Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mumbai terrorists with Malaysian identity cards?

Updates: Nov 30, 1pm - Syed Hamid: No Malaysian link in attacks
Nov 30, 2.30pm - IGP: Probe on Malaysian credit card found

It's just a single mention but certainly it is a serious allegation. Former CNN reporter, Maria Ressa, has quoted unnamed Indian intelligence sources as saying that one of the gunmen, now under police custody, has said that the terrorists pretended to be students, stayed in Mumbai apartments and allegedly carried Malaysian identity cards. According to Ressa, who is now with ABS-CBN, there is increasing evidence that the terrorists were from Pakistan. They were also believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda. The Times of India reported that the terrorists posed as Malaysian students, according to The Malaysian Insider.

Previously, there were talk that the terrorists could be British-born Pakistanis or they had links with Britons from Leeds and Bradford in UK. But the latest allegations of these killers with Malaysian ICs is something else. Why were they carrying Malaysian ICs and are these allegations true? If not, certainly the Malaysian Embassy has to dispute it. Such a report is not good for Malaysia and should be clarified, if untrue. The British PM Gordon Brown, for example, was quick to dismiss speculations that the terrorists were Britons.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Attacks - British Terrorists?

One of the young gunmen with his weapon, looking for more victims. Indian authorities say two of the arrested militants were British-born Pakistanis
Indian newspapers are reporting that at least two of the captured terrorists in the Mumbai massacre are Britisn-born Pakistanis. Up to seven of the terrorists could have connections with Britain. One online newspaper has even speculated that they could be from Leeds and Bradford, where members of the July 7 coordinated bomb attacks on London's transport system were from. The Mail has quoted Mumbai's Chief Minister for the arrest of these Britons, or at least, they were British born. But for these misguided zealots, they may have targetted Westerners, especially Americans and Britons, but in the end, the largest number of people they killed were ordinary Indians in these hotels. There can be no compromise for people who kill in the name of God. The mop-up operations taken by the Indian security forces seems to have dragged on, like a bad Bollywood movie, but it would wear out the terrorists, some of whom are still holed up in the hotel. The lack of sleep and food would eventually slow them down, making them less alert, and they would be easier targets for the security forces. Let's hope this madness will end soon.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tajudin Rahman - what's wrong with him?

(Click on image for YouTube clip)

All politicians crave for publicity. They need it to justify what they are doing - either for the attention of their party bosses or their constituents. Or simply for their own ego, the joy of reading about themselves and to see their pictures in the newspapers or appearing on television. Nothing really wrong with that. Pride and satisfaction doesn't hurt. But something is terribly wrong when a Member of Parliament, who is regarded as a Yang Berhormat or the Right Honourable, regularly uses offensive words, sometimes even bordering on sedition. Vulgarity has also been uttered in the case of Pasir Salak MP Tajudin Rahman.

Malaysian Insider has correctly described him as rude, crude and obnoxious. This guy obviously has a problem. He should be called up by the Barisan Nasional whip Najib Tun Razak to be disciplined. He is an embarassment to the BN and if anyone talks to BN MPs, they will share the same sentiments. The question is how is that he can get away with it? Tajudin is doing the work of the opposition - delivering votes to the opposition everytime he opens his mouth in Parliament. Tajudin does not need to resort to such offensive antics to gain attention. When will we see maturity, substance and class among our MPs?

PS. Some readers have asked me about my position on Gobind Singh. I agree with them, his antics and statements are outrageous. He is less offensive than Tajudin but the DAP MP surely needs to conduct himself better. The "political street fighter" image, cultivated by his father, Karpal Singh, and Lim Kit Siang, may be popular during the 60s but in the age of Barack Obama, such image seems out of place.

For all the verbatim exchanges in Parliament, check out the Hansard which now has a record of the proceedings all the way back to 1960. For context, check out how MPs in the earlier Parliaments jostle with one another with non-offensive wit and repartee.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Terror - The new face of terrorism

Two of the terrorists caught on TV camera in the midst of the siege.

