Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophyI once saw a picture at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany. Dated July 4, 1954, it depicted a group of men with broken teeth, crutches and in worn-out clothes shouting for joy over West Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup Final.

The West Germans had just barely recovered from the horrific World War II, and Hungary had been widely tipped to win the title. Still, West Germany went on to claim the crown as a dark horse, and the game is known historically as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’ (‘the Miracle of Bern’; Bern is the Swiss capital where the final was held).

The 1954 World Cup was particularly meaningful to West Germany for several reasons: it was the first time that Das Lied Der Deutschen (the Song of the Germans) was played at an international sporting event since the end of WWII, signifying the return of the country into the world community, while defeating the then communist-ruled Hungary was hailed as an ideological triumph.

Two decades later, West Germany was showered with greater global recognition when it hosted the 1974 World Cup and was crowned champion. If 1954 symbolised West Germany’s international acceptance, 1974 probably took on a greater significance in that the country demonstrated proudly to the world its reemergence as an economic power, rising from the ashes of the catastrophic Nazi regime (which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), preceded also by the 1972 Olympics.

It was most ironic that, while Britain and France, the two WWII victors, were mired in incessant labour strikes as industrial production came to a virtual halt, West Germany’s economic development and standard of living continued to improve by leaps and bounds.

Then came the eventful autumn of 1989, when the Eastern Blocs were on the verge of drastic revolution. Berlin Wall, 1989Many East Germans drove their Trabants right up to the Berlin Wall and demanded that the gates be opened.

When their calls went unanswered, they took out sledgehammers and chisels and started dismantling the wall themselves, and the (in)famous wall did come tumbling down within weeks. Welcoming the Ossis was not only the far advanced Volkswagen produced by the Wessis, but also the abundantly available commodities in the shops in West Berlin.

When West Germany beat Argentina to claim the World Cup title on  July 8, 1990, East German fans erupted in euphoria publicly for the first time. Three months later, East and West Germany became history.

Rebranding the country

When the reunified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the German government at the time made use of the opportunity to rebrand the country as a Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen), seeking to promote to the world Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Beethoven, philosopher Jürgen Habermas and many other modern achievements alongside football.

It represented a conscious effort on the part of the Germans to remind the international community that, having faced up to historical issues squarely, it was time that Germany should be free to celebrate its achievements for and contributions to the world.

The reunified Germany failed to win the World Cup in 2006, but many a European country was impressed with a new Germany that was not only confident and forward-looking, but also warm and hospitable, so much so that the British tabloids, usually relishing in insulting Germany with WWII references, toned down their wording and English fans could be seen waving the German flag during the semi-final between Germany and Argentina.

Now that Germany has once again made it to the final, the question whether the reunified country will win a historic World Cup is again in the mind of many, for a win on this coming Sunday (Brazilian time) would go a long way in affirming Germany’s coming of age, and I wish them all the best.

After all, no other competition arouses one’s nationalistic sentiment and sharpens political differences more than football – with the exception of an actual war. Seen in this light, what Germany destroyed last Tuesday was not just Brazil’s world status as a land of football, but it’s very national identity as well.

For historical reasons, the Germans are not used to overt symbols of nationalism, but it does not mean they should tolerate idiotic insults such as Bung Mokhtar’s ‘Hitler tweet’ in the wake of Germany’s thumping victory over Brazil. It is outrageous because no other countries have demonstrated so much goodwill and sincerity in dealing with historical baggage as Germany, especially when the country has shown no signs of relenting in pursuing justice for the victims.

Bung Mokhtar’s brainless tweet is more than a personal gaffe because it exposes the quality (or the lack thereof) of UMNO politicians. The fact that he continues to be a wakil rakyat is an utter shame to Malaysia.

NOTE: Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Rio . It was thriller. witnessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong contingent of German fans while the rest of the world witnessed a spectacle of great sportsmanship and fine football. –Din Merican
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

Gotta’ keep on learning

July 13, 2014

Schumpeternomics: Gotta’ keep on learning

by (Tan Sri) Dr. Lin (07-12-14)

Lin See-YanI JUST returned from the summer meeting of the board of governors (on which I am a long-standing member) and the board of trustees of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati, Manila. It celebrated its 45th anniversary…

To mark the occasion, AIM held its second Asian Business Conference against the backdrop of an emerging ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. It was well attended by a wide cross-section of Asian businesses, research institutes and universities, under the banner: “2015 Approaching: Priming for ASEAN Integration.”

I spoke at the strategic session on banking and finance with particular focus on the need for Asia (and indeed ASEAN) to keep on innovating to create a truly learning society, in order to maintain its competitive edge and remain relevant in an increasingly hostile and uncertain world. To survive, we just gotta’ keep on learning!

Technological progress

I learned early as a Harvard graduate student in the 1970s from no less than Nobel laureate Robert Solow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) down the Charles, that rising output and incomes can only come about in a sustained way from technological progress (TP), not from mere capital accumulation. Put simply, Solow repeatedly emphasised that TP comes from learning how to do things better; indeed, there’s always a better way.

As a practising banker and economist at Bank Negara after my PhD, I quickly undertstood that much of the productivity increases we see come from small incremental changes – they all add-up, other than the lumpy gains arising from dramatic discoveries or from unpredictable phenomena. It all starts with nurturing our education system and the process of its development to ensure youths are properly educated, not just in terms of literary, quantitative and scientific skills, but also with the right moral values and civic outlook.

Broadly, along what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz (pic) has been advocating – it always makes goodJ Stiglitz sense “to focus attention on how societies learn, and what can be done to promote learning, including learning how to learn.”

Innovation and creative destruction

The seeds of the critical role of innovation in economic growth were first planted about a century ago by Harvard economist and political and social scientist Joseph Schumpeter, a contemporary of John M. Keynes. His economics (hence, Schumpeternomics) is based on the ability and capability of the market economy to innovate on its own.

I recall reading his 1939 book Business Cycle: A Theoretical, Historical and Statistical analysis of the Capitalist Process, where he wrote “Without innovations, no entrepreneurs; without entrepreneurial achievement, no capitalist returns and no capitalist propulsion. The atmosphere of industrial revolutions – of “progress” – is the only one in which capitalism can survive.”

So, Schumpeter went about challenging conventional wisdom in three areas: (i) misplaced focus on competitive markets. He contended that what matters was “competition for the markets, not competition in the markets,” as rightly pointed out by Stiglitz. It is competition for the markets that drives innovation. Sure, this can (and do) result in the rise of monopolies; still this would lead to improved living standards over the long haul (eg. Microsoft, Nokia – acquired in 2013 by Microsoft). (ii) undue focus on short-run efficiency which can be detrimental to innovation over the long-term – classic example is helping “infant industries” learn.

But governments should not be in the game of picking winners; the market can do this better (witness Obama’s failed “clean energy” projects or Malaysia’s wasteful car-maker Proton). Sure, there are exceptions where government invests in research that has since led to development of the Internet and discovery of DNA with enormous social benefits.


(iii) Innovation leads to creative destruction – it can (and do) wipe out inefficient industries and jobs. The Internet has turned businesses from newspapers to music to book retailing upside down. In their place, more efficient businesses have popped up. In his biography of Schumpeter – Prophet of Innovation, Thomas McCraw wrote: “Schumpeter’s signature legacy is his insight that innovation in the form of creative destruction is the driving force not only of capitalism but of material progress in general. Almost all businesses, no matter how strong they seem to be at a given moment, ultimately fail – and almost always because they failed to innovate. Competitors are relentlessly striving to overtake the leader, no matter how big the lead. Responsible business people know that they ignore this lesson at their peril.”

In 1983, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Schumpeter and Keynes, Peter F. Drucker proclaimed at Forbes that it was Schumpeter, not Keynes, who provided the best guide to the rapid economic changes engulfing the world, according to McCraw.

Higher education

The business of higher education has changed little since Plato and Aristotle taught at the Athenian Lyceum. With government patronage and support, close to 4 million Americans and 5 million Europeans will graduate this summer. Emerging nations’ universities are expanding even faster. I was told in Shanghai last month that China has added 30 million university places in the past 20 years.

Indeed, I do see a revolution coming for three main disruptive reasons:

  •  Rising costs – Baumol’s disease has set in, i.e. soaring costs reflecting high labour intensity with stagnant productivity; for the past two decades, costs have risen 1.6 percentage points above inflation annually.
  •  Changing demand – a recent Oxford study contended that 47% of occupations are now at risk of being automated and as innovation wipes out jobs and drastically change others, vast numbers will be needing continuing education.
  • Fast moving TP will change the way education is packaged, taught and delivered. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) today offers university students a chance to learn from the world’s best and get a degree for a fraction of today’s cost. Harvard Business School will soon offer an online “pre-MBA” for US$1,500 (RM4,778)! The reinvention of universities will certainly benefit many more than it hurts. Elites like Harvard, MIT and Stanford will gain from this creative destruction process. Education is now a global digital market.

What then, are we to do

Corporate giants come and go in a competitive economy. Microsoft and Nokia used to rule the digital world. Now they don’t. No monopoly is permanent, unless enforced by government, which as everyone knows hardly changes, even as the rest of the world passes it by. In the United States, it is reported that the administration wants to prevent Apple’s iTunes and AppStore from abusing the network “lock-in” created by Apple’s tech ecosystem. But the judge has since ruled that “I want Apple to have the flexibility to innovate.” That’s something, isn’t it?

economics-poster-smallMy professor at Harvard, Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, used to extol about the importance of learning by doing. So, those who want to innovate, let them just do it – hopefully with no government intervention even though there is a compelling “infant” argument for industrial protection, which can be a double-edged sword when it comes to learning and innovating.

Most of the time, the infant seldom grows up. But reinventing the ancient institution of higher learning will not be easy. EdX, a non-profit MOOC founded (and funded) in May 2012 by Harvard and MIT, is now a consortium of 28 institutions worldwide. No one knows how big the online market will eventually be. It’s more akin to online airline-booking services – expanding the market by improving the customer experience.

Still, innovation at MOOC will definitely reduce the cost of higher education, grow market size but with widespread creative destruction collateral damage, and turn inefficient universities on their heads. MOOC estimates that university employment can fall by as much as 30% and 700-800 institutions can shut-down. The rest have to reinvent themselves to survive. Our learning society will change forever, whether we like it or not.

Former banker, Dr. Lin See-Yan is a Harvard educated economist and a British chartered scientist who writes on economic and financial issues. Feedback is most welcome; email: The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

January 4, 2013

Arshad Ayub: Liberator of the Malay Psyche

by Dr A. Murad Merican@

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub with FriendsTan Sri Arshad Ayub and Friends

WHEN Tan Sri Arshad Ayub visited Ohio University at Athens, Ohio, on June 23, 1970, he made known his interest in establishing a journalism and communications programme at the then Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM). The early syllabus was based on language, liberal arts and professional specialisation.

Even before he visited Ohio’s College of Communication and its School of Journalism, Tan Sri Arshad had advocated the teaching of journalism in Malaysian higher education as far back as the mid-1960s.

Graduates from what began as the School of Mass Communication (popularly known in Bahasa Melayu as Kajian Sebaran Am) and now the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, should realise that their intellectual “father” is Tan Sri Arshad Ayub.

This dawned upon me while researching the beginnings of journalism education in Malaysia some years ago at Universiti Teknologi Mara archives. I met Tan Sri Arshad on several occasions. Once, we were on the same panel on the topic of education in Malaysia, and the other, having the honour of the man chairing a session in a seminar where I delivered a paper on life-long learning.

Many know of Tan Sri Arshad as a pioneering educationist. He was instrumental in ITM’s growth. He was a paradigm basher. He opened up minds, identities and values. Many know him as a task master.

But perhaps not many know him as an early advocate of the liberal arts and the humanities in Malaysian higher education. He introduced Russian, French and Arabic. Mandarin was made compulsory for business courses, and Tamil for plantation management. Then there was Logic, Literature, and History.

In one of his speeches some years back, Tan Sri Arshad stated that education is not a special copyright of any one individual organisation. It knows no boundaries. And there was no boundary when he was nurturing ITM back then. He was given a free hand to plant the seeds of education for the rural Malay: “The ‘how-to’ was entirely up to me.”

With the trust and vision for the future of the Malays given to him by Tun Abdul Tun Abdul RazakRazak, Arshad’s slogan for action was: “Just do it.” There was not enough time to think of a formal education system as it evolved. He reflected that the expansion was “too rapid that thoughts for a real system came after the deed”.

He attributed the brilliance in the vision of social engineering to Tun Razak. Tan Sri Arshad was not only the strategist, but also the thinker. He once recalled Tun Razak’s message in the first issue of Utusan Pelajar, an Utusan Melayu publication in 1970. Tun Razak stated that “The present young Malaysian must be developed into a scientific race.” The words “scientific race” caught Tan Sri Arshad’s attention.

Tan Sri Arshad takes the term “scientific” to mean “educated” — middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs that could transport Malays into more viable occupations in the private sector.

“Scientific” could also mean that it was “incumbent on us to change mind sets” — from accepting a general education system to a more precise and analytical one that can help develop the country’s resource with its nation building interest at heart.

To change mind sets, Tan Sri Arshad developed strategic alliances with foreign universities and funding bodies in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Human capital assistance came from the participation of Australian Services Abroad, the US Peace Corp, British Volunteers and the Canadian University Service Oragnisation.

Courses like accountancy, architecture, business administration and management, engineering, hotel catering and management, library science, and mass communication were initiated — the first of such courses offered in Malaysia at that time.

Tan Sri Arshad was a pioneer in the “twinning” concept — a process in capacity building. His long and illustrious career as a public servant deserves an appropriate recognition, as suggested by Azman Ujang (Letters, NST, Jan 1). He pioneered the pragmatic “hands on” approach to meet industry, manpower needs and economic advancement of the nation. At the same time, he was the first to introduce the concept of the humanities in Malaysian university education.

The little known journal ITM Quarterly, published in the early 1970s, contains some invaluable discourse in the intertwining nature of education in nation building, Arshad’s vision in the development of higher education in Malaysia and his ideal of the student as the new Malay intellectual.

Tan Sri Arshad Ayub liberated the Malay psyche.

Khairy has a brilliant idea: to take Umno into the schools ?

Schools not for political indoctrination of children

by Ravinder Singh

December 16, 2013

If petroleum ringgit was your business, what would you do when your traditional oil wells, once taught of as being bottomless, start drying up after decades of exploitation?

What's next ? Exploitation of the young minds?

What’s next ? Exploitation of the young minds?

With a few wells in West Malaysia having dried up, and the writing on the wall showing that the once rich Barisan Nasional (BN) electoral oil wells in Sabah and Sarawak are also drying up, Umno has to look for new oil wells to exploit to keep itself in business. With this in mind, the brilliant young Khairy had a brilliant idea last week at the Umno assembly – take Umno into the schools!

The proposal is not about teaching children about democracy and the principles of the separation of powers, about good governance, about the way laws are promulgated, debated and passed, etc.

The proposal, if I understood Khairy correctly, is to take Umno into the schools. Yes or NO ?

The proposal, if I understood Khairy correctly, is to take Umno into the schools. Yes or NO ?

The proposal, if I understood Khairy correctly, is to take Umno into the schools.

This means all other non-BN political parties will be barred from entering schools. This has been going on, where elected representatives from non-BN parties have been shown the school gate in the past. So the school children will become the “anak angkat”, or step-children, of Umno and the other BN parties.

Thus the schools are seen as the perfect catchment area for campaigning on an on-going basis. No need to go into the kampongs or house to house. Get the children when they are vulnerable. Brainwash them with ‘history’ such as depicted in Tanda Putra (which will become standard teaching aid). Scare them into believing that they have a moral (and perhaps religious) duty to support the hands that feed them, or give them free education.

Political lectures could become the order of the day where these are prepared by the political parties and sent to schools via the education ministry to be read at school assemblies like Jakim’s Friday sermons for mosques. In mathematics, the meaning of “approximately” will be changed to that of the EC’s.

The calculation is excellent. If this is started in 2014 with 17-year old form 5 children, they will be 21 in four years, the expected GE 14 year, i.e. 2018. Who knows, the next move may be to reduce the voting age to 18, to tap the rich fields of a few million schools leavers a year. The brainwashing can then start with Form 2 children, giving them four years of Umno/BN medicine.

I may be dreaming, but with the EC’s own revelations of how elections are numbers games, how gerrymandering is halal to ensure that the Malays (certain Malays) remain in power all the time and Najib’s badminton games, anything is possible to keep the numbers game going. It is even said that politics is the game of the impossible. Yes, sure, our EC is an expert at legitimising even what the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution prohibits. Yes, there will be endless possibilities in schools.

The motive (remember, it was not required in the Altantuya case!) of Khairy’s proposal is to ensure the continuity of the government that has been winning elections through fraudulent means since 1984. The last two elections showed that the numbers game did not go according to plans and strategies. Hence, with the grim prospect of further failure of the old games, new strategies have to be thought of and implemented. Thus was born the idea of taking UMNO into schools in Khairy’s fertile mind.

Politicians, even from the opposition, may not see anything wrong with this as they too would like to exploit the young minds if they could. But educationists should be able to see through the mischief behind the proposal. School children should not be made political pawns of any political party.

Even without direct politics in schools, they are doing so badly in the kind of education and character development of their charges. There is already racial polarization and racism in schools. Politics will only add fuel to this.

When concerns were raised, Khairy conveniently said he will leave it to the experts in the education ministry to decide whether to introduce politics into schools. This is merely a red-herring. Who is the education minister if not an UMNO man? Will any ministry official dare tell his or her political masters that politics should be left out of schools even if they are not in favour of the idea?  Have we not seen how the wishes of the political masters become orders of the day for civil servants to carry out, for they are not supposed to bite the hand that feeds them?

What's your stand on this NUTP ?

What’s your stand on this NUTP ?

Thus it was very disappointing to read that the NUTP, the largest teachers’ union in the country, did not see anything wrong with the idea. This on-the-spur response was not well thought out. This is a case where there is “udang sebalik batu” – i.e. a hidden agenda. This must be seen for what it is – a scheme to create new fixed deposits of voters by catching them young while still in school and under the control of the schools and the education ministry.

Politics is not for children. What the politicians do can be in total variance to what children are taught in Agama and Moral lessons. Let them reach adulthood and acquire HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) before delving into politics. School children must never be made the “anak angkat” of any political party. – December 16, 2013.

*Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

Favourites from the Zain Azahari Collection

December 5, 2013

Favourites from the Zain Azahari Collection @ The Edge Galerie

MY COMMENT: This is the first time I feature art on this blog. HavingKamsiah and Din2 been to the Opening Day of this excellent art exhibition at the Edge Gallery in Mont Kiara with my wife, Dr. Kamsiah, I cannot not resist posting this review (

Apart from the fact that Zain Azhari is my friend and golfing mate, and  I have  the highest regard for the many fine human qualities of this septuagenarian, I felt this review reflects exactly how I felt as I saw the paintings on display.

I have seen some of them before at Zain’s home and office, but not collectively ina  single place. In my view, it is a sample of the finest art collection by an individual in Malaysia.Thanks, The Edge Gallery and Zain for making it possible for members of the public to see them.

Zain is passionate about everything he does from his legal work, music, golf, reading, and art. He is an amazing man. –Din Merican

Favorites from Zain Azahari Collection

Pastoral, sensual, vigorous – these common descriptions surmise the prominent art collection of Zain Azahari, where a selection of 38 pieces are displayed at this exhibition. Large works by Ibrahim Hussein and Hendra Gunawan greet the visitor with titillating intent, where Fauvist colours and sinuous contours excite primitive human senses. Flanking both sides of the lobby, Latiff Mohidin and Anuar Rashid arouse the spiritual with abstract illustrations of great control and harmonious beauty, easily subjugating works by young artists hung in the same area.

Ramlan Abdullah’s aluminium sculpture also blends into the gallery’s medieval design, as the contemporary takes a back seat to master artists belonging to the Modern era. Earth and human form an unbreakable bond in these works, implying the collector as one whom possess deep faith and a resilient outlook of life.

