Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

July 20, 2014

MY COMMENTWe have been hit by two tragedies, MH 370 and MH 17 a few days ago,Din Merican both within a space of four months. MH370 is still shrouded in secrecy and  it is a public relations disaster; our leaders and public and security officials handled the foreign media poorly. MH17 was brought down by Russian made missiles in the hands of Ukrainian rebels backed by  Prime Minister Putin’s government. Our political leaders and officials are again in the eyes of media. Let them handle the situation better this time.

Those who are behind this dastardly violence must be brought to account. Our diplomats and those of countries which lost their citizens and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must act in concert to ascertain the facts about the downing of this ill-fated 777 aircraft. At home, the new Transport Minister has to ensure that there are no cover-ups, blame games, excuses, and conflicting or contradictory statements. Please provide facts as they come to light, and do it well and ensure that there are no fumbles.

I am glad that our Prime Minister has allowed debate in our Parliament on MH37. I hope Parliamentarians on both sides of Dewan Rakyat can be rational and constructive in their deliberations so that we can achieve consensus on what we should do to restore national self confidence and pride in our national flag carrier, Malaysian Airlines.

No shouting matches please. Bung Mokhtar types must not be allowed to disrupt the debate or make fools of themselves. In this time of national crisis, UMNO-BN and Pakatan Rakyat must stand together. The debate should result in a plan of action for the government. To nudge the debate along orderly lines, there should be a White Paper to Parliament on MH17 in which the government can present its views on what it has its mind to deal with the aftermath of MH 17.Din Merican

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

by William Pesek (07-18-14)

There’s nothing funny about Malaysia Airlines losing two Boeing 777s and more than 500 lives in the space of four months. That hasn’t kept the humor mills from churning out dark humor and lighting up cyberspace.


Actor Jason Biggs, for example, got in trouble for tweeting: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysia Airlines frequent flier miles?” A passenger supposedly among the 298 people aboard Flight 17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday uploaded a photo of the doomed plane on Facebook just before takeoff in Amsterdam, captioning it: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

That reference, by a man reportedly named Cor Pan, was to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, whose disappearance in March continues to provide fodder for satirists, conspiracy theorists and average airplane passengers with a taste for the absurd. On my own Malaysia Air flight last month, I was struck by all the fatalistic quips around me — conversations I overheard and in those with my fellow passengers. One guy deadpanned: “First time I ever bought flight insurance.”

MH17 CrashThere is, of course, no room for humor after this disaster or the prospect that the money-losing airline might not survive — at least not without a government rescue. This company had already become a macabre punch line, something no business can afford in the Internet and social-media age. It’s one thing to have a perception problem; it’s quite another to have folks around the world swearing never to fly Malaysia Air.

Nor is no margin for mistakes by Malaysia or the airline this time, even though all signs indicate that there is no fault on the part of the carrier. The same can’t be said for the bumbling and opacity that surrounded the unexplained loss of Flight 370. Even if there was no negligence on the part of Malaysia Air this week, the credibility of the probe and the willingness of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government to cooperate with outside investigators — tests it failed with Flight 370 — will be enormously important.

As I have written before, the botched response to Flight 370 was a case study in government incompetence and insularity. After six decades in power, Najib’s party isn’t used to being held accountable by voters, never mind foreign reporters demanding answers. Rather than understand that transparency would enhance its credibility, Malaysia’s government chose to blame the international press for impugning the country’s good name.

The world needs to be patient, of course. If Flight 370’s loss was puzzling, even surreal, Flight 17 is just MH 17plain tragic. It’s doubtful Najib ever expected to be thrown into the middle of Russian-Ukraine-European politics. Although there are still so many unanswered questions — who exactly did the shooting and why? — it’s depressing to feel like we’re revisiting the Cold War of the early 1980s, when Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet.

More frightening is how vulnerable civilian aviation has become. Even if this is the work of pro-Russian rebels, yesterday’s attack comes a month after a deadly assault on a commercial jetliner in Pakistan. One passenger was killed and two flight attendants were injured as at least 12 gunshots hit Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK-756 as it landed in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the first known attack of its kind and raises the risk of copycats. The low-tech nature of such assaults — available to anyone with a gripe, a high-powered rifle and decent marksmanship — is reason for the entire world to worry.

The days ahead will be filled with post-mortems and assigning blame. That includes aviation experts questioning why Malaysia Air took a route over a war zone being avoided by Qantas, Cathay Pacific and several other carriers. The key is for Malaysian authorities to be open, competent and expeditious as the investigation gains momentum. Anything less probably won’t pass muster.

Weathering the storm in Johor

June 15, 2014

Weathering the storm in Johor

by Jocelyn

For a while it looked like Johor was heading into a constitutional crisis but the storm has passed thanks to a daring Malay newspaper, the groundswell of public opinion and a Mentri Besar who was willing to listen.

Sultan of JohoreIT was one of the biggest political storms to have blown over Johor and it all began with the stunning frontpage report in Utusan Malaysia. The paper’s bold headline “Wajarkah?” alongside a prominent photograph of the Sultan of Johor in his ceremonial uniform sent shock waves through the country, especially among Malay circles.

Utusan Malaysia, long seen as the champion of all things Malay, had taken the daring step of questioning the Sultan’s role in the administrative affairs of the state or as stated in the paper’s headline: “Is it proper?”

 The issue in question was the Real Property and Housing Board Enactment that would have given the Sultan the final say over the operations and composition of the body that will oversee the state’s housing development.

In the following days, people up and down the country voiced their opinion on the issue and, for a while, it looked like Johor was headed for a constitutional crisis.But the state government reacted quickly and the storm passed together with the tabling of an amended version of the enactment that excluded any direct role for the Ruler. All 38 Barisan Nasional assemblymen voted for the Bill while the opposition bench, which had demanded a deferment, voted against it.

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Any issue involving the Malay Rulers is regarded as ultra-sensitive. Very few people want to be on the wrong side of the Rulers even though a 1993 amendment to the Federal Constitution has eased some of the dos and don’ts of commentary about the royals.

The Malay politicians in Johor shrank back from commenting on the enactment and some of them were petrified. One Johor-based Malay journalist said he had goose pimples when he saw the Utusan Malaysia headline.The Chinese vernacular papers were the first to report on the controversial Bill and this was picked up by a pro-Pakatan Rakyat news portal.

Everyone was tip-toeing on eggshells until Utusan Malaysia stepped up to the plate. The game changed after that and the other media took the cue. From then on, the issue snowballed and acquired a life of its own.

The amended enactment was a compromise of sorts – the people sent the right signals, the powers-that-be read the signals and acted on it.“It ended appropriately,” said one corporate figure with Johor ties.

Johor Palace officials have been at pains to explain that the Sultan had no role in the drafting of the Bill. Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli, President of the State Royal Court Council, insisted that the Sultan did not ask for the word “ruler” to be added to the enactment nor did he interfere in the state administration.

The Sultan himself has personally quashed rumours that he would not give royal assent to the Bill. At a late evening meeting with representatives from The Star and another English daily on Wednesday, the Tuanku said he was ready to sign the Bill at any time. He also stressed that he had agreed to the amendments and has asked the state government to go on a roadshow to explain to his subjects and clear the confusion.

The controversy has been a baptism of fire for Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin.The Johor Mentri Besar’s job has never been easy even from back then. The Johor royals are known for their big and outspoken personalities, they have clear views about the state and they are also rather business-minded.

For instance, former Mentri Besar Tan Sri Ghani Othman’s ties with the Palace were quite tense towards the end of his term and that was a chief reason why he could not continue on. Ghani’s relations with the late Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail was also quite choppy in the beginning and only warmed up as time went by. Ghani was not the typical politician and did not play political games, but his respect for and loyalty to the Sultan were beyond question and he would sit for hours by the hospital bed when the late Tuanku was often unwell.

The present Mentri Besar appeared to have settled into his job without many hiccups and the Sultan had even praised him during the opening of the State Legislative Assembly.

Khaled and the Sultan were classmates in secondary school although that should not be taken to mean that they are friends because the royals move in their own rarefied world.

The perception is that Khaled misread the ground when he tried to rush the Bill through.“The opinion out there was that the enactment was not consistent with the principles of constitutional monarchy. There was a sense that a line has been crossed,” said the above corporate figure.

Everyone agrees that the enactment was needed to facilitate Johor’s housing needs, especially in the area of affordable housing.And, as some have pointed out, the original enactment that gave the Sultan a big role was no different from the rules governing Johor Corporation, the state development arm better known as JCorp. The parallels are there except that JCorp deals with commercial development whereas the current enactment involved state land and also Malay Reserve Land which can be a sensitive issue.

But more than that, Khaled had overlooked the undercurrent of misgivings about land and development issues in Johor arising from the impact of the Iskandar Malaysia regional scheme.

