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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Clock Strikes, Finally

In the beginning he was DPM!
by Hussein Hamid

What was Anwar’s biggest contribution to what we are today? I sat and ponder over this question the whole day today. I wanted to write about it and yet I cannot because there were so many thoughts that came and went inside me. All I could do today was about two half page – notes on times go by – Cakap cakap about AP and then I revisited the “Bentong car park” issue because one of our friends sent me something new about that car park. It is now 11.42pm and I have been thinking since 7.15am this morning….fifteen minutes ago it hit me! I believe that what Anwar did to me and to many of us can be conceptualised in two words: “POLITICAL AWAKENING”

Before Anwar was dismissed by Mahatir I was a Bumiputra intent on pursuing my “rights” as a Bumiputra. The right to have a share in the perceived richness brought into the consciousness of the Malays as a result of the New Economic Policies. All that was in my mind was where the next ringgit was going to be found. Tenders, project proposals, pink slips, AP’s, IPO, licenses, Privatisation opportunities…life was a whirl of meetings and discussions in five star hotels and lunches in restaurants whose name you find hard to pronounce – Troika was one of those that I can still remember – in Jalan Raja Chulan. The evenings were again another whirl of coffee houses and meetings until the early mornings.

Then 2nd September 1998 he was dismissed as DPM. The next day he was expelled from UMNO. September 20th he was arrested and September 29th he was brought to court to be charged. Five cases for sodomy and five for corruption. My first conscious understanding that this was really happening was seeing him with a black eye.

Common sense tells me that no policeman would dare lay a hand on someone who was the DPM just a few months ago….surely Anwar must have injured himself….but looking at him I could see that he was accepting of the fact that he was no longer DPM and I felt that he was coming to terms within himself as to where he would have to go from there. There was a grim acceptance in his face that the battle for his life and his future had begun.

As the days unfold and I relive Anwar’s arrest in his house with Balaclava clad personals, his black eye, how he was being treated during the trial and how UMNO and Mahathir was trying to demonised him…my dislike for Mahathir became a dislike for UMNO. Slowly this crystallized into my questioning what was happening within UMNO. It was not enough that Mahathir have dismissed him as DPM – that he relentlessly pursued Anwar in such a manner made me, and I am sure most of us, start to question the sanity of that man who was then our Prime Minister.

So my friends if you ask me what was Anwar’s biggest contribution to our consciousness until now – it will be our political awakening of what is right and what is wrong with our government,with our Prime Minister and with UMNO.….and after much thought we know that Mahathir and UMNO is wrong for our nation! So do not question Anwar’s on his commitment to our cause – we are with him in HIS cause to bring decency and dignity back to how things are done in Malaysia. He showed us the way, he stands in front – but we are together now and we will persevere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Booksmart only qualifications

We must stop the rot

EVERY year, about 3,700 academics from around the world are quizzed on what they think defines a good university and to list down what they feel are the premier higher learning institutions in the world. Their responses are collated and at the end of the day, 500 universities are shortlisted and published on the Times Higher Education (THE) QS World Top University Rankings.

Each year, universities around the globe fall over themselves to gain entry into this prestigious list because it helps secure more grants and sponsors; helps attract a larger student population, where in the era of foreign education, it is used as a commercial boast to attract students.

In Malaysia, where one brags of frivolous achievements such as the largest fruit basket, longest teh tarik and a space tourist, being listed on the Times-QS rolls is indeed a big deal, which is why when the list is released, all and sundry crane their necks to see if they made the cut.

The latest global rankings list University of Malaya (UM) at 230; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at 250; Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) at 313; Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 320; and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), 356.

In the Asian Top 200, UM is 39; UKM 51; USM 69; UTM 82; UPM 90 and the Multimedia University at 171.

But every year we see a decline in the achievements of most of these varsities. Why, can be traced at every level of our education system.

Dumbed-down examinations, lower passing rates, questionable marking methodologies and debatable literary content have all contributed to this decline.

Politicisation of the education system has added to the cause in standards of local varsities going south and this starts at school – from sub-standard teachers who join teachers’ training college as a last resort, exam-oriented syllabuses to vague admission criteria.

This was well-illustrated when the government recently had to explain that some of its top-scoring Pubic Service Department scholarship applicants may be book smart but do not have the analytical mindset to qualify for certain courses. Basically, it was trying to say that these straight A students cannot survive the real world beyond their books.

This is probably why even education officials send their children to international schools while espousing the virtues of studying in government schools and institutions.

We know we are in trouble if even Indonesia does not recognise our qualifications. What more with many parents considering educating their children abroad – irrespective of whether they can afford it or not, it is time we re-look our education system from kindergarten and stop making guinea pigs out of our children.

