Jocelyn is back with her take on Politics

October 31, 2015

Malaysia : Jocelyn is back with her take on Politics

by Jocelyn Tan

The current state of politics in the country is marked by a troubled ruling coalition and an opposition in disarray.

education minister muhyiddin_yassinIn a Hamlet’s Dilemma

TAN Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is still getting used to life in the slow lane. It will never be the same as walking in the corridors of power but there have been some visible side benefits.

The UMNO Deputy President gets enough sleep these days, he has shed some weight, his complexion has improved and he looks better than when he was the Deputy Prime Minister.

A former aide said Muhyiddin is trying to keep a low profile and avoid talking unnecessarily but invitations to speak keep coming in. And everywhere he goes, people seem to expect him to comment on the “elephant in the room,” that is, the 1MDB issue.

He also gets the sense that some people out there think he will take on Najib for the top post but those who understand the nature of UMNO politics would know it is not quite possible for now or in the near future.

No one understands it better than Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and that is why he wants UMNO to throw out Najib rather than get someone to challenge him for the UMNO presidency.

Dr Mahathir has been hammering away at Najib since August last year – yes, it has been that long. The most recent hammering session took place at a press conference to condemn the use of Sosma or Security Offences Act on two of Dr Mahathir’s supporters.

The former Premier also managed to get among others, Muhyiddin, UMNO Vice-President Dato’ Seri Shafie Apdal and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to join him at the press conference. The pro-Mahathir segment hailed it as an anti-Najib alignment of notables, and it was in a way.

It was the first time that Muhyiddin and Shafie had appeared publicly with Dr Mahathir since their sacking. As for Tengku Razaleigh, everyone knows there is no love lost between him and Dr Mahathir, and seeing them together was a new development.

The reaction to these big names coming out against Sosma has been mixed. Part of it had to do with the contradictory nature of their action. Muhyiddin and Shafie were part of the Cabinet that created Sosma while Dr Mahathir had used the ISA on political opponents in his heydays. Their past coloured their new sense of outrage.

“I respect Tun Mahathir but the trouble is that almost everything he accuses Najib and the government of, he had done when he was in power – detaining people without trial, bailouts, mega projects. He even joined a street demonstration,” said Dato’ Alwi Che Ahmad, the assemblyman for Kok Lanas in Kelantan.

Dr Mahathir’s quest to topple Najib has become very personal, emotional and all-consuming.

When he first began raising questions about the 1MDB scandal, many people in UMNO believed he was doing it for the well-being of the party and country. Like him, the thinking segment of UMNO also wanted answers.

But one year down the road, many of them think it has morphed into a battle of wills and egos, that it has become less about the party and country than about Dr Mahathir’s habit of always getting his way.

“We may be wrong but that is what it looks like to us. I am really worried,” said Alwi who was a former political secretary to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The 1MDB issue has dented Najib’s image especially in the eyes of the urban middle class. There has been explanation after explanation but those who actually understand the issue are not buying it, while those who find the whole thing too complicated have switched off.

And all this while, Dr Mahathir is playing the inimical role of pouring curry power to the bubbling pot.

Dr M and Ku LiWaiting and Hoping to be delivered  the Premiership on a Silver Platter

Najib’s popularity rating has slipped to 44%, down from 48% earlier this year although analysts say that it has more to do with public dissatisfaction over GST and the cost of living as surveys have shown that 70% of Malaysians are clueless about what the 1MDB issue is about.

Najib is also struggling with the fact that his coalition has only 5% support from the Chinese.

The ruling coalition is not in a good place at this point in time. However, UMNO, despite its liabilities, is still able to pull its weight but the same cannot be said of its partners in the peninsula.

Barisan Nasional is more dependent than ever on Sabah and Sarawak and the outcome of the forthcoming Sarawak state election will have huge implications for the survival of Najib.

The irony is that the opposition pact is in no better shape. It is stuck in a mess of its own making.

The opposition parties have regrouped as Pakatan Harapan but it does not have the full support of PKR. Some PKR leaders support the new pact while others want to continue working with PAS.


