Thursday, October 30, 2008

New CJ,can he prove his critics wrong?

Fresh hopes to regain past glory

Everytime a new Chief Justice(CJ) is appointed,the peoples' hopes for the rejuvenation of an ailing judiciary is rekindled. It is no different this time around with the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as the 12th.CJ.However the pledge by newly-appointed CJ, to get tough on errant judges, whom he accuses of besmirching the image and reputation of the judiciary is encouraging.

He may have passed the first test by coming out of a state of denial to admit the existence of a group of judges, although may be small, who have failed to fulfill their responsibilities with honour and integrity and that their irresponsible actions have tarnished the image and brought great disrespect to the judiciary as a whole. The recent Lingam videotape scandal is a bitter reminder of that shame that was inflicted on our once renounced and respected judiciary. It has yet to recover from that disgrace that shook our judiciary and the nation to the core.

The appointment of Zaki was shrouded with controversy from the very beginning. The Opposition, the legal fraternity, NGOs and many members of the public were overtly critical of his appointment as the CJ because of his past relationship with Umno. They cast serious doubts as to whether he can be truly impartial and independent in discharging his duties with such political affiliations in the past.

However his hard-hitting, impressive and positive maiden speech after his appointment appears to be at attempt to dispel those doubts and if he lives up to his pledges he would go a long way to prove his critics wrong. He must act fast to correct the wrong public perception of the judiciary that it is subservient to the executive. It should be his top priority and it is encouraging that rightly he appears to have made it so.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has promised to accomplish the badly needed judicial reforms before his departure, especially with regards to a more transparent and impartial system of the appointment of judges. Will the new CJ rise up to the expectations of the Prime Minister who has described him as a man of reforms? The people are waiting and watching for him to prove that he is indeed such a man of reforms who can implement them boldly without fear or favour of the powers that be.

The judiciary is the last frontier of the nation and if people have no confidence in the courts, there will be chaos. The rakyat’s hope for ultimate justice depends on a judiciary that is seen as clean, fair and independent and not subservient to any parties. Unless it can convince its impartiality beyond doubts, it will never gain the confidence of the people. The new CJ has no option but strive to prove his critics wrong in order to gain the trust of the rakyat whose demands are exceptionally high.

Zaki must quickly initiate the changes for the judiciary to regain its past glory. The ordinary man on the street has nowhere to turn to justice except the judiciary and if the institution, that is established to grant him justice fails or even seen to have failed, it would be a great tragedy not only to the person who seeks fair play but also the institution itself.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 24, 2008

Will reducing wealth gap alone narrow the race gap?

Eradicating poverty regardless of race

I refer to “Dr M: Reduce wealth gap to narrow race gap” (Star,October 22).

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s contention that all races living in this country will refer to themselves as Malaysians once the economic gap between them is reduced may be true to some extent but economic disparity alone is not the only reason for the failure to achieve racial unity to the desired level. What is needed is a genuine desire and whole-hearted commitment to by all to close this widening gap between and within the various ethnic communities in the country.

There are many other factors that need to be fulfilled before one feels proud to call himself a citizen of his country. The situation can be compared to a family where the children feel proud to be members of the family not just by the money and comforts provided by their parents but by the love and appreciation rendered to them. Money and wealth may be important but far more important is something we call appreciation of one’s love for the nation. In the US, descendants of once an enslaved race now proudly proclaim themselves Americans and they excel in almost every field like the descendants of their masters.

While it may be important to eliminate the economic disparity among the different races it is equally important to rid of such disparity among all citizens regardless of race. It is utmost to ensure that such measures to eliminate this disparity among the races are not abused by those in power otherwise it would result in one group becoming overtly favored over the others. They should not be used as excuses for encouraging corruption and abuse of power resulting in a small segment of the elite amassing wealth at the expense of the vast majority of the people who continue to suffer in poverty and hardship.
Eradication of poverty should be a top priority of the government and it should deploy all the resources at its disposal to ensure its endeavors succeed. Poverty is color blind as it transcends all racial divide, so should be all attempts in its
eradication.

The government has embarked on many development projects since independence to eradicate poverty among its people by its policies to restructure society so that no one particular community will be identified with poverty and backwardness. There is no doubt the target groups have benefited tremendously by such measures. However due to overzealous implementation of these projects unfortunately certain other groups have been neglected resulting in being left out of the mainstream of the rapid socio-economic development thereby giving rise to much unhappiness and frustration among them.

