Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dato Mahadev Shankar: From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace

From a Culture of Violence
to a Culture of Peace
Dato' Mahadev Shankar,
Retired Appeals Court Judge, Malaysia

(The soft overcomes the hard;
water quenches fire)

First of all I want to thank Sokka Gakkai International, Sokka Gakkai Malaysia and the Physicians for Peace and Social Stability for inviting me to share my thoughts with you on a matter of life and death for human civilization as we know it.
Physicians for Peace and Social Responsibility are so called because their avowed aim is to promote well-being, not by means of the knife, but to stimulate the power of self-healing inherent in all mankind.
Two parables should help to focus our minds on the psychological parameters of the issue which now confronts us.
Akbar, undoubtedly the greatest Emperor India ever had ruled India from 1556 to 1605. Although illiterate himself he was a great humanist. He had six prime ministers, each representing the interests of his particular community. The Hindu was Birbal.
Birbal,” asked Akbar “Why are there so many cows and goats in my kingdom and so few tigers?
Birbal took Akbar to the zoo where he had packed one cage with a herd of hungry cattle and another with a dozen ravenous tigers.
Into the cattle pen he tossed in a bundle of hay. Each animal took a mouthful and withdrew to make way for the others behind.
Into the other he threw in a dead buffalo. All the tigers immediately converged to start a fight to the finish, because each one wanted to eat the entire carcass dead buffalo all by itself. The survivors could not have had many teeth left intact to enjoy the meal.
Thus violence is self-defeating.
My second story concerns a millionaire named McArthur (not General Douglas McArthur - our man was a wealthy farmer) who decided in 1938 that the USA was inevitably going to be sucked into Europe’s war with Germany. So he moved, far from the madding crowd, to a small island in the Pacific. It was Guadalcanal which, just five years later, became the most bitter battle ground in the Pacific theatre.
So we cannot opt out of trouble by running away from it, since there is no guarantee of safety in the face of global crises today.
Violence in any shape or form brings immediate suffering for its victims.
It becomes suffering for its perpetrators in the medium and long term because it never even succeeds partially in achieving its original purpose.
Take Vietnam in the face of the French and the Americans who came after them, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and Iraq at the receiving end of the political ambitions of Bush and Blair – all glaring examples of this fundamental truth.
To understand why in spite of this lessons the power brokers repeatedly make the same mistake we have to start at the beginning.
The film South Pacific is a musical set against a back-drop of island paradises. But out of character with all the other songs is this one which carries a powerful message as to where the seeds of the culture of violence are sown and then germinate.
Let me sing it to you now:
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
This is the kind of cultural programming which was institutionalized by Stalin, Hitler and Tojo.
By way of sharp contrast let’s take the Victoria Institution in our time. There was no racism there. In our school song we acknowledged our debt by praising the multi-racial fathers of our school. Down to this day I don’t look at Dato Kamarul and think he is a Malay. I don’t look at Dato McCoy and think here is a Eurasian of Scottish ancestry. We were taught that our school mates are just other human beings like us, each worthy of the dignity of any other human being.
Humanitarian values comes from a humanitarian education.
We here in Malaysia urgently need to determine whether it is not going to be too heavy a price to pay for breeding a single spectrum monocultural national identity.
To preserve social stability we must learn to value diversity.
And we must emphasize that truth and justice are universal values.
The engine riding on hate and fear is propelled by POWER and GREED.
In the 19th Century the fashionable definition of power was the capacity to bend another to one’s will. Today it is the capacity to direct how a nation’s resources shall be distributed.
Economic duress is the constant companion of military might and that is what the global culture of violence has become.
The worrying part of all this is that the ordinary individual seems totally impotent not just to prevent nation-states from going nuclear but to bring any meaningful pressure to bear on Governments to ensure that a nation’s wealth is distributed in a just and equitable way.
Our concern here today is to discover whether there is any way in which this trend can be reversed.
Can a culture of violence be transformed into a culture of peace? At first sight this question looks like an invitation to participate in an exercise of futility.
And indeed so it would be, if you thought you could wave a magic wand and immediately effect the desired transformation.
Don’t ever say I am only one sorry lonely man. What can I do to change things?
Remember that constant dripping wears away the hardest stone.
Constancy is a close cousin of other virtues - courage, confidence, and conviction.
Let’s take some examples close to home.
Chee Kim Tong was a humble bus conductor in the Trengannu Bus Company then owned by Lim Eng, Dato Lim Ah Lek’s father.
Those days it was the done thing if you knocked someone down on the East coast roads not to stop but to scoot to the next police station and come back with an escort.
When a bus knocked down someone outside Kemaman, the driver and all the passengers bolted off leaving Chee Kim Tong to face a mob of parang wielding villagers. He disarmed everyone of them without any weapons except his martial arts skills, which can be traced back to my eternal hero, an itinerant Buddhist Indian monk – Daruma – who created the art of ShaoLin, the prototype of every other form of Asian martial art whose core message was that it was a discipline for the purification of the human mind and not a tool for bullying others.
Statistically the control freaks in whom power and material wealth are concentrated only form about 0.1% of the countries they lord over. How such a small minority manages to hold sway over the multitude is one of the great paradoxes of human history.
But mercifully history is replete with individuals who have wrought great cultural changes armed only with the force of their personalities and the justice of their cause.
Buddha was not born in Britain, Jesus was not a Japanese, and Muhammad was not a Malaysian Bumiputra.
This is a very important observation because these prophets are revered not only in the country of their birth but all the world over.
However potent their personalities and however meritorious the justice of their cause they would not have acquired their universal validity if the means were not at hand to spread the message.
We have today the Internet, which spreads information at the speed of light.
With such an ally our capacity for reform is limitless.
Do visit the website and you will find a host of great leaders there to inspire you.
One caught my eye. She was called Peace Pilgrim – a woman who just walked across America spreading her simple message and thereby accelerated the end of the Vietnam war.
Have you noticed that when a tree of a particular species flowers, all the other trees of that species world-wide follow suit.
Civilisations also share that characteristic. Akbar’s reign was contemporaneous with the Renaissance in Europe, and the Ming Dynasty in China. These kingdoms were far apart and yet they reached their zenith in terms of artistic and cultural achievement together.
I am optimistic that we are on the verge of a new Renaissance.
Despite the apparent might of greedy power brokers and warmongers we have more than an even chance to transform the culture of violence to a culture of peace.
We need to empower ourselves by making common cause with others who share our aspirations.
We need to discard our fears.
We must become living proof of our capacity for compassion.
As we gain momentum we will surely become a global force that cannot be ignored.
The transformation we so earnestly desire must take place because however hard-hearted a person is, there is nothing so troublesome as a guilty conscience.
Cyberspace is a huge mirror from which power crazy persons cannot escape looking at themselves.
The weapons of war have changed over time in the pursuit of the capacity to out-reach one’s enemies in terms of speed and range. The tragedy of nuclear weapons is that this differential has been bridged between its opponents. Even a pre-emptive strike will be followed by mutually assured destruction.
Fortunately the art of war must always remain the same because of the limitations of the human beings who want to wage it. And they are the ones we must redeem by getting them involved in our commitment to a culture of peace.
Let us rise to our ultimate challenge, which is to get everyone to share our belief that service to humanity is the best work of life.
Shah Alam
2nd September 2007
My Comments (DQ): 
This insightful speech was given at one of Sokka Gakkai-PPSR Peace Meeting to commemorate the Hiroshima-Nagasaki nuclear bombing, some years ago, by a man of great erudition and humanism, Dato' Mahadev Shankar, retired Appeals Court Judge, Malaysia. 
Humanist wisdom and lyrical aspirations which are of a bygone era, when men of such elusive distinction can still evoke forgotten mystic chords of compassion and advocacy for peace and non-violence....

Friday, January 29, 2010


By Kua Kia Soong, 11 Jan 2010
Come all you young rebels
And list while I sing
For love of one’s country is a terrible thing
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame
And makes us all part of the patriot game…”
These plaintive yet stirring lines from an old Irish republican song also inspired Bob Dylan’s “With God on our side”. As we hear of more Malaysians emigrating (300,000 in the last eighteen months?) and their reasons for doing so, allow me to write about my own part in the patriot game…
When I was a young rebel in the Seventies, I received the news that my brother-in-law and eldest sister were emigrating to Australia with pious indignation. I felt that despite the injustices, Malaysians should stay and fight for our rights while helping to build the country.
It was easy for me to say as a propertyless and angry young man. But could I honestly feel how my brother-in-law felt as a Professor of Medicine in the University of Malaya , watching the compromises to academic excellence in the name of bumiputeraism and suffering the indignity of being systematically bypassed in his career advancement? 
His warning of the possible de-recognition of MU’s MBBS degree by the British Medical Council was not heeded and this became a reality in the Eighties. The rest is history…
Today, I am not as sanguine as I was in my youth except to feel a sadness that talented Malaysians are forced to leave the land where they were born in order to pursue their careers in other countries.
Has the government cared to record how many Malaysian talents have been lost to other countries since 1969 and how much this translates into economic terms?
In my family alone, our country has lost not only a Professor of Radiology (my brother-in-law), but also a Professor of Psychological Medicine (my brother at NUS). His daughter is an A&E specialist in Singapore and we have three other psychiatrists abroad (a cousin in Ottawa , my nephew in Newcastle and another cousin in Singapore ). 
Two other young cousins are doctors in Singapore , while two more nieces have just graduated as doctors from Imperial College. I doubt they will be coming to practice in Malaysia . Our own daughter will be graduating as a doctor next year and we have to keep our fingers crossed whether she will return to practice here.
A colleague of mine in the Eighties had four children who were all accomplished  academics at MIT, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge. In the housing estate we live in, practically every household has children studying or working abroad and some of them have truly illustrious careers, all lost to other countries. Apart from our medical professionals, many talented professionals in LLN, JKR, KTM, RRI have been forced to seek employment overseas ever since the “bumiputera policy” came into being.
Barry Wain has counted the glaring costs of Mahathir’s rule. He puts it at RM100 billion! Maybe someone should count the collateral damage of the bumiputera policy since 1969.
Has any UMNO leader expressed regret or remorse over this brain drain? No! These “drained brains” have been greeted with “good riddance!” at UMNO general assemblies through the years since all the Umnoputras are more concerned about the dubious figures proclaiming a higher proportion of bumiputera representation in the professions.
No doubt the recent torching of churches has sickened many Malaysians and will prompt more to emigrate.
Our so-called “nation builders” and “outside-the-box” thinkers seem incapable of producing a “win-win” situation that can prevent this brain drain while building national unity. Wasn’t it Robert Frost who said “Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country”?  
My First Stirrings of Patriotism
Patriotism is indeed a “terrible” thing – when the Irish use the adjective “terrible” they mean something equivalent to “awesome” rather than “contemptible”.
The pogrom of May 13, 1969 had left me and many other Malaysians with a nasty taste. I had just completed my Higher School Certificate (A levels). Soon after, I saved up enough to buy a ticket to London and borrowed a month’s living expences from my sister.
During those early years of sojourn in London , my first instinctive “patriotic” feelings were kindled whenever I met British people who would ask me where I was from. After I had told them I was from Malaysia , they would invariably add:
I suppose you won’t be going back there no more then…”
Without a moment’s hesitation and recognizing the pre-supposition behind that statement, I always replied:
“Yes, I am. I’m certainly going back to my country when I’ve finished my studies!”
I’ve kept true to that undertaking I made to myself even though these British people I met were just strangers in the pub or in the street. That’s not just patriotism, that’s integrity to myself.
A Choice in the Seventies
Then when I was at university in 1975, I suddenly got a letter from the British Home Office asking me to send them my passport since they suspected that my leave of stay in the UK had expired. Weeks later, I got my passport back with a letter saying:
I am writing to say that the time limit and conditions attached to your leave to enter the United Kingdom have been removed…You are now free to remain permanently in the United Kingdom. You do not require permission from a Government Department to take or change employment in England , Wales or Scotland and you may engage in business or a profession …”
                                                                     (The Under Secretary of State, 6 March 1975)
Until today, some people I meet still ask if I’ll be emigrating to the UK since my kids are studying in the UK and I have a British wife. My answer is always:
If I had wanted to emigrate, I would have done so in the Seventies!”
When I finally finished my PhD, I returned to “build my homeland” in the early Eighties. I could have stayed and enjoyed a good bourgeois existence in Britain enjoying the English countryside, good ale and the arts but my social conscience would have got the better of me ere too long…
Back in Malaysia at the end of 1982, apart from working I wrote profusely in response to many issues confronting our society during that time. It was a period when the press was relatively freer and while it was “owned by the MCA”, it was “edited by the MIC for the DAP”, as we used to say. 
It turned out to be a false spring. The Eighties were the heyday of activism in the country which culminated in the “Operation Lalang” crackdown. The BN government showed its appreciation of my nation building efforts by arresting and detaining me without trial during Operation Lalang in October 1987.
ISA “Rehabilitation”
Detention without trial under the ISA is a good test of one’s patriotism. During the first sixty days of solitary confinement when the Special Branch was trying to “rehabilitate” me, I remember they had a three-pronged approach to my rehabilitation programme (sic), viz.:
(i)  Why don’t you emigrate since you have a British wife rather than “cause trouble” here?
(ii)   Why don’t you join the Barisan Nasional instead of always siding with the Opposition?
(iii)   Why can’t you be like Khoo Khay Kim instead of speaking for those Chinese educationists?
To the first question, I told them I was a Malaysian who had come home to serve the country. To the second, I said it was against my principles to join racist political parties. To the third, I said, “You’ve already got one Khoo Khay Kim, why do you want another one?”
During those weeks of harrowing interrogation, they also wanted to know about my activities when I was in the UK . At one stage, they asked me if I had ever written to the British press. When I couldn’t recall what they were getting at, they produced a news cutting of an article I had written to “The Guardian” in the Seventies. It was a critique of an article in the paper by the famous writer Anthony Burgess in which he had written patronisingly about the old colonial stereotypes of Malaysian society.
There,” I pointed out, “there you have perfect evidence of my multi-ethnic perspective and my defence of our country, the opposite of what you are making me out to be!”      
Of course they knew what I was made of but still, they sent me to Kamunting Rehabilitation Camp on a two-year detention order for being “a threat to national security”.
At Kamunting, the so-called “rehabilitation” programme included a weekly “assembly” during which we were supposed to sing the national anthem as if we were back at school and to make a pledge (Ikrar) of allegiance to the king, country and the Rukunegara. Many of us “hardcore” did not participate in this vacuous token of “patriotism”. It brought home the scathing quote by Samuel Johnson that,
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
The American humorist Kin Hubbard adds:
The less a politician amounts to, the more he loves the flag.”
While in detention, my wife and I made the decision to change our six-year-old son’s British passport to a Malaysian one since otherwise, he would have to leave the country with his mother every two months to have it stamped. When some of my Camp inmates heard about this they exclaimed:
What! You mad ah? As soon as we’re released, we’ll be leaving this country! You crazy lah, giving up his British passport for a Malaysian one!”
Several of these Operation Lalang jail birds have flown and good luck to them. Patriotism is not something that you can foist on people. People make choices according to what they have experienced, especially in today’s globalised world. They certainly love the country where they were born and grew up but alas, the country does not seem to love them in return but instead robbed them of their precious freedom.
Would you defend your country with your life?
In recent years, there has been plenty of breast beating among the Umnoputras, with  flag waving, keris kissing and singing of patriotic songs. But how many of these Umnoputras can proudly stand up and say that they patriotically took part in the liberation war against the British colonialists and the Japanese fascists?
Hardly any!
Yet, how many Malayan patriots have given their lives in these two campaigns? Have they ever been honoured by the country they defended?
They were honoured by the Allies for their valour during the anti-Japanese resistance after the Second World War in London . Have our historians exposed those who collaborated with the Japanese fascists during the Second World War - the “quislings who sold out the patriot game”?
At least one man, Chin Peng can claim that he achieved this and today he merely wants the opportunity to visit his homeland that he defended against British colonialism and Japanese fascism but he is unable to do this! If he were an Irish republican, Chin Peng might be inspired to sing this other republican song I have adapted:
Show me the man
“Where is the man who does not love
The land where he was born
Who does not speak of it with pride
No matter how forlorn
I only know that I love mine
And long again to see
Oppression banished from our land
And ( Malaysia ) truly free…
Let friends all turn against me
Let foes say what they will
For my heart is in my country
And I love our people still
There is not a (Malaysian) today
Who’d ever wish to roam
Into a foreign land to toil
 If he could stay at home
So give to us our liberty
Let our banners be unfurled
Then (Malaysians) will prove to be
A credit to the world!”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WSJ-Najb Razak: Finding Unity in Malaysia's Diversity

Finding Unity in Malaysia's Diversity

The government is working to resolve the 'Allah' issue and preserve a fair and open society.

WSJ: JANUARY 25, 2010, 1:38 P.M. ET 

 In contrast to the impressions left by some international reporting, in the hours and days after the recent vandalism of churches and other places of worship in Malaysia, the true spirit of our nation has shone through. Across religions and races, Malaysians have spoken with a unified voice in condemning the despicable acts of a few. Citizens have joined as one to assert that vandalism is never an acceptable way to express diverse views or resolve differences.

Many measures have been taken to counter this violence. Muslim groups volunteered to safeguard churches in their towns. Muslim social activists have written petitions to oppose these senseless acts of vandalism. Muslim civic groups are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Christians, Hindus and Buddhists to ensure that all people can freely worship as they wish. Christian and civic leaders have urged calm and interfaith dialogue; they are fully aware that those who perpetrated these acts do not represent the Muslim majority in Malaysia. I saw this first hand when I visited the Metro Tabernacle Church to meet with the pastor and to commit support for rebuilding.

Let us be honest in recognizing that religious beliefs are deeply held, and in the legal case currently pending related to non-Muslims' use of the word "Allah" in Malay-language publications, there are passionate views on many sides. As a nation, we will work together to resolve this issue.

Malaysia is certainly not the first country where a few individuals commit criminal acts under the false pretence of supporting a particular religion. But I am determined that the vandalism of places of worship and arson at the Tabernacle in recent days—and the powerful response from everyday Malaysians—can be transformed into a moment from which we can learn.


We must resolve to maintain a fair and open society where there is opportunity for all Malaysians to flourish. My administration is liberalizing ownership requirements in key sectors of our economy; encouraging foreign direct investment in an era of globalization; creating 1Malaysia clinics to provide access to health care; and extending educational opportunities to all Malaysians.

These reforms have sometimes been politically difficult. But they are important because the long-term health of Malaysia's society and the economy can only be built on what unites us rather than what divides us. We will not waver from the pursuit of 1Malaysia. While there may be some who debate this approach, there is room for open discussion and consideration about how we realize this vision of a strong, fair nation.

Many Malaysians have been appalled by the irresponsible and dangerous finger-pointing of a few politicians who put personal political interests before Malaysia's national interest. They try to score political points by hammering on sensitive issues. My government chooses a different path. We will reach out to all parts of Malaysian society in the coming days to foster open dialogue and work to resolve sensitive issues together.

While one church was damaged and others were vandalized, along with a Sikh temple and Muslim prayer rooms, the values we hold dear—religious freedom, tolerance, peace and fairness—remain the bedrock of our nation.

The diversity of our population is the true strength of our country. Across races and across religions, this is the foundation upon which we will advance 1Malaysia. It represents a great challenge but, together, it can be our greatest achievement.

Mr. Najib is prime minister of Malaysia.

WSJ-Anwar Ibrahim: Muslims Have No Monopoly over 'Allah'

Muslims Have No Monopoly over 'Allah'

Malaysia finds itself on tenterhooks because minority issues

Malaysia has once again resurfaced in international headlines for the wrong reasons. Over the last two weeks, arsonists and vandals attacked 10 places of worship, including Christian churches and Sikh temples. Though there were no injuries and the material damage is reparable, the same cannot be said about the emotional and psychological scars left behind. After numerous conflicting statements from government officials, the underlying causes of the violence are still unaddressed. Malaysia's reputation as a nation at peace with its ethnic and religious diversity is at stake.

Malaysia's poor handling of religious and sectarian issues is not unique. The ill treatment of minority groups in Muslim countries is often worse than the actions Muslims decry in the West. I have called attention to the broader need in the Muslim world for leadership that demonstrates consistency and credibility in our call for justice, fairness and pluralism. These values are embedded in the Islamic tradition as the higher objectives of Shariah expounded by the 12th-century jurist al-Shatibi.

We have seen Muslims around the world protest against discriminatory laws passed in supposedly liberal and progressive countries in the West. Yet just as France and Germany have their issues with the burqa and Switzerland with its minarets, so too does Malaysia frequently fail to offer a safe and secure environment that accommodates its minority communities.

The recent arson attacks exemplify what's wrong with the way Malaysia regards its non-Muslim citizens. The attacks were provoked by a controversy over the use of the word "Allah" by Malaysia's Christian community, which numbers over two million, or about 10% of the population. In late 2007, the Home Ministry banned the use of the word by the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, and later confiscated 15,000 copies of Malay-language Bibles imported from Indonesia in which the word for
God is translated as "Allah."

A Dec. 31, 2009 ruling by the Kuala Lumpur High Court overruled the earlier ban, asserting constitutional guarantees regarding the freedom of religion in Malaysia. Since then, an already tense situation boiled over, largely due to incitement by a few reckless politicians, the mainstream media and a handful of nongovernmental organizations linked by membership and leadership to the United Malays National Organization, the ruling party.

For example, Utusan Malaysia, the nation's largest Malay-language daily—which is also owned by UMNO—has inflamed Muslim religious sentiments by accusing non-Muslims of desecrating the name of the "Muslim" God and alleging a Christian conspiracy to overrun this predominantly Muslim nation through conversion. I have seen these incendiary propaganda techniques used before, when politicians and demagogues exploit public sentiment to garner support by fomenting fear.

Such tactics are useful diversions from embarrassing scandals ranging from controversial court decisions, to allegations of exorbitant commissions extracted from military procurements, to the theft of two jet engines from the inventory of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. This behavior has been exacerbated since the ruling party lost its two-thirds majority in parliament last year. UMNO is now desperately struggling to regain public support.

Few Muslims around the world would endorse the claim that we have a monopoly on the word "Allah." It is accepted that the word was already in the lexicon of pre-Islamic Arabs. Arabic's sister Semitic languages also refer to God as "Allah": namely, "Elaha" in Aramaic, and "Elohim" in Hebrew.

Historical manuscripts prove that Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christian and Jews have collectively prayed to God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, as "Allah" for over 1,400 years. The history of Islam in Southeast Asia is known for its pluralistic and inclusive traditions, and amicable relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been the norm for generations.

Muslim scholars outside of Malaysia thus find our "Allah" issue absurd and cannot fathom why it has sparked protest and outrage. Minority Muslim populations living in the West, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, have diligently tried to remind the public that Muslims, Christians and Jews share common Abrahamic roots and ultimately worship the same God.

Local sensitivities have been aroused over this issue. They should be handled through dialogue and engagement. Instead of permeating a sense of insecurity or a siege mentality, Muslims must be encouraged to engage and present their concerns to the Christians in a constructive manner. The example of Muslim Spain is a moment in our history to which Malaysian Muslims should aspire. But efforts toward fostering a convivencia are not only found in the past.

The ongoing "Common Word" initiative, a global effort launched in 2007 that captured the support of over 130 of the world's most prominent Muslim scholars, has made historic progress towards building goodwill among Muslims and Christians to find ways to live in sincere peace and harmony. It is ironic that noble efforts such as these are being undone by the actions of Muslims themselves.

Malaysia's international reputation has taken a beating since Prime Minister Najib Razak was sworn in last year. Despite his efforts to promote national unity, news about the caning of a young Muslim woman charged with drinking, the mutilation of a cow head in protest of the construction of a Hindu temple, ill treatment of Muslim converts who revert to their earlier faith and even the outlawing of the practice of yoga by Muslims have many at home and abroad wondering which direction Malaysia is headed under Mr. Najib's leadership.

