Tuesday, February 28, 2017

‘Muslims don’t need this right now’

Sunday, 19 February 2017
Dr Asri pointed out that countries like Pakistan, Sudan and Nigeria that tried to implement hudud have stopped because in today’s world, people and conditions are different.
Dr Asri pointed out that countries like Pakistan, Sudan and Nigeria that tried to implement hudud have stopped because in today’s world, people and conditions are different.

PERLIS Mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin spoke bluntly at a recent forum on religion.

“Gossiping is a big sin in Islam but are there (syariah) laws against gossiping? Do you see the religious authorities sending officers out to haul up those who gossip?’’

He points out that while some things are haram (forbidden) and sinful in Islam, that does not mean that Allah demands for all of these to be punished in a court of law.

In the case of adultery, for example, he says, if there are only three witnesses of good character present and not four as required by the religion, the adulterer would have to be let off.

“Not all sins have to hauled up to court. The religion doesn’t ask us to go and check up on people, from room to room or car to car, asking for their surat nikah (marriage licence) to find out if they are married or not.’’

Citing another example, he says, a powerful and rich person who commits a crime might be able to afford a good lawyer who cleverly argues the case and gets it thrown out of court.

“But that doesn’t mean that because they got away with it in a court of law, they will get away with it in the Court of the Hereafter. God knows everything.

“Muslims believe we will be tried for all our sins. Drinking alcohol, adultery, stealing are all sins. When we die, we will have to face God and answer for whatever we did. There is no escape.’’

Dr Asri was speaking at the “How Much Do you Know About Hudud” forum organised by Angkatan Merdeka Malaysia.

Touching on PAS president Datuk Seri Dr Hadi Awang’s motion before Parliament for the amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction ) Act 355 (popularly referred to as RUU355), Dr Asri said there are concerns it is all part of a political game.

Dr Asri stresses that while the Quran and Sunnah (tradition of the Holy Prophet) are divine, the interpretations are not.

He points out that while hudud (Islamic Penal Code) is mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah, it is not spelt out in great detail with regards to the context and conditions.

So it was left to scholars to deliberate on these.

“Scholars do not always agree so they have different interpretations of things. So which interpretation should you favour? These are not divine.’’

On RUU355, Dr Asri says, the politicians supporting it keep saying it is not the hudud.

“If it is not hudud, then surely we Muslims are allowed to criticise and give our views. So why is it that whoever criticises RUU355 is labelled as going against Islam? How is it that if you oppose the amendments you are said to oppose Allah’s Laws?

“And what are Allah’s Laws? Does it mean that if you increase the penalty for an offence from RM5,000 to RM100,000 that it now becomes Allah’s Law?’’

Dr Asri says even within the country, there are differences from state to state in the way Islamic matters, including polygamy, is dealt with, “so we must be very careful about calling something ‘Allah’s Law’.’’

For him, discussion and debate are essential when looking into the dimension of punishment, because it is not only about implementation but also the conditions, the context, and suitability.

He points out that in the Quran, there is a verse, Surah Al Anfal, which talks about the spoils of war and how they should be distributed, with fighters entitled to their share of them too. But he points out that this is not implemented today, because even though it is in the Quran, the wars of today are different from those in the early days; and soldiers now are paid salaries and allowances.

“Defending the country is jihad (a noble struggle) but we don’t hear any political party in the country asking for a spoils of war law to be implemented because the context in today’s world is different.’’

In a jibe at PAS, he says, “tens of years ago’’ they used to label other Muslims who were not with them as “infidels’’, they described the Federal Constitution as a “Jahiliyah” Constitution (Constitution of Ignorance) and warned Muslims against wishing non-Muslims during their religious festivals because for them that was tantamount to leaving the Muslim faith.

But, he says, PAS has backpedalled now on what it said previously and today it says it upholds the Federal Constitution.

“Allah’s Law should never be politicised. It is difficult when political parties come in and play a role in what they deem is Islamic law.

“When religion is politicised, the discussion is no longer fresh and not the sort that can stimulate rational thinking and a healthy discourse.’’

Dr Asri questions: Why do Muslims have a mentality that says, in order to be Islamic the hand of someone who steals has to be amputated?

This kind of mentality is wrong, he says, adding that these kinds of Muslims understand Islam in a closed-off, secluded and non-holistic manner.

“It is like the IS (Islamic State) mentality, where they think of only punishing and not about developing the place.’’

For him, it is wrong to give the world the impression that justice in a Muslim country is served “when we cut off the hands of those who steal, whip those who commit adultery and punish those who drink alcohol’’ and that “this is what showcases the beauty of Islam’’.

Dr Asri says Islam is all about better welfare for the people, spiritual development, strengthening family bonds, and ensuring peace and harmony in society.

And he points out that the Government has already taken action to do a number of these, such as building schools and universities and giving people an education, which is something sought by the religion.

He says there are many things which could have been brought before Parliament, such as how to inculcate the beauty and mercy of Islam into education and the economy.

“But in tens of years in parliament, they (PAS) never even brought these up and focused instead on labelling other Muslims infidels, and having two imams during prayers (because they refused to be led in prayers by an Umno imam).”

He points out that Muslim countries with renowned scholars such as Egypt, Kuwait and Qatar have never discussed implementing hudud, and countries like Pakistan, Sudan and Nigeria that tried to implement it have stopped, because in today’s world, people and conditions are different.

He also says that in Islam there should never be double standards in implementing a law.

“I fear that a person who steals a car will get his hand amputated but a nobleman who steals millions will not get his hand amputated.’’

He questions what such a thing would do to the fabric of society and the image of Islam.