Gossip about multi-billion ringgit land transactions have been the stuff of kopitiam chatter. Khaled did not seem to realise that the land deals in Johor were being discussed and dissected on the Internet. Almost every Tom, Dick and Harry in the state was aware of what is going on, they were talking about it in a very critical tone.

Among many nationalistic Malays, there was concern about land falling into the hands of Singaporeans and China nationals. Land carries quite a bit of emotion for many Malays – after all their national bumiputra status comes from the word itself.

The Malay blogs had been abuzz about a Singaporean billionaire owning a piece of land along a strategic stretch of the Causeway that has national security implications. All this provided the backdrop to the groundswell of opinion over the problematic enactment. Rightly or wrongly, many people inside and outside Johor were already uneasy about what was happening and the enactment sort of tipped the scale of public opinion, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Some have unfairly blamed Utusan Malaysia for instigating the uproar. One Barisan assemblyman has even demanded that the paper apologise to the Palace.aziz-ishak Utusan Malaysia group editor-in-chief Datuk Aziz Ishak is an intense and serious-minded journalist but he is at heart a Malay nationalist.

There is little doubt that his paper got the greenlight from “up there” to pursue the issue. But the paper has earned renewed respect for rising to the occasion – to defend national interests and also to protect the good name of the constitutional monarchy.

Some have even blamed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for fuelling the issue. The former premier had penned a cryptic piece entitled “Jual Tanah” in his Che Det blog on May 30. He did not name names but everyone knew where he was coming from.

A week later, he wrote a more forthcoming piece on the Federal Constitution where he said: “There is already a feeling of disrespect for the royals. This may lead to other forms of disrespect. Although, by and large, the Malays are for the institution of the monarch, when their ability to defend is eroded, they might forego their adat (customary norm).”

TDMMany more said they would have been shocked if Dr Mahathir had kept quiet. After all, this man had dared to bell the cat, so to speak. He had clipped the wings of the monarchy in 1983 when he was struggling to make his mark, and again in 1993 when he was at the height of his power and popularity.

“Tun Mahathir wanted to make the concept of constitutional monarchy very clear. He was not against any particular sultan. His argument was that if the royals respect their own role, the people will respect them,” said publisher Juhaidi Yean Abdullah.

Every monarch wants to be loved and to be known as the people’s sovereign. It was easier in the old days before the era of the Internet where almost everything and every one is regarded as fair game. It is something that those who hold public office have to note.

Khaled was very stressed out and taken aback by the uproar. At a war room meeting a night before the Bill was tabled, the Mentri Besar had insisted that even if there were no revisions, it did not mean that the Sultan would be in charge.

Johor is a modern state but Johoreans have a very strong sense of the powers of the monarch. What happened was a test of the Malay psyche of Johor. There has always been this tension between the concept of daulat (royal sanctity) and derhaka (treason) in Malay society and the contestation between the two concepts was put to the test when Utusan Malaysia took up the issue. But these age-old concepts are also being challenged by public opinion on the role of a constitutional monarchy and the desire for transparency and accountability in the affairs of state.

There is a much more informed and sophisticated society out there which is not afraid to be heard. And that was why it responded to Utusan Malaysia’s daring move.


Press Freedom and The Media: Why the Suspicion and Disdain?

May 6, 2014

Press Freedom and The Media: Why the Suspicion  and Disdain?

Freedom of expression may be enshrined in the constitution, but the harsh truth is that this right seemed to be only accorded to certain sections of the populace.

Those who appear to have friends in high places can say anything and everything they want – even if it is seditious.They can use the most racist language, litter it with threats – real and innuendo – and be applauded for their brevity.

Yet, the law comes down hard on lesser mortals who only choose to interpret the law or put the facts on the table.Let’s accept that press freedom does exist in this country – only for selected people and selected organisations.–Citizen Nades

by R. Nadeswaran@

ON Saturday (May 4), World Press Freedom Day was observed and celebrated in various degrees of importance befitting its status in the respective countries. For many years now, I have turned down invitations to speak at seminars to commemorate the event. I have come to the conclusion that such an effort would be an exercise in futility.

Year in and year out, people take the stage, moan and groan, lament and bitch about freedom for one day and forget about it for the next 364 days before a new cycle begins. It’s the same tune, same lyrics perhaps performed by different singers like an annual ritual.

But then, one has to keep asking oneself: What can press freedom bring about when the media is always treated with suspicion and disdain? On examining the issues that have been raised in this newspaper over the years, you wonder what can freedom (if any) exactly do or to what extent would it bring about change.

Many a time when contentious issues that need to be debated are raised, they are shouted down by a coterie of self-appointed do-gooders who, like maggots climbing out of the woodwork, become apologists and defenders of the offenders.

ibrahim-ali-perkasaFreedom of expression may be enshrined in the constitution, but the harsh truth is that this right seemed to be only accorded to certain sections of the populace.

Those who appear to have friends in high places can say anything and everything they want – even if it is seditious.They can use the most racist language, litter it with threats – real and innuendo – and be applauded for their brevity.

Yet, the law comes down hard on lesser mortals who only choose to interpret the law or put the facts on the table.Let’s accept that press freedom does exist in this country – only for selected people and selected organisations.

For these privileged lot, it is a borderless and seamless world. For others, every Zul Nordinwritten word is dissected, digested and pored over under a microscope, with a view to prosecution. That’s a reality and no one is able to give any justification for this phenomenon, not even the government or the attorney general.

But then, what recourse does the journalist who practises his craft have when he or she is shouted down with contempt? Our job is to present a fair and balanced report which enables our readers to make an educated and fair judgment. We seek nothing more.

But do the powers that be care about public opinion? If they did, there would be a consultation process which includes all stakeholders. In most instances, it is a top-down solution. So, why are they afraid of freedom? Except for election time, public opinion doesn’t matter and is hardly sought.

That’s because a syndrome of “I don’t care what you think” has taken root in our system. If a politician with a fetish for the bare bottoms of young nubile women can’t keep his itchy fingers in his pocket, he has no business being in government.

Subsequently, when bare flesh comes into contact, it’s called outraging of modesty – a criminal offence. Even if not reported, the offender gets a plum diplomatic posting and a prefix before his name. What does it show? Is it the mindset of the leadership or the contempt that is shown to the people?

When a Minister takes the law into his own hands and pays his way out of an assault charge, what little can the press do? Similarly, when Ministers choose to appoint their children as contractors and rent seekers, the media can only report. But then, there is always an alternative – divert the attention by renting a crowd to bay for the blood of the messenger – the journalist.

When questions are raised over contracts shamelessly dished out without the proper process, many have the audacity to raise the issue of “it is my right”. This undermines the basic fabric of what would be termed as fair.

Yes, everyone is craving for what is called “freedom”. But what good is freedom when nothing is done after such freedom is used to expose thieves, wrongdoers and felons?

The Auditor General’s Report is one example where the media gets into a no-holds barred position every year. There are no restrictions whatsoever and everyone has a field day. So much has been written and said about the misuse and abuse of funds. Has anything changed? How many perpetrators have been punished?

So, what good will press freedom be without an equally responsive government? If it takes a “write anything you want and we don’t care a damn about them” attitude, it brings little respite for society.

If the current system of maintaining elegant silence on all the abuse and misuse that has been exposed in the media continues, freedom is meaningless.

citizen-nadesFreedom and responsibility work in tandem – no two ways about it. We have always kept our end of the bargain. And if we have an equally caring, responsive and responsible government, nothing is beyond achievement.

R. Nadeswaran continues expressing his thoughts and views on the need for the government to be more responsive to issues that affect the people. Comments:


MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian

May 2, 2014

MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian

by  Lim Kit Siang

Hisham, Najib, and MuhiyuddinToday is not a good day to be a Malaysian as the world wakes up to critical and adverse media headlines on the Malaysian preliminary report on the missing MH370 Boeing 777-200 completing its eighth week of vanishing into the air with 239 passengers and crew on board without leaving any wreckage or clue as to what had happened on the fateful morning of March 8.

The Four Hour Gap

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens - and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens – and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

All over the world, the media splashed the shocking headlines of the admission from the first Malaysian official report that nobody noticed that Flight MH370 was missing for 17 minutes and no search was launched for another four hours.

Instead of answering the many questions that have been raised in the past eight weeks of the MH 370 disaster, both the preliminary report and the statement by the Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein accompanying it have only provoked more questions.

Firstly, the five-page preliminary report on the missing MH 370 had been described as “scant at best” in contrast to the preliminary report into Air France 447 which was released one month after the plane disappeared and which was 128 pages long, while a preliminary report into the Qantas engine explosion over Singapore in 2010 was more than 40 pages with diagrams and charts.

The table below is based on recorded communications on direct lines, summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared until activation of the Rescue Coordination Centre.

The table above  summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared on the first day .

The Malaysian government preliminary report makes one safety recommendation, for real-time air tracking to be installed on all commercial aircraft, viz:

“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.”

