Saturday, June 28, 2008

Comparing Quality of Life After Fuel Price Hikes - QoL Index

Our continuous discussion on food and fuel price hikes gone unabated for the last two months. More so since the pump prices went up to RM 2.70 petrol and 2.58 for diesel on that faithful evening of forth of June the so called black Wednesday.

The government since that day has been trying to rob Peter and to give Paul to quell all the deafening noise from the Rakyat. They say they have to be people centric and thus have introduced methods to "ease their pain". They say subsidies have to go so that they can give the money saved to help the poor Rakyat. Mind you subsidies for fuel started only in 2004!! So where did all the money go all these year? That was just a rhetoric question.

The main stream media especially the print, have since tried very hard to explain that the fuel price in Malaysia is still the lowest among most country. Almost every day there is a comparative table or graph that tries to explain that we are indeed amongst the lowest and we should get on with it. I agree that we should get on with it but I do not believe a word of the tables, graphs and articles. They seem to have been doctored to a certain level. None has addressed the Quality of Life (QoL) of Malaysians who have been independent for 50 years.

What they fail, including the government to compare the situation fairly taking into account other factors that affect the QoL. Their standard operating procedure is a knee jerk reactions to situations and piece meal hand outs which are political in nature and it does not mean anything to anyone. New state governments included. Of course the Rakyat will accept it when given, what then after that.

In electronic trading last Friday the light sweet crude oil hit all time high of USD140/barrel. One of them is of course the infamous Tapis Blend of Petronas which is usually about USD7 higher the quoter rate for the light sweet. This Tapis Blend has brought great progress to this nation of ours since 1974 especially in the Mahathir's years of spending, wasting, cronyism etc. But what wealth or QoL has it brought to the Rakyat of Malaysia.

There are countries with nothing, but are way off better then us during this crisis. They have better QoL and the fuel price hikes do not really affect them. To prove this I have devised a way to calculate the QoL index. They may be other QoL indices but this one take into account three main components only;

1) Per capita income (the average income per person per year in any country)

2) Fuel Price (price of the liquid that goes into anything and everything and makes it more expensive)

3) Purchasing Power Parity (the power of a country's currency over another hence enhancing buying power). Do not get confused. Simply put why would a person buy a product from another country other than his own country. Because its is cheaper due to the exchange rate.

An important assumption here is that fuel price is the cause and effect of all other prices increases including food, transport and others. Over the last twenty years food agricultural land has been converted to crops that produce bio fuels. So the formula to calculate the QoL index of a country is:

Litres per Capita = Per Capita Income / Petrol Price per Litre

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) = Petrol Price per Litre of Country / Petrol Price per Litre of Malaysia

Litres per Capita After PPP = Litres per Capita x Purchasing Power Parity

Quality of Life Index = Litres per Capita After PPP of Country / Litres per Capita After PPP of Malaysia

Please click link below or copy paste in navigation bar to view the Quality of Life Table.

How do you read the table? Malaysia is the base with the QoL index being 1.00. That means neutral and all other countries' QoL is compared to it based one the above three components to assess the state they are in currently. Remember Malaysia is an oil exporting country since the 70's and we are supposed to become a developed country by 2020. What a perfect vision!

The countries above Malaysia are better off than us and the ones below are worse off. So if you look at Singapore which has nothing is 4.32 times (5.32-1) better off in terms of QoL than us. In other words they have achieved much more than us since independence. Yes we have known this all along, but we never knew how much better off. In other words their standard of living is 432% better than ours.

Of cause we are better off then other countries but these countries have had much political and economic upheavals in the eighties and nineties. The 1997 financial crisis faced by us was nothing compared to what they have had. India and China were sleeping giants that awoke only in the late eighties.

If our leaders have managed this country better over the last 30 years we would be where Singapore is and we would not be fretting about the price hikes.

Please feel free to comment.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Peak Oil

“ All the easy oil and gas in the world has pretty much been found. Now comes the harder work in finding and producing oil from more challenging environments and work areas. ”
— William J. Cummings, major oil-company spokesman, December 2005

“ World reserves are confused and in fact inflated. Many of the so called reserves are in fact resources. They’re not delineated, they’re not accessible, they’re not available for production ”
— Sadad I. Al Husseini, former VP of Aramco, October 2007.

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum production is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline. If global consumption is not mitigated before the peak, a world energy crisis may develop because the availability of conventional oil will drop and prices will rise, perhaps dramatically. M. King Hubbert first used the theory in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. His logistic model, now called Hubbert peak theory, has since been used to predict the peak petroleum production of many other countries, and has also proved useful in other limited-resource production-domains. According to the Hubbert model, the production rate of a limited resource will follow a roughly symmetrical bell-shaped curve based on the limits of exploitability and market pressures.

A bell-shaped production curve, as originally suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956.

Some observers, such as petroleum industry experts Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Matthew Simmons, believe the high dependence of most modern industrial transport, agricultural and industrial systems on the relative low cost and high availability of oil will cause the post-peak production decline and possible severe increases in the price of oil to have negative implications for the global economy. Although predictions as to what exactly these negative effects will be vary greatly, "a growing number of oil-industry chieftains are endorsing an idea long deemed fringe: The world is approaching a practical limit to the number of barrels of crude oil that can be pumped every day."

If political and economic change only occur in reaction to high prices and shortages rather than in reaction to the threat of a peak, then the degree of economic damage to importing countries will largely depend on how rapidly oil imports decline post-peak. The Export Land Model shows that the amount of oil available internationally drops much more quickly than production in exporting countries because the exporting countries maintain an internal growth in demand. Shortfalls in production (and therefore supply) would cause extreme price inflation, unless demand is mitigated with planned conservation measures and use of alternatives, which would need to be implemented 20 years before the peak.

Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast a peak will happen in the 2020s or 2030s and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis, obviating the need for major changes in the lifestyle of developed nations. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used.

Pessimistic predictions of future oil production operate on the thesis that the peak has already occurred or will occur shortly and, as proactive mitigation may no longer be an option, predict a global depression, perhaps even initiating a chain reaction of the various feedback mechanisms in the global market which might stimulate a collapse of global industrial civilization. Throughout the first two quarters of 2008, there were signs that a possible recession was being made worse by a series of record oil prices.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Myopic Mahathir and Makkal Sakthi

Tun Dr. M is either still wearing his blinkers or he has a bad case of glaucoma. He seems only to be able to see in front of him and not to his right or left. He too cannot see behind, his 22 years of Myopic Mahathirism. What gets to me is how myopic could this person be after the 12th GE Makkal Sakthi? And he is supposed to be a leader with some grey matter between his ears.

He and his UMNO stooges who support him now (actually I believe all the Putras and stooges still support him but are refusing to show support as they may loose what ever power or contracts they have now) do not see that even the Malays are not supporting them. Many UMNO members deserted UMNO during the recent election.

The winds of change is here and the only way is to follow the trade winds or get marooned in some godforsaken island. The Makkal Sakthi is no more a Tamil or Sanskrit word meaning People Power. It has become the Malaysians' demand for fairness and justice no matter Indian, Chinese, Malay or anyone else as long you are a Malaysian Citizen legally.

What I heard before, during and after the election was that Makkal Sakthi broke through all barriers or race and religion. Its only and ultimate request is for fairness and justice. It has been embraced by most Malaysians except these myopic Tun Dr. M's stooges and of cause all the other UMNO and BN component parties. Has anyone heard anyone from these parties use the word Makkal Sakthi? I have yet to hear them say it cause just like Tun Dr. M, all of them are in the denial phase now soon to follow with depression. They want to take us back to the pre Pak Lah era with their myopic view.

All Malaysian respect the rights of the raja-raja Melayu and the special rights of the Malays but they have had enough of is Ketuanan UMNO. The Chinese, Indians, Malays and many Bumiputras are also pissed off that Indonesians and Filipinos can be come citizens and Bumiputra over night. Many of us here have been here for more than three generations and we are still considered outsiders and yet, just to have more Bumiputras and Malays they were "converted" over night through Project IC. Till now nothing has been done about it. When I scream for the Malaysian badminton team, these Indonesians still support their players while holding Malaysian IC and Bumiputra rights. What crap is this!!

Bumiputras mean "children of the land" in Sanskrit. Many of our forefathers may have been brought into the country by the British or travelled here for a better life and were given citizenship in 1957. But they were our forefathers. The rest were born and bred here, singing Negaraku and reciting the Rukun Negara. This is the only country they know and have lived in. We are all also children of this land Malaysia.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

MIC Rebranding - Heading for Failure

It has been more than two months since the political tsunami that hit the nation and we are still feeling tremors reaching 8.0 in the Richter scale that could create more more tsunami. The latest being Tun Dr. M's resignation. Much is being said in blogs and the media and it will go on for sometime. However what I would like to discuss here is about Samy Vellu's so called rebranding of MIC.

Since March 8 we have had a lot of 're' words from the BN component parties like reinvent ourselves, review the party's status, reenginner, repair, rebuild, reunite with the grassroots, relook at the rakyat's grievances and a few more so that they can rebound to the glory or yesteryear's.

Last week Samy Vellu decides to rebrand MIC after a central committee meeting. What is rebranding in the first place? The process of taking an existing brand and reworking the brand into something different and better than before. The key words here is "better than before".

Branding is a set of values, a vision, an attitude. In the commercial world or otherwise, branding is a carefully orchestrated experience, based on complex marketing strategies and sophisticated psychology. It's about creating an entity in the consumer's (the Indians') mind so they can see, understand and identify with what's being offered.

Firstly, he wants to change the MIC logo. A brand is much more than a style or a logo. It encompasses the philosophy and values behind a product or service in this case the party's representation to the Indians in Malaysia, the way it is delivered, the way it engages with its customers, the Indians.

MIC did not loose the election because of the logo. No one voted for the logo. They voted for the 'dacing' or should I say they did not, which was the logo on the balloting paper and not the MIC logo. Now, Samy Vellu wants to spend thousands engaging a crony consultant to come up with a new logo. The logo was never the issue so why change the logo.

Secondly, he wants to change the uniform of the youth and the puteri / women wings. How is this going to help MIC and the Indians. Hear again the new uniforms would be contracted out to a crony who will be laughing all the way to the bank. No Indians care about what colour of the uniforms are and that did not cause the failure of MIC in the election.

Thirdly, he wants to increase the composition of youth to give fresh blood. Of the three the first two are stupid ideas for rebranding but the third is dangerous. Why? Most youth who join MIC would be the uneducated and the unemployed from the rural as well as the urban areas as they would be easily swayed by the smooth talking MIC veterans and also be bought. These are the marginalised Indians that Hindraf highlighted. Most of them would be thugs who would then protect the recruiters and the veterans. The educated ones will not join as they are well read and would prefer a more multi-racial party like PKR and DAP if they ever did.

Finally, he wants to maintain the motto "MIC Cares". Thousands of ringgit was spent two weeks leading to the elections advertising MIC with this motto in the mainstream media. Did anyone notice? If anyone did it was probably a blogger who would have torn it to pieces in his blog. Did it work? Obviously no!! Yet he wants to us the same motto. All Indians except those still loyal to MIC knows that MIC never cared all these years and it is not going to change.

Any Indians or for the matter Malaysians if they close their eyes and think about MIC the first thing that would appear in their minds would be the despicable face of Samy Vellu ie. Brand Samy Vellu. Mind you unlike Brand Beckham this is one brand most Indians would not want to be associated with. Hence the rebranding of MIC should start with the removal of Brand Samy Vellu which has lost its value over the years and is of no value now.

Any rebranding exercise usually starts in the mature stage of its life-cycle to keep it relevant. For MIC and its components parties it should have been in the mid 90's. However this was ignored due to their arrogance and comfort. The life-cycle of MIC and the rest reached a decline stage in the early 2000's and the rebranding was still ignored. Now it has come to the end of the life-cycle, the product is dead and any attempt to rebrand and revive the brand will only produce zombies.
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Monday, May 12, 2008

Einstein's letter makes view of religion relatively clear

By The Guardian UK

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." So said Albert Einstein, and his famous aphorism has been the source of endless debate between believers and non-believers wanting to claim the greatest scientist of the 20th century as their own.

A little known letter written by him, however, may help to settle the argument - or at least provoke further controversy about his views.

Due to be auctioned this week in London after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, the document leaves no doubt that the theoretical physicist was no supporter of religious beliefs, which he regarded as "childish superstitions".

Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, he states: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel's second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God's favoured people.

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

The letter will go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair on Thursday and is expected to fetch up to £8,000. The handwritten piece, in German, is not listed in the source material of the most authoritative academic text on the subject, Max Jammer's book Einstein and Religion.

One of the country's leading experts on the scientist, John Brooke of Oxford University, admitted he had not heard of it.

Einstein is best known for his theories of relativity and for the famous E=mc2 equation that describes the equivalence of mass and energy, but his thoughts on religion have long attracted conjecture.

His parents were not religious but he attended a Catholic primary school and at the same time received private tuition in Judaism. This prompted what he later called, his "religious paradise of youth", during which he observed religious rules such as not eating pork. This did not last long though and by 12 he was questioning the truth of many biblical stories.

"The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression," he later wrote.

In his later years he referred to a "cosmic religious feeling" that permeated and sustained his scientific work. In 1954, a year before his death, he spoke of wishing to "experience the universe as a single cosmic whole". He was also fond of using religious flourishes, in 1926 declaring that "He [God] does not throw dice" when referring to randomness thrown up by quantum theory.

His position on God has been widely misrepresented by people on both sides of the atheism/religion divide but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.

"Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him," said Brooke. "It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion."

Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Compilation of Quotes on RPK - Bapa Bangsa Malaysia

Over the last three days most of us have gone through a rollercoaster ride over RPK's case and have posted comments on blogs. To honour This Towering Malaysian I have compiled some of the quotes in my blog so that these last three historic days are etched in our history.

RPK... I am going to the bank later...hang on a little bit more 'ol is on the way. by glock17, May 06

Need help. How to send money to this account from overseas?by Highway16, May 06, 2008

RPK, I owe you too much. Just a small token RM 88 from me (can't help it, 8 is my lucky number for you!) by tom73my, May 06, 2008

"A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face and tell him he is a Devil." --James A. Garfield RPK is such a man in Malaysia. by non conformist, May 06, 2008

You ain't heavy, you're my brother. Wait till lunch time, then I'll go to CIMB USJ 9 to deposit some $$$. Not only God is with you, we are with you & Puan Marina too. by sikembangcina, May 06, 2008

Heck, to bail you out we will pay any amount. No issue. And to send those murderers to hell, I am prepared to break my bank account. by Xerxes, May 06, 2008

You'll NEVER walk alone!We are with you all the way.... by exzxr, May 06, 2008

RPK you are the hero of modern Malaysia. REST WELL. by roylim, May 07, 2008

Long live RPK. My prayers and thoughts are with him and his family. The Mighty one will ensure that he is well taken care CMohan, May 07, 2008

In history we have Alexander the Great today we have created a new Royal Raja Petra Kamarudin the GREAT. by kuccat88, May 07, 2008

RPK, You're THE JEWEL IN A CROWN. May ALLAH bestow his blessings to you and family for ever and ever.We'll always be with you in fighting for this unending quest, InsyaAllah! by hanisma, May 08, 2008

A true legendary and respected figure in the blogging community, RPK will always be remembered by many Malaysians. He will always be a hero for many of our nation's youth. His character and conduct is examplary. by sjeevan, May 07, 2008

stay strong RPK!! all true MALAYSIANS are 200% behind u.... by ckfoohope, May 07, 2008

While RPK is in Sg. Buloh, MT is on auto pilot. How Great!by Spear Bing, May 07, 2008

Dear RPK, if you more $$$$ for your legal defense, you only have to ask. God Bless. by sungai_kelian, May 07, 2008

Dear Kak Marina, when you see Uncle Pete please tell him we love him and please accept our request to bail him out. Please please give him this plead from us. by Negarakuku, May 07, 2008
The fight for our Raja Petra has gone international and CNN posting here. by eeyaw, May 07, 2008

He is already a legend. William Wallace (Braveheart) of Malaysia. William fought for Scots and earned freedom by not kissing England's ass just like RPK is not begging for justice but fight for it through the full engagement of the rakyat. by Hope4all, May 07, 2008

The Lengend was born not make. The Greatest son of Malaysia and a true fighter for gctham, May 07, 2008

You don't screw around with a man of RPK's stature. Do you think that RPK would have written that infamous article if he DID NOT have any evidence/proof. RPK is a very meticulate person. He is a man of honour. by Baronshah, May 07, 2008

We salute you for your courage to stand up for what you belief and refusing bail. You and your family have all our support when you need it. Just give us a shout. by Richard Lo, May 07, 2008

Syabas. RPK you really make things happen. I salute you for your bravery in going to jail for all of US(Malaysian). by Hockchew, May 07, 2008


We Malaysians must thank the God Almighty for having a Malaysian like RPK in our life time. RPK is very very special, a man full of ethics and principles and he must be allowed to continue the struggle against injustice, poor governance and evil. He alone, single handledly has brought justice to the door of our life. by indianputra, May 07, 2008

"BAPA, RAKYAT BANGSA MALAYSIA" Many of my Indian friends are calling you as the Malaysian Mahatma Gandhi in the making. By Mijoan 07 May 2008

I pledge my support: RPK, you are our BAPA RAKYAT BANGSA MALAYSIA by Highway Man, May 07, 2008

yeah RPK pls come out from there.. we need you out here.. by jagz, May 07, 2008

I cannot represent the rest, but I am 100% agree that you - RPK is the Bapa of Rakyat Bangsa Malaysia. I salute you from the bottom of my heart. Please do not torture yourself as this will only make the enemy happy and the beloved AlwaysMalaysian, May 07, 2008

RPK, u got super duper balls! you have my full respect... by burn22, May 07, 2008

It is now appropriate to call rpk as 'Mahatma' Panglima RPK!! by temenggong, May 07, 2008

YM RPK, Bapa Rakyat Bangsa Malaysia. You are in our newspaper (NZ Herald) today. As others, I respect your choice to stick to your principle and refuse to be bailed out. I must confess it does break my heart to see you in prison. I'm certain million of us who love and care about you feel the same. Therefore, please accept to be bailed out and we will provide you all the support that you need in this difficult time. Please take care. by nthpole, May 07, 2008

Our Raja, please accept the bail and come out to lead us. We really need you and we all so worry about your safety in this inhuman custody. by MYFoong, May 07, 2008

Please please post bail. News already gone global. Point taken.
Do not harm yourself with the hunger strike. U need to be strong to help us all to free Malaysia from corrupt practices. by nk1881, May 07, 2008

Dear Pete,
Will you please stop this nonsenses of refusing nourishment!!!!!.....please??? by netmiser88, May 08, 2008

Raja Petra finally meets wife, agrees to bail

Praise be to GOD for the Almighty has answered my prayer!!!! by eeyaw, May 08, 2008

Alhamdulillah! by cillipepper, May 08, 2008

This is the best news Ive heard since they took RPK in. RPK, we need you out. Thank the good lord you have agreed to the bail. by fairnessforall, May 08, 2008

Namo Oli Tau Fatt. Bless you RPK and your Family. by MsiaCTzen, May 08, 2008

Thanks God, My Hero is safe, My Hero is safe. by goodchong, May 08, 2008

Can someone please use some of the balance to BUY RPK a new Laptop and a PC please. We don't mind. It's the least we can do. by michael chick, May 08, 2008

YM Raja Petra is released; was he ever imprisoned? It takes more than 4 grey walls to imprison a great man. by oknyua, May 09, 2008

RPK, I tabik you!by Birdbrain, May 09, 2008

RPK, welcome back. The best news ever. Take a good rest before we hear from you later on the "latest". by thebaker, May 09, 2008

Well done old chap. That's what we sent the money for. We are selfish buggers. Don't ever think we'd let you rest in prison while denying us our daily dose of your blog!!!! Cheerio and I'm so glad that you're out. by macakmy, May 09, 2008

Great to Have You Back, Pete!!! God Bless you always. by ultraman, May 09, 2008

Well, as I said Pet is a master stratigist. He went to Sungai Buloh specifically to meet up with the Altantuya murderers. by borneopeteliew, May 09, 2008

There is so much sadness in our nation as we bemoan the imprisonment of a voice of conscience manifested in this individual called Raja Petra Kamaruddin. by Dr. Azly Rahman 09 May 2008
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Monday, May 5, 2008

Who Is This Towering Malaysian RPK - Background

This is a Malay name; the name "Raja Kamarudin" is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by his or her given name, "Raja Petra".

Raja Petra Kamarudin has been investigated by the police for comments posted on his website, Malaysia Today. In the background is Raja Petra's wife, Marina Lee Abdullah.Raja Petra bin Raja Kamarudin (born September 27, 1950) is a Malaysian editor known for running the Malaysia Today website and publishing a series of commentary articles on Malaysian politics in the website. He is also fondly referred to as Peter or by the initials RPK among fellow bloggers in his website.

Personal life

Born in 1950, Raja Petra was educated at the Alice Smith School. At the age of 13 he went to further his studies at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, completing his education at the Victoria Institution. Raja Petra Kamarudin used to own a motorcycle dealership and rice distributor. He has been fascinated with motorcycles since he was young.

On April 14, 1973, at the age of 23 years old, he married Marina Lee binti Abdullah who was then 18 years old.Marina Lee Abdullah, of Siamese-Chinese extraction,is a book publisher.Raja Petra and Marina have five children (Suraya, Raja Azman, Raja Shahril, Raja Azmir and Raja Sara) and two grandchildren.

Raja Petra is a member of the Selangor royal family. He is the nephew of the late Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, the eleventh Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia and the seventh Sultan of Selangor. His mother is Welsh.

Political involvement

Raja Petra was a leading member of Parti Keadilan Nasional (now Parti Keadilan Rakyat)—the party set up in response to the arrest of former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. On April 11, 2001, Raja Petra and 10 other opposition activists were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly plotting to overthrow then prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad. He was released from the detention center 52 days later.

Raja Petra started the Malaysia Today website and his blog to facilitate open discussion on Malaysia's political and social scenes. In his online writings, he is often very witty, humorous and sometimes critical of the current political developments in Malaysia. In his Malaysia Today's columns, he advocates for transparency, accountability and justice in the Malaysian political system. He often denounces money politics, corruption, and ethnic polarisation that is deeply rooted in Malaysian society.

On July 23, 2007, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, UMNO's Information Chief, lodged a police report against Malaysia Today at 12.57 p.m. at the Tun H.S. Lee police station, under Section 121 (B) and Section 123 of the Penal Code, Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 263 and Section 266 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, for a July 11 blog entry on the website deemed to contain writing that insult the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, degrade Islam and incite hatred and violence between local ethic groups.Raja Petra Kamarudin responded by releasing an article on Malaysia Today, lashing back on Taib with allegations of hypocrisy and corruption. A second police report against Raja Petra was believed to be lodged after the release of the article, and Raja Petra was summoned to the Dang Wangi police station on July 25, 2007 for eight hours of questioning. His wife was also questioned for an hour.

After his release from questioning, Raja Petra gave his reason on why Muhammad Taib made a police report against him, stating the reason is that the government wished to silence the nations bloggers before the Malaysian general election.

Raja Petra made headlines in end March 2008 when a Malaysian High Court ordered him in and the group chief editor and editor of PKR’s organ Suara Keadilan to pay a total of RM7 million to Universiti Utara Malaysia and its vice-chancellor Tan Sri Dr Nordin Kardi for libel.
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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Food Security - Our Basic Rights Molested

The last few weeks the whole world suddenly has been actively focusing on agflation, food shortage and food security. I guess this is due to the fact that crude oil prices were at around US$115 per barrel and hit US$120 on Friday the 2nd of May.

The United Nations has set-up a special commission to look into this food crisis. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a green revolution in Africa. He also accused the World Bank of ignoring the agriculture for the last two decades. Our PM has announced a RM 4 billion package for food security of which RM 2.5 billion is allocated for this year.

