Check Your Voting Status

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dr M and the Malays

By Mariam Mokhtar | Malaysiakini

If some of you think that this nation is in a mess, then blame the Malays because they are the problem. Malays know that Malaysia is not the land of gold and honey any longer.

In these difficult times, they have become more aware of their surroundings; but one other person has noticed this sea-change in the Malays.

He is former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He knows that a thinking and independent Malay is detrimental to his legacy, his creation – Umno-Baru – and to the well-being of his family’s fortunes. Today’s self-aware Malay is Mahathir’s downfall.

Malays are in positions of power in government and the civil service. They dictate policies and run the wheels of government; but Malays are also the nation’s worst hypocrites.

They are greedy. They are happy with short-term solutions. They do not think of the consequences. They are happy to hide behind the cloak of race and religion if it will bring them some material benefit or status. The day they lose everything is probably the day they will regain their humility, values and self-respect.

With the downturn in the economy, Malays have noticed that jobs are hard to come by, that only the chosen Malays receive government tenders, and that the cost of living is increasing. Scholarships for the poor Malay child are snapped up by children of Umno Baru politicians and cronies, leaving only a few places for the needy.

Crime is rife and foreigners are a common sight in every community, schools and hospitals. The Malay market-trader has to compete with a foreigner, who is willing to work harder for less money. Children in the rural areas are disillusioned and difficult to motivate. Many drift to the cities looking for jobs, then find that there are no jobs, so they add to the Mat Rempit menace.

The most privileged section of the community also has the highest proportion of drug users. Why are Malays more prone to drug addiction? Are they trying to escape reality? People who volunteer in charitable organisations allege that Malays have the highest incidence of problems, ranging from domestic violence to sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual problems such as rape, incest and illegitimate children.

Corruption is killing the country, but Malays are quite happy with the RM50 or RM500 offered by Umno Baru. The muftis order ridiculous fatwas and Friday sermons are politicised, but few Malays voice their objections. If this were Indonesia, the Indonesians would have walked out of the mosques, in protest.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. If Indonesian women were subjected to acts of humiliation, many Indonesian women and men would have picketed to protest and demand that stern action be taken. Malay women would rather watch the latest TV soap.

Exacting vengeance

Malays are aware that government tenders above a certain value involve bribery but will they lodge complaints? Perhaps, they are aware that nothing will be done. The people who head these anti-graft bodies are Malay.

Malays know that cheating was rife in GE13 and in the by-election in Kuala Besut on July 24. It appears that Malays were more concerned about getting in the queue for their “travel allowance”, than stopping corruption.

The hundreds of millions of ringgit should instead have been pumped into schemes to benefit the community. The scoundrels are the Election Commission (EC) chairperson and his deputy; both Malays. Men who lack principle and dignity are championed by Umno-Baru.

Umno Baru seems to be promoting the Malays, whereas Pakatan Rakyat appears to be inclusive of all Malaysians, but the irony is that the only way for Malays to prosper is to vote against Umno-Baru and ensure that Pakatan forms the next government.

Mahathir knows which buttons to push. He is good at making you react, he excels at getting your attention and is pleased when you become all worked up – his expertise is that of a master manipulator. Mahathir would have made a better psychiatrist than a general practitioner.

Those who claim that Mahathir’s policies “help” the Malays, are wrong. What he does under the pretext of helping Malays is designed to have the opposite effect. He is exacting his own vengeance on the Malays. Sadly, the Malays are too blind or stupid to notice.

When Mahathir was a child, which traumatic episode in particular made him turn against the Malays? He appears to be torn between pleasing the Malays, so that he is accepted by them, but at the same time is driven by feelings of guilt, to redeem himself for being cast as an outsider.

Was he teased in the school playground and called derogatory names pertaining to his background? Was he ashamed of being registered as an Indian at medical school in Singapore? Despite having a Malay mother, did elite Malays, royalty and the community treat Mahathir as an outsider? Did an incident deprive Mahathir of a deep emotional connection with the Malay community, which fostered a deep seated envy of the Malays?

This week, Mahathir has again tried to pit Malays against Chinese, and vice-versa; he queried whether the Chinese wanted to share, or to seize power, in Malaysia.

The non-Malay colleagues or beneficiaries of Mahathir’s largesse are silent. If they are angry with Mahathir, none would dare voice their objections publicly. Mahathir knows that patronage has its advantages, and its limits.

Poor-quality leaders

Today, we are a nation divided along racial and religious lines and all of us are to blame. From the beginning, Mahathir had a racist agenda. The Malays were mesmerised by Mahathir’s spin but then, the non-Malays are not entirely innocent.

In the WikiLeaks cables released in April 2013, it was revealed that the US embassy expressed surprise that Mahathir had been appointed deputy PM in 1976, but they were probably more amazed by the lack of opposition from the non-Malays despite Mahathir’s “Malay chauvinism”.

Francis T Underhill Jr, the ambassador at the time noted that “… the small, predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP) has expressed some concern over Mahathir’s past record but has not openly opposed his selection. Other Chinese parties or politicians have either not commented or have welcomed Mahathir’s appointment in a pro forma manner”.

Malaysia does not have a Malay or a Chinese dilemma. Our only dilemma is Mahathir. His latest outburst about the Chinese seizing power is merely a side-show. He wants to deflect attention from the greatest show in Malaysia, the Umno Baru general assembly.

Behind the scenes, the Malays in Umno-Baru are positioning themselves, like pieces on a chess board. The rakyat’s problem is that we have poor quality Malay Umno Baru leaders, who only want to maintain their vested interests.

Malays are the problem of this country but they could also be the solution. Right now, any aspiring Malay who wants to be leader must listen to the needs of the lower-income groups and families with aspiration. He must address concerns of the rakyat like illegal immigration, corruption, education and rising crime.

