Friday, September 7, 2007

Gerakan Leader Speaks

Rediscovering our vision
Regina William
Gerakan acting president and Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon has recently urged the revival of the Rukun Negara in its totality to include the five visions, forgotten over time. The principles of the Rukun Negara were formulated in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 race riots to foster the visions of unity, democracy, justice, liberalisation and progress. Koh speaks to Regina William about the importance of going back to the basics in light of recent developments in the country.
theSun: Why do you think the five visions are important?

Koh: Because they are the visions behind the Rukun Negara - visions we want to achieve. These visions are achieved through the principles of the Rukun Negara.

I have realised this for quite a while and actually voiced it to the information minister, and that is why I must thank him for coming up with this booklet with the full version of the Rukun Negara.

The five visions are to achieve greater unity, maintain a democratic way of life, create a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared, ensure a liberal approach to our rich and diverse cultural traditions, and build a progressive society.

But what has been happening is that we have shortened the Rukun Negara for the purpose of reciting at school assemblies, to say that we will focus our energy and efforts to achieve the above visions through the stated principles. And that is how we start the Rukun Negara, no one ever asks what the cita-cita (aspirations) mean. We have been memorising and reciting them without asking what the visions behind the principles are.

I actually voiced my concerns a couple of times, but they were not picked up. So this time, we decided to do it right, to actually specify the visions, because it is the five visions that really reflect the spirit of the Constitution that is the foundation of this country. The visions give the premise for Vision 2020, even way back in 1970.

This was the result of consultation and consensus at that time under the National Consultative Council and it incorporated the views of all groups, including even the Opposition, at that time.

Why has there not been an emphasis on the visions before?

I think because of convenience, we emphasised on just the principles, but the principles without the visions in my opinion is incomplete. Not many Malaysians are even aware of the visions. Everyone grew up reciting only the principles.

Almost everyone memorised the five principles, but without the visions, we cannot practise the principles. What is the purpose of the principles? They are a means to an end, the visions being the end. Cita-cita means aspirations and visions. Although there is again a bit of problem with meaning, semantics and all that - aspirations and visions can be the same - but it is here (waves Rukun Negara booklet).

We had it on the back of exercise books when it was first introduced - the complete version - but later when we wanted to put it up on walls, it was easier to put up just the principles, which are important, no doubt, but incomplete. I think that it is as a result of our emphasis on just the principles, that we are not achieving the visions.

Is Gerakan bringing this up now owing to sentiments on the ground or because the party feels strongly about it?

Both. We have felt strongly about it and in fact we have tried a few times over the last few years to publicise it among our members, but more importantly, we feel that right now it is important for any group of humans to continually renew, re-emphasise and reinforce the very basic foundation of our relationships.

It applies to any grouping, more so to a nation, and a nation of multi-ethnic, multi-religious composition. And partly also because there have been instances, not just now, but periodically in our history, when sentiments have tended to overwhelm rationality, and negative ethnic sentiments tended to overwhelm positive nationalism and compassion.

In any relationship - I always like to bring out family relationships - sometimes this happens. So it is important for all the family to say "let's go back to the basics". And that is what I mean, go back to basics and reinforce this.

Has memorising the principles made any difference?

Memorising by rote would not help. We should move beyond memorising. As in any system of knowledge, we should look at how to internalise it, and more importantly, how to practise it in our day-to-day dealings with one another as Malaysians.

What do you think will come out of emphasising the visions now?

I am talking about reviving the consciousness of and commitment to the five visions or objectives. I emphasise the Rukun Negara because in a very short and simple but highly significant manner, it summarises the spirit of the Federal Constitution and the objectives and foundation of the nation. Of course the basic document we should refer to is the Constitution, but the Constitution is a huge legal document which may not be as easily understood.

How does Gerakan propose people grasp and understand the visions set forth in the Rukun Negara?

