Of Leadership, Compromises, and a better Malaysia

Khalid Samad, for many, epitomises the most interesting and paradoxical aspects of political Islam at this juncture in our contemporary milieu. Urbane yet confrontational, sophisticated yet at times brash, learned yet not arcane – people like him represent what I fathom to be among the torchbearers of hope for this nation: moderate, democratic, progressive, and engaged.

Is it sheer coincidence, then, that he hails from a family of seemingly complex contradictions? Immediately one recalls his brother, Shahrir Samad, the gentlemanly, sophisticated, yet uncompromisingly UMNO politician. Or perhaps this is not contradictory, but rather is a reflection of our Malaysian socio-political melange?

“Compromised values” would definitely not be words one would ascribe to why these two personalities are able to greet each other during Hari Raya! Instead, I believe that our cultural makeup – our DNA or “local genius” if you will – allows and encourages dissonances like these to co-exist. Khalid and Shahrir are therefore living examples of these accommodated dissonances.

By this, what I mean to say is: ours is an extremely accommodative (some say ‘sponge-like’) culture. How can it not be, when we have absorbed and accommodated influences, words, and symbols from so many peoples and lands? Melaka is, for many, the apex of this trait. Yet with Isma and Perkasa, it feels like that part of us is now eroded and lost. Is it?

Seventy years ago – in a Malaya before UMNO – we imagine that differences between and within communities or even families were better accommodated and not as militantly demarcated as they are sometimes made out to be today.

Million-ringgit question: If political parties did not trade (or prey) on these differences since Merdeka, would we have ended up where we are today, teetering on the precipice of ethnic discord? If parties did not strive to highlight and take advantage of what is “Malay”, or “Muslim”, or “Chinese”, or “Indian” – what kind of Malaysia do you reckon we would live in now?

Bank on it; if it were not for the ringgit and cents, most of these divisive politicians and parties would have no ideas to work with to mould the political discourse in society. Many of them – especially those in power at the Federal level – are not interested at all in the tenets of good governance, accountability, and reform; just look at how unsustainably bloated the Prime Minister’s Department is, and the number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers under him!

Islam as a way of life shows how we can be accommodative without compromising our values. For those who are leaders amongst us, it is timely as we leave the month of Ramadhan and enter Syawal that we take stock of what Abu Bakar as-Siddiq said upon becoming the first Caliph of Islam after the passing of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “I have been chosen by you to be your leader, although I am no better than any of you. If I do any wrong, set me right… Obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger (pbuh). If I disobey God and His Messenger (pbuh), you are free to disobey me.”

Case in point: Politicians often serve in leadership positions. It is imperative for them to live exemplary lives as their acts and deeds not only speak of and reflect the Malaysia we are living in today – the cultural complexities, the psychological tableaus, the political ecosystems – but more critical than that, they are among the first to shape the better Malaysia that we all long for.

An edited version of this article was first published in The Star.

Kenyataan Media: Hentikan Sebar Maklumat Palsu, Budaya Politik Kuno

KENYATAAN MEDIA
23 Julai 2014

HENTIKAN SEBAR MAKLUMAT PALSU, BUDAYA POLITIK KUNO

Akhir-akhir ini, kita sering disajikan maklumat palsu yang disebar melalui media sosial dan aplikasi seperti Whatsapp. Ini termasuklah berita palsu yang kononnya diterbit agensi Bernama yang mengatakan YAB Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim telah meletak jawatan sebagai Menteri Besar Selangor, dan yang terkini beberapa tweet yang kononnya dikeluarkan oleh YB DS Anwar Ibrahim (berkaitan MH17), YB Azmin Ali (berkaitan isu Menteri Besar Selangor dan perletakan jawatan beliau), dan YB Rafizi Ramli (berkaitan MH17).

Kesemua berita dan tweet ini adalah palsu dan melanggar etika sebaran maklumat. Malah ia adalah satu kesalahan di bawah Seksyen 469 Kanun Keseksaan yang, jika disabit kesalahan, boleh dipenjara sehingga 3 tahun.

Saya menggesa semua pihak dalam politik Malaysia supaya menghentikan penggunaan taktik kotor sebegini. Ia cuma menampakkan ketandusan idea, moral dan etika, serta menampakkan kelangsungan politik kuno dan lapuk yang sepatutnya sudah lama ditamatkan.

