Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Price of Malaysia's Racism

Published on WSJ: Wall Street Journal

Malaysia's national tourism agency promotes the country as "a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony."

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak echoed this view when he announced his government's theme, One Malaysia. "What makes Malaysia unique," Mr. Najib said, "is the diversity of our peoples.. One Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity, which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future."

If Mr. Najib is serious about achieving that goal, a long look in the mirror might be in order first. Despite the government's new catchphrase, racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr. Najib took office in 2009. Indeed, they are
worse than at any time since 1969, when at least 200 people died in racial clashes between the majority Malay and minority Chinese communities. The recent deterioration is due to the troubling fact that the country's leadership is tolerating, and in some cases provoking, ethnic factionalism through words and actions.

For instance, when the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur invited the prime minister for a Christmas Day open house last December, Hardev Kaur, an aide to Mr. Najib, said Christian crosses would have to be removed. There could be no carols or prayers, so as not to offend the prime minister, who is Muslim. Ms. Kaur later insisted that she "had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction," as if any Malaysian could say no to a request from the prime minister's office.

Similar examples of insensitivity abound. In September 2009, Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Onn met with protesters who had carried the decapitated head of a cow, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, to an Indian temple. Mr. Hishammuddin then held a press conference defending their actions.

Two months later, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that one reason Malaysia's armed forces are overwhelmingly Malay is that other ethnic groups have a "low spirit of patriotism." Under public pressure, he later apologized.

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib's political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy.

It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed. This steady erosion of tolerance is more than a political challenge. It's an economic problem as well.

Once one of the developing world's stars, Malaysia's economy has underperformed for the past decade. To meet its much-vaunted goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia needs to grow by 8% per year during this decade. That level of growth will require major private investment from both domestic and foreign sources, upgraded human skills, and significant economic reform. Worsening racial and religious tensions stand in the way.

Almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009, more than doubling the number of Malaysian professionals who live overseas. It appears that most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, whether in education, business, or government. Many of these emigrants, as well as the many Malaysian students who study overseas and never return (again, most of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indian), have the business, engineering, and scientific skills that Malaysia needs for its future. They also have the cultural and linguistic savvy to enhance Malaysia's economic ties with Asia's two biggest growing markets, China and India.

Of course, one could argue that discrimination isn't new for these Chinese and Indians. Malaysia's affirmative action policies for its Malay majority — which give them preference in everything from stock allocation to housing discounts — have been in place for decades. So what is driving the ethnic minorities away now?

First, these minorities increasingly feel that they have lost a voice in their own government. The Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling coalition are supposed to protect the interests of their communities, but over the past few years, they have been neutered. They stand largely silent in the face of the growing racial insults hurled by their Malay political partners. Today over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created in 2010 that is supposed to encourage overseas Malaysians to return home, is headed by a Malay, with an all-Malay Board of Trustees.

Second, economic reform and adjustments to the government's affirmative action policies are on hold. Although Mr. Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an "inclusive" affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib's words, "market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based," he has failed to follow through.

This is because of opposition from right-wing militant Malay groups such as Perkasa, which believe that a move towards meritocracy and transparency threatens what they call "Malay rights." But stalling reform will mean a further loss in competitiveness and slower growth. It also means that the cronyism and no-bid contracts that favor the well-connected will continue.

All this sends a discouraging signal to many young Malaysians that no matter how hard they study or work, they will have a hard time getting ahead. Mr. Najib may not actually believe much of the rhetoric emanating from his party and his government's officers, but he tolerates it because he needs to shore up his Malay base. It's politically convenient at a time when his party faces its most serious opposition challenge in recent memory — and especially when the opposition is challenging the government on ethnic policy and its economic consequences.

One young opposition leader, parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed a national debate on what she called the alternative visions of Malaysia's future — whether it should be a Malay nation or a Malaysian nation. For that, she earned the wrath of Perkasa; the government suggested her remark was "seditious."

Malaysia's government might find it politically expedient to stir the racial and religious pot, but its opportunism comes with an economic price tag. Its citizens will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business.

Mr. Malott was the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How the Government Can Be Changed

Raja Petra at ANU (Australian National University), on how the Government can be changed:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

People's Call for Regime Change

People’s Call for Regime Change – Part 1By NH Chan
17 February, 2011

The uprising in Egypt, the uprising in Tunisia,the uprising in Yemen and even in Jordan there are rumblings in the kingdom. The message is clear. The people do not want their dictators.

And what is the difference between kings, dictators and oligarchs? They are all totalitarian regimes this means a system of government consisting of only one leader or party and having complete power and control over the people.

But the people do not want that kind of government; they want democracythis word means a form of government in which the people have a say in who should hold power; they do not want despotism. And this wish of the people could only mean that they want a government of the people, by the people and for the people which is what a true democracy actually is.

In other words, they do not want repressive rule in any shape or form. They want human rights. They do not want draconian and oppressive laws.

In short, they do not want to live under a perennial state of emergency because all emergency laws are only excuses for tyranny. They also want freedom of speech and a free press.

In other words they want a government which is accountable to the people. They want change from authoritarian – this word, which is an adjective, means demanding strict obedience of authority – rule.

And what is the antithesis of totalitarianism? It is democracy, which is what the people really want. In a democracy, the people can choose their own representatives in government. If the people’s choice did not perform up to their expectations they could be replaced by the people.

In a true democracy, there will be no such thing as intervention from an illegitimate source to hijack the people’s choice of representatives in their government.

The foreboding of a dictatorship

What has happened in Egypt and in the Middle East was a people’s call for regime change. The dictators there who have clung to power should have seen the writing on the wall; it was time for them to leave. The people, especially the young people because they are educated and well informed, did not want them. They have overstayed their tenure.

They became corrupted by power; there is a well known adage which says power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any dictatorship is tyrannical – the word means ‘using power in a cruel and oppressive way’ – as was seen in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak who had clung to power for 30 years. In recent events there, we have seen water cannons and tear gas being used on peaceful protestors by the regime. Mubarak’s Gestapo like police have tortured and killed dissenters: I saw a peaceful protestor exclaim on TV “They have shot me! What am I? The enemy?”

In this country we have been governed by the Barisan Nasional (BN) for some 53 years. This country is supposed to be a democracy. But it is not. Guided democracy is nothing more than an excuse for tyranny. We still have draconian laws. People are still being incarcerated under the ISA which is detention without trial. There is police brutality which seems to be endemic in the force. The people’s fundamental freedoms have been muzzled; they have even used the Sedition Act against the country’s citizens.

Respect cannot be forced. If you are good respect comes naturally. The people do not want their legitimately elected state government to be hijacked by the autocrats. What happened in Perak and in Selangor are the clearest examples of governmental wrongdoings. So that if these autocrats are not careful, the tyrannical happenings in this country could easily turn into a catalyst for change.

But we do not want to follow the trend as played out in the Middle East. It is necessary, therefore, that we earnestly take steps to make the change from the BN regime at the next general elections by replacing it with a democratic one.

We do not want autocrats – the word means ‘rulers or persons with absolute power who expect obedience’ – to tell us with supercilious arrogance what is good for us, for that is another excuse for tyranny.

We want our rulers to be answerable to us, the people. Despots are not needed to run this country because they will always be corrupted by power – that is the reason why the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet should not be allowed to stay in office for more than two terms. The same should apply to the Menteri Besars and the Excos.

Animal FarmIf you have read Animal Farm -a novel by George Orwell, published in 1945 – you will know what I mean. The book is a satire in fable form. The pigs (whose leader is Napoleon) become corrupted by power and a new tyranny replaces the old. The ultimate slogan runs ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others‘.

The BN has been with us for 53 years and on each succession of the BN government a new tyranny replaces the old. I say this because nothing has changed since the BN came to power. We have the same repressive laws. But there is now a new tyranny. The new evil is the hijacking of a legitimately elected state government in Perak and this, in my estimation, is the last straw for the people of Perak to tolerate. For the rest of the country, remember this, if it can happen in Perak it could happen again elsewhere in this country.

This was mainly the reason that made me change my mind from being apolitical to decide to vote for the underdogs because what the BN had done to Perak was wickedly unfair and unjustifiable.

After reading the book Perak: A State of Crisis I realized that these people do not even know right from wrong. They even gloat in their wrongdoings. We do not want the oligarchy – this word means a country governed by a small group of people – to be more equal than us.

I don’t have to tell you who they are – even in the BN some ‘animals’ are more equal than others. Look at their opulence.

It is a good thing if every member of the Cabinet and every member of the Exco are investigated as to their financial status and assets before they can assume office. And when they leave office they are to be investigated again. They are to be accountable if they are found to be richer than what they could have earned while in office when they leave.

That is why democracy requires the representatives of the people to be accountable to the people. Look at Mr Lim Kit Siang, he has been in politics for as long as I can remember and his son is currently the Chief Minister of Penang. Another was the late Dr Lim Chong Eu. The Perakians and the Penangites know that they are not rich.
One should be in politics to serve the people, not to get rich.

NH Chan, a much respected former Court of Appeal Judge, is a gavel of justice that has no hesitation in pounding on Federal Court judges with wooden desks for heads. Retired from the Judiciary to become the People's Judge.

'Wrote the explosive “Judging The Judges”, now in its 2nd edition as “How To Judge The Judges”. Once famously hinted at a possible “case match” between lawyer and judge by remarking that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (see Ayer Molek Rubber Company Berhad & Ors v Insas Berhad & Anor [1995] 3 CLJ 359).

We need more people like NH Chan. That's why you should buy PASOC and his book

Malaysia & the Club of Doom

By Syed Akbar Ali

Well Tobruk in Libya fell yesterday. I was listening to Muammar Ghaddafi live on Al Jazeera last nite. He was quite incoherent. When he said ‘haazi bilaadi’ (this is my country), I think he really meant it. Macam bapak dia punya negeri.

I also received a phone call last nite from a friend. He just called to say that those things that I had said in my book about the Islamic countries collapsing is coming true. My second book is called ‘Malaysia And The Club of Doom – The Collapse of the Islamic Countries’. It was published five years ago in 2006. My dear wife says my predictions are more accurate than Nostradamus.

The fact is there is no need for ‘Nostradamus’. Looking at the Islamic countries, speaking to Muslims everyday, looking at their non dependence on logic, looking at their divorce from competition and the free market, looking at their over dependence on the Government giving them jobs and sustaining them, looking at the fanatic grip and influence of their many, many versions of “religion” in their daily lives – I cannot help seeing it as clear as daylight that they are all doomed.These are standard observations in almost all Islamic countries. There is no need to be a Nostradamus. I could just see it coming. Sorry folks. I don’t know how else to say this.

Yes I was very pessimistic about the fate of the Islamic countries in that book. Sad to say I am still very pessimistic about the fate of the Islamic countries. For Malaysia I am very pessimistic about the fate of the Muslims in this country.

My book has sold over 13,000 copies. That is not bad at all for an English language book written by a Malaysian author in a non English speaking country. I don’t want to brag or boast or toot my own horn, but a few people have suggested that my book be made required reading in Universities and colleges in Malaysia. Yes I agree, very strongly. No other Muslim Malaysian author has written a book similar to ‘Malaysia And The Club of Doom – The Collapse of the Islamic Countries’. And now many of the things I have said in the book have come true.Especially the Muslims should read and understand what I said in that book.

There are many, many reasons why the Islamic countries are facing serious problems. The cancer is very, very deep. Yes they can get rid of Hosni Mubarak, they can get rid of Khaddafy, they can change the Government in Bahrain. But this will NOT solve their problems overnite. God knows, these countries may become even more worse.

Here are some facts about Islamic countries. This is about their population explosion problem. Malaysia is NOT excluded:

Population Explosion in the Muslim World
By Nidhal Guessoum, an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah.

. The population of Egypt has increased from 44 million to 84 million people in the past 30 years! According to World Bank statistics, it is expected to reach 130 million in 2050. That is undoubtedly a stunning explosion.

· Algeria’s population increased from 19 to 35 million between 1980 and 2010 and is expected to reach 50 million in 2050;

· Iran’s population increased from 39 to 74 million in the past 30 years and is expected to reach 96 million in 2050;

· Pakistan’s population increased from 83 to 173 million in the past 30 years and is expected to reach 321 million in 2050;

· Even Malaysia (a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and well-managed country) is seeing the same doubling of population trend: from 14 to 28 million in the past 30 years, reaching 39 million by 2050;

· Saudi Arabia : the figures show even more staggering explosions (from 9 to 26 million in the past 30 years, reaching 42 million in 2050)

May I add that Indonesia has 235 million people in 2010. In 2000 their population was 206 million. At current growth, their population is expected to hit 470 million by 2060.

This is yet another serious problem facing the Islamic countries. Population doubling or tripling in just 30 years. 26 million in Saudi Arabia, 84 million in Egypt, 35 million in Algeria, 74 million in Iran, 173 million in Pakistan and 28 million in Malaysia.