It is important for the government to realize its shortcomings and address this issue of poverty among its entire people for lasting peace and harmony in our multiracial nation. Race based policies initiated 50 years ago may not be relevant anymore due to the rapid advances taking place in the country in a highly competitive global world. It is timely to review the policies of the past and make amends to improve their effectives in a new social-economic environment.

There is no reason for any group to suffer in poverty particularly in our country that is endowed with abundant God-given natural resources. All that is needed is a fairer, prudent and more accountable management of the economy of the country which the government has pledged to undertake.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 17, 2008

Banning Hindraf unwise

Understand not punish Hindraf

It is deeply regrettable that the Hindu Rights Actions Force (Hindraf) has been declared illegal by the government. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has been misled into believing that Hindraf is an extremist religious organisation and its actions if left unchecked would pose a threat to public order, the security and sovereignty of the country as well as the prevailing racial harmony. According to him Hindraf incites hatred towards the Malays, which is a very serious allegation which itself is a greater threat to the security of the nation. If that is true why are PAS and PKR supportive of Hindraf?

Syed Alba must be naïve to believe that there is genuine racial harmony in the country. Absence of riots does not mean race relations are excellent. Even the PM has reiterated recently that our race relations have deteriorated to such an extent that it has become a serious concern for all. The ordinary man on the street will agree that our race relations are far from ideal. In fact it has been fast deteriorating over the years.

The main reason for the worsening inter-racial and inter-religious goodwill is due to lackadaisical attitude of the government towards promoting racial unity and its inaction to check real extremist groups who incite racial hatred for those of other ethnic groups. If only the government was impartial in checking these extremist tendencies fairly without bias, we would not be in the state we are in today.If only the government and the MIC had acted with the interest of all Malaysians and the Indians in particular in mind,Hindraf would not exist today.

Hindraf was born as a result of years of frustration resulting from negligence and marginalisation of the Indian community which the government denies till today. Although its name connotes it is a Hindu organisation but in actual fact it represents the sentiments of all the Indians, whose socio-economic status is very deplorable and far below par. In fact Hindraf has become a household name among the marginalised groups of all the races in the country, a name that stands for the fight against injustice, poverty and abuse of power. Its battle cry “makkal sakthi”, which simply means people’s power, became a rallying call for unity and change by all races in the Opposition during the last general elections.

The Hindraf uprising that ended with the November 25 rally last year become the eye-opener for the poor and marginalised from all communities including the Malays. It helped to ignite the spirit for reformation, democratisation and eradication of race-based policies among Malaysians. It might have been a cry for help by the impoverished and desperate Malaysian Indians but today Makkal Sakthi represents the call by all for a fairer distribution of the nation’s wealth and greater opportunities for jobs and education.

Unfortunately instead of heeding their pleas and engaging in dialogue to understand and solve their problems, the government and even the MIC reacted with hostility.Hindraf was considered a extremist group trying to create chaos and racial riots in the country. It was accused of having links with foreign terrorist groups and therefore castigated. Instead of looking at the merits of their grouses, they were seen as threats to national security. How can a minority group that comprise about 8% of the population with no economic or political clout be a significant threat to the security of the nation?

Will punitive measures and banning of Hindraf stop the spirit of its Hindraf’s struggle? It is not the struggle of a few leaders detained under the ISA but that of the whole Indian community that is plagued with severe socio-economic problems; poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, gangsterism, poor living conditions and a high crime rate.

History has shown that repressive legislation and punitive actions can never permanently quell the anger and uprising of any community that is disadvantaged and marginalised. You can persecute their leaders with imprisonment, torture and even death but you can never kill the spirit in them. In fact these high-handed measures will only encourage them fight on with greater zeal and vigour.

What is needed is not confrontation but sympathy and dialogue to solve the problems of a disadvantaged community that is crying out for help. After more than 50 years of self rule and in a country bestowed with abundant natural resources there is no reason for any group to be in a state of hard core poverty, without a decent job,shelter,education and food.

The government must lift the ban on Hindraf and engage them in meaningful dialogue to overcome the various problems facing the Indian community, instead of punishing them for voicing out their problems that are genuine. In fact it should act likewise to all groups who are frustrated by unfair policies of the government.

