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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Malaysian psyche


Invariably, being wives of Wakil Rakyat, they were all wearing tons of gold and jewellery and the rescuers had a gala time ‘relieving’ the dead and badly injured of their valuables.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

I really don’t know whether I need to write anything today. I mean, the three news items below are so, so self-explanatory that they certainly do not need further input from me. Nevertheless, you know me, I don’t often allow for something like this to pass without butting in with my comments -- so here goes.

This latest episode of the landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa reminds me of the floods in Johor two years ago. Then, too, there were complaints that the rescuers would not evacuate stranded victims unless they were paid some money. Those who suffered the bad luck of not having any spare cash on their person were left to their own devices. It seems one old Chinese woman died because they would not rescue her.

Many years ago -- some time in the 1980s -- a group of Terengganu women charted a bus to take them to Kuala Lumpur. These were all wives of Terengganu Wakil Rakyat. The Menteri Besar’s wife was supposed to have also joined the excursion but at the eleventh hour she changed her mind.

Just before the bus reached Dungun, it veered off the road and crashed down a ravine. An army truck happened to pass by and the soldiers immediately organised a rescue operation. The Dungun general hospital, which was not that far away, also sent some ambulances and a team of medics.

Nearly all the women were injured, many badly, while some were unconscious. Some died on the spot and others died later in hospital. I lost a number of friends or wives of friends in that crash, one of them my neighbour.

Invariably, being wives of Wakil Rakyat, they were all wearing tons of gold and jewellery and the rescuers had a gala time ‘relieving’ the dead and badly injured of their valuables. The looting was probably regarded as ‘payment’ for dragging the dead and injured out of the ravine.

The sad thing is, this happened to helpless women who were lying dead or badly injured and who could not offer any resistance. And the looting occurred in Terengganu Darul Imam (Terengganu the Land of Faith). And the looters were citizens of Terengganu ‘the Land of Faith’ who would never dream of missing a day of fasting or skipping even one of their five times a day prayers.

Yes, I had better stop here lest Jakim and its cohorts, again, make a police report against me and the police come arrest me on charges of ‘insulting Islam’.


Rescuers were cold hearted

The family of a woman who recently gave birth has accused Malaysian rescue personnel of acting in a cold-hearted manner, resulting in the woman's death in the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy.

This came as residents of the housing estate in Kuala Lumpur, hit by a landslide on Saturday which killed four people and buried 14 houses, said yesterday they were considering suing the government for compensation.

According to news portal Malaysiakini, Ms Ng Yee Ping's husband was desperately digging through the earth with his bare hands to save his wife, a 30-year-old accountant who delivered a son two months ago. He thought help had arrived when rescue personnel reached the scene. But all they reportedly did was throw him a spade.

Speaking at Ms Ng's funeral service on Monday, her mother-in-law, Madam Wong Sai Mooi, said she, her husband, her sons and grandson managed to escape. "But (I) did not know that my daughter-in-law was buried alive. Then I heard my eldest son (Ms Ng's husband) calling his wife, telling her to remain conscious," she was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying.

"Later, a few rescue personnel arrived at the scene but they just threw a spade at (my sons) and did nothing ... (They treated her) like some dead dog or cat," Madam Wong added, claiming that Ms Ng would still be alive if the rescuers had rendered assistance.

Madam Wong's husband, Mr Ng Yong Shun, also accused the rescuers of looting his house after he returned to the house on Sunday morning. "My wife and I examined our safety box and found it opened. Several branded watches and jewellery were missing," Mr Ng, 56, was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying.

Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar came to the defence of the rescuers, citing their lack of training as a reason, according to Malaysiakini. He said the police will conduct a thorough probe into the matter.

Meanwhile, Bukit Antarabangsa residents said they have set up a legal team. Mr N Muniandy, chairman of the residents' association, was quoted by AFP as saying: "If we have concrete evidence, then we will go against the authorities concerned. It is not our fault at all. We are the victims."

In response, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said yesterday the government would consider paying compensation to the landslide victims. (TODAYonline)


Police To Investigate Victim's Complain Against Rescue Team

Selangor Police Chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said a complaint lodged by a Bukit Antarabangsa landslide victim against the search and rescue operations team would be investigated.

The husband of Eng Yee Peng who perished in the landslide at Taman Bukit Mewah, Bukit Antarabangsa here on Saturday (6 Dec), had alleged that the rescue team failed to respond positively when he sought their help to save his wife.

Khalid said police had contacted the husband of Eng to come to the Search and Rescue (SAR) centre to assist in the investigation.

"I was informed of the complaint and police had since contacted the husband yesterday but he had not responded yet, probably because he is still in mourning.

"However, I can assure that a very detailed investigation will be carried out to identify who the said individual was," he told reporters here Tuesday (9 Dec).

A local Chinese daily report claimed that the husband of Eng had sought help from the rescue team but was given a hoe and asked to dig and find his wife on his own.

He added that though no police report was made with regard to the incident, police would still carry out an investigation and urged victims to contact the SAR operations centre or the information centre for help and advise.

"These centre are set up to help victims and they should keep in touch with the centres for the latest information, directive or help. We are also ready to help those who want to return to their damaged houses in search of their valuables," he said.

"All facilities are in place at these centres and victims should come forward and use them. If there was a problem, they can make a report to us."

Meanwhile, search for the missing Sri Lankan maid believed to have been trapped under the rubble when 14 bungalows were fully or partially buried by a landslide that hit Bukit Antarabangsa early Saturday morning, continued Tuesday (9 Dec).

Khalid said the SAR Team, using highly sophisticated devices and equipment to detect trapped victims and sniffer-dogs from the Fire and Rescue Department unit have yet to come up with any positive indication.

"The SAR Team are working very hard and doing everything possible to focus on the house of the victim. They have already digged five-feet into the rubble. There could be a possibility that the victim may have been swept away to another location and we are studying all likely possibilities," he said.

The Sri Lankan maid, Lourdes Mary, in her 30s worked for the family of veterinarian Dr N. Yogeswari, who was killed in the tragedy.

He added that search and rescue operations carried out by the SAR Team was full-steam ahead Tuesday due to the good weather while the Malaysian Public Works Institute (IKRAM) provided the necessary assistance and advise. (Bernama)


'She would be alive if they had helped'

In a frantic attempt to save his wife, a 31-year-old executive was forced to dig through the earth with his bare hands until his fingers bled.

He felt a sense of relief when rescue personnel arrived at the scene. But to his horror, they refused to help him, apart from throwing him a spade.

bukit antarabangsa landslide victim ng yee pengThe startling accusation was made by the family of Ng Yee Ping, a 30-year-old accountant who perished in the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy on Saturday.

Yee Ping (left), who delivered a son two months ago, is believed to have died of internal injuries due to broken ribs.

However, Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar came to the defence of the rescue personnel, citing their lack of training as a reason.

Speaking to reporters at the funeral service for Yee Ping yesterday (Monday), her family vented their frustrations claiming that she could still be alive if rescue personnel had acted promptly.

Recounting the ordeal, yee Ping's mother-in-law Wong Sai Mooi said she and her husband had escaped through the second-floor window. She then called out for her two sons.

"I heard my sons reply, I also heard my grandson crying. I felt relieved but did not know that my daughter-in-law was buried alive.

bukit antarabangsa landslide victim wong sai mooi"Then I heard my eldest son (Yee Ping's husband) calling his wife, telling her to remain conscious," she was quoted as saying by China Press.

At this point, Wong (left) said she knew that her daughter-in-law was trapped, but fearing that there could be another landslide, she told her sons to leave the damaged bungalow.

However, yee Ping's husband refused to leave his wife behind, and after handing his newborn son to his brother, he started to dig with his bare hands. His brother later returned to help him.

'They treated her like a dead dog'

After some time, just as they managed to reach the victim's hand, several rescue personnel passed the area. The brothers asked them for help but were told to wait until more personnel arrived.

"Later, a few rescue personnel arrived at the scene but they just threw a spade at (my sons) and did nothing," she alleged, claiming that Yee Ping could still be alive if they had assisted.

"But they didn't (help). (They treated her) like some dead dog or cat. Would they have done the same if one of their family-members was involved?" she asked bitterly.

Wong's husband, Ng Yong Shun, 56, also accused the rescue personnel of looting his house and consuming his expensive wine.

bukit antarabangsa landslide victim china press reportHe claimed that when he returned to the house on Sunday morning, he was shocked to discover several men in uniform lying on his bed, smoking and drinking his wine.

"One of them had even asked me whether I still wanted these things, if not I should give it to them. Later, my wife and I examined our safety box and found it opened. Several branded watches and jewellery were missing," he said.

According to Oriental Daily News, Ng said he lost 80 bottles of expensive wine worth RM160,000 and six watches worth RM180,000.

Police chief: 'I don't believe'

Commenting on the accusations yesterday, Khalid said he found it hard to believe that rescue personnel would have acted in such a cold-hearted manner.

landslide bukit antarabangsa car"I don't believe that they would sit there and drink alcohol and so on. If there is such a person, could he be seen as a human being?" asked the police chief.

Khalid said the police would meet with the family to gather more information and conduct a thorough probe into the matter.

On the same note, he explained that some rescue personnel who are untrained are not allowed to conduct certain rescue operations.

"You don't expect an ambulance driver to save a buried victim. He is not trained, so if we request untrained personnel for help and they refuse, we shouldn't blame them.

"This is because their lives are in danger too. I think we should respect their decision. To dig and save someone, one has to be trained. For an untrained person, it's a very dangerous task," he said.

Is it a carnival?

landslide selangor cpo khalidKhalid also expressed disappointment with the media for publishing such accounts without verifying the matter with him.

"I hope that before you all write your news, you will consult me first, and make sure such things really happened. Is there anything wrong with that?

"Please, we are working hard here, and you are making it into a situation where people would have a negative impression of us," he told reporters.

Khalid also saw red when quizzed on the 'carnival-like atmosphere' with the abundance of food and other facilities for rescue personnel.

"What do you think? Does it really look like a carnival? If that is the case, you write (what you want), there's no need to ask for my opinion," he thundered.

"Is it a carnival or is the rescue team working hard? If you think it's the former, you just write, it seems you have enough intelligence to comment on it," he added. (Malaysiakini)

Yoga fatwa: All worked up over nothing

By Hazlin Hassan

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 - In the past, it would have been inconceivable for most Malay Muslims to even dare to question a religious cleric.

But two highly controversial fatwas, or edicts, issued recently have sparked intense public debate over decisions made by the country"s top religious body.

Many wondered whether the energy the council expended on banning yoga could have been used to tackle bigger and more pressing issues, such as corruption and poverty.

Malay Muslims in Malaysia are used to obeying their clerics and often believe that learned religious leaders know best.

But times seem to have changed.

When the National Fatwa Council banned tomboyish behaviour and the wearing of trousers by women in a bid to prohibit lesbian sex, there were murmurings of unease among moderate urban Malays.

The edict, issued on Oct 23, was largely ignored.

Fatwas are not legally binding unless gazetted by a state as syariah, or Islamic, law.

Once they are gazetted, the state religious authorities such as the Selangor State Religious Department will enforce such laws.

However, many Muslims traditionally obey such edicts out of deference, even if they are not gazetted.

But when the council barred yoga, an increasingly fashionable form of exercise favoured by many well-to-do urban Malays, it sparked a huge uproar.

Rights groups and yoga practitioners criticised the move, and even studiously reticent royal rulers weighed in on the debate.

It would seem that urban Malays are now less likely to take the word of religious clerics and have no qualms challenging their authority.

The yoga ban sparked not just widespread criticism, but also confusion among state fatwa councils, some of which are now unsure if they should gazette the fatwa and make it law.

The confusion stems partly from the Sultan of Selangor"s rebuke of the National Fatwa Council for issuing the edict.

He also said that all nine royal rulers, who are seen in the country as upholders of the faith, should have been consulted.
The entire debacle was triggered after a lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia advised Muslims to stop practising yoga, saying its Hindu influences contradicted their Islamic faith.
The national council said it then decided to carry out a study on yoga before issuing the fatwa.

But it is unclear what exactly was studied. If council members had visited yoga centres, they would have found that most of those in Kuala Lumpur are staunchly secular.

Classes take place in air-conditioned halls in trendy, expensive gyms with nary a Hindu "Om" or chant to be heard.

Like everybody else, Muslims do yoga as just one of the many ways to

I, too, was taken aback by the ruling, but for selfish reasons. Having managed to evade exercise for much of my life, I had, over the last five years, become fond of the low-impact and deceptively easy exercise.

For one thing, it did not put too much strain on my joints. But it was surprisingly effective. I found I became much more flexible and more relaxed. My yoga instructor certainly did not make me chant any Hindu prayers, and we were never instructed to "become one with God", one of
the reasons, it seems, that prompted the council to order the ban. We were told to envision anything we fancied during meditation, be it the deep blue ocean or a majestic mountain top.

I certainly never felt the urge to convert to Hinduism just because I was doing a downward dog movement. We did sun salutations too, certainly without facing or worshipping the sun.

Some commentators have pointed out that Muslims did not need to resort to yoga to deviate from their faith if they were already so inclined.

Others noted that exercises such as qigong and taiji had roots in Buddhism.

Many more wondered whether the energy the council expended on banning yoga could have been used to tackle bigger and more pressing issues, such as corruption and poverty.

Now, urban Muslims are demanding to know the council's methods in researching and deciding on fatwas.

Ms Aspara Rusli, a 30-year-old businesswoman who took up yoga in March, felt that the clerics should have attended a few yoga classes to find out if they were indeed advocating Hinduism.

"If they actually attended my classes and did some yoga themselves, then they would see it is not a big issue," she said.

Some say the council should be more transparent in issuing edicts.

Others were reminded of a previous fatwa against Muslim women participating in beauty pageants, which came to light only after a raid in 1997. Several young women were handcuffed, thrown into a lock-up, and brought to trial for the offence.

Malaysians were incredulous at the harsh way the women were treated, and worse still, at the fact that few knew the fatwa existed.
Even then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said he felt the action against the women was harsh and degrading.

He was promptly labelled an apostate by some muftis.

As for the yoga fatwa, the depth of the divisions over the issue was revealed when one mufti expressed his disagreement.

Perlis Mufti Asri Zainul Abidin said fatwas announced in this day and age should not be too
rigid. He also said the council should have offered an alternative version of yoga.

Indeed, Muslim yoga practitioners are probably thinking the same thing, that a "halal" form of yoga should be identified and established so that more compliant Muslims would not be confused.

But for now, many yoga practitioners are likely to ignore the fatwa. Conservatives will continue to frown on them and insist Muslims should not question the judgments of learned clerics.

A 60-year-old Malay woman, who practises yoga to ease her high blood pressure and vertigo, said she wrestled with the dilemma initially.

"Suddenly, I was unsure of myself. Is yoga really that sinful?" asked the wealthy housewife, who was pious, prayed five times a day, and had gone on pilgrimages to Mecca several times.

But after Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said it was acceptable to continue with yoga, minus the chanting, she felt better and is back to her stretching and breathing exercises.

So things are back to normal for many yoga lovers. But what has changed is Muslims" willingness to let clerics" rulings go unquestioned. - The Straits Times

Malaysia frees JI terrorists

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 - The Government has released without publicity more than a dozen Muslim extremists linked to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror organisation. They include Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, who is believed to have abetted the Sept 11 attacks in New York.

Yazid emerged as a key figure in JI's regional network because of his link to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who was convicted of conspiracy charges in the Sept 11 attacks in New York.

A senior Malaysian government official told The Straits Times that the Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino detainees were freed over the past month after a government advisory board at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak decided that they were no longer security threats.

Also released was a Thai national, Kasem Dayama, who was arrested in October 2006 for espionage, the official said. Their release has not been publicised.

Coming on the heels of the executions last month of the three Bali bombers in Indonesia, Malaysia's move has raised eyebrows among the region's intelligence community and security experts.

Security analysts warned of reprisal attacks after Indonesia executed Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra for their role in the 2002 bombings of two Bali nightclubs that left more than 200 people dead.

Many of the detainees just released in Malaysia knew the Bali bombers well and are known to several JI militants who are still at large, including Noordin Mohammad Top and the Singapore detainee who escaped, Mas Selamat Kastari.

Regional intelligence officials fear that the freed men might still be anti-Western and could easily return to their underground networks in places such as the predominantly Muslim regions of southern Thailand and southern Philippines.

"There is clearly a more relaxed approach to the way Kuala Lumpur is dealing with suspected terrorists," one senior Western intelligence official based in South-east Asia said, adding that his government's security agencies would be seeking more information from their Malaysian counterparts.

A senior Malaysian government official who declined to be named defended the detainees' release.

He insisted that Kuala Lumpur remained committed to the fight against religious extremism, and stressed that the men who were released had been rehabilitated after an intensive programme.

"Some of them, like Yazid, have been detained for more than six years and the (advisory) board was comfortable that these men have been rehabilitated," he said.

He added that Yazid, who was arrested in December 2001, had shown "huge improvement" in recent years under the rehabilitation programme.

Again, he declined to elaborate. The 43-year-old Yazid is by far the most prominent of the JI suspects released by Malaysia.

A trained biochemist and former army captain, he emerged as a key figure in JI's regional network because of his link to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who was convicted on conspiracy charges in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Yazid hosted Moussaoui during his visit to Malaysia in September and October 2000. Eight months earlier, he allowed Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi to use his apartment. They were the two hijackers on board the American Airlines aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon.

Yazid was to have been detained until Jan 31, 2010, according to security officials.

Sources said his release was subject to conditions. A resident of Selangor, he cannot leave the state without the permission of the state police chief.

Similar conditions apply to Sabah resident Sulaiman Suramin, who was arrested in 2003 and is among those just released.

The foreign nationals released by the Malaysian government were mainly lowly functionaries of JI, which has ambitions of establishing a pan-Islamic state linking Indonesia, Malaysia and the Muslim southern islands of the Philippines.

Sources said the freed foreigners included eight Indonesians who were detained for two days at a West Java detention centre before being allowed to return to their families.

The Indonesians include:

Ahmad Zakaria, who was arrested off Sabah in 2004;

Arifin Iwan, who was caught in 2005 en route to the southern Philippines. He had been active in sectarian fighting in Ambon and Poso;

Terhamid Dahlan alias Adi Utomo Sukamto, who was arrested while trying to enter Sabah illegally in 2004;

Zakaria Saman, alias Ahmad Said Maulana, who was arrested in 2003 while returning from south-east Philippines. He fought in Ambon and received his military training in the southern Philippines.

Philippine nationals Shaykinar Guat and Argadi Andoyok were arrested in 2006 off Sabah.

It is not clear whether they have been released since they were handed over to the Philippine authorities.

Thai national Kasem Dayama was also arrested in 2006, but he had no links to JI. Malaysian security officials say he was arrested for spying on southern Thais seeking refuge in Kelantan.

Malaysian government sources said there are another 30 suspected JI operatives, a handful of them foreigners, still in detention at the Kamunting detention centre. - Straits Times Singapore

HR Debate 2008: Welcome Address by Ambiga Sreenevasan, President, Malaysian Bar

ImageEvery day should be Human Rights day.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in response to the atrocities of World War II but we have nonetheless seen these atrocities repeated time and again since then.

If you had caught a CNN special programme called “Scream Bloody Murder” this weekend, you would have seen how so often governments sacrificed human rights to politics resulting in the needless loss of thousands of lives in horrendous acts of genocide.

Everyday we read of various acts of inhumanity perpetrated by man upon man. Genocide is at one end of the scale. Along the scale are many other acts of torture and cruelty. Unfortunately many are state-sanctioned. The death penalty, whipping, detention without trial, the torture of prisoners.&anbsp; These are but some. And unfortunately they exist in Malaysia.

The ideal we seek and that we must seek is that every citizen in every nation enjoys all of the rights enshrined in the Declaration. The Declaration has been described as the moral compass of the world. Its value lies in the inspiration that it has provided to human rights movements around the world. That inspiration is what has brought us here in a timely debate on where we are today in terms of human rights.

Ultimately human rights are about respecting human dignity and valuing life.

Desmond Tutu said :-

“Despite all the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They are the one who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place.”

In Malaysia, we should understand human rights. In our aide memoire seeking candidature on the Human Rights Council in 2006, Malaysia spoke of her commitment to human rights. We said “Malaysia believes that the new Human Rights Council has an important role to play in the universal promotion and protection of human rights and in ensuring the effective enjoyment by all of all human rights. In order to achieve these lofty goals, the Human Rights Council needs to be made strong, fair, effective and efficient, and free of acrimony and undue politicisation. Our aide memoire goes on to describe SUHAKAM, our Human Rights Commission, although we failed to mention that the SUHAKAM report is never debated in Parliament. And then we pledged to work on the HRC to promote its objectives internationally. We were then voted in as a member of the Human Rights Council in May 2006.

One would be forgiven for thinking that with this, the approach of our leaders to such things as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression would have changed. You would have thought that the ISA would be repealed or seriously modified. That we would be too embarrassed to use the Sedition Act, to shut down debate on issues, to maintain the death penalty and other form of corporal punishment like whipping. That we would have rushed to resolve indigenous rights, rights of migrant workers and other refugees and to curb all abuses of power and corruption. Alas, we are not rushing to do any of this.

The 13th of December 2008 will mark one year since 4 members of the Bar namely P Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kengadharan and one other K. Vasantha Kumar were arrested under the ISA for their purported involvement in a cause called Hindraf.

This year also saw the arrests of a blogger, a member of Parliament and a journalist under the ISA. They have since been released. Last week we heard of a further 13 or so people who have been released. We are pleased the Government has taken these steps and we commend their release but according to Suaram, there are approximately 46 left to be released. Not to mention the 2,000 or so who are presently held under other preventive detention laws.

Three days ago, another tragedy struck. You would have all read of the devastation at Bukit Antarabangsa. People were killed when a landslide destroyed their homes. Some describe this as a natural disaster. There is nothing natural about it. It was a direct result of the folly of men. Men who have failed to do all that they must to keep their fellow human beings safe. What has this got to do with human rights? Everything! Article 3 of the Declaration provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Protection of the environment is the protection of the human right to life. The Rio Declaration restates the need to keep our environment safe. Principle 4 states :-
“In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.”

I started by saying that everyday must be human rights day. You can see why I say that. There are human rights violations occurring on a daily basis around the world.

Our question in Malaysia is why there is such a disconnect between what the authorities do here and what we say internationally. Perhaps it is a question of being better informed. To this end, I call on each and every Member of Parliament to visit the place of detention where a person arrested under the ISA is held during their initial period of detention and observe their treatment. They should visit Kamunting, they should observe a whipping and an execution, look at our detention camps, see how we treat immigrants, go and see the orang asli and see how some of them live without potable water and electricity. This is just an initial list. I am sure we can all put together a more comprehensive one. Only then will there be a true appreciation of what human rights really means. Maybe then, just maybe, we will see real change.

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
9 December 2008

Dong promises mammoth rally

In A. Kadir Jasin's latest thots on multi-racial Malaysia [To the Empire they go], he wonders what the Malaysian Chinese are thinking, now that Hindraf has got the ears of the Empire. 'I can’t imagine them making a beeline to London or complaining to the Chinese government. But according to Press reports, the Jiao Zong (United Chinese School Teachers’ Association) had threatened “mammoth demo” should the government decide to continue the policy of teaching of mathematics and science in English."

Here's the report. SSDD. Same Shit Different Day, as King would say. I say let them have their day on the streets. Bring on the mammoth demo.

Jiao Zong warns of mammoth demo
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Tuesday, 09 December 2008 02:13pm

©The Sun

JIAO ZONG (United Chinese School Teachers Association) president Ong Chiaw Chuan warns that Dong Jiao Zong will launch a massive protest action should the government decide to continue with its policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in English, the Chinese press reported yesterday.

Dong Jiao Zong, which comprises Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association) and Jiao Zong, has maintained a firm stand that the government should revert to the use of mother-tongue languages to teach the two subjects in primary schools. Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is expected to make
a decision after chairing the fi fth roundtable discussion on whether or not to continue teaching Science and Mathematics in English.

“The Chinese community has to act if the issue is not resolved,” Ong said on Saturday. He believed the majority of people from the various communities wish to see a reversal to the use of mother-tongue languages to teach Science and Maths.

He urged Chinese-based political parties and Chinese ministers, especially those from MCA, to be firm in fighting for the use of Mandarin as the medium of instruction for Science and Maths in Chinese primary schools.

“They also need to be mentally prepared, as once the government decides to carry on with the policy, Dong Jiao Zong will launch a massive protest action,” said Ong. He said Dong Jiao Zong feels that the teaching of Science and Maths in English is currently the greatest threat to Chinese education.

He disclosed that at the second and fourth roundtable discussions held on Aug 27 and Oct 21 respectively, most of the participants, including Dong Jiao Zong and educational and cultural groups from other races,
political parties, academics and former education offi cers, were not in favour of the “go English” policy.

“Studies by various educational groups and universities, and even the Education Ministry’s own survey, showed that the implementation of English for Science and Maths policy has not produced the desired
results,” he said.

Arif Shah at PKR’s Aidiladha feast

By Yeng Ai Chun, The Star

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Seberang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah has set tongues wagging again after he was spotted at an Aidiladha kenduri (feast) organised by PKR here.

The Umno assemblyman was leaving the kenduri at Permatang Rawa near here when Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim arrived with his entourage.

Also present was Deputy Chief Minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, the man Arif Shah was rumoured to replace.

After exchanging smiles, both Anwar and Arif Shah shook hands.

When Arif Shah was asked to pose with Anwar for a picture, he declined saying that he was rushing to another kenduri.

”This is just a coincidence and not a planned meeting. I am just meeting up with my constituents,” he said.

Arif Shah explained that the chairman of the Permatang Rawa surau had invited him to the kenduri and he had no idea that the event was organised by PKR.

Asked if PKR was reaching out to Arif Shah, the PKR de facto leader said the party would reach out to the entire community.

