Malaysia’s Human Rights Record– 2016 is Annus Horribilis


December 10, 2016

Malaysia’s Human Rights Record– 2016 is Annus Horribilis

By Dr. Kua Kia Soong@ http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

It was disingenuous of the government to make such an issue over Malaysian recipients of foreign funds when 2016 was a year that unraveled the fact that the Najib was the biggest single receiver of foreign funds in Malaysian history – all RM2.6 billion in his personal bank account. He himself revealed that this humongous sum was from the Saudi royal family. Now, if we were to compare the respective recipients of the Saudi Royal family’s donations and those of Soros’s, I think there is no comparison.–Dr. Kua Kia Soong

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2016 is certainly one of the worst years for human rights in Malaysia with detention without trial used against human rights defenders, bringing back memories of Operation Lalang unleashed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1987. Malaysia’s internationally celebrated cartoonist was arrested and charged, the online press Malaysiakini harassed yet again, neo-fascists intimidating peaceful Bersih 5 participants and getting away with impunity… all of these abominations happened while the country was embroiled in one of the biggest financial scandals involving the national sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

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Malaysia’s Person of the Year–BERSIH’s Maria Chin Abdullah

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The Runners-Up– Zunar

While the Police have been skillful at arresting and detaining Malaysians such as Maria Chin, Zunar and others, they have proven ineffectual at apprehending human traffickers, industrial polluters of water sources and the person or persons who have issued death threats against Maria. Have we seen any convictions against these criminals? Can we therefore count on our police force to apprehend international terrorists? And by letting neo-fascists get away with their bullying behaviour with impunity, the police run the risk of losing all credibility as keepers of law and order.

The charade over foreign funding

In an attempt to discredit the BERSIH 5 rally, the Malaysian government has once again raised the spectre of foreign funding of Malaysian NGOs by naming George Soros’s Open Society Foundations in particular. The government has conveniently omitted to mention Soros’s recent cordial interactions with both the former premier Mahathir and present Prime Minister Najib Razak.

It was disingenuous of the government to make such an issue over Malaysian recipients of foreign funds when 2016 was a year that unraveled the fact that the Najib was the biggest single receiver of foreign funds in Malaysian history – all RM2.6 billion in his personal bank account. He himself revealed that this humongous sum was from the Saudi royal family. Now, if we were to compare the respective recipients of the Saudi royal family’s donations and those of Soros’s, I think there is no comparison.

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Malaysia’s Crooks of 2016–Malaysia’s Prime Minister and his Boss

For example, from the recent Wikileaks, we discover that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton sent an email to her campaign chairman John Podesta in 2014, who was then-counsellor to President Barack Obama in which it was intimated that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were both giving financial and logistical support to the Islamic State and other extremist Sunni groups. Saudi Arabia had also been bombing Yemen rebels for more than a year now creating yet another humanitarian crisis there.

On the other hand, human rights NGOs such as Suaram are transparent in our work as we have to be especially when we are dealing with a vindictive government. We became even more open when the government ordered at least six agencies to investigate our accounts and files in 2012 and 2013. The vain attempt to demonise us in concert with mainstream media ended up with the NST having to make the “mother of all editorial apologies” to us after we sued them. And still the powers that be have persisted in playing the same old charade against Maria Chin and BERSIH in 2016. How can we achieve national transformation when we waste national resources in such pointless exercises? The Police, Special branch and other government agencies should be deployed in more productive operation

Suaram’s publications

And where do Suaram’s funds go? More tall stories abound, such as one blogger surmised: “There are clear reasons why Suaram receives funding; it publishes books and political articles written by its founder, Kua Kia Soong, that are highly critical of the Malaysian government and are capable of arousing passions in ethnic minorities who feel marginalised through arguing in favour of regime change.” (Nile Bowie, “Understanding US Funding to Malaysian Civil Society” April 5, 2013)

That is exactly “spreading false news”. For the benefit of those who prefer to seek the truth, Suaram’s publications, apart from our Human Rights reports, have always been my personal contribution to Suaram all these years. I personally bear the costs of producing all these Suaram publications. My books have been sustained by their retail sales which go on to sustain the next publication.

We certainly do not need any funding for publications other than our annual human rights reports. Suaram’s funding goes towards nurturing a small staff of committed activists who document and monitor human rights issues; help various victims of detentions and police abuse and conduct human rights training and campaigns. After their exhaustive investigation of Suaram in 2012 and 2013, the Malaysian government is probably the best authority on Suaram’s finances and spending and can vouch for our squeaky clean record.

