- Bishop’s silence on talk a shock
- [KENYATAAN MEDIA] Menuntut Semua Anggota Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya (SPR) Letak Jawatan Kerana Gagal Melaksanakan Tanggungjawab
- Anwar slams Australian Foreign Minister for “weak” stand on Putrajaya’s threat to students
- UMNO goes for the Status Quo
- The Politics of Literature: An interview with Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa
Posted: 23 Oct 2013 01:47 AM PDT
IMAGINE this: Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is visiting Malaysia to speak to Australian students studying at Malaysian universities.
The Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur then issues a written threat to all Australian students, saying that if they hear Mr Shorten speak they will lose any government-funded scholarships.
Such an action would be met with outrage by any Malaysian government as being an act of foreign interference, and an unwarranted intrusion in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.
Yet something very similar occurred in Australia in the past few days.
An official of the Malaysian consulate in Sydney warned Malaysian scholarship students not to attend the talk I gave last weekend at Adelaide’s Festival of Ideas. The email stated he “wouldn’t hesitate to take stern action to those involved”.
Australia rightly prides itself as a bastion of free speech and democratic ideals.
As a liberal democracy, the ability to be able to express views freely in a peaceful manner is a cornerstone of your society.
Imagine my surprise, then, when, after independent senator Nick Xenophon and I called on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to condemn the threat and to protect students attending my talk, the response was so weak.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade merely responded with a statement, saying: “All students residing in Australia, including Malaysian students, enjoy all rights and liberties available under the Australian law, including the ability to attend a wide variety of legitimate events taking place in Australia. The Festival of Ideas in Adelaide is one such event.”
Contrast this with the US State Department telling the Malaysian embassy in Washington to back off when it made similar threats there.
My talk highlighted the tragic state of democracy in Malaysia, conveniently ignored by this and the previous Australian governments.
The grave flaws of Malaysia’s election system were highlighted last year by an independent, international fact-finding mission, of which Senator Xenophon was a member.
The mission flagged grave concerns about the integrity of the electoral roll, phantom voters, voter intimidation, a corruption-prone postal-voting system and, overall, the potential for massive electoral fraud.
There is also a severe gerrymander favouring the government. The Secretary General of the ruling party, for example, has only 7000 voters in his electorate. The deputy leader of the opposition has 100,000 voters in his electorate.
And major television stations and newspapers are owned by allies of the government with no airtime or space given for the opposition’s views, apart from outright vilification.
The international fact-finding mission concluded that these restrictions were draconian, because they prevented alternative views being heard.
Little wonder that the ruling coalition has never been out of power in the past 56 years.
The mission’s fears proved well founded at May’s general elections. Despite widespread voter fraud and irregularities, and the official result of almost 52 per cent for the opposition and 47 per cent for the government, the gerrymander still meant the ruling party holds 60 per cent of the seats.
As for me, I am banned from entering any university campus in Malaysia. It seems my time as a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC doesn’t qualify me to set foot on campuses in my own country!
I was overwhelmed by the response I received from the Australian public and Malaysian students in Adelaide.
Successive Australian governments have been rightly concerned when such anti-democratic processes prevailed in Myanmar. But their silence at this travesty in Malaysia is deeply saddening. And the response of Ms Bishop to threats made against Malaysian students on Australian soil truly shocks me.
Posted: 22 Oct 2013 11:23 PM PDT
23 OKTOBER 2013
Semua anggota Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) dituntut meletakkan jawatan beramai-ramai atas kegagalan melaksanakan tanggungjawabnya menurut Perlembagaan Persekutuan bagi menjalankan ulangkaji persempadanan.
Perkara 113 (2) dan 113 (3) Perlembagaan Persekutuan memperuntukkan ulangkajian bahagian-bahagian pilihanraya dijalankan oleh SPR dengan lat tempoh tidak kurang daripada 8 tahun antara tarikh siapnya ulangkajian yang terdahulu.
