Sunday, May 31, 2009

Deminegara's "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" - Tam Dalyell's Response & My Reply to Him

Tam Dalyell is one of the Deminegara bloggers who created the "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" project. Kijangmas describes him as "Pakcik Dal the urbane mountain man, resident sage and voice of reason at DN", who "almost single-handedly collated the relevant narratives from past comments at this blog" for the SSUS memorandum. Dal was good enough to reply to my comment on Rocky's post MCA Youth to lodge police report against 1Sekolah promoters". I post his reply here, and add my response to him below that.

Here is his reply in full:
Dal said...
Dear Malaysian Heart;

Today, 1Sekolah is the best idea yet coming out of the 'tiny' heads of tiny peoples of Malaysia who look forward positively towards Malaysia that belongs to everybody dead or alive, just born or yet to be born. All we need to do is to give it a chance. In the past many tiny heads shot down such move initiated by big minds. The Sekolah Wawasan is an example.

Today 'big heads' have started their moves in shooting down this 'tiny ideas by tiny heads' which is only repeating the same ideas mooted 50 years ago by 'big people' who cared a lot.

No one is out to subjugate anyone in this national effort to give our children a better chance fora better future in a better Malaysia. How better it is going to be is up to us and our leaders.

Let's not look at who is initiating this move. We Malaysians should give this idea a good look, improve on it, fine tune it, give it a proper honing, and then hand it over to those big wigs to push it down the throat of our elected leaders who have no taste for comradeship and goodwill for us tiny rakyat.

It may take a long time to realize this. It may take two or more generations to work this out; but at least we parents can be satisfied that we have handed down to our children something positive to work for together instead or a legacy of childish bickerrings that we seem to relish so much.

We should be ashamed of ourselves that we should be quarreling in front of our children, purportedly for their good, while we know that all the time we are actually indulging to satisfy our selfish greed all for ourselves.
8:41 AM
My response to him is:
Dear Dal,

The measure of how good any idea is, is not the sizes of the heads involved or who tried to shoot down what. To evaluate the idea and determine how good or bad it is, we need to look thoroughly at its intent, proposals & probable consequences, then compare that with what all Malaysians aspire to. That is the least that we owe to our future generations.

To properly evaluate an idea of such import, there needs to be space for discussion & debate; as you yourself have said, "Malaysians should give this idea a good look". What I observe in this memorandum is this: while it claims to promote unity & integration, it does more than just propose a single school stream. It contains some very disturbing premises & key elements, just 2 of which are:

a) that it seeks to institutionalize intolerance against the so-called "foreign" cultures & languages of some Malaysians, by proposing that these be ghettoized, i.e. set apart from & denied its role in the public life of Malaysia, and
b) that it espouses assimilation rather than integration.

Neither of the 2 elements above is in any way necessary for true integration & unity. On the contrary, they will work against "comradeship and goodwill for us tiny rakyat". Elements like these (as well as the intolerant language used in the memorandum) hardly make for a "struggle of all Malaysians irrespective of their colour, origin, creed or breed".

Added to that is the attitude of some promoters of SSUS. While they are quite happy to repeat over and over again the professed objectives of the project and the fact that 1 school for all will promote integration, they seem to want to ignore the fact that Malaysians have concerns & reservations over some elements & aspects of the SSUS. There seems to be an effort to deem people with such concerns as unpatriotic or even racist; and to paint anyone who tries to delve below the surface of SSUS & its promoters (& tries to share it with others), as, in your words, a "provocateur with malice and hidden vicious agenda”. Why this unwillingness to address those concerns? Why this hurry to railroad the SSUS without due diligence & deliberation? If this idea is as good as you say it is, won't it sail through scrutiny & criticism with colours flying?

You wrote, "No one is out to subjugate anyone in this national effort to give our children a better chance for a better future in a better Malaysia". I sincerely welcome your statement; indeed Malaysia cannot be united or strong as long as we seek to subjugate one another.

However, let's look at something else also written by you, in response to this comment of kijangmas, in which he refers to Field Marshal Phibun Songkhram's Thai Ratthaniyom policy, describing it as one "where all Chinese schools, newspapers, culture and names were banned under penalty of imprisonment. Within one generation, the 30% ethnic-Chinese population became fully Thaicized". (Bold emphasis is mine)

Your response to that was:
Tam Dalyell said...

Quote "When the Duli-Duli Yang Maha Mulia Raja-Raja Melayu agreed to the wholesale dishing out of Malayan citizenships --even inexplicably waiving Bahasa Melayu proficiency tests -- to a million and a half unwanted, abandoned stateless Chinese (and Indians) in 1957 ..."unquote

Hmmm ... what would happen if The Duli-Duli Raja-Raja Melayu did not agree, and Malaya had its own Phibun Songkhram or Plaek Khittasangkha with a Malayan version of "Ratthaniyom" back then?

But may be, today's individual parts of "Ratthaniyom" can be build up and put into action ... no?

October 27, 2008 9:56 AM
(Again, bold emphasis is mine. For the benefit of other readers, Phibun Songkhram a.k.a Plaek Khittasangkha was the Prime Minister and military dictator of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957. Phibun was the person who decreed the Thai "Ratthaniyom", which was a program of forced assimilation of minorities in Thailand, done in the name of "social cohesion" & "unity". The Malay & Chinese minorities in Thailand were amongst those affected by it. You can read more about Phibun Songkhram & his Ratthaniyom policies here and here. Please also look at Kijangmas' description of the negative effects that phibun and his policies had on the Patani Malay population, in his other blog, Patani: Behind The Accidental Border, in the post entitled "Thai Ratthaniyom: Erasure of the Patani Malay Race". Please do read it for yourself.)

So, what was kijangmas' response to your suggestion?
KijangMas said...

Tam Dalyell,

....(5 paragraphs removed for brevity)....

Yeah, potential early Malay Phibun Songkhrams were branded Leftists and Anarchists by the British Colonial Admin. and hence were supressed into oblivion. In the modern era, perhaps Tun Razak was the closest possible incarnation. But his life was short. Hussein Onn was "softer" on the non-Malays. Dr. M was tough, though nowhere near Tun Razak, because Dr. M needed the non-Malays to cooperate in his grandiose economic initiatives. If Tun Razak had survived, say, up to 1985, I'm sure Malaysia would be different today, with a more cohesive social order based on Satu Bahasa,Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara.

Looking ahead, we'll see. Najib is, of course, Tun Razak's son. We shall see to what extent he may want to apply a Malaysian rendition of the Thai Ratthaniyom policy.

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that there are some elements of the Ratthaniyom that would be applicable, in fact, urgently necessary for Malaysia. The incredibly racially devisive Vernacular schooling is perhaps the most pressing ailment that must be solved. I will have a post on these issues soon. Stay tuned ...

October 27, 2008 12:42 PM
(Bold emphasis is mine. Here I have just quoted 3 paragraphs from an 8 paragraph comment. Please read the whole post & all the comments for yourself as it will give you an insight into the mindset of those behind this particular SSUS project.)

In the light of the above, surely you can see why your suggestion, that we "not look at who is initiating this move" seems somewhat disingenuous?

I am doing my best to share my legitimate concerns about SSUS its objectives & promoters. Unlike some others, I (try to) do so objectively, without spinning my words to incite racial sentiments & prejudices. Therefore I am not ashamed of it. However, one thing that I would be truly ashamed of doing, is using the names of our children, their future & Malaysian unity to push a supremacist agenda, a Ratthaniyom by another name.

