Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman 2011: Transformasi atau Anti-tranformasi

Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman 2011:Transformasi atau Anti-tranformasi

Zulkifli Hasan

1.0 Pendahuluan

Komitmen kerajaan Barisan Nasional untuk memansuhkan tiga proklamasi darurat iaitu Proklamasi Darurat 1966, Proklamasi Darurat 1969 dan Proklamasi Darurat 1977 amatlah dialu-alukan. Ini seharusnya membuktikan komitmen kerajaan terhadap transformasi politik yang mampu menarik kembali sokongan rakyat. Semua pihak sama ada individu, institusi, badan-badan bukan kerajaan termasuk parti pembangkang perlu meraikan dan memuji langkah kerajaan ini.

Sementara teruja dengan inisiatif kerajaan di atas, melalui pemerhatian, penulis berpandangan bahawa transformasi yang sedang cuba dilaksanakan tidak bersifat menyeluruh, kabur, tidak jelas dan tidak konsisten. Umpamanya, tatkala kerajaan telah mengumumkan ingin memansuhkan Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri 1960 pada 16 September yang lalu, 11 warganegara Malaysia di Sabah telah ditangkap di bawah undang-undang ini hanya selepas beberapa bulan pengumuman tersebut dibuat. Ini secara jelas menunjukkan bahawa kerajaan tidak konsisten dengan agenda transformasi yang ingin dilaksanakan. Perkara yang sama juga berlaku pada aspirasi kerajaan pada seksyen 15 Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti (AUKU) apabila kerajaan telah membuat keputusan untuk meneruskan rayuan ke atas keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan pada 31 Oktober lalu yang mengumumkan bahawa Seksyen 15 tersebut bercanggah dengan Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Begitu juga dengan pengenalan undang-undang terbaru yang dibentangkan pada 22 November lalu iaitu Rang Undang-Undang Perhimpunan Aman di Dewan Rakyat. Walaupun Rang Undang-undang ini bermatlamat untuk membenarkan orang ramai berhimpun secara aman tetapi setelah diperhalusi isi kandungannya terdapat beberapa peruntukan yang memerlukan penilaian semula sebelum ianya boleh dilaksanakan ataupun diluluskan. Berdasarkan perkembangan yang meragukan ini, penulis ingin mengambil kesempatan untuk membuat analisa ringkas Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman 2011 ini dengan mengkhususkan perbincangan terhadap beberapa peruntukan yang menimbulkan banyak persoalan yang signifikan.

2.0 Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman 2011

Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman ini mengandungi 27 seksyen yang dibahagikan kepada enam Bahagian iaitu Bab I: Permulaan, Bab II: Hak Untuk Berhimpun Secara Aman, Bab III: Tanggungjawab Penganjur, Peserta dan Polis, Bab IV: Kehendak Dalam Menganjurkan Perhimpunan, Bab V: Penguatkuasaan dan Bab VI: Pelbagai. Secara umumnya, undang-undang ini kelihatan menyediakan peruntukan yang boleh diterima bagi memastikan setiap perhimpunan yang diadakan mengutamakan keamanan dan ketenteraman awam. Namun begitu, setelah diperhalusi terdapat beberapa peruntukan yang menimbulkan banyak persoalan dan membuka ruang yang amat besar kepada pihak tertentu untuk memanipulasikannya.

2.1 Tiada Wacana Awam

Di antara faktor kelemahan Rang Undang-undang ini ialah tiadanya wacana awam untuk membincangkan peruntukan yang terkandung dalamnya. Seharusnya kerajaan menganjurkan sesi perbincangan dengan masyarakat umum atau wakil badan-badan berkaitan sebelum meneruskan penggubalan undang-undang ini dan seterusnya dibacakan di Parlimen untuk kelulusan. Kegagalan untuk meninjau dan membuat kajian terhadap ruang lingkup dan pendekatan yang ada di dalam undang-undang ini sedikit sebanyak menjelaskan bahawa ianya tidak mendapat mandat yang sewajarnya dari masyarakat umum bahkan menidakkan pandangan dan pendapat mereka terhadap sesuatu undan-undang yang bakal dilaksanakan.

2.2 Terlalu Banyak Sekatan dan Syarat

Seksyen 9 memperuntukkan bahawa penganjur perhimpunan mesti membuat permohonan dalam tempoh 30 hari sebelum perhimpunan. Kegagalan berbuat demikian boleh mengakibatkan didenda tidak melebihi RM10,000. Kekurangrelevanan peruntukan ini kemudiannya dipersetujui YAB Perdana Menteri yang mana kemudiannya menyatakan tempoh 30 hari ini dikurangkan kepada 10 hari. Peruntukan ini perlu diperhalusi dan disemak semula. Ini memandangkan tempoh 30 atau 10 hari ini agak lama dan kadangkala tidak relevan. Bayangkan sekiranya isu yang ingin diketengahkan dalam perhimpunan tersebut merupakan respons yang perlu diberikan serta merta seperti isu keganasan Israel, maka seksyen ini bakal menimbulkan permasalahan. Ini memandangkan pihak berkuasa mempunyai kuasa penuh untuk menentukan sama ada perhimpunan boleh diadakan atau sebaliknya.

