Saturday, May 29, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I had not planned to write about the UKM 4 as the topic has been exhaustively covered by the alternative media.
However, I was startled to read what the President of UKM Student Council writes on the Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's website. Essentially, in his capacity as the President of the Student Council, Mohd Hamzah Zainul Abidin actually supported the university's action or proposed action against the UKM 4!
I find that ironic.
Here they are, four students of UKM, who presumably are also members of the PMUKM, are charged by UKM for allegedly breaching the University and University-College Act 1971 - allegedly they expressed support for a political party, which happened to be an opposition party - and may be subject to disciplinary action.
And the President of PMUKM is supporting the charge! Well, he sounded like he is. At the very least, he is not objecting to the charge. He in fact trumpets the wisdom of the prohibition against students being involved in politics in the UUCA.
When I was involved in students politics while in the University of Malaya in the early 80s, I made it a point to attack the UUCA at every available opportunity.
My comrades and I believed that the UUCA was paralysing the students, student movements and was a tool to subjugate the students. The UUCA had the effect of producing an unthinking culture among the students as well as a submissive and subservient attitude.
I still believe so until today.
I remember during the closing of a leadership course, as a student representative, I was invited to give a speech. In full attendance of senior lecturers, my college Master as well as the late Associate Professor Yunus Md Noor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Affairs), I let ripped a full blown tirade against the UUCA.
I still remember almost verbatim of what I said. "The students are like very intelligent guard dogs, always on guard against danger. But the UUCA shackled us and tie all of us to an old rusty pole."
The students were clapping. My college Master was smiling. Professor Yunus laughed aloud. When his turn came about, he looked at me and said, "the dogs should not bark too much. Sometimes the dogs even barked at cars passing by." We all laughed. But then deep resentment of the UUCA was there for all to feel.
After the closing ceremony I went to the late Professor. I told him the dogs are intelligent enough not to bark at anything which move. Like a father, he smiled and said, "be patient."
I would never forget that.
But now we have a student council, through its very own President supporting the paralysing UUCA! And not objecting to the utterly ridiculous and unconstitutional charges brought against its own members! What irony!!
Among others, the President of PMUKM said that the government pays 90% of the fees and so it wants all students to concentrate on their studies. And if the students are involved in politics, there might be polarisations in campus.
University students are not supposed to only study. They are supposed to learn and be educated. One studies in primary schools. Even in secondary schools, one is supposed to learn and get an education rather than being "taught how to pass exams with 18As." There is a different between studying and learning. That is why universities are known as "higher learning institutions."
Being involved in politics is a part of the learning process. Being active in nation building is one part of the learning process too. What is so wrong with that?
And since when does being involved in politics cause polarisation? Polarisation and racial segregation start in the mind. It is in the attitude and the prejudices which we hold in ourselves. That translate into our actions, whether the actions are political in nature or otherwise.
One does not have to be a politician to be a racist bigot!
The prohibition against students being involved in politics or to even express support to a political party is unconstitutional. The Constitution guarantees, among others, every citizen's freedom of association. The right to vote is also enshrined in the Constitution. Freedom of speech is also guaranteed.
Now, if a student votes in an election, wouldn't that amount to expressing support to a political party? Would all students who vote in an election be hauled up and charged under the UUCA then?
What crap is that?
Our students have obviously become lame. This is obviously due to years and years of indoctrination and idolatry. Years and years of being mentally abused by the likes of BTN and its ilk. Years and years of being treated like lambs instead of barking guard dogs.
If the students themselves do not appear to know, let alone to want to protect their rights, I shudder to think of the quality of our future leaders.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
One of my favourite examples of pure racial and religious integration is the one which existed during the Abbasid rule.
In an atmosphere as culturally and intellectually vibrant as Baghdad was during the Abbasid’s rule, inter-faiths and inter-religions relations were at their best. In Baghdad, Christians lived near a Jacobite monastery on the bank of the Tigris. Muslims would take part in Christian celebrations such as the Palm Sunday and likewise the Christians would honour the Eid-ul-Fitr together with the Muslims. The people were free to practise their respective religion, without fear and without any kind of compulsion. A medieval Egyptian historian noted that the mixing and matching of festivals “was a sign of mutual respect and brotherhood between the religions...moreover, some of the converts to Islam, as Muslims, continued their old practices even after accepting Islam.”
