Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Michael Backman on Malaysia

Malaysia's PM pays high price to stay in power
By Michael Backman
The Age
March 26, 2008

MALAYSIA'S hapless Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi got something right last week: he announced a radical reshuffle of his cabinet, which included dropping several ministers who had seemed untouchable. But what Abdullah got wrong was the timing. The reshuffle is about two years too late. Had he done it then, his coalition Government would not have done so badly at this month's elections. He would not now be staring into the political abyss whereby it is almost a certainty he will not be Prime Minister at the next election. It is a possibility that his party will not even be in office.

But Abdullah's new ministry is no clear-cut triumph. Two Government members named as ministers refused to serve, highlighting the sloppiness of the process of government in Malaysia. Why did Abdullah not check with them before announcing his ministry? This is the usual process in parliamentary democracies elsewhere. One, aged just 54, said he wanted to make way for a younger person. Did he sense a sinking ship?

The head of the Malaysian Chinese Association, a component of the ruling coalition, made it quite clear he didn't want to be considered for a cabinet post. He wants to spend more time watching his back. There is much bitterness in the MCA and a chance it will split.

Most interestingly, Abdullah appointed Muhammad Muhammad Taib as his Minister for Rural and Regional Development. What does such a minister do? He travels to Malaysia's more far-flung parts and hands out money for development. What he really does is to hand out contracts to politicians, their families and friends to keep them onside. This will be more important than ever now, as the ruling coalition does not have a majority of seats in Parliament drawn from peninsular Malaysia and can only rule with the support of the smaller, regionally based parties in Sarawak and Sabah states on the island of Borneo.

Muhammad Taib's job will be to fly to those states with suitcases of money to keep them onside. It's a role for which he's shown some talent.

In 1997, when chief minister of Selangor state, he was arrested at Brisbane International Airport with the equivalent of $1.26 million in currency in his luggage as he was about to board a plane for New Zealand.

Australian law requires that amounts above $5000 be declared. Muhammad Taib had no identifiable source of significant wealth and had been a lowly paid school teacher before entering politics. In addition to the cash, he and his wife were found to own property in Queensland and another six properties in New Zealand.

Muhammad Taib avoided prosecution for currency smuggling by claiming he misunderstood the customs declaration form because it was in English — a sad indictment of a former school teacher from a country where English is one of the main spoken languages.

Sabah and Sarawak hold the key to the longevity of Abdullah's Government. If the parties based there can be persuaded to leave the ruling coalition, then it will be out of office. It is for this reason that in the days after the election, opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim travelled to the two states for discussions with local politicians.

What would it take for them to change sides? No doubt Anwar gently inquired. And no doubt the answer would be no surprise.

The distribution of government contracts is the amalgam of any political coalition in Malaysia. And the principal figure when it comes to handing out contracts is the Finance Minister. It's not on account of his skills as an economist that Abdullah defied convention and made himself Finance Minister when he came to office. Indeed, I once asked a former finance minister Daim Zainuddin what he spent most of his time doing. His response was absolutely unequivocal: awarding contracts and making sure all those who politically needed pay-offs got them, took up most of his time.

What was Anwar before he was sacked from the government? He too was the finance minister. Essentially Anwar fully knows the grubby ins and outs of politics in Malaysia because, as finance minister for five years, he was the nation's chief dispenser of contracts. So in his discussions with the Sarawak and Sabah powerbrokers, he will know exactly what buttons to press and what promises to make. Don't expect high-minded principle to be behind any changes in alliances. Leopards do not change their spots, particularly when they are from Borneo.

Abdullah knows this too, which is why Muhammad Taib has returned to the ministry: Abdullah needs a bag man.

The battle for Sarawak and Sabah is going to cost Malaysia dearly. Sarawak especially, which has already experienced break-neck development, will be even more resplendent with contracts and infrastructure. Its politicians will grow richer and its jungles sparser. Projects that have been put on hold suddenly will be approved.

One project, a giant dam and hydro-electric scheme, which has been on and off for at least two decades, will be one of the bargaining chips. It will net the family of the Chief Minister of Sarawak hundreds of millions of dollars in supply and construction contracts. Indeed, in August Rio Tinto signed an agreement with a company controlled by the Chief Minister's family for an aluminium smelter in Sarawak. Other foreign contractors will also find rich pickings in Sarawak and Sabah.

Its not clear who will win control of the Malaysian Parliament, but the family businesses of the politicians of Sarawak and Sabah stand to profit handsomely no matter which side is victorious.


Tuesday, 25 March 2008


Qingming or Ching Beng is a Chinese festival marked by traditional visits to graves of loved ones or relatives. I remember how my atheist father used to observe Ching Beng almost "religiously" year in, year out. We used to visit his grandfather's grave in Selama, Perak and his mother's in Taiping. My mother used to do all the ceremonial stuff and he would merely handle the weeding and general tidying up around the graves.

To him it was a matter of filial piety; a mark of respect to one's elders in the Confucian tradition. It was part of the value system that he inculcated in us as his children and we somehow knew his message eventhough he never did verbalize his intentions.

Ching Beng was one of two Chinese traditions he observed; the other being the Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner. The latter again had to do with the same value system that he professed.

Since his passing in 1985, Jeannie was the torch bearer when it came to Chinese traditional practices in our household, and come this 4th of April, Ching Beng will be without Jeannie for the first time in 22 years. It was Jeannie who determined the dates to visit the graves, the right Chinese characters to use on the burnt offerings; in a nutshell, everything! We miss her.

Just now I received a call from Krystyn. She had been out with Saiful to the Chinese prayer paraphernalia shop and they had been buying stuff for Ching Beng. This is the first time we will perform Ching Beng for Mummy and for Ah Khong, without Mummy. Krystyn assures me that Mummy has taught her enough and the things she is unsure of she knows where to seek advice and confirmation. As with Chinese New Year in February, it is Krystyn Cheah at the helm and I am utterly grateful to Jeannie for having brought Krystyn and JJ up the way she did.

On the date Krystyn decides we will perform Ching Beng I will be just like my father used to be. I will attend to the mundane while Krystyn and JJ take charge of the ceremonial requisites. It will be a day we honor and show respect to Mummy and Ah Khong. It will be a day we pay homage to them by visiting the place where their remains are preserved, eventhough we know they live forever in our hearts. It will be a day we assure ourselves by silently assuring them that we are capable of walking this path called life without them. It will be a day we wish them eternal peace as we reflect on the times we wished so fervently and in futile hope that they were still physically with us. It will be a day we are reminded of the impermanence and fragility of life; it will be a day of remembrance yet it will be another day of "letting go".


We went for Ching Beng on the 27th of March because we felt 27 is an appropriate number with regards to Jeannie. First it was to Sungai Besi where my father's remains are at the Chin Fatt Tze Temple and then to the Nirvana Cemetary in Semenyih near Kajang where we have put Jeannie's ashes.

It was a perfect day for Ching Beng; the sky was clear and it was a bright albeit very hot day.

Michael Backman on Malaysia

Malaysian voters open the door for Anwar Ibrahim
by Michael Backman
The Age. March 12, 2008

MALAYSIA Boleh! (Malaysia Can!) is Malaysia's national slogan but after last Saturday's elections, the real slogan should be Malaysians Boleh! for ordinary Malaysians are to be congratulated. The humiliation they handed their government at the federal and state elections demonstrates how politically sophisticated and mature they have become in the face of a high-handed and patronising government.

Five state governments were won by the opposition and federally, the Government had its worst showing ever. But it was the clinical precision in which voters went about their business that was most impressive.

Zainuddin Maidin, the information minister, lost his seat. A measure of how complacent the Government had become was its appointment of the inept Zainuddin to the role in the first place. His appalling performance on Al Jazeera television late last year was a very public international humiliation for all Malaysians. Voters did what Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi did not have the guts to do: they removed him from office.

Malaysia's media has become so discredited that local bloggers are now hugely popular. Zainuddin had patronisingly warned Malaysians about false information spread by bloggers. They responded by voting one of the most popular bloggers — Jeff Ooi — into parliament.

The birthday of Samy Vellu, the long-serving public works minister and head of the party that represents Malaysia's Indian community, coincided with election day but it was Malaysians who got the birthday present. Samy lost his seat.

No one is more to blame than he for driving Malaysia's Indians into their pitiful state as second-class citizens. His deputy also lost his seat, as did the head of the party's youth wing, its vice-president, and the head of its women's wing. The party barely exists now.

Meanwhile, a lawyer who championed the rights of Indians and who has been detained without charge since December because of it, won a seat in a state parliament — a seat in which the majority of voters are actually Chinese. It seems that ordinary Malaysians have a greater sense of fair play than their Government.

The Government lost power in the state of Penang. Lim Guan Eng, the much-respected new chief minister, was arrested and jailed in 1994 after he distributed a brochure complaining about the handling of claims that the (then) chief minister of Malacca, Rahim Thamby Chik, had sexual relations with an under-age girl who happened to be one of Lim's constituents.

Unbelievably Thamby Chik was not charged for what amounted to statutory rape but Lim was, for having distributed the pamphlet. How embarrassing for Abdullah that he must now deal with a chief minister that his Government so unfairly jailed.

Only the state government of Sarawak was spared voters' ire but only because it had its elections last year. But nature will bring change there too. Its long-serving, outstandingly greedy, cancer-stricken chief minister is soon to learn that a shroud has no pockets.

More broadly, the very legitimacy of Abdullah's Government is open to question. At the federal level, the opposition received 47.8% of the vote; a remarkable result given voting fraud, a frightened media that gives the opposition almost no positive coverage, and severely rigged electoral boundaries. As it was, about a third of eligible voters did not vote, meaning that Abdullah's Government was returned by only four out of 10 eligible voters.

Late last year, I met with former finance minister and senior ruling party lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah at his residence in Kuala Lumpur. He told me how appalled he was by the direction Malaysia had taken. He said that Malaysia needed a free media and a truly independent judiciary. He decried the corruption and nepotism that had beset the leadership of his own party. "But why don't you stand up in parliament and say these things?" I asked.

"Because the media would be instructed not to report it," he said.

If the opposition parties and their leaders can put their egos aside and think strategically, they have a chance of giving Malaysia what it sorely needs, a stable two-party system.

Opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim will become eligible for election next month with the expiry of the ban following his criminal conviction.

The nightmare scenario for Abdullah is that Anwar's wife, who was again elected on Saturday, will resign in the coming months, forcing a by-election at which Anwar will be elected. He might then help to coalesce the opposition parties into a more unified and effective voice. If he were to lure the Chinese-based MCA and perhaps the Sarawak-based United Traditional Bumiputera Party away from the ruling coalition, then the opposition would have precisely half the members of parliament. And if just one more government member were to walk — Tengku Razaleigh perhaps — then the Government will fall after 50 years in office. The current 13-party ruling coalition would be replaced by a five-party coalition. Whether or not this happens, there will be constant tension from the fact that it might.

Abdullah has emerged as probably Malaysia's most pointless prime minister. The election results are an unmitigated disaster for him and his Government. If the opposition is sufficiently disciplined and the ruling coalition starts to crack, then his nightmare has only just begun. Could Abdullah negotiate such a minefield? So far his political talents don't seem to have stretched beyond using chemical-laden water cannons against his own people. It would seem his days are numbered.


Azly Rahman - Brave new Malaysian identity emerging?

The ethnogenesis of Bangsa Malaysia? Read this piece by Dr Azly Rahman that is found in Malaysiakini.

Brave new Malaysian identity emerging?
by Dr Azly Rahman

"Our government teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." -Louis D Brandeis (American Supreme Court Justice, 1856-1941).

I do not wish to remove from my present prison to a prison a little larger. I wish to break all prisons. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American transcendentalist.

The second wave of Independence, achieved with the storming of the "Bastille that is Putrajaya" in March 2008, in a phenomena called "implo-volution" in which the old regime was crushed by its own weight of contradiction and one whose ruins were charted some fifty years ago, present an interesting possibility. It is that of the ethnogenesis (emerging new culture) of a new Malaysian identity. Political will is complementing this philosophical vision. The Internet is aiding in speeding up the process.

The wave is forcing the various ethnic groups to think of defining itself as a " new nation" when power-sharing of a truly multicultural nature at the state level is becoming a reality. Not only the different ethnic groups are fairly represented in what I call the "yellow" states of "Perak and Selangor" but religious background of the state leaders are also playing a key role in the evolving nature of the leadership.

The yellow states are forging ahead with care – aware of the sensitivities of the different ethnic and religious groups, focusing on the pragmatics and ethics drawn from each cultural tradition. Thus, we saw Penang CM Lim Guan Eng refusing to use thousands of ringgit of state funds to move to a new office, we saw the Kedah chief minister and we saw the continuation of Kelantan chief minister's commitment to the principles of Islam in governing the state with prudence and tolerance.

What is displayed is Confucianist-Taoist ideas and Islamic brand of ethical leadership – two seemingly radical philosophies that actually complement each other. When it comes to statecraft, both are useful in forming as basis for a philosophy of governance that appeals to the Malays and the Chinese. These ideals are no different that the ones taught in Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the cultural philosophy of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and of the Orang Asli.

The "ethics of authenticity" as philosopher Charles Taylor would put it, is universal enough to be a guiding light of this new nation. Ethics by any name is a system of check and balances of the Evil and the Good within. It is the Middle Path of Inner Statecraft.

Istana Zakaria and pondok Nik Aziz

In speaking of the manifestations of the excesses of greed and the imbalance of evil within, two installations of polar opposites are worth quoting as semiotics of conspicuous consumption, in a country such as Malaysia.

The old and dying regime, Barisan Nasional too consists of Chinese and Malays. But the evolution of racial-politics necessitated the development of a style of leadership that requires extra-ethical means to be employed in order for power to be sustained via the control of wealth and resources. Not only these are controlled but they are displayed conspicuously and of late, with arrogance. This brought about the shocking defeat of the 50-year-old seemingly indestructible machine. The excess of this image of conspicuous consumption is in the Istana Zakaria.

The alter image to Istana Zakaria would probably be the house that Tuan Guru Nik Aziz inhabits. But why do we have these contradictions? How have we come to this historical juncture in which the moral compass of the national leaders are misplaced or even lost and what we are seeing are the consequence of the capitalist system that is rearing its ugly immoral head. We have created monsters out of the freedom we give human beings to profit from the consumerist capitalist system we created out of the fear of socialism and Communism.

Billionaires and multi-millionaires in this nation are creations of a system. They are the products of the evolution of individuals that are installed by the institutions derived from the ideology of uncontrollable free enterprise constantly wanting to be freer and freer. Over a long period of time, the system creates a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. It creates antagonism – of class and the hypermodern caste system. This is the Reaganomics of poverty - a mass deception of the "magic of the marketplace".

As a nation, what do we want to be known as? How do we re-engineer another evolution? How do we maintain a sense of personal freedom in the process of crafting a synthesis of "national identity and freedom?" Will the Internet be the great deconstructor of such an identity, once we forget it?

There are multiple contradictions in these questions. They are worth exploring.

Themes of freedom

I suggest we explore these themes below, either out of your own interest or for your graduate work. I think these are fertile areas of research to help us contribute to the ongoing conversation on the politics of identity.

Human nature and freedom

National Front, Freedom and its problems - based on political economy of identity formation

People's Front and freedom - even more problematic since we have multiple layers of identity, construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of identity.

New bumiputeraism.

Archaeology of identity

Philosophy of beingness

Theology of existence

Sociology of nationhood

Technologies of the mind and body

Education and cultural engineering.

Culture critique and ethnogenesis

Social reproduction and social relations of production

Institutions and installations

Self in society

These I believe are themes we will explore as Malaysia progresses into the age of postmodernity bringing forth the excesses of freedom in a world characterised by the rapidisation of technology and the heightening of chaos and complexity. The question of "freedom" will be more daunting as the politics of identity and the identity of politics become inter-twined.

What does "nation" mean? How must a nation be "free"? What kind of freedom must a nation enjoy and protect? In a consumerist society, how is freedom defined? How do bring the notion of freedom down to the grassroots level of the rakyat—how will we synthesise these notions?

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire would call this synthesis "praxis" in which the subjective and objective aspect of the phenomena under study become synthesised and transformed into action. The stage "cultural action for freedom" is an important aspect of this Malaysian revolution of 2008. How do we turn those at the grassroots level into active participants of the national development agenda? How do we teach them to reject all forms of state propaganda?

Freedom is an elusive concept and has its ambiguities. Mat Rempits think they are free and lead a life of total freedom, but who controls the production and reproduction of Mat Rempits. At another level, the power elites in the government think that they are guardians of Freedom/Merdeka but what is the meaning of freedom when those "corridors" built are institutions that will benefit the few and sell the country to foreign investors - in the name of progress.

Freedom is a prison-house of language

The new state governments in the yellow states (Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan) will need to showcase what freedom means and how the rakyat will benefit, in the most meaningful and tangible ways. What are the benchmarks of social justice and freedom that the rakyat will see in the agenda? How will "standards" of tolerance, justice, and peace be set and achieved - how will these be measured? How will the rakyat be the judge and the ones to decide if these standards are achieved?

We're getting into a serious business of systemic and systematic change here, after the revolution.

Even fundamental is the question: who defines freedom? These themes below need to be explored in order to answer the question of the authorship of the definition of freedom:

Needs versus wants


Radical philosophy

Poverty of culture and culture of poverty

Culture not merely and house we inhabit and the tools we use but both, evolvingly – technology shapes our consciousness.

Where do we go from here – in our exploration of two contradictory terms nationhood and freedom?

Let us discuss this question - as a new nation.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Two weeks ago I read this book, "The Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho. Most of my friends who still have a reading habit seem to have read it; most thought it a good book so I was curious.

The story-line is simple enough yet, since so many were raving about the book I was trying to read between the lines; as if not wanting to miss out on any "profound message" that may be embedded. After all, an author who has sold more than 65 million books must have something! I would classify "The Alchemist" under the genre of "motivational books" but personally, I did not find anything that I had not found in numerous other publications of the same genre.

There was however something in Part One of the book that I thought rather nicely puts "negativity" in a different light. The following are excerpts from The Alchemist:

"........the most important is that you have succeeded in discovering your Personal Legend."

"......(Personal Legend) it is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

At that point (when they are young) in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend."

"...... It's (the mysterious force) a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth."

".....And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

The above puts in a positive perspective all the trials and tribulations faced when one is trying to achieve one's desired goals. It is as if Murphy's Law is to enable rather than to disable; becoming part of the price that is intrinsic to the value of achieving ones so-called Personal Legend.

I oppose an Islamic State - Satire by Raja Petra Kamarudin

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Islam forbids oppression and favoritism. Therefore the New Economic Policy would have to be abolished and a meritocracy system would have to be introduced to replace it. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia would also have to be amended to remove the rights and special privileges of the Malays.

“Let me show you something,” I told my wife who I have been with for 40 years now.

We were in Kota Bharu in Kelantan to cover the Islamic Party of Malaysia's national convention. I admit, surrounded by the long-robbed and 'properly-covered' PAS women, my wife looked like a fish out of water. But they did not seem to mind that amongst their midst was this uncovered woman in tight jeans and even tighter T-shirt that revealed more than what Muslim women are supposed to reveal.

The normal convention would be for the women to sit on one side of the hall and the men on the other, the proper segregation of the sexes in true Muslim fashion. But my wife chose to sit beside me in the men's section and we sat close to the exit so that she could pop out into the corridor every hour or so to recharge her nicotine level. Yes, an uncovered woman in tight jeans and T-shirts and puffing away on top of that would not be considered the normal setting in a PAS gathering, and sitting in the men's section as well to complete the unorthodox scene. But this did not appear to have ruffled any feathers or triggered any murmurings from amongst the 1,500 or so PAS delegates from all over Malaysia.

I swung into a back alley and slowed down as we neared about a dozen or so young girls and boys loitering in the dark shadows. Some were probably mere teenagers but they all had one thing in common, they all had good looks.

“Look at those boys and girls,” I told my wife.

“What are they waiting for?” my wife asked, half-suspecting she already knew the answer.

“Customers of course.”

“Sure, I can understand the girls are waiting for customers. But what about the boys?”

“Also for customers?”

“Men customers?” she asked with a 'don't tell me they're waiting for women customers' look on her face.

“They waiting for women, of course. What, you mean you women can't also buy sex off the streets?”

“I know we can, but maybe in KL, this is Kota Bharu.”

“Hey, Kota Bharu women also need sex.”

I stopped the car and signalled to one extremely good-looking young man to come forward.

“Hey, what you doing?” My wife was taken aback and did not know if I was just teasing or whether this was for real.

“Don't worry. I just want to demonstrate something to you.”

As the delicious-looking young thing came closer I lowered the window and he popped his head into the car and greeted us with a sweet “Hai Pak Cik, Mak Cik.”

“Hey, you panggil kami Pak Cik, Mak Cik, tak mahu berkawanlah. Panggillah Abang dan Kakak.”

“Oh, sorrylah, Abang, Kakak. Jangan marah ia?”

“Tak marah. Bergurau je.”

“You looking for a man?” the hunk of a young guy asked.

“Well, sort of.”

“For you or for Kakak?”

“Which one you prefer?”

“Both also okay. Abang pun boleh, Kakak pun boleh.”

“Kalau dua-dua sekali?” I asked, as my wife thumped me on my chest, appalled that this may be going further than she would like it to.

“Dua-dua sekali maksud apa?”

“Dua-dua sekali, threesome.”

“Threesome also can. Lagi enjoy.”

“You biasa buat threesome dulu? Tak nervous?”

“Biasa. No problem.”

“Threesome you biasa buat macam mana? Husband tengok ke wife tengok ke tiga-tiga sekali?”

“Semua dah try.”

“Tapi yang mana you prefer?”

“I suka tiga-tiga sekali. I kat tengah......So, Abang dan Kaka nak tak? I guarantee puas.”

“Okay, bagi kita check-in hotel dulu. I datang balek setengah jam lagi.”

“Alright....datang balek okay? Jangan tak datang.”

My wife could not hold back her laughter as we drove off. “You really teruklah. Wow, Kota Bharu also has all this.”

“Of course, you can even get this in Saudi Arabia so what is Kota Bharu?”

PAS has been ruling the 'Islamic' state of Kelantan for 18 years and, in spite of the loud Islamic State rhetoric, you can still decide whether to live the life of a pious Muslim or instead indulge in a 'western' lifestyle of sex games. And of course if bakuteh and beer are your thing you can never be short of those as well.

I am not trying to say that PAS' Islamic State proposal is pure rhetorical bullshit. I am not even trying to say that an Islamic State is 'safe' and poses no danger to anyone who would rather live the life of a devil's disciple. What I am emphasising here is that Islam has to rise above mere rhetoric. Shouting about Islam will not bring about changes. Legislation and the creation of an Islamic State would also not bring about changes. Changes can only be brought about through education and by the will of the people to live the life of a true Muslim. That, and only that, will bring about changes. And we do not need an Islamic State for that. If the people refuse to change, no Islamic State can change them. Furthermore, screaming about an Islamic State would just alienate and antagonise non-Muslims, who as it is already fear Islam and would run scared from anyone who rants and raves about Islam

DAP is one example of a serious infliction of Islamphobia. The DAP people are so scared of Islam and scared shit that the non-Muslim Chinese will punish them come the next general election if they form a coalition government in Perak with a PAS man as the Menteri Besar. Can we really blame DAP when they have suffered such punishment in the past and the very thought of this episode being repeated sends shivers down their spine?

It is easy to accuse DAP of being anti-Islam but if we were in DAP's shoes we would certainly not act any differently. This is, after all, a matter of political survival, and if it is politically expedient to oppose Islam, then this is what must be done just to stay relevant to the non-Muslim Chinese and to continue getting their support. If DAP is seen as 'selling out', this would be the beginning of the end for DAP. Nevertheless, while we can appreciate what motivates DAP -- and while we may have no quarrel with their reasons for flying off the handle at the prospect of forming a government with PAS and then having PAS as the Menteri Besar on top of that -- it is their methods that we find fault with.

Making public statements to the government-controlled media who would just exploit the issue and present the opposition in a negative light is just not on. Have you noticed that the Barisan Nasional states of Perlis and Terengganu are also facing problems? Perlis and Terengganu too can't form governments and there is a serious deadlock as to who should be the new Menteris Besar. But the media does not play up the issue of Perlis and Terengganu. They do, however, play up Perak and Selangor which are actually lesser problems than Perlis and Terengganu.

Let me say this again and let me say it loud and clear. READ MY LIPS, PAS. WE DO NOT NEED AN ISLAMIC STATE. WE NEED MUSLIMS WHO ARE NOT HYPOCRITES. And that is why I oppose the creation of an Islamic State. An Islamic State would give an impression that everything is honky-dory whereas in actual fact it is not. An Islamic State would give an impression that we are all good Muslims whereas we would be nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. Better we have no Islamic State than we are reduced to a bunch of munafiks living in an Islamic State.

Let me tell you why every Malay in Malaysia should also oppose an Islamic State. And these are just three of the reasons amongst many.

Islam forbids oppression and favouritism. Therefore the New Economic Policy would have to be abolished and a meritocracy system would have to be introduced to replace it. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia would also have to be amended to remove the rights and special privileges of the Malays. Every rakyat would be treated as equal to one another and Malays would no longer be the Lords or Tuan of this country and Ketuanan Melayu would therefore no longer exist. This would also mean the quota system, special discounts for Malays, and much more, would all immediately cease to exist. An Islamic State would give the non-Malays an advantage over the Malays and the Malays would be left far, far behind, economically as well as academically.

Side-incomes would be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. The basic salary for 95% of the Malays is very low compared to the non-Malays. This is because most Malays go into government service or join the police, army, navy, air force, customs department, etc., where the salaries are very low, whereas most non-Malays are either professionals, go into the corporate world, or run their own business. The non-Malay take-home pay, therefore, is quite substantial while Malays have to resort to commissions and kickbacks to supplement their meagre income. Under an Islamic State, corruption would be severely dealt with -- though not as bad as China which shoots their corrupted civil servants in the head -- so all forms of corruption would have to come to an end.

Without these commissions and kickbacks, Malays would become very poor. Corruption, rather than the New Economic Policy, helps the Malays keep up economically with the non-Malays. The New Economic Policy is therefore a convenient camouflage to legalise corruption because what, under normal circumstances, would be considered a criminal act becomes perfectly legal if done under the ambit of the New Economic Policy.

Malays would suffer more than non-Malays. In time, Malays would face severe handicaps when a high percentage of the Malay population has to learn how to survive without the advantage of hands. It would be very difficult for the Malays, who as it is can no longer receive a university education -- because of the removal of quotas as required under an Islamic State -- to compete with the non-Malays who still have two good hands. Considering that more than 95% of those who work for the various government agencies are Malays and all the government departments are corrupt, it would be the Malays rather than the non-Malays who suffer severed limbs. This problem would be further compounded during the Umno general assemblies when kerises can no longer be raised because no one in the assembly has any hands left with which to hold the kerises.

Just these reasons alone are enough to justify Malays opposing to the death the setting up of an Islamic State in Malaysia. And if the non-Malays suddenly realise the advantage of an Islamic State and start pushing for one, the Malays should resist this call by the non-Malays for the setting up of an Islamic State which would clearly give the non-Malays an unfair advantage over the Malays.

To make matters worse, once an Islamic State is set up and many, many years later the Malays discover that they have been left behind because of the Islamic State, there would be very little the Malays can do since starting another May 13 would be impossible without hands to brandish parangs.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Malaysia Decides On Bangsa Malaysia Or Bangsa Malaysia Decides On Malaysia? Updated.

The much anticipated 12th General Elections came and went after 14 days of intense campaigning. The ground swell of discontent had been felt for sometime now and the ripple of shockwaves had been growing with every discourse on the internet, in the coffee shops, the offices, the exchange of smses and e-mails. By 5.00 pm yesterday when the last vote was cast, Malaysians had decided; the vote counting was merely a formality.

The announcement of the official results was just a confirmation of what was in the air the last year or so. Judging from the initial reactions from certain quarters both in the ruling coalition and the opposition front, the extent of loss or victory depending on which side of the fence was totally unexpected. The BN were aghast at the magnitude of votes shift and the opposition front expected to do well but certainly not that well.

By extension, the mainstream media did not know how to react. Even before the last results were in, all local TV channels had ceased reporting by about 3.00 am this morning. Coverage by the TV media was pathetic but being one-sided was to be expected. It was almost comical the way the respective anchors tried to handle the flood of "negative" results that were coming in. As the night went on they just gave up reporting altogether! It was as if they were waiting for more "positive" East Malaysia results to come through to counter the routing this side of the South China Sea. It was a marvel to witness as it was as if there was a "stage manager" orchestrating the timing results were released on ALL the TV channels. Perhaps it would have been better to show the opposition winning 82 parliamentary seats before reporting the ruling coalition riding in with 140 straight wins to triumph "comprehensively" in the end.

There was joy for dissenters who are accustomed to and obviously knowledgeable about the nature of the local media beast; they know the real news is in how the reporting was done or for that matter, what was not reported at all! In any case there is now the alternative media called internet news portals like Malaysiakini where updates were providing more up-to-the-moment news than all the local TV channels. Forwarded smses proved effective not only during campaigning but also in spreading result updates. Personally I could never imagine when this function was first introduced, how much it would impact our daily lives.

It will be interesting to see how our toadying mainstream media struggles from here on between commercial viability and compromised ethics for the maintenance of operating licences. Cyberspace has spawned the Fifth Estate and unless someone decides to nuke mankind back to the Stone Age, it will become "mainstream media". For me, I'll wait to be spoilt for choice as to what I want to read and believe. I'll also wait and see whether this latest "fluttering of leaves" is a sign of an impending
change of wind or indeed a wind of change.

In the aftermath, the word
"political tsunami" may still be a misnomer to describe what the general election tide brought in this time, although five states are now in opposition hands and the possibly over-rated two thirds majority in parliament has been denied. Did Malaysians really wake up to a new dawn today? Only time will tell. The next 4 to 5 years will be interesting to say the least; one side will need to prove it can do better while the other side better improve or face the obvious. It is a "no lose" situation for the rakyat at large. I firmly believe GE12 marks a watershed towards the end of race based politics in Malaysia and that this will give rise by natural progression, to a single Malaysian race; Bangsa Malaysia.

This time around it appears that the ordinary Malaysian regardless of race seems to condemn the ruling incumbents for all the ills of the nation; from the crime rate to corruption, rising cost of living to abusing taxpayer funds, compromised human rights to crony privileges, racial discrimination to the marginalized proletariat. Patience was wearing thin yet characteristic arrogance meant that genuine injustices were ignored to the dissatisfaction of even the normally supportive middle class let alone the marginalized minorities. Malaysians took matters in their own hands and collectively sent a clear message for change.

Yet it would be tragic if the Opposition were to squander this opportunity to effect real improvements that is hoped for by all who courageously voted them in. An unhealthy sign would be any jostling for position and power which would be a clear indication of self-interest at the expense of the rakyats' welfare. They should never forget that it was the largess of popular support that put them in the position to deliver the benefits of promised change and to serve the interest of the masses. The same votes that put them in the drivers' seat can also send them back to being what they were before; passengers.


A load of crap; they all seem to be just the same:

Update: 16th March 2008

Dilemma faced by Malaysian mainstream media:

This is from Jeff Ooi's Screenshots Blog

Utusan and Bernama

All leaders in states not controlled by Umno dominance must be careful.

In the aftermath of the Abdullah debacle in GE2008, Utusan Malaysia and Bernama became the two media organisations that stoked political hatred, pitting Malays against non-Malays.

Both the media groups framed Lim Guan Eng for a mention of May 13, which the new Penang CM didn't say. I knew as I stood behind him during the press interview. And the CM's press secretary confirmed the same.

We queried Khalid Mohd, the Group Editor-in-Chief of Utusan. He passed the buck to Bernama, saying that his paper had used the national news agency's dispatch, though his reporters were present during Guan Eng's interview.

We took Khalid at face value and queried Yong Soo Heong, the Editor-in-Chief of Bernama. He faxed us this letter yesterday, which I reproduce verbatim:

March 14, 2008

YAB Sdra Lim Guan Eng
Chief Minister of Penang
28th Fl, Komtar10502 Penang

Dear YAB,

On behalf of my colleagues in BERNAMA, I would like to congratulate your team and you for the recent victory in Penang.

I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the sloppy editing in the news story of March 12, 2008, which we mistakenly quoted you as commenting on the May 13 incident as well. The inclusion of the fact was intended to give background on the establishment of the NEP in 1971. Nevertheless, upon a thorough review, the inclusion of that fact along with your quote may have been inappropriate.

As we move forward, I would like to ensure you of BERNAMA's co-operation for your newly-formed government and shall always endeavour to help you promote the well-being of Penang and its people.

Yours sincerely,


The Utusan-Bernama ruckus started when Guan Eng announced all government procurements in Penang will be through open tender -- something that the NEP did not address and went on to create cronies and entrench corruption in the system.

I hope the next time Umno leaders took to the streets to stoke people's sentiments along racial lines, you know who is to blame.

From blogger Lulu:

Two-thirds majority over-rated?:

This is from The Sunday Star, 16th March 2008

A challenge for Barisan MPs

With the Government only having a simple majority in the 12th Parliament, will the business of the House be very different?

NO more truancy for Barisan Nasional MPs, that’s for sure. They will have to be diligent about attending debates after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong opens the 12th Parliament or the Executive faces the dire possibility of losing all the motions and Bills it tables.

With only 140 Barisan MPs to 82 Opposition MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, they have no choice.

“I think they’ll be less prone to truancy; if not, we can easily defeat any Bill,” says Lim Kit Siang, the Opposition Leader of the previous Parliament.

This could certainly be the fate of the controversial Special Complaints Commissions Bill – claimed to be a watered down version of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill proposed by the Royal Commission on the police force – when it is re-introduced.

Most questions in Parliament are decided by a “voice” vote (MPs shout ‘Aye’ or ‘No’) but a Member may challenge the result, under the House’s Standing Order 46(3), and call for a division (where each one is asked how he wants to vote), explains Lim.

And under SO 46(4), the Opposition only has to produce 15 to support the division; so with 82 MPs, neither that nor defeating a Bill is a problem if Barisan MPs go AWOL.

In Malaysia’s bicameral parliament – it is only in the House of Representatives that its 222 members are elected – the results of the 12th general election will barely have an impact on the Dewan Negara.

The 70 senators of the Dewan Negara are elected by each state legislature as well as appointed by the King. Currently, there are only 65 (according to the Senate website, 61 are from Barisan, two from PAS and two from minority groups). With the exception of two whose terms expire next month, most will be gone in the next two years and a few will remain until 2011.

In the Dewan Rakyat, the first change will be in the seating; the Opposition, which filled up one block in the U-shaped sitting arrangement after the 2004 election, will occupy three-and-a-half blocks now.

And in terms of ethnicity/political classification, those in the public gallery will see a clear divide of largely Malay/Sabahan-Sarawakian bumiputra in the government bench and a multi-racial/Malay bumiputra mix in the Opposition half.

Chuckling, Lim notes: “Yes, our side of the House will be more representative of Malaysia’s main ethnic groups.”

As for the tenor, senior Barisan parliamentarian Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim says the “perceived and apparent haughtiness of those holding the power could be less.”

“If there is self appraisal, I think gone would be the days of taking things for granted, the highhandedness and rhetoric. I would also look forward to more decorous conduct and less of what I call cockerel behaviour.”

But what of its substance – in terms of passing Bills/ motions, debates, and the composition and work of the parliamentary select committees?

“It can do most of the business. The only thing that it cannot do is amend the Federal Constitution,” says International Islamic University Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari.

“But a handful of provisions can be amended by a simple majority. One must remember that some of the provisions need the Rulers' consent and some need the concurrence of the Sabah and Sarawak Yang di-Pertua Negri.”

Constitutional law expert Datuk Dr Cyrus Das says a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat is usually sufficient for the Government in power, whether at the Federal or state level, to govern.

“Presently, after the 2008 elections, the ruling party at the Federal level has a simple majority as do several state governments whether led by the ruling party or the Opposition.”

Is the denial of a two-third majority more a moral victory for the Opposition more than having any real impact?

Dr Abdul Aziz argues it is more than a moral victory because it underscores the vulnerability of the government.

Quoting Winston Churchill who once said famously “one is enough,” Dr Das recounts that Harold Wilson’s first Labour Government was formed in 1964 with an overall majority of four in a 630-seat House of Commons.

“However, there is a fixation over a two-third majority here which seems largely psychological with traces of political vanity.

“Such a majority is only needed legally for amending the Federal Constitution under Article 159(3),” he says, adding that there are equivalent provisions in the State Constitutions.

Dr Das says that requirement is a safeguard to the people that the Constitution will not be freely and easily tinkered with in Parliament.

“It is especially important in countries whose Judiciary has not recognised the doctrine of implied restraints on the amending power of Parliament.”

Citing the German Constitutional Court, the Indian Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts of Bangladesh and Pakistan as those that recognise the doctrine that Parliament cannot alter the basic structure of the Constitution, Dr Das says the Malaysian Judiciary has not recognised this doctrine.

The safeguard of a weighted majority is therefore that much more important in Malaysia and especially so, he adds, since the Constitution reflects a social contract made between the multi-racial people of Malaya at the time of independence.

“A constitutional obstacle should be seen as a strict no to a proposed measure and not something that could be bypassed because the ruling party has a two-third majority.

“Take for example the amendment to Article 121 in 1988 to remove ‘judicial power’: it created an anomaly and begs the question, what power do the courts exercise because the Constitution continues to recognise the legislative power in Parliament (Article 66(1)) and the executive power in the Executive (Article 80)?

“The absence of a two-third majority by any single party means the Constitution remains intact and cannot be amended by this Parliament, unless there is cross party support for an amendment measure.”

Asked what constitutional amendment he thought the Opposition would support, Dr Rais, who first served as an MP in 1974, says: “I don’t see any obstacle if the amendment was not self-serving to the Executive but was for the general good of the people, for example, one that allowed for a strong Judiciary.”

“I would look forward to one on the powers of the Federal Court – on the rights of individuals in inter-religious conflicts, it is the Federal Court that is the court of final call.”

One constitutional amendment that would certainly not get through now is that tabled last December extending the retirement age of the Election Commission chairman, says Dr Abdul Aziz.

Others of course are ouster clauses usurping judicial power and the draconian or prohibitive provisions in the Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act, adds Lim.

As for parliamentary committees, Lim says they should now have greater Opposition representation and should not be headed by members of the Executive.

He hopes the committees work “full-throttle” to scrutinise Executive policies and actions for accountability and transparency.

What can Malaysians hope from 142 Barisan MPs and 82 Opposition MPs – a face-off or cooperation?

“We may see a Parliament that scrutinises each and every policy and action taken by the Government, bringing about a better parliament, one that is envisaged by the Constitution, and a responsible Government,” says Dr Abdul Aziz, adding that the proceedings would certainly be livelier.

One thing that would be high on the rakyat's priority would be more time given to the debating of Bills, especially those important to marginalised groups.

In the last three days of the Dewan Rakyat last year, 10 Bills were passed including the Persons With Disabilities Bill, the Prisons (Amendment) Bill and International Trade in Endangered Species Bill, with barely three hours spent on debating the new law for the disabled!

The Prime Minister could level the playing field unwittingly with his new Cabinet; if greater numbers hold Executive positions, the number of backbenchers debating and asking questions will be reduced drastically.

Dr Rais expects to hear a higher quality of debate and the addressing of issues on a more intellectual level.

“This will be a challenge for Barisan MPs; in the last Parliament, several Opposition MPs were already supporting their debate points with data and sound reasoning.”

On whether Barisan MPs would be more willing to vote their conscience now, Dr Rais, who was out of Parliament from 1990 to 1998 when he was with the now defunct Semangat 46, replies in the negative.

“The practice of being beholden to the Whip is too ingrained. I don’t expect anything so drastic. But if the debates could centre on matters common to all Malaysians, that would not be an issue.”