Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Myanmar needs ASEAN, UN help to fix Rohingya Crisis

As every crisis unfolds, the true nature of its players is inevitably revealed in the choices made and the actions taken. A large number of people fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh to Southeast Asia presents governments and people of the region with an intricately complex problem, but we must choose to take responsible actions that will shape the legacies of this generation of leaders.

Some reports say as many as 8,000 migrants are stranded at sea. Those who have come ashore speak of death and deprivation at the hands of criminal gangs. Southeast Asian nations are turning them away, in name of the campaign to crack down on human trafficking, but effectively condemning them to death at sea because they are denied anywhere to land. We are inviting a worst case scenario in which boats filled with the dead drift in the oceans in a gruesome testament to inhumanity.

Since the discovery of mass graves of migrants who died at the hands of human-traffickers along the Thai-Malaysian border it has become clear trafficking is one piece of a much larger, multi-dimensional and transnational challenge. The discovery of thousands of men, many trafficked and even enslaved in Benjina, Indonesia, is another indication of the scale of the problem of the irregular movement of people in Southeast Asia.

There must be a paradigm shift from piecemeal isolated efforts in a crackdown on the criminals running the business of trafficking, to a comprehensive transnational set of policies enacted by governments, law enforcers and all involved parties to tackle the causes and mechanisms fuelling the human trafficking business - and protect the migrants' lives and rights.

Rohingya leaders in Myanmar's western Rakhine State report rising deprivation and segregation causes more Muslims to turn to trafficking gangs that operate in the Bay of Bengal. An estimated 100,000 Rohingya have fled the state since violence broke out in 2012. Thousands more are kept in camps after being displaced by the violence. 

The only way to escape their misery is by turning to traffickers who take them by boat to transit camps in Thailand for eventual transportation to Malaysia and elsewhere. Survivors of the camps in southern Thailand describe regular beatings, torture and killings by the traffickers, in order to extract money from the migrants' families. Human rights advocates have described "a widespread pattern of death, torture and exploitation". 

The crackdown comes just weeks after an Associated Press investigation uncovered the slavery of hundreds of men, on Benjina island, Indonesia who said they were tricked or lured into working for years in appalling conditions on boats allegedly owned and crewed by Thai nationals, to fish and process seafood distributed to the USA, Europe and Asia.

Again this is not an isolated incident. The International Labour Organisation estimates 17% of workers in the sector are subjected to forced labour. As many as 4,000 men were stranded on islands surrounding Benjina.

Many of the workers have yet to go home. Some chose to remain and demand their wages.  Indonesian and Thai authorities pledged to take further action to prevent abuse.

Asean foreign ministers must hold an emergency meeting to discuss this serious regional humanitarian dilemma and form a task force to tackle the problem as a matter of urgency.

The United Nations is in the best position to take the lead on international support to find immediate and longer term agreements acceptable to all stakeholders to save more lives.

One possible model for coordination of national, regional and international responses is the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) formed in 2008 after Myanmar was devastated by Cyclone Nargis.

The TCG brought together the Myanmar government, Asean and the United Nations and allowed the delivery of desperately needed help under the leadership of an Asean task force. There is no reason this could not be replicated and adapted appropriately for this crisis.

The source of the problem is the situation in Myanmar, which must take responsibility through engagement and regional cooperation for humanitarian assistance, poverty reduction and inclusive development of Rakhine State.

Without durable solutions, this will continue to affect regional human security in both Myanmar specifically, and Asean as a whole. This is why former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, former Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya and I took the unprecedented step of writing to Asean leaders, calling for active engagement to address this matter, last month.

We urgently need to work with Myanmar to reduce the desperation and other push factors causing Rohingya to leave Myanmar in boats. We need to help Myanmar fulfill its obligations according to international humanitarian law.

In the meantime, we also need to ensure that Rohingya already in the region, children in particular, have access to safety, food, shelter and the education necessary to build their ability to help their community.

The rapidly escalating dangers of unprecedented migration from the Bay of Bengal to Southeast Asia is nothing less than a test of our capacity for humanity.

Syed Hamid Albar was Malaysia's foreign minister from 1999 to 2008 and is currently the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) special envoy on Myanmar and founder of the non-government organisation Humaniti.

publish on bangkok post, 18 May 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What's happening to Malaysia

The political scene of Malaysia and its final outcome is being followed closely by domestic and foreign political  observers and pundits. Never in the country's history has there been such intense polemics and uncertainty on the sustainability of the government. The norm is after the government has been formed, it will move on with its responsibility of governing.

At the same time within the BN they expressed surprise at how the party could reduce its majority and  clamour for a postmortem of the GE13 to know the reasons. To outsiders it was obvious that the component parties on the whole particularly in Peninsular Malaysia did not have the acceptance of the Chinese and urban voters. Nothing unusual about that. Its not only UMNO that has to change but the component parties need to carry out some soul searching reforms of themselves.

