November 23rd, 2014

Seditious, injurious comments

IN relation to seditious and injurious comments, first and foremost, it must be appreciated that we all have different perceptions of things. In other words, what is in reality may not be the way we see it. A lot depends on our background, upbringing, culture, religion and other factors. Furthermore, social precepts evolve with time, and things which were considered treason or seditious in the 1900s are, today, considered acceptable practice.

For example, Mat Salleh of Sabah was considered a pirate in the 18th century by the British, but today, he is considered a hero. Another example is questioning how the government carries out its policies. Today, this is considered part of the democratic process. But, those who resort to debating issues in the public fora, including social media, should also be aware of the need to exercise their freedom of speech and expression responsibly, in case they overstep established boundaries and end up committing offences.

For example, Mat Salleh of Sabah was considered a pirate in the 18th century by the British, but today, he is considered a hero.



Nothing is wholly free or without restraint. A distinction must be drawn between campaigns that invite mature discussion and debate, and campaigns that affect national sovereignty, national security and public order.

As His Lordship the late Raja Azlan Shah J (as he then was) stated in PP vs Ooi Kee Saik (1971) 2 MLJ 108, quoting the following passage from A.K. Gopalan vs State of Madras AIR (1950) SC 27 with approval:

“There cannot be anything as absolute or uncontrolled liberty wholly free from restraint; for that would lead to anarchy and disorder…”

In other words, there must be a limit to everything. Nothing is wholly free or without restraint. In this regard, a distinction must be drawn between campaigns that are conducted in a civil manner, and which invite mature discussion and debate on issues of concern, and campaigns that affect national sovereignty, national security and public order. The latter category would necessarily encompass attacks against each other’s religion, race and culture, the institution of the constitutional rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as well as calls for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak from the Federation of Malaysia.

The point that must be recognised is that no government can stop its people from discussing matters that affect their constitutional and legal rights. That goes for the accountability and transparency of any elected government in any country in the world.

It must also be recognised that measures should be taken to respect the ideals established by the Federal Constitution — in letter and in spirit — whether they are concerning religion, citizenship of non-Malays, the special rights of the Malay/Bumiputera and Orang Asal, the special position and privileges of the rulers, or the rights conferred on Sabah and Sarawak.

All these rights must be respected and implemented, unless and until the Federal Constitution is amended by a vote or referendum of the people. This is because all these are elements of the “social contract” and constitute the basic pillars of the Federal Constitution and Malaysia.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s case

It should be recognised that statements, such as those made by Ibrahim, and actions, such as those of the church group that precipitated that statement, do not contribute to the enhancement of social order and national unity.

In the Ibrahim case, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (A-G’s Chambers) has explained the facts in the Chambers Media Statement, dated Oct 27. The police report that was made on Jan 21 last year against Ibrahim alleged that he had called on Muslims to seize and burn copies of “Al-Kitab”, which contained the word “Allah” or other Arabic words, and also contained writing in jawi, during a press conference after the Perkasa Convention in UiTM Penang. This supposed instigation was reproduced in the Free Malaysia Today portal, dated Jan 19 last year.

To understand whether the statement was seditious or not, we must look at the full statement he made, as well as the context in which it was made.

As has also been explained, Ibrahim made his statement in reaction to a mass media report regarding a police report that had been lodged about the distribution of copies of these Bibles to students, including Muslim students, in front of SMK Jelutong on Jan 17 last year.

Both police reports and the allegations made were investigated by the police. Decisions were then made, based on the evidence submitted. In the case of the persons who were distributing the Bibles, they were not prosecuted because there was no proof that they intended to give those Bibles only to Muslim students.

Based on the facts, they really did not know the boys concerned were Muslims. Therefore, it was decided not to prosecute them. But no one has questioned this non-prosecution, although clearly, the Bibles were distributed by these persons outside the school. Everyone accepted that the elements of Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 5 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Penang) Enactment 1996 were not fulfilled.

Moving on to the non-prosecution of Ibrahim’s actions, perhaps, our clarification in the media statement should have been made clearer.

The A-G’s Chambers agrees with the comments made by certain parties that an offence under Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 is not dependent on intention. The action of making a statement with a seditious tendency (as that term is defined in the Act) is enough. We are well aware of decisions, such as that in Public Prosecutor vs Ooi Kee Saik & Ors (1971) 2 MLJ 108, where His Lordship Raja Azlan Shah J stressed this very point.

The oft-cited dicta of His Lordship Raja Azlan Shah J states that “what the prosecution has to prove and all that the prosecution has to prove is that the words complained of… were spoken by (the) accused… Once that is proved, the accused will be conclusively presumed to have intended the natural consequences of his verbal acts and it is, therefore, sufficient if his words have a tendency to produce any of the consequences stated in Section 3(1) of the Act...”

However, it is also equally well established by case authorities that the alleged actus reus (action) element must be examined in its full context. In Ooi Kee Saik, His Lordship Raja Azlan Shah J highlighted that “the dividing line between the lawful criticism of government and sedition is this — if upon reading the impugned speech as a whole, the court finds that it was intended to be a criticism of government policy or administration, with a view to obtain its change or reform, the speech is safe.

“But, if the court comes to the conclusion that the speech, used naturally, clearly and indubitably, has the tendency of stirring up hatred, contempt or disaffection against the government, then it is caught within the ban of paragraph (a) of Section 3(1) of the Act…”

Applying this legal reasoning to Section 3(1) of the Sedition Act 1948, an offence would only be committed if the conclusion of the reasonable man was that the words or language had been used naturally, clearly and indubitably, and had the tendency to promote feelings of ill will and hostility between the different races or classes of the population of Malaysia.

However, if upon reading the impugned speech as a whole, it is clear that it was intended to be an appeal to stop the propagation of a religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam, as provided under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, and not merely a call to burn Bibles, can the attorney-general come to any conclusion other than that the speech would be considered “safe” and non-seditious in nature?

That is the effect if we do not read the authorities in full. At the end of the day, even if it is said that it is for the court to decide, the attorney-general still has to decide whether to charge a person. This must be done based on the evidence after a complete investigation. If we go merely on what is being demanded in the media, nine-10ths of Malaysians would be charged first and we, then, leave it to the court to decide. The first to be charged would be the politicians. Should people be charged merely on the basis that police reports have been made? That is not what the Federal Constitution intended in Article 145 in relation to the attorney-general’s prosecutorial discretion.

In Ibrahim’s case, a careful examination of his statement will show that he had very carefully qualified himself in several ways.

First, he expressly clarified that his intention was not to create religious strife by stating: “Ini bukan sentimen ataupun nak menimbulkan kekecohon agama tetapi ini mempertahankan kesucian agama Islam yang telah jelas dalam undang-undang.” With these words, how is it to be proved that his words, “naturally, clearly and indubitably... had the tendency to promote feelings of ill will and hostility”?

Second, he clarified that the offending item was not the Bible, generally, but only this particular edition of the Bible, because it was “dalam versi Bahasa Melayu (yang) ada kalimah Allah, ada tulisan ayat-ayat jawi” and“tulisan jawi yang boleh mengelirukan”. He never said to burn all Bibles. If he had said that, he would have been charged with sedition.

Third, he clarified at the outset that his statement was directed specifically at the group that had distributed these particular Bibles to the students, which included Malay students. It should also be clarified that when the A-G’s Chambers referred to the failure to satisfy the “intention” element, the A-G’s Chambers was referring specifically to the offence under Section 504 of the Penal Code and not Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948.

That is the difference of Ibrahim’s case. If the case came before a court, all these factors would also need to be considered by the judges, too. We cannot run away from that fact. In relation to the suggestion by certain quarters that Ibrahim should be charged under Section 505 of the Penal Code, this necessarily refers to paragraphs (b) and (c) of Section 505, which state: “Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report — (b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against public tranquility; (c) with intent to incite or which is likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons.”

But, Section 505 also provides the following exception: “Exception — it does not amount to an offence within the meaning of this section, when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it without any such intent as aforesaid.”

Based on this, would it be wrong to threaten to take action against criminals? The answer is clearly “no”. If the people were distributing Bibles deliberately to Muslims, then their actions would be criminal. Therefore, how could Ibrahim be considered to have a committed a crime in that context? It should also be realised that with the “intent” requirement under Section 505, it would be more difficult to prove a case under Section 505 than the Sedition Act 1948.

Based on the facts of the case and for the reasons explained earlier, the intention element would not be satisfied for an offence under either Section 505(b) or Section 505(c). Further, if there were reasonable grounds for believing that there was an attempt to propagate a religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam contrary to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, the actions would fall within the exception as well.

Challenges from corruption

At the 47th anniversary celebration of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on Oct 1, His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah of Perak provided a stark reminder of the insidious threat that corruption posed to democracy, social order and national harmony. As Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim stated in his recent article, corruption eroded public trust in government; it impoverished the nation; it retarded economic progress and social development; it created inefficiencies; and it distorted decision-making processes. It kills the very soul of the nation, and its values and value systems. It leaves in its wake millions of victims.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, “Corruption — The Unrecognised Threat to International Security” (in June), highlighted that systemic corruption had a large bearing on international security.

Systemic corruption, whether in the public or private sector, evokes indignation in populations, making it a factor in social unrest and insurgency. This includes the string of popular uprisings that have toppled governments, from Tunisia to Kyrgyzstan, and escalated the crisis in Ukraine. This has led to the current international concern of foreign fighters flocking to Syria and Iraq, supposedly to help overthrow the incumbent corrupt regimes. It has also inspired the rise of the Islamic State agenda in the Middle East.

At issue is not garden-variety corruption, but public-sector criminality and crony capitalist networks, where the country harbours endemic corruption that pervades the political system, or when the critical levers of government action are captured, resulting in a veritable repurposing of the state to the material benefit of a few elite networks.

In terms of security threats, the Carnegie report concluded that such high-level organised corruption underestimated the agency of ordinary people — their perceptions of corruption and the increasing tendency of populations to lash out violently against governing systems they can no longer tolerate. Further, according to the report, every country that harboured an extremist insurgency today suffered from kleptocratic governance. The motivational literature of those extremist movements is littered with references to corruption.

As mobile and electronic communications give citizens more access to information and each other, levels of outrage — and mobilisation — are likely to keep rising. In addition, the report stated that the loss of state legitimacy was a crucial factor in many crises. Although transnational criminal groups attract law enforcement attention, their nefarious activities do not violate public expectations.

Citizens have quite different presumptions of their governments. So, when governments systematically behave in criminal ways, their legitimacy founders. Profound disenchantment results, and the very fabric of society begins to fray, with unpredictable consequences. The report cited the example of Nairobi residents exchanging grim remarks about the “Shabab bribe” (double the normal rate) that allowed attackers from terrorist group al-Shabab to infiltrate the Westgate Mall in a siege in September last year that claimed more than 60 lives.