It's mindless. More than 100 people have been killed in the hands of a group of gunmen, said to be members of the unknown Deccan Mujahiddeen. Some of their faces have been captured on TV with one even seen smiling. Dressed in T-shirts, they had no beard nor goatees, trademarks of Arab and Indonesian terrorists. Their targets have been Americans and Britons. But their victims are likely to be just tourists, ordinary people like you and me. It could happen to you, your family members, colleagues or friends. This is what happens when religious fanaticism gets out of hand. Terrorists kill in the name of God, believing that's the fastest way to heaven. The lesson here is simple - the moderates must always speak up against any form of extremism in the name of religion.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No yoga ban yet in Indonesia

While the decision by the National Fatwa Council to ban yoga has generated a controversy here, the Indonesian Ulama Council has said it would not follow suit immediately. Its deputy chairman Umar Shihab said the council wanted to study the matter first, saying it wasn't sure how wide yoga was practiced in Indonesia In any case, Jakarta Post quoted him as saying that he had no problem with yoga if it was meant for "sports" and neither was he sure that the Muslim faith would be affected. The Indonesian authorities have often taken differing stand on religious matters despite having the world's largest Muslim population. Last year, it allowed Beyonce to perform in Jakarta although she would likely be banned here. Last week, the authorities allowed Rihanna to perform in Jakarta but it was called off on security grounds. Again, it would have been unlikely for Rihanna to make her way to KL.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yoga ban fatwa - on hold in Perak and Selangor

The fatwa banning yoga by the National Fatwa Council has been put on hold in Selangor and Perak. The Sultan of Selangor has ordered the ruling to be put on hold saying the state fatwa committee has made no decision on the issue. The Tuanku also said he wanted the edict to be deliberated in greater detail and not made hastily, according to The Star Online.

Meanwhile, Perak Religious Department director Datuk Jamry Sury, who said Muslims in Perak, would be barred from practising yoga on Sunday, has withdrew his statement. He has said that the Sultan of Perak has told him that the matter is out of his jurisdiction. In short - Jamry has jumped the gun and that he has no authority to decide, MStar reported. It looks like the royal palaces of Selangor and Perak have decided to step in.

Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam has however said the fatwa would be gazetted in the state. It isn't clear how the fatwa would be carried out but it is understood that the Conference of Rulers are likely to insist on their say on the matter. Although religion is a state matter, the Rulers may insist that the yoga ban proposal should be discussed by them first. In states with no Sultans, the King would have to be consulted first, according to some legal opinions. Like Rocky Bru, I am asking readers who post comments to be sensitive on what they write.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kedah MB - Too Much Time at the Golf Course?

Kedah Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak and his state exco members have reportedly come under fire from their own party leaders for spending too much at the golf course. It is not sure whether they were spending time on the greens itself or they were just accompanying others to the golf clubs. According to Malaysiakini, these division leaders are upset, saying the present state PAS government is no different from the previous BN government.
But I am told that the MB, whose golf club membership expired in 1978, is not goofing his time away as alleged. If the grievances are inaccurate, then it looks like a case of grassroots leaders feeling neglected and demanding attention from the MB. Party members sometimes expect their MBs and CMs to be on call without having to make appointments. Sometimes, it is the over-protective aides who make it difficult for these grassroots leaders to meet the bosses. But the word is that the MB is a victim of a rival faction in PAS. That's politics and it is the same in every party despite what they preached.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shahrizat vs Rafidah - The Fight Is On!

Breaking news - It's on - the fight between Shahrizat Jalil and Rafidah Aziz for the Wanita Umno top position. In a two-paragraph statement, the former MP for Lembah Pantai said she accepted the nominations to vie for the post. Read Malaysian Insider and The Star.

Of Bollywood Prima Donnas and Datukship

Bollywood actors are known prima donnas. They are notoriously famous for turning up late for their press conferences and concerts. Worse, they don't show up. So, it's no surprise that Shah Rukh Khan has said that he will not be able to receive his Datukship on Nov 29 due to his busy schedule. The Star reported that state officials are now trying to arrange for an alternative date. Good luck to them. This is all getting a little too much. Private investitures are usually reserved for VVIPs and we have already bent the rules for Shah Rukh Khan. Now, the ceremony has to be postponed. Even Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam sounded peeved, saying reporters should ask his state secretary. The idea of giving the Datukship to the actor, it was reported, came from former finance minister Daim Zainuddin. It was to reward the actor for shooting a movie in Malacca, which had supposedly put the state on the tourism map. Don't we get this feeling that this Datukship thing is too small for this Bollywood megastar? If it was Queen Elizabeth putting the OBE on his chest, he would be in Buckingham Palace tomorrow.

