Friday, 28 November 2008

Another Year, Another Birthday; Krystyn's 22nd

It just seems as though we just celebrated Krystyn's 21st birthday but a year had flown by; yesterday was Krystyn's 22nd birthday. Dinner had to be at Mid-Valley Tony Roma's for one of the reasons why Krystyn and JJ are so close but, HRH Prince Cheah's presence had to be sacrificed. Rites of passage and life's lessons; I think this time around it's "sacrifice and paying a price" 101.

Saiful and Hui Sin were with us and Mummy must have been around; at least I would like to think so. As with last year, the bill again seems to show her presence. Service at Tony Roma's was great as epitomized by Jane and when she presented me the bill of RM260.00 I do not know why I just left a tip of RM10.00 instead of more. Well, maybe I am a cheapskate but RM260.00 plus RM10.00 made the total dinner expense RM270.00; Mummy's magical number 27 again!

Saiful made the birthday cake-a delectable Almond Gataeu and that made a difference in Krystyn's birthday this year.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Quest For Social Justice In Malaysia-Who Is Right? What is Left? When Is Centre?

Raja Petra Kamarudin published an article in his Malaysia Today entitled MISSION AND VISION STATEMENT, REVISITED and it appeared like a reaffirmation to me...maybe he is fortifying his spirit for impending war.

The crux of the article is about the fight for social justice being what Malaysia Today is about. He says,

"...I have said this before and it looks like I will have to say it again. Malaysia Today is about the fight for social justice. And just what comes under the ambit of social justice? I suppose anything that touches or affects our daily lives."

"Racism, inequality, economic disparity, any form of violence, oppression, persecution, a manipulated judiciary, an unfair election system, social problems, any form of slavery, suppression of the fundamental rights of citizens, violation of the Federal Constitution, corruption, plundering and mismanagement of the country’s coffer; you name it and it would certainly be a fight up the alley of Malaysia Today."

In describing the scenario today:

"...Those who walk in the corridors of power are playing the very dangerous divide and rule game. They divide us by race and they divide us by religion. This is similar to a very dangerous time bomb that, if not properly controlled, can explode with drastic repercussions. And this divide and rule game has escalated of late and has become a matter of concern to many Malaysians who realise that not all fires can be controlled, as much as those who walk in the corridors of power erroneously think it can.

So they play the divide and rule game to keep us apart, as they know a united Malaysia bodes trouble for those who wish to cling to power. Then let us too play this same game. Let us too divide and rule them. United, they are too formidable a foe, as would we be too if we are united. So, as they divide us racially and religiously, let us too divide them politically."

He proposes the strategy and philosophy to ensure government accountability and integrity:

"...We must support Pakatan Rakyat to keep Barisan Nasional in check. When Pakatan Rakyat forms the federal government then we shall support Barisan Nasional to keep Pakatan Rakyat in check. When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was under attack we supported him (at least Malaysia Today did from 2006) to keep Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in check. Now that Mahathir is, again, strong and his ‘kuda’ is about to become Prime Minister we must support Abdullah Badawi to be able to keep Najib in check.

Yes, it’s a dirty game of checks and balances and divide and rule that Malaysia Today plays. So be it. Dirty or otherwise that is the game they too are playing -- and a more dangerous one of race and religion on top of that -- so let us play that same game. If we can’t beat them, we will join them. And all is fair in love and war and is this not just that, war?

So don’t become perplexed when Malaysia Today changes side and realigns itself from time to time. We do what is expedient and what the situation demands at that point of time. We need to see a two-party system emerge in Malaysia. And we will support the weak to match the strong in our effort to achieve this. We work with the underdog whoever that may be. And we are not apologetic about it. This is not about lack of principles. Our principle is: absolute power corrupts absolutely. So no man or political party must be allowed absolute power.

We use our enemies to fight our enemies. Enemies of our enemies become our friends. We keep our friends close and our enemies even closer. That is the order of the day."

( the whole RPK article here)

RPK makes the quest for social justice sound so simple but is it really? Whether it is or not, we know RPK will be at the forefront; a fact that is both comforting and disturbing. So much hinges on just this one man. I agree with his ideals for Malaysia but I am personally unconvinced that the majority of Malaysians can afford to agree.

In RPK's own words, we have been divided; and might I add that in some instances the differentiation is acute to the point of mutual exclusivity yet veiled by expedient restraint. The cracks have begun to show.

Two factors make me apprehensive about real hope for social change in Malaysia:

1. Different segments of Malaysian society today have different ideals about just society and

2. The very nature of Malaysian politics having evolved into factions of incompatible ideologues that the probability of having tenable coalitions will always be undermined by the selective myopia which is ingrained in the Malaysian psyche.

The question of can Malaysian politics really evolve into an effective two party system even if racial lines were erased seems superfluous. Can racial lines be erased?

The political "equation for religious and racial harmony" is rather fragile , and this fragility stems largely from the identification of religion with race coupled with the political primacy of the Malay people colliding with the aspiration of other races for complete equality. Just like the non-Malay demand for complete equality, the desire of a segment of the Muslim community for an Islamic State, is something that the present Constitution will not be able to accommodate. For it is a demand which pierces the very heart of the political system — a system based upon Malay political pre-eminence. It is a demand that challenges the very source of Malay ruling elites' power and authority.

The lines are blurred even further when we consider that Malaysian politics defies definition of left wing and right wing political ideologies. Social ideals are apt to differ.

Social justice or civil justice, as it is sometimes called, refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law. It is generally thought of as a world which affords individuals and groups fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society. It can also refer to the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.

