Monday, 30 July 2018

Of Indians And Pendatang

It appears that this issue has resurfaced after all those years, thanks to a speech by the Human Resources Minister Kulasegaran as he was addressing the presence of Indians in Malaya for centuries.

Which is nothing new nor surprising, since the Nusantara region has been regarded as Greater India.

So it's a shame he has apologised, because he said nothing remotely offensive nor untrue.

The controversial part about South East Asia being an extension of South Asia (mainly India), if anything, is this bit (though Kula never alluded to it):

One of the major issues with Indianisation is the common debate whether or not Indianisation is the reason for the development in South East Asia. Many struggle to date and determine when colonisation in Southeast Asia occurred because of the structures and ruins found that were similar to those in India. Several books and anthropologists believe that India is seen as the superior culture that influenced a lot of Southeast Asian countries. However, throughout this time that many began to debate, other anthropologists suggested that Southeast Asia had indigenous civilisation and the idea of Indianisation was just seen as a 'national motivation'. These debates continued for some time, until the Pacific War, which led to legitimately ending the debates and reviewing Southeast Asia's response to Indianisation.

While it may officially be referred to as Indianisation, there is no doubt that there was significant Chinese influence over South East Asia as well. After all, the East Coast of Malaya has had kingdoms, which were no doubt named by the Chinese such as the Chih Tu and Pahang (or Pan-Huang) and Langkasuka (which was a big force in its own right back in 3CE).

It's just that people tend to underestimate the influence of Islamisation in Malaya -- due to Greater India:

Not only was the spark of Buddhism the driving force for Indianisation coming to an end, but Islamic control took over as well in the midst of the thirteenth century to trump the Hindu kingdoms. In the process of Islam coming to the traditional Hindu kingdoms, trade was heavily practised and the now Muslim Indians started becoming merchants all over Southeast Asia. Moreover, as trade became more saturated in the Southeast Asian regions wherein Indianisation once persisted, the regions had become more Muslim populated. This so-called Islamic control has spanned to many of the trading centres across the regions of Southeast Asia, including one of the most dominant centres, Malacca, and has therefore stressed a widespread rise of Islamisation.

It was possibly during this time that Hindus began to recognise the dominance of Islam and marginalise its adherents, though perhaps that is a more recent thing. It's ironic that India marginalises its Muslim community. Even more bizarre that Myanmar refuses to acknowledge the Rohingya who have lived in the fringes for centuries.

I've blogged extensively on the issue of being called "pendatang", and I am tired of it. Only in Malaysia does such a trivial issue take up such levels of public interest and even aggression.

Perhaps that's what makes people tick -- feeling superior to someone else and belittling them.

Not too long ago, an Indian mob attacked a bunch of Muslim men who were minding their own business, going about India on a road trip (something they are perfectly entitled to do). The vicious assault left one of the five men, Mohammed Azam, a UK-educated IT worker from India's tech hub in Hyderabad, dead, and at least two of the others badly beaten.

The reason for that mindless assault? The answer given was, "He looked like a terrorist."

I despair. One nation champions its Malay Muslimhood and another flaunts its Hindu privilege. Yet they are both of the same stock.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Event This Weekend On Malayan Emergency

Just a quick heads up, Gerak Budaya are hosting an event this weekend that's always been very intriguing for me: A People’s History of the Malayan Emergency.

Date: 27 - 29 July 2018
Time: A fair bit of the day
Venue: KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Entry is free.

More details on Facebook.

Hats off to those of you who attend every single programme, but I think I am going to pick just a few.

The obvious question that has been bandied about is should we rewrite our textbooks -- what we glean from this will help us make an informed decision.

See you there!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Tun Dah Merajuk

If you're wondering why, he is peeved over the failure of the national car, and understandably so, as that was his baby. I am, sadly, old enough to remember the first ever Proton that rolled out sometime in the mid 80s.

It sent our spirits soaring, boosted our hopes, flung ambitions high -- and it also dashed some dreams, frustrated some aspirations, and frankly disappointed us.

Oh Proton, you could have been so much more.

Alas, but Proton was why the average Malaysian could not afford a decent car, because there was so much protectionism in way of tariffs on any imported car. To make matters worse, it appeared that Proton had haemorrhaged its good engineers and was devoid of creative design inspiration when it proposed designing an Islamic car.

I have nothing against religion, but I hardly think there is a market for Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish cars anymore than there is for Islamic cars.

The Japanese and Koreans emerged from humble beginnings to become serious automobile manufacturers. We were supposed to "Look East" and emulate them, but alas, Proton didn't quite scale those heights.

Dr M describes how the Austins and Morrises of yesteryear have largely disappeared from the market despite being popular European cars.

I could go one step further and rubbish BMW for its drivetrain issues and Volkswagon for its emission scandal. Oh, and let's not forget Audi, whose CEO was arrested over the same issue.

European cars are so yesterday, while American cars are mostly crap and not even worthy of a scandal.

No doubt my readership may wish to disagree, and I am open to being schooled on this subject, if said readership is convincing enough.

But back to the topic of a national car. Dr M asserts that Japan's and Korea's success with their cars has led to their high quality of life, wealth, improved technology, robust economy etc -- if we had followed suit, we would be in a better place than we are at the moment.

I suspect that that is a spurious argument as Japan has a massive deficit, possibly even worse than the US (and that is saying something). Many Japanese have adopted a minimalist lifestyle which suggests that they are not entirely content with the ostentatious way of life. Behind that veneer of perfection is a troubled economy.

"Nevermind," says Dr M, "Malaysia is a nation of consumers, rice planters and fishermen. That's what we want and that's what we get."

A bit unfair, methinks. The world needs more farmers and food producers. What it does not need is more fossil-fuelled cars polluting the environment.

The trend these days is to invent electric cars, not just hybrids. Fossil fuels are going out of fashion, and even power generation has veered towards renewable energy: hydro, solar and wind.

To get about, we should be walking or cycling, not driving.

When it comes to producing traditional cars, ladies and gentlemen, that ship has sailed.

We could become a hugely successful and prosperous nation, but if we do, it wouldn't be because of cars.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

China And 1MDB

That ah pek fella, Tony Pua, has been going around calling the 1MDB scandal the great-grandmother of all scandals, and now it appears to have caught on -- even with the BBC. The bugger is now a special officer to the finance minister -- job scope: to look through the mountains of documentation related to 1MDB.

Not bad eh?

Though everyone with a minimum of two brain cells knew, even back then, that what Tony Pua was banging on about was, of course, a legitimate issue. I think what shocks people is the scale of the problem, the sheer magnitude of the actual problem.

It has spread to, and now involves a force that most Malaysians would prefer not to bother: China.

The Mahathir administration has suspended three major construction projects with Chinese firms. The mind-blowing bit is that 88% of the cost had been paid to China, even though only 13% of the work had been completed.

How can that happen, I hear you ask. Two words: Money Laundering.

Two of the contracts were pipelines. I know right, what better way to channel money away than by using a pipeline? #Ironic

Anyway, the companies involved were contacted for *ahem* comment. According to the BBC:

Emails to China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau about Mr Pua's allegations went unanswered, but the Chinese embassy in London gave its response.

"We have noted the relevant report. China has all along conducted economic, trade and investment cooperation with Malaysia, as well as other countries, with the principle of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes," said a spokesman.

Pooh. These people, with their capacity for sanctimonious waffle, really do talk like the North Koreans.

According to the Malay Mail, Putrajaya is investigating whether part of a loan from a Chinese state-owned bank for projects worth US$2.3 billion (RM9.3 billion) was used to help repay dues of scandal-ridden state fund 1MDB.

What's the significance of this?

About three years ago, to quote the Business Insider, Xi Jinping Just Took His War On Corruption To A Whole New Level.

Even high level officials, like Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief and retired Politburo Standing Committee member and Communist Party General Secretary and Politburo member Sun Zhengcai, have been indicted.

Most of the people who have been rooted out have been caught plundering state resources. Clearly, personal and private enrichment hurts China.

The question is, what happens to those who have been plundering other nations? Is that acceptable by Xi's standards?

It's all about perception, at the end of the day. In China, local governments, often collude with businesses to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, evoking backlash in the form of mass protest and social unrest, and threatening the party’s power.

Corruption in foreign places like Malaysia is unlikely to solicit backlash in China.

Nevertheless, ball's in your court, China. Remember, the world is watching.

Related: Jho Low And The China Issue

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Police

In a previous post, I complained about the police investigating a non-issue.

Perhaps another sector of society and the administration of it that needs to be overhauled to build this new Malaysia is: the police.

Not heard of Jason Lim and his run-ins with the police? Clare Rewcastle Brown is taking journalism in her birthplace very seriously and Sarawak Report has all the details.

Time To Clear Out The Police Force To Create The New Malaysia

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Are You Treated In Your Own Country?

It's a tricky situation.

China wants to be taken seriously as an emerging power. For the most part, China is heading in the right direction; it is leading where the West is declining, thanks to the UK's parochial bickering over Brexit and Donald Trump's America First policies.

Unfortunately, in its zest to attract foreign investment and international respect, it has sidelined its own.

One massively glaring example is Wuxi Institute of Technology that gave overseas students preferential treatment, by forcing the local Chinese students to give up their rooms to foreigners and move to inferior accommodation.

That is a constant gripe in Malaysia; the Malays frequently complain that they are 'lost in their own land'. This is their basis for instituting affirmative action, or preserving their special rights.

I sympathise with Malays being treated badly in their own land. Actually, I sympathise with every other Malaysian as well, who was born in this country, paid their taxes, contributed to the well-being of the nation and still remains sidelined despite their best efforts.

In the case of the Wuxi students, they were not merely given older, less fancy accommodation to live in, the facilities were also inferior, in that the bathrooms did not have hot running water 24 hours a day. That, in most countries, is a basic human right. To send off students in your own country to less adequate accommodation is just miserable behaviour and most unbecoming of any country that wishes to take itself seriously.

A teacher was seen in a video, urging students to move out of the building, and quarrelling with them as they refuse to leave. "This is the school’s property," yells the teacher in the video. "Who are you?"

I hope this will never happen in Malaysia and that whatever befalls, however we seek to progress, we will, at the very least, protect our own.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Seriously, Do People Even Know What Sedition Is?

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is clearly an intelligent woman, and that in Malaysia, even the 'new' Malaysia is a dangerous thing to some people.

I partly understand. People have been travelling the same sodden path for years and perhaps this change is too much for them. I am pleased though. It is heart-warming to find fellow-intellectuals and comforting to know that we think alike.

Fadiah clearly has more gumption than I do, and certainly far more knowledge on the subject of royalty and its institution. She is very articulate and puts forward her points very well.

In the UK, the topic of the monarchy and its role in society and democracy used to be debated rather frequently, and I recall that in the past, people agreed to disagree. These days, this topic seems increasingly to be the domain of racists and those who fantasise about Britain in the past. (Perhaps understandable as western civilisation is crumbling.)

It suggests that close-mindedness is a sign of a society in decline.

This is particularly why I am opposed to accusations that Fadiah bringing up the topic of royalty is tantamount to sedition.

It is not.

Sedition is when people rouse the rabble and incite violence. Fadiah is clearly miles away from that. She merely opened a path to intellectual discussion about customs we may have held for centuries.

These customs may be sacred to some people, dear to others and archaic or outdated to yet some others.

I am opposed to the new government, especially the police, leaping up and falling over themselves to question or detain her. She has done nothing wrong and in our progressive society, this is a backward move.

2. I’m not alone, says lawyer accused of sedition