Walaupun peruntukan ini membolehkan pihak berkuasa untuk memberikan kebenaran berhimpun kurang dari 10 hari, ianya juga menimbulkan keraguan. Ini kerana pihak polis memerlukan masa untuk mengadakan rundingan dengan komuniti di kawasan tersebut. Ini juga tidak jelas dari aspek rundingan yang bagaimana, siapakah yang dirundingkan, adakah kesemua penduduk akan dilibatkan atau sebahagian dan berapa lamakah rundingan tersebut? Hal ini bukan sahaja boleh dipersoalkan bahkan menimbulkan keraguan dari aspek perlaksanaan. Malahan membuka ruang yang lebih luas untuk ianya dimanipulasikan oleh pihak tertentu.

Disamping itu, jika dirujuk kepada syarat-syarat dan prosedur untuk mengadakan perhimpunan, terlalu banyak perkara yang perlu dipatuhi bahkan melibatkan ramai pihak yang akan melambatkan proses permohonan dan seterusnya membantutkan sebarang usaha untuk berhimpun. Keperluan menampal notis, memaklumkan orang mempunyai kepentingan, perjumpaan dengan penganjur, rundingan dan sebagainya di antara perkara-perkara yang dimaksudkan.

2.3 Kuasa Budi Bicara Pihak Berkuasa

Rang Undang-undang ini memberikan kuasa budi bicara yang amat luas kepada pihak berkuasa. Ini membuka ruang yang besar dan sangat berpotensi untuk ianya dimanipulasikan. Sebagai contoh, seksyen 15 memberikan kuasa penuh kepada pihak berkuasa untuk mengenakan sekatan dan syarat ke atas sesuatu perhimpunan dan barangsiapa yang gagal untuk mematuhinya boleh dikenakan denda sehingga RM10,000. Sekiranya ini berlaku, mana-mana pihak yang ingin menganjurkan perhimpunan bukan sahaja boleh dinafikan hak mereka untuk berbuat demikian bahkan boleh dikenakan denda sekiranya gagal mematuhi syarat dan sekatan yang dikenakan.

Begitu juga dengan peruntukan yang lain di mana pendekatan yang terkandung dalam undang-undang ini memberikan kuasa yang luas kepada pihak polis sedangkan sepatut ianya menganjurkan model kerjasama pihak penganjur dan pihak berkuasa untuk berbincang dan memperoleh kata sepakat mengenai perkara-perkara yang berkaitan dengan perhimpunan. Ciri-ciri yang ada pada beberapa undang-undang terdahulu seperti Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri 1960 yang memberikan kuasa penuh pihak polis masih lagi ingin diperkenalkan. Ini sedikit sebanyak menunjukkan kegagalan untuk menterjemahkan aspirasi kerajaan bagi melaksanakan transformasi pada undang-undang yang ingin diperkenalkan. Seharusnya peruntukan undang-undang yang ada lebih memberikan penekanan dari aspek pendekatan yang lebih bersifat kerjasama untuk memastikan perhimpunan yang bakal diadakan berlaku dalam situasi yang aman damai. Perkara ini bersesuaian dengan hak kebebasan bersuara yang dijamin oleh Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan ini termasuk hak untuk berhimpun secara aman.

2.4 Rayuan kepada Kementerian Dalam Negeri

Rang Undang-undang ini bukan sahaja memberikan kuasa yang luas kepada pihak berkuasa bahkan ianya juga tidak mempunyai peruntukan yang jelas dan relevan mengenai rayuan terhadap sekatan dan syarat-syarat yang dikenakan oleh pihak polis. Sudahlah sekatan dan syarat ini budi bicara mutlak pihak polis, pihak penganjur juga hanya boleh merayu atau berunding untuk mengurangkan atau menggugurkannya kepada Kementerian Dalam Negeri. Ini menimbulkan persoalan daripada aspek ketelusan, kesesuaian dan kerelevanannya. Seperti yang difahami, pihak polis beroperasi dan menjalankan tugas di bawah pemantauan Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) bahkan terikat dengan arahan KDN. Dalam konteks sudah tentu rayuan kepada KDN berkenaan dengan sekatan dan syarat dikenakan adalah tidak sesuai dan meragukan.

Memberikan hak untuk merayu terhadap sesuatu keputusan yang dibuat merupakan perkara yang perlu diberikan perhatian. Sewajarnya pihak penganjur diberikan peluang untuk merayu terhadap apa-apa sekatan dan syarat yang dikenakan untuk tujuan perhimpunan aman terhadap institusi yang lain yang lebih sesuai dan kredibel. Aspek ini membuktikan bahawa Rang Undang-undang ini mempunyai pelbagai kelemahan dari aspek teknikal dan juga substantifnya.

2.5 Kekaburan Undang-undang

Terdapat pelbagai kekaburan undang-undang yang terkandung dalam Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman ini. Umpamanya, tidak terdapat sebarang perbezaan yang jelas mengenai takrifan “perhimpunan” sama ada ianya merujuk kepada sebarang perarakan atau mana-mana protes jalanan atau piket atau demonstrasi. Rang Undang-undang ini juga tidak menjelaskan sama ada bukan warganegara Malaysia juga diberikan hak untuk berhimpun secara aman.

Peruntukan seksyen 19 juga adalah tidak jelas di mana merujuk penganjur sebagai seseorang yang menggalakkan, menaja, mengadakan atau menyelia perhimpunan, atau menjemput atau merekrut peserta atau penceramah bagi perhimpunan. Ini bermakna penganjur perhimpunan merangkumi definisi yang amat luas dan ini termasuk sesiapa sahaja yang terlibat. Terminologi ’merekrut’ juga tidak mempunyai sebarang pendefinisian yang jelas menimbulkan lagi kekaburan dan kekeliruan.

2.6 Penggunaan Kekerasan Dibenarkan

Agak mengejutkan apabila merujuk kepada seksyen 21 yang membenarkan pihak polis menggunakan kekerasan untuk menyuraikan perhimpunan. Walaupun peruntukan ini merujuk kepada “kekerasan yang munasabah”, kebenaran untuk membolehkan pihak polis menggunakan kekerasan tanpa ada apa-apa definisi dan skop bakal membuka ruang yang luas untuk ianya digunakan sewenang-wenangnya. Bukan itu sahaja, denda yang dikenakan kepada mana-mana pihak yang gagal untuk mematuhi seksyen ini ialah denda tidak melebihi RM20,000.

Peruntukan seumpama seksyen 21 ini yang memberikan kuasa ekslusif kepada pihak polis untuk menggunakan kekerasan bagi menyuraikan perhimpunan dan denda yang tinggi kepada sesiapa yang gagal mematuhinya membuktikan bahawa terdapat ketidakadilan dan ketidakrelevanan sebahagian besar ruang lingkup dan pendekatan Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman 2011 ini. Aspek ini sewajarnya diberikan perhatian serius oleh pihak kerajaan selaras dengan hasrat transformasi yang ingin dilaksanakan.

2.7 Akses Munasabah Kepada Media

Di antara aspek yang juga boleh dipertikaikan ialah peruntukan mengenai akses kepada media. Seksyen 24 memperuntukkan bahawa mana-mana wakil media hanya boleh mempunyai akses yang munasabah kepada tempat perhimpunan dan menggunakan apa-apa kelengkapan untuk membuat laporan tentang perhimpunan itu. Apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan ‘akses munasabah’ ini? Pihak manakah yang menentukan kemunasabahan akses ini?. Apakah sekatan-sekatan yang boleh dikenakan kepada media untuk menentukan kemunasabahan akses tersebut?

Peruntukan ini secara umumnya boleh menyekat media untuk mendapatkan maklumat secara adil dan bebas terhadap perhimpunan yang diadakan dan seterusnya boleh menafikan kebebasan media serta menidakkan laporan sebenar yang berlaku. Walaupun kebebasan media tidak boleh diberikan secara mutlak, tetapi menidakkan kebenaran dan fakta yang tepat melalui peruntukan sedemikian rupa umpama menafikan hak rakyat atau masyarakat untuk mengetahui kebenaran dan apa yang sebenarnya berlaku. Media perlu diberikan akses yang sewajarnya dan masyarakatlah yang perlu berperanan untuk mengadili sebarang laporan yang tertera di media massa.

3.0 Kesimpulan

Hasrat kerajaan untuk melakukan transformasi yang menyeluruh dalam sistem pentadbiran termasuk perundangan adalah sesuatu yang sewajarnya diraikan. Keputusan untuk memansuhkan beberapa undang-undang yang tidak lagi sesuai dilaksanakan menunjukkan sedikit sebanyak komitmen kerajaan untuk merealisasikan transformasi ini. Namun begitu, setelah meneliti dan membuat pemerhatian terhadap beberapa keputusan dan tindakan kerajaan akhir-akhir ini, polisi dan pendekatan transformasi ini menimbulkan pelbagai keraguan.

Di antara keraguan yang dizahirkan merujuk kepada pengenalan Rang Undang-undang Perhimpunan Aman yang telah dibentangkan di Parlimen November lalu. Setelah diteliti, Rang Undang-undang ini mempunyai pelbagai kelemahan dan terdapat beberapa persoalan signifikan yang perlu diberikan perhatian. Penulis telah menggariskan beberapa aspek penting yang menimbulkan seribu persoalan dan ini termasuk tiada wacana awam, pelbagai sekatan dan syarat, kuasa budi bicara pihak polis, kuasa Kementerian Dalam Negeri, Kekaburan undang-undang, penggunaan kekerasan dan akses munasabah kepada media. Senarai ini tidak berhenti setakat ini sahaja. Masih terdapat banyak lagi persoalan dan keraguan yang timbul mengenai undang-undang ini. Rang Undang-undang ini juga sebenarnya boleh menidakkan hak umum berhimpun dan menyatakan pendirian mereka terhadap sesuatu isu yang relevan dan signifikan. Oleh kerana ianya mempunyai lebih banyak kelemahan berbanding kelebihan dan kekaburan dari aspek ruang lingkup undang-undang serta memberikan kuasa budi bicara yang amat luas kepada pihak berkuasa, penulis cenderung untuk menolak Rang Undang-undang ini melainkan dianjurkan terlebih dahulu secara menyeluruh wacana awam untuk meneliti dan memperkemaskan lagi isi kandungan dan pendekatannya.

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Statue of Liberty, New York, USA

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Rock Star in the Muslim World

TIME Meets Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Available at: http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/09/26/exclusive-time-meets-turkish-prime-minister-recep-tayyip-erdogan/#ixzz1ebvkKPxn

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the international statesman of the moment. Greeted as a rock star in Egypt and other countries transformed by the Arab Spring, the Turkish Premier looms like a colossus over the Middle East. In recent weeks, he has been one of the most vocal world leaders to back the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. Popular at home, Erdogan has held his position since 2003, and was recently re-elected to a new term. All the while, both Turkey’s economy and geopolitical footprint have been growing noticeably. Erdogan sat down with TIME’s Jim Frederick, Bobby Ghosh, Tony Karon, Matt McAllester and Ishaan Tharoor on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in New York City. The following are excerpts from the conversation, touching upon Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with Israel, the failures of the Middle East peace process, Erdogan’s support for the Arab Spring and frustrations with the U.N., and whether anybody in Ankara still cares about joining the E.U.

TIME: You’ve been outspoken in support of the Palestinian cause and statehood. There are people who say all the drama at the U.N. has not helped the peace process. How do you think it has gone?

Erdogan: First and foremost, what is required is for the U.N. Security Council to say yes to the legitimate demands of the people in Palestine. If anything else should be discussed at this moment, it should be between two states. And there’s another fact we need to consider, primarily the borders of 1967. Israel first seems to have accepted going back to the borders of 1967, but somehow seemed to have got distanced from this ideal. They need to get closer back to it. Palestine is in a form of a maze right now.

Through TIME, I’d like to make a call out to humanity: [The Palestinians] are there to exist. They are not there to be condemned to struggle in an open-air penitentiary. Israel’s cruelty in that regard cannot be continued any longer. And, of course, the legitimate demands for Palestine to be a recognized state should be catered to and considered both in the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly. Those who approach these demands negatively will never be able to settle their accounts with history.

Four, five years ago, it seemed that relations between Turkey and Israel were very close and could change the dynamic of the whole region. Now ties appear to be irrevocably broken.

Our mutual relations with Israel would have been reinforced even further only if Israel hadn’t victimized the positive relations of two countries with [its 2010 raid] on the Mavi Marmara, which was navigating in international waters. The flotillas in question were bearing nothing but humanitarian aid, including toys, food and other sorts of materials. They were holding over 450 citizens from 32 countries. One of the casualties is an American citizen of Turkish descent. And right now the Israeli Prime Minister still alleges that the flotillas were actually loaded with weapons. Had they possessed the weapons that were alleged, why didn’t they fire back? There are reports issued by both the U.N. Security Council and U.N. agencies in Geneva about this incident, and you never see the slightest trace that the flotillas were carrying guns. The Israeli government is not being honest at all. Right now, as long as they refuse to apologize for the nine people of Turkish descent who lost their lives on the flotilla, so long as they refuse to pay compensation to the families, and of course as long as the embargo on Gaza has not been lifted, the relations between the two countries will never become normalized.

