MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ex-ISA detainees confident Indians will still snub BN

For nearly 47 years, Indian Malaysian were oblivious to the Internal Security Act (ISA), which they thought was for communists terrorists, and threw their support behind the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

Everything changed in the 12th general election after five prominent Hindu leaders of the now outlawed Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) were arrested and detained under the security law enacted solely to fight the communists.

“The Indian community have not forgotten what they (BN) did to us,” said lawyer M. Manoharan who was one of the five held under the ISA in December 2007.

Manoharan said the Indians will continue snubbing the ruling government “when this resurfaces in the next general election”.

“It will remind the Indians the atrocities committed by the BN government.”

The Indian community, long viewed as a fixed deposit for the BN, snubbed the ruling coalition in 2008 and voted instead for the opposition parties.

The detention of Manoharan, V. Ganapathi Rao, K. Vasantha Kumar, P. Uthayakumar (picture, top) and R. Kengadharan was seen as a major factor that swung the voters’ confidence.

Ganapathi said, although it would safeguard the basic human rights of Malaysians, the abolishment of the ISA will not be a major determining factor in the upcoming election.

“The ISA would not be a major factor in changing the voters’ mindset. They (BN) will give away goodies and promise temporary measures to change their mindsets. That’s what they have always been doing.”

He went on to say the government will not unleash the powers of the draconian law until after the general election, depending on the magnitude of support for the BN.

“But after the election, it will be a very powerful tool,” Ganapathi warned.

The ISA is a preventive detention law which empowers the Home Ministry to detain anyone it deems a threat to national security without trial for an initial period of up to 60 days, after which they can be further detained for a period of two years or more.

Thus, a person can be detained without trial indefinitely.

The law had been criticised by both local and international human rights groups for vesting total and unlimited power on the Home Minister at whose discretion hangs the fate of the detainees.

Manoharan (picture), a DAP member, stood for the Kota Alam Shah state seat in the 12th General Election and won with a 7,184 vote majority in the Chinese dominated constituency.

He made history by winning while still in detention at Kamunting, similar to Chan Kok Kit who won the Sungei Besi federal seat in the 1978 general elections with a 33,687 majority despite being held under the ISA between 1976 and 1981.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

Chor Chee Heung: I visited Dr Ling to give moral support

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung has clarified why he was among the first to rush to the home of former MCA president Ling Liong Sik following his shock arrest on Thursday.

The 67-year old Ling was charged for cheating the government over land valuations in the RM12.5billion Port Klang Free Zone financial debacle. Ling, a long-serving former Transport Minister, pleaded not guilty and has claimed trial.

“I called Dr Ling after he returned home from court and visited him at his residence to give his family moral support. I have confidence in him although I am not a judge and I do not know the case well,” The Starreported Chor as saying.

Chor also told reporters Ling said he would face trial no matter what and that “the truth will prevail”.

Chor himself implicated

Chor himself has been widely speculated to be among those who might be hauled up over the scandal, believed to the the biggest financial debacle in Malaysian history.

Although he was chairman of Port Klang Authority, the project overseer, for less than a year from June 2007 to February 2008, he was also Deputy Home Minister at the time when former premier Mahathir Mohamad had held both the Home and Finance ministry portfolios.

Chor was also Deputy Finance Minister before his promotion to full minister earlier this year. A trained lawyer, he served as non-executive deputy director of Wijaya Baru Global Berhad from April 2004 till July 2007.

WBGB is the parent company of Wijaya Baru Sdn. Bhd, the main contractor, for turnkey developer,Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Kuala Dimensi is controlled by Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing.

The PKFZ debacle has been described as a true Malaysian power play of conflict of interests, weak project management and bad governance at the highest levels - allegedly all the way up to Mahathir and his successor Abdullah Badawi, who continued the project after taking over the premiership in 2003.

