A Tribute to former President of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur)

December 31, 2009

The Passing of Southeast Asia’s Prominent Spokesman for Pluralism in Muslim Politics

by Terence Netto

The death of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, ‘Gus Dur’ to legions of his admirers, in a Jakarta hospital yesterday deprives Southeast Asia of its pre-eminent spokesman for pluralism in Muslim politics.

anwar ibrahim and gus dur former indonesia president 110808 01For a man with his long history of ill-health, death at 69 could not be said to have come early. Still, it is untimely because Gus Dur’s voice was a major one against monism: the human delusion that life is explainable by a single, overarching principle.

By leveraging on his stature as the son and grandson of pioneers of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said to be the world’s largest Muslim social organisation, Gus Dur influenced the direction of Muslim politics in his country towards democratic pluralism at a time when the country was groping following dictator Suharto’s ouster in the late 1990s.

Ordinarily, a Muslim potentate like Gus Dur would be expected to be in favour of Islamist prescriptions like syariah in a time of national questing after a more equitable social order, but Gus Dur was flatly opposed to theocracy.

Though his term as Indonesian president was curtailed because of a scam over rice supplies, Gus Dur remained untainted by the dross of scandal such that while out of office he continued to extend his much-sought patronage to those on the fringes of Indonesian society.

His defense of the right to exist in Indonesia of the dissident sect, Achmadis, was a notable example of his courage in taking positions at odds with the majority of his countrymen.

In the mid-1990s, his decision to accept an invitation to the Nobel ceremony honouring peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, whom Jakarta suspected as a East Timorese separatist, was typical of Gus Dur’s bucking of the majority view.

Support for Anwar’s decision

In an interview with Malaysiakini in Kuala Lumpur in August 2008, that streak was evident in his support of Anwar Ibrahim’s decision not to swear on the Quran as proof he was innocent of an accusation of sodomy leveled by a former aide.

anwar ibrahim and gus dur former indonesia president 110808 04In other opinions expressed in the interview, it was clear that Gus Dur was one Islamic leader who could be counted on to take the side of the rationalists against the orthodox in their recurrent debate of issues that is subsumed by what is defined as the Socratic puzzle.

This is the question that is so abstruse it gives philosophy a bad name: Is an action good because God commands it? Or does God command it because it is good?

In other words, do the categories of right and wrong have an existence independent from divine will?

Secular reason, the building blocks of democratic pluralism, says yes; theocracy holds there is no independent criterion of morality outside the will of God.  The death of Abdurrahman Wahid represents a loss to the argument that holds with the former and dissents from the latter.

A Nation in Waiting

December 31, 2009

A Nation in Waiting

by Liew Chin Tong

Today is not just an ordinary end to a year. It happens to be the end to a decade — the Noughties.

I have been in search of words to describe the state of our nation during the first decade of the 21st century and felt compelled to borrow the title of Adam Schwarz’s acclaimed book on Indonesia in the 1990s.

Malaysia is a nation in waiting for a profound change, especially since the 1999 general election, when sufficient numbers of Malaysians voted for a corrupt-free government, a democratic political system, and a more equitable distribution of opportunities and resources.

The themes that captured the attention of the electorate during the 1999 general election remained the same for the two subsequent elections, 2004 and 2008, except that in the 2004 elections, it was former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who stole the reform platform.

The cry for reform was real ever since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed the premiership nearly 30 years ago. Under his rule, politics and economy in Malaysia in general became a get-rich-quick scheme that had gone awry.

This issue is highlighted in a new book on the former prime minister “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times” which is still being withheld by either the Customs Department or the Home Ministry’s Quran Publication Control and Text Division.

In the book, author Barry Wain suggests that:

“(B)ased on incomplete public information, RM15 billion was a conservative estimate of Perwaja’s losses. Similarly, Bank Bumiputra dropped at least RM10 billion. Bank Negara’s foreign exchange forays drained perhaps RM23 billion from Malaysia’s reserves.

“The cost of trying to push up the price of tin seemed paltry by comparison, may be RM1 billion. The total, RM50 billion or so, could have easily doubled if a professional accounting has been made, factoring in all the invisibles, from unrecorded write-offs to blatant embezzlement and opportunity costs.”

While the get-rich-quick scheme did go wrong, Malaysia was fortunate enough in the 1980s and 1990s because of the influx of foreign capital into Southeast Asia to finance the productive sectors and income from petroleum was sufficient to support a nascent rent-seeking culture.

But the last 10 years saw our nation hanging in the balance. The economy did not really pick up after the 1997-1998 crisis. It is stuck in the low skill, low productivity, and low wage, unhappy trinity that heavily depends on foreign labour while inevitably fuelled the exodus of the skilled and professional class. A World Bank report recently reported that only 25 per cent of Malaysian jobs are of skilled nature.

While the real sectors did not grow, the civil service as well as the rent-seeking parts of the economy grew like nobody’s business. The federal government employed fewer than 900,000 people at the turn of the century. Today, almost 1.3 million are on its payroll. The national budget tripled, from RM68 billion in 1998 to RM209 billion in 2009. Only now the government realises that it should reduce a bit, planning to spend RM191 billion for 2010.

Yet, the quality of public service of all kinds, including public safety, roads, transportation, hospitals and healthcare, education, etc has visibly declined due to protectionism, wastage, corruption and collusion, as well as the wrongly done privatisation.

And, because of poor public provision of services, the cost is borne by private citizens in various forms, which eats into their disposable income, unavoidably widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

At the core of all these is politics. The one-party state that has ruled the country since independence refused to recognise the need to change despite suffering heavy blows in the 2008 general election.

Moving into a new decade, it is my fervent hope to see the nation in waiting for more than a decade will rise again to democratise our political system, to free our government from corruption, and to see through the transformation of our society that has social justice and equal opportunity at heart.

Only in such a society that we can restore hope and trust, and bring a new lease of life to our nation that is tired of waiting for change.

Liew Chin Tong is International Secretary, Democratic Action Party and  Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera

The Malaysian Insider’s Malaysian of the Year:MACC

December 31, 2009

MACC is Malaysian Insider’s  Malaysian of the Year 2009

Today marks the first year of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which started with promise and is now dismissed as another political tool to earn it being named The Malaysian Insider‘s Malaysian of the Year for 2009.

At a time when politics continue to dominate the national discourse, one institution — the MACC — has stood out as an unfortunate symbol of all that is wrong in the country, unkept promises.

Indeed, the idea for a Malaysian of the Year should inspire a search or a look-back at a personality or institution that we should aspire or look up to.

But there are times in history — such as in 1938 when Time Magazine controversially chose Adolf Hitler as its Man of the Year — when negatives, such as tyranny in the case of the German leader or failure in the case of the MACC, merit the award of the accolade.

From the ashes of the impotent Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) which made few headlines during its existence, the MACC was born on January 1, 2009.

The cynical among the public expressed little hope that the new institution could achieve much more than its maligned predecessor. The more optimistic ones among us would give the MACC a chance to prove itself.

After all, it had been invested with more powers by the departing administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to deal with the one scourge — corruption — which has grown to a level that it has become part of the country’s fabric.

But few would have anticipated the depths the MACC would sink to. As an independent law enforcement agency, the MACC is supposed to wield its powers without fear or favour.

But the unsavoury means and the fervour it chose to investigate the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government that ultimately led to the mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock could only be matched by how it appeared to look the other way when it came to some Barisan Nasional (BN) personalities.

This is not to say that the MACC must only probe BN and ignore any corrupt practices by PR government officials. Nor is it the point that the MACC must arrest and charge members of both political coalitions to show its even-handedness as it did recently when it brought to court a host of minor BN and PR politicians.

In all of these cases and more the MACC has failed to win over the public to believe that the administration is serious about tackling graft.

Soon after Teoh, the DAP aide, was found dead, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, a member of the MACC advisory panel was quoted as saying: “We must get the support and confidence of the public to combat corruption. In Hong Kong I believe that 97 per cent of the population has confidence in the IACC. The same cannot be said of the ACA and now the MACC.”

A glaring example of why the MACC has not received the backing of the public is the investigations into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. Newspaper reports that something was amiss in the massive government project surfaced as long ago as 2007.

The ACA then conducted an investigation, but nothing happened. It was only after the exposure caused by the public mudslinging in MCA that the MACC finally decided to spring into action.

But so far after more than two years of investigations, a parliamentary probe and task force reports by major auditing firms, the MACC has only managed to charge in court a few little-known individuals while leaving the “big fishes” untouched.

At least that is the public perception of what the MACC has done so far. A recent poll conducted by the independent Merdeka Center found that 74 per cent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the government’s handling of corruption and abuse of power issues.

The poll also found that a majority of Malaysians thought the MACC was biased. Crucially, the MACC has just not risen to the task of tackling corruption, from vote-buying in Umno to graft in public institutions.

A year on, the tougher anti-graft body has been a monumental failure, and that is why The Malaysian Insider is naming it the Malaysian of the Year. Looking forward, we hope to, however, award this accolade once again a year from today, for the right reasons.

Selamat Tahun Baru dari Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim

31hb. Disember, 2009

Selamat Tahun Baru dari Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Ketua Umum, Parti KeADILan Rakyat dan Ketua Pembangkang, Parlimen Malaysia

Kita menyambut kedatangan tahun 2010 dengan penuh harapan, agar keadaan menjadi lebih baik buat diri sendiri, keluarga, masyarakat dan negara. Tahun yang baru, secara simboliknya, menandakan, satu permulaan kepada yang lebih baik dan berusaha menyingkirkan segala kelemahan dan keburukan. Sudah tentu semua ini tidak bermakna sekiranya kita hanya berpeluk tubuh dan gagal melakukan sesuatu. Pendek kata, iltizam untuk melakukan Perubahan sahaja tidak lah mencukupi, ianya memerlukan satu tindakan yang jitu berasaskan kefahaman terhadap Perubahan yang ingin dilaksanakan. Rakyat sesungguhnya bijak serta berkemampuan untuk membezakan di antara intan dan kaca. Mereka sedar yang manakah program perubahan palsu serta satu agenda Perubahan berhasrat untuk membawa kemaslahatan kepada rakyat. Namun sekiranya kita gagal untuk menunaikan hasrat dan cita-cita baik tersebut untuk dikecapi rakyat, ianya akan kekal sebagai satu laungan kosong semata-semata.

Tahun 2009 menyaksikan Pakatan Rakyat berjaya melahirkan satu dokumen penting yang dikenali sebagai Agenda Bersama Pakatan Rakyat. Kita menyediakan suatu rencana dasar untuk membawa bangsa dan negara keluar dari kemelut yangmencengkam. Dokumen tersebut merupakan penzahiran kepada satu permuafakatan yang bukan otoritarian sifatnya. Ianya adalah permuafakatan berasaskan kepercayaan dan benar-benar jujur untuk membawa Perubahan. Kita akui sebagai satu permuafakatan yang muda, dalam proses pembentukan kepada satu permuafakatan yang lebih utuh, sudah tentu kita berhadapan dengan pelbagai pertanyaan. Ini adalah lumrah, kerana kita menuju kepada yang lebih baik, kita menawarkan satu yang baru buat rakyat dan kita berhasrat mahu sentiasa bersama mereka memastikan kesejahteraan negara ini terjamin.

Alhamdulillah rakyat menyambut baik kehadiran dokumen bersejarah tersebut. Mereka sedar untuk mengembalikan negara ini ke persada negara-negara yang sudah jauh meninggalkan kita seperti Singapura, Taiwan, dan Korea Selatan agenda pembangunan yang selama ini berasaskan perkauman sempit dan hanya membawa keuntungan kepada segelintir yang dekat dengan pemerintah mestilah diketepikan. Kini tibalah waktu untuk kita mendakap satu agenda Perubahan yang terperinci, cermat dan menyegarkan. Pakatan Rakyat menawarkan satu agenda yang seimbang; tidak hanya tertumpu memulihkan kembali ekonomi negara, akan tetapi juga berusaha mengembalikan hala tuju negara ini sebagai satu negara yang berasaskan Demokrasi Raja Berperlembagaan.

Pakatan Rakyat yakin untuk mengemudi negara ini ke taraf negara maju dengan memastikan pertumbuhan ekonomi yang sihat, agenda pembangunan yang adil untuk semua, institusi kehakiman yang bebas dari cengkaman pemerintah dan pembinaan sebuah masyarakat demokratik yang berteraskan kemuliaan insan. Dengan kepercayaan rakyat  yang kita perolehi, kita akan menggembeling seluruh tenaga dan keringat untuk memastikannya terlaksana. Keyakinan terhadap semangat rakyat, faith in the power of the spirit of the people, akan menjadi satu lagi sumber kekuatan kita, rakyat Malaysia.

Moga tahun 2010 merupakan tahun yang lebih baik buat semua dan negara ini. Inshaallah kita semua berusaha menjayakannya. Saya mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan Selamat Tahun Baru 2010 kepada semua rakyat Malaysia.

Ubah sebelum parah, ubah demi maruah.

Sent via BlackBerry from Maxis

Malaysiakini’s 2009 Newsmaker is Teoh Beng Hock

December 30, 2009

And the Newsmaker of the Year 2009 is…Teoh Beng Hock

by Hazlan Zakaria

2009 was a tumultuous year. A rousingly colourful collage of days that saw the fulfilment of changes made imminent and the culmination of troubles long brewing. A bevy of events, stirred up and brought to be, by last year’s political tsunami.

In politics, we had the involuntary sneeze-change of prime ministers, the knee-jerks of crises in the ruling coalition’s component parties, Barisan Nasional’s takeover of Perak, and an apparent attempt at a coup in Selangor. But the fledgling opposition coalition was not spared as it struggled with making good its election promises and

Malaysiakini's 2009 Newsmaker

ruling the additional states it gained in the last election.It suffered agonising pangs and growing pains as the three ideologically different bedfellows were forced to make good and formalise their political marriage. A process that is painful to watch and perhaps more than painful in the making.

The year also saw more troubles with the royals as the monarchy was put before the public eye. Once more, for all the wrong reasons. The ruckus fueling calls for rules to regulate the royals. Some even advocating a straight exit to a monarch-less republic.

We also saw a slew of civil disobedience by the civil society and the attack of the killer disease once known as swine flu (now referred to by its politically correct moniker of H1N1). As well as a global economic downturn crippling economies and bankrupting nations.

Needless to say, this Gregorian year was filled to the brim with news events of gigantic proportions. The ripples, splashes and waves made by movers and shakers, almost giants and more than titans.

But this year’s newsmaker tops them all. Not only in how this particular person made headlines, but also because of the resulting aftershock which drastically affected the multi-layered landscape of our nation.

Standing Tall amongst Giants

Neither titan nor giant, nevertheless, this person stood tall amongst them. He was the active, humble and pleasant 31-year-old political secretary to a Selangor executive council member, youthful, eager and full of anticipation.To those who knew and worked with him, the late Teoh Beng Hock was an earnest, diligent and reserved person. His often expressed intention was to serve in politics and work towards a better Malaysia.

The second youngest of five children, he came from a humble family. His father was taxi driver, while his mother a dedicated home maker. He was the first in his family to have ever attended university.

Formerly a reporter for Sin Chew Daily, he was plunged into the heady world of politics in the wake of the March 8 political tsunami.Approached by then political underdog Ean Yong Hian Wah of DAP, Teoh was asked to scout for viable candidates to serve as the newly-made politician’s aide. Instead, he eagerly volunteered himself.

When Ean Yong unexpectedly won in what was once the MCA stronghold of Seri Kembangan, he was sworn in as a state assemblyperson, and at 29, went on to become the youngest state exco. Teoh followed Ean Yong in his sojourn at the state secretariat and became the latter’s political secretary.

Benh Hock last seen talking on handphone

He is remembered often as a friendly person, albeit with the habit of often talking on his handphone, probably because the nature of his work. Indeed, that was how he remained in the memories of many… talking on his handphone, while walking towards his date with destiny in the office of the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission).

Before him was a vibrant future, a bright career and plans of matrimony. He was supposed to tie the knot with his fiancee the next day. With a child already on the way. But it all was not to be… Teoh’s broken body was found on the fifth floor rooftop of Plaza Masalam the next day, scant hours after his ‘interrogation’. His tragic death opened up a whole cans of worms on many spectrums – in politics, governance, and a myriad of other mentions.

His demise added fuel to rumours of an attempted BN takeover in Selangor, sparked the debate over the misuse of MACC as a political tool, magnified the issue of transparency in allocations to MPs and state representatives, as well as highlighted cases of suspicious deaths in law enforcement custody.

Beng Hock’s Legacy

His death is probably most poignant to many, for it echoes what the nation itself is going through. His ghost continues to haunt us at the inquest into his death, news reports, coffee-shop talk, online chats and nationwide discussions.

Even in missives beyond the grave from a self-professed ‘medium’ and the ghostly apparitions, some claimed, to haunt still the hallways of Plaza Massalam.

More than 2,000 people attended Teoh Beng Hock’s funeral, but his travails touched more and affected many others. While he might not have lived to see it, his death did force the change that he so wanted to make.

His memory, a comfort to friends and family.

His name, the battle cry of activists.

His visage, a banner for justice.

His tragedy, society’s wake-up call.

His legacy, a spur to Malaysia’s ailing democracy.

Teoh Beng Hock, our Newsmaker of 2009.

On Malaysia’s Mr. Clean (2003-2009)

December 30, 2009

On Malaysia’s Mr. Clean

by Justin Ong

“Don’t work for me, work with me.”

That one sentence heralded what was supposed to have been a New Age for Malaysians. After over two decades of iron-fisted rule by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a prime minister who cared about what the country thinks was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Most Malaysians thought as much. Together with the promise of a softer approach towards running the country was Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s image as “Mr Clean”. An image that he played up further by vowing to come down hard on a culture of corruption so entrenched that, far from being a crime, it was treated as an entitlement.

More than just giving Pak Lah — as he is popularly known — the benefit of the doubt, Malaysians handed him the keys to the country. In Election 2004, Barisan Nasional was given its most convincing mandate yet, winning 198 out of the 220 parliamentary seats. Whatever gains the opposition made during the 1998 Anwar Ibrahim debacle was all but wiped out.

But despite the overwhelming support of the electorate, it did not take long for it to be obvious that instead of using this mandate to implement policies that might have taken the country somewhere, anywhere, Pak Lah seemed content to rest on his laurels.