Zain No 1Kampung truths: Jalaini Abu Hassan – Di Murahkan Rezeki, Di Berkatkan Hati (2011)

This philosophy is clearly specified in Jalaini Abu Hassan’s meditative ‘Di Murahkan Rezeki, Di Berkatkan Hati’, a minimal juxtaposition of objects (by Jai’s standards) beautifully rendered, where words elucidate Malay sayings and its connotations. When utilised correctly, writing creates additional dimensions on a canvas, Mangu Putra’s picture of utter despair being a good example. Academic painting typify depictions of toil and hard work, contrasting with the creative expressions of Mount Merapi by Affandi and Srihadi Soedarsono.

Illustrations of human feet seem to captivate the collector, who own a couple of high-priced watercolour masterpieces by Chang Fee Ming. Among the elegant dancing figures shown, including Latiff’s curious ‘Bird Dance’ sculpture, a menacing ‘Barong’ by Popo Iskandar emerges proudly from the shadows.

Zain No.2Crimson tide: Latiff Mohidin – Malam Merah (1968)

Zain’s collection boasts many works by the renown Latiff, none more significant than ‘Malam Merah’. Lively strokes of purple, yellow, and white, provide an inherent energy to the amalgamated Pago-pago, as a single horizontal line allows the sun / moon to set. The remaining areas are painted crimson red, while darker brush strokes sketch movement that augments the powerful picture. Cheong Soo Pieng’s tender ‘Mother & Child’ follows in the Nanyang tradition, which the pioneer artist updates via a rare oil painting.

Zain No. 4Why brown? Ibrahim Hussein – Farewell to New York (1969)
Previously unseen to the public is Ib’s ‘Farewell to New York’, a witty nude done in his characteristic Pop manner, where the curious usage of brown as its background has me polishing my chin while pondering the rationale. More sensuality is exhibited in Anthony Lau’s ‘Exstacy’, a wooden pair of smooth forms that recall natural contours, its overt tension depicted in the horizontal gap.
Zain No. 5Gliding sarongs: Dzulkifli Buyong – Four Friends (1964)
Hung low to provide viewer clarity, many works from this collection are museum-worthy, with the occasional odd gem standing out beyond Nusantara motives. Dzulkifli Buyong’s quirky ‘Four Friends’ “captures that single moment that is the birth of our Malaysian Modern art movement”, as described by curator Anurendra Jegadeva. Simple pastel colours, gliding sarongs, lily buds in the air, and innocent human gestures – I will not be surprised if the artist was in fact drawing 4 versions of his self.

Moving from flying figures to floating heads, Agus Suwage’s brilliant red fields pay tribute to artistic influences in an unconventional manner, the depiction like a tinted collage filtered through a computer program. Singling out figurative subjects is Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s contemporary approach, the huge portrait of a hippopotamus beckoning the viewer to come closer and swat flies, while the logical me clamour to inject meaning into a successful aesthetic.

Despite having a shorter tradition in picture making, the Malaysian works hold their own when compared to the diversity displayed in the Indonesian paintings. Among the many natural landscapes, a hazy wetland and a vertically-stretched Batu Caves signify personal importance, the former a nostalgic memory and the latter being Zain’s first collected artwork (a wedding gift!). Zain’s stories and passion are expounded and repeated across few essays in the catalogue, inspiring all who appreciate art.

Zain No.3From Kahli, Van Gogh, Bueys, Sudjojono, Freud to Hiroshige: Agus Sugawie– Agus SuwagePemandangan Dunia Wi (Earthly Landscape) (2011)

Having amassed 400 works over the past 50 years, Zain Azahari’s collection is a testament of one’s relentless pursuit of art on one’s personal terms. Not a luxury item, never an asset type, consistent in vision, absorbing one’s soul and intellect. I may not share Zain’s taste in art, but I do share a similar passion, which makes him my Art Collector idol for years to come.

Awakening launched in Kuala Lumpur

September 17, 2013

Awakening launched in Kuala Lumpur

September 16, 2013
Latest Update: September 16, 2013 10:44 pm

Dr Bridget Welsh (right) and James Chin with the 'The Awakening' books at the launch today. The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, September 16, 2013.Dr Bridget Welsh (right) and James Chin with the ‘The Awakening’ books at the launch today. The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, September 16, 2013.

Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi’s “weakness” made Malaysia stronger with its people becoming more vocal and pushing for more democratic reforms. “That is his legacy of strength,” said Dr Bridget Welsh who co-edited “Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia”. “Malaysians became more critical,” she added.

Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim who was also present at the launch of the book at the Bar Council headquarters this evening, pointed out that Pak Lah had big shoes to fill after he took over as Prime Minister from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Pak Lah is a decent and good man. He wants politics to be on an open path. He was not interested in dominance,” he said, adding that Abdullah would have accomplished more if he had more time.

Perhaps, Zaid said, Abdullah should have strengthened his team when he came into power in 2004.Instead, he chose to keep a lot of Dr Mahathir’s men.

“He was the one who said there should be an interfaith commission. So we must give him credit for that.But he was not prepared to fight. He was not going to get involved in a bloodbath. I had told him that he had to be harder and sack a few people, but he said that was not his style.”

Zaid was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform from March 18, 2008 to September 17, 2008 when Abdullah was premier.

James Chin, who worked with Welsh on the book, pointed out that it was during Pak Lah’s tenure that the nation flourished with new ideas. “Cyberspace, bloggers, newsportals were actually established during his time as a Prime Minister.Even the newspapers were freer then,”He genuinely wanted to bring reforms. Although he did not accomplish a lot of things we wanted, he had done a lot of things we see today,” he said.

Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar said it was during Abdullah’s tenure that there was a change in the Judiciary and it was in better shape after a long time.

“Sure there was a change and I am referring here to the acquittal of (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim.At that time, you will see the two male judges on the panel had the scrotal gumption to do the justice that the law required them to do,” Shankar said.

The Federal Court had overturned Anwar’s sodomy conviction in September 2004, just months after Abdullah came into power.

The book is a collection of 37 articles by an array of contributors, including scholars and practitioners. Abdullah had last month said that he did not write the book and that he had no intention of attending the book launch. – September 16, 2013.

What Happened to Our Education after 56 (50?) Years of Independence?

September 9, 2013

What Happened to Our Education after 56 (50?) Years of Independence?

September 09, 2013
Latest Update: September 09, 2013 10:37 am

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of the mind for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” Anatole France.

malaysia-at-50-Malaysia-Day_129_100_100I grew up listening to many stories of how wonderful an experience of going to school in the early years following the declaration of Independence in the year 1957. Irrespective of your differences, everyone sort of bonded together during their school years.

Picnics at the park during the weekend with your schoolmates, regardless of religious and racial creed, was the norm back then. In fact, in the words of my now deceased grandmother, “It would mean the end of the world for me if I didn’t go to the park with my friends.” Such was the bond they had back then.

Politicians messing up with our education system !

Politicians messing up with our education system !

But, I aim to not discuss the strong social bonds that exist back then but instead I want to talk about the learning experience of the yesteryears. More precisely, the freedom of thought and the soul of the education experience that they went through.

As I grew up, I have this habit of talking to people and asking them what it was like learning and being educated in the early 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. I liken this exercise as my time-travel machine, getting insights and stories from various people, since I was born in an era where some believe was the beginning of the decline of Malaysia’s intellectual progress.

In summarising all these experiences, I arrived at the conclusion (at this point I hear someone disagreeing with me on scientific grounds of my methods) that they were all learning and being educated in an environment that not only encourages questioning but also indulges curiosity and freedom of thought.

Not only was I convinced that the conclusions I made were one of the primary drivers of excellence, I believe wholeheartedly that the aforementioned environment sets these individuals up for greater success in the coming years of their lives.

A businessman I met in my secondary years in school said this to me, “Back then, we pride ourselves in asking tough questions in class and the teachers will reward us accordingly, even when we ask the most menial of questions, such as why do we have to learn in school, why can’t we just play all day?”

Swat TeamOn this one, we all can be smart

Until today, I remain regaled by stories from the glory days of yesteryears. I went through a different learning experience altogether compared with the uncles and aunties that I hear stories from. I, like most of my peers today, went through the daily Sekolah Kebangsaan and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan in our bid to realise our dreams.

I started my schooling years believing in the fact that this was the place where all my questions will be answered, a place where I could begin the long and arduous journey of realising my dreams and achieving my full potential, after all at the back of my first exercise book; there it was the National Education Philosophy that reads:

“Pendidikan di Malaysia adalah satu usaha berterusan ke arah lebih memperkembangkan potensi individu secara menyeluruh dan bersepadu untuk melahirkan insan yang seimbang dan harmonis dari segi intelek, rohani, emosi dan jasmani berdasarkan kepatuhan dan kepercayaan kepada Tuhan. Usaha ini adalah bertujuan untuk melahirkan warganegara Malaysia yang berilmu pengetahuan, berketrampilan, berakhlak mulia, bertanggungjawab dan berkeupayaan mencapai kesejahteraan diri serta memberikan sumbangan terhadap keharmonian dan kemakmuran keluarga, masyarakat dan Negara.”

mahathir baruAsk Him Coz he should know

Surely, an important piece to realise, if not the fundamental guidelines of this philosophy is to promote and nurture the sense of curiosity. In addition, an environment that supports curiosity and allow for questions to be asked goes a long way in creating critical-thinking among students, who undoubtedly will be an important asset to this country.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. At the age of 10, I was made to sit outside the classroom as a result of me asking the teacher how does scolding students in public help achieve the National Education Philosophy. Curiosity wasn’t a welcome guest when I went through school, and today it is still not welcomed in classroom.

Why are we doing this to ourselves and, more importantly, to the future generation of my beloved nation?

Deaf EarsThat’s What we Have become!

Fifty years on since the inception of Malaysia, curiosity has gone from a celebrated trait to a trait no one cares about. Let us change this Malaysia. We can start by encouraging and allowing our kids to ask questions and not punish them for doing so.For a better Malaysia. – September 9, 2013.

* Rahman Hussin runs Akademi Belia.

After 56 Years: Race and Religion polarised Us

August 31, 2013

After 56 Years: Race and Religion polarised Us

by Tommy Thomas@

COMMENT: The social contract, social compact or bargain reached by the TommyThomas02three communities under the watchful eye of the British imperial power as a condition to Merdeka was that in exchange for full citizenship, a right to use their language and observe their religion, the non-Malays had to concede special privileges to the Malays to assist the latter to ascend the economic ladder.