Among the personalities named in an external auditor's report are two former transport ministers Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik (1986-2003) and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy (2003-March 2008), former Minister of Housing and Local Government Tan Sri Dr Ting Chew Peh, who was also Port Klang Authority chairman (2000-2004), former Serdang Member of Parliament Datuk Yap Pian Hon who was Port Klang Aurhority chairman (2004-2007), Alor Setar Member of Parliament Datuk Wira Chor Chee Heung, who was Port Klang Authority chairman (2007-2008), former UMNO treasurer Datuk Seri Azim Mohd Zabidi, the first woman general manager of Port Klang Authority Datin Paduka O.C.Phang and the project "executor" Bintulu Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

Umno watchers have told Malaysia Chronicle that more arrests would be made in the coming days involving bigwigs in Selangor Umno and MCA as part of a wider blitz on corruption that will not be limited to just the PKFZ project.

Anwar Is Jealous With Mohd Saiful Bukhari

By Satu Hala


Anwar Ibrahim is jealous like crazy when he learnt that Saiful is in love with a deputy public prosecutor identified as Farah Azlina Latif.

Anwar will never have the chance to own Saiful again.

Bye-bye Anwar, Saiful already have a new girlfriend. Anwar used to buy underwears for Saiful. Now, Saiful dragged Anwar into court for allegedly sodomite him.

Due to the ignite and burning jealousy, Anwar had instructed Raja Petra Kamaruddin to revealed about the realationship between Saiful and Farah.

Anwar then instructed his lawyers to pressure the judge for an explanation about the alleged relationship revealed by Raja Petra.

Anwar in his blog had revealed up to two entries about the realtionship.

What else to say...

The motive that Anwar revealed about the relationship is to inform the public about his claim that Farah who is a junior DPP had gave Saiful classified information which could jeapordise his sodomy trial.

Anwar is jealous that he tried to destroyed Saiful love life.

However, it is uncertain how true of the relationship because the matter was revealed by Raja Petra who is a liar himself.

Attorney-General chambers also do not want to take any risk and comprimise in the latest development.

It was reported that Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said that AG chamber cannot comprimise in issues that will detroy the good name and creadibility of the department. Gani said he is serious looking into the allegation.

Gani in a press conference at his office said the allegation will make things difficult for AG chambers. However, Gani added personal matter that will effect the department must be countered seriously. This is to assure that the case will run smoothly without disturbance.

In this issue, there is nothing at all to make it big except for Anwar jealousy. However, it would be big if the deputy public prosecutor is in a relationship with Anwar.

The job of the deputy public prosecutor is to assure the suspect are being charge.

As an example, if Anwar is in love with a deputy public prosecutor who is also a man and it would be a problem for him. The love between both of them will effected the trial because DPP would not perform its duty to assure his client is guilty as charge. The DPP might also sabotage such cases

It would be the same scenario if Saiful have a relationship with a DPP. However, the problem will not be big as the DPP is only a junior.

Maybe the DPP will work harder to win the case because of his love toward Saiful.

What type of information from the DPP can Saiful obtained to disturb the trial?

In the sodomite case, all the information come from Saiful himself because he is the victim,

All Saiful statement will be used in court. The prosecution team is not prosecuting Saiful in this case but reresenting hin for his interest.

They are like an unofficial team.

The problem will occur between Saiful and Farah. The problem will not be big because the chamber had taken an action about this matter. No need to make the issue into chaos because Anwar defence team need to find a good reason to answer to Saiful rather than finding reason for the case to be step aside in court.

courtesy of Malaysia Instinct

When Parliament killed our democracy

When D R Seenivasagam spoke out against the passing of the Internal Security Act as an instrument of intimidation 50 years ago, few realised how prophetic his words were, writes Tan Pek Leng.

At this time, 50 years ago, the whole country was being geared up to celebrate the end of the horrendous 12-year “Emergency” that had taken an enormous toll on the lives of our people.

