- Kennedy’s Death, Revisited
- Tak perlulah sampai guna lilin, tapi tunjuklah keinginan nak berjimat
- PKR prepping for transition
- PKR incorporates Sabah, S’wak rights into constitution
- Malaysia’s ‘Lizard King’ back in business: report
Posted: 24 Nov 2013 06:31 PM PST
November 22 is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. A large number of publications in the American media, from print to TV documentaries, feature films and talk shows have been dedicated to the commemoration of this event. All these articles and productions discuss why and how the assassination happened. In the midst of this chorus of voices, one work stands out as meriting special attention—the book A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret of the Kennedy Assassination by New York Times journalist Philip Shenon, which was published several weeks ago. It immediately attracted attention. For example, the October 27 episode of CBS's Face the Nation was almost entirely dedicated to the book. Some participants in the discussion attempted to place the assassination in the context of contemporary American politics.
Shenon's book, like many others, tries to answer the question of whether the assassination was the work of a lone assassin in the face of Lee Harvey Oswald, or whether it was the plot of Cuban or Russian spies, the U.S. mafia, or some other force trying to rid itself of President Kennedy. Despite the thousands upon thousands of articles and books written on the subject, Shenon managed to unearth plenty of facts that had not been presented to the Warren Commission (investigating the murder of JFK on the orders of President Johnson) or to the public at large.
Even though this book does not ultimately answer the question of who killed JFK, it nonetheless answers another question: was his assassination preventable? The author is fully convinced that it was, if only the American secret agencies had done their job conscionably. The assassination could have been stopped had the information available to the secret agencies been shared with the FBI in Dallas, TX. It is astonishing that the facts about Oswald's trip to Mexico had not been investigated or even brought to the attention of the Warren Commission. The leaders of the Cuban revolution felt very much ill at ease with the Kennedy brothers at the time. It is well-known at this point that the American covert agencies and the Kennedy brothers tried to murder Castro, which Lyndon Johnson frequently spoke about to his confidantes. One theory is that Castro himself decided to preempt an attack on his person and organized a mission to kill JFK.
As FBI Director Clarence Kelley, who succeeded Hoover in this position in 1972 after Hoover's death, made clear in 1975, the Commission was not given access to a top secret letter, dated July 1964, in which Hoover wrote that Oswald himself said in the Cuban embassy in Mexico that he had been planning on killing JFK. Whether due to bureaucratic cover-ups or for other reasons that we can only guess at, as Kelley states, the FBI and CIA in Washington DC had enough information on Oswald to put his name on the Secret Service list of potential threats. Based on the facts, Kelley reaches the unambiguous conclusion that if the Dallas section of the FBI had had the information available at the time to the Washington-based FBI and CIA, there is no doubt that John Fitzgerald Kennedy would not have been assassinated on November 22, 1963—and history could have unfolded differently.
In addition to the Cuban trace in the assassination, there was also a Soviet one. The American authorities had known for a long time that Oswald held Marxist ideological convictions, sought asylum in the Soviet Union, and lived in the USSR for two years, where he married a Russian woman. Not long before the assassination, he met with Russian diplomats in Mexico, among whom were Russian spies, including Vladimir Kostikov, whom the FBI and CIA considered an expert on assassinations. However, both the U.S. government and covert agencies were skeptical about a Cuban or Soviet role in the murder of JFK. I also believe it is largely unlikely that the Soviet leadership could have been involved in the death of the American president. Such an involvement could have spelled the most serious consequences, which include the beginning of a third world war. At the time, revolutionary fanatics were no longer in the ranks of the Soviet leadership. Khrushchev had, for a few years already, proclaimed the peaceful coexistence of capitalism and socialism. This was one of the main reasons for the rift between the Soviet and Chinese communists.
It is highly unlikely that, having just gone through the Berlin and Cuban crises, the Soviet leaders would have risked new confrontations with the U.S., which could have been very problematic for Moscow. It is no accident that the Soviet version of the Kennedy murder was that he most likely fell victim to reactionary circles within the United States who could not forgive the President for leading domestic reformatory politics to alleviate poverty and guarantee minority rights, and negotiated with the Soviet Union on a wide range of issues, especially after signing an agreement to ban nuclear tests in three spheres. Even though for his short time as President Kennedy was considered by the Soviets a strong leader who strictly defended the interests of his country and the West against the USSR, he was also seen as a pragmatic politician, not inclined to adventurist steps.
