Monday, 30 March 2009

What If...

In the poker game of life, one has to contend with politics and in politics, as with the hidden hand in poker, one can only assume who is in control of the game. Post UMNO AGM, we are seemingly witnessing a political endgame of sorts and for some politicians, the end seems nigh. Whose hidden hand is controlling I wonder. Are we going to see a Royal Flush topping a Full House? Will we see the collapsing of a house of cards? Please read today's headlines in conjunction with the Northern Prince's latest blogposts (posted before UMNO AGM):

Bernama Report:
Abdullah Guarantees That Transition Will Happen

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the transition process of handing over the premiership to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will happen in due course."Just wait for that. Don't ask me to say anything. All these things will happen in due course," he said to reporters after launching the Puncak Baru project in conjunction with the redevelopment of Kampung Baru weekend market, here today.At the conclusion of the Umno General Assembly on Saturday, Abdullah said he sould seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin this Thursday on his intention to step down as the Prime Minister.-- BERNAMA

The Star Report:

Abdullah: Transition of power will happen in due course

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has urged the media to be patient about the date of the power transition to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Speaking to reporters at Kampung Baru here on Monday, the Prime Minister said the handing over of power to Najib would “happen in due course".

"Don't ask me to say anything. Be patient. All things will happen.

"The transition will happen in due course," he added.

He told this to reporters, when asked if it was true that he would hand over the Premiership to Najib on Thursday after the audience with the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Abdullah also chided the Opposition for starting personal attacks on Najib in the run-up to the three by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai.

"I myself have never indulged in accusations. This is a bad approach, which has never been my way," he added.

Tengku Razaleigh says (23rd March 2009):

How a new government is formed

In a recent interview I was quoted as saying that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong could appoint someone other than the man nominated by the party. The fact that this was reported as “news” shows how far we as a country have drifted from the principles set out in our Constitution.

Let us understand very clearly the transitional situation we are in.

  1. The incumbent Prime Minister is about to resign as he has solemnly promised to by the end of this month.
  2. On the appointed day (which like so many things in this administration remains a mystery) the Prime Minister will tender his resignation and that of his cabinet to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. With this the government of the day comes to an end.
  3. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong will appoint the next Prime Minister at his sole discretion from among the members of the elected lower house of Parliament, the Dewan Rakyat. His Majesty’s choice is guided by his own judgment of who among the members “commands the confidence” of a majority the members of parliament.
  4. The new Prime Minister will name his cabinet and form the next government.
  5. The Agong’s choice may at any time be tested by a vote of confidence in the Dewan Rakyat. If the Prime Minister is rejected by the Dewan, the King will have to re-appoint another person.
As there has been much confusion on this point let me re-state it:
The Yang Dipertuan Agong has sole and absolute discretion in how he forms his judgment as to who in the Dewan Rakyat commands the confidence of the majority. The choice is his alone.
The choice is absolute but not arbitrary, since it is guided by the Constitution. The right is the Agong’s alone, but it can any time afterwards be tested by the Dewan Rakyat.
This system is democratic in that it provides for the Dewan Rakyat and the Ruler to check and balance each other’s powers in an orderly manner. The participants in this process are the Ruler and the individual members of parliament. Within the Dewan Rakyat, each member is accountable to his constituents as an individual. Political parties do not enter this description. The Agong’s concern is solely for the rakyat. In his formal capacity, His Majesty sees each member of the House only as representing his subjects in a particular constituency. This is why MP’s are referred to only by the constituencies they represent. Their party affiliation is no consideration at all.
Let me draw on some implications of this understanding of how our governments are formed.
  1. Whatever undertakings the present prime minister has made with his deputy or with his party about his successor are external to the constitutional process. To think otherwise is to imagine that the prime ministership is a private property to be passed on from one potentate to another at whim. The behaviour of some leaders might have conveyed this unfortunate impression, and caused the public to find the party arrogant and out of touch.
  2. The fact that the President of UMNO has also been appointed as Prime Minister is only a convention, as Tun Dr Mahathir, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz have asserted recently. This convention was based on the assumption of Umno’s absolute dominance of Parliament. That condition no longer holds.
  3. Statements in the media that it is the right of Umno and BN to dictate to the Yang Dipertuan Agong who should be Prime Minister deny the constitutional right of the Yang Dipertuan Agong, and deprive him of perhaps the most important of his few discretionary powers. Such statements turn the Agong’s role into a rubber stamp for the decisions of a political party. I am waiting for Umno to strongly denounce such statements, especially as we have recently rediscovered our concern for the rights of the Rulers.
Over the last quarter century, the rulers, like the legislature, the judiciary, the police, the universities and all our major public institutions, have had their powers systematically curtailed and their immunities removed to make way for unruly executive power. In the process, fundamental principles such as the separation of powers have been ignored. Umno itself has not been spared this process as it has become autocratic and top-down to the dismay of millions of ordinary members.
Over time the rakyat have been so conditioned to the abuse of executive power that many have forgotten that the government is more than the prime minister and his cabinet. Many have forgotten how a properly functioning government works and what the rule of law looks like. Perhaps this is why it is news to some that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has an independent role to play, just as the judiciary and the legislature do.
Malaysia has fallen into a spiral of institutional and economic decline. If we are to save this country from long term and increasingly tragic deterioration, the next government appointed by the Yang di-pertuan Agong must not only be fully committed to restoring the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Rulers to their proper dignity and independence, it must be seen by the Malaysian public to be capable of doing so.

Tengku Razaleigh says (25th March 2009):

We should all come clean

Yesterday I gave an interview to Sarah Stewart, the Bureau Chief of AFP in Malaysia. Among the questions she asked me was the unavoidable question about the international scandal linking Dato’ Seri Najib Razak with the murder of Altantuya Sharibuu and with the purchase of the Scorpene submarines.

I told Sarah that in my long experience as a politician the only way to clear one’s name when a scandal has broken out around oneself is to meet it head on in the court of law. The BMF scandal of the 1980’s also had its share of lurid detail. There too a large sum of money and a murder was involved. An unseen hand had woven the threads of the story around me to destroy me politically. But when international newspapers alleged that I was involved in any wrongdoing, I took action against each and every one of them in their home jurisdictions.

I sued The Telegraph and The Sunday Times of the UK, and The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong. I won all three cases, the newspapers published unreserved apologies and printed retractions covering half a broadsheet page each, and I came away with a tidy sum of money for my trouble.

It is safe to say that in the international media, the incoming Umno President and the presumptive Prime Minister is being evaluated through the Altantuya scandal. The UK’s Sunday Times, the International Herald Tribune, the French daily, LibĂ©ration, The Australian Financial Review, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the New York Times have all published stories raising questions about the link between the murdered young woman, Dato’ Seri Najib, and the gigantic commission paid out by the French company Armaris to a Malaysian company for the purchase of submarines. This is now an international story.

And this story will not go away. With its dramatic details and the alleged involvement of elite Malaysian government operatives, it captures the journalistic imagination. But the story is now connected with an ongoing investigation into the dealings of a major French company. The story is also going to stick around because it is a handy looking-glass into Malaysia’s “increasingly dysfunctional political system.” It implicates our entire system of government, our judiciary, and our press, and it casts a shadow on our ability as a nation to face and tell the truth. Against this backdrop promises of reform ring hollow. The storyline of the New York Times article, for example, is that scandal-clouded succession reveals a once confident young country shaken to its foundations by institutional rot. I cannot say this is inaccurate.

The scandal is bringing shame to the nation and damaging our international credibility. For the honour of the nation, for the honour of the office of prime minister, for the honour of the sovereign institutions expected to endorse, confirm and lend authority to him should he become prime minister according to Umno’s plans, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak should finally face these suspicions and implied charges, submit himself to legal scrutiny, and come clean on them.

Swearing on the Al-Quran is not the way out. Scoundrels have been known to do that. The truth, established through the rigorous and public scrutiny of the law, is the only remedy if an untrue story has gained currency not just internationally but at home among a large section of the people.

Najib should voluntarily offer to testify at the trial of the two officers charged with killing Altantuya Sharibuu. He could also write to these newspapers and if necessary he should take legal action against them to clear his name and that of our country.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Seeking Lost Relevancy? Update.

UMNO Election Results

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."~~~~ Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931

Deputy president: Muhyiddin Yassin - 1,575 votes
(Muhammad Muhammad Taib, the loser secured 938 votes)

Vice presidents: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi - 1,552 votes, Hishammuddin Hussein - 1,515 votes, Shafie Apdal - 1,445 votes.

Names who lost in the race for 25 Supreme Council seats:
Ministers: Shahrir Samad, Azalina Otham Said.

Mentris Besar: Adnan Yaakob (Pahang), Abdul Ghani Othman (Johor), Md Isa Sabu (Perlis), Mohamad Hasan (Negri Sembilan).

Winners in the race for 25 Supreme Council seats:
Mustapa Mohamed,
Musa Aman,
Azian Osman,
Zainal Abidin Osman.

Permanent chairman: Badruddin Amiruldin …………………. (2272 votes)

Deputy permanent chairman: Mohamad Aziz ……………….. (Uncontested)

President: Najib Razak ………………(Uncontested)
Deputy president: Muhyiddin Yassin …………….. (1575 votes)

Vice presidents:
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi ………………….. (1592 votes)
Hishammuddin Hussein ………. (1515 votes)
Shafie Apdal …… (1445 votes)

Supreme Council Members
Mustapa Mohamed ………………………… (2259 votes)

Noh Omar ………………………………. (2084 votes)
Musa Aman …………………. (2084 votes)
Azian Osman ……………………………. (2060 votes)
Zainal Abidin Osman …………………….. (2054 votes)
Mohd Zin Mohamed …………………… (1854 votes)
Ismail Sabri Yaakob ………………… (1838 votes)
Lajim Ukin ………………… (1804 votes)
Shaziman Abu Mansor …………………….. (1705 votes)
Mohd Puad Zarkashi ………………………… (1700 votes)
Tajuddin Abdul Rahman …………………… (1685 votes)
Idris Haron …………………….. (1658 votes)
Abd Latiff Ahmad ……………(1624 votes)
Jamaludin Jarjis ………………… (1622 votes)
Saifuddin Abdullah ……………………… (1619 votes)
Norraesah Mohamad ……………………. (1611 votes)
Mahdzir Khalid……………………… (1584 votes)
Ahmad Husni Mohd Hanadzlah ………………. (1529 votes)
Hamzah Zainudin ………………………… (1518 votes)
Bung Moktar Radin ………………………. (1517 votes)
Awang Adek Hussin ……………………. (1481 votes)
Zulhasnan Rafique ………………….. (1431 votes)
Ahmad Shabery Cheek …………………….. (1377 votes)
Idris Jusoh ……………………….. (1275 votes)
Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim …………………. (1265 votes)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Seeking Lost Relevancy?

Back in the days before the North-South highway, trunk roads threading through rural areas between main towns were the only option for road vehicles. Mind you, though apparently more risky, trunk roads made for more accomplished drivers. Today's generation of drivers tend to lack skill and experience in negotiating corners, over-taking and indeed road courtesy!

But why am I talking about trunk roads? Actually, I was reminded of the rural areas we used to pass through and Jeannie's observations of cows by the roadside. She jokingly called them UMNO meetings although she was never interested in politics. Well this week we are witnessing another Mother of all UMNO Meetings...the masters of herd mentality (and the use thereof) are meeting to select the masters of the herd.

One is tempted to think that with the mood in the country now, UMNO may not survive another tsunami should a General Elections be held today. However, the reality is that in the immediate term the new UMNO president will become PM of Malaysia in due course.

Today, it is the UMNO Youth Wing elections; the choice is between three and by bovine intervention we will see a new Youth Chief this evening. Though the movement appears lacking in relevancy since it has somewhat lost its sting and efficacy as an UMNO "attack dog", its new leader is still worth watching.

I cut and paste below a blogpost by one of my favorite UMNO bloggers, Dato' Sakmongkol AK47 who of late, seems to have become a KJ apologist. He does make sense in some parts but for the fact that KJ, as out going Deputy UMNO Youth Chief (and First SIL) had not shown any sterling performances either...well, maybe apart from the rabid keris shaking moments and when trying to cook Rice (Condoleeza).

Whether KJ's rebranding exercise which began after 8th March 2008, has succeeded in time of not, I am sure its price is still being paid. Nevermind the cost!

Please read for yourself and find out why it tends to ring hollow when one is scraping the bottom of the barrel:

KJ-The New Ketua Pemuda.

Today, the 25th of March 2008, pemuda delegates will elect its leadership. We have heard all the unlikely admonitions about saving UMNO by preserving the status quo. We have heard the distended arguments of choosing certain leaders. In desperation, certain quarters even attempted to read their own agenda into the speech given by DS Najib. DS Najib officiated the opening o the Pemuda, Wanita and Puteri Conventions. They are nothing more that fearful voices.

There was one which imputes the message of dare to change in DS Najib's speech, which is of course the battle cry of sun setting Mukhriz Mahathir. That is of course nonsensical for there is none. What we heard was unmistakably a humbled awareness for UMNO to conduct structural changes . That is not the same with the superficial and at times farcical calls by Mukhriz Mahathir. We actually heard calls to appreciate intelligence which is getting scarce in UMNO.

Examine the exhortations built around the rallying call of Mukhriz Mahathir. What are they? They are nothing more than a disguise for a return to less democracy and more autocracy. It is an attempt to bring back the unquestioned principle of choosing a leader because of who they are.

Think about this. Think of KJ representing the opening of doors for people like you and I (in my case my sons) who don't have that pedigree background to offer. What is KJ representing? He is representing the opportunities opened to ordinary Joes without having to resort to which family we belonged to, what office we held before or which group we identify with. We offer our own merits.

The Pemuda delegates are voting for a desire for total change. Your votes must install a leadership dedicated for revolutionary changes to help UMNO.

Can change come by mere declaration? You very well know that change will never come by way of cosmetic and superficial re-arrangements. It will not come by way of mere declaration that you dare to change. The change that is ushered or intended only by way of changing one or two people will never be sufficient.

It is the culture and system that needs attacking. In order to usher in a desire for genuine change, you must elect a leadership that is determined, courageous, wilful, able to bond with you, can articulate your fears and aspirations, and who are serious about wanting to change.

The journey to change UMNO and save UMNO must begin in the hearts of the Pemuda today. You must identify who the leader who best represents the spirit of Pemuda.

Right now, the man with the plan is KJ. What is the message you get from MM? Some mumbo jumbo and marbles-in-the-mouth speech about dare to change. Change to Mukhriz is represented by one thing only- kicking out Pak Lah. We have already punished Pak Lah sufficiently. We don't go around kicking a dead horse.

UMNO's eroded credibility is travelling further south despite Pak Lah and not because of Pak Lah. Its credibility is so because UMNO itself is self-inducing paralysis.

Asking Pak Lah to go- well, that's about the most earth shaking thing that has issued forth from the sun that is setting.

It is the UMNO culture that needs addressing of. And right now, it is the UMNO culture that must be thought about by the Ketua Pemuda. Everyone can talk about wanting to bring change but they have not defined what kind of change they want to bring. Consider these.

The idea of liberalising the way we elect and choose UMNO leadership is a fundamental change. Allowing direct election of leaders, dismantling the archaic and undemocratic quota system is a fundamental change; re-structuring the work ethics of the Pemuda is a fundamental change. Insisting on quality values is a fundamental change.

Asking for the removal of one or two fellows is not a change. Returning to the old business as usual system is not the change we are looking for. Reinforcing rogue nationalism which is nothing but fearful admission of our own deep-seated vulnerabilities and collective insecurity is not the change we are after. Indeed, the verbal pronouncements of people like Mukhriz and Khir Toyo indicate they don't know what changes the Pemuda must take. What does encouraging dissent in UMNO means? Do they mean the structural changes we actually want?

Let us first begin with the very basic and fundamental step. Move away from evaluating our leaders based on who they are. Abandon the idea that leadership is reserved for certain people. Insist on the idea that we evaluate people on the basis of what they can do to the movement. The fundamental changes we want are moves that liberate us from feudal, personality cult-based politics.

So far, we hear only one person personifying the real willingness to change. That's Khairy Jamaludin. So today, you Pemuda delegates, honour the ideas that he represents by voting in Khairy Jamaluddin. Accepting any other is an unmitigated disaster

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Ships That Pass, Paths That Cross...

Our lives are invariably influenced by the people in our lives and I sometimes wonder what the future holds; who we are yet to meet or perhaps, who we no longer want to meet and of course, who we can no longer meet (in this life?).

I also do wonder about the people we almost meet; the proverbial ships that pass in the night and the paths that never cross. How would they have enriched or made misery of our lives and vice versa? I am reminded of a 1998 movie, Sliding Doors yet, life should never be about the "what ifs".

Recently, a ship that was supposed to pass into the night crossed my path. The "small world" appears to have been made even smaller in cyberspace. Two weeks ago, I had the dubious distinction of being elected to the chair of my residence association. The secretary of the association is a Mr BH Yap, whom I met for the first time at the AGM, felt I seemed familiar to him. The following are excerpts from email exchanges later:

From: bayi bhyap []
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 9:35 PM
To: Cheah
Subject: Re: Minutes of Committee Meeting 9 March 2009

....KS, di you realize that our paths crossed in the cyber space two years ago. I thought your name sounded familiar when I first heard it during the AGM. Does my cyber moniker "bayi" ring a bell somewhere? :)

On Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 2:39 AM, Cheah Keat Swee <> wrote:

BH, pray tell…when did our paths cross in cyberspace?


From: bayi bhyap []
Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:03 AM
To: Cheah Keat Swee
Subject: Re: Minutes of Committee Meeting 9 March 2009

I have never met you but I used to read Suet Fun's posts. She writes beautifully. There were times when you commented on her posts, sometimes next to mine.

It took me a day after the AGM to remember where I had seen your name before, as I have not visited her blog for the last few months.

Tiny thread here. Most people would have missed it.


On Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Cheah Keat Swee <> wrote:

Oh I see… :o)

Do you know Suet Fun well? She was my neighbor and school mate in Taiping eons ago. We still do catch up once in a while. Please do check out:




I am so sorry to read about your wife. I don't know Suet Fun. I read her posts and put in some comments, mainly in appreciation of how well she writes. And she replies. But I have not been commenting for some time now, mainly because my workload has increased tremendously of late. I would love to meet up with her one day if this is possible. It will put a face to the author of such excellent written pieces.

Here's the piece from SF which I have taken from her archives. I had read and made a comment about the passing on of your wife without knowing you then. I hope reading it does not bring you more pain than you already have experienced.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Yesterday evening, I got news that the father of a childhood friend had a heart attack. He was on the operating table when it happened. Now he is in ICU, stable but critical.

She was my best friend when I was 16. I remember spending many afternoons in her wide spacious bedroom, talking and confiding in each other as teenagers do. Then, we would have tea and her father, just rising from his afternoon nap would sit and chat and chat with us. He was the most dashing father of my friends, and he spoke about hunting, fishing and life with a kind of unabashed passion that was rare amongst the mostly silent and inscrutable fathers of all my other school friends. But what most endeared him to me was the way he talked to us. We became intelligent adults in his presence. He never scorned our youth.

Early this morning I woke up just after 4am and glanced at my cell phone. There were a few messages and a missed phone call from about 11pm. I had slept through all the beeps and rings, dead to the world. I looked at the messages, and read that my friend's wife had passed on.

I did not know Jeannie. I met her once. She was slender, and smoked incessantly. I remember sitting at the dinner table across from her. She did not say much that evening, but I had the impression that she was quite a strong minded person who would not hesitate to speak her mind.

I knew her husband better, although I can't claim to knowing him that well. He was someone from my girlhood, when I was 18, and only then barely. He was the rugby player I saw whose nose bled profusely as they carried him from the field at the first rugby game I ever witnessed. He was the tall Prefect who strode confidently around in long, crisp white pants. It was much later in life, and only recently that we became better friends, connected by that emotional bond for our alma mater. As I got to know him, I learnt of his devotion and regard for his wife. He often remarked how she had taught him so much about himself, and how this one relationship had shaped him for the better. And yes, that he was a one woman man. It amazed me how this normally emotionally private man could speak so openly about his wife. Love had overflown, and made itself palpable.

I woke up this morning, and the news overwhelmed me. What is it that makes us start and stare when we hear of life, precariously hanging by a thread or moving on? Its our desire for Everlasting Life for ourselves and everyone we love. An oxymoron we cling onto with all our might. Only to be reminded that its a vanquished hope, even before the journey begins. Ironically, Death is the only fact of life we can ever be sure of. And within its grasp, lies that vast, unknowable power to shatter us.
Posted by suet fun at
11:49 PM


KSCheah said...
My Dear SF,

Thank you for being there for me during my most trying time. You are indeed a true friend.
3:42 PM

suet fun said...
Dear KS

I only wish I had been able to do more. My thoughts and prayers for you and your family as you begin the journey to cope with your loss.Take care.
Suet Fun
4:52 PM

bayi said...
Sometimes episodes like this one jolts you back into the past, reliving the happy and painful (fortunately, usually the happy ones) times shared.Obviously you were there for your friend. It's moments like this when true friendship is proven and the bond in strengthened. Such events also show us how time has passed us by and we should erase the painful past as life is too short to be unhappy over what we can choose to forget.
8:00 AM

suet fun said...
Sometimes time heals, sometimes it doesn't. We carry our scars as long as we live, even as we learn to embrace our existence again.
3:05 AM

Nature has a strange way of bringing strangers together. It would be good if we take it that we are destined to be friends. :)


Indeed it has BH, indeed it has...

Monday, 16 March 2009

Patriotism. What's In A Song?

May 13th, 1969. I was 10 years old and being in Taiping, we were not exposed to the terror faced by those in KL or even Penang. I remember it was a Tuesday and in those days of radio and B&W TV, information did not exactly travel as fast. I remember the TV series, "The High Chapparal" and the episode that was showing the night of May, 13th 1969 was the "Buffalo Soldiers". I was in Standard 4, at KEVII Primary School (II) and we woke up to a school holiday the next day.

I do not remember being scared because we somehow knew my father would be able to handle things. And handle things he did; I remember he broke curfew and went to the neighborhood sundry shop to get provisions. People hardly stored food at home those days and my mother used to go to the market almost everyday. When curfew was imposed, I think my parents' main concern was about food and not about the family getting slaughtered. Somehow in Taiping, we just knew that neighbors would not kill neighbors and I think nobody was killed in Taiping then.

Another comforting thought I found out later, was that we had a Ranger Regiment stationed in Taiping then and the mainly Iban rangers were expected to be impartial since as Chinese, the fear was of the Malay Regiments. It was after all, racial riots!

However, one of my most enduring and indeed endearing of memories then has been of my father's buddy, Major Hashim who brought army rations for us in an army Land Rover. Major Hashim was
quarter master in a Malay Regiment also based in Taiping!

I do not remember much more but that the country changed after that was obvious. My late father believed in affirmative action yet he told me in the 70s that the day will come when our Malay brethren will squabble amongst themselves over the spoils of the NEP. How prophetic of him.

Race relations went downhill after 1969 because the ruling elite thought Malaysian society could be "engineered" and they tried. They probably started with good intentions but the temptation before them to abuse the nation behind the veil of social responsibility was just too much to resist. We have had 40 years of experimentations and the "engineered baby" called "a just plural society" is in ICU. Our founding-fathers would not have been able to recognize the Malaysian society they spawned. I dare say our founding-fathers would even have disowned us if they can see how morally bankrupt we have become as a people; with endemic corruption, blatant disregard for the law, religious discord, racial seggregation, unbridled greed and Machiavellian politics being the order of the day.

What was in the hearts and minds of our founding fathers before Malaysia was formed? I think a hint can be found in patriotic songs. It is interesting how the lyrics of popular patriotic songs of each era reflect the times. Around Merdeka period there was a song called, "Oh Malaya" (changed to "Oh Malaysia" after merdeka) which ironically originated in Indonesia, sung by a Dutch Indonesian Anneke Gronloh. The romanticism at the time and genuine belief in the future is captured in the song. Check
this out and the narrative and lyrics below:

ANNEKE GRONLOH had a big Dutch hit record in "Brandend Zand" in 1962. To build on the popularity of her "Asmara" and "Bengawan Solo" in South East Asia in the early 60's, Anneke took the same musical arrangement and recorded "Oh Malaya." 1963 saw the creation of a new country called Malaysia, made up of formerly British-governed Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. "Oh Malaya" was quickly changed to "Oh Malaysia," and this song helped to foster the new and growing national pride of the new Malaysians. (This video was taken in 2000.)

Oh Malaysia lyrics

On the shore beyond the tropical sea
You will stand to welcome me
On the shore beneath the sky so blue
All my dreams at last will come true
Oh Malaysia, land of glory
Where I found my heart's true love
In a night so warm and tender
With the moon and stars above

Then Malaysians were lulled into complacency post Merdeka and took race relations for granted...until May 13, 1969. This was reflected in the song "Malaysia Berjaya". The conflagration of 13th May, 1969 obliterated the meaning and spirit of this great song. If only Malaysian can live this song today!

Malaysia Berjaya lyrics

Malaysia kita sudah berjaya,
Aman makmur bahagia
Malaysia abadi selamanya,
Berjaya dan berjaya!
Berbagai kaum sudah berikrar
Menuju cita-cita
Satu bangsa satu negara

Malaysia berjaya!
Dari Perlis sampailah ke Sabah
Kita sudah merdeka
Negara makmur rakyat mewah
Kita sudah berjaya!
Dengan semboyan kita berjaya
Menuju di angkasa
Satu bangsa satu negara
Malaysia berjaya!

English translation

Our Malaysia has succeeded
Peaceful and radiant
Malaysia forever shall you live
and achieve more success!
The people have pledged
to strive for the aspiration
Of one people, one nation

Successful Malaysia!
From Perlis to Sabah
We are now free
A prosperous nation, with affluent people
We have succeeded!
With the bugle we sound our success
Shooting for the stars
One people, one nation
Successful Malaysia!

Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara (One People, One Nation) indeed. Today, where has this all gone? For that matter, where has this song gone?

After 13th May, 1969 the nation was in shock and the mindset of a people in desperation was vulnerable. This was when the re-engineering started and patriotic songs somehow began tasting of propaganda flavor. Malaysian's were encouraged to practise the spirit of Muhibbah or else. The lyrics are imbued with "NEPism" and that somehow leaves a bitter taste.

Muhibbah lyrics

Muhibbah Muhibbah
Itulah amalan kita semua
Muhibbah Muhibbah
Sejak sedari zaman purbakala

Tunaikanlah ikrar
Satu nusa satu bangsa merdeka
Satu loghat dan satu suara
Dalam Malaysia jaya


Junjung tinggi cita-cita bangsa
Hormatilah perlembagaanya
Marilah kita berganding tangan
Hapuskanlah jurang perbezaan

Muhibbah Muhibbah
Gema bersatu padu satu bangsa
Negara 'kan makmur bahgia
Dalam Malaysia jaya

(ulang dari korus)

I have no comments about the so-called patriotic songs of today or rather, I choose not to comment. However, two commentaries on 13 May 1969, which I spotted in cyberspace are worth reproducing here. One is by that super nationalist, Raja Petra Kamarudin and the other by ex-Appeal Court judge, Mahadev Shankar, in the same Malaysia Today article entitled; “MARILAH KITA HIDUP ATAU MATI SEKARANG”. Most of us in our late 40s or older, if we care to share, would have similar stories to tell. Please read:

Sunday, 15 March 2009 13:28

Folded into our experience of the night of May 13, 1969, was there not the glue that binds all of us with the message that we must love each other or die?

My early education was in the Alice Smith School at Bellamy Road in Kuala Lumpur. For those not familiar with early KL, that is behind the Dewan Bahasa near the Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara. The Alice Smith School was a school for the children of British expatriates. There were probably only three Asians in that entire school. The other two were one Chinese boy, who I can’t remember what his name was, and a girl named Sarah Chin -- my first ‘girlfriend’ of sorts, although she didn’t give any indication that she knew I even existed (so it was actually a one-way ‘relationship’ in that sense).

The Alice Smith School was only up to Standard Five -- so I was transferred to the Meru Road Primary School in Klang for my Standard Six. I did a short stint (about a month or so) in the Meru Road High School, also in Klang, after which I was sent to the Malay Colllege Kuala Kangsar from 1963 to 1965.

I could not stand the all-Malay environment -- a sort of culture shock after almost seven years in an all-English school -- and in 1965, during my Form Three, I asked to be transferred back to a ‘normal’ school. My father sent me to the Victoria Institution where I remained until my Form Five in 1967. The fact that I did not speak Malay well and was constantly subjected to ragging -- they called me ‘Mat Salleh Celup’ -- made life in MCKK most intolerable indeed. I never mixed with anyone and hardly had any friends other than ‘Manan Cina’, a most Chinese-looking Malay whose father was in the Terendak Camp in Melaka.

In the V.I., I felt more at home. My ‘best’ friends were Rajadurai (whom we called ‘Tengku’, since he was a ‘Raja’), Yim Seng, Yong Boon, Onn, Azizul, Karim, and about half a dozen other Malays, Chinese and Indians. The beauty about all these friends was they were not my Malay, Indian or Chinese friends. It did not occur to me (or to any of the others for that matter) that they were my Malay, Chinese and Indian friends. They were just ‘my friends’. In short, we were absolutely and thoroughly ‘colour-blind’.

But that was in the 1960s. Then, in 1969, we suddenly realised that there was a difference after all. We no longer had ‘just friends’. We had Malay, Chinese and Indian friends. Eventually, we drifted apart. I heard Rajadurai was murdered. I was beside Onn’s deathbed as he gasped his last breath. I don’t know what happened to Yim Seng, Yong Boon, Azizul and Karim. And I can’t even remember the names of the half a dozen or so other Malay, Chinese and Indian friends.

And this is most sad. It troubles me to this very day that these friends of mine are no longer part of my life, and I no longer part of theirs. We were once so close. We were closer than brothers. Now, they are faint memories of what could be equated as ships passing in the night.

What has this country done to us? What happened in 1969 that divided us so? What did not matter back in the 1960s is considered ever so important today.

This country has failed us. The politicians of today have turned the clock back and have destroyed what took many years to build. The destruction is so bad that in our lifetime we shall never see the country restored to what it was. It may never be restored even by the next generation.

I no longer see any hope for Malaysia. It will take a miracle to again see what we saw back in the 1960s. Today, Malaysia is all about the colour of your skin. Your break in life depends on which womb you happen to have come out from. Why must your future ride on the throw of the dice? Why must fate play a cruel game of chance while what lies before you relates to which family you were born into?

Malaysia needs a paradigm shift. But this shift can only occur if all want it to happen. It takes two hands to clap. And the way forward must be to bury the past and not play the blame-game. All are to blame for 1969. No one person or one community caused this. Just as it takes two hands to clap to see this paradigm shift that we so greatly need, it also took two hands to clap for what happened in 1969.

The glue that binds us

Dato' Mahadev Shankar

May 13, 1969 is nearly forty years behind us. What day of the week was it? Alas I cannot now remember! Perhaps it was a Friday? Friday the 13th has always had such an ominous ring to it! It was certainly before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (the former prime minister) set our clocks back half an hour and thus took centre stage in our psyche. Of that I am sure.

As sure as I am that in 1969 with our Bapa Merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman as Prime Minister before he was deposed, we rose at sunrise and retired at sundown. May 13th 1969 marked a turning point in the history of our nation.

I had finished with the Fitzpatrick case at Court Hill, and made an uneventful return home a little earlier than I should. My wife and children were out somewhere in town and got back just before sunset.

By twilight, all hell had broken loose.

The shouting of a mob in full flow seemed to be coming from the junction of Princess Road (now Jalan Raja Muda) and Circular Road (later Jalan Pekeliling and now Jalan Tun Abdul Razak), which was less than half a mile from our house on the corner of Jalan Gurney Dua and Satu. We were well within earshot of the commotion.

I was then out on our badminton court with my wife and children when I saw a young Malay, face ravaged with shock as he ran past us, intermittently stopping to catch his breath and then run on. The panic he radiated was very contagious.

A few moments later, my neighbour Tuan Haji Ahmad shouted from across the road that a riot was in progress at the Princess Road junction and that we should immediately get back indoors.

Soon afterwards as the darkness set in, we saw red tongues of flame crowned with black smoke go up from the direction of Dato Keramat. From town there was a red glow in the sky of fires burning. The acrid smell of smoke was coming from everywhere. More to the point, the very air around us seemed to be shivering with terror. Fearing the worst, we locked ourselves in and huddled around the TV set.

Then I heard this high pitched wail. It was a female voice in distress - "Tolong, buka pintu, tolong. buka pintu!" (Please open the door!). A diminutive woman, with a babe in arms, was desperately yelling for shelter, obviously not having had much luck with the houses nearer the Gurney Road junction.

Without a second thought, I ran out, unlocked the gate and let her in. She was wide-eyed with terror and the baby was bawling away. The sheer relief seemed to have silenced her and she was not registering my questions. And she was not talking.

Once inside, she slunk into a corner in our dining room and just sat there huddled with her baby, not looking at us but facing the wall. It was now evident that she was Chinese, spoke no English, and was quite unwilling to engage in any conversation except to plead in bazaar Malay that she would give us no trouble and that she would leave the next day. Our attention soon shifted from her to the TV set.

A very distraught Tunku Abdul Rahman, came on to tell us that a curfew had to be declared because of racial riots between the Malays and the Chinese, caused by the over-exuberance of some elements celebrating their election victories, and gave brief details of irresponsible provocations, skirmishes, and fatalities. He stressed the need for calm whilst the security services restored law and order. Well do I remember his parting words to us that night,

“Marilah kita hidup atau mati sekarang.” (Let us choose to live or die now.)

As my attention once again shifted to the tiny woman and her tinier baby, let me confess to my shame, that the thought crossed my mind that living in a predominantly Malay area, I had now put my whole family in peril by harbouring this Chinese woman. It was manifestly evident from the TV broadcasts that her race had become the target of blind racial hatred.

It was an ignoble thought I immediately suppressed as unworthy of any human being. She, too, had been watching the TV and perhaps even more intently was watching me, and must have seen the dark clouds as they gathered around my visage.

None of us were in the mood to eat anything. We all just sat and waited and waited and waited, not knowing quite what to expect. Hours later there was a loud banging at our gate accompanied by a male voice shouting.

I realised then my moment of truth had finally arrived. I asked my cook Muthu, a true hero, if ever there was one to accompany me to the gate. In that half-light, I saw the most enormous Malay man I ever set my eyes on.

With great trepidation I asked him what he wanted. “You have got my wife and child in your house and I have come for them,” he said in English.

Still suspicious I asked him, “Before I say anything, can you describe your wife?”

“Yes, yes, I know you ask because I am a Malay. My wife is Chinese and she is very small and my baby is only a few months old. Can I now please come in?”

I immediately unlocked the gate. In he came and we witnessed the most touching family reunion. He thanked us profusely and without further ado they were on their way. In the excitement we did not ask his name or address.

What next?

I saw where my duty lay and immediately called the Emergency telephone number to volunteer for relief duty. An armoured car appeared the next morning. I was taken to Federal House and assigned to assist the late Tun Khir Johari (as he subsequently became) and the late Tan Sri Manikavasagam.

Our task initially was to transport and resettle the refugees into the Merdeka Stadium and thence into the low cost municipal flats in Jalan Ipoh. We then tied up with Dato Ruby Lee of the Red Cross to locate missing persons and supply emergency food rations to the displaced. Some semblance of law and order was restored and the town slowly came back to life.

If that baby who sheltered in our house that fateful night has survived life’s vicissitudes, he would be 38 years old today.

All the ethnic races, which compose our lucky nation, were fully represented in our house that evening when the Almighty brought us together for a short while. With our 50th Merdeka anniversary fast approaching, and our hopes for racial unity so much in the forefront of our minds, may I leave it to my readers to ask themselves whether there is a pointer here for all of us. Folded into our experience of the night of May 13, 1969, was there not the glue that binds all of us with the message that we must love each other or die?

May 13, 2007


Dato’ Mahadev Shankar joined the Victoria Institution (V.I.) after the war from Pasar Road School and was active in debating and in drama. Indeed, he was the first president of the V.I. Dramatics Society, a successor to the long-dormant VIMADS (V.I. Musical and Dramatic Society) of the 1920s. He is well remembered for his title role as Antonio in the Society's first major production, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which played to packed houses for five nights in August 1952.

He was also the V.I. Rodger Scholar of 1951.

Dato' Shankar is a barrister of the Inner Temple London and was enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court Malaya in 1956. Thereafter he practised law in Shearn Delamore and Company, Kuala Lumpur, till 1983 when he was appointed Judge of the High Court of West Malaysia. He served in Johor, the Federal Capital, and in Selangor till 1994 when he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.

During his career as a lawyer he served on the Board of Several Public Companies including Malaysian Airlines System. He was the advisor to the New Straits Times Group on libel laws and the resident representative of the Medical Defence Union.

He has also represented Malaysia on several international conferences on a variety of legal subjects. These included Intellectual Property laws in Sydney 1984, Canberra 1987, New Delhi 1995 and Tokyo 1997, and Kanchanaburi Thailand in 1998, Price Variation and Escalation clauses in International contracts at the Singapore Business Laws Conference, and the Right to a Fair Trial in Heidelberg 1996 as well as conferences on Aviation Laws in Dallas 1979, New York 1981, and Taipei in 1990.

Apart from the hundreds of Judgements he has delivered during his tenure as a judge he also served as a Royal Commissioner on two national inquiries and was the Advisory Editor for Halsbury’ Laws of Malaysia on Civil Procedure.

With specific reference to Arbitration, whilst in practice he has acted as an Arbitrator in the Whitley Council to revise the Wage Structure of the Postal Department of Malaysia, in labour disputes on the first Industrial Arbitration Tribunal, and in private arbitrations in disputes between dissenting partners in legal firms. He delivered the judgement of the Court of Appeal on the inviolabilty of the awards of the Regional Centre from Judicial review.

Dato' Mahadev Shankar retired as a Judge of the Court of Appeal Malaysia in November 1997.

Since his retirement from the Judiciary he has acted as an Arbitrator in a corporate dispute between joint venture partners on severance terms, a major dispute between the Owner and Main contractor in one of Kuala Lumpur’s prime building projects. The ongoing arbitrations in which he is now involved include a construction dispute in East Malaysia, and a dispute between two corporate conglomerates on the enforceablity of put options.

He is currently a legal consultant in Zaid Ibrahim and Company, a law firm in Kuala Lumpur.

In April 2000 Dato' Shankar was appointed a Member of the Human Rights Commission Of Malaysia for a term of two years.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Ketuanan Rakyat Bestowed By Royalty

Now can we all just dump the "Ketuanan Melayu" (by the way, there is no such word in the Constitution) shite and move on with Ketuanan Rakyat?

KANGAR: The Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Syed Jamalullail, yesterday took to task those propounding the "ketuanan Melayu" (Malay supremacy) policy, accusing them of using "narrow-minded ways to achieve personal objectives".

He said every Malaysian, irrespective of age, gender, social status or religion, enjoyed equal rights.

The ruler said some Malaysians were making a big issue of the "ketuanan Melayu" issue and asking that supremacy or rights be given only to a particular race.

