Monday, 7 April 2008

What we think of the election

by littleboy

With the recent re-landscaping of the Malaysian government, I have been inspired to say a few things on what this means to us, what will change and where we are headed. Who am I and why would you care about what I have to say? The truth is that I am no one. I am an ordinary citizen of the country; young, naive and uninformed. What I have to say lacks deep consideration and analysis. It is based on what I read from our pathetic press, what I hear from my friends who are not unlike myself, and what I instinctively feel from all this input. Why would you care? Because I am like you. I say what I am thinking, and what I am thinking, I share with practically everyone who cares about this country. My assumptions are arrogant, but it is true.

We are all excited by the current results. We all wanted change, and we finally went out to do it. BN has lost its two third majority, and now can’t change our sacred constitution at will. We never really thought they will do anything too drastic anyway, but at least we are relieved of the possibility of this. BN still has simple majority, and we like this. We want the comfort of familiarity, but with more room for debate and attention given to the controversial issues. We don’t expect these issues to be resolved anytime soon, but at least its on the table, and there is pressure for everyone to consider.

As for changes in the ‘opposition’ states, this is what we feel. Although we feel good about braving change we still don’t expect a big difference in progress and development. The average citizen will not likely feel immediate improvement, or any improvement at all. There will be some distribution of wealth now, but only to a limited extent (to the extent of which BN contractors will lose out to non-BN contractors). Even this might be overstating it, as businesses are resilient and flexible. When the ‘people to impress’ changes, they just impress the new people. So we wouldn’t be surprised if our lives don’t change, but we would at least expect everything to be done more transparently. Some of us worry about whether being in an ‘opposition’ state might affect federal government allocations. But we don’t think it will. We know that the federal government (ie BN) will try their best to resist their immature tendancies to punish these ‘ungrateful’ states, because they know if they do, they are basically securing a loss in the next general election. It will also give an excuse for the state governments to make a lot of noise, potentially spreading the dissatisfaction within the party, leading to a further reduction in parliamentary seats. So we are not worried about that. In fact, what we will be worried about is that more projects will be piled into these states, to the dissatisfaction of the people in the government states, leading to a swing to the opposition in the next election. We are worried here because we secretly don’t want the opposition to take over government.

Why don’t we want opposition to take over government? Mainly because we feel there is no suitable opposition yet, and it is not worth investing our countries future with the current opposition. DAP may claim to be progressive and universally representative, but we all know it is basically a Chinese party, and the Malays will not have this. PKR doesn’t seem to have redeeming qualities, except that they stand for everything that is not BN. It is this fact which has secured their success in this election. No one really wants to vote for them, but had to for the lack of a better choice. Anything goes, as long as it is not BN, because we want to teach them a lesson for ignoring our cries these past few years. We do have some respect for the party members. Many of them are respected academics, or successful business people. Many are young idealistic ‘saviours’ of our country, and they might potentially make up a good government.

The problem is that we are a bit reluctant because of their leader. Anwar Ibrahim has made a legendary come back in this election, garnering more hype and press than any other candidate (even though he did not run). He is a brilliant charismatic politician, but unfortunately, that is all he is; a politician. He manages to go down to the level of the people he is addressing, and these changes according to who he is addressing. We love hearing what he promises to do for us, until we realise, he is promising everyone everything. BN has labelled him a chameleon, and we all secretly agree. We don’t know what he is up to, and that makes it dangerous for us all. So we support Anwar because he gives us something to listen to and talk about, but we would rather him not do anything.

I am tempted to carry on telling you what you think. But like most Malaysians, I want to make a difference only when its convenient for me, and carrying on is not convenient for me (as I would rather watch TV). The results of this elections is not an accomplishment by us Malaysians. We just like to say it is.

(the writer finds the KPUM blog dated and dead, and pleads for readers to say something about it, or something at all. more stuff can be read at

Monday, 29 October 2007

UKEC as our Representatives

For those who are new to UKEC, it stands for the United Kingdom Executive Council. It is basically made out of all the Malaysian societies in UK universities. Effectively, all Malaysian students who are members of their respective university Malaysian Societies are indirectly involved in UKEC.

We can have a full discussion on the status of UKEC as a representative body, as well as their scope of work, and i welcome any post or comment regarding this, but this discussion is specific to the UKEC AGM which took place on the 27th and 28th of October 2007 in London.