Assassinating him could really have started a third world war. It is no mere accident that, as Philip Shenon notes in his book, when President Lyndon Johnson tried to convince Chief Justice Earl Warren to head the Commission investigating the Kennedy case, he motivated his arguments with the claim that the fate of humanity depended on the results of this investigation and that the allegation that the Soviet Union stood behind the murder was widespread in American society, as was the opinion that the U.S. should retaliate if this was the case. Khrushchev could not have been ignorant of the consequences of such an adventure and of course, he was not going to risk them.
There is also one indisputable piece of evidence that shows the non-participation of the USSR in the Kennedy assassination. As in the late perestroika, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the discrediting of the political regime and especially the KGB and secret services was in full swing, the archives were opened and everyone was only too happy to add one more nail in the coffin of the Soviet leadership by shining a light on its criminal record. Even then, not a single bit of evidence showed up about anyone in the USSR or in the depths of the KGB secret structures who conspired to kill the American president.
In his book, Philip Shenon explains that not only could the assassination have been stopped, but that a huge amount of evidence pertaining to it was deliberately destroyed immediately after the murder two days later of Oswald himself by Jack Ruby. Both the FBI and CIA engaged in destruction of evidence. What is truly astounding is that a few weeks before the killing of JFK, Oswald himself wrote a letter to the local FBI threatening measures against FBI agents should they continue snooping on him and his wife. After Oswald was shot, FBI agents in Dallas tore the letter written in Oswald's hand to pieces and flushed it down the toilet. They would have had trouble explaining both to Hoover and to American society at large how, just days before the hit on the U.S. president, Oswald had been in the FBI office in Dallas threatening violence against agents with no consequences.
The author cites numerous other cases of evidence destruction pertaining to the assassination of JFK. It is shocking that the pathologist performing the autopsy on the president decided to burn his notes from the examination after having made copies. He later explained his decision with the excuse that the documents on which he had originally written the autopsy results had been sprayed with Kennedy's blood. Shenon asks the question of whether the doctor had not falsified the autopsy conclusions or received an order to modify them. These questions cannot be answered because there is no evidence. We cannot say what exactly Oswald had written to the FBI or what the original conclusions of the pathologist had been. We can only stand bewildered by the fact that even the Warren Commission was not shown the data from the autopsy, nor even photos taken immediately after the shooting, so it is impossible to tell how many bullets there had been, or the bullets' trajectory. The Chairman of the Commission, Warren himself, did not show these photos to the rest of the Commission members. The photos ended up in the hands of Robert Kennedy, who also objected to showing them. This indicates that the secret agencies not only failed to prevent the assassination, but importantly, acted deliberately to destroy evidence. This behavior provoked the former speechwriter of President Reagan, the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, to claim on Face the Nation on CBS that even at the time of JFK, the U.S. had what amounted to a "deep state." The covert agencies acted behind the backs of society to make decisions not based on the interests of the country or of solving cases, but in the interest of their own narrow corporate structures, holding ultimate discretion over what to divulge to the people and what to keep secret.
Moreover, Noonan dedicated an October 28 post in her Wall Street Journal blog to the deep state in the U.S. It is somewhat unexpected to hear this term applied to the United States. As a rule, the term "deep state" is applied to Turkey, Pakistan, and a number of similar states. Literally, the "deep state" can be described as a government within the government. The term is used to denote a ruling, invisible clique within the government that controls the decision-making process and is unaccountable to the populace. It is de facto uncontrolled power that does not answer to anyone: not to the formal ruling institutions and certainly not to the people. In one form or other, the deep state exists in all political systems.
