Friday, December 31, 2010

Women are inferior to Men ?

Very often we hear that women are actually inferior to men in many ways. They are the "weaker sex", they are impure to the extent that they cause men to "fall from grace" and their rightful task is to be a homemaker.

Today women are oppressed in almost every way - as a human being, as a worker, as a sexual object and so on. Many put this phenomenon down to the assumed "fact" that even in primitive times, women were oppressed. Is this really so?

If you are interested in the issue of whether "womens' inferiority is a myth or a fact, you may want to read further here.

Peace !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Technologically Advanced Primitive Man - Part 1

Image thanks to here.

I liked to visit second-hand book shops when I was a teenager. There were lots of them in Penang along Jalan Macalister.  There were plenty of books of diverse interests and they were cheap. You may also rent them. (Come to think of it, probably people read more books or more quality books back then!) When I was in Form Four, I chanced upon a book titled “Future Shock”. It was a book of about 512 pages thick. I skimmed though the book and recall being both mesmerized and shocked.  I had to have the book but I just brought enough money to rent it. I had to buy it and lucky for me the mamak seller knew me and trusted me to pay him the balance the following week.

I started reading the book at the bus stand while waiting for the bus. I was reading it while standing in the bus and was reading it while walking back to my house. It was for me a book that I cannot put down. It was full of shocking information for the future.  I was simply amazed how the author, Alvin Toffler was able to predict it so logically. Many of the things that he forecasted were of course unforeseeable then in Malaysia. Malaysia did not even have the clues present but I seemed to be taken in by his logic and force of arguments.
I still remember his argument that the most undeveloped aspect of human civilization is communication skills. In his view, this is a very young skill that human beings have acquired. I am afraid, even to this day, he is right. We have yet to develop and let alone understand the mechanics, art, and importance of communication between human beings. Probably, I am inclined to believe that that the other species have relatively better communicative skills and ethics than human beings do. 

In 1976, about the time I bought the book, there was only A&W in Penang and I do not think there was a KFC or a McDonalds then, even in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, Alvin Toffler’s explanation of the “impending society or culture of impermanence” was quite difficult to understand (not impossible for those who do not mind thinking). He proposed the thesis that society is moving towards a society of transience ie that everything in our life is going to be deliberately temporary. Everything here includes not only consumables like houses, disposable items like spoon, cups, etc but also relationships. Friendships will be deliberately short he argued and all this due to the economic philosophy that we will come to embrace (which we now breathe it like it is normal!).  It is amazing how a serious and passionate social scientist can draw accurate conclusions from disposal items. 

He also introduced for the first time in the world (I believe) the concept he called “death of permanence” and that this “shelf life” attitude will become an accepted culture.  This is so true today – youth today define two months as a long period to be in a relationship! Relationships or so-called “friendships” are defined in terms of need rather than attraction due to “chemistry” or sharing of values. Today, you hear everyone who has been in a business relationship or politics introducing the other as a “good friend” so much so the entire basis of friendship has altered under our very noses.

Due to its need based relationships, the relationship itself becomes superficial and hence communication itself becomes superficial and confined to economic needs. This phenomenon is further accelerated by the pressures of living in the current economic and political model which is largely capitalistic – leaves very little time for substantial development of relationships.

Slowly but surely, each and everyone one of us became an economic tool serving an economic function in the capitalist economy.  Hence, we want to “share” business opportunities, want to build a “network of friends” for economic purposes, and so on. Words and concepts that were once reserved for genuine human relationships have now mutated to play prominent roles in the marketplace. Since, business and commerce does not allow for deep reflections on human nature, our communication opportunities are largely confined to the role of surviving in the capitalistic economy. We lose a large part of our communicative potential and in the long run, we lose our sense of human being.

The primitive man is seen as being loyal to his tribe and fearful of other tribes. He lacks the knowledge of science, in particular the biology of the human being. Thus, he may be forgiven if he is tribalistic in his world view.  However, in this so-called technologically advanced society with so-called opportunities for education, information and knowledge, we have greater tribalistic culture and attitudes.  Like the primitive cavemen, we  have no compunctions being cruel to anyone else who does not look like or behave like the members of our tribe. Unlike the cavemen, we use the modern technology to advance primitive ideas and behaviours. Is I  opined earlier, while the physical world may have developed technologically, we as human beings are regressing for many reasons including the fact that we have never focused on developing the "inner" human being. Even our education system is geared towards primarily turning us into income producing tools and loyal servants of the system.  In other words, most of us have become technologically advanced primitive human beings. We still have a herd mentality because of our system that discourages thinking.

It is important for the primitive man to have a leader who can lead the rest of his tribe. The leader is usually one who has most brawn than brain. In a complete primitive tribe, apart from the medicine man, you also have the witch doctor who can spurn 'godly' stories and "protect" the tribe from the "supernatural forces". Such powerful witch doctors are revered because of the ignorance of the tribe members and the superstitions that the tribe as a whole have come to accept. Any one thinking member of the tribe who dares to invite any other member to evaluate or rethink the superstition is quickly dealt with and sometimes with the death penalty. How much of such primitive behaviour has our technologically advanced and "educated" society shed? I see that the technologies are actually being used to further enhance primitiveness.

The physical world around us may have advanced technologically for example, the Ipad, the “latest” technologically advanced phone, the “latest” computer processor, the “latest” car and so on….the human nature however has regressed towards primitiveness. Why do I say so?

Taking from what Alvin Toffler wrote way back in 1976, this deliberate attitude of the capitalists to make sure that all products have a pre-determined shelf life, it seems to have affected our world view without us realizing it. While we allow ourselves to be trapped by the capitalists’ game of being subsumed with things “latest”, we never pause to think that we are being hypnotised to buy things which are not the best.  This is because, the very idea of an engineered shelf life will not allow the best to be produced and marketed! In other words, what is produced is always something of sub-standard so that it can, within a few months, be replaced by something else called the “latest”!  

Commercially of course it makes good profit sense since you literally compel the consumer to forever keep up with the “new products or technology” that has been engineered to be “obsolete” later. The entire motivation is capitalistic – to continue making profits by forcing consumers to keep replacing their products. How does this affect the human psyche anyway you may ask? This and many other factors spurned by our capitalistic fish tank that we live in makes us increasingly superficial human beings.  This ingrains in us the idea of never being satisfied with the physical things that we have. This also develops our ego to be bigger than our brains and makes our self-esteem incumbent upon the “latest thing that we possess”. We start defining ourselves by the things we have OUTSIDE ourselves instead of WITHIN. Superficial appearances become important such that superficiality (in various “new” words) becomes a dominant culture in our lives. Superficiality necessarily means that we tend to regress as human beings back to primitiveness.

Our world view seems to be largely and subtlety shaped by dangerous capitalistic values and demands.  Take the “latest” craze in the corporate world called “branding”. Our political leaders get into the game very quickly welcoming it as the “latest” and sophisticated thinking that can “sell” ideas.  Knowing the shelf life solution mentality of our political leaders, this is not surprising. They have always been unable to think beyond the short term if they can think at all. Coming back to branding, what is it fundamentally? 

Granted that branding allows people to identify and recognize a product. Granted that it has its advantages. Granted that branding does help to sell an idea or a product quickly sometimes.  However, there is a major danger with branding that those few who know are not telling. IN the context of human development, branding simplifies things to an extent that thinking is dispensed with. The very idea of branding is to excite the emotions, the sentiments rather that to provoke the intellect. Branding encourages the notion of generalizations to the point that relevant details become irrelevant. Branding has the capacity and is intended to hide the faults and highlight the merits. IN short, with the kind of excitement people have with this new tool called “branding”, more and more people get dragged into the culture of superficiality. Superficiality sells.  However, it is these kinds of superficial developments that make us regress to primitiveness. 

The cumulative effect of our capitalistic living has actually made us regress into a state of primitiveness. With the so-called technological advances around us, most of us have actually begun to lose the ability to think and think wholesomely.  With the so-called advancements, we have also allowed ourselves to be duped into primitiveness by “new” buzz words that camouflage primitive behaviours.

TO be continued …Part 2

Peace !

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Non-Muslims as Syariah Lawyers???

Dear Webmaster,

1.       1. I wish to comment on this issue to fulfill my academic responsibility and the duty of being transparent with the true facts that are within my personal knowledge. It is not intended to be subjudice but rather an explanation of academic facts and circumstances of which I was a part.

