Sunday, September 28, 2008

FT Gerakan members defect to PKR

Sunday, September 28, 2008
More Nation Heroz joining Pakatan=)

FT Gerakan members defect to PKR

PETALING JAYA: More than 20 Federal Territory Gerakan members have defected to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) with “more expected in the coming weeks.”

Former Federal Territory Gerakan information bureau chief Gan Kok Keng said there would be at least 300 members from four divisions joining the opposition party soon.

The divisions involved are the Setiawangsa, Wangsa Maju, Bukit Bintang and Kepong divisions.

Gan, who had been with Gerakan for 24 years, said their desire to leave Gerakan stemmed from the inability of the party to play a meaningful role in Barisan Nasional.

“We have no decision-making powers and have been ignored and insulted many times,” he said.

Gan said what bothered him the most was the belief that the comments of former Bukit Bendera Umno chief Ahmad Ismail was not his own personal opinion but those of the party.

“Gerakan should not be appealing for action to be taken in any scenario but should be asking firmly instead,” he said at a press conference at the PKR headquarters here Sunday.

Also leaving Gerakan for PKR is their former Federal Territories Youth chief Tan Kang Ho, Federal Territories Economic Bureau chief Julian Leong, and Wangsa Maju secretary Azali Omar.

PKR vice-president and Subang Member of Parliament R. Sivarasa said the move by the Gerakan members to join PKR was something that was not easy to do.

“It is brave of them. There was also no offer of money and no discussion about positions in the party,” he said.

Earlier this month, former Segambut MP and Federal Territories Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong also joined PKR.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Media more than blogs

Thursday September 18, 2008
New Media more than blogs

The Internet has become such a key component in the political battleground that any party which ignores its importance is likely to find itself handicapped.

RIGHT after the March general election, there was a sense of urgency amongst Barisan Nasional politicians to get aboard the New Media bandwagon.

There was talk of requiring current and aspiring MPs to set up their own blogs.

But harnessing the power of New Media takes more than just setting up blogs. It requires a sound understanding of how public opinion is shaped through online means and how political news and views are disseminated in cyberspace.

“The Barisan’s attitude towards bloggers, blogging and the blogosphere has been reactionary, erratic and inconsistent,” says political analyst Ong Kian Ming, who recently did a study comparing the use of New Media by Barisan and Pakatan Rakyat.

Barisan did get off on the right footing after the election, Ong notes. Information Minister Shabery Cheek declared that the Government would engage with bloggers and he even went as far as to invite some bloggers to appear on a TV interview show.

One of the first online personalities on this programme was none other than Raja Petra Kamarudin, whose website, Malaysia Today, was subsequently banned and then later reinstated.

Currently, he’s being detained under the dreaded ISA for stuff found on his website. “RPK’s case demonstrates the schizophrenic nature of the Barisan Government’s attitude towards bloggers,” says Ong.

Six months after the election, how much have the Barisan representatives responded to the call to set up their own blogs?

Not much, says Ong who found that of the 85 Barisan MPs in Peninsular Malaysia, only 13 of them currently have their own blogs (15%).

In contrast, 59 out of the 79 Pakatan MPs from the peninsula (almost three quarters of them) have their own blogs.

Note that he did not include independent MP Ibrahim Ali in his survey as he is neither with Barisan nor Pakatan.

Nor did he include East Malaysian MPs in his survey because blogs are not so important there.

In the past, the Barisan could rely on the mainstream media not to report or under-report any offensive remarks that may have been made by a Barisan politician.

Now, it is likely that such remarks would be picked up by online news sites or observant bloggers. Once such news leaks into cyberspace, the fallout is instantaneous.

And the mainstream media, which has already been emboldened since the election, will pick it up too. We’ve seen this phenomenon of blog scoops trickling into mainstream news happen in the United States and now it’s starting to happen here.

The Barisan is not used to playing the role of the underdog in the political sphere. But it is clearly outmanned and outgunned in cyberspace.

The number of independent blogs which can be categorised as anti-Barisan significantly outnumber the blogs which are supportive of the Barisan, says Ong, who adds: “It’s hard to name a single influential blogger who can be categorised as pro-Barisan.”

Barisan cannot overcome this disadvantage in cyberspace by throwing money at the problem. Even if it paid a whole army of bloggers to set up pro-Barisan blogs, it wouldn’t work as their credibility would be suspect straight away.

Mercenary bloggers just can’t match the passion of the ones who do it as a labour of love, who do it as a matter of personal commitment.

This is not to say that New Media is a lost cause for the Barisan. Even if it can’t get the blogosphere to support it immediately, it can set a good example by having its MPs and senior leaders maintain good websites or blogs.

They can start by emulating DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang who began embracing the Internet in the mid-90s.

He even bothered to learn HTML just so his party could have its own website and was one of the key drivers in continuously upgrading the party website, publishing the press statements and also encouraging its MPs to start blogs of their own.

Anwar Ibrahim’s website is very comprehensive and it has sections where one can make financial contributions, request Anwar to speak at events and view his past speeches and op-eds.

He also has a blog which has his public schedule, YouTube videos, related news items as well as press releases.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has joined the blogosphere with over six million visits to date, a remarkable achievement by any standards.

In stark contrast, no senior Barisan leader can claim to have the same kind of Internet presence or traffic.

The most vilified person in the Malaysian blogosphere, Khairy Jamaluddin, does have his own website and it includes a blog.

It will take more than having his own online presence to counter all the negative postings about him but Khairy did garner some attention recently when he criticised the MCMC’s decision to block access to RPK’s website.

Perhaps other Barisan MPs can follow his lead and be willing to express their views frankly and openly through blogs.

The online advantage that Pakatan enjoys does not guarantee them electoral success.

There is no replacing the ‘offline’ activities that are part and parcel of what political parties and politicians need to do – the constituency servicing, the face-to-face meetings, the ceramahs, and so on, says Ong.

“But the Internet has become such a key component of the political battleground that any party that ignores its importance is likely to find itself handicapped,” he adds.

> Oon Yeoh has been blogging since 2003. You can check out some of his postings at

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Opposition-led rule in Malaysia looking likely


Less than a year ago, Malaysians would have sniggered at any suggestion that former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, crushed by a sodomy charge in 1998, could make a political comeback.

Today, nobody laughs when Anwar claims he will become prime minister. He appears to be firmly on track to attract enough defectors from the ruling coalition ranks to secure a parliamentary majority and form Malaysia's first opposition-led government since independence in 1957.

Most analysts believe Anwar can pull it off, if not by his self-imposed deadline of Tuesday, then sometime next month.

It would mark another remarkable turnaround for a man once considered a star of Asian politics, only to be toppled 10 years ago and imprisoned on a conviction of having sex with a man, a crime in Malaysia. The conviction was overturned in 2004 but he now faces another sodomy charge. Anwar has strongly denied both cases, claiming they were intended to kill his political rise.

The ruling coalition has been weakened by dissent against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and Anwar is capitalizing on that disarray. Abdullah lost much of his clout after presiding over the government's worst ever election results in March, plunging one of Southeast Asia's most stable countries into political turmoil.

Abdullah faced renewed public anger on Friday after his government arrested an opposition lawmaker, a journalist and an anti-government blogger under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial. Tan Hoon Cheng, a reporter for the Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew, was released Saturday after being questioned by police.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the arrests were necessary to prevent racial conflict, but Anwar said they were meant to "engineer an atmosphere of fear and instability."

Anwar needs 30 defections for his People's Alliance to form the next government.

"His chances have increased by 100 percent," said James Chin, a political science professor at the Monash University in Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur. "Getting 30 to me is not a problem. I don't doubt they will jump if the conditions and benefits are the right amount."

Still, there are serious doubts as to whether Anwar can hold together his three-party coalition of leftists, Islamists and liberal freethinkers, or fulfill his sweeping promises including dismantling a controversial affirmative action program that favors the ethnic Malay majority in jobs, education, housing, business and a host of other areas.

Many Malays see the program as their birthright. Most ethnic Chinese and Indians see it as state-engineered discrimination.

The Malay-dominated National Front has ruled Malaysia — often hailed as a moderate Islamic nation — continuously for more than 50 years. The coalition has maintained its legitimacy by claiming it alone can share out the nation's resources in a way that satisfies all ethnic groups.

That myth was shattered in the March 8 general election when Anwar stitched together his unlikely coalition on a platform of equality for all races. Together they won 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament, up from 19, as well as control of five of Malaysia's 13 states.

If 61-year-old Anwar forms the next government, it would amount to a political earthquake.

He says he will restructure the affirmative action program to focus on the needy, regardless of race; free the judiciary and the media from government interference; and guarantee religious freedom and civil liberties.

"It is not very difficult to be a better government, to control corruption, to be more just. That is quite easy. The more challenging task is to change the course of the economy," he said in a recent interview.

A major shift promised by Anwar would be a change in the way the government awards public contracts. At present the contracts can only go to Malay-owned companies, but even there the decisions are made arbitrarily.

This has been an obstacle to a free trade agreement with the U.S., which wants the contract process to be transparent and open to foreigners.

But Anwar has set his sights very high, and some foresee not reform but instability. The political outlook has rattled investor confidence, weakening Malaysia's currency and stock markets.

Still, his promises strike a chord not just with Chinese and Indians but with Malays who feel the benefits of affirmative action have gone only to a well-connected elite.

The system was devised soon after Malaysia suffered spasms of racial violence in 1969 and was intended to keep the peace by making all ethnic groups dependent on government patronage.

But analyst Chin said Anwar would temper any resentment among his fellow Malays by giving them dominance in government.

"There may be isolated protests but it won't turn into a full-scale uprising by Malays," he said. "Anwar knows the game well."


Malaysian Seeks End to Decades of Firm Rule

By Thomas Fuller, The New York Times

By the most obvious yardstick, this country of 25 million people is a democracy: Malaysia has held regular elections since independence from Britain five decades ago.

Yet during that time power has remained in the hands of one coalition, the media has remained slavishly pro-government, the courts have often hewed closely to the government line and critics of the country's leadership have been detained without trial in periodic crackdowns.

Now Malaysia may be on the brink of a liberal, more democratic era.

The governing coalition is facing the very real possibility of losing its grip on power to the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who says he has enough votes to bring down the government and might do so as early as this week.

Mr. Anwar promises that if he become prime minister, he would not only scrap laws that muzzle criticism, but also upend the father-knows-best style of government and end a longstanding policy that favored the country's majority Malays over other ethnic groups.

"I think we're on an irreversible trend of democratization because it's coming from the bottom up," said Sivarasa Rasiah, a human rights lawyer and one of many opposition members elected to Parliament in March.

If Mr. Anwar succeeds in taking over the government, his actions could have implications far beyond Malaysia.

A onetime Islamist student radical, Mr. Anwar has emerged over the past decade as one of the leading proponents of the idea that Islam and liberal democracy are complementary. He has cultivated friendships with leaders who share his views in Turkey and Indonesia, and he has built bridges to the West.

He once served as a catalyst for the increasing religiosity among Malaysia's Muslims. Today he walks the fine line between the secularism of the country's Constitution and the demands by some Islamic forces, including those in his own coalition, for socially conservative policies.

Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who once mingled with the very establishment he is now challenging, was re-elected to Parliament in August.

As he and his allies in the opposition gained increased political backing over the past several months, the government under Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has begun to strike back. In July, Mr. Anwar was charged with sodomy for the second time in his career in a case that a large majority of Malaysians surveyed in opinion polls say reeks of politics. And several newspapers have been warned about stepping out of line.

On Friday, a member of Parliament for the opposition, a newspaper reporter and a prominent antigovernment blogger were detained under the internal security act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. Syed Hamid Albar, the home minister, told reporters on Saturday that the blogger and Parliament member had been detained for inciting ethnic tensions but that the reporter, who was released Saturday after 16 hours, was only questioned about her reporting on a recent controversy involving a member of the governing party.

The governing party has leveled accusations of corruption in the opposition's campaign to win over defectors: Khairy Jamaluddin, one of the party's most articulate members, has denounced what he calls "underhanded tactics," saying members of Parliament have reported being offered money and positions of power in a future government, a charge the opposition denies.

Last week, the battle between the government and opposition flirted with absurdity. First, the governing party dispatched about 50 government lawmakers to Taiwan for what it called an agricultural "study trip," which appeared to be an attempt to stop them from crossing over to Mr. Anwar's side.

On Friday, opposition lawmakers followed them to Taiwan, checking into the same hotel in the hopes of convincing would-be defectors to take the leap.

Mr. Anwar initially vowed to bring down the government by Tuesday, saying he had written commitments from enough lawmakers to force the government's collapse. But he now concedes that the governing coalition's move to send lawmakers to Taiwan could succeed in drawing off some support, forcing him to delay his bid for power.

The changes that Mr. Anwar has proposed could change Malaysia substantially and fast.

"All the draconian, oppressive laws must go," Mr. Anwar said in a recent interview.

He promises to repeal Malaysia’s toughest laws that give the government the power to detain opponents without trial, ban unauthorized protests, bar students from participating in politics and keep the news media in line by requiring newspapers and magazines to apply for annual publishing permits.

He would also free all “political prisoners.”

Perhaps most explosive, he said he would end many special privileges for his own ethnic group, the Malays, who are given a variety of advantages, including discounts on houses, exclusive rights to government contracts and a reserved quota of stock-market shares. The privileges have angered the country’s two other main ethnic groups: Malaysian citizens of Chinese and Indian descent.

It was that anger, directed at the ethnically mixed governing coalition, that helped the opposition win just under half the popular vote, by far the best showing for the opposition since independence.

Mr. Anwar contends, and many experts agree, that most of the special privileges are enjoyed by a minority of Malays connected to the governing party. Still, it remains to be seen whether Malays will accept Mr. Anwar’s proposal of policies based on need, not ethnicity. Ethnic tensions have flared in the past, notably in 1969 when at least 200 people were killed in race-related violence.

Mr. Khairy of the governing party argues that Mr. Anwar is moving too fast by proposing to scrap the country’s harshest laws: Malaysia needs them to guard against ethnic strife, he said in an interview.

“We are a maturing democracy,” Mr. Khairy said. “These issues, to me, still need a lot of debate. We need to continue the way the Abdullah administration has done it, which is to reform gradually.”

At least as challenging as balancing the rights of ethnic groups would be managing the struggle between those who prefer a secular government and those who want a wider application of Islamic laws for Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population.

In a recent interview in his sparsely furnished office, Mr. Anwar apologized to a visitor for the heat and stuffiness; he keeps the air-conditioning off during Ramadan because fasting from sunrise to sunset gives him chills.

But he criticized the decision of the Prime Minister Abdullah to suspend Parliament during Ramadan. “He thinks he’s representing himself as a good Muslim,” Mr. Anwar said. “I think it’s reactionary.”

“If you want to fast, go ahead,” he said. “But go on with your life. If you fast and it causes productivity to drop there’s something wrong with that.”

Some Muslim groups have called for greater punishments for apostates, those who leave the religion, and stronger enforcement of social laws like keeping unmarried couples chaste.

While Mr. Anwar clearly has a strong following, many Malaysians, especially those in the elite who have much to lose if the opposition takes power, question his sincerity and wonder whether a leader who has gone through so many permutations in his career can be trusted.

Mr. Anwar rose to prominence as an Islamic student radical before joining the governing party and eventually becoming deputy prime minister. But he is perhaps best known for his sudden downfall in 1998 shortly after challenging the prime minister at the time, Mahathir Mohamad, for power.

Mr. Anwar was detained under the internal security act, beaten, given a black eye by the chief of police (who lost his job over the episode) and sentenced to 15 years for sodomy and abuse of power in trying to cover up the sodomy allegations. In 2004, the country’s highest court struck down the sodomy verdict and released him, citing faulty procedures by the prosecution, but the judge, in a highly unusual statement, said he believed that the sodomy allegations were true anyway.

Like the charges in the first trial, the latest charges of sodomy, which were lodged by a 23-year-old campaign aide, are considered highly politicized. The deputy prime minister, Najib Razak, a chief rival of Mr. Anwar’s, initially denied that he had anything to do with the case but then admitted that he had met with Mr. Anwar’s accuser before the allegations were made public.

Salehuddin Hashim, a high school friend of Mr. Anwar’s who is now the secretary general of his party, admits to doubts about Mr. Anwar’s past, especially his years in the governing party. Even the party’s leaders admit that money politics and corruption are rampant within the party’s ranks.

“Anwar wasn’t a paragon of justice or virtue,” Mr. Salehuddin said. “He was part of the racket.”

But he said that six years in prison changed Mr. Anwar and made him more sensitive to injustices in Malaysia, a relatively prosperous country with one of the highest levels of income inequality in Asia.

“It’s a credit to Anwar that he managed to galvanize people into focusing what they are unhappy about,” Mr. Salehuddin said. “He personalized injustice.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Peralihan Kuasa Tetap Akan Berlaku Kerana BN Telah Gagal

Pakatan Rakyat: Peralihan Kuasa Tetap Akan Berlaku Kerana BN Telah Gagal

Kepimpinan Pakatan Rakyat yang bertemu hari ini yakin proses pembentukan kerajaan baru yang berlandasan Agenda Reformasi sedang berjalan secara lancar. Kami percaya kerajaan Barisan Nasional akan diganti dalam masa terdekat.

Pakatan Rakyat yakin mendapat bilangan ahli Parlimen yang mencukupi untuk mempunyai majoriti dalam Parlimen yang membolehkan penubuhan kerajaan baru. Bagaimanapun tarikh sebenar penubuhan kerajaan mungkin terpaksa dilewatkan dari 16 September sebagaimana rancangan awal akibat beberapa ahli Parlimen telah dipaksa ke Taiwan.

Umum mengetahui negara kini masih dicengkam permasalahan politik, ekonomi dan sosial yang getir. Akibat kehilangan keyakinan rakyat terhadap kepimpinan UMNO dan BN, timbul percubaan mengalih pandangan kepada isu perkauman sempit.

Masalah perkauman yang diapi-apikan berterusan sehingga kini menunjukkan formula BN yang dihantui kebejatan rasuah dan korupsi gagal mentadbir negara ini. Api perkauman yang cuba dibakar akan mengancam kestabilan negara dan kebajikan rakyat. Kepimpinan BN yang semakin lemah juga menyaksikan parti tersebut semakin berpecah dan semakin hilang arah.

Melihat kepada perkembangan semasa inilah ramai Ahli Parlimen BN telah hilang kepercayaan terhadap kepimpinan BN dan memutuskan untuk bersama dengan Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat menegaskan bahawa kami tidak pernah dan tidak perlu membeli atau menyogok Ahli Parlimen berkenaan untuk menyertai kami. Mereka didorong oleh kesedaran sendiri serta memberikan komitmen menyokong agenda perubahan.

Kami yakin terdapat segelintir elit pemerintah BN yang diketuai UMNO bercita-cita untuk mencipta huru hara agar dapat membantut perubahan, melumpuhkan demokrasi dan merampas hak-hak rakyat Malaysia yang dilindungi Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Kami khuatir seandainya masalah sengaja dibiar merebak dan berlarutan untuk memberikan alasan kepada pemerintah bertindak keras termasuk penangkapan beramai-ramai menggunakan Undang-undang Darurat untuk membendung kemaraan rakyat yang menuntut pembelaan.

Kami menyeru kepada rakyat Malaysia termasuk penyokong UMNO untuk bertenang dan tidak terperangkap dengan retorik perkauman. Marilah kita rakyat Malaysia bersama-sama berusaha keras untuk memperbaiki keadaan ekonomi kita yang semakin teruk dan menyambut perubahan yang akan memberi harapan baru kepada kita semua.

Kami percaya apa pun jua usaha BN hanyalah dapat melambatkan proses pertukaran kerajaan tetapi tidak dapat menggagalkannya kerana formula BN telah gagal.

Dato’ Salehuddin Hashim
Setiausaha Agung PKR

YB Loke Siew Fook
Pengarah Pendidikan Politik DAP

YB Dato’ Kamarudin Jaffar
Setiausaha Agung PAS