Extremely bad governance

2016 was a year of extremely bad governance with the US Department of Justice naming those who abused Malaysia’s national sovereign fund 1MDB although for some strange reason, it stopped short of naming the Malaysian Official #1.

The Opposition-run state governments have not been examples of good governance either:

The Kelantan government continues to allow logging on Orang Asli land and has been suppressing the blockades set up by the besieged “Original People” of Malaysia. The Forestry Department and the police have taken the side of the loggers instead of that of the oppressed indigenous people.

The Selangor government allows highways that cut through state park forests and seems to be helpless against factories situated dangerously close to our valuable water sources.

In Penang, the Chief Minister still refuses to resign after being charged with corruption. This sets a bad precedent for any other office bearer in government, including MO#1, should he be charged for corruption.

Getting away with impunity

Finally, the spectacle of Mahathir joining the opposition raises a disturbing question surrounding his culpability in so many scandals that have been documented by the Leader of the Opposition from 1981 to 2003. Does he now get away with impunity for all his transgressions against accountability and loss of national coffers simply because he has joined the opposition coalition?

This “Born Again” rule seems to apply even to the prime minister who assaulted the Malaysian judiciary so badly we have hardly recovered thirty years afterwards. He has not only been cleansed and forgiven; some opposition leaders are even calling for him to lead the opposition against the current regime. So, it looks more than likely that Pakatan Harapan leaders will allow the “born again democrat” to get away with impunity for all the financial scandals that cost the rakyat so many billions of ringgit during the 80s and 90s.

For human rights defenders who demand social justice, democracy and human rights, there is no place for impunity. Impunity means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines”. The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on February 8, 2005 states that: “Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”

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This principle applies to past transgressors as much as it does to present leaders who flout good governance for if Pakatan Harapan can let Mahathir get away with impunity, they will have to do the same for MO#1 when he decides to step down from office.

Dr Kua Kia Soong is the advisor of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

 

The Conspiracy to save Najib


December 8, 2016

The Conspiracy to Save Najib

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The Conspiracy to Save Najib

In an extraordinary twist, a new Malaysian website has conflated George Soros, Tony Blair, former US Vice President Al Gore, the “Clinton team,” the aristocratic Rothschild family,  Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy chief Andrew McCabe, former golfing buddy and US President Barack Obama, UK critic Clare Rewcastle Brown and her husband, unnamed individuals from the Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan investment banks, and a flock of locals into elements of a conspiracy “to restructure the East Asian economy and political landscape,” but particularly arrayed against Malaysia and its Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The website, “Malaysia Outlook,” written by the pseudonymous “Third Force,” has printed four exhaustive articles detailing the conspiracy, “a nexus of associations linking key individuals, establishments, institutions and agencies, complicit with global elites to effect regime changes in Malaysia and Indonesia.”

In fact, however, the website appears to be the latest attempt to protect Najib from public scrutiny of overwhelming international evidence of his complicity in the biggest scandal in Malaysian history, the theft of at least US$2.5 billion and perhaps as much as US$4 billion from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the state-backed investment firm that was so disastrously overseen that it is believed to have lost as much as RM50 billion (US$11.316 billion) through theft and mismanagement. An unknown amount of that money allegedly went to finance Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood entity that produced the blockbuster movie “Wolf of Wall Street. “

The lead investigation is in the hands of the US Justice Department, which in July issued a 136-page document alleging that “over the course of an approximately four-year period, between approximately 2009 and at least 2013, multiple individuals, including public officials and their associates, conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB through various means, including by defrauding foreign banks and by sending foreign wire communications in furtherance of the scheme, and thereafter, to launder the proceeds of that criminal conduct, including and through U.S financial institutions.

“The funds diverted from 1MDB were used for the personal benefit of the co-conspirators and their relatives and associates, including to purchase luxury real estate in the United States, pay gambling expenses in Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than US$100 million in artwork, invest in a major New York development project, and fund the production of major Hollywood films. 1MDB maintained no interest in these assets and saw no returns on these investments.”

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For months, Najib and his cronies in the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest political party, have been attempting to wriggle free from domestic and international charges over the theft of the money.  According to multiple sources in Kuala Lumpur, he has survived as Prime Minister primarily by bribing the 190-odd cadres who determine the leadership of UMNO to keep him in power. UMNO leadership confers automatic status as Prime Minister.

Against devastating articles in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and other publications, Najib, who is alleged to have diverted at least US$681 million and perhaps as much as US$1 billion into his own accounts, is believed to have mounted a flurry of online fake new outlets, the best-funded of which appears to be Malaysia Outlook.

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Malaysia Outlook is said to be the brainchild of Habibur Rahman Kadir Shah, an accountant and a long-time associate of Najib Razak.  Habibur was previously an UMNO Youth head in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya when Najib was national youth head.  The two became close friends.

“Najib has given control of running the media hounds to Habibur, who has been at it since Najib became Prime Minister,” said a well-connected political source in Kuala Lumpur. Habibur, in addition to serving as the informal media dictator to the Star, the New Straits Times Press and TV3 – the three most prominent English-language media outlets – is reportedly the controller and paymaster, with Najib’s money, for the bloggers who write for Malaysia Outlook, including Raja Petra Kamarudin, who formerly was a major opposition blogger but who has since joined Najib’s crew.

The key members of the team are said to be Raja Petra Kamarudin, universally known as RPK, as well as Rahmat Haniff, the son of a former Inspector General of Police Haniff Omar , who calls himself seademon, and Sheik Muzzaffar, who writes a blog called bigdogdotcom.  They are said to be paid well to produce what appears to be the very definition of fake news.

In recent weeks, the Malaysian government has raised the ante against opposition figures, briefly jailing Maria Chin Abdullah, the head of the electoral reform organization BERSIH 2.0 (“clean”) and attacking the editor and publisher of Malaysiakini, the country’s most popular independent news website, on allegations they are in the pay of Soros, who is accused of attempting to destabilize the country.

But a close look at the US Justice Department document paints a picture not of an international conspiracy against Malaysia but of a breathtaking campaign to divert billions of dollars out of 1MDB and into the hands of the Prime Minister, known in the document as “Malaysian Official 1” and his family, beginning in 2009 with the diversion of funds into a corporate entity called “Good Star” under the pretense of investing in a middle-eastern oil exploration company called Petro Saudi.

As much as US$1 billon was allegedly diverted into Swiss bank account held by Good Star Ltd., whose beneficial owner was Jho Taek Low, better known as Jho Low, the youthful, rotund Penang-born financial whiz who convinced Najib to set up 1MDB in the first place.

As has been widely reported, billions more were diverted through an entity called Aabar-BVI, which “was created and named to give the impression that it was associated with Aabar Investments PJS,” a legitimate subsidiary of the International Petroleum Investment Company, a state-owned Abu Dhabi investment concern.

And where did the money go? It poured into a stunning assortment of US real estate and other properties. That includes, but was not limited to:

THE L’ERMITAGE PROPERTY, 9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, California 90210 – better known as L’Ermitage Hotel.

HILLCREST PROPERTY 1, a mansion  at 912 North Hillcrest Road Beverly Hills, owned by a shell company.

PARK LAUREL CONDOMINIUM, real property located in New York, New York owned by Park Laurel Acquisition LLC, a shell company

BOMBARDIER JET: Global 5000 aircraft bearing manufacturer serial number 9265, registration number N689WM.

TIME WARNER PENTHOUSE:  located in New York, New York owned by 80 Columbus Circle (NYC) LLC, a shell company.

ORIOLE MANSION:  real property located in Los Angeles, California, owned by Oriole Drive (LA) LLC, a shell company.

GREENE CONDOMINIUM:  real property located in New York, New York owned by the 118 Greene Street, a shell company.

EMI ASSETS:  including copyright and intellectual property rights, as well as the right to collect and receive any profits, royalties, and proceeds of distribution owned by or owed to JW Nile (BVI), Ltd.; JCL Media, a shell company.

SYMPHONY CP (PARK LANE) LLC ASSETS:  a Delaware limited liability company, owned, held or acquired, directly or indirectly, by Symphony CP Investments LLC and Symphony CP Investments Holdings LLC, shell companies that own the Park Lane Hotel at 36 Central Park South, New York, New York, 10019.

WALKER TOWER PENTHOUSE:  located in New York, New York owned by 212 West 18th Street LLC, a shell company,

LAUREL BEVERLY HILLS MANSION:  located in Beverly Hills, California, owned by Laurel Beverly Hills Holdings, LLC, a shell company.

HILLCREST PROPERTY 2: located in Beverly Hills, California owned by 1169 Hillcrest Road LLC, a shell company.

THE QENTAS TOWNHOUSE:  located in London, United Kingdom, owned by Qentas Holdings Ltd., a shell company.

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Those transactions are reported in exhaustive detail in the US Justice Department’s filing, which is worth reading for its entertainment value if not its educational value for the citizens of Malaysia. If it is fiction constructed to destabilize the country and bring down Najib, it is a far more sophisticated job than The Malaysia Outlook. Then again, the chances are better that it is real.

Sarawak Report’s Clare to DPM Zahid Hamid: Get your priorities right


December 7, 2016

Sarawak Report’s Clare to DPM Zahid Hamid: Get your priorities right

by Sarawak Report@www.malaysiakini.com

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Instead of setting up a task force to investigate Sarawak Report, the whistleblower website’s editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has challenged Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi to probe the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instead.

This was because the FBI was investigating the very same thing she had been reporting on.

“I find it very strange that the deputy prime minister and the Umno party wished to somehow vilify and attack me… for revealing something that has now been corroborated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the world over.

“So why doesn’t Mr (Zahid) Hamidi decide to have a special task force to take on the FBI, why doesn’t he criticise the banks who have admitted that there are malfeasance that took place with respect to 1MDB money?

“Why not just take on the force of law and order in other countries, who have identified the crime known as 1MDB,” asked Rewcastle-Brown.

She also challenged Zahid to interview her. “Please do come and interview me. I would be very happy to give you my full mindful about why I am doing what I am doing,” she said.

Invited as speaker at anti-graft conference

Rewcastle-Brown said this in a video recording made at the sidelines of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) which is taking place in Panama City.

She was among three speakers at the IACC session titled “Investigations on Money Laundering” last Friday, where she spoke on 1MDB.

On Saturday, Zahid told the UMNO General Assembly that a special task force had been set up to probe local organisations, including the Malaysia-focused but London-based whistleblower website.

Zahid claimed that the organisations have allegedly received foreign funding and is under the sway of foreign powers who want to see the present BN-led Malaysian government fall through non-democratic means.

Overseas, 1MDB-linked banks and officials are being investigated by several foreign jurisdictions over alleged complicity in money laundering and embezzlement involving the state fund, which Sarawak Report frequently reported on.

However, Malaysian authorities have dismissed problems with 1MDB as being only consigned to management weaknesses and denied reports of monies being laundered out of the company, accusing the website of trying to destabilise Malaysia and its economy with such news.

Rewcastle-Brown has denied being complicit in any conspiracy to fabricate news to attack the Malaysian government.

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture


December 6, 2016

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture

by KJ John@www.malayiakini.com

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Double-Speak is a political way of life for Malaysia’s Prime Minister–Why can’t we say that he is a liar?

Is double-speak natural to human beings and the only way to become a true-blue politician worth his/her weight? An UMNO Deputy Minister and an equally idiotic Deputy Speaker of Parliament could not see anything wrong with that MP’s wrong speech and impure motives about another MP.

The victim of this abuse was a lady Member of Parliament; whose dignity was obviously denied but our Deputy Speaker appeared to play down the incident. It was clearly recorded vide a video-clip of our parliamentary session distributed to me from Singapore.

Sadly, too, if Parliament is our symbolic leadership head of our nation-state’s parliamentary democracy system; it is sad that the rotting of our fish-head has begun in that August House. My only retort to the deputy minister is: “padan muka” with this note: our grandchildren are watching and learning from your uncouth conduct.

Hadi’s public misinformation

Was Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, the President of PAS, also participating in doubles-peak with his Act 355 amendments agenda? While he is a Member of Parliament for Marang, is he not elected to do at least two things; one, is to represent all the people in Marang and two, to speak up on bills and handle concerns in Parliament for both his party and his constituency.

But, my question to him: is he only a Member of Parliament for Muslims with complete disregard for non-Muslims who live in Terengganu?

My take is that Hadi’s Act 355 amendments is simply mischievous and therefore malicious in intention. It is absolutely an attempt to open back doors for hudud implementation in the whole of Malaysia; without labelling it as such. My previous column argued eight reasons against it but allow me now to appeal to all my Muslim friends in Malaysia to explain why we (as Christians) have little choice but to oppose this bill.

