For my son, when he grows up, this site will be my legacy for him. The decisions his mother and I made for him, to understand them, to learn from them and to lead a life without prejudice and to succeed in it on his own merit.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Shot At The NEP

1Malaysia for business
Tony Fernandes
Apr 25, 2009

A lot has been said about 1Malaysia. My views on that are very clear. I hope one day there will be 1Asean.

So I won't dwell on it. What I would like to focus on are the reforms implemented in the commercial sector by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's administration.

The removal of NEP requirements for 27 service sub-sectors represents a great start. I hope the rest of it will also wound down in time. But I hope more importantly, that the entire domestic economy is reformed.

My wish is that Datuk Seri Najib does a Margaret Thatcher. At present, there is too much vested interest, conflict and red tape that kill creativity, discourage innovation and provide little incentive for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. Before all of you jump on me and point to AirAsia's success, yes, we have survived and thrived, but AirAsia could be so, so much bigger and successful if we didn't have to deal with all these issues.

What are they?

1) Government-owned firms should be divested by the state. The government should facilitate the operations of businesses, not run them. I'm not saying GLC's should be sold to individuals like in the past but the public should own them. So instead of Khazanah owning 70 percent of several supposedly private entities, let the public own them. These companies should be put in charge and empowered, not led by civil servants. No matter how highly qualified, civil servants tend to have a singular mind-set which is that of regulators. When they are in charge of GLC's, they are likely to be conflicted in dealings with private firms such as AirAsia. Can Khazanah be really objective on issues regarding AirAsia when it owns MAS and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad?

2) If GLC's are 70 percent owned by the public and overseen by professional boards of directors, it is much more likely that the senior management, including the CEO will consist of qualified and experienced professionals --- people seasoned in the private sector and who will come into the job knowing that they can't rely on government intervention and protectionism. This can only help nurture the building of stronger and better brands.

3) Monopolies stifle and strangle innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. They should be broken up. Look at our airports, almost all under the control of MAB. We have 40-odd airports. Have they been effectively developed? Are they contributing as much to the national and local economies as they should? AirAsia has been stubborn and fought all this every inch of the way, but it has taken a toll on us as well. As for the country, how many good businesses have we lost? How many great entrepreneurs have just given up, tied up in knots by the tangles of red tape and the regulator-mentality of GLC's determined to protect their own turf rather than consider the broader national interest?

4) Private industries coupled with efficient marketing-driven GLC's will get us out of this rut. And then we can have firms that can go out there and be the best in Asean and then in Asia.

Good luck to our new prime minister. He has started off well but as the Beatles once said, it's a "long and winding road." He is right to focus on the economy. Attracting foreign investment is great but he would do equally well, if not better, to remove the shackles that prevent local talent from soaring. It is a Malaysian (note Malaysian) who will grow and drive this country. There is so much talent among our people. Liberate it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

TV Is A Religion

TV is a powerful weapon of mass deception
Azly Rahman

We are watching too much TV. We have way too many channels that disseminate a variety of propaganda, sell dreams and illusions, create false consciousness, discuss non-issues, fragment the self, and numb our creative and critical senses.

Our children are bombarded with thousands of images daily as they sit passively in front of the television set. Their brain cells are slowly being turned into miniature advertising billboards.

These billboards become field of dreams and consciousness, turning the self into whatever the producers of propaganda wish them to turn into. These brain cells are conditioned by the nano-technology in smart TV programming.

TV is a powerful weapon of mass deception. TV is the mother of inner battles in all human beings. It is slowly killing the mental capacity of our children to sustain reading and to engage in critical reflection. An uncritical mind is a fertile ground for mental colonisation. A mind, essentially, is a terrible thing to waste.

Print and broadcast media are powerful tools of propaganda. While many Malaysian parents struggle to have their children read well so that they may not be perpetually confused and brain dead, TV is rigorously producing more and more programmes that will make children have four eyes and no mouth. Their mind cannot sustain good reading.

How many TV channels are there in Malaysia to help baby-sit the children? How many hundreds of programmes are we watching weekly to turn us into scatterbrained people?
How many different lifestyles of the rich and famous are we exposed to, so that we may learn to become replicas of the stars of Hollywood and Bollywood? How many universities in Malaysia are teaching critical media analysis?

Selling them junk

The owners of the satellites are smiling from the heavens looking down at Malaysians opiated and stoned in front of the TV set. The mantra is this: Feed the masses with all the ads and sell them junk through TV programmes. Sell them dreams so that they will buy and buy and let the media control and create their lives.

Whoever controls TV gets to control storytelling. Whoever controls the station controls the means of producing mass propaganda. Whoever controls the government controls the means of controlling the minds of the people. It is a mind-control game.

We learn from TV programmes. We learn to have choices of what to buy and what to believe through the propaganda. One is made to have choices to believe what kind of information is to be funneled into one's brain and next what kind of reality to believe, based on those presented by TV.

Malaysians complain that they only read half a page of a book a year on average, but why not complain that more and more TV stations are sprouting racing with one another to produce more and more sophisticated junk.

Producers have their ideological biases in what they produce. They answer to profiteers. Whatever sells can and ought to be mass-produced. The more people watch the programme, the higher the ratings, the more expensive the advertising slot.

Producers are not interested in producing ‘truth’. They think they are depicting ‘reality’ and therefore we see ‘reality shows’ to exploit human gullibility.

What is Malaysian TV producing? Better programmes or better propaganda?

One is bombarded by split-second images that hits the brain and colonise the mind. Watch a 30-second commercial when you're tired, and you will discover that you are not watching TV, but the TV is watching you and washing your senses with subliminal messages that makes propaganda artsy and scientific.

Cruel choices

TV provides cruel choices. One is glued to the set, armed with the remote control. Especially with satellite TV with those many channels, children become glued to the idiot box. Observe what will happen to society when we have more and more channels.

The brain cells get excited at the end of every good TV programme. If it's a game show, the self glued to the TV gets transported in time and space to participate in the illusion of winning and losing. If it's a soap opera, the self becomes the actor or actress in the story in the process of the imitation of life.

TV programmes provide hundreds of choices daily for one to engage in alternate-reality games.

In TV-land, democracy is about creating more and more money selling advertisements that will turn all of us into TV freaks and addicts of the idiot box. It is not about developing one's skills in stepping outside of society and looking at it like a crystal ball.