There are already misgivings about governance, human rights, the rule of law and rampant corruption; Malaysia dropped 10 spots on Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perception Index, our worst showing in over 15 years. The vision of Malaysia as a peaceful and stable location for investment, tourism and migration is now in peril.

This matters most for Malaysians who have to contend with an increasingly polarized social and political landscape. Malaysia cannot afford to be held hostage by the vested interests of a few who manipulate faith and identity as a means to elicit fear for political and economic gain.

This is old politics, and it has become clear that those who incite hatred are only doing so to prolong their monopoly on power. The majority of Malaysians reject this approach.

They realize that overcoming the challenges we face—a stagnant economy, declining educational standards and rising crime—depends on our ability as a nation to internalize and make real the principles of fairness and justice to all.
Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, is a member of parliament for the Justice Party and leader of the opposition.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Malaysian Insider: Righting a wrong — By NH Chan

Righting a wrong — By NH Chan

JAN 26 — What is the duty of a judge? It is to administer justice according to law. It is the simplest duty in the world. Anyone with integrity who is fair-minded can be a judge. This is why I have always tried to impress on my readers that it is so easy to be a judge.

The hyperbole of the unjust judges who have been telling us in their unjust decisions that the words in a statute mean whatever they want them to mean, will no longer be tolerated by us common folk. The common people of this country will be able to expose the Humpty Dumpty judges for what they really are.

The general public is no longer gullible. Unjust judges can no longer mask their hyperbole judgments with unintelligible garbage. This is possible today because most people now know how to judge the judges.

It is this awareness of the true meaning of justice that the common man can judge the judges. Anyone can be a judge. All that you need to be one is to be fair-minded yourself and to show by your conduct and behaviour in a court of law that you deal out impartial justice – for justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. The other attribute of a judge is to administer justice according to law.

Shortly stated, justice means that the judge’s duty is to do the right thing. The right thing to do is to deal out impartial justice. The right thing to do is also to apply the law as it stands. As the late Lord Denning once said, The Discipline of Law, page 8:

One thing you will not be able to avoid – the nervousness before the case starts. Every advocate knows it. … No longer now that I am a Judge. The tension is gone. The anxiety – to do right – remains. (the emphasis is mine)

In the case of Tan Ying Hong v Tan Sian San and Ors, the Federal Court on Thursday, 21 January 2010, held that its decision in Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Boonsom Boonyanit in 2000 was wrongly decided and therefore not to be followed. By so deciding this Federal Court has done the right thing.

Chief Justice Zaki Azmi said that “he was legally obligated to restate the law since the error committed was so obvious and blatant”.

Comprising the panel of this Federal Court were Chief Justice Zaki Azmi, Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, President Court of Appeal, Arifin Zakaria, CJ (Malaya), Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and James Foong Cheng Yuen FC JJ. Doing the right thing is the duty of every judge. Here, these judges did the right thing; they applied the statute as it stands.

But do you recognise or remember these judges?

Three of them were among the infamous five who decided Zambry v Sivakumar in the Federal Court. In case you have forgotten who the infamous five were, they were Alauddin Mohd Sheriff PCA, Arifin Zakaria CJ(M), Nik Hashim Ab. Rahman, Augustine Paul and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin FCJJ. The story exploded on the front page of the Star newspaper of Friday, 17 April 2009 with the startling headline, “Court: Siva does not have right to suspend seven”. The report reads:

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal court has unanimously ruled that Perak Assembly Speaker V Sivakumar does not have the power to suspend the Mentri Besar Datuk Zambry Abd Kadir and six executive council members from attending the assembly. … Court of Appeal president Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, who chaired a five-men panel yesterday, said the Speaker’s decision to suspend the seven applicants was ultra vires (outside the law) and invalid.

In an article that was posted on the Internet I wrote:

This is a perverse judgment of the Federal Court. It is perverse because it is a decision that was made in blatant defiance of Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution that says, “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”. The judges of the Federal Court have failed the people and the government of this country when they chose to ignore the law of the Constitution of Malaysia. In other words the judges have refused to do justice according to law.

Incidentally, ultra vires does not mean “outside the law”. It means “outside one’s jurisdiction, beyond the scope of one’s power or authority”. And we may ask, who is the Federal Court to say what is beyond the jurisdiction of the Speaker when the supreme law of the country says, “the validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

So you are now aware that the same three judges were members of the infamous five in Zambry v Sivakumar. These three blatantly refused to apply Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution as it stands. Until they recant from what they had done ignominiously in Zambry v Sivakumar they will not be forgiven. Their name will remain in infamy until they take steps to redress the wrong that they had done. Remember this: “The evil that men do lives after them.” – Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2.

And what about Chief Justice Zaki Azmi, is he to remain unscathed?

I shall refer to some excerpts from my book How to Judge the Judges, 2nd edition, so that you can judge the Chief Justice for yourself. See An Addendum to the Asean Security Paper Mills’ Case, on page xxxix of the book:

If you will recall, see p 181 et seq. when the Federal Court overruled the decision of the Court of Appeal it resulted in the insured plaintiff Asean Security Paper Mills Sdn Bhd obtaining judgment against the insurers on their policy of fire insurance in respect of the goods destroyed in the fire. One of the insurers then applied under r 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995 for a review. The application for a review was turned down by the Federal Court in Asean Security Paper Mills Sdn Bhd v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd [2008] 5 AMR 377 (Abdul Hamid Mohamad CJ, Zaki Azmi PCA and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin FCJ).

