Friday, November 30, 2007

Kudos to Dr Koh Tsu Koon

Penang state executive councillor Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon did not break ranks with the Barisan Nasional when he said he "disagreed with the country's leaders" on Sunday's illegal rally.

Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said the BN coalition comprised different parties with people of differing views.Koh, who is also Penang chief minister, said there was bound to be a diversity of opinions among and within each party."Otherwise, we are not a coalition.

I don't think Toh has broken ranks with the BN. He was just expressing his personal opinion.

"We are a democratic country and Gerakan is a democratic party," he said. (I hope he will stand by this statement in the future and I trust he would.)

I agree with Dr Toh too.

Open Letter to the Minister of Internal Security

Dear YAB Dato' Seri Abdullah Badawi,

I would like to bring your attention to the poor public perception of their own security. This negative perception is confirmed by various reports including a survey commissioned by the News Straits Times.

Of late, we have read and heard news of crimes being committed. Most of the cases involved heinous crime against the weak and defenseless and targeting women and children.

The fear has paralysed many people and restricted their daily activities. As a son of a robbery victim (my mother), I can understand the trauma undergone by some of the victims. Until today, my mother fears to stay alone in our house.

As a concerned citizen, I would like to urge you to take appropriate action to ensure that police and RELA resources are poured into combating crime. These resources should be used mainly to secure public peace and safety and to rebuild public's confidence in our state of security.

Some of these cases are not reported and the extent of hurt caused to the victims are not known but that does not mean we can sit still and pretend everything is under control. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

If the situation persists, we will not be able to wait until the next general elections to tell you how we feel, unlike what was suggested by your minister, Nazri Aziz.

The people deserve a government that listens and reacts to their concerns.

Khoo Kay Peng

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Might Is Right

From my discussions and debates with some of the politicians, it has become clear to me that the notion of 'might is right' is being practiced to the fullest in Malaysia. 'Might' comes from the subjugation of minorities' rights by the majority.

Hence, a self-appointed spokesman of the government has repeatedly reminded us of the 'rule by the majority' and that minorities in this country must accept the wishes of the majority. This is a killer blow to our multiracial harmony resulted from the perpetuation of racial politics.

I am also saddened by claims from those in power that people who displayed their disgruntlement are members of the opposition. Parliamentary secretary of Foreign Ministry Ahmad Shabery Chek blamed the opposition creating such an atmosphere (demonstrations). According to him, the opposition had instigated the people to demonstrate to create the impression that the public is angry with the government.

This is a classic example of a government in denial. The 30,000 Indians who demonstrated last Sunday were not entirely gullible or naive. Neither are they members of the opposition parties.

These are Malaysians who felt the prolonged marginalisation over the last five decades. Labelling people who are critical of the government policies and performance as 'anti-government' is counter productive and self-defeatist.

Moreover, this kind of attitude will only help to amplified the arrogance of those in power that they can do no wrong. No human is perfect and certainly not this government.

Nation Crime Alert System

I am sick and tired of reading and watching criminal reports in the newspapers and TV news. It is time we do something to stop these crooks from ruining our public safety.

Dora's case is a prime example. The crooks simply become more daring and are capable of committing crimes even in bright day light. Surely we can do something about this and I would like to thank those who are already doing something about it.

Let us not fail this young lady and let us not be angry over and over again but failed to turn our anger into something tangible.

I would like to propose we set up a national crime alert system to help people facing similar situation. Afterall, the Internet network and other telecommunications channels should be put into productive use. We, bloggers, are not only good at spreading lies (as alleged by some politicians) but we are capable of playing our role as a responsible citizen.

I want to hear your respond on the setting up of this crime alert system.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Qualified Disgruntlement

Samy Vellu said Hindraf could have taken a better approach to air its grievances and should not have accused the MIC of failing the Indian community. In his defence, MIC has done a great deal for the Indian community. He claimed that the BN government under the able leadership of PM Abdullah Badawi has his ears and eyes close to the people.

MIC, like many other race-based parties, claimed to represent the Indian community. According to Samy, there can only be one Indian based party in BN. However, the MIC president surely has to answer to allegations that the Indian community in Malaysia has been neglected. In fact, the community's share of the economic pie is less than 1.5% despite making up of 8% of total population. Even then, most of their wealth is held in the hands of a few.

Tamil vernacular schools are some of the most neglected schools in the country. Many of these schools are not enjoying a full subsidy from the government and are left to rot or to survive on their own. Yet, a high number of parents continue to send their children to these schools. Lacking a network of community's support for these schools means that they are not able to churn out as many good students as the Chinese vernacular schools.

Some Indian friends told me that many Indian youths have turned into gangsterism and other crime because there is no safety net to catch those who dropped out from the education system. As a result, Indians made up one of the largest groups in our prisons. Suicide rate amongst the Indians is also the highest compared to other communities.

It is difficult to imagine why Indians in this country cannot make it to the top if those in India can become world renowned and respected for their creative ability and IT proficiency. Today, India is slowly becoming one of the world's key economic powerhouses.

Surely something is not right in this country. The question is whether MIC should take the blame? On one hand its President wants to absolve its party from any responsibility, on the other hand it wants a monopoly representation of the Indian community. He should be made to understand that such a representation cannot come without a responsibility.

What he should do is to accept these criticisms and work towards helping the community to integrate with the larger society. He must be able to convince the ruling coalition to channel significant resources into educational and social restructuring programmes for the community. Token assistance of a few millions ringgit will not help to alleviate the Indians from their current plight.

Is BN as open and accommodative to views and criticisms as Samy Vellu claimed it is? MIC parliamentarian K. Devamany told the parliament that the rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) reflected the Indian community’s disgruntlement towards certain government policies. Instead of immediately asking him to prove his statement, the MIC leader is being reprimanded for breaking ranks with the coalition.

Nazri Aziz castigated Devamany for placing MIC in a difficult position and urged him to stand by the majority of Indians who did not take part in the rally. The minister's rule by the majority concept of democracy is worrying and seriously faulty. In a truly democratic country, the constitutional rights of a single individual must be protected and respected regardless of what the majority decide. Even if most of the 2 million Indians did not take part in the demonstration, it does not mean they are not disgrunted with certain government policies.

In fact, it is in the interest of BN to listen to the voices of discontent. Afterall, the community had provided solid support for the coalition in the last few general elections. Devamany's reaction is not likely to cause as much negative political impact to BN compared to Nazri's political arrogance and ignorance.

Shrinking Chinese Votes

Please click here to read more. My participation in The Star's Cafe Latte Chat.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It is Time to Walk The Talk


The verdict is already out and the Lingam's video has been proven to be authentic. I believe the current administration should not hold back any necessary actions to allow the due process of law to restore the confidence in our judiciary.

We should take heed of lessons learned in other countries where their judiciary is tainted with corrupt judges who maintained cosy links with businessmen and politicians. What were the implications? Businesses and foreign investors stayed away from these countries. Those dared to try will find ways and means to play the same game - buy their rights.

I support the Bar Council's call, made at its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) yesterday, to urge the judiciary to take a more proactive role in supporting the Bar's quest for judicial reforms.

Malaysian Bar president S Ambiga said "We want the judiciary to step up and show their support for judicial reforms, for a royal commission and the judicial appointments commission".

The Royal Commission terms of reference should be made as wide as possible to include broad power to review the possible causes which started the judicial rot. Past presidents including Sultan Azlan Shah and Tun Salleh Abas should be given prominent role in the process to ensure that their views and suggestions are taken into consideration.

The government has given its assurance that the democratic process is very much alive and kicking in Malaysia. One sure way to strengthen the credibility of this statement is by allowing an interrupted and transparent process of investigation.

The judiciary must be free from all interference - including from the ruling elites. Power usurped by the past administration must be given back to the respective branches and to the people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Passing the Buck

At a friend's deepavali open house I started a chat with a politician from a Chinese based party. Inevitably we spoke about the forthcoming general elections and the people's sentiments. He told me that those who are unhappy represent only a small minority. Most of the people, he reckoned, are generally satisfied with the present government.

I do not refute his assumption. He might be right that the noises are mainly coming from those who speak the loudest (or most outspoken). Not happy with his observation, I asked if there is nothing wrong with the present system. Is the current political model viable for his party?

His answer is 'no', can be better and for things to change the most dominant party in the coalition must change first. I remembered speaking to some people about almost the same thing - the NEP. Their replies were almost identical. The other community must change first.

I reckon that if you cannot persuade the others to change, the change must start from yourself. Otherwise, the buck must stop somewhere.

I told him the racial political model will make his party irrelevant regardless. And his party must relook at the entire partnership if the other dominant partner does not want to play fair. It would be foolish cajoling for votes if the support given cannot be translated into mandate for a change.

We want a CHANGE.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chinese Votes and Power Sharing

Yesterday, I was invited to speak at a roundtable organised by a local newspaper on 'Shrinking Chinese Votes and Its Impact on Power Sharing'. I do not want to dwell to much into the details to be fair to the organiser. I hope you will be able to read it soon.

My initial reaction was this title touches on our parochialism. I am sure you have heard of shrinking Chinese votes through redelineation, electoral gerry mandering and slower birth rate. Interestingly, it is not true that the Chinese population has declined in number. On the contrary, Chinese population in Malaysia has increased from slightly over 3 million in 1957 to about 6 million by year 2000.

I argued that it is too simplistic to take a communal and communitarian approach in dealing with the question of shrinking Chinese votes or influence. If we take a communal standpoint, there is no need for a debate. It is obvious that relatively Chinese population will grow slower than the dominant Malay-Muslim community.

However, the fact that politics in Malaysia is race centric we have no other choice. Chinese leaders from the ruling coalition have argued that it is essential they receive full support from the community to better represent them in the government.

I pointed out that the main question is no longer about representation. The main challenge for these political parties is to reconnect with the society. The community has changed. Younger Chinese Malaysians are no longer tied to this parochial mindset about the need for a Chinese voice in the government. Many of them are simply demanding equal treatment as citizens, better governance and policies, no abuse of power, and others. Yes, they are frustrated because some segments within the ruling coalition still refused to accept that all Malaysians must be treated equally.

I argued that it is wrong to say Chinese Malaysians are going to vote for more opposition in the next general elections. I see as a rural-urban divide phenomena. Urbanites are the first to face the brunt of poor governance, bad public delivery system, higher inflation etc. The ruling coalition has proven to be very effective when comes to rural management but does not demonstrate the same eficacy when dealing with urban development. I see the lost of support coming from mainly urban votes and it is coincidental that majority of Chinese community are concentrated in urban and semi-urban areas.

Another speaker pointed out that out of the 4.9 millions unregistered voters, 4 millions are Malays mainly in the urban areas. If these people are included in the electoral roll, the analysis becomes clearer.

It is unfortunate we have to racialise all discussions. The ruling government should not focus too much on politics and neglect governance and policy making.

Chinese representation in the government is not about number only. In the last 3 general elections, most Chinese based component parties had won comfortably. However, they have not demonstrated their ability to influence policy direction and implementation in the country. Issues concerning the abuses of the NEP, corruption, vernacular education, public service, democractic reforms and others remained out of the domain of these leaders. They must not merely focus on community service and neglect their role in power sharing and effecting change.

Perhaps these parties need a deep soul searching. I argued that our political system remained in the post-independent generation. It is outdated and outmoded. While political parties were established on racial lines during those period, these parties must be willing to evolve as the nation starts to do so.

If we are going to experience the same race-based model after 50 years since independence and for the next 50 years into the future then something must be terribly wrong with this society. A speaker from a race-based party opined UMNO must change first if we want to do away with race-based model. I retorted that if other component parties cannot persuade UMNO to do so and it is unwilling to change then they should relook at the BN model to see if this is what they wanted to support - perpetual racialisation, which is detrimental to all other component parties and race-based opposition parties too. Race politics is about number, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lingam's Video is Authentic

Reported in NST Online, the panel examining the authenticity of the "Lingam" video clip agreed that the matter should be investigated by a royal commission of inquiry. The panel had concluded that the video clip featuring senior lawyer V.K. Lingam was authentic and that the issue warranted further investigation.

The panel, formed in September, was headed by former chief judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor and made up of former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar and social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

Now, we should focus on its implementation. The government must strive to take the right steps from now onwards. Otherwise, its credibility will be put through a serious scrutiny.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The People's Constitution

Watch this short documentaryn (10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka) by Fahmi Reza on the People's Constitution and the October 1947 Hartal. Read his interview here.

This is an important episode in our history left untold in history books.
Picture courtesy of sun2surf.com

Zam, Pick Your Fight Wisely

Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin criticized Al-Jazeera's news commentator in an interview with the cable news channel. Viewers can see that the minister is struggling to come out with justified reasons on why the policemen were spraying water canon and acid foam at protestors, passing vehicles and pedestrians.

When asked why peaceful demonstration is not allowed, Zam responded that there is an election every 5 years so there is no need for demonstration. This is a mockery of our understanding of real democracy. Democracy is not only about having elections every five years. It is about individual rights to freedom of opinion, speech and assembly.His response in Al-Jazeera does not paint him in a good light.

I hope the minister will ponder before opening his mouth. Zam, not all Malaysians laughed at Al-Jazeera's news coverage. We are not yet Pakistan or Myanmar and for goodness sake we will not allow this country to go that way. That I can assure you, Mr Minister.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Uplifting News


Unlike many who would have kept the money, lecturer Asma Muda.
Asma, a lecturer at Technical Teachers' Training Institute, had stumbled upon the cash while loading her luggage into her husband’s car and decided to find the real owner.

Asma, 42, and her husband, pilot Capt Zaim Khalid, decided the money must be returned to its rightful owner. She sought The Star’s help to trace the owner.

Chef Teoh Kean Hong slaved over a hot stove in a Chinese restaurant in London and ate instant noodles on his days off to save RM10,350 – money to support his wife and three children back home in Subang Jaya.

Teoh is delighted to get back his hard earned cash. Kudos to the couple. However, I got a bad news from a friend who was robbed off her laptop, cash and watch this morning. It is time for the police to focus on fighting crime than to serve the politicians.
Picture courtesy of The Star.

The Truth Cannot Be Hidden

With the advent of the internet, the world's most repressive regimes are finding it very difficult to conceal their wrongdoings. The internet phenomena has truly altered the way people access news and critical information.

In fact, at a conference recently a presenter from Singapore Straits Times presented its new online portal, Stomp.com.sg. The online portal encourages readers to turn citizen journalists and submit their content, audio and video files to the website. The fact is online news websites have beaten the traditional media to the news.

At the recent Bersih demonstration, I am amazed to find out so many fresh information on what really happened at the demo. Any government of the day must realise fast that it can no longer conceal the truth. With a simple handphone with video recording capability and a camera, citizens are narrating events as they see them. These online reporters are slowly gaining credibility too.

I am hopeful that more stories and events can be told without prejudices and fear. We need to tell the truth. The people deserved to know the truth. And when you narrate your events, please remember that you represent all Malaysians.

We need not fear speaking out for our brothers and sisters of other communities. This way, we are heading towards real unity.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gerakanlah Malaysia!

Josh Hong’s article on Gerakan and his scathing criticism of the supremacism of Umno has comforted me that I am not the only who sounded bitter. Josh argues that my grunt and criticism is not in any “position to effect real change in the BN for the simple fact that it is the word of the (in)famous “fourth floor people” that carries weight”.

I do not dispute his observation. Moreover, I do not intend to claim that I have done a great job in my attempts to point out to the ruling elites that they must not forget to govern responsibly. However, not all my criticisms are taken positively. I would be thankful if I am allowed to complain till the cow comes home and given the space to exercise my freedom of opinion.

Unfortunately, critics, including myself, have come to realize that our job is becoming a hazard to us and to the cause we have been appointed to uphold and promote. I would like to assure Josh that our criticisms do make a slight impact in order to attract such responses and reactions. Our efforts are not totally in vain.

However, unlike Josh, I would like to argue against putting too much hope in political parties to spearhead democratic reforms and practice responsible governance. History has taught us that political parties, especially those in power, will not be moved or motivated to change unless there are internal and external conditions which threatened their rule.

By nature, politicians are not tempted to delegate power to the people. On the contrary, they would try to convince the people to hand them more power in order to rule more efficiently and effectively. Many have proven to be very effective and efficient, however, when only comes to serving their own interests.

Hence, authoritarian states have long promoted political stability as a desired attribute for socio-economic growth and sustainable peace. What is seen as a mammoth presence in parliament is actually a stamp of approval of the people who preferred development over democracy. As long as politicians are able to generate growth, create enough jobs and protect their public safety, this model works fine. Why fix something when it is not broken?

