Archive for the ‘Ethics, Morality and Patriotism’ Category

Looking East with a twist

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) has announced that Malaysia is renewing, or to be more precise, upgrading the Look East policy he adopted as a foreign policy 30 years ago.

It was unveiled after he came to power in 1981 and now, as the premier for the second time, he has picked up the pieces of his past and repackaged it.

His inclination to Japan then was understandable since the country was the rising star of Asia.

Although Look East included South Korea and Taiwan, it basically meant Japan.

I think any Malaysian who has visited Japan can vouch for the people’s work ethic, honesty, orderliness, politeness, punctuality, cleanliness, precision, dedication to excellence, innovation and good manners.

Malaysians in Japan feel safe – they rarely get cheated despite being tourists, which is more than can be said for many countries.

Personally, Japan remains my No. 1 holiday destination. Like Dr Mahathir, I have the highest admiration for the Japanese. They are certainly exemplary, and that is indisputable.

Dr Mahathir has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

His Look East Policy shocked and confused the Malaysian foreign ministry, with many officials viewing it as undefined and vague.

The Ministry being left in the dark about the Prime Minister’s move led to it being unaware of how to implement the policy.

Fast forward to 2018. It’s likely that his new batch of ministers were also caught off guard with the revival of the Look East policy, more so when the Foreign Minister has yet to be installed.

Without doubt, Japan is an important partner to Malaysia because we have more than six decades’ ties with the country.

In 2016, Japan ranked Malaysia as its fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade standing at RM120bil.The strong trade and investment relations between the nations are also underpinned by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The latest Malaysia-Japan collaboration includes the Bukit Bintang City Centre project, which has managed to attract the leading real estate group in the Land of the Rising Sun, Mitsui Fudisan Co Ltd, to invest in what will be the mega project’s RM1.6bil retail mall.

But Dr Mahathir’s choice of his first foreign visit to Japan as PM has raised many eyebrows. Perhaps it was just the coincidental timing of the annual Nikkei Conference, which he attends without fail.

I was told that his office had informed the Chinese Embassy here, as a matter of courtesy, to avoid reading into the matter, given the long, bitter rivalry between the two nations.

Dr Mahathir was also visiting Japan after a series of announcements, calling for the review, if not cancellation or postponement, of several mega Chinese-driven projects in Malaysia.

The method of repayments with China, involving huge amounts of money, has, of course, been called into question and condemned. One critic even described the terms as “strange.”

It’s apparent the situation is delicate now, and we need to tread carefully because we are dealing with a global leader.

Powerful alliance

The PM admitted that his government was “dealing with a very powerful country. As such, matters affecting both parties will require friendly discussions”.

Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said that Malaysia will carefully handle business contracts with China made by the previous administration.

In an interview with The Star, Daim admitted that the economic superpower is a friend to Malaysia.

“China is very important to us,” the Council of Eminent Persons spokesman said.

“We enjoy very close relations, but unfortunately, under the previous administration, a lot of China contracts are tainted, difficult to understand and the terms are one-sided,” said Daim.

There is plenty at stake here. The world has also changed, and Malaysia needs to be mindful of its diplomatic move. These are sensitive times, and to the Chinese, the issue of “face” is an important one.

Whether we like it or not, the whole world is looking towards China because this is where the fundamental building blocks of a future global digital economic model is being curated and built.

Japan’s economy, on the other hand, has been in regression over the last two decades, and open data is easily available to prove this point. Just google it.

That aside, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in Asean, especially after Malaysia-China bilateral transactions rose as much as 28% to RM139.2bil in 2017’s first half.

The Chinese government has been very positive with bilateral relations with Malaysia over the years, and this great foundation is what we must build on. It doesn’t matter who the Malaysian Prime Minister is now.

With Ali Baba and Tencent coming to Malaysia, SMEs – which comprise more than 95% of Malaysian business entities – exporting to China will be a huge foreign trade opportunity.

Of all the Asean nations, Malaysia has the largest pool of businessmen who speak the relevant Chinese dialects and understand the culture. But it’s not just the Malaysian Chinese businessmen who stand to benefit, but other races too.

Let’s not forget that China will be under steady stewardship for the coming decade since Xi Jinping has strengthened his position as the premier. And with Dr Mahathir rightfully announcing that Malaysia will be a neutral country, this will mean a stable foreign policy which is crucial for the rules of engagement.