He added that it was good of Arif Shah to come and it was the first time he was meeting Arif Shah after the Permatang Pauh by-election.

It has been rumoured that Arif Shah was being wooed by PKR to replace Mohammad Fairus as deputy Chief Minister but Anwar has denied that.

Earlier this month, Umno sacked former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim for attending events organised by opposition parties.

Rights group worries about Malaysia’s next leader

(The Malaysian Insider) Human rights activists voiced fears today that Malaysia’s next leader may try to stifle dissent when he takes power in less than four months.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak is slated to succeed current leader Abdullah Badawi by early April. He will face an opposition alliance that has eroded the ruling coalition’s support and criticism about how the government has handled challenges such as a weakening economy, corruption and racial disputes.

An aide to Najib dismissed concerns voiced by Suaram, a Malaysian human rights organisation, saying there was no basis for them. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to make public statements.

Suaram representatives noted that authorities have increasingly arrested anti-government demonstrators and used tough laws against bloggers, including one who was detained without trial earlier this year after writing articles that criticised the government.

Abdullah recently announced he would hand power to Najib to revive the government’s political fortunes after the opposition made unprecedented inroads in March general elections. — AP

Msian businessmen say police force most corrupt institution, survey finds

by Maria J.Dass, The Sun

Malaysian business people are highly critical of the government's efforts to fight corruption compared with those in other Asia Pacific countries.

They also rated the police force as the most corrupt institution in the country with a Bribe Payers Index (BPI) of 4 (1:not all corrupt, 5: extremely corrupt), according to Transparency International's (TI) 2008 Bribe Payers Index (BPI) findings released today.

The business community also believes that their own companies are highly involved in corrupt practices in Malaysia and the region, while political parties were singled out as the most corrupt institutions in the Asia Pacific region with a BPI of 3.6.

The outcome of the survey is similar to the results in the Global Corruption Barometer 2007, said Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam.

"TI believes that while most of the world's wealthiest countries already subscribe to a ban on foreign bribery, under the Organisation for Economic Corporations and Development Anti-bribery Convention, there is little awareness of the convention among the senior business executives interviewed in the BPI."

"Therefore it is crucial that governments go beyond speeches and proclamations, and show greater dedication to combat bribery and corruption in spite of great resistance by self-serving pressure groups whose main interest is to benefit themselves even at the expense of civil society."

"Governments have to ensure that foreign bribery should be stopped at source and make good on commitments to prevent and prosecute such practices."

Ramon said TI-M believes that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Bill and two other bills to be tabled by the government in this parliamentary session will help improve poor public perception at home and abroad - that Malaysia has a mediocre score and success in fighting corruption.

"It is important that all MPs support the bills and improve them during the second reading and pass them with maximum parliamentary and public support,," he said.

The survey was conducted among senior business executives from companies in 26 developed and developing countries, including Malaysia. A minimum 100 executives were interviewed in each country and the enterprises they represent were selected through a stratification process that took into consideration the size of firms, their sector and location.

Belgium and Canada showed good results by sharing the first place with a score of 8.8 out of 10.

Malaysia Today interviews the Home Minister


Today, Malaysia Today interviews the Home Minister to get his take on a range of issues that have been the bone of contention with most Malaysians. This article is of course just a satire and any similarities with persons still alive, already dead, or about to die is purely coincidental.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia Today: YB, thank you for agreeing to an interview with Malaysia Today’s No Holds Barred column.

Yang Berhormat: Thank you for inviting me. It is very seldom that the alternative media would interview a member of the Cabinet so that we can set the record straight and correct the lies and wrong perception about the government, which are spread by the alternative media. Normally, the alternative media just reports rumours without obtaining the government’s side of the story. I congratulate the alternative media for becoming more mature in giving the government space to inform the public of the truth.

But before we start, I would like to offer my condolence to the Indian government on the recent tragedy in Mumbai. I thank God that Malaysia does not suffer such acts of terrorism, primarily because we have the Internal Security Act, which allows us to detain terrorist before they can cause any harm to society. This shows that the Internal Security Act has been very successful in maintaining law and order and in safeguarding the security of this country.

MT: Since you have brought up the matter of the ISA, YB, can we start by talking about that?

YB: Sure.

MT: The people criticise the ISA and…….

YB: Which people? The alternative media always talks about ‘the people’. But which people are you talking about?

MT: Well, I suppose the civil society movements and human rights movements.

YB: These people are in the minority. The majority of the people voted for the government. So this means the majority support the ISA. If not they would not have voted for the government. It is the majority that counts, not the minority. We can’t make laws or abolish laws just for the sake of the minority. We must do what the majority wants. The ISA is to prevent terrorism. If, in 2001, the US also had the ISA, their Twin Towers would still be standing. Malaysia’s Twin Towers is still standing because of the ISA.

MT: But the ISA is not used against terrorists. The government has always said that Malaysia does not have any terrorists. The ISA is used to deny the people freedom of speech.

YB: There is still freedom of speech in Malaysia. Who says that there is no freedom of speech?

MT: It is not freedom of speech which does not exist in Malaysia. It is freedom after speech.

YB: That is different. Then you can’t say that there is no freedom of speech in Malaysia. There is freedom of speech. Of course, if you say the wrong things, then you run the risk of being detained under the ISA. Berani cakap, berani tanggunglah!

MT: Okay, then what would you regard as ‘saying the wrong things’?

YB: Well, like inciting the people to hate the government or saying something that may start racial problems.

MT: But we already have so many other laws like the Sedition Act, Criminal Defamation, PPPA, and so on, to charge those who may have broken the law. Why the need to detain them under the ISA? Just charge them in court.

YB: That would not be so easy. We will need evidence to charge them in court. Without evidence how to charge them?

MT: But how do you know all those people who the government has detained under the ISA have committed a crime? Is it not possible they are all innocent?

YB: No, we have evidence. That is why we detained them.

MT: But if you have evidence then why not use this evidence to charge them?

YB: I already said there is not enough evidence to charge them.

MT: But there is enough evidence to detain them?

YB: Yes. The evidence is enough to detain them, only not enough to charge them.

MT: But when you sign the Detention Order you must first see all the evidence. Is this not so?

YB: That is true. Only when I am satisfied there is enough evidence will I sign the Detention Order.

MT: But you still feel that the evidence, though sufficient to detain them, is not sufficient enough to charge them.

YB: That is correct. But the detainee still has a chance to appear before the Advisory Board within three months to argue his case. If the Advisory Board is of the opinion that the detainee is innocent then he will be released. So we are quite fair.

MT: Have many people been released through the recommendations of the Advisory Board so far?

YB: Well, not many…..maybe none so far. But this only means we were not wrong in detaining them. If not, surely the Advisory Board would have recommended their release.

MT: But there have been reports that, from time to time, the Advisory Board has recommended the release of some detainees. However, the Home Minister has always overruled their recommendations.

YB: Yes, that is true. This is because the Advisory Board was mistaken and we did not agree with their recommendations. So we overruled them.

MT: This would mean the Advisory Board is a lame duck and has no power. It is the Home Minister who has the final say. Would this not be so?

YB: That is not true. The Advisory Board does have power.

MT: Power to do what?

YB: Power to recommend the release of the detainee.

MT: But the Minister does not follow their recommendation and overrules them. The Minister has the final say.

YB: But this does not mean the Advisory Board does not have power.

MT: If you say so YB. Okay, can we now talk about the Umno party elections and the numerous complaints about corruption in the party?

YB: What corruption are you talking about? There is no corruption in Umno.

MT: But the mainstream media has been reporting the many complaints of money politics.

YB: That is money politics, not corruption.

MT: Is there a difference?

YB: Of course there is. Corruption is when you pay to get something. Money politics is not corruption.

MT: What would you call money politics then?

YB: Money politics is……..well, money politics.

MT: And that is not corruption?

YB: Of course not.

MT: Okay, whatever. Now, on the matter of race relations, don’t you think that Malaysia is very dangerously being pushed to the brink of racial problems?

YB: That is why we have so many times said that the opposition is stirring the sentiments of the many races.

MT: But it is not the opposition that is doing this.

YB: Then who?

MT: Umno.

YB: Umno is a responsible party. We do not play the race card. It is the opposition that is doing this.

MT: In what way is the opposition doing this?

YB: They are asking for the government to abolish Ketuanan Melayu and the NEP. This makes the Malays angry and may cause the Malays to mengamuk. The opposition should stop all this nonsense before the peace and harmony of this country is compromised.

MT: But is it not time we treat all Malaysians equal and no longer treat one race as having more privileges than others?

YB: Aiyah, how can! That is the kind of talk that makes the Malays angry. It is dangerous to suggest such things. We must maintain the harmony between the many races and not say things like that.

MT: But what gives one race the right to have more privileges than others?

YB: That was the agreement when we gained Merdeka in 1957. How can we go back on what was agreed?

MT: What agreement?

YB: The Social Contract that was agreed by the Malays, Chinese and Indians.

MT: Many say that the Social Contract does not exist. Have you ever seen it? Can Malaysians see a copy?

YB: It was not a written contract. It was a verbal contract.

MT: When was it made and under want circumstances was it made?

YB: It was agreed upon when Umno, MCA and MIC jointly negotiated for Merdeka from the British.

MT: And what were the terms of the contract?

YB: That Malay would be the National Language and Islam the official religion plus the Malays would be accorded special rights and privileges such as certain quotas in the civil service and in educational institutions.

MT: But has this not since been amended many times in breach of the original Social Contract?

YB: No! In what way has it changed? Everything still remains the same.

MT: The government imposes new rules such as companies must be 100% Bumiputera before they can get import permits or APs and 30% of houses built must be sold to Bumiputeras according to the land area and so on. This was not part of the so-called Social Contract agreed by Umno, MCA and MIC before Merdeka. They are new rules made up as we went along.

YB: True. But the non-Malays accepted them.

MT: How do you know they accepted them?

YB: Because they continued to vote for the government. If they did not agree then they would not have voted for the government.

MT: But they did not vote for the government. 49% of the Malays and more than 80% of the Chinese and Indians did not vote for the government in the last general election. This means they do not agree with the government policies.

YB: But we still won more than 60% of the Parliament seats.

MT: That is only because of Gerrymandering. Malay majority seats like Putrajaya, where the voters are 98% Malay, have only 5,000 voters while seats that are 80% or more non-Malay have 120,000 voters or more. That is why the government still won and not because the majority voted for it.

YB: That is beside the point. We still can’t deny the fact that we won 140 seats and the opposition won only 82 seats.

MT: Yes, but if the votes were evenly divided between constituencies with a variation of plus-minus 20% the government would have fallen by now. It is only through Gerrymandering that the government managed to hold on to power.

YB: That is your opinion. It does not mean it is true.

MT: Thank you, YB, for the interview. I am sure you have helped enlighten Malaysians with your view of things.

YB: Thank you. I hope I have managed to rebut the opposition lies and propaganda and I look forward to similar sessions in future where the government can be given an opportunity to set the record straight.

No yoga for Muslims in Sarawak

KUCHING, Dec 9 — Sarawak has ruled that yoga is “haram” (forbidden) for Muslims in the state in line with the fatwa (edict) issued by the National Fatwa Council on yoga exercise last month.

Assistant Minister (Islamic Affairs) in the Chief Minister’s Office, Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, said the decision on the fatwa was made by the State Fatwa Council which met last week to discuss the matter and it agreed to accept and gazette the fatwa.

“The State Attorney’s Office is in the process of gazetting the fatwa,” he told reporters after the distribution of sacrificed meat in conjunction with Aidil Adha at Taman Heng Guan today.

Though he could not ascertain when the fatwa would be implemented, Daud said it was up to Muslims in the state to adhere to the fatwa or continue doing yoga.

He said no legal action would be taken against Muslims who continued to do yoga.

“However, Muslims are advised to choose other forms of physical activity, which are many, to keep fit and healthy.”

On the effects of the fatwa on the owners of yoga centres in Sarawak, Daud said it was up to them to adapt the yoga exercise to their own religious belief.

Besides Sarawak, Melaka has also agreed to implement the fatwa while the other states like Penang, Kedah, Terengganu, Perak and Selangor were reported to be discussing whether to apply the fatwa.

The National Fatwa Council had last month announced the fatwa and asked Muslims not to practise yoga as it involves worship and chanting of mantras.

Its chairman Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin was reported to have said that the National Consultative Council decided that the practice contained elements which were forbidden for Muslims as they were against Islamic teachings. — Bernama

Pak Lah says he is not staying on

By Adib Zalkapli

KUALA LUMPUR(Themalaysianinsider), Dec 9 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi today rubbished speculation that he intends to stay in office even after Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over as Umno president next March.

There has been intense speculation in recent weeks fuelled by remarks made by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Abdullah planned to stay on as prime minister even after March.

Dr Mahathir, who has styled himself as Abdullah’s chief critic, has been stepping up his attacks against the prime minister, suggesting recently that Pak Lah planned to stay on in the government.

Responding to this, Pak Lah said he would stick to his promise to leave office.

Under the power transition plan hammered out with Najib, it was agreed that the deputy prime minister would take over the helm soon after becoming Umno president in March.

“I do not see any reason why it should be brought up,” said Abdullah today after chairing the Barisan Nasional (BN) supreme council meeting.

The BN chairman said the ruling coalition would be holding a special convention next February ahead of the Umno polls a month later.

He expressed confidence that BN would not in future suffer the kind of setback like it did in this year’s general elections, when it lost its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Since then, the opposition has formed its own coalition in the form of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) which is being positioned as a strong rival to BN.

This and other challenges prompted the idea of next February’s special BN convention.

Abdullah said today the BN convention would include discussions on the findings made after the disastrous March 8 elections.

“Steps have been taken to identify the people’s views, the election results.

“We gathered views from NGOs. So it took us sometime. It was done carefully and seriously to understand the views,” said Abdullah after chairing a three hour BN supreme council meeting.

“We are listening, and we are responding,” said Abdullah on the message conveyed by voters in the last election.

In a clear reference to accusations that Umno’s dominance of BN had led to its relatively poor electoral performance, the PM gave particular emphasis to the fact that the findings by the committee set up by the coalition comprised the views of all component parties.

“This is not an Umno committee but a committee made up of component parties, and the results have been presented to the BN supreme council,” said Abdullah.

He was also asked whether Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s remark on vernacular schools was discussed at the meeting, to which Abdullah said, many sensitive issues were brought up but declined to elaborate.

“We are open, but we understand that as we are in a big party, we practice collective responsibility,” said Abdullah adding that the supreme council did not go into details of the sensitive issues.

However, Abdullah said the government had no plans to amend the Internal Security Act, in response to the suggestion made by PPP president Datuk M. Kayveas for the law to be reviewed.

Kayveas had recently threatened to take PPP out of BN should the government fail to amend the law by the next general election.

“If that is their choice, what can we do,” said Abdullah on Kayveas’s threat.

BN leaders told to stop talking about Ketuanan Melayu

By Shannon Teoh

(Themalaysianinsider) KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi today asked leaders of the ruling coalition’s component parties to stop commenting on race relations.

Instead, they should discuss any grievances behind closed-doors, a number of BN leaders told The Malaysian Insider after the coalition’s supreme council meeting today.

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who has himself recently been embroiled in controversy over his remarks about Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, said Abdullah had called on party leaders to discuss racially sensitive issues within BN.

“The PM said not to even talk about things that are considered sensitive,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Dr Chua had said recently that while non-Malays accepted Malay leadership they did not accept the concept of Ketuanan Melayu.

This sparked off protests from some Umno leaders and Malay nationalist groups.

Gerakan president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, who also attended today’s BN meeting, said Abdullah had asked that such matters be discussed in depth within BN meetings where leaders could express themselves openly.

Abdullah, who is also Umno president, was also asked to comment on racial tensions in a press conference after the meeting, especially with regards to UmnoYouth chief candidate Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s recent suggestion for vernacular schools to be abolished.

Abdullah replied that many sensitive issues were brought up but declined to elaborate.

“We are open, but we understand that as we are in a big party, we practice collective responsibility,” said Abdullah.

Since the March general elections, there has been incessant debate on issues such as Malay rights, Ketuanan Melayu and the need for the liberalisation of the country’s affirmative action policies.

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance has been championing what it refers to as Ketuanan Rakyat, or the supremacy of the people, and pointing out that if it came to power it would implement policies which would extend aid to all Malaysians.

The roiling debate on race relations, especially with regards to the concept of Malay Supremacy, has been making headlines of late.

It has resulted in several Malay rulers, constitutionally the guardians of Malay and Muslim matters, breaking their normal silence on politically-charged matters, to make statements on the position of Malay rulers, race relations and the social contract.

Road carnage - disappeared from Abdullah’s radar screen in his last 100 days as PM

(Lim Kit Siang) The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is in his last 100 days as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

His silence and indifference to the latest road carnage in the express bus North-South Expressway (NSE) crash in Tangkak which killed 10 and injured 14 on Sunday, taking place in his last 100 days as PM, is in sharp and sad contrast to his anger and outrage at the Jalan Kuala Lipis-Marapoh three-vehicle accident which killed 14 on 30th November 2003 during his first hundred days as PM.

This also signifies another major failure of Abdullah with regard to his First-Hundred-Days-as-PM pledges– to end the road carnage on Malaysian roads.

I can still remember Abdullah’s furious and emotional outbursts five Novembers ago, when he expressed his frustration and upset at the number of road fatalities recorded under Ops Sikap V, with 25 road deaths on the first day of Hari Raya and the death toll which rose to 104 in the first six days of Ops Sikap V.

Malaysians were told in Abdullah’s First 100 Days, that the road carnage which claimed over 200 lives in every15-day Ops Sikap operation before a national festivity was unacceptable and that new rules and regulations would be introduced to end the road carnage in the country.

Five years down the road, the authorities have claimed as a “resounding success” the latest Ops Sikap VII for this year’s Hari Raya holidays covering the 15-day period from Sept. 24 to Oct. 8 although the fatalities numbered 208, 17 fewer deaths compared to last year’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities – which also marked the disappearance of the road carnage problem from the radar screen of the departing Prime Minister and his Cabinet!

Will Datuk Seri Najib Razak take on board the serious menace of road carnage in his first 100 days when he takes over as Prime Minister in March and ensure that this time, there would be effective Prime Ministerial leadership and concrete results to break the back of the grave problem of road carnage not only during national holidays but all-year-round?

Rakaman wawancara Anwar Ibrahim di Al-Jazeera

Respecting Change

A friend of mine told me recently that he was considering home-schooling his two sons. A battle with the private international school where his sons are enrolled and fruitless encounters with Ministry officials who were either incapable of seeing his point of view or could not empathise nor appreciate his lack of options had brought him to that point. It could be that to many a civil servant, private schooling is an elitist luxury that one purchases at the expense of its ills and pains. If so, this overlooks the reality that for many in this country private schooling is not about snob appeal but rather a necessity in an increasingly competitive world.

Many a parent is caught in a conflict between wanting to avail themselves of public services, be they education, medical or otherwise, on the one hand, and doing the right thing for those they love on the other. They, like many others here in Malaysia, have been forced into these positions of conflict by a public system that has been increasingly undermined by political and vested interests despite the obvious consequences.

It is evident that for a nation to progress sustainably into the future, the pillars of the nation must be protected and continuously strengthened. Of these, much has been said of the Judiciary and the Legislature. We should however not underrate the significance of the civil service. It is crucial for being the engine that impels the nation in the direction it should. Civil servants serving in a diverse range of capacities from teachers, administrators, lawyers, doctors, engineers, surveyors, geologists and so on provide invaluable input and service. They reach far into this nation’s heart, its people, and provide the nurturing and guidance that keeps it safe and beating.

