Archive for April, 2013





Published in The Sun on 28 April 2013

THE unprecedented move by the deputy head of Wanita Umno, Kamilia Ibrahim, to burn all bridges with the party and stand as an independent is a shocker. For a senior leader representing more than one half of the members to sever ties with the party days before the general election, speaks volumes of her position and relationships within the party hierarchy. Obviously, the top leadership did not see the second in command of the women’s wing as a winnable parliamentary candidate.

For any political party, the eleventh-hour defection by a member, especially a senior leader, would be considered an unforgivable offence and a betrayal of the highest order. In defying an integral part of Umno’s constitution relating to the elections, Kamilia had clearly committed political apostasy, the punishment of which is nothing less than expulsion. For such a serious breach, there would be no redemption.

In many ways, Kamilia’s conflict was a toss between her personal and professional integrity. At the personal level, Kamilia’s disappointment at being bypassed for a parliamentary seat must have overwhelmed her and rendered her inconsolable. Professionally, as the deputy head she must have felt betrayed that the Umno women who had slogged long and hard to realise the party’s mission alongside their male compatriots, were not given their rightful share of the election cake

Kamilia did not think a state seat was good enough. She must have felt strongly that as an MP she would be able to do more. Among the other national issues, she would be able to forefront the hopes and aspirations of women to fight abuse, discrimination, unfairness and injustice. As one of the few women’s voices in Parliament, she could advocate issues that have been historically overlooked such as domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment. She could join the growing voices outside pressing for women’s more prominent role.

The promise of a 30% equity across leadership positions in the government and corporate sectors, in the judiciary and enforcement agencies and on the boards of GLCs and public-listed companies must be realised sooner rather than later.

With her legal background Kamilia could be a credible voice in the BN leadership to push for the 30% equity that women deserve in every aspect of the country’s development. The offer of a state seat was not good enough. Considering the assurances that women will be accorded better political standing commensurate with their support, this was a big let down.

Whatever her predicament, one must acknowledge Kamilia’s contributions to the movement. One must give her due credit as a long-serving member of the Wanita executive council and later as deputy head and Supreme Council member. Kamilia must have agonised long and hard over the idea of leaving the party to stand as an independent. There must have been many considerations over and above the purely personal that made her decide to throw caution to the wind.

For all the talk about putting more women in leadership executive and legislative positions, the last Parliament had only 10% female MPs while in the state assemblies, women made up a dismal 8%. To quote Marina Mahathir, a champion of equity and justice for women, “This is far below the 30% allocation for women designated in the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which Malaysia has signed and promised to implement. To ensure that we get the 30% of political decision makers, it is obvious that we need far more than 30% of the nominated candidates to be women.”

Politics, if it can be considered a profession, is unwieldy to say the least. A party may have transparent rules and a constitution but by and large, when it comes to decision-making such as choosing winnable candidates, it is the negotiating and bargaining – behind closed doors among exclusive groups – that move the cogs. When you have male-dominated political parties overseeing male members who are prepared to go to all lengths to defend their bastion of power, it is little wonder that women who are less aggressive are pushed to second place.

It is high time women realise that to be really successful in politics they must undergo a total game change. It is not enough to uphold the virtues of integrity and to be earnest and honest; forthright and straightforward; conscientious and hardworking. Successful politicians are more than anything else smart tacticians and clever strategists. They must be able to read the situation and anticipate the thinking of their bosses. Women who are politically ambitious must also be trained to develop a more strident outlook to match that of their successful male compatriots.





Published in The Sun 17 April 2013

MALAYSIA is astir with election frenzy. Everywhere the talk is about the who’s who and the what’s what in the general election. The mood is upbeat verging on frenetic as Malaysians indulge in their favourite pastime of party and people bashing.

The tit-for-tat mentality of the electorate will reach a crescendo in the next couple of weeks of official campaigning as party members, candidates and their civil society supporters become uncivil and tear one another to shreds in trying to ensure their own victory. It will climax in the emergence of the party which wins a clear majority to form the new government. On the downside, there is the possibility of a hung parliament and a coalition government in its wake.

Not wanting to add to the unsavoury political foray that is fast building up, I have declared on Facebook that I will reserve my comments on the issues that are being dissected on my friends’ posts, the most frequently discussed being corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power. It is hard to resist correcting some of the misinterpretations and misreadings.

On the email circuit, I am resisting the temptation to reply the forwards of hard-hitting pieces written by people we know as well as the imposters, the latest being the alleged nepotism of a chief minister. More disturbing is the purported investigation by the US Congress into the alleged racist and apartheid-like characteristics of the nation’s affirmative action policies. All are potent fodder for the opposition in their bid to wrest Putrajaya.

And then there are the tapes and videos on the sexual exploits and inclinations of politicians which, surprisingly, are not hot issues for the 13th general election among those who brandish freedom and the individual’s right to privacy. To some it is nobody’s business what politicians do in their bedrooms or the underwear they prefer.

The cry for change has never been louder – among those disillusioned with the policies that are perceived to be unfair and discriminatory. More disconcerting to the converted are the alleged corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement of funds by those entrusted with public duty. To them the nation is in a state of disrepair. Except for the most gullible, the majority have decided where their present political support, if not loyalty, lies. Their reasoning is “we’ll vote them in this time and if they don’t deliver, we’ll vote them out next time”. Gone are the days when people were less pragmatic and opportunistic and had unshaken loyalties.

I belong to the latter, being very clear about my political affiliations. Quite unashamedly, I admit to being a BN supporter. I will continue to express my loyalty to and support for the successive governments that have done so much to build the nation into what it is today. I am proud to say I have never wavered like the proverbial lalang or fence sitters who wait to see which side they will sway towards. I have been spared the agony of being indecisive and of being involved in political bashing each time an issue surfaces.

To me it is clear that if there have been corruption and mismanagement those responsible have to take the rap. If they have to be replaced they should be, by uncorrupted and more competent people. Coming from the generation that has seen the country grow from strength to strength over the last 50 years, I have faith that its development will continue unabated if we have strong, incorruptible leaders.

No individual person is infallible or indispensable but each individual is accountable to the nation and its people. To be credible this must be the stand of the party that forms the government. They must rid themselves of the rot in the party, its leadership and members. They must be seen and heard to be doing so.

Sadly, I won’t be voting on May 5 as I’ll be out of the country and qualify neither for early nor postal voting. What a pity, as I was all set to exercise my right as a citizen and cast my vote for the candidate and party that I’m convinced will best serve the interests of my beloved country. As I follow the unfolding of the election results from London my thoughts will echo Wordsworth’s melancholic ode:

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be …

May I remind the feuding parties that the best is yet to come if they remain true to their manifestos, their pledges and their promises to build a better Malaysia. My fervent hope is that the electorate will exercise maturity and discernment in voting not only for the candidates and their abilities but more importantly, for the moral principles and values they uphold.





Published in The Sun  on 5 April 2013

A MILESTONE will be achieved in Malaysian politics, in particular the election procedures, if the leaders of Barisan National and Pakatan Rakyat face each other in a public debate transmitted simultaneously on radio and TV, in the last few days before the general election.

To consolidate the two-week campaigning period allowed by the Election Commission and the past year of road shows by their parties, the two leaders must agree to a face-off to bring into focus not only the main thrust in their party manifesto, but more importantly the brand of national leadership that each is offering.

The rakyat’s assessment of the candidates will be more acute when each is juxtaposed against the other in shared physical space and time to articulate their national vision for the next five years.

The people have no doubt seen and heard Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at numerous public forums in their various capacities, in small group interactions as well as in their engagements with larger groups. Lasting impressions have no doubt been formed. Some will be hard to shake off.

However, as we have seen in the US presidential debates the public can well be exposed to a more controlled public platform with clear guidelines and procedures, where each speaker will be given the opportunity to articulate his thoughts on particular issues of concern.

The split-second timing of the opening presentation, rebuttal and summing up will test each candidate’s ability to raise the most relevant issues and focus on their solution.

The public will be able to assess not only the speaker’s mental and linguistic prowess and the strength of his arguments, but also the sincerity of the communication manifested in the gestures and other paralinguistic features.

Five of the most outstanding issues can form the substance of the debate. My suggestions are: crime and corruption; urban and rural poverty; economic equity; education reform; and socio-cultural polarisation.

