Archive for September, 2008

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak & Selamat Hari Raya Idilfitri (Maaf Zahir & Batin) to all my Muslim friends and visitors to this blog.

Similar wishes go to Raja Petra Kamarudin and Muslim brothers who are still detained under ISA at the Kamunting detention centre in Perak.

And while celebrating the Eid, we are also mindful of the plight of the non-Muslim detainees. Incidentally, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader P. Uthayakumar and two Buddhists were reported to be fasting in solidarity with Muslim fellow-detainees in Kamunting.

Smashing differences

The two Molotov cocktails that were recently lobbed into the family home of Seputeh MP Teresa Kok is the second incident that occurred in Malaysia in recent past.

 

The first involved a Molotov cocktail thrown into the former residence of the current Bar Council president in the wake of the controversial ‘Conversion to Islam’ forum organised by the legal fraternity.

 

These are absolutely abominable acts of people who seemed intent on putting fear into the hearts of others they considered ‘different’, nay, incurably incompatible.

 

One only hopes that these people have not set a disturbing trend in the country whereby opposing views are prescribed – by a certain group of people – a violent solution.

 

But there is more to these violent incidents than meets the eye. These events are symptomatic of a society whereby different views, dissenting opinions and criticisms are seen as more than mere irritants.

 

In this context, opposing views are often not given their rightful place, i.e. a platform or forum whereby attempts are made to iron out differences, if at all possible, in a civilised and democratic fashion. At the very least, dwellers of a democratic society are expected to agree to disagree in a good natured way.

 

Instead, what we often witness in our society are some attempts to crush dissenting views with a sledgehammer in the form of draconian laws, or the demonisation of people holding different viewpoints by social institutions such as the mainstream media to the point of making them appear to be social deviants.

 

Or it is also quite likely, as has been the case in recent past, that a group of civil society groups would get their act together to lodge a police report so that others they consider as incompatible with them will be ‘handled’ by the police and the law of the land. This is certainly not a clever idea of encouraging dialogue and promoting understanding among disparate groups.

 

Indeed, it doesn’t do democracy any good by criminalising people who hold onto views that others deem ‘different’, especially if the former do it in a democratic and civilised manner. Intellectual growth obviously gets stunted in society.

A night in solidarity with ISA detainees

More than 200 people came for the Penang vigil last night, armed with candlelights and torchlights and a commitment to justice, freedom and peace.

The young and the old registered their protest against the ISA and other repressive laws, and the unjust detention without trial of people like Raja Petra Kamarudin, the Hindraf 5 and other detainees who are still kept in Kamunting.

Speeches were made, poem read, songs sung, and Raya cards written as a collective demonstration of solidarity with the ISA detainees. 

To be sure, there was a strong presence of uniformed and plainclothes policemen mingling in the motley crowd.

Below are some photos of the vigil.

Lighting the candles in front of the Dewan Sri Pinang

 

Dr Francis Loh, who hails from Aliran, gives a welcome speech to the crowd

 

Light my fire!

 

Listening attentively to speeches

 

Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi sharing his thoughts

 

Dumping ISA and other repressive laws into their rightful place 

 

And not to forget, the struggle for media freedom!

Candlelight vigil in Penang

Candle 2 by Raffledoocious. 

(Photo credit: Raffledoocious)

An ISA vigil will be held in front of Dewan Sri Pinang in George Town tonight at 9.30 pm. This peaceful gathering is organised by GMI (Gerakan Mansuh ISA, or Abolish ISA Movement) with the aim of showing Malaysians’ collective concern for and solidarity with ISA detainees Raja Petra Kamarudin and the Hindraf 5 and other existing detainees who have been ‘long-term guests’ of the Kamunting Detention Centre. Equally important, the gathering also serves as a platform to register a collective protest against the unjust ISA.

Do come along and please bring your own candles or torchlights.

Crushing corruption, freeing media

Media have an important role to play in the fight against corruption. However, cautioned Bernama TV advisor Azman Ujang, it is not the media’s ‘business to expose corrupt practices’ on their own accord. 

‘But to do so (for the media to expose corrupt practice on their own accord) would be to tread on dangerous grounds as those who stand accused can fight back, especially if there’s not enough or strong evidence against those alleged to be corrupt,” he added.

True, insufficient evidence would only make journalists vulnerable to legal suits, etc. But this also points to the fact that investigative journalism can be hampered severely by certain quarters in the government who have the penchant for invoking the all-encompassing Official Secrets Act.

Put another way, only a free and responsible media can help facilitate the fight against the scourge of corruption in the country. In this regard, the long-standing proposal for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act must be considered seriously by the powers-that-be.

Remembering Pete

 (Photo from Haris Ibrahim’s blog)

…is also to remind ourselves of the injustice of the ISA.

A Ramadan to remember

It is rather sad that the holy month of Ramadan this time around approaches its end with events, it seems to me, that in effect downplay, if not marginalise, the spiritual significance of compassion, the spirit of love and forgiveness, and the sense of justice, peace and harmony that are associated with the Islam that I embrace.

 

In particular, I am saddened by the recent detention without trial (under the unjust ISA) of Raja Petra Kamarudin. I pray for his early release and pray that patience and fortitude accompany his wife and children.

 

Of course, this is not to imply that detention without trial, i.e. ISA, is okay or kosher in other months of the year. It’s just that it is particularly painful and sad for me that this has happened in the month of Ramadan. It is also sad that there are still other people being detained under this Act, detainees who all along have been denied the right to defend themselves in an open court of law.

 

Incidents such as the above remind me of the famous poem ‘First they came…’ written by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It tells about the apathy of German intellectuals after the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their preferred targets, one group after another.

 

To be sure, the posting of this poem is not to suggest a political parallel between Nazi Germany and contemporary Malaysia, but only to serve as a reminder to us all that events and issues of political significance should be our collective concern.

 

Although this poem may not be something new to many Malaysians as it has been published or posted in the Internet from time to time, I thought that it’s still worth posting it here as it is noteworthy and especially when its political significance has become enhanced by recent events.

  

‘First they came…’  

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.