Civil servants oversee every aspect of the system from schools to hospitals to hill developments. It is therefore crucial that those who take on the responsibility of administration be suitably qualified for their jobs. This is both a matter of competence and integrity. There is no excuse for not having the best possible persons for such positions, be they teachers or director generals of Ministries.

Even a cursory glance at modern Malaysia would show that this is sadly not the case. If it were otherwise, we would not be stuck in the rut that we are. The nation lacks sparkle, energy and drive. Hamster like, we run on the spot in our wheels of misfortune as the system, such as it is, wears itself down at the expense of the future we could have. Can we really say that we have the best people for the job in the various ministries, departments and agencies that we rely on to make sure this country runs at the optimum level in all respects? I think not and for all the wrong reasons.

It seems that the only employer that does not complain about poor levels of competence, at least publicly, is the government. This is understandable. The civil service has always been potentially useful as an employment bank, a direct means of furthering agendas, for control and, for all these reasons, winning votes. Somewhere along the way, that potential was harnessed, and welfare and privilege elements exploited to justify abuse.

The notion that employment in the civil service is an aspect of welfare or privilege is self-serving and dangerous. The civil service is so inextricably linked with our future, giving meaning to the adage “we reap what we sow”. This is not just about the alarming number of unemployable local graduates and school leavers, as worrying as that is, it is also about bad decision making with sometimes catastrophic results, tangible and intangible, and other equally significant aspects.

Things are definitely not as they should be in this nation. We are slipping far behind as we drown in a dizzying cocktail of lackadaisical attitudes, a total lack of imagination, mind-numbing incompetence and corruption. Mediocrity has become our standard. And though we rush to justify and distract from failings, be it for having allowed our tertiary institutions to slip into the “not worth bothering” section of the rankings or the increase in corruption, this is not addressing the problems.

Change became a catchword this year with even UMNO elites claiming it for their banner. If we are sincere about transforming Malaysia, the alarming state of the civil service must be addressed.

For this, ground-rules must however be set and respected. Politicians must learn to respect the intent underlying civil service regulations that restrict political involvement: civil servants must be left alone to do what needs to be done. They do not serve political parties; they serve the government of the day. Additionally, key sectors of the civil service must be made impermeable to appointments based on race quotas and be defined only by appointments based on of high levels of competence and integrity.

Above all, politicians must learn to respect the civil service for the fundamental role it plays in nation building. Change is in its hands.

(Malay Mail; 9th December 2008)


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Is The Pakatan Doing?

(Update, 6:48 pm: Anwar Ibrahim has apparently denied that an offer was made to Arif Shah. See here)

I am travelling today for a symposium overseas and had much to do and deal with before I left. Time constraints prevented me from writing an opinion piece for Disquiet in print. My apologies.

If I had had the time, I would have written on what I think and how I feel about the Pakatan Rakyat, more particularly PKR, offering a Deputy Chief Minister’s position to Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah (if reports are true).

I do not think this is the kind of example that the Pakatan wants to set and I am wondering how it is that those who lead the coalition could have even thought of making such an offer (if true). There has already been intense debate about whether cross-overs should be accepted as a point of principle, with the DAP having been very clear about its disagreement. Accepting a cross-over and offering him a plum position in the administration is something that far more extreme.

There are several ways this can be looked at. What does Arif Shah offer that so many of those who have struggled for so long in the pursuit of change-for-the-better cannot? His UMNO credentials? His network of UMNO supporters? The insult his defection would amount to?

Even if the defection of UMNO were to be the result of his defection, and I do not necessarily think that would be the case, is that worth the message it sends out about the Pakatan: that the Pakatan is a coalition that is prepared to pay whatever it takes to get where it wants to. Because if a deal has in fact been struck with Arif Shah, that is what the Pakatan is doing.

And it would seem that that is what the Pakatan has become.

What happened to the adherence to principle that underlay the Pakatan’s election campaign? Has the value of principle lessened since? Have we forgotten the kind of campaign that Arif Shah was associated with in Permatang Pauh, the obscenities, the racial slurs and incitement, the entire circus? Are we overlooking the fact that Arif Shah wants to leave UMNO for the way his has been treated (according to media reports) rather than for his rejection of UMNO’s ideology?

And above all, has Anwar Ibrahim forgotten what it is that motivated the rakyat on March 8th? It was not blind ambition, it was the pursuit of a better Malaysia.

How Arif Shah becoming a Deputy Chief Minister of Penang takes us closer to that objective is something beyond my comprehension. Even if it leads to the taking of Federal Government, I am certain that must have something to do with the offer, I question whether a Federal Government achieved on the back of personal interests is a government I want.

Malik Imtiaz sarwar

Pak Lah: PPP can quit BN

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi today said that PPP is free to leave Barisan Nasional since the government has no intentions of amending the Internal Security Act (ISA).

pak lah abdullah ahmad badawi and m kayveas ppp bn"We have no plans to amend (the ISA)... if that is their choice (to leave), what can we do," he told a press conference after chairing the BN supreme council meeting at the Putra World Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Recently, PPP president M Kayveas had urged the government to amend the security law before the next general elections, failing which, he warned that his party will pull out of the ruling coalition.

Kayveas, who was not present at today's meeting, could not be reached for comment.

t murugiahIn an immediate reaction, PPP Youth chief T Murugiah expressed shock over the prime minister's statement.

"I don't know what to say, I'm speechless and surprised by it," he said when contacted.

"But i don't think Pak Lah meant what he said that we can leave because he's a nice man... but sometimes, what to do," said Murugiah, who is a deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

According to him, Kayveas would be the best person to comment further on the matter.

'We want to win'

In another development, Abdullah told reporters earlier that the BN supreme council did not discuss anything in detail regarding the controversial call by Umno Youth leader Mukhriz Mahathir to form a single stream education system, which will lead to the eradication of vernacular schools.

BN always adopts an open attitude on sensitive issues, said the premier in response to a question.

umno special briefing abdullah ahmad badawi announce resignation date 100708 05Quizzed on the speculations that he might not be stepping down in March, Abdullah said: "Don't raise this issue again. Nonsense, all sorts of speculations."

Apart from this, the premier said the supreme council, which met for three hours, also discussed the preparations for the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Asked on BN's chances, Abdullah replied: "We want to win, we want to win."

"There must be some confidence, otherwise how can I say we want to win. The seat is ours, we have good support and we'll have to work hard."

On whether he expects a swing in votes for the opposition, he said: "Not at the moment... you don't know how the people are going to swing, voters have the habit of swinging at the last minute for us or somebody else."

Abdullah said the supreme council had also discussed the BN convention scheduled to be held in January.