G25, that group of eminent ex-top Malay civil servants, has launched a report on the administration of Islam in the country. And now some folks want them investigated - or better yet, banned, for apparently attempting to destroy Islam. In other news, the once and current PM has appointed himself Acting Education Minister, and election watchdog Bersih is pissed that its advice on playing fair in Kimanis has gone unheeded.

Observe and report

An article of faith

On Saturday, pro-moderation group G25 launched a massive report on the administration of Islam in Malaysia, and it’s resulted in, among others, calls for the group to be investigated.

The report (officially titled the “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam (Saim)” is, as you would expect from a 281-page document, pretty comprehensive and covers things like the historical and legal aspects of Islamic administration in Malaysia, religious education and Islamic resurgence. What’s gotten some folks’ undies in a bunch though is the group’s criticism of the country’s apostasy laws.

The basis of the group’s argument is this: Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution guarantees every person the right to profess, practise and propagate his/her religion. And since the provision is silent as to who this right applies to, the presumption is that everyone – citizen or non-citizen, Muslim or non-Muslim – has freedom of religion. As such, no one should be forced to remain in Islam or punished, if they choose to leave. 

Is G25 right? Well, we’ll let you decide that. But here’s some thing to consider: the group didn’t conjure the report from thin air. They had help. And among the prominent personalities who advised the group were constitutional law expert Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi, Islamic Renaissance Front founder and director Ahmad Farouk Musa, prominent political scientist and Aliran founder Chandra Muzaffar, and one Maszlee Malik.

The Malaysian Islamic Organisations Consultative Council (Mapim) and PAS don’t appear to care who was involved in the drafting of the report, though. As far as these people are concerned, G25 is deviant, confused and should be banned.

Incidentally, you know who else previously said Malaysia’s apostasy laws infringed the idea of freedom of religion and were in contravention of Art 11(1)? Raja Petra Kamarudin. Read into that what you will …

BTW, apostasy aside, G25’s report also slammed the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and National Council of Islamic Affairs as unconstitutional. In a nutshell, the group contends that since matters concerning Islam are governed by state legislatures, a Federal department like Jakim shouldn’t exist and certainly shouldn’t have the kind of power and budget (RM1.3 billion currently!) it does.

Back in the driver's seat

So 20 months after he first appointed himself Education Minister because there’re “a lot of uneducated people”, DYMM Mahathir Mohamad is back in the role. Sorta.

According to the PM, he’s only warming the seat until a permanent replacement is appointed. However, it isn’t quite clear when that will be. 

Thing is, Maddey may say he’s only an interim solution, but wasn’t he also supposed to be an interim PM?

Here’s something else to think about: If you recall, word is that the previous fella in charge, Maszlee Malik, didn’t resign of his own volition but vacated the post ’cos he was ordered to by Maddey. That being the case, shouldn’t Mahathir already have had someone in mind to take over? Or was the PM’s plan, in fact, to circumvent Promise 12 of the Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto – which states a prime minister cannot simultaneously hold other ministerial posts – and put his ideas on education in place. Do we sound like we need a tinfoil hat right now?

Whatever the case, certain parent and teacher groups believe the 94-year-old could be exactly what the education system needs and point to “unfinished business” with regard the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) as well as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) as among the reasons.

Also, there’s Mahathir’s previous statements about national schools having morphed into religious schools.

It’s no secret the nonagenarian thinks there’s way too much religious education in schools and that the curriculum needs an overhaul. However, if his role really is an interim one, will there be time to implement the changes he wants?

Also, while it’s tempting to hope things will be (slightly?) better with Mahathir leading the Education Ministry, it’s important to note his first tenure as minister, back in the 1970s, is best remembered for the manner in which his government curtailed free speech and expression at Malaysian universities.

All about the money in Kimanis

Despite numerous warnings, government politicians have continued to announce development projects and allocations of funds while campaigning for the Kimanis by-election. And now, Bersih is pissed! 

In a statement last night, the election watchdog called out Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi by name, and repeated its call for stricter laws to curtail abuses of power during election campaigns.

Shafie had announced the setting up of a district office in Kimanis, while Mohamaddin revealed an allocation of RM50,000 for a school in the constituency. And even though both the Sabah CM and Tourism Minister have defended and explained their actions, Bersih is unwavering: Malaysia’s election laws need to be changed. Pronto.

FYI, the Election Offences Act 1954 already covers bribery and direct or indirect vote-buying. However, there’re currently no provisions on stuff like the misuse of state resources during an election campaign. As Bersih explains, an election is between political parties, not the government and the opposition. So using state resources, which taxpayers pay for, is messed up.

The opposition, needless to say, has urged for action to be taken against Shafie and Mohamaddin. It’s a fair call. But, are we supposed to forget how money politics was a hallmark of Barisan Nasional’s election campaigns back when in ran the show? You know, the same BN that Shafie and Mohamaddin were one a part of.

Meanwhile, while the two candidates – Parti Warisan Sabah’s Karim Bujang and BN’s Mohamad Alamin – and their cheering sections take aim at each other in the run-up to the Jan 18 polls, the good folks of Kimanis wonder whether anything much will change in the constituency. Flooding, for one, keeps affecting residents in villages there. Yet, a promised better drainage system has yet to materialise. 

It’s the same story with roads. There are none. Okay okay there are. But according, to residents, only about one-third of the roads connecting Kimanis’ 150-odd kampungs are tarred. Think that’s bad? Consider this: they say before Anifah Aman became MP in 2004, the situation was a helluva lot worse! 

Flotsam and Jetsam

It was, relatively speaking, quite a quiet weekend. However, here’re a few other things that made the news that you should definitely know about:

  • The Johor school principal who’s alleged to have sexually groomed a male student has been “removed” from his school and assigned to desk duty at a district education office pending investigation. He’s also given his statement to the cops, who’ve interviewed at least two other individuals.
     
  • There’s nothing wrong with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s public airing of audio tapes allegedly featuring former premier Najib Razak. In fact, it’s no different from the time items seized from Jibby’s home were displayed by the cops. So sayeth PM Maddey.
     
  • According to Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, the Kampung Baru Development Plan should be settled by the middle of the year. The government’s offering landowners RM1,000 per sq ft to buy them out – a marked increase from the previous offer of RM850 per sq ft.
     
  • The head of an Education Ministry-owned company is set to be brought to court today. According to reports, the director of Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) will face three charges under the Penal Code. EMGS, which was set up to promote Malaysia as an education destination for international students, was investigated by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year for alleged financial irregularities. 

“I’ve got nothing against God. It’s his fan club I can’t stand.”

- Anonymous -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Thousands of people have been evacuated following the eruption a volcano in the south of Manila. Taal volcano isn’t especially large. But authorities weren’t taking chances after the volcano shot a column of ash and steam into the sky on Sunday.
     
  • Demonstrations have erupted across Iran after the military admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger get. Protestors are calling for leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to quit with US President Donald Trump warning Iran “DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS”. Yes, ‘cos Khamenei listens to warnings IN CAPS.
     
  • Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, is coming under increased criticism for his abysmal handling of the catastrophic bushfires that have engulfed the nation. A Royal Commission has been mooted to see what went wrong.
     
  • Kenneth Roth, the chief of Human Rights Watch, claims to have been barred from entering Hong Kong. Roth was due to launch the group’s annual report, which accuses China of attacks on human rights, on Wednesday.
     
  • Gents, if you think you’re a stud between the sheets, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Meet Diego, a tortoise whose libido is so legendary that his sexual exploits are credited for saving his entire species

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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