Loyal Followers

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sambutan Aidilfitri dan Kemerdekaan

raya greeting

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri Maaf Dzahir dan Batin dari saya sekeluarga kepada semua umat Islam. Saya juaga ingin mengucapkan selamat menyambut hari kemerdekaan kepada semua warga Malaysia.

Moga kita saling memaafkan di hari baik dan bulan yang baik ini.

Sempena hari kemerdekaan, mari kita semua ingati jasa dan titik-peluh pejuang-pejuang kemerdekaan kita dan kita renungi apakah maksud sebenarnya kemerdekaan itu serta juga apakah sumbangan kita untuk memenuhi kemerdekaan yang negara kita capai.

Kepada mereka yang akan memandu pada musim perayaan ini, pandulah dengan bwerhemah tinggi, cermat dan berhati-hati pada setiap masa. Bawa bersabar di dalam perjalanan; pastikan konsentrasi; utamakan keselamatan  dan elakkan kemalangan.

Kepada pasukan polis yang bertungkus-lumus, berpanas berhujan dan tidak bercuti untuk mempastikan keselamatan jalan-raya dan umum serta mengawal lalulintas, saya ucapkan jutaan terima kasih.

Salam sejahtera.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A short rebuke of Ezam Mohd Nor

Dear Ezam,

With reference to your manic and almost maniacal spewing of hatred last Friday, I just have this to say to you.

You are an embarrassment.

This is Ramadhan. Muslims fast during Ramadhan. Good Muslims do not only fast and suffer mere physical pain during the fasting – a 6 year old can do that – but they reflect upon themselves and upon their surroundings and they abstain not only from food and drinks, but also from all things evil and ungodly.

The hunger pang and thirst which Muslims suffer during the fast are just the surface of  something which is deeper and more meaningful. Good Muslims correlate the mere physical abstention to a more meaningful spiritual experience. Without the spiritual experience and realisation of fasting, the act of fasting becomes and is reduced to a mere ritual and yearly routine.

Perhaps it was not a surprise that you did what you did last Friday. That is because, well, you are just being yourself.

Jihad in Islam has been totally misunderstood, by the non-Muslims and Muslims alike. And who is to blame for such misunderstanding when there are people like you going around running amok after Friday prayer and rabidly calling for jihad and threatening to burn down news portals?

May I ask you Ezam Mohd Nor, exactly against whom were you going to jihad? All Christians in Malaysia? The Damansara Utama Methodist Church? Oh yes, against those Christians who are conspiring to proselytise all Muslims in Malaysia and elsewhere. Yes, I forgot. But exactly who are they? And where are they?

Jihad does not mean declaring a war. The word “jahada”, which is the base word for jihad simply means “to strive” or “to struggle”. Throughout time, this word has been twisted, manipulated and misinterpreted by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The result is that Islam has been painted with this black images of suicide bombers seeking martyrdom and of cartoons like yourself running amok after Fridar prayer and in the compound of a mosque no less.

The Quran ordains:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors." (2:190)

Yes. It asks us to fight and strive. But only in the cause of Allah and against those who fight us. We are not asked to look for fights. Even if circumstances require and demand us to fight, the Quran implores us not to transgress limits.

May I therefore ask you Ezam, were there any party fighting us last Friday? If so, who? And did you not stop to think that you were not transgressing the limits last Friday considering the nature of our society?

What is the best jihad of all jihads? You think it’s burning down other people’s office is the best? Well please go and study the Quran and the traditions.

You gave a fiery speech. You called for a jihad. You threatened to burn down news portals (assuming it is possible to do so). Well, you could have used your speech in a better way, namely, to call people to the ways of Allah. That is true jihad. Allah commands:

"Who is better in speech than one who calls (other people) to Allah, works righteous, and declares that he is from the Muslims." (41:33) 

Do you know what are the best of jihads to Prophet Muhammad? On one occasion, a man asked the Prophet Muhammad :

“Should I join the jihad?' He asked, 'Do you have parents?' The man said, 'Yes!' The Prophet said, 'Then strive by serving them!” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, No. 5972)

Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah :

What kind of jihad is better?' He replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!'" (Sunan Al-Nasa'i , No. 4209).

So please Ezam, take your jihad away. Islam does not need your kind of juvenile jihad.

