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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Merdeka, 54 years on...

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Original image from Tunku Abdul Rahman, hosting by Photobucket On this day, 54 years ago, an important proclamation was made, signifying the birth of a new nation, at the time called Malaya. The history and events preceding that historic event at Stadium Merdeka over half a century ago may be somewhat contentious, as the contributions of many remain unspoken, or even obscured from public mind-share.

But we’ll leave that aspect of Merdeka for another day.

What Walsksi wants to focus on instead is what was proclaimed on that day, in 1957. It may have been before Walski was born, what was uttered that day is something that all Malaysians should know.

For within the text of the declaration lies something which all Malaysians today should have, but has been made illusive along the historical garden path that we’ve traversed.

That something, in fact, are two important precepts upon which this nation was founded. It is the same two precepts that, as the days go by, seem to become more in theory than in practice. 
(the Proclamation of Independence, and more in the full post)

Proclamation of Independence - 1957

The last paragraph of the proclamation contain these two precepts, principles upon which this nation was declared to be based on – liberty and justice.

Walski wonders, as we advance through the years, do these two precepts still hold true?

It’s something worth pondering upon as we celebrate our 54th year of independence. Personally, Walski thinks that while we still have some semblance of liberty and justice in practice, the true meaning of these two precepts have been forgotten.

Evident from the proclamation is that these two precepts were chosen over the multitude of principles that could have been mentioned. That the two precepts are mentioned as requisites to achieving happiness and welfare of the people is also something worth remembering.

As you ponder this, allow Walski to wish you Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan ke 54... may we one day achieve the goal of being one nation, with liberty and justice for ALL.

Click here for the full post......

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Selamat Merdeka Raya... Eid Mubarrak!

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Anak bulan di langit senja,
Tanda akhirnya bulan Ramadhan,
Sebulan sudah kita berpuasa,
Kini masanya menyambut lebaran

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, image hosting by PhotobucketOriginal image credits: Malaysian flag (from here) & Putrajaya Mosque (from here)

Pantun (or Malay verse) is not exactly Walski’s forte, but he tries. Most of all, he’d like to wish all Malaysians Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. Eid Mubarrak to one and all...  
(some thoughts on a special national day raya, and more, in the full post)

Because the Hijri calendar revolves around our everyday-use Gregorian calendar, lagging approximately 11 days every year, this time around Aidil Fitri falls one day before National Day. Which is nice, because it means that Walski can take the whole week off without any guilt. And boy, does he need a break.

Extra-long holidays aside, Walski is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps Raya falling in such close proximity to Hari Merdeka is meant to remind us of what it means to be Malaysian during festivities.

Be it Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Christmas, Malaysians have always celebrated together. That’s one of the things that makes our nation unique. Granted, many of our cultural celebrations have their roots in the various creeds held by the various cultures that make up our nation. But that has never stopped Malaysians from celebrating as one people. And so it should be.

As time progresses, however, Walski cannot help but notice that there was a lot less hesitation about joining each others’ celebrations in days past, compared to the present.

If you recall, back in 2006, there was this advisory e-mail that made its rounds, warning Muslims about the “dangers” wishing someone Happy Deepavali could pose to their faith. Since then there have been many other articles, sermons, and what not, constantly reminding Muslims that jeopardy to their faith lies in... well, just about anything not officially labeled “Islamic”.

Walski’s talked about before in the past, in more than one post, so he won’t repeat himself here.

We won’t delve into why this has progressively been happening over the past several decades, but for someone who follows these developments with a keen interest, Walski really wonders why we seem to be steadily retreating back into our own demographic comfort zones, rather than forging forward as one people.

Perhaps Hari Raya falling one day before Hari Merdeka is to remind us that we should embrace that uniquely Malaysian practice of sharing our festivities, not reject it. And in doing so, help forge us as one nation, of one people – one bangsa Malaysia.

And so, that said, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, to all Malaysians, wherever you might be...

Click here for the full post......

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Stream, The Divide, and cutting through The Noise

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Aljazeera's The Stream - logo image hosting by PhotobucketAljazeera has this regular segment called The Stream. In essence, this program delves into more detail the less talked about stories they find in the social media circuit, looking beyond the popular hashtags, in the case of Twitter.

