Friday, August 28, 2009

Black Eyed Peas concert - only for non-Muslims!

You can't blame the organisers of the Black Eyed Peas concert coming up in Selangor at the end of next month. It's sponsored by a beer company and every attempt is being made to make it sound like a non-liquor event. From what we are told, it is just a concert. Who else has the money these days besides the cigarette and beer boys, with the exception of the mobile phone operators? The biggest act, Black Eyed Peas, is performing but wait - it's only for non-Muslims and naturally Muslim fans are fuming. The no Muslim decision is reportedly imposed by the Information, Communicatio and Culture Ministry.

Muslims, too, want to be there to enjoy the concert but that does not mean that they have to drink. They just want to have a good time, that's all. But the corporate world is playing safe now. Such"non-Muslims only" restriction is usually placed at Christian functions and meetings, especially for faith-healing sessions, but never for a concert. It's unprecedented but that's what the authorities want.

Non-Muslims are worried and confused. For example, the decision by Selangor PAS chief Hassan Ali to allow mosque officials to arrest Muslims who consume liquor has actually gone a step further - Muslims can also be penalised for selling or storing liquor. This has placed 7 Eleven employees, who are mainly Muslims, in a big fix.

The law is there and it would probably not be fully enforced but all it takes is just one case for a poor worker to be made an example, as in Kartika, who was caught drinking. After all, there have been Muslim pub workers being arrested in some states.

The so-called "compromise" between the DAP and PAS following the spat between the two parties has ended up in a worse scenario than before. 7-11 outlets are now talking about replacing Muslim workers with non-Muslims. That means foreigners. But this is not what it should be.

Genting hires thousands of Muslim workers although their jobs are not related to gaming or serving liquor. But they are still beneficiaries of a gaming operator, as are the state and federal governments from tax revenue. Money has been used from such taxes for development. No one differentiates where the money comes from. Malaysia Airline serves liquor too and the job is done by Muslim flight assistants but that doesn't mean that they consume liquor.

It looks like another "boom boom pow" situation for Malaysia and another "black eye" once word gets out to the international media who are beginning to have this perception that Malaysia is losing its moderate image. What next? Another press statement from PAS Youth to ban the concert altogether? Oh, they are so predictable and many of us still want them to run this country. And some Umno politicians are now trying to out do PAS to win back the votes, it's all very confusing.

Black Eyed Peas plays a concert at Sunway Surf Beach, Sunway Lagoon in Selangor on Sept 25.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chua Soi Lek sacked - what next?

It's has to come to this finally. The parting of ways between the two estranged MCA leaders has finally taken place. The MCA presidential council, which met passed midnight, endorsed a decision by the disciplinary board to sack deputy president Chua Soi Lek. Chua now has 14 days to appeal. In a statement issued after the meeting, it said the decision was made after giving much consideration "to the damage inflicted upon the party brought about by Dr Chua's DVD sex scandal." What next? The central committee is almost certain to endorse the stand taken by the presidential council. Meanwhile, supporters of CSL are certain to express their unhappiness over the latest development with supporters of OTK endorsing the sacking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Zul Nordin defends Lunas state assemblyman

Lunas state assemblyman Mohd Radzi Salleh (picture), who has quit PKR to be an independent, may be facing a barrage of criticism from the Pakatan Rakyat but maverick PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin is defending the defector. The Kulim Bandar Baharu MP has even asked his PKR colleagues not to be too critical of Mohd Radzi Salleh.

The state assemblyman has suddenly found himself turned into an incompetent and lazy elected representative overnight. His former comrades are probably saying that he has been bought over. PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar described Radzi as a liability and that his departure was a necessary cleaning-up process.

But Zulkifli has blogged that Mohd Radzi had worked tirelessly when he was state exco member in charge of tourism. Zulkifli has revealed that the reason for Radzi's decision to quit was his unhappines over the direction of Pakatan Rakyat, particularly the DAP's role in Kedah. Others believed he wasn't happy with talk that Anwar Ibrahim wanted him to quit his seat for a forced by-election.

Zulkifli said Mohd Radzi wanted to see Muslim unity be given greater emphasis. Zulkifli also said Radzi's decision to leave PKR must be respected. Zulkifli isn't likely to get much admiration for his latest posting. In fact, there could even be speculation as to where this controversial lawyer-politician could be heading next.

Call to ban MLTR: PAS must learn to rock!

Here we go again. PAS wants the upcoming concert featuring Michael Learns To Rock in Genting Highlands to be scrapped because of the fasting month. Its Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi (picture) has warned the organisers that a demonstration would be held if the organisers ignore the warning.

The concert, featuring the group of aging Danish pop rockers, has been labelled as a Festival of Sins. At least, the turbaned PAS leader did not call these singers "sexy" as the party did against Avril Lavigne the last time. He has lambasted the BN for allowing the concert, which he described as an insult to Muslims. Nasrudin also wants Muslim NGOs to join the party in the protest. Nasrudin, a Jordanian graduate in religious studies, is regarded as a hardliner in the party.

I am not sure if Nasrudin has even heard of MLTR but the band is over 20 years old. These guys are known for singing sentimental numbers and are hardly the gyrating, long-haired acid rocker types. He is also obviously not aware that the various authorities have met the concert organisers on guidelines during fasting month. They were told that open air concerts would be disallowed during the fasting month as a mark of respect to Muslims, which is fair enough.

The government must, however, also undertstand the rights of non-Muslims and have such concerts in closed venues such as indoor stadiums and hotels. In the case of MLTR, it would be held at the Arena of Stars. Even if the concert is not held, the casinos at Genting Highlands would be running full steam. PAS is merely protesting for the sake of protesting.

Earlier, Selangor PAS chief and state exco member Dr Hassan Ali said state mosque officials including the imam, bilal and siak can now arrest Muslims drinking in public places. Dr Hassan had an open spat recently with DAP's Ronnie Liu over the sale of beer at 7 Eleven outlets in Shah Alam.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A bond too strong to break

I look forward to every Ramadan. I have to confess that I have never attempted to join my Muslim colleagues and friends to fast in this holy month.

But it is the sense of camaraderie and brotherhood that I enjoy every year.

It has become an unwritten rule at the newsroom every year that the evening meeting would have to be held an hour earlier so that our Muslim – and non-Muslim – colleagues can attend the breaking fast functions.

The call to end the meetings early, interestingly, often comes from the non-Muslims. This is the best part of working in an office with a multi-racial staff. Jibes are made at each other over fasting patterns or the lack of it without any prejudices.

The rule at every Ramadan is to pick the newest member of the newsroom to interview the food sellers at Section 14 in Petaling Jaya and to buy for us the mouth-watering popiah, a crowd favourite.

For the full reflection of my On The Beat column, click here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The reality hits home: Coping with the AH1N1 virus.

You know the AH1N1 problem has struck home when your loved ones, colleagues and friends are hit by the influenza. There are already 67 fatalities and the likelihood is the figures will increase. A fellow editor is now being quarantined at home after a bout of bad flu but she is recovering at home. The workaholic MStar journalist is filing news from her home.

Last week, another editor from MStar, the Bahasa Malaysia portal of The Star, and his family were kept at home after his fever refused to come down. After checking at a hospital, it was relief to know that the fever was caused by viral infection and not AH1N1.

A colleague from the In Tech section was also a suspect after his son was confirmed an AH1N1 victim. But thank God, both have recovered. Two Penang reporters, covering the Permatang Pasir by-election, have now been quarantined.

The series of sickness affecting my colleagues have been worrying. A reporter at a business publication was confirmed a virus victim last week and the entire multi-media section was shut down. Newspaper offices are now making emergency plans of working from home if the situation worsens. Visitors to our office have been asked to clean their hands with hand sanitizer at the lobby reception before making their way to the various departments.

For reporters attending functions at crowded places, we have handed out facial masks for them but it is probably more difficult for reporters covering the hospital beat. It's an occupational hazard. I remembered when the Nipah Virus hit in 2000, many of us had to visit pig farms where thounsands of the sick animals were culled. Some reporters fell sick after a while.

The fear is that with summer over in Europe and the United States, the flu situation could worsen. The prediction is that millions could be infected soon, especially students who would be starting classes in schools and colleges. The latest issue of Time reported that in the US, the sheer size of the pandemic response has begun to hit home. Immunization has started in schools and nurses are even placed in some schools. Local health departments are preparing to enlist private sector doctors and nurses to aid the effort with plans to rent empty shoplots and reopening vacant schools for the worst case scenario.

Back in Malaysia, there are concerns that our people are not displaying self-discipline with people who are supposed to be quarantined supposedly going shopping instead, without consideration for the rest of us. We have to get used to the idea that this is serious and that politicians should not be worried with media reports of the AH1N1. It's not a question of keeping tourists away but a matter of taking the necessary steps to prevent ourselves from falling sick.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fighting AH1N1: Come on, this is a joke, right?

In case, you missed this Bernama story - an eminent practitioner of complimentary therapy Dr VM Palaniappan (picture, from his blog) has been quoted as saying that among the measures one can take against influenza AH1N1 is to avoid masturbation and homosexual activities. Yes, that's what the good doctor said. He reportedly said that "such activities caused the body to develop friction heat which in turn produced acid and makes the body hyper-acidised."

The former professor of ecology at Universiti Malaya went on to say that "the body becomes an easy target for H1N1 infection." The academcian, according to the report, has authored several books on complimentary therapy called Ecological Healing System.

He emphasised that normal sexual union between members of the opposite sex was absolutely safe, adding that his 33 years of research showed that high acidity in the body resulted in the loss of immunity, making people susceptible to viral diseases like influenza H1N1.

He has also recommended drinking coconut water, which is an alkaline, for the prevention of AH1N1. Other fruits - orange, lemon and pomelo - which contains citric acid.

I am not sure whether this small Bernama news item made it to world news but we are certainly learning something new everyday. You can either take what the good professor tells you seriously or laugh over it. But hey, we are living in dangerous times.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where did he get his Datukship?

To the lockup: Koay (left) covering his face while being led out of the magistrate’s court with the other accused yesterday.
He has five previous convictions for theft, firearms offences and corruption, yet he kept his Datukship. Yesterday, Datuk Koay Khay Chye, 52, and five others were charged in Penang with trafficking 300kg Erimin pills worth RM20million. They were arrested during a raid on July 28 at Sungai Dua.

The public are left wondering where he got his title from - didn't the state which conferred him the title carry out any vetting with the police and Bank Negara? In the case of Selangor, the palace carries out strict checks before titles are conferred and a website has even been set up for the public to check. It is important that we know where Koay got his title, so upon conviction, the Datukship should be revoked. For that matter, the previous convictions are sufficient grounds for a revocation.

One personality, calling himself a Datuk Setia, in a trade organisation leadership fight, has been telling members that he is a Datuk from Selangor. Checks were made with the palace secretariat and an official has confirmed that he has never received any awards, not even a PJK, from the state.

There must be ways to prevent dubious characters from making such claims. I believe it is a crime. The Conference of Rulers should make a decision to set up websites, like the one set up by Selangor, where the public can scrutinise the list for themselves.

All states should stipulate in the state constitutions the maximum number of Datukships and other awards that would be given out each year. The situation has become so bad that there are perceptions, even allegations, that such awards can be purchased in one or two states.

The endless list of recipients each year has certainly lent credence to such allegations. More often than not, these recipients do not have strong credentials, besides being businessmen. For the record, businessmen create jobs and help increase the country's revenue. The congratulatory advertisements help newspapers earn money for sure but contribution to the state and country must go beyond that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cheers! I simply love this beer commercial!

I love my beer, especially Tiger beer because I am an Arsenal supporter. But I also love the Heineken commercial. You won't see this advertisement on television or Astro because liquor ads are banned. If you buy only pirated DVDs, you would probably miss this wonderful commercial. But most regular cinema goers have never grown tired of this hilarious commercial, even if they are not beer drinkers. This is a great piece of creative work. Cheers man!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beer ban - now Zul Nordin wants Ronnie dropped

Ronnie Liu: Something's brewing in Selangor...

Latest: MB Khalid rejects call to strip Liu of portfolio, says it's a non-issue. All state officials warned not to issue statements until meeting on Friday to resolve issue, Star SMS alert.

Maverick MP Zulkifli Nordin has entered the fray. The Kulim Bandar Baharu MP has described Selangor DAP state exco member Ronnie Liu as a "liability" to the state Pakatan. Zulkifli also wants Liu to be dropped before "the people drop Pakatan."

According to MStar, he also expressed support for the call by Selangor PAS chief Hassan Ali who wants a blanket ban on the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas in the state. In an unprecedented move, Hassan asked Liu to be removed from his local government portfolio following the DAP leader's directive to the Shah Alam council to send back the 70 cans of beer they had confiscated from an outlet.

Instead of banning the sale of beer, the Selangor state government should punish outlets which sell liquor to Muslims and underaged customers. Show the ID cards. If outlets are found selling liqour to people who should not be buying, then the punishment should be meted out. This blanket ban is a lot of nonsense.

If we are talking about Muslim-majority areas, that's almost the entire Selangor, except parts of Petaling Jaya. And with the Chinese population coming to 25% in a country of 26mil people, we can see pubs being shut down in future, if we buy this kind of argument.

The enforcement officers told Liu that they were pressured to act against these outlets. Liu should reveal to us who are these councillors and what political parties do they represent. Drinking, particularly excessive drinking, is discouraged by all religion but non-Muslims are given a choice. PAS will use the same tired argument but the point is we must have a choice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beer seized by Shah Alam council officers

What's with the enforcement officers at the Shah Alam Municipal Council? None of us can recall that beer has been banned in this country. But on Wednesday the council seized 70 cans of beer from a retail outlet in Section 8. The confiscated beer has now been returned after a protest. The officers have even apologised to the outlet owner, it seemed. The whole episode is pretty pathetic and crappy.

It is a typical case of council officers abusing their powers. The officers, in trying to explain their action, said the decision to act was made at a full council meeting. It's strange that beer can't be sold in Shah Alam but one whole brewery exists there. In fact, some years back, some home grown terrorist tried to blow up the brewery but failed. This time, it seems that the pressure is being exerted by the councillors.

Maybe these councillors should be brave enough to let us know their identity. It's very confusing. These Pakatan Rakyat appointed councillors are pushing hard to ban the beer and state exco member Ronnie Liu is trying to stop it. The council enforcement officers are caught in between. Guess we won't see a "beer summit" to sort out the problem.On the other side of the world, President Obama sit down with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, for a beer at the White House.