Dr Asri says if a Muslim faces amputation for a theft and non-Muslims do not, that would not help create harmony and peace within society because there are two sets of laws for the same crime.

He fears if such laws are enacted and implemented in an unjust manner, it will cause Muslims to leave the faith.

“Muslims don’t need this right now.

“There are many other issues that we should be looking into, such as the issue of good governance, the environment and corruption. We should also be looking at issues that help women, such as expediting divorce cases, because there are a number of cases where women in the midst of getting a divorce are left hanging for years without their cases being resolved. I think all these matters should be sorted out first otherwise people will feel that Islam is unjust to women.

“For me, if the amendments to RUU355 are not going to result in good, let us postpone them and focus on our priorities.’’

~ The Star

Are 3-5-6 and 355 too much, too late?

KJ John     Published     Updated
A private member’s motion on amendments to Act 355 is bidding to seek Parliament’s approval to discuss and debate some issues and concerns of one member of the Parliament. That member of Parliament happens to be the president of PAS, the Islamist party, Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang. This motion has not yet been fully tabled and debated. Nevertheless, we all need to be vigilant about the specific intent and political gamesmanship here.

Two good friends and equally proud Malaysians, both lawyers, Haris Ibrahim and Mohd Ariff Md Yusof, have written and spoken their complete theses about their issues and concerns. Please review them here and here.

My greater concern is that our democracy and monarchies are both equally defined by the same Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Therefore any careless attitude and thinking about our Federal Constitution as currently predefined by non-Malaysians will affect all Malaysians equally. The constitution does not have two classes of citizenship.

Redefining those pre-agreed issues, and doing it merely by the back door of a private member’s bill, is simply a serious violation of the Malaysia Agreement of 1963.

Matters of public and/or national interest (defined as the needs and concerns of the original three framing and forming entities of the Malaysia Agreement) need full consensus and very good discourse of all related institutions, even the need for securing two-thirds agreement of Parliament.

The unconstitutional spirit of Act 355

The Reid and Cobbold Commissions were engaged and involved in drafting and framing the Federal Constitutions of 1957 and 1963. Even the lone Muslim Commissioner from Pakistan understood all nuances and implications before his views were made into specifications.

That agreement became words and were framed and phrased within our Federal Constitution as our ‘Document of Destiny’ as published by Star Publications. Therefore, if anyone really has doubts; they should read and understand all these issues.

Allow me, through this column, to repeat Mohd Ariff’s eight propositions and then argue why I think we are violating even the Spirit of our Original Constitution (ie before some questionable amendments were equally made by the back door in 1988).

Therefore, the expansion of the 3-5-6 punishments being done without a due process even amongst Muslims (see Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin’s comments in The Sunday Star last Sunday) without good consultations with relevant all parties for any such new policy.

Mohd Ariff requested and highlighting that all text has to always be read within its explicitly stated context, and therefore urged “harmonising the different aspects of the Law.” I summarise them as follows:

1. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia was always designed to be a secular one;

2. Article 3 (1) assigns a special status to Islam but expresses freedom of faith and practice of other religions;

3. Article 3 (4) gives supreme authority to the Federal Constitution against all violations to itself in spirit and law;

4. The formal division between secular and Islamic laws are explicitly listed in Schedule 9, List I (4a) and List II (1) and should be understood as our context for its original intent and interpretation;

5. The constitutionality of any interpretation of both Schedule 9 Lists I and II can and have been tested in Civil Courts and these have now been made explicit by case law which has never been overturned. The sole exception is the 1988 amendment of Article 121 (1a), which has be default become a de facto interpretation;

6. Syariah Courts established under State Laws are therefore Lower Courts of Limited Jurisdiction under the context of Schedule 9 Lists I and II. The same is true also of the Industrial Courts and a few others created recently;

7. Syariah Courts have jurisdiction only over Muslims and with respect to Item 1 List II; and finally,

8. Syariah Courts have no authority over matters not allowed by the Federal Laws.

Premised upon the above, I will therefore conclude that the tabling of Act 355 in excess of the 3-5-6 limits cannot simply be extended by without explicit Federal Laws concurrence; which are intended and always structured for compliance by all Malaysian citizens and visitors to Malaysia.

These Act 355 amendments therefore are too much and too late in the day. The two-thirds partners of entities that make up Malaysia; ie Sabah and Sarawak and the Malay States must all therefore agree “through a legal and legitimate process of consultation”, if these amendments are to be tabled debated and finally passed. If one is not really sure about the full rationale, I think we can simply ask our Singapore neighbours; if they can agree based on their interpretation of the original Malaysia Agreement.

One case of poor enforcement

The Malay Mail Online consequentially carried a story of one Malay Muslim couple who was “raided by the Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi)” in a budget hotel over “close proximity”. The couple were after all married and I do not know how or why Jawi can charge into a hotel room, which is private space paid for with personal funds, and which cannot be violated by persons without locus standi.

Premised upon the above storyline, I would like the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as presumed Head of Religion for the Federal Territories, to please answer my genuine concerns as a citizen:
  • Which constitutional provision gives Jawi authority to raid a hotel room?
  • What was the offence, and would a Civil Court have given permission for such a raid?
  • Can such a raid ever be done without the presence of the police, which is our Civil Law enforcement authority for all criminal wrong-doings?
  • If I were therefore check into a room with a Muslim name, and another lady (who may be my daughter or sister), does it really mean that Jawi has authority to undertake a raid?
It is time for all Moderate Middle Malaysians (or 3M) to say ‘No’ to the Act 355 tabled by MP Abdul Hadi, even as he has apparently not studied the constitution to understand the founding history and principles.

My hope and prayer therefore is that all MPs who reply in support of 3M to vote against the tabling of this private member’s bill. Please do not let Hadi pass this motion in Parliament (no pun intended) and let us all simply tell the federal government that we cannot allow the reframing of this fully-resolved issue during the Malaysia Agreement 1963; especially in the specific case of Sabah and Sarawak.

I rest my case.

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Motion filed to summon AG to Parliament over RM2.6b donation

Zikri Kamarulzaman     Published     Updated
A parliamentary motion has been filed to summon attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali to the House to explain his decision not to pursue charges on the RM2.6 billion donation received by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

The motion was filed by Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who said there was conflicting information about the donation.

Khalid said while Apandi declared the funds came from the Saudi royal family, investigations and court cases overseas, including in Singapore, showed that the money allegedly came from 1MDB.

"We want the attorney-general to come to Parliament and reveal facts to the contrary, that can show us the rulings of the Singaporean courts are wrong," he told a press conference in Shah Alam today.

He hoped that if Najib had nothing to hide, then there would be no obstacle to Apandi appearing in Parliament.

The Singapore courts have not specifically touched on the RM2.6 billion donation.

However, in the conviction of Swiss banker Jens Fred Sturzenegger in a 1MDB-related probe, the Singapore court established that four Falcon Private Bank accounts were held by companies controlled by billionaire Jho Low under the alias "Eric Tan Kim Loong".

Two of the Falcon accounts mentioned in the case were held by Granton Property Holdings Ltd and Tanore Finance Corporation.

Tanor Finance was said to be the origin of the US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) in Najib's personal bank accounts.

Critics said the revelation that the accounts were controlled by Low through an alias, indicated a direct money trail link between the prime minister and the businessman.

However, Apandi had cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in the donation scandal in early 2016, insisting that the money came from a member of the Saudi royal family.

Apandi also said that US$620 million of the sum was returned to the donor.

Khalid said he has yet to receive a response to his motion.
Previously, debates on the donation as well as the US Department of Justice civil forfeiture suits involving 1MDB had been blocked in Parliament on the grounds that it was sub judice.
Besides a motion to summon Apandi, Khalid said he has also filed a parliamentary question seeking answers regarding the murder of deputy public prosecutor Kevin Morais.

He said there has been speculation that Morais, who was attached to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, was killed in September 2015 in relation to the 1MDB case.

In September 2015, six men, including a military doctor, were charged in connection with the case. The hearing is still ongoing.

Survey: More Malaysians believe level of corruption has worsened


February 28, 2017

About a quarter of those polled admit paying bribes.
KUALA LUMPUR: More and more Malaysians feel the level of corruption in the country has increased over the past year, a survey by Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) has revealed.

Results of the 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, launched today, showed this perception was shared by 60% of the 1,009 respondents polled.

The number has almost doubled since three years ago. A similar survey in 2013 showed that only 39% of respondents felt the level of corruption had increased. In 2014, the perception level was just 30%.

In the latest survey, only 27% perceived the level of corruption to be the same as it was at the beginning of 2016, 11% felt it had decreased, while the balance of 2% said they “didn’t know”.

TI-M president Akhbar Satar called for tougher measures to be implemented to curb corruption among the high-risk service providers, which are the police and government officials.

He was speaking at the launch of the survey results here, where he revealed that police and “tax officials”, such as the finance ministry and local government tax collectors, were the institutions perceived to be the most corrupt.

The public also played a role in this. According to the survey, 23% of the respondents admitted paying bribes to access basic public services.

Of them, 39% were aged 35 and below. This, said Akhbar, proved there is a crisis of integrity among the youth and this was in line with the findings of the Malaysian-Anti Corruption Commission (MACC).

MACC’s deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil had last month revealed that out of 2,329 people arrested by the anti-graft agency over the last three years, about half or 1,267 were under the age of 40.

“We are facing an integrity crisis among our youth and we have to find the root cause of this problem,” Akhbar told reporters after the launch.

“We need to look at where the problem lies, whether it is our upbringing, our education system or the tone set at the top.”

The highest level of management in any organisation is said to be capable of setting a good or bad example for those below them on how to behave and think.

“We (TI-M) used to come up with educational activities for the youth. But we have a limited budget,” said Akhbar.

He believed it was better for parents to mould the thinking of children right from the kindergarten. In Japan and Sweden, he said they concentrated on character building of the child, right from kindergarten.

~ Free Malaysia Today

The merits in rightsizing the civil service

February 27, 2017

The government should be focussing more on quality rather than quantity because this is the way to increase productivity and efficiency in the civil service.

Tan-Sri-Mohd-Sheriff-Mohd-KassimBy Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim

Cuepacs and Perkasa have reacted emotionally over my statement regarding the country’s oversized civil service. Perhaps this sensitivity is due to the fact that the civil service is mainly Malay and Malay dependence on the civil service for employment is very high.

Rightsizing through a voluntary separation scheme is much needed. There are ways of doing it in a humane and caring manner. First, the government can start with retraining redundant employees by giving them free courses on skills development – computers, English, basic accounting, corporate law etc.

These are all the skills needed to make them employable in the private sector. I am sure once employees obtain these skills, many would voluntarily leave as soon as they reach the optional retirement age. Government employees will self-separate.

It should be noted that there are thousands of husbands and wives, who both work in government service. In many cases, especially among lower level categories, one of them is engaged in part time business like selling kain (fabric), tudung (headscarfs), kuih (cakes and cookies), religious books etc to supplement their income. They probably have business ambitions but cannot afford to leave the government service because they have no capital.

Imagine if one of them gets a voluntary separation package offer of RM40,000 for their 20 years of service. Chances are one of them will accept the offer, while the other would continue working as a civil servant until retirement to qualify for medical benefits for the whole family. Thus, the government is helping the Malay wife or husband become an entrepreneur, a genuine one because they have a track record.