What surprised me was that in the midst of these announcements rice price in our rice bowl state of Kedah has shot up between 15-40% as reported by Bernama and the price controlled 15% broken grain rice was not available. How did this shortage suddenly happen? Isn't it BENAS' responsibility to make this available at all times? Rising prices of agriculture produce due to rising crude oil prices is understandable but a sudden shortage? Local price of diesel and petrol has not gone up in over a year so this cannot be an excuse. There was no draught, pest attack, disease or any other form of calamity to hit Kedah. So why has this acute shortage happened? The conclusion is hoarding and illegal exports. Why didn't our government see that coming? It was probably that they were too busy with the aftermath of the March 8 tsunami. Probably? No definitely!

In an earlier post I suggested that price inflation can be controlled by increases in interest rates, However Bank Negara does not agree with it although it was reported that our inflation is still rising. The PM says that raising minimum wage to RM900 would cause inflation to rise and it would just be a political gimmick but last year civil servants salaries were raised up to 45% and inflation was already setting in then. Was it not a political ploy for the 12th GE?

Could the government have stopped this? Yes they could have. License to import rice have been given only to a few. These are of cause the UMNO cronies and it has been going on for decades. A Chinese friend who is in the food import business told me that he could easily get rice from China but he has to go through the UMNO middle man who takes up to 10% cut for just operating from a desk with a computer and a fax machine. Malaysia imports 30% of its rice and this system has been in practise all the while however with the current world rice prices it is just not feasible to go through UMNO middle man. The government can start by removing these fleecing morons and making it an open market system where anyone can import rice and let the market decide the price.

Rice is our staple diet and we cannot change it however we can reduce the consumption by switching to alternative carbohydrates like potato. Potatoes are hardy produce and can grow easily and should be encouraged. Due to its nature and demand its import prices are also not hugely affected. The government should provide incentives to plant potatoes between other vegetables.

The Ministry of Health should get itself involved too. It should work with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer and take advantage of this food price increase to encourage healthier living. For instance the ceiling price of unhealthy controlled items like sugar and cooking oil should be increased forcing consumer to reduce consumption. Malaysian could do better with lower consumption of sugar and fried stuff, The incidence of Diabetes, Obesity and heart related diseases could be reduced in the next few years in Malaysia in return the cost of healthcare would be reduced. Millions or even billions of Ringgit could be saved here and be used improve food security or other development.

The government was right in setting the price of essential food items especially during festive periods to control profiteering by retailers and wholesalers. However the situation here is different as the suppliers themselves are charging higher prices as it cost them more now so how can the retailer limit themselves the ceiling prices that are set by the government. Hence the ceiling prices should be abolished or set much higher especially for unhealthy food items. And for the other food items, a mechanism should be set-up where the market strategically flooded to control the price.

The likes of Tesco, Carrefour and Giant keep their agro-produce low by going directly to the source hence eliminating the middle man. The produce are sent to special storage facilities where they are kept fresh, sorted, packed and then sent to the respective hyper marts. Not all Malaysians have access to the hyper marts. The government, in this time of crisis should do the same to eliminate the middle man by setting-up similar facilities for the smaller and rural players. Alternatively it should have special arrangements the hyper marts to have these benefits channelled to the smaller and rural players.

Household earning less than RM3000 should be given ration cards. This is still practised in many developing countries like in India. With our high tech MyKad we can implement this system much effectively. It can be only used foe essential food items and for a limited volume per month. A centralised system can be monitored for those trying to abuse the system. BonusLink and its likes are already popular where points are redeemed for gifts etc. Using the MyKad the designated retail or wholesale outlet can be reimbursed through the existing stockpile or from the food security funds that have been established. If it can work in poor countries than it I am sure can be implemented here.

Food security should have existed just like national security not when the crisis have started. Prevention was the way and that is why the Project Buku Hijau was introduced in the 70s. I still remember that its main objective was to increase rice yield by increasing the harvest to five times in two years. Last week it was reported in a local paper that an agriculture authority repeated this after more than 40 years. Why was it not achieved in four decades of high development? Food security is our basic right and the government cannot say that the crisis is happening all over the world. The issue here is that these plans put forward years ago and were not implemented properly and were hijacked by certain corrupt quarters for their own benefits and this is tantamount to molest of all Malaysians' rights.
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mother Malaysia - Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Napoleon, the dictator pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

And now in Malaysia:“All states are equal, but some states are more equal than others.”

So Hishamuddin apologised unsheathing the keris, kissing it then waving it. He said that it frightened the non-Malays, Please do not insult the Malays' or the non-Malays' intelligence. It did not spook the non-Malays. They were insulted and hurt for being treated like third class citizens in their own country. When Hishamuddin did what he did then, the arrogance of UMNO went further when one of them asked when the keris was going to be used against the non-Malays.

Hishamuddin too apologised for not being able to defend the symbol of Malay culture. UMNO the so called the defenders of the Malays their culture and religion has never defended them. They let the race erode over 40 years. How many Malays speak proper Bahasa Malaysia. How many in the city use the word 'Saya' or 'Aku' in their daily conversation. The Malays have become Westernised and when I say that I mean Arabised. So many of them dress like the Arabs. Where did the serban come from? Why do the guys with serban use eye liner? Is that Malay culture? I did not see these in the sixties and the seventies. The Malays are supposed to look and dress like what we saw in P. Ramlee movies. UMNO has never defended the Malays or their culture. They only defended their members pockets.

Hishamuddin's apology is insincere and laced with arrogance that UMNO continues to have. They have not learned yet from the what happened to them recently. Money seem to be everything to them. Not their race, culture or religion. Only money motivates them. They want to control it all the way. Look at what Azlina did to Penang then she took over the Tourism ministry, what Khir Toyo's wife did with the 9.9 million ringgit of Balkis' money and the latest funds for the SEDC of the opposition ruled states to go through MARA. Obviously this will benefit some UMNO Putras or Puteris. These are the stuff that UMNO and BN does that we have to live with the last forty years and we voted for the change but they seem to continue with their culture. Not the Malay culture rather the Ketuanan UMNO.

The keris issue should have been nipped in the butt not let continue for over three years. The non-Malay BN leaders did not do their job to defend the people whom they represent after all they were lacing their pockets as well. The keris issue is not going to rest here. It is going to keep reminding the non-Malays that they are not treated as Malaysian but as migrants third class citizens. They have contributed to the development of this country as much as the Malays and many of them are forth and fifth generation citizens and know no other country or culture other than Mother Malaysia.

Many would think that after the reforms announced by Pak Lah over the last week, that the feelings of the rakyat would be better. On the contrary the feelings on the ground is still the same as it was before March 8th. UMNO and BN has to reinvent and re-engineed itself drastically moving forward or else become irrelevant. In fact it has become irrelevant to most Malaysians regardless of race, religion or creed. Race based political parties should cease to exist. We in Mother Malaysia want to be treated equally as we only know this country because disinilah, 'Tanah tumpahnya darah ku'.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Agflation - The Our Next Tsunami

The unsettled ruling government in Malaysia would be the sole group to take responsibility in the current agflation (agricultural inflation). The signs have been there since the second quarter of last year with the crude price rising to over US$80 per barrel. Petroleum price are generally the main indicator and contributor to all general hikes in consumer products. There were various rumours of basic consumer goods shortages which led to hoarding like sugar and cooking oil.

Neighbouring countries also were feeling the crunch on some basic necessities. In Malaysia there we fresh ceiling prices announced especially during the festive periods between October and February this year. Special task forces were said to have been established with the recruitment of fresh graduates to monitor the retails prices by the Domestic Trade Department. Nothing could stop this hike and is expected to continue for another year with new highs in crude petroleum at US$118 per barrel.

The previous Malaysian ruling coalition were preoccupied with the 12th general election rather than tackle the agflation. There was more time spent in launching corridors and development regions rather than focus on the food price situation. There was more focus to shore up more support for UMNO and BN than to address the rising prices. On the other hand the opposition were focused on what the man on the street wanted. Bread and butter was what meant to him rather than the corridors which were eventually going to only benefit the UMNO and BN cronies.

