The Power of Writing Regained


June 11, 2017

The Power of Writing Regained

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

After confessing in my column last week that depression was threatening to rob me of what I’ve long relied on as my last-ditch defence against the total disempowerment of despair – the power of writing – this week I have to admit that it didn’t help very much.

Image result for rene descartes quotes on math

It certainly didn’t do anything to dispel my lack of faith in the biblical alleged wisdom that “confession is good for the soul”, if only for the sole reason that I’m incurably skeptical about the existence of any such metaphysical entity.

But my confession was apparently cathartic or otherwise psychologically beneficial enough to my spirits as to restore my powers of written speech.

And kind comments on the ensuing column from two perennially-supportive pseudonymous Malaysiakini readers, JesuisAnwar and HaveAGreatDay, whoever they actually are, have greatly sustained my spirits since. So much so as to inspire me to the thought that it may not be depression per se that has been threatening to leave me lost for words all this while, but disappointment.

Disappointment at how little I feel I’ve achieved, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in my by now quite lengthy lifetime, and also at my apparent inability to redress these deficiencies, or at least make the most of the rapidly-dwindling time I have left to do so before death.

Or, to put this another way, I’m both metaphorically and literally dying to write as many and as meaningful words as possible before I reach my final full stop.

Unhappily, however, to return to the subject of disappointment for a moment, I’ve left so many of life’s fundamental questions so unnoticed, unexamined and unwritten-about, that I’m virtually dumbstruck with confusion as to which of them is most worth spending, my or indeed anybody’s last words on.

So rather than striving to have my final say on them all at once, as I’ve been so unproductively doing in my panic to meet my final, indeed terminal deadline, I’d better get myself focused, and fast.

By being smart enough, for a start, to think of my remaining writing time not simply in terms of how to best to “spend” it, as I see I thoughtlessly did two paragraphs ago, but how to invest it most intelligently on worthwhile topics or at least avoid squandering much if any more of it on trivia and trash.

Like, to cite the most vivid example of the latter types of topic than I can think of, in light of the almost 500,000 words I’ve wasted on them in this Malaysiakini column over the past 11 years, the corrupt, incompetent and ruthlessly truthless members and countless crimes and other misdeeds of Malaysia’s miserable, ever-misruling UMNO-BN regime.

Not that I’m promising to never mention them again, you understand, as long as Malaysiakini keeps generously granting me space on its site. But in future, I intend to mention this gruesome gang and all the world’s many other similarly blundering, plundering and people-repressing regimes only, if possible, in the context of or in relation to issues that are far more fundamentally interesting and important.

Like power, for instance, whose multitudinous and endlessly paradoxical manifestations are as all-pervasive in human lives and affairs as they are everywhere else in what we call the universe, and yet seems to me generally poorly comprehended or even perceived.

And like truth, which mankind seems to have spent its long history striving on the one hand to define, seek and discover, and on the other hand, and often simultaneously, seeking with equal if not greater determination, to ignore, avoid, contradict or deny.

In the process so apparently totally losing sight of the many and various meanings, purposes and perversions of truth as to seriously entertain the ludicrously ahistorical proposition that, because we can all post opinions on the net and the US has elected a lying pest like Donald Trump, we’ve reached the age of “post-truth”.

Another perennially pressing topic for as many last words as possible, of course, is the one that had inspired the ancient ethical philosophers, Western and Eastern alike, to ask “how should life be lived?”

But here the kind of confusion that’s been leaving me lost for last words starts to kick back in again. Because it’s impossible to consider and discuss ethics without consideration of truth and power, as well as what it means to be successfully and fully ‘human’.

A thought that brings me to what seems to me to be the ultimate topic for my or any other human who’s on a mission to make the most of his or her wits and words, last or otherwise: the exhortation carved in stone outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to “know thyself”.

This, of course, in light of the unfathomable complexities of and confusions and conflicts between our animal instincts and human intellects and conscious and unconscious minds, is paradoxically impossible.

In fact, as Socrates, my favourite philosopher, demonstrated to his own satisfaction and the outrage of his fellow Athenians, who for his pains condemned him to death for blasphemy and misleading the youth of the city, that nobody really knows anything.

And over a thousand years later, Frenchman René Descartes similarly set out to challenge every belief he had for which he could find insufficient support, and found that the only one he was left with was, as he famously expressed it in Latin, Cogito, Ergo Sum, or “I think, therefore I am”.

However skeptical about my own and others’ beliefs that I am, I certainly don’t kid myself that I’m in Socrates’ or Descartes’ class. But I’d most certainly consider my life far from wasted if I could come up with enough sensible and sincere last words to finally feel satisfied at the end with an epitaph along the lines of “I wrote, therefore I was”.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini


May 26, 2017

Malaysian Authorities: Getting Tough on Independent News Portal Malaysiakini

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

The Malaysian government, having gone after social media platforms and a long list of other social critics, is now turning its attention to Malaysiakini, the most influential of the country’s independent news portals, and increasing its detention of social activists.

Amnesty International and Article 19, two international rights organizations, have condemned the government’s decision to press charges against Premesh Chandran, the Chief Executive Officer, and Steven Gan, the Editor of Malaysiakini. The charge relates to a press conference in July of 2016 in which a critic was filmed taking on Attorney- General Mohamad Apandi Ali for clearing Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption charges.

The detentions and charges take place in a darkening political mood in the country among the political opposition, journalists and others critical of the regime headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has managed to continue his rule for months despite deep concerns over his integrity.

Image result for Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan

As “Public Official 1” Najib faces investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit for having purchased, through surrogates, hundreds of millions of dollars of US property with money stolen from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund. The fund is believed to have lost as much as US$11 billion through theft and mismanagement. At least US$1 billion and as much as US$2 billion appears to have ended up in the Prime Minister’s bank accounts.

The gloom has been added to by the fact that shortly after the US election President Donald Trump called Najib in the middle of the night to wish him well and to invite him to Washington.  Since that time, Trump has abruptly fired Preet Bharara, the crusading United States Attorney in New York and dismissed all of the other regional US attorneys appointed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. While the US attorney position is a political one and the real investigations are carried out by Justice Department professionals, Washington is in such disarray because of missteps by the Trump administration that many have concerns that probes such as that being carried out against Najib and his associates and relatives will be lost in the woodwork.

Image result for Confident Najib RazakDespite scandals and corruption in his administration, Najib Razak will be difficult to dislodge because strong support from UMNO, Sabah and Sarawak
 

Domestically, Najib appears impossible to dislodge. He continues to have the full backing of the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest ethnic political party, and is expected to call an early election later this year to solidify his position for another five years. The opposition remains fragmented and squabbling, with its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in jail on what are considered to be trumped-up charges of sexual perversion.

Against that backdrop, Amnesty international charged that, starting May 15,  authorities notified activists from the Bersih campaign reform organization that they were being investigated for failure to provide Police with a 10-day notice to hold a candlelight vigil for human rights defender Maria Chin Abdullah. Three more activists were summoned by police for making statements “conducive to public mischief” on May 24 and continue to be held.

“Amnesty International is alarmed that the authorities are increasingly responding to activities that aim to express dissent and protest against injustice with baseless police investigations,” the rights organization said in a prepared statement. “These recent actions by the police highlight an escalating pattern of misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass political activists and human rights defenders that Amnesty International has documented over the last few years. These actions have further restricted public debate in Malaysia and reduced the space in which civil society operates.”

Malaysiakini remains the biggest and most credible opposition voice, with 5 million unique visitors per month in a political milieu in which the next election campaign is likely to be fought out to a large extent in social media.  The 18-year-old news portal has been repeatedly raided and harassed by authorities.

The current charges against Gan and Chandran stem from a July 26, 2016 press conference in which a former UMNO official, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, called for Apandi Ali’s resignation for clearing Najib of corruption allegations linked to 1MDB after Najib had suddenly fired Apandi Ali’s predecessor, Abdul Ghani Patel, who was rumored about to charge the premier with corruption.

Malaysiakini carried film of Khairuddin’s charges on its streaming video unit KiniTV Sdn Bhd. Gan was charged under  the Communications and Multimedia Act last Novemer. Chandran was charged on May 15 of this year.

Authorities asked Malaysiakini to remove the footage last year but the news portal refused to do so.

“The Attorney General is just kind of like wanting to take up action against us,” Chandran said in a telephone conversation from London, where he is on sabbatical. “But it gives us a good opportunity to fight the charges on constitutional grounds.”

The charges follow recent claims by Najib ”that freedom of expression and press freedom are ‘thriving’ in Malaysia,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programs at ARTICLE 19, a London-based human rights organization with a chapter in Malaysia. “These charges underscore why the vague and sweeping Communications and Multimedia Act needs urgent reform. The increasing use of this law to target independent media and any online criticism of the government is seriously concerning, and also a clear violation of international human rights law on freedom of expression.”

Since 2015, the Malaysian government “has arrested, investigated and charged media personnel, whistleblowers, opposition politicians, artists, students, civil society and social media users for voicing their concerns over the 1MDB scandal,” Article 19 said in a prepared statement, pointing out that the government has also made wide use of the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Security Offenses and Special Measures Act in the attempt to suppress dissent.

It called on the government to immediately drop the charges against Chandran, Gan and KiniTV and to enact comprehensive reforms to the communications act and other laws used to restrict criticism of the government.

That is highly unlikely. With elections looming sometime over the next year, most observers in Malaysia expect the government to crack down harder as the polls approach.

Malaysiakini: The Last Independent Media left standing in Malaysia


Malaysiakini: The Last Independent Media left standing in Malaysia

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Malaysiakini

The Brave Men and Women of Malaysiakini

It was amusing in an agonising kind of way to read recently that the UMNO-BN regime’s Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed chose to celebrate World Press Freedom Day by claiming in a radio interview that Malaysiakini is a “very biased” media outlet.

Because, though of course he allegedly had no intention of telling the truth, in fact quite the opposite, his assertion was perfectly accurate in one unintended sense.

Which is that, as far as I’ve been able to discern during the 18 years of existence, Malaysiakini is totally biased towards doing its duty as a disseminator of accurate information to its audience by reporting the news faithfully, or, as famously stated by the great Adolph Ochs when he took charge of The New York Times in 1896, without fear or favour.

And thus by implication Malaysiakini is also, as any legitimate news organisation must be, similarly biased against the systematic censorship, skewing and indeed outright screwing of the truth by such fake ‘news’ organisations as Umno/BN’s so-called ‘mainstream’ media.

A system of organised deception so deplorable that it has resulted in Malaysia’s being ranked a decidedly rank 144th place in the latest world press-freedom report released by the widely-trusted news-media watchdog Reporteurs Sans Frontières (RFS).

But Nur Jazlan, having branded Malaysiakini as “biased” against the ruthlessly truthless regime he represents, had the effrontery to go on to accuse RFS of being “unfair” in giving Malaysia such a lamentably low ranking.

Claiming in support of this allegation that RFS focused on print rather than online media in its assessments of relative press freedom, and citing the fact that Malaysia rates a mere five places above “totalitarian” China as evidence for his contention that “the index is fraudulent in many ways”.

While for my part I would argue, entirely to the contrary, that Malaysia’s depressing press-freedom ranking is not only a richly-deserved disgrace in and of itself, but also by extension an index of the utter fraudulence of every facet of the nation’s ever-ruling UMNO-BN regime.

But of course it’s entirely predictable that I’d use this column to thus calumniate UMNO-BN’s corruptions and countless other ‘criminalities’.

Indeed, by the very act of publishing my opinions, albeit with the customary legal disclaimer that it doesn’t necessarily share or endorse them, Malaysiakini demonstrates that its bias is not only towards the impartial reporting of true news, but also by extension in favour of the healthy airing and exchanging of views.

Views that, to speak entirely of my own, are as biased as they can possibly be. But genuinely, legitimately, justly and truly biased, I hope, on the basis of compelling evidence or careful consideration or both.

‘Divorced from law and justice’

Truly biased, if you like, either in favour of or against people, organisations and ideas according to which side I perceive that they represent of the duality that Aristotle expressed in advancing the opinion that “as man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is the worst of all when divorced from law and justice”.

As phrases go, it seems to me that “divorced from law and justice” is as apt as any to describe the condition of the countless ruling regimes around the world that, like Malaysia’s UMNO-BN and the Chinese Communist Party, deprive their citizens of true information and freedom of both thought and expression for the purpose of furthering their members’ and supporters’ power and profit.

Image result for Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran

The Woodward and Bernstein of Malaysian Journalism–Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan of Malaysiakini:They are biased towards facts and the truth, not fake news. I admire and respect them for their courage under fire and their integrity and professionalism. As Malaysiakini’s SEACEM Fellow, I had the opportunity to interact with them.–Din Merican

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Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post who exposed The Watergate Scandal that eventually brought down President Richard M. Nixon

In other words, to prevent any possibility of their people’s becoming legitimately biased against them and their misrule, they do everything possible to keep as many of them as possible as ignorantly and even idiotically donkey-like, or, if you prefer, biased.

Biased primarily, as in the case of the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic’ but actually supposedly criminal UMNO-BN regime, against non-Malays and non-Muslims, but also against such other alleged boogeymen and bugbears as Jews, Western liberals and even foreigners in general.

And to ensure that they remain as dumb and docile as possible in their blissfully biassed state of mind, UMNO-BN squanders some of the fortunes in public funds it allegedly routinely steals from the rakyat by means of scams ranging in size from everyday kickbacks and ‘commissions’ on up to such alleged massive swindles as the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) and 1MDB scams on bribing the biassed to keep quiet and above all keep voting for them, with cash handouts that many Malaysians cynically and highly appropriately call ‘dedak’ or animal feed.

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Nur Jazlan– the Ampu man for Najib Razak

And of course heaps of cash also goes to buy the services of masses of asses, like the aforementioned Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan, countless other UMNO-BN ministers and members, and the managements and ‘journalists’ of the ‘mainstream media’.

Or, in other words, buy-asses charged with and generously paid for keeping the biassed fed with a constant diet of alleged lies.

Like what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak recently spouted in the latest of his regular attempts to keep the masses as biassed or in other words as unthinking and dumb as the ‘domesticated animals’ that Kant appropriately called those lacking in the will to use their human intelligence.

Najib proposed that Malaysians espouse three ‘principles’, identified as Wala’ (Loyalty), Wassatiyyah (Moderation) and Tabayyun (Understanding), that he claimed will ensure Malaysia’s success.

But his explanation of Wala’ as embodying the values of “love, obedience and allegiance to a legitimate leadership and the institutions which they represent” sounded to me suspiciously like just another exercise in Najib-style pleadership for people to keep blindly following his bleedership.

So all I can hope is that the biassed and even the buy-assed will finally someday come to see Najib and his accomplices in UMNO-BN for the curse they are on Malaysia, and thus become as terminally biased against them as I, Malaysiakini, or indeed anybody in his or her right mind couldn’t possibly help being.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practices as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to Abu Dhabi


May 4, 2017

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to all IPIC (Abu Dhabi) demands

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for 1MDB and Abu Dhabi

A Replay of Ali Baba al Najib and his 1MDB forty thieves–Malaysia Boleh

Desperation causes stupidity to rise to the fore.Take 1MDB and the way it spins its so-called settlement with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), the parent company of Aabar Investments PJS. There was a dispute and it was settled, but there was no renegotiation. 1MDB capitulated to all IPIC demands.

But this has been spun to give the false impression that all matters have been settled between the two. Ministers rushed to make statements about how the eventual settlement will be in favour of 1MDB and how it indicates that no money went into Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts.

Singapore’s The Straits Times, which broke the news on the settlement, even preposterously reported that the settlement will make it more difficult for the US Department of Justice or DOJ to continue with its actions relating to 1MDB. It is difficult to see how because it caused no change in money flows.

The Straits Times reported that the “successful implementation of the proposed settlement could impact legal action being considered against 1MDB by foreign governments, including the DOJ.

“Bankers and legal executives (unnamed) familiar with the situation believe the deal could significantly dilute the international legal challenges confronting Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration over the fallout from the 1MDB saga.”

The report continues: “…Here is why. The disputed monies in the Malaysia-Abu Dhabi row are central to legal suits brought by the US Department of Justice over the alleged misappropriation of funds from 1MDB. The Department of Justice claims that the funds siphoned from 1MDB went to fund purchases of real estate and other assets by associates of PM Najib.

Image result for 1MDB and Goldman Sachs

“The settlement agreement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi would achieve what is known in legal parlance as ‘no predicate offence’, the financial executives said.

“A predicate offence is a crime that is a component of a more serious crime and it is frequently applied in the US to actions involving the provision of funds for money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“Proponents of the settlement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi argue that a successful completion of the deal would weaken the impact of any legal action taken by foreign governments over alleged money-laundering at 1MDB because of the lack of evidence,” The Straits Times said.

However, as it stands, US$3.5 billion is still missing and in dispute and IPIC says it never received the money. In this case, clearly the main offence is allegedly stealing money from 1MDB and the predicate offence is the laundering of part of this money in the US.

Everything that the DOJ has reported remains unaltered despite the settlement. Its case remains as strong as ever. The DOJ report says that US$3.657 billion was stolen from 1MDB (the main offence) and part of it was laundered in the US (the predicate offence).

Paying twice for same bonds

Under the settlement, despite outstanding issues, 1MDB agreed to pay RM1.2 billion to IPIC and the US$3.5 billion in two bonds are now guaranteed by 1MDB and Malaysia’s Minister of Finance Inc, instead of jointly with IPIC/Aabar before.

That’s a cost of at least US$1.75 billion (half of the value of the bonds) to 1MDB and leaves 1MDB with no more bargaining power at all. And the US$3.5 billion that 1MDB paid to the wrong Aabar – the one suspiciously incorporated in the British Virgin Islands – is still a matter of dispute.

This will be part of ongoing negotiations. “The parties have also agreed to enter into good faith discussions in relation to payments made by 1MDB Group to certain entities,” IPIC’s filing to the London Stock Exchange states.

Clearly this has not been settled, and as MP Tony Pua, one of the most knowledgeable people about 1MDB, had correctly pointed out, by taking over the guarantee that was previously jointly provided with IPIC, 1MDB is effectively paying twice for the same bonds – some US$7 billion in all! That US$3.5 billion, or over RM15 billion, at current exchange rates still remain missing.

Image result for Malaysia's Second Finance Minister JohariNajib got this former Second Minister by the Bees–Gone Missing

This is where Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani comes in to disclose the existence of a letter confirming that Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) – the one incorporated in British Virgin Islands, is a subsidiary of IPIC even though the Abu Dhabi firm denies this.

“As far as I am concerned, based on records provided by 1MDB to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) prior to the settlement agreement, Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) is a subsidiary of IPIC. A fact which was confirmed by the Registrar of Corporate Affairs of the British Virgin Islands by its letter dated Aug 11, 2016,” Johari told Malaysiakini.

But as far as IPIC is concerned, it’s not and that’s what matters. If 1MDB and Malaysia thought otherwise, why would they let IPIC off the hook by assuming the guarantee in full? And there’s no chance IPIC is going to say different in future. The question to ask is, why did 1MDB make a payment to a so-called subsidiary instead of directly to Aabar or IPIC? Was it to deliberately siphon funds out of 1MDB?

And then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that the settlement shows no money went into the Prime Minister’s account. He is saying that the money is in the form of unit trusts, presumably because 1MDB, in its own scant statement, said that the US$1.2 billion will be monetised from the unit trusts.

But really, that’s not true at all. The DOJ report clearly shows that during different phases of money moving out of 1MDB and into various accounts, a total of US$731 million came into Najib’s accounts between 2009 and 2013. Subsequently, US$620 million moved back into accounts controlled by Jho Low, leaving a net of US$111 million in Najib’s accounts still (see chart).

In the face of desperation, reason has been flung out the window and the increasing ridiculousness of 1MDB’s assertions, those of some ministers and even foreign news reports which appear to have been taken up by 1MDB’s propaganda machine, is a sign – if that was needed – that 1MDB is still very much in dire straits. And that much is being done deliberately to hide the extent of the problems. Still, it will continue to haunt Najib and his administration for a long time more.


P GUNASEGARAM says that truth eventually resurfaces despite all attempts to hold it underwater. Email: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

 

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low


December 27, 2016

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

‘Using religion as a political weapon always results in self-inflicted wounds.’

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Seneca

Really dumb ideas have no problem escaping from the Prime Minister’s Department but Paul Low’s suggestion that the Christian community must be politically relevant and “be able to influence policy in a way that reflects the righteousness of God almighty”, is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It is right up there with how Hindraf used religion – Hinduism – as a means to highlight the disenfranchisement of the Indian community and of course, how Islam has been weaponised in Malaysia.

What exactly does “righteousness of the almighty” mean? Furthermore, how do religious groups influence policy if not by getting into bed with craven politicians by means of campaign donations and the rest of the sordid transaction between church and state? You want to know why Hinduism is regressive in this country. The answer is simple, because the MIC got into the business of religion.

So let me get this right. Paul Low – who works for a Muslim regime – thinks that the Christian community should not engage in politics but still find a way of influencing policy. This is probably the most disingenuous double speak emanating from a Putrajaya minion I have ever heard.

Image result for Archbishop Julian Leow

Add to this Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow’s disingenuous contention that “politics and political parties must be distinguished”. Really? In one of my numerous pieces about the so-called ‘Allah’ controversy, I referred to the reality that oppositional politics and religion were intimately entwined. I wrote:

“Meanwhile the DAP who has more or less locked down the Chinese vote, continues to coddle the Christian evangelical movement within its rank, which finds expression in the putrid sloganeering of youth movements like ‘Rise up it’s time to take Subang for Jesus’ endorsed by certain religiously-inclined DAP leaders.”

What this does is give pro-UMNO propagandist the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool always results in self-inflicted wounds.

Nowhere is this more evident in the unholy alliance between the supposedly secular DAP and vehemently religious PAS. Meanwhile, PKR was standing in the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow up so they could reconcile with PAS.

This is not to say that I think religious people should not make their voices heard in a milieu where there is no separation between mosque and state. When writing about the reality of religion in politics, I made two points:

1) “When the political, social and economic reality is predicated on religious superiority and oppression, religious people need to find ways to express themselves in democratic spaces and at the same time realise that the only security they have against further aggression is by supporting secular values.

2) “What I have been contemptuous of is the agenda of Christian politicians using religion as political capital and claiming to be secular while funding Islamic organisations to pander to the Malay/Muslim vote.”

Moreover, point two, the intersection between Christians and Muslims in the opposition have done the most harm because the discourse was framed by craven politicians who were not interested in promoting secular values in both religions, but with creating and maintaining political power.

It is all about credibility. “Credibility is achieved by politicians who leave their religious affiliations at the door and this is especially important for non-Muslim politicians when it comes to dealing with the UMNO state.”

I have made this argument before: “I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.”

In addition, let me be very clear. I think there should be an exchange of ideas between religious groups but this should not be at the expanse of secular ideas. The problem with the DAP/PAS dalliance is that it was not based on the idea of promoting a progressive secular agenda but attempting to subvert the Malay/Muslim vote which ultimately destabilised the Muslim party, worsening the religious discourse in this country.

Neat little boxes

If Paul Low was really interested in religious freedom, he would be advocating secular values that inhibit religious interference of any kind from political parties and the UMNO state. Those secular values would include limiting the state or any governmental organisation from funding, assisting or favouring any one religion. Of course, Paul Low will not advocate any of this.

A while back I took exception to this whole idea of categorising Muslim and Christians into neat little boxes and argued that secular values are not anathema to any religious community or at least those in the community who could go beyond their religious indoctrination:

“What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

Instead, Paul Low prefers to throw fuel on the religious fire by encouraging Christians to be more vocal, using the kind of religious polemics – “almighty” and “religious conviction” – that is mana to pro-UMNO propagandists but yet covering his behind by telling them not to engage with politics.

When the Sabah Council of Churches “pray for divine intervention in the challenging state of affairs of our nation for our sake and the sake of our next generation” you know the plot has truly been lost.  Really, divine intervention?

Moreover, that is really the problem with religion and politics in a Muslim-dominated country.  Unlike Western secular democracies where Muslims have a right to voice their dissent, non-Muslims only have the option of praying for divine intervention.

It is extremely frustrating because all these issues of corruption, incompetent governance, racism and the host of other calamities facing this country are not religious issues. Ultimately anyone who uses religion as a means of political expression loses in a country where the religious game is fixed.

Soros, M’kini and are we really doing this again?


November 6, 2016

Soros, M’kini and are we really doing this again?

by S. Thayaparan

 

Image result for Malaysiakini under attack

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

– Frédéric Bastiat

The Malaysiakini Team (whoever they are) did a quaint job of explaining the Fourth Estate (‘Journalism is not an act against parliamentary democracy’).

It was a pleasant stroll down memory lane about the whys and hows of Malaysiakini and rejoinders that journalism is something more than just reporting the news and regurgitating what the political buffoon class spew on a daily basis.

Image result for Malaysiakini under attack

Me, all I can say is – are we really doing this bull crap again? Four years ago, it was about another organisation – NED (National Endowment for Democracy) – that was funding amongst others, Malaysiakini and attempting to destabilise the government. The mainstream media’s fingerprints were all over that one, too.

Previously on ‘Law & Order: 1Malaysia’: “Under the vomit-inducing headline of  Plot to destabilise the gov’t‘, the New Straits Times (who I believe are propagators of a plot to destabilise rational thinking) outlined a chilling scenario of a motley group of new media types (which includes  Malaysiakini) and social activist organisations who are apparently being funded by a nebulous American entity to destabilise the government and the implication being, to create chaos … CHAOS, I tell you, in Malaysia.”

I was just surprised that the UMNO propaganda organs did not slip in something about homosexuality in this latest assault on the rebel press. And make no mistake, whatever you may think of the alternative press, social media, the lawless terrain of Malaysian online punditry and political agitation, we are rebelling against the narratives imposed on us by UMNO.

Image result for Malaysiakini under attack

The issue of funding in my opinion is irrelevant to the charges of “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. As I said when I acknowledged that we were traitors to the principles of democracy – “But even if NED is one of those, what the government needs to do, is prove that an organisation like Malaysiakini is attempting through propaganda to destabilise the government. They could do this by pointing out where Malaysiakini has lied or invented stories that would create mischief and chaos in this country.”

However, this whole idea that Malaysiakini is a threat to parliamentary democracy is the kind of Goebbelsian manoeuvre that is prime evidence that this country is becoming a failed state propped up by regional powers only interested in our utility as a proxy.

Let us say for one moment you could actually justify the use of this most noxious of law. Let us say that an organisation that lies, spins and fabricates was a threat to parliamentary democracy. Let us say that you did not believe in free speech or expression and supported such a law because its utility outweighed any fancy idea one has about free speech and independent journalism.

By these criteria, the news organisations that were a threat to parliamentary democracy would be news organs like the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia. The latter has even admitted to spinning the facts for a political party and publicly bemoaned that the lack of funds were affecting its efficacy.

In fact, I would argue that any news organisations that are owned by political parties are a threat to parliamentary democracy. I would argue that any organisation that threatens the independence of democratic institutions are a threat to parliamentary democracy.

A pimple on the UMNO face

Do you understand why laws like this are so pernicious and ridiculous? Not to mention if they were applied objectively, the whole UMNO house of cards would come crashing down. The red-shirts, the deal with China, the pro-Islam rhetoric, all this is part of a greater Najib stratagem.

This is what I wrote about the National Security Council (NSC) Act a couple of months ago (and bear in mind that the legal machinations of the UMNO state on issues like these flows directly from the poisoned well, which is the NSC Act):

“However the reality is, that besides a fancy title, this Act redefines the powers of the executive and it is not hyperbolic to claim, that with this Act, we are no longer just a Third World country or developing country or whatever other nonsensical nomenclature that economists like to use, but rather a dictatorship, which the New York Times reports Donald Greenlees, an authority on South-East Asia with Australian National University, as saying: ‘[Najib] is a throwback to the era of Marcos’ Philippines and Suharto’s Indonesia with ruling families hungry for power and great wealth. Imelda had her shoes and Rosmah has her Birkin bags. But the bags are vastly more valuable than the shoes.’”

So now, we have this Open Society Foundations (OSF) conundrum, where apparently because US billionaire George Soros has a “personal interest” in the elections of Malaysia, any organisation receiving funds from the society he founded must be out to destroy and to destabilise UMNO.

Image result for UMNO Spin Machine

Prime Minister in Waiting–Disaster in the works

China has an interest in elections in Malaysia. US has an interest in elections in Malaysia. Saudi Arabia has an interest in elections in Malaysia, and even ‘donated’ vast sums of money to ensure that Umno remains in power. So really, is it any wonder that numerous power brokers for whatever reasons have an interest in a Muslim country which is in trouble because of the corruption scandals that is destroying the country’s fragile democracy?

Ever since Malaysiakini erupted like a pimple on the UMNO face, the minions of Putrajaya have done their utmost to silence one of the few news organisations that offer an alternative to the standard narrative.

And let me be very clear, as someone who writes for Malaysiakini, I have also been critical of Malaysiakini and how it presents the news. Indeed, if you look around, there is much criticism of Malaysiakini and these come from not only establishment hacks but also folks who have worked for Malaysiakini and other independent journalists.

So, there is no question of blind loyalty on my part. The day Malaysiakini tells me what to write or even implies that certain topics are verboten is the day I stop writing. However, this is not about Malaysiakini. This never was about Malaysiakini.

All this is about silencing Malaysiakini in an attempt to silence the thousands of anonymous voices that inhabit the comment sections and spread articles though social media that agitates the population.

All this is about silencing voices that disagree with the official narratives and the actions of plutocrats and corrupt officials that are ruining this country. All this is about silencing conflict that has remained hidden beneath a veneer of civility.

All this is about silencing freedom of speech and expression of the average angry Malaysian. This is not just about journalism. This is about silencing us.