Thursday, July 28, 2011

Datuk Hj. Mokhsen Ibrahim passed away peacefully today at 2.30pm. Al-Fatihah.

The father of Tuan Hj. Baharuddin and Puan Nurhanim Hanna (Ketua Wanita PKR Sarawak) passed away peacefully today at 2.30pm at the Kuching General Hospital. He was aged 79 and was receiving treatment for liver cancer.

The funeral will begin at 10.30am tomorrow morning (Friday 29th July) at 54A, Rubber Road West and the burial will be at Masjid Jamek after Friday prayers.

Tuan Yang Terutama Datuk Patinggi Governor Sarawak.

YB See Chee How, Member of Dewan Undangan Negeri for N11, Batu Lintang.

Mdm. Voon Shiak Ni, Vice President Wanita PKR Malaysia.

Mrs. Baru Bian representing YB Baru Bian who is away in Sibu for a court case.

Forget it, BN and EC won't put through any reform, not without Bersih 3.0

Written by Kenny Gan, Malaysia Chronicle

The job of the Election Commission is to conduct elections fairly and act as an impartial referee. It has no business to tilt the playing field in favour of any party. In Malaysia elections have never been free and fair and this has allowed one regime to rule for more than 50 years without any fear of losing power. It has created a pseudo-democracy with endemic corruption from the top down, subjugation of all the institutions of democracy to serve the regime and abuse of democratic rights. The EC is largely responsible for this sordid state of affairs by subverting the right of Malaysians to choose their own government and kick out a corrupt one.

There are many ways which the EC has colluded with BN or not acted against abuses such as gerrymandering, postal votes, phantom votes, inducting illegal aliens as voters, unfair access to media, short campaign period, improper use of government machinery, money politics, dirty politics, disenfranchising overseas Malaysians, etc. It may take years and a change of government to clean all these up but the 13th general election is approaching and there is not much time left.

Nevertheless there are three urgent reforms that the EC can implement immediately and well within their power to do so. They do not require a lot of money, purchase of hardware or long lead time. This will immediately result in a fairer contest and force BN to fight for its life instead of merely fighting for a two-thirds majority in parliament. These are the three urgent reforms we should demand of the EC.

No. 1 – Tighten Up Postal Voting

The opposition has long suspected that postal voting has been widely abused to favour BN and even grant BN victories in marginal seats where BN would have lost otherwise. This is not without justification as many BN seats have been saved by postal votes brought in after a first count shows that BN has lost.

Another criticism is that postal votes are not secret with serial numbers of ballot papers recorded against the voter’s name thus pressuring the voter to vote for BN to avoid being victimized. BN has traditionally won postal votes by 80% to 99%.

What happens between the time the votes are cast and the boxes produced at the counting centre is another cause of concern as there are ample opportunities to tamper with the votes.

There is also a longstanding suspicion that the police and military personnel have two votes each – one postal vote and another normal vote using a civilian ID. The wealth of anecdotal accounts lends credence to this and checks of the electoral rolls have produced suspicious evidence.

In the first place postal voting should be minimized to the absolute necessity. There is no reason for army personnel and their spouses to be granted postal votes as we are not at war and neither are they deployed during elections. The military should be allowed to vote as normal civilians on polling day; perhaps for their convenience polling booths can be set up in army camps.

Postal voting by the police and other essential services should be witnessed by independent parties and the EC should ensure that the votes cannot be traced back to the individual. The votes should be counted immediately and recorded, not kept and produced on polling day to save marginal seats after a losing count.

The EC must also allow independent parties to verify that those entitled to postal votes are not double listed in the rolls with a civilian ID.

No. 2 – Use Indelible Ink

The use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting by one person will effectively wipe out the phantom voter menace even if electoral rolls are not clean. It is cheap, effective, hard to bypass and can be implemented immediately so why the EC refuses to consider indelible ink is strange (or perhaps not so strange).

The reasons given by EC such as “indelible ink is only used in poor countries” or “it is only for countries without a registration database” is specious and worthless. Instead it is pushing for the biometric system which is expensive, requires a lot of hardware, takes a long lead time to implement and is easily abused.

Essentially the biometric system means the fingerprint of a voter is validated by scanning before he is allowed to vote. According to EC’s deputy chairman, no two voters have the same fingerprint so this is a foolproof method to eliminate multiple voting. True, but what is there to stop the same fingerprint from being stored with multiple phantom I.C.s? Even if the fingerprint does not match the database it is only a matter of programming to grant illegal permissions.

The biometric system appears to be a high tech way to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and relieve pressure on the EC while allowing BN to continue cheating. BN is wholeheartedly supporting the biometric system which is fishy in itself. Has a party which used to depend on phantom voters suddenly become angels to support a system which would curb their ability to cheat? If you believe this then you will probably believe me if I tell you Paris Hilton is still a virgin.

The government is now collecting the biometric of 2 million foreign workers. Does this biometric database have other uses besides tracking foreign workers? Will they be issued with Malaysian I.C.s and shafted into EC’s database later?

No. 3 – Allow Overseas Malaysians to Vote

The mechanism for overseas Malaysians to vote at Malaysian embassies exist for students and embassy staff so there is no reason why it cannot be extended to all Malaysians living overseas. Most countries including our neighbours Singapore and Thailand allow their overseas citizens to vote.

Although the law states that all full time overseas Malaysian students can vote this facility is only granted to government sponsored students and illegally denied to private students. The only reason not to extend the facility to all overseas Malaysians is because BN fears them.

Malaysians staying and working overseas are still citizens and they have far more right to take part in selecting their government than the illegal immigrants in Sabah. Many of them are only residing temporarily overseas and even those who have migrated but still retain their citizenship may desire to come back in future especially if political and social conditions improve.

Bersih 3.0

Granted that there are a lot of other reforms to really level the playing field, these three will do for a start. They are easy to implement and well within the jurisdiction of the EC which has often begged that it is toothless to act against many election offences.

BN can have its colossal advantage in media, money and machinery to fight the election but implementing these three reforms will tilt back the playing field somewhat although it will be by no means level. They are nothing more than putting a stop to the underhanded cheating that BN has enjoyed for so long.

Sceptics may ask, “How did the opposition capture 5 states and 82 parliament seats if the playing field is so tilted?” The answer to this is that the opposition achieved their gains due to overwhelming support which swamped BN’s built-in advantages. On a more level playing field, BN’s losses would be much worse and Najib may even be opposition leader.

Expecting the EC to implement these reforms on its own is like putting sour milk into a fridge and hoping it will turn fresh. Civil society need to push tremendous pressure on the EC to do the needful for the rakyat instead of acting as a lackey of BN. The pressure cannot stop at Bersih 2.0, we must threaten a Bersih 3.0 if the EC refuses to act. This time the people’s rally should be held in all major towns including East Malaysia.