Kerajaan mengesahkan persempadanan terdahulu bagi Semenanjung dan Sabah diluluskan pada 21 Mac 2003, manakala Sarawak pada 10 Jun 2005.
Oleh yang demikian, lat tempoh Semenanjung & Sabah berakhir pada 21 Mac 2011 dan sepatutnya ulangkajian masing-masing bermula selepas itu. Kemudian Sarawak seharusnya bermula selepas 10 Jun 2013.
Tuntutan dan tanggungjawab Perlembagaan ini terus terabai. SPR gagal laksanakannya. Ini pengabaian dan kegagalan serius.
Sebelum ini SPR gagal jalankan PRU13 secara adil dan bebas selain berbangkit masalah proses yang pincang kerana isu dakwat yang tak kekal dan daftar pemilih yang tercemar.
Pakatan Rakyat menuntut seluruh anggota SPR meletakkan jawatan atas pengabaian dan kegagalan melaksanakan tanggungjawab Perlembagaan.
Posted: 22 Oct 2013 09:13 PM PDT
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim slammed Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for not taking a firm stand against Putrajaya over a warning to Malaysian students to stay away from his recent talk in Adelaide.
“Australia rightly prides itself as a bastion of free speech and democratic ideals. As a liberal democracy, the ability to be able to express views freely in a peaceful manner is a cornerstone of your society,” Anwar said, writing on The Australian today.
“Imagine my surprise, then, when, after independent senator Xenophon and I called on Bishop to condemn the threat and to protect students attending my talk, the response was so weak,” he added, referring to Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon who condemned Canberra’s inaction over an email threat by the Malaysian High Commission.
The email by the Malaysian Students Department to students sponsored by the Public Service Department warned them not to attend a talk by Anwar in conjunction with the Festival of Ideas at the Adelaide University, last weekend.
“I will not hesitate to take stern action against those PSD scholarship holders who attend this event. You should know what’s best as you have signed the scholarship agreement,” said the department’s student advisor Shahrezan Md Sheriff.
The threat however appeared to have backfired when Malaysian students defied the directive and attended Anwar’s talk last Saturday.
Xenophon had earlier urged the Australian government to tell Putrajaya to “back off” for threatening Malaysian students.
The Australian government had said that all students in the country “enjoy all rights and liberties available under the Australian law, including the ability to attend a wide variety of legitimate events taking place in Australia.
“The Festival of Ideas in Adelaide is one such event,” it stated.
Anwar meanwhile lashed out at Canberra for its “silence at the travesty in Malaysia”.
“Contrast this with the US State Department telling the Malaysian embassy in Washington to back off when it made similar threats there. The response of Ms Bishop to threats made against Malaysian students on Australian soil truly shocks me,” he wrote.
“Successive Australian governments have been rightly concerned when such anti-democratic processes prevailed in Myanmar. But their silence at this travesty in Malaysia is deeply saddening.”
Posted: 22 Oct 2013 07:17 PM PDT
Malaysia's intraparty elections for the United Malays National Organization, which concluded over the weekend, have resulted in a resurrection of sorts for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who was all but given up as finished in the wake of the May 5 election debacle.
The party has been struggling with its identity since the election, in which the ruling Barisan Nasional lost the popular vote by a 50.87-47.38 percent split to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition headed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. The Barisan returned to the majority with a diminished 133 seats to the opposition's 89 only because of gerrymandering. Najib was blamed for the debacle by party stalwarts led by and egged on by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Nonetheless, within the party, Najib has emerged as the rejuvenated leader of a fractured organization. His candidates for the party's top seven slots – president, deputy president, three vice president, youth leader and women's leader – all were returned to office, most by healthy margins, as were his members of the party's Supreme Council.
But the question is whether the decision by 145,000 of the party faithful to return them to office was a pyrrhic victory.