The Carnegie report also pointed out that corruption did not fuel these threats alone. It combines with other risk factors, such as ethnic, religious or linguistic rifts in a population, or severe economic disparities, to increase the likelihood of a security challenge.   Tommorow Part 6 — Challenges from economic and other disparities and inequalities.

Towards a better federation

TAN Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the former Sabah chief minister and current deputy chief minister, has won rightful praise and tribute in Kota Kinabalu from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for speaking out unambiguously as a “true Malaysian patriot”.



Participants performing at the Malaysia Day celebration in Kota Kinabalu. Calling for secession in any country is a treasonous act.

At the 29th Congress of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) over the weekend, Pairin, who is the party’s founding president, had come out with fighting words about keeping Sabah in Malaysia.

The need for such an assertion, coming personally from Pairin, has become unavoidable, given that his brother and longtime political thorn on his side, Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, had been making the rounds, whipping up anti-Malaysia sentiments.

The younger Kitingan brother had been doing his utmost in recent years, not just peddling a certain sense of political grievance and, by turns, an increasingly shrill tone of Sabah exclusiveness, and, across the state border into Sarawak, a brand of Borneo nationalism that seems to hark back to a concept bandied about and eventually rejected in an earlier, more politically tumultuous era before Malaysia came into being more than 50 years ago.

At a time of perceived political ferment and distraction on the Malaysian mainland, Jeffrey had obviously calculated that the moment was, perhaps, rather opportune for some revisionist political adventurism.

Upping the political ante now after his political campaigns had initially created some buzz, but always seem to eventually fizzle out for one reason or another, Jeffrey and his cohort betrayed, perhaps, a certain, if only logical, desperation.

That the federal authorities now seem to be coming down like a tonne of bricks on those who deigned to take Sabah and Sarawak out of the federation should come as no surprise. If these elements had felt that they could create any semblance of a civil dialogue on the very idea itself, they are, of course, badly mistaken.

Countries, without exception, come down harshly on citizens who commit treasonous acts, and those seeking to dismember one’s own country rank up there at the top of any country’s list of such acts. The surprise has been how very seemingly indulgent Putrajaya had been towards such elements. Until now, that is.

It is obviously one thing to campaign for a review of the terms of Sabah or Sarawak’s entry into the Malaysian Federation. It is quite something else altogether to have such a campaign morph into one to take either or both states out of federation.

To be sure, there have been recent examples of regions seeking to constitutionally break free of larger unions. Quebec in Canada and Scotland in the United Kingdom come readily to mind. After two failed referenda in Quebec’s case, Canada saw it fit to tighten the rules to make another such exercise more remote.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has had his detractors questioning the wisdom of his agreeing to the recent Scottish referendum, which, although unsuccessful, was nevertheless hugely divisive for even a democracy as mature as Britain’s.

Spain, meanwhile, had ruled out point-blank any moves by any of its constituent regions to go its own way.

Malaysia is leaving little doubt that it is taking Spain’s route on such matters. There is growing international resistance anyway — as Scotland’s vote on independence had highlighted — for greater international political fragmentation at a time when entire multinational regions are trying to consolidate and integrate economically.

Any campaign in Sabah or Sarawak for so-called self-determination is likely to be met with bemusement at best by the international community, especially if such a campaign did not first pass muster with a Malaysian government enjoying strong international support.

With Pairin’s latest declaration, the “battle” is now joined. His political career and PBS’ history are synonymous with asserting Sabah’s rights in the Malaysian Federation.

There is always room for greater debate on how best to create a better Malaysian Federation, and a Federal Government more eager than ever to listen to the grouses from voters in Sabah and Sarawak appears to be all ears.

But, no self-respecting national government will countenance political blackmail by any quarter brandishing a gun, threatening the nation’s very integrity.

The vast majority of Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak are loyal, law-abiding citizens of a nation that they helped create. Their pride in being Malaysians is beyond question. If anything, they only want to be taken more seriously as true and equal Malaysians, in every sense. They will need to tell off the noisy fringe that seeks to abuse such patriotic aspirations by crossing a dangerous, unconstitutional line.

Terrorism, extremism and moderation

Challenges from economic and other disparities and inequalities

IMPORTANT pre-emptive lessons may be learned from an analysis of the Arab Spring uprisings undertaken by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The study surmised that the main causes of the social revolution were spurred by a potent combination of economic, social and political grievances that created fertile grounds for dissent and united disparate groups in opposition to their autocratic systems. The protests, as a whole, were not ideological and did not seek to impose a particular set of beliefs or order. They united discontented citizens from across political, economic, class and religious divides in opposition to autocratic governments. The figures that united the protesters were ordinary people who had suffered at the hands of the authoritarian systems, such as Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, who, frustrated by police harassment and humiliation, set himself on fire in protest on Dec 17, 2010.



Chicago crime boss Al Capone (centre) and other underworld figures faced justice thanks to the Untouchables, led by Eliot Ness (inset), who relied on good, clean hardworking police work rather than restrictive laws.

The social and political causes included resentment of authoritarian rulers that denied freedom of expression and limited opportunities for participation in civil and political life, long-standing “emergency laws”, a malfunctioning or absent justice system, a repressive security state apparatus responsible for myriad human rights abuses, including torture and killings, a desire to re-assert individual and national pride. Furthermore, a feeling of a lack of dignity or an insult to their dignity spurred individual participation in the protests.

Social media was a pivotal platform for the expression of dissent and to organise and connect protest movements. Globalisation and ease of travel were also contributory factors. Frustrated young people became acutely aware of their relative deprivation and understood there existed alternatives to the repressive governments under which they lived.

Threats from organised criminal groups

The activities of organised criminal groups also pose a challenge to social order and national harmony, not least because most triads and gangs in Malaysia are today still racially constituted. Hence the crimes perpetrated or the areas these criminal groups control become identified with a particular race. Thus, their criminal activities do not just threaten social order but are also a potential sparking point for allegations of racially-based law enforcement actions or racially based victimisation.

This was aptly demonstrated during the 2013 crackdown on organised crime, where allegations were made that police operations targeted Indians, until the Inspector-General of Police produced statistics to show that the number of Malays detained during the operations was actually higher than Indians.

Allegations are always easily made. But the danger is when these allegations are made and opinions given without having all the facts.

On this aspect, perhaps the lessons of the violent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, could be instructive. In that case, there were two conflicting versions of the shooting of Michael Brown, and there was a clear racial gulf in how the events were perceived. Among the recommendations made were for the police to wear cameras, to work harder to improve relations with the communities they serve, and to have a police force that better represents the racial make-up of the community they serve. It was also recognised that the public are more likely to volunteer information to officers they trust. More importantly, it was recognised that rioting would not solve the problem, but on the contrary, would make businesses flee.

Another challenge relates to the confidence of the law enforcement agencies themselves to handle organised criminal groups and other serious crimes without the crutch of an emergency proclamation, extraordinary powers under emergency laws and the use of detention without trial.

In this regard, it should be understood that the guarantee in Clause (1) of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution that, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law”, presupposes terms of imprisonment imposed by a court of law in accordance with due process. Preventive detention without trial is, and always will be, an extraordinary measure that must be expressly authorised under Article 149 or 150 of the Federal Constitution.

As amply demonstrated by the law enforcement agencies in the United States, Italy and many other countries, it is possible to take down large, violent organised criminal groups, such as the mafia, Cosa Nostra, etc., as well as terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, through diligent, dedicated, targeted investigations and prosecutions.

In 2012, Malaysians entered a new era through the realisation of watershed legislative reforms initiated by the honourable prime minister under the Political Transformation Programme (PTP) of the 2011-2020 National Transformation Policy (commonly known as the NTP). This led to the revocation of the long-standing proclamations of Emergency on June 21, 2012, and the lapsing of the laws made under its authority, such as the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969.  The Internal Security Act 1960, the Restricted Residence Act 1933 and the Banishment Act 1959 were also repealed.

The Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 was promulgated by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Clause (2) of Article 150 of the Constitution and took effect on May 16, 1969, three days after the incidence of the racial riots on May 13, 1969. The preamble to the Ordinance explains the rationale for its enactment as “the existence of a grave emergency threatening the security of Malaysia” and that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that immediate action is required for securing public order, the suppression of violence and the prevention of crimes involving violence”. We need to read provisions of law together with the justifications for those laws to properly understand why they were enacted and the purpose they are to serve.

Hence, it is clear that the Ordinance was promulgated at a time when Malaysia was facing a situation of grave emergency and extraordinary laws and immediate action were required to restore and secure public order, control and suppress the spread of violence, and prevent crimes involving violence.

Permit me to illustrate the scope of the problem which necessitated the extraordinary powers for law enforcement under the Ordinance.

According to official figures, in the space of three days, 196 persons lost their lives, 180 were wounded by firearms and 259 by other weapons. Further, according to the report by the National Operations Council 9,143 persons were arrested, of whom 5,561 were charged in court. In the process, 6,000 persons were rendered homeless, at least 211 vehicles were destroyed or damaged, while 753 buildings were damaged or destroyed by fire.

Aside from the civil disturbance, widespread looting was also reported. The police were so overstretched to keep law and order that even the police band had to be deployed on peacekeeping duties!

This, then, was why the Emergency Ordinance was promulgated at that time. Do we still have those conditions today? Would the laws enacted to deal with the problems of that particular period be relevant today?

In more recent times, Malaysia had to defend against an unthinkable attack from the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Sultanate of Sulu. In the aftermath of the Sulu force attack on Sabah in February last year, various security measures have been put in place, including declaring eastern Sabah a security zone.

Following multiple kidnappings in 2013-2014 by kidnap-for-ransom groups, and infiltration and incursions by suspected Sulu groups, curfews have recently been imposed in eastern Sabah under the Police Act 1967. Each order may only be made for a limited specified period. This is because this police power was intended to deal with urgent and temporary threats.

Each continuation of the curfew order should be made on a “needs basis” only. Therefore, the police are required to address their mind each and every time they seek to renew the curfew order, and not fall back onto old complacencies. Additional care in taking these security measures is required because it potentially targets those of Sulu descent and could give rise to allegations of racially-based law enforcement action.

It is noted that the spate of crime and terrorist attacks in Sabah, and detention of Islamic State (IS) terrorists have some quarters calling for “ISA-like” laws to be reintroduced.

Members of the public are also reacting on this issue. Suggestions have been made that rather than bringing back the ISA, the government should enact new security laws with elements that are missing in the current legislation such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

The UK legal framework comprising the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Counter-terrorism Act 2008 are cited for further consideration as examples of effective laws which combat terrorism without any need to impose arbitrary detention without trial.

The efforts of Eliot Ness and his team of nine “Untouchables” (that is non-corruptible) officers in successfully dismantling Al Capone’s illegal breweries remains legend. The US Federal Government pursued Capone’s illegal activities in two areas: income tax evasion and violations of prohibition.

In a six-month operation, they gathered enough information through surveillance, anonymous tip-offs and wire-tapping to eventually allow the Internal Revenue Service to charge Capone with 22 counts of tax evasion and 5,000 violations of the Prohibition Act. Capone was eventually convicted on the five tax evasion charges on Oct 17, 1931, and sentenced to 11 years in prison and the charges under the Prohibition Act were dropped.

