Priests and politics

Politics is the application or the use of different processes for seeking or establishing a legal basis of distributing or deploying power and authority towards the governance of a nation. But, that is also what I call big “P” politics. There is also small “p” politics. Big “P” relates to nation-state governance, as a unit of analysis, and small “p” to any process of application of influence towards any intended outcome by a partisan group of self-organising individuals.

Therefore, what happened recently at a local congregation in PJ needs to be appreciated before we, who were involved not in the specific context, start preaching about the truths into another local situation through higher level generalisations. Unless we know what exactly was said and what was meant, and know many group members, we outsiders should refrain from making unfair judgments or comments; even if we do it for analysis.

Within any Catholic context (and I declare I am not Catholic), if I am not wrong, the local priest is the spiritual authority for the proper governance of the religious and spiritual authority of the Global Catholic Church, subject to his own authorities above his jurisdiction, but usually these are related to doctrinal issues and not local contextual or human issues.

Was Jesus political?

If we assume we lived during the time that Jesus lived, and was in the audience when the Pharisees and Scribes asked the question: “Do we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Was this not a truly and full fledged political question? In fact, it was both a political and spiritual question. Implied within that logic were legal, political, and spiritual issues about how much ‘tithe’ should be paid to the temple authorities.

Now, how is this different than what we face today? The big “P” politics of the nation-state makes requisite for priests and pastors nationwide to speak on and teach about bribery and corruption and the abject hindrance of this is to good and poor governance of our nation-state.

If a priest or any pastor speaks about this subject (it could be another equally efficacious one too) and teaches about what is right and wrong about such governance in Malaysia, is that Pulpit Politics?

My view is that only when the priest or pastor explicitly says or guides his congregation on exactly how to vote in the general election (GE) is he is being “political”; otherwise he is engaging in big “P” politics which is a legitimate consideration for the Church of Jesus Christ worldwide. How else could the Church worldwide be at the forefront of issues like the fight against slavery, or ethnic cleansing, or the abuse of the Jews during the Second World War?

What can we learn from Jesus?

Let us learn from this trick question that the Pharisees (or experts of the Laws of Moses) asked Jesus and how he replied. They framed it as an either-or question. Pay taxes to Caesar or to the temple?

Jesus, knowing their intent, reframed this by his answer to their question. He replied that they should pay taxes to Caesar for his purposes and pay to God for his purposes. It is famously translated as, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is his.”

Now, can we not do the same? Understand and give our heart learning and leanings to God, especially about issues related to poor governance of this nation-state. In such matters, and especially in High Churches (or Churches with hierarchical ecclesiastical authority), such teaching will always come from the priests or other qualified others.

In autonomous self-governing, and especially evangelical Churches, who believe in the priesthood of all believers, this ‘what and how’ of “politics, or what is political may vary largely and can be equally debated”. In the worst extreme, they must agree to disagree in some agreeable way.

Regardless of the reality, there are some simple guidelines which preachers/teachers of the Bible can preach or teach, especially through the sermons, but must always restrict them to instructions only about the principle of big “P” politics but never go so low as to get involved with small “p” politics. The big “P” applies to every other organisational governance as well, and democracy, too, may not be just Man’s idea.

If and when they drift away and get emotional or passionate about such matters, there should be correction, but only from those with credible authority to do so. It may be categorically unbecoming of any parishioner to stand up during a service itself and chastise the priest publicly.

What is the lesson for the Church?

Worldwide, there is a false theology and bad science which suggests that all politics is dirty and therefore the Church of Jesus Christ should stay out of politics. It began with the failure of the Church in the days or pre-science, when the then Church argued for a faith-based biblical view of the material world and thereby concluding that the earth and not the sun was the centre of the universe.

Rene Descartes, a Catholic scholastic, argued rationally and proved the existence of God after others established the Copernicus-Galileo proof of the sun as the centre of the universe, and the then Church lost its faith in the science of rational knowledge. Since then, with the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty, both science and the church have been humbled to restrict their views to their domains of knowledge and expertise.

So, even as we do not want politicians to discuss and define our religious or spiritual rights; we equally do not want priests or pastors to talk about whom to vote for or against. But that does not mean that clean religion and good politics should not be taught to all adherents.

And this responsibility belongs to both sides, or even all sides of this dialogue. Otherwise we get a situation wherein crooks run riot in the public spaces of life and reduce us to merely praying for them on Sundays.

The Church of Jesus Christ is part and parcel of civil society, as the third force of good governance in any society. As with Cardinal Sin in the Philippines under President Marcos, when the state of governance gets so bad and corrupted the Church will and must speak up against bad governance.

History is replete with examples like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr or even Bishop Desmond Tutu, who have been well recognised by the secular world through Nobel Peace Prizes for the causes against various forms of wrongdoing. That is the calling of priests and pastors, too! May God bless Malaysia through this general election.

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

Courting injustice

God made humans to be rational or to use our brains and our heads for logical arguments and developments. Nonetheless, he also allowed and configured an emotional dimension within our hearts to express compassion and emotion for others and their related predicaments.

But, sinful or imperfect man, through the vehicle of emotions has also learned to manipulate the feelings and emotions of potential victims, and to seek various ways to take advantage of the other.