Now that account shows not only a pure unadulterated integration between various races of different faiths, but also assimilation of them into one single society.
Islamic history has shown that racial and religious integration would take place during a period of security, where the people went about living their daily lives without fear and prejudices.
Integration was and still is however a fragile commodity. Everything, from religious sensitivity to racial bigotry as well as political agenda could spark a backlash in no time at all.
Harun al Rasyid ‘s relationship with the Byzantine’s Empress Irene in Constantinople meant a peaceful co-existence between the two religious powerhouse. But when Irene’s finance minister, Nicephorus, overthrew her, the situation changed immediately. After a letter from Nicephorus saying that Harun should be giving the Byzantine his wealth and blaming the peaceful co-existence between Harun and Irene to “weakness of women and their foolishness”, Harun marched into central Anatolia and captured Heraclea.
It was at this time Christians were treated shabbily in Iraq as Abbasid nationalism ruled the day.
At about the same time, the peaceful co-existence also existed in Muslim Andalus, especially in its capital, Cordoba, which was ruled by the remnant of the Umayyad Caliphate who fled from the Abassid after the infamous “dinner of reconciliation” in Damascus.
Muslims, Christians and the Jews were living in harmony. The Court doctor was a Jew. The trading networking was monopolised by the Jews. Jewish translators were used to translate the works of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Christians were running the Caliphate. In fact, in the last bastion of Muslim Andalus, Granada, Samuel ibn Nagrela, better known as Nagid (a Hebrew term for “Governor”) was the Muslim army Chief, who fought for his country, alongside Muslim soldiers whom he commanded. He was also oversaw public works, building of a library, mosque, gardens. He even wrote extensively on Hebrew dialects.
Samuel was succeeded by Joseph, his son.
Again, just as it was fragile in Baghdad, it was also fragile in Muslim Andalus. It took a Muslim to destroy Samuel’s legacy and Joseph.
His biggest enemy was a Muslim, Abu Ishaq. Abu Ishaq was out of favour with the Berber Princes who rules Granada. Driven by envy, Abu Ishaq would berate the Granada prince for having “an infidel as his secretary”. He said,
“through him (Joseph), the Jews have become great and proud and arrogant...and how many a worthy Muslim humbly obeys the vilest ape among these miscreants. And this did not happen through their own efforts but through one of our own people who rose as their accomplice. Oh why did he not dea with them....Put them back where they belong and reduce them to the lowest of the low, roaming among us, with their little bags, with contempt, degradation and scorn as their lot, scrabbling in the dunghills for coloured rags to shroud their dead for burial.”
Joseph was dragged by a mob, beaten and crucified. Hundreds of Jews were subject to terror and death in 1066 Granada.
Bigotry also existed on the Christian side. Before the Granada episode, a Jewish monk, Isaac, had sought to start anti-Islam revolt simply because he was disappointed at the rate of conversion from Christianity to Islam. He started this by appearing before a leading Muslim judge and said that Muhammad wasn’t a true Prophet and that he would go to hell. After refusing to recant, he was sentenced to death, prompting a Christian revolt that lasted 8 years.
About 50 Christians including women, young and old, sought death sentence by denouncing Islam and were promptly sentenced to death by the Muslims. Some of them were canonised by the Church, including one Eulogius. The story of these Christian martyrs was later used to rouse anti-Islam sentiments until the Muslim kingdom fell to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.
We could learn a thing or two about integration from that part of history.
i. Integration comes with a complete understanding and acceptance of different cultural background and faiths;
ii. Integration exists in periods of peace and security when everyone of different races does not have any kind of racial fear or complexes;
iii. Integration is fragile. It has to be constantly and consistently nurtured and practiced. We have to continuously be conscious of our neighbour’s sensitivities, needs and limitations;
iv. It’s fragility may see it destroyed in a few moments. Political or personal agenda (Abu Ishaq’s envy); religious agenda (Isaac’s scheme); unnecessary or unbridled nationalism (Harun al Rasyid’s war against the Byzantine); hatred and bigotry (Abu Ishaq’s declaration).