The perseverance of the Italian police also resulted in the arrest and conviction of the murderers of the anti-mafia judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, killed in revenge for their historic convictions of 119 Mafioso.

More significantly, police action turned public opinion and the state against organised crime. This led to the arrest of the “boss of bosses”, Salvatore Toto Riina. Today, the businesses in Sicily are determined to stop paying protection money and to take back their businesses from the mafia.

The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) was introduced to deal with terrorism and other security offences. It was used in Sabah after the attacks on Lahad Datu.

Therefore, there is nothing to say that we were not able to deal with the problems of terrorism, etc. in accordance with the existing laws.

Challenge from extremists and returning foreign fighters

At the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) on Oct 29, 2014, the honourable Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed stated that, “The threat to world peace and security is not Islam but extremism in the form of intolerance, violence and militancy”.

But, the reality is that this is no longer just “the other country’s problem”.

In a letter to the editor, Ng Tze Shiung wrote that, “There is a growing tendency by Malaysians to label other Malaysians who do not share their views as extremists or advocates of extremism. This categorisation, however, falls apart because society is not secular and ideology does not predominate life.”

That is actually what is happening now and what people are concerned about.  The fear of returning foreign fighters became a reality for Malaysia in November 2014. According to the Royal Malaysia Police at least five militants have returned. Three were arrested, while the whereabouts of the others are not known. Official numbers say there are 39 Malaysians involved in Syria. Local intelligence agencies are bracing for attempts by returning militants to spread their terror ideologies and provide training for would-be militants. Other sources claim 52 militants linked to terrorism have been arrested by police this year, many of them linked to IS.

The US State Department’s Center for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communications head, Alberto Fernandez, has also emphasised that the new war on terrorism is not being fought in Syria or Iraq but on social media. Recruitment is carried out in various ways to appeal to the sentiments of the subjects, each designed to make the IS cause attractive. Thus, it will be necessary for law enforcement agencies in Malaysia to issue appropriate “counter-messaging”, be it on Facebook or Twitter sites belonging to extremists. In this, as in so many other areas, law enforcement agencies alone cannot combat extremism. The political will of the governments (both federal and state) must be categorically declared. Since this is an ideological rather than a purely religious issue, civil society, young leaders, religious leaders and the private sector must also do their part to nullify this threat to social order and national harmony.

It is heartening to note that civil society and the public are leading the way through the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM). Realising the need for buy-in from our youth, the GMM has spearheaded the “Voices of Moderation” campaign which targets youths as the next step in driving moderation among Malaysians. TOMORROW: Part 7 — Challenges from politicians, religious and community leaders, and the mass media.

Rural development needs a rethink

IT may be true that much of the current rural landscape is the result of development policies instituted by the second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. We continued with the momentum after his demise.

However, that momentum has somewhat weakened. If there are changes in the rural areas now, it is the consequence of the trickle-down effects of rapid industrialisation. In addition, rural families benefit from the incomes remitted by those who have migrated to urban areas.

In the earlier stages of economic development, there was often a transfer of income from rural areas to urban areas. The surplus of income arising from enhanced productivity, say, from Federal Land Development Authority projects, rubber replanting and padi irrigation schemes (Muda, for example), were deposited into banks and moved to urban areas to finance non-agricultural activities, such as distribution, transport and housing. The flows did not come back to rural areas. This happened elsewhere, too.

As an example, a study in the Muda regional economy on the impact of the implementation of the double-cropping programme indicated that only 21 per cent of the income surplus were invested in the local economy. The rest were transferred to urban areas through the banking system to finance urban-based activities.

Indeed, if we track these financial flows through the banking system, one can see this transfer of funds from areas of heavy deposits to areas of heavy withdrawals.

Once urban-based activities accelerated, there was no turning back.

Economic growth and post-agricultural modernisation will be based on secondary (construction and manufacturing) and tertiary (services) activities, and not much on rural activities any more.

Hence, agricultural contribution to gross domestic product declined significantly and rural development lost its steam.

While this is the path of modernisation elsewhere, we cannot let the same experience persist here. Doing so means rural areas remain the way they are while urban-based activities continue to improve.

Over 30 per cent of our population live in rural areas — especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and in the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the Malay heartland. These communities are a significant part of the population.

Hence, a new rural development policy can be designed to infuse new elements of concern. Perhaps a paradigm shift is needed, so to speak.

Rural development approaches have to be reconceptualised and redesigned in line with new policies for high-income growth, greater social inclusion and economic liberalisation.

It can be a new platform for the authorities to re-emphasise the importance of continuous and sustained economic development, especially in rural areas.

How do we do it?

In redesigning rural development, perhaps factors like the environment, medium-scale industries and businesses, agriculture based on high-value produce and products, and an infusion of “young blood” comprising educated agriculture workers, etc., can be the new features of rural development in the years to come.

These features, if supplemented with improved social infrastructure and amenities — like sports and recreational facilities, modern community halls, modern health facilities, improved drainage and environment — will make the rural environment more attractive and healthier to live in. Unemployed graduates can be persuaded to take up rural-based activities.

We have done much of these before, but to very basic standards. It is time to upscale and modernise these facilities and services now that society has a much higher standard of living than before.

In fact, in the United States and many developed countries, people enjoy staying in rural areas, given their better facilities and cleaner environment.

In fact, helping rural populations remains a pertinent concern.

Unlike their urban counterparts, rural communities in Malaysia cannot be left to market forces alone to ensure their well-being. Some public sector support is still required.

Hence, a new and comprehensive policy for rural development is overdue and this can incorporate the targets of high income, social inclusion and economic liberalisation, while taking into account the features mentioned above.

Failing to do this means perpetuating the rural-urban divide.

Meanwhile, the process of economic growth will continue to favour urban areas with more modern economic activities.

TAN SRI DR. SULAIMAN MAHBOB - NST Columnist 21 NOVEMBER 2014 @ 7:57 PM

Contohi cara Tun Abdul Razak mengemudi UMNO

Antara faktor utama Tun Abdul Razak Hussein mendapat sokongan yang kuat daripada rakyat pelbagai kaum sepanjang menjadi Perdana Menteri ialah kerana kukuhnya perpaduan dalam kalangan bangsa dan pengundi Melayu. Perpaduan dan kesatuan orang Melayu menyumbang kepada sokongan daripada bukan Melayu dan kestabilan negara. Tun Abdul Razak ketika itu membentuk dasar yang jelas dan tepat bagi memenuhi kehendak kaum majoriti selaras peruntukan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan Kontrak Sosial.

Menurut Pensyarah Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Prof Madya Dr Mohd Noor Yazid, rancangan pembangunan politik, ekonomi, pendidikan dan sosial Tun Abdul Razak adalah jelas ke arah pembentukan sebuah negara yang kuat bertunjangkan dominasi kumpulan utama. Tun Abdul Razak berjaya membentuk perpaduan majoriti iaitu menggabungkan dua parti Melayu, UMNO dan PAS, justeru, mampu memperkukuhkan agenda dan perjuangan Melayu. Apabila kesatuan dan kekuatan bangsa Melayu berjaya dibentuk, sokongan dan perpaduan kaum lain menjadi lebih mudah.

Rancangan ekonomi Tun Abdul Razak yang berasaskan rancangan pembangunan orang Melayu (dan kaum lain yang miskin) di bawah Dasar Ekonomi Baru, selaras Perkara 153 Perlembagaan. Begitu juga dalam pembinaan sosiobudaya, pelajaran dan bahasa; beliau melaksanakan beberapa langkah bagi mengukuhkan bangsa Melayu yang antara lain meluluskan Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan, menjadikan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa utama pentadbiran dan pendidikan serta menubuhkan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia pada tahun 1970 yang menggunakan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa pengantar.

Ini semua dilaksanakan bukan secara integratif tetapi secara asimilatif, tidak menolak hak kaum lain, malah diterima baik oleh bukan Melayu kerana tidak bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan dan turut memberi manfaat kepada mereka.

Pemimpin berwawasan

UMNO dan pemimpinnya hari ini perlu mengkaji semula asas dan budaya politik yang digariskan Tun Abdul Razak serta mengambil teladan daripadanya. Satu perkara yang boleh diambil iktibar ialah sebarang dasar dibuat atau tindakan diambil jangan hanya berkepentingan jangka pendek, bersifat populis atau untuk tujuan pilihan raya saja.

Tun Abdul Razak seorang pemimpin berwawasan yang bertindak atas dasar ingin membina sebuah negara-bangsa yang mantap dalam jangka panjang. Oleh itu, pemimpin UMNO hari ini harus berani dan beringat, agar tidak dianggap melanggar sumpah dan semangat pejuang parti serta negara yang terdahulu.

Bagaimana mahu memberi undi jika apa dilaksanakan tidak memenuhi kepentingan, aspirasi dan masa depan Melayu? Cukup jika disebut beberapa contoh: kehilangan tanah rizab Melayu, dasar meritokrasi di IPTA dan dalam jurusan kritikal, dasar PPSMI, pembubaran Kementerian Pembangunan Usahawan, kecilnya peratusan pemegangan premis perniagaan di bandar oleh peniaga Melayu dan pengkhianatan, rasuah serta ketirisan dalam pentadbiran. Dalam UMNO sendiri, politik wang dan penguasaan ketua bahagian sebagai 'panglima perang' masih menjadi budaya. Ketika Presiden Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak mengemukakan pelan transformasi parti lima tahun lalu, berapa ramaikah daripada pemimpin peringkat bahagian dan negeri yang melebihi 60 tahun, terlalu lama memegang jawatan atau uzur sudi mengundur diri memberi laluan kepada pemimpin baharu?

Dasar setia kawan

Baru-baru ini, ada cadangan agar rakan UMNO dalam Barisan Nasional, khususnya MCA dan GERAKAN, bertanding di kawasan majoriti Cina. Ini satu cadangan yang perlu diberi perhatian serius. Amalan membenarkan MCA dan MIC bertanding di kawasan majoriti Melayu dilakukan pada awal kemerdekaan atas dasar setia kawan Perikatan kerana ketika itu tidak banyak kawasan Parlimen yang benar-benar sesuai untuk MCA dan MIC (kemudian GERAKAN). Hari ini perkara itu sudah berbeza. Banyak kerusi Parlimen yang majoriti Cina, justeru parti ini sepatutnya berdepan dengan DAP dan tidak lagi bertanding di kawasan Parlimen bermajoriti Melayu.

Ini ada kaitan dengan cadangan yang pernah dibuat sekitar tahun 2010 agar semua kawasan Parlimen yang terdiri daripada lebih 50 peratus pengundi Melayu diberikan kepada UMNO.

Mengikut agihan kerusi Parlimen ditandingi pada PRU2008 dan PRU2013, antara kawasan yang mempunyai pengundi Melayu lebih 50 peratus, termasuk Ayer Hitam, Simpang Renggam, Tanjung Piai, Alor Gajah, Hulu Selangor, Subang, Kapar, Kuantan, Alor Setar, Padang Serai dan banyak lagi. Jika cadangan ini dapat dilaksanakan, ia pasti boleh mengukuhkan kedudukan UMNO.

Antara faktor utama Tun Abdul Razak Hussein mendapat sokongan yang kuat daripada rakyat pelbagai kaum sepanjang menjadi Perdana Menteri ialah kerana kukuhnya perpaduan dalam kalangan bangsa dan pengundi Melayu. Perpaduan dan kesatuan orang Melayu menyumbang kepada sokongan daripada bukan Melayu dan kestabilan negara. Tun Abdul Razak ketika itu membentuk dasar yang jelas dan tepat bagi memenuhi kehendak kaum majoriti selaras peruntukan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan Kontrak Sosial.

Menurut Pensyarah Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Prof Madya Dr Mohd Noor Yazid, rancangan pembangunan politik, ekonomi, pendidikan dan sosial Tun Abdul Razak adalah jelas ke arah pembentukan sebuah negara yang kuat bertunjangkan dominasi kumpulan utama. Tun Abdul Razak berjaya membentuk perpaduan majoriti iaitu menggabungkan dua parti Melayu, UMNO dan PAS, justeru, mampu memperkukuhkan agenda dan perjuangan Melayu. Apabila kesatuan dan kekuatan bangsa Melayu berjaya dibentuk, sokongan dan perpaduan kaum lain menjadi lebih mudah.

Rancangan ekonomi Tun Abdul Razak yang berasaskan rancangan pembangunan orang Melayu (dan kaum lain yang miskin) di bawah Dasar Ekonomi Baru, selaras Perkara 153 Perlembagaan. Begitu juga dalam pembinaan sosiobudaya, pelajaran dan bahasa; beliau melaksanakan beberapa langkah bagi mengukuhkan bangsa Melayu yang antara lain meluluskan Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan, menjadikan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa utama pentadbiran dan pendidikan serta menubuhkan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia pada tahun 1970 yang menggunakan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa pengantar.

Ini semua dilaksanakan bukan secara integratif tetapi secara asimilatif, tidak menolak hak kaum lain, malah diterima baik oleh bukan Melayu kerana tidak bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan dan turut memberi manfaat kepada mereka.

Pemimpin berwawasan

UMNO dan pemimpinnya hari ini perlu mengkaji semula asas dan budaya politik yang digariskan Tun Abdul Razak serta mengambil teladan daripadanya. Satu perkara yang boleh diambil iktibar ialah sebarang dasar dibuat atau tindakan diambil jangan hanya berkepentingan jangka pendek, bersifat populis atau untuk tujuan pilihan raya saja.

Tun Abdul Razak seorang pemimpin berwawasan yang bertindak atas dasar ingin membina sebuah negara-bangsa yang mantap dalam jangka panjang. Oleh itu, pemimpin UMNO hari ini harus berani dan beringat, agar tidak dianggap melanggar sumpah dan semangat pejuang parti serta negara yang terdahulu.

Bagaimana mahu memberi undi jika apa dilaksanakan tidak memenuhi kepentingan, aspirasi dan masa depan Melayu? Cukup jika disebut beberapa contoh: kehilangan tanah rizab Melayu, dasar meritokrasi di IPTA dan dalam jurusan kritikal, dasar PPSMI, pembubaran Kementerian Pembangunan Usahawan, kecilnya peratusan pemegangan premis perniagaan di bandar oleh peniaga Melayu dan pengkhianatan, rasuah serta ketirisan dalam pentadbiran. Dalam UMNO sendiri, politik wang dan penguasaan ketua bahagian sebagai 'panglima perang' masih menjadi budaya. Ketika Presiden Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak mengemukakan pelan transformasi parti lima tahun lalu, berapa ramaikah daripada pemimpin peringkat bahagian dan negeri yang melebihi 60 tahun, terlalu lama memegang jawatan atau uzur sudi mengundur diri memberi laluan kepada pemimpin baharu?

Dasar setia kawan

Baru-baru ini, ada cadangan agar rakan UMNO dalam Barisan Nasional, khususnya MCA dan GERAKAN, bertanding di kawasan majoriti Cina. Ini satu cadangan yang perlu diberi perhatian serius. Amalan membenarkan MCA dan MIC bertanding di kawasan majoriti Melayu dilakukan pada awal kemerdekaan atas dasar setia kawan Perikatan kerana ketika itu tidak banyak kawasan Parlimen yang benar-benar sesuai untuk MCA dan MIC (kemudian GERAKAN). Hari ini perkara itu sudah berbeza. Banyak kerusi Parlimen yang majoriti Cina, justeru parti ini sepatutnya berdepan dengan DAP dan tidak lagi bertanding di kawasan Parlimen bermajoriti Melayu.

Ini ada kaitan dengan cadangan yang pernah dibuat sekitar tahun 2010 agar semua kawasan Parlimen yang terdiri daripada lebih 50 peratus pengundi Melayu diberikan kepada UMNO.

Mengikut agihan kerusi Parlimen ditandingi pada PRU2008 dan PRU2013, antara kawasan yang mempunyai pengundi Melayu lebih 50 peratus, termasuk Ayer Hitam, Simpang Renggam, Tanjung Piai, Alor Gajah, Hulu Selangor, Subang, Kapar, Kuantan, Alor Setar, Padang Serai dan banyak lagi. Jika cadangan ini dapat dilaksanakan, ia pasti boleh mengukuhkan kedudukan UMNO. Juhaidi Yean Abdullah Berita Harian Kolumnis AHAD, 23 NOVEMBER 2014 @ 4:40 AM

The false notion of racial intellectual dominance

HUMANS from different ethnic stocks are endowed with intelligence, randomly. Differences in stages of development have to do with culture, diligence, tradition, habits of mind, repeated experiences of achievements, the spirit of adventure and a “do or die” attitude.

Intelligence is not because races are selected by nature to be endowed with intelligence, differently. To accept the false assumption regarding racial intelligence is to believe that the northern races, or Western cultures, are superior, and Eastern cultures and the southern races are inferior.

Such stereotyping leads to the question: Can Asians Think?

This is the title of the provocative book written in 1998 by Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. It is a rebuttal of the universalness of Western ideas. This question, in turn, begs the question regarding the correctness of Western states in business, government, education and life.

Asian weaknesses in knowledge may be more because Asians are deeply ensconced in their comfort zones, and find Western intellectual leadership so overwhelmingly powerful that it may be easier to go along without combatively engaging the prolific contributions from the West.

Since Edward Said’s Orientalism and Syed Hussein Alattas’ Myth of the Lazy Native and Intellectuals in Developing Societies, there have been sparse materials challenging the dominance of the definitions of realities set by the West.

It is exciting, therefore, when the 3rd Exploring Leadership and Learning Theories Association (Ellta) International Conference was again organised by Ellta and Universiti Sains Malaysia on the theme of “Leadership and Learning in the Asian Century”.

The theme is combative because the 21st century belongs to all, not just to Asians. However, now there is worldwide acknowledgement of the rise of China and India as economic giants, with Indonesia and Vietnam close behind. This rise is coupled with the economic ascendance of Japan and South Korea.

Half of humankind in Asia are claiming their share of wealth.

The notion of Asians contributing to mankind’s economic and political well-being cannot be dismissed. The question remains whether Asians have been thinking strategically, and are willing to develop “Southern Theories” and share Asian wisdom with the West, and whether the West is humble enough to learn from the East.

Scholars from 60 countries, including Malaysia, engaged in conversations, discussions, dialogues, discourses and debates.

The quest for answers continues. Theory construction has not quite begun, but most would find the interactions challenging, finding opportunities to probe deeper.

When John Naisbitt relaunched his book, Mindset, his reply to a question regarding the book was that: “The East is about learning and the West is about teaching.

The reply has a deeper meaning because at this point in time, the knowledge institutions of the West, typically driven by Western researchers, are training millions of scholars from the East.

These scholars from the East will, for the most part, return to their homelands and expand the Western-based knowledge transferred to their own milieu, with their own construction of indigenous knowledge and insights.

The day will come when the flow of knowledge will not just be from the West but will also be from the East as well.

It was inspiring to see Penang Yang di-Pertua Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas enthusiastically engaged with the subject.

Other local dignitaries were also enthused by the alluring notion of the rise of the “Southern Theories”, and the confidence once again of Asians contributing to the Asian generation of knowledge; emphasising Asian creativity, innovation, ways of solving universal problems, bringing about advancement to civilization and the betterment of lives for all.

It is so important to build a generation who believe in themselves and can make wise decisions about their lives. Such a generation must know and believe that whatever their backgrounds, they are as good as others, each with their own gifts and talents.

The differences between peoples would be more the cultural advantages and early childhood experiences, and not because they are less endowed with cognitive capacities.

Whatever disadvantages and learning deficits encountered by individuals and groups, they can be overcome by positive attitudes and self-motivation.

Just imagine, if a whole people, a whole culture, were to accept that they are less endowed than other races or groups! Acceptance of such a culturally engendered self-destructive subculture will make slaves of such unfortunate groups.

From the long lens of history, we are seeing the beginning of the shift of power from Greece, Rome, London and Washington to Asia.

DATUK IBRAHIM AHMAD BAJUNID - NST Columnist  21 NOVEMBER 2014 @ 7:57 PM

Malaysians have to do the right thing

Challenge from politicians, religious and community leaders and the mass media

ANOTHER challenge to social order and national harmony is the role played by politicians, religious and community leaders and the mass media. A comparison between the statements made by the Malaysian group of these creed against those being made by their counterparts in neighbouring countries, really gives rise to questions on whether they consider themselves unifiers or the propagators of further dissension and dissatisfaction, be it for political mileage or otherwise.

“During times of darkness, one lamp is not sufficient; we need lamps all over the place. When one light is lit, than many other flames can be lit from it.” The prime minister alone is not enough. We all need to play our role."



After the 1969 communal riots, editors took great care to ensure neutral reporting, whether it was about the victim of an accident or a murderer or other criminal. Conscious effort was made to immediately dampen any potential spark for a racial crisis. The police and other government agencies handled incidents with awareness and sensitivity. Political leaders stepped up to mediate solutions. There is no better example than the understanding, cooperation and compromising spirit between Tunku Abdul Rahman and his then cabinet members Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun V.T. Sambanthan. They were the voices of moderation and reason in a roiling sea. Today, many would be forgiven for assuming the opposite to be true.

Challenges in relation to vernacular education and language

It is noted that the issue of education in one’s mother tongue and vernacular schools has been a recurring issue because certain quarters view it as hindering the inculcation of unity among students. When Article 152 of the Federal Constitution is cited to argue that the “national language shall be the Malay language”, it is rarely equally emphasised that there are two express provisos as follows:

“(a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language; and,

(b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.[Emphasis added]

Further, all citizens have the fundamental right to religion, education and property but this is subject to some exceptions (Articles 11, 12 and 13 Federal Constitution). Article 12 of the Federal Constitution expressly provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in obtaining an education.

