Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 - The Year of Uncertainties

It's just hours away to the New Year countdown. 2008 has been an eventful year. To be more precise, it has been a year of many changes. But hours from now, it would be the beginning of many uncertainties. I would say it's time to fasten the safety belt and to get ready for the roller coaster ride. We don't need to be a Lillian Too to predict that the impact of the global economic crisis would hit Malaysians soon. There would be many, especially in the electronics sector, that would lose their jobs. In the travel sector, there would be less travelling as people tighten their budget. For the ordinary workers, we can expect to have less increments, if none at all, this year. For the employers, it would mean less revenue and to keep the operating costs down to keep businesses afloat. Against this backdrop of pessimism, we wish our leaders would focus their attention on economic issues. Please make putting food on our tables the priority. Let's brace ourselves for the ride!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Political fireworks before the New Year

One week is a long time in politics, the saying goes, but in Malaysia, even 24 hours can be a long time. It has been only about four days since I took a break from blogging but the political scenario has been getting hot. Even the holiday season has not taken away the heat. Pakatan Rakyat leaders in Selangor seem to be in a fighting mood - against each other, that is.

The Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam has threatened to quit from the party. He is scheduled to call a press conference on New Year's Eve. Within the DAP, Charles Santiago and Teng Chang Khim are at each other's throats. Meanwhile, I am told that another senior leader from Pakatan Rakyat has quit.

But the surprise of the day is in Ipoh where MB Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin has fired two salvoes at two defiant PKR assemblymen. The MB is upset that the two state assemblymen are going ahead with elections for village heads although the state has decided that they would be appointed. It appears that the fireworks have been fired even before the New Year party begins. What ever happen to the promise of elections at local government level? Looks like even at village level, it's still no elections.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

What a year it has been. From the political tsunami of March 8 to the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy, 2008 has been a roller coaster ride for all of us. It has been an exhaustive year for us in the media. For bloggers, there was no shortage of comments to make and certainly, many news breaks were also made through bloggers. If 2008 has been a year of change, 2009 may well be the year of uncertainties. It would not be an easy year as Malaysians would begin to feel the effect of the global financial crisis. But as we wait for the new year to usher, we should also put politics aside and just spend time with our families. This blogger is taking the family to Bangkok for a short break. Allow me to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lock them up, they're HIV positive!

Lock them up, that seems to be the idea of Perak Mentri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin. It is an outrageous suggestion and a reflection of his ignorance. AIDS is not spread through normal contacts nor is it a contagious disease, so what quarantine is he talking about? HIV carriers should not be treated like the lepers of the old days, where they were kept isolated on some deserted islands like Pulau Jerejak. Some HIV carriers have out lived ordinary people eg basketball player Magic Johnson who reportedly can do 200 push ups a day. He lives a healthy and normal life. Nizar, I am sure, means well but he must remember that he is a Mentri Besar and he cannot simply shoot off his mouth. People, especially his followers and admirers, take him seriously. Where's the compassion, tolerance and understanding that one can expect from a leader? What happens if it involves a family member, a friend or a colleague? Would he want to quarantine them too? But for the rest of us, his statement would probably be one of the most laughable jokes for the holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hudud laws - PAS is always consistent

Let's be frank about it. PAS has always been consistent when it comes to Islamic state and hudud laws. PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa has now reiterated that the Pakatan Rakyat would introduce hudud laws if it forms the next federal government. The DAP has quickly disassociated itself from the statement, according to Mstar.

Even in Penang, where PAS is a member of the ruling state government, its members have staged protest against the street dance event. In Kuala Lumpur, the party has protested outside stadiums against concerts. By keeping a stoic silence, its leaders have given support to these grassroots protest. For political expediency, there is now lesser objections from DAP and PKR over such intolerance.