Pada masa yang sama, pihak Suruhanjaya Komunikasi Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM) dan Polis Di-Raja Malaysia (PDRM) perlu lebih agresif dan proaktif dalam memastikan isu pemalsuan maklumat sebegini dibanteras, terutama yang melibatkan pimpinan politik.

Saya difahamkan kes tweet palsu yang dikait dengan YB N Surendran yang dilapor kepada PDRM 5 Jun 2014 lalu telah diserah kepada pihak SKMM. Namun cukup mendukacitakan kerana hingga ke hari ini SKMM masih belum menghubungi YB Surendran. SKMM perlu lebih bertanggungjawab dalam hal ini, dan tidak mendiskriminasikan kes yang melibatkan pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat.

Saya juga minta pihak PDRM & SKMM untuk memberikan maklumbalas terkini mengenai insiden penggodaman telefon pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat yang sering berlaku, akhir sekali sewaktu kempen PRK DUN Kajang bulan Mac lalu.

Fahmi Fadzil
Pengarah Komunikasi KEADILAN

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Of Men & Menses

THERE were two firestorms that raged through social media this week. The first was in response to the hysterically irate, steering lock-wielding lady (now known as ‘Kiki’ from Kuantan), which I find has elicited the same magnitude of vitriol and venom as the infamous operators of pet hotel Pet Knode some years ago. The second was in response to the ridiculous statement from Umno lawyer Hafarizam Harun, saying that a woman cannot become Selangor Mentri Besar because their menstrual cycle would get in the way of certain official duties.

I would like to focus on the latter, as it has greater implications and significance to contemporary Malaysian society.

The year is 2014. Technological, political and social change has swept the world over – from the triumphant rise of social media, to the democratisation of Tunisia, to the election of Barack Obama as the United States’ first African American president, to the continuation of Angela Merkel as Germany’s nearly decade-long Chancellor, to the election (and subsequent coup d’etat) of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak president, to the appointment (and subsequent removal) of Thailand’s first female prime minister, to the rise of Pakatan Rakyat to deny Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds majority in two consecutive general elections.

In short, things are changing. The world is changing. Yet there are some people and quarters who are adamant about keeping things – especially in the public sphere – the way they are, mostly for their own benefit.

I’m of course not talking about physical development, in which case I would argue for the total opposite: that we are completely bereft of a sense of architectural history. There is very little “adaptive reuse” in our developmental lexicon, and where possible all traces of the (colonial) past must be removed and replaced with gaudy, Frankenstein-ian eyesores.

I am talking more about fundamental power structures and relations. It seems that in essence, the ruling coalition is unable to grasp the idea of a woman being in a leadership position, constantly relegating and isolating them in their own “Wanita” category … or dare I say “class”?

Think about it. There can never be a woman Umno president, if the majority of Umno members believe and extend the argument of their prime lawyer. Even the minister in charge of women’s affairs at one point was a man!

Pakatan Rakyat, on the other hand, has seen women in key leadership positions, many of which are historic and groundbreaking: two Yang DiPertua of Penang city councils, the Petaling Jaya City Council mayor, and Selangor state assembly speaker no less!

In PKR, as we already know, there are no gender barriers for women to contest the top central leadership positions.

Yet what is really stopping us from believing that one day soon we may have not only a female Mentri Besar, but even a female Prime Minister?

There needs to be debate and critical discourse on this subject. The old parochial, patriarchal order of things needs to be shaken up. A rethinking and reimagining of leadership, just like a rethinking and reimagining of the direction this country needs to take, must happen. The vanguards of sexism must be checked and the “mengkuang ceiling” must be torn through.

We must have room to imagine and dream of vast possibilities not only for the country or for its leaders, but most importantly for the people. Only by being allowed and encouraged to have these imaginations and dreams will we be able to truly be more innovative, unlock greater potential, and embrace our true capacity as Malaysians.

The time is come. Wanita, bangkit!

(This article first appeared in The Star on 17th July 2014.)

Anwar continues to strike fear in Daim, Kadir Jasin

It is interesting to read Kadir Jasin’s article today, wherein he makes several observations and remarks with regards KEADILAN’s party polls; chief of these is that Anwar Ibrahim is contesting the position of party President as a form of self-preservation in light of the 5-year prison sentence meted out expeditiously on 7th March and that he “fears to be forgotten“.

His remarks are totally in character; the moment Anwar Ibrahim mentions “Tun Daim” and “corruption” in the same breath, Kadir Jasin will run to Daim’s defence with pen in hand. To borrow the “Game of Thrones” reference employed by The Scribe, Kadir Jasin is to Daim Zainuddin what The Hound is to Joffrey Baratheon.