You and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both made the point at the U.N. General Assembly that the approach the U.S. took to the peace process had failed. What would you do differently to make the peace process work?

Here’s your headline: You need to take a sincerity test before you even think of accomplishing this. [Ask yourselves the question], Do we really want to resolve this issue or not? Unfortunately, I do not even see the traces of this within the Quartet. Because if the Quartet was so willing to resolve this issue, they would have imposed certain issues on Israel today. Until today, the U.N. Security Council has issued more than 89 resolutions on prospective sanctions related to Israel, but they’ve never been executed. And furthermore, there were about 200 resolutions issued by the General Assembly, and neither have those been complied with.

One might wonder why no sanctions have been imposed on Israel. When it’s Iran in question, you impose sanctions. Similarly with Sudan. What happens with Israel then? Had these sanctions been imposed in this day and age, the Palestine-Israel conflict would have been resolved a long time ago. That’s why I’d like all the parties involved to be sincere and stand behind those resolutions. And that is actually also where a need for reform is needed in the U.N. What’s the deal with these permanent-seat-holding members in the Security Council? They should be eliminated. The entire world is literally a slave to the decisions of these five permanent seat holders.

You had a successful trip across the countries of the Arab Spring and many of the people who have removed dictators there seem to look to the Turkish model of democracy. Does your help then become subject to the same types of criticism that the U.S. faces when talking about democratic change around the world?

Unlike others, I didn’t just go there to see a few people on the streets. I intentionally wanted to talk to the candidate presidents, the new political parties there, and I had the opportunity to get together with lots of people in order to grasp the situation. At my meetings, I said, all right, Turkey is a model of democracy, a secular state, a social state with the rule of law upheld. We are not intentionally trying to export a regime — we couldn’t care less. But if they want our help, we’ll provide any assistance they need. But we do not have a mentality of exporting our system.

One country that doesn’t seem to be inclined to follow the Turkish model is Syria. Like with Israel, you worked very hard trying to develop your relationship with President Bashar Assad. Now it appears that relationship is also broken. Is there any kind of prospect for peace in Syria that keeps Assad in power. Or does he have to go?

I am a person who is inclined to define relations between individuals based on principles. It is impossible to preserve my friendship with people who are allegedly leaders when they are attacking their own people, shooting at them, using tanks and other forms of heavy weaponry. Even when we had warm contacts with some of Syria’s leading figures, we could see that they had no intention of replicating our democracy model. We’ve always voiced our recommendations; they never actually listened to them. In our previous correspondences, he has told me has liberated most of the political offenders. Assad told me “we only have about 83 political offenders in prison.” But actually there are thousands and thousands. Those individuals have never been involved in violent attacks or uprisings. They’ve been unfortunately incarcerated based on their faith or their expressions. And you are probably aware of the fact that we have about 7000 guests [refugees] fleeing the Syrian regime hosted in the province of Hatay.

But you didn’t answer our question. Is there a future for Assad in Syria?

In order for me to be able to comment on this, I need to first visit the camps in Hatay where the refugees are being kept. But in terms of aspirations and hopes, I have previously stated that I am not very optimistic.

Regarding Turkish relations with the U.S., has there be any change over the last few years, particularly with the new administration?

In the last nine years, relations between the U.S. and Turkey have never recessed, never gone back, but they have not improved as much as we’d like. The relationship especially between Obama and us has always been very positive. Whenever we speak to each other, we talk about negotiations of certain processes whether in the region or more globally — we always talk about matters quite frankly. But of course what we want to see is relations getting reinforced at the upmost extent possible, particularly in the realms of the economy and commerce. Because Turkey has great potential to take advantage of. We’re really willing to see more and more U.S. entrepreneurs conducting investments in Turkey. I’m optimistic for the future. I should tell you honestly, there are no tensions between us.

What about over Israel?

There might be different points of view. We agree to disagree on certain issues. But these disagreements are not reasons for disconnecting relations. Turkey is a sovereign state, just like the U.S. We might go to different directions, in terms of our impressions and ideas, but we’ll always remain friends.

As Turkey’s role in the Middle East has grown, has it given up on its earlier ambition of joining the E.U.? Is integration into Europe now a closed chapter?

When [former French President Jacques] Chirac or [former German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroder were there, Turkey would be involved in all of the European leaders’ summits. But when [current Chancellor Angela] Merkel or [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy took over their offices, the ambience changed dramatically. Despite their attitudes, we were determined to continue this path toward E.U. membership. But unfortunately the trust among my people in E.U. membership started to shake and turn. We’re still determined, because no leader in the E.U. will be there forever. They’ll be replaced one day. We might be replaced one day. But Turkey is getting stronger as time goes by, and the situation of many European states is quite obvious.

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

The Tomb of Hadrat Ayub al Ansari in Istanbul. (From Medina to Istanbul.
“When Prophet Muhammad arrived in Medina (during Hijrah) he was offered accommodations by many, but he wished to stay with the Banu Najjar, whom he was distantly related to. Amongst the member of Banu Najjar, Prophet Muhammad had chosen Abu Ayyub al-Ansari and stayed with him for seven months”.

Islamic Banks Get a ‘Libor’ of Their Own

Islamic Banks Get a ‘Libor’ of Their Own

By KATY BURNE Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204443404577054150155788364.html

A group of 16 banks resolved a quandary that has dogged the $1 trillion Islamic financing market for nearly three decades: how to represent rates on interbank funding when Islamic principles prohibit firms from charging interest.

The banks—working with industry associations and data provider Thomson Reuters—created a reference rate called the Islamic Interbank Benchmark Rate, or IIBR, which was put into use for the first time Tuesday. The banks say the solution, which complies with Islamic moral codes, known as Shariah, lies in considering money flowing between banks as investments that depend on the performance of underlying assets, rather than as interest-bearing loans.

Scholars and bankers involved in the project say it is an industry milestone akin to the first globally issued Islamic corporate bond in 2001, or the first Islamic sovereign bond in 2002. They say the rate brings transparency to the Islamic financing process and could encourage broader use of Islamic banks.

“The establishment of the IIBR marks an important milestone in the maturation of Islamic money markets by providing an international reference rate for interbank transactions,” said Nasser Saidi, chairman of the Islamic Benchmark Committee and chief economist at the Dubai International Financial Centre, in a statement.

Islamic banks aren’t allowed to earn or pay interest, yet have been using an international interest-rate benchmark—the London interbank offered rate, or Libor—since 1986. While Libor isn’t compliant with Shariah, religious leaders permitted its use because there was no alternative benchmark based on socially ethical investing.

Rather than measuring interest on loans as Libor does, IIBR uses expected profits from short-term money and a forecasted return on the assets of the bank receiving funds. Both are considered investments rather than loans, and therefore interest-free.

Sheikh Yusuf Talal Delorenzo, chairman of Thomson Reuters’s Shariah committee, said the significance of IIBR is that it allows firms participating “to see the interbank market in their own terms.”

“Earnings are lawful,” he said. “What is unlawful is earnings from interest.”

Hassan Demirhan, director in the treasury department at the Islamic Development Bank, added that the introduction of an “indigenous Islamic benchmark” will prove to be a “major milestone in the growth and sustainability of the industry.”

IIBR on everything from overnight to one-year funding will be determined from rates the member banks contribute each day. The data will go through a type of cleaning called a “fixing,” where the top and bottom rates are removed and an average of the middle eight contributions is taken.

The results are blessed by a panel of Islamic banks and approved by a committee of Shariah scholars. Also involved in the launch were the Islamic Development Bank, the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, the Bahrain Association of Banks and the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia.

As of Nov. 16, the theoretical overnight IIBR would have been 0.1%, which was slightly below overnight Libor of 0.14%. Libor was cheaper over one year, however, at 0.91% versus 1.01% for IIBR.

Such differences could encourage corporate borrowers to use Islamic banks when IIBR is lower than Libor, on the theory that banks could pass savings on to customers.

“It will facilitate liquidity into the Islamic banks,” said Rushdi Siddiqui, global head of Islamic finance at Thomson Reuters in New York, who helped launched the first Islamic equity index in 1999 for Dow Jones.

Islamic banks have attracted liquidity from outside investors interested in diversification, said Mr. Siddiqui, and this will provide those funding sources with “a transparent, visible benchmark” that will encourage increased funding flows, helping to finance a wave of infrastructure projects in the region.

The development of a Shariah-compliant benchmark rate also comes amid regulatory investigations into the way the Libor rate is fixed by investment banks. Regulators have opted not to specifically endorse IIBR over other benchmarks, preferring to remain neutral, but they are aware of its creation and have supported it.

Regards
Zulkifli Hasan

Swiss Alps, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Untapped potential in Islamic finance

Untapped potential in Islamic finance

By LIZ LEE Available at: http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/11/19/business/9928900&sec=business

WHETHER it is the Occupy Wall Street movement in America or the threat of a meltdown in the European economy, the ongoing economic turbulence may have ignited in many the desire for a more decorous financial system.

Among the melange of solutions provided by conventional financial institutions, perhaps Islamic finance may just be a viable option for ways to deal with money.

During the IFN 2011 Issuers & Investors Asia Forum in October, the finance minister of Luxembourg Luc Frieden made an observation that Europe could learn and gain from Islamic finance as financial institutions under it have remained stable in the furore of the eurozone debt crisis.

Frieden says despite the credit crunch that has impacted Europe’s banks, Islamic financial institutions have been the most well managed. He notes that what the financial world needs today are stability, financial partnership, provision of excessive risk and speculation and ethical principles, all of which are found in Islamic finance.

However, despite growing global foothold, Islamic finance is still alien to many whom, due to the word Islamic, view the financial system as a religious expression rather than an alternative way to manage funds.

This was a misconception the leaders in the local Islamic finance industry sought to correct when they met last week during the International Investor Islamic Finance Roundtable organised by International Investor, a niche publication targeted at the business and investing community.

Perception challenge

International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (Inceif) president and chief executive Daud Vicary Abdullah says that there is a real challenge in both education and perception towards Islamic finance.

“People are not looking at it as other than a religious decision (and the question) do I have to be a Muslim to participate? still surfaces even though less frequently now compared with 10 years ago,” Daud says.

“There is still confusion among the non-Islamic world or in countries with non-Muslims majority (that creates) a deep-seated suspicion of what Islamic finance is and education can help change this,” he acknowledges.

Daud believes that in terms of changing mindsets, Malaysia can do a great deal by pioneering some form in the standardisation of terms.

Daud: ‘People are not looking at it as other than a religious decision.’
“There is a lot we can do by gaining consistency in language, terminology and interpretation. I think this is essential. What do we really mean by the product, cross-border liquidity, syariah interpretation and the processes as well as handling risk the syariah-compliant way,” he elaborates.

He says that there was a vacuum of explanation for the facets of Islamic finance globally and that Malaysia can be the platform to standardise terms in this financial system.

He notes that to change people’s mindset, effort must go back to primary school education and when introducing basic financial literacy.

“It is about going back through history to the things the Ottoman used in the middle ages. Perhaps what our doctorate students can do is suggest the redesigning of some of the financial literacy programmes that run on e-books or tablets so that primary school children can get the fundamental concepts of Islamic finance and know the alternatives (for financing) that are out there,” he says, adding that the change of this mass would probably need generations to instil.

“There is a lot of work to be done not just in this environment but also globally to change mindsets,” he says, adding that people are starting to look at Islamic finance from the perspectives of risk-sharing but that is no more than skimming the surface.

“It’s not just about risk-sharing, it’s about Islamic monetary policies using different tools,” he says.

Bank Negara Islamic scholar and Shariah Advisory Committee member Dr Aznan Hasan notes that it is time practitioners and regulators promote Islamic finance as a mainstream financial system.

“If we can see it as mainstream, we can change the mindset. We will start to think of what business model it works on and find the best way for it not just to co-exist with conventional finance but be a better alternative in some ways,” he says of the opportunities to harvest in Islamic finance.

While there was an overall congruence that Islamic finance should be depicted as a mainstream financial system rather than a niche option, the leaders recognise that that was a change could not be achieved overnight.

Risk-sharing model

HSBC Amanah Malaysia chief executive and executive director Rafe Haneef says the matter at hand is not just a mindset issue but is also incentive-driven.

“We have moved to limited-liability approach since a long a time ago where (for) the investing community, they do not want to share risk knowing that they get lesser return,” he says.

In order to move towards the more stable risk-sharing financial concept, he says everyone will have to “relook the corporate entity concept and business model that facilitates maximising shareholders’ return”.

“The existing conventional model gives less return when times are good but massive risk when times are bad which makes capitalists grow richer (but) the risk-sharing approach gives a greater distribution of wealth so you get greater reward through sharing when times are good as you get a greater share of the economics but when the times are bad, you share in the downturn as well.

“Investors are not prepared to share risk as they want to have their fixed income. They need to be, through tax, allowed to take more risk,” he says, citing the need to change the incentive in order to encourage risk-sharing.

He adds that risk-sharing is a better model for whole societies over the long term even though the initial stages of introducing it on a broad spectrum would incur a lot of social costs.

He adds: “The world is quite uniform in their taxing system so if you are the only country changing your system, you may find that you become less competitive in the short to medium term.”

There is much about Islamic finance in Malaysia that could still be moulded to be a leading hub.

“What we have not discussed thoroughly is the model we are working on. MIFC ( Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre) is very good to allow international players to come in and these are usually bankers and asset managers. However, the liberalisation for other segments under IF are not well thought out,” he says.

Aznan refers to areas under the banking system like the legal fraternity and accountancy which have not been moderated to follow any Islamic models. “Are we going to adopt the UK model, or the Singapore model or have our own model (for all these areas) because Islamic finance is not only about bringing money in or out.”

