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.

Court lifts ban on Irshad Manji’s book

September 5, 2013

Home Affairs Ministry’s Ban on Irshad Manji’s Book removed

by Hafiz Yatim@

NONEThe Home Ministry’s ban on the book by controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji titled ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ has been removed.

This follows Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Justice Zaleha Yusof’s decision to allow ZI Publications Sdn Bhd’s application for judicial review today.ZI Publications, the publisher of the Malay translation of the book, had sought to quash the Home Ministry’s ban against the book as sales of the English version had been in the market over a year prior to the translated version.


ZI Publications and Home Ministry

by Hafiz Yatim @

The Home Ministry’s ban on the Bahasa Malaysia version of controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji’s book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ has been lifted.

This follows Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Justice Zaleha Yusof’s decision today to allow ZI Publications Sdn Bhd’s application for judicial review on the Bahasa Malaysia version.

NONEIrshad Manji’s (right) book was banned by the Home Ministry on May 29, 2012 and the ban on the English version remains.

ZI Publications, the publisher of the Malay translation of the book, had sought to quash the Home Ministry’s ban against the book as sales of the English version had been in the market over a year prior to its translated version ‘Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta’.

Justice Zaleha in her broad grounds reasoned that the English text has been on sale in the Malaysian market for a year and had not cause any disruption to public order. She asked if it is true the book was prejudicial to public order, then why was no action taken to ban the English version when it was first circulated.

“Why was the prohibition made only when it was translated to the national language?As I understand it, the root of the respondents’ concern is it would result in religious confusion as the authority decided to ban the book only when it was translated into Bahasa Malaysia.Does this mean that only the Malay speaking readers will be confused while English readers would not?”

Argument fortified

Lawyer Nizam Bashir who appeared with K Shanmuga for ZI Publications, said this fortified their argument that the sale of the Malay translated version would not result in untoward events.

Nizam indicated that the judge is expected to write the full grounds later.
NONEIn their judicial review application, ZI Publications helmed by Ezra Zaid (right), had named the Deputy Home Minister, Home Minister and the government as respondents.

The company claimed they were not allowed any opportunity to voice their views before the Deputy Home Minister’s ban on the printing, importing, producing and selling of the book last year.

They further claimed that the book only contained opinions in the form of brief summaries criticising current approaches in the administration of the religion, which were not harmful.

The ban, they alleged, was null and void as it was inconsistent with Article 10(1)(a) and 8(1) of the federal constitution, related to freedom of speech and expression. They are seeking to have the order declared nullified, with costs.

Besides this case, ZI Publications had also filed another judicial review application to challenge the power of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department to prosecute them in the Syariah court citing it limited the company’s freedom of expression.

It was also reported that the Home Ministry and Federal Territory Islamic Department (JAWI) had been ordered by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to drop the syariah charge against Borders Gardens store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz for distributing the book.

Justice Zaleha Yusof had ruled that JAWI’s raid on March 23, 2012 predated the ban order issued by Home Ministry and that the prosecution of Nik Raina amounted to retrospective enforcement.

Nik Raina’s withdrawal of the charge was supposed to be heard at the KL Syariah High Court on August 28, then postponed to September 3 and postponed again to September 13.

This resulted in the Lawyers for Borders issuing another letter dated September 3 to the court and JAWI, expressing the hope that there are no more postponements as any judge could hear the matter.

Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us, says DAP Legal Bureau

August 25, 2013

DAP Legal Bureau to The Attorney-General: Outsource the Altantuya Case to Us (08-24-13)

The DAP legal bureau today offered its services to prosecutors in the high-profile murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, suggesting that an overworked Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) may have led to the acquittal of two former Policemen previously convicted of the killing.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

The shocking outcome of the Altantuya murder appeal in the Court of Appeal has the effect of bringing further and total disrepute to the Malaysian criminal justice system.

This comes as Segambut MP and bureau member Lim Lip Eng lodged a police report in Jinjang here over the Court of Appeal’s decision to free ex-police commandos Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar of their conviction in 2009 of the gruesome murder.

“Give DAP legal bureau the fiat (authorisation order), we will make sure the correct person is prosecuted and convicted,” Lim said in a statement here. Lim said the bureau was offering its help to the AG-C due to the high-profile nature of the case.

“Maybe the AGC is short-handed. We just want to offer our help; together we can solve the case,” he said.

Take a leaf from Appointment of Shafee in Sodomy II

He pointed out that the move was permissible by law, citing the recent appointment of lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as public prosecutor in the appeal against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II acquittal.

