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.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It All Sounds So Good

Why Najib’s 1Malaysia will fail – Part 1
June 23, 2009

Let’s try to put a context to where Najib is coming from and headed to with his 1Malaysia.

What is Najib’s grand design that he now calls 1Malaysia?

Is his 1Malaysia novel and innovative, or re-hashed from a model that we’ve seen before?

Two days ago, Malaysianinsider reported Mukhriz as saying that it would be difficult to realise the “1Malaysia” concept if the Malays are not united, as the the Malays are the pillar in making 1 Malaysia a reality and played an important role in ensuring the country’s progress as they are the majority in the country.

I quote Mukhriz from that report :

“If they are not united, how are we going to realise the 1 Malaysia concept? This will not only be detrimental to the Malays but also to other races…When we talk about Malay unity, we are not talking from the racism point of view. We have accepted the fact that there cannot be a government which is led 100 per cent by Malay leaders … we have been practising power sharing for so long”

What do you discern from this?

One, ‘Malay unity talk’ ala UMNO-style is not racism.

Two, power sharing in the governance of this country is set, not on the premise of having the best men and women in place to get the job done, but along racial lines, with a predominance of Malays at the helm of government because they are the majority, because this is how power has been shared thus far.
If you want to know where Mukhriz is coming from, you don’t have to go far.

Just read his father’s ‘The Malay Dilemma’.

I’ve just finished re-reading that book.

If you’ve never read this book, you should make the effort to.

It’ll give you an idea of how this country found itself on that slippery slope into the cesspool we now are in when Mahathir took over the PMship.

It will reveal how this man, in the late 60’s / early 70’s, conveniently distorted a prevailing ‘have versus have-nots’ class issue into a racial one, portrayed as being that of the ‘marginalised Malays versus the non-Malay community’ and, through his years of rule as PM, perpetuated this thinking, with the acquiescence of the other BN component party leaders, of course.

In a speech that he was supposed to have delivered at the Harvard Club of Malaysia on 29th July 2002, this is what Mahathir is reported to have said :

“When I wrote The Malay Dilemma in the late 60s, I had assumed that all the Malays lacked the opportunities to develop and become successful. They lacked opportunities for educating themselves, opportunities to earn enough to go into business, opportunities to train in the required vocation, opportunities to obtain the necessary funding, licences and premises. If these opportunities could be made available to them, then they would succeed. …… So what is the new Malay dilemma? Their old dilemma was whether they should distort the picture a little in order to help themselves. The new dilemma is whether they should or should not do away with the crutches that they have got used to, which in fact they have become proud of. There is a minority of Malays who are confident enough to think of doing away with the crutches, albeit gradually. But they are a very small minority. Their numbers are not going to increase any time soon. They are generally regarded as traitors to the Malay race. ….”

There you have it!

Distort the picture in order to help themselves!

That the truth then was that every marginalised Malaysian, regardless of race, “lacked opportunities for educating themselves, opportunities to earn enough to go into business, opportunities to train in the required vocation, opportunities to obtain the necessary funding, licences and premises”, was buried in the distorted picture that was presented, so that certain quarters could help themselves.

11 years before that reported speech to the Havard Club, in 1991, Mahathir launched his Vision 2020 where he also spoke of establishing a united Malaysian nation; a Bangsa Malaysia, as he put it. I have alluded to this in a previous post last year. This is what Mahathir had said in 1991 of that Bangsa Malaysia :

“By the year 2020, Malaysia can be a united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient. There can be no fully developed Malaysia until we have finally overcome the nine central strategic challenges that have confronted us from the moment of our birth as an independent nation…The first of these is the challenges of establishing a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny. This must be a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ with political loyalty and dedication to the nation…The eighth is the challenge of ensuring an economically just society. This is a society in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation, in which there is full partnership in economic progress. Such a society cannot be in place so long as there is the identification of race with economic function, and the identification of economic backwardness with race.”

18 years on from that inspirational speech of his, why is it that we do not appear to be anywhere near establishing that one ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ with political loyalty and dedication to the nation?

Was Mahathir’s Vision 2020 no different from his ‘Look East’ policy that he innovated soon after taking office, in that both were made up of inspiring rhetoric with little political will to carry through and which got us all sufficiently distracted so that the privileged hands that were raiding the national coffers could work at will and unnoticed?

What is the difference between Mahathir’s Vision 2020 and Najib’s 1Malaysia?

Is there such a difference between Mahathir and Najib that we should be encouraged to believe that, whilst Mahathiir had little impact in taking us anywhere near the Bangsa Malaysia he spoke of, with Najib, it will be otherwise?

Posted by Haris Ibrahim

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Race, What Race?

Reclaiming the race debate
By Deborah Loh

THE national unity debate is an unresolved one, but one that Malaysians must not tire of if they are to prevent race relations from being hijacked for political ends.

Recently, Malaysians showed they haven't given up. Over 400 people attended a public forum on race relations by British anti-racism activist Dr Aneez Esmail on 16 June 2009 in Kuala Lumpur.

Questions and comments from the floor came fast and furious, and at the end of the forum Aneez said he could sense that Malaysians had a "huge desire to talk about race" but that they were "constrained" in doing so.

But what is constraining us? And why hasn't the debate gone beyond the rhetoric of Malay Malaysians being under attack by everybody else, about the unfairness of the New Economic Policy (NEP), or about the ills of vernacular schools?

Aneez spoke at the public forum and a subsequent roundtable on 18 June, both organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Institute for Ethnic Studies (Kita). One theme emerged consistently: that for a paradigm shift to happen in the race debate, the concept that every individual has "multiple identities" must be embraced.

Avoid singular identifiers

"You are never just a 'Chinese' or just a 'Malay'," Aneez told the public forum. "Just as I am more than just a British citizen, and more than just a Muslim. My multiple identities are shaped by my experiences, my work, and a variety of influences.

"The danger of defining ourselves by a singular identity locks everyone into fixed positions," he said. A classic example is Datuk Ahmad Ismail's singular identity description of Chinese Malaysians as immigrants, against another singular identity label of Malay Malaysians as natives of the land.

"The debate is not about who came here first, but the political value attached to this claim. The race debate has become about singular identity polemics because there is political legitimacy and economic value when you define yourself according to race. Ethnic identity has been hijacked by politics and is now difficult to separate," said Kita's Assoc Prof Dr Ong Puay Liu, who presented on identity issues at the 18 June roundtable.

But the political and economic value of using singular identity labels is short term; it fractures the nation in the long run. Whereas embracing the multiple identities of each person will uncover more commonalities.

"A rich Malay [Malaysian] will have a totally different life experience from a poor Malay [Malaysian], even though they both have a singular identity as Malays. The poor Malay will have more in common with a poor Chinese or a poor Indian [Malaysian]," said Aneez.

As such, when talking about racial unity, the layers of identity within a single person — gender, religious belief, sexuality, marital status, income level, personality, work experience, as some examples — must all be taken into account.

What results then, is a humane approach towards national unity and institutional policies, like affirmative action, that emphasises needs over race.

Other familiar hot potato issues in the national unity debate were discussed at the roundtable as follows.
Class-based affirmative action:

The roundtable acknowledged that it was the abuse of the NEP, and not the NEP's aim to eradicate poverty irrespective of race, that was the problem.

There was also the view that the Federal Constitution, which protects the special position of bumiputeras, need not be changed. What was needed was a return to its true spirit which includes protecting the legitimate interests of other communities.

Ultimately, the roundtable called for affirmative action to be applied equally to all who needed it.
Social activist Juana Jaafar put forth a proposal for "positive discrimination" by institutionalising quotas for non-Malay Malaysians in the civil service and corporate sector under the 10th Malaysia Plan, which begins in 2011.

Race-blind institutions and political parties

The roundtable said public policies must not be based on ethnicity or religious belief. Hiring, firing, promoting or granting of approvals should not be determined by such "singular identities".

"As long as there is structural differentiation along racial and religious lines, national unity is a delusion," said Ong.

Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said race- based political parties were a form of institutionalised racism which bred "chameleons" — politicians who said one thing in a multiracial setting but stoked the communal feelings of their constituents.

A common language?

When a roundtable participant suggested that mother-tongue education inhibited national unity, Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia deputy secretary-general Datuk David Chua defended vernacular schools.

"Vernacular schools subscribe to the same education curriculum which teaches history and nation-building. Bahasa Malaysia is taught alongside other languages, so concern over vernacular school pupils' command of BM is hardly the issue.

"Isn't it better if one can be tri-lingual? And pupils of other races are also studying in Chinese[-language] schools," Chua told The Nut Graph.


The government has said "no" to having a Race Relations Act, and Ragunath agrees — but only because such a law would mean "another law in the hands of the establishment to abuse" on top of the Internal Security Act, Sedition Act and other repressive laws.

However, Aneez said legislation in the British experience was necessary as it provided the framework for equality to be enforced. Further amendments to the UK's Race Relations Act in 2000 made public bodies duty-bound to be proactive in promoting racial equality.