Voluntary separation schemes like in the private sector, cannot be forced upon an employee because it is illegal to terminate a worker who has not done anything wrong and has been a loyal employee. The scheme should only affect those whose functions are no longer needed because automation has replaced human labour. With 21st century technology being what it is, the need to send letters or deliver face-to-face services i.e. human intensive work, is no longer relevant.

In the banking sector, there is no need to be physically present at a branch to conduct a transaction. That is why banks are closing down their branches and terminating their employees.

I believe the government can also look at closing down either completely or partially, certain offices and branches without affecting the quality of service. The redundant civil servants should then be deployed to other functions or retrained to prepare them for the voluntary separation scheme.

While the government rightsizes redundant civil servants, it will have to continue recruiting those that are needed for specialised expertise in the fields of finance, economics, research, medicine, education, science, environment as well as law. This should be encouraged as the civil service must continually upgrade the quality of its staff.

The government should be focussing more on quality rather than quantity because this is the way to increase productivity and efficiency in the civil service. We should have a much smaller administrative service to support the functioning of government ministries and departments. This can be achieved through the decentralising and empowering of authority to reduce the multi-layer approval process.

A lot of progress has been made in recent years to improve counter delivery services in several departments with the use of technology and the simplification of procedures. Logically, there should be less need for manpower and redundant staff can be offered voluntary retirement with an attractive compensation package.

If it takes some years for the government to recover the heavy expenditure of the separation scheme, it is still worth it. We can hope that with a smaller civil service, the economy as a whole will become more efficient and with dynamism and growth in private sector activities, the government will collect more taxes to recover the cost of separation schemes.

With less spending on wages and pensions as a proportion of the budget, there will be more room in the operating expenditure to spend on upgrading the facilities of schools, universities, hospitals, and research departments which today do not get enough budgetary allocations to keep them in proper working condition.

I believe the government should start planning a rightsizing programme of the civil service now so that it can be done in a proper manner rather than wait until there is a financial crisis, at which time government employees will be retrenched without justice for all their years of loyal service. This has happened in Greece, as I mentioned previously.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim is the former Secretary-General of the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and a member of the civil society group G25.

~ Free Malaysia Today

Monday, February 27, 2017

Christians raise concerns over pastor’s disappearance

Bob Teoh     Published     Updated
COMMENT | Coming in the wake of the hudud bill tabled before Parliament, the mysterious disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh have raised concerns among the minority Christians in Malaysia.

The first foreign agency to respond to the news was ‘Voice of Persecuted Christians’, known under its portal name as Release International. It claimed Koh’s abduction was because of his church work.

Release International also claimed another pastor and his wife, who have not been named, went missing a month ago. Local Christian chat groups have identified this couple but police have neither denied nor confirmed it.

The UK-based Christian watch group pointed out that “Pastor Raymond ... had previously received threats from jihadists.”

It also said, “Christians in Malaysia are increasingly concerned about the growing threat to religious freedom. Parliament is currently debating a bill proposing that parts of a strict Islamic penal code (hudud) are incorporated into the country’s legal system. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak supports the bill, apparently to win favour among hardline Muslims ahead of next year’s general election.”

One day later a US-based Christian monitor, Mission News Network (MNN) gave the context to Koh’s abduction. It said Malaysia still has the reputation as one of the most liberal and tolerant Islamic countries in the world. How long that will last is unknown.

“Thousands of Muslim Malaysians rallied in the capital on Feb 18 to support the adoption of stricter syariah law, a proposal that religious minorities fear could infringe upon their rights.

“The prime minister has thrown his support behind a bill that will incorporate parts of the Islamic penal code, or hudud, into Malaysia’s existing Islamic legal system. It is slated for debate in parliament next month,” MNN said.

It also said critics of the bill warn it could pave the way for full implementation of hudud, which could disrupt the fabric of Malaysia’s multicultural and multi-religious society. It added that’s the backdrop behind the recent abduction of 62-year-old Pastor Koh on Feb 13, in less than 60 seconds.

‘Under pressure and under attack’

MNN cited another International Christian monitor, Open Doors. It quoted the monitor’s United States president and CEO Dr David Curry as saying, “It’s this boiling point that I think is coming to the Christian community in Malaysia. They’ve been under pressure and under attack; they need our prayers there.”

Curry also said, “The pressure is increasing with every step toward syariah.”

He added, “We don’t really know who kidnapped him, but we know he was an outspoken person of his faith. He was a pastor well known for trying to reach out to people and share his faith and live his faith.”

Curry said there are concerns over possible religious motivation behind the abduction. 

“It’s not uncommon in some of these Asian countries for the police force to pick up people to interrogate them, without reporting it, and then releasing them later. That would certainly be the best-case option. I think his chances of surviving would be much higher.

“People are beginning to wonder, ‘Why are they not speaking?’ I don’t know the answer to that. No one knows the answer to that, but it shows you how toxic the situation is there in Malaysia right now for Christians and for religious minorities.”

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the country’s umbrella body for churches, has condemned Koh’s abduction, saying religious leaders should be spared from attacks or intimidation.
No one doubts the capability of the Malaysian police in investigating such cases.

Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted on the same day and about the same time as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, 46, the estranged elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Travelling under another name, Jong-nam was assassinated at the KL International Airport’s low-cost terminal.

Within hours, the first of the two women suspects was arrested, based on CCTV images at the airport. The identity of the dead man was officially confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, as well as by inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar.
Police have confirmed that Pastor Koh was abducted by unknown persons on Monday, Feb 13, in broad daylight - but it took them 10 days to decide to set up a task force to investigate the abduction.
Speaking on the matter for the first time since the incident, inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar said, “So far we have found no clues.” When pressed further for an answer at a press conference, he retorted, “Please don’t say we are not doing anything.”