In their own words, “#8millionBeliebers and #TeamSheen will not figure on The Stream”.

One of those stories is the ethnic and religious divide in our country that is becoming, it seems, more and more apparent. It’s not something we here living in Malaysia are not already aware of, and in the case of Walski, it’s something he’s seen being talked about more and more in our own little corner of the social media world.

The Stream, on Friday, did a segment on this, featuring three well-known Malaysian personalities: Khairy Jamaluddin, Marina Mahathir, and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

In the age of instant gratification we live in today, 27 minutes may seem like a long time, but it’s 27 minutes worth watching. It’s only after watching the whole thing that he could provide his own opinions. And boy, does Walski have a lot to say... 
(the state of our nation, and more, in the full post)

First off, if you bothered to watch the segment in its entirety, you’ll notice that the segment wasn’t very well moderated. In fact, in went off in several tangents, quite incongruous to the central topic (the foreign student and “refugee-swap” tangents specifically).

That said, the fact that The Stream featured this issue is an indication that the world is indeed starting to take notice. We have to come to terms with the reality that Malaysia can no longer prevent what happens within her borders from being seen outside, despite the sugary sweet delusion of Malaysia, Truly Asia that we aggressively promote outside.

Screenshot from The Sream, image hosting by PhotobucketScreenshot from The Stream

And despite the rather shoddy moderating, there were a few good points raised. First is the question of whether the heightened tension we’re seeing is something manufactured by interested parties in the run-up to an anticipated election around the corner. Nik Nazmi’s careful politician’s comment aside, Walski is of the opinion that the answer is a resounding YES. In fact, it started just after the last general election, with the formation of Perkasa (more on that later).

Between then and now, more religion-based elements have crept into Perkasa’s rhetoric and actions, to the extent that they’re trying to portray themselves as champions of race and religion. It should not be forgotten that what JAIS did (the “visit“ to the DUMC) was in response to a tip-off from an unnamed party. Who was responsible for the tip-off? And who is it that continues to harp ad nauseum about the attempt to convert Muslims, in relation to the multi-faith charity event at DUMC, despite there not being any clear evidence?

So yeah, it could very well be that what happened at DUMC was engineered to set a campaign platform that Islam is at risk, and that one and only party can protect Muslims from their faith being attacked. From there, garnering Malay support is almost a given.

Second point, raised by Khairy, is on Article 153 – there is no mention of special rights of Malays or anyone else in that article. What is there is mention of the special position of the Malays and indigenous peoples of the country, upon which policies can be formed to provide quotas in public service and education. In Walski’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong with Article 153 per se. What’s wrong is with the policies set, and more importantly, how they’ve been executed.

The NEP, looked at on a macro level, had noble intentions, to make economic function unrelated to ethnicity, and to eradicate poverty. But that’s where the NEP’s nobleness stops, because it’s execution over the last four decades has made it into something contemptuous for the most part.

One large elephant-in-the-room fact that the so-called protectors of race and religion refuse to see is that changing, or even eliminating, the NEP does not negate Article 153. In fact, the NEP has nothing directly to do with Article 153. Only someone terminally stupid would believe otherwise. And terminal stupidity a condition that seems to be exhibited by Perkasa, and those in the same mental time zone as that organization.

A policy set in a different era and circumstance cannot be perpetual (it was NEVER designed to be in the first place). Of course, the likes of Perkasa, and similar mental midgets, will want us to believe that the 2011 situation is identical to that of 1970. Walski honestly doesn’t know if they themselves believe this, but that’s the impression he gets – they’re trapped in time. That’s the only plausible explanation why Perkasa will warn and threaten others to not question their superiority, but in the same breath say they still need their crutches.

Third, what little Marina managed to get in – that Malaysian politicians themselves are talking about race and religion, as if nothing else were important. Just think about – when something untoward happens, who is it that turns the incident into something politically contentious? More often than not, it’s the politicians themselves, or members of bodies politic.

Any comments made, politicized. Any criticisms, politicized. Sneeze, and someone says “bless you”, it gets politicized from a religious angle about how the wrong thing is uttered and this is due to us being subtly proselytized by the Christians... every damned thing becomes either political, or religiously political.