PAS must be reminded that if non-Muslims voted for PAS in the March 8 polls, they did so because they were angry with BN and wanted to teach the BN a lesson. It had nothing to do with liking PAS and its policies. But non-Muslims need to keep their eyes wide open. By backing PAS, they are endorsing its policies. The Iranians threw out the Shah of Iran and embraced the Ayatollah. Decades later, they still cannot get rid of the theologians and Iran has the reputation of having the worst human rights record today. The Iranians were angry with the corrupt Shah but they are now stuck with what they chose as an alternative.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chinese educationist quits after sex complaints

Chinese educationist Loot Ting Yee has quit his positions in various education groups following allegations of sexual harassment against him by a Sin Chew reporter. The said reporter had blogged about her complaints which have since become a controversy. The Sin Chew Daily and China Press, in their evening editions tonight, front-paged the story. The reporter has since taken her posting down from her blog, according to her colleagues. See The Star for more.

Loot, in his 80, has reportedly made a public apology and resigned from all posts. The allegations against the veteran leader of Dong Jiao Zong has shocked the Chinese community. Popularly known as Cikgu Loot, he was arrested under the ISA in 1987 but more recently, he has been vocal against the use of English to teach Maths and Science in vernacular primary schools.

PS Dec 23: It has been pointed out to me that Loot Ting Yee has never been detained under the ISA. My apologies for the error.

Friday, December 19, 2008

IJN: Of bypass and by-election

It's the sort of thing that seldom happens in Malaysia. But today, the 35 medical consultants at Institut Jantung Negara signed a petition to protest against the planned takeover by Sime Darby. It's a rare show of solidarity. Obviously, the Cabinet has also taken notice and heard the grumbling on the ground. It has asked for the takeover to be deferred. Many Cabinet members, I am told, spoke up strongly against the takeover proposal.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said that the decision has nothing to do with the coming Kuala Terengganu by-election, when questioned by reporters. But certainly the government can do with one issue less in the coming battle ahead with PAS.

Sime Darby, which has taken over the Subang Jaya Medical Centre, has taken pains to assure that IJN's fee structure and services would remain the same for the poor, with assurances that they would continue its social responsibilities. But the concern from the poor is understandable as medical treatment is expensive. When a private company runs a hospital, it is obvious that the bottom line is profit. It has to answer to its shareholders. Sime Darby has to convince, if it eventually gets to take over, how it intends to fulfill its social obligations as a private concern.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rihanna to perform in KL?

The word in town is that Grammy Award winner Rihanna will be performing in KL on Valentine's Day or on the eve of it. The venue is said to be the Putra Indoor Stadium in Bukit Jalil; and the organisers have obtained the necessary papers for the concert. Part of the show's proceeds are expected to go to charity.

If the concert takes place, that would be good for Malaysia. KL needs top class concerts and the only spoiler all this while has been the PAS leaders. We can expect to have more of the same from the party. The same crappy protests would be made and we hope City Hall will have the guts to tell these guys to go fly kite. There are many of us who want to watch such concerts and we can do without the negative coverage on Malaysia everytime there is a protest against these concerts.

In Penang, PAS tried to stop the Penang state government from going ahead with a street dance event. The Islamist party eventually gave in. In the Utusan Malaysia, the Penang Umno in its desperate attempt to win back the Malay votes have also strangely questioned the need for the I-Dance event.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What about SXI, CLS and PFS?

Four premier schools have been honoured with special sets of stamps and first day covers by Pos Malaysia Berhad, The Star reported. The schools are SMK Victoria, SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (KL), SMK St Thomas (Kuching) and SMK All Saints (Kota Kinabalu). These schools certainly deserve the honours. Congratulations are in order but Pos Malaysia should come out with further sets of stamps to honour other schools that have been left out.

Surely, the St Xavier's Institution, Convent Light Street and Penang Free School should be included. For that matter, in the first instalment. The SXI is more than 100 years old and has produced many prominent personalities. So has its rival, the PFS. Penangites would surely want to include the Chung Ling High School which has its alumni worldwide. That's how big these schools are. Former students of these premier schools are proud of their association with their alma mater. Schools then were named after personalities and not street names. Can we imagine cheering after "SMK SS2" for example in a sports event?

I am told that Pos Malaysia has no say on what should be featured on our stamps. There is a committee comprising the stamp council, philately council and even the multi-media commission. I hope I am wrong. The panel has done a marvellous job so far and we hope they would put things right by including more schools. For the record, the panel has acted professionally by selecting these schools which were founded by Christian missionaries. In short, they looked at merit and history.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cabinet to stop Damansara Project 21?

Update: Cabinet has put a freeze on Project 21.

The word in Putrajaya is that the Cabinet would be ordering the developer of the controversial Damansara Project 21 to scrap the project. Not stop work but cancel the entire hillside project which has caused the residents in the area plenty of sleepless nights.

The developer, Selangor Dredging Bhd, has claimed spending about RM30mil to stabilise the slope to ensure the houses around the area.

But the residents of Medan Damansara are unconvinced. They staged a protest on Tuesday following the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy. Another protest is also supposed to be held tomorrow and today, The Star quoted Medan Damansara Residents Association secretary Peter Raiappan as saying that they were not convinced that stability of the hill would not be affected. He questioned the rationale of the developer in wanting to build 21 massive five-storey bungalows, each with its own swimming pool, on a slope just over five acres (20,234 sq metres).

Federal Territories Minister Zulhasnan Rafique, who has made a few quiet trips there without the presence of the press, is scheduled to call a press conference in the afternoon. The likelihood is that he would have some good news for the residents. The only question is would the Cabinet be prepared to go all the way - that is, to scrap the project - or just issue a stop work order.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bring back the English medium schools!

Aren't we all getting tired of these racist groups, claiming to represent education, culture and religious interests? First, we have these Malay groups fighting narrow, communal interests and making imaginary fears of the community losing its position. Now we have the Chinese educationist group Dong Jiao Zong threatening a nationwide protest if Maths and Science are not taught in Chinese or Bahasa Malaysia.

They have their reasons, some of which are convincing, such as the effectiveness of the teaching methods in schools. Certainly, Chinese schools are tops in Maths and Science. But there has to be a consensus at some point. The Chinese and Malay groups which want to revert to the previous system have claimed that using English has not helped the children improve their language skills. They are right - there should be longer English lessons in school but we should retain using English to teach the two subjects.

In fact, the government should have the political will to bring back the English medium schools. We already have the national and vernacular schools, so why not bring back the English schools that helped forged so many friendships and relationships between people of all races? The English medium schools now exist in the form of private and international schools but why can't the rest of the country enjoy this right? Why should only the children of the rich, including politicians, have the privilege of studying in these schools, where English is the medium of instruction?

The threat by Dong Jiao Zong will certainly strike a chord among sections of the Chinese community, including even the Chinese media, just like the Malay groups. Where would all these protests and threats lead to? And all these groups would claim to represent their respective communities but the fact is that many of us do not share the strong arm tactics of these groups. The political climate is hardly right for such protests. Look, the majority of students who sat for the recent exams preferred to use English to answer the questions, so doesn't that speak volumes of their choices?

The standard of English has gone to the dogs, from schools to the universities, so please stop the rot. Our professors in local universities are using broken English in their writings and lectures. Our diplomats are struggling with their English and it is so bad that Malaysia is no longer asked to help draft statements and communiques. Our teachers are equally bad in English, where many do not know have any idea of grammar.

If there should be any protests, it should be Malaysians protesting against the deteriorating standard of English in schools and universities. Please stop using Japan and South Korea to justify the use of Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese to teach the two subjects. Even in China, there is a great rush to study English. The English medium schools, especially those run by the Christian missionaries, were regarded as "neutral groups" and certainly, many top civil servants and leaders are products of these English medium schools. They were not mono-ethnic for sure. Even though the Christian brothers run these schools, they were never regarded as religious, as many national schools are now. It has turned off many parents for sure, even Muslims.

