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Saturday, December 20, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s foreign minister yesterday praised an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush earlier this week, calling it retaliation for the invasion of Iraq.

“The best show of retaliation so far is the shoe throwing act by that remarkable reporter who gave President Bush his final farewell last week,” Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said at an event to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations.

“That shoe throwing episode, in my view is truly the best Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) to the leader who coined the phrase ‘axis of evil’ to denote Iran, Iraq and North Korea,” Rais said, according to the advance text of his speech.

Copies of the speech, entitled “The Importance of Peace and Harmony in multiracial Malaysia” were distributed to the media by his office.

TV reporter Muntazer Al-Zaidi shot to fame when he called Bush a “dog” in Arabic at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad last Sunday and threw both his shoes at Bush — a grave insult in the Arab world.

The incident, replayed again and again on television and the Internet around the world, has been widely condemned in diplomatic circles but the source of great mirth among many ordinary people in the Middle East and beyond.

Zaidi has even been hailed a hero by some commentators, with offers of employment and even proposals of marriage, but he faces criminal charges in Iraq for the attempted assault.

Zaidi was brought before an investigating judge on Tuesday and admitted “aggression against a president”, a crime that could incur a 15-year sentence, judicial officials said. He could face trial soon.

On Thursday, the Iraqi prime minister’s office said Zaidi had apologised for the incident.

“Zaidi said in his letter that his big ugly act cannot be excused,” Maliki’s media adviser said.

Mostly Muslim Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country of 27 million people, opposed the Iraq war but is an ally of the U.S. and won favour from Washington after it cracked down on Islamic militants after the 9/11 attacks.

Rais has twice been the country’s foreign minister and usually is known for more measured tones.

‘BUSH DESERVED IT’

Meanwhile, North Korea’s government newspaper has poured scorn on Bush over the Baghdad shoe-throwing incident, saying the outgoing leader deserved it.

In a commentary entitled “Well-Deserved Insult,” Minju Chosun said on Thursday it was fortunate that Bush had been able to duck the flying footwear.

“Otherwise, he would have had his face printed with the dirty shoe soles,” it said in an article on a media website operated by the communist state.

The North Korean paper said Bush tried to put a brave face on the incident. But it likened his demeanour to “a cock soaked in the rain” — a reference to a Korean proverb describing a person who suddenly falls from high status to shame.

Minju Chosun added: “It was folly for Bush to appear recklessly for a press conference aimed at trying to win favour from Iraqis in a country where anti-US sentiment is reaching the sky.

“The US power-holder subjected himself to greater disgrace as he attempted to embellish his failed policy in Iraq. It is unnecessary to add he was showered with derision and laughter.”

North Korean state media routinely heap scorn on the Bush administration and its “war on terror”. Bush in turn described the North in 2002 as part of an “axis of evil” and once said he loathed its leader Kim Jong-Il.-the peninsula

Bumper year for divorces in ‘Bolehwood’

KUALA LUMPUR(Malaysianinsider), Dec 20 — Actress Nora Danish got married 2½ years ago, and is now eight months’ pregnant. That did not stop her husband from divorcing her in August — amid whispers that his heart had gone astray.

Welcome to the world of Malaysian celebrities.

Although not quite Hollywood or Bollywood in stature, couples seem to be as prone to marital strife and divorce in what could perhaps be called Bolehwood.

And this year seems to be a bumper year for celebrity divorces, as they come under increasing spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

As if in competition with politicians, what celebrities do — mostly splitting from one another — has been grabbing headlines in recent weeks.

Along with their seemingly glamorous lifestyles, these beautiful people are thought to earn a lot of money, as local dramas and TV series have been snapped up by TV stations in Malaysia and Singapore at good prices over the last decade. Malay movies also do well in Malaysian cinemas.

Whenever the Malay Mail tabloid, which has a readership among all races, has an exclusive sensational story on a celebrity, sales rise by 5,000 to 6,000 to about 50,000 copies, says former entertainment editor Zainal Alam Kadir.

One of television's most watched sitcoms, “Puteri” (Princess), is said to hold the dubious record for divorces.

The sitcom is about the life and loves of a girl named Puteri, played by afore-mentioned 26-year-old Nora Danish.

Nora was divorced by her husband Rizal Ashram Ramli, 32, in August. And not for the first time. The couple had divorced previously, but had got back together again.

Rumours are rife that this time round, a hot young actress — labelled the “Queen of Hearts” after supposedly breaking the hearts of a string of men — was behind the break-up.

A senior veteran in the industry says: “Marriage for people who are not in showbiz is hard enough. But celebrities are constantly under the microscope.”

