Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lawyer ini macam cakap ke?

Lawyer ini macam cakap ke?

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Hey, this is not a popularity contest. I am not trying to win a popularity contest here. I am trying to end the more than 50 years hegemony of Umno and bring change to Malaysia. And if I am the most hated man in Malaysia for trying this I do not care a damn.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Your 10 questions

Anybody with even a casual interest in corporate Malaysia would have heard of Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas. After all, he is chairman of four listed companies and a director of three others, all in a non-executive capacity. On top of that, he has long been president of both the Federation of Public Listed Companies and the Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance. A lawyer by training, he is also a veteran Umno politician and sits on the party’s disciplinary board.

Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas, Corporate personality answers...

Why did you publicly advise your former schoolmate, Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin of the Malaysia Today website to “come back and face the music” recently? – Paul Lee, Kuala Lumpur

He was a junior schoolmate at the fully residential Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK). He has made allegations, some of which are really grave allegations, but he has yet to prove these allegations according to accepted criteria for proof. Going abroad and hurling unsupported allegations from afar would not do him any good. Don’t make a mockery of the law. Come back and be responsible for your allegations like a man. We were brought up at school to be gentlemen. He should face the court with whatever facts and witnesses at his disposal and convince the court that he is right. Justice is a two-way traffic. He will earn our eternal respect and mine, most of all, if he is willing to do that!

(Read the other nine questions and answers here:


The above is one of the ten questions posed to Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas. You can read the other nine at the link above.

I want to respond to the one question that relates to me. I can, if you wish (and may even do that later), respond to all ten questions -- like I did recently to Shamsul Akmar of the New Straits Times. But then, considering how cheong hei I can be, this piece will probably run into so many pages. Therefore, let me talk about this one question and the answer Megat gave.

This is what Megat said: “…..but he has yet to prove these allegations according to accepted criteria for proof…..Come back and be responsible for your allegations like a man…..He should face the court with whatever facts and witnesses at his disposal and convince the court that he is right.…..He will earn our eternal respect and mine, most of all, if he is willing to do that!

I think Megat just does not get it. Is he so naïve or just pretending to be stupid? As a lawyer, how can he talk that way? Lawyer ini macam cakap ke?

I have said this before and let me say it again. I do not need to prove anything. I have been arrested and charged and put on trial. It is the Prosecution that needs to prove my guilt. The onus is on them to offer the evidence and bring forward witnesses to prove my guilt. All I have to do is to raise reasonable doubt. And if I succeed in doing that, then the court MUST give me the benefit of the doubt and declare me innocent.

Megat never once walked into court to attend or witness my many days of hearings. If he did then he would probably have spoken more like lawyer and would not have made that very embarrassing statement, which reflects very badly on his abilities and qualities as a lawyer.

An accused person has the right to defend himself in any way he sees fit. Whether it is a brilliant or stupid defence is not for the court (and certainly not for the Prosecution) to decide and interfere in. But when the court blocks certain evidence from surfacing or certain witnesses from being called to testify, then the accused is being denied his right to a proper trial.

If the court wants to fuck around with me then why should I bother to layan (entertain) the court? I am telling the court and the government to go to hell. If they want to play fair then I will play ball. But if they fuck around with the legal system then I walk away.

What is so difficult for Megat to understand this? I am telling the court that if they fuck me then I will tell them to go fuck themselves. Megat can’t even get this through his thick head?

About the other remarks -- “come back and be responsible for your allegations like a man, he should face the court with whatever facts and witnesses at his disposal and convince the court that he is right, he will earn our eternal respect and mine, most of all, if he is willing to do that!” -- again, I think Megat is missing the plot here.

“What maketh a man?” as Shakespeare would probably say if Megat were to address this statement to him. Meekly walking into court without a fuss and bending over so that the court can screw you in the arse is a mark of a ‘man’? I would have imagined that his MCKK education would have made him smarter than that. I can only say that the MCKK education was wasted on him.

It appears we have different ideas about what being a man means. Megat’s idea of being a man is to subject yourself to persecution and perversion of justice. My idea of being a man is never to allow yourself to be screwed in the arse by anyone -- even the government of Malaysia and the Malaysian judicial system -- and if they try to, then turn your back on them, show them your arse, and tell them to go screw themselves.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say. So, being a man to Megat’s perspective is being a mouse as far as I am concerned. Being a man, to me, means the courage to say “No!” And that is what I am telling the Malaysian government and the Malaysian judicial system -- “No! No! No!”

Oh, and what makes Megat think I need to earn his or anyone’s 'eternal respect'? Does he think I am doing all this to make a name for myself? Seriously, I do not care one bit what Megat and any of the other Umno and Barisan Nasional people think of me. Their opinion of me does not matter one bit.

My objective is to try to bring down Barisan Nasional and Umno in any way possible. Barisan Nasional’s and Umno’s objective is to try to stay in power -- by hook or by crook, by fair means or foul. To Barisan Nasional and Umno, anything is fair game, even racism and religious strife. Just a few days ago, Jakim told hundreds of participants in its lecture that another May 13 is looming over the horizon. Umno is going round the country telling its members that there is soon going to be a ‘civil war’ in Malaysia.

Is Megat saying that Barisan Nasional and Umno are noble and honourable and I am not?

I really don’t care what people say about me and what they think about me as long as I can fight and beat Barisan Nasional and Umno at its own game.

Hey, this is not a popularity contest. I am not trying to win a popularity contest here. I am trying to end the more than 50 years hegemony of Umno and bring change to Malaysia. And if I am the most hated man in Malaysia for trying this I do not care a damn.

So, Megat, I really don’t care a damn what you and your Umno people think of me. Seriously, if you and Umno love me then there is something wrong here. That means I am not doing my job. Only when the entire government, Umno and Barisan Nasional hate me and wish to see me dead would that mean I have done my job.

That is my mission. And regard this as my mission and vision statement.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Banks waging plastic war

Sunday January 31, 2010

Banks waging plastic war


KUALA LUMPUR: With millions of customers pondering if they should snip their credit cards to evade the Government’s newly-introduced RM50 service tax, banks are engaged in a “plastic war” to retain their share of the market.

Tempting offers are being made to cardholders, in the form of innovative loans, easy cash and balance transfers, to keep them “tied.”

Bank officials told The Star that the credit card issue was at the top of the agenda during daily meetings.

“Credit cards offer banks a mass market and it is important that the correct strategies are devised to keep our customers.

“As it is now, it’s getting super hard to sign up new customers as the market is already saturated,’’ said one bank manager based in a local bank here.

Another senior bank manager, who declined to be named, said there were banks which were even offering zero-interest balance transfers for up to a year – but with a catch.

“One bank’s requirement is for the cardholder to spend at least RM300 a month using the credit card. “The cardholder benefits and at the same time, the bank makes money from the additional swipings,’’ he said.

One cardholder, who wanted to be called Raj, said he was surprised to receive a cheque for RM10,000 in his name recently.

“The bank wrote to me saying I could use the cash any way I wanted. I was so tempted until I read the fine print which stated that the interest rate was 18%!,’’ he added.

Writer P.B. Cheong, 30, said he cancelled four credit cards at the start of the year.

“Once you get caught in the credit circle, it is very hard to get out. It is not how many cards you have that matters but how you use it,” said Cheong who chalked up a debt of RM30,000 at one time.

Finance manager Angeline Goh, 29, said she received many calls from banks and agents offering credit card balance transfers at a lower interest and even personal loans.

“It’s normal to apply for one credit card from the bank but they end up offering you two credit cards – a Visa and Mastercard, she said.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung, when contacted, said it was understandable that the banks were coming up with more incentives and plans to retain their credit card base.

He said some banks have created a system with points used to redeem the RM50 service tax.

Fomca secretary-general Muham-mad Sha’ani Abdullah said banks would offer various “baits” or incentives to retain their customers.

“Banks should be more prudent as to whom they issue credit cards. Otherwise, they would just be getting people into deeper debt because many do not understand the pitfalls of having a credit card,” he said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Okay, now my version of history (UPDATED with BM Translation)

Okay, now my version of history (UPDATED with BM Translation)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

So, with due respect to Dr Mahathir, it was actually the other way around. Umno was the one that split the Malays. And now Umno grumbles that the opposition is splitting the Malays? And, worse still, Umno split the Malays to serve the British interest and as a British ‘running dog’.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Dr M blames PAS, PKR for dividing Malays

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, The Malaysian Insider

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed delivered a history lesson on Malay unity today and blamed PAS and PKR for dividing the community because of what he claimed was their greed for power.

He also described PAS and PKR among many other Malay-based political parties as Umno splinter groups responsible for disrupting unity among Malays.