It took its ugliest shape in Russia in the second half of the 1990s after the presidential elections in 1996. It was then, with the ill and not fully able to work President Yeltsin, that the deep state coalesced under the moniker "the family," in which a few people of Yeltsin's own family and a few oligarchs controlling the financial and informational flows in the country, unelected and unrepresentative of formal state institutions, made all decisions at their sole discretion as concerned cadre, domestic, and foreign policy. This phenomenon was even uglier than the traditional notion of a deep state because in the traditional case, the deep state is a formation by state institutions, first and foremost the security agencies, which begin to act in their own corporate interests without any oversight or accountability, and can violate human rights. In the case of Yeltsin's family, decisions were also made without popular oversight or accountability, but they in no way represented any formal institutions.
In his first presidential term, Putin did away with this uninstitutional center of power that controlled all decision making. Some oligarchs were imprisoned, others ran away and left Russia, while he re-established constitutional presidential control over policy. True, some analysts in Russia and abroad believe that a new deep state was formed under Putin during his second term, in the face of the so-called siloviki on the conservative side and "civiliki" on the liberal side who tried to assert control over all political decision-making in Russia. And in Putin's third term, some analysts began to talk almost of a shadow Politburo controlling all decisions. However, I believe it is as imaginary a notion that power centers, both siloviki and civiliki-liberals, can function independently of President Putin, as is the existence of some mythical Politburo.
Unlike the United States, in which it is becoming clear all of a sudden that some institutions such as the IRS, NSA, and FBI made decisions in violation of the Constitution without the knowledge of the President, there is no convincing evidence that any Russian institutions, whether the secret services or civilian ones, make decisions in circumvention of the power of President Putin. When there is a strong leader empowered by the Constitution, and when power is consolidated, there are far fewer opportunities for a deep state to form than in a democratic country with a weak leader when the secret agencies can escape civilian control with the excuse of ensuring citizens' security.
Nowadays, a discussion of the deep state is particularly important in light of the revelations by Edward Snowden exposing the secret work of the NSA and other structures working in the dark and without accountability to society, controlling the lives of every individual, and violating the right to privacy with impunity. It is no accident that in one of the latest Face the Nationbroadcasts, Bob Schieffer noted that the secret agencies destroy all evidence in the case of a crisis so that no one can blame them for failing to prevent crime or being incompetent. This is why the whole story with the Oswald appearance in Mexico a few weeks before the JFK assassination and his conversations showing intent had not been made available to the Warren Commission, and the agencies did everything in their power to cover up such information so as not to expose themselves as ineffectual for failing to act on available information.
It is notable that the discussion of the JFK assassination and the deep state run amok are taking place in the background of frayed Euro-American relations and the scandal with the U.S. spying on its EU allies, such as Germany's Chancellor Merkel. Journalists and analysts are asking the question of whether Obama was in the know that the NSA was wiretapping the U.S.'s closest ally. If he did not know, that would mean that indeed, nowadays a huge part of the work of the secret agencies is escaping public oversight, which naturally threatens the democratic foundations of the country and American society. On the other hand, as Peggy Noonan wisely noted, even if Obama had not known and did not want to know what his agencies were doing, can it be believed that the NSA would stop its snooping on Angela Merkel if he orders it to? There is no convincing answer to this question. It turns out that modern democracy lacks effective mechanisms for control over the secret agencies. This is why this question is important. Have they stopped spying on Angela Merkel? But it is on the answer to this question that the solution to a more important question hinges; namely, "How deep is the deep state in the U.S.?" How much has the deep state affected the political structure of the country? Shenon's book and analysts' speculations of the Kennedy murder are interesting not because they bring about new conspiracy theories or explain what happened fifty years ago, but because center stage in public discussion is the activity of the secret agencies that are proving to be increasingly uncontrollable and unaccountable.
Posted: 24 Nov 2013 06:26 PM PST
Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak akhirnya bersuara juga mengenai kontroversi bil letrik di Seri Perdana yang mencecah lebih RM2.2 juta bagi tahun 2012 yang lalu sehingga bukan saja menjadi isu Parlimen tetapi juga menjadi perbualan di kalangan rakyat.
Rata-rata berpendapat, bil sebanyak itu terlalu tinggi dan kurang sesuai dengan kedudukan ekonomi negara sekarang ini.