Malaysian Heart

Update 1/6/09 21:39 hrs
Just managed to post this reply on Rocky's & Dal's blogs. Please do visit the discussion there if you can. - mh

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deminegara's "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" - My Reply to "Malaysian at Heart"

On 24/05/2009, Rocky posted an entry in his blog entitled, "MCA Youth to lodge police report against 1Sekolah promoters", in which he took Deputy Education Minister Dr. Wee Ka Siong to task for contemplating lodging a police report against the bloggers who initiated the "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" campaign. I posted a reply to that entry which was published in the comments section. Since then, due to technical issues, I have not been able to post any comments in a number of blogs, including Rocky's. This is an issue with my own PC and/or router, and no fault of the respective webmasters. So, until I solve this problem, I am posting here my replies to the response from a commenter who signs off as "Malaysian at Heart" in Rocky's blog entry, so that our discussion may be continued.

This is my original reply to Rocky's blog entry (I have re-paragraphed it for better readability):
Malaysian Heart said...

These are kijangmas own words, taken from here:

"Anyway, suffice to say that you and your kind are NOTHING. Just the dust, the debu that powders my feet, the habuk, the "duli" yang mencemarkan my tapak kaki.

And nowadays these debus have the audacity to talk up to the Melayu Tuan Tanah on level terms, as if we are on par, makan sepinggan, duduk semeja, tidur sekatil. And these debus now even have the nerve to question the very symbols of our nationhood -- the keris, songkok, jawi, ... even fatwas! -- on a land that MY ancestors forged through centuries of battles and conquests and where countless died defending against foreign invaders. And now these products of the unwashed rejects that rolled off the plank of the rickety tongkang now see it fit to question the fundamental tenets of this land that was created from the blood and sweat of MY ancestors?"

This is just one of numerous such statements by kijangmas & his supporters. That Rocky can describe them as "pro-unity bloggers" trying to create "a 'true' Bangsa Malaysia" speaks volumes about his own character & mindset. If Rocky believes that making a police report is "militant", how would he categorize this from kijangmas (my emphasis in bold):

"We must unearth our martial past. We were warriors, the greatest seafarers ever, the ruling-class of the Nusantara. We built empires, we colonised other lands, our language became the lingua franca of the seas from Madagascar to Okinawa to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). That's 60% of earth's circumference. We must be that again. Do away with the lemah lembut lembik persona that has caused an epidemic in Malay transvestites and Mak Nyahs and budak lembuts everywhere. We must toughen up. Can we live off the land? When was the last time we held a cangkul? Jala ikan? Sembelih ayam? Sembelih orang would be too much to ask for now, but still ....."

Surely Rocky is not suggesting that Wee be denied his right to lodge a police report. If anyone of us believes that a crime has been committed, it is our civic duty to lodge one. "Agreeing to disagree" does not absolve us of that duty. However, if Wee makes a false report, then he must be prosecuted & punished.

Personally, I do not believe that criminal action can or should be brought against kijangmas & his group. There is no law in Malaysia against racist hate speech or being kurang ajar; neither should there ever be, as it would infringe on their right to free speech. Indeed it is better that all Malaysians read for themselves & see this group (that includes you too, Rocky) for what they really are.

(end of comment)

Subsequently, "Malaysian at Heart" responded to my reply:
Malaysian at Heart said...

Waaaa… MalaysianHeart. You have cut and paste Kijang Mas quotes out of context, weed out the revealing or self-explanatory ones, and present out your case here. Do you know that KM writes in retaliation to those who write in MORE racist manners in his blogs? It is fortunate that he weeds out the ultra-racist comments, if not then we really have explosive situations. Some other blogs are not fortunate anyway: The racist comments coming from you guys are greater in magnitude: yours is much more menyakitkan hati! I could only, within a few minutes, cut and paste these, from Rocky, Jebat, KM:-

Malay is not a gentle race, on the contrary, it is an emotional & violent binatang. – yellowpower

Hey bumibodoh, kalau lu minta ditanam hidup2 di tanah Melayu, gua bisa menunai hajat lu! … we must be honest to call a babi – babi. - Abangcina

Those bastard Malays that easily get emotional had very low EQ and IQ as well. They cannot control their emotion. That’s why our country cannot advance. Everyday shouting “Daulat Malay”. - OBAMA

melayu oh melayu...
non malay...see how all the low class malay shaking here....
tengok sendiri lah standard orang cina and bandingkan dengan melayu.. lu orang melayu apa class..
pergi minum air kencing cina sikit lah kawan...

As expected most of the low class Malay commenters here are scared shitless of equal rights. What a bunch of pondans these Malays have turned into. Eg proft and LGT.
It's inevitable you WILL bow and accept equality eventually. Or your children will anyway...

Those reading the above who are above 60 years of age, was around during May 13, 1969 let me emphasize here: these are NOT 13 May 1969 Procession Quotations. These are voices that are heard PRESENTLY, but it sure does sound similarly nostalgic, doesn't it?

Perhaps I could probably paste more if I research longer. And I haven’t even BEGUN to get into blogs like Harris Ibrahim, MalaysiaKini and Raja Petra, who allows malay-bashing racists to write in whatever they want and deletes daily 500-600 (according to that RPK interview) pro-malay comments.

Yes, Malaysian Heart. Bigotry is a result of another bigotry imposed on them. You racist me, I racist you even more.

I also found out that apart from this place, you have also posted this comment of yours at some other spots. Meaning, you just are not interested in a rebuttal. You would like to broadcast anti-malay sentiments wherever you find there is a reader. Showing that you have a purpose, an agenda in mind.

(end of comment)

As I could not post my reply to "Malaysian at Heart" at Rocky's, here it is:

@ Malaysian at Heart,

Thanks for your rebuttal. I choose kijangmas’ quotes which I believe reflect his vision for Bangsa Malaysia, his attitude towards his fellow Malaysians & national unity. I do this because they are relevant to understanding the project that he & his friends are proposing. To help readers see his words in context, I always include the link. Since you have raised this issue, I will add a request that readers visit those links to judge for themselves if those quotes are relevant or not.

I condemn racism & racist comments no matter who they come from & who they are targeted at. Please read my latest blog post (Putting the shoe on the other foot) to see where I stand on this, & kindly do not include me in with those racists who have offended you.

I agree with you that racism incites racism. However, it does not necessarily have to result in more of the same. Two wrongs do not make a right, and a true leader would have the courage & the integrity to break the vicious cycle by responding to hate with truth, not more hate. Such a leader would inspire his opponents & bring them over to his cause. It is the dajjal & the demagogue who "lead" by spreading deceit & inciting hate among people. May I suggest that you (& km) look to the examples set by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), Gandhi & Martin Luther King instead of following in the footsteps of racists like abangcina, commenter & obama (the racist, not the president). If km is unable (or unwilling) to rise above reacting to provocations with counter provocations, is he the kind of leader that you (or any Malaysian) should be following?

I have posted my comments here, at Pn. Nuraina's blog, de minimis, i am Malaysian and others where this memorandum is being discussed. I believe that is what blog comments sections are for. To suggest that this means that I am not interested in rebuttals is a non sequitur. So far, among the rebuttals that I have received, I have been "accused" of being an Ayah Pin devotee and of loving kijangmas' posterior. I could see "rebuttals" like those having a place in a (lower) primary school playground, but how do they advance our discussion & mutual understanding? I feel that their only objective is to start the provocation rolling and hope for an equally silly reaction in return. On that note, thanks for not stooping to their level.