Everything went on as usual the first part of the day, but the second part of the day, when the election started, become more interesting.

The first thing to point out is that when the elections started, no position was contested. Most of the regional chair positions did not even have candidates. There was a proposal to open nominations, but this happened only for the regional chairs. By the time nominations closed, only the Scotland chair had more than 1 candidate (excluding RON). The other positions, including the executive council (EXCO) remained uncontested. The lack of participation by the members (or publicity by the outgoing committee) is worrying.

Hustings then took place. Questions were mild. It started becoming more heated when the executive candidates were up. I will not bother with the specifics. Sufficient to say that the bulk of the questions evolved around the issue of political bias. As it turns out the candidates who ran for the top EXCO positions are still committee members of UMNO.

Due to concern from the floor, there was a motion to effectively compel resignation from their umno (or other political body) post upon winning the ukec election. This would obviously be bad for the candidates, as some of them had publicly refused to resign from their umno position upon winning the election (note I phrase it this way because winning was inevitable result. Malaysians rarely vote RON, and the uncontested candidates were bound to win - you can debate this point if you want)

Several points against the motion were made. I aim to address these points.

Firstly, there was already a check and balance system in place for situations like this. The EXCO is still answerable to the Supreme Council. This may seem right, except it’s extremely ideological. In most cases the supreme council doesn’t not know what’s going on within UKEC, and even if they do, given the geographical situation, it is highly impractical for individual supreme council members to call for an EGM.

Secondly, it was argued that it was discrimination against umno members, or more generally, politically affiliated individuals, as it prohibits them from exercising their freedom to join these parties. I disagree. Firstly, the motion was only for those holding a committee post. Not just random members. The reason for this is to avoid conflict of interest issues. The question of discrimination doesn’t even come in. And even if it does, there was no impediment of freedom of choice. The candidates did have a choice. They just chose to make their political affiliations public, rather than keeping neutral.

Thirdly, that the whole motion was based on hypothetical situations. ‘What if there was a conflict of interest?’. Because of this, there is no point in ‘providing these safeguards’. Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the purpose of a constitution? To provide for the ‘what if’s?’ To set out procedures or preventative tools in case of a possibly chaotic situations before it’s too late?

All the above aside, the supreme council members are there not to vote in the best interest of ukec, but rather in the best interest of their individual societies. They are there not in their personal capacity, but rather as representatives of their members. KPUM has engaged in serious discussion in this very forum in the past about political affiliations. We have pledged to maintain full neutrality, as clearly this is an issue that concerns most students. Our members went so far as to demand we declare our sponsors, in event of situations like this, and it’s perfectly understandable. As representatives, we need to maintain a standard of neutrality higher than we impose on ourselves (if that makes sense). (That’s why Hoffman was thrown out from the Pinochet case, as even apparent bias, as opposed to actual bias, is unacceptable). So to have someone who openly hold a post in a political party, and who is committed to stay there, I feel, is offensive to UKEC as a neutral and objective body.

Anyway, the motion was dodged, and was replaced with a lesser motion of appointing independent observers to oversee the decisions and actions of the EXCO. I am in this board, and I will do my best to maintain the integrity of UKEC. But to me, this is not one step forward for mature democracy in UKEC. It is a leap back.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Law Career Convention 2007

For Your Information,

KPUM is organizing the Law Career Convention 2007 on the 25th of August at the UM Law Faculty. Many law firms, and various non-legal firms including NGO’s will be invited. It would be my pleasure to invite all of you to attend.

This would be a good opportunity to get more information about your future career, as well as to meet others like yourself.

Admission is free. For more information, please visit our KPUM website (link listed on the left) or email me at
Dear readers,

I would like to apologise to all of you for not updating this forum as frequent as I should have. This is due partly to exams and work, and partly due to unfounded frustration at the lack of contributions. However, I realize that it is only the committee who should be blamed, and especially me personally for not pushing for more articles and contributions.

I will try my best in the future to remedy our failure, and to provide you with a operational forum as promised by us. However, we still welcome any contributions from any of you.

Hope to hear from you soon. And hope you are still listening when I have something to say.

Best Regards and Apologies,

Rashid Karim
Blog Moderator

Monday, 19 March 2007

Freedom of Expression in Malaysia in UK.