Beyond race, what is needed are laws on equality in all areas — gender, sexuality, religion and disability, for example. The UK's Race Relations Act has been "superseded" by the more recent Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is empowered to investigate wider areas of discrimination.

In the Malaysian context, where discrimination is enshrined in the Federal Constitution, Ong believes it is still possible to work within its confines by turning to other provisions that uphold freedoms, such as of other religions (Article 3), and the interests of other races (Article 153).

"And yet," she laments, "it still boils down to interpretation, which affects implementation. And there are many caveats within the constitution to some of these provisions."

Unending debate

While happy that discussions on race were now more open than before, the roundtable also asked, what next?

"Are our hopes for the country or for our own communal group?" she says, a question that is as much for ordinary people as it is for politicians who respond to their constituents.

For the government and legislators, it is about separating cultural identity from public policy. Ethnicity cannot solely determine public policies.

And for the roundtable crowd — academic institutions like Kita, non-governmental organisations and activists — it is time to move beyond dialogue with the like-minded to preach to the unconverted. Perhaps the next roundtable will see politicians, civil servants, and the editors of certain newspapers participate in a much-needed dialogue about race and identity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

3 Fingers Facing You

Why Malaysia is not moving forward?

Yesterday I had a good conversation with one of my friends. He’s given me another perspective on why Malaysia isn’t moving, and his answer is we’re not moving just because we’re not moving.

By Lance Wong

Like many other guys would do, we went to ‘yamcha’ (have tea) and chat from the earth to the sky. Then of course, we talked about Malaysia’s development and started comparing ourselves with South Korea and Taiwan, the countries with the same development potential in the 90s.

I said, we can’t compare ourselves with those countries because Taiwan and S.Korea don’t have issues like racial problems, unfair treatment, favoritism policies and so on. Though I’ve given numerous reasons why Malaysia is lacking behind, my friend said: “Yes, these are existing problems that we should look into and put an end to it if possible; but these are not the excuses why Malaysia is lacking behind.”

Taiwan had/has the same corruption problems as in Malaysia. Research indicated that the use of ‘black gold’ (money politics) was very serious and it directly calls the nation for a change in government. That’s when Mr Chen Shui-Pien (of opposition) took over the government and put an end to the Kuo Min Tang (KMT) tenure over the years. However, Mr Chen was involved in corruption after all (prior to this, are we sure DSAI is not the second Mr Chen?), but still their country runs progressively and built brands like Acer, Asus which influence the global IT market. So, corruption is not necessarily the main factor to pull a country like Malaysia down.

Unfair treatment. Let’s just focus on one; education. It appears that Malaysia favors a particular race for overseas education scholarships, and this is truly happening. Then what? Are other races denied from pursuing tertiary education? No, we all have the opportunities to go for "almost the same level of education" as compared to those who have the opportunities to study abroad. Nowadays, most of the people who received JPA scholarships aren’t enrolled into some top class universities like Harvard or MIT but ‘second tier’ universities which may match the ‘level’ of Universiti Malaya. Is it that useless to obtain a local degree after all? Don’t feel resentment because of this issue but focus on what you can contribute with your local university degree. (This is rather a subjective opinion, no offence to those who pursue a foreign degree).

As you can see, some races have been resenting all the time that they have not been given equal opportunities in this and that. The point is, I can see that those who have ‘average’ qualities tend to focus on resentment rather than improvement. But those who are really ‘capable’ tend to serve other countries rather than in Malaysia because they feel ‘more appreciated’. Please stop sighing and use your talents to contribute to our dear Malaysia.

Apart from the brain drain I mentioned, the main issue is Malaysians have lost the focus of what is important - changing ourselves. And we have a bunch of ‘holier than thou’ bloggers and commentators who know nothing except how to bash the government without seeing themselves as the ones who bribe cops and resent unproductively or just not give constructive suggestions. I’m not trying to show that I’m better than the rest of you but trying to bring a message that we all can learn together, so that we can do something good for the country. Remember, we’re not moving just because we’re not moving … including me.

Finally, I’d like to end this with a story (unknown source):
“First, I wanted to change the world;
But when I found I couldn’t, I tried to change my country;
I still failed, so I tried to change my community;
But it didn’t work, so I tried to change my family;
And I ended up changing nothing.”
“After that I realized I should change myself first;
Then my change impacts my family to change;
Afterwards the community’s changed after seeing my family’s change;
The community has made the country change;
Finally, what the country does change the world.”

Change start from ourselves, including me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Knowing It And Learning It

Do you really need to go to school to know right from wrong?
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Political parties, civil servants the most corrupt: reportKaren Arukesamy, The Sun

PETALING JAYA (June 3, 2009) : Malaysians generally consider political parties and civil service to be the most corrupt groups, and the government's anti-corruption drive to be ineffective, the 2009 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) report revealed.

The GCB, a global public opinion survey of 73,000 respondents from 69 countries, commissioned by Transparency International, found that political parties were perceived to be the most corrupt by 42% of respondents, while 37% picked civil service institutions.

About 12% of respondents rate the business and private sector as the third most corrupt in Malaysia.

In a survey conducted globally from October last year to February, in which Malaysia participated for the first time, 67% of respondents believe the government's efforts in fighting corruption is ineffective, leaving Malaysia way behind Indonesia where 74% of respondents said the government was effectively fighting graft.

Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president Datuk Paul Low said: "The reason could be the lack of transparency and disclosures in the funding of political parties. Nobody knows how the campaigns and activities of political parties are funded, in both the Barisan Nasional and opposition parties."

"If political parties want to be perceived to be less corrupt, they should increase visibility of the sources of political funding, which may require making some changes to electoral laws," he said.

"We also need to eliminate money politics," Low said, adding that this includes crossovers between parties involving money.

He said political parties should also submit financial statements which should be made public.

Malaysia's regular spot in the Corruption Perception Index is close to five out of 10 and last year it ranked 47th out of 180 countries.

Low said TI-M, with its expertise and knowledge, was willing to work with the government to fight graft because it affects the poor the most.

The barometer showed that the poorest families continue to be punished by demands for petty bribe.

"Across the board, low income respondents were more likely to meet demands for bribes than high income respondents. Additionally, petty bribery was found to be on the rise in many regions, compounding the already difficult situation of low income households, as jobs and incomes dwindle in the economic downturn," Low said.

The report found that in Malaysia, 9% of respondents offered bribes in some form in the last 12 months.

Low said that in some countries poor citizens had to pay a bribe just to get their children into school, receive medical treatment in hospitals, or to have water services connected -- the most basic rights as citizens.

"The other area of interest is the 12% who voted the private sector. Although we are not as bad as other countries, corruption in the private sector is on the rise and must be dealt with seriously.

"It has to be tackled at the enterprise or corporate level. The CEO or board of directors will have to set the tone to fight graft. Put in place an anti-bribery policy and a whistle-blowing policy, and integrity agreements must be signed between companies and vendors."

Many of my friends are no longer my friends. I am talking about my Malay friends in particular. This is because they are very irritated and upset about my articles on Islam. They feel I have gone overboard in insulting Islam. As much as I stress, again and again, it is not Islam but Muslims, in particular Malay Muslims, that I tegur (tegur, which is a Malay word, could mean chastises, take to task, remind, etc.), they still insist it is Islam I am insulting.

Anyway, they are entitled to their opinion, as everyone is, and I can’t change their mind if they insist on taking that view. But one thing that seems to escape them is that it is the duty, that means mandatory, for all Muslims to point out the transgressions of fellow-Muslims. This is called nahi munkar in Islam. It is not optional. It is not something you can choose to do or not to do. It is something you must do.

I suppose the only way they can rebut what I write would be to accuse me of insulting Islam. Then the ‘crime’ would be transferred to me rather than them. To acknowledge that I am merely fulfilling my Islamic duty would mean they are endorsing my actions. And if they endorse my actions then they have to argue where I have erred or counter my arguments with facts. Since they are not able to do that then they accuse me of insulting Islam and leave it at that. No longer do they need to rebut what I say or engage me in any debate to prove me wrong.

One ‘traditional’ argument they use is to accuse me of being jahil (ignorant) of Islam. I should stop talking about Islam because I am not learned in matters involving Islam. I should first go learn Islam from an ulamak (learned man) before I attempt to talk about Islam. I am speaking like a five-year old child, and so on and so forth.

I have heard it all before, many times. They assume I have never studied Islam. They also assume that if I did study Islam it could not have been from an ulamak. And judging by my comments it appears like I never touched a kitab (religious book) in my life. This assumption is based on my comments and views.

How did they arrive at this conclusion without actually knowing my background? Did they grow up with me and know for a fact I never went to religious school? Or is this opinion based merely on reading what I write?

It is quite simply, really. If I say or write something that is opposite to what they believe then this means I am ignorant and never studied Islam. But if I say or write something that is exactly what they believe then I am a learned person who probably spent many years studying Islam.

