Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Malaysian hopes and fears

April 19, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: This is an exhilarating time in Malaysia, with the prospect of new political direction in the wake of an unprecedented setback last month to the governing Barisan Nasional, or National Front, coalition. But hope is tinged with fear – not so much of the old enemy, communal violence – but that events will end in some grubby compromises that leave politics stuck in a ghetto of patronage and racial division.

Attention is focused on two issues. First, there is the fight for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, the dominant party in the National Front. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is being bitterly attacked by his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, and openly challenged by the former Finance Minister, Tunku Razaleigh Hamzah. Abdullah says he will make way for his successor at a time of his choosing, but he will remain under constant pressure, with party elections later this year culminating in a leadership vote in December.

Second, there is the problem of cohesion in the opposition coalition, Barisan Rakyat, or Peoples’ Front, which now controls 5 of the 13 states. Embracing parties once identified with Islamic fundamentalism and Chinese chauvinism, the coalition is held together by the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the multiethnic Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People’s Justice Party. The coalition has its work cut out to stay together.

To many Malaysians, both issues are straddled by one man: Anwar. His ambition to be prime minister is undoubted, as is his stature. Can he persuade enough National Front legislators to jump ship and give the opposition a majority in Parliament? Or will he be seen by enough UMNO members to be the BN’s savior so that some deal with Keadilan will emerge, culminating in Anwar becoming prime minister? Neither, especially the latter, looks likely in the near term, but given the fluidity of personality, money and opportunistic politics there are many scenarios.

Meanwhile, the broader public is concerned with what lessons, if any, UMNO and the BN have learned from their electoral setback. The vote was clearly against a variety of ills, including corruption, nepotism, undermining of judicial independence, marginalization of minorities, inflation, rising income differentials, and weak leadership.

Abdullah was rightly blamed for promising much and delivering little. In defeat, he is showing greater resolve, and some of his cabinet appointments have raised hope for real change. But it is not only Mahathir and other old-timers who blame him for defeat, rather than two decades of sleaze and power abuse.

Some UMNO delegates want reform to revive the party’s fortunes with the electorate. Others want to change a system where the sons and in-laws of prime ministers past and present dominate the party hierarchy. Yet other UMNO delegates need the support of these political aristocrats who can dispense patronage.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak is the son of a former prime minister; the education minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, is the son of another. Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin is bidding to succeed Hishamuddin, but is being challenged by Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz.

Abdullah’s ability to deliver change and address public dissatisfaction is constrained by his weakness within UMNO. The abysmal performance of his Chinese and Indian partners in the BN makes it difficult to give the minorities a bigger say in government.

Yet Abdullah still has a chance of survival if he has the will to fight, because party unity has emotional appeal and his opponents are not united. Mahathir now has more bark than bite – and even he would prefer to see Abdullah remain than Anwar come to power. Najib, once the unchallenged heir-apparent, has clouds over his reputation that will not disperse quickly. Less controversial candidates may well emerge, the most likely being the international trade minister, Muhyiddin Yassin.

For now ,UMNO infighting gives breathing space to the opposition, but also presents dangers. One is that the relatively honest and open-minded Abdullah will be ousted in favor of an authoritarian who will crack down on dissent. Another, that in desperation some UMNO figures will attempt to fan Malay fears in order to emphasize the party’s role as defender of Malay privileges rather than as leader of a multiracial Malaysia. That danger would increase if opposition cohesion breaks down on racial lines.

Despite these worries, it is hard to find Malaysians who do not welcome the new uncertainties and the chance that the political structure will adjust to the enormous social and economic progress of the past four decades.



A political mystery is finally solved

April 11, 2008

April 11, 2008

I WOULD like to thank Karpal Singh for solving a mystery which had bothered me over the last five years i.e. ever since I stepped down as Prime Minister.

I had been used to the BN and even the Alliance Government before it, being criticised and attacked by DAP MPs even for imaginary misdeeds by them. However, after Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over, even the clear abuses of power and wrong actions by the Government were hardly commented upon by DAP stalwarts like Karpal and Lim Kit Siang.

I was puzzled. I could not believe the suggestion that there was a “pakat” (conspiracy) involving Abdullah and the DAP. But when Karpal advised me to retire with dignity and honour and refrain from criticising the present Prime Minister, I realised that the DAP actually supports Datuk Seri Abdullah and his continued stewardship of this country.

But why does the DAP want Abdullah to continue being the PM? Being in the Opposition, the DAP must know that the Chinese community by and large disliked the Government headed by Datuk Seri Abdullah. They had openly spoken of their disenchantment and intention not to vote for Barisan Nasional in the 2008 elections.

The mishandling of the Hindraf by Datuk Seri Abdullah had also alienated the Indians. Certainly, the other Opposition parties knew that Malays, including Umno members, were strongly critical of Datuk Seri Abdullah.

Obviously, the DAP and other opposition parties stood to gain by the loss of faith in Datuk Seri Abdullah’s leadership by the erstwhile supporters of the BN.

And sure enough, they voted massively against the BN in the March 8 General Election. Those who could not bring themselves to vote for the Opposition deliberately spoiled their votes. This explains the unprecedented 300,000 plus spoilt votes in this election.

When Karpal urges me to refrain from criticising the present Prime Minister, it must be because he knew that this PM would continue to alienate BN supporters. At the next election, these people could be even more disgusted with the PM that they would actually cause the BN to lose even its majority in Parliament and would no longer form the Federal Government.

In other words, the “Pakatan” (The English equivalent to “pakatan” is “conspirators”) would actually win by default and form the Federal Government.

This explains why the DAP seems to be very friendly with Datuk Seri Abdullah and why Karpal wants me to stop criticising him. He and his colleagues are against any move to get Datuk Seri Abdullah to step down.

Tunku did criticise me and did try to unseat me by supporting Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Tun Hussein Onn was unhappy with me over my “Buy British Last” policy but was not well enough to go public, so to speak. So my outbursts are nothing unusual. One can almost say it is in accord with tradition.

As to my phobia of lawyers, this idea had been promoted by Opposition lawyers for political reasons. Karpal seems to imply that I really wanted to hang the lawyers. As everyone knows, Shakespeare hanged all the lawyers during his time. Karpal can go on believing that I was not joking. That is his right. But my conscience is clear and a lot of lawyers seem to have a different mind from Karpal.