Anwar Ibrahim came to LSE last week to give a talk. The topic was Islam and the West. Attendance was good.

He advocated for more dialogue between Islamic countries and the West, to reconcile differences, and for better understanding between these two worlds. The aim was creditable, but no proposals as to how this should be done was presented. He takes a very moderate stance on issues relating to Islamic governance, but offers no standard for us to adopt. He highlights the problems, but doesn’t provide the solutions (a lot like what we do here).

But he wasn’t really there to talk about solutions. He was there to be heard, and to be seen. Every chance he got, he criticised current (and former administration) of Malaysia. He mentioned he was jailed at least 10 times throughout the 1 hour session. When asked about the current state of our freedom of expression and what should be done about it, he answered, vote Keadilan.

Having said this, this is what I understand happened behind the scenes.

KPUM first approached his representatives to invite him to give a talk. KPUM was advised against it by ‘higher authorities’. A member of the committee then went ahead, under his personal capacity, with negotiations. The talk was almost confirmed, when another ‘higher authority’ advised against his involvement in the event. Apparently UMNO London was not too happy about the talk, but it is uncertain if they ‘advised’ the ‘higher authority’ to advice against it. This person then approached the LSE Malaysia Singaporean Society(MSS) to take over organisation of the event. Progress continued. However, on the day of the talk, MSS sent out an email stating that they were no longer organising the event, and that it is organised by LSE. MSS was apparently ‘advised’ against it by another higher authority.

The talk went ahead, and credit was given solely to LSE Events Department.

His talk was not a political one, but it became one. Personally, I feel student organisations should not organise political events, or co-organise events with political organisation… but if the committee has agreed to do it, should they be stopped by ‘authorities’ like the Malaysian Student Department?

Also, was KPUM and MSS advised against organising this talk because it was political in nature (which arguably, it was not), or because it was by a member of the opposition? The LSE Malaysia Club has been organising various events with UMNO London, including talks by members of UMNO. But these events have not been criticised by the authorities, but rather supported by them. Double standards?

Sometimes I don’t even know why I bother writing about issues like this. When I rant about this to some people, they reply… ‘so?’. Their lack of concern over these issues is not shocking… it is expected. We have been conditioned to accept the fact that our freedom of expression is a conditional right, limited to praise and support of the government. But it is one things to accept this in Malaysia. We have brought this culture with us to the UK, and it continues to haunt us even here.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

KPUM as our Representatives

There has been a lot of criticism of KPUM as a representative body, and I guess for good reason. Most of the law students have not heard of us, and those who have don’t know what we do.

I quote our website: “KPUM is an umbrella body for all Malaysians studying law in the United Kingdom”. This is a strong statement to make. Firstly, like I said, a large proportion of Malaysian law students here don’t even know about us. Secondly, even if they did, there was no expressed consent to be represented by KPUM. Thirdly, because of geographical problems, and the lack of publicity of the AGM’s and other events, even if you did want to be involved, you either can’t or wouldn’t know how to.

The United Kingdom Executive Council (UKEC) faces similar problems. (If you haven’t heard of UKEC, well… I’m not surprised). But in their case, it’s not too bad because students don’t directly become members of UKEC. Instead, the Malaysian Societies of each university become members. So even though there is no direct consent by the students, there is indirect consent through the Malaysian societies, and that, I guess, is better than nothing. Of course the societies should individually vote on whether they want to be represented by UKEC, but that’s the societies problem, not UKEC’s.

So KPUM in on sticky ground. I understand the concern of all the law students. I was once very critical about this fact, and although it would be inappropriate for me to say this as a committee member, I still am. But in our defence, we have tried building a name and contact list of all the law students, but there has been little cooperation. They either couldn’t be bothered, or are sceptical about us. The committee of 2006/07 inherited a society with no money and no members and a bad reputation.

