Friday, 29 May 2015

Seeking But Finding The Unexpected

A lot of them come to seek jobs in Malaysia. After all, Malaysia has a huge need for low-skilled labour.

Apparently only 30 to 40% of them were Rohingya; the rest of them were Bangladeshis seeking their fortune.

They never found it.

Unfortunately, many of them met their ends at transitory migrant camps at the border between Malaysia and Thailand. These were suspected human trafficking camps, about 139 of them.

My nationality and the consequent opportunities are an accident of birth and not of my choosing, but it does make me stop and wonder how misfortunate some groups of people can be.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Making Soulful Documentaries And Winning At Cannes

A few years ago, I wrote about a classmate, who was making waves in the Malaysian film-making scene.

Today, she is still making waves - but her playground is now the globe.

It's not just that the film was made on a minuscule budget.

It's not that her film has been screened at the Woodstock Film Festival.

It's not just that her film won the best student documentary award at Cannes, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

It's that she manages to find a truly inspirational story, puts some thought into depicting it, injects some soul into it along the way, and makes us all very proud of her.

If you would like to watch the screening of The Game Changer on Friday, May 29 at 8:00PM, the details are all HERE.

For more information about Indrani Kopal and her documentaries, you may find the following links helpful:

Malaysia’s Indrani Kopal bags a big win at Cannes - Free Malaysia Today

Malaysia’s Indrani Kopal wins at Cannes - The Establishment Post

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Malaysian Leadership

I don't know how many of you are regular readers of Zaid Ibrahim's blog, called ZaidGeist (which I find to be a genuinely funny play on the word Zeitgeist), but a few days ago, there was a rather interesting and insightful piece about Najib, Muhyiddin and the Loony Tun.

Only recently, I heard the Loony Tun complain about Najib breaking his promise to build the crooked bridge. It appears that the damned crooked bridge is the bane and downfall of every Malaysian politician.

Zaid Ibrahim is convinced that UMNO president and Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak is about to be replaced by his enemies in the party.

Go here to read why.

Friday, 15 May 2015

What Do We Do With The Rohingya?

I confess that this is the first time I am making a concerted effort to find out where the Rohingya people of Myanmar actually come from.

Given the proximity of the state of Rakhine with Bangladesh, it explains why the Rohingya share similar features and a common religion with the Bangladeshis.

More dismally, Myanmar and Bangladesh seem to share oppressive governments and religious extremism, which is why both groups of people are fleeing their countries.

Unfortunately, Malaysia does not welcome them. "We won't let any foreign boats come in," Tan Kok Kwee, first admiral of Malaysia's maritime enforcement agency said Tuesday. Unless they're not seaworthy and sinking, he added, the navy will provide "provisions and send them away."

It's not that Malaysia has ever been nice to refugees. Kuala Lumpur has refused to sign the treaty at the United Nations Refugee Convention and has a record of mistreating refugees.

Amnesty International Australia's refugee co-ordinator, Graham Thom, once said, "If you're looking for a country in the region that has some of the harshest policies towards refugees and asylum-seekers, then you couldn't really go past Malaysia."

It's rather harsh, very embarrassing, but unfortunately closer to the truth than anything.

I found it strange, because Malaysia very calmly deported a bunch of Uighurs back to China, where they would inevitably face the wrath of the Chinese government.

It goes to show that when it comes to the 'Muslim brotherhood', refugees don't make the cut. All those protests against atrocities in Palestine must have been just grandstanding. Love from a distance.

Lest you think I am a saintly soul, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. In the heat of the moment, I wrote a nasty open letter to the refugees. I was unhappy about the thought of them being used as voters by the BN government.

But in my more sane moments, I have considered the predicament of refugees in greater depth. I acknowledge that refugees do not become refugees on a whim. It is usually desolate conditions that drive them to that situation.

And while we may have our own personal interests and families to take care of, what are we, and what have we become?

Can we claim to be successful, when our behaviour is akin to miserable, self-centred turf-lords?

The measure of a nation's success is how we treat the poor, regardless whether they are our citizens or not. Have we failed?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Figment Of The Imagination

A month ago, the Malaysian government publicised the arrest of 17 for alleged terrorist attack plot in Kuala Lumpur.

Rather conveniently, this was just after the proposal of a counterterrorism law that would reintroduce indefinite detention without trial or judicial review, and violate due process rights - all in the name of preventing terrorism.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 was eventually passed into law.

You may remember it because our idiot Opposition MPs did not bother to show up and oppose it.

So where are those 17 alleged terrorists?

Do they really exist or are they a figment of the government's imagination - merely created to breed fear and apprehension?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Wear Black Today!

Last Friday, many major cities around the world organised their May Day protests and executed it.

Kuala Lumpur is no stranger to protests, even despite the consequences.

And yet, thousands braved the warnings; 29 people were arrested and many political leaders were summoned by the police for questioning.

The BN government must be deluded to think that heavy-handedness is going to work. If anything, it strengthens people's resolve and breeds more discontent with the government.

As the political analysts quoted by Malaysian Insider say, "Although the rally will unlikely change Putrajaya’s decision on GST, anger over rising inflation could snowball and threaten the ruling Barisan Nasional in the next general election."

And today, the 5th of May marks two years since the last elections, where Pakatan Rakyat had, in reality, won the majority of the votes.

However, very dirty gerrymandering ensured that despite being rejected by the people, Barisan Nasional managed to bulldoze its way into Putrajaya yet again.

In commemoration, Bersih 2.0 has called upon citizens to wear black.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) launches “Ops Hitam 505” (Operation Black 505) on May 5, 2015 (Tuesday), the second anniversary of Najib Razak being retained in power as a minority government by the Election Commission despite the rejection of 53% of electorate.

We appeal to all Malaysians to wear black or to put on black ribbons or cloths on their vehicles, buildings or personal belongings on May 5, 2015, as a sign of rejection of the arrogant provocation by the Najib Minority Government in the arrest, detention and harassment of the leaders and participants of the May Day rallies in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

To repression, the Rakyat must reply with resistance. Otherwise, the Rakyat will have tougher days to come under the tyranny of the Najib Minority Government, the Police and the EC.

“Ops Hitam 505”, other than being a sign of solidarity with the victims of Police’s witchhunt, is also representing three demands of the Rakyat:

(a) Repeal of GST;

(b) Elimination of all frauds and manipulation especially malapportionment and gerrymandering in constituency redelineation in Sarawak, Sabah and the Peninsula so that there will be no more minority governments;

(c) Establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to end abuse and politicizing of police power.

We hope all Malaysians will show a sea of black in every corner of Malaysia, especially Permatang Pauh and Rompin, where the voters can make their stand with ballot papers, to reject GST, dirty elections and police state.

Wear black today!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Best Piece That I've Read This Year

In response to the question below, my answer without hesitation, is YES.

By Aidila Razak

Standing up against tyranny of the majority

This isn’t a commentary about how the actions of a group of Malays in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya on Sunday is un-Islamic.

This is not about another Muslim reeling in embarrassment or anger over the protesters’ antics because really, I don’t need to join the growing chorus of apologetic Muslims.

It is not that piece, not because I don’t think what happened on Sunday was acceptable. In fact, I think the protestors were off their heads and are deplorable.

You don’t need to be a Muslim to know that telling a church to take down their cross is un-Islamic. Indeed, you don’t have to be anything but a decent human being to know that telling people to hide symbols of their faiths is a pretty disgusting thing to do.

The reason I refuse to write this ‘Muslim condemning an un-Islamic act by other Muslims’ piece is that it is greater than that.

What happened on Sunday was not about a bunch of rabid Malays or Muslims, but about a bunch of tyrants and their sense of invincibility as the majority.

What happened last Sunday is the tyranny of the majority, and this is a cause I would rather raise my voice against.

Muslims not the only tyrants

While it is true that Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, and in this Taman Medan instance, the ones guilty of such tyranny are Muslims, Muslims are not alone in pushing their weight around on the basis of their numbers.

Across the South China Sea, Christian residents in Penampang, Sabah may ironically find a sense of camaraderie with the Taman Medan anti-cross protestors.

While protestors say “the cross sign should be removed” in 95 percent Muslim (or so protestors say) Taman Medan, residents of Penampang say the 12.3 percent Muslims who live there should not have a neighbourhood mosque.

They say the yet-to-be-constructed mosque - actually they cannot confirm if the construction within the compounds of local police headquarters will indeed be a mosque - is not a necessity.

Taking up the cause, local elected representative Terence Siambun in a statement said there is a mosque 10 minutes’ drive away so Muslims can just pray there.

"I cannot see how questioning the construction of a mosque in the middle of an area which is predominantly Christian tantamount to being racist or anti-Islam. This is purely a question of necessity,” the PKR rep for Moyog said.

Like Muslims in Penampang, Christians living in Taman Medan also have a church not too far away.

A man met by my colleague at Taman Medan the day after the protest said he now goes to a church about 15 to 20 minutes’ drive away. And to have one set up just three minutes from his doorstep is a delight.


I have had the pleasure of reporting from the lovely seaside city of Kota Kinabalu many times in the past few years.

Once, speaking to locals about the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants, one man recalled how his relative’s scholarship was frozen after the takeover of the PBS government.

He attributes it to PBS being a Kadazandusun/Murut-based party, and his relative not the same race or religion of the majority.

There is no way to truly verify if this is true, but several witnesses who testified at the RCI cited “oppression” by a “Christian government” as impetus for the mass issuance of ICs in the so-called Project IC.

Could it be just fear mongering by bigots unhappy that Christians are in the seat of power? Or could there actually be truth to discriminatory practices against minorities under a state government of and elected by the majority?

Peddling horror stories seems to have led to the Taman Medan protest, as well.

Going by self-style mediator (and protestor?) Abdullah Abu Bakar’s version of events, Taman Medan residents are fearful that the newly-established church just a stone’s throw away from their homes will start spreading the gospel to Muslim youths.

I am inclined to dismiss this fear of proselytisation. In fact, logically, if proselytisation is what is feared by the locals, they should welcome the massive cross sign. I imagine that covert conversions are more likely to happen in unmarked places, not one that screams it’s a church.

And truly, if someone really wanted to convince you to leave the faith you were raised in, it would take more than a cross sign.

Likewise, the residents of Penampang can sit tight knowing that their children will unlikely leave the church just because there might be a mosque in their neighbourhood. After all, like Siambun said, there is already one 10 minutes away.

Minority rights always, all the time

Minorities in Malaysia have often decried policies which unfairly favour the majority, and for good reason.

Like the relative of that Sabahan I spoke to, many have raged about bright students from minority races who were denied scholarships or spots in their chosen university courses seemingly due to the colour of their skin.

But unlike the Sabah case, it is likely much easier to prove such discriminatory policies and double standards in law enforcement against the minorities.

The fact that the Taman Medan protest is considered kosher (perhaps the better word would be halal), when a post by a pair of attention-seeking sex bloggers inviting someone to have bak kut teh for buka puasa is sedition, is evidence enough.

But that’s not the point, is it?

The point is, if we want to be angry about the Taman Medan protest, we have to be equally outraged over all manners in which the majority tries to push their weight around.

Growing up in a Malay community, I often hear people around me ask why we must “give face” to minorities. They are minorities after all, I am told, so should not demand too much.

But the strength of society is measured by how it treats its smallest and weakest.

We have to bend backwards to make sure the rights for minorities are upheld for the simplest reason that they are too small to do it on their own.

The Penampang mosque (if it is even indeed a construction for a mosque) is not yet there for residents to protest in front of.

But what if it is built and Christians there hold a noisy protest scaring congregants and demanding the crescent moon symbol be brought down, or for a halt to the azan?

Would you also stand up for that minority, too?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Trams And Bicycle Lanes To Ease Congestion

In November 2008, I lamented that Malaysia was nowhere close to being progressive and environmentally friendly like the other countries I've visited or lived in.

