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
CASES HANDLED BY THE BAR COUNCIL LEGAL AID CENTRE, KUALA LUMPUR IN 2005 TO 2007

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.”

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

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.
PUBLIC DEFENDER PROGRAMME

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

MUKADIMAH
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

Source: Utusan.com.my

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.

Pemimpin

‘‘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

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.

Source: Utusan.com.my

Reformasi bukan retorik

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

MUKADIMAH
Biarpun ramai yang agak terkejut dengan kenyataan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim baru-baru ini mengenai kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN) harus memohon maaf ekoran pemecatan bekas Ketua Hakim Negara, Tun Salleh Abas 20 tahun lalu, namun mesej yang cuba disampaikan semakin jelas.

Langkah pertama ke arah reformasi institusi kehakiman negara bakal dilakukan apabila beliau membentangkan kertas cadangan pertama bagi menambah baik sistem perundangan dan institusi kehakiman negara kepada Kabinet bulan depan.

Matlamat reformasi itu cuma satu, iaitu ke arah mewujudkan badan kehakiman yang berintegriti, telus dan bebas daripada gejala rasuah sejajar dengan hasrat Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi untuk melihat sistem tersebut yang adil seadil-adilnya tanpa banyak campur tangan kuasa eksekutif.

“Saya beri jaminan berani proses transformasi sistem kehakiman ini real, bukan setakat hangat-hangat tahi ayam dan tidak salah untuk mencuba,” jelas Zaid dalam nada bersemangat kepada wartawan Mingguan Malaysia, AMRAN AHMAD, NORZAINAH NORDIN dan HERMAN HAMID di Kuala Lumpur, semalam.

Dalam wawancara selama hampir satu jam itu, bekas pengerusi firma guaman terkemuka, Zaid Ibrahim & Co. itu mengupas mengenai beberapa teras dan inti pati reformasi, masalah dan cabaran pelaksanaannya selain keperluan untuk ‘membebaskan’ hakim-hakim agar mereka lebih berani dalam menjalankan tugas.

Zaid juga menyentuh mengenai campur tangan kuasa eksekutif termasuk ahli politik dalam sistem kehakiman negara, perubahan minda pemimpin dan kesangsian banyak pihak untuk menjayakan proses reformasi itu.

Beliau turut menekankan betapa sistem kehakiman menjadi antara tonggak kepada kemajuan sesebuah negara dengan mengambil contoh Jepun, Eropah dan Afrika Selatan sebagai antara negara yang selalu berhadapan dengan konflik tetapi dapat memajukan negara dengan berlandaskan prinsip kehakiman yang dipercayai rakyat.

“Apa pun juga, segala tindakan dalam proses ini tidak boleh dilakukan secara mengejut, harus secara perlahan-lahan dengan saya selaku Menteri yang dipertanggungjawabkan akan bersikap objektif dan tidak bersifat peribadi, walaupun saya dikatakan pernah ada masalah sehingga dikenakan tindakan oleh beberapa hakim sebelum ini,” tambah beliau lagi.

MINGGUAN: Heboh mengenai reformasi badan kehakiman, sebenarnya bagaimana ia hendak dilakukan?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Kalau diimbas kembali sebelum tahun 1988, badan kehakiman mempunyai kuasa mutlak dalam bidang mereka. Perkataan yang digunakan ialah ‘judicial power’ atau kuasa kehakiman. Selepas tahun 1988, negara menyaksikan perubahan dalam sistem kehakiman dengan kuasa mahkamah itu adalah apa sahaja yang dibenarkan ke atas mahkamah mesti di bawah undang-undang yang digubal di Parlimen. Ini bermakna kuasa hakim ‘dirampas’. Jadi, perubahan pertama yang akan dilakukan ialah ke arah membuatkan rakyat kembali menghormati badan kehakiman dengan hakim mampu menjalankan tanggungjawab dengan baik menerusi pemberian semula kuasa itu.

Justeru, saya akan mencadangkan kerajaan mengembalikan semula kuasa kepada hakim-hakim kerana ini adalah teras utama dalam proses reformasi ini.

Maknanya kita masukkan semula ‘judicial power’ dalam Perlembagaan?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Ya, begitulah. Parlimen mempunyai kuasa tersendiri, kerajaan ada kuasa tersendiri dan kehakiman juga ada kuasa sendiri dan ini jelas termaktub dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Kita kena menghormati setiap satu kuasa yang ada dan mahkamah tidak boleh menggunakan kuasa yang ada padanya untuk tujuan mengganggu kerja-kerja dasar-dasar kerajaan. Semua yang dilakukan mesti berpandukan kepada Perlembagaan. Setiap daripada tiga cabang itu mesti hormat-menghormati kuasa masing-masing dan tidak boleh campur tangan dalam bidang masing-masing.

Selain itu, kita tak mahu unsur rasuah dalam institusi undang-undang. Kalau ada rasuah, kita tidak akan mampu perbaiki apa sistem sekali pun. Jadi dalam usaha ini, soal-soal penting seperti pelantikan hakim, kenaikan pangkat perlu dikendali secara lebih terbuka, telus melalui satu suruhanjaya. Tapi bukan bermakna kita tarik kuasa yang ada, kuasa yang dalam Perlembagaan kita hormati. Misalnya, Ketua Hakim Negara, dia ada kuasa. Ia akan kekal cuma dia dalam menjalankan tugasnya mestilah dijalankan secara telus.

Begitu juga cadangan saya dalam bidang lain. Bukan saya nak rombak hinggakan kena pinda apa-apa yang telah sekian lama terbukti baik untuk negara. Kita cuma mahu tukar mana-mana yang ada kelemahan.