We have tried addressing these problems, but its easier said than done. We obviously can’t charge members fees. We no longer receive funding from the Malaysian Student Department. And as for sponsors, most are not willing for some reason or other. As for our reputation, we are seen to be lacking independence. This, i regret to say, is true to an extent. I assure you, the committee has no allegiance to the government, but matters are not as simple as that. We tried organising talks by controversial figures, but that was shot down. We could have gone ahead with it, but it would mean either losing our privileges in the Malaysian Hall, or losing our connections with people who can get things done. And even if we didn’t mind giving all that up in the interest of full independence, it would be a decision which will not only effect this committee, but the next. We are stuck. (and it would not only threaten the society, but the committee personally, since many of us are sponsored, if you know what I mean)

We are trying to achieve our objectives through other means. This forum is one way, and even this is on precarious ground. The issues are a little too controversial for the governments liking (as watered down and stale as they may be). My approach to these issues is not that of indifference, but of care, and although it was seem lacking in ‘conviction, zeal and passion’, I feel it’s a compromise I need to make to keep on doing this. It is you, the readers of this forum who are in a better position to say what has to be said. Someone brought up the issue of our logo (refer previous post), but even that was shot down by many for reasons I personally still don’t understand.

What I am trying to say is that we know what the problems are. I feel we are doing what we can, given our situation. Please feel free to criticise our approach. You can call us ineffective or immature or whatever, and we will swallow it and work on it, but just so that you know, it hurts when people say we are bias, because that couldn’t be further away from the truth.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Dear All,

Happy Chinese New Year.

May the year bring us all good luck, good health and more comments.
Have a great time everyone.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

The Dacing and the Kris – A Story of Totems and Taboos

by Jann,

I was rather dismayed at your logo. The Society needs rebranding of sorts. Is it so closely associated with the political parties which are in power in Malaysia or it is an autonomous body concerned with issues of justice? I felt in our young citizens, the guilt of conformity and obedience to powers more mighty than the power of justice. Loosen up and reinvent yourselves as the future leaders of Malaysian society or the same process of conformity will drown you in the murky waters of mediocrity, doing what previous generations have done without fine tuning the path to just justice. Assuming that all governments are essentially concerned for just justice which may be ideologically true but in reality false, we need independent critical minds to thinks clearly about the direction we are going. We need more safety nets for the poor, comprehensive social, health and education insurance for the young to enjoy more equitable health care and fair education to map the future course of Malaysia’s history. We need minimal standards of social equity to understand that there is just justice, not only rhetorical but translated in concrete policies and action. We need a new generation of productive and critical leaders to reshape our thinking or another fifty years will be lost, so it is too much to ask if you could….

“Go out of the state of mind of the political elite and go into the hearts and souls of the common people”. Go beyond social and biological origins into the heart bed of Malaysian experience and make a statement on the common Malaysian today, drowning sorrows in notorious traffic jams, notoriously deadly air, unbending wages and nightly jobs to keep the family going. We are doing well- local newspapers shout out the joys of a few winners of globalisation but who speaks for the millions of silent losers?

‘Are we in a play of sorts, a Macbeth tragedy? Have we adopted the symbols of power of rulers and forgotten we are the ruled? My esteemed young citizens, rulers are only ruled by the rules of ambition and the common man can set them free by the rules of responsibility”

“Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle towards my hand?
Come let me clutch thee.
I have thee not and yet I see thee still
Art thou fatal vision sensible to feeling as to sight ?
Or art though but a dagger of the mind proceeding from a heat oppressed brain?”

It is not so much the spirituality of the kris or the equilibrium of the dacing which is in question but the minds which control them... How free is our freedom?

“Enjoy your freedom while you can for like romantic love, it goes even before you have found it…. “

Friday, 9 February 2007

ISA 1960

Brief Facts

The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia (and Singapore). Any person who allegedly threatens the national security may be detained by any police officer without a warrant or trail for up to 60 days. After 60 days, with the approval of the Minister of Home Affairs, the person can be detained for a further 2 years, and this is renewable.

This was enacted in 1960, while Tengku Abdul Rahman was Prime Minister.


"The ISA introduced in 1960 was designed and meant to be used solely against the communists...My Cabinet colleagues and I gave a solemn promise to Parliament and the nation that the immense powers given to the government under the ISA would never be used to stifle legitimate opposition and silence lawful dissent"
Tunku Abdul Rahman

"The ISA is a measure aimed at preventing the resurgence of the earlier communist threat to the nation... During my term of office as Prime Minister, I made every effort to ensure that pledges of my predecessors, that powers under the ISA would not be misused to curb lawful political opposition and democratic citizen activity, were respected."
Tun Hussein Onn

Recent Application

Several opposition parties, including the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat(PKR) have spoken out against the ISA. Many of them have leaders or prominent members who were held under the ISA, such as Lim Kit Siang , Karpal Singh and Kim Guan Eng of the DAP, and Anwar Ibrahim of the PKR. (wiki)

Further Facts

The ISA has been amended 18 times, giving it more power every time. In 1989, the powers of the Minister under the legislation was made immune to judicial review by virtue of amendments to the Act, only allowing the courts to examine and review technical matters pertaining to the ISA arrest. Application of habeas corpus cannot be challenged in court, since the amendment gave the Minister of Home Affairs complete discretion in determining whether an individual is a treat to national security.