The same recommendation was made after the Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, though nothing was done to satisfy the proposal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

More pertinent, however, is why the preliminary report which was dated three weeks ago on April 9 was not made public earlier, and why the relatives of the passengers and crew on board the missing plane had not been briefed on its contents before its public release.

For the first time in 56 days, Malaysians are told that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had on the very same morning of the missing MH370, ordered the search and rescue operations to be extended to the Straits of Malacca, alongside that being carried out in the South China Sea.

Was this true that right from the very beginning of the search-and-rescue operation for the MH 370 on the morning of May 8, the search area had been extended from South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca?

If so, why didn’t Hishammuddin announce it earlier, instead of waiting for 55 days until yesterday in a statement accompanying the publication of the government’s preliminary report on the missing MH370?

It is to be noted that this new and hitherto unknown information to the public that the SAR operation area had right from the beginning on the same morning of the missing Boeing 77 been extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca was not disclosed in the preliminary report dated April 9 but in Hishammuddin’s statement dated May 1, 2014!

Furthermore, Najib himself did not seem to know that he had ordered the search area to be extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca the very same morning of the missing aircraft, for he made no mention of such extension in his press conference on May 8 held just after 7 pm where he announced the expansion of the search area after the SAR mission team found no wreckage in the plane’s last location before it disappeared from radar at 1.21 earlier in the morning.

Najib had said then that the first phase of the search efforts focused on the area where the plane’s signal was last picked up, had proved unsuccessful in locating it, and the search area was being “expanded as wide as possible”.

Civil Aviation Department Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic–on Hishamuddin’s left), mh370-hishammuddinwho was present at Najib’s press conference, spelt out the meaning of this expansion of the search area by saying that “we are searching in Malaysian and Vietnamese waters”.

The next day, on Sunday, 9th March, Azharuddin told the press that the search operation had been expanded further from the initial 20 nautical miles in the South China Sea to 50 nautical miles – no mention whatsoever of its expansion to the Straits of Malacca.

Unless Hishammuddin can give satisfactory explanation for these new additional discrepancies in the latest official accounts of what happened in the first crucial days of the SAR for the missing MH 370, he has only himself to blame if the government preliminary report and his statement accompanying it suffer a serious credibility gap.

This is why a report by an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH 370 disaster would have greater credibility than a unilaterial statement by Hishammuddin, especially when new facts suddenly surface as if to embellish the government’s version of what happened in the crucial first few days of the MH 370 disaster.

Fatal omissions

Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudThere are many fatal omissions in the government preliminary report – for instance, the failure to explain the many flip-flops, contradictions and confusions in the information given out by the various authorities, for instance, the initial information that MH 370 had lost contact at 2.40 am when it was subsequently established that the aircraft disappeared from the Malaysian air traffic controllers’ radar at 1.21 am Malaysian time.

But the most fatal error which still cries out for explanation is why it took another four hours before the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation was launched, when time is of the essence in such cases as the sooner a SAR mission is initiated, the greater the possibility of finding the wreckage and casualties.

Under civil aviation emergency standard operating procedures, an Uncertainty Phase (INCERFA) should be invoked within 30 minutes when there is concern about the safety of an aircraft or its occupants.

An Alert Phase (ALERFA) should be invoked when there is apprehension about the safety of an aircraft and its occupants, or when communication from an aircraft has not been received within 60 minutes.

A Distress Phase (DETRESFA) should be invoked when there is reasonable certainty that the aircraft or its occupantsw are threatened by grave and imminent danger – or when following an Alert Phase, further attempts to establish communications with the aircraft are unsuccessful

All these emergency standard operating procedures were violated in the MH 370 case, for ALERFA should have been declared at 1.51 am, ALERTA at 2.21 am and DETRESFA before 3 am to lauch a full-scale SAR operation instead of delaying until 5.30 am that day!

Another grave omission is the role of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the military radar in the MH 370 disaster.

Lim Kit Siang is the DAP Adviser & MP for Gelang Patah


Daim: What’s wrong in owning bank in Tanzania?

April 24, 2014

Daim: What’s wrong in owning bank in Tanzania?

by Malaysiakini

Former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin has asked just what the problem is in owning a bank in Tanzania.

This is in response to Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who recently in the Keadilan Daily, claimed that he has evidence of Daim allegedly swindling money from Malaysia and keeping the money there.

Daim served as Malaysia's finance minister on two occasions, from 1984 to 1991, and from 1999 to 2001.

Daim served as Malaysia’s Finance Minister on two occasions, from 1984 to 1991, and from 1999 to 2001.

Daim dismissed Anwar as a “kaki goreng” (someone who makes things up), adding that if Anwar has any evidence on his alleged misconduct then he should make a detailed report to the authorities, he was quoted as saying in Utusan Malaysia today.

“Anwar  when meeting with the Tanzania President in an investment session there asked about my assets. The President replied that I have a bank in Tanzania, so what is the problem?” Daim asked.

Daim Shrugs Off Anwar’s Claims, Says He Was Cleared In Probes.

Daim shrugs Off Anwar’s Claims and says he was cleared in probes.

“Anwar, after he was expelled from UMNO, everything is described as improper. So what was he doing in the party?” he added.

Anwar has met the President, Finance minister and Bank governor of Tanzania

“The Governor said Daim has a bank in Tanzania and I asked him where did the money come from. Certainly it is from Malaysia and kept there,” said the Opposition leader.

He added there was evidence of Daim had abusing his power, when the person responsible in managing the bank was arrested in London.

“I brought this to the attention of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission but there has been no action,” the Permatang Pauh MP has said.

Daim revealed that Anwar has lodged various reports against him asking for an investigation. “The call for investigation is based on letters I sent to him. However, he blanked my name and claimed he obtained the letters on his own. Twice the authorities have investigated me on my assets. At that time Anwar was finance minister and also chair for corruption, why did he not take action?

“Only after he was expelled from UMNO that he start raising this,” Daim asserted. He added that Anwar had previously claimed to hold boxes of documents of alleged abuse of power by Malaysian politicians but till today, has not exposed anything.



MH370 exposes Hall of Shame

April 8, 2015

MH 370 Exposes Hall of Fame

By Mariam Mokhtar @

The grand self-proclamation of “Malaysia, the Best Democracy in the World”, with its fantastic education system which rivals the British, American and German systems is a myth designed for die-hard UMNO Baru supporters. This fairy-tale was shattered by the disappearance of MH370.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s “best democracy in the world” claim with Malaysia’s 2014 Press Freedom Index falling to the lowest point in nation’s history, even below that of Myanmar.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s “best democracy in the world” claim with Malaysia’s 2014 Press Freedom Index falling to the lowest point in nation’s history, even below that of Myanmar.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, like the prime ministers before him, has let down the nation, but the investigation into MH370 has trashed Malaysia’s reputation.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

We need a cull of the political class to regain our credibility as a nation. We should start with the following initiates of the ‘Hall of Shame’. Politicians head the list, then civil servants. If the civil servants were to be replaced before the politicians, the new ones would be corrupted by their political masters, who dictate to them.

Malaysia has been on auto-pilot for several decades and the nation has been performing like a rudderless aeroplane. MH370 signals the beginning of the end of UMNO Baru.

The Malaysian Hall of Shame

Number One: Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Two words describe the MH370 “investigations”: Mismanaged. Mishandled. (MM).

The Malaysian authorities have come under fire following conflicting accounts on the last known position of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it went missing.

The Malaysian authorities have come under fire following conflicting accounts on the last known position of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 before it went missing.

MH370 may have been an unprecedented incident but the crisis management team was shambolic, with several people issuing contradictory official statements. Our confidence and trust have been shaken to the core despite all the big talk and the hundreds of billions of ringgits spent on military hardware and sophisticated equipment. We may have the best machinery that money can buy, but are monkeys operating them?

In the first few days of MH370’s disappearance, Najib and his wife,Rosmah Mansor, the self-styled ‘First Lady of Malaysia’ (FLOM), sought to gain cheap publicity by “weeping with the families of the passengers and crew of MH370”.

Did Najib make a premature announcement that MH370 had crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean, based on one mathematical interpretation by one company? The local press are conditioned not to ask awkward questions but foreign journalists demand answers.

Number Two: Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. Hishammuddin justified Malaysia’s mismanagement of the MH370 investigations by saying that history will judge Malaysia well.

Putrajaya refused today to brief Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, even after the opposition coalition submitted a formal request as required by a minister previously.

Putrajaya refused today to brief Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, even after the opposition coalition submitted a formal request as required by a minister previously.

People ask, “Who writes the history books if not the Malaysian cabinet and their proteges?” Hishammuddin told the families of passengers and crew of MH370 that miracles do happen. The act of giving false hope is as bad as trading on people’s grief.

