Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Relations Act

In a spate of heightened racial slurs in the wake of the March 8 general elections, the cabinet agreed to introduce Race Relations Act in order to promote racial harmony in multiracial Malaysia. But so far no details are made available for public scrutiny. Although most commentators are still in the dark as to what the proposed law actually entails, it does not deter them from giving either positive or negative responses to the proposal.

Those who viewed the proposal negatively reasoned that there are sufficient existing legislation in the country, such as the Sedition Act and the Internal Security Act, which would help the government deal with hate speeches that are likely to cause racial tension to flare up in our multiracial society. Introducing the new Act will therefore be redundant. What is even more, the proposal could be just a “knee jerk” reaction if it was nothing more than a hasty response to a recent hate speech by an UMNO politician against the Chinese community. Presumably, according to this view, racial harmony could be achieved if everyone manages to restrain himself from uttering hate speeches against others. Let we call this first view as “restraining approach”.

On the other hand, those who agreed with the introduction of the new law see it in different light. Taking the proposal one step further, they argued that the law should aim at outlawing discriminatory practices based on race, creed and color rather than dealing only with hate speeches. This, according to them, is the missing dimension in the existing legislation on race relations in Malaysia. The law should therefore be renamed “Anti-Discrimination Act” or “Equal Opportunity Act”, or something like that. Let we call this second view as “anti-discriminatory” approach.
Both the "restraining" and "anti-discriminatory" approaches to race relations are not unfamiliar if one looks at similar legislation around world. The UK Race Relations Act and the US Equal Employment Opportunity legislation are mainly "anti-discriminatory", while the Singapore Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is wholly "restraining".

In the Malaysian context, anti-discriminatory approach to race relations is quite new. This makes this approach more interesting, if not intriguing. It struck at the core of race relations in Malaysia as certain segments of Malaysian society feel that they are discriminated against. A recent survey by Merdeka Center for Opinion Research reveals that the majority of non-Malays (71%) feel that they are unfairly treated and discriminated by the government. The main complaint has been the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which provides preferential treatment in the provision of economic and educational opportunities for the indigenous Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. It is not surprising therefore that the non-Malays would want to see the new law promotes equality by putting an end to any kind of discriminatory practices in the country.

But the road to perfect equality is not without hurdles. Although the same survey indicates that the Bumiputera community is more open to treating other races more equally, another survey reveals that 93% Malay respondents opposed the idea of abolishing Malay special privileges. These “privileges” include the reservation of quotas in public service, scholarships, permits and licenses for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as enshrined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

Here lies the real test of the viability of the “anti-discriminatory” approach to race-relation legislation in Malaysia. Hiding behind Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which entitles every person to equality before the law and equal protection of the law, as a means to promote racial equality is to miss the salient point that Article 153 allows “positive discrimination” in favor of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

What is more, the concept of “equality” under Article 8 is not absolute but qualified. Let us have a closer look at Article 8.
Article 8(1) states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Article 8(2) further states, “except as expressly authorized by this Constitution (emphasis is mine), there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment”.

Notwithstanding the anti-discriminatory provision in Article 8(2), clause 5 of Article 8 does not invalidate or prohibit: (a) any provision regulating personal law; (b) any provision or practice restricting office or employment connected with the affairs of any religion, or of an institution managed by a group professing any religion, to persons professing that religion; (c) any provision for the protection, well-being or advancement of the aboriginal peoples of the Malay Peninsula (including the reservation of land) or the reservation to aborigines of a reasonable proportion of suitable positions in the public service; (d) any provision prescribing residence in a State or part of a State as a qualification for election or appointment to any authority having jurisdiction only in that State or part, or for voting in such an election; (e) any provision of a Constitution of a State, being or corresponding to a provision in force immediately before Merdeka Day; and (f) any provision restricting enlistment in the Malay Regiment to Malays.