Further Quotes

1988 – "If we want to save Malaysia and Umno, Dr Mahathir (then Prime Minister) must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics."

2003 (after became PM) - called the ISA "a necessary law," and argued "We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society."
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

1966 - "no one in his right senses like[s] the ISA. It is in fact a negation of all the principles of democracy."

At a BBC interview recently - "Which one would you prefer, arresting the bomber after the bomb explodes and hundreds of innocent lives are lost or arresting that bomber before the bomb explodes? Do you think we did that just for fun?"
Tun Mahathir Muhamad

Chicken Rice, Petrol and Politicians

Fact 1

Chicken rice in London Chinatown is usually around £5. That is roughly RM35. The average chicken rice (in a Penang hawker stall) is around RM3. So by direct comparison, chicken rice here is about 11 times more expensive.

Fact 2

Minimum wage in London is around £5+ an hour. Minimum wage in Malaysia (I’m not sure if there is any, but I’m guessing) is around RM3. So the purchasing power parity in relation to chicken rice is the same here as in Malaysia.

Fact 3

Price of 1 litre of petrol in Malaysia now is almost RM2. Price here is around £1 (RM7) per litre. So by direct comparison, price of petrol is Malaysia is less than 1/3 the price of petrol here. But 1 hour of work in Malaysia buys you 1.5 litres, whereas 1 hour of work here buys you 5litres.

No real point. Just decided to point out the obvious.

Every time they increase the price, our government says our petrol is still the cheapest in the world. It maybe true, but does it really mean anything?

Rafidah Aziz when she was here said we can’t compare this way, since UK is developed, and we are not. It’s true. We are not. So our politicians should just say that then, rather than just trying to be sneaky by deceiving us with meaningless statements.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Our Constitution and Islam

Constitution of Malaysia

3 (1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

This is our constitution. What do you guys think?

This whole discussion is rather fragmented. Just random things that come to mind.

What is the purpose of having a national religion? It is just a pointless statement, or does this imply that there is a hierarchy of religions in Malaysia? Or does it mean that the constitution should be read from an ‘Islamic’ point of view? Lets assume the constitution writers did not put it in for fun. What did they aim to achieve from this provision?

From the wording, Islam is the religion of the federation. Firstly, can a state adopt a religion? I’m not too sure what this means. It doesn’t say Islam is the official religion. It says it IS the religion. Secondly, it says other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony. Does practice here mean merely privately, or openly? There is a ban in propagating other religions other than Islam to Muslims, a fundamental part of some religions. Is this a justified limitation of our freedom to practice religion? Thirly, what is ‘other religions’? Is Scientology a religion under out constitution. Malaysia has banned books by Shi’a Muslims, and has restricted their practices. Is this a restriction against religion?

Islam is the religion practiced by the majority, around 60%. However, this can be misleading because Malays are required to be Muslims by the constitution Article 160. This effectively means that Malays may not convert out of Islam because without losing their status as a Malay, and will have to forfeit all their privileges. Similarly, it is legally possible for a non-Malay to enjoy Bumiputera status under Article 153 of the constitution if they convert into Islam. Special rights for Muslims then, not Malays? Orang Asli’s are usually animist. What about them?

In practice, for Muslims to convert out of Islam is extremely difficult, and the legal process uncertain. In 1999 the High Court ruled that secular courts have no jurisdiction to hear applications by Muslims to change religions. According to the ruling, the religious conversion of Muslims lies solely within the jurisdiction of Islamic courts. Perlis passed a Shari’a law subjecting Islamic "deviants" and apostates to 1 year of ‘rehabilitation’. Negeri Sembilan is the only state which allows Muslims to convert into another religion. No other state allows Muslims to officially convert. In five states, Perak, Melaka, Pahang, Sabah and Terengganu, conversion is a criminal offense which can be punished by a fine or jail term. In Pahang, convicted converts may also be punished with up to six strokes of the cane. (wiki)

In my personal opinion, the constitutional writers did not intend to imply anything. They did not intend to give Malaysia a religion, or expect it to make a difference. I think the only reason it is there was to appease the Malays at that time, who feared their land and religion were being taken away from them. In my opinion, government and society has put more than deserved emphasis on this clause. It is in my opinion, the constitution of this country should remain secular. People can practice whatever they want, but the government should not interfere with this. As it is now, the government is active in infusing Islamic values into the administration of the country.