As such, his remarks should be taken with a cup of salt.

KEADILAN is the first major political party in Malaysia to employ direct elections, where ordinary party members directly and democratically elect every single party leader, from the party President to Cabang committee member. To date, in no other mainstream political party – especially not Daim’s UMNO – are Malaysians able to experience this level of democracy.

Unlike members in the decrepit and ossified political machine that is UMNO, any active KEADILAN party member who has been in the party for at least 12 months can vie for any position in the party polls, hence the “festiveness” in terms of the personalities contesting central party leadership posts:
– 2 candidates for President
– 6 candidates for Deputy President
– 16 candidates for Vice President
– 78 candidates for Central Leadership Council (Majlis Pimpinan Pusat, MPP), among others.

Anwar has quite early on stated his intentions to run for the party presidency, while the question of why Wan Azizah is contesting has already been clearly answered. Anwar’s move to contest the Presidency is democratic and constitutional. This is not about his self-preservation, but rather, as long as Anwar remains on the political scene, he is a very real threat to UMNO’s self-preservation, hegemony, and political power. It is not that Anwar fears he will be forgotten, but that with each passing day he continues to make more and more Malaysians want to forget about choosing UMNO.

As such, no answer will ever satisfy the likes of Kadir Jasin as the principal issue – that Anwar Ibrahim is free and active in politics – has not been resolved to Daim’s “satisfaction”. Only when democracy such as that witnessed in KEADILAN and Pakatan Rakyat is crippled and its leaders locked away can the “Joffreys” in UMNO be satisfied.

KEADILAN will never waiver against the pens and prison sentences of Kadir Jasin, Daim, and their ilk, and will continue to fight for the cause of democracy and a better Malaysia for all.

Reformasi!

Balai Seni must stop censorship, reinstate artworks

PRESS STATEMENT
18 February 2014

BALAI SENI MUST STOP CENSORSHIP, REINSTATE ARTWORKS

The report by The Malaysian Insider quoting The National Visual Arts Gallery (Balai Seni) as saying that two works of Young Contemporaries finalists were removed because they caused ‘distress’ among some visitors is extremely unfortunate yet unsurprising for this increasingly conservative national arts institution.

The removal of artworks by Cheng Yen Pheng, “alksnaabknuaunmo”, and Izat Arif, “Insert#” last 12th February is extremely regretful and is reminiscent of the removal of artworks by J Anurendra from an exhibition in Publika organized by Balai Seni in August 2013. As usual, the bureaucratic excuse of “the work caused distress among some visitors” is lazy, far from adequate, and is merely used to mask the political pressure applied directly and indirectly by Putrajaya on freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Censorship of ideas expressed through the arts, particularly when the artistic commentary is critical of the ruling regime, is absolutely typical of the political paranoia that pervades Balai Seni and other institutions that “police” artistic work.

Putrajaya and the Minister of Tourism and Culture specifically must understand that artists are public intellectuals and thus must be accorded the freedom and space to articulate their observations and critiques of society. These works should be engaged with and not censored.

It is not censorship, but public discourse that will enliven and enrich democracies, something which Prime Minister Najib Razak should do well to heed.

I call upon Balai Seni and the curator of the show to not succumb to political pressures and immediately reinstate the works of the two artists, for the sake of the development of the arts in Malaysia.

Fahmi Fadzil
Communications Director of KEADILAN

Kenyataan Media: Kecam Tindakan Provokasi Ekstremis Perkauman

KECAM TINDAKAN PROVOKASI EKSTREMIS PERKAUMAN 

Tindakan beberapa anggota NGO yang telah menyembelih ayam, menyapu darah ayam ke atas gambar beberapa ahli politik Pakatan Rakyat, dan seterusnya mengugut keselamatan Ahli Parlimen Seputeh, YB Teresa Kok hari ini amat dikecam.

Tatkala rakyat Malaysia bergelut dengan realiti kenaikan harga barang, beberapa kumpulan ekstremis yang tidak bertanggungjawab cuba mengapi-apikan sentimen kebencian dan perkauman ekstremis.
 