Besides Nora, a prominent actor in the same “Puteri” sitcom has also ended his marriage, the New Straits Times daily reported on Tuesday.

Lead actor Aszerul Nizam Abdullah, 28, who was married to Intan Shahira, 27, shockingly claimed that the couple spent only 10 days together in four months of marriage.

According to rumours, her parents thought he was not good enough for her because she was educated overseas, while he never went to university.

Even the director of “Puteri”, the talented Aziz M. Osman, is going through a divorce.

But none of those splits beats the sheer spectacle of that between two of the biggest names in Bolehwood — Norman Hakim and wife Abby Abadi, 29, who both acted in the hugely popular “Gerak Khas”, or Special Forces, police series.

The good-looking Norman was caught for alleged khalwat, or illicit close proximity, with a young actress, in his office last month.

He is 32, and the woman is a 20-year old unknown actress named Memey Suhaiza.

The two were fully clothed, but it was 3 in the morning and there was no one else around when Islamic court officials knocked on the door.

He denied any wrongdoing, but Norman then stunned his fans by saying that he may be fated to marry Memey.

He and Abby then had a very public row at a “Gerak Khas” shoot — watched by fellow actors, reporters and cameramen.

The couple finally called it quits and got divorced.

They have three children aged five, three, and three months.

At least 10 other celebrities are splitting up with their spouses this year, according to reports.

Celebrities naturally mingle with other so-called beautiful people, said former entertainment editor Zainal.

“That's the danger of getting married to each other,” he said. “New faces keep coming along, and it gets easier and easier.”

Five areas near Bukit Antarabangsa declared safe

PETALING JAYA, Dec 20 — Several areas in five housing estates in the vicinity of the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide have been declared safe for occupation.

Selangor police chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said the areas which had been categorised as “red” by the Public Works Department’s (PWD) slope engineering division, had been declared safe and residents could now return to their homes.

The areas are five houses (numbers 1-5) in Jalan Bukit Antarabangsa; 30 houses (numbers 5-38) in Jalan Bukit Mewah 2; 38 houses (numbers 2-76) in Jalan Wangsa 11; the whole Block A and B of Impian Selatan Condominium comprising 81 and 28 units respectively; and six houses in Jalan BJ 6A Taman Bukit Jaya (house numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11).

Announcing the safety status of the areas here, Khalid said, the residents involved, estimated to be between 400 and 500 people, could return to their homes anytime.

“Police will escort returning residents to their homes,” said Khalid, who is heading the disaster operation in the Bukit Antarabangsa landside which killed four people and destroyed 14 bungalow houses on Dec 6.

However, he said residents in Block B1 of the Impian Selatan Condominium and three units of houses (numbers 78, 80 and 28) in Jalan Wangsa 11 would not be allowed to return for about a month.

“For residents in other areas, they will only be given limited access to their homes until the slope repair and restoration works are 100 per cent completed,” he said.

Khalid said some 1,000 residents were still not allowed to return home as their areas had not been declared safe.

Police would continue to guard the vacated houses, he said. — Bernama

A plea for magnanimity

Zaid wants the government to stay faithful to the rule of law.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Since Umno booted out Datuk Zaid Ibrahim on Dec 2, the former de facto law minister has had strangers standing him meals.

Zaid, 57, told The Straits Times early this month at his home within a golf resort in Petaling Jaya: “Everywhere I go, I've got free roti canai. I go up to the cashier's and they say, 'Oh, somebody's paid for you'.”

He added, between chuckles: “In a funny way, that's probably the easiest way for them to say 'thank you'. It sort of reinforces your belief that you are on the right track.”

The right track, as he sees it, is urging the Malaysian government to be more open and transparent, and to stay faithful to the rule of law.

After the March 8 general election, in which the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was dealt its worst results since 1969, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appointed Zaid as law minister. His task: to whip the country's legal system into shape.

But on Sept 16, the anniversary of Malaysia's founding in 1963, Zaid quit the Cabinet after the government detained three civilians under the Internal Security Act — without his knowledge.

Then, on Oct 31, Zaid spoke at a conference in Kuala Lumpur, where he said: “The Ketuanan Melayu model has failed. It has resulted in (the) waste of crucial resources, energy and time and has distracted (Malaysians) from the real issues confronting the country.”

Ketuanan Melayu means Malay supremacy, or the notion that the Malays should have special privileges because they are the country's original inhabitants. Zaid's remarks drew immediate condemnation from Umno's rank and file, with calls for him to be ostracised.

The final straw, it seems, came when Zaid attended two opposition events last month. It prompted Umno's supreme council to expel him for, as Abdullah put it, “going against the ethics of the party”.

