMNO Malays and Cina DAP.

Ten things to ponder about the terms UMNO Malays and Cina DAP.

1.     Both terms UMNO Malays and Cina DAP when used in a malicious way are racist remarks.

2.     I know many from both UMNO and DAP sides - UMNO Malays & Cina DAP who are not racist and are multi-racial in their outlook.

3.     Just because we put UMNO in front of the word Malays & DAP before the word Cina, it does not mean we are not being racist when we make nasty racial remarks about them.

4.     Many closet racists are those who pretend to only target UMNO Malays or Cina DAP when they want to make racist remarks.

5.     Many racist politicians hide their racist politics by pretending to target only a racial group within a particular political party   - so they use terms like UMNO Malays or Cina DAP.

6.     Both terms are a sly, convenient and deceiving way to hide a racist heart.

7.     It is a more targeted racist politics; meaning the terms UMNO Malays and Cina DAP is a cheap use of targeted racist politics by both sides to pander to the lowest minds within each political party’s constituents.

8.     It is an ultimate weapon of political strategy that allows racism to be propagated while at the same time hide behind a multi-racial fa├žade.

9.     Closet racist politicians who are hiding behind these terms should come out of the closet or stop using them to prove otherwise.

10. Followers of political leaders who use such terms must wake up and tell those leaders to quit using racist strategies.

Let us stop racist politics. Thanks.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Have A Meaningful Hari Malaysia - Monday in The STAR

“Our fate as a nation can only be determined when we hold through to the truth that is bigger and better than that of our own race.” - Allahyarham Dato‘ Seri Onn Jaafar (1895 – 1962)

Let us be Moderate:  First, be critical of ourselves and our own community

In our Hari Raya Aidilfitri message, we elaborated the fourth point of the Ten Principles for a Moderate Malaysian. In this advertisement, we are happy to share the fifth principle. Do look forward to the upcoming five.

Principle Number Five.

I will first be critical of myself and my own community. If I am a Muslim, I will be critical of other Muslims’ wrongdoings first. If I am a Christian, I will be critical of other Christians’ wrongdoings first, and so on.

1.    What is the basis of this principle?
It is THE SUCCESS FORMULA recommended by all of our traditions and spiritual teachings. The Bhagavad-Gita suggests for us to reshape ourselves through the power of will. Tao Te Ching observes that to conquer others we need strength, but to conquer oneself is harder. Dhammapada states that it is easier to conquer a million men in battle than to conquer oneself. The Bible asks us to remove the plank in our eyes, in order to remove the speck that is in our brother’s eye. The Quran decrees that God will never change the fate or condition of a people until they change it themselves.

2.    When to use this principle?
Whenever our own community commits wrongdoings! Malaysian Buddhists should be the first to criticize the threats of genocide in Myanmar. Malaysian Muslims should be the first to condemn the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Malaysian Christians should be the first to criticize the desecration of the Quran by extremist Christians. Malaysian Hindus should be the first to condemn the attack towards a Christian cathedral in New Delhi.

3.    Why this principle?
When we are the first to correct our own community’s mistake, we create strong bond between all, regardless of race or religion. When we are the first to critique those from our own community, we show clearly that what we are fighting for are shared values like truth, love and justice. Such behaviour encourages fairness and helps create deep Moments of Unity.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

You and I, we must always be critical of ourselves and our own community first and be Moderate Malaysians.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Race relations and the Federal Constitution by Prof. Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

