Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fighting graft under a new banner

Will it make any difference?

The much awaited Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Abdullah must be commended for his personal involvement in successfully establishing the MACC. The people in general are hopeful that the agency would help create a new era of integrity in the fight against graft in the country. We welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance that the MACC would have more legal bite that is essential in this fight against corruption at all levels of our society.

The increase in work force and the various internal and external check and balance mechanism of the MACC should enhance the effectiveness, independence and impartiality of the agency to act against anyone without fear or favor. In fact it should transcend political, social and racial divide in carrying out its duties at all times if it wants to earn the respect and support of the people.

The Opposition however claims that the MACC is still very much under the jurisdiction of the ruling party, and therefore skeptical of its independence to be an effective anti-graft agency. The onus is now on the government to demonstrate its seriousness in tackling corruption in the weeks and months ahead and prove the Opposition and other critics wrong.

It is encouraging to see that the government has recognized the importance curbing corruption and is moving rightly in that direction but there is much more to done than just changing the name of the agency. It has to act seriously to correct the negative perception of the MACC in the minds of the people.

While these new laws and a rejuvenated agency may be necessary and important in the fight against graft, it is equally important to ensure the human factors in this fight are also in place. Laws and institutions are only as good as those who are tasked to implement and administer them. It is of utmost importance to get the right people to head the commission and various panels and committees that are being proposed, people who are not only capable but of high integrity and fully committed to eradicate corruption.

They must be politically non-partisan and act decisively and aggressively against anyone who is corrupt regardless of the status and political ideology. Selection of members of the commissions must be purely on merits and transcend racial and political divide.

The MACC must be free to investigate and prosecute without fear or favor against anyone regardless of who the alleged perpetrators of the crime may be. Informers who come forward to expose corrupt practices must be protected at all costs and not punished for doing so especially if their information is found to be not true.
The government has triumphed in setting up the MACC to combat graft. It is just the first step in long war against this national menace. It must now actively go forth with the formation of various commissions and selecting the right people for the tough but important job to free the nation from the crutches of graft.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don’t politicize nude scandal

It looks as though our country is not lacking in excitement. One exciting episode seems to come after another in rapid succession. The current nude picture scandal of Selangor State Assemblywoman Elizabeth Wong is an unfortunate incident that the state and the nation in general can ill afford at this time of economic uncertainties. Regrettably what should be a private and personal issue has become a national scandal that is threatening the political stability.

There are two aspects to this scandal; firstly it relates to the morality of Elizabeth and secondly the morality of the person responsible for obtaining the photos without her consent and circulating them to the public.

There is no doubt that our wakil rakyat should have a high moral integrity as they should be role models for the younger generations. However as normal humans they too have the weaknesses of any individual and whatever mistakes of the past should not be used to gauge their present status as the people’s representatives. They should be judged by what they do now not what they have done in the past which may not reflect their true character now being in public office.

However if Elizabeth or anyone holding public office is discovered, beyond doubt, to be morally unfit to be a leader there is no reason why she should not be asked to relinquish the post to safeguard the sanctity of that public portfolio. Her guilt is yet to be proven and it would be unfair for the media to sensationalize the issue to cause unnecessary embarrassment to her and her family as all sex scandals do.

Elizabeth claims she is a victim of a political conspiracy aimed to discredit her party and she should be commended to be willing to resign to protect the greater interest of her party. If what she says is true, which appears to be so, then it brings to surface unpleasant and unethical political practices that are taking roots in the country that is a highly regrettable.

Is it scandalous to go nude in the privacy of your own home? If somebody can be accused of being immoral by being nude in his/her own home then we won't have anybody to run the country. If being nude in your own home is a crime than all Malaysian would committing such crimes everyday. On the contrary it is the invasion of such privacy that is scandalous.

We do not know whether Elizabeth is wrong or otherwise. This needs to be investigated fairly by the authorities and appropriate action taken. What we know for certain is that the person involved in taking and distributing those photos is definitely wrong, both legally and morally, and he needs to be severely punished that would also deter others from doing such things in future. The culprits responsible for circulating the pictures of Wong and those who are exploiting the issue must be exposed and brought to task.

It is sad that there are people are willing to stoop so low to resort to such unethical means to bring down elected representatives. Malaysians must reject the use of such shameful tactics and condemn in the strongest terms the desperate people responsible for such a despicable act.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Choosing the right candidate

The people of Perak in particular and Malaysians in general were deeply troubled by the way their elected government was ousted from power by the controversial defection of three state assemblypersons. The people did not hide their feelings but expressed in no uncertain means their displeasure of the events that unfolded so rapidly that led to the collapse of their government.

The Independent pollster Merdeka Centre's latest survey revealed that 74 percent of voters in Perak want a fresh election to resolve the political crisis in the state. A whopping 76 percent of respondents expressed that "the people, through elections" should decide who gets to form the government as opposed to 21 percent who felt it was the prerogative of the palace. This reflects a high level of maturity and wisdom of the modern electorate in the country.

What happened in Perak highlights the problem of bringing down the elected government by defection of lawmakers. What were the real motives behind these defections? It may be legal but is it ethical and morally right? Doesn’t it go against the wishes of the people who elected the government in the first place to serve them for the next 5 years? Would it be proper for these defectors to get a new mandate from the people who voted them? It is embarrassing that almost not a day passes without the fear of more defections. Our elected representatives are making a mockery of our democratic system. If we do not act now the “frog system” of democracy will become a national disaster and shame.

Most Malaysians will agree that bringing down a government that is duly elected by the people by the defection of lawmakers, either from BN or PR, though may be legal, but is a despicable act that should be abhorred by all parties. It simply implies total disregard to the wishes of the people who elected them. It would only be fair that these legislators go back to the people for a new mandate before crossing over to the new party for whatever reason. To encourage such a practice effective anti-hopping laws must be enacted and implemented at federal and state levels.

Now we are again in for another 2 by-elections for the Bikit Gantang parliamentary and the Bukit Selambau state seats. There is already a scramble among the political parties for these seats. How will the parties decide on the best candidate for the job? At present sadly it is mainly decided by the race of the individual and the political party to which he belongs. It is unfortunate that personal integrity, morals and merits have little bearing on the choice of candidates.

The Perak experience is a lesson to the political parties especially the PR that they should be extremely stringent in selecting their candidates. They must ensure that only those with high integrity, morals and honesty are selected. Their motive for contesting must be sincere in wanting to serve the people and nothing else. Going by these high standards it may be a monumental task to find such candidates but it is a task that the political parties should strive to undertake so that only the best are chosen to represent the people in the legislative assemblies.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Don’t underestimate the people’s maturity

Let down by their own Ruler

February 5, 2007 was a sad day for the people of Perak. It was the day when the legally elected and people-friendly Pakatan Rakyat(PR) government in the state was brought down by the defection of three of their assemblypersons to the Barisan Nasional(BN).

Bringing down a government that is duly elected by the people by the defection of lawmakers, though may be legal, is a despicable act that should be abhorred by all parties. It simply implies total disregard of the wishes of the people who elected them.

The PR government may have lost its majority and its downfall inevitable but it could have been done in a more professional way in keeping with the provisions of the state constitution. It was disheartening to witness the way the duly elected and people-oriented government was ousted with little consideration for the sensitivities of the people who elected it.

As soon as the Pakatan MB was ordered to resign, police swiftly moved to take over the state secretariat, his office was emptied of all documents and all roads to his official residence were sealed off. It gave the impression that the whole process was pre-planned and executed with great precision, unlike other government policies.

There have been doubts cast on the reasons for defection of the assemblypersons especially with regards to monetary inducements and their integrity with impending corruption charges against two. Then there is the controversy regarding their status as assemblypersons, which is awaiting court decision.

Despite all these perceived controversies and uncertainties, the sultan decided to sack the incumbent Menteri Besar and his government and hastily rushed in to install the new Menteri Besar within 24hours, unlike 10 months ago when the Pakatan Rakyat, after winning the elections, had to wait for more than 2 weeks to be installed.

Although what the ruler has done may be legal in the eyes of the law but was it right? Is it what the rakyat want? In an era of advanced information technology and with a more informed populace it is unfortunate that the sultan's actions were criticized furiously over the cyberspace for his actions, which the people feel is unfair. All they wanted was a chance to re-elect their representatives in a snap election which the sultan refused.

The subsequent protest by ordinary citizens in Kuala Kangsar against installing the new BN Menteri Besar was unprecedented and was a clear sign of the people's displeasure and disapproval of the ruler's actions in giving in to the buying tactics of the ruling party. It was like in the duel between David and Goliath, the Sultan chose to side the latter although from small we are taught that David was right andshould win.

It is sad that the Perak royalty, which was so revered, has become the scorn and ridicule of the public. The people were so surprised that their ruler who was also a former Chief Justice, whom they respected so much could let them down when it really matted - right to choose their own government.

As a result of public resentment and anger,the installation of the new BN Exco was done under heavy police security without the presence of the most important element - the rakyat. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion for the people was conducted within the privacy of the palace walls under the scrutiny of the police and without the people. Sworn under such circumstances how can the new government claim to be a government of the people, for the people and by the people?