Number Three: Home Minister Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. His response to the stolen passport fiasco at KLIA is symptomatic of a sick nation. He told Parliament, “Furthermore, Interpol’s information of lost (passports) may slow down the process of immigration checks at counters.” Zahid prefers speed to efficiency and safety/security concerns. Interpol has since given Zahid a dressing down and said the checks take 0.2 seconds per passport.

Malaysia is a hub for human trafficking and people have alleged that our Police andIimmigration officials are involved. Will Zahid clean up his department?

Number Four: Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri. Abdul Rahim told Parliament that the RMAF “assumed” that Flight MH370 had been ordered to turn back by the civilian air traffic controllers.Following a public outcry, he backpedalled and said that HE had made this assumption. So did the RMAF make this assumption or was Abdul Rahim forced to retract his statement. His U-turn is typical of the tactics of the government of Malaysia.

Lack of communication

Number Five: The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman. Azharuddin contradicted the statements of the Home Ministry and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP Khalid Ashburn). More worrying than this is the lack of communication between the military and civil aviation authorities.

From "alright good night" to "goodnight Malaysian three seven zero"  ??

From “alright good night” to “goodnight Malaysian three seven zero” ??

The MH370 investigation has lacked transparency and is mired in intrigue. This incident has reminded us of the question, by the Opposition MP Nurul Izzah Anwar in June 2012, about the roles of the DCA and the Transport Ministry in the award of the contract for the supply of the RM128.4 million air traffic control system to a Minister’s family through “closed tender”.

According to a company search produced by the lawmaker, AAT is half owned by Tirai Variasi, whose largest shareholder is Ikwan Hafiz Jamaluddin, the son of Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis, who is now Special Envoy to the United States with ministerial status.

According to a company search produced by the lawmaker, AAT is half owned by Tirai Variasi, whose largest shareholder is Ikwan Hafiz Jamaluddin, the son of Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis, who is now Special Envoy to the United States with ministerial status.

Three weeks ago, we were told that the final words from the cockpit were “All right, good night”. In the past few days, the DCA issued a correction and said the final words were “Good night. Malaysian Three-Seven-Zero”.

How can the public be expected to put their faith in the DCA or the investigative bodies with such a simple error as this? So what else is wrong?

Number Six: MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya. When the reputations of the pilot and co-pilot on MH370 were being trashed, Ahmad Jauhari (right) failed to defend his men. Although he did speak on their behalf, he waited several days and the damage was already done. His failure to act immediately demoralised all of the MAS employees.

The sending of a text message to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370, ahead of Najib’s announcement that MH370 had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean, is symptomatic of the poor customer relations in MAS. Many people have previously stated that their complaints are rarely acknowledged or addressed.

Number Seven: Chief of the Armed Forces Zulkifeli Mohd Zin (He should be asked to retire gracefully). He despatched ships from Lumut on the night MH370 disappeared. He then claimed that a C-130 plane was sent to scout the area the following morning.

What made Zulkifeli confident that he was scouring a potential crash site, thousands of kilometres from where Najib had directed others in the search and rescue (SAR) operations? Is Zulkifeli hiding something from us?

It took four days to wake up and reveal this. Not surprising when the army is more concerned on indelible inks !!

It took four days to wake up and reveal this. Not surprising when the army is more concerned on indelible inks !!

Number Eight: Chief of the RMAF Rodzali Daud (He should be sacked). An unidentified plane was picked up by military radar around 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang in the Straits of Malacca, at about the time MH370 went missing. The military failed to act on this information, wasting both time and opportunity.

Number Nine: IGP Khalid Abu Bakar aka Khalid Ashburn. When asked about the contradictory descriptions of the men using stolen passports, a dismissive Khalid said, “Why ask me? Ask Immigration, or ask Interpol.”

The Defence Minister asked everyone to avoid speculation, but Khalid said that his policemen were analysing all the speculation on the Internet to help in the MH370 investigations. The IGP should focus on facts, rather than investigating speculation and rumour. He should chase criminals, rather than hound opposition politicians and NGOs.

Number Ten: Witch-doctor Ibrahim Mat Zain, or Raja Bomoh. This shaman heaped ridicule on the country when, at the entrance to KLIA, he used his bamboo binoculars and two coconuts to divine that MH370 had been hijacked by elves and the plane was either suspended in mid-air or had crashed into the sea. He should be jailed if he refuses to say who sent him to KLIA, to mock the suffering of the passengers and crew of MH370.

Bonus: It is reported that Najib’s favourite number is 11. When former PM Mahathir Mohamad resigned, he continued to make his presence felt by refusing to hand over the controls of the airship Malaysia, which he was flying to mediocrity. Mahathir completes the list by being the eleventh member of Malaysia’s Hall of Shame.


MARIAM MOKHTAR, is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah

February 23, 2014

Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah

imageby Din Merican

Karpal Singh has been convicted under s.4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 for saying that “the Sultan of Perak can be sued” for causing the removal of the PAS Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaludin, which  led to the BN seizing control of the state assembly through the back door by bringing in an unelected person to be Speaker,  thus giving majority to BN in the Perak State Assembly to install Zambry Kadir as Menteri Besar.

Sedition is an antiquated and undemocratic offence and most modern states have repealed or put it into disuse. It certainly has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.

Sedition is an antiquated and undemocratic offence and most modern states have repealed or put it into disuse. It certainly has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.

The story of the sneaking in of a new Speaker into the Perak state parliament; the story of how Regent Raja Nazrin waited from morning in the Royal Chambers to deliver his opening speech, only to get to do it in the late evening as if nothing had happened at all are all well documented.

Sivakumar is half pushed, half pulled out of the chambers. He was forcibly removed from the speaker's chair .

Sivakumar was half pushed, half pulled out of the chambers. He was forcibly removed from the speaker’s chair .

The Constitutional Crisis of Perak was unprecedented not only in Malaysian history but also in the history of any country in the world. Even the assassination of Julius Caesar could be justified because Julius Caesar wanted to be Emperor of Rome and Brutus and gang wanted to prevent him from getting that approval from the Roman Senate. Brutus justified the murder by saying “It is not that I love Caesar less but I love Rome more.” So, Julius was disposed in the Senate just before he became Caesar to protect democracy against dictatorship. In Perak, democracy was assassinated  right in the very house of a state parliament.

The Ruler asked Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to resign together with the executive council members. Sultan Azlan Shah also ominously declared - if they refuse to resign the post (of Menteri Besar and State Executive Councilors) would be considered vacant.

The Ruler asked Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to resign together with the executive council members.
Sultan Azlan Shah also ominously declared – if they refuse to resign the post (of Menteri Besar and State Executive Councilors) would be considered vacant.

And by whom?

By none other than the constitutional head of the state. This was democracy in modern times being crucified by the very person who is to be the umbrella and protector of democracy and the people’s rights to its elected government. And democracy died.

It is totally unjust and un-democratic for MPs to switch parties and claim that they still represent what the people voted them in for.

It is totally unjust and un-democratic for MPs to switch parties and claim that they still represent what the people voted them in for.

Given that dramatic event, is it beyond the reasonable man’s mind that the people would speak out? Is it beyond expectation that the Rakyat would rise and object? Even if those reposed with trust to advise the rulers on such matters abdicate their duty because of fear as in this proverb “Tohok Raja Tiada Dapat Dielakkan”, the history of mankind has shown that there will always be A Few Good Men who would speak out for the truth. Karpal Singh would not be called the Tiger of Jelutong if he did not roared out his views over something so manifestly wrong. At least Karpal did not throw stones at the royalty of Perak as some people did to express their disgust over what was seen as the palace complicity in the assassination of democracy.

I recall video footages and pictures of the people of Perak throwing stones at the Regent’s car. That was how disgusted the Rakyat felt towards the Perak royalty. As a Malay, I felt very sad to see the consequences when the royalty and monarchy are dragged to descend into the arena of gutter politics. That would be unthinkable in Thailand where the monarch has always remain impartial to party politics. And that impartiality ensures not only the monarchy’s survival in a modern democracy like Queen Elizabeth of England but also remain revered by the people like King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand. The monarchy must learn to read the Rakyat’s pulse and be a unifying force like how Winston Churchill encouraged the stuttering King George VI to deliver that famous speech unfiying Britons as Britain went to war in the  movie The King’s Speech.

A vehicle with a yellow (royal) registration plate, said to be ferrying Perak crown prince Raja Nazrin Shah, was pelted with stones by angry supporters of the PRU12, which has shown PR won the State of Perak.

A vehicle with a yellow (royal) registration plate, said to be ferrying Perak crown prince Raja Nazrin Shah, was pelted with stones by angry supporters of the PRU12, which has shown PR won the State of Perak.

Yet, in Perak the Rakyat’s expressed its utter disgust. Why?

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the chief judge of the country. There were much hopes when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan.

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the chief judge of the country. There were much hopes when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan.