TV-land is the land of make-believe that is created to turn viewers into bodies that consume and continue to be consumed. It is a land of cut-throat culture industry that first positions humanity in front of the TV, bombards it with trillions of sound bytes and multi-coloured electronic images, and transforms it into wide-eyed consumers that will consume conspicuously. This is the strategy of those who owns TV stations and cable broadcast satellites.

Brilliant! But the goal is to profit from advertising, in the name of having choices in a democratic world of mass consumption, TV provides such democratic choices. Cable TV provides the most choices in the presenting of propaganda.

‘TV is producing us’

TV creates human beings. American idols create idols to be worshipped. The Malaysian Idol, a transmutation of the American programme creates the human self that is to be made into an idol to be further worshipped via tabloid, radio, and TV.

TV can turn the kampung boy or girl into a demi-god who will then be transformed into an idol - an icon, a walking and talking billboard, a symbol of protest, a sign and symbol of this or that, a spokesperson for this and that organisation that will pay the most, a mascot for a political party. All these are creations of the well-trained media brains behind TV programming.

Want to be a famous politician? Control the media. Have it glorify you. Want to last long? Control it for more than 20 years. Have it make you into an idol or an icon. Learn from despotic rulers.

In the creation of Malaysian Idol, people love to see others humiliated in the name of creating that one particular idol. The nation enjoys that; like the Romans enjoying the gladiator thrown into the arena. Then the movie star or the music star is created, TV addicts and TV freaks read junk tabloids to keep up with news of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Children will forget the hero within themselves. Their hero will be outside of themselves. To be - is to be like somebody else.

One cannot live that lifestyle but one can certainly be identified with it. TV is thus watching what human beings watch and therefore recreates human beings that are consumed by these images controlled by people who want to turn us into consumers.

Politicians who control the media (print or broadcast media) are also controlling the process of producing propaganda. But first, the politician must buy the media so that he/she will be recreated, just like the Malaysian Idol is created.

See how the modern media works? Sublime and subversive. Imagine what 100 channels can do to the human mind. Imagine what they can do to society.

Those watching American Idol get stoned on other people's fame and fortune, just like those who watch Wheels of Fortune do not realise that they watch the game show to forget that they may be in a wheel of misfortune themselves.

TV is a clever mass producer of dreams. Dreams can be in English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil, Urdu or Arabic. Whoever is clever and has the skills to create, can become dream-merchants peddling dreams. Electronic dreams are sublime. They wash away sorrows of the real world.

Bollywood is an industry. Malaysians especially have been conditioned to love Hindustani movies because they have been around since the early days of TV. Many Malaysians are of the south Indian stock, and therefore Bollywood helps Malaysians get stoned glued to TV in the modern age.

Bollywood sells well. Soap operas are a great hit with Malaysian housewives because that's the time to be glued to advertisements. Soap operas make housewives and house-husbands cry a lot because of the power of subliminal seduction. Soap operas sell soaps so that consumers can have fresher dreams daily, in a world corrupted by realpolitik. But the best part is to turn viewers into happy and stoned consumers. While housewives and househusbands shed real tears, the producers and TV station owners shed crocodile tears.

Is this the meaning of life? Aren't we supposed to destroy idols and the Neon gods - and rediscover the ‘Self’ within?

Reality of TV

Without advertisements and governments there won't be media. Those who owns media gets to own the means of colonising other people's mind, including the minds of the producers.

Producers have to kowtow to the dictates of corporations and governments. Owners of TV stations have controlling interests in the government and vice versa. This is the picture of the interconnectivity of the production of truth and the truth of profit-making.

They are mental slaves in the production house of ideologies; whatever these ideologies may present themselves. They produce for environmental polluters, beer companies, credit card companies, electric companies, cartoon companies, and cigarette companies.

I am sure we know the relationship between advertising slots and TV programming. In the long run, these create good consumers and fewer good citizens that can think critically of the fate of society.

TV is can also be a good master and servant to governments; the more corrupt the government the more corrupt TV programming becomes.

All TV stations are ideological; they do not present the truth - they can never claim to present objective points of view, because these truths are funded by corporations and government. The biggest lie can get funded by the biggest corporate or governmental liars.

TV in a democratic country cannot necessarily be democratic. It is based on presenting seemingly democratic opinions but yet they are all well-crafted to make the audience feel that they are being presented with truth. Non-issues become issues. Villains become heroes. Anti-heroes die a million deaths. Reality is mediated by invented realities.

But is all TV useless?

Malaysian Reality Show

The best Malaysian TV is yet to come - full-length ‘live’ telecasts of the Malaysian parliamentary debates. This can be good for the nation. If we can have a machine to vote for the most presentable politician weekly, we would be on our way to teaching our children what political accountability means. Political accountability can contribute to higher levels of civic consciousness.

Weekly tallies of good intellectual performance, coupled with good track record to no-corrupt acts, and good non-tax-evasion record - all these will help TV viewers enjoy the political game-show and decide on which politician should stay or be axed out.

I think our elected officials are ready for Malaysian Parliamentary TV. It will be a good way to educate Malaysians, especially the younger generation, of the political process, of participatory democracy, of the ethics of politics, of the power of the political intellect, and of powerful rhetoric.

That will be the promising world of good TV. That will be reality TV, Unlike the news reporting we get these days. News reports are massaged truth. Documentaries are longer versions of massaged truth.

TV stations hire more and more good researchers to produce better and better massaged truths.

Al-Jazeera is a station of propaganda of the Qatar government. Fox News is the station of propaganda par excellence of corporate America. The same goes with Malaysian TV stations. They all produce massaged truths. They broadcast points of view that are politically correct. These are propaganda stations that destroy our journey through the stations of the soul.

The human mind is made to be fragmented by these alternate truths. In the long run, the mind creates the self that reproduces itself into a walking and talking "worldview that is shaped by propaganda".

With private and public TV, we are sucked into the world of false consciousness, of make-believe, and of other people's stories.

So essentially the human self cannot escape from being enslaved by ideologies. TV producers, owners, politicians, educators, parents and teenagers must learn how to recognise false consciousness and massaged truths.

But one must first switch off the idiot box and pull out the cable.

Parents, teachers, educators, TV producers, community leaders, politicians - I interrupt this essay with an important public announcement: read books, discuss big ideas, have meaningful conversations, destroys screen idols.

Buy books

To help children increase their capacity to think, I would suggest we unsubscribe to cable TV, switch off the channels, and begin a programme of TV-detoxification. This might be akin to a rehabilitation programme for TV addiction.

The new daily diet must be of books - good books of the various traditions and disciplines.

Reading is a special psycho-linguistic activity that helps the mind create images out of sounds, syllables, words, concepts, sentences, phrase, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, and other strategies designed to make the mind active - the very stuff that helps the brain create and imagine.

It trains the brain in a different way. It does not, like TV, make the brain docile and ready to be raped and subdued.

When the brain is subdued, the mind becomes colonised, and the body becomes a location for consumption. We become consuming bodies that are produced by TV advertising. Satellite owners will benefit. The aim of TV is to sell dreams, turning the life of economic beings into nightmares.

First tier media giants - AOL-Time Warner, Walt Disney, Bertelsmann, Viacom, AT&T, SONY, Vivendi Universal and Rupert Murdoch - will benefit. Hollywood and Bollywood will benefit.

Buy your child 100 books instead of subscribing to 100 channels. Have quiet reading times instead of living multiple realities created by TV. Get them to understand what it means to have their own stories, and to be makers of their own history rather that be turned into consumers manipulated by TV.

Kids grow smarter around books. Teach them what TV is trying to teach. Or better stilll -- teach them to speak up against injustices and how to transform the world. Teach them to become radical thinkers, armed with poetry and passion, reason and revolution.But first, turn off that TV. For, the world created by television is too much for our children. They will grow old having four eyes and no mouth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Own The Govt, Or The Govt Own Us

Missing The Concept
By Art Harun

In image building, it is good to have a concept. But the trouble with having a concept is that the concept should be followed up with or backed by a blueprinted plan to achieve whatever is set out to be achieved by the concept. It must be borne in mind however, having a concept is one thing, implementing a concept is another and of course, missing a concept, especially in Malaysia, is as easy as getting dead or into a coma in a police lock-up.

So, let us say we have a concept and our concept is "change". We should then have some ideas as to what change we want to achieve. Then we should have a plan on how to achieve that change which we want. After that, we should all go out and do whatever is being planned in order to achieve that change. That is how it works. Well, at least, that is how I think it should work.

1Malaysia, as a concept, is lovely, I think. It is like saying to all of us peaceful citizens of Malaysia, "my friends, lets be together and love this nation of ours; lets live work, eat, drink, joke and whatever together; lets all cari makan together, share whatever we have; lets make this beautiful country of ours a better place for us and for our children." That is how 1Malaysia could be "marketed" and "sold" to all of us by an honest Government which is passionate about this country pf ours and the people.

Well, that is as far as I understand it to be. Or rather, that is as far as I wish it should be. In so far as how our Government wishes it to be, I would not know. Because, so far, this concept has not been explained. Nor has it been said anywhere by anybody on what this concept is all about; what its objectives are and what are the plans to achieve its objectives.

Whatever this concept might entail, the signs and the body language are however not good. Yes. Not good at all. Why, you may ask me.

Well, just yesterday, our newly minted DPM was reported to have said that the Chinese are ungrateful for voting for PR and not for the BN Government. He further was quoted to have said that the Government felt deceived by the Chinese. Apparently, despite the Government's "assistance" to the various vernacular schools, the Chinese still did not vote for the BN and therefore they were not grateful. He also lamented the fact that the Chinese had failed to reciprocate after receiving various benefits from the Government.
That is what I call a classic - in the same vein as Si Luncai, Pak Pandir, Lebai Malang, well you get the idea - case of missing the blinking concept. If those statements are to be the norm from our DPM, then I must say 1Malaysia would be just another concept which soon will buy a one way ticket to junksville. Just like Islam Hadhari. Just like Bersih Cekap Amanah. Just like Gemilang Terbilang and Cemerlang. All will Hilang!

The people are entitled to developments. Regardless of whether they are Chinese, Indians, Malays or whatever. The schools are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Sufficient allocations to the schools are part and parcel of the administration of the education system in the country. And the people are entitled to a good education. Therefore, allocations to schools IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of the Government. And this responsibility is there ALL THE TIME. Not only during by-elections or General Elections time.

When the Government makes allocations to these schools, such allocations ARE NOT GIFTS to whoever. Such allocations constitute the Government's discharge of one of its duties to the people. The people therefore don't have to be grateful to the Government for that. They don't even have to thank the Government. They could even go out to out vote the Government because of whatever reason despite the fact that the Government had done its duty in making the allocations to the schools. That is the people's right. And what do you call that? It is called DEMOCRACY!

And quite what are the so called benefits which the Government has given the Chinese about which the DPM was lamenting? I want to know. What? And when? Are these vote buying exercise? What? Pray tell me. Because you have obviously tickled my curiosity.
To those who do not know the concept of Governmental duties, allow me to explain in simple language. I am even typing this real slowly in case you cannot read fast enough.

A Governmental position, such as a Ministry, is a position of trust. The Minister is a trustee. All the powers which the Minister has are held by the Minister on trust. For who? For the people. For the subject. The people/subject are the beneficiary of this trust.

As a trustee, the Minister has fiduciary duties to the people. Fiduciary duties demand that the Minister must AT ALL TIME execute his powers in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the trust, which in case you have already forgotten, are the people. The Minister therefore should avoid any position of conflict of interest in executing his Ministerial powers.

What is a conflict of interest? Well, that is easy. Basically, if the Minister is about to do something, he should avoid a position where his personal interest might benefit from whatever action he wants to take. Easy. For example, if a Minister wants to make allocations to schools to an area where a by-election is going on or about to go on, and a candidate from the Minister's party is also running in that by-election, the Minister should then postpone his decision. Why? Because the Minister would be in a position of a conflict of interest. Why is it a conflict of interest? Because in such circumstances, it could be argued that the reason for such allocation is to make the Minister's party popular thus ensuring a victory of the Minister's party in the by-election. It could also be argued that the Minister chose to make the allocation to the schools in the by-election areas because of the by-elections and not because of the needs of those schools.

That is the concept of Ministerial powers and their exercise in a Common Law-based democracy. Like the one in Malaysia.

People, lets not be conned by any other concept.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Brand New Start With Old Ways

Najib's ploy
By Jacqueline Ann Surin

LEST we allow our new prime minister to get away with a slick public relations exercise, here are some cold hard statistics about previous prime ministers and the Internal Security Act (ISA).

In July 1981, two weeks into office as prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad released 21 ISA detainees. As he himself candidly admitted on 5 April 2009, he thought it would be good for him. It probably was for his public image then.

But what did Mahathir subsequently do during his 22 years in power? According to Suaram, under Mahathir's administration, 1,500 people were arrested under the ISA.

Most notable of these arrests were the 100-plus Malaysians who were arrested in 1987 under Operasi Lalang.

But Mahathir wasn't the only one to start off a premiership on such a good footing. In November 2003, after almost a month of being prime minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi released 15 detainees. Subsequently, however, under his administration between October 2003 and April 2009, there were 105 new arrests.

And so, Datuk Seri Najib Razak isn't really doing anything extraordinary as Malaysia's new and sixth prime minister. His release of 13 ISA detainees on 5 April follows a route Malaysians should now be familiar with.

The question, of course, is what will Najib do after this?

Let's be real

The ISA violates human rights. No matter what the rhetoric may be about national security and public order, no government should have the absolute power to detain someone without trial for an indefinite amount of time.

And while Najib has promised a review of the ISA, it has been made clear that abolishing it is not in his pack of cards. Worse, the new administration hasn't even committed to a specific timeframe about when this review will be concluded. Instead, it has assured the public that it will take time.

This begs the question about the government's sincerity in respecting civil liberties and putting people first. Proposals for amending and/or abolishing the ISA have, on countless occasions, been submitted to the government. Even if the government cannot trust human rights groups to have the nation's best interests at heart, they can at least trust the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

Since 2003, Suhakam has been proposing to the government that the ISA should be abolished. Indeed, then Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar indicated on 8 April 2009 that Suhakam's report may be used as a basis for the government's review. Hence, since the government wouldn't need to start from scratch, it should be able to commit to a timeframe of when it will complete its review of the ISA. This, in fact, would be in line with part of Najib's slogan, "Performance Now".

Najib has also said that his move to release the 13 detainees was to demonstrate a caring government that was not repressive. Let's get real. To begin with, no "caring government" should detain people without trial. But the Malaysian government has, repeatedly, in clear abuse of human rights. And Najib was very much a part of both the Mahathir and Abdullah administrations when ISA detentions were executed. Unlike Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who resigned in opposition to the ISA, Najib has through his years in government done nothing to oppose the detentions.

And yet the new premier is now asking us to view him as a leader with heart because he released 13 people. How about the remaining 27 detainees being held at the Kamunting detention centre? As it is, Najib has refused to comment about further releases. Surely his benevolence, if it were genuine, should extend to others who remain in detention, too?

No, Najib shouldn't be given brownie points for releasing 13 ISA detainees who shouldn't have been detained in the first place.

But brownie points are exactly what Najib expects, as evidenced by his statements surrounding his first act as prime minister. The subtext to Najib's message to the rakyat is: "I'm a good guy. I released the 13 detainees." It's no different from what an ex-boyfriend of a former classmate of mine once said to her: "You're lucky you're in a relationship with me. I don't beat you."

Apparently, Malaysians should be thankful we have Najib as our new prime minister because he has released 13 ISA detainees and is looking at reviewing, instead of abolishing, the colonial relic from the days of Malaya's Emergency.

But really, Najib should only be allowed to score brownie points if he didn't make this about him. Those detainees, and the ones remaining at Kamunting, deserve to be released, not because Najib is competing with Santa Claus for popularity, but because it was wrong to have detained them in the first place.

Now, if only Najib could say that, and act fully in accordance with that principle, he would deserve the brownie points he seeks from the rakyat.

What next?

What will Najib do in the months and years to come? There is no guarantee that he will not follow in the same footpaths as Mahathir and Abdullah by arresting and detaining others under the ISA.

For so long as the ISA is in place, Malaysians will have to live in the constant fear that anyone of us can be picked up by the government at a whim. That's what happened on 12 Sept 2008 to Teresa Kok, Raja Petra Kamarudin and Tan Hoon Cheng. Indeed, our history bears testimony to the countless times the government has used the ISA to silence dissidents and maintain their grip on power in the name of "national security".

All ISA detainees must be released. And the ISA itself abolished.

Not because Najib is a sweetheart of a prime minister, as he would also want us all to believe by walking about Kuala Lumpur and talking about a "vibrant, free and informed media". But because it is the right thing to do if Najib's "goodness" is for real. And until that happens, Malaysians should remain critical and vigilant of our new prime minister.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Criticism Make Smarts

Malaysia PM urges media to criticize government

(Associated Press Wed 8 April 2009) - Malaysia's new prime minister urged the local media on Monday to criticize the government "without fear," but stopped short of saying if he would remove the annual licensing system that shackles publications.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office on Friday, said he wants to build a free press that is transparent, accountable and caters to the needs of all Malaysians regardless of their race.

Najib's speech appeared to be an attempt to allay concerns that he would unleash a crackdown on the media. The fear was raised after the government banned two opposition newspapers just days before he took power. However, Najib overturned the ban hours after taking the oath of office.

To "build a democracy (that is) responsive to the needs of the people," Malaysia needs a media that will "report what they see, without fear of consequence," Najib said in a speech to the editors of local newspapers, radio stations and television stations.

The media "should hold governments and public officials accountable for the results they achieve or do not achieve," he said in the speech organized by the Malaysian Press Institute.

But Najib's bold call for media outlets, which are mostly pro-government, to change is unlikely to achieve results as long as newspapers and other publications are forced to obtain an operating license each year.

The possibility that the license will be revoked keeps media outlets, especially those run by the opposition parties, in check. In the past, several newspapers have been shut down through this system.

In any case, most newspapers and all television stations are either owned by different parties in the ruling coalition or are indirectly owned by the government, which ensures they rarely go against those in power.

The only critical commentary available is in the online media and blogs, which tend to be heavily biased against the government. Some bloggers have been accused of reporting rumors and unsubstantiated allegations and of libeling government leaders.

Though bloggers don't need to obtain government permission to publish, they have been silenced in other ways.

At least two bloggers, including popular commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin, have been jailed briefly under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial. Raja Petra has also been found guilty of libeling government politicians and ordered to pay huge sums of money in damages. The latest verdict against him was on Friday.

Najib noted that he himself has been a victim of personal attacks in the media. He was referring to allegations that he was involved in a shady government contract to buy submarines from France. He has also been accused of links in the murder of a Mongolian woman, who was the estranged lover of Najib's friend. Najib has vehemently denied the allegations.

