Archive for June, 2008

Housekeeping tips

Photo courtesy of Abalder

 

It’s that time of the year when it is advisable to air the mattress and later, to turn it over. This is to ensure that lice are uncovered and other prickly bedbugs are crushed. Stubborn stains, if any, are best treated in an open public space under a glaring sun.

 

 

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Bad moon rising

It’s a Sunday morning and dark clouds hanging in the air. Thought that this ’60s number by legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, would suit my mood.

 

Umno Youth to help the poor of all races?

According to a Bernama report today, Umno Youth’s community protection and welfare secretariat plans to help the poor in society, irrespective of their ethnic background. It is also exploring ways of helping people reduce their financial burden in the wake of the petrol price hike.

 

If implemented conscientiously, this initiative deserves commendation because for one thing it is an endeavour that is vital and urgent in our society where prices of goods and services have steadily gone up, and the poor are hit the hardest.

 

Equally important is that this approach taken by Umno Youth is indeed a recognition of the fact that, like sickness and death, poverty and economic hardship defy and transcend ethnic boundaries. In other words, poverty is a human problem (not an ethnic one) and thus needs to be tackled as such.

 

And this brings us to the issue of the New Economic Policy (NEP). One of the criticisms hurled against the Policy is that the way the Policy was implemented suggests as if only one particular ethnic group has a ‘monopoly’ over poverty.

 

Another implication of this Umno Youth initiative: wouldn’t this be an indirect admission to the assertion made by certain quarters that ethnic-based political parties have no political and philosophical basis and relevance in a multiethnic society like ours — especially after March 8 political tsunami?

 

 

Do petrol and ISA mix?

Well, it appears that both petrol and the Internal Security Act (ISA) can indeed ‘mix’ judging from what Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan recently said.

 

In a report from Online Star:  

 

Those responsible for spreading rumours that petrol stations in the country were going on strike would be dealt with severely, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said.

 

“This is an evil and treacherous act to sabotage the economy. I will find out who is behind this and I will take action against them under the Internal Security Act,” he warned after closing the Internal Security and Public Order Department Endurance Test Event here on Wednesday.

 

Is the IGP really serious about detaining without trial people who are distressed by the rising costs of living and the possibility of uncertain supplies of some essential goods and services?

 

There is a need to think of the underlying causes of rumours in a society like ours, one of which is a lack of information and credible sources of information.

 

Remember, these are ordinary people who had been told time and again by certain government leaders that the prices of things, say petrol, would not be raised in the near future – but only to be jolted the next day or the day after by a price hike.

 

Besides, these consumers are not panicky about the possibility of a raised price or a short supply of Gucci handbags and Louis Vuitton designer wear. They’re talking of basic necessities.

 

From another perspective, the IGP’s warning on the use of the ISA against Malaysians can be construed as another way of justifying the existence and use of the obnoxious law. It seems that the definition of ISA has once again been stretched to include people who have gone panicky over petrol supply, apart from the previous inclusion of people who faked ICs, and who are government critics and dissidents, among others.

 

Furthermore, this ISA warning runs counter to the current sentiments of many people in the country. Civil society groups, particularly GMI (Gerakan Mansuh ISA, or Anti-ISA Movement), have called for the repeal of the ISA, a piece of legislation that violates human rights and goes against the very tenets of Islam and many other religions. The Pakatan-led Selangor state government, for instance, has given support to the GMI. (See here for example.)

 

The barricade between the press and the government

Today’s front-page photo in The Star is a sight to behold – after all these years. Cameras belonging to press photographers were left lying on the floor near the Parliament’s lobby where barricades were erected. This was a symbolic protest staged by the journalistic fraternity against the ban on the press from entering the lobby.

 

The ban, although short-lived, is indicative of an administration that has been so used to browbeating, if not subduing, the mainstream media with the primary aim to ensure that their coverage serves largely the vested interests of the powers-that-be. Besides, it looks like the government has taken the notion of barring to a different level, i.e. in its literal form.

 

That is why, while we can heave a sigh of relief, if not feel celebratory, because of the latest move by the Home Ministry to allow Harakah to publish bi-weekly again, the fact remains that this was done at the discretion of the Minister concerned under the provisions contained in the existing Printing Presses and Publications Act. In other words, the right of Harakah, or any other publishers for that matter, to publish and at any rate of publishing frequency they wish is still within the tight control of the government.

 

The tools-down action of the press people also suggests that if they are united against an injustice – and this one is about lack of press freedom – the odds can be overcome to a large degree. It was reported that chief editors of the major newspapers were in shock and in full support of the action taken by their journalists based in parliament, which is invigorating.

 

The acid test, though, to this journalistic camaraderie and resolve really is whether the mainstream media journalists and editors would come out in full force to support initiatives to strengthen and protect press freedom in the country, such as the petition campaign now being run by civil society groups of Benar et al.

 

This event at the Parliament also tells us that there is a need for critical engagement, if not adversarial relationship, between the press and the government. As experience of particularly the last two decades shows, ‘cosy relationship’ between the press and the government can be counter-productive and harmful to the citizens’ right of expression and to information. 

 

  

Kota Baru men get dressing-down?

It seems that the Kota Baru municipal council had issued a circular to warn Muslim women employees working in food outlets and other business premises not to wear lipstick and high-heeled shoes.

 

Specifically, according to a Bernama report, ‘Muslim women were forbidden to wear thick make-up, bright coloured lipstick and high-heeled shoes which made a tapping sound.’

 

The stated reason for this directive: ‘to prevent incidents like rape and illicit sex as well as to safeguard the morals and dignity of Muslim women in Kelantan.’

 

If it is true that such a circular was issued, the implications of this ruling are quite worrying, particularly for Malaysian men in general and Kota Baru men in particular because it appears to suggest that these men:

 

  1. are too vulnerable;
  2. are simply excitable;
  3. are easily stimulated by the sound of high-heeled shoes;
  4. are incurable sex fiends;
  5. are unable to resist red, kissable lips;
  6. possess runaway galloping hormones;
  7. have always and only one thing on their minds;
  8. do not have strong moral restraint;
  9. yearn for short-term pleasures and forgo long-term life ambitions; or
  10. all of the above.

 

Given the implied qualities of men above, one wonders how the dignity of Muslim women in Kelantan can be protected and promoted if the latter seem to be heavily perceived by these men as sex objects and potential seducers.

 

 

I don’t like Mondays

It is times like this that ‘I don’t like Mondays’.