More on Rebana Ubi Arches - all 14 of them!

Updates: Nov 21, 4pm - Just an advertising gantry, not arch

More information has surfaced over the controversial Rebana Ubi Arch to be built along the Federal Highway. The Star has quoted the Datuk Bandar as saying that the arch was part of a campaign to promote Islam Hadhari and that approval was given in August. The company putting up the arch is Libroff Media Shd Bhd.

Following protests by residents in the area, which had their water supplies disrupted, because of preliminary groundworks, the contractor has been asked to put a stop to the works. The Malay Mail has revealed further that the arch is part of a trade off between the government and the media owner.

It reported that the media owner will bear the cost of constructing and maintaining not one but 14 arches, costing RM1mil each, at selected highways for a 15 year concession and a five year waiver of advertising licensing fees, following an agreement signed with the government. So, it boils down to money. The government would also have access to each of these sites for advertisement.

So, taxpayers money would not be used but I think Malaysians, especially Klang Valley folks, would want to know how the structures would look like.There are already too many billboards along the highway and the last thing they want is an arch that promotes more products under the guise of promoting Islamic Hadhari.

The trouble with the authorities involved is that they did not bother to inform the public and media of their plans. They think they can put up anything they want and when a protest crops up, they buy time by seeking a review to calm down temperature. But in the end, they just go ahead without giving two hoots about how the public feels. The public, as road users and tax payers, surely have a right to know how the arches would look and where the remaining 13 would be put up. It's not anybody's grandfather's road, you know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kit Siang and Haris Ibrahim on political realities

My posting on the political realities of Malaysia, particularly the position of the Malays, has led to various reactions. Lim Kit Siang is unhappy with what he regarded as my insinuation, in his words, that there was a secret agreement between himself, Anwar Ibrahim and Hadi Awang. but he is entitled to his views as in any democracy. He has used words in his statement that I did not use.

Lawyer Haris Ibrahim has also given his perspective of the issue, saying he disagreed with my stand that non-Muslim groups should stay away from Islamic issues. I had blogged that non-Muslim NGOs should stay away from the fatwas on yoga and tomboyism, as these religious rulings did not affect non-Muslims. Unlike issues like gender segregation for supermarket check-outs, concerts and dress codes, which infringe on non-Muslim rights, I said it was not politically wise to be involved. Haris has his comments and I think it is good to have differences of opinion. Haris has argued well and I have high regard for him.

This is what a discourse is all about, we need not agree with each other, but as a general rule, I think we are mature enough to be able discuss such issues without putting down each other, resorting to name calling or sounding like a bully.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Equally blur in Kuala Lumpur!

An arch is said to be coming up along the KL Federal Highway and preliminary works have started but this is the best part - no one seems to be able to explain what's happening. The Federal Territories Ministry and City Hall have said the arch, reportedly called the Rebana Ubi Arch, has nothing to do with them. The Malay Mail reported that thousands of households had their water disrupted because of preparatory work but no one is able or want to issue any statement on what is coming up. The word is that the arch is a project of the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) but a senior official, when contacted, said Jakim was not involved. So, if Jakim or DBKL is not involved, whose baby's is this? Perhaps the mystery would be resolved when national papers pick up this issue and pursue. Taxpayers money is involved here and certainly we do not need any white elephant or an expensive non-functionable project at this point.

The realities of Malaysian politics

Anwar Ibrahim has revealed a signed document between himself, DAP's Lim Kit Siang and PAS' Hadi Awang that none of us have heard of until now - an agreement to uphold the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution. The Sept 8 agreement pledged to uphold Malay rights and the status of Islam as the official religion.

Anwar also said that the social contract between the races were already agreed upon by all members of the coalition. He also revealed that the four-paragraph agreement could not be changed by any party, according to The Star.

Despite the criticism against the social contract and even questions about its existence, the three opposition parties realises the reality of politics in this country. This is no different from positions taken by the Alliance and the Barisan Nasional component parties.

The Malays are the majority and they form the electorate. Without doubt the political landscape and the mindset of the many Malays have changed, which helped put Pakatan Rakyat in power in five states but issues relating to the Malay positions continues to be the core of the Malay politics. Anwar obviously understand the Malay psyche well and he realises that Pakatan Rakyat can never form the next federal government without assuring the Malay voters.

According to the Malaysian Insider, a survey carried out after the March 8 polls showed that 60 % of the Malay respondents voted BN and that Anwar ranked the lowest in terms of level of support from Malays.

PAS, particularly Hadi Awang, in fact, flirted with the idea of working with Umno after the March 8 elections because he did not liked the idea of so many non-Muslim MPs. In his own words, he is against the idea of having more Sabah and Sarawak non-Muslim MPs. Again, Hadi understands the realities of rural politics.

There's another reality non-Muslims must understand - issues relating to Islam that does not infringe upon their rights is best left to Muslim groups. The protest involving non-Muslim protestors recently against the tomboy fatwa was unwise. Similarly, there were also grumblings by certain politicians on the yoga fatwa. No one is saying non-Muslims cannot practise yoga. If non-Muslims want to be lesbians or tomboys, so be it. These fatwas are unlike Muslim groups or the Kelantan PAS government calling for the blanket ban of concerts, nightspots, gender segregated check-outs at supermarkets or wayang kulits, which would affect the rights of non-Muslims. Non-governmental organisations, especially headed by non-Muslims, must learn to be sensitive. Nik Aziz has his position on this issue. But I agree with the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan that they should be mindful.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mr President, No You Can't

It has got to be the hardest thing to give up for Barack Obama - his Blackberry. The newly-elected US President has been told that he can no longer shoot off an email from his Blackberry and neither can he carry his laptop to the White House now. The Internet-savvy politician has already resigned himself to the fact that he may have to sign off soon for apparent security reasons.

He was hoping to be the first e-mailing US president but that is unlikely now.
Like Obama, there are many of us who are addicted to our little hand machines and we cannot imagine going through the day without getting an SMS, making call, browsing through the web and just sending an email.

It's really addictive for Blackberry owners and certainly many of us understand how Obama must be feeling right now. I have been asked why I sent out this posting - it's simple. I understand his withdrawal syndrome! This posting has nothing to do with politics, it's merely about the joys of the Blackberry. There are many of us who love new gadgets and this is just a way of sharing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Completely "blur like a sotong" in Perak

Policemen snatching video cameras, the kind of stuff that protestors at anti-ISA rallies talk about but in Perak, the Mentri Besar has found himself in the news for forcing a photographer to delete a picture of him when he was served a notice of demand from a lawyer.

The MB demanded the pixman's camera and took it upon himself to delete the pictures. That's high handedness and just because he is the MB does not give him the right to act this way. He's not being very clever. It's strange for Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin (pic) to act in such a manner as there is nothing politically embarrassing to be served such a letter. In contrast, senior exco member Ngeh Koo Ham sportingly posed for the press.

Perak Umno chief Tajol Rosli is demanding a formal apology from the state government over allegations that he was involved in the recent arrests of two state exco members for corruption.

But there are dumber ones. State Industry Development and Information Committee chairman Tai Sing Ng was completedly blur when he was asked about foreign investments in the state. Apparently, he has not never heard of MIDA - the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority. Tai could also not give a breakdown of the investments in the state when asked at the state assembly. For Mei Yen, it's dumb and dumber. Rocky Bru is also furious at the treatment of reporters by the Perak MB.

How to win the 6 million young voters

There would be two million Malaysians who would be eligible to vote for the first time in the next elections. This is in addition to the four million eligible voters, many believed to be under 30 years old, who did not register in time for the March 8 polls. We are talking about six million potential voters here. They would likely be opinionated, Internet-savvy and most likely idealistic. And if our older politicians think that this group does not matter and has little interest in politics, then they are in for a big surprise.