Back home, there are those who opt for a professional qualification via college diplomas rather than spending four years in university, only to join the unemployment line.

In my line of work, I regularly come across evidence of this decline in our education standards.

Errors in government statements on its websites and official correspondences are not unusual.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry through its website issued a statement on H1N1 which read among others: “This day was proclaimed a new 231 with symptoms pesakit influenza-like illness (ILI) has been incorporated into the hospital for treatment and at the same time some 166 have been didiscaj kes. This makes the tray seramai 1048 ILI being treated in hospital, including 106 fruit 14 private hospital ...”

Signed by Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, the posting was removed as soon as Ismail (whose English is impeccable) was notified by a reporter. Obviously it was written by another staff but the lack of checks caused embarrassment to the director-general and the ministry.

We have on our desk a letter in English from a university professor littered with grammatical errors. Not too long ago, one university had to publish an apology to a member of the Royal House for its atrocious use of the English language in a congratulatory message to her published the previous day.

I cannot speak on other faculties but we have many journalism students interning with us. The knowledge that their lecturers have not spent a day in a newsroom sends shudders down our spine as we contemplate the future of journalism in this country. One intern even confided that the first thing she learnt was self-censorship – how to write favourably about the establishment.

Then there are those which border on the criminal. Last week, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia law lecturer Yasmin Norhazleena Bahari Md Noor opened a can of worms when she lodged a report on fixing of marks with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Yesterday, theSun front-paged a report where two UPM lecturers were caught plagiarising. What more can you say? One is a professor and the other a PhD holder with a law degree.

UPM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Nik Mustapha R. Abdullah said this matter passed the institution’s Publication’s Committee as it usually only scans through materials and journals for submissions to Times Higher Education in an effort to scale up the university rankings.

One wonders which direction UPM would be headed now that it has been proven that some of its material is plagiarised. And this again brings to mind the shallow priorities of some. Improving the overall education standards would inevitably keep us on a reasonable level on the charts.

What’s the point of submitting tailored PR materials when the rot continues to stink?

As long as herd mentality and partisan policies continue to infiltrate our education system, we can bet that it will be a matter of time when Malaysian universities disappear from the rankings.

UM and UKM have already fallen out of the Top 200 list, and with questionable policies and dubious characters in charge and involved in shaping the next generation of our workforce, we are in for a tough time to compete with our neighbours, what more the rest of the world.

Terence is deputy editor (special reports & investigations) and can be reached at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trying 60's ideas in 21st Centuries

Emergency! Emergency! There aren’t enough froggy ADUNS in Selangor! Emergency! Emergency!
September 9, 2009
By haris Ibrahim of The People's Parliament

Be not in any doubt that on the night of 8th March, last year, as the fall of the mighty BN began to unfold as the election results were announced, the move by UMNO to re-take Selangor from DAP, PAS and PKR and thwart the will of the voters, had already begun.

Remember the revelation much later, after the Pakatan Selangor state government had been sworn in, of Khir Toyo and Hassan Ali’ s clandestine meetings in the days immediately after the elections, with a view to negotiating a PAS-UMNO/BN coalition government in Selangor? If Hassan had been able to swing enough crossovers then, he would be MB of Selangor today. He couldn’t then, and he still can’t now. Not that they haven’t tried.

As Selangor State Assembly YB Teng has pointed out, getting 9 Pakatan ADUNs in Selangor to crossover is not as simple as getting the two donkeys and the other Hee-whore in Perak to sell out. It would cost far, far more and besides, Pakatan, possibly learning a lesson or two in Perak, have been more guarded in Selangor. Several forces in UMNO are still determined to take Selangor back.

On 9th August, this year, Malaysiakini reported Najib as saying that he wanted Selangor, which he described as the heartbeat of the nation, back in BN’s grip, calling on all the component parties within the coalition to bring about the necessary changes, to win back the state, implying taking back the state in an election.

Yet anyone with any credible source of information from within the BN coalition will tell you that the major component parties are all, without exception, in total disarray. Gerakan has lost all credibility, MCA is split and MIC has become incresingly irrelevant to the Indian community.

Some speculate that Najib’s intelligentsia had hoped that the release of the Hindraf 5 from Kamunting might, amongst other things, spell the end of Aiyo Aiyo Samy’s allready tottering political career. Can Najib still confidently count on UMNO’s ‘fixed deposits’ in East Malaysia?

And Najib has to constantly watch his back, with word making its rounds that he is out of favour with he who was the architect of Pak Lah’s premature departure from the seat of power, working in tandem with the current No.2.

And Najib is advocating a reform to make ready to face the next elections? Zaid’s challenge to Najib to call for snap elections in Perak if the latter really believes that Pakatan Rakyat is floundering in the states that they now govern hits the nail squarely on the head.

Forget snap elections in Perak, though. Najib doesn’t dare call for a snap general election now. And yet, Selangor had to be taken back, and now. It is a rich state; a literal money-churning machine. Hence Toyo’s RM24 million mansion.

Hence the huge amounts of state asemblymen allocations misappropriated as is emerging from the ongoing Select Committee on Competence, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) probe.

And, it is rumoured that in the run-up to the last elections, Selangor UMNO, through the late Zakaria Deros, raised a huge amount in campaign funds on the promise of future contracts and projects when BN returned to form the government. That didn’t happen.

Leaving some very unhappy, very unfriendly people in the state who want their money back, I am told.
More than ever, Selangor had to be taken back.

If MACC’s investigation into the affairs of the Selangor Pakatan ADUNs hadn’t gone awry with the death of Beng Hock, so it seems, MB Khalid and several of his exco members were to be arrested and remanded that Friday to face trumped-up corruption charges.

The circumstances in which Beng Hock died turned the spotlight on MACC, which then had to tread carefully.

A new plan had to be hatched.

Turn to the tried and tested.

History will bear testimony that every time Barisan Nasional and, before that, the Alliance, found itself losing its grip on political power in the country, a bout of madness would coincidentally seize a certain segment of the polity.

Take May, 13, 1969.

We may never know the truth of why this sad episode happened in our nation’s history. Official accounts will blame it on the overly exuberant celebrations of the opposition who had just emerged from a recently concluded general election, leaving the ruling coalition barely holding on to federal power. This, it seems, was simply too much for the supporters of the ruling UMNO to swallow. Hence, the racial clashes.

Dr. Kua’s book points the finger at elite Malay nationalist leaders contriving to displace Bapa Malaysia and the rule of law, impose emergency rule and effectively return unto themselves what had been lost through the democratic process.

Two seemingly differing accounts of the whys and wherefores of 13th May, 1969 and yet, when viewed closely and in the light of all that we know now, one may begin to see that the two actually describe different forces, albeit on the same side, at work .

The elites that Dr. Kua speaks of set the agenda.

Intermediaries then go to the ground to agitate the masses with the same, old, rhetoric. Loss of Malay political dominance will see the Malay enslaved in his own land. Muslims will one day be ruled by the kafir unless they rise to defend their dissipating political dominance.

Immigrants are robbing and abusing the generosity of the indigenous. The old divide and rule. The events leading up to Ops Lallang is another case in point.

Najib stirring up the sentiments of the Malays, and Lee Kim Sai supposedly ‘reacting’ thereto.
The script’s the same. Only the settings, the props and the actors change.

On 4th August, the wannabe MB, Hassan Ali, goes public with his harebrained proposal to ban the sale of alcohol in all Muslim-majority areas in the state of Selangor, immediately pitting the ultra-conservative Muslims in the state against the more liberal of that faith and the non-Muslims.

A controversy, it seemed, was set to explode in Selangor. 3 days later, however, MB Khalid appeared to have nipped the storm in the bud when he announced that there was to be no blanket ban of the sale of alcohol in the state. This, however, set the stage for the ‘Take Beeer” slogans that were to appear at the Permatang Pasir by-elections.

Unbeknownst to most, though, even as this potential controversy was headed off, the foundation for another, more sensational one, had been set the day after Hassan announced his ‘ban alcohol sale’ proposal.

On 5th August, the Selangor state exco approved the proposal to relocate the Sri Maha Mariamman temple, presently situated in section 19, Shah Alam, to section 23, and directed that the proposal be made known to the residents of section 23.

At the dialogue that was sponsored by the state government last Saturday, YB Khalid Samad was at great pains to emphasise that the relocation was, at that stage, only a proposal, and the state government had no intention of moving forward with the same until all interested parties had been heard. This is an important point to note. Even before the dust from the ‘ban alcohol sale’ announcement could settle, Hassan came up with another salvo.

On 24th August, Hassan now announces that mosque officials will be called upon to arrest Muslims found working in establishments that serve, store or display alcoholic beverages. The next day UMNO Selangor chief Abdul Shukor Idrus responds to Hassan’s announcement by taunting the Selangor government to arrest Muslims working at the two breweries operating in the state.

Two days later, on 27th August, Hassan responds to UMNO’s taunts to say that the Selangor government will not mobilise mosque officials to arrest Muslims working in breweries but that such actions could be taken in future.