Ugutan yang dibuat terhadap Ahli Parlimen Seputeh, di mana RM500 dijadikan habuan kepada sesiapa yang menampar beliau dan merakam tindakan itu, juga adalah satu perkara yang serius dan pasti menyalahi undang-undang. Perkara ini mesti disiasat Polis DiRaja Malaysia, dan mereka yang didapati bersalah wajib dibawa ke muka pengadilan.
 
Pentadbiran DS Najib Razak wajib mengecam tindakan provokasi ini yang cuba memecah-belahkan rakyat Malaysia, lebih-lebih lagi apabila beliau baru minggu lalu menggariskan empat perkara utama dalam rancangan rekonsiliasi nasional yang mana salah satu adalah aspek sosial.
 
Pada masa yang sama Rakyat Malaysia disaran menghadapi provokasi ini dengan penuh kesabaran, hikmah, dan bijaksana. Kita wajib menolak kumpulan ekstremis sebegini dan pembiaya aktiviti mereka, demi Malaysia yang lebih aman.
 
Fahmi Fadzil
Pengarah Komunikasi KEADILAN

Kenyataan Ku Nan tentang kenapa harga barang naik tidak bertanggungjawab

KENYATAAN MEDIA
19 Januari 2014

KENYATAAN KU NAN TENTANG KENAPA HARGA BARANG NAIK TIDAK BERTANGGUNGJAWAB

Kenyataan yang dibuat DS Tengku Adnan semalam yang menyelar ‘orang tengah’ yang kononnya cuba menimbulkan kebencian terhadap kerajaan BN adalah kenyataan yang tidak bertanggungjawab, tidak berasas dan amat dikesali, lebih-lebih lagi apabila Menteri membuat andaian bahawa pihak yang menaikkan harga adalah terdiri daripada penyokong Pakatan Rakyat.

Kenyataan Menteri ini adalah cubaan untuk mengalih pandangan umum daripada isu sebenar, bahawa kenaikan harga barang timbul daripada kegagalan dasar pentadbiran DS Najib Razak untuk menangani kenaikan inflasi yang mendadak. Ketua Pembangkang DS Anwar Ibrahim telah mengingatkan rakyat dalam kenyataan beliau tempoh hari bahawa kadar inflasi di Malaysia telah meningkat dari 1.2% pada Disember 2012 ke 2.9% pada November 2013, iaitu peningkatan 2.4 kali ganda.

Ku Nan dan kerajaan UMNO-BN perlu menghentikan retorik yang tidak berasas seperti ini dan sebaliknya berusaha untuk mengetengahkan idea-idea dan dasar-dasar yang dapat menangani isu inflasi dengan efektif. Harga petrol patut diturunkan, monopoli gula yang dipegang Syed Mokhtar perlu dipecahkan, dan pelbagai kenaikan yang dicadangkan seperti kadar tol, tarif elektrik, dan cukai GST wajib ditarikbalik. Sekurang-kurangnya kerajaan UMNO-BN wajib menangani ketirisan dan rasuah yang mengakibatkan berbilion ringgit wang Rakyat lesap begitu sahaja, seperti yang dilaporkan saban tahun dalam Laporan Ketua Audit Negara.

Fahmi Fadzil
Pengarah Komunikasi KEADILAN

PRESS STATEMENT
19 January 2014

STATEMENT BY KU NAN ON REASON FOR PRICE INCREASE IS IRRESPONSIBLE

The statement made by DS Tengku Adnan yesterday that claimed ‘middlemen’ were inciting hatred towards the Barisan Nasional government is irresponsible, unfounded and regrettable, especially when the minister assumes that those raising prices were Pakatan Rakyat supporters.

The minister’s statement is a blatant attempt to shift the public’s attention away from the crux of the matter, which is that prices have shot up due to the failure of the Najib administration’s failure to implement policies that can effectively keep inflation in check. As highlighted by the Leader of the Opposition, DS Anwar Ibrahim several days ago, inflation in Malaysia has increased 2.4 times between December 2012 (1.2%) and November 2013 (2.9%).

Instead of employing baseless rhetoric like this, Ku Nan and the UMNO-BN government should instead seriously endeavor to put forward ideas and policies that can effectively attend to the issue of rising inflation. Petrol prices should be dropped, the sugar monopoly held by Syed Mokhtar should be broken, and the various proposals to increase toll rates, electricity tariffs, and the GST should be withdrawn. At the very least, UMNO-BN should focus all its energy on combating leakages and corruption that has cost the Rakyat billions each year, as reported in the Auditor-General’s Report.

Fahmi Fadzil
KEADILAN Communications Director