However, you have wronged me by accusing me of broadcasting anti Malay sentiments. Criticizing a person who happens to be Malay doesn't necessarily mean that I am anti Malay. Going by that logic, anyone who criticizes wee ka siong is anti chinese, the person who murdered kugan is anti indian, and if kugan's murderer happened to be an orang putih, prosecuting him would be anti orang putih too. Subscribing to this type of logic would mean the end of civil society in Malaysia & a descent into the tribalism & ketaksuban of zaman jahiliah, when supporting your clan was more important than standing for justice & fairness. If we are to progress as a nation, people who are truly "Malaysian at Heart" need to go beyond seeing things from a race based, assabiah perspective.

My purpose and agenda is very open & transparent. I believe that km & co's project is an attempt to institutionalize intolerance against the culture & language of our fellow Malaysians, disguised as an effort to promote unity. As a Malaysian, I cannot approve of this even is if I personally would stand to gain by it. This is not about Malay rights or Chinese rights, it is about common decency & humanity. If we allow issues like culture, language &
education to be hijacked by chauvinists to further their own agendas, it will lead to further racial resentment & distrust in Malaysia, and as we can see from the responses & counter responses to this issue, it has already begun. I believe that this increased distrust & tension serves km & co's purposes just fine.

Not all the people who support SSUS have chauvinist agendas. Many Malaysians, myself included, rightly see that 1 school for all is fundamentally a good idea. However, many have missed the insidious racism & intolerance that underlies this project. Therefore, I want to share with Malaysians what (I believe) this project really is. I support my arguments with data sourced from km & co's own writings, and everyone is free to decide for themselves. I can't help feeling that this uneasiness amongst km supporters when I refer to their own words in my comments, belies an anxiety that the true nature of their project (& indeed of themselves as human beings) is being unmasked.

Finally, if I may, I would encourage you to dig out the racist comments from any websites including Malaysiakini, Peoples Parliament & Malaysia Today & expose them for all to see. We must never tolerate racism from whomever. It certainly takes time & effort, but it would be worth it. Let us name & shame those bloggers & commenters & let them answer for it. Whenever I find such comments there, (and I have found them), I call them out on it, regardless of who they are. I have seen even commenters in deminegara criticize racist comments. For example:

On December 11, 2008 3:31 AM, Omong, (
who kijangmas names as having one of those who "provided a stirring repository of references and research findings" for the memorandum) said...

"KijangMas Dear
I have consciously started checking out whether the shop owner is Malay or Chinese when I stopped at the R&R along the highways. I was about to pay for my purchase when I realised the cashier is Chinese. I put back my tidbits and went over to the other shop where the workers are Malays and purchased from them. The reason I went in to the first shop was because the shop is really stocked up with a lot more variety of goods. But who cares? I will support Malay enterprises from now on. I also have to be extra observant to note that Malay workers may be working for Chinese owners."

In response to that, on December 11, 2008 2:59 PM , anonymous said...

"Omong said...
KijangMas Dear

I have consciously started checking out whether the shop owner is Malay or Chinese when I stopped at the R&R along the highways.
So now Omong, now they have succeeded in making you a racist.
Do you know that the chinese who open shop at the R&R is also in a similar predicament as the Malay who opens the shop next to his ?.
so in your mind , this Chinese guy is a rich towkay ?.
Sickening isn't it how people have now become more racist ?
I buy from a shop because it is convenience and the service not because of the race or colour of the shopkeeper.
Real shame, another notch for racism in Malaysia."

Also in response to Omong, on December 11, 2008 6:42 PM, skyforce said...

"To Omong,

What is wrong with u?
I believe the Japanese killing your people during World War 2 is more 'dosa' than what chinese did today.
Do u buy Japanese product???
Please think again.


And what was kijangmas' response to all this? On December 12, 2008 3:10 AM, kijangmas said...

"Sky Force and Anonymous (December 10, 2008 10:59 PM),

Why do you people care if Omong buys from a non-Chinese shop?
Isn't your disapproval of Omong buying from a Malay shop reflect YOUR own
racism? So Omong MUST buy only from your Chinese shops? Wah, business-by-force ah?
Why so easily ruffled nowadays?
So much for economic supremacy ..."

Please do click on the date & time links to read for yourselves the original comments in context & to follow the whole thread.

I do not know who anonymous & skyforce are, or what else they may have said elsewhere, but I respect their ability to see what's right & fair in this case, & their courage to speak up for it. If we all stand up to racism, we may help end it in our country. However, to do so, we must first ourselves renounce the use racism. If we only condemn others for racism but indulge in it ourselves, isn't that just being a hypocrite?

Thanks, & may your heart be truly Malaysian,

(end of comment)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot

Many years ago when I was still at school, I read a short story that forever changed how I think about myself in relation to others. Of late, I have had much reason to remember that story, so I'd be honoured if you would allow me to share it with you.

Let me give you fair warning on 2 accounts though; firstly, it was not a work of literature from the western canon to begin with; secondly, given my memory & literary talents, my retelling of it may do it great injustice. It was one of the stories in a paperback science fiction anthology, the type that came with lurid drawings of spacemen with rayguns fighting aliens on the cover. If you're still keen to listen, I'll tell it to you, with my apologies to the author.

The story went something like this:

Sometime far in the future, humans are routinely exploring the universe & interacting with alien civilizations from all over. From time to time, new alien civilizations are discovered, and Earth sends its diplomatic envoys to establish peaceful relations with them (If you are a fan of Star Trek, you will know exactly the type of situation it was).

As the story begins, one such envoy (let's call him Dudley) is arriving at a recently discovered planet (let's call it Zeta). Dudley is a rising star in the Earth Diplomatic Service. His skills at understanding & assimilating alien languages & cultures has put him on the fast track. Hence this prestigious high profile assignment.

Planet Zeta is unique in many ways. For starters, it is a very small closed system, with no natural resources whatsoever. Therefore everything, from exhaled air to dead bodies to raw sewage, had to be recycled to provide the citizens with air, water & food to live on (like a more extreme, yuckier version of Singapore & Newater). Without this recycling, the entire planet would surely die a horrible death.

Zetans are also unique in their exquisitely refined culture & social system, which has evolved to support its recycling ethos. Reflecting its scarcity of resources, Zetan culture places the highest value on maintaining physical & spiritual beauty, cleanliness & purity. It revolves around the need to keep the planet well ordered with every Zetan in his or her place.

All the recycling was the sole responsibility of the Cleaner, of whom there was only one. The Cleaner does his job in a plant deep in the bowels of the planet, so the surface dwellers do not have to put up with the stench & the filth of the recycling process.

As Dudley arrives, he is feted by the ministers. The food, drink & entertainment are exquisite, unlike any he had seen in his extensive travels in the universe. The performing & fine arts had developed to such an extent that in comparison, earth's best performers & artists were rank amateurs. The Zetan language was like music to the ears, highly developed, with every inflection & gesture rich in meaning. Being surrounded by such sublime beauty & refinement, Dudley was certainly going to enjoy his posting here.

Later that evening, the Zetan ministers urgently visit Dudley at his sumptuous quarters, and beseech him for help. The life or death of the entire planet is in his hands. The Cleaner is refusing to carry out his job, threatening an imminent breakdown of the planet's delicate balance. Would Dudley be able to carry out some urgent but simple operations at the plant? All the instructions on which dials to turn & levers to pull were all prepared in a handy leaflet.

