28 September, 2010

Malaysia should ditch press censorship which is a damper on economic growth.

A co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia said on a visit to Malaysia today that the country should ditch censorship which is a damper on economic growth.

Jimmy Wales said censorship was counter-productive for Malaysia, which ranked 131 out of 175 nations on the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index because of its tight controls on print and broadcast media.

"This is a country that has a fairly mixed record... there is still some censorship in this country and I think we are beginning to see that it is no longer an effective strategy, certainly not an effective strategy when we think about economic growth," he said.

"When you think about making sure that the people have the information they need, make good decisions in their lives, it's absolutely important that we have a very open flow of information," he told a financial conference.

"I want to write that information (on sites like user-generated Wikipedia) so that my fellow citizens have the knowledge they need so they can't be oppressed."

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office in the mainly Muslim country in April last year, promised to promote openness and transparency but has since faced accusations that his administration is trying to silence critics.

On Monday, British tycoon Richard Branson told a different conference in Kuala Lumpur that the ongoing sodomy trial against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was discouraging investors from coming to Malaysia.

Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, has said that the new allegations - of illicit relations with a young male aide - have been concocted to end his career.

Major newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition, so the Internet has become a lively forum for dissent and debate in Malaysia.

Unlike the mainstream press, the web and online media have remained relatively free, despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism.

Last Friday, police detained political cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque - better known as Zunar - over his new comic book, which has a caricature of Najib's wife on the front cover and contains cartoons on numerous controversial issues such as Anwar's sodomy trial and police shootings.

(From Malaysiakini)


27 September, 2010

Now, Japan Asks China to pay for repairs to the two coast guard ships damaged by the trawler.

Chinese-Japanese tensions over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain re-escalated on Monday when Japan said it would ask China to pay for repairs to two coast guard ships damaged by the trawler.

The Japanese request was effectively a retort to China’s demand that Japan apologize and offer compensation for the episode, even after Japan had freed the captain last Friday in what was widely seen as a capitulation to placate an increasingly assertive China.

On Sunday, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, called China’s latest demands “unthinkable,” a sign of his sensitivity to criticism that Japan had shown timidity to Chinese bullying.

“Naturally, we will be asking for the boats to be returned to their original condition,” the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, told a news conference here on Monday.

The Japanese release of the captain seemed aimed at defusing a heated standoff in which China had imposed economic sanctions and even detained four Japanese.

But the Japanese were clearly surprised when China then said that Tokyo must offer an apology and unspecified compensation over the arrest, which took place almost three weeks ago and aroused deep anger in China.

The demands have forced Mr. Kan to decide once again whether Tokyo will stand up to Beijing, which in recent years has appeared to be testing Japan’s resolve to back its territorial claims in the East China Sea.

In the days leading up to the captain’s release, the Chinese curtailed tourism to Japan, suspended many political and cultural ties, and took unannounced steps to restrict shipments to Japan of rare-earth minerals, which are important components for a range of industrial products.

But the move that Japan found most alarming was the detention in the northern city of Shijiazhuang of the four Japanese citizens, accused of photographing military sites.

The dispute illustrated the difficulty of overcoming nationalistic sentiments stirred up by the trawler episode, which is affecting the deeply intertwined ties between the two neighbors, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, after that of the United States. It also raised concern across Asia about China’s willingness to use its growing economic clout for political gains.

Japanese leaders had sought to minimize the episode, saying that the Chinese captain’s release was a decision made by local prosecutors. Those assertions were met with broad skepticism, with many here holding the view that Japan capitulated to aggressive Chinese pressure.

This has led to growing criticism in Japan that Mr. Kan’s government showed weakness. “It looks like Japan caved in,” said Sadakazu Tanigaki, the head of the largest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats. “That sends the wrong signal to China.”

(From The New York Times)

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24 September, 2010

Mahathirism and the Pakatan phobia

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has warned that the Malays will "lose their power" if the Pakatan Rakyat were to come to power, and he went on to label Pakatan leaders as a bunch of self-serving and racist politicians.

The elder statesman said such a situation would not be not far-fetched, as illustrated by the way the opposition ran the states it had won in the watershed March 2008 general election, when the ruling BN coalition lost control of five states.

Taking the example of Perak when it was still led by PAS's Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin as menteri besar, Mahathir (left) said the former had "followed DAP's orders" until he fell.

"So they call it a Chinese government. We might get a prime minister who is like Nizar... his name is Malay, he is a Muslim but he is not actually free. He is a tool of others and this could happen," he said in an exclusive article sent to Umno-online.

He also took the opportunity to brand DAP as a racist party for repeatedly raising racial issues for as long as he could remember.

Mahathir continued his tirade against PAS and Nizar, who was deposed after a spate of defections in the state assembly swung a simple majority in favour of the BN in 2009, accusing the Islamist party of using Islam as a means to garner support.

He also took a potshot at PKR, saying the party was merely posturing when claiming to fight for the Malays, when its actual goal was to fulfil the personal ambition of de facto leader and Mahathir's former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, to become prime minister.

"Unfortunately, Umno dropped this person, and in anger that he lost his opportunity, he formed another party. His struggle in singular, and it is not for race, religion and country but to become prime minister."

Mahathir went further to accuse the entire PKR leadership of being self-serving, saying they were only interested in using the party for their individual benefit.

"That is the basis for (forming) Keadilan (justice). Keadilan is just a name... (they) formed Keadilan as if this country has no justice," he said.

Meanwhile, Lembah MP Nurul Izzah Anwar today accused former prime minister and PERKASA patron Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of perpetuating the politics of racial fear to keep the ruling Malay elite in power, which she said was detrimental to the nation’s stability and progress.

The PKR legislator also offered to debate the veteran UMNO politician to disprove the claims he articulated in a blog post yesterday, in which the latter denied he was a racist.

“The ‘politics of fear’ uses Article 153 as a political instrument of deceit and despair,” the first-term MP said, referring to the Federal Constitution. Article 153 concerns the special position of the Bumiputeras, which includes the Malay community.

“I find this statement as irresponsible and as a desperate attempt to destabilise the nation,” the 30-year-old said of the country’s longest-serving premier.

The eldest daughter of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and a rising star in the PR bloc called on Malays to stand firm against the described threat to their community.

“We must fight back by emphasising on the ‘Politics of Hope and Liberation’, which will transform the Malay mind from the false fear of losing their identity and economical development to a positive force that will create a confident and liberated community,” she urged.

Nurul Izzah claimed the Malays have been persistently “indoctrinated” to “act out a victim mentality narrative that degrades, confuses and paralyses a community to remain enslaved intellectually and emotionally first by the colonial masters and now by its new reincarnation, UMNO”.

She stressed that the other partners in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition were also guilty for not speaking up for the communities they represented.

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23 September, 2010

US-ASEAN summit and American Interests

One of the more subtle lessons Americans can take from the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque in New York City is how difficult it is for us to converse with the Muslim world or its representatives.

For us, the bloody recollections of recent history are still raw—Americans are on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing. For them, the pressures in their home countries often make it politically unpalatable to be seen as too friendly, lest they be considered a lackey bowing to the wishes of a foreign populace.

As the second US-ASEAN summit approaches this weekend in New York City, there could be an opportunity for America’s political leadership to reach a closer understanding with Malaysia, a Muslim nation of great significance. Yet it’s important that, should the Obama Administration choose to do so, they sacrifice nothing in terms of American interests.

Malaysia is facing a critical moment. Economic stagnation has placed them in a precarious position, in need of a significant round of policy reforms and reconsiderations. And unfortunately, Malaysia is very close to a nation that concerns much of the Western world: Iran.

As one of their top trading partners in the Middle East, Iran is engaged and connected to the interests of Malaysia’s military, industry, and corporate structure, raising concerns—particularly when it comes to natural resources—that the relationship is being manipulated to avoid trade sanctions.

As it stands, however, the possibilities for achieving positive results from a closer relationship with Malaysia likely outweigh the negatives. The Malaysians know this, too—late last year, when a Malaysian senior representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency cast a lonely “no” vote on a resolution denouncing Iran, he was promptly dismissed by the foreign ministry. They have shown signs of being open to a closer relationship with the United States, signing into law a Strategic Trade Act in advance of President Obama’s April summit on nuclear non-proliferation, and vowing to take a more rigorous approach to ending their reputation as a middle-man for the transfer of weapons.

These are fine statements, but the United States should expect more. The current political leadership has made the right noises in many respects, but they must come to the negotiating table honestly, and with a willingness to make a firmer commitment to severing ties with Iran—the kind of commitment that can be measured in deeds, not just words.