The same can’t be said of Japan, though, as it has a history of turbulent domestic politics, with frequent changes in leadership.

Truth be told, China has outperformed Japan. The republic has become a model of socio-economic reform that connects, not only the past with the present, but more importantly, can rewrite the history of human development into our common future.

The One Belt, One Road initiative is the future. It was also reported that China has overtaken Japan in global patent applications filed in 2017 and is closing in on the United States, the long-standing leader, the World Intellectual Property Organization said in a report.

With 48,882 filings, up 13.4% from a year earlier, Chinese entities came closer to their American counterparts, which filed 56,624 applications. Japanese applicants ranked third with 48,208 demands for patents, up 6.6% from a year ago, the report, released Wednesday, revealed. According to the Geneva-based institution, China will likely overtake the US as the world’s largest patent applicant within three years.

“This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation,” WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

The overall filings in 2017 were 243,500, up 4.5% from a year earlier.

Data indicates that China and Japan were key drivers of the surge in applications.

“This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia,” Gurry reportedly said.

Two Chinese firms topped the list, led by Huawei Technologies Co with 4,024 patent applications and ZTE Corp with 2,965 submissions. Intel Corp of the United States is placed third with 2,637 filings, followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp with 2,521.

China has also declared its ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030.

If there is a single country to take a cue from, then it can only be China. Look at its growth since 1957, 1967, 1987, 1997 and 2017, and see the strides it has made in the shortest time. Remember, China was once poor and backwards. Many Malaysian Chinese used to send money back to their families in China, especially in 1950s and 1960s, and even 1970s. But look where the country is now.

Malaysia is in pole position to take advantage since our neighbour Singapore has always been perceived to be too US-centric. It will be a waste if we let politics get in the way, as no one can dispute that China now plays a respected and vital role.

By Wong Chun Wai
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Open house by TYT, state leaders stayed to celebrate Raya with crowd

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Head of State, Tun Juhar bin Mahiruddin (centre) and Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Hj Mohd Shafie bin Hj Apdal greeting the crowd that turned up at the annual Hari Raya open house hosted by the Head of State and his wife, Toh Puan Norlidah binti Tan Sri R.M. Jasni at the Istana today.

KOTA KINABALU: It was a gesture that touched the hearts of the people and Head of State when Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie Apdal and several of his cabinet ministers stayed to celebrate Hari Raya mingling with the crowd at the Istana today.

Earlier, the Chief Minister and his cabinet attended the annual Hari Raya open house hosted by Head of State, Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and his wife, Toh Puan Norlidah Tan Sri R.M. Jasni.

The event was held in two sessions starting from 10am to 11am for VVIPs and 11am to 1pm for the public.

Appearing relaxed and in fine mood, Tun Juhar extended his best wishes to the new government.

“This is the first time the Chief Minister and some of his cabinet ministers have joined me for the second part of the open house to celebrate this happy occasion with the people. It proves they are with the people and for the people. I am very glad they’re with me,” he said when addressing the crowd.

Cabinet ministers who remained for the second session of the open house were Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Christina Liew, Minister of Health and People’s Well-being, Stephen Wong and Minister of Youth and Sports, Frankie Poon.

After his brief address, Tun Juhar rendered two songs – One Night by Elvis Presley and Angin Malam that was made popular by Indonesian singer Broery Marantika.

He dedicated One Night to his wife and everyone present at the event.

Accompanying the Head of State on drums was his son, Al Hambra and the Sabah Cultural Board Combo.

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New hope to fight graft

Sunday, June 17th, 2018
(File pix) Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking after chairing the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption meeting in Putrajaya on June 8. With him are Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Centre on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed. Bernama Photo

THE reactivation of the Cabinet Committee on Integrity in Governance as the Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption is an important step.

One of its first decisions was to establish the Centre on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC), which will report directly to the prime minister.

GIACC will also encompass human rights. The Department of Integrity and Governance, the Institute Integriti Malaysia, the Public Complaints Bureau and the Integrity Commission on Enforcement Agencies will be placed under GIACC.

The aim is to reduce duplication and public expenditure as the government intensifies the fight against corruption.

A national Anti-Corruption Plan is going to be formulated. Ministries will be asked to identify three weaknesses related to laws, policies and procedures that should be reviewed to reduce corruption. They have been given a month to submit their findings to GIACC.