As you would probably know the judgment of PS Gill J (as he was then) in the High Court was an unjust decision. An appeal by the insurers to the Court of Appeal was allowed. But the Federal Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal – You can read all about it in the book. But what is very disturbing is the reason given by the Federal Court in rejecting the application for a review by the insurance company. This is what Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad said, p 382 of the law report:

However, I accept that, in very limited and exceptional cases, this court does have the inherent jurisdiction to review its own decision. I must stress again that this jurisdiction is very limited in its scope and must not be abused. I have no difficulty in accepting that inherent jurisdiction may be exercised in the following instances: …

I have commented in my book that to review an unjust decision is not an abuse of the inherent jurisdiction of the court to review its own decision. The Chief Justice continues:

… where there is a clear infringement of statutory law. In this respect, a clear example would be where the court has mistakenly applied a repealed law. But, where it is a matter of interpretation or application of the law, it is in my view not a suitable case for review. The judgment of this court in Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Kobchai Sosothikul [2005] 1 AMR 501 does throw some light in this respect. (I have supplied the emphasis)

At pages xlii, xliii of the book, I said:

This is a shocking thing to say. What if the statute is plain enough – where the language is so clear that even a child could understand it – what is there for the judge to interpret (“interpret” means “explain the meaning of”) in such a case?

For instance, there is Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution where it says:

72(1) The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.

Those words mean what they say. Yet we have encountered judges of the Federal Court who have refused to apply this constitutional provision as it stands under the guise of interpretation – “the court was the best place to seek interpretation of the Constitution”, said a Minister.

In What Next in the Law, Lord Denning said, p 319:

Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.

Lord Denning also said at p 380:

May not the judges themselves sometimes abuse or misuse their power? It is their duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it – and do so knowingly – they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.

So then how could the Chief Justice say “where it is a matter of interpretation or application of the law, it is in my view not a suitable case for a review”? What is most shocking is that the Chief Justice approved the unjust decision of PS Gill FCJ in Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Kobchai Sosothikul [2005] I AMR 501 when the words in s 340 of the National Land Code are so clear and unambiguous that even a child can understand it. Yet the judge refused to apply the law as it stands by deciding that it was not a suitable case for review. This is what PS Gill FCJ said, at p 507:

If the application of r 137 is made liberally the likely consequence would be chaos to our system of judicial hierarchy. There would then be nothing to prevent any aggrieved litigant from challenging any decision on the ground of “injustice” vide r 137.

So that we have judges in the Federal Court, even the then Chief Justice himself, who hold the view that if justice is not administered according to law, that is, if the judge did not apply the statute law as it stands, it is not a suitable case for review. Injustice is also not a ground. Zaki Tun Azmi PCA (as he then was, he is now the Chief Justice) gave a similar concurring judgment.

So there is no hope for the estate of Mrs Boonyanit, she has died. The highest court has even confirmed the perverse judgment of the unjust judges.

So there you have it, Chief Justice Zaki Azmi has confirmed the unjust decisions of two Federal Courts against poor Mrs Boonyanit. Although today Zaki Azmi, the current Chief Justice, has held that the decision of former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin in Adorna Properties v Boonsom Boonyanit was blatantly wrong, nevertheless, he has confirmed that it is still not a suitable case for review. Injustice is still not a ground for review by the Federal Court of its own judgment even though the injustice was the result of an injustice brought about by a judge in not applying the statute as it stands.

Now that Chief Justice Zaki Azmi has taken the right step to do the right thing, the task is now upon him to put right the injustice done to the late Mrs Boonyanit and to her estate. It is an onerous duty to right a wrong. He will be judged by what he would do next. Almost everyone knows how to judge a judge today. So be warned!

And lastly what about James Foong FCJ, is he entirely blameless?

He was one of the five judges who gave the unanimous decision of Jamaluddin & Ors v Sivakumar in the Federal Court. To refresh your memory, I refer to the story in the New Straits Times of Friday, April 10, 2009:

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has declared that three assemblymen who quit their parties are still members of the Perak state legislature. This follows an unanimous ruling by a five-men bench yesterday which ruled that “The Election Commission is the rightful entity to establish if there was a casual vacancy in the Perak state legislature,” said Federal Court judge Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sherff. Sitting with him were Datuk Ariffin Zakaria, Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman, Datuk Seri S Augustine Paul and Datuk James Foong.

I posted an article on the Internet where I wrote:

What do you think of the quality of these judges of the highest court in the country? You must think that after all the rigmarole and after all the effort in writing this 20 page judgment, they could have done better. But no, they still missed the point altogether. All of us ordinary folk knew the answer. But not those five judges.

Of course, the point is Article 33(1) of the Perak Constitution that says that when a question arises whether a person is disqualified from being a member of the Assembly, the decision (meaning “the vote”) of the Assembly is final. It is neither the Speaker nor the Election Commissioner who determines if a person is disqualified from being a member of the assembly.

I then went on to say:

If a person resigns his membership of the Legislative Assembly, he shall be disqualified from being a member of the Assembly for five years from the date of his resignation: see Article 31(5).

Article 35 only says that a member can resign simply by writing to the Speaker.

So that if any question arises as to the resignation of the three turncoat assemblymen – a person who resigns his membership of the assembly is disqualified for five years from being a member of the legislative assembly – the decision of the assembly by a vote being taken on their disqualification shall be final. It is only after a member of the assembly has been disqualified for membership of the legislative assembly that a vacancy of the member’s seat in the assembly arises. It is only then that a casual vacancy arises.

Must James Foong FCJ redeem himself for the wrong he did in Jamaluddin v Sivakumar. In that case he failed to do his duty as a judge by not applying the law as it stands. He had lent his name to a perverse decision by agreeing to it.

* This article is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Malaysiakini-Manjit Bhatia: Soros was dead right about Mahathir

Soros was dead right about Mahathir
Manjit Bhatia
malaysiakini, Jan 26, 10, 12:40pm

What's the difference between former Malaysian premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Nothing.
Both are charlatans. Both are racist to their core. Both must be condemned without hesitation and reservation.

Ahmadinejad has been adamant that the Jewish holocaust during Hitler's reign was a figment of Western imagination. Worse, it was a conspiracy to hoodwink the rest of the world into offering sympathy to the Jewish race and the Jewish state of Israel.

Mahathir is renowned for his anti-Semiticism. Recall, during the height of the late nineties financial crisis when he blamed billionaire George Soros and his Quantum Fund for trying to bring the Malaysian economy to its knees.
sept 11 911 attack world trade centre new york  110906
All that without a shred of evidence. For which he was pasted by Soros, calling Mahathir a 'menace to his own country'. Soros was dead right.