It’s important to note here that all these announcements by Hassan were never sanctioned by the state government. He was on a frolic of his own. A frolic that laid the state government open to be painted as being anti-Islam.

The ‘cow head’ protest that took place the next day, 28th August, was replete with banners declaring the state government, MB Khalid and several other named YBs as just that : anti-Islam.

Interestingly, Hassan, who is in charge of Islamic affairs in the state, has not been heard on this issue at all. Not even a call for calm, or to denounce the vile acts of the protestors.

UMNO, so as squeeze the Pakatan state government into a seemingly inextricable corner, then offers to find an alternative site for the to-be relocated temple. I think the protest, whilst planned with some detail, was hastily put together.

Had the organisers more time, the individuals involved, and who have today been slapped with charges in court, would not themselves have featured in the protest that day, but would have left it all to hired hands with no ostensible links whatsoever to UMNO so as not to leave such a pointed trail as would prove an embarrassment to Najib and leave his 1Malaysia looking patently hollow.

Or was that also the intended effect?

Weaken the Najib administration whilst laying the ground to contrive Selangor as being on the brink of racial chaos?

Perhaps by those unhappy with measures announced by the present administration which appeared to incline towards meritocracy and do away with reservations and quotas long accustomed to by the few privileged in UMNO?

There can be little doubt that the protest was intended to injure the feelings of the Hindus, and yet, on the face of it, the grouse of the protestors was with the state government.

This, in my view, was the first giveaway that the protest had a hidden agenda, far removed from the matter of the relocation of the temple. The opportunity to observe the same protestors of that ‘cow head’ demo at the dialogue, for me, proved to be most valuable.

Watching Azmir ( the songkok’d one ) and his sidekicks at the back of the hall laughing amongst themselves after each round of loud abuse hurled at the YBs in front left me convinced that their displayed anger, allegedly for the state government’s lack of sensitivity towards the feelings of the Muslim community in section 23, was contrived and not real.

So why this contrivance, and was the end-goal achieved?

I think it was a monumental disaster, save and except if it was also intended to embarass the Najib administration, which it certainly did.

Firstly, the Hindus did not react in the manner that the organisers must have hoped for. Gandhi would have been proud of my Hindu brothers and sisters. I am.

Secondly, they probably overlooked that even as the mainstream media might not carry footage of the disgusting mistreatment of the head of a dead cow, the internet has carried those scenes far and wide, and has largely been roundly condemned by a large segment of the Malay community.

They were not prepared for this.

Was contriving a state of affairs in Selangor to then allow for federal intervention through emergency provisions the gameplan? To allow for such a state of affairs to spill into neighbouring states so as to enable the ”emergency’ net to be cast nationwide?

Thereby deferring general elections ad infinitum, at least until a redelineation exercise creates another 30 or so safe seats? If so, was Najib in the driving seat and, if not, what gives?

In 1977, emergency powers were used to displace PAS rule in Kelantan. A brief account of the events leading up to this may be viewed HERE. YB Lim Kit Siang’s speech, when the emergency bill for Kelantan was debated in Parliament, can be read in full HERE.

You draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bandaging an Enforcer

Dark clouds over the IGP: Will Agong step in?
by Kim Quek*

How should one read Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s decision to renew Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan’s service contract despite his horrible record – exploding crime rates, brutal suppression of civil liberties and swirling talk of his alleged links with the underworld?

Some would say that the IGP is retained because, as a ruthless suppressor of human rights, he is exactly the kind of police head needed to prop up the wobbling UMNO-led regime that is fast losing popular support.

Musa’s credentials for this role were well demonstrated in the infamous power grab in Perak. Brushing the constitution and law aside, police brute force was repeatedly employed to physically bar and rough up Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen from exercising their constitutional rights to regain their legitimacy to rule from the illegitimately established BN state government.

Others would say that Najib is in no position to get rid of Musa as the latter has the upper hand, being holder of the darkest secrets pertaining to major scandals that have been heavily weighing down on Najib, such as the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder and the Scorpene submarine purchase.

Some would even suggest that Musa’s hitherto pivotal role in the on-going Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial II makes him indispensable to the continuing potency of this case as a potential lethal weapon against the seemingly unstoppable advances of the Pakatan.

For those who have been paying attention to the local political scene, it is not difficult to see that all the above three views are valid.

In other words, it is the combination of expediency for political survival and the personal vulnerability of the prime minister that has contributed to another extension to the already extended term of two years for the hugely unpopular police head.

Musa’s extension of service also signifies that there will be no light at the end of tunnel of promised reforms as hyped in Najib’s 1Malaysia euphoria.