From his thorough knowledge of the culture, Dudley knows that a surface dweller could never ever operate the Cleaning plant or communicate with the Cleaner, as this would cause him to be permanently defiled. It would be the gravest of insults to even suggest it to a surface dweller.

Eager to make his mark with his hosts, Dudley makes his way to depths of the planet, suitably clothed & armed. The underworld is a total contrast to the surface. The stench is overpowering, even through his respirator. The dull roar of the plant assaults his entire being. Surely this is Hell, as the surface is Heaven.

As he approaches the console, in the distance, Dudley sees the cleaner as a dark, hulking presence. His heart races as he unsheathes his raygun & fires a warning shot over the recalcitrant Cleaner. The Cleaner take a step back. Dudley quickly changes the settings on the console as per the leaflet, all the while keeping the gun trained on the Cleaner. He locks in the settings & turns to leave this hellhole for the surface. As he runs for the exit, out of the corner of his eye he sees the hideous thing huddled next to the console.

As he makes it back to the surface, he sees that all the Zetan ministers had assembled on the upper deck to welcome him back to the surface. As Dudley waves & smiles broadly at them, he sees Charlie, his old assistant from Earth arrive & be greeted by the ministers. Dudley tries to join them on the deck, but he can't get past the steel bars of the locked gate. He calls out to the Charlie & the ministers, but even though they are a mere 3 metres away, nobody acknowledges him. Dudley reaches out to them between the steel bars, and the ministers (and Charlie) physically recoil back. A expression of pure disgust & repulsion crosses their angelic countenances as they continue their reception for Charlie. As the ministers escort Charlie to his sumptuous quarters, Charlie, with a Zetan gesture reserved for slaves, tosses a piece of crumpled paper through the steel bars. It reads, "Don't speak to me or touch me. The Zetans have rejected you as Earth envoy as you have defiled yourself. I am your replacement. You have been demoted and hereby ordered to return to Earth for debriefing. Get on the ship NOW & don't touch anything before you are on board."

When I was reading this story for the first time all those years ago, this ending made me feel as if I had been punched in the gut. I was not upset because the character whom I had identified with was demoted, or that the Zetans had played him for a fool; rather I was shaken because I had come to realize something unpleasant but significant about myself as a human being. All the while that I had identified with Dudley & his HiPo ways, I had not spared a single thought for the Cleaner's situation. All I wanted was for Dudley to get the job done & return to his Heaven on the surface. In my mind, I managed to rationalize that any system which was to my benefit was fine. I couldn't (or didn't want to) see the unfairness & injustice of the system until the shoe was on the other foot. Why was I unable to care about anything beyond my own nose?

Ever since that day, I have had a simple rule that I follow. Whenever I look at any issue & try to distinguish right from wrong, and decide my best course of action, I put the shoe on the other foot. I imagine that the situation was reversed, & try to make sense of the emotions & impulses that come rushing in. I ask myself, what are the principles that have been upheld or violated? How do these principles stack up with or against each other?

Following this rule has not made me a rich or powerful person. Far from it. However, I can say with certainty that it has afforded me a clear conscience, something that I hold very dear indeed.

Why have I been reminded of this story of late? When I surf the Malaysian blogosphere, I see things that make me wonder whether the bloggers/authors have considered how they themselves would have felt if the tables had been turned. There are vicious personal attacks on opponents as well as attacks on their wives & children. They abuse & slander their victims with crude stories & vile language, all so that their party or cause can "win". They propose solutions & systems that benefit their own cause, but which violate every principle of fairness & equity; if the shoe was on the other foot, they could never accept it ever.

Whenever I read such a blog, invariably I form a poor impression of the author. If his intention was to persuade me to his way of thinking, he has failed miserably. Only his diehard unquestioning supporters will stay with him, even fence-sitters will be repulsed & go to the other side. Worse, his opponents will have all the evidence they need to justify their low opinion of him.

Sadly, I see blogs of all persuasions doing this, including some bloggers whom I had come to respect. I wonder if we Malaysians have forgotten how to empathize with others who may not share our point of view.

Thus ends my rant :-(

On another note, when I first read this story, I was at an age when knowing the author's name, or even the title was of no importance. What mattered most was reading it as fast as possible to see how it ended. I regret now not having noted down any of the information that would have allowed me to track down this story & read it again. By any chance if anyone out there has read this story and could share its title or author's name with me, I would be most grateful to you.

Malaysian Heart

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What shall we do with a floor crossing YB?

While the whole nation is occupied with the goings on in Perak, my own thoughts are drawn, perhaps out of disgust & disillusionment, to the events that eventually led to the mess that we have been left with there. In my view, the direct attributable cause is that elected representatives chose to switch (or leave) their party allegiances. What can we do to prevent a mess like Perak's from recurring in the future?

In our country, switching one's party allegiance is something that is generally viewed negatively. We pejoratively call it "party hopping" and those who indulge in it are called "frogs" or "katak". However, it is not always so in other places where a parliamentary system is practiced.

In the UK and other countries where the Westminster system is practiced, the term used is a more neutral "crossing the floor". It is something that has happened quite frequently in the UK , Australia and Canada, and not viewed so negatively. In fact Winston Churchill, the great British wartime leader, crossed the floor not once but twice!

So is switching party allegiance a bad thing or not? Should it be frowned upon or even banned (as it is in South Africa)? My take on this issue is this: crossing the floor is a lot like sex. When it's done out of true love for the other person, it is something wonderful & even spiritual. On the other hand, if done out of greed for money, fame or power, it becomes debased & immoral, and those who indulge in it are called prostitutes.

Similarly, an elected representative may cross the floor because he agrees with & respects the policies & positions of another party (or finds that of his own party unconscionable). Alternatively, he or she may just do so for more selfish reasons, (such as to avoid selective prosecution, or to get a new car).

This presents us with a problem: how can we determine fairly a YB's motives when he or she crosses the floor? We may have our suspicions, and if it can be proven that a YB was bribed to cross the floor, certainly he or she must be charged & punished under the various laws on corruption. However, corruption charges are not easily proven, and we cannot presume that all who cross the floor are guilty. It would not do, since we need to respect the human rights of all involved.

Whose rights are involved? Firstly. let's look at the rights of the elected representatives. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we can see that easc of us has the right to freedom of thought and conscience (article 18), the right to freedom of opinion and expression (article 19) as well as the right to freedom of association (article 20). Therefore, if we were to ban or criminalize crossing the floor, these YB's rights would be denied.

Our YBs do not lose these rights the moment they join a political party. We must remember that elected representatives do not serve in the legislative assemblies as employees of the political parties they were elected under, and there is no contractual obligation that they must vote according to the party line. Although their party may have had a manifesto that is presented to voters before elections, not all decisions that come before parliament may have been covered in the manifesto, and parties have been known to change their positions after elections. Democracy is not served by having "zombie" YBs who rubber stamp anything their parties want.

Let's look at another set of rights. Article 21 of the UDHR states that everyone "has the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives". These YB are the means by which we the Rakyat take part in the government of Malaysia. What do we require from them? We require that they participate fully in the parliamentary process, ask the tough questions and vote in our best interests. Since they represent us, if they act in a way that does not reflect our interests, our rights have been denied.

So we have 2 sets of rights here that seem to clash. How will we solve this?

One way might be to introduce ideas from direct or deliberative democracy. One that I believe could help solve messes like Perak is this: the recall election. This is a procedure by which voters can remove elected officials. So, in the case of a YB who crossed the floor, we could require that an automatic recall election be held. He or she would have ample opportunity to share with the Rakyat his reasons for switching, and how his actions were in their best interests. The rakyat would then vote to indicate if they still wanted him as their representative. The YB would have every right to act according to his conscience, and the Rakyat's right to representation that serves their interests would not be sacrificed.

So, what do we do with a floor crossing YB? Make him go back to the rakyat for his mandate to be confirmed. What do you think? Could this work for Malaysia?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

P. Uthayakumar: "Never Give In To Them"

In human history, there have been many times when people facing injustice & oppression have used nonviolent resistance to achieve social & political change.

Because of the highest moral standards needed to achieve true change, the leaders of these movements have to shoulder an enormous responsibility. Whilst all the time keeping a clear eye on their goal & inspiring & motivating people, they need to ensure that their movement never deviates from the principles of their struggle. If they sacrifice their principles
& accept that the ends justifies the means, their movement's moral standing is lost, and will soon disintegrate.

In shouldering these respon
sibilities, time and time again these leaders have had to make great personal sacrifices. Let's look at three notable examples.
  1. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in 1908 by the racist government in South Africa for resisting the unjust Asiatic Act law. In the words of Nelson Mandela, "Gandhi's most painful experience must have been when he was told that his wife, Kasturbai, was critically ill. He was given the option to pay his fine and rush to her bedside. His commitment to satyagraha would not allow him to do so." Read more here and on page 88 here.
  2. Martin Luther King, Jr. took part in protests against segregation in the town of Albany, Georgia in 1961, and was sentenced to imprisonment. The authorities offered to release him (and his colleague) if they paid a fine of US$178. Sticking to principle, they refused. Finally the police chief himself paid their fine & released them to avoid embarrasment. Read more here and here.
  3. Nelson Mandela was undergoing life imprisonment in Robben Island, a maximum security prison, when the apartheid government offered to release him in exchange for accepting the bantustan policy by recognising the independence of the Transkei and agreeing to settle there. He chose to never compromise his principles. He remained in prison until he was released unconditionally on 11 February 1990, after being imprisoned for a total of 27 years. Read more here.
To this fellowship (which includes many others, some of whom we may not know about), we can now add a Malaysian, P. Uthayakumar, who refused to accept any conditions for his release from detention under the ISA. In his own words, “If they force me (to sign the conditional release papers, which among other things would have barred him from speaking at public functions), I will not do it as I prefer going back to Kamunting prison,” (the words in brackets being mine).

Leaders like them inspire us.

They & their loved ones have suffered pain, physical & emotional, for us. Let us stand, not behind them but shoulder to shoulder with them, and work together for justice for ALL Malaysians.

Let us never forget what these brave people have shown, that truth & justice will always triumph over lies & oppression. Let us not forget either, that all that is needed for the triumph of evil
is that good people do nothing.

Finally, let us never forget these words of Uthayakumar: "Never give in to them."

May all victims of the ISA get the justice that they deserve.

Makkal Sakthi!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Wesak Day! May All Beings be Happy & at Peace!

Happy Wesak day to all, when the birth, enlightenment Nirvana, and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha is commemorated. Some of his teachings:
The Buddha said in the Kalama Sutra:

Do not believe in anything (simply)
because you have heard it.

Do not believe in traditions because they
have been handed down for many generations.

Do not believe in anything because it is
spoken and rumoured by many.

Do not believe in anything (simply) because
it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority
of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis
when you find that anything agrees with reason
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all
then accept it and live up to it.

(Anguttara Nikaya Vol. 1, 188-193 P.T.S. Ed.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thoughts on Perak's Constitutional Crisis

Could any wise persons out there help answer these three questions:

  1. Does HRH have the prerogative to unilaterally dismiss governments and appoint a new MB?

  2. Convention and custom of the Westminster system hold that if an MB loses a vote of confidence in the Assembly, then he and his government must either resign or seek HRH's consent for dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections. If HRH does not consent (meeting the conditions of the Lascelles Principles), then convention holds that the government must resign, and HRH can appoint a new MB (this is a good convention). However, what happens if the MB seeks dissolution WITHOUT having lost a no-confidence motion and HRH refuses to dissolve? Must the MB resign anyway?

  3. Can an MB's statement or concession that he has lost the confidence of the Assembly, legally replace an actual vote of no confidence? (For comparison, could Al Gore's concession to Bush Jr. have legally given Bush the presidency in 2000 even if Gore had won Florida's votes?)
IF the answers to ALL the above questions are no, THEN:

Even if DS Nizar was aware that BN had more ADUNs behind them, and had asked HRH to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly for that reason, his removal under Article 16(6) of the state constitution is not right. Of course, if it turns out that he wasn’t OR didn't, then question 3 above is moot, as are the first 24 words of this paragraph. Without any actual vote of no confidence being passed, any statement (including the MB's) claiming that the MB has lost the confidence of the Assembly is at best hearsay, and should not have been accepted and acted upon as the truth. The only body allowed by law to decide a vote of no confidence is the house itself in session. Since there had been no such vote yet, HRH's correct course of action, if HRH did not want to consent to the dissolution of the assembly (as he can do as per the Constitution), should have been to call for a sitting of the Assembly, where a motion of no confidence could have been put to a vote. If the motion was passed, THEN the condition in the first 19 words of Article 16(6): “If the Mentri Besar ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly,” is satisfied, thereby allowing HRH to appoint a new MB.

In my humble opinion, HRH should not have accepted anyone's contention that DS Nizar's government had lost the confidence of the house, without there having been an actual vote of no confidence. I also believe that HRH should not have taken it upon himself to ascertain if the floor crossing ADUNs supported BN. That is the role of the Assembly, and any exception to this threatens the separation of powers in our Democracy, and the supremacy of Parliament.

I realize that my opinion is based on a procedural issue which would not have changed the outcome, as BN would have won the vote of no confidence anyway. However, if we want Justice done, and that it be seen to be done, procedures laid out by law need to be followed to the letter and not sacrificed for expediency. Where the law is silent & no procedures exist, all actions & decisions taken should follow the principles of natural justice and due process, and if intractable deadlock ensued, the ultimate arbiter must be the Rakyat through elections. If this had been the case, whatever the outcome may have been, the Rakyat's confidence in our Democratic Institutions would have been strengthened immensely . At worst, their anger would have only been directed towards the ADUNs who crossed the floor (and those who encouraged them), for having betrayed the Rakyat's trust from GE-12.

I am concerned that our laws at present aren't clear enough on the rights, roles, responsibilities and limits to the powers of the various Institutions that play a vital part in our Democracy. The relationship and interactions between these entities are still governed by unwritten or partly written conventions, customs, discretionary and reserve powers and prerogatives. These ambiguities have resulted in actions and outcomes that may seriously undermine our Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy. While there is certainly a case for allowing some "wriggle room" in laws so that we may flexibly meet unforeseen challenges, the seriousness of the Constitutional Crisis that we are currently facing suggests that this room for wriggling is currently much too big. Surely our best legal minds can amend our laws to better reflect the Rakyat's aspirations. What we need is a review of the laws of all states, and where ambiguities exist, they need to be codified as clearly as possible, all the while strengthening the foundations of our Democracy: Constitutional Monarchy, Separation of Powers and Parliamentary Supremacy. Surely this is not asking too much for DS Najib's 1Malaysia?

For starters, let's amend Article 16(6) of the Perak State Constitution to read as follows:

“If the Mentri Besar ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly, as determined by the Legislative Assembly passing a motion of no confidence, or rejecting a motion of confidence in the government, then, unless at his request His Royal Highness dissolves the Legislative Assembly, he shall tender the resignation of the executive council.”

As for our current situation, where the Rakyat's confidence in Democracy and its Institutions has been deeply shaken, IMHO the best solution is for HRH to allow the Speaker's request to delay the sitting, for BN admit its mistakes and request HRH that the Assembly be dissolved and fresh elections be held, therefore allowing the Rakyat to solve the crisis. This is the only win-win-win-win solution I can see, and it is the least that BN can do by way of making amends to the Rakyat of Perak. I hope that BN's leaders have the wisdom to realize that while they can run for a while, they cannot hide forever from the wrath of a Rakyat whom they have crossed. Even if they lose this battle, this solution may be just what they need to help them win GE-13.


Malaysian Heart

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why Hindraf Deserves our Support

Written in response to Bukit Selambau: Lets unite on the issues by Vijay Kumar Murugavell:

Dear Vijay,

I agree with a lot of what you have said, but would like to highlight some points from your letter for discussion. I have organized them as follows:

A. The nature of Hindraf & its constituents

You have mentioned or alluded to many of the behaviours & attitudes that Hindraf & its members exhibit, & indeed a lot of the criticism being sent their way is based on general perceptions of their mindset & actions, which tend to evoke emotional responses ranging from mild annoyance to outright disgust. Let us look at the causes. Where do these silly, regressive, self-defeating behaviours arise from? There are so many theories out there, ranging from poor upbringing, low intelligence, inferior culture, no “X” factor (ala LKY), to even too much parpukari. Others might even blame defective genes (as Mahathir partly did for Malaysian Malays’ economic backwardness in his Malay Dilemma).

IMHO, these behaviours strongly correspond to the “distress pattern” behaviours of people who have been oppressed. I have not come across a more accurate or useful explanation of Hindraf’s behaviours than the one afforded by class analysis & socio-political development theory. Take a look at this page, and in the second section under the heading “Ways Oppressed People Suck”, you will find the most uncanny, true-to-life portrait of Hindraf, down to its most annoying quirks. You will even find a thumbnail sketch of some of Hindraf’s detractors, especially those who have internalized their oppression. However, what knocked me off my chair was seeing, in paragraph 20 of the same section, our friend Kalaivanar, complete with 70's style sideburns, eyeliner and shaved eyebrows, peeking out from between the lines, in the company of some other crooks.

As a comparison, we will also find similar behaviours & attitudes in oppressed groups all over the world; poor African-Americans, Australian Aborigines, Palestinians and the Roma (Gypsies) in Europe, and often this will be recycled into stereotypes that will be used to further oppress them.

Coming back to Hindraf, it truly vexes my superior, English speaking intellect that I cannot swoop down from my perch in the heavens & save them. How I would just love to grab them by their collective shoulders & shake some sense into them, or tell them to buck up, get back to work, get their s--t together, wake up & smell the Starbucks, or so on and so forth ad nauseam. Sadly for me, telling them what to do for their own good simply won’t work. Only they can save themselves, beginning with critical consciousness, and they need to be in the driver’s seat of their liberation.

Seen in this light, what can we do? Well, we can support them while they do it. And we can start by engaging them & listening proactively as they find their voice. What might this look like? Practically, this could have meant that, when they brought us a tainted sandwich before the elections (Kalaivanar & his ilk between slices of pertinent issues), we could have taken it apart, gingerly removed & discarded Kalaivanar while showing everyone what a rotten piece of baloney he was, then carefully chewed & ingested the pertinent issues (tough, I know, but very nutritious for PR).

One more way we could support them is by remembering that their oppression makes it easier for us to hate them and by consciously ending the oppression, subtle or not, that manifests itself in so many forms.

And no, it’s not going to disappear miraculously the day Anwar Ibrahim steps into Seri Perdana as PM.

One last thing about Hindraf that we should take note of: for all their race based pleading & posturing, they have not once crossed the red line; that of claiming supremacy, requiring special rights over that of others or requiring that the rights of others be curtailed. This makes it patently unfair to lump them in with those who do. They will in all probability happily fight for those same rights for all Malaysians, provided we can build a compelling enough vision for them to share in. This makes them a natural potential ally for any group who fights for equal rights for all. But we must realize that, if our end in mind is to support Hindraf & their members & to gain their support for our cause, all our vitriol & indignation, however well understood or righteous, will not take us one step closer to it.

B. Malaysian Democracy, where is it going?

This second part is not about Hindraf anymore, but about Pakatan Rakyat & our role in forming a “more perfect union” in Malaysia. At the root of it is this question: How would we define the Malaysia that we desire for ourselves?

My own “model” looks something like this:

  • A fully functional democracy & civic society.

  • Government and national leaders as servants of the people in its truest sense of the word.

  • Individual rights & freedoms respected, diversity in all forms valued & welcomed

  • Citizens, either individually or collectively, politically engaged.

  • Malaysians free from race bound thinking

  • People’s agenda & needs come first

  • Balanced development, social justice

  • Sound leadership at all levels – national, state, local govt.

  • True separation of powers

    • Judiciary above reproach

    • Truly independent Parliament, not mere rubber stamp

  • Government transparency, accountability & responsiveness

How might this look like in practice? Governance will not be left to government alone. Citizens will not only seek, but demand that they be consulted on major decisions. Individuals & groups will demand accountability from their government. Politics is no longer a dirty word or the exclusive domain of politicians only. To politicize something will no longer mean to use an issue for personal gain, but to raise an issue for full enlightened discussion before collective decision making, not behind closed doors, but in the bright light of day.

Yes, it will be noisy, raucous even. Diverse groups will bandy about their own manifestos for the common good & they will jostle with other groups for influence & mindshare. But this noise of the marketplace is infinitely more desirable to the dead silence of the temple, where only high priests may enter. It will also be necessary, since to know what the rakyat’s agenda is, leaders will need to be in constant engagement & dialogue. Leaders do not get a blank cheque once every 5 years, and the only decision that is the sole discretion or prerogative of a single leader is when to resign.

No blind loyalty to any party or leader. No cult of personality and no unrealistic belief that leaders are angels who know better what’s good for the rakyat. No political party would ever dare presume to demand loyalty or obeisance from the rakyat, and if there is to be any vitriol at all to be had, it will be from citizens towards the government and not the other way around.

Finally, no more trips to Disneyland, and the PM rides the bus to work :-).

Wouldn’t this make the jobs of our leaders more difficult? Wouldn’t this make government’s plate full? You betcha, but that’s the price of leadership.

The next question is, How ready is Pakatan Rakyat to deliver this? Some issues:

Firstly let’s consider DSAI himself. True, he has been the unifying factor in getting PAS, PKR & DAP as well as the other groups to work together. His image and political persona as well as the sympathy he gets for having been the target of Mahathir’s frame-up gives him a store of political capital. Indeed, he was the only one who could have so brilliantly enunciated the concept of “Ketuanan Rakyat”. However, this is no substitute for substance, and his penchant for political grandstanding can seriously damage the credibility of PR, especially when the hype exceeds the delivery. Malaysians instinctively distrust the big-headed, the over ambitious, the arrogant & the boastful show-offs. It would be a disaster if he turned out to be too much of a politician to be a good leader. My thoughts: DSAI needs to work on delivering substance, building a compelling vision and avoiding errors; his political skills impress but he is not the Second Coming.