HRH Sultan of Perak is Raja Azlan Shah who before becoming Sultan was the Lord President of Malaysia, the Chief judge of the country. There was much hope when Raja Azlan Shah became Sultan. There was hope that His Majesty would put some semblance of Rule of Law in the governance of his own state of Perak and in the country when Raja Azlan Shah became Yang DiPertuan Agong of Malaysia. The Perak Royalty was regarded as one of the more educated royalties of this country. So, when Raja Nazrin became regent and espoused all the ideals of good governance, the people became hopeful. The people agreed with everything Raja Nazrin said. He became a symbol of an enlightened royalty of Malaysia like the big white hope of boxing. But all hopes dissipated. That disappointment culminated in the manner that MB Nizar was deposed. And the Perak Royalty lost all credibility. I am saying this because people tell me so and it is my duty to convey this so that our royalty can reflect on their relevance and survival in a new world.

The prosecution and conviction of Karpal Singh who is a parliamentarian and a senior lawyer does nothing to instil respect, love and reverence for our royalty and monarchy. It will do the exact opposite as can be seen in the extinction of other monarchies in the world. If that happens, the Malays will have to blame UMNO, our Malay politicians and our Malay holders of public offices including the Judiciary for being less than wise in managing such issues.

ICJ's International Legal Advisor on Southeast Asia Emerlynne Gil said this conviction sends out a message that lawyers in Malaysia are not free to express their opinions about legal issues.

ICJ’s International Legal Advisor on Southeast Asia Emerlynne Gil said this conviction sends out a message that lawyers in Malaysia are not free to express their opinions about legal issues.

We, Malays, make such a big fuss about protecting kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu and, in doing so, we instigate for the prosecution of anyone especially non-Malays like Karpal to teach them a lesson not to memperlekehkan our Raja-Raja. As a result, we bring to the world’s attention the oppressiveness of our archaic laws and the abuses that can arise from such laws. In the end, we will be the losers because we never heed our own peribahasa – “Kasihkan Raja Di Atas Usungan”.

I will not explain the meaning of that proverb so that you, the readers, and hopefully all Malay politicians will research, read and apply that peribahasa in the proper context when dealing with our Malay royalty.

 Same case, same judge, different judgments -- only in the land of endless possibilities! mj

Same case, same judge, different judgments — only in the land of endless possibilities! mj

In prosecuting and convicting Karpal Singh, neither the Malay executive nor the Judiciary gave cogisance to another Malay legal maxim or peribahasa which is so significant in this context. If Karpal Singh can be convicted for sedition just for questioning the powers of a malay monarch, then this maxim must be expunged from the Malay perbendaharaan of peribahasa – “ Raja Adil Raja Disembah Raja Zalim Raja Disanggah“.

UMNO’s Saifuddin calls for removal of Election Commission Chief!

by Eileen Ng
JANUARY 14, 2014

 Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at a forum on electoral forum yesterday, says the Election Commission needs a new chairman who is not beholden to Barisan Nasional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 14, 2014.

Umno’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has joined the chorus calling for the removal of the Election Commission (EC) members, especially its chief, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.

He said there was a need for a new EC chairman, who was impartial, in the wake of the public’s loss of confidence in the commission.

“We need someone who is passionate, independent and who does not say things on behalf of BN,” he said, referring to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. “You are not helping BN anyway,” he said at an electoral forum last night.

Newly elected chairperson of electoral reform coalition Bersih 2.0 Maria Chin Abdullah had called for the removal of all EC members, citing loss of confidence.

She had said a petition drive would be launched to be delivered to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The statement came in the wake of an admission by former EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman that past redelineation exercises were designed to keep certain parties in power.

Abdul Rashid led the EC in managing six out of the 13 general elections, as well as four redelineation exercises.

Saifuddin, who is CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, said a more independent EC would enable both BN and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat pact to come together to negotiate on the proposed redelineation exercise.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the people had talked about reforming the EC for years and had even taken to the streets in support of electoral reforms.

He agreed that both Abdul Aziz and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, needed to be removed but noted that there was a “total mobilisation” by BN in defence of the two officials.

Rafizi said the lack of response from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Abdul Rashid’s admission was a manifestation of how BN was retreating instead of going forward towards bipartisanship to strengthen democratic institutions.

On the redelineation exercise, the first-term Pandan MP said PKR’s stand was that it should be done on a basis that ensured equitability and fairness rather than the number of seats.

“Any change has to be structural in nature. The dissatisfaction is not in the number of seats but how the seats were gerrymandered in such a way that Parliament does not represent the voices on the ground.”

He said the matter could only be resolved if all political parties agreed on an acceptance variance on the size of constituencies and an assurance that minority interests would be looked after.

Meredith L Weiss, visiting associate professor in Southeast Asia Studies at John Hopkins University, suggested that there was a need to come up with a mechanism on campaign financing to enable the EC to monitor not just candidates’ spending during general elections but also those who are donating to their campaigns.

Social activist Hishammuddin Rais alleged that the EC was doing a “con job” and that Pakatan Rakyat or any other alternative force would never win the general election if the same structure was in place.

“We need to change this,” he said.

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.

Nadeswaran puts the record straight

January 1, 2014

Nadeswaran puts the record straight

by Citizen Nades (12-31-13) @

LEAVING our shores three weeks ago in high spirits and returning in the NewCitizen Nades Year, there was no reason to believe that there would be little need for adverse comments as the year comes to a close. The dawn of the New Year has always been looking at the past and charting the year ahead.

As this column is being written, the sound of the howling wintery winds echo in the background, but the news reports that I had been reading on the events in Malaysia in the interim period have created more concern than the bleak weather.

Over the past weeks, there had been plenty of reading on Malaysian affairs of the past as part of a research and in these challenging times for the media, I came across this gem in a column I had written more than six years ago.

“Newspapers can criticise, but it must be made responsibly and aimed at correcting things. This will help the party criticised to accept them (criticisms) positively.

“Leaders are only human and if there is nobody to criticise us, then we may be carried away by our positions. In a democratic system, our fate lies in the hands of the people, as such, it is best to be corrected early rather than be rejected by the people later.”Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak when launching the Pahang edition of the Bahasa Malaysia tabloid, Kosmo!, November 2006

najib-razak1To put it bluntly, this newspaper and especially this columnist have lived up to Najib’s credo. My criticisms have been responsive and responsible; accountable and answerable with the one aim – correcting the state of affairs in the various systems and bringing about a better quality of life for every citizen. We have never veered nor is there any agenda, as some critics view them.

What has made the Prime Minister change his attitude towards the media in the preceding years or are his ministers acting on their own volition without engaging their brains in gear?

In October, the Home Minister went into a frenzy, threatening to close down newspapers if his racist-laden speech and its unacceptable comments to his party members are reported. He also made a shocking endorsement of a group which had been classified as a “secret society” by the Police.

The latest to join the foot-in-the-mouth saga is Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and KL26_180513_HASAN_EKSPOConsumerism Minister Datuk Hasan Malek who said that people are supporting the increase in price of consumer goods arguing that the ministry had not received any complaints.

He was quoted as saying: “We haven’t received any complaints. My enforcement teams are on the ground engaging with the people to see if any goods are going up unfairly. We aim to work with other agencies such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Road Transport Department and so on to ensure action is taken if businesses raise prices unfairly.”

It has been repeatedly said in this column and elsewhere that nothing can be done if the neighbourhood hawker decides to charge RM10 for teh tarik as long as there is a price list. By the way, what has MACC got to do with increases? Is selling roti canai at RM15 each an act of corruption?

After becoming the butt of jokes for such callous remarks, his ministry chooses to attack the media. The hound dogs were let loose. Instead of facing the media and explaining the situation, the ministry used Facebook to go on a tirade: “… we also believe that such sensationalisation of news and eye-catching headlines should not be at the expense of misinformation that may create the wrong perspective,” the ministry said in the posting.

Dato Amar SinghSo, blame the media for everything without looking at themselves in the mirror!The latest to join this “elite” group was Kuala Lumpur Deputy Police Chief Datuk Amar Singh who said that the illegal assembly organisers (on New Year’s Eve) would also be setting up camps around Dataran Merdeka and would be bringing various weapons, including grenades and gas masks to stir up a commotion.

When his claims were ridiculed and challenged, the inevitable had to take place – a denial. Amar Singh claimed he had been misquoted, a phrase that has been entrenched in our system of government.

“My statement about bomb threats and dangerous weapons was not directed at the NGOs involved but was based on a statement by an individual on Facebook before this,” he was quoted as saying. Why didn’t he say so at the press conference?

For the many who falter, trip over and waver (sometimes making fools of themselves), the media has become a convenient whipping boy. Instead of admitting to their follies, they choose to defend the indefensible.

So, what does the New Year hold for journalists? Are they going to continue to being scapegoats for the gaffes which our politicians, law enforcers and law makers make? Are they going to make a concerted effort to face them and make a stand?