Between an inclusive democratic Malaysia and a race-supremacist authoritarian Malaysia, the Najib led-UMNO has obviously chosen the latter.

Frightening plunge in security

Politics aside, what concerns the man-in-the-street is the frightening deterioration of law and order in the country.

A recent opinion poll conducted in the Home Ministry website reveals that 97 percent of respondents expressing worry over the state of public safety.

Ninety-four percent were of the opinion that the authorities had not done their best and a shocking two-thirds said they or their immediate family members had been victims of crimes.

These alarming results of the poll are in tandem with the fact that crimes have escalated exponentially during Musa’s tenure as the IGP.

Why has the crime rate continued to spiral uncontrollably despite the billions of ringgit poured into the police to upgrade facilities and expand manpower following the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry to upgrade the police force in 2005?

Why has rampant corruption and persistent abuse of power and violation of human rights continue to bug our police force with increasing tenacity?

Why have the police continued to resist the implementation of the crown jewel of the royal commission’s 125 recommendations – the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, which by consensus, would have been the most potent medicine to whip our decadent police force into shape?

In all these failures, we see the shadow of IGP Musa Hassan . It is therefore with the utmost indignation that we must deplore the Najib leadership for refusing to react to the alarm bells sounded in Malaysia Today website in the past week, where explicit details of Musa’s alleged links to the underworld were exposed.

Explosive revelations

In a series of postings, Malaysia Today’s Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) displayed photocopies of statutory declaration and correspondence among key players to substantiate the allegations of Musa’s involvement.

These allegations included: the IGP allowing an underworld kingpin to manipulate postings of officers while siding another to secure his release.

In an August 28 posting, RPK revealed a statutory declaration made by a former aide de camp (ADC) of Musa, where he accused the IGP of misconduct that “undermined the integrity and credibility of PDRM, constituting a betrayal of his oath of office”.

Certain names and details were blacked out in the documents for “obvious reasons”, but RPK promised that the ‘un-blacked’ out version would be revealed if its authenticity was challenged by the government or when Musa’s service was extended so as to embarrass the government.

Specifically, the ADC alleged that

* As ADC, he compiled and coordinated posting orders as based on a draft and proposal made by one BK Tan. A list of the postings as implemented was attached to the affidavit;

* Some transfers were made as “entrapment others with short notices were made as punishment to convey the impression of eradicating corruption and abuses, though “it was furthest from the truth”;

* He verified that the statutory declarations of certain police officers (name given) alleging manipulation of “promotions, ranks and postings in the hierarchy of PDRM” by BK Tan were true. (These statutory declarations appeared earlier in Malaysia Today);

* Six police officers who exposed Musa’s alleged underworld links were charged for various offenses and,

* A former CID Director (name given) informed him that it was Musa who gave the order to set up a covert blog to make allegation of corruption against former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Johari Baharom. (On August 28, 2007, Johari, a known adversary of Musa, was accused in an anonymous blog of accepting a RM 5.5 million bribe to free three underworld bigwigs, but he was subsequently cleared of this allegation).

In another posting on the same day, RPK revealed a letter dated August 29, 2007 from Johari to his former boss, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who was then prime minister cum home minister, where Musa’s link with one Goh Cheng Poh was unveiled.

Goh Cheng Poh had been nabbed in an anti-Ah Long operation and banished to restricted residence (RR) in Jeli, Kelantan, under the direction of a task force headed by Johari.

Goh then applied to a habeas corpus writ at the courts on August 14, 2007 to set aside the RR order on grounds of male fide detention.

In Johari’s letter to Abdullah, he described details of how Musa, in conjunction with the attorney-general (AG), took unprecedented legal steps to help Goh to win his case. (Following this suit, the AG ordered Goh’s release.)

Will the King step in?

In any democracy, these explosive exposures would have rocked the government.

Even in the pseudo-democracy of Malaysia, surely these allegations are serious enough to merit a proper investigation, particularly when these occurred on the eve of the re-appointment of such a controversial figure who commands no public confidence.

But our government has remained silent. And what has Musa got to say to these allegations when contacted? He refused to comment, according to Malaysiakini which reported these revelations on August 29.

However, all is not lost as the Agong is empowered under Article 140(5) of the constitution to refer the Police Force Commission’s recommendation back to the commission for another round of consideration. Until the Agong signs the letter of appointment which should take effect on September 13, he can still ask the commission to deliberate further, pending a proper investigation to clear up the dark clouds hanging over the IGP.

The issue of the calibre and integrity of the next IGP is of vital importance at this critical junction of our history in view of the chaotic state into which the rule of law the nation has descended.

And we trust that the Agong will give this matter due consideration.