Nothing gives Mahathir a greater sense of schadenfreude than seeing the Malays suffer, despite the Ketuanan Melayu and Umno Baru.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

No Dilemma, Dr Mahathir, just the need for a Better Malaysia

By Din Merican

Dr. Mahathir has yet to deal with the ghosts of his past deeds. Here no one can help him but he himself. This is indeed tragic for a once formidable leader of our country who is advancing in years (born in 1925). He just cannot let go and now he has taken upon himself the task of interpreting history. It is not Malay or Chinese Dilemma. It is Dr Mahathir’s. He is unwilling to come to terms with himself.

Let us admit this. The Chinese community contributed enormously to the growth and the development of our country over centuries. In stead of giving them due credit for their hard work and sacrifices, UMNO has used them as punching bag for its failure to uplift the living and educational standards of the Malays.

The Chinese know what they want and are willing to put up with obstacles and hindrances in their way to get ahead. Their work ethic is the envy of all Malaysians. They are investing heavily in the education of their young. They continue to modernise their companies for opportunities abroad, since they cannot get contracts in our country on their own merit, and must, therefore, be sub-contractors to favoured UMNO businessmen. At home, they expect a government which is transparent and accountable, not a corrupt one. In the last election, they voted against UMNO-led Barisan Nasional for this reason.

Are the Chinese after political power? I have Chinese friends–and Indian friends too– with whom I discuss issues ( corruption, abuse of power, discrimination, good governance, race relations, and so on) and from them I get the sense that they are quite happy to have a Malay Prime Minister and a Malay dominated government. That is a given. They respect our King and his brother rulers. But at issue to them (and me too) is what kind of Malay leadership we should have for Malaysia.

The Chinese want enlightened and progressive Malay leaders who will not use race and religion for their political ends. They feel that Chinese bashing after GE-13 should stop. They want to be respected as Malaysians with rights guaranteed by the constitution, not as pendatangs, to have some say in the affairs of state in so far as policies affect their interests, and they want to contribute to the future development of Malaysia.

I am sure that, like me, they are disappointed with a former Prime Minister who has abandoned his Bangsa Malaysia vision in order to further his interest in seeing a Malay Malaysia. I will have none of this. Just give me a Malaysia for all citizens, irrespective of race, creed, colour and religion so that together we can face the challenges of a 21st century world, united and focused in the pursuit of excellence.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When will kindness prevail?

By Datuk Zaid Ibrahim | TMI

Another school fiasco has taken place if the reports about the schoolchildren in Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh are correct.

The children were required to use the changing room next to the toilet as a makeshift canteen because the canteen itself was closed for the fasting month.

Predictably, the DPM has ordered a probe and probably the other education minister will express some regret over the incident. This is not the first time such ugliness has marred our school halls.

In 2010, the principal of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in Johor made it to the news for making racial remarks against her Chinese and Indian students.

Typically, in such incidents after the furor has died down all is forgotten.

Then another incident unfolds because Malay and Muslim administrators do not think non-Malays and non-Muslims are important enough to be treated with respect and dignity.

What has happened is the result of heightened Malay-Muslim consciousness, promoted by politicians and Islamic bureaucrats who-under the cloak of race and in some cases religion or both-want to be identified as champions of their race and religion.

But by invoking false ideologies of patriotism and Islamisation, they have invaded the public space and filled the minds of the people with so much indoctrinal nonsense that some Malays and Muslims have forgotten basic human decency and moral values in their interpersonal relationship with others.

The process has numbed the conscience of these administrators, a condition described by our Malay elders as "hilang hati perut".

It means they have lost their sense of fairness, empathy and understanding and can no longer appreciate the consequence of their actions on others who do not belong to their group.

They simply no longer care enough.

These false champions of their race and religion then blame non-Malays and non-Muslims for being insensitive.

Just this morning a deputy minister blamed the Chinese for organising a beauty contest knowing about the fatwa issue, implying the Chinese must also follow the fatwa.

Some silly bloggers may have given them the ammunition to justify what they say, but by and large, non-Malays and non-Muslims have always been respectful of Malays and Muslims for as long as I can remember.

For many years after independence, the Chinese and Indians have always stayed in the background and known their place under the Malaysian sun.

In fact, their reluctance to be involved was interpreted as apathy and unwillingness to be involved in nation-building.

Now, the younger generation wants to have a say and for that they are accused of being ungrateful.

Suddenly, these young Malaysians are being labelled as unpatriotic.

A special course on nationhood has been invoked by no less a figure than the Regent of Perak, implying that non-Malays and non-Muslims are found wanting in their sense of national loyalty.

On the contrary, I believe that, if at all, the ones who need to undergo a course on nationhood are Malays and Muslims who have forgotten that there are Malaysians who are unlike them.

I am tired of listening to some of our so-called leaders hand out their prescriptions for what ails the country.

The non-Malays and non-Muslims must stand up for their rights; because only then will we have a country of equals.

The Malays will also benefit from this situation where people are treated as they should be treated, with fairness and equanimity.

The real culprits for the present day distortion are the Malays who always blame the Chinese for their shortcomings, and the false Muslim preachers who teach the Muslims to have an all-consuming fear of God but then conveniently forget that Allah commands us to look after our fellow beings more than ourselves.

What ails the country are these false teachings and false ideologies that are bereft of human decency and dignity, making meaningful relationships among the people of this country difficult to achieve.

So on his 60th birthday, can we have our PM (Prime Minister) say and do something that will right the moral compass of good behaviour between Malays and non-Malays?

Remove the distorting prism that guides our present actions purely on the basis of race or beliefs.

Can we agree that Malaysians of whatever group are human beings first, and that they deserve equal and fair treatment?

Advanced countries put a premium on developing a caring and compassionate society and so should we.

