January 2011 Archives

Najib's Chinese New Year email to Malaysia

When the Prime Minister sent out an email to millions of Malaysians to wish them a Happy Chinese New Year, the responses have been many and varied. Some see the email as unwelcome spam, some see the email as an invasion of privacy (how did the PM get my email?), others see the email as a political act of desperation ahead of general polls, and yet others see the email as a noble effort to reach out to Malaysians everywhere, doing his bit to go where no PM has gone before, and walk the 1Malaysia talk.

So who is right? Unless your name is Najib Razak, you don't really know. Really.

The full text of the email is below:

Salam 1Malaysia!

Saya ingin mengucapkan Selamat Menyambut Tahun Baru Cina buat seluruh rakyat Malaysia, khususnya bagi mereka yang akan menyambut perayaan yang penuh dengan kemeriahan ini. 

Setiap kali tibanya perayaan ini, saya masih terbayang kemeriahan dan keceriaan yang saya lalui semasa kecil. Sudah pasti saya tidak akan ketinggalan mengikut ibu bapa saya menziarahi rakan-rakan beliau yang berketurunan Cina. Makanan kegemaran semasa musim perayaan ini semestinya kuih kapit, kuih bangkit, tat nanas, kerepek "ngaku" manakala limau Mandarin sering menjadi pilihan utama. Teringat juga, sewaktu kecil adakalanya saya dihampiri oleh rakan-rakan ibu bapa yang menghulurkan angpow. Tetapi sekarang, suasana sudah berbeza. Hidangan sudah berubah, pelbagai juadah seperti sate, ais kacang, mi rebus dan maruku juga disediakan. 

Semoga di Tahun Arnab ini, kita akan sentiasa berada dalam suasana penuh kemakmuran, kebahagiaan dan juga dianugerahkan kesihatan yang sempurna. 

Selamat Tahun Baru Cina, Gong Xi Fa Cai! 

Ikhlas daripada 
Najib Razak & Keluarga 

Salam 1Malaysia!

Happy Chinese New Year to all Malaysians who celebrate this auspicious event. 

Each year as the season draws near I am reminded of the excitement and merriment I experienced as a child during Chinese New Year. Mum and dad would visit our Chinese friends, and I would always tag along. I always look forward to savouring the many delicacies, favorites being kuih kapit, kuih bangkit, pineapple tarts and "ngaku" crackers, with Mandarin oranges always on top of the list. A wide smile would cross my face when I received "angpows" from my parents' friends. Today, the celebrations have grown to include sate, ais kacang, mi rebus and maruku even! 

May the Year of the Rabbit bring blessings of much happiness, good health and prosperity always. With new beginnings comes new opportunities and as we usher in the Lunar New Year, it is my sincere hope that you achieve success and satisfaction in all your undertakings. Your accomplishments are reflective of our nation's triumphs, and may we always excel beyond expectations! 

Gong Xi Fa Cai! 

From 
Najib Razak & Family

But here is my analysis, for those of you who care to know. The email reveals a bit of personal history of the man, how he experienced CNY as a boy. It makes a point to mention that he had no problems visiting the homes of his Chinese friends, it makes a point to mention, that even back then, CNY was a multi-cultural celebration. Glaring advertisements of the 1Malaysia concept in motion.

Beyond that, it doesn't say much more. Which makes me wonder, why did he even send the note in the first place? He didn't really have to.

No other PM has ever done the same, so there isn't a precedent for it. His political opponents, while active in online social media, has, to my memory, not done it either. The email leaves him open to criticism (which he has received). The pollsters do not suggest that he needs the boost in popularity; by all accounts, GE13 is becoming a more comfortable proposition by the day. So why do it when he doesn't seem to have real reason to?

Unless of course, he means it. In this day and age of skepticism, no one believes that a politician does anything without a selfish reason. Indeed, it's rare to find a politician doing something for nothing. Call this is a moment of weakness then; Najib does have a soft belly for ang pows and murukus. Just like the rest of us, he had a childhood too. Sometimes, you just have to believe in the unbelievable.

For a day or two, let's put our negativity aside, and enjoy our Chinese New Year. Happy Year of the Rabbit, everyone. And i mean that.

A vote of character

If i could sum it up in a nutshell, this is the thing that is wrong with Malaysian politics today: we're told to vote for a person's character, and not for what he/she can do for the people. I suppose it's inevitable that when you have nothing bad to say about a person's leadership decisions and conduct, you attack their character, and this includes their beliefs and/or their personality. 