Election is the last peaceful resort a society has of correcting a bad government and checking a slide down the drain to tyranny. Take away this right and the country becomes a dictatorship and a police state where any the oligarchy plunder the country at will and peaceful citizens are locked up at the pleasure of the regime. Malaysians must reclaim this right before things deteriorate to a point where we become the Zimbabwe of the East.

- Malaysia Chronicle

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad

With another layer of control being mooted through the government-proposed Media Consultative Council, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Malaysian press reports and television news lose even more credibility over the next few months or so.

By Zaharom Nain (Aliran)

With all that is happening around us, we may well ask, what is happening to this country of ours? Could Euripedes have been right all those centuries ago, wonders Zaharom Nain.

William Bourdon's deportation has generated even more publicity for the Scorpene investigations in France

Many of us have long been opposed to monopolistic or oligopolistic control of institutions, including media institutions. More often than not, critiques of such control have been leveled at large corporations or moguls. Indeed, such concentration of control often invariably leads to lack of transparency and, of course, of accountability.

Hence, many who are concerned about media freedom and democracy are currently pleased, if not absolutely thrilled, with the reports about the closure of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World (NOTW).

This, and the current revelations about the alleged dirty tricks employed by NOTW reporters and top executives, evidently now put Murdoch’s global media empire under much scrutiny and under threat.

But capitalists like Murdoch are not the only ones who wish to monopolise media ownership. Many tin-pot dictatorships and their authoritarian cousins also try to do so, believing in the maxim that those who own the means of material production (the economy, including media organisations) will also own and control the means of mental production (ideas).

Indeed, Malaysia presents a perfect example of such concentration of media ownership. But here it is very much political ownership, primarily in the hands of BN political parties, led by Umno. Sadly, though predictably of course, this has led to unethical reporting, deliberate distortion and misrepresentation and, more frequently now, the production of blatant lies.

One consequence has been the rapid decline in newspaper readership in Malaysia, with more people reading tabloids like Harian Metro and Kosmo, indicating perhaps the widespread assumption now that trivia is what’s important in a Malaysian newspaper (and television) and that `real’ news is to be got elsewhere.

And, with another layer of control being mooted through the government-proposed Media Consultative Council, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Malaysian press reports and television news lose even more credibility over the next few months or so.

The problem with such attempts to monopolise information production these days is that new and alternative sources of information are now quite easily available. And, really, the condescending (and largely official) view that the rural heartland can still be swayed (read duped) by newspapers and television clearly doesn’t wash anymore.

Even the (allegedly ignorant) oppressed do wise up in the end. There is just so much condescension and stupidity that one can take, however humble and `uneducated’ one may be. And lately, surely out of desperation, the mainstream media and, especially, their political masters appear to have gone stir crazy.

Just this past week, the continuing overreaction to Bersih 2.0, the comments made about the late Teoh Beng Hock, and the deportation of William Bourdon have been but three clear examples of those in power having lost the script and very much lashing out blindly.

Indeed, the act of arresting, detaining and then sending elderly activist, Hii Tiong Huat, to a psychiatric ward surely smacks of more over-reaction? The poor guy has been arrested thrice in two weeks for apparently wearing a yellow t-shirt and carrying a sign board supporting Bersih, culminating in his being sent to a psychiatric hospital by the police on Friday.

Perhaps just ignoring him and spending more time catching real criminals might be a better strategy. Especially since the crime rates in KL and Selangor aren’t exactly something to boast about.

Then there’s the recent conclusion of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of Teoh Beng Hock. Of course, this being Malaysia, many had anticipated the outcome.

But the minister who announced the findings, himself purportedly a lawyer, surely went over the top with his `reading’ of Teoh Beng Hock’s character, when the RCI had made no such reference in its 124-page report. And what’s worse, when this was pointed out to him, he put the blame on his officers who had prepared the press statement for him.

This passing of the buck has become a shameful habit for many of those who like to see themselves as leaders, but really aren’t. And these days, they kid no one with this pathetic, uncouth behaviour.

The fact is, an innocent man is dead. Remember, he was summoned not as a suspect but as a potential witness.

And, whatever the shortcomings of the RCI, it has pointed out quite clearly at least three individuals who contributed to the death. Sure, they’ve now been suspended. But given that they are government officers, surely the least the minister could have done – indeed, surely the least the government must do – is tender an apology to Teoh Beng Hock’s family.

That’s precisely what the Malaysian Bar Council is asking of the government. Is that too much to ask of a government that talks about making Malaysia ‘a caring society’?

The third example of action and behaviour that make very little, if any, sense in this age of the internet has been, of course, the detention and deportation of French lawyer William Bourdon. Granted, Malaysian law does indeed allow for such action, without any explanation needed.

But, surely, if Bourdon had been left unimpeded to conduct his business – a high-profile case, we are now told by internet news sites, involving the French and the Scorpene submarine deal – fewer questions would have been raised and fewer people would now be talking about it while, perhaps, singing Yellow Submarine?

Indeed, last I heard, despite Bourdon being absent at the fund-raising dinner in KL, Suaram (the NGO at the heart of the case), still managed to get 500 attendees, raising RM200000 to help fund the case in the French courts. And now more people know about it simply because this French lawyer was deported for `violating the conditions of his social visit pass’.

So, there you have it. Three very recent cases – of overreaction, of intemperate behaviour, and of virtually blindly lashing out. All by people in authority. And I’ve deliberately left out UiTM’s Ibrahim Ali award (or is it non-award now?)

With all this happening, together with the ongoing detention of the PSM6 under the Emergency Ordinance, we may well ask, what is happening to this country of ours?

More pointedly, what is happening to make our `leaders’ act this way?

Indeed, could Euripedes have been right all those centuries ago?

Zaharom Nain, an Aliran member, is an academic who researches on media and communications issues.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Malaysians want — John Teo

July 26, 2011

JULY 26 — Prime Minister Najib Razak has asked the silent majority to speak up.

I belong to the silent majority and here is a wish list of what Malaysians want. We want to live in a country that is peaceful, prosperous and progressive.

We want a government that truly cares for the people rather than just paying lip service to the people. We want a government that launches projects for the people’s benefit rather than mega projects that benefit a few elite groups or do it to score political points.

We want a government that truly believes in the maintenance of quality in our education system as well as a human workforce that is at par with the rest of the world rather than shut our doors, producing wholesale a poor quality workforce and education system and proudly proclaiming to the world we are the “best”.

We want a government that is transparent and accountable in its implementation of policies rather hide behind layers of bureaucracy and pass the buck around when something goes wrong. We want to pay our taxes with pride and to feel that we are contributing to our nation’s prosperity and progressiveness rather than to see our hard-earned taxes being squandered in multimillion-dollar scandal after scandal.

We want to feel in control of our own destiny and have the government truly engage the stakeholders and listen to the stakeholders rather than form policies and shoved them down our throats. We want our politicians to truly work for the people’s benefit rather than engage in useless mudslinging and creating discord to score political mileage.

We want our politicians to be humble in the way they conduct official duties and the way they live rather than be escorted by police outriders, garlanded and seated in reserved VIP seats as if the people, who voted for them and put them where they are, are made to be seen as inferior human beings.

