Archive for October, 2010

When dictatorship can be kosher…

The former prime minister who ruled Malaysia for 22 long years reportedly asserts that dictatorships can be good for the people.

Dr. Mahathir Mohamed cites Communist China as an example of a country ruled by an authoritarian regime that still manages to deliver material goods — minus, of course, the equally important freedom, liberty and equality.

What he seems to forget, or refuse to acknowledge, is that without freedom, liberty and democracy, the government of the day may not be accountable for its actions, some of which can be detrimental to the interests and concerns of the ordinary citizens.

Under authoritarianism, democratic institutions that can play a vital role in checking excesses of the ruling elite, such as the judiciary and the Press, would lack independence and consequently would be rendered ineffective.  

Besides, progress and quality of life don’t necessarily be measured only in material terms.

Incidentally, one would imagine those academic centres, whose primary objective is to examine and highlight Mahathir’s thoughts, would be on high gear monitoring and studying recent developments in Mahathir’s thinking.

See here and here for full stories.

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The politics of revisiting ‘Woodstock’

(Photo credit: sportsposterwarehouse.com)

Apparently inspired by the historic Woodstock concert that was held in Bethel, New York on August 15, 1969 (see above), Malay-rights group Perkasa plans to organise a 24-hour concert, among other exciting things, at the end of this year to jolt Malaysian youths from their political inertia especially those so-called fence sitters.

Apart from promoting patriotism among the youths, Perkasa also claims that this proposed concert is one way of showing to the public that it is not a racist group as it is often made out to be by certain members of the general public.

And how’s that can be achieved? By inviting youths from all ethnic backgrounds to the concert, says its Youth chief Arman Azha Abu Haniffah.

The political landscape of the country has certainly changed drastically over the years, and this transformation may well be reflected in the songs to be sung in the concert.

Perhaps as an opening act, a rock band may want to belt out an old number, ‘Jump’, to introduce to the seemingly politically unexcited youths about the new politics of Leapfrogging in the country.

I had a dream

Most dreams, you would concur, are mere aberrations of the real world in which we reside. They range from the outlandish to the incredible, especially those that do not trigger off nocturnal emission.

Be that as it may, I had dreamt a dream that seems to suggest that it could possibly be a by-product of a mind that is much troubled and muddled by the goings-on of late in our beloved Malaysia. This is how a dream sometimes becomes nightmarish.

Well, at the very least, dreaming is a nice distraction from the nauseating reruns on the Astro.

In my slumber land, I saw the Dewan Rakyat of our Parliament transformed dramatically into an august chamber where disputes and animated disagreements between opposing camps were reduced drastically. In other words, it no longer served as a ‘political battlefield’ between politicians from various political persuasions, and where exchanges were occasionally laced with sexism and racism to boot.

To be sure, the Opposition were practically rendered speechless and almost docile by the ruling coalition not because they were silenced by any illiberal laws such as the repealed ISA, Sedition Act and OSA of yore, but because the BN had put in place national policies that were rakyat-friendly to the extent that the Opposition were left with very few issues to quarrel about.

The federal government, as my dream suggested, had drawn up and implemented policies that had made such conscientious leaders as the late Martin Luther King of the USA grin from ear to ear. This is because these policies, which were fair, just and inclusive, had the cumulative effect of building a sense of belonging and togetherness among the various ethnic and cultural groups in our society.

In school, for instance, students were taught to be colour-blind in their approach to life and interaction with people outside of their ethnic community. Any students, whose mouths were foamed with racist sentiments, were not told by their teachers to go back from where their great grandmothers came from; instead they were immediately sent packing to the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) for rehabilitation classes so that they‘d become patriotic as well as multiethnic in thought and action.

For the uninitiated, the BTN in my dream is a government outfit whose important task is to promote national harmony, respect for ethnic and cultural diversity as well as difference in society. These are things that were close to the hearts of the BTN officials.

More to come in the dream: right-wing groups that espoused extremist ideas were swiftly dealt with by the government not through the use of the now repealed ISA or Sedition Act, but by compelling them to engage in meaningful dialogues in a civilised fashion. Those days of rushing to the nearby police station only to lodge a report against someone or some group, whose view they violently disagreed with – and at the same time to seize a photo-op – were gone.

Dialogues were encouraged by the government whenever there were conflicts and misunderstanding between adherents of certain religious affiliations as an effective way of combating extremism, both religious and ethnic, in our midst.

This also goes a long way, government leaders assured us, towards providing a rightful place for the moderates in society.

That is why, it is unsurprising to learn – in my dream – that our country’s leaders had offered help to leaders from other countries, Islamic and non- Islamic, in the fight against ethno-religious and political extremism and also Islamophobia. Indeed, this came about from the fact that our leaders had appreciated and promoted the importance of diversity and difference in society.

Not only that, our political leaders in my slumber land displayed an enviable sense of humour too. In the public domain, they could actually say in jest, and sometimes with a poker face, that they’d slap anyone, including political cartoonists and satirists, with Sedition Act or Printing Presses and Publications Act if they poked fun at them and their families. They even joked about banning books if these materials lampooned or heavily criticised them. In short, they were cool, man.

But then dreams, for some other people, also offer a fleeting glimpse of that hereafter where we would all be judged, rewarded and/or punished eventually for our commissions and omissions on Mother Earth. In the case of Malaysia, there are a lot more of the former (i.e. commissions) than the latter, if you know what I mean.

Thus, also appearing vividly in my dream was a bunch of Malaysians who were waiting impatiently at the Gates of Heaven, some arguing intensely and loudly with the Angel who was, and still is, in charge of the Gates. It’s the worldly equivalent of those restless Malaysian drivers who thronged the toll gates on the highway during balik kampung.

The Datuks among them – and, lo and behold, there were, predictably, tons of them by the end of the world– arrogantly insisted that there ought to be a VIP lane through the Gates as they were the Chosen People, as it were.

Additionally, there was loud disappointment among them because places in Heaven, as we know it, could not be reserved especially based on ethnic quotas despite appeals made by these Datuks, some of whom were bestowed the same honorific more than once, on behalf of their respective communities.

Antics of ugly Malaysians, such as that of those Datuks, in the hereafter where the entire human race converged could be so embarrassing that I found myself compelled to jump out of this Dreamland – only after I declared that I was human first and, er, Malaysian a bit later!

*This piece was first published in The Malaysian Insider.

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(Photo credit: katherinelyallwatson.wordpress.com)

Putting some sens to 1Malaysia

Students of UUM profess a common sens of purpose in uniting themselves under the slogan of 1Malaysia.

The Star today reports:

SINTOK: The Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Economic Stu­dents Association entered the Malaysia Book of Records by creating a 1Malaysia logo using 622,187 pieces of 10 sen coins.

A total of 1,920 students took three days to build the 25m-long and 13m-wide structure at the university’s Army Reserve Training Centre at the campus here.

The first coin had been ceremoniously placed by UUM deputy vice-chancellor (Student Af­­fairs and Alumni) Datuk Dr Ahmad Faiz Hamid on Friday.

Meanwhile, the last coin was placed yesterday by Infor­mation, Commu­nication and Culture Deputy Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum to complete the 1Malaysia logo.

Project manager Mohd Hafizi Ahmad said they managed to break the previous record for a similar structure which was 19.8m-long and 12m-wide.

“We managed to collect 670,000 coins for the project, but we didn’t use them all.

“The coins will be donated to several charities and also the association’s fund,” he added.

Salang, who presented the Malaysia Book of Records certificate to Mohd Hafizi, said the project managed to unite the university students of different races in the 1Malaysia concept.

He said the project was also a good way to raise funds for charities.