"I will always stand up and be accountable for the decisions I make as your prime minister," he said.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Third Eye View

Pakatan’s rising hills, Najib’s declining slope
by Bridget
April 8, 2009

The results are in, and the 2-1 victory shows that both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional held onto their original seats. But the final tallies do not suggest a status quo. Far from it.

The larger majorities for the opposition indicate serious obstacles for Najib Abdul Razak and BN. Voters have decisively rejected his new leadership less than one week into his tenure. The debate will not only centre on the numbers, but around the factors that contributed to BN defeats.

Allow me to point out 10 factors that stand out.

1) Leadership credibility – Najib has a serious public image problem. Despite hiring public relations firms, his reform-oriented speeches and calls to give him a chance, the new premier has yet to win over the support of a majority of Malaysians. The results show that this problem is across races (even among the Malays), classes and generations.
The sources of the problem are two-fold:

a) The cloud of scandal that surrounds his leadership has darkened his future and unless the issues are addressed squarely, it is unlikely to dissipate. Apparently these unsubstantiated rumours have poisoned Najib’s well.

b) Equally important is that he has yet delivered on reform. Malaysians have listened to unfulfilled promises and are unlikely to be swayed with piecemeal measures, such as the 13 ISA release. They also see him as an integral part of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government which had failed to live up to its electoral promises.

2) UMNO infighting - Najib faces divisions within his own ranks. Despite the convincing win of his cohort in the UMNO polls, this has not translated into a mending of differences within his party. Dissatisfied UMNO members joined the independent list of candidates in Bukit Selambau from the onset.

Yet, Najib’s actions since taking office also had an effect. The growing purge of Abdullah people from the party leadership ranks has upset many. This played itself out in the by-elections where Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks deeply offended Abdullah supporters. The sheer number of UMNO members – even elected UMNO party representatives –who stayed home rather than vote allowed the strong Pakatan’s win to evolve into a landslide, notably in Perak.

Appointing Muhyiddin Yassin, seen as the man contributing to Abdullah’s downfall, as election operation manager and discouraging Khairy Jamaluddin from campaigning had agitated the rifts, but it was Mahathir’s presence that reopened the wound.

UMNO remains splintered within and this hampers the party from even gaining back its traditional base. This says nothing about the fact that reforms in UMNO have not been substantial and this obstacle undermines the party’s ability to win back younger voters and fence sitters.

3) BN weakness – When the votes were counted, the results showed that in the two Bukits, non-Malay voters remained squarely behind Pakatan. Over 80% of the Chinese voted for the opposition, and in some polling stations, including traditional Chinese new villages, that number rose to 85%.

Among Indian voters, as the results in Bukit Selambau notably show, over 60% voted for the opposition. One estate worker wearing a BN shirt pointed out that her vote was in her heart, not what she was wearing. The massive effort by the MIC to distribute patronage in the Indian community and promises of additional Hindraf releases won back some voters, but the effort only made a dent in what appears to be a major post-March 2008 shift among Indian voters toward the opposition.

The valiant efforts of Gerakan, MCA, and MIC failed to woo their traditional ground. The reason is well-known – the BN as a multi-ethnic coalition is not working. Najib’s choice to visit Sin Chew Daily last week without his BN counterparts and failure to publicly engage the non-Malay component party leaders openly illustrates that even his administration recognises that the current non-Malay party leaders are weak.

Ironically, Najib’s actions are weakening them further, as non-Malay voices from BN have been marginalised and this marginalisation has undermined their ability to win back support. Until the non-component parties have stronger leaders to defend their parties interests and move beyond a system of accepting secondary status, they are trapped in a structure that is not seen as representative.

Remember, the majority of constituencies in Malaysia are mixed (and definitely not a Malay majority that some Umno members suggest), and ultimately the coalition that wins these seats, wins over the majority of voters.

4) Greater Pakatan coherence – The West Malaysian results have sealed Pakatan electorally, at least in the short term. While it is foolish to suggest that the ideological divisions and inter-party competition do not remain, the win in Bukit Gantang that has brought Pakatan’s extremes together – DAP and PAS – in unprecedented fashion and the viable cooperation between all three opposition parties in Bukit Selambau that boosted a weak PKR candidate to an impressive victory, shows that the opposition is institutionalising as a electoral force.

In contrast, the failures of Pakatan cooperation showed in Batang Ai, giving the BN a solid victory. The umbrella of change with calls for better governance and the move toward moderation on the issue of Islamic law are inclusive enough for the diversity of opinion within Pakatan and cohesive enough for the electorate.

5) Corruption – If there is one issue that brings the voters to the opposition, it is corruption. From the Chinese fisherman to the retired Malay military officer, the message of dissatisfaction is the same – the rot within.

The predatory activity in the campaign as funds allocated to gain support were pocketed by the leaders and the larger sense that corruption in land deals, party polls, and contracts is endemic has deeply alienated many voters who are fed up with this practice.

Piecemeal initiatives and the selective targeting of individuals as occurred in the run-up to the UMNO polls only served to deepen this sense that the people’s money is being taken by graft as ordinary voters struggle in the more difficult economic climate. The disparity of wealth and blatant display of spoils of power all favour Pakatan, even despite the problems the opposition coalition faces by some within its own ranks on these issues.

6) Patronage politics declining – A new politics in Malaysia is evolving, even in semi-rural/rural constituencies. Traditionally the delivery of election goodies – this time round bicycles, TOL agreements, fishing licences, school allocations, temple funds, and open financial allocations – has been enough to win over these areas.

It did the trick in Batang Ai, where promised of over RM70 million (for over 8,006 voters) yielded a bumper BN majority. (As one person commented, it was a strategic long-term investment in their community.) Yet, it was not enough in West Malaysia. Patronage cannot guarantee victories any more.

The reasons here are also two-fold:

a) The sheer population numbers undercut the personal relationships of reciprocity that underscore patronage. It works in Sarawak because personal ties remain. This is not the case any longer in West Malaysia as migration, party changeovers and ironically development itself has transformed dynamics into more impersonal exchanges. No wonder voters take the money and vote independently.

b) Another underlying cause of this transformation has been the evolution of voting for issues, not financial rewards or development promises. Voters have rejected short-term gains, showing that long-term factors in areas of governance matter more.

