Archive for the ‘nation-building’ Category

Lim Kit Siang nabbed at the airport

June 28, 2007

LKS Series # 3

 

Dear Sir

 Re: Hello Lim Kit Siang. (28  years old). On 13th May 1969, where art thou? 

The 1969  May 13th   racial riots started from the house of  the then Menteri Besar, Dato Harun Idris. The house was in Princes Road ( Jalan Raja Muda). Half a kilometre away, at Fook Chuen Mansions, Batu Road ( Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman ) was the office of the then Secretary General of the Democratic Action Party, Mr Goh Hock Guan.*. He was and still is a Chartered Architect and Town Planner practising under the name of M/s Goh Hock Guan and Associates.

 

Prior to 13th May  1969, LKS  was a political  Liliputian. He was the DAP National  Organising Secretary and the Editor of The Rocket** then.  His first  political debut projected to the Malaysian public was his  participation in the “ Great Cultural Debate” between the DAP and the Gerakan which took place before the General Elections of 1969. At that point in time Gerakan was in the Opposition. After the 13th May riots, Gerakan joined the Alliance to form the Barisan, until today. The debate was held at the MARA Auditorium which was at Batu Road, Kuala Lumpur.

 

When the ethnic riots started on 13th May 1969,  LKS was in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. A political novice, untried with no credentials to back him up. He was campaigning for the independent candidates there. Fellow members of the DAP in Petaling Jaya called LKS on the phone asking him not to come back to Kuala Lumpur for his own safety until such a time when  things cooled down. (Official fiqures:190 plus, Malaysians killed.)

 

LKS in his maiden political quest for justice, freedom, upholding of democracy and an equal right to happiness, dignity and fulfillment in life,  was already under the “protective” custody of the KK police. He replied that he “ is going back to Kuala Lumpur immediately and is not afraid to DIE for his political convictions” — all for a better life for all Malaysians. There was no choice. He had to martyr himself. There was no alternative. However, in case his life was spared, LKS was prepared to face any charges that the Alliance Government will bring up and charge against him.

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Flights between East and West Malaysia was suspended.  Also at that point in time there was no direct flight between Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. LKS took the first flight out of KK to Singapore en route to KL on 15th May 1969. He had to stopover in Singapore.  

When he was in Singapore, he had many friends and supporters to discuss the racial riots and its consequences on opposition members. Anything can happen. There was no guarantee on his safety. LKS was adamant that it was his sacred duty to go back to KL.

 

He took the first available flight to Subang International Airport ( now Sultan Abdul Aziz Airport ) on 18th May 1969. He boarded the plane at the Paya Lebar International Airport, Singapore The  plane took off for KL.

 

While airborne, all of a sudden, LKS found that he was now alone. Alone to face the music. He cannot turn back then, unless of course the pilot turned the plane around. Samuel Taylor Coleridge can describe him as:-

“Alone alone, all all alone

Alone on a wide wide sea

And never a saint took pity on his soul in agony” – in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

                                                                                  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

The airborne mariner cannot change his mind then. Can he call for help? Call who? Call the CIA?. Call the FBI? Call the KGB?. Call MI 5?. Call OSS?. Call Chin Peng?. Call Chen Tian?. ( there were no mobile phones then)

 

Lim Kit Siang believed that he was going to be eliminated. On this last home coming  flight,   he  decided  to write a  last  letter to his wife – a homemaker. He asked his wife to be strong, to  expect  the EXPECTED and  to  bring up the four children.***.  To LKS, the demise of LKS is NOT important. The Political Future of Malaysians and the Future of Malaysia ARE of Paramount Importance. Malaysia MUST GO ON!  The letter was physically handed to the flight stewardess for posting. But it was without a stamp. Until today the letter was not delivered.  

The curfew was on. There were  lots of soldiers around the Subang Airport  then. They were there guarding the airport and to PROBABLY “welcome” home  in a formal reception “ceremony” for Mr Lim Kit Siang. All the soldiers’ SLR rifles were on a horizontal level. Their forefingers were just glazing the side of the trigger, in preparation to shoot at any time.

 

The moment of truth had arrived. The stage was set. The grand finale was about to begin. LKS came into  the arrival  hall. The atmosphere was unexceptionally quiet. Nobody was talking. The silence was deafening. It was tense and solemn because everybody were expecting the arrival of the Yang Berhormat,  the DAP MP for Bandar Malacca (now Kota Melaka). LKS was no fugitive. LKS, a young, non violent, non belligerent man, stepped out of the arrival hall. A group of Special Branch Officers  and soldiers with their horizontal SLRs “greeted” him. LKS need not hail a taxi for his transport to KL. There were no taxis anyway. There was also NO shooting.

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On his journey to the High Street Police Station, LKS saw for himself the senseless carnage, atrocities, plunder and destruction. Smoke can still be seen from houses which were torched. After a few days of detention in the High Street Police Station, LKS was  sent   to a Police Station in Kuala Selangor, Selangor. 

                   

Prior to 13-05-69, Dato Dr Ismail (later Tun), left the Government. He joined back the Government immediately after 13-05-69. The first words he said was “Democracy is Dead”.  As the Minister of Internal Security, Dato Ismail signed the Detention Order on LKS. LKS was then sent to the Muar Detention Camp. He was entitled to free food and lodging for the next 18 months at taxpayers’ expense. Ironically, Muar was 32 miles away from LKS home. His house is in Batu Pahat,  Johore

The Internal Security Act is an Act of Parliament formulated to suppress the communist insurgency and to arrest the communists at that period of time. Ironically, the PAP’s ( later DAP) Member of Parliament for Bungsar (now Bangsar) , Mr Devan Nair supported the ISA Bill earlier then.****. It is detention without trial.

 

While under detention LKS was appointed the 3rd  National Secretary General of the DAP (in absentia). There was a vacancy. The appointment was necessary because somebody had  disappeared  but  can be found in another country. He stayed put in that country then. “ I am NO LIM KIT SIANG.  If  I  go back  then,  all of you will be deprived of a Great Leader”.    The vacancy was filled. LKS  held  the  post of  National Sec-Gen  till 1999.

 

LKS could have absconded while in Singapore. ( Singapore was given independence by Malaysia in 1965). He could have asked for political asylum in another country. He could have been an MP in exile. He was and is a true loyal Malaysian Citizen. With guts, he went back to the hornet’s nest – “a river of no return”,  says Marilyn Monroe. Sorry. My apologies. He was and is  still in one piece. He was never charged in open court then. He will still be around for many years to come.

 

Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once”—Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

Again sorry lah Kit, (as he is fondly known as).  We do realise that, the particular effective organ that is part of your anatomy is your gift of  the gap – a non lethal instrument. Now we know you are battle hardened. In spite of your tireless, relentless political pursuit, vocal, articulate or otherwise, until today, matters have become from bad to worst. True, “That All Men Are Born Equal but then some selectives are more equal than others—Abraham Lincoln’s version for  2nd class citizens.

 

LKS was again detained, the 2nd time in 1987, (after the 1986 General Election)  under the Mahathir Administration. He got free curry lunch, lodging, bed and breakfast again for another 18 months, on the auspicious pleasure of the host — the Barisan Government ala taxpayers. Again  no charges were brought against him. Can somebody name me a similar Malaysian likewise?

                                                                 

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Somebody say LKS only NATO ( No action, talk only). If that is the case, let him talk! We like to hear him talk. Why detain him to stop him from talking? You are hitting below the belt. Do you want him to talk on what you like to hear and then stop him from talking on what you don’t like to hear? But at the same time you go on talking and talking on what we don’t like to hear! (Editor: hahah…that’s a good one! )

 

Finally, a belated sincere tribute must be made to the powers that be, at that critical, predatory point of time. LKS’s life was spared. The expected was not performed. The expected was unexpected – so to speak! Had LKS, the political apprentice left us to join the happy hunting ground, he will be forgotten. Nobody will raise an eyelid after all:-

                                                                      

“When beggars die, no comets are seen.

The heavens blaze forth the marriage of princes  Julius Caesar,  William Shakespeare’s

                                                                                 modern version

The powers that be was still rational then. Maybe its was mercy.

  

The quality of mercy is not strained

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

The Merchant of Venice. William Shakespeare                                                           

                                                                      

So to the players of  May the 13th, I am wishing a belated words of  thanks. To Whom It May Concern.  Thank You Very Much  for the fact that we still have LKS around. Say what we like. We argue.  We are all still Malaysian Citizens. We are born here. Do you want to deprive LKS  of his citizenship like Mr Lim Lean Geok ? By the way LKS is local born and can be classified as a Baba and his wife a Nonya. He is more Malaysian than  a bigger number of Malaysians put together!

Finally, we reiterate that we are all peace loving citizens. Some say we are citizens “by default”. This is subjective and debatable. Supposing we ARE citizens by default, we are still citizens, maybe 2nd class citizens or otherwise.

 

To all Malaysian mankind:-

He loveth best, who loveth best, both man and bird and beast.

He loveth well, who loveth well, for all things both great and small

For the dear God who loveth us, he made and loveth all.”  

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s moral message to humanity especially to Malaysian humans.                                                                                              

The writer notes that after the riots of 13th May 1969, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dato Abdul Razak (later Tun) set up  The National Operations Council. Parliament was suspended after all “Democracy is Dead”. Looking after this NOC, was Dato Ghazali Shafie (later Tun).                                                             4

Incidentally, the 3rd man in ranking, in  the  NOC  then, was a slim, serious, handsome, no nonsense looking man – a politically unknown then.  He was probably the “executive secretary” of the NOC. He literally commanded the day to day operations of the NOC —  hands on. He was already a “Chief Executive Officer” and “Prime Minister” then, way back during 1969.  He looked familiar and was identical  towards  a former school mate of mine from my Alma Mater : Methodist Boys School, Penang. My school mate’s  name was and is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

 

Lastly, to all the participants of May the 13th that are not indicted including Lim Kit Siang. All are still executives of  liberty,  happy,  free from all encumbrances and despotic control. All will live happily ever after including LKS.

                                                                    

* Mr Goh Hock Guan was the 2nd DAP Secretary General (1968 to 13th May 1969). Mr Goh’s  sister, Ms Phyllis Goh was an architect undergraduate then and was a college mate of the writer.

In 1969, the writer was staying above the office of M/s Goh Hock Guan & Associates at Fook Chuen Mansions at Batu Road, Kuala Lumpur. He had a 1st Class ring side seat cum an On Line, Real Time bird’s eye view of the May 13th story.

   

** Lim Kit Siang was the 1st DAP National Organising Secretary and Editor of The Rocket. (1966 to 1969).

Lim Kit Siang was appointed the 3rd  DAP Secretary General (1969 – 1999) – the longest serving DAP Sec Gen.