The Federal Court in Datuk Haji Harun bin Haji Idris v. Public Prosecutor [1977] 2 MLJ 155 had the opportunity to consider the concept of equality under Article 8. Subjecting the operation of Article 8 to the limiting principles based on the classification permitted by the Article, the Federal Court adopted the view that the equality provision in Article 8 is qualified. As clause 5 of Article 8 envisages, there may be lawful discrimination based on “communal” classifications such as Muslims as opposed to non-Muslims, aborigines as opposed to non-aborigines, Malays and natives of Borneo as opposed to other communities, and “non-communal” classification such as residents in a particular State as opposed to residents elsewhere. Avoiding excessive idealism in treating equality as a legal concept, the late Tun Suffian in Datuk Harun said:

(W)hile we are all familiar with the idealistic concept of equality, Indian -- and Malaysian judges -- are not familiar with it as a legal concept, having been introduced in India only in 1949 and in Malaysia in 1957. As a legal concept it is easy to state, but difficult to apply -- because, first, equality can only apply among equals and in real life there is little equality and, secondly, while the concept of equality is a fine and noble one it cannot be applied wholesale without regard to the realities of life. While idealists and democrats agree that there should not be one law for the rich and another for the poor nor one for the powerful and another for the weak and that on the contrary the law should be the same for everybody, in practice that is only a theory, for in real life it is generally accepted that the law should protect the poor against the rich and the weak against the strong.

While the move toward promoting racial equality through anti-discriminatory legislation must be lauded, there must be some sort of reality check as well. Of late, there has been a tendency to label one race as “superior” and other races as “inferior” regardless of individuals’ possession of wealth and social status. According to this view, the problem of inequalities would be solved if the “inferior” race no longer feels disenfranchised. The fact is that the feeling of disenfranchisement is not only felt by any one particular race but across races. The poor Malays, Ibans and Kadazans would feel disenfranchised as much as the poor Chinese and Indians do. Thus lifting the race barrier alone will not solve the problem of inequality. It doesn’t make sense to treat the feeling of “disenfranchisement” among the rich Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, etc. as the same as that of the poor and the marginalized among these communities. Such an approach would intensify rather than attenuate inequality.

Balancing the ideals of racial equality with the complexities of real life is a delicate game which could be beyond the reach of a Race Relations Act. To effectively address the problem of inequalities in our country, one must certainly go beyond race.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Motion of No Confidence

There are at least two views about the ways by which PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim could realize his attempt to topple the BN government without having to go to ballot boxes. International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) law professor, Dr. Abdul Aziz Bari, preferred the out-of-parliament method. According to Aziz, Anwar can just seek an audience with the Agong and show him the proof that he commands the support of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat. The Agong could then play a "proactive" role by getting Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to resign and then appoints Anwar as the new PM.
Former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abbas, however preferred a real floor test to be held in the Dewan Rakyat by passing an actual motion of no confidence against the PM. This method not only insulates the Agong from the political squabble, but also lends credence to Anwar's claim that he has more than enough BN MPs on his side to form a new government. But the downside of this method is that it would be extremely difficult to get the motion be debated in the Dewan Rakyat. The House Speaker, who is a member of the ruling party, would be very unlikely to allow the motion to be debated. The Pakatan Rakyat had tried this method before but it was to no avail.
There is a third option. In Westminster system, defeating a government's substantive bill, like a supply bill, is tantamount to a vote of no confidence against the PM and his entire cabinet. The PM and the cabinet must then resign or call for a fresh election if this ever happens. There is no need to apply for a motion of no confidence or drag the Agong prematurely into the crisis by forcing him to play a "proactive" role. The Agong may come in later to perform his constitutional duty in the normal course of the business, i.e. appointing a new PM under Article 40 of the Federal Constitution. This option can be exercised when the Parliament reconvenes in October. One of its main businesses is to pass the 2009 budget, which is a supply bill. But this option might be unpopular among Pakatan leaders as it will take time to materialize. One day is too long in politics.
All this can only happen if Anwar really has the numbers. Until now, this remains a six million dollar question.
Another option for Anwar is just to wait for the next general election. Pakatan Rakyat has control of one-third of the seats in the Dewan Rakyat and five states. As an Opposition Leader, Anwar could effectively play check-and-balance role in the Parliament and hold the government accountable to the rakyat. As the de facto leader of PKR, Anwar could effectively guide Pakatan policies in the five states and prove to the rakyat that they can perfrom better.
The rakyat has spoken in the last general election, so let them speak again in the next elections. As the tide is now with the Pakatan Rakyat, this option is not too far-fetched.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pak Lah is Defence Minister

Pak Lah is Defence Minister. Is this a prelude to something "bigger"? Hopefully not.

