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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hisham denies rift with top cop - Malaysiakini

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has denied allegations that there was a rift between his ministry and the police, amidst allegations that a 'third party' was meddling with police affairs.

In reply to a supplementary question by Anthony Loke (Rasah - DAP) during the question and answer session at the Dewan Rakyat, Hishammuddin described his relationship as "fine".

On the apparent media war between Hishammuddin and the Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan, the minister said Musa about the 'third party' because he was asked about it during an interview.

Hishammuddin was referring to Musa's claim during an interview with Mingguan Malaysia published on Sunday, that a 'third party' was interfering with police operations.

He said that the clandestine 'third party' would issue orders to his subordinates, circumventing the top management of the police.

Nazri says Anwar’s September16 plans seditious

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz today called Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s September 16 takeover plans seditious because he allegedly used the name of the King in a bid to trigger defections from the ruling coalition.

Nazri told The Malaysian Insider in Parliament today that Anwar, the Opposition Leader, could be charged under the Sedition Act.

The minister said “there was nothing wrong” if Pakatan Rakyat (PR), led by Anwar, had the majority to form a new government. However, the minister reasoned that the latter had committed sedition by allegedly using the King and the army’s name to trigger defections by MPs from the Barisan Nasional (BN).

“Say if Anwar said he wants to form the new government on September 16, there’s nothing wrong with it. But when you use the King’s name, when you use the army’s name, you have committed an offence,” said Nazri in a brief interview with The Malaysian Insider in Parliament here.

Nazri, the de facto Law Minister, added that “these words are seditious in nature.”

“I suspect, probably there is something under the Sedition Act that we can use to take action against him,” said Nazri.

Former PKR leader and Independent Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Mohd Zahrain Hashim last week claimed Anwar had told his party leaders that the King had consented to his takeover bid and that the armed forces was backing him.

Zahrain had made the explosive allegations in Parliament last week during the debate on the Royal Address. It was made following a fallout between Zahrain and Anwar leading to the former’s resignation from the party.

Nazri said that if Zahrain’s claims could be verified, what Anwar did would be akin to inciting rebellion against the present government.

“If you look at the Sedition Act, it covers this as well,” he said. Anwar has yet to explain or verify the validity of Zahrain’s claim.

No directive to muzzle PTAs, says Wee

By Adib Zalkapli - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 - Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong (picture) has denied that the ministry has directed Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) not to discuss matters opposing education policies.

"This is a non-issue, after all we want to improve the performance of the schools, so I don't see any problem," Wee told reporters in Parliament today.

"If they have some good suggestions, they want to put forward to the ministry they are welcomed," he added.

However, Wee said, opposition to the government policies should not lead to any working problem with the ministry.

"Their role is to complement what the schools have been doing. I think if they want to do extra activities to improve the [education] of the students, I think by all means they can do it," said Wee.

"I do not think all these while they have been talking about things that are out of the policies," he added.

The Kuala Lumpur Education Department director Mohd Adenan Deraman had reportedly warned school principals to ensure that PTA meetings do not discuss matters that oppose its policies.

“This is a message from the ministry. PTA meetings should not be used as a platform to discuss matters opposing the government’s policies,” Adenan reportedly said.

Adenan added that the ministry had received information that the Teaching of Science and Maths in English (better known as PPSMI) policy is part of the PTA meetings’ agenda in several schools, adding it should not be discussed as the Cabinet had made its decision on the matter.

The cabinet had in July last year approved the Education Ministry’s proposal to abolish PPSMI, reverting to Bahasa Malaysia and vernacular languages in phases, effective 2012.

With this policy in place national schools will return to teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia, while Chinese and Tamil schools will employ their respective vernacular languages.

The change, however, will not include matriculation, Form Six and university levels.

The government will also recruit an additional 13,933 English teachers in addition to the current force of 19,433 English teachers.

Only political change can bring economic reforms, says Ku Li

By Debra Chong - The Malaysian Insider

PETALING JAYA, March 23 — Saying that only political change can bring economic reforms to Malaysia, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (picture) last night blamed the Najib administration for crippling the national economy by putting politics ahead of policy reforms.

In his sharpest barb yet directed at Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the Umno veteran urged the prime minister to end race-based affirmative programmes in the New Economic Policy (NEP) drawn up 40 years ago which he said was a cover for “corruption, crony capitalism and money politics”.

“To make that leap we need a government capable of promoting radical reform. That is not going to happen without political change,” the Kelantan prince and former finance minister said when launching the second edition of “No Cowardly Past” by lawyer James Puthucheary here last night. Puthucheary, who was once a politician and economist, died 10 years ago.

The Gua Musang MP mocked Najib for delaying announcing his proposed New Economic Model (NEM) and suggested that the new policy may only be a rehash of the “old” NEP, drawing chuckles from the audience.

The chuckles stopped when the 73-year-old reminded his audience how deeply race-based policies had scored themselves in the minds of the powerful few, noting that the NEP was dragged back to life by Umno Youth six years ago because “it was and remains the most low-cost way to portray oneself as a Malay champion.”

“The NEP is over. I ask the government to have the courage to face up to this,” he added.

He called on the Najib administration to restore independence in public institutions and to overhaul the education system and repeal “repressive laws” such as the Printing Presses Act, the Universities and Colleges Act, the Internal Security Act and the Official Secrets Act.

“Confidence in the rule of law is a basic condition of economic growth,” said the politician popularly known as Ku Li.

Tengku Razaleigh added that “radical reform” and not “piecemeal measures” was needed to move the economy forward but strongly suggested that it may not be possible under the present leadership.

Asked to clarify his meaning, Ku Li explained that Najib needs to move fast and translate his proposed policies into action to plug the swift drain of talent out of the country.

Najib is now in Hong Kong to promote Malaysia to fund managers and investors at the Credit Suisse’s 13th Asian Investment Conference which starts today.

The Prime Minister is due to receive a report on the NEM which he announced when taking office last April. The report and policies will be fully announced in June when Najib tables the 10th Malaysia Plan as the government wants public feedback to shape the NEM.

Malay right-wing groups have said the NEM must be guided by the NEP which was officially abandoned in 1990 and subsumed into the National Development Policy which ran from 1991 to 2000.

Tengku Razaleigh, who was unsuccessful in challenging Najib for the Umno presidency last year, remains a harsh critic of the ruling Barisan Nasional government policies particularly its refusal to give 5 per cent oil royalty to his home state Kelantan.

However, he has pledged loyalty to Umno despite calls to quit his Gua Musang seat and his division leadership. The opposition Pakatan Rakyat has privately urged him to join them but he has declined the offer.

IGP keeps mum about 'third force'

By Neville Spykerman -The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 - Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan (picture) today declined to explain further his claims that a 'third force' comprising 'politicians or certain individuals' was influencing the police force.

His claims in an interview in Mingguan Malaysia on Sunday prompted Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to ask the police force to investigate the matter further.

"This press conference is only about Police Day." the IGP told reporters in Bukit Aman today when refusing to speak about the matter.

Musa, whose contract expires in September, also had alleged there were those some who wanted him out faster.

However today Musa choose to speak only about his vision and aspirations for the police force.

"This is what I dream of, (for the police) to be a professional force which is firm, fair and courteous," he said.

It's OK to be gay in Malaysian movies - as long as you go straight

(Heraldsun) GAY men can at last be depicted in Malaysian films - so long as they repent or even go straight in the end.

Strict censorship rules in the mostly Muslim country mean books and films are routinely banned or scenes deleted that are deemed detrimental to moral values or religious sensitivities.

The new censorship guidelines reverse a ban on scenes featuring homosexuality, Malaysian Film Producers' Association president Ahmad Puad Onah said. But there's a catch.

"We are now allowed to show these scenes," he told AFP. "As long as we portray good triumphing over evil and there is a lesson learnt in the film, such as from a gay (character) who turns into a (straight) man.

"Previously we are not allowed to show these at all."

The new rules, he insists, will allow greater freedom of expression for film-makers. But kissing, undressing and obscenity scenes will still be banned.

"We can do almost anything now but we are urged to give due considerations on the film's impact on certain areas like public order, religion, socio-culture elements and moral values."

It is not just homosexuality - subjects such as illegal racing can also be depicted.

A report at the weekend said local movie V3 Road Gangster was being shown in the cinemas since the illegal racers either died or were caught by police at the end.

Another movie that has recently passed Malaysian censors was a film that featured the life of a transvestite. It will be screened in May.

The Film Censorship Board could not be reached for comment.