In his interview with The Straits Times, Zaid looked dapper, albeit a little worse for wear, in a bright orange shirt and black blazer. That perhaps had less to do with his sacking from Umno than the 10-day-old ear infection he had been nursing.

He has vowed not to rejoin “the present Umno”, which he said practised double standards. He has, however, denied rumours that he would join the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

The son of Kelantanese farmers, Zaid became a member of Umno in 1985, then “got entangled” in politics so as to win back Kelantan after Umno lost all its seats in the state to the opposition Pas in 1990.

The former Scotch-tape salesman, who trained as a lawyer on a government scholarship, founded his law firm the same year he joined Umno, and made it Malaysia's largest, with offices in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. He has since sold off his share in the firm. “I needed the money,” he said.

The father of three now wants to help groom tomorrow's leaders. He set up My Future Foundation two months ago to build bonds among Malaysian youth through various artistic pursuits in the hope they will forge a Bangsa Malaysia.

When Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng invited Zaid to his DAP dinner in the state last month, it did occur to Zaid that accepting the invitation might get him into trouble with Umno.

He recalled: “Guan Eng has always been very polite, very nice to me. So I said, 'Okay, I'll come.'

“And then they asked me to say a few words. And I said, 'Oh, no'. Of course, they were 99 per cent Chinese. But they were clapping and very happy. So I said a few words about Bangsa Malaysia, what I was trying to do with my foundation. I said, 'I got no job. I want you to help me achieve this success'.

“It was just a five-minute speech.”

At that very dinner, he got a call from Datuk Salehuddin Hashim, secretary-general of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, a component of PR. Salehuddin, who used to bunk with Zaid in Kuala Lumpur 35 years ago, invited the former law minister to PKR's annual congress.

“I went, 'Oh, shucks, I am at a DAP function. It's not fair if I say 'no' to you',” recalled Zaid.

So he said “yes”, heard PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speak at the PKR congress, and then left.

In hindsight, he was “obviously na├»ve” to have attended these opposition functions, Zaid said, although he had attended many Pas events when he was Umno's Kota Baru division chief in 2004.

On Dec 2, two days after the PKR congress, Umno's supreme council expelled him from the party. He learnt of his sacking via SMS.

But what rankles most with Zaid was that the party did not give him a chance to explain himself. “They didn't even ask me, 'Why did you go? What are you trying to prove?’''

Shrugging, he added: “This is a manifestation of Umno's fascination with power.”

That fascination with power — from throwing its weight around in government to slamming political opponents such as Anwar — has put Umno out of touch with the times, Zaid said.

“It's got the Malays thinking: 'Hey, wait a minute. This is not a party that represents us'.”

Pas, in contrast, is much more egalitarian, he said. “We may not like its pronouncements on lipstick or on whether concerts should be held, but in dealing with people's problems, they are more people-oriented.”

Thoughtful, witty and sanguine throughout this chat, Zaid bristled only when it was suggested he may have thrown in the towel on reform too soon by resigning as law minister

“No, no, no,” he said. “I felt that I couldn't do it, either because of my personality or my way of doing things, or my outspokenness. Because a lot of people also criticised me. They said, 'Zaid, you're trying to do too many things in too short a time.'

“But I said 'I only know how to do my way' — in the sense that I'm not young, I'm quite experienced in life, I know there are certain things either you agree or you don't agree.”

Among the biggest disagreements he had with his colleagues was one over the prospect of Umno having to abandon patronage politics so as to fight corruption effectively.

He said: “If I can give you this and that, if I want to keep that sort of system, then how do you fight corruption? It's completely contradictory.”

Might prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Najib Razak roll out the necessary reforms when he takes the helm in March next year?

Zaid's view: “Najib's favourite line now is 'If you don't change, they will change you'... I hope he will do that although I am quite sceptical he can.”

He mused: “I hope he will do the right thing on the big issues.”

What worried Zaid was that the majority in Umno were now hardliners, perhaps in reaction to Abdullah's apparently weak and ineffectual leadership. They saw Malay supremacy as the most effectual stick to beat back any dissent against the government.

The problem with that approach, in Zaid's view, is this: “You cannot have peace and stability by force. And if you don't have peace and stability, then you don't have the economic ability to be productive and competitive. And the world doesn't deal with people like that anymore.”

He bemoaned the fact that over-confidence in the 1980s saw Umno veering from its early days of seeking consensus with the other races on major issues. “It was a simple formula of Umno being the major partner but always in consultation, always open to ideas, always able to keep the pieces together.

“Not by a show of power, or a show of strength, but by a show of magnanimity.”

Zaid on...

The problem with Umno today

“They see provocation, they see enemies everywhere.”

What his detractors say about him

“They say, 'Ungrateful Malay, you benefited from the system and now you criticise it' — you know, that sort of stuff. Some say I should not be a Malay. I don't know how that is possible... But it doesn't really hurt me that much.”

Being chummy with the opposition

“My problem is that I always don't view politicians from the other side as enemies. They're all my friends. (DAP veteran Lim) Kit Siang is my old friend and Anwar (Ibrahim) and everybody.”

Attending the opposition events that got him sacked

“I was merely being naive or being silly but they were my friends, what's wrong with that?”

Being kept in the dark over the sudden detention of three civilians under the Internal Security Act in September

“I read about it in the papers. I thought that, as a minister, especially when you describe me as a Minister for Law, you know, it's a bit embarrassing when I don't know anything about it.”

How much Malaysia has lost out to Singapore

“I was in school in Johor Baru in 1967, and I'd go to Singapore on a bus over the weekend. Singapore was then a shanty town, of no significance. But today, it is the pride of the world. If they can do it, why can't we?”

Why he thinks differently from most in Umno

“I did not join Umno when I was young, so I was not subject to much conditioning.”

Talk that prime minister-in-waiting Najib lacks fire in the belly

“Yes, exactly. He has never shown himself capable of enunciating something. He can sound good, but all prime ministers sound good at the beginning.”

Those who want a Malaysia for only Malays

“How do you benefit? In the first place, how do you let the Chinese go? Where do they go? Where do you send the Indians? Where do you send disgruntled Malays like me?”

Malaysia's future

“I worry that we will become a Fiji or Zimbabwe, that we will be dominated by a certain group using the machinery of government to keep control.”

His future

“I came from very meagre beginnings, and if I end up as a meagre person, that's okay, it's just back to where I was.” — Straits Times Singapore

Abdullah’s sensible/commendable comments on nation-building - why not adopted in his heyday as PM?

In his interview with Sin Chew Daily in the past two days, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made the most sensible and commendable comments on nation-building in Malaysia.

The greatest pity is that he did not adopt them when he has the real power to influence the government and nation in his heyday as Prime Minister.

Firstly, in “Change Or Perish, Pak Lah Tells UMNO”, Sin Chew reported:

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Malays have changed their old thinking and value system, only that UMNO seems to have “forgotten” that the Malays have indeed changed.

He said the Malays have changed, but if UMNO remains unwilling to change, then the party will eventually head for destruction.

“UMNO has forgotten that the Malays have changed their own thinking and perspectives. It has forgotten that the Malays have changed their value system. The Malays are no longer what they used to be. They unreservedly express themselves. They even wave the DAP flags!”

Abdullah said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily at his private residence in Kuala Lumpur that during his five-year tenure as the prime minister, he has managed to change the mentality of the Malays.

He said young Malays believe they can stand on their own feet, and this is the major value that has changed the young Malays today.

“Young Malays feel that they need the opportunities, so they begin talking about DAP and PKR. They believe they have better opportunities there.”

Secondly, in “Pak Lah: NEP No Longer In Existence”, Sin Chew reported:


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi emphasised that the New Economic Policy is no longer in existence today.

“The NEP is a policy which is no longer in existence. The objective of this policy has been to eradicate poverty, as you all know.”

He said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily at his private residence in Kuala Lumpur that the way the NEP was implemented had triggered the dissatisfaction among many people, including some Malays, adding that Malaysians needed a more transparent policy and open market.

The first question is whether the rest of the Umno leadership, led by the Umno President-elect and Prime Minister-in-waiting, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, are prepared to publicly endorse Abdullah’s “Umno – Change or Perish” analysis – accepting the reality that when Malays support the DAP or PKR, it is not because they are traitors to the Malay race but because they reject the political fallacy equating “UMNO with Malays and Malays with UMNO”, regarding themselves as Malaysians first and Malays second, just as their other Malaysian counterparts who must regard themselves as Malaysians first and Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans second!

Similarly, does the rest of the Umno leadership led by Najib accept that the New Economic Policy “no longer exists” as it is a specific policy meant for 20 years from 1970 and 1990, although the objectives of eradication of poverty regardless of race and restructuring of society to reflect the country’s multi-racial character in all sectors of society should be continuing programmes.

If this had been Abdullah’s clear-cut nation-building policy and philosophy from the first day he took over as Prime Minister five years ago, the country would have spared many nation-building crises arising from high-handed, arbitrary, hegemonic and most divisive extension of the New Economic Policy till 2020, giving rise to keris-wielding excesses and “ketuanan Melayu” demands.

Will Najib and the rest of the Umno leadership endorse Abdullah’s most sensible philosophy on nation-building, viz:

· that Malays have changed including supporting the DAP to further the legitimate aspirations of the Malays and that UMNO will perish unless Umno could also change; and

· that the New Economic Policy is no longer in existence and the country should no longer be divided by irresponsible calls for the extension of the NEP while the country should continue with its national objectives of poverty eradication and multi-racialisation?

Millionaire’s murder could be linked to revenge

The Star, Dec 19 2008

JOHOR BARU: Police investigating the murder of millionaire businessman Datuk M. Gunasegaran are looking at revenge as the motive.

Police said all leads so far pointed to a business deal over money lending activities that went sour.

terror
makkal osai 191208

On talk that the businessman had been threatened previously, Segamat OCPD Supt Abdul Majid said the victim had not lodged any report.

Asked on speculation that the gun used in Gunasegaran’s murder was the same one used in the murder of former Tenggaroh assemblyman Datuk S. Krishnasamy, Supt Abdul Majid said police were awaiting the ballistic report.

He urged anyone with information on the murder to contact the police hotline at 07-2212999 or the nearest police station.

Gunasegaran was found sprawled on the ground by passers-by in an alley off Jalan Genuang in Segamat at 6.15am on Thursday.

He had gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen. Two spent shells were recovered at the scene.

Besides owning several pawnshops, he ran a licensed moneylender’s business and also had interests in the agricultural sector.

Gunasegaran, popularly known as Datuk Itik for the way he spoke, had celebrated his 49th birthday on Wednesday. He was popular among locals as he always gave to the needy.

Last Deepavali, he went around the estates to hand out donations, said a friend who declined to be named.

*****

Friday December 19, 2008

Millionaire shot dead while jogging

By NELSON BENJAMIN

SEGAMAT: A millionaire businessman was shot dead while out on a morning jog.

Datuk M. Gunasegaran was found with two gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen by passers-by in an alley in Jalan Genuang at 6.15am. Two spent shells were found at the crime scene.

Gunasegaran: Owned a few pawnshops and a licensed moneylender’s business.

The businessman, who owned a few pawnshops and a licensed moneylender’s business, had just celebrated his 49th birthday on Wednesday. He also had interests in the agricultural sector.

It is learnt that the victim, nicknamed Datuk Itik for the way he spoke, was popular among the locals as he always gave to the needy. Last Deepavali, he went around to the estates to hand out donations, said a friend who declined to be named.

Gunasegaran was questioned in connection with a kidnapping and the murder of former Tenggaroh assemblyman Datuk S. Krishna­samy.

He had also been detained under the Emergency Ordinance.

Segamat OCPD Supt Abdul Majid Mohd Ali said police received a call from the public about the discovery of a body lying face down, at about 6.15am.

He said a special task force had been formed to investigate. The body was later sent to Segamat Hospital for a post-mortem.

In an unrelated case, policemen found a partially buried body when they went to investigate a stench at the Kek Seng Oil Palm estate in Masai yesterday.

It is learnt that the upper part of the body was covered with oil palm leaves. The man had wounds to his neck and head, and is believed to have been killed elsewhere and dumped in the area.

The unidentified victim had a tattoo on his right hand.

Supt Abdul Majid urged those with a missing relative or had information on both cases to contact the police hotline at 07-221 2999.

Minister in Mumbai police furore

Hemant Karkare funeral procession on 29 November
Hemant Karkare was killed early in the Mumbai attacks

(By:-BBC.CO.UK) India's government is under pressure to respond following a minister's controversial remarks over the killing of top officers in the Mumbai attacks.

Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay suggested there could have been more to the deaths than just the militants.

Mumbai's anti-terrorism chief Hemant Karkare, who was among those killed, had been investigating suspected Hindu radical attacks in Maharashtra state.

Mr Antulay refused to confirm or deny he had submitted his resignation.

Mr Antulay's suggestion that the deaths could be linked to the investigation into the alleged Hindu radical attacks led to outrage among opposition politicians.

They said the minister's statement had embarrassed the country and they urged him to resign.

'Irresponsible'

Mr Antulay on Friday said he "stood by the truth".

The Times of India quoted him as saying: "Whether Karkare was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something, I do not know."

He added: "Karkare and two other police officers were definitely killed by the Pakistani terrorists. Even a fool knows this. What I asked was who sent Karkare and the two officers there?"

When asked about the reports of his offer to resign, the minister told the Press Trust of India news agency: "I am neither confirming it nor denying it."

Mr Antulay's Congress party has distanced itself from his remarks, saying it did not accept the "inference and innuendo that underline" them.

Federal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi has said the government will "examine" Mr Antulay's statement and "respond accordingly" in parliament.

Santosh Gangwar, a leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, has said Mr Antulay's "irresponsible statement has created a problem for the country".

Mr Karkare, the head of Mumbai's Anti-Terrorist Squad, was one of several top officers who lost their lives in the attacks which began on 26 November.

Mr Antulay suggested a link to the investigation into the role of Hindu radicals in two bombings in Maharashtra state which killed at least eight people in September.

An army officer, Prasad Shrikant Purohit, and a female priest have been held in connection with the blasts and are accused of providing logistical support for Hindu militants to make bombs.

Dr M: Yes, they lobbied for judicial appointments

Roots of Racism

Source: The Sun (www.sun2surf.com)

by KK Tan

What exactly is racism and what are its origins? And how is racism different from racialism or communalism?

Let’s go back about 500 hundred years ago with the rise of European colonialism, the rivalry for control amongst these imperial powers and the conquest of Africa, Americas and Asia. The colonized places were plundered with the natural resources exploited to the fullest to meet the growing demands for raw materials to drive the emerging Industrial Revolution in the West.

With the demand for labour to work in the plantations in the Americas and the West Indies, the colonial powers also started the African slave trade during this period. The suffering and torture of these slaves were so brutal that many slaves preferred to die by refusing to be fed or by jumping overboard into the oceans. Entire communities and families in Africa were uprooted, separated and decimated.

True, slavery had existed thousands of years earlier since the emergence of classed society and the conquest for new land but this new slave trade was of a massive scale (more than 10 million Africans were taken by force), highly organized and exclusively targeted at using black Africans as slaves. Yet, Africa was the cradle of mankind where homo sapiens first evolved.

The white colonial powers needed an ideology to justify to their own people and to sooth their “new liberal conscience” that it was fine to treat black people as sub-humans and to plunder their land. And it was also their God given right to force black people to be slaves and serve the interests of the emerging white society.

The ideology of racism was developed to promote stereotype thinking that black people were soul-less, stupid, uncultured and genetically inferior. Politicians, pseudo-scientists and even religious leaders propagated such myths about black people.

Racism became a systematic oppression of black people by the whites and it was not simply a mere dislike of someone with a different skin colour and race.

Racism’s most recent manifestation was apartheid in South Africa. And it was hardly forty years ago that the US society deliberately segregated black people and mistreated them as second-class citizens in many ways, for example, not allowing them to share public transportation used by the white people.

Yet the changes and transformation in the US have been so rapid that it has just elected a black person to be its president. Perhaps it says something about the socio-political system in the US (which was originally developed for the benefit of the white society).

Having said this, racism is still deeply embedded in the white society. Its old school of thought is so powerful that it still exists, even today, in the sub-conscious minds of many white people, making them feel a sense of superiority over black people. Overt racism existed for more than 500 years and it was only in the last 50 years or so, especially after the 2nd World War, that decolonization took place and developing countries became more self-reliant and assertive.

But the conflicts, internal feuds and political instability in many developing countries tend to reinforce the old racist thinking that black and/or coloured people are stupid, uncultured and incapable of peace, civility and looking after themselves.

Based on the above definition of racism, black and coloured people cannot be racists even if they want to (but they can be chauvinists) as the privilege of such a tag belongs to white people. This is why it has been said many times that racism is essentially a “white man’s disease” although, of course, not all white people (especially the younger generations), are racists. It’s like saying why women cannot be “sexist” as our male dominated society has discriminated against women and not the other way round.

Racialism on the other hand, is more a dislike (or even hatred) and distrust between the races concerned but it can also lead to violent conflicts. When both race and religion are involved in strife, we have communalism. (The term communalism is used in a more positive context in Western society to mean the promotion of the community’s interests.) Racial chauvinism represents an emotional state of a person’s extreme pride in his/her race and can be attributed to either racism or racialism.

Racism still exists in many forms in the Western society and needs to be constantly opposed in every way possible including using philosophical arguments.

Looking from the perspective of anthropology, Man is the only creature in the animal kingdom which is capable of practising racism. (The other unique “trait” of Man compared to animals is its ability to inflict harm or kill for leisure.)

That is the irony of mankind as world renowned geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky once said: “among the two million or more species now living on Earth, man is the only one who experiences ‘the ultimate concern’. Man needs a faith, a hope and a purpose to live by and to give meaning and dignity to his existence.” This has led to the development of “culture” which clearly sets man apart from the other species. Yet the culture of racism makes a mockery of humanity.

Prehistorian David Pilbeam, explained; “whether we have one or two spouses, wear black or white to a funeral, live in societies that have kings or lack chiefs entirely is a function not of our genes but of learning.”

Clifford Geertz has also stated: “Without men, no culture, certainly but equally, and more significant, without culture, no men.”