Seperti yang Datuk terangkan, masih berlaku pertindihan terhadap badan kehakiman yang boleh menjejaskan kebebasan tersebut termasuk pelantikan hakim. Adakah penubuhan suruhanjaya adalah langkah terbaik?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Kalau ada sistem suruhanjaya, ia tidak semestinya boleh selesaikan semua perkara. Yang penting sekurang-kurangnya kita tahu asas pemilihan itu dibuat. Dan saya perlu ingatkan bahawa kuasa Perdana Menteri tidak akan terjejas, ia akan kekal seperti yang ada dalam Perlembagaan.

Cuma proses. Sebagai contoh, Ketua Hakim Negara kata beri ‘si polan dan si polan’ jadi hakim atau naik pangkat. Ia tidak boleh dibuat begitu. Kita kena bincang dalam suruhanjaya itu untuk tahu apa kebolehan, kelayakan, pengalaman dan apakah beliau ada rekod yang tidak baik. Satu lagi, mampukah menjadi hakim yang dihormati?

Yang penting Perdana Menteri dapat menilai alasan-

alasan seseorang itu dipilih. Jadi, tidak timbul permasalahan seperti yang lalu, orang itu kata nama itu naik kerana melobi, itu tidak patut. Jadi badan ini tidak dihormati kalau orang yang tidak sewajarnya berada di situ. Dan saya juga tidak suka orang lompat-lompat, daripada mana-mana, terus naik ke atas.

Berhubung dengan hakim yang ‘lompat-lompat’ terus ke atas ini, apakah masalahnya pula dengan mereka itu?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Memang ada banyak aduan daripada orang ramai. Sebab mengapa perlu orang macam itu naik? Sebab apabila seorang naik, ramai yang tidak dapat naik. Kena tahu kesan moralnya. Apabila seseorang hakim naik pangkat, tetapi hakim-hakim lain tidak puas hati dan semangat akan jatuh. Dan mungkin mereka akan malas bekerja lepas ini sebab kerja kuat pun tidak naik pangkat. Kita kena tahu, gaji hakim bukan mahal sangat. Dahulu, yang jadi hakim antaranya peguam yang telah berjaya pun ada.

Mereka jadi hakim sebagai satu penghormatan, bukan tempat untuk cari makan, bukan untuk cipta rangkaian. Maknanya bila dilantik hakim, ia satu pengiktirafan terhadap seseorang yang berada dalam kelompok undang-undang.

Hakim seseorang yang dihormati. Kita mahu seperti itu. Kalau hakim tidak dihormati oleh orang ramai, maka secara langsung dia tidak akan boleh memberi keyakinan. Rakyat tahu dalam perbicaraan kes akan ada yang menang dan ada yang kalah. Tapi persoalannya adakah yang kalah itu berpuas hati yang dia telah diadili dengan adil, iaitu mendapat hakim yang baik, tidak ada unsur rasuah, tidak ada orang tolong tetapkan?

Maknanya dia tewas kerana sebab dia tewas, bukan sebab ada unsur luar. Kita perlu bentuk keyakinan. Sebab itu kita perlu hakim yang ada integriti, hakim yang tidak boleh disogok, hakim yang tidak penting pada glamor, tidak ada konflik.

Kalau banyak sangat kaitan dengan pihak luar kita meletakkan diri dalam konflik, serba salah buat keputusan. Itu kita tidak mahu.

Tentang reformasi badan kehakiman, bagaimana pula hendak mengawal perlakuan hakim-hakim yang telah terpilih?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Itu soal dalaman badan kehakiman. Ketua Hakim Negara ada kod etika mereka. Tingkah laku seseorang hakim itu bukan dalam kawalan saya.

Berdasarkan kata-kata Datuk itu tadi, apakah benar berlaku hakim disogok serta penetapan keputusan berlaku?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Itu kena tanya diri sendiri. Cakap-cakap dalam kerangka perundangan, peguam, kes Lingam dan macam-macam. Percaya atau tidak mahu percaya, terpulang pada diri. Saya sendiri tidak boleh kata benar atau tidak. Cuma saya boleh kata ini ada anggapan dari orang ramai. Kalau perkara ini benar-benar berlaku, kita tidak boleh masih bertanya betul atau tidak betul lagi, kita kena buat tindakan dan atur supaya benda ini tidak berterusan.

Apa yang boleh rakyat harapkan dari hasrat Datuk untuk melakukan pembaharuan terhadap badan kehakiman?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Ada dasar-dasar yang berada di bawah kerajaan seperti cadangan hendak tubuh suruhanjaya, lantikan dan kenaikan pangkat hakim. Cuma apabila kita melaksanakan, hendaklah ada persetujuan badan kehakiman supaya mereka faham dan diterima. Saya akan cadangkan dalam suruhanjaya itu Ketua Hakim Negara adalah ketuanya, kerana dia lebih tahu (hakim-hakim di bawah). Kita (kerajaan) cuma menyediakan kerangka. Dalam suruhanjaya itu semua ada wakilnya, peguam ada wakil, orang ramai kena ada wakil, peguam negara ada wakil dan profesor universiti pun akan ada wakil.

Dengan penyertaan pelbagai pihak, maka ruang untuk berlakunya kesilapan akan berkurangan, tetapi tidak semestinya tiada kesilapan langsung dan jawatan-jawatan penting dalam sistem kehakiman ini akan diisi oleh mereka yang berkebolehan dan tidak mempunyai rekod latar belakang buruk termasuk moral dan prestasi kerja yang bersih seperti sistem pemilihan hakim di Amerika Syarikat.

Dengan adanya sistem pemilihan tersebut, maka setiap hakim yang dilantik benar-benar melalui proses penapisan yang cekap dan ketat, sekali gus dapat mengembalikan penghormatan ke atas profesion hakim itu sendiri.

