Friday, May 30, 2008

A clip that riled the local Malays

A 40-second clip shown in the UK has got some Malaysians upset.

Actually, the 40-second clip showed a man on a beach firing a machine gun into the air and shouting in the Malay language: "I'm the most evil man in the world. Come fight with me. I will kill you all."

Apparently he appeared to be ethnic Malay or Indonesian.

To be precise, the clip was a recruitment video advertisement of the British Navy.

What got our diplomats to be upset? Well, no prizes for guessing but it was the portrayal of a Malay man as a terrorist.

A letter writer had expressed his indignity in Utusan Malaysia two days ago after have watched the advertisement.

And then, since it involved an issue of Ketuanan Melayu, the senators got all worked up and then the foreign ministry got involved and as a result, the British Defence ministry withdrew the advertisement from the Royal Marines Web site.

The clip will not be shown in British cinemas as well.

Excellent! Out top mandarins surely know how to rectify a situation urgently, as long as it was committed by others.

When it comes to such insensitive activities against certain other races locally, we seem to have to wait forever for any action, let alone an apology to those effected.

Read story on the ad withdrawal here.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Time to stake proper ownership, M’sia

Goodbye Pulau Batu Puteh (now officially known as Pedra Blanca).

We lost an isle the size of a football pitch and gained a series of rocks (Middle Rocks) and most probably another stone (called South Ledge) which is only visible on low tide.

How do we call this a win-win case? The foreign minister is surely taking positive spin to a new level.It’s definitely a bad loss for us as Pedra Blanca was not just a boundary marker, it was also a source of income from passing international ships, let alone the rich natural resources one can find there.

Now we have rocks in the region, with Singapore right on our noses, extending their boundary.

The ICJ ruling is clear – the Malaysian government has been lackadaisical in exercising sovereign rights over a piece of ‘useless’ rock which the Johor Sultanate's had sovereignty since time immemorial.

I don’t know if the problem started in 1844 when the British Colonial Administration built a lighthouse on the island or in 1953 when the Acting State Secretary of Johor replied to the colonial authority that "Johor has no claim of ownership over Batu Putih".

But I solely blame the federal government for not staking sovereignty the moment Singapore became independent in 1965. Only in 1979 did we include it in our maps and even then took no bloody steps to assert any ownership.

And over the period of time we allowed them to take control of the island, even having to seek their permission to land there. Their navy blockaded the island to stop us from entering the waters surrounding it.

It’s quite embarrassing that an isle which is only about 14.3km from Johor has been a no-go zone for Malaysians while Singaporeans from 46.3km away were ‘ruling’ it.

Anyway, it’s gone now. But, hei, we have Middle Rocks.

And then we have Pulau Pisang, which also has a light house maintained by Singapore, who also controls a jetty and a team of border guards on the Malaysian island.I think we should exercise some form of ownership before it too goes the Batu Puteh way.

So it’s up to the Johor state government and the federal government that Pulau Pisang remains ours.

Interestingly there are other islands next to it - Pulau Tunda, Kemudi and Sauh. Quite a rich picking these ones. If it goes to ICJ again, who knows we might face another banana skin with Singapore taking Pulau Pisang and we are left with the other smaller ones!

And then we have Pulau Unarang (off eastern Sabah and bordering Indonesia), Pulau Perak (between Penang and Sumatra) and several islands in the South China Sea.

Interestingly Malaysia had taken control of some of the islands, which are unclaimed. To stop a Pedra Blanca fiasco, we will have to start exerting our presence in these islands now.

In Pulau Unarang for example, the Indonesians have put up fishing apparatus but are unable to build a lighthouse or permanent structure as our navy is patrolling the island.

And in Pulau Perak, we have a helicopter pad with our army and navy patrolling it, still these strategic rocks are being ignored, with reports of pirates resting there at times!

So we have to move fast. I hope the government will wake up.

A New Straits Times report today indicated that we are looking at the right step by staking claims and sovereignty over 100 islands, reefs, rocks and other marine features lying in the South China Sea, Straits of Malacca and off Sabah.

Pulau Batu Puteh may have gone. The rest should remain ours, at all costs. We should not lose them due to our lackadaisical attitude.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Figures that matter

Figures that matter:

72 - Number of Indian students who received PSD scholarships this year out of the 2,000 scholarships awarded.

130 - In US dollars or RM418.79, the oil price per barrel today.

242 – Number of missing children in Malaysia for the first three months of this year, 80 percent of whom were girls.

364 – The number of village heads not recognised by the Pakatan-led Selangor government because they were appointed by the BN-led federal government.

7,430 – Number of Year One students in Terengganu who can’t read and write.

10 billion – The net value, in US dollars, of tycoon Robert Kuok, who is Malaysia’s richest man according to the latest Forbes Asia’s list.

570.0 billion – In Ringgit Malaysia, the profit made by Petronas since its inception in 1974 to March 31, 2007.

(source: local dailies)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This is ridiculous…

Misplaced loyalty from a former premier who shaped the future of the nation? Or is it just blind hatred towards the present number one? Or is he bordering on senility?