It was a quid pro quo. It was a consensus arrived after hard bargaining, and has formed the basis of nationhood. In this equilibrium, the non-Malays were not to be relegated to second-class citizens: citizenship was not on a two-tier basis and there was going to be no apartheid, partition or repatriation.

What was required from the non-Malays at the time of Merdeka was undivided loyalty to the new nation. They could no longer owe their allegiance to the mother country, China or India. Racial differences were recognised. Diversity was encouraged. There was no pressure to integrate into one Malayan race.

A new nation was to be integrated over time, but as a plural society. Assimilation was out of the question. Thus, a united Malayan nation did not involve the sacrifice by any community of its religion, culture or customs. Minorities were not to be discriminated in a system of parliamentary democracy based on constitutional supremacy. In many respects, the establishment of Malaysia six years after Merdeka strengthened the social contract.


But as Malaya completes 56 years as an independent sovereign nation today, and more significantly, Malaysia turns half a century on September 16, do the 28 million Malaysians have reason to celebrate? Unfortunately, the popular response would be very much in the negative.

Race and Religion

The twin forces of race and religion have substantially polarised the nation. Every issue of public life, however minor or insignificant, is given an ethnic undertone by politicians and the civil service, and glaringly publicised in the government-controlled mass media. Totally absent in the national landscape is a statesman like the Father of Merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister, who is prepared to speak for the nation and the public weal, rather than from a parochial or sectarian perspective.

Even after the closest general election in our history, with the coalition governing the nation not enjoying majority popular vote, and with the next general election only due in five years, politicking of the worst kind continues daily.

mole-Najib-Razak-endless-possibilities-1MalaysiaThe Prime Minister is not giving the leadership that he sought from the electorate, and which he received. With a 44-seat majority in the Dewan Rakyat, the BN government has a majority which is the envy of many governing coalitions across the globe. Yet, a sense of paralysis grips the centre.

Bread-and-butter issues which largely featured in the election campaign of four months ago, have still not been addressed at all. Not a day goes by without murders, rapes and armed robberies occurring in our homes and our streets. Rampant crime has undermined law and order.

The economy has been shaken by mounting debt; not just the national debt, but also consumer and corporate debt. Comparisons have already been made to the run-up to our 1997 financial crisis which was principally caused by a proliferation of debt.

Thousands of Malaysian companies and nationals speak with their wallets; they just take their money overseas in billions. Our currency has received a battering in the last month, resulting in speculation that Bank Negara may have to intervene to prevent further depreciation of the ringgit.

Merdeka Pic

Bread-and-butter issues, as important as they are to the average Malaysian, still pale in comparison with the massive increase in ethnic tensions. What is the point of Talent Corporation spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers monies in an endeavour to attract Malaysians to return home when racial polarisation is on the increase in their nation.

Thousands of non-Malays have done brilliantly in businesses, professions and other private sector areas in Malaysia. They have flourished regionally and internationally in every society that values meritocracy. Hence there is a huge pool of talented non-Malays willing to be engaged in the public service.

Yet in their homeland, the civil service, the GLCs (government-linked companies), the universities, the army, the police – indeed senior positions in the entire public sector – are dominated by one race. How does one justify such massive hiring of personnel from one race to manage national institutions where national policies are made in a nation of multiple communities that claims there are no classes of citizenship or nationality.

Grand coalition

It is accordingly critical in the public interest that politicians of all parties cease polarising the nation any further. All Malaysians must be treated with sensitivity and delicately. Feelings of communities, however weak and influential, must not be hurt. Hate speech must be avoided at all costs. The government must take the lead, after all the whole purpose of electing leaders is for them to lead the nation.

They must cease immediately playing the racial, religious and ethnic card, and take policy decisions that would promote a plural society. If all these actions can only be taken by a government of national unity, that is, a grand coalition of BN and Pakatan Rakyat parties, the national interest compels such an urgent outcome.

There is a genuine widespread concern that we must all play our part in rolling back the loud public discourse on race and religion. This is an awakening call. Unless remedial measures are taken soon, young Malaysians who have the world at their feet, will desert the nation because they feel they have no place under the Malaysian sun.

They are our future, but they see no future at home. That is the tragedy that must be avoided this 56th Merdeka, and this 50th Malaysia Day.

Emerging World needs a New Economic Model

July 16 2013

MY COMMENT: In a couple of days, Malaysia will be hosting din mericanthe 18th meeting of the TPP club in Kota Kinabalu to craft– finalise may be a better word– the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. I assume that our leaders and policy makers know what they are doing and will negotiate hard so that we have an agreement which we all, as individuals, corporations and a country, can live with. Once we become party to the TPPA, we have little choice but to realign our economic and social policies. We will be operating on a different playing field, where productivity and competitiveness will be decisive.

Perhaps, it is now time for a relook at Najib’s New Economic Model,which is supposed to be an improvement on the New Economic Policy, and gear ourselves to the new realities where productivity and human capital will be critical to enable us to compete globally while remaining strong in our domestic market.  If I may be suggest, we should revive our committee of experts, led by ISIS Malaysia, for this purpose. Some of the ideas in Rossi’s article may be of some use. 

The era of cheap currency and export-led growth is over. Our challenge will be how to enhance national resilience based on fiscal prudence, sound money, and domestic competition in the face of a gathering economic storm, looking ahead to the next few years. –Din Merican

Markets Insight

July 15, 2013 9:43 am

Emerging World needs a New Economic Model

By Dominic

Cheap currencies and export-led growth have run their course. The recent weakness in emerging market equities is structural. The developing world has reached a crossroads in the search for a new economic model to replace an existing approach which, despite its success to date, has run its course.

The current economic model in emerging markets rose from the ashes of the 1997-98 crisis. That episode ripped bare the Washington Consensus that had dominated emerging market economic thinking since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Washington Consensus espoused the then current liberal economic thinking – fixed or quasi-fixed exchange rates, fiscal discipline, free trade, and round after round of privatisations. The model brought early successes in taming inflation, but failed in most other areas. The rapacious behaviour of multinational organisations during privatisations, in particular, convinced national governments that the Washington Consensus was a dressed-up model of neo-colonialism.

It is hardly surprising that the economic model that succeeded the Washington Consensus would carry deeply nationalistic characteristics. After 1997-98, one emerging country after another developed a model framed around economic and financial self sufficiency. It consisted of four key elements: cheap currencies, export-led growth, the accumulation of US dollar reserves and the development of non-US dollar sources of funding, especially via local currency debt markets.

By these means, EM countries believed they would never again find themselves on the hook to the US Treasury (or the International Monetary Fund), nor for that matter would they need to inconvenience local vested interests with “structural reform”.

This model worked pretty well for a decade. Exports boomed, the accumulation of US dollar reserves gave birth to a generation of sovereign wealth funds, local currency debt markets swelled, and local vested interests did rather well. A great deal of new wealth was created, and 2bn people were lifted out of poverty as a new middle class emerged, giving the model its political legitimacy.

But this approach has run its course. Cheap currencies are no longer so cheap, and in real terms have largely recaptured their lost purchasing power of 1997-98. Moreover, the export-led growth model is now crippled by a developed world that is rapidly moving towards balanced current accounts. It was good while it lasted, but the time has come for emerging markets to think anew.

The next emerging market model needs to learn from the last two, keep what works, and move on. Emerging markets need to commit to free-floating exchange rates, keep hold of their US dollar reserves and continue to develop non-US dollar sources of funding. But they should abandon the world of cheap currencies and export-led growth.

The current round of competitive devaluations is a particularly disturbing policy development. Stagnation lies just around this particular corner. After the 2008 collapse, inflationary problems returned surprisingly quickly to the developing world in 2009-10 and emerging markets can ill afford to embed these pressures with successive devaluations.

nem1Malaysia’s New Economic Model: Objectives

Instead, emerging countries need to dust down the “structural reform” agenda they quietly abandoned a decade ago and move to revitalise domestic competition. Regulators need to be empowered to crack local oligopolies that stifle competition and growth. Swathes of industries from telecommunications to integrated utilities and beverage companies across the emerging world are in the hands of one or maybe two operators. This can strangle the small and medium-sized enterprises that typically generate employment.

Fiscal policy needs to find its way back on to the emerging market agenda. Structural reform has given way to fiscal fine tuning over much of the past decade. Tax reform is a priority, especially the mix between income and consumption taxes. In some developing countries, momentum behind pension and social security reform has flagged, despite the fact that demographics is turning into a headwind rather than the tailwind it has been for some time.

Finally, governance within the corporate sector has failed across the emerging world, even when companies are listed on developed country exchanges. Unless governance practices improve, the inevitable consequence will be a rise in the cost of capital for all.

The emerging world has made progress over the past decade. Further steps in the right direction will require a change to the economic model and some painful decisions. Those that can take these steps will continue to prosper; those that do not may look back at the past decade as a golden era.

Dominic Rossi is chief investment officer, equities, at Fidelity Worldwide Investment

Listening for Clues to Mind’s Mysteries

July 10, 2013

Books of The Times

Listening for Clues to Mind’s Mysteries :‘The Examined Life’ Describes Psychoanalysis’s Power

by Michiko Kakutani (07-08-13)

Freud’s famous case studies, like Dora, the Wolf Man, Little Hans and the Rat Man, are psychoanalytic readings, suspenseful detective stories and elliptical narratives that have all the drama and contradictions of modernist fiction. Not only is Freud a powerful writer, but his methodology and insights also have a lot in common with literary criticism and novelistic architecture. His patient portraits showcase his skills both as a critic, intent on deconstructing his subjects’ lives, and as a masterly storyteller, adept at using unreliable narrators to explore the mysteries of love and sex and death. It’s no coincidence that he liked to write about characters from Shakespeare, Goethe, Ibsen and Sophocles (yes, Oedipus), or that he paid so much attention to the language and imagery employed by his patients.

“The Examined Life,” by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz — who teachesStephen Grosz at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and in the Psychoanalytic Unit at University College London — shares the best literary qualities of Freud’s most persuasive work.

The book’s unfortunate title and chapter headings (“On not being in a couple,” “Why parents envy their children,” “How lovesickness keeps us from love”) give the false impression that this is some sort of cheesy self-help book. It’s not. It is, rather, an insightful and beautifully written book about the process of psychoanalysis, and the ways people’s efforts to connect the past, present and future reflect their capacity to change. The book distills the author’s 25 years of work as a psychoanalyst and more than 50,000 hours of conversation into a series of slim, piercing chapters that read like a combination of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks. They invite us to identify with Mr. Grosz’s patients and their losses and regrets, even as we are made to marvel at the complexities and convolutions of the human mind.

Mr. Grosz quotes Isak Dinesen, who observed that “all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them,” and he goes on to argue that stories can help us to make sense of our lives, but that if “we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us — we dream these stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand.”

The Examined LifeTo protect his patients’ confidentiality, Mr. Grosz says he has “changed names and altered all identifying particulars.” Some have predicaments that will sound immediately familiar to many of us: a woman reluctant to give up hope that her commitment-phobic boyfriend will marry her; a man, uncomfortable with intimacy and emotional dependence, finds that he is genuinely happier on his own (he asks Mr. Grosz if he can see him occasionally, when he needs to, but not on a regular basis); a girl whose skill in living up to her parents’ expectations of good behavior and academic achievement “did not prevent the development of her substantial intellectual abilities” but slowed her emotional development.

Other case studies have a more surreal, fablelike quality. There’s a man who obsessively fantasizes about an imaginary house he owns in France, sketching floor plans in his head, visualizing different colors of paint in one room, a larger doorway in another. And there’s a man who seems willfully intent on boring everyone around him, including dates, colleagues — and yes, Mr. Grosz; apparently, it’s an aggressive way of “controlling, and excluding, others,” and his avoidance of dealing with his feelings reminds Mr. Grosz of the character Hamm in Beckett’s “Endgame,” who says: “Absent, always. It all happened without me.”

Like Freud, Mr. Grosz is fond of literary allusions, and he’s nimble at excavating the psychological subtext of literary classics. He reads Dickens’s “Christmas Carol” as “a story about an extraordinary psychological transformation.” One of the lessons it teaches, he argues, is that “Scrooge can’t redo his past, nor can he be certain of the future. Waking on Christmas morning, thinking in a new way, he can change his present — change can only take place in the here and now. This is important because trying to change the past can leave us feeling helpless, depressed.”

Like many of Mr. Grosz’s observations, this echoes Kierkegaard’s definition of “the unhappiest man” as someone incapable of living in the present, dwelling instead in past memory or future hope. Mr. Grosz writes about a woman who’s so caught up in imagining the future — her father being at her wedding, getting a home near her boyfriend’s parents — that she’s in denial about the depressing reality of her relationship with the boyfriend. And he writes about a compulsive liar who seems to be, unconsciously, recreating the relationship he had with his mother when he was a boy. (He lied about wetting his bed, and she silently conspired with him to cover it up.)

In recounting his patients’ stories, Mr. Grosz is candid about his role in the process of analysis: he worries about projecting his difficulties with a girlfriend onto his interpretation of a patient’s problem coming to terms with her husband’s apparent infidelity; and he monitors his feelings of detachment when dealing with a patient who’s out of touch with his emotions.

Mr. Grosz notices the language his patients employ — he detects a tone of condescension in a woman who refers to her husband as “sweetie.” He is prone to seeing loss everywhere: success, he suggests, can make a person feel cut off from colleagues and the past; marriage can make someone feel as if other avenues of possibility had been closed. But he is never tendentious, and he does not try, like Freud, to view everything — even the most existential of dilemmas — through an insistently sexual prism. He writes with enormous empathy for his patients, gently encouraging them to recognize patterns in their lives, while hearing out their own theories and concerns. He reassures one patient that he will face all her problems with her, and he promises a seriously ill patient that he will visit him in the hospital for his regular sessions, five times a week.

Being a psychoanalyst, Mr. Grosz writes, means spending his workdays “alone with another person, thinking — trying to be present.” He is a “tour guide — part detective, part translator” — an editor who helps his patients connect the dots of their stories, helping them to make sense of their lives, or, at the very least, assuring them that they are “alive in the mind of another.” With this deeply affecting book, he has done just that — and shared their tales with a wider world.

The government is bulldozing the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPPA) to please US president Barrack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Malaysia in October, an opposition MP charged today.

DAP’s Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said the government was trying to seal the controversial agreement by October despite concerns that it would lead to higher price of medicine and erosion of Malaysia’s sovereignty

- See more at:

The government is bulldozing the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPPA) to please US president Barrack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Malaysia in October, an opposition MP charged today.

DAP’s Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said the government was trying to seal the controversial agreement by October despite concerns that it would lead to higher price of medicine and erosion of Malaysia’s sovereignty

- See more at:

Clowning in Malaysian Politics

July 6, 2013

Clowning in Malaysian Politics

by Dr.Lim Teck Ghee@

Bung  Mokhtar RadinTherere two types of nonsense – plausible and implausible. Plausible nonsense is when someone spins a story to children, which although implausible to adults is plausible to young minds. Though not believable to adults, most children stories have the redeeming value of being educational and entertaining.

Then there is implausible nonsense which does not make any sense at all. Clowns and buffoons engage in implausible nonsense for the purpose of entertaining audiences and bringing comic relief.

In Shakespeare’s plays, his clowns and fools did not only invite laughter but they often had something profound to say. The Shakespeare fool, who is usually a person of low or common birth, provided insights into the main characters belonging to the nobility as well as shedding light on the central themes of the play.

In Malaysia we have political clowns dominating the national stage but unlike in Shakespeare’s plays, they provide no entertainment or anything of merit or significance to our conflict-ridden society. Instead, they simply push up our stress levels.

Why the ‘child conversion’ ambush now?

When given the opportunity to say something sensible about the controversial Administration of Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill tabled in Parliament recently, the DPM defended the government action by claiming that “the cabinet has discussed this in detail and … in the current situation, there have been several guidelines that we used. One of them is the court’s decision on a previous case and the second is the Malaysian constitution. So that is the jurisdiction of power we have today.”

Unlike his colleague, Nazri Aziz who has been consistently principled on the issue, Muhyiddin has conveniently forgotten that the new Cabinet decision is overturning an earlier decision of which he was a party to. He could have used the press conference occasion to demonstrate his Malaysian, and not Malay, leadership qualities but chose instead to cloud the issue even more by providing spurious legal and constitutional arguments.

We have had more than enough public discussion and debate during the past few years on the issue of the conversion of children under the age of 18 as well as other cases of contested conversion to Islam.

Not only is there a broad consensus of opposition against forced conversion – whether of minors or adults – among our population of non-Muslim faith and religions but Islamic organizations such as Sisters in Islam and the Islamic Renaissance Front and many concerned Muslim individuals have spoken out with regard to the conversion of non-Muslim minors.

Now that the elections are over, perhaps Muhyiddin is trying to pander to the UMNO delegates whose support he seeks in the party’s coming general assembly meeting. If he is doing so, he is not helping the cause of Islam in Malaysia and its avowed message of fairness and tolerance.

What is really behind Jonker Walk closure?

Just as big a political clown – though at the state level – is the Malaccamb-melaka-idris Chief Minister who has decided to show to the locals the stuff he is made of by making traffic congestion his first priority on assuming office.

“One would have assumed that he would devote his time to more important state matters such as raising the state’s productivity or attracting high value investment than traffic congestion in Jonker Walk. But no, a fight with the area’s street traders who are mostly Chinese and presumably supporters of the opposition seems to be his strategy for grabbing national attention and notoriety.

As with Muhyiddin, Idris will have his eye on the coming UMNO general assembly meeting which will see the election of party supreme council members, a position which he is clearly aiming for. What better credentials to win the votes of delegates than a reputation as the man who single-handedly destroyed the rice bowl of opposition-inclined traders?
This would also embellish his international reputation further.

Idris, during his first years in Parliament, made news headlines for complaining that the body-hugging outfits worn by stewardesses on Malaysia Airlines would result in male passengers sexually harassing the stewardesses. One wonders if this observation could have been provoked by his own response to the dress wear.

“Leave Malaysia” if you don’t likeThe last in this group, Bung Moktar, the MP for Kitabatangan had previously made the headlines with various political antics and a polygamous marriage which did not meet the procedures and conditions required by Islamic law.This time around when debating the motion of thanks on the Royal azran-osman rani Address, the Sabah UMNO representative lowered his standard of buffoonery to engage in character assassination of AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman Rani. Calling Azran a “Melayu biadab” (rude Malay) who did not deserve to be a citizen, he is reported to have yelled, “Leave this country and go live anywhere else you like.”

His outburst led the Speaker to point out to Bung Moktar that he should not use the privilege to speak in the Dewan Rakyat to criticise civilians and government officials who were unable to use the same platform to defend themselves.

The Speaker should have also reminded the member of the House that such acts of political coward will live forever in the pages of Malaysian political history through our Hansard records.

1malaysiaThere is however one solace. In Shakespeare’s comedies, fools are called upon to encourage a more serious examination of the situations and characters of a play. Fools not only amuse and entertain, but they also help the audience to ponder on serious social, religious and political issues.

This is so true in the prolonged wayang kulit and the performing political clowns that invariably take centre stage before UMNO’s big day, the party election due this year in November.

8 Realities: Why the Malaysian Government should fund Higher Education

July 3, 2013

 MY COMMENT: This is a well written and thoughtful piece byDin Merican Anas Faizli. I thank him for sending it to me and with his permission I am sharing it with you. I personally believe that education of the right sort, that is one which recognises an individual’s natural aptitude, is an income enhancing and profitable undertaking. While I acknowledge the role of government as investor in education, I think it is up to us as individuals to decide whether we are prepared to go through the grind ourselves to get a degree or a professional/technical qualificaton at the tertiary level. Self development is a personal responsibility, not one for the state to decide.

That said, university education is not for everybody, that means we need to create polytechnics and technical institutes, as in the case of Germany, for those who have no aptitude for research and teaching.

Our industrialisation needs mechanics, techinicians, and nuts and bolts types, not just  researchers, academics, managers and bureaucrats. This is the real gap which our country must try to close. So, what our government can do is to allocate public funds for quality technical education for those who are unsuited for university education that Anas favours.–Din Merican

Anas8 Realities: Why the Malaysian Government should fund Higher Education

By Anas Alam Faizli

Education was institutionalized to formalize the process of knowledge acquisition and research in man’s quest for understanding. Earliest universities in the history of mankind namely Al-Azhar, Bologna, Oxford, Palencia, Cambridge and University of Naples (world’s first public university, 1224) have one thing in common; they were built by notable early world civilizations as institutions of research, discourse, learning, proliferation of knowledge and documentation. This contrasts largely from the role of universities today as institutions of human capital accreditation, qualification, and most unfortunately, business and profits.