7) Voter sophistication – This is tied to the greater sophistication of voters who get their information from a variety of sources. While the Internet did not permeate these areas to the same extent as the urban constituencies and many of these voters do not engage alternative media (such as Malaysiakini), they see the forest through the trees. They are tired of being taken for granted and treated like children that should follow blindly.

The underlying patronising approach toward voters ignores that Malaysians vote strategically and purposefully. The approach of BN has yet to move away from the patronising mould. For example, while Bukit Gantang contest had a more sophisticated BN campaign with clearer alternative messages on the issue of the royalty, these remain superficial and lack credibility among fence sitters.

Parties across the spectrum have to keep up with the voters to win over their support. This will mean both BN and Pakatan will have to deepen the messages from abstract ideals to more concrete deliverables.

8 ) Rejection of hardline racial tactics – The multi-ethnic calls of “We Love Pakatan” outside the Town Hall in Taiping last night from the multi-ethnic crowd illustrated that racial politics have evolved. It would be a mistake to say that ethnic factors do not matter – they remain paramount and continue to shape campaigning on both sides – but the by-elections show that new ties are forming.

When Malays sit in DAP ceramahs and listen intently to Chinese speeches (that most do not understand) and Chinese attend kampong sit-ins organised by PAS, norms and boundaries have been broken. The BN’s aim to use race – especially Malay rights – to galvanise its base only served to bring back a small number of its core. Hardline racial language only goes so far.

But it was also the anger over tactics in Perak, with Hindraf and police brutality that proved decisive in both West Malaysian contests. Among estate workers in Bukit Selambau, a woman’s eyes showed tears as she brought up the A Kugan case. The cries of Makkal Sakti permeated the crowds.

These April polls show that hardline tactics are risky and can backfire.

9) Personality and party – These contests also show that while both party and personality matter, party is decisive. In Bukit Selambau, a weak candidate was buoyed by party leaders and party machinery. In Bukit Gantang, the power of Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin’s character gained support across the board, notably among Malays. Yet, his final victory was the product of Pakatan as half of his support came from non-Malays.

In Batang Ai, PKR’s candidate Jawah Gerang was not able to build on his previous service as the Lubok Antu MP to overcome the BN machine. The candidate factor was not central, despite the choice of local candidates by BN. This was a national contest in which the BN showed that it still command support in East Malaysia, which has a third of the parliamentary seats, but continue to lose ground in West Malaysia, where the majority of Malaysians reside.

The only personality that mattered was Najib, and his image liabilities did not translate his coming into office into an adequate electoral boost. Even the personality factor of Anwar ibrahim did not have a major impact, as the new reformasi-minded younger leaders of Pakatan play a more prominent role in the campaigns.

In the final analysis, Najib’s political base may be even more reliant on East Malaysia than Abdullah’s post-March 2008. For Pakatan, the states of Sarawak and Sabah remain serious obstacles.

10) People’s power – Ultimately, these results were about the Malaysians who came out to vote. Despite the rain (and it does rain a lot in these Bukits) and the strategic placement of the election on a Tuesday (which clearly had an effect on the lower turnout of younger voters working outstation), many of them used their right to vote to send a message.

Last day of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Najib Abdul Razak takes over as prime minister in Putrajaya.The end result is that Najib did not get the mandate he needed and the opposition was given another boost, especially in Perak, where the cloud of possible polls hangs over the court decision and mid-May requirement to hold a state assembly session.

Whether Najib and his new team will listen and reform, or whether Pakatan will deepen its effort to reach out to voters or coast along with the messages of March 2008 that can fade will be crucial in shaping outcomes in future elections (and more by-elections are on the horizon), it will not take away that in these three historic by-elections, the democratic process (even with its flaws) can empower communities across Malaysia.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor in Southeast Asian studies at John Hopkins University-SAIS, Washington DC. She was in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau to observe the by-elections.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Walking A Straight Line In Public

The People Have Spoken
By Art Harun

The results from Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau are but definite proof that more than a year after March 8, 2008, the people are still resolved to show their discontentment and complete unhappiness with the ways of the Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO in particular. It is also conversely a display of strengthening support for Pakatan Rakyat, regardless of the apparent ideological and political differences in the allegiance of the 3 political parties of which it consists.

That the two by-elections are won by the Pakatan Rakyat with increased majority is of course a cause for concern for the BN and the newly minted Prime Minister, Najib Razak. Add in the fact that the whole might of the BN's election machinery - including government machinery - was at full steam to ensure a BN victory, the win by Pakatan Rakyat is conclusively a mega achievement in the true spirit of the proverbial David and Goliath fight.

The BN has done everything within its power to win these two by-elections. The whole cabinet could be seen campaigning tirelessly in the two areas. Hotshots from the Federal Capital converged the two areas and lighted the campaign trail. Amidst the cries of reforms from within UMNO and the euphoria of a new found "unity" - when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi held the hand of Mahathir Mohammad and Najib Razak at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded UMNO General Assembly - as well as the installation of Najib Razak as the nation's 6th Prime Minister, the campaign started and was conducted with such intensity that any independent observer would be hard pressed to think of a PR victory, let alone with an increased majority.

No stone was left unturned by the BN to woo the voters. Schools were visited by the Minister of Education. Rhetoric was aplenty - where Muhyiddin Yassin's call for the "slaughter" of Nizar for the latter's apparent treasonous behaviour towards the Sultan has to take the cake and its icing too - as well as name calling and the usual brow beating. (It was quite a disappointment though when the "Class F contract vending machine" which was used during the Kuala Trengganu by-election was nowhere to be seen this time). Concerts by scantily clad Chinese lady singers were even thrown by the BN at a fishing village attended by, non other than the defender of the Muslim faith, Zahid Hamidi who later famously proclaimed that the Chinese culture must be respected.

As the new Prime Minister, Najib Razak made a refreshing inaugural speech, releasing 13 ISA detainees and promising a comprehensive review of the ISA; singing the oft repeated unity, one Malaysia and fairness slogans as well as inviting all Malaysians to embark on a great journey with him. This was expected to make an impact on the voters.
The most startling show was of course reserved for the grand old man of UMNO, Mahathir Mohammad. After Najib Razak was installed as the PM, Mahathir Mohammad rejoined UMNO. He then happily hit the campaign trail, campaigning for the party which he proclaimed as a "corrupt party" just about a week before. It was thought that Mahathir Mohammad would take the by-elections by storm and galvanise the voters to support the BN.