"It is very unfortunate to see these self-interested parties raising sensitive issues which could dampen the spirits and hopes of millions of people. In Malaysia, every race is tuan," he said in his speech at the launching of a seminar on the Federal Constitution here. The seminar was jointly organised by the state government and the Biro Tatanegara.

The Raja of Perlis reminded everyone that no individual should be deprived of his rights and that sensitive issues should not be raised in a multi-racial country like Malaysia. "Sensitive issues and disharmony in society will only bring harm to the country," he added.

He said after 51 years, there was an understanding between the royal houses, leaders of all races and political parties in the country on the multi-racial character of the nation.

"This understanding is referred to as a social contract. It is to ensure that every race lives in harmony. The rights of every individual and race cannot not be taken away and at the same time Islam will remain the official religion of the country."

The Raja of Perlis said the role of the Malay royalty should be upheld as they had played the most significant role in defending the rights of the people. He said it was the responsibility of the royalty to ensure that everyone lived in harmony.

"Today, many individuals redefine the social contract in the Federal Constitution in their own narrow-minded way for personal objectives.

"I believe that if everyone understands that every individual of any race, should not be deprived of their rights, then the efforts of certain parties who think that the supremacy or rights should only be given to a particular race can be stopped," he said.

The ruler hoped that the contents of the Federal Constitution will be clearly understood by all, including the leaders of political parties.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Of 5Cs and 3Ds...O-Levels?

The title looks like it may well have been the O-Levels result of our soon to be ex-Prime Minister (notwithstanding new efforts to try get him to here?) who is not known for his academic brilliance. Many may even say it is what his "report card" as Prime Minister would look like. Anyway, this post is not about him per se, it is about something that blew in from across the causeway. This article which I found in the Malaysian Insider is from the Straits Times Singapore and I think Malaysians must read it.

Of divine majesty, disloyalty and Darwin

MARCH 4 – While the Malays in Singapore may be chasing the 5Cs, their counterparts in Malaysia have been trapped between the 2Ds – daulat (divine majesty) and derhaka (disloyalty).
These terms refer to the patrimonial relationship between ruler and ruled. Traditionally, one challenged any of the country’s nine sultans at one’s peril.

Once so inseparable were ruler and ruled that anyone who went against a Malay ruler was deemed to have taken on the entire Malay community.

But the now-widespread outrage among Malays against the Perak Sultan’s recent assent to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition taking back power in the state signals clearly that they are finally breaking free of that culture of subservience.

After all, the 2Ds are valid only as long as ruler and ruling elites protect and secure the future of the ruled.
Indeed, some say the Malays have embraced a third D – Darwinism – because they now see that this is a world in which only the fittest survive.

As sociologist Syed Husin Ali told The Straits Times: “We are in fact at the beginning of a major psychological change among the Malays.”

The deputy president of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat is also the author of “The Malays: Their Problems And Future”.

Some Malays, chiefly the Umno youth wing, accuse opposition leaders of lese majeste in challenging the Perak Sultan’s wisdom. They remind all that this year is the 40th anniversary of May 13, 1969, when the country’s most savage race riots broke out. But this time, they have not mustered support among the masses.

For so long, Malaysia’s Malays have framed themselves as a community wronged by British colonialists who, since the early 1800s, had let in hordes of Chinese and Indians to fuel economic growth, while curtailing Malay potential by confining them to rural pursuits and dissuading them from education.

Yet, barring the odd bloodletting – like when Malays killed Perak’s British Resident James Birch in 1875 for insulting the sultan by sheltering his slave girls – the Malays did not rise up against the British. They were held off from doing so by their rulers who, in turn, were browbeaten by the British to keep their subjects in check.

As human rights advocate Chandra Muzaffar once observed, the Malay patrimonial model demands a Malay’s overwhelming diffidence to his ruler, devaluation of one’s worth, and submission to the monarch’s will. Thus did the British exploit that to their own advantage.

But who is exploiting it today? And do the Malays today still feel that the non-Malays have wronged them? The answers to both these questions are as disquieting as they are embarrassing.
Since independence in 1957, the sultans have been increasingly displaced by an emerging elite class, led and shaped by Umno. It culminated in the elites stripping them of legal immunity in 1993.

Further down the social ladder, the rash of Malay migrations from country to town from the mid-1970s, in search of jobs, created a thick social layer of middle-class Malays who vacillate between sticking with the 2Ds and going with the 5Cs that have given their Singaporean brethren a better life.

Thirty years of affirmative action have resulted in large numbers of them competing for a slice of a pie that has not grown enough as the same race-based policy keeps some serious investors away.

Then there is a very wealthy upper class. As Dr Syed Husin says, Malaysia’s Registry of Companies reveals that a handful of retired public servants and politicians “almost monopolise” most company directorships today.

Of the 1,526 Malay company directors, 45 or 3 per cent of them own half the shares of all registered Malay directors. Most of the 45 were in politics or public service previously and their individual holdings are each worth RM7 million (S$2.9 million) or more.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Malay graduates with a poor command of English are unemployed. Then there are many Malays who are on drugs, with most resorting to crime to fund that addiction.

They have now all learnt that it is less a case of waiting for Allah to help them – a Malay is necessarily a Muslim, according to Malaysia’s Constitution – and more one of helping themselves, which is precisely what their richer brethren have been doing.
How many Malay tycoons today had had dirt-poor beginnings compared to their ilk in China, India or the West? More often than not, a Malay bigwig has either been born into the upper class or is otherwise favoured by it.

As Dr Syed Husin puts it: “People tend to be controlled too much in their early days in institutions. When they grow up and get out of these institutions, they tend to rebel against them because they now distrust the system.”

Malaysia’s Malays may be late to the lesson of self-reliance. But better late than never. – The Straits Times