R. Nadeswaran hopes the New Year will bode well for those involved in the dissemination of information to ensure corrective measures can be taken as propagated by the prime minister himself. Comments:

Time for an Open and Accountable Government

January 1, 2014

Here We Are in 2014: Time for an Open and Accountable Government

We are in 2014. Dr Kamsiah and I were at The Royal Selangor Golf ClubFacebook-K and D with dear friends last night to usher in the New Year. It was a nice gathering of club members who sat together to chat about the good old times and discuss what 2014 is likely to be, given the state of our divisive politics. My friends and I at our table agreed that politicians on both sides should not play with the fire of racial discord and religious exclusivism. Instead we should be celebrating our diversity.

Read this:

While we were partying, our fellow Malaysians at Dataran Merdeka were protesting the price hikes (toll and assessment rates, electricity charges and related matters) at Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square). It was a peaceful affair; and that was not unexpected. We Malaysians have shown time and again that we are a peaceful and responsible people. Due credit must go to Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, and his men and women of the Royal Malaysian Police for  a good job of managing the traffic and facilitating  this democracy in action. It was only the Government which, as usual, had tried to stop this price hike protest.

My message to the Najib administration for 2014 is that it should learn to communicate. Don’t assume that we Malaysians are stupid and can be easily be misled. There is, therefore, a need for the Government to explain its policies more effectively. Communicating is not spinning. On the other hand, it is about putting your points of view clearly so that the public can understand what their government wants to do, and why. Feedback from the Malaysian public will ensure that protests are unnecessary when the government listens to people before it formulates policies.

With this in mind, I am prepared to post press releases from government ministries and departments. Their Press officers should feel to contact me if they wish to have their releases read by and commented upon by readers on this blog, at home and abroad. The social media has become popular to reach out to the public, since the mainstream media is deemed to be an instrument of government. Let us begin 2014 with an open and accountable government.–Din Merican

Support The HEAT and Media Freedom

December 27, 2013

MY COMMENT: Media freedom is a vital element in a democraticdato-din-merican society. Media must be treated with respect and no regime can survive long if it suppresses responsible media.History is littered with episodes of what could happen when a regime suppresses media. Curtailing media has more negatives than benefits, says Andreas Harsono and I agree.

Why is Najib afraid of the HEAT? Well because he is feeling the heat (note the pun) !! Govern properly, keep your promises and act in the national interest and you will be fine. Being Prime Minister is serious responsibility and if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen before you are forced out of office by your own party UMNO, or in GE-14. This is my simple message to the Prime Minister for 2014.Din Merican

Support The HEAT and Media Freedom (12-26-13)

Apart from Malaysians who support media freedom, the campaign to oppose the Home Ministry’s indefinite suspension of The Heat is also gaining traction among writers and activists in neighbouring Indonesia.

Well-known Indonesian author Goenawan Mohamad, a founding member of the Indonesia Journalists Alliance (AJI) Andreas Harsono (left) and popular novelist Ayu Utami have taken part in the third day of the daily tweet campaign condemning the suspension of the news weekly.

“The media can go wrong, but curtailing media has more negatives than benefits. Malaysian people lose the most,” Andreas wrote in his Twitter account @andreasharsono last night.

Andreas has been active in inviting his Indonesian compatriots to support the Angry Media Movement (Geramm), the informal group established to voice out against the suspension.

Goenawan (right) and Ayu also agreed with Andreas and asked their Indonesiangoenawan-muhammad2 friends to join in the condemnation of the suspension of The Heat.

The three are activists who have championed media freedom during the protests against the regime of former Indonesian president Suharto, back in the 1990s.

Prominent local personalities have also lent their support to The Heat‘s cause, including Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang and former BERSIH co-chaiperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“There already are laws on defamation. Why need to suspend newspaper? Only more damage to government image,” Tan said on his Twitter handle @tankengliang.

“There is a good reason why Harakah, Suara Keadilan and Rocket circulations are low. If it’s rubbish, people don’t buy them. Let people judge,” he said. Meanwhile, Ambiga said the suspension of the weekly was also an assault on the people’s fundamental freedoms.

“Suspending The Heat is not only an assault on the press, but an assault on the rakyat and our fundamental freedom,” Ambiga tweeted.

datuk saifuddin abdullahFormer Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (left), despite not making a specific reference to the news weekly’s suspension, said: “I support media freedom.”

Geramm will be organising a “Free the Media” forum at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall at 8.30pm tomorrow (December 27). Attendance is free and all are welcome.

Panellists include Steven Gan (Malaysiakini), V Anbalagan (former secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists), G Vinod (Free Malaysia Today), Masjaliza Hamzah (Centre for Independent Journalism), Hata Wahari (Reporters Without Borders), and Ronasina (an independent publisher).

Veteran journalist Zulkifli Sulong will moderate the session, which will, apart from the suspension of The Heat, also touch on violence and treatment of journalists by political parties and enforcement bodies.

Geramm is also organising a campaign among supporters of the free press to wear red every Friday, in sympathy with The Heat. Its Facebook account has 2,891 followers and its Twitter account, 972 followers.

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.

Racism is a cover for corruption

November 18, 2013

Perkauman alat selindung aktiviti rasuah pemimpin, kata bekas Naib Canselor UM


 Isu perkauman digunakan oleh sesetengah ahli politik di Malaysia bagi melindungi kegiatan rasuah yang dilakukan pemimpin terbabit, kata bekas Naib Canselor Universiti Malaya Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon (gambar).

Beliau berkata isu perkauman juga dimainkan bagi melindungi salah laku selain mengelak mereka yang terlibat daripada dituduh atas aktiviti tidak bermoral itu.

“Jika negara dipenuhi dengan pemimpin rasuah, mereka akan menggunakan isu perkauman untuk melindungi kesalahan bagi menarik perhatian.

“Adalah penting kita memisahkan manusia dengan politik. Di Malaysia, kita selalu diingatkan oleh ahli politik tentang masalah perkauman malah terdapat juga kumpulan tertentu yang menyokong isu tersebut,” katanya semasa ucaptama Persidangan Asia Barat dan Afrika 2013 di Kuala Lumpur hari ini. – 18 November, 2013.–


We top ASEAN in (genuine) NGOs

September 7, 2013

We top ASEAN in (genuine) NGOs


Written by Mahar Mangahas, Philippine Daily InquirerWednesday, 04 September 2013 01:21


Philippine – Our non-government organizations (NGOs) have been blooming for a long, long time.  Here is an assessment from a quarter-century ago:

“Of all the ASEAN NGOs, the Filipino ones are the most numerous, radical and most innovative in terms of tactics and strategies—there are NGOs in almost every sphere of life, leading to a great complexity in the social and political process.  They have also been most able to reach down to the grass  roots and in a number of issues have been able to solicit and obtain active support from the lower classes.  Much of this success is due to painstaking grass-root organization work by full-time organizers, and a people-oriented approach to problem solving, although some Filipino activists will disclaim that NGOs have done enough mass work.”

This is by social scientist Lim Teck Ghee, in “Non-government organizations and human development: the ASEAN experience,” based on his research in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand (in the book “Reflections in Development in Southeast Asia,” Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1988).

He observes:“It is also in the Philippines that the ferment of alternative development strategies and alternative systems is most pronounced.  How much of this is due to the more radical Filipino popular political culture or whether this is a reaction to the perceived excesses of authority is not clear.  Obviously, too, the faltering economy which has badly affected both Filipino lower and middle classes, and especially aroused the ire of the latter group, has been an important factor in explaining the radicalization of NGOs here.”

Teck Ghee did his study in 1983-1985, on a research grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. We became good friends, since I was another grantee, along with Arief Budiman, Reynaldo Ileto, Kanok Wongtrangan, Chandra Muzaffar, and Somboon Suksamran.  The group met periodically, a few days at a time, ending with two intensive weeks in October 1985, at the memorable Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy.

ltgTeck Ghee (left) focused on developmental NGOs— genuine ones of course, not fakes like those recently exposed as pork barrel thieves.  NGOs “see their work as explicitly situated in the context of a wider concern for progressive social development and change in the society.  … [T]heir main concern really is with all the various groups and classes found in the society and with wider social processes. … Among the severest critics of bureaucracy have been the NGOs but to what extent they can actually persuade the power holders to decentralize authority to community structures (including NGOs) or establish public control systems that ensure adequate social accountability is an open question that depends as much on the wisdom of the present power holders as on the skill of the NGOs to walk the tightrope between permissible and ‘subversive’ or ‘anti-national’ dissent.”

Teck Ghee’s perspective of the Philippines was a revelation to me.  He recognized that many Filipino NGOs had been forged from the heat of the struggle against the Marcos autocracy.  One evening in Penang, when our research group was at dinner, and I requested the Filipina vocalist to sing “Bayan ko,” the non-Filipinos were struck as she sang it sobbingly.