PKR Deputy President and Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali is behaving as though Pakatan Harapan does not exist and his administration is still operating as Pakatan Rakyat.

The fiasco over their Parliamentary motion of no confidence against Najib exemplified the disarray. They had been talking about it to all and sundry for months but there did not seem to be any coordinated effort.

When the motion was submitted by an MP from PKR, DAP threatened to boycott it unless a new motion was tabled by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

This Parliament meeting was the first time that opposition MPs were coming in as Pakatan Harapan. The no-confidence motion bid would have been a moral victory for the new pact but they tripped. Instead of embarrassing Najib, it exposed their own internal rifts.

IACC-Lim-Kit-Siang-najibLim Kit Siang suspended

The Barisan side then turned the tables against them and moved a motion to suspend Lim Kit Siang for remarks made about the Speaker. The vote count on Lim’s suspension also showed who has the numbers – 107 Barisan votes against 77 from the opposition bench. To save face, the opposition claimed they were in secret discussions with Barisan MPs to move the no-confidence motion against Najib. But it was so clearly another “Sept 16” kind of ploy and it is no longer amusing.

“We’ve got to choose again in a few years’ time. Barisan is in deep water but there is no viable opposition. Who is there to vote for?” said a Malay executive from a public-listed company.

It is a rather bizarre state of politics. The opposition claims it is ready to govern Malaysia, yet is unable to take advantage of the troubles of the ruling coalition.

Despite being cast out of the opposition pact, PAS still has the numbers given the 60,000-strong crowd at its “green rally” in Kota Baru last week. The collection from the crowd that evening was a staggering RM237,000.

“The numbers basically mean that PAS will survive under Tuan Guru Hadi,” said Roslan Shahir, the former press secretary to Dato’ Seri Hadi Awang.

The PAS rally also coincided with the 25th year of PAS rule in Kelantan and Hadi summed it up well when he claimed that nowhere else in the world has a government by an Islamic party survived this long.

The next night, the PAS president told a ceramah in Tumpat, Kelantan, that renown Islamic scholar Dr Yusof al-Qaradawi had informed him that it was haram (forbidden) for the PAS breakaway group to form a new party to go against an existing Islamist party.

It was a damning verdict because Sheikh al-Qaradawi, as he is known, is a big name in the Muslim world. Choosing Tumpat to deliver the news was quite deliberate – the MP for Tumpat Dato’ Kamaruddin Jaffar had quit PAS to join PKR.

His party recently scored another moral victory when the Federal Court threw out a bid by Gerakan politicians to challenge the constitutionality of the Hudud Bill passed by the Kelantan Government.

The Budget meeting of Parliament will take off in earnest now that Najib has unveiled his Budget for 2016. It is going to be a long, hot and highly politicised meeting.

There is talk of the opposition attempting to vote against the Budget as a means of registering their protest against Najib. But sabotaging a Budget is rarely a good idea because it will lead to a government lockdown, deprive government servants of their salaries and jeopardise amenities and services for the rakyat. And all because politicians are out to play politics and score politi­cal points.

The two-party system has brought about greater checks and balances in government. Unfortunately, it has also ushered in an unprecedented degree of politicking and a culture of quarrelling and fault-finding.

Traits like basic goodness, kindness and common sense that one sees on the ground seems to get translated into mean-spirited and irrational politics by practitioners. And it is seen in those determined to stay in power as well as those eager to attain power.

It is so debilitating, it is the primary cause of political fatigue among ordinary Malaysians and it should stop.

Tun Dr. Ismail A. Rahman– A Malaysian Patriot

October 31, 2015

Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman and I

When both Dr. Ooi Kee Beng and Oxford-educated Tawfik IsmailDin Merican7a were working on the book titled The Reluctant Politician, I asked Tawfik what was it like to be the eldest son of Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman. At that time, I was being interviewed and subsequently quoted in the book.

I had been observing Tun Dr. Ismail since I was in the Foreign Service (1963-1965) when as Assistant Secretary (Political)  on the South East Asia desk reporting to  YM Raja Tan Sri Aznam Raja Ahmad. I used to accompany foreign leaders who paid courtesy calls on our Second Deputy Prime Minister at his Home Affairs Office in the Prime Minister’s complex in Jalan Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur.