English is the language of Science, Maths and the Internet. We can talk about heritage, culture and whatever tills the cows come home but as we drag on with our debate and are reluctant to act, our children - whether they are Malay, Chinese or Indian - are wasting their best years away.

There are some politicians who want to project themselves as heroes of their community but check their background. Some have never even studied a single day in a local primary school! They were packed off to England or Australia while we were all in schools. And their children? It's the same privilege. Pack them off to a private or international school.

When will we have the guts to say no to racist groups? When will the moderates speak up louder than them?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Meeting Bill Clinton again in KL

I had the privilege of catching up with Bill Clinton when he was in KL for 24 hours to give a lecture at the KL Convention Centre on Friday. If previously, I had only about 30 minutes for the interview in New York, this time I had the honour of talking with the former US president for at least two hours. This time, there were no over-protective aides.

Together with others in the group, which included US Ambassador James Keith, Clinton shared with us his impression and views on a broad range of issues. From state funerals he had attended to corrupt leaders, he had plenty to talk about.

Luck was with us as he was in a talkative mood. He spoke about the leaders he had high regards for and they included people like Jiang Zemin, Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela. He spoke well of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, particularly his handling of the 1997 financial crisis. The decision to peg the ringgit, he told the listeners, was a right one. While it may not work elsewhere, certainly it worked for Malaysia. Interestingly, Clinton said he used to talk about the Malaysian experience at the White House with his aides. When I spoke to Clinton in September, he talked about Malaysia's consecutive economic growth during the Mahathir years. He could even recall the figures.

I remember talking to Dr Mahathir immediately after he stepped down as PM. He told me that the 1997 crisis was the most difficult moment in his 22 years as PM and certainly, he had sleepless nights when he decided to go ahead with the unconventional decision. The early telephone calls that came in after he made that move included one from Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing who assured him it was a good decision.

The global economic crisis was a popular talking point with Clinton on Friday night at the home of his host, businessman Vinod Sekhar. All of us were eager to find out how Obama intend to lead the country through the recession. For Clinton, the president elect is "a smart and sensible man," who wanted to prove himself. For Malaysians, the question was whether Obama, with his close links to the powerful trade unions, would be protectionist in his trade policies. His campaign reportedly received US$200mil in funds from the unions.

After all, previous Democrat governments had used various issues like human rights, child labour and the environment to impose new rules on trade in developing countries. Asian countries were often the target. But Clinton said he believed Obama would not be protectionist, saying he had tried hard to reach out to the world. That question, according to Clinton, was posed to him when he met the PM and DPM. Clinton promised to convey to Obama the concerns of Asians on this issue and their perception of the new president.

But more importantly, it was good to see Malaysian leaders from the BN and PR turning up to listen to Clinton at his lecture. The man was given a standing ovation, at least three times, and as we listened to the man, many of us must have wished that our Malaysian politicians could be like him. We surely like to see and hear more substance.

Obama on trying to give up smoking: No, I Can't!

Reggie Lee's take on Obama as published in The Star on Dec 10 2008

Finally, the cat's out of the bag. President elect Barack Obama has admitted it has not been easy in his attempt to give up smoking. In an interview, he has sheepishly admitted that he had "fallen off the wagon" a few times. But promised that he would not violate the no smoking regulations in the White House. He has so far failed to give a straight answer, during press interviews, on his smoking habit which he has promised to kick. But it seems to be pretty hard for Obama so far. Still, he said he has done a "terrific job" of making himself healthy under the present circumstances. See Yahoo for more.