Speaking at the National Library today at a special “Bicara Perdana” talk, he said that it was a historical fact that the first political party which was united and fought against the British for Malay rights was Umno.

He added that it was the unity of the Malays in backing Umno that made the British pull out and abandon their plans for a Malayan Union at the end of World War Two.

The former PM pointed out that it was the Umno ulamas, who had split from the Malay nationalist party in the 1950s to form PAS.

This was because they were “dissatisfied” when they were not given positions within the state and federal legislatures, according to Dr. Mahathir.

“PAS, in the beginning, were ulamas from Umno. They were upset that they were not chosen in the legislative and state legislative assembly...more educated and English-speaking Malay leaders were chosen and they were not happy with this.

“If you get selected, you become a YB, and then you got paid RM300,” he said.

The former premier said that these ulamas went into seclusion, then formed a new party so that they could “contest” to become candidates.

“The split between the Malays started just because they wanted positions. That was when PAS was formed.

“Later on the same thing happened with Keadilan, as well as the now-defunct Semangat 46...all these were splinter groups from Umno.”

Dr Mahathir also defended the social contract, the so-called unwritten agreement between the Malays and the non-Malays during independence, by affirming that without the agreement, Malaysia would not have been formed.

“If there was no social contract, the terms and conditions of allowing citizenship to non-Malays would have not taken place. One million outsiders were given citizenships at the time.”


Mustapha Hussain: Malay Nationalism Before UMNO


KMM: The Young Malay Union (1938)

Dr Burhanuddin Al Helmi

Dr Burhanuddin, a colossal name in Malay left politics, was not a KMM member. KMM only contacted him a week after the fall of Singapore. Ibrahim Yaakub and I interviewed him before suggesting that the Japanese Military Administration employ him as Advisor on Malay Customs and Religion. Dr Burhanuddin accepted the post graciously. Had he declined, KMM would have brought in Ustaz Abu Bakar Al Baqir, founder of the religious institute, Madrasah Maahad Il Ihya Assharif in Gunung Semanggul, Perak.

Dr Burhanuddin worked in Singapore initially, but when the Japanese Military Administration for Sumatra and Malaya was incorporated, and its HQ moved to Taiping, Perak, so did Dr Burhanuddin. We should commend Haniff bin Sulaiman, a faithful Taiping KMM member for introducing Dr Burhanuddin to the public in Perak through talks and religious sermons. That made it easy for the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), the successor of KMM, to gain a foothold in Perak, when Dr Burhanuddin founded it in 1945.

Dr Burhanuddin was a remarkable religious figure, who combined the logic of science and Islam most effectively. Before World War II, he was a schoolteacher in Singapore and dabbled in politics from a distance. He had written many protest letters to the press on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, and was once arrested and detained in a Police lock up. Although not a KMM member, he was very influenced by it.

Ahmad Boestamam

According to a statement given to me dated 12 November 1975, Ahmad Boestamam, another great name in Malay left politics, joined KMM a couple of months before the Japanese invasion. He took over the post of Assistant Secretary from Abdullah Kamil, who had left Kuala Lumpur. Boestamam stated that although he was a member of the daily Majlis editorial board, led by Ibrahim Yaakub in Kuala Lumpur, he was never once invited by Ibrahim Yaakub to join KMM, although two other editorial board members (Abdul Samad Ahmad and Mohamad Salehuddin) were.

National List of KMM Members Whom I Knew

Kuala Lumpur

Abdul Samad bin Ahmad, Majlis, Kuala Lumpur

Mohamad Salehuddin, Majlis, Kuala Lumpur

Ahmad Boestamam @ Abdullah Thani, Majlis, Kuala Lumpur

Mohd. Yassin bin Salleh, Malay schoolteacher, Kuala Lumpur

Hamzah bin Alang, businessman, Kampung Baru, Selangor

Abdul Rahman Tambi, clerk, Kampung Baru, Selangor

Mustaffa Yunus, barber, Kajang Selangor

Saidi Hashim, book store owner, Kajang, Selangor

Ahmad, Agricultural Department, Cheras, Selangor

Hashim bin Mat Dali, Pucung, Selangor

Ahmad bin Mohd. Amin, Agricultural Department, Selangor

Johar bin Kerong, Agricultural Department, Selangor

Rais bin Abdul Karim, Agricultural Department, Selangor

Abdul Rauf, Agricultural Department Selangor,

Hamzah Sanusi, Kuala Selangor


Tuan Haji Ariffin, Kuala Kangsar

Zainal Abidin bin Kassim, Technical School student, Kuala Lumpur (son of ‘Rich Man Kassim’ in Tapah Road)

Mohd. Nor bin Abdul Shukur, Ipoh

Mohd. Mustaffa bin Ali @ Majid, Ipoh

Aminuddin, Ipoh

Isa bin Sulaiman, Agricutural School graduate and Malay schoolteacher, Perak

Pak Cik Ahmad, self employed, Taiping

Haniff bin Sulaiman, insurance agent, Taiping

Mohd. Judin, Agricultural Department, Kuala Kangsar

Junid Mahmud, Malay schoolteacher, Tapah Road

Tuan Haji Mohd. Yusuf, Batu Gajah

Ahmad Shafik, Gunung Semanggul

Abdullah Che Dat or Abdullah C.D., Clifford English School, Kuala Kangsar (the youngest KMM member at 17)

Abdul Rahman Rahim

Mohd. Hanafiah Abdul Rahman


Mohammad bin Baginda Besar, smallholder, Bentong

Yahaya bin Hussain, Agricultural Department (my brother)

Kamarulzaman bin Teh, Agricultural Department, Bentong

Negeri Sembilan

Jaafar Sidek

Achih bin Haji Masud

Thaharuddin Ahmad

Zubir Salam


Putih Badri bin Chek Mat, Al Mashoor schoolteacher

Abu Bakar Mohd Noor, Kelawai

Ustaz Abdul Majid


Mohammad Ariff


Mohd. Isa Mahmud

Ibrahim Endut

Abdul Hamid Abdul


Abdul Majid bin Haji Mohammad

Ibrahim Tahir

Wan Daud Ahmad (Datuk)


Haji Abdul Hamid Fadzil Tahir

Ilias Karim

Musa, Agricultural Department, Muar


Abdul Kadir Adabi, writer

Ibrahim Mustaffa, journalist

Endnotes To Chapter 18

British Police Officer J. Birch, who once served in Bagan Serai, Perak was sent to arrest me in Taiping, but the Japanese military’s speedy advance forced Birch to retreat. He diverted to Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan), hoping to arrest Raja Yahaya, a Police Officer absent without leave, but Birch was unlucky to be in the Japanese way. He was killed.

Translated by Insun Mustapha

Edited by Jomo K. S.


Okay, you have read Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s lecture on history, which I republished above. Now, compare Dr Mahathir’s version of history to mine. And, to support my version, I offer you just a very small extract from Mustapha Hussain’s book, Malay Nationalism Before Umno.

If you were to read the entire book (which I have), you will discover that the Malays united to fight for independence from Britain long before the Second Word War and long before Umno was born in 1946.

Then the British ‘created’ Umno. And I have also written about this, about ten years or so ago, which was published in Harakah, when I interviewed an ‘old boy’ of MCKK, Datuk Andika, who died a couple of years ago in Kuala Terengganu at the age of 100.

Datuk Andika related how he was encouraged and financed by the British to set up the first Umno branch in the state of Terengganu, which was in Dungun.

The British allowed Umno to campaign for Merdeka the length and breadth of Malaya. But when the KMM people did the same, the British detained them without trial.

In short, the Malays were already united long ago. And they were united against the British. But along came the British who created Umno. And the purpose of creating Umno was to split the Malays and kill KMM.

It was actually a very clever strategy. The British in fact did the same in the Ottoman Empire, if you were to study the history of Lawrence of Arabia. The British invented this marvelous strategy called ‘divide and rule’. And it worked all over the British Empire.

So, with due respect to Dr Mahathir, it was actually the other way around. Umno was the one that split the Malays. And, worse still, Umno split the Malays to serve British interests and as a British ‘running dog’. And now Umno grumbles that the opposition is splitting the Malays?

And let Royal History Professor Khoo Kay Khim prove me wrong.

Translated into BM at:

Malaysia terror suspects linked to Nigeria bomber: report

Malaysia terror suspects linked to Nigeria bomber: report

Thursday, 28 January 2010

(The Sydney Morning Herald) - Ten terrorism suspects detained in Malaysia are believed to be linked to the Nigerian student responsible for the botched Christmas Day plane bombing near Detroit, a report said Thursday.