The UMNO general assembly held during Deepavali celebration did not even address the issues surrounding the food price hike. They were more interested in the keris and the ketuanan UMNO issues. The only key announcement on the peripheral of the assembly was there would not be any petrol price hike for now. Another election gimmick!!

Basic micro economics relates that prices are set by supply and demand and in macro economics interest rates can control inflation. Bank Negara has maintained the over interest rate on an almost constant rate at around 3.49-3.51 over last year despite the clear increase in inflation. Inflation can be seen even on the daily basis at our neighbourhood mamak shop with teh tarik, roti canai and all general food consumed by Malaysians.

The government especially the finance ministry led by Pak Lah again did not listen to the so called grassroots. They painted a beautiful picture of a strong economy and that consumer product prices and especially food price would not change much. They blamed the increase on the rise in petroleum prices and gave false hope that as they were not going to further increase the retail price for now the prices would stabilise. I do not blame the former and the current Pak Lah government entirely for this as this has been the practise for over two decades. The trick is to paint a beautiful picture and sweep all else under the carpet. "We will cross the bridge when we come to it" attitude.

Rise in crude price alone cannot be blamed for this agflation it is a combination of situation over the years. Firstly, many governments have ignored the importance of agriculture for food security locally. They have promoted heavy industries and other non agri industries. Malaysia included over the last 20 years although Pak Lah had tried to increase focus on agricultural industries since 2004 but for the moment it was too late.

The other reason is the shift to biofuel to contra the rising petroleum prices. Much incentives were given for the conversion of crop and farm lands to grow high yielding biofuel produce like sugar cane and corn. This shifted the quality of the crop from a final nutritious edible product to a highly commercial one that is cheaper to produce.

And finally of course the global warming and climate change which has rendered reduced output of agri produce as well as drought and floods that has destroyed billions of dollars of crops.

Now coming back to our government misscue on food prices. If they had studied the prices on the ground or rather listened and payed attention to it then If Bank Negara would have increased the interest rates on a regular basis to control the inflation and agflation. But they did not course the government has to look good. Their argument would be that is interest rates are raised than the ringgit will strengthen against other currencies hence export will become more expensive. My argument is import will become cheaper that includes food that are import. We imported 22 billion ringgit worth of foodstuff last year.

The strengthening of the ringgit against mainly the dollar has nothing to do with our strong economy but rather the weak economy of USA following the sub prime mortgage crisis. The dollar weakened and not the ringgit strengthened. If Bank Negara had listened and raised the interest rate as would most countries the ringgit will be 2.80-2.90 to the dollar now. Assuming we imported the foodstuff for 2007 at an average of 3.5 ringgit per dollar and we import the same amount in 2008 at 2.80 for the dollar we could safe up to 20 percent or about 2.2 billion ringgit. Meaning the government could have saved 2.2 billion in subsidies of various kind. Where were the experts when we needed them? They were there but they did just what the government them to say and do and not listen to the the voice on the ground or rather the prices.

Of course the government could have a massive interest rate increase over the next few months but this will do more harm than good. It would have been perfect for a gradual increase from the middle of last year. But no one listens. So the damage has been done how can we recover. We cannot but there are something that we can do.

Malaysians are spending more on processed, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods and meals away from home, increasingly supplied by high-volume agribusiness firms and food retailers. Instead consume products at the "fork" end of food value chains where costs of handling, transportation, processing, packaging and distribution, and are less affected by price changes of basic agricultural commodities.

With the rising prices the general misconception is that the farmers will be making more money but this is not true as most exporters are large organisation which are also UMNO cronies. The government has to integrate domestic production, especially by small producers, into international vertical food supply chains largely controlled by multinational agribusiness companies. Small farmers need assistance to take advantage of the higher-income opportunities and meet safety and quality standards and volume requirements of food processors and retailers. Farmers and countries that are net sellers of food benefit from higher prices but those that are net buyers like Malaysia, and with poor non farm households, of which there are many, lose.

The government must keeping agricultural and food issues high on the climate change policy agenda is crucial for protecting the well-being of the poorest in the country. It too must slow down the promotion and reduce incentives for biofuel production for the next few years. It must aggressively discourage conversion of the current agri land to biofuel land.

Just like they did not listen to the rumbling on the ground for the 12th General Election which caused the Political Tsunami now all Malaysians are going to feel the Food Price Tsunami.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Tun Salleh Abbas's Private Notes

Whatever happened to our judiciary in 1988 only history will be able to judge. What needs to be heard is HIS STORY (Tun Salleh Abbas's). Here I reproduce this account which is based on his private notes and was reproduced in Aliran Monthly, soon after his dismissal in 1988.

When I arrived at the Prime Minister’s Department I was met by a policeman who took me by lift to a waiting room. After waiting for about two or three minutes, I was shown into the Prime Minister’s Office by an officer, whom I did not recognise. There I found YAB Perdana Menteri (then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad) seated at his table with YAB Encik Ghafar Baba, Timbalan Perdana Menteri (then deputy prime minister) and Tan Sri Sallehuddin Mohamed, Ketua Setiausaha Negara (the then chief secretary to the government) seated at the same table opposite the Prime Minister. When I entered the room I gave the Prime Minister and the others my salam very loudly and he replied my salam. (Peace be on You).

After I had taken my seat, the Prime Minister told me that he had an unpleasant duty to perform and on being asked what it was, he replied that he had been asked by (the then) DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di Pertuan Agong to tell me that I should step down. I then expressed my surprise in an Islamic way saying “Glory to God, who is free from any partnership.” Then I asked him for the reasons and in reply he said that he was not prepared to argue with me, but finally he said the reason was that I had written a letter to DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di Pertuan Agong regarding the state of relationship between the Judiciary and the Executive. I told him that I wrote the letter simply because Judges, at a meeting on 25 March 1988, had informed me that they were very concerned about the present situation and asked to express their views through me. YAB Perdana Menteri then said that I made speeches indicating that I am biased and I am not qualified to sit in UMNO cases. I told him that I said nothing of that and the speeches I had made only dealt with the criticisms levelled at the Judiciary. I am not at all biased or bipartisan in political matters. While all this was going on, YAB Encik Ghafar Baba kept his head down while Tan Sri Sallehuddin was writing in a note book, which he was then holding.

When finally I said I would not resign, he told me that if I stepped down I would be given everything that I was entitled to. I told him that I was entitled to nothing since I was not yet 60. Obviously, he was surprised when told I was not 60 yet. Finally, he said that if I did not step down he would institute a Judicial Tribunal with a view to removing me. I told him I would not resign because if I did, I could not show my face to anyone and I might as well die.

He said that I could see the Agong if I wanted to and he would not stop me from doing so.

I told him that I would not be resigning and he could do what he pleased with me, including going ahead with the Tribunal. As there was nothing else to discuss, I finally said “Datuk, I should not waste anybody’s time”, and I shook his hand, also Encil Ghafar Baba’s and Tan Sri Sallehuddin’s. None of these three looked me right in my face and I could detect Encik Ghafar Baba was strangely silent and Tan Sri Sallehuddin only caught me by the side of his eyes but he too appeared to be subdued.

The Prime Minister himself, from the beginning to the end, did not even look me in the eye. He was looking down at his table all the time.

I left his room and I only saw one policeman outside his room who appeared surprised to see me there. When I went downstairs there was nobody even to see me off and no one called for my driver. I had to go out to look for my driver.

My future is tied up with the fate of this country. I come from an unknown family and I have reached the top of my profession. I have no desire to leave until I have reached the age of 65 like my predecessors, except the Sultan of Perak, who vacated the job because of a call of duty to be the Ruler of Perak. I leave my fate to the judgment of Allah and as it is Friday, I wish to quote the Quran, which says, “No misfortune will fall on us except what has been decreed by Allah. He is our protector and in whom the believers should place their trust.” This passage from the Quran struck my heart as I entered the door of the Prime Minister’s Office and it remained with me during the course of our discussion till the end, and to my exit from his room.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Under threat? What threat?