Success certainly cannot be measured by GDP (gross domestic product) and per capita income alone. - July 24, 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Respect all races and faiths

Jeswan Kaur | FMT

With all the racial tension and unhappiness taking place, it is a wonder how Najib intends to pull off the national reconciliation agenda.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad keeps insulting the non-Malays all the time and not a word comes of concern comes out from the mouth of the country’s leading party, the Barisan Nasional alliance.

Likewise, Mahathir’s protege, Ibrahim Ali who founded the Maly extremist party Perkasa and his deputy Zulkifli Noordin who have little to fear each time they take pot-shots at the non-Muslims.

Then there are others in powerful positions who keep stirring racial tensions by warning the non-Malays to refrain from using the word ‘Allah’.

The word “Allah” has been used by the Sikhs and Christians for a long, long time or for that matter Arab Christians have been using the term “Allah” for over 600 years before the Muslims began doing so?

The word “Allah” is used 12 times in the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, by Sheikh Farid, Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan Dev while Sant Kabeer has uttered the word 18 times.

Despite that, Umno continues to live by its fallacy that only Muslims have the right to use the word “Allah” despite the fact that the term has been used by the Sikhs and the Arabic-speaking Christians of Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

Now Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir has decided to follow in the footsteps of the rest by barring the non-Malays there from using the word ‘Allah’.

National reconciliation not happening

The country’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak talks a great deal about unity and national reconciliation but when politicians like Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin accuses the non-Malays of causing trouble and violating the Federal Constitution when they use the word ‘Allah’, why does the premier not feel compelled to do the right thing i.e. defend the non-Malays?

And as long as insensitive and racist politicians like Ibrahim contine to enjoy ‘immunity’ and go unpunished for insulting the non-Malays, there is no hope for any national reconciliation.

Ibrahim had once publicly demand that Malay Bibles be burnt and yet there was nothing seditious about what he had said.

Just as worrying is the warped outlook displayed by Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria who last year said that non-Muslims who insist on using the word “Allah” to refer to their Gods should convert to Islam if they refused to accept that the word belongs only to Muslims.

The controversial cleric also went on to accuse the Christian community of intentionally provoking Muslims by pressing on with their demand to use “Allah” in their holy book.

Pressuring, threatening and intimidating the non-Malay communities of this country to accept that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive only to the Muslims is definitely not helping as far as calling it a truce between Malaysians of diverse faith goes.

What is worrying is that there is no stopping the ultra-Malay politicians from pursuing their agenda of condemning the other faiths and portraying Islam as an antagonistic religion.

When bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee published a photograph in Facebook, greeting Muslims “Selamat Berbuka Puasa” by eating Bah Kut Teh ( a dish with pork serving), it was a case of ‘do or die’ for Umno, the country’s largest political party.

In the end, with pressure coming down hard on the couple, they were charged under Section 4 (1) (C) of the Sedition Act 1948 for allegedly insulting Islam and the holy month of Ramadan. Their bail was rejected and the two went sent off to jail, with Tan to the Sungai Buloh Prison and Lee to the Kajang Prision.

If found guilty, Tan and Lee could face a three year imprisonment or a fine, or both.

Maybe Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail found it “easier” to prosecute the young couple but not the nation’s real trouble makers, i.e. Ibrahim, Zulkifli etc for sowing racial discord?

Respect all races and faiths

The fact that Abdul Gani continues to overlook the racist and seditious remarks made by the likes of Ibrahim and Zulkifli recently prompted several Indian based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to lodge a police report against the AG.

The People’s Welfare and Rights Organisation (Power) president S Gobi Krishnan has accused Abdul Gani of practising selective prosecution by charging sex bloggers Tan and Lee in court but not Ibrahim and Zulkifli.

Looks like Abdul Gani is more worried about displeasing the ‘powers that be’, hence the quick action to drag Tan and Lee to court and then to jail.

If Tan and Lee have been accused of being insensitive, so too are Ibrahim and Zulkifli and also the Education Ministry when it rejected the application of a student who had secured a 3.8 CGPA in her foundation year in Universiti Malaya simply because the ministry found her name sounding “foreign and Christian”.

Because some Education Ministry official holds a grudge against the non-Malays, this student lost the chance to pursue medicine not only in UM but also other public universities.

So it looks like the problem is not all about Malays and Islam. But why then do leaders of this country not treat the other races with respect?

In September 2010, deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted as saying that no one would be spared prosecution for insulting any religion practised in the country.

He said the government viewed the matter seriously as it could incite anger in the people and disrupt racial harmony and security.

“We cannot allow anyone, whether the individual is a Muslim or non-Muslim, to belittle any religion,” he said then when asked to comment on an insult to Islam in an account of the Facebook social website.

Three years later, Mahathir, Ibrahim, Zulkifli, Harussani, Bung Mokhtar and many others continue to deride the non-Malays. Can Muhyiddin tell the rakyat why BN refuses to prosecute these people and continues to indulge in selective persecution?

Until then, with all the racial tension and unhappiness taking place, it is a wonder how Najib intends to pull off the national reconciliation agenda.

The truth however is that the rakyat knows the national reconciliation is yet another ‘all talk no action” gimmick coming from the BN government.

I am a Muslim and I am not that offended

Young Singaporean Muslim | TMI

When I first saw the “Halal Bak Kut Teh” picture on The Real Singapore Facebook page, I was irritated but I didn’t think much of it. I believed the guy was an idiot and that’s it. But I was surprised that the backlash has gotten so big over just a few hours.

I was disappointed to see so much hate comments being posted by fellow Muslims over this one photo and some even go far as to post threats of violence and death threats. And now, the couple is facing up to 15 years in jail and heavy fines over this one photo, which really saddens me as thieves and people with assault charges usually get much less.