In short, the yardstick they use is tied to whether my opinions are the same as theirs or opposite to theirs. If they are the same then I am learned but if they differ then I am ignorant.

These people fail to see that when they use their view of things to determine if I am learned or ignorant, and I am learned or ignorant depending on how far my views are compared to theirs, this means they are establishing themselves as the yardstick. Is this not an arrogant approach?

Let me put it to you another way. If you share my views then you are learned. If you disagree with my views then you are ignorant. In short, I am learned and you will also be considered learned only if you say or write what I agree.

This is the way these people think. And when they criticise me as being ignorant because I have different views from them, they are actually claiming that they are learned and all those who do not agree with them are therefore ignorant. These are very pompous people indeed.

Okay, let us assume for the sake of argument that I am ignorant on matters related to Islam. Let us also assume that I never went to religious class to learn about Islam and therefore know nothing about Islam. So I am an ignoramus. We shall agree on that. Then read that article by The Sun above. Do I really need to go to religious class or go learn Islam from an ulamak to be able to understand that politicians and civil servants are amongst the most corrupted people in Malaysia? Seriously, do I need to go to an Islamic university to be able to write an opinion about how bad corruption is and that not only Islam but all religions condemn corruption?

Even if they are right in that I am ignorant about Islam and do not have the qualifications to talk about Islam, you really do not need to go to school or have any qualifications to know the difference between right and wrong. Common sense is enough and that is all it takes. And surely God gave all of us brains for a reason. Even non-Muslims understand that. And you need not go to an Islamic university to understand that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A PAS Becomes Present

Another Lesson in PAS History: The Malaysian Public Doesnt Like Extremists
By Farish A. Noor

The repercussions of the somewhat clumsy attempt by some sections of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS to call for the investigation, and possibly banning, of the Muslim women’s rights group Sisters in Islam are still being felt today. Many questions have arisen in the wake of the proposal that was passed without debate at the recent General Assembly of PAS: How and why was the proposal passed as one of the ‘non-debated proposals’ in the first place? Why was it not vetted properly and why was it tabled at all? What does this say about the internal cohesion of PAS and its internal discipline? Does this proposal reflect just a faction of opinion among PAS members, or is it actually representative of the party as a whole? And what does this mean with regards to PAS’s avowed claims to be a modern party that supports the democratisation process and dialogue with others?

It is hard, to say the least, to believe that a party can be supportive of democracy if it starts by calling for the banning of NGOs even before it comes to power.

For now however we are left to watch the internal and external drama of PAS unfold as the party seeks to re-consolidate itself after what was clearly a hectic assembly for all. The lingering question of where PAS really stands, and where it goes from here though will have to be addressed sooner than later.

To help answer this question, we would like to propose a quick re-visit to the history of PAS from the 1980s to the present to illustrate a simple yet important point: Namely, that the Malaysian public has never had much appetite for violent, extreme and exclusive political discourse and behaviour, be it from PAS or UMNO.

In the 1980s, some of us will remember that PAS was heavily engaged in a fiery war of words with its nemesis UMNO. The leaders of PAS then – notably Yusof Rawa, Hadi Awang and Mat Sabu – were at the forefront of attacking and condemning the leaders of UMNO – notably (now Tun) Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim. It was during this period that UMNO and PAS both jointly raised the political temperature in the country, leading to the controversial kafir-mengafir episode where both sides were accusing the other side of being hypocrites (munafik) , secular and un-Islamic. This culminated in a number of bitter incidents such as the killing of Ustaz Ibrahim ‘Libya’ Mahmood at the village of Memali in 1985 and the controversy around the book ‘Hadis’ by Kassim Ahmad some years later.

PAS had then gone onto overdrive with its fiery polemics against UMNO, and the infamous proclamation of Hadi Awang that accused PAS’s opponents of being the enemies of Islam had done wonders to transform the image of PAS into that of a violent and extremist party. At the elections of 1986, the result of this overheated rhetoric were obvious: PAS’s share of the vote dropped to 15.3 per cent and Parliamentary seats to 0.6 per cent, winning only one seat.

Then, as now, PAS was trying to court the support of the non-Muslims in Malaysia through the Chinese Consultative Councils (CCCs) of PAS, but to no avail. The Malaysian public demonstrated that they were not able and willing to tolerate the violent oppositional dialectics of UMNO and PAS, but were more worried about PAS’s language of jihad and kafirs.

Fast-forward to 2002 and we see a similar scenario in the off-ing. In the wake of PAS’s victory at the elections of 1999, an over-confident PAS took it upon itself to once again play the role of the ‘defenders of Islam’. In 2002 Muslim writers, academics and NGOs (including Sisters in Islam) were once again attacked and accused of all manner of things. In the same year, PAS declared its support for the Taliban in the most blatant manner when PAS members demonstrated in front of the US embassy with posters and banners that read “Taliban are our brothers”.

The rest of the Malaysian electorate, however, was not inclined to think of the Taliban as their brothers, and once again PAS was badly damaged at the elections of 2004.

These incidents demonstrate a simple fact: That the Malaysian public may vote for PAS as a reaction against UMNO, but this does not mean that the vote is a vote in support of an Islamic state, liberal-bashing or Taliban-supporting. Consistently the Malaysian public has shown that whenever PAS (or UMNO) resorts to extreme communitarian politics and discourse, its votes will swing in the other direction.

PAS, like all political parties, has to learn the simple lesson of representative politics, and realise that the vote given to PAS in 2008 was given by the Malaysian public to the Pakatan Rakyat and what the Pakatan stands for; which is a new, freer, more democratic and plural Malaysia where diversity is respected and enhanced. The call for the investigation and possible banning of a Muslim women’s NGO like SIS on the spurious basis that it is ‘un-Islamic’ beggars belief, and makes a mockery of the Pakatan’s efforts thus far. But the ones who have the most to lose are the members of PAS themselves, who should always study their own history to learn from the past in order not to repeat the same mistakes in the future.

PAS has indeed come a long way, and no doubt will remain on the scene for a long time to come. We hope and pray that as it develops and evolves, PAS will evolve in tandem with the new spirit of the new Malaysia that we are trying to build, and not against it. Having learned from its history, PAS should not condemn itself to becoming a historical relic instead.

Monday, June 15, 2009

English - Some Points To Ponder

English and us

I am a third year medical student currently studying in Universiti Malaya. As we read and hear about the endless wars over the issue of the English Language and our education system, I would like to give a student's perspective on this issue.

I come from an SJK primary school, attended a government secondary school and completed the local matriculation course before entering university.

I realise that those who do prefer less English in the education system are afraid that the Malay language will suffer. However, as a student, our official language - the status or importance of Bahasa Malaysia has never been threatened. It is and will always be our national language and I am proud of that. But it is not sufficient to only learn Bahasa Malaysia and neglect the other languages.

And English is becoming a necessity if a country would want to ride on the wave of globalisation. Taking a walk down memory lane, we have Za'ba (Tan Sri Dr. Haji Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad) that was known as the "peneroka tatabahasa Melayu" or the founder of Malay grammar. The Malay literature that he wrote is being used till this very day. His museum (Teratak Za'ba) in Bahau is a memorial of his contribution to this nation. As we look at his education background, we discover that he was the first Malay from Negeri Sembilan to complete his Senior Cambridge. The museum contains beautiful letters between him and his children, written in English, Malay and Arabic.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his fight for independence would not have made it had he not mastered the English Language. Ambassadors and diplomats to foreign countries have to be able to speak English in order to communicate with other nations. The tourism industry in Malaysia would collapse without the English language.

Do we consider Za'ba or Tunku less of a Malaysian, less patriotic, or less united? Surely not! They were, in fact among the many reasons that Malaysia exists today. I daresay that the English language was one of the key tools to our independence and our development right till today. To neglect the English language will only push us backward.

We must realise that Malaysia is a multi-cultural country with over a hundred ethnicities and is therefore a multi-lingual country. Trying to unite races with one language alone is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It will never work. Entering first year in university, we were shocked to see students mixing according to their ethnicity; the main dividing factor being our language of communication. Only a small group of students that spoke more than one language fluently would consist of different races. We all know the importance of inter-cultural understanding in unity; but how are we going to achieve that by only learning one language?

I say all this not to bring down the Malay language but to remind us that it is our duty as a responsible Malaysian citizen to improve ourselves in every way we can - including learning the other languages. To make passing english compulsory to pass SPM; to teach science and math in english - is a first step in the right direction.

Timothy Cheng, Director of the Unity and Community Affairs Bureau
Student Representative Council 2008/2009, Universiti Malaya

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Let's Party

The class based differentiation occurring across the Malaysian political spectrum
By Naragan N

Before proceeding with the discussion, we all have to agree on a few fundamentals. Take the major peninsula based political parties in the country – UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP, PAS, PKR, DAP – look at the various indicators– the membership profile, the substantial constituencies they represent, the overt and the not so overt policies they promote and their leadership profiles.