Friday, August 12, 2011

JAIS missing the point

JAIS issued a statement yesterday concerning the so-called “raid” on Damansara Utama Methodist Church’s Dream Centre in Petaling Jaya on 3rd August 2011.

In its statement, JAIS clarified that it was not a raid as reported. Nor was there any force used during the walk about by JAIS in the Church’s premises. In its own word, it was just an “inspection”. Kinda like what PUSPAKON (sic) is doing on all vehicles which are sold second hand.

It could then be gathered from JAIS’ statement that it was a friendly thingy. You know, the kind of visit by strangers to our house unannounced just after we have dinner with some guests where our guests were questioned why they were in our house; what did we, as hosts, say before, during and after dinner; did we, as hosts, try to proselytise (did I get the spelling correct? Sorry, I have to confirm this because before the raid, I never knew this word existed, let alone know its meaning) them yada yada yada.

JAIS director, Encik Marzuki Hussin said, among others:

  1. Jais officers did not interrupt the event and only inspected the venue after the dinner had ended.
  2. Accusations that Jais raided, used force and trespassed are wild accusations.
  3. The 12 Muslims who had attended the event were only asked to provide their details and directed to attend counselling sessions.

I find this really amazing, really.

Our Honourable Prime Minister flew all the way to the Vatican to meet the Pope; shook his hand; gave the Pope a book and established a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican. Then he came back to Kuala Lumpur cutting short his family holiday because he would rather be with us, the people.

And what did some little Caliphs, defenders of the faith do? Yes. Together with the police, they “inspected” a private dinner hosted, not by the church, but by an AIDS organisation to say thank you for all the hard works and efforts put into the organisations by some people.

The point is not whether it was a raid or inspection, JAIS. Nor was it whether you entered before, during or after the dinner. Nor also whether there was any interruption. Nor whether you all were as nice as cupcakes. That is NOT the point.

The point is you had the nerve to gate-crash a private dinner on the pretext of investigating a report the details of which you were unable to give when requested. And please tell me under what authority and for what reason are the 12 Muslim guests were asked to attend counselling session with you.

What counselling? Counselling for what? For having dinner with some Christians? Judging from your rationale, the Prime Minister and his whole entourage to the Vatican might have to attend counselling to ya? Sometime ago I attended a funeral of the son of a dear friend of mine in a church. I stood up when they were singing hymns and sat in silence when prayers were being said. Do I have to be counselled too?

This is the kind of thing which is making Malaysia a laughing capital of the world nowadays. Some years ago I remember, there was a text message sent out by none other a mufti alleging that a number of kids were about to be proselytised (is my spelling correct?) at a church. It caused an uproar. But of course the good mufti was not hauled up for anything although recently a certain Penang lady was hauled up by the police for allegedly urging Christians to walk for whatever reason.

The thing which I would like to ask is this. Is there any necessity at all to do this kind of thing?

Muslims in Malaysia seem to be very weak indeed. We cannot listen to certain music group. Cannot watch MTV. Cannot go to concerts, even to concerts by the completely fagotty Michael Learns to Rock, for God’s sake!!! These guys rhymes the word “car” with “star” for God’s sake! Cannot watch certain films. Cannot tahan seeing women’s ketiak in public. Cannot tahan seeing non-Muslims eating or drinking during puasa month.

We need to be protected all the time. Otherwise our aqidah would be gone. And we would become kafir. And of course we would then all go to hell.

One question struck me. If Muslims in Malaysia are so easily persuaded to leave Islam, there must be something wrong with the state of Islam in Malaysia, isn’t it? I mean, why would the Muslims in Malaysia so easily persuaded to do so then? Perhaps then, JAIS and the all the mullahs should look into this aspect rather than blaming everything on other faiths.

A word of advise to JAIS. We are a multi-cultural-faiths society. We need to be respectful to others. It doesn’t matter whether Islam is the official religion of the country or whether it is the faith of the majority of the people in our country.

Islam teaches us moderation. And Islam teaches us to be respectful of others.

Now,  article 11 of the Federal Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion to every person in Malaysia (even though that person is not a citizen of Malaysia). Admittedly, paragraph 4 of the said article also permits laws to be made to “control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”

I do not know whether there is any such law in Selangor. But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that it has.