When local political pressures prevent self-styled moderate Muslims from denouncing Hamas or Hezbollah, we are right to consider their true motives. But this should not bar us from adopting a closer relationship with other Muslim nations as we seek to advance our national security interests. By bringing Malaysia closer to the United States, we can tug them away from Iran—an aim that will serve our interests, and theirs as well.

- Benjamin Domenech
(Taken from The New Ledger)

Benjamin Domenech, a former speechwriter for U.S. Senator John Cornyn and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, writes on national security and foreign policy issues for RealClearWorld.

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20 September, 2010

Nazri’s open letter to Awang Selamat

BUCHAREST, Sept 20 — I have read the comments by Awang Selamat on me in his column. I want to make some clarifications lest readers be misled into thinking what he wrote is correct.

Firstly, I am never afraid to be criticised by the opposition. I would like Awang to come to Parliament and see and hear for himself the vitriol and attacks I received whilst defending the Government on issues related to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In my 33 years in politics, I was never spared by anybody who makes criticisms against me — including the recent comments by Awang. I don’t know about Awang himself, because I don’t even know who he is. I hope he can be a man like me and prove that he is not scared of criticism by coming out in the open and not hiding behind the pseudonym that he uses.

I am also not anti-Dr Mahathir (Mohamad). To me, so far he is the best prime minister I have served. However, as an ex-premier, there is so much left to be desired.

Awang should get out of his time warp and face the fact that I am now in the government as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and not vice versa. So it is Tun Mahathir who is criticising the Government and not the other way round.

Of course anybody, regardless of who criticises the government, will receive relentless attack in defence of the Government by me just as I had done in the past when Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi) were the prime ministers.

Having said that, I want Awang to know that I am always sure who my boss is. It’s not (Lim) Kit Siang nor (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) because they are not prime minister of Malaysia, the chairman of BN or president of Umno.

I am not too sure Awang knows who his boss is because he undermines the 1 Malaysia policy of the prime minister and promotes the narrow racism of (Datuk) Ibrahim Ali who is not even an Umno member. Awang should be asking himself the question he posed to me.

Being civil to the opposition is the right thing to do in a democracy, because just like me, they are also elected by the people. Of course, Awang is caught in the time warp of those days where government MPs do not only not engage them but hate and dislike them in all circumstances.

Awang will never understand this because he is not an elected MP, put in the House by the voice of the people. Anyway did Awang ever think of how five PKR MPs could cross and be independents, if not for the civility shown by me to them as parliamentary affairs minister?

The number of crossovers to the independent caucus has exceeded the single MP from Pasir Mas, this so-called Malay Hero worshipped by Awang.

Incidentally, Umno has never asked or needed for Ibrahim to help us but the association with him will only cause us to lose votes.

Tun Mahathir himself told us about his loss in Kota Setar Selatan seat — a 90 per cent Malay majority parliamentary constituency — in 1969 to Yusof Rawa, where it was reported that Tun said he didn’t need Chinese votes. There is a lesson to be learned from this.

Of course, Awang will never understand because not only has he never offered himself as a candidate for the General Elections but readers don’t even know who he is.

Politicians like me who has stood for four general elections and won clearly have to be very careful in what we say and not be reckless like Awang. We need to muster all the votes regardless of race and we do not stay in the comfort zone as Awang does.

He can write and say anything irresponsibly and recklessly, knowing that he will never be punished by the voters.

That is why, Awang, if you asked what my agenda is, I think even school children will know that it’s to win the next general election and that Datuk Seri Najib (Razak) remains as prime minister of Malaysia.

I do hope that Awang also has the same agenda, unless of course his boss is somebody else. Finally I would advise Awang to stick to what he does and knows best and not try to meddle in national politics, of which he has shallow knowledge and zero experience.

He should concentrate in increasing his paper’s dwindling readership. It speaks volumes of their poor standards and performance when Utusan has to refer to the news report of the new electronic alternative media when it should be the reverse.

That will be his KPI and the measurement of his success in the field that he claims he represent well.

Mine is, of course, to win the Padang Rengas seat for Barisan Nasional in the next General Election regardless whether I am a candidate or not. Until then we shall see.

And yes I am a Malaysian first and Malay next. Does any bigot have a problem with that?

* This letter by Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri bin Tan Sri Abdul Aziz is in response to a Mingguan Malaysia editorial “Alahai Nazri ...” by Awang Selamat. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and MP for Padang Rengas emailed it from Bucharest, Romania, where he is attending the Malaysian-Romanian Inter-parliamentarian Friendship Group” meet from September 19 to 23, 2010.

-From Malaysian Insider


17 September, 2010

One man's loss is another man's gain ?

Malaysia's loss, Singapore's gain

Malaysia has always been a major source of immigrants for Singapore. But there has been no official statistics over the years on how many Malaysians have immigrated to Singapore and become its citizens or permanent residents.

Recently, however, the Singapore Statistics Department released some details on immigrants to the republic. According to the data, one of every four Singaporeans is a foreigner. Among them are 386,000 residents, both citizens and permanent residents, who were born in Malaysia, 175,000 from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, 123,000 from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and 54,000 from Indonesia.

The figures clearly show Singapore's efforts in maintaining its racial composition ratio. Hence, it is not a surprise that immigrants from China form the second largest group of new immigrants

The more than 380,000 new immigrants from Malaysia do include Malaysians who are working or studying in the republic, which probably doubled the number of immigrants from China. This indicates how serious is the brain drain problem in Malaysia.

Another phenomenon is that an increasing number of Malaysian talents have been admitted into Singapore universities. For an example, 36 of the 50 students who recently received scholarships worth RM2.25 million from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) have decided to further their studies abroad and 27 of them chose Singapore.

How many of these 27 outstanding students would return and serve their motherland after finishing their studies?

Meanwhile, the Singapore government's immigration policy has triggered a controversy. It is particularly surprising that even though Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had spent half of the two and a half hours of his National Day speech explaining the policy, more than 60% of about 100 participants of a dialogue held on the next day still said that they were not satisfied with his explanation.

Even so, based on the needs of political and economic realities, it is believed that Singapore will still have demand for Malaysian talents in the next 10 years or longer. It is expected to continue absorbing Malaysian talents because it is easier for Malaysians to adapt to the Singapore society as they have similar cultural background. Also, Singaporeans find it easier to accept Malaysians. In addition, once the Malaysian talents are attracted by the fair policies of Singapore, they will settle down in the country.

I think that whatever obstacles preventing own talents from staying home or returning to serve the country should be identified and resolved, or the brain drain will continue to be an unceasing outward flow.

- Sin Chew Daily


14 September, 2010


Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew still strongly believes that Malaysians would be enjoying his city-state’s brand of nationalism and multi-racialism today, if both nations had not been split in 1965.

In an interview with the New York Times, the 86-year-old Minister Mentor reflectively expressed that the first regret he had of his colourful career was having been “turfed out” of Malaysia.

In his conversation with the New York Times, Lee claimed that if Malaysia’s founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman had decided to keep both nations together 45 years ago, much of what Singapore had achieved today in terms of equality among the races would be likewise be achieved in Malaysia.

“I think if the Tunku had kept us together, what we did in Singapore, had Malaysia accepted a multiracial base for their society, much of what we’ve achieved in Singapore would be achieved in Malaysia,” he said, according to the transcript of the interview, conducted on September 1.

Lee, Singapore’s longest serving prime minister, claimed that if Singapore had not seceded from Malaysia, the country would have improved inter-racial relations and an improved holistic situation today.

“Now we have a very polarised Malaysia — Malays, Chinese and Indians in separate schools, living separate lives and not really getting on with one another. You read them. That’s bad for us as close neighbours,” he said.

He pressed on with his belief that all ethnic communities should free themselves from the shackles of racial segregation in order to promote fairness and equality among the races.

Meanwhile, according to Dr Mahathir, before Singapore joined the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia, there was less racial politics in the Federation of Malaysia. In 1955 the Malays who made up 80 per cent of the citizens gave a large number of their constituencies to the few Chinese and Indian citizens and ensured they won with strong Malay support. As a result the Alliance won 51 of the 52 seats contested.

The Tunku then rewarded this willingness of the Chinese and Indian citizens to support the coalition concept by giving them one million unconditional citizenship. This reduced Malay majority to 60 per cent.

In the 1959 elections the Alliance of UMNO, MCA and MIC won easily though Kelantan was lost. PAS with only Malays as members was rejected. Racialism even when implied failed.