An administration paralysed by indecision, it was painful to watch what was essentially the most powerful man in the country being unable — or unwilling — to decide which direction the country should be heading. Instead, Malaysians were treated to mere rhetoric.

If ever there was an example of how indecision can be as harmful — and perhaps even more so — than bad decisions, this was it. National policy — when they made any — seemed to change on a whim, before being reversed soon after if objections were raised.

Dr Mahathir, “recalcitrant” as he was, was at least decisive. And once he made up his mind, for better or worse, he stuck by it. Pak Lah, in contrast, ruled with all the consistency of a limp noodle. And before long, some quarters even began pining for the return of his predecessor.

Anecdotal accounts now seem to suggest Pak Lah was more than happy to let the country run itself, rather than be bothered with the minutiae of administrating the day-to-day affairs of the nation. It also did not bode well that the man who was in charge of the country brought more than a metaphorical meaning to the phrase “sleeping on the job”. In any case, rather than running itself, the country was quickly running aground.

Besides residing over periods of harsh “unofficial” inflation, when the rakyat was increasingly feeling the pinch yet kept being told that everything was, is, and ever will be all right, it was also obvious that Pak Lah was failing miserably at his earlier promise of combating national graft.

Not only was he not doing much to cut down on corruption, merciless insinuations and accusations of cronyism by Dr Mahathir also ripped Abdullah’s “Mr Clean” reputation to shreds. Allegations of corruption in the UN Oil for Food programme certainly didn’t help matters. Nor the unfortunate discovery of a nuclear smuggling network involving Scomi Group owned by his son, Kamaluddin Abdullah.

Given carte blanche to run the country, Pak Lah chose to play the bureaucrat at a time when the country needed a strong steward to guide it into uncharted waters. Promises of fighting corruption, Islam Hadhari that no one understands till today, and stillborn economic progress all lie in the wake of possibly the country’s most ineffectual prime minister to date.

What had started with so much potential ended as a major letdown. Hounded out of office by the man who put him there and the man who would be there, Pak Lah cut a lonely and forlorn figure in his final days.

In the end, Pak Lah’s years will be remembered as a lost opportunity to reform Malaysia by a man who was paralysed by indecision and manacled to the status quo demands of his own political party.

X-Files – The Unanswered Qs

December 30, 2009

X-Files – The unanswered questions

Malaysians are waiting for 2010 with bated breath to find out if there are indeed answers to this year’s unresolved issues. Here are 10 unsolved cases of 2009. This list is by no means complete.

NONEAnwar’s fate hinges on Sodomy Trial II

Early this month, the Pakatan Rakyat opposition component parties finally took their partnership to another level by forging a common policy framework.

Political ideologies aside, the PKR-DAP-PAS allies managed to sit down to identify common areas to work on from where they could launch the bid to win power under the stewardship of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

However, the future and fate of Pakatan remains under a dark cloud as Anwar himself is threatened by the impending sodomy trial – the second time he was slapped with a homosexual charge.It was supposed to be the trial of the year for 2009, but this did not take place after a series of court challenges mounted by the opposition leader.

The PKR de facto leader made numerous applications – from seeking more evidence to striking out the charge. Despite all this, the judgments were not in his favour.His trial is set to begin on Jan 25 and has been fixed for a month, but uncertainty still reigns as to whether the court would actually hear the celebrated case on the scheduled date as Anwar exhausts the remaining options – the appellate and apex courts – still open to him. Will Anwar go to jail for the second time? And what would happen to Pakatan if should that be the case?

NONEA new tax while the economy putters

The government desperately needs more money beyond what it can get from oil and income tax. Petronas has contributed 40 percent of the national budget over the decades but this is not going continue as the country run out of new oil fields to exploit.

Of the 12 million working population, only 1.8 million – or 15 percent – pay income tax. The rest are too poor to fall into that category. With the pro-business government slashing corporate tax from 40 percent in 1988 to the present 28 percent, a new tax is imperative.

Enter the goods and services tax (GST), said to be set at 4 percent and which will pour an additional RM1 billion into government coffers. But the catch here is the administration will need more than just RM1 billion to make up for the tax shortfall, so expect GST to be upped in the coming years.

Opponents to GST argued that it benefits the rich as it shifts the tax burden to the ordinary people. Instead of a new tax, they suggest the government to focus on cutting waste by cracking down on corruption and introduce open tenders for government projects.

Meanwhile, the government is targeting 5 percent GDP growth next year after shrinking an estimated 3 percent in 2009. To some, that’s a little too ambitious. Amidst a fall in foreign investment and in the country’s competitiveness, Prime Minister Najib Razak is set to announce a new economic model in February.

But Najib’s most immediate economic problem will be the implementation of the GST, which is up for parliamentary debate in March. For Malaysians, however, the question will be how much more will they be asked to fork out.

NONELingam tape case closed, or is it?

There was hope among some that the judiciary was on the mend with the appointment of a new chief justice, Zaki Azmi, and passing of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

But all that fizzled out with its first acid test – the Perak constitutional crisis. That was followed the Tan Boon Wah versus MACC suit and Anwar’s many applications in his sodomy trial. While the High Court often ruled in favour of Pakatan, the higher courts overturned the decisions.

Worse still was that no apparent action was taken following the royal commission on the Lingam tape.The royal commission had recommended action against six individuals – former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former chief justices Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Eusoff Chin, senior lawyer VK Lingam, UMNO secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and business tycoon Vincent Tan.

A year later, the authorities are still undecided whether to throw the book at those involved. Even the call from renowned lawyer Karpal Singh, who had volunteered his services to charge Lingam, on the attorney-general to grant him a ‘fiat’ was met with lukewarm response.As we enter 2010, don’t expect to much in the efforts to restore judicial independence.

NONEUncertainty in PAS as Nik Aziz flounders

There is little doubt that PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat has helped bring together various factions in PAS. The esteemed religious scholar, who is notorious for issuing controversial statements, has been the bedrock of PAS strength. That is no longer true.

The 2008 general electoral triumph has split the party into two loose factions, with Nik Aziz strongly backing the Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat against a pro-UMNO group.

The pro-UMNO faction, led by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang along with his lieutenant Hasan Ali, sowed the seeds of discord within the three-party alliance with their idea of forming a ‘unity government’ with UMNO.

To compound the problem, Nik Aziz has personal issues of his own. He has been accused of practising cronyism in appointing his son-in-law Abdul Ariffahmi Ab Rahman as head of a strategic state government-linked company.

But this time around, Nik Aziz’ own faction – dubbed as “the Erdogan group” – has distanced itself from him. Even Nik Aziz’s most prominent and promising protégé Husam Musa is said to be not solidly behind the Tok Guru.

While everyone is watching Selangor closely – said to be the BN’s most susceptible target after the Perak putsch – something is apparently brewing in Kelantan. How this is resolved will determine not just PAS’s political fortunes, but UMNO’s as well.
NONECan BN reform itself?

In the wake of their dismal performance in the 2008 general elections, newly-minted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak proposed wide-ranging reforms to regain political support.

Graft remains a thorn in the flesh for Najib with UMNO’s many tainted leaders being let off the hook. Although Najib had vowed to clean up UMNO by ending its electoral quota system to curb money politics, a Herculean effort is needed on the corruption front.Meanwhile, its component parties – MCA and MIC – had both failed to heed Najib’s calls for reform. The BN’s failure is best encapsulated by UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s remark that BN components no longer shared the same dream.

Meanwhile, Najib’s efforts to foster a transparent government threatens to fall flat should misuse and abuse of public funds remain ignored. Follow-up action on the recent reports by the auditor-general and the public accounts committee is clearly lacking.

Making public the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will not likely to impress if these initiatives prove unable to energise a lethargic public service which is filled with ‘Little Napoleons’.

Political will is essential for Najib to prove that his pledges are not mere rhetoric but firm resolve to restore an ailing party to its former glory. But has he got what it takes to deliver?

NONEWhat exactly is ’1Malaysia’?

As is often the case with every new prime minister, there are the typical promises of reforms, better governance and a better Malaysia.

Najib’s started out with the often repeated call for a united Malaysia, this time through a platform dubbed ’1Malaysia’. Eight months into his reign however, it is still unclear what Najib meant by ’1Malaysia’.

Since his maiden speech after taking over from his somewhat languid predecessor, Najib offered a raft of slogans, presumably coined by international firm APCO Worldwide hired to help polish up his image. But 1Malaysia’s biggest enemy is Umno-owned Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia. The rag continues to run racist articles, some labelling Malaysians of Indian descent with the derogatory term of ‘keling’. This strikes a discordant note.

Most recently, the two-decade-old National Civics Bureau (or BTN) had also stirred up a controversy as some legislators from both sides of the divide, in a rare show of unanimity, urged it be scrapped or revamped.

How ’1Malaysia’ can fit into age-old slogans of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and Malay’s special rights is yet to be seen. Or is this another cynical attempt to tailor different messages to different audiences?

PAS disunity over unity government

The idea a unity government was first floated by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang last March but it received powerful opposition from party leaders especially party’s spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

In what was an uncharacteristic airing of disagreement, the Kelantan MB blasted ‘problematic leaders’ such as deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, secretary-general Mustafa Ali and Selangor commissioner Hasan Ali for insisting on holding the talks with Umno on the idea of a unity government.

He demanded that PAS hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to get rid of these problematic leaders and replace Abdul Hadi as party president. Hadi responded by saying that the party had closed the door to talks to form a unity government.

Nik Aziz had also lashed out at party deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, telling him to quit the party and join Umno, for supporting unity talks with its arch foe. Nasharuddin had earlier retained his deputy president seat against an onslaught from vice-presidents Husam Musa and Mohamad Sabu.

The elections saw a fierce battle between the liberals and the fundamentalists for control of the party.The feud between the Erdogans and the conservatives will not go away anytime soon. It is unclear how this will pan out. But what is certain is that UMNO is waiting in the wings, ever eager to exploit the split in PAS.

Missing: RPK and PI Bala

Barely having warm his PM’s seat, Najib was again assailed by yet another damning allegation from private investigator P Balasubramaniam, who went missing after releasing two contradictory and controversial statutory declarations last year.

The private eye resurfaced this year with the explosive claim that he was offered RM5 million by Najib’s younger brother Nazim to retract his declaration linking the premier to slain Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The public had expected an immediate and firm response from the famous brothers, but their hopes were dashed when Najib merely dismissed the allegation as “frivolous, while Nazim had “nothing to say”.Despite the response, the public was still interested in knowing what had actually transpired and whether Bala was telling the truth or all was simply the product of an imaginative over active mind.

Also gone missing is controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who went into hiding early this year following a string of charges slapped on him for implicating a few prominent people, including Najib’s wife Rosmah, with the Altantuya murder.It is believed that he is in London but will continue to be active in writing his Malaysia Today blog. The two will remain the thorn in Najib’s side.

To whip or not to whip?

Conversion and religious issues again hogged the headlines this year. The Penang Syariah Court surprised many by allowing a woman to renounce Islam in March, giving a glimmer of hope that the right to religious freedom was finally being respected.

However, barely two months after the decision, Indira Gandhi sought a court injunction court to nullify her husband K Pamananthan’s conversion of their three children to Islam. After much ado from the Parliament that they will look into cases of children’s conversion, no concrete steps followed where the Law (Reform) Marriage Act was concerned.

Later, the religious authority struck again when the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) seized the body of deceased film director Mohan Singh, insisting on conducting an Islamic burial rites because they claimed that he had converted to Islam.

The Shah Alam court ruled that he was a Muslim, indicating that the conservative judicial approach over issues related to Islam had won again.

The case of Model Kartika Seri Dewi Shukarnor, 32, further rocked the country when she was sentenced to be whipped six times and fined RM5,000 for drinking beer in public. She shocked the public even more when she agreed to the punishment and refused help from NGOs and women’s rights activist.

In November, the case of Banggarma highlighted how the Welfare Department had changed her life, when she claimed it had converted her to Islam when she was seven.

Also, Selangor PAS, Hasan Ali’s proposed ban on alcohol stirred some discomfort among non-Muslims as the Pakatan government was seen to be using religion to police the rakyat’s sins.

Finally, it seems like the kind of Islam you practise can get you on the wrong side of law. The arrest of former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin for giving a talk without ‘tauliah’ generated much publicity.

This is something that will never end. Expect more of this next year.

NONEStill no justice for the Penan

Eight months after the conclusion of a fact-finding mission, the report by the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development released in September finally confirmed news reports of sexual exploitation of the Penans by timber camp workers.

But since then, no one has been brought to justice, while those have been victimised are now intimidated into keeping silent, raising some questions about Prime Minister Najib’s 1Malaysia policy.

To add insult to injury, the abuse has been repeatedly denied by the Sarawak state government, with the chief minister and his cohorts dismissing the Penans “good storytellers” and that the report was all “lies” generated by “NGOs”.

To their credit, the police made the arduous journey into the interior to gather further evidence about the alleged rapes, but they returned empty handed.

Even now hardly anything has been done to make it safer for the Penans, much less the children, who are continually exposed to sexual abuse as timber trucks remain the only way for them to get to school.

Are Penans part of the 1Malaysia concept?

Malaysian Maverick reviewed

December 29, 2009

Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: A Gripping Account of Abuse of Power in the Mahathir Years

by Richard YW Yeoh

Barry Wain’s treatise on the Mahathir years is a gripping account of the 22-year long era that spanned the 1981-2003 years, a period characterised by unprecedented economic and physical development and rapid urbanisation and social change.

It is overall, a fair and independent account with meticulous cross referencing and footnotes albeit much information attributed to oral interviews to a handful of persons and perhaps lacking in corroboration. Many snippets are attributed to Abdullah Ahmad but many who know Dollah Kok Lanas might prefer to take his assertions with some pinches of salt.

It is nevertheless, essential reading for anyone interested in an authoritative précis of the Mahathir years and a well-documented one at that. Even to seasoned observers of Malaysian politics, this book is a very timely refresher. I noted some assertions that were news to me such as Anwar Ibrahim having graduated in Malay Studies with Honours. I remember it often repeated that Anwar spent five years on a three-year degree and eventually earned a general pass degree (or was this political propaganda that I took for fact?).

Or that Zaid Ibrahim was a former member of Aliran? The now-transformed Zaid was seen as a rather conservative fellow in his younger days and was founder president of the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers’ Association which took rather hardline positions under him in the 1980s so this is also a surprising revelation, if true.

Wain’s account of the 1985 Memali event when 14 members of an armed Muslim group were killed in a confrontation with Police omits the fact that Musa Hitam was in charge as acting prime minister.

Indeed, many observed that not a few hard situations were handled by Musa when Mahathir, by accident or design, was away overseas; a notable one being the Sabah constitutional crisis of 1985 when Haris Salleh and Mustapha Harun attempted to seize power to subvert Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s electoral success.

Mahathir appeared to some as being incapable of taking hard decisions where it might affect his standing as prime minister and these two events are often quoted as events that might have taken different turns had Mahathir called the shots.

Of course, we know now that Mahathir sanctioned the assault on civil society activists attending the November 1996 Apcet II conference in Kuala Lumpur that resulted in the conference being forcibly stopped by Barisan Nasional rioters (with the cooperation of the Police) and most of the participants carted to jail.

Mahathir kicked up a fuss

Another interesting reminder was Mahathir characterising China as a threat to Southeast Asia in his early years, this position was later to change to one where he asserted that China had never been a threat to others throughout its history as a nation.

There was considerable discussion of Mahathir’s early animosity towards the British but a very significant incident was missed. In 1981, Mahathir kicked up a fuss and caused the repatriation of a British envoy who had the ‘audacity’ of asserting publicly, (quite factually, to many observers) that British ‘blood, sweat and tears’ contributed much to Malaysia’s development as a nation.

There is also a repetition of the commonly-held view that the ruling coalition first lost its two-thirds majority in the March 2008 general election. In fact, the combined opposition first accomplished this in May 1969, which was, in many ways, a mirror image of the 2008 result.

Anwar’s trial was also described as the longest in Malaysian history. In fact, in recent court history, this dubious distinction belongs to the Irene Fernandez trial.

In discussing Malaysia’s first large financial scandal – the BMF (Bank Bumiputra Malaysia) case, it would have been interesting if the dismissal of Bank Negara’s second governor, Aziz Taha in 1985 was researched as Aziz was reputed to be a ‘no-nonsense’ official of the Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali genre and the circumstances of his dismissal at the height of the BMF scandal were never explained.

Many felt he was sacked for refusing to do something unconscionable. He was in turn succeeded by the late Jaffar Hussein, who was hand-picked by Mahathir from relative obscurity as a public accountant to head Malayan Banking, Malaysia’s largest bank. Jaffar of course was seen tainted by the currency speculation fiasco and resigned in disgrace from Bank Negara together with Nor Mohamed Yakcop as documented in the book.

Overall, ‘Malaysian Maverick’ is a very well-researched book that is difficult to put down once one started reading it. Highly recommended!

RICHARD YW YEOH is collaborations and governance director of the Research for Social Advancement (REFSA), an independent advocacy and publishing house. ‘Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times’ is published globally by Palgrave Macmillan.

Anwar miliki pengaruh luarbiasa

December 29, 2009

Free Malaysia Today

Anwar Ibrahim memiliki pengaruh luarbiasa sebab itu banyak pemimpin UMNO dengkitermasuk ajen UMNO yang baru, Anuar Shaari

“Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (gambar) adalah individu yang memiliki pengaruh luarbiasa, bukan sahaja di Malaysia, bahkan di seluruh dunia,” kata Pengarah Pilihan Raya Pusat Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KeADILan), Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

Dalam satu temuramah dengan Sinar Harian, Saifuddin berkata dakwaan kononnya Anwar pengkhianat orang Melayu oleh Anuar Shaari bukanlah serangan terbaru ke atas Ketua Umum KeADILan itu. “Sepuluh tahun lalu, Anwar pernah dikritik hebat oleh ramai pemimpin. Beliau dikatakan pengkhianat negara, dituduh ejen Amerika dan Yahudi, kononnya manusia paling terkutuk di negara ini serta banyak lagi,” terang beliau yang juga Ahli Parlimen Machang.

“Malahan kutukan sebegitu bukan dibuat oleh ‘orang sekecil’ Anuar tetapi orang yang jauh lebih besar iaitu di kalangan pemimpin UMNO dan Barisan Nasional,” katanya.

Saifuddin berkata, sepanjang Anwar berhadapan dengan umpat keji daripada mereka yang iri hati terhadapnya, Anwar tetap kekal dalam politik semata-mata hendak pastikan rakyat mendapat keadilan sewajarnya.