It is also noted that although Article 153 of the Federal Constitution imposes a quota restriction for university education, tertiary education opportunities for non-Malays are opened up through local and foreign private schools, colleges and universities. Education abroad is available to those who can afford it and is supported by a specified number of annual government education scholarships.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has categorically stated the government’s position on the issue of vernacular schools in his reply in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 3, 2014. He declared that the status of vernacular education/schools in the country is recognised and written in black and white in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, and this is a fact that has to be accepted by everyone whether they like it or not. The government is firm on its stand that vernacular schools are part of the nation’s legacy and had been part of the nation’s education landscape since before Independence. However he noted that the government could not refrain or stop leaders or politicians from giving their views on the issue.

In this, it is noted that everybody, including politicians, seem to like to put up their views on the Internet. From a social order and national harmony perspective, it is therefore for such persons, in particular leaders and politicians, to exercise the necessary wisdom and restraint when further broaching this issue.

Challenges on the issue of citizenship

As part of the compromises achieved through the social contract on Merdeka Day, Aug 31, 1957, 1.3 million migrant non-Malays were granted citizenship. Part III of the Federal Constitution which provides for various modes to acquire citizenship does not impose race or religious prerequisites. Under Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, every citizen regardless of race or religion or community who satisfies the age requirement has an equal right to vote and to seek elective office at both federal and state levels.

The voice of an ordinary citizen will serve to illustrate how sensitive this issue is today and how closely developments are being watched because of the recent actions of certain politicians. S. Sundareson, a former registrar of citizens at the National Registration Department in Petaling Jaya from 1969 to 1975 felt moved to clarify the provisions in the Federal Constitution relating to citizenship in response to the Home Minister’s statement in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 29 that a child’s citizenship is determined by the parents’ marital status and citizenship.

After explaining the basis for acquisition of citizenship, he concluded by emphasising that, “It is imperative that the provisions in the Constitution are not given a narrow interpretation and so deny lawful citizens of their birthright”.

Wither the Sedition Act 1948?

It is trite that the law is not the solution to all of society’s ills. Charles Samford, eminent Australian ethicist and law professor, propounds that over reliance on the law is unproductive. This is because law does not change, and cannot control, human behaviour.

Based on media reports it appears that there is a nationalistic struggle going on about the future of the Sedition Act 1948. Those that advocate its wholesale repeal and substitution with a “national harmony”, “race relations” or “hate-crime” type legislation modelled on the laws in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States of America say that it is archaic. However, those that fear its repeal will lead to social disorder, anarchy or compromise of the special position of the Malay rulers, which in turn would jeopardise the Malay rulers ability to uphold Islam and safeguard Malay/Bumiputra rights, now argue for its retention.

The government has stated that it is still in consultations with all stakeholders on the construct of the new legislation, be it a new law or amendments to the existing law. The government has refused to be hurried even though the first-mentioned groups insist that the Honourable Prime Minister uphold his promise on April 16, 2012, to review the Sedition Act 1948.

What then are the options? If there is consensus that contempt of court and criticism of the administration and the Executive no longer warrant being treated as having “seditious tendencies”, perhaps these can be dealt with under separate laws.

My personal opinion is that contempt of court should be enacted as a separate law — a new Contempt of Court Act, modelled after the United Kingdom legislation. But the courts must also be serious in taking action for contempt against itself, that is contempt in the face of the court. In my view also, criticism of the government is part of democracy and not an issue. If lies are put up, suits for defamation can be filed.

On the other issues, namely the special position of the Malay/Bumiputra and the special position and privileges of the Malay rulers, I believe it would be a problem to take these out of the realm of sedition and the Sedition Act 1948. I would like to make it clear that this is because these matters are embodied in the Federal Constitution. Therefore, they will have to be protected under the Sedition Act 1948 unless those provisions themselves are first amended. The position of Islam and the citizenship rights of the non-Malays must also be similarly protected. If non-Malays satisfy the citizenship requirements, so be it. That was part of the social contract. For the rights of Sabah and Sarawak, these were the very basis for the two states to form Malaysia and the rights are contained in the Malaysia Agreement. They should be honoured.

If this approach is agreed, it would enable the Sedition Act 1948 to revert to dealing with serious threats which undermine the security, sovereignty and dignity of the nation and the special position of the Malay rulers. It would thus allow sedition to be used as a jealously guarded, ultimate safeguard, for social order and national harmony.

With regard to the proposed national harmony legislation, it is noted that on July 11, 2014, at the Attorney-General’s Chambers Dinner with the Prime Minister, the honourable prime minister had set out the principles which would guide the formulation of the proposed legislation.

These principles were essentially the prime minister’s guarantee that nothing in the new law would incite hatred and contempt or disloyalty to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or any ruler.

The new law would also proscribe promotion of ill will and enmity among races or different groups of peoples in Malaysia, and would prohibit the questioning of any rights, position, privileges, sovereignty and prerogatives as prescribed or protected under the provisions of Part III and Articles 152, 153 and 181 of the Federal Constitution.

This is a guarantee that has also been reaffirmed by the Attorney-General’s Chambers in taking up the gauntlet to prepare this new era legislation for Malaysia.

CONCLUSION

Kropotkin said that “When there is ignorance in the heart of society and disorder in people’s minds, laws become numerous. [People] expect everything from legislation and, each new law being a further miscalculation of reality, they are led to demand incessantly what should emerge from themselves…”

In other words, everybody expects laws to change everything. But, change can only come from each one of us. It should also be remembered that in all religions, to forgive is divine.

We should learn from the experiences of others. The United Kingdom found that changing societal attitudes is a slow process and legislation is only effective if it is correctly implemented and at the right time. The only way to combat discrimination and prejudice is through education and good behaviour from ourselves.

The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding. Mutual respect helps develop common attitudes and diversity is accepted as a national asset.

On the way forward, perhaps the Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Razak said it best when he said that: “There is a need to manage polarities that exist in our society to achieve peace and harmony. I believe the best way to achieve this is through respect. I would add that we should also not think ourselves better or holier than the other.”

As the prime minister succinctly, yet unequivocally further stated, “When we have a problem, we have to solve it. It is not difficult to achieve solutions to any problems. You do not have to know rocket science to find a formula for harmony. The solution is just rational thinking.”

Therefore the solution has always been with us. We have seen it done by our forefathers. We have just forgotten how.

At the end of the day, the choice to preserve our own model of social order and national harmony lies in the hands of the citizens of Malaysia. And it will be our choices that will show what we really are – whether devils or angels. We have to believe that in the long run, Malaysians will do the right thing.

Allow me to conclude with a note of hope in the wise words of Dodi Janki, the spiritual leader of the Brahma Kumaris, who said: “During times of darkness, one lamp is not sufficient; we need lamps all over the place. When one light is lit, than many other flames can be lit from it.” The prime minister alone is not enough. We all need to play our role.

A matter of principle

IT'S about the principle of the matter".

An often heard saying, a few incidents in recent weeks have caught my eyes on its application. In this week's piece I'd like to share my observances.

The first was the Bar Council's extended silence with regard to Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram's appointment as lead counsel for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's legal defence team.

To briefly recap, in March the Bar Council passed a resolution declaring that a retired superior court judge should be prohibited or restricted by law from appearing as counsel (many believed this actually referred to Datuk Seri Gopal).The reason? The Bar Council was concerned that retired judges appearing as lawyers could intimidate other judges ("This is the law because I said it is!") or create the perception of an advantage ("I've been in the legal fraternity before you were born"). The latter relates closely to the maxim "Justice must not only be done but seen to be done".



Trick-or-treaters on the South Lawn of the White House on Halloween, in Washington, DC, October 2014. - EPA

Eventually the Bar Council came out with a statement standing by their resolution but emphasizing that "the law didn't prohibit it".

Fair enough. Yes, the law doesn't disallow it. But when has "the law" prevented the Bar Council from principally objecting? This isn't even a call for them to file a judicial review.

The second situation relates to Halloween. Background: A fatwa was issued forbidding Muslims from celebrating Halloween because it was "a western tradition and against the values of Syariah".

What piqued my curiosity was an interesting article by a famous (or infamous, depending how you look at it) blogger, who argues that applying the same principles, celebrations such as National Day, and even Birthdays – all of which are practices introduced by the British – should be banned.

In all fairness, there is a distinguishable basis here: celebrating a pagan ritual as opposed to a day commemorating our nation's heroes' sacrifices is very different.

Nevertheless, the line is fine and the principle can sway.

In celebrating our nation's heroes, some could interpret it as idol-esque worship. And others could say that Halloween is celebrated for the fun, not to pay homage to the dead (lest fun is also frowned upon. Something I shall not touch upon today).

The above aside, I'm sure we can think of other instances where we've questioned the consistency of the principles being espoused, be it in politics, business or our personal lives. A favourite one of mine is how my mother apparently favours me over my siblings, according to them (that's right, mum might be a principle contradiction in love).

Taking a step back, I believe that how we apply our principles boils down to the complexities within us as human beings. Our biases, influenced by our upbringing and beliefs, make us apply our principles differently.

But it doesn't stop there. More importantly, it influences how we see others apply their principles.

What do I mean? Well, to some, the Bar Council and Majlis Fatwa have done no wrong, principles intact, and their reasoning remains as solid as stone (no worship intended) whereas to others, both are the epitome of everything that's wrong with the world today (I may be exaggerating just a little bit here).

I like hearing out both sides before taking a position. For me, that's a matter of principle.

A need to act fairly

THE Sedition Act 1948 is a law prohibiting discourse deemed as seditious. And under Section 3(1) of the Act, one of the actions defined as seditious is promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between the races.

Recent notable cases of enforcement of the Sedition Act are the charging of a student in Penang for liking an “I love Israel” page on Facebook; and Dr Azmi Sharom for comments made about the Perak constitutional crisis in an online portal article.

Maybe these individuals were rightfully charged. Maybe not. Whilst the necessity of the Sedition Act is still being debated, the fact is it still exists. And while the Act is still in enforcement, the question of why Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali (pic)hasn’t been charged remains.

Ibrahim Ali

Abraham Ally

Ibrahim is alleged to have called for Malay language Bibles to be burned. Shouldn’t this fall under the category of sedition? Just how seditious must a remark be to allow for the Sedition Act to be used?

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri in a parliamentary written reply dated Oct 7, said the police had concluded that Ibrahim’s call for Malay Bibles to be burnt was directed at specific individuals, and not a threat to the larger society.

The police also decided not to act against Ibrahim because he was merely “defending Islam”, her written reply said.

Who are these specific individuals?

I am of the view that most Malaysians were angered and offended by Ibrahim’s remarks, be they Malay, Chinese, Indian, or Eurasians, and I believe that the statement in question surely qualifies as promoting hostility between the races.