The government is planning to introduce a law that will enable punitive action to be taken against officers who cause wastage and leakages or are extravagant in the administration of public funds.

Ministers right down to political secretaries will be prohibited from accepting gifts.

A more important measure is the promulgation of a law on political financing. A proposal on this exists, which makes it so much easier to expedite this legislation.

In announcing these initiatives, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ministers would have to declare their assets to him and to present the same report to the anti-graft authority.

This is not what groups have been campaigning in the last few decades.

The declaration of assets and liabilities of ministers and deputy ministers, and menteris besar, chief ministers and executive councillors, should be made public.

The Penang and Selangor governments have been doing this since they came to power a decade ago. Three ministers in Dr Mahathir’s cabinet from Parti Amanah Negara — Mohamad Sabu, Salahuddin Ayub and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad — inked statutory declarations which detail their assets and their debts.

These declarations are accessible to the public. The Amanah leaders and the Penang and Selangor governments should be commended for setting the right example.

Political leaders and public officials declaring their assets and liabilities to the public is a principle of accountability that has gained tremendous momentum in the last three or four decades.

It boosts people’s trust in their leaders. It not only gives citizens an honest picture of the financial worth of their leaders, but also deters those who wield power from using their office to accumulate wealth at the expense of the people.

Different societies have evolved different mechanisms for making their leaders’ financial status known to the people. In our case, declarations of assets and liabilities at federal and state levels can be lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which will verify the information before posting it on a website accessible to the public.

Leaders and officials will be required by law to update the information on their finances at regular intervals.

A bold and brave move of this sort is imperative at this stage because of what the nation has gone through in recent times.

The magnitude of the betrayal of the people’s trust is so horrendous that confidence in the elite will be restored and sustained only if it demonstrates that it has the moral courage to put into practice principles of integrity and accountability.

In similar vein, our constitutional monarchs should, in accordance with their position, allow their emoluments and other perquisites to be made known to the people. In a genuine constitutional monarchy, there would be hardly any dissension about such a practice.

Indeed, it is a practice that will boost people’s love and affection for their monarchs.

There are other proposals that have been made over the years by some of us to strengthen accountability and integrity that should be rearticulated at this stage in the hope that the government will respond positively.

To strengthen accountability in our nation, we should bar the kin of ministers or executive councillors from bidding for government projects or contracts; eliminate agents and proxies in procurements involving the state; ensure open tenders across the board with some exceptions linked to defence purchases; and make MACC answerable to Parliament.

For a nation that was the first in the global south to enact a law against corruption and to establish a separate agency to fight the scourge, we have sadly fallen into the abyss.

Only a leadership and a people driven by a single-minded passion to combat corruption can lift us out of this morass.

By Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

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Make the corrupt pay the price

Sunday, June 17th, 2018
The punishment for cases involving corruption should be reviewed to provide for heavier sentences as existing penalties have no effect on offenders.

ACCORDING to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, corruption or bribery is the act of giving or receiving gratification or reward in cash or in kind for performing a task in relation to someone’s job.

An example is a contractor giving an expensive watch to a government official in return for awarding a project to the former’s company.

There are four offences relating to bribery and corruption as set out in the act.

FIRST, soliciting or receiving gratification (bribe) under Sections 16 and 17(a) of the act, which is the common scenario of a person or agent soliciting or receiving gratification or bribe as an inducement for performing or not performing a task.

An example is a court case where former Kangar Municipal Council president Baharudin Ahmad was charged with soliciting and receiving a bribe from a contractor of a 4ha housing development in Padang Besar, Perlis.

In return, he promised to approve as well as ensure the smooth running of the project.

The bribe received from the contractor was RM30,000 cash, RM30,000 in cash cheque and a Mizuno golf set worth RM2,500.

The court, after finding him guilty of the offence, jailed him for four years and fined him RM1.92 million.

SECONDLY, the offering or giving of gratification, which falls under Section 17(b) of the act, which is the scenario of a person or agent offering or giving gratification or bribe as an inducement for performing, or not performing, a task in relation to the official duty of a civil service officer.

One example was a case in Sibu where a contractor was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment and fined RM25,000 for giving a bribe of RM1,500 to one Sandum Hitam, who was with the Sibu District Forestry Office.

The bribe was to expedite the application process for the “permit to enter coupe”.

