March 14, 2008

Abc writes in

Posted in Malaysia at 9:20 am by egalitaria

My friendly anonymous friend Abc wrote in to say the following.

Many thanks for clarifying that the contentious statement (in the context of IHT’s story) was not what you had said.

As for your  ‘wish you would have had the courtesy to leave your name’, I regret that II cannot fulfil your wish much as I would like to.  Pseudonym is, like democracy, a freedom of choice, not necessarily an issue of courtesy.

All is well and good. Such is life in Malaysia. Everyday is an elections day, with great sensitivities surrounding our discourse on politics, race, and democracy. 😉

March 13, 2008

Another Misreading

Posted in Malaysia at 7:01 pm by egalitaria

Responsible e-mailing means leaving your name when you provide comments on my quotes. I received the following in the mailbox today. A rather interesting but highly inaccurate reading of what I had said.

“This term of office (by a Chinese, multiracial and Islamic party) is a make or break for them.” Tricia Yeoh, Centre for Public Policy Studies (reported in International Herald Tribune (IHT), 10/3/08)

Note: Notwithstanding the perceptive observation by Tricia Yeoh, her reference pertaining to Democratic Action Party as a “Chinese party” is factually incorrect (unless it is misquoted in IHT), because DAP had fielded Indian and even Malay candidates in the 12th General Election.  In its website, you will read Lim Guan Eng’s press statement (9/3/08) as follows – “DAP wishes to emphasis that we will be an inclusive government that represents all Malaysians. No one will be discriminated or victimised even if they had supported the BN. We want to be the government as well as a responsible and constructive opposition in other states for all Malaysians.  DAP will continue to build up on our success in winning Malay votes in significant numbers to win seats we otherwise would not have won. We want to prove that we fight for the interests of all Malays, Chinese Indians, Kadazans and Ibans so long as they are Malaysians.”

Thank you, “Abc Abc” for leaving this comment, although I do wish you would have had the courtesy to leave your name, so that I could contact you and explain in further detail. Nevertheless, I am happy to elaborate on my blog the reasons for your error.

Firstly, I commend you for your obvious desire for a multiracial Malaysia. I too believe strongly in a country that transcends bigoted racial politics, a system that has unfortunately for umpteen years dominated the very socio-cultural fabric of the country we know and love. Indeed, the political parties that advocate a multiracial approach are the ones that have emerged the unsuspecting victor in many constituencies. You and I both were probably very surprised at the outcome, one that nevertheless marks well for a democratic future.

However, please be very careful. You do not want to present false information. This is precisely the thing we want to avoid during this politically heightened period of time.  First of all, please read the ORIGINAL article. You can find the link here. (Title of the International Herald Tribune article is: “Malaysian Opposition’s Gains Signal Era of Change”) To my enlightened reader, this is how you read an article. This part of the story was NOT what I said.

The opposition as a whole must show that a Chinese, multiracial and Islamic party can work together on national issues – no mean feat, given their religious and ethnic differences.

The following part of the story (the part with actual inverted commas, i.e. this symbol “) is.

“This term of office is make or break for them,” said Yeoh of the Center for Public Policy Studies.“What is essentially needed is for them to get down to the negotiating table, work out common policies, work out the nitty-gritty administrative details,” Yeoh said.

I’d like to remind everyone that we should strive as far as possible to refrain from making false accusations. This principle applies to any rumour that we hear about any political leader. Verify our sources of information before sending them out on SMS. Do not be rumour mongers. At this stage, the best is to maintain calm, and not be pulled into any fiery conversation that would result ultimately in slander and unnecessary criticism. We must maintain a rational state of mind, to even dialogue and discuss what’s happened over the last couple of days in Malaysia.  

But thank you kindly for your message. And please continue advocating for a Malaysia that recognises the interests of all Malaysians alike, whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban or otherwise. Racial identities should exist for cultural reasons, but insofar as economic access and opportunity are concerned, we should be colour blind, the oft-quoted phrase of late. 🙂

Finally, please see this article for my views on multiracial Malaysia.

Quotes and Misquotes

Posted in Malaysia at 6:39 pm by egalitaria

The Star Forum yesterday had a full crowd. But I have to say, another additional negative about the newspaper was its inability to quote people correctly. This is what I was quoted as saying:

“The forum was fair as it allowed the people to present all their views. We have a good panel here and it is necessary to hear the views from across the spectrum. 

“This is the time when Malaysians need to sit down and reflect upon a very significant turning point of our country. We need to come together to decide what we want for the future.  

The Star has provided a good model to be followed by the state governments and the cabinet to make a civil society.” 

How can “state governments and the cabinet” MAKE civil society??

I said “state governments and the cabinet to meet civil society.”

Come on, Star! Honestly… I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. I think I should just laugh, along with Comedy Court’s excellent renditions of recent songs. 🙂

March 11, 2008

Inside Story: Al-Jazeera (Me, Karim Raslan and Mavis Puthucheary)

Posted in Malaysia at 10:00 pm by egalitaria

The Two Trends

Posted in Malaysia at 9:53 pm by egalitaria

There are two trends that I am wary of seeing take place post-Elections. Sure, we have all celebrated the cause of Democracy reigning in, this time. But now the real work begins, people settle back into their offices and rooms to be accustomed back to normal living.

Trend no. 1 is that DAP, traditionally feared by the Malays but this time supported because of its relationship with PKR, might be considered by the Malays as not standing up for their rights. This will be an unfortunate trend because the DAP needs the Malays as much as it can. It will be a horrible first start for DAP if the Malays are not convinced enough that DAP is looking out for their interests. It should be perceived to live up to its theoretical rhetoric of a Malaysia for all Malaysians.

Trend no. 2 is that the media is putting a horrible spin on PAS wanting to implement hudud law, which was quoted out of context. This is sending shivers down the spine of Christians and non-Muslims. However, we cannot be fooled into some of the misquotes and misinformation given to us any longer. We should be as vigilant as possible, put on thinking and questioning caps customary of journalists, and ensure that we get as much information as possible to form a complete picture. The bad thing resulting from this would be that the Chinese and Indians are alienated from PAS. The reality is that PAS itself is divided on its interpretation of Islamic state (which by the way they dropped from their manifesto because they know they have to be more relevant to the non-Muslim community), and have said outrightly that they would defend the rights of minorities. 

My hypothesis is that PAS has not actually had the opportunity of proving itself to any of us Malaysians. Aside from in Kelantan, the rest of us Peninsular folk have always held a distant suspicion of PAS, one that is at times not validated. What has happened is that PAS was a formidable enemy to UMNO in the past, for the Malays. UMNO being the Malay saviour party had to become more of an Islamic party as well, to win back the Malay sentiment. As a result UMNO has had to go under tremendous pressure to go along more of an Islamic trend, putting into place Islamic principles.

So this may sound strange coming from a Christian, but maybe it’s high time we looked at giving PAS a chance to prove itself? Sure, they come up with silly little things (wanting all women in Malaysia to wear a hijab – that was some time ago) but at least, guys, they’re HONEST and clean… I think I’ll be writing something proper on PAS and Christianity soon. I think this is a theme that all of us Christians need to explore in depth.

A response to an email (more to come)

Posted in Malaysia at 6:00 pm by egalitaria

This was my response to an email that was forwarded, essentially saying:

Islam have declared a holy jihad [Holy war] against the infidels of the world. And, that by killing an infidel, which is a command to all Muslims, they are assured of a place in heaven. If  that’s the case, can you give me the definition of an infidel?” There was no disagreement with my statements and without hesitation, he replied, “Non-believers!” 

Thank you for forwarding this message on. However, I take exception to the way in which verses are quoted out of context, especially in a multireligious society such as ours. The Bible is often quoted out of context as well, resulting in passages requiring people to kill the non-believers to be cited in Christians’ faces as well.
As Malaysians come to terms with the new political realities, i.e. with PAS gaining power in one additional state and holding more state seats in other states, I think we must caution against any sort of spin. True that they are an Islamic party, but some quarters would have us believe that they are out to protest Muslims’ interests and no other. The truth is, my humble opinion is that PAS sees its need to cater to non-Muslims and has openly stated its desire to stand up for marginalised groups. So along the political front, I would caution that we take things out of context. PAS for example was quoted out of context in saying it would have hudud law – in fact they said so, inasmuch as it does not affect the interests of other communities.
Now on the Quran and infidels. Again, look at context in which the commandment was given to the followers. If my Muslim friend has educated me correctly, it was because they were at war at the time, and non-believers were precisely the group that formed the enemy at the time. This is not necessarily the case that “all non Muslims” are “enemies”. It happened to be that way at the time. Further theological studies are necessary and I do not claim to be an expert, but please please Malaysians, understand context before we spew falsehoods against each other and once again disintegrate the very core of multiracial/multireligious/multiculturalism that we have for so long striven to achieve. This elections, we see a shift against racial and religious polarity and my plea to all of us is to guard against making statements that are not properly thought through. Lest the new fabric being woven is torn apart even before it takes proper shape.
If we believe in a new Malaysia, we must be willing to give the “other” the benefit of the doubt. Don’t allow ANY sort of sectarian political statement to divide us.

Finally, the nominee for Perak MB from PAS is apparently a very open minded Muslim who is willing to work with non-Muslims. I am very excited!


