THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
Flanked by Pakatan Rakyat leaders, Soh Cher Wei addresses the crowd. – Picture by Choo Choy May
By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 – Teoh Beng Hock’s fiancee Soh Cher Wei, two months pregnant, stepped on the stage at the KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last night, looking pale but bright eyed.
The crowd packed into the hall leapt to their feet and gave her a standing ovation.
Surrounded by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders on both sides, the 28-year-old looked straight out at the crowd and spoke, in Mandarin, steadily and clearly: “I can do nothing more for Teoh Beng Hock but I’ll take care of his child. Thank you.”
Soh stepped off the stage, head held high, followed by the crowd’s thunderous applause in support of the steadfast school teacher.
By the stage, roses and chrysanthemums were beginning to droop in the heat. Their delicate petals – white and yellow – bruised easily, releasing a sweet, heavy, heady perfume that also smelled a little sickly with the thousands that thronged the hall here last night in memory of Teoh, the DAP political aide who was found dead last week outside the national anti-graft body’s office.
Many who came did not seem to know Teoh personally. When asked, they shook their heads, no.
Why did they come? They came to show they were angry, said those who wore something black – shirts, tee-shirts, blouses, pants, a headscarf.
Because they were sad, said those who dressed in other colours. They came because there were so many questions unanswered.
How could a 30-year-old man who was going to get married die suddenly? Why was he held for so many hours for questioning? Why is the “go’men” always doing this?
Before Teoh’s fiancee took the stage, the master of ceremonies also read out a personal letter she had first dedicated to her dead husband-to-be at his funeral, promising to marry him even if they were now living in separate worlds.
The crowd had earlier listened to the impassioned speeches of the politicians blaming the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
Many stood up and pumped their fists in agreement, especially when veteran politician Lim Kit Siang called on them to stand up and let the media photographers snap their pictures protesting the Cabinet’s move to hold separately investigations into Teoh’s death and into the way the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) interrogated him.
Lim had earlier mocked the Cabinet decision on Wednesday to let a magistrate’s court carry out an inquest instead of getting the royal commission of inquiry, which they had also agreed to set up soon, to handle everything, from Teoh’s death to possible procedural abuses by the MACC.
He noted that if the people had no confidence in high court judges and federal judges, what more magistrates under pressure from the BN government?
“They are asking for the moon!” he cried, referring to the Cabinet members.
“We must dare to be sad and dare to be angry,” the DAP parliamentary leader said.
“But we must translate our sorrow and anger into People’s Power,” he added.
“Then at the next elections, these people who refuse to listen to the voice of the people to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the death of Teoh Beng Hock will descend into the dustbin of history!” he concluded.
As one, the crowd roared their approval.
By SK English News
Selangor voters have given Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and his team a clear thumbs-up with a 64 percent approval rating.
According to the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, 69 percent of Chinese and Indian respondents were happy with the Pakatan Rakyat state government, while amongst the Malays the rate was 59 percent.
Involving 1,360 telephone interviews conducted between June 5 to 15, the poll also found that 60 percent of the respondents believed the state was heading in the right direction, while 58 percent were satisfied with the government’s management of the economy.
Some 63 percent also expressed satisfaction with Khalid’s performance against just 19 percent which disapproved.
The Pakatan swept to power in Selangor in the 2008 general election, defeating the Umno-BN for the first time in the country’s most industrialised state.
Meanwhile, Khalid’s office attributed the good ratings to the “state’s welfare programmes, transparent and efficient administration and reduction of corruption”.
The survey, which it commissioned, also identified several areas of weakness, including a lack of communication avenues, lack of public awareness for programmes it was implementing and called for reduction of red tape and increase in provision of services.
(CNN) — President Obama reached out to Africa in a speech in Ghana on Saturday, praising the continent’s achievements but condemning persistent wars, calling them the “millstone around Africa’s neck.
“Despite the progress that has been made — and there has been considerable progress in parts of Africa — we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled,” Obama said in a speech to the parliament of Ghana, a West African nation seen as a model of democracy and growth for the rest of the continent.
Obama’s visit, the third by a sitting American president, highlighted the stability, political strides and painstaking economic progress that Ghana made in being the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence, in 1957.
This is in sharp contrast to conditions in other continent hot spots cited by Obama — Zimbabwe, where the society is in economic and political turmoil; Sudan, where fighting rages in the Darfur region, and Somalia, site of civil warfare. Congo and Liberia have also been in the throes of war.
“Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or the need for charity,” Obama said.
“The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana’s economy has shown impressive rates of growth.”
After his speech, Obama toured Cape Coast Castle, the notorious fort used in the transatlantic slave trade.
After viewing the castle, a visibly moved Obama, who was accompanied by his wife and two daughters, said that the site held special significance for him.
“As Americans, as African-Americans obviously, there’s a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, on the other hand,” he said, “it is here where the journey of much of the African-American experience began,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Obama in his speech to the country’s lawmakers said the kind of nation-building exemplified by Ghana doesn’t have the “drama of the 20th century’s liberation struggles,” but he believes “it will ultimately be more significant.”
“We must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long,” he said. “That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”
Obama pointed to Kenya — where his father was born — as an example of unmet potential.
“Countries like Kenya, which had a per-capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair,” he said.
“History shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and infrastructure, when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled workforce, and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs.”
Obama said the United States has committed $63 billion to a global, comprehensive health strategy.
“Building on the strong efforts of President [George W.] Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio.
“We will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won’t confront illnesses in isolation — we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness, and focus on the health of mothers and children,” Obama said.
The visit by the first African-American president in the United States sparked a frenzy in the country as street vendors sold miniature U.S. flags, and massive billboards with pictures of a smiling Obama and “akwaaba, ” the local word for welcome, were set up in the capital city.
“People in Ghana are printing clothes for this occasion,” said Adrian Landry, general manager of a beach hotel in Accra.
“The fact that his father is African and he picked us makes us special,” he said. “He is endorsing our strong democracy in Ghana. This is historic.”
Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Ghana in 1998 as part of a six-nation Africa tour. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, stopped there as part of a four-nation Africa tour during his last year of office.
Obama, who recently attended the G-8 summit in Italy, will not visit any other country in the continent during the trip.
The rise of the East will change more than just economics. It will shake up the whole way that we think and live our lives
Let me give a few examples of how China will remain very different from the West. The nation state, a product of the European tradition, has become the primary defining entity of nations. The problem is that China is not really a nation state: it may have called itself one over the past century, but for the previous two millennia it was a civilisation state. For China, the nation state is the top soil and the civilisation state the geological formation.
The Chinese do not think of themselves in terms of nation but civilisation; it is the latter that gives them their sense of identity.
Although we tend to think of China in somewhat homogeneous terms, it is a continent that contains great diversity; and to govern a continent requires a plurality of systems that a nation state would never tolerate. The maxim of a nation state is “one nation, one system”; that of a civilisation state is, of necessity, “one country, several systems”.
Think back to the constitutional formula that underpinned the handover of Hong Kong: “one country, two systems”. Despite Western scepticism, the Chinese really meant it, as the Hong Kong of today clearly illustrates.
Now imagine what it might be like to have a civilisation state, rather than a nation state, as the world’s dominant power: the consequences are bound to be very far-reaching but very difficult to conceive because of its unfamiliarity.
Or take the tributary state system, which organised interstate relations in East Asia for thousands of years. It was a loose and flexible system of states that was organised around the dominance of China, the acceptance of the latter’s cultural superiority, and a symbolic tribute that was paid in return for the protection of the Chinese emperor. That system lasted until about 1900.
The deeply rooted attitudes that informed the tributary system have never really gone away, either on the part of the Chinese or others. Furthermore, the conditions that swept it away – the decline of China and the arrival of European colonialism (and the subsequent influence of the United States) – have disappeared or, in the case of America, is waning.
We are now witnessing the rapid reconfiguration of the region around a resurgent China. It is entirely plausible that we might once again see the return, in a modern context, of some elements of the tributary state system, thereby challenging the global dominance of that European invention (the Westphalian system) of sovereign, independent nation states.
There are other examples of how China will remain very different from the Western norms that we are so familiar with: unlike in Europe, the state has never had its powers curbed by competitors, giving it an unrivalled position at the heart of Chinese society; or its highly distinctive position on race, where about 92 per cent of the population believe that they are of one race; and the lack of a conception of, or respect for, difference that flows from this.
The rise of China will transform a world that presently conforms to a Western template. It will not happen quickly; not least because the Chinese are, for now, too preoccupied with economic growth and escaping from poverty to entertain such questions. But in time that will change as the country becomes more prosperous and people can afford to raise their sights and entertain other ambitions. In the 19th century, Europe left a profound and indelible impression on the world, marking the birth of the Western(-made) world. That era is now in retreat.