The Georgetown City Council, the only one then controlled by the Socialist Front, was the only local council in the country that refused to take part in the celebrations because the end of the “Emergency” was going to mean the start of a permanent emergency under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Tan Phock Kin, the Socialist Front (SF) whip in the city council put it this way:

“With the advent of Merdeka, everyone looked forward with great hope to the ending of, at long last, the curtailment of liberty. But what do we find? Laws become more arbitrary, regulations become even more restrictive. Is this then an occasion for rejoicing and merriment? I feel sure that all thinking people will agree that such an occasion should be one for mourning and not for celebration.”

On 22 April 1960, when then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Razak tabled the constitutional amendment that would enable the promulgation of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Parliament, opposition leaders voiced their concern, consternation, and most of all deep fear. The leader of the People’s Progressive Party, D R Seenivasagam, said that the new regulations were “ten times more fearful, ten times more deadly, than the Emergency Regulations”.

The Emergency Regulations had to be renewed every year whilst the ISA is a permanent law, “if it is not revoked it will live forever”. Under the Emergency Regulations, a detainee has the right to protest against his detention to the Committee of Review, presided over by a High Court Judge, which has final arbitration on the case.

Under the ISA, however, the decision of the Advisory Board can be overruled by the Home Affairs Minister. Article 149 of the Constitution provided that preventive detention should not be effected, and if at all effected, can only last three months. The constitutional amendment did away with this protection in order to facilitate the enactment of the ISA.

Rising to debate the Internal Security Bill on 22 June 1960, D R Seenivasagam called it “a vicious and repulsive document, a document which is repulsive to all those who believe in democracy”. He found it “difficult to believe any citizen of this country could have drafted this Bill if he has the interests of his fellow citizens at heart”.

“This Security Bill not only attempts to deal with terrorism, but it also attempts to deal with any citizen who dares to open his mouth,” he added, and charged that the Government’s motive in promulgating it was “intimidation, political intimidation, not only of political organisations, but of the people of this country”.

Together with the amendment to Article 149, the Government also introduced constitutional amendments to allow the Prime Minister a say in the appointment of judges and to provide for the appointment of an Attorney-General who would be a member of the Government.

Two days after the passing of the Internal Security Bill, the Alliance-controlled Dewan Rakyat approved the Prevention of Crime (Amendment) Bill which grants police officers powers of summary arrest. Five decades on, we are all suffering from these acts of Parliament.

In ending his speech on that fateful day that the ISA was born, D R Seenivasagam lamented, “[T]he conditions in this country have deteriorated to such an extent that the Police Force is likely to be turned into a terrorist organisation to terrorise the people of this country into submission to the will and pleasure of the Government.”

How sadly prophetic!

The ISA came into force on 1 August 1960, with the formal declaration of the end of the “Emergency” the day before. Since then, it has claimed more than 10,000 victims.

If nothing else, light a candle for democracy on 1 August.

Tan Pek Leng is an Aliran member.


ISA turns 50 amid calls for repeal

Aug 1 — When the Internal Security bill was first tabled in Parliament 50 years ago, it received much flak from the opposition for being an undemocratic piece of legislation that gave too much power to the then Alliance government.

Despite this, the law, which allows for detention without trial, was passed and put into effect on August 1, 1960, with a solemn promise that it would only be used “solely against communists”.

“My Cabinet colleagues and I gave a solemn promise to Parliament and the nation that the immense powers given to the government under the ISA would never be used to stifle legitimate opposition and silence lawful dissent,” former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had said.

His deputy, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who had tabled the bill, had also assured the House during heated debates that the law was for two purposes — to counter subversion and to enable measures to be taken to counter terrorism.

He had also acknowledged that even though the 12-year Malayan emergency was to be declared finished that year, the government could not afford to relax its vigilance over the threat of communism and hence, needed such preventive laws for the purpose of national security.

Despite their promises, the Alliance government and its successor Barisan Nasional (BN) has over the years been accused of using the oppressive act to for political reasons — to silence dissenting voices that criticised the government and to prevent the people from exercising their right to free speech.

