Rompin by-election spotlights Felda swing - review of Malaysiakini news and other media

A very useful micro analysis of the Rompin by-election by Malaysiakini on the Felda swing against UMNO-BN and a possible Chinese voter swing back on hudud (newslinks below). Malaysian Insider offers a more macro perspective viewpoint, with some focus on Najib's leadership issues* and some introspection by UMNO-BN leaders on "lessons" from Rompin.
*"PM's approval rating slips to 44%" here and perhaps fortunately a lack of traction of 1MDB crisis outside of various urban circles; "Majority of voters lack awareness and comprehension of 1MDB controversy"

Malaysiakini seems to have the most useful coverage (please do click on the links go to their website to read in full). I'll add more from other sources soon. But clearly, the focus is immediately on Permatang Pauh by-election (today, 7 May 2015) to see if the trends in Rompin carry over there too. Blog link: PR opposition coalition (update 18): All eyes on Permatang Pauh by-election today; a pro-ulama hudud scuffle; /khoryuleng/2015/01/malay-unity-and-pakatan-rakyan.html
Malaysia rural and semi-urban votes are important to keep an eye on after the 2013 general election decisive urban swing against the UMNO-Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.
Teaser on new Felda settler socio-economic study I'm involved with here (due for release in a few months):
Two political-economy pieces on Felda and electoral politics are just out.
The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes – UMNO Strengthens Its Malay Rural Fortress in 13th General Election by Khor Yu Leng. My article has just been published in Kajian Malaysia. Download via this link: /khoryuleng/2014/11/the-political-tussle-over-felda-land.html
Also, it is carried in a chapter in ISEAS book just published (picture left). Coalitions in Collision: Malaysia's 13th General Elections by Johan Saravanamuttu, Lee Hock Guan, Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, editors. Date of publication: 2015 Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies / Strategic Information and Research Development Centre No. of pages: 309
Chapters on rural politics and Felda are....
5. The Political Economy of FELDA Seats: UMNO's Malay Rural Fortress in GE13, by Khor Yu Leng, author
6. Fragmented but Captured: Malay Voters and the FELDA Factor in GE13, by Maznah Mohamad, author

Perkasa chief (often associated with Mahathir) also in attack mode

Rompin, Permatang Pauh show Umno near its end, Perkasa claims BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID Friday May 8, 201506:01 PM GMT+8; KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — The drastic drop in Umno’s votes during the Rompin and Permatang Pauh by-elections signal that the Malay community is starting to reject the party seen to represent only the rich, Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali said today. The former Umno leader said Perkasa’s observations in the two by-elections found that discontent towards the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was the main reason behind Umno’s decline in support, adding that it also found the party’s machinery to be weak and powerless when dealing with the issue. “In Rompin the main issue was GST and the [Felda Global Venture] scandal. In Permatang Pauh it was also GST and other issues like 1MDB, the money spent on the jet and the prime minister’s wife. “What was the gist of Umno’s campaign? They played on the division of the opposition, an issue that is ineffective because why? Because people are more concerned about the cost of living... people are squeezed economically,” Ibrahim told a press conference at Perkasa’s main office here. The former Pasir Mas federal lawmaker said to this was exacerbated by lack of capable speakers and activists among Umno’s election machinery who could connect with the voters. Ibrahim alleged the problem was symptomatic of Umno’s condition now, a party bereft of capable and hardworking leaders and headed by a pampered lot only comfortable working in air-conditioned rooms rather than going down to the ground. ...