“Sehubungan itu, saya beranggapan serangan terhadap Anwar itu tidak akan melemahkan semangat atau menjejas imej Anwar tetapi menyerlahkan kebodohan Anuar sendiri, yang tidak mengikuti perkembangan pemimpin yang disegani ramai itu,” katanya.

Dalam wawancara dengan akhbar itu kelmarin, Anuar menuduh Anwar sebagai pemimpin Melayu pertama yang menolak Melayu sendiri.

Ketika parti (KeADILan) mula ditubuhkan dahulu, Anwar bersetuju bahawa parti itu sebagai parti pelbagai kaum berasaskan Melayu tetapi setelah Anwar keluar dari penjara, beliau mula meminggirkan teras Melayu itu dan berubah menjadi parti pelbagai kaum, kata Anuar.

Anuar Shaari merupakan bekas Setiausaha Sulit Anwar dari tahun 1996 sebelum melepaskan jawatan tersebut akibat krisis politik sehingga membawa kepada pemecatan dan penangkapan bekas Timbalan Perdana Menteri itu pada September 1998.

Teoh Beng Hock murdered, what’s next?



December 29, 2009

Dr.  Porthip  Rojanasunand  confirms that Teoh Beng Hock was murdered

Teoh Beng Hock  was murdered. Top Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand (picture) has sufficient evidence to prove that he was killed.

The Parti Keadilan Rakyat organ, Suara Keadilan, reports in its latest edition that her forensic report will be presented at inquest  into Teoh’s untimely death on January 7, 2010.

The weekly quotes unnamed Health Ministry sources as saying that Dr. Pornthip reached her conclusion after a second post-mortem at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The report adds that Dr. Pornthip has made known her findings to all TBHock 1 relevant groups, including the Teoh Family and the Selangor Government  which commissioned her services.

The late Teoh (picture)  was the political secretary to Selangor executive councillor  Ean Yong Hian Wah. Yong is the Seri Kembangan Assemblyperson and a member of  DAP of the ruling  Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor.

On July 15, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), investigating allegations of misappropriation of state allocations, raided Yong’s office. Teoh was questioned as a witness at the Selangor MACC Office later that day.

At about 1.30pm the following day, a janitor found Teoh’s sprawled body on the fifth floor of the building. The coroner’s court allowed Teoh’s remains be exhumed on November 21 for a second-post mortem.

Earlier in October Dr. Pornthip told coroner Azmil Mustapha Abas that based on photographs of his remains, she was 80 percent sure that Teoh was murdered.

The second autopsy was witnessed by British pathologist Professor Dr Peter Venezis acting for MACC,  Dr Khairul Azman Ibrahim and Dr Prashant Naresh Samberkar.

Blurred Vision?

December 29, 2009


Blurred Vision?


By Datuk Dr. Mohamed Ariff

Malaysia is in search of new drivers of growth that would lift the economy into the league of high-income countries, somewhat in sync with Vision 2020.  A burning question in the minds of many is whether Malaysia can arrive at Vision 2020 on time.

Much would depend not only on the pace at which the economy will move from now on but also on the definition of “high-income” economy, which keeps shifting. Since developed country status is measured by per capita gross national income (GNP) in constant prices, factors such as population growth, exchange rates and price levels would also matter significantly.

The goal post, in benchmarking terms, has been shifting, with the average per capita income in high-income countries rising from US$19,098 in 1990 to US$37,572 in 2007, while the minimum high-income per capita has risen from US$7,620 to US$11,455 correspondingly.

Vision 2020 was designed on the premise that the economy would grow at an average rate of 7.0 per cent per annum from 1991 onwards. But growth has slowed down considerably after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 to an average of 5.5 per cent (1999-2008).

Malaysia’s growth trajectory has deviated from the Vision 2020 growth path. According to estimates, the projected gross domestic product (GDP) of RM525 billion for next year will fall short by 24 per cent from the initially envisaged level of RM694 billion. In other words, the shortfall in aggregate income next year will amount to a hefty RM169 billion.

The gap between the actual growth trajectory and the Vision 2020 track will widen, if the economy were to grow at a slower pace of 5.4 per cent per annum between 2011 and 2020. At this rate, Malaysia’s per capita income will rise to US$15,340, slightly above the projected new minimum benchmark of US$14,818, by 2020.

Thus, although Malaysia can technically get into the high-income club in 2020 by garnering an average growth of 5.4 per cent, it would still fall short of the original Vision 2020 target of US$17,000 per capita.

In real GDP terms at constant 2000 prices, aggregate income would rise to RM887 billion in 2020 (assuming that the economy will grow at 5.4 per cent per annum) which however would be way below the Vision 2020 target of US$ RM1.37 trillion, a shortfall of RM479 billion or 35 per cent.

To reach the Vision 2020 target, the economy will have to grow, between 2011 and 2020, at an average annual rate of 7.0 per cent, which is clearly a tall order. Understandably, the Government’s focus seems to have shifted from Vision 2020 to “High Income Economy”. It is on this basis that the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) seems to be working on a target of 5.5 per cent annual growth under the Tenth Malaysia Plan.

Malaysia’s estimated potential growth has been shrinking from 7.0 per cent in the late eighties to 6.5 per cent in the early nineties to 5.5 per cent now, as the country has been losing its competitive advantage vis-à-vis the newcomers, including China and Vietnam, in labour-intensive assembly manufacturing. The high growth rates of 8-9 per cent seen prior to the Asian financial crisis were evidently unsustainable, as these were input-driven, and not productivity-driven.

Vision 2020 was certainly a great marathon idea, but it unfortunately started off with the wrong foot, running the marathon race like a sprint at high speed. No wonder, the economy collapsed in 1998 under the weight of the financial crisis.

This is not to deny that rapid growth was necessary, but there was a policy failure to ensure that rapid growth was driven by steady productivity gains, which would have made it sustainable. Instead, the authorities took the shortcut by allowing foreign workers to come in droves, in an attempt to maintain the country’s competitiveness based on a low-wage regime (and not merely to meet labour shortages in the so-called 3D – “difficult, dangerous and dirty” – jobs).

Herein lies the paradox of Malaysia trying to keep wages low (to remain competitive) and wanting to be a developed country, missing the point that labour costs would have stayed low, despite rising wages, if there were productivity gains.

In the absence of the massive influx of foreign workers, wages would have risen and employers would have resorted to labour-saving technology to boost productivity (to rein in labour costs). Malaysia would then have automated and moved up the value chain through industrial upgrading. Alas, Malaysia took the wrong turn in the early 1990s.

Ironically, the long-term vision was undermined by a shortsighted growth strategy, which was pursed single-mindedly with a high premium on short-term growth at the expense of long-run goals. Malaysia had inadvertently shot itself in the foot.

In a sense, the “High Income Economy” is a watered-down version of Vision 2020, as Malaysia has to settle for a lower GDP (RM887 billion instead of RM1.37 trillion in real terms) and a lower GNP per capita  (US$15,340 instead of US$17,000) in 2020.  Nevertheless, if all goes well, Malaysia can still join the league of developed nations by 2020 with a per capita income higher than the projected minimum  (US$14,818) for this category. All this would make sense, only if high income is linked to high productivity.

But, it is wrong to look at developed status purely in terms of dollars and cents. There is much more to it than simply GNP per capita: quality of life, economic freedom, human rights, human development, rule of law, social justice, meritocracy, best practices, and pollution-free environment, to mention a few. In these terms, we have a long way to go.

Datuk Dr. Mohamed Ariff is the executive director of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) and Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

MIER’s Ariff: 2010 will be a tougher and more challenging year

December 29, 2009

2010 will be tougher and more challenging year, says MIER’s Datuk Dr. Mohamed Ariff

Come 2010, the Malaysian economy is expected to face tougher and more challenging times following concerns that the United States may be heading for a double-dip recession.

Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) executive director Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem said all available evidence clearly showed that Malaysia was out of recession.

The country would register positive growth in the fourth quarter of this year, and this would probably continue into 2010, he told Bernama in an interview. “Initially, we thought it’ll be something like minus three to minus four per cent growth for this year. Now, looking at the numbers of the third quarter and the subsequent monthly data, we think the growth for this year will be in the region of minus two to minus three per cent,” he said.

For 2010, he anticipated the growth to be closer to four per cent. However, he said, 2010 would be a challenging year. Although the global economy was moving out of the recession, it was not completely out of the woods, he added.

“There are worries that the growth momentum that we are seeing now — not only in Malaysia but everywhere else — is somewhat fragile because the growth that we are seeing in the United States and Europe and some other countries are very much driven by fiscal stimulus packages,” Mohamed Ariff said.

He said that to keep the momentum going, these countries would probably need another dosage of fiscal stimulus. “But the question is, can these countries afford to have another round of fiscal stimulus? Many also think that that may not work in the first place. There are concerns of that sort that suggest there may be double dip in the United States in the first half of next year,” he said.

If that were to happen, he said, obviously there would be a lot of knock-on effects on other countries which United States has a good trade and economic connection. Other concerns, he said, were the possibility of asset bubbles especially in China and many countries in East Asia and rising inflation.

“These asset bubbles may really cause problem if they were to breed sometime this year,” he  added. He said that another worrisome factor was that all these countries had been printing money this year to finance part of their deficits.

