Sunday, January 31, 2010

MPs Jumping Ship? Good Riddance!

Zulkifli Noordin, MP for Bandar Baru Kulim came out all guns firing against his Pakatan Rakyat "partners" over issues relating to his hardline views of Malay dominance and religious dominance.

Zahrain Hashim, MP for Bayan Baru came out no holds barred calling Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng a "dictator, chauvinist and communist" because he was unable to secure contracts for his RM2.00 crony company for a project in Penang. (Or was it due to him failing his party's KPIs?)

Unsurprisingly, the rumour mill went wild with news of possible defections of 10 MPs led by Zahrain, which will give Barisan Nasional a 2/3 majority in Parliament. WIth the 2/3 majority, Barisan Nasional will have the ability to amend the constitution at its whims and fancies, including a likely re-delineation of parliamentary and state seats expected next year.

With such an achievement, it will ensure Zahrain a Ministership post in Najib's cabinet. It is of note that Zahrain has to date only politely dismissed inferences that he will join UMNO, but had not denied the likely possibility that he'll join the newly formed "Parti Cinta Malaysia" based in Penang.

Other MPs have denied outright speculations that they will join Barisan Nasional, including MP for Indera Mahkota (whom I have respect for), Azan Ismail and MP for Merbok Datuk Rashid Din.

The question then is who else will join the Zahrain and Zulkifli bandwagon (Z2)? There's a possible hint here when MP for Balik Pulau, Yusmadi Yusof gave a rather peculiar answer when asked if he was jumping ship by The Malaysian Insider:
Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusof said he has to study the media reports before giving a response, adding he was feeling unwell after returning from a conference in Manila.
Honestly, what is there to "study"?

There are also rumours that another anti-Lim Guan Eng cum anti-DAP Chinese MP will also make the jump.

Will they or will they not? Regardless, I'll bet my bottom dollar that Z2 does not have any where near the 10 MPs to cross over to Barisan Nasional. I do hope however, that Z2 and the less than handful of the other recalcitrant MPs will quickly jump ship so that we can rejoice at the good riddance of bad rubbish.

High Speed Train to Kuantan?

Dodgy companies selling fancy rail projects to the Federal Government? Below is a letter from TRANSIT questioning this particular high-speed train project which will apparently cut short the travel between Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur to just a mere 45 minutes. It appears that this train project is even more ludicrous than the abandoned one proposed by YTL to connect Malaysia and Singapore earlier.

RE: Article - Traveling time 45 minutes - Site to be based in Pekan. KL - Kuantan High Speed Railroad to start in May

The members of the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit wish to express their concerns at the information in the article Traveling time 45 minutes - Site to be based in Pekan. KL - Kuantan High Speed Railroad to start in May. We are concerned with the information in the article, which suggests that construction for this project is set to begin in May 2010. If this were to happen it would be quite illegal.

The Railways Act 1991 makes it very clear that a Railways Scheme cannot start construction until a feasibility study has been completed and a copy of the Railway route has been sent to the Director General of the Department of Railways for conditional approval.

Once conditional approval has been granted by the Director General of the Department of Railways, then a 3 month public display period must take place. After the 3 months of public display, objections must be heard. If everything goes well, the Director General of the Department of Railways can recommend that the Minister of Transport approve the project.

So far there has been no conditional approval and no 3-month public display. So how can the project start construction in May 2010?

Another concern is the misleading claims about the feasibility of the project, the actual cost of the project, the time it will take to construct the line, and the length of time for the trip between KL and Kuantan.

The proposal is to link KL and Kuantan using High Speed Rail. However, the Titiwangsa range which is just north and east of KL would present a formidable barrier for the construction of this line. Anyone who has traveled along the KL-Karak highway knows that the Titiwangsa range is substantial. Building a highspeed rail line across the range would require very precise and detailed engineering, cost a lot of money and take a lot of time.

Yet Mr. Jayakumar of MRails International claims the project can be completed in 3-5 years.

Mr Jayakumar also claims that the project will cost RM1 billion. However in a later paragraph he says the 3 High Speed Railroad and Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) projects will cost RM1 billion together. To give you a comparison, the double-tracking & electriication of the existing conventional KTM railway between Rawang and Ipoh cost RM1.14 billon. The extension from Ipoh to Padang Besar is projected to cost at least RM12billion. The 17.7km extension of the Kelana Jaya LRT line (which uses a special Linear Induction Motor) will cost nearly RM4 billion.

Thus it does not seem possible that a high-speed rail link can be built across the Titiwangsa range, linking KL-Kuantan, for less than RM1billion within 5 years.

TRANSIT also questions the 'track record' of Mr. Jayakumar and his MRails International company. We note that Mr. Jayakumar has appeared out of nowhere in recent months and none of our contacts in the railway industry are familiar with him.

TRANSIT is deeply concerned that the public, the media and members of the civil service have been fooled by the actions of salesmen who have managed to convince state governments to take a look at their 'interesting' railway projects. These high speed rail proposals from MRails will join a long list of other unsuccessful railway proposals that have been 'sold' to state governments, such as the Aerorail in Melaka, the Aerobus in Penang, and the Johor Baru Maglev elevated monorail. A Malaysian company (Pembinaan Aktif Gemilang) is also involved in a very strange "Hydrogen High Speed Superhighway" that has been sold to the state government of Central Java.

People involved in these proposals usually focus on using high-pressure sales tactics to convince politicians to look at their proposals. They take money for the 'studies' , make attempts to get the attention of the media, and ultimately, waste people's time and make them look foolish. In Penang, the state government has already had to defend itself for granting the free use of state land to two companies for their 'test tracks' and approving a feasibility study for Aerobus. And we can only wonder how the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Menteri Besar of Pahang will extract themselves from this High Speed Railroad and Magnetic Levitation railway project.

Anyone who visits Jakarta, Indonesia can see the pillars of the proposed monorail line which was never built. Malaysian cities are littered with enough abandoned housing and commercial projects. We do not need to add a few incomplete railway lines to the existing mess.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Disappointed Doctor

The following is a letter I've received from a Doctor who has just returned to our shores. Bureaucratic clumsiness?

I am a medical doctor who was educated overseas and worked in Australia for several years and recently decided to return to Malaysia to serve the country.

As a professional working overseas I heard about the 'Program bagi mengalakkan warganegara Malaysia yang berpakaran yang bekerja di luar negara pulang ke Malaysia' and therefore applied for it. I was very disappointed when they rejected my application on the grounds that it was sent after I returned to Malaysia. Apparently it was meant to be sent whilst I was still in Australia.

I find this a very poor excuse given the fact that Malaysia is trying to lure back its citizens to work for them. It discourages professionals such as me from having to bear the burden to return but not have any perks or encouraging incentives. Furthermore, my parents bore my exorbitant medical tuition fees and I did not receive any governmental loans whatsoever. The “least” is something anyone would expect.

Besides that, it took me a great deal of an effort to locate the abovementioned application form which was hidden in the catacombic archives of one of the governmental websites. Talk about purposeful inconvenience or perhaps voluntary neglect.

