Followers

Thursday, October 30, 2008

BookIntro7: THINGS IN COMMON - SYED AKBAR ALI

I have read the book twice. I found it completely interesting, and easy to read. I suspect the book stores may shelve it under "religion" though in my view, it could very well be shelved under "logical thinking" or "current issues". From the outset, I must state that it is a challenging book. It challenges the mind of the reader to go beyond the "accepted" and to look at the evidence. You will certainly have to put aside whatever pre-conceived notions, prejudices, and purely faith-based world views to appreciate and enjoy the book.

Largely the book discusses perceptions people hold about religion in general and Islam in particular. He then compares the perceptions with scriptural evidence that is, the Quran and the Bible. He freely quotes both the verses from the Quran and the Bible and leaves the reader to form his own conclusions. Whether you agree or disagree with him, you cannot avoid the fact that much thought and research has gone into what he has written. And he presents such complex arguments in a very simple, non-academic, readable manner..and in many occasion, true to Akbar Ali's style, with wit and humour.

People have generally underestimated the role of religion in society in some aspects and in other aspects, they have overestimated its influence. This books has succeeded in demonstrating and in inviting the thinking reader to understand instances where the presence of religion in life can be unsuspectingly pervasive. If you agree with this possible inference from his book, it may frighten you. Hence this book has the potential of causing a paradigm shift in the reader's minds.

He has organized the book into short chapters making it easy for the reader to select the topics he wants to read first. This, to me is Syed's best book so far.

I would also describe this book as paving the way for more "thinking books" in this land of ours where there is a dearth of good local books. If we truly want to achieve a civilized and knowledge based society, more such books should be encouraged. I would recommend this book, apart from the general readers, to those in political office, the academics and all those who are in the "business of religion".

Once you finish reading it and assuming you take the effort to understand it, you may realize that it has less to do with religion! It has more to do with us as Malaysians and us as human beings on the Grand Designer's beautiful earth.

The book will be available at all major bookshops from Monday and it is priced at RM39.90. Happy reading.

The Myth of Education

At the very outset I must caution the reader that this article is not intended to pursue the position that “education” is unimportant or irrelevant. Rather, this is an attempt to invite readers to consider, among other things, whether what we consider “education” today is indeed what we think it is.

In the broadest sense, education has been part of society since man began to think and reason. Each community had to pass on their cultural and social values, religion, tradition, knowledge and skills to the next generation and such. Before the invention of writing and printing, all of these are transmitted orally. With the advent of writing and printing, much of this knowledge can be accurately transmitted and studied by future generations. Such education I would term “informal education” to distinguish it from what I intend to discuss here ie education in the formal settings of kindergarten, school and universities. This I would like to refer as “formal education” or the “education system” for the purposes of this article.

The history of formal education is both interesting and informative including developments in ancient civilizations (such as Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece), in the early Islamic world, India, China, Europe and so on. The medieval Madrasahs founded in the 9th century are the first examples of a university in the modern sense of the word. The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is thus recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859.

My humble study of the history of formal education seems to suggest that in the early stages of its development, formal education had more to do with inquiry, learning of skills, creation of good citizens and less to do for a job. “Job skills” are mostly learned by apprenticeship with the ‘master’. It thus appears that formal education then had to more with the acquisition of knowledge rather than for the purposes of using it as a qualification to obtain a job.

What appears to be the scenario today? Firstly, the fact that, like almost anything else important in life, formal education today is highly commercialized is undeniable. There are many private schools, colleges and universities today each with a commercial objective to achieve. The courses, curricula and modules are tailored to meet the existing demands of society and to ensure that the provision of these “services” remain commercially viable to the providing institution. I dare say that the factor of commercial viability does involve the sacrifice of many “noble principles of education”. There are two important points that emerge from this proposition:

1. The student that graduate may actually be graduating at a sub- standard level but perceived to be fully competent and knowledgeable in the discipline studied;
2. Content of formal education fluctuates with fluctuating demands of the society.

How do we determine what is the current demand of society? A simple approach would be to determine, inter alia, what is the dominant economic and political philosophy of that particular society. I would say that in Malaysia, the basic philosophical foundation is capitalism and this is probably true for most parts of the world.

Simply put, the central objective of capitalism is: profiteering or as ABBA sang: “money, money and money”.

Our economic world view is shaped today by western ideas of capitalistic society, consumption and acquisitive values, market forces, and such philosophies as expounded by Adam Smith, Keynes and the like. This is the dominant ‘way of life’. It is this dominant way of life that dictates the demands of the society towards the kind of formal education that is required. Essentially, it is largely directed towards the physical development of society and self. The acquisition of knowledge towards assisting “physical development of society and self” is largely what education is about today. Admittedly there are many courses that offer arts, and the like but these are peripheral, not dominant. Even here, the acquisition is more for economic ends rather than anything else.

Hence with this world view, education today is geared towards preparing the student to find a job, to get a qualification that can open the door to employment. It has less to with acquisition of knowledge and more to with passing the grades.

The more qualifications you get, the greater is your opportunity of finding a well paying job. The better your grades, the bigger your chances of being employed. This is the mindset and the new game. We need to understand this in order to understand the myths which I shall discuss shortly. Hence there is greater emphasis on the “kind” of qualifications to get, the method of passing exams, the shortest way of obtaining relevant degrees, masters and Ph.Ds.

Today, there are more and more people with paper qualifications. Due to this, the level of qualifications to enter into employment has thus been raised. I find this ironical and it exposes flawed thinking. It assumes that the higher the qualification the more competent the person is – which is not a necessary result.

With this background, let me share the myths.

First myth is the perception that one with a degree and such is an “educated person” and thus his views must necessarily be relevant and sound in almost all matters. This status of being “educated” is not entirely clear. Does it mean that he is generally knowledgeable or that he is knowledgeable in the area of his study? The myth becomes compounded when one assumes that therefore he must be intelligent! Somehow, the acquisition of a formal education seem to be equated with intelligence, competence and even, frighteningly, with wisdom.

There is an assumption that one with a degree is competent in his discipline. This means that if you have a degree in economics, you have good knowledge of economics. Often this is not the case though the expectation is understandable. It is a fact that once you get into a university, you have to be completely irresponsible not to make the grades. Likewise too, the more frightening assumption is that one with a formal qualification in some aspect of some religious study is an “expert” and hence he is authorized to tell you what is and is not in a religion.

This “religious expert” assumption is very prevalent among the current religious society. The expert becomes the authority whose very words cannot be challenged. To challenge his understanding may tantamount to a challenge towards the religion itself! It appears to miss these people that accumulation of data and regurgitation is no indication of thinking. A computer is able to accumulate more data and reproduce it better than any human. Generations of regurgitation of falsity, for example, does not make it true. Garbage in, garbage out.