Notice what Abu Ishaq said. Is it not the same with the “pendatang” and “2nd class” pronouncements here? Notice Abu Ishaq’s rave that the Jews are rich and well off. Is it not the same with statements made by some of our leaders - past and present - and the likes of PERKASA?
I am supposed to touch on "integrity" in my speech.
Integrity – let’s not look at the dictionary for its meaning. It simply means practising what one preaches. It means not only staying to our true self but to what we say we are.
1 Malaysia would and could have been a good start. But not when the right hand is doing what the left hand says should not be done. Or when the left hand is not doing what the right hand says should be done. That lacks integrity.
Not when there are people from within the ruling elites - the very promoters of the concept 1 Malaysia - and some other parties with the obvious acquiescence of the promoters of the concept sewing seeds of hatred, counting marbles which ought to belong to one race instead of the other.
Not when some of our leaders hallucinate and begin seeing imaginary monsters - which do not exist as a fact - and begin unsheathing his or her keris, waving it about while shouting nationalistic slogans.
That lacks integrity.
At the end of the day, we cannot rely on others, and that includes the government, when it comes to racial integration. This affects our daily lives.
And so we have to take it upon ourselves - the man in the mirror, so to speak - to take steps - no matter how small they may be - towards integration.
And if we have not done so yet, I would say today would be a good day to start.
* A speech delivered at the 5th National Congress On Integrity at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies on 13th May 2010 (with some variations for publication).
All historical anecdotes are quoted from "People of the Book"; Zachary Karabell ; John Murray (Publishers) 2007.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Download speed of 150kbps and upload speed of 120kbps! What the hell? You call this "broadband"?
Friday, May 07, 2010
It was sometime in the late 1990's. And it was in Singapore.
A trailer driver was driving to deliver some goods to a Singaporean buyer. While doing so, he hit some tree branches which fell onto a car behind the trailer and damaged the car a little bit.
Both men stopped their respective vehicle. While they were "settling" their "dispute", a traffic police officer came by and stopped. Upon his inquiry, the trailer driver related what had happened to the officer. The officer then told the car driver that perhaps he should make a claim from his insurance company as it was not the fault of the trailer driver that his car was damaged.
Noting that the damage only involved some minor scratches, the car driver relented and drove off. The trailer driver was so relieved. He was also glad that the officer supported his case and was filled with gratitude to him.
In true Malaysian fashion, the trailer driver took out S$20 and gave it to the police officer. The police officer took it and rode off.
On the way back to Malaysia, the trailer driver was arrested at the Immigration checkpoint and detained. The next day he was charged for giving bribe to a police officer.
I was then advising the transport company for whom the driver worked. A Singaporean Counsel was engaged and he advised that it was an offence to do so. He advised the driver to plead guilty.
He did and was punished, fortunately, with just a fine, albeit a hefty one.
Fast forward to last Monday, the 3rd of May 2010.
Time: 1.15am. Location, Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
The Sun newspaper today (6th May 2010), at page 4, reported of two incidents at a police road block along Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. The report is entitled "Cop held over alleged bribery, sexual harassment."
The first lady was driving alone at 1.15am when she was stopped at the roadblock. The police said she was driving beyond the speed limit. According to her the police officer said the matter could be settled on the spot. She then offered RM15 and the officer agreed to take that sum as "settlement".
Money exchanged hand. The officer than allegedly told her that she was sexy. He allegedly asked her to lift her t-shirt and pull up her skirts. She immediately drove off.
But not before she performed her side of the agreed bargain. She paid him the 15 bucks and drove off.
Next was a nightclub singer about 30 minutes later. The same thing happened. This time the lady gave RM20. The same officer allegedly made similar advances. The lady also paid him off and drove off.
It was reported that the two women were "riled over the incidents."