BOB TEOH is a freelance columnist and formerly secretary-general of the Confederation of Asean Journalists (1985-87).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Racist comments of Ismail Sabri should be condemned — Baru

KUCHING: The racist comments made by Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob should be condemned, said state PKR chairman Baru Bian.

Baru was referring to the statement made by Ismail Sabri on Feb 23, here, who asked if Malaysians want to keep the present government who can safeguard the rights of Bumiputeras or a Democratic Action Party (DAP)-led government that emphasises on equality of all races.

Ismail Sabri, who is an Umno minister, also said that the ruling government is taking good care of the Bumiputeras especially with policies protecting their rights and privileges but without hindering or limiting other races from becoming successful in the country.

“Or a government by others who will deny Bumiputera rights? Of the two options, I think we have no choice … if we want to maintain Bumiputera rights, we have to maintain the BN government,” Ismail Sabri added.

Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, commented that the tone of Ismail Sabri’s remarks was shockingly racist and aimed at dividing the community along ethnic lines and to invoke fear and resentment amongst the races.

“This is incredibly irresponsible and immature of a minister and betrays the delusional supremacist mentality of this man. For Ismail Sabri to indulge in racist politicking, especially at a government event is a disgrace to the position he holds,” Baru said in a press statement yesterday.

Baru described Ismail Sabri as a classic example of the problem with BN leaders.

“When they have nothing of substance to offer to the people, they play on racial sentiment and fears.

“Malaysians and the global community are very aware of the weakness of BN that is in their lack of real and meaningful policies for the unity, growth and development of this country,” he added.

Baru claimed that Ismail Sabri and his BN cohorts were not concerned with the future of this country, and ‘their actions and words will quicken our fall into a failed state situation’.

“Sarawak and Sarawakians should reject these repugnant racists who are trying to poison us with their disgraceful and despicable brand of divisive politics,” Baru said.

~ Borneo Post

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Economist: Think ‘Fast & Furious’ when talking about economy

Susan Loone     Published     Updated
INTERVIEW For Shankaran Nambiar, one of the country's most distinguished economists, Malaysia must get the big picture for the economy right.

The big picture, according to him, is somewhat lost, and what constitutes the big picture at present are remnants of Mahathirian “grandeur, a fuzzy reflection of the Malaysia Boleh ethos”.

“Who will create the spirit of this big picture? Or can that too be outsourced?’ asked the former economics lecturer in an interview with Malaysiakini.

“But why is this big picture necessary?

“Because now - and it seems pressing at this juncture - one needs a vision to guide the management of the economy,” said Shankaran, who explains it all in his new book “Malaysia in Troubled Times”, a 177-page anthology of articles from 2014 to 2016 published by the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre.

His book, with the front cover showing a streak of lightning piercing through the sky over the iconic Twin Towers, encourages interested readers to think and talk about the political economy of Malaysia.

“Just as you talk about the movie 'Fast and Furious', you should think and talk about the economy and what affects it,” said Shankaran, who also authored “Sen’s Capability Approach and Institutions” and “The Malaysian Economy: Rethinking Policies and Purposes”.

‘Fast & Furious’ is a series of American action films featuring illegal street racing and heists, which have been distributed by Universal Pictures since 2001.

'Gaps in reasoning process'

Shankaran’s book focuses on four important areas: Macroeconomy at Risk, Shifts in the Region, Public Policy and Getting the Big Picture right.

“Most books on the Malaysian economic policy look at trends; they analyse how the structure of the economy, for instance, has changed over the years,” said Shankaran, who is currently a senior fellow at the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER).

“However, I am more interested in looking at gaps in the reasoning process, pointing out issues that are being ignored and drawing attention to what has to be done,” added the consultant for several United Nations agencies, International Labour Organisation and the Asean Secretariat.

Shankaran’s book, the third to his name, has received overall praise from experts in the field.

Ellen Frost, senior adviser of the East-West Center, Washington, described the book as “provocative, clearly written insights on the challenges facing Malaysia’s economy and Malaysian leadership”.

She sees Shankaran as repeatedly challenging his readers to think hard on past lessons and their implications for the future.

MIER chairperson Sulaiman Mahbob said the book is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the Malaysian economy.

Former MIER chairperson cum current chairperson of Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia, Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, said Shankaran's essays look into the pulse of the economy and state of nation.

Vikram Nehru, senior associate of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, said what is striking (in the book) is Shankaran’s “balanced analysis” of current economic issues.

'Past issues still relevant today'

The articles were written during several key points in the Malaysian economic history, including Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s announcement of the six percent goods and services tax in 2015, as Malaysia held the Asean chair, while the world watched how he handled the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

One wonders if Shankaran's analysis is still relevant, given that it was based on his observations for the period between Dec 19, 2014 and Jan 11, 2016.

He considered Malaysia’s economy then not to be in crisis but in “murky waters” due to the massive foreign capital outflows.

In 2016, several changes have taken place globally, for example, Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States in November, and the change in Trump’s foreign policies, including his anti-TPPA stance.

In July 2016, the United States Department of Justice moved to seize assets worth US$1 billion from individuals linked to Najib, including his stepson Riza Aziz and Penang-born businessman Low Taek Jho, or better known as Jho Low, for money laundering related to 1MDB.

But Shankaran said his book is no less relevant today than it was in 2014; in fact, some of the problems have been long-standing.

“I have, for instance, been talking about the urgent need for good institutions, good governance in the last 15 years. It seems no less crucial today than when I first wrote about it,” he countered.

