Over to you… Malaysians!

Malaysiakini – Jan 14, 08

By Dzulkifli Ahmad
Alas, despite all our good wishes, it shall and will be the same old New Year! Without much respite, the fiasco continues from the very first month of 2008. We surely are living in an extremely distressing time where everything seems severely compromised.

Being the relentless optimist I’ve always claimed to be, despair not, as crisis, so they say, shall bring out the best of us, as only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.
One literally got caught in a compromising act. Well, the embattled minister surely shone more, now that he openly admitted error and resigned gracefully. He had perhaps set a ‘benchmark’. Tragic though it may seem but the crisis brought out the best in him. A lot worse are those who wasted millions of tax-payers’ money for ‘royal commissions’ to be set up so as to be able to purge them all.
When all the mainstream media were spun to portray a nation ‘flourishing’ in every way it could, you’re stunned by the expose’ of the opposite, quite amusingly and much to their disgust, by the mainstream media. The ‘free education’ fiasco that turned to be quite expensive, the acute cooking oil shortage when commodity prices went rocket high, no roti canai in mamak restaurants because of the shortage of flour, the malignant crime index and the list continues.
Serious crime shot up by 13 percent last year with gang robbery without firearms, to cite one, rising by more than 159 percent. The prime minister is reported to have said, “We have to make sure the people know the situation.” But he doesn’t have to? Why? Because they are fully aware, Look who is unaware or should I say sleeping?
Using the term ‘Allah’
Not less disturbing is the continuing furore over the use of the word ’Allah’. The Islam Hadhari government is again about to pit adherents of various faiths at loggerheads over emotive issues like this. The writer is anxious that this does not degenerate into a religious-ethnic divide, again with Umno/BN walking away grinning, while leaving others to lock horns.
“Only Muslims can use ‘Allah’. It’s a Muslim word. It’s from (the Arabic language). We cannot let other religions use it because it will confuse people,” does sound hollow, naive and inappropriate, especially for a Hadhari government which is supposedly savvy to the need of a truly plural society like ours.
“It was only proper for other religions to use the word God and not Allah when referring to their God in respective beliefs,” the prime minister added.
For centuries, Sikhs have used the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God as well as the Arabic terms ‘iman’ and ‘ibadat’ for faith and worship. “We have used the terms Allah and Rahim (Most Merciful), for example, extensively in our writings and in our prayers to refer to the One God. The word Allah is used in our main holy scripture.”
Besides, it is a well-known fact that believers of other faiths in the Middle East, Indonesia and East Malaysia have been using the term Allah from time immemorial. Barring the claims on ‘proselytising’, I don’t see what the fuss is all about. But is the government able to say things outright and not embroil the whole nation into this Islam Hadhari controversy?
This writer deliberately didn’t want to join this polemic earlier. Perhaps it is now fair to just quote a verse from the Holy Quran, where the Almighty Allah clearly enunciated that He is invoked in all the places of worships.
From the Chapter of the Pilgrimage or Al-Hajj, verse 40:
If Allah had not checked and repelled some of you through others (of their excesses and injustices), monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques would certainly have been destroyed, wherein the name of Allah (yuzkaru fiha ismu Allah) is commemorated”.
The verse citing.. ‘wherein the name of Allah is commemorated’ is categorically clear that Allah, the One and Only God is worshiped by the adherents of these heavenly religions as well. If Allah is making it abundantly clear that he is praised and worshiped in all these places of worship, who is the deputy internal security minister from this Islam Hadhari government or even the premier himself, to limit the use of the word Allah only as the exclusive right of Muslims?
As for PAS, it is a non-issue. So, what is the issue? The central issue to PAS is ‘when all sins of excesses and injustices are committed and ‘institutionalised’, do you still want to bring this nation back on the dark alley of self-destruction?
Could we put this polemic to rest and reduce our suspicion and apprehension towards one another, please? There are surely more pressing and fundamental problems confronting this nation and deserve our urgent attention.
Governance and politics
Since we have quoted this verse, permit me to ‘proselytise’ further, by drawing the readers’ attention to the central message of the verse. It is nothing to do with anything theological or cardinal to faith. It has nothing to do with the Supreme Being we worship. On the contrary, it is to do with everything of life mundane and profane. It is all about governance and politics, a critical aspect of life, now and here. Very much a concern of Islam insofar as it is a comprehensive way of life. Islam is never and could never be ‘Apolitical’ right from her inception.