The Pakatan Rakyat, on the other hand, had to face obstacle after obstacle in their campaign. Their rallies were invaded by the Federal Reserve Unit. Acid laced water was sprayed at the attendees. In Bukit Selambau, the police moved in without warning and even fired tear gas at the crowd attending a PR rally. When permits were given, unreasonable conditions were imposed. A certain dead Mongolian woman's name was even prohibited by the police from being mentioned by the PR in any of its rally. A person caught selling that particular woman's mask was arrested. And leading to the campaign, the Suara Keadilan and Harakah - the PKR's and PAS's respective publication - were suspended from publication for 3 months by the Home Ministry.

The state owned mass media were of course playing their old games of blowing the BN horn while puking at everything which the PR did. Interviews with the BN supporters who would laud the "development brought about" by the BN government were shown every day and night. The newspapers were full of praise for the BN and its leaders. Not a single teeny weeny good report was made about the PR. That is what they call "balanced and factual" reporting.

Despite it all, PR still won the two by-elections. What went wrong for the BN? If it needs more than 3 minutes for the BN or UMNO to find out what went wrong for them, then may I suggest that the party be dissolved forthwith.

First of all it shows that the people don't believe what the state owned or mainstream mass media are saying anymore. Everything they say is being disbelieved or at the very least taken with a huge cup of sodium chloride. The younger voters now are a sophisticated and educated lot. They scourge the internet for alternative news. It is, rightly or wrongly, set in their mind that whatever is being said by the mass media is a lie and conversely everything which is said on the internet is the truth. Can they be blamed for that? If the BN thinks that elections could be won by massive propaganda, positive or negative, through the mass media, it is completely ignorant of reality. The people now laugh at all the so called news and "balanced reporting" by the mass media. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that mass propaganda undertaken by the BN spectacularly backfired!

Secondly, the people just do not believe all the cries and slogans for "reform" and "change". A case in point is the apparent differences between what the UMNO leadership is saying and what its grass root leaders were saying at the UMNO Assembly. While Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak pledged and in fact pleaded for reforms and changes, the speeches from the delegates were talking about filling up the GLCs and Universities with UMNO people! They were talking about withdrawing scholarships from those students who dare oppose UMNO. They were talking about how UMNO should wantonly use its powers when the powers are still with it.

Viewed from that perspective, Najib Razak's release of the 13 ISA detainees and the promise of a comprehensive review of the ISA also backfired. While the true intention was doubted by the people, such move was also seen and perceived as a victory of sorts by the people. In their mind, that was the effect of the people's pressure on the government. In their mind, if the people would unite to pile on the pressure, perhaps more detainees would be released and the ISA abolished. And so, in their mind, they were saying, let pile on more pressure by voting for PR.

Thirdly, the BN should be mindful that we are all now living in the 21st century, a new millennium. Character assassination don't work anymore. Calling a person a traitor without basis don't work. Spreading nude pictures of a PR MP don't work. Opening up blogs to call really bad names against the opposition candidate don't work. The people want engagement. The people are now smart enough to desire an intellectual engagement. Calling name is so passe!

Fourthly, the people now want answers and they want them fast. And clear. Parochialism is a thing of the past. Even the Malays are not easily bought by Ketuanan Melayu anymore. The people look at real issues which are affecting or may affect them. The economy. The sharing of the economic pie. Education. Justice. Fairness. An across the board enforcement of the law as opposed to selective one. These are close to the people's heart nowadays.

If there is one thing which the people despise, and despise strongly at that, is hypocrisy. And this is the most important element. The advent of technology now makes it easy for the people to store data and facts and access the same within seconds. And it is just not kosher for politicians and leaders to say one thing and do completely the opposite and be found to have done completely the opposite.

In the two by-elections, the people came out, they saw and they conquered.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Evolution Of Ching Ming

Last Sunday, I went for the yearly ritual Ching Ming festival. Since being old enough to practice and follow up on such a tradition, and reaching a mindset to apply logically on the why’s and what’s of life, I’ve always questioned this tradition, albeit silently. The superstitious aftermath stories and consequences related to us by our elders, even among hardcore peers, did not convinced me sufficiently why this ritual continued to this day. Then again, there’re never hard facts to justify the actions that all of us throng the cemetery without fail year after year. What we do get is forewarn of spiritual enlightenment and well being including prosperity for the living that this worshiping benefited.

Stories are aplenty from my parents with temple medium being the messengers of ancestors receiving their offerings. Still, one can never verify any facts or truth of those messages. I remember my mother told me of her visit to the medium a week after our visit to the cemetery, that our grandparents (deceased) receiving their ‘clothes’ with tiny little holes in them. The reason for this was that we poked and lifted at the offerings during their burning to allow more air for the fire to spread itself and consume the remains of those offering thoroughly. So from that year on, being still in my teenage years, obediently we made sure we place those offering on a rock and angle it so that air will pass thru underneath and give life to the fire without having to poke at the offerings.

Whether it is pure belief of the afterlife or simply spiritually of oneself to move on in life with confidence, I continue with this practice simply because out of respect for my parents and grand parents. After all, it is their wish and being the son that I am, felt the need to perform them to fulfill an obligation.

My son, now in his first year in primary, tag along since he was 5. And still being innocently perceiving such matter, seem to comply and enjoy this once a year ritual and having the company of his 2 uncles who grew a liking to his juvenile presence.

This year especially, things had to toned down on our offerings what with the uncertainty of the economy. No lavish ‘accessories’ and ‘luxuries’ but the necessary basic necessities “sent” to my ancestors for their daily needs.

Having written that, I was compelled to search for the origin of this tradition, an understanding and what came about such a practice in the first place. Firstly, I thought I will not be successful as these rituals tend to have past down from generations to generations by mere words of mouth. Surprise though on what I discovered.

Below is extracted from my search and what I managed to comprehend of this age old practice. And before you read on, I’ve only to make one conclusion. There’s really no relation as to the taboos and superstitions of prosperity and well being. But I do find that it was originated out of regret thus the respect bestowed to remember the saviour in their honour. From thereon, it manifested thru the years and evolved into a religion.

As to my son, when he’s old enough, with cremation, and the consent of my other half, I may just wish of him to honour me in memory and to be presence in spirit in his home.