Malaysia said Wednesday it had arrested the 10, including nine foreigners, for "acts of terrorism" and that they were members of an international terror outfit tracked down in cooperation with foreign intelligence groups.

The government-linked New Straits Times said the 10, including several Nigerians, were linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to detonate explosives on the Northwest Airlines plane approaching Detroit.

"It was learnt that foreign anti-terrorism agencies informed Malaysian authorities that the 10 were linked to Abdulmutallab and that they were in Malaysia," said the paper.

The English-language daily did not cite any sources for its front-page report.

Malaysian police chief Musa Hassan refused to confirm or dismiss the report.

"I cannot reveal anything, it's still under investigation," he told AFP.

"I am not denying anything," he added.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday that the 10 were being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, chairman of the Abolish ISA Movement, said the activist group would later Thursday release the names and nationalities of the 10 suspects.

"The detainees come mainly from Yemen, Syria, Nigeria and Jordan. I don't know if there are any terror links," he told AFP.

Syed Ibrahim would not say where the group obtained the information but it typically maintains a close watch on new ISA detentions, and periodically releases details of the number being held.

Hishammuddin had said that "all 10 are involved in international terrorism" but would not reveal whether they had planned or carried out attacks. He also declined to say when and where they were arrested.

"They are internationally linked and will affect the security of our country if we do not take action," he said. "We have worked with international intelligence organisations in this operation."

Malaysia's controversial ISA has been used in the past against alleged militants, including members of regional extremist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

Malaysia terror suspects linked to Nigeria bomber: report

Malaysia terror suspects linked to Nigeria bomber: report

Thursday, 28 January 2010

(The Sydney Morning Herald) - Ten terrorism suspects detained in Malaysia are believed to be linked to the Nigerian student responsible for the botched Christmas Day plane bombing near Detroit, a report said Thursday.

Malaysia said Wednesday it had arrested the 10, including nine foreigners, for "acts of terrorism" and that they were members of an international terror outfit tracked down in cooperation with foreign intelligence groups.

The government-linked New Straits Times said the 10, including several Nigerians, were linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to detonate explosives on the Northwest Airlines plane approaching Detroit.

"It was learnt that foreign anti-terrorism agencies informed Malaysian authorities that the 10 were linked to Abdulmutallab and that they were in Malaysia," said the paper.

The English-language daily did not cite any sources for its front-page report.

Malaysian police chief Musa Hassan refused to confirm or dismiss the report.

"I cannot reveal anything, it's still under investigation," he told AFP.

"I am not denying anything," he added.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday that the 10 were being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, chairman of the Abolish ISA Movement, said the activist group would later Thursday release the names and nationalities of the 10 suspects.

"The detainees come mainly from Yemen, Syria, Nigeria and Jordan. I don't know if there are any terror links," he told AFP.

Syed Ibrahim would not say where the group obtained the information but it typically maintains a close watch on new ISA detentions, and periodically releases details of the number being held.

Hishammuddin had said that "all 10 are involved in international terrorism" but would not reveal whether they had planned or carried out attacks. He also declined to say when and where they were arrested.

"They are internationally linked and will affect the security of our country if we do not take action," he said. "We have worked with international intelligence organisations in this operation."

Malaysia's controversial ISA has been used in the past against alleged militants, including members of regional extremist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

Trouble maker at mosques, Could it be Arson Plan B??

Trouble maker at mosques, Could it be Arson Plan B??

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The issue died down. So why and how come the mosques are now under attack? Why a pig’s head? And not burnings like the first series of attacks?

By avancc

First and foremost, I would like to express my disappointment with the attackers, who showed disrespect to places of worship. Such actions are lowly, unethical, and are works of loser.

Besides that, lets take a look at the recent series of attacks on mosques, and the mode of attack. It does suggest that this could be another plot by certain individuals/groups to create unrest among us.

Well, I am a simple citizen and I don’t go very deep into each event of local politics; but here’s what came to my mind about the new attacks.

1) The burning of churches was not handled properly. And the government and police were inactive over it. Causing displeasure nationwide WITH THE GOVERNMENT. AND LITTLE WAS KNOWN ABOUT THE ARSONISTS, AND NO ONE KNOWS IF THEY ARE MUSLIMS OR NOT. SO NO ONE DID ANYTHING AGAINST MUSLIMS.

2) However, rakyat did not retaliate. The Christians have been forgiving. The issue died down. So why and how come the mosques are now under attack? Why a pig’s head? And not burnings like the first series of attacks?

It appears to me that the attackers, whomever they may be, are not worried about Churches getting burnt down but are worried about mosques being burnt down; so only two SURAUS were treated with Molotovs. Some even mentioned that the pig heads were covered in a plastic bag. Why so “Kind” if one really wished to do damage to the Muslims when they were so determined when treating the Christians Churches? And does anyone notice that the attack started BIG (with burnings, etc), then toned down to harassing? It doesn’t really make much sense, right? If one gets upset over an issue and could not get over it, the actions will only get worse, and gets bigger. And if one’s anger subsided, he wouldn’t even bother to attack anymore as he’s done enough with the last arson attack. Well, that would be logical, wouldn't it?

And we all know that here in Malaysia, many treatments are one-sided. So would any normal citizen even dare to try anything drastic towards the one majority race? Knowing well what the payback would be?? And if someone dared take such action, would he/them just put something as simple as a pig’s head?

It seems to suggest that certain individuals/groups, with the support of some “powers” at the back, masterminded the first arson attack and overconfidently believed it would be successful. But they failed, and failed miserably. Not succumbing to their failure, they had to come up with Plan B and make it look like revenge. But, after being warned by “higher powers”, and concerned over the loss of their own “properties”, they pulled off a milder mode of attack. Knowing well that Muslims are very sensitive with pigs, they expected the retaliation will be great. And with that, they would manage to push the courts to rule in favor of them as well as pulling in Malay-Muslim support. For Muslims may have different views on the use of the word “Allah” but would probably agree undoubtedly on the Haram-ness of Pigs.

As Malays are “Pantang Dicabar”, they now try to use the Malay force as the tool and force, after failing to put the blame on the non-Malay’s anger. Someone is trying to cause retaliation and major erruption of anger. After failing to invoke the Christians, they now turn to the Malays as the means to achieve that. So my dear brothers and sisters of Malaysia, let us not panic, not retaliate, and not run amok over such issues. Tackle it the positive way, the progressive way. Let us FAIL their PLAN B as well; and ALL SUBSEQUENT PLANS.

Here's what I think ...

To me, it would be useless if we go to the streets screaming in a display of outrage against the attacks. It will do more harm than good. Peaceful gathering is fine, but only allow renowned religious leaders to give speeches. Stop the gathering if the speech begins to turn into an incitement of hate (well, aren’t the police famous for stopping ceramahs with the reasons of “out of topic”? This would be a very good chance for them to show their capabilities). Show displeasure, but in a peaceful way. For the event is not fatal enough to require rampaging the streets with screams and threats. Furthermore, HOW RELIGIOUS WOULD AN ACTION OF VIOLENCE BE?

Write articles, but not to incite hate like the writer who, although the name indicates “safety”, writes hateful and vengeful articles. Instead, give insight, knowledge and wisdom over issues, to help people to reason, to think wisely.

Conduct forums, TV programs, and discussions, but don’t keep quoting someone else. Quote the religious books, but provide more insights into the written verses. Not by “Because it says so”, attitude.

Overcome disputes by instilling wisdom, by understanding, by reasoning. Not by fighting, conquering, overpowering, suppressing, or forcing. For the latter will only cause more tension, and awaits time for explosion.

To all Malaysians, my fellow brothers and sisters. Forgive my shallow view. Forgive my unfancy words. Forgive my unenthusiastic writings. But let us all join hands and resolve issues the peaceful way. And foil evil plans by “devils” disguising themselves among us.

May peace prevail in Malaysia, and May Allah guide us all.

Vandals Strike at Malaysia Mosques With Boar Heads

Vandals Strike at Malaysia Mosques With Boar Heads

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Malaysia's simmering religious and racial conflicts could worsen after worshippers Wednesday found the severed heads of wild boars at two mosques, amid a dispute over whether Christians can use the term "Allah" as a translation for "God."

By James Hookway (WSJ)

Muslims consider pigs unclean, and leaving boar heads at a mosque is a potentially inflammatory insult, mirroring an incident last year when Muslim activists flung a severed cow head on a proposed site for a Hindu temple near Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday's incident is considered the most offensive case of sacrilege against a Muslim place of worship since a storm erupted over the use of the Arabic word "Allah." It threatens to further upset this resource-rich, racially diverse country and complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak's efforts to build a multiracial support base before national elections, which must be held by 2013.