Dalam usaha mengembalikan keyakinan rakyat terhadap institusi kehakiman negara, adakah Datuk merujuk kepada model-model sistem kehakiman dari negara tertentu?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Kita tidak perlu cari banyak model-model sistem kehakiman untuk dijadikan rujukan, namun ada juga menyelidik dan belajar dari beberapa negara yang saya iktiraf sebagai bersih, cekap dan tidak banyak rasuah seperti Australia, Singapura dan Britain. Saya bukan hendak menyifatkan sistem kehakiman yang kita mahu laksanakan ini sebagai 100 peratus sempurna, menyedari ketidaksempurnaan sistem kehakiman mana-mana negara tetapi kita tidak mahu budaya ‘biasalah’ wujud di negara ini. Sebagai contoh, apabila kita tanya ‘Kenapa mencuri? Jawapannya, ‘Kalau kita tidak curi, orang lain curi juga.’ atau ‘Bisa diatur’ kerana kita perlu beri yang terbaik kepada rakyat dan segala kelemahan mesti di atasi jika kita mahu menjadi negara kelas pertama. Tidak salah kita cuba untuk jadi telus, jujur dan menaikkan orang berdasarkan kebolehannya.

Apakah yang menjadi teras atau inti pati pelaksanaan proses reformasi ini?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Kita semua kena iktiraf badan kehakiman sebagai badan yang bebas dan bukan sebahagian daripada jabatan kerajaan. Saya percaya, dalam hal ini, saya mendapat sokongan kuat daripada Perdana Menteri sendiri untuk melaksanakannya kerana jika tidak, Pak Lah tentunya tidak akan memilih saya menyertai barisan kabinetnya.

Pak Lah tahu pendirian saya dalam perkara ini.

Justeru, saya akan berusaha memenuhi hasrat beliau untuk melihat badan kehakiman negara adil dan walaupun tidak pasti sejauh mana kejayaan proses reformasi ini, saya tetap akan mencuba.

Jadi proses ini bukan ‘one-man show’, tetapi mendapat sokongan daripada pelbagai pihak termasuk Majlis Peguam?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Ya, semua pihak kerana saya, kalau boleh tidak mahu mendatangkan kemarahan sesiapa dalam melaksanakan proses reformasi ini. Misalnya, saya tidak ada sebarang bentuk permusuhan dengan Majlis Peguam kerana berbeza pendapat tidak menjadikan kami musuh antara satu sama lain. Berkongsi pendapat yang sama tidak semestinya berkawan.

Bagi saya, Majlis Peguam ada mengutarakan cadangan-cadangan yang baik tetapi ada juga cadangannya yang saya anggap tidak baik.

Sejauh mana proses itu mampu menambat semula hati rakyat sekali gus boleh mengembalikan keyakinan?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Keyakinan rakyat tidak akan kembali dalam sekelip mata, seperti juga kita tidak boleh paksa orang untuk hormat pada kita. Apabila kita membuat sesuatu perubahan, ia akan mengambil masa untuk kita melihat kesannya, namun, di peringkat ini saya lihat ramai yang menyokong walaupun banyak juga pihak yang menunjukkan kesangsian. Walaupun berbaur sinis dan pedas itu, itu biasa jika kita ingin melakukan perubahan ke atas perkara yang sudah lama tidak berubah. Apa yang lebih penting sekarang ialah saya tahu apa yang perlu dilakukan walaupun banyak pihak cuba menghuraikan apa motif saya.

Beza kita dengan dahulu ialah kita kini memiliki tamadun yang mahukan orang mengikut peraturan yang kita buat, ada batasan termasuk dengan orang-orang tertentu, jadi, jika kita tidak boleh terima dan hormat badan kehakiman, maka rakyat tidak akan hormat pada undang-undang. Berlakulah rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa secara berterusan.

Sebab itu, sejarah membuktikan negara yang maju mempunyai sistem kehakiman dan perundangan yang kuat. Ini bukan berlaku secara tidak sengaja tetapi adalah satu daripada keperluan untuk masyarakat dan negara itu maju. Tengok sahaja Jepun yang mempunyai sistem kehakiman kelas pertama, walaupun dibom teruk pada tahun 1945, namun mereka mampu bangkit semula dan menjadi antara gergasi ekonomi pada hari ini. Sama juga seperti negara Eropah yang maju dan Afrika Selatan sendiri yang baru merdeka, perkara pertama yang dilakukan ialah menyiapkan sistem mahkamah untuk mengadili pelbagai krisis terutama perkauman dan suku.

Kita juga ada konflik, negara ada konflik antara puak, bangsa, rakyat dengan institusi beraja, agama serta masyarakat perniagaan dengan pihak berkuasa. Jika badan kehakiman tidak dipercayai dalam menyelesaikan konflik-konflik ini, maka ia akan berterusan sampai bila-bila.

Jika proses reformasi ini benar-benar berlaku, apakah hakim-hakim yang telah terbukti melakukan rasuah akan dikekalkan?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Seperti yang saya katakan tadi, saya tidak mahu melihat kes-kes yang lepas. Proses ini lebih kepada membina sistem kehakiman yang lebih baik untuk masa hadapan dan pemberian struktur serta prinsip yang betul untuk Ketua Hakim Negara mengambil tindakan sewajarnya. Saya rasa tidak perlu kita tekankan sangat perkara ini pada masa sekarang kerana saya akan mengambil tindakan secara perlahan-lahan pada masa akan datang.

Saya seorang yang sangat objektif, tumpukan pada apa yang nyata dan tidak akan mengambil sebarang keputusan bersifat peribadi, walaupun saya dikatakan pernah ada masalah sehingga dikenakan tindakan oleh beberapa hakim sebelum ini.

