Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise


January 31, 2013

Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

by Mely Caballero-Anthony and P. K. Hangzo, RSIS

SingaporeThrough strategic planning and investment in research and technology, strong political will, and effective governance, Singapore has emerged from water insecurity to become a global hydrohub.

It has built a robust and diversified range of water sources and has successfully addressed its water challenges in the process. As a result it has earned international recognition as a model city for water management. This has also led to a new direction in its water diplomacy, which is no longer centred on securing Singapore’s water supply from Malaysia.

Singapore has in recent years capitalised on its domain expertise in water management. In the process, its water diplomacy has taken on the character of ‘niche diplomacy’. The term was coined to describe how middle powers, through their ideas and positive international impression, can influence international issues regardless of their size and lack of military power. Singapore, in this context, has been able to turn its niche expertise in the management of an increasingly important resource — water — into an approach to diplomacy that has allowed it to enhance its regional and international standing and influence.

It has done this through sharing water expertise as well as humanitarian activities. Singapore’s growing expertise in water management has also enabled the country to set the agenda on a number of global water issues, including water standards, which remain a challenge worldwide.

In March 2012, the Technology and Water Quality Office of Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utility Board (PUB), was designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for safe drinking water management and integrated urban water management. Under this arrangement, Singapore serves as the WHO’s regional policy research hub on relevant concerns, such as regulatory issues, water industry structure and water pricing. It will also conduct capacity-building activities and training courses for WHO member states, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.

Urban water security has become an important policy agenda in most countries. Cities in developing countries are under pressure to meet the burgeoning demand for water brought about by rapid economic and population growth. With the number of people living in urban areas projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion by 2050, the situation is set to become more critical. However, it presents significant opportunities for Singapore to contribute to tackling global water security challenges.

There are already several Singaporean projects along these lines. For example, the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) signed an agreement in 2011 with the government of Mauritius to assist it to develop a system capable of providing an uninterrupted supply of potable water, to reduce non-revenue water to a minimum, to improve the country’s Total Water Management system and to develop a plan to meet increasing and changing needs.

In June 2012 the SCE also signed an agreement with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) in India to set up waste-water treatment plants to generate water for consumption. The program is co-funded by DJB and the Temasek Foundation, and will establish a water reclamation plant with 40 million gallons per day capacity. It is projected that this plant will benefit 3–4 million consumers.

The SCE and Temasek Foundation established a similar arrangement with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) of the city of Bangalore in southern India. BWSSB officials would be trained to manage, operate and maintain recycle-and-reuse plants and would also help them develop strategies to raise public awareness and acceptance of recycled waste-water.

Singapore is increasingly integrating its water expertise into its response strategy for humanitarian emergencies in Southeast Asia. In the wake of the devastating floods in Thailand in 2011, which caused more than 800 deaths, PUB delivered water quality monitoring equipment to Thailand’s Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA). PUB, together with industry partners, also provided training to MWA staff on risk assessment and water safety plan formulation, as well as laboratory services for the testing of water samples.

Other initiatives have involved tackling more chronic needs. Through the Water for Life project launched by the Singapore International Foundation in 2010, Singapore helped rural communities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to gain access to clean water, providing some 2000 bio-sand filters to help reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases. This was followed by a similar project in Kampong Speu.

Singapore has made determined efforts to extend its water expertise beyond its shores. Its niche expertise in water has strengthened its ties with other states and increased its influence at the regional and international level.

Mely Caballero-Anthony is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

P. K. Hangzo is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

A version of this article was first published here in NTS Insight, and appeared here as RSIS Commentary No. 221/2012.

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/01/31/singapore-niche-diplomacy-through-water-expertise/

Anwar-Led Pakatan Rakyat now a serious contender for Power


January 31, 2013

Pakatan Rakyat now a serious contender for Power in Putrajaya

by Dan Martin (01-30-12), AFP

Anwar @KL112After bloodying the government’s nose in 2008 elections, a more experienced and organised Opposition is eyeing the once-unthinkable: toppling one of the world’s longest-serving governments.

Malaysians vote soon with the formerly hapless opposition buoyed by a new track record of state-level government, signs of growing voter support, and what its leader Anwar Ibrahim calls a sense of history in the making.

“I am convinced, insya Allah (God willing), that we will win government,” Anwar told AFP, evoking the winds of change that powered the “Arab Spring” elsewhere in the Muslim world.Of course we call it a ‘Malaysian Spring’, but our method is elections (not uprisings).”

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is expected to call a fresh vote in weeks,Najib3 pitting his Malay-dominated Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition against Anwar’s multi-ethnic Opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact).

The 57-year-old ruling bloc enjoys deep pockets, mainstream media control, an electoral system the opposition says is rigged, and a record of decades of economic growth under its authoritarian template.

Few expect the Opposition to win the 112 parliamentary seats needed to take power. The three-party alliance won 82 seats in the 2008 polls, up from 21, stunning the BN with its biggest-ever setback.

But speculation is rife that Pakatan could win enough in the polls – which must be held by late June – to lure ruling coalition defectors and form a government.
Wan-Saiful“Before this year, many were in denial about Pakatan’s potential. Today, we see society beginning to accept that the possibility (of a BN defeat) is real,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan (left), who runs the independent Malaysian think tank Ideas.

The country’s stock market has trembled recently over the uncertainty as opinion polls suggest the vote will be tight. One recent survey put Najib and Anwar neck-and-neck as prime ministerial candidates.

In a January 12 show of force, the Opposition held a rally that drew close to 100,000 people, paralysing much of the capital Kuala Lumpur in one of Malaysia’s biggest-ever political gatherings.

This is IT-KL112“I think it’s very close, and the party that makes the least mistakes will be the party that wins,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, head of BERSIH, an NGO coalition that has organised large public rallies for electoral reform.

Pakatan attacks the ruling coalition, and particularly its dominant partner the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), as corrupt, repressive and lacking a long-term vision for Malaysia. Anwar says Pakatan would end authoritarianism and free the media.

BN could lose 20 more seats

It would lure foreign investment by attacking rampant graft and reforming the system of preferences for Malays that is blamed for harming national economic competitiveness and stoking resentment among minority Chinese and Indians.

“The people are committed to reform. There is a legitimate expectation among the public for them to see that reforms do take place,” Anwar said.

Anwar, who was acquitted a year ago on sodomy charges he called a bogus UMNO attempt to ruin him politically, has been integral to the Opposition’s revival.

The former BN heir-apparent’s spectacular 1998 ouster in a power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad gifted the Opposition a charismatic leader with top government experience to rally around.

The loose alliance of 2008 is stronger today, having since agreed on a common manifesto, and has shown it can govern in four states won five years ago, the most ever in opposition hands. Malaysia has 13 states.

“Cooperation between the parties is much stronger than 2008. They have done more to prepare the ground for new voters,” said leading political pollster Ibrahim Suffian.

Concerns linger over Pakatan’s ability to govern nationally.

Besides Anwar’s multi-racial PKR (Parti KeADILan Rakyat), it includes PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) representing Muslim ethnic Malays, and the secular DAP (Democratic Action Party) dominated by ethnic Chinese.

PAS’s calls for an Islamic state are a source of alliance squabbling, but We the RakyatAnwar dismisses any concern, saying PAS realises the goal is a non-starter in the diverse nation.

Economists, meanwhile, warn that populist Pakatan promises such as free primary-to-university education could sink Malaysia into debt, while noting ever-larger public handouts by Najib’s government also posed a risk.

Najib took office in 2009 and has portrayed himself as a reformer but surveys suggest BN is still viewed as a corruption-plagued, status-quo force.

Eroding minority support, particularly Chinese, that hurt the coalition in 2008 appears to be accelerating, independent polls show, while first-time voters estimated to number up to three million are a question mark.

One top UMNO official told AFP that party officials fear the coalition could lose 20 more seats – it now has 140 – raising the spectre of a Pakatan power play.

“All said, Najib still has the advantage, but an Opposition victory is clearly possible,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asian politics expert at Singapore Management University.

- AFP-www.malaysiakini.com

Not all demand is created equal


January 30, 2013

Not all demand is created equal

by Raghuram Rajan @www.nst.com.my

Raghuram RajanRaghuram Rajan, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the chief economic adviser in India’s finance ministry, served as the International Monetary Fund’s youngest-ever chief economist and was Chairman of India’s Committee on Financial Sector Reforms. He is the author of Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy.

TWO fundamental beliefs have driven economic policy around the world in recent years. The first is that the world suffers from a shortage of aggregate demand relative to supply; the second is that monetary and fiscal stimulus will close the gap.

Is it possible that the diagnosis is right, but that the remedy is wrong? That would explain why we have made little headway so far in restoring growth to pre-crisis levels. And it would also indicate that we must rethink our remedies.

High levels of involuntary unemployment throughout the advanced economies suggest that demand lags behind potential supply. While unemployment is significantly higher in sectors that were booming before the crisis, such as construction in the United States, it is more widespread, underpinning the view that greater demand is necessary to restore full employment.

Policymakers initially resorted to government spending and low interest rates to boost demand. As government debt has ballooned and policy interest rates have hit rock bottom, central banks have focused on increasingly innovative policy to boost demand. Yet growth continues to be painfully slow.

What if the problem is the assumption that all demand is created equal? Pre-crisis demand was boosted by massive amounts of borrowing.

When borrowing becomes easier, it is not the well-to-do, whose spending is not constrained by their incomes, who increase their consumption; rather, the increase comes from poorer and younger families whose needs and dreams far outpace their incomes.

Moreover, the goods that are easiest to buy are those that are easy to post as collateral — houses and cars, rather than perishables. And rising house prices in some regions make it easier to borrow even more to spend on other daily needs such as diapers and baby food.

While it catalyses a more generalised demand, it is not unreasonable to believe that much of debt-fuelled demand is more focused.

So, as lending dries up, borrowing households can no longer spend, and demand for certain goods changes disproportionately, especially in areas that boomed earlier.

Of course, the effects spread through the economy. But unemployment is most pronounced in the construction and automobile sectors, or in regions where house prices rose particularly rapidly.

A general stimulus to demand, such as a cut in payroll taxes, may be ineffective in restoring the economy to full employment. The general stimulus goes to everyone, not just the former borrowers.

Indeed, because the pattern of demand that is expressible has shifted with the change in access to borrowing, the pace at which the economy can grow without inflation may also fall.

Unlike a normal cyclical recession, in which demand falls across the board and recovery requires merely rehiring laid-off workers to resume their old jobs, economic recovery following a lending bust typically requires workers to move across industries and to new locations.

There is thus a subtle but important difference between my debt-driven demand view and the neo-Keynesian explanation that deleveraging (saving by chastened borrowers) or debt overhang (the inability of debt-laden borrowers to spend) is responsible for slow post-crisis growth.

The neo-Keynesian economist wants to boost demand generally. But if we believe that debt-driven demand is different, demand stimulus will at best be a palliative.

Writing down former borrowers’ debt may be slightly more effective in producing the old pattern of demand, but it will probably not restore it to the pre-crisis level.

The only sustainable solution is to allow the supply side to adjust to more normal and sustainable sources of demand — to ease the way for construction workers and autoworkers to retrain for faster-growing industries.

The worst thing that governments can do is to stand in the way by propping up unviable firms or by sustaining demand in unviable industries through easy credit.

Supply-side adjustments take time, and, after five years of recession, economies have made some headway. But continued misdiagnosis will have lasting effects.

The advanced countries will spend decades working off high public-debt loads, while their central banks will have to unwind bloated balance sheets and back off from promises of support that markets have come to rely on.

Frighteningly, the new Japanese government is still trying to deal with the aftermath of the country’s two-decade-old property bust.

One can only hope that it will not indulge in more of the kind of spending that already has proven so ineffective — and that has left Japan with the highest debt burden in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Unfortunately, history provides little cause for optimism.– Project Syndicate

Jocelyn On the Significance of Nik Aziz’s Visit to Karpal Singh


January 30, 2013

Jocelyn On the Significance of Nik Aziz’s Visit to Karpal Singh

jocelynby Jocelyn Tan @http://www.thestar.com.my

Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat made a significant visit to Karpal Singh’s house on Thaipusam day but behind the big smiles and the birthday cake for the PAS leader is the message that PAS is not quitting the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

KARPAL Singh was still taking his bath when Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and his entourage arrived at his house in Penang’s Western Road. It was the first time that the PAS leader was calling on the DAP leader, and everyone in the house was quite thrilled.

“My wife was banging on the bathroom door telling me to hurry up, that he is already here, he is inside the house. I think Nik Aziz must have heard it as well,” said the DAP chairman.

Nik Aziz, accompanied by Penang PAS commissioner Datuk Salleh Man, was about 15 minutes early although Karpal’s house lies smack along the kavadi route of the Thaipusam festivities.

The meeting of these two long-time adversaries is still the talk of their party Nikky and Karpisupporters today. Some loved it that the two men looked so cosy and congenial in the company of each other. Although both men had exchanged sharp words in the past, they greeted one another with megawatt smiles and held on to each others’ hands.

To Karpal, Nik Aziz is “the old man” (said fondly); after all, Karpal is only 72 to Nik Aziz’s 82 years. But others, especially some in PAS, were unsure what to make of it because Karpal has been a leading critic of PAS’ Islamic policies. This is the very same man who had declared “over my dead body” to PAS’ goal of setting up an Islamic state in Malaysia.

In fact, many in PAS think that Karpal ranks up there with MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek when it comes to criticising the theocratic policies of PAS. Let’s just say the two men are not the best loved figures among PAS members.

Harakahdaily played up the event, splashing photographs of Nik Aziz cutting a birthday cake surrounded by Karpal’s family and several other Pakatan Rakyat MPs and state assemblymen.

Utusan Malaysia also gave it the front-page treatment in its Monday edition, with the heading: “Hari jadi Nik Aziz di raikan dirumah Karpal Singh” (Nik Aziz’s birthday celebrated in Karpal Singh’s house). In fact, PAS dominated Utusan Malaysia’s front page that day because the lead story was “Nasharudin dipecat” — it was a report on PAS sacking its former deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa from its Syura Council.

Nik Aziz had turned 82 on January 10. His birthday cake was custom-made — it had the emblems of the three Pakatan parties and the words “Selamat Hari Jadi Tok Guru”.

Karpal on his part looked thrilled to bits. The fiery politician has seen it all but this was something else. He recognised the significance of this influential leader coming to his house as Hindus passed by outside, shouting “Vel! Vel!” in praise of the deity.

“It was nice of him to come. We have our differences but we get along. My feelings even before this have been quite warm. He is one of those people whom you cannot hate, he exudes friendliness,” said Karpal.

“We went into Parliament together in 1978, you know. I remember he sat beside me.”

No one in PAS can quite recall the Mursyidul Am ever celebrating his birthday, let alone cut a birthday cake. Apparently, the more conservative segment of PAS thinks that celebrating birthdays is a western practice that they would rather not emulate.

But Nik Aziz is the ultimate consummate politician. The fact that he agreed to go to Karpal’s home on no less than on Thaipusam day says a lot about the man. It was a risky political move and only someone of his extended years and stature could dare do it.

But it was less of a birthday celebration than about sending out signals to those watching. Nik Aziz was basically telling his audience that although PAS and DAP differed regarding the thorny kalimah Allah issue, he was not above calling on its top leader.

Nik-Aziz-and-Sebastian-group-photoLater in the afternoon, he met with the new Catholic Church head for the Penang diocese, Bishop Sebastian Francis (left). The meeting was just as cordial and Nik Aziz even presented the Bishop with a cake ringed with cherries.

This time, his message was that although PAS is against the use of the term Allah in Christian Bibles, PAS leaders could still sit down and talk with Christian leaders.

Politically speaking, Nik Aziz is trying to portray a moderate image for PAS and to reach out to the middle ground, especially among the Chinese community. Hence, his visit to the house of a DAP leader.

The kalimah Allah has damaged Pakatan, particularly given that it has placed PAS on one side and DAP and PKR on the other. They are the proverbial “strange bedfellows” still living in the same house but in different bedrooms and they want to persuade voters that they are still together despite differences on this fundamental matter.

But Nik Aziz is probably aware that people inside and outside his party are bound to see all this as yet another instance of PAS dancing to DAP’s tune. But PAS needs DAP’s help to hold on to its seats in the west coast.

Critics in PAS said all these gestures benefit DAP more than their own party. They think that reaching out to Karpal is a waste of time because it is not going to change him and they are probably right.

Karpal is still enjoying the warm buzz from the visit but he said: “My stand on hudud law and the Islamic state remains the same, visit or no visit. What needs to be heard, has to be said.”

Not Possible to have 100% Clean Electoral Roll, says EC Chief


January 30, 2013

Not Possible to have 100% Clean Electoral Roll, says EC Chief

by Hazlan Zakaria @www.malaysiakini.com

It is not possible for any country to ensure its electoral roll is 100 percent clean, the Election Commission (EC) says, for the list will be affected by daily occurrences of deaths as well as changes in addresses as people move about the country.

“If I clean today, tomorrow someone dies and it is not clean again…NONE“How clean do you want it to be? What kind of detergent do we need to use?” EC chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told a press conference in Putrajaya today.

He stressed that in spite of revelations to the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on immigrants in Sabah, the electoral roll for the state – and for the rest of the country – was as clean as these could be made.

“Believe us, the electoral roll is clean. As far as the EC is concerned, we only accept citizens with blue MyKad as voters.

“As for how they got the identity card, that’s (under the purview of) the National Registration Department (NRD),” he said, washing his hands clean of possible inaccuracies.

Before the names are entered into the roll, the EC carries out a “vigorous check” with the NRD to ensure that those being registered are citizens and are alive.

“If it is okay, only then we register,” Abdul Aziz explained after launching the commission’s dedicated 13th general election website.

He also appealed to members of the public to be proactive and check their details for discrepancies and update the EC with their latest details and addresses.

For this, he said, voters could SMS, email, phone in or go through the EC’s new dedicated GE13 website at www.pru13.gov.my.

No comment on Sabah RCI

Asked to comment on the ongoing RCI, Abdul Aziz refused to touch on the testimonies of the witnesses.

“I have been advised not to comment as the proceedings are still going on. Four EC officers are waiting to testify and they will answer any and all questions that the commission may ask,” he said.

The RCI hearing in Kota Kinabalu has to date featured damning testimonies on the awarding of citizenship to illegal immigrants and their subsequent registration as voters.

Asked why the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) was not named as an election observer, Abdul Aziz said it was the EC’s prerogative to choose whoever it wanted, and he went on to say it was not because Suhakam had any ill feeling toward the commission.

NONE“(Suhakam chief) Hasmy Agam (right) is my friend too.”

He added that thus far 16 NGOs have been appointed as local observers while five ASEAN countries and the grouping’s secretariat would be coming as international observers.

‘Malaysia, Australia poles apart’

The EC chief also dismissed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s early announcement of election dates as inconsequential to Malaysian politics as both countries were poles apart and used differing electoral guidelines. “We have different laws, different systems and different conventions.”

Commenting further on the EC’s dedicated GE13 website, Abdul Aziz said it would be the one-stop portal for all things related to the coming general election, including news, turnout rates, enforcement updates, nomination statistics as well as other information and a live stream of all voting results.

He said the new site costs less then RM100,000 out of the total RM400 million budgeted for the commission’s GE13 budget. This budget is a whopping RM150 million more than the cost of GE12 in 2008.

Abdul Aziz attributed the inflated cost to inflation, ballooning staff and allowances as well as extra expenses for new types of voting, overseas voting and to handle and increasing number of voters, which will total 13.3 million as against the 10 million voters in 2008, after the latest registrants are gazetted in March

Shame on All of Us, Fellow Malaysians


January 30, 2013

Shame on All of Us, Fellow Malaysians

Note: We are all so engrossed with our nation’s politics that we lose our compassion and sense of caring. One of the objectives of  9 strategic objectives of Vision 2020 is to nurture and build a caring nation. But we have shown our ugly side. The passing of young William Yau has not moved us one wee bit. What is wrong with us, I wonder. Other kids before William  too have died in vain because we do not care enough.

Now  I read the story which appears in the New Straits Times today about the poisoning  of elephants in Sabah. I hope the authorities find the culprits of this barbarous act and make them pay for their cruelty to animals with punitive sentences.

An+dead+elephant+at+the+Gunung+Rara+Forest+Reserve+in+Sabah

I am moved to see the above picture of the baby elephant trying to revive its mother. It shows me what love is about. I don’t think animals have problems (I disagree with BTN propagandist Sharifah Zohra Jabeen) but we do as we do not know how to co-exist with them.–Din Merican  

Jumbos believed poisoned

10 DEAD: All were found to have badly damaged internal organs

KOTA KINABALU: A TRAIL of 10 dead elephants in one of the last bastions for the species in Sabah has raised concerns on how far people will go to protect their interest.

Carcasses of the Bornean pygmy elephants from a single herd were found near a logging camp and an oil palm plantation not far from the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, about 130km from Tawau, between December 29 and January 25.

The elephants were believed to have been poisoned with a rat poison-like chemical, large amounts of which may have been used in areas where they feed on.

Only a 3-month-old male baby elephant was found alive next to its mother and promptly sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near here. The odds of the elephant surviving, however, remained slim as it was still nursing from its mother.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Laurentius Ambu yesterday said the discovery was disturbing because of the large number that were found dead.

“We are on the lookout if there could be more in the area, which is part of the Forest Management Unit concession held by Yayasan Sabah.”

The 100,000ha concession area, between the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Conservation Areas, accounts for nearly 1,000 or half the elephant population in the state.

Laurentius said the family of elephants live within a 400km square area.”The dead elephants, three males and seven females, were found within an area of about 10 sq km radius but it may have consumed the poison elsewhere before dying near the logging camp.”

A post-mortem have been conducted on most of the carcasses and senior veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said all were found with badly damaged internal organs.

“There were no signs of external injuries such as gunshots or cuts.We have sent samples to the Chemistry Department as well as to the Veterinary Services Department to check on the possibility of bacterial infection.The livers were enlarge or inflamed, the lungs congested and there was internal bleeding in the intestines.”

A task force made up of the Wildlife Department, Forestry Department, Police, Yayasan Sabah and World Wildlife Fund has been formed to probe the findings.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun expressed shock on the death of the elephants.”This is a very sad day for conservation and Sabah.”

Malaysia records worst-ever ranking on Press Freedom


January 30, 2013

Malaysia records worst-ever ranking on Press Freedom

Reporters-without-bordersThe state of press freedom in Malaysia has hit a historic low, with the country being ranked No 145 in the latest World Press Freedom Index – the worst since the annual index was begun in 2002.

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) – or Reporters Without Borders – attributed the poor standing to issues linked to the police crackdown on the BERSIH 3.0 protest last April, as well as repeated censorship and the undermining of basic freedoms, in particular the right to information.

InNONE 2010, Malaysia stood at No 141, but then clawed its way up to No 122 in 2011-2012. Despite this, Malaysia is listed with countries that are placed in a difficult situation, media-wise.

Several unfavourable reports on Malaysia noted by RSF include the deferment of a three months’ prison sentence imposed on blogger Amizudin Ahmat (right) pending his appeal for defaming Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, and the court decision favouring the seizure order on cartoonist Zunar.

The BERSIH 3.0 protests saw at least two journalists injured after they were reportedly assaulted by policemen.

The authors listed Bangladesh, Libya, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei above Malaysia in the current index of 179 countries.

azlanSingapore was ranked lower than Malaysia at No 149, while Burma is fast catching up – it climbed 18 spots to No 151 after the “dramatic changes” of last year.

The report that states Malaysia’s drop to its lowest position was because access to information was becoming more and more limited.

Japan also recorded the sharpest decline in Asia, by 31 notches from 22 recorded in 2011-2012, to 53rd spot this year. This is attributed to the a lack of transparency and almost zero access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Mali recorded the biggest drop after its internal turmoil following the mediamerdekahires1military coup in Bamako on March 22, and the takeover in the north by armed Islamists and Tuareg separatists that brought censorship and violence upon the media in the north.

The report states that seven journalists and four netizens were killed this year, compared with 90 journalists and 47 netizens during the whole of  last year.

At present, 191 journalists, 13 media assistants and 180 netizens are being held in prisons worldwide over issues concerning the media, it adds.

Tunku Zain Al-Abidin responds to Tunku Aziz and Anthony Loke


January 29, 2013

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Tunku Zain Al-Abidin responds to Tunku Aziz and Anthony Loke

Tunku ZainI will be writing about the statement by Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim and the response by Anthony Loke Siew Fook more fully in my usual column on Friday, but for now, I emphasise the following:

It is unfortunate that private discussions have been made public. Political parties should be able to freely engage any Malaysian citizen to discuss confidential proposals within the boundaries of the law. I am grateful to Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, for his tweet…

However, now that this has been brought to the public domain, I can confirm that the descriptions of the contents of my conversation with the DAP some months ago are broadly accurate. As it was an informal conversation, no minutes were taken. It should be noted that I have been invited to similar informal and private conversations with representatives of other political parties as well.

As I have written in my articles over the past five years, I respect and admire principled and hardworking politicians regardless of the party they belong to. However, in my view, no political party today articulates the vision of our Ayahanda Kemerdekaan with sufficient conviction and consistency for me to consider joining them.

It has been alleged that it is improper for a child of a Ruler to participate in party politicsTunku Aziz. However, five children of Rulers have already done so, namely:

a) YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah of Kedah (MP for Kuala Muda 1955-1970 and Prime Minister 1957-1970; UMNO and Semangat 46).

b) YAM Tunku Panglima Besar Tunku Abdullah ibni Tuanku Abdul Rahman of Negri Sembilan (MP for Rawang 1964-1974; UMNO).

c) YAM Tengku Sri Paduka Raja Tengku Ibrahim ibni Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah of Terengganu (ADUN for Ajil 1990-1995; Semangat 46 and PAS).

d) YAM Tengku Dato’ Sri Azlan ibni Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang (MP for Jerantut 1999-present and Deputy Minister of Transport 1999-2008; Semangat 46 and UMNO)

e) YAM Dato’ Seri DiRaja Syed Razlan Jamalullail ibni Syed Putra Jamalullail of Perlis (MP for Arau 2004-2008 and ADUN for Pauh 2008-present; UMNO).

Malaysian civil society space has grown significantly in the past few years, and I have long been active in that environment, since before my father was elected the eleventh Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan. It is in this space that I wish to continue to contribute, particularly through the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and the various foundations in which I serve.

Bridge builders stand down Book Burners


January 29, 2013

Bridge builders stand down Book Burners

by Terence Netto (01-28-13) @http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT It was a weekend fraught with anxiety over what some pyromaniacs had threatened to do. In the event, it turned out to be an occasion when meaningful symbolism triumphed as incendiary intent fizzled out – and the rest of the country breathed a little easier.

The children of light had triumphed over the children of darkness – that was the essential story of the weekend just past. Whom and what did it take for this to happen?

It took imagination by some leaders and constructive thinking by ordinary people for the triumph – albeit, temporary – of the nobler impulses over the baser instincts of man.

Rarely have such disparate symbolic gestures, like the birthday celebration of a durable leader, and the quiet reading and contemplation of scriptural texts by a host of ordinary people, combined to provide an appraising public with the liberating possibilities that a creative imagination affords.

Ibrahim AliPerkasa firebrand Ibrahim Ali (left) had set the stage for dire possibility two weeks ago with his call to Malays to burn Malay-language bibles that used the term ‘Allah’ for God.

That incendiary call prompted a welter of reaction but none was publicly forthcoming from leaders rhetorically invested in the paths of moderation.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Predictably, Ibrahim’s call, seemingly safe from interdiction by the powers-that-be, drew an anonymous respondent to post an invitation to the public to witness a burning of bibles on January 27 at a public venue on mainland Penang.Fortunately, not everyone took the threat in supine fashion.

Nik Aziz meets Karpal

The ecumenical Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the PAS MP for Parit Buntar and his party’s pointman for their outreach programme to non-Muslims, had been working for a long time to counter just the kind of fear mongering at which Ibrahim Ali is a dab hand.

Mujahid, in cahoots with comrades in PKR and DAP in Penang, contrived to have PAS spiritual leader Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat meet up with DAP chairperson Karpal Singh at the latter’s home, which is located in the thick of the Thaipusam festivity yesterday along Waterfall Road in Penang.

Pakatan solidarity

Sunday, Jan 27, happened to be the Kelantan Menteri Besar’s 82nd birthday.  Karpal, who has recently been the target of criticism by some ulama in PAS over the former’s appeal to them to reconsider their stance on the ‘Allah’ issue, was pleasantly surprised by the visit to his house by Nik Aziz, the birthday man himself.

They reminisced on a past when they first became colleagues in 1978 on the Opposition benches in Parliament, Karpal representing Jelutong in Penang, and Nik Aziz turning out for Pengkalan Chepa in Kelantan.

“His presence sends a strong message that our unity is as strong as ever, despite all that happened,” chimed a happy Karpal.

A cake for the prelate

After that visit to Karpal, Nik Aziz met up with the Catholic bishop of Penang, Sebastian Francis, at a hotel where he presented a cake to the prelate.

Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Penang bishop Sebastian Francis cake 2The meeting was not originally on Nik Aziz’s schedule but was arranged spontaneously, as a counterpoint no doubt, to the threatened bible-burning event that did not take place.

Bishop Francis told a frail-looking Nik Aziz that the country’s needs his spiritual example, a sentiment that Ibrahim Ali would likely disagree.

Elsewhere in the country, at a park within the vicinity of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, a small crowd of people, who could not have known about the ecumenical goings-on between DAP and PAS in the north and between Islamic and Christian leaders, flopped down on the grass to read spiritual books they have brought along to the collective read-in.

klcc book reading 270113 masjalizah hamzahOne of them, a Muslim named Masjaliza Hamzah (right), brought a Bible and read from it. She said, “Other people may be worried for me, but I am not worried about my own faith.”

The thought here echoes with some resonant lines from the poet William Blake: “In every cry of man/In every infant’s cry of fear/In every voice, in every ban/The mind-forged manacles I hear.”

Yesterday, spiritual and lay leaders in Penang and in Kuala Lumpur, acted out gestures whose striking panache helped breach the ‘mind-forged manacles’ that the book-burning crowd want people to be shackled with.

Sudut Fikiran Bakri Musa


28hb. Januari, 2013

http://suaris.wordpress.com

Sudut Fikiran Bakri Musa

Masa Depan Melayu

Kalau lebih ramai lagi memberi dan menyumbang daripada mereka yang bergantung dan menerima, cepatlah maju masyarakat itu…

Dr Bakri Musa agak asing kepada sesetengah pembaca Malaysia. Tambahan pula kepada sesetengah pembaca yang kurang terdedah dengan medium internet berbahasa Inggeris, maka mereka dijangka sedikit kerugian apabila idea-idea bernas dari penulis dan pemikir hebat seperti Dr Bakri tidak dapat diakses kepada mereka.

Suaris telah mengambil inisiatif untuk mendekatkan pembaca berbahasa Melayu khususnya dengan buah fikiran Dr Bakri. Selaku anak kelahiran negeri Sembilan, dan mewakili generasi awal Bumiputera yang mendapat peluang pendidikan luar Negara, Dr Bakri tidak pernah melupakan asal-usulnya dan membalas budi tanah airnya melalui senarai idea dan tulisan, yang sebahagiannya dibukukan.

Liberating the Malay MindTerbaru, beliau muncul dengan koleksi tulisannya yang diberi judul ‘Liberating The Malay Mind’ yang diterbit oleh ZI Publication. Sekalipun bermastautin di Amerika Syarikat, membaca naskah tulisan beliau menyebabkan kita berasa amat dekat dengannya.

Dalam kesempatan ini, Dr Bakri berbincang mengenai topik yang penting dan amat relevan dengan situasi orang Melayu di Negara kita, iaitu “Bangsa Melayu dan Masa Depan’. Warga Melayu dilihat berada di persimpangan dalam banyak perkara; persimpangan politik, ekonomi, pembangunan, pendidikan dan sosial amnya. Pendek kata, bagaimanakah rupa perkembangan masa depan orang Melayu dalam dekad akan datang dan bagaimanakah mereka akan menghadapinya?

Ikuti wawancara tersebut selengkapnya.

Suaris:  Apa khabar Dr? Diharapkan Dr dan isteri sentiasa sihat dan diberkati Allah hendaknya.

Dr Bakri:  Beres!  Sehat sahaja, Alhamdullillah!

Suaris : Dr banyak menulis berkenaan ketidaksediaan orang Melayu dalam menghadapi masa depan mereka? Sejauh mana tidak bersedianya mereka ini?

Dr Bakri : Di dalam buku saya Towards A Competitive Malaysia (Ke arah Malaysia Membangun) saya mengemukakan kesimpulan ini: Kemajuan atau kemunduran sesuatu masyarakat dan negeri tergantung kepada empat tiang – pemimpin (leaders), rakyat (people), budaya (culture), dan alam sekitar (geography).

Daripada empat unsur itu, hanya satu sahaja – alam sekitar – yang tidak boleh di ubah. Sama ada negara itu kaya dengan minyak dan tanahnya subur adalah berkat daripada Tuhan. Bersyukur dan untunglah rakyatnya.

Towards a Competitive Malaysia

Tetapi kalau negara yang bertuah itu mempunyai pemimpin yang korup dan tidak bijak, rakyatnya tidak mempunyai kebolehan atau kepakaran, dan budayanya merosot dan suka membazir, lama kelamaan masyarakat itu akan mundur. Banyak contoh di dunia sekarang, antaranya Brunei dan negera Arab.

Di sebaliknya, jika alam atau geografi negeri itu tidak bertuah, tanahnya penuh dengan gunung-gunung yang tinggi dan dibalut salji yang tebal, dan cuacanya sejuk menyebabkan tanaman boleh tumbuh hanya empat atau lima bulan sahaja setahun, tetapi jika mutu pemimpin, rakyat dan budaya masyarakat itu tinggi, ia akan maju dan terus maju. Contohnya Switzerland.

Kita mudah faham betapa mustahaknya pemimpin yang bijak, cekap dan beramanah. Pemimpin yang saya maknakan bukan sahaja dalam medan politik dan pentabiran negeri (menteri dan penghulu), tetapi juga dalam agama (mufti dan ustaz), masyarakat (sultan dan raja raja), pendidikan (professor dan guru guru), ibu bapa dll.

Mutu rakyat atau modal insan (human capital) tergantung kepada dua ukuran: kesihatan dan pendidikan. Kalau rakyat kita tidak sihat (ketagih dadah, dijangkiti malaria dan denggi), mereka tidak akan cekap dan berupaya. Kalau dasar pelajaran kita mundur, pemuda pemudi kita tidak akan mahir.

Seseorang makhluk itu adalah menyumbang dan memberi, atau bergantung dan menerima daripada masyarakat. Kalau lebih ramai lagi memberi dan menyumbang daripada mereka yang bergantung dan menerima, cepatlah maju masyarakat itu. Sebaliknya jika lebih ramai menerima dan bergantung cepatlah mundur masyarakat atau negeri itu.

Apa yang saya maksudkan dengan istilah budaya ialah acara acara, badan-badan serta adat resam dan nilai-nilai masyarakat itu.

Cuba ambil badan-badan. Bila saya beli daging di kedai saya tahu ada badan-badan dan undang-undang yang mengesahkan bahawa daging itu bersih dan halal. Kalau tidak, ramai pembeli yang akan sakit dan mati akibat makan daging busuk. Bagitu juga jika kita tidak ada badan dan undang-undang yang kita tidak percayai, siapa yang akan mengesahkan bahawa rumah yang saya nak beli itu betul-betul dipunyai oleh si penjual? Banyak masa and jasa akan membazir hanya untuk mengesahkan yang penjual betul-betul tuan punya harta yang nak dijual.

Bagitu juga bila saya simpan wang di bank, saya yakin duit saya itu tidak akan hilang dilarikan oleh manager bank itu.

Tentang nilai budaya, jika kita hormatkan penipu, pencuri dan penyangak, itu memberi tauladan kepada orang ramai terutama yang muda. Mereka pun akan menjadi penyamun dan pencuri seperti kaum Mafia di Italy Selatan.

Keempat empat unsur-unsur itu bertindak balas antara satu dan lain. Maknanya, rakyat yang bijak akan memilih atau mengundi pemimpin yang sama bijak dan tidak akan melayan atau tunduk kepada pemimpin yang angkuh dan penipu. Bagitu juga pemimpin yang bijak akan membina dasar pendidikan yang membolehkan murid murid menerima ilmu dan kemahiran yang membolehkan mereka menjadi rakyat yang soleh.

Rakyat dan pemimpin yang bijak akan mengunakan dan memelihara alam sekitar nya dengan bijak. Misalnya Cancun, Mexico, dalam tahun lima puluhan dulu adalah satu kampung nelayan yang miskin. Tetapi oleh kebijakan pemimpin serta mutu rakyat yang bertambah tinggi, Cancun sekarang bukan lagi pusat nelayan tetapi pusat pelancongan yang masyhur dan maju. Nelayan yang dahulunya miskin sekarang mewah berkerja sebagai “tour guide” untuk pelancong dari America dan Europah yang tiba beribu untuk memancing sebagai sport.

Bila kita periksa keadaan masyarakat Melayu sekarang dari sudut keempat empat elemen yang saya terangkan diatas, iaitu pemimpin, mutu rakyat, budaya, dan alam sekitar kita, apakah markah yang patut kita bagi?

Cuba tengok alam sekitar kita. Pantai-pantai kita indah, ombaknya biru, airnya tidak sejuk, dan matahari selalu sahaja bercahaya. Patutnya berjuta orang Eropah dan Jepun melancong ke negeri kita. Kalah Cancun! Apa sebab tidak begitu? Tengoklah, sampah merata rata, kemudahan awam saperti tandas dan bilik mandi tak ada, kalau ada pun kotor.

Di mana salahnya?  Pemimpin? Betul! Rakyat? Betul juga! Budaya? Susahlah nak cakap! Di dalam buku saya Towards A Competitive Malaysia saya huraikan pelbagai cara memimpin, cara-cara untuk meninggikan mutu rakyat, meninggikan unsur-usur budaya kita, serta membela alam sekitar kita supaya mengutungi masyarakat.

II   Melayu Perlu Merdeka

Masyarakat Melayu sekarang berkehendakkan pertolongan racun Roundup bukan baja Urea untuk menghapuskan ahli lalang dalam masyarakat kita. Kebun kita sudah dibanjiri lalang…

DALAM siri temuramah Suaris bersama Dr Bakri Musa bahagian kedua, Dr menyatakan pentingnya orang Melayu bersama pemimpin-pemimpinnya melakukan anjakan dengan mengubah pemikiran mereka ke arah kemajuan dan rasionaliti. Mereka tidak sepatutnya taksub kepada ajaran mahu pun arahan yang meminta mereka supaya berfikiran jumud, mundur ke belakang sekalipun arahan itu datangnya dari seorang ulama atau pemimpin utama. Mereka juga diseru supaya membuang kebergantungan berlebihan mereka kepada tongkat (bantuan kerajaan) supaya mereka lebih berdikari dan percaya diri.

Ikuti temuramah tersebut selengkapnya.

Suaris:  Dr Mahathir dalam satu rancangan di Astro Awani beberapa hari lepas berkata orang Melayu akan terus ketinggalan sekiranya tidak dibantu, yang diistilahkan beliau sebagai tongkat. Adakah Dr bersetuju orang Melayu terus diberikan tongkat berkenaan. Sampai bila bantuan ini perlu diteruskan?

Bakri MusaDr Bakri:  Kalau orang Melayu sekarang masih lagi kebelakangan selepas lebih daripada 55 tahun di “bantu” oleh kerajaan UMNO, kita patut periksa dengan teliti apakah yang disifatkan “bantuan” itu.

Sebagai ibu bapa kita sedia maklum betapa mustahaknya cara kita membantu anak anak kita. Kalau kita selalu sahaja memanjakan, jangan harapkan mereka menjadi cemerlang. Kalau kita terlalu kuat atau “strict,” mungkin mereka akan hilang ketegasan sendiri (self-confidence). Begitu juga kalau kita selalu memburukkan dan memberatkan kelemahan mereka.

Dalam rawatan moden, seseorang yang sudah dibedah tulang punggungnya jarang diberi tongkat; kalau diberi hanya untuk seminggu dua sahaja. Sebaliknya, pesakit diberi physiotherapy untuk tujuan berjalan sendiri tanpa tongkat. Pesakit yang saya bedah, pada keesokan harinya saya menyuruh dia bangun berjalan tanpa pertolongan.

Banyak bahayanya jika si pesakit terbaring sahaja di atas katil, antaranya darah beku (blood clot) yang boleh mengakibatkan maut. Pesakit yang saya bedah kerana appendicitis biasanya keluar dari hospital pada esok hari dan kembali berkerja dalam tempoh seminggu. Dua puloh tahun dahulu pesakit seumpama (akan mengambil masa yang lama) baru nak keluar dari hospital!

Satu wawasan perubatan ialah jika badan kita (sama ada urat, tulang, dan juga otak) tidak di kerjakan atau dilatih ia akan menjadi lemah dan reput. Jika saya ikatkan bujang (pemuda) yang kuat dan sehat di atas katil dan “bantu” dia makan, mandi dan sebagainya supaya dia tak payah pun bergerak satu urat, tak sampai seminggu hamba Allah itu tidak akan boleh bangun sendiri; dia akan memohon tongkat sebab badannya sudah menjadi lemah. Itu bahayanya “menolong” berlebih- lebihan.

Kita perlu kaji dengan teliti mengapa “pertolongan” yang diberi kepada kaum kita oleh kerajaan UMNO tidak berkesan.

Bakri's Book

Dr. Mahathir pernah merawat pesakit. Kalau si pesakit tidak sembuh dengan ubat dan rawatan yang diberi, patutkah si doktor terus dengan ubat dan rawatan yang sama bertahun- tahun? Mungkin si pesakit patut dibantu dengan Penicillin, bukan Panadol.

Kadang kadang, walau pun ubat yang diberi itu sesuai, mungkin sukatan yang diberi tidak mencukupi atau berlebihan. Betul, Panadol akan menurunkan demam, tetapi hanya jika diberi dalam sukatan yang berpatutan. Kalau diberi suku pil sahaja, demam takkan turun, dan kita akan salahkan ubat!

Kalau kita bagi ubat berlebihan, itu pun boleh menjadi bisa dan bahaya. Di Amerika setiap tahun berapa orang kanak-kanak maut kerana ibu memberi Tylenol (ubat seperti Panadol) berlebihan mengikut sukatan yang sesuai untuk orang dewasa.

Kalaupun kita bagi ubat yang sesuai serta sukatan yang berpatutan tetapi pesakit masih tidak sembuh, ini bermakna kita patut dan mesti tukar “diagnosis” dan rawatan kita. Penyakit seperti appendicitis memerlukan pembedahan, bukan penicillin.

Mungkin pembaca kurang selesa dengan metafora perubatan, jadi saya gunakan gambaran peladang. Di ladang, kalau kita tidak cabutkan dengan habis-habisan termasuk uratnya, lalang akan gembur dan menimbun serta merosakkan tanaman yang berharga. Apa lagi kalau kita “tolong” lalang itu dengan membajakannya!

Kebun UMNO sekarang ditimbuni lalang. Kalau kita hendak menolong UMNO dan orang Melayu pada umumnya, kita patut semburkan racun Round Up untuk membunuh lalang-lalang itu supaya kita boleh tanam benda yang berguna dan mereka berpeluang bangun. Tetapi apa yang kita buat sekarang? Kita bajakan lalang! Alasannya, betul lalang, tetapi lalang Melayu! Kita mesti tolong sebab Melayu!

