Authorities must be seen acting according to the rule of law

An incident that happened in Manjoi, Perak on May 24 deserved more attention than it got. Members of an NGO forced a convenience store to remove the beer cans it was placing in a cooler. Only two columnists spoke up against the actions of the NGO. Apart from their voices, there was silence from the authorities.

The shop has a licence to sell beer so it didn’t do anything illegal. But, was the action of the NGO legal? Did they have the right to storm into a shop and intimidate the owners or workers to remove products they disapproved of?

Clearly, the action of the NGO was illegal but they got away with it. The police and state government said nothing. It was only after several days that Perak Menteri Besar (MB) Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that the NGO shouldn’t have acted in the way they did. However, he added that the shop operators should have been more “sensitive” to the feelings of the predominantly Malay community.

I can understand the MB’s point of view. But, the important question is: Was the incident handled according to the rule of law? If the NGO’s action was illegal, why was police action not taken? If the locals disapproved of such products in the shop, they could have approached the shop operator and expressed their concerns. Better still, don’t buy the offending product or products or just don’t patronize the shop!

Did the locals ask the NGO to help them or did they take the law into their own hands? I can also understand that under the new government people may feel freer to express their preferences and act on them. Perhaps, the NGO members weren’t aware that, in their zealousness, they were trampling on the rights of others. Perhaps, they were quietly advised against taking such vigilante actions in the future.

This being the new Malaysia, people may be testing the waters to enjoy the freedom to exercise their rights. But, if an action is illegal, the police and relevant authorities must take action and be seen as upholding the rule of law. That was not seen in the Manjoi incident.

The authorities must take the necessary action for it communicates to minority groups that even over a sensitive issue like religion or an issue involving the majority community, they will act according to the rule of law. They can be creative in handling the situation compassionately by giving only a reprimand or a fine, but whatever action they take, it must be clear they are acting within the scope of the law.

We can overlook the Manjoi incident as one that happened too soon after the new government was installed and that the police and MB were unsure of what was expected of them.

Well, we learn from our mistakes. In the future, the authorities must be seen upholding the rule of law and ensure that no one is exempt from it — not the infamous Jamal Yunus who is said to be in hiding or former Sabah MB Tan Sri Musa Aman who seems to have slipped out of the country. The long arm of the law must nab them swiftly and urgently.

When the relevant authorities act according to the rule of the law — and not selectively — it inspires confidence in the people that our institutions can be trusted.

 

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News is getting exciting; don’t Birkin bags show it?

One of the immediate changes that occurred after Pakatan Harapan formed the new government is that news has become interesting! It really is a pleasure to read the printed news now! I don’t know if broadcast news has changed as I don’t listen as much as I read the news.

Prior to May 9, news was boring. Online news portals provided the alternative to government-controlled formulaic, government-speak. I would read the first paragraph and wouldn’t continue as I would know exactly what would follow! It got so bad that I decided I was going to stop the newspapers and rely on the online news portals.

Then general elections were announced and I decided I’ll stop the papers after elections. But, from the day after May 9, news suddenly came alive! There was so much current content that I would read through the story! Before, I would skim through the papers in 20 minutes or so. Now, I take a good one hour of reading and feel very satisfied after!

News is no longer what this minister or Barisan Nasional (BN) leader said or did. Now, the reports give context and background and you get a fairly clear picture of what’s going on.

You see the full work of what the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is doing with regard to 1MDB. You get to see all the accumulated cash in the former prime minister’s homes — people keep RM114 million in cash and RM200 million (unofficial figure) worth of jewellery in their homes? The bank’s deposit boxes, perhaps, are too small to hold all that!

You get to see what the ministers and politicians and even the Sultans are up to!

And, the former prime minister’s wife’s many Birkin bags! Seriously! Why would a woman want that many Birkin bags? One Birkin bag to match every outfit she wears? A Birkin bag’s price ranges from an average of about RM3,000 to as high as over a RM1,000,000 and the second-hand value is even higher. The annual return on a Birkin bag is more than 14%, according to some reports. So, it may be a form of investment.

But, to carry it as a style and luxury item? It may be well crafted but I find the style squarish, stiff and grandmotherly despite the encrusted diamonds! A piece you might see hanging on Queen Elizabeth’s arm! Some of the bags use crocodile skin and I can’t help but feel sorry for crocodiles, although these reptiles don’t make it on my list of favourite creatures in the animal kingdom!