Jadi ini real, bukan hangat-hangat tahi ayam?

ZAID IBRAHIM: Proses reformasi ini ‘real’, jika mendapat kelulusan Kabinet nanti dan mengikut rekod, saya tidak pernah buat kerja setakat hangat-hangat tahi ayam. Saya akui pernah banyak kali mengalami kegagalan dalam banyak perkara selama ini tetapi tidak pernah gagal untuk mencuba.

Source: Utusan.com.my

Keeping up with the new politics

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

Insight
By JOCELINE TAN

The writing on the wall is that the Chinese want their leaders to change with the times or they will put the other side in power.

IT was full house at Sin Chew Daily’s postelection forum recently and the Chinese paper’s executive director Rita Sim who was in the audience was riveted by how the crowd applauded each time the speakers said something critical about issues like corruption or abuse of power.

The speakers included some of the newly elected Yang Berhormat and the loudest applause were for those who until March 8 were opposition politicians.

“They were treated like folk heroes,” said Sim who is also deputy chairman of the MCA Insap think-tank.

But what struck the politician in Sim the hardest was the thought that the crowd was not the sort she had ever seen at MCA events or talks.

“I was thinking the whole time, my God, how do we reach out to this sort of crowd? We’ve taken this segment of society for granted, thinking that they will always opt for the tried and tested,” she admitted.

The forums were held at Sin Chew’s Petaling Jaya head office as well as Penang, Ipoh, Malacca and Johor Baru. Sin Chew commands a huge middleclass readership that includes the Chinese intelligentsia and the community’s movers and shakers, and it had received letters scolding the paper for not giving more coverage to parties like DAP, PKR and PAS.

Actually Sin Chew provided one of the most balanced reporting during the elections but it decided to have the forums as a way of addressing its readers’ opinions. Chinese political issues will occupy centrestage in the Chinese media in the months ahead. Chinese politics has also reached a critical crossroad, especially for parties like the MCA and Gerakan.

“We give good service but we’ve been dealing with the symptoms, not the root causes. A classic case was Chew Mei Fun losing to Tony Pua,” said Sim. MCA’s Chew, a former parliamentary secretary, was famous for her dedicated service in PJ Utara. But the DAP argued so well that Parliament is for legislators who can talk about national issues and not a “YB Longkang” that her campaign literally went down the drain.

Massive vote swing

The sentiments that led to the massive Chinese vote swing are well known by now. “The more mature generation vented their frustration against political arrogance, corruption and inefficiency in government.

The younger voters were looking at more universal aspirations like fairness, an equitable and open society, media freedom, accountability and economic issues,” said senior MCA politician Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum. Many of these sentiments are what Sim calls “postponed feelings”, accumulated over the years,

At one level, the Chinese vote was to punish Umno and as a protest against the wrongdoing they see around them. “The Chinese are not angry with the Malays but they are angry with Umno’s arrogance,” she said. At another level, it was a generational shift of younger voters who do not share the historical baggage of their parents’ generation.

They are not afraid of change and May 13 is a footnote in the textbook. The younger Chinese look at Taiwan and its lively democracy and which, even if disorderly at times, is slowly moving towards a civil society.

For the older Chinese, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew is a political icon, respected for his towering intellect, clean reputation and vision.

For instance, DAP’s Pua, the new MP for PJ Utara, had two things going for him. Chinese admire scholars and self-made men and Pua, an Oxford University graduate, was an IT millionaire by the time he was 35. The Star had also organised a series of election forums and Pua commanded the biggest applause when he spoke at the most recent forum.

A great deal of the soul searching among the Chinese parties has been about coming to terms with the community’s expectations of their leaders.

“The key word is equal opportunity be it in education, politics or business. The demand for equal opportunity will be the driving issue in future elections as more young Chinese Malaysians come of voting age,” said DAP strategist and Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong.

Despite the limelight surrounding issues like Chinese schools, pig-rearing and scholarships, Prof James Chin of Monash University said Chinese interests are also largely national issues.

“They want fair treatment, a level playing field and they are critical of corruption. They want to see sustainable economic growth and less interference by the government in the private sector. The Chinese business sector believes that too much interference leads to inefficiency, corruption and does not encourage a level playing field. “They want their leaders to articulate a vision for not just Chinese Malaysians but all Malaysians. That’s why a significant number went for PKR which, on paper at least, speaks for all Malaysians,” said Prof Chin. And it is quite clear by now that the MCA and Gerakan style of solving problems behind closed doors does not work for today’s generation. “They want vocal leaders who speak out when there is injustice and in a rational and intelligent fashion. Speaking out and justifying what you do is part of being transparent,” said Chin. The Barisan Nasional’s formula of consensus politics is fine except that over the years, the Chinese feel it is more about giving in to the demands of Umno.

Even Gerakan, which started off as the voice of conscience, lost its way when it allowed the politics of the day to take over. Said Penang Gerakan politician Teng Chang Yeow: “We keep asking the Chinese for full support so that they will be wellrepresented in government. But wasn’t that what they gave us in 2004, total support? Now you know why they’re fed-up,

“Leaders like Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin must realise this. People equated their behaviour with Umno’s inability to change with the times. If an Oxford-educated guy still talks like an Umno politician of 10 years ago, what hope do we have for the rest of Umno?”

The Chinese were disappointed that well-educated Malay professionals in Umno Youth, beneficiaries of the NEP, were still speaking the political language of a decade ago. It is time Malay politicians keep the keris out of politics. The message from the voters is very clear. They are prepared to put the opposing side in power. Not all the Chinese votes were strictly about protest, as evident from the nasi kandar boycott in Penang. Locals were disgusted with the demonstration against the new state government by Umno members and supporters and nasi kandar shops run by Indian Muslims have reported slow business in Chinese areas.