The speculations is that Obama would also be bringing his wine to the White House. Under George Bush, he didn't drink nor smoke. Obama has also said it would be tough giving up on his Blackberry, another addiction of his. The Secret Service has told him they would have stopped him from using the gadget because of security risk.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Of politicians and politicking - the same story

Some things just don't change even if there is a change of government. Politicians may say that they want to be elected to serve the people but at the end of the day, they just want to serve themselves. Politicking is what they do best. So it comes as no surprise for Malaysians to read from Malaysiakini that two Penang PKR leaders have been at each other's throat.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mohd Fairus Kamaruddin has earned a reputation in Penang for being incompetent and inefficient. We are now told that Anwar Ibrahim has warned him to buck up or risk losing his job. He has been reportedly late for work and absent from functions. His Penanti constituents have long complained about his under performance to the PKR supremo, saying he has been evading field work. And what is Fairus' defence? The standard "they are jealous" of me. Sounds familiar, isn't it? Almost a leaf from a BN elected representative's standard operating procedure manual. He has denied that he would be replaced, according to Malaysian Insider.

That's not all. Another state exco member from PKR, Abdul Malik Abul Kassim, is now accused of plotting Fairus' downfall by feeding information to bloggers. He has denied that he was given a dressing down by Anwar but the talk continues that the state PKR secretary is eyeing the Deputy CM's job, according to Malaysiakini.

The March 8 political tsunami saw voters supporting many Pakatan Rakyat candidates regardless of their education background and experience. The opposition coalition itself had little time or little choices over candidates. Some dubious characters, projecting themselves as people's champions, are of course now facing charges in courts for various offences. It would be easy to just dismiss these charges as "politically motivated" but in a big organisation, there would be all sorts. Just because they are in opposition, it doesn't make them saints.

In the next round, the PR would certainly be working on this problem as they would have a bigger pool of proven talent to choose from. The New Straits Times recently quoted Kedah PKR exco member Tan Wei Shu as saying that he almost wanted to give up after his third day in office. For the Chinese sinseh-masseur turned politician, a state exco member's job was just too much.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Bukit Antarabangsa Tragedy

Click on image for more dramatic pictures from Star Online
Click here for all the stories

Sometimes it has to take a tragedy to jolt us out of our senses. The landslide that hit us today did not choose the race of their victims. The tragedy has already claimed three lives - a Malay, a Chinese and an Indian - and injured 15 people. The rescuers did not look at the skin colour of the victims. The soldiers, the police, the Red Crescent and the Rela personnels put their entire hearts and minds into helping the people.

Racing against time, some rescuers had to use their bare hands at time, worried that any use of heavy machines at this time would worsen the soil conditions. The police have been extra careful by advising the media from hiring helicopters to take aerial shots. In turn, they have supplied very dramatic pictures, some showing the best of Malaysians at work in times of tragedy. An NGO even sent its team to rescue 50 cats out from a house. No one was forgotten. The skies have turned dark, the rescue work would be more difficult and at this point, the priority of everyone is to make sure no one is forgotten. Please pray for everyone in Bukit Antarabangsa, they need it. God bless Malaysia.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quality education should be the priority

My parents sent me to study in an English medium school for a few simple reasons - the St Xavier's Institution was a premier school and they realised the importance of English. Both my parents were Chinese-educated and Taoists. It did not matter to them that SXI was a missionary school. That was in the 1970s.

Today, it doesn't matter whether our children are studying in a national school or a vernacular school, the fact is that the standard of English has dropped. It is so bad that many of our politicians, who talk so passionately of our local education system, are sending their kids to private or international schools. So, if they are so convinced that our schools are producing the best, then they should tell us why are they sending their kids to these elitist schools? Why aren't their children spending time with ordinary Malaysian kids? For that matter, we should also ask how many of these politicians study in a local university or did they get their education overseas too.

Why have our schools become mono-ethnic? In fact, why do our authorities even allow some colleges to remain almost mono-ethnic? Have our schools become more religious, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said so many times.