According to reports over the years, some individuals were detained for offences that did not threaten national security and were punishable under other criminal laws. For example, individuals have been detained under the ISA for criminal acts like counterfeiting coins, falsifying documents and even human trafficking.

Since the ISA was enacted 1960, an approximate 10,662 people, including young students, rubber tappers and technicians aside from politicians, have experienced what it is like to be imprisoned on mere suspicion, without given the right to a trial.

Today, the same voice of dissent that resounded when the law was tabled in Parliament 50 years ago, has escalated into a deafening roar with thousands calling for it to be abolished entirely.

During the ISA’s 49th anniversary last year, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in an “anti-ISA” rally, resulting in violent clashes with the riot police, armed with tear gas cannisters and water cannons. More than 400 people were arrested during the chaos.

Today, the gathering will be held in the form of candlelight vigils at a variety of locations across the nation and thousands are expected to again congregate in a show of solidarity in the struggle to abolish the ISA.

Despite this, the ruling BN government has already asserted that even with the strong voice of dissent, the ISA would not be repealed.

The Home Ministry recently announced that it was in the final stages of revising provisions in the act, with amendments revolving around five areas — the length of detention, rights and treatment of detainees and their families, the powers of the Home Minister, the use of the ISA for political reasons and detention without trial.

The government has also met with key stakeholders such as ministry officials, the Attorney-General, the Bar Council, the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club, the National Council for Women’s Organisation and the National Civics Bureau to discuss the amendments.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the proposed amendments are now waiting for an approval from the Cabinet before they are tabled to Parliament during its next sitting.

The efforts however have failed to impress the opposition and human rights groups who continue to maintain that the act should entirely be removed from the country’s legal system.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang this past week described the ISA as “pernicious, undemocratic and open to all sorts of abuses”.

In an interview with The Malaysian Insider, the veteran politician, who was detained twice under the ISA, said that it was only during his detention that he truly discovered the value of a man’s freedom.

“Freedom is the most precious thing, it is not tangible, something only when you lose, you’ll cherish it. Being detained under the ISA could definitely put a strain on a person’s beliefs and convictions,” Lim said.

Human rights groups and activists have also rubbished the government’s proposal for amendments to the law, pointing out that the ISA was “beyond repair”.

Anti-ISA Movement (GMI) chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh told The Malaysian Insiderrecently that it was pointless to amend a law that was built on the foundation of allowing detention without trial, which strips away a person’s fundamental right to being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

He also said that the ISA had created a culture of fear in the community.

“At any point in time, if the government or politicians feel a person is a threat to national security, they can just arrest him or her.

“No one is allowed to exercise their duty and criticise the government because the minute he does that, he can be threatened by the ISA,” he said.

The most highly criticised provision in the ISA is under Section 73(1) which allows the police to detain any person for up to 60 days without warrant or trial and without access to legal counsel, on suspicion that “he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia”.

Section 8 of the Act stipulates that the Home Minister can, after the expiry of the 60-day detention order, extend the period of detention without trial for up to two years without submitting evidence for review by the courts. He can do this by issuing an order, which can be renewed indefinitely. The minister’s decision, according to this section, cannot be challenged.

In other words, the government has the right to throw just about anyone into jail for reasons at its own discretion, without having its decision challenged in a court of law.

One such example is 47-year-old Mat Sah Mohammed Satray, who was arrested in 2002 and detained for more than seven years for being a suspected Jemaah Islamiyyah terrorist.

The quiet technician formerly attached to the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) was labelled a “terrorist” due to his friendship with Abu Bakar Bashir, an infamous Muslim cleric from Indonesia who gave classes for DBP Muslims.

Abu Bakar was arrested on suspicion of his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings but was later released by the Indonesian authorities due to a lack of evidence.

According to Mat Sah, his incarceration had been unlawful. In an interview with The Malaysian Insider recently, he urged the people to learn about the ISA and know their rights.

“You must know that the ISA determines everything — it determines your life. If they tell you ‘you are a terrorist’, that means that you have to nod your head.