When I wrote my earlier posting “Restore Political Stability” what I had in mind was leaders’ commitment to democratic stability. That those who govern or want to govern will not resort to undemocratic means in order to retain power or gain power.

In some neighboring countries, democratic stability is lost when undemocratic means is used to retain or gain power. In Thailand, mass protests and military coup d’etat had often been used to oust democratically elected leaders. In the Philippine, emergency was proclaimed in order to save the reigning President from popular uprising. In Myanmar, where democracy is dead, the ruling junta continues to use repression in order to remain in power.

Interestingly, there had been some openness in Myanmar in the mid 1990s following the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in 1995. The economy was doing well and the opposition was virtually paralyzed due to continuing state repression. This led the military regime to be confident that it would be able to retain power despite putting some measures for political openness in place. But as the opposition grew stronger with the release of Suu Kyi, the regime started to crack down on the opposition. Suu Kyi was re-arrested in 2000 and until now remained under arrest. With the adoption of new constitution recently, the military junta’s grip on power was strengthened. So far, the future of democratic transition in Myanmar looks bleak.

In all these countries, the military (and the palace in Thailand) plays significant role in national politics. Except Myanmar, the political, military and business elites in Thailand and the Philippine lack cohesion. There had been protracted struggles between different factions of the elites in the two countries, causing politics to be at times highly unstable.

Until recently, Malaysian politics has been stable and the economy was doing well. There had been no major political crisis since 1987 and the country joined the rank of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan as the new Asian economic tigers in the 1990s. The situation started to change when cracks among the UMNO elites during the 1997/98 economic crisis led to the purge of Anwar in 1998 and withdrawal of Mahathir in 2003.

Both former UMNO elites had now become the staunchest critics of the UMNO/BN government, unleashed democratic forces within the civil society and caused further disarray among the governing elites. Political change looks possible, but political stability hinges on the balance.

Among southeast Asian countries, Singapore so far continues to enjoy the highest degree of political stability and economic progress. Singapore had successfully defied the perplexing notion of causal relationship between economic development and democracy. The Island republic managed to achieve economic success without necessarily democratizing its polity.

The unique case of Singapore is partly due to the ability of PAP government to manage (or discipline) its governing elites as well as keeping the masses quiescent. Though Singapore is not a fully democratic country, we often hear self-profess democrats singing praises for her political and economic achievement.

Where do we go from here? I hope our political elites, both in the government and the Opposition will continue to be committed to the principles of democracy and the requirements of political stability in pursuing their political goals. Though political instability presents some “windows of opportunity” for political elites - whether to gain or retain power - I believe that the majority of the rakyat would want a stable democracy to be in place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Restore Political Stability

September 16 has gone and BN is still in power. There is this serious question of whether PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim really has the numbers. In a press conference yesterday, Anwar insisted that he had in access of 31 BN MPs who are ready to cross-over but refused to name them. As there have been mounting pressures on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign, there have also been similar pressures on Anwar to show the names.

In the meantime, UMNO big guns like Muhyiddin, Ku Li and Zahid Hamidi who were earlier rumored to jump ship had come out in the open condemning Anwar.

Crisis is also looming in UMNO, the BN and the government. Threats of impending cross-over and change of government further eroded Abdullah’s credibility and BN’s legitimacy to rule. Open squabble among cabinet ministers over policy issues, Gerakan’s threat of leaving the BN and the questioning of UMNO’s leadership transition plan is just a tip of the iceberg which point toward a more serious legitimacy crisis within the government and the ruling party.