Muhammad Shafee was given the authority by the Attorney-General to lead the prosecution team in its appeal against Anwar’s acquittal on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar’s defence team, however, filed a motion in the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya yesterday to disqualify the appointment.Earlier today, PKR’s R. Sivarasa criticised the Court of Appeal over the two former policemen’s acquittal, saying it should have ordered a retrial instead.

The Subang MP stressed that the appellate court was empowered to do so, especially when there were a number of key witnesses who were not called during the High Court trial that led to the duo’s conviction in 2009.

“There is ample power under the law in section 60 of the Courts Judicature Act 1964 to order a retrial which is regularly done in appeals,” Sivarasa said.

Acquitted instead of Retrial

In a decision that stirred controversy yesterday, a three-man panel of the appellate court unanimously allowed Azilah and Sirul’s appeal.

Azilah and Sirul, both formerly with the Police’s Special Action Unit (UTK), had been found guilty in 2009 of the murder of Altantuya in Mukim Bukit Raja in Klang between 10pm on October 19, 2006 and 1am on October 20, 2006.

The Mongolian model’s murder trial had been surrounded by political intrigue due to links drawn from the personalities involved in the case.

Azilah and Sirul had been part of a security detail for then-Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak while Abdul Razak Baginda, who was charged with and later acquitted of abetting the duo, was a former adviser to Najib.

During the course of their trial, it was revealed that Altantuya was shot and her body blown-up with explosives in a jungle clearing on the night of October 19.

The duo had been charged under section 149 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Sirul and Azilah were both released from Tapah Prison yesterday after the Court of Appeal overturned the decision.


Ethics and professionalism in Malaysian Media

August 9, 2013

Ethics and professionalism in Malaysian Media

by Ron Nain @

For some time now in Malaysia, numerous segments of the media evidently have increasingly cast aside any pretence of being ethical, of, for example, providing `balanced’ reports, of telling the truth.

MahathirWhy has this happened, we may ask? Well, if I may apply broad strokes, in the 1980s and 1990s, Dr Mahathir (left) and his BN regime began messing around with key Malaysian institutions, including the media, concocting and tightening legal controls to muzzle the media, and deregulating the media (press and broadcasting) in such a way – through ownership – that led, instead, to greater regulation and control.

That, I think, is the first lesson we need to learn in trying to look at media and ethics – namely that we need to be aware of the wider political and economic environments that affect, indeed impinge upon, the operations of a society’s institutions, including the media.

Of course the controls vary from system to system, country to country, from one period to another.Nevertheless, an awareness, a critical understanding, of this wider environment, I believe, is crucial in any discussion on media and ethics.

With this as the wider context that would have to come into the picture at numerous junctures, let us now try and look at this problem of media and ethics through posing 4 inter-related questions.

The most basic question, I would think, is: Are the Malaysian media – assumed here to be the mainstream media of the press and broadcasting and the `new’ media of the internet – ethical?

I feel the concern here isn’t so much with the Malaysian media industry as a whole, but with certain segments of the industry.

Public dismay at some media

After all, the term `media’ itself incorporates so many elements – government media, opposition media, alternative media, commercial media, broadcast, print, newspapers, magazines, news media, social media, old media, new media.

And more often than not, the concern seems to be with news media. In this regard, the concern, the dismay even, seems to be directed at some segments of the press and also broadcasting.

Indeed, the numerous grievances and legal actions taken against Utusan utusan-malaysiaMalaysia, for example, are illustrative.

On the other hand, there are accusations also, predictably mainly from the regime’s side, that the new media, the Internet media, tend to be oppositional and biased against the regime.

Strangely enough, despite these latter assertions, very little evidence has been provided to prove these allegations and, equally strange, given some of the vitriol hurled at the new media, very few cases have been brought successfully to court.

So, based on this, it does seem apparent that there are at least two versions of what constitutes `being ethical’ here, one based on what may be called `professional standards’, the other based on what we may call `regime standards’. New clothes for professionalism

Indeed, for this regime, it would seem that `being professional’ invariably means, at best, not criticising the regime and, at worst, running down all opposition or even alternatives to the regime’s point of view, however feasible these may be.

And this, I feel, leads us on to – and partially answers the second question posed: Why are the media not ethical?

There are, of course, quite a number of reasons for this state of affairs. The first is the fact that the media we get often is a consequence of the patterns of media ownership and the types of political and legal control. In other words, it is a question of political economy.

When a regime, directly and indirectly, has oligopolistic, if not monopolistic, control over the media, invariably this has consequences, often invariably negative. I say negative because regimes, particularly authoritarian ones, are seldom benign.

The Ministry of Information’s control over RTM and Media Prima’s monopoly over all four of Malaysia’s free-to-air commercial television stations are not coincidental.

