Tuesday, February 06, 2007
It all started when the government allowed the toll hikes. The thinking citizens led by opposition parties and reliable NGOs protested. The toll hikes simply means government is siding towards the toll concessionaire and in turn punishing the people on the street.
The government on the other hand says its hand are tied down as it is bound by the terms of a concession agreement entered into with the cash rich concessionaire. If that is the reason, argued rakyat, we have the right to know the contents of the agreement. After all we are the real sufferers of the toll hikes.
Even though rakyat are not the parties to the agreement, it must be borne in mind that the government represents them in striking a deal with these corporate predators. When the agreement was drafted, the government was certainly duty bound to ensure the terms of the agreement were favourable to rakyat. If the terms of the agreement were unfair and burdensome to the people, they are definitely entitled to demand necessary response from the government.
Rakyat have the rights to be shown the contents of the agreement to satisfy themselves that the terms contained in the agreement were absolutely fair and just. The government on the other hand has the duty to show it to rakyat as the former only came into being with the latter’s votes.
Despite such a reasonable demand to disclose the contents of the agreement the government persistently refuse to do so. When reasonable request is not entertained it is within one’s expectation that people may use unpopular methods to obtain a copy of the agreement. Several opposition leaders bravely let the people know that they have a copy of such agreement. Everyone knows that they were not actuated by malice in disclosing this vital information to the public. They just played a role as concerned citizens. They want rakyat to engage with the government in a more meaningful way by knowing the contents of the agreement.
Instead of engaging with people and showing some form of transparency in dealing with this issue the relevant ( or irrelevant ) Minister chided the opposition leaders and warned them that Official Secret Act ( OSA ) would be used against them. This piece of draconian law is yet again used to silence the bona fide whistle blowers.
Rakyat are undoubtedly perplexed by this latest desperate attempt of Barisan Nasional ( BN ) to use the obnoxious Act in order to criminalize the truly concerned citizens who question a piece of the private concession agreement. Yes OSA may be necessary to protect any highly official documents where a security of a state is at stake. But please do not insult our intelligence by saying such a private agreement which enrich the toll concessionaire and make life of ordinary people so miserable is also protected by this draconian piece of legislation.
The latest episode proves beyond reasonable doubt that the fundamental right of freedom of speech enshrined in Article 10 (1) (c) of the Federal Constitution has been subject to so many constitutionally authorized inroads as to become devoid of reality .Against the tide of governmental interference and despotism, this basic right is proving like dykes of straw. This right has been deprived of all meaning and significance by the repressive OSA. Perhaps, never before has Malaysian felt, as now, so helpless in confrontation with the power and weight of BN’s government . Unfortunately the constitutional supremacy provides little safeguard against the continuation of this trend.
Our hope law to act as a shield of the ordinary men on the street against the powers that hurt or threaten them remains a false one. It turns to despair now. Whilst law is both a limit on power and a power-conferring instrument , those in power prefer the second aspect. Yet for the ordinary rakyat it is only the first aspect which provides the means for protecting the week from the onslaught of the strong.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Deriding PAS is deriding democracy
I don't know whether Faruoq Omaro (‘PAS can take their double standards somewhere else’) really knows what democracy is all about. His conclusion that ‘a progressive and democratic society like Malaysia does not need a political party like PAS and PAS should go down the drain just like the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM)' reflects his shallow grasp of the meaning of democracy.
PAS has been in Malaysian politics for half a century participating in a democratic process albeit BN's version of democracy. It is much better if Farouq could explain to us what really a progressive and democratic society is?
Can a society affirming draconian laws such as ISA (which allows detention without trial) - which has been consistently opposed by PAS and incessantly defended by BN - fall under the category of progressive and democratic society?
It is ironical for a progressive and democratic society to pass a harsh and undemocratic judgement on a political party such as PAS just because it is unable to understand certain PAS' policies and actions.
This is further aggravated by the fact that more often than not the judgement is pronounced without PAS being given an opportunity to rebut the allegations levelled against it. Farouq may agree with me that a democratic society never allows a political party to be discriminated against, particularly in propagating its ideas and policies to the people.
To accuse PAS of not respecting other communities' needs and desires in a peaceful manner when PAS said it would introduce the death penalty against Muslims who had converted to other religions is indeed a very wild allegation unsupported by any credible evidence.
Firstly, it is an erroneous statement to say that PAS has introduced the death penalty against the apostates. The death penalty imposed on the convicted apostate is already in the prophetic tradition and PAS merely translates it into the statute book. Apostasy is a very serious crime from an Islamic point of view and its seriousness must be judged by Islamic standards and not others.
This punishment can only be carried out after the due process with a very high standard of proof imposed on the prosecution. The punishment cannot be carried out if the offender repents and a reasonable time must be given to the offender to repent. Repentance (al-taubah) is nowhere in man-made law.
After all, in our so-called progressive and democratic society, the death penalty also exists and is currently being enforced for certain serious offences.
I don't know whether Farouq is aware that under Section 121 of our Penal Code that even an attempt to wage a war against the King is punishable by death. All legal experts unanimously agree that an attempt is not a complete act thus it should not be liable to be punished with such a sentence yet this is the law in our progressive and democratic society!
In Islam a full-fledged sentence cannot be invoked against anybody who merely attempts to commit a crime. An attempted apostate is not subjected to hudud law (death penalty) but only to takzir punishment.
As regard to the dress code let me remind you, Farouq, it is everywhere in Malaysia even in the whole world, not only in Terengganu. Go and see for yourself in any Malaysian court and you will find that people (non-Muslims included) are not free to wear as they choose. Remember that his dress code was not created by PAS.
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Friday, February 02, 2007
BA has decided to boycott the by election in Batu Talam. This unprecedented decision may have significant impacts. Who knows it may change the country's political landscapes. The decision also begs a serious question i.e whether BA would participate in the next coming General Election. As far as BA is concerned, this question does not arise at all as it was categorically stated by PAS’s Deputy President that the boycott is only restricted to Batu Talam by election.
One may ask whether the decision is justifiable ? Justification aside, the boycott seems to be the best available option in conveying a strong signal and message to the Election Commission ( EC ) that enough is enough.
The failure of Election Commission to conduct a free and fair election is common knowledge now. The unfair election undoubtedly renders the participation of BA as an exercise in futility. To continuously take part in the tainted election may give an impression that unfair election is a norm and unavoidable.
It is axiomatic the main beneficiary of an unfair election is the ruling party. Thus any attempt to reform the crippled electoral system may be seen as a threat by BN. For its survival, BN will ensure the tainted election keeps intact.
Having lost substantial number of seats in 1999 General Election BN decided to amend the electoral law. Don’t make a mistake such amendment was never intended to help improve the system. On the contrary the amendment sought to to tighten the loose grips of the electoral law , perceived as contributing factors to BN’s poor performance in 1999 Election. Needless to say BA received a fatal blow with such arbitrary amendment .
The amendment among other things dealt with the issue of phantom voters. Instead of acknowledging this chronic problem and finding the appropriate solutions, the amendment on the contrary closed all the avenues for any parties to challenge the electoral roll. This was done by ousting the court’s power to declare the validity and veracity of the electoral roll. With such amendment the phantom voters found in the electoral rolls are immune and untouchable.
It is very unfortunate that we do not have a system known as a competitive election . In this type of election voters are presented with a choice between competing political parties and they may have the ability to actually select which party candidates they most prefer .
On the contrary what we have is a dominant party election. In this type of election voters may have the legal right to vote for any party they want, but they do not, in fact have a real choice for a variety of reasons. Sometimes actual intimidations are involved where even secret votes are checked. Voters who fails to vote for the correct party may land themselves in uncomfort zone after the election..
In Malaysia, the rampant electoral fraud and corruption keeps the single dominant party in power. This was also the case for the Philipines under Marcos. The dominant party sytems unfortunately are a surprisingly common and resilient type of election in the third world.
Given this scenario what are the best options available to BA. To participate or to boycott ?.
Some contends that by failing to field a candidate in this election, BA has in actual fact denied the fundamental right of voters to choose the candidates. Such denial, it so argued, goes against the principle of democracy. This argument presupposes the existence of free and fair election. It fails to consider the right of voting is meaningless if it is not exercised freely and voluntarily.
Such an argument may only be valid in a free, fair, healthy and competitive election . In that political environment the key players of the election are allowed to play in a level playing field governed by just laws and independent referee. In the absence of such a fair game, denial of rights to vote is a non starter.
The EC chairman chided BA by saying that such boycott was a stupid act. May be he has to define for us what stupidity is ?. If one keeps on losing in an unfair game and decides not to participate in such game unless the rules of the game are changed , can we attribute stupidity to such person ?
Or may be the EC Chairman was right. May be BA was so stupid in the past for placing hope on the EC , being the custodian of the election process, to conduct a free and fair election. Or may be BA was also too stupid for failing or neglecting to realize that all this while EC and its Chairman has been assuming a role of agent provocator to BN.