Coming out of this dismal performance there were some intelligent and some funny speculations and responses on what should be the next cause of action the leadership should take. After all the BN had presented a very attractive manifesto promising all kinds of things if it got back to power. Additionally BN spent a lot of money in the election campaign to regain the support of the voters particularly the Chinese but failed. During the election campaign Najib's advisors have also interestingly asked him to adopt the election strategy of a Presidential election akin to that of Obama. In their view Najib is more popular and acceptable than UMNO or BN. In short they considered his aura and personality would carry the party to victory. Of course this did not happen.

Unfortunately while this works in the UMNO areas but it did not alter the Chinese and urban voters who already decided they wanted change. Immediately after the election result he publicly said that the Chinese voters had betrayed BN. This announcement did not go down well with the Chinese voters. This is now in the pages of history. The MCA with such dismal performance decided to stay out of the government but came back later on the persuasion of Najib.

Thus although the overall total seats obtained by BN was less than the votes or seats obtained in the 12th GE Najib decided to stay on as leader of the government and party. Some political observers and pundits thought Najib should make way for his deputy to take over the helm of leadership in the party and government as was the case with his predecessor. Najib was said to be involved in cleverly manoeuvring his predecessor's exit. However Najib ensured this forced exit did not happen to him. He thus quickly ganered the support of the BN Members of Parliament including those from Sabah and Sarawak. For this support he rewarded the leaders of both States well by appointing many of them into his Cabinet.

It must be remembered prior to this he also made sure that all the MPs elected are his men and loyalists. In this way his leadership of the government was well secured.The rationale for him to pass the baton of leadership to his number two did not arise. Futhermore having the support from the Sarawak and Sabah MP's Najib's position at the helm of the government could not be challenged Therefore any possible dissent or request for him to step down was totally silenced. Again this was another clever political manoeuvring by Najib. Unfortunate for Najib many of his political advisors, who stood for election did not win their seats.

Two years down the road of the GE the clamour for him to go came back to the centre stage from within and outside the party. This time the voice is louder and stronger and made worst by many unwise and unpopular policies and public statements issued or made by his Cabinet colleagues. Additionally there were all kinds of stories and scandals were exposed particularly by the social media affecting the image and credibility of the government.This pressure comes also from his icon Tun Mahathir and those close to him. The social media was at the forefront of the strong criticisms and open campaign asking him to go. This time it was not merely on the scandals but also on his economic policies and personal lifestyle. Tun M.for the first time dragged into the foray the conspicious ostentatious lifestyle of the PM's wife, his relationship with Jho Low and the high debt position of 1MDB. This was made worst by the implementation of the GST and the inconsistencies of his thegiven ' explanation to the public which created enormous public displeasure. This time around it could be seen he is just hanging by the tooth and nail. His own team made contradictory statements that are inconsistent with the principle of collective responsibility as members of the Cabinet. There is a lot of political shadow boxing within the party and government.

On the other side Tun Mahathir and his supporters have stepped up their campaign to remove him. Without being apologetic he openly goes around to demand for Najib  to resign. The groundswell for Mahathir's call is getting stronger and bigger. Whether Najib would be able to withstand this onslaught is for everyone to wait and see. It had rattled him but he made a defiant statement that he would not step down at the call of Mahathir since the people has given him the mandate to lead the country. Definitely what is happening has caused what Tun Musa referred to this state of affair as imploding the country which made the political environment and the government business directionless.

There seem to be counter move against Tun M and his former Ministers like Daim and Zainudin Maidin. This made the spat between Tun M and Najib to become more serious and vicious. The public  likes all these to end one way or another to move on with their daily life. Tun Mahathir on records never like to loose a war or a battle. The country is going to continue hearing his criticisms of Najib and demanding him to step down in favor of Mahyuddin. This puts Mahyuddin on the spot whether to remain loyal to Najib or take the cue from Mahathir to force his boss to quit. This state of neither here nor there cannot go on for long. Yesterday's Supreme Council meeting seems to bring back calmness to the government and party. The dust has settled on the ground. It is important that new controversies do not keep on surfacing. Najib and Mahyuddin including party and government leaders must not at least in public be perceived to have differences which could cause the public to loose confidence and trust on the keadership of the  party and government.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Keynote speech on 23rd Apr

Friends and colleagues from our ASEAN region and beyond

It is a great pleasure to be here this evening at the Welcome Dinner of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples Forum 2015. I am inspired to see how many people from so many different sectors have converged on Kuala Lumpur in their commitment to make ASEAN a living, people-centered reality. WELCOME! SELAMAT DATANG!

I noticed that the APF has an engagement modality which prioritises opening doors to broader involvement, inclusivity and respect for diversity. Inclusion is an important step forward towards "Making ASEAN People-Centred". I am glad that the organisers recognize inclusion is a two-way process, one that requires governments to include the people, and the people to include former government representatives like myself!