I have been to over 40 major cities in my lifetime, so I've done a fair bit of comparing what Malaysia needs but doesn't have - and what the rest of the world has.

Bicycle lanes was top on my list. "Now when do you expect to see that in Malaysia?" I asked in despair.

It turns out the answer was: in 6 years' time.

According to the FMT, the government has already done a great deal in encouraging cycling as a means of transport.

The city recently opened the first dedicated bicycle lane, running for 5.5km from Mid Valley to Dataran Merdeka, at a cost of RM700,000.

More bicycle lanes were being planned, for Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Bukit Bintang, Central Market, Jalan P. Ramlee and around KLCC.

A bicycle lane was being placed in Jalan Raja Laut, from City Hall to Jalan Ipoh, and later connecting to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Rahmat, Malaysian Insider reported.

Eventually the new lanes will be connected from Mid Valley to areas in the city centre central areas, for shared use by cyclists and pedestrians.

And trams. For some reason, I keep relating trams to Europe, but the truth is, we used to have trams in Penang a long time ago.

There are the traditional-looking trams, which I have seen in Vienna:

There are also the modern ones, which I saw in Manchester city centre:

According to the mayor:

Between 1.5 million and 2 million vehicles enter the city every day, the report said, placing a tremendous strain on the roads.

“However, a good public transport system must be in place first,” the mayor said.

It's a rare moment when the Malaysian government actually makes sense and applies logic to its thought process. The fact that it thinks is also an anomaly.

But this is good for Kuala Lumpur.

It's far better that the money be spent on necessary amenities, than to fund Rosmah's shopping trips.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Justice For Batang Kali

It happened a long time ago, when Britain was struggling to maintain its dominance in the world.

There was a major war going on. The British wanted to maintain its hold on all its colonies, but in Malaya, the Communist insurgency was proving to be quite a challenge.

Britain eventually lost its power and status, but its sins have come back to haunt it.

It was a time when some lives were more important than others.

It was a time when some lives didn't matter at all.

The people of Batang Kali suffered because of this mentality.

A 14-man Scots Guards patrol was tasked with interrogating the villagers about communist guerrillas operating locally.

Given that no answers were forthcoming, it is very likely that said villagers had no information and probably were not cooperating with and/or helping the communists.

Yet 24 civilians were killed in cold blood.

The British, in the past, turned a blind eye to it, never properly having investigated the incident - for political reasons.

But this time, the Supreme Court is going to hear the case and have the witnesses tell their side of the story.

It's about time. It really is.

The Independent - Batang Kali killings: Britain in the dock over 1948 massacre in Malaysia
The Guardian - Malaya inquiry to hear from survivors of Batang Kali shootings by British troops

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Intensify Efforts To Find MH370 Or Just Stop?

It's been well over a year, and there is not a single trace of the MH370.

The world is curious, Malaysians are intrigued, and the families of the victims are still anxious to find closure and say a final goodbye to their loved ones.

The absence of a wreckage and remains sparks hope that maybe, just maybe, their loved ones could still be alive. This is not helpful.

The Malaysian government, in a rare moment of decency, has actually promised to double efforts and extend the search area if it wasn't found by the end of June.

However, an aviation professor from Australia opines that it is hard to justify expanded efforts, which have since exceeded $90 million.

“I’m not in the position of being one of the relatives, and I deeply sympathize with their situation,” he stressed. “However, once the areas of highest priority have been searched there are diminishing returns when increasing the area.

“This means there’s a huge amount of money being spent, and if you’re looking at saving lives through improving future safety outcomes, then the money is arguably much better spent in a whole variety of other areas rather than just ‘mowing the lawn’ in the ocean trying to find something.”

He also thinks that the cause of the crash was pilot suicide.

As there has been no established motive for suicide, no signs of depression or abnormality, no threats or notes, and seemingly, no quick plan to destroy the plane (they purportedly flew about for hours after straying from flight path), this conjecture doesn't seem likely at all.

For the sake of the families, I want this aircraft found too.

But like many other people, I somehow feel it wouldn't be found in the Indian Ocean, not because it is too difficult, but because we might all be looking in the wrong place.