Nowhere in the law it is stated that Muslims cannot eat or attend a dinner with Christians, be it in a church compound or at the zoo or anywhere else. That is why even our Honourable Prime Minister attended a dinner with the Christian sometime ago (remember the hoo-haas about removing crucifixes and stuffs?).

If there are reasonable suspicion (I repeat, reasonable suspicion – which means not any kind of grandmother suspicion) that some groups are trying to propagate whatever religious doctrine to Muslims, then by all means please take the appropriate action. Please note, I said, appropriate action, not any grandmother action.

Now what is appropriate and what is not? Well, again, we live in a multi-cultural-faiths society. Our actions must not be one which would or could give rise to disharmony. That is all.

By all means, JAIS may investigate the allegation quietly. How to do that? Well, our special branch is one of the best in the world. Recently they even managed to sniff out a plot to wage war against the King; a plot to turn this country into a communist state; and they, according to the Deputy IGP and Home Minister also managed to avoid a riot like the London riot in Kuala Lumpur. Yes. They are that good.

So JAIS, how to investigate? Ask assistance from our special branch. They will know how to sniff this kinda thing within seconds.

When all or sufficient evidence are gathered of such activities, then JAIS can go on and exercise its powers lah. Call people for statements. Arrests the people involved. Charge them in Courts. Habis cerita kan?

Better still, to  be civilised, it would be better for JAIS, in the name of 1Malaysia, under those circumstances, to call up the church or group in question and confront them with the evidence which JAIS has collected. Let’s hear what they have to say. If there is not reasonable or acceptable explanation, JAIS can proceed to charge them.

That’s it. No drama. No raid. No inspection. Nothing at all.

Before I end this, one more point. Religion is a state matter. Selangor is governed by Pakatan Rakyat. I then presume JAIS is a state agency. The Menteri Besar apparently did not agree with the action. Question – why wasn’t he briefed on the “inspection”, knowing how sensitive this issue is?

As a political party, PAS, which is part of Pakatan Rakyat, also apparently disagree with JAIS’ inspection. But Hassan Ali, a state EXCO member, defended JAIS. The MB then imposed a blanket gag order.

May I ask bluntly, what the hell? Do you know what you are doing or not? If so, are you opposed or are you in favour of it? Which is bloody which?

If the MB doesn’t agree and one lone EXCO member is against that, what should be the natural consequence to that? My question is simple. What is the official position of the Selangor State Government about this whole episode. Never mind Hassan Ali. Never mind Tan Sri Khalid. Never mind PAS or DAP.


That many of us would like to know.

I would like to end this post with this verse. May we all get His wisdom and mercy.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware. (translation : Shakir)

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (translation: Pickthal)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London riots #2

Someone sent a posting to a legal group (of which I am a member) of an article by Sir Hugh Orde, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, England to the Guardian today.

Sir Hugh’ article is in response to David  Cameron’s call for more extreme measures – such as water cannons and batons – to be taken by the police in order to deal with the current rioting in England. That article is published in the Guardian's website.

I would like to reproduce what Sir Hugh says as it demonstrate an approach to policing as yet unknown to all of us.

First and foremost he says:

“One of the greatest strengths of British policing is that operational decision-making is conducted not by politicians, but by professional chief police officers who have spent their whole career in policing. While David Cameron today referred to some of the more extreme measures available to us, they are not new, and responsibility for their deployment remains entirely a matter for chief officers. There can be no confusion here at all; it is a fact that we cannot be ordered to police in a certain way but we will be held robustly accountable for what we choose to do or not do.”

On the usage of water cannons and batons, this is what he says:

“As one of only two officers in the country to have ordered the use of water cannon and baton rounds in public-order policing, my professional judgment is it would be the wrong tactic, in the wrong circumstances at this moment. Both require an extremely precise situation. The use of water cannon, while logistically difficult, works against large stationary crowds throwing missiles at police or, as I witnessed in Northern Ireland, at other communities. It achieves distance between police and unlawful crowds that is often vital.

Utilising baton rounds, an even more severe tactic, is fundamentally to protect life. When I ordered their use, again in Northern Ireland, my officers were being attacked by blast bombs and live fire. I would always use both with a heavy heart, but it is always an issue of proportionality.”