Not having an open tender system in place in relation to the acquisition and setting up of media companies has resulted in such a situation with commercial broadcasting.

Often enough silly comparisons have been made between RTM and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Fooling no one attempt

The fact of the matter is that RTM was the outcome of a Cabinet decision while the BBC is guided by a Royal Charter that binds it to act in the public interest, for example.

It guarantees the BBC’s independence. No such thing exists with RTM. To take another example, the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) in the UK also was established through a Royal Charter `that provides for a code of professional conduct, a process for investigating complaints, and the creation of a constitution and procedure of committees to hear cases.It also lays down the rights of any member to rebut a complaint, to be represented and to call and cross-examine witnesses. In effect, it establishes a means of regulating a profession’.

In this regard, to get back to possible/probable reasons why the media here – some if not all – are not ethical, perhaps it is because of the lack of such guidelines or what’s often been mooted as a `code of ethics’ for the media.

This regime has always been terribly keen on setting up a regime-regulated Media Council to purportedly oversee the formation of a Code of Ethics for the Malaysian media.

Perhaps there are some of you who would support such a move. My suggestion would be that you critically evaluate the probable motives behind such a move before you do so.

Thirdly, is the question of a more ethical media an internal, in-house, one, to be resolved within Malaysia’s media organisations/ institutions?The idea of unilateral self-regulation has been mooted by a couple of small media organisations to offset possible regime regulation.

This is fine insofar as, professionally done, it can lead to higher standards of journalism, hopefully to be emulated by others.

Prevalence of ostrich culture

The problem with this approach, however, is that it doesn’t necessarily improve the overall industry.It’s a strategy akin to the strategy of the ostrich with its head buried in the sand, minding its own business and oblivious to what’s going on around it.

In an environment where media organisations worship at the altar of the market and/or are subservient to political masters, the cynical ones in the industry would most likely continue doing what they do.

In short, as long as media organisations continue receiving political patronage and/or are commercially successful adopting a sensationalist form of reporting, it is quite unlikely that they would want to change their ways and replicate the ways of a more polished, ethical and professional media organisation. Especially if the latter doesn’t make money.

So, does this mean that a more ethical media system can best come about through an industry-wide agreement on self-regulation? In an ideal world, perhaps.

But we don’t live in an ideal world.Many years ago,Suhakam arranged a couple of meetings with numerous stakeholders to discuss media councils and code of ethics. So the idea is somewhere out there, blowing in the wind.

One of main problems faced then, if memory serves me, is the clear disagreement not only between regime stakeholders and many other more-independent organisations, but also within media organisations, where progressive journalists were keen while the owners of senior editors were not.

Deep rooted structural woes

Hence, mooting an idea, even if it’s for the umpteenth time, is fine. But implementing it, in a political and economic environment that is certainly not supportive, is another question altogether.

Hence, thinking of and even drawing up a `Code of Ethics’, of course, is fine, possibly desirable even. But, really, what’s the point of having such a code if no one sticks to it? And there’s no way to make sure they do?

So, finally, how then do we go about trying to make the media more ethical?

Perhaps this is a question that would be best addressed by the media practitioners. While many, particularly from civil society have been critical of mainstream Malaysian media and Malaysian journalism, I believe that the problem of unethical media practices goes way beyond just particular media organisations or journalists.

To me it’s a structural problem, related to wider factors such as a warped value system, an education system that preaches conformity, from primary school right through tertiary education, and a media environment that, by and large, conforms to the dictates of the market and the tyranny of the state.

* Rom Nain is a media analyst and academic who is weary of incompetent, unethical leaders and their apologists and spin doctors in the media who try to get away with murder while professing to rub shoulders with God’s angels.



Red Bean Barmy

July 11, 2013

Red Bean Barmy

by Dean Johns (07-10-13)


dean-johnsLying by the Barisan Nasional (BN) regime seems to get more radically ridiculous every day, and nothing better illustrates this than persistent allegations that the opposition has been funding a 3,000-strong ‘Red Bean Army’ to spread its message in cyberspace.

As many have commented before me, there is no way that the DAP or any other Pakatan Rakyat party would have hundreds of millions of ringgit to spend on such a ludicrous exercise even if they wanted or needed to.

And of course there is no need whatever for them to pay their cyber-supporters so much as a single sen, as there are countless Malaysians who are more than happy to take the time and trouble to cyber-criticise BN and cyber-support Pakatan at their own expense, and out of their sheer love of truth and loathing for lies.

In other words, while there is no such thing as an organised andharisibrahim Opposition-funded ‘Red Bean Army’, there is certainly a massive, volunteer force that could justly be dubbed the Rid-BN Army. And with the 51 percent popular vote for the opposition in the May 5 general election, it won a momentous moral victory.