Ching Ming, which means clear and bright in Chinese, falls on April 5th this year. It is both the fifth term in the traditional lunar calendar and a festival to hold memorial ceremony for the dead. It is a time to express one's grief for his lost relatives. An ancient elegiac poem, which described a grievous woman, was read that vines tangled in vain and weeds crept in the graveyard, and her husband slept there lonely. It was so difficult to endure for her as if summer in the day and winter at night. And her only wish was to reunite with him after death.

People often go to sweep and weed graves with whole family and take a walk in the countryside as well. In Tang Dynasty, the habit of taking an excursion on this day was developed. At this time, spring returns and dominates the earth again. The feel of growing life is in the air, with sap ascending in trees and buds bursting. And the willow branches inserted on each gate add vigor and vitality to the surroundings. But it actually means more than that. This custom can be traced back to over one thousand years ago.

During the Period of Spring and Autumn in the Jin Kingdom (722 - 481 BC), one of the King's sons was called Chong Er. Jealous of his talent, a concubine falsely accused him of rebellion to make her son the crown prince. He had no choice but to flee and with him were some officials. They hid themselves in a mountain and went hungry for quite some time. An official named Jie Zitui took great pain to cut some flesh from his thigh and cooked it for Chong Er. When the fact was known the young master was moved to tears and knelt down in gratitude. And Jie replied his best repayment should be a just king. They lived a life of hunger and cold for three years until the evil concubine died. Many soldiers were sent to look for him and to escort him back home. Going into the carriage, he saw an official packed an old mat onto a horse, he said laughingly, 'What on earth is the use of that? Throw it away!' Jie Zitui heard it and sighed, 'It is hardship that can be shared with his majesty but not prosperity.' So he went away quietly and lived in seclusion with his old mother.

As Chong Er became king, he rewarded many people but he forgot Jie Zitui. He did not realize it until was reminded. However his invitation was refused and he flared up. Soldiers were ordered to burn up the mountain to force Jie to come out. Finally they found Jie and his mother scorched under a willow. He would rather die than yield to the power. Chong Er was so overwhelmed with regret that he ordered people hold memorial ceremony for Jie. So every year on that day folks mourned for him and the day before ate cold meals, which avoided making fire.

A year later, Chong Er went back to the mountain to pay respect to Jie. He found the willow tree had come back to life. He quietly picked up some budding willow branches, plaited into a wreath, and put on his head to show his respect. And he ordered that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be the Chingming Festival. Later, the two festivals were combined as one – Ching Ming Festival.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Officially, Frauds With State Directive

Taking the Mickey out of our money

Citizen Nades - By R. Nadeswaran, The Sun

IN MAY last year, Assistant Superintendents Wan Zainal Wan Mat and Albany Hamzah turned up at the office to record my statement relating to police investigations into the transfer of funds from the Association of Wives of State Assemblymen and Members of Parliament in Selangor (Balkis). They had every reason to because it was theSun that first exposed a major wrongdoing – the illegal transfer of RM9.9 million from the Balkis bank account. To whom it was transferred is academic because the mere misappropriation of funds constitutes an offence. Like efficient police officers, I had expected them to ask me intelligent questions with a view to gathering evidence to prosecute the wrongdoers.

However, that was not the case. Instead, they were more interested in the source of my story and where I had obtained information. They were not ordinary konstabel but officers with rank of ASP, who were directed by the head of the Commercial Crime Division of the police headquarters in Bukit Aman. Debate into their investigations will be purely academic because from their line of questioning, they were not interested in the message but were more interested in nailing the messenger. Despite indisputable proof that almost RM10 million was removed from a bank account, nothing has happened and I am resigned to the fact that there are different values for different people. A jobless mother who shoplifts a tin of infant formula is sent to the slammer while the VIP wives are free to walk around showing off their designer clothes, jewellery and other ill-gotten gains.

But what emerged at the Selangor State Assembly on Wednesday, by the lowest of all standards, should prompt the two ASPs to wake up to the fact that there has not only been illegal transfer of funds meant for the poor, but also abuse of power. If a state-owned company is directed to pay for VIP wives to watch Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in Tokyo, it no longer is child-play or holiday for the less fortunate and the needy. It is systematic looting of state assets for private pleasures which can be summed up only as total and gross misuse and abuse of power – far more serious than slaughtering cows and distributing the meat to the needy.

Let’s draw an analogy. If say, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society which relies on the public for funds decides to take its senior officials on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, do we as ordinary citizens have a right to question such a move? So, when Balkis, which purports to be a caring organisation committed to welfare of the needy, resorts to million-ringgit holidays, don’t we have a right to ask questions?

Who were the Balkis members who (mis)used our money to take in the sights of Tokyo, Hongkong and Seoul? It could not have been just one person. My guess is that a rombongan travelled first class, stayed in five-star hotels and had a stretch-limousine at their service. Let’s look at what that money could have been used for: a well-equipped health clinic or a feeding programme for 40,000 primary school pupils who go to classes on an empty stomach. Yet, these women can pass themselves off as caring wives of politicians and splash the money on a holiday.

This newspaper has previously chronicled the wrongs in Syarikat Permodalan Selangor Berhad, the Selangor Economic Development Corporation and other state-owned companies. The authorities who are tasked with enforcing the law watched with folded arms for reasons known to only them. It must be said that such abuse is not restricted to Selangor. Even in federal agencies and government departments, people’s money has been used to entertain and enjoy. When the oil prices sky-rocketed a few months ago, the Treasury issued a cost-cutting directive. Compare that directive with the expenses of these agencies and departments and a long list of abuses will appear.

But that’s not the end of it. Elsewhere in this newspaper, Terence Fernandez exposes how instruments of the state were used to steal land, bordering on fraud. In the next few days, more will follow. How do we put an end to all this?

The answer is simple – make the wrongdoers pay for their wrongdoings and misuse of power. But it is easier said than done. First, the powers-that-be must have the will and determination to expose their wrongdoings. Secondly, a set of professional auditors must be go through the accounts with a fine-tooth comb. Thirdly, law enforcement agencies (armed with the findings) must investigate and produce a watertight case. Finally and more importantly, the public prosecutor must give his consent and appoint the best legal brains to bring them to book. Let them repent in jail and reflect how they used the poor and the needy as a front to benefit themselves and their families. But the inevitable question is: Are we serious about seeing justice done?

R. Nadeswaran’s guess is that the perpetrators in the Balkis case would be let off since our law enforcers have a tendency to tutup satu mata. He is editor (special reports & investigations) at theSun and can be reached at