Such prevailing mythical mindset among the people allows persons with vested selfish interests to acquire formal education for the purposes of duping the public behind the garb of “being educated. This is the kind of phenomenon some thinkers have labeled as the production of “educated fools”.

Thirdly, it is also a myth that formal education is the answer to “raising the people’s general awareness and maturity”. The very nature of our formal education is largely geared towards making the person employable rather than into a good human being or a good citizen. If our true objective to raise awareness and maturity, the entire current curriculum and mode of teaching has to change. What we have today is a completely examination orientated system of education with very little time for students to reflect and think. Very little attention is given to building up character, morals, citizenry and such. The so —called religious classes have in my view equally failed. The evidence is visible in daily life.

Fourth, is the myth that formal education will make us better human beings. I recall that my headmaster in Penang Free School often reminded us that “academic brilliance is no substitute for poverty of character”. The syllabus in the schools does not build character and is not meant to do so. Students are never taught the art of inquiry, introspection, reflection, “thinking out of the box”, and other thinking skills. In multi-cultural Malaysia, we are never taught the value of a diverse culture. I would say that the schools today and especially the universities are constant reminders of our differences in a negative way. We have to change this. After 50 years, we still have thinking that runs counter to the spirit of being human beings and being Malaysians.

You may want to share your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SPYING ON THE PEOPLE?


“What does it say about a government that is wasting both time and resources watching its own law-abiding citizens?” asks Keith Harvey, director of the AFSC New England regional office, cosponsor of the Springfield event. “Imagine what could happen if we give the government unrestrained authority to spy on anyone without answering to anyone?”

“Our country is governed by the rule of law, not the politics of hysteria and fear,” Miller emphasized. “Spying on citizens for merely executing their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is chilling and marks a troubling trend. Our country is built upon a system of checks and balances. These actions violate the rule of law and strike a severe blow against our Constitution.”

We need to be clear,” Coleridge states. “The Pentagon is snooping on individuals and groups that have no history of organizing or even calling for violence against the government. If people and groups like this can be monitored, then we need to ask ‘where does it end?’ ”

You can read further here

Saturday, October 25, 2008

HAPPY DEEPAVALI !


I wish all the HIndu visitors:

HAPPY DEEPAVALI !

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CONDEMN THE GOVERNMENT!

Condemn the government. Yes. That is the new fashion now. If you do that, you will instantly become the new hero in town. It seems today, it does not matter if your condemnation is nothing more than pure condemnation. Anything goes, even fiction, fantasy and especially if lots of sensationalism is thrown in. There are quite a number of people who love to sit opposite the computer and enjoy such stuff - like watching a soap opera.

That there is a big difference between condemnation and constructive criticism seem to escape the thinking processes of such people.

On the other hand, the fastest way to be a "devil" is to praise a member of the Government. Instantly you are labeled as "A. man and "B's man" as if A or B is responsible for feeding you and your family. Today, everything the Government does is seen as wrong. Everybody in Government is evil. It also does not seem to matter that the Government of the day is the government elected democratically by the majority of the voters.

That there is a big difference between stating a fact, or presenting the ground news or the ground perception and being a politician's "ballachi" seem to escape the thinking processes of such people. Of course there are such ballachi's too. It is the simplistic conclusion that frightens me.

This is sad.

Neither the Government nor the opposition is a haven of all angels or all devils. Raperas should be wary not to play into the hands of politicians from both side of the divide. It is the People's power and the people should keep it and use it wisely.

I personally do not subscribe to the dangerous game of praising the government all the time and condemning the opposition all the time and vice versa. I would rather praise Allah all the time. Admittedly, I do criticize both the government and opposition on specific issues. This does not mean I hate or love either immensely. I have relatives and friends on both sides. I have never even used this connection on either side. Low profile is peaceful living.

What inspired me to write this thought is an sms from my friend following my posting on "UMNO stabilising". He said " You sound like a Najib man". Hmm....how come no one said I am a "Lim Guan Eng man when I praised him and even posted his speech on this very blog? I will say it again: "I have respect for Lim Guan Eng". "Najib has a mind to grasp details". Now, who's man am I? I like to think I am my own.

I rest my case. Raperas have to manage their own mindset.

Stand to be corrected of course.

WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

The biggest problem with politics and politicians is their sole preoccupation to stay in power at all costs. The main objective of those in the wings of politics is to one day ride the wave of power. For politicians, power is what drugs is to the addict. At all costs, they will want o get it. At all costs.

Like drug addicts, they are dangerous because they are unable to control themselves. Like drug addicts, rehabilitation may not generally work in the long run for most of them. Like drug addicts they will not only delude the public but even themselves to get the a dose of power. Dose after dose. Hence like drug addicts, it is the public that must forever cast a watchful eye over the politicians - calmly, firmly, peacefully, rationally and effectively.

To stay in power, the politician will adopt populist speeches, even populist policies though it harms the public in the long run. Seldom and I repeat seldom do you find politicians willing to do the right thing in the right balance if it means risking the loss of power. In "Islamic language", "kiblah mereka adalah kuasa politik semata-mata". Don't believe me. Study political history. There are very few or almost no Oliver Cromwells or Ghandis around - two figures who inspired me greatly when I was in my teens.

It the obsession for power that vital matters like environmental issues are never discussed. Have ever you heard about this during the March elections? DO you read any one of the politicians talking about this? Does the media give front page coverage to this? Nope! It is not popular. The damage is not seen as imminent.

Anyone reading the Quran will instantly realize that it the duty of those who believe in the Great Designer to protect the environment. We are here on earth temporarily as a trustee of nature for the next generation and on behalf of nature itself.

I am hopeful that a wholesome leader will emerge who will have a wholesome view of matters in life. Most not only think within the box but because of power addiciton think within a small corner of the box.

Raperas on the other hand have to train to think wholesomely and prudently. Expediency cannot replace long-term good.

With this thought, I leave you with a very spiritual song. Again, anyone reading the Quran can identify with this song. We are all connected to each other, if only we knew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is your staff working in your interest - CivilServants?

You are paying their salary from your hard earned money. Apart from the salary they receive, they also receive plenty of perks, especially the ones in the higher rung ..who look very solemn and sober.

Are you watching them? DO you know what they do with their time? Are they implementing the government policies or using their arbitrariness to do what they think is right?

This is an issue - arbitrary decision making. How to have check and balance? Is it easy for you to meet the pengarah or the KSU? They are your staff!

What about the delivery system? Is it so difficult to get well paid, over-perked high ranking officials to be accountable to the public?

What about the way they go about doing thier work? DO they follow the law..or do they say: "Tak apalah, kalau tak puas, boleh rayu kemudian?" It is your time and not theirs isnt it?

