Celebrating Ethnic Diversity–Congratulations Jakarta Post and Republik Indonesia


February 10, 2016

Celebrating Ethnic Diversity–Congratulations Jakarta Post and Republik Indonesia

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

 

It has been 13 years since democracy icon and late former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid restored to Chinese-Indonesians the right to openly express their ethnic identity, including the ancient tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year.

It was Gus Dur who lifted the New Order ban on anything related to Chinese identity in the aftermath of the September 1965 coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party. Indonesia severed ties with China after the aborted coup, but the two normalised relations in 1990, although discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians remained.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year, therefore, has always been a celebration of ethnic diversity in Indonesia, which was originally conceived as a pluralist nation. It is not simply about New Year feasting or the joy of giving and receiving angpao (gifts of cash in red envelopes) and basket cakes, but also the joy of sharing happiness with the other ethnicities that form Indonesia.

More than just New Year-themed entertainment with dragon and lion dances and red lanterns that decorate public spaces and shopping malls, the celebrations to mark the turn of the Chinese calendar underline Indonesia’s acceptance that cultural differences enrich rather than divide the nation.

After years of persecution and restrictions, Chinese-Indonesians now stand equal with other citizens, whose freedom of expression and fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution.

The case of Jakarta is also unique, in which the governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, belongs to the Chinese-Indonesian minority. Although his ascent to the gubernatorial post was thanks to former governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s catapult to the presidential post, Ahok has started to win the faith of many Jakartans. The real test of diversity for Jakarta looks to come in 2017 should Ahok seek another term of office.

Many do not like him, but very few of them dislike him for his ethnic or his religious backgrounds. His critics oppose his policies, which they deem as failing to help all the people, but the same people are quick to jump to his defence against intolerant groups, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who have attacked him simply for his ethnicity and religion.

Ahok himself has never been shy about his ethnic identity. He invites the public to call him Ahok, a Chinese “peranakan” pet name from his father. And many people also call him Pak Ahok with respect, not in some derogatory manner as some did in the past toward Chinese Indonesians.

Sixteen years of cultural recognition is probably not a very long time. Many Chinese Indonesians still remember the dark past, when they had to hide their ethnic identity and when their phenotypical features gave them away and increased the risk of being harassed on the streets.

But a lot of progress has been achieved. Not only do Chinese-Indonesians get to celebrate it publicly, but they can also share the happiness with all their fellow citizens.

Happy Chinese New Year, and may you be blessed with strength to outsmart the Fire Monkey. And may diversity turn Jakarta into a joyful, colourful and vibrant city for all to live in. — Jakarta Post

Najib Razak: Malaysian Liars in Officialdom change their stories


February 10, 2016

Najib Razak:  Malaysian Liars in Officialdom change their stories

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/story-changing-malaysia-pm-embarrassing-accounts/

What Obama will not do for his country–He  even shakes hands with Malaysia’s No.1 Crook

By now, the mysterious US$681 million (RMB2.83 billion at current exchange rates) that showed up in the personal AmBank account of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2013 has been said to come from so many different sources and to be used for so many different purposes that the government can’t keep track.

The source of the money is just one of a series of questions dogging Najib, who has fought to stay in power by firing or neutralizing anybody who might get in his way, including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and a long string of others.

To reports that he is being investigated in Singapore, New York, Switzerland and France, Najib has blamed unnamed dark forces or political enemies. He has hinted that the Chinese are involved in a plot to take over the country from ethnic Malays. He has paid vast amounts of money, created make-work jobs or allowed rent-seeking from top UMNO cadres through dodgy contracts to keep himself in power. In his latest move, last week he ousted Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of the onetime Prime Minister, from power in Kedah after a bruising fight that sources in the northern part of the country said was won by payments to turn around the votes of state assembly members backing Mukhriz.

When the US$681 million was first made public in July 2015, Najib said it came from an unnamed Middle Eastern source whom he declined to identify and denied that it was for his personal use. He refused to go beyond that.

Then officials said the money had come from a Saudi source and that it was to be spent in the 2013 election to ward off Islamic fundamentalists, although there were none – a violation of Malaysian constitutional law, which bars donations from foreign sources from being used for political purposes – and that US$620 million had been returned to the donor.