Seriously, it is very gratifying to be here. I remember in 2005 when Malaysia last chaired ASEAN, I took a risk by initiating the first ASEAN Civil Society Conference. At that time, it was unexpected for a Foreign Minister to actively support an initiative such as this, since ASEAN was very institutionally-focused or in short very state centric and elitist. However, Malaysia, as one of the original five founding members of ASEAN, recognised the pivotal role of civil society as a key stakeholder and dialogue partner of ASEAN. It is more satisfying that this year when Malaysia chairs the 26th  ASEAN SUMMIT it decided to make ASEAN really people centric. May be we have at this juncture of our history realise that we should move away from rhetoric to reality.

In retrospective the first ASEAN Civil Society Conference was initiated and held in Shah Alam in parallel to the 11th ASEAN Summit which had the theme “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”, a slogan that I was one of the proponents. It was for the first time ever in the history of ASEAN that the delegation of civil society representatives from the ACSC met all 10 heads of state and government of ASEAN and engaged them. Malaysia took note of the Report of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) which was held on 7 – 9 December 2005, and encouraged other member states to continue to support and engage the ACSC. 

At that time, I realised that governments had to get out of their comfort zone and speak face-to-face with regional civil society because ASEAN would not be able to maintain its relevance and grow as people-centered without such engagement and cooperation. 

I am proud that we took the steps to ensure young people were included in this process. It is wonderful to see that young people continue to be in the ASEAN Peoples Forum process. I understand that the youth have also been holding an annual ASEAN Youth Forum since 2009. All this hard work and cooperation are at the heart of ASEAN's viability as an integrated, sustainable entity. 

It is inspiring to see that a small gathering of several hundred people has grown over the years to the size it is now. It has grown in diversity and in impact. I understand that this conference is not only an event, but part of an important ongoing process to strengthen links and cooperation between NGOs, grassroot organisations, advocates and researchers. Congratulations! I can now confidently say my faith in ASEAN civil society 10 years ago was indeed justified.

The ASEAN we see now has come a long way since its inception in 1967. I am pleased to acknowledge the positive steps made by ASEAN member states in fulfilling its obligations towards a “people-centred ASEAN”. The adoption of ASEAN Charter in 2007, codifying ASEAN norms, rules and values, provides the legal personality and institutional framework for ASEAN. 

The Preamble of the ASEAN Charter speaks of adherence “to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. This sets the most positive tone towards establishing a rule-based community premised on the universal principles of human rights. The subsequent establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) paved the way for further accountability mechanisms respecting fundamental principles of human rights in ASEAN. The adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration should advance the cause of human rights in Southeast Asia. 

2015 is crucial in the history of ASEAN as by November of the sane year ASEAN is going to declare the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community. It is momentous that it is again happening under the Chairmanship of Malaysia. Malaysia is tasked in leading ASEAN into its next phase towards the integration of the ASEAN Community, as the year marks the end of the period of implementation of the action plans contained in the three blueprints on the political/security, economic and socio-cultural pillars.

Malaysia will also lead the formulation of the “post-2015” ten-year roadmap for the community-building from 2016 to 2025. The “Consolidated Central Elements of the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015” further commits ASEAN to becoming people-oriented, people-centered community through active engagement with all relevant stakeholders. It aims to develop clear and measurable “ASEAN Development Goals”. This noble goals can't be realised if within our region we don't practice tolerance and moderation in the context of our diverse and multi-cultural societies towards minorities or when human rights and freedoms are being abused.

The ASEAN Post-2015 Vision and its Blueprints shall be adopted at the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November this year. Achieving the ASEAN post-2015 vision requires a massive commitment and enhanced political will amongst member states, a shift in the development paradigm with new regional strategies that adhere to international standards and commitments; and new development partnerships based on shared responsibilities among major stakeholders in the region. There is a need in a people centred ASEAN for a feeling of we-ness or ASEANNESS as accordrding to a recent survey the majority of the citizenry of ASEAN do not know or feel ASEAN.

In short, it requires all the diverse stakeholders to pull their weight and work together. ASEAN agencies, international agencies, national governments, local authorities, private sector and civil society organizations (CSOs) will all have to work in partnership for this to be successful, and sometimes, civil society will have to push harder to ensure that people remain at the centre of these efforts.

The four priority issues identified by this year’s ACSC/APF, i) development justice; iii) democratic processes, governance and fundamental rights and freedoms; iii) peace and security; and iv) discrimination and inequality, are all interlinked and cross cutting issues, and are essential to ensuring that ASEAN moves forward in how it delivers development to the region. It is extremely important for ASEAN member states to take into account the need to improve its human rights situation consistent with the objective to promote a people-centred approach towards development and justice that is genuine, inclusive and representative of the concerns of all peoples in the region. 

When ASEAN was formed 48 years ago, we were living in a very different world and context. We needed ASEAN to prevent conflict and to bring development into our region, to strengthen connections between States. ASEAN has indeed been successful in achieving the original motivation of peace and security. However, ASEAN needs to change in order to be more responsive and resilient to the myriad and fast-growing challenges we now face. 