His latest move is to urge all BN MPs to lompat to become independents, and then return to BN after the removal of the PM.

This latest call by him changes his use of Umno/Malay sentiments to trying to influence the BN cadres to remove the PM.

Is he being fair to the voters?

Read his latest blog entry here.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How should Pak Lah react?

Now that Mahathir has decided to quit Umno in protest to force Abdullah to step down, it is inevitable that in the coming days a few more shocks will happen.

There will be some pockets of party members who will join MM in leaving the party. Some pundits are even saying that some 200 divisions in Johor alone are ready to follow suit.

Likewise I am sure some veterans will also follow MM. But, how about Umno MPs and state level leaders? Would they jump the ship as well?

I highly doubt it. I think it would be against their self-interest for any minister, deputy minister or and MP to quit the party now.

As it is Abdullah is holding a meeting with Umno MPs today and tomorrow he would have a similar meeting with BN MPs. What will follow is a BN meeting and then Umno supreme council meeting.

I am sure they will discuss the repercussions of MM’s decision and on Abdullah’s future as well.

There are two strong messages which Abdullah and Umno can give MM. They are:

1. Thank you for all your services and now that you have resigned, we hope you will have a good rest. Do enjoy your break.

2. Do not get yourself involved in local politics, especially in Umno politics, as you no longer have the standing to comment on a party which you are no longer a member.

At the same time, MM should be reminded to be prepared to defend himself in court IF he is to be tried for the conspiracy in the appointment of friendly judges, as recommended by the Lingam tape commission.

He should also be reminded to keep himself occupied with completing his memoir.

And finally someone should ask MM as to the real reason he is doing this.

Is it because he loves the party too much that he can’t sit and watch Abdullah ruining it, thus wanting him to be replaced by Najib or Muhyiddin or even Tengku Razaleigh?

OR, is it because he is afraid that Anwar Ibrahim will take over the government if Abdullah remained in power?

MM must openly explain if it’s his dislike of Abdullah or fear of Anwar coming back to haunt him.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

What’s happening in Cheras?

The first photo is a sad and dramatic image of a woman who was stabbed – at least four times – in broad daylight on Friday morning.

According to a NST report, she was left for dead by robber(s), near the police college in Cheras. The daily today reported that the attack was done by a taxi driver.

Now, note the place of the attack – Cheras, which also happens to be the same place where Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng was ‘assaulted’ – by the police – on Thursday night at an anti-toll gathering (second photo).

My point? Shouldn’t the police be busy protecting the citizens from brutal attacks conducted by robbers rather than ……. (I am sure you get my point).

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

The cops seem to have their own agenda

Don’t bribe me’ - So says a car sticker found at the back of almost all police patrol cars you see in KL roads nowadays.

I understand the message the cops are trying to send to the public but there is a small problem here, at least for me.

Why is it that the police seem to be trying to put the blame on the public for the corruption in the police force?

It sounds as though it is the public who are forcing the cops to take bribe. I would have thought that a more positive message would be one in which the message reflects the force itself and not the public -something like ‘I don’t take bribe’.

Hang on a minute! Didn’t the cops use to have a ‘Saya Anti-Rasuah’ badges on the uniform?

Yes they did! I know the top brass had removed that slogan in a recent revamp, ostensibly to send a better message to the public.

The problem is that the new message, as found in the patrol cars, gives a wrong impression that it’s the public, and not the cops, who should bear the brunt of the corruption menace!

Something more reflective and self appraisal is definitely needed if the force is genuine in wanting to remove graft.

And I would like to add something else about the action of the police in regards to the residents’ protest for a toll-free access road in Cheras - the superior officer who gave the go-ahead to fire tear gas and spray water cannon two nights ago should be disciplined!

Don’t they ever learn? It has been just about two months since the people gave a resounding warning to the BN government on the various grouses with government policies, one of which was the way the police was acting like kings in many instances while failing to solve more important matters like crime prevention.

And the brutal action by the cops seem to indicate that the force think they are a government on their own. What could have been solved amicable has been allowed to spillover into another people versus government matter.

What were the cops thinking when they sprayed a pepper-spray onto a DAP MP? And what were they thinking in trying to intimidate people who had gathered at the same night in Dataran Merdeka for a candlelight vigil?

If Abdullah thinks he can make reforms, the first thing he has look at is the police force. These guys need serious lessons of public relations and on how to treat people decently.

Not everyone is a national threat, not everyone is a criminal, BUT everyone is a citizen who has his rights that must be protected, especially by the police.

The cops must first ditch their attitude of Us versus Them and start seeing the public as people who they are suppose to protect, not antagonise.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

What a headline...

Do you want to know how our government is portrayed in the Australian media?

The headline in today’s The Australian said Newspaper raid 'like in Malaysia'.

The daily was referring to a police raid to the Perth-based The Sunday Times on Wednesday, to investigate a source-story carried by the daily about election funding.

Read more about the raid and the attack of press freedom here.

