Saturday, 22 December 2007

The Japan Times Editorial

I'm honoured (and very surprised) that Malaysia (puny little country that it is) and its political situation became the topic of discussion of the mighty Japanese.

Frankly, it's very similar to what the Wall Street Journal said in response to the disastrous op-ed claimed to be written by Abdullah Badawi, but it's straight to the point.

Do check it out.

Strains in Malaysia

The arrest of leaders of an ethnic Indian rights group shines a spotlight on rising tensions in Malaysia. The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appears unnerved by growing protests; its resort to the Internal Security Act (ISA) is a troubling sign. The focus of complaint is charges of discrimination against Indians, a minority in Malaysia. This sensitive and politically charged issue has to be addressed with subtlety and tact; mere repression will only make things worse.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in recent weeks in Malaysia. Opposition leaders first led marches demanding electoral reform. They were followed a couple of weeks later by ethnic Indians protesting government policies that institutionalize discrimination in the form of preferences for native Malays. Indians, who make up about 8 percent of the population, have long complained that they miss political, economic and education opportunities.

The government denies charges of discrimination. There are assertions that some Indian protest leaders are linked to terrorist groups. The call by one of the ethnic Indian leaders for India to halt trade with Malaysia opens the door to sedition charges. As the situation intensifies — the government used tear gas and water cannons against marchers last month — five leaders were arrested under the ISA, which allows confinement without trial for up to two years. Other demonstrators have been arrested under less draconian measures.

The ISA has not been used against political opposition since 2001. Mr. Badawi is unapologetic, saying the government must be accountable to the whole. Protest leaders are equally unyielding; they warn that the protest movement has depth and there are ample replacements for any who are locked up.

The unrest is a warning to the Malaysian government that change is a must. While preferences that benefit Malays make some political sense, the program has been exploited; corruption has become endemic and a wide swath of citizens wants accountability. Silencing critics will not solve this problem.

So even the Japanese have some semblance of democracy. For some reason I confused them with our neighbours down south, who are the only nation that could possibly rival our oppressive government (with the exception of the African governments, of course).

The Singaporean government, however, has been responsible for propelling the nation into the world's eye, something the Malaysian government could never take credit for.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Boycott The Newspapers

I really love Haris Ibrahim's idea of bringing the mainstream media to its knees.

Numerous times have I ranted about our sorry-ass education system which does not encouraging thinking and questioning.

Malaysian children have grown up into adults who are unable to think for themselves.

This makes it so very easy for the mainstream media to ludicrously spin-doctor any issue to benefit their political masters - for the simple reason that Malaysians simply believe whatever they're told, especially if it's authority.

It's about time we put a stop to that.

I'm completely Malaysian-educated and I refuse to submit to herd-instinct.

I think for myself, I weigh the options, I look at both sides of the coin and I make my decisions based on all perspectives. This is a tough mission, but completely executable.

And it's about time those who fear getting arrested for asserting their right to assemble or speak out FINALLY do something.

This is so completely legal. It breaks no rules, but it involves some sacrifice.

It's called 'boycott'.

Boycott the mainstream media - that means the New Straits Times and The Star (the Wiki write-ups are amusing, especially with "Political allegiance" stated) for those of you who read English dailies. I will compile a list of papers whose masters are politically inclined.

And if you may go a step further, boycott their advertisers. Do not buy any product or service that they advertise, be it petrol, banking services, food etc.

I know some of you are used to a certain brand of products and making the switch to another brand pushes you out of your comfort zone. But nothing comes free, guys. There's got to be some effort on your part to make this country a better place to live in.

And to make that start, boycott the voice of the scourge that runs this nation.

Let's send a collective impact to the political running dogs that we cannot bear with their lame crap anymore.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Tragic Incompetence Of The Police

For some reason I still keep thinking of Nurin Jazlin.

Her story sounds like all those gruesome tales of crime I've seen on CSI, Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds. Except that it really did happen.

A few days back, a friend and I got onto the subject of Nurin and her heartbreaking death. I still have his SMS:

.. Very sad that there are such monsters in our midst who are able to do such things. But as bad is the incompetence of the police that the person has still not been caught. Just sad... :(

Ah yes. The police. What can I say about them?

It is evident that the police much prefer to start scuffles, hurl tear-gas cannisters and spray chemical-laced water on peaceful demonstrators than get necessary investigations done in pursuit of justice.

While the Nurin Jazlin case may have been complicated, there have been clues falling right into the laps of the police, which were promptly brushed off. I posted about the priorities of our government and consequently the police in What Are Their Priorities? last Sunday.

An anonymous commenter left an opinion on how the case could have been handled better by the police.

I checked out Anon's claims and they were indeed true, based on reports from The Star and the accompanying footage of the CCTV.

Federal CID Director Comm Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee, who made the recordings public yesterday, said: “The image of the man leaving the sports bag was captured at about 1pm on Sept 16.”

The two-minute footage, captured on a web-camera CCTV system, shows the man in a long-sleeved T-shirt parking his Modenas Kriss motorcycle in front of the Jalan PJS 1/48 Petaling Utama three-storey shoplot, removing his crash helmet and making a call on his handphone.

He is also seen walking towards the shop after the phone call, wearing his helmet and lifting the sports bag that was placed between the motorcycle seat and front basket.

The man then coolly carries the bag towards the building before returning to his motorcycle without the bag and speeding away from the scene.

That phone call was the biggest clue which could have helped crack the case. According to Anon:

Since the video had a time stamp, the exact time of the call was known. Similarly, the exact location, i.e. the "cell", from where the call originated was known.

Technically, mobile phones automatically register and deregister with operator equipment as they are being moved through different cells (which is why we sometimes experience dropped calls when we use the mobile phone in a car and the "handshake" in a new cell we are entering does not properly work).

Mobile phone operators do therefore have sufficient information to determine which of their customers (or more precisely, which of their customers' mobile phones) are in which cell at any given time. This information and the related ability to trace peoples' movements by mapping the registration/deregistration of specific handphones through different cells has in the past few years been successfully used by law enforcement authorities to nab criminals in various other countries (amongst others in Singapore where a group of criminals robbed and killed a money changer and then continued to use the victim's mobile phone).

Similarly, even though this may have required a bit more effort, mobile phone operators would have been able to identify from their usage databases and records which mobile number was used to make a specific call originating from a specific cell at a specific time, particularly if such call was made during off-peak hours at around 2 am in the morning.

Therefore, what the police should have done in Nurin's case was to immediately seek the full cooperation of the 3 mobile phone operators in Malaysia (Celcom, Maxis and DiGi) and to secure the device registration/usage records for the time slot and cell in question. Instead precious time was wasted trying to improve the quality of the video with the help of the FBI in the hope to eventually identify the face of the person in the video and some number plates of vehicles that were caught by the security camera as they were passing by.

As it transpired, by the time that the police finally tried to obtain the necessary usage data from the mobile phone operators it had already been deleted or overwritten with newer data.

Such tragic incompetence. They came SO close to finding Nurin's killer and they just let that golden opportunity pass them by.

I doubt the person making the call on the phone would have been the killer, but under pressure he could have been "persuaded" to divulge the identity of the person worthy of being castrated and fed to the dogs.

Do we have a bunch of blithering idiots on our police force?

I'm beginning to think so. Starting with not acting quickly enough from the time Nurin Jazlin's parents made the missing persons report to thoughtlessly distributing or circulating pictures of her autopsy, the actions of the police fills me with revulsion.

This post is not simply to expose the weaknesses of our police force. It is to remind us that we need to hold our public servants accountable for the service they are expected to render - not brown-nosing politicians but doing their job effectively and with integrity.

Some may say the past is past, bringing this up will not bring Nurin back.

It won't. But God forbid that the killer strike again and the police remain impotent.

Cultural Conundrums

By Jacqueline Ann Surin
The Other Malaysia

‘PLEASE do not use your handphone on the bus’, the pre-recorded voice extolled. I expected the voice to add, ‘It may cause technical interference with the bus’. Instead, we were told not to use our handphones ‘because it will annoy your neighbours’. Welcome to Japan where preventing individual distress appears paramount and everything from the toilet seat to personal behaviour is regulated towards that end.

I arrived in Tokyo on the night of Dec 9 with a fellow Malaysian for an international conference, and it didn’t take us long to appreciate what an organised and orderly society we had flown into.

The most impressive example of this was how the buses that departed from the airport terminal kept so exactly to their schedule. We had to wait 45 minutes before our bus arrived and in between that time, there must have been at least five other buses that came and left, with the precision of a Swiss watch, or maybe I should say Japanese precision.

Hard not to appreciate that kind of efficiency when I had just disembarked from a Malaysia Airlines flight where the stewards took more than an hour to figure out that they could not fix my video screen; my leg rest wouldn’t stay in place; and my seat wouldn’t recline.

Here in Tokyo, the toilet seat is pre-warmed so my bottom doesn’t seize up when I sit on the throne, and flushing sounds and a deodoriser emanate effortlessly from the commode. I can understand the deodorant but am not sure if the periodic flushing sounds do anything for my bodily functions.

Still, I am in Japan and the purpose of the conference I am attending is about moving towards an East Asian community ‘beyond cross-cultural diversity’. And as Professor Yasushi Kikuchi from the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies at Waseda University explained at our orientation session, undergoing ‘cultural struggle’ can result in resilience.

‘There is your own culture. And in Japan , you will experience Japanese culture. This process of cultural struggle will result in a third culture’, he said, adding that it is this that enables one to survive in any given situation. ‘You will know how to understand different cultures’.

Kikuchi added that Japanese society was actually heterogenous. ‘But they say we are homogenous so that it’s easier to control’, he added, obliquely referring to politicians. Within the context of control, however, it may actually be useful to understand homogeneity not just in terms of culture. In the Malaysian context, it would seem that there is also a growing tendency towards enforcing a homogeneity of ideas and values.

For example, exercising freedom of assembly and expression in a country that is supposed to be a democracy is viewed by the present administration as opposition that must be stopped.

The arrest of eight people, on the day I was flying into Japan, at a peaceful march to uphold freedom of assembly and mark International Human Rights Day is also bemusing because this is the same administration that signed, in November this year, an Asean Charter that, among others, aims to promote human rights.

What seems to be happening, for me, is a clash of cultures. While civil society groups try to push for a culture of openness and respect for dissent, the government remains strapped to the notion of a monoculture where everyone must think and behave in the way that the government wants.

Hence, the public expression of dissent is seen as defiance against the authorities that can lead to disorder, a threat to national security, or worse still, somehow linked to ‘terrorist’ groups or a Western agenda bent on destabilising Malaysia .

Thus far, it would also seem that the government has resorted to a homogenous set of conventionally harsh responses when dealing with differing views, including the use of tear gas, water canons, propaganda, arrests and the threat and use of the Internal Security Act.

But new strategies are clearly required to manage a heterogeneity of values and ideals that may not be reflective of the official mindset.

For example, the International Herald Tribune (IHT) ran on its front page on Dec 10 a report with pictures that had as its headlines: ‘A campaign of brutality: Foreign labourers hunted down in Malaysia’. The abuse of migrant workers and asylum seekers by Rela may not be viewed as a human rights violation by Kuala Lumpur and may not find its way into the Malaysian press, but there’s little that can stop the news from making the headlines elsewhere.

Notable, too, was the news item about the Dec 9 arrests in Kuala Lumpur on the second page of the IHT. While in Malaysia the government may think it is able to control what expressions are allowed, including through strict media controls, increasingly these controls are meaningless.

Homogeneity may indeed make control easy. But if heterogeneity is increasingly synonymous with resilience, those in power might do well to rethink their strategies and responses to opposing views.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Wall Street Journal's Response To Our "Democracy"

I briefly expressed my disgust at the op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by the Barisan Nasional head honcho Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who unfortunately happens to be our current Prime Minister.

In that particular post I also linked to Nat's site which had him dissect the piece.

To my delight, I checked in on Jelas today to find that the Wall Street Journal had an editorial opinion (a non-politically correct one) in response to it. :)

Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2007

When Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took office in 2004, he was welcomed as a modernizer who would expand democratic freedoms in Malaysia. Yesterday, his government resurrected the Internal Security Act, a colonial-era law that gives the executive almost unlimited power to detain opponents. The move raises serious questions about Mr. Abdullah’s commitment to democracy.

Malaysia is facing its biggest political crisis since 1998, when former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim led the Reformasi movement. Since November, around 30,000 people have rallied for electoral reform, more than 20,000 ethnic Indians have protested against economic discrimination, and lawyers have marched against judicial corruption. Smaller protests were held earlier this week.

Mr. Abdullah first responded defensively, calling on the protestors to stay at home. The police also denied every request for protest permits, under the guise of protecting public safety. (In Malaysia, even though the constitution protects the right to peaceable assembly, any group exceeding five people must obtain a permit to gather.)

When those measures didn’t work, Mr. Abdullah adopted the tough tack of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, by intimidating his political opposition. Yesterday, five Indian activists who participated in a largely peaceful Nov. 25 rally were detained under the Internal Security Act. “They can be held for two years for sedition and also for carrying out activities that threaten national security,” Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharom told state news agency Bernama. He did not explain how a peaceful protest can “threaten national security.”

Mr. Abdullah had been building up to this bombshell all week. On Sunday, a group of lawyers and activists — including those key to organizing last month’s big protests — were arrested, then released. On Tuesday, several opposition political leaders were jailed. Some — though not all — are now out on bail. Some were not even charged, but the message was clear: Criticize the government in advance of the general election expected for early next year, or demand that the electoral process be cleaned up, and you can expect to end up in jail.

By wielding a tough hand, Mr. Abdullah is aggravating the situation. Malaysians don’t enjoy the same freedom of speech that other democratic nations enjoy. The press is heavily influenced by government. So one of the few ways for opposition politicians and activists to air their grievances is to get out onto the streets. By denying that right, Mr. Abdullah is challenging the groups to organize bigger rallies.

There’s no appetite in Malaysia for violent street protests like the ones the country suffered in 1969, when hundreds were killed in rioting between Malays and ethnic Chinese. But equally, in a mature democracy, there’s no reason that Malaysians can’t be trusted to have peaceable debates about their political future. Mr. Abdullah’s handling of the next round of protests will say much about where Malaysia’s democracy is headed. Given yesterday’s move, the signs aren’t good.

It's good to know that there are people out there who can read correctly into the situation. I was beginning to lose hope on the world out there.

You can get a PDF version on the article at Nat's site.

Pass it on and make someone else's day.

The KL-Putrajaya Highway

I decided to muster some courage and try out the new KL-Putrajaya highway today. :)

This is part of the infamous KL-Putrajaya, the construction of which royally pissed off residents of Sri Petaling over the blatant disregard for regulations by the developer.

But it's up and functional, new and spanky, and heck, am I impressed!

I will have to pass by 2 toll booths before I reach my destination, but in spite of my rather slow driving (I was admiring the view among other things), I still reached the office a good 10 minutes faster.

From my estimation, it is also 9 whole kilometres shorter for me. Throw in the fact that I don't slow down at traffic jams or random traffic lights (except to pay for toll at 2 separate booths) and I reckon I get to save a considerable amount of fuel.

This is an excellent election win-over engineered by Barisan Nasional especially for the government servants who live in KL and work in Putrajaya.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

What Are Their Priorities?

The sorry state of affairs in Malaysia makes me incensed.

We had so much potential to be a really great nation. With our diversity and our capabilities, I'd have thought there were no barriers to what we could do.

But I was wrong. We are brought down by our own, if you can call UMNO and Barisan Nasional that.

They are selfish, parochial and sanctimonious individuals bent on hoarding the spoils for themselves and not sharing it with the nation.

They fear any criticism (because of their incompetence) and even any hint of opposition against themselves. They have no qualms about using public resources to their best interests, and not the interests of the citizens who are contributing (by tax) to their very existence in the first place.

The government has been wastefully deploying all its police to start scuffles with protestors who were marching ever so peacefully - until the police intervened.

Were those even issues to begin with? Because I assure you, we have REAL issues!!

For instance, has justice been brought for poor little Nurin Jazlin who was so brutally raped and murdered? When the case was hot and current, everyone talked about it and vowed to bring her killer to justice.