Why am I not offended? I actually have a different perspective on the issue. I subscribed to a few foreign news channels like Al Jazeera and The Young Turks and I have seen the faces of REAL HATE.

I have seen people like Pastor Terry Jones, who called for the burning of the Quran. I have seen a group of Islamophobic Americans gather to throw hateful slurs at a mosque event in California. I have seen the absolute disrespect of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and his blasphemous film which he called “The innocence of muslims”. I have seen the bigotry and also the sympathy of the people of Texas in ABC news experiment “What would you do?” when Muslims are discriminated. I have seen a Hispanic woman pushing a Muslim man onto an oncoming train, killing him, just because he was Muslim. And the worst of late, I have seen the genocide of the Muslim Rohingya people by the so called “Buddhist” Burmese.

The face of hate comes in many sickening form. But when I see Alvin’s face, I don’t see a hateful person; I just see the face of a troll.

Understanding hate and dark humor.

Maybe it is because of my age and my exposure to the internet, I understand dark humor and some can be really funny. I am a fan of South Park with their highly intelligent yet crude but funny jokes and satires. But in the end, dark humor is essentially a joke that can either be funny or fall flat and just be stupid.

I would say that Alvin’s Halal Bak Kut Teh photo is just a piece of really bad dark humor that is not funny. There is no real malice in this photo. He did not insult our prophet, he did not call for the Quran to be defaced and he did not go out to injure a fellow Muslim. At most I could say that he is insensitive for suggesting that a dish most commonly made with pork is halal.

We are getting into an uproar over FOOD? Let’s change the situation a bit and say Alvin did the same photo BUT with frog legs (which is also haram). How much of an uproar will that make?

Being respected. As Muslims, we always ask that our religion be respected. But it would be hard to respect someone if he acts like an overly sensitive baby who would throw a tantrum over such a small issue. We need to be mature. If you find the photo insensitive, feel free to make a video or make an article to address how insensitive the post is or simply bring this matter to facebook admin let them handle it. To issue threats of violence, instigate suicide and even death threats over a food related matter is simply unacceptable.

Justice. Quoting from the Holy Quran 2:190

“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.”

The concept is simple, if you are called to defend our faith, do so without transgression. If you are threatened with words, you are to fight back with words ONLY. If you are threatened with fists, you are to fight back with fists at most. If you are threatened with a sword, you may fight back with a sword.

What Alvin did does not warrant jail time for up to 15 years or even such a heavy fine. Prison is a place where we keep thieves, robbers, rapists and murderers, people who have committed crimes against property and person. To treat Alvin, whose crime is bad humor, like a harden criminal is indeed transgressing the limit. At most, all he deserves is a small fine and mandatory community work (maybe at a mosque so he could learn a thing or two about being with Muslims).

In all, we must keep things in perspective in issuing justice so that our emotion doesn’t cloud our reason. We should not turn an issue about food into something that could divide a nation and we must act more maturely if we want to be respected. – The Real Singapore, July 21, 2013

Young Singaporean Muslim submitted this article to The Real Singapore, a news portal on life in Singapore.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Stop this public lynching

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee via Lim Kit Siang's blog


The decision of the AG to charge Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee marks the half-way point in the public lynching of these two young people.

What were they guilty of?

A moment of unthinking madness; an act of stupidity and idiocy; a prank in bad taste; racial and religious insensitivity; youthful arrogance – yes, these criticisms and much more in the way of scorn and public shame and odium can be heaped on their foolish and misguided attempt to draw attention to themselves.

But to charge them for sedition and for a criminal act under the penal code! And then to deny them bail as if they are a major threat to public peace and order. Please!

Let us not forget that prominent politicians guilty of even more in your face racial and religious taunting have got away scot free, with the last notable racist political figure even put up as a candidate during the recent election. And what about even earlier incidents such as kris brandishing?

Come on, Malaysia!

Alvin and Vivian have already apologized for their offensive Selamat Berbuka Puasa ‘greeting’, calling it their “stupidest stunt” and reiterating that it was done in humour.

In a youtube posting available to everyone who should view it first before calling for their heads to be off, Alvin said,

“We are recording this video to ask for forgiveness for offending Muslims in this holy month of Ramadan. We sincerely regret offending religious beliefs and sensitivities in multi-cultural Malaysia,”

He also said that they had no intent to insult or ridicule the Muslim faith, nor incite racial conflict.

In most societies except the most blinkered, the authorities and public would have moved on to more important matters.

But not in Malaysia where foaming politicians and retired politicians have bayed for the young couple’s blood and are urging our ‘independent and impartial’ judiciary to impose the most serious punishment possible.

Alvin had ended the video by saying “selamat Aidilfitri dan maaf zahir batin (happy Aidilfitri and apologies for all discretions)”. He may not be genuinely repentant. But shouldn’t we give him the benefit of the doubt.

Apparently to the lynching and vigilante mob, this plea for forgiveness and compassion is not enough.

Viewing (mainly with pity and sadness) what is happening to this young couple and the innocent youth who had the words “Saya hina agama Islam” scrawled on his chest, leads me to wonder what has happened to us in this country that we can allow a few political and religious leaders, the media and our authorities to make a national controversy over a mindless stunt by two young people, blow it out of all rational proportion and act as if they are speaking on behalf of moderate Malaysians.

Alvin and Vivian invited this on themselves when they stupidly posted their crude prank. By surrendering to the lynch mob, we dishonor our core values of humanity, compassion and mercy.

Deracialising M’sian journalism

by Eric Loo | Malaysiakini

We find strength in numbers. Shared goals prompt us to unionise for collective bargaining and associate for mutual affirmation. Hence, we have clubs and fraternities, guilds and societies, centres and institutes. We identify with the group’s creed, culture and calling. But when journalists’ associations are founded on racial positioning instead of editorial mission, it piques my interest in their political motivation.