On January 26, the Attorney General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, a longtime United Malays National Organization stooge, held a hasty press conference “clearing” Najib of any wrongdoing in the affair while at that time refusing to name the source. Then he told the Malaysian daily Sin Chew the money had come from a member of the Saudi royal family “out of a belief in [Najib] and his leadership on key issues.”

But on February 5, the New York Times reported the Saudi Foreign Minister as saying the money hadn’t come from the Saudi Royal Family, but that he believed it had come from a businessman who was involved in a business deal with Najib – although he offered no further details. In any event, in the intervening three years, there has been no evidence that Najib was involved in a business deal that would require that much money.

In fact, the only thing that is clear about the donation is that nobody knows where it came from or what it was to be used for. There has been no documentation produced to show the provenance of the money. Apandi didn’t produce a paper trail when he cleared Najib on January 26.

According to a July report by the website Sarawak Report, edited by Clare Rewcastle Brown from the UK, the money actually was sent to Malaysia from a British Virgin Islands shell company into the Singapore account of a private Swiss bank and from there into Najib’s personal account at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur. It seems unlikely that either a Saudi prince or a businessman would choose to channel that much money through a shell company from the BVI for legitimate business purposes, or to seek to ward off Islamists in a moderate Muslim country that has no problems with fundamentalists.

A few months after the 2013 election, the US$620 million was returned to the same account. Some reports have said the money has been frozen by the Singaporeans. The Singaporeans announced last week that they were investigating several Malaysian accounts although they didn’t name who the accounts belonged to. Mahathir Mohamad, who has become the most potent adversary against a man who was once his protégé, has demanded an answer from the Singaporean on whether they froze the money or not.

Story Keeps Changing on Malaysian PM’s Embarrassing Accounts

Apandi Ali–The Destroyer of The Rule of Law

The main informant for newspaper and television reports giving the Saudis as the source of the money appears to be a minor Saudi prince named Turki bin Abdullah, the late King Abdullah’s seventh son, who is known to have received US$70 million from a firm connected to 1Malaysia Development Bd., the troubled state-backed investment fund.

Turki has been linked to the renegade Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, as he is known, who collaborated with Najib in setting up 1MDB in 2009. The Swiss government has charged that 1MDB has been looted of US$4 billion, although it didn’t name Najib. Jho Low is currently keeping a low profile, believed to be living in Taiwan. The huge yacht he owns, the 91.5-meter Equanimity, is sitting at a dock in New Zealand, apparently for servicing.

In any case, the growing confusion over the explanations is raising further doubts in Malaysia and portraying a government in disarray, to the point where Apandi has threatened journalists with life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane under proposed amendments to the Official Secrets Act for being a party to leaking state secrets. Both Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists said they are “appalled” by Apandi’s statement.

In the past, “state secrets” have largely been anything the government says is a secret including criminal breach of trust and abuse of power. In addition, Khalid Abu Bakar, the Inspector-General of Police aka Twitter King, is warning the public not to comment on the 2006 murder of the Mongolian beauty and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in the wake of reports in France that two top officials connected to the 1996 purchase by the Malaysian Ministry of Defense when Najib was Defense Minister, prior to becoming Prime Minister of French submarines have been charged with bribing Najib.

The purchase earned Najib €114 million (US$127.1 million at current exchange rates) in kickbacks that allegedly were transferred to the United Malays National Organization. Another €36 million, said to be for the personal use of Najib and his close friend Abdul Razak Baginda, was routed to a mysterious company in Hong Kong called Terasasi Hong Kong Ltd., which is nothing more than a name on a wall at a Wan Chai accounting firm’s office.

Muslim Politics is not subsuming Malaysian politics


February 8, 2016

Muslim Politics is not subsuming Malaysian politics

PutraMosque-440

Power plays for notions of “Malayness”, and not Islam, continue to shape the nation’s politics, argues Manjit Bhatia.

I become very cynical whenever the awfully clichéd word “discourse” is thrown up as if it is the only term that can effectively describe political, economic or any other social science narrative. And so it turns out for Ooi Kok-Hin in his essay, The rise and rise of Muslim politics (in Malaysia), to which he lends repute to Bayesian probability.