I have summarised them in general conclusions in the table below.. I do not think I am too far away from the truth, though there may be some disagreement about a few of my conclusions. But anyway,I use this as a starting point for my discussion.

Studying this structure of the political parties it looks like a class differentiation is occurring across the spectrum of the political parties. The Upper classes within the 3 major races being represented by the UMNO, MCA,MIC, Gerakan combine while the PKR and DAP represent the middle and lower classes among the Malays and the Chinese.

PAS however seems to represent Muslims across the classes and appears not to be class based yet. PPP is too small to matter in this regard.

In my opinion, the class differentiation occurred with the Chinese first. DAP and MCA circa 1950s . Then it started to happen with the Malays – beginning with Anwar’s incarceration 1998. In 2007 the class differentiation among the Indians abruptly showed itself up. The process has not been linear or orchestrated – differentiation within each ethnic group being driven by its own particular dynamics. But it will not be wrong to say that the process has been steadily gathering momentum.

The process of this differentiation is however yet to play itself out completely. This is in my opinion, anyway only the first phase of that class differentiation, as the class differentiation is only occurring within the confines of the ethnic groups. The next phase has to be one where class is no more identified with race, identification with class takes precedence – but that is some ways off. Only then we can say there can be a class based two party system.

There are at least two more acts in this phase before the differentiation in this phase will be complete.

The first act is with the Muslim party of PAS. PAS has religion as its basic platform. Inasmuch as religion plays a major role for the Muslims in the party, economics necessarily is exerting an increasing influence on the party. The separation of those who seek to control the resources exclusively and those who seek a more inclusive system seems to have begun and will have to play itself out sooner or later. Even though religion is the glue for PAS, the tensions between that glue and the forces being unleashed by economics seem to be gathering storm. What is happening now within PAS may be just that. PR and UMNO beware.

The second act is with the minority group of the Indians. 70 - 80 % of the Indians in the country are of the working class. The recent increase in the political parties purporting to represent the Indian working class is an indication of the desire to pick up this significant vote bank. But who truly represents the interests of the Indian working class? If one surveys what has been going on – the answer has to be, no one clearly. MIC has been totally abandoned by this group as a result of the differentiation.

PKR, DAP are trying to step in, but the dissatisfaction with what they are able to do for the Indian working class (always qualified by the “we cannot just do for a small group”, argument) indicates a gap between what the Indian working class seeks and what these parties are able to deliver. This suggests also that a clear and true working class orientated representation is required for the Indians to complete this class based differentiation across the Malaysian political scenario. MIC and PR beware.

These historical trends are driven by developments worldwide. It is also significantly accelerated by technological developments, especially in communication. One can argue with the specifics of my argument, but one cannot dismiss that there is something going on that is causing a differentiation to occur or even that a differentiation is occurring. UMNO with all its maneuvers can slow this process down a little, but it certainly cannot stop the realignments that are occurring in the progress of history in our country.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

First Among Equals

A tale of 2 nations
Dr. Hsu,
Whenever I gather with Malaysian and Singaporean family and friends at reunion dinners and parties, inevitably our conversations drift to the “tale of 2 nations” as you so aptly described. We Malaysians no doubt often debate and ponder the “what-ifs” and “what-could-have been” hypotheses with our Singaporean counterparts. We also lament the sorry state of affairs in our homeland. We then reflect on why these 2 nations, both arising from the same page and time in the chronicles of World History, but yet 50 years onwards, one has achieved First World status while the other is still mired in Third World status and mentality.
Ironically, both nations share one thing in common – its people. We originate from the same biological stock and share the same gene pool. Sometimes, when my inebriated Singaporean friends tried to put on airs about their superiority, I never fail to remind them that their ancestors were once Malaysians. That their great Minister Mentor was once an upstart in Malaysian politics. And not to forget the thousands of Malaysian professionals who today make Singapore their land of milk and honey, courtesy of Malaysia’s perpetual “brain drain” exporting machine.
One can easily imagine what a great nation Malaysia could have become if only we have better stewards to lead and govern the country. Malaysia has many times more human capital, land capital, and natural resource capital than Singapore. Presumably, one can envision the combined economies of the 11 states in peninsular Malaysia to be as vast as 11 Singapore economies put together.
There is so much that Malaysians are capable of achieving. Yet today, according to IMF 2008 data, our GDP per capita is ranked #60 compared with Singapore’s GDP rank of #4. World Bank 2007 data ranks Malaysia’s GDP per capita at #48 vs #3 for Singapore (source: Wikipedia).
Malaysia is forever handicapping itself if its leaders continue to govern on the basis of race and religion. The country cannot aspire to greatness if they make laws and formulate policies that is akin to “Cutting off the nose to spite the face”. They need to stop protecting and upholding one race to the detriment of others.
Our Malay friends and neighbors should learn from a telling observation readily apparent to them. Whereas your Chinese and Indian friends are bilingual, trilingual, or polyglot, with much thanks to BM being the official language, are you not embarrassed to only speak one language?
To the young Malay professional, think of how much more marketable you can become in the global economy if you are multilingual. So why let your own government handicap you in the guise of protecting your native language? Why not join the non-Malays to become champions for fairness and equality?
Realize also that, as much as the government makes life difficult for the non-Malays, they only succeed in making them more resilient, enterprising, and adaptable. You can be just like them too if you tell the government to stop the pampering and spoon-feeding.
Far from envying Singapore’s achievements, I can only hope for a better future for Malaysia if our leaders wake up to smell the roses. Alongside the mantra of “Malaysia Boleh” let us also practice the Cantonese motto “yow fook toong heong, yow lan toong tong” meaning “we prosper we share together, we suffer we bear together”. Perhaps if we practice and combine this saying with the famous motto “all for one, and one for all”, maybe then the true meaning of 1Malaysia will emerge and become a blessing to all Malaysians instead of just an empty slogan.
MM Lee Kuan Yew’s visit to Malaysia, as he has said, is to feel the pulse of the people. Well, as an experience politician, who was once fighting within the system here, he is perhaps the best qualified of all SIngapore politicians to judge how and where Malaysia is heading.

I still remember 1964, when I was a primary school boy, following my father to the Esplanade in Penang to listen to the speech of Lee, who was then campaigning hard for PAP’s candidates in the 1964 General Election. The field was full of people (at that time, political rally was allowed), and what I remember was the thunderous claps that Lee received throughout his speech.

I cannot remember how many seats PAP contested in Penang then, since I was too young, but apparently, despite the huge turnout of people, PAP did not win any seats in Penang, where it fought against Alliance, United Democratic Party of Tun Dr Lim CHong Eu, and the Socialist Front . DR Lim of course won his Tanjung parliamentary seat , despite the many cornered fights. If I have remembered correctly, PAP won only the Bangsar seat with Devan Nair as the sole PAP MPs.

I suspect MM Lee must be secretly laughing inside now. In 1965, when Singapore was forced to go separate ways, after Lee trying to galvanise opposition parties such as UDP, PPP (under D.R. Seenivasagam), and parties from East Malaysia into a loose association, and this action was seen as challenging the Ketuanan supremacy.

At that time, economically SIngapore was at the same level as Malaysia. In fact, when I was studying in University of SIngapore in the 70s, Malaysian ringgit at one time was bigger than Singapore Dollars in exchange rate.

Now that Singapore has attained a first world standard in economy as well as many other aspects, Malaysia is far behind in many aspects, not only economically, but in the fields of education, excellence, governance.

He must be secretly gladful that SIngapore came out of Malaysia in 1965. 51 years after Independence, Malaysia is still embroiled in race politics. In everything and anything, race is the prime consideration, and that has really hampered the advance of the nation as a whole and polarise the people . Because of the ‘clutch’ mentality, everything in Malaysia has degraded from excellence to mediocrity. Even in sports such as football, we are now in the lowest hierarchy.

During my time, University Malaya and University of Singpaore were ranked as equal , as with University of HOng KOng — especially the rankings of the 3 medical schools. It is now so different; while Univeristy of HongKOng and University of Singapore are consistently ranked among the top universites in the world and Asia, ours is now ranked low down in the list (some may say it is not even on the list).

Incidentally, I think this university ranking can be taken as representative of everything comparative among the 2 countries.

It is true that economically we have also progressed, but the point of contention is we could have progressed much much more, if a different approach has been taken instead.

Imagine, if we could have progressed much more, and is as rich as Australia, even the poorest among us will be living a better life than now. All of us, regardless of colour, would have a better life than now.

A comment by Clarence

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Slapping Giants With Tiny Hands

I Want To Sue You!
By Tay Tian Yan (Sin Chew Daily)

After the release of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) report, Wijaya Baru Sdn Bhd, which has been named, immediately made an announcement to sue the Port Klang Authority (PKA) or audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, or both.

According to the Art of War, attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.

Attack is to stop you from talking and not to allow truth to be revealed. The one who dares to speak will be the first to be sued.