Were those empty promises? Posturing for the media and the citizens?

Shouldn't the police force then be putting all their efforts into finding the killer rather than breaking up peaceful protests and arresting prominent lawyers and activists who wouldn't even harm a fly?

And while I'm on the topic of lawyers, why is the A-G Abdul Ghani Patail personally prosecuting members of HINDRAF who have not been caught or even photographed holding any weapons, when he completely ignored the Altantuya Shaaribuu case where C4 explosives were used?

If the leaders and members of HINDRAF are terrorists, what do you call those who use C4 explosives to vapourise evidence which, inconveniently carries in her belly, DNA evidence of a sordid affair?

National security? Stability? For the love of God, there are people using C4 explosives for personal purposes! There's nothing than makes me feel more insecure than people running about with contraband items, how about you?

Just because Altantuya was a foreigner (and perhaps a naughty little one at that), should we ignore her right for justice? She was somebody's daughter, somebody's mother, and I'm sure there is at least one person who loves her and misses her very much.

And she was a human being who had every right AS MUCH AS YOU AND ME to be walking on the earth freely, without having to fear intimidation, much less death.

Does the government have its priorities right? Does the A-G have his priorities right? Do the police have their priorities right?

No. But they all dance to the same tune.

Because it is silencing the true voice of the people that keeps them in power.

And their interests are not in bringing justice to those who have done wrong, but abusing the law and invoking the draconian and inhumane ISA to shut out the righteous where they have no voice.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Memorandum Of The Silent Majority

It appears that the silent majority have been killing a whole lot of trees to come up with a memorandum that thick (not to mention ludicrously fake).

Honestly, I do wonder who the silent majority really are.

152 year old men?

Or maybe 4 year old girls?

One of the 227 people who live in one shoplot in some vague god-forsaken village that has a total population of 200?

Because they sure as hell haven't asked me to sign the damn memorandum. Wise of them, because I'd be more inclined to shred it to pieces than lend my signature to anything that vile.

Yes, I have met the selfish people who need BN to remain in power so they get their contracts and the attached benefits.

I have met the businessmen who really don't care about human rights as long as they drive a Mercedes Benz E Class, live in Damansara Heights, and enjoy their vacation trips to Macau on a yearly basis.

I've also met those anxious not to be associated with terrorist groups or members of a particular ethnicity.

But I doubt they were falling over themselves to sign any memorandum, especially one that has evidently made a sudden and miraculous appearance.

It irks me that BN thinks we're THAT stupid.

So do me a favour, folks. My pal Walski has a new online poll on his site.

Get yer ass over there and confirm with some other decent citizens if you are one of those who have been deliberately misrepresented.

Let us know if you are part of the silent majority that "Damai Malaysia" claims to speak for.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Reluctant To Use ISA!

We finally got our mention in the New York Times.

And we have completely lost the "stable and racially harmonious" image. It was about time, too. I was getting sick of trying to live up to such a fake image.

Truly Asia, my foot!

It hasn't been too good on the economic side though. According to Forbes, Malaysian shares have closed lower - and very possibly because of our political turmoil. Investors are obviously jittered.

I'm not overly worried. Even if we completely crash, I'm confident we Malaysians have what it takes to build up again from scratch.

What is important is that we remove the cancer within us - the scourge of racism that is the backbone of Barisan Nasional policies.

In one of the numerous interviews (in which he predictably made himself look stupid, I suppose), Syed Hamid Albar said the government was "very reluctant to use the ISA". Reluctant?

Ya gotta be kidding me.

They couldn't wait for it to be implemented - allowing these guys to walk about free men is equivalent to displaying the all the nasty skeletons in the closet. Damage control - vapourise them.

Only problem being, the cops may have run out of C4 explosives from the previous operation. No fear, send the annoying HINDRAF boys to Kamunting, and firmly out of the public eye.

Sound easy to you?

The same fool who represents Malaysia as its foreign minister said the ISA was only implemented when the government felt the security and safety of the country was at stake.

Yes, our security and safety ARE at stake. But only because the Barisan Nasional government is allowed loose to spread its racist propaganda, which makes Uthayakumar sound like a mild lamb.

The foreign minister wedges his foot more firmly in his mouth. "So I think ultimately this is the best thing to do, to allay the fear of the public."

Even the foreign journalists can't be so stupid to fall for that. The ISA is poised to set fear in the hearts of protestors, to scare them into silence for fear of falling under the same act themselves.

His sleeping boss makes an accurate observation, albeit in the wrong context. "The people don't want to see this country in chaos."

We certainly don't want chaos. But it's too late. We have been in chaos for too long now.

It's time to change.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

What Political Stability??

Malaysia detains Anwar, arrests 20 at parliament protest

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysian authorities Tuesday detained opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim at the capital's airport and arrested at least 20 protesters who defied a ban on handing a petition to parliament.

The incidents were the latest moves in a government crackdown on its critics who have organised a series of street demonstrations that have drawn tens of thousands and sent shockwaves through the nation.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Monday he was willing to sacrifice public freedom to maintain national security, justifying the arrests of dozens of people on charges including attempted murder and sedition.

Anwar, the former deputy premier who became a vocal government critic after being sacked and jailed in 1998, said he was held for an hour on his return from a trip to Turkey and told he was on a "suspect list".

"Under the guise of preserving public safety, in the last three days the authorities have increased their repressive tactics against Malaysian citizens and arrested key opposition figures and civil rights leaders," he said.

"These repressive tactics are a sign that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's leadership of Malaysia has run its course."

An immigration spokesman told AFP he had no knowledge of Anwar's detention at the international airport, but that names for the blacklist are usually provided by police.

Keadilan officials said however that the move was linked to Anwar's involvement in the Bersih electoral reform movement which staged a mass rally last November as well as Tuesday's petition protest.

More than 400 police surrounded the parliament to block electoral reform campaigners who were forced to march there on foot after all roads leading to the building were closed off, causing traffic chaos in Kuala Lumpur.

Police said 20 people had been arrested, including several members of Anwar's Keadilan party and the hardline Islamic party PAS, while Keadilan said 25 were detained including a 13-year-old boy, although nine were later freed.

"We did not want the crowd size to get big," assistant police commissioner Sofian Yasin told AFP. "We detained the protestors as they arrived so that there would be no scuffles and clashes and no one would get hurt."

Really? That's fascinating.

The police single-handedly managed to cause some scuffles because as far as all eyewitnesses have agreed, Tian was dragged from his car as he was arrested for no legitimate reason.

Trees lining the streets were posted with copies of a court order obtained by police that banned the campaigners from parliament.

The petition against a proposed constitutional amendment was eventually given to opposition members of parliament to be passed to the speaker.

It urged lawmakers to reject the proposal that would extend the retirement age for Election Commission officers, likely allowing current chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman to stay in the role during polls expected next year.

"Abdul Rashid, whose service is continuously marred with recurring electoral frauds and manipulations, is not fit for the job and must go immediately," it said.

Cabinet minister Nazri Aziz, who is in charge of justice issues, defended the police action.

"They want to come and demonstrate today's amendment to the constitution. So they want to come in big numbers. We will not allow that," he told reporters at parliament.

"We have taken action against them and we are using the court system to prosecute these people."

The government, with the assistance of its rundog NST attempts to spin another story:

The business friendly part I can buy - tax exemptions etc. But politically stable??

Don't make me laugh.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

There Goes Our "Moderate" Image!

From Yahoo!News

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday called on Malaysia to allow freedom of expression and assembly as the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi widened its crackdown on dissent.

"We have repeatedly raised with Malaysian authorities our belief that citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views," department spokeswoman Nancy Beck told AFP.

"We also stated in our annual human rights report our belief that the Malaysian government places significant restrictions on the right to assemble peacefully," she said.

Police permits are required under Malaysia law for public assemblies, defined as a gathering of five or more persons, but the State Department's rights report says senior police officials and political leaders influenced decisions on granting or denying some permits.

It said "a more restrictive policy" was applied with government critics, opposition parties, and human rights activists.

Beck's remarks on Monday came after Kuala Lumpur widened a crackdown on dissent following two mass rallies last month, with three legal actions taken Monday that rights groups and opposition leaders condemned as anti-democratic.

Ahead of elections, dozens of Malaysian government critics have been rounded up and now face trial on counts including attempted murder and sedition.

Abdullah has threatened to invoke draconian internal security laws that allow detention without trial, citing past racial violence in the multicultural nation dominated by Muslim Malays as reason for restricting street protests.

"If the choice is between public safety and public freedom, I do not hesitate to say here that public safety will always win," he said in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

The United States often hails Malaysia as a moderate Muslim democracy but the image took a knock when a series of indiscriminate destruction of Hindu temples were highlighted by some groups recently.

A US Congress-appointed commission expressed concern last week at the destruction of the temples and other alleged discrimination faced by religious minorities in Malaysia, one of Southeast Asia's more developed economies.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also urged the administration of President George W. Bush to raise the matter with Kuala Lumpur and "insist that immediate measures be taken to protect sacred sites and prevent further destruction."

The government, which cracked down on two mass rallies last month, took three separate legal actions Monday that rights groups and opposition leaders condemned as anti-democratic.

Among them was a revival of sedition charges against three leaders of ethnic Indian rights group Hindraf, which organised a November anti-discrimination protest that drew 8,000 people. The court had earlier allowed them to walk free on the charges, which carry a penalty of three years in jail.

Lawyers and their supporters were also charged in connection with a human rights march that they mounted in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday which was broken up by police.

pic courtesy of Shanghai Fish

Another prominent lawyer, Edmund Bon, was also charged with obstructing a city official who tried to remove protest banners from Malaysia's Bar Council building.

Twelve opposition figures were rounded up over the weekend in connection with an electoral reform rally last month which drew nearly 30,000 people who police dispersed with tear gas and water cannons.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Condolences Over The Death Of Freedom & Democracy

This country is screwed three ways to Sunday.

You do not manhandle lawyers and peaceful protestors and trash up private property on Human Rights Day of all days.

Of course, the phrase "Human Rights" itself is sheer blasphemy if used in Malaysia. What freaking rights??

Polytikus sums it up:

- No free speech.
- No free and fair elections.
- No proportionate representation.
- No free press.
- No freedom to assemble.
- No equal rights.
- No freedom of religion.
- No right to life, liberty and security of person.
- No freedom from torture or from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- No fair trial.
- No freedom from discrimination and equal protection of the law.

Yes, woman. There is NO reason to celebrate.

And like Susan Loone says, "we are not on the road to dictatorship, we have already arrived." Heartbreaking, but so absolutely true.

At some point, we may be forced to ask ourselves, "When and how did we let this happen?" but for now, it's time to get down to the crunch.

Get out your stationery, folks. It's time to write letters.

I found a very good sample at the Suaram site:

[Letterhead of your organisation]

Prime Minister of Malaysia
Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister's Office Malaysia
Perdana Putra Building,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: + 60 3 8888 6000
Fax: + 60 3 8888 3444

Dear Sir,

Re: Continued Assault on Freedom of Assembly - 8 Arrested in Lawyers’ March

We are writing to express our outrage over your government’s latest round of assault on the freedom of assembly. On 9 December 2007, eight individuals were arrested by the police for attending a peaceful march intended to celebrate the International Human Rights Day, a day celebrated across the globe, including United Nations.

We question the need to resort to such actions, especially when the organisers of this peaceful march had tried to negotiate and shown willingness to cooperate with the police. We view this as yet another attempt by your government to intimidate Malaysian citizens from participating in any form of public assembly.

We demand that all those arrested be released immediately and unconditionally. We further demand that your government stop the assault on freedom of assembly. We condemn the repeated threats to use the ISA and the ridiculous charges pressed against demonstrators recently.

We strongly urge you to stop shaming Malaysia, a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We would like to remind you that freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Yours sincerely,


I appreciate that we're not a nation that writes letters. We never dissent. We rarely protest publicly. In the name of peace and stability we have kept our mouth shut. And at what price?

The price of FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY.

And the idiot who sits in the Prime Minister's seat has the nerve to op-ed The Wall Street Journal on the topic of democracy. He's not even qualified to say the word!!

Nathaniel Tan also shares my penchant for dissecting articles and pieces. Go read his take on "Malaysia’s Democracy Is Strong".

Be prepared to share our common disgust.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Racial And Religious Divisions

Judging from some of the comments made by individuals about other races, it is so evident that the harmony and unity between races in Malaysia is nothing but a farce.

Obviously, the lack of communication is to be blamed. Only the Malays were able to say inflamatory things without fear of being arrested - the same could not be applied to the Indians and Chinese.

And so, a lot of us hid our hate and resentment inside, quietly gloating when the Malays fumbled and voicing our dissatisfaction within our own factions.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the UMNO government wants.

It's part of the divide and conquer policy.

The Malays have been brainwashed into thinking they are stupid. That they cannot survive without their crutches, that is their special rights. And most of them fear that they will suffer if these rights are taken away.

But not all of them are stupid. In getting to know more people online, I have come to greatly respect some of my Malay brothers and sisters, who could probably take me on anyday when it comes to ability and intellect.

The problem with us Chinese and Indians is that we think the Malays are to be tolerated as inferior, not engaged as equals. This is where we screw up.

I could go on and on with a list of names: Haris Ibrahim, Raja Petra Kamarudin, Farish Noor, M. Bakri Musa, and now Noor Aza Othman. These Malays are aware that their kind are being manipulated and are finally speaking up.

I particularly like this piece by Noor Aza:

Umno stirring up racial-religious division
Noor Aza Othman Dec 7, 07 5:18pm
It seems like true democracy in Malaysia is continuously being tramped upon by the “penyangak” or crooks from the capitalist government, especially leaders from the main ruling party Umno. They use the minority Indians as scapegoats to justify such injustices.

As reported by Malaysiakini, Hindraf supporters are currently being charged by the Malaysian attorney-general for attempted murder and causing damage to public property during the Indian community’s peaceful protest on Nov 25 to highlight the plight of poor Indian communities and to demand equal rights denied under the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Out of the 99 convicted protestors mostly from poor communities, 31 of them are slapped with an additional absurd and unjust charge of attempted murder, and upon conviction the accused is liable to a maximum of 20 years jail. And yesterday, they have been denied bail unjustly.

The prime minister has also warned that the government will revert to using the Internal Security Act to prevent public protests. ISA provides for “preventive detention” without trial for an indefinite period. The Peoples’ Freedom Walk organised by the Bar Council on Dec 9 in conjunction with International Human Rights Day was forced to be called off.

Malaysian politics is dominated by divisively racist ideology. The ruling parties, especially Umno, has adopted the British imperialist’s legacy and exploited such manipulative divide-and-rule strategies in order to entrenched the capitalist class’ hegemonic power.

Umno’s ideology is based on the racist ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ to brainwash the Malay-Muslim majority ethnic group in Malaysia. The Malay race is automatically defined as Muslims in the Constitution whereas the ancient Malay civilisation originally consists of diverse religious faiths. For example, Balinese Malays were Hindus, Filipino Malays were mostly Catholic and so on.

Due to their currently waning power and influence amidst the non-Malay communities especially from the increasingly conscious younger generation, it seems that Umno leaders are possibly stirring up more racial-religious division and hatred. It is to continue brainwashing the Malay-Muslim masses to go on uncritically supporting such leaders. This is why a Malay ex-chief minister has made a racist and barbaric remark for the Malays to take out their parangs to defend the supreme ideology.

I believe if that we only break the barriers of our racial divide and without getting emotional or angry, debate these matters calmly, much could be achieved.

Do it with love.

Do it in the best interests of your Malay friend. They are also citizens of this country.

And they have such wonderful characteristics if you only get to know them. I have not met any race more hospitable. None as creative with decorations. The list goes on.

But right now, they're at the bad end of this sour deal and they don't know it. While we Chinese and Indians are able to compete on a global level, some of the Malays, due to their crutches are only limited to our shores.

Imagine how rotten that must feel.

ALL OF US, need to make a difference and a change. Not for ourselves at this present moment, but for our future.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Nathaniel Tan's Letter To HINDRAF

I was very impressed with this letter written by Nate Tan:

Open Letter to Mr. Uthayakumar - One Step Away From Gandhi

Dear Mr. Uthayakumar,

Salam perjuangan, I hope this finds you well. I write this letter to you with as much sincerity as my heart can muster because at this point, Hindraf has effectively become you alone, and you alone have become Hindraf.

While Malaysia talks of Hindraf and imagines the Indians, I feel that you and your small circle determine what “Hindraf” is, and not any wider community.

You thus now hold within your hands the ability to lead Indian Malaysians in this country out from marginalisation and into a life of dignity and prosperity. In this regard, you stand in the same place Gandhi did at the beginning of his struggle.

You have succeeded where none have before in uniting the Indian Malaysian community, inspiring them to leave behind their fears and to stand up bravely in pursuit of justice and a better life.

You now face however, the prospect that the massive opportunities that these successes presented may be slowly slipping through our fingers. To lose these opportunities, which we may never see again in our lifetimes, would be a tragedy not only for Indian Malaysians but for all Malaysians.

Where once Hindraf stood as the next wave of a Malaysian movement demanding the return of integrity and justice to our government, it has now become twisted into a lightning rod of polarisation which plays directly into the hands of Barisan Nasional’s racially divisive politics.

We can stand the tide of oppression, of vilification and the use of unjust laws against us, but only if we hold fast to the right principles and choose the right paths.

I am writing to you sir, to implore you to prioritise results as well as a sustainable and just solution for the long term over whatever short term gains current strategies may yield.

I beg you to consider the fact that some of the current approaches will not only worsen ethnic relations in Malaysia, but also frustrate any attempt to realise the changes so desperately needed by the Indian Malaysian community.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that your movement does not sacrifice its ultimate goals in the pursuit of fleeting satisfaction. Your movement is but a step or two away from truly inheriting the legacy of the Gandhi-led Indian struggle for independence from Britain, and the time has come to close that distance.

Unassailable Moral High Ground

It is also now that our commitment to Gandhian principles is most tested.

On a logical level, I can perhaps understand to some extent statements about how violence cannot be ruled out due to the uncontrollable nature of crowds.

But for a leader in your position to refuse to rule out violence as a part of your movement is both unacceptable and unbecoming of the Mahatma’s legacy.

Clearly, the government’s attempt to brand you as a terrorist is a desperate ploy. To respond in kind however, and wildly accuse the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of having links to Al-Qaeda is to practice exactly the eye for an eye logic that will indeed leave the whole world blind.

The importance of holding the highest moral ground cannot possibly be overstated; it may well determine whether the lot of Indian Malaysians will ever truly be improved.

Images showing police firing laced water cannons against supporters sitting peacefully and bravely holding their ground holding Malaysian flags and pictures of Gandhi is exactly the type of moral shaming that brought down the British Empire in India.

Holding fast to these approaches will expose to the world the government’s injustice towards Indian Malaysians and towards Malaysia; refusal to rule out violence and striking back blindly in anger will send your movement down the annals of history as nothing but rabble rousers.

A Commitment to the Truth

Your interview with Malaysiakini revealed that your use of the terms “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” were not without due consideration on your part. They have also obviously succeeded somewhat in attracting wider global attention.

Once again however, I plead with you to consider the wider implications.

It is highly unreasonable to expect Malaysians to believe that what happened in Rwanda and Bosnia is happening here in Malaysia.

I firmly agree with you that there is a clear and present danger of failing to address these problems, and thus one day going down that road; but it is ridiculous to suggest that we are already there.

The entire credibility of a leader rests on the words he or she chooses, and I regret to say that such poor choice of words risks putting you in the category of the boy who cried wolf.

I do congratulate you on bringing the matter to the attention of legislators in India, the UK and the US – this was no small feat. To use such sensationalist means to achieve this goal however may be akin to “Menang bersorak, kampung tergadai.” A significant fear of mine is that your movement may hope for more dramatic clashes in order to heighten international attention.

It would be unwise to assume that the international community can truly do much to improve the welfare of Indian Malaysians, which again should be the ultimate goal. Even if circumstances should turn more violent, if the world did not act in Rwanda, and still does not act in Burma, it will not act in Malaysia.


Mr. Uthayakumar,

I implore you not to walk this road alone. Perhaps you wanted the rally of the 25th of November to be primarily Indian Malaysian in composition because you wanted the community to prove to itself that it can stand on its own two feet.

This is understandable, but the time for walking alone has come and gone.

If any Hindraf leader were to be detained under the ISA, rest assured that I will stand with the multitudes on the streets demanding their freedom.

I only ask you to consider that if at this crucial stage you moderate your stance and truly internalise the teachings of Mahatma, you will make the struggle against injustice in such an event a one to one fight, rather than splitting the conflict into three corners – all of Malaysia could rise up to defend justice for all.

Otherwise, we will once again fail to unite, and fail to realise true change. In doing so, we will condemn yet another generation to hateful division and poverty.

I sympathise with your cynicism as to how other movements in Malaysia have failed to champion the cause of the Indian Malaysian community sufficiently. I myself take responsibility for my own failure to push this agenda sufficiently in my own efforts. If your intent has been to shame us, consider us shamed and appropriately humbled.

I am deeply hopeful that you will however have it in your heart to see the harsh reality that faces us all at a moment like this: there is no way your movement will ever succeed if it remains exclusively a Hindu or Indian movement. It is a stark and painful truth, but a truth nonetheless.

If the injustices of the powers that be are painfully difficult to break even when we stand united, they are entirely impossible to break standing divided.

There is also no doubt in my mind that the welfare of Indian Malaysians will never really improve unless we do indeed break those injustices.

I do feel that the Bersih model has struck fear in the hearts of those in power. If we can build on that model of a mass movement that incorporates all ethnic groups and elements of society, instead of being limited to certain segments, I feel we can build a momentum to achieve our ultimate goals – without which all our other goals will be rendered meaningless

Believe it or not, I have seen how the vast majority of the Malaysian public of all races is perfectly ready to support the Indian Malaysian community in their endeavour to seek a better life. If you are ready to accept some moderation and engage this greater public, I assure you the results will be phenomenal.

I know that it is a lot to ask of you, to sacrifice your approach and the rubric under which you have conceived your struggle. It is not something any of us should dare to ask lightly.

In fact I do not ask, I beg. I beg that you review your strategies, reject that which will not help Indian Malaysians in the long run, and adopt the tactics that are true to your principles of speaking truth to power and have a real chance of affecting change.

I beg that you consider the views around you, and weigh your actions against longer term successes – which are the only successes that matter. Stand united now, and we may have a chance of seeing those successes within our short lifetimes.

Mr. Uthayakumar,

I shall never forget the assistance you gave me when I was under detention.

I do not believe you are a racist, or harbour any truly ill intentions, and I do appreciate the pressures and historical difficulties that inform your struggle.

I only hope that in this decisive moment for all, you will be willing to make the right sacrifices, and not the wrong ones, in going beyond being good leader to being a Gandhi-like leader – one that Malaysians of all races need so very badly.

I remain ever available for any assistance you may require.

Be strong sir, take courage and take that last step.

My most sincere and heartfelt thanks,
Nathaniel Tan

Friday, 7 December 2007

Join Us - Festival Of Rights

Dear all,

Kindly take note that venue for the Festival is no longer Central Market but is now instead the auditorium at the Bar Council Building (a skip and a hop from Central Market). The address is:

No. 13, 15 & 17, Leboh Pasar Besar,
50050 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan,

The theme of the Festival of Rights this year is “As I Believe: Freedom of Expression through Art, Music, Culture and Conscience”. We intended to showcase the indivisibility of rights, and how various forms of expression are manifested in the facets of our humanity.

We have notified the police of our programme for the Festival of Rights. We have been asked to apply for a permit.

It would be ironic and outrageous for us to make such an application.

We are therefore moving our festivities (which starts at 9am) to the Bar Council Building.

On a day where everyone ought to celebrate human rights, it is also an important time to take stock of the repression of rights in this country, particularly the regulation of free speech and expression by way of licensing requirements.

The right to freedom of expression in Malaysia is in practical terms illusory. Licensed expression is not expression. We need to change this.

On International Human Rights Day where there is much to celebrate around the world, this year in our country, we protest. We protest in a place where human rights, free speech and expression is vigorously respected and defended.

Join us on the 9th!

Warm regards
Edmund Bon

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Public Opinion On Malaysian Government And Human Rights

I saw this poll on Walski's site.

It didn't escape me that no one who had taken the poll (including yours truly, of course) thought that the Malaysian government views Human Rights as a matter of priority.

Go and vote if you haven't. It's good practice for the big day when you hit the ballot boxes.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Senator Penny Wong And Malaysia

While Malaysian newspapers went to town with Penny Wong's appointment as Minister for Climate Change and Water, I staunchly refused to join the fray.

But Senator Wong does deserve mention. And while I would love to be associated with her, I'm afraid there's nothing much that we have in common - being Malaysian the least of them.

Senator Wong is firmly an Australian citizen.

Penny Wong left Malaysia a LONG time ago and her success is probably attributed to the fact she did not languish under the Malaysian school education system, where facts are shoved down to be memorised and regurgitated for exams and NOTHING is to be questioned.

Thinking is certainly discouraged.

Criticising is a crime. Almost.

But back to Senator Wong.

Commenting on Prime Minister Rudd's new government in Australia, Michael Backman makes mention of her in his article, Rudd will bring us greater acceptance in Asia:

Another virtue of the incoming government with regards to Asia is the appointment of South Australian senator Penny Wong as Minister for Climate Change and Water. It's a serious and a technically complex role. Senator Wong is of Malaysian Chinese origin — she was born in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the Malaysia state of Sabah.

What chance would a person of white Australian ancestry have of being made a government minister in racially charged Malaysia? The answer is, of course, none. Senator Wong's appointment shows how race and ethnicity largely are irrelevancies in public life in Australia.

Throughout the election campaign, Senator Wong issued media releases condemning the then government for various things and the media reported those remarks. Had Senator Wong issued such statements in Malaysia, the media would have at best ignored her. At worst, she could be facing arrest. So, there will be many in Malaysia who will be utterly dumbfounded by Senator Wong's rise. Welcome to 2007.

Yes, it's universally known that we have no freedom of speech and no freedom of expression. After well-documented foreign-media evidence, there is no doubt about that at all.

Backman doesn't stop there. He also makes mention of our rotten eggs.

Certainly, getting rid of a good but long-serving government is no bad thing. The experience of Asia shows why. The coalition that rules Malaysia has been in power non-stop for 50 years. Several ministers are particularly long-serving. Samy Vellu has been Public Works Minister since 1995. Rafidah Aziz has been Trade and Industry Minister since 1987 — that's an extraordinary 20 years in the one portfolio.

Both these ministers are responsible for allocating millions in contracts each year. One can only imagine the relationships that emerge between contractors and ministers with such longevity. Change ministers and such relationships are reduced. Change governments and all relationships are swept away.

This is something I have always tried to explain.

The reason for the extent of our government corruption.

Being in power for so long, the ministers have begun to form relationships, know who they can trust to keep their peccadilloes a secret and gain courage to go beyond their limits.

There is always the temptation (even among the best of us) to succumb to corruption. But nipping it in the bud, through voting out governments are our best bet.

Something for us to think about before we hit the ballot boxes.

Charging 26 Indians With Murder??

But .... murder???

The Malaysian dictatorship government doesn't want to be outdone.

In the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, it is charging 26 ethnic Indians with attempted murder in connection with the HINDRAF anti-discrimination rally.

Folks. We are BEYOND boleh!! Heck, this mythical policeman with the few miserable stitches on his head from being attacked with bricks and iron pipes is DA BOMB!!! I wanna meet him!! I wanna shake his hand!! I wanna get his autograph!!

He makes triple-H look like a wuss. The Rock is a sissy next to him. Cena is a ninny. Stone Cold is a wimp. They could never take on 26 guys all at one time.

Not our cop. He must be one heck of a tough dude. Imagine being able to fight off 26 guys who were hell-bent on murdering him and living to tell the tale.

Not one, not two, but twenty-freaking-six men!!!

BN government boys, you are something else, you know that?

Seriously. You protest over HINDRAF's exaggeration, but then top it up with a gross exaggeration of your own?

I can understand HINDRAF needs all the attention it can get, but haven't you government boys had more than your fair share of attention from the international media these past few days???

Provoke and expect to receive the consequences. You hurl tear-gas at peaceful protestors, douse them in chemical juice, kick them for no particular reason and expect them to smile and wave at you???

Good Lord.

We have too many village idiots in this country.

Monday, 3 December 2007

India's Role In Malaysia's Ethnic Crisis

There's quite a bit of history lessons in here that I never got from my textbooks when I was in school.



OVERSEAS AND UNHAPPY - India needs to pay attention to the ethnic crisis in Malaysia

by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray
The Telegraph (Calcutta, India)

Malaysia’s simmering ethnic crisis is something for the ministry of overseas Indian affairs to ponder on. Presumably, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman was bestowed on S. Samy Vellu, president since 1979 of the Malaysian Indian Congress and public works minister in the ruling coalition, because India approves of his work as representative of more than two million ethnic Indians. Since the man and his constituency are inseparable, convulsions in the latter that question his leadership oblige India to reassess its attitude towards the diaspora.

Initially, screaming headlines about Hindus on the march suggested hordes of ash-smeared trident-brandishing sadhus with matted locks rampaging to overwhelm Muslim Malaysia. In reality, thousands of impoverished Tamils carrying crudely drawn pictures of Gandhi sought only to hand over a petition to the British high commission in Kuala Lumpur about their plight since their ancestors were imported as indentured labour 150 years ago. It so happened that the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), a new umbrella group of 30 organizations, mobilized Sunday’s protest when Tamils battled the riot police for six hours.

The confrontation was even farther removed in space than in time from Lee Kuan Yew’s claim in 1959, when Singapore was waiting to join Malaya, that India was to Malayan culture “what Greece and Rome are to Western culture”. Peninsular Malay was part first of the Srivijaya empire and then of Rajendra Chola’s overseas dominions. Even modern Islamic Malaysia borrows heavily from India. Terms like Bangsa Melayu (for the Malay nation) and bumiputera (Malay Muslims), the cherished determinant of political and economic privilege, expose Malaysia’s own unacknowledged linguistic bankruptcy.

Describing the Thirties excavations in Kedah, which confirmed that Bujang was a Srivijaya empire port — dating back to the 4th century — within easy sailing distance of India, Time magazine reported in 2000, “But an Indian Malaysian visiting the Bujang Valley might come away feeling demeaned rather than proud — and that would be no accident.” Anthony Spaeth, the writer, went on to say that “the official literature does its best to downplay, even denigrate, the Indian impact on the region”.

Ironically, the Indian minority’s further marginalization coincided with the long tenure (1981-2003) of the former prime minister, the ethnic Indian medical doctor, Mahathir Mohamad. He also took Malaysia further along the road to Islamization. A kind of competitive Islam was at play under him with the fundamentalist Parti Islam SeMalaysia demanding Sharia law and Mahathir’s subsequently disgraced lieutenant, Anwar Ibrahim, peddling what he called Islamic values without “Arabisation”.

Lee says Chinese Malaysians (25 per cent) who have maintained an uneasy peace since the vicious Malay-Chinese riots of 1969, are being marginalized. But they at least have someone to speak up for them. They are also able to salt away their savings in Singapore where they often send their children for education and employment. Lacking any of these fall-back advantages, the much poorer Indians suffered in silence until Sunday’s upsurge. They did not protest even when six Indians were murdered and 42 others injured in March 2001 without the authorities bothering to investigate the attacks.

Nearly 85 per cent of Indian Malaysians are Tamil, and about 60 per cent of them are descended from plantation workers. Official statistics say Indians own 1.2 per cent of traded equity (40 per cent is held by the Chinese) though they constitute eight per cent of the population. About 5 per cent of civil servants are said to be Indian while 77 per cent are Malay. An Indian who wants to start a business must not only engage a bumiputera partner but also fork out the latter’s 30 per cent share of equity. The licence-permit raj has run amok with government sanction needed even to collect garbage. Lowest in the education and income rankings, Indians lead the list of suicides, drug offenders and jailed criminals. All the telltale signs of an underclass. While the state gives preferential treatment to bumiputeras, the MIC has done little to help Indians rise above their initially low socio-economic base.

Religious devotion often being the last refuge of those with little else to call their own, Indians set great store by their temples, which are now the targets of government demolition squads. Many are technically illegal structures because the authorities will not clear registration applications. The last straw was the eve-of-Diwali destruction of a 36-year-old temple in Shah Alam town which is projected as an “Islamic City”. Insult was piled on injury when, having announced that he would not keep the customary post-Eid open house as a mute mark of protest, Vellu hastily backtracked as soon as the prime minister frowned at him.

Emotions have been simmering since 2005 when the mullahs seized the body of a 36-year-old Tamil Hindu soldier and mountaineer, M. Moorthy, and buried it over the protests of his Hindu wife, claiming Moorthy had converted to Islam. A Sharia court upheld the mullahs, and when the widow appealed, a civil judge ruled that Article 121(1A) of Malaysia’s constitution made the Sharia court’s verdict final. Civil courts had no jurisdiction. Such restrictions and, even more, the manner in which rules are implemented, make a mockery of the constitution’s Article 3(1) that “other religions may be practised in peace and harmony”.

Last Sunday’s petition was signed by 1,00,000 Indians. The fact that it was provoked by a supposed conversion and a temple destruction and was sponsored by Hindraf prompted P. Ramasamy, a local academic, to say, “The character of struggle has changed. It has taken on a Hindu form — Hinduism versus Islam.” But that is a simplification. The protesters who were beaten up, arrested and charged with sedition were Indians. They were labelled Hindu because Tamil or Malayali Muslims (like Mahathir) go to extraordinary lengths to deny their Indian ancestry and wangle their way into the petted and pampered bumiputera preserve. In Singapore, too, Indian Muslims who speak Tamil at home or sport Gujarati names drape the headscarf called tudung on their wives and insist they are Malay. Malaysia’s Sikhs also distance themselves from the Indian definition which has become a metaphor for backwardness.

Branding Sunday’s demonstration Hindu automatically singles out the minority as the adversary in a country whose leaders stress their Islamic identity. The implication of a religious motivation also distracts attention from the more serious economic discrimination that lies at the heart of minority discontent. Acknowledging that “unhappiness with their status in society was a real issue” for the protesters, even The New Straits Times, voice of the Malay establishment, commented editorially, “The marginalisation of the Indian community, the neglect of their concerns and the alienation of their youth must be urgently addressed.”

Some have suggested that the illusory prospect of fat damages from Hindraf’s $4 trillion lawsuit against the British government may have tempted demonstrators. But the lawyers who lead Hindraf must know that their plaint is only a symbolic gesture like my Australian aboriginal friend Paul Coe landing in England and taking possession of it as terra nullius (nobody’s land) because that is what the British did in Australia. The more serious message is, as The New Straits Times wrote, that secular grievances must be addressed. Though plantation workers have demonstrated earlier against employers, never before have they so powerfully proclaimed their dissatisfaction with the government. In doing so, under Hindraf colours, they have also signified a loss of confidence in Vellu and the MIC. The worm has turned. There is a danger now of the government hitting back hard.

All this concerns India, not because of M. Karunanidhi’s fulminations but because interest in overseas Indians must be even-handed. The diaspora does not begin and end with Silicon Valley millionaires. Nor should Vayalar Ravi’s only concern be V.S. Naipaul and Lakshmi Mittal whose pictures adorn his ministry’s website. Indians of another class are in much greater need of his attention.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Government Doing Its "Best" For Indians

My parents still insist on buying the New Straits Times.

They enjoy the comics and conscientiously pore through the obituaries, looking for anyone newly deceased that they might recognise. Funerals make good reunions too, you know.

Of course, the NST also comes in handy for wrapping up garbage.

But this morning, I just happened to glance through the headlines which proudly announced, "Government doing its best for Indians, says PM".

It didn't escape my attention that they got a couple of "Indians" (Malaysians of South Asian origin) to write the article so it appears all politically correct.

The blabbering article goes on to say how outraged the PM is.

Some excerpts:

“Tell me, do you believe there is ethnic cleansing in Malaysia? Is there ethnic cleansing, tell me? If this happened, I will resign,” Abdullah said.

Before you put in the letter, Sir, care to explain why the issue on Kg Medan has been kept under wraps? How did the riot break out, how many died, what actually happened?

Because if you keep me in the dark, I sure as hell am prepared to believe the worst.

“Tell me, you are an Indian and so are you (referring to Indian reporters), have we been doing it for the past 50 years, have we done this?”he asked.

Now now. Putting random reporters on the spot, are we? What was their response anyway? The report was strangely mum on that.

Abdullah also slammed Hindraf’s charge that “government backed armed Islamic extremists” had destroyed a temple in Klang.

“There is no such thing. This a lie conjured by certain groups to create hatred among the Indians for the government.”

You mean, the temple in Klang still stands?? Bugger me, it must be David Copperfield messing with my eyes again.

“They have done their part and supported the government. They are strong supporters of the Barisan Nasional and they surely do so because they believe we are fair to all.”

Don't deign to speak on my behalf, Sir, with your patronizing shit! Most of the politicians in your party are imbeciles who misbehave on a regular basis and have no reason to gain respect from the citizens of this great nation.

It is because of your incompetent leadership and apathetic attitude to the plight of Indians that has sparked this very uprise among the Indians.

Heck, it's not like I'm a great fan of HINDRAF.

In fact, I did mention that their manner of describing situations is over the top and they don't mind contradicting themselves.

In politically-incorrect terms, they're drama-mamas. (I don't reckon they have any right to sue my ass for calling them that as their references to the UMNO government hasn't been all that sweet and polite either).

But HINDRAF is the only organisation in Malaysia that has brought out the plight of marginalised Indians in Malaysia. For once, someone has to address the issue of body-snatching Hindu heros and giving them Muslim burials.

And someone had to highlight the insensitive demolition of Hindu temples.

However, at the risk of royally pissing off hardcore HINDRAFs, those demolished temples had no legal papers backing them up. I have a friend (an investigative reporter) who disclosed some interesting bits of information with me:

1) While HINDRAF was loudly protesting the demolishing of temples, there was said to be temple mismanagement within its committee itself. Allegedly, the government (on certain occasions) reimbursed the temple and gave ample time for relocation but no action was taken on the part of the temple committee.

2) HINDRAF lawyers didn't even know who the developers of the land where the temples were located were. If I were handling a case, you can betcha ass I'd have negotiated with all parties prior to any demolition squad making their presence there.

You see, I'm not completely against the temples being demolished. I'm more annoyed at the way the priests were manhandled, their statues were thrown about and trampled. And I'm not even Hindu.

Now these are sacred images for the Hindus. You can't irreverently fling them about any more than you can a Koran. It's just not right.

You can't fire tear-gas indiscriminately or douse them liberally with chemical-laced water, to the extent of causing death from asthma, beatings and resulting in other skin problems.

You can't deny them of ICs and birth certificates, consequently denying them a place in school because of no identification of citizenship.

You can't arrest them, throw them in jail and beat them till they die from the injuries.

You can't snatch their bodies and give them Muslim burials (because of a vague rumour of conversion) without the consent of the widow and without allowing her to pay her last respects.

You can't fire shots indiscriminately and kill an innocent pregnant woman and her baby just because you think the kidnapped child of a prominent politician is inside AND THEN go on to claim self-defense when there was obviously no one else in possession of firearms.

But because the Indians are a small minority, you can get away with kicking them. They are not economically strong, so they become a punching bag and no one really cares.

So no, the government is NOT doing its best for the Malaysians of South Asian origin. Because if it was, I'd hate to know what its worst is.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

'Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Leadership'

I know in some circles it's regarded as the celebrity disease due to the number of high profile people endorsing campaigns to combat AIDS.

In Malaysia, the problems still exist. The misconception that only homosexuals, drug addicts and promiscuous people get it has to be nipped in the bud.

Some sobering trivia:

15,000 children have already been made orphans by AIDS in Malaysia, and the country is on the brink of an AIDS epidemic, the World Health Organization has said.

The Health Ministry has identified 64,000 people with HIV or AIDS, but government officials and the United Nations fear that the number of HIV cases is closer to 300,000.

In Malaysia, addressing the problem of drug abuse is an important step in the fight against AIDS because 75 percent of those with HIV or AIDS are drug users, according to the Malaysian AIDS Council, a nongovernmental AIDS group.

To fight this war, stop moralising.

On The "Illegal Rallies"

The best part about Malaysian politics are the Quotable Quotes. :)

I honestly don't know how they make these statements with a straight face.

"To me, the illegal assembly will not only undermine internal security but also jeopardise the national economy.

"Are they trying to show (to the world) that this country is in disarray, this is not right," he told reporters when responding to the protest gathering at the British High Commission at Jalan Ampang on Sunday.

- Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan

I don't know, mate. I think you've single-handedly managed to show up the communist-dictatorship characteristics of your government.

We can't really call ourselves a democracy, and the last time I checked, few investors are thrilled with an unstable government like the one you work for.

"We have received information that there will be criminal activities taking place right up to Sunday’s gathering. From our intelligence gathering, we found that riots and fights had been planned. We are now taking precautionary measures."

- City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Zul Hasnan Najib Baharudin.

Intelligence? In Malaysia, "Police Intelligence" is an oxymoron. Pray, tell me, which little fly on the wall supplied that precious tidbit of information to you?

Hindraf's second appeal for a police permit was rejected as police intelligence showed racial issues and sensitivities of other races that could harm prevailing racial harmony would be highlighted at the assembly.

"We fear the gathering will spark racial friction leading to more serious crimes."

- City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Zul Hasnan Najib Baharudin.

You don't say! You mean, like waving the keris, shouting, "If you don't like it, get out of the country!" and claiming, "The Indians and Chinese bully the Malays"?

Policeman Kicks Protestor

Of course, there are NO racial issues in Malaysia.

And everyone takes care of each other. No policeman would even consider kicking a Malaysian of South Asian origin without provocation.

Ya think?

But noooo... HINDRAF is the only one overreacting with its racist rhetoric.

Friday, 30 November 2007

My Response To The HINDRAF Campaign

I know I promised to come up with a response to Resolving The Malaysian-Indian Issues much earlier.

But I had to ponder deeply on how a Christian Malaysian of South Asian origin, whose ancestors settled in Malaya over six generations ago should respond to issues pertaining to a faction of Hindu Malaysians who have finally voiced their dissatisfaction.

Frankly, I have never experienced much government-institutionalised discrimination. I am reasonably well-educated, wealthy (though I hasten to add, not of TAK-ish proportions), have been places and seen things.

By proxy, HINDRAF marginalises me. But it's not about the group or its leader Uthayakumar, though his leadership has obviously inspired thousands to brave the FRU and its neighbourhood-friendly water-cannons and tear-gas.

He has a following that Samy Vellu can only dream of. That's scary.

Because no one has ever spoken up for the Malaysians of South Asian origin (I deliberately refuse to say 'Indian'. You'll understand why in just a bit). And they sorely needed their cause championed.

Because, like Nate says, "When you’re small, you become a punching bag." And yes, I can appreciate that that was why he walked on that day.

HINDRAF's brand of racist rhetoric is no worse than that of the violence-propagating Kerismudin or the benignly stupid Jamaluddin Jarjis or even the mufti of Perak, Harussani Zakaria.

While those guys may have been ridiculed by the blogosphere, they did not provoke the outrage of the public like HINDRAF did. Why the double standard? Why the calls by Malaysians to send their fellow Malaysians back to India?

Why are the Hindus considered to have gone overboard for their walk and their memo when the Muslims have threatened to start riots and go on killing rampages simply because their rights were questioned?

Why didn't anyone call for the ISA to be used on Kerismuddin for his subtle call to violence when so many want Uthayakumar put away for a long time?

It's racism, and it didn't even start from HINDRAF.

Perhaps no one better sums it up than Farish Noor, who (being in Berlin) is so far in terms of location from Malaysia, yet understands the situation better than anyone else living here.

In The Other Malaysia, he freely admits that:

While the leaders and supporters of Hindraf may have resorted to the politics of race and religious-based communitarianism to further a specific goal in mind, we should not really be surprised if they had done so. This is Malaysia, remember: the same multi-culti country that has been run and governed by the same tired and worn-out coalition of ideologically bankrupt right-wing communitarian race and religious-based parties for half a century. Those fellow Malaysians who marched on Sunday are the children of a nation-building project that has failed utterly and miserably, and they merely reflect the racialised mindset of so many Malaysian politicians today who are no better.

So while we may disagree with the tone and tenor of Hindraf’s communitarian political-speak, let us not miss the wood for the trees. Hindraf did not invent racialised communitarian politics in Malaysia, it was the component of the Barisan Nasional parties that did, and continue to do so.

Hindraf did not begin a new trend of race and religious-based political association and collectivism in Malaysia: it was the older race and religious-based parties and movements like UMNO, PAS and ABIM that did, and continue to do so.

Hindraf did not invent the language of racial and religious identification in Malaysia, for these terms were already hoisted on them and the minority communities of Malaysia by the state, the mainstream media and the conservative reactionary forces in this country long ago. It was the politicians, political analysts, media commentators and communitarian activists who referred, for instance, to the Hindu temples of Malaysia as ‘Indian temples’; and who continue to refer to Malaysians of South Asian origin as ‘Indians’ or the ‘Indian community’.

For the information of all and sundry, those temples that were bulldozed were not ‘Indian temples’ but Malaysian temples, built on Malaysian soil, frequented by Malaysians, paid for by Malaysians and they were part of the Malaysian landscape. There are no ‘Indian Temples’ in Malaysia- Indian temples exist in India and if you don’t believe me then fly to India and check them out yourself. Likewise the only ‘Indians’ in Malaysia are the tourists, expats and workers who come from India and happen to be Indian nationals bearing Indian passports. Those Hindus who marched in the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Sunday happen to be Malaysians like you.

And because I too am Malaysian, I will champion the cause of the downtrodden and those who have been kicked around for too long.

Not because the blog-lords or their commenters approve, but because it is only the right thing to do.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

USA: Freedom Of Expression

US defends peaceful protests in Malaysia

WASHINGTON: The United States underscored on Wednesday the rights of Malaysians to hold peaceful protests, after Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's government swiftly suppressed mass rallies and threatened to use a draconian law to detain protesters indefinitely without trial.

We believe citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views," a US State Department official said when commenting on the crackdown of unprecedented street protests in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this month.

One called for electoral reform which drew some 30,000 people, and another by at least 8,000 ethnic Indians last Sunday was aimed at highlighting racial discrimination.

The rallies were the biggest in a decade and took place despite bans ordered by police, who broke up the gatherings with tear gas, water cannons and baton charges.

The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not go beyond his succinct statement, which was the first reaction by Washington on the rare outpouring of anti-government dissent in Malaysia.

The protests led to a veiled threat by Abdullah on Tuesday to use the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows for detention without trial to stem the dissent.

Rights groups, who have campaigned to have the ISA abolished, cautioned the prime minister against using such laws.

"It is a huge mistake for Prime Minister Abdullah to even consider using this unjust law to crack down on peaceful demonstrators," said T Kumar, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific advocacy director in Washington.

"We strongly urge him not to use it." Amnesty has also called on the US authorities to check whether excessive force was used in quelling the recent demonstrations and to oppose any use of the ISA against peaceful protests, he said.

Abdullah argued that the ISA was "a preventive measure to spare the nation from untoward incidents that can harm the prevailing peace and harmony and create all sorts of adverse things."

"So, I don't know (when to invoke the ISA), but ISA will be there. When it is appropriate to use it, it will be used," he said.

Malaysia is holding more than 100 people under the ISA, about 80 of them alleged Islamic militants. Rights groups have long campaigned for them to be freed or brought to trial.

The legislation allows for two-year detention periods that can be renewed indefinitely. The government maintains that detention without trial is needed as a first line of defence against terrorism.

US intelligence consultancy Stratfor, in a bulletin to clients this week, said the Malaysian demonstrations signaled "instability" ahead of national elections expected early next year.

"The recent demonstrations signal chaos and unpredictability to come before elections are announced, but Badawi's grip on internal security is not going to loosen any time soon," it said.