(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): The Prime Minister’s motion on the Mid-Term Review of the Seventh Malaysia Plan is most ironic, for the House is asked to "menyeru semua rakyat Malaysia berusaha lebih gigih dan penuh keazaman ke arah matlamat membina satu bangsa yang adil, bersatu padu, maju, berdaya saing serta mempunyai tahap ketahanan yang tinggi selaras dengan cita-cita untuk menjadi sebuah negara maju menjelang tahun 2020".
This motion is ironic for the burning issue in the country today is precisely over the unprecedented assaults on justice, freedom, democracy and good governance which have gravely compromised Vision 2020 of Malaysia becoming a fully developed country in all dimensions: economically, politically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and culturally.
Last week, after my speech in the debate on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address, I went to Brussels for the Inter-Paliamentary Union Human Rights Committee hearing on the violation of the human rights of Parliamentarians, in this case that of Lim Guan Eng, who was deprived of his status as Member of Parliament when both the Yang di Pertua Negeri of Malacca and the Yang di Pertuan Agong rejected Guan Eng’s pardon petition and that of 300,000 Malaysians who had signed a pardon petition on behalf of Guan Eng.
Last week was also the week that Malaysia’s international reputation took a plunge, with uncomplimentary reports and editorials in the capitals of the developed nations, with London Times on 15th April 1999 declaring that Malaysia’s system of justice was "both blind and handcuffed".
I would amend this statement to Malaysia’s system of justice as both "blindfolded and handcuffed", in the same manner that the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was "blindfolded and handcuffed" when he was brutally assaulted by the former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor on the first night of his arrest on Sept. 20 last year in the very inner sanctum of the police high command in Bukit Aman.
Just as Anwar’s "black eye" sent shockwaves of outrage and revulsion inside the country and internationally, the six-year jail sentence for each of the four counts of corruption handed down to Anwar on April 14, 1999 was an even bigger "black eye" for Malaysia in the international arena than Anwar’s "black eye".
When the 78-day trial of Anwar started in early November last year, I had said that it was not only Anwar who was on trial, Malaysia’s system of justice and governance were also on trial.
Never before have the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the institutions of government like the judiciary, the Attorney-General’s Office and the Police come under greater trial in the 42-year history of Malaysia - and failing to pass the test of public confidence.
These were not the only institutions which were tested and found wanting. Another important institution is the mass media, both printed and electronic in the country.
A day before Anwar"s judgement was delivered by the High Court judge, Justice Paul Augustine on 14th April 1999, the New Straits Times carried this front-page report under the heading: "Foreign media predicts Anwar will be found guilty", which reads:
"KUALA LUMPUR, Mon. - With two days to go before the High Court passes judgment in the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim corruption case, the foreign Press has again descended on the City in full force.
"Reels of reports and visuals have been filed, mostly pre-empting Judge Datuk Augustine Paul's verdict.
"Many of the reports predict that Anwar will be found guilty, and in the same breath, accuse the Malaysian judiciary of being unfair.
"The former Deputy Prime Minister, on the other hand, is being portrayed as victim of political conspiracy.
"According to these despatches, the guilty verdict would provide a martyr for the opposition alliance which Parti Keadilan Nasional headed by Anwar's wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, was putting together."
In retrospect, who was right - the New Straits Times or the foreign press? At least none of the foreign press had predicted a jail sentence of up to six years for each charge!
The debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Seventh Malaysia Plan is also a debate on about one-third span of the 30-year Vision 2020 for Malaysia to take her place among the ranks of the developed nations.
Vision 2020 laid out nine central strategic challenges that the nation
must finally overcome from 1990 to 2020 if Malaysia is to become a fully
developed nation. Have we for instance made substantial progress
in the past nine years in the following first four of the nine strategic
challenges - or the reverse - as in the goals of:
I do not know whether such a preposterous allegation that I wanted riots and bloodshed in the country is to prepare for my third detention under the Internal Security Act and to be again the guest of His Majesty’s Government.
I would not have been surprised if such a preposterous allegation had come from the rabid fringes of the ruling coalition but what is shocking and disturbing is that when a normally mild-mannered and affable Second Finance Minister could make such downright false, irresponsible and dangerous allegations without batting an eyelid, something is very wrong with the Malaysian political landscape.
This had prompted me to confront Mustapha Muhamed with the question whether the ability to tell lies and make preposterous allegations against the Opposition has now become a condition for survival and preferment as a Minister in the present government.
Recently, as a sign of increasing intolerance to dissent, more and more government leaders are beginning to be very trigger-happy in doubting the loyalty and patriotism of Malaysians, whether in Opposition, the NGOs or the rakyat who do not see eye-to-eye with the government of the day. The most recent example was the insinuation about my loyalty by the Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Department during question time yesterday when I raised the scandal of widespread politics of money, electoral fraud and irregularities in the recent Sabah state general elections.
Let me make it crystal clear here that Opposition MPs and leaders are no less patriotic, and in many cases, even more patriotic than the Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders although we are at different ends of the political spectrum because our actions stem from our "political loyalty and dedication to the nation" as described by the first strategic challenge of Vision 2020.
Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders should realise that there is a great distinction between loyaty and dedication to the nation from loyalty and dedication to the government of the day.
Opposition leaders who, for their love for the country and people to see a better and more just Malaysia for all Malaysians, and are prepared to pay a heavy price for their beliefs including losing their personal liberties, whether in the form of detention without trial under the Internal Security Act or jail as a result of selective prosecution and judicial victimisation, are definitely more patriotic than government politicians who are in politics as a passport for position, influence, wealth, contracts and self-aggrandisement.
I am reminded of a dialogue the DAP leadership had with the top police high command at Bukit Aman on 18th June last year because of our concern that the country was lurching towards a police state following a new police crackdown against public meetings and gatherings where Malaysians were told that they could gather to eat or sing karaokes but speeches were not allowed - prompting me to ask whether Vision 2020 had become Vision Animal Farm - and where riot squads were mobilised to frustrate the holding of peaceful meetings.
The DAP delegation included National Deputy Chairman, Karpal Singh, National Vice Chairmen Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Ahmad Nor and Dr. Oon Hong Geok, Deputy Secretary-General Abdul Muluk Daud, the then National Organising Secretary Tan Kok Wai, Director of Political Education, Teng Chang Khim and International Secretary, Teresa Kok Suh Sim and myself.
The then Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, headed the police high command at the dialogue.
At that time, the police was not only banning DAP public gatherings on the ground that they were unlawful because they were discussing the injustices meted out to DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng who was convicted and jailed under the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act for defending the honour, dignity, women rights and human rights of a 15-year-old girl victim of statutory rape, but even forums on issues affecting the livelihood of the people like the water shortage crisis was regarded as too "sensitive" and had to be banned!
There was a most frank and robust exchange of views for 75 minutes between the DAP delegation and Tan Sri Rahim Noor, who was accompanied by the top police officers at the time, including CID Director, Datuk Yaacob Mohd. Amin, Internal Public Order and Security Director, Datuk Ghazali Yaacob, Special Branch Director Datuk Said Awang and head of Legal and Prosecution SAC I Musa Hassan.
DAP leaders started off the meeting by informing the top police high command that although we had very different roles in society, we had one thing in common - that we were carrying out our respective duties sometimes at great risk to our personal liberties because of our love for the country and people, and that although we can disagree on our respective standpoints there should be mutual respect of each other’s role and integrity.
We said that Malaysians were concerned that the government and in particular the police, worried about the "Indonesian contagion" in Malaysia arising from Suharto’s downfall and the process of political and economic reforms in Indonesia, were drawing the wrong lessons by imposing a crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms instead of initiating political reforms to build a vibrant civil society.
While it was right for the authorities to examine what had happened in Indonesia to find out what Malaysia could learn from our neighbour’s recent upheavals, we should not draw the wrong lessons.
We stressed two points: Firstly, the authorities should not react as if tens of thousands of people would be taking to the streets in protests and uprisings, as Malaysians have become even more mature after four decades of nationhood.
Secondly, the authorities should take full cognisance of the aspirations of Malaysians for wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation and realise that suppressing these aspirations was not only unconducive to creating an united, cohesive and resilient society to face the nation’s worst economic crisis but would undermine the restoration of confidence without which there could be no swift economic turnaround and recovery.
I stressed that Malaysians did not want street protests and marches as happened in Indonesia, but their demands for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance were no less urgent and insistent and should be attended to.
We told the police high command that Malaysians had very limited democratic space whether in freedom of speech, expression, press, assembly and information and the time had come for the expansion of these democratic spaces to give Malaysians a greater say in the decision-making process as to how the people can be united and the nation emerge from the then year-long economic crisis in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable hardships, pain and injustice to Malaysians.
Tan Sri Rahim Noor had started the dialogue in a light vein, referring to Karpal’s reference to him in Parliament as behaving like a gangster, expressing his concerns about the "chemistry" of the "Indonesian contagion" in Malaysia and that the country cannot allow any recurrence of another May 13 incident - to which I concurred. He said he was in the United States when the events in Indonesia came to a climax leading to the downfall of President Suharto and offered the view that Indonesia would not have come to such a pass if it had an Internal Security Act like in Malaysia.
Tan Sri Rahim Noor assured the DAP delegation that there had been no "change of heart" on the part of the police leadership on civil liberties and that there was no new policy to crackdown on the existing rights of Malaysians to freedom of speech and assembly, and that permits for forums and dinners which had been held down the decades would continue to be handled by the respective OCPDs, with the right to appeal within 48 hours to the Chief Police Officer with regard to any refusal.
He said he did not like to arrest people without trial under the Internal Security Act and stressed that he was always mindful that in all his actions, he would have to be personally answerable to Allah. He would not flinch, however, from doing what was his duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of the country, making the gratuitous remark that "I am doubly patriotic than you".
I had wanted to challenge Rahim Noor there and then at his remark "I am more patriotic than you", which was not only most insulting and reflected an arrogance which could only cloud sound and professional judgment, but also because no one had the right to claim that he was more patriotic than me.
However, I decided to let it pass as personal slights took second place to the more pressing issue of ensuring that the police high command retreat from its campdown on the civil rights of the people to public gatherings and assemblies.
Rahim Noor’s remark, however, that "I am doubly patriotic than you" had remained stuck in my throat all these months and events have shown that the former Inspector-General of Police is not only not "doubly patriotic" than me, but is even less patriotic than all 21 million Malaysians. No other Malaysian had done more damage to Malaysia’s national reputation and international image than Rahim Noor as a result of his self-confessed crime of assaulting a defenceless, blindfolded and handcuffed Anwar Ibrahim to an inch of his life and giving Malaysia an international badge of shame and dishonour.
Before the economic crisis, Malaysians abroad are greeted by foreigners as coming from a land with the tallest building in the world, but after last September, the first response of foreigners when introduced to a Malaysian is to identify him as coming from a country where an Inspector-General of Police could give the former Deputy Prime Minister a "black eye" in the very inner sanctums of the police high command.
I understand that Rahim Noor is being charged in the Sessions Court today for causing injuries to Anwar Ibrahim while under police custody in September last year. This is long overdue and the delay in charging Rahim Noor is another blot on the record of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, especially as Rahim Noor had confessed to the crime at the Royal Commission of Inquiry more than seven weeks ago on March 2.
Let the Rahim Noor case be a lesson to all, particularly those who hold high office, whether public or political office, whether Chief Secretary, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of Prisons, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers, Deputy Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries not to use their office as proof of their loyalty and patriotism.
The Information Minister, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat has joined the chorus calling on the Home Ministry to take action against the latest political satire written by national literary laureate Professor Shannon Ahmad, SHIT, which UMNO circles claim is a veiled attack on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his associates in the Government.
I have not read SHIT but is it unpatriotic for a Malaysian writer to produce a fictional work dedicated "to expose the wrong done by certain politicians and political organisations in the country, to right the wrong and to make the wrongdoer seek forgiveness"? If Shannon Ahmad has defamed anyone or committed any offence under the existing laws of the land, then let him be taken to court.
In the past five months, the Information and Broadcasting Department had put up a website, Cetusan Rasa Untuk Malaysia (www.kempen.gov.my) to allow Malaysians to express their views, whether of appreciation or criticism to the government.
There have been some 69,000 visitors to date and apart from some 7 per cent of the postings which are supportive of the government, the rest are overwhelmingly critical and even condemnatory of the Barisan Nasional government or its leaders. The Prime Minister is the chief target of these outbursts, representing about one-third of the postings, on issues of his dictatorial rule, nepotism, cronyism and corruption.
Is the Information Minister and the government prepared to accept that the outpourings of feelings by some 69,000 postings on the government website are the legitimate feelings of loyal and patriotic Malaysians, has a full analysis been made by the government on these postings and what actions have been taken to address the issues and complaints raised, particularly those referring specificially to Barisan Nasional Ministers like Mohamad Rahmat himself, Tun Daim Zainuddin (Finance Minister) , Datuk Samy Vellu (Works Minister), Datuk Chua Jui Meng (Health Minister), Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz (International Trade and Industry Minister), Datuk Megat Junid (Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister) and Datuk Najib Tun Razak (Education Minister).
I hope that henceforth we will not hear anyone in this House claiming exclusive prerogative to loyalty and patriotism just because he is a Minister, Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary or Barisan Nasional MP and that no one will try to doubt, question or insinuate about loyalty and patriotism of another honourable member.
I remember that in the seventies, a senior UMNO Minister was so unhappy with my speech in Parliament that he stood up and said that if I did not like the Barisan Nasional policies, I could leave Malaysia. My immediate riposte to this senior Cabinet Minister was that if he did not like what the Opposition is saying in Parliament, he could leave Malaysia himself!
The senior UMNO Minister was stunned for it had never occurred to him that my right and claim to Malaysia is no less than his!
Malaysia does not belong just to the Barisan Nasional Ministers or leaders,
but to every one, including those who are presently in the Opposition -
and I hope that we will all be fully mindful of the first strategic challenge
of Vision 2020 to build a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common
and shared destiny, with a nation at peace with itself, territorially and