January 31, 2008
(my comments are here below in Imran’s latest article)
|Imran Imtiaz Shah Yacob|
|31 January 2008|
The cycle of blaming foreign workers for its woes has begun in Malaysia
The Malaysian government’s recent decision to send home at least 200,000 foreign workers by 2009 and to push more out of the country by 2015 hints at the deep divisions that the migrants, legal and illegal alike, have stirred in their host country.
As with most countries, when hard times start to appear – and Malaysia’s economy is starting to turn down – migrants get the blame for rising crime, stealing jobs from the locals, cultural pollution, overloading school systems, not carrying their share of the tax burden and even spreading HIV, almost none of which is true. Nonetheless, the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi feels it has no choice but to put a stop to the influx in an effort to solve many of the country’s problems, which analysts say isn’t going to do much good, and in fact could do considerable harm.
“The immediate effect (of the expulsions) is that the labor supply will be significantly depleted, upsetting local as well as multinational employers relying on migrant workers,” says Tricia Yeoh, Senior Research Analyst at the Centre for Public Policy Studies. “There will be a time-lag while waiting for local Malaysians to fill in the menial labor gaps.”
This is kinda late in reporting, but thought some people might be interested in it:
KAIROS PUBLIC FORUM
Religious Liberty Under Threat
Time/date: 8.30pm, Thu 31 January 2008
Venue: Heritage Centre, Petaling Jaya
Speakers: Dr Ng Kam Weng & Mr Lim Heng Seng
Malaysian citizens – Malaysian Christians in particular – should be greatly disturbed by recent events that give alarming evidence of the erosion of religious liberty in the country. These events include civil court judgments that advise non-Muslims to go the shariah courts to settle matters of divorce and child custody, body snatching from funeral parlors, the demolition of temples and churches, and the seizures of Sunday School materials and Christian story books for children from bookshops. Of great concern is the Cabinet announcement that non-Muslims may not use the word ‘Allah’. This prohibition would ban Holy Scriptures (Alkitab) and forbid Christians from using well established liturgy, hymns and prayers in their worship services.
Are these events merely ad-hoc actions by the authorities or do they reflect the implementation of a more fundamental Islamic policy that informs and guides the authorities in their treatment of peoples of other faiths? How should Christians view these developments? This public forum will provide an analysis of current trends in our nation and explore how Christians may firmly and constructively respond to these challenges that threaten religious liberty in general and the Christian faith in particular.
About the speakers
Dr Ng Kam Weng is Research Director of Kairos Research Centre.
Mr Lim Heng Seng, a former senior federal counsel and chairman of the industrial court, is currently a partner in a law firm in Kuala Lumpur.
Revolution of Hope (ROH) Malaysia, a project I have been part of since last year, has undergone a revamp of its website. See the newly revised one here. An excerpt from the site:
As you can see, we now have an entirely new looking blog which we hope to update rather frequently. We also hope for this site to be a resource cite for you to download papers or articles we might have written and feel would be beneficial for you.
Hope it will be useful to you! If you have contributions to make, do send an email to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org – we are looking for articles and opinions related to Christianity and the social fabric of Malaysia. (that almost covers everything!!)
One of the civil society initiatives at the UNCAC is to have an ongoing live feed of discussions, statements and stands made. So the website is here, if you want to check out the exciting stuff emerging out of here.
Lots of talk on ensuring that whistleblowers receive protection when they report on corruption. If we remember, our Minister in the PM’s Department accidentally blurted out that we have a Whistleblowers Protection Act but unfortunately we do not. In the main plenary session, we were all asked to stand for a minute’s silence in remembrance of all those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, tortured and arrested for exposing corruption (public or private).
January 30, 2008
The CPPS (where I work) is part of the Coation of Civil Society Friends to the UNCAC and it’s great to be here in Bali where the UN Convention against Corruption is taking place this week. (Bali seems to be the favourite for international meetings, after having completed the recent UN Forum on Climate Change in December 2007)
This is the 2nd Conference of the States Parties to the UNCAC, the first one having been in Jordan last year. The UNCAC has been signed by 140 countries and Malaysia is one of them, but unfortunately we have not yet ratified the convention. This is unfortunate but as I understand it we are on the way towards ratifying, subject to an amendment of one small part of our Act and then agreement by the Cabinet. This would be a an Excellent step, because we’d lead the way in ASEAN. Ratifying it means we need to comply with all the requirements of the Convention.
This includes, very importantly, the need to include civil society (Article 13) in the decision-making processes and have proper consultations with them. The trend in the conference here is the need for a review mechanism, so that all countries having ratified the convention should be monitored to check that they are complying with the requirements.
If you don’t review your activities, how can others know you are sticking by the rules? (basically)
It’s exciting to see the dynamic exchange of views over here, and to understand how exactly international decisions are made at these high-level meetings. The positions taken by different countries, regions and blocks. The persuasive skills of some over the other, the role civil society plays (we are here as observers and to gauge the readiness of countries in agreeing to move the UNCAC forward).
Will be writing a full report on this soon – for work lah. Will see how to support existing work on anti-corruption in Malaysia, and to complement it through other work. Of course at the end of the day it is a political issue but we are attempting to tackle it from a technical framework, as follows:
C = M + D – A (equation from Professor Klitgaard, who gave a lecture here)
Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability
Corruption tends to flourish “where officials have a monopoly power over a good or service, unlimited discretion in deciding who gets that good or service or how much they get, and there is no accountability whereby others can see what that person is deciding.”
Improving the positive incentives for municipal officials, including reforming civil service salary structures to make them competitive with their counterparts in the private sector; promoting competition in the public and private sectors, which would include privatisation, contracting out and, where necessary, the elimination of corrupt municipal programmes; simplifying rules and regulations and informing citizens of their rights and the service standards to which they are entitled; enhancing accountability and transparency through clear standards of conduct, openness in bidding and contracting, and institutional reforms.
Get in touch with me if you wanna know more about these very technical, practical ways of combating corruption!
I would like to officially announce my availability and expertise as a Wedding Emcee.. mainly because in the past couple of weeks I’ve been involved in emceeing two separate weddings in my family! (note to self: to be paid in the next round)
Family affairs are overwhelming, fulfilling, time-consuming, and in the final analysis, extremely worth it. Thank God for families!
I realise I haven’t said Happy New Year to everyone, so here goes.
Happy Blessed New Year!
Selamat Tahun Baru!
Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Eine Gutes Neues Jahr!
This year holds exciting things for us all in Malaysia. We’ve started off with a bang, with the Lingam court case going on. Next with Chua Soi Lek’s resignation as Health Minister. Next the issue on the word Allah and confiscation (and consequent returning) of Christian books from MPH. Of course, Elections are just round the corner. This will be interesting to watch.
Other things to await and anticipate in our country will be the Cabinet reshuffling, Mid Term Review of the 9th Malaysia Plan, Budget will be announced much earlier this year (August 2008), effects of the US Subprime market (decoupling is a myth) on our economy, seeing how ASEAN takes shape more and more and what role the country will play in that, the mass deportation of migrant workers from the country and protests that will take place from there (not as if the Indonesian-Malaysia relations are not already in the dumps! I’m in Indonesia right now and they truly detest our brash way of dealing with foreign maids, amongst others. apparently there were 8 demonstrations outside our Embassy in Jakarta last year, one this year, and more to come), USMFTA negotiations are resuming so NGOs and anti globalisation groups will be protesting again, we will be looking at the 60 year anniversary of the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement this August, with more forums and talks and articles in that respect, Lingam Commission report will be submitted to little end (they will recommend something but it will be given a “royal pardon” by the Agong, the PM (Pak Lah will still be in power) will say that it is an old issue, and we have forgiven him “according to the Malaysian spirit”. Then some religious issue or other will arise again, another Lina Joy, another Revathi, and the debate will not quite end. More statements to be seen from the usual suspects (including yours truly).
So that’s my take on what we foresee in the upcoming year ahead. Let’s see if I am right.
My early January article on Bolehland..
The Great Debate Over Allah
Never has God been more viciously fought over than now, where His Name is akin to a prized possession that two sides of the religious front seem to be warring over. The issue of the word “Allah” as exclusive for the Muslim God has been raised in Malaysia previously, but was later resolved amicably, with the permission granted to continue its usage within Malay Bibles. This has become a hot topic once again in recent months over the saga of a Catholic publication.
In Malaysia, publications need to be granted permits, which in turn need to be renewed, and many times publications need to exercise a level of self-constraint in not angering the powers-that-be for fear of rejected renewals. The Herald, a Catholic newsletter, was one such example recently, whose publication permit would not have been renewed if it did not remove the word “Allah” in reference to God. As feared, although given its renewal, the Cabinet decided on Thursday 3rd January 2008 that it would not be allowed to use Allah in the future. There are several ways to respond to this, some of which are explored below.
The first is through a constitutional legal lens. In response, several Christian groups have applied for judicial review against the Internal Security Ministry, seeking a declaration that they have the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in their religious publications and practices. Based on Article 11 that guarantees freedom of religion, it certainly stands true that citizens are free to profess and practice their respective faiths, and this includes using the language that they are most conversant in. Article 3(1) also guarantees the right of all religions to be practiced in peace and harmony. Constitutionally, it seems only fair that the Herald, and other Christian publications, are free to exercise the rights they already have as outlined legally.
January 29, 2008
It’s very amusing when people link you here and there.
I haven’t had time to blog since the last post, but there have been very interesting comments to my interview on Malaysia Today.
One that especially caught my attention was the fact that I am related to certain people and hence how I got to where I am today workwise.
I initially contemplated whether or not to respond to this, as it might seem as a move of being defensive. But I suppose in the spirit of transparency, which I fully advocate, there is no harm in making a clear statement
So, here goes. I have no known direct relation to Michael Yeoh (my boss), nor Francis Yeoh (business tycoon) or his dad (Yeoh Tiong Lay).
But I understand why people would make that assumption though. There aren’t that many Yeohs around in KL, so hence people make that connection. Perhaps we were related like 4 generations ago, in the Fuchien province of China itself. Who knows?
Okay. Point made.