INSAP Tak INSAF

What do think-tanks do? For starters, they are supposed to come up with position papers that would put their funders in a better position to deal with future challenges.
Unless, of course, if it is INSAP, a think-tank run by MCA, in which case the top priority would be to hold weekly badminton practices and reward cronies. When Ong Ka Ting was the MCA president, that was precisely what happened.
By Chiselled Stone
Run by a woman he co-opted from the American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAM), the only KPI Ong Ka Ting set for INSAP was how many namecards the staff can collect each week from cocktail parties especially in the diplomatic circuit.
Every Friday, INSAP would book badminton courts at the Bt Kiara Sports Complex, a short distance from Damansara Jaya, where Ong Ka Ting lives. Joining them of course, was Wendy Ong, Ka Ting's second wife.
Besides that AMCHAM woman (who doesn't play although she could shed more than a few pounds just by lifting the racquets), is Rita Sim, Ka Ting's proxy in Sin Chew newspaper which hooked the AMCHAM woman to Ka Ting. Both knew the importance of taking care of MCA's First Lady, in the same way Umno boys suck up to Rosmah.
Besides sporting events, INSAP has also become an ATM for Ka Ting's cronies. One of them is his ex-press secretary, Ng Kian Nam, who went on to join the elder Ong in the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
One day, Kian Nam the smart alec leaked to Bernama and Sin Chew Daily that his own boss, Ka Chuan had tendered a resignation letter as Minister to new dickhead MCA president Ong Tee Keat. Kian Nam thought he was doing his boss a favour. It backfired and for that Kian Nam was given the boot - and a hefty pay rise!!
He ended up in the MCA HQ's political education centre, but draws a five-figure salary from INSAP, which is chaired by Kapar land-grabber Tan Sri Lau Yin Pin.
Another crony who draws a salary from INSAP is the guy who runs the life long learning centre. The lawyer, who claims to be doing voluntary work in the centre, was actually paid RM12,000 a month from INSAP. On top of that, his firm got tonnes of lucrative conveyancing jobs for housing projects from the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
What about position papers? Of course INSAP did some work in that department too. It came up with the life long learning idea to turn a political party into a centre for career-minded people to further their education. Political work? MCA kept that aside, of course during Ong Ka Ting's time.
And oh yeah, it also came up with a brillant idea during the 308 general election campaign. The theme? Plead to voters to understand that political table-thumping is a no-go compared with subservience and behind-closed-doors dialogues. Wonderful.
Still wondering why March 8 happened? All because Ong Ka Ting bothered listening to INSAP.

The BN's ISA dilemma

thenutgraph.com

HOME Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced in August 2009 that amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA) would be tabled during the following October Parliament sitting. This was just after the massive anti-ISA protest in Kuala Lumpur. That amendment, however, never materialised.

Hishammuddin then said in December 2009 that the ISA amendments would be tabled during the current March-April 2010 Parliament sitting. But on 19 March, Hishammuddin again postponed the parliamentary amendment.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government's overtures to review the ISA began as soon as Datuk Seri Najib Razak assumed the premiership in April 2009. Immediately upon being sworn in, Najib released 13 ISA detainees, including two Hindraf political prisoners arrested in December 2007 and several Jemaah Islamiyah members. Najib promised that he would not wield the ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, arbitrarily. A month later, his administration released another batch of ISA detainees, including the remaining Hindraf prisoners of conscience.

According to former detainee, academic and activist Dr Kua Kia Soong, this is not the first time the BN has suggested reviewing the ISA. But if it does table the amendments in Parliament, it will be the closest the BN has ever come to living up to its promise.

Realistically, though, what specific amendments can Malaysians expect the BN to make? What amendments do BN Members of Parliament (MPs) themselves want? And will these amendments make the Act less susceptible to abuse?

Defining amendment

Simpang Renggam Member of Parliament (MP) Liang Teck Meng tells The Nut Graph that his party, Gerakan, has consistently voiced its opposition to the ISA even within the BN.

"Our Youth wing calls for the ISA to be abolished completely, while the main body calls for five areas to be amended," he says in a telephone interview.

The five areas are:

Limiting the home minister's powers in ordering detentions.

Preventing the ISA from being used to stifle legitimate political dissent.

Shortening the detention period — this is now 60 days and is indefinitely renewable in two-year blocks.

Ensuring the detainees' welfare.

Reintroducing judicial review to throw out unconstitutional ISA detentions.

"Only if these five areas can be reviewed to incorporate effective checks and balances would I consider the parliamentary amendment a success," says Liang. Anything less, he says, would be an improvement on the existing law but still a failure on the whole.

Being realistic?

Umno's Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, however, says, "We have to be realistic in what we hope for.

"Gerakan's concerns also matter to me, and I personally wish we were ready for more sweeping amendments, but I'm not sure if all of these concerns can be addressed," he tells The Nut Graph in a telephone interview.

Therefore, Khairy says, "Any improvement would be welcome at the moment."


Raja Petra (Pic by JohnleeMK / Wiki commons)
Khairy's, and to some extent Liang's, reticence points towards the BN's dilemma regarding the ISA. On one hand, the ruling coalition knows that public opinion is increasingly stacked against it on issues such as the ISA. Even BN cabinet members cried foul when the ISA was used in September 2008 against political blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the DAP's Teresa Kok, and Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng.

On the other hand, it is apparent that the BN finds it painful to even review the ISA, let alone abolish it. The MCA's Labis MP Chua Tee Yong articulates a possible reason why, from the BN's perspective: "We have many different races in Malaysia, and restricting the use of ISA on terrorists only is too confining for me."

He adds that a "balancing act" is required with any ISA amendment. "For example, passport forgery is a threat to national security. But passport forgers are not terrorists, and so we still need a mechanism that allows us to address these sorts of threats," he tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

"We also don't want the day to come when whoever takes over power decides to use the ISA to just arrest everybody. That's why we need checks and balances," he concludes.

Checks and balances

Chua suggests a two-tier response to hold accountable the use of the ISA.

Set up a committee, which includes the home minister, that deliberates before any arrests are made. According to Chua, this is essential because detention without trial is "serious".

After arrest, ensure that judicial review is available in order for the decision to be challenged if it was unconstitutional.


Chua (Source: parlimen.gov.my)
"The problem right now is that the implementation of the law is too haphazard, until we get people saying things like, 'This individual was arrested for their own safety.' That's ludicrous," Chua says.

Right now, it is unclear what the exact amendments to the ISA will be. In June 2009, Hishammuddin said the review would include shortening the initial 60-day detention period, appointing independent investigating officers, and reviewing definitions of "threats to national security". Judicial review, a key constitutional check-and-balance mechanism, went unmentioned.

So, in theory, even if Hishammuddin's suggested amendments were passed, the home minister would still have wide and arbitrary powers to order ISA arrests. What guarantee would Malaysians have, then, that the government will not continue to use the ISA arbitrarily to silence legitimate dissent, as it has repeatedly done in the past?

"The only guarantee would be to have a good person as the home minister," Khairy quips. Relying on a benign minister, unfortunately, hardly qualifies as a democratic check-and-balance mechanism. And, if previous ministerial appointments are anything to go by, it's a rather risky measure to take to ensure the state cannot just lock people up indefinitely.

Rumah Sakit Yang Sakit

An Open Letter to Health Minister

Dear Yang Berkhidmat Liow Tiong Lai,

Mr. Wong, an elderly man presented at Hospital Likas because of severe breathlessness and was found to have severe pneumonia on chest x-ray.

He was then admitted to the High Dependency Unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) 30 minutes away for treatment.

He improved after six days and was then transferred to the normal ward for further recuperation.

A bed was urgently needed one day later and the frail Mr. Wong was then shipped off to Hospital Bukit Padang for ‘rehabilitation’.

Alas, he did not improve but instead deteriorated.

As Hospital Bukit Padang was devoid of the necessary equipment and setup for managing emergencies and ill patients, Mr. Wong was then resent back to QEH for further management.

More tests were required and old Wong was then sent to Sabah Medical Center for a CT scan.

I’m not sure what happened to Mr. Wong thereafter.

Dear Minister,

I hope this short story did not catch you in an awkward moment as the infamous video did to your amorous predecessor.

I hate to interrupt you in the midst of your personal battle for self preservation in the increasingly irrelevant political party called MCA but the healthcare crisis in Sabah has just taken a turn for the worse.

The locals in Sabah refer to hospitals as ‘rumah sakit’ – translated literally to mean a ‘sick house’.

Increasingly, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the only tertiary referral center in Sabah is living up her grand title of being a sick house.

Partially shut down since September 2008, the ailing sick house of Sabah has turned critical recently, with worsening cracks and falling tiles and a real threat of frank collapse.

The older blocks nearby were declared unsafe and subsequently evacuated and shut down.

Ill and frail patients were shipped off in a frenzy like unwanted cargo to nearby centers like Hospital Bukit Padang the mental institution, Hospital Likas, and the makeshift hospital of Lingzhi Museum in Kepayan and of course, UMNO’s favourite Sabah Medical Center (SMC).

Mr. Minister of Health,

The formation of the Queen- SMC-Likas-Lingzhi-BukitPadang medical maze has brought total chaos to healthcare services in Sabah.

The docile and unassuming Sabahan patients are constantly playing a wicked game of musical chairs, being transported around from one hospital to another according to their changing healthcare needs.

There is not one single center that can address a patient as a whole.

A lady in labor will be told that she can’t do so in QEH, while a fitting patient are whisked away from Likas to QEH.

A child with a broken limb may go to SMC but the surgery can only be done in Likas.

Elderly Mr. Wong is merely one of many such victims.

Continuity of care is virtually impossible when patients are moved about every few days.

Valuable investigations and data are lost in the process of multiple transfers resulting in costly, repeated tests.

Patients have even died due to the lack of emergency equipment and the deficient setup at the peripheral wards.

You will not hear all these because your little pharaohs in the state health department have done a great job concealing negligence, mismanagement and sheer stupidity.

Medical personnel are suffering in silence too.

Doctors from house officers to specialists are rushing around the five medical centers daily, wasting precious time, fuel and energy in the process of doing so.

Medical officers have been doing eight to fifteen on-calls every month as a result of the increased locations housing the sick.

That is fifteen days away from home and family every month, mind you.

Just in case you forgot we too have young, growing kids to care for.

Absent parents do not make for good family dynamics, won’t you agree?

We are risking our lives each working day wondering if the abandoned tower block will one day collapse upon us and send us to our Maker.

Our comrades serving in Sabah Medical Center are not having it any better.

In spite of the Barisan Nasional’s grandiose publicity buzz over the RM 245 million purchase of Sabah Medical Center, the medical personnel and patients have remained mere squatters in the premises.

The medical staffs are receiving summonses so very too often as a result of limited parking space.

Those of us in surgical disciplines are working till 9 pm on Mondays to Fridays so as to optimize the operating time of our three miserable rented surgical theatres.

In the SMC wards, 4-5 patients are cramped into rooms meant for two as the hospital was built to house a capacity of 150 beds only.

Mr. Minister,

My colleagues and I cordially invite you to come and see the ground situation for yourself without a grand entourage of administrative boot-lickers.

Patients who require hospital admission have to be turned away due to the insufficiency of places.

The inpatients meanwhile are packed like sardines in the current wards, with hardly a metre of space between beds.

The situation is comparable to a Vietnamese refugee camp.

Hospital-acquired infections are the norm rather the exception.

When a patient with tuberculosis coughs his lungs out, everyone in the ward will be inhaling the highly infectious Mycobacterium.

After 50 years of independence, our ill patients who require close observation are still sharing monitors and other equipment between themselves.

Is this the standard of care that Barisan Nasional is according to Najib’s self-proclaimed fixed deposit?

Whatever happened to all the oil money that Sabah has generated for Tanah Melayu over the last 50 years?

So you see, Mr Health Minister, we don’t need more jobless house officers, more empty promises and more tasty slogans like 1Malaysia.

We need 1Hospital and 1HealthMinister who is attuned to the sufferings of the rakyat under his care.

Do and be all that even though Sabah will most likely hand Barisan Nasional another landslide victory come next general election.

With warmest regards,
Product of the System.

Parliament: School Improvement Programme To Start End Of The Month

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 (Bernama) -- The Education Ministry will introduce the School Improvement Programme (SIP) by end March to help raise performance of schools to achieve High Performance Schools (SBT) status.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the programme was necessary to give schools a chance, immaterial of whether they were from towns or rural areas, to gain SBT recognition.

"Through the new system, every school will be gauged and the ministry's officers will work with the schools to take the necessary steps to rectify specific weaknesses found in their schools," he told the Dewan Rakyat today when answering a question by Datuk Noraini Ahmad (BN-Parit Sulong).

Muhyiddin who is also the Education Minister said SIP comprised two elements, namely a School Improvement Toolkit (SIT) to analyze the strength and weakness of a school based on administration, teachers, students, parents and infrastructure.

"From the analysis, each school will draft their SIP and submit it to the ministry so that a best suited plan can be devised to help that school," he said.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said the selection for SIP would be done in stages since the schools involved would have to go through a specific process to ensure whether they qualify or not.

"We are not going to simply offer assistance because for a school to be listed as an SBT school, they must meet certain criteria. Right now the focus will be on the 20 SBT identified.

"Furthermore, the issue of finance is also an area to be considered because these schools will need financial assistance to maintain their status," he said.

Noraini had wanted to know why the ministry was carrying out the SBT exercise in stages rather than selecting 100 schools at one go.

To an additional question by Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur), Muhyiddin said the government would also focus on technical and vocational education cater for the demands of the country in such fields.

He added that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would soon announce the names of recipients for the National Scholarship, who were selected based on merit without any racial bias.

Penang Botanic Garden: Is this progress? - Anil Netto

For over 120 years, the Penang Botanic Garden has managed without these concrete structures.

But now, in the name of ‘development’, ‘progress’ and ‘upgrading’, concrete is being dumped in the Garden and useless structures are sprouting up.

How sad. And to think they use public funds for all this.

Nazri: ever fearful people lupa dia jantan? :)

By Nathaniel Tan

Sigh, I hate to blog about him so much, but what is it about this Nazri guy and his jantan-ness? :P

First Mahathir is not jantan enough for him, now Anwar is not jantan enough for him.

I think he’s rightly gonna get a whacking from all the women’s groups.

I mean, seriously. What kind of ’statesman’ around calling others “betina” (as if that were something bad), and keeps saying “I’m a man! Look at me! *thumps chest*”??

Someone not particularly secure about his manhood?

Others would say someone trapped in a closet, but I certainly wouldn’t make such accusations :P

Saya anak jantan indeed. Takut orang tak clear ke? :P

(Now if you want to get technical, our friend was ‘brilliantly’ trying to differentiate between ‘anak jantan’ and ‘anak betina’. Unless he is implying he is himself a child, the last i checked – virgin birth possibly aside – you can’t be an anak of a jantan without… well… being an anak of a betina, no? sigh. it’s automatic voter registration vs compulsory voting all over again :P )

Nazri hina kaum wanita

Hadi on 'Allah', Zahrain's allegations and Sept 16

Anwar given a week to explain 'One Israel' dig



PKR challenges gov't to drop Apco

Anwar insists on APCO’s Israel link

By Adib Zalkapli- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today maintained that APCO Worldwide had served the Ehud Barak administration in 1999 and said that he will give an explanation to the Speaker of Parliament as soon as possible.

“I will give my explanation, and my explanation will be based on the prime minister’s response on March 18,” said Anwar, referring to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s written reply to Parliament admitting that “APCO Worldwide Sdn Bhd was appointed to provide total communication services.”

Earlier today, Anwar was asked by the House to explain his allegation last week that 1 Malaysia is a carbon copy of the 1 Israel initiative and was drawn up by APCO.

The public relations consultant had dismissed the allegations, resulting in the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) move to refer Anwar to the Rights and Privileges Committee.

“I will explain, because APCO was indeed in Israel at that point of time,” Anwar told reporters.

“Naturally they are paid to deny, but let me give the facts,” said Anwar when pointed out that APCO had dismissed his allegations.

“But I will also demand for an explanation as to who is APCO, how much are they paid and what is the role played by APCO in communication, and what is their advice to the various ministries, especially the strategic ministries,” he added.

Anwar said that he had to raise the issue of APCO’s involvement because he had been accused of being a Jewish agent.

“I raised the APCO issue not because they are Jewish, but I have been accused of being a Jewish agent for 12 years, with no evidence provided,” said Anwar.

He also pointed out that the government had also previously engaged disgraced American lobbyist Jack Abramoff to improve ties with Washington.

PAS wants amendments to Rukunegara to include ‘Allah’

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — PAS wants the Rukunegara to be amended, and to include the use of “Allah” instead of “God” following debates over the last few months over “Allah” being used by non-Muslims.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang told reporters outside Parliament that the government should view the debates on the “Allah” issue in a positive light and make appropriate changes to the Rukunegara to refer to “God” as “Allah”, as Christians and non-Muslims also use the word.

“What is wrong with it, it is an achievement in unity following the ‘Allah’ issue. We should not only change the Rukunegara, we should make it more proactive, and at the same time work towards unity,” said Hadi.