We want our politicians to lead a moderate lifestyle rather than live in million-dollar plush mansions, chauffeured around in luxury cars and drabbed in priceless jewellery while the people are struggling to make ends meet and worrying endlessly on making sure their children get a decent quality education.

We want to live in a country that embraces talent and hard work rather than political connections.

Last but not least, we want to be proud to call ourselves Malaysians, embracing our diversity and celebrating our differences rather than be bombarded by individuals trying to tear apart the fabric of our uniqueness. Is that too much to ask?

* John Teo reads The Malaysian Insider.

Clone voters: ‘EC admitted, police must act’

Teoh El Sen | July 26, 2011

The discovery of several news cases of 'clone voters' has compelled PAS to lodge a police report.

PETALING JAYA: The police must investigate allegations of “clone voters” now that the Election Commission (EC) has confessed to its existence in the electoral rolls.

PAS Youth secretary Khairul Faizi Ahmad Kamil said the discovery of several new cases of “clone voters” is irrefutable proof that phantom voters existed on the EC’s voter lists.

Khairul, who lodged a report at the Dang Wangi police headquarters today, said that since the EC itself had admitted to the existence of “clones”, the police must take immediate action.

“This is serious. These cases seem to show that anyone in Malaysia can get two ICs and two different people can have a same IC number.

“Malaysia’s democracy is now under threat because voting itself is being questioned,” he said.

Khairul’s report was a follow-through to the party’s expose last week.

PAS Youth’s democratic rehabilitation and mobilisation committee chairperson Suhaizan Kaiat last week revealed that one of the main “players” in these “clone voters” cases was the National Registration Department (NRD).

“Two big offences have been made by NRD and EC. One is that the NRD has issued old ICs to two identities.

“Secondly, EC has allowed a voter the right to vote more than once,” said Suhaizan, who is also Johor PAS Youth chief.

Suhaizan had previously revealed the existence of double registration of voters on the electoral rolls.

Double deals

The first case involved one Mariam Su, who was registered with two new registered identity cards (NRIC) – 720616025472 and 720610025738.

This was despite her having only one old IC with the number A2278510.

A second case involved one S Murugan, who was registered with the same birth date, gender but was registered as a voter in both state and parliamentary constituencies.

Murugan had two NRICs that are nearly identical save for the last four digits.

Murugan, whose old IC number was A2909056, is currently registered under two NRICs, 731002025877 and 731002025201.

Today, Suhaizan also provided another two examples of “double registration” in the electoral roll.

He said two voters with different names are Low Kim Lian and Tom binti Din. Both were registered under the same old IC 1790975.

Both are voting in the same state and parliamentary constituency.

Another case is of one Baharom Abd Rahman. He has the same birth date, gender but is registered in a different voting locality.

He is registered under 550331025859/4774090 and RF65018 (believed to be identity for postal vote).

“All these are proof of mistakes, and there are many more. How could there be such problems that NRD and EC did not verify in the first place?

“There’s something wrong with their SOP (standard operating procedure),” Suhaizan said.

EC ‘U-turn’

Suhaizan noted that despite proof of overlapping data in the electoral rolls, the EC has no right to strike out the compromised list unless someone goes through a lengthy court process.

He said this was because under Section 14 of the Election (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981, the electoral roll serves as evidence to determine whether a person is entitled to vote.

Suhaizan also said that EC is making a mistake in saying that it is confident in its election process.

“The EC does not understand the problem: the biometric system can only be used when you have a complete and authentic electoral roll.

“At this point in time and until we have solved problems with the integrity of the electoral roll, this system is not suitable for Malaysia,” he said.

On Sunday, The Star quoted EC deputy Wan Ahmad Wan Omar as saying that the EC needs the help of political parties and individuals to purge “clones” from the electoral rolls.

He admitted that there were clones, saying that the EC had “never denied the existence of clones”.

Wan Ahmad’s statement has been termed a “U-turn” by PAS, as the EC had previously denied the existence of phantom voters.

Yes, it's true: GE-13 finally around the corner!

Written by Iskandar Dzulkarnain, Malaysia Chronicle

There are reasons to believe that the general election is around the corner. Although the government may put if off until 2012-2013, the signs are now unmistakable that it will go ahead sooner, rather than later.

Already delayed since Mar 2011 as a hesitant BN government, unable to gauge BN support contemplates their next move, it simply cannot be put off any longer. In fact, UMNO and MCA had last year postponed their internal elections, sparking speculation of a snap GE-13, so it is surprising that it has continued to drag on for so long.

Najib is on the ground campaigning, and so are the rest of UMNO. While they know the date of the election, the Pakatan Rakyat is still in the dark. An early General Election will also avoid any changes to the electoral system demanded by Bersih – a coalition for free and fair elections - and supported by many influential international watchdog bodies including the UN.

Infighting in UMNO

UMNO with internal politicking coming to a head is getting uneasy. There seems to be a realization that a delay will cause BN more crucial votes. Murmurings on the ground seem to suggest a defeat for the ruling coalition if it continues to delay. Every second that ticks down the clock, does not seem to favour the BN government. The general feeling is that the BN vote bank will not increase, but instead it will favour the Opposition with each passing day.

Pakatan Rakyat is already reaching out to the rural electorates, and each campaign continues to bring in a few extra fence sitters who have no qualms about voting the Opposition and instead are vocal in their support for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Co.

With the economy sliding further, a global economic storm brewing and its effects about to be felt in this country, it would be senseless to postpone the election any longer. Price hikes in electricity and staple foods have started to impact consumers, with many reeling from the sharp pinch in their wallets.

The lack of economic projects has also tightened Corporate Malaysia's financial pockets, with everyone feeling the pinch, and is especially hardfelt by UMNO warlords in Selangor and Kedah. The states themselves are doing quite well, with Selangor among the top two best financially-managed in the country.

But the UMNO warlords and their cronies are in pain from the sudden cut in largesse and open tenders put in place by the Pakatan state governments. No wonder, the BN federal government has no choice but to seek a fresh mandate to last until 2018 before disgruntled citizens starts to write them off. Permanently.

Favours BN but only just so

The onslaught against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was seen as BN's biggest obstacle appears to have reach stalemate. Incarcerating him may cause a backlash, and past efforts to discredit him have not met with any success.

To say that Prime Minister Najib Razak's control over UMNO and the government is slipping is to understate the obvious. His reforms agenda, the NEM and ETP have not made any impact on Malaysians either. 1Malaysia is a dismal failure, a joke even. The mishandling of Bersih 2.0 rally for free and fair elections has further eroded his waning popularity. With pressure piling on him and the heat coming directly from UMNO itself, it is beyond doubt that Najib has to act soon although people in Putrajaya say he and wife Rosmah Mansor prefer to wait until 2013.