If you can afford a Birkin, I ask, why bother about investments? You are already rolling in a lot of money. Just keep on buying and you still have much to spare! I suppose if you have so much of money you like the challenge of an investment to make more? Well, doesn’t that smack of greed?

Give me a Prada or Gucci bag, anytime. Less expensive and more stylish! Of course, I won’t be buying any of these branded bags ‘cos I’m not in that league of women. More importantly, I’m not one who is defined by the bag or luxury label I carry. But, should my circumstances change (very unlikely!), you definitely won’t catch me with a Birkin!

I digress! But the point is that news opens up all these unseen worlds that we suspect exist but can’t verify. But, when these worlds are spread out before our eyes on the screen and paper, we see a bigger world and it makes us think about right and wrong.

Conversations become interesting. We talk about what is going on and it broadens our worldview. That is what honest journalism does. I’m looking forward to more of it!

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Forgiveness is therapeutic …

Forgiveness is healing — if asking for it is sincere. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked for forgiveness for whatever wrongs he did in his previous tenure as PM and the nation forgave him. As a result, he succeeded in rallying the nation behind him in one concerted effort to oust Datuk Seri Najib Razak through the just concluded 14th general elections.

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also asked for forgiveness in a personal video for painting an Air Asia aircraft in the BN colours to take Najib back to Kuala Lumpur from Sabah. He might have been sincere but, apparently, the people were not convinced and he was publicly roasted. I can understand the anger of the people against Fernandes for bending over backwards to accommodate Najib without regard to the people who wanted to get rid of him from public office.

To Fernandes’s defence, I have to say that he did not believe that the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance would win as most analyses still predicted a BN win. (I was the exception because I factored in faith!) Invoke Malaysia predicted a slim majority win on the day before voting day. So, it wasn’t surprising that Fernandes backed the horse, which was the power to be at that time. It backfired and he now has to deal with the fallout.

If asking for forgiveness is sincere it is often transparent. People can recognize it. When we sincerely ask for forgiveness it is because we know our actions have wounded others, whether rightly or not is not the point. The point is we know people have been hurt by our actions and we take steps to correct it.

It begins by asking for forgiveness. And, when we do we won’t make it seem like we are doing it for the sake of expediency. And, it won’t be conditional. We won’t say “if  I’ve done something wrong … please forgive. ”  No, we’ll come out outright and apologize and our sincerity becomes apparent.

When that happens, it is easy to forgive — and forget! I recall a personal experience when I was full of hate for a family member. It took me decades to forgive him and he was too proud to ask for it. But, I forgave him anyway and, somehow, the hate vanished and I began to see him more honestly and stopped judging him. It had an ameliorating influence on our relationship. I was glad we were able to restore our relationship before he passed on.

When there’s a need for forgiveness and we don’t ask or offer it, the relationship remains estranged and no matter what we do we can’t get it back on a good footing. It’s the relationship that is built up when there is forgiveness, and, when that is righted, other things will naturally fall into place.

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GE14 — when the people saved Malaysia

What a week it has been! I’m so glad I was a part of it, like millions of Malaysians! From nomination day to voting day on May 9, the world saw how each one of us did the little we could to make a difference through the 14th general elections (GE14). We urgently ensured that the message to vote for change kept going from one handphone to another. Some of us signed up for polling and counting agent (Paca) training. Many travelled back from far and near to vote, with some forking out the money for others to fly home. Collectively, it was one great united effort by Malaysians of all backgrounds which on May 9 toppled a 61-year-old powerful regime known for corruption. We made history!

We, really, are the stars of GE14! Whether it was the rural or urban voter, the Malay,  Sabahan, Sarawakian, Chinese, Indian or any other Malaysian voter, with one mind, we delivered the mandate to Pakatan Harapan with overwhelming support. We set aside our differences and voted simply as Malaysians. It is a good feeling!

There were those moments of tension when the Election Commission (EC) delayed the announcement of the election results but finally did in the wee hours of Thursday morning and later when we had to wait for hours before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was finally sworn in as the 7th prime minister of Malaysia. When that ceremony was over by 10.30pm, what great relief!

Soon after, I heard firecrackers go off in my neighbourhood! Some folks celebrating the dawn of a new era in government!

I really couldn’t understand the delays we had to go through. When the people have spoken through the vote, the effort must be to execute their will with speed not delay, especially when it involves their choice of the prime minister and elected officials and formation of the government.