*Kim Quek is a political analyst and PKR member.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

No Boo For Moo Woe

What possessed the protesters?
By Jacqueline Ann Surin

WHAT possessed them? That's the question I'd like to ask the protesters who desecrated a cow head on 28 Aug 2009 after Friday prayers to object the building of a Hindu temple in Section 23, Shah Alam.

We know that it's not Islam that teaches intolerance of and disrespect toward other religious beliefs, nor is it Islam that preaches violence or force if Muslims don't get their way. We also know that it is really not Malaysian or Malay custom at all to be so obnoxious, threatening and crude. For all my life as a Malaysian, I have known Malay customs to be gentle, sophisticated and inclusive. This is most likely because the "Malay" race was actually historically constructed; its customs weaved from a convergence of different continents and cultures.

So, if neither Islam nor Malay custom drove the 50 protesters to publicly despoil a sacred Hindu creature and to threaten bloodshed because of a Hindu temple, what was it?

Possessed by superiority

My hunch is that these protesters were emboldened by a culture of Malay Muslim superiority that has been carefully cultivated and strategically stoked by the Umno-led government, Malay Muslim politicians from Umno, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and by the judiciary both civil and syariah.

We only need to consider the following events where non-Muslim, non-Malay Malaysian rights are deferred, even trampled on, by a system that upholds Malay-Muslim rights and sensitivities as ultimate and unquestionable.

Despite several police reports that have been lodged by Catholics against Al Islam for an undercover report that desecrated the holy communion, no action has reportedly been taken against either the publisher or the editorial team.

Despite the incendiary reports and headlines in Utusan Malaysia that promote ketuanan Melayu at the expense of the constitutional rights of other citizens, no action has been taken against the Malay-language daily by the Home Ministry. Consider how other media have received warnings and threats, and have even been suspended or shut down before for much vaguer offences.

Additionally, let's not forget that in 2006, it was the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, under the leadership of then Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who banned any discussion of Article 11 and the proposed Interfaith Commission. Abdullah also threatened to use the Sedition Act if Malaysians attempted to discuss their constitutional rights in the light of issues arising from a clash between civil and syariah laws because some Muslim groups charged that these initiatives were attempts to undermine Islam.

According to Selangor PAS, beer must not be sold in Muslim-majority areas regardless of non-Muslims, who may want to consume alcohol and are not prohibited from doing so.

Because this is the holy month of Ramadan, PAS Youth wants the Michael Learns to Rock concert banned. They have described it as a huge insult to Islam especially since Muslims, presumably, should not be having any fun during the fasting month. The Umno-led BN government, surprise, surprise, has also chided the concert organisers for being disrespectful towards Muslims and Ramadan.

But since when was Ramadan meant to be a kill-joy for Muslims and non-Muslims? I don't recall Catholics in Malaysia insisting that non-Catholics should also fast and sacrifice during Lent. Or Hindus suggesting that everyone else should also be a vegetarian on a Hindu holy day.

Mind you, this attempt to ban a band because of preferences, defined by some Muslims for all others, is no different from when the animated movie Babe, which starred a pig as the lead character, was banned several years ago.

Consider also how "Allah" cannot be used by non-Muslims in their worship in Malaysia, out of deference for perceived Muslim insecurity and the notion that the word "Allah" only belongs to Muslims. Let's remember that it is the government of Malaysia that is upholding the ban on the use of "Allah" even though historically and culturally, the word cannot be copyrighted by Muslims, and was used even before Islam.

Notice also how the proscription of pork in students' school lunch boxes and increasing regulation for pet dog ownership presupposes that Muslim sensitivities are all-important regardless of the way of life of other Malaysians.

And it's not just food and pets, its dress codes, too. Remember how in 2005, several ministers defended the dress code imposed by the International Islamic University on non-Muslim female students? No matter that even among Muslim scholars, there is no consensus about the requirement for Muslim women to wear the tudung.

In the conversion cases involving, among others, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, M Moorthy, R Subashini and more recently, M Indira Gandhi and Mohan Singh, one outcome keeps recurring: not even the civil courts will uphold the rights of non-Muslims.

Police inaction

I'll also wager that the Shah Alam protestors were bold enough to do what they did so publicly, showing no fear of being caught or penalised by the police, because they knew that they would not be arrested. After all, in the past, police have demonstrated an uncanny ability to restrain themselves from taking action whenever a Muslim mob attacked a Malaysian forum that tried to address the issues of political Islam and how they affect our nation.

