Monday, March 8, 2010


Tossed into Alice’s Wonderland on 8 March 2008 by a fluke of fate, Anwar’s vehicle for his ride to power has now come loose, becoming a serious liability to its partners two years after the great surprise at the polls that brought in the absurdity.

It’s been departure time for scores of party members the past one month, with former party secretary-general, Salehuddin Hashim, leading the way and in his train three MPs have quit the party, another sacked and several more adrift.

While many from some parts of the world placed much faith in Anwar Ibrahim and the promises he made for reform, the facts say his outfit had been overwhelmed by his secretaries who struggled for influence among themselves, the losers leaving the party to publicly scorn Anwar and his favorites.

There was never a chance for the party to build a base for coherence and cohesion so it can survive the violence of a Punch and Judy puppet show.

The PKR was doomed from birth, riding piggyback on the Pas into the 1990 general elections and coming to an abrupt halt in 2004. It was wiped out at the polls, leaving Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, as the sole survivor in Parliament, winning as caretaker of Anwar’s parliamentary base, Permatang Pauh in Penang.

The pendulum swung to an extreme in the 8 March 2008 general elections. Seeing Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) were unable to remove Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from the helm, the people moved to vote against Badawi, denying the BN the two-third majority.

With the Opposition only 30 less than the BN in Parliament, Anwar became inspired to apply haste in politics and declared he had enough BN lawmakers willing to cross court and join the Pakatan to form the new government on September 16, 2008 .

It failed and it backfired, Anwar self-bashed to a pulp.

It was impossible for the PKR to recover since. Anwar and the Opposition could only hope for Najib Tun Razak to slump before he could succeed Badawi.

Najib made it. Then he moved swiftly to turn the tables on Anwar and the Pakatan. He recovered the state of Perak and in a series of offensives he left the Pakatan in distress in Selangor and Penang.

In Kedah the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) is often sick and has not delivered anything worth a mention in the two years he has been chief executive.

In Kelantan the stoic old survivor, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, has finally gotten himself linked to a possible set of graft charges involving his son-in-law whom he appointed as the CEO of a state company he chaired himself.

In Penang Lim Guan Eng as Chief Minister has been alleged to have made a regulation giving him the power to withdraw contracts given out by the state or state agency, without having to give any reason for his actions.

In other words, he was said to have taken to himself extraordinary powers for someone demanding accountability and transparency in government.

The opposition has also been showing gross incompetence, lack of experience and silly arrogance. Some could not handle the simple taste of minimal power.

In many places it has been a lark the likes of which we have never seen or heard before – a powershoku that had come in with the 8 March 2008 electoral tsunami bringing to Malaysia a real life staging of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, featuring some who had done nothing more than ferrying mineral water from the shops to the election hot-tents and were amply rewarded for that.

When some councilors at the district and municipal levels were dropped there was the news in several online newspapers that one of these had ingested a weed-killer. The news item was withdrawn many hours later.

The truth is bizarre. The Opposition had been as surprised as anyone else with the 8 March 2008 election results and the PKR and the DAP were not prepared to run state governments and to place selected members as councilors at district and municipal levels.

Why would the DAP and PKR now want town council elections is yet another kinky curio when the DAP’s Magister, Lim Kit Siang, had recently wrote against the proposal, possibly because the party and its strange sidekick, PKR, do not have cadre outfits to fill in the positions with people who know what to do.

Other than the socialists in the PKR, hardly any of the party members had been in touch with farmers’, smallholders’ or fishermen's associations, meaning they have no idea of the tensions faced by these sectors and to exploit the tensions.

The same is partially true for the Pas, which is probably why the party failed to hold the rural electorates in many states.

It would now become pertinent to ask who among the members of the PKR (other than the socialists) and the Pas have been keeping touch with workers’ unions in the urban?

What, therefore, is the Pakatan about other than to make Anwar Ibrahim the boss over Putrajaya? Why would we want to do that?

If it is about Reformasi, we need to ask what have they done in that direction the past two years other than talk in road-shows and in the coffee-shops?

If it is about the chance to incur a two-party system we have to know at which point had that been a viable option since 8 March 2008?

Is Anwar managerially substantial or is he the same now as he had been as a minister and Umno leader, with many of his boys forming a cackle of menacing husbanded power who misbehaved while pretending to be the champions of Islam.