The report however does not specify whether the two ladies were "riled" over the alleged sexual harassment and the fact that the officer had allegedly asked them for money or whether both of them were only "riled" over the alleged sexual harassment alone.
However, the MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, whose help was sought by the two ladies, was quoted as saying:
"It is shocking to note that there are such sex maniacs in the police force. I believe these two cases may not be the first and many more may have gone unreported."
The above statement only touches on the sexual harassment and the fact that there are, in the good MP's words, "sex maniacs" in the police force. Nothing is said whatsoever about the bribery.
It is as if the YB did not even feel that the bribery was an offence. It is as if the bribery demanded by the officer - if it was true - and offered by the two ladies are not issues which he was supposed to highlight apart from the sexual harassment.
I could also surmise from the report that the two ladies were "riled" up because of the alleged sexual harassment and nothing else. The fact that they willingly paid the police officer - according to what was reported - without even thinking twice that they were actually committing a serious offence under our law is a cause to be concerned with.
It is as if bribery, in Malaysia, is an accepted practice and has become a national culture of sort. It is as if bribery is not an offence and is a way of life over here.
Would I be wrong to suggest here that those two incidents would not have been reported at all had the officer not been a horny dude with a perverted mind?
I don't think I would be wrong. I can bet that the two ladies would not have even said a single word to the press had the incident only consist of the police officer asking for a bribe.
From the report it is obvious that the ladies did not hesitate to hand over RM15 and RM20 respectively to the officer. No outcry was ever made in the press report about the bribe. It was the alleged sexual harassments that caused the report.
The surprising - and disconcerting - thing is this. Even the Member of Parliament did not see it fit to express any outrage over the bribe given by the two ladies!
The MACC recently had made an announcement of sort that it is also going to target the bribe giver in the future. I think that is a good move. But of course, MACC is so tainted with partiality allegations that nobody even care to give it any kind of attention, let alone trust. And we can only hope that it changes colour. That would be nothing less than a miracle!
Contrast the KL story with the one from Singapore. See the "cultural differences" between the two.
The trailer driver was just being a normal Malaysian who felt grateful to the police officer. He then gave him money. It was unsolicited. Nor was it intended to be any form of inducement to the police officer as the money was given after the event.
Nevertheless, the police officer stuck by the law. He took it and promptly reported the case. That very same day the trailer driver was arrested at the checkpoint.
The thing which we may miss from these two stories is the fact that in Singapore, abiding by the law is a culture while in Malaysia breaching the law is a culture.
Generally, when it comes to offering a bribe to the police or breaching traffic laws, Malaysians do not even blink to think about the fact that bribery is serious offence and that they are committing an offence.
Think about it. Do we Malaysians think that jumping que at a traffic light is an offence? Or giving "duit kopi" or "settling the matter" with the police or whatever authorities is an offence? No. The law against bribery is irrelevant and insignificant to us. Traffic laws are also mere ornament in law libraries.
It is a cultural thing as opposed to we being habitual offenders. If we were habitual offenders, why is it that we would not do such things when we are in Singapore or the UK? Why do we suddenly abide by their laws? Do we suddenly change into a law abiding person because of geographical differences?
The answer is when we are there we are not abiding by their laws. We are just following their culture. If we don't line up at the ATM in the UK, the British would tap on our shoulder and we would promptly be told off. We would be embarrassed. That is all. We do not suddenly change into a law abiding person while we are there.
On the other hand, when we are in Jakarta or Bangkok, why is it that we do not abide by their laws? If we drive in those two cities, we would surely breach their traffic laws as we do in Malaysia? The answer is obvious. We remain true to ourselves in Jakarta or Bangkok because their road culture is the same with ours. It is as simple as that.
Corruption being a Malaysian culture, no amount of enforcement of the law and no increase in the severity of the punishment would ever turn us around. If we are drug addicts for example, no amount of punishment would change us. Unless our values are changed.
The authorities must recognise this fact. And they must appreciate this fact if they are serious in combating corruption.
It is in the attitude. The values. The culture. And not simply in the laws and their enforcement.