Imagine an Indian leader making a remark about burning Buddhist holy texts; or a Chinese leader calling for the Qurans to be burnt; or a Kadazan shouting for every religious book to be torched.

A detailed and transparent explanation needs to be delivered to the public.

For example, in a family of three children; it does not set a good example if one child is favoured over the other two. In order to preserve harmony in the family, all three must be treated fairly.

A fair judgment on this matter will also set an example and force others to toe the line. Malaysians are fed up and annoyed by unpleasant remarks and a proper handling of Ibrahim Ali’s case will go a long way in showing public figures that they should think before they speak.

Fostering harmony between the races is no easy task. Thus, a harmonious nation is everyone’s responsibility, more so if one is a public figure or politician.

Luckily for Malaysia, we are blessed with many leaders who do lead by example. MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, for one, has stressed that MCA are committed to its call for moderation.

And of course there is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who when opening Gerakan’s 43rd National Delegates Conference said, “Political leaders must set an example for the rakyat and reject any form of extremism.”

A proper handling of Ibrahim Ali’s case will, thus, go a long way in instilling trust and harmony among Malaysians of different races and cultures.

Fighting Our Phobias

Malaysians must not let fear divide us.

OUR nation appears to be in a frightful state lately. Not only are those who sit on the peak of our political Mahameru constantly watching their backs, fearful that some close compatriot may stab away with some metaphorical knife, but those who guard our ivory towers and stand watch over our interstate borders also seem to suffer from phobias.



Students forcing open UM’s Kuala Lumpur gate to enter the campus. - Filepic

While phobias are in and of themselves irrational, it does not mean that the psychological condition cannot be dealt with or resolved. I may not be a psychologist but at the very least I believe that by writing about and highlighting these irrational fears, they will be acknowledged. And if there exists any strength of will and the foresight to safeguard the future of our democracy, then the appropriate actors must find the political wherewithal to bring about the needed change.

Ephebiphobia: A fear of youth

On 27th October 2014, an exceptionally fateful incident happened that jumpstarted the public life of one Fahmi Zainol. University of Malaya (UM) made a most erroneous decision to not only bar the UM student association (PMUM) from holding an event that brought in Anwar Ibrahim, the Leader of the Opposition to speak, but also to actively stifle said event through anti-democratic means.

As we all recall, UM first issued a warning and threat of suspension while refusing to acknowledge Fahmi Zainol’s presidency of PMUM. Then on the event day, the university asked staff and students to leave early (due to some electrical outage, apparently) and locked the gates. Had they just kept the gates open, the so-called “gate-crash” incident would not have taken place and the hundreds if not thousands of students may not have gathered to hear Anwar speak under the light of a single street lamp.

Yet such over-reaction by the politically subservient university administration is expected. Instead of being a “mecca of ideas”, our local universities create intellectual environments for students that do little to nothing to cultivate a sense of wonder, curiousity, and the spirit of daring to challenge the status quo. Perhaps this is what leads many (including my mother, who served as a public service commissioner) to believe that those who enter the workforce are ill-equipped to face the challenges of a constantly evolving job market.

UM has become a midwife to a new student activism icon. The proof of it is that wherever he goes, Fahmi Zainol (like Fahmi Reza and Adam Adli) strikes fear in the hearts of university administrators and gives hope to believers in a better Malaysia.

Ambigaphobia: A fear of Ambiga Sreenevasan

On 15th November 2014, Sabah became the second state after Sarawak (in 2011) to ban former Bar Council president and Bersih 2.0 co-chair Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan from entering its borders. This ban is on the heels of an upcoming 25th November Negara-ku (which she is a patron of) programme in that state.

Ambiga continues to be one of the current administration’s greatest phobias. Her rousing public speeches and fearless responses to all manner of threats reveal her to be a proud, passionate and indefatigable Malaysian, tireless in her quest to reclaim Malaysia from extremists and those who employ Machiavellian means to quell discontent.

While Ambiga is definitely not the first to be banned by either or both states, she will probably not be the last either. These iron-fisted measures appear to be taken in Sarawak particularly to stifle dissent, to control the flow of information (purported use of jammers against Radio Free Sarawak broadcasts), and to limit the interaction of people like Ambiga with the populace. In fact, some have quipped that the “secessionist movement” may even be a false front created by the powers that be to pull away support from the Opposition.

In the end, these phobias and their manufactured responses have a debilitating effect on the future of democracy in this country. While Malaysians have shown that - with events such as Bersih 2 and Bersih 3 - such unfounded fears can be overcome en masse, the momentum must be kept up in order to make real, sustainable change. Will we be able to do so? I have no fear to say: Yes, we will.

The taming of Nazri

Having a fun and happy job keeps Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz from becoming a controversial figure these days.

DATUK Seri Nazri Aziz is known for being colourful, outspoken and bold. He is fierce in his defence of the government and of his party, Umno.

But over the past year-and-a-half since becoming Tourism and Culture Minister, Nazri has somewhat kept a low profile which seems to be out of character for him. In the last Umno election, he did not contest for a seat in the supreme council but was appointed to it anyway.

Nazri says he was controversial in the past only because the posts he was holding at that time demanded that of him. His current portfolio as Tourism and Culture Minister, he shares, is really “fun and happy” and he is enjoying himself so much, there is no reason to be controversial.On Umno, Nazri points out that his generation became leaders at a young age and are thus very dominating. But he feels it is time now for them to step aside to let the younger people in the party shine.

Where's your car ?

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz sticking tourism hunt 2013 sticker to a car at the soft launch of Malaysia Tourisy Hunt 2013 in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 9,2013. Rohaizat/Star.

> Why have you been very quiet on politics since the 2013 general election?

Mine is a happy and fun portfolio. That is why you don’t get to hear any controversial statements from me because the Ministry dictates my response. You must understand that I am just a low official of Umno. The only elected post I hold is division chief. And I am just one of 191 Umno division chiefs.

I was controversial in the past because of the (government) portfolios I held. When I was Minister in the PM’s Department (in charge of law and parliament), there were a lot of controversies about the AG, parliament, MACC and the Election Commission, so obviously I became very controversial. It was not because of me but the portfolio.

> Does this mean that Nazri Aziz has been “tamed”?

“Tamed” by the portfolio that I am holding in the party. I really don’t care if I am (seen to be) tame or wild. Actually a lot depends on the portfolio you are holding.

As Tourism and Culture Minister, if even this becomes controversial, then I must be a very divisive and a very controversial person which I actually am not.

> How concerned are you over the lack of new blood in Umno while parties in Pakatan Rakyat have many new faces?

What the opposition is going through now is what we went through during my generation. My generation produced a lot of leaders who were in their 30s and 40s back then. I was only 36 when I was Mara chairman. What is happening now is a concern but it shouldn’t remain just a concern. We should look at what we can do to help tackle this.

My generation has been around for some time. It is time for us to give way to younger blood. That is one way we can help. We cannot be saying that ‘If we go, there’s no one else (to take over).”

A party that cares about the people must ensure continuity. I am prepared to go. I can leave anytime if I am allowed to. But I am not in any way telling the others to go. I feel that we, as leaders, should give way to the younger generation. There are capable younger leaders in Umno. We have new blood coming into the party. But the problem is they can’t shine because my generation of leaders are still there.

> Pakatan has leaders in their 30s but why are those in their 40s and 50s considered young in Umno?

That’s how it should be. Otherwise, you’d create the same problem as my generation. If you are already up there at the age of 30 and still there at 60, that’s 30 years! To me that’s not good. For me, leaders should be in their late 40s and early 50s so that they won’t stay there too long. My generation has been very dominant because we have been holding posts from very young. And at the age of 60, we are still expected to hold the post! Susah lah. When can the younger people get to come in?

Except for those holding the highest positions like the PM, the rest who have been MPs for so long and who do not hold any high posts should leave. I would say around the age 60 would be the right time to go.

> Still Pakatan must seem more attractive to the younger generation because they pick a number of people in their 20s and 30s to contest and become MPs?

When you are riding on the wave of anger, boleh lah. But you can’t do that in the more serious running of the government. In any party, like Umno that has been there forever, we are certainly going to face this problem.

In the past, it was letak songkok pun Umno menang (any candidate Umno puts up will win) but these days, it’s the other way around. We have been around for long and sometimes, people just want change. When you ask them ‘Why do you want to change?’ They say ‘takpe lah, we just want to try something else for a change’.

That is going to work against us. This happened with many other old parties too like Japan’s LDP and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico. We can’t run away from it. Anything new is the flavour of the day. We can’t be the flavour of the day anymore. We are old. So we have to face it and find a way to be the best.

> Is Umno still relevant?

Looking at the 88 seats (of the 222 parliament seats) that we won, we are still relevant. We are the biggest single party in Parliament, so you can’t say we are not relevant. The other Malay parties are way behind us. PAS (which is a large Malay party) has only 21 seats. And how many Malay MPs does PKR have? Only a handful.

The ones facing problems are our partners in Barisan (Nasional). They are the ones who have to buck up. In the 2008 election, Umno had 79 seats and in the last election, we won 88 seats. That’s an increase of 10 seats. If you look at that, you will see that we are very much relevant.

> Non-Malays are asking why Umno is such a racist party as they only defend the Malay agenda all the time.

How is it that when a Chinese party defends Chinese interests and MIC defends Indian interests, they are not racist but when Malays defend Malay interests, it is seen to be racist?

Generally, the Malays feel their interests must be taken care of, so that’s why you still have Umno. The Malay MPs from PKR contested in seats which were 50% Malay and 50% non-Malay, which is why they won in those seats.

Umno won almost all the Malay seats, so the trend is that Malays still want Umno because they want to ensure that their interests are taken care of.

The PAS MPs and the Malay MPs in PKR are talking as if they are very liberal! If non-Malays think bumiputra rights are not fair, they should get the Malay MPs in Pakatan to initiate a move to abolish it.

Ask their Malay MPs if they will do that. I want to hear their answer. They are closet racists! They are concerned about their race but are giving lip service (to other races) because of votes.

> How comfortable are you with the authorities using the Sedition Act?

When you talk about the Sedition Act, it is always the Malays who are defending the Act because their rights are being questioned.

But recently, when Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy chairman Mohamad Azli (Mohemed Saad) asked to discuss abolishing Chinese schools at the coming Umno general assembly, MCA leaders were calling for him to be charged under the Sedition Act. And also for the Act to be used against (Perkasa chief Datuk) Ibrahim Ali (for the burn the Malay Bible remarks). The fact that people are calling for the AG to use the Sedition Act shows that the Act is still very relevant.

> The PM said a few years ago that the Sedition Act, like the ISA, will be abolished. But now, there are calls for it to be retained. What is your position?

I’ve always maintained that the Sedition Act must stay. The only reason I wanted it changed is because the Act is from 1948. Based on the date itself which is pre-independence, people will say it is archaic and not relevant.

So we must have a new Act – The Racial Harmony Act– to safeguard relations among different religions and communities. We need this.

> How do you think Najib is doing as PM?

He is working very hard but I think people memek (mock) what he is trying to do. People are finding issues to make him look not relevant although he is working hard for the country. The opposition is not giving him any chance to show his goodness and his sincerity because they are motivated by politics. They find fault with whatever Najib does.

And you wouldn’t have imagined a government run by DAP would ban journalists but they have done this blatantly. Why is it that when they do it, it is fine but when we do it, it’s not? When they govern, they should be providing a good example and not do all those things they accuse us of.

And we can’t even say bad things about their leader either. Can you imagine if there are sexual things about our leader? They will attack us until teruk.

Our opposition is not living up to the standard of an opposition in a healthy democracy.

> Najib’s popularity has dipped and some say he is a weak leader. Comment?

It is not being a weak leader. It is something that he has to do. With certain things, he has to really sit down and think properly on what he has to do. When the government has been reduced to 133 seats – which is something we have never experienced before – we should really take care of our group. Which means sometimes we have to do things which we never had to do when we were strong. So people see his accommodative action and compromise as a weakness. It is not a weakness but it is something you have to do when you are not in a strong position. That’s all.

Planning for retirement from young

THE average Malaysian lifespan today is 75. It was 56 in 1957.

By 2020, which is a mere six years away, the number of Malaysians aged 60 and above will hit 4.46 million, up from the current 2.32 million.

The typical employee in the private sector who contributes to the Employees Provident Fund looks forward to turning 55, because that is the age when he can withdraw all his savings.

The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.
~Abe Lemons



Although the retirement age is now 60, most of the contributors who reach 55 are likely to withdraw their savings, either as one lump sum, or by opting for a monthly withdrawal option.For those with substantial savings, and who continue to draw a decent salary post-55, they are likely to keep their money with the EPF, since the dividends are far more attractive than fixed deposit rates in the banks.

But this is where the divide is most apparent. Statistics revealed in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday show that the number of high-net worth individuals is low.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan said of the 233,299 contributors who turn 55 next year, only 1,331 (or 0.6%) will have more than RM1mil in their accounts.

The harsh reality is that the bulk of those who can withdraw next year, comprising some 69% – or 161,263 contributors - will only take out less than RM50,000.

If we can imagine that, by today’s standards, even a million ringgit will not last for 20 years, what about RM50,000?

When a person retires, the ideal situation would be that his EPF savings see him through his life. But RM50,000 is not even enough to buy a decent car to celebrate one’s retirement.

Which is why we hear stories of individuals using up all their savings in a short time, although the more conservative calculations state that they should last at least 15 years after retirement.

The Government wants to help contributors preserve their EPF savings, but this is no easy task.

Retirement savings must take into account the effects of inflation, increasing life expectancy, changing family structures and geriatric healthcare costs.

One critical illness situation will leave you in dire straits if all you have is your EPF savings.

The key is to start young. Every person starting out in the workforce must be made aware that their EPF savings will not be enough if they do not learn how to manage their finances well.

They must learn to save, and also invest in financial plans, including insurance, where the premiums will be lower if they start young. Indulging in expensive gadgets and gizmos may be cool, but poor management of one’s salary will have long-term consequences which cannot be sustained by retirement savings.

Retirement may be a faraway notion for the young and carefree but they should start thinking about it from the day they step into the workforce.

Barking up the wrong tree

Our real problem isn’t Bahasa Malaysia but English and it is incredible that so many of us have refused to acknowledge this or even want to address it.

THERE have been so many silly remarks and statements by some Malaysian politicians and one-man show non-governmental organisations that it is becoming impossible to keep track of their comedy acts.

The Malaysian Employers Federation secretary Datuk Shamsudin Bardan reportedly said that a survey a few years ago among its members found that 60% of them identified low English proficiency as the main problem with young recruits.

Well, in Malaysia, there are certainly many of them.There is a saying: “There are people who are only good at making the news but cannot make a difference to the wellbeing of society.”

Last week, Johor state assemblyman Datuk Dr Shahruddin Salleh suggested that students who fail to master the national language be stripped of their citizen­ship. Yes, revoke, lucut, tarik balik, batal!

The Barisan Nasional representative for Jorak alleged that many students were not able to master the language, and this was even prevalent among the Malays. He didn’t say how many. Like one, 10, 20, hundreds or thousands, but was quoted as saying “many”.

“Even my own neighbour, whose father and mother are Malays, but because their child goes to international school, the child is unable to converse in Malay,” he said, adding that students were now more interested in mastering English and do not take the learning of Malay seriously.

The situation was prevalent in the vernacular schools, he added, because the use of Mandarin and Tamil made the students weak in the Malay language, which was further compounded by the fact that many of the teachers there are also not well-versed in Malay.

We’d like to think that Dr Shahruddin has a sense of humour but, seriously, what does he really mean when he said students who do not master the Malay language should be stripped of their citizenship?

How does one define mastery at the school level? Is it by the grades they score at the public examinations, like the UPSR, PMR or SPM? We know that these are just examination grades. A student can score a distinction or even fail miserably, but that in itself does not reflect his language proficiency in the real world.

To take an extreme example, some foreign workers who are in the country for just a few months can speak like a Malay, but do you think they will be able to pass the BM paper at SPM level? Or that they should therefore be accorded citizenship because they have mastered our national language?

We are not sure if Dr Shahruddin is having a bad patch with his neighbours because I do not think that his neighbours, who would have read his remarks by now, would be amused.

The reality is that there are many Malay households where English is prominently used because of a variety of reasons.

The children of diplomats, for example, because they are schooled in international schools, will definitely be more comfortable in English.

What about the children of politicians, especially those who send their children for better education overseas and then make a lot of noise about our local education system?

The assemblyman may want to project his nationalistic credentials ahead of his party general assembly, and he has conveniently used his whip at English and, of course, vernacular schools, the current flavour of the month.

There are enough statistics to show that many of our students and teachers are struggling with English in schools, especially those in the rural areas. Just Google.

The Malaysian Employers Federation secretary Datuk Shamsudin Bardan reportedly said that a survey a few years ago among its members found that 60% of them identified low English proficiency as the main problem with young recruits.

A similar survey in September last year by online recruitment agency

JobStreet.com found that 55% of senior managers and companies considered poor command of the English language among graduates to be the main reason for their difficulty in finding employment.

Sabah Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said that 70% of Malaysian graduates are having a hard time finding jobs in the private sector due to poor command of English.

Citing his past work experience with a multinational company in peninsular Malaysia, Masidi said 70% of those interviewed did not make it through to the second round as they could not converse well in English.

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh had said that about two-thirds of English Language teachers in the country have been classified as “incapable” or “unfit” to teach the subject in schools. These teachers, he said, have been sent for courses to improve their proficiency in the language.

It has also been reported that about 70% of the 60,000 English Language teachers who sat for the English Language Cambridge Placement Test performed poorly.

Granted that there are students who fare badly in Bahasa Malaysia, but we do not think the numbers are big. Instead of making such a generalisation, we expect the Jorak assemblyman to back up his claim with more substantial findings and figures.

Neither has he been able to support this pathetic claim that “the use of Mandarin and Tamil by teachers in vernacular schools is another reason for students being weak in Malay, adding that the teachers are also not well-versed in Malay.”

Our real problem isn’t Bahasa Malaysia but English. It is incredible that so many of us have refused to acknowledge this problem or even want to address it, lacking the political will, unfortunately.

There is no point in deceiving ourselves by allowing our children to easily pass the English tests in schools and in public examinations.

There may be a huge number of students scoring distinctions in English at the SPM level but their real ability is revealed when they enter tertiary education and, later, the working world.

The MEF’s Shamsudin told a news portal in April that there are those with As and Bs in English at the SPM level who cannot even hold a conversation in English.

“Which is why we were excited when the government decided to teach Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI), as we felt this could boost their command of English. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after seven years when we should have allowed it to continue for 14 to 15 years to see the results.

“The inability to converse and understand English (among young school-leavers) is a constant complaint among our members,” said Shamsudin. The MEF has 4,800 direct members and 21 affiliated trade associations.

In the end, it will be the rural students who will suffer the most. These are the very people that our elected representatives claim to represent and fight for their rights and interests.

Do we need to check how many of our Honourable Members are sending their children to private and international schools even as they wax eloquence about the importance of the national schools?

Actually, we should all be concerned about proficiency in English, an issue that has also been recently taken up by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who can see the value of the English language without undermining the stature of the national language.

As Dr Mahathir rightly pointed out, the rich go to private schools while the poor go to national schools at home, adding that “I must confess that although my children all went to national schools, my grandchildren all go to private schools in the country and abroad. They do speak the national language but their kind of schooling widens the gap between races as well as between the rich and the poor.”

Well, it looks like the only thing that we have fared consistently well in is the comic relief provided by some of our politicians. And we can be sure the curtains will never come down on these comedians as they continue to seek out non-issues to put themselves in the spotlight.

Case for judicial review

Is judicial review the correct procedure to challenge the validity of a statute?

IN the last two weeks, two interesting cases relating to homosexual and cross-dressing men were dealt with by the appeals courts in Singapore and Malaysia. However, the manner in which the two courts interpreted the equipollent provisions of our respective Constitution, described as consanguineous with one another as well as that of the United States and India, differed sharply.

Landmark judgment: In the Nov 7 decision of the Court of Appeal in Muhamad Juzaili Bin Mohd Khamis & Ors v Negri Sembilan State Government, 2014, the court struck down section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan), 1992 which criminalises Muslim men for cross-dressing, as unconstitutional.

In the Singapore case of Lim Meng Suang vs Attorney General, 2014, the highest court in Singapore, the Court of Appeal, ruled in a 101-page judgment on Oct 29 that section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises physical intimacy and sex between men, was not unconstitutional.

The appeals were brought by gay couple Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon who have been in a romantic and sexual relationship for the past 15 years, and Tan Eng Hong who had been arrested for engaging in oral sex with another man in a public toilet cubicle in 2010.

In a nutshell, the appellants had questioned the constitutionality of section 377A on the following grounds:

> that it infringed Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution (SC) that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law”;

> that it infringed Article 12 SC in that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”; and

> that section 377A was a colonial legislation incorporated into the Singapore Penal Code in 1938 when she was a British colony and prior to the promulgation of SC.

Senior Counsel Deborah Barker (daughter of Singapore’s first post-Independence Minister of Law, EW Barker) argued for the gay couple that the right to life and personal liberty under Article 9 should also include a limited right of privacy and personal autonomy allowing a person to enjoy and express affection and love towards another human being.

Delivering the judgment of the court, Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong ruled that the phrase “life or personal liberty” in Article 9 when read in entirety refers only to a person’s freedom from an unlawful deprivation of life and unlawful detention or incarceration. Period.

He went on to caution that foreign cases (with particular references to those decided by the Indian Supreme Court) that have conferred an expansive constitutional right to life and liberty should be approached with circumspection because they were decided in the context of their unique social, political and legal circumstances.