Since March 8, Malaysian politics has not been as stable as it was before and the economy is sluggish. Uncertainties created by attempts to topple the government through defection and perceptions about the government’s lack of legitimacy to rule had affected the country’s economy. Investors have been wary of the political situation and very cautious in making any new investment decisions. Business has yet to pick up despite the festive season. And there is also fear about the looming financial crisis in the US that will inevitably bear its impact on our economy.

If there is any message that Malaysians need to send across to our political leaders, it would be restore political stability, focus on reviving the economy and help the rakyat! Let us put a stop to the seemingly never-ending political drama.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Malay Unity and Malaysian Unity

I found this posting by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his blog interesting. Enjoy reading.

1. Malaysia has a multi-racial population but is quite unique in that the division is not just by race alone but by religion, language, culture and economic situation. Unity in such a diversity is extremely difficult to achieve.
2. If we study other nations where people of different ethnic groups have immigrated, we will find that integration and unity depended on several important factors. Firstly the indigenous people or the people who had set up the country make up at least initially, a very big proportion of the population. Additionally they would be dominant and materially successful. The small numbers of immigrants trickling in found it judicious and beneficial to be identified with the numerically superior and powerful dominant inhabitants. They would willingly forget their original languages and adopt the language of the people of the country as well as their culture; they would intermarry and over time they would be totally absorbed and assimilated and identified with the indigenous people. In such a situation unity is not a problem. The United States is one such country where the original language and basic culture of first settlers are accepted by later immigrants.
3. In the old days before the coming of the Europeans the few Chinese and Indians who settled in Malacca adopted the language and much of the culture of the Malays. Though there was no assimilation nevertheless good relations existed between the immigrant settlers and the Malays. Unfortunately when later the China-born Chinese-speaking immigrants dominated in numbers as well as economic wealth, the Malay speaking Baba and Nyonya deliberately dropped their Malay language and Baba culture and reverted to being Chinese in every way possible.
4. Difficulties in assimilation arise when the late comers are more dynamic and better equipped to progress than the indigenous people. A feeling of superiority towards the indigenous people tended to keep the late-comers apart. As their community grew they established separate enclaves and to erect invisible barriers against the indigenous. As their numbers grew the separation became deeper.
5. The British are only partly responsible for the separation of the races in Malaysia, for keeping the Malays in the rural areas, the Chinese in the urban areas and the Indians in the estates. The different races are also responsible. They made no attempt to mix together as a matter of preference.
6. The Malays before World War II really believed that the Chinese and Indians were temporary guests who would return to their countries once they had made enough money. So it was at the beginning.
7. Even when they showed signs of staying permanently, the Malays and their Rulers believed the British would honour the treaties which recognised the Malay States as the land of the Malays, the peninsula as Tanah Melayu or Malay Land.
8. But after the Brits returned after the war they talked of "giving" this country to whoever wishes to stay here. Although the Malays rejected this and forced the Malayan Union to be abandoned, they realised that things had changed and they had to recognise the claims of some of the non-Malays at least.
9. To cut a long story short independent Malaysia recognised the citizenship rights of the non-Malays and gave them quite freely. This is unlike many countries in the region where strict conditions were imposed. In fact, some immigrants were actually expelled.
10. The hope at independence was that the non-Malays would accept a single national language and a single national identity. But it became clear very quickly that the Chinese and the Indians wanted to retain their identities, their mother tongue and their culture. They did not want to be solely Malaysians, certainly not Malays.
