Friday, November 30, 2007

Dr Toh Kin Woon :I disagree with the country's leaders

Several major marches and pickets, all peaceful, have taken place in our country over the last few months.

There was the ‘Walk for Justice’ organised by the Bar Council. This peaceful march called for a complete review of the country’s judiciary system with a view to restoring its independence, and hence put into effect the separation of powers so important for justice. This was followed by a march to the palace organised by Bersih, a broad coalition of political parties and NGOs, calling for free and fair elections.

The most recent, this time to hand over a memorandum to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, was organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, in short. Although the stated objective of this last demonstration was to demand compensation for the exploitation of Indians from the British government, it was in effect to highlight the socio-economic and cultural plight of the Indians, especially their lower strata.

To all these must be added the numerous pickets called by the trade unions for higher salaries just to meet rises in costs of living so burdensome to the workers.

All these marches and pickets, especially those organised by Bersih and Hindraf, drew tens of thousands of people. And this, despite the authorities warning the public not to take part as these assemblies were all so-called “illegal”. Participants were threatened with arrest should they take part in all these illegal assemblies.

These marches drew flak and condemnation from almost all Barisan Nasional leaders. Their criticisms centred on their illegality, potential threat to peace, the possible destablisation of the economy including frightening away foreign investors. I disagree with the views of our country’s leaders.

Instead of condemning, one would have thought and hoped that they should have been more concerned over the grievances, frustrations and disappointments that have brought so many thousands to the streets in the first place and to seek fair and just solutions to them.

Is it true that there are lots of defects in our country’s judicial system? If so, what are they? What must we do to overcome these so that we can restore its independence, and give real substance to the separation of powers in order to strengthen our country’s democratic institutions?

Likewise, what are the shortcomings in our country’s electoral system, especially pertaining to the electoral rolls, election campaigning, access to media, etc? And on Hindraf, what are the grievances, frustrations and unhappiness of the lower strata of the Indian community, and that of all the other communities, pertaining to housing, education, health, jobs, equity and religious freedom?

Until and unless these and many more issues concerning our country’s judicial and electoral systems as well as social justice for the poor are looked into seriously and satisfactory solutions found, the discontent that has brought thousands to the streets over the last several months will remain. To me, it is this discontent and unhappiness that will be a greater threat to our country’s peace and stability, rather than the marches, pickets and demonstrations.

To be fair, the government did finally agree to the setting up of a royal commission of inquiry to look into the Lingam case that triggered the outpouring of dissatisfaction over the state of our judicial system. The terms of reference of this soon to be set-up royal commission have, however, not yet been announced. Hopefully, its scope of work will include getting to the bottom of why our judicial system has declined so precipitously over the years.

A truly democratic society that allows peaceful marches, an independent and just judicial system, free and fair elections, equal respect by the state for all religious faiths and social justice for the poor are, among others, the key pillars of democracy, peace and stability. Without these, no amount of coercion, including the threat to use the obnoxious Internal Security Act (ISA), can bring us the lasting peace and security that all Malaysians desire.

Finally, I find it extremely disturbing that a backbench Barisan Nasional MP who took a divergent stand on Hindraf should be so severely rebuked and chastised by a couple of BN leaders. This clearly does not augur well at all for intra-BN democracy.

The message sent seems to be that all BN elected representatives are expected to be meek and passive followers of the views of their leaders and that no space is provided for independent views, including those articulated by the larger civil society. I wonder how such a stance by the leaders can attract people who want to seek changes from within!

The writer is a member of Gerakan and Penang state executive councillor for Economic Planning, Education, and Human Resources Development, Science, Technology and Innovation.

Original post at

Zainuddin Maidin-Al-Jazeera Interview - Updated With Transcript

Al Jazeera: Here is now joining us on the phone is Malaysia’Information Minister Zainudin Maidin. There were very violent scenes we saw earlier today. How can you justify your strength of response to peaceful protests?
Zainuddin Maidin: That is your interpretation of violence is not violence. Your man, your journalist trying to project, exaggerate more than what actually happened; that’s it. We are laughing; congratulate your journalist behaving like an actor, very good actor.

Al Jazeera:: As you are saying that so, we are watching scenes of protesters (Interrupting: Yeah, I am watching, I hear) being sprayed with Chemical filled water?
Zainuddin Maidin : It is not as what you have been trying to do this, to do it everywhere but in Malaysia people are laugh you, We know our Police at last have allowed the procession to go to Istana Negara, you know. Do Police, First Police might be handled them with tear gas. Police don’t, don’t fire anybody.

Al Jazeera: Our correspondent came back to our office with chemicals in his eyes
Zainuddin Maidin : This is the way, your idea is that what you are trying to project what is your mind, you think we Pakistan, we are Burma, we are Myanmar. Your thinking

Al Jazeera: Well unfortunately when you refused to let people to protest, it does appear so
Zainuddin Maidin: That is why we are not like you. That is why you have early perception. You come here and you want to project us as like undemocratic country. This is a democratic country.