Even the humble chee cheong fun, a popular snack of long rolls of steamed noodles with sauce, has acquired a political connotation. A customer who asked for her noodles to be served unrolled was jokingly told that the snack should be eaten rocket style, that is, in long rolls since the DAP is now in power.

“The writing is on the wall. We cannot hesitate over reforms. I won’t say the Opposition will do much better than us but they can’t do worse than us,” said Dr Sak.

Facing the new reality

MCA, which experienced its own tsunamis in 1969 and again in 1980, has found less difficulty facing the new reality.

It has quickly set the dates of the party AGM and elections, and the post-mortem on the polls will start soon. Party leaders know that the grassroots want answers and direction and the party polls will enable them to have a say in the party’s future so that the party can undertake changes, recover and move ahead.

Gerakan will have a tougher time with its entire leadership toppled in the polls, but Teng said: “Politics is like cycling. You keep peddaling or you fall.”

Bigger challenges lie ahead.

“Voters now know the power of their vote, that the one-man-one-vote system can make a difference. The next elections will be even more defining and challenging if we do not adapt,” said Sim.

But all this talk about change in parties like MCA and Gerakan is not going to mean very much unless Umno also changes in tune to the new politics. And that’s where the biggest challenge lies.

Source: Thestar.com.my

There’s no real winner here

March 30, 2008

Mar 29, 2008

COMMENT
By JOCELINE TAN

The crisis in Terengganu ended with Datuk Ahmad Said being named as the new Mentri Besar but the outcome sets a disturbing precedent for Constitutional practices.

GROWN men do cry and tears flowed among the Terengganu assemblymen when told that the Umno supreme council had decided to endorse the palace’s preference of Mentri Besar.

The incumbent and their own preferred choice, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, was out and, Datuk Ahmad Said, the man whom they had so strenuously objected to, was in.

The tears sprung from a mixture of frustration over the situation, empathy for Idris and, for several of the assemblymen, the sense that they had been misled.

It was like the dam of pent-up feelings had finally burst. Idris was, surprisingly, the most composed as he hugged each of the 22 assemblymen who had stood so loyally by him throughout the Terengganu crisis.

The impasse between the palace and Umno had dragged on for too long and the supreme council decision on Thursday night was a case of political expediency.

Umno and Idris had the Constitution on their side but Ahmad had royalty behind him.

The Prime Minister did not want the crisis to lead to a snap state election.

The party is at its weakest in years and could not risk a re-election in Terengganu.

An earlier notion to seek legal recourse was quickly abandoned because that would have been “un-Malay” and, besides, Umno is a pro-royalist party at heart.

Moreover, an SMS campaign had begun insinuating that Umno was going against the monarchy over the issue.

Umno’s attempt to propose an alternative candidate was also not feasible to the palace. As such the party’s acceptance of Ahmad was the best solution under the circumstances.

Supreme council member Datuk Dr Latiff Ahmad, who is also Deputy Health Minister, said it was like deciding whether to treat the epidemic or the disease.

“Pitting Umno against the monarchy would have led to an epidemic and the patient who might have died would have been Umno. On the other hand, trying to reinstate Idris as MB would be encouraging the disease. What I’m trying to say is that it is easier to treat the disease than an epidemic,” said Latiff.

Idris has been through three weeks of public humiliation and torture.

“He does not deserve this sort of treatment. He has been cut up in a very public way,” said a close associate.

Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi met the Terengganu assemblymen after the supreme council meeting to explain the decision.

Idris looked numbed, even stoic, in the emotion-charged atmosphere of the meeting. Almost all the assemblymen spoke, some to ask for clarification, others to voice their unhappiness.

Some were incredulous that Ahmad had been confirmed as the Mentri Besar because they had been naïvely hopeful till the final hour.

A few found it a bitter pill to swallow, that the rebel who had defied the party was being rewarded while the party loyalist was out in the cold.

When Abdullah turned to Idris for his comment, Idris merely said he was a party man and that he accepted the decision.

By Friday morning, the ex-mentri besar was back in his hometown of Besut while the new Mentri Besar was on his way back from Kuala Lumpur.

The Sultan is due back this morning to attend an equestrian event and supporters are planning a grand show of support for him at the airport.

But it will be a while more before things return to normal.

Some have summed up the outcome with the Malay proverb, kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang (ashes if you lose, charcoal if you win).

There are no real winners here especially given that the outcome has set a disturbing precedent in Constitutional practices.

The pragmatist say that Ahmad may not be the ideal choice, but that he has throughout the fiasco continued to pledge loyalty to the party even as he went against the party line.

“We have nothing personal against him. He has been endorsed by Umno’s top decision-making body and abided by the PM’s instruction,” said one assemblyman.

Ahmad has also been under pressure because it could not have been easy standing up against the party president and his own colleagues.

The stress showed clearly the day after the palace named him as the Mentri Besar. As he spoke before a gathering of supporters, the facial tic on the left side of his face was more pronounced than usual.

The Kijal assemblyman is what is known as a kampung politician, a rough diamond that will need a lot of polishing. But he has no airs and is well liked by his constituents in Kijal.

He was a protégé of former mentri besar Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Wan Ahmad and is not exactly without administrative experience; having been an assistant district officer and served two terms as a state exco member.

His biggest problem is his hot-headedness. He has been known to challenge PAS assemblymen at state legislative assembly sittings, to step out for a confrontation.

Reporters have quickly learnt that he gets very defensive when posed with difficult questions.

He will be a stark contrast to the urbane and polished Idris.

Everyone will also be watching how Ahmad sets up his new government.