“Pertolongan” yang dihebohkan oleh Dr. Mahathir dan pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO saya sifatkan seumpama membajakan lalang. Akibatnya banyak dan lumayan lalang Melayu sekarang; Isa Samad sekarang sembur sebagai peneraju FELDA. Dia dibuktikan bersalah “wang politik” oleh kerabatnya dalam UMNO beberapa tahun lepas. Khir Toyo satu lagi lalang Melayu yang sekarang sembur dalam istana kayangannya yang dibiayai oleh (wang) rakyat.

Di bahagian swasta, lalang Tajuddin Ramli hampir mengorbankan kebun MAS. Banyak lagi lalang di Utusan dan New Straits Times. Dalilnya, pembaca NST sekarang tak sampai separuh daripada sepuluh tahun dahulu. Lalang Melayulah yang menimbun dan akhirnya memusnahkan Bank Bumiputra. Kita tidak hairan dengan kehijauan dan kesuburan lalang, walau pun lalang Melayu!

Pemimpin Melayu seperti Mahathir patut tekun mencari jalan lain yang lebih bererti dan berkesan untuk menolong kaum kita. Jangan hanya suka memuaskan hati dengan mencaci dan membangkitkan kononnya kelemahan bangsa kita. Masyarakat Melayu sekarang berkehendakkan pertolongan racun Roundup bukan baja Urea untuk menghapuskan ahli lalang dalam masyarakat kita. Kebun kita sudah dibanjiri lalang.

Ada pepatah Kristian yang saya terjemahkan lebih kurang seperti berikut. Kalau kita menolong si miskin dengan memberinya seekor ikan, dia akan dapat makan hanya sehari. Tetapi kalau kita tolong dengan mengajar dia mengail, dia akan dapat makan selama hidup. Kalau tolong lebih sedikit, seumpama memberi pinjaman untuk membeli sampan, dia akan mengail laut yang luas dan dapat menanggung sekampung.

Kita tidak menolong kaum kita dengan memberi kuota masuk universiti dengan senang, lesen mengimport dan kontrak-kontrak lumayan, atau menyuruh perusahaan bangsa lain mengambil pengarah-pengarah (biasanya ahli politik) Melayu. Jauh sekali! Itu hanya membajakan lalang. Mereka hanya “ersatz capitalists” atau perusahaan menenggek, bukan tulen.

Pertolongan yang lebih bermakna dan berkatnya berpanjangan ialah jika kita menolong orang Melayu berfikir sendiri. Bebaskan otak orang Melayu. Kalau ungkapan kita masa tahun lima puluhan dahulu ialah “Merdeka Tanah Melayu,” sekarang slogan kita mestilah, “Merdeka Minda Melayu!

Itulah tema buku saya terakhir, “Liberating The Malay Mind.” Apakah yang saya maksudkan dengan minda merdeka? Konsep ini lebih terang dijelaskan melalui cerita seorang alim, Mullah Nasaruddin. Ia terkenal kerana mengajar melalui contoh yang ringkas dan jenaka diri sendiri.

Dia ada jiran yang suka meminjam keldai Mullah tetapi lalai untuk mengembalikannya. Pada satu hari jiran itu datang untuk meminjam binatang itu. Pak Mullah, (yang telah) menjangkakan permintaan itu, telah dulunya menyorokkan binatang itu di dalam reban dan tidak ternampak dari luar. Bila jiran itu memohon, Mullah Nasaruddin dengan lenang membalas, “Keldai ku sudah dipinjam oleh abangku semalam.”

Bila jiran itu kecewa pusing balik, dia kedengaran binatang itu melaung dalam reban. “Kau katakan keldai telah dipinjam oleh abang kau.”

Bakri on Education

Mullah serta-merta menjawab, “Kau lebih percayai ringkikan keldai lebih daripada suara Mullah?” Seorang yang mempunyai minda merdeka lebih mempercayai laungan keldai itu; mereka yang mempunyai minda yang masih dipenjarakan oleh adat dan budaya akan turut mempercayai Mullah walaupun keldai itu ada di hadapan mata.

Kita mesti melatih orang Melayu supaya bila kita dengar laungan keldai kita mesti mempercayai telinga kita walau pun Pak Lebai mengatakan itu hanya suara rekaan sahaja.

Dalam buku terakhir, saya mengemukakan empat cara untuk membebaskan minda Melayu. Pertama, membebaskan sebaran am dan punca-punca maklumat dan berita serta pandangan. Kedua, mengadakan sistem pendidikan yang bebas (liberal education) dan berlandasan kukuh atas asas sains dan matematik.

Ketiga, mendorongkan perusahan dan perdagangan dalam masyarakat kita; iaitu mengalakkan orang Melayu menjadi kaum perusahaan. Bila kita berdagang, kita sifatkan orang bangsa lain bukan sebagai pendatang tetapi bakal pelanggan kita. Maknanya, asas keuntungan kita!

Keempat, kita mesti kaji semula bagaimana kita mengajar agama kepada anak- anak kita serta bagaimana kita mengamalkan agama yang suci ini. Islam telah membebaskan kaum Bedouin Arab yang kanun, membebaskan mereka dari Zaman Jahiliyah kepada Zaman Cahaya. Begitu juga Islam patut membebaskan orang Melayu memulai dengan membebaskan minda kita.

Tanpa membebaskan minda Melayu, tidak kira berapa billion pertolongan kita beri, seberapa lumayan kontrak, AP serta kuota-kuota lain kita hadiahkan, atau berapa senangnya anak-anak kita masuk universiti, itu semuanya tidak bermakna atau berkesan. Semuanya itu bukan “pertolongan” yang tulin, bahkan hanya candu untuk syok sendiri dan hisapan khayalan sahaja. Semuanya saya umpamakan membajakan lalang.

Sebagai negara merdeka Malaysia telah mencapai banyak kejayaan. Kalau kita merdekakan minda Melayu, tidak terhad kejayaan kita sebagai perseorangan dan juga sebagai masyarakat. Yang indahnya, bila minda kita merdeka, ia tidak boleh lagi dipenjarakan.

Tidak payahlah kita ragukan unsur-unsur seperti globalisasi dan neokolonial. Kita tidak lagi bimbang bila anak kita fasih dalam bahasa Inggeris atau bahasa asing. Dengan minda merdeka kita tidak akan berasa terancam bila makhluk Allah lain menggunakan istilah ‘Allah’.

Merdekakan minda Melayu! Itulah satu pertolongan yang berkesan dan tak terharga!Berbalik semula ke ‘tongkat’ yang paling dihargai oleh Mahathir dan kerabatnya dalam UMNO, bagaimana kita boleh mengharap orang-orang kampung membuang tongkat kecil kayu mereka sedangkan tongkat emas yang beberapa lagi indah dan besar diberi kepada sultan-sultan, raja- raja dan menteri- menteri?

Kita marah bila Pak Mat di Kampong Kerinchi menyelewengkan wang pinjaman MARA dua tiga ratus ringgit untuk memajukan warung kopinya untuk membeli baju sekolah anaknya, tetapi bila suami menteri menyelewengkan berjuta- juta duit rakyat untuk membeli kondo mewah, pemimpin seperti Mahathir senyap sahaja.

Melayu tak payah diberi tongkat apa-apa pun. Pertolongan yang patut diberi ialah untuk membebaskan minda kita. Kalau hendak beri pertolongan, hanya tolonglah sedikit mencabut lalang di kebun kita supaya pisang, timun dan kacang kita boleh berpeluang tumbuh. Kalau enggan berbuat demikian, tolong janganlah bajakan lalang tu!

Lessons from Punggol East, Singapore


January 28, 2013

Lessons from Punggol East, Singapore: Incumbency not an advantage

by Dr. Bridget Welsh@ http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT When the votes were counted in this seat of 31,600 voters, the incumbent PAP had experienced an embarrassing loss – the Opposition Workers’ Party took the seat decisively with a 10.8 percent margin, winning 54.5 percent of the electorate. This was a whopping 13 percent increase in its share of support from the 2011 general election.

This is now the second by-election in two years where the dominant PAP has experienced difficulties at the polls, and the overall trend is one of erosion of support that is gaining momentum.

The Punggol East by-election – in a seat where the PAP had the advantages of incumbency and resources at its disposal – is perhaps the clearest sign that the party is in trouble. Not only is Singapore moving toward a more pluralistic political system, the ruling party is losing ground electorally, particularly among younger Singaporeans.

To understand the results, it is important to appreciate both local dynamics of the contest as well as broader shifts that are taking place in South-East Asia, including Malaysia. One-party-dominant regimes are struggling in maintaining their political position as their political bases contract and the strategies they are adopting, tied to old practices of politics, are just not making the grade.

The battle of the sexes

People's Action Party candidate Koh Poh Koon pap punggol by election singaporeThe most apparent factor in this by-election involved a clear call for a different type of representation. The PAP slated a talented surgeon, Dr Koh Poh Koon (right), in its old winnable mold of the “bright and the brightest”. He was supported by the establishment as PAP leaders came to the ground to back one of their own.

During the campaign it became clearer to the voters that Koh was part of the country’s elite. For example, his comments on car ownership – that “everyone in Singapore had a car” and that as professionals he and his wife needed two cars to get to work – backfired. This response brought home the fact that some people are better off than others in Singapore, and created the impression that some were entitled to more.

Given the price of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), to own and keep a car on the road costs over S$100,000 (RM250,000) – and this is one of the cheapest models. Young families cannot afford cars and from Punggol, which is located on the east coast, the travel times to the city can extend beyond an hour. Koh’s remarks (literally) drove home the fact that the PAP’s chosen elite are not connected to the experience of ordinary Singaporeans.

The issue of representation went further than elitism as voters in Punggol spoke loudly for putting another woman into Parliament. Singapore has now 21 women in Parliament, or 24.1 percent (higher than Malaysia’s 9.9 percent). The choice of Workers’ Party to field a woman yielded results.

The PAP responded by urging the people not to vote for “gender per se” and repeatedly call for voters to look at the “qualifications of the candidates”. They misunderstood that to diminish the value of women even indirectly is to ask for a response.

The size of the margin can be tied to this factor alone as the PAP forgot the important role that women play as voters and the reality that it is inappropriate to judge the role of women purely on their paper qualifications. Women often work extra “shifts” to take care of the family, and many work part-time to bring in additional income.

Young women in particular step out of the workforce to have a family or take different (more flexible jobs) to balance family obligations, including caring of older parents. Voters in Punggol appreciated that having another women’s voice in Parliament would provide more inputs on policy, and more importantly that the judgment of a person’s worth by the degrees they have is inadequate.

Ironically, the entire framing of the PAP campaign was gendered. The main issue that received attention was families, as the government announced a package of policies geared toward promoting the demographic expansion of the “Singaporean core”. The package included some excellent initiatives for healthcare of the child after birth (neonatal support) to paternal family leave.

Lee Li LianKoh was placed at a disadvantage in articulating these initiatives as the campaign theme spoke directly to the experience of men and women balancing family life. The decisions of women in the family unit were placed centre stage, rather than healthcare or economic policy. Studies show that when woman’s issues are prominent in a campaign, this advantages women candidates. The Workers’ Party candidate Lee Li Lian had the advantage speaking on the issues as her experience was seen as more “real.”

From the onset, the PAP’s candidate was placed at a disadvantage as he was not able to differentiate himself from his party. The attempt to portray him as a “heartlander” originally from Punggol and as a representative of the struggles of ordinary families just could not compete with the reality of Lee’s stronger “heartlander” label.

In a constituency of young families, she was the younger candidate at 34 instead of 40. Voters in Punggol backed for the candidate they could relate to and the candidate who best exemplified the issues prominent in the campaign. Singaporeans – like voters across the region – are more attuned to having representatives that capture diversity and their experience.

The voters showed they want leaders in Parliament that identify and genuinely understand their concerns, rather than mirror the power holders. This is a fundamental challenge of dominant parties that engage in cloning when choosing their candidates. They forget that in order to keep their party relevant, the operative principle should be about embracing diversity and difference.

Reform: Beyond populist tinkering

The election was also a referendum on the efforts of the PAP to engage in reform. Over the last two years, the PAP has introduced a series of initiatives on housing, healthcare and immigration, to name just a few.

These initiatives share some traits – they build on existing policies (so the fundamental of the policy is kept in place) and primarily assume that voters are motivated by money. At the same time, the PAP has launched a ‘Singaporean Conversation’, speaking to groups around the country in a well-meaning but orchestrated listening exercise for feedback.

These programmes underscored the confidence that the PAP had going to polls in Punggol as they have genuinely attempted reforms. Voters responding by sending a signal that these reforms are inadequate, highlighting that the PAP has much further to go in order to win back support.

The reasons that PAP’s efforts are not gaining ground have to do in part with their assumptions and approach. Are voters motivated by money? Do materialist goals fundamentally motivate Singaporeans? The answer is that increasingly financial incentives are having less of an impact. Showering ‘incentives’ only increases the amounts and demands, and for some voters their concerns are not material, for example trust, rights, morality and representation.

voters in punggol by election singaporeAs South-East Asian countries develop, fewer voters are driven solely by bread-and-butter concerns. Surveys of the Singaporean electorate showcase that a third of voters are more concerned with freedom and civil liberties than economic issues. Even more are concerned with inequalities and social justice, reinforcing a repudiation of elitism and elite candidates.

Populism initiatives tied to money are inherently limited in today’s changing electorates and the more they are practiced, the less their effect. We see in Malaysia that cash handouts only lead to further demands and have a limited boost on popular support. Voters are not dumb – they fully understand that they are being bought and many know that their worth is much more than a paltry sum.

Implementation is as important as the measures themselves. While the PAP still has its machinery solidly on the ground, fewer of those involved in grassroots work are chosen to represent the party. Decisions in policies and candidate selection are made centrally, without meaningful inputs from the ground. It is no wonder that the populist campaigning is not working.

For those in power, it is a difficult transition from a pattern of control to one with uncertainty, from superiority to greater equality, from distance to empathy and from knowledge to understanding.

It is further compounded by a resistance to real policy reform. For all of the measures thatLee Hsein Loong the PAP have introduced – and there are considerable – the policies themselves are still tied to the same fundamentals.

Immigration policy reforms have involved numbers, not whether the practice of relying on foreign labour is correct. The practice of late is that if foreign workers misbehave, then kick them out, as happened with the bus drivers who went on strike.

On housing, the regime still relies on close ties with property development and all the tinkering has yet to cool the market and bring affordable options to the electorate. Many in Punggol live far out because this is the only area they could afford, and even here prices are exorbitant.

The reality is that younger Singaporeans do not feel that they can have the same opportunities as their parents and the inequalities in their everyday reality are blatantly obvious. Indeed, the overwhelming majority in Singapore do not feel that they are fairly benefitting from the country’s success.

The PAP has yet to accept that some of the policy frameworks in place may need to be re-hauled. A reform is not replacing one bill with another that does the same thing, or changing a threshold level on a policy that is still basically in place. The PAP technocrats are focused on tweaking the system that they think is working and not following the forefathers of early generations that recognised that new systems have to be created and introduced for today’s new reality.

The resistance to change is deeply embedded in the system that efforts at reform are watered down, on in some cases even just for show.

A new reality with a new Lee

Lee Li Lian’s victory does not change the balance of power in Singapore. The Opposition has seven elected seats in Parliament out of 87, a mere 8%. It does however bring in a new voice into Parliament, one who got there not by her political pedigree.

The campaign dynamics, macro trends and underlying factors are illustrative. Three days before the election, I believed that the Workers’ Party could win this by-election, although I thought it would be close. The tide turned in the campaign, at rallies and in coffeeshop conversations.

Workers' Party candidate Lee Li Lian singapore by-electionThe PAP came off as too distant from the electorate, and voters opted for a new Lee. Voters spoke up in their assessment of representation, reforms and the gap between the reform and their realities. The shifts on the ground however have been real for some time as voters demand for change.

These forces are gaining regionally, including in Malaysia. The questions of representation, reform and reality are as salient as they are across the Causeway, perhaps even more so given the intensive politicking of the last few years and the level of competitiveness.

The parallels between the PAP and UMNO are there, but unlike the PAP, the initiatives in reform are much less substantive in Malaysia and the fundamental problems of corruption and perceived abuses of power have sadly become even more accentuated with time.

Pakatan Rakyat has gained ground politically because it is seen to be more inclusive, more willing to offer change and more attuned to conditions on the ground, even though questions remain about how it will govern as a unit and its priorities in office.

The main lesson from Punggol East is that incumbents in dominant party systems not willing to substantively transform themselves are no longer an advantage. It is in fact a liability.


DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University and she can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

The ultimate Davos Debate


January 28, 2013

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2013/jan/27/ultimate-davos-debate-marx-keynes

The ultimate Davos Debate: Marx takes on Keynes, Friedman and Schumacher

Larry ElliotPosted by , economics editor

Sunday 27 January 2013 13.28 GMT The Guardian

If you could construct the best panel at a World Economic Forum debate, this would be it. But what would they say about present problems? Read on …

Imagine that you could construct the ultimate Davos panel. From the annals of history you can choose any quartet that could put the world to rights in an hour-long talk, the format beloved of the World Economic Forum.

Klaus Schwab, the man who has been organising the forum since 1971, ensured there were plenty of stellar names strutting their stuff in the high Alps last week. Davos attendees could watch Nouriel “Dr Doom” Roubini cross swords with Adam Posen, recently a member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee about the merits of quantitative easing. They could listen to Mark Carney, soon to take over from Sir Mervyn King at Threadneedle Street, warn that the global economy is far from out of the woods. George Soros held forth on drugs; Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg spoke passionately about sexual stereotyping; David Cameron called for the G8 to act against tax avoidance and corruption.

But how about this for a panel? Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman and Fritz Schumacher, all no longer with us, kept in line by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, thankfully still alive and kicking, and one of the standout performers last week.

Christine Lagarde at Davos

Lagarde (pic above) kicks off our fantasy discussion with a few words of introduction. She says business leaders have left Davos in a slightly better frame of mind not because of the millions of words spouted in Davos, but because of three little words spoken by the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, in London in July. Those words were “whatever it takes”, a commitment by the ECB to buy up the bonds of troubled eurozone countries in unlimited quantities. That has removed one of the big tail risks to the global economy – a chaotic break-up of the eurozone. But, she adds, any recovery in 2013 will be fragile and timid, and there is a risk of a relapse. “Turning first to you Karl, how do you see things”

Marx: “The capitalist class gathered in Davos has spent the last few days wringing their hands about unemployment and the lack of demand for their goods. What they seem incapable of recognising is that these are inevitable in a globalised economy. There is a tendency towards over-investment, over-production and a falling rate of profit, which, as ever, employers have sought to counter by cutting wages and creating a reserve army of labour. That’s why there are more than 200 million people unemployed around the world and there has been a trend towards greater inequality. It is possible that 2013 will be better than 2012 but it will be a brief respite.”

Lagarde: “That’s a gloomy analysis, Karl. Wages are growing quite fast in some parts of the world, such as China, but I’d agree that inequality is a threat. The IMF’s own research shows that inequality is correlated to economic instability.”

Marx: “It is true that the emerging market economies are growing rapidly now but in time they too will be affected by the same forces.”

Lagarde: “Maynard, do you think things are as bleak as Karl says?

Keynes: “No I don’t Christine. I think the problem is serious but soluble. When we lastjohn-maynard-keynes faced a crisis of this magnitude we responded by aggressive loosening of monetary policy – driving down both short-term and long-term interest rates – and by the use of public works to boost aggregate demand. In the US, my friend Franklin Roosevelt supported legislation that allowed workers to organise. After the Second World War, the international community created the IMF in order to smooth out balance of payments imbalances, prevent beggar-my-neighbour currency wars and control movements of capital.

All these lessons have been forgotten. The balance between fiscal and monetary policy is wrong; currency wars are brewing; the financial sector remains largely unreformed, and aggregate demand is weak because workers are not getting a fair share of their productivity gains. Economics is stuck in the past; it is as if physics had not moved on since Kepler.”

Lagarde: “I gather from what you are saying, Maynard, that you do not approve of the way George Osborne is running the UK economy.”

Keynes: “The man has taken leave of his senses. Britain has a growth problem, not a deficit problem.”

Lagarde: “I daresay Milton that you disagree with everything Maynard has said? You would make the case, presumably, for nature’s cure?”

Milton_friedmanMilton Friedman: “Some of my friends in the Austrian school of economics would certainly favour doing nothing in the hope of a cleansing of the system, but I wouldn’t. Unlike Maynard, I wouldn’t support measures that would increase the bargaining power of trade unions and I’ve never been keen on public works as a response to a slump.

“But I would certainly support what Ben Bernanke has been doing with monetary policy in the US and would support even more drastic action if it proved necessary.”

Lagarde: “Such as?”

Friedman: “Well, I think monetary policy should be set in order to hit a target for nominal output – the increase in the size of the economy unadjusted for inflation. If that growth is too high, central banks should tighten policy. If it is too low, the trend since the crisis broke, they should loosen it. In extreme circumstances, I’d favour policies that blur the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy. That’s what I mean when I talk about helicopter drops of money into the economy.”

Lagarde: “Fritz, you have been sitting there patiently listening to Karl, Maynard and Milton. How do you assess the state of the world?

Fritz Schumacher: “I am greatly disturbed by the way the debate is being framed. Fritz SchumacherThere is an obsession with growth at all costs regardless of the environmental costs. Climate change was rarely mentioned in Davos: this after a year of extreme weather events. It is frightening that so little attention has been paid to global warming, and almost criminally neglectful of governments not to use ultra-low interest rates to invest in green technologies.

