Monday, May 26, 2008

On different paths but sharing a common bond

The Star (6/4/2008): With a number of family (father and son, mother and daughter, father and son-in-law) teams in Parliament, Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad could not resist a cute joke when asked about his MP brother Khalid.

“Hey, it’s not nepotism,” he joked.

After all, Shahrir is from Umno while his kid brother is from PAS.

In the recent general election, Khalid defeated Umno’s Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin to win the Shah Alam parliamentary seat.

So the august house will see the unusual case of two brothers on opposing sides.

“That would be interesting, wouldn’t it?” he said.

Shahrir said he and his brother know each other very well but noted that they are very different people.

“Our difference is simple. He went to the UK in the 1970s during the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. And I am a graduate from a local university.

“I was in MU (Universiti Malaya) during the 1969 racial riots. So it was a time of more (Malay) nationalism and the NEP and deliberations of the economic policies. So we were on very different paths,” he said.

Shahrir went on to become political secretary to Tun Musa Hitam when his mentor (Musa) was a deputy minister (1973-1975).

Then he rose to become political secretary to two Prime Ministers, first Tun Razak and then Tun Hussein Onn, before becoming an MP himself.

At the age of 34, Shahrir was one of the youngest to be appointed a minister (1983).

But he was chucked into political wilderness after the 1987 team A and team B fight and has only recently been brought back from cold storage.

Now, at the age of 59, he is the new Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister.

Shahrir said this would be his last term as MP, adding that he has no regrets because his journey has been a life-learning process.

“Life is the best school,” he said philosophically.

And as minister of a rather difficult ministry, he said, he is acutely aware of what people feel, and doing something about it is the reason he is in politics in the first place.

This is where Shahrir and Khalid – who are on different paths – share a common bond.

“We both have the same sense of concern for the common ordinary man and the same sense of public service,” said Shahrir, who believes that both he and his brother may see the same problems but “because we are different, our diagnosis and prescription will be different”.

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 6:11 PM


Brothers under one house

New Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad, from PAS, has already started making waves by walking into a church to address Christian concerns. What’s more, Khalid will now get to lock horns in Parliament with his brother, the very vocal Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir of Umno.

Khalid: ‘I probably won’t have a chance to say anything. I’d have to take a number and wait.’ (Courtesy of The Star)

The Star (6/4/2008): When Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad was appointed Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, his younger brother, Khalid, who is a Pakatan Rakyat MP, called to congratulate him.

“I also told him that he’s been given the worst ministry – that’s the Barang Naik ministry, so he’s got to answer to all the increases in the price of goods, oil, electricity rates, toll rates - that sort of thing.”

Khalid, who has been with PAS since 1983, said he has no qualms speaking his mind against his elder brother in Parliament.

But he does not think Shahrir is worried about him “in particular”.

“He’s worried, I’m sure. There are now 82 parliamentarians from the Opposition who would make his life a lot more difficult. I probably won’t have a chance to say anything. I’d have to take a number and wait!” quipped Khalid.

There is no doubt, though, that Khalid, who has a degree in fuel and energy engineering and worked seven years for Petronas, will have plenty to say to his brother, especially on the contentious issues of petrol prices.

Oily issue

“I cannot accept that Petronas is selling to Malaysia at international prices. That should never have been the basis of any interaction between Petronas and the Malaysian community. The oil is actually the property of the Malaysian people and they have a right to it. All the talk about subsidies is just whitewash,” he said, adding that oil-exporting countries like Brunei, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait never use international prices as the basis of calculating the price of oil to sell to their own people.

International oil prices have skyrocketed to more than US$100 per barrel due to supply problems in oil-rich countries like Iraq, Venezuela and Nigeria and growing demand from giants like China and India that have been gulping up supplies.

But the bottom line, Khalid stressed, is that the cost of production per barrel has not gone up.

Which basically means that while Petronas is producing oil at the same low cost it has always done, by exporting it at the sky-high international prices, it is actually taking in even bigger profits.

For him, it might not have been so bad if the benefits were returned to the people in a different manner “but we don’t see it”.

“Instead, everything is going up and up and up,” he said bluntly.

Different approach

It is obvious that other than speaking his mind – like his elder brother – the 51-year-old Khalid has his own way of doing things.

It is almost unheard of for an Umno MP to walk into a church or temple for a function, but this PAS MP said it is really no big deal.

Last week, Khalid got a standing ovation when he stepped into the Church of Divine Mercy in Shah Alam to meet with Catholics and listen to their concerns. The issues raised are “quite justified”, he said.

“They asked why their church has to be in an industrial area with all the factories, and they wanted a Christian cemetery. Personally, I have no problem with that.”

He said all he has to do now is to get statistics on the number of Christians in Shah Alam and come up with a fair formula to work out the number of churches and cemeteries that would serve their community.

As for entering churches or temples, Khalid said, the Holy Prophet used to walk into churches and even synagogues for discussions.

“I don’t see what’s the problem. They invited me as their MP. And I don’t think there was any doubt about my personal religion!” he cheekily remarked.

“I think Umno wanted to look religious or believe that they were religious by avoiding all these locations. But I don’t think it has anything to do with being religious or otherwise.”

But how did Khalid, who comes from a staunch Johor Umno family (his mother and Tun Razak’s wife are first cousins), end up in PAS?

It all started during his student days in the UK back in 1974.

Influenced by the writings of Islamic leaders like Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna of the Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood) and interactions with other Malaysian, Arab, Algerian, Pakistani, Turkish and Morroccan students in the UK, Khalid found himself attracted to politics.

By 1978, he and his like-minded Malaysian friends had set up Suara al-Islam with the agreement to form an Islamic party when they got back.

He said PAS was not an option then because they were not happy with Datuk Asri Muda’s leadership.

Trials and tribulations

Khalid returned to Malaysia in 1979 and joined Petronas. In 1982, he and his group tried to register Parti Negara Islam Malaysia (Purnama) but the application was rejected.

Following changes in PAS, Khalid decided to join the Islamist party in 1983 (Shahrir was already a minister by then).

Mat Sabu, a fiery orator, took Khalid under his wing and he soon rose in the ranks to become a central committee member.

In 1986, Khalid quit his cushy Petronas job to stand in elections for the Kuala Krai parliament seat and lost to Barisan Nasional by 2,000 votes.

In 1987, the rising star in PAS suffered another setback when he was detained under the ISA during Operasi Lalang along with Mat Sabu, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Karpal Singh, the Chinese educationists group and 100 others.

Khalid, who remained in detention for a year, shared the same camp as Karpal and Guan Eng. His consolation came from the fact that the Holy Prophet and companions had faced trials, while ulamaks and people who stuck to their principles always had to face some kind of persecution at one time or another.

“If it did change me, it was to convince me more that we needed a change in leadership (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad),” he said.

During that time, Shahrir, who was Welfare Minister, was going through some trials of his own in Umno.

It was the famous Team A versus Team B fight and Shahrir had backed Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah instead of Dr Mahathir for the party presidency.

Dr Mahathir won but the losing side dragged the party to court, resulting in Umno being deregistered and later coming back as Umno Baru.

For backing the “wrong” horse, Shahrir was conspicuously dropped from the Cabinet.

To prove he won the Johor Baru parliamentary seat on his own merit, Shahrir vacated the seat, forcing a by-election.

He stood as an independent against Barisan and won.

Khalid said if he had not been under detention at that time, he would have campaigned for Shahrir.

“In the Mahathir time, we had a lot more in common. Shahrir had a lot of things to complain about the government but now ... (laughing) we would be probably more distant.”

He described his relationship with Shahrir who is eight years older as “not as close as some but not as distant as some”.

They call each other “as and when” there is a need and meet at family functions.

“We will probably see much more of each other now in Parliament, which is good.”

Due to their eight-year age gap, Khalid did not get to spend much time with Shahrir as the older brother was already away in boarding school while the younger sibling was still in primary school.

But in their younger days, the two boys were both interested in Spiderman and Marvel comic books.

“He would buy them and I’d read and keep them. And I was into airfix model aircraft and he had some interest in it,” Khalid said.

Shahrir’s concern as an elder brother showed when Khalid returned from the UK.

“I was unemployed for a month or so and he opened a bank account for me and put some money in it for me to get my life started. And he told me to do the same for our younger brother, which I did,” he said.

It is clear too that Khalid has high regard for his brother as a politician.

“He has a relatively clean record and generally has been quite a responsible politician. He has his views and principles that he stands by. I think he merits being a minister. He has the credentials and has proven himself in the past,” he said.

Ideas aplenty

While Shahrir is an old hand in Parliament, this will be Khalid’s first time in the august house.

And the first-timer is already brimming with ideas on what he is going to push for: He wants a cleaner, more transparent, just and honest government that brings benefits of development and growth down to the people. And he wants “politically repressive” laws like the ISA, University and Colleges Act, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be rectified.

Khalid admitted that with a brother as minister, it could be “more difficult or easier” depending on how each “plays” it.

“But politics should not be personally antagonistic. It should not be because of a difference of opinion that we can’t be friends or brothers. We can be different and not hate each other.”

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 5:57 PM


The day Catholics welcomed a man from PAS in Shah Alam

Partai Islam SeMalaysia or PAS often conveys a fundamentalist, hard-line image to non-Muslims. Getting behind the rhetoric, Insider's DEBRA CHONG shows there's a more engaging, even openly embracing, side to some PAS politicians.

Malaysian Insider (5/4/2008): “Better the devil you know than the angel you don't”. Those familiar with this phrase by Ethiopian satirist Hama Tutu usually hear it advocated in the face of change, when those in power anticipate a revolt.

In Shah Alam, however, some 2,000 Christians have learnt that it's better to embrace the unknown entity than to put up with and suffer a known demon.

On March 27, Khalid Abdul Samad became the first elected Muslim Member of Parliament to step into the Roman Catholic Church of the Divine Mercy since it was completed in 2005. The congregation gave him a standing ovation.

Perhaps more stunning is that Khalid is from Parti Islam SeMalaysia and was the one to initiate contact. And he reassured the Christians in attendance that they could continue to use the word “Allah” in their worship without fear of persecution.

Previously, the federal government had banned Christians from using the word “Allah” in referring to God in their worship for fear that it would confuse the Muslim Malays and lead them astray from Islam. Bibles printed in the national language were also seized. This was reversed sometime last year, but the damage was already done.

Khalid said that in all Arabic-speaking communities, “Allah” just means “God”, therefore it is not “unique to Islam”. He had once attended church in the Middle East and heard a Christian priest preach in Arabic with no trouble.

“For us, the problem is we're not an Arabic-speaking country. Therefore some people question why non-Muslims have to use this word when it is not really necessary. People then make all sorts of speculations about idealogy. But there's no reason for the word to be banned from Christian worship. We're quite happy if people use it.

“It's not just my personal opinion but is consistent with the party's view. Basically it shouldn't be any problem. And I made it quite clear to the people in church that night,” Khalid explained over the phone yesterday.

The parishioners were especially impressed that Khalid was the one who approached them.“It was his own initiative. He contacted our parish priest, Father Paulino Miranda, and said he wanted to come and talk to us,” Joseph Victor, chairman of the church's parish pastoral council told The Malaysian Insider on behalf of Fr Paulino who is away on sabbatical till April 18.

The parishioners applauding at what YB Khalid Abdul Samad was saying
(Photo courtesy of Herald Catholic Weekly)

“That's a good sign. Everybody was very happy. This is the first time a Pas MP is coming to a Catholic church. It shows they're not against Catholic churches,” he added.

It was the first time an MP for Shah Alam had, unasked and unaided, actively engaged the non-Muslim community in public discourse in their own backyard, at least on this side of the peninsula.It spurred a parishioner, Tony Yew, to blog about the experience on his website.

“What was evident from the points raised by those who could get their voices heard was crystal clear, abundance of local council issues and the fear of 'subtle religious' persecution.

“With no one to turn to, YB Khalid took all the questions one by one and stressed that the newly-formed coalition government of PKR-Pas-DAP (in no order) was one of consensus by nature,” he wrote.

But Khalid was quick to disclaim credit for the unprecedented move. He said the discourse was made possible because of the mixed effort on both sides.

“Our people working in the (Shah Alam) area heard that the parish priest was campaigning for change in the elections and advocated the congregation to use their votes to bring about change,” said Khalid.

He recounted that he wanted to speak to them, to thank them for giving the Oposition their mandate for change. “I tried my best to answer most of the questions. We talked about government policies, about discrimination – there shouldn't be any! – enforcement and implementation, which would require more detailed explanations, but I just talked about it in short.”

A 9-minute video clip of the dialogue has been made availble on YouTube.

Related: Dzulkefly may be the first Muslim MP at a Catholic Mass (Malaysian Insider )


Demolished Hindu temple to be rebuilt on new site

The Star (17/3/2008): A new site for the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kampung Rimba Jaya, Padang Jawa, which was demolished in November last year has been approved.

Mayor Mazalan Md Noor said the temple would be rebuilt soon on a 10,000sq feet land near the Keretapi Tanah Melayu quarters, a much bigger site than the original temple.

He was speaking to reporters after Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Shah Alam MP Khalid Abd Samad visited the Rimba Jaya flats Monday.

The Hindu temple was ordered torn down by the authorities as it stood in the vicinity of the Rimba Jaya squatter settlement.

The 11ha site in the area is owned by Ken Rimba Jaya Sdn Bhd.

“The developer has been directed by the state government to provide the land and RM40,000, the cost of the building construction.

“It is up to the temple committee and the developer to decide when to start the temple construction,” he said.

Mazalan said the Shah Alam City Council had cleared up the land to make way for the temple project.

Earlier, Khalid and Anwar had a dialogue with the Kampung Rimba Jaya residents and the demolition of the temple was among the hottest issues raised during the 15-minute meeting.

Khalid said the new state government was working hard to solve the squatter problems in the state.

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 7:55 AM


Selangor Pas admits to secret meetings with Umno on crossing over

NST (14/3/2008): Selangor Pas and Umno leaders held secret meetings immediately after the BN Selangor government fell to the opposition but Pas assemblymen insisted that they never had any intention of deserting the coalition.

MP for Shah Alam Khalid Abd Samad said Pas commissioner Datuk Dr Mohd Hassan Mohd Ali attended a meeting with Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo to pre-empt any attempt by Umno to used foul means to nullify the election.

Selangor Pas had full knowledge of the meetings initiated by Umno and they were encouraged, as a strategy, to prevent those unhappy with the election results from resorting to anything drastic.

“Fears of another May 13 were circulating and discussions were kept going as a ploy, to prevent it from becoming a reality,” Khalid who is Selangor PAS Deputy Commissioner (2) told a press conference today at the Pas Shah Alam branch, Also in attendance were Dr Mohd Hassan and other newly elected Pas assemblymen.

However, Khalid refused to disclose where the meetings were held but said they received the first invitation last Sunday.
Pas, he insisted, was always committed to the election pact with DAP and PKR.

Dr Mohd Hassan refused to comment on the topic except to strongly deny allegations over the internet that Pas had considered deserting the coalition.

“There was never our intention and we have remained committed to our coalition partners,” he said.

In the meantime, all elected Pas representatives must openly declared their assets and interest within three months to Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

“PAS Exco members will not be allowed to be involved in any businesses to avoid conflicts of interest,” he said. “Exco members will be required to relinquish their positions and interest in private companies.”

Dr Mohd Hassan said PAS representatives will also be required to contribute 30 per cent of their allowance to help the needy.

PAS has not demanded any Exco positions in Selangor. “We are aware we have the least seats among the coalition so we are waiting for the Menteri Besar to decide,” he said.

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 7:51 AM


Impressed by wives’ support

The Malay Mail (11/3/2008): I refer to your article ‘Standing tall behind their men’ in The Malay Mail yesterday.

There is a supportive woman behind every successful man and this was proven by the women who were willing to sacrifice their time to help ensure that their husbands’ campaigns went well.

I am impressed by their strength and perseverance. Their efforts are worthy of note.

For example, Dr Zaitun Abu Bakar, resigned as an associate professor at Universiti Malaya to help her husband, the new Shah Alam MP Khalid Abd Samad, as well as moving from Petaling Jaya to Shah Alam to be closer to the constituents.

I believe her sacrifice will make a difference in Khalid’s political career.

Kudos also to Kota Alam Shah State assemblyman M. Manoharan’s wife for helping him. The 46-year-old S. Pushpaneela campaigned for Manoharan, who is being detained in Kamunting..

I admire her willingness to campaign for her husband. No doubt, it must have been a tough task for her, but Pushpaneela has proven that women are capable of doing anything.

Every woman in Malaysia should emulate their perseverance and spirit.

Women in Malaysia must realise that they can contribute to the country’s economy and development.

High-spirited women like Dr Zaitun and S. Pushpaneela have proven the extent of their abilities and maturity in helping their husbands.

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 7:44 AM


Muslim official makes rare visits to church in Malaysia

The Christian Post (3/4/2008): A lawmaker from Malaysia's Islamic opposition party said Wednesday he made rare visits to a church and temples to help assure non-Muslim minorities about their religious rights.

Khalid Abdul Samad, a Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party lawmaker, said he wanted to ease suspicions among non-Muslims that his party seeks to curb their religious freedoms.

"It's time to set the record straight," Khalid told The Associated Press. "We respect the rights of non-Muslims. There's no plan to stifle other religions or create problems for them."

Non-Muslims have been upset in recent years about how the government has handled religious issues, including the demolition of Hindu temples, a ban on the word Allah from Malay-language Christian literature, and court judgments favoring Muslims in disputes with non-Muslims.

Khalid's visit to the Christian church and two Hindu temples last week was a rare move by a Muslim politician. Many of Malaysia's Muslim public figures have been wary of appearing in places of worship other than mosques, fearing criticism by conservative Muslims. A few politicians have made such visits discreetly.

Khalid's party has long alienated minorities with its call for a hard-line theocratic state. But it toned down its religious rhetoric and allied itself with two secular, multiethnic opposition groups for elections last month.

Together, the three parties won more than one-third of the parliamentary seats and the control of five state legislatures in an unprecedented setback for the ruling coalition.

The result was partly attributed to frustrations among minorities including Buddhists, Christians and Hindus — who comprise about 40 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people — about what they considered an erosion of their freedom of worship. (AP)

Posted by bakaq a.k.a. ~penarik beca at 7:33 AM