2.       2. I attended the 92nd National Fatwa Council in Melaka recently.  It was clear to me that not all the members had agreed to state definitively that non-Muslims be prevented from practicing as syarie lawyers. Hence, the announcement that the National Fatwa Council had reached a unanimous decision in this matter is untrue.  What transpired was that some of the Council members, including myself, wanted the matter to be studied in detail in accordance with the injunctions in the Al-Quran and Al-Sunnah. It was a premature decision. I had also wanted the paper to be studied at the State Fatwa levels. The paper that was prepared by the JAKIM’s Syariah Research Panel was found to be wanting and lacking in relevant support from the al-Quran dan al-Sunnah. The support or Quranic evidence that was cited in the paper is not directly relevant to the issues under discussion.

3.       3. JAKIM Panel’s paper merely focused on verses that relate to walayah (leadership) that prohibits a Muslim from appointing a non-Muslim as their guardian or helper in their affairs while some of the members and myself are of the view that the matter relates to wakalah (representative), not walayah (leadership). 

4.       4. If the walayah (leadership) verses are used in this instance, then there will chaos in the administration of the Nation in Malaysia. Such Talibanistic and extremist thinking should never be allowed to develop in Malaysia. It will give rise to challenging the validity of appointments such as the Minister, the Chief Secretary of Ministries, the various Department Directors who manage Muslims. Surely chaos will ensue.  It is critical to understand that such chaos will start from “small matters” such as the issue of wakalah (representation) of Non Muslims to be the lawyers for Muslims.

5.       5. In fact, according to the Al-Shafie school (which is the official school of thought in Malaysia), in Kitab Mughni al-Muhtaj, al-Imam al-Sharbini, the renowned ulama who is a constant source of reference, is of the view that a male Muslim can be represented by  a Non-Muslim to handle the divorce of his Muslim wife.  Such views are also held by other ulamas such as al-Dasuqi from the Maliki school and Ibnu Qudamah from the Hanbali school. The Hanafi ulamas are more liberal in this matter. This is the true views of the “jumhur ulama” (majority) in this matter. Only the Shia school does not permit such representation.

6.       6. The issue of legal representation is a worldy matter between human beings. Islamic views on wordly matters between humans is wider and open because it does not concern matters of faith and worship. Hence, Ibnu Qudamah in the al-Mughni is of the view that ‘Ammah Ahli al-‘Ilm (all the ulamas) say that Non-Muslims can represent Muslims on matters between human beings except in certain matters that concern wasiat and wakaf. Such matter should be scrutinized. 

7.       7. The laws of Egypt permit Non-Muslim lawyers to represent Muslims in their Courts. Certainly, the ulamas in Egypt have considered the views of the ulamas earlier mentioned in the interest of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Non-Muslims.  

8.       8. At one time, Malaysia was rocked with the unfortunate tussle over the deceased bodies of persons whose “Islamic status” was in dispute in the civil and the Shariah Courts. AT that time, there were voices that permitted non-Muslims who claim that their deceased relatives belonged to their original religion to seek redress in the Shariah Courts. It was a sigh of relief to note the openness that allowed the Non-Muslim to seek justice in the Shariah Courts. Such openness should be encouraged..

9.       9. Islamic shariah offers justice to everyone. It is the beauty of Islam that it offers mercy to everyone which is not the monopoly of any particular group. Did the Prophet Muhammad not mortgage his shield to a Jew? Didn’t Ali Bin ABi Talib argue his case in the Court against a Jew on the matter of his shield? The Jew was allowed to argue his case in the Islamic Court where Ali Bin Abi Talib lost his case. Is this not a from of legal process and defence in the Islamic Courts that recognizes everyone’s rights? 

10   10. Hence, there is not a single clear authority that prohibits a non-Muslim lawyer from advocating the rights of a Muslim or a non-Muslim in an Islamic Court. All the conjectures and assumptions that there will be adverse effects is a result of prejudice and the attitude of oppressing non- Muslims. 

  11. The assumption that action cannot be taken against the non-muslim syarie lawyer in the event of contempt of court is a technical matter that can be easily resolved by legislation or by making it as a pre-condition of the practicing licence or the contempt proceedings may be transferred to a civil court. 

1   12. If an existing system denies justice, then one should refer to true Islam which offers justice to all. Islam is never wrong! The error lies in the human interpretation that does not want to understand or share Allah’s mercy of justice for all human beings.

Dr Juanda Jaya
20 Disember 2010
Kuching, Sarawak.

1.       Dr Juanda Jaya is the Mufti of Perlis, a member of the National Fatwa Council  and was a visiting fellow at  Oxford University.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Any Fatwa on this - GM Mosquitos ???

We find that our religious authorities and/or the religious "scholars" are very quick to pass fatwas on many things - yoga, women dressing up in "men's clothes", even bollywood movies are not spared.

We have something even more fundamental and radical - tampering with "God's creation" here.

The EDGEMALAYSIA reported that genetically modified mosquitoes (GM Mosquitoes) are going to be released in Bentong and Melaka on a trail basis. The idea, if I understand it is to allow male mosquitos who have an enzyme altered in them to mix with the female and this will eventually, somehow cause the female mosquitos unable to fly. The purpose it is stated is to tackle dengue. This is a joint venture project between the Health Ministry and an UK private company. (Has anyone read this in the mainstream media? I have not!)

The EDGEMALAYSIA reports that this has caused major concern among scientists and environmentalists. They are concerned that tampering with man's greatest enemy - the mosquito - could cause unintended consequences. Even the well known Malaysia's number one consumer issues advocate S.M. Idris has expressed concern.

Of course the private company says it is safe. And the research arm of the Health Ministry is convinced of the high tech nature of the operation. But those who are concerned are asking: if it is so safe, why do the testing in Malaysia and not in other countries where many more are actually dying from mosquitos?

Even I am worried !

What do the religious authorities say? A fatwa please.

Peace !

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perkembangan dalaman PKR membuat orang menilai PAS.

Saya agak terkejut juga apabila diberitahu bahawa beberapa orang menilai PAS ekoran perkembangan dalaman PKR yang signifikan ini. Perkara ini anih kerana mereka tidak lah begitu menilai PKR seperti mana mereka menilai PAS. Bukan kah perkembangan dalam PKR mengharuskan mereka menilai PKR?

Pendirian orang seperti ini ialah: mereka dahulu nya menyokong Pakatan Rakyat, termasuk PKR kerana mereka tidak gemar dengan pemerintahan kerajaan BN di bawah Tun Abdullah Badawi.  Mereka ini adalah diantara pengundi yang telah memberi sokongan besar kepada BN dalam tahun 2004 kerana terpanggil dengan imej “Mr Clean” Pak lah ketika itu. Namun, selepas itu, mereka mula khuathir dengan kelemahan pentadbiran Pak Lah dan sentiment benci kepada BN semakin meningkat sehingga mereka mengundi sesiapa sahaja yang bukan BN. Ini tidak bermakna mereka menyokong PKR kerana ia nya PKR. Mereka menyokong mana-mana parti Pakatan kerana ia nya bukan BN.

Ketika itu juga, beberapa individu daripada NGO turut serta sebagai calon pilihan raya PKR dimana mereka ini di lihat sebagai berupaya membawa angin reformasi dan akan kurang berpolitik. Pada masa yang sama, kebanyakkan pergerakkan sibil bersama Pakatan Rakyat. Begitu juga, ramai blogger-blogger menampakkan sentiment anti-BN. Kesemua factor-faktor ini lah yang membawa kepada mereka menyokong Pakatan Rakyat sehingga PR Berjaya menguasai 5 negeri. 

Dari sudut pandangan ini, maka jelas sekali bahawa bukan lah karisma “Pemimpin Agung” yang tidak pernah diuji dengan pertandingan yang menarik mereka untuk menggundi PKR.  Mereka sedar bahawa pemimpin Agung ini tidak pernah memberanikan diri untuk bertanding dan dilantik secara sah oleh penggundi. Walaupun tidak pernah bertanding, namun tiba-tiba, tanpa pengetahuan sesiapa, ianya dilantik sebagai ketua umum – satu jawatan yang anih dalam sisitem demokrasi. Mereka sedar bahawa parti yang tidak mengamalkan demokrasi dalam proses membuat keputusan dalaman parti berada ditahap kesangsian sebagai parti yang boleh memelihara demokrasi diperingkat nasional. Pendek-kata, mereka ini memberi peluang “probation” kepada PKR untuk membuktikan bahawa mereka boleh melepasi budaya “UMNO yang lama” memandangkan kebanyakkan pegawai atasan PKR adalah daripada acuan “UMNO lama”.

Mereka mengatakan bahawa UMNO Najib pun sudah amat berbeza dangan UMNO Pak Lah, namun PKR menampakkan cirri-ciri negatif yang selama ini disaspek sebagi wujud dan semakin terbukti ianya memang wujud.

Berdasarkan pemikiran sedemikian, krisis dalaman PKR tidak membawa mereka untuk menilai PKR. Krisis PKR hanya mengiyakan kecurigaan mereka terhadap parti PKR. Sebaliknya, PAS adalah parti yang telah wujud sekian lama dan perjuangannya agak jelas, walaupun pendekatan nya semakin berbeza sejak PR. Memang ramai yang menilai dan menganalisa PAS sejak ia bergabung dengan Pakatan Rakyat yang masih belum di daftar sebagai satu entiti sah di sisi undang-undang seperti BN. 

Kedah dan Kelantan dianggap sebagai Negeri dibawah pemerintahan PAS manakala Pulau Pinang dianggap sebagai Negeri dibawah pentadbiran DAP. Selangor dianggap dibawah PKR. Negeri-negeri lain dianggap sebagai dibawah pemerintahan Barisan Nasional. Ini lah kelainannya – negeri-negeri tidak dilihat sebagai dibawah pentadbiran Pakatan Rakyat tetapi dibawah parti politik tertentu. JIka ini merupakan persepsi umum, maka penggundi masih tidak yakin dengan apakah halatuju dan polisi sepakat Pakatan Rakyat – kalau ada.

Mengapa PAS dinilai? PAS dinilai oleh penganalisa penggundi kerana ia dakwa perjuangan nya berlandaskan Islam.  Penggundi bukan Melayu sudah tentu khuatir berkaitan dengan peranan mereka dan kebajikan mereka dibawah pentadbiran “Islam PAS” kerana konsep “Negara Islam” PAS sehingga hari ini masih kabur. Perkara yang jelas ialah “Negara Islam” PAS mengutamakan memperundangkan fahaman PAS terhadap apa yang dinamakan sebagai “hokum-hukum hudud”. Anih nya, penganalis Melayu dan Muslim yang mengambil Islam sebagai Addeen secara serius juga khuatir mengenai “Islam PAS” dan pendekatan nya dalam merealisasikan fahaman mereka.  Diantara sebab-sebab yang boleh diutarakan ialah:

1.      1.  Memandangkan PAS adalah parti politik adakah ia akan bersikap menindas terhadap khilafiah dalam ilmu serta kefahaman Islam? Adakah mereka yang mempunyai fahaman yang berbeza akan dihukum dengan undang-undang yang akan digubal?

2.  2. Haruskah penggundi memberi kuasa politik nasional kepada sebauh parti yang akan menggubal undang-undang yang akan memaksa setiap Muslim menuruti fahaman Islam mereka?

3.       3. Melihat kepada Negara-negera lain dimana parti politik yang beteraskan agama berkuasa, wujud pelbagai masalah antara penganut agama yang sama serta penindasan kerana fahaman berbeza di politikkan. Keganasan juga berleluasa kerana emosi agama.

4.       4. Selepas bergabung dengan PR, parti PAS telah mengambil tindakan-tindakan yang amat bercanggah dengan pendirian nya sebelum ini. Sebagai contoh, satu ketika dahulu pemimpin Agung dicerca dengan tidak adil tetapi hari ini mereka seperti anak kembar yang tidak boleh dipisah. Perkara sedemikian membuat penggundi bertanya samada PAS juga mampu mengorbankan prinsip nya demi kuasa politik.

5.       5. Walaupun PAS berpolitik atas landasan agama, namun, kemelayuan nya lebih tertera daripada “KeIslaman” nya. Ada beberapa pengundi Muslim yang saya temui bertanya: tidak adakah mana-mana Muslim bukan Melayu yang layak sebagai pemimpin atasan PAS? Pakaian-pakaian yang meniru budaya “Arab”, yang satu ketika dahulu mudah diterima sebagai melambangkan Islam, tidak lagi hari ini dikalangan mereka yang berpengetahuan.

6.      6. Kelantan sehingga hari ini tidak menampakkan sesuatu yang boleh dibanggakan di Malaysia atau di Asean walaupun didakwa sebagai serambi mekah di bawah pentadbiran “Islam”. Perkara seperti ini juga membuat mereka yang berpengetahuan kritis terhadap penterjemahan Islam PAS yang dilihat sebagai condong hanya kepada hukuman, hudud dan segala yang berbau Arab.

7.       7. Sejak merdeka sehingga kehari ini, tidak pernah pun ada satu kaji atau muktamar PAS yang membincangkan keharmonian undang-undang di Negara ini diantara sibil dan “syariah”. Sebaliknya PAS di lihat sebagai kurang idea selain daripada meniru apa-apa undang-undang yang di label sebagai “syariah” dinegara-negara lain. Apkah system lampu tarfik itu kurang Islamik kerana tidak dilabelkan Al-Nur Al-Trafik atau Akta Kontrak bukan Islamik?  Semua ini menakutkan bagi sebuah parti yang telah wujud lebih daripada 50 tahun!

PAS begitu pantas dalam mengeritik UMNO (memang sepatutnya bila berasas!), namun berdiam diri apabila perkara yang lebih teruk di amalkan oleh PKR.

Begitu banyak perkara yang telah berlaku dalam PKR. PKR kini seolah-olah berevolusi menampakkan dirinya yang sebenar dan apa yang tampak tidak lah begitu baik bagi Negara. Dalam suasana sedemikian juga nampaknya PAS lebih rela bermain politik daripada berkhidmat kepada Negara serta meneruskan pendidikan rakyat.

Pada saya, diantara parti-parti politik yang ada dinegara ini, selain UMNO, PAS merupakan parti yang mantap dari segi strukturnya. Maka, amat sedih sekali sekiranya PAS mahu mengorbankan segala usahanya sekian lama dengan permainan politik yang penggundi sendiri dapat lihat.

Ramai sahabat-sahabat saya dalam PAS. Diantara mereka ada yang benar-benar berjuang untuk rakyat dan berjuang berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip yang diajar oleh AL-Quran. Namun, seperti mana juga UMNO, dalam PAS pun ada juga terlalu banyak dinasour-dinasour dengan fahaman taqlid mereka yang tidak membenarkan penterjemahan lain dalam perjuangan. Ini akan memudaratkan PAS dalam usaha nya menjadi sebuah parti nasional. Selagi PAS tidak berani membenarkan penterjemahan selain fahaman dinasour mereka, selagi itu lah PAS akan tinggal sebagai parti peringkat negeri sahaja.

Salam !

What kind of politician is Zaid Ibrahim exactly?

The whole of last week, some of the people I met have been asking this question - who is Zaid exactly? He was given a position in Tun Abdullah Badawi's cabinet and then he resigned over his views regarding ISA. They argued that he could have just stayed in the cabinet had he wanted a cabinet post to warm. He didnt really have to resign and then join PKR, of all the party, which everyone knows belongs to whom.

But he did join PKR with promises of reform from the party that has been crying "reformasi" from the day the unelected leader was in trouble politically and legally. PKR leaders welcomed him as hero into thier party and in fact even nominated him to stand for election in Hulu Langat. Even then, there were murmurs of tension between him and Azmin Ali. Of course he lost and one wonders if he had won, would the current PKR party elections be any different?

His party election campagain from day one, some say, was politically not savyy. He was not doing what politicians should - do not touch on real reform issues. As everyone has seen, PKR elections was alleged to be anything but democratic, transparent and fair. Even officials within PKR itself asked for the elections to be nullified. In the midst of these events, Zaid Ibrahim pulled out from the race leaving Azmin Ali to win hands down.

Now Zaid Ibrahim has gievn notice to resign from PKR alleging that the party is not reform orientated but lives to serve the interests of one person - the great leader, as he said in a press conference.

Once again, people ask - if Zaid was into politics for the sake of politics, wouldnt he have just stayed in the PKR party. Maybe he will be given some party post and some party function to perform. Some allege that he is ambitious. At 60 plus, you may be in a hurry to accomplish things that you deem important. Couldnt Zaid Ibrahim be serious about wanting a political party that is serious about reforms and less concerned with politics? It is possible that people who are tired of political parties that are more concerned with partisan politics rather than the Nation may just support him.

It will be interesting to watch what Zaid Ibrahim will be up to the coming months. It will be more interesting to see how the general public will react to him. Such a scenario has never happened before in our country. This could just be another significant event in our country towards general political maturing. Or it could be another mere political event.

What do you think?


Thursday, November 18, 2010


The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) warmly welcomes the release of Aung San SuuKyi, the world’s most famous political prisoner, from house arrest on 13 November 2010.

Imprisoned for 15 out of the last 21 years by a military junta which has suppressed the people’s struggle for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, SuuKyi has emerged as an enduring, universal symbol of the eternal quest for freedom. Her indomitable courage and her unwavering perseverance have won accolades from individuals and groups all over the world. What is remarkable about her commitment to her cause is her ability to retain her dignity and her integrity in the face of formidable odds.

There is much speculation on why the junta set her free. Since a political party spawned by the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)             won a farcical election by a huge margin a few days ago, the regime may have felt that its position is secure enough to release SuuKyi. On the other hand, given widespread allegations of electoral fraud, her release may also be a way of refurbishing the regime’s tattered public image. It is also true that for some years now, Myanmar’s ASEAN partners and even its close ally, China, have been quietly cajoling the regime to end SuuKyi’s incarceration. 

Whatever the reasons, JUST hopes that her freedom will not be short-lived. She was released in 1995, after six years in detention. Then in 2000 she was arrested and imprisoned again for two years. After a brief spell of freedom, she was imprisoned for a third time in 2003. She remained in prison or under house arrest for the next seven years.  ASEAN governments and China should go all out to dissuade the military junta from detaining SuuKyi again. 

To prove that it is sincere about SuuKyi’s release, the junta should set free the 2,200 political prisoners languishing in jails in different parts of the country. It should also begin to relax its iron grip upon the media and allow social groups to exercise a degree of autonomy in their evaluation of the regime’s governance. Myanmar’s monks should also be given some latitude to act as the nation’s conscience.

SuuKyi would certainly want to encourage the regime to move in this direction.  In this regard, she should be more strategic than she has been in the past. While holding on to her principles, she should act in such a manner that the regime will have no excuse to abrogate her freedom or to tighten even further its hold upon society.

Let SuuKyi’s freedom this time pave the way for the eventual liberation of the people of Myanmar.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)


14 November 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The People never wanted any fundamental reforms !!!

I told this to my friends many times over the years: real and fundamental reforms cannot happen in this country because Malaysians in general do not have the will to make it happen. There has never been a real people’s movement in this country since independence. If the citizens of this country do not have the will to WANT to make fundamental reforms, how can it ever happen?

We like to make the mistake of thinking that a mere mass assembly of people is a people’s movement. One example is the “Semarak Rakyat” during the Mahathir era which swept the country during the so called constitutional crisis. True, that was the first of such ‘movement’ since independence where we have the Prime Minister addressing crowds of people at open assemblies.  This was however completely politically orchestrated by strong political parties. Much of the attendance at these assemblies was orchestrated too. It was also meant to address only one issue – political power versus royal power.  So in this sense, it cannot be considered as a “people’s movement” though it was politically very clever of the political masters of that time.

The second often quoted so-called movement was the “reformasi movement” since the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim from UMNO. True again, it was also the first time since independence that many Malays took to the streets to protest against the Government.  I will say that it did have an impact on Malay political activity in the sense that for the first time, Malays were willing to go against their Malay political leaders. I consider those “street demonstrations” a new phenomenon in Malay political activity post independence. It has also left an indelible shock wave through the UMNO party which I believe UMNO has yet to fully recover to date.   The impact of the “Anwar sacking” and his subsequent charge on the first sodomy case appeared to have affected UMNO’s balance in a way that Semangat 46 could not.   Even PAS and UMNO as two independent Malay political parties did not bring about such a drastic impact on the Malay’s perspective of political activity and perception. 

Maybe, these events lead to Malay political maturity about race-based politics and its effectiveness because these events, rightly or wrongly, brought about the perception that there is no guarantee that your own race will not suppress you if politically necessary. Obviously, those on the side of Anwar Ibrahim, being former UMNO members felt betrayed by their own UMNO members.  PKR, which was born directly out of Anwar’s episode had to be pragmatically multi-racial because it did not receive or was not able to garner the overt support many of the UMNO and PAS members. I think politics would have been totally different today for PKR had PKR been largely Malay or had succeeded in wooing members from PAS and UMNO in large droves.  However, the main objective of PKR, as perceived, in the early days was to secure the release of Anwar Ibrahim. A new political party, like the bus, will have many passengers with their own directions and destination points. But I have digressed and this point may be discussed at another date.

I was going to talk about the people’s movement and why we may never have fundamental reforms in our society. I have to conclude on the above discussion by saying that neither events like the “semarak” or “Anwar’s reformasi via the PKR” can be considered as a people’s movement. 

There were however semblances of “people’s movements” in this country like the “Bersih campaign” and the “Lawyer’s walk”. These were two unprecedented events where the ordinary citizen took part without any cajoling, force or payment. Once again, the objective of these two events was very limited to specific objectives and it did not really succeed in firing up the imagination of the general citizen to pursue the issues canvassed. 

For a people’s movement to arise, the people themselves must have the will to want to have fundamental reforms. For them to want reforms, they must know the following:

1.      1. The fundamental flaws of our existing system – for this to happen, there must be an environment of knowledge and discussion;

2.      2.  There must know that alternative ways of doing things are available and possible;

3.       3. They must feel the injustice or the inefficiency of the system and be less tolerant of the same;

4.      4.  They must understand or be made to understand that often they are being made use of as pawns on the political chessboard by the existing crop of politicians;

5.       5. They must see beyond their own selfish, narrow interests and learn that their indifference to larger things in society will hurt them or their future generations one day. 

6.       6. That no fundamental reforms in human history has ever been achieved without sacrifices of energy, time and wealth.

7.      7.  That what they do or do not do today will affect the well being of tomorrow.

Generally, I believe that we, as a society, are far away from possessing the above 7 characteristics. We are a Third world country that has developed but has still retained the third world mentality of non interference in National affairs. However, we fail to see that national affairs have a direct bearing on our daily lives, especially so in the long run. It is such “national indifference”, apathy’ ignorance and “fear” that will prevent us, the People, from bring about fundamental reforms in our country.

Lacking the will to bring about fundamental reforms, we develop a culture of “fire-fighting” and ad hoc measures. I find it extremely sad that we waste huge resources in developing fire-fighting measures only to spend more resources to put out more fires resulting from the expiry of the shelf life of the earlier fire-fighting measure! We are content to be a Nation of ad-hoc solutions without any concern for long term National goals and vision. Hence, we also end up having “cosmetic” reforms and reforms that cannot work because the system as a whole is not ready or capable of absorbing or sustaining such a reform. For example, the best of reforms in bringing about a “corruption free system” will fail if the factor of the corrupt human being who is tasked with implementing the system is not addressed. It will be like asking the cat to guard the fish. The cat must either be asked to go and replaced or be rehabilitated, if possible.  

In the absence of the general will of the People to seek fundamental reforms, there are pockets of individuals or groups of Raperas who relentlessly try to seek fundamental reforms through their modest means. Sadly, however, even the efforts of these groups and individuals do not receive the kind of support from the people that they deserve. There many public interest non-governmental organizations, and individuals who are selflessly trying to make life better for all of us. We need to seek them out and provide our energy to strengthen their struggles.

For fundamental reforms to happen, I believe we must first of all get out of our current political understanding and perspectives (for those who find understanding very difficult). This, in itself is a major challenge because most people do not like to revisit their understanding of anything in their lives. It is this trait of Malaysians that is fully understood and capitalized upon by our current crop of politicians so that each of them can simply keep rewinding their own slogans and vision statements. We do not seem to realize that they are actually determining our values for us without even us having to evaluate them. The self-oppressive values become as normal as breathing.

It should be clear that if we are unwilling to re-evaluate our current political understanding, then we can never bring about any reforms. This is because our current political understanding is confined to the activities and thoughts of the currently existing political parties and we all know what they stand for and what they have achieved.  

Are we happy with any of them? If not, do we expect them to radically reform or change? This answer cannot be accurately answered without first realizing that there is a big difference between the political government and the administrative government (civil service). The political government is the political party that forms the “government of the day”. For example, politically, Malacca is BN government while Penang is PR government. Administratively, is there any change in the state civil service of the two? The civil service is largely on auto pilot where it matters most to the people’s daily lives.

A creative, reform minded and energetic political government will give people benefitting direction and vision to the administrative government. That’s the critical difference.  The manner in which the administrative government functions will also be influenced by the culture and values of the political government. Hence, though the civil service is almost on auto pilot, its integrity and level of efficiency will, to a large extent, be influenced by their political masters.

Therefore, it is extremely crucial that you evaluate the political masters that you want to put in the seat of political power.  You can only do this wisely if you are prepared to think outside or alternative to your current understanding of politics.

Peace !