Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yasmin: Front page apology from Kosmo

Kosmo has made a front-page apology to the family of the late Yasmin Ahmad. All of us who have to make quick decisions, especially in the media, where the deadline can be punishing, understand.

Mistakes are made daily in the newsroom. Sometimes we make poor judgment calls. Unlike other professions, we cannot hold back our work to the following day. This is especially so for those working at the news desk section. The editors and reporters at Kosmo have acknowledged their over-sight.

As a fellow journalist, I understand their problem. I hope the various advertising associations would also respond accordingly. To err is human, to forgive is divine. Let's give our support to TV3 for its effort to pay a tribute to Yasmin Ahmad this Saturday at 9pm. The Majalah Tiga special edition will be followed by the screening of "Mukhsin."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yasmin Ahmad: Journos angry over Kosmo article

Journalists in Malaysia often stay away from criticising the writings of another journalist, be it in another publication or an online portal. It's an unwritten rule. As much as we do not agree with the views or slant of the article, we refrain from voicing our unhappiness as we believe in the freedom of expression.

Those of us in the Malaysian media already have to grapple with so many laws that affect our profession, so the last thing we want to do is to take on another brother or sister from the same trade. But the recent article on Yasmin Ahmad in one publication has touched a raw nerve of many journalists. Yasmin, after all, worked with many in the media and advertising industries.

The said article in Kosmo on July 27 has led to a group of former and working journalists to send a protest letter to the management of the newspaper. It's unprecedented, as far as I can recall. Strong language has been used.

In the petition that has been circulated via email among the media, it said, among other things, "Yasmin's family was grieving and at their most vulnerable" and yet the newspaper "saw it fit to run a story that showed utter disregard for the late Malaysian filmmaker, her family and the many Malaysians, who still mourn her."

Referring to the article in question, the journalists - who started the ball rolling - noted that the article was written "less than 24 hours after she was buried at a time when her family was still reeling from the shock of her death."

At the same time, the associations representing the advertising agencies and advertisers are also acting against the newspaper and Penang-based Kwong Wah, which had translated that offensive article.

That again is unprecedented as punishment against a newspaper has often come from the government or a political group but never the advertisers, or via a protest from fellow journalists.

This blogger would not want to reproduce the article here as a mark of respect to Yasmin.

Like most Malaysians, we will remember Yasmin for her many legendary work. She deserves that respect, more than anything else. She was a human being and certainly she had her weakness and shortcomings, like everyone else.

But in her world, she wanted to bring out the decency of multi-racial Malaysians. Hers was a world of people divided into two kinds - the good and the bad. Not the colour of their skins or the languages they spoke. Let's keep that legacy alive.

I spoke to the reporters at Kosmo to hear their side of the story. They pointed out that they had paid their tribute to Yasmin, pointing out the many stories recognising her talent. The article on her past, they said, was merely to inform readers of the other side of Yasmin, which the readers were not aware.

The editor took my call politely and thanked me for my views and criticism. That's their side of the story. I do not think there was any malice but it was perhaps poor judgement on their part. There is also the question of human decency, which they have overlooked.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We will miss you, Yasmin Ahmad.

Click on image for a video farewell

I am finally able to sit down and pen some thoughts about film maker Yasmin Ahmad. On late Friday evening, I received an SMS from Engku Imran, the CEO of Suria FM, informing me that Yasmin Ahmad had passed away. He has been keeping a vigil almost every day at the hospital. While we knew the award-winning film maker was fighting for her life, the news still came as a shock.

I have never had a chance to meet her. I certainly regretted that. Many of my friends and colleagues shared with me the many wonderful things about her. For me, like most Malaysians, we admired her many heart-stirring commercials.

We looked forward to her Petronas advertisements at each and every festival. They were real, and most of all, she reminded us of the beauty of multi-racial Malaysia. If our politicians failed miserably, certainly she single-handedly showed us what being Malaysian meant.

Through her many films, she ventured into subjects regarded as taboo and sensitive in Malaysia. A Chinese boy falling in love with a Malay girl with liberal-minded parents. I cannot remember any single Bahasa Malaysia movie using a Sam Hui song as a track. Except Yasmin.