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The Village Idiot and UMNO Clown with his Corrupt Boss

First, think of Malaysia as existing practically at three levels of reality. These are federal, state and local levels. That means that when one is a federal citizen, that role ascribes and observes certain rights and obligations to all of Malaysia and to all her citizens; there cannot be inequity of citizenship. That is a universal expectation of citizenry anywhere in the world; even when some are treated more equal than others.

Therefore, while his bill was promoted and projected as a bill for Kelantan (one state) to dispense new Syariah by-laws with new limits; the simple fact is that federal law is being mobilised to enable state level criminal prosecution, and therefore its application is always national and federal.

Allow Kelantanese to breathe green air?

Can we assume, for arguments sake, that Kelantan gets this bill for Syariah system compliance and was not designed with hudud intent in mind. Let us grant this right to one of the nine states with rulers; as their second level of operational reality; state-level existence.

Whether we like it or not, such an enablement includes Sabah and Sarawak, too. But, please help me think through the real consequential issues and concerns of all other state jurisdictions at local levels premised on this Kelantan hypothetical experiment.

Therefore my simple but honest question to every Malaysian living in urban and suburban areas is as follows:

If criminal law is now a jurisdiction of any state and consequently their local government Administrations; cannot these authorities also later be mandated that, for example, only Muslims can live in a particular geography of Kelantan; whatever their logic or reasons?

Can non-Muslims therefore be disallowed to buy homes in some other specified area? Or, can it be stipulated that their beaches, like Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB), are now only for Muslim-specific attired swimmers? Non-Muslim can therefore be excluded, right?

Of course, supermarkets with male and female lanes become a mandatory given; if not halal and non-halal carts.Is all the above mere fiction from my head, or is there some element of reality to all of it?

The reason I ask these questions is that only our criminal laws can distinguish between the purity of intentions versus obvious and real evidence of wrongdoing. This is our practical but real level of human existence. Any differences or gaps between one’s espoused theory and the one-in-use is always a matter of spiritual consideration and never the domain of public policy of any state.

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Once Friend, now a Political Foe

Therefore, regardless of what Hadi or anyone says; the new bill gives unlimited jurisdiction for the Kelantan state government to colour their air green and it can insist that everyone can only breathe and live such green air; in Kelantan. How else could the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) have raided Damansara Utama Methodist Church or DUMC (a church complex) without a police search permit merely on suspicion of some wrongdoing?

This gap between intentions and real action causes a lot of doubt and makes citizens question true political motives. For example, in a BBC interview with Maria Chin Abdullah, they could not understand why she was released before the court’s habeas corpus hearing.

My answer is simply that the Home Affairs Minister could not defend their abuse of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma); as former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail so clearly already explained from the Hansard records what were the real intentions for the enactment.

God or Allah is our creator

Before the 2013 GE, Ustaz Hadi attended a meeting chaired by Anwar Ibrahim and attended by a whole group of NGOs and promised all of us that the word ‘Allah’ can be equally used by Muslims as with non-Muslims. I was there and heard his promise. But today they do exactly the opposite. Can we trust such politicians, even when they speak with green tongues?

Therefore, my only question to Ustaz Hadi is as follows:

Do we really believe in different Gods?

Is not intention in faith always a personal human faith matter and not a matter anyone else’s religious enforcement? Is not such responsibility for faith always a personal matter and not for the state?

How then can anyone justify all ‘forced limits to human intentions?’ Are we then not taking over God’s role and responsibility, and thereby playing God?

 

Does Britain owe reparations to India and other former colonies?


December 5, 2016

Does Britain owe reparations to India and other former colonies?

Shashi Tharoor’s speech to the Oxford Union on whether Britain should pay reparations for colonial-era attrocities went viral online. Photo: AFP

A speech to the Oxford Union by Indian former UN Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor appears to have hit a nerve online

By Shashi Tharoor

At the end of May 2015, I was invited by the Oxford Union to speak on the proposition ‘Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies’. The event, in the Union’s impressive wood-panelled premises, was a success and I left pleased enough, but without giving the proceedings a second thought.

In early July, however, the union posted the debate on the web and sent me a video copy of my own speech. I promptly tweeted a link to it and watched in astonishment as it went viral.

Within hours it was being downloaded and replicated on hundreds of sites, sent out on WhatsApp and forwarded by email. One site swiftly crossed over three million views while others did not keep track, but reported record numbers of hits. Even the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, congratulated me publicly for having said ‘the right things at the right place’. Hundreds of articles were written for and against what I had said. For months, I kept meeting strangers who came up to me in public places to praise my ‘Oxford speech’.

This is why my publishers persuaded me that the arguments outlined in my speech needed to be turned into a substantial book. It has just been published in India and is already the number one bestseller on several lists.

Should a work of engaged amateur history have aroused so much passion? Seventy years after independence, shouldn’t we just forget about the past and move on? Is there still any moral urgency to explain to today’s Indians why colonialism was the horror it turned out to be? A lot of the popular histories of the British Empire in the last decade or two, by the likes of Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James, have painted colonialism in rosy colors, and this needed to be challenged. Historical material is available to everyone who’s willing to look for it, but perhaps, in the rush of modern materialism, we’ve stopped looking.

In three months’ time, the book will also be published in Britain, which has been suffering from a kind of historical amnesia about colonialism. As the book emerged from the press in India, an article by a Pakistani writer in The Guardian pointed out that the Brits simply don’t teach their own schoolchildren the truth about their colonial past. Many Brits are genuinely unaware of the atrocities committed by their ancestors and live in the blissful illusion that the Empire was some sort of benign boon to the ignorant natives.

There’s been a lot of self-justificatory mythologising in Britain about the colonial era. Popular television shows tend to focus only on the romanticised aspects of the Raj. All this explains Britons’ ignorance, but does not excuse it.

British rule deindustrialised India, created landlessness and poverty, drained our country’s resources, exploited, enslaved, exiled and oppressed millions, sowed seeds of division and inter-communal hatred that led to the country’s partition into two hostile states, and was directly responsible for the deaths of 35 million people in unnecessary and mismanaged famines as well as of thousands in massacres and killings. That just skims the surface of the havoc wreaked by British colonialism. The British conquered one of the richest countries in the world and reduced it to one of the poorest. At the beginning of the 18th century, India accounted for 23 per cent of global GDP. When the British left it was down to barely 3 per cent. A country where landlessness and poverty were virtually unknown before the British, found itself at independence with 90 per cent of its population living below the poverty line.

Of course, many see lasting benefits from British rule. But each of these supposed benefits in turn – political unity, democracy and rule of law, the civil services, the railways, the English language, tea and even cricket – was designed to serve British interests and any benefit to Indians was either incidental or came despite the British.

But I don’t in fact ask for reparations, as the Oxford debate did. How do you place a monetary value on all that India suffered and lost under British rule? There’s really no compensation that would even begin to be adequate, or credible. The symbolic pound-a-year I’d suggested would be a nightmare to administer.

Atonement is therefore the best we can hope for. An apology by the British would signal true atonement. Imagine a British prime minister, on the centenary of the notorious Jallianwala Bagh masssacre, apologising to the Indian people for that atrocity and by extension for all colonial injustices – that would be better than any sum of reparations. The British could also teach the harsh truth about colonialism to their schoolchildren instead of allowing them to wallow in romanticised ignorance about their own past misdeeds.

An Indian man takes a photograph of a painting depicting the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. The massacre took place on April 13, 1919, when British Indian Army soldiers on the direct orders of their British officers opened fire on an unarmed gathering killing at least 379 men, women and children. Photo: AFP

Yet the book is not intended to have any bearing on today’s Indo-British relationship. That is now between two sovereign and equal nations, not between an imperial overlord and oppressed subjects. Indeed, British Prime Minister Theresa May has just concluded a visit to India seeking investment from here in her post-Brexit economy. You don’t need to seek revenge upon history. History is its own revenge.

 

 

Singapore: Multiculturalism and Race Relations


December 4, 2016

Singapore: Multiculturalism and Race Relations

More than 95% of the approximately 2,000 Singaporean residents surveyed agreed that diversity is valuable, and that all races should be treated equally and with respect. They also reported that they lived peacefully with those of other races, standing up for them and accepting them. While it is not possible to ascertain the depths of interactions, many respondents said they had friends of other races and attended their cultural celebrations.

By Mathew Mathews

The just-released Channel NewsAsia-Institute of Policy Studies survey on race relations captures the reality of multicultural living in Singapore.

Broadly put, it sheds light on how Singaporeans have — or believe they have — interpreted and exemplified our shared ethos of multiculturalism. More than 95% of the approximately 2,000 Singaporean residents surveyed agreed that diversity is valuable, and that all races should be treated equally and with respect. They also reported that they lived peacefully with those of other races, standing up for them and accepting them. While it is not possible to ascertain the depths of interactions, many respondents said they had friends of other races and attended their cultural celebrations.