Years ago, when the PKFZ issue was revealed, I had written many comments on it. Someone sent me a message, warning me that I would receive a legal letter if I did not stop commenting. I would deserved it if I was talking nonsense. However, the recent report showed us the contents of my comments.
The same approach - suing, is being used.

Perhaps they are going to sue Lim Kit Siang next as he is the one who revealed the issue. They could even sue Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as he agreed to release the report.

You can threaten to sue the world but you can never stop the emergence of truth.

Just like ripping the outer layer of an onion, once the smell diffuses through the air and choke the people, it could never be stopped even if you put the onion back together as its enzyme called alliinase has generated sulphenic acid and rearranged into a volatile gas.

It is a matter of all as we are living in the air.

The deficit of a few billion of ringgit, perhaps more than 10 billion ringgit in the future are the taxpayer’s money and the country’s resources. Our children and grandchildren may also have to bear the debt. How could it be nothing to do with us?

They can never stop all people from talking by threatening to sue. Those people who expose, comment and investigate the issue get no interest nor benefit from doing so. There is no necessary to sue.

The people are waiting for the truth to be announced. It is related to the rights of the whole people. They want the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), as well as the government to take follow up actions against those who practice favouritism and are involved in power abuse and corruption.

Sue them; don’t let them threaten to sue us anymore. (By TAY TIAN YAN/ Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reading From Papers Or Reading From Screen

Time running out for newspapers
Brian Yap, The Malaysian Insider

Faced with a perfect storm of a global economic crisis, dwindling readership and advertising, and an inability to monetise their online efforts, newspapers all over the world are facing challenging times.

In the US, the situation is particularly dire. From national institutions like the New York Times to mid-sized publications like the Christian Science Monitor, all the way down to small local papers, newspapers are having to answer tough existential questions. Some have even ceased printing and are moving towards online-only operations. Those less fortunate are simply closing shop altogether.

Newspapers in Malaysia, however, have yet to reach this state. Readership has yet to drop, while advertisers still regard it as the medium of choice. The Internet might have become a force to be reckoned with in the political arena, but the reality is that most Malaysians still get their news from traditional media like newspapers and TV.

This does not mean, however, that the likes of The Star and Utusan Malaysia can sit back and expect their good fortune to continue for too much longer.

For one, most Malaysians don't trust them. If we did, March 8 wouldn't have happened. The unapologetic viciousness in which the mainstream media attacked the opposition leading up to the last general election was, simply put, disgusting. The electoral results were a clear repudiation of not only BN, but also the mainstream media.

A momentary lapse of bias did take place after the elections, but it wasn't long before the flirtation with self-reflection was tossed out like yesterday's edition.

Now, the newspapers are back to their same old tricks. Datuk Zaid Ibrahim's point about Utusan's refusal to mature and change, even as the Malay community has, is a timely and potent one. And despite being popular with the urban middle class, The Star has shown little interest in being more politically aligned with its readers. There's no other way to explain why Aminah Abdullah was a front page worthy personality, but news of her opponent's victory in the Penanti by-election was relegated to Page Six.

Despite their repeated offences, most of us are still loyal newspaper readers. We might not trust what is printed, but we have also developed a unique filter that has made reading between the lines such a part of Malaysian culture.

As long as our newspaper habit stays intact, the advertisers too will remain. However, while the main players are sitting comfortably at the moment, I believe their time is running out. In a free media landscape, some of our current crop of newspapers would have folded a long time ago. Though the newspapers might decry the PPPA from time to time, without the licensing requirement that is part of that law, competition would probably have drastically affected even the top-selling papers, all of which are owned or linked to political parties in the ruling coalition.

But the PPPA is only delaying the inevitable. Given the lameness of broadband here it's hard to predict when, but eventually the Internet will become the default source of news for Malaysians. And when that happens, will readers be turning to the same BN-owned media outlets they were distrustful of, or will they turn to the more credible crop of independent media brands?

Of course, none of this means Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and other new media outlets will have an easy ride. For starters, it's still very difficult to attract enough revenue relying solely on online advertising, which in the Malaysia is still in its infancy. So yes, you can be more trusted than The Star, but I doubt the paper cares too much when it is swimming in its profits. Plus, there are myriad other issues facing online news organisations too, such as the challenge of maintaining readership and control over content in a world of links and copy-and-paste journalism.

Also, to give the newspapers some credit, they do a far better job of covering local interest stories, which are often neglected by the politically and nationally minded online publications. If I can get past the main section of The Star without having a seizure, I do like to read its Metro section which keeps me informed on the little things going on in my neighbourhood, city and state. The Internet is the ideal medium for what some call hyperlocal news, but fortunately for the newspapers, it hasn't boomed here yet. Like everything else, however, it's only a matter of time.

As someone who loves newspapers in general, someone who spent years learning about the various aspects of the industry, and someone who absolutely must pick up a copy of the local paper wherever I travel, it's not pleasant to envision a future where the medium becomes less relevant here. Yet, as someone who wants to see Malaysia change for the better, I simply cannot wait.

Brian Yap is a journalist who writes from the place where politics, the arts and technology meet.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

George Does It Again

Why we had to leave — Part II
By George Lee (The Malaysian Insider)

Slightly more than a week ago, I wrote a letter to share with people, especially Malaysians, why talented Malaysians decide to leave. Since then, the reactions have been awe-inspiring. These have inspired me to continue writing from where I left off.

There have been many encouraging as well as challenging responses. Truthfully, either way, I am moved by these eloquent individuals who have uttered their constructive comments in a communal manner. It is my humble intent to get the subject under way from the very beginning in order to create greater awareness. Over the years, we have heard the government pouring out its disgruntlement about “brain drain” but for obvious reason the seepage is no way near an end.

Like it or not, the flight of human capital is intimately linked to the social and economic factors and these have a lot to do with the political dynamism of the government. It has been a year and three months (big sigh!) since the last election but as rightly pointed out by the writer of “Umno — last man standing? (The Malaysia Insider, June 2)”, the political parties of the ruling coalition are just incompetent of recovering from the devastation as seen from their inability to advocate change, infighting and self denials (it cannot bear a single hard blow!).

Hence, we need to ask ourselves do we still need this government who has not only failed us (though it won the 12th general election) but is on the verge of self extinction with its apathetic approach to issues concerning people’s livelihood.

Previously, I have momentarily mentioned that the solution to our political predicament is people’s power: “Government to take stock and must return to basics… else change of guard”. I am very relieved that the writer of “We can buy skills and talents but not integrity (Malaysiakini, June 1)” was able to see my standpoint. When we mentioned people’s power, it means Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region (where are we) and with the same aim i.e. a vote for the ultimate transformation in the coming 13th general election.

Shameless armchair critics

Yes, there are shameless armchair critics within society today as highlighted by the writer of “Search for better lives, non-Bumis face dilemma” (Malaysiakini, May 28). I do not feel any distaste to the writer observation because everyone is entitled to their views. Similarly the writer of “We can buy skills and talents but not integrity” (Malaysiakini, June 1) felt that because I wrote a letter, I had done something which disqualified me from the shameless armchair. Truthfully, I do not want to make a fuss concerning the shameless armchair critic. I strongly believe that all Malaysians no matter where we are (with the exception of the extremists who do not want to hear let alone do), we can contribute to make Malaysia a better brand name, so to speak.

The right to speak

Allow me to put few facts in perspective before I proceed. Many of us who we are living away have not given up our Malaysia passports and identities. Migration absolutely does not signify one is wealthy as we fall in the category of skill migration. As a permanent resident, we had to start from the beginning and worked our way through like anyone else. The only difference is we are living in a system that cares for our livelihood and we feel safe.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, we are patriotic enough and we are not ashamed to demonstrate that.

Our hearts are still with it and we are not about to leave it “dying”. Our feelings do not change no matter how far we are. Besides having the prerogative to vote, we know that we can continue to play a role for the betterment of Malaysia. I would like to thank the writer of “Ex-Malaysians and their right to speak” (The Malaysia Insider, June 2) for his extraordinary narration about “ex-Malaysians” and their right to speak. One important point mentioned was we could contribute by looking at Malaysia from “outside”. This is a profound view. In my previous letter, I had absolutely no ulterior intention to run down the country. I was depicting the truth based on my many years of work experience in Malaysia (17 years when l left).

Seventeen years is not a short time, I reckon a person would able to feel whether society is functioning well given this amount of time. For example (they are more), I was definitely shell shocked with the egotistic attitude of the staff from the Ministry of Education when I tried to seek information personally.

When I came over here, the system is completely the opposite. I was flattered by the warmth shown by the Education Department and schools at the state level. I do not think it needs a genius to delineate what comprises good governance. I am always dumbfounded whenever I compare the two systems. If the Ministry of Education can take in two-thirds of their Down Under mind-set, I shall be over the moon. Malaysia is probably still a developing country but the concern is some of our government servants are still preserving the same old styles and habits year in year out. This mentality is a large baggage to carry if Malaysia were to become an indisputable developed nation. It is time to change.