So I would like to thank Karpal for helping to solve a political mystery that had bothered me over the last five years. However, as a citizen who loves this country, I will continue to speak up, more so because the Umno leaders and members fear criticising the leadership. They would be labelled saboteurs and would be punished.



Selangor probes alienation of forest reserves

April 9, 2008

SHAH ALAM (April 8, 2008): Selangor has launched thorough investigations into the cancellation of 4,325.5ha of gazetted forest reserves alienated to various parties.

Mentri Besar Tan Seri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the state government has already instructed all land and district offices in Selangor to furnish the list of the parties who have received the land.

A total 241,568ha of the total 796,084 ha in the state area has been gazetted as forest reserves, he said.

“However, district and land office records show that 4,325.5ha of forest reserve status had been revoked between 2000 and 2007.”

He said most of the land have been earmarked for property development.

Abdul Khalid also commented on the issue of duplicated land titles, saying there are currently 21 cases which are being investigated by the police or is in court.

He said these disputes involved a total of seven acres of land, mostly located in rural areas and in the Petaling and Gombak districts.

The new state government has decided to continue with the one-stop modern pig farming project in Ladang Tumbuk, Mukim Batu in Kuala Langat, which was approved by the previous state government on Jan 30.

Abdul Khalid said the new state government will improve on the implementation of the project as it is currently already operating as a centralised pig farming area, which adheres to the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and state government’s quality standards.

He said the one-stop centre will resolve the problem of pollution due to waste from pig farming.

Abdul Khalid said all the waste will be reused as bio-gas for electricity, water for cleansing of the farm and food farming for the livestock.

He said all pig farms outside the area are required to move their operations to this facility, in line with the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry requirements which will be monitored by the relevant authorities.

“All farmers who move to the facility will be given incentives and business and investment opportunities. Furthermore, the land can also be utilised for other business activities.”

He said the state is also looking into centralising all farming activities involving other livestocks and poultry.

Abdul Khalid said Selangor is also studying and looking towards Perak as a source for water in the near future.

He  said the deal with Pahang has been finalised, however, there is an anticipated water shortage in the next two decades for the state due to the rising population and urbanisation.

He said this after a meeting with new Perak Mentri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin in his office today.

Mohammad Nizar in turn said Perak is rich in water reserves and due to its close to proximity, water can be channelled into Selangor via the Bernam Valley.

He said this will also boost development in Bernam Valley.


It’s now called Pakatan Rakyat

April 2, 2008

April 2, 2008

By : Marc Lourdes 

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(Seated, from left) Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the press conference to announce the setting up of Pakatan Rakyat.
(Seated, from left) Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the press conference to announce the setting up of Pakatan Rakyat.

PETALING JAYA: The tripartite Pas-DAP-PKR grouping, which made significant gains in last month’s general election, has agreed to a formal coalition called Pakatan Rakyat.

Bigwigs from the three ideologically diverse parties, including Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, met at the office of PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday to discuss the arrangement.

In a joint statement, they said the name Pakatan Rakyat had been proposed pending official endorsement by the respective parties.

It is still uncertain whether the formalised coalition would seek an immediate registration, with Lim and Anwar non-committal on the matter when asked.

One of the understandings reached was that all state governments under their control (Kelantan, Penang, Perak, Kedah and Selangor) would conduct policies in accordance with those of Pakatan Rakyat.

Anwar said the coalition, which would be led collectively, would work towards common principles as published in the various party manifestos.

A joint secretariat, consisting three representatives of each party, has been formed to develop and strengthen the structure and framework of Pakatan Rakyat.

Asked about how Pas and DAP, which have very differing ideologies, would approach the coalition, Anwar said they worked together on principles like justice and fairness.

“We are committed to a reform programme backed by the spirit of the Constitution.

“I don’t see any difficulty. We have reached a consensus,” he said.

Questioned as to which party would dominate the coalition, Anwar replied that the dominant force was the rakyat.

“The agenda is clear. It makes no difference whoever is the menteri besar. They are tied to policies determined by Pakatan Rakyat.”

Replying to questions on Pas’ alleged intentions to form an Islamic state, Anwar and Abdul Hadi both said it was an issue that should not be made contentious any more.

“It was not mentioned in the Pas manifesto and has not been mentioned for a long time.

“It is no longer an issue,” Anwar said.

Abdul Hadi said the issue should not be raised to create trouble and that the truth was that Islam as a religion supported basic principles such as fighting corruption and creating good governance.

Speaking on the failed attempt to create a workable coalition via the Barisan Alternatif in 1999, Lim said they had learnt the lesson from that first, abortive attempt at forming a multi-ethnic opposition front.

“We have learnt and come together on common principles that the people can support,” he said.

In a telephone interview later, Lim said he expected the Pakatan Rakyat framework to be finalised in a matter of weeks.

He added that DAP had no relationship with Pas prior to March 8, but the message from the people on that day was that they wanted the parties to work together to restore justice, freedom and democracy.

“The challenge is for us to rise to the expectations of the people.”

A convention of all Pakatan Rakyat parliamentary and state assembly representatives will be held on April 27 to further the understanding of the coalition’s policies.

On Monday night, at a rally at Stadium Melawati in Shah Alam, Abdul Hadi spoke about the formation of the coalition, saying it would welcome defecting Barisan Nasional parliamentarians.


Malaysian ruling party dissidents launch attack on weakened prime minister

April 2, 2008

April 1, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad urged his supporters Tuesday to openly rebel against the prime minister after massive losses in general elections plunged the ruling party into its worst crisis.

About 2,000 members of the United Malays National Organization party gathered to hear Mahathir speak at a hotel conference hall in the biggest display of defiance so far against the party’s leader, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The meeting’s agenda was to analyze the unprecedented losses suffered by Abdullah’s National Front ruling coalition in March 8 general elections. But it turned into a free-for-all session to bitterly criticize the 68-year-old prime minister, who is watching his grip on power weaken despite insisting he has the full support of his party.

“I call on him to resign. Anyone else would have done so already, but he is shameless,” Mahathir said. “If he waits until the party is totally destroyed, it would be useless.”