The rationale for policing which he takes is as follows:

“What we have seen so far is not soft policing, and although I understand the enthusiasm of politicians and communities for robust measures, excessive force will destroy our model of policing in the long term. What we must hang on to in all of this is the British model of policing, premised on human rights and the minimum use of force.(emphasis is mine)

This is a quotable quote:

“We police with consent and must be professional, proportionate, fair and justifiable to the public at all times.”

Meanwhile, back at home, our Deputy IGP was quoted by a report saying:

“…we are able to avoid these scary and tragic scenes  (referring to the London riots) from erupting here in our beloved country.”

“These are the nightmares that we are fighting hard to avoid and prevent. Street protest should always be avoided as we will never know what it can turn into.”

I don’t know which approach is better. There are always two sides to the coin. In Malaysia  right now, there are two extremes sandwiching a small middle section.

I will let Malaysians decide which one they prefer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London riots

I have been rather sarcastically asked on Twitter such questions as, “you support freedom of assembly, you want Malaysians to riot like the Londoners?”. Another twitterati asked me, “Art, you support the riots in London?”.

Frankly, I am amused to my bone by such questions.

I am amused because the attempts at justifying the banning of public rallies in Malaysia by referring to the riotous behaviour of some others displays a certain degree of shallowness, if not lack of intelligence.

We all have freedom as human beings. There is no restriction on what we eat, for example. But eating without limitations, both in term of quantity and quality of the food, could harm our health. Do the majority of us eat until we harm ourselves? Granted, there are people who eat without a thought to their calorie intake; fat contents and the attendant harmful effects of the food. The point is there are also people who exercise their freedom to eat in a responsible manner.

So, may I ask, shall the State pass laws to restrict our freedom to eat just because some people eat until they die?

Think about it. Some people are simply yobs and thugs. These people did not rally or attend a demonstration as an exercise of their freedom to assemble. They are not pursuing any valid or legitimate cause. They are just there to create trouble. Some are just there to loot. Some to look for a victim to rape. That’s the difference.

If anybody fails to see the difference, then I dare say he or she is blinkered and is all too eager to justify the unjustifiable by drawing a misconceived comparison.

The Tottenham riot apparently started from several peaceful rallies. Those rallies took place because the people wanted to show their anger against the police who had allegedly shot a guy by the name of Mark Duggan in a mini-cab. The police said he was a gangster and he shot at the police when he was stopped. So the police shot him dead.

The people got angry with the police and they started a peaceful rally.

We can surely learn a thing or two from this story.

Firstly, in modern democracies, police killings are frowned upon by the society. In the US for example, there is an automatic inquiry into every case of discharge of arm or killing by the police. This is different from the inquest.

The function of the inquest is to determine how the deceased died. It makes findings of facts but not of guilt or the lack of it.

The inquiry however requires the officer to justify his or her shooting or killing.

Compare that to Malaysia. Our police kills even those who drive without license! Those who panic upon seeing a road block and tried to evade it are also shot at sometimes. Once in a while, we would have news of the police shooting dead not one, but four or five people who are suspected rapists, robbers or gang members. In other cases our police would storm into houses and shoot even a pregnant lady. Those who drive off despite being asked to stop would be shot at without hesitation and any regard for the safety of the passengers in the vehicle. Normal and healthy people die in police custody. There was one who died frothing in his mouth.

I wouldn’t say that our police acts with impunity. But the fact is as members of the public, we do not have a clue whether all these shootings and killings could firstly, be avoided and secondly, are necessary. We do not even know whether there were several other options available to the police to apprehend all these suspected bad people and whether the police has availed themselves of all those options before opening fire and kill that person.

In the UK, obviously the public take these matters seriously. One guy is shot and it caused a riot!

How about here? Well, before the age if the internet, we wouldn’t even know about the killings. The newspaper and TV3 or RTM would set out the news with pictures of parangs and old pistols allegedly recovered from the deceased.

Thanks to the internet, nowadays we become more and more aware. The Aminul Rasyid killing is a case in point. He was only 14. His only offences were probably driving without a license; he did not stop after being ordered to do so and driving fast and recklessly while fleeing the police. He was killed!

In the UK, the whole government could have gone down if that had happened there. Over here, we just made noise. The police officer would be charged for some offences. Then we forget.