Man, however, learns to use and abuse other men (and women) for various purposes. The dignity of every human person must be regarded and established as the right and privilege to be treated as an end in themselves, and not just as a means to someone else’s means. We cannot be Machiavellian about this value of human dignity.

When I was in my final year at university, just before we all left our residential colleges to go home, a girl who, as my college-mate, asked me to be a witness for a meeting with another college-mate guy who had chosen to have a relationship with the girl with the promise of marriage.

Apparently the boy misled the girl and had recanted upon that promise, and the girl felt her dignity violated and stolen from her. This was their final meeting and the boy did not change the course for his future actions. He already had a girlfriend he knew from his school days, whom he went on to marry.

At least the boy and girl in that relationship were above 21 years of age and modern values believe that, “what two consenting adults do is no one else’s business”. While, even this value does not make pre-marital sex right in the eyes of all religious systems, to many faith practitioners the value of sexual abstinence is an out of date value. Instead, it is believed such human freedom is fundamental freedom of human rights. That too they call, Merdeka or independence of choice.

Justice must be ‘seen to be done’

But, how can we redefine ‘statutory rape’ when one above 21 has sex with a minor, which is clearly defined by our laws to be anyone below 16 years of age? These are not two consenting adults; in fact, they are not even adults under our law. Even within the legal system itself we have numerous contradictions about the different age limits for driving, for responsible action and the age for voting.

For a fact, however, even within the Islamic faith system and culture, to marry a child below 16, the person still needs the approval of some responsible and related elder; and that is, if the girl has achieved puberty. For teenagers, both the boy and the girl need their parents’, or elder’s approval for the marriage. So, why was not such consent a requisite for this case of statutory rape?

Therefore, why did the judges simply ignore the lack of rational choice capability by the child, which is already protected and preserved by all faith-systems, in their decision-making related to the under-aged girls in both cases?

In my view, all these judge have demonstrated their incapability for basic rational application and interpretation of the law and must seriously be considered deranged, and therefore must be dismissed for courting with injustice. Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done. In this case, it was neither.

After all, in our judicial system with the blind Lady of Justice, who sees no person as different but makes choices of right or wrong based on the written law and not on the colour of the skin of the actors, or their skill sets, or their future economic value. The law, in cases of statutory rape, is just that: it means by definition rape under the statutes of the law of this nation.

No judge can overrule the parliament which made the law. Therefore, there is only one way ahead, in my mind, for the fundamental failure of these judges; they must be dismissed for their non-rational minds and their non-compliance with the law of the land.

Otherwise, we are courting injustice to grow and nurture more through such cases of progressive reinterpretation based on personal interpretive preferences. That is what is called rule by law, and not rule of law.

My first memory of such a publicly evident incident and a clear abuse of the law was the case of the Malacca Menteri Besar who deemed to have his “1515 vision.” That was also the time when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was selling his 2020 vision to the nation.

But, rather unfortunately, the then prime minister with the 2020 vision also lost his 2020 clarity and become partisan to ensure that the whistleblower went to jail for merely screaming “fox, fox” just like the village boy of old.

But poetic justice of the eternal kind has rewarded the so-called victim of that illegal arrest and jail sentence with the current appointment as Penang chief minister and he continues to strive like none other for eternal causes, even if he is saddled with failures of policies and problems of the past.

Even then when he decried with his scream, “of foul play over the statutory rape issue,” with the girl’s mother and grandmother in tow, it was considered seditious. Today, the chief judge also screams subjudice when ordinary people cry foul over this “injustice in Malaysia.”

Honourable parliament insulted and abused

When our judges court with injustice within the hallowed halls of their jurisprudential authority, it is time for the Malaysian people to rise up and say, “enough is enough”. We know better and should not tolerate such courting with injustice by any powers that be. Even our honourable parliament is already insulted and abused by these judges.

Therefore, this is my call to all members of parliament and state assemblypersons in Malaysia: “How can you, as elected representatives, stand by and see injustice take place only because we can afford to see the wrong done to such simple and ordinary girls, who could be our younger sisters or daughters? Have we no conscience? Or, are we are merely male chauvinistic inhumans who espouse one theory for self but another theory for others?”

Come on Malaysia, help the victims’ parents to put pressure on the governance system in Malaysia to correct this mistake, or let us please be prepared to face the wrath of a people who will not tolerate such courting with injustice.

Once. while on a study visit to America, much before the full dawn of the internet worked age, the US Department of Justice website was hacked and the new abused formal title read “Department of Injustice”.

We now have the Federal Court always sitting in Putrajaya but it cannot act like a government department. The Federal Court is the highest court in the nation and they must uphold the law and cannot court with injustice.

Today it appears as if it was a stranger who was raped, tomorrow it will be your neighbour, and one day it will be your own underaged daughter. Then it will be too late; come on Malaysia, we must say, “no” now, or forever hold our tongues when it is already too late. May God continue to have mercy on Malaysia.

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

Guilty until proven innocent

IF I understand the law correctly, much of the Evidence Act focuses on the due process and material basis on which evidence has to be adduced to establish a matter before the courts.

The controversy surrounding it is the doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty!”

Unlike the French doctrine, and perhaps the Chinese doctrine, the alternative systems define one as ‘guilty as charged’ by the public prosecutor, until the defending lawyers can establish evidence to dismiss the charge.

Therefore, before we get into the debate of whether this new insertion into the Evidence Act is “necessary or otherwise,” my question to the Attorney General (AG) is: “Since when has our doctrine of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ been turned upside down for the sake of the convenience of the lawmakers and law-enforcement agencies?”

Does the AG and all Parliamentarians, who acceded to the amendment of our doctrine of jurisprudence, realise that we are taking the nation on a slippery slope, empowering all enforcement agencies with a hammer to kill an ant?

In the internet-worked world one of the foundational lessons we teach all lawmakers is the principle of how do you know that the “person at the other end of the internet is not a monkey?”

You see, theoretically, any person or a monkey, or a two year old child can randomly type any message on the internet (what with i-Pads today)? And who would be the wiser?

Therefore, how is it possible to ensure that the person on the other end of the internet, in all cases, is the same person that he or she claims to be?”

It is for this explicit purpose that the government passed many cyber laws to enable the fruition of the internet-worked world. And, if credit has to be given, this regulatory enablement and the promise of zero internet censorship, plus the creation of many cyber agencies (like Multimedia Commission and Cyber Security Malaysia) was the best way to ensure that our democratic and civilising society can grow and mature into a true and better democracy.

So, I have a fundamental problem with the so-called amendment of the Evidence Act. How can a website owner be “presumed to be guilty the moment one of his readers post any “illegall” message?” The writer can be held liable for his or her or its own writing (in case of a monkey) but how can the platform owner simply be held liable or guilty of wrong-doing?

Our legal doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty” has created an entire system of jurisprudence which is designed and developed entirely upon the “transferring the burden of proof for the accusation and assertion to the public prosecutor, or in civil cases to the Plaintiff.

So then, how can we simply flip it all the other way? Or, worse still how can we use industrial logic to transplant physical process assumptions into the cyber world?

In the physical world, there is always an editor, and then a complier or composer, who usually sits at the same operations as the editor, and finally the publisher to whom the editor is always fully responsible. Under such linear and time chronology process of building contents, it is conceivable that one can hold the editor or the publisher responsible for content displayed or published.

But, if we are not ignorant of the workflow and process of operations of the internet-worked world, co-production and co-publishing is very much the order of the day.

That is the brilliance of the internet-worked world!

For example, I am also a columnist with Malaysiakini.

Of course, since it is an internet-based news medium, they too ‘edit’ before they publish. In this instance, either holding me as the writer or them as the publish or for any misdemeanour is reasonable.

But, there is also a feedback feature in the Malaysiakini write-up wherein persons, including in anonymous forms, can write what they want as feedback.

These are instantly uploaded electronically with no human oversight, and often with no more than 100 words. How can Malaysiakini be held liable for these postings, even if it is from paying subscribers?

If there is a serious case of libellous or seditious violations, there can easily be a due process of investigation.

Even Malaysiakini will be able to “reveal who the offending anonymous or pennamed person is!” But, the current version of Section 114A of Evidence Amendment (No 2) Act 2012 ignores all such due process and instead holds Malaysiakini, as editors and publishers liable as “guilty even before the evidence is adduced.”

The burden of proof is passed to the editors to “establish that the subscriber had some malicious intent in the publication!” How ridiculous!

Finally, the AG has obvious selective memory. There was one case of “rumour mongering” in early 2000 when a couple of students used the internet to “spark a rumour about racial riots in downtown KL.” I remember writing about it, as the rumour had reached my then 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter; and they were genuinely scarred as both parents were not at home.

I believe the couple were charged for rumour mongering but there was no conclusive evidence on who actually typed the message and therefore who committed the crime. The couple was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Dear AG, please respect the laws of Malaysia already enshrined in our Constitution; our Document of Destiny, as your lecturer would put it. More importantly please honour and respect the spirit and values already encapsulated within our Constitution. One of the most fundamental ones is the doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty” Please do not try to reverse this by entering through the back door! That is part and parcel of the close-one-eye culture!

Remember, you can only fool some people some of the time; but never all the people and all of the time!

From Malaysiakini.com

Jurisdictional confusion?

I am no lawyer, even though if I had a real choice I would have pursued law studies. Still, my interest in legal issues centre on good versus poor governance related to public space morality.

Last week, a High Court judge allowed Berjaya Books to challenge the Jawi raid on its Mid-Valley outlet and seizure of copies of the book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’, which led to the prosecution of a bookstore manager on the basis of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act 1997. I believe this will be a good case to test the efficacy of the interpretive abuse of Article 121 (1A) provisions of the federal constitution from its original spirit.

Allow me to make my case. The Malaysian constitution is a secular one; this simply means it is silent on the particular and specific application of any belief system to provide the value domain for moral decisions in the jurisdiction of the Malaysian federation as a total entity.

Concurrently also the federal constitution explicitly and clearly provides the domain and jurisdiction, plus the place and pre-eminence of Islam related to the states of the federation as provided for Article 3 of the constitution.

All the peninsular states have a sultan who is accorded the status of the head of the Islamic religion and related state-level enactments which protect and preserve the Syariah principles related to personal and family faith as applied in real and practical life.

All other non-legal issues of faith are covered either by fatwa or simply by good and proper teaching. Nevertheless, these allowances do not privilege the incursion into personal human rights already protected and preserved by the federal constitution.