As such, social justice is both a philosophical problem and an important issue in politics, religion and civil society. By broad definition, social justice should ideally be an apolitical philosophical concept (insofar as any philosophical analysis of politics can be free from bias) based on the concepts of human rights and equality in a socially just world. Obviously, most individuals wish to live in such a just society, yet political ideologies are an intrinsic part of society. And different political ideologies have different conceptions of what a 'just society' actually is; therefore, the constant polemics as different proponents of social justice have developed different interpretations of what constitutes fair treatment and an impartial share.

The political left describes just society as one with a greater degree of economic egalitarianism, which may be achieved through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or property redistribution.

The term social justice is also used by the political right wing but it generally thinks that a just society is best achieved through the operation of a free market, which they believe provides equality of opportunity and promotes philanthropy and charity.

However, both the right and the left tend to agree on the importance of rule of law, human rights, and some form of a welfare safety net (though typically the left supports this last element to a greater extent than the right). In Malaysia, we are not even able to define and identify what is left or right.

Actually, Malaysia already has a document drawn up to serve as a guideline for its future as a viable society. According to RPK, "Just before the 8 March 2008 general election, the blogging community and civil society movements launched the ‘Peoples’ Declaration’ or ‘Dekalarasi Rakyat’. Six political parties, including Parti Keadilan Rakyat, endorsed the Declaration at a ceremony at Blog House. Then the elections ended and Pakatan Rakyat won 82 Parliament seats and five states. And that was the end of the Declaration. They never spoke about it again." This underscores my apprehensions about social change in Malaysia.

But change we must and regardless of who is right or left, Malaysians must be centred...The Peoples' Declaration must serve as a focus.

The People’s Declaration
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The People’s Mission

1) We, Malaysians of all races and of various faiths, are resolute in our desire for change and are determined to give birth to a system of governance, built upon the fundamental, spiritual and ethical values that are part of the teachings of all the great religions, that:
· is honest, dynamic and truly accountable;
· has a truly democratic parliamentary system that represents the
interests of the people;
· has truly independent and clean judicial institutions;
· has a police force which is professional and executes its duties in a
just and fair
manner, according to the tenets of law;
· has a mass media that is free and not beholden to those in power;
· values accountability and transparency as its fundamental elements;
· respects differences of views; and
· supports a dynamic, resilient and just economy which is also
internationally competitive.

2. We, Malaysians of all races and of various faiths, pledge to uphold at all times the foundational principles of the Malaysian Constitution, namely:
· the supremacy of the Constitution over all other laws;
· the Yang DiPertuan Agong as the Constitutional monarch;
· the separation of the powers of government and in particular the
of the judiciary;
· that fundamental liberties and freedoms guaranteed the rakyat shall
not be
interfered with, denied, or rendered illusory;
· one man, one vote, both of equal value;
· that Islam is the religion of the Federation, and all other religions
shall be
practiced in peace and harmony;
· Bahasa Melayu as the national language, whilst safeguarding the
right to use and learn other languages;
· the special position of the Malays and the indigenous rakyat of West
Malaysia, of
Sabah and Sarawak, and the legitimate rights of all other races; and
· A federal administrative system that fulfills its responsibilities, and
and respect for the special position of Sabah and Sarawak.

3. We, Malaysians of all races and of various faiths, pledge to collectively:
· work to create a just and prosperous Malaysian nation based on a
democratic system of government;
· protect and defend the rights and dignity of all the people and
guarantee justice
for all;
· act to enhance economic prosperity through greater productivity,
efficiency, and
sound economic management in order to enable the country to face global
· channel the country’s resources not only to meet the basic needs of
the people
but, more importantly, to ensure that the quality of life and social harmony are
· distribute wealth and opportunities fairly among all; and
· develop quality social infrastructure and a clean and comfortable
environment; enhance the quality of education, health and other social services;
build mosques and other places of worship; build public parks and libraries;
build arts and cultural centres; and provide the widest opportunities for
information technology and other methods of communication.

The People’s Plan

1. We will initiate measures towards a democratic, transparent, accountable and ethical system of government that will provide the environment for a strong and sustainable economic recovery, for social harmony and prosperity, and justice and equality for all. To that end, we will institute measures to:
· promote national unity;
· build a genuine democracy;
· enhance administrative transparency and accountability;
· strengthen the national economy; and
· give full effect to our social contract.

A. Promote National Unity

1. We will initiate measures to build and foster unity among the various ethnic and religious groups, having as our aim the evolution of a people with the common aspiration of justice and equality for all. To that end, we will :
· immediately dismantle any and all remaining practices of “divide and rule” in

public administration from the days of the BN administration;
· cause to be established a Ministry in charge of Non-Islamic Religious Affairs;
· put in place an affirmative action programme at Federal and all State levels to

eradicate poverty and marginalization from amongst the weak and backward
groups irrespective of race, social background and religion;
· pay special attention to the Orang Asli in the Peninsula and all the indigenous

groups in Sabah and Sarawak, and amend various laws and regulations
pertaining to them so that justice is served, including establishing a Commission
to protect Native Customary Rights (NCR) land and to resolve disputes relating
to such lands while respecting their traditions and customs;
· strengthen national integration by restoring the rights and privileges that were

promised to the people of Sabah and Sarawak;
· establish an independent Ethnic Relations Council, reporting directly to

Parliament to help in building a united Bangsa Malaysia;
· establish a Commission for Shari’ah Law at the Federal level;
· reduce the influence of party politics in the respective State Religious Councils,

mosques and other religious institutions;
· allocate land for graves and places of worship for all faiths without any

· increase inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogues to strengthen mutual

understanding among the people; and
· encourage the development of a Malaysian culture based on common moral

values and ideals. This requires an open attitude towards the diversity of
cultures of the various ethnic and sub-ethnic groups in the country, taking
account of the country’s history and evolution.