We shouldn't be surprised at all that the Selangor police stood by and did nothing on 28 Aug while the protesters promised bloodshed and clearly threatened the peace. After all, the police also took minimal action against the mob that disrupted the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang in 2006, and against another mob, led by PKR's Zulkifli Noordin, that disrupted the August 2008 Bar Council forum on conversion in Malaysia.

Hishammuddin (Pic courtesy of theSun)And what has the current administration led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak demonstrated to reinforce this culture of inaction in the face of threats and attacks against civil liberties and the legitimate rights of non-Malay and non-Muslim Malaysians? It excuses these threats of violence. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein not only found time to meet the cow-head protesters at his office, he also found ways to justify their actions by making them out to be the ones who were "victimised".

We all know that if any group protested against the building of a mosque by using a severed and bloodied pig head, the group would not have stood a chance with the authorities. And they definitely would not have been so easily welcomed, and then defended, by the home minister in his office. And that's why, even when protests that are designed to insult Islam happens, the perpetrators of such hate antics do so without revealing themselves.

So, what possessed the residents of Section 23, Shah Alam to do what they did so boldly and publicly? I'll be happy to wager that it's because they believed they would get away with it. Even if they eventually don't because of public outrage, including among Muslims, and the embarrassing international headlines, these protesters probably started off by believing that their method of protest would not result in any repercussions on them. Indeed, Hishammuddin's defence of them may just be an indicator of how, even if they are taken to task for instigating violence, they will be let off lightly.

And so, do you blame the protesters for thinking they would get away with threats of violence? I don't. The evidence, after all, that they would likely escape action because they belong to a Malay Muslim majority, is just too overwhelming. Denying that a particular political culture has been put in place in order to favour such bigoted, violent and intolerant behaviour would be to deny that the 28 Aug demonstration ever occurred.

Jacqueline Ann Surin had to shout to be heard over a Merdeka dinner at a friend's home in Section 6, PJ because the terawih prayers from the nearby mosque was being blared for more than an hour before she left. She wonders if for some Muslims, piety is best demonstrated by being a nuisance to one's neighbours.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

52 Still Growing... Downwards

Revisiting an old writing
by Dr Hsu

We have just celebrated the 52 anniversary of our Independence yesterday. It was a subdued affairs, and most people I spoke to did not express any joy. Many of them were apprehensive of the direction the country is taking.

2 years age, while we were celebrating our country’s 50th Independence, I was tagged to be one of the writers on ‘50 posts to independence, and my post then was the NO 17th.

I have just gone through the writings, and i think the points written are still relevant and hence I will just published it here again for the benefits of those who have not read it before.

This was what I wrote in May 2007 on our 50th Independence:

I am indeed honoured to be tagged by KTemoc as the No. 17 post in the series – 50 posts to Independence, a count down of sort to our 50th National Day on 31st August 2007. However, true to the saying that “there is no free lunch in this world”, there is a catch which is that I have to dig into my brain reserve to come out with a post on Malaysia - my perspective of how my own beloved country has done so far— the good, the bad and the ugly.

I have always believed that Malaysia is a fortunate country. We are blessed with fertile soils producing (and top producers no less) commercial crops such as rubber and palm oils, a climate with no seasons (even though on the hot side) so we don’t have to worry about the elements, , no natural disasters such as volcanoes and earthquakes (though we do experience some tremors when a big earthquake occurs near us, and just sometime back, we were hit by a tsunami).

Our former colonial master, the British, actually left us with a set of good roads linking all the major towns, a good rail system that links east and West coast of Peninsular Malaysia. They have also left us with a good administrative system and a English speaking civil service. They have also , by practicing racial policy of divide-and-rule, been partly responsible for some of the problems we are facing today.

Despite some misgivings about certain policies, I consider myself lucky to be a Malaysian. I was born here, bred here and most probably would die here. This is my own country and I am always proud to announce to my foreign friends that I am a Malaysian first and foremost.

In reviewing our progress as a nation, I will talk about the good , the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

Until the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Malaysia in fact has had a very good run in its economic growth. During Tunku’s and Tun Razak’s time as Prime ministers, we were the top producers of rubber and tin. With the implementation of Felda’s scheme, we became top producers of palm oils as well.

In the eighties, Dr Mahathir has transformed our economy into a semi-industrialised nation, with the help of inflowing FDI. In the early 1990, we were NO. 4 in the ranking for FDI, which is really an achievement considering that we are a small country with relatively small population at that time.

Compared with the likes of countries like Congo, Myanmar, The Phillipines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Somalia, ivory Coasta and so on, which achieved Independence about the same time as us, we are much further ahead economically as well as in democratic practices.