He is in a strange position. He does not enjoy the goodwill of the Umno leadership but he has royal backing. His fellow assemblymen are suspicious of him but he has the support of most of the eight Umno division heads who essentially form the political power base.

Will he be able to work with all the assemblymen who had opposed him and will he take Terengganu forward or backward?

The impasse between the palace and Umno may have ended but the problem is not quite over.

Source: Thestar.com.my

KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional leaders in Sabah feel they have delivered the seats to the party. Now, it’s pay back time. Sabah and Sarawak hold 54 of the 140 seats Barisan won in the general election and the Sabah MPs now want a bigger say. They are likely to ask for more political autonomy and an increase in political representation in the Federal Government when they meet the Prime Minister soon. The planned meeting between Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Sabah’s Barisan leaders has been touted as “an unprecedented chance” to start a new chapter in the relationship between the East Malaysian state and Peninsular Malaysia. Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee described Abdullah’s planned dialogues with Sabah assemblymen and MPs as a “great idea”. He added that the talks could open a new chapter in Sabah’s participation in the national mainstream political scenario. “We have to go beyond the recent election manifesto and the usual ‘let’s work together’ talk,” he said, adding that the focus should be on summing up the most urgent and serious issues affecting the state and press for urgent implementation. “For a start, political autonomy should be enhanced so that Sabah can manage its own affairs, “At the same time, Sabah needs increased representation at the federal mainstream, be it political (Cabinet), administrative (civil service) or the economic and social aspects of the country,” he added. Sabah Barisan secretary Datuk Karim Bujang hopes that Abdullah will be able to see a lot of things from the ground during his dialogue. “We hope he gets a clearer picture of what Sabah’s people are really thinking of.” Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said a consensus on the priorities of Sabah would be more efficiently conveyed if the state Barisan holds a meeting before the dialogue. Sabah Umno assistant secretary Datuk Masidi Manjun said an interactive dialogue was a good opportunity for the state leaders to put through their thoughts on what exactly Sabah wants in the current political scenario. “We are not pushy but at the same time we want the Prime Minister to hear us out,” he added. Although the Chief Minister’s Department said they have yet to be informed when Abdullah will be in Sabah, they expect it anytime. Even as the state leaders are planning for talks with the Prime Minister, six other Sabah Umno leaders met with the Prime Minister in Putrajaya yesterday to discuss grassroots feelings in the state. The Umno leaders, including two MPs and an assemblyman, were invited for a breakfast meeting. They were Datuk Ghapur Salleh, who resigned as deputy minister of natural resources and environment, Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Raden and Pantai Manis assemblyman Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail, who was dropped as state agriculture minister from the Cabinet of Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman. The others were former Kota Belud MP Datuk Salleh Tun Said, who is also president of United Sabah Bajau Organisation (Usbo), and former Tempasuk assemblyman Tan Sri Pandikar Amin, who is Usbo secretary-general, as well as dropped MP Datuk Sr Yusof Yacob. The three of them were not fielded in the recent general election. All were reluctant to discuss what transpired during the discussion. It is understood that the Prime Minister was interested in finding out the feelings on the ground and if there was a sense of restlessness among Sabah Barisan leaders and coalition supporters. Rahim, the Papar Umno division chief, said: “It was like a father-and-sons meeting. We just discussed the current situation.” Ghapur, meanwhile, said he explained his reasons for his resignation and they discussed the current political situation in general. Ghapur resigned from Abdullah’s line-up eight days after taking up his appointment while Musa’s brother Datuk Anifah Aman, the MP for Kimanis, rejected outright the deputy transport minister portfolio. Following Ghapur’s resignation and Anifah’s rejection of the appointment, there have been calls for bigger representation in the Cabinet with more key and full minister portfolios for Sabah leaders. Others who have called for better representation in the Federal Government were SAPP president Yong and Upko chief Tan Sri Bernard Dompok. Dompok, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said there was a need for more serious reflection of the mandate of the people of Sabah for the Barisan.

March 30, 2008

Mar 28, 2008

COMMENT
By V.K. CHIN

POLITICAL parties should get down to fulfilling their election pledges instead of harping on issues that would only confuse the public.

What is interesting about the 2008 general election is that all parties have a taste of the cake. It used to be a two-horse race with Barisan Nasional not only controlling Parliament but all the other state governments except one.

PAS was the only other party which managed to keep out Barisan from a clean sweep by holding on to Kelantan and, occasionally, Terengganu as well.

However, other parties such as PKR and DAP have also got into the act and they won the right to govern Penang, and together with PAS, Perak and Selangor.

These days, when we talk about government and opposition, it is necessary to make clear whether it is at federal or state level. People tend to feel that the PKR-DAP-PAS partnership is still the opposition but voters changed the political landscape on March 8.

By depriving the Barisan of its two-thirds majority in Parliament, voters have placed a serious political burden on the opposition in the states captured by its partners.

It is obvious too that many elected representatives winning on the tripartite ticket are still not used to the ‘government’ cap at the state assemblies they have been mandated to manage.

They have been given the chance to prove their mettle and they really do not have much time to do it. It will take them a while to settle down to running a government and before they are aware of it, it would be time for the next election.

This is particularly the case in Perak where they have just a three-vote majority over the Barisan. Though the DAP won the most state seats, it had to hand the Menteri Besar post to PAS, which has the least seats among the trio.

The non-Malay voters do not have much faith in PAS and supported its candidates this time due mainly to the DAP and PKR; and what is of greater significance, they wanted a change.

In this respect, Perak seems the most fragile of the non-Barisan state governments and if they should fail to deliver, they could be voted out in the next election.

The next time, the DAP could be expected to put in candidates who can become MB so that it would not make the same mistake again.