The daily onslaught of propaganda on prime-time television points to an imminent election. The constant denials in the media like the screening of the police video footage, Najib’s call to the people not to question the RCI’s verdict on Teoh Beng Hock’s death, Rais Yatim's cryptic comment that proponents of Communism have lost their minds, and Puteri UMNO asking PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu to come clean on his accident are all clues that point to an early general election.

If the General Election is held soon enough, it may still favour BN as the latest studies and simulation exercises have shown a favourable climate supportive of BN especially in the rural regions. But that may change for the worse if the GE is delayed until March 2013.

The emergence of Bersih 2.0 and lately AMANAH does not augur well for the BN government either. The continuing registration exercise for new voters have also made BN jittery. Their massive election machinery is on standby, with most of the groundwork in place and all ready to go into action. The loose screws have been tightened in Sabah and Sarawak, two of BN’s fixed deposits and highly crucial to its dominance, while Selangor, Perak and Kedah are seen to be within BN’s grasp.

Of course, this is the BN viewpoint and for their own sakes, hopefully they are right.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has already fired the first salvo in the aftermath of the Bersih 2.0 rally, when he said conditions now favoured Pakatan. But while Pakatan is able to exercise control in the peninsula, it may falter in Sabah and Sarawak as it lacks the logistics and manpower to monitor the situation more closely.

New voter registration a real shocker for BN

In 2008, BN won with a narrow margin of 380,000 voters. 2.6 million registered voters did not vote. 3.2 million newly registered voters are expected to vote in the coming GE along with the rest. Young people were a key voter segment that swung in favour of the Opposition in GE-12, carrying PKR, DAP and PAS to record gains.

Equities research firm Nomura released a report that concluded the outcome of the next general election as highly unpredictable. This is highly abnormal when you consider that BN has won every poll since 1957.

To a large extent, Najib and his advisers have to bear the blame. Instead of getting to work, they hatched one stupid shenanigan after another until the people were so fed up, no one believed anything anymore about Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial or the Datuk T sex video. When Najib himself was caught lying in public over the Bersih choice of stadium - the first time in memory of a prime minister doing that - the people just closed their file on the BN. No longer interested!

No wonder, that despite all the flak and accusations, Pakatan has since July 2010 signed up twice the number of voters compared with Barisan Nasional in the first six months of that year. Some things cannot be spun and no wonder BN is panicking now.

Anwar has been a sporting decoy although the UMNO and Utusan attacks have caused him and his family enormous anguish and private pain.

It would be most probable that during the next sitting there will be a call for a dissolution of Parliament and an announcement of the 13th General Election with a campaign period of 7 days. Yes, the BN and Najib were really running scared of Ambiga's 8 election reforms - she and her Bersih committee did a great job, didn't they?

But we hope that before then, and as soon as possible in fact, that the government will release the innocent from incarceration under the Emergency Ordinance Act due to the July 9 march. Can anyone be foolish enough to doubt that Dr Jeyakumar won't be able to win Sungai Siput Parliament seat hands down even while in jail?

- Malaysia Chronicle

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN MALOTT: The US and Malaysia's political awakening

Written by Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

The July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally for free and fair elections is a landmark event in more ways than one. Not only has it galvanized many Malaysians into action against a system that has long been described as decaying, eaten to the bone by corruption and abuse of power, it has also made many in the influential First World wonder about the political leadership and future of the country.

One such person is John Malott, a former US ambassador to Malaysia, who is still widely regarded for his knowledge of the country and its political dynamics. In the wake of the Bersih rally, he was asked for his assessment by a think-tank East-West Center established by the US Congress, and he offered his opinion in an analysis entitled Malaysia's Political Awakening: A Call to US Leadership.

The analysis was published in the Center’s Asia Pacific Bulletin, which is delivered directly to over 1,500 leaders of the US foreign policy community, including Members of Congress and their staffs; officials in the White House, US State Department, and US Defense Department; and will influence leaders in US think tanks, university research centers, and the media.

In his article, Malott minced no words, opining that the idyllic image many top US leaders still held of Malaysia as a "democratic, booming, tropical paradise" was no longer true, and in fact, a reverse situation had been taking place. He shared the opinion of another expert Clive Kessler that this situation has now reached a "most fluid and dangerous" point. Kessler is the Emeritus Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, School of Social Sciences & International Studies, The University of New South Wales.

"The purpose of writing this article was two-fold. One, to get the American foreign policy community to “wake up” to what has been happening in Malaysia and shake off any idealized notion of Malaysia as a democratic, booming, tropical paradise. Two, in the words of Amnesty International, to say that America cannot be a “spectator” as the political situation in Malaysia evolves," Malott told Malaysia Chronicle in a recent interview.

"The United States has many interests in Malaysia, including supporting those members of civil society who are calling for electoral reform and greater democracy. We need to go beyond mere lip service and make sure that we stand on the right side of Malaysia’s future."

A more vocal US

Given the impact Bersih has made on the international community and as more analyses such as Malott's are distributed to specific and specialised audiences in the US, there is likely to be some adjustment in Washington's perception of Malaysia going forward. It is possible the US may be more vocal about their support for democratic development in Malaysia, a signal that should not be missed by the alert in the government and business sectors.

In the interview with Malaysia Chronicle, Malott explained what he meant by "US leadership" and stressed that US concerns did not lie in who formed the government of Malaysia but about the continuation of and support for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.

"I called for US leadership. By that I mean, we need to be more visible and vocal in expressing our concerns about developments in Malaysia. We need to be more supportive – moral support and encouragement - of those members of civil society in Malaysia who want Malaysia to become a true democracy and have the same freedom that we and others have. We should support the call for electoral reform. It is not up to America who forms the government in Malaysia. But we should be concerned whether the playing field is level," said Malott.

But serious though the current situation is, Malott does not think that Malaysians had reached "boiling point". He also believes it is possible for the BN government to regain control of the situation.

"I don’t believe that the situation is near the boiling point. Malaysians don’t boil. They are a very patient people. That is why July 9 was such a remarkable event. The temperature went up, but it is nowhere near the boiling point. But if people don’t follow through – if the leaders of civil society, the opposition and others don’t follow through, the temperature will go down. If the government carves out more space for those who don’t agree with them, they also could lower the temperature," said Malott.

Two different eras - Mahathir and Najib

He warned the imbalances were real and discontent would continue to fester if reforms were ignored. And while concerned, foreign investors and businesses had not reached the stage where they would shun Malaysia. In the past, especially during the time of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysians and investors put up with his ham-fisted rule because the economy was booming. But not anymore.

"As long as the economy was booming, a lot of the underlying racial and social tensions could be contained. Plus people were willing to grant Mahathir the right to wield his political iron hand in exchange for the economic benefits that the country was getting. Despite the occasional scandals and the cronyism, the Malaysian “man in the street” thought that he had benefited greatly from Malaysia’s growth, and he was right. But now for over a decade the economy has slowed, and investment is down. Many college grads are unemployed. And the Government has removed subsidies on everyday items. So I think the man in the street – the Malaysian middle class, the people who live in the cities -- don’t have the same feeling they had before. They don’t see the same level of economic progress for themselves. They don’t see the government delivering on all the promises it has made."