Ooi begins with a bold claim — the politicisation of Islam in Malaysia has gained “momentum and influence” over the last 30 years. He also asserts that “society and the state” are becoming “increasingly Islamised” and to that extent “there is likely to be an increase in political Islam.”

If I were to add a third teaspoon of sugar to the one already in my Nescafe Blend 43 (usually black), my coffee definitely would be sweeter. I can measure that. But how does one measure an “increase in political Islam”?

At any rate, the sugar becomes the centre of how my coffee tastes, as much as would Ooi’s “Muslim-centered politics will play an increasingly important part in Malaysian politics, and the discourse in the public sphere will adopt the language of political Islam.”

Thus, Ooi claims, Malaysia’s future rests upon the “type of Islam practiced in society,” which is, he argues, “most likely to be the dominant, state-sanctioned political Islam that emerged victorious in its battle for supremacy over other types of political Islam”. When was it not state-sanctioned? Also, one’s unsure what Ooi means by “society”. It would be sacrilegious of him to suggest that Chinese, Indians (Sikhs included) and Christians in Malaysia practice Islam. It would be factually incorrect, too.

As if Ooi has not already created a few problems in his opening two paragraphs, he starts to open a third can of worms. After alluding to rival forms of Islamism, he fails to mention which are competing for Malaysia’s political centre. An easy guess: Sunni versus Shi’ite.

But then, curiously, in the rest of his essay, Ooi seems disinterested in critically extending on his thesis of competing political Islamism. He redacts what he promised to discuss; instead, he revisits Malaysia’s undying obsession with its characteristic politico-ideological trait – race/racism wrought, of course, by religion; Islam, in this case. Three-quarters through, Ooi offers the clincher: “Overall,” he says, “religion is superseding race and royalty.”I don’t know how he arrives at this summation.

Notwithstanding his disjointed essay, and quite apart from his crude positivism, Ooi’s many problems cannot be covered in a short space. Nevertheless, I tender two counter-arguments. One, Ooi’s assertions are undermined because he presents an erroneous reading of his own country’s politics, historical and contemporary. Second, while UMNO has been sidling up to greater Islamisation, it’s only in name and for desperately opportunistic politico-ideological reasons (apropos Ooi’s claim that “the lack of substantive ideological debate is telling”).

Religion — as if only one is practiced in Malaysia — is not superseding race and royalty. It never will. Nor will Islam, whatever its variant. To be fair, Ooi is correct that the UMNO-dominated one-party Malay state has taken a great deal of shine to Wahabist Islamism. But the supplanting of race and royalty by religion is not being manifested for the positivist (survey-based) reason Ooi posits: that today Malay identity with Islam displaces Malay racial identity.

It would be wrong to construe this exchange as a turn towards Islamic fundamentalism or Islamic conservatism, for two reasons.

One, UMNO and its Wahhabist Islamism have actively and unapologetically denigrated Shi’ite Islam and persecuted its followers. This can be better understood in the context of the growing role of Saudi Arabia and its financing of Wahhabism as a bulwark against the spreading influence of Shi’ite Iran, theologically and geo-strategically. Neither afoot here is a perverse form of Huntingtonian clash of civilisations nor a (prophet) Muhammadian theological utopianism. This leads to the second point.

In no essential or substantive way is this vilification different to Malay-Muslim UMNO maligning Christianity and Christians and openly lauding its vile bigotry towards Judaism and Jews at every political opportunistic moment. And here’s one contradiction that flies in the face of Saudi influence-peddling — Riyadh’s “affinity” to Tel Aviv just as Iran steps up to carve out a greater sphere of influence from the Middle East and northern Africa to Southeast Asia.

When are the moments in Malaysia that the UMNO state is seen to peddle Wahhabist Islamism (these days in association with once arch enemy Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS)? These moments often relate to a crisis within the UMNO political movement, a party that is far from unified but riven by warring factions among its feudal-capitalist class. And when the moment is related not to the specificity of Islam’s place in Malaysia’s politics, which via its bastardised constitution, is incontestable, but driven principally by Malay support for UMNO, especially when it may seem to be rescinding.