There is a need to re-look at where we have gone wrong and formulate and implement policies to help all those in need regardless of race. If any one community, however small, is left behind everybody will suffer in the long run. For lasting peace and harmony every citizen regardless of ethnicity,social status and political ideology must be made to feel proud of being a Malaysian.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Najib should allay the fears of the people

He must prove his worth

With the announced exit of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister in March, there are already moves within Umno to ensure his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over the premiership without contest. Umno would have gained the much needed credibility if only it encourages open contest for all the posts, including the president, in the coming party polls in March. This is the only way to ensure that the best man gets the job and would be in best interest of democracy within the party.

Judging from the on-going nominations for the post of Umno president, Najib is almost certain to succeed Abdullah as the next prime minister. With that possible scenario in mind there are already many who have expressed fears of the possible return of another era of “Mahathirism” with Najib’s ascent to the top post. In fact former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim says that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will become Malaysia’s “de facto PM”, standing behind Najib.Many have also expressed fears that Najib’s rule may also see the return of authoritarianism where suppression of freedom of expression and human rights would be stepped up.

All these fears may be unfounded but till now Najib has not said or done anything to reassure the people. I am sure that after all these years in politics Najib has developed his own style of leadership, has his own ambitions to develop the nation and is not going to allow himself to be dictated by any quarters. I am sure he values the principles of democracy and rule of law and would uphold them at all times and at all costs during his tenure.

If Najib really want the people to rally behind him, he has to quickly act to allay these fears of the people from all sectors. He must move fast to reassure the people of his capabilities and good intentions to serve them more effectively. The people do not want a Prime Minister who would be a mere puppet being influenced by others into making decisions that are unwise and wrong. The last thing right thinking Malaysians want in the return of Mahathirsm, which they had in abundance, to say enough is enough.

Apart from the possible return of Mahathirism, there are also many major scandals involving the Prime Minister in-waiting. Najib must be able to prove his innocence without the slightest doubt if he is to be credible leader who wants to bring honor and pride to the nation. He must boldly meet these scandals head on to clear his name otherwise he would be doing a great disservice to the nation and its people.
The people want a PM who is seen to be clean, trustworthy and above all who has the interest of the people at heart in formulating and implementing policies that are in keeping with the times. They do not want out dated policies that are not going to succeed in today’s keenly competitive global world.

The Opposition is bent on preventing Najib from taking over the reigns of power .It is throwing all sorts of allegations, one after the other, to discredit him. Najib must move to prove beyond doubt that all the allegations are baseless and that he is that right man for the job. Silence on his part will only give credence to the Opposition and deny him this golden opportunity to become the sixth Prime Minister of the nation. The people are mature and wise enough to reject Najib or any leader who cannot prove his worth.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pak Lah, release all ISA detainees

Pak Lah must repeal the ISA before quiting

The decision by Datuk Sri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as Prime Minister by March next year, though surprising was not unexpected. Many may feel let down by his premature exit from the political arena especially when there country is plagued with numerous problems.

They would have preferred him to defend his post and remain as PM for a short while more and pursue his promised reforms more aggressively. Similarly there are those who are pleased that he finally agreed to let some others to take over and manage the affairs of the nation which was incapable.

Nevertheless it was magnanimous of him to give in to the calls of the people to relinquish his post and make way for someone new to succeed him especially when the country is facing great political and economic uncertainties. Whoever succeeds him will have to possess not only all the skills of political manoeuvring but above all the integrity, courage and whole-hearted commitment to bring bold changes for the benefit of the people and nation not himself and his party. He must put the people and the nation above self interest and party.

Abdullah promised many changes when he took over the premiership in 2003.The peoples’ hopes for more freedom and accountability were ignited and this resulted in the massive mandate they gave him in the 2004 general elections, the highest in the history of the nation.

Despite his honesty and sincerity in wanting to bring changes and reforms for the benefit of the common man he met with limited success. The hardcore political realities prevented him from succeeding in realizing his dreams as he would have wanted. There was tremendous resistance from within his own party which he could not overcome and push through the promised reforms.

Abdullah has admitted his shortcomings and plans to complete his unaccomplished tasks during the remaining short period of six months. He plans to continue with his attempts to reform the judiciary by establishing a Judicial Appointments Commission and a Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission to strengthen and empower the anti-corruption body. He wants to set up a Special Complaints Commission to improve the effectiveness of enforcement agencies and organize a BN convention to tackle head-on sensitive inter-communal problems that are threatening to disrupt the peace and harmony in our multiracial country.

These may be honourable and praiseworthy aims on the part of the outgoing prime minister but time constraints may not allow him to complete these noble tasks before he leaves. There is widespread scepticism whether Abdullah can achieve all these in five months what he couldn’t in five years. Nevertheless he should boldly push through these reforms more aggressively in the remaining time he is in office and impress on his successor to continue with them fearlessly.

