STOP UMNO ‘s discrimination against Malaysians


May 25, 2015

Phnom Penh

STOP UMNO ‘s  discrimination against Malaysians

by Johan Bakri

This is of interest to those watching the development of Malaysia and Singapore I am currently reading two books in parallel:

Kim Quek's March to Putrajaya1]The March to Putrajaya This is about the recent and current happenings in Malaysia

Men-in-white-cvr2] Men in White. This is the history of Singapore and the Peoples Action Party for the last 50 years The contrast is most enlightening; not that one has to read the books to know. The books spell out the minutiae that is not intended for the public eyes. Needless to say the former by Kim Quek is banned in Malaysia.

In his 2010 article titled  UMNO and Population Engineering, Hussein Hamid wrote,

http://steadyaku-steadyaku-husseinhamid.blogspot.com/2010/09/umno-and-population-engineering.html

QUOTE: Since 1957 UMNO has effectively carried out the population Malaysianengineering of our country to ensure its long-term survival by creating the myth of a two pronged “Ketuanan Melayu”. “Ketuanan Melayu” for the Malay masses who are lulled into a feeling of being superior over the non-Malays because of their numbers and “Ketuanan Melayu” for the UMNO Malay political elites through the accumulation of massive material wealth for themselves and their cronies. And while UMNO has failed by almost any measure you chose to gauge them – good governance or morality – without question they have succeeded too well in the engineering of the population of this country of ours.

The duplicity of UMNO in proclaiming Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara while all the while undertaking a relentless program to whittle down the numbers of the non-Malays through very precise and focused initiatives is breathtaking in its effectiveness!

Consider this:

In 1957: – 45% of the population are Chinese.

– 12% of the population are Indians.

In 2010– 25% of the population are Chinese.

– 7% of the population are Indians.

Over 600,000 Chinese and Indian Malaysians with redIC were rejected repeatedly when applying for citizenship and possibly 80% of them had passed away due to old age.

Since 1957:

– 2 million Chinese have emigrated.

– 0.5 million Indians have also emigrated overseas.

– 3 million Indonesians migrated to Malaysia to become Malaysian citizens with Bumiputra status.

Now the non-Malays are well aware of this tinkering and engineering of our population and it would do us Malays no good to say that it was UMNO doing and that we had no hand in what happened. As a Malay I was then comfortable that UMNO was the dominant partner in the Barisan Nasional.

It was comforting to know that Malays controlled four of the five major banks. Education? Between 1968 to 2000:

– 48 Chinese Primary Schools closed down.

– 144 Indian Primary Schools closed down.

– 2637 Malay Primary Schools were built.

Of the total government budget for these schools 2.5% were for the Chinese Primary Schools, 1% for the Indian Primary School and 96.5% for the Malay Primary School .

PETRONAS Petrol Stations? Of the 2000 stations the Malays owned 99%. Yes we Malays were indeed in control. In control of what?

We were in control of the all the business licenses and permits for Taxis and Approved Permits.

We were in control of Government contracts of which 95% were given to Malays.

We were in control of the Rice Trade through BERNAS (Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary) that bought over 80% of Chinese Rice Millers in Kedah.

We were in control of UMBC, MISC and Southern Bank – all previously owned by Chinese (CIMB)

We were in control of bus companies. Throughout Malaysia MARA buses could be seen plying all the routes. Non-Malays were simply displaced by having their application for bus routes and for new buses rejected.

Every new housing estate built had a mosque or a surau. None, I repeat “no” temples or churches were built for any housing estate!

So why with control over all these highly visible entities and business opportunities are the Malays still unable to stand tall and with pride over and above the non-Malays? We are unable to so do because it was not the Malays that benefited from these opportunities – UMNO did.

Why must UMNO constantly harp about the need to spoon feed the Malays – about ketuanan Melayu when it is already in place and about Bumiputra status and all the privileges and rights that goes with that status?

And as a Malay I want to ask the non-Malays why do you still choose to live in a country whose government has by its actions and deeds done whatever it could to make you feel not welcome? The non-Malays I know have all told me the same thing – Malaysia is their country – they know of no other country they can call their own. And so they stay and put up with the abuses.

The difference now is that there are enough Malays who are shamed by the antics of this Malay political organization called UMNO. There are enough Malays to tell the non-Malays that we feel your pain. We understand your frustrations and despair at not being treated as equals in a country you call your own. And enough non-Malays have migrated abroad to cause our country to understand that their loss is another country’s gain. A loss, which our country can ill afford to sustain.

And more importantly all this ground swell of disgust and contempt at UMNO has manifested itself in a way these political idiots understand – losing our votes in the 12th General Elections. Amen for that. And so we wait for the 13th General Election which we hope will dish out the relevant karma for UMNO and its Barisan Nasional partners.

In the meantime understand what they have done to us all – not only the non-Malays but also to the Malays and do not allow Barisan Nasional led by racist and corrupt UMNO to play the race card and start their divide and rule antics on us again. You are one, with me we are two. UNQUOTE.

High time to wake up from our comfort zone, all of you out there. Malaysia is not doing alright at all. It is still not too late. United we stand, divided  we will fall. Those who know well should pass the message around to those are still sleeping. May God Help us to help ourselves.

http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com

Noor Farida Ariffin–The Catalyst for Change


May 25, 2015

Phnom Penh

G-25’s Ambassador Noor Farida Ariffin–The Catalyst for Change

by Mariam Mokhtar@ http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com.my

Noor_Farida_AriffinWith her razor-sharp mind and equally sharp tongue that can slice through any argument, Noor Farida Ariffin is every inch a fighter. So do not let her string of pearls, pale eye-shadow, pastel coloured jacket and welcoming smile fool you.

The effervescent Danny Quah, Professor of Economics and International Studies and Director of the Saw Swee Hock South East Asian Centre of the London School of Economics (LSE), helped facilitate Farida’s talk on “Fighting Religious Extremism in Malaysia” in London recently. Despite the exam period, when many students were not available, the event was packed with Malaysians and other nationals. There was standing room only at the back, and late comers were relegated to an adjoining room.

Quah called Farida a “patriot”, a “true public servant” and a “genuine Malaysian leader”. He also praised her peers in the G25. The G25 is a group of 25 prominent Malaysians, comprising former diplomats and heads of the civil service, who have sought to “reclaim Malaysia from racial and religious extremism”.

Quah said, “The kind of vitriol and rhetoric that is peddled by intolerant extremists threatens to poison the nation. “Now, more than ever, we need voices such as Her Excellency’s to speak out and help us all come together.”

Farida gave a brief but comprehensive review of the incidents of rising religious extremism in Malaysia. She expressed disappointment that the country’s so-called leaders had allowed Malaysia to slip downhill.

She said that Malaysia once prided itself as a model of racial harmony and a nation that could display a multicultural and multi-religious society to the rest of the world. But the current reality, she said, was a disturbing picture of Islamic NGOs and religious authorities wielding power over a cowed population, with the Malays being watched by a brutal and unapologetic moral police who act like thugs and the non-Malays and non-Muslims subject to intense provocation.

She gave a laundry list of vile acts which involved body snatching, the conversion of minors, the “Allah” issue, the seizure of Bibles and the actions of born-again Muslims. She also spoke of Muslims being persecuted through mindless acts perpetrated by the religious authorities.

In 2012, the mean-spirited religious authorities hounded Nik Raina Abdul Aziz, called her a lesbian, and made her life a living hell by persecuting her because the book “Allah, Liberty and Love” by Canadian author Irshad Manji was sold in the book store where she worked.

The book had not been banned by the Home Ministry. Despite the case being thrown out of court, JAWI lodged an appeal and refused to show any compassion towards Nik Raina and said that “it was not their problem”.

Concern over the disturbing developments of the last few years and the creeping Talibanisation of Malaysia prompted the members of the G25 to express their disgust at the corruption of Malaysia. The original G25 has expanded to 40 members and is still growing. Farida hopes that they would be the catalysts for change.

She said, “The secretaries-general of the various ministries, former diplomats, directors-generals, heart surgeons, etc are establishment figures. They are not rabble rousers. So, we said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Farida added that an open letter from the G25 to PM Najib Abdul Razak had caused a stir in the nation, which had prompted more of the silent majority to begin speaking out.

Dr. Mahathir started the Politics of Islam

Najib Vs Mahathir

Farida was in no doubt about the start of the rot. She cited former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s role in changing the Constitution in 1988 to make syariah law on par with civil law. She said, “He declared Malaysia an Islamic state, which is not true.”

She expressed horror that fatwas were legally binding in Malaysia, whereas in the rest of the world, they were just legal opinions. She said that hudud law was in clear violation of the Federal Constitution.

“What they are doing is tarnishing the image of Islam,” she said. “The way they are interpreting the religion is wrong. They have hijacked the religion.”

Angry that the current leadership has politicised Islam for their own ends, she described the plight of the East Malaysians and said, “Who can blame the Sabahans and Sarawakians for wishing to secede?”

Her detractors have called her an apostate for opposing the implementation of hudud. She said, “Hudud is not Allah’s law. Corrupt businessmen, in cahoots with equally corrupt politicians, steal from the national coffers and get away with their crimes. An unemployed man steals to feed his family and gets his hands chopped off. Is this justice?

“What PAS wants is just to punish. The Quran mentions love, compassion, justice and mercy. The first principle of Islam is upholding justice. These people do not know what they are doing. From ancient times, the history of religion is of the priestly class always arrogating to themselves power and control over their followers. It is all about power.”

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.

*Dato’ Noor Farida  Ariffin served as Director-General at the Research, Treaties and International Law Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  Ambassador-At-Large for the High Legal Experts Group on Follow-up to the ASEAN Charter (HLEG). She was a Civil Servant with over 40 years of experience, 25 of which was with the Judicial and Legal Service, 5 with the Commonwealth Secretariat and 12 with the Foreign Ministry.

She was the Co-Agent of Malaysia for the Pulau Batu Puteh Case has had a long and distinguished career spanning 36 years in the Public Service. She joined the Judicial and Legal Service in February 1971 where she served in various capacities including magistrate, senior assistant registrar in the High Courts of Kuala Lumpur and Penang, legal officer with the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Director of the Legal Aid Bureau and Sessions Court Judge. She was seconded by the Government to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London for 5 years as Director of the Women and Development Programme, Human Resource and Development Group.

In February 1993, upon her return to Malaysia, she was transferred to Wisma Putra to head the newly established Legal Division of the Ministry. In September 1996, she was absorbed into the Administrative and Diplomatic Service and was appointed the Under-Secretary of the newly formed Territorial and Maritime Division of the Foreign Ministry. In August 2000, she was posted to the Netherlands as the Malaysian Ambassador to that country. She was also concurrently appointed the Malaysian Co-Agent to the International Court of Justice for the Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan Case against Indonesia and the Malaysian Permanent Representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is based in The Hague. She was elected to the Chair of the 8th Conference of States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention in October 2003. Prior to that, at the First Review Conference of the above Convention (April/May 2003) she was elected to chair the Drafting Group on the Political Declaration. She was again appointed the Malaysian Co-Agent by the Government when Malaysia and Singapore agreed to submit the Pulau Batu dispute to the International Court of Justice.

She has been a Director of Eco World Development Group Berhad since March 20, 2015. She served as an Independent Non- Executive Director at S P Setia Berhad from June 18, 2009 to March 26, 2015. She completed her legal studies at the Inns of Court in London. She joined the Judicial and Legal Service in February 1971 where she served in various capacities including magistrate, Senior Assistant Registrar in the High Courts of Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Legal Officer with the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Director of the Legal Aid Bureau and Sessions Court Judge. Her Qualifications include: Barrister- at- Law (Gray’s Inn), United Kingdom in 1970.–www.bloomberg.com

 

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Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel


May 23, 2015

Phnom Penh

When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, most of us are either pro-Israel or pro-the Palestinian cause. Even the honest broker, the United States cannot be impartial since its support for Israel is unconditional. No American President since Harry Truman can afford to risk his political career by not providing military aid and financial assistance to the Jewish state. The Jewish lobby is too powerful in the US Congress to ignore. But there is more to this than American leadership cares to admit. That is, in my view, that Israel is America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East to protect its economic and strategic interests in the oil rich Middle East.

The two state solution, (Tony’s binational state), is the obvious one and yet both sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis, are unable to accept the reality that they cannot but live side by side in peace and security. No, they must be at each others throats. So the conflict between the two peoples continues at a horrendous cost to both sides in terms of human lives and property.

The late Mr Judt’s interview is  an eye opener for me. Those who disagree with his views, especially those in the United States and Israel, are welcome to challenge his take on Israeli-Palestinian relations.–Din Merican

Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel

by Merav Michaeli

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/09/tony-judts-final-word-on-israel/245051/

In this interview just before his death last year (2010), the historian discusses his controversial views on Israel, the country’s future, and a life of disputation

In this undated photo released by New York University, NYU professor Tony Jundt is shown. A New York University spokesman says Judt died Friday night, Aug. 7, 2010, due to complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 62. (AP Photo/Photo Provided by NYU) NO SALES

In July 6, 2010, one month to the day before his death, I sat down with the British historian Tony Judt in his New York study to film an interview. He was positioned in a special bed in which he spent much of his time, completely immobilized by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The interview was part of a larger film project, with director Gaylen Ross, about Israel and the U.S. and American Jewry. It was, for me, a profound and deeply personal conversation.

Despite his illness, Judt agreed to let me interview him over email as well. What follows here is our lengthy conversation, conducted over several emails. As an Israeli who is deeply distressed by the state of my country, and as a journalist who feels more and more helpless in trying to bring change through my work, I felt a strong intellectual and emotional propinquity to Judt. We share similar views and perspectives about Israel. Between the two of us, he was the grown-up , he was the celebrated historian; I admit I was hoping for answers.

Before I left the filmed interview, I asked Judt how he would act, and what he would do, if he were today an Israeli Jew, teaching at Tel Aviv University, thinking the way he does, publishing the things he writes?

 “I don’t think I would have done anything different from what you and my other colleagues from Haaretz and academia are doing” he said, “History always happens to us and nothing ever stays the same.” And then I had to go.

A year has now passed. Israel is enduring a social upheaval that gives some hope for change, but its relationship with Turkey and Egypt are in severe crisis, the Palestinians are working on a unilateral independence declaration to present at the UN, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Prime Minister Netanyahu an ungrateful ally to the U.S. and a danger to Israel. Reading Judt’s words in light of the events, feels like reading a chilling prophecy. Our exchange started about two weeks following Israel’s controversial raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Israeli tanks maneuver in Israel near Gaza border

How do you see Israel’s actions in the Flotilla affair?

The characterization that comes to mind is “autistic.” Israel behaved in a way that suggests it is no longer fully able to estimate, assess or understand the way other people think about it. Even if you supported the blockade (I don’t) this would be an almost exemplary case of shooting oneself in a painful part of the anatomy.

Firstly because it alienates Turkey, who Israel needs in the longer run. Secondly because it was undertaken in international waters and largely at the expense of civilian victims. Thirdly because it was an overreaction. Fourthly because it had the predictable effect of weakening the case for a blockade rather than strengthening it.

In short, this is the action of a country which is fast losing touch with reality.

The raid on the flotilla was far from being the worst of Israel’s behavior over 40 years of occupation, yet the international response to it was the most grievous. Why do you think that is?

I agree. But what happens in small West Bank towns, in the Israeli Parliament, in Gazan schools or in Lebanese farms is invisible to the world. And Israel was always very good at presenting the argument from “self-defense” even when it was absurd. I think that Israel’s successful defiance of international law for so long has made Jerusalem blind and deaf to the seriousness with which the rest of the world takes the matter.

“The identification of Israel with Auschwitz (and of its enemies with Nazism) is not only obscene, but self-defeating”

Finally there is the question of cumulation. From the Six Day War to Lebanon, from Lebanon to the settlements, from the settlements to Gaza, Israel’s credibility has steadily fallen – even as the world’s distance from Auschwitz (the favorite excuse) has lengthened. So Israel is far more vulnerable today than it would have been twenty five years ago.

What do you tell those who say Israel has willingly withdrawn from Gaza and everything that has happened since proves the Israeli claim that there’s no partner for an agreement?

I tell them that they are talking nonsense, or else prevarication. Israel withdrew from Gaza but has put it under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world. That is not withdrawal. And of course we all know that there are those who would like to give Palestinians “independence” but exclude Gaza from the privilege. That too was part of the purpose of the withdrawal.

Mideast-Israel-Palest_Horo-21

There is a partner. It may not be very nice and it may not be very easy. It’s called Hamas. In the same way the provisional [Irish Republican Army] was the only realistic “partner for peace” with whom London could negotiate; Nelson Mandela (a “terrorist” for the Afrikaaners until his release) was the only realistic “partner for peace”; the same was true of “that terrorist” ([according to Winston] Churchill) Gandhi; the well-known “murderous terrorist” Jomo Kenyatta with whom London fought a murderous war for five years before he became “a great statesman”; not to mention Algeria. The irony is that Washington knows this perfectly well and expects negotiations with Hamas within five years. After all, Israel virtually invented Hamas in the hope of undermining the PLO; well, they succeeded. But they are the only ones who can’t see what has to happen.

You advocated for a binational state. What does your binational state look like? How does it work?

I don’t know. What I do know is that since I wrote that in 2003, everyone from Moshe Arens through Barak to Olmert has admitted that Israel is on the way to a single state with a potential Arab majority in Bantustans unless something happens fast. That’s all that I said in my essay.

But ok, since it looks as though Israel is determined to give itself this future, what will it look like? Hell. But what could it look like? Well, there could be a federal state of two autonomous communities — on the Swiss or Belgian model (don’t tell me the latter doesn’t work — it works very well but is opposed by Flemings led by people very much like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman). This could have crossover privileges and rights for both communities, but each would be autonomous. I think this would work better than a mixed single-state, and it would allow each community to set certain sorts of religious and other regulations according to its taste.

If it could look so good, why would it be hell?

Because it would start from a very bad place. It would begin with Jews running the place in the name of a Jewish state, defined by Orthodox Rabbis and controlled by an army whose officer core is increasingly permeated by religious and settler communities. No Arab would feel remotely safe, much less equal or a citizen in such a “single state”. The Arabs’ lack of property, rights, status and prospects would either make them a sullen and potentially violent underclass or else the best of them would try to leave. This is no good basis for integration, though it is of course what some of Israel’s present leaders privately desire. And then there would be Gaza…

And if Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also recognize that Israel is on its way to a single state with an Arab majority, why do you think they aren’t doing what needs to be done?

Of Barak I will not speak. He is now a senior minister in what I regard as close to a neo-fascist government. If he has chosen that direction, then obviously he has no interesting or ethically defensible plans of his own. He is an object of contempt in my eyes.

Olmert, who seems to have reached my conclusions by his own path, suffers from being a typical tactician, and lacking strategic vision or political courage. He is not as bad as Shimon Peres in this and other respects — Peres seems to me the most disappointing and in some ways damaging politician in Israel’s history — but he will not stand up to the soldiers or the settlers or the rabbis and therefore he is not interesting as a candidate for real change.

In such a state, Jews would soon be a minority. Doesn’t that frighten you?

Not as much as it seems to frighten others. Why is it ok for a Jewish minority to dominate an Arab majority, its leaders to call for expulsions of majority members, etc., but not ok for a democracy to have a majority and minority both protected under law? At least Israel could then call itself a democracy with a clear conscience.

What you are really asking is whether I think the Palestinians would immediately set out to rape, pillage and murder the Jews? I don’t see why they would want to — there is no historical record suggesting that this is what Palestinians do for fun, whereas we have all too much evidence that Israelis persecute Palestinians for no good reason. If I were an Arab, I would be more afraid of living in a state with Jews just now.

Can you see or understand why Israelis are afraid?

Yes, but only in the sense that someone who has been brought up to fear and hate his neighbors will have good reason to be frightened at the thought of living in the same house with them. Israelis have created a generation of young Palestinians who hate them and will never forgive them and that does make a real problem for any future agreement, single- or two-state.

But Israel should be much, much more afraid of the Israel it’s creating for itself: a semi-democratic, demagogic, far-right warrior state dominated by racist Russians and crazed rabbis. In this perspective, an internationally policed and guaranteed federal state of Israel, with the same rights and resources for Jews and Arabs, looks a lot less frightening to me.

Can you see why American Jews are fearful as well of that?

No. This is the fear of the paranoid hysteric – like the man at the dinner table in the story I wrote in the New York Review who had never been to Israel but thought I should stop criticizing it because “We Jews might need it sometime.” American Jews — most of whom know nothing of Jewish history, Jewish languages or Jewish religion — feel “Jewish” by identifying unthinkingly with Auschwitz as the source of their special victim status and “Israel” as their insurance policy and macho other. I find this contemptible — they are quite happy to see Arabs killed in their name, so long as other Jews do it. That’s not fear, that is something between surrogate nationalism and moral indifference.

In your 2003 essay “Israel: the Alternative” you wrote that Israel was an anachronism. Writers in Israel were asking why you didn’t offer France and Germany to give up this anachronistic model first?

Oh, come on! I did not say that nation-states were past their use-by date. I said that ethnically driven versions were. There is nothing in the constitutions of France or Germany that creates second-class citizens defined by religion, ethnicity or parenthood. There is nothing there defining who can and who cannot have certain jobs, live in certain places or marry certain people. If Israel looked like France or Germany in these respects, it would be a better place. By the way, until Germany gave up its 1913 law regarding citizenship defined by descent, I wrote very critically about it. But Israeli commentators would not know that — they are fixated on their own obsessions.

In that essay, your portrayal of Europe seems somewhat idealized. Do you still think that “Christian Europe” is part of the past and that their evolving minority problem is indeed marginal?

I don’t think I said that the minority problem was “marginal”. Nor do I want to idealize Europe. I have written elsewhere that the failure of Europeans to welcome Turkey into the EU is a catastrophe — for Turkey, for democratic Muslims everywhere, and for integration back in Europe itself. But once again, my Israeli critics don’t read about anything else so they would not know my positions on this. If Europe fails to address the fact that most of its new members (excepting Poland) will be and are either secular, post-Christian, or Muslim in makeup, it will face a hard future.

And how do you see Europe’s future, will it accept Islam and Muslims as an organic part of it?

A complicated question. There is no one Europe on this issue — unlike institutions or regulations, religion varies hugely. Some parts of Europe, mostly Western but not only, are virtually de-Christianised. There — e.g. in England or parts of France or parts of Scandinavia — the problem is re-introducing religion and religious identification into secular societies. Thus in Holland the anti-immigration party emphasizes its own tolerance compared with the intolerance of Islam.

Elsewhere, e.g. in Poland or parts of Italy, people are still actively Catholic. Paradoxically, this makes them more sympathetic to Islamic institutions — priests and imams working together, etc. — but averse to excessive dilution of their historic dominance.

“I suspect that in decades to come America (the new Rome) will abandon Israel”

The other problem is that most young Muslims are not Muslim (the same is true for almost all Bosnian Muslims). That is, they are as secular in fact as their white schoolmates. But because it is convenient for governments and administrators to classify them as Muslim, they often become so out of resentment. Thus there are many more “Muslims” in Europe than actually belong to a Mosque or practice Islam. They would be better identified by their point of origin — Surinamese, Algerian, Senegalese, etc. — than by religion. But European censuses don’t allow for that.

The biggest impediment to integrating Muslims (real or imagined) to European societies is the loud rejection of Turkey. It says very clearly that European leaders think not in terms of democracy (else why allow Croatia to apply), nor corruption (otherwise Greece would not be a member) but religious tags: Turkey is mostly low practicing by Muslim standards, but it is unquestionably overwhelmingly Muslim. Its unacceptability to Germany or France is a big, big mistake — all across Europe it sends a message to the Muslim community: “you are not part of us”.

Conclusion: on this score I am very pessimistic about Europe’s prospects.

Do Jews still need a Jewish state, a haven from the world? Or is it a changed world in which it isn’t necessary any more?

Some think they do, some think they don’t. Israel would never have happened if it weren’t for Hitler and keeping the fear of Hitler alive is part of what fuels ultra-Zionism. But the whole thing is a complete mystery to most of the rest of the world. To be sure, there is anti-Semitism everywhere. But even if we ignore the unquestionable fact that some of it is driven by Israel’s behavior, it doesn’t diminish just because there is a Jewish state and we have no reason to believe that Israel is a barrier to prejudice anywhere else.

The world has changed since 1939. But Israel is a fact and there is no point debating whether it should exist. However, like many, many Jews outside of Israel, I feel a declining sense of identification with the place: its behavior, its culture, its politics, its insularity, its prejudices have nothing to do with being Jewish for me and I know that is especially true of younger Jews, excepting ultra-religious ones. So even if things went wrong for Jews today, I don’t think most of us would want to go and live in Israel.

You lived in Israel for about two years in all. Why did you choose to build your life elsewhere?

I found the place rather stifling. I think you have to be a very deep believer in the Zionist objective, or else a Jew for whom the presence of other Jews is absolutely crucial in your life. Otherwise the downsides of Israel — its parochialism, its self-obsession, its resort to violence as a first solution to everything: all of these are far too much to bear.

I think that perhaps I was there at an odd time. On the one hand everyone was quite optimistic and rather left-leaning in my world, and the treatment of Israel’s own Arabs was largely invisible to me; on the other hand it was a very small place in which people seemed concerned with very small things — or else they lived mentally in Europe and never really accepted the terms of life in a small Middle Eastern country that would sooner or later have to stop beating its neighbours and find a way to respect them as equals.

Finally I believe I got frustrated with my friends and colleagues who told me to abandon my academic plans (Cambridge, etc.) and help build Zion. Even in 1966 this seemed to me simply silly: reproducing a collective farm in Galicia, circa 1910, in the middle of the ’60s.

How do you see the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel today?

Why are we so obsessed by this? If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, the U.S. and Israel would wipe out large sections of that country. Tehran is a sophisticated place that knows this perfectly well. Most Iranians I know think that their president’s obscene rhetoric is diversionary — a way to sell himself as the spokesman for the Muslim “street”. They don’t like it and they don’t back it. But they are proud and don’t like being told that they alone in the neighborhood can’t have nuclear autonomy: they are surrounded by nuclear powers (India, Pakistan, Russia and Israel, not to mention the American fleet). Why should they not feel paranoid? The nuclear threat to Tehran is far greater than the nuclear threat to Tel Aviv.

No one I know in Washington seriously believes that Iran is about to nuke Israel. They are far more worried that Israel is working up this implausible scenario as an excuse for another diversionary war.

There are good reasons to discourage Iran from a nuclear capacity – but the existential threat to Israel is not one of them.

Should Israel attack?

BenjaminNetanyahu

Only if it wants to destroy forever its credibility as a stable member of the community of legitimate states. We all know perfectly well that such an attack would have a limited impact on Iran’s long term plans, but would solidify support for it globally while forever alienating Israel from the world. That seems a pretty lousy deal for Israel.

Iran is a Shi’ite state, which hates the Taliban and is good friends with countries we need, like China and Turkey. Israel should be secretly and eventually publicly trying to get back on good terms with it. In the larger scheme of things, it is pretty incredible that Israel has deliberately set out to alienate those few Muslim lands which have a real interest in being friends with it.

 The worst consequence of an attack on Iran — an extreme form of Israel’s foolishness hitherto — would be the final alienation of American sympathy. Already major military figures like [David] Petraeus have gone on record as seeing Israel as a “strategic liability.” Attack Iran and Israel becomes an intolerable burden upon America’s increasingly fragile role in the world. This would be a very big mistake to make.

Why do you think Israel, as a state, still hasn’t gotten over its existential fears, over its self-concept as “victim?”

Obviously it has not. But it has gone from genuinely believing itself to be threatened to exploiting that “threat” to serve unworthy and foolish goals. As a result, no one outside Israel takes seriously the threat to its existence, which is bad for Israel should such a threat ever arise. The identification of Israel with Auschwitz (and of its enemies with Nazism) is not only obscene, but self-defeating. Until 1967 it was semi-plausible, despite running counter to the equally self-serving image of “macho Jews” who would never “go like sheep to the slaughter.” Since 1967 it is a ridiculous claim and looks it.

In your view, in the bigger picture, what is Israel’s role and place in the history of the Jewish people?

My first response is that of Zhou En Lai when he was asked what was the significance of the French Revolution and replied, “It’s too soon to tell.”

Another perspective, the long one, would be to say that Israel is behaving very much like the annoying little Judean state that the Romans finally dismantled in frustration. This classical analogy may be more relevant than we think. I suspect that in decades to come America (the new Rome) will abandon Israel as annoying, expensive, and a liability. This will leave Israel to its own resources or to making friends with anyone who will deal with it (as it once did with South Africa). That in turn will make it a very unpleasant place for Western liberals and democrats, who will loosen their ties with it. No doubt it will survive, but it will mean less and less to Jews elsewhere as people forget the original impulse and historical circumstances surrounding its founding.

As to the future of Jews in the diaspora, they (we) will once again be the predominant community (once again as in classical times). I think Israel will grow increasingly marginal for most Jews, though I don’t quite know what their Jewish life will look like either in a secularized world. In a way, we may be entering a new Middle Ages where the only way to preserve Jewish cultural and religious traditions will be to live in separate ghetto-like spaces (gated communities) closed off from the surrounding majority. That is already the case in parts of America.

We are now about a year into the Obama era. Is President Barack Obama “good for the Jews?” For Israel?

Barack Obama

Obama could have been good for Israel and Jews if he had followed through on his Cairo speech and original intentions. But despite expectations, he caved in to Netanyahu and is now bad for Israel in the sense that he does nothing to stop it behaving badly to its own detriment. By not following through on his appeal he let people down who had hoped for a new start. And by allowing Israel to continue with settlements, or protecting Israel at the UN, he has made more enemies in Arab lands. In that sense, the dynamic is not very different than it was before, except that the tone is more polite. And of course, his Afghanistan mess makes him look like Bush, albeit nicer. On the whole, I would say he has failed here.

After your binational state proposal, many felt the need to publicly denounce you, even famous liberals. How hard was this for you?

Not at all. Since people took to calling me “Belgian” as a synonym for “anti-Semitic European,” or “Self-Hating Jew,” I assumed that they had nothing very interesting to say. Since liberals would often say one thing to me in private but something different in public for fear of being thought “anti-Semitic”, I never much cared about their criticisms either.

On the whole I don’t mind taking a minority view: I’ve always done this. And many of the people who slapped me down for my criticisms of Israel were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war. So I suspect I was on the right side twice-over. The only criticisms I took seriously came from Israel, from reasonable people who had good grounds for disagreement. I suspect ground is starting to open up in America, as people gently put their heads above the parapet and risk criticizing Israel without getting shot.

In recent writing and interviews, you relate a lot to your unique sense of a limited future. How has this changed the way you see history and current politics?

I don’t think it’s changed it at all, though it may have shifted the balance of my writings and interests. I don’t think I have altered my views on history or politics, though of course given my circumstances I have to ration my contributions and try to focus on the things that either matter most or that I have the best chance of influencing.

After your binational state proposal, many felt the need to publicly denounce you, even famous liberals. How hard was this for you?

Not at all. Since people took to calling me “Belgian” as a synonym for “anti-Semitic European,” or “Self-Hating Jew,” I assumed that they had nothing very interesting to say. Since liberals would often say one thing to me in private but something different in public for fear of being thought “anti-Semitic”, I never much cared about their criticisms either.

On the whole I don’t mind taking a minority view: I’ve always done this. And many of the people who slapped me down for my criticisms of Israel were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war. So I suspect I was on the right side twice-over. The only criticisms I took seriously came from Israel, from reasonable people who had good grounds for disagreement. I suspect ground is starting to open up in America, as people gently put their heads above the parapet and risk criticizing Israel without getting shot.

In recent writing and interviews, you relate a lot to your unique sense of a limited future. How has this changed the way you see history and current politics?

I don’t think it’s changed it at all, though it may have shifted the balance of my writings and interests. I don’t think I have altered my views on history or politics, though of course given my circumstances I have to ration my contributions and try to focus on the things that either matter most or that I have the best chance of influencing.

Cambodia: the Path to Something Profound


May 17, 2015

In Cambodia, Along the Path to Something Profound

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/travel/in-cambodia-along-the-path-to-something-profound.html?emc=edit_th_20150517&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=48162952&_r=0#

I tiptoed across the wood planks of a wobbly orange boat heading from the riverside town Kampot to the Gulf of Thailand. I burned my bare feet on the shiny outdoor tiles surrounding a Buddhist stupa at Udong, the old capital of Cambodia. Across the country, at the 11th-century ruins of Phnom Banan, I spelunked through deep, damp caverns steeped in legends of magic and superstition. All the way, I followed a Frenchman named Henri. For 16 years and more than 20 trips, he has led me through the heart of this beautiful but knotty country.

If only we had met — or even lived in the same century. Henri Mouhot, an explorer and naturalist, was born in 1826 in eastern France. He had a passion for learning and travel, beginning with Russia, where he spent time as a young man. But his name is most associated with the Angkor ruins, which he made famous in Europe after first encountering those remnants of the Khmer empire in 1860.

17FOOTSTEPS2-superJumboAs a diarist, Mouhot (pronounced moo-HOE) could be cantankerous (“the present state of Cambodia is deplorable and its future menacing”) and condescending (“this miserable people”), but he also revered nature (“I have never been more happy”) and loved exploring (“in truth, this life is happiness to me”). His diaries from Siam (now Thailand), Cambodia, Laos (where he is buried) and Annam (now central Vietnam), between 1858 and 1861, endure as some of the most prescient, insightful literature on the region.

More than 150 years ago, the French explorer Henri Mouhot was one of the first Europeans to see the ancient Khmer ruins that today form the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia.

Our odyssey together began in 1998, the year I spent in Phnom Penh, the capital, working at a newspaper; I’ve returned to Cambodia nearly every year since. I first read Mouhot for background, and quickly found parallels to the country I was experiencing. The diaries contain a black-and-white drawing based on one of his sketches of a thatch hut on wooden stilts with a longboat on shore. The image could have been sketched today. And that cantankerous comment? Sadly, it could easily apply to more recent phases of the country’s history.

The tourist scene at Angkor Wat is another story. Yet when I most recently approached it — on the back of a motorcycle, amid hundreds of other visitors — I felt the same awe he described from another age: “At first view, one is filled with profound admiration, and cannot but ask what has become of this powerful race, so civilised, so enlightened, the authors of these gigantic works?” The same questions propel me through the country year after year.

Map of CambodiaMy latest trip, last April, took me south, to Kampot (or Komput, as Mouhot spelled it). When Mouhot visited, this was Cambodia’s bustling port town. “Six or seven ships loading at one time,” he wrote. “Chinese and European vessels may be constantly seen going up and down the stream.”

Today, the main port has moved west to Sihanoukville; gone are Kampot’s ships. Gone, too, is the public debauchery Mouhot depicted: “Almost every vice seemed prevalent at Kompot — pride, insolence, cheating, cowardice, servility, excessive idleness.” It now boasts a reputation of beauty and calm and is a favorite among both locals and tourists who like a slower pace of life.

Mouhot arrived 150 years too early to stay at the lovely Mea Culpa, where, in rooms costing just $25, French doors open onto a patio with river views. He didn’t clutch a cup of coffee while watching the daily parade of fishing boats heading to sea, as I did. And he didn’t spend a morning with a boatman named Math Ly.

We set out on his flame-colored longboat at 7:30 a.m. The river was mostly empty, fishermen having already gone to sea. Only a long line of skiffs sat tethered to shore. As we headed south, rows of metal shacks gave way to mangroves in a faint, salty breeze. The river widened, and the horizon opened to distant islands dotting the gulf. Water and sky were both the hazy teal of sand-etched sea glass.

Mouhot spent time in this cacophonous town, where traders sold all manner of goods. “The dealers in fish and vegetables, and the Chinese restaurateurs, dispute the street with pigs, hungry dogs, and children of all ages.” The Kampot market today still feels clamorous and claustrophobic — a maze of low-ceilinged stalls seemingly selling everything: mangoes, rice, cabbage, watermelon, pickles, shrimp, fermented fish, flowering chives, laundry soaps and toothbrushes. But though there are children, dogs are scarce, and any pigs you encounter will be of the fried variety.

The King, in Kampot at the time of Mouhot’s visit, advised him to escape the clamor: “Go to Udong; go about.” Udong (or Oudong, as it is also spelled) was then the capital, about 100 miles north, beyond modern-day Phnom Penh. “An eight-days’ journey travelling with oxen or buffaloes,” Mouhot wrote. “With elephants you can accomplish it in half the time.”

Phnom PenhPhnom Penh Today

My journey out of Kampot, by air-conditioned bus, took me first to Phnom Penh (or Penom-Peuh, as Mouhot spelled it), less than four hours on a paved highway (no elephants). Today’s capital of 2.2 million people, at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, was known to Mouhot as “the Great Bazaar.”

Phnom Penh is the seat of modern-day power. Though travelers aren’t accorded the royal audience Mouhot had, tourists can glimpse the high life with a visit to the Royal Palace. In contrast to the city around it, the compound has well-tamed gardens and an open-air gallery painted with Buddhist and Hindu legends depicting tigers, monkeys, sailors, warriors and intricate tales of honor and loss. The king’s quarters are roped off, but visitors can peek inside the Throne Hall and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, with its floor of solid silver tiles.

From Phnom Penh, it’s an hour’s drive to Udong through congestion, then a green belt of rice farms. Mouhot wrote of cottages with fruit gardens and country houses for the aristocracy “who come here in the evening for the sake of breathing a purer air than they can find in the city.” Except Phnom Penh was just a market town, and “the city” was Udong, a spirited place of mandarins, chiefs and noisy courts of justice. “How do you like my city?” a second king asked Mouhot. (Cambodia had a first and second king at the time.)

A tourist takes photos inside the Bayon temple in Angkor Archaeological Park. Credit Jerry Redfern for The New York Times

“Sire, it is splendid, and presents an appearance such as I have never seen elsewhere.”

Little of that remains. The royals left in 1866 when the king chose Phnom Penh as a new capital. Udong suffered through decades of subsequent war, though today the remnants are slowly being rebuilt. Pilgrims now brave a constant heat to climb steps to a series of hilltop temples and shrines.

Children clung to my legs, attempting to sell me bracelets or cool me with hand-held fans. Elderly and disabled beggars lined the steps, each with a plate onto which more fortunate visitors drop 100 riel notes (less than 3 cents).

At a giant golden Buddha with ruby lips and a golden sash, children occupied the entryway, guarding visitors’ shoes for tips. This temple, once in shambles, has a new roof. A child monk sat among burning incense, taking offerings and dispensing blessings. I stood in an open window, soaking in a welcome breeze and gazing upon the paddies below. A few incongruous factories are scattered among the fields, but mostly it’s a green landscape that stretches to the broad waters of the Tonle Sap River.

That river is the artery of Cambodia. It is, as Mouhot wrote, the “grand and beautiful” gateway to the lake of the same name, which swells in the rains and drains each dry season. It connects the lake to the Mekong, switching directions as those waters rise and fall. “The river becomes wider and wider until at last it is four or five miles in breadth; and then you enter the immense sheet of water,” Mouhot wrote.

I rented a wood cruise boat and burbled up the river, hoping for a picturesque sunset. But Phnom Penh’s ever-expanding skyline only dimmed in a thickening haze, atypical of the dazzling reds and pinks that often cascade across the river as the sun falls.

Mouhot found his light at Angkor Wat (Ongcor), “the most beautiful and best preserved of all the remains,” in Siem Reap. It is still the world’s largest religious structure, encompassing 401 acres — so commanding that a traveler forgets “all the fatigues of the journey.”

Visitors climb out of one of the caves beneath Phnom Banan. Credit Jerry Redfern for The New York Times

Late in the day, I sought solitude. Most crowds flock to the top of Phnom Bakheng, an ancient hilltop temple, for a sunset view over Angkor Wat, but I headed instead to Ta Prohm, the overgrown temple famous for the tenacious trees that smother its stone. It was nearly closing time, and almost no one was there. There is no sunset to be viewed in these tree-wrapped grounds, as twilight is heard more than seen. The light fades, and the ruins erupt in a riot of birdsong — mynas, parrots and a hornbill with swooshing wings.

The Angkorian ruins extend far beyond Siem Reap. In the 12th century, under King Suryavarman II, the empire reached its apex, stretching into modern-day Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. A few sites endure, in various states of dilapidation and looting, between Siem Reap and the Thai border.

Phnom Banan (Banone), a mountaintop temple, is about 13 miles from the city Battambang, a pleasant jaunt through the countryside. It’s a near-vertical climb up laterite steps to the ruins above undulating hills. In Mouhot’s day, the temple still had eight towers connected by galleries of “fine workmanship, and great taste and skill in construction.” Now, only portions of towers remain.

What I wanted most to see was down the steps, at the mountain’s base. A sandy path led to a “magic cave,” as tourists call it today, a deep cavern of stalactites in the limestone rock. “The water dropping from these is considered sacred” by pilgrims who say it can impart “knowledge of the past, present, and future,” Mouhot wrote.

The cave is cool and dark, the soothing yin to the scorching yang outside. Inside is a maze of psychedelic rock formations. One looks like an elephant. A guide named Phuoc Ran took me to an inner room where a Buddha statue sat amid candles. Nearby, water squeezed through ceiling cracks and plopped over smooth, rounded rocks, caught by buckets and cups.

Statue of King SihanoukThe Statue of King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh

Take the water, he said, and “you will know the past, present and future.” I instead listened to Phuoc Ran, who was born in Saigon but fled to the Thai border during wartime. He told me he knows about New Mexico, where I live, because the American soldiers he met during the war watched movies full of Southwestern cowboys.

Mouhot, Phuoc Ran, me — we keep treading ground here because we keep finding stories to tell. That’s how we learn about past, present and future.

Mouhot understood the capacity for travel to enhance insight; he devoted his life to these gifts. Before he died — brutally, from malaria — in Laos at 35, he wrote to his sister-in-law about his passions. “Seeing so much that is beautiful, grand, and new,” he wrote. “From these I draw my contentment.”

Paul Low: Race-based Politics is Unavoidable


May 12, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

MInister Paul Low is right in pointing out that race-based politics is unavoidable in Malaysia. That is the first decent and realistic comment he made since he assumed his ministerial post in Najib’s Cabinet. But apart from saying that “the people” want it and Malaysian politicians are driven by “political survival”, he did not say why this was so. If  politics is not about serving the people, then what is it?

Hudud2For Survival, Najib plays Race and Religion Card

It is going to take time, that is true. There is caveat to this. Malaysian politics will not change unless we start  doing away with raced-based political parties like UMNO, MCA, MIC and  the Islam based PAS.  That is ideal but UMNO does  not  want to be seen to be “abandoning the Malays and Islam”. Remember Dato Onn Jaafar tried it. When he could not, he resigned to set up Party Negara, which did not take off because this great Malaysian was too ahead of his time.

UMNO is still a major player  today. It is backed by racist NGOs like PERKASA and ISMA and others. That is why under pressure from Malay nationalists and pressure groups UMNO has been playing with race and religion to galvanize Malay support, especially in the rural heartland.

UMNO President Najib Razak is not a reformer of the Onn Jaafar mold. He will not do anything that will sacrifice UMNO and  run the risk of being remembered in history as the UMNO leader who abandoned the Malay cause. Maybe he is concerned about his political survival.  But if he continues with mismanaging the economy which is burdening the Malays in particular, he will find that he will lose the support of his party and his UMNO presidency. He will  be humiliated and his premiership  will end as well.

Najib with MCA LeadersMCA Leaders with the Boss

Both the MCA and MIC are losing support of the respective communities. The reason for this clear. They are seen to be lackeys of UMNO. To survive they must reform. That is not possible in the immediate future. The current leaders are perceived to have benefited from UMNO largesse, being content to play a subordinate role to UMNO warlords. Both MCA and MIC must too deal with internal problems. Looking ahead to the next few years as GE-14 approaches, they  could face rejection from Chinese, Indian and other voters.

Pakatan Rakyat did well in 2008 when they fired the imagination of Malaysian voters. In 2013, they received more than 50 percent of the popular vote. We thought we were heading towards a two coalition party system in our country. That prospect grows dim by the day.

Following the Khalid Ibrahim saga and the incarceration of Anwar Ibrahim, we witnessed the political game played by PAS President Ustaz Hadi Awang, who resurfaced as the champion of Hudud Law. His erratic and flip-flopping conduct has put Pakatan Rakyat in a quandary as UMNO seeks to entice PAS away from the opposition coalition by the playing the Islam and Malay unity card. PAS has reached a turning point in its history with a clash between the conservative hardline Ulama faction and the Erodogan moderate group very much in the works. There is now a strong likelihood that should the Ulamas win the contest, the Erodogans may form a new party, PASMA.

Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has problems of its own. Who will succeed Wan Azizah as President. It is going to be clash between a young and ambitious group led by party led Secretary-General Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah and others who want to keep  the recently elected Permatang Puah Member as party president for as long as they, and the supporters of Azmin Ali, the  dyanmic incumbent Menteri Besar of Selangor;  the Azmin faction wants to see a change in party leadership so that the party can be a strong coalition partner again.

The DAP, on the hand, has no serious issues within its ranks. Party elders are gradually  paving the way for a new generations of very qualified and professional leaders like  Teresa Koh, Tony Pua, Liew Chin Tong, Ong Kian Ming, Anthony Loke, Gobin Singh Deo,  Zairil Khir Johari, Dr. Ariffin Omar, Kula Segaran, just to name a few.  The party is not short on talent. But it must recruit more non-Chinese members to eliminate the stigma of being perceived as a chauvinistic party.

Sanjung-keris-Datuk-Seri-Hishammuddin-Hussein2Malay Supremacy

As far as politics is concerned, Malaysia is into exciting yet uncertain times. The ruling UMNO- Barisan Nasional regime is under threat. Its leader is fighting for his political future. One should not be surprised, in his struggle to survive, he will take his case to the Malay rural heartland, where he can be expected to play the race and religion card. Minister Paul Low is right. We should not expect politics of race and religion  to go away anytime soon.  But that does not mean we must not strive towards an issues-based politics–Din Merican

Paul Low: Race-based Politics is Unavoidable

By Elizabeth  Zachariah @ http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Race-based politics is unavoidable because politicians rely on it to ensure their survival, a minister said, despite research showing that such voters are increasingly against such politics.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said that politicians had to satisfy the wants of the people in rural areas who still voted based on race.

“The last election had shown that race and religion in the rural areas were key factors behind the support for the government in power today,” he said at a forum, The Great Debate: Everything in Moderation, held in Kuala Lumpur last night.

“Suppose politicians say they want to change now, then the question they will ask is, ‘will I receive votes from the people in the rural areas if I change?’ So to politicians, it is a risk. Why should they take a risk?”

His comments caused the moderator, Sharaad Kuttan from BFM, to interject and ask Low if there was no political will to do away with race-based politics.Low replied: “No, it is political survival.”

Another speaker at the forum, writer Niki Cheong quipped that he was “depressed” with Low’s contention.”So the reason why we’re not moderate is because politicians want to win the elections and therefore they tell these people that they have to think along racial lines as this is the only way they can survive.If these people are the ones leading our country, then sorry, I’m depressed,” Cheong said, to laughter from the crowd.

PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia. .PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia.  Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who pointed out that 52% of voters who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election had in fact rejected race-based politics.”So there is a possibility to eliminate race-based politics if there is political will,” he added.

Speaking to reporters after the forum, Low said that there were still many who subscribed to race-based politics and who vote based on that. “The parties are still based on race because there are people who support such parties,” he said.

“People are still ingrained with that mentality. This is why politicians are still catering to it. In the end, it is for their political survival.”

In March, a survey carried out by independent pollster Merdeka Center found that Malaysian voters overwhelmingly want political parties which take care of all Malaysians, rather than ones that fight for just their own race and religion.

The survey, commissioned by The Malaysian Insider, found that the racial rhetoric these parties thrive on was not consistent with what Malaysians want. The major component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional government – UMNO, MIC and MCA – rely heavily on race-based politics to drum up support.

Low, the minister in charge of governance, integrity and human rights, also claimed that Malaysia needed more time to tackle race and religion issues despite almost 58 years of independence. “We are still a young nation. 53 years (sic) is not enough for a transition period. We are a very young country.

“The United States took some 300 years to tackle racial issues. So 53 years is not enough,” he added. – May 12, 2015.

Democracy at work in the United Kingdom


May 11, 2015

 Phnom Penh by The Mekong

COMMENT:  Public duty? Yes, in the United Kingdom, the cradle of democracy. Why? Because politiciansDin Merican lastest there treat politics as a call to public service. Men and women  who enter politics are individuals with outstanding credentials and generally clean record of service to Britons. They are part of the system that is open, transparent and accountable. The 2015 British Elections is shining example of true democracy at work. It was conducted peacefully and there is no talk of rigging and cheating. Clean and fair elections  was the order of the day.

In Malaysia, politics in recent years has become an opportunity for politicians to further their self interest. We no longer have leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Sambanthan and Tun Hussein Onn, who gave their lives in the service of the country. Today, our politicians are thieves of state, to whom the idea of public duty and national service is not their ethos.

Tunku, Razak, IsmailWe started out as a democracy with a  strong constitution which treats all citizens as equals under the law, guarantees freedom of  assembly, expression and speech, freedom of religion,  and clear separation of power between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The British left us with an outstanding civil service , an education system which was second to none, a judiciary system that we all can be proud of , and a dedicated Police Force. But the British were no angels. They also left with draconian laws like the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act.  But democratic politics was their legacy.

After nearly 58 years of UMNO-Barisan, our democratic system of governance has broken down and is in need of urgent reform. Over the last 6 years, we have seen our fundamental freedoms taken away from us. Our Parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary is compromised; our civil service is mediocre and incompetent led by a bunch of apple polishers;  our Police Force  which is headed by an Inspector General of Police treats us like enemies of state, not as taxpayers and citizens who should be protected from criminals; our fiscal management is in a total mess because we have a Finance Minister who regards our national coffers as if it were his own and mismanages our economy.  We  have rampant corruption and abuses of power.

As a result, we are far being a democracy as originally envisioned  by our founding fathers. In stead, we have become a nation divided by class, race and religion with a Prime Minister who answers to no one and who acts with impunity and in defiance of what you and I think of him and his Cabinet of incompetent, inept, mute and self serving Ministers. In short, we have become a racist and theocratic state led by men and women who no longer uphold the traditions of public duty–Din Merican

Democracy at work in the United Kingdom

by Mike Tan @www. the antdaily.com.my
The UK elections are over, and the Conservatives, under David Cameron, won an overwhelming 331 seats, its first such victory since 1992.
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, David Farage

While David Cameron takes his time to select his Cabinet, his rivals lost no time in taking responsibility for their parties’ poor showing in the elections. Three UK political party leaders – Ed Miliband of the Labour Party, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage of the UK Independent Party (picture above) – all resigned after their parties suffered big losses in the election.

All four men may have different political perspectives and ambitions, but they share one thing in common – the wisdom of knowing when to step down when their time is up. They neither hesitated nor shied from their final act of duty as leaders of a political party, announcing their resignations the day after the results were known.

They leave with the knowledge that their parties will continue with the political struggle, that there will be others who will take their place and helm the respective parties in the future. Their parties are full of ambitious and knowledgeable politicians, not mere sycophants and yes-men. This is why democracy is alive and well in UK.

Contrast that with MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who recently announced that MCA will work hard to reform the party. “MCA needs to work harder in the future. We need to effectively show the party’s role as part of the government to gain more support from the Chinese community,” he said.

It is no secret that support for MCA is at an all-time low, with the once-mighty party now only having seven parliamentary seats and 11 state assemblymen. MCA had suffered consecutive defeats in the previous two general elections, and is close to becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the Malaysian public.

To be fair, MCA was helmed by Dr Chua Soi Lek at that time, who had declared that MCA should not accept any government posts following its worst electoral defeat ever. In doing so, Chua did something no Malaysian political leader had ever done before.

Perhaps Malaysian politicians feel they have earned the right to ministerial positions in other ways than a good showing in elections, unlike their counterparts in the UK.

Chua ultimately made way for Liow in December 2013.Liow quickly reversed Chua’s decision, taking the much-coveted Transport Minister’s post for himself. Chua’s son, Chua Tee Yong, became deputy finance minister as well. Yet MCA remains as it always has been – doing the same thing, or rather, not doing anything at all, if you listen to its critics.

Liow has yet to lead MCA as president into a general election, and thus he remains untested. His track record thus far, however, has not been good.Under his leadership, MCA avoided contesting the Bukit Gelugor by-election and lost the Kajang by-election, both held in 2014. In all honestly, MCA had little if no chance of winning, so it made the right move to avoid contesting against DAP, but had to put up a fight in Kajang, where it predictably lost.

Liow would argue that he and MCA have not been given a chance to prove themselves in a general election. He might even claim that his call for reform will be the first step to a drastic change in MCA and ultimately lead to Chinese voters supporting the party once again.

It’s true, Liow hasn’t proven himself yet. But rest assured, nothing will stop him from taking a ministerial position after the next general election, unless he is forced to step down, like his predecessor.

In UK, political party leaders lead their parties to victory before becoming ministers. In Malaysia, they become ministers before leading their party into elections, and even if their parties suffer humiliating defeats.

That is the difference between the democracy practised there and what goes on here in our country. And in a way, this somewhat explains why Malaysia will never ever be great like Great Britain. – The Ant Daily