“It is the same with policy inconsistency. I've long spoken about it. The book illustrates the problems of policy inconsistency over the period 2014 to 2016. I don't think we've seen the last of policy inconsistency.”

Shankaran noted that during his administration, prior to 2003, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad saw the need for a knowledge economy.
He does not think Malaysia is anywhere close to finding a solution to the problem Mahathir had identified back then.
“Until we seem reasonably close to a solution, we need to keep drumming that the problem exists,” he believes.

“My illustrations are rooted in 2014-2016, but the issues and principles still demand attention. You still need a way to frame your economic problems and to talk about them, and I’ve suggested one way of doing it.”

And one way of doing it, Shankaran suggests in the last paragraph of his latest book, is to go beyond the "empty slogans to revive the animal spirits that have receded".

Madinah's presence at Umno do raises eyebrows

Shakira Buang     Published     Updated
PKR has questioned if newly appointed auditor-general Madinah Mohamad's presence at several Umno functions have compromised her independence.

Party communications director Fahmi Fadzil today produced photographs depicting Madinah at several Umno-linked events and posed this question.

Madinah's husband Rizuan Abdul Hamid is the Kepong Umno division head.

"I feel it is necessary to ask this question, especially after looking at media reports mentioning Madinah.

"In the reports, she and other guests were photographed in front of several mock cheques with the Umno logo in Permatang Pauh," Fahmi said at a press conference at the PKR headquarters today.
He said the matter raised the question of whether a senior government official should attend political programmes, what more to pose for photographs with party logos.
Madinah (photo) was secretary-general of the Education Ministry at the material time.

Opposition and civil society figures have been constantly questioning Madinah's qualifications and independence after she took over as auditor-general from Ambrin Buang.

Her husband had once told the Umno annual assembly that he was willing to "die" for Najib and that the prime minister had once tried to help him avoid bankruptcy.

In a report in April last year, The Star said Madinah, as Education Ministry secretary-general, attended the launch of a Permatang Pauh Umno funded programme on "Steering youths from drug abuse".

And on Jan 3, Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia reproted that Madinah launched a programme for the distribution of aid to students by Yayasan Kepong, along with her husband.

"Yayasan Kepong is an proxy of Kepong Umno, as can be seen in the Facebook pages of Taman Kepong Umno branch and the blog Sangkakalajari.

'Auditor-general must be neutral'

"For me, while she already retired as Education Ministry secretary-general, her being there to open her husband's programme raises questions.

"An auditor-general must be independent, neutral and cannot be seen to be partisan," Fahmi said.

As such, Fahmi said that for the sake of the integrity of Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, Madinah must disclose whether she is or was an Umno member.

If she is still an Umno member, Fahmi said, Madinah should let go of all her posts and membership in the party.

"Yes, I think this must be done," he said.
Being an Umno member, Fahmi added, would only add on to other concerns about Madinah, including her lack of background in auditing and experience in financial matters.
Also weighing in on the matter, lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla alleged that Madinah's appointment was a desperate act by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Haniff went on to accuse Najib of continuing to appoint individuals seen to be partial to him to crucial official posts as a means to shore up his own position.

This, he argued, would only further scar Najib’s credibility as the prime minister.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sarawak urged to buy stake in gas block from Petronas

 | February 22, 2017

PKR assemblyman See Chee How hopes Petronas will give Sarawak first option of buying the 49% stake in a gas block off Sarawak that it is reported to be selling.
KUCHING: Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg has been urged to take up the 49% stake in the SK316 offshore gas block which Petronas is reportedly planning to sell.

PKR Sarawak vice-chairman See Chee How said the Sarawak government should immediately negotiate with Petronas to purchase this stake.

See was responding to a Reuters report on Feb 20 that Petronas aimed to sell a large minority stake in the prized upstream local gas project for up to US$1 billion as it seeks to raise cash and cut development costs.

Petronas is looking to sell a stake of as much as 49% in the SK316 offshore gas block in Sarawak state, Reuters quoted sources as saying.

See, who is also Batu Lintang state assemblyman, said in a statement today: “I would be very disappointed if Petronas did not offer Sarawak the option to purchase the stake that it intends to sell.

“But, since the intention is now revealed, I urge the state government to immediately negotiate with Petronas to purchase this stake which includes the producing NC3 gas field currently feeding our LNG9 export project.”

See said if former chief minister Adenan Satem were alive, he would press Petronas to sell this stake to Sarawak to serve as the launching pad for Sarawak to participate in the upstream oil and gas industry, “a vision that the former chief minister shared with all Sarawakians”.

He said Abang Johari had been presented with an opportunity to not only continue with the legacy of his predecessor but to build up the momentum and take forward the Sarawakian aspiration.

See went on to detail the actions taken by Adenan to ensure that Sarawak not only had a fair share of the oil resources but that it played a bigger role in how Petronas handled Sarawak’s oil resources.

See posed several questions to Abang Johari:
  • Whether Abang Johari had followed up with Putrajaya on the strong representation made by Adenan’s administration to the federal government to amend Section 3(3) and Section 4 of the Territorial Sea Act 2012, to safeguard the integrity of Sarawak’s territorial boundary to have control over all its resources;
  • Whether he would set up a body such as a state sovereign wealth fund to undertake upstream and downstream oil and gas projects in Sarawak;
  • Whether he would push to make the state secretary an executive director (and not merely a non-executive director) in Petronas and ensure that the state secretary is consulted on all decisions concerning the oil and gas fields within Sarawak; and
  • Whether he was pursuing the plan to insist that Petronas’ human resources manager for its Sarawakian operation be a Sarawakian, and that a recruitment body be set up under the supervision of the Sarawak state secretary to ensure the implementation and realisation of the localisation plan.
See added: “I certainly hope that our present CM Datuk Amar Abang Johari will show the same mantle in safeguarding and advancing the rights and interests of Sarawak, and do better by taking steps to realise the vision and aspiration of all Sarawakians.”