"UMNO has not changed. Money still talks," said an embittered anti-Najib source who described himself as a 20-year member of the party. "Political corruption is rampant. These elections point to a party that is dying and could very well lose the next national elections."
That was a reference to the fact that Najib's forces appear to have poured vast amounts of money into buying votes at the district level to ensure that his candidates won. The vote-buying was termed a "golden storm" by party insiders, with votes going for as much as RM300 each.
Najib and his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, were unopposed in the party elections. However, an unofficial "Mahathir slate" developed for other positions. Particularly, Mahathir was pushing to make his son, Mukhriz, the 49-year-old chief minister of Kedah, one of the three vice presidents, which would have been viewed as a springboard to eventually go for the party presidency and premiership. Mukhriz finished fourth.
Party insiders say the danger is that the 88-year-old Mahathir could stage an all-out attack on Najib, as he did on Najib's predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, after poor electoral results that cost the party its two-thirds majority in parliament in 2008. Already, a legion of bloggers aligned with Mahathir has been on a rampage against Najib. However, the betting is that since Mahathir has no allies in senior positions in the party, his ability to do much damage is probably limited. Such a move obviously would also exacerbate the schisms in the party that are already there.
Among the winners, the most significant included Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has drawn close to Najib after previously being regarded as a pariah by much of the UMNO rank and file. Khairy was returned as head of the party's youth wing despite the fact that he was Mahathir's particular bête noire.
Also returned to power was Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who was forced to step down last year as a senator amid allegations that members of her family had looted the National Feedlot Corporation, a publicly funded project to rear cattle by halal, or Islamic religious methods
The scandal became universally known as Cowgate. Mohamad Salleh Ismail, Shahrizat's husband, was charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust as well as misusing nearly RM50 million of a RM250 million soft loan to pay for expensive overseas trips, a Mercedes limousine and luxury apartments. Although he was arrested more than 18 months ago, Mohamad has yet to face trial. Despite the scandal, Shahrizat finished easily ahead of two other candidates.
The vote leader in the vice presidential ranks was Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the flamboyant home minister , who in recent weeks has made headlines by adopting a shoot-first ask questions policy for the police in seeking to quell rising crime, and by making inflammatory statements about Malay nationalism that have alienated many of the country's sizeable Chinese minority.
"The maintenance of the status quo not only signals that UMNO doesn't want reform, it also sends danger signals that someone like Zahid is next in line for the deputy prime minister's job, given that Muhyiddin is a good six years older than Najib and has privately indicated that this is his last term," another longtime political observer said in Kuala Lumpur. "That can be frightening as not only has his right wing rhetoric spooked the non-Malays, it has also spooked the rational Malays and also neighboring country diplomats. Then the next thing is the wrath of your friend Mahathir. He is not going to sit quietly if his son loses."
An angry source in the Mahathir wing of the party said that "stories of Team Najib or Team Pak Lah (Badawi) vs. Mahathir make fun reading, but the real issue is votes to the highest bidder." Nonetheless, it is clear that despite polls that show the elder Mahathir is admired by 75 percent of the party – the highest approval rating for anybody in UMNO – his status has been diminished within the party.
Does this give Najib the impetus to reemphasize his 1Malaysia strategy of loosening the economic bonds that deliver the spoils to ethnic Malays and hamper the economy? Probably not. The Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Program, somewhat derisively called the BEEP, which was announced on Sept. 14, represented a significant turn away from economic liberalization and has been derided as a program that will enrich more of the party's cronies.
"If I had a headline for this, it would be: Najib and Khairy win big," said a longtime Malay political analyst. "Mahathir can still make noise but all the President's men won – both at the vice president and Supreme Council level. Mahathir’s son is almost yesterday’s story in UMNO's unforgiving culture and Khairy doesn’t have to worry about a succession threat from Mukhriz. Will Najib use this mandate to do something now? No, it’s not in his DNA. So the bottom line, the results don't mean f***-all to the country."