While these reforms may meet tremendous resistance in their implementation and have limited chance for success, one thing that he can definitely succeed in the short time he has is abolishing the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). This cruel law is being detested by all sections of the rakyat, including politicians and ministers from the BN itself, which is unprecedented.

In a civilized and democratic system there is absolutely no justification for the need for such an undemocratic law like the ISA that allows detention and torture without trial. Repealing the law is not an option but a must as the vast majority of the people oppose it. The ISA has been frequently abused to silence the voices of the people for the political interest of a handful of leaders. There is no way of stopping the abuse of the ISA by those in power as long as it exists and by repealing the Act, Pak Lah will be doing a great service not just to the present but also to the generations to come.

Pak Lah still has the time to demonstrate that he listens to the people, whom he claims to love so much. What the people want now is the immediate release of all ISA detainees and the abolishing of the act altogether. If he can do that he will at least go done in history as the prime minister who dared to do what others feared – restore greater democracy to the nation and freed the people from the clutches of a repressive law.


Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, October 09, 2008

BN must embrace multiracialism

Umno must lead the change or risk becoming obselete

The call by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the formation of a national unity Federal Government with opposition parties and for the Barisan Nasional(BN) to become a single political entity should seriously considered by all political parties, especially Umno by virtue of it being the dominant party in the ruling coalition.

This sentiment for multiracialism seems to be shared by more and more Malaysians all races, indicating a remarkable maturity on their part. This was revealed in a recent poll conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre in which seventy-one per cent of Malaysians agreed that the BN’s race-based affirmative action policy is obsolete and must be replaced with a merit-based policy.

The present set up of BN and its predecessor the Alliance party may have been relevant in the post independent era where the various races had to be represented by their own communal parties to chart their rights as contained in the Federal Constitution. Moreover the various ethnic groups were direct immigrants from elsewhere who needed their own ethnic leaders to champion their rights.

Today after 50 years of self rule why should we still need communal parties to represent the interests of a particular race? Why can’t a leader represent the interests of all regardless of their ethnicity?

We may have lost fifty over years as far as cementing of inter-ethnic unity is concerned. What we have now is a whole generation of Malaysians who have become more Malay,Chinese and Indian and who are more interested in the welfare of their own community. We may have lost precious time but it is never too late to reverse the trend. The people seem to be ready for such a positive change which they have expressed in no uncertain terms in the last general elections. Sadly this will to change appears to be sadly lacking in our political leaders as they seem to be still in a state of denial despite the verdict of the people on March 8.

The global economic crisis has placed tremendous pressure on our economy which needs the contribution of all Malaysians regardless race to overcome. If we continue to perpetuate policies that divide the citizens along ethnic lines and ignore the contributions of any particular group, there is absolutely no way we can overcome the tremendous challenges that are awaiting us.

As the first step to reverse the unhealthy trend, it is time for us to do away with race based politics. The BN must take the lead to dismantle race based policies and form a single BN party with direct membership of all races. The non-Malay component parties in BN have all expressed their readiness to adopt such a multiracial agenda but unless Umno take the lead there is no way such a system will ever materialize. It is time for the moderate silent majority in Umno to wake up and take control to bring about the necessary changes in the right direction.

All is not well as portrayed by the ruling party. Umno and the BN must come out of the state of denial and face the hard realities that exist in our midst. The people have grown in wisdom and maturity and their expectations for transparency and accountability are exceptionally high and they are not going to be hoodwinked by the same old race politics of the past. They want to live side by side in peace and harmony and unless Umno and BN realize this and adopt a more just and fair system for all they are going to become obsolete just like their race politics.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, October 06, 2008

RPK : Its not about diet

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar should be commended for his prompt response to the complaint that Raja Petra Kamarudin ( RPK) is being served food that is not suitable for him. Although the minister’s assurance that RPK will be served special diet is praiseworthy unfortunately but he seems to have lost focus of the real issue at hand.

The issue is not the quality of food that is being served but the reason for his detention without trial. Why should a law-abiding citizen be detained, denied proper food and subjected to the harshest treatment and denied all his personal freedom that he rightfully deserves?If he has committed any crime why isn’t he be subjected to the due process iof the law like any ordinary citizen? Why the extraordinary special treatment for him?