The rise of China signals the slow dawning of a very different era in which Chinese influence will become profound.
The renminbi will replace the dollar as the world’s dominant currency. The international financial system will be remade in China’s financial centre, Shanghai. Mandarin, already spoken by twice as many people as English, will become a lingua franca just like English is now.
The great landmarks of Chinese history – the voyages of Zheng He, the formation of the Qin dynasty, the inventions of the Song dynasty, the 1949 revolution – will become universally familiar.
Confucius will take his place as a philosopher of global, not just Chinese, signficance. Chinese film, already popular in the West through movies such as Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower will exercise a growing influence on the popular imagination. Beijing, rather than New York, will be the global reference point. Chinese traditional medicine, based on principles very different from Western, will become widespread across the globe.
Our children and grandchildren will grow up in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar to us, where the old Western furniture can no longer be taken for granted. For the first time for more than two centuries Westerners will be obliged to adapt to and learn from other cultures in a quite novel way. It will be a highly disorientating and disconcerting process.
Martin Jacques is author of When China Rules the World: the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World (Allen Lane £30)
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Iran’s supreme leader will deliver a sermon Friday at Tehran University, just days after a bloody crackdown at the school, according to a statement from the pro-government Basij militia.
Students rally atop a building Monday on the campus of Tehran University.
Crowds of demonstrators have been protesting in the streets of Tehran, demanding that officials throw out election results that showed hardline incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi.
Khamenei has appealed to Iranians to stand behind the Islamic republic.
The Basij militia — which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — declared Friday a day for the Iranian nation to renew its allegiance to Khamenei.
Moussavi called for a day of mourning Thursday.
Tehran University students told a CNN iReporter that government forces staged a massive crackdown early Monday at the university. Some students were detained in the raid.
Students jumped out of windows to escape the Iranian police forces who threw tear gas and beat them, according to the iReporter, a former Tehran University student who lives outside Iran. He did not want to be identified.
Iran‘s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, has blamed the country’s Interior Ministry for the crackdown on the university, as well as other attacks on civilians, government-funded Press TV reported.
However, Larijani also said “it appears that hidden hands are at work to feed foreign media outlets with propaganda,” according to Press TV.
Investigating lawmakers have spoken to Tehran University students and other officials and are demanding the release of the detained students, Press TV reported.
The lawmakers are also calling for the arrest and punishment of those who perpetrated the violence and for students to be compensated for their losses, according to Press TV.
A press statement has been released by Mr Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, Coordinator of the Committee for the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam. The statement said: The legitimate campaign of the Tamils to realize their right to self-determination has been brutally crushed through military aggression, which has been in violation of humanitarian laws and all civilized norms. People all over the world are shocked and deeply saddened by the massacres of Tamils in the Vanni.
Of particular note, banned weapons and heavy shelling by the Sinhalese military were responsible for the massacre of an estimated 30,000 Tamil civilians in the no fire zone this year. Today the government of Sri Lanka continues to incarcerate 300,000 Tamils, who have been herded into internment camps guarded by the Sinhalese military. The UN, INGOS and other relief organizations and journalists have been barred from free access to these internment camps. Those Tamils who live outside the camps hardly fare better in terms of their safety and well-being. The Jaffna Peninsula is an open prison camp. The Eastern part of the island, part of traditional habitation of Tamil-speaking people, is occupied territory. The South of the island is under the control of an anti-Tamil government, and the Tamils who live there are securitized, harassed and live in constant fear of violence. All Tamil civilians are being targeted solely on account of their Tamil ethnicity. Tamils are on the verge of being annihilated as a nation, a people and a community through deliberate killing and disappearance, forced assimilation, ethnic cleansing and colonization.
Not only is the very physical survival of Tamils in danger in the island of Sri Lanka, but Tamils also do not have any political space to articulate their legitimate political aspirations on the island.
Politicians who articulate the voices of their people are in grave danger of their life. Three Tamil Members of Parliament have been killed since Pres. Rajapakse was elected in 2005, more have fled the country and the ones who remain are very brave. In addition, because of the systematic colonization of Tamil areas, the gerrymandering of electoral districts, the large numbers who were driven from or fled the Tamil areas because of violence and the lack of new voter registration, Tamil representation has decreased substantially in the legislature since independence. Moreover, the electoral process in the island of Sri Lanka is entrenched with pervasive racism and has resulted in further marginalization and oppression of Tamil people at each and every election as acknowledged by academics. Consequently the Tamils are denied effective participation in the political process of the island.
A symptom of this lack of political space is the 1983 Sixth Amendment which prohibits even discussion of a separate state in violation of freedom of speech. The physical insecurity of Tamils is embodied in the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act which has been described as “an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilized country” by the International Commission of Jurists, and in the Emergency laws that have allowed hundreds of thousands of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and rape of Tamils with total impunity by the perpetrators. There is no political space for the full articulation of Tamil political aspirations within the constraints of the Sri Lankan state’s constitutional structure, and, with the lack of personal security for Tamils within the island, the Tamils’ political campaign for their rights can be pursued only from outside the island.
We, the people of Tamil Eelam and its Diaspora, therefore, firmly believe that the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam is imperative. It is a well accepted proposition in international law that the legal claim to establish a government in exile arises the more readily when the exclusion of its political leaders is achieved through acts contrary to principles of ius cogens, such as the unlawful use of force, abductions with a view to torture, genocide, war crimes, detention in internment camps or “open prisons,” the rape of women and the kidnapping of children.
In this connection, we, the people of Tamil Eelam and its Diaspora, propose to put together a committee for the Formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam. Our program and efforts in this regard are fundamentally democratic.
The Committee is given the task of structuring such a provisional government, with the view of
1. Uniting all Tamil entities and elements who subscribe to the fundamental tenets of Tamil political aspiration, namely the recognition of Tamil Nationhood, a Tamil homeland as recognized in the 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka Agreement, and the Tamils’ right to self-determination found in the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution, which was subsequently endorsed and mandated in the general election of 1977, the 1985 Thimpu Declaration and the 2003 Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals;
2. Working in partnership with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), considering that the political policies and aspirations articulated by the TNA at consecutive elections in 2001 and 2004 were strongly endorsed and, thereby mandated, by the Tamil people, and with any other Tamil political party or representatives of other parties that support and advocate for the realization of the Tamils’ right to self-determination.
3. Articulating positions for negotiations with the Sinhala nation;
4. Conducting voter registration among the Tamil Diaspora within various countries in collaboration with an internationally reputed firm in preparation for electing a constituent assembly to frame a Constitution and to vote at a referendum subject to international supervision with respect to a final resolution of the Tamil national question;
5. Establishing procedures for electing a Congress and an Executive;
6. Establishing direct links with foreign Governments and other international organizations;
7. Working for the social, economic and cultural well-being of the one million members of the Tamil Diaspora;
8. Building a political program with the participation of Muslim representatives, taking into account that the diversity of Tamil and Muslim regions has been used as a threat in the past against the realization of the Tamils’ right to self-determination;
9. Performing such other tasks as may be necessary to promote the interests of the Tamil people in the North East of the island of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora.
Given the urgent need to halt the ongoing genocide of Tamils on the island, the Committee is also given the task of liaising with international nongovernmental organizations and international organizations to ensure that Tamils’ physical survival is guaranteed; to stop the sexual violence against Tamil women; to stop the physical abuse of Tamil children by the Sri Lankan government’s mono-ethnic armed forces and ensure their speedy reunification with their families; to ensure the return of the 300,000 Tamils held in internment camps to their homes and to bring to justice those who have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Committee shall also liaise with organizations representing the global Tamil Diaspora from various parts of the world and, especially, the second generation, to realize its task.
Members of the Formation Committee consist of a core team and many subcommittees on a country and sector basis, and are now being recruited.
The Formation Committee is supported by an Advisory Committee of experts in various fields. Professor M. Sornarajah (UK), Professor Francis Boyle (USA), Professor P. Ramasamy (Malaysia), Professor Rev A.J.C Chandrakanthan (Canada), Professor Nadaraja Sriskandarajah (Sweden), Dr Murugar Gunasingham (Australia), Dr Sivanendran Seevanayagam (Australia), Dr A.L. Vasanthakumar (UK), Ms Karen Parker (USA), Dr N. Jeyalingam (USA), Mr Selva Sivarajah (Australia), Mr Paul Williams (Netherlands) and Professor Peter Schalk (Sweden) have agreed to function as Advisory Committee members.
We kindly request all committed individuals to come forward to work for the important task of the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.
The Formation Committee is expected to function until December 31, 2009. Upon completion of its term, the Committee is required to produce a report of its work. The Committee invites suggestions from the general public in the above matter. In this connection the Committee has setup an email address for the public to use – email@example.com
FROM THE MIGHT OF THE PEN
Written by: Dr Agoes Salim, an economist and first secretary-general of the National Unity Ministry. He is also the former chairman of Bank Pertanian. He was on the public service secretariat of the National Operations Council following the riots and helped draw up both the Rukun Negara and the NEP. Edited by The Mighty Pen website for this website’s use.
I think we are farther apart now than we were in 1969. But you have to remember that I grew up going to an English school, to a university where there were people of all races. At that time, although we did think in terms of race, it wasn’t in the way people do now. We felt that we were Malayans. We socialised much better than we do now. Bahasa Malaysia can be a unifying factor. But it can be a factor separating people, too. As Sukarno would say, “The important thing is the jiwa.”
In 1956, the historical society of Universiti Malaya went to India. There were lots of Indians in the group, but they didn’t think of themselves as Indians, they thought of themselves as Malayans. That’s the jiwa.
But later on, because of certain reactions, suddenly people stayed away from this jiwa — they don’t feel as though they are fully Malaysians. They are made to feel that way.
When I was in the service, there were lots of non-Malays in the civil service, holding good positions. But do you see them now? If you go to the universities, where are the non-Malay professors?
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Shots have been fired during a massive rally in Iran against last week’s presidential election results, with reports saying one person was killed.
Hundreds of thousands rallied to support candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, but a group of them was fired on from a militia base they had surrounded.
Mr Mousavi has lodged a legal appeal against the result but says he is not optimistic it will succeed.
US President Barack Obama has said he is “deeply troubled” by the violence.
On Monday evening, in his first public comments since the election results, he said that free speech and the democratic process must be respected in Iran
The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Tehran, says Monday’s rally was the biggest demonstration in the Islamic republic’s 30-year history and described it as a “political earthquake”.
Mr Mousavi says the vote was fixed – a claim President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies.
The government had outlawed any protest following two days of unrest, with the interior ministry warning that “any disrupter of public security would be dealt with according to the law”.
Despite this, correspondents said riot police had been watching the rally during the afternoon and had seemed to be taking no action.
The first indications of trouble came at about 2045 local time (1615 GMT), when the protesters were beginning to disperse from Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square shots.
“There has been sporadic shooting out there… I can see people running here,” Reuters quoted a reporter from Iran’s Press TV as saying.
“A number of people who are armed, I don’t know exactly who they are, but they have started to fire on people causing havoc in Azadi Square.”
A photographer at the scene told news agencies that security forces had killed one protester and seriously wounded several others. A man is said to have been arrested over the shooting.
He said the shooting began when the crowd attacked a compound used by a religious militia linked to the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.
Other sources told the BBC as many as six people might have died in the incident.
The AFP news agency reported that police fired tear gas and groups of protesters set motorbikes alight.
A BBC correspondent said there had also been gunfire in the north of the city – traditionally an anti-government stronghold – and that the security forces appeared to be hunting down protesters.
There was a large police presence on major streets of the city on Monday night, but evidence of few ordinary people, our correspondent added.
Earlier, the demonstrators had gathered in Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square, chanting pro-Mousavi slogans, before marching to Azadi Square.
“Mousavi we support you. We will die, but retrieve our votes,” they shouted, many wearing the green of Mousavi’s election campaign.
Fire on the streets of Tehran as mass protests continue
And Mr Mousavi eventually appeared, addressing the crowd from the roof of his car.
“The vote of the people is more important than Mousavi or any other person,” he told his supporters.
His wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a high-profile supporter of her husband’s campaign, later said they would keep up their protests. “We will stand until the end,” she told the AFP.
The renewed protests come after Mr Mousavi and fellow defeated candidate Mohsen Rezai filed official complaints against the election result with the Guardian Council – the country’s powerful clerical group.
State television reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has upheld the election result, urged the Guardian Council to “precisely consider” the complaints.
The 12-member council is due to meet Mr Mousavi and Mr Rezai on Tuesday.
Its head said the decision would be taken soon.
“I hope it will not take long that the noble people will see that the question has been examined in the best way and we will give the result to the people,” Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told state television on Monday.
But the Iranian leadership has put itself in an impossible position, our Tehran correspondent says.
He says that Ayatollah Khamenei has given his complete endorsement to the election result and to President Ahmadinejad, and by doing so he has put at risk the very foundations of the Islamic republic.
And Mr Mousavi’s website quoted him as telling crowds on Monday that he was “not very optimistic” about the judgment of the Guardian Council.
“Many of its members during the election were not impartial and supported the government candidate,” Mr Mousavi said.
Dozens of opposition activists have been arrested since the protests began, while internet sites appear to have been blocked and the media heavily restricted.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was following the situation closely.
“The position of me and the United Nations is that the genuine will of the Iranian people should be fully respected,” he told reporters.
EU foreign ministers expressed “serious concern” and called for an inquiry into the conduct of the election, while France and Germany each summoned their Iranian ambassadors to explain what was going on.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the use of “completely unacceptable” force against protesters and called for a “transparent evaluation of the election result”.
Groups of Ahmadinejad supporters gathered outside French and British embassies in Tehran, protesting against what they consider to be foreign interference in Iran’s affairs.
“We have gathered here to protest the hidden interference of the Brits and the world, who are trying to create chaos in our country,” one protester said.
The French government issued a statement saying they had told Iranian diplomats that security forces “must protect the French embassy”.
Among the countries congratulating Mr Ahmadinejad on his victory were Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and North Korea.
By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]
PKR officials are busy putting the final touches to Saturday’s special congress, where a raft of iconic reforms are due to be passed aimed at putting the party at the forefront of the country’s political league and strengthening its bid for national power along with its coalition partners.
A solid turnout is expected as delegates table motions that will give individual members direct voting rights to choose whom they want as their national leaders – from the party presidency, a post currently held by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, all the way down to the 20-member supreme council.
At division level, voting is already on a one-man one-vote system, but a resolution calling for the process to be further enhanced by secret balloting and indelible ink is also on the cards.
So too are a tenure limit to nine years or three terms for the party presidency and a landmark qualifying-age reduction for Youth members to 35 and below.
“All the resolutions are so major, no other party in Malaysia has ever had the will to do it before,” Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin told Suara Keadilan.
“For me, apart from the direct vote, it is the Youth qualifying-age that will really do things for PKR. It will not only transform the party but also propel politics in Malaysia into a new and younger dimension.
“I am 32 years old so I can tell you it will influence people in my age group to become active in politics. And by operation of process, the political landscape will change accordingly. How will it change? It will get younger as young Malaysia gets more and more empowered. They will finally get a chance to put through their ideas and govern using their own style.”
Women empowerment is also another big thing at the PKR-do tomorrow, which will kick off with dinner on Friday night.
A resolution putting women in charge of at least 30 percent of all party posts is another reform aimed to reflect the reality of the times and the gender’s contribution.
“This is something PKR is very serious about and what we are trying to do is to give shape to that wish. We don’t want to just pay lip service and then do nothing. Women are and will be a vital part of PKR,” said vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah.
But attracting the greatest buzz is of course the direct vote to be given to PKR’s 300,000-strong membership.
Not only will members get to personally vote in their choice of national leadership, they will get to do it in style – again by secret ballot and using indelible ink!
The first vote will take place in 2010 when party polls are due.
“We are very excited and proud because no other party in Malaysia has dared to leave the choice to their members,” Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang.
“Whether you like it or not, this actually shows the current leaders are institutionalizing the party. Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah are saying PKR is for the people, it is not our private sole-proprietorship!
“It is really a very generous gesture and will attract a lot of people into PKR. At the moment, many shun politics because it is viewed as corrupt and a game that only the rich and already-powerful can win. The others have no chance.
“But with this direct vote, the door is open. Meritocracy and popularity will be important. Everyone has a fighting chance if they wish to go for it. So I think we will see a huge jump in membership because of this.”
However, there were other members who wondered if the changes were overly bold and being taken too quickly.
“I am optimistic about the changes these resolutions will bring,” said Youth Chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin . “But maybe not all the motions will go through at one go. Some may hit a snag, but then this is truly what the democratic process is all about.”
“You must remember, we have delegates from all over including Sabah and Sarawak. They will be concerned about their representation in the party. Some thought must be given to that. So we may see heated debate but again, that is part of the process.”
Nevertheless, the majority view was to allow the system’s natural check-and-balance to correct and re-balance teething problems.
“It is like a child learning to walk. If you are too protective, he will only know how to crawl. But if you gauge the time is right and you are brave enough to let go, your child will surely walk even though he may fall down at first,” said Sim.
“So the same for PKR. There are critics who worry about corruption and vote-buying once it is open to all members. But this is so silly, the corruption will be grossly reduced. It is when you restrict it to a small number of delegates, then it is easy to buy out that small group.
“I am sure you know a good example of this type of corruption is Umno. Not only is it feasible to vote-buy all the way up to the Umno presidency but ultimately also the premiership of the country.”
By Wong Choon Mei
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR party is positioning itself for national power along with its Pakatan Rakyat partners by taking iconic steps aimed at showing Malaysians that it is serious about fighting corruption and providing a government that is truly by the people, and not just a clutchful of select leaders.
Nearly 2,000 PKR delegates from all parts of Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak will meet up in Kuala Lumpur this Saturday to debate key resolutions that if passed will put the party at the forefront of the country’s political league.
The chief among these will be a one-man one-vote system for the election of top party leaders. Not a light task considering that PKR has more than 300,000 members, and new recruits growing at 10,000 per month.
“We will be the first in Malaysia to implement this and rightly so because PKR stands for justice and democracy,” vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah told Suara Keadilan in an interview.
“It is indeed fitting for us to flag off this practice which hopefully the other political parties will follow and adopt. It paves the way for a stronger, healthier and more transparent Malaysia.”
PKR is also planning to limit to three terms or nine years the tenure of the party presidency. It wants to expand the number of vice presidents from five to seven and reduce the qualifying age of the Youth Wing to 35.
The congress will also seek an express commitment from the party that women shall hold not less than 30 percent of all positions.
Said strategic affairs director Tian Chua: “These are giant steps forward for PKR. They will enable us to become a truly people’s party entrenched with progressive and democratic values. It will also enable us to expand and reach out to the masses more effectively.
Party members welcomed the changes, describing them as broad-based reforms aimed at strengthening the party and its future rather than to uphold the power of the current leadership.
Reducing the tenure of the presidency would head off potential abuse of power and ensure that those who got elected did not waste time getting down to work if they wanted to make a mark on both party and the country.
“All of these measures were initially drawn up last year around November,” said Sivarasa, who is also the Subang MP.
“What we have been doing since is to gather the feedback, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s. It is not out of the blue, it requires huge preparation and we are not following Umno. We are trail-blazing, they are following us.”
According to Sivarasa, increasing the number of vice presidencies was a top necessity to reduce the workload on the current team and ensure tighter administration.
“We are growing so fast, five VPs is not at all enough. Just last week, the supreme council approved 10,000 new members and the week before it was the same number. Growth is phenomenal,” Sivarasa said.
Engaging and empowering young Malaysia
Cutting the maximum age for the Youth wing to 35 would also motivate young professionals to join and be active in PKR.
“We need to empower the younger people, to engage them in the decision-making process. That way we can ensure a very vibrant PKR, full of young ideas and vision that is in sync with the rest of the nation,” said 32-year old Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin.
“We don’t want our Youth wing to be like Umno’s where old hags like Khir Toyo and Mukhriz Mahathir dominate. This is a pretty exciting change for PKR and it speaks volumes about how serious it is in wanting to engage young Malaysia. Power is for all, not just the old and the privileged.”
The party is also bent on getting women to be more active although party members acknowledge that it might currently be tough to achieve the target of at least 30 percent women in party posts.
“At the moment, it is still male-dominated, but we hope this will change quickly especially with the commitment from the party,” said Sim.
PKR currently has a president, Wan Azizah Wan ismail, a deputy president, Syed Husin Ali, five vice presidents Azmin Ali, Sivarasa Rasiah, Lee Boon Chye, Jeffrey Kitingan and Mustaffa Kamil Ayub, and a 20-member supreme council.
A rebranding exercise will also be take place, with the supreme council renamed the central executive committee and the state liasion committees the state executive committees.
The polling process for division leaders, who currently are already elected by individual members, will be enhanced by secret balloting. This will replace the existing show-of-hands system.
“All these are to encourages greater participation in the party’s activities and decision-making. We are a party of the people and it only right that we put in steps to ensure that they can play an effective role,” said Tian.
“The last thing we want is to be like Umno where only 2,500 delegates get to make the decision for the grassroots and the country as a whole. Just imagine the corruption involved. It is an outright abuse and mockery of the democratic system.”