If ever there as a telling demonstration of the proverbial wisdom that ‘the truth will set you free’, it was this triumph of countless unpaid, individual voices over the might of the publicly-funded regime propaganda machine.

The triumph of the veracity of the virtual media over the vicious, venomous lies of the regime’s regiments of venal operatives on television and radio, in the press, and via advertising and public relations.

And not to forget the massacre of BN’s so-called ‘cybertroopers’, all those running-dog bloggers paid with public money to try and kid the innocent and ignorant into voting for five more years of BN crime, corruption and incompetence.

So comprehensively outgunned was this Has-Been Army that it should by rights have slunk away in defeat and disgrace. But instead it had the effrontery to invent a ‘Red Bean Army’ allegedly funded by the DAP to “raise political tensions and created political instability”.

This was clearly a typically shameless attempt by BN and its Has-Been Army to get their grubby paws on yet more of the rakyat’s money, as it claimed through 180 regime-friendly NGOs that it needed RM350 million to counter the threat that had been invented.

Who believes BN any more?

Now, Shahidan Kassim, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, has tried to render the fiction into fact by calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the imaginary Red Bean Army.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang reportedly gave this idiotic suggestion the scornful reception it deserved, commenting in Malaysiakini that “if the cabinet sets up an RCI on the alleged DAP-funded ‘Red Bean Army’, Malaysia will make history as the first country in the world which establishes an RCI on a fictitious allegation”.

Lim is right, of course. BN’s custom is not to hold RCIs on fictitious allegations, but to hold fictitious RCIs on factual allegations on which it needs to buy time or bury altogether, as in the ongoing RCI into the corrupt granting of identity cards to foreigners in Sabah, and the long-ago RCI that recommended the formation of a yet-to-be implemented Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

Thank goodness that there is a Rid-BN Army if not a ‘Red Bean Army’ to report such regime malfeasance, as there is little or no likelihood of an honest report of this latest regime idiocy by either the Dead-Head mainstream media or the cyber Has-Been Army.

Nobody in his or her right mind believes a word from any BN source any more, and no amount of money plundered from the public purse to pay professional liars will restore this rotten regime’s credibility.

And as if to underscore the dire depths to which BN has sunk in the fake-news and failed credibility department, Malaysia has slid to 145th out of 179 or its lowest score ever on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

In a lame attempt to shrug-off this disgraceful state of affairs, however, Communications and Multimedia Minister Shabery Cheek has told Parliament that Malaysia’s pathetic press-freedom ranking is just a matter of “perception by foreigners”.

“Different countries have different values,” he was quoted as claiming, “and Malaysia’s values are suited to its laws and culture.”

“As proof that liberal attitudes and rights to expression are implemented well in this country, all opposition parties are free to publish their own newspapers without any restriction,” he lied, in light of the regime’s regular seizure of such opposition newspapers and its failure to license Suara Keadilan.

‘Transparent’ Najib

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s one-man Smarmy Army, minority Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, was taking time out for a ‘working’ trip to London to pollute the UK media with his customary litany of lies.

According to BN ‘news’ agency Bernama, Najib told BBC interviewer Jon Sopel that “we don’t think there’s a basis for the people to go to the streets to protest against the government” in order to achieve change.

“If people want change, what I’m saying is that we can deliver change but from within,” he said, despite the clearly evident fact that his ‘transformative’ premiership has seen nothing but change for the worse.

On the much-vexed subject of the general election, in which BN fared worse than ever before in its history despite massively illegal gerrymandering, media monopolisation, vote-buying and other alleged illegalities, Najib claimed that “the election was true, fair and transparent”.

Adding that the government is “prepared to be scrutinised on this matter according to the constitution and laws of the country” and that “we have nothing to hide,” he then repeated that “we’re transparent”.

Najib certainly is transparent in the sense that anyone with half an eye can see right through this and indeed his every lie. But he and his regime accomplices are as far from transparent in their misgovernment of Malaysia as the Official Secrets Act and the muzzled mainstream media can manage to make them.

But if they imagine that all these machinations plus the invention of a mythical ‘Red Bean Army’ will save them much longer from the wrath of the Rid-BN Army, they must be stark, staring Red Bean Barmy.

DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Pak Kadiaq’s Cautionary Tale

July 10, 2013

Pak Kadiaq’s Cautionary Tale

by Terence Netto@

Politically-aligned ownership of media outlets is the graveyard of quality journalism and a sure road to delusion of those who sit in the seats of authority.–Terence Netto

COMMENT: Former New Straits Times Group Editor-in-Chief A Kadir Jasin’s disclosure that it was Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who personally ordered the consignment to political oblivion of Anwar Ibrahim by the NST after the latter was decapitated in 1998 brings to an instructive close the case against politically-aligned ownership of media outlets.