Dalam penjelasannya, Najib berkata, jumlah sebanyak itu adalah sesuatu yang wajar dan tidak dapat dielakkan kerana Seri Perdana adalah sebuah kompleks yang mempunyai pelbagai kemudahan dan digunakan juga untuk meraikan tetamu-tetamu kerajaan.
Lagi pula, kata Perdana Menteri lagi, Seri Perdana bukanlah miliknya, sebaliknya adalah milik rakyat.
“Saya orang ketiga berpeluang tinggal di sana, sesiapa saja yang menjadi Perdana Menteri, termasuk jika PR yang memerintah selepas ini, Perdana Menteri mereka juga tinggal di situ.
“Jangan bangkit pasal bil letrik Seri Perdana tinggi, macam mana nak elak, itu bukan saya punya, tapi rakyat yang punya.
"Itu bukan kediaman saya, itu adalah kediaman Perdana Menteri dan saya hanya menumpang. Kalau ketua kerajaan lain datang, adakah kita kena raikan mereka dalam gelap?
“Bila Presiden China datang, takkan nak makan dengan cahaya lilin,” jelas Najib dalam suatu program di Kuala Lumpur.
Sekali imbas, memang nampak logik dan meyakinkan jawapan Najib itu. Tetapi dua kali imbas, jawapan itu memperlihatkan sikapnya yang tidak mahu berubah dan mengurangkan langsung walau satu sen bil letrik di Seri Perdana itu.
Tidak ada sesiapa menafikan bahawa Seri Perdana adalah kediaman Perdana Menteri dan sesiapa yang menjadi Perdana Menteri berhak tinggal di situ.
Persoalan yang dibangkitkan ialah kenapa bil letriknya terlalu tinggi sedangkan di ketika yang sama hutang negara makin tinggi dan rakyat diminta berjimat cermat? Tidak bolehkah berjimat sedikit?
Ini kerana ramai yang tahu bahawa bil letrik di Seri Perdana tidaklah terlalu tinggi ketika Mahathir dan Pak Lah tinggal di sana. Kenapa hanya sekarang bilnya tinggi?
Adakah tiap-tiap malam tetamu luar diraikan di sana? Adakah kenaikan itu kerana banyaknya alat-alat dan lampu-lampu kristal dipasang di Seri Perdana sejak Najib dan Rosmah tinggal di situ?
Jawapan Najib bahawa “kalau Presiden China datang, takkan nak makan dengan cahaya lilin” pula ternyata keluar daripada tajuk yang diperdebatkan rakyat. Kalau dalam peperiksaan, jawapan yang keluar tajuk ini tidak mendapat apa-apa markah.
Persoalan rakyat ialah kenapa bilnya terlalu tinggi dan tak bolehkah dikurangkan jumlahnya itu?
Rakyat tidaklah mahu Perdana Menteri sampai menjamu tetamu negara luar dengan cahaya lilin atau tidur tanpa menggunakan penghawa dingin atau tanpa kipas angin.
Kalau mahu juga makan malam dengan cahaya lilin, cukuplah ketika beliau makan dengan isterinya saja.
Untuk kegunaan ketika meraikan tetamu luar negara, gunakanlah yang sewajarnya tetapi ketika tiada apa-apa kegunaan, berjimatlah.
Apa yang rakyat mahukan ialah sekurang-kurangnya tidaklah semua penghawa dingin atau lampu dipasang sepanjang masa. Pasangnya di mana yang perlu saja. Lampu-lampu hiasan dan kristal mewah tidaklah juga perlu dinyalakan sepanjang malam.
Apa yang rakyat mahukan juga ialah komitmen dan keinginan untuk berjimat cermat sebagaimana yang beliau selalu sarankan kepada rakyat.
Tetapi kenapa Najib terlalu berat mulut untuk memberikan komitmennya untuk turut sama berjimat cermat seperti rakyat, sekurang-kurangnya berjanjilah bil elektrik di Seri Perdana bagi tahun 2013 dan tahun-tahun seterusnya akan terus menurun berbanding bil RM2.2 juta bagi tahun 2012.
Namun jawapan Najib ini hanya memperlihatkan sikapnya yang mahu terus bermewah dan menggunakan apa saja semahunya wang pembayar cukai tanpa sekatan.