Therefore, racism as a culture is not inherent in humankind but was learned from a society which has developed such an ideology to justify the injustices and oppression.

As rich as the biodiversity flourishing on this planet, the racial and cultural diversity of Man testifies to his extreme flexibility and his ability to adapt to all kinds of condition around him.

Anthropologist Richard Leakey best explained our common identity: “humans are all derived from a single stock and the physical differences between people in different parts of the world are simply the kind of geographical variation one would expect from a widely distributed species. The differences between people are, in effect skin deep and this is an apt metaphor when one considers the long history of social oppression based on skin colour…”

Beneath our skin, humans are all the same. We are the same biologically and genetically. We have common needs for food, shelter, clothing, education, enjoyment of life and the practice of culture and religious faith. Whatever our racial or cultural differences, they should be looked upon as strengths in our diversity rather than as liabilities to be “tolerated” or as an excuse for inciting hatred or starting a war.

For racial unity to be sustainable, it has to start with the principle that “we are human beings first and everything else next”.

The writer is the CEO of a think tank and strategic consultancy firm based in Kuala Lumpur. He can be contacted at kktan@jukenworld.com.

I wish to congratulate the Sun for creating this monthly column, Beyond Race, which will appear every last Thursday from January, 2009. It is time we face the so-called race problem in our country head on and over time, Bangsa Malaysia will emerge and we will be all be identified by our achievements rather than by the colour of our skin, race or religion. To do that we must learn to respect the dignity of difference.—Din Merican

Sarasvathy: This is a historic moment!

Now Dr M admits he has no proof of vote-buying in Umno

By Adib Zalkapli(Themalaysianinsider)

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today admitted that he has no concrete evidence on money politics in Umno despite previously claiming corruption flourished under his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi.

"I have to study first, as a lot of information is hearsay, they are not willing to give their names," said the former Umno President.

"We want brave people. They complain but are afraid to come forward, so I have to look carefully into it," said Dr Mahathir when asked when he would reveal the names of Umno leaders involved in money politics.

Apart from threatening to reveal names, Dr Mahathir had also in the past suggested the use of the Internal Security Act against party members involved in vote buying.

He had also claimed that vote-buying was so rampant in Umno that the party was doomed to lose in the next elections.

When asked whether having an independent body to monitor the Umno election would help, he said that the formation of another body would not solve the problem.

"Even if more bodies are formed, but the witnesses refuse to give information to corroborate evidence, they will be useless. To get evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt is very difficult," said Mahathir.

On the action by certain Umno members who gave information on vote buying practice to opposition leaders, Mahathir said they were probably angry with the leadership.

Recently PKR lawmaker Saifuddin Nasution revealed in Parliament that he has evidence to prove candidates for the Umno deputy presidential race are involved in money politics.

1300 deaths in detention centers; Solidarity Day with migrants

The Star:

ABOUT 1,300 illegal foreigners have died during detention in the past six years, Malaysia Nanban quoted Malaysian Human Rights (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam as saying.

He said many of them died in immigration detention centres, prisons and police lockups because they were denied medical treatment at the right time.

He proposed that a doctor and a medical assistant be appointed in each detention camp and prison which should have the necessary facilities to transfer sick prisoners to hospitals during an emergency.

I’m sad, I’m angry, and I’m almost at a loss for words.

I keep thinking how most of humanity’s history has been that of migration. We don’t leave homes at a whim or fancy; things are usually pretty bad before vast groups of people decide to leave their homelands for strange lands.

Having done some work with refugees, I’ve heard some heartbreaking tales. Some of these end with a marginally better life here in Malaysia - albeit one with constant harassment. For these 1,300, I guess it ended in further tragedy :(

In my last post, I forgot to write about one more event I attended briefly on Sunday after lunch - a Solidarity Day for Migrants held in Brickfields, organised by Tenaganita and some other migration organisations.

One of the main themes was “No human is illegal.” A good point which the press have consistently failed to pick up on (see above).

The event was a celebration of a truly rich diversity of cultures that has come to our shores, and one of those relatively rare opportunities for those who mostly clean up in coffeeshops or labour to build KL to showcase their heritage and express their arts.

The mood there was exuberant, and to me spoke of the rarity of opportunity such people get to get together in good cheer and enjoy happy festivity in good company.

The performances were a lot of fun… :)

At the risk of sounding a bit morbid, I really hope none of these people end up dead in some detention center.

IJN – No to privatization

by Dr. Chen Man Hin

When Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) - National Heart Institute - was launched in 1992, the Malaysian government promised that IJN would be a centre to serve all people with heart diseases, irrespective of race and with due care and treatment for the poor.

