Malaysians distrust electoral process, report shows

Source: Free Malaysia Today

The report by Suhakam and the Kofi Annan Foundation also says many questions have been raised regarding the transparency and impartiality of the EC.

Malaysian electoral votes being taken for counting — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PETALING JAYA: A regional report on democracy has revealed Malaysians’ distrust of the electoral process and their belief that the Election Commission (EC) lacks independence.

The report, entitled “Democracy in Southeast Asia: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects” presented by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Kofi Annan Foundation, also called for an improved framework and sound regulations for political financing.

It said this would promote greater transparency in the political arena and enhance confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail, who presented the report at a conference at the Bar Council auditorium here today, said the key role of civil society in promoting systems was to regulate political financing.

“Civil society organisations have a major role to play to educate the public on political corruption, political financing and money politics. And I believe that the regulation of political finance must be a priority in Malaysia,” he added.

Razali also said many questions had been raised regarding the transparency and impartiality of the EC. Read more

Rural democracy – An Alternative Social Change Approach

Speaker : Mr. Ong Boon Keong, founder of Lightup Borneo, coordinator of Malaysian Election Observers Network. Ong is a veteran activist who involved in Malaysian social activism since 1990s, he had been leading Save Ourselves (SOS) that campaigned for repeal of Rent Control Act in Penang, he also participated in campaigns such as No Penang Outer Ring Road, Penang Watch, Penang Public Transportation Plan. Now his works focus on bringing green and renewable energy to rural areas in Malaysia.
Co-Organisers : Democracy Academy of Malaysia and Cheng Khay Community Space
Over the last 50 years, Malaysia’s urban population has increased drastically from 26% in 1960 to 75% in 2016. The demographic change has resulted significant changes in administration and public policies, which concentrate social-economic development in urban centers at the expense of rural area/populations – who are still facing a lack of basic services and economic opportunities.
Apart from a small section in east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the rural populations are also trapped as BN voters all these decades as they are ignored by the political parties on the opposition side.
This, together with the huge mal-apportionment given to rural constituencies result in the ruling party clinging on to power on the back of disproportionate rural seats while urban voters clamor for change since 1998’s Reformasi movement.
Malaysia’s democratisation as a whole is thus held back despite the opposition parties winning the popular votes in 2013 general elections. The selection of a notorious corrupt and autocratic ex-PM as the opposition coalition’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming GE reflect perhaps a desperation on the part of the opposition to attract rural support.
It can thus be said that until rural voters can enjoy the benefits of development and competitive democracy that free them from dependency on the ruling party they may continue to be the `safe deposits’ of the ruling party for years to come.
Therefore, without a doubt, rural democracy is a challenge for the democratisation of the country as a whole-and the big question is: why are they continued to be ignored?
Until today, many Malaysians who live in interior part of Borneo do not have public roads that enable them to access to basic utilities such as schools, hospitals, supply of water, communication and electricity. They need to travel long distance to attend schools, receive medical care and receive public information.
Lack of basic infrastructure impede improvement of rural area, thus less job opportunity are created and there is higher unemployment rate. Worse still, cost of living in rural area is a higher burden there than urban area due to long distance transportation cost. Researchers had found that Malaysia’s household food expenditure in 2009 is 25.9 (Sabah), 26.3 (Sarawak) and 19.2 (Peninsular) respectively.
Economic development in the rural area usually does not take the needs of rural people into consideration: it follow capitalistic and modernization approach that exploit local natural resource and force people to migrate to urban centers, becoming wage workers and immerse in money economy. Rural development such as construction of hydroelectric dams and rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, encroached on native people’s customary lands and destroy the environment.
Similarly, rural policy received very little attention of major political parties. The incumbent party has been relied on previous rural programmes such as FELDA, FAMA and FELCRA. The Opposition’s Orange Book offered very few and very general rural policies – Giving 20% petroleum royalty for Sabah and Sarawak, increase per capita grant for each state, enhance Sabah and Sarawak infrastructure and protect native customary lands.
Given that the 14th General Election is around the corner, it is a vital for Malaysian citizens to scrutinize rural policies of both political divide to see if they address the urban and rural disparity and if they focus on the agenda of bringing fair share of development to rural areas/people.
The speaker, veteran activist Mr. Ong, who has been devoted decades to empower rural people in interior area of Sabah and Sarawak, will share with participants the concept of rural democratisation and an alternative social change approach for the entire country.
Please contact us at 0111-0664526 or akademidemokrasi@gmail.com if you have any queries.