Adding to tensions, the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges—the second he has faced in little more than a decade—is scheduled to begin next week. Mr. Anwar leads a multiracial opposition alliance trying to replace Malaysia's government after 57 years in power. Prosecutors accuse him of sodomizing a young male aide in 2008—an illegal act in Malaysia. Mr. Anwar, 62 years old, says the story was fabricated to destroy him.

EPA Malaysian forensic police place a pig's head into a plastic bag at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's High Court ruled on Dec. 31 that the Malay-language pages of the Roman Catholic Church's weekly newspaper could use the term "Allah" as a translation for "God."

That decision—which the government is appealing—triggered protests among Muslims who say the Arabic word should be reserved solely for Islam. They say they worry that the Christian use of the term could inadvertently trick Muslims into converting. The newspaper said it was the most appropriate local translation.

Since the ruling, 11 churches have been attacked around Malaysia, and the administration office of one church in Kuala Lumpur was burned to the ground. A Sikh temple also has been attacked, as have two Muslim prayer rooms.

Khalid Abu Bakar, chief of police in Selangor state near Kuala Lumpur, where one of Wednesday's incidents occurred, said a group of men who went to Sri Sentosa Mosque to perform morning prayers at 5:30 a.m. found the two animal heads in plastic bags on the grounds. Their mouths were stuffed with bank notes. Authorities reported a similar incident nearby.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said the government would find the perpetrators. "We are dead serious about this," he told a news conference. "We will bring them to justice."

Mr. Khalid said police hadn't identified any suspects and were continuing their investigation. He urged people to remain calm, as did Zulkifli Mohamad, the top official at the Sri Sentosa mosque.

The attacks this month have rocked the fragile racial and religious balance in this predominantly Muslim country of 28 million people, where relations between Muslim ethnic-Malays, who make up 60% of the population, and Malaysia's ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities are generally amicable.

Since taking office in April 2009, the prime minister, Mr. Najib, has set out to win over the support of Malaysia's ethnic minorities, but the High Court ruling has complicated his efforts. Political analysts say that to maintain the ruling National Front coalition's strength in Malaysia's Muslim-Malay heartland, his government needs to be seen visibly defending the Islamic faith from perceived threats.

That stance, however, unsettles many of Malaysia's non-Muslim minorities, who fear the country has adopted an increasingly politicized form of Islam in recent years.

Opposition leaders, including Mr. Ibrahim, a Muslim, have said there is no theological argument against non-Muslims using the word "Allah," and that the term is commonly used by minority Christian communities in Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East. Many Malay-speaking Christians in eastern Malaysia also use the term for "God."

Separately, the Associated Press reported that Malaysia has arrested 10 terror suspects under its Internal Security Act, including nine foreigners allegedly with ties to an international network of militants. Authorities declined to give the suspects' nationalities, their organization or their objectives. Over the past decade, Malaysian authorities have held more than 100 militant suspects, most of whom have been members of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network, which has its headquarters in neighboring Indonesia.

"This is a very serious threat to the security of our country," the AP quoted Mr. Hishamuddin as saying.

—Celine Fernandez
contributed to this article.

Former Malaysian leader: Jews cause world’s problems

Former Malaysian leader: Jews cause world’s problems

Thursday, 28 January 2010

MELBOURNE, Australia (JTA) -- Malaysia’s former prime minister accused America’s "Jewish lobby" of preventing President Obama from ending the war in Afghanistan.

Local Malaysian media reported that Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled the Muslim nation between 1981 and 2003, told the Conference for the Support of Al-Quds on Jan. 21 that AIPAC was hindering two of Obama’s key election promises: ending the war in Afghanistan and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“There are forces in the United States which prevent the president from doing some things,” the Malaysian Star quoted Mahathir as saying. “One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, AIPAC.”

Mahathir, long known for his anti-Semitic views, went on to say that Jews “had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom.

“Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world,” he said.

Mahathir also said there was “strong evidence” that the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States were staged as an excuse to wage war against Islam.

“If they can make 'Avatar,' they can make anything,” he was quoted as saying.

In response, Australian federal lawmaker Michael Danby, who is Jewish, said that “Dr Mahathir’s comments that Jews had to be periodically massacred are abhorrent and should be condemned. Hopefully within a few months, when there are democratic elections, we will see a modern Malaysian leader in Anwar Ibrahim, who will lead a non-racialist coalition to election victory.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Healing a wounded Malaysia

Healing a wounded Malaysia

By Cheong Suk-Wai

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Writer and social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir eases the uninitiated into the world of HIV-AIDS by recalling a scene from the very first Star Wars movie in 1977. The hero Luke Skywalker ambles into a bar — to be greeted by 101 aliens of all shapes and sizes. “That strangeness and diversity,” Marina tells her audience, “is what will help you appreciate and understand AIDS.”

Marina, 52, is the eldest child of thes fourth and longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Ali. A twice-married mother of three, Marina was the president of the Malaysian AIDS Council from 1993 to 2005. She says that stint has very much made her who she is today — “less sheltered” and “much more empathetic”.

She is now a dab hand at expressing her views by speaking publicly as well as in various media on Malaysia’s future, including in her 20-year-old bi-weekly “Musings” column in The Star newspaper, her popular blog and on Twitter.

Last Tuesday at her office in Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur, she talked to The Straits Times about why Malaysian churches were fire-bombed earlier this month and what her countrymen needed to do to heal the ensuing wounds:

What’s behind this spate of church-burnings?

It seems, of late, that there has been a lot of infringement of sensitivity, (as if) such sensitivity is only on one side (and) others apparently don’t have these sensitive nerve endings... It’s not a religious problem. It’s a management problem.

What exactly is that problem?

It’s a lack of confidence in our own identity... It’s a matter of rights. And the government has to make that clear. Right now, it’s wishy-washy. All of a sudden East Malaysia can use the word “Allah”, and Penang and the Federal Territory (of Kuala Lumpur). And why? Because (these states) do not have sultans. If this was a religious issue, why does it depend on whether we have a sultan or not?

You have to wonder how they make policies in the first place. Is it just like: “Oh, whatever the whims and fancies”? Or is there really proper thinking (about) the implications? That, to me, is much more disturbing than the actual (Allah) issue.

Might this be a blessing in disguise because it has exposed the real Malaysia, warts and all?

Well, yes, in a way. But we also have to see a way out of it. We need to have hope! Otherwise, other people will think: “Oh, gosh, they’re useless!”

What do you see as the best way forward?

1: Make it clear to the people that the Catholic Church has a right to go to court (on the issue). 2: This behaviour of burning churches or any house of worship is criminal and un-Islamic.

I mean, I don’t know why they find it so difficult to say that it’s un-Islamic... (Instead) they’re saying: “Well, you can kind of understand people’s feelings...”

Cannot understand people’s feelings, lah! It’s a crime!

What happened to the Malaysia we knew?

We look to our political leaders for leadership, but of late they’ve been very poor examples. All this Ketuanan Melayu, waving kerises and all that, have not been good. I mean, whatever leaders do, we take the cue from (them). Although (there has been no) cue to (be) violent, it’s still like (all this kind of talk) means: “Oh, that makes it okay.”

That is dangerous enough.

It’s dangerous enough. And then March 8, 2008 happened (the Malaysian general election) and the government lost so many states. And obviously its reaction has been really rather immature. It’s almost like they cannot come to grips with it. And that has led to very irrational ways of being.

They’ve put a religious veneer on race relations, identity... So when you can’t fight on (the usual) grounds you take it up to God! We know where that has led people for centuries around the world.

Would you say there’s a tyranny of the minority.

Yes. But it is a minority that claims to be a majority. And they’re making arguments (on) my blog (that go): “We’re a democratic country, what. Majority rules!”

That’s not the (only) definition of a democratic country... It is also the duty of a democratic state to ensure that minorities have their rights. I mean, if the majority decides that we should kill the minority, is that also okay? Cannot, lah.

What have you learnt from comments on your blog?

What’s interesting about the Allah issue is that while there are strong feelings on both sides, (they have been) relatively respectful (in making their cases) and there’s genuine, heartfelt anguish that it has come to this. This... really shoots (down) the argument that these issues are too sensitive to discuss.

But aren’t some issues too sensitive — and incendiary?

I’ve said this 10 million times: There are no sensitive issues. Only whether you can handle them sensitively and justly — or not. And surely you can, unless you are the sort who stokes and pits one against the other for your own purposes.

How might Malaysia’s leaders win back Malaysians’ trust?

They’re playing the wrong hand. (The ruling) Umno looks more extremist than the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). This is why PAS is quite happy because if there’s an election, (Umno) will lose and PAS will win. And once it’s in, it can do what it wants, right? That’s the scary thing.

What about your father’s take on an Islamic state then?

My father is a very religious man in the true sense of the word in that he knows the rituals are not the be-all and end-all of religion. It’s how you live your life. And he is really all for people learning about their religion themselves and not leaving it to a few self-appointed gatekeepers to interpret everything for you. That’s why he was never popular with the ulama (learned religious persons).

Why did he speak of an Islamic state to win votes in the 1999 general election?

I can’t say I know the story. My father feels no necessity to share everything with his family... We talk generally but certainly, he doesn’t see it as a given that he should tell us. I’m not privy to a lot of things, that’s for sure.

But I have said to him many times, and he knows this... I said: “Be very careful... you’re doing this to compete with PAS.” And this is where we diverge...

He felt that was the way to go. And I said: “I don’t think so. You have to redefine what it means to be a good Muslim...” The trouble is (that) not everyone down the line has the same intellectual capacity as he to understand what it means and they tend also to believe in forms and rituals rather than principles and ethics.

Why has your brother (Deputy Trade and Industry Minister) Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir seem to have taken the side of the ultras?

He’s got advisers who are typical, telling him that this is the way to go. Sometimes when you’re in a political party — any party — you get cocooned and don’t know the sentiment out there. Well, he can say what he wants, there is room for diversity... But I’m concerned about the Facebook group that has his name on it. You could call it a hate group and he should not be involved in things like that. He’s a newbie in this, so (he’s) bound to make missteps.

If he asks you to help build peace, would you oblige him?

Yes, if it is completely politics-free and is community-based. I refuse to do any work for any political parties. I will not be used.

What about some top leaders who play down the recent church-burnings?

I know (they) are saying “Oh, it’s a small thing”. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it’s not due to them. They cannot take credit for it.

Who are the real peace-builders?

“People were giving out flowers in the street (and) tying ribbons with peace messages. And the government has no ideas. At all. None.

Is the Malaysian government hoping tempers will cool naturally?

That’s not leadership. You don’t lead from behind. You lead from the front.

What does it mean for 1 Malaysia?

(Burning churches) blows the whole concept out of the water. We are confused because mixed messages are coming at us. Which is it? What do you want?

Why do some leaders insist they are always right?

It’s a disease of people in power. I don’t think that even the opposition (Pakatan Rakyat coalition) is immune to that.

Why do Malays insist on majority rule only?

This is where we sometimes go from A to B, C or D, but we don’t go all the way to Z.

What is the strongest case for freedom of speech?

Some of these quite rabid Muslims are saying “No, no, no. Wrong, wrong, wrong”. But they finish with (a very positive) “salam (peace)”.

Why did you never join politics?

Whoever is going to stand against me is going to come up with, “Oh, she’s not Muslim enough, she doesn’t cover her head, da-da-da-da-da”.

Why should we not judge others?

The state has some duty to ensure that people are able to practise their faith in the right way. But it cannot see into your heart; only God can.

How did your father take his maiden attempts at blogging?

He was like, “You know what? I can say anything I want!” And I said, “Ya, ya, I’ve been telling you (that)”.

What about those who say you should “educate” your father on issues?

Look, my values all come from my parents. But how I choose to apply them... is my own choice, lah. — The Straits Times

Monday, January 25, 2010

Perception and Royal Reality in Malaysia

Perception and Royal Reality in Malaysia
Monday, 25 January 2010

The King is Dead. Long Live the King, so to speak

Iskandar was one of the worst of Malaysia's sultans, a violent, often brutal and impulsive man who seemingly knew no bounds to his behaviour. He was lucky to be a sultan at all.

Asia Sentinel

Malaysia has gone into mourning for the Sultan of Johor, Mahmud Iskandar Almarhum Sultan Ismail, who died Friday at 77. He was buried in an elaborate ceremony on Saturday. In Malaysia's oddball rotating kingship, which allows each of the country's nine sultans to wear the king's hat for five years, Iskandar became Malaysia's Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or king, in 1984, relinquishing the title in 1989.

Najib Tun Razak, the prime minister, cut short a visit to India to extend his condolences and issue a statement: "On behalf of the government and people. I express sadness and extend condolences to Her Royal Highness Sultanah Zanariah and her children as well as the royal household on the demise of His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor."

The massive Iskandar development project in Johor across from Singapore was named for him.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister, said that Iskandar's death "is a big loss to the people of Johor, and also of Malaysia, because of his priceless contributions during his lifetime."

But it is difficult to see just what those priceless contributions were. Despite the encomiums, the Johor sultan embodied just about everything that was ill-starred about Malaysia's system of royalty.

Both The Star, owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association, and the New Straits Times, owned by the United Malays National Organisation, issued respectful obituaries. To most Malaysians, the New Straits Times said, "the Sultan will be remembered for his mercurial ways, as well as his inadvertent role in the constitutional crisis of 1993 which dramatically ended the legal immunity of the country's nine hereditary monarchs."

Iskandar's role was hardly inadvertent but it was certainly mercurial. In fact it was integral to it and it stemmed from his brutal beating, along with members of his staff, of a field hockey coach. And although the end of legal immunity was pushed through 17 years ago, today Malaysian royalty pretty much act any way they want without facing arrest. Several have left huge gambling debts in London casinos to be picked up by Malaysian state governments. Recently there have been incidents reported of fistfights between rival royals in Malaysian night clubs.

In recent months, in fact, UMNO, the country's leading political party, has led a charge to report to the police anyone who dares criticize the royalty. Several critics have been charged with sedition.

Iskandar was one of the worst of Malaysia's sultans, a violent, often brutal and impulsive man who seemingly knew no bounds to his behaviour. He was lucky to be a sultan at all. He was ignominiously dismissed as the Tunku Makhota, or prince regent of Johor, by his father, Sultan Ismail Ibrahim, in 1961 after he reportedly chained two policemen into a dog kennel for a day after they displeased him. He was later reported to have attacked a young couple with Mace after they allegedly offended him. In 1972, he was charged for Macing two men because their car had had overtaken his on the highway.

He regularly patrolled Johor roads with a red light and siren on the top of his Rolls Royce and a shotgun strapped to the dashboard, pulling over speeders and ordering them to perform enjut ketampi, the Malay term for squat jumps, until they fell over. Any driver who inadvertently passed the sultan's car on Johor's roads or obstructed him was subject to exorbitant fines. His staff was petrified by him. Once, at a diplomatic reception for example, he was seen to simply hold out his glass when it was empty and drop it as a terrified servant raced across the room to catch it before it shattered on the marble floor.

In 1971, he got into real trouble by shooting and killing a trespasser whom he took to be a smuggler walking near his private helicopter. He was charged with manslaughter but his father intervened, as the sultan did repeatedly at other times, and granted him a pardon despite his disapproval of his actions. Iskandar's family wasn't much better. His eldest son, Tunku Ibrahim Ismail, shot a man dead in a nightclub but was also pardoned.

There was considerable speculation in Kuala Lumpur that despite the fact that the kingship rotated on a set basis, his fellow sultans would block him because of his behaviour. But they elected him Agong in 1983. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad promptly fomented a constitutional crisis by ramrodding through a series of actions in the Dewan Rakyat, or Parliament, that removed the power of the royalty to veto legislation, along with closing other loopholes within the Malaysian constitution.

That didn't slow down the sultan much. In 1987, after he became the Agong, he allegedly clubbed a caddy to death at the Cameron Highlands golf club for laughing when the sultan missed a putt. He also was said to have maimed the caddy's brother, who suffered a mental breakdown from seeing the incident and had to be restrained in a mental hospital.

Although the killing was given wide currency among Kuala Lumpur's political and social circles, Iskandar was never arrested. It remained out of the government-controlled press. It so distressed the retired Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country's first leader after independence, that he publicly condemned the assault without naming Iskandar. The Tunku, however, also pointed out that as a sultan, Iskandar was immune from prosecution.

In 1992, following Iskandar's departure from the kingship, his son, Tunku Abdul Majid Idris, assaulted the goalkeeper of the Perak hockey team after Perak won a match with a penalty stroke. The goalkeeper lodged a police report against the son, who ultimately was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. The charges were dropped on grounds of immunity. Later the sultan himself was involved in the other field hockey controversy that finally made Malaysia say enough. He called a local coach to his palace over a minor dispute. He and his bodyguards assaulted the coach, who had to seek medical attention for injuries to his face and body. The coach also filed charges. This time, the press reported on both incidents.

Despite the fact that the sultan had won Mahathir's approval by firing Mahathir's nemesis, Tun Salleh Abbas, the highly respected lord president of Malaysia's highest court, which brought an end to the independence of the country's judiciary, the assaults were enough for the prime minister. He led a campaign in the parliament to remove legal immunity from prosecution for the royalty that passed resoundingly.

Iskandar reportedly finally calmed down in later years, and lived a life largely out of the public prints. None of his misdeeds made the Malaysian press after his death. One blog cheerily said he would "always be remembered as Malaysia's unconventional King. He preferred to drive his own car or pilot his own helicopter. He also loved sports, especially golf and was not afraid to lose in a game."

Or a caddy. He was called "a King with the common touch."

Oil essentials

Oil essentials

Tue, Jan 26, 2010
Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
All vegetable oils contain 126 calories and 14g of fat per tablespoon. But not all are made equal. What are the best uses for common cooking oils and which are high in the good fats? Mind Your Body compares them.

How to store oil:

* Light causes oxidation, so store oils in a dark-coloured bottle. Oxidation reduces the nutritional value of the oils.

* All oils should ideally be refrigerated, especially delicate ones like extra virgin olive oil, to prevent heat oxidation, said nutritionist Mrs Sheeba Majmudar. Alternatively, store oils in a cool, dry place.

* Change your oil regularly. Refined cooking oils high in monounsaturated fat can keep for up to a year, while those high in polyunsaturated fats can keep for nine months.

* Smoke point: This is the temperature at which cooking oils start to smoke visibly. At smoke point, the flavour of the oil starts to break down and its nutritional value also starts to degrade. However, most cooking oils have a relatively high smoke point and it is quite difficult to go past it in regular home cooking, says nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar.

Sesame oil

Saturated fat: 15%
Monounsaturated fat: 42%
Polyunsaturated fat: 43%
Smoke point*: 210 deg C
Best used for: Seasoning, light frying and salads

Sunflower oil

Saturated fat: 12%
Monounsaturated fat: 16%
Polyunsaturated fat: 72% Smoke point: 232 deg C
Best used for: Cooking and baking

Corn oil

Saturated fat: 13%
Monounsaturated fat: 29%
Polyunsaturated fat: 58%
Smoke point: 232 deg C
Best used for: Salads and cooking

Olive oil

Saturated fat: 15%
Monounsaturated fat: 75%
Polyunsaturated fat: 10%
Smoke point: 160-242 deg C
Best used for: Salads and cooking at moderate temperatures

Canola oil

Saturated fat: 7%
Monounsaturated fat: 61%
Polyunsaturated fat: 32%
Smoke point: 204 deg C
Best used for: Cooking and baking

Peanut oil

Saturated fat: 19%
Monounsaturated fat: 48%
Polyunsaturated fat: 33%
Smoke point: 232 deg C
Best used for: Stir-frying

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Malaysia's Mercurial Dr. Mahathir

Malaysia's Mercurial Dr. Mahathir

Barry Wain's biography charts the vision and legacy of the former Malaysian Prime Minister.

Few countries have matched Malaysia's stellar record of development over the last several decades: Annual GDP growth has averaged around 6.5% since independence in 1957, and the nation of 27 million people now boasts the world's 31st-largest economy. But no discussion of this Southeast Asian nation's economy would be complete without due attention to Mahathir bin Mohamad, who held the reins for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.

Dr. Mahathir's personal story, as recounted in Barry Wain's "Malaysian Maverick," tracks the country's broader post-war history. The prime minister's origins wouldn't necessarily have augured a great political future. Born in 1925 to parents of modest means, he grew up on the "poor side of the river" that bisected the town of Alor Star, in northern Malaysia. Of mixed Indian and Malay ancestry, he was a member of neither the Malay aristocracy nor the ethnic Chinese business class in a country where race did, and still does, significantly determine a person's prospects.

As a child, he was driven, impatient, energetic and intelligent. His teenage years were overshadowed by war and the Japanese occupation, when he became a street hawker to eke out a living. Returning to school after the war, he excelled and found his way to Singapore to study medicine in 1947. He was stunned by the relative wealth and sophistication he found on the island, a stark contrast with colonial Malaya.

Returning home in 1953 to practice medicine, it was only a matter of time before politics beckoned. Dr. Mahathir entered Parliament in 1964, representing a local Kedah constituency for the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The '60s were turbulent for the newly independent country: "Malaysia" was officially birthed in 1963 by combining Malaya with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, but in 1965 Singapore broke off as an independent city-state. Following the general election in May 1969, brief but vicious conflicts broke out between the Chinese and Malay communities. Dr. Mahathir also lost his seat at that election and, following some bitter political infighting, was expelled from UMNO.

His retreat from politics provided an opportunity to reflect more deeply on national issues. He penned "The Malay Dilemma," arguing that the country's ills resulted from the country's extreme ethnic imbalances. The book was immediately banned, but it became an influential political document. It asserted that the Malays were the country's original "definitive race" and that this should be embedded in national institutions and policies.


Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times

By Barry Wain
Palgrave MacMillan, 363 pages , £65

Dr. Mahathir was by now a national figure, and the departure of Malaysia's founding prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, with whom he frequently quarreled, opened the way for his re-entry into politics in 1974. He quickly rose through the ranks, winning the premiership in 1981—the first "commoner" to hold the post. He quickly set about implementing his vision of modernization: developing a vibrant Malay business class while also embarking on a "Look East" strategy of heavy industrialization.

Dr. Mahathir saw himself as a nation builder and a champion of third-world causes. He liked to think big, whether it was the construction of the nation's north-south highway stretching from Thailand to Singapore or the new capital he started at Putra Jaya. Inevitably, these and other projects became entangled within the complex web of UMNO money politics. They tended to be very expensive, rely on nontransparent bidding and favor contractors with ties to UMNO. But the book presents little evidence that Dr. Mahathir saw these projects as vehicles for personal enrichment—even if it is alleged some of his cronies and family apparently did.

More than his economic program, however, Dr. Mahathir's personality has attracted attention. As Mr. Wain makes clear, he displayed a well-developed authoritarian streak and a propensity to lock up dissidents. The most infamous of these was the jailing of his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, in September 1998 on charges of financial and sexual improprieties, an event that deeply shocked the nation. Dr. Mahathir has denied the charges were politically motivated, and Mr. Anwar was later acquitted. The international media were also targeted, including this newspaper, which was banned for a period for its articles about the economy and then Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin.

This new biography contends that Dr. Mahathir cemented his rule in part by weakening institutions like the judiciary, media and professional civil service that could have challenged him. Although Dr. Mahathir contests that claim, he did introduce press controls, bypass the civil service with his own direct appointments and dismiss the lord president of the Supreme Court during the constitutional crisis of 1988. His personalization of power "cut Malaysia adrift institutionally," Mr. Wain writes, rendering more difficult the country's transition to modern statehood.

Mr. Wain's book is biography at its best. The author, a former Journal editor and Malaysia bureau chief, builds on extensive interviews with Dr. Mahathir, his family and close associates. But Mr. Wain also gives plenty of airing to the critics, and he has meticulously sifted through the Malaysian press, the scholarly literature and "underground" commentary, offering no fewer than 1,236 footnotes to support his rich narrative. The result is a balanced, comprehensive and nuanced study that apportions praise and criticism in equal measure. It replaces a much earlier work, Khoo Boo Teik's 1995 "Paradoxes of Mahathirism" as the seminal study of Dr. Mahathir.

Yet Mr. Wain could have stepped back a little more and asked whether Dr. Mahathir fundamentally changed the course of Malaysian economic development. Under his leadership growth was no more impressive than under his three predecessors or two successors. Arguably, Malaysia's growth record is attributable more to the country's consistent openness and prudent macroeconomic management—it has never suffered the fiscal crises, hyperinflation, financial collapses that have afflicted other developing countries—combined with its rich natural resources.

While this debate deserves more attention, Mr. Wain's important biography sheds light on a fascinating character. As the winds of reformasi and the inexorable rise of the Internet pry open the country's controlled print and television media, there will likely be further revelations about the tight nexus between politics and money that flourished under his rule.

Mr. Hill is the H.W. Arndt professor of Southeast Asian economies at Australian National University.

The doctor's orders

The doctor's orders

Jan 21st 2010
From The Economist print edition

AFP Always right

Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times. By Barry Wain. Palgrave Macmillan; 368 pages; $105 and £65. Buy from,

DOGGED by controversy for most of his career, including the 22 years he spent as Malaysia’s prime minister until 2003, Mahathir Mohamad has never had trouble relaxing. Most days in the office he would enjoy a 15-minute after-lunch nap. In an astute and thorough new biography, Barry Wain, a former editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal, explains why Dr Mahathir could rest easy: “He never made mistakes, or at least none that he admitted.”

Of course, many successful politicians are similarly bereft of self-doubt. But Dr Mahathir, a qualified medical doctor, seems never once to have questioned the accuracy of his own diagnoses or the efficacy of his remedies. The Malaysian body politic is still coping with the consequences.

The paradox of Dr Mahathir’s career is that his determination to favour Malaysia’s ethnic-Malay majority is matched by what seems to be an extraordinarily condescending attitude to that group. His party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was devoted to promoting the interests of the Malays so that they could catch up with the better-off Chinese minority. Yet Dr Mahathir at times subscribed to an almost colonial view of the indolent Malay as unenterprising, shiftless and, as he put it in an article quoted in the book, of “a low average intelligence quotient”. Dr Mahathir, himself born into the family of a struggling small-town headmaster, is a self-made Malay politician, in contrast to the aristocrats who dominated after independence from Britain in 1957.

To justify the policies they pursued to make Malays wealthier, UMNO and its leader cited the need to ease tension after the bloody race riots of May 1969. That in turn was part of a bigger vision, the single-minded drive to turn Malaysia into a developed nation by 2020.

To this end, Dr Mahathir, who took office in 1981, resorted to increasingly ruthless and authoritarian methods. He was an unabashed advocate of “Asian values”, favouring discipline over freedom. After more than 100 government critics were locked up in 1987 under the colonial-era Internal Security Act, laws covering protests and the press were tightened. Being liberal to those who abused their freedom, Dr Mahathir said, was “like offering a flower to a monkey”, which would tear it apart.

Under him UMNO, it was joked, came to stand for “Under Mahathir No Opposition”. He fought all the most important constraints on his power: the traditional monarchs, the sultans; the judiciary; the press, both foreign and domestic; and successive protégés and anointed successors. They included not just Anwar Ibrahim, jailed and beaten up, but his actual successor, Abdullah Badawi, against whom he railed in his blog, having the satisfaction of seeing him unseated last year.

The blog has also trashed Mr Wain’s book, which has been held up at Malaysian customs. The government would probably rather forget many of the episodes it describes. But Dr Mahathir’s complaint about it does not centre on its cataloguing of his authoritarian streak. Rather he resents the sceptical take on his economic legacy.

Under Dr Mahathir Malaysia’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 6.1%. Mr Wain points out that in the previous decade, the average had been 8%, but Dr Mahathir’s role in the modernisation of his country, and its transformation into a manufacturing hub, remains remarkable. To Dr Mahathir’s fury, the book makes clear that progress has also entailed a succession of grotesque national financial scandals, huge wastage on prestige projects and a political system flooded with dirty money. The setbacks and criticism have been severe enough at times to drive Dr Mahathir, an emotional man, to public tears; though never, of course, to admitting he might have been at fault.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Malaysia's war of words over God

Malaysia's war of words over God

Thursday, 21 January 2010
(Guardian, UK) In countless tourism adverts, Malaysia asks the world to see it as "Truly Asia". In the past days and weeks, its government's bid to portray the nation as a harmonious multicultural society has gone up in flames.

Since its high court lifted a three-year embargo that prevents non-Muslims from using the Arabic word Allah in their prayers and literature on 31 December, detractors firebombed several churches and vandalised others across the nation. While there were no casualties, several churches have thus far been hit, with one so severely damaged that its members had to conduct their service elsewhere. Eight of the attackers have now been arrested.

Despite these attacks, Malaysia's Christians, who make up about nine percent of the 27 million-strong Southeast Asian nation, are insisting that the use of Allah is not exclusive to Muslims, who account for some 60% of the population.

Last February, Malaysia's Catholic archbishop, Murphy Pakiam, publisher of the Herald newspaper, filed for a judicial review against the ban that was first enforced in 2007 by the then home affairs minister, Syed Hamid Albar, against the Catholic weekly for using Allah to refer to God in its Malay language version.

The rationale behind the Catholic church's appeal was that Allah is a generic word for God that preceded the spread of Islam. After all, the word Allah, when translated from Arabic, comprises the definite article al, and the noun ilah which means God – connoting a singular deity, a belief common to adherents of the Abrahamic faiths.

Indeed, Biblical scholar Kenneth J Thomas outlined evidence in a 2001 research paper (pdf) suggesting that Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Arab world have used Allah when citing and translating the Bible since the first centuries of Islam.

In Malaysia, its use by Christians developed along similar lines. Since Christianity became widespread there in the 19th century, primarily through the missionary efforts of English colonisers, Allah has been used extensively by Malay-speaking Christian indigenous peoples of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

When juxtaposed against the fact that Malay-speaking Christians in neighbouring Indonesia have long used Allah in their worship to no complaint, it is understandable that Malaysia's church attacks have been viewed with much chagrin.

Observers have rightly argued that the rumpus is tied to Malaysia's ethnic-based political landscape. To be more precise, it arises from the form of Islam nurtured by a segment of the nation's Malay political elites.

The country's constitution not only makes Islam the official state religion but also specifies that a "Malay" must be a "Muslim". With ethnicity tied so closely to religion, defending the purity of Islam against corruption by foreigners has become both a religious duty and a matter of national pride.

This dogma has been fostered by the nation's ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), whose popularity is partly derived from its status as a defender of Malay rights.

This would explain Umno's ambivalent stance on the issue. Even as prime minister Najib Razak decried the church attacks as heinous, his Umno colleagues in government had filed an appeal against the high court decision to overturn the Allah ban. Home affairs minister Hishamuddin Hussein even went as far as to allow demonstrations against the Allah ruling in mosques across Malaysia after Friday prayers on 8 January.

Christians were not the only group targeted by adherents of exclusivist Islam following the fallout from the ruling. On 13 January, the country's Sikhs became the latest to suffer attacks when vandals threw stones at a temple in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The Sikhs, who number approximately 120,000, also use Allah to refer to God in their worship.

Even the Hindus are not exempt from this kind of discrimination. Last September, a group of Muslim protestors stamped on a cow's severed head to protest at the building of a Hindu temple in a Muslim-majority neighbourhood.

Yet there is some encouragement to be had in the fact that not all Malays subscribe to this form of exclusivist Islam. Respected Muslim scholar Asri Zainul Abidin, a former state mufti, backs the use of Allah by non-Muslims. Surprisingly, this is the same stance taken by the opposition Islamic party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which had advocated the full-blown implementation of Sharia laws in past campaigns.

There are even voices of dissent coming from within Umno itself. Veteran politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has always been something of a maverick, condemned his party's reactions following the ruling. For Malaysians to stop warring in God's name, this emerging inclusive Malay-Muslim voice must drown out the rallying cries of the divisive vandals. Insha'Allah.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Trouble With Islamo-Tribalism

January 13, 2010

The Trouble With Islamo-Tribalism

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News]

Nasty things are happening in Malaysia. Nine Christian churches have been vandalized or burnt just over the last weekend. Thank God, nobody has been hurt, yet, but the terror unleashed is terrifying enough for the Christian minority of this overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

Also thank God that the attacks were the work of a fanatic minority among Malaysian Muslims, or Malays. Many others, including government spokesmen, denounced the barbarism. Some volunteers from Muslim nongovernmental organizations have even begun patrolling churches to protect them from possible future attacks. This is, of course, commendable.

Yet still, I think that Malays should deal not just with the radical symptoms of the problem. They should also deal with the problem itself.

A copyright of God?

The problem itself is a "copyright issue," as Marina Mahathir, a Malay commentator, rightly put it. Christians in the country have been using the word "Allah" to refer to God in their services and publications, whereas the Muslim Malays believe that they have a monopoly on it. Hence the Muslim-dominated government recently put a ban on non-Muslims using the term. Yet last month the High Court overturned the ban. And hell broke lose.

As a Turkish Muslim, I strongly disagree with my Malaysian coreligionists who disagree with the Christians. The word "Allah" simply means "The God" in Arabic, and Arab Christians have been using it for centuries without any trouble. In Turkey, too, Bibles published by Turkish Christians used to have the term "Allah" until the recent "modernization" in their discourse. The change is their choice, and none of our business.

Most Muslims, in other words, don't have a problem with hearing the word "Allah" from non-Muslim theists. And this is how it should be, because the Koran repeatedly says that Muslims worship the same God with Jews and Christians. "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you," a verse orders Muslims to tell these fellow monotheists. "Our God and your God is one."

Whence, then, comes the Malay possessiveness of Allah?

The Malaysian government argues that making Allah synonymous with God may "confuse Muslims and ultimately mislead them into converting to Christianity." Wow, what a great sign of self-confidence. Why don't they rather think, one wonders, that the same thing might ultimately "mislead" Christians into converting to Islam.

Besides the obvious immaturity, what is really disturbing to me here is how Allah, the "Lord of mankind" according to the Koran, is reduced to something like a tribal deity.

This was all too obvious in the slogan of the protesters at the mosques of Kuala Lumpur: "Allah," they said, "is only for us."

But who do you think you are, one should ask. Who gives you the authority to claim that the name of God of all men is your private property?

The answer, as you can guess, lies not in theology but politics. As a piece published in these pages yesterday (Gwynne Dyer, "In the Name of Allah") explained well, the Muslim Malays, despite making up 60 percent of Malaysia, "feel perpetually insecure." They worry that if their numbers in population decrease so will their dominant role in the country.

Hence comes Malaysia's tyrannical bans on apostasy from Islam, limitations on mixed marriages, and the current obsession with the Christians' language. The main intention behind these is the preservation of the dominance, and the "purity," of a certain political community - say, a big tribe. (The medieval Islamic ban an apostasy, which has no basis in the Koran, was similarly a product of political motives.)

But pursuing the perceived interests of a political community that happens to be Muslim, is not the same thing with upholding the religious values that God has bestowed on Muslims.

The difference between the two is subtle but crucial. It is the difference between serving God, and making God serve us.

Jihad, victory and empire

The latter motivation, I suspect, is imperative in the makeup of the self-righteous, authoritarian and violent movements in the contemporary Muslim world. These movements always strive for some victory, some political dominance, which will elevate their very selves above all other men.

The words of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who tried to blow up a passenger airliner near Detroit two weeks ago, are quite telling. "I imagine how the great jihad will take place," he reportedly said, "how the Muslims will win ... and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!"

The yearning for glory here is not too different from what a revolutionary communist expects from the dictatorship of the proletariat, or what a chauvinist expects from an imperialist agenda that will make his nation the master of the world.

The Muslim thing to do, however, is to be more humble, modest and openhearted. The Koran tells Muslims that they are supposed to be "the best community that has been raised up for mankind." Yet they really can't serve that purpose if they begin by despising the rest of mankind, and claiming an ownership of God.

And Malaysia can't really uphold the values of Islam through Islamo-tribalism.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top student a Malaysian, again?

Top student a Malaysian, again?

Jan 18, 2010
Sin Chew Daily

When the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) Examination results were released last year, the country's leading Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao used the headline: Top O-Level student again a Malaysian?.

I was attracted by the word "again".

Her name is Lai Kai Rou and same as top student last year Haw Sue Hern, she studied in S.R.J.K (C) Lick Hung before going to study in Singapore.

Photo: Sin Chew Daily

The report stressed that in S.R.J.K (C) Lick Hung, everything is taught in Chinese except for English subject. I would like to add that S.R.J.K (C) Lick Hung is a Chinese primary school.

Lai, who has again won glory for the country, is one of the 17 foreign students among the 43 top O-Level scorers.

I must mention here that among the above-mentioned 17 foreign students, 11 of them are from China and six of them are Malaysians. The number is equal to 40% of the 43 top scorers.

Singaporeans exclaimed in surprise. They wondered why there were so many foreigners among the top scorers.

At the same time, we also exclaimed in surprise. We wondered why so many top students have gone to Singapore.

Singaporeans were wondering why the top O-Level student was not a Singaporean and why Singaporean students were lack of spirit compared to foreign students.

Meanwhile, we were wondering why we always lose talents.

Lai said: "I like the freedom given by the peaceful Singapore, it allows me to move around without worry."

In fact, leaving home is no longer about the pain of "homesick" but the freedom without fear!

Of course, a little girl's way of thinking is relatively simple. For her parents (both graduates of the University of Malaya), studying in Singapore allows her to enjoy other freedoms. For example, the freedom of choosing a university, the freedom of choosing a major and the freedom of getting a scholarship based on academic results without the so-called quota system and colour distinction.

How many Malaysian students, like Lai and her younger brother, have been flocking to further their studies in Singapore right after they have completed their primary schools with the scholarship provided by Singapore every year?

And how many Malaysian students from Chinese independent high schools (second-class students and copycats for Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and historian and academician Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim) have been enrolled into prestigious universities of the Lion City every year and end up settling down while contributing to the prosperity of the country?

There are many shining stars who are originated from Malaysia in Singapore. For example, founder, Group Chief Executive Officer, and President of the Singapore-based Hyflux Group Olivia Lum used to be an orphan from Perak; and Chief Executive Officer of Jetstar Asia Chong Phit Lian was just a little girl selling pineapples at her own doorstep in Kulai, Johor when she was six.

The current Health Minister of Singapore Khaw Boon Wan is also originated from Malaysia. He used to study in the Penang Chung Ling High School.

In fact, there are too many similar stories to tell.

Govt flip-flops put M'sia's international standing at risk

Govt flip-flops put M'sia's international standing at risk

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Malaysian government’s flip-flop responses and inability to co-ordinate swift and satisfactory solutions to internal crises may seriously hurt its standing with leaders of the first world countries, where importance is increasingly placed on transparency and security issues.

By Wong Choon Mei (Harakah)

Already, there is speculation that the United States may slap economic sanctions if Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration is unable to explain how two F-5E jet engines could be stolen from a military base and purportedly sold to underground arms syndicates on Washington's blacklist.

The US is also unhappy over the recent spate of violence and vandalism against non-Muslim places of worship in Malaysia in retaliation over a court ruling that lifted a home ministry ban on non-Muslims using the word Allah.

“These are the two worrying topics that have caught the attention of the international community. But another one that is set to explode soon is the sodomy trial of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim when it begins next week,” Dr Syed Azman, head of PAS international bureau, told Harakahdaily.

“Actually, it will be Malaysia that will go on trial for the whole world to see. The corruption and the manipulation can no longer be hidden and first world leaders will surely want an explanation why they should condone and not condemn the actions of the Umno-BN government.”

Losing faith

Indeed, it may be too late for Najib, who has been accused of indecision and snail's paced responses.The business community - both domestic and international - have already reacted.

In 2009, Malaysia registered unprecedented capital flight - about 50 percent of its GDP, which in 2008 was worth some RM739 billion. According to a UBS Securities Asia report: “Question: which Asian country had the biggest FX reserve losses in 2009? The answer is Malaysia, and by a very wide margin; we estimate that official reserves fell by well more than one-quarter on a valuation-adjusted basis.”

So far, Najib who is also Finance Minister has not explained to the Malaysian public the reasons for the latest capital flight - which dwarfs the outflows recorded during the 1998 Asian financial crisis. Even on the latest outbreak of religious bigotry, he has tried to downplay the incidents as a “minor aberration”.

"You can't blame people from overseas forming a bad impression. Even the Malays and the whole of Malaysia is fast losing faith in their ability to govern the country. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is saying one thing today and another thing the next day. Whilst the ministers within the PM's own department are making contradictory statements that further adds salt to the wound," Syed Azman chided.

Since the start of this year, 10 churches, a 100-year old Sikh temple and Catholic school have been hit by assailants, widely believed to have been encouraged by the inflammatory communal rhetoric from Najib and other top Umno leaders. Although they have denied instigating the attacks to rally Malay support for their party, no arrests have yet been made. Nor have they initiated any inter-faith dialogue to find a way forward.

Meanwhile, US Commissioner for International Religious Freedom, Leonard Leo, has warned: “How the Malaysian leadership deals with this issue will determine the political and economic future of the country”. The World Council of Churches has also expressed concern, urging "immediate action by both the government and civil society to resolve the conflict, in order to avoid renewed hostilities and escalation of violence".

Sodomy II

But it is the second round of sodomy charges against reform icon Anwar, which may tilt the balance and deepen the growing disaffection for the Malaysian administration.

Eleven year ago, Anwar, who was once the country’s deputy prime minister, was jailed on corruption and sodomy charges that he says were fabricated by the then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to kill his rising political career.

In September 2004, about a year after Mahathir’s retirement, the Federal Court cleared Anwar of the sodomy charges and freed him. However, in 2008, as he was about to make his parliamentary comeback, a junior aide in his PKR party accused him of sodomy. Despite two hospital reports, including from the government’s own Hospital Kuala Lumpur, that found no evidence of penetration in the 'victim's' anus, Najib’s administration has insisted on a full-blown trial.

“The new case replays an old script with new actors. The current script also shows the previous episode’s features of political interference, manipulation of officers in the AG’s Chambers and police, and falsification of evidence all arising from a political conspiracy to stop Anwar’s political career,” said PKR vice president Sivarasa Rasiah, who is also a member of Anwar's legal defence team.