 

And so residing at the centre of this schism is the increasingly warped, and thus desperate and dangerous, sense of Malay nationalism. Ooi would have done better if he had also stuck to an analysis of the notion of Bangsa Malaysia, the literal translation of which is the ‘Malaysian race’ or the ‘Malaysian community’. In other words, citizenship, but in an agency sense, not a literal one. But both Malay nationalism and Bangsa Malaysia are notions fraught with intractable problems — problems the UMNO state wants to keep as intractable as possible for as long as possible to ensure regime survival.

In fact, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia is anathema to the continued existence of the UMNO Malay one-party state in its present form. Maintaining the subservience, or ‘loyalty’, of the Malay population, most of whom are constitutionally given as Muslims anyway, is far more critical to the ruling UMNO Malay political elite and their dominant capitalist class for the reproduction of ersatz capitalist relations and real capitalist accumulation via manipulation by the state.

It is unfortunate that Ooi does not see that this politico-capitalist order has not changed since at least 1957. And if anything, it has intensified over the last four-plus decades. It has intensified because more and more urban, educated Malays, brought up also on a pluralist fodder of technological sophistication, are no longer aping the sycophancy of their elders by backing only and always UMNO. Today they have alternatives, such as the Malay-based, seemingly progressive, opposition parties in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Amanah (and PAS to a diminishing extent).

Even the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) offers Malays political alternatives in airing their grievances against the UMNO Malay one-party state that has singularly failed in creating upwardly mobile job opportunities and job security while lessening their living standards. Ooi claims “race and racial politics are in decline but are given a lifeline when injected with religion.” This used to be the case, but it’s not a viable one today. The lure of materialism and capitalism for Malays is irresistible, especially when they see the Malay political elite and the capitalist classes living the high life of vulgar materialism (not to be seen in a coarsely erroneous Marxian interpretation).

The urban, educated Malays do subscribe to an Islam but whose variant is the gentler, kinder, non-violent, non hate-mongering toward non-Malays/non-Muslims kind — the sort Irshad Manji notes as more ‘liberal’-informed in its outlook. Conversely, the most likely candidates to be ideologically indoctrinated by Wahabist political Islam are those who are schooled in madrassas, where the sermons are anything but the liberal (reformist) Islam variety. These are the Malays, the Muslims, who are more likely to back and join terrorist organisations like ISIS, and, interestingly, the UMNO state is ‘repudiating’ them. Somehow Ooi missed all these nuances.

And if the urban, educated Malays are affected by the putridity of Najib’s voodoo economics, they do not, on evidence, automatically seek refuge in Islam. Rather, they point fingers at the UMNO regime for failing them despite their inheritance of their Malay “special rights”, not Muslim or Islamic special rights. They do not, as opposed to Ooi, engage in the so-called discourse or language of political Islam. Indeed, they are more likely than not to engage in opposition or protest rallies in seeking equality and justice.

These young Malay graduates may seem slow in uptake, but it does not mean they’re taking up the cudgels of Wahhabist Islamism. And just because Malaysia’s monarchs have been silenced by constitutional orders ordained by the former premier-dictator Mahathir Mohamad, it does not mean that religion has superseded their position in Malay life, any more than religion has transplanted the Malay race. How can it when race and religion remain, as yesteryear, strongly synonymous with “Malayness” today?

Ooi mistakes the rise of Muslim politics for the power-play around Malayness or the “Malay way,” as Diane Mauzy aptly coined it 30 years ago. All of this is still to play for, and even harder to play for, by the increasingly desperate, crisis-prone and deeply scandalous UMNO-Malay one-party state primarily for its material survival. The sooner we understand this, the less likely we are to exaggerate claims that Malaysian politics is being subsumed by Muslim politics.

By any stretch of the imagination, in 2016 it’s still the old order in Malaysia — only that some of the ground rules are fast changing, though not necessarily in UMNO’s favor, it would appear.

Manjit Bhatia is an Australian academic, journalist, writer, and research director of AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk analysis consultancy. He specialises in international economics and politics, with a focus on Asia

 

A-G Apandi is an overzealous heck and should be impeached


February 7, 2016

The reluctant A-G Apandi is an overzealous heck and should be impeached

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Worst Attorney-General is unable to do what is right. Yet he claims to serve our King. Actually, he is just Najib’s apologist and henchman. He deserves to go down with our most corrupt Prime Minister. Our Parliament must move to impeach him.