“Because with the ISA, everyone can be a terrorist,” he said.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

Taking Justice Seriously

Speech by Anwar Ibrahim, Head of the Opposition, Malaysian Parliament at the 15th Malaysian Law Conference 2010, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, 31 July 2010

First, I’d like to thank the organizing committee for inviting me to close the conference. Perhaps that is an understatement. Really, I should say that words can’t convey my profound appreciation for the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ that your organization has to suffer by inviting me here. But then again, I see it as a mark of conviction and fortitude that you have stood your ground in the face of adversity. Therefore, I mean it in the truest sense when I say that I am greatly honored to be here to give my humble address to such a distinguished audience.

Today I shall depart from the usual practice of poking fun at lawyers. So let me take issue with Justice Oliver Holmes when he said that lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke. This remark is totally uncalled for. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen the toil and the tears that some lawyers have to go through in handling certain cases. I tell myself there must be some kind of masochistic tendency in them that they can carry on in spite of so much pain. And then on closer reflection, it has to do with the nobility of the profession and certain values in life. Of course, in any basket there are always some bad apples but as they say that shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch.

Indeed, I am fortunate to be able to count among my close friends, lawyers of the highest integrity and dedication to their calling. Which is why I stand here before you in humility to speak on a subject that I believe is close to all of us.

So, with apologies to the eminent legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin, I have chosen to title my speech today as “Taking Justice Seriously”.[1]

As one saying goes, the principle of justice is so central in a civil society that without it the concept of law has no meaning. The Holy Qur’an enjoins us to “judge with justice.” According to St. Augustine, kingdoms are but great robberies if justice is taken away. In my own humble view, no civilized society can exist without it, for justice is so central that bereft of it, the very foundation of our humanity crumbles.

To be sure, in talking about justice, we are not confined to the judges and the judicial system of a country though that is a crucial component. Nor are we limited to discussing only the role of lawyers or the law enforcement agencies, though that too is essential. And justice is not only about subjecting the actions and policies of the Executive to intense scrutiny. That too is of utmost importance. Indeed the subject encompasses all that have come to be associated with the idea of justice: freedom and democracy, the rule of law, constitutionalism, equity and fair play, social justice and the dignity of man. Let me begin with a historical account that is still relevant to the very idea of justice.

More than a century ago, the great French writer Émile Zola published his famous open letter entitled “J’accuse” on the front page of a leading Parisian newspaper. Expressed in highly emotional language, Zola charged the nation’s military top brass with conspiracy and anti-Semitism in dealing with the infamous Alfred Dreyfus affair. But instead of bringing the culprits to book, the authorities lost no time in arresting Zola, charging him with criminal libel, and having him tried as a common criminal. The show trial was so well managed that an angry bloodthirsty Parisian mob gathered outside the court house clamoring for Zola’s head.

Anatole France, another eminent man of letters, came to his defence and valiantly testified to Zola’s “admirable good faith and absolute integrity.”[2] But this was of no consequence as Zola was hastily convicted and sentenced to jail. However, thanks to his quick thinking and survival instincts, Zola chose freedom instead and dashed off to England. By his reckoning, there was a total failure of justice and it would be foolish for him to submit to an utterly corrupt and unjust system.

Today as we sit here in closing three days of very spirited discussions about the state of law, of human rights and of justice in the nation, we find ourselves in a situation not much different from what I have just recounted. As you can readily gather, there is indeed an uncanny parallel between the Zola episode and what is currently going on here. And I am not talking about my case here. I am referring to the persecution of a famous blogger who published not “J’accuse” but an equally sensational expose which shook the nation, and who has also chosen freedom in London.

So, at the root of this episode is the issue of the people’s participation in matters which have a bearing on society – they comment, they criticize and they expose the wrongdoings and shenanigans of those in power. Because of this, they are branded as enemies of the state and are hounded like common criminals.

From one angle, we could see this as a classic case of the tyranny of state power. Yes, we can view it that way or we can go beyond mere emotional outburst and look at it as a failure of the state to allow for government by discussion and participation.