The gaps remain between the region’s larger and smaller economies. While there has been remarkable GDP growth in all ASEAN countries, there is also a growing income inequality. The impressive developments achieved are made sometimed at the expense of environmental degradation. The likelihood of potential brain-drain must be guarded against in ensuring free flow of services. The ASEAN Economic Community needs to address the issue of informal sectors and untrained/unskilled migrant workers. 

Human rights issues have taken on an increasing importance in ASEAN in the past 10 years. The denial of fundamental freedoms and human rights violations in certain ASEAN member states, both inter and intra state, continue to pose a challenge towards the realisation of human rights encapsulated in the ASEAN Charter. 

As a region it is crucial to address these continuing and emerging trends of increased militarisation, unconstitutional seizures of power, territorial and sea disputes, enforced disappearances, torture, intra state ethnic and religious violence and persecution, denial of fundamental right to freedom of association and information, increased reliance on archaic and discriminatory laws, and discrimination and violence against women and other marginalised communities, amongst others. 

This is why we need to go beyond cooperation between formal institutions to a more inclusive model. There are very practical reasons for this. 

Firstly, civil society and grassroots communities often feel the first impacts of problems that those in the higher echelons of government may not realise. In hindsight, many of the serious problems we face now - social, political, economic AND environmental - could have been eased if there was greater space for civil society's role as an early warning system.

Secondly, dialogue opens up greater possibility for ongoing cooperation to design and implement solutions. I have been impressed at how committed civil society has been to problem-solving. Sometimes, civil society can come up with innovative, sustainable and cheaper solutions than just the governments working by themselves.

Thirdly, civil society has much more freedom and agility than governments when it comes to choosing their actions and words. States such as those in our region are bound by the conventions of diplomacy and non-interference. As a former ASEAN Foreign Minister, I remember occasions that civil society was able to say out loud what we were thinking. It was our responses to those initiatives that helped open up more space for debate and discussion within ASEAN.

One cannot avoid the fact that ASEAN will find it difficult to endure and thrive if it is constructed only as a community of states. If ASEAN is to strengthen in relevance, it must transform from being a state-driven institution to an integrated people-centered community. After all, political leadership may come and go, but the people are always there. It is very encouraging to see how communities in ASEAN have grown familiar with each other and appreciate each others' cultures and common history. It is so important for us, as a region, to appreciate and build on the benefits of diversity amidst common values of human rights and democracy.

Of course, transformation from a state-centric to people-centered community requires a great deal of commitment, and I am sure you are not lacking in this. Sometimes, I think it is easier to change governments than to change the organisational culture of institutions like ASEAN. But it is not impossible. We all have to work together with determination.

I will continue to advocate for governments to allow civil society to claim spaces for dialogue and cooperation. In the meantime, we must also keep on opening up these spaces in institutions of higher learning, and encouraging the growth of bodies such as the Southeast Asian Human Rights Studies Network.

Governments also need to open up spaces for interactions between the decision makers and the people. While this depends very much on domestic governance and political systems, I sought to open up that space by starting an interface between civil society representatives and ASEAN Heads of Government in 2004. I understand this has been an important, but rocky process, but it has been encouraging that civil society has leveraged these opportunities to pro-actively engage with other ASEAN mechanisms.

Finally, we also need to seriously think about reviewing and redefining ASEAN's non-interference policy. Non-interference goes hand-in-hand with respect for national sovereignity. These principles are a fundamental part of international diplomacy, however we need to recognise that even in international diplomacy, there are limits on non-interference, especially when the serious impacts of a problem goes beyond national boundaries, or when it involves serious international crimes. 

If we trust each other as members of the same community, we also need to be candid and sincere in working together to achieve solutions. We cannot allow our region to be bogged down with problems that are prolonged or intensified by the blanket application of non-interference.

Once again, thank you for inviting me here and allowing me to speak. I look forward to your questions. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Apakah lebih baik berdiam diri melihat segala kesilapan yang berlaku atau menegur untuk membawa kebaikan? Kalau mengikut ajaran agama, sekiranya kamu melihat sesuatu kemungkaran hendaklah menyekatnya dengan menggunakan tangan (jika kita ada kekuatan atau kuasa), jika tidak berhasil gunakan mulut (memberi nasihat atau cadangan), dan kalau tidak berhasil juga maka gunakan hati atau berdoa kerana itu adalah selemah-lemah iman. Mengikut surah Al Asr' maksudnya, "Demi masa, sesungguhnya manusia itu berada dalam kerugian. Melainkan orang-orang beriman dan mengerjakan amal soleh dan mereka pula berpesan-pesan dengan kebenaran serta berpesan-pesan dengan sabar". Berpesan pesan dengan kebenaran bermakna kita di tuntut untuk memberitahu terhadap perkara perkara yang benar. 