High on the list of concerns are issues of crime and corruption which underlie much of the people’s grouses and the nation’s shortcomings. It is therefore urgent that they receive the singular attention of the leaders to ensure they are expertly handled.

We need to hear definitive and categorical statements by Najib and Anwar on their strategies and line of action. The two speakers have to convince the rakyat they indeed have exceptional political will to cleanse the nation of these societal scourges.

I would like to urge the Election Commission to take the giant step in organising Malaysia’s first prime ministerial debate.

This will give the two aspirants equal time and space to demonstrate their participation in the truly democratic, free and fair election system desired by a maturing Malaysian electorate.

Datin Halimah Mohd Said
Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE)





Published in The Sun 1 April 2013

IN A HUGE way, the procrastination over the timing of the 13th general election has created the perfect opportunity for the rakyat to seriously weigh the good, the bad and the ugly.

For close to a year, we have been inundated with statements and counter statements, attacks and counter attacks from both sides of the political divide. Going by the vigorous campaigning of the opposition parties, it would appear that nothing is going right for Malaysia.

In their eyes, the nation is in a state of near collapse or chaos, all the policies are wrong and their implementation flawed – until they take over.

Yet on the side of the ruling party, we have been exposed to the daily barrage of structural changes and systems transformations; achievement records and policy successes; innovative paradigms and motivating game changes.

There are promises and more promises of what is to come. Indeed, despite what the economic pundits and financial whiz kids warn, the next phase of Malaysia’s development will be even brighter according to the official spokespersons.

Then there are the numerous counter-arguments highlighting the national boo-boos and failures. Crime and corruption loom large; racial integration is at an all-time low; education woes are unresolved; justice hangs in the balance; equity and equality are miles away. Pointing fingers at the government is easier to do than to admit that the people themselves are creating these perennial problems.

Those who are able to resist the political blame game see the national dilemma as one of failing ethics and falling moral standards in a society that is growing more materialistic by the day.

Businesses evade regulations to maximise profits; lawyers exploit loopholes in the law to earn big money; politicians dole out ringgit to secure power; the public and private sectors are graft-ridden; enforcement officers and criminals seem to be entangled in bribery cahoots.

It seems as though we have created a culture where money begets money, political and economic power at the expense of sound values and principles.

However, in a country where more than one half the population are still grappling with a low-income status and one quarter are aspiring towards the highest income levels, talk of economic advancements and business opportunities is the crowd puller for the government in power at the state and federal levels.

Public platforms promoting discourse on ethics and decorum, values and principles attract mainly a sprinkling of the urban converted thus leaving out a huge chunk of those that need to be educated in them.

One exception seems to be the congregations in places of worship – mosques, churches and temples. If only the arguments about ethics and morality can be removed from a strictly spiritual perspective and injected with greater relevance for day-to-day living.

Thus when we talk about winnable candidates for the elections and who we should vote for, the question remains as to who is winnable and in whose eyes?

When we talk about who has taken the election integrity oath and who has not, the question remains as to what exactly they have sworn to do or not do? If the pledge requires candidates and their parties not to indulge in money politics, then we have to ask why the BN leaders have readily agreed to take the oath and the opposition parties have not?

It is obvious that Malaysians will vote in the candidates and the party that are winnable in their own eyes. People will choose the candidates/party with a sound track record and with considerable persuasive powers to convince the constituents that they will continue to deliver.

Indeed, when we are faced with the ballot paper we should be looking at candidates who are known in the community and not complete strangers thrust upon us from afar.

Foremost on our mind is whether the person has the capability and the clout to get work done. Our main consideration should be that the candidate is able to work with the authorities to bring about the necessary improvements in the lives of the people.

An overriding concern is whether he or she will be fully committed to the promise of bringing optimal benefits to the people.

We have had ample time to reflect on the type of political leaders we want to lead us into the next phase of the nation’s life. Whatever our convictions are about Malaysia’s needs for the next five years, we have to exercise the greatest wisdom in selecting the right people to be our state representatives and MPs.

Most will agree that Malaysia needs visionary leaders with the foresight to anticipate and plan for the nation’s economic development.

Some will insist the country needs courageous leaders to innovate, implement and enforce strong socio-cultural policies. Some are convinced we need principled leaders to put us back on high moral ground. A few will abstain for reasons best known to them.

April 2013