According to one of the most influential public thinkers of our time, Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen, “the central issues in a broader understanding of democracy are political participation, dialogue and public interaction.”[3]

The failure to allow for ‘government by discussion’ can be seen for example in the deprivation of a free and independent press. Without this, the advancement of public reasoning is constrained and is forced to find its voice through other channels. The benefits of a free and independent media have been well expounded by leading writers and empirically we know what that is all about.[4] So, I need not and should not attempt to reinvent the wheel here. Unfortunately for us, far from having a free and independent press, we have one which is essentially a propaganda machine for the powers that be. As a result, the people’s voice can only be heard through an alternative media, one which thrives in spite of the constraints imposed by the authorities. As you know, we have a plethora of laws aimed at curbing freedom of expression enforced with the full might of the organs of state power.

Arbitrary, whimsical at times, but more often tyrannical and politically motivated. This is how I would characterize the Executive in their use of power. The fact that just a month ago, all three newspapers of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition were suspended speaks volumes about press freedom in this country.

The point is that media freedom is so central to the democratization process that without it there is neither democracy nor justice. To my mind, where the voices of truth are muzzled, where dissent is stifled and where opinions are censored, it is a travesty to call it democracy.

As Amartya Sen puts it so succinctly, “the media is important not only for democracy but for the pursuit of justice in general. ‘Discussionless justice’ can be an incarcerating idea.”[5]

The suppression of the people’s voice is not restricted to just the media. The freedom to assemble and to listen to ceramahs (public lecture) is also severely curtailed and that is a violation of the people’s constitutional rights. In this regard, I must commend the Bar Council for having taken much initiative in its outreach program to educate the public about their fundamental rights as citizens of a nation founded on a constitutional charter.

Closely linked to this is what is known as the protective power of political liberty in securing justice. This is not a new concept. It is already laid down in our constitution. It is supposed to protect us from harassment and highhandedness of the authorities; it should protect us from arbitrary arrest and selective as well as vindictive prosecution; and it should protect us from the oppression and persecution of a less than impartial judiciary.

Now this protection is essential for the proper functioning of a true and viable democracy; not a democracy which is spun by an elaborate network of public relations campaigns at home and abroad with millions of the tax payers’ money to foot the bill; neither are we talking about a democracy that buys its way through op-ed columns and full page ads in foreign newspapers paid for by unknown sources; and most certainly not a democracy where the state rides rough shod over the rights of the people, treating the property of the state, the land and the rich resources like a private fiefdom, for the amassing of wealth and to live out the good life at the people’s expense.

In a true democracy, justice prevails in a system where the rule of law governs the administration of justice. That means judges will exercise their powers in accordance with the rule of law and will be mindful of the legitimate expectations of the people as to their competency, dedication and impartiality. Our society is maturing and with it, expectations of the moral dimension of justice become greater. As John Rawls has said, laws and institutions, no matter how efficient and well arranged, must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.[6]

In a real democracy, sham trials will not see the light of day because the principles of justice and due process will prevent the arbitrary use of prosecutorial powers. Unfortunately, we have now become familiar with this scenario in various parts of the world: first, because of the fear of losing power, a strategy is unleashed with the sole aim of crushing the political threat. This is done by neutralizing the leader or leaders. Trumped-up charges are leveled no doubt aimed at putting them behind bars for good. Then, despite the best efforts of lawyers to mount a fool-proof defence, the judgment is a foregone conclusion.

The point is when the rule of law is crushed under the tyranny of politics the administration of justice becomes farcical and perverse. We would expect that in a real democracy, the use of the judicial process to bring down political opponents will not be tolerated. However, where judges are unable to stand up to the political masters, those prosecuted for political reasons are condemned even before the trial begins. At every step along the arduous path to finality, all manner of obstacles are thrown to frustrate them in their effort to secure a fair and just trial.