Upon returning from Bellagio, I learned that the Securities and Exchange Commission had approved, on Aug. 8, the papers of SWS as a non-stock, nonprofit scientific organization.  After 28 years, SWS continues to provide the public with alternative statistics on meaningful development.

Lim Teck Ghee is now CEO of Centre for Policy Initiatives, a nonprofit policy reform organization established in 2007, which provides the public, academia, private sector, government and other key stakeholders in Malaysia with accurate information, data and analysis on vital national issues affecting the country’s economy and society, and acts as an independent watchdog on democratization, good governance and public policy reform.

He is a personal affirmation of his study’s conclusion that NGOs “have persisted in working for social reform and change through peaceful means and open approaches that cut across traditional racial, religious and other social and class lines.  They have also articulated the important view that if society is to survive, it must take a long-term and more holistic view… and place equity and justice considerations in the forefront of development.  These views differ considerably from the short-term, fragmented view of development indulged in by politicians and other vested interest groups in the society”.

The Life and Times of Malay Nationalist Haji Othman Abdullah

September 7, 2013

Posted by: Anas Alam Faizli on March 29, 2012

The Life and Times of Malay Nationalist Haji Othman Abdullah

By William R. Roff, Department of History, University of Malaya

Haji-Othman-181x300I first became interested in Haji Othman Abdullah in 1960, when I was engaged on research into Malay social history before the Second World War. The manner of our first meeting, though of no importance in itself, is a nice indication of the way in which the historian can find his history in the oddest and most unlikely corners. It was a Saturday afternoon. I had just got off a bus at the foot of Jalan Templer in Petaling Jaya and begun to walk up the road when I noticed a Malay wedding lunch taking place in one of the gardens nearby.

As I passed, someone – a friend whose identity I have now forgotten – recognized me and with characteristic Malay hospitality invited me in. I entered the yard, was introduced around, sat down, had some lunch, and joined in casual conversation with my neighbours. Weddings, like cocktail parties, though pleasant enough social occasions in their way, seldom offer the opportunity for a long and earnest conversation on serious topics, so that I didn’t expect much from this one beyond and hour so’s idle chatter. And then I met Haji Othman.

Haji Othman’s grandfather, Haji Mohd. Taib b. Haji Abdul Samad (d. 1925) was born in Batu Sangkar in the Minangkabau area of West Sumatera round about 1858. Haji M Taib came to Malaya as a young man in 1876, as many others were doing at that time, to seek a living by trading. Not long after arriving, probably around 1880, he married a girl from Malacca, Che Hitam bt Ta’at of Kampong Jambatan Duyong and settled with her in Kuala Lumpur.

Unlike many of his Minangkabau compatriots in Kuala Lumpur in the 1880s and ’90s, most of whom were shop and store keepers, Haji M Taib put his money into real estate. Business flourished, and he became one of the richest Malays in Selangor, owning tin mines, plantation land, and large numbers of houses and shop-houses in Malay Street and in the environs of Kuala Lumpur. Haji M Taib had ten children, six boys and four girls. The boys when they grew older, helped their father to look after his business activities and his properties. The girls married and raised families of their own.

Haji M Taib’s eldest surviving son, Abdullah (d. 1945) was born in Ampang Street in 1886, Kuala Lumpur. Haji Abdullah (he made pilgrimage to Mecca in 1900) shared with his brothers the tasks of looking after the family interests, and in 1901 married Che Siti Hawa bt Mohd Yasin, a Malacca girl whose father (like Abdullah’s mother) came from Kampong Jambatan Duyong. They had four children, of whom the first two died in infancy. The third, Othman was born on December 21, 1905 in the family house at No. 27 Jalan Pudu, not far from the building which now houses the Straits Times Press.

Othman’s childhood was as unremarkable as childhoods usually are. In 1913, at the age of eight, he was put to school at the Malay school in Gombak Lane, and studied there for five years under Che Gu’ Mohd. Tambi, passing out of Standard V (which was as far as one could go in those days) in 1918. Othman’s grandfather, Haji Mat Taib, wanted to send him after this to the Victoria Institution to be educated in English, but found that he was just six months over the maximum age at which it is possible for children to proceed from Malay to English school. Accidents like this do much to shape people’s lives.

Aged only 13, Othman Abdullah found himself cut off from further education in his own land, and turned instead to an older tradition of learning, Islam. In 1919 he was taken by his uncle Haji Mahiyiddin b. Ibrahim (a Minangkabau who had married Haji Mat Taib’s daughter Rogayah) to Batu Sangkar for a two-month visit, partly as a holiday and partly to collect other members of the family before making the trip to Mecca. Returning to Kuala Lumpur early in 1920, they sailed from Singapore to Jeddah in April or May of that year, in one of the pilgrim ships run by the Blue Funnel line.

Arriving in due course at Mecca, Othman went to live with his father’s cousin (and Haji Mahiyiddin’s brother) Haji Ahmad Puteh b. Ibrahim, one of the many Minangkabau, Acehnese, Javanese, Malays and others from this part of the world (known collectively in Mecca as the Jawah) who had spent a large part of their adult lives living and studying in the holy city. In June 1920, aged not yet fifteen, Othman made his first pilgrimage, and on its completion was married, at his father’s request to Haji Ahmad Puteh’s daughter Hajjah Rabiah, then aged thirteen.

Haji Othman continued to live in Mecca for some five years, studying religion in the time-honoured way in the Mesjid al-Haram from his teacher Haji Abdullah Tembusai, another Minangkabau. And then he began to get a little restless. As he said, “in Mecca one can study religion only; in Cairo, politics as well”. So in 1925, having obtained his father’s permission, he left Mecca for Cairo, to attend the famous school of Azhar Mosque, usually known as the University of Al-Azhar.

When Haji Othman arrived in Cairo, the city had a fair-sized community of Malays and Indonesians, most of them studying at Al-Azhar. Malay students had, of course, been traveling to the Middle East for many years, but it was only after the First World War, and particularly in the early and middle 1920s with the rise in incomes resulting from the boom in rubber prices, that they reached Cairo in numbers. The cost of keeping a student in Cairo at this time was estimated at $500 annually, with traveling expenses on top of this, so that only well-to-do or well-connected families could afford an education of this kind for their sons.

The peak years, corresponding to the most intensive pilgrimage years from Malaya, were probably 1924-1927. In 1925, when Haji Othman arrived, no fewer than 27 Malay students took up residence in Cairo, bringing the number to round about eighty, with more than twice as many Indonesians from the Netherlands East Indies.

As early as 1922, the Malay and Indonesian students at Al-Azhar had formed a joint Jam’iyyah al-Khayhiyyah, or Welfare Society, to look after their common interests and to promote friendship and association. Shortly after Haji Othman arrived, this society seems to have taken a new lease of life, giving itself an alternative Malay title, the Persatuan Penuntut2 Semenanjong Tanah Melayu dan Indonesia, and planning the publication of a newspaper or journal designed to draw the peoples of the Malay peninsula and archipelago closer together.

Seruan Azhar – the Voice of Azhar – began appearing monthly in October 1925, edited to begin with by Ilias Ya’acob from Indonesia, with Haji Othman Abdullah, who had provided the funds from money supplied by his father in Malaya, as manager. The journal’s first editorial, written by Mahmud Yunus (or Mahmoud El-Jounousy, as he styled himself in those day) appealed to the peoples of Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Malaya to “unite with one heart for progress and prosperity”, and most of the articles in this and subsequent issues dealt with religious and political reform in the Middle East and at home. Many of the students in Cairo felt strongly on these matters, and the relative freedom given to them in the Middle East, away from the repressive colonial and traditional regimes of their homelands, made it possible to discuss them and write about them more easily.

There was a lot to get excited about in the Middle East itself, with the conquest of the Hejaz by the Wahhabi ruler Ibni Saud in 1924, and the subsequent attempts to resurrect the Caliphate and unite the Islamic world. In 1926, a committee formed by the Malay and Indonesian students in Cairo called Al-Difa’ al-Watani (The National Guard) sent a representative to Meca to attend the proposed but abortive Islamic World Congress; and the later conference held in Jerusalem in 1931 was attended by the then president of the Jama’iyyah al-Khayhiyyah, Haji Abu Bakar Asha’ari, now Imam of Kangar.

In October 1927, Seruan Azhar was joined by a second monthly journal, Pilehan Timour, which was a little more openly political than Seruan Azhar. The reason for the founding of Pilehan Timour is not altogether clear, but seems to have been related to an argument within the editorial board of Seruan Azhar which resulted in the resignation of Ilias Ya’acob and several other Indonesians, who broke away to form the new paper, leaving Seruan to the Malays. Seruan Azhar stopped publication in April 1928, and Pilehan Timour a few months later, both for lack of funds.