Not where we are but what we do

Without a doubt, many Malaysians are where we are because of the attainment of basic needs like physiological and safety (rather than those higher in the hierarchy like esteem, and self-actualisation — Abraham Maslow pyramid of needs). Moving away for many professionals is a matter of economic survival rather than the love for migration. Many professionals are global workers and they go where the opportunities beckon. Can they be faulted for this? This explanation is not to justify our reason to stay away but it is a fact of life for many Malaysians.

Truthfully, the issue is not about why we flight or where we are but how we fight and what are we going to do. I quote from the view of the writer of “We can buy skills and talents but not integrity”

(Malaysiakini, June 1): “We all have different callings and gifts in life and we can't all do the same thing.

But one thing we should all agree on is that more of the same will not do.” These are remarkable statements from the writer and are in congruence with my thoughts. He went on to say and I quote: ”So in or out of the country, it is not where you are but what you do that matters.”

There are many roles to play

I empathise with the writer of “Search for better lives, non-Bumis face dilemma” (Malaysiakini, May 28) where many Malaysians did not bother lifting the broom to tidy our home. I for one have a high regard for the courage displayed by Malaysians holding peaceful demonstrations within their democratic right. These people are genuine “freedom fighters”. Nevertheless, we need to respect that everyone has their own temperaments and beliefs.

To fight against prejudice, there are many roles Malaysians can play beyond wearing head gear and shouting slogans. I would like to refer the writer of “It's time Malaysia changes for the good.

(Malaysiakini, May 29). The role he can play is to continue highlighting the Malaysia subject in Britain as a high-ranking officer in the British government. He must not feel ashamed of what is happening in Malaysia but instead replace it with proactive deeds.

As for the writer of “Picking a fight with 'the system' our whole lives” (Malaysiakini, May 29), she is at the crossroads between two systems. In my humblest opinion, her role is to make the most of the opportunity by choosing a system that can assist her in her career, which could make Malaysia proud.

Eventually the world knows the quandary of the Malaysians and the reason for their leaving which put pressure on the Malaysia government (if it cares!) to act or else risk losing its competitiveness. Her role is to excel herself to demonstrate that it is the system that failed her and not herself.

Last year, I wrote to the then Prime Minister informing him my desire to vote as I could not do so personally being away from the country. The following was the reply (excuse me for not printing out the full name of the sender).

Dear Mr George



I am directed to refer to your email to Warkah Untuk Perdana Menteri dated 18 February 2008 on the above and wish to inform you that your concern on the voting for the Malaysian citizens living abroad is being brought to the attention of relevant agencies. I would continue to keep you posted on the developments of this subject from time to time.

Thank you

Sincerely yours


Deputy Secretary-General III

I think you can guess that was the last time I heard anything from the Deputy Secretary-General III. I dare say that if the government had allowed us (any guess of the numbers) to vote like security personnel posted overseas, we would have a different government today. Also, at the end of last year, I wrote a letter to a political party to enquire whether the party had any overseas activity Down Under and the reply from the press secretary was there was none.

The point I would like to draw attention to is that inconspicuously average Malaysians wherever they are have been doing different things (they raises their brooms) but our actions have not reached a cohesive altitude to render the final push. Average Malaysians need someone to play a link role to pick up issues like what Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and Merdeka Review have been doing ( if we wait for The Star, we are doomed). For example, if someone could start to pick our brains from Britain or Down Under or review the issues we raised, many Malaysians outside the country may have a chance to vote in the coming 13th general election in our residential countries. We would love that right.

On another occasion, if someone could put in some time and effort, we may have leaders from the political parties coming to foreign shores and receive thunderous applause for their political ceramah. These are not easy passageways but we need politicians, political parties and NGOs to champion these tasks. The aim is to share the roles, do different things, assist each other and together we aim for one purpose i.e. a vote for ultimate transformation.

The writer of “We can buy skills and talents but not integrity” (Malaysiakini, June 1) pointed out that “the tragedy in Malaysia is that normal civil activities are regarded as acts of sedition… when innocent Malaysians are bundled into jail for taking part in legitimate expressions of their frustrations which they have the constitutional right to do”. My take is that to beat the regime of the existing government, we need to work smart rather than hard. If we cannot exercise our democratic rights within, we can play different roles from where we stand and meet each other at certain intersections.

See you at the 13th general election.

Getting all Malaysians together outside the country could add muscle to the voices within. It is time we started working together despite our different temperaments and beliefs. We must encourage each one to take different positions and roles. We must explain and encourage people of the need to take up the broom as every single voice and vote counts. Most important we must have great perseverance and patience as this is a long and hard battle. This is the only way and the best chance after 52 years. Come the 13th general election, we should have a checklist of all the unwarranted things that the present coalition has done and circulate the list to others to remind us why we should vote for an ultimate transformation. I can picture that many of us would be taking the next flight home come the 13th general election with one mission. I shall see you all at the polling station.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sliding With Your Host

The NEP: one of the roots of corruption
Raja Petra Kamarudin

Penang offers RM10,000 reward for info on corruption

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said on June 2 the state government is offering civil servants RM10,000 for providing information on colleagues who commit corrupt practices.

Lim said on the plan take effect immediately.

He said the plan was part of the state government's competency, accountability and transparent philosophy, as it seeks to improve delivery system.

He added that one staff member was the first recipient for exposing such wrongdoing. He added this would also act as a preventive measure. – THE EDGE

By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

1. We need a law against corruption just as we need laws against all crimes. But sometimes the laws are so framed that they promote crime rather than prevent them. Such a law is the Malaysian law on corruption.

2. It seems logical and right that those who receive illegal gratification should be considered guilty of breaking the law and should therefore be punished. But when we talk of corruption we think of those endowed with power abusing their power in order to gain personal benefit. We think that those who offer gratification as being the victim and should be given some consideration.

3. But the law says that those who pay for the service they receive should also be considered as guilty and should be equally deserving of punishment.

4. Since both the giver and the recipient may be charged with corruption, both would be unwilling to report the incident. This of course makes corruption difficult if not impossible to be brought to a court of law and tried successfully.

5. Besides the process of law would be much prolonged, as each would seek lawyers to argue on his behalf. Not only will the trial take ages but the result can be quite unpredictable.

6. But there is another factor. The person reporting would be marked by those sympathetic to the other party so that it would affect his dealings with them as well. If they are Government servants whose approval would be needed, the approvals may not be forthcoming at all later, even if other officers are involved.

7. Because of the ineffectiveness of the laws corrupt people often get away with their corrupt practices.

8. Yet corruption is such a bane on society that it must be stopped somehow. If the law is ineffective then it must be made to be effective. One of the ways is to give immunity to the aggrieved party reporting the case, provided that the evidence was substantial and not perjury.

9. In the case of political corruption both parties may be willing participants. The bribe is given by a candidate to a willing recipient to gain support for himself. Both are therefore unlikely to complain and reveal the act.

10. The recipients on the other hand would be glad to receive the bribe, unless he is a person of high principal unwilling to betray the cause his party was fighting for.

11. In political corruption it would be extremely difficult to get evidence of the bribe being given or received. Electronics now play a role to hide the act. The money is deposited into the account of the person (voter) concerned via the ATM machines. The recipient would be called via phone to ask whether the money had been received, giving the name of the candidate.

12. Despite the difficulties for detection, a Government that is truly determined to prevent corruption can find ways of detecting corruption. But if the Government itself is corrupt then corruption cannot be stopped. In fact corruption would spread in every direction and would become a way of life. At this stage nothing can really be done.

There you have it. One is a statement by the Chief Minister of one of the most economically progressive states in Malaysia and the other is a statement by he who ruled Malaysia for 22 years and dragged us screaming and kicking into the modern world. Nevertheless, they have both missed the mark by a mile. The problem is not that we need more laws or a reward system for stool pigeons. The problem is that we are an overregulated country. And excess regulations breed corruption in a society that froths and foams at the mouth screaming about religion but is steeped in vile.

It never ceases to amaze me when Malays rant and rave like cows suffering from Mad Cow Disease after Friday prayers in demonstrating their support for Islam, and in condemning those they perceive as having insulted Islam, when these are the same people who are corrupted like hell. Give me an atheist who upholds decent values and clean living anytime. I trust these people more that the corrupted religionists. Corrupted religionists are extremely dangerous and the millions of people murdered over thousands of years by religionists hiding behind the name of God is testimony of how dangerous they can be. I sometimes wonder whether religion is really the cause of all our problems and whether mankind is better off without it.

Malaysia needs to deregulate. Malaysians, in particular those Malays who are in government and those who walk in the corridors of power, are just too corrupted and hypocritical to be entrusted with the job of regulating things. Now don’t get me wrong. Chinese and Indians too are extremely corrupt. Just looks at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone fiasco and Samy Vellu as examples. These are totally ‘non-Bumi’ corrupt acts. The only ‘good’ thing is these MCA and MIC slime-balls and scumbags do not go around shouting that the Kafirs are going to hell like the Malays do.