We see the work of the ubiquitous unseen hand here, its invisibility made possible because of the utter lack of accountability and transparency in governance. Because of this, not only do we see the substitution of the rule of law by the rule of men but we see the entire system and process of governance being turned on its head.

Without accountability, those who wield power can get away with anything. Contracts and projects worth millions of ringgit, even hundreds of millions, are doled out without any regard to proper and due process. There are also ventures which have cost the nation billions and when they fail, the ones responsible for the fiasco not only go unpunished but actually get to benefit from it. We may shake our heads in utter disbelief but the reality is staring us in the face. That is why taking justice seriously is no longer an option but an imperative.

As government is power, we must hold to account those who wield that power. The moral imperative lies not in accountability for the sake of political expediency but in the dictates of justice. This imperative must apply to all those holding power regardless of whether they are from the Federal Government or State Governments. Access to information is essential to enable citizens to challenge actions of public officials and to seek redress for misconduct. While freedom of information laws will secure open government by fiat, the question remains as to why the moral imperative seems to evaporate along the corridors of power. In this regard, I am proud to say that, the government of Selangor has passed the Freedom of Information Enactment in spite of the obstacles thrown in its path. This is part and parcel of the Pakatan Rakyat reform agenda. In terms of governance, there shall be no compromise on accountability and transparency. We see what is wrong, we make good and we move forward. On the other hand, the Federal Government appears to be hell bent on turning back the clock.

They say that this enactment is bad law because it contradicts the Official Secrets Act. On the contrary, we say that it is the Official Secrets Act which is bad law because it violates the basic guarantees of the Federal Constitution. And more importantly in the context of justice, we believe we are on the right side of the moral argument because if there is nothing to hide, why is there a need to keep secrets? If we can defend our actions, why do we need to hide behind secrecy laws?

The amassing of wealth through corrupt means, the abuse of executive power for material gain, and the squandering of tax payers’ money – these are some of the hallmarks of the failure to have accountability and they impact directly on the question of justice. Every ringgit squandered or misappropriated is every ringgit that should rightly have gone to the people for their benefit, for free education, and for free health care. The demands of social justice alone therefore warrant the absolute need for accountability.

In Islam, the idea of social justice or al-Adala al-Ijtima’iyya enjoins upon the equitable distribution of wealth while protecting the higher objectives of the Shari’ah or al-Maqasid al-Shari’ah. Among these is the safeguarding and preservation of property, that is, protecting the wealth of the community from being pillaged and plundered by those in power. By extension, good economic governance is a moral imperative and any government which prides itself as being responsible to the people must be committed to a sound and balanced economic agenda.

This is why we have a reform agenda that aims at reducing the socio-economic inequities of the people while at the same promoting healthy economic growth. In this agenda, we welcome domestic and foreign private-sector investment initiatives, generate full employment opportunities, and ensure robust development that adds long term value to the economy. But we will have no truck with the rent-seeking practices, crony capitalism or ostentatious and wasteful development of our predecessors. Sustainable development is not a mere numbers game. As an integral part of the notion of justice, development must proceed on an even keel with the other elements so as to enhance the quality of life and uplift the dignity of all. We are not saying that this can be achieved at the blink of an eye. Indeed, with Federal power still concentrated in the hands of an elite few the odds are heavily stacked against us. The path ahead is fraught with danger and obstacles. But despair not. Let us fortify our resolve to take justice seriously and fight for the future of our generations. For in the words of Anatole France: “We will win, because we are right, and because reason is on our side.”[7]

Thank you.

[1] A variation of Dworkin’s highly acclaimed jurisprudence tome entitled “Taking Rights Seriously”

[2] Carter Jefferson, Anatole France – The Politics of Scepticism, Rutgers University Press: 1969

[3] The Idea of Justice, Allen Lane:2009

[4] Ibid. pp s

[5] Ibid. p.337

[6] A Theory of Justice, p.3, Harvard University Press: 1971

[7] Trente Ans, as quoted in Anatole France – The Politics of Scepticism, ibid.