As has been the case in the past, recessions have pushed green issues down the political agenda. In good times policymakers say they are in favour of sustainable development, but the pledges are forgotten as soon as unemployment starts to rise. Then it is back to business as usual: more roads, expanding airports, tax cuts to encourage consumption. When scientists are warning that global temperatures are on course to rise several degrees above pre-industrial levels on unchanged policies, this is the economics of the madhouse.”

Lagarde: “Maynard, what’s your response to that?”

Keynes: “I agree with him. If I were advising Roosevelt today I would be calling for a Green New Deal. I find it hard to envisage a world without growth, something that is politically unacceptable in the developing world in any case. But Fritz is right, we need smarter, cleaner growth. As you yourself said last week, Christine, if we carry on as we are the next generation will be ‘roasted, toasted, fried and grilled’.”

Schumacher: “I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

________________________________

http://dolphinblueinc.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/e-f-schumacher/

Heroes of Sustainability: E.F. Schumacher

Posted July 8, 2012 by Dolphin Blue Inc in Green Books, Sustainability Hero. Tagged: , , , , . Leave a Comment

One of the hundred most influential books published since World War II, according to The Times Literary Supplement, E.F. Schumacher’s internationally known Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered has informed thinking on Western economies since 1973.

EF SchumacherThe German-born economist and statistician was more than just a numbers guy — he was an environmental champion. In Small Is Beautiful, he argued that technological production shouldn’t mean damaging our finite natural capital and thus ruining it for future generations. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent,” he said. “It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

Excessive Growth

The title of the book itself fought back against the idea of “bigger is better” — small can be beautiful, and enough is enough. Rather than using gross national product as an indicator of human well-being, Schumacher thought another model may be more appropriate. “The aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well-being with the minimum amount of consumption,” he wrote.

For 20 years, from 1950 to 1970, he served as chief economic adviser to the National Coal Board in Britain, during which time he championed coal over petroleum. His reasoning was that oil was a finite resource that would eventually be depleted and rise astronomically in price. Plus, he noted that the biggest reserves of oil were in some of the most unstable countries.

Up until his mid-40s, Schumacher was a proponent of unfettered economic growth, like most good economists. He came to realize, however, that modern technology was far exceeding human need. A trip to Burma inspired him to coin the term “Buddhist economics,” which referred to economic principles he created on the tenets of renewable resources and individuals doing good work to further human development.

Nature’s Potential

Instead of looking at natural resources as expendable income, they should be looked at as capital, Schumacher argued, since they can’t be renewed and will eventually disappear. He believed that sustainable development should be a priority, as the earth can’t protect itself against pollution forever. His controversial opinion that industrialism full speed ahead — with no concern for the impact it had on nature — wouldn’t stand up in the long run set him apart from his contemporaries.

While his ideas were fairly radical in economics circles, they made him popular with proponents of environmentalism, a movement that was gaining steam at the height of Schumacher’s career. A thoroughly readable collection of essays that stand the test of time, Small Is Beautiful still informs thought today on eco issues.

As Schumacher said: “There is incredible generosity in the potentialities of Nature. We only have to discover how to utilize them.”

Better Times for Malaysia in 2013


January 28, 2013

Better Times for Malaysia in 2013: Real GDP Growth at 5.3-5.5 per cent, say Economists

by Sathish Govind@http://www.themalaysianreserve.com

Economists expect Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 5.3% and 5.5% in 2013, an improvement on the 5% estimated for 2012, based on improved global sentiments and continuing strong domestic demand and consumption.

Several Malaysian economists agreed that private investment has made a strong return, underpinned by improved investment climate and the various bold initiatives undertaken through the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Dr Yeah Kim LengRAM Holdings Bhd Group Chief Economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng (left) said GDP growth for 2013 will be about 5.3% while CIMB Group Holdings Bhd Group Chief Economist Lee Heng Guie is predicting a growth of 5.5%, fuelled by robust private investment and domestic consumption.

Dr Yeah said Malaysia has been able to withstand the global slowdown in demand for exports due to private consumption and investment that expanded by more than 20% in the first three quarters of last year.

He said among factors that assisted Malaysia’s economic growth last year, and would continue to do so this year, were low interest rates and firm asset prices. Dr Yeah said interest rates are expected to remain stable as inflationary pressure is expected to remain manageable.

On inflation, CIMB’s Lee (right) said economic growth will likely put pressure on prices and see theCIMB's Lee Heng Guie inflation rate rise from 2.5% to 3% from the previous 1.7% to 2% last year. Lee attributes the slightly higher inflation rate this year to the subsidy rationalisation programme and the spillover effects from the implementation of the minimum wage and global commodity prices.

Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd Chief Economist Nor Zahidi Alias said monetary policy is likely to remain unchanged unless growth momentum declines significantly.

He said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) is unwilling to endanger the financial system by inducing more over-leveraging practices through lower interest rates, especially among households. Nor Zahidi said as household debt to GDP ratio has topped 60% in the past one decade, premature reductions in the policy rate will not be in line with the central bank’s intention to curb household appetite for debt.

On Malaysia’s current account, RAM’s Dr Yeah said while the current account surplus was 17% of the GDP between 2004 and 2008, it has declined to less than 10% in the last two years. He said with 70% of imports being intermediate goods, it is unlikely that the current account would weaken when exports decline.

Nor ZahidiOn the ringgit, Nor Zahidi (left) said while he sees the general strengthening of the ringgit against the dollar, the short-term trend will be bumpy for several reasons. These include the weak prospects of the equity market among foreign investors with regards to the outcome of the general elections and the financial market’s perception that the ringgit may be adversely affected by the shrinking current account surplus.

“This would mean holding the ringgit would be more risky,” he said. Nor Zahidi said offsetting these factors are the prospects of a steady recovery of the US economy, which tends to weaken the greenback and thus be ringgit positive.

Sustained inflows of capital into Malaysia will benefit the region’s currencies and he expects the ringgit to move within the range of RM2.95 to RM3.15 against the dollar in 2013.

On some of the possible concerns of the Malaysian economy, Nor Zahidi said there are elevated levels of property prices and the overstretched household sector. However, he said BNM should be given the credit for delicately balancing the need to contain household debt while avoiding a hard landing of the household sector.

Pakatan holds fast on ‘Allah’ Issue


January 28, 2013

Pakatan holds fast on ‘Allah’ Issue

by Terence Netto (01-27-13) @www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT Amid the cacophony that followed hard upon PERKASA chief Ibrahim Ali’s call to Muslims to burn Bibles that use the ‘Allah’ term for God, one was hard put to find a reaction and a reminder more bracing than what emerged from the Penang state minister for religion.

NONE(Dato’) Abdul Malik Abul Kassim, the PKR state assemblyperson who has been holding the sensitive religious portfolio in the DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat state government since 2008, was quoted earlier this week as saying:

“We are told not to kick, throw or burn any holy book. Those who want to do these acts are discrediting Islam in the eyes of the world.”

Nothing very profound about this reminder by a politician of quietly effective and often under appreciated capability, but still, putting it alongside the screeching of other respondents to the controversy, Malik’s counsel is one of irenic content and bracing effect.

It puts you in mind of some lines from ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” Introspection is not exactly a strong suit of believers, which makes Malik Kassim’s impulse to look within his religion before declaiming on what would be appropriate or unbecoming conduct commendable indeed.

To be sure, Malik’s was not uncommon or exceptional deportment on the controversialLGE At Merdeka Stadium topic of the use of ‘Allah’ in Malay-language bibles. Generally, the PKR national leadership cohort have held to the middle octaves in the cacophony that arose after Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in his Christmas Day message called on the federal government to allow the use of the term ‘Allah’ in Malay-language bibles in Malaysian Borneo.

They pushed for a revisit of the Pakatan consensus on the issue, enunciated in January 2010, which resolved that the term was not exclusive to Muslims.

This was a courageous position to take in the teeth of arson attacks on churches and incidents of desecration of mosques that occurred in the month of January in 2010, following a High Court decision that allowed the Catholic Church’s weekly publication, Herald, to use the term in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.

PKR adviser and Pakatan supremo Anwar Ibrahim hosted a series of learned discussions on the issue before steering the opposition coalition to a consensus on the issue. This decision dovetailed nicely with the reigning consensus in Arab and other Muslim-majority countries where the term is not regarded as exclusive to the Islamic religion.

Consensus breaks down

However, this consensus broke down last month in the wake of Lim’s call for ‘Allah’ to be allowed in Malay-language bibles that Christians use as their scriptural texts in Sabah and Sarawak.

Pakatan component, PAS, publicly demurred with Lim and this led to a fraying of the consensus before an uneasy armistice prevailed which saw PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang declaring, in an agreement worked out under Pakatan’s auspices that, to wit, the term was not exclusive to Muslims but that non-Muslims must be careful not to abuse its usage.

The theologians in his party, however, disagreed: the PAS syura council, the highest policy-making body in the party, deemed the term permissible for use by non-Muslims only when employed in reference to a ‘Supreme Being’. Subtle nuances tend to be squashed in the heat of partisan volleys. And when the philistines wade in, as Ibrahim Ali of Malay right-wing group PERKAS did, the tensions were inevitably heightened.

But through it all, there was no wavering on the part of corporate Pakatan. The coalition reiterated the consensus they reached three years ago while taking note of the seeming dissent voiced by PAS’ theologians.

Anwar Ibrahim2Agreeing to disagree without schismatic tendencies has become an accepted rule of engagement within the coalition. It would have helped if Anwar had come out a little sooner with his condemnation of Ibrahim’s bible-burning threat.

However, his reiteration of an assurance he gave three years ago when the ‘Allah’ issue first flared in the national arena, was noteworthy: he said Pakatan would protect the sanctity of all religions in this country.

That reiteration (Anwar’s)  and Malik Kassim’s emphasis on what he said was requisite behaviour of Muslims towards the sacred books of other believers are reflections of a way of looking at the diversity of religious beliefs that conduces to peaceful resolution of conflict rather than its heightening.

The Clinton Doctrine of American Foreign Policy


January 27, 2013

The Clinton Doctrine of American Foreign Policy

by David Rohde@http://www.nytimes.com

The partisan political theater, of course, was top-notch. Senator Rand Paul’s declaration that he would have fired Hillary Rodham Clinton; her angry rebuttal of Senator Ron Johnson’s insistence that the Obama administration misled the American people about the Benghazi attack; Senator John McCain’s continued outrage at the slapdash security the State Department provided its employees.

Hillary ClintonBeneath the posturing, though, ran larger questions: what strategy does the United States have to counter the militant groups running rampant across North and West Africa? And what kind of secretary of state has Mrs. Clinton been? In her last Congressional hearing in that position, Mrs. Clinton expressed exasperation with Washington’s political trench warfare.

“We’ve got to get our act together,” she said. Mrs. Clinton has been a very good but very cautious Secretary of State, many analysts say – one who, for the most part, kept her distance from Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine and other seemingly intractable conflicts.

One State Department official, while praising Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, nonetheless looked forward to the arrival of Senator John Kerry, her designated successor: “I came to admire Clinton as Secretary of State, her focus on women and innovation in particular,” the official told me. “But am really happy to have someone in the job who does not retain political ambitions.”