I can see why many of my colleagues are hesitant to return and serve the government given the unimpressive, unattractive attitude and to top it off the obvious suboptimal remuneration and working conditions. Now, thankfully I still have the option to return to Australia and am reconsidering my intentions to continue here thanks to the above. Job well done in luring professionals back.

Disappointed DR.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Call For Emergency Parliamentary Session to Condemn Attacks

DAP condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent acts of defiling the places of Muslim worship

This morning, two mosques along Jalan Klang Lama were found desecrated with pig heads being found in their compounds.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms such despicable acts which are not only insensitive to our Muslim brothers, but is clearly an act to incite racial hatred and sentiments in our multi-racial and multi-religious society.

Ordinary Malaysians of all faiths and creed must not be entrapped by these acts which motives are clearly to enrage Malaysians into conducting similar tit-for-tat acts to create destroy the peace and tolerance in the country.

We will like to repeat our call upon the Government to convene an all-parties meeting, including all political parties, religious bodies and civil society organisations to unite as one to condemn such attempts to sabotage the future and unity of Malaysians.

We also call upon the Prime Minister to convene an emergency Parliamentary meeting for all Parliamentarians from across the divide to condemn without reservation the increasing incidence of arson, vandalism and desecration at all places of religious worship including mosques, suraus, churches and temples.

The Government must no longer dismiss these incidents as “minor aberrations” or “minor damage” for they have much broader implications to our nation-building. We must nip the increasing religious militancy in the country in the bud, before it escalates to a point of no return where properties are destroyed and lives are lost.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Toothy Grin" Interview A to Z

It's an edited 8 minutes (part 1) interview from a total of probably 45 minutes(?) with Klik4Malaysia, which covered issues A to Z. The MP with the toothy grin? ;-) Heh...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Malaysia Pertengahan: Utusan Threatened?

Utusan Malaysia must be feeling the heat. The UMNO owned paper has been at the forefront of extremist views in Malaysia, to stir communal sentiments and create the atmosphere of tension and intolerance in the country. While other mainstream newspapers are forced to be put on a tight leash, Utusan gets complete freedom to defame, outrage and promote its views on racial supremacy.

But our shifting the debate to "Middle Malaysia" must have spooked Utusan, to the extent that it feels sufficiently threatened to actually dedicate a column by 'Awang Selamat' to DAP, entitled "Melayu sokong DAP?" In the years past, we wouldn't have expected Utusan to have paid that much attention to DAP, so I must say we must be doing something right. ;-)
... Ada yang menyatakan Middle Malaysia mempunyai agenda rasis. Menurut satu tulisan: “Sekiranya diterjemahkan Middle Malaysia ke dalam bahasa Mandarin, ia membawa maksud tersirat ‘Malaysia untuk kaum Cina’. Ini boleh ditafsirkan kaum Cina mahu menjadi ‘tauke Malaysia’ kerana Chung adalah sinonim dengan ‘Penguasa Cina’ di Malaysia.”

Awang tidak pasti sejauh mana kebenarannya. Namun tanpa hujah seperti itu pun, Awang memang tidak mempercayai DAP. Jika DAP benar-benar menjadi parti untuk semua kaum, Awang tidak akan mempersoalkannya tetapi itu semua hanya pembohongan dan tipu daya. Banyak tindak tanduk parti itu membahayakan asas kenegaraan kita, ia umpama musuh dalam selimut.

Tindak-tanduk DAP menyerang secara konsisten agensi awam di bawah kepimpinan Melayu seperti Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM), Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM), Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR), Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM), institusi perundangan Islam dan banyak lagi, menyerlahkan lagi belang parti itu.

Sikap keterlaluan DAP memanipulasi isu yang membakar sentimen bukan Melayu juga tidak boleh diterima. Lihat sahaja isu kematian Teoh Beng Hock, penggunaan kalimah Allah oleh pihak gereja Katholik dan kejadian gereja dibakar, amat tidak bertanggungjawab.

Pada Awang, DAP adalah parti paling ekstrem, yang berselindung di sebalik nama demokratik tetapi agendanya ultra Cina. Selagi parti itu tidak komited untuk menjunjung dan mempertahankan Perlembagaan negara, selagi itu Awang tidak akan terpengaruh biarpun pemimpinnya memetik ayat al-Quran dan hadis. Biarlah Melayu yang tidak sedar diri dan yang punya agenda peribadi dipergunakan oleh DAP. Awang bukan jenis itu.
Below are excerpts from a commentary written by our MP for Rasah as well as our DAPSY chief, Sdr Anthony Loke on "what is 'Middle Malaysia'?", but in Bahasa Malaysia. Read both articles to see who's the extremist in this country, DAP or UMNO/Utusan Malaysia.
...Namun, konteks yang ingin dipertengahkan oleh DAP melalui “Malaysia Pertengahan” adalah lebih luas daripada pengertian ciri-ciri pentadbiran ekonomi semata-mata. Kata kunci dalam konteks “Malaysia Pertengahan” ialah kesederhanaan. Dalam menangani sebarang isu dan dasar yang memberi impak kepada masyarakat umum, prinsip kesederhanaan perlu dititikberatkan. Dalam kata-kata Guan Eng, “Malaysia Pertengahan” mengutamakan “kerjasama daripada konflik”, konsultasi daripada konfrontasi” dan sebuah masyarakat yang inklusif bukannya eksklusif. Ini merupakan prinsip-prinsip utama dan pendekatan utama yang perlu dibawa oleh DAP dan Pakatan Rakyat. Sekiranya pendekatan dan prinsip ini dapat diterjemahkan dalam erti kata yang sebenarnya, tidak mustahil majoriti rakyat Malaysia akan menyokong agenda perubahan yang ingin dibawa oleh Pakatan Rakyat.

DAP sering dilabelkan oleh UMNO sebagai sebuah parti cauvinis yang ekstrem, sebuah parti orang Cina yang ingin menguasai segala-galanya di bumi Malaysia dan parti yang agendanya anti-Melayu dan anti-Islam. Sememangnya label-label ini menyebabkan ramai pengundi di kalangan masyarakat Melayu yang berwaspada terhadap DAP dan ramai yang menjauhinya selama ini. Walaupun DAP tidak pernah berfikiran sedemikian, namun ketiadaan peluang untuk DAP melaksanakan dasarnya selama ini tidak memungkinkan parti tersebut dapat mengubah persepsi negatif masyarakat Melayu terhadapnya. Kemunculan kerajaan negeri di bawah Pakatan Rakyat khususnya di Pulau Pinang membuka satu lembaran baru buat DAP.

Satu contoh yang baik ialah pendekatan yang diambil dalam menangani isu agama. Umum diketahui bahawa pendirian DAP yang tidak bersetuju dengan penubuhan Negara Islam dalam konteks Malaysia. Ia juga merupakan senjata yang sering digunakan oleh BN untuk melaga-lagakan hubungan DAP dengan PAS selama ini. Namun, ia sama sekali tidak bermakna bahawa DAP menentang agama Islam. Malah DAP telah secara terbuka menyatakan komitmennya mendukung status Islam sebagai agama rasmi persekutuan seperti yang termaktub dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Pendirian ini jelas dinyatakan dalam Dokumen Dasar Bersama Pakatan Rakyat yang dipersetujui bersama pada bulan Disember lepas. Komitmen ini bukan sahaja dinyatakan di atas kertas namun telah dimanifestasikan dalam pentadbiran kerajaan negeri yang dipimpin sendiri oleh Lim Guan Eng.

Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang telah menggandakan peruntukan tahunan untuk tujuan agama Islam sehingga RM24.3 juta untuk tahun 2010 berbanding RM12.5 juta pada tahun 2008 di bawah kerajaan terdahulu yang dipimpin BN. Bukankah ini bukti kukuh bahawa kedudukan agama Islam bukan sahaja tidak tergugat malah didukung dan diperkukuhkan oleh sebuah kerajaan yang diterajui oleh DAP? Bukan sahaja peruntukan ditambah, malah Guan Eng memberi sokongan padu untuk menubuhkan sebuah Majlis Syura yang mengumpulkan sekumpulan pakar agama Islam untuk menasihati Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang dalam hal-ehwal agama Islam. Pada masa yang sama, perkembangan agama-agama lain tidak disekat dan dimudahcarakan seperti bantuan kewangan kepada tokong, kuil dan gereja. Permohonan tanah untuk pembinaan tempat beribadat pula diluluskan tanpa banyak karenah birokrasi. Ini tidak sama sekali mengugat kedudukan Islam sebagai agama rasmi di negara kita. Inilah pendekatan “Malaysia Pertengahan” untuk mewujudkan sebuah masyarakat pelbagai agama yang harmoni.
I suppose in the eyes of extremists, everyone else who believes in the Middle way are "extreme" in their views.

Get Registered To Vote

4.4 million Malaysians who are above the age of 21 have not registered to vote. This forms 30% of eligible voters in Malaysia. Which means that if these, mostly young people get registered, the outcome to any election in our country could actually be very different.

Go register with your identification card at the nearest post office (it just takes 5 minutes). Or if you have queries, please email leongooikuan(at)gmail(dot)com at my office. We'll help you along the way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Abdullah Ahmad on "Middle Malaysia"

Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad wrote an insightful piece on "Middle Malaysia" in Sinar Harian. I will not be surprised if the article was first rejected by the other Malay press. Excerpts are quoted as follows, and the full article's available here.

Majoriti pasif dijangka penentu PRU-13


DAP, komponen Pakatan Rakyat dan pemerintah di Pulau Pinang dalam konvensyennya hujung minggu lalu di Ipoh berpendapat sebaik jalan ke Putrajaya adalah melalui ‘jalan tengah’ atau middle way. Mengikut definisi DAP, ‘jalan tengah’ bermakna Pakatan Rakyat mesti bersikap ‘sederhana, wajar, konsisten dan relevan’ pada majoriti rakyat majmuk.

Pada fikiran Lim Guan Eng, Setiausaha Agung DAP yang juga Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang “ jangan kita salah langkah, dasar sederhana akan menunjukkan Pakatan mana yang menang pilihan raya umum akan datang.”

Barisan Nasional (sebelum ini Perikatan hingga 1974), adalah parti yang dilihat dan dipercayai ramai sebagai sebuah parti yang sederhana sebab itulah tiap pilihan raya sejak 1950-an lagi hingga sekarang ia menang. Negeri yang ada sistem dua parti adalah Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Pulau Pinang, Selangor dan Perak. Sebelum itu Sabah.

‘Dasar sederhana’ atau middle Malaysia ala Pakatan Rakyat – yang dianggotai DAP, dulu terkenal dan tersohor sebagai parti perkauman Cina, sebuah parti chauvinis dan Pas, dulu tersohor dan ditakuti bukan Islam kerana ketaksubannya mahu menegakkan sebuah negara Islam berpandukan al-Quran, hadis dan syariah dan Parti Keadilan Rakyat termuda antara tiga – pragmatik dan menarik kerana kalau DAP dan Pas ingin ke Putrajaya mereka terpaksa bersama Keadilan dan pendekatan yang diambil oleh DAP itu amat wajar. Pendekatan kesederhanaan sepatutnya mendapat perhatian pengundi yang muhasabah. Nampaknya pilihan pengundi nanti antara dua pakatan: Pakatan lama yang teruji dan pakatan baru yang belum terbukti.

Middle Malaysia pada anggapan saya, terdiri daripada rakyat semua kaum, semua lapisan, mereka yang tidak sempit pandangan, rakyat pertengahan, tidak muda dan tidak juga tua: bukan kaya keterlaluan dan bukan juga miskin. Mereka yang mobiliti sosialnya kian meningkat. Lazimnya, dalam politik, mereka konservatif dan digelar sebagai silent majority atau majoriti yang pasif (senyap). Golongan ini berpengaruh dalam bidang ekonomi, sosial dan pendidikan.

Keseluruhan golongan ini kuat berpegang kepada pemikiran tradisional yakin mereka bermoral, bersopan, beradab, tidak suka, bahkan benci, pada mereka yang suka dan asyik berdemonstrasi dan puak ekstremis semua bangsa. Mereka ini tidak senang hati dengan puak pelampau yang mudah menimbul ketidakstabilan, mereka yang sering membangkit isu-isu yang lapuk, sensitif dan berbentuk provokasi, batu api!

Mereka juga tidak ada ideologi, selalunya mereka fleksibel dan praktikal. Mereka begitu sayangi kestabilan apa pun harganya mereka sanggup membayarnya.


Masa depan kita – suka atau duka - ialah middle of the road politics yakni politik yang sedang dan pendamai. Yang bertolak ansur dari semua puak. “Politik tolak ansur keterlaluan Tunku Abdul Rahman mengecewakan orang Melayu: beri betis mahu paha amat bencana," tegas seorang pemimpin UMNO kepada saya. “Sikap sedemikian harus dibanteras jika kita ingin mengelakkan malapetaka,” tambahnya bersungguh-sungguh.

DAP bijak mengubahkan pendekatannya, Lim menegaskan, ini tidak bermakna perjuangan tulen DAP 'Malaysian Malaysia' sudah dilupai. Mereka hanya sesuaikan dasar dengan zaman dan semangat masa kini. Politik lama mereka seperti siasah lampau Pas tidak akan membawa mereka ke Putrajaya. DAP dan Pas terus menukar pendekatan mereka kerana mahu sokongan Middle Malaysia. Satu perkara yang bijak, UMNO, MCA dan parti komponen lain BN tidak banyak berubah .Benar mereka tukar pemimpin tetapi dasar mereka terus agak sama sahaja – ada sedikit perubahan pada UMNO jika dibandingkan pada zaman si Lembab dulu dan sekarang. Dalam MIC pula tiada pembaharuan.


Perdana Menteri Najib Tun Razak telah membawa beberapa pendekatan baru. Apa yang lesu dulu sudah diberi suntikan tenaga, yang buruk bertambah baik, ada pula busines as usual. Apa yang sudah dilakukan bagus tetapi jelas tidak mencukupi lagi.

Masih ramai rakyat yang ternanti-nanti dengan apa yang dijanjikan. Amat wajar projek-projek harus disegerakan pelaksanaan tanpa pula ‘cepat’ runtuh seperti yang berlaku di Terengganu. Kita mahu cepat tetapi kerja mestilah cermat dan baik.

Saya takut melihat kelakuan sesetengah pemimpin, sudah mula bercakap besar kerana ada kesulitan dan kemelut dalam PKR dan Pas. DAP agak tegap dan berdisiplin.

Percayalah mereka akan mengatasi kemelut itu. Apapun ingat: Pas, PKR dan DAP sepakat mahu menumbangkan BN. Mereka tidak mahu status quo berterusan. Kalau saya pemimpin, saya akan tumpukan masa untuk memperkemaskinikan organisasi parti, daftar pengundi baru dan perkukuhkan barisan sendiri dan memberi roh baru kepada ahli dan penyokong dengan idea baru yang boleh mendorong mereka bersemangat berkobar-kobar dan mempunyai minda yang cerah dan kukuh.

Tak payahlah suka nak jaga tepi kain musuh.Lebih baik tumpukan masa memujuk dan memikat hati orang muda yang yang minat Internet dan melayari alam siber - majoritinya kini menjauhi diri dan tidak nampak menyokong BN dan UMNO.

Pergolakan politik semasa baik di peringkat nasional, kemelut di Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak dan Selangor tiada kena-mengena dengan moral, prinsip dan idealisme. Semuanya adalah real politics, kenyataan siasah. Inilah hakikat politik kini, dulu dan akan datang.

Ayah! Ayah!

I got this joke via an email which is making its rounds of the internet. While not entirely correct as an allegory, it's certainly instructive ;-)

A man came home from work and his children ran to him and called out ‘Ayah! Ayah!’.

His neighbor got very upset and said to him, “Can you please tell your children not to call you ‘Ayah’?”

The man asked, “Why?”

The neighbor retorted, “Because my children call me ’Ayah’ too. They might get confused and mistake you to be their father.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Political Parties Act?

One of the Prime Minister's key National Key Result Area (NKRA) Labs is on Fighting Corruption. The were plenty of proposals within this NKRA made by the labs, and it's available for review here. However, it is curious that the chief of the lab choses to focus on one tiny aspect among the tonnes of proposals within, that is creating new laws to control political funding.

Is there an ulterior motive? You decide. Below is the write up on the press conference I gave a few days back on the issue by The Malaysian Insider.
A proposed law to regulate funding of political parties – ostensibly to curb corruption – has failed to impress the opposition, in particular the DAP.

The proposed Political Parties Act, seeks to “enforce existing political laws and conduct a study to revamp political funding.”

“This is under the corruption lab, which is one of the NKRA (National Key Result Areas). The government has put it up on their website,, although it has not been publicised in great detail,” said Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua today.

Pua said he was “curious” as to why only one aspect of the entire NKRA for corruption was paid due emphasis, and wanted to know the government’s rationale for doing so.

“I am worried that the reason for this Act is that they are looking to potentially control the support of funds. Listing down the names of donors of opposition parties presents a problem for a lot of donors,” said Pua.

“Without an even playing field, this creates a major problem for politics in Malaysia.”

The DAP man also questioned the government’s motives as the papers were presented as if these were policies which will be enacted by the government, not proposals.

He also took the opportunity to point out other policies, namely the government allocation to MPs, whereby “all MPs have a right to receive funds regardless of political affiliations.”

“There are other important policies other than the Political Parties Act. To combat corruption the government should disclose details of all government procurement contracts ... what about the details of Matrade? What about the IPP contracts? Why don’t you declassify them in the interest of achieving NKRAs?”
We'll be setting up a meeting with Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz to figure out exactly whether the proposals by NKRA has actually been adopted or approved by the cabinet. And if they are, why aren't we seeing their implementation such as equal allocations for all Members of Parliament, or public disclosure of information for all privatisation contracts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More 'Middle Malaysia'

'Middle Malaysia' isn't a new slogan. It's not a new cool term to replace "Malaysian Malaysia" or "Malaysian First". It's a political description of the centre-majority of the Malaysian public. It is a statement and approach that the DAP seeks to fulfil the wishes of "Middle Malaysia".

Sdr Lim Guan Eng has said that "Middle Malaysia prefers co-operation not conflict, consultation instead of confrontation and an inclusive, shared society rather than an exclusive, separate society... We want no part of the extremist fringes with pronouncements and positions that frighten off any decent Malaysian."

And Middle Malaysia comes in the context of the fierce 'Allah' debate, where the hardline conservative positions taken by UMNO leaders have dragged the country to nearly the brink with more than 10 religious institutions defiled. As UMNO and Barisan Nasional move to the fringe with extremist tendencies, DAP and our Pakatan Rakyat colleagues want to occupy the centre where most Malaysians are, and that's "Middle Malaysia".

There used to be a time when "Middle Malaysia" believed that a power-sharing agreement between the major races represented by 3 race-based parties was the perfect approach to multi-cultural Malaysia. And that was when BN occupied the political centre of the public perception spectrum.

But "Middle Malaysia" has shifted for the "power-sharing" pact between UMNO, MCA and MIC has been increasingly exposed as a failure for each party continues to pander to the parochial needs of each community defined by race, and often in direct conflict to create a fair and just society, and to foster national unity.

The inability of Barisan Nasional to stay in touch with "Middle Malaysia" is best epitomised by BN apologist, Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who was sceptical on “Middle Malaysians” being the majority of voters in the country and harshly criticised DAP for misconceiving the definition of 'middle'.
"In Malaysia, there is no such thing as middle voters. They (DAP) have messed up their calculations. The idea of middle voters is in their imagination... if they do not conceptualise their ideas properly, it can backfire,” said Shamsul, director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita) in UKM.

The academic firmly believes that in the case of constituencies, voters are still split on an ethnic level, and not all voters necessarily reside in the area that they vote in. He claims that 30 per cent of voters in a constituency are urban folk who come from rural areas, hence they have different interests in mind and do not care about “local issues.”

“The situation is like this. You have three types of constituencies in Malaysia; the Chinese, Malay/Bumiputeras and the mixed group. These groups, which make up 70 per cent of voters, are generally politically-inclined towards a certain party, be it opposition or government.
Like BN, he is still trapped in the mindset where "constituencies" in Malaysia is still strictly defined by race and their attachment to "certain" political parties. It is to Pakatan Rakyat's advantage that they have failed to (or is unwilling to) perceive and adapt to the changing electorate who are more sensitive to policies and less to party.

If Professor Shamsul is correct, then the Chinese would never have voted in such large numbers in support of PAS in the last general elections, as well as the subsequent by-elections. Similarly, DAP would not have received such significant support from the Malays, who had in the past avoided the party at all cost.

While DAP members and leaders may be majority Chinese, we are not a "Chinese" party like the BN counterpart in MCA. Similarly, while PKR and PAS are overwhelmingly Malay, they are not a "Malay" party like how UMNO is defined. Our policies are not race-based, but one based on needs. DAP for example, has no problems with Malays benefiting because they are poor or disadvantaged. However, there is real injustice if the rich Malays receive aid while the poor Indians continue to be marginalised. Race in the above examples are purely incidental, and the determination of assistance should be based strictly on merit and needs.

That is our view is what 'Middle Malaysia' has come to believe, and they no longer see race-based parties, those with specific mission to promote a particular race-agenda as being viable or acceptable. Capturing the 'Middle Malaysia' will take us to Putrajaya in the next General Elections.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Middle Malaysia"

"Transformation Malaysia" was the theme of DAP 2010 Annual Convention held yesterday. But it was the approach of "Middle Malaysia" in the Secretary-General Sdr Lim Guan Eng's speech which caught the imagination of the press and commentators. "Middle Malaysia" is apt in times like this, as we swim in various parochial and fringe controversies like 'Allah' and 'Ketuanan Melayu', it is time to position DAP and our partners PAS and PKR as taking the middle ground where the overwhelming majority of Malaysians stand, while leaving our political enemies to take the extremist positions.

I won't write about it in detail here, but you can read the full text of Sdr Lim's speech here (warning: it's long), or an excellent succint report by Andrew Ong in Malaysiakini here. Excerpts from Andrew's article is below.
Amidst a gloomy backdrop of intensified religious and racial bickering, DAP has mapped out the path of 'Middle Malaysia' which the party hopes Pakatan Rakyat would ride on towards the ultimate destination - Putrajaya.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng told delegates at the party 15th national conference in Ipoh today that the nation was "at war with itself" and the way forward is by threading the middle path of inclusiveness, equal opportunities and ending discrimination.

"We must occupy the electoral centre that is diverse and united, moderate and sensible, consistent and relevant to ordinary Malaysians. We must become 'Middle Malaysia'," he thundered to some 1,200 delegates.


DAP can't do it alone

Currently, the party is half-way through its term as coalition governments in Penang and Selangor and the new slogan by Lim is viewed as DAP's new direction as it gears up for the polls.


"Remember that DAP will never win alone. We nearly won all the seats in Negeri Sembilan but still unable to govern. We need to win as a coalition, as a full partner in power together.

"It goes without saying that we would expect our coalition partners to understand our platforms and build and expand our common grounds," he said.

In his speech, Lim repeatedly stressed that Pakatan' focus should be to capture the 'Middle Malaysian' vote as it matters most to what he terms as a "second round of nation building".

"It is crucial to note that there is only one middle ground in Malaysian politics, and it is the middle ground that matters. Make no mistake that 'Middle Malaysia' will decide which coalition governs next.

"To embrace 'Middle Malaysia', Pakatan must be seen as moderate, inclusive and distance and differentiate ourselves from our exclusive, racist and extremist opponents," he said.
Yes, lets take Middle Malaysia to Putrajaya! ;-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Enlightened 'Allah' Debate

And it's coming from PAS. This time it's PAS National Unity Committee chairman and MP for Parit Buntar, Mujahid Yusof Rawa with his comments on his speech within the Hall of the Holy Spirit. You really cannot get more sincere than that for a leader of an Islamic party. Such a bridge across the divide must be applauded, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll see any UMNO leader willing to do the same, clearly showing the inability for them to come to terms with themselves and their faith.

To quote UMNO Youth Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin himself, and I must say I couldn't agree more:
Umno no longer commands the middle ground and if it continues on this trajectory, the party’s fortunes can no longer be certain, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Reflecting on the party’s role in the raging ‘Allah’ controversy, he said the party is on a road that is taking it away from being a party for all.

“Nobody wants to be a loser, but we’re definitely not straddling the middle ground any more. It might become what PAS used to be — a party that appeals to just a certain base. It’s scary,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.
Excerpts of Mujahid's column is quoted below, but you should certainly read the full text in The Malaysian Insider.
When I spoke on Jan 13 at the Catholic Church in Island Glades, Penang, I had no difficulty talking about the issue because my understanding of the teaching of Islam provided me with the eloquence and wisdom I needed.

I started off with the simple "Peace Be Upon my Brothers and Sisters of the Christian Faith". I did not feel there was anything wrong greeting them with peace since I came here for peace. I then started to praise the Almighty, Lord of The Universe (Alhamdulillah Rabbil Alamin) and told my Christian friends that the word “Allah” is made for us to recognise His Greatness and Superiority, not to hate one another for using it.

I also wanted the audience to understand that I did not come for purely political reasons although I represented an Islamic political party. I wanted them to know that there are greater reasons why I came that day. So I had to use the words of Allah to express myself.

I quoted the Chapter of Al Hujurat: “O mankind, we have created you from men and women, tribes and people of different kind so that you get acquainted with one another and the best among you in eyes of Allah is the most pious.” I explained that the verses taught me not to judge others but to rely on the judgment of Allah.
If we look at others through ethno- or faith-centric eyes, we are sure to be biased. This will create an artificial relationship and deep down the hatred will remain although it is concealed.


What this gathering is all about is our commonality, Christians or Muslims are all Allah’s creation. I also told them about the time the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stood up in respect as a Jewish funeral passed by. His companions asked why one should respect a non-believer? The Prophet said clearly: “Is he not HUMAN?”

Kicking off the talk this way gave me the strength I needed to defuse the tension. I moved in into the issue and provided them first of all PAS’s stand on the ruling. I began to clarify that with a verse from the chapter of Zukhruf.

The very basis of this verse shows that the issue of using the word “Allah” has come up before, and the Quran has said clearly that if non-believers accept that it is Allah, not other deities, that created them, the Prophet shall not worry about why they are using the word Allah but should engage in peace and explain to them so ultimately it is hoped that they know who the real Allah is!

I cannot ban what has been permitted because I would be dishonest about the knowledge of God although the blanket approval does not mean one can use it for bad intentions or create confusion. I do not understand the fuss about non-Muslims using the word “Allah” as long as the condition is they do not use it with any bad intentions!

I had to conclude that this is simply not an issue, then why all the rage? I told them unfortunately it was the politicians who had highly politicised everything including the word Allah.


And that was when the rather sombre and serious atmosphere in the hall changed. There were smiling faces all over, this aura of hope gave both Muslims and Christians yet another new chapter in our society. A chapter called Dialogue in a Civilised Manner, a chapter called Humanity and a new dawn for Malaysia will surely come... that was the day when I spoke at the Hall of Holy Spirit.
Did I fathom the day I would say this? To be honest, no, not before March 2008 anyway. So here's 3 cheers to Mujahid, 3 cheers to PAS for changing the face of Malaysian politics, for championing reason and defeating over-zealous parochialism.

Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

GST on TV9 "Hujah"

I was invited to the Malay-language 'Hujah' talk show on TV9 at the end of last year to discuss the issue of Goods and Services Tax. Together with me was the MP for Pulai, Datuk Nur Jazlan speaking on behalf of the government. It was a 30 minute programme, so it's split into 4 parts on YouTube below. Enjoy ;-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

2009: The Year That Wasn't

I was asked to write by The Edge weekly for their 2009 year end bumper issue on the theme of "The Year That Wasn't". Originally, I had no clue what I was going to write, I mean, was there any positive expectations in the first place? But I soon found my inspiration as the deadline approached. The article was published and juxtaposed against a pretty good write up by Khairy Jamaluddin, who at least made the effort to be critical, unlike some of the others who wrote, who were more into flattering the current administration.

The Edge "titled" my piece "Good Start, Bad Finish", which I thought was a pretty appropriate title. ;-)

So here it is, reproduced for your reading pleasure ;-).

2009 is a year where expectations were high on the economic front in Malaysia despite the global economic crisis which brought global growth to a grinding halt. We had a new Prime Minister in Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, and along with any new Prime Minister, hopes are high and promises are aplenty.

In fact, being a member of the opposition coalition, initially I was seriously worried that if the new Prime Minister is able to achieve his targets, there's little we can do to challenge Barisan Nasional except to grudging concede that he has done a good job. 2009 was hence the year where a revitalised UMNO and Barisan Nasional would prove that they would be able to manage the social and political economy than in the recent past.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched a series of 'liberalisation' measures which won praises in the financial circles. The 30% bumiputra equity requirement which was a cornerstone of the New Economic Policy (NEP) for companies seeking a Bursa Malaysia was waived to make Malaysia more attractive to foreign companies. This was soon followed by 2 quickfire listings by Chinese shoe companies on our stock exchange.

27 services sub-sectors were also “liberalised” where no racial equity conditions will be imposed. That was followed by further liberalisation of the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) which prompted UBS and HwangDBS to make bullish calls on the Malaysian property sector in June.

The unbridled optimism continued with the Prime Minister's open declaration that direct negotiations as a method of awarding contracts should be replaced with open or restricted tenders. He said “opting for the tender system will curb corruption and bring back the people’s confidence in the Government.” This commitment solidified his position in November 2008 before he became the Prime Minister, where he said that “the Government planned to maximise income on all its existing assets, including on parcels of land that have not been developed, via open tender.”

I was honestly happy for the country, but worried for the opposition as Najib appears adamant to focus on the transformation of our economy, as the key strategy to lead Barisan Nasional out of the political doldrums.

However, as we approach the end of 2009, after a gruelling debate on Najib's inaugural 2010 Budget in parliament, the optimism has subsided.

The stock prices of Xingquan International Sports Holdings Limited and Muti Sports Holdings Limited have been thrashed in the markets by 43.3% and 42.3% respectively, despite a healthy 7.3% increase on the KLCI over the period since their listing in early August. A more recent listing in November, XiDeLang Holdings, another shoemaker, has already had its price underwater in December. Their performance effectively put paid to any ambitions left of Malaysia becoming an attractive regional financial centre any time in the near future.

The so-called liberalisation of the 27 services sub-sectors was soon forgotten for it was 27 out of hundreds of sub-sectors and the announcement was made meaningless as the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry revealed that the move was “synchronise what was already happening in the service industry” and that he will continue to defend the NEP. This means that there was never any meaningful participation by bumiputeras in these 27 services sub-sectors in the first place. Without further subsequent services sector liberalisations after Najib's April announcement, the euphoria soon became hype.

Furthermore, it doesn't help that these equity 'liberalisation' measures which wasn't accompanied by any 'liberalisation' of Government procurement system is effectively telling investors that we'll allow you to set up shop on our shores, but you won't be able to sell anything to us.

The worst hit had probably been the real property sector where anyone investing in our local properties on UBS and HwangDBS's bullish calls in June would have received a rude shock when the Government announced a 5% real property gains tax (RPGT) in the 2010 Budget after having only removed it in 2007 together with the introduction of a slew of liberalisation measures to attract international investor interest in our sluggish property markets. The Government's continued Jekyll and Hyde property market policies serves only to make Malaysia the destination to avoid for property investments.

And most disappointing to all, is the failure of the Prime Minister to keep his promises to ensure open tenders and auctions for the Government's privatisation projects and sale of assets. The proud announcement by the MITI on the award of the building of Malaysia's largest convention and exhibition centre to Naza TTDI worth RM628 million via direct negotiations in mid-November was probably the straw that broke the camel's back, that everything is status quo.

What stunned even a skeptic like me was the fact that the Government will be paying for the centre with a piece of prime land located in Sri Hartamas purported valued at RM197 million by the Government, but was apparently worth as much as RM1.5 billion according to property consultants.

2009 had promised that 'Najibnomics' will stir Malaysia from its uneasy slumber, it has proven to be “same old, same old”, the year that wasn't.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

UMNO v PAS: Who's Radical?

Deputy Prime Minister defends exclusivity:
Muhyiddin said he had been receiving quite a number of messages from non-Muslim friends in Sabah and Sarawak who said there were Christians who felt that things would not have happened in the first place “if we, the Christians, would just not use the word ‘Allah’”.

“This is because in Malaysia and in many parts of the world and in all Muslim countries, Allah is the only God for Muslims. We cannot equate Allah to god in the other religions and even in Christianity, which believes in the concept of the Trinity.
On the other hand, PAS was able to differentiate what is irrational emotions as opposed to statements of fact:
PAS ingin menjelaskan bahawa berdasarkan kepada kaedah Islam, penggunaan nama Allah pada asasnya adalah dibenar untuk digunakan oleh agama samawi seperti Kristian dan Yahudi.

Walau bagaimanapun, penggunaan kalimah Allah secara salah dan tidak bertanggungjawab mestilah dielakkan supaya ianya tidak menjadi isu yang boleh menjejaskan keharmonian kaum dan agama dalam negara ini.
One party uses the brain, the other uses.... I'm not sure.

According to Muhyiddin's argument on the SMSes he has received, he might as well have said, "I've received SMS from my friends that Malaysia will be a peaceful and harmonious country without conflict, if all minorities are able to accept Ketuanan Melayu, willingly agree to be second class citizens and give up the freedom of religion".

Oh, so that is 1Malaysia!

Utusan Bent On Stirring Shit

I've been quietly told by some of the printed press that they will not be able to print comments relating the controversial 'Allah' issue. As such, I'm unable to write about it in my newspaper columns as well. Fair enough, if the rule is applied to all, in order for the heated atmosphere to "cool" down.

However, it's clear that while there are rules for newspapers in general, there are no rules for UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia who continues to carry biased, one-sided and incendiary reports on the issue. Today's report carried another so-called "tokoh Kristian" who not only asked for the 'Allah' term to be dropped by Christians but also claimed that the purpose of 'The Herald' to be printed in Bahasa was to convert and mislead Muslims!!!

How is this Webley Disim a "tokoh Kristian"? He's the Chairman of the Sabah Bumiputera Chamber of Entrepreneurs, and the Deputy Chairman of the Malaysian Bumiputera Chamber of Enterpreneurs. And somewhere at the bottom, he's also reveal to be "bekas Setiausaha Politik kepada Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan".

If Hishammuddin wants to take action against anybody, the first people he must take action against for persisting in stirring shit and threatening Malaysia's harmony is against Utusan Malaysia and its extremist editors, for they will stop at nothing to achieve racist superiority.

An excerpt of article is reproduced as follows:
Lagi tokoh Kristian gesa gugur kalimah Allah

KOTA KINABALU 13 Jan. - Seorang lagi tokoh Kristian dari negeri ini, Webley Disim, yang juga Yang Dipertua Dewan Usahawan Bumiputera Sabah hari ini menggesa akhbar Herald-The Catholic Weekly menggugurkan kes tuntutan penggunaan kalimah Allah di mahkamah.

Tegasnya, langkah itu, penyelesaian terbaik bagi mengelak pertelingkahan atau konflik antara agama terus berlaku sehingga mencetuskan ketegangan.

"Sebagai tanda hormat kepada agama rasmi negara ini iaitu Islam dan juga masyarakat pelbagai kaum, Herald-The Catholic Weekly wajar menimbang tindakan ini," katanya kepada Utusan Malaysia di sini hari ini.

Ahad lalu, Presiden Majlis Jaksa Pendamai Malaysia, Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun menyarankan akhbar itu menggugurkan kes berkenaan sebagai jalan penyelesaian yang terbaik.

Menurut tokoh Kristian dari Sabah itu, tindakan tersebut perlu, memandangkan perkembangan isu berkenaan semakin membimbangkan sehingga mengakibatkan beberapa gereja dibakar dan turut menerima ugutan.

Webley yang juga Naib Presiden Dewan Usahawan Bumiputera Malaysia mengakui, tindakan akhbar itu sememangnya mempunyai motif untuk menarik penganut Islam kepada Kristian.

"Saya difahamkan oleh rakan-rakan dari Kuala Lumpur, tindakan akhbar itu adalah untuk menguji orang Melayu dan Islam, dengan menyatakan 'kita' menyembah tuhan yang sama iaitu Allah," katanya.

Menurutnya, perbuatan tersebut akan mengelirukan umat Islam kerana Allah bagi penganut Islam dan Kristian adalah berbeza mengikut kepercayaan masing-masing.

"Ini tidak baik, kenapa perlu menarik orang yang sudah beragama, sepatutnya kita (Kristian) menarik orang yang masih tiada agama seperti Orang Asli di Semenanjung atau Bumiputera di Sabah atau Sarawak," katanya...
Digusting and disgraceful.

Friday, January 08, 2010

UMNO: The Extremist Race-based Party?

The following is the full text for Tengku Razaleigh's speech at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies in Singapore yesterday. It says it all.

Thank you for the honour of addressing you today.

The centre of gravity of global economic activity has been moving eastwards towards Asia for quite some time now. The present global financial crisis has accelerated that process.

Asian economies, led by China, seek to spur domestic demand and increase intra-regional trade. As the global appetite for treasuries and US equities decreases, it is likely that large flows of risk capital will start moving to Emerging Markets again over the next six months. The main destinations will be India and China, but the countries of Southeast Asia are also set to benefit from these flows of global capital to the extent that they have an economic story to tell. The two top performers are going to be Indonesia and Vietnam. Indonesia, the new “i” in BRIIC, has a market-size, natural resources and liberalization story while Vietnam has a large and industrious labour force that is skilling upwards rapidly. The Philippines and Thailand, despite political worries, remain relevant for their large domestic markets while Singapore, as the financial hub of the region, benefits from any increase in regional economic activity. This year also sees the full implementation of AFTA and the signing of more regional FTA’s. We can be cautiously optimistic about the basis for growth in trade and investment.

I mentioned the major ASEAN countries but not Malaysia in my list of investment destinations. That is because Malaysia has fallen off the map for much foreign investment. With neither the cost and scale advantages of Vietnam and Indonesia nor the advanced capabilities of Singapore, Malaysia is firmly caught in a middle-income trap and appears to have fallen off the radar screen of foreign investors. It might seem puzzling that this country, sitting at the heart of Southeast Asia, blessed with extraordinary natural, cultural and human capital, and once a beacon in the developing world, has become irrelevant.

I want to discuss how this happened, and reflect on what this story might teach about larger issues of common concern. Other members of ASEAN might be concerned that a country that was once at the forefront in spearheading regional initiatives is at a crossroads over its own future.

The General Elections of March 2008 were a watershed Malaysian politics. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost its accustomed 2/3rds majority in the National Parliament, and lost five states to the Opposition, including the economic backbone states of Selangor, Perak and Penang. Compared to the ebb and flow of power in other parliamentary democracies, you might not find this a remarkable development. Against the backdrop of Malaysia’s political history, however, the entire political landscape had changed overnight. Gone was the invincibility of Umno, the Malay-based party that has dominated Malaysian politics since Independence. The political credibility of Umno/BN had been more than just a set of racially-based political parties. Over its decades of ascendancy, history had been re-written, mythology created, and the party abolished and reinvented to reinforce the necessity and inevitability of a government led by Umno.

The formula of communal power-sharing that the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor was built on had started life as a political accommodation, a nation-building compromise, a way-station on the road to a fuller union of our citizens. Fifty years later it had ossified into the appearance of an eternal racial contract, a model replicated at every level of national life. The election results plunged this model, and the regime built upon it, into crisis.

The people are often ahead of their government. They are interested in more things than identity politics. Unable to respond to the reality that the BN formula is broken and the people want more than ethno-religious politics, the ruling party appears to be reacting by digging itself deeper into narrow racial causes with no future in them. This desperate response is self-defeating in a cumulative way. As Umno is rejected by the voters, party members pursue racial issues more stridently. They think this will shore up their “base”. They are mistaken about the nature of that base. As they do so, they become more extreme and out of touch with ordinary voters of every race and religion whose major concerns are not racial or religious identity but matters such as corruption, security, the economy and education.

Umno’s position in the present controversy over the use of the term “Allah” by non-Muslims is an example. In a milestone moment, PAS, the Islamic party, is holding onto the more plural and moderate position while Umno is digging itself into an intolerant hard-line position that has no parallel that I know of in the Muslim world. Umno is fanning communal sentiment, and the government it leads is taking up policy lines based on “sensitivities” rather than principle. The issue appears to be more about racial sentiment than religious, let alone constitutional principles.

In a complex multiracial society a party and a government whose primary response to a public issue is sunk in the elastic goo of “sensitivities” rather than founded on principle, drawn from sentiment rather than from the Constitution, is already short of leadership and moral fibre. Public life is about behaving and choosing on principle rather than sentiment. Islam, in particular, demands that our actions be guided by an absolute commitment to justice for all rather than by looking inward at vague “sensitivities” of particular groups, however politically significant. It is about doing what is right rather than protecting arbitrary feelings. If feelings diverge from what is right and just, then it’s time to show some leadership.

“Sensitivities” is the favoured resort of the gutter politician. With it he raises a mob, fans its resentment and helps it discover a growing list of other sensitivities. This is a road to ruin. A nation is made up of citizens bound by a shared conception of justice and not of mobs extracting satisfaction for politicized emotional states.

As a mark of our decline, at some point in our recent history the government itself began to speak the language of sensitivities. In the controversy over whether Christians are allowed to use the term “Allah” the government talks about managing sentiment when it should be talking about what is the right thing to do. This is what government sounds like when a political system and its leadership have come unstuck from the rule of law. It goes from issue to issue, hostage to the brinksmanship of sensitivities. Small matters threaten to erupt into racial conflict. The government of a multiracial society that cannot rise above sentiment is clearly too weak or too self-interested to hold the country together. It has lost credibility and legitimacy. The regime is in crisis.