Oleh sebab itu saya cuba memandu kehidupan seharian dengan bercakap dan menulis untuk memberi sedikit sumbangan atau nasihat kepada umat dan negara supaya dapat bersama menjamin masa depan yang lebih baik dan cemerlang. Malang nya pada masa in ramai yang terpesona kepada fitnah dan mendengar perkara perkara yang tidak benar. Ada juga golongan bila membaca mereka mencari jalan singkat dengan melihat pada tajuk ataupun membuat rumusaan berasaskan pada apa orang lain ceritakan. Lantaran mempercayainya walhal ianya bukan datang dari sumber asal. Lebih parah lagi bila  rumusan di buat tanpa maklumat tepat dan benar terhadap orang lain. 

Pendekatan sebegitu amat merbahaya, lebih lebih lagi jika ia di lakukan samaada oleh pemimpin ataupun rakyat biasa. Pasti sekali ianya tidak akan mengeluarkan pihak yang memerlukan dari kegelapan kepada cahaya untuk menyelesaikan kebuntuan nya. Ada pula golongan yang suka menceritakan pada pihak yang bergantung pada nya seolah tiada masalah dan semua berjalan lancar dan baik, sedangkan keadaan sebenar adalah tidak begitu. Mereka yang terpedaya dengan maklumat tidak benar akan berasa tenang dan selesa. Golongan ini akan menyekat sesiapa juga yang hendak menyampaikan perkara benar kerana takut rahsia mereka akan terbongkar. Lantas akan memberitahu pihak lain supaya mengelakkan dari bercerita benar di atas alasan tidak mahu pemimpin tersinggung. Berlarutan lah tipu helah. Justru pendekatan bercerita atau menasihati perkara perkara benar menjadi tidak popular. Mereka yang konon nya jadi pelindung mengatakan jangan menimbulkan masalah dan membangkitkan kemarahan. Jelas sekali bila keadaan sedemikian berterusan maka ia boleh tiba ke tahap di mana pemimpin akan terus terpedaya dan pastinya tidak dapat bertindak tepat walaupun dia seorang yang cerdik dan pintar.

Akhirnya kerana hendak dapat manfaat mereka juga memilih jalan selamat dan menyembunyi kebenaran dari pengetahuan pemimpin. Inilah punca pemimpin tidak dapat merasai dan memahami perasaan dan sensitiviti sebenar rakyat di peringkat akar umbi dan oleh itu tidak mampu memberi jawapan kepada keresahan dan persoalan-persoalan yang ditimbulkan rakyat. Di persekitaran beginilah akan timbul golongan yang pandai mengampu dan menganggap dengan cara ini sajalah mereka akan selamat dan dapat mengukuhkan kerjaya, kedudukan dan status dan sekaligus dapat menguatkan diri mereka. 

Orang yang suka bercakap benar akan berasa disisihkan, ataupun dianggap penentang. Oleh yang demikian pandangan bernas mereka sering tidak diambil peduli dan di ketepikan. Maka kerana mengharapkan habuan dan selamat lahirlah sindrom bisu dan hanya membiarkan sahaja apa jua perkara yang berlaku di depan mata termasuk perkara yang negatif. Akhirnya fenomena membiarkan, “si luncai terjun dengan labu-labunya”, akan menjadi prinsip yang di anuti dari berkata benar. Mereka akan berpuas hati dengan berkata biarlah masa menentukan segala-galanya dan tindakan untuk membenterasnya pada masa yang tepat akan ditolak tepi dengan sewenangnya.

Justru untuk kebaikan dan kesejahteraan rakyat, kepimpinan mesti bersikap positif serta mengilap sikap suka mendengar untuk manfaatkan maklumat yang datang dari bermacam-macam sumber  sebelum membuat apa-apa keputusan dan tidak hanya bergantung kepada penasihat di sekeliling sahaja.

Landskap ekonomi, politik, keselamatan dan sosio-budaya dunia dan domestik kini ternyata sudah berubah berpunca daripada arus globalisasi dan kemajuan teknologi komunikasi dan maklumat. Pada hari ini mudah untuk menguasai maklumat dengan hanya menggunakan satu gadget di tapak tangan.  Sebab itu ada yang mengatakan kita kini tidak hidup di alam bulat tapi alam leper. Dalam erti kata lain pergerakan dan penguasaan maklumat boleh diperolehi dengan pantas dan tidak mungkin dapat di sekat lagi. Siapa yang menguasai maklumat menguasai kuasa sebenar. Begitu juga dengan kemunculan tamadun baru yang ada positif dan negatifnya, undang-undang dan akhlak atau moral ada masanya akan menjadi songsang di atas alasan kebebasan. 