How the future political landscape will pan out would depend on the time frame voters are prepared to give to the three-party grouping to do the job.

Voters are fickle – and even brutal – and can change their minds quite quickly. The Barisan lost out this round because they wanted to give others a chance.

For better or worse, the people have made their choice, which has to be respected.

Source: Thestar.com.my

State Barisan leaders want more autonomy and Cabinet positions

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional leaders in Sabah feel they have delivered the seats to the party. Now, it’s pay back time.

Sabah and Sarawak hold 54 of the 140 seats Barisan won in the general election and the Sabah MPs now want a bigger say.

They are likely to ask for more political autonomy and an increase in political representation in the Federal Government when they meet the Prime Minister soon.

The planned meeting between Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Sabah’s Barisan leaders has been touted as “an unprecedented chance” to start a new chapter in the relationship between the East Malaysian state and Peninsular Malaysia.

Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee described Abdullah’s planned dialogues with Sabah assemblymen and MPs as a “great idea”.

He added that the talks could open a new chapter in Sabah’s participation in the national mainstream political scenario.

“We have to go beyond the recent election manifesto and the usual ‘let’s work together’ talk,” he said, adding that the focus should be on summing up the most urgent and serious issues affecting the state and press for urgent implementation.

“For a start, political autonomy should be enhanced so that Sabah can manage its own affairs,

“At the same time, Sabah needs increased representation at the federal mainstream, be it political (Cabinet), administrative (civil service) or the economic and social aspects of the country,” he added.

Sabah Barisan secretary Datuk Karim Bujang hopes that Abdullah will be able to see a lot of things from the ground during his dialogue.

“We hope he gets a clearer picture of what Sabah’s people are really thinking of.”

Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said a consensus on the priorities of Sabah would be more efficiently conveyed if the state Barisan holds a meeting before the dialogue.

Sabah Umno assistant secretary Datuk Masidi Manjun said an interactive dialogue was a good opportunity for the state leaders to put through their thoughts on what exactly Sabah wants in the current political scenario.

“We are not pushy but at the same time we want the Prime Minister to hear us out,” he added.

Although the Chief Minister’s Department said they have yet to be informed when Abdullah will be in Sabah, they expect it anytime.

Even as the state leaders are planning for talks with the Prime Minister, six other Sabah Umno leaders met with the Prime Minister in Putrajaya yesterday to discuss grassroots feelings in the state.

The Umno leaders, including two MPs and an assemblyman, were invited for a breakfast meeting.

They were Datuk Ghapur Salleh, who resigned as deputy minister of natural resources and environment, Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Raden and Pantai Manis assemblyman Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail, who was dropped as state agriculture minister from the Cabinet of Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman.

The others were former Kota Belud MP Datuk Salleh Tun Said, who is also president of United Sabah Bajau Organisation (Usbo), and former Tempasuk assemblyman Tan Sri Pandikar Amin, who is Usbo secretary-general, as well as dropped MP Datuk Sr Yusof Yacob. The three of them were not fielded in the recent general election.

All were reluctant to discuss what transpired during the discussion.

It is understood that the Prime Minister was interested in finding out the feelings on the ground and if there was a sense of restlessness among Sabah Barisan leaders and coalition supporters.

Rahim, the Papar Umno division chief, said: “It was like a father-and-sons meeting. We just discussed the current situation.”

Ghapur, meanwhile, said he explained his reasons for his resignation and they discussed the current political situation in general.

Ghapur resigned from Abdullah’s line-up eight days after taking up his appointment while Musa’s brother Datuk Anifah Aman, the MP for Kimanis, rejected outright the deputy transport minister portfolio.

Following Ghapur’s resignation and Anifah’s rejection of the appointment, there have been calls for bigger representation in the Cabinet with more key and full minister portfolios for Sabah leaders.

Others who have called for better representation in the Federal Government were SAPP president Yong and Upko chief Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Dompok, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said there was a need for more serious reflection of the mandate of the people of Sabah for the Barisan.

Source: Thestar.com.my

Mahathir: Election provision being abused to prevent opposition to leaders

March 30, 2008

Mar 30, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: The nomination quota to contest top posts in Umno should be abolished, as it is being abused to prevent members from nominating candidates, said former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He pointed out that when he was president, anyone was free to challenge him, and although there was already the quota in place then, “those days it was easy to get 60 divisions (nominations)”.

However, he added, when Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah wanted to challenge Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2004, he only managed to get one nomination from his own division.

“(This is) because other divisions were told not to nominate him. There was no freedom. I think it’s about time they revised this provision because of the tendency of the people with the power to stifle any move to criticise or oppose them,” he said yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said there was nothing wrong with having a contest for the presidency in the upcoming December party election, adding that other Umno presidents, including him, were also previously challenged.

After Umno Baru was formed in 1988, Dr Mahathir had proposed the bonus vote system, which was accepted by the party supreme council.

The bonus vote system gives 10 additional votes for every nomination received by a candidate, as well as setting a quota of 30% nominations from divisions to contest the president’s post, 20% nominations for the deputy president’s post, 10% for the vice-presidents’ posts and 5% for supreme council posts.

On who was likely to challenge Abdullah, Dr Mahathir said it could be Razaleigh (who had offered himself) or others. He said that Umno was not so poor in talent “that we cannot find even a single one to match the Prime Minister that we have.”

On the call by DAP Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang for an inquiry into the 1988 judicial crisis, Dr Mahathir was adamant he was not in the wrong.

“I don’t see why there is any crisis. It’s a political game,” he said, adding that DAP chairman Karpal Singh wanted action to be taken against him for the episode “because he hates me so much”.

He reiterated that the tribunal that tried former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas for misconduct had acted according to the law and there was no reason for an inquiry.

