The arrival of the prime minister and his wife at the carnival was received by thousands of youths wearing colourful T-shirts with the printed words, 'I love PM' as a sign of support and respect for the number one national leader. (Hmm where did they get the T-shirts from)
Other than shouts, clappings and beating of drums to show support, banners stating 'We stand behind you, PM', 'Thank You PM' and 'N.A.J.I.B, Najib Adalah Jaguh Inspirasi Belia' (Najib is the champion inspiration of youths) and so on were hung along Dataran Persiaran, here. (Where is all this stuff from)
Although the carnival was marred by an accident that took place during the drag race on Lebuh Wadi Ehsan in Precinct 19 late last night, Ahmad Shabery hoped it would not be politicised.
Errr, dude, you already politicsed the whole thing above using our money too. Tch, tch .
Time to start blogging again I think. The level of discourse doesn't seem to have risen. While other countries are moving ahead and having a far more sophisticated discourse about their future, Malaysia is still stuck in the same polemics and there is a lot to write about.
I think I have to start simply by listing a series of questions and asking whether they are the indications of a normal and confident country?
Ask yourself these questions on whether the below are normal of any country?
1. Is it normal for the special branch of the police to monitor opposition rallies? And for politicians to be frightened enough to believe their phones are tapped?
2. Is it normal for newspaper to need to renew their publishing permit every year?
3. Is it normal for political parties to own newspapers and companies?
4. Is it normal for companies to be described as UMNO linked/owned yet no one knows how exactly? It is normal for political parties to own companies/influence them? Doesn't this bring about the fact that the political party can set out policy for its own companies economic interest?
5. It is normal that everytime there is a change of PM the media company somehow owned by this political party also changes editors to those aligned with the new PM?
6. Is it normal for someone to be shot in the head and blown up by C4, their immigration records suddenly go missing and the ones sentenced are those without a motive?
7. Is it normal for there to be so many sex scandals of politicians where the more interesting question is how did and who did plant all those cameras all over the place? Are political parties using the state security services for this?
8. Is it normal for political parties to whip up fear of their citizens?
9. Is it normal to have race based parties?
10. Is it normal to have race based schools and universities?
11. Is it normal to have the history that is taught in schools to be so distorted and twisted and to just celebrate one party above a factual recounting of history?
12. is it normal for people to believe rumour over facts because of the widespread believe that the media is curtailed from reporting and is controlled?
13. is it normal for any country for people believe that citizenship is routinely given out to buttress the ruling parties position?
14. Is it normal for people to believe that the Electoral Commission is so compromised that it doctors the electoral roll? (my own experience :- between 2004 and 2008, where my parent voted and for which parliamentary constituency was changed without their knowledge. They have been living in the same place for 25 years.)
15. Is it normal for people to believe that the judiciary and police are compromised and do not act independently and investigate independently?
16. Is it normal to have so many rich politicians yet no one knows how they got rich?
17. Is it normal for political parties (Ketua Bahagian) to be able dispense state money?
18. Is it normal for some MP's to receive allocations from the government but not others?
19. Is it normal that no one really knows what the Senator in Dewan Negara do?
Malaysia is not a normal country and therefore the politics are far from normal. They are the worse kind. Down to attacks on people because each party really has never articulated a very clear ideology that encompasses the whole nation but instead focused on individual ethnicity. Though some are trying now, especially DAP and PKR.
If we were a normal country we would be able to make decisions based on our own self-interest.
A simple example. It is actually in Malaysia's interest to have close ties to the US and even forge close military links (perhaps even allow a naval base here) because of China's belligerence over the Spratly's islands. But can you imagine any PM doing that?
So while Singapore, Phillippines and even Vietnam forge close ties to the US in order to protect their national interest, in Malaysia, because of the poisonous local political discourse about the US, local politicians have their hands tied and can't act in the national interest.
Look at Turkey (I visited Istanbul recently and was amazed, such a vibrant, confident liberal dynamic country, all the while I was there I was thinking that this was what Malaysia could have been if its leaders had lead rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator and being reactive, they even advertise holidays for those of the Jewish faith to show them significant Jewish sites in Turkey. Imagine that in Malaysia?!.) Friendly with the US yet independent and able to articulate its differences.
I have been very disturbed by recent actions by some political actors in the country. Indeed the actions which I will detail below are severely disillusioning.
What has happened has been to take the national discourse to the lowest common denominator instead of uplifting the discourse by persuasion and leadership. It seems on certain matters, political leaders are running scared of a public rather than leading them and this fear is their own creation since no one really knows what the public is thinking.