B. Build A Genuine Democracy

1. Genuine democracy must provide meaningful space for the people to express their views and to participate in various processes of daily administration and not merely to voting once in five years. All interest groups must be allowed to present and debate their views. Information will be free available subject to strictly defined restrictions. To that end, we will :
· repeal the Internal Security Act and and all laws that presently permit detention

without trial;
· form an Independent Commission to consider if any form of preventive
laws are necessary and, if thought so, to draft a bill to provide for the same and
the necessary checks and balances;
· form an Independent Commission to review all acts and laws (such as the

Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act, Police Act, University and University Colleges
Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, etc.), with the objective of repealing
whatever violates basic human rights;
· take the necessary measures to ensure and safeguard the freedom of the press

and the rights of peaceful assembly, expression and organisation, by amending
the appropriate acts and laws and RTM will be corporatised and subject to an
independent Broadcasting Commission;
· ensure that the Human Rights Commission is independent and has

representation from all major groups;
· formulate a Freedom of Information Act to guarantee transparency and free flow

of information from the government to the people;
· to pass the necessary legislation to provide for local council elections;
· so at to allow for more certainty in the electoral process, thereby affording to

all parties participating in that process the most equitable opportunity to
make preparation for the same and to remove any and all elements of surprise,
make all necessary amendments to the law so that the date of dissolution of
Parliament and general elections following thereafter shall respectively occur
and be held every 5 years on a date or within a fixed period stipulated by law;
· review and, where necessary, revise all previous redelineation of constituencies

so as to ensure that differences in the numbers of registered voters in any two
constituencies shall not exceed 20%;
· enact a law to protect “whistle-blowers” of official misconduct and corruption;
· sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
· improve the quality and effectiveness of human rights education at all levels of

education and institutions of higher learning as well as training centres for
public servants; and
· improve prison administration and conditions in line with with international


C. Enhance Administrative Transparency & Accountability

1. The need for more transparent governance is pressing. Transparency and accountability must be integrated into all aspects of administration, without damaging efficiency. We will work towards the decentralization of power to the local level so that state governments will be more involved in their respective states’ development. To that end, we will :
· establish a Royal Commission to review the judiciary and legal administration in

the country, and to recommend proposals to enhance the independence of the
judiciary, to regulate appointment and sacking of judges and to end abuse of the
law on contempt of court;
· strengthen the authority of Parliament by a system of all-party permanent

committees with the power to name the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and
other judges, the Inspector General of Police, the Governor of Bank Negara, who
will be appointed by the Yang diPertuan Agong according to the Constitution;
· limit the term of office of the Prime Minister, the Menteri Besar and Chief

Minister to two terms;
· guarantee freedom of the press so that they can monitor and expose any

corruption and abuse of power;
· implement effectively all existing laws that presently require a public hearing

before any project is implemented or any regulation amended, such as the
Environmental Protection Act, property re-valuation, and so forth;
· review the method of appointing members to the Senate with the objective of

introducing a method which reflects the interests of all the people;
· reintroduce elections for local government so that local leaders can be made

· introduce an ombudsman system for a more independent and effective public

complaints body;
· protect by law any individual or group that exposes mismanagement, abuse of

power and corruption especially at the highest levels;
· make the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) an independent body protected by the

constitution and directly responsible to Parliament, and headed by a prominent
person of standing;
· make compulsory annual public declaration of assets by the people’s

· enhance the independence and authority of the Elections Commission by giving

full power to Parliament to appoint the Chairman and other members of the
Commission through a process of open hearing;
· clean up the voter register so that it is free from “phantom” voters, “overlapping”

voters and foreign citizens;
· reduce the voting age for Malaysian citizens to 18 years and introduce
registration for all citizens;
· abolish postal balloting;
· restore the image and status of the Royal Malaysian Police by means of a

permanent committee as the Police Commission to receive and consider
petitions by the people on police behaviour;
· introduce legislation so that the Attorney General will no longer be a voting

member of the Pardon’s Board, but will only act as advisor and resource person
to the board;
· separate the lower judiciary from the legal services so that they are not both

controlled by the Attorney General;
· strengthen the system of checks and balances by amending all laws, such as the

Printing and Publication Act etc., that presently deny the power for judicial
· review the position, administration and implementation of the Shari’ah laws to

guarantee that justice is implemented and the beliefs of the Muslims are
· restore the integrity of the public services, by fully utilising its expertise and

· recognise members of the public services as equal partners in the effort to

develop the country;
· institute public sector reforms to raise efficiency and improve morale, work

ethics, and working conditions within the public sector;
· attempt to abolish the gap in service conditions between the public and private

sectors, especially among those who have equal qualifications and carry out
similar functions;
· narrow the salary gap between the highest, medium and lower levels to set an

example to the private sector; and
· encourage members of the public services to a renewed determination to serve

the people and country, and not the political leaders.

D. Strengthen The National Economy

(1) Reducing the people’s burden

(a) Reduce the tax burden
· Raise the level of personal income tax exemption, in addition to increasing
allowance to a reasonable level;
· Raise the level of personal income tax deduction for wives who are full-time

home makers in recognition of their important contribution;
· Raise the level of service tax exemption to a turnover exceeding one million

ringgit a year;
· Review the tax system with the objective of strengthening government revenues

while reducing the tax burden on the people, especially the low- and middle-
income groups.

(b) Eradicate absolute poverty
· Eradicate absolute poverty by the middle of the next parliamentary term;
· Reduce poverty levels in the next parliamentary term to half the levels of 1999;
· Improve poverty eradication programmes so that they are free from political

interference and truly help the poor;
· Streamline various existing poverty eradication programmes;
· Narrow the income and wealth gap without infringing on legitimate rights.