Note : Issues regarding religion and Islam is under the authority of the state, and not the federal government.

Monday, 29 January 2007

UMNO As Our Representatives.

There has been a lot of talk recently about having a mature democracy. Najib Tun Razak when he was here in London talked about this, and its refreshing to know that our politicians realise the need to change things (ironic coming from him, since he’s the Chief Whip in BN – refer post below). The obvious thing to do to have a more mature system are things like having more open debate in parliament, not exercising the whip too strictly and allowing MP’s to vote according to conscience (all of which BN is trying so desperately to keep)… stuff like that.

In a democracy, you have an ideology, and you fight for it…

Copy and pasted from wikipedia:

An ideology is an organized collection of ideas. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer change in society through a normative thought process (what the world ought to be). Ideologies tend to be abstract thoughts applied to reality and, thus, make this concept unique to politics. Typically, each ideology contains certain ideas on what it considers to be the best form of government.

What is UMNO’s ideology? To fight for Malay interest? Is this really a form of ideology? What does UMNO consider to be the best form of government? For there to be more Malays running the country?

Anyone find it weird to have a racial based government? I’m not sure where in the world this still exist, but in the west, in these so called ‘mature’ democracies, having a racially based government is considered blatant institutionalized racism.

I met this UMNO guy back home, and he was proud of being a member. He said UMNO itu Melayu, Melayu itu UMNO. I am Malay, so if his reasoning is right, I am a part of UMNO. So I guess I am not only born into a culture, not only into a religion, but also born into a party…

Maybe this is why UMNO has an overwhelming majority. Because those who don’t support them do not support the Malays. They are basically traitors of their race. And so since I want to be a good Malay, I need to fight for the Malays, and so I guess I need to support UMNO.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Blogs under attack!!!

Just as I was trying to start this one, two Malaysian bloggers were filed lawsuits by NSTP seeking injunctions against their blogs. I wonder if we will get into trouble? I guess not. After all, we’re just sweet innocent children far far away from home… We don’t know much about what’s going on in Malaysia… and how are we supposed to know? The media (note mostly owned by the government) decides what we need to know, and they have obviously decided we don’t need to know much.

That aside, the day has come when a member of the media is fighting against the freedom of expression, the very right they should be fighting to preserve. To be fair, the suit was for defamation, where the basis was the commercial integrity of a profit-making company. But should these mainstream newspapers be regarded as just money making firms, or should they have a moral, ethical or even legal duty to disseminate neutral information about the state of governance in a country? Should the mainstream media be allowed to be the representative and spokesperson of political parties, and more specifically the government rather than being a watchdog? As it is now, we only have these blogs doing it…and they are being torn down.

Like I said, it is true that the legal grounds of this suit has nothing to do with the state of the freedom of media in this country… legally it sounds fine, but practically, it threatens the very right to our freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the freedom to believe what we want. And even if it is not against law and constitution to control the media, even if the government should be allowed to use money to buy these newspapers and tv stations, should they still be allowed, when these information providers are not sale, to use the court to shut them up?

Saturday, 20 January 2007

The Whip System at a Glance

by Rashid Karim

Sorry if i am over-simplifying matters, but this is to my mind, what the whip system is about. The whip is a person in a particular party appointed to ensure backbencher MP’s vote inline with the views of the party leaders. The MP’s of a party basically cannot simply vote according to what he feels best serves his constituency, but rather what is best for the party as a whole. This system is practiced by most parties in most democracies, although strictness of application varies. It does seem to undermines, to an extent, the principles of democracy, but it is found to be necessary to ensure the smooth running of Parliamentary business.

If party members can vote in any way they choose, legislative progress might be delayed, the party’s image of unity will be undermined, and the whole party would seize to operate effectively. BN is one of the parties which practice this, and understandably so. However, considering the number of seats they controlled, one may argue this effectively renders parliament useless.

