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Monday, September 22, 2008

9 Okt ibarat 'dengar guruh di langit


Muda Mohd Noor | Sep 22, 08 12:02pm
kemaskini 7:26pm "Jangan kerana mendengar guruh di langit, air di tempayan dicurahkan", demikian nasihat beberapa pemimpin Umno bahagian kepada Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Abdullah minggu lepas digesa meletakkan jawatan presiden Umno sebelum mesyuarat bahagian-bahagian bermula pada 9 Oktober kerana dibimbangi beliau tidak mendapat cukup pencalonan.

Desakan itu - sebahagian strategi untuk menyegerakan peralihan kuasa kepada timbalannya Datuk Seri Najib Razak - disuarakan oleh beberapa anggota Majlis Tertinggi (MT), termasuk anggota-anggota kabinet, Khamis lalu.

Bagaimanapun pemimpin-pemimpin bahagian yang dihubungi Malaysiakini hari ini percaya suara-suara itu membuat keputusan "terlalu awal" kerana mesyuarat belum bermula.

Sementara beberapa yang lain mencadangkan Abdullah melepaskan jawatannya jika terbukti gagal mendapat sokongan bahagian-bahagian yang akan bermesyuarat sehingga 9 November ini.

Beliau memerlukan pencalonan 58 daripada 193 bahagian untuk layak bertanding jawatan tersebut yang disandangnya sekarang sejak 2004.

Ketua bahagian Bukit Mertajam, Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir berkata saranan seumpama itu "permainan orang yang gila hendak bertanding."

"Mesyuarat bahagian pun belum lagi, mana tahu mereka tidak sokong Abdullah? Kalau satu, dua bahagian mungkin adalah (yang tidak mencalonkannya).

"Permainan ini dibuat oleh agen-agen politik yang mahukan naib presiden Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin bertanding jawatan tersebut," katanya.

Di Pulau Pinang, tambahnya, sebahagian besar bahagian dipercayai akan mencalonkan Abdullah kerana beliau pengerusi perhubungan Umno dan juga perdana menteri.

Musa menambah, ahli-ahli akar umbi di negeri itu mahu presiden Umno erus menerajui parti selepas Disember ini.

Ketua bahagian Pasir Salak, Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman pula berkata, jika hanya beberapa anggota MT menggesa sedemikian bukan bermakna ia tidak mahu beliau bertanding.

Masing-masing membuat ramalan sedangkan, tambahnya, cara terbaik ialah menunggu bahagian mengadakan mesyuarat terlebih dahulu.

"Adakah kalau Abdullah berundur cepat, ia boleh menguatkan Umno? Jangan kerana mendengar guruh di langit, air di tempayan dicurahkan," katanya.

Ketua bahagian Umno Selayang, Datuk Ahmad Bhari Abdul Rahman berkata, cakap-cakap Abdullah bakal menghadapi masalah kuota pencalonan satu usaha meminggirkan perdana menteri.

"Dakwaan bahawa Abdullah tidak cukup pencalonan merupakan andaian sahaja kerana mesyuarat bahagian belum bermula," katanya.

Beliau menambah, jika kepimpinan tinggi Umno saling cabar-mencabar ia akan merebak sampai ke bawah.

Katanya, jika ia berlaku, Umno akan mengulangi peristiwa 1987 yang menyaksikan perpecahan dua puak dalam parti itu sebelum ia kemudiannya diharamkan.

Timbalan ketua bahagian Umno Semberong, Abidin Abdul Rahman berkata, Abdullah perlu mendapatkan maklumat yang jelas sebelum membuat sebarang keputusan.

Katanya, sebagai presiden parti, Abdullah tidak boleh terpengaruh dengan dakwaan bahawa beliau tidak cukup pencalonan.

Bagaimanapun, jika sahih bahagian-bahagian tidak mahukan beliau lagi, Abdullah tiada pilihan lain kecuali berundur.

"Dalam sejarah Umno, orang lebih sayangkan parti daripada individu.

"Lihatlah apa yang berlaku kepada bekas presiden Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad selepas meninggalkan Umno, ahli tidak mengikut jejaknya," katanya.

Ketua bahagian Pokok Sena, Datuk Ahmad Lebai Sudin berkata, jika bahagian sudah tidak mahu kepemimpinan Abdullah lagi, beliau tidak akan dicalonkan.

"Kita kena ikut demokrasi, siapa yang ramai orang sokong, dialah yang jadi pemimpin," katanya.

Manakala ketua bahagian Seremban, Datuk Ishak Ismail berkata, Abdullah perlu melihat kehendak ahli-ahli terhadap kepimpinannya sekarang.

Katanya, jika ramai yang bercakap mereka tidak mahu lagi, Abdullah perlu berundur.

"Sebagai pemimpin, beliau perlu mengutamakan kepentingan parti dan bukannya kepentingan peribadi," katanya.

Ishak berkata, jika Abdullah berkeras mahu mempertahankan jawatan presiden, dan ada calon lain yang mahu bertanding, Umno akan berpecah-belah selepas perhimpunan agung kelak.

Ditanya calon yang paling sesuai dicalonkan sebagai presiden Umno, Ishak berkata, "orang ramai mahukan Datuk Najib".

"Orang kata, Abdullah sudah hilang kawalan dan kerana itu Umno perlukan nakhoda yang baru.

"Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah tidak sesuai menjadi presiden parti kerana sudah lanjut tempoh," katanya.

Timbalan ketua bahagian Semporna, Datuk Nasir Sakaran pula berkata, isu tersebut perlu diselesaikan oleh pucuk pimpinan tertinggi Umno.

Katanya, beliau enggan mengulas panjang perkara tersebut dengan alasan tidak mahu menimbulkan kontroversi di dalam parti.

"Apa yang penting ialah sama-sama mencari jalan menyatupadu dan mengukuhkan parti.

"Cakap-cakap yang keterlaluan bukan untuk mengukuhkan parti tetapi boleh menyebabkan ahli berbelah bahagi terhadap pucuk pimpinan," katanya.

Sementara naib ketua bahagian Pasir Mas, Che Johan Che Pa, berkata cara terbaik ialah memberi peluang kepada perwakilan bahagian menentukan pemimpin parti.

Katanya, ahli Umno yang lebih mengetahui pemimpin yang baik untuk parti itu.

Tension and the race card PDF Print E-mail Posted by kasee

THE NEW STRAITS TIMES

Monday, 22 September 2008

At a recent forum on integration held at Institut Integriti Malaysia, academician Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim spoke out against politicians who were trying to further their careers by playing the race card. ARMAN AHMAD speaks to Khoo on race relations in Malaysia since independence

Q: After 51 years of independence, do you think this country is the multicultural haven that it has been made out to be?

A: Yes and no. Throughout our history, there have hardly been any serious inter-ethnic problems.

But, at the same time, the people, from a cultural point of view, live quite separately. For a long time in fact, in the years before 1957, they lived in separate areas. Take Kuala Lumpur for instance: the Chinese lived in the centre of town, the Malays lived in Kampung Baru while the Indians lived in Sentul and Brickfields.

At one time, people of each ethnic group would try to go to a shop operated by someone of their race.

Things have changed since then, but there has always been tension because each group does not really understand the other. For anybody to deliberately cause trouble, it would be easy -- because people as a whole do not really know each other.

Q: Why after all this time does the country still face the spectre of poor race relations?

A: So many of our political parties survive by championing the cause of one ethnic group.

In the process, they clash because what one group wants often goes against the desires of the others. That is why tension is created.

Q: You have said that this problem was evident from the beginning of the creation of Malaysia. You have also said that the notion that the British practised "divide and rule" is nonsensical, that it is a lie repeatedly told in our text books. What makes you say all this?

A: There is absolutely no proof that the British practised divide- and-conquer tactics here. The British tried many times after World War 2 to bring the people together.

They established the Communities Liaison Committee in 1949. Later, the 1951 Barnes report recommended the setting up of one type of school and that vernacular schools be demolished. These schools would use the Malay language and English as their medium of instruction. But this was not accepted. The British gave in and revived Chinese schools after pressure from the Chinese community.

It was not the British that created the basis of our racial divide but the people themselves who wanted to stay divided.

For many years, no one wanted to talk about assimilation. Later, they created the term integration but even this has not been successful.

Q: Why do you think Malaysians are so afraid of assimilation or integration?

A: They don't want assimilation because they still want to maintain their separate cultural identities. This is something emotional to them.

From the beginning, Malaysia was made up of three separate major Asian ethnicities coming from Indonesia, China and India. When they came here, they brought over some of the ideals from their respective homelands. They resisted unification. Even till today, they haven't gone through sufficient common experience to abandon their cultural identities.

Q: Are vernacular schools a big reason why this country is divided from a racial standpoint?

A: Vernacular schools are one of the reasons. Children are very important. If you want to shape the thinking and culture of an adult, you have to begin with the young child.

If children are trained not to give priority to ethnicity, then they will grow up as adults who don't care about the differences between races. But, if from a young age, they are trained in schools emphasising the importance of one's race, then they will grow up into such adults.

Q: Is apathy for the country's history part of the reason why we have a problem understanding each other?

A: Malaysians are generally not interested in history because it has no value to make money. (laughs)

Malaysians are only interested in making money. Unfortunately, we are a very materialistic people. Perhaps, this is a remnant of the culture that was brought in by the Chinese and Indians who came here primarily to make money. Gradually over the years, the Malays, too, have changed their outlook on life by learning from them.

Our existing history books have wrong information about so many things -- blaming the British for everything -- but never looking at our own faults.

How can you improve if you don't look at yourself?

Q: Do you think politicians are further dividing us?

A: That's their agenda. It's an easy way to get votes -- just instigate the people.

Politicians are to blame for the Singapore riots of 1964 as well as our own riots in 1969.

Luckily, today, we have become a little more sensible. Otherwise, something could have happened in-between then and now. But, race relations are currently so bad that even a small conflict can spark off an incident. We saw this happen in Kampung Medan. But there have been other instances, at least two of them in Penang.

Q: Do you think other national governments are able to manage race relations better?

A: There are many examples. One of them is the United Kingdom. In London, which is a very cosmopolitan city, people also live separately in their Chinatowns and Little Indias but they don't have serious ethnic problems. This is because the government is very strict about it and will act immediately.

Q: As a Chinese-Malaysian, how do you view your identity as a historian in this country?

A: Sometimes, people look at me as Chinese, but as I am not all the time insistent on acting like one, the Chinese here are sometimes suspicious.

If you are one of them, but don't stick to the cultural barriers, then you may have some problems. Some Chinese people think I don't know much about the history of the Chinese here, but I may know more than them because I have done research while they haven't.

Q: Do you think race-based politics should be a thing of the past?

A: Race-based politics is definitely not good for the country.

For existing parties with a long history of race-based politics, it's not going to be easy to change. It's going to take a long time. It may be even another 50 years before they can change.

Q: What do you think is the best way to integrate Malay-sians today?

A: In schools, allow our children to mix freely. I went to a school which was equally divided between the Malays, Chinese and Indians and I never developed communal feelings. You have to start things from young.

Q: You are a historian, but could you project what Malaysia would be like in the next 50 years? Do you think assimilation will ever happen? Will a true Bangsa Malaysia ever be created?

A: Oh yes, things will change for the better. It's hard to predict when. It's the politicians who are the ones who are resistant to change and will try to stop it.

The reason is simple, if the people change their feelings, then they will not get the support they need. The current race-based parties are the ones which are trying their best to resist change, but change will eventually come.

Verbal war over nature of police report

(The Sun) The so-called "MCA key operative" Arthur So and Seri Serdang assemblyman Datuk Mohd Satim Diman’s special assistant Kuan Chee Heng, who lodged a police report against an Utusan Malaysia columnist, have demanded an apology from DAP’s Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang for alleging that the report led to the detention of Seputeh MP Teresa Kok under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Kuan, who is not with any political party, said he had lodged a police report against columnist Zaini Hassan over his article titled "Azan, Jawi, JAIS, UiTM dan ba-alif-ba-ya", and that it was not against Kok.

He said he is not angry with Kok who blamed him for her detention "because she was misled by false information".

He said at a joint press conference with So yesterday that if Lim refuses to explain and apologise, they will resort to legal action.

So, 63, who was named the "key operative of MCA" in earlier reports, clarified that he was MCA Kampung Bersatu branch chairman but he had quit the party in September last year. He said he did not lodge any police report.

"I met Kuan outside the police station on the day he lodged the report against Utusan Malaysia and I was invited to take a group photo with him. Since Lim made a mistake, he must apologise to us."

On Sunday, MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Tee Keat had also challenged Lim to prove his allegation, failing which he should apologise to the party.

In his response yesterday, Lim said: "During a candlelight vigil in Ipoh on Sept 21, I said a key MCA operative in Puchong had lodged a police report making false allegations against Teresa over the azan controversy on Sept 11, which triggered her ISA detention the next day.

"I repeated this the next day at Teresa’s media conference on her ISA release at DAP headquarters. Is or was the ‘key MCA operative in Puchong’ an MCA member? Let MCA leaders tell Malaysians."

Lim added that MCA leaders were just trying to raise a hue-and-cry over the identity over the "MCA operative in Puchong".

He said Kok had revealed the identity of the "MCA operative" at the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall at the "head-shaving protest" by 18 DAP members against continued ISA detentions. He said the ball is now in the court of the MCA leaders.

Kerajaan baru tetap berasaskan pelbagai kaum

Irwan Muhammad Zain, Harakah

Naib Presiden PAS, Mohamad Sabu menyangkal dakwaan bahawa akan wujud ketegangan dan mencetuskan suasana tidak baik kepada perniagaan dan ekonomi jika semua parti berasaskan kaum Cina berpihak kepada pembangkang. Beliau berpendapat sokongan daripada kaum Cina kepada pembangkang dewasa ini menunjukkan bahawa masyarakat tersebut inginkan sebuah kerajaan baru ditubuhkan di negara ini.

"Tidak timbul soal sokongan kepada pembangkang kerana orang Cina sekarang menyokong kerajaan yang bakal ditubuhkan," kata beliau.

Selain itu beliau turut menyangkal dakwaan Naib Presiden MCA, Dato' Donald Lim Siang bahawa hanya parti berasaskan orang Melayu menjadi parti memerintah jika semua parti kaum Cina menyokong pembangkang.

"Bila ditubuhkan kerajaan baru, ianya masih kerajaan yang pelbagai kaum bukan hanya dikuasai Melayu," tambah beliau lagi.

Mohamad juga kesal kerana Naib Presiden MCA itu cuba mengalihkan perhatian terhadap keretakan dalaman MCA kepada sesuatu perkara yang langsung tidak menjadi isu.

Dalam laporan akhbar Utusan Malaysia hari ini, Naib Presiden MCA, Dato' Donald Lim Siang Chai dilaporkan berkata akan wujud ketegangan dan mencetuskan suasana tidak baik kepada perniagaan dan ekonomi jika semua parti berasaskan kaum Cina berpihak kepada pembangkang dan hanya parti berasaskan orang Melayu menjadi parti memerintah.

Sementara itu Ketua Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat, Salahuddin Ayub pula berpendapat kenyataan Donald Lim Siang itu mengambarkan satu sikap perkauman yang sempit.

Beliau juga menjelaskan bahawa kenyataan itu mengambarkan bahawa MCA kini berada dalam keadaan terdesak dan parti tersebut tidak memahami erti demokrasi yang sebenarnya.

"MCA sebenarnya menghadapi masalah yang sama dengan Umno iaitu parti itu juga sedang menuju kehancuran," kata beliau.

Salahuddin juga menegaskan bahawa pendapat yang dikeluarkan oleh Naib Presiden MCA itu mengambarkan bahawa MCA sebenarnya merupakan sebuah parti chauvenist Cina.

"MCA sering menuduh DAP sebagai parti chauvenist Cina sedangkan hakikatnya mereka yang bersifat begitu," tegas beliau.

Beliau turut menegaskan bahawa MCA dan Umno adalah merupakan dua buah parti yang sering mewujudkan masalah kaum di negara ini.

BN, UMNO FACE OBLIVION WITHOUT REFORM : TAN SRI MUHYIDDIN

Trade and Industry Minister and UMNO vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today warned that the ruling party, Barisan Nasional and its coalition which has led for half a century, now faces oblivion at the next elections if it fails to reform.

The Barisan Nasional coalition, helmed by the ruling UMNO, has floundered since March 8 general elections which saw a resurgent opposition scoring unprecedented victories.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin, one of whom has called for premier Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign before his planned departure in 2010, said the party must address internal conflicts and the opposition threat immediately if it still wants member confidence.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin claimed at a press conference that the situation which is very serious and it is of concern not only to UMNO members but to the country at large, to the Barisan Nasional and people who cares about what is happening to the government.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin stated that if nothing happens then I am not too sure if the lifespan of Barisan Nasional, of UMNO in particular, can sustain beyond the year 2013, referring to the scheduled date of the next general election.

Now its clear UMNOputras are worried at last they are going to lose all the 'power' and may eventual face demise.

UMNOputras have all this while been inconsiderate to the non-UMNOputras and it is hoped that they should finally learn their lesson when most of their 'great' leaders are arrested and charged for corruption and various 'other crimes' to the the rakyat and government.

It is not just the departure of PM Datuk Seri Abdullah is hoped for. Malaysians want to change the Barisan Nasional government totally since they are uncaring, ineffective, inefficient and corrupted.

But Malaysians at large, other than the UMNOputra leaders, are hoping for a Opposition government to take over anytime now so that a new vision can emerge.

Malaysians will finally get rid of these power-crazy and corrupted UMNO and BN people once and for all.

Will UMNO realise what is happening and immediately CHANGE to be more accomodative for all Malaysians?

news n photo courtesy of Malaysiakini

Pak Lah set to defend Umno presidency

(The Malaysian Insider) Barring a last-minute turnaround, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will go ahead and defend his position as Umno party president, despite some pressure from the ground for him to short-circuit his transition plan.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that the Prime Minister reached this decision after meeting several Umno supreme council members, state liaison chiefs and political operatives over the weekend at his official residence Sri Perdana.

The consensus among this group, which includes Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor, is that Abdullah should be able to garner the minimum 58 nominations needed to contest the top post. Abdullah's supporters said that with the green light from him, they will hit the ground and conduct a no-holds-barred campaign for the next few weeks to ensure that he gets the nominations when Umno divisions begin their divisional meetings.

This decision by Abdullah to defend his party president's position will come as a surprise to many, especially those in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's camp. During the supreme council meeting on Thursday, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Rafidah Aziz and Datuk Shafie Apdal urged Abdullah to hand over the reins to Najib soon, with Rafidah saying that the PM will face difficulty getting the minimum number of nominations.

Hearing this feedback, many party officials and political pundits expected him to announce that he would not contest the party elections.

But instead of demoralising Abdullah and his supporters, the attack by Hishammuddin and others had the opposite effect. Abdullah's camp felt that despite being magnanimous by handing over the Finance portfolio and even suggesting during a press conference that he would hand over power to Najib much earlier than 2010, he was being pushed to the wall.

A senior party official told The Malaysian Insider: "You can push someone up to a point only. After that it becomes humiliating. So it is rubbish to say that Pak Lah will be humiliated if he contests the party elections. Some people are already trying to do this. He has nothing to lose by keeping to the original transition plan.''

This decision will spook the DPM and his supporters. Najib can ill-afford an all-out battle for the party presidency. With his strong support base on the ground he will be the favourite to get more nominations than Abdullah but it will come at a great cost to him and his desire to lead a united party.

As such, Najib is likely to support Abdullah's desire to contest the party elections, knowing that a no-holds-barred contest will damage both of them badly.

What’s Tunku doing in DAP?

Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim raised many eyebrows, not least from associates, when he joined DAP in August and was promptly named a vice-president of the party. The co-founder of the Malaysian chapter of Transparency International has no intention of being a token Malay presence in the multi-racial but Chinese-dominated party. He has found a new platform in the DAP to advocate transparency, accountability, justice and equality.

THE EDGE DAILY

The Edge Financial Daily caught up with him recently where he spoke about the challenges facing the DAP, especially in reaching out to the Malay community, what ails the country, the spirit of the nation’s founding fathers and his plans in the party. While many would have rested on their laurels at age 74, Tunku Aziz, a former Bank Negara adviser and former group director of Sime Darby, has the enthusiasm of a young man, and is all geared up to help push the ideal of creating a better Malaysia.

The following are excerpts of the interview by Sharon Tan and Abdul Ghani Hamat.

Q: Tunku, why did you join a political party at this age?
A: Given what has been happening recently in our country and I thought that if you want to help make a difference, you have to be involved. What I have always wanted to see developing is a Malaysia which is multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious. Basically the values that the founding fathers of this nation bestowed on this country. Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Sambanthan, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, I mean these people believed in a Malaysia that was united and they could put aside differences for the larger interest of the country. Of course the loss of the independence was something that I have felt keenly... I have felt that since I joined DAP, many organisations that I have worked very closely with suddenly feel a little uncomfortable. Consequently, I am dropping out, because to me these associations are not important. We look at the larger picture.

Q: So it’s now more of an arm’s length approach in your dealings with other organisations?
A: Yes, in a polite sort of way. I think they have made it very clear that they will say hello to me from a distance. This is what’s so sad about our country. If you are not part of the ruling party then you are regarded as an enemy, which is not true because the whole basis of governance, if you like, or development, is inclusiveness. It doesn’t matter what a person’s political affiliations and religious inclination may be. That person, if he is a good citizen of the country and if he can make contribution, I think he should be embraced and not rejected. So this is something, I suppose, that will come about as we mature.

Q: But what finally clinched it for you... Tell us about the actual moment you decided to join the DAP?
A: Well, it has taken a long time... I saw DAP maturing over time. They started off as we all know as just an alternative Chinese party, chauvinistic, very crude in their approach but over time you have seen that these people have lived up to their own high standards. They have fought for justice. They have fought for equality in opportunity and one thing you can say about these people, the DAP leadership, is that they practise what they preach, unlike many other leaders in other political parties. So in the end, I thought that if I was thinking seriously about politics, then it would have to be DAP. In fact, I could have joined and fought an election for DAP years and years ago, because they asked me even then, invited me to join them and said that they would be happy if I were to stand for election on their ticket.

Q: When was this?
A: This was a long time ago. More than 10 years. Can’t remember which election now but certainly a long, long time ago.

Q: Obviously they have a high regard for you and you for them. Was the offer of vice-presidency part of the deal for you to come in?
A: No! Absolutely not (laughs). No. There was absolutely no deal of any kind. There was no discussion of any kind. I just said that I wanted to join, filled up my application form and paid my RM100 life membership and there was utterly not one word and I would not have asked for anything. I just wanted to be part of the party for what it stands. Because what DAP stands for coincides with my own personal views and beliefs. So that is as simple as that. So it is not a marriage of convenience.

It does provide a platform for me to continue to work against corruption because this has been what has driven me all these years, even before the word corruption was talked about in this country. Transparency International, which I helped to set up with like-minded people like Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, Raja Aziz Adruse, Datuk Ronald McCoy... felt that corruption would create all kinds of problems for our country. And I think you can see every day what is happening. No department of government is free of corruption. Every level of the civil service is tainted.

You may know that I was a member of the Royal Police Commission that looked into the police service and in our report which consisted of 125 recommendations, we made it very clear that every level of the police force has been touched by corruption. We are not saying that every policeman or every police officer is corrupt but every level. The report has been fully vindicated and that has confirmed what we have always known. To me this is crucial.

Malaysia has developed to such an extent and if you want this development to be sustainable, we have to change. We have to reform the government, we have to change the way we conduct our affairs. I am not just talking about the running of the country but also the way we do business in the corporate sector. So hence my position on good governance, on corporate social responsibility and all of these things, because I believe that Malaysia, given half our talents which are available but which are not often fully utilised, we could really be a great country.

If only we would use these talents properly irrespective of whether they are Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazan or whatever. This is part of my great dream and DAP gives me this platform. I could not have possibly joined any party. I could not go into Umno because Umno is race-based and I believe there is no future for race-based parties whether it is MCA or MIC. Fifty years after Independence I think we should be looking at probably the next 5,000 years of what is going to happen to this country.

Can we just go on as we are going on now? Barely tolerating each other? We must go beyond tolerance. We must go for national integration. We are not talking about assimilation. We are not talking about one race dominating another. We are talking about integration. We are talking about Bangsa Malaysia, but each ethnic group will retain its cultural identity. You cannot tell me I am not a Malay, I won’t accept that because culturally I am a Malay. I think we should allow people to keep that part, but in national terms, we are all Bangsa Malaysia.

This is how we have seen great countries developed. In the US, for example they are much more diverse than we are and yet every person is an American. Why is it that when we are abroad, we call ourselves Malaysians, but the moment you walk through KLIA, you become Chinese, you become Malay?

Q: Has DAP, the party, really changed that much from the 1960s and 1970s that you have so much confidence in it? A: I think change is a process, which by its nature will be slow. But don’t forget DAP has been in existence for some 40 years or more. And you can see they are changing and they are changing for the better. I have attended one or two of their meetings on the central committee and found that the whole process is very democratic. None of the formalities that you see on TV... (meetings of other parties). Many of these people are senior professionals, yet the whole approach is very basic in terms of formalities and so forth. They are much more interested really in substance rather than form.

One of the reasons why I had this idea to go into DAP is that, I think I can help to make them realise that one of the changes they have to make is to win the hearts and minds of the Malays while at the same time keeping their core Chinese membership happy. It’s a difficult balancing act... because they can’t just say we want more Malays. First the Malays must feel comfortable, must feel that DAP is capable of looking after their interests. And as we all know, the test of the pudding is in the eating. No point just saying this is what we will do for you. Let’s see you do it.

Now DAP is governing Penang and in control of at least two other states, this is the time to show that you want to improve the lives of those people who are currently marginalised, and many of these marginalised people happen to be Malays.

Q: But that is not the full extent of Malay interest. Can DAP reconcile their political principles and Malay interests as enshrined in the Constitution, and those that are not?
A: I think they are working on this because they realised that it is not all about poverty alleviation but also, as you put it quite rightly, the constitutional principles. I think speaking from my own point of view, what I would like to see is in fact our going back to the 1957 constitution. The original Malayan constitution. As we know over the years the constitution has been amended to such an extent that a lot of the original spirit has all but disappeared. I think this is again causing a lot of the problems today.

I think the important thing is one of legitimacy. While the special position of the Malays must be respected and protected as provided for in the constitution, we must at the same time not forget that if we really want a united Malaysia, the rights of the other races must also be guaranteed. I think the 1957 constitution does provide for this. And we should then work on making the provisions better instead of making them worse. I am not suggesting that these things can be done quickly. It will take time.

It will have to be a case of giving some and taking some. It is just not the Malays who feel that they are being asked to give but also the other races must do the same. You give some, you take some. I think this is the only basis in which we can build a sustainable future for Malaysia but otherwise you see disagreement all the time, and you get people making silly and dangerous remarks like ‘You Chinese are immigrants, you Chinese are squatters.’

I think all of us have to recognise that we are all in it together and the fact that some have come here more recently really is immaterial. The Malays have been here much longer but we are not talking about the past. And for that matter some Chinese have been here longer than many Malays. We don’t want to harp on the past. We want to talk about the present, where it leads us to from now on.

Q: You mentioned the likes of Sambanthan, Tan Siew Sin, the generation of leaders you admire. Where did the country go wrong? How did we flounder in our quest for a multi-racial, multi-religious country? What didn’t we do right?
A: I think where we went was, just to assume that simply because we said we are multi-racial, (therefore) we are united, etc. I mean it doesn’t really mean anything unless the policy we develop and adopt is seen to work in favour of a united Malaysian nation. When we adopted the NEP, yes there was some disquiet, but I think people who were fair, people of good will right across the nation realised that this was something that had to be done. And I commented a long, long time ago that the government, in trying to find a solution for this disparity, hit the nail on the head.

But then through the years, as I know and others know, very quickly the NEP was turned into a party mechanism to entrench political patronage. Really, it’s the implementation that people are not happy with. I think not just Malays but everybody could understand the political imperatives of the NEP. They could understand the social imperatives of the NEP. They could also understand the economic imperatives of the NEP. What I think upset a lot of people was the abuse.

Another example is the ISA today. Zaid has hit out. He is a staunch Umno member, you would have expected him not to say those things but what he is saying is what all of us are saying. There is a need for the ISA if the country is under threat to national security and public order. And it was put in place for a particular reason. But surely in this day and age, we have enough laws on our statute books to provide for every contingency, why do we need to use the ISA? And it has been abused in the recent three cases. Is this how you show the world and you show your own people that you are managing the country with fairness, efficiency, with equity, justice?

Q: How much of the problems of corruption and administrative abuses are due to the fact that there is seemingly little separation between the government of the day and civil service?
A: The damage was created by the Mahathir administration. When he came in, he had no understanding of the workings of the civil service, unlike the previous PMs who were all civil servants or former civil servants. Mahathir just dispensed with their advice. He wanted to do everything according to his own standards and civil servants were marginalised. They were under threat. They felt threatened, very senior people were demoted. They became de-motivated.

And there was no longer any separation. Because what happened was second guessing, they weren’t making decisions anymore. The top civil servants weren’t even making decisions anymore because they were frightened. I used to be invited as guess lecturer at Intan to talk to very senior people and on every course, they would complain about political interference.

So one day I said to them “look, sorry to hear that, but if you are asking me for sympathy, you are not getting any. It’s your own fault. First you know the powers that you have because civil servants have more powers than ministers.” And yet they allowed these powers to be taken, abrogated by ministers. Ministers telling them what to do. And yet there are some good civil servants who would say, “Yes, minister but would you give your instructions in writing?”

I’m told that very few ministers dare to do that. You know your power, you must also know the limits of ministerial powers so that you can stand up to them and say: “Sorry, minister. It cannot be done.” This is what civil servants used to do until the time of Tun Hussein. They would say, “Yes, we would love to do that for you but it cannot be done for these reasons....” So, I think this has been a problem.

Twenty-two years of Mahathir’s administration has done considerable damage to every important national institution. Emasculated completely the judiciary, the police, the AG’s chambers, the ACA, which claimed they were independent but we all knew they were not independent. So this is why a lot of us now want good governance. Good governance merely, if it means nothing else, is about going by the book. Performing your duties according to the rules. If you just do that, I think Malaysia will be a better place.

Q: Given that the line (separating politicians from civil servants) is so blurred and corruption is so entrenched, it will take a lot of time and effort to rectify things. Where and how do we start?
A: We must start with political will. Everything must start from there. But the ruling party does not have that. I know. So that is going to be a problem because unless they have the political will. Well, they claimed that they are providing leadership in this area, they want the ACA, after a lot of urgings on our part, to be made into an independent commission. Right now they say they are going to make it happen, but I doubt it.

Q: Why?
A: Because in the first place, they said it would all be done by the end of this year and on the Jan 1, it will all be there but it is not going to happen. The proposal should be made public so that people like us can comment. But we don’t know what ACA has given the government. In any case, it shouldn’t be just the ACA proposing this because they are an interested party. This is where conflict of interest comes in.

It should be a public document — these are the proposals for the setting up of an independent commission and public should be asked if have any comments to make. But at the end of the day, of course, when we talk about political will we are talking about the government’s willingness to put in place effective mechanisms for checks and balances.

Government must be prepared to make sure that enforcement is carried out effectively because the unfortunate thing about the country is that we are replete with laws. You name a law, we have it, and yet why is the country in such a mess? And that is putting it very kindly.

Because enforcement is ineffectual, enforcement is more honoured in the breach than.... As long as you have this situation, you are not going to get very far. And this why people are now talking about change, because the government is obviously not changing. If only they had taken the hint when they came into power in 2004, when they were riding extremely high. If only at that time they had made the necessary changes. I don’t think we would have this today.

Q: You seem to put the blame squarely on Datuk Seri Abdullah as the head of the party (Umno).
A: Absolutely! Who else do you blame?

Q: Apart from attracting more Malays to join the party, what are the other challenges facing DAP as it looks forward to a bigger role in the country?
A: How do you see these challenges unfold given that the party’s ability to rule has not been tested, except for the work-in-progress Penang. I think no party in this country, this is something we have to accept, effectively govern without the support of the Malays. Having said that, we obviously also need the support of all the other races. If we can have the multi-racial kind of support, that would help.

DAP has to work extremely hard quite apart from being democratic as a party to win the hearts and minds of the Malays principally, but also hearts and minds of the other races. Because don’t forget, although there are a lot of Chinese in DAP, they are a lot more Chinese who are not in DAP. So those people have to be won over and you can win over these people only if you have policies which are fair and just and which will protect the livelihood of the people, give the country a measure of stability and protect against crime and whatever have you. There are a lot of issues. There are so many outstanding issues that the DAP would have to concentrate on.

Over time, I hope we will be able to do that. One of the things which I am going to do as part of my remit in DAP is to set up the equivalent of an eminent persons group. People who are not necessarily even DAP members but people who want this to be a better country. We must tap the talents of a lot of people around us in terms of the economic development of the country, in terms of the political development of the country, in terms of race relations, in terms of any number of issues, sociological issues, instead of excluding all these people and developing your own plan... you are not going to get very far.

I think people must be involved. Up and down the line. Not just among us in KL but right out in the kampung, in the Chinese new villages, in the rural areas. Make people feel that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. DAP is not a monster. That it is a party that will in fact take care of their needs and be fair to them.

This is not easy. This is very difficult especially amongst the Malays who have been extremely suspicious for a very, very long time. They have to be won over. They can only be won over only if the see some evidence on the ground. I think they are trying to do that in Penang. So many years of BN rule in Penang and it has not moved much.

Q: Most Malays see the DAP as not having the legitimacy to represent the non-Malays as probably Gerakan did in Penang and MCA in the rest of the country. It is also seen as a party for the working class, rather than one that represents the intellectuals, professionals, people across the spectrum. As you said, the party is shedding the monster tag, so what do you think it should be doing to address this (membership composition) issue?
A: I agree entirely with you that it is still seen very much as a working class party, that it is not really a party for the white collar, the middle-classes if you like. Of course, they have to change and I think if they can start to attract a lot more professional people of all races, then it would be seen at a balance. Otherwise it always has the look and the feel of a labour party. Party for the workers. They have to change. This is one of the issues that they have to pay attention to.

Q: This is being addressed?
A: Yes, within the party there are debates going on all these issues. Because DAP has to re-brand itself and it has to develop. In business, if you are re-branding yourself, you should also have a good product. DAP must create a new desirable product which is the point you made earlier.

Q: How does it feel to be part of the change process?
A: I feel excited because we have been in this mould which was a comfort zone for many of us for a long time. But then we suddenly realised we have to break the mould in order to free ourselves, in order to take Malaysia into the new century and to put Malaysia at the top table of great nations. And there is no reason why we can’t be a great nation.

In spite of all the problems we have been through, we have achieved so much. I think a bit more effort should bring about unity, bring about political and economic sustainability. We don’t want a one-off thing, a flash in the pan. Anyone can do that. And we have seen this happened in many countries and what happened was that they all fizzled out. But we want sustainability particularly in race relations. This is terribly important.

Q: Do you see moderation in national politics after March 8?
A: Ideally that should be the case. But it is very difficult for a party or for BN which has dominated the politics of this country for such a long time to take its defeat graciously.

Q: Let’s look to the future of Pakatan Rakyat. What is your take on power-sharing between the component parties, given that DAP and PAS sit at different ends of the political spectrum. My own thinking on this is that all the race-based parties should dissolve themselves. Is it the same for religion-based parties?
A: (Laughs) Let’s take the easy ones first. Umno can still continue to retain its acronym “UMNO” but it would be United Malaysians National Organisation. In fact, they already have a membership base. The Malays are already there. The Chinese, MCA is already there, MIC is already there. They become the founder members of the new UMNO. So its multi-racial. On the other side, PR is already multi-racial. All they have to do is to combine among themselves, because they have to learn how to share power. Similarly on this side, if they become the government, I think this will then eventually make it possible for Malaysia to have a two-party system.

We leave PAS for a while out of this situation. You have a two party system which is basically what we need. If the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy is our choice, which is what we have adopted for 50 years or more, then the two party system should be the basis. Now where do we put PAS in it? PAS, I think, is changing. It will still say that it wants to see an Islamic-based Malaysia, etc. Here again, PAS would have to find accommodation and vice versa.

As long as they can find accommodation, I can’t really speculate on how this will be achieved but I am sure (it will). PAS has in its ranks some very outstanding people. They have some great thinkers. People who are highly, highly educated, so we are not dealing with pondok religious teachers. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that PAS is just a group of extreme Islamists. No, they are not. These people are very shrewd. They understand the realities of the 21st century and beyond. So we have to sit down with them and thrash out some of these things.

Q: Aren’t they the biggest power broker in the country?
A: They are. You are right. Absolutely right. They are.

Q: In a way, PAS is a mirror image of DAP, except that it is religion-based. They have clever people at the top with their own ideas of the right way forward... How do you come to terms with having to settle for a compromise in PR?
A: Here again they would have to find a middle way. PAS must realise that on its own it cannot be an effective government. Similarly the other parties must recognise they cannot do without PAS because PAS, in fact, represents the spiritual values of the Malays because of their religion. And while many Malays are prepared to accept a political system which is not religious based, they are also very conscious of the fact, more so than the other races. The Malays put their religion at the very centre of their existence. I think this has to be recognised by all. These are the complexities and the nature of our society.

Q: Something that DAP would have to grapple with?
A: Something that you will have to grapple with. It is not something that can be swept under the mat.

Q: Do you see the possibility of PAS supplanting Umno as the dominant Malay-based party?
A: That is a possibility. In fact they say politics is the art of the possible. So I cannot rule out that they could supplant, but then that would be reversing the order of things we would like for Malaysia.

Q: DAP does not believe in the NEP and wants to do away with it. NEP is important to the Malays. How does DAP assure the Malays that none of their rights would be eroded?
A: I think we should extend NEP not just to the Malays but to everybody. The main purpose originally was to redress the (economic) imbalance. The extreme poor just by accident happened to be Malays. And now we have added to this end of the spectrum, Indians and of course there are Chinese who are poor. The whole purpose of the original NEP was to improve the condition of the poor, not just in monetary terms but in terms of employment, in terms of education. If we can continue with this, I think the Malays will support it because many Malays themselves have been opposed to the NEP, because of the way NEP has been applied. And they could see that the NEP has been used as a party tool. It has been used to reward division chiefs, to buy votes. Surely this was not the intent to begin with.

So if we can have use of NEP in a way which is seen as fair and just, which meets the basic requirement of alleviating poverty, I think it would have the support. So it got to be re-worked. The whole thing has to be re-worked so that it meets the aspirations of the people. I can honestly claim that I have not benefited from the NEP because I made a conscious decision not to go in cap- in-hand to ministers asking for projects or contracts, and so on, because I feel that first the NEP was not intended for someone like me who could still earn a living without having to ask for government assistance.

And there are a lot of Malays who are like me. Those who have benefited are those who are close to Umno. You have to be very, very close to Umno. In other words, just a few people benefitting from this, and this is again one of the reasons for Malays in rural areas not voting for Umno. This was unheard of.

Q: Do you think your entry into DAP will be a prelude more Malays joining the party?
A: Well, I wouldn’t be so vain as to think that this would happen. People just don’t join an organisation simply because their friend is in there. I think people do make a conscious decision about things like this. Hopefully they will realise that times are changing and there is no reason why a multi-racial party should not be attractive in terms of meeting the needs of Malaysia in the future.

Dr M calls for unity among BN parties

(The Malaysian Insider) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called on Barisan Nasional component parties to close ranks instead of continuing the blame game.

The former prime minister insisted that his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was at fault, and lamented that Umno, MCA, Gerakan and MIC kept their dislike for the current PM private.

"None seems willing to acknowledge that it was dislike for Abdullah which caused the BN to lose the support of the people. Instead, they picked on the parties and blamed each other," he said.

Dr Mahathir wrote in his latest blog posting that the BN government has managed to keep Malaysia stable all this while, and its seeming inability to do so now was not because BN was no longer suitable but due to "very poor and incompetent leadership," an apparent reference to Abdullah.

In the aftermath of Sabah Progressive Party's exit from the ruling coalition, Dr Mahathir warned that "at the rate things are going the BN might split asunder."

He said that threats to leave BN made by Chinese parties are not just because of former Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail's refusal to apologise for "unpalatable remarks about the Chinese."

According to Dr Mahathir, it is the impression that they are subservient to Umno that has caused them to take potshots at Umno and defy the BN leadership.

Dr Mahathir also said that there is a loss of confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the economy, leading to the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index to drop from a high of almost 1,500 points to below 1,000, and the ringgit to depreciate.

He asserted that these problems would not be solved by the opposition coalition taking over the government as "it is difficult to think that the hodge-podge collection of incompatible parties can handle oncoming economic and financial problems that are inevitable."

As such he advised against BN component parties joining Pakatan Rakyat but instead echoed the calls of many component party leaders to review the structure of BN with regards to inter-party relations.

Muhyiddin: BN needs reforms to avoid losing power

(The Malaysian Insider) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continued applying pressure on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi today, saying Umno and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition needed urgent reforms to avoid losing the next general election.

The Umno vice president did not specifically what kind of reforms he was referring to, but he is among a host of senior leaders who have already called for Abdullah to retire early amid widespread unrest in Umno.

"If nothing happens then I am not sure if the life span of BN and Umno can be sustained beyond the year 2013," he said, in reference to the end of the current government's term of office.

"It is a very serious situation. It is of concern not only to Umno members but to the country at large, to the Barisan Nasional and people who care about what is happening to the government."

Muhyiddin has been particularly critical of the transition plan hammered out between Pak Lah and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which will see the latter taking over by 2010.

He said it should be Umno members who decide who they want as their leader.

Umno's divisional elections will start after Hari Raya Puasa and will see nominations come in for the top party posts.

Senior Umno leaders are eager to put together a common stand on the transition plan by then, to ensure the party is not split as it chooses its leaders while facing a considerable threat from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

Muhyiddin and a number of other leaders appear to support moves for Abdullah to leave office earlier.

"What has been agreed upon is only a convention. There is no such provision in the constitution," he said. "We don't elect leaders unconstitutionally. We elect leaders based on procedures."

Bernama quoted Muhyiddin as saying that it was up to the Prime Minister now to decide if he would hand over power before Oct 9, when the Umno divisions will start their meetings.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, he believed that Abdullah knew what was happening on the ground.

Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption to replace ACA next year

(The Sun) THE Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC) that will replace Anti-Corruption Agency early next year will be as independent as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hongkong.


Datuk Dr Mohd Tap Salleh

Malaysian Integrity Institute (IIM) president Datuk Dr Mohd Tap Salleh said as MCAC is modelled after ICAC, it will be absolutely independent.

He said corruption in Hongkong was once worse than that in Malaysia but with the formation of the ICAC, the problem has greatly improved.

Everyone hails it for its efficiency and independence and there is no reason why the MCAC which will be structured along ICAC will not be truly independent.

"I want to emphasise that MCAC will be independent, even the current Anti-Corruption Agency is independent. We cannot say it is unable to do much just because it comes under the Prime Minister's Department," Mohd Tap told Sin Chew Daily in an interview published today.

He said the problem with Malaysians is that they only complain that the authorities are not doing enough but they themselves do not play their part or provide information and evidence to help in investigations.

He said many people complain about blocked drains and blame the local government for not cleaning them, but they never realised that the drains are clogged because of rubbish thrown by them.

He stressed that corruption cannot be rooted out completely. Even Finland, which is perceived as the world's least-corrupt country, only scored nine plus for the anti-corruption perceptions index (ACPI) and not a perfect 10.

If the public do not offer leads to help the authorities clean up corrupt elements, do not expect the situation to improve in the country, he said.

"Without leads (from the public), ACA will find it hard to initiate investigations; without evidence, action cannot be taken against suspects.

"If the public do not change their attitude, even if ACA has 20,000 officers, it still cannot do much," he said.

Mohd Tap said the recent successes of the ACA are before us.

"If you said it (ACA) is not proactive or not independent, the top officials from the immigration would not have been hauled up."

He said according to conservative estimates, if there is no corruption in Malaysia, the government would have saved RM500 million a year.

But the actual figure could be higher, he said.

He said RM500 million is a large sum as it can be used to build schools, roads and for other infrastructure, or even used to raise the living standard of the people.

"But because of the problem of corruption, the government has lost a lot of money. The ACA should not have been there in the first place, it was set up only because it is needed to fight corruption."

He said the institute has, since last year, been carrying out nation-wide surveys on corruption perceptions index to get Malaysians

to give their views and opinions, so that the institute can make recommendations to the government to make improvements.

"Last year, we sent out the questionnaire on perceptions on corruption and the public service delivery system to 10,023 families, 4,031 civil servants and 913 trade organisations.

He said a similar survey conducted this year will be completed by the end of next month and hoped that the results would show an improved score (which means less corruption).

He said IIM received funding from the National Statistics Department and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister's Department to carry out the survey which, together with the compilation and analysis of statistics, costs RM1 million.

Muhyiddin Puts More Pressure On Pak Lah

(Sin Chew) KUALA LUMPUR: Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Monday (22 Sept) it is up to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to decide whether to hand over power before 9 Oct.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, he believed that Abdullah knew what was happening on the ground.

Muhyiddin's comments came after several Umno supreme council members said over the weekend that there was no pressure on Abdullah to step down before the agreed transition period timeframe of June 2010.

Abdullah himself had indicated that he might decide whether he would leave earlier than the June 2010 deadline.

Muhyiddin, who is International Trade and Industry Minister, was speaking to reporters after delivering his keynote address at the Malaysia-Japan Business Forum, organised by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Association (Majeca) at the Mandarin Oriental here Monday.

Bubarkan semua parti perkauman

Jimadie Shah Othman | Sep 22, 08 6:33pm
Untuk kepentingan negara, “semua parti perkauman wajar dibubarkan segera” dan digantikan “dengan gabungan parti pelbagai bangsa”, kata Pemuda PAS Wilayah Persekutuan.

“Isu perkauman seharusnya diletak ke tepi dan tidak dijadikan agenda politik bagi mana-mana parti.

"Penggunaan sendi perkauman dalam dunia politik akan menyebabkan ketidakstabilan dan perpecahan,” kata ketua penerangan dewan itu Herman Samsudeen.

Gesaan itu sebagai susulan kenyataan Naib Presiden MCA Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai yang dilaporkan mengingatkan masyarakat Cina tentang “bahaya” jika semua parti kaum itu berpihak kepada pembangkang dan hanya parti Melayu menjadi parti memerintah.

Menurut Donald lagi, senario itu sudah pasti akan mewujudkan ketegangan dan mencetuskan suasana tidak baik kepada perniagaan dan ekonomi.

Ekoran itu, Herman yang menyifatkan Donald “cuba menyemarakkan isu perkauman bagi memastikan MCA sebagai parti khusus kaum Cina tidak dibubarkan”.

Beliau menuntut pemimpin kanan MCA itu menarik balik kenyataannya dan dikenakan tindakan tegas.

Dalam kenyataannya hari ini, Herman berkata:

“Seandainya parti-parti kaum Cina berhijrah kepada pembangkang, negara ini bukan diperintah oleh kaum Melayu sahaja kerana ketika itu, Pakatan Rakyat yang berbilang bangsa ini akan jadi kerajaan.”

Beliau menyifatkan kenyataan Donald itu dibuat untuk memenangi hati kaum itu selepas wujud kecenderungan ahli-ahli parti komponen BN untuk bersama Pakatan.

Call to think out of the box on race relations


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Monday, 22 September 2008 07:12am

Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin©The Sun
by Karen Arukesamy

PETALING JAYA (Sept 21. 2008): The government needs to think out of the box in making decisions for the people, instead of just behaving like “I know what is best for the rakyat”, say experts.

The cabinet's recent decision to formulate a Race Relations Act (RRA) to strengthen inter-racial ties and promote integration may not be the best solution, according to some.

“No law can strengthen anything. Any law, by definition, is not a social force that can create or strengthen unity but it can prevent unity from being destroyed,” said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.

He said the RRA is not only for ethnic but also economic, political and other aspects, adding that many European countries have the law.

“The law ensures that any form of discrimination in terms of racism and the like are prevented in the country,” Shamsul told theSun, adding that “that in a way puts the bad element at bay while the good remains.”

However, he said, the most important thing is not the law but “the government asking the people what they want”.

“It is about the people after all. It is so rushed. The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has to stop telling the people ‘I know what is best for you’,” Shamsul stressed, adding that it should respect the people.

He urged the government to conduct a referendum to get feedback from the rakyat about this law.

“Get the mandate from the people! The people should be consulted first in enacting this law because it is directly related to them,” said the professor of social anthropology, who is also founding director of UKM Institute of Ethnic Studies.

International Movement for a Just World (JUST) president Dr Chandra Muzaffar also opined that formulating laws are not enough to strengthen inter-racial ties.

“The country needs policies and implementations that are fair and just to all Malaysians,” he said.
“I don't know how much law we can make. Laws on ethnic relations may only be able to play a punitive role and, at the same time, promote certain elements of good behaviour,” he said.

The act, which aims to strengthen race relations, promote integration, raise patriotic spirit and build a tolerant and harmonious society, is being drafted by a panel headed by the Home and the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministries. “Policies are more important to look after the interests of everyone,” he added.

“It is not like law is the only solution (to promote race relations). We need policies that are just and fair to everyone. We also need just and fair implementation of the policies," he said.

Chandra, who is well-versed in ethnic relations and civilisational dialogues, also said there should be good and trustworthy leaders at all levels to deal with the matter fairly and justly.

“Laws generally have their punitive roles and seek to punish those who exploit communal feelings and encourage people to play a good role in promoting race relations.

“The people must be educated about each other’s sensitivities, about our nation's history and the contemporary situation to which we have evolved, through the schools, media and community organisations,” said Chandra, adding that “knowing each other's sensitivities is extremely important”.

Open debate not right forum to discuss religion


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Monday, 22 September 2008 08:41am

Open debate not right forum to discuss religion
IPOH: Islamic matters should not be debated in open discussions like those organised by the Bar Council but in special forums presided over by Islamic authorities.

Malaysian Islamic Organisations Consultative Council (Mapim) coordinator Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid said the council needed to understand that issues concerning Islam were not things that just “come out of the blue.”

“There had been heated discussions on very sensitive issues,” he told reporters after the national launch of Mapim at Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s residence yesterday.

“When the (Bar) Council starts organising forums that will encroach and discuss things pertaining to Islamic laws, problems will arise, he said.

Mohd Azmi was responding to questions on whether Mapim, comprising 22 Islamic NGOs, was open to engaging in discussions on sensitive religious matters like conversion.

“We are ready to have dialogues to discuss these issues, but not in the way the (Bar) Council usually does it, through open forums,” he said.

“Any party that wants to discuss or have their views on Islam heard should do this in a special forum.”

The special forum, he said, should be presided over by Islamic authorities so that clarification can be given to those who question Islam’s teachings.”

However, Mohd Azmi stressed that Mapim was determined to work with non-Islamic NGOs on matters pertaining to social economy, governance, and development.He added that Mapim’s main focus was creating better racial stability in the country and helping educate the people on racial tolerance.

Earlier, Nizar called on Islamic NGOs to abandon their racial stance in their objectives through a “rebranding” exercise.

“It is not the Islamic way to be racially slanted in what you do. These NGOs must work for the benefit of the people, or their purpose will not be realised,” he said.

Tension and the race card


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Monday, 22 September 2008 08:17am

Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim
by Arman Ahmad

At a recent forum on integration held at Institut Integriti Malaysia, academician Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim spoke out against politicians who were trying to further their careers by playing the race card. Arman Ahmad speaks to Khoo on race relations in Malaysia since independence

Q: After 51 years of independence, do you think this country is the multicultural haven that it has been made out to be?

A: Yes and no. Throughout our history, there have hardly been any serious inter-ethnic problems.

But, at the same time, the people, from a cultural point of view, live quite separately. For a long time in fact, in the years before 1957, they lived in separate areas. Take Kuala Lumpur for instance: the Chinese lived in the centre of town, the Malays lived in Kampung Baru while the Indians lived in Sentul and Brickfields.

At one time, people of each ethnic group would try to go to a shop operated by someone of their race.

Things have changed since then, but there has always been tension because each group does not really understand the other. For anybody to deliberately cause trouble, it would be easy -- because people as a whole do not really know each other.

Q: Why after all this time does the country still face the spectre of poor race relations?

A: So many of our political parties survive by championing the cause of one ethnic group.

In the process, they clash because what one group wants often goes against the desires of the others. That is why tension is created.

Q: You have said that this problem was evident from the beginning of the creation of Malaysia. You have also said that the notion that the British practised "divide and rule" is nonsensical, that it is a lie repeatedly told in our text books. What makes you say all this?

A: There is absolutely no proof that the British practised divide- and-conquer tactics here. The British tried many times after World War 2 to bring the people together.

They established the Communities Liaison Committee in 1949. Later, the 1951 Barnes report recommended the setting up of one type of school and that vernacular schools be demolished. These schools would use the Malay language and English as their medium of instruction. But this was not accepted. The British gave in and revived Chinese schools after pressure from the Chinese community.

It was not the British that created the basis of our racial divide but the people themselves who wanted to stay divided.

For many years, no one wanted to talk about assimilation. Later, they created the term integration but even this has not been successful.

Q: Why do you think Malaysians are so afraid of assimilation or integration?

A: They don't want assimilation because they still want to maintain their separate cultural identities. This is something emotional to them.

From the beginning, Malaysia was made up of three separate major Asian ethnicities coming from Indonesia, China and India. When they came here, they brought over some of the ideals from their respective homelands. They resisted unification. Even till today, they haven't gone through sufficient common experience to abandon their cultural identities.

Q: Are vernacular schools a big reason why this country is divided from a racial standpoint?

A: Vernacular schools are one of the reasons. Children are very important. If you want to shape the thinking and culture of an adult, you have to begin with the young child.

If children are trained not to give priority to ethnicity, then they will grow up as adults who don't care about the differences between races. But, if from a young age, they are trained in schools emphasising the importance of one's race, then they will grow up into such adults.

Q: Is apathy for the country's history part of the reason why we have a problem understanding each other?

A: Malaysians are generally not interested in history because it has no value to make money. (laughs)

Malaysians are only interested in making money. Unfortunately, we are a very materialistic people. Perhaps, this is a remnant of the culture that was brought in by the Chinese and Indians who came here primarily to make money. Gradually over the years, the Malays, too, have changed their outlook on life by learning from them.

Our existing history books have wrong information about so many things -- blaming the British for everything -- but never looking at our own faults.

How can you improve if you don't look at yourself?

Q: Do you think politicians are further dividing us?

A: That's their agenda. It's an easy way to get votes -- just instigate the people.

Politicians are to blame for the Singapore riots of 1964 as well as our own riots in 1969.

Luckily, today, we have become a little more sensible. Otherwise, something could have happened in-between then and now. But, race relations are currently so bad that even a small conflict can spark off an incident. We saw this happen in Kampung Medan. But there have been other instances, at least two of them in Penang.

Q: Do you think other national governments are able to manage race relations better?

A: There are many examples. One of them is the United Kingdom. In London, which is a very cosmopolitan city, people also live separately in their Chinatowns and Little Indias but they don't have serious ethnic problems. This is because the government is very strict about it and will act immediately.

Q: As a Chinese-Malaysian, how do you view your identity as a historian in this country?

A: Sometimes, people look at me as Chinese, but as I am not all the time insistent on acting like one, the Chinese here are sometimes suspicious.

If you are one of them, but don't stick to the cultural barriers, then you may have some problems. Some Chinese people think I don't know much about the history of the Chinese here, but I may know more than them because I have done research while they haven't.

Q: Do you think race-based politics should be a thing of the past?

A: Race-based politics is definitely not good for the country.

For existing parties with a long history of race-based politics, it's not going to be easy to change. It's going to take a long time. It may be even another 50 years before they can change.

Q: What do you think is the best way to integrate Malay-sians today?

A: In schools, allow our children to mix freely. I went to a school which was equally divided between the Malays, Chinese and Indians and I never developed communal feelings. You have to start things from young.

Q: You are a historian, but could you project what Malaysia would be like in the next 50 years? Do you think assimilation will ever happen? Will a true Bangsa Malaysia ever be created?

A: Oh yes, things will change for the better. It's hard to predict when. It's the politicians who are the ones who are resistant to change and will try to stop it.

The reason is simple, if the people change their feelings, then they will not get the support they need. The current race-based parties are the ones which are trying their best to resist change, but change will eventually come.