To further grow Malaysia as an Islamic finance hub, local institutions have to venture out as well.

While we have had many foreign players come in to set up a base in Malaysia, the question Maybank Islamic chief executive Muzaffar Hisham asked is: “When we get people to come in, can we also go there?”

Whether the introduction of foreign players have made notable impact on the growth of Islamic finance locally, Daud believes that the only way to move forward is through reaching out.

“(The international players) have not made as much difference as everybody wanted or they haven’t done it quickly enough and we can complain about it,” he said, “but this is also about us going out there (through) reciprocal arrangements on a regulatory level.”

He says that from a business standpoint, there is more that the local Islamic finance industry can do in terms of taking the expertise and products here abroad.

“We have grown from 6% to 23% (but) growing any further is outcome-based and part of that outcome is what we have to define (such as) the business model, legal system, regulatory structures and so on,” he says, adding that Malaysians should not be afraid of defining new global measures and standards for Islamic finance.

He remarks that Malaysia has the “perfect right to do that because it has been doing it. It has been on the front curb and continuous improvement is going on”.

The roundtable also gathered the participation of Ernst & Young contry managing partner Abdul Rauf Rashid, CIMB-Principal Islamic Asset Management chief executive Datuk Noripah Kamso, legal firm Shook Lin & Bok partner Jalalullail Othman, Securities Commission Islamic Capital Markets executive director Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin and International Investor country publisher Cory D’Abreo.

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Melbourne University Law School

Rachid Ghannouchi, a Reformist

Ghannouchi…Tunisia’s Reformist Islamist

Available at: http://www.onislam.net/english/news/africa/454636-ghannouchitunisias-reformist-islamist.html

TUNIS – Seen as a reformist and a champion of public freedoms, Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Islamic-leaning Ennahda, sees himself on a mission to advocate “an applied version of Islam”.

“There is some confusion in the West about Islamism,” Ghannouchi told Reuters.

“Some confuse it with fundamentalism and link it to violence, extremism and takfir” — the practice of declaring other Muslims infidels.

Ghannouchi’s Ennahda party won 41.7 percent of votes in last month’s election, the first poll since the ouster of president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolution earlier this year.

The election will result in an assembly that will draw up the country’s new constitution.

The party says it will not write religion into the country’s laws and will focus instead on jobs for the unemployed and justice for all.

Ghannouchi says Ennahda will guarantee individual freedoms, including women’s rights.

He compared its approach to that of the Christian Democrats in Europe or United States politicians who invoke God and Christian values while working in a secular democracy.

“We are against the state trying to impose any particular way of life,” he said.

“There shouldn’t be any law to try to make people more religious. We believe in freedom of religion, including the freedom to change religion.”

Ghannouchi was forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police.

A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab.

Reformist

Ghannouchi’s pragmatic policies are often described as being inspired by the moderate Islamists in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but they seem to have been just as influenced by him.

“Tunis has been a center of reformist Islamic thought since the 19th century,” said Mustafa Akyol, Turkish author of the recent book “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.”

“The AKP doesn’t have a Ghannouchi,” he said, using the name of the ruling party of Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Neither Erdogan nor (President Abdullah) Gul has written books about reform theology.”

A rare theoretician among Islamist politicians, Ghannouchi’s reformist writings were translated from Arabic into Turkish and read there as early as the 1980s.

His 1993 book “Public Liberties in the Islamic State” is “better known in Turkey than Tunisia,” he said.

It was banned until Ben Ali was ousted by Tunisia’s Arab Spring protests in January.

Ghannouchi believes that Islam and democracy fit together as all Islamic laws aim to preserve the universal values of life, religion, property, reason and family.

“When we establish democracy, we see that it achieves many of these aims,” Ghannouchi said.

“Anything that promotes these aims is Islamic, even if it is not called Islamic.

“That’s why we say that Islam and democracy are compatible.”

Radwan Masmoudi, Tunisian-born director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in Washington, said democracy was the most suitable political system for putting Ghannouchi’s interpretation of Islam into practice.

“There are Islamic values that are universal and the state should uphold, such as justice, freedom and equality,” he told Reuters.

“For that you need a separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Those are secular values.”

Another pillar of Ghannouchi’s thinking — ijtihad, or reasoned interpretation of Islamic texts — needs freedom to operate effectively, Masmoudi said.

“You can’t practice ijtihad in a dictatorship,” he said.

“People used to think we needed to reform Islam to have a democracy. I think we need democracy first, then we can reconcile Islam with modernity.”

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

With Yvonne Ridley, award-winning journalist, former taliban captive, revert to Islam