To win them over, it means more younger politicians, in their 30s and 40s, would have to be fielded in the next round. These politicians must be able to connect with the young voters and speak their language. In the recent US presidential elections, over 63% of young voters backed Barack Obama. At 47 years old, Obama is their poster boy.

Even before the polls, surveys showed that young Americans between the age of 18 and 29 favour him over John McCain by whopping margins - 59% to 38% according to Gallup polls in October. His staffers were young and familiar with Facebook, Twitter, podcast, video cams and blogging.

Old politicians have always thought that young voters are unrealiable but from the March 8 results, they had better wake up. The BN sent busloads of working, young Kelantanese back to support the BN but they ended up telling their folks to support Pakatan Rakyat. Many also used social networking tools on the Net to support opposition candidates while the BN relied mostly on newspapers and the electronic media.

In the next polls, the old "development funds announcements" formula is as good as dead. Culture wars and petty squabbles, started by the parents and grandparents of these 6 million potential voters, are best put aside if our politician want to connect. Issues of the 50s and 60s do not excite them nor do these issues have any relevance to people in their 20s.

Politicians who are serious of having a line to the young should blog now, not hire someone to start a blog or a web page on the eve of the campaign which contain nothing but press releases. Environment, poverty and conservation may be dismissed by most of our politicians but they better jump on to the bandwagon during early days now if they want to create an identity for themselves.

The mobile phones would also be a powerful tool and clever politicians would be sending regular "personal" political messages to their voters because in the new political landscape, the tools of campaigning have changed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Money, No Big Bang in Penang

It's a fiasco. A tennis court has been tarred and built in the middle of the Esplanade padang but now the tournament dubbed the "Kings of Tennis" contest this week end has been put off. The court is barely a day old and now Penangites have been told that the show is off. The promoters, it seems, have not been paid for the tournament. No one is sure how much money is involved although a figure of US$2mil has been mentioned. It has also been reported that there could be a losses of over RM17.5mil from the cancellation of the event. But the fact is that the players are not current top names but more like yesterday's heroes. Unlike Klang Valley, where there is a bigger market, and the location central, the same cannot be said about Penang. From a marketing point of view, the Penang market is too small to convince sponsors with the cash, like the mobie phone operators, to support the event. The Penang state government is now going to say that it has no part in the tournament and that it was purely a private venture. Now, Penangites would be wondering what would happen to the day old tennis court, that has stuck out like a sore thumb at the Esplanade. Read Anil Netto and Mei Yen for more views.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another 3M - Majils Media Malaysia

Editors of various newspapers and online portals, and even blogger Rocky Bru, met the Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf for the first time today to discuss the proposed Malaysian Media Council. I attended the meeting in my capacity as the Group Chief Editor of The Star. I can say that most of us kept an open mind of the proposed body, which plans to be self-regulatory if it takes off.

Most countries already have such a similar set-up but we also expressed our concern that the proposed MMM should not be another layer of regulation. There are already too many stringent laws governing the press and certainly we do not need any regulatory body. But the aim and concept of the MMM is good.

If there are reforms on the related laws, which can be carried out simultaneously with the setting up of MMM, then it is good. For one, the annual renewal of printing permits for newspapers should be abolished. Nobody needs a permit to start an online portal, so why should newspapers need to have one?

It is also important that the MMM has the respect and support of the public. It would be meaningless if the MMM is perceived as another government body.

For it to work, it must be truly independent and that means politicians should not be appointed into the body. It should comprise of editors, publishers, ministry officials, NGO representatives and eminent persons. It has been a good and positive preliminary meeting. It is only fair that everyone keep an open mind of the proposal and not be too quick to shoot it down. Reservations from journalists and members of the public are expected as the country does not have a strong track record for press freedom. Aziz sent positive vibes at the meeting but he has now being named the new Elections Commission chairman. What happens next?

MIC elections - where are the young guns?