I am also someone whose ancestors came from India-a mamak.But  I do not have the problem of wanting to be more Malay than the Malay. Anyway, who is a Malay? He is actually a constitutional construct. Even Ridhuan Tee Abdullah is Malay when he is a Malaysian Chinese. What is great about being a Malay who depends on UMNO’s handouts?  Only mamaks with tons of hang-ups like him, Chief Secretary Hamsa Ali, and Secretary-General to the Malaysian Treasury Irwan Sirega are prepared to sell themselves to the Malaysian political demon for status and name recognition.–Din Merican

source: http://www.malaysiakini.com

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali dismissed his predecessor Abu Talib Othman’s opinion that he did not have authority to close the RM2.6 billion case, adding that all he did was based on what he had learnt from the former A-G.

“I am just following my master’s footstep. Now he said I couldn’t do that. I am confused.I hope he can come to see me so that I can offer my explanation,” he was quoted as saying by Sin Chew Daily in an exclusive interview.

Last week, Abu Talib slammed Apandi alleging that the AG had no authority to order the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close its investigations into the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal accounts.

“Under Article 145 (3) of the Federal constitution, the A-G has power only to institute, conduct and discontinue any (criminal) proceedings, but has no authority to order any investigation agency to close its investigation papers.

“This is a case of public importance that has attracted worldwide attention. The AG must help the MACC to collect evidence as the source of the fund is outside Malaysia,” said Abu Talib.

Didn’t request Swiss AG to close 1MDB case

In a related matter, Apandi also insisted that he never requested his Swiss counterpart to close the European nation’s own investigations into 1MDB during a meeting last September.

“I never said that… That’s a lie. I never mention any 1MDB cases. It was a courtesy call… If the Swiss needs any help, I will provide…The meeting was about mutual legal assistance. We could help at any time, that’s it.”

Apandi said the meeting between him and Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber was also attended by Deputy Solicitor-General Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah and an officer from Lauber’s office.

He said the office of the Swiss Attorney-General had requested the help of the AG’s Chambers through the Foreign Ministry, though the official request they filed only reached him on February 4.

However, Apandi said he has yet to read the Swiss document.The A-G’s Chambers, he added, will extend its help to the Swiss under the mutual legal assistance protocols, though he refused to disclose details as it is “top secret”.

Last week, Reuters reported that a Malaysian official strongly urged Lauber to drop his 1MDB-related investigation during a meeting last September.Prior to Apandi’s decision to close the cases against Najib, Lauber through his office had reportedly made a request to Malaysia for assistance in his country’s 1MDB probe into possible violations of Swiss laws related to bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

Lauber also reportedly said that Najib was not a suspect in the Swiss probe.Apandi subsequently said he would take all possible steps to assist Swiss authorities but clarified that the investigations into the RM2.6 billion donation made to Najib were entirely separate from those into 1MDB.

Gani only worked two days a week

Apandi also said that his appointment to the nation’s top legal office is valid and constitutional.

He said the health problems afflicting his immediate predecessor, Abdul Gani Patail, is an open secret. Abdul Gani, he added, needs to have dialysis three days a week, which rendered the former A-G capable of working only two days each week, minus the weekend.

In contrast, Apandi said he has been working tirelessly since taking over from Abdul Gani.”You see, with the workload of the A-G, I could not take leave after I assume office. I work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I even have to work from home (after office hours),” he said, adding he has to maintain communications with his officers via email at all times.For example, he said, he has to work until one in the morning if a case is urgent.

Sacrificed wealth to join public service

Apandi also said he made “financial sacrifices” when he left his private legal practice to join the public service. Nevertheless, he said he was honoured to serve the country and the Agong.”I never ask for this job (AG). I was offered to be made A-G.”

Previously, Apandi said he could earn RM15,000 a case when he was in private practice, excluding the additional legal consultantation fees.”At that time a judicial commissioner could earn a basic salary of RM17,000. For me, that is nothing. Add on other allowances, it would only reach no more than RM20,000.”

He said he has invested money earned from his private legal practice into property, including Wisma Apandi which was build in his hometown of Kota Bahru.

The building, he said, has given him good rental income. Apandi was appointed A-G after his predecessor Abdul Gani was let go purportedly due to “health problems” last July, which coincided with a cabinet reshuffle which saw the deputy prime minister, who had been vocal on the 1MDB scandal, removed.

In late January, he cleared Najib from criminal wrongdoings in the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million SRC International cases.

Malaysia: The Extent to which Fawning Officials Go to Please The Boss


February 5, 2018

Malaysia: The Extent to which Fawning Officials Go to Please The Boss

by Anisah Shukry

An outpouring of solidarity for dissident artist Fahmi Reza in the form of posters shared online, after a warning from Malaysian police over his caricatures of the prime minister. – Fahmi Reza Twitter pic, February 5, 2016.

Images of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak dolled up in chalk-white makeup, with a bright red gash for a smile and neon green (or occasionally lush orange) hair, greet visitors to the Facebook community page called Grupa.

It is an acronym for “Grafik Rebel Untuk Protes & Aktivisme”, or “Rebel Graphics for Protests and Activism”, which brought together several graphic designers and digital artists to design posters for last year’s Bersih protest in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, they have set their sights on a new project: flooding the social media with pictures of a clown-faced Najib – sometimes grinning, sometimes sad, and sometimes with a rose dangling from between his lips – along with the hashtag #KitaSemuaPenghasut (we are all seditious).

In Malaysia, where an award-winning cartoonist was censured for drawing satirical comics on the Prime Minister and his wife, Grupa’s antics are more than just a colourful dig at Najib.

They told The Malaysian Insider they were risking arrest to stand up for fellow graphic artist Fahmi Reza, who posted the first clown caricature of Najib on his own Twitter on January 31, and promptly attracted police attention.

In Fahmi’s debut clown poster of Najib, he drew a fang-like smile on the Prime Minister’s face and sinister-looking eyebrows, with the caption: “In 2015, the Sedition Act was used 91 times. Tapi dalam negara yang penuh dengan korupsi, kita semua penghasut (but in a country that is full of corruption, we are all seditious).”

It was in response to the Attorney-General’s decision to close investigations into the RM2.6 billion found in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Not impressed, the newly-set up Twitter account for the Police’s Cyber Investigation Response Centre (@OfficialPcirc) warned him that he was being watched.

“My first reaction was shock,” Fahmi told The Malaysian Insider as he recalled receiving the tweet.

“I didn’t know the existence of that police cyber unit, PCIRC, until they tweeted me that warning.”

But that feeling quickly turned to outrage when he read its tweet, especially the words “Gunakan dgn berhemah&berlandaskan undang2” (use properly and in accordance with the law).

Big Brother is watching

Defiant, Fahmi immediately wrote a post on Facebook in Malay, which translates to, “In a country that uses laws to protect the corrupt and oppress those brave enough to speak out, it is time we abandon all niceties when fighting the corrupt rulers”.

He also posted another satirical artwork on Twitter, using the police’s words against them in the caption, along with the hashtag #BigBrotherIsWatchingYou, an ode to George Orwell’s 1984.

The activist, who recalled his arrest 12 years ago for drawing a poster on police brutality, didn’t expect the Internet’s graphic artist community to rise up with him in solidarity this time around.

The #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement was a “new wave graphic rebellion against the Old Order”, he said, and the response has been overwhelming.

“It was beyond my expectations. It proved to me that I was not alone. There were others who share my outrage.In the past, graphic designers have largely kept themselves out of the limelight when it came to politics and activism. Grupa is a breath of fresh air,” said Fahmi.

On Grupa’s Facebook, fresh caricatures of Najib are posted every hour, and social media users are lapping it up.”Make a shirt of it, I’d buy it,” urged Facebook user Apisz Fumi in the comments section.

“That is one frightening image,” observed Richard Lee, to a digitally edited picture of Najib baring rotten, bleeding teeth and a cheerfully bright red clown nose.

Grupa said the movement came about when they decided to produce clown-faced posters of Najib to show solidarity with a fellow graphic artist and disgust at the ruling class for “constantly abusing the law”.

“We started releasing several posters on our Facebook page and before we knew it, we even had the public submitting their own versions of Clown Najib to us. To date, we have released 46 posters depicting Najib as a clown,” the group said, adding that they received dozens of paintings from “the citizenry” a day through email.

But the group, as well as Fahmi, risk running afoul of the law, more specifically Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

A conviction could land the artists a fine of up to RM50,000, a year’s jail, or both.And as if to drive this point home, @OfficialPcirc’s only tweet since issuing the warning to Fahmi comprised an image breaking down that same law.

But the prospect of having the police cyber unit clamp down on them doesn’t seem to perturb Grupa, even though they risk courting more trouble than Fahmi, given the flood of caricatures on their page.

They said they were frightened of just one thing: being trampled over should they not voice out.

“So far, no authorities have contacted us, but that may change. We are looking forward to it,” they added.

Global attention

The BBC report on Fahmi Reza and the solidarity shown to him by fellow graphic artists. – BBC pic, February 5, 2016.

For the time being, the group plans to continue sharing clown images of the Prime Minister as long as it believes citizens are being repressed and denied their right to free speech and freedom of expression.

Besides receiving Facebook likes and shares, they gained international publicity with a BBC report on them titled “PM left red nosed by censorship protest”.

Grupa said they were left “humbled and surprised” by the attention.

“We didn’t expect it to go big…Actually we did lah, I mean, you mess with freedom of expression this is what you get lah, blowback,” they quipped.

Despite this, the group is strict about maintaining anonymity. “We are an anonymous collective group of graphic designers and digital artists who work as a team devoid of a formal hierarchy. There is no one in charge as we feel that our artwork should do the talking for us.You can say that our posters are in charge.”

Fahmi said he was ecstatic by the Malaysian graphic design community’s strong spirit of resistance.”It shows that they can ban a poster, but they can’t ban the idea behind the poster. Because ideas are bulletproof.”

And he is confident Malaysia’s #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement will herald a change in society.

“The outpouring of solidarity posters from graphic artists with their own versions of a clown-faced Najib despite the police warning against it was a clear act of defiance and represents a shift in the way ordinary people react to police intimidation.

“When people are emboldened to defy and stand up against injustice, it chips away at the power structure that keeps people docile.”

Clearly emboldened by the movement, Fahmi shared the BBC report on his Twitter yesterday, with the caption, “#KitaSemuaPenghasut has spread. The rebellion has begun.”

He told The Malaysian Insider: “That BBC took interest in the story shows how preposterous it is to consider a satirical graphic featuring the Prime Minister to be a threat.”

Kassim Ahmad: MAN–What is MAN?


February 6, 2016

Kassim Ahmad: MAN–What is MAN?

What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how exspress and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me – no, nor woman neither.                                                                                                    HAMLET,  Shakespeare.

Recently I promised my readers to write on Man. In the Bible, God said that He created man in His own image. In the Quran, man is His vicegerent on Earth (Arabic: khalifah). The meaning is essentially the same: ruler. Man is the ruler and the re-maker of the Universe. That has, of course been done. Man has created cities and civilizations, from ancient Babylon and Egypt, through ancient Greece, and Rome, through modern Arabian monotheism, and lastly through modern Europe and its extension in the United States of America.

In a beautiful allegory in the second chapter of the Quran, the angels protested against the creation of Man, saying that Man is a shedder of blood and spreader of corruption in the world. God simply said that He knew better. (See Quran, 2: 30)

The angels were partially right. Man did shed blood in the two World Wars. (God forbid that there will be a third!). After the Second World War, there was a period called “Cold War” when a strategic balance was struck between the American-led so-called Democratic block and the Soviet-led Eastern block. In the meanwhile, Man’s knowledge advance, slowly at first, then by leaps and bounce, and we are now at the threshold of colonizing outer space. In two generations we shall indeed be living in outer space!

So it does seem that God’s optimism about Man has been amply demonstrated. If I am not mistaken, more miracles are coming. Anti-aging, for one. We shall soon be forever young!

Public intellectual Kassim Ahmad or  Village Preacher Hadi Awang: Pak Kassim is my Choice by a Mile–Din Merican

There is no doubt that man cannot escape reaping the harvest of what he had sowed. He will be punished to the extent of his criminality, i.e. disobedience to his own Maker.  Unless my reading of the Quran is at fault, this means man will punish his own wrong-doing. What incredible beauty!

 In the end, man will have punished himself enough, and he will be freed from his own Hell, and enter Paradise. Such is God’s incredible power and wisdom. No wonder we are asked always to remember God’s graciousness and mercy.– www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com