Bilqis appeal: There are real crimes for govt to go after, say activists

Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A human rights NGO has questioned the government’s decision to appeal the acquittal of a woman who dropped balloons at an event attended by the prime minister and his wife in 2015.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen also questioned the need to secure a conviction for a minor incident, adding that it was a “waste of resources”.

“Surely there are real crimes for the public prosecutor to go after?

“He must not forget that he acts as a guardian for public interest. What public interest is being served by continuously appealing such a petty matter?”

Read more

Islamisation will tear Malaysia apart, says Marina Mahathir

Source: The Malaysian Insight

Illusions of Democracy contains a series of essays on democracy in Malaysia. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Seth Akmal, January 18, 2018.

MALAYSIA is on a slippery slope if the nation carries on with its Islamisation agenda, which will not only divide society, but also promote violence, said Marina Mahathir.

Citing a recent example of a man slapping a Muslim woman for not wearing a headscarf in public, the socio-political activist said Islamisation is not going to be positive or healthy for the nation.

“What could possibly have given the man the idea that he is entitled to harangue and slap a Muslim woman for not wearing a tudung as happened recently in Penang,” she said at a book launch at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last night.

The footage of a man slapping a woman for allegedly not wearing a headscarf some two weeks ago went viral on social media.

Read more

Racism has to be opposed from the top down — Azmi Sharom

Source: The Star

BY AZMI SHAROM

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher.

DEMOCRACY takes power away from the few, or the one, and places it in the hands of the many. Which is why we hear phrases like “people power” and “returning power to the people” bandied around when speaking about democratic reform.

Theoretically, if there is a free press, fairly delineated constituencies, independent state agencies and a respect for human rights, then the government of the day will be a reflection of the will of the people.

We, the ordinary men and women, choose our leaders. We can also “fire” them by voting them out. Therefore, we have ultimate power.

Read more

Prosecution appeals again against ‘balloon girl’s’ acquittal

Source: Malay Mail Online

Photo of Bilqis

Bilqis (right) was previously acquitted on July 1, 2017 by the Magistrates’ Court without her defence being called. — Picture by Miera Zulyana via Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The prosecution has again appealed against the acquittal of dance producer Bilqis Hijjas of a charge of “insulting behaviour” for dropping yellow balloons at a 2015 event graced by the prime minister.

Latheefa Koya, a lawyer for Bilqis, today said: “Our client just informed that she has been served the notice of appeal.”

When contacted, Bilqis — also popularly known as the “balloon girl” — confirmed that she had received the notice of appeal.

Read more

Illusions of Democracy in Malaysia

View Facebook event here

SIRD is pleased to invite you to the launch of Sophie Lemière’s latest edited volume, Illusions of Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People Volume II. Building upon her earlier volume Misplaced Democracy, it features a group of prominent international and local scholars covering topics such as the 1MDB scandal, islamisation, refugee populations, zakat payment, ISIS discourse in Malaysia as well as LGBT rights. It offers an up-to-date and wide ranging overview of Malaysian politics and the status of Malaysia as a semi-democratic or semi-authoritarian country.

Launching the book will be Marina Mahathir, with Sophie Lemière of the Weatherhead Center, Harvard University, Angela Kuga Thas, and Lawrence Ross forming the panel, to discuss Malaysian democracy and its allusions through the lens of political science, anthropology and LGBT rights.