Malaysians of all walks of life and of all race, creed, political affiliation and would be more than pleased with Syed Hamid if only he had focused on the real issue behind the detention of RPK and give in to the overwhelming calls from the rakyat to free him and all others detained under a law that is being detested by the vast majority of citizens.Isn’t listening to the voice of the people the system of governance all about?

Despite being charged under the Sedition Act, the way RPK has been detained under the ISA smacks of an act of bad faith on the part of the minister.

The ISA is not only being detested by opposition politicians but even by members of the ruling BN coalition itself. It is significant that today it is also being opposed by the vast majority of the rakyat themselves.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Gandhi’s lesson for Malaysians


He remains a conscience in the hearts of men


Mahatma Gandhi's 139th birthday on October 2nd 2008 passed by qietly without many of being aware of it.This year also marks the 60th anniversary of his death. Gandhi is one of the greatest personalities of recent times and he can be considered the saint of non-violence who did what he preached and preached only what he did which is a valuable lesson for all especially political leaders.

Unfortunately our children in schools today are totally ignorant of not only this great man but of many great personalities who have helped shape the destiny of mankind. They are well aware of the rich, famous and glamorous celebrities who are poor role models but totally ignorant of those who had great courage to stand up for truth and justice.

Religious conflicts are the most common cause of violence in the world today. Not a day passes without the news of some tragic incident somewhere in the world causing deaths of innocent people. We say that we are all the children of one God and that that all religions lead to that same God why then are we fighting and killing each. Aren’t we all brothers and sisters?

Mahatma Gandhi had a very simple but useful lesson for us all in inter-faith relations. At the height of Hindu-Muslim riots, Gandhi decided to fast unto death if the fighting and killing did not stop. A militant Hindu, who admitted killing a Muslim child in revenge for the murder of his own son came to Gandhi, laid down his weapons and persuaded him to break his fast, saying he did want to carry the sin of his death. The Mahatma listened attentively and very calmly told him of a way to repent for his past sins against Muslims.

“You go back, find a Muslim child whose parents were killed and bring it up as your own, not as a Hindu but a Muslim”.

This advice of Gandhi was so full of meaning and remains relevant till today and will remain so for ages to come. Although he was a devout Hindu he was also had great respect for all other religions. When asked whether he was a Hindu, he replied said “Yes, I am a Hindu but I am also a Muslim, Christian and a Jew”.

We all profess different faiths, unfortunately each of us are brought out to regard our own as the only true religion and all others are inferior. This egocentric religious attitude had been the cause of the numerous conflicts throughout the history of man. Today we may have developed and progressed tremendously but our myopic view of religion has changed very little.

We are so intent in fighting one another to claim superiority over our adversaries, man against man, race against race, religion against religion and nation against nation. We resort to all the resources at our disposal; powerful arms, violence and war, to achieve victory over our enemies. We justify the use of violence to protect our perceived rights.

But to the great man of non-violence “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”

Gandhi believed in the universality of God,he says “The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of Christians and the Ishwar of Hindus.” This concept of the universality of God as envisaged by Gandhi is something, which is badly needed in today’s world where violence in His name is so rampant. It is also a lesson for us Malaysians of diverse believes; despite belonging to different faiths we are in fact all children of one God.

In our own country of late racial and religious differences have begun to threaten the peace and harmony that was once a pride of the nation. Despite the various programmes to promote racial unity, genuine unity among the races has been elusive and I am afraid we are increasingly more and more polarized by the day.

Malaysians have been urged to develop greater tolerance for faiths different from theirs.Is religious tolerance alone the answer to our inter-faith misunderstanding? What is needed in a world today that is bitterly torn by racial and religious divide is not just tolerance but respect for each others religion. This respect can only develop if we are taught from young the good of all religions and not just the good of our own over the others.

Although a devout Hindu, Gandhi was a follower of all religions. His actions proved that one does not need be a formal member of any institutionalized religion to be devoted to God who is one and the same for all. We can claim to love God but we can only be a good Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or for that matter any religion, if we also love fellow men regardless of the faith he professes.

Many of us today find it difficult to believe how a small, timid and frail looking man like Gandhi could dare to challenge the mighty British Empire. Just after sixty years we are finding it difficult to believe how Gandhi could have brought down the British Empire. As Albert Einstein, another great man and genius said 'Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.

Mahatma Gandhi may have left this world but his memories remain very much with us, alive and relevant. He did not possess power, position or wealth but his simplicity, integrity and a heart for fellow men had touched many and he will remain a conscience in the hearts of men for generations to come.


Dr.Chris Anthony

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