Sin Chew - news links

Messages behind the Rompin results   2015-05-07 14:51  By LIM MUN FAH  Translated by DOMINIC LOH  Sin Chew Daily; If the by-elections in Rompin and Permatang Pauh are, like analysts say, a kind of referendum for Najib, then the results for Rompin by-election should come as more of a concern than reassurance. Rompin is a fight that is not going to deliver much surprise. Indeed, the BN candidate won as many had anticipated. The question lies with the percentage of votes won and how the Malay and Chinese voters had voted, and which between GST and hudud had bigger impact on the final outcome Umno's Hasan Arifin won with a slashed majority of 8,895 votes, sharply down by 6,219 votes compared to the impressive majority of 15,114 votes during GE13......
Compared to May 2013, the percentage of votes won by the BN candidate this time has slid from 66.8% to 61.5%. On the contrary, PAS' percentage went up by a remarkable 5.3%, from 33.2% to 38.5%. This is what caused the dramatic drop of BN's votes by 6,219 votes while PAS' votes only fell marginally by 25 votes.......There are three things that we need to mention here. Firstly, of all the 38 polling stations, PAS won in five, against one only in GE13, which is a major improvement. Secondly, the votes garnered by PAS candidate at channels 3 and 4, mostly from younger voters, increased noticeably. Thirdly, the hudud law issue did not seem to affect the party's support rate among Malay voters. In its stead, Umno seemed to have paid a bigger price from the GST impact.
As we all know, rural areas and Felda settlements are traditionally Umno's stronghold. Although Umno has managed to retain this traditional stronghold, the significantly reduced majority and percentage of votes are not a good sign for the party. Could this be the start of Umno and BN losing their rural constituency advantage? Could Mahathir's verbal attacks on PM Najib be another factor that eroded BN's advantage in Rompin in addition to the GST issue? And will Mahathir bank on this situation to further exert pressure on the PM, thus deepening the crisis of existing Umno leadership?...... Of course, BN has also made some gains in the form of returning Chinese votes, showing that Chinese Malaysians are indeed resistant to PAS and its hudud advocacy. This nevertheless should not be a cause for relief for both MCA and Gerakan, for in polling stations with about 15% of Chinese voters, BN still performed badly at channels 3 and 4 made up mainly of younger and middle-age voters....... In short, the Rompin results do not give the PM much credit but will sink him to deeper dilemma. The results of the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election is yet another major test awaiting him. Even if BN is not able to wrest the seat from PKR, at least it must trim some of its majority votes. This is the least that could be required of the PM, and should serve as an important basis for him to cling on to power.......

Malaysian Insider - news links

Najib factor not cause of lower Rompin majority, says BN BY EILEEN NG Published: 7 May 2015 9:00 AM; Leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition have disputed views that a reduced majority at the recent Rompin by-election was a sign of voters' cooling response towards Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership. Instead, issues like the goods and services tax (GST), a complacent election machinery and gloomy sentiments over falling palm oil prices could have contributed to its diminished performance, said BN leaders from both Malay ruling party Umno and senior Chinese partner MCA who played down the Najib factor. The most important thing, they said, was that BN retained the federal seat despite efforts by the opposition..... Umno's Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the party's machinery in Rompin and voter apathy were contributing factors to the lower majority. "The PAS candidate managed to get almost the same votes as compared with the last GE. So their support is still strong. "But Rompin Umno machinery's commitment is questionable because they did not manage to increase the level of turnout and votes despite it being a by-election and the huge resources spent. "The slimmer majority could be narrowed further in the next GE if Rompin Umno remains complacent in a 85% Malay majority seat," Nur Jazlan said in a WhatsApp message to The Malaysian Insider. Kuantan MCA division chief Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker also dismissed the Najib factor, or lack of it, since the BN's campaign did not feature posters of the prime minister nor his presence much, despite Pahang being his own state. Najib's Pekan constituency is in Pahang. "Najib's presence was never in Rompin all along, it was more associated with JJ," he said in referring to the late Rompin MP Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis's moniker. He attributed the lower turnout to a "silent protest" against the GST and the slump in palm oil prices, as many of electorate in the rural constituency were Felda settlers, a scheme to help the poor plant cash crops like oil palm. He said this proved that people are becoming more issue-centric and playing up racial and religious sentiments did not drive the electorate to vote for either BN or Umno. "Of late, we can see political posturing where Umno and PAS are trying to outdo each other but it is not winning them any votes. "It is time for BN to take stock of this signal. There are issues that need to be resolved and resorting to racial and religious political antics does not work any more," Ti said....
.....But analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan said that while the GST and financial scandals involving state investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) were some of the factors at play, he felt that Najib's lacklustre leadership was a reason for BN winning only 61% of total votes cast. In contrast, in the 13th general election two years ago, BN won 30,040 out of a total of 45,849 votes or 66% of the total votes. Rompin was a typical BN stronghold of mostly rural voters. "The slashing of the majority at this scale indicates there are more than local issues involved here. It boiled down to issues surrounding Najib's leadership. "The way I see it, voters are reacting to how they see Najib – incapable of moving the country forward – and they are translating this by not turning up to vote," Wan Saiful told The Malaysian Insider, adding that voting on a weekday could have affected turnout as well....But former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said there was no point in pointing fingers as at the end of the day, what was important was that BN won at a still comfortable majority.
The former international trade and industry minister said BN could be returned stronger if Putrajaya improved on its governance, initiatives and communication with the public, especially on issues like 1MDB. – May 7, 2015