Mahathir accused Abdullah of failing to curb unbridled corruption, nepotism and cronyism. He referred repeatedly to Abdullah’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is believed to wield huge influence in the Malay party, which is the dominant group in the National Front.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years before handing power to Abdullah in 2003. Although he personally picked Abdullah, Mahathir is now the prime minister’s most vocal critic. His son Mukhriz, a senior party official, also urged Abdullah to resign.

“We have reached a crossroads. There is something very wrong with our leadership, which is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,” Mukhriz said to loud applause.

The show of anger is a clear sign of the deep crisis in the National Front, which is reeling from its worst electoral performance ever. The coalition lost five of Malaysia’s 13 states and its traditional two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since 1969.

Mahathir urged disgruntled party members to organize themselves against Abdullah.

“We must arrange our moves,” Mahathir said. “It is pointless if I am alone. All of us must be brave. If you love your country, be brave and speak out.”

An Abdullah loyalist, Mohamad Khir Toyo, acknowledged the party needs reforms but said a leadership change was not necessarily the solution. He was bombarded with questions from the audience about whether Khairy had influence in choosing election candidates.

Abdullah has postponed party elections that had been set for August to December. Critics say he is trying to avoid losing re-election as party president.

Also on Tuesday, Malaysia’s three ideologically diverse opposition parties forged a formal coalition, the People’s Alliance, to boost their challenge to the National Front.

The coalition — comprising the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the secular Chinese-based Democratic Action Party and the multiethnic People’s Justice Party — agreed to “uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians,” said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.


Associated Press writer Julia Zappei contributed to this report.


Zam: Dr M to blame, too

March 31, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must shoulder some of the blame for Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever performance in the recent general election, says former Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin.

Dr Mahathir’s various accusations swayed the people to vote against Barisan, he said.

“Laying all blame on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for Barisan’s losses is not right because it is clear that Dr Mahathir is full of anger and uncontrolled vengeance,” said Zainuddin.

“Maybe he was not aware or maybe he purposely did not want to be aware that his credibility as a former leader is still strong and that his influence on the grassroots, both Malay and non-Malays, is significant.”

“His credibility influenced people into believing what he said and he also lent this credibility to bloggers and websites,” he said when met at his house here yesterday.

Zainuddin said there were three statements in particular that affected Umno’s and Malaysians’ confidence in the leadership in the run-up to the elections.

“The first was when he said he regretted appointing Abdullah as the Prime Minister.

“This was then followed up by Dr Mahathir saying that Abdullah was only meant to be a one-term Prime Minister and that more opposition was needed in Parliament.”

Zainuddin added that the third and most damning statement that was widely accepted by all segments of society was about the role Deputy Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and his advisers played in the country’s politics and economy.

“This even caused Gerakan adviser Tan Sri Lim Keng Yaik to ask Abdullah to get rid of his advisers,” he said.

Zainuddin said he was merely telling the truth when he said thatDr Mahathir could not deny he had played a role in Barisan’s dismal poll results.

“This is not to say that other factors do not count, but Dr Mahathir cannot absolve himself from this.

“There have been many opinions in the aftermath of the election but Dr Mahathir being a factor was not really mentioned, “ he added.


Malaysian politic developments will have impact on region

March 31, 2008

Suddenly, Malaysia has become the most exciting place in Southeast Asia – not for its Manhattan-like skyscrapers or even its “Truly Asia” self-indulgent slogan.

Published on March 31, 2008

Stop by a kopi-tiem for teh-tarik in any neighbourhood in the capital these days, one can hear a lively exchange of street wisdom on the future of Malay politics. Will Pak Lah resign? Is Anwar coming back? Is UMNO collapsing? The list goes on.

Nataraja Naidu, 58, a former government official, says proudly that he voted for the opposition for the first time. “I realised that a change in Malaysian politics must come from me first. I support the opposition,” he said. “I want to see every anak bangsa Malaysian being treated equally.”

Yang Lee-jing, 72, a taxi driver, who has seen it all, is more cautious in his appraisal. “I have seen riots on the streets before. Although now things are different, but it is still bumiputra,” he says, referring to the Malay race. Yang was more resigned about the current political scene, saying Malaysian politics will continue to be based on race. The country’s population comprises 65 per cent Malays, 25 per cent Chinese, 6 per cent Indian and the rest are other nationalities.

Naidu and Yang are not alone in having such juxtaposed sentiments. They know, as minorities, it is a tall order to have everybody enjoy the same rights. But for them to be able to speak aloud on this issue without fear is already a huge accomplishment. Malaysia is more open than ever before. While the mainstream media are still timid, online media and bloggers have filled in the gap and are thriving. The Internet has now become one of the most important communication tools in Malaysian politics. Even Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi confessed that his party’s defeat was due to its failure to acknowledge the power of the Internet.

Prem Chandra, chief of the Internet portal Malaysiakini, was succinct, saying that the voices of opposition candidates could be read and heard online. “Quite often, mainstream media have to catch up with the online information, which is freer and faster,” he said. Ironically, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad also lamented the lack of media freedom and sought media space online.

Increasingly, ordinary Malaysians have come to grips with the political reality that they have been brought up in since the country gained independence in 1957. Since then, the politics here has been dominated by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), along with other smaller community-based parties known as the Barisan Nasional. The Malay voters used to think that without UMNO, their interests would not be protected.

But in the past few two years, the Malaysians, especially the Chinese and Indians, have begun to think differently in responding to religious and social discrimination. Instead of asking the ruling political party for changes, they have chosen instead to look for an alternative group, which can give them a better deal. Then came the formation of an opposition coalition with a more holistic approach to economic and social development. Now they think change is possible. As in the US primaries, the call for change is getting louder by the day in the world’s most modern Islamic nation.

The political tsunami started with the outcome of the March 8 general elections. The opposition seized 82 out of 222-seats in parliament, just 30 seats short of forming a government. The opposition group comprises the Islamist party known as PAS, the Chinese-based and secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the multiracial People’s Justice Party (PKR). Both PAS and DAP are more pragmatic and more reconciliatory towards each other.

For the first time, Malaysians feel that a new dawn is approaching for their country. Of course, mindful of racial history, there is also some anxiety. But intellectuals and the middle class are discussing the possibility of a multi-party system or even an end to race-based politics, which has dominated the country in the past five decades.

“Malaysians believe that there could be changes without bloodshed as in 1969. We have learned lessons from the past,” said Tian Chua, a former activist, who got elected in Batu constituency. Chua was optimistic that sooner than later there would be an alternative government rather than the current National Front led by UMNO.

“First of all, we have to show that the opposition has the capacity to provide better policies and reduce corruption,” he said. Only a few days in his job, he told me in a kopi tiem in Ambang Utama that several wasteful projects were reviewed and slashed and money was saved. At the moment, he said the opposition could make a difference in Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, the country’s four richest states, who contribute 60 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Chua is confident that if the opposition parties are resilient and end discrimination and can still maintain stability and prosperity, then they would get a chance to form the government. “We must make things better and understand the feelings of the people. It is the reformasi spirit.”

After all, one can also sense that the reformasi movement started by former deputy prime minister Ibrahim Anwar is still very much alive. Ordinary people want social justice and better governance. Politics is too elitist, focusing on a few groups of people, they said.

If Malaysia can achieve all these, it would impact on political developments in the region and beyond. Singapore has already dispatched teams of political scientists to Malaysia to gain understanding and insights into the latest phenomenon. Currently, the region’s existing democracies such as Thailand and the Philippines are in disarray, plagued with political instability, corruption and lack of governance. Further consolidation in Malaysia’s democracy will resonate well in Indonesia’s current political dynamic.

Kavi Chongkittavorn

The Nation


LOST IN THE COURTS: For the majority, justice is costly

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

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Ragunath Kesavan says there are many people with a criminal record because they are not aware of their rights.
Ragunath Kesavan says there are many people with a criminal record because they are not aware of their rights.

‘You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed by the court to represent you.’ This oft-quoted statement may be the norm in homicide dramas but — with the exception of cases involving capital punishment — not in real life, as SONIA RAMACHANDRAN and AUDREY VIJAINDREN learn

Ravi Nekoo says only those facing capital punishment are assured of receiving legal counsel
Ravi Nekoo says only those facing capital punishment are assured of receiving legal counsel

SHOCKING. Outrageous. Appalling. Scandalous. Any of these words could be used to describe the situation. And they would all be right.
Every year, more than 500,000 accused persons appear in court without a lawyer. This accounts for a shocking 95 per cent of those who are remanded, according to the Bar Council.

Also, there is nothing in our law which says an accused person has to be informed of, or provided with, the right to legal representation. And more than a few people under remand plead guilty just to get it over with.

This has led Bar Council vice-president Ragunath Kesavan to claim that the judicial system catered for those with money, not for those without.

“It presupposes an accused can afford a lawyer,” he said, adding that the situation was worsening with the increase in population and a rise in social problems.

But all is not lost. The new Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department tasked with handling judicial and legal matters, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, said he would look into the problem.

Ragunath said: “Most developed countries recognise legal aid as a basic human right. If you’re arrested in Malaysia, you have a right to have a legal representative under the Criminal Procedure Code.

“But one is not necessarily provided for you. Unless of course, you have the money to pay for counsel yourself.

“The more money you have the better your chances of obtaining a lawyer. Eventually, this will increase your odds in the battle.”

Due to financial constraints, he said, marginalised groups in Malaysia, comprising mainly of migrants and juveniles, were forced to represent themselves.

“People are charged in court daily. More often than not, they plead guilty thinking that is the only way out for them.”

Often, those on remand are advised to plead guilty so that they can go home.

Ragunath said if, for example, an accused was remanded for three months before being brought to court and the sentence for the crime was also three months, he would likely be “advised” to plead guilty instead of claiming trial.

“He doesn’t understand the charge and thinks that pleading guilty would be the fastest way out of his fix, not realising the consequences of his action.

“Pleading guilty means he will be stuck with a criminal record for the rest of his life. There are so many people with criminal records because they are not aware of their rights.”

Thousands of accused, he said, were in the same boat due to ignorance of the law and the inability to engage a lawyer.

“Lawyers who have trained for years can face difficulty interpreting the law, what more the layman,” said Ragunath.

In agreeing with Ragunath, Legal Aid Centre chairman Ravi Nekoo said only those who were facing capital punishment were assured of counsel.

In this case, the court would assign a lawyer if the accused could not afford one.

There are two forms of legal aid in the country, namely those provided by the Bar Council’s legal aid centres and the Legal Aid Bureau set up by the government.

The government-run Legal Aid Bureau, said Ragunath, mostly handled syariah and civil matters. For criminal cases, the Bureau’s role was only to mitigate when the accused pleaded guilty.

Ragunath said legal aid centres run by the Bar Council were the only law society-financed legal aid scheme in the world.

With 13 centres throughout the country, it is funded solely by members of the Bar Council who contribute RM100 yearly, adding up to RM1.2 million.

“Our services are purely pro bono. A person seeking legal aid will first register at a centre before sitting for a ‘means’ test. Upon passing the test, they are assigned a lawyer,” he said.

The problem was, he said, the Bar Council had set up this scheme in the 1980s as a “stop-gap” measure until a full legal aid scheme could be implemented by the government.

Volunteerism, he said, could only go so far. And although the centres are reluctant to turn away clients, they cannot cope with the volume.

“We can’t provide services to all who seek help. We can only reach out to 20,000 people a year. This is only scratching the surface.”

He lamented the fact that the government’s Legal Aid Bureau received one of the smallest allocations under the Budget.

Ragunath urged the government to provide legal representation for the accused, irrespective of race, religion or nationality.

“Most inmates at the Kajang prison, for instance, are foreigners. The Legal Aid Bureau only provides aid for Malaysians.”

Ragunath said most people who sought aid were insecure and frightened.

As such, lawyers representing them should be sensitive to issues involving sex workers, abused women, drug addicts and migrant workers.

“The Bar Council is working with non-governmental organisations such as the All Women’s Action Society, Women’s Aid Organisation and Tenaganita to help these people.

“We visit remand centres twice a month. We also go to juvenile homes. We are helping many, but our outreach is limited.

“Many who need legal aid don’t come forward, especially those from rural areas and estates.”

On the issue, Zaid said: “We may have to look again as to the eligibility, as to the scope that we can offer.

“It might be a bit restrictive now. If we have the means, we would want to expand legal aid to cover a wider net.

“I think it is important that people who are charged and cannot afford lawyers have some way to get legal representation. It’s something that we have to look into.”