Well, that’s behind us now. We can look forward to a new government to institute reforms to ensure the independence and integrity of our institutions so that they do not lapse in their duty to the people as in the case of the EC in GE14. And, if they do, they will be held accountable.

I also want to see the new government upholding the rights of minorities and ensuring that they are fairly treated.

We, of course, will be watching, allowing them to make mistakes as they learn to govern in the best interests of the people and seeing them get better and better at it. And, of course, when they consistently fail to perform, we will just as easily install another coalition in government!

The new government has a lot of work to do, and, under the able leadership of Tun, we wish them our prayers and best wishes. I hope Tun will get all the support he needs and consideration will be given on account of his age. May all benefit from his insights, understanding and experience and learn fast so that he can call it a day in the confidence that others can easily take over.

I just have one piece of advice for the leaders in the new government: Fear God and act accordingly.

Personally, I just want to thank God for answering not just my prayers but the prayers of millions of people in this country and around the globe. He showed His hand and, through Tun’s leadership, the ground moved! We rallied behind him as one united nation and changed our destiny!

I’ll continue to pray for leaders and others but the specific purpose I felt I had to pray for Tun as a result of my dreams (see previous post) is fulfilled. As far as Tun is concerned, my job is done!

God bless Malaysia!

 

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Why you must vote for PH, led by Dr M, to form the next govt

There have been a number of personal stories about the 14th general elections (GE14). I would like to add my own story to the narrative. I was never pro-former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but that changed in 1997.

That was the year his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, was sacked from the government and his party, Umno. At that time, I was more of a spectator, watching from the sidelines and interested as any other concerned citizen. But, during that period something unusual happened: I dreamt of Dr M and his family!

I had three dreams about them over a couple of weeks and I kept asking myself: “Why am I dreaming of the prime minister and his family?!” I don’t know them. I don’t think of them. I don’t think of politicians! And, I wasn’t even interested in politics, then!

But, as a charismatic Christian, I was aware that sometimes we have God-inspired dreams that have a bearing on the earthly realm. Joel 2: 28 says: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” The dreams and visions are the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, I took my dreams seriously because it involved a political family in the centre of a current crisis and if the dreams were of God, I had better take note! Not knowing what to do, I decided I would just pray for Dr M. I can’t remember what I prayed, but I stopped opposing him. Because I was praying for him, I began to get interested in politics. I wanted to understand why God would want me to pray for this man. There must be some good reason.

By chance, during that time, I met a politician who was familiar with the issues, who told me what was going on. I understood then why Dr M acted the way he did. As I continued to read and talk to people about the politics in the country, I began to understand the political climate better. That was how I got interested in Malaysian politics and since then have followed it closely.

When the Anwar issue died down, I stopped praying for Dr M and forgot about the whole thing.

Some time ago, I made a prediction in this blog that at the right time God would send leaders to Pakatan Harapan, which at that time was leaderless and rudderless. So, when Dr M left Umno and formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and later joined the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), I sat up! My prediction came true. PH got its national-level leaders.

But, it was only when Dr M was made PH chairman and prime-minister designate, that it hit me why the dreams alerted me to pray for him. I realised that the prayers were not for the 1997 episode. That was to get me into politics to see and fathom what was going on in the country up to this point.

It hit me like a thunderbolt that the praying was meant for him now! I understood the political situation enough to know that forces will be unleashed to bring him down and that he needed protection. That was when I started praying for Dr M and his family again, this time specifically for their protection.

I don’t think I’m the only one praying for him and his family’s protection. There’s an army of people praying for Dr M and for change.

By faith I believe that if I was alerted to pray for Dr M, then I shouldn’t obstruct him. That is the reason why I’m openly supportive of him and PH and why I urge others to do the same, and why I am inclined to believe that PH will win this general election.

I may be wrong. If I am, it isn’t because it can’t happen. If it doesn’t happen, it is because people don’t believe it can happen and so don’t vote to make it happen.

I don’t expect people to understand the decisions I make by faith. But, look at the facts. Faith without facts is an adventure, which, sometimes, goes awry, and that’s why we need to be careful when stepping out in faith to handle only what we can. But, faith matched with facts is a sure thing.

