Archive for October, 2008

How long has this been going on?

Certain songs do remind you of things in life that stare you in the face. British rock band Ace’s rendition of ‘How long has this been going on?’ reminds me of something that caught my eye yesterday. It’s about those 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters that the government plans to buy.

Below is an extract of that story from Malaysiakini:

Eurocopter scandal: No inspection done on choppers
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Oct 30, 08 3:33pm 

Defence Deputy Minister Abu Seman Yusop received a beating from Pakatan Rakyat MPs today when he openly conceded that the multi-billion ringgit military helicopters did not undergo any physical inspection. 

abu seman yusopAbu Seman, in his Budget 2009 winding-up speech, said the ministry’s technical committee had decided to buy 12 units of the Eurocopter Cougar EC 725 helicopters based on documents alone.

He also took pains to explain that the purchase of the helicopters had cost the government RM1.6 billion, instead of the RM1.1 billion figure given by the ministry’s secretary-general Abu Bakar Abdullah in a press statement last week.

His revelation sparked an uproar in the House and prompted several Pakatan Rakyat MPs, led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, to grill him.

“How is it that a government procurement as big as this did not undergo any physical inspection? I have eight years of experience as finance minister and we have never make procurements without first inspecting (the items),” thundered Anwar.

M Manogaran (DAP-Teluk Intan) took a swipe at the deputy minister, saying that “even when you purchase something as small as a Perodua Kancil, you would want to inspect it first, what more when it is helicopters worth RM1.6 billion.”

Anwar said various aspects have to be taken into consideration like the safety of the pilots should there be any defects in the helicopters and it was absurd of the government not to make such deliberations when procuring the helicopters.

He demanded answers as to why conflicting figures have been cited on the cost of the helicopters.

Abu Seman then replied that it was a mistake on his part as he had overlooked the fact that the services charge and ‘offset package’ like supplementary military hardware had added RM500 million to the original RM1.1 billion to make it RM1.6 billion.

Open house leads to open minds?

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad asserts that the open house concept that has been practised in Malaysia during the Eid celebration can ‘help erase negative perception of Islam’.

According to a Bernama report, he said that ‘in a multicultural and multireligious country like Malaysia, the open house practice would also help non-Muslims not to feel fear of Islam or regard it as a strange religion.’

‘We should continue with this open house practice as it will bring about greater understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims,’ he said at an Aidilfitri function of the Malaysia Muslim Welfare Organisation (Perkim) which was attended by about 1,500 people.

Yes, it’s possible that the open house concept offers an opportunity for inter-faith connection and understanding. But surely there are other and better ways in which Islam can be perceived in a positive light particularly by non-Muslims.

For instance, religious and political leaders of the Islamic faith may want to reiterate the fact that Islam puts heavy emphasis on the values of, say, justice, compassion and accountability. These are important intangible things that can certainly sit well with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Thus, for example, a concerted and conscious endeavour on the part of a Muslim-majority government to help the poor and the marginalised irrespective of their ethnic and religious backgrounds is not only seen as being just but also compassionate and accountable to the very people it is supposed to serve. Furthermore, such a principled action does justice to the religion.

Writer Thuan Chye meets awakened Penangites

At the Little Penang Street Market this afternoon, Kee Thuan Chye, a journalist, dramatist and author of hot-selling book, March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up, read excerpts from this book before an audience of some 40 people. He also fielded questions from the floor.

The questions and ensuing discussions touched on such issues as the excesses of the Mahathir regime, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia, the credibility of Malaysia’s mainstream media, the status of the judiciary and the state of university education in Malaysia. At times, some members of the audience became visibly animated and energised.

Academic Zaharom Nain, who was in the audience, was asked to read his (chapter) contribution to the book, and he did. Another contributor to this book, blogger Lucia Lai, was also present. Theatre activist and English-language trainer, Lucille Dass, chaired the reading session.

Below are photos of the event.

Thuan Chye reads a portion of his March 8 book

 

Zaharom wonders whether the mainstream media have actually reformed

Happy Deepavali

(Photo credit: www.ebmm.org)

Wishing my Hindu friends and visitors to this blog a Happy Deepavali. May this Festival of Lights witness the triumph of Good over Evil.

On this blessed occasion, I also wish the same to our Hindu brothers who are still being detained under the ISA. At the same time, I hope for an early release of all the ISA detainees kept in Kamunting.

All the sound and fury…

There was a lot of brouhaha particularly coming from the BN component parties, namely Gerakan and MCA, in the wake of the recent ISA detention of Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, Malaysia Today‘s Raja Petra Kamaruddin and DAP’s Teresa Kok.

To be sure, there were strident calls from these quarters for the repeal or, at the very least, review of the unjust ISA. Good stuff this one, you’d think.

But, alas, now we’re made to understand that of the 85 Members of Parliament (MP) who signed a petition a few days ago urging the Prime Minister to prioritise the debate on the Internal Security Act when Parliament reconvenes on Wednesday, only one BN MP (i.e. Billy Abit Jol) put his name on the dotted line.

Such is politics in Malaysia, signifying, oh well…

What lies ahead for Malaysian media?

There’ll be a forum, themed ‘Trends and Future of the Malaysian Mass Media’, on Oct. 30 at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur that promises to enlighten Malaysians about the future of the country’s mainstream media in the face of what is considered as ‘challenges’ from the new media.

Curious and concerned Malaysians may find at this forum some answers to questions that have been residing in their heads. For instance, questions like: what kind of changes that the mainstream media have gone through ever since the emergence of the new media particularly during the Reformasi movement?; to what extent have the new media posed a challenge to the mainstream media?; how far is it true that the credibility of the mainstream media reached a low point that in turn precipitated the popularity of the new media among concerned Malaysians; do repressive laws such as the PPPA, OSA and ISA play a role in ‘domesticating’ and nurturing a culture of excessive self-censorship within the mainstream media?; and can a media council help promote professionalism and public standing of the mainstream media within the present political environment?

A Bernama report also mentioned a number of speakers for the forum, namely blogger ‘Rocky’, president of the National Union of Journalists Norila Daud, group chief editor of The Star Wong Chun Wai, head of Department of Media Studies of Universiti Malaya Prof Dr Azizah Hamzah, chief editor of Sin Chew English language portal Bob Teoh, Bernama editorial adviser Azman Ujang, secretary-general of the Asian Media Information & Communication Centre (AMIC) Assoc. Prof. Indrajit Banerjee, and advocate & solicitor Bhag Singh.

Given that the forum will discuss the challenges supposedly posed by the new media to the mainstream media, I wonder whether certain luminaries of the blogging community, such as Haris Ibrahim, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Jeff Ooi, Susan Loone, Anil Netto, Patrick Teoh, ‘Zorro’, and representatives of the late MGG Pillai (of the Sangkancil fame) and Raja Petra Kamaruddin, to name but a few, would be there too.

The forum is jointly organised by the South-South Information Gateway (SSIG), a unit under the Ministry of Information that was set up to foster greater flow of information among developing nations, and Universiti Malaya.

SSIG stated that the forum was to mark World Development Information Day (WDID) instituted by the United Nations in 1972.

Pressing for freedom and responsibility

There’s an interesting piece today written by the managing editor of The Star, P. Gunasegaram, headlined ‘Freedom with responsibility’. It essentially, and rightly, argued for a freer environment for the print media in Malaysia, one that is freed from the tenacious claws of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

It is in this context that Gunasegaram mentioned the media council poser made by the Home Minister of late, a proposal that needs to be handled carefully. As he rightly cautioned us, there’s the crucial issue of the council’s composition, terms of reference and independence.

But what’s equally important to note is that the very idea of having a media/press council is to allow for self-regulation within the industry so that it is made accountable for its action, and at the same time prevents and avoids to a large extent unnecessary state interference in the affairs of the media.

However, the setting up of the media council without the prior repealing of restrictive laws such as the PPPA and ISA, and the reviewing of OSA and Sedition Act would only defeat the very purpose of having the council in the first place.

Additionally, as cautioned by Gunasegaram and other critics before him, the media council would merely function as another layer of control over the already shackled media.

And Malaysia would still occupy the lower rung in the world press freedom ranking.

Incidentally, a survey conducted recently in Indonesia indicates that the Indonesian people generally favour press freedom.