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Thread: Activism: ABU - Anything But UMNO

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Activism: ABU - Anything But UMNO

    ABU is the only answer, says Haris

    • S Thayaparan

    • 8:54AM Nov 2, 2012

    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell

    INTERVIEW On the second of August this year, lawyer cum activist Haris Ibrahim through ABU (Anything But Umno) declared war on the Umno-BN regime.

    Think about this for a moment. This went far beyond the normally civil rhetoric of oppositional political parties and galvanised a certain section of the voting public contemptuous of a regime that had declared war (much earlier) on anybody who stood in its way of maintaining the status quo.

    ABU is the realisation in symbol and form of an undercurrent of deep discontent among a certain section of the voting public and the genius of Haris is that he has managed to articulate a rather simple idea that is both a political statement and a reference to pop culture.

    Unfortunately this idea carries with it a moral and intellectual deficiency that is not evident in Haris but in the manner in which some choose to propagate it.

    Haris is no ideologue but rather an authentic Malaysian original whose opinions you may not agree with but who is a committed warrior - warrior is the only term to describe him - to the cause of the creation of a just Malaysia.

    Since its creation, the ABU war cry has taken a life of its own and although its creator has a nuanced view on the political landscape in Malaysia, often times opposition partisans have used it as a convenient free pass to Pakatan Rakyat.

    In the first part of this interview, Haris expounds on the nature of ABU and the realpolitik of oppositional politics.

    The second part deals with his views on Malaysian dilemmas that fuel the conflict between the forces which claim they represent change and the current Umno regime.

    Does ABU translate to a vote for Pakatan?

    ABU's drive is to get the rakyat to understand why it is imperative that come the 13th general election (GE13), they vote for the non-BN candidate in their constituency, with a view to oust Umno-BN from Putrajaya.

    Does this translate to a vote for Pakatan? Yes, in constituencies where a Pakatan candidate is pitted against one from BN. And yes, it also translates into a vote for every PSM, Star Sabah and SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) and every other non-BN candidate up against a candidate from BN in GE13.

    Does ABU get foreign funding and from whom?

    ABU is funded by Malaysians, home and abroad.

    Is ABU in reality a people's movement or an urban middle-class movement?

    ABU is a movement steered by the many Malaysians who, through exposure to the alternative news media, have come to realise how the nation has been raped and pillaged by Umno-BN for so long, to now take this realisation to the more remote parts of the nation where people are still duped by the Umno-BN subservient mainstream media with their daily dose of Umno/BN-friendly lies, with a strong message - we must bury Umno-BN come GE13 or face certain ruin if we have to endure them for another term in Putrajaya.

    Sure, the secretariat operates out of Kuala Lumpur. I am in KL. Several key strategic planners are in KL.

    But key ground operators, from the north to the south, and even in Sabah, are not your typical urbanite or middle class.

    Is ABU a people's movement? I think it is. Ask me this question again the day after polling during GE13.

    In this highly partisan atmosphere, how does one maintain a critical stand on the opposition where any attempt is considered "enemy action" or a neutral pose?

    Moreover, does ABU contribute to this sad state of affairs?

    Like ABU, I too am not pro-opposition. I am pro-rakyat, particularly pro the 40 percent poor and marginalised.

    Even as ABU and I push for a regime change post-GE13, which by default has us throwing our lot in with the present opposition, we are not blind to the faults that exist with the latter.

    In my personal capacity, I have never hesitated to chastise the opposition publicly where I have felt it was called for.

    My blog bears testimony to this. I will, in my personal capacity, continue to do so.

    We are, however, very close to the mother of all general elections in this country, and voters will be called upon to make hard choices.

    ABU has a very clear message to take to the people. And it's about the people choosing the lesser of two evils.

    One, a regime that has sat too long, plundered the national wealth in that time and has shown itself, for now, at least, as being incapable of reform.

    The other, an imperfect coalition. The choice, for us in ABU, is obvious.

    In advancing our views on what that choice must be, ABU never paints the opposition out to be more than they are.

    I remember the ABU/Hindraf forum was disrupted. What are your views on Hindraf and the perceived waning of its influence?

    What factors do you think contributed to the decline of support for Hindraf?

    I was among those who thought, and gave voice to that thought, that the Hindraf rally of Nov 25, 2007 ought not to proceed.