In a recent assessment of Clinton’s tenure, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution argued that she had enjoyed some success, including restoring the United States’ image abroad, but she made no historic breakthroughs, he said.

Mr. O’Hanlon argued that Mrs. Clinton’s famed work ethic paid off. She made few mistakes, no major gaffes and did not “needlessly antagonize” friends or enemies. O’Hanlon called Mrs. Clinton’s role in the administration’s “pivot to Asia” and tough stance toward China arguably “her greatest and most memorable contribution.”

The problem, as last week’s hearing showed, is that the Middle East and the threat of terrorism continue to dominate American foreign policy. Even as the United States becomes more energy independent, terrorist attacks like the kidnappings in a remote oil facility in Algeria will make headlines and influence markets. And barring a massive shift in American domestic politics, Israel’s security will continue to be viewed as a vital interest of the United States.

Mrs. Clinton, to her credit, made forty trips to Europe that helped produce crippling new sanctions on Iran. Last fall, she helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But she failed to personally engage in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

To be fair, the Obama White House may have limited her options. After promising moreObama and Hillary open debate than occurred under President George W. Bush, the Obama White House tightly controlled the formulation of American foreign policy. Critics have also accused Mr. Obama of being overly cautious in foreign affairs. With the exception of the Libya intervention and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama was “coolly calculating and reluctant to engage” in his first-term foreign policy, The Economist magazine recently argued.

Mr. Obama, of course, is trying to avoid the over-reach his predecessor displayed in Iraq. He also faces enormous fiscal pressures at home. But there is a risk that the pendulum is swinging too far toward a smug isolationism in Washington.

As Mrs. Clinton departs, worrying trends are emerging in the way America engages with the world. The new U.S. weapon of choice is the drone strike – a tactic that carries zero political risk at home but spreads anti-Americanism abroad.

Complex foreign policy problems that threaten American security are increasingly seen as “entanglements” best avoided. And there is a convenient view that there are no “good guys” in the power struggles now unfolding in the post-Arab-Spring Middle East.

The potential lesson of the bruising political battle over Benghazi is simple: Take few risks, turn embassies into bunkers and avoid political firestorms at home. In her testimony, Mrs. Clinton passionately argued against that approach.

Declaring Somalia and Colombia success stories, she said the United States could counter militancy in Africa and the Middle East by working with regional organizations and training local security forces. U.S. funding and training of an African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, Mrs. Clinton said, had slowly succeeded in driving back al-Shabaab and other Islamist forces. In Colombia, the government has driven back FARC rebels and narco-traffickers.

There have been setbacks and the efforts in both countries are imperfect. But local security forces trained and funded by the international community slowly gained ground in painstaking efforts over many years.

“What we have to do is recognize that we’re in for a long-term struggle here,” Mrs. Clinton said at the hearing. “And that means we’ve got to pay attention to places that historically we have not chosen to or had to.”

John Mccain

During their heated exchange, Mr. McCain criticized Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration for not doing enough to train Libya’s security forces. Secretary Clinton replied that House Republicans had put a hold on the funding the administration requested to train Libyans.

“If this is a priority and we are serious about trying to help this government stand up security forces,” she said, “then we have to work together.”

Mrs. Clinton is right. And so is Mr. McCain. Congressional politicking hinders the State Department. And the State Department executed terribly in Benghazi. But Mrs. Clinton, who I have criticized in the past, won the day.

“We are in a new reality,” she said, referring to the change sweeping across the Middle East. “We are trying to makes sense of events that nobody had predicted but that we’re going to have to live with.”

Mrs. Clinton called for the United States to show “humility” abroad and stop making national security issues “political footballs” at home. She said a Cold War style bipartisan agreement should be reached to launch a long-term American effort to strengthen local security forces and promote democracy across Africa and the post-Arab-Spring Middle East.

“Let’s be smart and learn from what we’ve done in the past,” she said. “Put forth a policy that wouldn’t go lurching from administration to administration but would be a steady one.”

“We have more assets than anyone in the world,” Mrs. Clinton added, “but I think we’ve gotten a little bit off track in trying to figure out how best to utilize them.”

A “little bit off track” is a euphemism for partisanship endangering national security. If the U.S. doesn’t get its act together, expect more Benghazis.

http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/the-clinton-doctrine-add-links-from-original/?ref=global-home

The Chief Constable and his warnings


January 27, 2013

The Chief Constable and his warnings

by SakmongkolAK47 @http://sakmongkol.blogspot.com/

Ismail OmarPoliticians and civil servants are saying a lot about religion nowadays. The Malaysian IGP or equivalent to UK’s Chief Constable has come out warning those who make fun of religion and racial issues.

He says doing that can create hostilities and disunite the country. We agree with him fully. He should use whatever powers he has to haul these people in without fear or favour.

So why are the Police slow in taking up action against Ibrahim Ali? This fellow has made seditious calls for Malaysian Muslims to seize and burn bibles. He should have been called the instance he uttered those words. Are we waiting for some bonfires somewhere before action is taken?

Then, representatives from the NGO which Ibrahim heads deny any knowledge of a planned bible burning event in Penang. Having thrown the stones, you hide your inciminating hands.Why has Penang been singled out? Penang which is headed by a non-Muslim, allocates more than RM60 million a year for Muslim affairs. It has increased allowance for mosque and surau officials. Gave money to Quran reciters. And so on and so forth.

PERKASA as the self-appointed guardian of all things Malay, Islam and the King shouldIbrahim Ali congratulate Penang rather than turning Penang into a Bible burning venue. If PERKASA wants to burn Bibles, it should choose Seremban. The Chief Minister there, a Malay and a Muslim, can only manage to give RM10 million allocation. The same amount he asked one money changer to send over to UK.

But back to the IGP. Having declared it, he must translate his talk into action. Please arrest Chua Soi Lek for making fun and mocking Islam at his MCA General Assembly late last year. The whole of Muslim Malaysia heard what he said. Soi Lek has made so many disparaging remarks about Islam.

PERKASA was silent on the things Soi Lek said about Islam and in fact condoned and agreed to what Soi Lek said. Maybe Ibrahim Ali needs to be arrested too because he has said that one of the reasons why Malays and Muslims lagged behind in business is because Islam is inhibitive.

Perkasa's PatronPlease also arrest Najib Tun Razak for being physically present in the event where Soi Lek uttered those words. Later Najib also endorsed what Soi Lek said. Please arrest Mahathir for saying that if Allah has not chosen Muhammad to be the Messenger of Islam, He would have chosen someone else. That’s blasphemous.

Otherwise the public will interpret that Ismail Omar’s statements were only directed to those opposed to UMNO’s interpretation of Islam. To Muslims please read Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:57 (f0r clear image of this verse please one image below).

5_57
” O you who have believed, take not those who have taken your religion in ridicule and amusement among the one who were given the Scripture before you nor the disbelievers as allies. And fear Allah, if you should [truly] be believers.”

After reading that, will they still want to support Najib? – as long as I am PM, we will not implement Islamic laws. Will they continue to believe what Mahathir says?

Dr Syed Farid Alatas: Islamic state is not good even for Muslims


January 27, 2013

Dr Syed Farid Alatas: Islamic state is not good even for Muslims

by Susan Loone (01-25-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Well-known sociologist Dr. Syed Farid Alatas says that one of the greatest dangers facing Malaysian society is the rise of Muslim extremism – Wahabism and Salafism – or legalistic thinking that reduces citizens to rules and regulation.

He said these are the notion and role of an Islamic state currently being promoted by UMNO and PAS but both ways are “problematic” as there is no real debate on the issues here.

Hudud forum NUS lecturer Syed Farid Alatas“There is not much difference between UMNO and PAS, except that the former gives excuses that we can’t have an Islamic state because we are a multiracial society,” said Syed Farid (left), an expert in the area of the sociology of religion.

“The correct point I think is that we can’t have an Islamic state because an Islamic state is not good even for Muslims. When I say that, I don’t mean that Islam is not good for Muslims,” the head of Malay studies at the National University of Singapore was quick to add.  “I mean the conception of an Islamic state which is a modernist idea is a chaotic idea”.

Syed Farid was speaking in a two-hour plenary lecture entitled “Contemporary Muslim Revival: The Case of Protestant Islam” at the Wawasan Open Univesity in Penang last night.

Only 7% of Turks for Islamic state

His lecture was in conjunction with the ‘Colloquium on Democracy and Social Justice’ jointly organised by Penang Institute and the Islamic Renaissance Front. The Don – a Malaysian – has published extensively on the themes of Muslim revivalism, religious extremism, decolonisation of knowledge and democracy.

islam religion muslim mosque 1In his lecture, Syed Farid went on to explain that the proponents of the idea of an Islamic state mostly talked about hudud laws which centred around criminal laws.

“The kind of state they envisage is a horrible state as it is a state presided by a punitive God, and not the God of Love, as envisioned by the Sufists or the God of the early missionaries who brought Islam to Southeast Asia and the Malay world,” he said.

“Those Muslims never talked about an Islamic state. For them what was necessary was to live in the society that allows you to live according to the rules and laws of Islam,” he added.

He gave the example of a large scale survey conducted in Turkey two years ago, where the religious citizens (not the secularists) were asked whether they want to live in an Islamic state. Only seven percent said “yes”, noted Syed Farid, as majority of Turks did not want the state to administer Islam or decide on religious matters, they wanted the freedom to administer it themselves.

Malaysia needs more debate

“So being against Islamic state is not to be secular or to be against Islam, Muslims really need to understand that,” said Syed Farid, who read for his PhD at the John Hopkins University.

NONE“In this country, Muslims feel that if they are against Islamic state, they are not being true to Islam,” the Professor who used to teach in Universiti Malaya, added.

“They have to understand that the whole notion of the Islamic state is a modernist idea,” he stressed.

Syed Farid said the entire thinking of what constitutes a state in Islam and how the religion is brought into modern life needs to be debated and discussed but that is not being done because Islam is being politicised in Malaysia.

He echoed the words of the great Islamic philosopher Ibn Khaldun who said “governments as a rule are unjust”, adding he will vote for the least unjust government.  “Most Islamic governments in Islamic history have been unjust, even those which were in existence during the so-called Golden Age of Islam. “They were quite terrible in terms of abuse and torture and corruption,” said Syed Farid.

In Malaysia, Syed Farid said we have governments which are more interested in winning points with the electorate than solving pressing problems.

Dangerous cocktail warning

There is also a lack of professionalism in the civil service due to the preponderance of political interest which is in conflict with the governance of this country, he added.

NONE“Christian extremist or the more extreme versions of Christian evangelism is not being discussed in a calm and academic manner here, he said.

“There is also the rise of market fundamentalism, a gradual encroachment of market values that are replacing spiritual and cultural values,” he added.

“Religious fundamentalism, extremism whether it is Muslim or Christians, tend to obliterate spiritual values,” he stressed.

“When spiritual and religious values are replaced with market values, it tends to reduce everyone to digits, this is a dangerous cocktail,” he warned.