Since the recent general election, voices have risen up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now ‘under threat’. But perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony.

AND so it begins. Race-based rhetoric has raised its ugly little head in response to a democratic process. Over 49% of the people of Malaysia have voted for parties that have rejected race-based affirmative action in favour of a needs-based platform.

It did not take very long for voices, both common and royal, to rise up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now “under threat”.

“Under threat” from what, may I ask? Let’s take a bit of time to look at this so-called “threat”. Firstly, Malays are given special protection under Article 153 of the Constitution.

Article 153 is titled “Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc, for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”. Article 152 states that Malay is the National Language. The Supreme Head of the Federation, according to Article 32, is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay ruler.

This is the foundation of Malay “special privileges”.

None of the Pakatan Rakyat component parties, including the DAP, have said anything about removing Articles 153, 152 and 32. They remain safe and secure with no sign whatsoever of any sort of threat.

Besides, in order to change it, you would need a two-thirds majority in the lower and upper houses of Parliament plus the support of the Conference of Rulers. The last time I checked, no one has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Secondly, due to simple demographics, it is unlikely that a totally non-Malay party is ever going to win absolute control of the government. Of the five state governments in the hands of the Pakatan, four are led by a Malay Mentri Besar.

Penang is an exception, but Penang has been led by non-Malays since the 60s. Why was there was no outcry before this?

Thirdly, the proposed doing-away with the NEP (or whatever it is called nowadays), I suppose, can be seen as a threat to the Malays.

But how it can be a threat is beyond me, because the replacement suggested by the Pakatan is not some sort of laissez-faire capitalist economy. Instead, it is an economic system with affirmative action promised to those in need.

If the Malays are the largest group of people in Malaysia who are in the most need, then they will get the most help. If they are not in the most need, then why on earth do they need help then?

This is the point where I will get angry letters about how the NEP is needed; because in the business world – the real world which I know nothing about because I am just a lowly-academic trapped in my ivory tower – Malays are discriminated against by the Chinese. So we need a policy like the NEP to provide some balance.

I disagree.

If there are racist business policies being conducted against the Malays, then you face it head on with anti-discrimination laws.

If some person feels he is being discriminated against, no matter what his race, then let there be a law to help him, and let us punish the racists with a hefty fine or jail term.

You do not meet racism with racism; you challenge it by destroying all traces of it.

The problem with the NEP, as I see it, is that it breeds a mentality of entitlement based on race and not merit. This mentality seeps into governance, and it creates an atmosphere of mediocrity. One example of this is how the Constitution has been disregarded in relation to employment issues.

The Federal Constitution states that you can set quotas at the entry points of government services, for example, the civil service and public universities. However, this is counter-balanced by Article 136 that says all federal employees must be treated fairly regardless of race.

This means that once inside a service, everyone is to be treated equally based on merit. In such a situation, only the cream will rise to the top.

However, since the introduction of the NEP, the practice in government services has been to promote Malays mainly. This has in turn led to a drop in the number of non-Malay actors in the service of the public.

Taking my profession for example, the closeted unrealistic world of academia, I look down south and I see that 30% of the staff in the National University of Singapore Law School are Malaysians.

How come these clever fellows who are good enough to teach in a university that is among the top 20 in the world are not here in the land of their birth? Why are the blinking Singaporeans enjoying our talent? Is it because that talent is all non-Malay and they feel they have better opportunities there than here?

This is a complete waste, and in the end this loss of talent means a loss for the university, the country and the people of this country, including the Malay students who miss out on the best possible teachers.

Perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony, in which case my answer to that is this: clean up your act, live up to your promises and listen to what the people are saying.

Make yourself electable by proving that you can create good government.

That is called democracy.

Dr Azmi Sharom is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Secularism is not our enemy: A Muslim's open letter

by Farish A. Noor

Note: This article/letter was first published in 1999. I'm not sure exactly where, but it first appeared in the Usenet Newsgroup, soc.culture.malaysia in March 1999. I am compelled to put it up again as it seems that most of the points made nine years ago seem to still be relevant today.

An Open Letter To Malaysian Islamists Seeking A Project To Call Their Own.

Dear friends,

In the midst of the economic and political crises that have overtaken our nation over the past two years, there have emerged to the fore a number of debates and contentious issues that were once sidelined to the margins of the political arena. Issues related to the question of civil society, democracy and human rights, the trajectory of the nation’s development and the ideological basis of the founding constitution, which were once regarded as the exclusive purview of intellectuals, party ideologues and academicians, have now resurfaced and come to the centre of the public discursive forum.

One debate in particular has taken on an animated life of its own. I am referring to the debate over the issue of Secularism and the question of whether the Malaysian state is fundamentally a secular or Islamic entity.

This issue has arisen of late in the vernacular Malay press,championed by the newspapers and journals (not to mention the webpages) of the opposition movement. It has now spread to the government’s mouthpieces and private-sector controlled media, both of which amount to basically the same thing.

It is interesting to note how this debate has been structured and how the concepts ‘Secularism’ and ‘Islam’ have been constructed by the different parties concerned. It is also interesting to study the underlying logic which frames the contestation and confrontation between the two sides.

I do not wish to address the issue of PAS’s opposition to UMNO here. Nor do I wish to look at the Reformasi movement and the role that it plays against the backdrop of the struggle between the two Malay-Islamic parties. What I wish to look at is the trajectory of the Islamic movement in Malaysia in general, its basic premises and worldview and how it locates and identifies itself in the context of its struggle against the ‘menace’ of secularism in the country.

If I may be forgiven for simplifying the scenario a little, I would venture that the Islamist opposition has identified its Islamic movement as one which is ideologically committed to pursuing a political agenda that is predicated on Islamist terms and is opposed to secularism in all its forms. In the writings and commentaries found in many of the contemporary journals, newspapers and magazines that are partisan to the Islamists’ cause, one sees a particular portrait of secularism being sketched. ‘Secularism’ is defined in the following terms: It encompasses ideologies and thought-systems that are man-made and thus anthropocentric, particularist, historically-specific, context-bound, arbitrary and historically contingent.

Juxtaposed to this is the Islamists’ own view of their religio-political project which is predicated on the values, beliefs, ethics, cosmology and metaphysics of Islam, found in the sacred narrative of the al-Quran and Hadith, which are divinely-ordained and thus seen as fundamentally universal, essentialist, totalised, fixed (semantically and semiotically), hermeneutically sealed and exclusivist.

The contrast between the two is as clear as can be imagined. At no point is there any possibility of compromise, we are told time and again by some of the leaders of the Islamic parties and movements. Islam for them is a total discursive system that rejects any form of borrowing, interpenetration and discursive contamination, hybridity or cohabitation between discursive economies. The PAS party campaign to promote the slogan ‘Only Islam is the solution- Nothing else can work’ (‘Islam sahaja yang boleh – Yang lain tidak boleh’) seems to sum it up for many of the Islamists. (Needless to say, such unbounded optimism is not likely to be shared by those who do not subscribe to the worldview that is Islam’s.)

But here I am not concerned with the problem of PAS’s appeal to the non-Muslims. I am not interested in the practical problems that will inevitably arise when the Islamists of the various camps begin to forge instrumental coalitions with non-Muslim groups for the sake of toppling the National Front alliance. What concerns me the most is the manner in which the ideological frontier between Islam and Secularism is being drawn here.

Dear friends,

I hope that I will not have to continually restate my belief that Islamism is a genuine political project and that it deserves to be understood and acknowledged as such. I would be the last one to claim that Islam has no place in politics or that a religio-political enterprise is a contradiction in terms.

But I do have to express my utmost concern about the manner in which some Islamists in Malaysia have begun to construct feeble and simplistic caricatures of their opponents and their beliefs, and in the process of doing so have done untold damage to the understanding of ‘secularism’ within our society. This was only possible, I would argue, thanks to a neglect on their part about the manner in which discourses and narratives operate, both on an abstract and practical level.

Let us return for a moment to the beginning of things: Islam, we contend, is a divinely-ordained and inspired creed and civilisation. No understanding of Islamic civilisation is possible unless one looks into the religious, spiritual and metaphysical foundations that underlie every adjunct of Islamic life from its arts and letters to economics and politics. Everywhere there is the trace of the concept of the divine and the transcendental Other: God.

But while the foundations of Islam lie in the sacred narrative of the al-Quran and Hadith, we cannot deny that the daily reality of Islamic life, culture and society is infested by men and their machinations. While God is the creator and the prime mover of the universe and all that is in it, it is Man who inhabits the Islamic world here on earth as its primary agent and character. Man plays the central role in the divinely-inspired drama and it is man who is both the supreme hero and the most dastardly villain – All else is scenery, albeit crucial and indispensable scenery.

The fact that Man is at the centre of the profane universe is of crucial importance here, for it must be noted that practically every avenue of Islamic thinking has been predicated upon a broad understanding of humanism. Ibn Khaldun regarded Man as the centre of the socio-political universe, as the primary agent responsible for the emergence of society and the rise and fall of civilisations. Generations of Islamic mystics and metaphysicians grappled with the central question of freeing Man’s soul from the chains of worldliness and the Body, where again Man was the axis of the struggle for liberation and emancipation, caught between God and beast. Islamic politics and economics were founded on notions of rational agency, free choice and liberalism, once more predicating its basic values and concepts on the category of the Human.

And thus it cannot be denied that while the founding sacred narratives of Islamic civilisation were divine, its interpretation and modus operandi were invariably coloured by the hands of Man. In short, from sacred text to the objectification of the ideas and values within the texts, there was (and is) invariably the rational agency of Man at work.

This in effect means that the practice of Islam throughout the ages has always been ‘contaminated’, if you will, by the clumsy hands of men and women. It is not enough to say that the essence of Islam lies in the al-Quran and Hadith: Islam is also what we Muslims have made of it. Islamic civilisation is thus the sum total of the greatest feats and the worst disasters caused by us and visited upon us. It includes the Mantiq-al-Tair, the Shahnameh, the Javidnama, Kushrau va Shirin, Layla wa Majnun. It includes the works of al-Ghazalli and al-Biruni, Ibn Rush and ibn Khaldun. It also includes the Taj Mahal and the Alhambra, the Dome of the Rock and the towers of Al-Azhar. But it also includes the tragedies ranging from Karbala to Chaldiran, when Sunni and Shia blood was spilt, the murder and regicide of countless Kings, tales of betrayal and ignominious defeat. It includes countless episodes of defeat and self-hate and countless examples of apologias and rabid paranoia and hatred for all things alien and new.

If we accept as a premise the very basic and simple idea that Islamic civilisation (like all other civilisations) was created by Muslim men and women, then we need to accept the simple fact that much of what has happened in the course of Islamic history has been the result of human agency as well.

Even a cursory reading of Islamic history will show that Islamic nations, dynasties and governments have always been aware of the fact that they live in a world populated by human beings and different cultures and civilisations. They have had to interact with these different cultures and societies on a practical and pragmatic level. Not all of their actions were motivated solely by religious beliefs and ethics, though they may have been influenced and shaped in part by them. The Moghul Emperor Akbar’s attempt to forge his syncretic creed (the Deen-ilahi) was motivated by realpolitik considerations more than anything else. Likewise his ancestor Babar’s conversion from Sunni to Shia Islam was a result of strategic considerations and not a genuine change of belief and worldview. Countless Islamic nations and kingdoms such as the Ottoman dynasty practised a division between religion and state, long before the concept of a non-religious state system was introduced by the West: This is why the Ottoman Sultans ruled with a Vazir (Vizier, or Prime Minister) and a Sheikh-ul-Islam (Grand Imam) on either side of the throne.

What does all this prove? For a start it shows that Islamic societies have always developed along two parallel tracks. On the one hand, they derived their basic ethical norms, moral values, cosmological and metaphysical worldview from the creed of Islam. But on the other hand, the application and practise of these values and ideas were left to mortal hands that worked in a profane (and more often than not, less than ideal) world.

This accounts for both the splendours and disasters that have dotted the pages of Islamic history. There have been times when the understanding of Islam was beautifully translated into concrete forms such as architecture, philosophical treatise, systems of law and government, that managed to capture the spirit and intention of the sacred narratives of the al-Quran and Hadith in such a way that it had relevance and resonance to the Muslims themselves. On the other hand, there were also monumental mistakes and aberrations such as the hybrid Deen-ilahi of Sultan Akbar.

But underlying these triumphs and disasters was a common concern: To translate the message of the al-Quran and Hadith to a realisable and practical level where it could truly become a living faith in a profane world that is governed according to the vicissitudes of time, space and innumerable contingencies.

There has never been a time when a ‘pure’ Islam was realised on earth. This is a simple fact that most Islamists fail, or do not want to, address.

Islam may be pure conceptually, but once its message is read through the eyes of Man who is inevitably a creature born and living in time and space, conditioned by history, blinkered by his ethnocentric and culture-bound biases and prejudices, it will invariably pass through a filter which re-constructs and distorts at the same time. Nor will there ever be an intellectual class that is somehow free from such solipsistic perspectivism: Being in time means residing in a world that is shaped by historical contigencies that we cannot elude or escape from entirely.

This is why countless generations of progressive and enlightened Muslim thinkers like Maulana Muhammad Iqbal were wont to advice and remind Muslims, again and again, that Islam was not a simple blueprint formula that can be taken out of a book, drawn on a blackboard, and applied to any given situation. The al-Quran, as Iqbal was never tired of pointing out, is not some guidebook or ideological manifesto. Its reading requires intelligence, sensitivity to prevailing circumstances (as well as the circumstances of its revelation) and a genius to translate its universal intent within particular circumstances.

Every reading of the al-Quran and Hadith is therefore particular, historically-specific, context bound and finite. Ironically, these are exactly the very same features that some Islamist groups in the international Muslim movement have ascribed to the phenomenon known as ‘Secularism’ as well.

But has not the time come for us to accept that our reading of Islam in the immediate present is bound to be configured to the needs that we face at the moment? Can we not accept that our understanding of the sacred narrative of Islam has changed and that it will continue to change as the years go by? Must we always keep to the belief that ours is a pure discourse that somehow escapes the rules of narrativity, discourse and language use? Will we always regard Islamic discourse as something totally fixed, closed, hermeneutically sealed and synchronic, and by doing so neglect the polysemic over-abundance of the Sign in Islamic discourse in general? Will we never evolve an understanding of Islam that is diachronic, dynamic and evolutionary?

This may well be the case if the Islamists of the present continue down the road towards constructing an Islamist discourse that is closed upon itself, exclusive in its referents and fixed in its interpretation. In the long run, we know where this will lead to: An increasingly insular and pedagogic reading of Islam that opens the way to theoretical hair-splitting and conflicts within increasingly fragmented schools of thought. One is reminded of how the dogmatism of Maudoodi led him to being criticised by some of his own followers for not having a beard of the right length and shape, and thus not meeting the ideal Islamic criteria!

Dear friends,

Islamic civilisation is and remains a reality on a number of levels for a vast section of humanity today. Islamic teaching continues to shape the development of art, culture, architecture, law, economics and politics in the Muslim world.

By the promoters and defenders of the Islamic movement have also taken upon their shoulders the task of interpreting Islam for others and defending the name of Islam on their own terms. I would argue that in their zeal for doing so they have created enemies both within and without, some of whom are real while others are undoubtedly imagined.

‘Secularism’ as defined by some sections of the Islamist movement in Malaysia today, is rapidly being turned into an ideological nemesis just so that the Islamists have a convenient target to direct their combined forces. I have tried to argue that this is not only strategically wrong, but also conceptually erroneous. For the fact remains that everything which the Islamists claim about the so-called ‘secular’ trends is also true of the rest of society as well, and this includes Islamic society too.

Secularism is not the enemy of Islam in the way that some Islamists have imagined it to be. If by ‘Secularism’ they refer to the tendency to base our cultural, social, economic and political considerations upon genuine pressing needs of the present in the profane world around us, then this tendency was there even before the Islamic world fell under the yoke of Western imperialist domination from the eighteenth century. And if by ‘Secularism’ they refer to all human worldly phenomena that is time and context-bound, particular and anthropocentric, then practically all Islamic societies have been ‘secular’ on similar terms for the simple fact that they exist in this world and not some ideal realm.