11. At the beginning some prominent people tried multi-racial politics but this was rejected by the ordinary Malays, Chinese and Indians. In the end we settled for a compromise - return your racial identity but cooperate with each other in a coalition of racial parties.
12. Politically it was a good formula and it worked. But when English schools were abolished and the Malay, Chinese and Indians children went to their own schools rather than to the national schools where the teaching was in the National Language. The hope for true national integration faded. After this even the attempt to put the schools from the three language strems in one campus was rejected by the Chinese.
13. It is no good blaming the politicians for perpetuating racial schism. Some of them who tried to ignore racial loyalties simply failed politically. For various reasons the races preferred to stay separated. They may meet at their work place or the playing field but they go home to separate enclaves according to their race.
14. We had opted for democracy and popularity decides who rules the country. Those who reject racialism simply lost popular support. But those who embrace racialism won.
15. They are not racists. The leaders of the different races were, at least in the beginning, able to get along well with each other. They develop close friendship. But they had to be very conscious of their racial backing and to cater to racial demands.
16. The lower ranking leaders, the ordinary members of political parties and the people as a whole had shown no sign of forgetting their racial identity. There may be few liberal minded ones who reject race, but some who do this do so because they believe their own race would gain b it. So even these people are racialist at heart.
17. Then came the resurgence of Islam worldwide. The Malaysian Malays began to adopt Islamic conservativeness especially with the dress code. This tended to push them further apart from the non-Muslims who saw this as an attempt to differentiate Muslim Malaysians from non-Muslim Malaysians. Some people suspect that this is the intention.
18. The behaviour of some extremist exponents of Islamic separateness did not help.
19. And so the races drifted further and further apart. All the time the so-called non-racial parties with their single-minded campaign against the positions of the Malays and Islam as agreed upon at the beginning actually intensified Malay racial sentiments, causing them to yearn for Malay unity rather than Malaysian unity.
20. The ideal of having a non-racial Malaysian nationality has now been almost forgotten. As the self-proclaimed non-racists attacked Malay racialism, the feeling among the Malays hardened. Openly the Malays have not attacked Chinese racialism as manifested by their practical rejection of the use of the National language, their rejection of the National schools, their Malaysian Malaysia slogan. If they do it would be muted and certainly not as blatant as non-Malay attacks against Malay racialism.
21. The Malays have seen what has happened to the Malays of Singapore and they have no desire to be like Singapore Malays.
22. So their reaction is to seek for Malay unity. They feel threatened, and their fear is real. Admittedly there are among the younger educated Malays a few who claim to reject Malay unity. But these people do not represent the vast majority of the Malays.
23. Malay unity, if it becomes stronger will make it more difficult to bring about Malaysian unity. But it must be remembered that the Chinese and Indian are also keen to retain their identities more and more. The Hindraf memorandum is very telling. And the Chinese educationists want even stronger role for Chinese language.
24. The trend is obviously against Malaysian Unity. A weak and unstable Government with its crude attempts to win over the different races through giving in on all demands does not help. Every time it gives in to the demands of one race it simply antagonises and pushes the other races further away.
25. If we still want Malaysian Unity we need to be willing to make sacrifices regarding what we consider to be our racial rights. Everyone has to do this. The leaders must be given some mandate to discuss these matters in private and to make concessions. After each step the lower rung leaders of each race must be given full briefing as to why the concessions have to be made. It would be useless if they don't agree.
26. Provided we can roll back the present unhealthy trends and redirect it towards more positive non-racial objectives, provided we do this slowly by small steps we may be able to create a truly Malaysian identity where race would gradually become less important. It will take time but with sincerity we may reverse the present trends and move towards increasing co-operation and integration.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tun Dr. Mahathir

I had a chance to interview Tun Dr. Mahathir in early July. It’s a chance interview. I just accompanied a Thai friend who is researching on Malaysia-Thai relations for her Phd thesis. After she completed her interview, I asked Tun Dr. Mahathir this question: What should UMNO and Barisan Nasional do in order to regain its strength after losing two-thirds majority in the March general elections? He answered, “Abdullah has to resign”. I was not satisfied with his answer. This is something that we all know coming from him. So I said to him, “The problem is beyond Abdullah. The whole UMNO is in deep trouble”. He replied, “UMNO is in deep trouble due to the way Abdullah handles the party”. Up to this point, I couldn’t say anything more. He is so adamant that Prime Minister Abdullah must go. That is his prescription for the problems plaguing UMNO and BN. But will UMNO listen to him? Just wait and see …

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cross-over, anyone?

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are two big names from UMNO who were rumoured to jump ship to Pakatan Rakyat. Yesterday, Muhyiddin denied that he is defecting to the Opposition and described the rumour as "fitnah jahat". Today, Muhyiddin confirms that he persuaded Tun Dr. Mahathir to rejoin UMNO and the latter agreed. Tengku Razaleigh were also present at the meeting with Dr. Mahathir. Why should Muhyiddin and Tengku Razaleigh persuaded the former prime minister to rejoin UMNO if they themselves are leaving the party?
But what about the "study trip" to Taiwan? Any Tom, Dick and Harry would say that the trip is related to the on going talks about BN MPs defecting to the Pakatan Rakyat. Should Anwar is just bluffing, and there is no real "threat" of BN MPs defecting, why should there be such a trip at the first place?
The mind game continues ....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ethnic Outbidding Spiraling Up

It is strange to find that in the midst of the so-called shift toward non-communal politics, as many political pundits claim, ethnic outbidding continues to spiral up. Why do I say this?

1. There has been high expectation among the non-Malays that if the Pakatan Rakyat takes over the federal government, one or more deputy prime ministers will be appointed from among the non-Malay legislators. Yesterday, outgoing Kedah MCA Chief, Dato’ Boey Chin Gan, called on the government to appoint four DPMs - one each from among the Chinese, Indian, Sabah and Sarawak leaders. The BN in this regard must outbid the Pakatan Rakyat on the appointment of non-Malays as deputy prime ministers. The reason is, the four DPMs will be at a better position to look after the interests of each ethnic community that they represent. Doesn't this sound communal?

2. In response to Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s “racist” remarks, all Chinese-based political parties launched nationwide attacks on the UMNO politician. It seems that there has been a race of who-speaks-louder-for-the-Chinese in the Ahmad saga. Malay leaders, except a handful of Ahmad’s supporters, tried to be “sopan” by either offering apology to the Chinese community, supporting the offer of apology, or kept quiet. Ahmad himself, until this article is written, has refused to apologize.

3. Gerakan mulled leaving Barisan Nasional for quite some time now. And today, after a spate of tit for tat between Gerakan Acting President Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon and Ahmad, Tsu Koon finally said it loud in the open that Gerakan may leave Barisan Nasional - if UMNO does not change. The fact is the Chinese-based political party’s future looks very dim should UMNO-led Barisan Nasional fail to change, i.e. - to accord "equal" rights to the Chinese community (which means more rights than are currently enjoyed by the Chinese) in the face of “greener pasture” offered by the Pakatan. For Gerakan, BN must outbid Pakatan in this psychological race. Only by doing this, the party will be able to re-surrect itself under the BN's banner. And Tsu Koon's call for BN to move away from "race-based" politics is in fact a glossy cover on an essentially race-based demand.

4. Just before the March general elections, four DAP Members of Parliament (Theresa Kok, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Tan Kok Wai and Fong Kui Lun) protested against the usage of Jawi on streets signboards in Kuala Lumpur. They wanted them to be replaced with “Muhibbah” signboards in Chinese and Tamil languages apart from Malay, the National language (Not so “Muhibbah” if it means an open show of disrespect for Jawi, the Malay script in a Malay-majority country where Malay language is both the national and the official language). In July, Gerakan Youth tried to “outbid” the DAP-led Penang state government by putting up six street signboards in Mandarin in Georgetown. This is not withstanding the fact that existing guidelines only require the use of National Language, not other vernacular languages, on streets signboards. This politics of language, which is reminiscent of the pre-merdeka demand for multilingualism, is unmistakably one of the glaring features of communal politics in Malaysia.

My definition of communal politics is articulation of interests and mobilization of political support based on one's communal identity to the exclusion or at the expense of the interests of other communities. When a politician pursues the interests of his own community to the exclusion or at the expense of the interests of other communities, it is communal. In a communally heteregenous society, where each communal groups have competing interests (which is quite natural) - be it political, economic, religious or cultural - non-communal politics have a tall order.
Do we really think that our politics is becoming more non-communal now? Or, are we witnessing an enhancement of communalism - albeit in a new form? Let's think about it. Hopefully, people won't call me a racist by posing this question.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September 16

I received a text message from a friend this morning. It reads “13 days to go to form a new government”. Yes, the message is about September 16, the day on which PKR Supremo Anwar Ibrahim incessantly indicated that 30 or more BN MPs will cross over to Pakatan Rakyat to enable the fledgling coalition to form a new government.