And so is the case with  Normala Sudirman, the PAS Muslimah head, who is running for the Tenang seat in the by-election. Her refusal to shake hands with men have become an issue, and somehow this makes her less likeable and even more tenuously, disqualifies her from being a capable leader.

Educated in UIA, i learned very early on through a series of embarrassing incidents that are best left to the anals of my personal history, that shaking hands with a woman is considered touching her, and is thus a no-no for Muslims. Unless she is related to me by blood, or is my wife, Muslim men and women are prohibited from touching. It may seem strange to non-Muslims, but if you think about it, it isn't any different from any cultural oddity that the human race is full of. Middle Eastern men hug and kiss each other in greeting, some South Asians even go to the extreme of this and kiss each other on the mouth. Blacks in America often go through an elaborate hand-shake that includes exploding hands and wiggling fingers. The Japanese bow to each other (which can be tiring if you're meeting a roomful of people for the first time). The Thais nod their heads and clasp their hands together in greeting. The list goes on. Islam has its own prescribed method of polite greeting, which is the wishing of "peace be upon you". 

It's a cultural, sometimes religiously motivated, quirk and it certainly does nothing to detract from whether that person is a suitable leader. Unless you want it to be, which i feel BN has chosen poorly in deciding to try and make it an issue. Instead of making Normala look like a Muslim conservative (which she may yet prove to be) and using that against her with the various scare stories of what conservative Muslims are capable of doing, it just makes BN look ignorant and, in the worst case, culturally intolerant. 

Even if she is what is being claimed of her, does that necessarily disqualify her from leadership? Will her conservative Muslim (i use this term loosely) approach to life mean that she will do poorly for the people of Tenang, especially the non-Muslims? Not necessarily. She needs to tell the people what her stand is on a number of issues, what her plans are, and how she intends to make life just that bit better for everyone in her constituency. She needs a chance to do that.

Unless of course, this whole charade is a smart BN ruse -- they WANT her to be distracted, they WANT the people to focus on this issue, rather than the ones that really matter. They WANT this to be reported in the news (instead of her views on the issues that are important). Perhaps this is all a gambit; it's ok for BN to look silly for a while, as long as it distracts her long enough for her to answer the really important questions. 

Then it's up to us to be mature enough to be able to tell the difference between the two. Don't vote for someone just because she wears a large tudung, or gloves, or refuses to shake your hand. Give that person your vote because you believe that she is able to improve your lot, and is willing to work her socks off defending your interests in Parliament. 

On the flipside, be aware of whether she can deliver. Just because she is a "good Muslim" doesn't mean that she will make a good representative for the people. She needs to be able to rise above this as well, and that's as good a test as any of her ability to focus on the job. Will she be able to focus on job despite all the criticism? All the distraction?

As always, vote the person and what he/she can do for you. That's more important that how the person chooses to greet you, even more important than the political party he/she may belong to.

I found myself getting quite irritated after reading this article.

Religious speaker Datuk Mohd Che Daud said the station made an inappropriate move to discuss the matter in public, when it should have been discussed in private.

He also said breast enlargement procedures were haram (forbidden) and chided television stations for being influenced by Western norms of openly talking about sensitive matters.

Why are people so "sensitive" about these topics? The breast, the penis, the vagina - these are all taboo words? Why, they are normal parts of the human anatomy, just like the eye, the mouth, the stomach. Why are they given special treatment?

Is it because they are sexual organs, and the ustazs and ustazahs are uncomfortable about talking openly about sex and sexuality? Why be uncomfortable? It can't be an Islamic thing, the Prophet and his wives talked about it all the time.

So it must be a Malay Muslim thing. Collectively, our Malay society has got a perverse fascination with sex. People like having sex, but no one likes talking about it, not even about our sexual organs. We prefer to keep things quiet, hush-hush. Somehow in all the silence, we're supposed to mature as a society, we're supposed to be able to educate our young about sex, we're supposed to fight sexual crime and harassment. We're supposed to do all of this, but we have to do this in silence or in "private".

I have to say it if no one else will. The Malay Muslim sensitivity is pathetic, and i'm ashamed of it.

I've written about it before, about how sensitive Malay Muslims are about religion. And here, our pathetic complex strikes again on the issue of sexuality. Anything that is "sensitive" the Malay Muslim will shy away from and refuse to discuss, despite these issues being of burning concern to our society. Why? 

Then they use Islam as an excuse. We're no better than those suicide bombers who use Islam to blow up little kids and women. We use Islam to cover up our embarrassment about sex, and our sexuality. We use Islam to justify our choices of political parties. We use Islam to justify how we treat women and our wives. We use Islam to justify our bad decisions as being "fate" or the ultimate cop-out, "It's the will of God". 

