Malaysians–Rise up against toxic racism

July 14, 2017

Malaysians–Rise up against toxic racism

by Farouk A.

There is something so counter-intuitive about racism. Even when racism was the norm, racists found a need to explain themselves.

They would come up with different theories as to why some races were superior to others. They would feel the need to explain why segregation was important. Think about it — do we ever have to explain why being united and transcending racism is important? No, because these attitudes are intuitively good.

There is something about them which we know, deep down, is correct and we gravitate towards them. Yesterday, I read a very disturbing news report about Astro and how it treated one of its customers.

Image result for racism in malaysia

A woman by the name of Madhavi Rai was told by Astro’s customer service that ethnic Indians and foreigners were only allowed to use auto-debit service as their payment option.

Rai, who is of Malaysian Nepali and ethnic Chinese parentage, had complained that her application was rejected as she did not choose the auto-debit payment option after she was allegedly informed it was her only payment option as she is “an Indian.” How did they know she was an Indian? They simply guessed from her name!

It is true that my outlook on these matters may be out of touch with reality in Malaysia but I refuse to believe that this incident is acceptable where ever you are.

In the UK, even where the majority population is overwhelmingly white, an incident such as this would receive condemnation from the entire population except a marginal one or two per cent (who are the far right, neo-Nazi types!).

Racism is simply not acceptable and I learnt that from my earliest days here. A police chief commissioner at the time made the mistake of calling a convicted criminal a “black bas***.”

Image result for racism in malaysia

An UMNO Racist Leader and Najib Razak’s Cheerleader

Had he just used the second word, it would have been ok but the first word made it racist. He then lost his job. No ifs, no buts. That incident left a lasting impression upon me.

Since Astro has not denied this incident—but have apologised unreservedly—it is safe to assume that this policy must have been known to its management.

There is certainly no way lower level management, let alone the employees themselves, could have put such a policy into operation.  The strange thing is, according to Ms Rai’s account, they simply offered no explanation at all.

A customer service representative even admitted that the policy sounds racist but “has nothing to do with it.” Quite a puerile explanation, if you ask me. Sounds more like a denial even though the facts are clear.

Worse still, Ms Rai’s Chinese heritage was invoked. She was told that if she were to register as a Chinese, she would be able to choose other payment options. How utterly demeaning to our Indian brethren!

In Malaysia, we are relatively lax about these things, especially when they happen to non-Malays. We simply see them as realities in 21st century Malaysia but even so, we forget that realities are not made without our consent. It is because we tolerated incidents such as these that they have become the norm.

Imagine the humiliation Ms Rai must have gone through! However she chooses to define herself, racially speaking, it should not have any bearing on her being able to choose any particular payment option.

Pegging payment options to race only says one thing — that some races are either economically disadvantaged or worse still, morally inept.

Either way, this is extremely insulting and all right thinking Malaysians cannot afford to ignore this deeply troubling incident. It is not enough for Astro to apologise. They need to give compensation to Ms Rai for her mental anguish.

If not cash, then free Astro service for an extended period. Even so, that is getting off lightly.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s Trump Card

November 11, 2016

Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s Trump Card

by Mish Khan, Associate Editor

Cambodia reacts to Trump’s divisive success.

Image result for Hun Sen endorses Donald Trump

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken to Facebook to congratulate Donald Trump’s success in the United States presidential elections.

Donning a Trump-esque red cap and seated in a golf cart, Hun Sen wrote:

I would like to congratulate HE Donald Trump for achieving victory in [the] US presidential election.

Several days ago I have publicly support your candidature, till several individuals have come out to criticise me and referring to you, Mr Donald Trump, as a dictator to have endorsement coming from a leader like myself.

At this moment the American voters have shown their choice to elect your excellency the same way as my support for your candidacy is not wrong either.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for three decades, was referring to backlash from headlines last week when he endorsed Trump for president. He stated on Thursday, “If Trump wins, the world might change and it might be better, because Trump is a businessman and a businessman does not want war.”

In contrast, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party openly blasted both Trump and Hun Sen last week, with officially exiled leader Sam Rainsy criticising them as two of a kind.

“Birds of the same feather flock together. Trump seems to believe in the absolute power of money. Hun Sen seems to believe in the absolute power of the gun coupled with money… Trump and Hun Sen are definitely not democrats.”

Image result for Hun Sen endorses Donald Trump

Michelle Obama and Cambodia’s Buny Rany meet Cambodian students

Although many analysts claim a Trump administration will probably not represent a major shift in US policy towards Cambodia, which is not of great strategic importance to the United States, a win for Trump could still be a major win for Hun Sen.