He affirmed that whatever confusion which may be caused by the usage of the word may be resolved by religious scholars.

“Christians and other religions have realised the glory of the name ‘Allah’, Lord, God and other words do not have the same meaning.”

“The government needs to accept things in a positive light in handling the issue,” he said.

Despite questions from reporters stating that Christians’ understanding of Allah differ from Islam’s meaning of a singular God, he asserted that confusion would not occur if time is taken to explain and understand.

“We as Muslims can eat the meat prepared by Christians as well as Jews. This is because they use the name ‘Allah’ when slaughtering meat.”

“It is our responsibility to explain, not to attack.”

He added that Muslims will not be confused if Christians were allowed to use “Allah”, again dispelling claims that the faith of Muslims would be in jeopardy if “Allah” were to be inclusive to all.

“Who is confused? True Muslims won’t be confused, the ignorance of Muslims is our own doing,” he said.

The usage of “Allah” among non-Muslims took centre stage at the end of last year, ever since The High Court ruled that the Catholic church could use the word “Allah” in their weekly publications.

Chaos ensued after the ruling, with churches, a mosque and a Sikh temple vandalised.

There is democracy and there is democracy

Minorities too have rights and their views also matter. Did not Saddam become Iraq’s leader with almost 100% of the votes? So he murdered the minority Kurds. So what? Is that reason to remove him when the minority view does not matter and only what the majority wants count?

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

1. Many people think that as soon as you accept democracy, then you will be practising democracy.

2. Unfortunately, mere acceptance is not enough. It is not enough because everyone, from the top most person to the ordinary people, be they from a political party or of a nation, can find ways to abuse and frustrate the true democratic process. As a result we see democracies failing to work in most organisations or political parties and in many nations.

3. Basically, democracy is about giving power to the majority. It is assumed that the majority knows what is best for the whole. The minority should therefore be prepared to accept the rule of the majority albeit after presenting opposing views and criticisms. The minority must be prepared to wait for the next election in order to make another bid.

4. In a mature democracy almost everyone respects the results of national elections. The majority forms the Government and the minority take their places in the legislature and try their best to influence policies and laws introduced by the majority Government. And so for the four or five years before the next elections, the legislature debates, approves or disapproves the proposals by the Government. But the minority and even the individual legislator may also move proposals or laws although in most instances they will not get through for lack of majority support. Playing their parts, both the majority and the minority would contribute to the proper workings of a democratic Government.

5. Political parties love democracy, as it seems to be fair to everyone. Anyone can bid for any place in the party, including the top most. That is the theory at least.

6. But the reality is that only certain people could aspire to lead because of the support of a substantial number of the members.

7. Ideally in a contest the one with the biggest number of supporters should win. Ideally, as with Government, the loser and his supporters should accept the decision of the majority.

8. Unfortunately, the loser or losers may not want to accept the results. This can ultimately lead to the party being split and weakened.

9. The process may have been very democratic but the objective of choosing a leader by majority vote has not been achieved. The losers must also remember that when they win they same can happen to them. In other words a democratic contest can only lead to the break-up of the party (I am speaking from experience).

10. I would like to cheer on the candidates who are contesting for any post anywhere through the democratic process. Obviously, only one would win. If those who lose cannot accept the decision of the majority of the members, then it is better not to talk about democracy. You really do not know what democracy is about (of course I am assuming the contest is fair).

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his Blog posting called DEMOCRACY

*************************************************

Most people want me to ignore whatever Tun Dr Mahathir says or writes. Many are quite upset that I give Tun the time of day and layan (entertain) him or ‘dignify’ him by talking about him. These same people are perplexed that I am still able to look at Tun with respect after he had arrested me a few times and detained me without trial under the Internal Security Act (plus after what he did to Anwar Ibrahim).

Well, maybe this is my mother’s side in me revealing itself. Asians normally practice a winner takes all and loser loses all culture. You wipe out all your enemies and their family members for seven generations. The British prisoners of war, however, salute their German captors who are higher in rank than them. Yes, you might be a prisoner of the Germans, but if that German officer is senior in rank to you, then you salute him. That is the British way.

Dr Mahathir is a Tun (equivalent to a Sir) and I am not. He is the ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia and I am not. He is also a fellow Blogger, although ‘the enemy’, and I give respect to fellow Bloggers -- even to people like Rocky and all those other Umno Bloggers whom I personally know but who have now declared me ‘the sworn enemy’.

Yes, I would still like to sit down and treat my ‘enemy’ Bloggers to a meal if the opportunity ever arises. They are still my friends even though we are on opposite sides of the political divide. Tan Sri Sanusi Junid can testify to this (he knows what I am talking about). We can do battle in the gelanggang politik (political arena), but outside ‘office hours’ why can’t we sit down and buy each other a drink and act civil towards each other?

Nazri Aziz is another ‘enemy’. But we treat each other with respect and when we met for dinner more than a year ago I sat beside him and we treated each other like old buddies. After dinner, we debated various issues in front of an audience of 80 or 90 ‘Old Boys’ of the MCKK. We of course disagreed on almost all the issues but we debated like gentlemen and addressed each other with nothing short of the highest respect. And this was no show. This was sincere and for real.

In his Blog, today, Tun Dr Mahathir talked about democracy. So, today, I too want to talk about that subject. I do not, however, want to agree with everything that Tun Dr Mahathir has to say. I shall disagree with him. But I shall do this with civility.

The previous Information Minister, Zainuddin Maidin (Zam), told Al Jazeera back in November 2007 that Malaysia is a democratic country because we have elections once every five years. Hitler won the elections as well and became Nazi Germany’s leader. Saddam became Iraq’s leader when he too won the elections. Does this make Nazi Germany and Iraq democratic countries?

Democracy is more than just about winning elections. Hitler became Germany’s leader with less than half the votes while Saddam garnered almost 100% of the votes because no one dared vote against his party lest they disappear in the middle of the night. Just because someone gained power through an election (whether by fair means or foul) does not make that particular country democratic. It takes more than an election to declare a country democratic. After all, elections can be won though many methods. And not all are fair.

We must not just talk about free elections, like how Malaysia argues. Elections must be free AND fair. Most times, elections may be free but they are far from fair. This is what most Malaysians do not understand. And they do not understand this because they just can’t figure out in what way Malaysian elections can be classified as not fair.

In Malaysia, the political arena is not a level playing field. The media is controlled. You need a licence to start a newspaper, magazine or radio/TV station. And if you ‘violate’ the terms of your licence then you lose it. And so-called ‘violations’ are not clear. There is no hard and fast guideline. It is within the powers of the Minister to decide what constitutes a violation. And if the Minister, and only the Minister, is of the opinion that you have violated the terms of your licence then he can cancel it.

The mainstream electronic and print media gives space or airtime to only the government. The opposition is not given equal space or airtime. And if the opposition is given space or airtime, the ‘offending’ news agencies will lose their licence.

So they do not give space or airtime to the opposition for fear of incurring the wrath of the government. And whatever publicity the mainstream print and electronic media gives the opposition it is always in a negative light. Only bad news about the opposition is featured. The mainstream media never says nice things about the opposition. If they do, they will lose their licence.

No doubt, you have the alternative or ‘new’ media to counter what the mainstream media says about the opposition. But how many Malaysians have access to the Internet? More than 90% of Malaysians have access to the government-controlled TV stations. So TV is by far more effective than the Internet. And the TV stations are used as the main propaganda arm of the ruling party. The opposition is fighting a losing battle in trying to counter what the TV stations report.

In a true democracy, the TV stations would give equal airtime to the opposition. This does not happen in Malaysia. In Indonesia, surprisingly, it does. Therefore, in spite of elections being held once every five years, Malaysia has a long way to go in achieving the status of a proper democracy.

Do I even need to talk about how the legal process is being abused to target the opposition? We have many archaic laws that are being used against the opposition. Government supporters can get away with murder, sometimes literally as well. But the opposition supporters face all sorts of investigations and indictments, even key leaders from the opposition.

I really do not need to expand on this point, as most Malaysians know exactly what I am talking about. Prosecution has been fine-tuned to persecution. The government hides behind the legal system in its attempts to drive the opposition out of business.

Let us deliberate on one point, how the Prime Minister is chosen.

Now, the Prime Minister is not voted into office, like the President of the United States. His party is voted into office and the leader of that party automatically becomes the Prime Minister. This is because Malaysia follows the British Westminster system. But how does the Prime Minister become the leader of his party, and therefore the Prime Minister of Malaysia?

Barisan Nasional won the most number of seats in Parliament. So the Chairman of Barisan Nasional would automatically become the Prime Minister of Malaysia. But is the Chairman of Barisan Nasional voted into office? No! The President of Umno automatically becomes the Chairman of Barisan Nasional and, in turn, automatically becomes the Prime Minister.

Does this make him the legitimate Prime Minister? Legally, yes! Morally, no! But we are talking about legal and not moral here. And what may be legal may not also be moral.

How does the Prime Minister become the President of Umno? Since the President of Umno automatically becomes the Prime Minister of all Malaysians this is an important point to consider.

Umno is supposed to have three to four million members spread out over more than 20,000 branches in 191 divisions throughout Malaysia. The 20,000 or so branches nominate their division leaders. Most times the three or four million Umno members have very little say in this. The branch elections are rigged and those not in ‘the gang’ are locked out from this exercise of choosing their 191 division leaders.

Then the 191 divisions send their 2,500 or so delegates to the Umno annual general assembly. Again, those who get to attend the general assembly will be decided by the division leaders. Those not in their gang are, again, locked out. So a mere 191 Umno leaders decide the fate of the entire country.

The 191 Umno division heads will tell the 2,500 or so delegates whom they should elect as the Umno President and Deputy President. These two will become the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively. For anyone to even contest the Umno Presidency and Deputy Presidency they must first obtain nominations from almost 50 of the 191 Umno divisions. This is almost impossible to do.

The 191 Umno division heads will ensure that their divisions will block any contenders to the post of the Umno Presidency and Deputy Presidency. All other aspirants will be blocked and they will receive no nominations. At best they can receive just one nomination, from their own division. They can never receive more than one, let alone 50.

In short, 191 people chose the Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is not three or four million Umno members or 11 million voters or 27 million Malaysians. It is just 191 people. And these 191 people can be bought, controlled, compromised, blackmailed, and so on. And these 191 can, in turn, ensure that their divisions ‘toe the line’.

Is this true democracy? Is it democratic that 191 Malaysians decide on behalf of 27 million other Malaysians who get to lead this country? This is the system. And it is legal. But legal does not make it fair or moral. It also does not make it truly democratic.

Tun Dr Mahathir says we should accept the decision of the majority. Okay, slightly over 50% of Malaysians voted for Barisan Nasional in March 2008. So, since the majority voted for Barisan Nasional, then we should accept the decision of the majority.

First of all, only 191 people decided on who should be the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. Do these 191 people represent the majority? Yes, it is legal. But is it democratic from the moral viewpoint? It is not 27 million Malaysians who decide this? It is not 11 million Malaysian voters who decided this? It is not three or four million Umno members who decided this. It is not even the more than 20,000 Umno branches that decided this. It is 191 Umno division leaders.

Now let us look at the system of general elections in Malaysia. The gerrymandering, which I have already written about before many times, is downright criminal. The variance between constituencies is just too large. The variance should be plus-minus 15% or 20% like many other countries and like what the Reed Commission proposed in the paper on Merdeka. Currently, we have seats as low as 5,000 voters, as opposed to the larger seats that have 120,000 voters or more.

Is it a coincidence that those low voter seats are pro-government while the high voter seats are pro-opposition? Is it a coincidence that the ruling party can win three or fours seats with the same number of voters that allows the opposition only one seat? This is called gerrymandering. It is of course legal. The question is, is it also moral? And do we decide whether it is democratic from the legal or moral viewpoint?

How can this system be considered one-man-one-vote? And the system of first-past-the-post makes it worse. It is seats and not votes that determines the winner. You can form the government with only 40% of the votes, or less. Did not Hitler become Germany’s leader this way, with less than 40% of the votes? And did this not result in tens of millions of deaths when Hitler took the world through another World War?

Yes, it is legal. But that does not make it moral as well. And whether it is democratic is a matter of opinion.

There are probably half a million or so Malaysians overseas. But these Malaysians can’t vote. To vote they must return to Malaysia on Polling Day. How many can afford the time and money to do that? Why can’t overseas Malaysians vote at the Embassies and High Commissions in their respective countries? Those who are overseas ‘on government service’ can. But the private citizens can’t. This is denying Malaysians their right to vote. Even Indonesian maids and labourers can vote in the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. And this represents two million or so Indonesian voters, just in Malaysia alone. Malaysians can’t do the same.

Of course, if overseas Malaysians vote via postal votes then this would raise other problems. As it is, the 250,000 or so ‘postal’ votes are a bone of contention because the ballot boxes are switched. But that is merely an implementation issue, which can easily be overcome.

Political parties can send observers or representatives to monitor the overseas postal voting and the votes can be counted ‘in situ’ in each respective Embassy or High Commission. Only the results need to be sent back to Malaysia, not the ballot boxes. This will ensure that the ballot boxes are not switched, hijacked, lost in transit, or whatever.

Aiyah, if I want to talk about true democracy, there are just so many points I can raise. Just these few issues I mentioned thus far have already made this article so long. Can we abolish the Official Secrets Act and replace it with a Freedom of Information Act? Can we abolish the Internal Security Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights? Can we abolish the PPPA and UCCA and allow publications and periodicals to operate without the need of a licence and allow university students to get involved in politics?

What about the Police Act that forbids an assembly of more than four people and forbids public speeches? Government supporters can attend public functions and can give speeches at these functions. Opposition supporters must first obtain a permit and, according to the permit, speeches are not allowed, even for dinner functions in a private hall. If anyone gets up onto the stage to deliver a speech then the police will step in and close the function down. The police will also confiscate the PA system and haul in the organisers and speakers for ‘interrogation’. The government supporters are not subjected to all this.

Yes, if you want to talk about democracy I can also talk. And I will have more to say. And to argue that what the majority wants count and that the minority view does not matter is not democracy at all. Minorities too have rights and their views also matter. Did not Saddam become Iraq’s leader with almost 100% of the votes? So he murdered the minority Kurds. So what? Is that reason to remove him when the minority view does not matter and only what the majority wants count?

Dr M talks about democratic abuses

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: Many would find this ironic, but Dr Mahathir Mohamad has decided to share his views on how democracy can be abused.

During his 22-year tenure as prime minister, the 84-year-old statesman was accused of muzzling the media and emasculating the judiciary, police and anti-graft commission, among a litany of other alleged misdeeds.

In his latest blog posting yesterday, seven days ahead of the MCA elections, Mahathir also talked about party elections.

“Political parties love democracy as it seems to be fair to everyone. Anyone can bid for any place in the party, including the top post. That is the theory at least.

“But the reality is that only certain people could aspire to lead because of the support of a substantial number of the members,” he said.

Ideally in a contest, Mahathir said, the one with the biggest number of supporters should win and the loser and his supporters must accept the decision of the majority.

“Unfortunately the loser or losers may not want to accept the results. This can ultimately lead to the party being split and weakened.

“The process may have been very democratic but the objective of choosing a leader by majority vote is not achieved. The losers must remember that when they win the same can happen to them.

“In other words, a democratic contest can only lead to the break-up of the party (I am speaking from experience),” he said in referrence to the 1987 crisis in Umno.

Mahathir said he woud like to cheer on the candidates contesting for any post anywhere through the democratic process.

“Obviously only one would win. If those who lose cannot accept the decision of the majority, then it is better not to talk about democracy. You really do not know what democracy is about,” he said, adding a footnote at the bottom of the page which read, “Of course I am assuming that the contest is fair.”

Democracy 101

The former premier noted that many people believe that as soon as they accept democracy, then they will be practising democracy.

Unfortunately, he said, mere acceptance is not enough.

“It is not enough because everyone, from the topmost person to the ordinary people, be they from a political party or a nation, can find ways to abuse and frustrate the true democratic process.

“As a result we see democracies failing to work in most organisations or political parties and in many nations,” he added.

Explaining the basics of democracy, Mahathir said the system is about giving power to the majority and it is assumed that the majority knows what is best for the whole.

“The minority should therefore be prepared to accept the rule of the majority albeit after presenting opposing views and criticisms. The minority must be prepared to wait for the next elections in order to make another bid,” he added.

In a mature democracy, he said, almost everyone respects the results of national elections where the majority forms the government and the minority take their places in the legislature and try their best to influence policies and laws introduced by the majority government.

“And so for the four or five years before the next elections, the legislature debates, approves or disapproves the proposals by the government.

“But the minority and even the individual legislator may also move proposals or laws although in most instances they will not get through for lack of majority support.

“Playing their parts, both the majorty and the minority would contribute to the proper workings of a democratic government,” he added.

'My way' Mahathir

Critics would be quick to scoff at Mahathir's comments, since the former premier has been described as 'dictator' who could not tolerate dissenting views.