~ Free Malaysia Today

C4 questions Madinah's qualifications as auditor-general

Published     Updated

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) has raised concerns over Madinah Mohamad's qualifications as auditor-general.

C4 Centre executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the position of auditor-general requires specific knowledge and capability, skills and practical experience in auditing, accounting and financial management.

"She (Madinah) may have qualifications apt for other work, but most glaringly she has no auditing experience.

"What were the process and consideration taken by the prime minister in recommending her appointment? We ask for an explanation in this regard," said Cynthia in a statement today.

Madinah was secretary-general of the Education Ministry and has a PhD in human resources.
Cynthia emphasised that the position is important to ensure as a check and balance to ensure accountability.

"We are baffled at the choice of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, given the importance of this much esteemed position, and its valued significance in independently auditing the management and use of public funds in the light of growing financial scandals in the country," said Cynthia.

Cynthia added that there are also concerns about Madinah's independence due to her husband, Kepong Umno chief Rizuan Abdul Hamid, declaring his willingness to "die for Najib".
Najib was an important figure in the 1MDB scandal which was a subject of investigation by the National Audit Department.

"In light of the foregoing, C4 Centre reiterates its call for the Auditor-General's Office to be independent and report directly to Parliament to ensure its independence and credibility," said Cynthia.

Be loyal to country, not PM

Meanwhile, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin congratulated Madinah on being the first female auditor-general.

"The 1MDB saga is an international scandal and I hope that Madinah conducts herself professionally as she is obliged to have an absolute duty to the rakyat.

"While Madinah's husband is faithful and willing to die for Najib, I hope that her loyalty lies with the country first," she said in a statement.

Zuraida added that the responsibility now lies with Madinah to restore credibility following the 1MDB scandal.

"The appointment of Madinah as auditor-general is questioned by many due to her husband being an Umno leader.
"Even though their experience and education background cannot be denied, there is no guarantee that there would be no political interference in her duties as auditor-general.
"Therefore, PKR urges the government to review the appointment of the auditor-general to ensure the position and department remain free from political interference," he said.

Madinah will assume the position of auditor-general tomorrow following the retirement of Ambrin Buang.

Ambrin, who will retire after today, had led the audit into scandal-plagued 1MDB. However, the government has refused to release Ambrin's report and classified it as an official secret.

It'll be religious dictatorship if Act 355 is amended, says ex-treasurer-general

Published     Updated
Malaysia risks turning into a divided "failed state" ruled by a religious dictatorship if the Syariah Courts (Criminal Juridiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 is amended, warns former treasurer-general Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim.

"PAS leaders used to claim that Malaysian laws, which followed the trend of the Western world, were inefficient in reducing crimes and vice activities. In contrast, they argue that Act 355 will allow us to be more advanced in combating crimes.

"I, together with those who disagree with Act 355, are of the view that we will deviate from the principle of the Federal Constitution by implementing strict syariah laws. The Act will scare and split the people of multiracial backgrounds," said Sheriff, whose statement was uploaded on the Facebook page of the G25 Group of Eminent Malays on Monday.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang tabled his motion for a Private Member’s Bill to amend Act 355 in Parliament last April in a move to expand the jurisdiction of the syariah court in passing sentences.

Last November, Hadi proposed amendments to raise the punishment cap of the syariah court to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes of the cane.

The motion to amend Act 355, as sought by Hadi, is due to be taken over by the government and debated in the next sitting of Parliament, which begins on March 6.

Resorting to vice activities for survival

Sheriff in his statement warned that social peace and economic stability would fall apart gradually and the country would become a "failed state" as a result of recession and widespread unemployment and poverty.

This, he said, could be found in many Islamic countries, where crimes and vice activities happened due to poverty and parents would resort to vice activities for survival.

"That is why we see drug smuggling, children trading, robbery and socially bad behaviour (in these Islamic countries)," he noted.

"What is there to be proud of the syariah laws if the country is in a mess? Women would be victimised as usual. Many would not take it and flee to Western countries. When women face pressure in terms of human liberty, the country will not progress fully," he added.

If there is a weakness in the secular laws in Malaysia, he said, the issue could be raised and debated openly in line with the principle of democracy.

"If we were to use the syariah law under Act 355, we must follow what the ulama group have decided because they see themselves as an intelligent group," Sheriff said.

"They forbid any warning from the public, especially from non-Muslims and academicians, who give a different view. They will be accused of going against the Islamic teaching and told to get out of Malaysia.
"This 'religious dictatorship' attitude is worrying and will prevent (us from becoming) a developed state.
"We should learn the lessons of countries that have implemented syariah laws and later regretted and attempted to abolish them for the sake of the social well-being and economic situation of the people," he said.

Sheriff said this 'religious dictatorship' attitude is not suitable for a parliamentary democracy like Malaysia.

"We are ahead of other Islamic countries due to our progressive administrative and legislative system. It will be a loss for us to change this system into a system that has caused the Islamic countries to lag behind," he added.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bersih to launch nationwide voter registration campaign

Geraldine Tong     Published     Updated

Electoral reform movement Bersih is to launch a voter registration campaign that is expected to last throughout the month of March to encourage more eligible people to register as voters.

"At the present moment, we are still under-registering our new voters. A total of 4.4 million qualified citizens aren't registered as voters yet.

"Every quarter, it's 170,000 to 180,000 eligible new voters that have not been registered.