Beliau langsung tidak memperlihatkan sikapnya mahu menjiwai kesusahan dan derita rakyat, bahkan tanpa peri kemanusiaan melabelkan pula rakyat yang mengelak daripada membayar cukai sebagai pengkhianat.
Semua orang tahu tentang tanggungjawab sebagai pembayar cukai, tetapi pembayar cukai kadang-kadang hendak juga tahu ke mana wang cukai mereka dibelanjakan dan tidak mahu ia disia-siakan dengan penggunaan yang tiada kena-mengena seperti pembaziran bil letrik, sewaan jet eksekutif, jamuan mewah dan sebagainya.
Adakah pengkhianat juga namanya jika mempersoalkan ke mana perginya wang cukai ini?
Posted: 24 Nov 2013 06:23 PM PST
On the surface, PKR’s wide-ranging amendments to the party constitution looks to improve the party’s democratic image, but several key amendments raises the question of whether it was designed to keep new central leaders in check.
Apart from amending rules that will provide greater recognition for women and East Malaysian states, some significant functions of the party’s central leadership functions will be passed on to the state and branch levels.
In principle, the branch and state leadership will be able to choose councillors for local governments and village chiefs, notwithstanding the central leadership still having veto powers.
This could eliminate rent-seeking behaviour and remove excessive clout of central leaders. But at the same time, it would serve as a good check-and-balance system against new leaders that will helm the party in the near future. Party elections are scheduled for next year.
There are indications that a leadership transition is in the offing. One amendment to the party constitution was to allow the party’s deputy president to automatically take helm of the party if the president vacates the position.
Anwar’s next move
This is likely a subtle vote of confidence for the party’s present deputy president Azmin Ali and others who have been mentored by PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.
In addressing the special party congress today, Anwar was direct in wanting younger leaders to step up during the party election.
“We will give space to the second rung leadership to lead in the 2014 election,” he said.
He specifically mentioned PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar’s achievement in fending off a monumental challenge in retaining the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat and Rafizi Ramli’s role in a series of exposes against the ruling coalition.
“I know many people in Umno despise him but at least now there is someone to carry the weight. I’m no longer the sole target for attacks (by Umno),” he said jokingly.
However, whether or not Anwar steps aside for someone younger remains unclear. He has been the “de facto leader” of PKR since 2007, a position that is not even described in the party constitution.
A delegate from Malacca, Abdul Wahab Ibrahim, had urged Anwar during the congress to take over as party president but he was mum on the matter in his winding-up speech.
When approached after the congress, Anwar was coy, refusing to say more than: “It’s still too early to say”.
Idealism over individualism
Technically, Wan Azizah can still remain as president for two more terms because the party’s three-term limit only took effect from April 2010. Wan Azizah has led the party since 1999.
Another key concern for the party appears to be the smooth running of the party elections. Corruption, incompetency and fierce infighting marked the last round in 2009.
Anwar’s winding-up speech touched on this and warned that fierce competition would result in a split and that the election committee will be stricter this time to protect the party.
He also appealed to members to reject vote-buying attempts.
Both Anwar and Wan Azizah stressed the importance of idealism over individual political ambition, which had at many times threatened the party.
“I would like to stress in the idealism of our struggle… without idealism, democracy is meaningless,” said Anwar.
Posted: 24 Nov 2013 06:21 PM PST
PKR today approved amendments to its constitution that among others incorporated equal treatment of Sabah and Sarawak as part of the “purpose of struggle”.
It read: “To be faithful to the spirit of fair cooperation and power sharing between Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia by strengthening the just political and economic position based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963″.
Earlier in her speech, PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said this was to follow up with its pledge to incorporate the Kuching declaration made last year, which promised autonomy to the two East Malaysia states.
“PKR is firm in its stance of wanting autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure fair distribution of national wealth to all states,” she said during the party’s special congress today to address the amendments to the constitution.
Additionally, one of three of PKR’s appointed vice presidents must be from Sabah or Sarawak while the permanent chairperson of Sabah and Sarawak PKR will also automatically given a spot on the party’s political bureau.
The amendments also saw a series of changes that will allow party organisation at the grassroots level a bigger say.