(c) Assist petty traders and hawkers
· End the practice of using the licensing of small traders and hawkers as a source

of revenue and as a party political tool, and instead use it purely for
management and regulatory purposes to safeguard the well-being and health of
the people, small traders and hawkers;
· Provide comfortable, clean and attractive infrastructure and facilities for


(d) Improve public transport services
· Improve the quality of public transport and reduce fares to a level

commensurate with the people’s living standards;
· Issue taxi permits to individual entrepreneurs and their cooperatives, rather

than to large companies;
· Enhance the efficiency and quality of taxi services by private entrepreneurs

through the establishment of cooperatives, associations, councils and the like;
· Reduce the fares of domestic flights between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and

Sarawak to promote national unity and domestic tourism;
· Modernise and enhance rail services in Peninsular Malaysia;
· Develop the road system in Sabah and Sarawak;
· Provide suitable facilities and regulations to reduce of road accidents and

enhance public road safety;
· Study the possibility of new forms of public transport in the main towns to

improve the quality of urban life;
· Provide more orderly and reasonably-priced school services bus to reduce the
burden on parents.

(2) Just economic growth

(a) enhance domestic demand and productive, not wasteful, domestic investment
· Review the existing regulatory framework and address its weaknesses;
· Enhance private sector corporate governance, transparency and responsibility,

and end the abuse of the banking and finance sector;
· Give priority to projects which generate the greatest benefit to the people,

projects such as medium and low-cost housing, modernisation of the railway
system, road projects in Sabah and Sarawak, and others;
· Halt mega-projects which are wasteful, environmentally destructive and of little

or no benefit to the people;
· Enhance economic opportunities for all by giving specific emphasis and

appropriate support to groups that are weak, and effective support to local
businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
· Ensure that economic development is equitable and sustainable, and does not

threaten social integrity or destroy the environment and natural resources;
· Develop special development programmes for the poor and the low income in
traditional villages, new villages and estates so that they are brought into the
mainstream of development and provided with better income sources, jobs and

title to land;
· Ensure that special privileges are not abused to enrich only a small elite of those

in power and their cronies.

(b) strengthen competitiveness, greater geographical dispersal of industry, develop resource based and hi-tech, information- and knowledge-based industries
· Modernise and expand high productivity industries to increase the country’s
economic competitiveness and to encourage high-value exports;
· Address our technological weaknesses, in particular the technology gap between

the backward and the advanced industries;
· Ensure that large projects, including heavy industry projects, are managed in an

integrated manner and in line with a practical industrial development
master plan;
· Provide incentives and greater support for small and medium-sized industries;
· Encourage, by means of appropriate incentive schemes, further linkages between

local, especially small and medium-sized industries, and large international
corporations in order to accelerate technology transfer to local industries and
increase the use of local inputs;
· Support local entrepreneurs and encourage the upgrading of local skills and

human resource capacity;
· Utilise foreign capital, expertise, markets and technology in order to reinforce

local economic fundamentals;
· Enhance the role of science and technology by strengthening basic science

education and developing appropriate technical training facilities;
· Increase and improve the efficiency of financial allocations and other incentives

for scientific and technological research and development.

(c) Strengthening small and medium-sized agriculture and fisheries
· Enhance food production for the security and stability of the country;
· More research in agriculture, particularly in areas of high technology, food crops

and the industrial use of agricultural output;
· Protect biodiversity and encourage research in biodiversity conservation and
the use of natural products;
· A review of FELDA, FELCRA, RISDA, MAJUIKAN and other agriculture and

fisheries development agencies to improve management and technology use for
the benefit of settlers, farmers and fishermen;
· Restructuring government monopolies to become more efficient, effective and

· Firm implementation of laws regulating fisheries exclusion zones to protect in-

shore fishermen against encroachment by large fishing vessels and trawlers
which cause extensive damage to coastal fisheries resources;
· Development of idle land.

(d) Information technology and economy for all
· Speed-up the installation of telecommunications and electricity infrastructure

nationwide and seek to reduce usage costs;
· Expand information technology (IT) education in all schools, beginning with

primary schools;
· Develop more effective IT appreciation programmes for the general public;
· Launch a “One Village, One IT Centre” programme by giving appropriate

incentives to encourage the dissemination of information technology facilities to
small towns and rural areas;
· Make compulsory information technology infrastructure planning in all new

housing schemes, including low and medium cost housing, and push for the
modernisation of the infrastructure in existing housing schemes;
· Negotiate with software manufacturers to obtain cheaper software for the local


(e) Prioritising small and medium enterprises
· Establish an investment fund, under-written by the government, for the

development of small and medium enterprises and allocated according to
performance and not political favouritism.

(f) Reorganising the privatisation policy framework
· Details of privatisation contracts to be made public in the interests of

transparency. The interests of consumers and workers, and the rights of the
people, will be safeguarded. All future privatisations to be conducted on the
basis of competitive bids;
· Ensure that public monopolies do not become private monopolies;
· Basic public facilities and services – such as water, education, health and public

housing – will only be corporatised to improve management but will not be
· Public enterprises that have already been privatised will be monitored closely to

safeguard public interests. Enterprises that have been privatised will not be re-
nationalised but any invalid contracts can be terminated in the interest of the
people and the country;
· Establish an independent commission to audit all large privatised projects in the

interests of transparency and accountability.

(g) Strengthening the financial system
· encourage and promote investment and credit facilities to productive sectors

and not to speculation;
· rehabilitate the image, prestige and integrity of Bank Negara;
· ensure that Federal expenditure is channeled particularly to enhance the

standard of living of the poor, and to interior and rural areas which are still

E. Give Full Effect To Our Social Contract

(1) Education
· Education is a fundamental responsibility of the state, although private
education is allowed;
· Establish a National Education Consultative Council to ensure that the practice

and implementation of the national education policy and philosophy is both
effective and just;
· Stop the privatisation of public institutions of higher learning and review the

implementation of the corporatisation policy so that it adheres to the principles
of education and not financial gain;
· Allocate the education budget in a fair and equitable fashion, without neglecting

any group;
· Provide more scholarships and other financial assistance on the basis of need;
· Increase nursery and kindergarten facilities, especially for the lower income

· Guarantee access to compulsory and free and compulsory education at the

primary and secondary levels;
· Improve standards and facilities for schools in the interior, especially in Sabah

and Sarawak;
· Review the schemes of service for teachers and introduce additional incentives

for serving in the interior;
· Raise the standard of teacher training for all levels of schools and increase the

number of trained teachers according to demand;
· Increase advanced training opportunities for teachers and lecturers so that they

are always current in their respective knowledge and skills;
· Strengthen the position of Malay language as lingua franca among the people;
· Encourage and develop the Malay language as a dynamic literary and cultural

language, which is accepted and used by all communities in Malaysia;
· Recognise the right to study the mother tongue like Chinese, Tamil, Iban,

Kadazandusun and others in schools, and improve the implementation of
policies on mother tongue education, so that it is more efficient and responsive
to the demands of parents. Trained mother tongue language teachers must be
supplied by government schools when at least ten students need such teachers,
and the training of mother tongue teachers must be improved at teacher training
colleges and public institutions of higher learning;
· Retain the various language streams in primary schools while encouraging
greater integration among students of different ethnic groups, for example
through co-curriculum activities;
· Increase the number of mother tongue schools and upgrade their facilities

according to need and demand;
· Improve the teaching and learning of international languages, especially English

and Arabic languages;
· Improve the quality of and facilities in primary and secondary religious schools;
· Strengthen the position of the existing public institutions of higher learning and

improve their performance;
· Systematically increase the number of public institutions of higher learning

without weakening the existing ones, so that more qualified students have access
to higher education at minimum fees or for free;
· Guarantee the autonomy and standards of universities and other institutions of

higher learning by establishing a Universities Commission as an independent
supervisory body, and amend the University and University Colleges Act to
ensure the fundamental rights of the academic community, including students;
· Provide an educational television channel to complement formal education and

to encourage life-long continuing education, with the help of the private
corporate sector as well as public and private educational institutions;
· Widen the scope of the National Accreditation Authority to monitor, investigate

and propose recognition of certificates, diplomas and degrees outside the
national education system. Degrees from institutions of higher learning in
Arabia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, China and other
countries, and local educational certificates such as the United Independent
Schools Examination (UISE) will be considered based upon academic standards.

(2) Health
· Establish a National Health Council, with the objective of protecting the

interests of the people and advancing the quality of health;
· Abolish all programmes to privatise the public health system;
· Review the cost and quality of service of all the health support services that have

been privatised;
· Increase expenditure allocations for the health sector;
· Restructure the scheme of service for government medical staff to be more

commensurate with their work load and responsibility;
· Maintain low cost healthcare services for all the people;
· Establish a commission to study the deficiencies in the existing health system

and to make recommendations for improving the public health system;
· Monitor private medical services and check any abuses;
· Establish a national centre for disease control;
· Increase continuing educational and specialist training opportunities for

doctors, nurses and laboratory staff;
· Review the possibility of incorporating complementary healthcare methods such

as homeopathy and traditional medicine within the Malaysian health system;
· Step up health promotion activities, health education, preventive measures and

monitoring of diseases;
· Encourage the greater involvement of women in the health sector, including

training more women doctors to handle female patients.

(3) Housing
· Increase the number of good and comfortable low cost houses which meet
household space and environmental needs;
· Overcome the “squatter” problem as quickly as possible, preferably through
development of housing in situ and/or land sharing;
· Mandate a system of consultations between the “squatters”, developers and the

authorities to reach settlement on matters of alternative housing or land or
other compensation;
· Provide public facilities around flats to ensure a balanced and healthy

personality development;
· Carry out efforts to provide easy and cheap credit facilities to help “squatters” to

buy and own their houses.

(4) Social Services
· Carry out the responsibility of the government to provide comprehensive social

services that are fair and efficient;
· Ensure that every housing project above a particular size provide social

facilities, such as playing fields, public recreational clubs, libraries and so forth,
for the use of the general public;
· Provide a systematic and comprehensive arrangement to protect and provide

assistance to the poor, orphans and single parents;
· Ensure equal opportunities for the disabled to achieve self-improvement,

education, careers, social participation and the provision of the necessary
facilities to enable them to be independent in all public areas, facilities and

(5) Environment
· Formulate a long term sustainable development policy involving all strata of

society, to promote full support from all levels of government, non-
governmental organisations, political parties and the public at large;
· Amend the Environmental Protection Act so that no project can be started

without the approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and
the written commitment of the project proponents to implement all provisions
for mitigation, as determined by the Department of Environment, with clear
procedures for providing information and for consultations in the
Environmental Impact Assessment process involving the main stakeholders;
· Coordinate the environmental protection laws at the state and federal levels so

that enforcement and supervision can be more efficient and cost-effective;
· Implement laws relating to the protection of the national heritage, and increase

fines for breaching the Environmental Protection Act and laws to protect our
natural heritage;
· Ensure that every state gazettes a reasonable number of national parks,

conservation parks, sites for new urban centres and housing development areas
in its master plan;
· Work towards the standardisation of laws relating to forestry and logging among

the various states and establish an independent inspection system to ensure
that all these laws are firmly implemented;
· Encourage all the states to immediately gazette sufficient water catchment areas

to meet the needs of the future;
· Consult with the state governments so that they implement the existing

conservation plans and provide new conservation plans wherever necessary.

(6) Consumerism and Prices
· Strengthen consumer protection laws, especially those relating to price control,

cost of services and their quality, particularly during festive seasons;
· Review the Consumer Act so that an independent Tribunal can be established,

with participation from non-governmental organisations, to identify the list of
necessary products and control price increases by establishing a price index for
the purpose;
· Encourage the cooperative movement for production and distribution of

necessary goods;
· Encourage consumer organisations to be more active in raising the awareness of

consumers regarding their own rights;
· Regulate advertisements so that they will not degrade the dignity of women or

other groups.

(7) Workers
· Form a framework of tripartite consultation that is effective, just and

democratic, and amend laws relating to labour, trade unions and industrial
relations consistent with it;
· Repeal or amend laws which restrict the right of workers to form, participate

and be active in trade unions;
· Review and update retrenchment benefits and study the establishment of a

national retrenchment fund to help retrenched workers;
· Fix a reasonable minimum monthly wage for daily paid workers;
· Fix a reasonable monthly wage for estate workers and seriously implement a

housing scheme for estate workers;
· Provide an example for a five day work week with normal working period of not

more than 40 hours a week;
· Review methods of recruitment and pay for foreign workers and reduce

dependency on them;
· Recognise the right of trade unions and union leaders to participate in national

· Increase the retirement age to 60 years for the public sector, consistent with the

improvement of health and life span;
· Ensure equal pay and benefits for men and women doing equal work or

performing similar duties;
· Increase maternity leave in the public sector to 90 days and introduce leave of 7

days for the husband;
· Develop programmes with the private sector for continuing education and

training in order to improve flexibility, expertise and productivity of workers;
· Introduce retraining programmes for retrenched workers;
· Review the effectiveness of the National Institute for Work Safety and Health

and overcome its deficiencies.

(8) Women
· Enforce strictly laws regarding the rights, interests and dignity of women and

abolish laws and regulations that discriminate against women;
· Protect the rights and welfare of women who have been abandoned by their

husbands without any reasonable support;
· Continue payments of pensions for widows even after they remarry;
· Provide creches within the community and also at places of work;
· Introduce flexible working hours for working women;
· Study the Women’s Agenda for Change in order to implement appropriate

recommendations therein.

(9) Youth
· Give encouragement and facilities to youths in order to improve their talents in

the fields of arts, sports and culture;
· Provide projects aimed especially at discovering leadership talent in individual,

cultural, entrepreneurial and social development;
· Overcome problems, such as unemployment, drug abuse, drop-out and moral

questions, faced by some youths with innovative methods;
· Provide greater opportunities for youths of different social backgrounds to

participate in skills training and in economic projects;
· Provide more effective rehabilitation centres and work opportunities for youths

that have become victims of social problems, so that they can be absorbed back
into the community.

(10) The elderly and pensioners
· Fix a minimum pension level that will enable pensioners to sustain themselves;
· Encourage pensioners who are still able to work to contribute towards national

· Have a half fare system for the elderly and pensioners for all types of public

· Make it obligatory for children or close relatives to look after the aged and

support such moves by tax exemptions or some other incentives;
· Ensure that the elderly are given priority to go on the pilgrimage;
· Encourage non-governmental organisations to develop programmes and courses

for the elderly and pensioners to improve their talents, develop new skills,
participate in study tours; language courses, physical education and so forth.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Another Evening At Hakka Restaurant, KL

Last Sunday was A1GP weekend again and last night, was the usual Hakka Restaurant dinner meeting that has become a sort of tradition.

This time around Owen Leed and Jack Cunningham were absent with apologies. Owen had to rush off to UK after the race for his daughter's birthday and Jack was in Taiwan on business. Nevertheless, Jack was represented by Jill (yup! Jack & Jill) and we had a "newcomer" in Tony (surname yet unknown), the Accountant.

JJ made his first appearance at the dinner and acquited himself well at the table. Looks like he will be included the next time around.

Adam hosted and as usual had a plane to catch the same night. He was allowed to drink only because he brought along his Alcholic Drinks Licence; complete with smart chip!

In keeping with tradition, Jeannie's original choice of Hakka Deepfried Trotter was the main dish.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Tuans On Ketuanan

The Nut Graph online news portal headlined the article, "Ketuanan Melayu rebutted" today. This is a good article to read in conjunction with Art Harun's blogpost entitled, "Ketuanan Melayu"

Ketuanan Melayu rebutted
24 Nov 08 : 9.00AM
By Shanon Shah

"IF you live in Malaysia, you cannot have ketuanan Melayu. The word 'ketuanan' is alienating. Malaysia has Eurasians, Indonesians, Chinese, Indians, and so on. If anyone deserves to be called the 'tuan' of this land, it's the Orang Asli."

Most Malaysians would be forgiven for thinking that it was a non-Malay Malaysian politician speaking out against ketuanan Melayu. But these sentiments were articulated by Nur Farina Noor Hashim, the People's Progressive Party (PPP) Puteri bureau head.

"I just had no interest to join Umno," Farina, who joined PPP in 2004, tells The Nut Graph. PPP is a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN), of which Umno is the dominant party.

Farina is, of course, referring to the position taken by Umno leaders that suggests ketuanan Melayu is synonymous with Malay rights, and that Malay rights are under threat. Or rather, any questioning of ketuanan Melayu is tantamount to threatening the Malay race.

The consistent message from these Umno leaders of late seems to be that only Umno is capable of defending the Malays. Or that Umno is the Malay race. And their currency is ketuanan Melayu.

Farina is not the only Malay Malaysian politician to view with some amount of circumspection Umno's position as defender of the Malays and their supremacy.

"I love Malays and I love Malaysia," says Gerakan central committee member Dr Asharuddin Ahmad. "But this country cannot survive without non-Malays. We are all Malaysians. The future of Malaysia lies with multiracial parties," he tells The Nut Graph.

Future of Malaysia lies with multiracial parties, says Asharuddin

Interestingly, Asharuddin is a former Umno member. He joined Umno in 1988, but left to join Gerakan 10 years later. He says he has been branded a traitor to Malay Malaysians, but asserts that joining Gerakan does not make him "any less Malay or more Malay".

"Umno's struggle is not wrong, but I prefer Gerakan's multiracial approach," Asharuddin says.

"Ketuanan" alienates

Umno leaders' defensiveness around the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric is not new. Their recent rancour in attacking dissenters within the BN, such as former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Gerakan Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe, was therefore alarming yet unsurprising.

The question, however, is whether Malay Malaysian politicians have a future outside of Umno, especially if they want to remain within the BN.

In that sense, the case of Gerakan's Asharuddin is interesting, having crossed over from a party that champions ketuanan Melayu to a multiracial one.

But Asharuddin is not alone. Another ex-Umno member who jumped ship to join a multiracial BN component party is Datuk Nik Sapeia Nik Yusof from PPP.

Nik Sapeia was invited by party president Datuk Dr M Kayveas to join, even though he is still facing court proceedings for the charge of attacking former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2006. Nik Sapeia is now the party's Kelantan chief.

"Before I came along, nobody believed PPP had any supporters in Kelantan," Nik Sapeia tells The Nut Graph. "Now in Kelantan, every time I organise an event I get thousands of people attending and supporting it. The Kelantanese are ready and they want change to happen in the political scenario here."

He says the Kelantanese are increasingly seeing that PPP will bring about this much-needed change.

Malaysians are very open-minded andintelligent, says Farina

Asharuddin and Nik Sapeia are undoubtedly minorities among the BN's multiracial component parties. However, they are slowly coming out of the woodwork, especially since the BN's unprecedented losses in the 8 March 2008 general election.

Farina feels that Umno's outbursts and threats will only backfire in the long run.

"Malaysians are very open-minded and intelligent now," she says. "Our politicians must be on par with the rakyat's intelligence, because it's the rakyat who want change and will eventually change this country."

Multiracial politics

The voices of these non-Umno Malay Malaysians within the BN join those in the Pakatan Rakyat that have also been upping the ante against Umno's ketuanan Melayu rhetoric.

As part of its election campaign, PAS launched its "PAS for all" tagline. The Islamist party also continues to aggressively recruit non-Muslim support via Kelab Penyokong PAS.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders, such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Syed Husin Ali, have been promoting "ketuanan rakyat" instead of "ketuanan Melayu". And the DAP also scored a coup when it recruited Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim as the party's vice-chairperson. He was formerly vice-chairperson of Transparency International's board of directors.

The Pakatan Rakyat parties are therefore, in varying degrees, grappling with their respective multiracial futures. The previously monoreligious, monoracial PAS is trying to appeal to a wider section of Malaysians. In an interview in the November 2008 issue of Off the Edge, even party spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said, "[I]f there is a Chinese person in Kelantan who is good, pious and clean, I will campaign for him to become chief minister. As long as he is qualified, as long as he is a Muslim, I don't care what ethnic background he comes from."

Nik Aziz Nik Mat (© Murdfreak)

The Chinese-dominated DAP is trying to increase its appeal to non-Chinese Malaysians, specifically Malay Malaysians. And high-level Malay Malaysian leaders in PKR are trying to consolidate the party's tentative multiracialism.

A little-known fact is that two other opposition parties, albeit non-Pakatan Rakyat members, are multiracial and led by Malay Malaysians. They, too, are vocal in their opposition to the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric.

Historical miscalculations

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) national chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim says Umno's racial outbursts are rooted in historical miscalculations.

"We made a mistake, even after Merdeka, when we were emerging as a nation. We should have talked about helping the poor among all races and not just zero in on one race," he tells The Nut Graph.

Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) president Hassan Karim concurs. He tells The Nut Graph: "The NEP (New Economic Policy), being capitalist and race-based, only benefited a minority of Malays. What about analysing it from a class perspective? Not all Chinese are rich either, you know. There cannot be ketuanan Melayu or ketuanan bukan Melayu. There must be justice for all."

Nasir: Ketuanan Melayu is just a red herring

According to PSM's Nasir, the implementation of the NEP which focused on one race soon gave currency to the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric. But he says ketuanan Melayu is just a red herring. "Name me one Malay who is a pure Malay. There is virtually none — all Malays are mixed-blood to some degree."

Rather, Umno's outbursts can be seen as the increasingly desperate acts of a party frustrated by its loss of power, he argues. "Umno is frustrated by its losses during the general election, and continues to use race and religion to divert the anger of poor Malays," adds Nasir.

"Because as so-called leaders of the Malays, Umno has failed. It has not even been able to help poor Malays and Malay entrepreneurs," he asserts. Therefore, the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric conveniently redirects the frustration and anger of disenfranchised Malay Malaysians towards other races. Herein lies the danger of Umno's rhetoric, says Nasir.

"In times of economic difficulty, the ketuanan Melayu rhetoric will likely give rise to fascist tendencies. When people are feeling the pinch and they are frustrated, you just need to cucuk them and then they'll meletup. Umno knows this only too well," he says.

Hassan: We cannot move forward if we follow Umno

Again, PRM's Hassan concurs. "Ketuanan Melayu will destroy our country. I'm a Malay too, you know, but I believe that what Umno is fighting for is feudalistic. We cannot move forward if we follow Umno."

The Malay Malaysian leaders interviewed all say that interest in their respective parties, both in the BN and opposition, has risen since 8 March, especially among Malays.

It is definitely heartening that there is a diverse and growing number of Malay Malaysian political leaders speaking out against supremacist rhetoric and for an inclusive society. But it is even more encouraging that they are gaining support.

Perhaps this, then, is the most encouraging indicator yet that racial politics is losing currency in Malaysia.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Blogger Wars: Of Mangkuk Hayuns and Blind Mice (A Page From History)

A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketches (sketchblog), videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting), which are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging, one which consists of blogs with very short posts.

As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. With the advent of video blogging, the word blog has taken on an even looser meaning-that of any bit of media wherein the subject expresses his opinion or simply talks about something.

Blogging has actually been around for sometime albeit in different formats. Before it became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, commercial online services such as GEnie, BiX and the early CompuServe, e-mail lists and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). In the 1990s, Internet forum software, such as WebEx, created running conversations with "threads". Threads are topical connections between messages on a metaphorical "corkboard". (Source mainly Wikipedia)

In Malaysia. blogging only "exploded" and became a communication tool of phenomenon proportions in the last one and a half years or so. Although new "freedom" of expression on the Net came with the enactment of the Communications and Multimedia Act (1998) during Mahathir's watch, the daring only became apparent in Abdullah Badawi's tenure.

[The Act was passed, to fulfill the need to regulate an increasingly convergent communications and multimedia industry. The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is based on the basic principles of transparency and clarity; more competition and less regulation; flexibility; bias towards generic rules; regulatory forbearance; emphasis on process rather than content; administrative and sector transparency; and industry self-regulation. The Act seeks to provide a generic set of regulatory provisions based on generic definitions of market and service activities and services. The jurisdiction of this Act is restricted to networked services and activities only.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission was created persuant to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act (1998) as a new regulator for the communications and multimedia industry in Malaysia. At the same time, the The MCMC took over regulation of the Postal Services on 1 November 2002. On the same day it also was appointed the Certifying Agency under the Digital Signature Act (1997)].

Though we had/have bloggers of all genre, the mushrooming of socio-political blogs led the "blog-revolution". Dr Mahathir's daughter Datin Paduka Marina, an avid blogger (rantingsbymm) feels that “blogs grew exponentially because of people's almost uncontrollable need to speak out. People were bursting to express themselves."

Pride in growing their blogs is another motivator, and certainly there is idealism.

This idealism probably fueled the exponential growth in numbers of so-po bloggers in a country where mainstream media (MSM) has lost credibility due to acute governmental intervention.

Even the good doctor himself started blogging from 1st May, 2008 when he could not find a better medium/tool to circumvent the "muzzle" put on him in the MSM.

We are witnessing the evolving paradigm that blogs bring to news reporting and commentary; blogs can and do serve as alternative news media in a country long starved of independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires. What we are seeing in essence is Citizen journalism, also known as public or participatory journalism or democratic journalism. Citizen journalism should not be confused with civic journalism, which is practiced by professional journalists.

Unfortunately we have few journalists in this country who are allowed to be professional and this therefore leaves much room for alternative media.

Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content. It is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information even if it's completely wrong and misleading." That bloggers can also be completely wrong and misleading does leave a sense of foreboding that mass media in Malaysia is not out of the woods yet!

In Malaysia, while there are hundreds of so-po bloggers, not many are considered credible enough although to a degree they have managed to sway public opinion. Established bloggers who report the news tend to become the news themselves and this undermines their impartiality.

The blogger largely recognized as the grandfather of blogging is Jeff Ooi of Screenshots and he was the first example of a socially conscious, independent and impartial commentator on things Malaysian. He was non-partisan until he joined DAP to eventually become a member of Parliament. Jeff Ooi gave the ruling coalition government its first taste of blogger discontent and pain in the ass.

He and fellow blogger, Ahiruddin "Rocky Bru" Atan have the dubious distinction of being the first bloggers in Malaysia to be sued in a case widely viewed as an attempt by the govenment to muzzle bloggers. The case is ongoing and being sub judice, much wind has been taken out of their blogging sail.

Also in the news is the undisputed Malaysian blogger king, Raja Petra Kamarudin. He needs no introduction and in my opinion, Malaysia needs more Malaysians like him. RPK IS Malaysian so-po blogosphere and there is no close second...not even Chedet. RPK's hallmark consistency has been the mainstay of his credibility and compared to a PM who has perfected flip flopping into a fine art, it is no wonder why people continue to read RPK's anti-establishment fodder.

Lawyer/Activist Haris Ibrahim is another blogger of note (Peoples' Parliament) who both writes and gets involve on the ground.

It also appears that with the quick boom, so-po blogging seems to have somewhat peaked off in recent months. What is even worse is the way some so-called mainstream bloggers seem totally consumed by the brand of idealism they peddle that they are totally closed to other ideals and realities. They are even turning on their own and tick off fellow bloggers friends, whom they accuse of being not impartial, no longer independent, etc, etc, without realizing that by being purportedly on the other side of the divide, they are being no different. Many claim altruistic intentions to provide independent, reliable, and accurate information including wide-ranging and relevant commentary, but they seldom really do without being biased.

I am amused by the tirade in blogosphere as mainstream (so-called) socio-political bloggers label each other for their respective leanings. What is clearly apparent is that certain bloggers think they are the custodians of moral and ethical codes by which so-po bloggers in the country must abide.

These self-appointed keepers are usually those who rode the tsunamic wave of discontent during GE12 and who now seek greater relevance and legitimacy in the political scene than what hit counters actually mean. Some are so caught up in their own demagoguery, and role as self-styled "peoples' champions" on the back of the sometimes deluge of reader comments from their coterie.

Their driving cause seems to be, "...anything but Barisan Nasional" and their current icon is the self-declared reformed Anwar Ibrahim. After almost 40 years of BN excesses one cannot really blame them. But the burning question remains whether they can hold Anwar to his many wonderful promises should he become PM.

Alas, I suspect so-po bloggers would not have as much relevance if the MSM had not lost much its independence. The death of press freedom started with the UMNO takeover of Utusan Malaysia in 1961 though it was not widely recognized at the time. An interesting two part interview in The Nut Graph Online news portal, of the then editor-in-chief of Utusan, Said Zahari sums it up. Please read:
1. A Strike For Press Freedom and
2. Utusan Will Become Very Irrelevant