Posted in Malaysia at 5:20 pm by egalitaria





Date: Saturday, 15 March 2008

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (lunch not provided)

Venue: Level 4 Multipurpose Hall (MPH), Sunway University College  

The 12th General Elections 2008 campaigning period has seen an unprecedented movement of civil society organization participation, ranging from voter education to endorsement of political party candidates. 7.14 million out of 10.2 eligible Malaysian million voters voted last Saturday with the loose opposition gaining state-control over five states and BN, the ruling coalition losing its two-thirds majority in parliament. Rising prices, increasing crime rates, the rise in interethnic and inter-religious spates, and unaddressed corruption, all led to the widely held perception that the Government was simply not doing its job satisfactorily. This elections period also saw the rise of the internet and telecommunications in mobilizing fundraising for campaigning, dissemination of information, and shaping of opinions Indeed, there has been a major shift in Malaysia’s electoral trend, showing that ethnic-based affirmative action is irrelevant in today’s competitive and globalised society– a sure sign of a maturing democratic society.

Join our panel discussion this Saturday as we analyse and discuss the unexpected yet exciting outcome of the 12th General Elections and in particular what the implications are for the future of Malaysia’s political fabric, culture and framework.




  • Chairperson: Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Ramon V. Navaratham, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Studies.
  • Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director of Yayasan Strategik Sosial
  • Dr Farish Noor, Senior Fellow, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU Singapore.
  • Khoo Kay Peng, Executive Director of SEDAR Institute.
  • Malik Imtiaz, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist
  • Tricia Yeoh, Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies.



March 9, 2008

Makkal Sakti

Posted in Malaysia at 6:21 am by egalitaria

I haven’t been able to blog at ALL over the past couple of weeks, which is quite a waste given the marvellously interesting campaigning period and results today!!!

There is a new beginning for Malaysia. Tomorrow morning we shall arise and face a different Malaysia. For too many months have people hit their heads against brick walls.

Quick results are that the Opposition has gained governance of FIVE STATES, FORMING STATE GOVERNMENTS in Kelantan (PAS), Penang (DAP-PKR-PAS), Kedah (PAS), Perak (DAP-PKR) and Selangor (DAP-PKR).  Next, Opposition has successfully denied the Barisan National coalition two thirds majority at Parliament level! We shall no longer be calling them “opposition” but “governments”, because simply, that’s who they shall be, come tomorrow morning.

Here are some of my comments that I’ve been giving to journalists over the last couple of hours on the recent victory.

What led to this “political tsunami” as Kit Siang has put it? The tsunami has hit mainly amongst the urban mixed seats, and it has been due to a number of reasons. First, the growing disquiet over recent years over the inability of the Pak Lah administration to address corruption, the very promise for which he was sworn into power four years ago. Second, the disillusionment with ethnic-based affirmative action amongst these seats, the solution for which lay within factor number three i.e. the Anwar factor, attempting to cater to members of all ethnic groups through one of the more comprehensive economic policy proposals since the inception of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Where traditionally, rapid urbanisation led to the enmasse of Malays into urban centres, thereby creating more mixed seats acting in favour of the Barisan Nasional, this has changed today. Some of the urban Malays were willing to do one of the following: choose PKR, choose DAP (due to the alliance between DAP and PKR), or choose not to attend/spoil their votes, in order to punish the incumbent BN. This marks a shift in urban Malays’ sentiments towards the BN, and augurs well for the country since these have voted according to principle and not necessarily ethnicity alone. A possibility is even the Malays’ disillusionment with regards to the NEP, and if trends read correctly, this may indicate the gradual removal of NEP-ridden policies as frequently discussed.

What are some immediate implications? MIC having contested 9 Parliamentary seats and won only three, is considered literally shattered to bits – he being the one sole representative of MIC. Gerakan is in an equal position, having lost all of its contested State and Parliamentary seats in Penang, conceding defeat to DAP. The remaining leg on the increasingly shaky stool of BN is MCA, also weakened significantly. The raison d’etre – or reason for existence – of the BN coalition, which is power sharing amongst all ethnic groups, has also been made a mockery of. The BN will see UMNO as the sole “big brother” within the coalition, where component parties need to renegotiate their roles and responsibilities sufficient for an effective Government. Peoples’ representation of Chinese and Indians will predominantly lie within its Opposition leaders.

The people are fed up with the Government, an understatement – they have established a protest vote in the Elections, punishing Government for their lacklustre performance in managing the nation’s wealth, integrity and interests of the people. For opposition to maintain its power over next years, it has to live up to its electoral promises, making good its commitment to implementing particular concrete measures such as putting local council elections into place.

I have lots more thoughts, but basically to say – I have NOT slept a wink the whole night, as we monitored the results slowly and numbers started to trickle in. Each update was a slam surprise, and many are still reeling from the shock. State government in Selangor??? That requires an entire paradigm shift!!!

Tomorrow morning, we awaken to a brand new day. The people have voted. The people have chosen. Makkal Sakti!

My interview with (pre-elections)

Posted in Malaysia at 5:46 am by egalitaria

Obviously my prediction was wrong about not being able to deny BN two thirds majority! But this is one prediction I am absolutely glad over.

Interview with Al-Jazeera PRE-ELECTIONS RESULTS

Posted in Malaysia at 5:44 am by egalitaria