Just read the comments on the Net and Twitter, she had such enormous appeal. She would be missed for sure. It's so terribly sad that she would no longer be with us. There was so much more she could do. She was working with TV3 for future projects when she collapsed. But God has his plans. Rest in peace.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Put politics aside, let's find the answers

Parents’ wish: Teoh Leong Hwee (second from right) and his wife Teng Shuw Hor want a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to investigate their son’s death.

In my column, On The Beat, published in The Sunday Star today, I wrote...

LET’S put politics aside. Most of us have never met Teoh Beng Hock, the aide of a Selangor exco member, but Malaysia is angry with the circumstances leading to the death of this young man.

A man who is a novice to politics has died in a most tragic way with his body found sprawled on the fifth floor of a 20-storey building after a 10-hour grilling by the Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

A decent man, son, husband- and father-to-be is tragically gone, at a time when he and his loved ones were about to start a new chapter in their lives the next day.

There are many unanswered questions over how he died and Malaysians with any conscience should speak up and demand answers.

It’s not a question of protecting the integrity and credibility of the MACC; the issue here is about knowing the truth.

Malaysians find it hard to accept any suggestion that he committed suicide nor can we accept any insensitive innuendoes over his death.

The job is now with the police. They must investigate the case professionally, efficiently and quickly. We want the findings to be transparent. In fact, the Government should accept the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, with the power to call up witnesses. This is the only way to satisfy the public who have questioned the credibility of our institutions.

That will also prove that the Government has nothing to hide and is as interested as everyone else to get to the truth.

The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have both given their assurances that the case would be investigated thoroughly and when the Cabinet meets on Wednesday, it is most certain to be a top item on the agenda.

For more, click here...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Teoh Beng Hock: The truth must be known and told

It's a shocking piece of news. The death of Teoh Beng Hock, the political secretary to Selangor exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, has raised many questions. He is said to have fallen to his death following questioning by the MACC at its state headquarters in Shah Alam. The interrogation is said to have started from 5pm on Wednesday until 3.45am on Thurday. He is said to have rested at 6am.

The question is what happens from then until 1.45pm when Teoh's body was found on the 5th floor of an adjacent building. The MACC has said that he is not a suspect. If there is CCTV footage in the building, then it could perhaps shed some light into his movements. He is supposed to register his marriage today, raising more concerns about the situation.

It's understandable that his death has upset party members, friends and members of the public as there are mysterious circumstances. The integrity of the MACC has been questioned, purportedly for selective prosecution and fingers have been pointed at the MACC. The emotional outburst is expected but it would be best to let a full investigations be carried out first. Not many people would want to hear that but that is the only option.

The truth must be told. Those responsible, if there is any element of foul play, must be arrested and penalised. Those with information must come forward and certainly it would be better for allegations to be backed with evidence.

The MACC on its part must review its standard operating procedure. All questionings must be recorded from all angles. In Hong Kong, the ICAC would not even allow a person being questioned to sit on a table with edges. He faces a camera in front and a camera on his back. That is the extend the ICAC would take and for the sake of its own integrity, the MACC has to consider this move, if it hasn't.

It does not matter what political beliefs we have, the death of Teoh is tragic and sad. It should not have happened at all. Everything must be done to find out the truth. Given the background of the incident, where the MACC was holding him, the investigations may be best handled by the police and a Royal Commission of Inquiry. That could be the only way to satisfy the public.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Manek Urai: PAS scrapes through

The BN lost the by-election narrowly to PAS but their campaigners can hold their heads high. They put up one helluva fight and almost walked away as the victor, which many had predicted would surely go to PAS. The immediate question following the by-election is this - has the Prime Minister pressed the right buttons and is the hard work beginning to show?

The series of feel-good promises by Najib Tun Razak on his 100th day in office must have made an impact. There were other factors including the PAS in-fighting, which must have left some impression on the minds of the voters. PAS deputy president Nasaruddin Mat Isa made a last minute entry into the area but his admission that he was initially banned from campaigning did not help. Retracting his statement did not help for sure.

But the lure of development mattered the most. The promise of a RM7million bridge could not be ignored. Beside the strong campaigning by the Deputy Prime Minister, another personality which helped made the difference was Mustapha Mohamad. Known as Mr Clean, he has plenty of admirers in Kelantan. The fact that there was no element of sabotaging within Kelantan Umno showed that they have united.