Al Jazeera: So why can’t people protest then if it is a democratic country?
Zainuddin Maidin: People protest. First they protest. We are allowing protest and they have demonstrated. But when we try to disperse them, and then later they don’t disperse, later our Police compromise. They have compromised and allowed them to go to Istana Negara. Police, our Police have succeeded in handling them gently, right? Why don’t you report that and you take the opposition, someone from the opposition party, you asked him to speak; you don’t take from the Government, right

Al Jazeera: Why did you not break up these protesters more peacefully?
Zainuddin Maidin: Pardon, pardon

Al Jazeera: Why did you not break up these protests more peacefully?
Zainuddin Maidin: I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.

Al Jazeera: Why did you not break up these protests more peacefully?
Zainuddin Maidin: No, we are, first this is illegal. We don’t want, normally this demonstration..

Al Jazeera:: OK, let me return to my former question: why is the protest illegal?
Zainuddin Maidin: Yeah it is illegal. First is because (Why?) we have the election in Malaysia. No point of having a protest. We are allowing, we have an election every five years, never fail. We are not like Myanmar, not like other country. And you are helping these. You at Al Jazerra also is helping these, these forces. You know these forces who are not in fashion, who don’t believe in democracy

Al Jazeera: Many thanks for joining us.
Zainuddin Maidin: Yes that is Al Jazeera Attitude, right


ABIM, hari ini melalui pengerusinya Yusri Mahmud menggesa rakyat pelbagai kaum agar bertenang dan juga merayu masyarakat Islam agar jangan mencetuskan sebarang reaksi yang tidak wajar, semata-mata kerana HINDRAF dalam memorandumnya telah menggunakan perkataan-perkataan seperti “pembersihan kaum”, “penjajahan kekal”, “extremis Islam”, “geng Melayu”. ABIM menganggap kesemua perkataan-perkataan ini berunsur hasutan dan berbau subversif.

Saya bukan seorang cauvanis, malahan bukan ahli ataupun penyokong HINDRAF. Saya berpegang kepada prinsip bahawa kita boleh menyuarakan apa-apa isu secara beradab dan tanpa menyinggung perasaan mana-mana pihak.

Dalam menuding HINDRAF, ABIM seolah-olah sengaja lupa mesyuarat persidangan perwakilan UMNO 2006. Masih ingatkah bagaimana wakil-wakil UMNO secara terbuka melemparkan pelbagai cemuhan, amaran dan menggayakan aksi-aksi provokasi dan mencabar kaum bukan Melayu. Gelagat dan ucapan wakil-wakil tersebut adalah jauh lebih subversif dan menghasut (jika dibandingkan dengan apa yang dilakukan HINDRAF). Malahan ucapan dan aksi wakil-wakil ini mendapat sorakan, tepukan gemuruh dan restu daripada yang hadir.

ABIM tidak mengeluarkan apa-apa kenyataan mengecam tindakan para perwakilan yang melemparkan kata-kata hasutan. Tidak pula ABIM meminta maaf kepada rakyat Malaysia yang berbilang kaum tentang provokasi yang ditunjukkan para perwakilan UMNO mahupun merasa malu dengan tindakan mereka. Pelik bin ganjil ABIM tidak menganggap ucapan-ucapan perwakilan bersifat subversif dan hasutan boleh mencetuskan huru-hara. Tindakan ABIM mendiam diri seolah-olah menunjukkan bahawa ABIM setuju dengan cakap celaru para perwakilan. ABIM juga tidak hilang perasaan. Pelik bin ganjil ABIM yang tidak terkilan dengan kata-kata hasutan para perwakilan UNMO sebaliknya terguris dengan tindakan HINDRAF.

Walaupun, perwakilan UMNO membuat pelbagai ucapan yang rata-rata menghasut masyarakat India dan Cina dan Melayu yang rasional diakhir hari masih tenang dan membiarkan isu yang membara reda dengan sendiri.

Oleh yang demikian, munasabahlah persoalan saya apabila saya bertanya apa muslihat ABIM meloncat masuk gelanggang dan mengapi-apaikan isu HINDRAF ini sehingga menggesa rakyat supaya bertenang.

Persoalan ialah siapa yang tidak bertenang ? Mungkin ABIM kot?

Norman Fernandez.


Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Dato Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz was right when he admonished and warned M.Karunanidhi the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister not to interfere in Malaysian politics. He advised the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister should instead look at his own backyard before interfering in Malaysian affairs. (NST November 29, 2007)

I honestly believe that this is good and rational advice. Strange but true, I am with the Minister. Now that the Minister has taken the high moral ground, it is also important to ensure that Malaysia also butt out, stop meddling and giving its two cents view. So would the Minister ensure that Malaysia in future will keep quiet on the issue of Kashmir. That’s India’s domestic issue. At worst it is for India and Pakistan to resolve or go to war. Similarly could we keep out on the issue independence of Chechnya and Kosovo. That’s a European problem. Why offend Rusia, particularly now, since we are hoping for regular rides to space. Also, our support for them may give destructive ideas for some in Borneo. Perhaps, Malaysia should also stay away from the Palestinians. They cannot even unite for a common cause, are at each other’s throat and yet they dare to dream for a country of their own. Malaysia is not in the Middle East so why meddle and allow demonstrations and protest against America and Israel in Kuala Lumpur. After all it must be remembered that America is one of Malaysia’s leading trading partner. Importantly, such demonstrations which is not our culture, effect traders and businesses and not to mention that it mars the image of the country.

After all whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

Norman Fernandez.