THIRDLY, the case of intending to deceive (false claim), which is the offence under Section 18 of the act.

Section 18 states that “any person providing documents such as receipts or invoices that are false or contain false details with the intention to deceive the principal (office)” commits an offence.

An example of this offence occurred when Datuk Md Saberi Md, ex-dean of the Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation of Universiti Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam, was sentenced to three years’ jail and fined RM10,000 by the Sessions Court for acknowledging a false invoice for the supply of sports equipment worth RM138,600 in 1999.

The goods were never delivered.

LASTLY, under Section 23 of the act, it is an offence to abuse one’s power or use one’s office or position for gratification.

Abuse of power takes place when a person, who is a member of a public body, uses his position or the office in making a decision, or taking action for the benefit of himself, his relative or associate.

The general penalty for any corruption-related offence in the act is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

By Datuk Akhbar Satar.

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Work, Matters! : Forgiveness at the Workplace

Sunday, June 17th, 2018
I think forgiveness is one of the most underrated traits at the workplace. — SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM

Today is Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. And, to all readers who have observed Ramadan, and are celebrating the end of this auspicious month of fasting and prayer, I extend a warm “Selamat Hari Raya”.

In this part of the world, it is common to greet each other with the phrase “maaf zahir dan batin”, on this day. This translates as “forgive my physical and emotional lapses”.

Aidil Fitri is not only for celebrations, but is also a time for atonement. People ask each other forgiveness for their transgressions, which they may have done, knowingly or unknowingly to others through their words, thoughts, deeds, and actions; but have worked on cleansing them as a result of the fasting in during the month of Ramadan.

I think forgiveness is one of the most underrated traits at the workplace.

A project done with Google employees in 2012, to build a more courageous culture, including the courage to forgive, also showed positive impact.

The training was done by renowned social psychological research, and neuroscience outfit, Courageous Leadership. And participants exhibited a greater understanding of the power of stressful situations that negatively affect behavior, after the sessions. The employees felt better and more connected.

Testimonies from Google employees were that they experienced the sensation of letting go of heavy weights. The forgiveness exercise was immensely powerful. The company recounted that their employees took more social risks, like offering new ideas, admitting fears or concerns, and asking for or offering help, after the training programme.

Further to this, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Health shows that the power of forgiveness improves well-being, and productivity in professional settings.

Increased efficiency is arguably the Holy Grail for every employer, I know.

The research indicates that compassion, which is associated with a forgiving disposition, is clearly linked to improved output, decreased absenteeism, and fewer mental and physical health problems, such as sadness and headaches. It also points to reduction in interpersonal stress

How do you foster forgiveness at work?

The biggest problem at the workplace is unresolved stress that comes from interpersonal conflict. You lose you compassionate capacity, and this makes you lose the ability to forgive.

Understand that you can influence the culture at your workplace. Your actions will inspire your colleagues, so become apt at forgiving others.

I recommend you use the model developed by psychologist Everett L. Worthington, called REACH, which will help you learn to forgive, at your place of work.

This model has been tested, with positive results in numerous scientific studies.

The first step is to recall the hurt (R). Worthington says that to start to heal, you must accept that you have been offended. Once you do this, you must decide not to be nasty and hurtful, because often, you will want to punish the other person. Do not treat yourself as a victim, and the other person as a scoundrel. Decide to forgive, and choose to not pursue “payback”. Instead, look for value in them. Remember, everyone has value.

The next is to empathise (E). The method he prescribes for empathy, which leads to forgiveness, is when you imagine speaking to the other person. In your mind, allow them to tell you why they may have acted in the way they did, which wronged you.

This exercise, as hokey as it may sound, will help you build empathy. Sometimes, even if you cannot empathise with cynical behaviour, you can feel sympathy, which helps you heal.

The third step is to remind yourself that you can give altruistic gifts (A). Worthington asks you to offer forgiveness as an unselfish gift. I am sure you have had occasion to wrong someone; a friend, your spouse or someone close to you. And, they have forgiven you

I know that once my wife has forgiven me for misbehaving, I feel tremendous relief, and I don’t want to disappoint her, again. Similarly, when you forgive magnanimously, you are giving a gift to that person who has hurt you.

Next is to commit to the forgiveness (C). Write a little note down in your notepad that, today, you have forgiven that person. Like all goals, the successful ones come only when you commit to doing them.

And the final step is to hold on to forgiveness (H). As your anger resurges from time to time, learn to hold on to forgiveness. Remember that feeling of relief when you were forgiven for something, and keep reconnecting with that.

Forgiveness does not mean that you condone bad behavior. Your workplace must have policies and procedures for dealing with serious wrongdoings. But, I’d like to draw your attention to the old, wise saying that goes “…resentment is like taking poison, and waiting for the other person to die”. Do not allow a grudge to poison you, especially at work.


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Nation-building needs good ethics, values

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that the “Look East” policy he initiated in 1982 was more about adopting the work ethics and value system of the Japanese.

He pointed out the Japanese have a very strong sense of not wanting to be ashamed and would strive to do the best they can – something that is lacking among Malaysians.

I couldn’t agree more, and have often written about loudmouthed individuals who do a lousy job yet are not ashamed and are even proud of themselves.

I also concur with the call made yesterday by columnist Johan Jaaffar to place culture and arts under a dedicated ministry and not lump them with tourism (“Keep culture apart from tourism”, The Bowerbird Writes, June 11; online at

The business of tourism could be placed under the International Trade and Industry Ministry without the need for separate offices overseas.

Culture goes beyond stage shows or entertainment for tourists. If we wish to promote our culture, a most effective way is to market the Malay bersanding ceremony for foreigners to celebrate their wedding anniversary in Malaysia; this is something that could be organised in any village, town or city.

Apart from the couple seated on the wedding dais getting married all over again and being treated as king and queen for the day, family members and friends could also wear Malay dress and learn Malay dances. upon returning to their country, they could show others back home what they have learned about Malay culture.

If we are truly proud of our culture, we should be actively sharing and exporting it. The French have done it with the Alliance Francaise, which operates more than 850 language and cultural centres in 137 countries.

It is understandable that those who champion our national language may not have the resources to set up overseas centres, but they could easily do so within the country.

Tens of millions of foreign workers have passed through our borders over the past decades. If we had opened up language centres where they could have improved on their pasar (“market”) Malay, many of them could have become proficient in the language. Some could set up similar centres in their home country to propagate the Malay language, which could also serve as orientation centres for new foreign workers coming to our country.

But many loudmouthed champions took the easy way out by condemning other languages being taught in the country, sadly, while it is the norm for Europeans to master three or more languages.

There is good and bad in every country, society and religious group. We should look up to those who have done well for their fellow human beings, regardless of their ethnicity or religious background.

The Japanese are well-known for being courteous and disciplined, and were unshakeable even in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami – photos of people affected by the disaster queuing patiently for their turn at vending machines for drinking water went viral around the globe. In other countries, not only would the machines have been ripped apart, whole stores would have been looted by people made desperate after a catastrophe.

In Malaysia, what we need most is already enshrined in the fifth tenet of our national philosophy commonly known as Rukun Negara.

But our education system is centred on rote-learning to pass exams. All school children can recite the Rukun Negara but many grew up without practising courtesy, which can only be learned by example, through practise and good examples shown by adults.

Our work culture too leaves much to be desired.

When I used to go regularly to Putrajaya, I noticed the canteen was often crowded during mid-morning, while visitors were kept waiting in the offices.

Some companies in the private sector are just as atrocious. If salary is based on productivity, many office staff getting more than the minimum RM1,000 salary would be overpaid, particularly fresh graduates without knowledge and skills required by the industry.

It is time for all Malaysians, including political parties, to put aside the rhetoric and concentrate on what is good and sustainable for our country and people.

by C.Y. Ming
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Have new mindset on littering, people told

Friday, June 8th, 2018


James (centre) chairing the full-council meeting of MPS yesterday.

SANDAKAN: The public here have been advised to adopt a new mindset on littering as the local authorities pondered a proposal to erect barriers along the seafront here to facilitate the collection of floating debris.

Sandakan Municipal Council (MPS) president Datuk James Wong said a mindset change will complement the council’s extensive programme in maintaining cleanliness within the municipality.

“It all begins with a mindset change,” James told a full-council meeting of the MPS yesterday. “If only more of us can learn from some of our tourists and the people in other cities to hold on to our litter until we find a waste bin.”

James stressed that the cleanliness of Sandakan is the responsibility of all.

“There are those who will simply throw away what’s left after they had their food … this has become their culture.