Therefore, once again, I ask my favourite question: How then can we say that we breathe green air in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, wherein this so-called offence is alluded to have been committed? Public space morality in Malaysia is always colourless and as I have argued many times before, it can only be coloured by the moral values common to all Malaysians; for example something like the Rukunegara.

Any bookstore can sell any book not banned by the Home Affairs Ministry. Never mind the fact that all these same books maybe available as e-books or iPhone applications or even on the Internet.

Therefore, under what authority can Jawi raid an entirely secular and commercial business operation just because they do not like the title of the book or deem it to be negative to the faith of some Muslims readers?

If that is not bad enough, they proceed to charge the one manager who happens to be a Muslim lady for the offence, but do they realise that she was only doing her job as a manager of the outfit? Is this then a good and proper application of the Syariah Laws as allowed and permitted by the federal constitution?

Potential misapplication and abuse

I therefore highlight the following issues and concerns as the potential misapplication and abuse of the state-enabled Syariah Laws, when deployed within the Federal Territory because it is under federal jurisdiction and within a secular and civil context of the federal law:

  • Were the drafters of the federal constitution ignorant when they put “Islamic faith matters” under the jurisdiction of the nine peninsular states of the federation, and this was not extended into the formation of Malaysia, especially for Sabah and Sarawak? Penang and Malacca were excluded even from the beginning.
  • Is not Syariah law meant to only be limited to personal and family law matters? Is this tendency and fashion to extend Islamic law jurisdiction a phenomenon of the rise of a fundamentalist Islamic in response and reaction to a modernising world? But, is legal enforcement the only way for tenets of faith?
  • What then is this concept of Islamic criminal law in Malaysia? How can this be applied in any state that is not technically an Islamic state and the religious authorities have absolute control on all matters of life and death? Where then do the criminal law enforcement agencies of the civil law system get their legitimate authority to undertake state enacted Islamic Law? That is the same reason I wrote that “Islamic caning enforcement” by prison authorities is illegal unless agreed to and approved by the civil courts system.
  • How then can a mundane thing like “book distribution” become a matter of Islamic criminal law and come under the jurisdiction of Jawi? Is Jawi assuming that particular manager not only read the book but also intends to propagate the book to other Muslim customers? Should not such Syariah laws only focus on personal and family practice of Islam for Muslims?
  • If the manager is being charged in her public role, then why is she not charged by federal criminal laws, instead of Syariah Laws? Are we now deeming that the public role actor, in every case, as a Muslim person? Or, it this selective prosecution to make a show and case of public space jurisdiction of Islamic law; which to me does not even exist?

Can some constitutional lawyer who understands all these issues and concerns please clarify the issues for the readers and my personal education?

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

If faith is spiritual, can it be political?

THERE have been a number of articles in the media which speak for and against the idea of “political sermons” being delivered over the pulpit within congregations of Christians. Some regard this as the abuse of the separation of Church and State and others reframe that faith after all is political; if faith is meant to lead to action. Allow me my three senses worth; pun intended.

The book of James states that faith without action is like a man who views himself in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like.

St Francis of Assisi says, “preach the Gospel all the time, and when necessary use words!” Proverbs teaches us to seek for wisdom as if for gold, and argues that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Is such wisdom then not from God?

So, is faith political? Faith is spiritual; that we all know. But is it also political? If political, is it only personal?

Or, can it also be communal? Is all action a prerequisite for faith? Is faith an action-verb? Does having faith mean anything if it does not lead one to act in a preferred or prescribed way, at least as taught by one’s scriptures or teachers? Are teachers then cheats, if they mislead from the pulpit?

But, to understand all these questions and issues, first let us first understand the concept of the hierarchy of knowledge, or otherwise called the pyramid of knowledge.

According to Russell Ackoff, a systems theorist and professor of organisational change, the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories:

  • Data: symbols;
  • Information: data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions;
  • Knowledge: application of data and information; answers “how” questions;
  • Understanding: appreciation of “why”; and
  • Wisdom: evaluated understanding.

Ackoff indicates that the first four categories relate to the past; they deal with what has been or what is known. Only the fifth category, wisdom, deals with the future because it incorporates vision and design.

With wisdom, people can create the future rather than just grasp the present and past. But achieving wisdom isn’t easy; people must move successively through the other categories.

The word knowledge is a complex word. Can there be knowledge without understanding?

How is knowledge and understanding different from wisdom? Ackoff suggests that the first four deals with the past and wisdom include some predictive knowledge embedded within vision and design intent.

Therefore wisdom incorporates issues and concerns about the future which may not be considered within the first four, but may have been incorporated by the designer’s intent. Who then is the designer of knowledge and such intent?

Another philosopher of knowledge, Michael Polanyi introduced the concept of personal knowledge to distinguish such implicit personal knowledge from generalised knowledge. He labelled it tacit knowledge and made the further argument that a person’s background, faith, culture and other local factors do influence the formation of tacit knowledge.

One always has more tacit knowledge about any subject that one is able to translate into either words for communication, or even deployed to solve problems.

Creative knowledge happens when tacit understandings of issues or concerns are deployed into more public solutions vide either inventions or innovations.

With this as background, is faith then political? There was a time in the philosophy of science when it was believed that all modern scientific knowledge was objectively knowable truth.

Faith belonged to values and thus was conjecture, but not knowledge by modern measures of reason. The Heisenberg experiment demonstrated that any measure at one and the same time distorts the object being measured.