Nevertheless Mahathir has continued with his imbecilic rants. Last week he suggested that if Americans can make 'Avatar', the world's top-grossing film, so spectacularly and convincingly, then they must have also manufactured their own bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York and elsewhere in and around Washington, DC and all this just to pin blame on the world's Muslims.

Mahathir has never been one to depend on cold, hard evidence. He banged up Anwar Ibrahim without a cantlet of evidence, and countless other times when he willfully nabbed and jailed under the Stalinist ISA his critics and opponents.

You can be sure people like Ahmadinejad who are Mahathir's ardent fans would have applauded him.

And Malaysians across the races have long put Mahathir on a pedestal. They even called him an international 'statesman'. Je was even named him 'Man of the Millennium'.

Go figure: Why reward a desperate xenophobic and devious dictator with ludicrous titles and banal praise?

Racist neo-nationalism
So what's Mahathir's motive for making such inane comments? Is it politically calculated?
Mahathir is a crass populist. Always has been. Read Barry Wain's book 'The Malaysian Maverick', thus far 'refused sale' in Malaysia. It's code for banning the book.

Such oft-contradictory idiocy by the Malaysian ministers and their bureaucratic class has stopped amazing me a long time ago. Idiocy is expected, by nature, in Malaysian political life.

Mahathir has always used his brand of Malay-ness (despite his Indian ancestry, of which he refuses to discuss or even accept, wholly usurping his Malay mother's side and crafting his 'Malay' identity through this), his brand of racist neo-nationalism, his brand of Islam, which can warp from time to time depending on his political agenda, and melding all of these into pushing forth his authoritarianism by centralising power in his hands for 22 years.

Except for the reprehensible sections of the world who see authoritarianism and the brutalising of human rights as a virtue whilst they cronyistically siphon off the wealth of their own countries, the rest of the world has ignored Mahathir. And this cuts him up.
bukit gantang by election mahathir ceramah and luncheon 060409 08
The US embassy in Kuala Lumpur refused to comment, not because they didn't want to buy into his tired baloney, but because he's just not worth their time.

Mahathir is a tired, angry old fogey who craves attention. He fears his growing irrelevance amongst his adoring Muslim brotherhood, at least of the monied class, and even amongst those in Malaysia who have supported him.

The next generation of Malaysians, including Malays, may not know Mahathir any more than they will know much else given the parlous and shameful state of Malaysian education, which borders on the lunacy of inwardness, irrelevance and incompetence.

Which explains so-called policies such as '1Malaysia' and the National Civics Bureau - all baldfaced attempts that seek, in fact, to ideologically indoctrinate innocuous Malays, pitting them against non-Malays on the basis of barefaced lies and institutionalised racism.

Even the Malaysian constitution, so bastardised since independence by ruling Malaysian politicians, defends and embeds institutionalised racism, almost on par with the former apartheid system in South Africa.

Such massive corruption
Mahathir is a menace to his country, even in retirement. Nobody is telling him to shut up. He has every democratic right to voice his opinions. It's a pity that he disenfranchised these same democratic rights from the rest of the Malaysian citizenry during his 'lordship' except for his cronies, whom he helped enrich at the expense of the bulk of other Malaysians.

Mahathir not only lied to them; he also cheated his 'own' Malays, many of whom continue to live at the same level of poverty that corruption chargesprevious generations had in the 1950s and 60s. The New Economic Policy was a spectacular failure.

Mahathir's 'The Malay Dilemma' was a joke aimed at delivering him and his cronies to the pinnacle of power.

Mahathirism is laughable because it only fanned such massive corruption throughout Malaysia that today it reaches every echelon of the cabinet, bureaucracy and security forces, including the hopelessly incompetent police force.

Mahathir had presided over this corruption in full knowledge. He should be hammered from all sides for this, and for his diehard racism.

He must be constantly reminded that he's not god, any more than he may think that he's above the law. But the gutless Najib Abdul Razak regime won't even dare touch him.

MANJIT BHATIA, an academician and writer, is also research director of AsiaRisk, a political, economic and risk analysis consultancy in Australia. He specialises in international economics and politics, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Asia Times Online: God as politics in Malaysia

God as politics in Malaysia
By Fabio Scarpello,  Southeast Asia, Asia Times, Jan 16, 2010

DENPASAR, Bali - The escalating Allah controversy that has resulted in the bombing of Christian churches across Malaysia has called into question the country's moderate Muslim credentials and could have major repercussions for political alliances that underpin the United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO)-led coalition government.

Both main political blocs - UMNO and the Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition coalition - have bid to capitalize on the violence, which has devolved from an obscure freedom of expression issue into a volatile matter of internal security that could potentially determine the government's political survival.

UMNO has so far come out the worse for wear with its credibility shaken and reputation bruised by perceptions it has tacitly condoned the violence targeting Christians. Political analysts believe those perceptions, fanned by online media and blogs, could alienate UMNO's moderate Muslim base and perhaps more importantly constituencies in the swing states of Sabah and Sarawak, whose parliamentarians help to maintain UMNO's parliamentary majority.

Some analysts predict that the violence could coax certain constituencies, particularly Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, away from UMNO and towards the PR opposition, potentially paving the way for the parliamentary defections Anwar has long sought to topple the government. Others believe UMNO's poor handling of the violence could sway more voters against the party at the next election, which already promised to be hotly contested.

UMNO's politicization of ethnicity and religion has a long history. Many feel those tactics have paved the way for the recent senseless attacks against at least nine churches in the wake last month's High Court ruling in favor of Catholic weekly newspaper, the Herald, that allowed the publication to use the word "Allah" in reference to the Christian God.

Lim Teck Ghee, director for the Kuala Lumpur-based Center for Policy Initiatives, said that hot-headed Muslims would not have felt emboldened enough to throw firebombs at churches had former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad not "shifted the political goal posts in 2001 by pronouncing Malaysia as an Islamic state".

Another wedge driven between local religions, Gee says, was former premier Abdullah Badawi's neglect of inter-faith dialogue in favor of what he characterizes as the former premier's "empty Islamic Hadhari rhetoric". He also pinned the blame on academics, a partisan media and the attorney general "for having failed to draw attention to the rise of political party-related religious and right-wing extremism".