Included also will be cartoonist Zunar.

Independent judiciary: PPBM must keep its word, say lawyers

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Pic drawn from FMT News

An independent judiciary is a welcome idea, as there is little transparency nor accountability in the appointment and promotion of judges, says Paulsen. – Pic drawn from FMT News

SHAH ALAM: To realise an independent judiciary, it is important for all parties within Pakatan Harapan (PH) to be of one mind, said human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen.

“As a coalition, it will be difficult for any one top leader to make decisions on his own.

“Therefore, if an independent judiciary is on PPBM’s manifesto, then it is up to the coalition as a whole to keep that promise,” he said.

He was responding to a proposal by PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at the party’s annual general meeting on Saturday, to restore the independence of the judiciary should PH take over Putrajaya in the next general election (GE14).

Paulsen said Mahathir must be reminded that it was during his administration that the judiciary came under its worst attack with the sacking of the then Lord President. Read more

Constitutional Law Lecture Series – Sixth Lecture: “Freedom of Speech & Expression in a Functioning Democracy”

Freedom of expression is regarded by many as the cornerstone of a democratic society. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other international human rights instruments. The Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression as stated in Article 10. It comes as no surprise that attempts to stifle the exercise of one’s freedom of expression has been met with fierce resistence from civil society organisations and concerned citizens.

How have our laws fared in promoting and protecting freedom of expression in Malaysia? Do we have a conducive environment to encourage a vibrant modern democracy? Have we made progress or regressed?

To find out more, join us for the 6th lecture in the Constitutional Law Lecture Series.

The Refsa Future of Democracy Lecture 2017 by Mustafa Akyol

The REFSA Future of Democracy Lecture 2017

Delivered by Mustafa Akyol

IS DEMOCRACY STILL RELEVANT?

The experience of Malaysia, Turkey and other nations

Tickets are free, register here to confirm your attendance.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-refsa-future-of-democracy-lecture-2017-by-mustafa-akyol-tickets-37800405029

Background:

The emergence of Donald Trump as the American president has shocked the world, especially for those who believe in democracy, freedom and human rights. For a nation that talks a lot about such values, it is a farce to see that the United States now is seeing the emergence of right-wing extremism, racism and religious bigotry.

Besides the United States, the rise of racism, religious violence and bigotry is also happening in many parts of the world. To make things worse, the erosion of democracy in a number of countries occurs with the sanction of the government of the day. Many of these were elected governments but they have decided to abuse the very same democracy that puts them in power.

While direct violence has yet to hit Malaysia, we too are facing similar backsliding of democracy. Racism, religious bigotry, discriminatory practices are putting democracy at risk. Does this mean democracy is no longer relevant?

The Future of Democracy Lecture:

REFSA as a progressive, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable analysis on social, economic and political issues is proud to organise a special lecture to address this issue.

While the topic is global in nature, it is still part of REFSA’s role to deal with the issue as it also affects Malaysians. It is REFSA’s duty to promote open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies and good governance to address those issues.

About the speaker:

The REFSA Future of Democracy Lecture will feature Mustafa Akyol, renowned Turkish writer and acclaimed journalist. He is the author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty and a number of other books. He is also a columnist for the International New York Times and the Hurriyet Daily News.

With his wide and vast experience, Mustafa Akyol will discuss issues relevant to the topic of this lecture. With his Islamic and liberal democratic background, he will share his views as well as to clear misunderstandings surrounding the problem and complexities of modern democracy.

PROGRAMME

7:00 pm-8:00pm Dinner

8:00 pm-8:15pm Introduction & Welcome Address

Liew Chin Tong, REFSA Chairman

8:15pm-8:30pm Opening remarks

Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi

8:30pm-9:30pm “Is Democracy Still Relevant?”

Speaker: Mustafa Akyol

9:30pm -10:00pm Q & A session

Moderator: Wan Hamidi Hamid