Secondly, let’s look at PR’s mandate from PRU-12. PRU-12 was indeed a perfect tsunami, but it would be a mistake to assume that we will automatically see a repeat performance for PRU-13. True, more voted for PR out of opposition to BN’s policies & practices, but large numbers also voted in protest of higher prices, deteriorating living standards and other bread & butter issues, not to mention the internal disunity in BN component parties. There is nothing to stop these voters from returning to BN if they manage to stabilise the economy & create some semblance of unity within BN; unless PR creates a true alternative vision for Malaysia that all Malaysians can unite behind. This PR has not done convincingly yet. BN may still use our tactical errors to begin rolling back the gains of PRU-12. Serious potential gaps in the ideologies of PR parties exist and we cannot rely on DSAI’s personality alone or a string of by-election victories to keep things together. My thoughts: From now until PRU-13, creating & sharing this vision & how it will be realised for all is job no. 1 for PR.

I can appreciate that given the current state of affairs, our leaders are pre-occupied with various issues. However, when PR finally forms the next government, the problems that the rakyat face will still be there, and BN is not going to disappear into thin air. Our plates will still be full, even fuller than they are now. So if we really believe in participatory democracy, if we really believe in “Ketuanan Rakyat”, then perhaps we had better begin practicing it from today, instead of waiting for the day after PRU-13. Is this crossing the bridge too early? I don’t think so – develop good habits now, show the rakyat we practice what we preach & prepare ourselves for victory in PRU-13.


Malaysian Heart

Bukit Selambau: An Urgent Call for Calm & Understanding, and Suggestions for a Way Forward

Something I wrote before the Bukit Selambau by-elections:

I’m writing this with deep concern over the Pakatan Rakyat’s prospects in the Selambau Election as well as for the future of the alternatif movement as well. Just over a month ago we were quite united, and so confident that BN could never win, even against goats & cows. Today the situation has changed dramatically, as the conflict that is apparently brewing within the AM over the choice of candidate for the Bukit Selambau by election threatens our chances there as well the achievement of our aspirations for Malaysia. I say apparently, because my only sources of information are news reports & blogs postings, some from the MSM, some from bloggers & journalists whose agendas I don’t know about. I have no way of verifying what is the real situation, & given the Standard Operating Procedures of our opponents in the past, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to the TRUTH.

What I find especially distressing is the tone of the anger that has been directed at Hindraf & the PKR dissenters, in the comments & reports in our blogosphere. On page after page they have had so many insults, threats & stereotypes hurled at them, it is as if BN’s propaganda in the MSM & blogs designed to demonize, demoralize & discredit them has done its job. I don‘t doubt that most of our comments have been made with good intentions & end in mind, i.e. victory for PR, and were sparked by that sense of urgency & alarm that we all feel as the elections approach. Nevertheless, I cannot but feel that such a tone is unworthy of anyone who shares in the values that I believe PR stands for.

Have we forgotten the role that Hindraf played in making 8/3/08 possible? These are the people who, in their pain & desperation could do nothing else but put their bodies & their lives in the path of the FRU & their chemical cannons. True, dissatisfaction with BN had been growing for a long time, but for me, seeing the blood that they shed when they stood their ground & embraced the truncheon’s blows over & over again, deeply changed the way that I thought & felt about my country & myself. They led the way, they electrified us, even shamed us into action; but sadly, to this very day, they and their families still bleed for it. Some are locked away & forgotten; some prosecuted & persecuted. Many know now what it is to be without Father, Husband or Family. Some, ill, uncared for and forsaken, deteriorate day by day; and one, in exile, may never get to return home, not even to die. Then, there’s that deepest & most painful of wounds that they all bear: the subtle racism, overt ostracism & slur; a wound to which we can now safely say, we have rubbed in our own little “contribution” of salt. Whatever you or I may think about Hindraf or their apparent position on Bukit Selambau, let us agree that at the very least, we owe them our respect & gratitude.

I’ve organised the rest of my thoughts under 4 headings:

A. Our Current Situation

B. What’s really at stake here

C. Suggested Way Forward

D. Final Thoughts

A. Our Current Situation

On the face of it we have Hindraf & PKR grassroots leaders are unhappy with PKR leaders’ decision to nominate S. Manikumar as PKR candidate for Bukit Selambau. Both (Hindraf & PKR) had prepared shortlists of their preferred candidates but none were chosen. Their main reasons for this unhappiness seem to be:

  • Disappointment at not being chosen themselves, as a “reward” for past hard work

  • Manikumar’s youth, inexperience, lack of record and not being a local, being a “crony”

  • Not being involved in the selection process

  • Lack of transparency in the process

  • Disagreement with process & selection criteria itself

  • Perceived double standards in selection

  • Possible issues with Manikumar’s allegedly fraudulent business dealings

  • Perception of there having been backroom deals with V. Arumugam with the involvement of DSAI’s friends (one Datuk Ravi?)

Other longer standing grouses with PR may be:

  • Lack of democracy in PKR & PKR Kedah, who have not held state-level elections since he joined in 2004

  • Perception of having been deceived by false promises and lack of progress on various development issues e.g. land for schools, citizenship documents, social issues, business opportunities & training

  • Perception of a lack of respect and appreciation

One thing I want to note here is these reasons, with the exception of the one regarding personal disappointment, are not racist (ala ketuanan UMNO/MCA/MIC) but actually speak to root issues of common concern.

As a result of this dissatisfaction:

  • 3 ex PKR members are standing in Bukit Selambau as independents

  • Hindraf is not supporting PKR’s campaign in Bukit Selambau

  • PKR’s Jerai division has disbanded itself & Kalaivanar has thrown his support for BN

  • Various commentators have condemned Hindraf & the PKR Kedah dissidents, with growing perception of Hindraf as an unworthy organisation with a agenda driven by racist or personal concerns

This conflict must be seen in the context of of PR’s growing list of problems & challenges (partly self inflicted, partly BN’s doing):

  • Abortive takeover of Parliament & our perceived loss of the moral high ground

  • Fall of Perak and PR’s subsequent tactical errors resulting in emotionally sensitive charges of derhaka and the attendant publicity

  • Perception amongst rakyat (not just Hindraf) that PR has not been effective & efficient, that PRU 12 promises have not been kept

  • Various scandals (real or engineered) surrounding PR personalities, accompanied by doubt’s about integrity of PR reps

  • Lack of a coherent common vision accompanied by bouts of discord between & within PR component parties

Add to all that a perceived BN “resurgence” due to Mahathir’s return to a “united” UMNO, Samy Vellu’s “new mandate” at MIC, Najib’s repressive countermeasures and we may just be seeing the beginnings of a “perfect storm”.

B. What’s really at stake here

Superficially, at stake is the victory in Bukit Selambau as well as in Bukit Gantang & Batang Ai. However we must go below the surface, and acknowledge that even if we win all three, given the current situation as outlined above, this conflict within us will slow down the momentum of our movement, perhaps even allow BN to begin rolling back the clock to pre-PRU 12. To regain forward momentum, as well as to help build a strong foundation for our struggle, a careful consideration of the deeper root issues raised by this conflict is needed within PR. What’s really at stake here is our movement’s identity, vision, direction & indeed future viability. These issues, all which overlap with real Hindraf/PKR grouses identiified above, are:

  • Vision & leadership

    • What is our vision for all Malaysians?

    • Is this vision a shared one? How do we create this consensus?

    • What are our strategies & policies to achieve this vision?

  • Values, Principles & Political Culture

    • What are our values & principles?

    • Are these values & principles practiced by our current leaders at all levels?

    • Do we want feudal “warlords” as leaders who know everything & cannot be questioned & seem to seek personal interests? Are there old BN habits & paradigms that still infect us?

    • Are we open, consultative, empowering, engaging & transparent?

    • Do we play the politics of race, patronage, feudalism, cronyism & nepotism, backroom dealmaking, numbers, rewards for loyalty? In other words business as usual BN style?

    • What is the true nature of the relationship between PR & rakyat?

  • Delivery & execution

    • How do we select & develop a truly representative cadre of leaders in such a way that no group feels left out?

    • Do we select leaders by ability, or as a reward for loyalty? Do we place unfair standards of class, formal education or wealth?

    • Is our leader selection process transparent, fair, where all have had a say in it and agreed the rules? Are there double standards?

    • How have we delivered on our promises since 8/3/08? A lot was promised.

    • Have we been fair & equitable or have we been busy fighting fires, living from crisis to crisis (some of our own making), & neglected to lead in the truest sense of the word?

    • How do we work with marginalized groups who bear the brunt of BN’s failed policies? Takeovers of Parliament & long term political goals are all well & good but what do we do to ease their suffering here & now?

  • Communication (most of the misunderstanding is really attributable to poor communication & engagement)

    • How do we inform & educate stakeholders, understand & manage expectations, & get our message across?

    • How do we work with multiple stakeholders, with common broad goals but diverse cultures & perspectives?

    • How do we raise the level of political discourse beyond race & patronage?

    • How do we work with the various groups who are at different levels of political maturity, thanks to our political monoculture of the last 50 years?

C. One Way Forward

The thing to do is to sit down together & share one’s thoughts & feelings openly. The main purpose of this meeting should be to find & develop a common vision, set of values, principles and goals that we truly share. When that is done, consider & address the dissatisfaction & disagreements that have been the cause.

I suggest that Tuan Guru Nik Aziz (probably the most respected leader in Malaysia) be the host or convenor. The leadership of both sides must come with open minds & most importantly open hearts. There can be no place for personal egos, posturing & rhetoric or trying to gain concessions ala BN’s old politics. All talks must be firmly based on mutual respect and objective truth that can be verified. If we only plaster over cracks by merely soothing tensions while ignoring the real issues, we are setting ourselves up for future disaster.

There will not be enough time to cover every detail, but there is enough to begin to repair the relationship. It may be too late to undo some mistakes if mistakes have been made. If both sides decide that we can work together, come out of that room together & share with all of Malaysia what you have just achieved. Make it crystal clear that no effort will be spared to achieve victory, make it plain that errors have acknowledged, bonds have been mended, wrongs have been set right and changes have been committed to. Then let us each do what we do best.

D. Final Thoughts

To PR: Most of Hindraf’s & PKR’s grouses seem to be real & most are based on one or more of the common issues stated above. Granted, 1 or 2 personalities seem to be pushing for personal gain & “reward”, but once the underlying grouses are addressed, those with personal interests in mind will be clearly identifiable & obvious to all. I disagree with Neil Khor & others who say that Hindraf has a “radical race based agenda” and I do not believe that there is any fundamental unbridgeable ideological difference between PR & Hindraf. With their leaders behind bars & the perception that we have forsaken them, what we are seeing is not a racial agenda ala UMNO/MCA/MIC but frustration over the issues raised, coupled with the vestiges of BN thinking & political paradigm. As I said before, old habits die hard. The right question to ask is how do we engage them? Let us start by acknowledging that some of us have been treating Hindraf as the Greeks treated Philoctetes, good enough to fight for us but not good enough to be in our company & to engage with fully. The day we start ignoring constitutents we will start becoming BN hoping to win based on a not BN USP. PR same as BN. However, under no circumstances must you compromise your non-sectarian agenda”.

To Hindraf & PKR dissidents: I won’t pretend that I understand the depth of your pain. But I will say this: the Chinese have a saying: “tong zhou gong ji” which means “when people are in the same boat, they should help each other”. Right now, except for the BNputras & their cronies, we are all in the same boat, and our boat is now leaking. If we do not help each other now, we will all sink together. So in this emergency with 8 days left it’s time to get our boat safely across. True, your community has been marginalized by BN and I won’t try to lessen or underestimate your suffering, but you must acknowledge that you are not the only one in pain. Poor Malays & orang asli still face conditions just as bad. I’m not asking you to sacrifice your principles or tolerate unfair dealing from anyone, PR included. Ask the tough questions and hold PR accountable for whatever they have promised. But at the same time be prepared to honestly reexamine Hindraf’s struggle. Do not be chained to old BN ways of thinking, and do not be afraid to think out of the box. Please take the opportunity to make your voice heard. The overwhelming perception out there is that some amongst you are seeking personal position or that you are only fighting for a narrow racist agenda. This is a golden opportunity to set the record straight. Supporting BN now will only harden & solidify the this negative perception.

Make no mistake, a vote for any of the independents or a even spoilt vote will be a vote for BN. It would be a real loss for all if people who have the same overall goals fail to work tohgether & hand victory to those who have been oppresing all of us these many years. And while you are considering your next course of action, do be aware of those in your midst whose may not have your best interests at heart.

May I also humbly remind you of Waythamoorthy’s words, that I believe ring so true today: “Many see Hindraf as an opportunity to gain leverage and dictate their own benefits. This is totally against our principles. Hindraf is you and me who are battling a war for better policies and governance for the Malaysian Indian as a society with equal and fair treatment as opposed to individual glamour and glory."

To both PR & Hindraf: Don’t let BN exploit this division by spreading more lies & confusion. Their MSM & blogs have already begun. We only help BN more when the tone of our discourse deteriorate to the level of provocations, threats & insults. To see that happen will be BN’s ultimate victory.

Let me be very clear - I voted for PR not to see 1 BN replaced by another. I did not vote for PR for special treatment for myself, my family or my race. I did not vote for PR to be their crony. I voted for PR for an end to corruption, cronyism, imbalanced development, mismanagement of national resources, authoritarianism, intitutionalised & societal racism. But I want a government that is more than just a mere negation of BN or “the lesser of 2 evils”. I want a government that is responsive, tolerant, respects the rakyat, transparent, fair & equitable, that promotes individual freedom & human rights. I strongly believe that these are the common bonds that unite us. Let us show that we can overcome conflicts, rediscover what really holds us together & emerge victorious together.

Lest we lose hope in our struggle, let us remember that in politics, conflict among partners is common, due to the political culture that is dominant. We need a new political culture & after 50 years, old habits die hard. Ever since 8/3/08 we have had to undergo a steep learning curve, and we cannot expect too much in 1 year & must not delude ourselves that all our leaders are all angels who will know instinctively what we the rakyat want. It is up to all of us to ensure that our leaders know what we want & to keep them on the straight path.

Now, what can we do as individuals about this. Consider carefully what is right, then communicate it to your family, friends, leaders. Get involved, for our future, the future of our country is too important to be left to chance, to in the hands of politicians.


Malaysian Heart