It’s bottoms up! There will have to be shifts of the paradigms and of the chimes for Malaysia to progress in the processes of change, modernization, development and integration. In the meantime, it is Najib who is widely perceived as doing very well as a leader. ---a. ghani ismail, 8 March, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On A Scale Of Justice (Or The Matter of I21(1A)

The writing below was to have been Marina's column in The Star. It was spiked because the paper had gotten into some trouble over a writing on Islam. Marina wrote in her blog to express concern, saying it is the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) that's the threat. In the column she had referred to the 1988 Amendment we know as 121(1A) which resulted in the country having two sets of laws and two judiciaries.

There are other laws, federal and state, that matter as well, even contempt of the mufti's orders and of Islam for options of the violence. Marina must have also known the Muslim authorities have discovered fire, long after Prometheus of course, but they still keep at burning books and newspapers. It's a tradition started sometime when Baghdad was the heart of the Muslim Empire before Hulagu's takeover in 1258 AD. Time hardly moved since, other than by stretching.

So here is Marina's spiked column - from

When we want to compete with anyone in any field, we seek those who are better than us. And we keep going until finally we are recognised as the best. For example, a tennis player starts at the unranked bottom and tries to play and win against better players until, finally, there is nobody to beat.

We do not, however, insist that everybody comes down to our level or to play badly in order for us to win. This is what puzzles me about the Shariah courts in our country.

In 1988, a clause was inserted into our Constitution that has been interpreted as having erected a “Berlin Wall” between the Shariah and the civil courts. Basically, Article 121(1A) said “the courts referred to in Clause (1) shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts.” This has caused untold problems because real life sometimes dictates that some issues cross over both jurisdictions. But leave that aside for a moment.

Although the new clause did not say it, there are some people who are of the view that the Shariah court is superior to the civil courts simply because Shariah law is deemed of a higher order than civil laws.

This is because apparently God made Shariah laws while mere human beings made the civil laws. Never mind the fact that human beings have been changing Shariah laws over the years, for instance, by loosening laws that protected women from losing all their property to their divorced husbands.

Shariah Laws

Like other laws in this country, Shariah laws have to be drafted, tabled and passed through our various lawmaking bodies, whether at the State or Federal levels. This process leaves a lot of human fingerprints all over them.

Civil laws are drafted, tabled and passed through Parliament. The difference is that at the tabling stage, they have to be debated before they are passed. The quality of the debate may be sometimes wanting but debated they are. This process provides some sort of ‘quality control’ over the laws so that they are hopefully current, reflect realities and are just.

The same does not hold true of Shariah laws. When they get tabled at State Excos, non-Muslims do not participate because there is the notion that they cannot partake in any such debate.

That leaves only the Muslim Excos, few of whom are women. This means that if a bill affects women, the opinions of the female minority in the Exco can be ignored.

Furthermore, most people are ignorant about their religion and tend to leave these matters to those they believe know best. Thus if the State Mufti or religious adviser says it’s a good law, they are unlikely to challenge him. Thus are religious laws passed without due scrutiny until something happens, such as when someone gets convicted of a Shariah crime and punishment is meted out.

Who knew that people could be caned for drinking, or for having a baby out of wedlock until the recent cases of Kartika who drank some beer and the three women who gave birth out of wedlock?

Not only were these laws not debated when they were being made, unlike civil laws they can’t be debated afterwards either. According to some, to do so is akin to arguing with God. (There are, however, some who think that God welcomes such arguments just so that He can prove He is right).

Superior Laws

If one believes that Shariah laws are superior to civil laws, should they not be held to higher standards? Should they not be subjected to more rigorous debate than civil laws out of fear that they may be unjust?

If Shariah courts are deemed superior to civil courts, should not their processes be more transparent and efficient? How is it that there are innumerable women having to suffer because Shariah court orders to their former husbands to pay child maintenance cannot be enforced?

How is it also that we suddenly hear about women being caned without any information about the processes they went through? Did they have the benefit of legal representation and heard in an open court? If they did, who were their lawyers and what defence did they mount? On whose behalf was justice served?

I have no problems with Shariah laws if their foundation is justice, equality and non-discrimination for all, even non-Muslims. But when their intent, processes and enforcement are unfair, they only give the impression that Islam is unjust and discriminatory. Surely to give such an image of Islam is a sin. –--
3 March 2010

* Marina Mahathir is a columnist with The Star.