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The View From Asia

The corrosive game of politics

From Jakarta to Terengganu and Delhi, politics sullies the fight against corruption, succession and even university studies.

Jokowi bid to end corruption

Lalola Easter

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Regardless of all the euphoria around the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for the past year, the anti-graft body is facing yet another attempt to strip it of its authority, especially that pertaining to investigation and prosecution.

This attempt takes place in the most legitimate way, namely a legislative process to revise the KPK Law.

Admittedly, the current KPK Law is imperfect.

However, revising the law is uncalled for. Not only is it unnecessary, but the substance of the revision draft is problematic, which only shows that the drafters intend to weaken the KPK.

Two drafts have been circulated among the public. The first was on Feb 2 and the second on Feb 10.

Neither looks likely to strengthen the KPK. 

There are several crucial issues in both drafts, which will directly and adversely affect the way the KPK works, such as the establishment of a supervision body.

The mooted new organ is very problematic because of possible conflicts of interest facing its members, who are appointed and answer to the President, if the KPK investigates graft cases involving government agencies. 

Instead of exercising its control mechanism, the supervision body appears as another superior body to the KPK, above the five commissioners elected by the House of Representatives. 

The drafts also propose that the KPK no longer be allowed to prosecute corruption cases, be able to select independent investigators and terminate investigations.

These changes will only put the KPK on the same platform as the National Police and Attorney-General's Office.

Were that allowed to happen, the KPK will lose the sense of its original content: an independent body that is able to coordinate and supervise other law-enforcement agencies in investigating corruption cases.

The two drafts are far from the idea of empowering the KPK. They instead incapacitate the commission.



Activists from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, protesting in New Delhi on Feb 24 against "anti-national sloganeering" at Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. PHOTO: REUTERS

A battle between two Indiasn  ocampus

Latha Jishnu 

Dawn, Pakistan  

When country is turned into deity, then its citizens must become devotees or face the consequences of being termed apostates.

To Hindu nationalists, the image of India is an abstraction. Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu supremacist organisation that spawned the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, will tell you in good faith that Mother India (Bharat Mata) is a divine personage to whom every citizen owes utter devotion.

But this idea of nation is modelled on calendar-art depictions of Hindu goddesses.

A crowned figure dressed in a sari, Bharat Mata sits astride a lion and holds a trident or a flag in her hands, sometimes both, and is invariably framed against a map of India. This abstraction of the state and its reduction to sacred nationalism is one reason why the different ideas of India are coming into violent conflict, especially on its prestigious campuses.

At a more insidious level, the student wing of the RSS, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which revels in the political patronage of Narendra Modi's government, is using this nationalism as a smokescreen to target its prime ideological enemies - left-wing student organisations and lower-caste students who challenge the brutal realities of caste-based Hindu society.

This explains why the traditionally liberal University of Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi have been labelled "anti-national" by the ABVP in a campaign that has been taken up enthusiastically by the government.

In Hyderabad, the systematic targeting of the Ambedkar Students Association, which represents low-caste Dalit students, by the ABVP and several government ministers hit the headlines after a Dalit student named Rohith Vemula committed suicide in the wake of this political hounding.

For the ABVP, problematic issues such as caste exploitation and discrimination are not to be raised in universities, where they would resonate widely, because these upset the Hindu nationalist idea of what is sacred.

The ABVP project to capture campuses is by no means new. As the oldest outfit of the RSS, set up in 1948, its primary aim has been to foil the left. Now that the BJP is in power, and with a clutch of former ABVP members in the Cabinet plus dozens more who work as personal staff for ministers, it is clearly hoping for better success in its campus onslaught.


Tussle for Terengganu

Joceline Tan

The Star, Malaysia

The Terengganu government is once again treading on quicksand following the latest attempt by disgruntled former menteri besar Ahmad Said to unseat his successor.

Had Datuk Seri Ahmad's attempt to table a no-confidence motion against Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman succeeded at the state assembly sitting, the state government would have been shaken to the core.

The averted disaster suggests that the Barisan Nasional state government will be skating on thin ice from now on. Barisan's narrow two-seat majority is likely to be further tested in the coming months. The state Barisan, then under the leadership of Mr Ahmad, had almost lost Terengganu in 2013, winning only 17 seats against 15 by the opposition (PAS, 14, and PKR, one).

With Mr Ahmad going rogue, Barisan is effectively left with only 16 assemblymen. The state could be inching towards a hung state assembly should he decide to cast his lot with the opposition side.

Moreover, the local grapevine in Kemaman, where Mr Ahmad is the Umno division chief, has it that he has co-opted at least one other assemblyman to go along with him.

Terengganu is approaching a period of instability and it is going to be tough-going for Datuk Seri Razif, whose disadvantage is that he is more of a technocrat than a political animal.

Some of the civil servants had got wind of what Mr Ahmad was up to and state assembly Speaker Mohd Zubir Embong was said to be prepared for it.

Mr Ahmad had asked the PAS assemblymen whether they were willing to support the motion.

"I told him to proceed with the motion, we would support it. He told us he had a few assemblymen with him," said Mr Abdul Wahid Endut, state opposition leader and PAS assemblyman for Wakaf Mempelam.

Mr Ahmad waited till almost lunchtime before he stood up to table the motion. The moment he finished speaking, the Speaker adjourned the meeting for lunch.

But all the assemblymen remained glued to their seats, either too stunned to move or afraid that the other side would pull off a numbers game.

While the menteri besar, Speaker, state legal adviser and state secretary huddled in an emergency meeting, the rest of the assemblymen proceeded for their lunch.

At that point it was as though Mr Ahmad had the word "traitor" stamped on his forehead. None of the Barisan assemblymen wanted to have anything to do with him and he had his lunch with the PAS assemblymen.

By then, Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, who is Rhu Rendang assemblyman and Marang MP, had left for Kuala Lumpur to attend Parliament.

According to Mr Abdul Wahid, Mr Hadi gave them the freedom to proceed as they saw fit, even though he would not be an active party to it.

However, those close to the PAS president claimed he did not wish to be involved in the no-confidence motion because he does not believe that it is the correct way for a party to come to power.

"His thinking is that a government that comes in by the side door or back door will not be a strong or stable government," said a PAS official who used to work for him.

Some think Mr Ahmad was put up to it by the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad group, who are doing all they can to shame Datuk Seri Najib Razak and bring him down.

And like Dr Mahathir, Mr Ahmad is not bothered if he burns down the whole house in the process.

His motion was disallowed amid much arguing and shouting in the House and, from his behaviour, it looks like he will continue his journey of revenge.


•The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers. For more, see www.asianewsnet.net

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Tussle for Terengganu Jokowi bid to end corruption A battle between two Indias on campus The corrosive game of politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe