Quo Vadis Malaysia?

So, let us not be blind to our differences – – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. – John F Kennedy, 10 June 1963.

The above paragraph was part of a speech by the late American president at a university, exhorting the Soviet Union then to join the US in a nuclear test treaty ban.

Tomorrow is Malaysia Day. For the first time since the coming together of the Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak under the name Malaysia on 16 Sept 1963, this historic day is given its proper recognition.

Long overdue, but better than nothing.

We Malaysians come from different walks of life, different faiths and ethnicity  and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Yet we would do well to examine Kennedy’s words above, for it is relevant to us.

He used the words in the context of global peace and order. We can apply it in the Malaysian context too, with the aim of ensuring the harmony of the nation. That is for our collective good, isn’t it?

After all, we all live, love, work, make a living and one day will die, on this same piece of earth we call Malaysia.

We differ in many ways.  We may even look different. I am dark brown, my housemate is a fair-skinned girl, my neighbour is what you would call “sawo matang”, yet under these skin runs the same red blood.

At the end of the day, we have similar hopes and dreams too, if you think about it. We’re not that different.

Malaysia is on the cusp of major change. The change in the path the country is taking began a few years ago. You may have noticed it in the shocking election results of 2008.

Malaysians are more aware now, and some I suspect, have woken up to fact that in a democracy, one man’s vote still matters. That is a good thing.

It means the makcik selling karipap at the street corner, the estate-dwelling plantation worker, the 9 to 5 civil servant as well as the mechanic who repairs my car now knowthat they can have a hand in shaping the destiny of this nation.

This we arrived at because of the past decade’s  democratisation of information. Because of the Internet. Because the people are hearing news and views they were hitherto unexposed to.

Information can make you think, and the more info you have, the better able you are to make decisions that benefit you, or your cause. And that is a wonderful thing. Cos it empowers you, the common man.

There are fears that increased discourse on things formerly considered taboo, like rights, privileges, race relations and religious intolerance, could give rise to anarchy.

But let me tell you this. I think the Malaysian society at large is growing up. If not, the Ibrahim Alis, the Siti Inshah’s, the Namewees and the Nasir Safars of this world could have provoked you into attacking your neighbour.

We don’t do that. Because at heart, we are sane, decent people who subscribe to the basic tenets of justice, fairness and equity. And thank God for this.

In the last week, our country has been rocked by a particularly vicious quadruple murder that brings back sordid reminders of gruesome crimes such as Bakaruddin Busu, Canny Ong and Altantuya Shariibuu.

The brutal killing of cosmetics magnate Sosilawati Lawiya, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, her lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim and CIMB Bank officer Noorhisham Mohammad is not something likely to forgotten for a while.

The suspects are in custody now as police continue to gather more and more incriminating evidence against the alleged killers. I say alleged because the two lawyers are yet to be tried and convicted.

The horror, disgust, furious anger and sadness of the public is understandable. Even I found myself unable to sleep after reading of the grisly murder.

But what disturbs me is the increasing racial-slurs leveled just because the suspects happen to be Indian. “Bangsa bangsat” and “keling pembunuh” are just some of the epithets I’ve seen so far.

Never mind that the alleged killers are also suspected of killing other Indian victims. It is quite obvious that in the case of Sosilawati, the motive was money.

So why this racial profiling? Murderers are murderers. They exist in all shapes and sizes, races and religion and from all kinds of backgrounds.

For those who are quick to bring up the racial card, let me remind you of the Canny Ong kidnap/murder, the C4 killing of Altantuya Shariibuu and way back in the 90s, the slaughter of  Batu Talam assemblyman Datuk Mazlan Idris. Who were convicted?

I think at this point we should let the law deal with the suspects and let this be a lesson to the police not to take any missing persons report lightly.

Let justice not only be done, but be seen to be done. Only that will bring a measure of solace to the grief-stricken families of the 4 victims.

Let the rest of us Malaysians pray that justice prevails. Let us close our eyes to narrow parochial ideas, and open them to more inclusive fair ideas.

Let us throw our mutual suspicion and distrust away, because we cannot afford to live like this anymore. Those tired cliches have no place in the future Malaysia, and its time we all recognise that.

Happy Malaysia Day!


The Great Malaysian Cover-Up…

..is almost complete.

Look at this picture. (borrowed without permission from The Star)


The High Court today sentenced the two Special Ops cops from Unit Tindakan Khas (UTK) to hang for the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shariibuu,The Star reports.

Does it surprise you? No? Same here. But this is a case that has shaken the nation. Even as the two cops are sentenced, there are many burning questions that remain unanswered.

Firstly, motive.

Azilah who started his testimony on Jan 15 stated that he had no motive to kill or destroy the woman and instead he only met Altantuya to advise her politely not to harass Abdul Razak or create a ruckus outside the latter’s home.

Azilah also told the court that he was ordered by a superior, DSP Musa Safri to help Abdul Razak and thus he would not have done something stupid like killing and what more when he was a policeman.

While defending himself Sirul Azhar broke down a few times and related to the court that he has been made the ‘sacrificial lamb’ in the murder. – The Star.

So, the prosecution used both the guys testimony to tie a noose long enough to hang them both. But what was the motive? This is not serial killing.

Certainly not a crime of passion. Because Altantuya’s entry records and the two cops’ travel records would help to preclude that they even knew the victim. Entry records erased, you say? Oops…but that’s another story.

I reiterate, why is the most obvious question not answered? Motive?

You can narrow it down to two things.

1) Following a direct order from a superior.

2) Money.

Where is the money? I’ve said this again and again. These two convicted killers probably was approached for a reason, and the reason was not their typing skills, that’s for sure.

The chain that’s supposed to link Azilah/Sirul to Altantuya has another link. Without this link, the whole case is questionable. Yet, in Malaysia it happens. Kudos to Bolehland.

What about the private investigator Bala who made two Satutory Declarations that contradicted each other, and then disappeared? The judge didn’t think there was anything here?

Another thing, you guys think these two cops are really gonna hang for their crimes? I’m skeptical.Why?

1) In Malaysia we don’t have public hangings, so we can’t witness it happen.

2) Does anyone know how these fellas looked like? Since they were arrested until today, they have turned up with their faces covered.

How’s this story. They are properly sentenced and all today. They await the hangman. Justice is seen to be done. Then months down the line, they are spirited from the prison, given new IDs and packed to some foreign soil, with some money for their trouble.

Come hanging day, they will just announce that so and so were hanged for their crime. They bodies buried in such and such place. Whose bodies? Your guess is as good as mine.

Too much spy novels, you say. You forget that art imitates life actually.

After all, a Mongolian national being shot twice by cops and then blown up with C4, a military grade explosive does sound like a something straight out of a spy thriller, don’t you think?

So, pardon my 10 cent-conspiracy-theory. That’s what most cynical, jaded, lie-weary Malaysians are thinking these days.

And why not? This is a country where the custodians of law, public order, governance, justice and freedom can be summed up as “Harapkan Pagar, Pagar Makan Padi”.

Our cops are bent,  trigger happy murderers.

Our prosecutors are mostly evil puppets of the Attorney General, who in turn has been shown to be both inept and a puppet himself.

Our judges have mostly been castrated or they too are bent. The few who are principled, their days are numbered under One Malaysia, believe me.

Our media has been gagged too long that, their collective balls shrank and that fine thing called investigative reporting has died.

Our laws are meant to suppress the people.

And our only hope is through the ballot.

If we don’t change this, you and I have a good chance of becoming another Altantuya, Kugan, or the Kulim six.

PS. DSP Musa Safri….You can sleep easy tonight. And Razak Baginda, good luck at Oxford.

Paternalism. How far do we go?

This is a question I cannot answer even today.

Paternalism has always been present in governance and indeed, philosophy, since the early days of civilisation.

However, the idea that the government decides what is good for me or not, certainly gives me the creeps, not because I am a rebellious sort, but simply because governments are often seperti ketam mengajar anaknya berjalan lurus.

The government takes the role of our parents in telling us what’s supposed to be good for us and not. They make it into law and hey, it becomes and offence….provided you are caught doing it.

Which brings into discussion the issue of enforcement, and enforceability of such laws. I mean, any type of gambling is not allowed for Muslims in this country. That means they can be charged. But they still do it, despite the signs at your neighbourhood Kuda Toto Magnum shops that say Muslims and those under 18 cannot buy the numbers.

Now, looking at it from the paternal point of view, gambling benefits few. And the cost, both in money and social terms, is quite disproportionately high.

There is an urban legend that goes around saying how the hotel windows in Genting Highlands can only be opened a few inches, because in the past, too many losers threw themselves out the window after saying bye bye to all their money and sometimes their shirt.

I don’t know how much of this is true, but gambling has a serious social cost that leads to broken families, poverty, suicides and crime.

Hey, even those folks at Genting recognise it. You must have passed the lightboxes in the casinos advertising their gamblers’ helpline some time. I saw them. So it is clearly a concern.

So, gambling is supposed to be bad for society. Yet, a large part of Malaysian society wants the choice to go destroy itself. And the government allows it. It doesn’t want to be paternal here because I guess, of the potential political fallout.

Choice. You as an individual, say that the authorities do not have a right to dictate how you live your life. That’s your own bloody business, you say.

But no, that is no longer quite true. Unless you live in a cave, alone, with no ties to the outside world whatsoever, you are deemed as a cog in the huge wheel called society. Whatever the choices you make in your daily life, it will have some effect on your surrounding. Remember the Butterfly Effect?

So, the question is more, like the title of this post suggests, how far do we go, who should be bound by the rules dictated by this school of thought and, most importantly, WHO SHOULD DICTATE THE TERMS?

Like Jesus suggested, none of us have clean hands, for us to cast the first stone of righteous punishment or sanction. In fact, most of our so-called society and political elders have dirty, even bloody, hands.

In a plural society that often is part of the same political unit, imposition of rules that affect all must get the consensus of the majority. If it doesn’t, you get at best disenchanted grumbles and at worst riots and even civil war.

Take the much-talked about yoga fatwa for instance. The fatwa looks to me like the Muslim elder statesmen in this country telling their brethren that it is against the tenets of Islam to practice yoga and hence, Muslims who do, should stop it.

Whether they are right or wrong to impose the ruling is a question for the Muslims in this country to discuss or argue.

So I feel that in this case, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Vaithilingam’s saying the Hindu community is hurt is somewhat misplaced. His statement takes the issue on a different trajectory of how the minority groups are often trampled when policies are declared for the majority. Business as usual in Malaysia, but that is not the point here.

In any case, today, all this is moot because the fatwa is “overruled”. The Prime Minister stepped in and basically said

“I wish to state that a physical regime with no elements of worship can continue, meaning, it is not banned. I believe that Muslims are not easily swayed into polytheism,” he said when contacted by Bernama here.

And then the Royals came into the picture and reminded the National Fatwa Council of its place in the pecking order.

Here’s a sample.

The Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah has again reminded the National Fatwa Council that its primary role is to decide and issue a fatwa or edicts after referring them to the Con­ference of Rulers. — reported here

Here’s another

The Regent of Negri Sembilan has joined his royal brothers in Perak and Selangor in proposing the National Fatwa Council consult the Conference of Rulers before issuing edicts in future. reported here

The Sultan of Selangor too made his stand clear on this issue.

However, it had more to do with jurisdictional authority over Muslim matters than the applicability, relevance or whether it was the right thing to do.

All the brouhaha over the yoga fatwa made me look closer at fatwas in general. I was struck by this article .

Zainah Anwar writes..

A young friend googled fatwa and found in every piece of writing she read that fatwa is an advisory opinion only; how has it come about in Malay­sia that it becomes a criminal offence to violate a fatwa that has been gazetted, she questioned?

This echoes my own uneasy realisation that here in Malaysia, the NFC can issue an edict that becomes law. That means the NFC is a law-making body, making rules that don’t need debate and discussion before it is gazetted to become law.

That means, my friends, you have laws being created with impunity, that you or your elected rep wasn’t consulted on, which will and does affect you.

Don’t you want to know about it?

Granted, as a non-Muslim, it will not apply to me, but it alarms me that most of my Muslim friends are not aware of the equal enforceability of fatwas.

Here’s more cause for concern, from the same article..

As early as 1997, Sisters in Islam (SIS) submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister about the shocking provisions in the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (SCOA), many of which have no precedence in Islamic legal history and practice, violate constitutional provisions on fundamental liberties and conflict or overlap with the Penal Code.

Among the most outrageous are two provisions which state it is a criminal offence to defy, disobey or dispute a fatwa, or to give, propagate or disseminate any opinion contrary to any fatwa that is in force! This really tantamounts to thought policing that criminalises differences of opinion! Not even Saudi Arabia makes it a crime to violate or dispute a fatwa.

Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed ordered the Attorney-General’s Chambers to review the SCOA. But we don’t know the outcome of that process, or if it ever took place.

SIS commissioned two research papers examining the SCOA on constitutional and Islamic juristic grounds. Both experts concluded that the SCOA is a deeply flawed piece of legislation. We have submitted our report to the Govern­ment.

The late Tan Sri Harun Hashim who sat on the Syariah Technical Committee said he had recommended to the committee that criminal law be taken out of syariah jurisdiction and all criminal matters should come under the Penal Code. That was why the SCOA was not submitted for review in the government exercise to establish uniformity of all state Islamic laws in the late 1990s.

But it is obvious that over the past few years, the strategy is to expand syariah jurisdiction, not limit it according to law.

I think Muslims in this country should sit up and take notice. They should have a serious look at this trend of banning this and that without reason.

Most of my Muslim friends, I know, are confident enough in their faith without having to ikut telunjuk some myopic elders. This is a case of paternalism taking an ugly turn.

Not so long ago, Foreign Minister Datuk Rais Yatim, an intelligent man who is somehow, inexplicably, prone to spew some really idiotic stuff, said that young single girls should not travel overseas.

Sure, it was in response to so many young Malaysian women becoming drug mules and ending up behind bars in foreign countries, but isn’t it rather shortsighted of Rais to say that?

Censoring the Internet was mulled in its early days. Hell, our own Mat Tyson was a proponent. Of course, some 10, 12 years later, it was the blogs they wanted to censor because it is deemed to incite people to be anti-government.

I was laughing to myself when the powers that be, in its worst imitation of paternalism, blocked public access to Malaysia Today. Then it occurred to me, paternalism in Malaysia is just an extension and a tool of political expediency.

I mean, they always mess with the likes of Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today, but ain’t it funny that no one bothers to block access to porn sites?

Alternative political views are more evil compared to pornography. Go on…snigger away. It is true, in Malaysia at any rate.

Why not a fatwa against domestic violence? A fatwa on violence against women and children? A fatwa against Muslim men who abandon their wives and kids and don’t pay alimony?

Kak Zaharah whose husband abandoned her with six kids to raise on her own (she was heavily pregnant with the last one when he left) would appreciate a fatwa like that. Paternalism would have helped there.

But then in Bolehland, bullshit walks proud while reason suffers terminal weariness.

Razak Baginda Walks…

Yup. This morning at the Shah Alam High Court, political analyst Razak Baginda walks out a free man after being acquitted of the charge of abetting in the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaaribuu.

Kpl Sirul Azhar and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, the two principal accused in the brutal murder that has rocked the nation for the past two years, have been told to enter defence.

Full court report here.

Thank You Elviza, for the heads up.

Now, although Razak was actually crying buckets after the judge’s ruling, I’m willing to bet that he will shut up after this. The prize? His freedom and his life. Enough motivation for any man to zip his lips.

I still maintain what I said in The Invisible Man back in June. Razak did not have the clout to order those two police commandos to kill. They would not have taken orders from him.

But now that these two have to take the stand and defend themselves, can we Malaysians expect to finally hear or see the Invisible Man? I don’t know. This is a high stakes game and the proximity of the case to the Deputy Prime Minister is enough to make anyone break out in cold sweat.

This is also a case that has a lot to do, I feel, with RPK being in Kamunting. The great Malaysian soap opera has just passed the cliffhanger episode. The coming season promises to be far more interesting, with two lives hanging in the balance and the folks who supposedly ordered the kill, nearer to getting away with the C4 Murder.

Bravo Bolehland!

The Great Malaysian Soap Opera

Woo Hoo!

What else can we call what’s happening in the country these days? There’s murder, conspiracy, abuse of power, cover ups, fraud, nepotism (he ain’t heavy, he’s my menantu), sex (hetero and homo), love (“I’ll stand by my fiance in my pink mary janes”) and even a Mongolian bomoh!

Better than whatever locally-produced drama on TV, that’s for sure. But pity those producers, cos I don’t think RTM will probably treat the word “liwat” like some kinda blasphemy and can the drama. Sorry, we’re Malaysians, we don’t sodomise each other. Yeah Right!

Anyway, back to the Anwar expose today, it is explosive shit. Duck! Some shrapnel might hit you yet.

Malaysiakini has an early story.

In a gist, Razak Baginda’s ex-PI (u know, like Magnum PI) Balasubramaniam said in a sworn affidavit that that Najib is linked with Altantuya back in the early days.

Also, Balasubramaniam alleges that details contained in his cautioned statement taken during the investigation has since been purged. Read his statutory declaration.

I reproduce this very very juicy bit.

25. During this discussion and in an attempt to persuade me to continue my employment with him, Abdul Razak Baginda informed me that:

1) He had been introduced to Aminah by Najib Razak at a diamond exhibition in Singapore.

2) Najib Razak informed Abdul Razak Baginda that he had a sexual relationship with Aminah and that she was susceptible to anal intercourse.

ROFL…:) Am I to assume that most of our politicians like the backdoor entry?

More at Pakatan Rakyat website and Anwar Ibrahim’s blog.

Press reports also say that the prosecution has wrapped up its case.

You know guys, as I step back and observe the chain of events…I can’t help but think of the Butterfly Effect. One thing I can say that as any system that evolves with time is subject to the Chaos Theory.

Well, isn’t this country in chaos now? I can equate the gentle flap of the butterfly’s wings with the first stirrings in some politician’s pants, or some power-crazy gleam in a would be autocrat’s eyes more than two decades ago, or even the first daytime yawn of a sleepy Prime Minister as early as 5 years ago.

Follow my thought? If you put some of the individual happenings in the past 20 years together chronologically, you can chart the progress of the snowball.

And here we are today. What’s better, it is not over yet.

Have fun. Events are getting more interesting by the day.

Bring your own popcorns though.

The Invisible Man

Since the Altantuya Shariibuu trial started last year, and all the attendant publicity surrounding it, I’ve always been curious about one name.

This person was mentioned in early news reports but didn’t even come up as a witness in the subsequent trial, and currently, the trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of Azilah Hadri’s evidence.

This was the stuff of many a mamak stall conversation. Now, what I was thinking, Raja Petra has been too, with possibly more input and thought, evidence-wise.

Referring to this article posted last week in Malaysia Today. Many people I know calls RPK lots of names, from tukang karut to hatchet man, but read the stuff and make up your mind.

This invisible man’s inclusion in the equation would complete the chain of circumstances. Without him, there appears to be no connection between both Azilah Hadri & Sirul Azhar, as well as the two with Altantuya and the two with Razak Baginda.

You take this one person out of the equation, and the motive for Azilah and Sirul to kill Altantuya disappears (except if the prosecution can prove a financial motive). Even if money was the carrot, there is still that connection factor.

The two accused would not know Altantuya from Eve, if not for someone higher up the food chain in their pretty exclusive circle trained of security personnel. The chances of such an acquaintance pre-existing is pretty low, I would say. These guys ain’t exactly social butterflies…these commando types.

Razak does not have the clout to order them to anything, even if he knew them. These fellas don’t work like that. They have a chain of command.

So yes, it would be good to see the good DSP come to court and explain. But that would only happen if the court subpoenas him.

There has been a lot of strange happenings with this case, that you can’t deny.

The first multi-racial investigative team that my hantu raya said did a first class job of evidence-gathering. The current one in place is not the same.

The first prosecution team that was changed a very short time after trial begun. The defence team for Razak, Azilah and Sirul changed a couple of times.

Legal bigwig Shafee Abdullah was the initial counsel, but he was soon out of the picture. The legal counsels for the other two changed as well

Anyone who keeps attention on this issue alive is shut up/harrassed/intimidated. But let’s not forget the basics.

1) A murder took place.

2) Two law enforcement/defence personnel stands accused.

3) A defence strategist known to be “connected” is also accused.

4) Composition 4 is reportedly used to blow up the dead body. C-4 is not something you buy in Tesco. C4 is not something an individual buys for recreational purpose. It is not even a individual’s personal use purchase.

It is quite likely that all three might get the death sentence. But there are appeals and there is the King to issue pardons.

Then there is the most important question. Are these three guilty? The court will come to that decision someday, but I know something is flawed here. In Razak’s case, the act is not proven. In the other two’s cases, motive is not established.

I know something though…the three accused will not go down without some pyrotechnics. Also, perhaps the only thing that is standing between the Malaysian public and the truth of what happened, is that curious phenomenon called politics.

Impunity and Misconceptions

I refer to this article reproduced by Malaysia Today from NST.

DPM Najib said popularity doesn’t entitle writers to act with impunity. I agree with him. I agree those who libel and slander others should not get away with it. But I believe that the remedies offered in civil law is adequate without you calling it sedition and subjecting writers to intimidation and torture.

When is sedition actually sedition? When your bapak says it?

Also, why is it that people in power can lie, cheat and rob people with impunity? Why is it ok?

I think i’m not writing with impunity when I say I don’t have faith in the police because two highly trained policemen who serve as bodyguards to PM and DPM stand accused of brutal murder.  The faith i invest is my right. The latter part of the sentence is reported fact.

I don’t think I’m writing with impunity when I root for Karpal Singh despite dozens of police reports and some death threats against him. I don’t think what he said in relation to Tengku Faris Petra’s speech was seditious.

 All of you mudah lupa? If what Karpal said was seditious, then Mahathir’s actions re: the Sultans in the 80s was seditious and so was Mat Tyson’s words.

Karpal reminded you and I that thanks to Dr Mahathir, even the royals are subject to the law. Why did Dr M do that? Because of the Gomez and Adam Jaafar incident. Say what you may, but I feel Dr M is a republican. And at that point there was evidence that the royalty acted with impunity.

This is also impunity, when you take a birds’ eye view of the matter I think. What do you think, right and left thinking Malaysians?

Don’t invoke this impunity and sedition stuff ikut kepentingan sendiri. Tomorrow you might have to jilat your own words.

The concept of accepting criticism is still not familiar to many Malaysians both rulers and the ruled since things were status quo for the longest time. Now that the people are questioning the authority in greater numbers, it must not be very easy for them to take it.

Najib himself is no stranger to saying things like “I don’t have to explain” in the past. Now if he keeps on saying that, it is like shooting himself in the foot laa. So he treads gingerly. Still, the spectre of Altantuya is far too big and of international proportions, to be just swept aside.

Still on the subject of impunity, don’t you think it is long past time that we put up with sweetheart deals that ensures that everywhere a Klang Valley resident turns, he has to pay toll?

Who is acting with impunity when 20 men with sticks and parangs go attack Bandar Mahkota Cheras residents who move the barricades that will allow them a shorter route out of their residential estate?  This dispute has been going on awhile. Don’t you think the courts can speed things up a bit?

Or are we waiting for the first killings to take place over this issue? As we all know, some people can kill with impunity over a misconception, while others do it for money or power.

And we writers CANNOT question it.