    I was there at the rally, but as part of the Bar Council observation team. A few days after the rally, I publicly apologised for my earlier views.

    We, as a nation, are indebted to the 20,000 or more who rallied that day under the Hindraf banner as they brought to the fore the manifest injustice that has been and continues to be inflicted on so many Malaysians by their exclusion from educational and economic opportunities, amongst others, that should be availed to all, without exception.

    Since then, Hindraf has gone through its own internal problems, what with the formation of the Makkal Sakthi Party by (RS) Thanendran and the Human Rights Party by (P) Uthayakumar.

    However, I think Hindraf has emerged from those trying times leaner and stronger, and ready to takes it place with a more conscious civil society.

    And with the recent return of (P) Waythamoorthy from exile, Hindraf is well placed to play a meaningful role in GE13.

    Is there more to the ABU philosophy then what partisans screech about online?

    Asalkan Bukan Umno, or Anything But Umno, is the only conclusion you can come to if you fully understand what has gone on in the last 40 years and if you care enough to save this nation from ruin and to begin the process of bringing justice and equity to so many who been sidelined for so long.

    In my view, this is the heart and the mind of ABU.

    How do you think Pakatan has been doing so far in the states they run?

    Kelantan has been under PAS administration for the last 20 over years and so, in my view, it might be best to assess Pakatan's performance there separately from the other three states.

    In Penang and Selangor, there has clearly been overall improvements in the management of state resources, based on the recent auditor-general's report. I see it as a work in progress.

    The real test comes when there is a federal government in place comprising Pakatan and other non-BN parties.

    What is your opinion on how Pakatan handle the PTPTN (Higher Education Fund) issue?

    Did they handle the PTPTN issue? My attention must have been directed elsewhere as I was not aware they had.

    Do you think that communal issues are the bread-and-butter issues of Pakatan?


    Did any Pakatan reps attend the recent Social Inclusion Act (SIA) forum?

    This question ought to be put to, and answered, by representatives of the NGOs moving the SIA initiative, that is, SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia) and Hakam (National Human Rights Society).

    If ABU is a declaration of war against Umno, will it (ABU) cease to exist after Umno loses federal power or will ABU continue to exist so long as Umno exist?

    ABU is a people movement. The people will decide.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Haris Ibrahim on Malaysian dilemmas

    • S Thayaparan

    • 11:29AM Nov 3, 2012

    "We've got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don't fight racism with racism. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity." - Fred Hampton

    INTERVIEW In this second part of a two-part interview, lawyer-cum-activist Haris Ibrahim explained his views on the Malaysian dilemmas that fuel the conflict between the forces which claim to represent change and the current Umno regime.

    What is your opinion on affirmative action and why do you think a need-based approach is needed in Malaysia and with the racial make-up of opposition parties, is a need-based approach even workable?

    My opinion today is as it was 40 years ago, when I contended with my late father that an affirmative system that had built into it a quota system, ostensibly to preferentially aid one community, on considerations of ethnicity rather than need-based at the expense of others, would create a monster.

    It has come to pass.

    Today, we have in our midst, members of the Malay community who believe this to be a constitutional right that must carry on until Judgment Day.

    We are a rich nation, natural resources-wise. Those resources applied properly and transparently, we should be giving Singapore a run for its recently earned status as the world's richest nation, per capita-wise.

    Instead, 40 percent of the population languish in poverty, and this will continue as long as we allow Umno-BN to continue with its race-based divide and rule of the nation.

    I do not think it is fair to categorise the main opposition parties as racially made-up. Much of this perception stems from the mainstream media painting them as such.

    True, DAP has long been perceived as a Chinese-based party, membership-wise, but surely it is to their fundamentals that we must look to. And DAP has been making efforts to woo more non-Chinese into their ranks.

    PAS, first through its Kelab Penyokong PAS and now its non-Muslim wing, is making efforts to shake off its Muslim-only facade. Let us also remember their emphasis now on a welfare state rather than a theocratic one.

    Having said this, I take the view that the push for a need-based affirmative programme must come from the people and not the politicians. In this regard, the Social Inclusion Agenda now being pushed by SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia) and Hakam (National Human Rights Society) deserves careful consideration by all who have a genuine concern for the 40 percent poor and marginalised in the country.

    The discourse normally revolves around how Umno has divided this country along racial/religious lines. What role (if any) do you think the non-Malays have played in maintaining those lines?

    Umno could not have done it on its own.

    Post the advent of BN in place of the Alliance, MCA, MIC and all the other component parties in BN, including those in Sabah and Sarawak, have played a supporting role.

    If nothing else, their leaders looked the other way as Umno weaved its race-based politics into the fabric of the nation, and partook of the looting of the national wealth whilst this was going on.

    Do you think that vernacular schools are an impediment to national cohesiveness?

    Schools must be for the sole purpose of imparting knowledge to our young to prepare them to excel as global citizens.

    Vernacular, or mother-tongue education, should not be seen differently and must be fully supported as a basic right of all.

    But like so many other benign matters, vernacular schooling, politicised under the charge of Umno-BN, becomes venomous.

    Do you think Islam is an impediment to an egalitarian society?

    Islam is not. It's politicising and being used as a divisive tool by the powers-that-be is.

    Leave faith, in any belief system, for that matter, to be one between man and his Maker to the exclusion of all others, and this world - not just our nation - will be a more peaceful place.

    How do you view the so-called Christian political awakening?

    I have always known the Catholic community to be more politically aware and active than the other denominations, but I would not categorise what we see today as a Christian political awakening.

    Since the run-up to GE12 to the present time, people generally have become more conscious of their rights and the failings of the present regime, and have shown a greater readiness to involve themselves in the processes in the nation.

    Do you think there should be laws to censure hate speech?

    Yes, there should be.

    The Sedition Act should be done away with and in its place, a law that criminalises the racist speeches of the likes of (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Perkasa's Ibrahim Ali that may have a tendency to sow enmity among different ethnic groups.

    There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech. Libel an individual with malicious and slanderous lies and be prepared to pay with a hefty award in damages.

    Should malicious and slanderous lies directed at no one in particular but likely to cause race and religious tension between different communities and, worse, so intended, go unchecked?

    I don't think so.

    Do you think there should be a race relations act?

    Almost all of us have racist tendencies to varying degrees which, wittingly or otherwise, we picked up from our elders and we, in turn, pass down to the next generation.

    A race relations act which criminalises acts seen as 'racist' will help to, in time, weed these tendencies out from our society.

    An example might help. We still see coffee shops with signage announcing, 'Please do not spit', even in this day and age.

    A law to criminalise spitting in any public place, and effectively policed and enforced through prosecution through our courts, may one day see those signage become redundant.

    Similarly, if it was the law that if a child below say, age 15, was heard uttering "keling", "malai quai", or "cina babi", the parent would be charged with an offence, and this law was effectively policed and enforced, I dare say we would hear less and less of these utterances from future generations.

    So, yes, we need a race relations act.

    What is your view on syariah law and do you believe that this dual system of laws has further divided Malaysians?

    To share my views on syariah without running the risk of being grossly misunderstood would require far more space than this interview will allow.

    Dual system of laws?

    There is no dual system of laws written into the constitution. The supreme law is the federal constitution.

    Our superior courts comprise only the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal and the civil high courts.

    The syariah courts belong to the same category of the many other courts commonly referred to as the inferior tribunals.

    (Former lord president) Salleh (Abas), chairing a five-man coram of the Federal Court, did not think so, saying in the case of Che Omar Che Soh some 24 years ago:

    "It can be seen that during the British colonial period, through their system of indirect rule and establishment of secular institutions, Islamic law was rendered isolated in a narrow confinement of the law of marriage, divorce and inheritance only.

    "In our view, it is in this sense that the framers of the Constitution understood the meaning of the word ‘Islam' in the context of Article 3."

    To this date, his pronouncement of the law has never been overturned or repudiated.

    Writer's epilogue

    If we do not heed the lessons of the long Umno watch, perhaps there will come a day when Pakatan has to face an ABU (Anything But Umno) of its own.

    Robert Fisk relates how the uncompromising Israeli journalist Amira Haas (Ha'aretz) gave the best description of the vocation of a journalist, which was "Our job is to monitor the centres of power".

    I would like to think that this is the deeper meaning of ABU and the role we should play as citizens committed to the political process.


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