Therefore, all knowledge, and especially also scientific knowledge was subjective knowledge and influenced by human interpretive perception.

Faith and values were also knowledge like all else.

Therefore, like all good science, faith also had vision and intentions of designers and developers. All studies of such purpose, even if philosophical, could be considered as the pursuit of wisdom.

In fact, this was always implied by the root word for wisdom, Sophia.

Consequently, reason and faith are two sides of one coin. Only humankind can reason. Therefore faith and reason are two processes within the same human being.

I would further argue that the human heart and mind are two dimensions of the same human; as he or she contemplates action, in any situation. But, the truth also is that the distance between the mind and heart are often the greatest distance in the world.

Therefore, all faith is political. Faith systems argue that knowledge of any truth requires one to walk in the light of that truth; action defines faith! If there is no action, one does not have personal knowledge, and therefore it may only be subject matter appreciation at the level of knowledge or at best at the level of understanding, but not yet wisdom which includes a faith step into uncertainty. I hope these notes educate and inform rather than confuse.

K.J. JOHN is a former public servant who spent more than 31 years in the administrative and diplomatic service as a policy analyst. He dreams of a Malaysia integrated with integrity! feedback@mmail.com.my. This article first appeared in The Malay Mail.

Why I support Nurul Izzah

Nurul Izzah Anwar is one of the youngest MPs elected into Parliament and one of the giant killers of 2008. Her alter ego in the contest was none other than the Cowgate Minister; who lost badly but retained her deposit and was appointed into cabinet through the Senate becaue of her Wanita Umno position.

However, the Umno Youth chief was not equally respected. Maybe there is not enough respect for the younger generation within Umno hierarchy.

I met Nurul in Parliament for the first time when we (some NGOs) took a Nigerian imam and a pastor to meet the MPs, including the backdoor appointee and Gerakan president, Koh Tsu Koon.

The next time was when I attended a fund-raising dinner for her, after a very good friend and RMC Old Putera invited me to join his table for the fund-raising dinner. I contributed to her campaign, as much as I could spare.

I really wanted to hear her speak to understand if she had substance, more than just good looks and a famous family name. She thoroughly impressed me, not only with her eloquence but also with her maturity of thought.

Anyway, someone recently mailed me her speech at a recent fund-raising dinner, and I must say that I now have three reasons why I will support Nurul Izzah to be returned to Parliament and why I will advise my other RMC colleague not to stand against her.

I have but three good reasons. Before the last general election, I had also written my three reasons why I could not vote for any MCA representative in my constituency! I do the same in support of Nurul Izzah this time.

First and foremost; she has a Malaysian heart and speaks her mind truly and honestly about how to become more Malaysian. Her command of both the Malay and English languages is excellent.

No branding or brandishing

In short, she is Malaysian first, without any branding or brandishing or apology. Out of the desires of her heart, her mouth speaks! She speaks very eloquently, clearly and speaks with both head and heart; and is truly honest, sincere and appears to reflect no double-speak.

Secondly, within her first term of Parliament she has figured out the tricks of the Parliament and how to deal with our systemic failure in good governance by turning the rules the other way around.

She said that she will table three Private Member’s Bills in the coming sitting of Parliament. In one term as a Member of Parliament, she has figured out how we can reinstate the Rule of Law in Malaysia and strive for better governance. The three Bills she articulated address each of three poor governance issues pointedly and poignantly. That is a strategic mind; which I did not even have at her age!

The first Bill is what I truly love. It was her audacious statement that she wants to see the amendments to the Article 121 of the Federal Constitution reinstated to its original form.

I always wondered who or which MP would have the courage of conviction to ask and push for this reversal of the obvious basis of the abuse of power and the rule of law in Malaysia.

These misguided amendments created and caused 80 percent of the problems related to the abuse of the executive power within different institutions and jurisdictions of good governance.

In my preferred model of Responsible Good Governance, there are at least seven basic prerequisite institutions of good governance in any system, within some kind of democratic intent. There are the obvious first three; the Legislative (or Parliament), the Executive (cabinet) and the Judiciary (inclusive of the Attorney-General’s Chambers).

However, in my model I have argued that the public service (all those recognised under the constitution and defined as public servants) constitutes the fourth arm of good governance. For a more comprehensive argument along these lines, please read To Run a Constitution: The Legitimacy of an Administrative State, by John A Rohr. Public servants under our rule of law are not elected but carry a lot of delegated authority of the law.

The fifth estate of good governance is the media and all its technologically driven allies that seek the truth of information for the public interest.

The sixth is what is often called non-governmental organisations or NGOs, but which I prefer to call not-for-profit organisations or public interest organisations, which often represent particular issues and concerns related to good governance.

Making Petronas accountable to the people

The seventh is my catch-all phrase to include all else; which can be labelled as civil society or citizenry, or ordinary members of any nation or requisite constituency of views. These include all and any non-organised and marginalised members for whom usually the NGOs or others speak up for or represent!

The second Bill she promised is a revision of the Petroleum Development Act to make Petronas even more accountable to the people and Parliament, rather than be allowed to operate as a slush fund for the prime minister to do anything he wants without accountability and adequate transparency!

For one example, I would like to know how many Petronas petrol stations are given to non-Malay bumiputera of Sabah or Sarawak or the Orang Asli?