Malaysiakini - news links

BN keeps Rompin, majority slashed by 40pct by Malaysiakini; BN has won the Rompin by-election with a significantly reduced majority, which could be a result of anger due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). At about 10.15pm, the Election Commission (EC) announced that BN's Hasan Arifin had won the polls by a 8,895 majority - a dramatic drop of 40.8 percent compared to its majority two years ago at the 2013 general election. Hasan, a former Pahang deputy menteri besar had polled 23,796 while PAS's Nazri Ahmad had garnered 14,901 votes.
At a glance, the number of votes for BN had dropped by 20.8 percent - from 30,040 in 2013 to 23,796, while the number of votes for PAS was almost at status quo. However, it must be stressed that there is a lower turnout (39,288) for this by-election. The turnout was 45,849 in 2013.

Beyond GST and hudud, a Felda revolt in Rompin By Nigel Aw
ANALYSIS The Goods and Services Tax (GST) and hudud may have been the dominating issues during the Rompin by-election campaign but a crucial factor that appeared to have been overlooked was a brewing revolt by Felda settlers..... While BN's share of votes was reduced in most Malay majority areas, likely due to resentment against the GST, the swing against the ruling coalition was significantly higher in Felda settlements.... For example, according to polling district data, areas such as Muadzam Shah (96 percent Malay), Sungai Puteri (85 percent Malay), Kota Bahagia (86 percent Malay) and Sarang Tiong (90 percent Malay) saw an average swing of between three to six percent against BN. However, the data showed that the figure almost doubles in Felda polling districts with several seeing swings of almost 10 percent against BN..... While PAS campaigned heavily on GST in towns and villages, Felda issues was its trump card. The party's candidate, Nazri Ahmad himself is a descendent of a Felda Keratong settler..... PAS central committee member Mazlan Aliman, who leads the NGO National Felda Settlers' Children Association, said the revolt was already anticipated during his campaign. Mazlan (photo) said that unlike previous by-elections where Felda were considered near impenetrable BN strongholds, settlers were receptive and turned up at their ceramahs. Felda settlements have traditionally been difficult to reach by the opposition due to its often isolated locations and self-subsistence thanks to dedicated facilities built by the government. "If we were to compare to the 13th general election, at that time, Felda Global Ventures (FGV) was only just listed and settlers received a windfall of up to RM15,000 so BN won big. "But since then, FGV shares have fallen and our warnings about how Felda settlers will face hardship turned into a reality," he told Malaysiakini.... During the general election, FGV shares which were distributed to settlers was worth around RM4.60 each. The share closed at RM2.09 today. Voting data suggests that the youth vote swing was more than 10 percent, while there was also noticeable swing among the elderly voters, which have traditionally been staunch BN supporters..... Pending lawsuits against Felda. Mazlan pointed out that the Felda Keratong cluster has been a focus for PAS, which have been assisting some 700 settlers with their lawsuits against Felda. The settlers are suing Felda for allegedly cheating them by purchasing their oil palm fruits at a lower price than what they are worth in the market. "Seven hundred settlers is a significant number and when they are angry at Felda, they are also angry at the government as Felda is a federal agency," he said.... He added the discontent in Felda was further aggravated by the fall on commodity prices which has made life difficult for them.... Putrajaya's announcement during the by-election that it was offering houses to the descendents of Felda settlers for merely RM90,000 instead of the initial price of RM125,000 did little to placate this anger.