In 1963 Singapore became a part of Malaysia. Despite having promised that the PAP will not participate in Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak politics, Kwan Yew reneged and the PAP tried to displace the MCA in the Alliance by appealing to Chinese sentiments in the Peninsular. Of course the slogan was "Malaysian Malaysia" which implied that the Chinese were not having equal rights with the Malays.

By 1965 racism had taken hold and the Tunku was forced to end Singapore's membership of Malaysia. But the seed of Chinese racialism had been sown, so that even after the PAP left, the "Malaysian Malaysia" war cry was picked up by the DAP, an offspring of the PAP.

With the background of Singapore's activities in Malaysia in the short three years of its membership, can we really believe that if it had not been "turfed out" race relations would be better in Malaysia?

While Kwan Yew talks about his belief that all ethnic communities should free themselves from the shackles of racial segregation in order to promote fairness and equality among the races, he also said that "once we are by ourselves (out of Malaysia) the Chinese become the majority".

Singapore's population is made up of 75 per cent Chinese and they own 95 per cent of the economy. It is therefore not a truly multi-racial country but a Chinese country with minority racial groups who are additionally much poorer.

In Singapore dissent is not allowed, People who contest against the PAP would be hauled up in court for libel and if they win elections would not be allowed to take their places in Parliament. Whereas in Malaysia opposition parties invariably win seats in Parliament and even set up State Governments (today five out of the 13 States are ruled by the opposition parties) the PAP in Singapore has to appoint PAP members to represent the opposition.

If Singapore is a part of Malaysia the PAP can certainly reproduce the Singapore kind of non-racial politics because together with the Malaysian Chinese, the PAP will ethnically dominate and control Malaysian politics. No dissent would be allowed and certainly no one would dare say anything about who really runs the country.

Amnesia is permissible but trying to claim that it is because Singapore had been "turfed out" for the present racist politics in Malaysia is simply not supported by facts of history.

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13 September, 2010

Kelantan Regent Tengku Muhammad Faris takes over throne amid bitter feud

Kelantan Regent Tengku Muhammad Faris has been proclaimed the 29th sultan of Kelantan, amidst claims that there is an attempt by 'conspirators' to oust his father from the throne, given a rare glimpse into behind-the-scenes court intrigue.

Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat made the announcement about 12.30pm today, adding that the installation will be held “soon”.

However, the date has not been fixed.

He said the Council of Succession had decided on the succession this morning.

The proclamation ceremony ended in 15 minutes, with Nik Aziz reciting verses from the Quran.

Members of the royal family and state assemblypersons had gathered at the Istana Balai Besar in Kota Bharu since 11.30am for the ceremony.

Sources confirmed that Sultan Ismail Petra Yahya Petra, his consort Raja Perempuan of Kelantan Tengku Anis Tengku Hamid and their third son Tengku Temenggong Tengku Muhammad Fakhry were not present.

However, Tengku Bendahara Tengku Muhammed Faiz Petra and the rest of the royal family, including two of the sultan's elder sisters - Tengku Rozan Petra and Tengku Salwani Petra - attended the ceremony.

Yesterday, Sultan Ismail Petra's eldest sister Tengku Merjan Sultan Yahya Petra had claimed in a statement that “conspirators” were trying to oust the incumbent ruler.

She said the state constitution declares that the sultan can only be replaced upon his death, or if he is absent without valid reason from the state for more than 12 months, or through abdication.

“Any attempt to remove a sultan by any other means would be tantamount to a coup d'etat,” she said.

Tengku Merjan did not attend the proclamation ceremony.

Faris has been embroiled in a public dispute with his brother, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry, since their father, Tengku Ismail Petra, fell ill more than a year ago. The feud has embarrassed one of the country's most prominent royal households by exposing their previously little-known rivalries.

Faris' ascension to the throne is unlikely to end the power struggle. Ismail's lawyer Rashid Zulkifli said in a statement issued Sunday that the father would challenge Faris' installation as being unlawful.

Ismail has been ill with heart problems since mid-2009. Last September, Faris removed Fakhry, his brother, from the state's powerful Council of Succession. Earlier this year, assailants shot a palace guard under mysterious circumstances. He later died.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz said the federal government considers as valid the appointment of Regent Tengku Mohamad Faris Petra as Kelantan's new ruler.

“It falls under the jurisdiction of the council of succession,” said the de facto law minister today, “And the federal government accepts whatever the decision that the council comes up with.”