The real issue is not about the kind of schools we have. Our priority should be to provide the best education to our kids. Let's provide our teachers with better salaries and allowances. Let's attract the best talent to teach our children. Let's keep politics out of schools.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Anger management course for Tajuddin needed

Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Rahman has lost his temper again. Which is, of course, no longer news to Malaysians. If he uses crude and foul language, again, that's not news either. The man needs help. He needs to see a shrink to help him to deal with his foul (oops, pardon the pun) temper, that means he needs to take an anger management course.

Speaking at the Dewan Rakyat, he does not understand why he has been a target of criticism, saying he did not mind being punished if he had done something wrong. In short, he does not realised what he has done. Or he is pretending. He has also fired The Star for what he claimed to be unfair reporting against him by contributor K.Baradan.

The Sultan of Selangor speaks his mind

Not many people are aware that when the Sultan of Selangor travels, he enjoy waiting for his flights at the normal lounge, like other ordinary passengers. Whether it is the KLIA or anyone else, he prefers to be treated like everyone else. Malaysian tourists in London have been stunned to bump into his Royal Highness watching a play or a musical by himself, without the presence of bodyguards. He does not believe in travelling with an entourage or bodyguards, believing taxpayers money should not be wasted. Not many are also aware that he often drives himself except when he performs official functions. That's the Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah for Malaysians.

He has certainly demonstrated himself to be more progressive and reform minded than many Malaysian politicians, who still thrive on trivial issues and to project themselves as communal champions to win votes. In an interview with his Royal Highness last week, the Tuanku made known that he was unhappy with politicians who harp on trivial issues, play up racial issues and more important this is his message - Malaysia belongs to all and this country is built on the contribution of all races. It must be acknowledged, the Tuanku said. He is also concerned with the "quality of our politicians." That's not all, he is not awarding any Datukship to politicians this year, The Star reported. The Tuanku has certainly said it all, on behalf of Malaysians. Daulat Tuanku! Read The Star for full questions and answers. The Malaysian Insider also has a report here.

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Razak Baginda freed - but political trial continues...

Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda walked out a free man today. He has now been cleared from the charge of abetting in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. The two policemen - UTK officers Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri have now been ordered to enter their defence. In short, the prosecution failed to prove a case against Razak Baginda but the case against the two UTK men would proceed. But as the legal battle continues, so would the political battle. The allegations against Najib Tun Razak, as the Prime Minister in waiting, can be expected to intensify. The police have cleared him of any involvement; in parliament and outside parliament, the DPM has said that he did not know nor has met the woman; he has even "bersumpah" at a mosque, at meetings with Umno leaders and even during a ceramah - but the accusations, if not perceptions, would continue. It is not just a legal battle but a political fight, that's the reality. It has not helped that a lot of questions have remained unanswered. The court decision to acquit Razak Baginda could well provide fresh ammunition to the nemesis of Najib to attack him but there could also be more suits, if the critics are not careful with their choice of words on today's judgement.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jalan Petaling - Chinatown or Banglatown?

Just take a walk along Jalan Petaling. It used to be a real Chinatown but not anymore. There are now more Bangladeshis, Indonesians and other foreigners than Malaysians. It's the same with Chow Kit where the foreigners have displaced the Malays in the area. In Jalan Petaling, the owners of these stalls seems to be more contented letting their foreign workers run their businesses. So when foreign tourists visit these stalls, all they see are foreigners selling these faked goods. Where are the Malaysians? Maybe the food sellers are still Malaysians but surely these foreigners have outnumbered the locals. Now that there is an application by Pengasih, a non-profit organisation that runs a drug rehabilitation programme, for additional stalls in Jalan Petaling, these traders have suddenly surfaced, grumbling and complaining. Their argument doesn't seem very convincing. What's wrong with letting Pengasih be a part of Jalan Petaling? In fact, every pasar malam in the city should keep a spot for NGOs for the disabled, single mothers and the less privileged to dabble in small businesses instead of relying on handouts. They should have realised long ago that Chinatown has become Banglatown. They should not blame anyone except themselves for losing that identity. Except for the arch, the identity of Jalan Petaling as Chinatown has disappeared. Meanwhile, City Hall has finally announced officially that Jalan Alor would stick to its identity - and name. It would be taking down the Jalan Kejora road sign soon. Thanks to Federal Territories Minister Zulhasnan Rafique for stepping in and putting things right.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The sad story of Malaysia

In the United States and the world, for that matter, history is about to be created. A black man is set to be elected as the next President of the United States. It has taken a long time but a gigantic change is in the air. In fact, for Barack Obama to come so far is itself a feat. No doubt, race is still a factor in the voting pattern of the American voters but the majority of Americans are likely to put their faith and future in the hands of a black man. It's a really a big deal. Back home, many of us must have been crushed to read about the protest against the appointment of Low Siew Moi as acting PKNS general manager. She has served in PKNS for over 33 years including as its deputy general manager (for corporate development) for the past11 years. In short, she is qualified, experienced and capable. She is also well accepted by all her staff. No one seems to dispute her ability - except her race. So, we have Shah Alam Umno, the PKNS Senior Officers Association and Selangor Malays Residents Action group protesting and even PAS has jumped into the fray, sounding exactly alike. We can imagine how Low, who has served PKNS with great dedication, would feel with all these protests. She would probably get a better salary if she had joined the private sector and with all her contacts, she would still be a sought after person. But she doesn't seem to be getting the respect and honour at PKNS, which is terribly sad and we hear our politicians often asking why non-bumiputras are reluctant to join the civil service. Or worse, leave the country. Does Low's case answer it all? Can anyone look at Low's eyes and tell her with a straight face that she's not qualified? Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim deserves to be saluted for going against the tide by appointing Low. When will we rise above all this pettiness and look at meritocracy, so there is hope for all of us? That's not all. The protest against the Penang state government's decision to use various languages in tourist areas is equally appalling. Why should politicians protest the use of Chinese, Tamil, English or Jawi beside Bahasa Malaysia for sign boards in selected areas? It's not as if the status of the national language is being threatened. It's just pathetic racist reaction. Chinese, Japanese and Arabic is already being used at the KLIA beside BM, so should we take it down? In Kuching, the Sarawak BN government allows the use of Chinese on road signs and certain government departments, should they also take it down? As Malaysians, we should already be ashamed that we cannot speak most languages spoken by our fellow brothers and sisters. Unlike Belgium, Switzerland and many European countries, we are restricted to BM, English and a dialect. For the record, I cannot speak and write Mandarin - which means nobody would offer me a job in China because I would be useless to my employer. But as we squabble over these ridiculous issues, simply because some politicians want to be the heroes of their community ahead of a party election - we are doing a great disservice to our nation, our economy and our people. That is the most unpatriotic act of all.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let Shirin Ebadi speak at Universiti Malaya!

Foreign Minister Rais Yatim is right - Iranian Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi should be allowed to speak at the campus. There is no reason why the invitation to the outspoken human rights activist should be withdrawn. She is a guest of a Malaysian university. So why should we worry if a small group of Iranian students grumble. This is Malaysia, not Teheran-lah. If they do not want to listen to her, then they should just stay away. Since when does Universiti Malaya and the Foreign Ministry take orders from Iranian students? A university is a place where intellectual discourse must be allowed to take place and the divergence of views must be encouraged. To stifle the freedom of expression and to submit to the demands of a small group is surely out of line. There is no place for the tyranny of the minority. Rais must be commended for saying the letter from the Foreign Ministry was made without his permission. Diplomacy and maintaining good relations is what Wisma Putra does but they should not let these envoys boss them around. Ebadi, a lawyer, and her daughter have faced death threats for their views, which does not conform with those of the Ayatollahs. Liberals must never let the conservatives and religious right drown their voices and rights.