The deterioration of our political order did not happen overnight or in isolation. It is part of a more general pattern of the decline of democracy and the rule of law in many newer democracies. Many postcolonial societies that began with democratic institutions saw democracy collapse afterwards into dictatorship. I can think of Nigeria, Pakistan and Kenya, for example. What has not been said is that underneath the appearance of continuity, and over two decades, Malaysia has quietly undergone the same process. There has been, beneath the surface, a decisive rupture with the federal, constitutional and democratic system upon which we were founded, and which alone confers legitimacy. What replaced it was an authoritarianism based on personality. Policy was set according to personal whims of the leader, which is to say that in areas such as the economy and foreign affairs, the country was run according to the personal enthusiasms and pet peeves of individual leaders.

Power was consolidated and constitutional government turned back. The result was a recession to authoritarianism and the centralization of power, abetted by the corruption of the ruling party. The ideology of the ruling party, which had combined Malay nationalism with an overriding national concern, was vulgarized into an easily manipulated politics of group resentment.

Umno started in 1946 as a grassroots-based party that commanded the idealism of my generation . After 1987 it was transformed into a top-down patronage machine. Party membership became a ticket to personal gain. The party attracted opportunists and ne’er do wells while good people stayed away in droves. For any organization this is a death spiral.

The challenge of Umno and of Malaysia today is not simply reform but restoration, not simply democratization but re-democratization. This is because we are not building from scratch but trying to recover from the decline of once-excellent core institutions.

There are regional implications to Malaysia’s crisis. The formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 precipitated a regional conflict to which, in part, the formation of ASEAN in 1967 was meant to be a solution. Now in a clear sign of the erosion of the rule of law, agreements that structured state-federal relations over matters such as the distribution of the petroleum revenue are casually ignored. Malaysia is a Federation of sovereign entities, but one of the consequences of authoritarianism has been that it has come to be run habitually as a unitary state. We have to learn again how to be a Federation.

Let me try to draw some conclusions:

Shortcuts in governance may appear to work for awhile, but they wreak long term havoc on the institutional capability of a nation. Short term boosts to the economy are difficult to evaluate when 40% of the national budget come from a single source which does not report financial details either to the public or to Parliament.

What is clear is that there is no secure basis for long term growth without a return to strong institutions, transparency and good government. The challenges of economic development, nation-building and institutional integrity are linked, more so in a complex country like Malaysia.

The success of ASEAN collaborative measures depends on the core countries taking a lead, and it is in everyone’s interest that these countries have strong democratic institutions and the rule of law. When countries lack good governance and transparency, domestic economies falter, domestic politics goes from crisis to crisis, and the country turns inwards and away from engaging constructively with the real world and with their neighbours.

The economic success of ASEAN economies up to the nineties was based in part on the superiority of their institutional frameworks to those of Eastern Europe and South America. In the early days, Malaysia and Singapore played leading roles in ASEAN. Of late, Malaysia’s role has diminished, while that of Indonesia has grown. It is no accident that this is the result of successful reform and democratization in Indonesia and the failure so far of any such process in Malaysia. Over the longer term, reform and democratization must go hand in hand for there to be sustained economic development.

The present Prime Minister has made some helpful gestures towards liberalizing the economy and pursuing more multiracial policies. These initiatives, however, must do more than skim the surface of what must be done. Malaysia is in need of fundamental reform. The reforms we need include, at minimum:

a. An overhaul of the party system which rules out racially exclusive parties from facing directly contesting elections. This will inaugurate a new era of post-racial politics.
b. The restoration of the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the media.
c. An all out war on corruption, the root of all the evils in nation-building and economic development.

The greater economic collaboration we aspire to in ASEAN requires that we pay attention to the internal conditions in each country that make it possible. We need to place the promotion of governance and institutional reform on the ASEAN agenda. I hope this is a matter you see fit to take up.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

PAS: Its OK to use "Allah"

Honestly, I'm happy and impressed. Essentially the party position is that there is nothing wrong with the use of 'Allah' by other Abrahamic faiths, but the term should not be misused. We have no problems with that. We call upon the Federal Government to accept the High Court ruling and not to appeal and prolong the matter further.

(Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the honourable President of the BN component party)

Kenyataan rasmi Presiden Pas mengenai isu kalimah Allah
Ditulis oleh Presiden PAS

PAS sebagai parti Islam, amat menghormati prinsip kebebasan beragama seperti mana yang ditekankan oleh Islam kerana manusia tidak boleh dipaksa untuk menerima mana-mana agama melainkan ia merupakan pilihan sendiri.

Prinsip kebebasan beragama ini juga telah termaktub di dalam Perkara 11 Perlembagaan Persekutaan.

Walaupun demikian dalam konteks masyarakat di Malaysia, suasana dan keadaan setempat perlu diambil kira di atas kepentingan awam bagi memelihara keharmonian berbagai kaum dan agama. Setiap warganegara Malaysia wajib memelihara suasana dan keadaan ini.

PAS ingin menjelaskan bahawa berdasarkan kepada kaedah Islam, penggunaan nama Allah pada asasnya adalah dibenar untuk digunakan oleh agama samawi seperti Kristian dan Yahudi.

Walau bagaimanapun, penggunaan kalimah Allah secara salah dan tidak bertanggungjawab mestilah dielakkan supaya ianya tidak menjadi isu yang boleh menjejaskan keharmonian kaum dan agama dalam negara ini.

PAS memberikan peringatan kepada semua pihak supaya tidak menyalahgunakan perkataan Allah bagi mengelirukan atau menjadikan politik murahan untuk mendapatkan sokongan rakyat.

Al-Quran telah menyarankan cara yang betul menggunakan perkataan Allah, sebagaimana yang dinyatakan dalam Surah Al Imran ayat 64 yang bermaksud.

‘‘Katakanlah: Hai Ahli Kitab,marilah (berpegang) kepada suatu kalimat (ketetapan) yang tidak ada perselisihan antara kami dan kamu, bahawa tidak kita sembah kecuali Allah dan tidak kita persekutukan Dia dengan sesuatu pun dan tidak (pula) sebahagian kita menjadikan sesama manusia seperti pemimpin dan sebagainya sebagai tuhan selain Allah’’

Pas dengan tegasnya ingin menolak sebarang bentuk tindakan agresif dan provokatif jahat yang boleh mengugat keharmonian dan mencetuskan ketegangan masyarakat.

PAS dengan segala rasa penuh tanggungjawab bersedia untuk menjelaskan isu ini kepada semua pihak bagi mewujudkan suasana yang harmoni berdasarkan kepada prinsip keadilan sebagaimana yang termaktub dalam perlembagaan dan dijamin oleh Islam.

Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang
Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

'Saints' Family Day Out

The Saints Go Marching In...

I had the privilege of being invited to join the Nuffnang - Friso Gold 'Family Day Out' for 80 blogging families at Kidsports & Gym, 1Utama this morning, so the least I could do is to 'blog it' ;-)

The missus even made my day for offering to outfit in Saints jerseys ;-) (Just don't ask where they are in the league ;-)) So Tony, Ting Fong, Totto and little 'Peter Parker' Pua made it to 1U @ 10am in the morning and the kids certainly had a good time courtesy of Nuffnang and Friso Gold.

Mommy & Yi Zhe

Yi Zhe fiddles with his ride

Xin Ying hits the bottom of the slide

Yi Zhe enjoying the floor time

Daddy trying to get Yi Zhe to smile at the camera

Xin Ying looking after little brother (who obviously needs his nap!)

Xin Ying concentrates on her sand art