When the Straits Times Group, majority-owned by AC Simmons, a Jewish businessman domiciled in Singapore, was bought over in November 1972 by PERNAS, one of several government-owned corporations (the GLC acronym was not yet in vogue) set up under the New Economic Policy (NEP) to expand Malay equity ownership in the private sector, the speculation among senior journalists in the Kuala Lumpur office of the ST who were sceptical of the exercise was:

How long before this whole affair comes to grief? How long before politically-aligned ownership of media outlets would be deemed to be worse than the prior situation where ownership resided in the hands of politically unaffiliated businesspersons, more interested in profits and the public esteem stemming from being known as the publisher of a quality paper than in politics?

Twenty-six years to be exact.NONEIt took this length of time before the corporate ownership of the newspaper group, the leading one in the country before Star Publications gained pole position in the 1990s, devolved into party ownership (UMNO’s) and, finally, as per Kadir’s disclosure (right) on Monday, was subsumed under the personal fiefdom of an autocrat at the top of the political totem pole.

The assumption of the redoubtable A Samad Ismail, the then Berita Harian editor and principal figure behind the move to ‘Malaysianise’ the ownership of the Straits Times group (renamed New Straits Times after the takeover) was that his stellar stature as a political journalist-cum-Malay literary paladin and the good sense of then Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein and deputy Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman would provide a sufficient buffer against cotton-picking types among the lesser lights of UMNO.

Samad was entitled to his presumption. He was a confidante of Razak’s and doubled up as speechwriter on major policy addresses by the PM and Ismail.

Not in the business of making soap

Samad, arguably the best journalist on either side of the Causeway in both the English and Bahasa streams, duly had occasion to assess his own clout.

In 1975, UMNO Youth firebrand Suhaimi Kamaruddin paid a visit to NST Managing Editor Samad. Just then UMNO Youth was rising to the menacing levels of its eventual status as a powerful pressure group, thrusting on behalf of speedy implementation of the NEP.

The purpose of Suhaimi’s visit to Samad was to inquire into reports he had received that Malay journalists were not given enough berth within the NST stable to rise within its ranks.

Samad instructed the personnel department to prepare a list of the company’s hires over the preceding few years, with the academic qualifications of the non-Malay recruits juxtaposed with that of the Malay hires. The latter’s were comparatively lower.

samad ismail died past away al fatihah 040908 01Shown the evidence that tended to refute his hypothesis, a chastened Suhaimi slunk away in embarrassment after the visit to Samad (left) whose epigrammatic quip – “We are not in the business of making soap” – on another occasion, when an executive hired from Lever Brothers had attempted to assume primacy for marketing considerations over editorial ones, had the effect of checking the threat of editorial’s supercession by marketing, a practice no quality publishing group ought to allow.

But disaster struck Samad in June 1976 when he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) as a suspected communist, a detention that had more to do with a complex power play within UMNO in which then Home Minister (Tun) Ghazali Shafie acted as a stool pigeon for Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, an old adversary of Samad’s from the early days of the People’s Action Party (PAP) formation in the 1950s.

Graveyard of good journalism

The tragedy in Samad’s arrest was that it came just when he had assembled a team of journalists that arguably would have raised the standard of journalism in the NST stable to hitherto unmatched heights.

iftco conference mahathir 220806 new straits timesThis point is debatable, but the consequent elevation to public discourse that would have come on the heels of a national newspaper’s mounting quality would have checked the rise within Umno of ersatz intellectuals like Mahathir (right), who were able to ascend within the party because of a dearth of competitive quality.

The collateral damage from Samad’s removal from an arena where he was formidably good was a devaluation of the role of the Fourth Estate in a fledgling democracy, a diminution of the power of quality journalism to raise the level of public discourse, with consequent room, the lack of which allows for the ascent by default of the mediocre and the meretricious.

There is a lesson here for Pakatan Rakyat: forsake all notions of taking ownership of media outlets when and if you come to power.

The story of the Straits Times‘ metamorphosis into the New Straits Times is the saga of a good newspaper that was set to be a better one, brought low by an initial decision to allocate ownership to the economic arm of a political party – a recipe for the intrusion of a pyramiding influence that eventually results in power centring on individuals who call the shots from behind the official editorial seats.

Politically-aligned ownership of media outlets is the graveyard of quality journalism and a sure road to delusion of those who sit in the seats of authority.