Ibnu Khaldun, father of historiography, sociology and economics, in his work Prolegomenon (Muqaddimah) argued that the government would only gain strength and sovereignty through its citizens. This strength can only be sustained by wealth, which can only be acquired through human capital development (education), which in turn can only be achieved by justice and inclusiveness for all. Aristotle too proposed “Education should be one and the same for all.” A system that discriminates, in our case, based on household economic ability, can and will rile an unhealthy imbalance in the quality of the resulting labour force and society. These form the basis of our argument here.

 In America, the individual funds his higher education while many European countries have public-funded institutions of higher learning. The latter is the best for Malaysia. Our societal and economic progression (or digression) does not depend on any one factor, but on the interaction of economic, social and political factors over a long period of time. Let’s first look at some realities that we need to contend with to understand why the Malaysian government should fund higher education.

Reality #1: Society benefits from education

 We can never truly measure the immense positive externalities derived from an educated society. Outcomes of university education and research continuously found the progress of mankind. In developing Malaysia, higher education is an impetus for establishing a civic-minded society, highly skilled manpower and competitive value proposition for capital and production. Investing in education may cost the society tax Ringgits, but the consequences in failing to do so will be devastating. Walter W. McMahon (economist at University of Illinois) outlined the “private non-market benefits” for degree-holders. These include better personal health and improved cognitive development in their children. Alongside is the “social non-market benefits”, such as lower spending on prisons and greater political stability.

Reality #2: “Neither here nor there”

 Malaysia is neither here nor there, and education opportunity is a major contributing factor. Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labour and Professor at University of California@Berkeley, made a compelling argument that is very applicable to Malaysia. To attract jobs and capital, nations and states face two choices; one is to build a low-tax but low-wage “warehouse economy” competing on price, another is to compete on quality, by increasing taxes and regulation to invest in human capital for a highly productive workforce.

In Malaysia, wage growth caught up with productivity growth only up until the late 1990’s. Since 1996, we have been living in the “middle income trap”, stunted at the World Bank’s definition of upper middle income; neither high nor low income. In fact, for the past 10 years real wage growth has been negative. Having 77% of the Malaysian workforce with only SPM and below qualification is a structural barrier to us crossing over to the higher income group. The labour force is largely unskilled and unable to move their labour services up the value chain where higher salaries are paid.

Reality #3: Education is fundamental to a competitive value proposition

Another case for education is competitiveness for both FDI and outputs. On the FDI side, our factors of production, in this case labour, needs to be attractive enough. With a labour force that is neither highly skilled nor cheap, our value propositions dwarf next to the likes of Vietnam and Singapore. As a result, technology and automation service the lower-value processes replacing need for labour, while R&D and origination have not caught up due to lack of expertise. Malaysia has been the only country in the region facing net outflow in FDI since 2007.

 On the output side, our goal to move away from producing lower-value manufacturing and primary goods, into the higher-value services sector too have been held back by limited talent and capabilities. Lack of advanced education is one major factor causing this lack of competitiveness.

Reality #4: Efficiency driven economy versus Innovation driven economy

 A study released by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) categorizes Malaysia as an efficiency-driven economy, behind innovation-driven economies. We focus on improving existing processes, but we are not out there inventing new things where the big money is. Focusing on the latter is extremely important now more than ever for Malaysia, because we can no longer offer very cheap labour, land and factories to produce mass generic products competitively.

The number of researchers in Malaysia for each 1 million population is only 365 behind Japan’s 5,416 and South Korea’s 4,231. We are in dire need for more trained professionals and innovators, and we could have harvested them from talents that did not pursue tertiary education due to the lack of opportunities.

 Reality #5: Education is an investment

Like parents investing in their children’s future, the state must invest in the population for the future of the nation. An educated society is able to position themselves into higher standards of living characterized by higher income, production of high value goods and services, longer life expectancy, subscription to civic and moral values, political stability, existence of civil liberties and openness to change and development.

While highly developed nations like Denmark and the Netherlands invest 11.2% and 10.8% (respectively) of GDP in education, we invested only 4.8% last year (majority on infrastructure and emoluments!). To make matters worse, the education budget education is slashed from RM50 billion to RM37 billion this year! To get an idea of how counter-intuitive this is for a developing Malaysia, even Afghanistan (7.4%), Vietnam (7.2%) and Timor Leste (12.3%) spent more.

 Currently, about 80% of the bottom 40% income households are only-SPM qualified and below, while only 5% received higher education. The rest never made it to school at all. The reason is crystal clear; it is education that can lift households into higher income thus significantly reducing poverty and its consequences. If this group were to receive higher education, it is the state that ultimately benefits as social capital is returned from the household to the state in increased production and tax income. Social justice is served; while nobody is left discriminated or neglected from being given an opportunity to develop his or her own merits.

Reality #6: … with a Positive Net Return-on-Investment (ROI)

 Entertain this simple simulation: Consider a fresh graduate entering the workforce with a salary of RM2,500, working for 30 years with a modest increment of 5% a year. Upon retiring at the age of 55 years, he would have paid back at least RM290,000 to the government only in income taxes. Even after discounting, payback in taxes is significantly beyond the investment cost providing education.

 Reality #7: Education correlates with wealth and income

 Tertiary-educated individuals have an average of RM182,000 in wealth to their name, while SPM holders have only an average RM82,000 in net worth. Degree holders have at least 2.2 times the wealth of SPM leavers. But the tertiary education penetration rate for Malaysia stands at only 36.5%. This is only measured at point of enrolment (not completion)! Not only we are significantly behind “very high human development” nations’ average of 75%, we are also behind “high human development” nations’ average of 50%.

In contrast, 86% of Americans, 84% of Kiwis, 100% of Koreans, 99% of the British, 45% of Thais, and 38.4% of Turks are university-trained. As a result, the bulk of our workforce is unable to position themselves in higher-earning jobs. The bulk of our jobs involve the lower portions of the industry value chains. How are we then to move our economy into higher GNI territory, and inclusively move the majority of our population into higher income brackets? Current practice of relying on one-off mega construction projects will not ensure Malaysia move into high-income status, and stay there for the long run!

 Reality #8: Education will reduce income inequality

 Malaysia ranks as the third most unequal nation in Asia, based on a GINI coefficient of 0.4621 (World Bank). Using only GINI, a simple measure of dispersion between the richest and poorest in an economy, we can already see that there are structural problems with the kind of growth that we have been enjoying. A household that earns RM10,000 monthly and above is already considered the top 4% Malaysian households! 60% of the highest earning income households have at least one member that received tertiary-level education. But 60% of the lowest-earning households have only SPM-holders as their most qualified household member. Not coincidentally, only the top 20% income households in Malaysia have experienced substantial income growth. For the remaining 80% it has been moderate. The gap between the rich and poor has been consistently growing from year 1970 until today. Only non-discriminatory access to education for the bottom 40% will arrest the growth of this gap.

 America perceives that the benefits of tertiary-level education are enjoyed most by the individual himself, thus the individual funds his higher education. The Scandinavians believe that the government should pay for higher education. On one hand, we see a privately funded education system in America, and growing inequality between the relatively richer and poorer households. There is at least $902 billion (NY Federal Reserve) in total outstanding student loan debt in the United States today. In contrast, government-funded higher education Scandinavia ranks as most equal nations in the world. The apparent causal-effect relationship here is hard to dispel.

 We expect free access to education to allow inter-generational mobility and narrow this inequality gap. If we let economic disability become a prohibitive factor for education, relatively poorer households will never be lifted out of the low-income bracket.

 One graduate for every Malaysian family

 We need an education system that is inclusive, does not neglect academically-struggling yet vocationally-advantaged pupils, matches industry requirements, yet streams students into disciplines where they will excel most. Most importantly, the system must not allow students to find themselves at the point of entering the industry, handicapped with a student loan on their shoulders, only to realize that they are not employable.

Malaysia has progressed in many aspects by making primary and secondary education free. 100% of Malaysians finish at least primary 6 and 68% finish form 5. The current socio and economic condition in Malaysia now calls to make finishing form 5 legally compulsory and providing free and accessible tertiary education for all.

I  urge the government, non-governmental bodies, policy-makers, and lobby groups to move towards providing free tuition fees for higher education at all our public universities. Where public universities are unable to cater for surplus of qualified students, it is suggested that the same equivalent amount of tuition fee funding is to be provided for private universities in a staggered manner, so as to ensure education accessibility by all.

I also propose the target of one graduate in each of the 6.4 million Malaysian households to ensure inter-generational mobility; that is for at least one child of a self-subsistent fisherman or low-salaried factory worker to uplift the entire family into a higher income bracket. A graduate in each family will be the change-agent that ensures his generation improves the family; via a chain reaction multiplying effect, ultimately affecting the graduate’s surroundings.

Education is way too important for us to risk any mismanagement, oversight and underfunding. The generations that go through a robustly managed quality education system, or lack of them, will ultimately decide Malaysia’s direction and the society that we will live in. Only then we can fundamentally assure that our true north for a high income Malaysia is sustainable, inclusive and is enjoyed by all layers of society – not just for the Top 1%. Let us reflect what Nelson Mandela said for a better Malaysia! “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

 *Anas Alam Faizli is an oil and gas professional. He is pursuing a post-graduate doctorate and is the founding executive director of Teach For The Needs (TFTN).

 ** Data and figures are derived from EPU, DOSM, HIS 2009, HDR 2011, World databank and BNM. For details, please refer BLINDSPOT (

Najib’s zombie apocalypse

April 15, 2013

Najib’s zombie apocalypse

by Mariam Mokhtar@

Najib in doaIn keeping with the unhealthy obsession with cerita hantu (ghost stories) and the supernatural, which is displayed by the rakyat – especially the Malays – caretaker Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should be applauded for converting some Malaysians into zombies.

The living dead are characterised by their lack of self-awareness and the inability to think for themselves. Najib’s zombies may not crave human flesh, but they do feast on cash handouts and freebies. In the zombie culture, human brains are considered a delicacy.