Polar kuasa-kuasa utama dunia pun telah melalui proses perubahan dengan kehadiran kuasa-kuasa ekonomi dan ketenteraan baru. Justru tuntutan rakyat dan masyarakat antarabangsa juga pada waktu ini turut berubah. Mana boleh paradigma pemikiran dan pendekatan domestik  di berbagai dimensi tidak bergerak mengikut tuntutan masa. Ketara sekali kita berdepan dengan cabaran cabaran yang sebelum nya kita pandang sepi. Hari ini soal urus tadbir baik dan kebertanggungjawaban menjadi permintaan utama dalam kemahuan rakyat untuk melihat wujudnya ketelusan dan kebertanggungjawaban dalam pemerintahan sebuah negara yang demokratik. Lantas polar permainan politik juga ikut berubah kerana rakyat menuntut supaya ahli-ahli politik bersih, jujur dan tidak rasuah. Ini bermakna kaedah berpolitik juga perlu berubah sejajar dengan perubahan landskap ekonomi, politik, keselamatan dan sosio budaya  dunia. Berdiam dan menafikan sesuatu yang mudah di putar belitkan tanpa jawapan di peringkat  domestik atau antarabangsa tidak lagi menjadi pilihan. 

Bagi menjamin kuasa dan kelangsungan pasukan pemimpin politik dan koporat juga perlu berubah dan memahami persekitaran masa kini. Mereka yang mengelilingi tokoh penting adalah sama bertanggugjawab mengukuhkan pemimpin mereka. Semoga generasi akan datang tidak menyalahkan generasi kini kerana mereka bersikap diam dan hanya melihat. Kesetiaan yang sebenar hanya pada Allah, Rasul dan akhirnya ulil amri. Ini di tuntut oleh agama dan terkandung dalam Quran sebagai pengajaran kepada orang-orang yang beriman. Kesetiaan pada Allah swt dan Rasulnya adalah bersifat mutlak tetapi kesetiaan kepada ulil amri bergantung kepada amal maarof dan nahi mungkar.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Current political environment

I think Malaysia has never gone through this period of political turmoil and uncertainty as we are facing today. Of course the opposition parties are stronger than it was prior to the 2008 and 2013 GE's. On top of that the opposition is perceived to be more articulate. The subjects they raised are well researched than those brought up by the government backbenchers. Whether the Opposition is good or not, responsible or otherwise it does not matter, what matters most is the perception that they are performing better in Parliament and outside as well as at campaign rallies and trails. They are also seen ahead of the BN in optimizing the use of social media or the cyberspace for spreading their political ideology and propaganda. 

The proposition that the government is weaker than the opposition is happening against the backdrop of PAS and DAP split on the Hudud issue. We may disagree on the public perception of the opposition party but the reality indicates this to be so. The BN must take stocks of its state of readiness to face the GE otherwise it may wake up the next morning after the polling day of the 14th GE that it has lost the GE, instead the opposition has won a landslide victory to form the next federal government. This could be a shock and a bad dream for the BN. 

This could be reversed if they work very hard from now and consolidate their team and campaign strategy. They have to revive public confidence on them. To do this there is a need for a lot of listening and willingness to take radical actions to rectify weaknesses including revamping the UMNO HQ especially certain specific crucial positions and even the Cabinet.

The problems faced by the BN is tremendous. I think in sum it suffers from two kinds of weaknesses, namely internal and external. The internal dimension is due to the lack of solidified strategy, unity and loyalty of party members at the grassroots and the leaders. Many people feel they have not changed politically in term of attitudes and approaches.

On top of that the party or government is inundated with incidences or mishaps that have negative implications including in the way they handle or manage issues or crisis. Those incidences or issues at times not responded immediately or too slow. The government and party leaders must have common stand and members of the administration must not give their personal views but must give similar views as the government or party. They must avoid shooting at their own foot rather than targeting at their opponents. The BN actions and reactions to issues are at times considered inconsistent or insensitive or even callous to public sentiments. 

Government actions surprisingly are not seen to be solid. Worst still party and government leaders are not seen effective communicators in the explanations of their own policies. Thus they are often seen inconsistent due to their inability to explain or defend their own policies effectively. There is a strong belief that they rely too heavily on the so called experts who don't seem to understand politics or the domestic political undercurrent. 

External dynamics made the situation worst such as the tragedies of Flight MH370 and MH17, and most recently the helicopter crash that killed the PM's most trusted aide. On the economic side the slides of the Ringgit against major currencies and more damaging is the scandal of the 1MDB. 

Furthermore the implementation of the GST created so much uproar, dissatisfaction and unhappiness within the party members and the public even though the tax is a good tax. It is more perplexing when the government spoke person did not handle it well. On the ground the public complain on the rise of the cost of living and shops and traders increased the price of goods and services.This gives unnecessary advantage to the opposition. 

At this stage it is important that they get out of their safe or complacent syndrome or under the false belief that they cannot be defeated.

What is obvious the PM receives a lot of pressure from within and outside the party to resign. The strongest and most formidable critique is Tun Mahathir and his ardent supporters ranging from former Ministers namely Tun Daim, Tan Sri Sanusì Junid, Tan Sri Zainudin Maidin and a well-known former Straits Times Chief Editor Dato Kadir Jasin and ordinary party members. 

The UMNO position amongst various party leaders vis-à-vis the position of the Prime Minister lacks clarity or certainty. These continuous questions and asking for explanations or allegations against the PM would be the greatest challenge. Tun has a broad based support amongst party members as well as the electorates. Under the circumstances the opposition need not do much but to recycle the bullets produced by Tun M to shoot at UMNO or BN with devastating effects on the government and the party. 

Even though the party leaders have instructed their party members to adopt the attack mode against the opposition but due to the ugly spat with Tun M they are still unable to do so and are still taking a defensive position. Whether Tun M succeeds in ousting Najib or not, is yet to be seen but what is clear the party is badly damaged. Whether it can recover or not will only be telling after the GE14. However the party and its wings have come with a statement of full support for Najib. The opposition is already gearing up for the general election. The early indicators would be the outcome of the by-elections in Parliamentary seats of Permatang Pauh and Rompin. I think BN will win Rompin but there is a pssibility it can also capture Permatang Pauh. Albeit the spat between Tun M and Najib is definitely bad for UMNO and BN in the immediate and long term unless something happens to change the landscape.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tolerance in a People-Centred ASEAN by Syed Hamid Albar

Didik Arianto from OIC, Professor Nimmer Senior advisor of KAICIID, Debbie Stothard of Altsean Burma, colleagues from Humanity Malaysia and distinguished guests, friends.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning to all of you and welcome to Kuala Lumpur. I am very happy to see you at this Roundtable discussion on Tolerance in a People-Centred ASEAN. I wanted to have a discussion on this subject of tolerance because I have seen so much suffering, so much injustice. I then started to discuss with the OIC, who offered full support for the project. In fact the idea of having this discussion in the form of a Roundtable came from the OIC Secretary General. I agreed with him and started working on it. I spoke to Debbie, my good friend from ALTSEAN Burma, who suggested that I should organize this event under Humaniti Malaysia. Humaniti is a new organization which I had formed. Prof. Mohammad Abu Nimmer from KAICIID also had the same idea of organizing an interfaith and intercultural discourse.

We decided all of us should work together and cooperate under the name of Humaniti. Debbie then started to put the whole thing together. I would like to express my gratitude to Debbie. Our original plan was just to have a Roundtable of 15 Muslims, 15 Buddhists, 15 Christians from Myanmar. Ultimately due to so much interest we ended up with about 50 participants. I was told it wouldn’t be productive to have 50 people to have a Roundtable, but due to the interest shown in the Roundtable we proceeded. I’m very happy today all of you come together; each of you being an expert in your own field. I also would like to thank Ambassador Kobsak from Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC) for his presence.

The motto of Humaniti is “putting the pieces together”. Previously there were many seminars, discussions and meetings about the subject, but usually it ended without any action plan. For this Roundtable I decided it would be best not to make speeches or take photos. Instead the deliberations should be interactive. We should speak from the heart. We should finish the first session at 1pm. After lunch, we would recap and then break into three groups. We hope the Roundtable session will result in constructive discussion for a better ASEAN region.”

Today we are living in a world full of conflicts and wars. There are active war theaters where full scale wars and civil wars are taking place based on ethnic, religious and sectarian considerations creating tensions between communities and nations. Conflict does not bring happiness, prosperity, stability to any country.

Tolerance literally means an attitude to accept or tolerate other people’s beliefs or points of view to create an environment of peace and harmony in society. This is the most cherished and desired goal. The absence of tolerance or in other words “Intolerance” brings conflicts and sometime wars to society. Whenever there are conflicts or intolerance, interethnic and interfaith relations can be badly fractured and even relations between different sects within the same religion creates so much frictions. People take up arms and kill due to differences in the interpretation of the same religion.

Why there is so much intolerance or disharmony? The short answer can be attributed to sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of the true spirit of the religion by the followers of different faiths and community leaders who drive their ignorant followers to do things which have nothing to do with the tenets of the religion. But yet this Intolerance is being used and even spread in the name of religion.

HUMANITI Malaysia is taking upon it-self to spread the message of Tolerance, Love, Brotherhood and Inclusiveness. We intend to spread this message across national, regional, racial, ethnic and religious boundaries. ASEAN is a region with more than 630 million inhabitants with diverse cultures, races, religions and languages and has been relatively calm and peaceful. This region has tremendous potential for economic growth provided there is peace and political stability. Recently we have been witnessing conflicts erupting in different parts of the region which is causing instability and violence particularly in the Rakhine State of Myanmar affecting the Rohingya.

When we understand what bring peace, we know where to direct our efforts. No matter how vigorously we stir a boiling pot of soup on a fire, the soup will not cool. When we remove the pot from the fire, it will cool on its own, and our stirring will accelerate the process. Stirring causes the soup to cool, but only if we first remove the soup from the fire. In other words, we can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, all other actions will come to nothing.

The use of force and violence, even to the level of killing, never solves anything. Killings generate fear and anger, which generate more killing, more fear, and more anger, in a vicious cycle without end. In the Quran (49:13) Allah commands “O mankind! We (Allah) have created you from a single (pair) of a male and female and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another.”

In the Buddhist scriptures not only human life but all living beings are sanctified “Whoever settles a matter by violence is not just. The wise calmly considers what is right and what is wrong. Whoever guides others by a procedure that is nonviolent and fair is said to be a guardian of truth, wise and just.” (Dhammapada 256-57)

These two tenets clearly advocate for moderation and for us to live in peace. Under the circumstances our role as “Peace Builders” is extremely challenging though not an impossible one. We must find the light of peace and harmony at the end of the tunnel. Democracy is often described “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Therefore people are going to be the key for the change in the ASEAN region. People shall be the centre of gravity to pull the governments in the region to adopt policies towards peace and reconciliation and to effectively participate in the conflict resolution and peace building process.

As Dwight Eisenhower the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 observed, “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these day governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”

I have been thinking a lot about conflict and ways of dealing with various types of conflict. Max Lucade describes there are 5 causes of conflict:
  1. Differing values 
  2. Making assumptions 
  3. Differing expectation 
  4. Differences in the way you were brought up 
  5. Knowledge and ability to deal with conflict

He also prescribes 5 main conflict resolution scenarios:
  1. Ignore the conflict (avoid conflict)
  2. Smooth over the conflict 
  3. Use your authority to settle the conflict
  4. Negotiate a resolution to the conflict (diplomacy)
  5. Use collaboration to resolve the conflict. (need trust)

Some of the lessons we can learn from the past is to understand the messages conveyed by different leaders of the past. Nelson Mandela himself observed, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy, then he becomes your partner.” John F Kennedy is quoted as saying, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

The fact remains that peace will take not just months, but in many cases, years and generations, as sustainable economies and governance is developed combined with education and a generation who follow with a new shared momentum. Mahatma Gandhi said “If we are to teach real peace in this world,”…and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” We have a long and difficult road ahead of us let start our journey by taking our first little step.

We are here for one and half day to deliberate on the way forward to drive the culture of tolerance in a people centred ASEAN. Let us do that together.

Delivered by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar
in conjunction of the Roundtable, Hotel Istana on 6th-7th April 2015


HUMANiTi Malaysia, in partnership with the OIC, KAICIID and ALTSEAN-Burma, convened a roundtable ‘Tolerance in a People-Centred ASEAN’ on 6-7 April 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event brought together diverse stakeholders from the ASEAN region, including representatives of more than 20 national, regional and international non-governmental organisations, to discuss key trends, issues of concern and share approaches to promote tolerance in ASEAN.

Roundtable participants voiced overwhelming concern about the trend of rising intolerance in Myanmar, including proposed legislation related to the ‘protection’ of race and religion that is inconsistent with international human rights standards including United Nations conventions to which Myanmar is party, as well as continued trends of violence and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, including Rohingya, in many parts of the country.

These trends have caused and contributed to human rights crises with severe humanitarian consequences, gender-based discrimination, statelessness, segregation, refugee flows and other threats to human security, posing challenges to Myanmar’s transition to democracy and upcoming elections. Moreover, these trends threaten regional stability and could exacerbate violence and polarisation along religious and ethnic fault-lines. Such trends could seriously undermine the establishment, sustainability and credibility of the ASEAN Community, including economic integration and regional economic development.

Identifying ways forward, participants discussed a range of strategies at local, national, regional and international levels. The strong responsibility of regional actors was emphasised, particularly ASEAN and other intergovernmental organisations, regional humanitarian and human rights organisations, the regional business community, and regional faith leaders. Mindful that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration includes the protection of the right to freedom of religion, there is a continued need to facilitate interfaith engagement and dialogue within Myanmar and the wider region.

In addition, participants called on ASEAN to step up engagement on protecting ethnic and religious minorities in the process of Myanmar’s transition to democracy. At this pivotal moment in ASEAN’s history, when ASEAN’s Charter and processes are being reviewed, participants called on ASEAN to re-examine the principle of non-interference in the context of human rights crises that have implications on regional peace and stability. Participants noted and strongly supported the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 69/248, United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/28/L.21, and the recent report and recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

Participants reiterated their commitment to coordinating efforts to address the root causes of the complex crisis in Myanmar. Resolving the crisis of intolerance in Myanmar and other parts of the ASEAN region are critical in the realisation and promotion of tolerance in a people-centred ASEAN. Participants agreed and committed to continuing their efforts to forge a way forward for a culture of tolerance in the ASEAN region.

HUMANiTi Malaysia is an NGO, being very recently registered under the Leadership of Tan Sri Dr.Syed Hamid Albar. HUMANiTi Malaysia is taking upon it-self to spread the message of Tolerance, Love, Brotherhood and Inclusiveness. The intention is to spread this message accross national, regional, racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries.

HUMANiTi Malaysia: Ahmad Tarmizi Mukhtar. Mobile number + 6016 335 2558 and Noor Hisham Mohd Taha Mobile number: +6019 343 2962ö