In 1987, Mahathir had more than 100 people, including journalists, opposition politicians and activists, arrested under the Internal Security Act during the infamous 'Operasi Lalang' dragnet.

More than a decade later, he was accused of authoring a political consipracy to oust his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.

However, Mahathir has denied the charge, and has remained unpologetic for the numerous controversies during his leadership.

On the other hand, his supporters believe that Mahathir, whose favourite song happens to be Frank Sinatra's 'My way', was the best thing that happened to this nation.

Does Perkasa Get the Hint?

Logically speaking, there seems no need to defend any of these because no one is foolhardy enough to fight them. The special position of the Malays is well protected, the Malay rulers are on a strong wicket, and Islam is firmly entrenched as the main religion of the country.

by Kee Thuan Chye, Malaysian Digest

The Sultan of Selangor has done the right thing in withdrawing from his earlier agreement to open the inaugural general meeting of Pertubuhan Peribumi Perkasa Negara (Perkasa) on March 27. Although the reason given is that the Sultan does not want to be seen to be supporting a politician, namely, Ibrahim Ali, who heads the NGO, the more important implication is that right-wing organisations, even though they are championing Malay rights, have to be “tolerant and respect other races” and operate within existing laws.

Such a message is timely, especially since the country seems more divided than ever along racial lines. After the 2008 general election, Umno and certain individuals have been playing on racial sentiments to win back the Malays who had voted against the party, by warning them that the race is under threat. This has provided the impetus for organisations like Perkasa to garner support and step up right-wing activism.

If Ibrahim Ali is to be believed, Perkasa is attracting new members every day. He expects a gathering of 10,000 at the March 27 general meeting, which is pretty phenomenal for an organisation that is only one and a half years old. He has since gone on to form the Majlis Perunding NGO Melayu, a consultative council comprising 80 or so NGOs pledging to defend Malay rights, the institution of the Malay rulers and Islam.

Logically speaking, there seems no need to defend any of these because no one is foolhardy enough to fight them. The special position of the Malays is well protected, the Malay rulers are on a strong wicket, and Islam is firmly entrenched as the main religion of the country. The administration of this country, backed by the military and other institutions, is committed to ensuring that they will be upheld. Who would be bold or strong enough to go against that?

This is, however, not logical enough for Perkasa and its comrades. The Majlis Perunding NGO Melayu has asked to meet with Prime Minister Najib Razak before he announces his New Economic Model, which is expected to be soon. Ibrahim Ali, who is also their spokesman, has made it clear that “we want any policy made by the Government to get support from all quarters”. He also said that “if the Government wants the support of NGOs, (it) should also give due consideration to our views and feelings”.

This stance taken by Ibrahim and the council of NGOs reflects what the Jews would call chutzpah. They are thus encouraged probably because the Government has been taking a tolerant attitude towards them. Some political observers feel that the Government is actually making use of these right-wingers to articulate what the Government itself can’t, without contradicting its outward advocacy for 1Malaysia. Perkasa and its ilk serve the purpose of uniting those Malays who feel they are under threat, which Umno welcomes, while Najib goes about wooing the non-Malays with his multi-racial sloganeering.

Meanwhile, yet another right-wing group has emerged. Calling itself the Organisation of Former Umno Elected Representatives, it purports to champion Malay interests in the fields of economics, education, religion and language. That seems to somewhat duplicate the agenda of Perkasa and the Majlis Perunding NGO Melayu but it doesn’t seem to matter to its members. Perhaps they feel that by dint of their being former Umno representatives, they may be better received and considered more influential.

The trend, on the whole, is rather disturbing. The rise of the right wing could further widen the communication and harmony gap between the different races. It’s already giving the impression that a section of the Malays are getting agitated. The sad thing is, they’re getting agitated for the wrong reasons. Their enemy is not the non-Malays, but the right-wing leaders would have them believe this is so. And this is being abetted by the mainstream media.

Khalid Samad, the PAS MP for Shah Alam, recently said that Perkasa is “not a problem”. He asserted that “they don’t have much influence in society”. One hopes he is right. If the right-wing elements within Umno itself should be empowered by this growing development, the consequences might be dire. An Umno controlled by right-wingers is not a pretty prospect. Imagine a Malaysia regressing into becoming an ethnocentric culture when the signs of progress are pointing in the opposite direction. We will all lose out.

One of the messages conveyed by the Sultan of Selangor’s private secretary, Lela Bakti Mohamad Munir Bani, when announcing His Highness’s decision to not officiate at Perkasa’s meeting, contains much-needed advice: “Perkasa should be tolerant and respect other races in Malaysia, live in harmony and work together to develop the country.” There’s nothing equivocal in that message. If Perkasa still doesn’t get the hint, those who support it deserve what they get.

Seeds of racism: A look at national identity from child developmental perspective

A Malay boy – in his middle or late childhood years – was captured on video attempting to stomp on the gory cow head during the protest against a Hindu temple by Muslims in Shah Alam. The boy displayed a simultaneous attraction and repulsion to the act, and viewers were left with an indelible image of how he tried to step on it but nonetheless quickly withdrew his leg.

By CT Wong (Centre for Policy Initiatives)

One wonders what kind of attitude towards other races and religions the boy will adhere to when he grows up. We may be able to find some clues in general if we start from the question of how a child develops his identity from young.

Children do not have historical baggage like adults. However, this does not mean that they are neutral or passive observers of events happening around them. In fact, studies have shown that in-group favouritism, i.e. positive feelings about the national group to which a person belongs, is common among children and adolescents.

Individuals also hold stereotypes about their own and other national groups.

Our federal constitution marks us out as different from one another. We are categorized as Malays and non-Malays, or the in-groups and the out-groups. This has far-reaching polarising consequences on the psyche and character of Malaysian citizens.

Studies by Henri Tajfel, a British social psychologist, have shown that mere categorisation itself is a potential source of racial prejudice and discrimination. Hence, it is important to explore the meaning of identities so that we can avoid any possible blind spots of the early framers of the constitution.

Group membership

Racists are not born but made. One of the starting points in understanding in-group affiliation and bigotry is from child development as young people develop a subjective sense of national identity gradually.

For this sense of national identity, children first need an awareness that there are groups or categories of people like Malaysians, Singaporeans, English or French, etc. These different peoples are seen as groups instead of singular individuals. In early childhood, children do not have this idea of grouping nor do they comprehend that they themselves are a member of a particular group.

But once they are of an age to realise that they belong to a certain group, then just like adults, they attribute different levels of importance to their membership.

Children often regard birth of place as a very important criterion to judge group membership. Other criteria commonly used include parentage or ancestry, ethnicity, religion, use of language, cultural practices, loyalty to traditions, national institutions, etc.

In the Malaysian context, these criteria may be utilised deliberately for a political purpose, e.g. social markers in the segregation or exclusion of certain ethnic groups.

National emblems such as the various institutions, symbols, historical figures and traditions which represent or symbolise the national group or nation form an important part of the subjective sense of national identity.

Children may or may not identify strongly with these emblems. For example, a national museum that aims to portray mainly the legacy of only a certain ethnic group would alienate the other groups. In children, the symbols can evoke feelings of national shame or national pride or just sheer indifference.

The sense of national identity is context-dependent and not static. It is closely related to everyday behaviour like the language(s) the child learns to speak, the way of life adopted by his family, contents of TV programmes and newspapers, contents of school curriculum etc. All these pervade our everyday life and yet, unless certain events prompt our thinking, we hardly analyse what impacts on the formation of identity.

It is thus important to step away from the racial perspective that has dominated so much of debates and reflections on our race relations, and look at national identity from the social sciences models.

Cognitive-developmental theory

Expert viewpoints can help to shed light on this issue. The two main theoretical approaches to the development of national identity during childhood and adolescence rooted in different psychological traditions are the cognitive-developmental theory of Piaget, and the social identity theory from Tajfel.

Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, links the development of national identity to children’s general cognitive development. He starts from the stage where children engage in reasoning at the concrete level up to the abstract level (e.g. from thinking in terms of cities up to national group membership). These thought processes happen irrespective of ethnic background.

Using the concept of children’s development in cognitive abilities in general, Frances Aboud, a Canadian professor of psychology argued that the cognitive change leads to the reduction of in-group favouritism between 6-12 years old. Her studies showed that children’s in-group favouritism peaks at around the age of 6, attributing positive characteristics mainly to their own groups and negative ones to the out-groups.

However, the polarising tendency decreases between 6 and 12 as children attribute more negative characteristics to their own group and positive ones to the out-groups. The children are able to use multiple classifications and to judge the deeper similarities between superficially different groups as well as to distinguish differences within their own group.

The implication of this finding is that children develop bias and stereotypes as young as around six years of age. However, because of their capacity for abstract thinking, these biases do not remain fixed and unchangeable.

Social identity theory

Tajfel and John Turner’s social identity theory proposes that when a child identifies with the national group, in-group favouritism occurs. The child derives positive self-esteem or self-worth by being a member of that particular group.

However, the in-group and out-group comparison could give rise to a sense of superiority and not mere comparison of differences – this is where racial differences turn into racism. Tajfel also argued that mere categorisation itself could lead to prejudice.

Drew Nesdale, an Australian Professor of psychology, has linked the concept of child development to social identity theory. He argues that there are four phases in the development of national and ethnic identities:

1) Undifferentiated phase – prior to age between 2 and 3, racial and national cues are not yet important to young children,

2) Group awareness phase – beginning at 3 years of age, ethnic and national awareness starts to emerge. Self-identification as a member of the in-group occurs,

3) In-group favouritism phase – beginning at about 4 years, self-identification leads to in-group favouritism and,

4) Out-group prejudice – starting at about 7 years of age, there is a shift of focus to out-groups. Prejudice and negativity towards out-groups starts to emerge.

According to Nesdale, whether children enter Phase 4 depends on their level of identification with the in-group, the extent to which other members of their social group hold negative or prejudiced attitudes, and whether the group feels threatened.

This is where the parents, teachers and other significant influences in the children’s life condition them into holding prejudices against other racial or national groups.

I-am-M’sian tag inadequate

Though the above theories are able to explain certain phenomenon, so far there is no empirically adequate theory to explain all the different aspects of development of national identities.

There are many different factors involved in a child’s development like the geographical location (city or rural areas), language use (primacy of mother tongue) and ethnicity factors in equal education and employment opportunities, etc.

Moreover, the media, school, family, social environment and the children themselves all mutually interact with each other in a web of relationships. Of all these factors, ethnicity as a social marker evokes much strong feelings towards or against national identification.

Hence, national identity is not just a name-tag or badge which we wear that says “I am a Malaysian”.

It is a complex and dynamic psychological structure involving a system of core beliefs about the national group, and associated emotions and feelings.

Mere categorisation in racial entities has sowed the seeds of prejudice which leads to the pervasive racial discrimination.

The insights from the above studies of child development are mainly from the West. If we really want to address the urgent issues of racial prejudice and to develop anti-racist education, then we need to do own exploration and investigation.

Without reforming all the racialist approach at governmental policy and implementation level, merely changing the name tag or labelling to ‘1 Malaysia’ is tackling the issue at the wrong end.

Ibrahim Ali, PERKASA dan Ku Klux Klan

Baru-baru ini orang asal (orang asli) telah membuat kejutan dengan berdemonstrasi di Putrajaya, tujuan mereka adalah untuk menghantar memorandum berkaitan permasalahan pemilikan tanah mereka. Dalam keramaian orang itu, dalam foto-foto yang disiarkan, saya mencari kelibat seseorang tetapi hampa kerana tiada berjumpa.

Kelibat manusia yang saya cari adalah Ibrahim Ali, maklumlah, katanya dia Presiden PERKASA, atau nama panjangnya Pribumi Perkasa Negara. Walaupun seperti kata Zaid Ibrahim, orang asal tidak termasuk dalam kategori bumiputera atau pribumi mengikut Perlembagaan Persekutuan, tetapi hakikatnya mereka memang pribumi, mereka memang bumiputera. Bukankah orang asal dan pribumi itu membawa maksud yang sama?

Jadi, bila orang asal berdemonstrasi bagi menuntut hak mereka, saya mengandaikan Ibrahim Ali selaku Presiden Pribumi Perkasa Negara akan turut hadir dengan membawa seluruh kekuatan armada PERKASA bagi menunjukkan sokongan. Rupanya tidak, rupanya tidak ada, serupa juga, saya yakin Ibrahim Ali dan PERKASA tidak akan muncul jika yang berdemonstrasi itu dari kaum Iban, Kadazan, Murut, Dusun, Dayak, Penan dan sebagainya.

Rupanya PERKASA bukan untuk pribumi, PERKASA hanya untuk Melayu. Jangan salah tanggap, bukan Melayu seperti saya! PERKASA bukan sekadar sebuah pertubuhan bukan kerajaan, PERKASA adalah kumpulan pelobi ketuanan Melayu dengan dipimpin oleh kumpulan nasionalis ultra-kanan Melayu. Dari segi sifatnya, kewujudan PERKASA hampir menyamai kewujudan Ku Klux Klan di Amerika Syarikat, cuma PERKASA dalam beberapa kenyataannya sebelum ini kelihatan tegas tidak merestui sebarang aktiviti keganasan seperti Ku Klux Klan.

Ibrahim Ali, jangan saman dahulu, mari kita bersama cuba menyusuri sejarah dan mencari rasional kemungkinan persamaan ini.

Ku Klux Klan ialah kumpulan ultra kanan yang memperjuangkan ketuanan bangsa kulit putih - Protestan di Amerika Syarikat. Kewujudannya dikesan seawal tahun 1865, diasaskan oleh veteran tentera konfederasi dari Tennesee. Pengwujudannya dikatakan bertujuan bagi mengembalikan ketuanan bangsa kulit putih selepas tamatnya Perang Saudara Amerika.

PERKASA pula ditubuhkan selepas UMNO, parti politik terbesar orang Melayu yang memimpin Barisan Nasional dalam Pilihanraya Umum 2008 dikejutkan dengan kekalahan di lima negeri dan satu Wilayah Persekutuan serta kehilangan penguasaan dua pertiga di Parlimen.

Kalau Ku Klux Klan melihat ketuanan bangsa kulit putih - Protestan tergugat selepas Perang Saudara Amerika, PERKASA pula melihat kononnya Melayu tergugat pasca Pilihanraya Umum 2008. Lebih dari itu, PERKASA secara terbuka di bahagian latar belakang penubuhan dalam laman web rasminya menganggap kompromi antara kaum sebelum merdeka adalah satu kompromi paksaan. Secara spesifiknya saya boleh nyatakan yang kompromi ini adalah antara bapa-bapa pengasas negara kita iaitu Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman, Mendiang Tan Cheng Lock dan Mendiang V. Sambathan.

Ku Klux Klan pada kemunculan kali keduanya iaitu pada tahun 1915 hadir dengan lebih formal, dengan struktur persekutuan dan negeri. Ini biasanya struktur parti politik, tetapi PERKASA juga hadir dengan struktur yang sama. Melihat kepada syarat keahliannya yang longgar, PERKASA seperti juga Ku Klux Klan wujud lebih sebagai organisasi fraternal atau persaudaraan, persaudaran Melayu atau Malay brotherhood untuk PERKASA dan White brotherhood untuk Ku Klux Klan.

Pada tahun 50-an dan 60-an, wujud pula kumpulan-kumpulan bebas di Amerika Syarikat yang menggunakan nama Ku Klux Klan dalam penentangan mereka terhadap Pergerakan Hak Sivil dan penghapusan perbezaan kaum. Sekali lagi merujuk kepada bahagian latar belakang penubuhan PERKASA di laman web rasminya, PERKASA juga secara jelas memusuhi pejuang hak sivil dan penghapusan perbezaan kaum yang diistilahkan sebagai penganut pemikiran global dan universal, dan jika pejuang hak sivil serta penghapusan perbezaan kaum ini hadir dari kalangan orang Melayu sendiri, bagi PERKASA mereka adalah talibarut penjajah (entah penjajah mana…).

Disebabkan ini juga dapat kita lihat banyak kritikan yang dilemparkan oleh PERKASA secara rasminya atau melalui Presidennya, Ibrahim Ali, terhala kepada PKR atau terus kepada Anwar Ibrahim (gambar kiri) yang diwar-warkan sebagai penganut faham liberal demokratik.

Memang benar, tidak seperti Ku Klux Klan, PERKASA tidak menaja aktiviti keganasan. Tulisan inipun bukan mahu melihat persamaan pendekatan dari segi tindakan, tetapi lebih kepada sifat dan bentuk pertubuhan. Ku Klux Klan dikategori sebagai hate group iaitu kumpulan atau pergerakan terancang yang mempromosi kebencian, permusuhan atau kekerasan terhadap ahli kepada kaum, etnik, agama, jantina, orientasi seksual atau sektor-sektor tertentu yang lain dalam masyarakat. Apakah PERKASA tidak termasuk dalam kategori ini, berdasarkan kenyataan dan ucapan-ucapan pemimpinnya?

Tanpa keganasan dan kekerasan pun, PERKASA telah terbukti melemparkan salam kebencian dan pertentangan yang membahayakan. Ini terbukti dengan cuplikan seruan Ibrahim Ali, Presiden PERKASA yang dikutip dari laman web rasmi PERKASA sendiri;

"Salam kepada semua umat Melayu Islam: Bersatu kita pastikan Melayu tak akan hilang di dunia dan bumi kita tidak akan di pijak orang. Lim Kit Siang (gambar kanan) kerkata PERKASA adalah Syaitan di dalam blognya dan kita akan hadapi Iblis ini yang tidak mengenang budi atas pengorbanan umat Melayu selama ini. Kebangkitan Melayu bermula pada tanggal 27 Mac 2010."

"Pada akhbar The Sun yang melaga PERKASA dengan DYMM Sultan Selangor, membujur lalu melintang patah, genggam bara api biar sampai jadi arang."

Apakah kata-kata ini tidak kedengaran bernada hasutan? Siapakah Ibrahim Ali yang bebas untuk berkata apa sahaja? Bahasa yang digunakan adalah bahasa yang tidak sanggup untuk saya ucapkan, ia adalah bahasa kurang ajar yang hanya terbit dari mulut orang Melayu yang mahu bergaduh. Bagi orang Melayu yang masih dalam keadaan waras dan wajar, ini bukan bahasanya. Melayu dikenal dengan adab-sopannya, menegur pun masih berkias.

Saya bersetuju akan ada benarnya hujah PERKASA bahawa tidak banyak negara di dunia ini yang mempunyai komposisi kaum yang unik seperti Malaysia. Amerika Syarikat pun tidak sama dengan Malaysia. Kerana tidak sama, maka saya rasa tidak perlulah ada satu lagi klon Ku Klux Klan di Malaysia. Kita tidak perlukan PERKASA di negara ini, keutuhan negara kita tidak mampu menampung beratnya kesan yang lahir dari kemunculan kumpulan-kumpulan ultra nasionalis sebegini.

Saya fikir ada benarnya tempelak orang terhadap pengwujudan PERKASA ini. Tidakkah pelik di sebuah negara yang majoriti penduduknya Melayu, diperintah sejak merdeka oleh gabungan parti yang diketuai oleh parti Melayu, perlu wujud sebuah kumpulan pendesak Melayu yang katanya mahu memperjuangkan hak orang Melayu? Kalau PERKASA merasakan hak orang Melayu selama ini diabaikan, ia bukan salah sesiapa melainkan parti pemerintah yang bertanggungjawab merangka dasar dan program, ingat! Ibrahim Ali (gambar kiri) si Presiden PERKASA itupun pernah berada di dalamnya.

Ibrahim Ali sebenarnya menubuhkan PERKASA untuk apa? Untuk kepentingan perjuangan Melayu dan pribumi (pribumi? hahaha!!!)? Atau untuk koleksi peribadi? Di mana Majlis Tindakan Rakyat Kelantan sekarang? Semua orang tahu, sejak dari kampus, Ibrahim Ali tidak pernah berhenti dari berpolitik, sampai sekarang. Semua orang juga tahu, Ibrahim Ali menggunakan PAS untuk bertanding dan menang menjadi Ahli Parlimen, kalau tidak dia akan hilang wang pertaruhan. Salahkah kalau saya buat kesimpulan PERKASA adalah "bini" baru Ibrahim Ali bagi menggantikan PAS yang sempat dikahwin mutaah sekejap dahulu?

Saya patut mencari Zurinah Hassan, pemuisi hebat itu bagi mencoret puisi "Hanya politik kerana politik" khas buat Ibrahim Ali.

*Zukri Aksah ialah bekas aktivis keADILan (PKN - PKR), pernah terpilih sebagai Exco AMK selama dua penggal. Beliau meninggalkan PKR pada tahun 2007, kini sebagai kolumnis Harakahdaily.

DAP to assist Sabahans stranded in Peninsula

By Queville To | Free Malaysia Today

DAP Mojuntin statue

PENAMPANG: DAP is planning to go in search of destitute Sabahans stranded in Peninsular Malaysia.

A special gathering is being planned for them in the Klang Valley to listen to their plight and to find ways to help them.

Speaking at a news conference here, Ipoh Timor DAP MP Lim Kit Siang said the gathering was tentatively fixed for April 18.

“We call on all the Sabahans currently working or stranded in Peninsular Malaysia to come to this meeting so that their voices can be heard.”

The meeting is being organised by the Sabah DAP chief-cum-MP for Kota Kinabalu Dr Hiew King Cheu, and coordinated by DAP MPs for Serdang and Segambut, Teo Nie Ching and Lim Lip Eng.

Many of the Sabahans said to be stranded in the Peninsula are believed to victims of various forms of socio-economic neglect and deprivation, either through exploitation or unemployment.

Hiew said that there are about 160,000 to 200,000 Sabahans working in the various sectors in Peninsular Malaysia and quite a sizeable number are from the interior of Sabah, including Ranau and Tambunan.

He said that if both the federal and the state governments are reluctant to help this group of Sabahans, DAP would.

Meanwhile, Lim reiterated his call for the lifting of the ban on the book The Golden Son of Kadazan’.

Describing Peter Mojuntin as a hero not only for Sabahans and the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) community but also Malaysians as a whole, he said one way of giving proper recognition to Mojuntin in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Sabah in Malaysia (in 2013) would be to lift the ban on the book.

The book by former Melaka State Assemblyman, Bernard Santa Maria, was banned in 1978.

“I hope that this issue will be raised by the BN MPs in the current debate on the King’s speech in Parliament. Our Sri Tanjung State assemblyman will raise it in the State Assembly, next month, and we call on not only the people of Sabah but all Malaysians to support and endorse this online petition for the lifting of the ban on the book,” he said.

Lim later also signed the online petition lauched by Sabah DAP, calling on the BN government to lift the ban.

MCA: Three-Cornered Fight For No.1 Post

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 (Bernama) -- It will be a three-cornered fight for the president's post in the MCA poll this Sunday.

Incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and his predecessor, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, will face off with a "newcomer" for the post, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek who is also the former deputy president.

In expressing their confidence for the race, the trio who have had extensive experience in national politics had said that they have what it takes to manoeuvre the crisis-ridden party out of its current state.

One has pledged to continue with the transformation agenda and one claims that he has strong support from delegates while another is urging the central delegates to give the newcomer a chance to perform.

They also call for a clean and fair election.

Immediately after submitting his nomination papers, Tee Keat, who arrived at the nomination centre at Wisma MCA here at 3.30 pm today, told reporters that he will continue with in his campaign trail to gain support from the delegates.

He said he is also all ready to face the contest from his challengers.

"I have always been cautious, as I said earlier, non-confrontational, more importantly it is to share with my delegates what I mean by transformation, at the same time, they have the right to know what we have been doing for the past two years.

"I sum up the transformation, the achievement and work that we made in pursuit of transformation," he said, adding that he will also launch his election manifesto very soon.

The embattled president, who was blamed by many quarters to have caused the upheaval in the party that led to the re-election, was also asked about his confidence level in the race, and confidently said that after the election, he will focus to work untiringly on building the election machinery.

Tee Keat, who is also known as the "lone ranger" for his working style, has also refused to reveal whether he is pairing up with anyone in the election.

"In Malaysian politics, factions have always existed right from the start until now.

"I believe factional politics, without endeavouring to find a meeting point or common element in the interest of the party, is not constructive," he said.

As for Ka Ting, he said his comeback has been driven by conscience to save the party and that most delegates would understand that.

"I am offering myself to stabilise and re-unite the party since the party has gone into such trying time within the last one year. So with that I think our delegates have their wisdom and they can think of the larger picture," he said.

The two-term former president had been credited for uniting the party after the chaotic period at the end of Tun Ling Liong Sik-Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek era, but had unfortunately led the party into its biggest loss in last general election, where he resigned subsequently.

"There should be a good fighting chance, but I don't take it lightly. The more (delegates) agree with me the better, I accept it as a MCA team," Ka Ting told reporters at the nomination centre.

In acknowledging that the fight will be tough, Ka Ting also expressed his gratitude to deputy president hopeful Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai for expressing his support openly to him.

"Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai gave his support to me. I welcome this with open arms," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Chua said he should be given a fair chance in the election as both of his contenders had already served as presidents.

"The other two have already served, one has served five years plus and the other has served one-and-a-half years.

"I have not been given a chance to serve and I only have the chance to serve for one year because next year is party election. I feel that the central delegates should give me a chance," he said.