Think! Do not just focus on the politicians while forgetting the real people who are so powerful in your life, they can ruin you or give you the run around.

UMNO stabilising ???


With the announcement of Pak Lah not contesting for the UMNO presidency and with the nominations pouring in for Najib, UMNO members generally appear to feel that UMNO is regaining its strength from the recently "shaken-up-no-direction" feeling it underwent since the March elections.

Many in UMNO, in particular the youth wing, want reforms in UMNO. These grassroots have been clamoring for reforms for a long time and in a very ironical way, the March election results was a welcoming pressure on the top leaders to accede to the reforms wanted by UMNO grassroots. It is an open secret that many UMNO members themselves voted for the opposition as a protest towards what they saw as arrogant, weak, not listening leadership.

Najib is seen as a leader who is firm and will be able to lead UMNO and the Nation. Those who know Najib personally know that he is a listener, hard working and has the ability to grasp details. If the nominations follow the current pattern, Najib will emerge strong as the new UMNO president. He must then remember and be careful not to repeat past errors of UMNO leadership.

There are even reliable talks that once UMNO elections are over and Najib is in place, many in Pakatan will cross over. This is of course yet to be seen. However, it is understood that Pakatan is not dismissing such talk as baseless.

UMNO must in the long run do away the quota requirement and bonus votes system. This is clearly undemocratic and denies the opportunity of an ordinary UMNO member from contesting, even in protest. The problem of money politics in UMNO must also be seriously addressed. It is not enough for leaders to give a parental like lecture without putting in place mechanisms to prevent the practice.

I have long suspected that money politics became rampant in UMNO with the entry of corporate figures into UMNO. Once upon a time, teachers were held in high esteem before "corporate and business" became a new value to be cherished.
As correctly observed by supreme council member Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, "Umno must admit it has a problem with money politics and if left to fester, the party might as well hand posts to the highest bidder".

The bottom line is: UMNO must dare to change and be seen as daring to change. Otherwise..........

Sunday, October 19, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS ONG TEE KEAT!


Photo credit: ongteekeat.com

Datuk Ong Tee Keat has now emerged as the President of MCA from the recently concluded party elections. I believe that he will bring effective leadership to MCA and the Barisan Nasional. Since he is readily approachable and is in constant touch with the grassroots, he will be instrumental in working together with the other Barisan Nasional component parties to strength the BN and to bring about needed reforms in the BN's mindset.

He has the ability of selecting good, hardworking advisers and assistants around him. This is an important trait of an effective leader.

I wish him congratulations and Good Luck.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chapter 4: The Economic Turmoil.

Dr Rasuawahi did not sit down. He was puffing on his cigar and slowly moving to and fro as if in thought. He glanced at me and said,

“You must understand that the ladder to national service is steeped with unimaginable challenges. Hence, only those with a strong will, creative mind and strong heart are qualified for the job”.

He approached me, leaned forward and almost in a whisper he said: “Did you know that I had to do things I have never imagined I would? All in the interest of service to the people.”

“I became deputy President in 1993. In Juburti, the real power resides in the President and the deputy president is in reality…a waiting post. I realized that the President due to his age and probably because of his extra curricular activities was losing grip of the State. Slowly, slowly, he gave me more and more responsibilities but officially, he is responsible. I did not complain. It gave me an opportunity to consolidate the State institutions for the sake of the people. Then, we were hit, like you with the currency speculators attack on our economy in 1997”.


“ I set up a team to address the problem……, he paused, stroking his chin, “ But guess who the President appointed as the Chairman?”

“You of course”.

“That would be the logical thing to do. But no….for the first time, a post called the assistant deputy President was created by the politburo and…and….Lepaki, his 24 year old son was appointed to this new post and as the chairman of the Economic Recovery Team or ERT! Politically, it was a slap on my face”.

“Wow” was all that I could say. Then I continued, “Well, he was supposed to be President first, then you correct?”

“Of course, according to Juburti tradition. But people’s interest comes first. He is unfit. Needless to say he studied in the best of University but like most elitist children, spoilt and removed from the realities of life. Even his sister, my second wife is equally spoilt. He has a penchant, like his father, for women and the pleasures of life. He loves alcohol, the expensive ones. But….”

“But?

“But he expects to be President after his father and the people expect that too. That’s the way it is in Juburti since we were freed from the French. You must know that I love him like my son, but I love my Nation more. In fact without his father’s knowledge, I was sending him an extra USD5,000.00 a month for his pocket money when he was studying”.

He shook his head, as if in remorse and said, “Alas, as time went by, he abused the money and turned into an alcoholic, even experimenting with drugs to get the right high. He became a wreck and an embarrassment for his father by the time he turned 24. He was also undergoing alcoholic rehabilitation in Sweden. So, I could never understand his appointment”.

“Excuse me Sir, but why did you give him so much money knowing he is spoilt? Were you encouraging him?”, I asked trying not to sound accusatory.

“Friend. You don’t know about money either. Money has a power and life of its own. Its does whatever it wants in the hands of the weak. Lepaki only became what he was destined to become. Money exposed him. Even my wife Deli had accused me of bringing about Lepaki’s ruin. That’s ridiculous. I was busy assisting the President and serving the Nation”.

“I advised the President that my name should not be officially linked to ERT and that let him be the adviser to ERT while Lepaki is the chairman. This way, the people will see the President’s family as saving the nation. This will pave the way for lepaki to be President when he retires. I assured him I will get the best economic advisers for him”.

I had to interrupt him for I realized I may have misjudged Dr Rasuawahi, “That was magnanimous of you...to sacrifice name and glory and pave the way for Lepaki”.

“Yes, exactly what the President said. The Nation thought so too though they were equally concerned about the economy. When people suffer, they only want leaders who can save them..and they doubted the President and his son”.

“Well, our Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir saved us”, I proudly proclaimed.

“I know. We had the worst period of our life. The economic situation became worse. The people suffered. Unemployment rose, inflation soared, businesses were closed down. People became restless like hungry tigers. ERT failed”.

“Huh? I thought you had imported good economic advisers?”

“Yes. I gave the ERT the best advisers from the IMF, World Bank and CIA”.

“CIA? They are not economic experts. They are espionage experts”, I blurted.

“See. You speak like the masses. Many things you do not know. CIA is one of the best economic saboteurs in the world. They are effective because their hands are unseen. Non white countries love white advisers.. Whites are presumed to be clever”. He smiled like as if he was part of a clever plot.

“Did you now that the President summoned me before the Politburo to explain the failures of the ERT? I then knew that someone had poisoned his mind …he suspected I was using the economic situation to pressure him to give up power sooner and at the same time nullify his son’s chances of succeeding him. He did not accept any of my explanations. I had two weeks to regain his trust. For the first time, my political survival was at stake”.