That proves something. We Malaysians are a peaceful lot. We are so tranquil that a foreigner would be hard press to know whether we are sleeping or in a coma or just plain dead. We are so peaceful we probably make Gandhi looked aggressive. But that is us. We don’t go out rioting for things like police killing. I don’t think we would go on a riot for anything, really.

When Aminul Rasyid and Kugan were killed, did anyone – anyone at all, including their parents – run amok? No. Because we are a peaceful people.

With that kind of culture, could any reasonable person, such as the IGP or Home Minister conclude that any assembly of the people of Malaysia could turn into a riot?

Why then harass people assembling in some car parks holding some candles to support whatever cause or causes which they believe in? What is there in a rally to ask for something to which they are legally entitled?

The second point to note is this. The London riots do not exemplify the danger of freedom to assembly. It rather exemplifies the abject failure of their police force to control the crowd and to “read” the general feelings of anger permeating the air. That is their failure.

I have said it before and I will say it again. In a rally or peaceful assembly, the bounden duty of the police force is to ensure a peaceful, safe and orderly assembly. That is their duty. This, obviously, they failed to do in London.

Now, if the police are failures, would we punish the people by restricting their constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble?

If so, since our police has totally failed to arrest the acid splasher – who has, it seems, disappeared from everybody’s radar and is probably now laughing at all of us – shall we also ban everybody from walking on the streets in Bangsar and Brickfields?

You tell me.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Money matters

The outlook is grim I must say.

Underscoring the seriousness of the US debt-payment horror is the fact that as of July this year, Apple Inc’s nett operating cash balance of USD 76.4b far outperformed the entire US as a nation. At the same time, the US, as a nation, had a nett operating cash balance of only USD73.7b. (source: BBC report).

The US government debt is projected by S&P to hit 11 trillion this year, which would be equivalent to 75% of its gross domestic product or all the wealth that the US economy would generate this year. S&P also estimated the debt would increase to $14 trillion by 2015 and top $20 trillion by 2021, which at that point would mean that it will be 85 per cent of GDP.

In a grim postulation, S&P says in a worst-case scenario, US government debt could outstrip all the wealth generated in the world’s largest economy by 2021. (source: here).

With those kind of numbers, it was not surprising at all that the US credit rating was downgraded a notch from AAA rating to AA+. (source: BBC report).

How do all these affect us?

Back home, the numbers aren’t all rosy as well.

As of last year, our national debt was down from RM236.18b in 2008 to RM233.92b. (source: the Star report). That sounds good as it is on a downward trend. However, an analysis of our foreign debts as compared coupled with our domestic borrowings as well as the percentage in the increase of our debts as compared to  the increase in our GDP over several years paints a really worrying picture. See the analysis here.

The points are these:

  1. While our foreign debts decreased from RM236.18b in 2008 to RM233.92b, our domestic debts increased from RM217b in 2006 to RM371b in 2010.
  2. Between 2006 to June 2010, our gross domestic product grew at an average of 6.6% while the total debts grew at an average of 10.2%.
  3. Total debts to GDP ratio therefore increased by 39% from 64% in 2006 to 73% in 2010.

What the above means is that we are borrowing faster than we are producing income.

According to the US Census Bureau, between the months of January to May this year, the US’ exports to Malaysia totals USD6.1b while our exports are worth USD10.5b. The US Department of State's website shows that he United States is Malaysia's third-largest trading partner and Malaysia is the eighteenth-largest trading partner of the United States with annual two-way trade amounting to $33b.

The United States is the largest foreign investor in Malaysia on a cumulative basis, and was the largest source of new foreign direct investment in Malaysia in 2010 with direct investment in the manufacturing sector in Malaysia as of year-end 2009 of $15.1 billion, with billions of dollars in additional investment in the oil and gas and financial services sectors of the economy.

Such is the importance of the US to Malaysia. It goes without saying that a US in financial bad shape would inevitably equal to a Malaysia in economic doldrums.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP), an ambitious project to convert the country into a fully developed nation by 2020 remains critically linked to foreign investment. The ETP requires annual foreign investment in the range of $11 billion to fund a quarter of the proposed projects. However, average annual investment since 1997 has only been $3.1 billion.

