Politics

Why the Malaysian Government Has Reneged on Political Reform

This morning I listened to a local business station which carried an interview with Tom Greatex. He is a British Labour Party politician who is head of the All Party Committee on Malaysia of the UK  Parliament. In the interview, although cautious, Greatex expressed great concern with the recent human rights record of the Government, especially after all the big talk by the Prime Minister of doing away with the Sedition Act, of political reform and being moderate.

His visit follows the recent statement by the British Foreign Minister who, immediately after the Federal Court’s confirmation of Anwar’s conviction, said that “[Anwar’s] case raises worrying questions about the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Malaysia….the integrity of the rule of law is a key part of its success, as are the values of moderation and tolerance. We encourage Malaysia to recognise the importance of international confidence in its judicial system and to restore trust in its commitment to human rights.” 

This is diplomatic language for saying that there is little or no international confidence in our judicial system when it comes to dealing with the opposition. It is also a polite way of saying that the Brits do not trust our commitment to human rights.   

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The British are not the only countries that have expressed concern. Our printed media has tried to minimize or even suppress it but strong words have also come from European Union countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Stronger criticism on the Anwar case have come from human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights which have called the verdict “disgraceful” and a “black day” for justice.

But what happened in the Anwar case is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Government’s attempt to kill off the opposition.  To date, this drive has netted a wide range of government critics – not only politicians. Thus we have student leaders such as Adam Adli Abdul Halim and Fariz Musa, human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen, Bersih activist Hishamuddin Rais and cartoonist Zunar, being charged with sedition.

Killing Off Any Kind of Opposition

What is clear and especially alarming is that the Government is not only trying to kill off the political opposition but is also trying to kill off any kind of opposition; and it is using the state  machinery  which is supposed to be independent and neutral. Hence, not only is the judiciary brought into cooperating or colluding with the political masters, other agencies are also brought into the equation. This can be seen by the creation of the Classified Special Unit D5 in the police force to identify and handle sedition cases on social media.  Apart from communist countries, ours must be the first country in the world to set up a branch of the police force set up to monitor the social media and cleanse it of anti government voices and sentiments.

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So what is the impact of this shotgun approach to killing off the opposition which is definitely being initiated by UMNO and probably does not have the support of the other BN parties in the coalition.

I am sure that every foreign embassy which has an office in Malaysia and which reports back to their foreign ministries will have carried reports of this recent tsunami of political persecution.  They will also be carrying analysis of why this is happening and of the impact of the political repression in Malaysia.

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Here are my suggestions for what they should be including in their reports on the current political and socio-economic situation in Malaysia. 

  1. The Prime Minister is politically insecure and fighting desperately to hold on to his position. Hence he has to take a tough line and go back on his earlier promises to abolish the sedition act and to liberalize the country.
  2. UMNO hard liners are in the ascendency. They have become increasingly insecure following the recent two elections and know that the party’s grip on power will finally be broken soon. Hence they are trying every trick in the book to bring down Pakatan and the greater opposition. In particular, they are manipulating religious sentiments and intolerance to ensure that they do not lose the Malay constituency.
  3. The state apparatus in Malaysia is being used to prop up the old regime.
  4. The Malaysian public has become disenchanted. The taxi drivers, the police men when they are not in uniform, the lower rung civil servants, the traders, university students, media practitioners, the professionals – most of them see the present government to be corrupt, incompetent, ineffective, hypocritical and undeserving of support.

I propose that the foreign mission staff do their own private questioning or polling on these issues and to share their feedback with their colleagues and Malaysians.

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