I was surprised about the raid for I didn’t think for a moment it would have happened in Australia. And then when I saw The Australian headline this morning, I realised how bad the media industry must have felt too over the raid.

Anyway, the headline is correct. I should now. I was there when the police raided my organisation in 2003.

The timing of the headline could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. I was part of a forum on the future of journalism today and among the questions I was asked related to press freedom in Malaysia.

Interestingly the audience wanted to know if the media laws in Malaysia would be relaxed and if ISA would be done away with.

There was also a question of Anwar taking over the government and if his government would be a good news for the media in Malaysia.

One thing is sure, the audience - basically people from the journalism and related fields - are keeping a close watch on what’s happening on our shores for they too want what most of us want - a free media and a responsible government.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

The future of journalism

I am in Sydney at the moment (got in yesterday) to take part in a forum on the future of journalism.

My session is tomorrow and it is on ‘Independent voices: press freedom in the digital era’.

At the moment a group of Aussie panellists are talking about ‘Who will pay for journalism?’ - a discussion on funding for journalism in the future and the ‘death’ of newspapers. The panellists actually don’t think newspapers will go away, but look at a possibility of many newspapers merging.

Earlier New York University’s Jay Rosen spoke about how the online explosion is going to explode to replace the traditional era of journalism. He calls all non-journalists (the mass) as former audiences who will take part actively in journalism. He sees this already happening and wants more free media to join in to create a better era of journalism.

"Send out more boats as not all will last but we need them to reach the other side to make the change," he said.

Will newspapers survive?

Views of Roy Greenslade, Guardian columnist, professor of journalism at City University and was editor of the Daily Mirror from 1990-91.

"Popular newspapers are dying and will die. The serious newspapers too. Dailies with niche market will survive, not mass papers.

Cities with two or three prints will see only one surviving. A paper of record in society will survive.

Net is the most democratic form. It allows everyone to publish. It’s about the freedom of expression.

Now there is more commentaries but I would like to see a pro-active action with more people being involved in news gathering.

I am not doom-mongering...advertisement is fleeing from newspapers. The next major platform is the net. I am sad to new the newspapers go - "the ultimate browser" - but they are dying.

The nuclear option - Last Saturday, a Wisconsin broadsheet The Capital Times has closed its print edition to go into the web edition. It has been published since 1970. It will now publish a free weekly. This option will occur elsewhere too. In the UK, the regionals might go first before the Fleet Street."

Interesting sessions and I will see if I can blog more on these. The venue is at ABC building in this beautiful city.

Click here for more details on the forum (which is a series of conversation).


Live on RTM with Home Minister

On Tuesday night I was a guest panellist on RTM1's 'Bersemuka Bersama Media', having the chance to grill Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar on the ISA and press freedom.

It was a good session, one of which I personally am proud of for having a chance to ask some questions to the minister on these issues.

There is a media report on the programme itself (read here) so I will not get into that apart from saying that the minister did give his assurance that he would continuously looking into making reforms, without making any concrete promises.

So as it stands, there’s no end to ISA and no immediate freer media environment.

Other interesting things that came out from him (both on and off-air):

1. On KDN meetings with editors: He sort of alluded that would not happen under his ministry. So let’s wait and see if he sticks to his words.

2. On having evidence but still detaining people under the ISA: The way he put it, it was as though the Hindraf 5 are hardcore terrorists that were on the verge of toppling the government.

3. On number of ISA detainees: He said there were about 55. Also added that the government was successful in rehabilitating them. I don’t know how when there are some who has been detained for six years and entering into their fourth two-year term (meaning it would be 8 years).

4. On new publishing permits: He said there were about 7 or 8 still pending. Also said it was PM who actually approved PKR’s permit for Suara Keadilan even before the March 8 GE. He clarified that it was not for a daily.

5. On mkini print permit: He said we should just stick to online publication. Said we shouldn’t cause competition to the MSM. However agreed we can re-submit application.

6. On Indian priests, musicians and sculptors: I told him that although there seem to be a change in policy, the immigration people were still not renewing permits for these category of people. The minister said these people would be allowed to remain and work and at the same time said he would move for a revolving system where these foreign experts would eventually be replaced by locals. He said he was going to have a talk with all concerned parties soon to see how this could be done without affecting the temples, foreign skilled workers and local talents.

7. On overcrowded illegal foreign workers detention camps: He said nothing could be done on that now. Said it was unfortunate and blamed foreign embassies for delaying the repatriation of these workers.

8. On mainstream media: Agreed that they had lost some credibility and agreed the alternative media was become mainstream now and indicated his willingness to work together with them. "We can agree to disagree," he stressed.

At the end of the interview, the RTM people were happy with the line of questioning. They are eager to regain some credibility and want to be seen as a reliable news agency - thus the invitation to people like me to go live to question the minister.

The information minister was there too and he was eager to make use of the internet new organisations and bloggers in generating debate. That’s good indeed.

And finally, both the ministers said they were ‘happy’ with the grilling they got from me and The Sun's political editor Zainon Ahmad, the other panellist.

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