The approach of current UMNO leader and Prime Minister Najib Razak to the controversy has apparently been influenced by the March 2008 election results, which saw the heretofore invincible Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lose power in five of the federation's 13 states and yield its long-held two-thirds majority in parliament.

A series of by-elections since have underlined the shift in voter-sentiment away from UMNO and indicated that its past politicking in favor of Malay Muslims over minority groups is no longer the rock-solid strategy it previously was. Minorities, including ethnic Chinese and Indians, constitute 40% of the Malaysian electorate.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the respective ethnic Indian and Chinese parties of the BN coalition, were virtually wiped off the political map at the last election. Meanwhile, UMNO simultaneously lost substantial support among its traditional Malay Muslim constituency.

The BN currently controls 137 of 220 parliamentary seats; PR, on the other hand, holds sway over 82 seats, while three members of parliament are independent of either coalition. Anwar recently told this correspondent that several BN parliamentarians had long been ready to cross over, but were held back "by fear of repression".

Those claims are difficult to substantiate, but the Allah controversy has confirmed to many political observers that UMNO has given up trying to revive the political fortunes of the MCA or MIC and is now deliberately moving to withdraw into its conservative, nationalist past.

The earlier decision to ban The Herald from using the word "Allah", as well as the vociferous reaction to the court verdict last month that reinstated the paper's right to use the word in its publications was to many observers a thinly veiled attempt to reunite a splintered ethnic Malay vote - which combined represents some 60% of the country's 26 million people.

That strategy was apparently based on the assumption that the controversy would not alienate the large Christian constituencies in Sabah and Sarawak. Non-Muslims form the majority in the two states and Christians form the single biggest constituency by faith, accounting for 47% of the two Borneo-based states' combined population.

The Allah controversy's ripple effect, many agree, has been to discredit UMNO's claim to ethnic Malay supremacy and emboldened the PR's clarion call for multiracial harmony. Instead of driving more Muslims intro the UMNO fold, the church attacks seem to have renewed momentum towards an ethnic-blind country and political system.

UMNO's religious bluff - that the Allah issue represented a threat to Islam and was part of a larger pro-Christian plot to convert Muslims - has been refuted by the opposition-led Parti Islam-se Malaysia (PAS), viewed widely as Malaysia's most traditional Islamic party. PAS has so far largely stood by The Herald, underscoring the notion that the controversy is not a religious issue, but rather a political one.

As a consequence, PAS could lose appeal with its past core traditional Islamic constituency, but could in the process pick up more moderate Muslims that desert UMNO over the controversy. The opposition party could also benefit from emerging grass roots campaigns that have pinned the blame for the violence squarely on UMNO.

A group consisting of 121 non-governmental organizations and other religious and professional organizations has since the bombings promoted solidarity between religions while at the same time condemned UMNO. Farouk Musa, a leader of the umbrella group, said that such violence against places of worship "is as much an affront to Islam and to all religions as it is to Christians".

The opposition is bidding to piggyback on those campaigns. "The UMNO-led government's appeal is waning, not only with the non-Malays but also with the vast majority of Malays who realize that the ruling party has lost its way," said Anwar in an interview with this correspondent. "UMNO's ability to hold onto enough seats in parliament will be questioned by many if it continues down this reckless path."

That promises in the weeks ahead to turn the political focus on Sabah and Sarawak. In those two states, people's identity is tied mostly to tribe rather than religion or political affiliation, marking a different political culture than other areas of the country. Elections, especially in Sarawak, have historically been dominated by money politics, which UMNO has been able to influence with its access to state coffers.

Sarawak's 31 seats account for 13% of parliament's seats, while Sabah's is slightly less with a tally of 25. All parliamentarians except for two from Sarawak and Sabah are currently aligned with the BN. But a sudden swing in favor of the opposition would mathematically be enough to topple the BN and bring Anwar and the PR to power.

Notably political leaders in the two states have remained muted as the Allah controversy has spiraled. But there are unmistakable signs of grassroots discontent. Some Borneo-based religious leaders, activists and academics have expressed anger over what they perceive as UMNO's contempt for the collective political weight of Christian voters. Those rising sentiments accentuate what was already a growing sense of alienation in the two states vis-a-vis the wealthier peninsula.

The two states joined Malaya in 1963 on the basis of the so-called 20-point agreement for Sabah and the 18-point agreement for Sarawak. The agreements were written for the purpose of safeguarding the interests, rights and the autonomy of the people of the two states on the formation of the federation. It was originally envisaged that the two states would be two of four entities in the federation, the others being Malaya and Singapore.

Over time, Sabah and Sarawak's political weight has diminished as two of 13 states in a wider federation, which also comprises three federal territories: Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya. Aside from nominally separate immigration controls, there is little evidence that the two states have maintained any degree of autonomy, including over natural resource exploitation.

In recent years, Sabah in particular has accused Kuala Lumpur of exploiting its resources; some estimate as much as 95% of the profits from Sabah's natural resources is taken by the federal government. UMNO has arguably been remiss in addressing Sabah's and Sarawak's demands for more equitable revenue sharing, opening the way for Anwar's opposition to make inroads through promises of a better economic deal.

Anwar's coalition has actively bid to win over local politicians, saying that the coalition "is ready to show strong commitments to at least some of the East Malaysia's (Sabah and Sarawak ) demands." At last December's opposition coalition convention, PR leaders made strong references to Sabah and Sarawak and promised to resolve contested issues on oil royalties and problems facing different local ethnic groups who are among the poorest and least educated in the country.

Whether those promises and growing disenchantment over the church bombings will be enough to win wholesale defections in Sabah and Sarawak is yet to be seen. PR has not yet fully mobilized its election machinery in the two insular states and some doubt that Anwar has done enough yet to win over local hearts and minds. But even if the church bombings motivate a split of the two state's votes, it could be enough to swing the electoral balance in Anwar's and the PR's favor.

Fabio Scarpello is the Southeast Asia correspondent for Adnkronos International. He may be contacted at

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