“This extra money printed actually has not translated into higher prices because of repressed demand conditions. But once economy starts to recover, demand will begin to recover, there is a strong possibility of inflation re-emerging.

“If inflation were to rise, countries like Australia and Europe which are very sensitive to inflation numbers, may jack up interest rates. And if they jack up interest rates, then I think it will scuttle the growth process,” he said.  Dr. Ariff said Malaysia would probably not raise interest rates even if Europe would do so and Australia had already done it.

“The recovery that we see in Malaysia is very fragile. You are talking about four per cent growth only and this is way below Malaysia’s potential growth of 5.5 per cent. So, the economy cannot afford to have a high interest rate regime at this point in time,” he said. “Malaysia had to keep its interest rates relatively low to stimulate both consumption and investment”, he added.

He said the country’s growth might reach its peak early and decelerate thereafter should the United States run into a double dip contraction in the first half of 2010, in which case Malaysia would have to put in some kind of stimulus package.

“There are already indications of the volatility,” he said, adding that Japan had shown some kind of deceleration after a positive growth in the third quarter. Mohamed Ariff said Malaysia might need another RM8 billion to support what it had done before but introducing another stimulus would increase the government’s budget deficit since revenue was falling.

In a way, this is a difficult time. I don’t think now is a cause for celebration. We are out of recession but we are going to be stuck in a slow, sluggish growth for at least two more years. We don’t really actually see the full growth trajectory until the year 2012. Until then, we will have to struggle or wrestle with this sluggish growth,” he said.

Indian Muslims–In Defence of Mahathir

December 29, 2009

Indian Muslims–In Defence of Mahathir

by Neil Khor (December 28, 2009)

Indian or Muslim, you cannot be both to be Malaysian!

Just when one hopes for clarity of vision or some astute observation from our senior statesmen, out comes this really strange statement. But to be fair, what was the context and what was the situation that Dr Mahathir Mohamad was referring to?

Former premier Mahathir never minces his words. He tells it as it is. He also does not need the government to “protect” him. He calls a spade a spade. He gives as good as he gets.

In this case, he was speaking at a function organised by the Kadayalannur Muslim Society, telling a group of people who still define themselves by their place of origin to be less tied to their ‘homeland’ and instead focus on being more Malaysian.

He said that for 1Malaysia to succeed, those of migrant origins must be less attached to their homelands. By this, he was referring to a metaphysical attachment to the “mother country”, the reference point that migrant societies often use to anchor their new-found identities in their country of adoption.

To be Malaysian, to Mahathir, means giving up this emotional link to one’s country of origin. He also said that the Indian Muslims must decide whether to be Indian or Muslim. In the context of his speech, this means deciding whether one was Indian as an ethnic category or Malay, as Muslims are defined constitutionally.

Almost immediately, Mahathir was condemned as racist and Islamically “unenlightened”. To my mind, our ex-premier was merely stating a fact when speaking about Indian Muslims. He could very well be referring to himself or speaking from self-experience.

To be or not to be

Malaysia is a very diverse country with a very complex history. Indian Muslim refers to a very wide group. It could refer to a person of Indian ancestry who is also a Muslim; or it can refer to a long-time domiciled group whose way of life is the result of many years of integration and, who at some point in time, have been accepted to be part of the wider Malay Muslim community.

Readers must also be reminded that Mahathir was speaking in Penang, where there is a large Indian Muslim community that have for more than 200 years contributed to the development of the state, particularly in Georgetown.

Like the Peranakan Chinese in Malacca, some Indian Muslims no longer speak Tamil or their inherited ‘mother-tongue’. Constitutionally, they can be considered ‘Malays’. What is particularly interesting here is that historically the definition of Malay as “a person who habitually speaks Malay, practices a Malay way of life and is a Muslim” was created in Penang in the 1920s.

In fact, the Penang Malay Association (now called Pemenang) defined its members in this fashion to avoid the more exclusionary definition then prevailing in Singapore.

In those days, the British colonial government accepted representations from various ‘ethnic’ groups and it was worthwhile for the more urbanised ‘Malays’ of Arab and Indian ancestry to identify themselves as ‘Malays’.

When we became an independent country with the introduction of electoral politics and race-based parties, it became imperative that the ‘Malay’ category be boosted by co-opting groups that may not previously be considered Malay. In fact, in the pre-World War II Pan-Malayan Malay Convention, the Penang Malay Association was excluded precisely on the grounds that its members were not ‘Malays’.

So, to Mahathir’s mind, Indian Muslims have an essential choice: be Indian or be Muslim. He is not asking them to leave Islam, he is telling them that if they are less India-oriented and emphasise their Muslim identity more, they can enjoy the privileges associated with being a ‘Malay’. He might as well say: “Look at me… I am a Muslim and have become a Malay and the sky is the limit”. What an inspirational speech.

The problem is that Mahathir was speaking to Malaysians in 2008 and not 1948. In an intensely ‘racialised’ environment with a bureaucracy that is very ‘race-conscience’, it is simply not good enough to be more Muslim than Indian.

Many Indian Muslims have been asked to produce their parent’s birth certificates before they can qualify for privileges reserved for the ‘bumiputeras’. When it is learned that they have Indian parents, they fail to obtain the desired scholarships.

The conundrum of 1Malaysia

1Malaysia Hype

Mahathir is not racist. He cannot be because he does not believe in race. As a medical doctor and a man of science, he knows that scientific research into the human gnome has made race theories, even the ones employed in his famous book ‘The Malay Dilemma’, obsolete.

His most recent statement about Indian Muslims confirms this but he should go one step further and help UMNO make the transformation from a ‘Malay’ to a ‘Malaysian’ party.

After all, if one can be less ‘Indian’ and more ‘Muslim’, surely a ‘Malay’ than be less ‘Malay’ and more ‘Malaysian’? Of course, Mahathir will say that being Malay is being Malaysian.

Here is the conundrum: the 1Malaysia formula is an integrative one – where everyone should come together based on our common national experience. If that was true, then we all have to give a little. This means everyone – the Malays included.

Confused? It now seems that the 1Malaysia rhetoric has managed to create ambivalence. This is the only way the government can win back the middle ground and yet retain the race-based political set-up.

But you cannot fool all the people all of the time. The reality is that so long as the political structure is based on outdated interpretations of ‘race’, and is therefore very narrowly race-based, nobody will be “allowed” to be more Malaysian.

Action speaks louder than words, even when one does not mince one’s words. For the BN to truly reflect their own 1Malaysia rhetoric, they have to become more integrated. The political parties in the BN must bite the bullet just as Pakatan Rakyat has done in its first convention. The BN really does not have a choice. It must lead by example – integrate or bite the dust.

As for the Indian Muslims, in a non-sectarian society, they would not have to make the choice that Mahathir has put to them. They can be both Indian Muslim and Malaysian.

One can only hope that the scales have fallen from the eyes of all Malaysians. None of us need to set aside our ethnic heritage for scholarships or other privileges, and Indian Muslims would not have to be asked to be less ‘Indian’ and more ‘Muslim/Malay’.

NEIL KHOR has recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He is co-author of ‘Non-Sectarian Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia’ (2008).

Think Rationally Before You Write, says Art

December 28, 2009

Art Harun’s Open Letter to Dr. Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah on  his article, “Accused as criminals better than being evil.”

Before I take issue with you on several matters in your article, allow me to state some disclaimers. This is to prevent me from being labelled anti this and that or pro this and that.

First and foremost, I am just an ordinary citizen of this country of ours who is just concerned with the well being of our country. Although I have my own political views, I am not affiliated to nor am I associated with any political party. I am a Malay and a Muslim. I am not anti-Malay or anti-Islam. Nor am I pro non-Malays or non-Muslims.

Now that I have made that clear, I shall address some of the issues raised. Firstly, the “social contract”. These two words have become a cliche in Malaysia. Whenever somebody or some parties raise some sensitive issues which the Government does not wish to address, they will be referred to the “social contract”. Soon, I suppose when a thief snatches a handbag from a poor woman, he will shout to the woman, “social contract”!

What is the “social contract”? I will not repeat what it is as I have written about it here. The first thing to note about it is that any social contract is not cast in stone. It may change as the society and state change and the need of the two parties to the contract evolve with time. What was deemed good 52 years ago may not be good anymore now, and vice versa.

If we take our Federal Constitution as an example, there have been hundreds of amendments made to it. That is the nature of it. It is a breathing and living contract which changes or ought to change according to the time.

Being so, questioning the provisions of the social contact is not a blasphemous act. Nor is it an act of treason. It is in fact a necessity for our society and our state to evolve into a progressive one. With all due respect, for you to label a certain party as “ultra kiasu” just because it apparently questions – if at all they did that – the “social contract” is unbefitting of your stature as a respectable ulamak and a well known senior lecturer. It is like labeling your own students “kiasu” for asking too many questions.

Why can’t we be positive about things? Are we so used to be told what to do, what to hear and what to say all these while that we have forgotten to engage with each other properly without any ill feeling? If an ulamak and academician like you cannot engage properly and without emotion, I shudder to think of the prospect  for our nation. Have we all closed our heart and soul to any opposing views?

The second thing to note about the social contract is the fact that this contract has two parties to it. The first party is the people. The second party is the State (or the government). It runs two ways. The people say “I give you, the government, some of my rights in exchange of you giving me certain benefits”. So, the obligations exist on both sides.