After he resigned from the Tunku’s cabinet, Tun Dr. Ismail practised medicine at Macpherson, Catterral, Khoo and Partners. He examined me and  signed my medical certificate that enabled me to further my studies in the United States in 1968 as a Bank Negara scholar.I remember saying to Tawfik that I wished I had kept a copy of that medical certificate.

As luck would have it, upon my return from Washington DC with a postgraduate degree in mid-1970, I became a frequent golfing companion of the Tun who was then President, Kelab Golf Negara Subang  by virtue of my being Chairman of the Club’s caddy committee in 1971.

What Tawfik told me confirmed my view of Tun Dr. Ismail.  The Tun was punctual, meticulous, competitive and strict. He was a man of few words yet friendly, kind and considerate.  Tawfik added that Tun Dr., Ismail was a model family man who found time for his wife, Toh Puan Norashikin and his children. He was particularly interested in their  education and upbringing, despite his busy schedule. It was obvious to me that Tawfik admired and loved his much respected father.

When Tun Dr. Ismail died in 1973, like many men and women of my generation, I was moved to tears. I felt that Malaysia had lost a leader who was a dedicated public servant of  dignity and integrity.–Din Merican

Tun Dr. Ismail A. Rahman– A Malaysian Patriot

by R B Bhattacharjee
Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul RahmanTun Dr. Ismail –A Man of Integrity

A hundred years ago on November 4, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, the much respected second Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, was born. The public’s liking for him, according to numerous accounts of his life and times, was based on certain traits in his character that made him stand out as a public figure.

These qualities included a non-racial outlook, a tough but fair approach towards the rules, and a principled stand on issues affecting the nation’s future.

As former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said in an interview with the New Straits Times daily on Dr Ismail’s role following the May 13, 1969 racial riots:

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah“The Chinese did not have much confidence in (second Prime Minister Tun Abdul) Razak (Hussein), but they did in Ismail. Razak was always associated with Malay and rural affairs, et cetera. Ismail was a principled man – and was seen that way by the different races. He was the Rock of Gibraltar. Once he decided on something you could be sure that he had gone through the relevant details and studied them. What is confidence unless it is based on the people’s belief in the leader?”

Indeed, Dr Ismail’s steadfast character and penchant for correctness was such that Razak seldom disagreed with him, including when the country was run by the National Operations Council during the Emergency rule following the 1969 riots.

Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was quoted in the New Straits Times article as recalling that Razak often took pains to accommodate Dr Ismail’s views, extending meetings whenever there was a clash of opinions so as to satisfy Dr Ismail.

The independence of mind that Dr Ismail displayed allowed him to articulate a moderate vision of nationhood that was reassuring to the different races in the country, while retaining the special position of the Malays as a central pillar.

That vision was evident, for instance, in a statement that Dr Ismail issued as the Home Minister in the heated period before the riots broke out. Ultra Malay leaders including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Musa Hitam had called for Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s resignation in favour of a leader who would restore “Malay sovereignty”.

The Tunku responded by forcing Dr Mahathir and Musa out of Umno, at which Dr Ismail issued a statement that: “These ultras believe in the wild and fantastic theory of absolute dominion by one race over the other communities, regardless of the Constitution… Polarisation has taken place in Malaysian politics and the extreme racialists among the ruling party are making a desperate bid to topple the present leadership.”

The moderation that Dr Ismail espoused strikes an especially meaningful chord in the current times, when inter-racial harmony is repeatedly being tested by inflammatory statements from right wing groups.

Dr Ismail’s views on the multi-racial nature of Malaysia’s politics are a far cry from the intolerant and extremist opinions being aired today. They tell us that the inclusive vision of our founding fathers has been supplanted by a narrow, regressive version of what Malaysian stands for.

Contrast Dr Ismail’s views with the oft-repeated call to extend the New Economic Policy (NEP) on the grounds that the Bumiputeras are still unable to compete on a level playing field.