When the by-election was finally over, BN lost two Felda polling districts to PAS namely Felda Keratong 2 and Felda Keratong 4. In contrast, PAS only succeeded in winning a single polling district during the last general election, namely Bandar Baru Rompin due to anti-government sentiment among Chinese voters..... Even Felda Keratong 9, which saw the smallest shift against BN among the settlements, had a vote swing of 5.6 percent while other settlements in the Keratong cluster are Felda Keratong 1 (8.7 percent), Felda Keratong 2 (6.3 percent) and Felda Keratong 8 (6.8 percent)..... The anti-GST sentiment also helped PAS snap up other polling districts such as the fairly developed township of Muadzam Shah and Pianggu.... The polling districts of Pianggu and Leban Chondong were outliers with the former swinging heavily against BN, at 13.2 percent while the later swung 12.3 percent in favour of BN. It should be noted that both polling districts were affected by the massive flood last year and local factors such as how well reconstruction efforts went could have influenced voters...... Chinese voters backed BN. Even though PAS bagged several new polling districts, it lost Bandar Baru Rompin, possibly due to the party playing the hudud card towards the tail end of the campaign. The polling district, which comprise 81 percent Malays and 14 percent Chinese, swung 4.4 percent in favour of BN.... But PAS vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who led the party's machinery in the Rompin by-election said GST was a bigger factor compared to hudud. "GST was a major factor as it was PAS' slogan that a vote for it is a vote against GST. This was why youths rejected Umno. "Hudud was not a major factor as PAS did not use it as a campaign issue, it was only used minimally," he told Malaysiakini when contacted.... BN may attribute its reduced majority to the low turnout of 73 percent compared to 85.5 percent in the last general election, the fact remains BN lost several polling districts to PAS and its share of votes fell.
Umno vice president Hishammuddin yesterday appeared to acknowledge this, stating that the government needed to take cognisance of the by-election outcome.....
Consider Rompin's message, says Hisham By Adrian Wong 11:56PM May 5, 2015
Were Rompin voters trying to send Putrajaya and BN a message? Possibly, said Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Husein. "Like what Pahang menteri besar Adnan Yakoob said earlier, the results that we see here, maybe there are some things the government needs to take into consideration.
"But what is important is that we won," he told reporters after the Rompin by-election results were announced..... He was responding to a question on whether issues raised by PAS, particularly the implementation of the unpopular goods and services tax (GST), had an effect on the polls.
Earlier, Adnan told reporters that the lower turnout was a result of a long holiday over the weekend and thus many voters had left before polling day.... "We also understand that people are sending certain messages to the government - both state and federal - we will take note of these (messages)," he said. Asked if he was referring to GST, Adnan (photo) said both GST and Felda issues had caused some resentment among voters. "We wil; have to deal with these issues. Hopefully, the federal government can do sometime about it," he said.... On whether PAS' aggressive push for the implementation of hudud law worked to its advantage, Adnan said that it was a non-factor.
........In 2013, incumbent Jamaluddin Jarjis polled 30,040 votes while BN's candidate Hasan Arifin polled only 23,796 - a 20.8 percent drop. However, the number of votes for PAS was almost unchanged at 14,901 votes. ...Meanwhile, Bernama reported that PAS has cited the lower voter turnout as a contributing factor for its defeat. Pahang PAS commissioner Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the drop of 13 percent in the turnout as compared to the 13th general election two years ago had somewhat impacted the number of votes its candidate obtained. ........Nazri said although PAS lost in Felda Keratong 5, his home base by just 13 votes, overall the party had increased its votes from the younger generation of voters. "God willing, we will do better in the 14th general election," said,  Nazri, who is also Pahang PAS Youth chief.....

Comments posted in Malaysiakini - most likely reflective of a segment of urban centric views
Hisham, message from Rompin is clear By Yoursay 8:00AM May 7, 2015
  • The Observer: Putting it simply, the 20 percent reduction of votes for BN should have guaranteed its loss in GE14 if what was required was a five percent swing. The important thing is not that BN won, but that voters on both sides have spoken. Voters who were disappointed with PAS on the hudud issue have swung over to the BN. However that was not enough to offset an even bigger swing away from BN because of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issues, etc.
  • Haveagreatday: Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, it shall be a miracle if Umnoputeras do indeed heed the message of the Rompin voters. GE13 message was loud and clear but you folks chose to hide your heads in the mud.
  • Jbsuara: The message is clear. Umno-BN bulldozed GST and implemented it against the wishes of the rakyat, and worse, the implementation was so flawed that what was obviously a 'double' taxation is done to the detriment of traders and citizens. 
  • ZhuGeLiang: All these negativities about Najib's leadership have been proven wrong by the voters of Rompin. The facts speak for themselves. BN won the by-election. There is no point arguing about it. Period.......

Umno and PAS both losers in Rompin By Yoursay
  • Jiminy Qrikert: Rompin is Malay heartland and the Malays are sending a very clear message to their leaders on both sides of the divide. This result is alarm bells for Malay hegemony. A good 7,000 Malays abandoned Umno as a protest against the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Their message - don't make my life any harder than it already is. PAS retained its support. It did not gain any new voters. The message to PAS - hudud cannot feed them. PAS will always be a ‘jaguh kampung’ (village champion). They will keep their traditional support base, but all others will fall away. That means the non-Malays will definitely abandon PAS. New young voters will not vote for PAS. And PAS will not attract the Umno supporters who abandon Umno in protest against GST.
  • I Wonder?: What a pity! If only PAS abandoned the hudud issue and has chosen the moderate path, it could have won this by-election. The rakyat is in dilemma as they are sandwiched between two evils. One is the corrupted Umno that created the GST that sucks the rakyat's blood slowly, and the other the fanatical ulama in PAS who insisted on hudud that will turn this country into an Islamic state. Both GST and hudud are bad. But hudud is worse as even many Muslims are rejecting it and consider it inhumane, barbaric, out of date and not realistic in this modern world. 
  • CQ Muar: This was what I had wished for and predicted - that BN will win, but with a much reduced majority of less than 10,000 votes.....

Interview (1/3): Wong Chen on anti-terrorism, sedition, bloc voting, missing MPs and more (Part 1 of 3)

 Q&A with Wong Chen, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, 11 April 2015. On Malaysian Parliament, 9 March – 9 April 2015 session - anti-terrorism, sedition, bloc voting, missing MPs and more (Part 1).

Q. What were the important events at the recently completed Parliamentary sitting?
The two biggest events were the tabling of the Prevention of Terrorism (POTA) bill and the amendments to the Sedition Act. There were 13 legislations presented for this sitting, 7 of which were related to POTA. POTA is a new legislation, so other existing legislations relating to criminal justice needed to be amended to sync with POTA. The 7 related bills included matters concerning criminal procedure, penal code and evidence.
POTA has provisions for detention without trial (renewable every two years) for an indefinite period. The amendments to the Sedition Act were intended to give extensive powers to the police and widen the definition of "seditious tendencies". If passed, these two bills will erode the rakyat’s already fragile and limited rights. Many worry that this points to the Najib administration becoming more authoritarian and less tolerant of criticisms.
Q. What do you mean if passed? Aren’t these laws passed after the two 12 hour sessions in Parliament?
Before a bill becomes an act there are two further stages. After Dewan Rakyat (the lower chamber of Parliament), a bill needs to go to the upper house or Dewan Negara. After that it needs the Agong's (ruler, the head of state) signature.
The upper house is majority controlled by the Najib’s appointees and if the ruler refuses to sign, it will become law irrespective after one month.
In terms of expected timing, these bills will become law within the month of April. Our fear is that these legislations may be used against the people for the May Day rally. It may even be used against Dr.Mahathir to stop his increasingly brazen questions about Najib.
Q. Can you highlight how these legislations were debated in Parliament? What did you do?
Since November last year, when UMNO-BN introduced the White Paper against ISIS, we knew that a legislation against terrorism will be prepared. However, not a single person from Pakatan Rakyat or the Bar Council was consulted on the drafting of the anti-terrorism bill. So, two weeks before the start of the recently concluded Parliament session, I asked my two researchers to start looking at the anti-terrorism legislations of Australia and the UK. They researched a pile of data and policy points. At the start, none of the MPs seemed interested except for Raja Bahrin of PAS.
On the first day of the Parliament session, I had breakfast with Raja Bahrin, MP for Kuala Terengganu. We usually breakfast together. There is only a handful of MPs that get to Parliament before 9.30 am. We talked about POTA and decided to do a few press conferences to alert the public. We started by alerting the public that MPs had yet to receive the draft bill.
The bill was finally put on table a week before debate. Since I was assigned by PKR to analyze the bill, my researchers worked harder crafting arguments for MPs to use. I also worked with Ooi Heng (the parliamentary researcher for PKR) and he arranged for a special briefing by the Bar Council, open to all Members of Parliament. Despite the open invitation, only Pakatan Rakyat MPs attended.
Around 20 MPs attended the briefing, which I co-chaired.
Thereafter, I called for a meeting of Pakatan MPs to attend a drafting session to put our alternative amendments to POTA. That was on Saturday 4 April 2015 in the PKR HQ. The YBs that attended the drafting were Sim Tze Tzin (PKR - Bayan Baru), William Leong (PKR-Selayang), Manivanan Gowin (PKR – Kapar), Hanipa Maidin (PAS –Sepang), Lim Lip Eng (DAP Segambut) and myself. My two researchers and Shao Loong of Institut Rakyat (the PKR think tank) also attended. I chaired and presented suggested amendments, William Leong and Hanipa gave a lot of feedback.
Saturday 4 April 2015 meeting on POTA bill (photo: Wong Chen)