First, we need to reprint it in large numbers, and I urge every Malaysian to read through the declaration in terms of the visions and the principles as well as the original explanatory note on how these were arrived at, their purpose and what they mean.

Then in the booklet we propose to publish, we will go a step further and relate the visions and principles to the provisions in the Constitution so that people will see that both are clearly related.

We will also eventually show how Vision 2020, in a way, is a continuation of this. Pak Lah's national mission is a blueprint to achieve the vision reflected in the Rukun Negara and this summary of the Constitution.

By emphasising on the Rukun Negara and extending it to the national mission and vision, as well as retrospectively to the Constitution, you can see the whole chain of what we have been trying to achieve in the last 50 years.

We should start with the thinking adults who should take the lead, we (Gerakan) are not saying we should take the lead. We are just sharing with Malaysians our proposal.

Do you really believe understanding the visions would make a difference to the ordinary Malaysian?

I think so. Starting with thinking Malaysians, let it spread, cascade to every strata of society, and every time we are faced with a problem or difference of opinion, or even conflict, let's go back and remind ourselves of our visions and principles, be guided by the principles and inspired by the visions. In so doing, there will be more restraint and mutual respect.

Is Gerakan going to make this the party's Merdeka platform?

Not just our Merdeka platform but our platform for the future. Ironically, we are going back to a document of the past for the future - this document is easily 37 years old.

It was proclaimed by the Agong on Aug 31, 1970, but was the result of a consensus of the National Consultative Council. It is not just written by a person or group of persons, but as a result of consultation with representation from all groups.

How can the gap between the visions of the Rukun Negara and reality be bridged?

There will always be a gap between visions, ideals and reality, but that gap in itself is the driving force for continued and renewed efforts to achieve the visions. The same applies to every nation. One example I like to quote is the American Declaration of Independence.

It starts with "all men are born equal" and yet slavery continued for 100 years, segregation for another 100, and it was only recently, in the last 30 to 40 years, that there has actually been some genuine equality and justice, but again, American society is far from perfect.

Even for the most advanced nation economically, socially and scientifically, it is still an ideal. But let that not discourage us, in fact I'd like to think that a gap is always good, because otherwise, if you say we have arrived there, we would lay down our tools and not do anything.

What improvements are required of the current BN mechanism for consultation on inter-communal issues, human rights, equitable access to opportunities, etc?

The BN, and before that the Alliance, has no doubt proven to be a fairly effective formula to deal with this multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of ours.

However, as I often point out, we are not perfect, in fact far from it, but the very fact that we are in the government means that those holding government posts are often overloaded with decision-making, implementation problems and even attending to ceremonies. So I would like to propose that the BN mechanism be extended beyond the Cabinet, because the Cabinet is busy with the programmes of over 30 ministries.

At the state government, we are just overwhelmed with work and service to the people, resolving problems, you know, and moving forward, for example competing with other countries to attract investments, promote tourism, really, we are always on the run.

This in a way, does not leave enough time for thought, reflection and consultation on issues that may not be immediately urgent or explosive, but it might become so, if we don't resolve it.

So it is important that the BN mechanism be enlarged and strengthened through the formation of sub-committees on different issues rather than have everything done through the Cabinet.

Of course the committees will present views to the Cabinet and the BN supreme council or state BN council. We need groups of professionals, intellectuals, social workers with experience to participate, we need brain storming sessions, although behind closed doors at the start.

Later we can engage non-governmental organisations so that we can build a stronger foundation for the future, because a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society is very often under stress.

It takes only a few uttering senseless, insensitive statements, or venting their anger in a negative way, to upset the balance, or even undo the social fabric.

Thirty-seven years after the Rukun Negara was adopted, shouldn't there be an evaluation of how far we have come in achieving its objectives? Maybe a non-partisan caucus?

I'd start with a partisan caucus within the BN first - amongst ourselves first. That is why I support the call by (Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin) that perhaps it is time for us to begin a much more intensive consultation, not just within the cabinet or the supreme council. As said earlier, committees or working groups on various issues will result in a better understanding of those issues and enable us to formulate new strategies.

Have we achieved the objectives? Yes, in a way we have achieved partially some of the goals. For example today, I'd say that while ethnic feelings are still prevalent, there is a stronger sense of being Malaysian, generally. We all feel proud whenever Malaysia achieves something, the drive for excellence is there, although there are still areas of deficiency.

There is generally a greater acceptance of the diversity of cultures, the very slogan "Malaysia Truly Asia" is a reflection of that. There are greater opportunities for education and there is progress on many fronts - nonetheless still far from being enough and far from complete.

Will the BN state government led by you as a Gerakan leader make the Rukun Negara its guiding principle?

I have already started. If you listened to my speech to civil servants on Aug 16 to commemorate the nation's 50th year of independence, I spoke of going back to the basics, back to the Rukun Negara, and we will continue to push for it and would like to practise it.

Has the Penang state government under your leadership practised the principles and visions of the Rukun Negara?

Personally, I have tried my best to practise the visions as well as the principles, but I'll be the first to admit that I have not done enough.

By open discussion within the state exco, by encouraging my colleagues in the state exco to speak out, by taking account of diverse opinions, and in trying our best to arrive at a consensus, in a way we have been practising it, although again, not to perfection.

Should it be left only to the politicians to lead? Do you propose to get community leaders, civil society, government agencies, etc. to adopt the Rukun Negara as the guiding principle in their dealings?

It should not be left only to politicians. Although politicians in some areas may lead, I would say some act contrary to the principles.

In the urge and need for popularism, we sometimes trap ourselves into making sentimental and sensational statements that could be detrimental to the visions and go against the principles of the Rukun Negara.

I would like to see a broad base of thinking Malaysians, community leaders, civil society; everyone should try to play their role and look upon it as his or her responsibility, rather than just the turf of politicians. I would feel disappointed if this degenerates into mere sloganeering or rhetoric.

Some hardline voices have created agitation in the peaceful atmosphere of the country in recent times, making moderate Malaysians despair of the future.

There is a need to build understanding anew. How can this be done?

Moderate Malaysians should not just speak out, but engage others in their daily lives, practise what they preach and work to bring Malaysians together - in the workplace, the neighbourhood, civil society and organisations. Let us always look at the larger picture, let's remember that Malaysia is bigger than the sum of us. We must have that commitment.

The spirit of muhibbah of the 70s was a precious thing, but has fallen into disuse. Why is that? How could it be brought back with a new face today?

I'm not quite sure if we can refer to the 1970s. You must understand that the muhibbah spirit of the 70s came in the aftermath of May 13, 1969, so I hope we don't have to go through another trauma to realise how precious the spirit is and will continue to be.

To say that it has fallen into complete disuse is also too pessimistic. Let us not be distracted by the voices of a few extremists, whatever their racial background. Let us look at what is happening in society daily, where there is a lot of interaction, integration in the workplace, in the neighbourhood, where they share, where they share. Many of these stories, because they are so uninteresting, have not been brought out.

The mass media must also play a role.

For example, there is this common stereotyping, because by and large government servants are mainly Malay, policemen are mostly Malays, while businessmen especially in medium-sized businesses are mostly Chinese.

There is still an identification of race by occupation - in the public sector and in the private sector - and as a result, when there is a "confrontation" between a policeman and a motorcyclist or driver of twodifferent races, an issue that is common human weakness on both sides is seen in a racial or communal light.

That is why we should make a greater effort to integrate the various occupations, the various roles so that we have a more integrated civil service and police force. Similarly we must make genuine progress in partnerships within the private sector. We're still quite a distance from achieving that, although the NEP (New Economic Policy) has enabled greater participation, but there is still a lot of effort needed.

In hindsight, do you think Gerakan, which was founded on a multiracial platform, would have been better off on its own had it not joined the BN?