That means both sides must abide by the social contract. Both sides have their own respective obligations to perform. Nowadays, we talk as if only the people are supposed to perform the social contract. We talk as if the government does not have any obligation to perform under the social contract. That is an obvious misconception.

The government is powerful because it holds the power granted by the people. If the people do not perform the social contract, the government would come with all its might  to prosecute him. I ask you, what can the people do if the government does not perform its side of the bargain? Do you expect the people to keep quiet?

Thirdly, it is to be noted that, as a living document, the terms and conditions of the social contract may be renegotiated from time to time. Among others, John Locke posits as such. Locke even posits the right of rebellion in the event the social contract leads to tyranny. Of course, I am not advocating a rebellion here.

I am stating that the people have every right to question about the social contract and  scrutinise the performance of its terms by the government. And the people have every right – in fact it is arguable that it is the people’s duty –  to prevent  tyranny or acts of tyranny. Being so, I am sure it is not such a sin as made out by you for any party to question the social contract. That is within his  right as a party to the social contract.

The next issue which I wish to address is the misrepresentation of the real issues in contemporary Malaysia. I have to state this because when the issues are misrepresented, the arguments in support of them would also go wrong. Emotions can seep in and everything can turn ugly.

The issues at hand, in my opinion, are not the status of Islam as the religion of the Federation or the special position enjoyed by the Malays and the natives of Borneo. Those are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

I have chosen the words in the preceding paragraph deliberately. Nowadays, when the arguments for “equality” are raised, the other side quickly jumps and say “you are questioning the status of Islam” or “you are questioning the special rights of the Malays” or worse still, “you are questioning the position of the Malay Rulers”.

Notice how the issues have been misrepresented to suit their purpose. What are in existence are not “special rights” but “special positions” and the parties which enjoy these positions are not only the Malays but also the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Please read this article (Article 153)  for further explanation on this issue.

On the position of Islam, I don’t think anybody in their right minds would question the status of Islam as the religion of the Federation. But, dear Doctor, you must be wise enough to discern the  difference between official religion and the law of the country.

Similarly, you must also be rational enough to discern the difference between Bahasa Malaysia as the official language and the rights of the people to speak whatever language they wish.

What has been raised in contemporary Malaysia is not the status of Islam as the religion of the Federation. Many events have taken place so far in relation to inter-faith dialogue that would call for a closer look at the freedom of religion as enshrined in our Constitution. These events were perhaps not within the foresight of the fathers of our nation when the Constitution was being drafted.

It is then left to us, the children of today, to take the bull  by the proverbial horn and try to find  acceptable solutions to everybody in accordance with the common standard of fairness and civility.

Inter alia, these problems are:

• the controversy surrounding inter-faith marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims where a non-Muslim would convert to Islam to marry a Muslim but later re-convert to his or her original faith;

• the controversy surrounding the forced indoctrination of a certain faith – whether Islam or other faith – on children who are below the age of majority;

• the controversy surrounding the issue of apostasy in Islam;

• the controversy surrounding the unfair allocation of budget for the erection of temples or churches as compared to the mosques and suraus;

• the controversy surrounding the right to practise Islam by Muslims in accordance with their sectarian beliefs;

• the controversy surrounding some fatwas issued by some body of ulamaks;

• the controversy surrounding the usage of the word “Allah” to signify God;

•the controversy surrounding the publication of Bible in Bahasa Malaysia;

• the controversy surrounding moral policing.

These issues have nothing to do with the status of Islam under the Constitution or the status of the Malay rulers. Like it or not, these issues exist and will persist  for as  long as we huddle ourselves in our dark caves, secure in our belief that those people who raise these issues are ultra kiasu,  and they have treasonous tendencies.

This nation is built, from day one, by the unity of her people, regardless of race or religion. There is no such thing as this is “our” nation and not “theirs”. In fact, may I  respectfully point  out that you, as a Chinese Muslim, are contradicting yourself when you refer to this land as “our own land” if what you meant by “our own land” is that this land is the land of the Malays.

Please, dear Doctor. Be more sensitive to the feelings of all Malaysians. You are after all an influential ustaz or teacher whose views are respected by many. Now, as this nation goes into adulthood, it must confront issues which naturally arise in the course of nation building. It must confront these issues unemotionally and with great respect to everyone involved. Lest the very basis of this nation, namely, the unity of her people, would just fade away and we can bet our last dime that destruction would be on its way.

I fear for my children. I fear for this nation if we continue to count “our rights” as opposed to “theirs”. There is no “opposite parties” mind you. We are in this together.

Now you have come up with a rather ingenious formula. It is based on the entitlement to more rights for the majority. It is numerical power, which many argue is the direct result of democracy.  Philosopher Jeremy Bentham postulates the utilitarian principle in which it is said that whatever brings the most happiness to the greatest number of people would be good.

It would appear that you have managed to reduce the utilitarian principle into a science by reducing the yardstick of happiness for the  greatest number of people into a mathematical formula. But with respect, you are threading on a dangerous path. Stretched to its logical conclusion, you are validating the might of the majority over the helplessness of the minority.

In the end, finally, what matters in your equation is the numbers involved. What if, in the future, the non-Muslims become the majority in this country, may I ask you? Would you accept their lording over you as a minority then?

What about the ban of the Islamic minarets in Switzerland? Do you, as a Muslim, accept that because, after all, Christians are the majority in Switzerland? What about the ban of the hijab and head scarf in France? Do you accept that on the same basis, i.e, that Christians are the majority in France? What about the killing of Muslims Bosnians by the Serbs and Croats? You accept that too? After all Christians are the majority in that region. What if the Israelis manage to forcefully fill Gaza with Israelis leaving the Palestinians to be the minority, would you accept the desecration of everything that is Islam in Gaza?

What you are preaching, in my humble opinion, is political expediency suited for the current moment and nothing else. You are not seeing the bigger picture. With respect, you fail to look into ourselves as Muslims and spot our weaknesses as an Ummah against the backdrop of globalisation, transparency, and openness.

You pay scant regard to spirituality and our ability as Muslims  to face this new age world on any ground other than the strength in numbers and loudness of our voice. You mentioned Ibn Khaldun in your article. Can you point out the existence of what Ibn Khaldun termed in his “Muqadimmah” as the spirit of “assabiya” in our contemporary Muslim society? Do we have “assabiya” nowadays? Or is it a matter of whatever is mine is mine and yours is yours?

In your mathematical formula, you are in fact preaching against Ibn Khaldun’s “assabiya.” The communal spirit, comradeship and camaraderie are obviously not important in your formula. What about the numerical superiority of the non-Muslims in education for instance? Non-Muslims do get 9As or 10As in the examinations. Based on your numerical formula, wouldn’t they have the right to be in our public university? If so, why don’t they get what they are entitled to?

What about the numerical superiority in the non-Muslims’ contribution to our national coffers through the payment of taxes, duties and investments made? If your numerical superiority formula is applied, wouldn’t the non-Muslims then have more rights to build churches and temples compared to Muslims?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they are so entitled. But I am just applying your formula to real life situations. Non-Muslims’ festivities should be limited to the percentage of their numbers. Sorry Doctor, I am laughing at the suggestion. Is that what matters? Festivities? Public holidays? They should have less number of temples and churches and we should have more mosques and suraus? (You seem to suggest that there are far too many churches and temples in Malaysia but have you seen the state of these churches and temples? Some are by the side of the road and in shop lots. Some are just housed in a small doggie house.)

How much space we occupy on our way to our graves? And how big our graves are? Good God, who is kiasu? What have we, the good people of Malaysia, become? And why have we descended into this deep pit of triviality? Oh my goodness.

Sometime, I find your reasoning inconsistent ,Doctor. While you preach goodness and high morality and you make such huge outcry against the evil of living immorally as practised by some politicians and the like, at the same time you don’t really mind a newspaper which sometime write obvious lies and spread hatred.

This is because, according to you, this newspaper is being frank. Well, is it okay to be bad as long as we are frank about it? You view with contempt the act of living together outside marriage by some non-Muslims but you can accept the act of lying and spreading hatred because the perpetrator is being frank? The last time I checked Doctor, even Hitler was being frank in wanting to kill all the Jews that ever walked the Earth. Was that okay?

The only way out of this racial and religious time bomb which is ticking fast in contemporary Malaysia to my mind is for all of us to confront all the issues in an unemotional manner. We should list them all out in the open. We should accept that those issues constitute problems and acknowledge that fact. We cannot deny their existence. We should stop assigning guilt. We should avoid pointing fingers. We should not adopt the my-religion-is-more-righteous-than-yours attitude.

After we manage to do that, we should then sit down and find the solutions as best as we can. And we better do it fast. Because the longer we delay it, the more insidious and deep they will become. Soon more people will misuse those issues for whatever personal purpose which they may have. The situation may then become irreversible.

May God give all of us the wisdom.

Noam Chomsky is back

December 28, 2009

Noam Chomsky is back with some interesting observations about American Democracy and the so-called Liberal Media. We always think America is a model of democracy. Is it? Of course, it is more democratic compared to Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Malaysia. Listen to what Noam Chomsky has to say on the American system of government.

To me, Professor Chomsky is a refreshing voice about issues of concern to all of us who are seeking to ensure that democracy thrives in our country. One of the key foundations of democracy is a free and independent media. The media  in America is controlled by corporate interests and these interests seek to skew news and  information to serve their political and commercial interests.

