Archive for August, 2008

How not to lose our ‘independence’

In a pre-Merdeka message, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak gave a clue to fellow Malaysians as to how to protect and maintain their ‘political independence’ — by voting Barisan Nasional party into power forever.

Safeguard Nation’s Independence, Says Najib

PEKAN, Aug 30 (Bernama) — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today reminded Malaysians to safeguard the nation’s independence achieved 51 years ago and not easily “mortgage” it to others.

“If we do not safeguard the nation’s independence, we will be left yearning for our independence if we (the Barisan Nasional government) lose power,” he said.

As such, the people should resolve to support the government so that the country is not “mortgaged” to others, he said after handing over the “Jalur Gemilang” national flag to village chiefs at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sri Maulana, here. Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob was also present.

Najib said the independence of the nation was an invaluable thing which should be safeguarded for all time.

This ‘advice’ certainly trivialises the idea of a two-party system in a democracy that is being promoted by others, particularly the Pakatan Rakyat.

Bearing the ‘Najib caution’ in mind, one shudders to think of the ‘loss’ of political independence incurred by Thais, Filipinos, Indians, Aussies, Brits, Italians, Germans, Americans, Canadians and South Koreans, to name but a few, when they bear witness to a change of government in their respective countries over the many years.

Oh, and not to forget the Malaysians in the states of Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor — who dared to ‘lose’ their ‘independence’ on March 8 this year.

Censorship 101

It’s already past midnite at a time when Malaysians welcome August 31.

But I guess it’s not too late and out of place to also dabble in semantics.

According to Wikipedia, Internet censorship is control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet. The legal issues are similar to offline censorship.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, on the other hand, contends that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)’s decision to block access to the Malaysia Today website was ‘not an act of censorship against the online portal’.

Instead it was to prevent the abuse of cyberspace to circulate lies, he said.

You may want to clear your thoughts on the very definition of ‘censorship’ before you could even think of making the longest Jalur Gemilang ever, or of doing or saying anything that is thought to be good for the image of the country.

Malaysia Today and tomorrow

The recent blocking of the controversial Malaysia Today website by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) is not only unprecedented, but also obviously has serious repercussions on Internet use and freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Energy, Water and Communications Minister Shaziman Abu Mansor claimed that ‘The Government did not instruct the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) to block access to the Malaysia Today website.’

He added that ‘the Government had only given a “general instruction” to the commission to allow all blogs and websites to function provided they adhered to provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act.’

It would take a bit more effort on the part of the minister to convince sceptical Malaysians of the SKMM’s independence of the government. Besides, given the powers provided by the Act, the said minister could have instead advised the Commission against blocking access to Malaysia Today as it contravenes the no-censorship provision of the Act.

A look at the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 reveals, in Section 3 (3) of Part I (Preliminary) of the Act, that ‘Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet’.

Whatever the case may be, the fact is free access to a website has been denied to Malaysian citizens and other interested parties.

And even if it’s true, as alleged by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, that Malaysia Today had been ‘libelous, defamatory and slanderous’, blocking the website is akin to killing an ant with a sledgehammer. There is, to be sure, the defamation law that can handle such problems.

Even former PM Mahathir Mohamad, who’s so inclined towards curbing press freedom and freedom of expression during his premiership, is hopping mad over this ban as it violates the no-Internet censorship policy.

Without blinking an eye, the doctor slammed the government’s action as demonstrating ‘a degree of oppressive arrogance worthy of a totalitarian state’.

The fact that this blocking was exercised after the recent Permatang Pauh by-election also lends suspicion that the government intends to make Malaysia Today a warning to other websites and blogs, especially those critical of the government.

Put another way, this episode indicates that an avenue, i.e. the Internet, that provides an alternative to the controlled mainstream media is increasingly facing threats from the government.

This is certainly not a nice way to usher in the 51st anniversary of our ‘independence’ tomorrow, and beyond.

Flushing out our soiled image

There’s good news for ordinary Malaysians who are concerned with the country’s image, especially at the international level. Something that ought to bowl them over.

The Quality Restroom Association of Malaysia (QRAM) will hold the National Toilet Expo and Forum (Natef) in Seremban in November, reports Bernama today.

Natef, organised by QRAM since 2006, is one of the initiatives towards improving and upgrading the quality of toilets and restrooms in the country, especially at petrol stations, airports, restaurants, railway stations and bus terminals.

“One of our main objectives to organise Natef is to create and promote public awareness on the importance of maintaining quality and clean toilets for healthier life in Malaysia,” Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew told a news conference here Friday.

It’s common knowledge that many of our public toilets stink to high heavens. This is partly due to lack of adequate maintenance service and also the attitude of some members of the general public who tend to treat these toilets as if they are sewerage tanks.

We certainly can’t afford to have these people smearing the good name of the country in this manner, which is in line with the aspiration of the deputy minister who quipped, “Visitors will judge our country and how our country runs by the quality of the toilets that we provide them.”

Be that as it may, such an expo and forum on toilets should also attract some politicians who of late have displayed enormous energy at mouthing foul language and inanity, which at the same time stain the country’s image.

A visit to the expo should be made a ‘must’ particularly to those politicians who have been afflicted with verbal diarrhoea.

What did they learn from Permatang Pauh?

It seems that if there’s one thing the BN government did learn from the recently held Permatang Pauh by-election, it is that websites and blogs are to be considered as irritants that need to be censored or blacked out of the cyberspace.

Well, at least this is what we can deduce if what The Malaysian Insider reported is true. It said that the government was planning to crack down on webmasters and bloggers, particularly those who ‘make all sorts of allegations’ that go unchallenged. See below for a full report.

And as if to show that they mean business, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has ordered all internet service providers (ISPs) to block controversial online portal Malaysia Today. (See below for a full report from Malaysiakini.)

For the uninitiated, some bloggers had played a major role in the recent Permatang Pauh by-election in providing certain news and information that normally do not see the light of day in the predictable mainstream media. In short, they tried to fill the gap of information.

Continue reading ‘What did they learn from Permatang Pauh?’

Wind of change in Permatang Pauh

It’s official. The results of the Permatang Pauh by-election are out and they’re as follows: PKR candidate Anwar Ibrahim got 31,195 votes, BN’s Arif Shah, 15,524, and Akim’s Hanafi Hamat, 92. Anwar won with a majority of 15,671.

Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, won the seat with a 13,388 majority at the March 8 general election this year.

It looks like the majority of the Permatang Pauh people have consciously sought for a ‘Wind of change’ that would blow in their direction. At the same time, they also ‘buried’ all forms of indecency that they witnessed in the run-up to the polling day.

The ‘most violent’ by-election?

A Bernama report quoted Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar as claiming that the Permatang Pauh by-election was the most aggressive and violent by-election in the country’s history.

He asserted that most of the ‘violent incidents’ implicated supporters of the Pakatan Rakyat.

This should be indeed the concern of peace-loving Malaysians especially if this ‘violence’ still reared its ugly head despite the strong presence of the police force in the area. Does this mean that there’s a justification for more policing of the area and the voting crowd?

Are we to interpret here that the Permatang Pauh voters have been cautioned to stay away from PKR and the Pakatan because of the allegedly thuggish and violent tendencies of certain individuals (or groups) within the Pakatan?

Perhaps the Pakatan people may want to have a close scrutiny of these police reports of ‘violence’ as the implications are serious. For instance, are the Pakatan people so desperate as to resort to ‘violence’? Would they gain anything more by being ‘violent’?

By the way, talking of coarse language, we were not helpless and hapless witnesses to an equally vulgar behaviour of some youth in the BN camp during the nomination day in Permatang Pauh who simulated in public an act of sodomy to the cheer of their supporters and friends?

Below is the Bernama report:

Home Minister: Permatang Pauh By-election The Most Violent In Malaysian History

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) — The Permatang Pauh by-election is the most aggressive and violent in Malaysian history, says Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

He said the by-election was extraordinary because of the incidents which occured during the campaigning period after the candidates were named on Aug 16.

Throughout the period, Syed Hamid said 70 police reports were made, of which 26 were under investigation.

“If this continues to happen, it is not healthy for the development of democracy in the country,” he said at a news conference at the Parliment lobby here Monday.

He said the majority of the reports were made against supporters of the opposition party and among the offences reported included violence, threats against the public, obstructing people from campaigning, bringing down posters and using coarse language.

He said that 5,000 policemen were mobilised during the by-election period.

“If you want to hold a by-election, then do so, but there is no need to be emotional and uphold ideologies with violent threats, attacks, bombs and such,” he said.