Thursday, April 17, 2008


Thursday, 17 April 2008 06:36am
©The Star (Used by permission)Brave New World by Azmi Sharom

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

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

It did not take very long for voices, both common and royal, to rise up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now “under threat”.“Under threat” from what, may I ask? Let’s take a bit of time to look at this so-called “threat”.

Firstly, Malays are given special protection under Article 153 of the Constitution.Article 153 is titled “Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc, for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”.

Article 152 states that Malay is the National Language. The Supreme Head of the Federation, according to Article 32, is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay ruler. This is the foundation of Malay “special privileges”.

None of the Pakatan Rakyat component parties, including the DAP, have said anything about removing Articles 153, 152 and 32. They remain safe and secure with no sign whatsoever of any sort of threat. Besides, in order to change it, you would need a two-thirds majority in the lower and upper houses of Parliament plus the support of the Conference of Rulers. The last time I checked, no one has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Secondly, due to simple demographics, it is unlikely that a totally non-Malay party is ever going to win absolute control of the government.

Of the five state governments in the hands of the Pakatan, four are led by a Malay Mentri Besar. Penang is an exception, but Penang has been led by non-Malays since the 60s. Why was there was no outcry before this?

Thirdly, the proposed doing-away with the NEP (or whatever it is called nowadays), I suppose, can be seen as a threat to the Malays.But how it can be a threat is beyond me, because the replacement suggested by the Pakatan is not some sort of laissez-faire capitalist economy. Instead, it is an economic system with affirmative action promised to those in need.

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

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

So we need a policy like the NEP to provide some balance.I disagree.If there are racist business policies being conducted against the Malays, then you face it head on with anti-discrimination laws.

If some person feels he is being discriminated against, no matter what his race, then let there be a law to help him, and let us punish the racists with a hefty fine or jail term.You do not meet racism with racism; you challenge it by destroying all traces of it.

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

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

This means that once inside a service, everyone is to be treated equally based on merit. In such a situation, only the cream will rise to the top.However, since the introduction of the NEP, the practice in government services has been to promote Malays mainly.

This has in turn led to a drop in the number of non-Malay actors in the service of the public. Taking my profession for example, the closeted unrealistic world of academia, I look down south and I see that 30% of the staff in the National University of Singapore Law School are Malaysians.

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

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

Perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony, in which case my answer to that is this: clean up your act, live up to your promises and listen to what the people are saying. Make yourself electable by proving that you can create good government.

That is called democracy.

Dr Azmi Sharom is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tamil daily Makkal Osai banned

The Home Ministry today rejected the renewal of Tamil daily Makkal Osai's publication permit, a move believed to be related to the widespread coverage given to the opposition.
When contacted, Makkal Osai general manager SM Periasamy confirmed that the ministry issued the letter which stated that the daily's application 'will not be considered'.

Read more here

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He's Back!

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — De facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim looked every inch the prime minister-in-waiting when he calmly announced that his Pakatan Rakyat has the numbers and is ready to form the federal government.

"Now I am saying for the first time that we are ready," Anwar told reporters after a 10,000-strong rally in the historic Sultan Sulaiman Club in central Kuala Lumpur celebrating his formal return to politics. He was barred from active politics until midnight April 14 after a corruption conviction in 1999.

Since 1993 when he won the Umno deputy presidency, veteran opposition leader and former nemesis-turned-ally Lim Kit Siang had tagged Anwar as a prime-minister-in-waiting – a tag he now assumes proudly as burly guards escorted him through the club after they led a convoy of big bikes to deliver him to the club premises in Kampung Baru.

He also said the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) could appoint his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – the Parti Keadilan Rakyat president and Parliamentary Opposition leader – as Prime Minister, if he had yet to get a seat in parliament. However, he said the appointment would depend on consensus.

Asked if he would run for a parliament seat, Anwar replied that he would answer that question once the MPs are sworn in on April 28. "I want to build the coalition first. My personal interest comes later."Anwar disclosed that his coalition had spoken to lawmakers from both Sarawak and Sabah who had requested for more development and also increased royalties from commodities extracted from both states.

"We will only enter if the majority is complete," he said, also implying the coalition had the necessary numbers to form the federal government.

Anwar's coalition won 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament, delivering a huge and historic blow to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Barisan Nasional coalition which won 140 seats, eight short of two-third majority which the BN had always assumed as its right. The BN also lost control of four states apart from Kelantan.

Anwar, whose one-hour speech to the crowd was halted by police at 10.35pm, also lashed out at former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad - his one-time-mentor-turned-nemesis.

"I've refrained for a long time from responding to Dr Mahathir's vicious and venomous personal attacks. I consider his views obsolete. Unfortunately, he's getting crazier, he's never consistent and has a particular personal agenda to promote Najib and free him from all scandals."

Ban lifted on Hindu and Sikh priests, temple workers

Source: Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 – The Hindu and Sikh communities can now heave a huge sigh of relief. The ban on foreign workers from India who have been brought in to help build and run Hindu temples and gurdwaras has been lifted.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam today issued a statement that the government has decided to renew the working permits of temple priests, musicians and sculptors who were brought in from India to continue rendering their services in the country. However, the statement does not address the status of fresh applications.

Subramaniam, who is also secretary-general of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), said he raised the issue at the last Cabinet meeting on April 9.

Datuk A. Vaithilingam who is the president of Hindu Sangam, the umbrella body for all Hindus in the country, said that it was good news but an unnecessary step in the first place. The ban was ordered by the Cabinet sometime late last year, he added.

“At the moment, they have accepted in principle. I'm told that there will be a meeting later with Home Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar to discuss the details but I don't know when. I don't know why only the workers from India were affected,” he said.

In the meantime, the Hindu Sangam will continue to make new applications to bring in more priests, musicians and sculptors to fulfil the current shortage. There are roughly 180 priests for Hindu temples, which is not enough to meet the local demand.

According to MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras are in dire need of some 500 and 300 priests respectively.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Anwar : 'Umno, not Malays, under threat'

Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said the ‘Ketuanan Melayu' card increasing played up by Umno is to divert attention from the party's internal problems following its unprecedented setback in last month's general election.The former Umno deputy president said this today at a hotel in Shah Alam when he was asked to comment on Utusan Malaysia's ‘Ketuanan Melayu tercabar' front-page headlines in the Umno-owned newspaper.

At a gathering organised by newly formed Barisan B Tengku Faris Petra told the crowd that it was not appropriate for other ethnic groups to seek equality and privileges accorded to Malays."We didn't hear much about this (Malay rights) issue last month or before the elections. I believe their intentions are to divert the attention of everyone," said Anwar.He said that instead of the ‘Ketuanan Melayu' concept, the more important cause is ‘Ketuanan Rakyat'."And when we say 'rakyat', it includes the Malays...especially the downtrodden ones and not the rich ones," said Anwar, who is former finance minister.
Read more here