REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (9-13 Jan)

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Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Anwar’s Acquittal: overdue victory or premature celebration?

Few Mondays have heard the roar of relief of so many Malaysians as this week’s. Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was found not guilty by the Kuala Lumpur High Court of sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan – a surprising verdict.

PKR supporters were elated. The 5,000-strong ‘901 Free Anwar rally’ outside the court exploded into cheers.  But bigger eruptions literally awaited them. Three explosions in the vicinity of the court complex marred the celebrations, injuring five people and damaging surrounding vehicles.

Another ‘shock’ was the behaviour of the police. Activists in the crowd were surprised and impressed with the police’s professionalism in managing the assembly at the Duta Courts – a sharp contrast with the law enforcement officers’ controversial conduct during the Bersih 2.0 protests.

Certain pundits and politicians celebrated the acquittal as proof of Malaysia’s independent judiciary. Sceptics however, poured cold water on the jubilation. Political analyst Awang Abdillah warned that Anwar’s freedom smacks of BN’s political strategy.  Others sounded a reminder on the questionable verdicts in many other cases, such as the high-profile death of Teoh Beng Hock.

Views abound that the release of Anwar did not stem from an inherently just system, but was a result of external pressure from the Malaysian and international community to see an independent judiciary. For example, Suaram opined that the “…positive judgment [of Anwar’s case] is a result of the public participation in the process”, and cautioned that the appointment of judges and trial proceedings in Malaysian courts are still in need of reform.

REFSA reckons that Anwar’s acquittal should not distract Malaysians from the prevalent injustice still in our midst. Organisers of Seksualiti Merdeka have filed a judicial review against the “unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic” ban on its sexuality rights festival. Student groups have also handed up evidence to back their allegations of police brutality during a peaceful assembly at Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris (UPSI) on Jan 1. Would the verdict of these cases also reflect a fair and just judiciary? We are keeping our eyes peeled.

A level playing field

With Anwar stepping off the dock in court, the playing field between him and Datuk Seri Najib Razak is now level. Analysts point out that Anwar can no longer play the ‘political victim’ to appeal to voters, but has to focus on his strategy of steering Malaysia out of the current economic downturn.

Speculation is also rife that GE-13 will be held around March 2012 while the effect of the ‘sweeteners’ offered in Budget 2012 is still evident and the positive buzz from Anwar’s acquittal is still fresh. Sources have also revealed that Najib will keep the cabinet, despite scandals plaguing at least two ministers, as “all of them are in the clear”.

Empty vessels?

Barisan Nasional may embrace its bad apples, but PAS members can no longer stomach theirs. Selangor PAS commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali has been sacked from the party, on the grounds of insubordination. The veteran leader and Gombak assemblyman’s  activities are “against the party’s policies”. Infamous for his inflammatory remarks, he had finally lit the wrong fuse when he criticised PAS for deviating from its path to form an Islamic state.

Hasan’s open willingness in forging ties with Umno, and his urging of PAS members to not join the ‘901 Free Anwar’ rally had been thorns in the Islamic party’s flesh.

In response, many BN bigwigs lambasted PAS’ unilateral removal of Hasan, while lauding Umno as the more democratic party. Kota Belud MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan cited the previous sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as an example of Umno’s democracy, because Anwar had been “hauled up by the party’s supreme council meeting to allow him to explain himself.” Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said PAS’ actions proved that Umno is more ‘considerate’ to its members.

Action, however, speaks louder than words. Was Umno demonstrating consideration and democracy when it showed Zaid Ibrahim the door in 2008 for speaking up against the Internal Security Act and the Malay Supremacy Model, as well as attending opposition parties’ annual assemblies? What about the sacking of former Tanah Merah Umno division secretary Amran Abdul Rahman, after he filed a suit claiming that their election victory in 2008 was doubtful?

Colour-blind vision for Malaysia

Is race-based politics approaching its finish line? Two former Umno veterans have become DAP members, allowing DAP to join PKR as multi-racial political parties. Also, Pakatan Rakyat’s third force PAS is rooted in religion, not ethnicity.

With more and more rakyat putting their Malaysian identity before skin-colour, the racial division of BN parties may soon become irrelevant. Would the opposition coalition then emerge as an appealing and progressive representation of 1Malaysia?

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Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 16 January 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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