"That is why we feel this campaign can give a boost so that we get as many people as possible to register as voters. This is important for the coming general election," Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said at a press conference in Petaling Jaya today.

Assuming the next general election will be held in the third or fourth quarter of this year, March 31 would be the last day an eligible voter can get registered in time to vote in the forthcoming election, Maria said.

This is why, she added, Bersih will be campaigning intensively for the people to register themselves as voters in March.

Campaign to kick off on March 4

Called the 'U Campaign', it will kick off in Kuantan in Pahang and Inanam in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, on March 4, she said.

The Bersih campaigners will then head to Johor Baru and Alor Star on March 5, and onwards to Penang, Kuching and Klang on March 11.

The last activity of the campaign will be at Petaling Jaya on March 25, she said, adding that Bersih was trying to target areas outside of Selangor and the Klang Valley.

Activities planned for the campaign will also target post offices, where the people can get registered, Bersih deputy chairperson Shahrul Mohd Aman Saari said.
Another activity would be flyers with a big bold letter 'U', where people are encouraged to write why they want to vote underneath it.
Succinct descriptions on how to get registered are written on the back of the flyers.

One of the main demographics of unregistered eligible voters they hope to appeal to are youths aged 21 to 29 years, Shahrul said.

"By introducing a sleek design and a more interactive aspect to our campaign, we hope to appeal to the younger generation while remaining committed to bridging the urban-rural divide," he said.

Husband of new auditor-general once said he'll 'die for Najib'

Aidila Razak     Published     Updated
PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil has questioned the decision to appoint Madinah Mohamad as auditor-general, given her links to Umno.

Her husband, Rizuan Abdul Hamid, had, as Kepong Umno chief in 2015, reportedly said that he was willing to "die for (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak)".

Fahmi said the post of auditor-general is a key role in government as the person oversees government bodies and the use of public funds.

"As such, the auditor-general must not only be independent, neutral and above party politics, but she or he must also be seen to be independent, neutral and above party politics.

"As Madinah's husband is a hardcore Umno member who has been reported as saying that he is 'prepared to die for Najib', this does not inspire the confidence necessary for the role of auditor-general.

"(This is) especially since several ongoing concerns, including 1MDB - which is linked to PM Najib - have not been fully resolved and the people are still awaiting the release of the auditor-general's report on 1MDB," Fahmi told Malaysiakini.

When contacted, Rizuan said: "(Madinah) is a principled woman. PKR need not question my wife's integrity. Just ask anyone at Education Ministry about my wife. Other secretary-generals are shaking in their boots."

Rizuan did not respond to Malaysiakini's query on whether he is still willing to die for Najib, while Madinah has yet to reply to the portal's private message to her on social media.

Fahmi had earlier also tweeted a photo of Madinah and Rizuan together, as well as a screenshot of the Astro Awani article quoting Rizuan as saying he was willing to die for Najib.

"The husband will die for Najib. The wife will become auditor-general," he said on Twitter.
At the Kepong Umno division’s annual meeting in October 2015, Rizuan is quoted as saying: "I am willing to die for Najib. Don't touch Najib. If I am to die, I want to die with Najib."
"This is our (Kepong Umno) vow. To die in politics is better than to die for nothing," he is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Fahmi also called on Najib to explain why he did not advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to extend Ambrin Buang's service as auditor-general, given that the 1MDB issue is not yet concluded.

Ambrin oversaw the public audit of the government investment firm, but the audit report is still sealed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Thursday, February 16, 2017

KUCHING: Adenan Satem’s successor, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg, has reaffirmed the state government’s stand against hudud.

Abang Johari said he would repeat Adenan’s directive to the BN MPs in the state to reject the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355.

Adenan was staunchly opposed to the bill and had instructed Sarawak’s 25 BN MPs to do the same just before he died of heart failure.

“That is the stand of Tok Nan before and we will follow that stand.

“There will be no hudud law in Sarawak,” said Abang Johari after chairing a state cabinet meeting today.

He said the bill would cause the state’s peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-faith society to be undermined and it conflicted with the terms of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, which declared Sarawak to be a secular state.

The opposition had called on Abang Johari, who was sworn in on Jan 13, to “make a clear and unequivocal” stand on hudud.

On Tuesday, Sarawak PKR leader Baru Bian said opposition to the bill would “ultimately ensure the integrity of Malaysia as a secular state”.

Last May, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang moved a private member’s bill to amend Act 355 to enhance the punitive powers of the shariah courts.

At the Umno general assembly last December, Prime Minister Najib Razak said the federal government would eventually take over the bill from PAS.

Hadi’s bill seeks to raise the maximum penalties for shariah offences to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the rotan.

Currently, the shariah courts may impose sentences not exceeding three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan.

~ Free Malaysia Today

New S'wak CM allows open tenders for short-term timber licenses

Newly-minted Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg has allowed the issuance of short-term timber licences in the state through a tender process.

Abang Johari, who came to power after Adenan Satem's death last month, said this was to ensure transparent issuance of the licences.

“Short-term timber licences are only issued for state land forest which have been approved for development and Native Customary Land (NCL) Development Area and Native Communal Reserve that shall undergo development.

"These licences shall be issued by open tender,” he said in a statement today.

This will also be for existing licences which are due to expire, he said.

The Forest Department would prepare the tender documents and estimate timber stands value to determine the reserve price for the tender.
The tender will be advertised in local newspapers and the Forest Department website 30 days before the close of tender, he reportedly said.
The order is effective immediately and not subject to any Native Customary Rights (NCR) claims, the statement added.

The department will review the mechanism of award of timber licences for areas subject to NCR claims, he said.
Adenan had in 2014 directed a halt on all logging licences to curb corruption and illegal logging.