In Malaysia, the media is controlled by UMNO-Barisan Nasional  government which has been in power for the last 52 years. The media puts out news and views which are slanted to shape public opinion and put the government of the day in a favorable light and there is no way in which criticisms of government policies and actions can see the light of day in our media. As for our democracy, need I say more?–Din Merican

Noam Chomsky–American Democracy

The Myth of the Liberal Media

Mahathir’s Advice to All Mamaks in Malaysia

December 28, 2009

Mahathir’s Advice to All Mamaks

By Terence Netto

Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s advice to Malaysia’s Indian Muslims to choose between their Muslim and their Indian identities puts one in mind of a resonant episode in the immediate prelude to the partition of India in mid-1947.

A delegation of Indian Muslims, contemplating abandoning their homes in India for the new entity called Pakistan, went to see Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the highest ranked Muslim in the Congress Party and a strong foe of partition.

Islamic scholar Azad, who was born in Mecca, was renowned for the battles he had waged for communal unity in India, for its freedom from Britain, and for secularism.

His visitors were in no doubt about where Azad stood on the matter of partition: he was unalterably opposed and an arch critic of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, head of the Muslim League and fervent proponent of separation.

The delegation just wanted to see for themselves if Azad would waver from his resolute anti-partition stance at a perilous time.

June 1947 comprised an exaggerated moment in Indian history. It is just such moments of extremity that best reveal the essence of things. And Azad demonstrated the seer-like qualities of his stature as a leader when he posed this question to the delegation: “Where will you go should you discover that Pakistan is not your home?”

Of course, none of his visitors could countenance the notion that their anticipated new abode could turn out to be forbidding. Many of those who went to see Azad settled in the Sind region of newly-formed Pakistan, of which Karachi is the metropolis.

Fast forward 40 years to the late 1980s: The city becomes a maelstrom of communal violence between the muhajirs (Indian Muslims from India who moved to Sind and west Punjab after partition) and the indigenes.  The bursts of violence were frequent, horrific and sustained, and were caused by muhajir resentment at being marginalised by the indigenes of Sind.

Two decades before the muhajir-inspired convulsions in the Sind of the late 1980s and after, the world had already witnessed the animosity between Muslim Bengalis and the Punjabi Muslim-dominated Pakistan army that led to the war of secession in East Pakistan, which then became Bangladesh.

A notable feature of this war in 1971 was that here the muhajirs (Bihar Muslims who had immigrated at the time of partition to East Bengal/East Pakistan) backed the elitist Punjabi soldiers of the Pakistani army in the battle against indigenous Bengali Muslims.

From not only these facets of subcontinent history but from several others the world over in the last century, particularly if you take the flux and flow of sectarian allegiances in Lebanon, it is not hard to conclude that parochially-constituted identities provide no lasting solder by which to glue a national identity.

One can be both Indian and Muslim

Mahathir’s positing of a dichotomy – either you are Indian or you are Muslim (and therefore Malay) – to Muslim Indians in Malaysia has been proven by recent history to be a delusive conceit. Maulana Azad espoused a composite view of national identity to partition-leaning Muslims of the Indian subcontinent six decades ago. He held that you could be Indian and Muslim at the same time, in contradistinction to the great Indian poet Mohamed Iqbal, who in a famous disquisition in 1930 argued that the Muslim identity would fade in an independent India. Hence a separate homeland for Muslim Indians was imperative.

Admittedly, it is a long way from Maulana Azad to Gerald Manley Hopkins, a 19th century English poet, of special resonance in these ecologically fraught times.  Hopkins loved nature in which he saw a “dappled” and “pied” quality of contrasting elements forming the same pattern which he tried to reproduce in his poems.

“Glory to God for dappled things,” he rhapsodised in one of his best poems, a cosmic plea for seeing things as nature would have us – as “both/and” and not as “either/or”.  Muslim Indians in Malaysia can be Malaysian, Muslim and Indian at the same time, a triple and sustainable (nice ecologically friendly word that!) identity that betters Azad, and tributes Hopkins.

‘Why can’t UMNO be a responsible opposition?’

December 28, 2009

‘They better get used to that role as this is going to be their role for a long time to come unless their leadership and attitudes change.”

Group urges PAS to quit S’gor Pakatan

Multi Racial: Yet another of UMNO’s ‘act’. Since Pakatan Rakyat came to power in Selangor, there seems to be endless trouble coming from BN especially UMNO and its members. Why can’t they be a responsible opposition? They better get used to that role as this is going to be their role for a long time to come unless their leadership and attitudes change.

Amos: UMNO can’t find ways to win over the voters so they try to break up Pakatan. Their only hope is to grab Selangor like how they did Perak. The ‘25 Million Ringgit Mansion Man’ is definitely behind this and he is desperate.

Nicholas Lim Ming Xhin: Besides Hasan Ali, the rest of the ‘elected’ PAS representatives are with Pakatan. No worries. Let Hasan join UMNO for all we care, it will still not make a dent in Pakatan’s hold on Selangor.

And in the event they do indeed succeed in toppling a state government yet again, then at the next elections we just elect Pakatan back to power. Don’t forget that 45 percent of Selangorians are non-Malays. UMNO can keep on dreaming of holding on to Selangor if they continue with their present racial and religious stoking.

Wong Chee Kong: Wolves in sheep skins. That’s what they are. Anyone can see through them.

Mamakboy: PAS Selangor is messed up. Don’t be surprised if Hasan Ali causes Pakatan to fall in Selangor just like Perak. Anwar Ibrahim had better do something. Raja Petra Kamarudin’s prediction on Selangor falling to UMNO might be right..

Geronimo: The statement made by these bunch of PAS members are similar to that of Umno. So, for heaven’s sake, go join Umno and stop being a pest in Pakatan. Pakatan is trying its best to move forward with the aim of capturing Putrajaya and here you have these blokes who want to go regressive UMNO-style. Please be our guests – join UMNO.

Year of controversial court decisions

AMT: All verdicts against the government will be overturned by Appeals Court. This is such the norm now that the people just don’t believe any judgment made by the High Court anymore. We are just like Zimbabwe.

TC Koh: We are definitely going for the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ award.

Yuvan: There is every reason to believe that the Malaysian courts will not be lacking in all sorts of dramas in the coming year. Some verdicts will be ‘yes’ in the lower courts and the same verdicts will be ‘no’ in the higher courts. And vice versa. Some cases will be filled with a lot of sentiment and emotion and some will be downright boring.

And some cases could prick our conscience as much as some may tickle our bones. Whatever it is, let us all hope and pray that the good will prevail and the sanctity of our legal system will be upheld and preserved – always.

Chan Tuck Fook: The only solution is ‘change’. Otherwise, Malaysia will have no future.

Hindraf leaders squabble over accounts

Iilidetector: Everyone is accusing each other of taking money, but the deafening silence is from P Waythamoorthy. He has not uttered a single word for past two years on how he can stay in an expensive city like London. Who is paying for his food and board? I understand he underwent heart treatment in London as well, so was it from a private specialist? Who gave him funds to fly to Singapore to see Zaid Ibrahim?

Bozuka: You are entitled to free medical treatment and surgery at the Queen’s hospital in the UK if you hold an ‘international amnesty’ passport. Waythamoorty falls into this category. So the question of his medical expenses is taken care. Now, how does he meet his expenses in London? From well-wishers whom he does not need to expose to the public.

DC: K Vasanthaumar admits he is the director of the Hindraf enterprise. The money was collected into this account. The person responsible is Vasantha and not Waythamoorthy. We know Vasantha has been instigating the public and those accused for illegal assembly and we know how the Tamil papers manipulate the story.

What Waytha is doing is right – get the accounts verified by independent professionals. Soon, I believe, Vasantha is going to say that the accountants have swindled the money.

Reflections of an Old Man

Wong Chee Kong: Sim is an excellent example of a true warm, red-blooded Malaysian who fears not what he says and writes. We all hope he will continue to be in good health to share with all his thoughts and advice. All Malaysians have a lot more to learn from this wise man.

Lusiapa: Sim Kwang Yang is the personification of a true Malaysian. A retired opposition member of parliament, he continues to serve his country loyally through his regular writings. His comments are never partisan – always inspiring and educational. Never once does he use uncouth language or unsavoury innuendoes to drive home a point unlike some counterparts.

In his latest contribution, he shares his innermost thoughts on today’s world and his own mortality. One cannot fail to see his frustration at what is going on in the country and the world outside. Indeed,’SKY’ as he is fondly known, is a man of valour in a world of squalor. From Brisbane, I salute you, sir.

RubyStar: Mr Sim, please live on as your work is not done, and I am sure it will never be done in your lifetime, given the deep rot that Malaysia has gotten itself into starting with the rape of the nation’s coffers and the multitude of government’s wrongdoings under Dr Mahathir Mohamad, followed by the ineptness of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and now the current prime minister who is is full of rhetoric and treats the allegations of murder of a beautiful Mongolian lady against him and his wife as one of frivolity.

We need voices like your kindself to generate sufficient heat and action for people to realise that what we are under is the tyrannical rule of the present BN for more than 50 years. We need young voters of age to go and register themselves. We need to expose all the evil deeds and misdemeanours of the present government and all its corruption