In a democracy we’re free to associate and assemble along racial lines. I understand the motives for Perkasa’s existence; likewise the reasons for Hindraf and Dong Zong’s founding. But let not our journalists be defined by racial differentiation.

When media practitioners assemble under exclusivist racial umbrellas, when they see themselves first as Malay, Chinese or Indian journalists instead of journalists who happen to be a Malay, Chinese or Indian, it raises a range of ethical issues. The main being their professional integrity and capacity to report fairly and truthfully when they are confronted by race-related issues and moved to write about it.

For instance, the recent commentary in Utusan Malaysia by the president of the National Association of Malay Journalists and Writers of Malaysia (NAMJ). Dr Alias Mohamed, who is also president of the Kelantan Malay Journalists Association, wrote that if Malay leaders continued to accommodate the Chinese, they would risk losing their Malay authority and political leadership.

The president’s warped sense of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ may not represent the views of all NAMJ members.

But it does legitimise a hegemonic framework that its members may see as acceptable in shaping their coverage of race and religion related issues, such as, of late, the preferential treatment policies, which for more than 30 years now have discriminated against qualified non-Malay students in accessing places in public universities, the child conversion (to Islam) bill, the usage of the word ‘Allah’ in Christian Bahasa publications, the post-GE13 power relations structure and a token suggestion by the prime minister on the night of the election results on May 6 of a ‘national reconciliation’ to unite the people.

Forming associations of journalists by race rather than professional mission gives the public the impression that racial attributes do shape and inform on the work of a Malay, Chinese and Indian journalist. Which goes against the nature of what ethical journalists do, regardless of their gender, race or religion – that is to understand and interpret events and issues in their contexts, and then writing about it.

Journalists should observe and reflect on what they’ve seen and heard, analyse and elucidate between right and wrong, then and write about it fairly, truthfully and responsibly for a discerning public.

Because race and its assumed attributes impact on what and how we feel, think and react to others different from us, the critical challenge for Malaysian journalists is to figure out how to not jump the gun when reporting on the grievances of “other” communities.

Because journalists do set the public agenda through the headlines, texts, story angles, dominant sources and selective quotes, the public should be more vigilant in engaging online with journalists to investigate into issues that matter and to expose the entrenched corruption in the system and its deleterious impact on the people’s socio-economic welfare.

Mainstream journalists know more than what they are able to report. They are hamstrung by in-house autocratic editorial controls, and hence a learned sense of self-censorship. It is easy to see why the stories we read in the mainstream papers are mainly based on statements by the government rather than investigative exposé driven by the journalists’ bold initiatives.

Increasingly unethical practices

These constraints, however, should not excuse the increasingly unethical practices committed by political mouthpieces such as Utusan Malaysia, which have regressed further to the right with their ethnocentric editorial culture.

In the long run, we need to find ways to depoliticise the media ownership structure and deracialise the editorial controls and contents in the mainstream media. However, a newsroom that reflects the racial diversity of Malaysian society, while essential, may not necessarily be sufficient to get us to talk across racial fault lines.

What is required is a fundamental change in the news culture, the capacity to talk honestly and respectfully across fault lines, and a renewed commitment to ethical and accountable journalism by media owners, editors and their journalists.

I cite below some principles on reporting about race that I’ve compiled in numerous journalism training workshops I’ve conducted over the years in parts of Asia. I hope Malaysian journalists, regardless of their ethnicity, will find these principles relevant to their obligations to report fairly, truthfully and accurately on the increasingly polarised Malaysian society we live in today.

*Factual accuracy in a single story is no substitute for the whole truth. A single story that is factually accurate can nonetheless be misleading. Journalists must always consider the contexts of the issues.

*In multicultural societies, editors must be highly sensitive of the danger of stoking racism by selective reporting and stereotyping. Generalisations based on the behaviour of an individual or a small number of individuals are invariably unjust.

*When there is potential for communal tension, journalists must take time to investigate and expose the underlying causes.

*Statistics can be used to excite passion. They should always be multiple checked and interpreted. This is particularly relevant to issues such as the institutionalised discrimination against non-Malay students in the annual intake by public universities.

*All stories of communal, racial or religious nature should be scrupulously ascribed to their sources. The authority of the sources should be properly evaluated, and where appropriate rejected as reliable sources.

*Where several languages are spoken, meanings are sometimes lost in translation. Words and phrases may have different connotations among different groups. Hence, journalists should always use considered language, especially in headlines and also in the display. No concession should be made to racial rhetoric.

*Statements should not be accepted at face value from any source, including government sources. Where necessary, these should be accompanied in the news columns by corroboration and interpretation.

*Pictures can distort reality. An unrepresentative picture may lie even more than a news story and add to prejudices.

*In mixed societies with underlying causes of tension – social, economic or religious – journalists should initiate investigative stories with sociological content. These would inform and educate the public. It also helps disperse an environment of resentment and suspicion.

*Place equal emphasis on stories of cooperation/harmony with stories of controversies and conflict.

*Avoid over-relying on official sources, particularly politicians and special interest groups. Get down to the grassroots and listen to the people who are affected by the issues.

*Journalists should not allow their stories to be driven by the public hysteria of the moment. Question the assumptions on which the hysteria is based, and always be sensitive to alternative views.

*Factual errors in a speech related to race and religion must be pointed out, where necessary, in the same column as the speech itself is published.

ERIC LOO left Malaysia for Australia in 1986 to work as a journalist. He currently lectures at University of Wollongong, Australia, and serves on the advisory committee of UPI Next, a journalism education and training platform run by United Press International. He edits a refereed journal Asia Pacific Media Educator and conducts journalism training workshops in Asia. Email:

End impunity for the powerful, reform institutions

Josie Fernandez | TMI

Corruption with impunity is undermining democracy, socio-economic advancement and the independence of Parliament, state and legislature in Malaysia.