Perhaps the Singaporean Chinese, who constitute three quarters of our citizen population, should get some credit for positive race relations in Singapore.  Despite being an overwhelming majority, only a third of those surveyed supported the statement that “It is only natural that the needs of the majority race should be looked after first before the needs of the minority races”.

By not clamouring for majority rights, the Chinese have allowed the principles of meritocracy to gain substantial ground in Singapore. This is evident from the 89% of respondents across races in the survey who agreed with the statement that “Everyone who works hard, no matter what race they are, has an equal chance to become rich.”

But the strong endorsement of multicultural principles and relationships does not mean that our society is free from racism. About a quarter of respondents perceived themselves to be at least mildly racist while 38% of all respondents rated their close friends similarly.

Asked how racist most Singaporean Chinese, Malays and Indians were, nearly half of respondents classified each of these generalised groups as at least mildly racist. Respondents were even more likely to use the racist label when asked to rate new migrants from China, India and the Philippines. This finding can be explained by social psychological research, which has shown that people often view themselves more favourably. We judge others based on their actions but justify our own behaviour by pointing to our good intentions.

Nevertheless the survey showed that a significant number of people had seen racism on display by others, which reminds us that it still wields its head in our society. These racist behaviours are likely to be of a mild variety, for few of our respondents, including minorities, in the last two years, had experienced instances of insults, name calling, threats or harassment, which is the standard fare of racism in many societies.

In Singapore, perceptions of racism tend to be based on interpersonal actions which may subtly convey that one group is inferior. In this regard, more minorities compared to majority members agreed that they had experienced incidents where “People have acted as if they think you are not smart” or “People have acted as if they’re better than you are”. While two thirds of minorities who experienced such incidents attributed these differential experiences to race, quite a number at the same time also linked this to their educational or income level. This implies that sometimes it is difficult to tease out the exact source of bias.

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Another manifestation of the mild form of racism that respondents cited has to do with the presence of racial stereotypes.  Nearly half of respondents believed that people of some races are more disposed to having the negative traits such as violence, getting into trouble and being unfriendly. While stereotypes can be leveled at all groups, the effects of the stereotypes are different. Being labelled “enterprising”, “afraid to lose” and “money-minded”  may be regarded as necessary traits for success in competitive market environments. But to be viewed as “overly religious”, “boisterous”, “lazy” or “smelly” may have rather dire consequence in how one is treated and might inhibit entry and progress in a profession. It can sometimes also convey that one’s racial and cultural background is essentially second class and subject to derision.

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Some have contended that racism can also be seen when people prefer a member of their race to fulfill certain roles. The survey results confirmed that most people are more comfortable with someone who is racially similar when it comes to marrying into the family, sharing personal problems, managing one’s own business, and the appointment of the Prime Minister and President. Such preferences seem to be etched deep into our being with some recent research claiming that even babies demonstrate such in-group bias in choosing which other baby in their playgroup they will help.

However in-group bias is not always adaptive. Thus, many more minorities compared to majority respondents reported their acceptance for the majority race to fulfill many roles — only 38% of Chinese respondents would be accepting of a Singaporean Malay helping to manage their business while practically all Chinese respondents would accept a fellow Chinese in that role. However, 82% of Malay respondents said they would accept a Singapore Chinese in that role. This is because minorities who live in a space with many more majority members are aware that it is simply not tenable to expect only members of their race to fulfill important roles and relationships. But in our increasingly cosmopolitan city, majority members also should realise that it may no longer be useful even for them to accept only those who are racially similar to themselves in many relationships.

The character of racism that exists in Singapore was not shaped by acrimonious histories that have plagued a number of societies, where specific groups have been actively subjugated, sometimes through slavery and worse still genocide. Rather, the vestiges of racism here stem from our innate in-group preferences which have sometimes left us lacking in sensitivity and self-awareness when we interact with those who are ethnically different. If we are to overcome this we need to talk about our differences, as much as we talk about our commonalities. It is through this process of frank discussion and an openness to understand others that we can eliminate unfair stereotypes and biases. With that, we can go beyond simply agreeing with our multicultural ideals to actually realising them in practice.

 

Dr Mathew Mathews is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore. He was the lead researcher in the CNA-IPS Survey on Race Relations.

This piece first appeared in TODAY on 19 August 2016.

Top photo from IStock.