Malaysia: Light and Political Change will come but Quando’


May 24, 2016

Malaysia: Light and Political Change  will come but Quando’

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Once upon a time, not long ago, many Malaysians – the majority,  in fact- believed that change was possible through politics. That was our age of innocence and naivete.

No longer now it seems, given the current plague of scandals and chicanery, and the burgeoning tools of repression and authoritarianism exercised by a government desperate to prevent the fallout from the twin crisis of IMDB and donation to the Prime Minister’s account from spiralling out of control and toppling Najib from his position.

The fish rots from the head

The fish rots from the head. The rot has also set well into the rest of the body politic. No political figure or body either from or associated with the Barisan Nasional coalition has been immune from the sense of disillusionment, betrayal and alienation that is pervasive among members of the public as a result of what is taking place in the country. This can be discerned from the feedback; some expressed angrily, others sorrowfully, seen on a daily basis in the readers’ columns of the social media.

Today even this last outlet where Malaysia’s rakyat can find voice to express their innermost feelings and concerns on matters of the state and the political shenanigans of the day is at risk.This is because the Government through its minions in the civil service can punish by preventing us from traveling outside the country for “disrespecting or insulting the country’s leaders” according to the Immigration Department  Director-General, Dato’ Sakib Kusmi.

“The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by the Government under the aegis of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. So, the government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document,” he was quoted in an email to a local daily.

His superior, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, clarified. “Only for people who commit offence (sic) against the Constitution, for example sedition, religion, race, and threat to national peace and harmony and national security.”

In less convoluted terms, what Nur Jazlan Mohamed, son of Dato Mohamed Rahmat, the notorious Minister and former Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia during the Mahathir Administration, who not so long ago seen as a relatively sensible leader with liberal pretensions until his promotion to higher office, is stating is that should the government deem you or what you say/write as a threat to the government – no matter how unfounded or incorrect the view of the authority – it has the right to take away your passport and prompto you cannot travel.

But according to the government – you should not complain. After all you still have your other freedoms and rights intact.

Hence, you can always fight this decision by challenging the government in our – above board and above reproach – independent court at your own time and expense. And while it is fought in the court of law, the ban remains. Meanwhile the Immigration Department and Home Affairs will conveniently pass on the defence of its position to the salivating posse of lawyers, eagerly waiting their call to national service for a suitable fee paid out from the taxpayers’ pocket.

Genesis of ‘Political Apathy’

Some analysts, after surveys on political attitudes and behavior, have noted how most young Malaysians appear to be apathetic about the country’s politics. In explaining this finding, they have blamed it on the history of ‘political apathy’ as well as on the country’s relative prosperity, Asian respect for authority, and the campus politics ban imposed in the 1970s to squelch radicalism.

In fact, the main culprit for what appears a tidak apa attitude towards politics and political change is the Barisan Government itself which has held the reins of power since 1957.

Clearly measures such as the travel ban imposed on Maria Chin Abdullah, Bersih chief, who was prevented from travel to Seoul to receive a human rights award, are not only to deter her and other NGO leaders.

They are part of the arsenal of anti-dissent weaponry used by the authorities to send a message to the larger population who may not be apathetic to what is taking place and who may be thinking of opposing the government. They are intended precisely to breed the apathy which is part of the mental conditioning required to ensure the sustained silencing of voices and shackling of minds that want a vibrant democracy.

The ‘apathy’ has little or nothing to do with cultural values and respect for our leaders and even less to do with the level of affluence of our society. But it has everything to do with making sure that the Barisan stays in power indefinitely and kills off dissent aimed at toppling a rogue or unjust government.

And increasingly this is being done by bludgeoning, hijacking or co-opting all the other levers and instruments of authority that are entrusted to facilitate access to our basic freedoms of expression, information, thought, assembly and movement supposedly enshrined in the Constitution.

Gone a long time ago is the separation of power of the executive, legislative and judiciary in Malaysia. Gone too are the checks and balances preventing the monopoly and abuse of power by the executive branch.

But as seen from the example of authoritarian regimes elsewhere around the world, ‘apathy’ can turn to outrage and action when it is least expected.The Indian teacher Yogananda said: “It doesn’t matter if a cave has been in darkness for 10,000 years or half an hour, once you light a match it is illuminated.”

Light and political change will come to Malaysia. The question is quando (when).

Here is a short clip from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria about a country whose Late King purportedly donated USD681 million to Prime Minister Najib Razak. I am trying to obtain the entire presentation. –Din Merican

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/08/opinions/why-they-hate-us-zakaria/#

 

Malaysia: A Tale of Hang Tuak and Hang Jebon


May 23, 2016

Malaysia:  A Tale of Hang Tuak and Hang Jebon

by Dr. Azly Rahman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysia’s : Hang Jebon-The 1MDB mastermind

When I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be either Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat or Bruce Lee. For those not familiar with the names, I will skip explaining who Bruce Lee was. One may check his Facebook page to find out who the San Francisco-born Chinese-American-Philosophy-major warrior was. Tuah and Jebat did not have Facebook accounts. Not even Linkedin profiles.

I worshipped Tuah and Jebat, I even wanted to be both heroes in one – like a Nescafe 2-in-1 sachet.

I would lock myself in my bedroom at times, put on my baju Melayu Johor, kain samping, a paper tanjak or headgear, and with my paper-made keris, I’d be Hang Tuah fighting Hang Jebat. I’d jump up and down the bed yelling words like “Cis bedebah kau! Mati kau!” (You son-of-a machine-gun you! Die you, die!)  before I plunge my kris into myself as I was playing both roles – Tuah and Jebat.  I was not sure which one was a better hero or a better moron of Malacca times.Today – I have killed both of them.

Here is the story of the re-branded heroes Hang Tuak and Hang Jebon; the former a warrior drunk with moronism and the latter a gangster and a playboy-warrior. ‘Tuak’ is a Malay word for ‘palm wine’ and ‘Jebon’ is a mongoose.

Hang Tuak was said to be the most loyal and most celebrated Malay hero of 15th century Malacca; a hero endowed with special powers to serve the king. He was said to be a polyglot as well, able to speak multiple languages while able to defeat top-notch fighters from neighbouring kingdoms, especially Majapahit.

He was also an expert kangkong eater, able to trick his way into getting a glimpse of the face of a Ming Dynasty emperor by pretending that he was swallowing the Chinese salad heads-up. I suppose the great Chinese sultan looked as pretty as a Hong Kong version of Shah Rukh Khan that no one is allowed to even look at his face.

The Hang Tuaks led by a Mr. Kulup

For Hang Tuak to gain access to that face – that was a most remarkable and celebrated achievement of the Malay warrior when it comes to fine and acrobatic dining. Had he stayed longer and ate more kangkongs, Tuak would have taken selfies with the supreme ruler of the dynasty, right there in the middle of the middle of the Middle Kingdom.

Hang Jebon was Hang Tuak’s BFF or best friend forever until one day he found out that Tuak was wrongfully sentenced to death by the sultan who loved women and would steal other people’s wife and daughters or even concubines and grandmothers if they look like Marilyn Monroe or Lady Gaga.

Yes, because the sultan was angry that his favourite warrior-terminator did not get to kidnap one Tun Teja of Pahang and instead the fool fell in love with Madam Teja.  (Note: Teja is not to be confused with Madam T, the wife of ‘Mr T’ the African-American TV hero with the mohawk.)

The gorgeous Teja perhaps looked like Katherine Hepburn in Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Tuak was unlucky in that mission impossible and was sentenced to death ; maybe to death by tickling till he turned pink and red and then died.

Chosen by the Mandate of Heaven

That was a form of slow death, arguably pleasurable those day before lethal injection. And that was how sultans acted those days. If you are a sultan chosen to rule by the Mandate of Heaven by some Divine Daulat, you could do anything – do good to your slaves or ‘hamba sahaya’ as well as have as many concubines that your harem can accommodate and steal other people’s wife or daughter or steal even royal goats and orangutans.

There were some bad sultans back in the day, mind you. Some may have kept both concubines and porcupines as well.

As God-appointed rulers, you can have all the nice designer clothes you want, sit on the most exquisite diamond-studded throne till you constipate, eat caviar all day, summon the Malay court  dancers to even dance like Janet Jackson or have them do the locomotion, and even have 10 gold-plated bullock carts to bring you and your palace gang members around the village-kingdom, reminding people that a sultan can do no wrong and is above the law and that going against them will have you arrested and coconuts will be shoved down your throat, as the mildest punishment.

That was the power the sultans gave themselves. Back in the day, if you laugh at a prince who could not kick the sepak takraw ball right you could end up dead as well. Maybe stoned to death with a hundred of those hard rattan ball. Those were the days – of the Malay Harry Potter days – when sultans were also carried around the village in what looked like stretchers crafted by the best adiguru (master artisans) with chair design expertise.

One of the sultans even died on a ‘dulang-looking stretcher’ in Kota Tinggi, when he was murdered with a keris by his own laksamana. His story was told as ‘The Story of Sultan Mahmud Mangkat di Julang’. He was an evil sultan who did not like people stealing fruits from his kebun/orchard. Especially buah nangka or jackfruit. He does not care if you are a pregnant woman craving for a piece of jackfruit.

Back to the two Hang men – Tuak and Jebon.

Hang Najib’s generous friends from Saudi Arabia–USD681 million Gift

So as the legend goes, Jebon was extremely angry and, in the spirit of Che Guevara and the infidel Fidel Castro, decided to revolt and take over the kingdom. Not only the sultan had to go into hiding in some ‘batu-belah-batu-bertangkup-looking’ cave but Jebon was smart, in the tradition of womanising-smart he learned from the sultans – he took all the sultan’s concubines as well all for himself.

All those Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and even Beyonce and Kim Kardashian and Kaitlyn-Bruce-Jenner looking Malacca concubines were made his. Jebat the silat-smart Darth Vader-like warrior took them all and had a lot of fun in the process of fighting for justice. Fighting for Tuak his BFF.

It is like today’s ethos – to be a politician means to serve and to steal. And to do these big time. Tuak and Jebon were the favourite lakshamanas (‘admirals’)  entrusted to keep the sultans in power and in lust all the time. There were handsomely rewarded.

The legend and nothing more

So, that was the story of the two Malay warriors of Malacca times. That was the legend and nothing more. One cannot even do a DNA testing on those two Hangmen, There is no point spending time debating ‘cogito-ergo-sum-ness’ of the two. No point using a Descartian logic to prove their existence.

All those Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and even Beyonce and Kim Kardashian and Kaitlyn-Bruce-Jenner looking Malacca concubines were made his. Jebat the silat-smart Darth Vader-like warrior took them all and had a lot of fun in the process of fighting for justice. Fighting for Tuak his BFF.

It is like today’s ethos – to be a politician means to serve and to steal. And to do these big time. Tuak and Jebon were the favourite lakshamanas (‘admirals’)  entrusted to keep the sultans in power and in lust all the time. There were handsomely rewarded.

The legend and nothing more

So, that was the story of the two Malay warriors of Malacca times. That was the legend and nothing more. One cannot even do a DNA testing on those two Hangmen, There is no point spending time debating ‘cogito-ergo-sum-ness’ of the two. No point using a Descartian logic to prove their existence.

But Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat were my heroes. I love them. Not anymore after they had a name-change: Hang Tuak ‘the forever drunk’ and Hang Jebon ‘the original Malacca  gangsta’.  That leaves Bruce Lee and me, myself and I as the two heroes. The Nescafe 2-in-1 me.

Malays of today do not need Tuaks and Jebons as heroes. Malays don’t need to glorify these names and confuse children what a ‘hero’ should mean. A moron is not a hero. A moron does not think. They follow the money and those with power. We have so many ‘Hang Sapu Habis’ heroes propped up in our midst.

The hero is the self – the kingdom within larger that the outside – the child that refuses to bow to authority, especially if the authority is based on the system of moronism etched, archived, and embalmed in the past.

That we call tradition and history must be integrated with Philosophy and there is nothing wrong in using the tools of today’s philosophical discourse of what is right and what is wrong in rewriting the past and killing past morons hailed as today’s heroes. That is our task in education for critical consciousness. Dare we rewrite the history of our own people – so that each of our children will triumph as hero?

Comprendo? As Che Guevara would ask.

In Memory of Adlan  Benan Omar

The Day Hang Tuah Walked Through My Door

http://therealmalay.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-day-hang-tuah-walked-through-my-door.html


This is a short story by Adlan  Benan Omar – a fellow lover of history and a dear friend who died on Thursday, 24 January 2008. He was only 35. Those of you who know him will remember Ben’s almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Malay history

There can perhaps be no fitting tribute to this remarkable young man, and no better way to remember him, than to reproduce this short story by Ben, which not only highlights the passion that he had for Malay history, but also shows a bright, intelligent mind that was a breath of fresh air and a shining light in contemporary Malay culture.

I continue to remember Ben with great fondness


The Day Hang Tuah Walked Through My Door 

by Adlan Benan Omar (1973-2008)

Everyone knows who Hang Tuah is. Everyone knows that he was a great warrior, that he was loyal to his king, that he fought and defeated Hang Jebat in a gruelling duel. But I knew more about Hang Tuah than anyone else. No… I didn’t read more than anyone else (how much more could a twelve-year-old have read anyway?). I knew more about Hang Tuah because he came to live with us a few months ago.

Yes, you heard me right. Hang Tuah did come to live with me and my family. Abah took him home one day. He had found the old man walking around the local playground one evening, while he was out jogging. It was getting dark and the old man had no place to go, so we took him in. Mak was not too happy about that, she thought the old man looked crooked. He was dirty and he didn’t wear shoes. Mak said that people might think our family has gone weird. Abah just laughed. “Kasihan …dia orang tua,” he said.

My friends didn’t believe me at first. They thought I was dreaming, or making things up, or just plain lying.

Azraai said that the old man was an alien from Mars and not Hang Tuah. Eqhwan laughed at me and said that either I or the old man must be mad. Anuar said that if Hang Tuah was still alive I wouldn’t be able to understand what he said because he spoke classic Malay like in the hikayats. Hilmi (our local school’s smart alec) tried to explain to me that the Melaka Empire was no more and that Hang Tuah was just a legend. He said that if Hang Tuah was still alive he would be at least five and a half centuries old and the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records stated that the oldest man in the world lived only to 120 years. Only Farid sympathised with me… and that was because he had an imaginary friend whom he always took along to play marbles with us.

I really didn’t care what they said. I knew that old man was Hang Tuah. I know because I asked him myself.

The morning after we took the old man in, Mak asked me to wake him up for breakfast. I went to the spare room and found that he was already awake. He was sitting on the edge of the bed with a blue batik bundle on his lap.

“Jemput makan, Tok,” I said, politely.

“Terima kasih,” he said.

I was curious, so I asked, “Apa dalam buntil tu Tok?”

“Barang Tok… barang orang miskin,” he replied.

Then he opened it up slowly. I saw him fiddle for something, then he took out a long keris with an ivory sheath. It was at least a foot long and studded with jewels.

Hang Tuah Sketch

“Ini keris Taming Sari,” said the old man.

I snickered, “He! He! He!”. I thought the old man was joking. Everyone knew that Taming Sari belonged to Hang Tuah and that it must have disappeared with its master.

The old man looked up at me. His eyes stared into mine. I felt a little queasy at that. His expression changed, he began to look angry. Suddenly his eyes drooped and he looked more hurt than angry.

“Kenapa cucu gelak?” he asked.

“Tak ada kenapa,” I answered, a little frightened.

“Tok tahu, cucu ingat Tok bergurau.” I kept quiet.

He began again, “Inilah keris Taming Sari yang sebenar. Ini keris Tok sendiri.”

“Kalau begitu Tok ni tentulah…”

“Hang Tuah,” he interjected, “nama Tok ialah Hang Tuah.”

“Tapi Hang Tuah sudah mati.”

He laughed, “Tidak, Tok belum mati. Tapi Tok sudah tua…”

“Berapa umur Tok?” I questioned.

“540 tahun.”

Mak didn’t really like Tok Tuah. But she didn’t say anything when he just stayed on and on in the house. She didn’t say a word when Abah and I took him to Hankyu Jaya to get some new clothes. She just kept quiet when Tok Tuah joined us to watch TV in the living room after dinner. I told her (and Abah) that the old man said that his name was Hang Tuah. She wrinkled her face (and Abah just laughed).

It was a Wednesday night and RTM had a slot then called “Teater P. Ramlee”. It so happened that they were showing Phani Majumdar’s “Hang Tuah”. P. Ramlee, so young and thin, acted as the hero and the late Haji Mahadi was Sultan Mansor Shah.

Hang Tuah4

When Jebat got killed, Tok Tuah pipped in, “Tidak langsung macam tu…”

Abah stared at Tok Tuah. Mak stared at Tok Tuah. I too, stared at Tok Tuah.

“Aku sudah tua masa tu, Jebat muda lagi. Jebat kuat. Dia sepak aku hingga aku tertiarap, kemudian aku berguling. Aku himpit dia. Aku kata sama dia ‘baik sajalah kau mengalah’. Apa gunanya kita dua bersaudara bergaduh?”

Mak started to look worried again.

“Jebat tak mati.”

Abah looked surprised. He said, “Habis tu, apa jadi pada dia?”

Tok Tuah said, “Aku tak mahu Sultan bunuh dia. Aku tahu Sultan zalim. Jadi, aku sorokkan dia di Ulu Melaka. Macam Tun Perak sorokkan aku masa aku difitnahkan. Lepas Melaka kalah dengan Portugis, Jebat ikut aku merantau.”

I said, “Bila Jebat mati?”

Tok Tuah laughed, “Jebat belum mati. Baru tahun lepas aku jumpa dia. Dia meniaga di Kedah.”

“Meniaga?” I said.

“Ya, Jebat duduk di Kulim. Dia meniaga kereta. Apa tu? Kereta ‘second-hand’ kata orang. Proton, Honda dan Nissan. Laku jualannya. Banyak orang beli.”

One day, I took Tok Tuah on a walk around KL. He got bored just sitting in our small bungalow in Bukit Bandar Raya. So after school, we took the mini-bus to Central Market. Tok Tuah really enjoyed the walk. “Banyaknya orang…” he wondered. We ate at McDonald’s. He  didn’t like the cheeseburger (well, he didn’t like the cheese, though he loved the burger itself). After lunch, we went to Muzium Negara.

I showed him the frieze of a young Hang Tuah which was sculpted by an Englishwoman in the 1950s. It showed a handsome Hang Tuah in ‘Baju Melayu’ and ‘samping’. He was holding Taming Sari in his hand.

“Siapa tu,” Tok Tuah asked.

“Itu Tok-lah. ltulah orang putih gambarkan sebagai Hang Tuah. Hensem, kan?”

Tok Tuah chuckled, “Apa tulisan atas tu?”

“Ta’ Melayu Hilang di-Dunia. Eh, takkan Tok tak ingat? Itu kan Tok yang cakap dulu?”

He kept quiet. Slowly he mumbled, “Ta’ Melayu Hilang di-Dunia? Tak ingat pun.”

Suddenly, he started, “Oh! Bukannya Ta’ Melayu Hilang di-Dunia. Silap tu. Tok tak pernah cakap macam tu…”

“Habis tu?” I asked.

“Masa tu Tok tengah pergi masjid untuk sembahyang Maghrib. Isteri Tok ikut sekali. Dia tengah ambil air sembahyang di tepi perigi, kemudian kakinya tergelincir. Dia terjatuh masuk. Orang ramal pun menjerit-jerit sebab perigi itu dalam. Apa lagi, Tok pun terjunlah untuk selamatkan dia. Isteri Tok bukan sebarang orang, namanya Tun Sa’odah, anak Bendahara Tun Perak.”

“Kemudian?” I urged.

“Bila Tok bawak dia naik, Temenggung Tun Mutahir ketawa. Katanya, Tok sayang betul pada isteri Tok. Tok pun jawab, “Mestilah… Ta’ Isteriku Hilang di-Telaga. Jadi, mungkin orang silap dengar…!”

Tok Tuah stayed with our family for more than six months. He stayed at home in the first few weeks but he felt guilty not doing anything to contribute. So, one morning, he followed Abah to work. Abah was manager of a factory in Sungai Buluh which made video tapes and CDs. They needed a new ‘jaga’ or watchman. Tok Tuah got the job. Abah said, “Who better to guard us than the great Malay admiral Hang Tuah?”

The workers got along well with him. Amin, Abah’s driver, said that Tok Tuah told them lots of funny jokes about Sultan Mansor of Melaka and his fifteen wives. Tok Tuah also got to know Rajalinggam, the sweeper, who he said reminded him of Mani Purindan, the father of Bendahara Tun Ali. Like Rajalinggam, Mani Purindan too came from Tamil Nadu and cooked delicious dhal curry.

One morning, my teacher at school said, “Tomorrow I want you all to bring a model of an old artefact. Then I want you all to explain its importance in front of the whole history class.”

Hilmi (always the teacher’s pet) spent days working on a matchstick model of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Azraai decided to build a spaceship instead. Eqhwan bought Anuar’s origami keris for fifteen dollars and brought that to school. Farid asked his imaginary friend to draw a picture of Mel Gibson as Sir William Wallace. I? Well, I just brought Tok Tuah along.

My teacher was flabbergasted. She said, “Why have you brought this ‘jaga’ along?” I smiled, “He’s not just a ‘jaga’. He’s the great warrior Hang Tuah!”

My teacher said, “I’ll call your father and tell him you’re playing jokes in class.”

“Please, Cikgu. Just listen to what he has to say,” I insisted.

Tok Tuah stood in front of the class. He coughed. My teacher sighed. I smiled. My friends sneered. “Assalamualaikum,” he said. “Wa’alaikum Salam,” we answered.

Tok Tuah began his speech. He started out by saying that the Melaka we read about in the history books was very different from the real Melaka. He explained how the Sultan used to let anyone come to the palace with any complaints at all, and he would settle it there and then. He told us that he and his four friends used to go on tours to Pahang and Terengganu and Ujung Tanah, even to Siam, on great galliards with five big sails. He described to us that Melaka had 120,000 citizens, each of whom had land and houses of their own and that no beggars were allowed to go even a day without food and shelter. He mimicked Sultan Mansor’s snarl, and Tun Perak’s twitching handlebar moustaches and Jebat’s swaggering walk. Finally, he told us how Melaka got corrupted by its wealth and warned us not to do the same now.

That day, Tok Tuah got a standing ovation. Even Teacher clapped. I got an ‘A’ for History.

Tok Tuah died seven weeks after that. He was 542 years old. It was during the Puasa month and he took the LRT from Sungai Buluh. He wanted to stop and buy some sweetmeats (he absolutely loved ‘pau kaya’). When he arrived at Chow Kit station, he collapsed on the platform with a massive stroke.

They rushed him in an ambulance to Kuala Lumpur General Hospital but he was already gone. He didn’t feel a thing.

We buried him at Ampang Cemetery, right across from the grave of Tan Sri P. Ramlee, who played him in that film. I visit the grave sometimes just to tell him that I’m now a lecturer in Malay History at Leyden University.

I still remember the day he walked through my door. It’s as if it was just yesterday. Ah, well… By the way, did I tell you I met King Henry VIII whilst I was studying in Cambridge? He worked as a night porter at my college. But that, as they say, is a different story.

We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony?


May 17, 2016

We Bicker: TIME to think as Malaysians and live to together in unity and harmony.

Message to Nazri Aziz, Azalina Othman Said, Hadi Awang,  Harussani Zakaria, Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, and Keruak et.el

Shaun Liew

http://www.malaymailonline.com

West and East Malaysians have been bickering through social media, face-to-face conversations, and so on. But if they want the same thing, why are they fighting with each other?

Some needs and desires are universal: no matter who we are, there are things we all need. Food, when we’re hungry. Accountability, when promises are broken. Rest, when we are overworked. Honour, when we work. Love, when we are not loved. And fairness, when there is none.

West and East Malaysians want the same thing. Equity, when there is discrimination. Malays, to tolerate non-Malays, and vice versa. Sarawakians and Sabahans, to live as well as Peninsulars, and vice versa. Non-Bumiputeras, to be recognised as equals like the Bumiputeras, by the federal government. And for East Malaysians, to be recognised by the federal government, as deserving of development and the good life, like West Malaysians. Why then are we in each other’s way?

Sarawakians have given power to those which the West have tried to rid of. Peninsulars think this ridiculous: why give power to the same government, when to them, nothing has been done?

Because Sarawakians have seen change, enough change, to vote for the same government. Peninsulars do not understand what these changes mean to Sarawakians; they ridicule them instead. Sarawakians understandably feel unjustified; but they too do not understand what their actions mean for Peninsulars.

Peninsulars want a fair and accountable government, just like Sarawakians. But they have not seen once since independence. They want Barisan Nasional out, while Sarawakians are keeping them in.

 

The West vs East bickering is simplistic, and should go past the way we label each other. This is inherent even in casual jokes.

“You live on trees right? Or are there buildings there? I’m sorry you must have never heard of the word ‘buildings’.”

“It’s all your fault lah, the West Malaysians!”

If the East continues to blame the West for underdevelopment, if the West continues to blame the East for being foolish enough to vote Barisan Nasional, then there is no room for productive debate or mutual understanding.

If we continue to discriminate, all debates will halt at the labels we have ― that he knows Maths well because he’s Chinese, or she received a scholarship offer because she’s Malay. We would fail to understand anything correctly ― that he’s good in Math because he worked hard after his parents emphasised how mathematical ability is easily transferred. Or that she received a scholarship offer because the government would like to uplift Malays by rationing scholarship offers based on race, in addition to her undeniably determined attitude.

This, we cannot understand if we are simplistic because our problems are not. Like underdevelopment and poverty, a problem for both Peninsular and East Malaysia. It’s mostly a problem in the rural areas, but even in the urban areas there are urban squatters, foreign workers, and those just hovering above the poverty line ― all of them labelled by the majority of society as unproductive, lazy and undetermined. It’s also mostly a Malay and indigenous problem, with pockets of Chinese and Indians.

Both West and East Malaysians are guilty of simplifying the truth ― and we need to look deeper. If Sabah and Sarawak voted for the opposition, does that mean BN’s reign is over? No. Because in Peninsula itself there are still many poor states, Malay-dominated with pockets of poor Chinese and Indians, who would vote for UMNO. And they vote for Muslim parties too, because Islam is part of many Malays’ identity.

Apply this to our society’s main problems: economic status associated with race. If Malays are poor and the Chinese are rich, I should give advantages to Malays, right? Then how far can a race-based policy that favours Bumiputera groups go? Would rich Malays benefit more than the majority of Malays? Would politicians grant certain groups special rights in order to trade benefits with each other, but not give them to the greater good?

This is why the solutions we need are even more complicated ― and they require debate beyond labels. This is also why involvement in policymaking is so important: we need to help each other, sure! But we need to do it in a way that’s best for everyone, and not just a few insiders.

The anger of West and East Malaysians after the Sarawak state elections ― in the form of cheap insults and deliberate stereotyping ― is sorely misdirected. We need to delve into the specifics and ask questions that we don’t usually tolerate ― and tolerate them with grace.

If basic infrastructure is what the East are lacking, ask why the West has so much of it. If racial and religious tolerance is what Peninsulars are lacking compared to Sarawakians, ask who is stoking intolerance, fear, and supremacism. If Chinese students feel they need to work much harder than Malays to get into local universities, ask who decides this allocation and why. If Sarawakians want Sarawak for themselves, ask who took their rights and natural resources away in the first place.

No matter how many questions there are, and no matter how specific they get, we all still want the same thing. Fairness, democracy, accountability, transparency, a fulfilling life. But we can’t understand this unless we go past labels to explore the deepest, most serious problems of our time. Beyond labels, we can see that we are all the same, that we desire to be equal, that we wish to be respected, as the complicated, diverse individuals we are, shaped by the complicated, diverse questions we wish to answer.

The cheap insults and simplified excuses must end now. We must delve into the specifics, the complicated, the uneasy. Then we can go forward. We all want the same thing anyway.

* This article was written by an Associate Editor from CEKU, the editorial arm of the United Kingdom and Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC).

 

Toward a Dystopian Malaysia:All Politics


May 17, 2016

Toward a Dystopian  Malaysia:All Politics

by Steven Sim

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

My  friend treated me to a stand-up comedy performance last Friday which was my birthday. The show featured four highly acclaimed comedians and everyone in the audience had a good laugh. What were we laughing at? Mostly jokes about sex, and very oddly, ourselves, about our silliness and stupidity.

One of the acts even had a female member of the audience come up the stage to spell “Laughs” with her derriere. She was a big woman, quite clumsy I must say but very sporting. The comedian kept making fun of the poor lady. And as can be expected, her antics elicited laughter from the audience.

The liberal, tolerant society

We cannot talk about race. The N-word must never be uttered. Here in Malaysia, the M-word cannot be spoken. It is sensitive. And then we are told we also cannot talk about religion. We may offend followers of a particular religion and they may turn violent towards us. It is sensitive.

Calling on Inspector Singh to help–Jaga Najib Depan Belakang, Kiri dan Kanan

So, instead of having laws to stop criminals like we used to, now we have laws to stop us from provoking would-be criminals. We’ve got laws that prevent us from commenting about race and religion. It is almost the same as legislating how women should dress so as not to “invite” rape.

Then it came to a point where we were not allowed to call one another “stupid”. We cannot ridicule or question someone else’s politics, for example. Look at all the “righteous” social media posts telling, even scolding us, not to call anyone stupid after the Sarawak election.

Because it is sensitive. As if our brain now is a big phallus ever-reacting to the slightest of stimulations. Perhaps one day not too far away, we will all not be allowed to call each other ugly or fat. These are sensitive remarks too.

We are not allowed to make each other angry anymore. Come to think of it, we actually have an Act of Parliament against making people angry. Section 3(1)(e) of the Sedition Act defines “seditious tendency” as promoting “feelings of ill will, hostility and hatred between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia”, and with the 2015 amendment, Section 3(1)(e) was created to include the promotion of “feelings of ill will, hostility and hatred between persons or groups of persons on the grounds of religion…”

What have we become? A nation legislated against making each other angry? Whatever happened to equanimity, forbearance, moderation, restraint, reticence, self-control, and sobriety?

It is easy to imagine the logical conclusion to this; I cannot comment on who you are, what you do, how you think, and vice versa, finally I, we, cannot say anything at all.

Because we are told, we need to respect the other person. The liberals’ idea of “multicultural tolerance”, my favourite living philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, used to say. As if respect now means, “shut up.”

There are two kinds of “respect” by the way:

The first kind is like when the white men came (sorry, did I make anyone angry with that label?) and they said to each other: “Let us respect the natives…even though they are stupid. Even though they bury their daughters alive. Even though they burn their widows along with the deceased husbands. Even though they bind-up a woman’s feet so small she can barely walk.” And then there is the other kind of respect, one where I assume you are more or less the same level as me and are expected to possess a certain degree of similarity in strength and wit. When you fall short, I call you stupid. Maybe I’m rude – but which one is respect, which one is patronising?

Comedians come to politics

Now, let’s go back to that stand-up comedy performance. Oddly enough, someone told me, now the only way you can make jokes about people and their stupidity and not get yourself into trouble is: quit politics and be a comedian.

I find the thought quite enlightening to be honest. We watch stand-up comedians quite a bit, and boy, how they “hentam” our stupidity as individuals and as a society. And we all laugh and laugh, gladly paying good money for being denigrated by them.

But what’s scarier.One day, just one fine day. Imagine if one of these comedians decided to run for office. He will tell us bluntly, “the truth”. He will say it to our faces, “this or that fellow is stupid, we should block them”. He will tell us he is here to protect us from stupidity. He will tell us he has a great plan to build a huge wall, to segregate between us and the stupids. (For the uninitiated, google: “Trump AND wall”.)

We are going bongkers-from Football to Doa

We, who are used to being “rational” – or are we? – we will then be shocked that many people are impressed by that comedian and want to hand over power to him.

The bar to be a hero suddenly becomes so low: one just needs to be brave to call another person stupid in his face. Because earlier no one was allowed to call anyone stupid or to say anything at all due to everything being “sensitive”. Everyone had to shut up on the pretext of being tolerant. The guy who finally said, “hey, stupid” is now the courageous leader who dared say the truth. Alas, the pent-up emotions of a society, who was stopped from making one another angry, finally rebels, resulting in the rise of fascism.

We need intolerance, not tolerance

The unfortunate thing is, we have substituted being political with being politically correct. The political problem of inequality now becomes the cultural problem of intolerance.

Because of the general disregard of politics, the problem of economic and political inequality inevitably becomes the problem of race and culture. One is rich or poor or powerful or weak not because of some systemic injustice but because of one’s race, or religion. The solution then, we are told, is to understand and tolerate one another: the other race is lazier, smarter, more scheming, less materialistic or more savvy, but let’s try to live with one another peacefully. The classic example here is once again national slogans encouraging us to see ourselves as one country, one nation, one people – 1Malaysia.

These are  UMNO Political Jokers

We are then misled to think that solving the world’s problems is not through political action, not through the institutionalisation of good governance and justice, but rather through respect and tolerance for those who are different from us. Hence, the oft quoted reminder to “jaga sensitiviti.”

How then should we move forward?

The first step is to realise that our problem is not mainly intolerance but rather injustice. Do not fall for this tolerance nonsense. It is about politics not political correctness. We need to move from subjective multicultural tolerance to the objective universal intolerance against human sufferings and oppression.

Recall the big woman who had to spell “Laughs” with her derriere. It was so painful, and yet hilarious watching her. The audience was enthusiastically cheering at her clumsy act and she eventually won the prize for her comedy: a large screen TV. And then she did the unexpected, grabbing the emcee’s microphone, she said: “I’m gonna give this to an orphanage in Kulim.” The hall erupted into huge applause, this time without laughter but with no less happiness. There was no mistake there, no one was confused or did not understand what was happening: we were united by our antagonism against human sufferings. It was a universal thing.

And we have seen this at work many times, even at a larger scale. Žižek provided an anecdotal example of this sort of solidarity; speaking of the 2011 protest at Tahrir Square, Egypt, he observed: “Here we have direct proof that freedom is universal and proof against that cynical idea that somehow Muslim crowds prefer some kind of religious fundamentalist dictatorship….The moment we fight tyranny, we are solidary. No clash of civilisations. We all know what we mean. No miscommunication here.”

We share the same antagonism towards human sufferings and oppression and the same anger against the stupidity which supports them. There is no mistake about it, there is no two ways about it – there’s nothing subjective about it. There is nothing to respect when people continue to support corruption and tyranny whether under duress or not.

Think about it. Here is Malaysia, think about the Bersih demonstrations. Malaysians of all races and religions, male and female, of all ages, went to the streets. And for those who could not attend in the national capital, especially from Sabah and Sarawak, they organised their own local Bersih gatherings. Once again, there was no miscommunication. There was solidarity among Malaysians, and even across the South China Sea, to demand for a free and fair election. We shared the same antagonism, we were united not by subjective tolerance of each other but by our objective intolerance against corruption and injustice.This is what we really need again.

Please do not make our society into one where no one is allowed by law to make another person angry because of some tolerance nonsense we mistake for real respect. The consequences of such a move is scary to say the least – it is the kind of material for novels about some dystopian society somewhere. There is no such human rights as the right not be angered. You reserve the right to call me stupid, and I, too, the same right. Because at times, being humans, we do stupid things and must be chastised.

Steven Sim is the Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam.

 

 

The Citizens’Declaration: 1.27 million signatures–Still a long way to GO


May 16, 2016

The Citizens’Declaration: 1.27 million signatures–Still a long way to GO

by Scott Ng

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Some may say a million is an insignificant portion of the country’s population, which is about 30 million, but no one can deny that the number has a symbolic impact. It gives a kind of legitimacy to the claim that there is popular support for the cause behind the declaration, which is the removal of Prime Minister Najib Razak.–Scott Ng

The Citizens’ Declaration can be said to have finally lived up to its name, now that 1.27 million citizens across the the country have allegedly signed it. That represents a large enough voice for it to be taken seriously.

Some may say a million is an insignificant portion of the country’s population, which is about 30 million, but no one can deny that the number has a symbolic impact. It gives a kind of legitimacy to the claim that there is popular support for the cause behind the declaration, which is the removal of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The leader of the cause, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has said that he was now seeking an audience with the Yang Dipertuan Agong to submit the signatures to him.

However, what comes next is the difficult part. As we have heard most reassuringly from our ministers over the past week, a million signatures or no, the King does not have the power to remove a prime minister arbitrarily. The mechanisms Mahathir put in place in 1993 to ensure royal interference would never be a factor in his administration are now coming back to haunt him.

The goal here is much simpler than to ask the King to dismiss the Prime Minister. It is to make him acknowledge that a significant number of his subjects are opposed to Najib’s rule.

As the champions of Islam and defenders of the people, the Sultans and the Yang Di Pertuan Agong will at least have to give consideration to the fact that a million of their subjects are protesting.

Although they are ostensibly apolitical, their word still carries weight among the rural folk. The King’s acceptance of the signatures may be enough to serve as a word of royal disapproval, which will speak volumes to those still hesitant to sign up for the cause.

Making a major figure of authority acknowledge the legitimacy of a cause may be more effective than going on road shows. It may not bring about Najib’s resignation, but if it makes him and his men uncomfortable, that would be as good a sign as any to Mahathir’s forces that they are headed down the right path.

My Friend Bernard Zorro Khoo– Fighting for the Future

Make no mistake about this; the Save Malaysia campaign has barely begun. More likely than not, we’ll be able to judge the result only after GE14. It will be a long, arduous trek to the goal, and the Najib administration will only be too happy to throw a wrench in the works whenever possible.