Veteran MIC leader M. Muthupalania has announced that he wants to challenge party president Samy Vellu in the March party polls. Like politicians all over, the Seremban lawyer is also calling for change. Muthu is the first challenger to announce his bid. We are not sure whether there would be others. But Muthu first needs to get 50 nominations from the branches before he can have a shot. That's not all. Muthu is 68-years-old and that is not exactly inspiring at a time when most leaders in the Barisan Nasional are in their 50s and 40s. Barack Obama is 47 years old and he talks the language of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry. That's something the young can connect with.

How can Muthu, with due respect, possibly be regarded as an catalyst of change and renewal? It's bad enough that Samy Vellu is 72 years old and has held the post for decades. The question is what is the position of the younger set of leaders like G.Palanivel, S.Sothinathan, Dr S. Subramaniam and M. Saravanan.

The word around is that most of them would rather play safe by eyeing the number two position and just wait for their turn. The only problem is that they should know that time is running out as the fight for the Indian votes becomes harder. There are enough political parties and bodies who claim to have the legitimacy to represent the Indians. The real competition against the MIC is outside the party, not inside.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Umno No 2 - The Battle of The Three Ms

It has been described as the Battle Of The Three Ms - Muhyiddin, Muhammad Muhammad Taib and Mohd Ali Rustam for the Umno deputy presidency. Just weeks ago, with Muyhiddin Yassin having collected the highest number of nominations, he was almost regarded as a shoo-in for the post. But now, not everyone is sure. The Malaccan Chief Minister has checked in from behind while Muhammad has also qualified for the race.

The three-way fight is now regarded as the hottest contest with Najib Tun Razak having won the party president's post unopposed. It's no secret that Ali Rustam and Mat Taib are the preferred choices of Pak Lah, although he has said that he is not endorsing anyone. In fact, the Kepala Batas division did not make any nominations. Pak Lah's supporters are still furious at Muyhiddin, at least from their perception, for pressuring Pak Lah to step down earlier. The battle is likely to be between Ali Rustam and Muyhiddin but in a tight spot, Mat Taib could be the spoiler. Some think that the ex-Selangor MB may even pull out eventually to endorse Ali Rustam.

But with the battle heating up, Umno members and the public will be watching whether there is another "M" element in play - Vitamin M, which is now currently referred to as "bom" and "Agong" for money this time around. There are already over 900 cases of bribery allegations to the party, we can be sure the numbers would pass 1,000 by March if corruption becomes a culture.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Umno Money Politics - Of Bom and Agong

The most used words in the current Umno elections are "bom" and "Agong" - according to the grapevine. The word "bom" refers to last-minute attempts by candidates to use large amounts of money to buy votes, catching their opponents off-guard - who may have also used money but probably less - while "Agong" is a direct reference to the ringgit, where the image of the first Yang di Pertuan Agong is printed. That means delegates would ask contenders whether they would see any "Agong."

And such talk cannot be that far fetched because Umno has admitted money politics is rampant. Some said it has gone out of control in this elections. The use of money is so rampant that according to Umno disciplinary chairman Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Ismail, there are now over 900 complaints of various cases, mostly bribery and money politics. Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin said he was "worried and ashamed" about money politics in the run-up to the party polls in March.

And this is only at the nomination stage. What happens when the actual voting is carried out? No wonder some leaders have asked the polls to be held next month because it would be surely too taxing if it's in March, as scheduled.

Would that mean more millions of "Agong" and state awards such as Datukships? There is no way that Tengku Rithauddeen would have the time and resources to investigate the 900 allegations of bribery. Let's not talk about cases where money is happily and quietly accepted. If corruption has become a culture and practice, how can Umno possibly fight corruption at the government level? For that matter, how can delegates of the ruling party treat fighting corruption as its agenda?