I want to correct a common misconception. Gerakan did not join the Barisan Nasional. It co-founded the BN. Although the reason might have been necessity in 1971/1972 when there was a split in Gerakan, more importantly it was because at that time, (former Gerakan president Tun Dr Lim) Chong Eu had a very good working relationship with (former prime minister Tun Abdul) Razak (Hussein).

Penang was the first state to have a coalition government between Gerakan and Umno. We had 16 seats out of 24 after the 1969 election, exactly a two thirds majority, but because of the split in the party, four of our members left.

Because of that, there was a coalition where four Umno members of the assembly joined the 12 from Gerakan to form and stabilise the Penang state government. At that time the objective was stability for development, because we had just started industrialisation by attracting foreign investment, and the need for a strong government was very real.

It was also by this process that Gerakan became one of the pioneering parties for the BN - so that was the beginning of the coalition.

This coalition is also multi-racial, our difference is that we are trying to be as Malaysian as possible by taking a non-racial approach to issues. That is why we are sometimes not very popular because we don't appeal to the basic feelings and instincts of any community, but we always try to take a rational approach.

The BN itself as a coalition through consultation has more often than not, arrived at rational solutions. I don't see any great conflict in working within the framework of the BN.

For example, Gerakan can identify very well with Vision 2020, we definitely identify with the Rukun Negara. The challenge has always been how to practise and realise it - that is a common challenge for all. So working with component parties will give us a larger platform, and if we were out of the BN, we'd still have to work with other parties.

Look at how the DAP tried earlier to work with Semangat 46, PAS in 1999, and now with Keadilan, and Keadilan trying to work with PAS, they are still looking at coalition politics.

So let us continue to give the BN a chance despite our shortcomings, which I would readily admit, but we must also see what the coalition has achieved - quite a lot and we still have a long way to go.

What is your personal wish for the nation's 50th year of independence?

That every Malaysian look upon himself or herself as Malaysian first without losing his ethnic or cultural identity and religious beliefs. I believe that Malaysia, if you look at it with an open heart, is big enough for every community and group. We should really move forward.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Is Teng Next in Line?

theSun TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 4 2007 13

Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s move to appoint state executive committee member Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan as acting Gerakan chief during his absence has triggered speculation that the party vicepresident is next in line for the chief minister’s post.

Koh made the appointment before he left on 11 days’ leave on Sunday. According to a report in Nanyang Siang Pau yesterday, it is not only the state political arena, but also the party which is abuzz with talk on the appointment. Koh’s selection of Teng from among the three vice-presidents – the two others being Datuk Dr S. Vijayaratnam and Datuk Chang Koh Young – is a telling, and talk that Teng is Koh’s choice to succeed him when he moves to the federal government is not baseless.

In fact, this is not the first time Koh has assigned Teng to important party duties. In June last year, when he attended his son’s graduation in the United States, he appointed Teng and secretary-general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye to take charge of the party’s affairs in Penang.

Koh has also appointed Teng to handle state government and state Barisan Nasional affairs alongside Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdullah.

However, he stopped short of putting his cards on the table by assigning Teng to only party matters this time around, and not state and state BN affairs as well.

Asked for comment, Chia told Nanyang that Teng’s appointment as acting party chief was no indication of whether he would succeed Koh as chief minister. He asked in jest: “If Koh had appointed Vijayaratnam as acting party chief instead, would it mean that he (Vijayaratnam) would become the next chief minister?”

Chia also said this was not the first time Teng had been appointed to act on Koh’s behalf in the latter’s absence. He held the view that as Teng had won the vicepresident’s post with the highest number of votes in the 2005 party elections, he had the right to be made acting party chief, and that there was no need for Koh to appoint in turn the three vice-presidents to act on his behalf.