Her third Bill would be to abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act to allow mass media journalists to assume the role of responsible agents of truth reporting. In fact, the National Union of Journalists recently took a position on this matter and most journalists signed an undertaking to be committed to free and fair reporting.

But that can never happen, as long as the media organisations need to renew their permits annually and with the likes of groups like Perkasa and Jati dictating what and how media groups should be run; only because they are Umno-linked cronies who have connections with the Home Affairs Ministry and the minister and the licences.

My third and final reason of support is that she belongs to what I call the Bangsa Malaysia generation of Vision 2020. She is a true blue Anak Bangsa Malaysia. He father is a Merdeka personality born before Malaya and she was born after 1963; after Malaysia was formed! I think that with this information generation is now at full throttle; and, all of us above 45 years must seek to step down and let the below 40s to begin to run this country for all our good.

My son, Jeshua, who just finished From Five and is awaiting his results, one day shot out to me as we were arguing something and he said, “Dad we can solve half the problems of the world, if all the older people step down and let us younger people show the way!”

I do believe him; although I would still advise that they must still allow us to remain advisers, giving our views without fear or favour! My retort to him still is: “Let us see if there is another side to the Joseph Kony story and sales-pitch, as currently sold by this younger generation compatriots!”

Malaysia must move into the newer era of good governance: we need change and allow a new norm; oldies like us cannot always dictate the modus operandi of the future and complex world. Personal character and moral audacity of individuals define the future of leadership.

Therefore, I can easily say I am prepared to allow Nurul Izzah to be my MP; if she stands in my constituency!

May God bless Malaysia!

The home minister should resign!

I think Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Hussein should resign. He has failed miserably in “managing the proper conduct of the Constitution and discarded reasonable rights of the citizens”, even after the King made his intervention and publicly made his views known. The King is our Head of State.

Allow me to state my reasons for my call vide this column. Bersih 1.0 and Bersih 2.0 are non-legal organisations. This means that while they exist in real space and time, they are not legal entities in the corporate and legal sense under the laws of our nation.

They are what my Professor of Organisation Theory and I would call ‘organisations’, nonetheless. They exist and have life; they represent the interests of some groups of people.

In this case, they represent the interests of 62 organisations that have some form or other of legal or legitimate existence. I am part of one of the 62 organisations with a legitimate interest in BERSIH 2.0 and its issues and concerns.

Logic 101

In the United States, in almost all undergraduate courses, every student is required to take a course called Logic 101. It deals with the fundamentals of logic and non-logic.

For example, in Logic 101, we learn that a thing cannot be A and B at the same time. It is either A or B but not both. Therefore, A and B are different and separate, and cannot be the same. Let me apply this to educate the home minister, so he can understand why I want him to resign.

The minister declared, and this was agreed to by the Inspector-General of Police, that Bersih 2.0 is an illegal organisation. Now, to say that it is A, we must define which law says that it is illegal. The minister quoted the Societies Act, and some clause within it.

But, if Bersih is not a registered society, can this law be applied to Bersih? But, an even more important question is, “what is the difference between being legal and illegal?”

I believe Bersih may not be a legal and corporate entity under either the Registrar of Societies or even under the Registrar of Companies, or any other legal form.

In fact, as stated by chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasen herself, Bersih 2.0 is merely a coalition of 62 registered and legal entities of all kinds of shapes and sizes, but none of them are partisan political parties. That was the intent in the formation of Bersih 2.0 and this was clarified at the soft launch of Bersih 2.0 at MBPJ.

Therefore my question to the home minister: “How is Bersih 2.0 illegal?” If B2.0 is only non-legal, how can you also make their T-Shirts illegal? If they are illegal, are you suggesting that the King, as our Head of State, was meeting with an illegal organisation? Can and should the King be above the law then?

But even more importantly, does not the police force serve the King, as the “Di-Raja” title implies? Do not they serve at the pleasure of the King, and not just the government of the day?

And, cannot the King decree his views, as he did, to serve the public interest, and direct Bersih 2.0 not to march the streets but instead go into a stadium? Is it then not the job of both the police and the government, as also already declared by the prime minister, to assign a stadium for them to hold their demonstration in?

Did the government of the day fail to take heed of the Head of State’s instructions? Can another subsidiary authority of the stadium, which belongs to the people, say that the stadium is not allowed to be used? Even the PM spoke about this issue and the stadium’s use!

Disobedience

I believe Polis Di Raja Malaysia should now be called Polis Di Kerajaan Malaysia because they disobeyed the King and followed the orders of the minister and his false logic of illegality. Therefore, both the minister and the IGP must resign for disobeying the King’s directive to Bersih 2.0.

bersih rally 090711 police kick protestor story imageThe people must now be called the Rakyat Di Raja for their obedience and their peaceful march to their stadium to establish and claim their space of freedom of expression.

Their only hindrance was the illegitimate acts of the police! The Bersih 2.0 Exco chose the Merdeka Stadium simply because it belongs to the people! This is the same place the Rakyat Di Raja wants to see the dreams of Tunku Abdul Rahman fulfilled! Medeka, Merdeka, Merdeka!

At 10.30am last Saturday morning, four RMC Old Putera, as we are called, decided to meet, review and march. We met at Gopala’s in Brickfields. We all got there undetected by the police even though three of us wore variations of yellow!

We had a good breakfast and discussed all related issues about the legality or non-legality of the march. Two could not march because of other priorities, but two of us decided to march for the sake of demonstrating peaceful resistance; our Gandhian March.

The road less marched!

No Malaysian can be disbarred from walking up to the Stadium after the King agreed that the demonstration can be held within a stadium. Especially if they are wearing yellow in utter respect for the King; and the two are Old Putera of the Royal Military College; whose colours were given by the King!

Moreover, two of us, even if in yellow, are not a crowd by any law of the nation! Under the Police Act, three or more is a crowd. So, we set off bravely about 11.30am. We walked and could see the different groups gathering at different staging points. Some were already camped next to the stadium the night before.

We finally reached the Methodist Boy’s School side of the stadium, after meandering and avoiding all road blocks till there.

Near the stadium area we reached a police blockade and the officer told us that the hill was out of bounds to all. We reasoned that we are only following orders of the King to gather inside the stadium and wore yellow in respect for the King. Our logic was illogical for Hishammuddin’s boys in blue!

When and how then can we have better democracy in Malaysia? Only through freer and fairer elections? When the referee does not close an eye to corruption and appear not to understand what bribery is, and where a healthier gerrymandering is agreed but limited by due process and transparent rules?

It is one where, citizen volunteers are trained exceptionally well by the Election Commission to appreciate all the rules on elections; as neutral PACA volunteers! But, it cannot be wherein there are ghost voters above 100 years old!

We therefore need an integrated biometric system of identity cards which defines single locations of voting addresses and authenticates people who are alive against those with ghostly features!

May God allow Malaysia to search for truth, righteousness and justice for all!

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. He is now dean of the Faculty of Economics and Policy Science at UCSI University, Malaysia. The views expressed here are personal views of the writer and not those of the university or any other institution he is involved with. Please write to the columnist at kjjohn@ohmsi.net, if you have any feedback or views.

Is he PM of 1Malaysia?

Potential general elections are a very good time for all Wayang Kulitians and all type of play actors. They get to act out their lines even more precisely. Shakespeare said all the world is a stage. Why else would Dr Mahathir Mohamad, of all people, take on the Orang Asal of peninsular Malaya? No wonder they are even called officially ‘Orang Asli’ and not Asal.

And it is no wonder that the Malayan constitution does not even recognise them within the same category as the Malays of peninsular Malaya? The Melayus are the only orang asal according to Mahathir, even though he has autobiographically agreed he is also a pendatang according to the constitution and history of Malaya. The Orang Asli are not pendatang; otherwise we need to rewrite our current history books, I imagine.

Therefore my rhetorical question to the man who is our current prime minister, are you the PM of 1Malaysia or merely the PM of “Melayusia?” What do I mean?

Recently, there was a report which questioned whether MCA is merely a branch of Umno.

Also recently, the Bishop of the Anglican Church of West Malaysia and CFM chairman, the federation of all Christians bodies in Malaysia (inclusive of both the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak), also took a firm stand that they cannot accept the desecration of the Bible, and therefore have rejected the Home Ministry’s conditions for release of the sacred text for these national-language speaking and singing Malaysians.

Juxtapose that with what the idiocratic Minister of the so-called ‘Parliamentary Matters’ said, that the copies of the Bible cannot be released from Port Kelang because the syariah law of the state of Selangor does not allow Bibles with the banned words.

But, even more recently, the subsidiary Syariah Court ruled that another citizen who is more than qualified to become a Syariah Court lawyer cannot do so because the law allows the Syariah Court a lot of jurisdiction to define who qualifies; to be read as, who disqualifies. Non-Muslim Malaysians are now disqualified; yet the constitution says all citizens have equal rights under that supreme law. 1Malaysia: prime minister?

Let me therefore first apologise even before I start my next paragraph. I apologise to my readers who chose to not apply their minds towards understanding higher order concepts about the nature of our reality. Even my late mother understood only the simple concepts, but then she only had a primary education.

Anyone who has an undergraduate degree and tells me they cannot understand some concepts within my columns, actually may need their minds checked for lazy learning abilities. Or, I am simply not a good enough writer. Either is fine with me!

What is reality?

So, with that apology delivered, here goes to some higher order concepts. Ontology is the study and understanding of higher order things, and especially non-things. It is in fact a study of reality itself. What is reality and how do we know difference between realities versus fiction? Is a mirage a fiction or a reality? Is the meaning of ‘maya,’ the Malay word for ‘virtual,’ a real phenomenon or only fiction?

In fact, how do we even know that we know? What is knowledge? How do we know what we do not know? The how and what of knowledge is the study of knowing itself described by another big word and concept; called ‘epistemology’.

The simpler word is called science and study of knowledge; but most material scientists often reduce this knowledge defining the scientific method alone as the only form of knowledge and thereby cursing the knowledge of non-science, and especially the spiritual, merely as subjective values.

Ontologists and those who study reality and other forms of knowledge, like for example in the book, Personal Knowledge by Michael Polanyi, describe knowing which is different from empirical scientific knowing, and will talk about a more ephemeral form of knowing, which yet others in the field of religion call ‘spiritual knowing’.

So, my question to the PM is do you know what you are the PM of? The older ideal-type model of ‘the benevolent dictator ‘or ‘wise ruler’ has an epistemological relic value which says the king or ruler has more knowledge than the ordinary citizen. Since they know more, their wise ruler-ship is presumed.

But, today, through the Internet-driven social networking and Twitter, we have seen revolutions in Tunisia and Cairo. But there are not of the French Revolution genre. Instead they are more of the strand of the Copernican and the Iranian Revolution models, with one obvious caveat; Internet technology and Internetworking.

The last word is a composite of three root words, a convergent new phenomenon, like never before. It is only a 21 century phenomenon.

A P2P revolution

Internet technology, by design intent of the creators, is also uncontrollable. If you close down one route, the system will work through another route to communicate the message from sender to receiver. We can also call it a P2P (or peer to peer) revolution.

All this is aided and abetted today by satellites in the sky which zoom in and out as per the dictates of the controllers; quite outside of our national airspace controls. Google or her GPS system called Google Earth is just one manifestation of the advances of both the Copernican and Iranian revolutions. What do I mean?

The Iranian revolution was fundamentally about the rejection of the western model of development that the Shah of Iran sought to bring into Iran. It was more than a Cartesian Revolution. Or, at least what was understood by the opponents as such. Development then only appeared to be defined in materialistic terms and overlooked more non-material values within notions of development or progress.

For example, how does one capture spiritual maturity versus immaturity within the older model of development? Knowledge in all faith systems transcends mere information in the head. Knowledge must translate into life.

The Tunisian and Cairo revolutions, and they are still in the making as we talk, are about ordinary people wanting their basic needs and aspirations in life; not as defined by all leaders of a corrupt past regime, but rather by the improvement of their quality of life within a framework of fair play and due processes.

Can new age governance deliver this in every area of life?

I believe the buzz words are transparency, openness and fair play. If these can be promised, then new governance can be operationalised vide new media technology which has empowered the ordinary people to become the third force of influence towards good governance, vide their mobilised influence in the public squares of life, whether Tahrir Square or simply the public domains in ordinary life.

I suggest to PM Najib, even as he forewarned twice that Cairo cannot and should not happen here, please take note and warn your ‘idiocratic’ ministers to move their butts to understand the nuances and stop behaving as if ordinary people like the “Cairo Street Walkers,” are a mere pushover to guns, rules and the inculcation of fear.

Mr PM; it is not that people do not understand or comprehend your 1Malaysia. It is simply that your own ministers are shooting themselves in the foot to deny your 1Malaysia; which every ordinary citizen understands. Why else would yet other ‘idiocrats’ suggest that defacing the Bible is their only way to protect Islam, in spite of the existence of Syariah Courts and the Conference of Rulers; all currently held only by Malays.

Umno cannot become the sole protectors of Islam; you have lost all such credibility. May Allah bless Malaysia.

KJ JOHN is dean of the Faculty of Economics and Policy Science at UCSI University and they are currently seeking good students for a Masters in Public Policy to be offered in May 2011. UCSI is also a regional centre for Blue Ocean Strategy which teaches Value Innovation processes.

This article is from Malaysiakini.com. Published here with permission.

Truth Matters Forum 1: Responding To Ramanathan

In response to the post, Blind Men And Elephant, Ramanathan wrote:

Perhaps the elephants and the blind men comparison could be applied in another way: “The Mouse that wants to be thought of as an Elephant.”

By using images of fear to persuade us to suspend judgment (“this is a sensitive issue”), the mouse wants us to choose blindness and allow it to act like an elephant.

I think this issue is about the powers of the Home Ministry and is in the same array of issues as the use of the ISA; it’s about those who are pro-evidence (those who believe pre-existing words cannot be copyrighted) and those who are not; it’s about sectarian vs global identity.

Looking forward to your column!

My response:

My views are that the Malay Muslims are really and truly divided on this issue. The grassroots Malays are not involved in the “elephant-like complexity” of the Allah issues but are “steered into mis-education by much of mainstream media;” and therefore into the wrong direction.

It is therefore each and every Christian’s responsibility to go out of our way to “teach and tell our Muslim neighbors the historical Truths about the Allah issue. Let me put one simple fact for your information:

Did you know that there is a 13th May 1982 Gazette Jil 26, No 10, Tambahan 27, Perundangan (A) which reads:

INTERNAL SECURITY ACT 1960
Internal Security and (Prohibition of Publications) (No 4) Order 1982

IN exercise of the powers conferred upon the Minister of Home Affairs by Section 22 of the Internal Security Act 1960 and delegated to him, the Deputy Minister makes the following order:

  1. This Order may be cited as the Internal Security (Prohibition of Publication) (no.4) Order 1982.
  2. The printing, publication, sale, issue, circulation or possession of the publication which is described in the Schedule and which is prejudicial to the national interest and security of the Federation is prohibited, subject to the condition that this prohibition shall not apply to the possession or use in Churches of such publication by persons professing the Christian religion, throughout Malaysia.
  3. The Internal Security (Prohibitions of Documents) (No. 3) Order 1982 is repealed.

SCHEDULE

Title of Publication Publisher Printer Language
Alkitab Lembaga Alkitab Indonesia, Jakarta, 1979 Printed in Korea Indonesian

 

Made the 22nd March 1982
[KHEDN 0. 59/3/9/A; PN. 24 Pt II.]

Abdul Rahim Datuk Thamby Chik,
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.