Corruption with impunity is a major challenge stifling efforts to reform institutions such as the Elections Commission, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, the Police and Political Parties. Election fraud is another indicator that impunity has been institutionalized.

Reforms proposed by civil society groups such as Transparency International Malaysia to restructure the Elections Commission, for a more independent MACC and for removal of laws that curtail the independence of the media have been ignored by the government.

Recent surveys such as the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) 2013 results have shown that approximately 70 percent of the Malaysian Public does not have faith in the government. Results from the GCB 2013 reveal that the public perceive the police to be the most corrupt, followed closely by political parties, civil servants and the Parliament/Legislature.

Bad behavior in Parliament is yet another strong indicator that impunity is the driver of such behavior. Often the prosecution of political and public officials is hindered by collusion, interference of government bureaus, personal influence and institutional pressures.

There has been little progress made into the investigations of allegations of corruption against political leaders such as the Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. In Sarawak actions have not been taken against civil servants failing to appear as witnesses in native customary rights (NCR) land cases. This is yet another example of impunity. (A recent case in point is the Long Terawan lawsuit in Miri, Sarawak involving an NCR case filed by members of the Berawan Community of Long Terawan Mulu. The Sarawak government had taken the land to build an airstrip and a road for a hotel affiliated with the Mulu National Park.)

Freedom from punishment for the powerful is a sign of a bad government. Everyone should be equal before the law.

Reforms can be affected through the passing of appropriate laws to deal with the issue of corruption with impunity. In the United Kingdom, public officials can be subjected to a judicial review at the discretion of individuals who feel the official acted outside of his authority or engaged in an illegal or unjust action.

To restore public confidence that the government is committed to the fight against corruption, it must end impunity for the powerful. – July 18, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Malays rule, OK!

Mariam Mokhtar | Malaysiakini

What Rowena Abdul Razak, daughter of one of Malaysia’s most infamous toadies, said that minorities were incapable of ruling, it is not just an affront to Malays, but an insult to all Malaysians.

Rowena should know that when you raise your head above the parapet, you can expect it to be shot. It is alarming to hear a woman with a sound education, who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing, and is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies, talk about the governance of a country in terms of majority rule, Malay rights, protection and race.

It is disheartening to hear educated Malays talk in such a shortsighted manner and act as if they learned nothing from their times spent in civilised countries. They have learnt nothing of the outside world, nor of the fallacy of Malay supremacy.

Students like Adam Adli Abdul Halim have had their education curtailed, whereas children of Umno Baruputras enjoy the largesse of the taxpayer. Adam was trying to help all Malaysians, whereas Rowena appears to be selfishly championing Umno Baruputras.

At a Bar Council Forum on electoral reforms Rowena queried the ability of the minority to protect the rights of the majority.

Has she not heard of Benjamin Disraeli, Barack Hussein Obama and Alberto Fujimori? One was Jewish but became prime minister of Great Britain, the man who was of African extraction now heads America and a Japanese once ruled Peru.

Rowena talks like an Umno Baruputra. Most normal people want a country which is ruled by an able leader, who is prepared to look after its citizens with equality and fairness.

She said, “In Malaysia, you are proposing something where the minority would be empowered, how then do you protect the rights of the majority?”

How ironic that what she said is true. This illegitimate minority Umno Baru government has already broken many of the promises it made before GE13. It does not champion the interests of the majority but it excels in protecting the rights of Umno Baruputras.

By referring to “the majority”, Rowena presumably means the Malays. If the truth be known, the original Malays are a minority in Malaysia and it is the pseudo Malays, those who want to take advantage of the perks which were granted to the Malays, in the constitution, who form the majority in Malaysia.

Holding the rest of Malaysia to ransom

We once had a PM, Mahathir Mohamad, who was of Indian extraction. He sought to confuse the Malay mind by creating a dilemma within the Malay world. What emerged was another Malay species – the Umno Baruputra. In a sense, the minority Umno Baruputras could be classed as a minority species and it is they who are holding the rest of Malaysia to ransom.

In Syria, the ruling minority Alawite sect, to which President Bashir Al-Assad belongs, punishes and kills the majority Sunnis for opposing his rule. Rowena is right but conversely, we have seen that Mahathir’s policies continue to wreak havoc on the Malay psyche. Rowena is therefore wrong when she said that “the minority cannot even protect themselves”. The Umno Baruputras who govern, only think of themselves and jealously guard their turf.

If we allowed Rowena the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the Malay majority can protect others, why have we issues with forced conversions of children of another faith into Islam, why are Christians forbidden from using the word Allah, why is the Ambassador from the Vatican shown the door and why are certain people – Indians, Orang Asli and Penans having problems establishing their citizenship?

Why did Mahathir dilute the percentage of the true Sabahans with an influx of Muslim foreigners from the Philippines, Indonesian and Pakistan? The former majority Kadazan-Dusun population was cheated by a minority group.

Rowena criticised the NGO Tindak Malaysia for the low (10 percent) percentage of Malays in the organisation which she said was not representative of Malaysian demographics. Is this a fair criticism? Are Malays averse to volunteering? Do they avoid corporate social responsibilities?

It is wrong of Rowena to publicly admonish Wong Piang Yow, the Tindak Malaysia chief, for something beyond his control. Malays may form a majority in some other NGOs, like Perkasa, but this is not necessarily a good thing.

In November 2006, when Rowena’s father, Razak Baginda, was charged with abetting two police personnel in the murder of the Mongolian national Altantuya Shaaribuu, observers were shocked when Mazlinda Makhzan, Baginda’s wife, screamed, “Why charge my husband, he does not want to be the prime minister…”? What was Mazlinda insinuating?