In the case of Seruan Azhar, the financial difficulties which led to its demise were certainly a result of Haji Othman’s departure from Cairo early in 1928. Towards the end of 1927 Othman had a letter from his father, saying that he had heard that his son was “getting mixed up in politics”, and asking him to return home.

Reluctant to go back straight away, Haji Othman wrote and asked his father’s permission to spend a little while first in Europe, which he had not so far visited. Haji Abdullah agreed, and Othman spent the next twelve months or so in Paris, followed by four months in England and a month in Hollad. While in Paris he improved his knowledge of French (which he had already learnt in Egypt) and wrote religious and social reform articles for Seruan Azhar until it stopped publication, and then for a number of periodicals in Indonesia.

In England he got to know the Malay students in London, including Tunku Abdul Rahman, then active in the Malay Student’s Society, and Syed Sheh Barakbah (now Lord President of the Federal Court); in Holland he was particularly friendly with Drs. Mohd. Hatta, then president of the Perhimpunan Indonesia, and with other Indonesians later well known in Indonesian nationalist political life.

Haji Othman returned to Malaya at the end of 1929. He had been away from home for ten years, ten years in which both he and Malaya had changed considerably. The decade had seen the first cracks, still barely perceptible, in British colonial rule. The locally-born and long resident Chinese were beginning to press for a share in the political and administrative conduct of affairs.

Malay feelings were being aroused by increased recognition of the way in which many of their interests had been shouldered aside by the economic and educational developments of others. Great arguments were taking place concerning the so-called “decentralization” of the Federated Malay States, and the whole system of administration was being called into questions by contending groups within the colonial ruling class itself.

But if this was not the Malaya Haji Othman had left in 1920, he too had altered during the intervening years. He recalls today that on his return many people, particularly those in authority, found him too “modern” in his ideas and ways. Years of mixing with radically-minded social and religious reformists and political activists in Cairo and then in Europe had led Haji Othman to share many of their opinions and beliefs. He felt an urgent concern for their improvement of the social, educational and economic lot of his people, and for the creation of a nationalist ideology among them as a means to this end.

More conservative elements in Malay society mistrusted him for what were thought to be his advanced religious reformist views, and he found little encouragement for his political ideals. Even his own father discouraged him from taking a job in the public service or as a teacher believing that he would be more likely to stay out of trouble if he kept close to home.

Ostensibly, therefore, Haji Othman spent the early years after his return doing no more than help look after the family’s business interests in and around Kuala Lumpur. In reality, from late 1931 he was active as a manager and a part-time writer for the Malay bi-weekly newspaper Majlis, which began publication in December that year.

The federal capital in the mid-1930s, though scarcely a hot-bed of political nationalism, was a lively centre of Malay intellectual and literary life. Majlis, under the editorship first of Abdul Rahim Kajai and then of Othman Kalam, was providing pertinent pro-Malay comments on a wide range of public issues, and sponsoring a variety of Malay causes.

From mid-1935 onwards there was an active branch in Kuala Lumpur of Sahabat Pena, which in addition to its more literary activites held frequent discussion meetings in the Sultan Suleiman Club, Kampong Baharu, on Malay education and economic progress. Haji Othman found the atmosphere of Kuala Lumpur stimulating, and made many friends among the young intellectuals – Ibrahim b Haji Ya’acob (then a Malay Instructor at the Police Depot), Othman Kalam, Ishak b. Haji Mohammad, Abdullah Thani (Ahmad Boestamam) and others – with whom he would argue the questions of the day and plan for the future.

On June 5, 1938, a group of young Malays, among them Haji Othman, held a public meeting in the Sultan Suleiman Club for the purpose of forming a Malay political association. As the result of a resolution passed with acclamation at that meeting, the Persatuan Melayu Selangor (PMS) was brought into being, its existence is formally confirmed by the Registrar of Societies some weeks later on August 4.

The President of the PMS, Tengku Ismail b. Tengku Mohd. Yasin, had recently resigned from the Malayan Civil Service to become one of the very few Malay lawyers in private practice; the Vice President, Raja Bon b. Raja Yahya, was a Selangor district chief and a nephew of the late Sultan Suleiman. In addition to the usual officers the PMS had a central committee of eleven with five representative from Kuala Lumpur, five from the state administrative districts, and one from Petaling – Haji Othman. Haji Othman, like the district representatives, later headed a branch organisation set up in Petaling on August 26.

What were the aims and objects of the PMS? In brief they were to make political representations to the government on matters affecting the Malay interests (as interpreted by the association) and in any other way to further Malay concerns. In political complexion, and in terms of the majority of its leadership, the PMS was a fairly conservative organization, largely (though not in all cases) English-educated, tolerably well-off economically, and owning moderately close links with the traditional Malay establishment. It is understandable, therefore, that it should have been primarily concerned with matters of interest mainly to the English-educated, government-official groups in Selangor Malay society.

It asked the government to reserve for Malays the posts of Registrar and Assistant Registrar of the High Court, and to employ Malay MAS and MCS officers more frequently in federal and state secretariats rather than simply in district and rural administration as was the usual practice. It criticized existing land policy, which made it impossible for Malays holding reservation land to use their land as an economic asset on open market.

During the visit of the McLean Commission on higher education in Malaya, which took place in October 1938, the PMS opposed the establishment of a university on the ground that this would confer an unfair advantage on those communities which already had the readiest access to secondary education in English. With all its criticisms of government policy however, the PMS was invariably moderate and co-operative in tone, and careful to express loyalty to the British as well as to the traditional Malay ruling class.

This stance contrasted with that taken by another Malay political association formed in Kuala Lumpur in early 1938, to some extent in reaction to the creation of the PMS. The Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) was led by Ibrahim b. Haji Ya’acob, a young Malay schoolteacher turned journalist, who described the leadership of the PMS and similar state Malay associations as “the bourgeois-feudalist aristocratic and [English-] educated groups”.

Though the KMM appears to have applied for and obtained the seal of associational respectability, exemption from registration under the Societies Ordinance, its structure was much simpler than that of the PMS and its mode of activity tended to be cloaked in secrecy, or at least in a discreet haze of small meetings held in private houses or in Bukit Bintang cabaret. It had, however the usual list of officers, among whom Haji Othman Abdullah was treasurer.

Most of its members were young teachers or students from Serdang Agricultural School, the Kuala Lumpur Technical School, or S.I.T.C They possessed, it now seems clear, a wide range of political views, and indeed in some cases had no ”political” views at all, seeing in the KMM a means for cultural renaissance on the basis for closer links with Indonesia.

One thing at least, however, they all had in common: an abiding if frustrated hatred of colonialism in all its manifestations, from that of foreign capitalism to the petty irrigations brought about by the assumptions of innate superiority shown by many was necessary for Malay social and economic progress, wrote articles for the vernacular press, and, in a few cases, began to plot actively for the overthrow of the colonial government.

The undisputed leader in this last activity was Ibrahim b. Haji Ya’acob, who was in touch with both the Malayan Communist Party and the Japanese in the months immediately before the outbreak of war in the Pacific, and was supplied with money by the Japanese for the purchase of the daily Warta Malaya, with which to conduct anti-British propaganda. Some months before this happened, however, Haji Othman had left KMM, as he says today for two reasons: because he felt it was being betrayed by Ibrahim into violent political radicalism, and because he was unsatisfied, as treasurer, with the conduct of its financial affairs.

Shortly before the Japanese landed in Malaya in December 1941, the British security police rounded up the leadership of the KMM and jailed them in Singapore. Haji Othman, because of his previous connection with the party, was of course suspect. Persuading authorities that this connection no longer existed was made easier by the fact that he had for some time past been a dispatch rider (with his own motor cycle) for the Local Defence Volunteers.

With the arrival of the Japanese, Haji Othman, like many other Malayans, found himself in an awkward position. He had been, and in a sense still was, manager of Majlis, a newspaper which the Japanese regarded as having been pro-British, and which have been forced to stop publication shortly after the British surrender. Most of the editorial staff has left Kuala Lumpur.

Haji Othman himself was uncertain what attitude the Japanese would take towards him, but eventually he plucked up courage, went to see the local military commander, and asked for permission to resume publication. Somewhat to his surprise, permission was granted, subject to the condition that the name of the paper, with its colonialist associations, be changed. Thus it was that Perubahan Bahru appeared, published under Haji Othman’s direction until Abdul Rahim Kajai took over the editorship at the end of 1942.

After the war, Haji Othman spent some time trying to piece together the remnants of the family business (his father had died in 1945) and then retired to live quietly with his wife and children. For him political life was over, just as for most of his fellows it had barely begun. He became a member of UMNO, but held no office.

Today he lives in a tiny suburban house in Petaling Jaya, surrounded by his family, his friends and his memories. His early and active life spanned some of the most difficult and formative years of awakening Malay nationalism, and his contribution to its growth was by no means a negligible one. Now he has handed over to others and seldom talks about the past – except, of course, when he meets someone like met at a wedding.