Malott was also scathing about the way Prime Minister Najib Razak handled the July 9 Bersih march, where more than 1,600 people were arrested, thousands more injured and one died from the excessive police crackdown ordered by the authorities.

"The actions of the government, before and after July 9, backfired against them. Matthias Chang wrote that they acted with sheer stupidity. The Government still has a chance to turn this around, but that would require them to give more political “space” to those who don’t agree with them, and to make sure that the people get to enjoy the rights that the constitution guarantees them. Will they? I have my doubts. This is a government – even though they have spent millions on PR firms and management consultants – that keeps shooting itself in the foot. The deportation of the French lawyer is only the latest example. Now, for the first time, all the juicy details of that scandal – including the model who was murdered by the PM’s bodyguards – have appeared in the Washington Post. It just adds to the confusion among people here – what kind of a country is Malaysia, anyhow? And is Najib really the person that he has portrayed himself to be?"

Malaysia Chronicle appends blow the unedited full-text of the interview with John Malott, ambassador from 1995 to 1998 and is currently the president of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC

Chronicle: In your article, you mentioned that the Malaysian people showed they would no longer be intimidated by their government. Given the severity of the pre-rally crackdown and the police scare-mongering and yet tens of thousands defied the ban, would you say this feeling of 'defiance' so to speak is deep-seated, has been growing and is reaching boiling point? And why?

Malott: I think that this discontent has been growing for sometime. But the heavy hand of the government in the days leading up to the July 9 rally, and their strange statements and actions – like saying that Bersih was trying to overthrow the government and banning the color yellow – caused many more Malaysians to wake up and pay attention.

Chronicle: If you agree that the feelings of 'discontent' or 'unhappiness' so to speak are deep-seated, does this imply that the political or living conditions in Malaysia have been and are repressive and do not encourage the truth to be openly raised or discussed. And why?

Malott: I don’t know how deep-seated or widespread these feelings are in Malaysia. That’s why I wrote in my analysis that the question for the future is whether the momentum can be sustained. Will an increasing number of Malaysians wake up and understand the status of democracy and political freedom in their country, or will it go back to business as usual, where it is just activists in civil society and the opposition who are vocal. As I said, the actions of the government, before and after July 9, backfired against them. Matthias Chang wrote that they acted with sheer stupidity. The Government still has a chance to turn this around, but that would require them to give more political “space” to those who don’t agree with them, and to make sure that the people get to enjoy the rights that the constitution guarantees them. Will they? I have my doubts. This is a government – even though they have spent millions on PR firms and management consultants – that keeps shooting itself in the foot. The deportation of the French lawyer is only the latest example. Now, for the first time, all the juicy details of that scandal – including the model who was murdered by the PM’s bodyguards – have appeared in the Washington Post. It just adds to the confusion among people here – what kind of a country is Malaysia, anyhow? And is Najib really the person that he has portrayed himself to be?

Chronicle: If you agree that the 'defiance' so to speak is not an overnight or sudden swell-up but has been building up through the years, does this imply the policies - both social and economic - adopted by the BN federal government have not been appropriate, in the sense that they did not treat the wants and needs of the people? And why?

Malott: When I was Ambassador, we always believed that as long as the economy was booming, a lot of the underlying racial and social tensions could be contained. Plus people were willing to grant Mahathir the right to wield his political iron hand in exchange for the economic benefits that the country was getting. Despite the occasional scandals and the cronyism, the Malaysian “man in the street” thought that he had benefited greatly from Malaysia’s growth, and he was right. But now for over a decade the economy has slowed, and investment is down. Many college grads are unemployed. And the Government has removed subsidies on everyday items. So I think the man in the street – the Malaysian middle class, the people who live in the cities -- don’t have the same feeling they had before. They don’t see the same level of economic progress for themselves. They don’t see the government delivering on all the promises it has made. Meanwhile, they read about diamond rings and fancy yachts and $27 million condos in New York. It seems like it is business as usual at the top. One of the articles in your website today (Sunday) said something like ‘Malaysia is now being run not for the benefit of the people or even the Malays. It is being run for the benefit of the UMNO elite.’

Chronicle: Do you think these feelings of resentment so to speak are anywhere near boling point, close to boiling point or have already boiled over and what are the implications for the ruling BN coalition, the opposition, long-term investors and the people? And why?
For example, is this a wake-up call for the BN, opportunity knocking at the door for the Pakatan, a stay-away call for investors? As for the people, do you foresee the start of a new trend for peaceful assemblies, protests ala Thailand? Or in your words - a political awakening - but in what shape and form will this likely take?

Malott: I don’t believe that the situation is near the boiling point. Malaysians don’t boil. They are a very patient people. That is why July 9 was such a remarkable event. The temperature went up, but it is nowhere near the boiling point. But if people don’t follow through – if the leaders of civil society, the opposition and others don’t follow through, the temperature will go down. If the government carves out more space for those who don’t agree with them, they also could lower the temperature.

On foreign investment, I think that foreign businessmen are smart. They will not be scared away from Malaysia because of one demonstration. What concerns them most is corruption, the lack of transparency in awarding government contracts, the ease and cost of doing business in Malaysia compared to other locations, whether Malaysia’s market is growing fast, its competitiveness, the independence of its courts, the availability of skilled employees, and so on. It is those kinds of practical questions that mean the most to them. As the statistics show, over the last decade or so, Malaysia’s share of all the foreign investment coming into ASEAN has been declining. From the point of view of a foreign investor, they have many choices. There are many countries they can invest in. So the question for the Malaysian government is, what do we need to do to increase our attractiveness to foreign investors, compared to our neighbors?

Chronicle: You quoted another expert who used the term "most fluid and dangerous" to describe the situation in Malaysia today. How extreme can the situation become, for example is it possible for Malaysia to regress to a non-democratic state where elections may even be discarded, military or police rule the new order, a 'closing of doors' so to speak? And why? In such a case, who would be the prime-movers - PM Najib Razak and his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein, other factions led by DPM Muhyiddin Yassin or ex-PMs Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi or UMNO, the party as a whole? I do not mention the other parties in BN because it is clear they do not have the clout, do you agree? What would happen to the opposition in the country then? And for how long could an extreme situation last?
You also mentioned in your article, the Economist Intelligence Unit says Malaysia is a “flawed democracy”. If this is so, then if in the swing towards a 'full democracy', Malaysia collapses into a police regime - to many who have been following the situation closely, this would not be surprising or be an unlikly possibility at all. But for those who still see the country as per its postcards of sunny skies and ideal racial harmony, this would come as a rude shock. Do you agree and what sort of odds would you give to the worst scenario happening? And why? What other scenarios do you seen? And why?