After Baginda was acquitted in 2008, he held a press conference, and stressed throughout the 50-minute-long media briefing that Najib Abdul Razak, the deputy prime minister at the time, and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, had nothing to do with Altantuya’s murder. Why did Baginda blame bloggers for misleading the public?

It is curious that Rowena and her mother, Mazlinda, attended this Bar Council forum on electoral reform and attracted attention with their remarks.

One would think that a family, with a chequered past, such as theirs, would want to be as discreet as possible, especially as large sums of the taxpayers’ money were stolen under the guise of commission, a woman was murdered violently and a cover-up involving the judiciary, police and immigration allegedly followed.

Stuff of spy-thrillers

The trail of sex, corruption and scandal which Baginda weaved with his alleged lover across Europe and Asia is the stuff of spy-thrillers. There was no romance involved, just plain deceit and lust. The rakyat demand answers and justice.

Why would the Baginda family be interested in electoral reform, especially as a change of government could trigger a re-trial of Altantuya’s alleged murderers and force Baginda to return the millions he sequestered? More importantly, Najib’s true role might be exposed.

Rowena should realise that the sins of her father have cast a shadow over her. Is the rakyat being misled by remarks made by her and her mother? Is this a distraction designed to dissuade people from attending Suaram’s Scorpene fund-raising dinner, to be held on July 19, at which new revelations about the progress of the French lawyers could be revealed?

Has Rowena been pressured into becoming the new “Ummi Hafilda”; another sexton charged with burying news that are detrimental to Umno Baru?

Conversely, having been betrayed and having to endure the wrath of the public, there is a slight possibility that both mother and daughter want justice to be served. They must know this can only happen if Pakatan forms the government of Malaysia.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Red Bean Barmy

Dean Johns | Malaysiakini

Lying by the BN regime seems to get more radically ridiculous every day, and nothing better illustrates this than persistent allegations that the opposition has been funding a 3,000-strong ‘Red Bean Army’ to spread its message in cyberspace.

As many have commented before me, there is no way that the DAP or any other Pakatan Rakyat party would have hundreds of millions of ringgit to spend on such a ludicrous exercise even if they wanted or needed to.

And of course there is no need whatever for them to pay their cyber-supporters so much as a single sen, as there are countless Malaysians who are more than happy to take the time and trouble to cyber-criticise BN and cyber-support Pakatan at their own expense, and out of their sheer love of truth and loathing for lies.

In other words, while there is no such thing as an organised and opposition-funded ‘Red Bean Army’, there is certainly a massive, volunteer force that could justly be dubbed the Rid-BN Army. And with the 51 percent popular vote for the opposition in the May 5 general election, it won a momentous moral victory.

If ever there as a telling demonstration of the proverbial wisdom that ‘the truth will set you free’, it was this triumph of countless unpaid, individual voices over the might of the publicly-funded regime propaganda machine.

The triumph of the veracity of the virtual media over the vicious, venomous lies of the regime’s regiments of venal operatives on television and radio, in the press, and via advertising and public relations.

And not to forget the massacre of BN’s so-called ‘cybertroopers’, all those running-dog bloggers paid with public money to try and kid the innocent and ignorant into voting for five more years of BN crime, corruption and incompetence.

So comprehensively outgunned was this Has-Been Army that it should by rights have slunk away in defeat and disgrace. But instead it had the effrontery to invent a ‘Red Bean Army’ allegedly funded by the DAP to “raise political tensions and created political instability”.

This was clearly a typically shameless attempt by BN and its Has-Been Army to get their grubby paws on yet more of the rakyat’s money, as it claimed through 180 regime-friendly NGOs that it needed RM350 million to counter the threat that had been invented.

Who believes BN any more?

Now, Shahidan Kassim, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, has tried to render the fiction into fact by calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the imaginary Red Bean Army.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang reportedly gave this idiotic suggestion the scornful reception it deserved, commenting in Malaysiakini that “if the cabinet sets up an RCI on the alleged DAP-funded ‘Red Bean Army’, Malaysia will make history as the first country in the world which establishes an RCI on a fictitious allegation”.

Lim is right, of course. BN’s custom is not to hold RCIs on fictitious allegations, but to hold fictitious RCIs on factual allegations on which it needs to buy time or bury altogether, as in the ongoing RCI into the corrupt granting of identity cards to foreigners in Sabah, and the long-ago RCI that recommended the formation of a yet-to-be implemented Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

Thank goodness that there is a Rid-BN Army if not a ‘Red Bean Army’ to report such regime malfeasance, as there is little or no likelihood of an honest report of this latest regime idiocy by either the Dead-Head mainstream media or the cyber Has-Been Army.

Nobody in his or her right mind believes a word from any BN source any more, and no amount of money plundered from the public purse to pay professional liars will restore this rotten regime’s credibility.

And as if to underscore the dire depths to which BN has sunk in the fake-news and failed credibility department, Malaysia has slid to 145th out of 179 or its lowest score ever on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

In a lame attempt to shrug-off this disgraceful state of affairs, however, Communications and Multimedia Minister Shabery Cheek has told Parliament that Malaysia’s pathetic press-freedom ranking is just a matter of “perception by foreigners”.

“Different countries have different values,” he was quoted as claiming, “and Malaysia’s values are suited to its laws and culture.”

“As proof that liberal attitudes and rights to expression are implemented well in this country, all opposition parties are free to publish their own newspapers without any restriction,” he lied, in light of the regime’s regular seizure of such opposition newspapers and its failure to license Suara Keadilan.

‘Transparent’ Najib

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s one-man Smarmy Army, minority Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, was taking time out for a ‘working’ trip to London to pollute the UK media with his customary litany of lies.

According to BN ‘news’ agency Bernama, Najib told BBC interviewer Jon Sopel that “we don’t think there’s a basis for the people to go to the streets to protest against the government” in order to achieve change.