Do you know that 70% of the slot machines (one-arm bandits) are owned by one Chinaman who is a crony of anyone who becomes Prime Minister since the time of Tun Dr Mahathir? Yes, and this man paid Hee RM25 million to bring down the Pakatan Rakyat Perak government.

And do you know how much he pays to operate these slot machines? And we are talking about tens of thousands of slot machines here. First he has to pay the Umno politicians a hefty sum for the licence. Then he has to pay a monthly ‘commission’ to ensure that the licences are not cancelled. Then he has to pay the police a monthly ‘protection fee’ to ensure that the premises where the slot machines are located are not raided and the machines confiscated for ‘breaching the terms and conditions of the licence’.

If you want a gun licence that too can be arranged. All it takes is the right fee to the state Chief Police Officer. The less eligible you are the higher the fees to get the gun licence. If you are an underworld boss then the price can go as high as RM250,000.

If you get arrested then no problem, even for crimes that attract the death penalty. If you are a ‘common’ drug pusher then the fee to escape the death penalty is RM250,000 while if you are a rich tycoon Datuk then it can go as high as RM10 million or more depending on how strong the evidence against you is and whether they also need to make this evidence ‘disappear’.

A Datukship, especially of you are a Chinese underworld boss who needs some ‘respectability’ to your name, starts from RM250,000. Tan Sri is even more expensive while the ‘lesser’ JPs can go for RM50,000 to RM100,000. (I remember a Malay Tan Sri who missed his flight because the Germans paged for a Mr Tan and he did not know they were calling him).

You need licences and permits to do anything in Malaysia. And that is why Malaysia is so corrupted. Eliminate all these licences and permits and corruption would be reduced drastically. Those who make the most money through corrupt means are those who approve these licences and permits and those who are the beneficiaries of these licences and permits. No permit, no corruption. No licence, no corruption.

Of course, in many instances, these licences and permits are imposed to ensure that the aspirations of the New Economic Policy (NEP) are met. You need to be a Bumiputera or meet the conditions of the NEP to qualify for the licence or permit. Most times the Chinaman would just need to go into an Ali Baba arrangement with a corrupted Malay, while another corrupted Malay would approve the licence or permit for an under-the-table fee. Then they all go to the mosque to pray and scream that they will go to heaven while the Kafir are going to hell.

Give me just a day as Prime Minister and I will cut down corruption by at least half. I will just abolish all licence and permit requirements. You want to do business, just set up your stall. You want to open a gambling den, carry on, buy all the slot machines you require, no need licence. Just pay the local council tax and licence fee and you can do whatever you want.

Take the Ah Long problem as another example. Back in the 1970s we in the Malay Chambers of Commerce already told the government about this problem. But the Ah Longs are in partnership with the police so nothing was done about the problem. That’s right, you think the Ah Longs can operate if not for the fact they pay the police protection money?

Now, 30 years later, everyone is screaming. Hey, we screamed 30 years ago. Why only now you scream?

We did a study in a small fishing town called Dungun in Terengganu (YB Rosli Pop, over to you, you know about this). Invariably, this is a Malay town. We found out that almost every Malay petty-trader borrows money from Ah Longs at the sepuluh-empat rate. This means they pay 4% interest a day.

They borrow RM1,000 but will receive only part of that money. The interest is deducted in advance. Yet they are considered having borrowed RM1,000. Then, every day, they have to pay RM40 interest. Every day! The RM1,000 principal, however, remains the same. That never gets reduced. So they pay RM40 a day for the rest of their life while they owe RM1,000 also for the rest of their life.

Why does this happen? Well, these Malay petty-traders can’t get loans from proper banks. Banks need collateral, guarantors, working papers, cash flows, feasibility studies, etc., before they give you a loan. In other words, you need to be rich to borrow money from a bank. Poor people just can’t borrow money. So they go to Ah Longs to borrow money at RM40 interest a day on every RM1,000 they borrow. They don’t need working papers, cash flows and feasibility studies to borrow from Ah Longs and the collateral is their life and that of their family. And the police will help act as debt collectors if you don’t pay your RM40 a day for every RM1,000 borrowed.

No, we don’t need more anti-corruption laws. We need an end to licences and permits. And abolishing the NEP would also help to a certain extent. Then we need to execute corrupted Malaysians like what they do in China. That will not eliminate corruption totally but it would certainly help reduce it drastically. And if Malays can become proper Muslims and not talk-only Muslims, then that may help bring corruption way down. Until then, cakaplah sampai berbueh mulut.

Oh, and Pakatan Rakyat states are not exempted from corruption either. Maybe YB Ronnie Liu can help explain what happened to the state wide WiFi project for Selangor. Selangor started first but it appears like Penang is making better progress. Is this because we have idiots running the Selangor State Government or is there corruption involved here?

And if you don’t reply, Ronnie, I am coming to Pandamaran to chop of your balls and will nail them to the wall.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Ex's And The Survivalist

Ex-Malaysians and their right to speak
By James Chin (The Malaysian Insider)

One of the more interesting letters I have read in recent times was a letter from a Malaysian, George Lee, who has migrated to Australia. In this letter, he basically badmouthed the entire country and waxed lyrical about all the wonderful things about his newly adopted country, Australia.

This sort of letters always attract a lot of comments, some rude, while other readers gave the reasons why they are still in Malaysia, despite being discriminated against as a non-Malay.

The number of Malaysian taking up permanent residence elsewhere is, at best, guesswork since they will not tell the Malaysian government that they have PR overseas.

However, we can make an educated guess. A workshop held a few years ago at a Chinese-based think tank in Kl suggest that since 1970, more than a million Malaysians have moved overseas permanently. More than 80 per cent are non-Malays and, in particular, Chinese.

The reasons are varied but centre around three basic issues.

First, they feel they have no future given the open racial discrimination and pro-Malay policies of the government.

Second; they can earn better money and enjoy a higher quality of life in other countries, especially in Western countries such as US, UK and Australia.

Third, they want their children to have an equal chance when it comes to tertiary education. They feel that with the official and unofficial quota system in Malaysia, their children can never get a place in a local university or any other government-funded institution.

Needless to say, the loss to the nation is tremendous. Those who move overseas are the ones with the talent, capital and skills. This is why they can get PR outside Malaysia.

When this was pointed out to a former deputy PM, he said “good riddance”. Hence, we can take it that the government is not very worried about losing these highly skilled people since they are non-Malays and are not going to support the BN anyway.

A far more interesting question is, do these ex-Malaysians have the right to say things about Malaysia now that they have a comfortable home outside Malaysia? Do they have the right to badmouth us on the NEP, racial politics, religious discrimination, etc, given that they have “escaped” all these problems?

Many of those who commented on George’s letters appeared to think he has lost the right to say things about Malaysia since he did not stay back and “fight” the system. Many would argue that he is a quitter and hence, has given up his right to criticise the system.

There are also those who think he should have the right to criticise, with some readers actually thinking that he should tell the whole world what is really happening in Malaysia.

The whole debate is interesting as this question would never apply to a Malay who has moved overseas. Yes, my friends, there are many professional Malays who have migrated or taken up PR overseas. I have personally met some of these people.

Despite being the “chosen ones” in Malaysia, they have decided to move overseas.

In today’s political climate, the moment you criticise the country from outside Malaysia, there is an unwritten assumption that you must be a non-Malay who is getting back at the country for the “sufferings” under the NEP.

Yet, one can argue that this successful group who managed to migrate overseas suffered the least since they got out. The only “suffering” they endured is the emotional scars of having to move to a new country and not enjoying the extended family network.

My own take on the situation is that an ex-Malaysian has as much right to say things about this country as the any person living in Malaysia.

They may badmouth Malaysia but the very fact they cannot keep their mouth shut shows how deeply they feel for this land in the first place. Many of them still make regular visits to Malaysia, and many refuse to take up foreign citizenship, preferring to retain only PR status in their adopted countries.

What is needed is a rational discussion on what is said rather than blanket condemnation for those who speak from outside the country.

If we are doing the right things in this country, why should we be afraid of those who throw stones at us?

So for those ex-Malaysian living outside the country, please do comment on what is happening to Malaysia. Your insights as someone outside the country may even help us to see what we cannot see from inside the country.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Obedient Police, Good Boy

The police must obey the law while enforcing the law

IN JULY 2006, Khairy Jamaluddin who was then the Deputy UMNO Youth Chief led some 2,000 protestors in a march to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre where the 39th Asean Ministerial Meeting was being held. Their objective was to protest in opposition to Israeli violence against the Palestinian people and to hand over a memorandum concerning this to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Local newspapers reported that Khairy gave Rice five minutes to come out and receive the memorandum. When Rice failed to do so, Khairy and 200 other supporters pushed their way past the FRU line but were then blocked by the police who had formed a human chain in front of the entrance to the convention centre.

Khairy was later permitted to enter the building and was seen being taken to the Police Control Centre. He came out about 20 minutes later and told his supporters that the memorandum was with Rice.