ARTICLE 5 (3) of the Federal Constitution says: “Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”

Section 28A(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code 1999 says that where the person arrested wishes to communicate or attempt to communicate and consult with a legal practitioner of his choice, the police officer shall, as soon as possible, allow the arrested person to do so.

IN the United States, public defenders are available for any criminal defendant who cannot afford her/his own legal representation.

The US Supreme Court has determined that the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, in particular the 6th Amendment, requires public defenders to be available in all criminal proceedings as one of the basic rights of all Americans.

That Amendment says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”

Source: Kathryn Taylor, US Embassy Press attache, Kuala Lumpur

Kerjasama berpasukan satu cabaran – Khalid

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

TAN Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim merupakan satu nama besar yang tidak perlu diperkenalkan lagi dalam sektor korporat.

Beliau pernah mengakui merupakan produk Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB), juga pernah terlibat merangka pelbagai dasar membantu Melayu, termasuk Amanah Saham Nasional(ASN) ketika bersama Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).

Tetapi itu dulu sebelum beliau menceburi bidang politik. Kini namanya semakin dikenali apabila bersama parti pembangkang, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Beliau antara orang yang mengetuai tsunami politik pada Pilihan Paya Umum Ke-12 merampas Selangor yang kini beliau terajui sebagai Menteri Besar.

Abdul Khalid mengakui tidak pernah mengimpikan akan mengetuai sebuah kerajaan negeri selepas tewas pada pilihan raya kecil Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Ijok, April tahun lalu.

Pada peringkat awal dalam PKR, beliau menganggap dirinya berada dalam ‘kumpulan khuatir’ berbeza dengan kumpulan kebal seperti Naib Presiden PKR, Azmin Ali, sehingga kadang-kadang ‘lari’ daripada mereka.

Kepada wartawan Mingguan Malaysisa Khalid Saad dan Rozilan Salleh yang menemuinya di Stadium Shah Alam selepas beliau menyaksikan perlawanan bola sepak Piala FA antara Selangor dengan Perak baru-baru ini, Abdul Khalid menyatakan beliau belum dapat bercuti, yang pada mulanya dirancang selepas pilihan raya umum lalu. Baginya menyaksikan perlawanan bola sepak hampir dua jam itu, juga seolah-olah ‘bercuti’ seketika daripada beban tugas.

MINGGUAN: Tan Sri sebelum ini mengetuai organisasi korporat, apa bezanya bila kini mengetuai organisasi yang lebih besar, sebagai Menteri Besar kepada sebuah negeri paling maju di Malaysia?

KHALID: Saya bersyukur kepada Allah kerana memberi saya peluang untuk menyemai bakti kepada masyarakat. Saya bernasib baik sebagai budak kampung yang mendapat peluang, merasai bagaimana menjadi pengurus pelaburan, kemudian pengurus syarikat ladang dan kini memasuki arena politik dan diberi tugas bersama rakan-rakan untuk menerajui sebuah negeri yang dianggap penting di Malaysia.

Saya tidak menyangka perkara ini boleh berlaku. Saya telah dijemput oleh saudara Anwar Ibrahim menyertai kumpulannya. Saya menerimanya oleh kerana saya percaya kewibawaan beliau dan keinginannya membawa reformasi kepada masyarakat dan politik. Saya juga mendapat kekalahan politik apabila pertama kali menyertai pilihan raya dan kalah di Ijok (pilihan raya kecil). Jadi bukanlah maknanya saya menang semua. Ijok memberi pengajaran kepada saya bahawa dalam politik ini, kita mesti berani dan sanggup mengambil risiko.

Saya rasa rakyat Malaysia agak matang dalam politik, boleh jadi kita tidak pandai membaca pemikiran mereka tetapi akhirnya mereka menunjukkan kematangan ber- politik. Kalau mereka hendak buat perubahan, mereka akan lakukan juga. Jadi bagaimana cara sekalipuntelevisyen cuba membuat agenda-agenda yang patut diikuti tetapi ini tidak akan mengubah pemikiran ramai dalam usaha mengubah kerajaan.

Pernahkan Tan Sri terfikir mencapai tahap sekarang?

KHALID: Saya rasa apabila masuk Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) sebagai orang baru, mereka seperti Azmin Ali yang berjuang sudah lapan, sembilan tahun, bila masuk kumpulan tersebut, mereka sudah kebal. Bagi mereka, kalah pun tidak menjadi masalah. Tetapi saya dalam kumpulan yang khuatir tetapi mereka ini pasal melawan sudah jadi identiti. Kadang-kadang saya lari daripada mereka sebab identiti mereka ialah mahu mengetengahkan bahawa negara perlu mencapai tahap keadilan dan mereka yang teraniaya mesti kita beri pertolongan.

Yang penting dalam hal ini ialah ‘esprit de corps’ (semangat kekitaan), mereka ini dalam satu kumpulan, walaupun tahu sesuatu perkara, itu sangat sukar, tetapi kekuatan ‘esprit de corps’ percaya suatu masa mereka akan berjaya. Adalah satu kejayaan bagi Keadilan, daripada satu kerusi (di Parlimen), kini menjadi 31 kerusi dan dapat membuat perubahan di empat negeri yang biasanya selalu berlaku di Kelantan dan Terengganu.

Trend pengundi memilih pembangkang?

KHALID: Saya tidak mengkaji secara terperinci tetapi yang memberi undi kepada kita, boleh diketahui. Jalur satu, dua dan tiga terdiri daripada pengundi lama manakala jalur empat, lima dan enam golongan muda, kalau tengok pola, di pantai barat di kawasan bandar, mereka beri sokongan kepada reformasi.

Benarkah bukan pembangkang kuat tetapi keputusan pilihan raya disebabkan kelemahan Barisan Nasional (BN) sendiri?

KHALID: Itu tidak apalah, masalah mereka, tetapi saya ingat pengundi pun memilih juga. Ada yang beri BN menang. Pengundi memilih, bukan tidak memilih tetapi boleh jadi trend itu membawa kepada Keadilan. Saya tidak kata BN kurang faham tetapi dia tidak terbaca pemikiran masyarakat yang membuat perubahan, ada orang kata BN agak ‘arrogant’ (angkuh) sebab kata orang Melayu tidak ada pilihan kecuali BN. Jadi bila sampai pada peringkat itu, pengundi sudah mula berfikir, oleh itu yang lain menjadi pilihan, sebab itu kita dapat undi-undi mereka atas pagar yang merasakan tidak akan pilih kumpulan yang terlalu ‘arrogant’.

Parti-parti pembangkang berjaya menawan Selangor, jadi sekarang ini sepatutnya masa untuk menunaikan janji-janji kepada rakyat?

KHALID: Ya, sudah tentu, antara manifesto yang saya lihat ialah bagaimana meringankan beban air. Kita akan mulakannya mulai 1 Jun ini.

Sebagai seorang profesional, saya tidak kata janji itu terus boleh dilaksanakan tetapi kerajaan kena buat kira-kira terlebih dahulu. Apakah kesannya kepada negeri, kesan kepada syarikat-syarikat yang uruskan air. Kita telah buat kajian dan hasilnya kita boleh lakukan mulai 1 Jun ini.

Tetapi ini melibatkan jumlah yang besar?

KHALID: Kita akan buat setahun-setahun. Pada saya kita boleh lakukan lebih baik lagi apabila kita mengkaji semula konsensi-konsensi yang diberi dan kalau boleh beri peluang kepada kita untuk kurangkan keuntungan dari mereka menjadi usahawan yang menerima itu. Negeri tidak ambil keuntungan tersebut tetapi akan mengalirkannya kepada rakyat Selangor.

Selain air?

KHALID: Pada saya yang paling penting ialah bagaimana ingin membawa belia Selangor ke satu tahap semuanya bekerja, maknanya tidak ada seorang pun belia di Selangor yang saya angggp tidak ada pekerjaan yang sesuai.

Pada saya kita mesti latih belia agar berkemahiran tinggi supaya mereka tidak menjadi buruh kasar tetapi buruh yang mempunyai kemahiran. Saya cadang kalau cita-cita berjaya, sasaran saya setiap belia berusia 23 hingga 35 tahun sekurang-kurangnya mendapat gaji RM2,000 sebulan, kalau nak dapat gaji sebanyak itu dia mesti ada kemahiran dan kebolehan.

Pada saya Selangor akan menyediakan latihan-latihan kemahiran supaya mereka dapat kejayaan yang mereka mahu.

Jika menjadi kenyataan, jurang berada dengan tidak berada dapat dikurangkan dengan belia yang menjadi peratus penduduk tertinggi sudah dapat meningkatkan pendapatan. Walaupun ramai yang kata saya guna dana dari pekerja asing, tetapi tujuan saya kalau Malaysia mahu maju ke depan tetapi bergantung kepada buruh luar, makin lama kita dalam keadaan tidak tenteram, saya mahu selesaikan masalah itu.

Kedua, pengambilan buruh asing ke Malaysia melibatkan banyak kos. Saya dapati sekurang-kurangnya RM3,500, saya mahu Selangor mencari jalan bagaimana mengurangkannya dengan cara membayar RM9 sebulan dapat mengurangkan RM3,500 ke RM2,500, maknanya upah yang itu sudah terbayar.

Tetapi saya perlukan data setiap buruh asing, kalau tidak, rancangan itu tidak dapat dijalankan. Tujuannya kita hendak simpan data-data tersebut. Kita boleh gunakan itu untuk membolehkan pekerja asing mendapatkan perkhidmatan di hospital, sekolah, masjid.

Jadi kita mesti ada data, kalau tidak jadi kelam-kabut, jumlah mereka bukan sedikit, 1.5 juta. Banyak NGO (pertubuhan bukan kerajaan) agak marah, mereka kata memerah buruh asing. Saya bukan memerah, saya hendak menolong tetapi teknik saya menolong ialah lebih kepada pendekatan komersial, kalau tolong perlu ada timbal balas, kena buat strategi sebegini, bukan tolong sahaja, susah kemudian.

Dari segi pembentukan kerajaan negeri dan pelantikan Exco, adakah Tan Sri menghadapi masalah?

KHALID: Masalah… memang biasa, melantik Kabinet pun saya ingat Perdana Menteri tidak kurang tidurnya, pada saya memanglah kita boleh ambil ramai Exco tetapi ada hadnya, umpamanya empat PKR sebab berasaskan kemenangan 15 kerusi, DAP hendak empat juga sebab dia ada 13 kerusi, Pas pun hendak tambah.

Walau bagaimanapun oleh kerana kita memikirkan supaya melambangkan demografi peratus masyarakat di Selangor yang 52-53 peratus adalah terdiri daripada Melayu dan bumiputera, kita cuba melebihkannya, bukan terlalu banyak jumlah Exco Melayu tetapi kita juga mesti ada wakil India, DAP hanya boleh menyediakan wakil dari kaum Tionghua, Pas pula boleh bagi hanya Melayu, PKR mesti ada Melayu, Cina dan India.

Tetapi akhirnya saya berpuas hati kerana ini pertama kali dalam sejarah di Selangor yang ada empat Exco wanita. Ia boleh jadi sejarah dalam Malaysia, empat wanita mempunyai kepakaran tersendiri, bukan pilih mereka kerana dia wanita tetapi kerana mereka ada kebolehan seperti doktor, jurutera. Mereka orang profesional, tetapi yang lelaki pun tidak kurang kebolehan mereka.

Tetapi DAP seolah-olah masih tidak berpuas hati?

KHALID: Pasal puas hati, tidak puas hati, bukan PKR sahaja, UMNO pun tidak puas hati, Pas tidak puas hati, semua orang tidak puas hati tetapi itu memang perkara biasa. Mereka rasa mereka patut dapat lebih.

Tetapi tidakkah ini boleh mengancam pakatan PKR, DAP dan Pas?

KHALID: Tidak, yang bahayanya ialah kalau kita tidak dapat menguruskan negeri ini dengan baik, mereka sentiasa akan menuntut, memang biasa. Pada saya itu bergantung kepada kepimpinan kita dan bagaimana kita membentuk kerjasama berpasukan, ini satu cabaran paling penting bagi saya daripada pandangan dan aliran berbeza untuk membangunkan Selangor.

DAP masih mengharapkan jawatan Timbalan Menteri Besar?

KHALID: Kini isu itu tidak timbul lagi, tetapi saya ada buat kenyataan, bila perlu, saya rasa itu berlapik.

Apa maksud Exco Kanan yang diberikan kepada Teresa Kok?

KHALID: DAP ada 13 kerusi DUN, tetapi dapat tiga jawatan Exco, Pas dengan lapan kerusi pun dapat tiga Exco, jadi kita naikkan status dia kepada kanan. Jawatan kanan itu bukan bermakna beliau akan menggantikan Menteri Besar dalam hal tertentu, tidak ada dalam Undang-Undang Tubuh Negeri Selangor, sebab itu watikah pelantikan Menteri Besar berasingan daripada Exco, undang-undang negeri, Menteri Besar mesti mempengerusikan Exco.

Bagaimana Tan Sri melihat 82 kerusi pembangkang di Parlimen, satu jumlah yang besar?

KHALID: Lebih mantap, nantilah kita akan tengok bagaimana. Yang bagusnya sebab rakyat matang, dulu kadang-kadang rang undang-undang yang tidak boleh diterima pun disogokkan kepada kita, kini tugas kita akan menjadi ‘check and balance’, ini menjadikan negara matang.

Sebelum ini, apabila rang undang-undang dibentangkan, dia asyik bersorak sahaja, lepas orang bercakap dia sorak, lepas tu undang-undang lulus sedangkan sesetengah daripada ahli Parlimen BN tidak tahu pun apa yang dia baca, jadi saya rasa sekarang BN dan pembangkang kena sama-sama teliti.

Salah satu yang akan kita bawa ialah memansuhkan Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri (ISA) dan Akta Rahsia Rasmi (OSA), selain undang-undang hak mendapatkan maklumat. Ini mampu membuka minda masyarakat, jadi ‘check and balance’ kepada eksekutif dan pentadbir yang mereka mesti membuat kerja dengan betul.

Selepas 15 April, Anwar boleh aktif semula berpolitik dan dibenarkan bertanding dalam pilihan raya, adakah ini membawa perubahan corak kepadaPKR?

KHALID: Kalau boleh, saya minta dipercepatkan lagi pun tidak apa. Kita sudah kata kepada Perdana Menteri, kenapa tidak ditunda pilihan raya, kenapa buat Mac, tidak selepas April untuk memberi peluang kepada Anwar Ibrahim. Tetapi Perdana Menteri kata dia tidak terfikir soal Anwar, okey, kita terima, kalau Anwar tidak penting buatlah selepas 15 April. Selepas itu sama ada akan berubah atau tidak, terpulanglah, pada saya momentum rakyat untuk perubahan itu sudah nampak. Anwar boleh buat keputusan sama ada beliau mahu bertanding selepas 15 April, terpulang kepada dia. Tetapi kita juga ada perkara-perkara yang mesti difikirkan.

Di mana beliau akan bertanding?

KHALID: Strategi kita sekarang ini, jangan meletakkan tempat sebab saya percaya dalam pilihan raya kecil, bila kita tetapkan tempat, orang sudah mula kempen dari sekarang, strategi itu tidak boleh, kalau itu berlaku, jentera kerajaan sudah mula turun untuk menyelesaikan masalah-masalah setempat.

Adakah Tan Sri sendiri bersedia mengosongkan kerusi Parlimen Bandar Tun Razak untuk memberi ruang kepada Anwar?

KHALID: Boleh jadi, kita ada lagi 30 yang sedia kosongkan kerusi, dia boleh kempen di 30 tempat itu termasuk Bandar Tun Razak, tetapi kalau kita bagi (umum) satu atau dua tempat, ini tidak betul. Saya percaya Anwar ada kemahiran politik, percaturan dia, dia akan tentukan bila masa yang sesuai.

Bagaimana dengan kehidupan Tan Sri sekarang, sudah dua minggu menjadi Menteri Besar?

KHALID: Selepas saya bersara dari Guthrie saya ingat sudah boleh berrehat, sekarang saya balik seperti masa di Guthrie, itu sahaja. Dari segi kerja, memang saya selalu bekerja dalam keadaan ini. Saya ingat saya mahu bercuti selepas pilihan raya tetapi sekarang belum boleh lagi, harapan untuk bercuti itu tidak lagi dapat ditunaikan. Tetapi saya juga diingatkan oleh rakan-rakan, mesti bercuti. Sebab itu saya tengok bola sampai lebih satu jam, tidak payah fikir hal lain


Beranikah ahli UMNO?

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

PADA 16 hingga 20 Disember ini, ribuan pemimpin dan ahli UMNO sekali lagi akan berkumpul di Pusat Dagangan Dunia Putra (PWTC).

Ini kerana di situlah akan berlangsung Perhimpunan Agung parti berkenaan. Sebelum itu pada 17 Julai hingga 24 Ogos mesyuarat peringkat cawangan akan diadakan diikuti peringkat bahagian pada 9 Oktober hingga 9 November.

Ketiga-tiga mesyuarat itu akan menyaksikan pemilihan semua jawatan dari pemeriksa kira-kira hinggalah kepada Presiden.

Bagaimanapun pemilihan kali ini dianggap akan dijalankan dalam suasana agak berbeza selepas keputusan Pilihan Raya Umum ke-12 menunjukkan UMNO kini bukan lagi sebuah parti yang digeruni.

Malah lebih daripada itu, pemimpin dan ahli UMNO akan bermesyuarat dalam keadaan mereka menjadi pembangkang di lima negeri.

Tumbangnya UMNO di Kedah, gagalnya UMNO di Kelantan, tewasnya UMNO di Perak, kecundangnya UMNO di Selangor dan tersungkur UMNO bersama Parti Gerakan di Pulau Pinang sudah memberi isyarat yang jelas bahawa sesuatu perlu dilakukan oleh ahli-ahli parti itu bagi mengembalikan maruah mereka.

Sama ada hendak diakui atau tidak populariti UMNO sebagai parti orang Melayu kini semakin tergugat.

Oleh itu usaha perlu dilakukan bagi memulihkan imejnya, ia akan bermula dengan melihat sejauh manakah ahli-ahli UMNO di semua peringkat mempunyai keberanian untuk melakukan perubahan terutamanya dari segi kepimpinan.

Pemilihan kali ini adalah medan terbaik bagi ahli-ahli UMNO memilih pemimpin-pemimpin yang benar-benar berwibawa bagi meningkatkan semula keupayaan parti itu meraih sokongan rakyat.

Mereka tidak harus takut untuk menyingkirkan pemimpin yang tidak lagi diterima oleh rakyat dan menggantikannya dengan pemimpin lain.

Jika ahli-ahli UMNO berfikir kini adalah masa terbaik untuk membuat perubahan, mereka perlu melakukannya.

‘‘UMNO perlu berubah jika mereka mahu kekal relevan,’’ kata pemerhati politik, Prof. Mustafa Mohamed Ishak.

Hakikatnya, semua pihak memahami perasaan ahli-ahli UMNO sekarang yang marah, geram dan kecewa dengan keputusan pilihan raya lalu.

Namun kalau menangis empat hari empat malam pun tetapi jika tidak berani untuk melakukan perubahan bagi mencari yang terbaik tiada gunanya juga.

Mengulas perkara ini, Ketua Penerangan UMNO Kelantan, Datuk Mohd Alwi Che Mat memberikan ‘panduan’ kepada ahli-ahli UMNO, pemimpin seperti manakah yang mereka mahukan.


‘‘Jangan pilih pemimpin sombong, pilihlah pemimpin yang ikhlas dan jujur dalam agama dan perjuangan,’’ katanya ketika dihubungi.

Sebagai seorang pemimpin yang berada di sebuah negeri yang ditawan oleh pembangkang sejak 1990, Mohd Alwi sudah tentulah memahami apa kesannya jika UMNO memilih pemimpin sombong dan tidak mahu berdamping dengan rakyat.

Keputusan pilihan raya umum telah menunjukkan bagaimana sesetengah pemimpin ditolak oleh rakyat kerana peribadinya.

Namun begitu ada juga pemimpin yang tewas dalam pilihan raya tetapi masih boleh diberi ruang untuk terus memegang jawatan dalam parti, siapa? Biarlah ahli UMNO menentukan.

Ini kerana adalah tidak adil jika pemimpin itu ditolak sedangkan kekalahannya bukan disebabkan oleh faktor peribadi tetapi akibat ‘arus tsunami pusat’ yang ‘menghempas’.

‘‘Ahli UMNO kena membuat pertimbangan yang waras kerana orang yang kalah itu mungkin bukan kerana dia dibenci, mungkin ada faktor lain dan kadangkala rakyat salah melakukan pertimbangan.

‘‘Lihatlah kemenangan beberapa calon pembangkang yang kita sendiri boleh nilai keupayaan sebenar mereka,’’ kata Mohd Alwi.

Bagaimanapun bagi Naib Ketua UMNO Bahagian Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan, Rahim Mohd. Zain, ahli-ahli UMNO tidak perlu panik berikutan pencapaian parti dalam pilihan raya umum lalu.

‘‘Kita hanya kurang lapan kerusi untuk memperoleh majoriti dua pertiga, UMNO dan BN masih kuat.

‘‘Namun begitu ada beberapa perubahan yang perlu kita lakukan, ini termasuklah memastikan pemimpin yang bakal dipilih di semua peringkat nanti benar-benar menjadi hamba kepada rakyat dan bukannya bersikap ego dan sombong,’’ katanya.

Itulah pandangan Mohd Alwi dan Rahim mengenai kriteria pemimpin yang perlu diletakkan dalam saf kepimpinan UMNO bagi mengubat kembali luka berikutan tsunami politik yang melanda.

Tetapi persoalan yang lebih jelas ialah beranikah ahli UMNO? apakah perubahan yang diimpikan akan menjadi kenyataan? Tidakkah pemilihan UMNO acap kali dikaitkan dengan politik wang? Bolehkah perbuatan yang dilaknat oleh Allah ini dihapuskan dalam pemilihan kali ini?

Istilah ‘salji’ turun beberapa jam sebelum pemilihan pada tahun 2004 bukan sahaja menjadi begitu popular tetapi juga menjadi ‘fobia’ kepada ahli-ahli di peringkat akar umbi.

Mereka bimbang jika pemilihan kali ini juga akan dihiasi dengan ‘turunnya salji-salji’ yang bakal membekukan amanat awal yang mereka berikan kepada perwakilan siapa seharusnya dipilih menjadi pemimpin di peringkat pusat.

‘‘Kebimbangan mengenai politik wang ini semakin diperkatakan oleh ahli-ahli UMNO, saya tidak pasti sama ada pencapaian dalam pilihan raya lalu mampu menjadi ‘tangkal’ bagi menghalang perbuatan berkenaan dalam pemilihan kali ini,’’ kata seorang ketua UMNO bahagian di Kedah, ketika dihubungi.

Ia disebabkan sesetengah pemimpin sanggup melakukan apa sahaja bagi mendapat kuasa dan kedudukan biarpun mereka sendiri melaungkan hapuskan politik wang.


Sikap tidak jujur ini hanya boleh dihapuskan oleh ahli-ahli UMNO sendiri yang perlu memahami bahawa pemilihan kali ini adalah penentu masa depan parti.

Mereka harus bijak membuat penilaian dan paling penting memahami bahawa Rasulullah s.a.w. pernah bersabda salah satu golongan yang dilaknat oleh Allah ialah seorang pemimpin yang mahu terus memimpin biarpun ditolak oleh kaumnya.

Pemimpin seumpama inilah yang akan ‘membenarkan salji-salji berguguran’ ketika pemilihan dan sekali gus diharap akan menyejukkan ‘bara’ yang kini menyala di dada ahli-ahli UMNO berikutan pilihan raya lalu.

Apa pun segala-galanya terserah kepada ahli-ahli UMNO dan mereka perlu memahami bahawa pemilihan tahun ini amat penting bagi survival politik parti itu.

Jika mereka terus mengamalkan sikap memilih ‘pemimpin Santa Claus’ dan bukannya pemimpin yang benar-benar disukai rakyat, percayalah kedukaan ‘tsunami politik 2008’ akan berulang lagi kira-kira empat atau lima tahun akan datang dan mungkin ia lebih buruk.

Ketika itu, ahli-ahli UMNO mungkin tidak lagi menyambut pemimpin-pemimpin mereka di Parlimen atau PWTC tetapi di Muzium Negara di mana UMNO akan ‘ditempatkan’.

Justeru jadikanlah gelanggang pemilihan kali ini sebagai medan untuk memastikan UMNO terus kekal relevan bukan sahaja untuk ahlinya tetapi paling penting rakyat Malaysia. Beranilah melakukan perubahan demi agama, bangsa dan negara.