Let’s consider the facts.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

At age 93, he is still standing and ready to serve the nation to set things right. He has publicly apologised for the wrongs of his administration and joined the opposition effort to correct those wrongs. Now, where ever he goes he is greeted with respect and affection, even from non-Malays. The people — Malays and non-Malays — are rallying behind him, appreciative of the inclusive politics he has now adopted. He has made peace with this nation. More importantly, through PPBM, he has swung a portion of the rural Malay vote to PH. In doing so, PH very likely now has majority Malay support and, definitely, majority non-Malay support. Whether that swing vote has reduced Malay support for Umno to a minority is what GE14 is all about.

Those who don’t believe need to see this man and realise that he doesn’t have much time left, that now is the time to make a stand and give him and the coalition he leads the mandate to set this nation on the path to reform and good governance. If they don’t do it now — in GE14 — this opportunity will be gone forever!

Pakatan Harapan (PH)

The coalition now has a strong national-level leadership and an equally strong second-tier younger batch of leaders. It is a combination of experience and untapped young, idealistic passion. Both will check the other. Together, PH will deliver reforms, a corruption-free government and a plan — albeit gradually but steadily — to progress. Should GE14 prove PH has majority Malay support, it wins the right to govern. Presently, three Malay-based parties are represented in the coalition, namely Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Amanah (splinter party from PAS) and PPBM representing a cross-section of Malays.

PPBM has made strong inroads in the rural Malay constituencies of Kedah and Johor and Umno’s position appears to be shaky in these states. Just how much Malay support has PPBM swung from Umno?

The question that GE14 will answer is which coalition now has majority Malay support for that will determine which coalition has the mandate to govern. No coalition can govern this nation if it does not have majority support from the majority community in Malaysia, the Malays.

Opinion research firm Merdeka Centre estimates that the current support level from the Malays for BN is at 53%. That figure is questionable because Politweet puts the figure down to 50.75 of Malay support for BN in GE13, which I believe is more acceptable considering that BN won only by a slim majority on the votes of its safe deposit states of Sabah and Sarawak although it lost the popular vote to PH.

Invoke Centre for Policy Initiatives (run by PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli), on the other hand, based on its December 2017 statistics, puts Malay support for BN at 41.1%. According to its April statistics, it says Malay support for BN has dropped to 18.1%.

Merdeka Centre has acknowledged that there is a 7.9% swing of Malay votes to the opposition. In some areas, it may be a much bigger swing. If the 53% figure is arrived at after the 7.9% figure was subtracted, that would mean that BN had a majority of nearly 60% of the Malay votes in GE13 which is hard to believe considering that it scraped through with a simple majority and without the popular vote.

I suspect that Umno is aware that it has lost the majority of Malay support. If it were confident of Malay support, why do the things it has done to ensure the playing field remains uneven, to PH’s disadvantage?

Those who don’t believe need to see what is apparent to the rest of the country: Umno’s support base is being chipped away.

A Moral Political Leadership

It’s not for me to judge who is moral and who isn’t. My judgement is against any leadership that shamelessly and openly steals an election from the people because it realises it may lose it.

A moral political leadership — if it has reason to believe it may have lost the support of the majority of the people — would call for a general election and conduct a fair and just election by levelling the playing field in order to gauge the true extent of the actual support it has, and hand over government to the side which has more. Such a leadership will not resort to all the things we are seeing done now — open vote-buying, gerrymandering, preventing candidates from submitting their nomination forms on unreasonable technical grounds, cutting out pictures of opposition leaders from banners, getting personal and name calling, etc, etc, etc  — to tip the scales against the opposition.

The urban Malays behind PKR are solidly with PH. PPBM has mounted a strong offensive in Umno’s traditional rural heartland. Amanah may add to deliver that vote segment. The non-Malays, mostly in the urban areas are with the PH. Sentiments on the ground indicate that there is a definite possibility of Sabah going to the opposition. Merdeka Centre has conceded that the BN may lose Sabah.

Those who do not believe need to judge for themselves if the caretaker government, aided and abetted by the Election Commission, is acting morally to protect itself in the fear it has lost majority support. A government can have only one moral right to exist: if the majority of its population give them the mandate to govern. If it doesn’t have majority support, it has no moral authority to rule.

Those who do not believe must see if the powers that be are digging in their heels to stay in power without that majority mandate. If so, those who do not believe must realise it is in their hands now to deprive them of the right to rule by voting for change!

Look at the facts.

