Saturday, November 7, 2009
I would like to believe that I am well-trained in the art of rhetoric. It is a case of “syiok sendiri”, of course.
But then again, if I am not even able to be “syiok” about myself, how would others be “syiok” with me? And today, in the spirit of “syioksendiri-ism”, may I bore all of you with my thoughts on this subject.
It is common knowledge that some of our Ministers – and members of Cabinet – are quite intellectually-challenged. This is obvious from the various statements which they make in public.
Zahid Hamidi’s “we must respect their culture” – when he was trying to deflect the embarrassment caused to the BN, and himself, caused by the Chinese sex concert – was but one example of an absolute failure of the brain to take control of the tongue.
Further back in time, Nazri Aziz’s “he called me because I am his Minister” – uttered while attempting to explain why the Lord President called him to issue a denial respecting the V.K.Lingam tape – was a shining example of a lack of appreciation of how the legal system worked.
Mahathir Mohammad is a champion when it comes to rhetoric. After his retirement, he is fond of laying the blame for everything which has gone wrong on everybody but himself.
“I did not sack Tun Salleh, the tribunal did”, said him. Of course, he forgot that he was the one who established the tribunal.
“I did not put Anwar in jail, the Court found him guilty and put him in jail”. Yes, yes, haven’t we all heard of that too. “I did not destroy UMNO, Abdullah did”. “I did not do this, you did”.
What these esteemed intellectuals failed to realise, and appreciate, is the fact that their audience are not at all stupid. Their audience are not some 3 year-olds with phlegm running down their nose holding a half-sucked lollipop standing still with mouth wide opened in awe of them and their speeches. In fact, it is quite stupid of them to think that we are.
The ability to project oneself to an audience is a must if one were to aspire to be a good politician and consequently, a good leader. What more if one is a minister. Even more if one is a foreign minister.
Anifah Aman’s obsession with the Altantuya murder and Anwar Ibrahim’s moral standing in the USA was astounding, by any standard. It is taken right out of the book of diplomacy, namely, from the first paragraph of the Chapter titled, “What not to do”.
It was totally unprovoked, irrelevant and too insignificant, especially when viewed from the perspective of the State Secretary, “Her Excellency” Hillary Clinton. In fact, for our foreign minister to address her as such, is a protocol disaster for Malaysia.
I hate to wonder what Americans and other civilised nations think of us.
And to think about a headline in The Star proclaiming that “America wants to learn from us” – when in fact what was said was “we (America) must learn from each other (in dealing with the economic meltdown)” – makes me ticklish all over. That was “syioksendiri-ism” taken to the extreme!
Eco Umberto, in a paper given at University of Bologna on May 20, 2004 posits that rhetoric is a technique of persuasion. It involves discussing, arguing or debating over matters in order to find an opinion which is agreed to by the highest number of people. In short, it is the mechanics by which a consensus on a particular issue is achieved.
It is therefore important that the participants in that debate or exchange of rhetoric should work out arguments that are hard to dispute, to use proper and suitable language and also to “arouse in the audience those emotions appropriate to the triumph of our arguments”.
Let us analyse Anifah Aman’s latest statements about Anwar Ibrahim’s interview by the New Yorker recently.
Hishamuddin Hussein was quick to say that Anwar was trying to “fool the world”. Not to be left out, Anifah was quoted as saying that Malaysians should be “very, very hurt” by what was published in New Yorker and continued to say “Malaysian who do not feel embarrassed, is not Malaysian” (sic).
That is a clear example of how a debater or participant in an exchange of rhetoric should not start his or her argument. That technique is called “captatio malevolentiae”, a technique which is normally aimed at alienating the audience from the speaker and turning them against the speaker.
It is like me, standing up in court to begin my case by saying, “I know morons like you won’t understand me but allow me to teach you”. (I must hasten to add that I am not saying that there are moronic judges in our courts). Or, how about me saying, “I think you are an idiot if you don’t agree with me on this”.
The exact response of the audience to that kind of rhetoric would be one of isolation and soon, one of anger and resentment. “What do you mean I am an idiot if I don’t agree with you?”, would be the silent response.
Soon, somebody would loudly say, “I am not the idiot, you are!”. And from then onwards, the debater would just be drowned with so much negative responses that his or her arguments would not even take off, let alone heard, dissected, analysed and agreed with.
Putting that to the fact, our obvious response to minister Anifah would be, “what do you mean I am not a Malaysian if I don’t feel embarrassed?” “If I am not a Malaysian, what am I, a Martian?”, says a more cynical and sarcastic audience.
“In fact, what you said, Mr Minister does not make sense. You said any “Malaysian who do not feel embarrassed, is not Malaysian”. That is rather inconsistent. How could a Malaysian not be a Malaysian?”, asked another one who was obviously more detailed and analytical.
Just to complete this short dissertation, allow me to explain the opposite of “captatio malevolentiae”. It is called “captatio benevolentiae”.
This is aimed at getting approval from the audience by indirectly – and without sounding condescending – complimenting them.
I can begin a debate on the abolition of the ISA, for example, by saying “I am sure the right thinking people in the room would agree with me that the ISA is draconian and uncivilised”. Soon, everybody would be agreeing with me because then, they would be “right thinking”.
Or how about, “it is an honour for me to speak before such a distinguished and learned people”.
And so, I suppose, minister Anifah should have said, “I think right thinking people of Malaysia would be embarrassed at what Anwar said to the New Yorker.”
I am sure all of you, highly-intelligent readers of this post, would agree with that. :)
[Source : Art Harun]
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Much is at stake at this hearing, which will determine not only who is the legitimate menteri besar but also set a precedent for future similar political imbroglio.
The apex court is also expected to interpret the rulers' powers in dissolving the legislative assembly and the appointment of its chief executive.
Five of the country's top judges have been picked to hear the case despite that Nizar has sought a full 11-member bench given the importance of the case.
Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, who acted as an intervener to help interpret the Perak and the federal constitutions, was also present in court.
Journalists and members of the public were at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya as early as 7am, where the hearing will be held.
Three key questions
Three constitutional questions have been posed for the country's highest court to decide:
1. A proper interpretation of Article 16(6) of the Perak constitution under which a menteri besar can advise the sultan to dissolve the assembly. What if there is no motion of no-confidence against the MB and that he refuses to resign?
2. Can the sultan determine if a menteri besar commands the confidence of the majority of the House without a vote in the assembly?
Article 16(6) of the state constitution also relates to a motion of no-confidence being made at the state legislative assembly and an interpretation is being sought on this.
3. Whether the state constitution allows the sultan to sack a menteri besar or can the position be deemed vacant if he chooses not to resign.
To hear Nizar's application first
First on the agenda is Nizar's application for his appeal to be heard before a full bench of judges given the importance and constitutional implications in the case.
Nizar had on Oct 28 filed an application for the matter to be heard before either an 11-member bench or an enlarged quorum of more than five Federal Court judges.The basis for this application, as the former Perak MB states in his affidavit, is that it involves constitutional issues regarding the interpretation of the Perak constitution which would have a direct impact in the interpretation of the provisions in the federal constitution.
Nizar also said that the apex court's decision would affect all Malaysians and would become a precedent to similar cases in the near future.
“The issues and constitutional problem in Perak have not been resolved and a full quorum of Federal Court judges is important as it involves public interests and the jurisprudence history of the court in Malaysia.
“Furthermore, the legal issues which is raised following the Court of Appeal decision involves the rejection of strong constitutional cases involving the powers of the menteri besar or the chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak,” Nizar had said in his affidavit.
Nizar wins one, Zambry wins one
The MB vs MB case, which began in March. saw Nizar winning in the High Court on May 11 when justice Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim declared the Pakatan leader, who is PAS Perak secretary, the rightful menteri besar.
Subsequently, Zambry was granted stay within 24 hours by recently promoted justice Ramly Ali on appeal at the Court of Appeal.
This was followed with appellate court decision by a three-member bench on May 22 to overturn the High Court decision and acknowledged Zambry as the legitimate menteri besar.
Nizar had encountered problems filing his application for a stay at the Federal Court after the three judges delayed submitting their written judgments.
Two of the written judgments were only made available on June 27, a month after their oral decision, while the third was made available in early July.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
This is because out of the 13 Federal Court judges, Malanjum and Gopal, along with recently elevated judge Justice Heliliah Mohd Yusoff have not taken part at all in the Perak case.
Chief Justice Zaki Azmi, along with recently elevated Justice Md Raus Sharif, who were part of the three-member bench at the Court of Appeal, that overturned the decision in favour of Zambry Abdul Kadir as the menteri besar, are not expected to be part of the panel to hear this appeal.
Zaki had said in the past that he is keeping himself out from handling political cases, owing the fact that he was Umno's legal advisor.
That leaves 11 judges to be selected to the bench tomorrow. However, the apex court can call or promote judges from the Court of Appeal as part of the panel as has been practised in the past.
Mohd Nizar (above) had applied for a full bench of 11 judges to hear the appeal that he hopes could end the Perak political imbroglio.
President of Court of Appeal Alauddin Mohd Sheriff and Chief Judge of Malaya Arifin Zakaria have been permanent features in handling all Perak cases that comes before the Federal Court.
Certainly, impartiality, along with justice and fairness are important characteristics needed when hearing the case as outlined by Mohd Nizar in his affidavit in support of a full bench.
And certainly, to show impartiality, judges who have not played a role in any part of the Perak matter will be seen to have this characteristic.Sri Ram delivered Metramac judgement
Sri Ram (right), who was the most senior judge in the Court of Appeal prior to his elevation earlier this year, is scheduled to retire in about six months.
He is known for his bold and reputed judgment in the Vincent Tan vs MGG Pillai case.
His judgments are highly respected and have been used as guidelines for the lower courts.
One of his well-known judgments was in the Metramac case where in his decision, he implicated corporate figure Abdul Halim Saad, and former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, in having to pay damages to Fawziah Holdings Sdn Bhd.
Sri Ram remains a highly respected judge who is not only held in high regard by lawyers but the public as well.Malanjum lone dissenter in Lina Joy case
The Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, who is the youngest to be appointed to the post, is seen as one of the better judges who is not only sharp but delivers excellent writen judgments.
Justice Malanjum was the only dissenting judge on the apex court who sat in the controversial Lina Joy conversion case.
Many have commended his reasons and basis to dissent the majority judgment that ruled that Lina had to go to the Syariah Court to renounce Islam.
He had ruled to allow Lina to change the status of her religion in her identity card, as she could not get legal recourse in the Syariah Court.
Mohd Nizar in a press statement on the eve of his case is hoping that the presiding judges selected for his case are well versed in constitutional law.Judiciary's reputation at stake
"At a time when the reputation of the judiciary is being questioned, the public expects a fair trial," said Nizar.
He said public perception is that justice must be seen to be done.
Besides the judges mentioned above, the other federal court judges are justices S Augustine Paul, Hashim Yusoff, Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, Ghazali Mohd Yusoff, James Foong and Abdul Hamid Embong.
There will be five judges, identities yet unknown, who will first hear Mohd Nizar's application for a full bench.