He stressed that the party had no objection to Teng’s appointment and held the view that the matter should not be made an issue. Koh accompanied his daughter Yu Jun, who is enrolling at Princeton University in New Jersey. Koh himself graduated from the same university in 1970 with a degree in physics. His son Yu Cheng also studies there. Yu Jun, is to follow a Liberal Arts programme.Koh is expected to be back in Penang on Sept 11.

What to do when you are stopped by Police

Your rights and the police
Richard Wee Thiam Seng

We have only one police force in this country. The police have wide-ranging powers provided in various laws. Yet, the increasing number of complaints against the police and the infamous nude-squat incident have raised the issue of the power of the police. To what extent may the police interfere with one's personal liberty and security in the execution of their powers and duties?

Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the police have powers to stop and search an individual who may subsequently be arrested. These powers are however not unlimited. As individuals, we have certain rights guaranteed under our Federal Constitution and laws made thereunder.

In 2006, a group of lawyers came together to draft a pocketbook titled Polis dan Hak-hak Asas Anda or commonly known as the Red Book (see:,com_docman/task,doc_details/gid,639/Itemid,120/).

This was aimed at informing and educating the public of their rights when "confronted" by the police.

It was very well-received, and a second edition is underway. The said book was eventually launched by the Minister in charge of law, Datuk Nazri and the then President of the Bar Council, Yeo Yang Poh, at the Bar Council Secretariat in April 2006.

Some of the essential information in the Red Book are as follows:

1. When the police stop you

You may ask the police for identification if the officer is not in uniform. Take note of the identification card number. There are different types of identification cards. The difference is in the colour which will indicate the rank of the officer.
Blue : Rank of Inspector and above
Yellow : Below the rank of Inspector
White : Reserve police
Red : Suspended officer
(A suspended officer has no authority. You may walk away.)

When stopped, you should provide your identification card, if requested by the police. Should the officer request for other documents or show any other items, you may ask the officer the purpose of the request. Do so politely.
If you are not under arrest, you may walk away or refuse to follow the officer back to the police station or anywhere else, if asked.
2. Questioning by the police

Section 112 CPC statement

The police may request you to go to the police station to answer some questions. If you are not under arrest, you may choose not to do so. You may however wish to co-operate but by having a lawyer accompany you.
The 112 statement is normally recorded if the police think you have information or knowledge about a case or offence. On most occasions, the police will make an informal request for your 112 statement. If the place and time is convenient to you, co-operate. If not, tell the police you will do so at a convenient place and time.
If you refuse to cooperate, the police may issue a formal order in writing signed by an investigating officer (known as a "police order") to ask you to co-operate. Should you disobey the order, you cannot be arrested. However, it is an offence and the police may request a magistrate to issue a warrant against you to compel you to co-operate. In general, if you are merely a potential witness and not a suspect, you may not be arrested for the purposes of taking a 112 statement.
In giving a 112 statement, you may refuse to answer any question and remain silent if the answer is likely to expose you to a criminal offence. You may request that a lawyer be present when you are being questioned. Note that a 112 statement may be used in court.
Bring along a notebook or writing paper with you (personal notes). Make sure you understand every question asked. Write down every question asked in your personal notes. Take your time and think carefully. Then write your answer in your personal notes. Once you are satisfied with your answer, read your answer to the officer. Keep your personal notes for future reference.
Upon completion, read the questions and answers written by the officer carefully, and compare them with those in your personal notes. Make any corrections or changes you wish. If you are satisfied with your statement, sign below the last sentence of your statement, at every page.
Section 113 CPC statement

Should the police arrest you because you are a suspect in a case or offence, and subsequently record a statement from you, the statement is a 113 statement. Except for this difference, the safeguards mentioned above in relation to 112 statements apply.
3. Arrest by the police

You must be informed of the reasons for your arrest. If you are not informed, you may enquire. You are advised not to resist an arrest. The police may use reasonable force to arrest you should you resist.
The arresting officer must immediately take you to the nearest police station and to no other place. You should ask the arresting officer for details of the police station.
You are also advised to make a telephone call to inform your family, friends, lawyer or the Legal Aid Centre of your arrest.
You may be detained for up to 24 hours to assist the police in investigations. Note the sequence of events and names of officers you come in contact with during this period.
4. Rights in detention

Note the following:
i) You have the right to contact and meet with a lawyer.
ii) You are to be given proper and adequate food and water, and one set of clothing.
iii) You may take a bath two times a day.
iv) The police must record and keep all your personal belongings in safe custody. Your personal belongings must be returned to you upon your release.
v) If you are sick or feeling unwell, you have the right to receive immediate medical attention.

5. How long can you be detained?

The police may only detain you for up to 24 hours. The duty of the police is to complete their investigations within 24 hours and to release you as soon as possible.
If the police cannot complete their investigations within 24 hours, the police must bring you before a magistrate for a remand order to extend your detention beyond 24 hours (remand order).
6. Remand order by a magistrate

The power to issue a Remand Order by a magistrate is found in section 117 CPC.
Purpose of a remand order

A remand order is to give more time to the Police to complete their investigations, and decide whether there is evidence to charge you for an offence. As you have the right of silence, the police cannot ask for a remand order only for the purpose of taking a statement from you.Period of a remand order
È In total, you cannot be detained for more than 15 days. The police may make more than one application for a remand order.

What happens at a remand order hearing?

When the police bring you before a Magistrate for a remand order, the police must give reasons to the magistrate why it is necessary to detain you for more than 24 hours.
You have the right to request for legal representation at the hearing. Ask the magistrate for it. If the police have denied you this right or threatened or assaulted or treated you inhumanely in any way during detention, inform the magistrate.
Alternatively, you may ask to be released or for a shorter remand order to be made. Give your reasons. e.g. "I will co-operate with the police in their investigations", "I will be available".
The magistrate's duty is to consider carefully the reasons given by the police and your reasons why you should be released or for a shorter remand order.
7. Body Search without Arrest

When can this be done?

If you are at a place (e.g. entertainment outlets) where the police are conducting a raid or looking for prohibited substances, the police may search your body or bags without arresting you.
This must be done in the presence of an officer who is an Inspector or of a higher rank.
What is to be done?

Do not allow the police to put their hands into your pockets or bags. Volunteer to empty your pockets or bags in their presence so that you are able to see all your belongings. Take out your belongings one by one. Each time, say "purse", "keys", "ID card" etc. When your pockets or bags are empty, turn your pockets or bags inside out.
A woman may only be body-searched by a female officer. All body searches must be carried out with decency. There is no law requiring you to be stripped naked for a search.
8. Body Search on Arrest

The police have the power to search your body for any object relating to a suspected offence.
It is your right to have the body search conducted in a confined and private place.
Even when arrested, there is no law allowing the police to force you to be stripped naked. Protest and thereafter lodge a report should you be forced to strip.
Recent amendments to the law through the CPC (Amendment) Act 2006 and CPC (Amendment) (Amendment Act) 2007 have been made but have yet come into force. We hope these amendments will greatly improve police services in Malaysia.

The Red Book amplifies the effort of the Bar Council in looking out for the public's rights. There are however many more issues to look into - greater recognition of human rights such as right to counsel, right to a fair trial and greater accountability in police investigations. The Bar Council houses a Human Rights Committee, which looks into public complaints of breach and/or abuse of basic human rights. Through this Committee the Bar Council hopes to offer assistance to the public, within the scope of ability of the volunteer lawyers who sit in that Committee.

We however salute the courage of all those who have suffered at the hands of the police to have told us their stories and informed the struggle. Together, our hope is that we will build a better Malaysia.

Richard Wee Thiam Seng is a member of the Human Rights Committee, Bar Council Malaysia. For more information, see Complaints of rights violations may be forwarded to for consideration of the Committee. However, we make no assurance that all cases will be adopted for action. Comments: