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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Price Of Nation Building

The Price Of Nation Building

I was criticized recently for being biased in my view of the political landscape. The basis of this criticism was a perceived unwillingness on my part to be as critical of the opposition as I was of the government. As this was not the first time, and as I had read similar observations made of other commentators whom I view as being fairly objective, I spent some time reflecting on what it is I had written in the past and why. I also gave some thought to why it is I write.

I am not a member of a political party. I cannot even honestly say that I am a supporter of any particular party. It is true that I have in the past acted as a lawyer for some of the Pakatan Rakyat parties and for opposition members, my role in that regard was limited to that of an advocate. That I have not acted for the Barisan Nasional parties is easily explained by my not having ever been retained to do so.

As a general rule, I write when I have something to say about a particular issue of significance. My training and exposure affords me a perspective that may be of assistance to those seeking to form a view. A weekly column in the Malay Mail and a monthly column for the Malaysian Insider has made this process more regimented, providing the need for a much welcomed discipline on my part. Writing is a skill that requires practice, much like any other.

In writing, my desire to espouse a viewpoint is self-limited by a narrower interest in policy and frameworks, in particular legal and constitutional. I am concerned not so much with what people say or do but with the permissible limits of their doing so.

This has quite naturally focused my attention on matters of governance, primarily at the Federal level. Though I have written at times about matters within a particular state, my relatively infrequent commentary has been largely confined to matters of constitutionality. Notable instances have been comments on the so-called Trengganu crisis last year and more recently, the Perak affair.

Concerned as I am with matters of governance, it is not surprising that I have tended to scrutinize Executive action and its impact. In the nature of things, consideration of Executive action has in turn necessitated a deliberation of the politics underlying Executive action.

An aim to ensure comprehensive analysis has required examination of the agencies through which Executive dictate has been, or has been perceived to be, effected. This has unavoidably led to commentary on the police force and other federal agencies as well as the Judiciary and other constitutional bodies.

I will concede that much of this commentary has not been complimentary. This has however not been because I am anti-government. I do not condemn merely for the fact of what I condemn having been precipitated by the government. I condemn because what it is that I condemn is, in my view, wrong in principle and its long-term implications of grave concern. Being critical does not necessarily arise from the animosity that being anti-anything requires.

Take, for instance, the tabling of the motion to suspend the Member of Parliament for Puchong, Gobind Singh. The decision to allow for debate on the motion on an urgent basis was a matter within the discretion of the Speaker. It could be said that it was also within the discretion of the Speaker’s to not allow Gobind Singh to address the House despite the motion being aimed at him and carrying with it punitive consequences was also within his discretion. Having said that, it is my view that this decision of the Speaker was and is highly questionable for having manifestly denied Gobind Singh of his right to be heard in his own defence.

My criticism in this regard is not intended to reflect my being anti-Barisan or anti-government. It is instead borne out of a commitment to the fundamental principles upon which democracy was established in this country. I would hold the same view if the motion was against a Barisan Member of Parliament and he or she was denied an opportunity to be heard. The Rule of Law is not a matter of expediency.

Where I have asserted that the Executive has occasioned abuses of power, and no such assertions have been made against the opposition, at the Federal level the opposition has no such power to abuse. At the state level, in my view, no such abuse has been demonstrated. That is understandable; the Pakatan Rakyat state governments have no influence over federal agencies or constitutional bodies.

If the Pakatan were ever to form Federal Government, it would be the subject of scrutiny in very much the same way as the Barisan is at the moment. Civil society has promised that it will have higher expectations of the Pakatan. It has already set the tone with its scrutiny of the Pakatan state governments.

And where I have expressed a preference for the Pakatan, then it is only because I think that it is not as entrenched in its politics as the Barisan is and, unlike its counterpart, is still capable of distinguishing its own political needs from those of the nation as a whole. Though it is not without its own faults, it espouses ideals that the Barisan seems to have abandoned some time ago. To the great majority of this country, a strong and accountable system of democracy is more than just a matter of political convenience.

It is far too convenient to dismiss criticism for it being anti-government without regard to what it is that is being said. No government is infallible, least of all one that has virtually untrammeled powers. Confronting the painful realities is the only way in which we can progress, it is the price of nation building.

(Malay Mail; 17th March 2009)



Unknown said...

To the Writer,

You condemn not because you anti government or BN. It's because you love the country, you respect the law. Just like a lot of malaysian, we vote for PR in 308 not because we anti government, but we love our country. We condemnbecause we love Malaysia.

ipohfly said...

"It is far too convenient to dismiss criticism for it being anti-government without regard to what it is that is being said. "

I couldn't agree more.

It is how the country is ruled that matters, not by who.

Bentoh said...

Actually... I believe that even the most "neutral" person takes side... especially when voting...

So I don't think there's anything wrong for a person to write with a tendency to lean over a side...

Writers are not judges... but writers must be ethical, responsible and principled...

Anonymous said...

The Rule of Law is not a matter of expediency.

A person must have an opportunity to be heard, and defence him/herself in WHATEVER circumstances - especially when he/she feel necessary.

I tried to be natural and i'm still trying.

But,we have brain, heart & soul, eyes and ears.These components cannot lie -------- thus, we need people who understand the LAW, the LAW which regulate the whole system in this universe to tell us what is exactly going on?what are those interpretation?When will those wrongful act after wrongful act will come to an end?

I wish i could.

Eyes Wide Open said...

I get the same accussations when I speak out against the excesses of the UMNO/BN government.

These fellas don't dare to post their comments on my blog. But when I comment on other sites, I am often senselessly attacked.

This is really sad as these fellas are so full of hate, that everything is perceived as a contest of who hates them and who they hate. They cannot perceive anything else - that is their entire reality.

Such sad little human beings...

I've written a little about this on my blog.

Unknown said...

I keep giving comments in your blog as I felt you provide a good intellectual discourse platform for All Malaysians.

Despite being regularly criticized for my many comments (I know for a fact that I am in the wrong den), I have always view it as being differing on views; even though some are rather emotional in nature.

Being a registered UMNO member who voted for the OPPOSITION in the last GE, my view definitely come from a different school of thought.

FOR ME it is very disheartening to watch BN transformed into a NATIONAL EGO CELL, whilst being equally frustrated to witness PR continue with their ENDLESS RHETORIC, minus any acceptable concrete vision.

As a Malaysian, all I am asking is for;

1) BN to face the fact that they have SERIOUSLY INSULTED our forefather’s vision, thus a serious house cleaning is in order.

They must wake up and realize that the shinning yesterday cannot be the reason why we Malaysian should continue to vote in today’s team of liars and failures.

They must stop acting as if Malaysians are a bunch of idiots who will die without them.

It is we the Rakyat that makes or breaks a government. Remember that!

Whilst hoping

2) PR to stop being a HYPOCRITE MONSTER in their view and action especially in thinking that it’s their ‘agenda’ that won all those votes in March 08.

In their over celebrated mood, its good if they realize for all their mistakes, BN did and still have a clear and understood vision on how to govern this Multiracial country. All they need is to stop all the stupid abuses & nonsense, and make the necessary adjustments.

If we minus all the hot accusation and name calling, PR actually have nothing to show. That is the actual fact. They are just a bunch of loud politician.

For you Malik, while we may come from a different page, to me, YOUR ARE COOL!

So keep blogging

DR SURESH said...

Dear Malik,

Blind loyalty to politicians in Malaysia is kiling the country's progress.Some people are so blinded that they miss the point to hear and listen to what others have to say,so that they can engage in a decent discourse.A fine example,is the storming of the Bar council's religious dialogue not too long ago,which is a very important national issue.

'confronting the painful realities is the only way in which we can progress'-well said.But to confront such painful truths we need progressive and matured individuals too,which is severely lacking in most Malaysians.


Old Fart said...