I scratched my head to understand. “Wait a minute. You must be close to the Americans since the time you were governor of the Central Bank….did….you…collaborate…with them…to …..sabotage your own country’s economy…. so that you can rise to power? What about the ordinary people’s sufferings?” I was worried at my boldness. I was also confused about the man.

Dr Rasuawahi gave me a long, hard stare as if studying me. Then he slowly continued,

“Do you know…what dismounting the tiger means?”

“No”.

“I thought so. It means giving up the seat of power. Once you dismount the tiger, it bites you. The more powerful you were, the more you get bitten, sometimes to death. All your alleged excesses will come out. You have to keep fighting until your death. You have keep whipping up the peoples emotions and keep controlling their perceptions. You have to keep denying and denying and denying. The whole state machinery will be against you. And the people?…ha ha ha”. He went into a hysterical laughter.

“The people will want to lynch you! It is an excitement in their small insignificant lives. They will bow until their head reaches their feet and lick your hand when you are in power. They know you are selling the country at a sale…but they will bestow more honors on you. But once you are thrown out, they will be on you like maggots. People indeed!”

He broke into a long, mocking laughter again. “I, my friend was at the brink of being lynched and you talk about the mindless segment of society called the people. You people never fail to amaze me!” He emphasized on the word “people” mockingly.

“Yes my friend. In politics, the people have to pay the price. That is their role. Listen to me carefully….the people are the stepping stones and the tool for politicians in their quest for power. That’s what political parties are about. We need people to clap, to cheer us, to jeer at the other side, to suffer so that we can save, to succeed so we get praised, to be disunited so that we can organize them, to be fearful so that we can reassure, and the list goes on. This and this alone is the role of the people”.

“As I said before, they are unable to think and handle information. For every clever one among the people, politicians can rebut them with hundred more clever ones that can be bought from the flea market”.

I began to feel dizzy from the knowledge that manipulation of real human beings can occur for the sake of power. Don’t people realize, I asked myself quietly? Is vested interest a more potent power than education, knowledge and selfless service? God!

“So you understand? The incompetent president and his son were trying to throw me out for the sake of their own power…after all that I have done! I, on the other hand had my destiny to fulfill. You may not believe but I do have the people’s general welfare at heart. I knew that I must be President at all costs. It is good for Juburti”.

“And I have just 14 days to protect myself from the injustice that the State is planning to visit upon me. 14 days….”

Next: Chapter 5: The Assassination Attempt.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dr Rasuawahi from Juburti - Chapter 3: Different Faces.Emerging

When I reached home that evening, I was curious to see what was in the envelope. I opened it and saw that it contained American dollars. I counted. USD3,000.00. Why? I kept it in my drawer.

The following morning, I went prepared to court. I was informed by the court interpreter that the judge is on leave. Court interpreters as always are sweet, helpful people. My office, as usual was not informed earlier that the “divine” had gone on leave, so we took another date. I think gods are not obliged to do so. I can imagine the wrath I would have to undergo had I been late 10 minutes before the “divine”! Anyway, I always tell myself that the world is round. What goes around, must come around - I have personally witnessed this phenomenon all my life.

After having breakfast at the court canteen, I called Dr Rasuawahi. “Good morning, your Excellency, can we meet up earlier? My case did not go on today”.

“Sure. I will finish all my meetings by 6pm. Can we have dinner at Sahara at 7.30pm?”

Sahara? I know the place. It serves Arabic food. I said, “Ok, Your Excellency”.

I reached Sahara at 7.30pm on the dot despite the famous KL traffic. “I am with Dr Rasuawahi”, I informed the hostess there. She immediately brought me to the back, exclusive part of the restaurant. Behind the curtain, was Dr Rasuawahi and three others, one of whom I recognized to be a Minister. The table was filled with plates of food – zirbeyan rice, kebab, huge lamb, kofta with parsley, hasaa al-khodar, fatat al-ads and much more. Food, in my estimation more than enough for 10 people.

“Sit down please. Meet my lawyer, gentlemen”. I did not even know I was already appointed and for what purpose.

I was introduced to the others by Dr Rasuawahi – John Knowitall, a foreign financial consultant, Dr Churimaka, his political adviser and strategist (also his cousin), a local businessman (who was smiling all through the night, god knows why) and the YB.

As I sat down, having shook hands with everyone; Dr Rasuawahi asked me, “What’s your drink, sir?”

“I’ll have a sharab al-na'na please”, I replied, showing off my knowledge of Arabian drink.

“That’s a nice mint drink”, said the YB, showing off that he knows it too. The local businessman was smiling.

Frankly, I have always hated dinners with people I am not close to. My dinner usually does not take more than 10 minutes. I also have never been comfortable till today with talk on how the lamb is marinated or how the prawns are fried. We have already killed those poor animals; let us not make a festival out of it. And small talk at dinner tables easily tires me out.

Everyone wants to make a joke and you have to laugh due to sheer politeness. It is such an effort for me. And it amazes me how the local businessman’s face muscles do not tire from the continuous smile on his face. He must have had lots of practice. But I learnt something at that dinner. Dr Rasuawahi is a great host. A master.


He was a different man from whom I had known the previous day. He was humble, down to earth and completely friendly. You will never guess that behind this man is a devious creature lurking. Even I felt comfortable with him at the table. The YB and he exchanged brief conversations of investment into the country.

“Don’t you worry. John will get in touch with your contact before the official line begins. And I assure you, I will be indebted to you too”. Both the YB and Dr Rasuawahi smiled and nodded to each other knowingly like as if passing a secret message. In any event, I was the happiest person when it was declared that the dinner was over.

“Lawyer, you come in my car please. I’ll get someone to drive your car”. Without asking where we were going, I found myself following him. I must admit, he had a certain aura of authority about him.

We did not talk to each other in the car. He was mostly on the phone speaking in some foreign language, which I guessed must be Juburtian. I was feeling nervous but I did not know why. Maybe because I was beginning to see completely different faces of his in such a short span. I kept reminding myself that I am not committed in any way. The car drove into a hotel basement and stopped at the car park.

The driver got out of the car and came back in 3 minutes holding a big packet. He said something in Juburti to Dr Rasuawahi and we drove out of the basement. Again, we were quiet during the journey back to his hotel. Finally, we were back to his luxurious hotel room. Once inside, he asked me in the tone I was used to yesterday,” Coffee?”

“Yes please. Two sugars please no milk”. I needed the black coffee.

“I have big investments in your country. All under nominees, of course. The people you met today are important to me in their own ways. Churimaka is very loyal to me and a clever man. John is loyal to me because I have made him very rich. “

“And my minister?, I had to ask. He ignored the question. So I asked him another while he passed the coffee to me.

“Thank you. Are you in exile in Malaysia?”

“Officially, Switzerland gave me political asylum but I am now officially attending a forum in Thailand”. I was getting perplexed.

“Er…I don’t understand”.

“Good. No one except those who need to know need to understand. You do not need to know”. It was more of a decree than an answer! Sensing that I was a bit upset with his response, he continued in a condescending tone,

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it the way it came out. It is simple really. There are many things that a leader does not have to explain to the masses and you are one of them. Even if I explain it to you, your mind will not be able to understand it. So, good leaders only tell people what they need to know. The same culture is practiced in your country but you do not know. The fact that you do not know shows that it is effective”.

I was trying to slowly understand what he just said. Somewhere in what he said sounded like an insult was directed to the mind of the people. On the other hand, I had to understand his mind. So I risked a question,

“Dr, that sounded very wise and I am slow to catch it”. I saw that he face lit up. He probably liked the idea of him being cleverer than me so I continued,

“Who then decides what the people should know?”

He gave out a laugh, “The leader of course!”. Hmm, sounded like a circuitous reasoning.

“That’s not fair isn’t it? You might hide something important or you might misinform the public”.

He laughed again shaking his head as if I was his 4 year old son who had said something naive.

“Friend, trust me, the public do not know how to handle information. They do not like to think. What they like is entertainment and a sense of security in their small lives. And that’s nothing shameful about it. It is not fair to complicate their simple lives. It is fine for leaders like me”.

“That’s not true. There are well meaning citizens who can handle information and can think”.

“I grant you that. What? 0.007% of the population? Apart from managing and thinking about the information, they can do nothing. These are the people who confuse the public by giving the public information they cannot handle. Because the fact is the larger public does not want to think.” He looked at assessing me whether I can follow his reasoning.

And he quickly added, “These very small number of people who appear to think on behalf of the public are people with vested self interest. They want to give meaning to their otherwise empty lives. They want to make a name, make a mark. They are anti establishment. Even they know the public does not care to think. But they know that when they can confuse the public, some gullible public will give them support”.

I interrupted him, “ That’s not entirely true. There are people who are interested in issues that affect the nation and….”

He interjected, “Don’t waste your time on that argument. The only two issues the public are interested are – mine and my. You do not understand human nature. As to thinking, they loathe it!”

He continued, “Where do you think the larger public will go - a free forum on ‘the role of responsible citizens’ or a free concert by the Pussycats? What do you think will be widely discussed – Dr Rasuawahi’s contributions to the educational sector or his sex scandals? Public loves entertainment and sensation".

He paused and then continued, "Put it another way, they want us leaders to provide them with everything including entertainment. As long as you provide them that or give the perception that they are getting it, they are like purring cats. Get them to think and they become directionless, hungry tigers”.

Raising his chest, he said, “I am an effective leader. I give my people the essentials of life, give them entertainment and occasionally, simulated sensational news. Good economy, good infrastructure and most importantly, I protect my people from information I know they cannot handle”.

I could see that Dr Rasuawahi was enjoying himself lecturing me on matters which I suspect he thinks is complex for my simple mind. Is it true the public does not like to think and easily lulled by goodies? I don’t really think so. He was dishing out logic which I could not identify with. This man has an ego thicker than an oak tree. He was smiling down at me, patronizingly and literally. I was seated and somewhere in his lecture he had stood up before me.

“Anyway lawyer, you have a way of making me digress. Hope it educated you. I need actually to brief you about my presidency in Juburti. And it is confidential.”

“Sorry, your Excellency. I am all ears now”.

NEXT: Chapter 4: The Assassination Attempt

Thursday, October 16, 2008

BRACE OURSELVES - YET AGAIN?

The crystal ball says that come November, we have to brace ourselves again. I suppose Malaysians are being given warning after warning by the divine forces to wake up and be grateful?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PASAR BORONG CHEAP SALE



SHOULD BE SO. WILL IT ALLOWED TO BE SO BY THE FREE MARKET WITHOUT INTERVENTION?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dr Rasuawahi from Juburti: Chapter 2: The Political Marriage

"Who is this girl?"

“Ah, that’s Konveniens, my second wife. We have no children and are not planning to have any either”.

“You married again? You first marriage went wrong is it?”

“No. No. Friend, your mind sounds really middle class”. He laughed at his own joke which I did not understand. I hoped it was a joke. I looked at him waiting for an answer.

“Deliverance gave me no problems at all until I met Konveniens. Deli was useful, instrumental, but she could not serve an important purpose. She could not deliver me into politics where the real power, glory and wealth is. She was only part of my destiny to be a great leader. You understand? ”.

I was beginning to lose his train of thought.

Not waiting for my response, he continued, “You see my friend, Konveniens was the daughter of the then deputy President of my country. In my country, the President decides who succeeds him. Konveniens’s mother is the daughter of the then President. Her father later of course became the President. And guess who is President after him?”

I was trying to put the facts together. It dawned on me that I could be sitting with the potential President of Juburti. My mind started to calculate. If he likes me and he becomes President, he might make me his chief legal advisor. Not bad. Chief Advisor to the President! Surreal!

I blurted out, “You mean, you are next in line for the Presidency? ”. I had to know so that I can orchestrate my behavior accordingly. The devil in my mind was already planning. But his answer punctured all my hopes and the devil in me just absconded as all devils do when the ship sinks.

“No. No. I was the President of Juburti for 5 years.”

Wait. Did he say “was”? Surely he meant to say “am” and poor English is playing havoc with my emotions?

“You mean you ARE”, I said emphasizing the word “are”.

“You have problems with hearing my friend. I said I was. Two years ago, I was illegally thrown out by the subversives of the State who abused the legal instruments of the State. I am still the President in exile.”.

I stumbled back into my sofa visualizing my chief legal advisor to the President’s post flying away. It is always just close but never close enough for me. I let out a sigh. But he did say “unseated illegally”. Maybe this is where my legal expertise will come in. I allowed myself some hope.

“Are you ok? Don’t feel sorry for me. I am now fighting to get it back. But let me finish my background story first”. He did not know I was feeling sorry for myself!

“But how did you become the President? Did you marry Konveniens or what? Didn’t Deli object?”, I inquired.

With an impatient look on his face he said, “if you stop interrupting I could finish my story”.

“Sorry”, I muttered. “Well yes, I had to orchestrate my marriage with Konveniens…and what a challenge it was. Come to think of it, the planning of the marriage prepared me for political maneuverings.”

He puffed on his Havana cigar and continued, “Well, my father in law finally died and I replaced him as the governor of the Central Bank of Juburti”. I raised my hand to ask him a question. He said “Yessss?”

“Er…the job cannot be hereditary I am sure? In any case, I am sure you didn’t have a high education since you were poor? Hey wait! When did you do your doctorate?”

“My friend, you have a lot to learn about life. Money and influence are the gods of normal men. If you control these two, you become their god. I have two degrees and masters in financial and business studies from the National University of Juburti and from one American College. My honorary doctorate was conferred on me by a prestigious University from England on account of my reformation of the financial sector in Juburti. I also contributed financially to a program in that University”.

I really did not know what to make of this man. My instincts tell me that he must have bought those academic qualifications. If he did, how can anyone in his country still allow him to be the Governor of the Central Bank? I ventured a question to him: “What reforms did you do to the financial sector in Juburti?”

The pupils in his eyes dilated as if he was going to express an ingenious program launched by him and said ‘ I liberalized the sector!”.

That’s a word, my mind said. “How did you liberalize?”, I asked him.

“Simple. I opened up the market to the American and English financial institutions. I am proud to say that because of me, there are many American and British banks in my country. In fact, the chief adviser to the Central Bank is an American. With America, you cannot go wrong can you…especially if the investors are powerful Americans.” And he winked at me indicating something which I did not understand.

“Now can I get back to how they married me to Konveniens?”

“Yes please”.

“As a governor of the bank, I had access to foreign banks and especially Americans. Now, my father in law loved three things in his life – wealth, power and women. He could never get enough of those which I can understand. I was able to supply all these to him discreetly. Over the years, he liked me and trusted me. I managed all his off-shore wealth with the help of Americans and British of course. I held much of it on trust for him. One day, he sat me down and said, ‘would you marry my daughter?’

“I was of course pleasantly shocked at his suggestion. The old fox was worried about his wealth that I am holding for him overseas. So, I told him, ‘I am honored…but I love my wife……and I am not sure any woman will share their husband”.

“And he replied, ‘If you say yes, I will handle the rest.’ My mind was reeling with excitement. Married to the Deputy President’s daughter! I was careful not to mention this at all to my wife. Since that day, I made sure I made more time for her, taking her out for dinners, buying her gifts and so on. You know the usual boring, turkey stuff. Anyway, two months after that while dining with my wife, she looked at me pensively and said:

‘Darling, I have something to say to you which I hope you understand. The deputy President spoke to me last week and I had thought about what he said thoroughly. Please understand that I love you….but he has complete trust in you. He feels you are needed to lead the country one day. He wants you to succeed him’. Then she paused looking at me. I put on a puzzled look on my face, feigning innocence and bewilderment.

She continued, ‘Well, I think the nation’s interest comes first. The only way you can be president is if you marry his daughter….and I have agreed with it. He says he wants to check with me first before he talks to you.’

Dr Juburti smiled at me and said, “Friend….can see you how willy and cunning this old fox is? Anyway I told my wife if that is what she and the deputy President think is best, then I shall follow suit. That’s it! Done deal! On the way to be the President! Konveniens became my wife in a grand ceremony and I became president-in-waiting”.”

All this was just too abnormal for my normal understanding of life. Are there really such devious people on earth where everything is fair game for manipulation for pure selfish ends? I experienced a cramp like sensation in my stomach. I wanted to get up and go home. I also had alot of work to complete as I had a trial the next day. I excused myself. He walked me to the door and handed me an envelope.

"See you tomorrow night. I will tell you sensitive secrets"


NEXT: Chapter 3: Different faces emerging

UMNO ELECTIONS1: Fight for the Youth Chief Post

Barring an upset, everyone in UMNO youth knows that the final fight for the top post in the UMNO Youth will be between Khairy Jamaludin and Mukhriz Mahathir. AT the time of writing this article, Mukhrz, surprisingly is leading at 40 nominations while Khairy is at 20. No one expected Mukhriz to pass by the qualifying post (38 nominations)so fast as he is considered the underdog.

Khairy is the son-in-law of the Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi while Mukhriz is the son of the former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Apparently, Mukhriz and all of Dr Mahathir's children were forbidden from contesting the party's top posts while he was the Prime Minster. The election platform for Khairy is "camaraderie" while Mukhirz uses "dare to change". This contest will be closely watched by many. Many are also watching whether Abdullah Badawi's plan to resign in March affect Khairy's chances in the Youth election. If Khairy wins this time, it will prove that he won on his own support. Previously, he won the deputy Youth Chief position uncontested even though that was the first time he was nominated for a post at the national level.

Dr Rasuawahi from Juburti - Part 1: The Meeting

IT IS STORY TIME! ENJOY...

“Can you tell me how to get to the KL Sentral”, he asked. I turned around to the voice and saw a man, probably in his late 50s clutching onto to a few shopping bags. He looked Malayish, but I could not tell for sure. He could very well be from Myanmar or anywhere. We were at One Utama shopping complex in Bandar Utama.

“Well, just take a taxi. There is a taxi stand just outside”, I replied. How can I give directions to a destination which is more than 15 kilometers away?

“I know. I came with a taxi. Are you a Kuwaiti?, he asked me. I have been mistaken as a Kuwaiti many times before. Once at Heathrow Airport, I was husked away by the immigration to a safety lane because there was apparently an Iraqi security threat against Kuwaiti. “No, I am Malaysian”. I quickly wondered if the man was all right.

He put his bags down and stretched out his right hand to me and said, “Hello, I am Dr Rasuwahi. I am from Juburti”. Never heard of the place but then my geography was never hot in school. I decided to introduce myself as “Jahamy” since it seemed to rhyme with his “hi” And “ti” and shook his hand. I was now becoming curious.

He looked very affluent and judging by the branded shopping bags he was carrying, he must be some very rich foreign businessman or a foreign politician. I knew from observation that only very rich businessmen or politicians can afford such expensive stuff. Anyway, I finally ended up driving him back to his hotel at KL Sentral. He told me that he has been staying in the hotel for the past 3 weeks – alone. This fact admittedly did cause me some discomfort especially when I recalled the name of the country he came from.

Once in his suite (and what a luxurious suite it was), he poured some coffee for me and we indulged in small chat. When I told him I am a lawyer, his eyes sparkled.

“Good. Good! Now I want to engage your services and then I can tell you things in confidence”.

“Well, engage me for what kind of legal work?, I asked and continued. “ why don’t you tell me your story and then I can tell you whether I am the right kind of lawyer for you”. He seemed very pleased with the idea. He then started his story:

“I was from a poor family, youngest among nine children. My father died when I was 15 and my mother took care of all of us working as a maid in neighbors’ houses. We were so poor that we could not go to school except for my second elder brother. Anyway, I had a hard life all along, working in hotels, restaurants, and finally ended up as a stage actor with a local theatre company. I was then 24”.

He paused and then asked me a rhetorical question: “Do you know that up to 26 years of age I slept in a room smaller than that bathroom?” I looked at the bathroom behind me and was almost tempted to ask how much smaller as the bathroom was huge! I wisely decided against it and just shook my head sideways. He continued:

“Yes my friend. One night when I had finished performing in one of the shows, a pretty young girl came to the actor’s room and asked for me. Her name was Deliverance. She gave me flowers and since then we dated and finally got married. I simply could not resist her from the first time I found out that she was the central bank’s Governor’s daughter. It was simply a dream come true. You know what I mean? A chance to change social circles? But I tell you, it was not easy. No, it was not.”.

He sipped his coffee, dragged on his Havana cigar and looked at me with his eyebrows closing in, “Her father was such a haughty, class conscious son of a female dog. He will not even look at me, me from the bottom of the social ladder! Can you imagine enduring such prejudice and discrimination? I tell you, it was painful”. He paused again as if to recoup the soldiers in a battle.

“But I never gave up. You see, his daughter was his only child and she meant the world to him. I know that I meant the world to her. The rest is as the Spanish say, plain sailing”. He winked at me and gave me the “you-know-what-I-then-did-look”. I returned him the “I-don’t-know-what-you-are-talking-about-look”.

He shook his head vigorously as if disappointed at having considered taking me as his lawyer and exclaimed: “emotional blackmail, of course my friend! I taught Deliverance all the tactics of emotional blackmail- in the name of love, of course - and finally on the night of her staged suicide, he relented and agreed that we should get married. Her father was almost an emotional wreck!”.

He smiled proudly at me and added “I even arranged the reporters and cameramen to be present at the bridge she was supposed to jump. You should have seen the papers! I was on every front page. I was a hero. Every VIP in my country was at my wedding, including the President. Of course, some were talking behind my back…but who cares? I was now one of them….no higher than some of them. And I will be the one sleeping with the Governor’s daughter”.

He leaned back onto the sofa, taking a slow, deep breath and closing his eyes as if to relive and relish every single moment of that past event. What a fatherless creature I have bumped into, the devil in my mind whispered. Some people do take glory in such achievements. I know. While I was contemplating getting miles away from him, I was equally curious to let him finish his story. I needed to know who he really was. So I patiently waited for him to return to the present moment. And for the untrained, patience is foreign.

Then he slowly opened his eyes, had a sip of his coffee and cleared his throat.

“Since then my friend, I never knew the fear of financial insecurity. Truth be told, I cannot even remember what it means to be poor. Deliverance was a good wife. She was instrumental in opening doors that I never dreamed of going through, knowing people, who wouldn’t come near me with a one foot pole. And yes…she gave me an experience of being a father. I have 2 lovely boys and a daughter. All them except the youngest son are very well off today".

"They studied in Juburti, of course?", I asked.

He replied, "Heavens no! Schooled in Harvard and Cambridge, you know. The best. They are set for life”.

He then looked directly at me, posturing his body towards me and in almost a whisper, he said, “Make sure your kids are married into connections. That’s the secret. Either you are elite or not. Middle class are mindless leeches who cannot look beyond their own noses….but don’t tell them that. They are an easily excited bunch given to sensations. They are your stepping stones to success.”

The nerve of this man! How insulting and degrading he can be of the majority. Being middle class myself, my mind was telling me that I should remind him that he has a nose by punching it. But my legal training halted me. Let him talk. Listen.

He got up from the sofa and went to fetch a leather briefcase. I got up too. While walking, he turned around to me and said,” Sit down please”. I replied, “If I do not go, I will have to wet your expensive sofa” and proceeded to the luxurious bathroom. Having answered nature’s short call, I returned to the sofa to find Rasuawahi holding some photographs.

“These are the photos of my family that I took 3 years ago. I have not personally seen them since … only through the webcam.”

I saw a photo of a woman, probably in her 50s with 2 young men and a young lady. The woman was beautiful even at that age. The “kids” looked very polished and upper class. What a lucky fatherless creature this guy is. I was confused with another photo of him embracing a lady, probably in her early 30s.

“Who is this lady?”, I asked.

PART 2 - The Political Marriage

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Science and Mathematics - English or Malay

The controversy surrounding the teaching of maths and science whether in BM or English AMONG the politicians have baffled many thinking Rakyat particularly when one begins to consider the reasons advanced by them. It is indisputable that Bahasa Malaysia is the national language. However, to advance the reason that the teaching of maths and science should be in BM simply because it is the national language is baffling and appears inappropriate.

Secondly, it is even more baffling that the education ministry should be flip-flopping between one policy and another that concerns education. It begs the question: have they not done an in depth study on the matter before? How in the world did they come up with the policy to teach in English earlier?

The other point that baffles me is: is the issue one of education or politics? I ask this question because often times it appears to smell political and that too, dubiously.

I have heard reasons being cited that many students are unable to cope with the subjects in english. Hmm... carbon dioxide is more difficult than karbon dioksida? I can go on but I believe you get the idea. They also say that if it is to improve the English language, then just teach English. Is that a rational basis for teaching the subject in English? What about the more important fact of the references?

My little survey of the issue over the past few years talking to teachers and headmasters seem to suggest that the main obstacle is the quality of the teachers. Apparently, many have not been sufficiently retrained to do the teaching when the switch took place.

It absolutely worries me that even when it comes to education, incompetency of the politicians in these areas rears its ugly head at the expense of the school children and the Nation's future.

Friday, October 10, 2008

BookIntro6: JUDGING THE JUDGES


The author of this book, Dato’ NH Chan was formerly a Court of Appeal Judge. I remember telling my colleagues that every time I appear before him when he was sitting in the High Court; I felt that I was before an English Judge. His demeanor, his English and the way he carried himself on the bench was like an English gentleman Judge. I personally found it a pleasure to appear before him for he was patient, allowed time for questioning the witness and if I am not wrong, his was then the only High Court where you can get instantaneous notes of proceeding because there was a stenographer sitting while the trial is being conducted! So there is minimal room for inconsistencies between the Court’s recording and the lawyers’ recording of what transpired. (I think this should be implemented again in the Courts. Even though it may slow down the proceeding, but justice hastened may lead to justice denied or flawed).

Hence when this gentleman “English” Judge wrote a book I had to read it. I was not disappointed at all because it was written boldly and honestly. He writes that the most important qualification to be a judge is impartiality and the appearance of impartiality. I think the second point is often missed by a few Judges because I suppose as NH Chan points out in his book, Judges are, after all humans. The main aims of the book, among other things is to enable the reader to recognize the many cases in the Malaysian courts in which justice had not been seen to be done, to familiarize the ordinary man of the judge’s craft so that he knows whether a judge has been fair and unbiased in his conduct of the trial and to help the reader differentiate between the good and the bad judges (as written on the back of the book).