   

*** As at 13th May 1969, Lim Kit Siang has four children then. The eldest is a son 9 years old then. He is Lim Guan Eng,  the  present day  Secretary General of the DAP.  An Australian Graduate of  Monash University, he is an Accountant by profession.

 

The second child is a daughter. She was 7 years as at 13th May 1969. She hold a double degree – in law and in accountancy.

 

The third child is also a daughter. She was 6 years old as at 13th May 1969. She is a B.A degree holder.

 

The last and fourth child is a son. He was 3 years old as at 13th May 1969. He is a heart specialist. A few years ago, I understand that he was attached to the IJN (Institut Jantung Negara) as a cardiologist.

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****

PAP is the People’s Action Party of Singapore which was already ruling Singapore in 1964.

                                                                 

Mr Devan Nair was  born in Malacca on the 8th of August 1923. He was the main organizer and founder of the DAP. Naturally he became the 1st Secretary General of the DAP ( 1966 – 1968). He stood as a PAP ( later DAP) candidate in Bungsar in the 1964 General Election. Winning this Bungsar seat, he became the Member of Parliament for PAP in  the 1964 – 1969 parliamentary session. From 1981 to 1985 he was appointed  the President of Singapore. Dr Chen Man Hin, the present day DAP Life Advisor said “ Without him the DAP may not be born”.

 

The writer at 18 years old, campaigned for Mr Devan Nair during 1964 General Election. His son Janadas (now Ph D) recalled the days when he was small boy as at 1964. He remembered an incident when the writer was nearly apprehended by  the police when the writer put up a  2nd  political banner at the Railway Station  KL  prior to the 1964 General Elections. The setting up of the 1st banner was earlier accomplished at the flyover, beside the KL Railway Station. The banner says “ Vote  PAP – a  Non Communist  Democratic Socialist Party”. The writer then was able to outwit, out manoeuvre and  run away from the  police in  a  busy  KL  because he was young,  agile and  was on a portable bicycle! 

Dr Jana (as he is known to me) who is now residing in Canada. He was here  on  2006 during the DAP Devan Nair Memorial. We recalled the good old days.

 

The writer deliberately put in the names of the literary writers because of requests from the younger readers.

 

AKAN DATANG

Watch out for

1)  Dr Lim Kit Siang.

2) “Lim Kit Siang – 18 months after 13th May 1969” in the coming episodes.

3) Lim Kit Siang an opportunist and an agent of UMNO?

  

Yours truly,

  

James Bond Zero Zero One

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May 13 and a comment by Dr Collin Abraham

May 30, 2007
“Within two days the membership of the Council was announced but perhaps one of the greatest political tactical errors was the MCA’s decision not to accept any cabinet posts. While it was understandable that the party should abdicate from its traditional partnership with Umno in the Alliance, (because of the massive defeat of its candidates in the general election), withdrawal meant that Umno had a free hand to push ahead the bumiputera position in the New Economic Policy without Chinese opposition.” Dr Collin Abraham

 May 13 and beyond (Pt 1)

Dr Collin Abraham
May 28, 07 12:06pm
Malaysiakini 
The May 13th race riots cannot be understood as an isolated event but as the cumulative convergence of historically determined disruptive political and social forces that were perpetuated and developed over a period of time.These involved contributory and precipitating causes that have to do with the acquisition, discrimination and abuse of political power, and which came to a head in the post-independence period.Indeed, in place of nation-building efforts, there was already the breakdown of law and order in Kuala Lumpur, such that May 13th itself has even been described at least by one observer as a “blessing in disguise” because it finally resulted in the lawless situation in Kuala Lumpur being brought under control. (Raja Petra: Malaysia Today, April 9, 2007). 

The contributory causes need to be recognised. First, the root cause can be traced to the Federation of Malaya Agreement itself, the first piece of post-war legislation promulgated by the British colonial government which failed to provide any semblance of political stability because the constitutional status of the different racial groups was not negotiated in consultation with the legitimate representatives of the respective communities.

The innate characteristic of powerlessness was thereby initiated and allowed to be perpetuated right into the post-colonial period. The two groups most representative of the Malays, the Nationalist Party and the Islamic factions walked out of Umno and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) which was the only party with predominant Chinese membership (that collaborated with the British in Force 136) was not invited to participate in the negotiations. Therefore it was the elitist Umno members’ interests that were promoted in the Agreement which was unrealistically (and of course conveniently) considered by the British as representing the Malay community as a whole.

But this was an erroneous perspective. The Malay rakyat that had hitherto been politically dormant under the feudal system in the pre-colonial period had become strongly nationalistic, first because of the defeat of the British by the Japanese and then by the promise the latter to give the Malays political independence. It an be asserted that it was this nationalistic fervour, and not Umno membership as such, that enabled the mass protest against the Malayan Union proposals. Indeed it can also be argued that it was this same national consciousness that forced the resignation of Onn Jaafar when he proposed opening Umno membership to non-Malays.

The possibility of losing political power to the Chinese was the other main concern of the rakyat which was also the fear of the Malay elite, but there was the other additional reason that the latter feared the Chinese were likely to encroach on their economic interests ( with British backing). But at the same time the elite groups also needed the Malay grassroots for political support to politically keep the Chinese at bay.

Therefore it would not be difficult in the situation of the victory parade after the 1969 general election where Chinese opposition parties were claiming to have defeated the Alliance and would “take over the government” for both groups to react fiercely particularly because the threat of the Chinese taking political power seemed to be becoming a reality.

Malay case

It must be emphasised that this nationalist consciousness could be expected to have become reinforced and heightened by the fact the Malay working class, the peasantry, other low income groups as well as the lower middle class had yet to see any appreciable improvement in their social life since Merdeka, and yet the Chinese immigrants were now threatening to take over the government.

The call for the Malay youth therefore to attend the post-election rally, also from other parts of the country as well, was also intended as a demonstration against Umno leadership itself for allowing this static economic situation to continue. Therefore it would be expected that the gathering at the home of the Selangor Mentri Besar would also have included representatives of lower-middle class Malays as well as others acting as youth leaders.

A defining question in the collaboration and first coming together of Umno and MCA in the Alliance party to contest the KL municipal elections is nothing more than a case of false consciousness. It needs to be strongly emphasised that this so-called political accommodation was essentially a ‘fluke’ shot in the political arena. It was totally devoid of any notions of political theory or ideology. But it was conveniently accepted as a sufficient condition to work for political independence because it was intended to maintain the status quo and therefore serve the common interests of the British, the Malay ruling class, and the Chinese business class.

The Alliance party therefore ensured that the unequal and discriminatory colonial social structure was maintained at the expense of egalitarian policies for Malay rakyat and the Chinese working classes. Put simply it was a case of ‘each man for himself and God for all’ and it follows that the election process that offered the only known hope of effecting a change to bring about a more caring society for all had become a farce.

Chinese case

The situation of the working class Chinese community was also one of a continuous struggle to survive. Emerging from what is perhaps the most exploitative system of indentured labour in Malaya recorded in documentary evidence as the ‘pig trade’ and subjected to ‘vice’ items to earn revenue by the colonial government through opium, alcohol, gambling and prostitution, a small proportion managed to set them selves up as independent workers in the tin industry and related occupations subsequently. But with increasing population and denied access to land they turned to wage employment and pressed for better working conditions through trades unions. However because the unions had the support of the CPM they were suppressed and declared illegal. Moreover because of this and the lack of jobs for the Chinese educated many joined the CPM because they had to fight to survive.

What the Chinese lacked most was political power. Persuaded by the colonial government, their businessmen organised themselves to protect their economic interests, so from its very inception the MCA was a political party representing the towkay class. It is important to recognise that while the fledging party could have worked to build up the party and provide political and economic support for the Chinese community as a whole, the leaders instead chose to forge links with the Malay ruling class and thereby develop mutually beneficial interests as a class.

The Chinese providing the economic support to the Alliance Party through the provision of huge funds for election purposes and economic representation in their larger business consortiums for the Umno elite, and in return seeking political legitimacy through representation of more parliamentary seats of the Alliance party. Their indifference to the Chinese community is evidenced by one of the most ‘outrageous’ scenarios of MCA indifference in the failure to present the Chinese Memorandum to the British Government at the Mederka Conference to demand a place in the independent Malaya. The Chinese interests therefore were not presented to the British government. Instead according to a statement attributed to Tunku Abdul Rahman the Memorandum was thrown into the wastepaper basket!

What this means is that literally the ‘mass’ of Chinese were automatically alienated from the political process from Day 1 and therefore sought political representation through opposition parties such as the Labour Front and the DAP. In fact it can be argued that in effect the reduction of political power of the Alliance in the 1969 election was because of the rejection of MCA candidates by the Chinese. Because the opposition parties were ‘outside’ the normal conservative value system of being subservient to the political status quo as in the MCA the Chinese members were therefore free to express political dissent with regard to their marginalised political status with a minimum of restraint in the opposition parties

To add to this was the confidence they had gained from the entry of the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) of Singapore into the Malaysian political arena. The demand by PAP leader Lee Kuan Yew for a Malaysian Malaysia provided added emphasis to these Chinese to back the opposition parties with confidence and a sense of legitimacy. To them, Malaya belonged to all and as Malays are not necessarily the only indigenous community, they must necessarily accept the Chinese as equals in a power-sharing government.

1969 general election

On the eve of the 1969 polls and against this background there was the question of granting a police permit for a large funeral procession to go through the town centre for an opposition party (Labour Party) member who had been shot by the police. There are some conflicting accounts about the decision to grant this permit. Tunku Abdul Rahman told me that he was against a permit being issued because of the highly charged political climate.

But according to the Tunku the permit was finally issued by Abdul Razak Hussein (photo) when the latter was acting prime minister (after the Tunku had returned to his home town in Kedah for the weekend).Apparently pressure by Dr David Tan of the Labour Party convinced Razak that there was no legitimate reason why a permit should be withheld.

In one of the two long interviews I had with Tunku Abdul Rahman in Penang, (while 1 was teaching a race relations course at USM), the Tunku attached great importance to the funeral procession that was held on the eve of the general election. It was his strongly held view that this funeral procession sowed the seeds for the May 13th riots. The shooting of a Chinese opposition party member by a Malay policeman just days before the election, and the funeral procession being allowed to go through the KL town centre was, to the Tunku, a recipe for trouble.

According to the Tunku however, the decision to overrule him and grant the permit also had a personal dimension. He explained that while he was aware of a move by certain Umno leadership for him to step down as prime minister, no one had actually approached him to do so. He therefore felt that the permit approval against his earlier decision amounted to open criticism that he was no longer in touch with reality and should therefore resign.

There was also increasing concern among the Umno leadership at this time that certain MCA officials (and some Chinese businessmen as well) were moving in the inner circles among the Tunku’s close associates. Although it was agreed that this was purely in his private capacity it might nonetheless compromise the Tunku’s position as prime minister.

Read Part 2 here.

May 13 and beyond (Pt 2)
Dr Collin Abraham
May 29, 07 11:29am
Malaysiakini 
It is clear that the 1969 election results and victory parade were the two main precipitating factors leading to the race riots. It must be recognised at the outset that these were distinctly separate events and it is important to distinguish between the two.In fact because the resulting race riots were the direct outcome of the aftermath of the victory parade itself, they will not be taken up for analysis here except to reiterate that the level of racial insults and threats to continued Malay government seen during the election campaign had in fact become too extreme even to mention.

The years of being in the political wilderness, and the expected revolution of rising expectations resulting in the revolution of rising frustrations, had taken their toll. 

Once the spark of the fuse had been lit all hell broke loose and the only steps that could be taken were to try to bring the law and order situation back under control. For example at the height of the riots, Ismail Mohd Ali recorded that Abdul Razak Hussein (photo) wanted to drive down to the epicentre in his official car and directly call on the rioters to stop the bloodshed. Ismail’s response to Razak was simple and effective: “They will probably tear you to pieces.”

(It might not be out of place to seek a word of clarification as to whether the riots could be strictly termed as ‘race’ riots. Had they really been so, they would have spread to rural areas as well and Chinese shopkeepers and others in small-scale business scattered around the kampongs would have been massacred.)

In retrospect, the 1969 election campaign itself was the writing on the wall that there could be some racial trouble because of the strong ‘anti-racial’ tone of the entire campaign that according to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah also extended to the candidates from PAS and Umno itself. And yet there were no attempts either by the Alliance government or the police to take pre-emptive steps to maintain law and order.

Undue delay

Even when the election results showed that the Umno-dominated Alliance had in fact suffered a major setback when it lost the two-thirds parliamentary majority that it had enjoyed since the inception of democracy, there seemed a lack of preparedness for any likely adverse outcomes.

Indeed, even with the opposition’s victory celebrations over the gain of Penang and Kelantan and when Perak and Selangor were on the brink of falling into their hands, and with Chinese and Indian demonstrators calling on the Malays to quit Kuala Lumpur, leaving the seat of government to the opposition, there is little evidence of police preparedness to face a deteriorating law and order situation.

The seriousness of the situation might be gauged from the following statement: “For the first 24 hour period, sections of the police force simply became demoralised due to the impact of widespread violence and the regular police forces are a key element in maintaining any long range security in this country.” (17th May 1969, Confidential to FCO, cited in Kua Kia Soong, May 13th p50)

As regards the tragic aftermath of the riots in terms of the deaths, casualties and untold suffering and misery of the victims there is little doubt that it was worse because of the undue delay on the part of the authorities to deal with the situation. The fact was that the political leaders were caught by surprise and hence even after three days of rioting there was still no directive from the government to the army to move in to control the situation. Neither were the army chiefs of staff able to initiate action on their own volition.

Indeed, in an informal discussion with one of the generals summoned by Razak and questioned as to why the army was failing to take prompt action, he was astonished to be told that the army was waiting for instructions!

It would seem very strange that such senior military officers who would have probably have been trained overseas including top British military institutions failed to grasp the seriousness of the law and order situation and to have acted accordingly. When I probed the matter further, the general‘s response was that the army was waiting for the police to withdraw from the scene so that it could be free to take such action it thought fit. It was only after Razak signed a directive that the army finally moved in.

There is no question therefore that the earlier colonial government, and the entire Alliance government should be held accountable for this tragic situation where ordinary law-abiding men, women and children were hounded like animals and died like dogs in the streets through no fault of their own.

It can be seen from the above analysis that the entire elite ruling class of both races were more concerned about maintaining their cosy neo-colonial status quo after independence while being themselves protected by the Anglo-Malaysian defence treaty against foreign aggression. This is all the more incriminating considering that that in my recent book I argued that neither Umno nor the MCA had a popular mandate to take over the Government from the British at the time of independence. (‘The Finest Hour”)

MCA pullout

The question of the establishment of the National Operations Council (NOC) must also be recognised. Whatever else may be said about the usurpation of democratic powers by the military it must nonetheless be conceded that the law and order had been brought under control and the political situation was in hand.

Particularly to those with first-hand experience of the lawlessness in parts of KL controlled by gangsters and secret societies prior to the elections, and especially to those who saw their relatives being suddenly massacred and they themselves severely injured or being forced to become refugees, the NOC might be said to be a blessing in disguise.

Within two days the membership of the Council was announced but perhaps one of the greatest political tactical errors was the MCA’s decision not to accept any cabinet posts. While it was understandable that the party should abdicate from its traditional partnership with Umno in the Alliance, (because of the massive defeat of its candidates in the general election), withdrawal meant that Umno had a free hand to push ahead the bumiputera position in the New Economic Policy without Chinese opposition.

But the fact remains that while there was no policy to enhance a multiracial society under colonialism, indeed policies such as divide and rule were designed to ensure that integration did not take place. But even after Independence the continuation of political parties based on race essentially perpetuated the divisiveness of society along racial lines rather than to work towards integration.

It should be clear to readers therefore that our entire society in on a fault line and therefore we have no option but to get off it as soon as possible. With respect, it happens that both my recent books ‘The Naked Social Order’ and ‘The Finest Hour’ provide discussion and analysis on these vital questions and it is my considered opinion therefore that we need to reject the post-colonial social structure in its entirety once and for all and to seek an alternative model if we are to avoid racial conflicts in the future.

Ijok: Lessons for the opposition parties

May 1, 2007

LATEST: Tan Sri Khalid will be going back to Ijok to thank the people for supporting PKR at 3.30pm today. The team will be led by PKR advisor  Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, party chief Datin Seri Wan Azizah, information chief Tian Chua and others. I have accepted their invitation to join the walkabout in Pekan Ijok and Batang Berjuntai.

The writings is on the wall. BN had won 92% of the Parliamentary seats in the 2004 GE and defeated the opposition in all the five by-elections (except for Batu Talam which was contested by an Independent). We need to find a winning formula to defeat BN.

BN has been able to win big because there was no true unity among the opposition parties. There’s no true opposition unity to face the the might of BN coalition. There’s no way to beat BN if the opposition parties could not work together effectively to face their common enemy-the Umno-led BN coalition.

Yes, the people of Malaysia suffer much under the current BN administration. They hope the opposition parties could work together to pose a real challenge to the mighty Umno-led BN coalition.

The people do know that BN is corrupt to the core. They know that BN leaders abuse their power to amass wealth for themselves. They were fed up with empty promises and very disappointed with the Prime Minister who could not walk the talk. But where is the alternative? 

Please bear in mind that only the well-informed voters and hardcore supporters vote for the opposition. Voters with pro-winner mentality (commonly called lalang, fence-sitters, the silent majority etc) would only vote for the winners (or potential winners).  They would never vote for the opposition if the opposition looked set to remain as opposition. But these voters with pro-winner mentality is not a small group. And we would not be able to win their votes without presenting them a winning formula.

 Please vote for Khalid !

It’s the duty and responsibility of the opposition parties to offer a winning formula for all to see. Politics of hope is an essential ingredient that we must provide for the voters. The opposition parties must project a winning position and work towards a winning agenda. We owe it to ourselves to do it. 

Yes, the opposition parties are having opposing views on the issue of religion. But that does not mean that we could not resolve or put aside our differences.

Malaysia is rotting slowly day by day. We are facing all kinds of problems and crises. We are also losing our pace to our neighbouring countries. The answer lies in a change of government. Only a change of government could get rid of these greedy and corrupt BN politicians. What could be more important than serving the larger intertest of the people by affecting a change of government?

Ijok is a good beginning for opposition unity. Top opposition party leaders and members in general have put in serious efforts to campaign for PKR. But we were facing various problems due to a poor uncohesive campaign machinery. I personally feel that Khalid could have done better or even made it if there were greater cooperation among the opposition parties. Only true opposition unity and cohesive machinery could destroy the BTF tactics (bribes, threats and frauds) launched by the corrupt BN coalition.

I strongly suggest DAP to openly team up with PKR, and PKR to team up with Pas. And DAP and Pas must at the same time declare that their common enemy is the Umno-led BN coalition. DAP and Pas may not be allies but we are certainly friends in the opposition. It’s only natural that friends in the opposition must put aside our differences for the benefit of the rakyat. We need to help each other to challenge our common enemy.

We will never be able to convince everyone to agree with the strategic partnership among the opposition parties. But politics is about taking risks. The fear of losing seats is something we need to overcome. The ruling class and those with vested interest will be all out to discourage the opposition from achieving true unity and full cooperation. In short, they fear  opposition unity. They know if the opposition really works together, they will eventually lose their grip on power.

Dear fellow Malaysians, there’s no point crying over spilled milk. Ijok is just a temporary setback. We must not lose sight and we certainly must not lose hope. Ijok is nothing compared to the real war-general elections.

The defeat in Ijok actually gives me hope. What about you?

Source: Malaysiakini

HAPPY Labour Day! Highest tribute to all workers who contribute towards nation-building and a peaceful and prosperous society.

A date with Sdr Anwar Ibrahim@Machap@11 April 2007

April 9, 2007

The response of the Machap people in our house-to-house campaign has been very good. We urge the Machap voters to vote against the racist Umno-led BN government on behalf of all Malaysians. We also stressed that an extra seat for BN means nothing to the people.

For the solidarity of the opposition, Anwar will be coming to Machap to help campaign for the DAP candidate.

Those who live in the Klang Valley should take the Alor Gajah exit to proceed to Machap. It’s about one and a half hour drive from PJ. Those from the south can come in through the Air Keroh exit.

C U There, Malaysians.

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Anwar’s ‘new’ agenda

Category: General  Posted by: Raja Petra 

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

By ANDREW SIA
The Star

After being sacked from the Government and Umno in 1998, he exchanged his plush black Mercedes of the Deputy Prime Minister’s post for the bleak Black Maria that took him to controversial court trials and six years in prison. What drives Anwar Ibrahim now?

IT had been drizzling earlier at a small kampung at Hulu Langat, Selangor, yet the roadsides are full of parked cars. Around 300 people, standing round a soggy, muddy field, roar in approval as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim declares “Lawan tetap lawan! (We will keep on fighting!).”

Anwar has been accused of being a chameleon, tailoring his message to suit his listeners. But here he is, railing against the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Holy Grail of Malay politics, with a predominantly rural Malay crowd at a ceramah organised by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR, or the People’s Justice Party).

At various ceramahs up and down the country, Anwar has plenty of hot issues – and is drawing crowds of thousands (between 5,000 and 20,000, say PKR sources). In the past two years he has been saying that the NEP “has become a gimmick” to subvert wealth “to leaders, their families and their cronies.”

And last week on Al-Jazeera, he said that the NEP policy of giving a discount to rich Malays to buy RM1mil homes “just doesn’t make sense”.

In an interview with this writer at his home in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur (he has since moved to a new home in Segambut), Anwar, dressed in a short sleeved shirt and denim pants, is relaxed, friendly and thoughtful.

He tells me that Malaysia’s economic policy can no longer be governed by the “racial card”.

This is because the policy should firstly be “about propelling the economy, making sure we succeed, being competitive. Otherwise we will lose investor confidence and foreign investments”.

As he elaborates on his web page: “In the 1970s and 1980s our peers were Singapore, Taiwan and Korea – they are now far ahead of us. China and India have emerged as economic giants. We are now losing out to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.”

He adds that Malaysia, once ranked fourth globally by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) in terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), has slipped to 62nd place.

His NEP comments actually sound pretty similar to what the DAP and NGOs like Aliran have been saying for years. It’s an interesting development coming from a man who was the former DPM and Finance Minister.

Since his release from prison in September 2004, when the Federal Court quashed his conviction for sodomy, Anwar has been one busy man. After surgery and rest, he took up positions at various universities including Oxford, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown, Washington DC.

He has also been busy networking with top leaders from India, Tanzania, Indonesia and other countries. Britain’s Sunday Times says that Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten are “among his friends”. Last July, he was in Brisbane, Australia, at the World Shakespeare Congress giving a lecture on the bard, whose works he has read several times while in jail, he says.

His name was also touted last year as a possible Asian “moderate” Muslim candidate to replace Kofi Annan as UN secretary-general. But he declined, claiming it might compromise him speaking out strongly on issues like Iraq.

‘Newspeak’

After resigning from Georgetown University last December, Anwar returned home full-time to enter local politics. Early this year he called for the lowering of petrol prices (due to soaring Petronas profits and burdensome inflation) as PKR was organising anti-toll protests.

In the past three months, he has been making some colourful claims about the Mongolian model murder mystery. Currently, he has been nominated by most PKR divisions for the president’s post (now held by his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail) for party elections in May, in a move to silence talk of him returning to Umno.

Now that he opposes the NEP, does he support meritocracy, I ask him?

“Certainly. I fail to understand why Malay leaders have become so apologetic about it,” he responds. “It is shameful to claim to be a Malay leader and not talk of meritocracy (as it would mean) the Malays are not competent, not qualified. The Malays who come from good schools are able to compete (with other races). If you don’t believe in meritocracy, that means you believe in mediocrity, purely racial qualifications.”

However, Anwar’s definition of meritocracy also includes affirmative action, albeit on a non-racial basis.

“Meritocracy also means giving due opportunities to those who are poor and marginalised from all races. Scholarships and loans should be given out based on ability or need. If we give things based on race, too often the benefits are robbed by a few.

“Billions have been taken by the elite few through contracts, privatisation and share allocations in the name of the NEP. All these have not benefited the poor Malays. Even as a Malay, I can’t accept that so how can a Chinese or Indian?”

Was this statement skewed just for the ears of a Chinese journalist from an English newspaper?

After all, Saifulbahri Kamaruddin, a journalist of more than 20 years, in a letter to Malaysiakini observed: “Very often I covered Anwar’s functions, especially involving Umno Youth and Abim (Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia). I had never heard of one speak with so much disdain of the Chinese before. We, the journalists, knew that Anwar was trying to be all things to all people, so when he addressed ‘kampung’ people with a skewed view, he would tell them what they wanted to hear.”

Yet, by 1993, as Deputy Prime Minister, he was famously saying (and even writing the Chinese characters): “Wo men dou shih yi jia ren (we are one family)”.

Was he merely being an image-conscious politician? Why did he support the NEP so vociferously during the 1970s in his youth?

In the latest issue of Aliran magazine, he says Malay activists of his generation were “very insecure” of the economic and professional status of the race. Now, due to its abuses, he advocates a New Economic Agenda.

And in an interview with Indonesia’s Tempo magazine in December, he admits that in the past, he had tried “the softer way” until he ended up “compromising too much sometimes”. Now he says, “I choose a clear agenda.”

So has the chameleon disappeared after his trials and tribulations? Listen to his Hulu Langat ceramah:

”The Indian Institute of Technology is one of the best in the world. Their professors are solid. Here, our academics write sajak (poetry) to bodek (bootlick). And our undergrads are told not to criticise. Our universities are not even in the Top 100 of the world.

“It is not wrong if there is a smart Chinese or Indian to lead some of our universities. I am not scared even though I am speaking in front of a Malay crowd here.”

When I quiz him about the claim by some Penang Umno leaders that the state government is “not doing enough” for the Malays, he replies:

“What about Kedah? Poverty in Sik and Baling is one of the worst in the country yet the Mentri Besar is Malay. Why pick on the Chief Minister of Penang because he is Chinese?”

He adds, “There should be a programme in Penang to help all the poor and marginalised people, regardless of race.”

Anwar laments that during the Umno general assembly last year, racial tensions were raised while fundamental economic and social problems such as poverty, the 100,000 unemployed graduates and inflation were hardly discussed.

He believes that multi-racial political parties, such as PKR, are the way forward towards “national maturity”.

“It takes a lot of effort. But we cannot continue with segments of the population, the non-Malays or even some Malays, feeling that they are second class citizens,” he says.

On Al-Jazeera last week, when a caller claimed that the NEP has marginalised the Indians, for instance, Anwar replied:

“You are right…. That is why the NEP should be dismantled and we all come together as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans and Kadazans. This country has enough resources to benefit all.”

More forcefully, at a ceramah in Kuala Berang, Terengganu, last month, he said, “The keris is for true Malay warriors to defend justice and fight oppression, not for people to enrich themselves and defend corruption. We reject that kind of keris.”

But can the Malays accept his rather radical message?

He candidly told Aliran: “Many of my friends, Malay professionals, had advised me, ‘Look Anwar, you are venturing into a very dangerous sort of battle and many Malays cannot take it.’

“I told them, ‘Look in the civil service, the congestion in hospitals (like the one) in Seberang Jaya (Penang). Who suffers most? The poor Malays, Chinese and Indians.’

“I have addressed predominantly Malay crowds and I said I am not going to sacrifice the Malay position or interests. I am a Malay and I am also responsible. But I am also a Malaysian and I believe a Malaysian economic agenda will ensure the success of the Malays, Chinese and other communities.”

Azmin Ali, his long-time political secretary and current vice-president of PKR, thinks the Malays are seeing the bigger picture.

“Initially, it was difficult to convince the Malays as the NEP has been indoctrinated in their mindset. But they are now more aware that the NEP has been hijacked. Some of them receive RM50 or some batik cloth to work as supporters. Yet, just compare their humble homes with, say, (Selangor state councillor) Datuk Zakaria’s palace (in Klang),” he says.

Or as another political activist comments:

“If the DAP says it, the Malays will reject it. But if Anwar says it, the Malays will listen because he can quote Quranic verses to support it. Racism is not part of Islam.”

But is Anwar afraid that he and PKR will be seen as leaning too much towards non-Malays?

At his ceramah in Bandar Tun Razak, KL, early this year, the ever-eloquent Anwar told a huge crowd, “Umno Youth calls me a traitor to the Malays for being pro-Chinese and pro-Indian because I question the NEP. No, I am pro-rakyat. The real traitors are those who rob from the poor Malays.”

His tainted past?

It all sounded good, but I had to throw the big question at Anwar: “Yes, now you’re talking of reforms but what did you do when you were in power?”

“It’s a fair question. I was part of the system then and I supported it,” he admits.

Obviously, as part of Umno and the Government from 1982 till 1998, he supported the NEP. And surely, he could not have been blind to what he is railing against now – how the NEP has been used for political patronage.

When asked what were his proudest reforms as Deputy PM, Anwar is less forceful and eloquent. Nevertheless, he points out that he did push for public housing programmes.

“Just to have one public housing programme, I had to call the Mentri Besar personally and push for it,” he recalls. “Only then did they start moving. Something is wrong with the system.

“Even though the country was doing well economically (before the financial crash of 1997), I had to push with special funds from Bank Negara. But there were lots of funds for mega projects. Why? Because there are a lot of ‘easy returns’ for mega projects.”

Anwar adds that he also put in place tougher anti-corruption laws (allowing prosecution of Ministers even after leaving office) when he was Acting PM for two months in 1997 (when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was on leave).

“Can you name me who in the entire Cabinet supported the tougher ACA laws? It was very, very unpopular with many Ministers,” he claims.

In addition, he underlines that he was the only Minister who publicly spoke out (in Parliament) for the Internal Security Act to be amended to make it less draconian. And the Cabinet Committee on Management, which he headed, looked into billions of losses and met “much resistance”.

Did he question any of the “mega projects”?

He says he was not opposed to Putrajaya per se, but to the “manner and speed” of its implementation.

“We spent billions on Cyberjaya. But the MSC has not really taken off because we were more focused on the construction of buildings rather than building the human resources. Our problem is this delusion of grandeur which does not generate income.

“India has surpassed us in IT – just look at Bangalore. When I met with (Indian PM) Manmohan Singh last November, I was told their government spent only US$30mil (RM102mil) on their version of Cyberjaya.”

And he points out that when he was Finance Minister, despite the “big debate” within the civil service about the position of Treasury secretary-general, he appointed a non-Malay, Tan Sri Clifford Herbert, due to his ability and integrity.

Since January, he has been telling the public that he refused to raise the toll rates, despite political lobbying, when he was Deputy PM.

“The month after I was sacked, the tolls were raised,” he says.

Anwar is acutely aware of public doubts over his integrity. To counter that, he has thrown bold challenges at his ceramahs. At the Bandar Tun Razak gathering, for instance, he declared:

“Set up an independent commission to investigate all past and present Ministers. See if I have taken one share, one inch of land, one piece of timber or one contract. That kind of money is haram!”

And in Kuala Berang, Trengganu, last month, he said:

“If I wanted things easy, I would not have gone to prison. Some people said I was stupid. Just support (Tun) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) and I would have become PM.”

At the Umno general assembly of 1998, as Anwar’s allies were preparing to assail Dr Mahathir on the KKN (the Malay acronym for cronyism, corruption and nepotism) issue, the latter took the wind out of their sails by releasing a so-called “complete list” of all recipients of government contracts, tenders, etc – many of whom were figures thought to be associated with Anwar.

As a disillusioned ex-leader of PKR says, “Well, personally he may not have taken any money, but his associates had to build a support base and probably did.”

He also claims that the 1993 Umno election campaign (when Anwar ousted Tun Ghafar Baba as Deputy President) set the worst record (at that time) for money politics.

The ex-leader also mentions that Anwar supported the 1987 episode of having non-Mandarin educated headmasters transferred to Chinese schools as well as the 1988 sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas.

“Now he goes round talking of human rights and all that. Ha ha, come on.”

And what about his image as a firebrand on Malay-Muslim issues in his younger days?

Anwar says, in our interview, that the way Pas projected its Islamic state was “ill-advised” even though the party deserves credit for – “quite remarkably” – giving land to Chinese temples and schools.

He adds that, in a democracy, Pas is free to espouse what it wants.

“But I made quite clear to them, in the context of a multi-racial society, it is better not to talk in terms of labels. When I ask them, what about freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary, fair economic policy and clean government, they say yes to all. So I say, why confuse all these things with the Islamic state slogan?”

Anwar has also taken a moderate, middle-of-the-road line on controversies such as the Moorthy conversion case. He says Article 121(A) of the Constitution was drawn up to respect the rights of Muslims in the syariah courts.

“But once it infringes on the rights of non-Muslims, they have the right to question. 121(A) is not meant to block Christians, Buddhists and Hindus from going to the civil court. For me, there is no problem,” says Anwar.

He does not think that stopping discussions, for fear of religious sensitivities, is the solution. However, any discussion has to be done in a mutually respectful manner.

When asked about the closing down of the Article 11 (freedom of religion) forums organised by NGOs, he replies:

“I met the ulama in Shah Alam, and I told them, why should we be defensive? Even views perceived to be wrong should be allowed (because) it’s like the meritocracy argument: Let’s have the courage and confidence to counter them.”

Trust his promises?

As part of the lingering mistrust towards him, there have been persistent rumours that he will rejoin Umno – despite his persistent denials and despite Umno itself passing a resolution (shortly after his release in 2004) barring his re-entry.

Anwar has admitted that he was initially more conciliatory towards Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi. In a Febuary 2005 interview with Off the Edge, he said that Pak Lah: “genuinely believes there is something wrong with the system, that corruption is endemic…. I do believe that given the constraints of the present system, he is still the best bet if anything is to be done. But it has to be done now!”

Since then, his tone on Umno has been increasingly strident. Now he says more than three years have passed since Pak Lah’s administration began and the signs, such as corruption, are not encouraging.

If Anwar ever became Prime Minister, what would he do?

In the Tempo interview, he said his agenda includes: increasing economic competitiveness, abolishing the ISA, freeing up the mass media, reforming the judiciary and fighting corruption.

As for his economic policy, Anwar has told Aliran magazine that he believes in the free market and economic growth but it must be a “humane economy” with social justice – not the kind of liberalisation which “allows some to privatise in order to piratise.”

He says he believes in Keynesian economic “pump-priming” – not in the manner done by Dr Mahathir with wasteful mega projects, but rather through education and public health programmes.

“You can see the packed hospital in Seberang Jaya – spend an hour there, it’s pathetic.”

Steven Gan, Malaysiakini’s editor-in-chief, says this about Anwar being part of crony politics:

“There are definitely a lot of skeletons in his closet, for instance, in terms of cronyism and his ambition to be PM. I think it would help (for him) to tell, in an unmistakable way to everybody, that he’s a changed man, that he’s learnt his lesson.

“In fact before he joined Umno (in 1982) he actually said that entering the party to reform it was like cleaning a septic tank from the inside. And yet, he joined.

“I think Anwar is a flawed man, but so are top Umno leaders. As a journalist, I would like to see more checks and balances in our system including a strong opposition. Anwar, flawed as he is, can play an important role in building that.”

Is he sincere?

“Very few politicians are,” says Gan. “But I believe Anwar has changed…. Spending four years in prison and going through the kind of humiliation meted out to him would have a dramatic impact in anyone’s life.”

So, is Anwar sorry about his past actions in Umno? When this writer asks him twice about any deep personal transformation since his sacking, he sidesteps the questions. Perhaps it is too much to expect the consummate politician to confess to any wrongdoings while in power, or to some sort of life-changing epiphany in prison. However, at a ceramah at Bota, Parit, Perak, last August, Anwar related:

“They were bringing the mattress up and down, up and down in court. There I was sitting in the dock with my wife and five daughters behind me. And they would say, ‘Here, here and there are the sperm stains.’ It was a test from Allah. Others told me, padan muka (serves you right), why did you join Umno? But I have no regrets. I tried to reform it from within.

“The people of Parit here supported me during all the Umno elections. From Youth chief to deputy president. I have not forgotten your jasa (kind deeds). But why did you support me? To steal APs, logs and contracts? Or to help the poor?”

His wife, Dr Wan Azizah, says:

“Anwar has deep reserves of patience, resilience and humility, and those qualities saw him through the ordeal of six years’ solitary confinement.

“He has changed in that he is now more aware of who his real friends are. As the saying goes, it is only in winter when you know which tree is evergreen.”

Political analyst Khoo Boo Teik, who explores these issues in the book Beyond Mahathir, says:

“I don’t really know how he has changed since then, I’d like to know. Few politicians who come within reach of real power are humble. It’s important that Anwar realises that the common people stood by him when he suffered injustice, unlike the corporate and political elite who flattered him only when he was in power.”

Can Anwar be trusted on his reform promises? Khoo adopts a very practical approach.

“It’s futile to discuss character or personal integrity. Anwar has reasons for wanting political reforms. He was part of the system, no doubt, but he was twice its victim as well. To what extent Anwar will push reforms depends critically on public demands, political support and compelling socio-economic conditions.”

However, Ong Kian Ming, another political analyst, thinks that Anwar will be compelled to deliver.

“He has put himself in the international limelight now and it’ll be very difficult for him to renege on his promises of press and political freedoms. Anwar is someone who really cares about his reputation domestically and internationally. After associating with and comparing himself to the likes of Nelson Mandela, it’ll be difficult for him not to stick to at least some of his promises of reform.”

Anwar may be on the comeback trail but few people give PKR and the Opposition any realistic chance of winning the next general election, or any general election in the foreseeable future. And if he can’t win high public office, he won’t be able to deliver on any promise.

However, if Anwar, who is only 60, remains sincere and true to his newfound cause, his strongest contribution to nation-building could be his bold pronouncements on multi-racialism. If a significant Malay leader can say all that, it may just transform the spirit of local politics for the future.

Raja Nazrin: Be colour-blind

April 6, 2007
We like to say that our youth are the future of this country, but then we proceed to ignore or marginalise them. We want our future generations to be able to think and act wisely, but then we do not give them sufficient opportunities to do so.” —Raja Nazrin

 In recent times, it has become usual to try and place the blame for the disintegrating state of world affairs on the doorstep of religion. This is a misunderstanding of the first order. Religion is not the cause of societal dystrophy; it is the antidote. It is a social stabiliser that allows believers to reconnect to values that are fast being lost in today’s ever more materialistic and self-centred world.” – Raja Nazrin

“Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. Only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul.”- Raja Nazrin

“I hope we will do our best to guard against cynicism and hopelessness. And I hope we will all stay the course. Failure, may I remind you all, is a costly option.”- Raja Nazrin

IMO, the speech delivered by Raja Nazrin Shah for young Malaysians should be read by all Malaysians, from an ordinary citizen right up to the prime minister of this country.

I will try my best to translate the speech into Chinese and Malay ( and get an expert to do it in Tamil). Watch this blog.

I thank the Sun for publishing the full text of his speech.

EXTRA! :: Cover Stories – the Sun 6 March 2007

Raja Nazrin: Be colour-blind
Malaysians of all races and religions have a place in this country. Sharing a common destiny, we must put our shoulder to the yoke and work to build the nation, in particular preserving the national unity we have enjoyed through 50 years of nationhood. Given our plural composition, it is a difficult task but it must be done for failure would prove too costly. The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, tells of the ways to do this in his keynote address at the Young Malaysians’ Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development on Tuesday. Here is the full text of his speech.

Raja Nazrin is greeted by Malaysian Bar Council
president Ambiga Sreenevasan on arrival at the Bar
Council premises in Kuala Lumper for the function

It is my pleasure to be here to deliver the keynote address at this Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia: Challenges and Prospects for Nation Building. I am always happy to take part in an event where there are many young informed Malaysians. I find that this is time well spent. Not only does it give me a chance to share my thoughts, but it also lets me do a bit of opinion research among the younger generation.

We like to say that our youth are the future of this country, but then we proceed to ignore or marginalise them. We want our future generations to be able to think and act wisely, but then we do not give them sufficient opportunities to do so.

In my view, this is not a good way to prepare those who will take our place. If the young are to be good leaders and citizens, they must be exposed to more than just abstract concepts. Even those nation states which have failed miserably have had great political ideals.

I believe that good and upright leadership must be demonstrated. It has to be both taught and observed at work. Then, those who are found to be able, must be mentored by those who are capable. In this way, success can be learned and replicated.

Finally, the young must be given responsibilities they can handle. They should be allowed to make mistakes along the way as part of their overall learning process. If we do these things, our actions will echo loudly into the future.

My address this morning is on the challenges and prospects of nation-building, a topic that is of the greatest and gravest importance. Nation-building is essential to national unity which lies at the heart of what this country was, is and will be.

With the passage of time, it seems that we are starting to forget this and it is imperative that we do not. In the time available, I hope to say enough to provide some fuel for the discussions to follow. It is my earnest wish that you will gain some further perspectives on the nature of nation- building and that you will also deliberate on specific actionable ways to further it in this country.

Confucius insisted that language must be properly used if things are to get done, if justice is not to go astray, and if people are not to “stand about in helpless confusion”. He disapproved of those who misused words to hide their true intentions and actions.

So what exactly is nation-building? Not surprisingly, there are many definitions, some which differ by a little and others by quite a lot. In his book, The Making of a Nation, for example, Prof Cheah Boon Kheng defined it as “both economic progress and socio-political integration of a nation, that is prosperity and national unity”.

This captures what are hopefully the two end-results of nation building, but it makes no mention of its nature and process. I prefer the more common understanding, which is that it is the use of state power across different dimensions to ensure that a country is politically stable and viable in the long term. These dimensions include ethnicity and religion.

As a brief footnote, it should be noted that nation-building is a heated and even hated notion in some parts of the world. The main reasons for this are, first, that it is taking place in the midst of great domestic turmoil and, second, that it is primarily initiated and managed by foreign powers.

Trying to cobble a functioning state by papering over deep social and political rifts is, of course, easier said than done. History has shown us, time and again, that it is much easier to break down, rather than build up, nations.

In the case of Malaysia, nation- building has occurred in generally peaceful circumstances. It was not imposed by another country. And it is undertaken mainly by collective choice rather than compulsion.

The fact that we have been able to forge a nation without resorting to the rule of the gun has made us something of a rarity and a case to be studied, if not emulated. It has allowed a relatively effective system of governance to develop. Our track record in development and resolving problems such as illiteracy, poverty and poor health has been good.

There is, of course, much more that can be done. Our institutions of governance are far from perfect and quality improvements will probably occupy us for at least the next 50 years, if not longer. Nevertheless, for all the criticisms that have been made, it is only common sense that we could not have survived, let alone prosper, these last 50 years if government institutions had not been responsive or effective.

So, what are the central challenges to nation-building going forward? Let me speak first more generally about the world, and then move specifically to Malaysia.

To my mind, there are many challenges, but one that stands out most is that of having to balance the need for change with that of continuity.

Globalisation, in particular, has unleashed sweeping economic, political, social and cultural transformations that have weakened national institutions, values and norms. It is as if all the boats on the ocean had suddenly lost their anchors, rudders and compasses overnight.

Naturally, this has produced a strong reaction in the form of a desire to preserve identity, character and tradition. These are among the strongest motivations known to mankind and have been at the foreground or background of practically every conflict that has ever been waged. Add to this, a deep sense of deprivation, powerlessness and injustice, both real and imagined, and the tension between change and continuity mounts greatly.

Managing change on a national level is never easy, and certainly not on the scale and speed that we are witnessing. Multi-ethnic countries have to be especially watchful, and particularly if they have a weak sense of national collective identity.

In the absence of a strong binding nationalism, they are prone to polarisation and competition along ethno-religious lines. The state, which may well start out by being a relatively honest broker, can become increasingly pressured to act in ways that favour the interests of one group over another.

If the pendulum swings too far in one direction, dissatisfaction and frustrations will inevitably result. These can be expressed in ways that range from passive non-cooperation to active opposition and even violent conflict. To a large extent, this has led to the fragmentation of states.

Countries need to recognise the larger macro forces at work and understand their implications. They have to engage creatively to ensure that there are sufficient investments in social capital and cohesion. They must create and capitalise on cooperative systems within societies.

In recent times, it has become usual to try and place the blame for the disintegrating state of world affairs on the doorstep of religion. This is a misunderstanding of the first order. Religion is not the cause of societal dystrophy; it is the antidote. It is a social stabiliser that allows believers to reconnect to values that are fast being lost in today’s ever more materialistic and self-centred world.

What does Malaysia have to do to ensure that it continues to be successful at nation-building? Psychologists say that our short-term memory can only hold seven items. Let me outline seven guidelines that I think will have to be borne in mind in future nation-building efforts.

First, Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun. Only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul.

In Malaysia, the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and Vision 2020 encapsulate the rights, hopes and aspirations of the population in a way that no other documents do. The integrity of these documents must be defended and promoted, especially the first.

Second, when we seek solutions to problems in nation-building, we must be careful not to assume away problems. Nation- building is required precisely because there are stark differences within society. If we all walked, talked and thought the same, it would probably not be needed.

There will therefore be chauvinistic groups in this country, just as there are in others. They will fight the idea of national unity, block social change and try to be politically dominant. The existence of these groups, however, does not mean that nation-building is a futile exercise.

It does mean that we must be prepared to negotiate our way through and around these differences. We can, for example, create social movements that aim to enlighten and dissuade popular support being given to them.

Third, nation-building requires accommodation and compromise. In our haste to be prescriptive, we should not be so idealistic that we are incapable of also being practical. We should not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good. Yes, we should seek the best solutions and expect the highest standards of performance.

But we should also be prepared to sacrifice some part of our positions for the good of the whole. The virtues of pure self-interest are largely a myth. What seems to be a reality is that individuals end up worse off when they act out of self-interest, as opposed to acting in their collective group interests.

Fourth, if nation-building is to be successful, enforced solutions must be avoided. Nation-building is effectively rendered null and void by coercion or the threat of violence. Might cannot, and must not, be shown to be right. If solutions cannot be found within the political and social structures, there will be a strong temptation to resort to illegitimate ways and means.

Fifth, nation-building occurs when society is open, tolerant and forward-looking. So important are these values that they are embedded in Vision 2020’s nine strategic challenges, as are those of mature democracy, caring society and innovation. Only by being inclusive and participative can the various sectors of our society be productively engaged. It follows that all forms of extremism, chauvinism, racism and isolationism must be guarded against. They must be soundly sanctioned socially, politically and, if necessary, also legally.

Sixth, nation-building is a process rather than an outcome. When Malaysia started off 50 years ago, there were no examples to study. There were no manuals to follow. Mistakes were made and, to a greater or lesser extent, lessons have been learned.

While a sense of impatience is perhaps fully understandable, nation-building takes place over a period of time and only with persistence. Where there is no trust, trust has to be built. Where there is no cooperative network, one has to be established. Building on layers of foundation is the only way to ensure that the process is solid and sustainable.

Seventh, the political, social and economic incentives must reward good behaviour and penalise bad. I know that this statement is virtually self-evident, but it is a fact that many countries are as likely to punish good behaviour as to reward it. After all, if there are benefits for corruption, then there is a real cost to being honest. The incentives for building up a nation must be greater and more compelling than breaking it down. The price of racial and cultural intolerance must be made prohibitively high.

I believe fostering national unity is the responsibility of every Malaysian. However, schools, institutions of higher learning and sports centres have a very special role to play. This is because the sense of national unity is best inculcated in the young.

Through textbooks, sports and interaction, educators should eliminate ethnic stereotypes. Through the imaginative teaching of the history of Islamic, Chinese and Indian civilisation, educators could foster greater understanding among different ethnic groups.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe this is true. To me, the village comprises three main institutions – family, school and community.

From birth, we should be taught to respect and honour each other’s culture and heritage. Learning to interact with others is part of this process. Playing with children of other races on the playground and in friends’ homes, we learn to go beyond the colour lines early in life. In school we should be taught about other cultures and beliefs under the same roof as others of different ethnic groups – once again cutting through the colour lines.

I am aware that there are many Malaysians who are deeply troubled at the state of national unity in this country. What I have tried to do today is disabuse you of the notion that there are any “quick fix” solutions in nation-building.

If you look closely enough at any country, even those that are regarded today as highly successful, such as Japan, you will find there have been episodes in their past where events were very tenuous.

I hope we will do our best to guard against cynicism and hopelessness. And I hope we will all stay the course. Failure, may I remind you all, is a costly option.


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The voice of conscience from the Crown Prince of Perak

April 5, 2007

Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak must be commended for his boldness and sincerity. He said all  Malaysians must defend and promote the integrity of the Federal Constitution.

What Raja Nazrin, the Crown Prince of Perak, has addressed in a recent forum organised by the Bar Council and Transparency International KL Chapter certainly deserved our attention. Umno leaders who subscribe to the Malay supremacy (ketuanan Melayu) concept should heed the call and abandon all race based policies for the good of all Malaysians.

the Sun today carries his speech in full. Grab a copy today. It’s FREE! (Congrats to the Sun for achieving a circulation of 275 thousand as endorsed by ABC)

Raja Nazrin: M’sians must defend, promote integrity of Constitution

 

Cindy Tham
The Sun

All Malaysians must defend and promote the integrity of the Federal Constitution, the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah said today.

The Raja Muda listed this as one of seven things Malaysia has to do to ensure it continues to be successful at nation building.

“All Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, have a place in this nation, and society must recognise that they share a common home and responsibility to build the nation together.

“Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun.

“Only when each citizen believes he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul.”

He said the Constitution, the Rukun Negara and Vision 2020 encapsulated the rights, hopes and aspirations of the people.

He stressed that the integrity of these documents, especially the Constitution, must be defended and promoted.

Raja Nazrin said these in his keynote address at the Young Malaysians’ Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia: Prospects and Challenges for Nation Building.

The discussion was organised by the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee and Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for Public Policy Studies.

Eleven panellists shared their views at the discussion, attended by some 150 participants from the legal fraternity, non-governmental organisations, government departments and the public.

The other six guidelines for successful nation-building are:

* In seeking solutions to problems in nation building, don’t assume away problems.

“Nation-building is required precisely because there are stark differences within society. There will therefore be chauvinistic groups in this country, just as there are in others. They will fight the idea of national unity, block social change and try to be politically dominant.”

He pointed out that the existence of such groups meant that society must be prepared to “negotiate our way through and around these differences”.

“We can, for example, create social movements that aim to enlighten and dissuade popular support being given to them.”

* Nation-building requires accommodation and compromise.

“In our haste to be prescriptive, we should not be so idealistic that we are incapable of also being practical.”

Nazrin said to seek the best solutions, society should be prepared to “sacrifice some part of our positions for the good of the whole”.

* Avoid enforced solutions.

“Nation building is effectively rendered null and void by coercion or the threat of violence. ‘Might’ cannot and must not be shown to be ‘right’. If solutions cannot be found within the political and social structures, there will be a strong temptation to resort to illegitimate ways and means.”

* Be open, tolerant and forward-looking

“Only by being inclusive and participative can the various sectors of our society be productively engaged. It follows that all forms of extremism, chauvinism, racism and isolationism must be guarded against. They must be soundly sanctioned socially, politically and, if necessary, also legally.”

* Nation building is a process, not an outcome

It takes time and persistence to build a nation. “Where there is no trust, trust has to be built. Where there is no cooperative network, one has to be established. Building on layers of foundation is the only way to ensure that the process is solid and sustainable.”

* Political, social and economic incentives must reward good behaviour and penalise bad.

“The incentives for building up a nation must be greater and more compelling than breaking it down. The price of racial and cultural intolerance must be made prohibitively high.”

Seoul is a U-City.How about KL?

March 12, 2007

Jeff Ooi in his Screenshots has a nice story about Seoul and its young Mayor.We can forget about such success story for our cities as long as we continue to vote in the Umno-led BN government which would do its best to prevent the restoration of local government elections.

Seoul 2010… U-City

I was cursing myself why we had to keep on making retirees-to-be run our major cities as mayors, the datuk bandar. The feeling just got more intense as our appointment with the Seoul mayor approached by the seconds.

We all knew that Seoul just had a new, young mayor last July. But when he walked into the conference room, there were still audible sighs of awe, followed by enthralled silence.

550-Mayor_0019.jpg
Mayor Oh Se-hoon… LensaPress photo by Jeff OoiOh Se-hoon is young and looks young. He was born in 1961. But Korea believes he is fit to run the capital city, Seoul, which is the sixth largest in the world, with a population close to 11 million.

Being a city with a 600-year history, Seoul has all the trappings of a century-old city that has developed into a congested cosmopolitan — high population density within a small land area, huge demand for housing and amenities and astronomical cost for urban re-development, perennial traffic jams and escalating cost of living that put its global competitiveness to steep test. New threads are the worsening air pollution from neighbouring countries up north.

New growth engine industries

It’s particularly noted that Oh published a book in 2005, titled: Failure Offers Seeds of Hope. Talking to several senior officials from a Korean conglomerate, university students and our tour manager, I get the feeling that Oh is cut out for a job that seems unenviable to the faint-hearted.

Oh has put on record that, after taking office last year, he has dedicated his attention towards laying the foundation for ‘Creative City Administration” to make Seoul a more competitive city.

Tourism is given highlight in his revenue structure. With current tourist arrival hovering at 6 million, he has the ambition of doubling it to 12 million by 2010. His selling point is the ‘Clean and Attractive Global City’ that aims to project Seoul as a capital for tourism, fashion and design, finance and distribution, digital content, R&D and convention. These are what he has identified as the new growth engine industries for Seoul.

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Skyscrapping 63 Convention Center, Gangnam District, Seoul… LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

Oh also outlined his intended efforts for environment and the ecosystem by adopting a working strategy for the development of clean and renewable energy. These are encased in projects slated for Cheonggye-cheon Restoration initiated by his predecessor, and the 253-billion won Han River Renaissance Project, which Oh announced last fall.

These projects are seen as strategies that will rejuvenate Seoul which is said to suffer from a dearth of tourist sites and activities.

Interestingly, when we met him last week, this grand plan of a ‘Clean and Attractive Global City’ was presented as Seoul, the U-City. U for ubiquitous.

550-UCity_0035.jpgRecently, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a plan to build a large theme park near the Han River to make it a tourist attraction. The theme park would include an indoor ski dome and rafting facility on the Nanji Stream.

However, the plan drew flaks in the media which feared the proposed location may pose environmental impact on the World Cup Park and the nearby Han River, besides the potential traffic snarls.

550-Gangnam_0023.jpg
There are 23 bridges spanning across the Han River to connect Older Seoul in the north
and new Gangnam area in the south (left-hand side area)… LensaPress photo by Jeff OoiThe Korea Herald, an English newspaper founded in 1953, suggested that “if a theme park is seen as a way to attract foreign tourists, there are already a number of theme parks in and around Seoul. Perhaps one of them can be revamped and updated”.

“The city is announcing one plan after another for boosting tourism in the city, apparently blinded by a target of 12 million foreign visitors,” the Herald said in an editorial. “In order to prevent costly mistakes, the city administration must fully consider the effects of such plans on the environment and the quality of life for residents.”

The controversy comes as little surprise if the experience of Oh’s predecessor in the Cheonggye Stream restoration project is taken as a lesson well learned.

This is how present day Cheonggye Square and its surrounding look like.

550v-CheonggyeSq_0124.jpg550v-Cheonggyecheon_0148.jpg

550v-Cheonggyecheon_0139.jpg
LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

Outsiders rarely know that much of the 5.8km Cheong Gye Cheon (cheon is Korean for stream or creek) was formerly concealed under concrete roads, and the water was polluted. In 1968, an elevated highway was built over it.

In July 2003, Oh’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak, who was the Seoul mayor from July 2002 to June 2006, initiated a project to remove the highway, and to uncover and restore the stream. Lee maintained that years of neglect and development had left the stream nearly totally dry and 120,000 tons of water had to be pumped in daily.

It became an instant controversy. Trades who occupied the place refused to relocate and a series of protests were launched. Environmental activists joined in to criticise the project for its high costs. They even termed it a purely symbolic project that would not really benefit the city’s eco-environment.

However, when Cheonggyecheon restoration work was finally completed and opened to the public in September 2005, it waslauded as a major success in urban renewal and beautification. The success also helped Lee consolidate his image as a serious contender for the 2008 presidency race.

That, to me, is a case of solving an old problem with new ideas. Looking at Oh’s U-City outline, he is apparently following the footsteps of the previous mayor while building his own legacy.

And he only three more years to realise his plans, as 2010 will determine whether he will succeed.

Meanwhile, South Korea has already been talking about relocating its capital city to the central Chungcheong region.

NOTE: A group of 50 business and IT journalists comprising 11 countries from Africa, Middle East, the Indian Sub-continent and South-east Asia were hosted to a media trip to Seoul by LG Electronics Inc. I understand that I was the only blogger invited to the media tour which incorporated a visit to the Seoul Metropolitan Government and LG plants and facilities.

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Photo courtesy Media-in.co.kr

More photographs chronicling glimpses of Seoul are available at LensaMalaysia.com.

Continue reading “Seoul 2010… U-City” »

Ethnic relations module still not right

February 8, 2007

 I made a police report at the PJ police station on behalf of DAP over the insensitive and badly written ethnic relations module to be used by local universities. We wanted the authority to scrap the whole module in the interest of racial harmony in the country. The authority subsequently pulled back the module the next day after a public outcry and since emabarked on writing a new one. The new module is out now but still full of flaws, prejudice, falsehood and mistakes according to scholar Dr Syed Husin Ali.

I haven’t got a copy of the module but judging from what was written by Dr Syed Husin Ali, the module is full of SH_T and certainly not fit to be used by any local university worths its name. And we certainly do not want the young minds of our university students to be contaminated by such sh_t.

We want Mustapha Mohamad and Ong Tee Keat to explain to us why they have approved such a sh_ty peace of work.They should have just dropped the idea of producing such a module on ethnic relations for our local universities. The incompetent Ministry of Higher Education should give a free hand to the respective university to come up with their own modules as suggested by dr Syed Husin Ali.

08/02: Ethnic relations module: death knell for university autonomy

Category: General

Posted by: Raja Petra

GUEST COLUMNISTS

S. Husin Ali (husinsa23@yahoo.com)

The Minister of Higher Education recently announced that the Ethnic Relations Module (23 January 2007 Version) for universities had been finally approved by the Cabinet, apparently after five drafts and three cabinet meetings over about six months.

Actually, Ethnic Relations as an academic subject, was already taught in some universities since early 1970’s. No course conducted by the universities then (including mine) provoked any criticism or controversy.

Last year some MPs raised loud protests and criticisms against a module on the subject developed and used by Universiti Putra, for being biased or factually inaccurate. Subsequently, the Prime Minister withdrew it, promising the government would help develop a new module.

The Parliamentary uproar provided a timely opportunity for the Government to appoint a Panel, made up of five serving and retired Professors from different Universities, headed by a Professor from UKM. It is most unfortunate that the Government picked them from only a particular ethnic group.

These panel members and most paper writers who provided early drafts of main chapters in the module are also known to be keen government supporters. It would have been wiser had the Government expanded the Panel to include other ethnic groups and also those representing different viewpoints, who are competent.

Referring to the Universiti Putra module, would it not have been better if it was withdrawn by the University itself? Would it not have been more appropriate and pertinent for the University to correct and improve its module, taking into account all views and criticisms expressed inside and outside Parliament? These are important questions that touch on the fundamental principle of University Autonomy.

Traditionally, since Oxbridge and Al-Azhar were set up, the University has been regarded and guarded as a leading light and centre for free pursuit of knowledge and truth. To fully succeed in this pursuit a university needs Academic Autonomy.

The University cannot and should not allow interference, what else domination, by any vested political and economic interests. But this does not mean the University should not consider and adopt views from the government or business community that can help its search for knowledge, truth and development.

Unfortunately, in Malaysia, for some time University Autonomy has been systematically eroded. University of Malaya, which, during its early days enjoyed autonomy, has now joined younger universities that are directly controlled or strongly influenced by the Government. It is not only because they are totally dependent financially on the Government.

The academic staff is subjected to different government acts and regulations (e.g. UUCA and “Akujanji”). The main officers, from the Chairman of its Board and Vice-Chancellor, down to Deans and Heads of Department are now almost all direct or indirect appointees of the Government. Democratic processes belong to the past.

Basic freedoms of university staff and students have been so effectively curbed that most of the former have imbibed servile government servant mentality, while almost all of the latter are reduced to be no more than high school students. It is not surprising, therefore, the quality and standards of local universities have been deteriorating.

The process of Cabinet determining the content of and approving a module or syllabus cannot and should not be tolerated by any university worth its name. This time it is Ethnic Relations. Next it could be Development Studies or maybe even History. Where will this end, then?

I consider Cabinet interference in and approval of a fully academic matter, such as this, to be the final nail driven into the coffin of University Autonomy.

It has been explained that the Module is prepared for a University not Academic Course; it is open to all students from all Faculties. Therefore, it is argued that it does not really need the rigorous approach of any academic discipline. Nevertheless, it must be stressed it still has to meet certain basic academic standards.

Thus, the module must satisfy certain important criteria, such as being at least objective, balanced and critical. There are many things to comment on the content of this module, but we have space to deal with only a few. Anyhow, they are quite sufficient to illustrate that the module leaves a lot to be desired.

To begin with, many terms and concepts introduced are not adequately discussed; in many cases the authors depend on “Kamus Dewan” for explanation. There is not a single reference to any well-known theory or finding that can help students to understand the nature and problems of ethnic relations.

Further, there is no effort to make even elementary comparative study of different countries with multi-ethnic or multi-racial composition and problems. In fact, there is not even a satisfactory introduction to the social and cultural milieus of the various ethnic groups in the country.

Of course there are information about the country’s political and economic history, stressing more on modernization and its effects. But in describing history, the module unfortunately excludes the roles of groups and individuals outside the government or pro-government circle.
There is no mention of such historical parties like the Kesatuan Melayu Malaya (KMM), Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM), Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), Parti Buruh Malaya (PBM), their coalition the Barisan Sosialis (FS), and of course the Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM).

Whether we agree or not, the positions and roles of these parties and their leaders, like Ahmad Boestamam, Dr Burhanuddin, Ishak Hj Muhammad, Abu Bakar Bakir, Abdullah CD and even Chen Ping vis-avis ethnic relations cannot be ignored, but need to be evaluated. The module does not appear to give any opportunity for this.

Many pages are devoted to contemporary parties, surprisingly more for Sabah and Sarawak than the Peninsular. Their roles in politics and ethnic relations are prominently outlined. The Democratic Action Party (DAP) manages to get a few lines of mention. But there is not a word on Parti Keadilan Rakyat. The module could be more up-to-date and less selective.

We get details in every chapter regarding government policies and plans of action in various fields. The concept of the Malays as political masters (“Ketuanan politik etnik Melayu”) is accepted as a matter of fact. These are presented unquestioningly as being aimed at and effectively contributing towards national harmony and unity. They are summed up in the following sentence (translated from the original in Malay):

“The concept of power sharing, fair distribution of national income, equal opportunity in education inter-ethnically, freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, protection of minority groups, and now Islam Hadari as well as other policies, have been able to guarantee multi-racial and multi-ethnic harmony in our country” (p. 152).

While accepting these, contrary views should not be set aside. The contribution of the Opposition in general is referred only twice, even then in very damning terms. The module claims that Government formula and efforts to promote ethnic unity is attacked by the Opposition, which tries to create disunity (“pembangkang yang cuba memecahbelahkan”) (p.32).

In another instance, this Module insinuates, avoiding giving names, that the Opposition was responsible for the May 13 Incident (“Ini dijelmakan melalui pencapaian parti pembangkang …… Bibit-bibit pertentangan …….akhirnya mencetuskan suatu pertentangan terbuka lagi berdarah”) p.50. Is it sheer coincidence that the tragic date is mentioned immediately after this sentence?

Even ignoring the above, we find that there is little evidence of the module being evaluative or critical. Let us confine ourselves to specific aspects in three areas, namely, economy, education and religion.

In the economic sphere, admittedly there has been much progress since Merdeka, although not as impressive as in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Many aspects of Government policies aimed at promoting unity have caused much ethnic strain. One such policy is the DEB, adopted in the wake of 13 May Incident.

The Module strongly reflects the official position in defending the DEB and Malay Special Position. But it is not sufficient to continue reproducing old rationale and arguments that were used over 36 years ago. Now the scenario has changed and it needs to be taken into account.

True, the economic conditions of the Malays have improved. Incidence of poverty has decreased substantially; but it may be shown statistically that socio-economic inequity has increased. A greater number and percentage of Malays have succeeded in different professional fields. There are more Malays in business and industry. But there is great uneasiness that the DEB has been used to enrich only a selected few.

These have implications on ethnic relations. The implications become more serious when government leaders defend it in the name of “Ketuanan Melayu”. On the other hand, there is growing demand for a new agenda of economic development that does not discriminate ethnically, but favour the poor and marginalized from all ethnic groups. Surely there should be an attempt for the Module to draw attention to these scenarios.

In the field of education, National Schools with Bahasa Malaysia as medium of instruction were aimed at creating a united nation. Ironically, existing language and education policies have divided instead of unite. They have led to ethnic polarization in and among schools. The module touts “Sekolah Wawasan” for promoting unity. But Government has almost scrapped this idea, after protests from non-Malays and Malays.

According to government figures, only seven percent of students in National Schools are non-Malays, while about the same proportion of students in National-type Schools are made up of Malays. Most of MARA schools are confined to Malays, although there is an attempt now to admit non-Malays up to 10 percent. But this percentage does not reflect the composition of population ethnically or economically. It creates ethnic dissatisfaction.

There is also ethnic polarization at university level. The majority of undergraduates in public universities are Malays not so proficient in English, while in private universities the majority is non-Malay more proficient in English. At the same time, we have growing number of universities that cater almost exclusively for an ethnic group. The module does not touch on these rather dangerous trends.

Religion can be a thorny problem for ethnic relations. The module makes an attempt to provide the essence in the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. Together they take up only two pages. Three pages are given to Islam Hadari (not the teachings of Islam as such), as a basis for understanding, harmony and peace for Malaysia and the whole world. (Strangely, more than five pages are devoted to the National Service).

Recently many issues and incidents relating to conversion and apostasy have sparked inter-religious tensions and suspicions. These issues have to be handled with great wisdom and care. There should be no problem in discussing Islam Hadari and its role, objectively and in balanced and critical manner. But it becomes a problem when the Module appears to turn a blind eye to real issues that threaten ethnic harmony and national unity.

In conclusion, it must be emphasized that University Autonomy demands to be cherished. The University must be free and independent to evolve its own modules, courses and other academic matters. This is almost the last bastion. Borrowing the words of the renowned poet Rabindranath Tagore on another matter, the university should genuinely be a centre “where knowledge is free and the head is held high”.

M Bakri Musa “gives a tight slap” on AAB’s face.Padan Muka!

December 21, 2006
Pak Lah, worry about rakyat’s rice bowl instead
M Bakri Musa/ Malaysiakini
Dec 21, 06 12:49pm

M BAKRI MUSA is a surgeon in Silicon Valley, California and the author of The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia. His views o­n Malaysia can be stated thus: Ours is a diverse nation; we can accept and celebrate this reality or by default, it becomes a liability.

As he enters his fourth year as prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi still does not get it! He is concerned with his son-in-law’s pot of rice, not that of the rakyat. Since he cannot brag about the nation’s economic achievements under his leadership, he is reduced to boasting of his son’s wealth. There is no glory if his son (and son-in-law) were rich but the nation poor.

Someone ought to tell him that he was elected to lead Malaysia, not to take care of the well-being of his grown-up family, its friends and cronies. His advisers and family members have convinced him that those critics are out to bring him down. If Abdullah persists with his present pattern, rest assured that this belief would be self-fulfilling.

Abdullah should ponder the fate of another leader who was consumed with filling in the rice pots of his family members. Suharto’s downfall was ugly for him, as well as for his family and Indonesia.

Abdullah hides behind accusing his critics of fitnah (slander), a particularly sinister term replete with profound religious implications. That is just a case of yet another politician seeking subterfuge behind religion.

Being intellectually lazy, Abdullah conveniently cocoons himself and is thus shielded from the harsh realities. There he was a few months ago rationalising that he was just warming up! Now he pronounces himself satisfied with his performance! It sure does not take much to make him satisfied. 

RM600 mil bonus for Umno 

Abdullah is impervious to the plight of the poor devastated by his recent reduction of oil subsidy. The demands by civil servants for a 40 percent pay hike reflect the general increasing cost and declining standard of living.

Gone are his promises of open tenders and competitive bidding. Mega-projects like the second Penang link and the new palace are being awarded without much discussion or formal tender processes. He has yet to deny disbursing RM600 million to Umno operatives at the recent general assembly, the most obscene and expensive display of money politics.

Six months after the cancellation of the crooked bridge in Johor and there is still no full accounting of the total costs, including the hefty penalty payments. He spent hundreds of millions on the Monsoon Cup for a sporting event that hardly registered on the Malaysian consciousness.

The self-serving behaviours of his advisors ensconced on the infamous fourth floor of the Prime Minister’s Office are understandable, their very positions depend on their ability to humour the old man. As for his family members, there is the traditional Asian filial loyalty: the father being always right, the son (or son-in-law) always the prince. That will never change with Malays, Oxbridge education notwithstanding.

As for the others, there is the residuum of feudal Malay culture: the sultan is always right, challenge him at your peril. Classical Malay literature is replete with heroes presumed to be derhaka (and suffered the fate) for daring to correct the wayward ways of their sultans. Hang Tuah was only the most famous. Whatever the sultan wishes, he gets, and more. Increasingly, Abdullah is behaving like a pseudo sultan, minus of course the heritage or even regal charm.

Destroying a nation

Thanks to the British colonial legacy, our nation is governed by laws and institutions. Those laws and institutions however, are premised on having competent and honourable leaders and individuals to serve them. With the corrupt and the incompetent, even the best laws would
eventually be circumvented, and robust institutions eroded.

Abdullah alone could not destroy Malaysia; his lack of engagement is perversely an assurance of that. His lack of diligence and attention however could by default let others ruin the country. If that were to happen, the blame must then be equally borne by his advisors, ministers, senior politicians, pundits, and public servants. They let it happen.

There are men of integrity in Abdullah’s cabinet (not many), but they have remained curiously silent. They are either putting their careers ahead of the fate of the nation, or they condone Abdullah’s shenanigans and incompetence. Or both.

We look forlornly for a local Robin Cook or Paul O’Neill in Abdullah’s cabinet, men who willingly gave up their cabinet positions to impress their conviction on their wayward leader. More recently, a bipartisan group of distinguished retired Americans told their president publicly and in no uncertain terms that his Iraq policy is deeply flawed.

As Umno president, Abdullah is answerable to its members. Judging from their collective behaviours at the party’s recent general assembly, do not expect them to provide responsible checks and balances.

If ministers and Umno members cannot provide the necessary oversight, then surely there is the Umno supreme council. Their members, except for the few appointed by Abdullah and thus beholden to him, are elected by the membership. Thus we would expect them to be independent. Yet they too have remained curiously silent.

They too are silent

As we look at the roster of distinguished Malaysians who are now retired, we are humbled by their accomplishments and contributions in academia, the professions, and public service. They too are silent.

If they agree with the direction the nation is headed, they should voice their support so as to encourage the leadership to do more of the same. If they disagree, then they owe it to their fellow citizens to voice their concerns. Surely the whole country has not suddenly been gripped by mediocrity and low expectations. We cannot find any other explanation for this curious but far from elegant silence.

An African proverb has it that it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it would take more than just a leader to destroy a country. Saddam could not ruin Iraq without those enablers around him. They too must bore the blame.

When reality strikes and Malaysians find ourselves in an abyss, yes, we will blame Abdullah. We must also pour our wrath on those others complicit: his ministers, pundits, and intellectuals now singing his praise. That ought to make them pause and examine their stance, to have the courage to impress upon Abdullah of this reality before voters deliver their verdict in the next general elections.

Abdullah’s self-admitted poor time management is not an acceptable excuse. His frequent and obvious inattention and dozing off should not be tolerated. If the burden of the office is too much for Abdullah, his advisors, ministers, and senior Umno politicians owe it to the nation to tell the man to give it up and let others more capable take the helm.

This is not the time to be nice to any one individual; it is a time to be nice and considerate to all Malaysians and to worry about their pot of rice. To remain competitive, Malaysians, leaders and followers alike, must work hard and smart. Malaysia does not need nor should it tolerate sleepy heads.


This article was co-authored with DIN MERICAN, a senior research fellow, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, and visiting professor, University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The views expressed do not implicate these institutions.

May the new King play a greater role in Malaysian life.

December 14, 2006

  A friend of mine jokingly said that the BN Government is forced to build a new palace for the King because they were so embarrased to see that the “Istana Idaman” built by  “Raja Zakaria” of Klang was bigger than our present Agong’s palace.

I have blogged about the new palace shortly after PM Abbdullah and his cabinet ministers have launched the work on the new palace. I commented that it was not right to build a new palace of such high price at the time when our economy and market are so sluggish, and whatever money we have should be used for schools and hospitals. Besides, the present palace is still in fairly good conditions and fit for our King. That’s what I told Reuters and Australian Radio when I was asked to comment on the subject.

I told the Australian Radio that the Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang had raised the question of proper tender for the new palace of which he did not get a good answer. I said we accept the fact that it costs Malaysians money to upkeep the monarchy system but we must be careful with our money. We do not have a lot of money to throw away, so to speak.

I also told the Australian Radio that while we were mindful that the King and Sultans should not involve in partisan politics, we hope the Royalty could speak out in the interest of the people, helping to shape the political landscape positively.

 Just like the Thai King, the positions of Agong and Sultans were of great influence and they enjoy respect and support from the people in general. They have the right to advice the heads of the government and the people on matters important to the people ( such as politics, religion and ethnic relations).

I have cited HRH Sultan of Selangor as a good example. In recent months, the Sultan has spoken out for the people on several issues important to the people of Selangor and Malaysia.

I also expressed a great hope that the new King HRH Mizan Zainal Abidin could play a greater role in Malaysians life. The King of this country is the figure head of the state largely ceremonious. He is the nominal chief of armed forces and the supreme head of Islam, the official religion. He also sits on the Pardon Board, which is part of the judiciary system.