Assurance was given that heart patients would be treated fairly as in all government-run hospitals and that IJN would not be an exclusive hospital for the rich and well-to-do. People from all walks of life would be allowed to enjoy the facilities in the special heart hospital.

This aspiration of IJT to help poor heart cases is now shattered by the announcement that IJN would be handed to a private company, albeit the largest corporation in the country - Sime Darby.

PRIVATISED HOSPITALS ARE RUN ON A BUSINESS BASIS WITH OBJECTIVE OF EARNING PROFITS - TO MAKE MONEY

It is unlikely that Sime Darby will run IJN as a social and charitable hospital, like a government hospital. Its objective is to earn as much profits as possible. There are too many private hospitals in the country which charge substantially, which only the rich could afford.

With Sime Darby at the controls of IJN, the poor who form the majority of the patients will suffer, and being unable to pay, they will not have access to health care offered by IJN as of today.

The government stands to lose by giving control of IJN away:-

1 IJN is a going concern and successfully managed and bringing great benefits to the people and a sound reputation internationally as a well-organised heart centre.

2. as an institute with excellent facilities and world class medical expertise, it is well placed to lead the battle against the threat of heart disease as the number one killer in the country. This is the sacred duty of IJN. This role cannot be performed by a private hospital whose aim is to make profits.

3. The government must not relinquish its responsibility by giving up the one place where heart patients look confidently for care and treatment, in particular the poor of this country.

IJN privatisation postponed: Umno elite out of touch

BY:Anil Netto

The sudden postponement of the scheme to privatise the National Heart Institute (IJN) suggests that the government under-estimated the depth of public opposition to the move.

The postponement comes just a day after Najib revealed that the green light had been given to Sime Darby to acquire a majority stake.

The Umno elite appear to be out of touch not only with the masses but also with their own BN component parties such as the MCA, which is opposing the privatisation. Or were they just testing the waters (to gauge public reaction), as some of you suggest?

To me, the real heroes are the 33 IJN specialists (out of a total of 35) who stood up to oppose the move. Their stand is all the more commendable as chances are they would have stood to gain in terms of a more lucrative pay package. It is great to know there are public-spirited specialists in Malaysia, for whom money is not everything - something which the corporate predators find hard to understand.

So far, no real credible rationale has been given for wanting to hand over IJN to Sime Darby on a silver platter. If the government lacks funds for IJN, how will it help if Sime Darby takes over? (Amazing the government has plenty of funds to send an angkasawan into space and think of buying Eurocopters.)

Sime Darby is not going to pump in money into IJN for nothing. To recover their investment cost, eventually they will have to raise patients’ fees or focus on “medical tourism” - at the expense of the many poor Malaysians who need proper and affordable health care.

This is what Sime Darby has in mind for IJN (from The Edge):

Ahmad Zubir cited IJN’s brand and reputation, the institute’s full-paying patients, the synergies, vast opportunities in the sector, and the group’s overall healthcare plan, including the lucrative medical tourism segment, as the commercial reasons for the proposed acquisition.

“There is demand from overseas,” he said, adding that he did not believe medical tourism contributed significantly to IJN’s business now. He said IJN would be part of an aggressive plan that would see Sime Darby Healthcare and IJN widen their reach in the domestic and regional markets for the brands and their staff.

This is the same Sime Darby that pulled out from financing the Bakun undersea cables. Why couldn’t it raise financing and pump in money there (not that the Bakun undersea cables make economic sense) when the government needed it to? Why does it prefer IJN? Now that commodity prices have slumped, perhaps it is seeking a “safe haven” to invest in. What safer haven then controlling the potentially lucrative “market” for coronary health care, the company must have thought. No fear of falling demand there - as people will be forced to cough up if their lives are at stake.

Najib says the postponement of the deal has nothing to do with the by-election in Kuala Terengganu. Right, sure. Had the deal not been postponed, this issue alone could have been explosive and caused the BN all sorts of problems in the by-election campaign. The opposition would have gone to town with it and torn the BN campaign to shreds - and rightly so.

It is interesting to see the criticism by certain Pakatan leaders of the IJN privatisation.

On the one hand, the Pakatan leaders are opposing the IJN privatisation because it will undermine the public health care system and hurt the lower-income group.

On the other, the Pakatan-ruled states are themselves promoting medical tourism - which lures experienced doctors and specialists away from the general hospitals, including those in rural areas and smaller towns, and undermines the public health care system. (That leaves our general hospitals, which treat the vast majority of Malaysian patients, desperately short of specialists, experienced doctors and skilled personnel.) But then, isn’t this the same sort of medical tourism which Sime Darby envisages for IJN?

So it’s a bit rich for the Pakatan MPs to criticise the IJN privatisation on the one hand while actively promoting medical tourism on the other!