In this whole episode of forced change of the government in Perak the most glaring and disturbing fact was the way the people's wisdom and intellect have been grossly underestimated to the extent to be even insulted. The people today are more literate and wiser and are ready to assert their rights to choose the government and they will detest if denied that basic right, even by the revered royalty.

The people have demonstrated their high level of wisdom, intelligence and maturity at the last general election but unfortunately our politicians still do not seem to appreciate those calls for change that transcends race and religion. Instead of heeding the calls for change they continue to insult the wisdom and intelligence of the masses. In a highly sophisticated world there is no way anyone can stop the increasing maturity of the people.

Changing the legitimate government by political crossovers and buying of defectors is wrong and the people will punish these errant and wayward wakil rakyat when the time comes. Malaysians of all races are mature enough to do the right thing at the right time.
The politicians must realize that there are no short cuts to winning the hearts of the people other than by their hard work, honesty and integrity and that is the only way to from a lasting people-oriented government.

Dr.Chris Anthony
February 13, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Constitutional crisis in Perak

A constitutional crisis caused by the sultan

K Kabilan |
Malaysiakini Feb 6, 09 2:50pm

In what appears to be a unique situation, Perak by the end of today would have two menteris besar - Pakatan Rakyat’s Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin and Barisan Nasional’s Zambry Abd Kadir.

On one side, we have Mohd Nizar who is refusing to resign as requested by Sultan Azlan Shah. And on the other we have Zambry whom the sultan approved as BN seemed to have the majority of seats in the state assembly.

On the one hand, we have a MB who represents the majority in the state assembly as elected by the people in the last general election.

And on the other side, we will have a state head who becomes one by default as a result of defections.

sultan azlan and nizar jamaluddinMohd Nizar’s reasons to stick to his ground are quite valid. He is right in disputing the sultan’s request for him to step down as the new majority held by BN could seep away if the court rules in favour of the state speaker in declaring the three state seats vacant.

Never mind the court ruling – it may take some time to materialise. The least the sultan could have suggested was for a vote of confidence taken at the assembly before he asked Mohd Nizar to resign to give power to the BN.

However, the sultan was quite adamant on what he wanted – for Mohd Nizar to step down immediately and a few hours later he agreed to the appointment of Zambry as the new menteri besar.

He totally overruled Mohd Nizar’s repeated request for the dissolution of the state assembly, which would pave the way for fresh state elections.

And by doing what he has done, the sultan who was a former lord president and an eminent reader of the law had caused a constitutional crisis in the state of Perak.

In defence of the sultan

lim kit siang 201108DAP leader Lim Kit Siang put it rightly when he said that Mohd Nizar was still the legitimate menteri besar until he has been voted out by a "no confidence" motion in the state assembly.

“Until such time, there is no vacancy in the post of Perak menteri besar,” he said in his statement today.

In the defence of the sultan, it can be said that he read the state constitution rightly and literally in asking for the resignation of Mohd Nizar.

The sultan, rightly or wrongly, must have been convinced of what state Umno/BN leader Najib Abdul Razak told him during a meeting yesterday morning – that BN enjoyed the majority support in the state assembly.

najib pc on bn takeover of perak state with 4 aduns 050209The sultan also individually questioned the four defectors – of which three are independents and one had returned to Umno – of their support for the BN government.

He also got an undertaking from them that they will continue to support the new BN government.

And with that, the sultan decided that Mohd Nizar does not have the majority support of the assembly which the BN enjoyed now, and that there was no need to dissolve the assembly as he can ask the Pakatan government to step down and hand power over to the BN.

These are all fair and right as far as the sultan’s reading of the state constitution, especially the important Article 16(6) of the constitution.

And many legal experts will also agree with the sultan’s reading of the constitution, never mind the fact that the status of the three independents are still under dispute.

However, it must be said that while the sultan had used his legal mind to the matter, he had failed in thinking as the ruler of his subjects.

There are at least three factors that the sultan seemed to have missed in making his decision to hand over power to BN.

Is this what the rakyat want?

Firstly, the people’s wishes. During the last general election, they overwhelmingly voted for Pakatan Rakyat, giving the alliance the sufficient numbers to stake a majority in the state assembly.

The sultan has now reversed that by booting out that people-elected government and handed over the power to a coalition which failed to secure the sufficient numbers.

Even the victories of at least two of the three independents – both first time state assemblypersons - can be confidently said to be due to their party and not their personalities.

Thus, the best thing the sultan could have done was to send the matter back to the rakyat so that they can decide who they want to be in the state government.

“He is the guardian of his people. He must listen to their wishes. He cannot make a decision which the majority of his subjects do no approve,” said constitutional expert professor Abdul Aziz Bari.