They include allowing the state leadership to determine state political appointments such as local councilors and village chiefs. Previously, the state leadership could only propose candidates.
However, even though the appointment process is decentralised, the central decision making body still retains the right to veto the state’s decision.
Other amendments include:
There are, however, two amendments to the PKR constitution that is bound to raise eyebrows.
The first is a new provision that bars party members from taking internal disputes to courts. Doing so will result in immediate expulsion.
The other amendment empowers the party president to shorten the notice to call for a national congress at his or her discretion.
The standard period of notice is 14 days and this period is essential for competing groups to prepare and rally support when there is internal strife in a party.
The amendments to the constitution was unanimously approved through a show of hands from 885 delegates. A quorum was 688 delegates was necessary for the special congress to convene.
Youth wing age limit stays
An additional motion was also tabled at the congress over whether to increase the age limit of the PKR Youth leadership from 35 years old to 40 years old.
PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution tabled the motion for a vote despite the proposal having already been dismissed by the party’s political bureau after delegates voiced disagreement.
“There have been complaints from the grassroots that there are not enough young leaders to take over the youth leadership, we need a transition period,” pitched outgoing PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar, who is now 39-years-old.
However, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali later took the podium to argue against the proposal.
“The arguments are valid but it is the central leadership’s duty to project a message that the party is not only led by old leaders but also welcome younger leaders.
“We don’t want to be like Umno where leaders stay on forever,” he said.
The motion was finally defeated by majority show of hands with almost the entire leadership lineup also raising their hands in opposition to the change.
Posted: 23 Nov 2013 07:08 PM PST
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) (AFP) – A notorious Malaysian wildlife trafficker dubbed the “Lizard King” for his smuggling of endangered reptiles is back in business, according to an Al Jazeera report that prompted outraged wildlife activists on Friday to demand action.
Anson Wong was arrested in August 2010 at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport while attempting to smuggle 95 endangered boa constrictors to Indonesia.
He was sentenced to five years in jail, but a Malaysian appeals court freed him in 2012, sparking an outcry.
Malaysian authorities had said in the wake of Wong’s arrest that his licences for legitimate wildlife trading were revoked.
But, in an investigative report, Al Jazeera said Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were believed to be trading albino pythons and other wildlife from their base in the northern Malaysian state of Penang.
Trade in the pythons requires a permit, said the report by the Qatar-based network, which saw journalist Steve Chao go undercover to talk with wildlife dealers and associates of Wong’s.
The report, called “Return of the Lizard King” and aired late Thursday, said documents also revealed shell companies used by Wong to hide his activities.
Illegal trade in wildlife is thought to be worth at least $19 billion a year worldwide, according to conservation groups.
Outraged conservationists demanded action from the government and expressed shock over the lax attitude by the authorities for failing to monitor Wong.
“The ‘Return of the Lizard King’ raises so many doubts and questions about Malaysia’s commitment to that fight. It is time we had some solid answers from government,” Shenaaz Khan, an official with wildlife-trade monitoring network Traffic, said in a statement.
Traffic views the revelations about Wong’s post-prison activities with deep concern, and seeks a credible explanation on his apparent ability to continue trading wildlife despite government promises to the contrary, she said.
In Penang, Al Jazeera’s Chao confronted Wong on camera, but he declined to comment.
Several of Wong’s former associates also claimed that corrupt customs officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar were helping to facilitate Wong’s activities, the report said.
In a press release, Al Jazeera said Chao and his team worked with anti-trafficking groups to track Wong’s Malaysian-based operation.
Kadir Hashim, enforcement director of Malaysia’s wildlife department, confirmed Wong’s permits remained revoked.
“The department is investigating both” Wong and Cheah, he said in an e-mail response to an AFP inquiry, without elaborating further.
Wong is described by wildlife groups as one of the world’s most active smugglers of wild animals.
He was sentenced to 71 months in jail in the United States in 2001 after pleading guilty to trafficking in endangered reptiles.
Despite efforts by Southeast Asian authorities to crack down on animal smuggling, the practice persists and poses a threat to a number of threatened species, conservationists say.
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