If anything, the inflammatory rhetoric from Malay nationalists will resume against the Chinese minority, which continues to command the economic heights in the country. The party's annual general meeting, expected on the week of Dec. 2-7, can be expected to be five days of inflammatory chest-beating in a bid to energize the party's base.
"While those sentiments will continue, with the majority of Malays across the board, the fact remains that the Malay electorate is sick of corrupt leaders that have only self-serving agendas," said the source in the Mahathir wing of the party. "Najib, Zahid, Hisham, Khairy, Shahrizat, Nazri etc. You will find that in the next elections Malays will reject them all nationwide. There will be destabilization at the Malay core. Good luck to all."
Posted: 22 Oct 2013 07:09 PM PDT
Why do intellectuals hate democracy? Was Borges a fascist? The contentious 2010 Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa talks to Michael Moynihan about the big questions in literature and politics.
Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist and winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, is considered a political novelist because his politics aren't the politics of most novelists. In the pantheon of modern Spanish-language fiction you'll find a surplus of writers informed by radical thought—think Jose Saramago, Roberto Bolaño, Eduardo Galeano, Carlos Fuentes, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But Vargas Llosa is an outlier, an apostate from radicalism turned habitué of the classical liberal world, a former supporter of the Cuban Revolution transformed into an evangelist for free markets and free trade. And in a literary milieu charged by ideology, this meanssomething.
It is difficult to separate Vargas Llosa's politics from his fiction writing—the attentive reader will divine much about his worldview from his novels. But one needn't read tea leaves because he is an unapologetically political figure. In 1990, Vargas Llosa embarked on a brief, ambitious, and ill-fated political career, running for president of Peru, an election he lost to the corrupt and thuggish Alberto Fujimori. These day he engages the political world with tub-thumping opinion columns in the Spanish daily El Pais.
Back in May, I sat down with Vargas Llosa at Oslo's Grand Hotel after he delivered a coruscating speech to the Oslo Freedom Forum on "literature, freedom, and power." He speaks in heavily-accented English, but fluidly and lyrically, with both force and deliberation. He is thoughtful on topical political matters ("The idea of Europe is a great idea; it deserves to succeed…a counterpoint to the monsters; the United States and now China") but expansive and polemical when discussing the intersection of politics and literature.
The following is an edited and slightly condensed transcript of our conversation.
You said in your Oslo Freedom Forum lecture that "good literature is always subversive." It reminded me of Orwell's essay "The Prevention of Literature," where he attacked those writers in thrall to Soviet communism.
You don’t perceive the subversiveness of literature when you live in a free society. When you live in a free society you have the feeling that literature is just entertainment. But when democracy disappears, when a totalitarian regime replaces democracy, you feel immediately how literature becomes a very important vehicle to say what you cannot say otherwise. And it’s an instrument to resist what you are facing. Authors are sometimes not aware of what they are accomplishing in an authoritarian society. Literature is a living demonstration that things are not going well in an authoritarian society.
But this isn't an advocation of didactic fiction.
No, not at all. You can make experimental literature and have this subversive effect. And that is the reason why all dictatorships are so suspicious of literature. Otherwise, they would let literature flourish. No, they are always very worried; they want to control it, they establish censorship. On this, there is no exception. Fascist or communist, it is exactly the same. Control literature because there is some kind of danger there. And I think there is some kind of danger, even if it is not immediately identifiable.
What about the middle way between authoritarianism and dictatorship? I know you have written about Hugo Chavez, for instance, and one can get Mario Vargas Llosa's books in Caracas.
Oh, but with great difficulty. It is because in Caracas you still have a margin of freedom. But in Cuba—ask that Cuban journalist that is here [at the Oslo Freedom Forum]. He was telling me the way in which I am read in Cuba. It's fantastic, you know? There are lists of people who want to read a certain book. Some times they are rented, sometimes it's like a library, from individuals. [Dissident writer] Yoani Sanchez told me that she met her husband because she discovered that he had a novel of mine, The War of the End of the World. So she called him and said, “Is it true that you have a novel by Vargas Llosa?" He said, "Yes, but there is a list. But we can meet." And they got married. I saw her recently and I said, "Is this story true?" She said, "Of course it is true. That's why I am interested in what you are writing now. My sentimental future depends on it.”