In countries like the US and the UK, where the number of seats controlled by the government is not much more than the opposition, a few MP’s voting independently may result in a bill to fail. Whips can and should be used there. If it was not, nothing would get done. But for a country like Malaysia, applying the whip system too strictly defeats the whole purpose of a democracy. Recently, the leader of the backbenchers club resigned because he was apprehended by party leaders for supporting a motion by the opposition when he was supposed to vote against any opposition motion, regardless of merit.

A minister was questioned here in London some time last year about the implications of the whip being used in this way, and said, I quote “Yes, the Parliament is useless. The only reason we have it is because people will get upset if we don’t”. He also said, I quote “Who cares who the MP’s are, people vote for BN, not the person”. In a weird, politically incorrect way, he made sense. The question is should this be case?

We consider ourselves a democratic country, and this is reflected through our parliament. It is the basis on which our constitution operates. Doesn’t it worry anyone when our leaders declare our parliament useless? Doesn’t it bother anyone that when you vote, you are basically just giving power to the few Executive Council members?

Should this whip system still be practiced here in Malaysia, given the political situation, and if so should there be a limit to the power of a party to practice it? How do we limit it?

Discuss in not more than 1500 words :)

BN As Our Representatives

by Rashid Karim

Bush won his first election by winning in the state of Florida by less than 0.01% of the vote. The Blair govenment had only 55% of the seats in Parliament in 2005. But in Malaysia, BN had 10 times more seats in parliament compared to the collective opposition in the last election, a win unthinkable in US, UK or any other (properly democratic) country . As much as the government is criticized for being inefficient or unfair, the fact that they have a 92% majority should not be ignored. The question is are we being unreasonable by criticizing the government? Aren’t we just the small minority who should know our place, and shut up? Is being critical towards this greatly supported government effectively undermining the wants of the masses? Are we indirectly declaring democracy ineffective?

This argument can certainly be made, and quite strongly at that. But does this mean that all these criticisms are unjustified? The international community has said nothing but praise about Malaysia’s economic strength, national unity and rich cultural heritage. Well, in the Malaysian media at least. Not everything is reported back home. Malaysia is said to be practicing a warped form of apartheid. We are considered to have lost our economic competitive edge to countries like Thailand and Vietnam due to inefficiency and corruption. Our constitution has been under attack for being contradictory with regards to freedom of religion. This and much more. The international community did not vote our government in, but does this make these points untrue? The answers to this lies in many debates ahead. The point I am trying to make here (and it’s a very obvious point) is that democratic legitimacy does not confer moral or legal legitimacy to actions of the government. It does not matter if they had the votes of the Malaysian public, they are still bound by principles of human rights and morality and must serve in the best interest of the public.

Comments? You think this is right, or should we really shut up?

Another question worth looking at is why BN got such a big mandate from the Malaysian people. Is it because Malaysians generally share the same values and expectations and BN happened to match this? This could arguably be the case. Or could it be because they have proven to be effective leaders in previous years? This could also be the case. However lets consider this question from a broader point of view. After all, there has been a lot of criticism towards the government, as although as highlighted above, a lot of it comes from the international community, the bulk of it I would assume is from the very voters who gave them power in the first place. Why would they vote for BN if they don’t always agree with BN’s approach to governance?

The answer is never black and white. Maybe the first two points above are correct, but to an extent. BN does, to an extent, reflect the values of the majority. They are a multi-racial body, moderately religious and largely capitalist. To an extent, this does reflect Malaysian society, and so BN may be considered an appropriate representative. They have been running the country since our independence, and we have grown economically since then and so to an extent, they have proven themselves capable. But is this all we really wanted? It is true they have done a lot, but is it enough? Given all the opportunities they had, given all the resources they had, could they have done more? I think most will answer in the affirative for this.

Could it be then the majority did not want BN per se, but rather was forced to settle for BN for lack of a better opposition? This question cannot, and should not be answered, because answering it would be to assume to an unreasonable degree the preferences of the Malaysians public. It would, however, be an interesting question to reflect on personally.

Comments? Or is this post just pointless? I know there is no resolution to be made here, but I feel keeping these issues in mind may help with further discussion on other topics. Also, I got bored and so decided to ramble, and since I’m moderator, I get to put up anything I want…

Have fun everyone. And take care.