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10 September, 2010

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Wishing all my Muslim friends



08 September, 2010

Islam, Muslims at the mercy of PAS ?

Islam and its followers have become victims of PAS leaders who are using religion as a weapon of political survival, said former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Although purportedly advocating the true Islam, he said PAS leaders were willing to change their minds and interpretation as it had always been their tendency in gaining the support of non-Muslims.

"We see how the so-called Islamic fighters are willing to change the interpretation of Islam for political gain, if they once used to say that those who cooperated with non-believers were infidels, but now they defended their cooperation with non-Muslims," he said in an interview with Umno Online.

On the recitation of "doa" (prayer) for Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng instead of the King during Friday sermons in Penang recently, Mahathir said PAS had a way of justifying the action of the katib ( preacher).

"They say it is not wrong as the doa was an effort to draw them to Islam and this is the beauty of Islam.

"If Islam is an obstacle in gaining the support of non-Muslims, they will digress a little.

"For example in pursuing the hudud law and the Islamic country, they cast it aside in order to gain the support of non-Muslims," he added.


04 September, 2010

Malaysia’s arrogance VS Indonesia’s envy

Endy M. Bayuni, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

“Malaysians are arrogant, Indonesians are jealous” was how Ali Alatas, Indonesia’s foreign minister from 1988-1999, put it during a seminar that looked at relations between the two countries. He made this remark two years before his passing in 2009, when anti-Malaysian sentiments flared in the wake of near skirmishes between Indonesian and Malaysian naval ships in the disputed Ambalat block in the Sulawesi Sea.

If Alatas was still with us today, he would surely have used the same explanation for the recent resumption of tensions between the two nations.

Anti-Malaysian sentiments have erupted again after an incident in disputed waters near the Riau archipelago early last month. This time the war drums sounded by Indonesian public opinion are louder. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s attempt to calm the situation with his speech on Wednesday — standing firm on Indonesia’s territorial claim but urging that diplomacy be given a chance — was predictably jeered by the warmongers.

The latest incident concerned the arrest of seven Malaysian fishermen in what Indonesian maritime officials claimed to be their waters. A nearby Malaysian sea patrol begged to differ and in retaliation detained the three Indonesian officials. All those arrested have since been freed, but many Indonesians felt slighted by the incident and demanded that Yudhoyono take a strong stand against Malaysia.

While his speech had gone as far as possible in staking out Indonesia’s position, some would not have been satisfied with anything short of a declaration of war. And looking at the public reaction to the speech, the warmongers appear to have widespread support.

Anyone looking for a rational explanation as to why two nations — which could not be more similar because of their shared Malay cultural roots — are at odds again for the umpteenth time can’t go wrong by remembering what Alatas said.

The Malay commonality has made this relationship special, more so than with other neighbors such as Singapore, Australia and Timor Leste, with whom Indonesia has its share of disputes and tensions. But as the recent development illustrates, this Malay commonality has also become the source of a problem, especially when it is underpinned by the perceptions that one country is arrogant, and the other is envious.

The series of spats in the relationship, from the Ambalat case to accusations of Malaysia’s theft of Indonesia’s cultural heritage to constant reports of abuses against Indonesian workers, contribute to the perception of Malaysian arrogance.

Malaysia started its development at the same level as Indonesia in the 1970s and even received assistance from Indonesia, which sent teachers and lecturers to Malaysia. The fact that Malaysia today economically is far more successful than Indonesia makes the case for Indonesian jealousy.

It is also for this reason that rather than the “love/hate” sentiment that usually develops between close friends, Indonesian and Malaysian relations today are looking more like the “hate/love” kind....more

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03 September, 2010

Malaysia to monitor Internet for 'harmful' blogs !

Malaysia has formed a task force to scour the Internet for blog postings deemed harmful to national unity, authorities said today in the latest of a series of actions against the new media.

Home Ministry deputy secretary-general (security) Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi said the unit would involve the police, Internet regulators, the information ministry and the attorney-general's chambers.

"It is a mechanism that will coordinate these various agencies to help monitor what is being said in cyberspace and to take action against those that are trying to stoke racial tensions and disunity," he said.

Abdul Rahim said the group would also monitor alternative and mainstream media for similar content.

"There is a disturbing trend now appearing on the Internet where some people are inciting racial unrest and causing confusion and this will damage the peace we have in the country," he added.

Abdul Rahim cited the recent case of a Facebook page that insulted Muslim Malays. They make up the majority of Malaysia's multicultural population, alongside large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

Police are also investigating ethnic Chinese rapper Wee Meng Chee for sedition, after he posted a three-minute rap on YouTube criticising a Malay headmistress accused of making racial slurs against minority students.

The government has ordered a probe into the case which caused anger among Malaysia's minorities, who complain their rights are being eroded as the country becomes increasingly "Islamised".

In another case, Malaysian journalist Irwan Abdul Rahman was charged this week over a satirical blog which made fun of the state power firm Tenaga, and faces a year's jail if convicted.

The prosecution caused a stir because unlike the mainstream press, the web and online media in Malaysia have remained relatively free, despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism.

Major newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition, so the Internet has become a lively forum for dissent and debate.

The government in 1996 pledged not to censor online content as part of a campaign to promote its information technology sector.


02 September, 2010

Hardtalk, Halftalk or money talks?

Saga of the aborted RPK interview

According to its media note, Hardtalk "asks the difficult questions and gets behind the stories that make the news -- from international political leaders to entertainers; from corporate decision-makers to ordinary individuals facing huge challenges."

This reputation of independence and fearlessly getting the stories behind the news is now blotted.

On Aug 10, Nicholas Davis Blakemore, BBC planning editor sent an e-mail note to Raja Petra Kamarudin asking if he would be interested in appearing in Hardtalk.

Following confirmation from RPK (read the full correspondence here), the live interview was to have been conducted on Sept 1.

On Aug 29, Hardtalk producer Bridget Osborne informed RPK that the interview was cancelled. This abrupt turnabout is quite unprecedented in the programme's 13-year history. According to Osborne, the cancellation was due to legal concerns.

Since then the BBC has issued a further note in which its Global News senior press officer Peter Connors said in an e-mail reply: "It became clear in our research any comprehensive interview with former Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra would prominently feature issues that are currently the subject of a current court case in Malaysia, which raise issues of defamation."

It is unclear from Connors' e-mail which "current court case" is being referred to.

Even more cryptic is the allusion to "defamation". Who might it be that is likely to be defamed should RPK appear on air?

The BBC explanation is uncharacteristic of its traditional journalism ethos.

In the past, the programme has not been afraid of controversy arising from its choice of personalities and the discussions that arose during the course of their interviews. Surely the programme which prides itself on undertaking meticulous and in-depth research to accompany the interviews would have done its homework on the legal implications before any official invitation was extended by Blakemore to RPK.

Bear in mind that RPK is no suddenly arrived personality. The BBC had previously given press coverage to the Malaysian government's persecution of him, and several times.

Nonetheless, Connors is correct to infer that the topic -- once RPK started hard talking -- may submerge viewers in turbulent waters.

Let's just suppose the Q&A had gone ahead. If 'the news' is a court case as revealed by Connors, what might be 'the difficult questions' asked by Hardtalk to get the real story behind the sandiwara.

If it is the Altantuya murder case, then there is an added dimension. One of the accused was Abdul Razak Baginda who brokered arms deals worth billions of ringgit for the Malaysian Defence Ministry.

A political commentator, Mariam Mokhtar, writing in the Malaysian Mirror speculated on what could have caused BBC to pull the plug. Mariam is sceptical that the British broadcaster would be afraid of legal threats and suggests that the Hardtalk climbdown might be due to something "purely economic" and the pressure coming instead from the British government to protect its arms sales to Malaysia's Defence Ministry.

For now, and until a whistle-blower steps forward to provide details which can throw light on the unexpected turn of events, we can only ponder upon the reasons suggested by analysts who have been closely following this astonishing capitulation by Hardtalk.

Whist some of their views may appear to be highly speculative, it is however still inconceivable that the decision was arrived at by the Hardtalk programming staff themselves.

The possibility that higher levels of authority intervened to stop the programme should not be discounted. There is little doubt that if the interview had gone ahead, RPK would have spoken - if asked - at length on the Altantuya murder and his allegation of the Prime Minister's involvement.

To clear the air, it is important for the Malaysian and British governments to issue a statement disclaiming any interference in the matter and for the Hardtalk senior management to be more explicit on what actually went on behind the scenes.

Silence will only lead to further suspicions that a conspiracy has been concocted to stymie RPK in his uncompromising pursuit of justice and freedom for Malaysia...more

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