1. Israel and the culture of hate.
I have always been disturbed by the thin vein of anti-semitism that tends to flare up in Malaysia. Being against the policies of a govt. is very difference from being against an entire ethnic group yet there is very little differentiation in Malaysia.
I have been hearing the plight of the Palestinian people for as long as I have lived. The flotilla attack should not have taken place the way it did. What should have been opposed was the actions of the govt. Instead it is Yahudi this and Yahudi that. The people on the forefront of this was Pakatan. The implication was this, let's get together in Malaysia and banish discrimination and prejudice but anyone outside of Malaysia is fair game.
This is what I call the culture of hate that is conveniently whipped up by politicians, agitators and those with vested interest.
A hate that is directed against one group or another . Now Pakatan is trying to say, that era is gone, yet it is acting the same way to a group of people outside of Malaysia.
Hate is hate, prejudice is prejudice. If you want to change the national discourse , you cannot make an exception saying that it is wrong in one place but ok in another. You cannot say it is ok to hate one group of people and not another. The whole thing should have been nuanced and explained properly.
Indeed it seems to be a crime in Malaysia to even have friends of Jewish descent wherever they come from or whatever country they are citizens of and this seems to be highlighted in blogs as some kind of crime. A lot of people in Israel also disagree with the actions of their govt. and vote and protest against it. Is such things not highlighted? Just as there is no monoethnic groupthink by ethnicity in Malaysia with each person having different ideals, dreams, aspirations, hopes, fears, believes, temperament from each other etc rather than some kind of collective consciousness that keeps them apart from others, so too is this applicable to others.
The Palestinian people deserve all the support they can get and in the end of the day they are going to have to live with their Jewish neighbours in hopefully their own state. I wonder if and when that time comes, whether it will still be Yahudi this and that in Malaysia. You cannot unwind prejudice and hatred like a switch. Not after spending years instilling it.
Note : I spend 40 days in the Middle East in a country that is an absolute monarchy (as most of them are). You would not want to live there. Migrant workers who form the large bulk of the population are in fear of their jobs all the time. There is no culture. National consciousness of any sort is stagnant. There is no public space, no history, no vision or sense of the future. You can feel the lack of human vitality, enterprise and spirit in a society where people are uncertain of their rights and those in power have absolute control over you. A society dependent on the largess of rulers from money that should be the people's anyway. Yet no one mentions the lack of freedom and choice and the culturally dying society in these places.
What is a short term tactical win for Pakatan is a long term lost to lead the public in Malaysia.
2. Sports Betting
I have talked about moral policing and unaccountable laws before but having deleted all my previous post I am going to have to rehash.
I find it disturbing in Malaysia that they are different sets of laws for different people. Everyone equal under the law is a basic precept of democracy, yet that becomes less relevant when the question turns to which law or some laws are applicable to some people and not others. For example polygamy is a crime in Malaysia except if you fall under a different set of laws. I am highlighting this not to support polygamy but to show the absurdity of it. Why is a crime for some and not others? And I am not even looking at gender bias here.
What is worse is that laws that fall under the syariah court are not debated by any elected representatives. They are passed summarily by unelected officials without discourse with the general public and therefore are in danger of containing the prejudices and bias's of people who pass them. The point of having a parliament is to bring the light of day to the laws being passed, so what is finally passed can be judged by the majority (who are accountable to their voters) to be in the best interest of the people as a whole. But if laws are being passed without this scrutiny, you end up having the situation in Malaysia. A moral police that can arrest people for not fasting during ramadan, yet religious leaders in the same breath saying that there is no compulsion and it is a choice. There is a body of jurisprudence that is open to interpretation, who is watching those who interpret?
I really believe that those who are adherent to a certain faith should practice it the best they can. But what has happened is that in religious matters pertaining to Islam, Malaysia has become a police state, where there is compulsion under the law and the choice of how to practice is taken away. Instead you have the nonsensical comment of "the people can be confused (i.e. they are too stupid so we have to tell them exactly how it is)" so there has to be benevolent religious dictatorships to "set people on the correct path" , on the path as these religious interlocutors see it. It is the closing of the Malaysian mind to new thoughts and ideas in a very important sphere of their lives.