Perhaps UMNO has seized on the rakyat’s minds as a means to spread their evil. They have mentally enslaved us and used this exploitation to satisfy their greed for material goods, and hunger for power.

Six decades ago, Malayans had to decide – either continue to be ruled by the British, or accept change and take charge of running the country. The operative word was change.

We had to manage the nation’s finances, defend the country and administer self-rule. It was no mean feat. Malayan brains, intellect, and toil made Malaya (later Malaysia), a success story. Change to self-rule required the combined effort of Malayans, and not just one particular section of the community.

Change took place in 1957. It can happen again in 2013. Today, the word ‘change’ is anathema to our leaders. Our great-grandparents were more open-minded and embraced change more readily, but Najib and former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad are trying to deceive us when they say that change is not necessary.

Racist UmnoNajib may have promised to deal with corruption after GE-13, but why should we believe him? For years, we witnessed his failure to address problems in society.

If he was worried about graft, why did he employ leaders who were corrupt? Najib appointed Mohd Isa Abdul Samad as chairperson of FELDA despite objections from the public and criticism from Mahathir, who is no stranger to money politics.

Going to the Polls

In three weeks time, we go to the polls. What will happen then?  If we elect BN, aren’t we condoning a government which is corrupt, and which breaks the laws whenever it chooses? The corruption network involves people from the junior office boy to the PM. Those at the bottom make petty sums whilst those at the top amass huge rewards. There has been little enforcement despite plenty of evidence, but the complaints of the public have been completely ignored.

Restoring confidence in the Government?

If the Opposition were to win GE13, what steps should they take to restore confidence in the government? Anwar has reiterated that he will not go on a witch-hunt; but he cannot ignore the rakyat’s desire for justice. Many lives have been crushed, families destroyed, livelihoods devastated and communities ravaged, because of corrupt BN leaders.

Many people have painful experiences to relate. The business deal of one acquaintance was scuppered by allegedly dodgy people in the Defence Ministry. After years of maintaining a good working relationship with his American and Taiwanese partners, millions of ringgits were lost when the ministry supposedly reneged on a deal.

Despite spending vast sums on engaging lawyers and waiting at the court’s pleasure, this man learnt – after a brief appearance in court – that his case had been dismissed. He lost everything.  In Malaysia, justice goes to the highest bidder. There are presumably several cases of miscarriages of justice like this in the country as well.

So, should a new government purge all officials and businesspeople connected with the previous BN regime? To what extent should this process be continued? Should the top brass and business cronies only be punished? Should the crony business be made to cease operations?

NONEIt is easier to deal with those at the top, whose personal gain and lust for power broke several laws. Their unexplained wealth can be traced, by the paper trail, to offshore bank accounts and overseas properties.

Will the more educated among us adopt a different approach to the cleansing ritual? Mahathir’s brand of politics left deep trenches in the minds of many Malaysians.

How will the different sections of the community react to the purge post-GE13? How should we treat the junior civil servant, who in the old regime, took advantage of a crooked system?

Perhaps, the more obscure cases will be found in the private sector, where businesses helped prop up the UMNO government in deals that enriched both corrupt politicians and business people. How should the new regime resolve these cases? It would be naive to think that any government contract came without strings attached.

How should civil servants or businesspeople who denounced the corrupt practices of the old regime be dealt with in the new order? Should their positions be enhanced? What if their actions were entirely self-serving when they jumped ship?

How would you deal with the civil servants who refused to become involved in corrupt acts of the previous government? Do you promote them despite their lack of expertise and seniority? How would the new government deal with false accusations? How would they deal with politicians who are Trojan horses of frogs?

Not enough time, resources

After GE13, we cannot go after everyone whom we perceive to be corrupt because we do not have the time and resources to manage this laborious process. Anger and resentment will simply build and this will feed into the rakyat’s racial and religious prejudices, as well as accentuate other insecurities.

To add to the problem, our judiciary and police force have been corrupted by Mahathir. We will have to find a system to maintain law and order in the transition from the old guard until a just and effective police force and judicial system is formed.

We certainly must recover the large sums, several of which are said to be in excess of RM40 billions which have been allegedly stolen by several BN ministers and tycoons acting in collusion with them.

Najib’s incessant refrains of “I help you, you help me” to the rakyat has created a zombie apocalypse in Malaysia. Therefore, radical change is necessary to reclaim our souls and save the nation.

Musa’s candor is bipartisanship’s grist

March 15, 2013

Musa’s candor is bipartisanship’s grist

By Terence Netto@

COMMENT: Finally, (Tun) Musa Hitam had something to say about theTun Musa 2 party of change (read: Pakatan Rakyat) and, by implication, the party of the status quo which, needless to say, is BN.

It’s not his style to have declined to say something, given the gravity of the issues before the electorate and of the decision that voters must make at GE-13.

To have avoided making a comment would have been contrary to his instincts as a politician, albeit a retired one, and his stature as an elder statesman in Malaysian councils.

Someone in his situation could not be expected to have let current matters pass without comment of the objective sort. UMNO man though he is, a reflexive partisanship is just not his style.

When matters facing the nation are fraught, Musa can be expected to lift anchor and float intriguingly in the space between a concern for the where the country is headed and the understandable partisanship of a party man.

One remembers the remarks he made when there was a rush by Malays to join PAS in the aftermath of Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from government and UMNO in late 1998. The expulsion and public humiliation of the former Deputy Prime Minister became an international cause celebre and generated a tidal movement towards signing up for PAS.

After observing the phenomenon for some time – a year on from September 1998, PAS had doubled its membership from 400,000 – Musa confessed to being amazed at the magnetism of the Islamic party, whereupon one of the party’s columnists, Subky Latif, offered to “sediakan borang” (fetch Musa a membership form).

One Man One VoteOf course Musa, admiring though he was at the rush to sign up with PAS, wasn’t going to join the cavalcade. But his readiness to observe and remark candidly on the phenomenon was reflective of a trait all democrats ought to have: common sensical acknowledgment of easily attributable happenings.

Absent this quality, the competitive process in a democracy will be reduced to a raucous shouting match and is bound to become a turnoff to voters.

The trait of candid acknowledgment of easily ascribable phenomena is sine qua non of all parties to the democratic process in which competing coalitions vie for the privilege of ruling the country.

Musa’s last hurrah

In his most recent instance of unabashed recognition of compelling realities, Musa was reported to have said that Pakatan Rakyat won’t want to bankrupt the Treasury simply because they would want to be returned to power at GE-14 should they win GE-13.

So even if certain planks in the Pakatan manifesto appear impossible to fulfill, Musa was saying that a desire to be returned to power would slow, if not halt, a gallop to the fiscal precipice.

Pakatan cannot hope for a more candid acknowledgment from one from the other side of the country’s political divide about their seriousness as contenders for national governance not just now but for decades to come.

ahmad mustapha book lauch by musa hitam 141107Pakatan have in Musa a credible candidate for the role of speaker of the Dewan Rakyat should it gain Putrajaya at GE13.

This is not to suggest that Musa was angling to be appointed to the role by his recent remarks on Pakatan’s viability.

Some time ago, Subki Latif suggested Musa for the role on the basis of his credibility as a personage on the national political scene.

Pakatan would embellish its claims to bipartisanship by appointing Musa to the role should they win power at the next polls.

And Musa would relish a last hurrah in national affairs as fair-minded interlocutor between two competing coalitions which are likely to run each other close at the general election.

Parliament would be an elevated arena for debate on issues. Rare would be the repeat of demeaning instances of the past when unparliamentary language and actions debased the arena.

Musa would have just the right combination of elegant speech and enlivening humour to steer proceedings along elevating channels. He will be 79 next month; there’s no reason these days to think that a person would be past it in his ninth decade in this world.

A prospective role in Malaysia’s 13th Parliament’s elevation would bring his career to a coda that recalls the poet Robert Frost’s lines on old age:

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Nor keeps the end from being hard
Better to go down with boughten friendship at your side
Than with none at all. Provide, Provide.

The Voice of Conformity

February 1, 2013

The Voice of Conformity

by Natalie Shobana Ambrose (01-30-13) @

WHEN you’re a ballerina in training, one is taught discipline through conformity. Uniformed leotards, peach-pink shoes, buns, belts, bars, tights and tutus are the same for everyone in class, no exceptions.

Every movement is coordinated with the music to precise timing, and like the toys in the Nutcracker, the foundation of being a ballerina is meticulous, coordinated and exact.

Conformity (picture of  obedient Malay women in uniform) makes it easierMalaysia_womenRights02 for those above to control us, but for the minions it provides two options, the first relinquishes us from the painful task of thinking and the second, it stops us knowing what we really want – it stops us from dreaming for more and demands a sense of contentment.

For many that fear of being put down stops them from standing up or speaking out against injustices, or sharing their opinions for change. And so a large majority go along this path of obey, listen and follow with the mantra – let’s not rock the boat.

It sounds all too familiar because the alternatives are always either be grateful or if you don’t like it here then leave. And that is exactly why we have so many qualified Malaysians who do not want to return home. So where is the platform for mature discourse?

In our country, conformity equates to unquestionable allegiance to a political party while solidarity means that we are cohesive based on race and religion, when really our political leanings should be based on tangible policies that will benefit the nation and its citizens, not just blindly following every claim and every promise.

What we lack is the space for political tolerance, a key principle of democracy (Personally, I am not a fan of the word tolerance, but for all intent and purposes, as I continue to quote social science research, I will conform and use the word tolerance).

Dare to DifferentFollowing Samuel A. Stouffer’s famous study on Communism, conformity, and civil liberties: a cross-section of the Nation speaks its mind, social scientist James L. Gibson writes, “Those who do not feel free to express themselves politically are more likely to be intolerant of others, to have less heterogeneous peer groups and less tolerant spouses and to live in less tolerant communities.” What are the implications and consequences of such political intolerance?

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union which works in close cooperation with the United Nations, it is the lack of education and political participation, freedom of expression through open dialogue even with those of diverse political opinion and a pluralistic media that is allowed to present diverse and critical views.

Instead in Malaysia we have people who rally followers to burn Bibles, leaders who incite hate, politicians in deep trouble blaming the media for sensationalist reporting, when in fact their wrongdoings themselves have made even the dullest method of reporting look shockingly embellished. Shall we then just listen, obey and conform?

Perhaps what is most disturbing is that this mentality to conform is limitingChe Dolf those in our schools and universities. Being able to think critically and articulate an argument is met with put-downs and lectures on staying in line. How then do we groom future leaders, or maybe we only want to groom those who toe the line.

These are not skills they need for politics alone, it is skills we need as a nation wanting to progress in various fields. Our schools and universities should be building a generation of socially engaged, politically aware and highly educated people. We don’t just need thinking people, we need thinking people who are vocal, speak sense and have the conviction to uphold their civic duties.

We aren’t the only nation that suffers from political intolerance, but being an election year, our tolerance levels for accepting and respecting viewpoints that differ are noticeably below par.

Conformity allowed for the 1993 “Project IC” to happen. Clearly, 20 years on, it’s not as easy to keep people silent. It’s one thing to conform in a ballet class, but looking at history, it wasn’t the conformists who are remembered but those who dared to speak their minds that made a difference.

Natalie likes Jum Hightower’s quote “The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow”. Comments:

In search of the Sacrosanct

January 20, 2013

In search of the Sacrosanct

by Sarah NH

Taman Nurani — Islamic Impressions In Malaysian Contemporary Art at Galeri Petronas elucidates the artists’ ceaseless pursuit of the divine, writes Sarah NH Vogeler

IT is always a vivifying experience visiting Galeri Petronas, far from the madding crowd, in another universe with no sales personnel and pitches.Just art. Plenty of it. Bliss.

Syed Ahmad Jamal's legacy

Its latest engagement: A voluminous 57 works, beginning from the 1970s, highlighting compelling pieces in the collections of Galeri Petronas, The National Visual Art Gallery and several private collectors.

These have been classed under four themes: Abstract Works: Manifestations Of Spirituality; Landscapes: Reflections Of God’s Greatness;  Cultural And Traditional Motifs: The Continuation Of Tradition Into Contemporary Art; and, Calligraphy: Transformation In Contemporary Art.

Guest curator Professor Dr Muliyadi Mahamood explains: “Taman Nurani aspires to contemplate the development of form and content of works with an Islamic motif in Contemporary Malaysian Art; to put forward works pervaded with an Islamic inspiration as a reflection of the artists’ commitment in visualising the spiritual element of art, and to analyse the impact of related aspects on the development of contemporary Islamic art in Malaysia.”

Within the ambience of contemporary Malaysian art, Abstract Works: Manifestations Of Spirituality showcases restrained and methodical works with abstract ministrations based on geometrics, contours and motifs, and the more revealing and impulsive caresses of an organic persuasion; both styles equally cogent, as seen in Dr Sulaiman Esa’s Nurani (1983) and Ke Arah Tauhid (1983).

One of the most salient artists exploring Islamic issues in the context of contemporary art in Malaysia, Sulaiman’s investigations represent the acme of the Tawhid concept. He emphasises: “Through Islamic art, a Muslim artist strives to integrate his religious belief/life with his creative/artistic one.”

This complex approach is also evident in Langit Dan Bumi I and III (1998 and 2000Syed Ahmad Jamal2 respectively) by Malaysia’s National Art Laureate, the late Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal (right), whose 1978 Rupa dan Jiwa exhibition held in Universiti Malaya became an impetus to re-examine the artistic characteristics of Malay art.

Following a seminar held in Institut Teknologi Mara’s School of Art and Design (now the Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi Mara) in 1979, Muliyadi observed that a significant number of Malaysian artists attempted to constitute a kinship between traditional and contemporary forms of art, including through the visualisation of an Islamic inspiration, giving birth to exhibitions such as Malaysian Islamic Art: Traditional And Contemporary Art (Festival Istiqlal, Jakarta, 1991), Islamic Identity In Malaysian Art: Achievements and Challenges (National Art Gallery, 1992) and The Malay World Exhibition (National Art Gallery — Galeriwan, 1999).

The expression and revelation of spirituality immortalising the artists’ sentiment and insight is perceptible in Abdul Latiff Mohidin’s visually-arresting Gita Summer II (2005) and Voyage I & II (2005), Mohd Sanip Lasman’s The Grace (1990), Siti Zainon Ismail’s Kubah Hijau Jingga (1994), Khalil Ibrahim’s After Figure (1990), Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir’s Illusion (1983) and Two Figures (1988), and Roskang Jailani’s Nature XIV (2002).

And one’s tracks are halted by the sight of Ramlan Abdullah’s larger-than-life Unity In Diversity (2012), a steel construct which dismisses the conviction of an alpha and omega; there is no beginning or end, only the infinite.

In Landscapes: Reflections Of God’s Greatness, Abdul Latiff Mohidin’s Teluk Kumbar-I (2005), Yusof Ghani’s Rimba Terjun (2000), Pasir Mas (2000) and Batu Laut (2000), Ilse Noor’s Kebun Mimpi (1982) and Taman Impian (1989) all lean towards the four stages of the creative process of Islamic art as indicated by Professor Dr D’zul Haimi Md Zain in his book, Seni Islam (2007); imitation of nature, conception, stylisation and abstraction.

These artists’ portrayal of nature spurns naturalism, depicting its exquisite complexion in a more conformed manner. Raja Zahabuddin Raja Yaacob’s Keagungan Tuhan (1991), Haron Mokhtar’s Nostalgia Masjid Jamek, Kuala Lumpur (1989) and Mohd Azlan Mohd Amin’s Amalan Mulia II (1992) channels the intimation of Islam through Man’s profound reverence to God.

Professor Dr Zakaria Ali stated in Seni Dan Seniman (1989) that art must be refined, useful, cohesive, balanced and significant.In Taman Nurani, the cultural and traditional motifs utilised, although florid, are also powerful as attributes of the Malay culture which is rooted in Islam.

These artists are driven by their devotional and cultural environment, as well as the search for a national identity, as seen in Hashim Hassan’s Deir Yassin Dikenang (1987), Khatijah Sanusi’s Warisan II (1994), Mastura Abdul Rahman’s Interior No 29 (1987), Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir’s Garden of the Heart II (2004), Awang Damit Ahmad’s Essence of Culture III (1991), Ruzaika Omar Basaree’s Siri Dungun (1981), Fatimah Chik’s Unity In Harmony (1996) and Nizar Kamal Ariffin’s Pohon Beringin (2001).

Some of the more prominent Malaysian artists who use or are inspired by calligraphy in their art include Syed Ahmad Jamal, Ahmad Khalid Yusof, Omar Basaree and Omar Rahmad.

Taman Nurani beckons the world with Omar Basaree’s gold emblazoned Iqra (1969) alongside Ahmad Khalid Yusof’s Dimensi (1992), Nizar Kamal Ariffin’s Khat Muhammad (2006), Omar Rahmad’s Kalimah Syahadah (1984), Husin Hourmain’s Menanti Senja (2010), and Harun Abdullah Combees’ Allah Muhammad (1994). Calligraphy mirrors the artists’ reference to the Holy Quran, the decisive beacon for Muslims.

We have come a long way since Universiti Malaya’s 1975-endeavoured Pameran Seni Khat (initiated by Syed Ahmad Jamal).  From then to Taman Nurani, we have witnessed a momentous and eloquent progression in Malaysian Islamic contemporary art, which Muliyadi hinted at the possibility of an extended world tour — London, Paris, New York perhaps?

As Professor Dr Zakaria Ali, the Harvard alumni-artist-scholar-extraordinaire succinctly summarises, a remounting of Taman Nurani is pivotal to gain international recognition, for fear of becoming insular otherwise. And as evidenced in the works, these Malaysian artists are of world calibre.

They bring to mind the lyrics of an M.Nasir song, of a soul which seeks:

Hanya kepadamu kekasih
Aku tinggalkan
Jawapan yang belum kutemukan
Yang bakal aku nantikan
Bila malam menjemputku lena beradu

Syed Ahmad Jamal's legacy 2

It is the collective and lingering response from Taman Nurani; one of contemplation, of longing, in search of the sacrosanct.

Bar Council mulls over probe against lawyers in Bala case

December 18, 2012

Bar Council mulls over probe against lawyers in P I Bala case

The Bar Council is prepared to establish an independent body to examine the professional conduct of the lawyers allegedly involved in preparing the second statutory declaration (SD) for former private-eye P Balasubramaniam, if there is “compelling evidence” to do so.

NONEIn a statement today, council president Lim Chee Wee (left) urged those who have the facts and evidence to come forward and lodge an official complaint with the disciplinary board.

If there is compelling evidence of any professional misconduct, he said, a statute-based independent body will investigate the professional conduct of the lawyers named and discipline them.

“The Bar Council will render assistance to the public in this regard in having any such matters properly directed for investigations by the disciplinary board,” Lim said, noting that the council views this issue seriously.

Lim also said that carpet trader Deepak Jaikishan, who made the recent expose surrounding the second SD, has claimed that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is aware of the matter, but had covered it up and closed its investigation on this.

“We would urge the MACC to shed light on the reasons for closing its file on the investigations conducted earlier,” he said.

NONEThe role of the lawyers – apparently a senior lawyer and his son – was revealed in a series of explosive revelations by Deepak (right) who has claimed to be personally involved in the “flipping” of Balasubramaniam.

The one-time private investigator had signed the first SD which linked Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was brutally murdered.

One lawyer’s name was supposedly mentioned by Deepak in a video interview with PAS organ Harakah which was posted on YouTube, with the name edited out. In the interview, Deepak had related how the senior lawyer had drafted and prepared the document along with the latter’s son, though only his son came to see the other parties involved at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur where Balasubramaniam was allegedly “kept”.

Haris’ report received

The senior lawyer was fingered, though not named, by human rights activist Haris Ibrahim in his blog-post four days ago. NONEHaris (right) lodged a report with the Bar Council yesterday, seeking that the identity of the lawyers be established.

Former Federal Minister Zaid Ibrahim has also pointed out in his blog that the senior lawyer in question was the same one who sits on one of five MACC panels.

Lim said the Council has noted the media reports on Deepak’s interview.

“We have also received yesterday a letter from Haris requesting the Bar Council to launch an investigation to identify the lawyer(s) concerned, when it appears to us that Haris may know the identity of these lawyers,” added Lim.

“This has caused unnecessary speculation and confusion.” Malaysiakini is withholding the name of the senior lawyer and his son pending their response to inquiries.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,356 other followers