Conclusion

I’m not writing this to the urban voters because they know the issues. I am addressing the fence-sitters — the undecided young voter, the rural Malay voter, the East Malaysian voter, the vacillating voter in the marginal seat. I hope this message for change will reach the fence-sitters because, right now, only they can make the difference in GE14.

This is my last pre-GE14 post. I am thrilled to have joined the chorus of voices across the country crying out for change. My past endeavours point me to this one event: GE14. Beyond it I have nothing more to add — without sounding like a broken record! Post-GE14, I won’t be writing on politics anymore — unless I can’t bear it and have to express myself!

If PH wins on May 9, there’ll be one more post I’ll write next Friday on GE14. After that, I’ll move on. If PH doesn’t win, I’ll be silent.

 

 

 

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Keep up the campaign for change through WhatsApp

The Election Commission (EC) has denied Suhakam’s application to monitor the 14th general elections (GE14) and no reason was given for its decision. The EC has now also ruled that no campaigning can take place out of the constituency the candidate is standing for elections without its approval. Such campaigning can only take place 10 days from the date of approval.

We are also aware of all the other obstacles that the caretaker government has placed to prevent the opposition and, especially, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), from moving forward. PPBM was given a 30-day disband order but the High Court allowed a stay of the decision, so PPBM can now participate in the elections.

When you look at all the obstacles the opposition has to overcome, the question on most people’s mind is whether GE14 will be a fairly conducted elections. As Malaysians, we know the answer to that question, too. But, we must not be discouraged.

In this elections, we must say “We’ve had it! We want a change!” and vote for change. The urban voters are fully aware, but the rural voters still need to be reached and informed of the cost of upholding the status quo.

The political parties and candidates are doing their best. Now, it’s up to us to reach out to the rural voters who really are the kingmakers in this elections. We need to send all the WhatsApp messages we get to people who can send them to others and to others and so on until the rural voters are reached and they are made to see that in the GE14 there’s only one choice left for us to set this nation on the path to good governance again. The choice is to vote for change.

This morning, I told my maid about all the things happening in the country and to vote for the blue eye symbol (the Pakatan Harapan (PH) symbol). My maid who has been voting for the dacing (scales of justice) symbol (the Barisan Nasional (BN) symbol) all her life, added, “Yes, I heard they are teruk (terrible)!” She has decided not to vote for the dacing symbol.  I showed her the PH symbol so now she knows which symbol to mark when she votes.

I told her to tell all her relatives and friends to do the same! Such messages need to keep going out so that through a long and circuitous route they finally hit the mobiles of the target group — the rural voters.

I know we are all doing our best. Keep at it, friends. The message for change must keep going!

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Nice to be part of a big thing like GE14

It’s nice to be part of a good, big thing like the 14th general elections (GE14)! Malaysians from all walks of life are rallying together to get people to vote, sign up as polling and counting agents (paca), provide transport and sponsor transport to hometowns so that every Malaysian voter will exercise his and her right to vote.

WhatsApp groups are also very active. My WhatsApp groups are often hitting up with all sorts of messages and videos encouraging people to vote for change. Some analysts say that it’s the WhatsApp that is the main media that is swinging votes to the opposition since the mainstream media are totally serving their ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) masters.

What is new with WhatsApp messages this time around is that I am getting opinion pieces by Malays who are predicting a Malay tsunami in voting for the opposition’s Pakatan Harapan (PH).

At this juncture, all the analyses and opinion pieces are conjecture. Until the votes are counted, we won’t know for sure what the people want. Trends, however, seem to indicate that BN’s ruling Malay party, Umno, is losing support from its traditional rural base. A very hopeful PH is hoping to win at least 100 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia to form a government by inviting the East Malaysian parties to join them.

People are hopeful and giving their very best to ensure change.

I also received a few pictures on What’sApp on the dismal attendance at BN functions in Putrajaya and Teluk Intan. Though I don’t want BN to win, I was sad to see people abandoning the party that had led this nation to Merdeka. Sad it has come to this: People turning their backs on a once-great party. The only reason for this is this: corruption.

The new hope is to set this nation free from the clutches of corruption and on the road to an honest, hard-working recovery that will ensure equitable distribution of wealth while recognizing merit.

Should PH win, I hope there’ll be no witchhunt. Whether Umno or BN or PH supporters, we are all Malaysians and should be treated with utmost respect. If there’s evidence of wrongdoing, take the people involved to court and let the law take its course. But, Umno supporters should not be penalised. They should be helped like every other citizen of this country.

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