“If we thought a constitutional crisis was looming yesterday, well it is with us today. Perak is facing a constitutional crisis and it is caused by its own sultan,” he added.

Abdul Aziz has a valid point. The sultan just needed to look at the various blogs, SMSes or even his own official website to get a glimpse of his rakyat’s thinking on the matter. He need not have to venture far out of his palace to determine the feeling of the people.

Can he stop further defections?

Secondly, the moral issue of letting a state government be formed with the aid of defectors, especially when some of them are scandal-tainted.

najib meet with sultan perak pc 050209 02The sultan could have advised BN to seek by-elections for the seats of the four defectors from Pakatan. He could have done this at the meeting with Najib. However, it is almost certain that BN would not have agreed to this as the outcome would not have been favourable at all.

Likewise, the four defectors themselves would not have agreed, simply because they could have been barred from contesting since they had resigned to allow the by-elections.

The sultan is learnt to have grilled the four defectors on the loyalty to the BN government. He had also sought and gained oral and written undertakings from them that they would not rock the new government.

But what’s the use of these undertakings. The sultan similarly took such undertakings from all Pakatan representatives last March before they could form the government and yet there were defections.

For all it matters, such undertakings are worthless. There is nothing to stop further defections from BN to Pakatan and the sultan would have to undergo the whole process all over again.

Given such circumstances, the sultan could have taken the best option out by dissolving the state assembly to call for a fresh mandate from the people.

What about his own convictions?

And finally, the sultan seemed to have forgotten his own convictions in such matters.

Flashback to 2004 – in his book, Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance, the sultan wrote:

"Under normal circumstances, it is taken for granted that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would not withhold his consent to a request for dissolution of parliament. His role is purely formal."

He also added that no sultan or agung had withheld consent to dissolve legislative body, except in Kelantan in 1977.

“With his decision now, it looks like what he wrote was just rhetoric...without any convictions,” added Abdul Aziz.

The decision of the sultan to deny Mohd Nizar’s request for the dissolution also indicated that the sultan had seemingly subjected himself to a higher political power play.

And coming in his 25th year as the state ruler – celebrations were held on Tuesday – the decision by the sultan in handing over powers to the BN government without his subjects having any say is very disappointing to say the least.

To put in bluntly, the decision of the sultan – who is the custodian of the people, their protector and someone who is suppose to act for the people – had just killed any semblance of democracy in the Perak.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Enough of unethical political game

Party-hopping must stop

THE recent political maneuverings in Perak for power has thrown the state into chaos that may take along time to recover. It is unfortunate that this political turmoil comes at a time of economic uncertainties. Instead of pooling all the resources to combat the coming recession our politicians have regrettably decided to embark on a political power game to take control of the state. Their actions reflect the quality and integrity of our elected representatives.

From what we are witnessing it appears obvious that party hopping by elected representatives is not only immoral and unethical but a highly corrupt practice as well, which the people are getting fed up and frustrated. A Member of Parliament (MPs) and state assemblymen crossing over to another party, although is wrong, is nothing new in Malaysian politics. You can call it whatever you want, cheating, disloyalty, betrayal or treachery, but it has been an established practice.
As usual, those who tend to lose claim it is wrong but those who benefit say it is perfectly all right as long as no monetary inducements are involved. They will go all out to justify their actions are in the interest of their constituents whom they serve.

Our MPs and state assemblymen are voted based mainly on the party to which they belong and less so on their individual qualities and merits. Therefore crossing over to another party after being elected is definitely not right and is morally wrong. It not only amounts to betraying the voters who have elected them but goes to show a lack of integrity and credibility on the part of the defector. It would only be right of them to return to their constituents to seek a fresh mandate to continue representing them if they want to defect to another party even their intentions are sincere and genuine.

It is time to introduce laws to check this practice of party hopping to protect the interest of the voters. It would be appropriate to declare a seat vacant and call fresh elections once its MP or state assemblyman crosses over to another political party.This would not only help check defections but also put pressure on the parties to be more stringent in the selection of their candidates.

MPs and state assemblymen are lawmakers who represent the people’s interests in Parliament and the State Assemblies. Their deliberations and debate on policies to be formulated will decide the present and shape the future of the nation and its citizens.

It is therefore of paramount importance that only those of high integrity and credibility are selected to be our wakil rakyat. There are no short cuts to winning the hearts of the people other than hard work, dedication and sincerity.

It is important for our wakil rakyat from both the ruling and opposition parties to get their priorities right. They must stop this political game for now, put aside their differences and unite to formulate sound and viable policies to steer the nation out of the economic tsunami that may hit us hard in the coming months.

Dr Chris Anthony

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