An avid golfer, Dr Ismail likened the NEP to a handicap for the Malays which “will enable them to be good players, as in golf, and in time the handicap will be removed,” he was quoted as saying, in a retrospective article on his contributions to the nation, carried in the Sun daily.

“The Malays must not think of these privileges as permanent: for then, they will not put effort into their tasks. In fact, it is an insult for the Malays to be getting these privileges,” he said.

Dr Ismail’s courage in laying bare the reality behind affirmative action makes him a rare commodity in a field where development policy has been misdirected for political advantage.

It is time that we draw strength from Dr Ismail’s honesty to realign our efforts towards the original goals of the NEP, namely the eradication of poverty and restructuring of society, weaning the able off its life support system.

tawfikOxford educated Tawfik Ismail

Even concerning the question of the special position of the Malays, which was a core issue in the Independence negotiations, Dr Ismail is quoted in his biography ‘The Reluctant Politician’ (2007) as having written that “the leaders of the Alliance realised the practical necessity of giving the Malays a handicap if they were to compete on equal terms with the other races. The only point of controversy was the duration of the ‘special position’ – should there be a time limit or should it be permanent?

“I made a suggestion which was accepted, that the question be left to the Malays themselves, because I felt that as more and more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this ‘special position’ because in itself this ‘special position’ is a slur on the ability of the Malays and only to be tolerated because it is necessary as a temporary measure to ensure their survival in modern competitive world: a world to which only those in the urban areas had been exposed.”

Expressing concern over racial polarisation in the country, he once asked:

“Why did we fight for Merdeka? So that the different races can be divided? That can’t be the way, right? That can’t be why all these great Malay and UMNO leaders fought for this… Something is wrong…

“I hope the new discussions will start. Why are we building Malaysia? What Malaysia are we building? What kind of symbol is Malaysia supposed to be?”

It is telling that over 40 years after Dr Ismail’s passing, the questions that he had posed then continue to trouble us. It is left for the people today to draw inspiration from Dr Ismail’s clarity of vision about the relations among Malaysia’s diverse communities in order to forge a common future.

His untimely death at 58 has truly made him “the best Prime Minister Malaysia never had”.

Malaysian Couple gets Death Sentence for Murder of a Cambodian Citizen

October 31, 2015

COMMENT: This is a piece of good news coming out of Malaysia. AlthoughDin MericanYcapital punishment is not sanctioned in many countries, I feel that justice must done. No one has the right to kill someone’s daughter or son, brother or sister and anyone else for that matter, and get away with it.

For this Malaysian couple, the time has come for them to face the consequences of their brutal murder of a Cambodian national who came to work for them. Justice is served when the Appeal Court reversed the High Court decision. The convicted couple has, however, been granted the right to appeal to the Federal Court whose decision will be final.

Let this serve as a start to reminder to all Malaysian employers that they have a duty to take good care of their staff and respect their human rights. I congratulate to The Royal Government of Cambodia for its decision to stop the employment of maids and workers by Malaysians.–Din Merican.

Malaysian Couple gets Death Sentence for Murder of a Cambodian Nasional

by Ida Lim

Death sentence

The Court of Appeal today (October 30,  2015) convicted a Malaysian couple for the murder of their Cambodian maid, who they starved to death in 2012.

In its unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal found that there were merits in the prosecution’s bid for the duo to be convicted under the original charge of murder, which carries a mandatory death sentence.

“We set aside the conviction and sentence imposed by the High Court and substitute with an order of conviction and sentence under Section 302 of the Penal Code,” Court of Appeal judge Datuk Seri Zakaria Sam said when reading out a three-man panel’s decision.

This means that Soh Chew Tong and his wife Chin Chui Ling, aged 46 and 43 respectively, will face the death sentence unless today’s decision is overturned.

Chin broke down and sobbed after the decision by the panel chaired by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and also composing of Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi.

When met outside the courtroom, their lawyer Datuk K. Kumaraendran confirmed that his clients have instructed him to file an appeal with the Federal Court.

On May 16, 2013, the Penang High Court convicted the duo of the lesser charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304(a) of the Penal Code, sentencing them to 24 years’ imprisonment each for causing the death of 24-year-old Mey Sichan.