“If people want change, what I’m saying is that we can deliver change but from within,” he said, despite the clearly evident fact that his ‘transformative’ premiership has seen nothing but change for the worse.

On the much-vexed subject of the general election, in which BN fared worse than ever before in its history despite massively illegal gerrymandering, media monopolisation, vote-buying and other alleged illegalities, Najib claimed that “the election was true, fair and transparent”.

Adding that the government is “prepared to be scrutinised on this matter according to the constitution and laws of the country” and that “we have nothing to hide,” he then repeated that “we’re transparent”.

Najib certainly is transparent in the sense that anyone with half an eye can see right through this and indeed his every lie. But he and his regime accomplices are as far from transparent in their misgovernment of Malaysia as the Official Secrets Act and the muzzled mainstream media can manage to make them.

But if they imagine that all these machinations plus the invention of a mythical ‘Red Bean Army’ will save them much longer from the wrath of the Rid-BN Army, they must be stark, staring Red Bean Barmy.

DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Implausible Nonsense: Malaysia’s Political Theatre

By Dr Lim Teck Ghee | CPI

There are two types of nonsense – plausible and implausible. Plausible nonsense is when someone spins a story to children, which although implausible to adults is plausible to young minds. Though not believable to adults, most children stories have the redeeming value of being educational and entertaining.

Then there is implausible nonsense which does not make any sense at all. Clowns and buffoons engage in implausible nonsense for the purpose of entertaining audiences and bringing comic relief.

In Shakespeare’s plays, his clowns and fools did not only invite laughter but they often had something profound to say. The Shakespeare fool, who is usually a person of low or common birth, provided insights into the main characters belonging to the nobility as well as shedding light on the central themes of the play.

Our substandard political theatre

In Malaysia we have political clowns dominating the national stage but unlike in Shakespeare’s plays, they provide no entertainment or anything of merit or significance to our conflict-ridden society. Instead, they simply push up our stress levels.

The three most recent examples of political clowns are our deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin; the Malacca chief minister, Idris Haron; and the parliamentarian, Bung Moktar Radin.

Why the ‘child conversion’ ambush now?

When given the opportunity to say something sensible about the controversial Administration of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill tabled in parliament recently, the DPM defended the government action by claiming that “the cabinet has discussed this in detail and … in the current situation, there have been several guidelines that we used. One of them is the court’s decision on a previous case and the second is the Malaysian constitution. So that is the jurisdiction of power we have today.”

Unlike his colleague, Nazri Aziz who has been consistently principled on the issue, Muhyiddin has conveniently forgotten that the new Cabinet decision is overturning an earlier decision of which he was a party to. He could have used the press conference occasion to demonstrate his Malaysian and not Malay leadership qualities but chose instead to cloud the issue even more by providing spurious legal and constitutional arguments.

We have had more than enough public discussion and debate during the past few years on the issue of the conversion of children under the age of 18 as well as other cases of contested conversion to Islam.

Not only is there a broad consensus of opposition against forced conversion – whether of minors or adults – among our population of non-Muslim faith and religions but Islamic organizations such as Sisters in Islam and the Islamic Renaissance Front and many concerned Muslim individuals have spoken out with regard to the conversion of non-Muslim minors.

Now that the elections are over, perhaps Muhyiddin is trying to pander to the Umno delegates whose support he seeks in the party’s coming general assembly meeting. If he is doing so, he is not helping the cause of Islam in Malaysia and its avowed message of fairness and tolerance.

What is really behind Jonker Walk closure?

Just as big a political clown – though at the state level – is the Malacca Chief Minister who has decided to show to the locals the stuff he is made of by making traffic congestion his first priority on assuming office.

One would have assumed that he would devote his time to more important state matters such as raising the state’s productivity or attracting high value investment than traffic congestion in Jonker Walk. But no, a fight with the area’s street traders who are mostly Chinese and presumably supporters of the opposition seems to be his strategy for grabbing national attention and notoriety.

As with Muhyiddin, Idris will have his eye on the coming Umno general assembly meeting which will see the election of party supreme council members, a position which he is clearly aiming for. What better credentials to win the votes of delegates than a reputation as the man who single-handedly destroyed the rice bowl of opposition-inclined traders?

This would also embellish his international reputation further. Idris, during his first years in Parliament, made news headlines for complaining that the body-hugging outfits worn by stewardesses on Malaysia Airlines would result in male passengers sexually harassing the stewardesses. One wonders if this observation could have been provoked by his own response to the dress wear.

“Leave Malaysia” if you don’t like

The last in this group, Bung Moktar, the MP for Kitabatangan had previously made the headlines with various political antics and a polygamous marriage which did not meet the procedures and conditions required by Islamic law.

This time around when debating the motion of thanks on the Royal Address, the Sabah Umno representative lowered his standard of buffoonery to engage in character assassination of AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman Rani. Calling Azran a “Melayu biadab” (rude Malay) who did not deserve to be a citizen, he is reported to have yelled, “Leave this country and go live anywhere else you like.”

His outburst led the Speaker to point out to Bung Moktar that he should not use the privilege to speak in the Dewan Rakyat to criticise civilians and government officials who were unable to use the same platform to defend themselves.

The Speaker should have also reminded the member of the House that such acts of political cowardice will live forever in the pages of Malaysian political history through our Hansard records.

Consolation for us

There is however one solace. In Shakespeare’s comedies, fools are called upon to encourage a more serious examination of the situations and characters of a play. Fools not only amuse and entertain, but they also help the audience to ponder on serious social, religious and political issues.

This is so true in the prolonged wayang kulit and the performing political clowns that invariably take centre stage before Umno’s big day, the party election due this year in November.


Related Posts with Thumbnails