Will this happen? Nobody knows for sure. A number of PKR politicians whom I met were very confident that the back door “take-over” will really happen. They believed that by now Anwar already got the number, which includes several UMNO ministers from the peninsular. In fact, two days after the March 8 general elections, a PKR leader confidently related to me that 30 BN MPs would defect anytime soon.

UMNO politicians told a different story. One of them, who was on the hit list, strongly denied that there will be any cross-over. One thing for sure, he said, he will not do so. Another one claimed that he had done head counts of BN MPs who are likely to cross-over and concluded that none of them will do so. He instead described Anwar as a good strategist and manipulator.

Another UMNO politician, who had earlier turned down the offer of being appointed Menteri Besar in one of the states governed by Pakatan Rakyat, is more comfortable with his new role as a member of the opposition in his state, while trying to push for necessary reform in his party. He sees no reason why he, or his colleagues in the party, should cross over.

Whether the cross-over will materialize or not, it is difficult by now to rule out that there were “meetings” between Anwar, or his agents, and the BN MPs. What really transpired in the meetings however is up to everybody to guess.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hasut Menghasut

Dato’ Ahmad Ismail, Ketua UMNO Bahagian Bukit Bendera, dilapor mengeluarkan kenyataan berunsur perkauman ketika berceramah di Permatang Pauh. Beliau dilaporkan berkata "kaum Cina adalah pendatang di negara ini dan (oleh sebab itu) adalah mustahil untuk mencapai persamaan hak antara kaum".

Seksyen 3(1) Akta Hasutan menyenaraikan beberapa perkara yang jika dipersoalkan boleh dikira sebagai menghasut. Ini termasuklah hak kerakyatan kaum bukan Melayu, hak keistimewaan orang Melayu, Bahasa Melayu, bahasa ibunda orang bukan Melayu dan kedudukan Raja-Raja Melayu.

Dalam bulan Oktober 1978, Ahli Parlimen Kinabalu, Dato’ Mark Koding, dalam ucapannya di Dewan Rakyat menggesa kerajaan agar menutup sekolah-sekolah Cina dan Tamil kerana mengganggu proses integrasi nasional. Beliau merujuk kepada kaum Cina dan Tamil sebagai ”orang asing”. Berikut adalah petikan ucapan beliau di Parlimen.

Keadaan eksklusif dalam negara kita di masa ini adalah hasil daripada baik hati kaum bumiputra membiarkan sekolah-sekolah China dan India menggunakan bahasa mereka selepas Merdeka. Sekiranya tokoh-tokoh kita yang awal dapat meramalkan keadaan yang berlaku pada masa ini dan tidak bertolak ansur untuk menghapuskan pelajaran China dan Tamil sudah tentu kita tidak akan menghadapi masalah yang kita hadapi sekarang ini. Bagaimanapun, masih ada lagi masa untuk kita membaiki keadaan ini. Tindakan kita bukanlah mencerminkan tujuan dan kepercayaan tokoh-tokoh kita yang lalu oleh sebab mereka telah bertindak berdasarkan kepada keadaan yang wujud pada masa itu dan mereka dengan ikhlas mempercayai bahawa mereka telah dapat menyelesaikan isu tersebut. Mereka tidak dapat disalahkan dengan apa yang terjadi pada hari ini oleh sebab cabaran-cabaran yang kita terima hari ini bukanlah datang dari zaman mereka. Cabaran yang kita hadapi sekarang adalah tanggungjawab kita untuk mengatasinya”.