The crime was said to have occurred at the couple’s residence at a shoplot in Bukit Mertajam, Penang between January 1 and April 1, 2012.

The 148 cm-tall Mey was found dead at the shoplot on April 1, 2012 and weighing only 26.1kg.

At the Penang High Court, the Judge reportedly noted that 29 old and new injuries were found on Mey’s body, including lacerations and bruises.

These injuries and the lack of fatty tissue or muscle layer at her body’s abdominal parts and chest led to the forensic pathologist’s conclusion that she had lacked food for several months, the High Court judge said.

Both the lack of food and injuries was said to have worsened her gastric ulcer which led to acute peritonitis and her subsequent death.

Your Weekend Entertainment–Go Country

October 31, 2015

Johnny Cash

Your Weekend Entertainment–Go Country

May Go Country bring back memories of the good ole times. KennyKamsiah and Din in PNP Rodgers starts the session with his Vietnam War tune, Judy Don’t Take Your Love Town. Somewhere along the track you will encounter the voice of the great Slim Whitman singing his popular Secret Love.

Dr. Kamsiah and I hope you will be able to identify the rest of them. American music is about variety from native, Jazz, Blues, Rock N Roll, Soul and more. It reflects the richness of uniquely American culture.

The year 2015 is coming to an end as we welcome November, meaning that December is not far away. We get a feeling call the  Blues.–Dr. Kamsiah in Kuala Lumpur) and Din Merican (in Phnom Penh).

Thanks, Dean for the pleasure of your intellectual company

October 30, 2015

Thanks, Dean for the pleasure of your intellectual company

Dean Johns Some time has lapsed since I last posted Dean Johns’ articles which are featured in Malaysiakini on this blog. I know Dean has been very critical of UMNO-BN regime politics and its leader, Najib Razak. His observations and comments, of course, resonate with me. While he, like the rest of us, may be very blunt and brutal at times in his comments about the regime, there was no doubt in my mind at least that Malaysia has been good and kind to him and his latest piece says it all. He makes me a little homesick.

Malaysia has plenty to share with the world about its history, culture and cuisine, and diverse peoples. What is spoiling everything is its racist politics which is a mixed cocktail of muddled Islamism, racism, corruption, and administrative dysfunction and inept leadership. Dean has written most eloquently about them in his books. This Australian civil society and human rights activist has not abandoned hopes for change in Malaysia. Having invested much intellectual energy here, he is not someone who thinks that Malaysia is basket case, not yet I think.

All I can now say is thank you, Dean for your many contributions to our discourse. I enjoyed reading your writings and look forward hearing from you in Australia. –Din Merican

My thanks to Malaysia

by Dean Johns

This week I thought I’d take a break from my customary attack on the members, cronies and supporters of Malaysia’s ever-ruling UMNO-BN regime, as I’ve been vividly reminded of why I bother boring myself and my readers almost to tears by writing columns criticising these lying, thieving scum year after weary year.

There are times, I have to confess, when this seemingly endless round of apparently fruitless repetition and resultant frustration causes me to lose sight of what has so long inspired me in this project.

Which, very simply, is the fact that I have so much to be thankful to Malaysia for that the very least I can do to express my gratitude and try and diminish my debt is to try and help rid it of the curse of its criminal and incompetent government.

My first recent reminder of the depth of my debt to Malaysia came just days ago in an email from an old friend and former colleague and also employer there asking me for personal recollections for a book that somebody is writing about him.

Then came another even more powerful blast from my Malaysian past in the form of an invitation to a reunion dinner with the man who, along with his wife, first introduced me to Malaysia and so many good friends like the one who is having his biography written, by hiring me to work in KL back in 1985.

If it seems odd, as it must, that I am obviously avoiding mentioning any names here, let me hasten to explain that, assuming or at least hoping that my name is mud with the ruling regime, I am keen to avoid besmirching others’ reputations by identifying them as associates.

But they and others who similarly matter will recognise who they are, and no doubt feel much about them as I do. Suffice, then, to say that my old friend who is the subject of the aforementioned book project is one of the most talented writers and indefatigable workers it has ever been my privilege to know.

