Brainwashed: Where the “Manchurian Candidate” came from

April 3, 2017


Where the “Manchurian Candidate” came from.

Hell, Heaven, Potentates, Priests and Politicians and the Business of Religion–Coping with Uncertainty

July 28, 2016

Hell, Heaven, Potentates, Priests and Politicians and the Business of Religion–Coping with Uncertainty

by  Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

[R]eligion has an “autoimmune disease”, a critical flaw … that leads to its misuse…. The disease’s two main symptoms are “God intoxication”… and “God manipulation”.

From ‘Religion’ , Brook Wilensky-Lansford’s review of “Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself”, The New York Times Book Review, July 17, 2016, p. 26.

The only constant is change. It’s the most basic fact of human existence. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same. We feel it with each breath.

From birth to the unknown moment of our passing, we ride a river of change. And yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we exhaust ourselves in an endless search for solidity. We hunger for something that lasts, some idea or principle that rises above time and change. We hunger for certainty. That is a big problem.–Adam Frank

Malaysians watching with bewilderment and dismay as politicians, ulamas, and evangelists expound the superiority of their religion and promise milk, honey and paradise for their followers, and the fires of hell for those who do not belong, shouldn’t be surprised. The antics of these fire and brimstone practitioners follow a well trodden pattern going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

Any basic course on religion run not by graduates from religious institutions but by reputable scholars would teach about the history of the estimated 6,000 religions of the world, the differences, commonalities and patterns, and associations with cultural and ecological features, especially political.

Using scientific evidence, logic and rationality, such courses can help put into proper perspective the so-called universal truths and answers peddled by the religious books and scriptures of the literate Abrahamic religions, as well as the other absolutist claims made by them.

My design of a course on “Comparative Religion 101” will begin by pointing out that the idea of an ultimate creator responsible for all living things on earth, including man, is one common to many of the established religions found in the different parts of the world. It would also make the argument that the origin and spread of religion is inextricably connected with the quest for authority, power and followers.

The search for a supreme maker goes very far back in history. We do not have a precise dating for it. However, some idea of how far back it goes can be obtained if we look at the history of evolution.

Irrefutable scientific evidence has shown that the physical and behavioral features shared by all people originated from ape-like ancestors and that these evolved over a period of 6 million years. The ability to walk upright evolved over 4 million years ago.

Other important human characteristics such as a complex brain, ability to use tools and capacity for language have developed more recently. More advanced traits such as complex symbolic expression, art, cultural diversity, etc. emerged over 100,000 years ago. With this emergence came ideas and beliefs of hell, heaven and the worship of gods, goddesses, spirits, deities and other man-created objects or points of veneration to facilitate the ascent to a better existence after death.

What Happens After Life’s End?

Questions and answers about where we come from and where we go after the end of life on earth have been voiced in all kinds of ways without any resolution. Archaeological evidence suggests that early man such as the Neanderthals who can be dated to over 50,000 years ago had some sort of preoccupation with death. They were self-conscious beings and were likely to have an awareness of death and the meaning and implications of death. Such consciousness has continued unabated and unresolved with modern man; it will remain unresolved until all humans die off – whenever that may come about.

Most if not all religions have been especially concerned with man’s destiny after death. They probably began with some notion of an Underworld as an abode for the dead. Evidence from ancient burial sites and rituals also indicates concern with ensuring that the spirits of the dead were appropriately sent off or they would not rest peacefully which explains the presence of priests and other before and after-death guides and experts.

A parallel role in society was performed by soothsayers, seers, oracles and diviners who were seen as able to foresee the future by magical and other means. The roles of priests and diviners and oracles were often integrated in the ancient religions. Predicting the near and distant future as well as promising some form of paradise after death proved a lucrative and privileged undertaking for those who belonged to these occupations.

From its earliest too, priestly and equivalent personages have exploited man’s sense of insecurity and fear of the supernatural and made it their powerful ideological tool. This modus operandi served the needs of its founders and prophets who could then impose on their tribes their understanding of ‘truth’, ‘hell’, ‘heaven’, ‘light’, ‘darkness’, and ‘paradise’ and their solutions to human anxieties.

These ‘holy men’ can be considered to be among the world’s first politicians. They still are. Women priests have been relatively sparse in history except in matrilineal societies. Perhaps if they had become dominant, it could have made a difference to the history of the world.

Mountains rise, mountains fall: change is constant.

Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Above the witch doctors, shaman, priests and similar personages holding positions in the little or great religions of the world have been the chiefs, lords, emperors, sultans, caliphs, sovereigns and other similar potentates standing at the highest rung of their society. Whether it is with pre-Homeric Greek religion, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, the religious systems of the world can be seen not only as providing explanations for our earthly existence. They also provided strategies for managing the distribution of political and socio-economic power.

Today, despite the advancement of science and knowledge, the gullibility of the believers of religion continues as also its exploitation by the leaders and charlatans of religion.

In the past primitive societies were petrified and mystified by natural phenomenon such as thunder, lightning, floods and earthquakes. Modern science has demystified these phenomena and enabled us to conquer our fears about this aspect of the unknown.

In contrast to the fear of unknown nature, some primitive societies were relatively stoic about death. Hunter gatherer societies such as the Hazda, for example, have no particular belief in an afterlife, and the death of an individual means a straightforward end to their existence.

It is paradoxical that such societies rather than our modern ones seem to come closest to the current scientific position regarding the mind–body dichotomy which sees consciousness as derived from and/or is reducible to physical phenomena such as neuronal activity occurring in the brain. The implication of this premise is that once the brain stops functioning at brain death, consciousness ceases to exist.

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Acceptance of a straightforward end to life – that humans, on death, simply become part of the earth, sea or river that we evolved from without any further afterlife – would, however, run against the world wide industry that is organized religion, and the political and religious elites who exploit and benefit from it.

The Evils of Theocracy

July 17, 2016

 Shafiqah Othman Hamzah

The Evils of Theocracy


UMNO’s showy Muslims

What is a theocracy? A theocracy is a government in which God or a Higher Being is seen as the supreme ruler and government officials are regarded as divinely guided. In a theocracy, religion or faith plays the dominant role.

While I am perfectly aware that constitutionally, Malaysia is a secular country, it makes me uncomfortable to see the attempts certain elitists have made to slowly turn our beloved country into a theocracy. They started by demonising the terms “secularism” and “pluralism”; two ideas that promote the harmonious co-existence of different faiths and beliefs.

This is all an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate while failing to realise that Islam has never provided a blueprint for what an Islamic state should be. Even when the Prophet was the leader of Medina, he never claimed that it was a divine rule. He ruled based on principles of justice and equity, and that was as Islamic as an Islamic state should be.

Perhaps theocracies can work in minor-scaled governance, but a country under theocratic rule is bound to fail and history has shown us that many times.

Since a theocracy sees no separation between government and religion, your religion becomes your government and your government becomes your religion. Political religion must die because people should be able to stand against their government without being seen as standing against religion.

I do not and will never support a theocratic government, not because I do not believe in Islam as a way of life, but because it has been proven time and time again that religion has been used as a pretext for conflict and oppression.

At the heart of every religion is the aim to cultivate spiritual well-being and inner values such as kindness, honesty, patience, and forgiveness; all values that promote unity. However, when religion becomes institutionalised and politicised, it becomes an ultimate evil.

Theocracy heavily excludes religious pluralism, something which is essential to a multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia. Where religion is supposed to promote the idea of humility, theocracies promote the idea of superiority whereby one religion is better than the rest.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in believing that your religion is the Divine Truth, but giving it precedence over all other faiths by law automatically creates a society filled with xenophobia, intolerance and hostility.

Religion is submission to a Higher Being. A theocracy, even though it claims to be religious, is submission to a government, no more no less. Especially in Malaysia, people should be allowed to point out foul politics without being seen as attacking Islam.

Religion being used in politics is nothing new, even in Islamic history, such as the Umayyads (the largest theocracy in history) prosecuting, and even executing, the Qadaris, who stood against their tyranny, by using the ideology of the Jabriyyah who justified their rule as divinely sanctioned.

Religion was used as a tool to silence anyone who was against the government or their plans. Some examples of that being done today would be when a JAKIM sermon says that anyone who defies the government will be damned by God, or when Pahang Mufti Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Rahman Osman called DAP kafir harbi for opposing hudud.

Ever since we were young, we were taught not to question religion, so when we grew up, we blindly accept the religious rulings and sayings made by the elites. What we were not allowed to question was not religion per se, but the version of the religion practised and propagated by the ruling party.

In a society that stigmatises rational thinking, a theocratic government is especially dangerous because they can very easily control its people.

Not only does a theocratic government give precedence to one religion, it gives precedence to only one version of that particular religion. In the case of Malaysia, that version would be mazhab Shafie of Sunni Islam. We end up not only discriminating against other religions but also our own brothers and sisters in faith who do not follow the same version of Islam. This is against the inclusive spirit of Islam itself.

The saddest thing about Malaysia is that our governance is at a constant tug-o-war between secular and theocracy, and we’re slowly losing to the latter.I have always believed in using religious values in politics but do not politicise religion.

I salute and admire those who have fought long and hard to save Malaysia from ever going down the same road as the likes of Iran. This is a fight we should not be giving up anytime soon. So who’s with me?

Rejoinder: Exposing Isma’s theocratic acrobatics–The Sheer Hypocrisy of it all

Farouk A. Peru


I was most unsurprised to see that the confused racist/Islamofascist group, ISMA, had responded to my fellow MMO columnist Shafiqah Othman Hamzah.

Shafiqah had  an article on the evils of theocracy where she exposed the pretences of the Islamic priestly class. What did surprise me, however, was how ISMA defended its case. ISMA declared that Islam is not consistent with a theocracy and proceeded to paint a rosier than rosy picture of Shariah. It then proceeded to call our Constitution “Islamic constitutionalism”! These arguments were nothing more than theocratic acrobatics, as far as I am concerned, and their shambolic nature needs to be exposed.

A Model Incorruptible Malaysian Muslim courting Wahhabism. No wonder he has many young rent seeking fans who share his “Cash is King” political philosophy–Din Merican.

The author of this essay calls herself a “Wanita Isma activist.” Norhidayah begins with a snarky remark to Shafiqah, claiming she “googled” her definition of “theocracy.” Shafiqah chose a literal definition of the term but it was not an impractical one. It was a definition wholly consistent with the attitudes and practices of the Islamic priesthood who see themselves as walking deities on Earth even if they do not explicitly say so. They even style themselves as warith al-anbiya (inheritors of the Prophets) claiming that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had deemed them so.

Norhidayah, on the other hand, chose to distance herself from a literal definition, preferring to look towards European history for hers. From that tradition, she found definitions by historians and policies and practices by the Catholic Church which she equates to as theocracy, something which is “not consistent with Islam.” Let us analyse these policies and practices one by one.

The first of these is that the Catholic Church broke its adherents down to castes and classes, the nobility and the peasant. Does this not occur under the Islamofascist Shariah law? Of course it does but under another guise.

Under the classical theory of the Islamic State (which Daesh is fighting for today), non-Muslims cannot participate fully in society. They cannot be judges nor even soldiers let alone leaders of states. Not only that, they cannot even marry Muslims without first converting to Islam. Therefore Norhidayah’s argument is totally invalidated here.

This man has a RM1 billion budget to play around with

The second policy and practice led to the position of wealth and power for the priestly class. They were wealthier and more powerful than kings, says Norhidayah. I would respond with the following: Malaysia is not even a theocracy now, as Norhidayah would admit, yet our ulamas have tremendous wealth and power. Even our pendakwah bebas can drive luxury cars and command five-figure fees for their lectures (so much for following the Sunnah of austerity!). JAKIM, the ultimate ulama organisation, has a budget of a billion ringgit and yet cannot or will not produce its accounts. That is a heady dose of power. So how are Muslims different from the Catholic Church?

Norhidayah’s rosy view of Shariah is either utterly delusional or an audacious lie. Next, she claims that Islam operates under the parameters of given texts. Hence, Islam cannot be considered a theocracy because rulers cannot operate on their own whim claiming to be acting on God’s behalf.

Who does he think he is, this Islamic simpleton?  Harussani is a danger to Malaysia.To think that  the erudite HRH The Sultan of Perak entertains him.

Let us accept her premise for now before we deconstruct it below. If rulers cannot operate on their own whims and Islamic texts are considered divine, who is doing the ruling? The answer would be “God.” Therefore, by Norhidayah’s own reasoning, Islam is quite literally a theocracy. God has the power. But it’s not really God who is ruling.

Norhidayah also seems to forget the glaring factor of interpretation. She quoted the hadith of Muadh ibn Jabal which claims that Muslims are to rule with the Quran and Sunnah. This is technically incorrect. Muslims are forever bound to rule by their interpretation of the two. There is far from a single volume of Shariah codes which all Muslims follow. And Muslims are not restricted by them either.

In Shariah law, there are mechanisms through which one may “remove” the boundaries of Shariah. For example, the sole legitimacy of Islam (Quran Chapter 3 Verse 19). Some scholars see this verse as “abrogated” by verses which acknowledge the validity of other faiths (2/62 and 5/69).

Therefore, they were not “bound” by the Quran. They simply manipulated it to suit their political agenda, the way ISMA is doing so today. Had they been bound by it, they would have to formulate an interpretation which harmonises the two ideas but instead, they simply cancelled out what did not suit them. My own understanding is that the word “Islam” is simply the path to peace, present in all religions.

Lest we forget: this man who first declared that Malaysia is an Islamic state and Anwar Ibrahim supported him before he was unceremoniously removed by his political mentor in 1998. UMNO and PAS politicians are the same. So, “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword”.  –Din Merican

So is Malaysia a theocratic or religious country? We need to consider the following – under the theocracy we are considering (the classical Islamic one), there is no half way point. Either you are fully Islamic (that is, operating fully under Shariah law) or you are not Islamic at all. That is why PAS whose ulama are all from the same mindset strives to establish their Negara Islam. It is indeed all or nothing for them. That is the only way they can find employment.

Therefore with that thinking, Malaysia is currently a secular nation. As Shafiqah asserted though, we are experiencing a creeping theocracy. The current stage we are in is on the level of psychological influence. The increased number of Malay-Muslims who are followers of Islamofascist scholars have increased. And this is what we need to reverse if we are to retain our sovereignty.


Najib’s Bunglers are hurting him

April 4, 2016

Najib’s Bunglers are hurting him

by Scott Ng

Najib’s No. 1

UMNO Supreme Council member Tajuddin Abdul Rahman is making a name for himself as one of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s fiercest defenders. Tajuddin wants you to know that Najib has a good reason for spending a lot of money on his wife, Rosmah Mansor. It’s because it makes her happy, he says.

Just like any married man out there, the PM wants to impress the missus and, according to Tajuddin, giving her handbags is an important part of the process of wooing your lady. He says it is especially acceptable for the PM to do this because, as a high-ranking public official, he can afford it.

No one would disagree that there is no problem with pampering your lady within your means. But the key phrase here is “within your means”. Now, it has been alleged that Rosmah loves Birkin bags. One of those can cost anything from RM40,000 to RM1 million. The Prime Minister’s salary, on record, is RM22,825.65 a month, though his actual income is likely far higher, given the allowances our government officials are paid. Whether it is within Najib’s means to buy Birkin bags is a conclusion for someone else to draw.

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Mohamed Rahmat’s Son

We are not saying that Najib actually buys Birkin bags for Rosmah. All we’re doing is analysing Tajuddin’s statement. It is important to note that Tajuddin was responding to allegations made in the ABC’s Four Corners report on Malaysia. It said the PM used credit cards to spend millions buying jewellery for Rosmah. It also alleged that Najib had received tons of money from dubious sources, not just from Saudi royalty.

If Tajuddin had been a dependable defender of his boss, he would have done some research so he could shoot holes into the allegations. Instead, all he has succeeded in doing is to embarrass the PM further. His so-called defence of Najib raises eyebrows so high that they disappear into our hair.

Yet Another UMNO Bungler

Certainly, Tajuddin is not the only bungler among the PM’s men. The confusing narrative that we’ve been given threatens to derail any attempt at defending Najib. The defenders are out in full force, and they are saying different things. One insists that the Four Corners report is one-sided and inaccurate, and another tacitly admits that it got some things right.

The more Tajuddin and his fellow defenders talk, the shakier the ground the government stands on looks.


JAKIM, PAS, and Najib’s UMNO: They make us sick

March 26, 2016

JAKIM, PAS, and Najib’s UMNO: They make us sick

by Farouk A. Peru

There was a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I read reports of the Brussels attacks. In 2013, I was feeling quite buoyant after a jog when the 6 o’clock news announced the shocking report of the Woolwich attacks.

Farouk A. Peru

Even though there was only one casualty, that attack was particularly vicious and the murderer actually spoke to a camera justifying his evil. That made me sick to my stomach. Naturally, the backlash against the Muslim community was brutal and severe.

The terror attacks in Brussels which have so far left 31 dead and scores more injured were not even confirmed as Jihadi attacks when I detected Islamophobic remarks on social media.

The world is already attuned to that mode of thinking. After all, Turkey suffered attacks only last week by what officials claimed to be ISIS. Who are these ISIS people? Does it even matter? We now have an “admission” from ISIS, behind the curtain of obfuscation and really, that’s all that’s needed.

The fact that they are claiming to be Islamic is already enough for Islamophobes to make Islam culpable and thus incriminate Muslims. In this climate of suspicion, even people who look like Muslims (read: racial features) have already been attacked!

No Change when we have idiots in Malaysia

I believe in being proactive though. Muslims are in the best position to prevent these attacks from happening simply because these terrorists are hiding in our midst. They could be our friends and family who have been radicalised or some mysterious stranger who suddenly appeared recently.

Whoever they are, we will encounter them more than any other people. After all, Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect of the Paris attacks late last year, hid for four months in his old hometown without being detected. He must have had some help. Hence, we are in the best position to recognise and prevent them from carrying out their heinous activities. The question is how?

The first thing I would recommend is keeping one’s eyes and ears open. Watch out for suspicious activities. Terrorist attacks, at least ones which meet their goals, are not the result of the lack of planning and haphazard execution. Much time and effort will need to be invested.

This is how we can detect the possibility of these attacks. In the movie Four Lions which satirises Islamic terrorism, the lead terrorist Omar had to go for training in Pakistan before he could be “authorised” for such an attack. Such an absence would be very obvious to those close to him.

This brings us to the next point ― recruitment. Thanks to the dark, shadowy anonymity of the internet, ISIS recruiters have managed to succeed in gaining recruits using social media. Reports have said that they even use attractive operatives to lure Muslims of the opposite sex through promises of marriage!

Of course, they also do so through direct propaganda. Malaysian ISIS recruiters probably also use the same method. One can easily find profiles in social media which echo ISIS sentiments. They may be fake ones, simply pranksters wasting people’s time or they may actually be ISIS recruiters.

In any case, I advise Muslims to block these profiles straight away. Deny the troll his oxygen and he will be done.

A Message from Mr. Trump–This is not the solution either

My final point is the prerequisite to making the first two points justifiable ― ideology. In my observation, Muslims are ill-equipped to handle ISIS rhetoric. This is because of two things. One, our traditional education system is not of a dialectical model. It shies away from dialogue and even attempts to repress it. JAKIM is a clear example of this policy. So when ISIS tells Muslims that Islam demands they join the Islamic State, they are unable to answer.

Secondly, conservative traditional Islam is still not willing to reform its tradition. Although we will find dozens of Muslims scholars and luminaries loudly condemning ISIS time and again, none of them will actually step up and reform the Islamic tradition.

The tradition has many narrations and interpretations of the Quran which echo the sentiments of ISIS. Unless these books are edited, Muslims will continue to be held hostage by them and worse still, think the Quran actually teaches this evil. The soul of our faith is at stake here.

To me, the greatest solution to these attacks and Islamophobia lies in social activism. A group of Muslims here in London aptly named the Children of Adam feed the homeless every Sunday. In doing so, they are simultaneous fulfilling the key tenet of Islam as well as showing the world what we’re really about.

The problem is, their numbers are about one hundredth of a typical Friday congregation. We do have a long way to go.

When state and religion were separate and when corruption was almost non-existent

February 26, 2016

When state and religion were separate and when corruption was almost non-existent

by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

During the early days of our independence, faith was a private matter and the country experienced religious tolerance and ethnic understanding.

POLITICS has become a curse to this country. It is no longer a means to achieve good governance and reliable state management. It has been turned into a source of power to inflict evil on people.

Power has been misused to enrich those in high positions.Independence has been turned into making the country socially and culturally backward.

Religion has become a source of amassing influence. The Malays were pushed into being servile, leading to a siege mentality.They were made to lose their power of rational thinking and to totally accept what the powers-that-be had committed.

During the early days of independence, the country experienced religious tolerance and ethnic understanding. There was merrymaking whenever occasions presented themselves. Dances and singing were common happenings.

Fun fairs would make their rounds in various towns. There would be games for the children and at night there would be dancing to the ­various melodious Malay tunes. Joget dancing was the order then.

Hostesses would sit in line on the stage and those interested in doing the joget could purchase tickets and go up to pick the dancing partner of their choice.

There would be joget and later this would be termed joget moden because Western tunes had also been incorporated.There would be the old ronggeng, the precursor to joget, and in the north, there would be changgong from Perlis and ramvong, joget dancing to Thai music.

People were able to dispense with all the stress of life during the day through these fun outlets. There were no cases of rape, incest and such other devilish happenings.

In big cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur, there were cabarets whereby working people would be able to get rid of the stress of work.

This was the place where enterprising people would practise their flair for Western dancing.They would do the various ­dances, such as the foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, rumba, samba, tango and other new trends.

Competitions were also held and it was all in good fun. Religion was never part of public domain . It was a private matter.That was when religion and the state were completely separated.

The Islamic religious departments were only involved in family matters, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Other aspects were left to the discretion of the people. Religion was never forced into the everyday life of the people.

Malay-Muslim children from a young age would attend afternoon Islamic religious classes where the various aspects of their religion were made known to them. The emphasis was that the individual was answerable to Allah and not to anybody else.

Don’t Blame PAS alone, UMNO from Mahathir-Anwar Ibrahim to Badawi-Najib is equally culpable

But UMNO’s rivalry with PAS for the support of the Malay-Muslims caused both these political parties to accuse one another of being non-Islamic, and thus the devil was let loose.

Once PAS started to accuse UMNO of being deviant in its Islamic stand and also convinced some conservative Malays of the sins practised by UMNO, the latter in the 1980s during the Mahathir-Anwar Ibrahim turned into being fanatical in its Islamic agenda.

The Islamisation of the country started to take shape. The tudung suddenly appeared as part of so-called female Islamic attire. Dances were no longer encouraged. Life had been made austere.

Islamic religious departments were expanded and new ones ­created, like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim). Religion had been made part of the state. Malay-Muslim life had been regulated.

Money and power were invested in these religious institutions and with power in hand, more regulations were manufactured. Halal certificates became necessary to indicate to the Malay/Muslims which places they could patronise.This was done simply to exhibit the power these institutions had.

The UMNO government became victim to the whims of PAS and there was no need for PAS to govern the country as UMNO was implementing its agenda.

Malay culture was deemed ­deviant from Islamic values and Arabic culture started to seep in. There were no more greetings of selamat pagi or selamat datang. All terms had to be in Arabic.

Almost overnight we became Pious Arabs (pronounced Allabs)

Politicians in starting their speeches would rattle off in Arabic for a few minutes to show off how Islamic they were before coming to what they wanted to deliver, and would do the same when ending their speeches.

The Malay-Muslims in the country became obsessed with rituals and other humanistic aspects of religion were discarded. Thus they became arrogant and aggressive in displaying their Muslim-hood.

This is nothing but mere hypocrisy. Religion should be personal. The state should have no say in regulating Malay-Muslim life.What each individual does, drinks, eats and wears is up to each individual to choose as long as there exists no criminal element.

The state must divorce itself from religion. The country must go back to being secular and let religion be the choice of individuals.

There should be only one legal system and to have two running in the country has caused confusion, where even the learned cannot distinguish between consent, conversion and conscience.

Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a ­former press secretary to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.