A March 2011 report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch ranked Malaysia the second least popular market after Colombia among global emerging market fund managers. Malaysia, thus, is in no position to project a picture of chaos and disruption to the investors from outside.

In addition, recent well known events, the details of which are all too familiar to many, if not all of us, do not endear Malaysia too well to foreign investors despite strenuous efforts by the government to attract them.

Yesterday, Goldman Sachs revised our GDP forecast for this year from 5.4% to 5% with a similar cut of 0.4% next year from 5.6%. (source: the Malaysian Insider report).

Considering the state of the US economy and its burgeoning debts, the US government might just increase interest rates in order to lessen public spending; impose higher import duties on certain goods; impose some strict import conditions as well as broaden its protectionism policy over some industries.

The increase in interest rates would restrict cash outflows as well as investment activities thereby resulting in decrease of consumer spending and imports by the US. This is bound to adversely affect our exports to the US. Standing at USD33b a year, a 10% decrease in  our exports to the US would mean a snatch of USD3.3b from our liquidity. I wonder how many business would fold up and how many jobs will be lost in such situation.

Added to that the severely weakened US dollar as opposed to our Ringgit, things would not look too bright for our exporters as they lose competitiveness in terms of currency exchange. Perhaps we should take a serious re-look at our development policy and pay sufficient attention to the areas in which we are strong and not forgetting our traditional bread and butter, namely, the agricultural sector. Modern and thus efficient food production may be a good option as well.

The government must come up with a plan to counter the US meltdown – as well as the Europe meltdown which is fast forthcoming – as soon as possible. failure to do so would just exacerbate the current economics hiccups that we are facing.

Locally, living costs have been escalating lately as inflation rises. As of June this year, it was 3.5% although realistically, the people on the streets are feeling the pinch a lot more.

In order to alleviate the suffering of the people who are finding it tough to cope with the rising in the costs of living, the government yesterday announced a half-month bonus to the 1.3 million civil servants and a sum of RM500 to every pensioner.

The intention was good. Our Honourable Prime  Minister was reportedly saying the bonus payment “can lighten the burden... for the upcoming Aidil Fitri celebration.”

I am happy for the civil servants. The total pay out is RM2b. However, in my humble opinion that pay out would do little, if not nothing, to solve the problem at hand, especially the problem of the rising costs of living.

Can we all imagine a total sum of RM2b being spent in the next 10 days or so? How does that help in terms of controlling spiralling prices and inflation? In fact, quite to the contrary, this 2b additional spending within such a short span of time would only serve as inflationary factor.

The bonus could have been given in the form of a saving instrument for example. The government could give out ASB certificates to the civil servants (as well as other debt instruments to non-Bumi civil servants) to the tune of their bonus entitlement thereby ensuring some savings for the civil servants as opposed to cash pay outs which will do nothing but to flare up inflations.

I could be wrong as I am not an economist. But I have been opposed to stop-gap measures for a long time.

To me, all problems, especially national problems, will have to be met with a holistic solution. Stop-gap measures look good for a while, until more and more gaps appear in the future and we would run out of plugs to plug those gaps.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Syabas 8TV!

By now, many of us would have been aware of the “public service” advertisements which have been pulled out by 8TV.

For those who have not seen it yet, the  awesome “public service” advertisements could be accessed via a Malaysian Insider report yesterday.

It is amazing that some people could take leave from their intelligence in full public view nowadays. And we seem to be doing it with the consistency of Datuk Nicole Davids in the squash courts. Syabas.

The thing which struck me was the nonchalant attitude shown by Media Prima chief operating officer Ahmad Izham Omar when the advertisements were creating a storm in cyberspace yesterday. He was reported as saying, on his twitter account:

“Chill guys. Don’t overthink the ads. Its written, produced and directed by a multi-racial team. If you overanalyse, anything will be bad.”

As a media man, he should know that a message driven public service advertisement would at some point of time be dissected and analysed by the very target of those advertisements. And when the advertisements turn stereotyping into an art, surely they will touch on raw nerves.

One does not have to “overthink” about those advertisements to find them offensive and insensitive. The fact that it was produced by a “multi-racial team” does not negate the somewhat insidious stereotyping contained in the advertisements.

The advice to “chill out” was, to me, even more insulting than the advertisements themselves.