And that the man for whom we both worked back in 1985 was and remains not only one of nature’s natural gentlemen, but one of the two best managing directors I was fortunate to work for in my long and chequered career in advertising.

Seeing him again last night at the reunion dinner brought back an absolute flood of three-decades-old happy memories of Malaysia.

Starting with the venue, the Kopitiam Café in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo, whose authentic menu and cheap prices recalled the countless hours I spent eating with friends and colleagues back in the old days at now long-gone stalls like the so-called Hilton Drive-In behind Wisma Stephens and The Drains out on Jalan Ampang.

Then there was the fact that the guest of honour and his wife both, unlike myself, seemed to have hardly aged a week, let alone 30 years, since I first knew them back when they lived in a lovely old house, these days, they told me, converted to a fancy restaurant, on Changkat Kia Peng, not far from the Golden Triangle.

A sadder and deeper reminder

But let me leave such reminiscences for now and proceed to a sadder and even deeper reminder this past week of my abiding indebtedness to Malaysia, what would have been the 91st birthday of my beloved father-in-law, who died just last year.

I will forever be grateful to this lovely man and his wife and family for the whole-hearted welcome he and they gave me when I, not only a gweilo, but an ageing Australian one to boot, met and fell in love with one of his daughters.

This daughter is a citizen of Australia these days, and so is her – our – now 20-year-old daughter, but I am forever grateful to their motherland, Malaysia, for so blessing me with them.

And, as I recall writing in the introduction to one of my books of collected Malaysiakini columns, I am similarly grateful to them and their mother, late father, brothers and sisters for so generously accepting me as a Malaysian-in-law.

An identity that I figure gives me almost as much of a right, indeed duty, as any natural-born Malaysian has to criticise and combat the blighting of a beautiful country by the kleptocrats that have so long robbed and repressed it.

There has been a great deal of conjecture lately about bringing a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for his squandering, misappropriation and alleged embezzlement if not outright theft of countless billions of ringgit in public funds.

But for the sake of the country we love and whose bounty we all have so much cause to be thankful for, it is incumbent on all of us, Malaysians and Malaysians-in-law alike, to express no-confidence in and thus rid the nation of not just Najib, but also every single one of his UMNO-BN accomplices and supporters in crime.

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’.

On Teaching Malaysian History

October 30, 2015

Those interested in reading more about History as a Subject, Philosophy and Discipline ought to read this:

On Teaching Malaysian History

by Azly Rahman

There is a nagging debate emerging: either to teach Social Contract or Malaysian History. I feel that the framers of the debate are getting confused and asking the wrong questions about how to teach History. Here are my thoughts on what actually History teachers need to do:

EH CarrThose who think that we cannot question historical facts, have not learned the philosophy of History nor been introduced to more exciting strategies of creative and critical thinking and also futuristic thinking.

Teachers and university educators who preach ‘official histories’ need to be introduced to the varieties of teaching strategies of teaching History as well as the spectrum of views on what History, from the perspective of history and class and cognitive consciousness, can be.

On Civic lessons and healthy democracy

A skilled teacher/university educator will humbly entertain any question on History. The more we question ‘historical facts’ the sharper our thinking will become. The more we question the origin of things, the better we will play our role as creators of history as well as masters of our own destiny. The more we delve into the most challenging questions in History, the healthier our sense of well-beingness of own democracy will be.

A healthy democracy is one that teaches each and every child what ‘politics’ mean. In our History class, it teaches the meaning of justice and fairness and of the use and abuse of power. It teaches the process and possibilities of democracy and not of democracy as a product created by the elite few that come from dynasties. It teaches them how to become active and reflective citizens.

A good History lesson does not teach children to memorise facts that are suspect, or historical facts that are oxymoronic, or of dead people and dead places and who controls this or that territory, or which kingdom gets overthrown by this or that usurping prince.

It teaches them to question those facts and to put those individuals on trial. It puts Christopher Columbus on trial for murdering thousands of Arawak Indians in the process of being canonised as the ‘founder’ of America.