Going back to the verse, “If Allah had not checked and repelled one group’s injustices and excesses by another” is the message that resonates with me and all well-wishers of democracy.
This is the pronouncement of the Holy Quran, laying down the ‘fundamental and cardinal mechanism of check and balance’ as the underpinning principle of democracy that will safeguard against destruction of society. Incidentally, in another verse of the Quran similar in construction..”Had Allah not repelled and checked…..the entire earth will be in tumult”.
This brings me to the very core subject of democracy and electoral reform. It is the very absence of this ‘check and balance’, now very wanting, that the writer dares attribute, as the underlying cause of our national crisis.
Be they endemic corruption, ‘legalised’ and ‘institutionalised’ abuse of power by the political elites, judicial rot, unbridled crime rate, yawning inter and intra ethnic disparity, marginalisation of the weak and poor, deepening religious and ethnic fault-lines, moral decadency and rampant rempit-drug-social ills etc, are all but off-shoots of the same underlying problems ie of the absence of an effective ‘check and balance’ in a ‘pseudo and quasi democracy ala Malaysia.
Only a functional democracy could effectively ‘check and balance’ the list of excesses that have been enumerated above. Doubtless, it will be ever more challenging, now that the chairperson of the Election Commission, the very person responsible for all the irregularities bordering illegalities of the 11th GE and subsequent by-elections, is safely back in the driver’s seat of the EC.
To top it all he now challenges opposition parties to boycott the next GE, an action which smacks of contempt of the constitution. What is an election without opposition parties in a political contestation? Article 114(2) of the Federal Constitution stipulates “the importance of securing an EC which enjoys public confidence”. On the contrary he deliberately kicked on the beehives, rather than promising to do better and correcting the many wrongs of the EC.
When congratulated for his reappointment as the EC chairperson by the interviewer of the RTM, he rebuked him by saying that he was the one who ‘extended himself’ because he had the choice to not accept it but he did.
The stumbling block
So vain and cocky! Bersih has never thought that our target of critique will be directed to any individual. Our advocacy has always been to reform the process and system. But it has come to this. Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman is the single greatest stumbling block in re-instituting reform and democracy in this country.
By arrogantly showing his contempt of the constitution, Abdul Rashid has done more damage to the high office he holds than the unfortunate Dr Chua Soi Lek to his Health Ministry. Chua may have committed a grave mistake, but the star in him has certainly shone, in the face of this crisis. Kudos to this brave politician again!
BERSIH has on numerous occasions enumerated all of Abdul Rashid’s debacles, his contempt of court on the Likas judgement of Justice Mohammad Kamil Awang, the irregularities of the last GE and the three by-elections; the current electoral roll is far from clean, with the under-aged and centenarians abound, the impact of ‘gerrymandering’, the ‘First-Past-The-Post’ causing huge disproportionality. His numerous statements criticising both the laws of election to be outdated and no longer able to dispense justice to all contending parties (eg Bernama 7 Jan, 2007) either in seminars or closed door meetings with many parties including BERSIH are recorded verbatim with some appearing in the mainstream media. He had demanded reforms himself, hence clearly depicting the state of affairs of the electoral process in this country. Following are some excerpts of his own words demanding, inter alia;
1) The power to enable them to ensure that justice and freedom be accessible to all in both the electronic and print media.
2) The power to monitor and prosecute any party guilty of abusing and misusing public amenities for partisan political interest (after the dissolution of the parliament).
3) The power to curb and stop the use of money politics in vote-buying during campaign period.
The same person is now saying that we have almost a perfect system and ready to go into election. He now challenges the opposition to boycott the election, threatens them with the shortest election campaign period, challenges them to prove him wrong on the cleanliness of the electoral roll etc. Rocky Bru’s et al predicament looks like it’s only the tip of the iceberg. He risks confirming himself a very ‘forked tongue’ BN agent-bureaucrat, bent on conducting the dirtiest election ever, as alleged by many.
BERSIH will still press on our immediate demands and will not budge until the EC shows commitment to change and reform before the GE.
In this critical crossroad, is he willing to bite the bullet or like Chua, resign gracefully, as to own up for his contempt of the constitution and his various unending failures?
Will it be the same old New Year, without the ‘check and balance’ again? So, over to You… Malaysians!
DR DZULKIFLI AHMAD is the director of the PAS Research Centre and a steering committee member of polls reform group, BERSIH.