And worse of all, anyone who questions the criticism (like me), anyone who objects to the ustazs and ustazahs will have their "Islamic-ness" put to question. The worst nasty trick and weapon used to squash the dissenters and thinkers. The practice of Islam in this country isn't much different from the practice of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, is it? The Church excommunicated and threatened to excommunicate thinkers, Enlightenists, scientists. The ulamaks we have here are doing the same. Same old, same old. Holding ideas to religious ransom.

I'm just as Muslim as you, brother. I just think there is a different way: not yours.

Who taught the Malay Muslim to be like this? We can't blame Mahathir for this one. The OCD Malay Muslim will perhaps try to blame Islam. Oh, the irony.

Capitalizing on the non-debate

As eexpected, the Opposition is getting all the mileage they can from Najib Razak's refusal to debate Anwar Ibrahim on the 100-Day Promise (100DP). The reasons for this were discussed yesterday on this blog, and unless cows suddenly take flight, those reasons will remain valid.

Similarly, KJ has made it a point to get as much mileage from the whole affair as well. Which i find strange since he already on the way out of national politics, having publicly given up his Rembau seat during the next elections. What could he gain from this, besides getting his hide handed to him? Anwar will never debate him publicly, he even ignores him on Twitter, and rightly so, i must add. 

Praba Ganesan, in his regular column in the Malaysian Insider, raised an important point today -- Malaysian politics lacks good orators. Anwar Ibrahim is the best of the bunch, but after him, the next pickings are very few and far in between. We don't have a Kennedy, nor a Churchill, or a Hitler -- love them or hate them, they were great speakers who were able to get people to believe in their message. 

Perhaps, that's what Malaysia, more than anything today, needs. We need someone who can light up our collective passions, and make us believe that the future can indeed be better.

For me, i would like to hear this debate. In fact, i'd pay money to hear it. If the leaders won't duke it out, then let KJ and the PR Youth Chief, Syamsul Iskandar. It would be more of a welterweight bout, but in the absence of a heavy weight match between Najib and Anwar, it would still be worth listening to. 

I'm not convinced in the feasibility of the 100DP, but a debate won by PR, might sway my beliefs. As Praba said, Malaysia is waiting to be convinced.

I wonder whether this has all happened before

poster for The Matrix

Image via Wikipedia

In The Matrix movies, the story is that every that everything that happened had happened before. It was revealed that Keanu Reeve's character, Neo, had already lived and died at least a dozen times before. Each time led to a "rebooting" of the system, as the Machines continued to enslave humans as living batteries. It was a complete shock to the human resistance hero when this was revealed to him; there were no clues that the previous incarnations of the world had ever existed, every time the human race "rebooted" it completely wiped out all traces of the previous civilization.

Then reading "Wired" today, in an article about mass extinction, i wondered what would happen after humans became extinct. The world has been here for millions of years before the first mammal, before the first human existed, it's logical to assume that the world will be for millions of years once we are all gone. Either through a meteor strike, or perhaps a giant flood ala the apocalyptic movie, "2012", or any other millions of ways, our days were numbered the moment we breathed our first roughly 50,000 years ago. 

The dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years before us, and they were wiped out too under unknown circumstances (there are a lot of theories, but no one knows). And, according to Bill Bryson's, "A Short History of Almost Everything", less than 0.01% of what existed during those days of giant beasts are known today. Despite roaming the earth for millions of years, we have skeletal records of barely nothing, just a few dozen different species. Millions of years from now, will there be anything left of us today to speak of or discover.

If that's true, then the opposite can be true as well. In the roughly 4.54 billion years the Earth has been alive, who is to say, the last 50,000 years of human history has not occurred before, but we just don't know anything about it because traces of it have been completely erased by the ravages of time. Even if we continue to exist for another 50,000 years before something happens to wipe us out, our total history of 100,000 years is not even a hair on the camel's back of how long the earth has been in existence. The human race could have been wiped out and rebuilt again a dozen times, just like in the Matrix and we wouldn't know about it.

The truth is, we know next to nothing about what happened on this planet before we existed, and obviously we'll know absolutely nothing about what will happen to this planet once we're gone. God and religion aside, that's a very weird thought to have in your head.

The Anwar vs Najib Debate: the best debate that never happened

I like a good debate. When you pit two good debaters against each other, you can get some really dramatic results, and, more importantly, you'll give the electorate a chance to see for themselves which leader is better at handling the issues. The only way to truly compare two candidates is to put them next to each other, and a debate does that.

So, my heart raced a little when i read that Anwar Ibrahim had challenged Najib Razak to a debate on the 100-day reform plan. A bold move, and if allowed to happen, it would give all Malaysians a chance to see for themselves whether the 100-day plan is reasonable. If Najib says we can't do it without breaking the bank, then let him stand up with the facts and pummel Anwar with them. If Anwar says he can make all 10 promises a reality at the cost of just RM19 billion, then let him present his facts against his rival and defend them against criticism.

It would be a sweet spectacle, but it'll never happen.

1. It's a tremendous loss of face for the incumbent to agree to debate a motion proposed by the challenger, and i suspect that Anwar knows this. That's why he chose this motion, rather than a more general, "Malaysia's Economic Plans for the next 10 years".

2. I think that the 10 promises cannot be delivered at the cost of RM19 billion in 100 days. And so does Najib. Not surprisingly, so does Anwar. But, it's a brilliant gambit to offer the motion for debate anyways because by the fact he knows that Najib will refuse to debate (see Reason 1 above), the gesture of challenging Najib to debate it gives the idea a sense of legitimacy. "If Najib refuses to debate, then perhaps the idea is valid," will be the thought going through the minds of the electorate. 

It's a shame that our system of democracy does not necessarily put the leader of the majority against the leader of the opposition. Unlike a Presidential system, where the people elect their president through a direct vote, it's arguable that the need for a debate between the leaders is less important than say, direct campaigning on the ground by the potential MPs who will make up the Parliament.

Najib must be fuming. I think he would love a chance to call Anwar's bluff on the 100-day plan. But he can't, not without looking weak. Well, played by Anwar. If GE13 was a boxing match, this would be the weighing in session, and i would give a +1 to Anwar for scoring a nice psychological uppercut here.

A good mother

| 4 Comments
After reading Amy Chua's controversial article on WSJ last night, i can't stop thinking about how it translates to the context here in Malaysia. It's hard to generalize accurately, so i won't try, but i will share with you the personal experiences i've faced. I'm a Malay Muslim, but with a Chinese father, so i've had the benefit of being able to compare the general differences i've seen.

Amy Chua says, 

"Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out."

That's exactly what my father said to me anytime my grades slipped. In fact, anything less than a B would get a real tongue lashing from him (and from my Malay mom). 

In comparison, my Malay cousins, some would get Cs and Ds, and the reaction from their parents was completely laid back. Almost as though they didn't care (or they did, but didn't show it). It was always, "Its ok, try again next time" or "Tak de rezeki (it was fated)" or "Don't worry, it's all part of God's plan". 

Was it a great surprise that they continued getting Ds?

In school, i saw the same thing happening, well at least from a result perspective. The top students were almost invariably Chinese. Yes, there was a token Malay occasionally in the top 5, but this was completely disproportionate to the number of Malays who made up the student population. 70% of the students were Malay, but only 1 of them made it into the top 5 on a regular basis? That just doesn't compute.

The Chinese are not genetically superior. They aren't predisposed to be smarter. But how could their fantastic academic performance be explained? It must start from the home, there was something different that their parents were doing to make them perform at a higher relative level to the kids from other cultures.

Despite all the negative comments Amy Chua's article has received, i applaud her. A good parent never gives up on their child, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, they never let their child give up themselves. A good parent always pushes, threatens, cojoles, manipulates their child to be better, to get it right, to correct mistakes. Do children know what they want? Yes, perhaps they do -- but because they don't know what's good for them, that's where a parent needs to step in to tell them. And to force them to like it, if required.

We've been inundated with Dr Spock feel good parenting books for a long time. Raising a child shouldn't be done with kid gloves.

PR 100-day promises

PR has made the following 10 promises to be carried out within 100-days of coming to power. Najib has called the 10 promises a bluff, claiming the Malaysia just can't afford them. PR says that if government corruption and wastages could be curbed, billions of ringgit could be saved and be used to make these 10 promises a reality.

I'm having a hard time believing both sides. PR sounds like it just took the Top Ten Grievances of the People and made a sweeping promise that these would be solved within 100 days. Najib counters with a simplistic answer that if these things were done, it would bankrupt the nation. Both are lying. No way these 10 things can be done in Malaysia in 100 days, not even if PR had completely wiped out BN from Parliament. And, there are some promises that don't require a sen to implement.

I'll agree that these 10 promises would be amazing, if they could be made and kept. They are certainly things weighing heavily on the minds of the ordinary citizen. Shall we give PR a chance to some of them? Even if they can't get all 10, even 1 success might be worth 4 years of PR rule. Despite deriding them as impossible, Najib hasn't said anything about their value or whether his BN government would tackle of them. Such a massive fail on his part -- he knows that these are the things on the minds of the common man, but chooses not to address them directly.

Pakatan Rakyat's 100-day 10 Promises.

1. A restructure of institutions including the Elections Commission (EC), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Royal Malaysian Police. During a debate on the policy framework, DAP's Anthony Loke said PR bring the MACC under the purview of Parliament.

2. A repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA)

3. Instruct Khazanah Berhad, Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) and other government bodies to take over highway assets from the concessionaires in order to abolish the toll system.

4. A restructure of the country's subsidies, to lessen subsidies given to the private sector (such as the RM19 billion in gas subsidies given to independent power producers) and transferring these to subsidies for the man on the street.

5. Acknowledging the role and sacrifices of civil servants by studying the current pay schemes and increasing the incentives for teachers by RM500 a month

6. Transferring private water concessions to the government

7. Offering free wireless Internet access to those in urban and semi-urban areas

8. Cancelling Felda Plantations and opening up its farms to second- and third generation Felda settlers.

9. Increasing oil royalty payments to Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan to 20 per cent from 5 per cent currently.

10. Formation of a Royal Commission to solve the problem of illegal immigrants and citizenship issues in Sabah and Sarawak.

Political double-speak

This is the type of political double-speak that is near to convincing me that a PR-led Federal Government will be absolutely no different from the current BN government we have now.

"That is why the state government and excos came for the ceremony today. We still won't call Khusrin for the oath in front of MB until the decision has been addressed in the next state sitting," said Khalid.

He, however, played down the state government's insistence on pushing for Mohd Khusrin to be replaced, claiming that it did not mean that the administration "disagreed" with the Sultan.

"I am not disagreeing... his (Mohd Khusrin)'s appointment is legal, we are not saying that it is illegal, if you follow the state laws which have been in place since 1993.

"We just do not agree with the laws and want to amend them. I think even the Sultan is in agreement over the amendment, to restore power to the Sultan and the MB," Khalid said.

Khalid is not saying that he doesn't agree with the Sultan (to avoid confrontation and to avoid being labelled "derhaka") but he doesn't agree with the laws that have allowed the Sultan to make the choice that he has made. If that's the case, why only attempt to change the law AFTER Khusrin has been appointed, and seek to apply the new law, if passed, retrospectively.

Selangor's state government is going to be a bigger joke than Perak's abortive attempt. At least the Perakian PR state government made all the right moves, but were just betrayed from within. The Selangor state government is going a good job all on its own shooting itself to pieces. First with the 1Malaysia fiasco, now with this, going head to head against the Sultan.

Call BN what you will, they are brilliant snooker players. Khalid has been snookered.

It wasn't suicide. It wasn't homicide. But he did get beaten.

The inquest ruling for Teoh Beng Hock has answered some questions but also opened up a whole new can of worms. While this isn't ideal, i disagree with the general sentiment that there has been no progress made in this mystery. Anytime you're able to further narrow down the list of possibilities, progress is being made.

So the coroner decided that there was not enough evidence to conclude either a suicide or a homicide. However, he did decide that there was enough evidence that TBH was beaten, or put under some form of physical duress before he died.

The new questions that have appeared:

  • Did he receive the beating during or after his interrogation by MACC? Potentially (because there isn't any evidence to conclude otherwise), did he receive the bruises BEFORE he reported to MACC for questioning? 
  • Who beat him up/strangled him?
  • Why was he beaten/strangled?

The obvious follow on to these questions are:

  • Did the beating contribute to his death? Was he beaten, and while trying to escape he fell out the window? Was someone chasing him in those dark corridors that night?
  • After he was beaten, was he in a state of shock, perhaps due to the lack of oxygen caused by the strangulation, he was disoriented and fell?

The reaction of the family and supporters of TBH is generally expected. When they say that "justice" has not been done, i get the feeling that the only "justice" they would accept is that if the MACC is indicted for TBH's death. Grief requires an outlet, in this case, grief requires a culprit, a murderer, a person or persons who can be blamed for the death. But the satisfaction of grief does not necessarily lead to justice, unfortunately. 

This story is not over. But, i fear, the longer it carries on, the less chance there will be for justice to be found.

1-1-11

1 January 2011

It isn't too late to say, Happy New Year 2011, everyone.

Be well, have a great year, and may all your resolutions come true.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

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