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.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Biting the dust for freedom

Another blow to media independence and the PM’s credibility
Written by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Friday 23 April 2010
Press statement by Dr Lim Teck Ghe, Director CPI

Yesterday, senior producer Joshua Wong Ngee Choong announced his resignation from ntv7. He said he did so because of complaints from the Prime Minister’s Department and Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor in reaction to two recent Chinese talk show programmes focusing on current political developments. According to Wong, the company Natseven TV Sdn Bhd has now set restrictions for the ‘offensive’ show Editor’s Time which “are not justifiable, threaten(s) the independence of my job as producer…is also a form of self-censorship, (and)… is against the principle of fair and independent reporting. These restrictions have seriously affected the professionalism of the [production] team.”Besides implicating various senior staff of the television station for pressuring him to engage in self-censorship aimed at pleasing the BN and Umno leadership, Wong disclosed that he had learnt that “the First Lady (Rosmah) complained about … Penang roadshow [held on 8 April] – all the way from Washington” and that he “later found that the First Lady had received complaints from other people, and she re-directed the complaint to the top management.”

As for the role played by the Prime Minister’s Department, below is the sms complaint that Wong states was conveyed by the PM’s department.

CPI translation Extracts:

“They [the ntv7 programme, its panellists and studio audience] mock the KPI and BN’s position. Mock 1Malaysia. Challenge PM to comprehensively revamp BTN. Question the action of Dato Nasir Safar when Dato Nasir has courageously resigned [as Najib Razak’s aide].

… What is very dangerous, they demand the freedom of speech, right from the start of the debate session just now. Meaning, no investigation is required to be made, the way they talk and they allow the audience to ask questions [gives the impression] as if our government is so bad.

What more do these Chinese want, they are [already] richer than the Malays. I suggest that we wage war on these Chinese. [Appeal] to Malay Parliamentarians, Umno/Supreme Council and all Umno leaders, wake up … they are increasingly biadab/ill-mannered.”

Who controls the media?

Natseven TV belongs to Media Prima, the country’s most powerful media conglomerate that similarly owns 100 percent equity interest in TV3, 8TV and TV9. It also owns 90% of NSTP.

Sitting in Media Prima’s board of directors are, among others, former Utusan editor-in-chief Johan Jaafar, former NST group editor Ahmad A. Talib and prominent businessmen some of whom are associated with Umno.

Media Prima’s largest shareholder is Gabungan Kasturi, reportedly owned by Amanah Raya – a trust management company belonging wholly to the Malaysian government holding the shares through the Minister of Finance (Incorporated).

Media Prima’s main minority shareholder is the Employees Provident Fund (note: EPF’s investment panel is headed by former chief secretary to the government Samsudin Osman).

The role of ntv7 in this scheme of things is that the free-to-air station positions itself as the “Home of Feel Good – Malaysia’s Favourite Chinese and Urban Station”; in other words, it is targeted mainly at a Chinese and urban demographic.

In giving the reasons for his resignation, Wong alleges that Sofwan Mahmood (whom the Media Prima corporate directory lists as ntv7 Deputy Editor-in-Chief, News) “said that it is not advisable to talk about [the Hulu Selangor by-election] as … the show will embarrass Najib’s administration”.

Wong also alleges that his superior Tan Boon Kooi had informed him of the ‘advice’ given by Media Prima group editor (News and Current Affairs) Manja Ismail that opposition MP Tony Pua should not be invited as guest speaker (note: Manja was the Berita Harian group editor from April 2006).

From the above, it can be seen that all terrestrial television, although ostensibly private stations, have indirect links to either Umno or the Umno-controlled federal government, and that their key decision-makers are the Media Prima bigwigs who have a career history in corporate entities that are strongly pro-Umno.

Questions for the Prime Minister

These are our questions for Najib.

1. Wong has made a serious allegation that the complaint against his programme was conveyed by Rosmah. Najib’s high-profile wife holds no public office but is playing a partisan political role surpassing that of any other spouse of previous prime ministers. Najib should clarify whether Rosmah or her staff issued the cease-and-desist order to Media Prima and ntv7.

2. Is Najib aware that the instructions to Wong purportedly came from his PM’s department? These instructions to Editor’s Time were, in effect, to gloss over or black out coverage of political developments in Hulu Selangor that are unfavourable to the ruling party. If the allegation is false, then Najib quickly should reassure the public that the government is not pulling the strings on what news and views are fit for public consumption.

3. Apart from this specific case of blatant intimidation and attempted censorship of a supposedly private television station, TV1 and TV2 are state-controlled television stations with no autonomy either to exercise free and fair reporting. Can the Prime Minister clarify whether there is a direct chain of command from his office and his officers giving directives to the civil servants heading these national broadcasters?

We note that RTM director-general Ibrahim Yahaya was former Berita Harian editor-in-chief and TV3 broadcasting manager.

Implications of Wong’s resignation

Wong’s resignation should not be treated as another run-of-the-mill case of a middle-management media practitioner coming up against the stone wall of political masters and media owners dictating content.

Instead, his resignation puts the spotlight on how corrupt the stifled system has become. How can a current affairs programme be barred by ntv7 from discussing the Hulu Selangor by-election just because Umno wants to exercise damage control and only permit views that portray the party, its leadership and its governance in a rosy light?

More pertinently, Wong asks “How can we continue to keep silent, to tolerate and allow these [abuses of power] to happen again and again?” Other Malaysians are asking the same questions.

The BN has maintained its stranglehold on power because the mainstream mediam (MSM) has colluded to keep it in power. From Wong’s superior Tan Boon Kooi to Lee Lam Thye who sits in Media Prima’s board of directors to the handsomely paid hacks in the print media, the professional disinformation industry has aided and abetted in propping up Umno hegemony.

Slanting information and depriving audiences of alternative views while at the same time setting a biased agenda and story angle is tantamount to brainwashing the masses.

Wong is to be applauded for his principled resignation. We are glad that his break with the cartel has allowed the dirty racket that has been operating in the mainstream media for so long to now be revealed.

We must build on this revelation of MSM’s inner workings to ensure that government control over what Malaysians can view and read is truly breached so that the electorate is no longer kept in the dark.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No longer voting by emotions

Somebody to vote for - not just against!
By Antares of Magick river

As a kid growing up in a small southern town called Batu Pahat, in the seemingly halcyon 1950s, I recall seeing the entire town festooned with navy blue buntings bearing a white sailboat motif.

That was the symbol of the Alliance Party and, although I was too young to poke my nose into politics, I understood that it represented the newly-hatched Malayan government led by Tunku Abdul Rahman.

My father was a health inspector and, as a civil servant, he was expected to support the ruling party - but I suspect he rarely bothered to vote. In those days there weren't too many political alternatives.

The Labor Party of Malaya, registered in 1952, came up with a logo that featured a hoe crossed with a pen against a large gear on a blood red background. Far better than the hammer and sickle, I suppose - since the pen suggested literacy and a degree of intellectuality. Still, for most middle-class families, the hoe (or cangkul in Malay) was hardly in keeping with their aspirations towards ever greater gentility.

So I remained blissfully unaware of shifting undercurrents in local politics and - even after the eruption of violence that began on 13 May 1969 - I found myself far more interesting than the political milieu. To a certain extent that still holds true, I have to admit.

The introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1971, under the premiership of Tun Abdul Razak (right), followed swiftly by the National Cultural Policy, effectively turned me into a "second-class citizen" in the country my grandparents had opted to make their permanent home. I remember hearing a lot of bitter comments from my father - but he never translated any of his grievances into political action. As far as my dad was concerned, Lee Kuan Yew was the sort of leader he could respect - yet he was far too comfortable to consider moving to Singapore.

I was thus utterly indifferent when the Alliance Party reinvented itself as the National Front or Barisan Nasional, opting for the archaic weighing scale as its new party symbol. (Ironically, there's a neo-Nazi racist party in Britain which calls itself the National Front. I wonder if the Barisan Nasional is aware of this prophetic coincidence.)

Having grown up in an urban environment, I noticed that the NEP created an interesting phenomenon whereby there were suddenly a lot more Malays driving expensive cars than 10 years ago. I thought that was a positive development. It was a necessary phase, perhaps, to accelerate the proliferation of a Malay middle-class which would effectively bridge the cultural divide between urban and rural folks. One of the significant spin-offs of the NEP was that many Malays were able to send their children abroad for further studies - and many returned effectively bilingual, with Caucasian spouses in tow and a distinctly cosmopolitan worldview. What once was the exclusive prerogative of the Malay aristocracy now became available to a wider spectrum of Malay society.

Monolingual Malays - particularly the ones embedded in the deep rural constituencies - remained somewhat insular and prone to xenophobia. Umno was quick to realize that these grassroots members served the party best as an ignorant, emotional voter base that could easily be swayed by official propaganda piped through the mass media. There was really no point in ensuring that they had access to different languages and cultural templates.

Accordingly, the education system was designed to be strictly utilitarian - preparing the young for jobs in an industrial society, but not encouraging them to be curious about the larger world or to acquire a taste for knowledge. A well-informed, discerning voter base is an extremely volatile one.

I recall seeing Dr Mahathir's face for the first time in the newspaper. Even though he was only a deputy minister then and I knew next to nothing about the man, something in his demeanor made me shudder. It was a visceral reaction that has never entirely left me - and perhaps never will until I get word of his departure from this planet.

To avoid the feeling of mild nausea each time I caught sight of Dr M's sneer in the papers or on TV, I focused my attention and energies on the performing arts - specifically theatre and music. That was entirely therapeutic for me. Not only did such activities keep me (relatively) sane, they also won me a wide circle of friends and invites to endless parties.

It was becoming more than obvious by 1986 that Dr M had given a sinister twist to the word "entrepreneurship" with his misguided attempt to create a Frankenstein's monster called the Bumiputra Billionaire, aided and abetted by the ultimate Mafia don, Daim Zainuddin (right).

When people become exceedingly rich by inventing something universally popular and useful - or through the display of extraordinary talent, whether in the cultural or athletic field - one can only applaud wholeheartedly. However, fast bucks obtained through political skullduggery and financial shenanigans are hugely damaging to the moral equilibrium of a nation. What happens is that the horizon of decency quickly becomes obscured, to the extent that honest truth-speakers become a threat to the corrupt status quo.

In October 1987 Mahathir, acting in his capacity as home minister, invoked the obnoxious Internal Security Act and ordered the arrest and detention without trial of some 106 people - many of whom were my personal friends and none of whom could seriously be considered a threat to anybody except Mahathir himself. A couple of newspapers were shut down and a climate of fear quickly descended upon the nation. People became apprehensive about discussing politics in public places. Each time somebody uttered the dreaded name "Mahathir" people would immediately look around to see if anyone was watching.

The Special Branch of the Royal Malaysian Police (modeled after the British Special Branch) began playing a major role at the start of the so-called Emergency in 1948. Its prime target was to infiltrate Communist cells operating within the country and gather intelligence deemed necessary to safeguard the nation's security.

However, the definition of "Communist threat" soon expanded to include leftwing political parties with socialist ideologies and outspoken critics of the government. According to Umno and the Malay ruling elite, anybody concerned about social justice, human rights and a level playing field was potentially dangerous to the status quo and therefore had to be closely watched, harassed at every turn, and thwarted from ever attaining political power - even through legitimate and peaceful means.

At that point I was compelled to remove my head from the proverbial sand and start paying close attention to all the hanky-panky that was going on in the political Punch'n'Judy show.

For a start I decided to register myself to vote. And I'm proud to say I have voted against the Barisan Nasional at every opportunity.

Although it felt a little strange to occasionally have to vote for a candidate from the Islamic party, it was still far better than voting for any of the arrogant, greedy, hypocritical rogues in the ruling party. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (I used to be a closet Sinophobe, despite my Chinese ancestry) - but their leaders were truly inspiring in their sheer tenacity and focus, especially veteran generals like Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh. All of them seemed ready to go to jail for their beliefs.

In 1999 when Wan Azizah inaugurated Parti Keadilan (Justice Party) to keep the spirit of reform alive while her husband languished in prison, I was prompted to join. Indeed, it was the first time in my life I actually felt drawn to committing myself to a political organization.

No opposition party on its own had the wherewithal to combat the firmly entrenched power of BN - but towards the end of 2007 Anwar Ibrahim finally succeeded in pulling together the tripartite political coalition now known as Pakatan Rakyat.

DAP's emphasis on sound financial management, PKR's focus on social justice, freedom and human rights, and PAS's spiritual foundation combine to forge a conscious, functional union of Head, Heart and Soul.

Finally we have somebody worth voting for - not just against!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rote learning

Our education and examination system have produces outstanding students in the years that it was revamped back in the mid 80’s. Although I have since left secondary school and college way after it was introduced and implemented, recently I had the privilege to expose myself to some feedbacks from friend’s children who scored distinguished and numerous A’s in their examinations. Below are comparisons of questions that I have sat for and between those younger generations who excel in this new system.


Essay 1: Peter went to the bank to withdraw money today.

Before 80’s

Question: If Peter said on Tuesday he is going to the bank in 3 days, what day will that be when he goes?

80’s onward

Question: What did Peter do at the bank today?


Essay 2: Ahmad traveled to Johor Baru from Kuala Lumpur with his family. He started very early in the morning at 6.30am because the distance was 240km away and he reached Johor Baru at 9.30am.

Before 80’s

Question: Ahmad drove at 80 km per hour to reach Johor Baru by 9.30am. If he drives at 90km per hour, what time will he reach Johor Baru?

80’s onward

Question: What time did Ahmad start his journey from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru?


Essay 3: When the police arrived at the house after receiving a 999 call 20 minutes ago, the robbers have already fled from the scene. They escaped with a total value of RM5,000.00 of jewelries and cash thru the back door of the house just 5 minutes before the police arrived.

Before 80’s

Question: If the call to the police was made at 12.13am, what time did the robbers escaped and what time did the police arrived?

80’s onward

Question: How much the amount of jewelries and cash did the robbers stole?


Essay 4: John, Jerry and Jimmy are brothers. Each of them have son. John’s son is Jacob. Jerry’s son is Jeremy. Jimmy’s son is Jake. John is uncle to both Jeremy and Jake. While both of them are nephews to John, Jacob is cousin to them both.

Before 80’s

Question: What relation is Jacob to both John’s brothers?

80’s onward

Question: Name Jeremy and Jake’s fathers.


Essay 5: The cat managed to climb into the opened window after smelling the fish left by the kitchen table. The cat then grab the fish by its teeth and jump out the window into the garden and escape just as the dog stroll into the kitchen.

Before 80’s

Question: Did the dog scares the cat when it appeared in the kitchen?

80’s onward

Question: What stroll into the kitchen?