In January 2009, Khairy and other Barisan Nasional Youth representatives marched to the Palestinian embassy to denounce Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The police just watched.

In March 2006, police used water cannons to break up a protest by about 400 people against the increase in fuel prices and arrested more than 30 people. According to the police, the protest which was organized by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress did not have a permit.

In January 2007, police arrested 21 people during a demonstration in Cheras that was organised by anti-toll hike organisation Protes, civil society groups, trade unions and student groups. This protest part of a series of protests organised to oppose the hike in the toll rates at five Klang Valley highways that began on January 1, 2009.

In May 2009, eight Perak Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives were among those arrested by the police for illegal assembly. They were arrested while walking in a procession from the DAP headquarters to the High Court to observe a suit being filed against the BN state government over the sacking of elected village heads. Earlier that same day five members of public were arrested while making arrangements for the launch of a three-day hunger strike to persuade the Perak sultan to dissolve the state assembly.

Less than two weeks ago Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching and Teratai state assemblyperson Jenice Lee were arrested at a vigil in Seputeh which was held to mark the situation in Perak.

The above incidents exhibit the prevailing attitude of the Malaysian police. They fold their arms and become mere bystanders when demonstrations concern external affairs. However, when it comes to demonstrations that concern internal issues, the play book changes. How can it be that protest marches and demonstrations are only illegal and undeserving of police permits when it touches on the plight of ordinary Malaysians?

The freedom of expression is a right that should be afforded to every citizen or civil society no matter what the issue is. The task of the police is to uphold that right and not to play arbiter as to whether a particular protest is acceptable or not.

Three weeks ago, police arrested five lawyers outside the Brickfields police station for unlawful assembly. The truth is that these lawyers were merely attempting to gain access to detainees inside the police station who could be heard shouting “We want lawyers”. The five lawyers were kept overnight like petty criminals.

The task of the police is to defend the sanctity of the criminal justice system and uphold the constitutional guarantee of the right to legal representation. It is not to arrest lawyers who turn up outside a police station in the middle of the night seeking access to clients who were arrested for exercising their fundamental right to expression and peaceful assembly.

What we have today is a situation where the people’s confidence and trust in the police force has been shaken to the core. Today, we are more afraid of the police than respectful of them simply because we are not sure whether the police obey the law in the first place.

In the 1959 case of Spano v. New York, the United States Supreme Court was faced with a case involving a foreign-born of 25 with a junior-high-school education and no previous criminal record who had been indicted for first-degree murder.

The young man retained counsel and surrendered to police. He was then subjected to persistent and continuous questioning by numerous police officers for virtually eight hours until he confessed. He had repeatedly requested, and had been denied, an opportunity to consult his counsel. At his trial in a state court, his confession was admitted in evidence over his objection, and he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court held that the young man’s will was overborne police pressure causing his confession to be given involuntarily. The admission in evidence therefore violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The opinion of the Supreme Court in the Spano case was delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren who relentlessly upheld civil rights and civil liberties and is regarded as one of the greatest jurists of modern times. In his opinion, Justice Warren issued the stark reminder that “the police must obey the law while enforcing the law”.

50 years later this reminder finds itself relevant in Malaysia. The law promises equality for all. The law promises access to legal representation. The law promises that the guilty will be found and punished. None of these promises are being kept on a constant basis.

Four months after the custodial death of A. Kugan, the country still waits for justice to punish the young man’s murderers.

Hopefully, we do not have to wait that long for those responsible for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco to be brought to justice. It is an odd thing when excess and mismanagement costs RM12billion and the total stimulus package shaped to carry the entire country out of these tough economic times amounts to only five times that amount at RM60billion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Virtual Support From Abroad

Why we had to leave — George CN Lee

MAY 27 — It has been two years since I left my adored country to seek my fortune Down Under. A year ago my family decided to settle down here.

Throughout the two years since I have been away, I have followed the social, economic and political backdrops in Malaysia via both the mainstream and alternative electronic media. Strangely, I have been keeping close tabs with what is happening back home much more than when I was physically present in Malaysia.

It hurts not being close to what is going on as the love for Malaysia has not transformed in any way though like many of my friends (there are now seven of us who have settled Down Under — six information technology consultants and one accountant), we had to leave.

As I recollect the reasons we left home, there were several contributors to our departure.

On the economic front, we were getting exasperated with the high standard of living and nuisances surrounding us. Pictured the high cost ordinary citizens had to bear once we stepped out of our home, for example, the petrol price, tolls, parking, and ordinary fast moving consumer goods (baby milk power).

More importantly, there were no worthwhile measures taken to address to problems. Businesses, traders and government agencies took turn to inflate ordinary folks’ sentiments by price increases and intractable policies. As things were getting expensive, the quantity and quality eroded.

We envisaged (from past experience) that the government would not do much to solve the people’s livelihood. We just did not like to be constricted in such a manner. We decided we wanted to create another lifestyle in a more structured society where the government would be more willing to help.

Socially, there were prevailing emotional distresses that we had to endure, for example, rude drivers, traffic hold-up (drivers who shaped their own rules), escalating crime rate (witnessed several snatch thieves in action and the grieved for the victims but police were nowhere to be seen) and broad disgruntlement among friends about living in Malaysia.

I was also appalled by the mind-sets of several government departments such as the Ministry of Education, Inland Revenue, and Dewan Bandaraya when I had to carry out numerous errands.

Government servants were rude, unconscientiously and irresponsible. The systems in place in most of the country’s organisations left a lot to be desired.

Any rational individual would start to ask whether it is a place worth living. The government had no sense of urgency to address the contorted public order and peace. We honestly felt unsafe to venture out of our homes even though the mamak stalls were near.

Politically, Malaysia has never been able to be isolated with the persistent racial issues. The government and its component parties were always practising double-faced roles of subduing and fanning race sentiments. Intellectuals like us could see the schema behind.

We knew very well that those in the politics would prepare to sacrifice the well-being of ordinary folk for their greed though these people in power carried a different message on their lips. These people needed to safeguard their political livelihoods as they are nobody without power.

Two years have passed. It hurts to watch from here when people continue to stand up against unjust systems but are frustrated by the tough and insensitive stance adopted by the government and its ruthless police force.

Look at what has transpired in the Perak debacle. Forgive my ignorance in politics but personally I am sad to see how the authorities handle the situation. We just cannot use the approach during the 1987 Operasi Lalang to suppress and oppress the people of today.

We are living in the 21st century and too many things have changed. The government is just too conceited to admit and discover a different strategy to tackle political issues. Just look at the sweeping action and arrogant speeches delivered by the people (OCPD from Brickfields, gosh !) representing the government.

How can we teach our children about humbleness and politeness if the politicians seem to have a different school of thought. With the latest happening in the Malaysia scene, we have no qualms that we made the appropriate decision two years ago even though the choice was difficult and agonising.

Many fellow Malaysians have no alternative but to brush aside all the inconveniences. Many brave ones have embarked to fight against the issues and unfairness. I salute all these brave ordinary folk and wish that they have a copious amount of energies to carry them through.

Two years ago, it had come to a juncture where I could no longer sweep all these tribulations under the rug and the eventuality was to go away. However, everyone has their own temperaments and beliefs. We would love to do something such as creating awareness for the betterment of Malaysia if we can find the platform and opportunity.

Having lived Down Under for two years, it puzzled me why the systems here can be so efficiently coordinated and run. The councils and government are very much in control. Most importantly their feedback and replies are prompt and updated. Filing tax returns here is convenient and fast that I got my refund back within 14 days consistently for the past two years.

Here, we could be paying more taxes but I get some back via the structured family assistance allowance, free medical benefit and very reasonable school fees, etc. Lately, we even obtained a stimulus payout from the tax office due to the effects of the economic downturn. These measures have received great appreciation from the people.

The obvious question here is why can’t Malaysia adopt some of the systems so successful in place here. One need not be superhuman to get things going except dedication which Malaysia is so lacking. I can see that the Penang state government is starting to perk up the government delivery systems that are conspicuously missing in the Malaysian governance structure.

Many of the systems in Malaysia are more form than substance. One of the most important components that is noticeably missing is the integration between the different government bodies. Conversely, this is so successful incorporated Down Under which has curtailed loopholes and acted as a check and balance mechanisms for the local government.

Ordinary Malaysians would like to be treated uniformly. If there is any trace of the adverse happening, that would widen the disparity gap. What the government should be doing in my modest opinion is to have a mechanism to encourage the mediocre group to catch up and this should be attained not by protecting or spoon-feeding the group.

The government should have a far-sighted view and not worry about temporary setbacks (not depend on opinion polls as they would go up when the end results are derived). Just like us, we were “compelled” to learn things in a hard way after we arrived in a new place.

Initially it was hard but eventually we triumphed. Frankly, things are not so hard but politicians like to think in a complex manner. It is time for the Malaysia government to take stock and revert to basics else we could expect a change of the guard in four years time though it is probably too late now.

George CN Lee is a reader from Down Under (Australia).