Not a day goes by, it seems, without a politician, or politician-wannabe-in-NGOs-clothing (sometimes ulama-clothing), sounding the clarion call for either Malay unity, or Muslim unity, or both in the same breath.

Viewed from the outside, what an observer sees is that Muslims in Malaysia are really very fragile, and sees EVERYTHING as a threat to their religion.

The reality? From Walski’s perspective, it’s the inability of entrenched minds to accept the fact that Malays today are no longer a monolithic force, with an identical mindset, having a carbon-copy worldview that can easily be manipulated for the sake of political power-mongering.

This, by the way, was the observation made by Professor Clive Kessler in his Merdeka essay, published by the Malaysian Insider, earlier this week.

The historic reason for the present lack of Malay unity is clear. The Malays of Malaysia are now irreversibly divided, as they never were in the past, by the NEP.

Not by current debates about the NEP — whether it is good or bad, whether it should be extended or phased out, whether it should give way to reward on the basis of merit and proven achievement — but by the long accumulating effects of the NEP over the last 40 years.

What the NEP sought to do, and succeeded triumphantly in doing, was to promote a rapid and far-reaching diversification of the Malay people of Malaysia: economically, socially, culturally and intellectually, in their orienting everyday attitudes and personalities.

The reason why Malay unity has become so elusive, even impossible to achieve in these present times, is simply the NEP. And the NEP was the project, and what it accomplished has been the much-vaunted result, of nobody other than the Umno.

So it is strange indeed to hear the Umno, or those who profess themselves concerned for its future and fate, bemoaning and denouncing the contemporary lack of Malay unity.

Today’s irrepressible and advancing Malay diversity is nothing other than one of the finest achievements, in its best years, of one of Umno’s finest, most favoured policies.

It is a triumphantly accomplished fact.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

While the NEP may not have achieved its stated objectives, nor has it managed to conjure the mystical 30% that’s etched into Ibrahim Ali’s brain, it has produced some good along the way. What Professor Kessler’s pointed out is one of those positive side-effects.

Make no mistake, though – the apparent widening of the race and religious divide in Malaysia is very real. But hidden behind the rhetoric and scare-mongering, let’s not forget the root cause of what’s happening.

Just like a lot of other things in Malaysian public life, at the core of this divide is none other than politics. Cutting through the noise, that’s what it all boils down to.

You have a simple choice to make – either fuel the political fire these fossilized minds are trying to fan, or quite simply tell these politicians and politician-wannabes-in-NGO-and-sometimes-ulama-clothing to fuck off; get on with our lives towards a better Malaysia that every citizen can be proud of.

Walski’s already made his choice, and it’s time for you to make yours, as well...

Tunku Abdul Rahman declaring our independence - image taken from MYSHAHMIR, hosting by Photobucket Our forefathers, bless their souls, delivered this nation from the clutches of colonialism not so that we could one day be re-colonized from within, by those who view power as the only end their many means seek to achieve. It was so that we could stand tall as a sovereign nation all Malayans (and later Malaysians) can be proud of.

We have certainly come a long way from that point in history some 54 years ago when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared us an independent nation. It’s time we reclaimed the ideals and aspirations that our Bapa Malaysia, together with his contemporaries, strived to realize.

Not a nation divided along any lines, and not a nation where one demographic claims lordship over the rest, but as one Bangsa Malaysia forging our future together.

 

Click here for the full post......

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Malaysia, Human Rights, and the Zen of Idiocy

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This is the second high profile lawyer-non-grata case that Malaysia has gotten herself embroiled in recently, the first being the French human rights lawyer back in July .

It really boggles the mind to think that this nation has regressed to this extent. Worse than a communist despotic state, sometimes. And yet, Malaysia holds a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

So, is Walski to understand that Malaysia promotes human rights outside its borders, but within it cares fuck all?

Read the rest of the opinion piece below, which is, quite frankly, an eye-opener about a country that bends over backwards to portray itself as something it's not...

Amplify’d from www.guardian.co.uk

On being detained at Kuala Lumpur airport

Imran Khan

In the Hollywood film The Terminal Tom Hanks plays (with obligatory mangled foreign accent) a character who is trapped in New York's JFK airport. Last week, I had a similar experience at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Malaysia. Whereas Tom Hanks's character spends years trapped, I was only there for a few hours. The episode was both humiliating and enlightening. I had been engaged by a Malaysian lawyer, Waytha Moorthy, to look into taking action against the British government for its role in the exploitation of Indian Hindus during Malaysia's period as a colony, and its failure to protect their rights when independence was declared in 1957.

Malaysia

Ethnic Indians make up just over 6% of Malaysia's 28.3 million people, while Muslim Malays account for just over 61% and ethnic Chinese some 25%. A coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation has ruled since independence, which, according to Moorthy, had led to widespread human rights violations and discrimination of the Indian Malaysian population. About 70% live in abject poverty and one in six are effectively stateless as they are denied a birth certificate. Moorthy originally lodged his action on the 31 August 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia's independence.

However, the claim stalled following the arrest of the lawyers involved under a draconian piece of legislation called the Internal Security Act. Moorthy had demanded compensation for Indian Malaysians whose ancestors were brought in by the British government as indentured labour. The claim was that, after granting independence, the British had left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of the Malays.

So, the plan was to visit Malaysia and gather evidence and claims that would form the foundation of the case. A recent case involving individuals tortured by British soldiers in colonial Kenya gave fresh impetus to the proceedings. My pending arrival in Malaysia had received advance publicity from local police who had sought to intimidate organisers of the venue where I was expected to meet potential claimants. There was, therefore, some trepidation when I presented myself to the immigration desk on arrival at KLIA.

Read more at www.guardian.co.uk
 

Click here for the full post......

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Colonized still, our sorry minds are...

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Post title reflects what Yoda would probably have commented, had the fictitious sage read this piece.

It's another excellent write-up by Farah Fahmy, whose previous opinion pieces on The Malaysian Insider have been great reads.

Farah makes an astute observation: "To me, a colonised mind is one that cannot tell the difference between a gathering of citizens intent on change through peaceful means, and a gathering of groups intent on malice and mayhem."

PM Najib was more spot on than he probably wanted to be when he said that there's a risk of the Malaysian minds being re-colonized. What the PM doesn't want to admit is who is it exactly that's the colonizer in this case.

As it is, day in day out the media reports intently on another attempt at re-colon-izing our mind, but that's a totally different story.

In any case, do give Farah's opinion piece a read in full... it'll be well worth your effort.

Colonised minds

Last month, our prime minister spoke about the colonisation of the mind. “We might not be at war but there is the threat of the colonisation of the mind, our spirit and character,” he said.

I happen to agree with him that there is indeed a threat of the colonisation of the mind, but perhaps not in the way he thinks.

I personally was not affected by the London riots, but my local area, Clapham Junction, was one of the areas of London that was badly affected. For days after I felt very angry every time I walked past boarded-up shops on my way to my local train station.

A friend of mine asked if such things could happen in Malaysia. Of course not, I said, because our authorities would get the water cannons and tear gas out at the first sign of trouble.

From the Malaysian side I heard and read a lot of comments about how such trouble hasn’t taken place in our country because “God still loves Malaysia”, or “see what happens when you have too much freedom.” Even our political leaders have weighed in with comments like “this is why we don’t allow demonstrations.”

As someone who has been to rallies and demonstrations, and witnessed teenage boys smashing up the windows of one of my local shops, I can categorically tell you that riots and demonstrations are two different things.

Yes, some demonstrations descend into violence and riots, but that is the price a democratic society has to pay sometimes. There may have been riots or disturbances in the former Communist countries and some in America during the Vietnam War, but would you rather live in the USSR, or the US?

To me, a colonised mind is one that cannot tell the difference between a gathering of citizens intent on change through peaceful means, and a gathering of groups intent on malice and mayhem.

Read more at www.themalaysianinsider.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

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Walski can't say that this was totally unexpected.

Apple in recent years has gone far in taking computing to a new level with the game-changing iPad. And this, Walski believes, is in a big part thanks to the leadership of Steve Jobs.

One can safely say that Jobs is an irreplaceable icon in the industry. And Walski wishes him well, as he fights his way, hopefully, back to wellness...

Amplify’d from latimesblogs.latimes.com

Tim Cook takes over as Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

Read more at latimesblogs.latimes.com

Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Inc. and driving force behind a string of products that revolutionized the consumer-electronics industry, stepped down as chief executive on Wednesday.

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But the move wasn't a completely unexpected one.

His departure from the CEO post had been widely anticipated ever since Jobs took an extended medical leave earlier this year to attend to undisclosed health reasons. He underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer seven years ago and had a liver transplant two years ago.

In his letter of resignation to the company board, Jobs said, "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

Read more at latimesblogs.latimes.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A timely video reminder for OneMalaysia...

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Don't know about you, but Walski had two thoughts when he watched this video.

First, he thinks that it would've been something Yasmin Ahmad would have absolutely loved.

And second, for the first time in a long, long while, someone comes up with a video that doesn't walk the slippery slope of racial stereotyping.

A fitting video for the time of year, when Aidil Fitri is just around the corner. And it had to be from the telco outfit that continues to stand out.

Thank you, DiGi... you just made Walski's evening.

Amplify’d from www.youtube.com

DiGi Dear Malaysians: Official Video
See more at www.youtube.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's just politics, nothing more and nothing less...

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Reading this article, written by John Malott, former US ambassador to Malaysia, what Walski chose as a title for this Amp-clipping was the first thing that came to mind.

And is he surprised? Not one itsy-bitsy iota.

Of course, many will take this as Walski being a die-hard fan and supporter of Anwar. Well, Walski certainly isn't.

Many people, however, have lost sight of what "fairness" means; it simply does not exist in their vocabulary. Or, at least, these many people have a totally skewed definition of the word. Fairness, to them, is when circumstances go their way.

So yeah, Walski's not surprised - UMNO's shit-scared of Anwar, and will do anything within their means to try to put the former Deputy PM away. Just like they did the first time around.

And that, to UMNO is fair. By their definition anyway...


Malott drops a bombshell: A secret pact between Najib and Anwar

Today I read Anwar Ibrahim’s statement from the docket.

Anwar said that it all is a political conspiracy against him.

And I agree.

After all, I was the American Ambassador to Malaysia when all of these things happened the first time around.

As people know, the American Embassy has many sources of information.

Just ask Wikileaks.

Malaysians love to talk….
As so many of my friends in Malaysia know, I have been very outspoken in support of Anwar’s freedom for over one decade. And that is because I know the truth. I was there when it happened the first time.

In 1998 – the first time around for Anwar – my Embassy heard and reported lots of things. We knew the truth. Because Malaysians – at the highest levels -- told us.

When I was in KL, Najib’s personal think tank was called the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre, or MSRC. MSRC basically was two people, Rohanna Mahmood and Razak Baginda.

Neither Rohanna nor Razak are government officials, so I am not violating any US laws by revealing what they told me and my Embassy in those days.

A secret pact
In 1998 Rohanna joined me for a private one-on-one luncheon at the Ambassador ‘s residence. It was during the time when Anwar was starting to challenge Mahathir, subtly but still obviously.

Rohanna told me that Najib and Anwar had reached a secret agreement. When Mahathir was gone, Anwar would be PM and Najib would be Deputy PM. That was the deal.

That never happened, of course. When the going got tough, Najib stood by, and let Anwar go to jail.

What about Razak Baginda?

He told a senior Embassy officer, “The decision has been made. They are going to “nuke” Anwar politically for all time to come. “Until he can never stand up again politically.”

100 years

Meaning, it was all a political decision – to destroy Anwar.

That is what Razak – now in self-imposed exile in London -- said.

After that, a senior officer in the Special Branch told an Embassy officer, “We are going to keep filing charge after charge after Anwar so he will be in jail for the next hundred years.”

Can there be any doubt about what was going on then – and what is going on now?

Read more at www.malaysia-chronicle.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Die, Dave, Die!

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This news report, while rather disturbing, does raise some questions. Like, why would a Muslim militant type be watching Letterman in the first place? Or is it a prank from a militant comedian who is envious of Dave's biting funnies?

Militants, from just about any faith, don't exactly have a good sense of humor. Or, at least, not what most people would consider a sense of humor. "Oh, look... Abdul just lost a leg in that bomb attack... ha ha..." isn't exactly what Walski would consider funny.

Granted, Dave does have a history of bad taste and going overboard from time to time. And the problem with folks so steeped in their cause - religion included - is that they have no capacity to laugh things off when humor crosses the line and becomes offensive to them.

Wait... doesn't that just about cover everybody in today's ultra-PC world?

Heck, it sure is hard to be a stand-up guy (or gal) these days...

Militant makes death threat against David Letterman

A Muslim militant has urged American followers to assassinate US talk show host David Letterman, saying his tongue deserved to be cut out, a US intelligence monitoring group said yesterday.

The SITE intelligence group said the death threat was posted on an online website used by militants after the writer became upset by a joke Letterman made about the death of a leading member of al Qaeda killed in an air strike in Pakistan.

The militant called on Muslims in the United States to “cut the tongue of this lowly Jew and shut it forever,” the threat against Letterman said, according to a translation by SITE. The popular late-night television host is not Jewish.

The FBI said it was taking the threat seriously.

The writer was angered by watching Letterman on his show drawing his finger across his neck while talking about the June death of senior al Qaeda figure Ilyas Kashmiri.

The message was posted on the website Shumukh al-Islam. SITE analyst Adam Raisman told Entertainment Weekly the website was “a clearing house for al Qaeda material” and drew supporters of the group headed by the late Osama bin Laden.

Executives at broadcaster CBS and a spokesman for Letterman declined yesterday to comment on the threat.

Read more at www.themalaysianinsider.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Monday, August 15, 2011

U-turns leading to the Right

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So it's not just Walski that's less than enamored with how Najib has performed as Prime Minister so far.

What's disconcerting is that Najib usually "says" all the right things, but what happens on the ground in terms of action and sentiments tell a totally different story.

Walski is even willing to go as far as to ask whether Najib truly has a mind of his own, or is he just going with the flow, towards where the currents are strongest.

Any strong swimmer will tell you that the latter is exactly how one drowns, unable to fight the currents that bring you further and further adrift from shore, until you find yourself trapped in a whirlpool from which you no longer are able to escape.

Quo vadis, Najibus?

After two years as PM, Najib losing middle ground

Datuk Seri Najib Razak risks drifting further away from the centre if he does not deliver on his reform initiatives and continues to “pacify” right-wingers, analysts have warned.

Pundits have charged that Najib has been moving away from a centrist position since taking office as prime minister in 2009, saying his indecisiveness in carrying out policies mirrored that of his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Delayed economic reforms, the New Economic Model’s (NEM) watered-down emphasis on competitiveness in its final version, coupled with Najib’s (picture) poor handling of the July 9 Bersih are instances where the PM has been accused of placating the demands of right-wing groups as well as members within Umno.

“In the long run Najib is moving to the right, and is running a big risk. Not everyone supports right-wing sentiments.

Read more at www.themalaysianinsider.com
 

Click here for the full post......

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Farish Noor: Still dreaming of a Malaysia to call Home

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Image from KLAB 2008, hosting by Photobucket Regular readers of this blog will know the admiration Walski has for Dr. Farish A. Noor, academician in the areas of history and political science. Recently, Farish posted the following essay on Facebook, and having read it, Walski thought that what was written is something very well worth sharing with his readers.

In fact, Farish’s essay echoes the very concerns that many Malaysians have, but unfortunately have not articulated enough. And when it comes to articulation, few come close to the savvy that the good doctor displays in his writing.

So without further ado: read, ponder, and enjoy...

Still dreaming of a Malaysia to call Home


by Dr. Farish A. Noor – August 12, 2011

A Malaysian ambassador once asked me if, after living and working abroad for more than two and a half decades, I still kept my Malaysian citizenship. And I answered Yes. He was surprised somewhat and added: "Thank God, at least we haven’t lost you as well." I replied: "Well, we have lost so many good academics and professionals by now I'm not sure if that makes any difference by this stage..."