Secularism is thus not evil or antithetical to Islam per se. It is the particular definition and interpretation of secularism as being fundamentally anti-religious that is. But Secularism is too big a concept to be reduced to such simplistic features. Islamic civilisation, which has grappled with major ideas and revolutionary concepts before, ought to rise to the occasion once again and address the challenges of secularism for what it is, rather than battling with its own imagined enemies in an internal war governed by a monochrome ethical logic of heroes and villains. There is more at stake here than a simple drama.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Malays Face Identity Crisis and Discrimination in Malaysia

By Andrew Rosten

Thomas Simon, a philosophy professor, lectured Wednesday at the Bone Student Center about the identity and crisis faced by an ethnicity group known as Malays.

"I think there's a fundamental question that we need to ask," Simon said. "It is going to sound strange at first, but it is not what are you, of what group are you a member, but rather who suffers? That is, what group suffers? I had a very different starting point than many, and your starting point really frames your analysis. My starting point is, for example, Apr. 6, 1994, in Rwanda, when the horrifying genocide began to unravel."

"I start with the worst and work backward, so what I am doing when I talk about group identity is to try to avoid the worst, and I think I can make a case that genocide is, indeed, the worst," Simon said. "That gives you a very different perspective on group identity and discrimination."

Raul Hilberg, a formal scholar of the Holocaust in Europe, used a typology, with the European Jews executed by Nazis serving as a model, to describe the levels of discrimination.

"The first phase [of the typology] is designation, when the group is singled out," Simon said. "The second is discrimination, when the group is discriminated against, and the third was called brutalization. I am going to try to look at those three designations in terms of a group called Malays and talk about different constructions of Malay identity in those three terms."

Simon talked about race relations of the Malays in three nations: Malaysia, South Africa and the Philippines.

"Malaysia has three main groups," Simon said. "The three groups are Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays make up over 50 percent of the population and they control the government. The Chinese are about 30 to 40 percent of the population, and they control the economy. The Indians make up less than 10 percent of the population and they're either in professional organizations or criminal organizations.

Malaysia has recently experienced an upsurge of tensions between the Malay majority and the Indians."

In 1950, South Africa introduced a color scheme for the purpose of identifying races.

"That color scheme had whites on top, then it had Indians, and then it had colored and, finally, black," Simon said. "The Cape Malays were put into the colored category, and so they're in between. They could become like Indian, which was not too bad, but bad, but still was better. There is a strong movement now to call them Cape Muslims so that this ethnic tie to Malaysia is being transformed into a more religious form of identity."

"The question I was going to ask was about South Africa and the Malays there," David Forest, a political science graduate student, said. "I have some friends from South Africa, and they're saying that, now that the system of apartheid is gone, they are starting to see the same problems with the black government, and I was curious about how that affected the Malays."
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Monday, April 7, 2008

Tun Dr. M Releases Statement Against Advise.

This statement was released to local papers today. News has it that it was against advise from his lawyers as it will expose himself further.

(The Sun) AS I had anticipated, my comment on (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department) Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s suggestion that the government should apologise for the action taken against Tun Salleh Abas would draw accusations against me for my alleged misdeeds during my tenure of office.

I regard this as an attempt to shut my mouth should I find occasion to criticise the present government. It is always about "You were worse when you headed the government," even if it is obvious that I had not done badly.

(Datuk) Param Cumaraswamy’s letter (theSun, April 2) falls in that category. He wants to know why action had not been taken against me over the allegations made by Datuk Shafee Yahya (former director-general of the Anti-Corruption Agency) during the Anwar Ibrahim trial.

The statement may be a sworn testimony in court but the accuracy of it cannot be accepted unquestioned. There were omissions and inferences which mislead. Counsel was of course interested in proving that Anwar did not inveigle Shafee into doing something wrong. But during the trial it was revealed that he did get a senior police officer to threaten and intimidate his accusers.

I admit to calling up Shafee to ask him about the raid by the ACA on the office of the director of the Economic Planning Unit. I did that because I received a complaint from the director that the ACA had been very offensive towards him during the raid. He also said that he believed the deputy prime minister and finance minister had set up the whole thing.

I knew that government officers were sometimes overzealous and would overstep or abuse their authority.

I could not verify whether there was any truth in what the EPU director said. Accordingly, I called the director of the ACA to find out what actually happened.

I asked many questions, many more than what he said in court. I also asked him if he had been directed by Datuk Seri Anwar to carry out the raid.

He denied it but he became angry when I asked whether he intended to pursue his investigation. Raising his voice, he accused me of trying to stop him from carrying out his duty. Angrily, he said that he was a senior civil service officer and that I had no right to question him about his work.

I was shocked at his loud accusation against me. No civil servant however senior had spoken to me like that. I was rendered speechless.

These exchanges were carried out in my office. No other person was present. No notes were taken, nor was there any recording, at least by me. So only the two of us would know what really happened or was said.

What he said in court is his version. There is nothing to verify what he said nor is there anything to verify what I say now is wrong. It is a case of his words against mine, sworn testimony notwithstanding. He had obviously omitted his shouted accusations against me. Had what he said in court was all that happened, then it would not have taken more than three minutes. But what he said and what I said took longer than three minutes.

I wonder how counsel knew of what happened in the privacy of my office. Even the Chief Secretary, the only person who was informed by Datuk Shafee could not have told counsel. Obviously it was Shafee who volunteered information. Why did he do this?

I was not a party to the trial of Anwar. If I was to be accused I should at least be heard. But clearly Shafee saw Anwar’s trial as an opportunity to make statements detrimental to my reputation.

Shafee was an angry man and what he said in court was opportunistic and seem to reflect his desire to take revenge against me. I can only assume that this was what motivated him, because what he divulged did not help Anwar much. But it did put me in a very bad light.

As to why this case has not been followed I can only assume that the courts are busy and there are tens of thousands of cases which have yet to be heard. Maybe the fault is with the Attorney General or police. I would not know.

Still I welcome any investigation by impartial people as to the truth or otherwise of what I say in this letter.

As for Param Cumarawamy and Karpal Singh, their hatred of me is well known and apparently has not abated even after I am no longer prime minister.

Many lawyers were angry with me because I had quoted Shakespeare during a cabinet meeting which says, "the first thing we do, we hang the lawyers". I was only joking but they heard of it and believed I meant what I said. The judges also felt unhappy with me.

Besides, I had criticised the judiciary for disregarding the intention or objectives of the laws formulated by the legislative wing but instead interpret them based on the words used. Was I committing a crime for saying this? I was merely stating a fact. Can no one comment on the judiciary at all even when they disregard the interest of the country? In many developed countries it is common for the public to criticise the judiciary.

As for Param, he made libellous remarks about a fellow-Malaysian when he was a member of a United Nations Commission. He should have been hauled before a Malaysian court but he claimed immunity due to his appointment by the UN.

My stand was that his immunity was only with regard to the specific work for the UN. If he breached Malaysian laws on matters not related to this work, then he cannot plead immunity.

His libellous words against a Malaysian individual had nothing to do with his work for the UN. He should therefore be liable, and his immunity could not be invoked. But he got the UN to back him. It was even hinted that if Malaysia prosecuted him, then our case before the International Court of Justice on the issue of the ownership of Sipadan and Ligitan would be jeopardised.

Accordingly I agreed that he should not be prosecuted. Luckily it was only libel. Had Param Cumaraswamy murdered a person, and he claimed immunity, then there would indeed be a miscarriage of justice.

I do not think my recalcitrance over his immunity endeared me to him. Now that I am not a prime minister, he has expressed his delight at saying that I should not criticise anything the present government does because I was guilty of worse.

I maintain that in the case of Tun Salleh Abas I did what was required of me under the Constitution and Malaysia’s laws. I consider the suggestion that I should apologise as frivolous, unwarranted and stupid.

If Param or Karpal is not convinced perhaps they should use their considerable knowledge of the law to shut my mouth.

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad
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