We, however, should not be too complacent, because compared with the likes of South Korea, Taiwan , Hong Kong and Singapore, we did not do so well, even though countries like Taiwan and South Korea were behind us in the 1960s.

In sports, as a small nation of a few million population, we were the champions in Badminton and we have produced many world beaters in the ’50s and ’60s, when the support from the State was minimal at best. In hockey, we were once placed No. 4 in the world (in World cup1974). In soccer, we were one of the top soccering nations in Asia, and our football team did us proud by getting into the final rounds of the Olympics.

Our judiciary used to the the envy of many countries, including some developed nations, because they were fiercely independent and upright. The ordinary people and the businessmen felt secure knowing that there was always a legal avenue that they could resort to even if they were victimised somehow by govenrment machinery or policies.

Our universities, especially University of Malaya and its medical faculty, used to be one of the top in Asia. It was highly regarded, not only in academia, but also by people of other countries.

People of all races used to mix well. During my childhood, it was not uncommon to see people of all races sitting together in a Kedai Kopi and chatting.

We also have one of the best hardware for a semi developed country. We have the Twin Towers which used to be the tallest buildings in the world, we have a very good airport in KLIA, ( even though there was much controversy about whether we really need such buildings – I will not go into this), we have a good road system like the North South Highway (controversy again about the toll agreement of course), we have also good coverage of telecommunication system, fairly good penetration of IT usage. We have a relatively good administrative system among the third world nations.

Last but not least, we have a fairly open society.

The Bad.

1. Deteriorating standard of governance. Corruption is getting more rampant. There is this perception that whenever a project is planned and implemented , someone would gain tremendously from it. Lack of transparency and accountability are the other things that have led to a deteriorating standard of governance.

2. The NEP, which has a very good initial intention of restructuring the society to help the poor irregardless of races, have been abused and misused for personal gain, and has led to the practice of cronyism and nepotism.

In the pretext of the NEP, abuses in interpretation and implementation of many policies occur, and the problems of racial polarisation becomes more and more acute.

The clutches given under the NEP has also made our people much less competitive. The people becomes less productive and less diligent, with too much dependence on government assistance.

Whereas the implementation of a project should be based on the needs of and the benefits to the people, it is now often implemented based on how much certain individuals can gain from it. Hence, the NEP has made corruption worse.

3. Loss of excellence. We have lost our urge for excellence. Our universities are no more among the top in the world. Our football team was placed 149. We have not regained the Thomas cup, we have ceased to be among the top in Hockey. Our students going overseas, with some exception of course, no longer top foreign universities regularly like before, even though we are producing tons and tons of all A’s students in SPM exams. Even straight A’s students are not well versed with general knowledge , and could not even tell you simple historic or geographical facts.

Our police as well as the judiciary is perceived to be not like before. Civil servants especially the younger ones no longer have good command of English, and this will become a handicap in learning new ideas or exchanging views at international conferences.

The loss of excellence has everything to do with our education system which is badly in need of a total overhaul to bring back the urge for excellence in whatever endeavour we do. The NEP has also indirectly been responsible for this malaise since it has made the people less dependent on themselves and more dependent on government assistance. The “clutch” mentality has made people less competitive, and without the urge to be competitive, we will never have the urge for excellence again.

The Ugly.

Our people as a whole are getting less courteous and more rude. This was revealed by the Readers’ digest research in which it has tagged us as the third rudest country.

Some of us don’t have the basic courtesy of standing up and giving our place to the elderly, the pregnant or the handicapped. Some of us don’t observe traffic rules anymore, except when there is a CCTV or police presence. Some of us U-turn at no U-turn place, and never observe traffic limits, some of us even never bother to stop at traffic light junction when the traffic light is red. Going against traffic in a one way street is no more rare, double and triple parking leading to blockages of traffic is common occurrence.

This is again a failure of our education system. The rudeness and the ‘Kiasu’ness have actually added stress to our daily livings, which has in turn made us more Kiasu and rude. It is a sort of a vicious cycle, and to break this cycle, we need our schools to produce caring and thinking individuals, and not selfish dudes which care only for himself.

The Future

Despite all the misgivings that I have listed above, I am full of optimism for my country. However imperfect our system is, we are still a workable democracy. Despite some of the abuses and misconducts, we are still many steps ahead of many others. Our government, by virtue of being elected, still listens to the people. I am optimistic that the NEP would be reviewed , at least the implementation of it . The police force is showing change for the better, the judiciary, likewise, will regain its former glory.

We have among some of our younger generation of leaders, people like Raja Nasrin, which have given this nation hope . This group of fair minded people will exert their influence on the people around , doing away the ‘clutch’ mentality and regaining the excellence that I have always propounded.