A Living Nation

June 11, 2013

By Allan CF Goh

A nation cannot live
With its people truncated,
Like the dried fallen leaf,
Crushed and emasculated.A people cannot thrive,
Under any tyranny,
Be it of racist strife,
Or undeserved agony.

A state cannot progress
If she rejects the truly best,
And goes on to transgress
Her people’s talented quest.

A country will degrade,
When swamped full of corruption.
It cannot maintain grade,
Based on discrimination.

When the country’s future
Rests on men of arrogance,
With talents not nurtured,
We face only ignorance.

There is only one choice:
To nurture virtues valiant,
Listen to progress’s voice,
And sideline all the villains.


Minister of Home Affairs, IGP and Chief Commissioner: Stop State Violence

June 8, 2013
  • Petitioning Minister of Home Affairs, IGP and Chief Commissioner

 

Is there no justice or rule of law in Malaysia? Can members of the Royal Police Force, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or any other government enforcement agency abuse their powers as and when they please? Should they escape the long arm of the law, justice, criminal prosecution and disciplinary action for all the unjustifiable and unlawful shootings, deaths in custody and torture? Are they above the law?

We are here to remind Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, and Chief MACC Commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed of the serious cases of police and MACC brutality in recent years that are still awaiting justice and answers. The family members of the deceased persons, survivors, their lawyers, supporters, civil society and the Rakyat will not be deceived by the authorities’ inaction or half-hearted actions on these cases who seem to hope that in time, the uproar and memory of these cases will simply fade away.

There are many more cases particularly affecting refugees, migrants and foreigners who have died in custody, tortured, whipped and subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment, then deported without their stories being told or revealed to us. Consequently, these enforcement agencies continue to act with impunity in treatment of persons.

Our Protests

1 Failure to take action, lack of independent and effective investigations

2 Recurrent excuses, disturbing trends and false accusations

3 Lack of professionalism, complete disregard of well-established laws and guidelines

4 Culture of impunity

Our Demands

With the nation facing its most important general elections in its history, we urge the Minister of Home Affairs, IGP and Chief Commissioner to take this opportunity to make a clean break from the police, MACC and other enforcement agencies’ long tarnished history and reputation of brutality, trigger-happy attitude, corrupt impunity, and acting as the protector of the rich and powerful and oppressor of the poor and weak. The Minister, IGP and Chief Commissioner are responsible to restore public confidence in the credibility, trust and professionalism of the police force, MACC and other enforcement agencies which even the most blinkered officials will acknowledge is extremely low.

There is no short cut in the road to police and MACC reformation and redemption. Hard decisions will have to be made and those in power and positions will certainly attempt to resist. Despite all the failed promises and half-hearted attempts at reform, we the Rakyat, civil society, the many victims, family members and survivors of brutality and the affected communities demand the following:

1. Without fear or favor, bring all offenders among the police, MACC and other enforcement agencies, to justice including for serious criminal charges and disciplinary proceedings that commensurate with the offenses;

2. Immediately establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to function as an independent, external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to make the police accountable for their conduct;

3. Institute an Ombudsmen system that enforces human rights practice in all enforcement agencies and their places of detention such as prisons, immigration detention centers and lockups;

4. Review and make public the law enforcement agencies’ standard operating procedures including the Inspector General Standing Order on police guidelines on discharge of firearms and detention and interrogation;

5. Support the setting up of an independent and competent Coroner’s Court system to replace the current Magistrate’s Inquest which is extremely problematic and ineffective;

6. ” Ratify the Convention against Torture and the Optional protocol” followed by necessary laws to eliminate torture.”

7. Support human rights education and training programmes, with a view to changing the attitudes, perceptions and met.


Why I will not move on — Lishan Low

May 16, 2013

May 16, 2013

MAY 16 — 1. Barisan Nasional (BN) does not have political legitimacy

There are two elements to legitimacy — procedural and substantive legitimacy. BN fails on both counts.

Procedural legitimacy requires that the instituted election mechanisms (however unfair) are carried out and complied with to the fullest extent. This means that even with an uneven delineation of constituencies and a questionable electoral roll, if the elections had been conducted in a professional manner, the results would have been procedurally legitimate by account of the “rules of the game.”

Nevertheless, even on this count, BN has failed to adhere to its own heavily biased and terribly unfair procedure. Allegations of ballot boxes disappearing, double voting, and ballot stuffing mar the elections purely on a procedural level. Moreover, a widespread and fairly indiscreet campaign of vote-buying is illegal and further taints the electoral process. So even if you ask me to accept the grossly unfair procedure that BN themselves have instituted, I cannot grant that the outcome was legitimate.

Substantive legitimacy on the other hand, has more to do with perception. The people, the rakyat, themselves need acknowledge that BN has a legitimate mandate to rule. Here, you cannot say that gerrymandering or a dirty electoral role are merely facts that have to be “lived with” and can only be changed in Parliament (ergo, wait till GE14). If the process itself is not perceived by the rakyat as fair and free, there is no sense in suggesting that the outcome it produces is legitimate. Furthermore, given that BN LOST the popular vote, that itself is enough grounds to discard the entire elections as an irredeemable sham.

So to those who argue that gerrymandering cannot be legally challenged (yes I am referring very specifically to a particular camp of people), I say ay, of course it can’t be legally challenged. Given that reality, wouldn’t it make sense that we call the election what it truly was in the first place — a gigantic sham! And shouldn’t it then follow that we should not accept the outcome of GE13 and demand a re-election, along with the decimation of the Election Commission?

2. The voice and dignity of every Malaysian is at stake

What is at stake is more than just five more years of BN hegemony. What is at stake is the dignity and voice of every Malaysian, not just those that voted for the opposition. For far too long, Malaysians allowed evil-doers in our country to rob us of our dignity. We have accepted half-hearted and two-faced responses to demands for change and convinced ourselves that we can live with it. Finally, we have the opportunity to call their bluff, to expose Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his merry gang for what they truly are — plunderers and criminals. How can we stay silent any longer and allow BN to continue on in their ways, occasionally placating us with insincere promises of reform and transformation. If the aftermath of their victory is anything to go by, we know and we see that nothing has or will change. Race continues to be used as a weapon to stir up division in the country, the same group of incompetent miscreants gets appointed into top ministerial positions, and no attempt whatsoever has been made to address the ever-rising tide of allegations of electoral fraud.

Never forget as well that every inch given to BN, the more ground the opposition loses in its struggle for meaningful transformation. Moving on is akin to surrender, like a tiger that has successfully overcome its prey but suddenly decides to let it go, or a boxer who has overwhelmed his opponent but leaves the ring before the buzzer goes off. It is unthinkable that we should allow BN space to regroup, to continue on with “business as usual,” rewarding its supporters and striking fear into the hearts of those who “betrayed” them.

3. The least among us cannot afford to move on

Five years is a long time. Quite a lot of good can be accomplished, even more harm can be inflicted. Our struggle against BN is not just a struggle for power, it is a struggle for justice. When we go to the ballot box, we don’t just fight for our own well being but the well being the least among us.

There are many among us who cannot move on. They are stuck in a perpetual cycle of hardship and depravity. I am talking about the natives of Sarawak whose homes are virtually stripped from beneath their feet. Theirs is a home that cannot be returned. The moment they are forced from it, the land will be desolated. The richness of the forests will be plundered to feed the greed of monsters in our land.

I am talking about the 168 house owners that will be evicted from their houses tomorrow morning. Theirs was a fight with the odds stacked against them. The avarice of private developers and the inadequacy of our justice system robbed these house owners and their families of their hard earned property.

I am talking about multitude of minorities that have been withheld citizenship even after being in the country for generations. At the same time, identity cards are dispensed freely to those whom BN finds agreeable.

Anyone of us could be in such positions right now, yet most of us are not. We live in relative comfort, we have lived for a long time under the BN government and have got along fine, save a few complaints. But the least among us are not afforded such luxuries. They can’t move on. They are stuck. So do not tell these people to move on. They deserve a voice and we owe it to them to fight on.