Tengku Rithauddeen is right in suggesting that the Anti Corruption Agency be called in to investigate money politics because it is corruption, pure and simple. There is plenty of suspicion particularly the sudden shift in nomination patterns. But as in all things, if there are demand and supply, even the ACA can't prove anything. Read Jailaini Harun's Money Politics, Power and Contracts.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Double blows - A bad day for the Attorney-General

It's a bad day for the Attorney-General's Office. The AG lost two high profile cases in one day. The day started with Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin succeeding in obtaining a court order for release from ISA detention. The decision must have surprised many Malaysians. More surprising, at least until now, RPK has not been re-arrested. In the past, there have been cases of ISA detainees being re-arrested after the courts had allowed their habeas corpus applications. DAP politician Karpal Singh was freed by the Ipoh High Court in 1988 but nabbed in Nibong Tebal on his way to Penang.
This afternoon, the AG lost another case. This time, Judge SM Komathy ruled that Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy case would remained in the Sessions Court and would not be transferred to the High Court, as applied by the AG. But more importantly, it shows the independence of these judges. It's a victory for the judiciary, really. In the case of RPK, some of us may not agree with his free-wheeling methods but we must not support the ISA. Detention without trial cannot be defended. There are still plenty of legal battles ahead for RPK and it should remained that way. He must be allowed to defend himself in courts and not kept in Kamunting.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Malaysia must have hope and dreams

PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said that it is possible for anyone from a minority group to be a nation's leader, even in Malaysia. He was asked by reporters if it were possible for a person from a minority group to become Prime Minister in Malaysia. Pak Lah has certainly given a positive and reassuring response, particularly when there are groups, including those from Umno and PAS, who tell us that a non-Malay should not be a general manager of PKNS. The dispute in PKNS isn't even about qualifications but race.

Sometimes we just need to calm ourselves down and think. Imagine, if you have a massive heart attack, do you really care what is the race of the cardiologist? Who cares if the doctor is a Malay, Chinese or Indian so long as he can save your life. Or for that matter, do we want our leaders to be clean, capable and competent or one who projects himself to be a hero of his community but is downright corrupt and surely a traitor to his own race, regardless of his rhetoric and claims of being a champion.

Does one's religion really matter? PAS leaders are saying that the party does not care about race or creed but they have stopped short of saying that the choice must be Muslim. Theocratic tyranny is as bad as racial tyranny, don't let PAS fool us. PAS president Hadi Awang has said it over and over again - he cannot accept the idea of having more non-Muslim MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.

So, let's not bluff ourselves into believing that under PAS, the non-Muslims will get a better deal. What PAS is saying is this - they will accept a non-Malay as a PM but he has to be a Muslim. Soon, the same principle would be used in senior government positions.

I think the non-Malays in this country are realistic. They are not asking for the sky. They are not asking to be Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister. But they are concerned, rightly so, too, at what is happening around them. The world has changed but for many, time seems to be at a standstill, in Malaysia. Or rather they are resisting the changes that are taking place.

Malaysians cannot afford to lag behind as the world opens up. It would be the greatest disservice we can do to our children. It cannot be business as usual or more of the same.

In Singapore, when people talk of immigrants, they talk of mainland Chinese, Indonesians, Indians and others. It has brought Singaporeans together because they find they have many commonalities. The Chinese grumble about the mainland Chinese, not Singaporean Malays and Indians. They have found the mainland Chinese kids to be smarter and more hardworking than they are, with more government scholarships going to the latter. But they have accepted this - competition is good and necessary.

In Malaysia, the same pattern would emerge as the demography changes. But in Malaysia, the future leaders could well be third-generation Bangladeshis, Indians, Nepalese, Cambodians and Pakistanis. Second-generation Indonesians like Khir Toyo became a Selangor Mentri Besar. Certainly, there are many others, too, in Umno or PAS. How can we then tell the Chinese and Indian children that they cannot be future leaders after they see Barack Obama become the US President? The future US presidents could be a South Korean or a Hispanic. It is important that we provide hope to our young, regardless of their races and religion. It's what the heart feels that matters the most, not the colour of our skins. If we kill their dreams, then Malaysia has no hope. Read On The Beat, Nov 9, 2008:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lesson from Barack Obama's victory

Click on image for stories and video links, including Obama's victory speech

History has been created. A black man will now sit in the White House. It's surely a lesson for the world. The majority of Americans, especially the new and younger voters, believed that he is the man who could do the job. The fact is that the face of America has changed. The minorities, put together, have become the majority. But more than that - people want a change. They are just fed up of the old politics. They are fed up of the same political rhetorics and stupidity of some established politicians.