For one, a Trump presidency would have much less to say about violations of democracy and human rights in a regime notorious for such abuses.

“For years, Hun Sen has been frustrated by the constant lectures by Western governments about how he runs his country, and the fact that Cambodia so often seems to be ‘singled out’ for criticism over human rights violations. Now there’s a president-elect who has shown little interest in delivering these kinds of lectures,” said Sebastian Strangio, the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia.

This has been eerily confirmed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Spokesman Sok Eysan stated, “Trump’s vision would seem to be beneficial for Cambodia, as a small country, as he won’t be like the leaders of the big countries … They want to consider us as children, and evaluate us poorly without respecting sovereignty and independence.”

Furthermore, rebuking Trump may have lost Sam Rainsy a powerful ally in the US — which would be a major blow to his endeavours to oust Hun Sen’s rusted on regime in July 2018 elections.

“Sam Rainsy says Donald Trump is a dictator, and the opposition party used to rely on the US… How will they continue to rely on the US if Sam Rainsy has called the new president a dictator?” asked Eysan.

Mish Khan is Associate Editor at New Mandala and a fourth-year Asian Studies/law student at the Australian National University.


Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib Razak consolidates Power

Washington DC

July 4, 2016

Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib Razak consolidates Power and vulnerable Azmin Ali next target?

by The Sarawak Report

When it comes to cover-ups Prime Minister Najib Razak holds world acrobatic status.

Of course, as all Malaysians know, he has had plenty of practice during a long political career packed with scandals, which would have (rightfully) destroyed most politicians.

But, Najib also possesses an ‘it’ factor, a hereditary sense of entitlement in a deferential society that has let him get away with ‘blue murder’ all his political life, along with an inherited sports car equivalent, in terms of the powers accumulated by his leadership portfolio.

What other ‘democratic’ politician walks into the top leadership job, which is combined with the finance portfolio and chairmanship of a political party that has inserted its tentacles around every lever of power in the country? On top of that this political party has asserted a race-bias advantage that must be almost unique in the modern world – economic advantages established for Malays only, which have rapidly been hijacked by a self-selecting group of elite Malays, who run BN and the government.

As his by now largely aghast fellow elite have observed, Najib jumped into that political sports car like a wayward prince and immediately careered off into trouble, full throttle without a glance in the rear vision and barely looking ahead.

Najib  even conned his Golfing Partner Barack Obama, US President

His move to grab his first billion dollars of public money came within just a few weeks of being handed the premiership (no election), when he schemed a heist with an equally feckless Saudi Prince, Turki bin Abdullah, on the grand yacht Tatoosh off Monaco in July 2009.

That PetroSaudi deal was a hoax from beginning to end and it is hard to decide which party conned the other more.

Was it the boys from PetroSaudi, who had hired the yacht and pretended they owned it and who then further lied that their worthless company was valued at US$3 billion?  Or was it Najib and his agent Jho Low, who lured the young Saudi/UK adventurers into imagining they could make a fast mega-buck by ‘acting as a front’ for a Malaysian government led theft from its own people and then move on with their lives?

What is certain is that neither of these irresponsible parties ought to have been entrusted with running a country or doing any form of public business.  They are now locked in the horror of discovery from all sides (their ill-deeds having escalated from bad to far far worse in the intervening period) and in reaction Najib has revved that sports car up through the gears, like a mad drugged-out teenager in a police chase, crashing through safety barriers, tearing through reservations and now heading full throttle down the wrong side of the freeway!

Compare this madman to Britain’s David Cameron, who last week announced his resignation following a major political blunder.  Cameron was already embarrassed having had to admit to benefitting from an off-shore family trust to the tune of a few thousand pounds.  But he can get on with the rest of his life with dignity now, having plainly attempted to do the right thing in the light of his country’s interests, which he has placed first.

Meanwhile, what of the billionaire Najib?  This man dare not take his foot off the accelerator, by contrast, because the cops will catch up.

He just drives faster and like James Bond he is hurling from his now tattered vehicle every last cunning advantage that an over-accumulation of powers and wealth have given him: an IGP who does his bidding; an anti-corruption agency that resides in his personal private office; an Attorney General appointed by him; judges who owe their positions to him; politicians and party office holders who all seem happy to acknowledge they have received regular cheques from him… but still the car must, eventually, according to the laws of nature run out of petrol or crash!

Just look at what he has done to stay in power.  Just this last week he came after the respected Chief Minister of Penang, one of the few havens of remaining good governance in Malaysia, like a goon.

Accusing the man of having cheated over the purchase of his relatively modest home, in return for a non-existent favour to the previous owner, Najib made sure that his police agencies slammed Mr Guan Eng in a lock up over night, as a taster of what he plans in store for him, once this latest act of judicial persecution is through.  After all, Malaysia’s other opposition leader has been banged up over a year for the similar offence of being a threat to Najib.

Malaysia is left asking, surely if Guan Eng was corrupt he would have done more to feather his nest than worry about getting a slice off the price of a house purchase, given his pivotal position over Penang’s successful economy?  So, presumably Najib could find nothing else, which merely re-confirms the perception of clean government compared to the federal mess run by the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister himself.

But, of course, Guan Eng is just part of the Najib road kill riot.  Prior to him the PM lashed out at another apparently successful Chief Minister, this time from his own BN party in Kedah, Mukriz Mahathir.  Mukriz’s offence? To be Mahathir’s son and by association a critic of the Prime Minister’s single handed destruction of the economy via 1MDB and other corrupted, self-interested decisions.

Next in his sights, we are informed the by now blood-lusting PM himself, is Selangor, another relatively orderly and well-run state of the federation, again ruled by the opposition.

Having bought a slender majority in two recent by-elections, in which the narrow margin of victory was disguised by his ‘achievement’ in dividing the opposition through his encouragement of Islamic extremism in his own country, Najib has told himself that he can also career to political victory in the heartlands of the urban opposition to BN’s 60 years of uninterrupted rule.

Added to his box of tricks provided by ‘Q’ (for whom read the above mentioned Mahathir, who plainly now feels somewhat like the original Dr Frankenstein) is a total control over the Election Commission, therefore Najib clearly reckons he has a chance of ramming such a triumph through. It just involves smashing through a few more of the remaining rules, checks and balances after all – and if you control and appoint all the ballot counters and election monitors as well, you can always say you won, even if you lost… ask the guys in Sarawak, they do it all the time.

So, expect a strike against Selangor’s Azmin soon.  Perhaps there will be a judicial move to begin with also, to soften him up?  After all, most of Azmin’s top political colleagues are already battling the apparatus of the state on trumped up charges against them, for speaking out, joining peaceful protests, uttering ‘official secrets’ and the like. Maybe it will be another ‘corruption charge’ that Najib has in mind?  Since it is always nice to persecute others for the sin that you yourself are most notoriously culpable of.

Following that, might we even see a daring further move against that pesky class of sultans in Malaysia, who still appear to hold some constitutional weight and popular support?

Najib (to his own mind) is by now the real royal, surely the country realises and recognises that? Those chaps down south in Johor would seem to make a good starting point for such a move, being they tend to be so frequently cheeky.

Since no one so far seems to have managed to rip Najib’s tyres and the lead chasers appear to have been successfully thrown off by his various deployments of Q’s weaponry, it looks as though Najib may now seriously be contemplating such ultimate moves, in order to secure his total, final grasp over Malaysia.

After all, it is only once he has established a complete and unequivocal dictatorship that a fugitive from the law, like Najib Razak, could ever possibly feel safe from justice.

Joko Widodo prefers nuts and bolts approach

April 16, 2016

Joko Widodo prefers nuts and bolts approach

As Joko Widodo clicks through a presentation on infrastructure projects he has launched, an adviser hurries him along, warning that his time is running out. But the Indonesian President is having none of it.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gestures during an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 10, 2016. Indonesia on Thursday opened dozens of sectors to foreign investors in what President Joko Widodo has described as a "Big Bang" liberalisation of its economy, Southeast Asia's largest. Picture taken February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside - RTX26FW2

“No, it’s better I show you,” he says, pointing at photograph after photograph of port, highway and dam schemes he kick-started after years of delays caused by land acquisition problems and intra-governmental disputes.

Eighteen months into his five-year term as leader of the world’s fourth most populous nation, Mr Widodo is persisting with an approach he honed as a small-town mayor and then governor of Jakarta: driving progress, project by project, through spot checks.

“I’ve already been to the toll road in Sumatra six times to check land acquisition and construction,” he says in an interview with the Financial Times, explaining this was the only way to start work on the much-needed highway after 30 years of abortive efforts.

A rare G20 leader happier talking about cement and building permits than big-picture vision, Mr Widodo’s prosaic style has disappointed some of his most enthusiastic backers. But his focus on managing the budget, building infrastructure and trying to reduce regulation has helped see him through a difficult start to his presidency, which was beset by a slowing economy and political problems.

Investor sentiment towards Indonesia has improved of late, with its stock market and currency among the best performing in Asia this year.

Before departing on Sunday for a trip to Europe to drum up trade and investment, Mr. Widodo insists he will push ahead with his plans to deregulate the economy and accelerate infrastructure development.

“I will continue to make economic reforms, removing excessive permits, licences and restrictions,” he says, speaking sometimes in broken English.

“My commitment is to make Indonesia’s economy open and competitive.”

For much of last year Mr Widodo looked uncomfortable as he stumbled from one political problem to another, while the economy continued to weaken because of reduced Chinese demand for Indonesia’s commodities.

A dispute over the appointment of a graft-tainted police chief damaged his reputation for clean government. Policy U-turns, ministerial infighting and protectionist measures undermined hopes for reform — and his uncompromising defence of the execution of foreign drug traffickers prompted a diplomatic backlash.

Chart: Indonesia growth and the rupiah


But now the President who grew up in a riverside shack — the first democratic leader of Indonesia from outside the nation’s crony-ridden elite — is looking more at home in the palace. “I enjoy my job,” the 54-year-old says.

Not a bead of sweat forms on Mr Widodo’s forehead, even though the temperature is well over 30C and the air conditioning in the Dutch colonial-era Independence Palace is off.

A close adviser jokes that the President is a “cool customer”. Perhaps too cool, he adds, because he made a slow start to his presidency. “At the beginning, he did not know many people in Jakarta and many of the ministers initially appointed were not his choice,” he says. “But he is improving.”

Mr Widodo’s preoccupation with the nuts and bolts of road and bridge projects upsets those who were hoping for a bolder figurehead. However, for analysts who have seen previous plans for infrastructure investment and economic reform come up short, his approach is what Southeast Asia’s largest economy needs.

“He is not the guy who wants to come up with a grand plan, but [he is] a doer,” says Ray Farris, Asia strategist at Credit Suisse.

“I will continue to make economic reforms, removing excessive permits, licences and restrictions. My commitment is to make Indonesia’s economy open and competitive.” Mr Widodo’s focus on tactics rather than strategy has proved less effective in tackling Indonesia’s broader social and political problems.

When asked if he is concerned about rising discrimination against homosexuals, Mr Widodo’s perfunctory response is that “we respect human rights but Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country”.

As for the challenge of attracting investment from China while also pushing back against Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, he simply says that “all activities that may increase tension must be stopped”, before adding that it is not only Chinese boats that regularly plunder Indonesia’s fisheries.

After a recent skirmish between Indonesian and Chinese patrol vessels near Indonesia’s Natuna islands, his cabinet members offered wildly conflicting views on how to react. Analysts say the disarray betrayed Mr Widodo’s weakness when it comes to co-ordinating more complicated policy areas.

“The question is whether he can really control his cabinet,” says Yohanes Sulaiman, a political analyst in Jakarta. Others warn that he needs to lay out a more convincing plan to raise the money needed to fund his pet infrastructure projects. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of focus or leadership on addressing the core revenue problem,” says Mr Farris of Credit Suisse.

Unperturbed, Mr Widodo insists that running a country of 255m people and 17,000 islands is ultimately not that different from being mayor of a city of 500,000. But is the bigger-scale job pushing him to become a stronger leader? “It’s better you ask the people,” he says with a chuckle.

Zaid Ibrahim takes on Arifin Zakaria and Gopal Sri Ram

January 11, 2016

Zaid Ibrahim takes on Arifin Zakaria and Gopal Sri Ram


First Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria chastised me for not reading the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the Indira Gandhi case before calling the judges names. The entire mainstream media carried the story.

A few days later, he was ably supported by retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, who asked lawyers (meaning me) to read the judgment before criticising the judges. As if that were not enough, he also described me as a lousy politician for not lasting very long as a minister.

Sri Ram finally congratulated Arifin for defending the judges, and for asking them to write good judgments. For someone in active legal practice (despite having been a senior judge for so long) and who now appears before the Federal Court regularly, that’s not a bad precedent to follow.

I would first like to ask both of them to read my blog post properly. My blog is easier to understand than some of the judgments from the Federal Court these days. I write for the common people. I speak their language. I was never a good or erudite lawyer like Arifin or Sri Ram.

I was saddened by the Court of Appeal’s decision in Indira’s case. I was disappointed with the verdict. Reading the judgment will not make me feel any better. It’s the decision that nauseated me.

As with all previous judgments that disappointed me, the judges defend their decision by saying they were powerless because of something or other. It could be because of a previous decision, or because of Article 121(A), or because the matter rests with the Shariah Court. We have heard it all before. That’s the source of my exasperation.

I did not say the majority judges were heartless or the only ones at fault. I was expressing my frustration, not just at the Court of Appeal judges but at all the judges in the Federal Court in the last 10 years for their cavalier attitude towards fundamental liberties and for not asserting the core constitutional principles of our  legal system.