Despite its imperfections, the document was a significant attempt to balance the rights, privileges and legitimate expectations of every community.
DOES our Constitution divide us or does it provide workable arrangements for our multi-hued nation to live together in peace and harmony? At a Round Table Discussion organised by the Institut Kajian Etnik of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on Sept 1, this was one of the gripping issues.
I submitted that all Constitutions are imperfect documents. They have to mirror existentialist realities while also cradling a lofty vision of the future. The Malayan Constitution was no exception. Despite its imperfections, it was a significant attempt to balance the rights, privileges and legitimate expectations of every community.
The “Malay provisions”: In recognition of the fact that Malaya was historically the land of the Malays, the Merdeka Constitution incorporated a number of features indigenous to the Malay archipelago.
These include the Malay Sultanate; Islam as the religion of the Federation; syariah laws and syariah courts; a “special position” for the Malays and (in 1963) the natives of Sabah and Sarawak; Malay reserve lands; Bahasa Melayu as the official language; protection for customary laws of the Malays and (since 1963) the natives of Sabah and Sarawak; weightage for rural areas (which are predominantly Malay) in the drawing up of electoral boundaries; and legal restrictions on preaching of any faith to Muslims.
Safeguards for other communities: Despite many indigenous features, the Malay-Muslim provisions are balanced by others suitable for a multi-racial and multi-religious society. Citizenship rights were granted on a non-ethnic and non-religious basis. The electoral process permits all communities an equal right to vote and to seek elective office.
Fundamental rights are generally available to all. Membership of the judiciary, the Cabinet, Parliament, the public services and the special commissions is open to all. Education is universal and is free at the primary and secondary levels.
The spirit of give and take between the races, regions and religions is especially applicable in relation to Sabah and Sarawak. Even where the law confers special rights on the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, there is concomitant protection for the interests of other communities.
For example, though Islam is the religion of the Federation, the syariah does not override the Constitution. It does not apply to non-Muslims.
All religious communities are allowed to profess and practise their faiths in peace and harmony. Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain religious institutions for the education of its children.
Though Bahasa Melayu is the national language for all official purposes, there is protection for the formal study in all schools of other languages, if 15 or more pupils so desire.
Though Article 89 reserves some lands for Malays, it is also provided that no non-Malay land shall be appropriated for Malay reserves and that if any land is reserved for Malay reservations, an equivalent amount of land shall be opened up for non-Malays.
Article 153 on the special position of Malays and natives is hedged in by limitations.
First, along with his duty to protect the Malays and the natives, the King is also enjoined to safeguard the legitimate interests of other communities. Second, the special position of the Malays applies only in the public sector. Third it applies only in four prescribed sectors and services.
Fourth, in the operation of Article 153, no non-Malay or his heir should be deprived of what he already has. Fifth, no business or profession can be exclusively assigned to any race. No ethnic monopoly is permitted.
Sixth, Article 153 does not override Article 136. Quotas and reservations are permitted at entry point but once a person is in the public service he should be treated equally.
Politics of accommodation: In addition to the above legal provisions, the rainbow coalition that has ruled the country for the last 58+2 years is built on an overwhelming spirit of accommodation between the races, a moderateness of spirit and an absence of the passions, zeal and ideological convictions that in other plural societies have left a heritage of bitterness.
Commercial freedoms: In the economic area, commercial opportunities have given to everyone a stake in the country. The non-Malay contribution to the building of the economic infrastructure of the country has given the country prosperity as well as stability.
Cultural mosaic: The various communities are allowed to maintain their distinct ethnic identities, cultures, religions, languages, lifestyles, dresses, foods, music, vernacular schools, etc.
Dark clouds: The delicate balance that the Constitution-makers were seeking has not been fully achieved and there has been overzealousness in the enforcement of the ethnic provisions.
A “silent re-writing” of the Constitution has taken place through administrative actions. I proposed many legal, administrative, educational and attitudinal changes to honour the spirit of our document of destiny.
Participants’ response: There were some very insightful and far-reaching comments from the floor. Three approaches could be discerned.
A number of commentators agreed that the Constitution is a workable and pragmatic charter inspired by the spirit of compromise, compassion and moderation. It should be restored to the pedestal on which it was placed when Malaya began its tryst with destiny. Its provisions should be given centrality.
Second, some scholars felt that the Constitution does not deserve any halo; that it has fallen out of tune with the times. It is ripe for review to make it more democratic and more in line with the need for accountability and separation of powers.
I agreed that no Constitution can entirely contemplate the future and that life is always larger than the law. A Law Reform Commission to review the glittering generalities of the Constitution will do the nation much good.
Third, one commentator put forward a remarkable but hardly isolated view that the Reid Commission’s membership was im­­balanced and therefore the Commission failed to take sufficient note of the historical, Malay-Muslim features of the peninsula. A secular and ideologically impure document that ignored the historical facts of this traditional land of the Malays needs re-writing.
Paucity of time did not permit a fuller discussion of each of the three profound and contentious viewpoints. But we were all satisfied with the civil manner in which disagreements were handled by the audience and by the organisers. A follow-up confabulation for reflection and recommendations will be most desirable.
Shad Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.