Are there enough jobs, economic opportunities, infrastructure facilities (schools, hospitals, roads, water, electricity) for all these people? In Pakistan some parts of the country get electricity and water on only certain times of the day or some days of the week.

Why do the Islamic countries suffer (yes the word is suffer) such huge population explosions? Well many Muslims do NOT believe in family planning or birth control. The religious scholars are usually against birth control. (I am NOT referring to abortion – I am against abortion too).

The religious scholars have a saying which says ‘memperbanyakkan ummah’ or increasing the population of the ummah. In Biblical language it is the same as saying “go forth and multiply”.

Not surprisingly Old Testament Christians, like the Catholics, still say the same thing. Until today the Catholic Church believes strongly that birth control or family planning is unchristian. And it is a proven fact that Catholic families have larger numbers of children than Protestants. The Vatican has never fully endorsed family planning and birth control.

Why is this so? Because the Bible says so. Here are some references from the Bible. Yes these are from the Old Testament and yes many Christians don’t believe the Old Testament anymore but the Vatican and the Catholic Church may disagree. But I am not here to pass judgement on the Bible or Christians. I am merely pointing out that these beliefs have a precedent in the Bible.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

Genesis 35:11 And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number.

My view is these verses can be generally termed the ‘go forth and multiply’ verses of the Bible. It is the equivalent of the ‘memperbanyakkan ummah’ saying. The Bible also tells its followers to increase their number through birth. Make more babies.

Yes you can make babies but who is going to feed them? Clothe them? Educate them? Jobs are already scarce, food prices are going up, the economies in the Islamic countries are less productive. So how are they going to provide a good life for six children or nine children?

The religious people say God will provide for them. This is true. The Quran does say:

[Surah 17:31] You shall not kill your children due to fear of poverty. We provide for them, as well as for you. Killing them is a gross offense.

The Quran never said that it is wrong to have fewer children or to plan your family. God never said that you must have two children, six children, seven children or nine children. The Quran remains silent on the numbers. The Quran says it is evil to kill your children but nowhere does the Quran say that you must “go forth and multiply” at all. The saying “memperbanyakkan ummah” is extra Quranic, it is NOT from the Quran.

Even a religious scholar must understand that the more mouths you have to feed, it means more children will have to make do with less. Imagine satu ekor ikan kembong shared by six people. Ayah makan ekor, ibu makan kepala and the kids can pick at the middle.

What about education? We in Malaysia are lucky because ada duit minyak Petronas. Buku teks percuma, yuran sekolah percuma, university percuma and so on. But even that is coming to an end. With 30 million population, even Petronas oil money will not be enough to ‘bagi percuma’ forever.

Look at Indonesia. They have more oil money than us – but with 235 million population, the Government cannot give them things “percuma”. They cannot afford it. Not enough money to “bagi semua benda free”.What if our oil money runs out? Macam mana kalau minyak pula habis? Macam mana nak dapat buku teks free, yuran free, university free dan sebagainya?

This is another reason why the Islamic countries are doomed. They are facing a tremendous population explosion. Their religious beliefs prevent them from embarking on good family planning. As a result they will have four, five, six or ten kids per family. The children will be fed no doubt, but as I said ‘enam orang share se ekor ikan kembong lah’.

OK lah buku teks dapat free, yuran sekolah free, hospital pun sabsidi. But what about piano lessons for the kids? Computer lessons? Music class? Ballet? Extra sports activities? Books, magazines, computers, lap tops. Taking the kids on holidays overseas? Or going for a domestic holiday? Forget it.. Semua tak boleh.

Travelling opens up our mind. If teenagers travel overseas, they see and learn so much. My two young sons are better people for having seen half a dozen different countries and understanding more about the world at large. But all this costs money. Kalau lah anak enam orang atau lapan orang, how are we going to take eight kids on a foreign holiday?

Then when they grow up, will they be able to compete? Can they get good jobs? Can they set up businesses that can compete without tongkat and sabsidi? Or can they only work for the Government sector? Or will they become low level ‘manpower’ for the Japanese and the American foreign companies?

“Go forth and multiply” (which sounds so similar to 'memperbanyakkan ummah') is another belief that is found in the Bible. There is no such saying in the Quran.

Folks, for the Muslim countries it is not as simple as dumping Hosni Mubarak, throwing out Khaddafy or changing the government. That is important too. That is the first step. But the Muslims have a much longer road ahead. They really have to start thinking now. Using the mind, that is the real frontier the Muslims have to overcome - to think logically and to use intellect, minus "religious" obfuscations.