”Tuan Yang di-Pertua, masanya sudah tiba bagi Dewan yang mulia ini untuk memutuskan samada kita akan terus membenarkan sekolah-sekolah China dan Tamil dan bahasa-bahasa tersebut di papan-papan tanda di jalan-jalan raya di negeri itu. Saya, seratus peratus berpendapat bahawa kita harus menutup sekolah-sekolah jenis tersebut dan menyekat sama sekali penulisan papan-papan tanda dalam bahasa-bahasa itu. Sekiranya tindakan-tindakan ini kelak bertentangan dengan Artikal 152 Perlembagaan maka kita harus merombak Perlembagaan tersebut demi kepentingan rakyat dan negara. Kalau kita gagal melakukan hakikat ini bermakna kita menghampakan amanah yang diamanatkan oleh rakyat dan juga melenyapkan harapan dan aspirasi generasi baru kita yang tidak mahu melihat negara mereka dicap oleh identiti orang asing. Adakah kita mahu mengwujudkan identiti kita atas asas kemelayuan, kechinaan atau keindiaan. Saya rasa sudah pasti kemelayuan atau kebumiputeraan kerana tidak ada alternatif yang lain demi survival negara kita”.

Laporan polis dibuat oleh Ahli Parlimen Kota Melaka Chan Teck Chan (DAP) pada 7 November 1978. Di Malaysia, parliamentary privillege tidak terpakai dalam hal-hal yang berkait dengan kesalahan hasutan. Mark Koding didakwa pada tahun 1981 (dua tahun sembilan bulan dari tarikh laporan polis dibuat) dan didapati bersalah oleh Mahkamah Tinggi pada bulan Mei 1982. Beliau menjadi Ahli Parlimen pertama di negara ini yang didapati bersalah mengeluarkan kata-kata menghasut di Parlimen. Kerana ini merupakan kesalahan seumpamanya yang pertama (juga kesalahan yang pertama bagi mark Koding), mahkamah menjatuhkan hukuman ringan ke atas beliau iaitu berkelakuan baik selama dua tahun dengan jaminan sebanyak RM 2,000 dengan seorang penjamin. Tetapi Hakim Mohamad Azmi mengingatkan agar hukuman ringan ini tidak dijadikan precedent untuk kes-kes yang berikutnya.

Pada tahun 1997, Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang sekarang, Lim Guan Eng, didapati bersalah kerana menghasut. Isunya bukan perkauman tetapi kritikan terhadap sistem keadilan di Malaysia. Akibatnya beliau meringkuk di penjara dan hilang kelayakan sebagai Ahli Parlimen Kota Melaka.

Pada bulan November tahun lalu, Hindraf mengeluarkan kenyataan berbau perkauman dengan mendakwa kerajaan yang ”didominasi” oleh kaum Melayu mengamalkan diskriminasi ala apartheid dan menuntut supaya hak-hak keistimewaan Melayu dihapuskan. Tiga pemimpin Hindraf didakwa di bawah Akta Hasutan tetapi kemudiannya dilepas tanpa dibebaskan oleh mahkamah. Tiada pemimpin DAP, MCA dan Gerakan menuntut supaya mereka didakwa semula di bawah Akta Hasutan. Malah, ”Pemimpin Agung” PKR, Anwar Ibrahim, menyatakan sokongan terhadap perjuangan Hindraf, walaupun beliau tidak bersetuju dengan beberapa tuntutan kumpulan itu. Ketiga-tiga pemimpin Hindraf sehingga kini masih belum meminta maaf. Saya hampir pasti mereka tidak akan berbuat demikian.

Sekarang Ahmad Ismail. Beliau juga mengeluarkan kenyataan berbau perkauman. Sekiranya pihak polis dan pejabat peguam negara mempunyai bukti yang mencukupi di bawah undang-undang beliau sepatutnya didakwa di mahkamah. Namun, berdasarkan debat di ruang awam, Ahmad sebenarnya telah didapati bersalah. Oleh kerana itu beliau perlu memohon maaf. Tetapi maaf sahaja tidak mencukupi. Berbondong-bondong pemimpin DAP, MCA dan Gerakan mengadakan kempen seluruh negara mendesak supaya Ahmad didakwa di bawah Akta Hasutan.

Nampaknya kita masih belum ke mana ......