Speaking of insult, I am sure many Muslims would find those advertisements insulting as well. How weak are we, Muslims? We would be breaking fast when we see other people eat or drink? Or we would be having a hard-on at a pasar Ramadhan when we see girls in sleeveless tank top showing their arm pit eh?

The ritual of fasting is meant to cleanse not only our physical body but also our soul. We are supposed to be humbled by the experience of fasting. We are supposed to learn the sufferings of those who are not as lucky as we are, those who do not have food and drinks like us day in day out throughout the year as opposed to only 30 days or so a year.

Why are we so weak so much so that we have to ask people of other faith not to drink or eat in front of us? For God’s sake, the Prophet and his followers fought the Badar battle on the 17th day of Ramadhan in the year 624. And here, now in 2011, we seek the non-Muslims’ understanding not to eat in front of us in Ramadhan. Awesome.

I just love seeing how the Chinese-looking girl was portrayed as a greedy person trying to make a pig out of herself with all the food. If 8TV crew could go to one of those hotels which serves the RM100++ buka puasa buffet, perhaps they would see that Muslims too put mountainous amount of food on their plate too which at the end is not consumed.

There are many messages which could be delivered during Ramadhan. Messages about how we all should be moderate in our buka puasa meals; about how we all should not forget the sufferings of those in poverty and those children who have to work on the streets of Chow Kit to fend for  themselves; about how we all should not just think that Ramadhan is all about avoiding food and drink in day time; about how we should all strive to respect each other, to treat each other with good manners and in civility; about how we should all detoxify our soul from greed, corruption, intoxication with all things materials etc etc.

Instead we chose to demean our neighbours and friends with insensitive and almost senseless stereotyping this Ramadhan. Just a few days ago I remember our Honourable Prime Minister preaching for acceptance instead of tolerance. What have the people at 8TV learned from that exhortation?

Well, the advertisements have been pulled out. The  chief operating officer of Media Prima had  reportedly said:

“Ok guys. We’re pulling out the ads. Thank you very much for your concern.”

He followed up by asking:

“And now to more important things... Does a horn section sound better with 4 trombones? Or would just 3 trombones be enough?”

Yes, life goes on, isn’t it? There are much more important things in life.

As for the horn section with 3 or 4 trombones, I would surely hope 8TV is not going to air a programme on it. Because I fear they might just go and inspect some horns on some cars and air their findings.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Making offence in Twitterjaya

There is an obvious lack of misunderstanding about the so called freedom of speech in cyberspace. Too many people think that they are free to say anything about everything in any way they like in cyberspace.

This misconception is further compounded by some of our Ministers’ statements that “special laws or rules” will be made to govern publications in cyberspace. Those kind of statements give the impression that the cyberspace is not governed by our “normal” laws and that whatever is published in cyberspace is not subject to such laws. Hence the necessity for “special laws or rules” to govern publications in cyberspace.

That is one of the most biggest misconceptions in this new millennium.

In so far as Malaysia is concerned, the only laws which do not govern the cyberspace is the necessity for licenses or permits before a publication is made. Apart from that, I can’t think of any laws which do not apply to the cyberspace, especially when it comes to publications of materials, be it in audio, video or written form.

If somebody publishes an article in cyberspace about another person’s character which is not true and that publication adversely affects the person’s  character or credibility, the law of defamation applies just as it does if such publication was made in a magazine or newspaper. It is as simple as that. For those who would like further reference on this, just go and read Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick [2002] HCA 56 (Australian High Court).

The mere fact that our government has issued the Bill of Guarantee does not in any way mean that we can do whatever we like in cyberspace. All publications in cyberspace are still subject to the laws. Pure and simple.

The only thing about the cyberspace is anonymity. That makes it a bit more difficult for the prosecution to prove that the maker of the offending publication is the accused person. How does the prosecution prove that the accused person was the actual person who published the offending publication?

The second thing which poses a difficult issue in any prosecution for offending publications in cyberspace is jurisdiction. The Gutnick’s case above demonstrates that.

In short, I am writing this in Kuala Lumpur. This article is stored in digital form in a server somewhere in the world. I must confess I do not know where the server is. It could be in Timbuktu for all I know.

As and when you hit on this blog from your computer in say Ipoh, this blog will appear on your monitor. You will then read what I have written in Ipoh.