And what do you do when condemnation is literally invited by those in power?

Just look at what Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi had to say about what is needed to restore faith in the Judiciary! (

When you have a Chief justice who fails to demonstrate that he knows what the KPIs for judicial integrity and judicial competence this needs to be highlighted and condemned.

So does that make you anti-government as well?



Do you need to justify your comments. After all, your views are always well balanced, cogent and intellectually stimulating. If the issue is anti-establishment or anti-government, that is secondary. I therefore see no reason why you should sound apologetic!

Starmandala said...

Imtiaz, yours has always been the calm, clear voice of reason, informed by your understanding of the law. Not once have you ever allowed yourself the luxury of simply shooting from the hip, even when the situation fully warranted such intuitive expression!

Pratamad said...

Dear Malik,

What makes you stand out is that of all your commentaries and analyse, which happen to be anti-government and anti-BN, they all stand tall and solid with your objective, convincing arguments and justifications to your views. You do not have to explain yourself here; that's for your critics.

To Damansara, you have my due respect as a fellow Malaysian. I am probably one of those who 'attack' you on this blog. In all honesty, I could not stop myself commenting your views whenever I saw them pure BN rhetoric without substance. Apologies if I have ever been harsh to you.

Anonymous said...

"That I have not acted for the Barisan Nasional parties is easily explained by my not having ever been retained to do so."
You know why ? the reason is very simple, they only engage "lawyer burok" who will advise and interpret the governing laws according the governing-government's "Principles & Rules of Jungle Law". Hence, to engage advocates with abounding legal wisdom and jurisprudential knowledge is an affront to their utter foolishness. To engage advocate like you to advise them before any action being taken by them in the court will mean their jungle-cases can never be filed in the common law court simply because there is "No Cause of Action" arises ! So to speak, to enforce jungle laws in the jungle courts by the jungle gomen is to engage jungle law lawyers ! Thanks God that you are truely a Common Law Lawyer with legal wisdom and jurisprudential knowledge, so only those who seek fairness, justice and righteousness will engage you !

Anonymous said...


Your writings are always something that I really look forward to and they have helped me and I believe a lot more people in terms of having a better understanding in regards to a number of subjects. They reinforce and provide resonance to your thoughts and clear voice of reason and for this I thank you.

Unknown said...

Pratamad, sincerely NO HAL.

Unknown said...

Article in Straits Times Singapore - ANWAR TO GIVE 'BLACK EYE' FILES

KUALA LUMPUR - PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he would re-submit to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission a complete file of materials and documents in relation to allegations that the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General had covered up his 'black-eye' case.

Mr Anwar, who had on March 3, submitted documents relating to the case to various commission members, said he had not got a response but would submit a complete dossier this time.


Who the hell does he think he is?

All of us prayed for a genuine justice to be given to him, but who gave him the birth right to take things according to his own sweet agenda.

Now he himself admitted that the files given to MACC earlier was not complete; thus how do you blame MACC for failure to act?

This is the exact man that orchestrated THE 6 BOXES OF HARD EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTS PRACTICES OF BN GOVT - unfortunately and very conviniently, he and his other half (read Ezam) now quarrel in public on the exact location of the boxes.

One said overseas, the other said local.

But the boxes remained missing still!!!!

But the allegations goes on...even believed by many though nobody actually knows what the allegations are?


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There seems to be a prevalent Malaysian malady, that you have to take sides when addressing issues, whatever they may be. In politics it is even more 'correct' to take one side against another. With more than a 50 years history that you must be part of the ruling party/government to be able to effect changes, there is a confusion about Political parties and Ruling Governments.
For years we have been told that this or that project is a "Barisan National Govt project". This is purely rubbish, as the funds for any govt project comes from taxpayers. The IRB does not distinguish tax as coming from BN or PR members, but as Malaysians. This simple fact shows how arrogant the BN govt has been. Claiming credit when it just say this as "A Malaysian Govt project by all Malaysian for all Malaysians." By implication everyone will know who is the govt of the day.
When the Government itself are not able to distinguish between politics and issues of the day, everything becomes politicised, in this case, both the BN and PR are guilty. People, especially professionals are led to belief that there is no such thing as being objective, apolitical or non-partisan. Your stance decides your political leanings. This is a very sad state of affairs.
Change is not going to be easy, as we have the majority of civil servants who are actually serving their political masters and not the rakyat. They should not be termed govt servants as they serve their poltical masters and not the rakyat.
The country has experienced massive brain-drain not only in the private sector, but also the govt sector. Any top govt official can share his truama of trying to be a professional govt servant. And this includes not just the civil services but also the enforcement agencies and the local govts. My personal stance as a concerned citizen is that I am not anti-anybody, I am just pro-rakyat. Anyone or anything that is not for the common good of the rakyat/country must be pointed out and even condemned where applicable. I end with this phrase I read so many times and it challenges me to speak out and stand up, it goes like this -"FOR EVIL TO CONTINUE TO SUCCEED, IT IS ENOUGHT THE GOOD DO NOTHING!". That seems the major disease in my beloved Malaysia. Too many 'good' people choosing to remain silent or speak out in non-sensical platforms, like your favourite joint, be it the mamak stall, your favourite pub or any safe place.
Malik, continue to speak/write as you have always done so. I am proud to have known you.

sjankan said...

Saya cuba untuk tidak memberi komen memandangkan satu komen saya telah di reject dan tidak di siarkan dalam blog saudara sebab kata-kata kesat yang digunakan.

Apa yang saudara malik kata memang benar . Sistem dan jentera-jentera kerajaan yang ada ini berada di tangan BN jadi buat masa ini saudara cuma mengkritik kerajaan dan perkara ini di pandang sebagai anti kerajaan padahal saudara mendakwa tidak dan saya pun tidak menafikan pendirian saudara.

Namun saya pula seorang yang anti kerajaan. Saya bersifat anti kerajaan bukan untuk melihat Barisan Nasional tumbang sahaja malah berkubur. Saya merasakan selagi BN tak terkubur perubahan asasi yang memndu sesebuah negara tidak dapat dibawa. Dan sekirannya BN yang ada sekarang benar-benar memerangi rasuah, telus dan juga akan kembalikan kesucian institusi kehakiman adakah mereka lakukan untuk kesejahteraan rakyat ataupun untuk menang besar dalam pilihanraya akan datang? Saudara malik saya merasakan baik kita kembali ke realiti apa yang patut berlaku untuk mencapai impain sebuah negara yang lebih baik?

Realitinya kita kena bersikap anti kerajaan dan tiadak ada cara lain. ISA, Antalantuya, Perwaja, pengusaan media Prima, kontrak-kontrak kerajaan. Maica Holding, Tun Dr mahathir, semua ini masalah besar negara.

Dan pengaruh individu yang terlibat sanga kuat.

Bayangkan kenapa Ali Rustam tak lawan atau membawa kesnya ke mahkamah untuk semakan kehakiman? Dia tidak mempunyai pilihan sebab dia tau kesalahn dirinya dan dia tahu dia sendiri tak bersih. Dari duduk penjara baik hilang jawatan NO 2. Tiada pilihan. Semua calon yang dipilih mempunyai kelemahan yang boleh digunakan untuk diugut agar seorang sahaja berkuasa dalam negara yang kononya mengamalkan demokrasi.

Harap-harap komen saya ini di terbitkan.


Anonymous said...

The critics of critics of the govt basically don't get it that ultimately its not the job of critics to run the govt. That is the job of sitting govt otherwise the critics should be the one in govt. That is how it works...


Bukit Selambau anak tiri Pembangkan, read it here

Unknown said...

If you believe in healthy intellectual discourses, thus enjoy 3 views on what actually happening in Perak; is there a crisis or not?

Mr. Ragunath Kesavan
Professor Dr Shad Faruqi
Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah