Malaysia

A True Malaysian

It saddens me to know that our beloved Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed (henceforth Dr M) is of the opinion that there will never be a true Malaysian. After 51 years of being an independent nation, is it cockamamie to think that true Malaysians exist? Is it really something unachievable?

Dr M’s opines as such because the people (you and i) continue to hang on to our own identity, culture and language. Our former premier further elaborates that such obstacles would not only hinder unity but also block the government’s efforts to create a new Malaysian race

He added that unless Malaysians of different race, language, and culture embrace ONE identity for the sake of our future and nation (like in the Philippines and Thailand), there will never be a true Malaysian.

Dr M clearly regards our different races, cultures and languages as a stumbling block rather than a stepping stone. That is disappointing because ever since my schooling days, I have been thought to take pride in the fact that i live in a multi-racial and multi-religious country (negara berbilang kaum dan agama)

Malaysia has always played that fact to our advantage (e.g. on websites, brochures, etc). We often promote ourselves to the world as a unique country whereby citizens of different races & religions live in harmony with one another (evidenced in the Malaysia Tourism Guide)

Furthermore, tourism.gov.my states that the “Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture.”

By virtue of “hanging on to our own culture,” we have developed a Malaysian culture. Should we all now abandon our own culture and embrace a common identity? No! If we do so, what would make us any different compared to our neighboring countries?

The truth of the matter is that we dont all need to have one identity in order to be a true Malaysian. A true Malaysian is one who:

1. Knows the cultures of different races
– During Chinese New Year, red packets (angpows) are given out by those married to their younger relatives,
– Malay children are brought up to shake and kiss the hands of their parents/elders,
– Henna body art is an essential part of the Indian culture,
– Kadazandusuns in Sabah celebrate the Kaamatan (harvest) festival while the Dayaks in Sarawak celebrate Gawai Dayak

2. Speaks a little of every language
– Tamil: Dei/Deyh, Thambi, Anne, Tani/Thani
– Cantonese: Tabao, Leng Lui, Leng Zai
– Mandarin: Wo Ai Ni, Lao Shi, Ni Hao Ma
– Hokkien: Wa, Lu, Toh Long,
– BM saints: Kantoi, Lepak, Awek, Cun

3. Supports national athletes & national teams
– Datuk Lee Chong Wei (badminton),
– Harimau Malaya (football),
– Pandalela Rinong (diving),
– Azizulhasni Awang (cycling),
– Datuk Nicol Ann David (squash)
– Sazali Samad (bodybuilding)

4. Refuses to racially abuse his/her fellow brothers and sisters
– The quote “We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race” by Kofi Atta Annan has become somewhat of a platitude
– However, there is so much truth in it!

5. Knows key historical events
– 31st August 1957 marks the independence of Malaya
– Sarawak achieved independence on the 22nd of July in 1963 while 31st August 1963 was when Sabah became a sovereign state
– Malaysia was formed in 1963, on the 16th of September, comprising of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak

6. Knows the national anthem (Negaraku) by heart
– Though those of us out of public school no longer sing it every Monday, we live out the words everyday!
– On top of that, we temporarily have the honor and privilege (no, I’m not being sarcastic) of singing it collectively in the cinema prior to any movie

The list is not exhaustive. Take some time to think what else should be a touchstone to being a true Malaysian. Embracing a common identity is definitely not one of it!

The 40th President of the United States (i.e. Ronald Reagan) once said, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.” It clearly makes no sense to say that you love your country but don’t love your countrymen!

Simply put, a true Malaysian is one who places his fellow brothers and sisters first. By loving our fellow Malaysians, we can forge an indestructible unity! It all begins with love!

*This awesome article appeared in The Malaysian Insider

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Malaysia’s Own Social Networking Site

This article is in response to Social and Cultural Affairs Advisor, Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim’s suggestion to the Government for Malaysia to have it’s own social networking site similar to Facebook. In light of all the fake FB accounts posting abhorrent things, the suggestion isn’t at all baseless

This year itself, there are fake facebook accounts using the names of royalties. Then there are also the cases of Facebook users  “Chandra Lawan Tetap Lawan” who insulted the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and “Man Namblast” who referred to Hindus as “syaitan” (demons)

It is a fait accompli that creating a fake facebook account is pretty simple as the only pre-requisite is an email (which can also be faked). Hence, this leaves the authorities at a disadvantage when trying to deal with repugnant postings by fake accounts

With our very own ‘Facebook-like’ social network, the Government can make Malaysians register for an account using their identity card number. This will put the authorities in the driver’s seat as it would be easy to identify the perpetrator(s) & appropriate action can be taken swiftly

An alternative option would be for Malaysians to register using their phone number(s). Although there is the possibility that people may create fake accounts because they have multiple phone numbers, this can be countered by strictly enforcing the rule that each phone number must be registered to a passport/IC number

Malay Mail Online columnist Khairie Hisyam Aliman in his article listed down a few advantages of having our own version of Facebook. Those worth mentioning are ‘job creation’, and ‘economy stimulation.’

Syed Hassan (secretary general of Perkasa) gave his two cents’ worth that having our very own Facebook would be able to stop all insults against any religion and race, prevent insults against the royalty and the nation, besides preventing local women from falling victim to online fraud.

However, all is not a bed of roses as the suggestion by Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim and the backing by Perkasa failed to address the issue of international connectivity. Currently with Facebook, people are able to keep in contact with their relatives no matter where they are (except China and whatnot). However, our own Facebook substitute would most likely only be on a national scale (at best)

It is undeniable that there are other alternatives to keep in contact with one’s relatives (e.g. Skype, Whatsapp). However, none of them provide the diverse range of functions that Facebook does. Amongst others, Facebook allows you to chat with your friends, as well as see and comment on their posts & pictures

Malaysians conducting businesses with their international counterparts through Facebook would also be affected by this change. All the effort and money (through paid advertising, etc) spent into developing their Facebook page goes down the drain. At the time of writing this article, there isn’t any alternative social network with a reach as great as Facebook

Conclusion
While the concept is good, it is not without its flaws. If indeed one day Malaysians want to have their own social networking site, the chinks in the armor have to be thoroughly addressed

*This article also appeared in The Malay Mail Online , The Malaysian Insider, and The Malay Mail

A Facebook Like & The Freedom Of Opinion

An imperative piece of news which may have slipped the attention of many (likely due to the ongoing Menteri Besar saga in Selangor) is about a Form 5 boy in Penang being investigated under the 1948 Sedition Act for ‘liking’ a Facebook page titled, “I Love Israel”

I will attempt to look at this issue from an objective legal standpoint. If you are interested to further find out about the freedom of speech (more so its limitations) in Malaysia, you may do so by reading my previous article

Back the issue, I’m sure many of you are wondering whether liking a facebook page can amount to sedition. The use of social media has somewhat become a hot potato to the Government as information (be it true, or false) can be spread so easily

Just a little background, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in which Malaysia is a signatory) defined the freedom of expression as the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers

Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of speech and exception. However, under clauses (2), and (4) of Article 10, Parliament may impose certain laws to limit the ambit of our right to say what we want and to spread our opinions (e.g. the Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957)

It was articulated that the Form 5 boy will be investigated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act. Section 4(1) makes it an offence if any person

(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do any act which has or which would, if done have seditious tendency;

(b) utters any seditious words;

(c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; or

(d) imports any seditious publication

At this juncture, we would need to know what constitutes a “seditious tendency” before we can properly interpret the piece of legislation. Section 3(1) defines a “seditious tendency” as a tendency

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;

(b) to excite the subjects of any Ruler or the inhabitants of any territory governed by any Government to attempt to procure in the territory of the Ruler or governed by the Government, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;

(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State;

(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any State;

(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia; or

(f) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignity or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution

It is most likely that the boy will be investigated under Section 4(1)(a) [done an act which has a seditious tendency] on the basis that it has the tendency to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia [Section 3(1)(d)]

Let us take bring the McDonalds boycott into the picture and draw an analogy. If (for the sake of argument), the majority of Malaysians decide to take part in the boycott, every Malaysian who “liked” McDonald’s facebook page would be investigated for sedition on the basis that their “like” has the tendency to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia.

Does anyone else see how ridiculous this sounds? The facts are insufficient but what we know is that the form 5 boy merely liked the “I Love Israel” facebook page (he claims it was accidental) and his teacher found out about it.

Just as the teacher has a right to be anti-Israel, her student has the right to be pro-Israel. It is evident that it is only a matter of opinion. Voltaire once said, “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too”

The million dollar question is whether we truly have the freedom to hold opinions, or whether we only have the freedom to hold opinions that are acceptable to those having auctoritas

It was further reported that the teacher shared it (the boy’s like of the FB page) on her Facebook page, criticised the student, and the boy’s actions attracted criticism and threats from other Facebook users. There were even calls to boycott the student, and one Facebook user commented the student should be burned

Now, wait a second. One is a mere “like” or “accidental like” (whichever you believe), while the other is an intentional share & expression of contempt/disapproval. The latter even resulted in calls to boycott the student & threats on the boy’s life. Any reasonable man can see which is worse

At least the police appear to be doing an impartial job as Seberang Prai Selatan district police chief Superintendent Shafien Mamat said the police will probe why he had liked the page as well as the threats made against him.

Margaret A. Edwards once said,  “Too many adults wish to ‘protect’ teenagers when they should be stimulating them to read of life as it is lived.” That is exactly what happened in this case. Ergo, the teacher should be castigated for her unbecoming actions

*This article can also be read at The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and The Malay Mail Online

Remove The Strings Attached

Recently, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor announced that churches currently operating out of shop lots in the Federal Territories may soon see their commercial land titles converted to religious land.

Such an announcement is greatly welcomed by the Christian community due to the ever-present dispute over the location of houses of worship.

Furthermore, this is a progressive step as it has been very difficult for Christians to purchase land and build churches due to the cumbersome process and red tape associated with it

All is not a bed of roses as The Malaysian Insider reported that Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said “If a church were to relocate its premises, the new owners will not be able to use the premises for anything else but worship,”

Now we can clearly see the strings attached to such a sweet deal. Basically, if the commercial land titles are converted to religious land, it would be extremely difficult for churches to sell the land if they intend to move someplace else

Why is it necessary to have such strings attached? Why can’t the status of the land be changeable depending on the intended use?

If a church decides to sell their land (with the status of a religious land), and a company decides to purchase it for commercial use, it is only reasonable that the land title should be able to be converted back to commercial

It is of utmost importance that the law is flexible enough in order that it does not cause hardship to the people!

If the Federal Territories is truly sincere about helping the churches, it would be wise to have consultations with the umbrella body of churches in Malaysia [i.e. The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM)] before finalising any changes

A Good Example

Out of the blue, Sungai Air Tawar assemblyman Kamarol Zaki Abdul Malik decided to table a motion to discuss hudud and its possible implementation in Selangor

What was more shocking was that Selangor Speaker, Hannah Yeoh decided to allow for the motion to be debated in the state legislative assembly

The Selangor Speaker set a good example by allowing hudud to be debated. After all, it is an issue which has been plaguing Malaysians.

Selangorians would definitely want to hear both sides of the political divide arguing their case

Many felt that the motion was to trap Pakatan Rakyat. If Hannah Yeoh were to disapprove of the motion, she would be labelled as anti-Islam, and afraid to deal with the sensitive issue

Despite being criticised for her decision to allow the motion to be debated, Hannah Yeoh stood firm on her principle of being a neutral and fair Speaker to all parties, and maintained her decision

When a motion was tabled to debate about hudud in Terengganu, the Speaker decided to not allow the matter to come to pass.  Barisan Nasional is capable of pushing for hudud in Terengganu as they form the state government by virtue of having the most seats in the state assembly

Isnt it ironic that UMNO decided to talk about hudud in Selangor when they discarded the very same issue in Terengganu?

Unfortunately, Kamarol Zaki Abdul Malik decided to withdraw the motion in Selangor. This lead to the rakyat questioning the sincerity of UMNO regarding the issue

As Muslims believe hudud to be God’s law, it should not be manipulated for political gains. Such revolting acts only reflect poorly on spirituality of the perpetrator(s)

As if that wasnt enough, Selangor BN put the onus on PAS to push for hudud in Selangor. Talk about looking at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye but not paying attention to the plank in your eyes!

Moving on, it was reported today that 10 written questions submitted by Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (ADUN for Kajang) was rejected by the Selangor state legislative assembly by virtue of exceeding the 40 word limit imposed on each question

Guess who was behind such a bold decision? If you guessed Hannah Yeoh, you are right!

Hannah Yeoh is doing a superb job as a Speaker and is setting a very good precedent for others in a similar position of authority. Her impartiality and strict obedience of the rules is nothing short of praiseworthy!

Ladies and gentlemen, in Hannah Yeoh we have a good example!

*Read it also at The Malaysian Insider and The Malay Mail Online

Practice What You Preach

It was reported on the 7th of June 2014 that our Prime Minister (PM), Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said ‘Putrajaya remains committed to carrying out its duty as a trustworthy and accountable government’

According to Pendidikan Moral, ‘amanah’ (trustworthiness) is defined as a “sikap bertanggungjawab yang boleh menimbulkan kepercayaan dan keyakinan orang lain.” (translated: responsible attitude that invokes the trust and confidence of others)

Even at a tender age, Malaysians are taught about trustworthiness. ‘Amanah’ is presented to schoolchildren as an important moral virtue that a person should have

It is then a good thing that our PM is championing accountability and trustworthiness. Accountability and trustworthiness are expected of the Government as they handle public funds!

However, past reports from the Auditor General have highlighted countless disingenuous activities. The 2012 report contained surprisingly unnecessary overspending. Items were overpayed by thousands of times beyond its actual cost

The Information, Communications and Culture Ministry then issued a statement to justify its expenditure in hopes of escaping the imbroglio. No matter what the explanation, overspending by thousands of times is untenable!

A budget is there for a reason. To limit the amount that can be spent by a particular ministry/department. An important questions is, who benefited from the transaction? And why weren’t the people responsible reprimanded?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the 2013 Auditor General’s report pointed out more malfeasances. The report showed that Malaysia was ‘bleeding itself to death’

Amongst others, the A-G’s report found that the RM343.55 million Paya
Peda Dam development project in Terengganu was 18.49% behind
schedule, the contractor had failed to adhere to contract clauses, inexperienced sub-contractors had been appointed and a sum of RM0.53 million had been paid out inappropriately

Furthermore, funds intended for a malnourished children’s rehabilitation programme being spent on the purchase of assets and equipment, the mismanagement of hospital in-house meals and the ineffective management of petroleum revenues

Clearly there is a lack of accountability and trustworthiness. The Public Accounts Committee may be hauling up ministries involved to explain themselves but no strict action seems to be taken on those who made the questionable decisions

If Putrajaya is truly serious about ‘carrying out its duty as a trustworthy and accountable government,’ come down hard on those wasting public funds! Hard earned taxpayers’ money are being flushed down the toilet or entering the pockets of unscrupulous individuals

With substantial amounts of money being mismanaged, it is no surprise that the general public is against the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Undeniably, GST is a good way to create revenue for the Government

However, if current funds are not handled properly, what’s to stop the revenue gained from GST from being misused? Or worst still, benefiting cronies

Such unethical practices are proof of a lack of a responsible attitude that invokes the trust and confidence of others. Putrajaya must walk the talk. Practice what you preach!

*Check it out at The Malay Mail Online and at Malaysiakini

Preaching To The Choir

I could not agree more with Member of Parliament (MP) for Teluk Intan, Mah Siew Keong when he said that the future of Malaysian politics is in multi-racial parties instead of single race entities

However, he seems to be preaching to the choir. What he should be doing, is addressing this to his partners in Barisan Nasional (BN). After all, UMNO, MCA and MIC are race based political parties

After 56 years (approaching 57 years of independence), one has to wonder if race based political parties propels the country forward or contributes to the significant division between the many races in Malaysia

Political parties like DAP, PKR, and Gerakan are multi-racial parties which best represent the new generation of Malaysians who see themselves as Malaysians before as Malays, Chinese, Indians, or others. 

In the past, Dato Seri Onn bin Ja’afar called for UMNO party membership to be opened to non-malays and for the party to be renamed the United Malayans National Organisation.

However, the idea was shot down by many. He then left UMNO to form the Independence of Malaya Party, and subsequently, Parti Negara

Unfortunately both parties failed to meet it’s potential due to the lack of support by the Malaysians then. But all that happened about 50 years ago! Shouldn’t things have changed for the better?

Aren’t Malaysians generally mature enough to accept the fact that we are all in this together? Regardless of how some of our ancestors came to Malaya, we’re all Malaysians now

We all contribute to the economic well-being of the country by way of spending, investing, paying tax, etc. The time is right to rid ourselves of race-based political parties

Mah needs to have a serious chat with his political buddies in his capacity as president of Gerakan. After all, everyone knows the correct answer to the problem. Being willing to do the right thing and potentially suffering for it is a different story

Multi-racial parties are truly the way forward!

*Also read it at The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online, and The Malaysian Times