YB Sim Tze Tzin then drafted and faxed our amendments to the Parliamentary secretariat. He has experience with such amendments. Our amendments were a tactical move to slow down proceedings and also force our version to be debated. We were hoping to slow down proceedings so to buy time for our MPs to try to “turn” some BN backbenchers. By submitting written amendments, BN backbenchers could then read our proposals and duly consider the issues. Throwing oral arguments across the floor will have limited impact compared to presenting a written document. We hoped some would support it instead of the Najib administration’s bill.
Q. So what did you propose?
We are not soft on terrorism. We wanted a law that balances the need to protect citizens from terrorism and at the same time upholds rule of law and justice.
So we looked at the UK and Australian models. They have been actual targets of terrorist attacks. They are on constant high alert. Yet their laws are grounded. In the interest of fighting terrorism, they forgo minimal civil liberties and adopted a pre-trial detention system. Their authorities have powers to detain a suspect. However the maximum detention time is only up to 14 days. Thereafter, they must either set him free or charge him in court. UK and Australia are prime targets of terrorist attacks, yet their MPs saw the need to protect democracy and find a practical solution to security threats.
We liked what UK and Australia did. Tough on terrorism but without sacrificing a whole lot of civil liberties. So we basically adopted their laws in our counter-proposal to Najib’s version. We proposed a similar 14 days pre-trial detention. In truth, I would have even gone beyond 14 days to 28 days, if BN had counter-proposed, which they didn’t. Anything would have been better than indefinite detention without trial.

Pakatan Rakyat’s amendments submitted for the POTA bill (photo: Wong Chen)

Q. What’s in Najib’s POTA bill?
The Najib administration proposed a system of detention without trial. POTA also allows normally inadmissible evidence, to be admissible. What does that mean? Hearsay or illegal confessions (however obtained) will be admissible in POTA. POTA also states that there will be no judicial review, whatsoever. Habeas corpus will not be allowed.
POTA has a Prevention of Terrorism Board, the bulk of the members do not have any pre-qualification requirements. The Chairman needs only 15 years experience in the legal field to qualify. This means that a banking lawyer of 15 years can lead the POTA Board! We asked for the Chairman to be at least a High Court Judge with experience in the criminal division. Our request was rejected. 
The Board also has powers to make up any rules or procedures whenever they like. There is also no oversight by Parliament, POTA only answers to the Home Minister and ultimately the Prime Minister who appointed him. But the biggest threat is the matter of indefinite detention without trial.
When a suspect is arrested under POTA, he may be detained for a period of two years, renewable every two years for an indefinite period. This is basically ISA 2.0. We took the stand that this system would ultimately create more terrorists because you cannot fight terrorism by smashing the rule of law.
For instance, what if the Najib administration catches a misguided 18-year old who supports ISIS? They could detain him and deny him his basic rights to a trial. Give him no access to a lawyer, no access to his family. He will simply disappear. When the authorities eventually release him, he may have become so angry and filled with hatred that he might just become a terrorist. When a man is denied justice or a fair trial, he might fight his oppressors harder.
We looked at history, how unfair detentions in Northern Ireland had in fact created more sympathizers and IRA fighters. The same too in the recent Egyptian crackdown on the Islamic Brotherhood. Our greatest fear is that POTA may end up creating more terrorists.
Q. But isn’t this about existing terrorists?
No, POTA is extremely wide ranging. It isn’t just restricted to containing terrorists who carry guns and bombs. Terrorist activities are given such a wide definition that it will include people who “support” terrorist groups. Support is such a vague term, and certain parts of the bill has wordings that refers to financial contribution and purchase of merchandise as terrorist activities. Thus, that categorizes someone who buys or sells ISIS t-shirts or ISIS flags as a terrorist too.
Several PAS MPs alerted me that the US treats Hamas as a terrorist organisation. In Malaysia, Hamas is accepted by many Muslims as an organization that tries to help Palestinians. Every Friday prayers, right across Malaysia, thousands of people donate to Islamic charities, which direct these donations toward the rebuilding of Palestine. What happens if Malaysia follows the US stance and declares Hamas a terrorist organisation? Combine this with such a wide definition under POTA, many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Malaysian Muslims may be regarded as terrorists. Why create a law that makes thousands vulnerable to potential arrest and detention without trial? Some ask if this is intended to instill fear. History teaches us that a government that rules by fear will not be a government for long.
When my researchers dug deeper, we also discovered that not only some Muslims may be targeted, but some Tamils are also potential targets. The Tamil Tigers are currently classified as a terrorist group under Malaysian laws. The Tamil Tigers are very popular amongst the Tamil population in Malaysia. So with POTA, wearing a Tamil Tiger t-shirt will categorize you as a terrorist.

As I said earlier, if POTA is used against such supporters - putting them in detention without trial, and depriving them of legal rights under POTA - they may emerge hardened in terrorism. But if you give them a fair trial together with rehabilitation efforts, you stand a much better chance to return them to normalcy. 

An exclusive interview with Wong Chen, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, 11 April 2015.

This is Part 1 of 3.

Next, read Part 2 - Interview (2/3): Wong Chen on anti-terrorism, sedition, bloc voting, missing MPs and more (Part 2 of 3) /khoryuleng/2015/04/interview-wong-chen-on-anti-terrorism_14.html
  • Was the POTA legislation rushed? What's with the 12 hour debate until the wee hours?
  • Were any BN MPs concerned about the POTA provisions?
  • Do opposition MPs ever vote to support UMNO-BN legislation?
  • So what about the Sedition Act - what are issues with this piece of legislation?
  • Some people ask if this the end of democracy in Malaysia (such as it is)? What do you say?
Read Part 3 here, /khoryuleng/2015/04/interview-33-wong-chen-on-anti.html:
  • People are angry with opposition MPs who did not turn up for the vote. What is your opinion on this?
  • Were they properly alerted to these crucial matters (POTA and Sedition Act amendment), so they could come back to vote?
  • But why not rush back? Why even be outstation or overseas in the first place? The POTA bill were on your desks a week beforehand. Don’t all MPs plan to be at all the Parliamentary sittings? How many days do you have each year for this?
  • Your observation – what are typical reasons for being missing from their seat in Parliament (other than being sick)?
  • You clearly have no answer for your missing brethren. OK, so, how can the opposition ever defeat a contentious UMNO/BN bill?
  • What other important bills were there in this sitting?
  • It’s been a long interview, any last words?

Khor Yu Leng has researched and written about the political economy of Felda and Johor-Iskandar and voting outcomes in GE13 (with a focus on rural voting behaviours). Some highlights here: /khoryuleng/2014/04/malaysia-political-economy-of-felda-and.html. These works were published in Kajian Malaysia / Journal of Malaysian Studies in 2014 and a book by ISEAS in 2015. She was Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in 2013. She is married to Wong Chen.