Malott: Clive Kessler, who knows infinitely more about Malaysia than I do, wrote an analysis recently (which you had on your website) in which he raised the prospect that rather than lose an election, UMNO would declare an emergency and not hold elections. As a former State Department official, I don’t want to comment on Wikileaks. But when I read the latest leaked cable, in which our Embassy said three years ago, in effect, that UMNO would do “whatever it takes” to remain in power, including subverting the institutions of state power to its own purposes, including the police and the courts. Malaysia has seen Operasi Lalang, it has seen the Sedition Act and ISA used liberally, and more recently it has seen denial of service attacks on the alternative media to keep people from reading what the Government doesn’t want them to know. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I am not Clive Kessler, and I don’t want to make a prediction. But I would not rule out the possibility that something like that might happen. What is the probability of it happening? I don’t know. But if it does happen, then as you said, it will come as a great shock to everyone who has been holding a very different image of Malaysia. That is why I wrote my piece. I think the American people need to wake up and understand what is happening in Malaysia today, and to express our concern.

Chronicle: From your article, it looks like the United States is still in the postcards-and-sunny-skies group? Is this view still very entrenched or have there been significant shifts of late? Given the very sizeable investments the US has in Malaysia, should not American foreign policy makers make better efforts to assess the situation? Should they not take some action or send stronger signals to help keep democracy alive in Malaysia? In other words, has not the time come to take sides? What are the things that US bodies could do?

Mallot: I think to the extent American think or know about Malaysia, most of them are still in the picture postcard stage of awareness. So that is why I sent my wake-up call. Let’s see what happens. Some of us – all friends of Malaysia -- will continue to do everything we can to keep up awareness. Amnesty International said America “should not be a spectator,” and I agree. I called for US leadership. By that I mean, we need to be more visible and vocal in expressing our concerns about developments in Malaysia. We need to be more supportive – moral support and encouragement - of those members of civil society in Malaysia who want Malaysia to become a true democracy and have the same freedom that we and others have. We should support the call for electoral reform. It is not up to America who forms the government in Malaysia. But we should be concerned whether the playing field is level, and whether all the parties have an equal chance to access the media, and so on. RTM and Bernama belong to all the people of Malaysia, not to UMNO. They are paid for by all the people of Malaysia, not just those who voted for UMNO. Bersih’s demands all seemed quite reasonable to me. When Najib arrived home from Rome the other day, he held an airport press conference and said that Malaysia’s elections already are free and fair, and that UMNO has never cheated in an election. Does he really believe that? That is not what all the independent academic studies have to say. And then he went out to meet the people, and according to an article in Malaysiakini, he proceeded to pass out white envelopes with 200 ringgit inside to the people who were there.

Chronicle: Cleaning the Malaysian electoral system and making sure it reflects accurately the wishes the majority seems to be the best way or one the best ways to ensure human rights, cvil liberties and democratic practises prevail. Do you agree and how can the US help to promote such a practise in Malaysia given that the existing BN federal government is insistent that nothing is wrong and is likely to resist efforts to revamp?

Malott: I read that the European Union office in KL is going to recommend that the EU send observer missions to the next election. That is good. That is leadership. I think that some of our organizations – the National Democratic Institute, the International Republic Institute, the Carter Center - should prepare to do the same. The Vice Chair of the Elections Commission said that foreigners would never understand Malaysia’s election laws. That was an offensive statement. And it also was strange, since his boss the EC chairman was at that very moment in Bangkok, monitoring the Thai elections.

We should be very visible in our support of Bersih and its goals. I hope that our Embassy and the academic and think tank communities in the US will help our policy makers and opinion leaders understand what the true status of democracy and elections in Malaysia is. For example, an American think tank could invite Ambiga to the US so she can explain directly to us what Bersih is all about. It would be useful to benchmark Malaysia’s electoral laws and rules against those elsewhere in the world. For example, how many countries allow their citizens living overseas to vote? What is the minimum age for voters in most countries? How do other countries handle postal ballots – who is allowed to use them? In other countries with publicly-owned television and radio networks – Japan, Britain, America, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. – how do they ensure that political and election reporting is balanced? How do they provide access to opposition candidates? How do other countries ensure that their election commission is independent? Malaysia needs to make sure that what it does matches the prevailing international standards in other democracies.

I am sure that the Government will resist this. But we should not give in. They can resist, and we should insist.

Chronicle: Do you see any similarity between what is happening in Malaysia and the so-called Arab Spring?

Malott: Well, Malaysia is certainly not Libya or Syria or Yemen. Najib is not a Qaddafi. But still, I was surprised to see that Najib is still saying that the Bersih movement is a veiled attempt to topple his administration through street demonstrations, like those that are now claiming Middle Eastern despots. He said, “It’s not so much about electoral reform. They want to show us as though we’re like the Arab Spring governments in the Middle East."

Well, if that is Bersih's goal, then why did Najib act like an Arab Spring government? It's only a question of degree. The Malaysian police did not use lethal force, but the mentality is the same. Suppress whoever disagrees with you. Maybe you don't use tanks, but you use water cannon. It's not bullets, it's tear gas. But the authoritarian mindset is exactly the same as the leaders of the Arab Spring governments. Just because you use non-lethal force doesn't mean it's OK. -


PAS to expose 'a huge number' of cloned voters

Jimadie Shah Othman
Jul 26, 11

PAS has in its possession of a list of "cloned voters" and the numbers are "shockingly huge", the party's vice-president Husam Musa said today.

NONEPAS would expose the total number in stages, after having lodged an official complaint on the first 500 "clones" the Islamic political party had detected recently, he said.

"We will arrange for a conference. We will display to everyone, and the media can double-check on this," Husam (left) added.

However, he declined to reveal the number of persons whose names appear twice in the electoral rolls, but promised to supply the list to the mass media.

He reiterated that PAS opposes the biometric system for voters the Election Commission (EC) has proposed, saying it did not resolve the problem of recurring voters.

"Why waste so much money (on the biometric system), instead of using indelible ink?" Husam asked.

Pakatan will revamp education in Sabah, Sarawak

Luke Rintod | July 26, 2011

If elected Pakatan Rakyat has pledged to return power to manage the education system to Sabah and Sarawak.

KOTA KINABALU: Promises are coming thick and fast from both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in an attempt to woo the electorate in Sabah and Sarawak ahead of the 13th general election.

While the BN has opted for tried and tested but threadbare coat of incentives that have failed to deliver the goods in either state after close to 50 years since independence, the opposition coalition is committing to real change in both states.

According to PKR vice-president Tian Chua, Sabah and Sarawak can look forward to a more liberalised and decentralised education system under a Pakatan-administered federal government.

Chua said Pakatan is aware of the complaints from Sabah leaders that the state education director has become redundant in the management of the education system as the federal government had taken control of the two East Malaysian states.

“We in PKR and Pakatan recognize the unique position of Sabah and Sarawak vis-a-vis our national education system.

“Unlike the ruling BN which has increasingly taken over power from the Sabah state education director, a federal government under PR (Pakatan) would reverse the BN approach from centralizing to decentralizing the management of the state education management,” he said in statement issued here yesterday.

Chua, who is also MP for Batu, said Pakatan would also give more Borneo contents in the national school curriculum.

“We believe the rights of Sabah and Sarawak as partners in the formation of Malaysia must never be overlooked.

“It is dangerous to federalize everything to the point East Malaysians become restless over their roles, rights and privileges,” he said.

Committed to the people

He said a Pakatan government would listen to state leaders’ view on how best to manage the education, which was once under a state jurisdiction in Sabah and Sarawak.

Chua was responding to complaints, including from Sabah state BN leaders, that Sabah education director Muhyidin Yusin was powerless to deal with many issues affecting schools which of late came directly under federal purview.

Thus far the most senior state BN leader who has complained about this is Sabah Minister of Tourism and Environment, Masidi Manjun, Masidi is also the minister in-charge of education in Sabah.

According to Chua, once in power, PKR would lead in taking the necessary steps to ensure Sabahans and Sarawakians are given priority first in the teachers training recruitment.

“This is our commitment to the people here,” he said.

Muhyiddin re-starts GE-13 guessing game, talk of Umno power tussle

Written by Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has revived the general election guessing game when he said over the weekend there was "not much time left", indicating that GE-13 was just months away.

It is evidence of his growing clout that many pundits pricked up their ears when they heard his comments. In the past months, many UMNO leaders including Prime Minister Najib Razak have hinted of snap general elections. Najib even once said polls might just "be around the corner" but after mismanaging a slew of issues most Malaysians have given up on him.

Even then, there were two contrasting stories of power play at UMNO, the party that dominates the ruling BN coalition. One view was that Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor were "just warming their seats" and in no hurry at all to have snap polls. Instead it was Muhyiddin and former premier Mahathir Mohathir who wanted it early as Najib's incompetence was clear to them.

The other view was that it was Najib who wanted an early GE so that he could clinch his own mandate from the people, purge his foes and put in his own loyalists at UMNO. Leaders from various factions within the party slid in and out with ease with either theory, depending on which benefited them at that point in time.

But after the recent string of political upheavals, the most significant of which was the July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections, the smoke may be starting to clear.

"I think it is very significant that Muhyiddin is signalling for GE-13 to be held soon. It is not surprising given that Najib has done a poor job. You can look at it two ways, Muhyiddin wants to save the country before Najib destroys it completely or Najib is now so unpopular that it is perfect timing for Muhyiddin and Mahathir to pull another Badawi - this time on Najib," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.

Najib to go through the same door as Badawi

Jui Meng, a former Health mninsiter, was referring to the 2008 general election, where 5th prime minister Abdullah Badawi was 'persuaded' not to defend the UMNO presidency after leading the BN to its worst electoral performance in the 2008 national polls.

After intense horse-trading spearheaded by Muhyddin who together with Mahathir had backed Najib for the UMNO presidency, which also carries the coveted prime minister's post, Badawi stepped down in favour of Najib, who was then his deputy.

Muhyiddin and Mahathir are expected to pull a similar coup against Najib at next year's UMNO general assembly, regardless of the GE-13 results. To be fair, it is highly unlikely that Najib can repair his personal popularity, and the image he has reinforced for the BN of being a mere shell for UMNO, in time to improve on the 2008 GE results regardeless whether GE-13 took place this year, 2012 or 2013.

"They believe they can still win the federal government even if not regain the two-thirds majority in Parliament. If they wait, the chances are high the cousins will fumble even more and lose the entire election to the Pakatan Rakyat. My hunch is the GE-13 is end of this year, during the long holidays," Bukit Gantang MP Nizar Jamaluddin told Malaysia Chronicle.

Nizar was referring to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who together with Najib, had unleashed a series of crackdowns against the Bersih rally, ignoring at their own and BN's peril the enormous popularity Bersih enjoyed with the masses.

The Rosmah factor

Like Nizar, Jui Meng too reckons that GE-013 will be held after the Budget 2012, due to be unveiled on October 7. He said a shakeup at UMNO was inevitable and Rosmah was now the millstone around Najib's neck as Khairy Jamaluddin had been to Badawi. Khairy is the UMNO Youth chief and Badawi's son-in-law, who was much hated by the Mahathir faction for being 'greedy and grasping'.

Among recent events that both Jui Meng and Nizar cited as unfavourable for Najib was the Bersih fiasco, the way it continued to be mishandled after it was over, the enormous international scorn the cousins drew for their role in villianising the Bersih rally.

They also pointed to acts of 'sabotage' in the way certain 'scandals' were leaked to the press, including Rosmah's alleged purchase of a RM24.4 million diamond ring, the RM100 million New York super-luxury penthouse allegedly bought on the first couple's behalf by a well-known business associate of their son's Jho Low.

The Teoh Beng Hock Royal Commission of Inquiry findings was another death blow for the Najib campaign, they added. So too were the cracks in the economy that can no longer be hidden from the public eye as business growth slowed while prices of consumer essential rocketed.

Pre or post Budget

However, some believe there is still a chance that GE-13 can be held in September-October before the Budget presentation.

"For me, I do agree there is something cooking in the UMNO oven. But I think the chances are higher for a pre-budget election soon after Hari Raya Puasa. To have it post-Budget may be too close to Hari Raya Haji and after that is the wet season," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

"The pressure on the economy is also quite enormous and if they did the GE before the Budget 2012, then they can even include GST and other subsidy cuts rather wait until after the elections and rely on supplementary bills to get the additional allocations through."

- Malaysia Chronicle

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ethics and the Election Commission

Zefry Dahalan | July 25, 2011

Bersih's Wong Chin Huat says the proposed biometrics voting system is open to abuse because of the EC's sullied reputation.

PETALING JAYA: A key member of Bersih 2.0′s steering committee said he does not trust the biometric voting system proposed by Election Commission (EC) because of the latter’s poor reputation.

Wong Chin Huat said: “I don’t trust the biometric system because I don’t believe the EC has the competence and integrity to prevent rigging and other abuses.

“Does the EC have the competency to maintain the system and also to detect or eliminate hacking by an external party?” asked Chin Huat.

A political scientist, Chin Huat, drew an analogy to the public using an online system to do their banking transactions to the biometric system.

“People resort to online banking because they trust the bank. But do you trust the EC and can they guarantee the biometric system is foolproof ?

“The issue here is the level of the trust in EC to implement the biometric system and much depends on the integrity of the EC itself,” said Chin Huat.

Chin Huat also questioned why the EC was going for a system that is not proven and costly whereas indelible ink was cheaper and more effective to prevent multiple voting.

‘Anti-Islam bloggers in US on Najib/BN payroll’

July 25, 2011

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who sees himself as the 'great protector of Islam' in Malaysia must explain link to anti-Islam promoters.


By Clare Rewcastle Brown

A team of American bloggers allegedly hired by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to improve their respective images, are in fact pro-Israel and known to publicly slander Islam.

One member of the team, Caleb Howe, indulged in a sustained, childish rant on his public Twitter page on April 23 last year, in which he said: “I drew a picture of Mohammed today. I showed him marrying a pre-tween. Might as well be historically correct right?”

Eighteen minutes later on the same twitter message, he posted: “Did I say marrying a pre-tween? Sorry.. that was my typo.I meant raping.” Caleb’s outburst against Islam is not an isolated incident (see image below).

He and his team have indulged in a number of such anti-Islamic rants on Twitter that are clearly designed to give extreme offence to Muslims.

Few would dream of engaging in such an unpleasant and offensive attack.

It thus comes as a surprise that Najib and Taib would hire Howe and his colleagues who sustain other blogs such as Red State, New Ledger, Sarawak Report(s), Malaysia Matters as their professional promoters.

It seems somewhat a misjudgement that Najib, who sees himself as the great protector of his own Muslim religion, continues to be associated with this team of Americans.

Pro-Israeli views

Howe [photo below] is closely linked to Josh Trevino, the right-wing blogger behind the American ‘Red State’ and ‘New Ledger’ blogs and also a PR company called Rogue Strategic Services.

Rogue Services have been in employ with Barisan Nasional since the days of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Now their portfolio includes Najib and Taib. They have been allegedly hired to create ‘positive publicity’ on their behalf.

This is achieved through a network of websites. These websites have been engaged by Najib and Taib to promote them by publishing favourable articles in their blogs in the US.

These reports are then carried in Malaysian blogs. Local media then quote these blogs, giving Malaysians the impression that Najib and Taib have positive international endorsement.

Howe, who is a regular contributor to Trevino’s flagship ‘Red State’ website, also curates a Twitter account called Malaysia Matters which is linked to the Malaysia Matters website, one of Trevino’s projects to promote BN leaders.

The Malaysia Matters website (which has just been re-launched) was started in 2008 by Trevino and a colleague Jerome Armstrong.

Armstrong, who is also a professional ‘blogger for hire’, has made no secret of the fact that the project was commissioned by the Malaysian government – he lists them as a client on the website of his company WebStrong.

Trevino himself has made no secret of his rabid pro-Israeli views – to the extent that he tweeted that fellow Americans who felt sorry for the Palestinians and took part in the mercy ship flotilla deserved to be shot dead.

Clare Rewcastle Brown is the founder/editor of Sarawak Report

Why the BN fears indelible ink and automatic registration

Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle

Back in 2008, the use of indelible ink was mooted and shelved at the eleventh hour. This shocked election observers and when questioned as to why the ink was not used, even-though a batch was bought from India, the Election Comission along with the Barisan Nasional government said in unison that it violated the citizens right to cast vote.

It is a rather mystifying reason, yet even-though the ink was not used in the 2008 election, it did not deter the public’s move to grant great gains to the opposition. If you take into account popular vote and not seat count, Pakatan Rakyat was almost dead even with Barisan Nasional.

And now with the 13th General Election looming - in the very near future - the issue of transparency in the voting process has surfaced again. The main contention for all is the existence of phantom voters. Voters who are registered in multiple places and even dead voters who resurrect just in time to cast their votes and then return to sleep for another five years.

Such is the fallacy in the Malaysian voting process that citizens have banded together to support the Bersih movement, that has an eight point recommendation to ratify some of the problems with elections in Malaysia.

In an obvious move to pacify angry voters, the EC has stated that they will put into place some of the recommendations by Bersih. Yet, there is one that remains a hotly contested issue - the use of indelible ink.

The EC said it is considering the use of a biometric system for voters’ verification in the general election. EC Chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the commission would first have to scrutinize the system before the implementation.

When the issue of why indelible ink was not used, the EC chairman added,”The proposal also contravenes Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution which guarantees every citizen’s constitutional right to vote in an election, and that right cannot be denied unless the registered voter is disqualified under the law.”

Yet, until today, no-one knows how indelible ink can contravene a person’s right to vote in an election. And the EC still insists it is independent from the BN political masters! It looks like the reason for such strong objection to indelible ink may only reside in the minds of the BN and its obedient Election Comission.

Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution also does not indicate how ink can disqualify voters:

Article 119. (1) Every citizen who—

(a) has attained the age of twenty-one years on the qualifying date;

(b) is resident in a constituency on such qualifying date or, if not so resident, is an absent voter; and

(c) is, under the provisions of any law relating to elections, registered in the electoral roll as an elector in the constituency in which he resides on the qualifying date, is entitled to vote in that constituency in any election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly unless he is disqualified under Clause (3) or under any law relating to offences committed in connection with elections; but no person shall in the same election vote in more than one constituency.

As mentioned in Article 119(1), disqualification is subject to Clause (3) which states:

(3) A person is disqualified for being an elector in any election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly if—

(a) on the qualifying date he is detained as a person of unsound mind or is serving a sentence of imprisonment; or

(b) having before the qualifying date been convicted in any part of the Commonwealth of an offence and sentenced to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding twelve months, he remains liable on the qualifying date to suffer any punishment for that offence.

So what was the EC Chairman alluding to when he said that indelible ink contravenes Article 119(1) and violated the citizen’s right to cast votes?

The use of indelible ink is practiced in most countries and it does not contravene on the constitution of these countries. India, the biggest democracy in the world; has been a long time user of indelible ink.

It is inexpensive and easily implemented, especially when dealing with rural areas. The voter checks their name on the electoral sheet, takes the ballot paper and then gets their pinky finger marked with this ink. Where are the security risks? And how does that deny the voter his right to vote?

The EC in 2008 did come up with a scenario that voters can be inked, by force, before they go to the polling centre thus voiding them from voting.

It is a plausible situation but then, an intelligent voter would report the incident to the police, prove themselves still eligible since their name on the electoral sheet has not been cross out, and still cast their vote. And further-more, a vote is only spoiled if the ballot paper is marked wrongly, not when a pinky finger is inked before hand.

Automatic registration

Instead it is the Election Commission that has contravene and violated a Malaysian citizen’s right to vote.

An citizen upon reaching the age of 21 is eligible to vote. It is their constitutional right to do so. Yet, the Election Commission has constantly evaded this issue. Instead, it has refused to grant automatic voter registration for those reaching the age of 21.

Article 119(1) is very clear on this matter, if you are 21 and reside in a constitution; you are thus, eligible to vote in that constitution.

Any move to create automatic registration would mean a revamp of the electoral listings and the creation of check and balance practices to ensure that voters are registered where they reside. This would mean a cross-check with the National Registration Department, to ensure that only legit citizens of Malaysia are registered as voters.

Automatic Voter Registration would be a better system to put in place than biometrics, for it covers two areas in the voting process; ensuring that all Malaysians can cast votes and guaranteeing that only Malaysians can cast votes.

Indeed, above the whole issue that biometric is better than indelible ink and the cost of these two authenticating mechanisms to test for eligible voters; the EC is hiding the fact that they themselves are the ones contravening the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

- Malaysia Chronicle