Archive for February, 2009

Singh is Kinng

A whiff of Bollywood may do Malaysian politics good — especially in the wake of the Academy Award-winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. After all, aren’t plots and sub-plots the very ingredients that make up both Bollywood and Malaysian politics?  

Highway hitch

So the decision to approve toll increases for five of Malaysia’s highways, which were to have taken effect today, has been revoked by the government.

The five affected highways are North-South Expressway (Plus), Sprint Highway (Sprint), Ampang Elevated Highway (Akleh), Sungai Besi Highway (Besraya) and New Pantai Expressway (NEP).

Is this good news for the ordinary Malaysians who are now facing the ravages of recession? Not really. This is because they, as taxpayers, are paying indirectly to the toll concessionaires. It was reported that “With the 10-month delay, the government will have to pay RM287 million in compensation to the five toll concessionaires.”

This government’s U-turn in its toll decision only triggers off speculations, one of which is that all highways in Malaysia for the moment lead to Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang.

Chua subjected to ‘oral investigation’

Looks like Malaysian politics is still murky. The controversial sex DVD has revisited MCA deputy chief Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Malaysiakini reports that Chua is being investigated by the police for allegedly having committed oral sex, an act that is said to be ‘against the order of nature’ and therefore is punishable.

The fact that this case has been resurrected after one year of the incident prompted Chua to allege that there were certain quarters who wanted ‘to discredit me, to threaten and cow me into silence’.

New media boss in Najib administration?

It’s almost a ‘tradition’ in Malaysia that a change of administration at the national level is followed by a management and editorial change in certain media organisations.

Thus, The Malaysian Insider may not be off the mark when it reported that ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia, Johan Jaafar, is expected to helm media giant Media Prima.

One would also anticipate a change in editorial policy as regards the media organisation’s coverage of certain issues and personalities, a policy that is usually ‘friendly’ towards the new administration. Not that the media organisation concerned has not been friendly to the present Abdullah administration.

According to the Malaysian Insider today:

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – Datuk Johan Jaafar, the ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia who was once identified as being close to former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been designated as the new media czar for the in-coming administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Johan will be appointed a director of The New Straits Times Press Berhad (NSTP) and chairman of Media Prima Berhad.

Johan is expected to be appointed an executive director in NSTP, the publisher of the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro.

He will take over from Datuk Abdul Mutalib Mohamed Razak as chairman of Media Prima, which operates all of Malaysia’s private terresterial television stations – TV3, 8TV, TV9 and NTV7 – as well as two radion stations – Hot FM and Fly FM. The group also owns outdoor advertising giants Big Tree and UPD.

Johan is expected to set the tone for the Najib administration at NSTP and Media Prima.

Body politics and morality in Malaysia

(Photo credit: www.sodahead.com/…/156677/is-morality-dead/)

A lot has been said of the politician Eli Wong photo controversy in much of the mainstream media as well as the new media. This is because not only has this issue been considered as something of ‘public interest’ by certain quarters, it also has the potential of being sensationalised and, eventually, capitalised to the hilt by these people and certain sections of the media.

That this Eli issue, and particularly the much-sought after photos, have aroused, and rather passionately at that, the interests of many people also bare the kind of society we live in Malaysia.

For one thing, the subject of morality has time and again been reduced to all things sexual, especially – in the Malaysian context – those pertaining to women’s sexuality.

Often, the professed concern for women’s sexuality is stressed so much by certain quarters in society to the extent that it overrides other equally, if not more, important issues of morality, such as trustworthiness of politicians, professional ethics of journalists, fairness and sterling integrity of judges, etc.

One explanation for this is the unequal power relations between men and women in society so that quite often the latter get discriminated and exploited by the former. Hence, it is relatively difficult enough for women to climb up the political ladder, and it is even harder if they happen to be on the ‘wrong side’ of the political and ideological divide.

At times you wonder why, for instance, those who pontificate and moralise about woman’s body, or at least what are considered to be the ‘sexually attractive’ parts of her body that have been exposed, do not seem to publicly display the same degree of moral outrage when it comes to the reported cases of dead bodies in police custody.

Many Malaysians get excited to know about who jumps with whom into bed more than about politicians who jump from one party to another (and, at times, back to the original party) without a blink of an eye.

A woman rape victim receives not only the enrapt attention of certain sections of the media but also becomes the talk of town. The rape of the environment, essentially caused by predatory developers in cohort with unethical politicians and professionals, does not get as much public interest.

The social cleavage that shows the stark contrast between the rich and the poor in regard to access to resources within the society often does not command the attention and excitement of people as compared to the response to the body cleavage of a woman.

Holding hands between loving couple in public places gets much more flak from many members of the public compared to public reaction to the act of clutching packets of ringgit notes by certain government officials and politicians in the most illicit fashion. This is to say that some people are ever ready to close one eye to the conscious blurring of the line between private interests and public positions.

Thus, stripped of all official religious pronouncements and moral posturing, are we really a nation with scruples?

Suspended animation in Perak?

It looks like Perak is in for yet another political turmoil, what with the newly-minted menteri besar Zambry Abdul Kadir being slapped with an 18-month suspension while his executive councillors 12 months.

Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar has barred them from attending all State Assembly sittings.

That’s more than a year of ‘leave’ for Zambry to contend with.

See Malaysiakini report here.

Mud and grime of Malaysian politics

Malaysian politics has indeed descended so low as to defy any sense of decency and integrity.

The case of PKR politician Elizabeth Wong, whose privacy had been violated, is an indication that one could go to such great length of smearing her image and dignity in the hot pursuit of political power. Almost anyone, especially politicians, it seems, can become fair game.

The latest development is that Wong has offered to tender her resignation from her state cabinet post and state assembly seat in the wake of her nude photos controversy.

As if this isn’t enough to worry about, today’s Star newspaper reports that: ‘A Gerakan Youth wing has lodged a police report over the safety of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng following reports in Chinese dailies about an alleged plot to “assassinate” him.’  

Some people may want to dismiss this as mere rumour, but can we really take the risk of ignoring it? How low can our politics get? Who knows?