In open societies you have the impression that you are just enjoying literature, that it won’t have any affect on your life. But literature always has an affect on life, even if it’s not so visible. But when you have a dictatorship, this is so immediately visible. Literature becomes an instrument to resist, to communicate things. And this is so in right-wing dictatorships and in left-wing dictatorships. It becomes a non-conformist activity, reading becomes a risk. It’s very, very important to keep alive this thing that can’t be controlled, because literature can never be totally controlled. Television can. Cinema can.
Why have so many novelists been swayed by dictatorship? From Gabriel Garcia Marquez to, say, the reaction of many French intellectuals to Solzhenitsyn.
You remember what Camus wrote, that a very intelligent man in some areas can be stupid in others. In politics, intellectuals have been very stupid in many, many cases. They don't like mediocrity. And democracy is an indication of mediocrity; democracy is to accept that perfection doesn't exist in political reality. Everybody must make concessions in order to coexist peacefully and the result of this is mediocrity. But this mediocrity, history has demonstrated, is the most peaceful way to progress, prosperity, and to reduce violence. And intellectuals are much more prone to utopias.
After the collapse of communism, what is the utopian instinct amongst intellectuals and writers now?
There is none. That is why they are so desperate and confused. You remember Foucault—who was one of the best thinkers of his generation—he supported Ayatollah Khomeini! He was so disappointed with communism that he decided that the Khomeini utopia was the right one! That gives you, I think, a very vivid example of the way in which some intellectuals detest democracy.
In your case, I have seen more references to your politics—classical liberalism—than I have for many other novelists.
But the reason is because I am an exception. There are so few writers and intellectuals who are classical liberals without any kind of shame [about their politics].
Borges didn't get the Nobel Prize because of his support for Pinochet. Were your politics an issue when you won the Literature Prize?
Borges unfortunately did wrong things. He accepted the invitation to be decorated by Pinochet, which was a very big mistake. He did it not to make a kind of solidarity, a gesture for the dictatorship; he did it because he despised politics so much that he was prepared to….[trails off]. But I think it was a very, very bad mistake. He was very courageous during the Second World War when Argentina was in favor of fascism. He was a deep defender of the Allies.
He detested Peronism in such a way that he became so infatuated with the military, which I think was also wrong. But he wasn't a fascist. He was a conservative. But I don't think his work is contaminated by these attitudes.
Should it affect how we read his books, in the way it does with [Norwegian Nobel laureate and Nazi sympathizer] Knut Hamsun or Ezra Pound?
Oh no, not at all. The literature of Borges is great literature that overcomes all types of political prejudices. He is one of the greatest writers of our times, one of the most original. And from the point of view of language, he has changed the Spanish literary language in the way that only writers like Cervantes have. It's extraordinary because it's a language in which emotions, sensations were much more important than ideas. For a long time, there was no writer in the Spanish-speaking world for whom ideas became as important as in Borges's writing. He was an exception to a very strong tradition—precision, rationality. All this is new.
What are you working on now?
I finished a novel, El héroe discrete, that will be published in September in Spanish. It's a novel set in contemporary Peru. It's about the changes in Peru over the last ten years which are very, very important. A new middle class. All the new, successful entrepreneurs in Peru come from very poor, poor families—even peasant families. This is the background of the novel.
Are you glad you didn't win the Peruvian presidency?
Now I am glad. I wasn't when I lost. But I am very lucky. I wouldn't have survived [had I won]. Certainly not. But it was a very interesting experience. It was pedagogical. I discovered how difficult it was to be honest and coherent in politics.
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