What's the lesson for Malaysia? The March 8 election results was just the beginning. Eight months later, we should have learn from the implications of the results but unfortunately some of us have not done so. While steps have been taken to face the financial turmoil ahead, some of our politicians and activists seemed more concerned with some road signs in Penang. It had to take someone from Pahang to file a legal action in Penang. Doesn't that speak volumes of what it means? Some of us quarrel over whether a non-Malay should be the acting general manager of PKNS, which is hardly the most powerful position in the state. Deputy Barisan Nasional Youth chairman? It was shot down outright by some. It is time for our politicians to grow up because the majority of Malaysians have grown up. Race politics is yesterday's politics.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Of language, race and religion in Malaysia

We like to tell ourselves and the world that we are a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country but our greatest failure as Malaysians is that we are not very good in our own languages. Forget about English. It went down the drain long ago after we switched from English to Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction. Most of our graduates from local universities cannot even string together a sentence in correct English. The victims of this flawed policy are not just the Malays but also the Chinese and the Indians.

But the Malays are the hardest hit because many, especially those in the rural areas, lack the opportunities to use the language. So when local graduates attend interviews, they lose out. One prominent politician is said to have gone on a tourism promotion in Singapore, where he told his stunned listeners of his state's famous "burnt fish" - that's ikan bakar for him. There are worse cases. Mandarin? Many are not aware that the quality of Mandarin, as spoken by Malaysian Chinese, is ridiculed in mainland China and Taiwan. The only consolation is the Cantonese-speaking Hong Kongers are worse off but given the exposure and close proximity, they have improved.

And many also do not seem to realise that many Malaysian Chinese cannot speak or write Mandarin, being either products of the previous English-medium schools or the current sekolah kebangsaan. So if an employer places a recruitment advertisement for Chinese-speaking staff, it may be natural for non-speakers to be offended. But the fact is that it doesn't affect just Malays but Chinese and Indians as well. I cannot speak nor write Mandarin, so I am out. Doing businesses in China is essential now, so what good is a staff who cannot converse in Mandarin? That's the reality. Unlike India or the Middle East, where English is used widely, the situation is different in China.

Instead of getting angry or feeling discriminated, it is better to just learn the language. In many schools in UK, Mandarin is already offered as a language in schools and students are encouraged to sit for it as an exam paper for the A levels. Unlike countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and many European countries, where the people can speak at least three or four languages, we have actually fared badly. Blogger Jailani Harun has asked that Mandarin or Tamil be taught as compulsory subjects in primary schools. Unfortunately, there are not so many liberal and open minded people like him around. Forget about it. If we cannot even accept the idea making English as a compulsory subject to pass in schools, what more can we ask?

Deep in our hearts of hearts, we know scoring 16 As means little in comparison to the maximum 6As for the Lower Certificate of Examination (LCE) of the early days. So as the politicians continue to tell us we have a "world class" education system, we know how fast we have plunged. These are the same politicians who send their kids to schools in the United Kingdom or Australia. In Malaysia, it's probably to a private school or international school. If we are doing that greatly, as they want us to believe, they should be sending their kids to the same local schools. And how well do we really know each other's culture and religion? Not much.

How many of us can truly say that we or our children have stepped into a mosque, temple or church? Some conservatives, Christians included, are so frightened that their faith would be tested or shaken, that they would not even step into a place of worship that is different from theirs, when they are in Thailand, China, Egypt, Turkey, India, Indonesia or at the Vatican. In Singapore, they have started weekend trips for students to visit these places of worship in their neighhbourhoods. What's wrong with getting Chinese and Indian students to meet the neighbourhood's imam at the mosque? What's wrong in knowing more about the azan? And what's wrong with just saying hello to a pastor or priest or to attend the Thaipusam festival that is so unique?. No one's out to convert anyone. These places have been around for centuries. Let's keep Malaysians tolerant of each other. We need more liberals ike Jailani Haruns of all races and faith. But the majority liberals must speak up louder than the conversatives, nationalists and right-wingers. Read On The Beat for more.