“So why should there be any apology by me, the Government or by anybody? It’s no good saying that ‘oh yes, although it was according to the law but because of this…’. That is political,” he added.

Source: Thestar.com.my

Knives out for Malaysia’s Abdullah

March 28, 2008

Mar 29, 2008

By Anil Netto

PENANG – Malaysia’s politics is still in flux after this month’s watershed general election in which opposition parties made their sharpest inroads into the government since the country gained independence in 1957. And the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, comprised of 13 component parties, is still struggling to come to terms with the implications of the setback.

Although BN parties won 140 of Parliament’s 222 seats, it lost five states to the opposition, including three of the wealthiest and economically important ones in the federation. Now the ruling coalition is being unnerved by talk of possible defections of its parliamentarians to opposition ranks, which now has 82 seats.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who predicted the BN would garner a two-thirds majority at the polls, looks considerably

weaker inside his once dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party. He has since the polls endured public calls for his resignation from Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of Abdullah’s predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. The elder Mahathir had made it clear earlier that he thought Abdullah fit to be a one-term premier, paving the way for his deputy, Najib Razak, to take over.

Moreover, Abdullah’s post-election decision to trim the size of the cabinet and reshuffle its ranks did not please several influential UMNO factions, including those in Sabah and Sarawak, which contributed 54 parliamentary seats, or 39% of the BN’s total of 140. They reportedly are peeved that they are not more strongly represented in the new cabinet.

In the meantime, there is also mounting speculation that Mahathir’s former archrival, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, could mount a challenge against Abdullah in intra-party elections for UMNO’s leadership, which are due in December. Abdullah routinely swept the last intra-party leadership elections.

Political events could flow thick and fast in the coming months. Opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim’s ban from holding political office expires next month, and his every movement is already being closely watched. There is increasing speculation that one of his People’s Justice Party members could step down and force a by-election, which would allow Anwar to enter Parliament as opposition leader, as his party holds the most seats in the opposition.

He is already being referred to as the “prime minister-in-waiting” by his colleagues in the other two parties in the opposition alliance, namely the Democratic Action Party and the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, commonly known as Pas.

Parliament reopens in May and first on the agenda could be a no-confidence motion against Abdullah. If such a motion is raised, it is still likely that the embattled premier would survive, as the opposition alliance, at least for now, does not have the numbers to oust him.

There is also speculation that Razaleigh could move to force an UMNO extraordinary general meeting, which some suggest could be used to amend nomination rules and make it easier for a challenger to contest the party presidency. UMNO’s general assembly has been pushed back to December, still earlier than the 2009 date for which several party officials have lobbied. The reasons for the delay are obvious: factionalism is taking grip of the party and threatens to blow into full-blown schisms in the wake of the party’s lackluster election performance.

Heightened vulnerability
Abdullah already seems more vulnerable, particularly after he was forced to back down to the sultans of two states – Perlis and Trengganu – who refused to approve his choice of chief minister. Many expect Razaleigh to make a move to challenge Abdullah for the presidency of UMNO in December.

Beneath the surface, it is likely there will be major realignments within the party. Abdullah’s arch-critic, Mahathir, has thrown his support behind Razaleigh’s call to hold an emergency general meeting (EGM). “I fully support Tengku Razaleigh’s idea to hold the EGM, but about choosing the president, it should come later. The issue is UMNO, not the president,” said Mahathir, according to press reports.

He had earlier proposed that Abdullah take responsibility for the ruling coalition’s electoral setback and step down. It is no secret that the former premier would prefer deputy prime minister Najib Razak to take the party’s reins. However, many political analysts believe Najib carries too much political baggage and could prove to be a divisive choice to succeed Abdullah.

For his part, Razaleigh has until now waited patiently in the wings – and some are already speculating that a Razaleigh-Mahathir-Najib alliance of convenience is coalescing against Abdullah in the runup to UMNO’s December elections. Not everyone, however, fancies the idea of any of those three taking over UMNO, even those who are critical of the present administration.

“As much as I have big problems with Badawi, I still prefer him to anyone associated with or having the backing of Mahathir,” said Wong Kok Keong, a Malaysian media communications lecturer. “I think [Abdullah] is [relatively more] democratic at heart – unlike Mahathir.”

“I do hope Badawi will find a way to do the tough act of instituting reforms as he has till December, when he might be forced out,” he added. “At least then he can say he really tried to do something for the country instead of [just] for UMNO and the BN.”
To be sure, it will be tough for the weakened Abdullah to follow through on judicial reforms and promoting better governance. Already many of Abdullah’s mega-projects, under his various regional economic corridor projects, are in doubt following the opposition capture of five state governments, including three of the most developed states on the western coast – Penang, Perak and Selangor.

By losing access to these industrialized states, UMNO’s ability to dish out patronage to cronies and allies could diminish. With people like his influential son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, who has been widely blamed for Abdullah’s loss in popularity, still lurking behind the scenes, some argue there’s little scope for Abdullah to win back lost confidence.

The prime minister has already appointed respected corporate lawyer Zaid Ibrahim to his new cabinet to implement judicial reforms. One Kuala Lumpur-based analyst told Asia Times Online he believed the appointment was aimed at check-mating Mahathir, who was instrumental in undermining the independence of the judiciary after 1988, when the Lord President and five other Supreme Court judges were suspended.

In the meantime, Abdullah will have to be on guard on all fronts, from potential challengers within the ranks of his party to the Anwar-led opposition alliance, who are poised to lure defections from disillusioned BN parliamentarians – especially those from Sabah and Sarawak – and seize control of federal power. Abdullah faces a rough ride in the months ahead and few now are wagering that he will last the distance.

Anil Netto is a Penang-based writer. 

Source: Atimes.com