As regards Article 12 SC, the court applied the Malaysian case of Malaysian Bar v Government of Malaysia, 1987 in that to determine the constitutionality of a statute under Article 12 SC, the test is one of reasonable or permissible classification. It is a two-stage test which is applied only if the impugned statute is discriminatory in nature.

In other words, any law that treats people differently can still be held as constitutional if it passes this test.

Firstly, the discriminatory statute falls within a classification founded on an intelligible differentia, that is, it is capable of distinguishing persons that are grouped together from others outside the group.

Secondly, the differentia has a rational relation to the objective of the impugned statute. In the view of the apex court, section 377A has satisfied this test because it is easily discernible that it is against men who perform acts of gross decency with other men and the objective is to preserve societal morality.

As respects section 377A being a colonial legislation, the court held that section 377A constitutes part of the corpus of Singapore law as Article 162 SC provides for the continuation of pre-independence laws after the coming into force of SC.

Further, the court held that Article 12(2) SC did not expressly provide that a Singaporean could not be discriminated on the grounds of sex, gender or sexual orientation unlike Article 8(2) of the Malaysian Constitution, which expressly includes the word “gender” or section 9(2) of chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa, which expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

The court also dismissed the argument that a person’s sexual orientation was biologically determined and hence he ought not to have been discriminated by section 377A. Justice Phang said: “In particular, Mr Ravi (counsel for Tan) submitted that there was overwhelming evidence supporting the proposition that a person’s sexual orientation was biologically determined. This is primarily a scientific and extra-legal argument which, again, is outside the purview of the court.

We agree with the Judge that the scientific evidence on this particular issue is – contrary to what Mr Ravi submitted – unclear inasmuch as there is no definitive evidence pointing clearly to one side of the divide or the other. In any event, as just mentioned, the court is not in a position to arrive at a conclusive determination on this issue. Again, this argument should – if at all – be addressed by the legislature instead.”

All in all, the apex court is saying, regardless of whether Singapore judges are described as timorous souls or bold spirits, the court cannot assume legislative functions to become a mini-legislature, and that there is nothing the court could do to assist the appellants whose remedy should lie in the legislative sphere.

Now to the Nov 7 decision of our Court of Appeal in Muhamad Juzaili Bin Mohd Khamis & Ors v Negri Sembilan State Government, 2014. In this case, the court struck down section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan), 1992 which criminalises Muslim men for cross-dressing as unconstitutional and therefore void for being inconsistent with the supreme law, namely Articles 5 (right to life and liberty and equivalent to Article 9 SC), 8 (equality before the law and equivalent to Article 12 SC), 9(2) (freedom of movement) and 10(1)(a) (freedom of expression) of the Federal Constitution.

First, I do not think this case involves a conflict of syariah and civil laws albeit it deals only with Muslim men who suffer from gender identity disorder (GID). It is also a non-issue that under the Constitution, only the Federal Court is seised with constitutional jurisdiction to determine the competency of both the federal and state legislatures to enact laws and their validity.

Hence, the issue is very much whether the Court of Appeal’s decision is tantamount to trespassing into the legislative sphere.

At first glance, critics will argue that the Singapore case is an example of judicial restraint at its worst by deferring to the legislature, and the Malaysian case, judicial activism at its best which may, however, also be criticised as bordering judicial populism or judicial excessivism!

It is said that the Court of Appeal was merely applying extant interpretation adopted by our superior courts when dealing with fundamental liberties provisions of the Constitution.

Most significantly, the court followed earlier judicial decisions which adopted Indian constitutional jurisprudence that the right to life and liberty under Article 5 should include right to live with dignity and right to livelihood and quality of life.

The court also held that there was a breach of Article 8(2) on gender discrimination because the impugned section 66 dealt only with Muslim men cross-dressing while Muslim women who cross-dress are not prohibited.

This has far-reaching implications because civil laws against male homosexuality and oral sex under the Penal Code can also be challenged on a similar basis even if they have passed the reasonable classification test. For example, section 377A of our Penal Code criminalises acts of performing fellatio but not cunninglingus!

That said, devoid of any disrespect to GID sufferers, as a lawyer and I believe for many colleagues of mine, law students and academics, it would be interesting to see how our Federal Court deals with the following issues, if advanced, upon appeal:

> Is judicial review the correct procedure to challenge the validity of a statute for being unconstitutional when there is already a procedure for this as set out in Article 4(4) (read together with Article 128(1)) of the Constitution, that is, it can only be determined by the Federal Court after leave from a Federal Court judge has first been obtained? That was exactly how the validity of section 53(1) of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan), 1992 was referred to the Federal Court in Fathul Bari bin Mat Jahya & Anor v Majlis Agama Islam Negeri Sembilan & Ors, 2012 after the first petitioner was charged and the second petitioner also charged for aiding and abetting the former in conducting a religious talk to non-family members outside his residence without a tauliah (licence) from the Tauliah Committee.

> Should Malaysian courts now be more wary in further adopting the Indian constitutional jurisprudence after taking into account our mores and local circumstances?

> Will our apex court follow the above decision of the Singapore Court of Appeal in that this is a matter best left to the legislature to come to grips with?

> What is the definition of “gender” in Article 8(2) of the Constitution? Is it immutably only a male or female or a third gender has been created to include, for example, a transgender because it is a natural and intractable attribute and disposition just like how the Muslim nation of Bangladesh has decided to recognise them as a third gender called Hijras?

The writer, a senior lawyer, appreciates that this topic evokes strong passion and emotion but this article is strictly and solely written from a legal angle. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

It’s not news if it’s good

The success story of regional integration in Latin America today is seldom heard elsewhere in the world, even as people there experience it daily.

LATIN America has been experiencing a progressive, historic but silent revolution for 10 years now. However, few people in the rest of the world seem aware of it.

Not hearing any news signifies that nothing is wrong.

The silence is not because these countries had sought to avoid world attention. Rather, the international media dominated by Western news agencies seem to have other priorities.

Often enough significant events and key issues are neglected, bypassed by the saucy, the sensational and the scandalous – all that glitters is not gold, much that matters may never be told.Without exception, Western news agencies have doggedly promoted the so-called Arab Spring to the point of tedium.

The standard bogeymen of Western storytelling – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad – are going or gone, so jubilation in Occidental newsrooms may be expected. But there should be limits and other (news) priorities too.

Elsewhere, countries that succeed outside Western norms, dictates and development models may seem unimportant or “politically incorrect”. So they are routinely ignored or underrated.

Worse, the changes said to be wrought by “Arab Spring” uprisings are said to be positive when the exact opposite is happening.

In virtually all these countries, living conditions have deteriorated rather than improved.

But the nine countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that came together in 2004 as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) have been making great strides in every critical area of national development.

Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela have raised standards of living for their people in social, economic and political terms.

Standards in housing, health care, education and employment have risen. These countries have also scored a high 0.721 in the UN Human Development Index, which measures national achievements beyond economic growth and material development.

On Dec 14, 2004, Venezuela and Cuba signed the joint declaration for the establishment of Alba. The alliance is based on humanist principles that place the citizen rather than the state or the corporation at the centre of national policymaking.

This people-centred alliance soon attracted the interest of other countries. Next to join were Bolivia, then Nicaragua, and Dominica, with Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines joining together – followed by St Lucia.

Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis will be the next members. Other countries attending Alba summits as Participants are Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis, and Uruguay.

With a proud record of a decade’s achievements under its belt, Alba marked the passage of its first decade at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Ambassador Lourdes Puma Puma of Ecuador explained Alba’s background and objectives, including the use of the Sucre (Unified System for Regional Compensation) as a virtual currency in trade among member nations.

There is also a Bank of Alba with regional integration as its core purpose. The bank encourages and offers financial support for projects that promote the social development of all the peoples of the continent regardless of race, religion, politics or other background.

The areas that Alba covers in promoting regional integration are comprehensive and ambitious. There are medical schools and a health sciences university with scholarships, and a pharmaceutical company and a drugs regulatory centre with free access to medication.

There are plans for a new financial architecture and an emphasis on science and technology, without neglecting the arts.

There are also awards and scholarships for literature, culture, research and cinematography.

Alba is also working with the People’s Trade Agreement that lobbies for the social, cultural and environmental rights of the region’s peoples. It also works with Petrocaribe, an alliance of nations over oil purchases, as well as Mercosur, a regional customs union for advancing free trade and the movement of goods, people and currency.

The guest speaker at the Kuala Lumpur forum was Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Interna­tional Movement for a Just World.

Dr Chandra identified the significant distinction between Alba and other regional organisations in the way it places priority on the human being, the individual person, in public policymaking.

This humanist aspect of a caring regional society that Alba seeks to build is widely cherished by the national leaders of its member countries. And despite a priority on economic development, Alba is also conscious of environmental needs and emphasises sustainable development.

In pursuing technology, Alba also seeks independence of telecommunications content in programming. Telecoms and broadcasting community services will also be provided to rural and other marginal areas.

Despite their achievements, Alba countries are still developing nations with much to do to achieve full development status. In the meantime basic needs have not been forgotten, with a food fund that has cut malnourishment to under 5% in four Alba countries and eliminated illiteracy in five countries.

More broadly, Alba seeks a more multipolar world that avoids war as a matter of policy. It much prefers human development that addresses the real needs of real people, particularly the most disadvantaged members of society.

Alba is named after the great 18th-19th century Venezuelan leader and liberator Simon Bolivar, hailed as a Latin American independence hero and a regional beacon of progress and development.

Bolivar is the only person in history to have two countries named after him: Bolivia, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Bolivar’s goals for Venezuela and its neighbouring countries labouring under the Spanish colonial yoke may be summed up in four basic priorities: a popular and participatory democracy for the people, economic independence for real development, fairer wealth distribution and elimination of corruption.

In the Latin America of his time, Bolivar led territories that included Bolivia, Colombia (then including Panama), Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. As a political and military leader he fought many private and public battles against slavery and for the liberation of his people.

Bolivar died in 1830 at the age of 47. He had paved the way for democracy in many countries in Latin America, but much else remains to be done.

After an era of cruel dictatorships, Latin America is again ready to embrace its history of decency and human achievement. But obstacles remain in the way of Alba countries, particularly when they seek their own way to development.

They prefer a more direct way that impacts positively on the people, particularly the most vulnerable in society such as the poor and the weak. Thus they avoid the customary assistance from powerful transnational institutions that comes with strings, cables and levers attached.

And yet when the UN established the Bretton Woods aid organisations the World Bank and the IMF, they were also supposed to help the poorest without encumbering them. But a problem with institutions is that their practices become institutionalised and worse.

Alba has been established with much goodwill and its achievements have been impressive.

Alba countries deserve support and admiration for their record so far, and encouragement on their promise.

Alba emerged from Venezuela’s rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area for the Americas, which would heighten inequality by enhancing the power of transnational corporations at the expense of the poor.

Neither the World Bank nor the IMF may want to call Alba’s achievements a “miracle”, but they are miraculous nonetheless. Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.