Let’s just say I am sued in Kuala Lumpur for defamation for my article. The question is whether the Courts in Kuala Lumpur would have the jurisdiction to try my case. That would depend where the publication was made.

Questions regarding jurisdiction is imperative because a Court can only try a case which is within it’s territorial jurisdiction.

In a normal hard copy publication, it is easy to determine jurisdiction. Publication is deemed to have happened at the place the hard copy of the offending article is read. But in a publication on the internet, the article s stored somewhere in the cyberworld. When somebody access the article by clicking on its url, only then the article would appear on the monitor of that somebody. Being so, can it be said that the writer had “published” the article when in actual fact it was the reader who had “accessed” the writer’s article? All these are vex legal and factual questions.

In the week preceding the Bersih rally, a certain lady published a twitter post. That twitter post can be read here.

Considering the circumstances prevailing at the time of the publication of that twitter post, my immediate reaction upon reading that post was one of absolute wonderment at her IQ level. How stupid was that?

Now it is alleged that she is actually a video journalist for Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng. She is actually under the employment of the state government!

We have read of how an over-enthusiastic officer of the Prime Minister had asked that crucifixes be removed from a church during the PM’s visit to a Church earlier this year. We have also heard of many closed-door seminars where some civil servants made some really nonsensical racist remarks about non-Malays.

The condemnations and ridicules which came in from all sides against such acts were swift, intense and hard-hitting.

Can we all imagine what kind of condemnation against the BN government would be had the above twitter post been posted by a federal civil servant?

I think that particular twitter post was uncalled for, most particularly considering the circumstances under which it was made, namely, during the week preceding the Bersih rally. If I were to be nasty, I would say that twitter post carried with it an insidious intention.

Above all, I find that twitter post really, for the lack of a better word, stupid.

I don’t know whether the state government or Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng should apologise. But if I were him, I would be close to sacking her, frankly speaking.

As the story goes, of course, in the normal scheme of thing in Malaysia nowadays, a certain very concerned citizen, Mr Tony Yew lodged a police report against her. Now she is under investigation.

Malaysiakini reports that the police had gone to her house, checked some files and confiscated an iMac computer including a modem and took some snapshots of her twitter account.

Hahahahhahaha…first of all, this is a classic operation by our men in blue. What are they investigating? Apparently an offence under the Sedition Act arising from her twitter post. Why the need to confiscate her computer and modem? What would the computer and modem show? How are those gadgets going to assist them in the investigation? Why didn’t they confiscate the mouse as well? And what about the keyboard?

As for the snapshots of her twitter account, haven’t our police heard of screen save or printing the screen?

Oh, Mr Tony Yew. I remember him.

I am not a follower of his twitter account. Nor was he a follower of mine.

One day I was told by one of my follower that a certain Tony Yew had been criticising one of my article without tagging me. I could not care less. Everybody criticises my articles anyway.

During the week preceding the Bersih rally, I was, on some days, engaged in a rather engaging and civil discourse about the rally with YB Dato’ Abdul Rahman Dahlan. I was telling the YB – not to say that he needed any telling, though – about the right of the people to assemble and the duties of the police to maintain an orderly and safe assembly. The good YB was saying that the assembly would be harmful to public order.

We were engaging each other in a very civil manner and that was not the first time we did so. YB Rahman Dahlan is one of the few BN MPs with whom I find pleasure to engage on several issues on twitter.

In the middle of our friendly debate,  suddenly one Tony Yew chipped in with a twitter post addressed to me and the YB. That post says something to the following effect;

Why don’t you stick to what you do best? Reality and theory not the same.”

My first reaction was “wtf”? Who the flinking shyte is this guy? Stick to what I do best? Why don’t I stick it up yours, I was thinking.

And so I replied:

Tony Yew or whatever your name, why don’t YOU stick to what you do best and don’t come and disturb me and my timeline?”

He never came back to disturb me again after that.

You see, apart from the usual laws and rules being applicable to the cyberworld, the usual unwritten laws about good manners and civility also apply while we are in cyberspace. So, if nobody, in real life, should barge in another person’s bedroom – what more, when they do not know each other – nobody should barge in another person’s space in cyberworld without the normal courtesy.

Just in case anybody doesn’t know that.