Before I start on the main topic one more digression. The head of Islam in each state is the ruler and those states without rulers, the Agong. In my experience, most of these characters are womanising sex-crazy alcoholic playboys (the men anyway), not epitomes of morality. They lost their moral authority by the lives they have led a long time ago. They have their timber interest, their property interest, in a quid pro quo, their privacy and social lives are protected by the ruling parties and you therefore have ridiculous articles about them on their birthdays, with pictures of 60 year old rulers with their 30 year old second wives highlighting the sheer hypocrisy of the whole exercise . They are too compromised with too much vested interest to ever be the people's umbrella in the state. They could never go against state Mufti's and override them. They are more or less yes-men in matters of religion in their state and these laws are being written unchallenged and unquestioned.
Now to sports betting.
What's the big deal? You acknowledge that illegal gambling is a big issue. Regulating it brings it out to the open and controls it. The logic of opposing is simply not there when you have 4d's and a casino in Malaysia already. It might be a smart short term political move. Some good point-scoring and definitely less money to the ruling party's coffers for the next general election. Yet the reasoning to oppose it was not there. It was politicians acting as moral champions when individual people should have been given the right to choose or not to choose to gamble.
Instead the manner it which it was awarded should have been questioned. The rights should have been auctioned to the highest bidder (as has happened to other countries for example, telephone spectrum) and the govt. earning revenue both from the highest bid as well as the high taxation that the gambling industry generally pays worldwide. Everything should be transparent. Instead you have what happened instead. Point scoring instead of leadership.
There are occasions that are "teachable moments". Where politicians sense there is a chance to influence the national discourse and take to the stage to argue their case instead of pandering to their supporters worse instincts. Unfortunately no one in Pakatan has the balls for this or any long term thought beyond the next election.
Where is our country heading with leaders like this on both sides?
I ask what next? What is is going to be banned or deemed unfit for the people without their say?
Went I talk to most people in Malaysia, their number one priority has always been educating their children.
The proliferation of private education in Malaysia especially post secondary school education is indicative of the utter failure of the state in provisioning tertiary education to young Malaysians. They thrive in the absence of competition and to fulfil a need of aspirant parents and their young.
The basic responsibility of a modern state would be to provide basic infrastructure (roads, access to water and electricity (not for free of course)) and education yet it's strange that no one has clocked that the growth of private tertiary education in Malaysia is a vilification of the state of state-sponsored tertiary education.
Compare the number of private institutions and universities with those of the state. Private tertiary institutions exist because :-
(i) The state has not provisioned (built universities, colleges and expanded the number of lecturers/teachers) or accommodate the increase in the population (this is not difficult to do since the govt has all the statistics to expect this outcome, it simply has not bothered to provide for an expanding population).
(ii) There is a lack of choice of what one is able to study and private institutions cater for the increasing desire for different occupations and aspirations.
Post secondary-school education for most people is costly affair. It can cost a few thousand ringgit in fees alone per year (private university fees are around 4,000 to 7,000 per semester). Living cost would mean another few thousand. This leaves out a large proportion of the population out of tertiary education. Only those earning a substantial income can afford to educate their children. (I am talking about those millions of Malaysians who can't even afford to buy a car, all those who ride in motorcycles etc) .
Education hopefully leads to employment (another issue really since it has been said that local graduates are not favoured by multi-nationals, an issue that is going for some years but no steps have taken to rectify). Without a route out of poverty for their kids, families below a certain level of income (and that is the majority of the population) in Malaysia will stay in a cycle of poverty and this is unfortunately already the case.
And now of course the phasing out of the PSD scholarships. Frankly the tertiary level education in Malaysia is not up to par. Just look at the university rankings in Asia .
How many of our political leaders are educated overseas? and as far as I know all of them send their children overseas to be educated. Isn't this a damming indictment of our education system when for example all our ministers of education have sent their children overseas to be educated ( I believe this to be accurate). And yet these same ministers say that PSD scholarships should be phased out?? What hypocrisy!
No one seems to be looking at the problem, that the quality and quantity of the state provisioned tertiary institutions needs to be drastically increased as the only affordable avenue for many Malaysians to educate their children beyond secondary school level.
Every year you hear of so many people not being given places for courses of their choice even though they make the grades. This has been going on for the last 25 years at least. Why then has the number of places offered not keep pace with the demand for them? After 5 years you should be able to figure out that you need more places. After 25 years, well, a lot of people whose responsibility it is should be sacked, but of course there is no accountability for such things. No minister has ever been sacked in Malaysia.
So as I look around me, I am glad that there are so many choices for young Malaysians in terms of courses and options but my heart weighs heavily that the cost of these is still out of reach of many Malaysian families and that the state has seemingly subcontracted out its duty to provide tertiary level education for its citizens with the attendant high cost.
I am not a fan of the state but this is one of the basic duties of the modern nation state.