A good History lesson does not teach the idea that Parameswara, who fled his kingdom in an unsuccessful coup attempt in Palembang, and next killed Temagi in the then Singapura, and next hunted down by the Thais, and next landed under a Malacca tree – is a hero. It teaches children to be vigilant against rulers who are murderers and plunderers and slave-owners.

The story of a glorified Parameswara as a founder is a bad history lesson – how can we still glorify a ‘historical fact’ of an usurper and a murderer as a founder of Malacca? It is like glorifying the history of Manhattan island, New York City – worth 24 dollars in real estate value and became a haven for smugglers, pirates, and bootleggers.

A good history lesson makes history that come alive by allowing children to play the role of makers of their own history. It allows children to put Parameswara on trial for murder and revolt. It teaches children to question the founding of Malacca and the intention of the author/court-propagandist Tun Sri Lanang who wrote it.

A good History class is one that teaches children to revise, debunk and deconstruct history as a tool of mass deception. It challenges students to look at history in radically different ways to make history come alive, subjective, and ever revisionist.

The people’s history of the land

Khoo Kay KimA good History class teaches children the people’s history of the land – of those who died building monuments, istanas, factories, bridges, tunnels, or in wars between the greedy sultans and traditional rulers of the region. These are the unsung heroes of history that our children ought to be taught to honour.

A good History lesson teaches children not other people’s history but of their own – beginning with one’s personal history, next to one’s family, and one’s people – all within the framework of history that does not alienate and marginalise human beings.

The way we still teach History and Social Studies reflects why we Malaysians cannot yet evolve from the consciousness of ‘waiting for the messiahs/saviors/matrieya/al-Mahdi/ Perdana Menteri’ to the consciousness of understanding the Self as the true ruler of the Kingdom within.

Already our land is littered with names after names of individuals who wield dynastic power since modern time immemorial – names of those deserving or not. These names are inscribed on road signs, billboards, lorongs in kampongs, landmark buildings, corporate towers, stadiums, schools, higher education institutions, and deep in the consciousness of the people through media control of the human mind.

We become colonised by these names, signs, and symbols. The mind becomes paralysed being colonised by these concepts, signs, and symbolism that govern the daily economic, social, and political existence of the people that are being made objects of other people’s history.

Let us teach our children that they too can become the next Prime Minister. Teach our teachers how to creatively teach Civics and History and to acquire the art and science of Revisionist Civics, Counter-factual History, and Radical and Transformational Leadership.

Our political conversations will then be more meaningful and our road to democracy will be more enjoyable.

Howard Zinn

“Man makes history,” said the great historian E.H. Carr. It is the “people’s history” as American historian Howard Zinn would say, that ought to be honoured.

‘Questioning History’

History is that field of study/enterprise so powerful a mental glue that can integrate or disintegrate a nation. It becomes crucial what perspective of history we use in crafting its ancillary called Citizenship Studies/Kenegaraan. We must begin to reconceptualise the way we approach teaching it.

Instead of asking the question whether to teach Social Contract or Malaysian History, it is best to consider the following questions we may begin to ask ourselves concerning history:

Whose history is of most supreme?

What kind of history is most meaningful to the individual?

Who writes history?

From what point of view is history written?

When do history textbooks get revised?

How does history contribute to lethal ethnocentrism?

Under what circumstances do historians lie?

Is there such a thing as ‘historical facts’ when historical accounts themselves are biases reconstructed based on selective memory and written by those who own the pen?

Who gets marginalised in the process of historicising?

When will ‘history’ become ‘her-story’?

What images of women, immigrants, minorities, natives are presented in history textbooks?

In a multiracial and pluralistic society, how is a national history textbook written?

Must history continue to glorify individuals, despots, autocrats, dictators, symbols of slavery and oppression, buildings, etc?

How do we teach children to write their own histories so that they may become makers of history instead of being fed with other people’s history?

How do we make history lessons come alive?

These are my thoughts and my questions on how to teach History. Let us even re-evaluate the lies our History teachers told us and continue to tell us.

DR AZLY RAHMAN grew up in Johor Baru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in the fields of Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication.