Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name


February 26, 2017

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.

We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action. However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.

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The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.

The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.

Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:

The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.” After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”

The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”

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This Ikan Bakar Man–Jamal Yunus– is a racist. Najib and UMNO support him and so Najib is a racist and UMNO is a racist political party. Q.E.D.

Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.

So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity? When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”

The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.

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The Fun Loving but Insecure Malays

An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.

Unity in Diversity


January 9,2017

Unity in Diversity

By Dennis Ignatius

Unleashing our uniqueness as a multicultural nation

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You can tell, I suppose, that elections are near when UMNO politicians start heaping praise upon our otherwise much-maligned citizens of Chinese origin.

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No less than Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in a speech delivered on his behalf on the occasion of the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall’s Anniversary Dinner recently, praised Malaysian Chinese for their “bravery, hard work and true grit” and their ability to turn things around with minimum resources. He also expressed admiration for their “spirit to never say no to challenges” and opined that “the Chinese community will continue to be the group that will carry the nation forward.”

Flattery & Brickbats 

Zahid’s lavish praise, however, passed without much comment from Malaysian Chinese themselves with many simply dismissing it as little more than lip service. The obvious, if unspoken message, is that mere flattery cannot undo the years of vilification and racial intimidation that has become the hallmark of UMNO politics.

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UMNO’s Extremists in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur

It was not so long ago, for example, that UMNO-aligned red shirted bullies threatened to rain down mayhem upon Petaling Street. It was even more telling, for many Malaysian Chinese, that the red shirt leader was subsequently welcomed as something of a hero at the recent UMNO General Assembly. It only confirmed the perception of UMNO’s malice and hostility towards minority communities.

At the same assembly, UMNO stalwarts also demanded that the some of the miserably few positions that Chinese have in government and government-linked companies be taken away and given to UMNO members.

Worse still, the idea was posited that the Chinese pose an existential threat to the Malays. It might be just politics to UMNO but it demonizes a significant part of our populations simply on the basis of their race. It is not only dangerous but it goes against the very foundational principles of our nation. It is precisely this kind of mentality that is behind much of the chastisement of Malaysia’s minority communities as “pendatangs,” and as just so many unpatriotic and ungrateful interlopers.

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The response that shook UMNO–China’s subtle response to the treatment of their diaspora

It is simply mind-boggling that a dominant political party like UMNO would think that it can treat minority communities with such utter contempt and then expect to earn their allegiance and support at the polls with but a few blandishments.

A blessing to be appreciated

But, whether sincere or not, whether it was given grudgingly or otherwise, Zahid’s praise for the Malaysian Chinese community was well-deserved and long overdue. It may not be music to the ears of racists and bigots but the fact remains that Malaysia would be but a pale shadow of itself if not for the contributions of our citizens of Chinese origin.

They have been a huge blessing to us all and it is about time that they were respected and honoured for it.

If given half the chance to serve, if treated with genuine respect as fellow citizens rather than as interlopers and adversaries, the Chinese community, alongside Malaysia’s other communities, could well lift our nation to unparalleled greatness.

Instead of looking further afield to countries like China to boost our growth, we would do better to tap the acres of diamonds that our own minority communities represent.

Actions rather than words

If Zahid and UMNO want to genuinely show their appreciation for the contributions that Malaysian Chinese have made, they can start by being more supportive of the Chinese schools system.

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Najib depends on Malay support via a Pact with PAS–Hudud

After all, more than any other single factor, it is education that has transformed the Chinese community from a rag-tag bunch of indentured laborers, vegetable gardeners, petty traders, dulang-washers, rickshaw-pullers, nigh-soil carriers and terempoh-makers into a community that can now “carry the nation forward” as Zahid himself put it.

Besides, Chinese schools today are about the only bright spot in our otherwise dismal education system. Unsurprisingly, Chinese schools are the preferred choice of many Malaysian parents no matter their ethnic or religious background.

Those who make the argument that Chinese schools fail to foster racial unity and promote the national identity forget that Chinese schools are today far more multiracial than the so-called national type schools or, for that matter, religious schools.

Would that more Malaysians kids, particularly those from our floundering Indian community, enroll in Chinese schools.

It is a shame, therefore, that the Education Ministry remains so unsupportive of the Chinese schools system withholding even the meager RM50 million in maintenance that was allocated to Chinese schools last year, as was reported in the last few weeks.

As well, the Education Ministry’s refusal to recognize the Unified Examinations Certificate (UEC), something which Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem called “stupid,” makes no sense given that it is already accepted by Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Taiwan, Singapore, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States.

It is hard not to conclude, and certainly the perception persists, that the government’s whole approach to Chinese education is mired in racial prejudice more than anything else.

A museum of living history

Ways must also be found to breakdown the racism and prejudice that has become so ingrained in our society and correct the biased and jaundiced ethnic narratives that have been allowed to take root. Too little attention has been given to the contributions and the stories of heroism and hard work of earlier generations of Malaysians of all ethnicities.

To this end, consideration should be given to the establishment of a multicultural history museum, similar to the Canadian Museum of Immigration (Pier 21), that would record for posterity the history and the stories of all of Malaysia’s ethnic communities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazan, Bugis, Javanese, Arab, Thai and others – their origins, their culture, how they came to call Malaysia their home, their struggles, their hopes and dreams and their contributions to making Malaysia the remarkable nation it now is.

It could also be a living museum with digital boards for the descendants to trace their roots, remember their pioneering forefathers and add their own stories of life and citizenship in Malaysia.

It would certainly help all Malaysians to take pride in their history, culture and contributions while remembering that it took all our ethnic communities many long years of hard work, cooperation and sacrifice to make us what we are today, that we all have a stake in this nation for better or worse, and that if we stand together, we can make our nation the envy of all.

Unleashing our greatness as a nation

Instead of hollow gestures given grudgingly when elections are near, UMNO must decide, once and for all, which road it will take when it comes to dealing with Malaysia’s ethnic minorities – the high road to tolerance and respect for diversity that will allow all our ethnic communities to flower or the low road to bigotry that will drive them away and deprive the nation of the wealth, talent and experience that they have to offer.

UMNO can help to truly unleash the power, the strength and the uniqueness of our multiethnic polity or it can try to stifle it at every turn and rule over a diminished nation, a mockery of all that it could be.

George Soros-funded international syndicate of saboteurs


December 14, 2016

George Soros-funded international syndicate of saboteurs

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The biography, the Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times, was conceived through a book that was written by the late Barry Wain, a former correspondent with the AWSJ who was himself based in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Wain, perhaps the closest of Soros’ associates linked to the AWSJ, was said to have been tasked by the billionaire magnate to work on the biography.

It is highly suspect that Wain was paid by Soros to mould the biography in a way that made Mahathir out to be a dictator who would go on witch hunts to identify his detractors and have them punished and ostracised.

Back then, Soros despised Mahathir for the latter’s anti-Semitic bias that infuriated the Khazarian elites.

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Like Wain, many a writer and columnist had benefited immensely through Soros, whose funds and foundations were said to have channelled millions to editors, reporters and correspondents linked to the NYT and the AWSJ.

Some of Soros’ associates with the NYT included columnist Paul Krugman, Editor Andrew Mark Rosenthal, Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller and Chief Executive Editor, Dean Baquet.

Back in the day, the focus of Soros’ attacks was Mahathir. Today, both Mahathir and Berthelsen are on a page with Soros and Tony Blair to destroy Najib and the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Following his stint with AWSJ, Berthelsen went on to assume a directorial position at the Dresdner Bank AG, a financial corporation that was once among Germany’s largest and known to enjoy a close relationship with JP Morgan & Co.

Now, this is the same JP Morgan whose officials I accused of being complicit with Blair to leak out confidential information that pertained to 1MDB and its dealings with several Mideast entities.

In 2006, Berthelsen left the Dresdner Bank AG to assist A. Lin Neumann and two others establish the Asia Sentinel, a web-based news portal focused on the Asian audience.

A former chief editor with The Standard newspaper in Hong Kong, Neumann was previously associated with the Committee to Protect Journalists in Asia and was a former editor with the Joong Ang Daily in Seoul.

Not only is Neumann a staunch Soros advocate, he is a close associate of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and assisted the sacked deputy premier wage a vendetta against the Mahathir administration.

On Nov 30, 1999, Neumann, then complicit with former United States (US) vice president Albert Arnold Al Gore to inflame reformasi movements in Jakarta, accused Mahathir of winning the then just held Malaysian general election by using his power to “stifle dissent and muzzle mainstream media.”

Neumann seems to have cut himself off Najib’s radar, but is said to be working from behind the curtains to assist both Rewcastle and Berthelsen in their pursuits against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Through Asia Sentinel, Berthelsen has been complicit with the Sarawak Report chief editor and Tian Chua to blacken Najib’s name and that of his immediate family members.

 

If what I am told is true, Berthelsen still keeps a cordial relationship with members of the banking fraternity through a nexus linking him to Soros and the Morgan house.

Given that Asia Sentinel is assisted by Soros with funds channelled through Anwar and Rewcastle, it is highly suspect that the billionaire magnate is making a last ditch attempt to prevent me from delving deeper into a complicity involving Blair and former officials from JP Morgan to sabotage 1MDB and its dealings with the Saudi based Mubadala Development Company PJSC and the Abu Dhabi based PetroSaudi International.

But that is not all.

It was brought to my attention last Friday by a close friend of mine that the Berthelsen rebuke bore traits that were signature to Rewcastle, who, together with her husband, was responsible for setting up the Sarawak Report early in 2010.

The portal is currently being funded by team Mahathir and is said to have received an enormous sum of money from persons associated with Blair.

 

If indeed the Asia Sentinel rebuke was the doing of Rewcastle, she has every reason to fear me, as I continue to peel the masks she and her accomplices hide under strip by strip, stitch by stitch.

In the process, I’ll prove to you that the only thing she has on her mind is to dissuade the Chinese from furthering their energy ambitions in Malaysia, which basically is the central thrust of the Sarawak Report campaign.

Yes, all she wants is to launch a career for her own husband with the Chinese in the business of renewable energy exploration and production.

That’s not far off what Blair wants, which is to advance his own energy ambitions with China in relation to Mubadala and PetroSaudi, two entities that have his name listed as principal advisor (refer part four).

As for Mahathir, he just wants to pave the way for his son to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia by the year 2021. If anything, it appears that I may have come in Rewcastle’s and Blair’s way and am the reason the global conspiracy to sabotage 1MDB may have hit a snag the duo may never be able to recover from. – Malaysia Today

Related links:
George Soros-funded international syndicate of saboteurs – Part 1
George Soros-funded international syndicate of saboteurs – Part 2
George Soros’ world biggest media conspiracy – Part 1
George Soros’ world biggest media conspiracy – Part 2
George Soros’ world biggest media conspiracy – Part 3
George Soros’ world biggest media conspiracy – Part 4

 

Desperate Najib Razak resorts to Fear Tactics


December 4, 2016

Desperate  Najib Razak resorts to Fear Tactics— Emboldened and defiant Malaysians will fight on

by Bridget Welsh

This week’s UMNO meeting reflects rising paranoia. So far he has managed to hold on to power, but not without incurring serious costs. Growing authoritarianism, widening political polarisation, deepening ethnic tensions and discredited immoral leadership have damaged Malaysia’s social and political fabric. Najib’s mismanagement is also evident in the economy’s contraction and the depreciating currency. That thousands braved threats of arrest and thuggery to attend the Bersih 5 rally shows that many Malaysians are willing to fight on and will  fight on and will not be cowed. –Bridget Welsh

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This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy.

For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice.  The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process.

Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he is to avoid international prosecution. The most obvious of these involves a crackdown on political opponents. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015. Since then more than 10 opposition politicians have faced a variety of charges from sedition to challenges to ‘parliamentary democracy’. Last month whistleblower and parliamentarian, Rafizi Ramli, was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for releasing evidence associated with 1MDB. This week’s UMNO meeting has called for continued no-holds barred attacks on the opposition.

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The crackdown on dissent has also targeted civil society. On the eve of the 19 November Bersih 5 rally, its chairperson, Maria Chin Abdullah, was arrested. She was held in solitary confinement and charged as a ‘terrorist’ under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. This follows a litany of attacks on other activists, cartoonists and artists, as well as ordinary citizens for ‘insulting’ posts on Facebook and WhatsApp. In 2015 there were 91 cases for ‘sedition’ alone. Human Rights Watch has detailed these in an October 2016 report.

The media has also been in the firing line. In 2015 the harassment of publishers led to the closure of The Malaysian Insider. Last month the online portal Malaysiakini was raided, and its editor Steven Gan was charged for simply publishing a video. This comes on the back of the Communication and Media Act being tightened in March. ‘Protection’ from insults has extended beyond Najib to those seen to be protecting him. The aim is to silence criticism of Malaysia’s most unpopular prime minister.

To complement these attacks, Najib’s government has deepened its use of racial chauvinism. From the 2013 elections onwards, it has depicted opposition to it as ‘Chinese’ and reinforced the view that Najib’s UMNO party, is the only viable protector of the Malays. This politicised framing lacks any grounding in reality as over 40 per cent of Malays voted for the opposition in 2013 and the most recent Bersih rally showcased the breadth of multi-ethnic opposition to Najib, especially among young Malays. Nevertheless, Najib’s strategy has increased ethnic tensions along political lines. His ratcheted war-like rhetoric at the UMNO meeting points to a willingness to tear the society apart for his own political survival.

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Scare tactics have extended to thuggery, most evident in the crass use of violence and intimidation by the UMNO-linked ‘red shirts’. Some of these political vigilantes – many of them allegedly paid to participate in hooliganism – have also been arrested but have clearly received favourable treatment. Despite official denials, the widespread perception is that thuggery is being promoted by the government.

Najib’s machinations also involve political manoeuvring. He has forged an alliance with conservative Islamist zealots. His government has allowed Wahhabi Islam to extend its extremist and intolerant tentacles through the unchecked and increasingly locally- and internationally-funded religious bureaucracy, with particular support from Najib’s close ally and 1MDB partner Saudi Arabia. Lacking moral authority of his own, Najib has chosen to ally himself with the discredited Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), led by Hadi Awang and his designer suit-wearing appointees. Perceptions of corruption and discriminatory land grabbing from indigenous people have corroded PAS’s public support, as Hadi has introduced a bill that hypocritically strengthens the punishment of ordinary Muslims for immoral activity. This bill, known as RUU 355, will open up opportunities for abuse by authorities in a government where the rule of law is not fairly practised and fuel ethnic tensions. It is no coincidence that bill was reactivated after the Bersih 5 rally.

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Most of Najib’s politicking has focused on maintaining the support of his own party. He has repeatedly paid off UMNO leaders for their ‘loyalty’ through patronage while also purging UMNO of its leading critics. Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad resigned from the party earlier this year due to his opposition to Najib, while the party voted to expel former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, another prominent critic of the Prime Minister. Najib appointed the grassroots party-stalwart Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as his deputy, aiming in the short-term to deflect party challenges. He is seen to be holding off on the appointment of his favoured cousin, Hishammudin Hussein. But even within UMNO dissatisfaction remains high due to the realisation that Najib is an electoral liability and UMNO could lose. This is despite the attacks, divisions and lack of clear alternative leadership from the opposition.  The public shows of loyalty through dictator-like salutes of the leader at the UMNO AGM hide real unease among members and growing discontent between UMNO elites and the grassroots.

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It is therefore little wonder that Najib has increasingly relied on the levers of power to stay in office. His government has broadened gerrymandering and malapportionment in the 2015-2016 electoral redelineation exercise, conducting it without transparency and repeatedly dismissing the record number of challenges. He has also increased populist measures to buy support among Malaysia’s poorest citizens, a pattern that was replicated in the May 2016 Sarawak state elections. These measures have been introduced despite serious strain on operating budgets for government departments and widespread cuts to education and public services.

To compensate for the lack of funds and rising debt, Najib has turned to his new geostrategic ally – China – for money. Not only did China bail out Najib over 1MDB, but he also returned from a visit to Beijing at the beginning of last month bearing some $34 billion worth of deals, funds perceived to help greasing the patronage wheels ahead of the next elections to be scheduled before the end of 2018.

China has a vested interest in keeping a weak, dependent, autocratic leader in power. Little attention is being paid to the potential loss of Malaysian territory to the Chinese, to the unfavourable terms of these arrangements and their limited positive impact on Malaysia’s economy. Guarding against the possibility of electoral defeat, Najib has also established the new National Security Council, which came into effect in August and allows the prime minister to dictatorially declare a state of emergency through a body made up of his own appointees. At the same time, Najib has created a new special defence force and increased his personal protection.

While the Prime Minister has tried to use fear against his people, the person who has been the most afraid is Najib himself. This week’s UMNO meeting reflects rising paranoia. So far he has managed to hold on to power, but not without incurring serious costs. Growing authoritarianism, widening political polarisation, deepening ethnic tensions and discredited immoral leadership have damaged Malaysia’s social and political fabric. Najib’s mismanagement is also evident in the economy’s contraction and the depreciating currency. That thousands braved threats of arrest and thuggery to attend the Bersih 5 rally shows that many Malaysians are willing to fight on and will not be cowed. The test ahead will be the point when Najib’s fear campaign backfires more widely, and more Malaysians realize that the only thing they have to fear is Najib himself.

This piece is published in partnership with Policy Forum – Asia and the Pacific’s platform for public policy analysis and debate.

Dr, Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate of the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University. She specializes in Southeast Asian politics, with particular focus on Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. She has edited/written numerous books including, Reflections: The Mahathir Years, Legacy of Engagement in Southeast Asia, Impressions of the Goh Chok Tong Years, Democracy Takeoff? The B.J. Habibie Period, Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years (a Malay edition Bangkit was published in 2014) and The End of UMNO? Essays on Malaysia’s Dominant Party.  She is the Asian Barometer Survey Southeast Asia core lead, and is currently directing the survey project in Malaysia and Myanmar.

http://www.newmandala.org/40574-2/

 

Maria Chin Abdullah et. al and the Fight for Regime Change


December 2, 2016

Maria Chin Abdullah et. al and the Fight for Regime Change

by Ambassador Dato’  Dennis Ignatius

Maria Chin Abdullah & the quest for change

No one should underestimate the power of the simple faith that was on display through all those days, at all those events, the belief that somehow justice will prevail in the end, that what we do as citizens, no matter how small, can make a difference.–Dennis Ignatius

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The crowds that turned out to support BERSIH 5.0 and the vigils and rallies to free Maria speak volumes about the hunger and thirst for change, for justice and good governance in Malaysia.

An outrageous act 

The arrest of Maria, in particular, seems to have generated an upsurge of public anger at the outrageous behaviour of those in power. That the government would treat a widow, a crusader for justice, a woman who has spent most of her adult life fighting for the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the downtrodden in such a cruel, callous and capricious manner was simply beyond the pale.

Instead of intimidating the people, however, Maria’s arrest appears to have strengthened their conviction that their struggle for justice, for good governance, for accountability is a righteous one and must be pursued with vigour for the sake of our nation.

And they turned out in force to send a message to those in power that such actions are simply unacceptable, that no citizen should be deprived of his or her liberty and rights and incarcerated in such an arbitrary manner, that laws such as SOSMA have absolutely no place in a democratic society.

Can we still call Malaysia a democracy?

The authorities can, of course, spin their fanciful accounts of foreign interference, sinister plots to overthrow the government or undermine the state but they fool no one but themselves.

In fact, the more frantically they spew out such drivel, the more they lose credibility. The more they insist they are acting within the law when they act in such a high-handed manner, the more the law itself becomes suspect.

In any case, the state does not have the right to claim legitimacy with laws like SOSMA that are brokered on false promises and applied in bad faith.

The Prime Minister’s recent statement that he has no reason to apologize for SOSMA because it is needed to fight terrorism is appalling given that it has just been used against Maria. Is the Prime Minister now suggesting that all his critics and political opponents are terrorists?

After these events, can we even refer to Malaysia as a democracy any more?

Intimidation stiffens resolve

Somehow illiberal governments never seem to learn that harsh measures against those who fight for freedom and democracy stiffen resolve rather than weaken it. Far from discrediting human rights activists, they make martyrs of them. Instead of diminishing the stature of advocates for justice, they empower them.Have they learned nothing from history?

They tried to suppress the late Irene Fernendez, judicially harassing her for more than a decade; far from crushing her spirit, it made her stronger, more determined. In the process she became an international symbol of justice for migrant workers and refugees.

They tried to railroad another crusader for justice and change – Anwar Ibrahim – and today he has become a symbol of hope for Malaysian who long for a better nation. The longer they incarcerate him, the more his stature grows.

And now they are about to discover the full measure of Maria.Already, she is something of an icon in the struggle for freedom, good governance and justice in Malaysia. It was plain to see that the jubilant crowd that gathered in the city center last Monday night to celebrate her release, love her, admire her and look to her. Rarely do public figures evoke such enthusiasm.

A generational struggle for justice 

It is also heartening to see the generational mix in this struggle for a better Malaysia which people like Maria now lead.

The older folks, the Merdeka generation, some in their twilight years now, are coming out of retirement to join the fight. They were there when the dream of Malaysia was born and still hold on to it despite everything that has happened, still believing that we can be that nation we thought we would be.

So many youthful activists are rising up as well to fight for change and reform. It reminds me of the anti-war (Vietnam war for those of you who were not born then) movement in the US and the student activism of an earlier era in our history.

At the Free Maria – Mansuh SOSMA rally last Friday, for example, they sang protest songs and spoke with great fervor. Young student activists like Muhammad Luqman, Anis Syafiqah and Adam Adli are already paying a high price for their political convictions but they are undeterred.

They stand testimony to the fact that even the mighty power of the state – with its vast system of indoctrination, manipulation and patronage – cannot suppress the desire for change.

Clearly, the torch is being passed to a new generation with a passion for justice and democracy.

Malaysia’s wonder-women

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These smart women put Malaysian men to shame–They have guts to take on UMNO and its corrupt leader, the Rosmah controlled Najib Razak

It is said that crisis often brings out true leaders.In Malaysia, many of the remarkable leaders and voices for change that crisis has brought forth are women.

Despite deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes, they rise like giants in the land, inspiring us all with their courage, quiet determination, fortitude and integrity; cajoling us to action.

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Mariam Mokhtar and Cartoonist ZUNAR

Women like Irene Fernandez, Wan Azizah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Zainah Anwar, Cynthia Gabriel, Marina Mahathir, Noor Faridah Ariffin, Ivy Josiah, Anis Syafiqah, Siti Kassim, Zuraidah Kamaruddin, Theresa Kok, Hannah Yeoh, Mariam Mokhtar and others are now household names across the land.

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The Late Dr.Irene Fernandez –Champion of the Underdog and Down trodden and Human Rights

And when the authorities raid a women’s rights group aimed at encouraging women’s participation in the political process and threaten to charge them with activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, you know that these women are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Thank goodness for these remarkable women who inspire and encourage us to press on. Our nation is stronger, and better, because of them. They deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude.

The faith that brings change

Some may say that events like last Friday’s Free Maria-Mansuh SOSMA rally, and the vigils that preceded it, make little difference but Maria is now free!

Perhaps the authorities heard the roar of the people after all.Now the struggle continues for democracy, for justice, for the abolishment of repressive laws like SOSMA and an end to harassment and arbitrary arrests.

No one should underestimate the power of the simple faith that was on display through all those days, at all those events, the belief that somehow justice will prevail in the end, that what we do as citizens, no matter how small, can make a difference.

The words of that towering figure in the fight for justice – Martin Luther King – come to mind:

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

 

 

BERSIH 5.0 reminds Malaysians of their Diversity and Plurality


November 25, 2016

BERSIH 5.0 reminds Malaysians of  their Diversity and Plurality

by Hew Wai Weng

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The crowds at BERSIH 5.0 may not have hit previous heights, but their greater ethnic diversity is a positive sign, Hew Wai Weng writes.

Threats of violence by the anti-BERSIH shirted group, as well as the political fatigue of many Malaysians after the racialization of BERSIH 4.0 because of its low Malay turnout, had led many observers to expect an unenthusiastic level of public participation in BERSIH 5.0.

On the eve of BERSIH 5.0, many key leaders of BERSIH and opposition parties were arrested. The Police also blocked most of the road access to the gathering points of the BERSIH rally. Despite these obstacles, more than 50,000 people marched the streets in downtown Kuala Lumpur on  November 19, 2016 to demand fair and clean elections.

Even though the overall turnout was lower than the 100,000-strong crowd at BERSIH 4.0, a notably increased Malay participation in BERSIH 5.0 was an encouraging and positive sign, especially in the context of various attempts by the Najib-led UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) to racialize various dissident movements in Malaysia.

Here are my thoughts on the mobilization and participation of ethnic Malay in BERSIH 5.0, based on my observations and conversations with various participants at the rally. By concentrating on Malay participation, I do not intend to discredit the involvement of other ethnic groups, including Chinese, Indians and Orang Asli who have all contributed to the success of BERSIH 5.o. Besides ethnic composition, gender and class dimensions of the participants also deserve further attention.

At 10 am I joined the crowd at Masjid Negara, the National Mosque of Malaysia its peak, there were about 6,000 people and half of them were Malays. Many of the Malays gathered there were mobilised by political parties such as Keadilan (People’s Justice Party) and Amanah (National Trust Party, a new party formed by the progressives who left PAS, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party), as well as Islamic-based NGOs such as IKRAM (Malaysian IKRAM Association) and ABIM (the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia).

As the crowd marched from Masjid Negara to Masjid Jamek, a mosque near to the Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square), many people joined along the way. In the beginning, the participants were quite ethnically mixed. But that changed once they marched through Pudu area. Thousands of spectators and protesters, many of them young Chinese, stood at both sides of the street, clapping hands and cheering when the protesters paraded through.

As the protesters walked from Masjid Jamek to KLCC (Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, where Petronas Twin Tower is located), I witnessed increasing numbers of young Malays among the crowd, and the crowd appeared more ethnically-mixed, with an estimated 40 per cent Malay among the participants.

By my estimate, at least 20,000 Malays attended Bersih 5. Although the number is lower than the amount at BERSIH 2.0 and 3.0 (approximately 30,000-40,000) when the Islamist party PAS were supportive of BERSIH and had mobilised its supporters, it is still an encouraging figure. It showed that without PAS endorsement, it is still possible for civil society and political parties to mobilise Malay Muslims to join rallies.

How were these Malays being mobilised? Keadilan and Amanah have committed to mobilising their members and supporters. Both parties have also helped in the pre-BERSIH convoys in many rural and semi-urban areas. These efforts might have convinced more Malays to join BERSIH 5.0. Aside from political party mobilisation, Muslims NGOs especially IKRAM and ABIM, have fully supported the rally. There is also an increasing number of young Malays present at Bersih 5. Some of them might have been mobilised or inspired by the August-held Tangkap MO1 (Arrest Malaysian Official 1) rally, organised by the university students. Others might be left-leaning Malay activists. Some also joined the rally on their own.

Although the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad openly urged Malaysians to join BERSIH 5.0, the crowd mobilised by its newly-formed political party, Bersatu (Malaysian United Indigenous Party) was ultimately not as large as some observers expected. Mahathir himself, however, had rushed back from a visit to Sudan in order to be present at the rally. His presence, together with the strong Malay turnouts at BERSIH 5.0, might help to convince the anti-Najib UMNO supporters to leave UMNO or at least to vote against UMNO in the coming elections.

Image result for Diversity at Bersih 5.0

The UMNO Goons

I took a Grab car service before the BERSIH 5.0 rally. The middle-aged Malay driver told me, “Because of Najib, many of us have to suffer. I could not join BERISH, because I have to work more to make ends meet. I will morally support the causes of BERSIH.” Does his view represent the silent majority? Would increasing discontents towards Hadi-led PAS and Najib-led UMNO translate into votes against both UMNO and PAS in the elections, and contribute to a change of government in Malaysia?

A few factors will be crucial in determining whether or not we will see an increased support among Malays towards the change of government: first, the support of Malay youth, for which social media might be an important battleground; second, the support of rural Malays, yet it is a challenging task to counter UMNO’s rural patronage and money politics; third, a strong and efficient Malay leadership among the opposition parties in all the states, as a way to debunk UMNO’s allegation that DAP (Democratic Action Party) or the Chinese will dominate if UMNO loses power.

Last but not least, Malay support for a change in government will also depend on the ability of opposition parties, especially Bersatu and Amanah, to swing the support of anti-Najib UMNO members and anti-Hadi PAS followers towards them.

Hew Wai Weng is Visiting Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. His research interests focus upon the intersections between ethnicity, religiosity, class and politics in Malaysia and Indonesia. He has been writing on Chinese Muslim identities, Hui migration patterns, and urban middle class Muslim aspirations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Bersih 5 and the increase of the Malay discontents