However, the real problem starts to emerge when politicians themselves are tempted to misappropriate the tremendous amount of power and public resources entrusted to them for their own self-interests. Abuse of power through nepotism, favourtism, corruption and others can impoverish even a resource rich nation. However, such deterioration takes decades to imprint its devastating impact on the society. By then, civil forces within the society would have been weakened by political hegemony to the extent that they will not be strong enough to mount a challenge against the powerful and omnipresent state.

Some politicians have tried to comfort me by saying that we can be in the same pot but remain distinct from other ingredients in the pot. In other words, we can be part of the system without being part of the system which abuses its responsibility. Personally, I do not know how this is possible without being equally tainted.

I would like to urge Josh and other responsible Malaysians to look beyond the current approach if we wanted change. A change has proven to be very difficult to come from inside the system. We cannot place our hope entirely on politicians we have empowered with such enormous power and resources to change overnight just because we think some of them have promised us to play a check-and-balance role within the ruling coalition. Or else we might be disappointed someday to find out that the different ingredients in the same pot do mix and coalesce very well.

Our hope lies within us. Malaysians must not continue to be apathetic when comes to their politics if they want to become a fully developed and civilized society endowed with good and noble values of transparency, accountability and sincerity.

Like Josh, I am still mildly optimistic because I am sensing a growing call for us to see beyond our skin colour and creed and start to think like citizens of this beautiful country, Malaysia. Malaysians must be firmly grounded on their feet and take over the driver’s seat.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Malam Bangsa Malaysia



Want to know more about the event and how it went? Please click here.

Malaysia may buy Russian space rocket


Malaysia just send Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who blasted off on the Russian spacecraft on October 10 and spent nine days at the International Space Station (ISS), in an odyssey linked to the billion-dollar purchase of fighter jets from Russia. Many have criticised the government's move as a waste of taxpayers' money.

Now, the government is considering Russia's offer to sell Malaysia the Soyuz craft that carried the first Malaysian astronaut into space. Does not matter if no Malaysian is capable of handling the craft.

Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Jamaluddin Jarjis said he will submit Russia's offer to the cabinet.

Jamaluddin said it was 'a good idea' but the government would have to be sure the public supported the move. He did not say how much the craft would cost.

We would support the move if the government plans to send racist politicians including a lesser known Umno Youth chief from a division in Selangor, Ismail Ahmad, who told opposition parties and their supporters to leave the country if they are not happy. Nazri Aziz should be appointed as captain of the crew on a no return trip to space.
Picture courtesy of Straits Times Singapore.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hindu Temple Demolition: An Act of Aggression


Something is seriously wrong in this country. The authorities should ask themselves this question: who empowered them? However, just like how other incidents were managed e.g. toll rate hike protest, pig farms demolition in Malacca, Bersih event in Trengganu and others, excessive amount of force was used. Is this slowly becoming our culture?

Reported in Malaysiakini.com, The Kampung Rimba Jaya in Padang Jawa, near Shah Alam was a chaotic scene when residents tried to prevent the Shah Alam City Hall from demolishing their houses.

The residents’ attempt to save their homes turned physical and bloody when scores were hurt in the ensuing melee. In the end, over 200 houses, a 100-year-old temple and a surau have been levelled to the ground by the authorities.

Eye witnesses claimed that the MPSA enforcement officers were beating people with batons. "I saw an enforcement officer pulling out a knife and waving it around threateningly," said Kumaravel. It took almost three hours to demolish the Sri Maha Mariaman temple. The temple's nursery was the first to be demolished when the exercise began yesterday morning.

Suhakam commissioners slammed the authorities for the 'inhumane' treatment. Suhakam commissioner Dr Denison Jayasooria said the incident showed that the authorities did not have respect for religious and cultural sensitivities. “The authorities may have state or legal right to carry out the demolition, but the manner in which it was conducted requires far greater consideration,” he told a press conference at the Suhakam headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today.

“Suhakam has been repeating this so many times. But the authorities seem to be deaf. They cannot display simple human decency in responding to a crisis. “Why make it a crisis when it can be settled amicably?” he said, adding that the demolition was untimely since the Hindu festival of Deepavali was only a week away.

Something is seriously wrong if the sensitivities of the 'others' or minorities are not respected and if they are not treated as equals. Politicians must know who they got their power from to govern.