Archive for November, 2009

Malaysiakini is now 10

Congratulations to Malaysiakini and its determined editorial team on their 10th anniversary today.

You’ve certainly come a long way.

We don’t need no (BTN) education

Biro Tata Negara (BTN), that government outfit set up under the Prime Minister’s Department, has become the talk of town the last one week or so as accounts from several people who had undergone its courses suggest that it funtions primarily as a brainwashing mechanism to promote ruling BN and racism, and at the same time to foster hatred towards the opposition.

If these accusations are true, then the stated objectives of the BTN to promote patriotism, nation-building and inter-ethnic understanding among the various ethnic groups in Malaysia have been called into question.

Addtionally, the supposed goings-on in the BTN don’t gel with the so-called 1Malaysia concept of the Prime Minister.

This is why concerned Malaysians such as DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang have even gone to the extent of calling for the closing down of the BTN.

A public inquiry into this controversy surrounding the BTN should be considered by the authorities concerned — despite the assurance of the Deputy Prime Minister and others that the BTN is not what the critics made it out to be.

Idul Adha

Wishing readers and friends of the Islamic faith:

(Illustration: al-Habib)

Where local broadband is ‘nuisance’ and costly

Malaysia’s costly and slow broadband has become a prickly problem for foreign investors — as well as Malaysian Internet users who feel they’ve been short-changed.

And this cyber problem prevails despite the much touted Multimedia Super Corridor.

An extract from The Malaysian Insider:

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Consumers in Malaysia pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the region, one major reason being the monopoly which state-owned Telekom Malaysia (TM) holds on submarine cable landing rights, a senior executive at a multinational company has asserted.

There is no shortage of gateway service providers seeking landing rights because of the pent-up demand for quality bandwidth, but the government must deregulate or liberalise gateways in order to improve competitiveness by providing larger broadband at lower costs, said Ryaz Patel, Intel Electronics country manager for Malaysia and Brunei.

Patel’s comments that the lacklustre quality and high cost of broadband is hurting the country’s knowledge aspirations come on the heels of warnings by Australian businesses that slow Internet speeds were putting them off investing in Malaysia.

Malaysia Australia Business Council vice-chairman Michael Halpin said large technical documents from Australia had difficulty getting sent over because of the poor quality broadband.

“Australian and American investors see this as a nuisance and an impediment to them to do business successfully here,” he said.

In a press briefing on Intel’s roadmap for 2010, Patel observed Malaysian consumers pay significantly more for broadband, but even to buy broadband wholesale as a service provider was ‘“frighteningly expensive” compared to its neighbours.

Read the rest here.

Bangladesh works towards media autonomy

Mindful of the importance of media autonomy in a democracy, a certain stakeholder in Bangladesh had taken steps to push for the independence of the country’s government-run television and radio stations.

Bangladesh’s human rights organisation Adhikar had filed a petition with the country’s High Court, which in turn had ordered the government to report on the progress towards the autonomy of public broadcasting.

This episode in Bangladesh’s broadcasting should impress upon the Malaysian government that public radio and television stations are not to be run in a way that merely serves the narrow interests of the ruling party.

Public broadcasting, if we need reminding, should serve the socio-cultural, political and economic needs of all stakeholders in society, irrespective of their political affiliations, creed, social status, class and gender. And to do so, the broadcasting stations have to be autonomous.

See here for story.

Breaking up is hard to do


(Photo credit: The Malaysian Insider)

The saga continues. MCA party leaders who were kicked out of its presidential council made a passionate plea to delegates to attend the Nov. 28 EGM to call for fresh party elections.

For full story, see here and here.

Tamil Nesan and censorship

It is common knowledge that, or at least in theory, the role of a newspaper is to inform its readers of events of social import that occur and vital issues raised in society.
And so like most dailies, vernacular Tamil Nesan duly reported the killing of five suspected armed robbers by the police last week.
And yet, the Tamil-language daily has been accused by the Home Ministry of fanning ethnic sentiments because of its report about the death of the five suspects. Subsequently, the Ministry issued a warning to the daily that it would revoke its publishing permit if it continued to report such issues.
It is expected of the Tamil daily to report the case given that its constituency or readership is mainly ethnic Indian, and not to do so is serious editorial neglect and social irresponsibility.
The fact that all the dead suspects are ethnic Indian makes its more compelling for the newspaper to report as it concerns the larger Indian community, what with the spate of custodial deaths that had occurred in recent times.
Besides, it is no surprise that such an incident attracts the attention of a daily owned by, or associated with, ethnic Indian-based Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a component party of the ruling BN coalition that — like its coalition partners that are ethnic-based — champions the narrow cause of its own ethnic community it supposedly represents.
While there is virtue in the vernacular newspapers like Tamil Nesan serving the social and cultural interests of their respective ethnic readership, the downside is that their connection with the rest of multiethnic and multicultural Malaysia can be rather weak.
There certainly is a case for a kind of reportage that has a fair degree of inclusivity so that issues and events concerning other ethnic and cultural communities do appear in these dailies. 
Even the Malay-language newspapers — almost all of which are owned by, or friendly with, certain component parties of the BN — primarily address the interests and concerns of the ethnic Malay community despite them using the national language. In this context, the use of the Malay (and national) language doesn’t necessarily promote inter-ethnic and cultural understanding.
Coming back to the issue of the Tamil Nesan. The warning given to the daily is tantamount to the proverbial killing of the messenger, which is outrageous.
Clearly such a ministerial action not only violates freedom of the press to report but, equally disturbing, it also has the effect of not addressing, or downplaying, important issues such as the recent killings.

FOI and accountability

It’s good to know that the Selangor state government is pursuing religiously its intent to make Freedom of Information (FOI) law a reality. The PR government reportedly planned to table a FOI Enactment in the next sitting of its state assembly in March next year.

People of Selangor and Malaysians in general have now seen how vital FOI can be especially after being revealed by the PR Selangor government how taxpayers’ money had been misused by the previous BN government.

But, to be sure, FOI should not only be meant to expose questionable economic planning and development projects of the previous government. It should also convey the notion to the rakyat that they have the right to know how their money has been spent by the very people who have been entrusted to run the state and the country.

As we also know, leakages in the delivery system can exact a heavy toll on the rakyat and the country in the long run and unless information is made freely available, these leakages can’t be plugged or plugged effectively.

In other words, FOI law is one of the means of making political leaders, irrespective of their political hues and party affiliations, accountable to the rakyat in whose name they supposedly govern.

Given the importance of the FOI law, we hope other state governments, particularly those under PR rule, would not be averse to the idea of pushing for transparency via a law like the FOI Act.

Incidentally, the mainstream media, particularly those that supposedly have the welfare of the ordinary people at heart, should campaign for FOI. It’s good for journalism too.

Educating PR politicians

(Photo credit: The Malaysian Insider)

The photo above suggests that Kulim MP Zulkifli Noordin and PKR vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah have kissed and made up, so to speak, after a recent public spat.

In his insistence that things have been resolved, Zulkifli tells Malaysians that “we want to educate the public that this is the new politics that we are bringing”.

What he wants Malaysians to know is that their spat is a living demonstration of a democratic process where party members do criticise one another and, in fact, they could agree to disagree.

So far so good.

But wary and weary Malaysians are concerned with certain Pakatan Rakyat politicians who espouse views that run counter to the very core beliefs or ideology of the respective PR partners, which leaves many Malaysians wondering why the hell do these politicians still align themselves to the political parties concerned.

To take a hypothetical case: a politician whose narrow political views and actions go against, say, the multiethnic ideology of her party may want to reconsider her membership in the party.

Equally serious, there are certain PR politicians who seem to have veered from the spirit of political understanding and cooperation between the coalition partners to the point of aggravating the ideological crack that already exists.

Indeed, ordinary Malaysians, with an eye on the next general election, may no longer tolerate such political misconduct. Needless to say, this should be instructive to the politicians concerned.

MACC ‘clearance’?

It would seem unfair that the primates above had to be dragged from the comfort of their natural habitat only to get themselves entangled with what looks like a babe in the woods.

But then, today’s event in Malaysia’s Parliament seems to warrant the very physical appearance of these expressive monkeys.

November 2009

Flickr Photos