The Moderators Declaration.

I would like to declare that what I write here in my articles or comments does not necessarily reflect my political, economic or religious views, or that of KPUM’s. Rather, my aim here is to encourage debate about various issues and ideas. I consider my role here as purely facilitative.

This means let me know what you think, but please don't scold me too much. Thank you.

Friday, 19 January 2007

How It Works

Typical blog style. Articles of various issues, legal and non-legal, will be posted from time to time. These articles may be contributed by any interested person by emailing it to the moderator of this forum i.e. me (Rashid Karim) at Once approved, the article will be posted on the blog, and open to comments. The comments will not be screened, but the moderator reserves the right to remove any comments which is deemed inappropriate. However, the moderator is obliged pay special emphasis to right of contributors to express themselves freely, and will only remove comments in exceptional cases.

Once a sufficient amount of comments and proposals has been accumulated, the moderator or the author of the article will conclude with a resolution of the issue. This resolution will be voted on by all members of the forum, and if passed will be published on KPUM’s monthly newsletter. Where possible and appropriate, a formal resolution will be drafted and sent to the authority concerned highlighting our collective concerns, and proposals to remedy the situation.

This blog is the blog of all Malaysian law students in UK, but shall be open to everyone to read and contribute. Comments can be made in either English or Malay (You may also leave comments in Mandarin or Tamil, but this makes it slightly difficult for me). We aim to practice full freedom of expression. Any suggestion, comment or opinion is encouraged. However, it should be kept in mind that KPUM is an official student representative body. This means that it would be in the interest of all members to keep language clean, discuss matters maturely and sensibly, treat other members with respect and to phrase sentences carefully where the issue is sensitive, without offending other members, but as to still allow your point to be expressed clearly. What you say reflects on us all. Having said this, contributors are encouraged to sign their names, but we will respect your choice to remain anonymous if you prefer.

The moderator of this blog will not declare any official religion or language or grant any special status to anyone :)

Note, even this is open to comments and suggestions. Please let me know if you feel the process should be conducted in a certain way. Also let me know if there are any grammatical or speeling mistakes, as this would be embarrass for me. Again, I can be reached at It would be helpful if all emails concerning this blog be titled Blog : (title) at the subject bar.

Have fun.



This is KPUM’s new blog/forum thing.

We started this to provide a platform for frank and open discussion about various issues, legal and non-legal, plaguing Malaysians newspapers and coffee shops. There are apparently loads of forums here in UK which you can attend and give your two-cents, but as it turns out, these forums are not heavily publicised or supported, and so there are a few more cents out there not shared with everyone. We are here to encourage free expression, allowing all of you to say what you want here, online. We know you can express yourself on other blogs with cooler names, but we feel you should do it here for of several reasons.

Firstly, we feel that opinions and criticism alone is not enough. We have been talking for ages about the problems, but nothing has been done. Thus, we aim to not only discuss these issues fully, but also to come up with resolutions stating our stand on the issue and propose recommendations for change. We will then published these resolutions and recommendation, and forward it to the authorities concerned. They will most probably ignore us, or send a mean letter to the committee, but we will stand by it. KPUM has claimed since it was founded to be the representative body of all Malaysian law students in UK, even when some of them don’t even know it exist. We promise to do this from now on. We will represent you, rather than just claiming to, and you will be heard. But you first need to say something, even if its worth two cents.

Secondly, having an active body of members gives us more leverage to ask for sponsorship. The more you talk, the more money we can get, the more events we can organise, and the more free food you get when you come. Simple economics.

Thirdly, for your own self satisfaction. We know this does not mean much to some of you (or maybe that’s just me?), but you will be surprised at how good you feel once you have said what you want to. It gives you a sense of purpose. And even if KPUM can’t give you free food, we have given more if we were able to help you realise you are more than just a future degree holder, but also the saviour of our country (as lame as it may sound). We should not merely aim to be successful subjects of the system, but rather to be a part of a successful system. We may criticise the authorities for ineffective governance, but a bigger crime is to be indifferent. To be indifferent about a problem is not being neutral about it, but rather being supportive of it.

(but in any case, we will try to give you free food)

For all these reasons, we hope you support this forum. And on our part, we will try our best to give the representation you deserve. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Rashid Karim
Blog moderator