I like his style of writing. It is simple and yet does not sacrifice the language. I would rate this book as a must read book by citizens who are interested in the administration of justice, especially the students of law, lawyers and in particular, the judges themselves.

The book is available in major bookshops or you may contact Alpha Sigma Sdn Bhd (Tel: 03-78041672; Fax: 03-78041673). It was first published recently in 2007

Monday, October 6, 2008

Malaysia: Sick Society?

Over the last raya holidays I met several interesting foreigners. One New Zealander who has been here for the past 3 years said something that jolted me. She said that we have a beautiful country, very friendly people, reasonably good development around the Klang Valley, Penang, Malacca and Johor Baru. However, she said that we appear to be a sick society. Sick? What did she mean? Sick as in we are not healthy? In what way?

What do you mean sick? She said; Well, I notice there are great attempts by most Malaysians to appear courteous to each other to the point where I am not sure whether it is real or a put on. Malaysians are easily offended by the “f” word for example but they have no qualms at all about “f…..ing” you in other ways in life.

Come on, I said. This is cultural. We do not condone the “f “ word. It is vulgar. Unnecessary. That’s not fair. “You are missing the point”, she continued, “I am not encouraging the use of the word. What I meant to show is the hypocrisy of many Malaysians”.

“Well, that is human nature is it not?, I replied.

“Not really. You seem to have so much ostensible display of virtues that it just stops there. It never seem to get translated into reality. Example, you get worked up about temple and mosque issues, but hardly anyone really cries out against corruption or even feels that it is a major crime against humanity”.

“Now wait, wait, wait a minute”, I protested, “Even our PM is against corruption. We have been talking about corruption especially for the past 4 years. And…even that Ezam fellow has an anti-corruption body. There are more people being charged now”.

“Wow, politicians against corruption. That’s cool”, she sounded almost sarcastic.

“What’s wrong”, I irrationally retorted.

She interrupted me: “Again you are missing my point. I have spoken to quite a number of Malaysians. They seem to be able to tolerate corruption among the leaders and civil servants. I actually have heard people say, so what if he is corrupt, he is a good leader!”

Well, obviously being a New Zealander with very little room for corruption, she does not seem to understand our tolerance levels. I mean we are not living in Jannah or Nirvana or Heavan or Syurgam . This is earth and in particular, this is Malaysia. Maoris!

Now I went on the attack, trying not to look into her beautiful blue eyes “And that alone makes Malaysians sick?”.

“Thought you never asked. Well what about your talk of loving, caring society, Islamic and Asian values…on the other side you have drug problem, gambling problem as you wrote on your blog, mat rempit problem, high crime rates, and ISA”.

Wow, the last bit was difficult to swallow. How in the world did she manage to slip in ISA? I decided to go for the easier argument:

“Dear, every society have their share of social problems in varying degrees”.

“Yes. True. My point is we do not go around singing songs of how virtuous we are like you Malaysian do. You people seem to have a penchant for slogans, Malaysia boleh. Masyarakat Penyayang and so on. Why so much doubt that you need such reinforcements?”

“And you people cannot take criticism”, she said.

“Oh yes we can”, I replied.

“Friend, you people cannot. I have been told to be polite in criticizing when actually what they meant was that I should sugar coat it. How do you sugar coat that someone is indifferent or hypocritical?”, she asked.

I then had to make a very important, strategic decision. My country's image was at stake. I decided to look into her blue eyes and thereafter her silky brunette hair and said “ How in the world did you get such lovely hair?”. That did it. We spoke about her hair and that saved Malaysia’s image.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chandra Muzaffar: ABOLISH ISA !


Laws alone, whether punitive or preventive, cannot combat communalism. This is a pertinent point to make in view of the recent detention under the ISA of three individuals who were connected in one way or another with situations and circumstances which had communal overtones. From past examples we know that individuals who have been detained under the ISA for “causing ethnic and religious tensions” have seldom changed their positions or attitudes on ethnic issues after their release. Similarly, the law has not been able to prevent the outbreak of ethnic riots such as ‘May 13th’ or the Kampong Medan incident in 2001.

If we have succeeded in maintaining a certain degree of inter-ethnic peace over the years it is not because of the ISA per se. Political power sharing, some scope for dissent, economic growth with equity, a workable public delivery system, and acceptance of religious and cultural diversity have been far more important factors. Rather than apply the ISA, it is the underlying causes of ethnic unhappiness that we should address.

In any case, the ISA, whatever its purported goals, is an unjust law. Since I entered public life in the early seventies, I have consistently advocated its abolition. It denies a human being a fundamental human right: the right to a fair trial. It bestows unfettered powers upon the Executive. It is a law which in its application has been abused right from the outset. If the ISA was meant to fight communist terrorists when it was re-enacted in 1960, how does one explain the detention of the late Burhannuddin al-Helmi or the late Abdul Aziz Ishak during the Tunku’s administration?

It is encouraging to see that more and more people are now coming out against the ISA. When Anwar was arrested under the ISA in 1998, many ordinary Malays for the first time began to oppose the ISA. After Hindraf leaders were incarcerated under the ISA, a significant segment of the Indian community has started to criticize the law. The brief detention of a Chinese journalist who had merely reported a communal speech by a Malay politician that had hurt the Chinese has now triggered widespread condemnation of the ISA within the community. These episodes show how powerful the ethnic emotion is in our country and how intimately linked it is to human rights issues.

It is important to sustain the present momentum against the ISA. We should continue to campaign not only for the release of all those who are now in detention in Kamunting but also for the abolition of the law before it attains its fiftieth birthday!

(Part of Media Statement on October 3, 2008)

Professor Chandra Muzaffar is a political scientist who has authored a number of books on Malaysian politics and society. He is also the president of JUST.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

BookIntro5: FEDERAL CONSTITUTION

This is not a book, really. It is a statute, a law passed by Parliament. The Constitution is the “highest law in the land” in that any other laws that are passed shall not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution. For this reason, it is often said that “the Constitution is supreme”.

The Constitution is an important documents that spells out various matters such as the “Fundamental Liberites”, “Citizenship”, the role and functions of the Federation, the conference of Rulers, relationship between the federation and the States, the judiciary, public services, protections for natives and States of Sabah and Sarawak, elections, etc.

All citizens should have a copy and it is easily available in any bookshop. It is vital to appreciate the important role of the Courts to safeguard the constitutional provisions. After all, in the event of a legal challenge by any citizen, it is the courts that must ultimately interpret the provisions of the Constitution.

The best of laws are useless if the citizen is unaware of it and thus do not protect it.

You can view the Federal Constitution here, but still buy a copy!