Yet out of some naiveté on my part I would still state that I believe in the Malaysian project, for all its quirks and shortcomings. And now, as Malaysia looks ahead at a decade that will undoubtedly transform the face of Southeast Asia and will witness the gradual decline of American influence and the rise of China's in ASEAN; we hold fast to the ship of state that is due for a severe battering as never before.

While the inflow and outflow of foreign capital investment FDI in and out of ASEAN will radically re-draw the political boundaries of the region and lead to the rise of new growth centres and the decline of old ones, our national politics is dominated by horror stories, amok stories, bomoh stories and of course the motley crew of communatarian heroes and ethnic champions who care only about their own respective ethno-religious communities. Every ethno-racial demagogue talks about having to champion the cause of 'his people'; regardless of the fact that 'his people' may not have appointed him to that task. Oppositional dialectics rules the roost as identities are configured in exclusive oppositional terms time and again: Us against them, in-group versus out-group. This has been the mottled landscape of our national consciousness since independence, and we still cannot get out of this narrow and blinkered mode of thinking.

During my long sojourn abroad, I constantly met with Malaysians who could discard and/or transcend their limited ethnic confines while overseas, for there they are Malaysians. Yet it seems as if a spell has been cast upon all of us, for as soon as we step back into Malaysia the first question that comes to our lips is: What race are you?

As someone who has researched across South and Southeast Asia for more than 12 years, I am struck by this peculiar habit of ours: In India and Indonesia - two countries I love as much as Malaysia,- no-one has ever asked me that question. And indeed, in both countries I often pass as a local and the case is closed. Few attempts, if ever, are made to locate me in the ethnic landscape of the country. Nobody asks what race I am, which religion I belong to, etc. Why?

(the rest of Farish's article, and more, in the full post)

I refuse to believe that Malaysians are condemned by history or genetics to remain in the rut that we have built for ourselves. There is nothing biologically unique about us as to condemn us to such narrow solipsism for eternity. And if we Malaysians can transcend narrow ethnic and religious compartmentalisation abroad, why cant we do it at home?

Which brings me to the subject of Home, and Homeliness. 'Home' is where we are meant to be happy and content; safe and assured; comfortable and at ease with ourselves. Home is where we need not wear our identities on our sleeves, or as armour to protect ourselves from whatever hostile influences there may be without. And if Malaysia is home to us, then it ought to be the one place on this God's earth where we can be ourselves without having to apologise for it.

Yet the divisive nature of our communitarian politics has robbed us all of this sense of comfort and homeliness, for it seems that comfort can no longer be shared among all Malaysians, our fellow citizens. The comfort zones of each community has become something sacrosanct, thanks to the politicking of the various parties and politicians of the country, who continue to harp on the need to first protect, and then to expand, the respective comfort zones of their exclusive communities. As a result, the boundaries of these different comfort zones are bound to clash, and the result is the antagonism we see everywhere in the media today: Harassment of intellectuals and non-partisan articulators; scare-mongering campaigns about how the 'Other' is about to undermine 'Us'; rumours of plots and stratagems used by 'them' against 'Us', etc. Where, pray tell, is the national body then in the midst of this mutual apprehension and distrust? How can a nation be built when its components do not think as a nation in the first place?

I write this only as an academic who constantly reminds his students that national identities are constructs that have to be sustained in the imaginary of individual subjects. As I have said countless times before, the trees and hills, rivers and valleys, roads and malls we see around us are not Malaysian: They have no consciousness and no awareness of what they are or even where they are. 'Malaysia' is a construct that exists in us, Malaysians - and it is we, Malaysians, who bear the identity of the nation over time. WE are Malaysia, and WE are the nation. But that can only come true if we genuinely think of ourselves as Malaysians and we are prepared to step beyond our comfort zones in order to recognise, defend and uphold the common citizenship we share with each and every other Malaysian citizen around us. Every Malaysian is a brother or sister to his/her fellow Malaysian; and as such the qualms we have about the poverty and injustice we see meted to our fellow citizens is a concern to all of us. We cannot continue to racialise poverty as if it was an ethnic concern of one group only; any more than ownership of the nation can be claimed by one segment of the populace.

I do not think I will live to see the day when this sense of collective, common and equal nationhood will ever be internalised and normalised in the country, frankly. So to go back to the Ambassador's question as to why I never gave up my citizenship; I can only put it down to a naive, childish faith that may well be blind as well. (I am only thankful that I do not have any children and am unlikely to have any at my age now, for I genuinely fear for the future and where the future may take them.) But faith, however feeble and irrational, is still required to give birth to nations that are born out of the collective aspirations of many. I do not know how much longer I can keep up my work, or doing what I do- for time seems to be running out for me and the end of the road is nowhere in sight. But as the storm clouds gather as the geopolitical winds build up across our region; and as talk of clashes between the great and emerging powers grow louder by the day, I fear not for myself but rather for Malaysia as a whole.

Our politicians seem to have an attention span that lasts only up to the next by-election or general election; our public figures play the racial or religious card whenever it suits them. Our nation is sorely in need of a reminder that we are all on the same boat, and whether it sinks or swims, it will carry all of us whether we like it or not. For the first time in my life, I feel genuine fear for the future - made all the worse by the apparent absence of political wisdom and leadership of any meaningful kind. And in the face of fear, all I can hold on to is faith; faith in the Malaysian project.

Walski shares many of the same aspirations and dreams Farish has stated in his essay above – particularly, that there may come a time when we no longer look at one another and ponder automatically as to where our roots lie.

Rather, ponder where we, as one nation named Malaysia, is headed towards. We have allowed the true agenda of nationhood to be hijacked by those wont on using race and creed to divide us, making it easier to lord over us. For them, what’s most important is power, and all the trappings that said power provides them.

Too much leeway and rope has been given to those who claim to lead us; so much rope, in fact, that these false icons are at the verge of strangling our nation into submissive acceptance of what we were never meant to be – a nation divided, under the thumb of false gods, with liberty and justice for none.

The time has come for us to reclaim our nation, so that we can stand up and without a moment’s hesitation state that we are Malaysians; first, foremost, and always.

May that time come sooner, not later, and before Walski breathes his last...

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Malaysian Lunatic Fringe becoming Mainstream?

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar is assistant secretary of Aliran, an NGO dedicated to justice, freedom and solidarity, and he writes here about the worry that the voice of the lunatic fringe is getting way too much media attention, giving it more credence than it deserves.

Walski’s material source clarification note: This opinion piece was first published on Aliran's website, and later picked up by The Malaysian Insider, where some of you may have already read it.

Walski has mixed feelings about this view. He agrees, on the one hand, but thinks that these fascist voices need to be heard so that we know just how rotten their agenda for power is.

And after all, it is power that is the end-game in the minds of these vocal "protectors" of race and faith. That, too, needs to be realized.

Amplify’d from aliran.com

Mainstreaming the lunatic fringe?


In the recent past, middle-ground Malaysia has borne witness to a series of disturbing public expressions by certain groups and individuals that border on ethnic slurring, slander and rabid racism.

And many a time, these public expressions have without exception insulted the intelligence of the average Malaysians, irrespective of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

What’s equally disturbing is that such articulation has caused hurt, pain and even outrage among the people who have been subjected to these irrational outbursts from the lunatic fringe. ‘Lunatic fringe’ here refers to the fanatical, extremist or irrational members of society who seem to be on the rise lately. Perkasa and other groups of similar disposition come to mind immediately.

This political posturing of the lunatic fringe could possibly pose a threat to our ethnic relations as well as national security.

And yet de facto law minister Nazri Aziz insists irrationally that Malaysia’s political landscape has changed so drastically that what was taboo or “sensitive” a few years ago is now acceptable to Malaysians.

“Sensitive matters are now being discussed in the open,” he told The Malaysian Insider (20 May 2011) recently. He added, “When something is mentioned all the time, it becomes less sensitive and this is a good thing because then things can be mentioned but people will not take offence of it.”

Nazri’s statement was made in the context of the recent claim by certain blogs and subsequently quoted by the irrepressible and irresponsible Utusan Malaysia that the Christian community in Malaysia was involved in a conspiracy to replace Islam with Christianity as the official religion of the federation. This matter, as it turned out, became easy fodder for groups such as Perkasa to publicly express their dismay and disgust and to agitate – although armed with no iota of evidence!

Read more at aliran.com
 

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