4. I will not be complicit to the crimes of BN and the EC

Malaysians cannot no longer afford to turn a blind eye. By doing so we are choosing to wilfully ignore the injustices wrought by BN and the Election Commission. We are choosing to allow the perpetuation of an authoritarian regime legitimising it self via a pseudo democratic process. If we truly want a democratic process we must be willing to fight for it. If we do not, if we insist on moving on, I believe that we inadvertently become complicit to the crime. The reality is this, Malaysians: we do not live in a democracy. And unless we fight to have democratic processes actually implemented, BN will continue to control the political levers, allowing them to maintain a perception of legitimacy and they will continue to plunder our beloved country until she has nothing left to give. At that point, there will be nothing left to move on to.


Race relations and the moral imperative

May 14, 2013
May 14, 2013

I call on all right-minded Malaysians – be they Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dayak or Kadazan or any other ethnic group – to reject the racist Barisan Nasional.

COMMENT

By Anwar Ibrahim

A week has lapsed since the 13th General Election where yet another wave of change of Tsunamic proportions was unleashed.

But this change, which should have been a change in government, was forestalled by the systemic fraud perpetrated by Najib’s Umno-BN which robbed Pakatan Rakyat of its rightful victory.

This is not a question of mere electoral flaws or irregularities but a far and wide-ranging scheme of deception and cheating orchestrated at the highest levels calculated and executed to ensure that Umno’s hold on power will remain, come hell or high water.

Naturally, this travesty of the people’s right has provoked a reaction so strong — now known as Black 505 — that it has spooked the corrupters and evil plotters to seek all means possible to divert and distract the people’s focus.

Najib called the 13th GE results a “Chinese tsunami” the first of a series of blows nationwide attacking the community, while at the same time endeavouring to use the rhetoric to provoke the Malay community to respond and react.

It didn’t matter that he was talking through his hat for the reality showed otherwise — the poll numbers extrapolated from independent sources clearly indicated an increase in the number of votes from the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities in favour of Pakatan, apart from the consequential increase in the number of Pakatan Malay lawmakers elected to office.

Read the rest of this entry »


The new Malaysia — Abdul Haleem Abdul Rahiman

May 11, 2013

May 10, 2013

MAY 10 — If you are not aware — there is a NEW MALAYSIA out there. The NEW MALAYSIA with a new generation. Before you think this is the young new generation let me tell you that you are wrong. No, the word “generation” is not an age group defined.

This NEW MALAYSIA also not restricted by geographical boundaries. A Malaysian, no matter where is he or she based at, be it Australia, the Middle East, North America, North Asia, Europe or Africa — they are and they also surely will be part of this NEW MALAYSIA.

This NEW MALAYSIA no longer intimidated by tear gas or risk of being arrested for participating in public gatherings.

This NEW MALAYSIA will speak up, will stand up and will walk for miles to be heard, to be recognised and to be RESPECTED.

This NEW MALAYSIA will not accept anything and everything. We will question everything — we will check everything and we will demand for anything that is fair, just and clean.

This NEW MALAYSIA is no longer an idle group. Be it weekdays or weekends. We will be there as long as it’s a good fight. The cause is noble. The reason is clear.

This NEW MALAYSIA is colour blind. No race or religious doctrine can suppress us. No bogeyman. Be it May 13 or what — we fear no more.

The NEW MALAYSIA believes in itself. Thus no matter how you stir the racial sentiments this NEW MALAYSIA will not bite it.

This NEW MALAYSIA is full of love and passion for this country. We believe we can make this country better than what it is today. We believe in fellow Malaysians and we believe in the better future. No manifesto or promises will take this believe away from us.

This NEW MALAYSIA will not stop at paying tax annually and vote every five years. We will be part of the future of this nation. We’ll participate and contribute continuously, consistently and on a daily basis.

This NEW MALAYSIA needs no slogan or idol. This is MALAYSIA and this is who we are. Never mind what the principles of your coalition are. Never mind what your agenda is. This NEW MALAYSIA is here and this is unstoppable.

This NEW MALAYSIA will not go down without a fight. We may fail but make no mistake — we’ll rise again and again.

This NEW MALAYSIA had enough of a comfort zone which is no longer comfy. We’ll all together — hand in hand — make this a better place for you and me and for the future of our kids and theirs.

This NEW MALAYSIA is in love with the country and passionate about its future. So “Be grateful” will not silence us and will not stop us from being vocal.

God speed, God bless — for the NEW MALAYSIA

* Abdul Haleem Abdul Rahiman reads The Malaysian Insider.


508 : I was there I was there ― Andre Sequerah

May 11, 2013

May 10, 2013

MAY 10 ― When I was younger and had just started working life in the late 90s, my friends and I used to get together at the open air stalls to drink teh tarik and Milo Ais. We talked about everything that concerned us as young working adults, from the crash of 1997 (yes, we are that old) and how it affected us, to our lives as singles.

We had a gamut of professions among us ― doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants with a racial mix that was equally as complex ― Indian, Chinese, Malay, Malay mixed, Eurasian, Ceylonese. In short, we were a microcosm of Malaysia, then and now.

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Negaraku — Farish A. Noor

May 9, 2013

 

May 09, 2013

 

MAY 9 — When I was a kid growing up in Malaysia, I, like millions of other kids at school, was compelled to sing the national anthem “Negaraku”. The words were learned by rote, memorised and repeated in a repetitive fashion during the morning assembly as the national flag was raised.

 

Being brought up a Johannian at St John’s Institution, this ritual was drilled into us on a weekly basis; and later on when I became a prefect I also had to learn the other rites and rituals of mutuality and association: Brushing and polishing my shoes till they were so shiny that one could see one’s face reflected; brushing and cutting one’s hair tight and above the ears, the incessant marching and drilling that rendered our lives routine and regimented — very much like cadets in an army camp.

 

Though we detested these rituals then, they were nonetheless the means through which citizenship and belonging were instilled in us. But like those novels that you read when you were young, and never fully understood till you returned to them years later, the meaning of the national anthem never dawned upon me until many years later, when I found myself living abroad in Europe for 21 years.

 

 

I have, since the age of 18, lived the life of a minority. In England, France, Holland, Germany and now in Singapore, I have always been counted as one among the minority groups. I was either of a minority ethnic background or religion, or both.

 

And during those years of constant movement my itinerant life has meant that the only things that reminded me of Malaysia were those that held some tactile, tangible memory in my mind: My old school St John’s, and my mother. These are the only things that keep me attached to Malaysia, two umbilical chords — one concrete and one physical, though now severed and yet symbolically real. I carried with me, during all those years of study and work, a living memory of Malaysia that remains with me until today.

 

My memory of school — St John’s in the 1970s and 1980s — was one that offered a glimpse of another Malaysia that may have come to pass, a Malaysia where all of us, Johannians, were of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and yet were bound together by a common sense of Malaysian-ness, and until today whenever my school chums and I meet (we are all balding now, with pot bellies being dutifully cultivated along with bad knees, weak eyesight and failing nerves) we recall the days when ours was a school that was a microcosm of Malaysia.

 

Not that our nostalgia for the past is blinding, or that we would deny that there was, even then, the traces of sectarianism that was budding in our midst. But one cannot help but look back to that past and ask how and why the nation we grew up in has changed so much in so short a space of time.

 

My memories of childhood include the recurring memory of the evenings on the swing in our garden in the house in Ampang, where I would look at the sea of stars in the sky at night (in those days you could actually see stars in the sky at night as KL was not so lighted), and listening to her talking about the past; about the Japanese invasion, about the colonial era when she had to sing “God Save The King”, and the story of how she cried when she sang “Negaraku” for the first time in 1957.

 

That a song could elicit tears was a novel idea for me, for it was the same song being drummed into us at school at St John’s on a daily basis. But two decades on as I braved the hostile winters of London, Paris, Leiden and Berlin that memory returned to me again and again. Like a novel that one returns to years after reading it the first time, upon a second reading new meanings are suddenly laid bare. Could it be that I was, after all, a patriot?

 

The question pricked at the heart of my secular-liberal conscience for my education, tempered by a decade of student activism and unionism, had taught me that nationalism was always a potentially dangerous thing. And having spent the past two decades studying political violence and religious extremism, I would have to concur. I have seen enough instances of hyper-nationalism to make my blood freeze and my skin crawl. I have had the dubious honour of meeting and interviewing hyper-nationalists, religious extremists, terrorist fanatics and frankly I have grown weary and wary of those who confess their beliefs in too emotional and simplistic a manner. I fear hyper-nationalism as it always requires an enemy to define itself, to frame itself in positive terms.

 

And until today I fear demagogues and ideologues who proclaim that their nation is the best, better than others.

 

In the course of my travels I have met many of such characters (dare I say it, more than any of you, dear readers) and I am repulsed by even the slightest hint of communitarianism and exclusive politics.

 

But once I was struck by my own emotional reaction when I watched a crowd of hyper-nationalists from a neighbouring country burn the Malaysian flag before my eyes. It was an odd moment, when a feeling of great emotion overwhelmed me. There is no word to signify the feeling I felt, though the emotion was raw and complex; a mixture of profound anger and disgust, co-mingled by a deep abiding sadness, as if a part of me had been burned too.

 

The same feeling visits me time and again when, in the course of my work as a wandering academic, I meet other academic colleagues and scholars who occasionally let slip the odd jibe like “Well, what do you expect? That’s Malaysian politics for you!” The sniggers and laughter that follow sting my conscience deep inside, for I am torn between having to accept the superficial truth value of what they say, and my steadfast refusal to let it remain so. In my heart of hearts, I can only say to myself: “No, that is not how Malaysian politics should be, and we are better than that, and we can be better than that.”

 

I retreat to the hollow comfort of nostalgia and embrace the memory that Malaysia once had one of the best civil services in the world, the best university in Southeast Asia, the most professional armed forces. I cling on to the memory that this country was once led by men and women of integrity — and as a historian I can recount many stories of exemplary dedication, moral courage, honestly and integrity.

 

I have been told stories of how the leaders of our country once refused luxury expenses, paid their own hotel bills even when on diplomatic missions, kept an eye on their personal accounts. My late Uncle Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin was one of those who volunteered to be taken as a hostage on a hijacked airliner, so that innocent lives of other passengers could be saved.

 

Malaysia was built on that, on the silent labour of an army of quiet patriots. And they were men who did not think that Malaysia was superior to other countries, who did not need to invent enemies to have a sense of self-worth.

 

Malaysia has just passed a threshold at its 13th general election and the mood in the country is electric. I do not know what may or will happen next. But what is clear is that differences in our nation have become divisions, and these divisions need to be healed if the nation is to move on. Both sides are accusing each other of betrayal, both sides are claiming the mantle of victimhood and both sides are lamenting our loss of innocence.

 

I simply wish to remind all of us, Malaysians of the same national family, that we are all citizens of the same nation — negaraku. Our nation has to come to terms with the fact that we are a complex family, with many different viewpoints.

 

Unity and homogeneity are not the same thing, and in our desire to see a united nation let us accept the fact that we have to also accept our differences. This simple recognition of the inherent plurality and diversity is a fundamental fact of life, and cannot be overcome by a flattening of Malaysian society into a singular, homogenous Malaysian subjectivity. Nor can it ever succeed for no nation has prospered under such conditions. Our greatest asset, in my opinion, is precisely that diversity that prepares us for the complex world beyond our shores, making us global citizens even without the benefit of travelling.

 

Tonight I watched a video of tens of thousands of Malaysians singing “Negaraku”. Once again, I returned to the anthem of my youth, and found a new meaning to it. It taught me that despite our differences, we all love this country that is our home.

 

When Malaysians sang “Negaraku” together tonight, it was not because they felt that theirs was a superior country. It was not sung in the spirit of jingoism or bellicosity. It was sung out of a simple, sincere love for a nation that we call home, for we have no other. I have lived abroad for 27 years of my life, but tonight from the confines of my study in my academic’s flat in NTU, I was brought home for a while. I was brought back to that Malaysia that was born in the midst of a Cold War, in the midst of uncertainly and existential angst, and a Malaysia that was saved only because Malaysians loved it so.

 

Yes, we differ; and we defend the right to differ. Yes, we are diverse and we cannot help being so. Malaysia is big enough for 30 million hearts to share. For we are, above all, Malaysians and whatever our ideological, ethnic and religious differences may be, there can be only one home for all of us: Negaraku.

 

* Dr Farish A. Noor is a Malaysian academic who works abroad.


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