Umno must be very encouraged by the results of this by-election, losing by only 65 votes. This could just be the beginning for the BN in Kelantan. But for PAS, their supporters would say that a win is still a win, even with a majority of one vote.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wee Choo Keong gets backing from Azmin Ali

PKR MP Wee Choo Keong has the support of party vice-president Azmin Ali (picture). The Bukit Antarabangsa state assemblyman has asked that Wee be given a chance to explain his allegation that a Selangor state exco member has ties with the underworld. He wants Wee to be allowed to explain to party leaders clearly so that the party leadership understands the issue better.

The controversy seems to have deepened with Azmin claiming that Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has been summoned by PKR leaders to explain several party grouses. Today, a group of PKR Youth members handed Azmin a memorandum detailing unhappiness over the appointment of local councillors. The same group is said to have staged a protest at a ceramah by Anwar Ibrahim last week.

The Malaysian Insider reported that Azmin continued his tirade against the Selangor state government, trading barbs with state exco member Teresa Kok at the state assembly today. Kok had earlier called Wee a "shit stirrer." Wee - who has come under criticism by state exco member Ronnie Liu - wrote in his blog today that he welcomed police investigations into his allegation.

If Wee has bad blood with his former DAP comrades, particularly Liu, the PKR problem is between Azmin and Khalid. The relationship between the two is essentially functional. Selangor state exco member Elizabeth Wong, who had to stay away from politics for a while following the nude photo controversy, is said to be a victim of Pakatan Rakyat's murky politics in the state, where the stakes are high.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Teresa Kok calls Wee Choo Keong a "shit stirrer"

Selangor DAP state exco member Teresa Kok is one angry lady. She has certainly not held back her words, blasting at PKR MP Wee Choo Keong by calling him a "shit stirrer." She could have called him a trouble maker but she could hardly be faulted for walloping Wee. She has also written a lengthy piece in her blog to express her displeasure.

She has challenged Wee to name the state exco member concerned who had people involved in "underground business activities" carrying out their meetings at the state secretariat. Wee has alleged that this was an open secret. Wee did not name names but reporters called Ronnie Liu on Sunday to comment on what Wee had said. Liu, in turn, has accused Wee of taking pot shots at DAP, reminding supporters that Wee, an ex-DAP MP, had a long standing feud with the DAP. Looks like real bad blood here.

PAS: Scrap English now, don't wait till 2012

PAS wants the teaching of Maths and Science to be scrapped immediately. The party said there was no reason for the government to wait until 2012. The statement was made by the party's information chief Ustaz Idris Ahmad in its official website, Harakah. He said the party could not accept Muhyddin Yassin's explanation.

The same sentiments were shared by the party's education bureau chief Ustaz Abu Bakar Chik, who wanted the teaching of Englisih to stop now. Obviously, these two politicians haven't given much thought to the implications of a sudden disruption.

It's bad enough our students have now been told of the switch to Bahasa Malaysia after going through the two subjects in English. PAS politicians, in applying pressure on the government, are only interested in the rural votes. In the long run, these rural kids will suffer because of their inability to speak and write English well. They will struggle in universities because the reference books would be in English as there would be no way the books can be translated fast enough into BM.

When they graduate, they would not be able to find jobs in the private sector. There will be plenty of resentment and frustration and of course, the government would be blamed. That is precisely what PAS wants. Worse, the private sector would be blamed for not employing enough local graduates. We will continue to give false hopes and aspirations to our students. We will eventually find the doors of top notch universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard closed to our graduate students.

For the sake of warped arguments from the likes of PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin, who said the largely English-speaking Filipinos end up as maids, don't our politicians realise that these English-speaking Filipino maids earn more because of their ability to speak English? They get their off days without any fuss because they are able to articulate their rights better. They are in demand because of their education background.

If Filipinos have ended up as maids, it's simply because of the mismanagement of the country by the corrupt politicians. They robbed the Filipinos for decades. Don't look down at our Filipino friends; we could end up on the same road if our politicians have no political will by giving in to the rural majority for short-term gains. They are looking at the scenario within three years, with an eye on the elections, not three generations ahead.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

PKR MP Wee Choo Keong drops a bombshell

PKR MP Wee Choo Keong has dropped a bom shell - he has accused a certain Selangor state exco member of allowing his office to be used as a meeting place by people connected with "undesirable business activities."

The outspoken politician has even said that this was an open secret in the administrative secretariat and had given the impression that the state executive councillor endorsed such businesses. Wee has not named the state exco member concerned and what kind of underground activities were involved.

But he should take his allegation another step by naming the state exco member after arousing our curiousity. He can be expected to be challenged to do so. Wee made the statement in support of PKR MP Azmin Ali who has called for changes in the Selangor exco line-up.

DAP state exco member Teresa Kok fired a salvo against Azmin for the statement, saying it was arrogant. Wee, a former DAP stalwart, today made the same remark against Teresa, describing her a "greenhorn" in politics. The former Bukit Bintang MP, in his blog, took a swipe at Teresa for carrying the "senior state exco member" title, saying no such designation existed.

PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin: English-speaking Filipinos become maids

You got to hand it to Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Nordin. We may not agree with his warped views but this PKR lawmaker has never been afraid to speak up. It's his right as much as we disagree with him. By the way, he sits in the Pakatan Rakyat's Higher Education Committee, the shadow Cabinet of the coalition. That's frightening, isn't it?

He has not just applauded the move to stop the use of English to teach Maths and Science, the official stand of the BN and PR, but he has asked for Jawi to be reintroduced as the foundation for Bahasa Melayu. Zulkifili has defended his stand, saying there was no reason to be apologetic as Malay was the national language. In any case, what good are the English-speaking Filipinos who are merely exporting maids - that's his own words in his blog - and he has also called for the political will to close down all non-national schools.

With views like Zul Nordin, no wonder both sides of the political divide are adopting a similar stand in this issue. The reality is that on the ground, continuing the use of English to teach the two subjects would mean more failures. To fail in English and to fail further in Maths and Science was not acceptable. That's the logic. Those who push for the use of English are in the minority, let's face it.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad's blog may have garnered much support for English but if Utusan Malaysia and the Chinese newspapers were to carry out their own surveys, they too, would have overwhelming support for the use of Bahasa and Chinese. The only difference is that MCA politicians and the educationists prefer English to be used at the secondary level. Not all the way, as some other politicians prefer, to appease their voters.

So in Malaysia, you have a situation where you study almost everything in BM, Chinese or Tamil at the primary level, then study in BM for most subjects at the secondary level. At the local universities, the lectures are in BM but most of the books are in English. No wonder, we have half-baked graduates from local universities. When I was studying in UKM, I had friends who were required to attend English proficiency classes asking me to help draft out their essays - so they could memorise it line for line for their exams. I never heard of such a thing until I entered the university. I am told that's pretty normal in all local universities.

So, in the name of nationalism and realpolitik, we are prepared to forego our competitive edge. If we are not proficient in English, we will go nowhere. That's a fact. Except for Indonesia, the minute we fly out of Malaysia via KLIA or LCCT, we have to start using other languages. In Hong Kong, they have gone back to using English to teach Maths and Science. The fact that HK is under Chinese rule has not affected their decision. Yet, the ever practical HK people understand the economic-political value of Chinese.

Enough has been said by all sides. The fact is that a decision has been made and we have to get used to the idea that those who wanted to keep English has failed. It's better that the focus of their energy is engaged towards ensuring more teaching hours in English and training proper English teachers for our schools. Read Patrick Teoh on Zul in

Friday, July 10, 2009

Judith Hill - Heal The World

She's half Japanese and half black. She has suddenly become the most recognised newcomer since the Michael Jackson memorial on Tuesday. Judith Hill from Pasadena, California, did a superb job rendering "Heal The World." She was scheduled to be one of the back-up singers for Michael's 50 performances in London. There is no information on why Hill, whose parents met in a funk band in the 70s, was picked to be the lead for one of the most important songs at the memorial. The unknown has suddenly become a global sensation, in just one night. Thanks to the power of the international media. She has also become one of the most googled names since the memorial. It does help that she has a pretty face, beside her pretty voice.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Maths and Science: When the BN and PR agree

It's very rare for opposing forces in Malaysia to come to an agreement. The exception must be the stand taken by both sides to stop the use of English to teach Maths and Science. The BN and PR component parties have all agreed to revert to Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil to teach these two subjects.
Anwar Ibrahim has put on record his stand. So has Nizar Jamaluddin who even proposed a motion to halt the use of English at the recent PAS general assembly. The Malay nationalists and Dong Jia Zong Chinese educationists also shared same sentiments.

So, it's pretty clear that these political and education groups must know what they are talking about, politically, that is. From my discussions with some of them, the feedback is that teachers, students and parents in rural areas, including new villages, are doing badly, especially in the teaching of Science. Parents are furious that their kids are unable to learn.

Teachers cannot use English fluently, let alone teach the language, while students are completely at a loss. Parents, who do not speak English nor use the language, are not helping either. One Mentri Besar narrated to me of what he saw at a rural school when he made an inspection. Sitting from behind the class, he was horrified that the teacher could not speak the language well but was however competent when BM was used.

So the question is should these classes be stopped because of the language problem? That's the problem affecting our schools, especially in rural areas, after decades of abandoning the use of English as a medium of instruction. We have a new generation of graduates including teachers, doctors and lawyers, who cannot string a proper sentence in correct English, let alone teach. Our diplomats are no longer invited to draft communique or statements because their language skills are an embarrassment.

For that matter, many of our politicians cannot hold themselves in front of an international crowd, let alone impress them. How many of them can speak English like Najib Tun Razak or Khairy Jamaluddin, who are Bristish-trained?

Urbanites are taking a different view. They are aghast and frustrated at the decision. It seems to cut across all races, especially among the middle class. They talk of sending their children to private schools except that the same ruling also applies there. Maths and Science would still be taught in BM, Chinese or Tamil but at least, better English classes can be expected. However, not everyone can send their children to private schools.

The government has promised that there would greater emphasis on the teaching of English as a compromise. We hope the assurance would help but many urban parents feel let down by the government's decision to give way to the Malay and Chinese educationists.

Farewell MJ: A picture paints a thousand words...

The picture and headline on the front page of The Star today say it all...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Zulkifli Nordin wants fresh polls in Kota Darul Aman

Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Nordin has taken his fight with the DAP another step - he wants the DAP state assemblyman for Kota Darul Aman to quit and a by-election to be held. He has accused Lee Guan Aik (picture), the elected representative of being arrogant and chauvinistic, strangely all the traits that Zulkifli is accused of by his nemesis.

The maverick lawyer-politician has said that the honourable thing for Lim to do, now that he has declared himself an independent, would be to quit his seat and for fresh polls be carried out. The challenge is not just to Lim but also the DAP leadership.

Now, that's a power punch. The same politician had earlier challenged the DAP to pull out from the Pakatan Rakyat following the DAP's pullout from the Kedah Pakatan Rakyat. He has also questioned the non-compromising attitude of Kedah DAP chief Thomas Su.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Equity issue: Hadi Awang has a serious problem

PAS president Hadi Awang has a serious problem. We are beginnining to see more and more of the real Hadi. He has opposed the removal of the 30% equity requirement for companies seeking public listing. He said that the timing was not right as the Malays were not strong enough to face economic challenges.

Hadi is talking rubbish as the Malays who would benefit from the 30% equity requirements would surely not be the poor Malay fishermen or farmers in Terengganu. It would be the statutory bodies or rich Malays who can afford to pay for the shares.

The position taken by Hadi is serious because no other PAS leader has taken a different stand. In short, their silence means they endorse Hadi's stand. Non-Muslims who believed that PAS would be different should be able to see what PAS is like now. They must be dreaming if they expect PAS to be liberal and moderate.

Even the party's reformist Khalid Samad supported a resolution to ban Sisters in Islam. He then claimed it was a mistake but the party didn't bother to retract the resolution. Perak Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin called for a halt to the use of English to teach Maths and Science.

And when PAS leaders call for gender segregation among the press covering the PAS general assembly, there was hardly any response from these prominent PAS leaders.

PAS is not just playing up religious issue but also exploiting racial issues when it called for a halt to the use of English and for the 30% bumi shares rule to be retained. What PAS is telling their supporters nationwide at ceramahs in villages is that Umno is selling out to the non-Malays. Period.

We would like to hear what the PAS Supporters' Club, which has been campaigning for these politicians in religious cloaks, has to say about the stand taken by Hadi? Or will they just close their eyes and pretend it did not happen, blaming the mainstream press for spinning instead of taking the issue head on?