My question was, what kind of system do we have? I said the whole country has failed or has lost its soul, and as a result we have produced heartless judges. If a mother cannot be with her daughter for nine years, then the system stinks.

I don’t care if the Court of Appeal is bound by a 2014 Federal Court decision in Raimi Abdullah’s case. Why didn’t the Court of Appeal follow another Federal Court decision in 2007 in the case of Latifah Mat Zin, if that would have enabled them to give justice to Indira?

Gopal Sri Ram.jpg

Over the years I have seen that there has been no attempt to assert the  primacy of federal law over state laws, the  primacy of civil courts over the Shariah Court.

As in the Indira case, these judges always find, in cases where there is a conflict between shariah  and constitutional principle, the easy way out and suggest that non-Muslim parties seek remedy in the Shariah Court. That’s what incensed me. Read my blog post again.

Sri Ram said the Federal Court’s decision in 2014 in Raimi Abdullah’s case was the cause of the problem. I am sure it is, but I don’t care what the source of the problem is. It’s the heartless judges in Raimi’s case that started it all and which brought us to the latest judgment in Indira’s case, and which led me to describe all of them as heartless. That’s my opinion based on what had happened.

So the Court of Appeal was bound by the decision in the Raimi case.  Was the chief justice involved in that decision, that others had to follow it? Is Sri Ram saying that the chief justice is the source of the problem? If the judgment was handed down in 2014 then the present chief justice must have presided over the case. If he thinks the decision in the Raimi case was correct, then I am sorry for Indira and her team.

Now I have to pay the price for calling the judges “heartless”. The police are questioning me and I expect to be charged in court. In Malaysia, a senior judge can say the Bar Council should be happy that opposition leaders have won their cases, implying that the Bar is pro-opposition, but no police investigation will be carried out on him.

NSC's Najib

But I used words that upset some people in the Palace of Justice, and lo and behold, the police came calling immediately.

Those in Putrajaya who think any upcoming trial will be about me are sadly mistaken – it will be about them. I will defend my use of “heartless judges” vigorously, I will explain why those judges have failed their oath of office, not just in Indira’s case but in many others.

Justice has been denied to Malaysians for so long because the judges are heartless.


TPPA: A Done Deal in Atlanta–Good Luck Malaysia

October 6, 2015

TPPA: A Done Deal–Good Luck Malaysia

by Bloomberg

A dozen Pacific-rim nations agreed to an historic trade pact that would cut trade barriers on items ranging from cars to rice, setting up a potentially contentious ratification vote before a sceptical US Congress.

After a week of final talks in Atlanta, an agreement has been reached on completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact more than five years in the making designed to boost commerce among nations that produce 40% of global economic output, said Akira Amari, a Japanese economics minister who is in charge negotiations for his nation.

US President Barack Obama, who sees the pact as a key element in his “pivot to Asia” foreign policy, made the accord a top priority of his remaining years in office. China was left out of the agreement, which supporters promoted as a counterweight to its growing influence.

If implemented, it would be the largest trade deal the US has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994. The three signatories to that agreement, the US, Canada and Mexico, are included in this one, as is Japan.

MITI's Mustapha MohamedMITI Minister–What’s the Real Deal–Details Please

The agreement will provide duty-free trade on most goods, and reduced tariffs on others. It will also provide mutual recognition of many regulations, including an exclusivity period for biologic drugs, which are derived from living organisms, and patent protection for pharmaceuticals. That was one of the final topics that was settled in marathon talks this week, as developing nations sought to have quicker access to generic medications.

Canadian dairy

Negotiators also haggled over issues, including Canada’s supply management system for dairy and other agricultural products, Australia’s demand for additional access to the US sugar market and regional value rules for automobiles and auto parts.

Obama persuaded Congress to consider the measure under “fast-track authority” – meaning it will be submitted for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Obama will have to notify Congress 90 days before he signs the agreement, and publish the text 60 before.

The 12 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the US.

“TPP is a comprehensive agreement that will open markets, set high-standard trade rules, and address 21st-century issues in the global economy,” the US Trade Representative’s office said in background documents.

TPP will promote jobs and growth in the U.S. and across the Asia-Pacific region, and “share American values and commitment to improve labour practices and elevate environmental standards around the world”, it said.

Supporters of the pact, including the US Chamber of Commerce, argue that the TPP will make it easier to sell made-in-America goods and services overseas and support US jobs and economic growth.

Opponents, such as the AFL-CIO labour organisation, argue that it will lead to additional outsourcing of US jobs. They are expected to pressure Congress to reject that pact.