“What we should be doing is to emulate the good habits of depositing litter if and only when we find a waste bin … for as long as we don’t find a waste bin, we hold on to the litter,” he said, adding that the community’s consciousness to cleanliness must be heightened.

On the issue of floating debris at the seafront here brought in by the tides, the MPS president was reminded of a recent incident in which a group of tourists were seen gathering the garbage.

He said if anything the tourists’ action brought home the message that Sandakan municipality dwellers must take ownership of the problem with refuse.

“Yes, we have contractors picking up the debris morning to afternoon, but the people’s cooperation is needed to make cleanliness a reality.


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Respecting letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

CONSTITUTIONALISM requires respect for the letter and spirit of the Constitution by citizens as well as the institutions of the state, especially the latter. It is sad to note that in the last few months, constitutionalism and democracy took a battering at the hands of some whose job it is to protect and defend the basic charter.

Dirtiest election: The GE14 result was an exhilarating development for democracy in Malaysia. At the same time, GE14 was the dirtiest of all elections since Merdeka. The Registrar of Societies turned a blind eye towards Umno’s violation of its own Constitution. She refused to register the Pakatan Harapan coalition and deregistered Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Under Article 114(2), the Election Commission must enjoy public confidence. Instead, it resorted to massive gerrymandering and malapportionment, and ignored citizens’ complaints. It defiled Opposition billboards. A Rantau state seat candidate was refused entry into the nomination centre. Tian Chua was declared disqualified. During the run-up to the election, blatant acts of bribery by both sides went uncensured.

Tian Chua’s attempt to seek judicial review was turned down by the High Court. All other court cases to challenge the misconduct of the EC failed. The EC delayed the issuance of many results where the then Opposition was winning. In several recounts, Barisan Nasional emerged triumphant. The EC submitted the official results to the King only on the afternoon of May 10.

AG’s appointment: The Attorney General is the ruling government’s solicitor and confidant. He must be chosen by the political executive and not the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Conference of Rulers. Article 145 mandates that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a person who is qualified to be a judge of the federal court to be the Attorney General for the federation”. The King can counsel and delay but if the PM insists on his nominee, the monarch is bound by advice in accordance with Article 40(1) and (1A).

Role of Conference of Rulers: Many appointments, like those of judges, have to be referred to the Conference of Rulers for consultation but the appointment of Cabinet ministers and the Attorney General has no such consultation requirement. However, under powers vested by Article 38(2), the Conference may deliberate on any matter it thinks fit, including the suitability of the Attorney General. Even if this is so, the Conference only deliberates and advises. It does not decide. The choice of the Prime Minister is binding on the King.

AG’s race and religion: There is no prescription in the Constitution of the AG’s race, religion, region or gender. In the past, we have had non-Muslim AGs. Except in relation to the Sultans, the Malay regiment and the Mentris Besar in the nine Malay states, the Constitution is blind to race and colour. Under Articles 8(1), 8(2) and 136, the rule of equality before the law applies.

The argument by some that as the King is the head of the religion of Islam, therefore the AG must be a Muslim, is a thinly disguised attempt to misuse Islam to deprive non-Malays and non-Muslims of any place in the corridors of power. Contrary to what some religious preachers preach, Islam is perfectly capable of inclusiveness and such twisted arguments bring Islam a bad name.

We have had two non-Muslim AGs before: Thomas Vernor Alexander Brodie (1955-59) and Cecil M. Sheridan (1959-63). Even the Muslim ones were not experts in Islam and they relied on their 1,800-strong team to draft opinions and laws on all matters including the syariah. As to counselling the King on matters of Islam, Article 3(5) provides that Parliament may by law constitute a Council to advise the King in matters relating to Islam. A parliamentary initiative on this matter to legalise institutions like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and define their jurisdiction is necessary. As to prosecution, Article 145(3) excludes the Syariah courts from the AG’s jurisdiction.

Conventions: A cunning argument has been proffered that a convention exists that all top positions must be occupied by Muslims. No such convention exists. In any case, conventions cannot violate the explicit provisions of Articles 8 and 136. Conventions exist to fill gaps in the law, not to trump the law.

AG and Parliament: Pakatan’s undertaking that the AG must be answerable to Parliament is achievable by appointing the new AG as one of the 44 appointed Senators.

AG and criminal law: Opinions have been expressed that the AG must be a criminal litigator. Tommy Thomas is an expert in constitutional law. With all due respect, constitutional law and criminal law overlap. The Constitution’s Article 5 on personal liberty, Article 7(1) on retrospective criminal laws, Article 7(2) on double jeopardy, and Articles 149-151 on subversion and emergency, are intimately connected with the criminal process.

In any case, the Pakatan government intends to separate the AG from the public prosecutor. The newly appointed AG will preside over this magnificent transformation. His expertise in constitutional law may reverse the trend of the last few decades where judges, officers of the AG’s Chambers, the police, politicians and administrators sidestep the imperatives of the Constitution.

If the new AG can restore the Constitution to the pedestal on which it was placed when Malaya began its tryst with destiny, if he can advise his officers to regard our Constitution as our chart and compass and sail and anchor, he will have the gratitude of a large part of the citizenry.

By Shad Saleem Faruqi
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New A-G can focus on harmonising civil, syariah laws

Thursday, June 7th, 2018
It is crucial for new Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to safeguard the integrity of syariah laws. FILE PIC

CONGRATULATIONS to Tommy Thomas on his appointment as attorney-general. He can now exercise the necessary functions as stipulated in Article 145 of the Federal Constitution.

However, there will be another function which the new A-G will need to give attention to: the harmonisation between civil and syariah laws.

The issue has become important due to the increasing conflicts between the two areas of the law.

Although the Constitution stipulates the separation of powers between civil and syariah matters, there are areas that can create conflicts, thus, wreaking havoc on the people.

Among them are child custody, apostasy and inheritance cases. He needs to have a good grasp of Islamic laws so that he can seek to harmonise civil and syariah laws.

The A-G’s Chambers had in February formed a harmonisation of law division, a unit that looks into issues related to syariah laws that arise at the federal and international levels.

The setting up of the division was made pursuant to Article 145(2) of the Federal Constitution, which stipulates that the A-G has the responsibility to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the cabinet or any minister about any legal matter

Among the functions of this division include preparing legal opinions, providing feedback, comments, and inputs on syariah-related issues, vetting syariah-related legal documents, such as agreements and memorandum of understanding, providing comments on syariah policy papers, including cabinet papers and drafting of bills and legislation related to hukum syarak (Islamic law).


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Tun M picks Ambrin Buang to lead

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Wednesday named former Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang as chairman of the special investigation committee on issues concerning public governance, procurement and finance.

The investigation will begin with the Defence Ministry, he told a press conference after chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Perdana Putra here Wednesday.

Ambrin served as the Auditor-General for 11 years from Feb 23, 2006, until his retirement on Feb 22, 2017.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said the Cabinet also discussed several initiatives to be taken, including a study on suitable mechanism to enable young people to purchase their first house following the tight loan conditions imposed by banks and financial institutions.

He said the government was also looking into the methods to reduce cost of housing, which would be explained further in the near future.

Dr Mahathir said the development agenda for rural entrepreneurs was also discussed, including to study the initiative to encourage the use of machine and technology to improve the quality of the products.

“Online marketing skill training will also be given. The government will work to facilitate online sales to help small businesses,” he said.

The prime minister also said that a committee involving non-governmental experts would be set up to review the national education curriculum starting from pre-school to university level.

“This will take into consideration the curriculum from other countries, which will cover other aspects, such as civic awareness,” he said.

On the survey on poverty and denial of urban children’s rights at low-cost flats, Dr Mahathir said the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development would study the issue of malnutrition among urban poor children, including in Putrajaya.

Also discussed was the proposed expansion of the Peduli Sihat Scheme nationwide in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s 10 Promises in 100 Days manifesto for the 14th General Election.

Under the scheme, which was first introduced by the Selangor government, RM500 assistance would be granted to those in the B40category to provide them access to primary care services at registered private medical institutions. Dr Mahathir said the Economic Affairs Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry would table Cabinet papers soon on the proposed restructuring and coordination of functions of skills training institutes under several ministries to prevent waste.

“At the same time, this will maximise efforts to provide trainings to the young people,” he said. The prime minister also said that the meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Indian Community would be held soon to tackle the issues faced by the community.

When asked on the remaining list of his Cabinet line-up, Dr Mahathir said it would be announced by next week at the latest.

“We have to take into account all views on this and if you can wait a little longer, we will soon announce the list of maybe 26, 27, 28 or even 500 names,” he said jokingly.

So far, only 13 ministers have been appointed.


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